Review: My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Satire meets slasher in this short, darkly funny hand grenade of a novel about a Nigerian woman whose younger sister has a very inconvenient habit of killing her boyfriends.

“Femi makes three, you know. Three and they label you a serial killer.”

Korede is bitter. How could she not be? Her sister, Ayoola, is many things: the favorite child, the beautiful one, possibly sociopathic. And now Ayoola’s third boyfriend in a row is dead. Korede’s practicality is the sisters’ saving grace. She knows the best solutions for cleaning blood, the trunk of her car is big enough for a body, and she keeps Ayoola from posting pictures of her dinner to Instagram when she should be mourning her “missing” boyfriend. Not that she gets any credit.

A kind, handsome doctor at the hospital where Korede works, is the bright spot in her life. She dreams of the day when he will realize they’re perfect for each other. But one day Ayoola shows up to the hospital uninvited and he takes notice. When he asks Korede for Ayoola’s phone number, she must reckon with what her sister has become and what she will do about it.

Sharp as nails and full of deadpan wit, Oyinkan Braithwaite has written a deliciously deadly debut that’s as fun as it is frightening.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

My Sister, the Serial Killer will be available November 20, 2018. 

I always enjoy a good serial killer thriller. This one was a little different than others I have read before and from what I was expecting, but I enjoyed it just as much.

I absolutely loved Oyinkan Braithwaite’s writing style. I love short chapters and she was able to really use them effectively. I flew right through this book because I was never able to say “just one more chapter” and actually mean it. Even though the plot was never exactly harrowing, there was definitely a tense atmosphere and I had to do know what would happen next. It also managed to not be a really heavy or somber read. It was just really entertaining.

So how is this different than other serial killer stories? It’s told from the point of view of Korede, the sister of the killer, Ayoola. Korede is the older sister who has always taken care of Ayoola, even into adulthood. That includes cleaning up after her murders. Ayoola always claims self defense, but Korede has kind of stopped believing her. While no deep, psychological explanation is given for Ayoola’s behavior, we do explore the sisters’ childhood with their abusive father that we get to draw our own conclusions from. The story is really more about Korede’s relationship with her sister, who she both loves and resents and the choices she must make when the man she has feelings for falls into Ayoola’s web.

Overall, I really enjoyed My Sister, the Serial Killer. I loved the writing, the short chapters, and the interesting characters. I enjoyed reading about a different culture, as well. The only thing I didn’t really like about it is that I felt it left a few more things open-ended than I like. While it wasn’t the kind of story I was expecting it to be, it was really enjoyable and I definitely recommend it. I look forward to reading more from Braithwaite in the future.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

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Review: In Dog We Trust by Beth Kendrick

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

From the author of Once Upon a Wine, a new novel set in the charming seashore town of Black Dog Bay, Delaware.

When everything has gone to the dogs . . .

When Jocelyn Hillier is named legal guardian for the late Mr. Allardyce’s pack of pedigreed Labrador retrievers, her world is flipped upside down. She’s spent her entire life toiling in the tourism industry in Black Dog Bay and never expected to be living the pampered life of a seasonal resident in an ocean side mansion, complete with a generous stipend. But her new role isn’t without its challenges: The dogs (although lovable) are more high-maintenance than any Hollywood diva, the man she wants to marry breaks her heart, and she’s confronted at every turn by her late benefactor’s estranged son, Liam, who thinks he’s entitled to the inheritance left to the dogs.

Jocelyn has worked too hard to back down without a fight, and she’s determined to keep her new fur family together. As she strives to uphold the “Best in Show” standards her pack requires, Jocelyn finds love, family, and forgiveness in the most unexpected places.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

In Dog We Trust will be available January 8, 2019.

After a couple of really heavy reads, I needed something light and uplifting and In Dog We Trust was just that. I really enjoyed visiting Black Dog Bay again. It’s such a cute, quirky little town that I wish was real so I could go there. I liked that there were some brief cameos of characters from previous books, but you definitely don’t have to have read any of them to be able to read this one.

I thought the idea of this book was really fun. I’ve heard of eccentric, rich people leaving all their money to their pets, but never really understood how that worked. Jocelyn is named the guardian of three champion show dogs and that means she gets to move into their big, fancy beach house and controls all the money. Despite becoming rich overnight, Jocelyn never goes crazy with the money. She still works her previous job and only makes a couple small purchases that aren’t dog-related. I liked that she stayed so level-headed with all of that money. I also really enjoyed her relationship with the dogs. She is definitely a die-hard animal lover and while I may not entirely relate to it, I know there are lots of dog lovers out there that will really get it.

I liked the romance, though it was not nearly as central to the plot as I expected it to be. Jocelyn and Liam’s relationship grew pretty organically without any big, sweeping romantic moments, but employed smaller sweet and subtle ones. There was a lot more focus between Jocelyn’s relationship with her best friend, Bree, and with her mother, Rachel. I loved seeing these three strong women interact and get stuff done.

There were a few things I didn’t like, though. There are some legal things that happen towards the end of the book that I didn’t love how they turned out, but I also would’ve like a little more clarity on the whole thing. I also expected dog shows to be much more prevalent. We only see one show and none of the diva-like high maintenance upkeep that is described in the synopsis.

Overall, I really enjoyed In Dog We Trust. It was light and fun and I never wanted to put it down. I’ve been looking forward to reading more from Beth Kendrick and she didn’t disappoint. I think Chick Lit fans and dog-lovers would really enjoy this one, as well.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

Review: On Magnolia Lane (Blue Ridge Romance #3) by Denise Hunter

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From the bestselling author of The Convenient Groom (now a beloved Hallmark Original movie) comes the final book in Hunter’s Blue Ridge Romance series.

Pastor Jack McReady has secretly carried a torch for Daisy for two long years. She’s a member of his congregation, after all, and she’ll never see him as more than a trusted counselor. Jack’s best friend Noah has taken every opportunity to encourage his lovesick friend, but when Noah catches wind that Daisy has joined an online dating site, he takes matters into his own hands and orchestrates a meet-cute of the most unconventional kind.

Owner of the local flower shop, Daisy Pendleton is content with her small-town life, but she’d sure like someone to share it with. After several disastrous first dates, she’s about to give up—and then she finds a seemingly wonderful man online. Daisy gets to know TJ through a series of messages but finds herself spending more time with Pastor Jack outside of the church at the same time. What she doesn’t know is that her online prospect and Jack are one and the same.

Just as Daisy’s love life starts to look promising, a mysterious woman appears in town. Daisy is faced with a revelation about her family that turns her world upside down, and she looks to both TJ and Jack for help.

Jack must find a way to reveal himself as her online suitor without breaking her heart and losing her trust. As Daisy faces Jack’s betrayal, she’ll have to learn to extend grace to herself, her family, and the man she’s grown to love.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

On Magnolia Lane will be available November 6, 2018.

I’ve enjoyed the other books in the Blue Ridge Romance series and On Magnolia Lane just might be my favorite of the series.

I found both the lead characters, Daisy and Jack, to be likable. Sometimes I struggle with the likability factor of this author’s female leads, but I really liked Daisy here. She was kind and I felt like all of her reactions to some of the bad things she found out about were reasonable. I really liked Jack, too, though the whole dating site deceit storyline did keep me from really loving him.

Speaking of the dating site, that part of the plot really reminded me of another one of Hunter’s books. In the interest of full disclosure, I only read a couple of chapters of that book before I decided it wasn’t for me. I have to admit that while it didn’t ruin the book for me or anything, I really didn’t like it any better here. In a different book, I probably would’ve been ok with the male lead being a little dishonest about being the online suitor. I got that he wanted her to get to know him without the Pastor title she associated with him. BUT, I feel like as a Pastor he should’ve handled it better. I have a really hard time excusing his deceit in light of his occupation.

Which brings us to the message of forgiveness. Even though we have a tendency to place certain people on pedestals, everyone is just human and fallible. It’s only by grace that we are forgiven. This is a really easy truth to accept until you’re faced with being betrayed by someone you care about. In addition to Jack’s deceit, Daisy finds out things about her parents that was hard to get past. I found myself in a similar situation over the past year so I found this very relatable and it’s probably the biggest reason this is my favorite book of the series. It made me realize I still have a little ways to go when it comes to forgiveness, too.

Overall, I enjoyed On Magnolia Lane. It was a quick, easy read that I flew right through. I liked the characters and the message of forgiveness and grace. I believe this is the last book in the Blue Ridge Romance series and I thought it ended well. I recommend it to fans of Contemporary Christian Fiction.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: The Darkest Star (Origin #1) by Jennifer L. Armentrout

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Synopsis from GoodReads:

When seventeen-year-old Evie Dasher is caught up in a raid at a notorious club known as one of the few places where humans and the surviving Luxen can mingle freely, she meets Luc, an unnaturally beautiful guy she initially assumes is a Luxen…but he is in fact something much more powerful. Her growing attraction for Luc will lead her deeper and deeper into a world she’d only heard about, a world where everything she thought she knew will be turned on its head…

#1 New York Times, USA Today, and internationally bestselling author Jennifer L. Armentrout returns to the universe of the Lux in this brand new series, featuring beloved characters both new and old.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Darkest Star will be available October 30, 2018. 

Jennifer L. Armentrout’s Lux series is one of my favorite YA series and I was so excited to learn there was going to be a spin-off. Luc was such an interesting character in the Lux world and I always hoped we would get more of his story someday. While The Darkest Star didn’t give me all that I was anticipating, it was definitely a good start to this new series.

I think Armentrout definitely wrote this book so it’s possible to read without having read the original series it spun-off from. This is great for new readers, but it did provide me with some frustration. Lux fans already know what Luc is and we know his connection to Evie (maybe we aren’t supposed to connect the dots so quickly, but yeah). However, it takes to about the 45% mark before the word “Origin” is used. I felt like there was way too much build up for something I already knew. I also felt like the plot was pretty thin. The whole book is basically Evie finding out about Luc and her connection to him and how she deals with that. There’s a bit of a murder and mystery thrown in, but mostly there’s just a lot of up set up for future books.

Speaking of things I already knew, I thought that this book was extremely similar to Obsidian, the first book of the Lux series. There were scenes between Luc and Evie that seemed almost carbon copies from scenes of Daemon and Katy. I’m really hoping that symmetry was intentional. I was also expecting Daemon and Katy to play larger roles here, but Daemon is only in a few scenes and Katy is mentioned a couple of times, but never appears. I’m really hoping they pop up in future books because I will always need more Daemon Black in my life. I also liked the Archer cameo and would like more from him, as well.

So, despite some obvious issues, I did really enjoy this book. I have so much love for the first series and just being back in their world was so nostalgic for me. I’ve always liked Luc and I liked him just as much here. I also thought Evie was a pretty likable character. I really thought we were going to get Luc’s POV and was a little disappointed that we didn’t, but Evie was a good narrator so I didn’t mind it as much as I thought I would. I enjoyed the signature JLA banter between them and look forward to seeing their relationship progress.

Overall, I enjoyed The Darkest Star. I’m increasing my rating by at least half a star just because reading it gave me so much nostalgia for Lux. I’m already planning on going back and re-reading it. I honestly don’t know if I can be impartial enough to rate or recommend this book without letting myself be influenced by the first series. I do think that fans of JLA will enjoy this, especially if they read the Lux series.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Hot Winter Nights (Heartbreaker Bay #6) by Jill Shalvis

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Who needs mistletoe?

Most people wouldn’t think of a bad Santa case as the perfect Christmas gift. Then again, Molly Malone, office manager at Hunt Investigations, isn’t most people, and she could really use a distraction from the fantasies she’s been having since spending the night with her very secret crush, Lucas Knight. Nothing happened, not that Lucas knows that—but Molly just wants to enjoy being a little naughty for once . . .

Whiskey and pain meds for almost-healed bullet wounds don’t mix. Lucas needs to remember that next time he’s shot on the job, which may be sooner rather than later if Molly’s brother, Joe, finds out about them. Lucas can’t believe he’s drawing a blank on his (supposedly) passionate tryst with Molly, who’s the hottest, smartest, strongest woman he’s ever known. Strong enough to kick his butt if she discovers he’s been assigned to babysit her on her first case. And hot enough to melt his cold heart this Christmas.

I received a copy via the publisher. It does not impact my review. 

I’ve really been in the mood for cute romances lately and Hot Winter Nights definitely fit the bill.

I liked both Molly and Lucas. I thought they really complemented each other well and made a good team. I thought they got together, physically at least, a little more quickly than I would’ve liked, but I did definitely ship them together. I enjoyed their banter and how they had each other’s backs. I also liked how Molly’s physical disability was portrayed. Though she had some struggles, she didn’t let it keep her from doing the things she wanted.

There were a couple of things I found a little odd. One thing I’ve noticed about this series is that all the chapters are titled with hashtags and for the life of me I can’t understand why. Social media is not really a part of the story at all and I just don’t get the hashtags. Speaking of social media, though, I also recognized a lot of the funny one-liners from Molly’s friends or the elderly elves were actually from memes I’ve seen on Pinterest. Other than those small things, the only thing I didn’t really like about the book were that there were a few more sexual scenes than I care to read, but from reading other Shalvis books I kind of expected it so it didn’t really hinder my enjoyment that much.

Overall, I enjoyed Hot Winter Nights. I thought it was a cute romance with likable lead characters. I liked that the investigation plotline brought a little bit of action and suspense, as well. I definitely recommend this one to Romance fans, especially fans of Jill Shalvis.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

Review: Intercepted (Playbook #1) by Alexa Martin

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Marlee thought she scored the man of her dreams only to be scorched by a bad breakup. But there’s a new player on the horizon, and he’s in a league of his own…

Marlee Harper is the perfect girlfriend. She’s definitely had enough practice by dating her NFL-star boyfriend for the last ten years. But when she discovers he has been tackling other women on the sly, she vows to never date an athlete again. There’s just one problem: Gavin Pope, the new hotshot quarterback and a fling from the past, has Marlee in his sights.

Gavin fights to show Marlee he’s nothing like her ex. Unfortunately, not everyone is ready to let her escape her past. The team’s wives, who never led the welcome wagon, are not happy with Marlee’s return. They have only one thing on their minds: taking her down. But when the gossip makes Marlee public enemy number one, she worries about more than just her reputation.

Between their own fumbles and the wicked wives, it will take a Hail Mary for Marlee and Gavin’s relationship to survive the season.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

Guys, I loved this book! When I read Deanna’s review on it I knew I had to read it, but I still wasn’t quite prepared for how fun and addicting it would be. I never wanted to stop reading it. I read it in about 24 hours and that included having to take breaks for sleep and work.

I really enjoyed Marlee. She was quirky and funny and very likable. She did frustrate me every now and again, but for the most part I thought she was relatable and I loved being in her head. I also really liked her dad, her boss/friend Brynn, and her best friend Naomi. I even enjoyed the “Wicked Wives” and all the catty, mean girl drama they created. I also think it’s a fun tidbit that the author’s husband used to play football so she spent several years as a Football Wife and I have no doubt some of that over-the-top behavior is inspired by real life events.

And can we talk about Gavin for a moment? He was pretty darn perfect. He was so sweet and protective and I just adored him. I spent the whole book waiting for him to do something awful because no guy can be that perfect, right? Well, he never does anything awful, but he does do some stupid things towards the end of the book. While part of what he did kind of made sense to me (not that I thought it was ok, but I understood his thought process), his total obliviousness to how much he hurt Marlee was not at all consistent with his character and I didn’t like that he had to basically become a different person for a few chapters to create the necessary drama to move the plot forward. However, he does redeem himself and I’ll love him forever. (And that’s not a spoiler, because this is a Romance and we all know how it’s going to end.)

While I did very much enjoy the relationship between Marlee and Gavin, there was one aspect I was really missing. They had a one-night stand several years before when Marlee was on a break from her relationship with longtime boyfriend, Chris. We’re told a lot about how great all the physical parts of that night were (yes, I know this is a Romance, but I would’ve liked a little less graphic content), but I would’ve loved a flashback to what brought them to that. How did they meet? What was their initial connection like? When they meet again and Gavin starts pursuing her pretty hard once she breaks up with Chris it made it feel like it was just based off of physical attraction. Which didn’t make sense either because Gavin kept talking about how amazing Marlee was, so obviously he knew more about her from their one night together and I just would’ve liked to have seen that.

Overall, I just really enjoyed Intercepted. It’s been awhile since I had so much fun reading a Romance. I liked Martin’s writing style and even all the hashtags. Not all of them were golden, but for the most part I thought they added a good bit of humor. I also liked Marlee’s journey to becoming her own person and being able to recognize that being in a relationship can’t “fix” you. It was refreshing to have a Romance portray being in love as a good part of your life and not being your whole life. I recommend this one to Romance fans and I will definitely be reading more from Martin in the future.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: The Similars (The Similars #1) by Rebecca Hanover

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

When six clones join Emmaline’s prestigious boarding school, she must confront the heartbreak of seeing her dead best friend’s face each day in class.

The Similars are all anyone can talk about at the elite Darkwood Academy. Who are these six clones? What are the odds that all of them would be Darkwood students? Who is the madman who broke the law to create them? Emma couldn’t care less. Her best friend, Oliver, died over the summer and all she can think about is how to get through her junior year without him. Then she comes face-to-heartbreaking-face with Levi—Oliver’s exact DNA replica and one of the Similars.

Emma wants nothing to do with the Similars, but she keeps getting pulled deeper and deeper into their clique, uncovering dark truths about the clones and her prestigious school along the way. But no one can be trusted…not even the boy she is falling for who has Oliver’s face.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Similars will be available January 1, 2019. 

I thought that the concept for The Similars had potential. Unfortunately, it failed to live up to it for me.

I think the idea of cloning is very interesting. It brings up so many ethical questions. Some of those issues were brought up in the course of the book, however I didn’t think it was handled well. Instead of actual discussions and honest questions, it was treated like so many hot button topics are these days: with the two sides yelling their opinions at each other and not having an open mind about it at all. I get enough of this in real life, I don’t really want it in my entertainment. The author also tried to draw parallels between cloning and illegal immigration that I felt was a bit of a stretch.

I didn’t really love any of the characters. The story is told through Emma’s first person POV, so I felt like I got to know her pretty well, but character development was really lacking for everyone else. Emma was likable most of the time, though. The Similars are easily the most interesting characters of the book, but only a little bit of time is spent getting to know any of them. I didn’t really get on board the romance. Even though it was obvious what was going to happen, I still felt like it just kind of happened out of the blue.

There are two reveals towards the end of the book that I felt were supposed to be twists, but they were both things I suspected pretty early on in the story. Even though they didn’t surprise me at all, I think they have potential to provide some interesting paths in the coming books.

Overall, The Similars was just not for me. Despite an intriguing premise, the lack of character development, somewhat messy writing, and forced political overtones made this a book I was just getting through, rather than enjoying. As of right now, I’m not interested in continuing the series. I am by no means the target audience for this book, though, so those that are may find this a much better read than I did.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars