Review: Love on Lexington Avenue (Central Park Pact #2) by Lauren Layne

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Review from Goodreads:

From New York Times bestselling author Lauren Layne comes the second delightfully charming installment in the Central Park Pact series, following a young widow whose newfound cynicism about love is challenged by a sexy, rough-around-the-edges contractor. 

There’s never a bad time to fall in love in the city, right? Wrong. According to the recently-widowed Claire Hayes, it’s very, verywrong. In fact, after finding out her late husband was a liar and a cheat, Claire’s convinced there’s never a good time for romantic notions. Determined to rid her home of anything that reminds her of her philandering husband, Claire sets out to redesign her entire Upper East Side brownstone and make it her own. But when she meets gruff and often-cantankerous contractor Scott Turner and realizes not all men are scumbags, Claire must decide if she’s ready to risk her heart again.

Scott needs a change of pace from the corporate offices and swanky hotels he’s been building lately, and bluntly makes it clear to Claire that he only took on her house for that reason, adding that he has no patience for a pampered, damaged princess on his job site. But when long work days soon turn into even longer nights, their mutual wariness morphs into something more complicated—a grudging respect, and maybe even attraction…? Scott knows he’s not one to settle down, but then why can’t he bring himself to put the finishing touches on Claire’s house and move on to the next job?

Filled with laugh-out-loud scenes that blend perfectly with the touching friendships Layne brings to life on the page, this “hugely entertaining” (USA TODAY) novel is perfect for fans of Lauren Weisberger.

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

Love on Lexington Avenue will be available September 17, 2019.

I love Lauren Layne books. When I am in the mood for a fun Romance, she has become one of my go-to’s and Love on Lexington Avenue didn’t disappoint.

I’ll admit that the first book in this series, while still good, was not one of my favorites and I was a little hesitant going into this one. However, I enjoyed this one so much more. I really liked the main couple, Claire and Scott. I shipped them right from the beginning. I loved how their bickering turned into friendship and then more. I thought that while they had a lot in common, they also balanced each other out well.

I enjoyed seeing the other characters from the first book, as well. Claire’s friends, Audrey and Naomi, whom she first met when she found out her recently deceased husband was having an affair with both of them. Naomi still isn’t my favorite character (and was mostly the reason why the first book didn’t work for me as much), but I enjoyed her much more in small doses. I’m really looking forward to reading Audrey (and Clarke’s) story next. I also really liked seeing Oliver again. He shows up a lot in this book since he’s friends with both Claire and Scott.

One thing that I do really love about this series is that there is a lot less graphic stuff than in most of Layne’s other books. I know some people see that as a negative, but I am here for it. Even though the plot of this book had a lot of discussion about the idea of casual one-night stands, which I didn’t love, it never really went into graphic description and that just makes me like this book that much more.

Overall, I really enjoyed Love on Lexington Avenue. I loved the characters and the romance and the humor. I can’t wait to read the next book in this series!

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

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Review: 29 Seconds by T.M. Logan

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

From the bestselling author of LIES comes 29 SECONDS, a sensational new thriller that explores what happens when a split second thought of revenge takes on a life of its own. 

“Give me one name. One person. And I will make them disappear.”

Sarah is a young professor struggling to prove herself in a workplace controlled by the charming and manipulative Alan Hawthorne, a renowned scholar and television host. The beloved professor rakes in million-dollar grants for the university where Sarah works—so his inappropriate treatment of female colleagues behind closed doors has gone unchallenged for years. And Sarah is his newest target.

When Hawthorne’s advances become threatening, she’s left with nowhere to turn. Until the night she witnesses an attempted kidnapping of a young child on her drive home, and impulsively jumps in to intervene. The child’s father turns out to be a successful businessman with dangerous connections—and her act of bravery has put this powerful man in her debt. He lives by his own brutal code, and all debts must be repaid. In the only way he knows how. The man gives Sarah a burner phone and an unbelievable offer. A once-in-a-lifetime deal that can make all her problems disappear.

No consequences. No traces. No chance of being found out. All it takes is a 29-second phone call.

Because everyone has a name to give. Don’t they?

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

29 Seconds will be available September 10, 2019. 

I found T.M. Logan’s last book, Lies, to be pretty entertaining so I had high hopes for 29 Seconds. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I was hoping to.

The topic is a timely #MeToo scenario. Sarah is a junior faculty member at a university and her boss is notorious for getting away with sexually harassing/assaulting his young, female subordinates. He has his sights set on Sarah and much of the book is her trying to figure out how to avoid his advances without ruining her career. With this being such a current and important topic, I was hoping for a strong female character who would do the right thing. Instead, Sarah was pretty spineless and just felt sorry for herself. I found her more annoying than anything else.

Then there’s the 29 Seconds part of the book. Sarah helps interrupt a kidnapping and to repay her, the little girl’s sketchy, mobster father offers to make someone in Sarah’s life disappear. Sarah initially refuses, but when things with her boss go from bad to worse, she makes a 29 second phone call to make her boss disappear. What follows is a lot of paranoia and a bumbled disappearance that kind of made the whole thing pointless. While I initially thought this idea was kind of intriguing, it just ended up being kind of ridiculous.

Overall, I found 29 Seconds kind of disappointing. While I liked the short chapters, the story did drag a bit. The characters were unlikable and the “twist” wasn’t really much of a twist at all. There was also an issue with the ARC copy I had where the villain’s last name kept changing between two different names. Hopefully this will be all sorted out by the final copy, but it made for a confusing and frustrating reading experience.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars

Review: You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

For fans of The Hating Game, a debut lovers-to-enemies-to-lovers romantic comedy about two unhappily engaged people each trying to force the other to end the relationship–and falling back in love in the process.

Naomi Westfield has an Instagram-perfect life, including the perfect fiancé: Nicholas Rose holds doors open for her, remembers her restaurant orders, and comes from the kind of upstanding society family every bride dreams of being a part of. They never fight, complain, or disagree. They’re preparing for their lavish wedding that’s three months away. And they are miserably and utterly sick of each other.

Tired of contorting herself to fit the ridiculous standards demanded by Nicholas’s family, Naomi wants out of the relationship. But there’s a catch: Whoever calls off the engagement will have to foot the enormous bill for the wedding. When Naomi finds out that Nicholas, too, has been feigning contentment, the two of them go head-to-head in a battle of wills to see who can annoy the other into surrendering through pranks, sabotage, and all-out emotional warfare.

But now that they have nothing to lose, they’re finally being themselves. They’re having so much fun getting on each other’s nerves that it starts to feel like something else entirely. As Naomi discovers hidden feelings for Nicholas buried under three years of simmering resentment, she wonders if he feels the same way. Suddenly, the countdown to the wedding that may or may not come to pass feels more like a race to mutual destruction–and Naomi doesn’t want to be left alone at the finish line.

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

You Deserve Each Other will be available April 7, 2020.

The cute cover and the reference to The Hating Game definitely drew me to You Deserve Each Other. Unfortunately, it was just not for me.

Naomi has to be one of the most unlikable characters I have ever read. For about the first 60% of the book I really thought she’d be better suited as the narcissistic villain in a psychological thriller rather than the heroine in a Romance. She is just so, so awful and self-centered. She spent the early days of her relationship with Nicholas lying to him and then got mad when he thought that’s who she was. She refused to communicate and every time Nicholas tried to be honest, she would not take any responsibility for the things she’s done wrong, but would turn it back around on him. She was so mean and vindictive. I really couldn’t stand her. Nicholas also didn’t hep matters by often retaliating her bad behavior. However, he wasn’t trying to get her to break up with him like the sick game Naomi thought they were playing, but wanted to get an actual reaction out of her and get their relationship back on solid ground.

Even though I was not enjoying the book at all, for some reason I kept reading it and a little over halfway through it began to get better. Naomi and Nicholas finally have real conversations and start to make positive changes. There were even several cute and humorous moments. It made me sad that the first half of the book was so frustrating because it had the potential to be such a sweet, fun story, but the second half was not enough to make up for the first.

Overall, You Deserve Each Other ended up disappointing me. It did have some funny and cute moments, but Naomi was just so unlikable for the first half of the book (and still not great in the second half). She really came across as a sociopath to me and I felt bad for Nicholas. While I wouldn’t personally recommend it, I’m sure that there will be many people that find it funny and enjoy it much more than I did.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars

Review: The First Girl Child by Amy Harmon

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

From ​the New York Times bestselling author comes a breathtaking fantasy of a cursed kingdom, warring clans, and unexpected salvation.

Bayr of Saylok, bastard son of a powerful and jealous chieftain, is haunted by the curse once leveled by his dying mother. Bartered, abandoned, and rarely loved, she plagued the land with her words: From this day forward, there will be no daughters in Saylok.

Raised among the Keepers at Temple Hill, Bayr is gifted with inhuman strength. But he’s also blessed with an all-too-human heart that beats with one purpose: to protect Alba, the first girl child born in nearly two decades and the salvation for a country at risk.

Now the fate of Saylok lies with Alba and Bayr, whose bond grows deeper with every whisper of coming chaos. Charged with battling the enemies of their people, both within and without, Bayr is fueled further by the love of a girl who has defied the scourge of Saylok.

What Bayr and Alba don’t know is that they each threaten the king, a greedy man who built his throne on lies, murder, and betrayal. There is only one way to defend their land from the corruption that has overtaken it. By breaking the curse, they could defeat the king…but they could also destroy themselves.

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

The First Girl Child will be available August 20, 2019. 

I hardly know where to begin with this review. I’m going with a trusty list.

*The the book is set in a fantasy world within a Norse mythology framework. I will show my ignorance on the subject and admit I thought Thor was just a comic book character. But he and Loki and several others are mentioned throughout this story, though they aren’t main characters or anything.

*I found the synopsis just a little misleading. While Bayr and Alba are definitely main characters, they feel like supporting characters until the last quarter of the book. The story follows them from birth to adulthood, with much of book taking place while they are still children. I don’t want to diminish their importance, but I just expected for them to play much bigger roles. Dagmar and Ghost felt a lot more like lead characters and they aren’t even mentioned in the synopsis.

*There is some fabulous character development. Harmon takes her time telling the story and really focuses in on the characters and she did a good job of it. I definitely felt a connection to many of them. I loved sweet Bayr and tragic, tragic Dagmar.

*Though there was great characterization, I felt like it was a little at the expense of the pace. Though I was enjoying the story, I felt like it took me a lot longer to get through the book than it normally would a book of a similar size. Harmon’s writing is as beautiful as ever, but it also felt a little exhausting at times. I felt like it could have been edited down a bit more.

*I liked the slight parallel between Bayr and Moses from the Bible. Speaking of the Bible, though, it is mentioned that a leader from Saylok’s past spent some time among Christians and liked them so much he decided to make Jesus one of the gods they worship in Saylok. Which kind of defies the point of Christianity.

Overall, I enjoyed The First Girl Child. It wasn’t quite what I was expecting, but that turned out to be ok. Though it was a little longer and slower than it needed to be, I loved the characters a lot, especially Dagmar and Bayr. I think fans of Harmon’s other fantasy novels will really enjoy this one.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: On the Corner of Love and Hate (Hopeless Romantics #1) by Nina Bocci

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

For fans of Christina Lauren and Lauren Layne comes a delightfully sassy and sexy romance about a campaign manager who reluctantly works with the local Lothario to help revamp his image for the upcoming mayoral elections, only to discover that he’s hiding something that can turn both their lives upside down.

What’s a campaign manager’s worst nightmare? A smooth-talking charmer who’s never met a scandal that he didn’t like.

When Emmanuelle Peroni’s father—and mayor of her town—asks her to help rehab Cooper Endicott’s image, she’s horrified. Cooper drives her crazy in every way possible. But he’s also her father’s protégé, and she can’t say no to him without him finding out the reason why: Cooper and her have a messy past. So Emmanuelle reluctantly launches her father’s grand plan to get this Casanova someone to settle down with and help him lose his lothario reputation.

Cooper Endicott wanted to run for Mayor, but he never wanted the drama that went with it. Now that he’s on the political hamster wheel, the other candidates are digging up everything from his past. Even though he’s doing all the right things, his colorful love life is the sticking point for many of the conservative voters. He wants to win, badly, and he knows that if he wants any chance of getting a vote from the female population, he needs to change his image. The only problem? He might just be falling in love with the one person he promised not to pursue: the Mayor’s off-limits daughter.

A perfect blend of humor and heart, On the Corner of Love and Hate is the first in a new series from USA TODAY bestselling author Nina Bocci.

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

On the Corner of Love and Hate will be available August 20, 2019. 

On the Corner of Love and Hate was a cute read. I shipped Emma and Cooper together and enjoyed the small-town setting. I felt like it tried to be too many things, though. It couldn’t quite decide whether it wanted to be a Friends-to-More or Enemies-to-Lovers story. The plot also revolved around politics and an election, without actually making any type of political statement. I don’t actually mind that too much, though, because I read books to avoid politics and in the current climate it would alienate a lot of readers to come out hard on one subject or another.

Emma was supposed to be very strong and driven and while she did display those qualities, she was also very wishy-washy and literally ran away from things that she didn’t want to deal with. I feel like I have read several books with this type of character lately and so my frustration with her might have been a little stronger than it should have been because of that. I did like that she loved her small town, her family and her friends. I really liked Nick and Henry and wish we would have gotten a little more of them. It sounds like the next book will focus on a romance for Henry and I’m looking forward to that.

Overall, I enjoyed On the Corner of Love and Hate. I read this at a time when no book was keeping my attention until I tried this one and it got me out of my slump. I liked Emma and Cooper together when Emma wasn’t being frustrating about it. I wish we would’ve gotten Cooper’s POV, too, though. Though I had a few issues, I’m still looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: Trust Me When I Lie by Benjamin Stevenson

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Eliza Dacey was murdered in cold blood.

Four years later, the world watched it unfold again on screen.

Producer Jack Quick knows how to frame a story. So says Curtis Wade, the subject of Jack’s new true crime docuseries, convicted of a young woman’s murder four years prior. In the eyes of Jack’s viewers, flimsy evidence and police bias influenced the final verdict…even though, off screen, Jack himself has his doubts.

But when the series finale is wildly successful, a retrial sees Curtis walk free. And then another victim turns up dead.

To set things right, Jack goes back to the sleepy vineyard town where it all began, bent on discovering what really happened. Because behind the many stories he tells, the truth is Jack’s last chance. He may have sprung a killer from jail, but he’s also the one that can send him back.

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

Trust Me When I Lie will be available August 13, 2019. 

Trust Me When I Lie had a really interesting premise, but it never quite lived up to it’s potential for me.

Jack was a popular true crime podcast host that got his big break investigating the trial of Curtis Wade. Curtis was convicted of killing a young woman with very little actual evidence. Jack creates a tv show chronicling the many errors of the case. He doesn’t really seem to understand there are real world implications to what his show produces and is only after telling a good story. When he comes across a piece of evidence that doesn’t fit into his narrative, he doesn’t share it. When Curtis eventually gets released from prison, Jack begins to worry that maybe he really is guilty and sets out to prove it.

I was disappointed that the tv show didn’t really play that big of part in the story. I expected more excerpts and interviews and “making of” moments. However, the story mostly takes place after the show has aired and there is very little shared about it, other than that Jack ruined people’s careers – and made others – and edited statements to his own purposes. The story mostly followed Jack bumbling around trying to figure things out and wasn’t as suspenseful or mysterious as I was hoping for. From very early on in the story I had a theory that ended up being right. There were a couple of red herrings throughout where I thought maybe my original theory was wrong, but it wasn’t. It made the “twist” really anti-climactic for me.

Overall, Trust Me When I Lie had enjoyable moments, but did not live up to my expectations. It didn’t involve the show as much as I wanted it to and the mystery held very few surprises. However, I enjoyed the dark humor and thought the characterization was really well done. I would be interested to see what Stevenson does in the future.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: Life and Other Inconveniences by Kristan Higgins

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

From the New York Times bestselling author of Good Luck with That comes a new novel about a blue-blood grandmother and her black-sheep granddaughter who discover they are truly two sides of the same coin.

Emma London never thought she had anything in common with her grandmother Genevieve London. The regal old woman came from wealthy and bluest-blood New England stock, but that didn’t protect her from life’s cruelest blows: the disappearance of Genevieve’s young son, followed by the premature death of her husband. But Genevieve rose from those ashes of grief and built a fashion empire that was respected the world over, even when it meant neglecting her other son.

When Emma’s own mother died, her father abandoned her on his mother’s doorstep. Genevieve took Emma in and reluctantly raised her–until Emma got pregnant her senior year of high school. Genevieve kicked her out with nothing but the clothes on her back…but Emma took with her the most important London possession: the strength not just to survive but to thrive. And indeed, Emma has built a wonderful life for herself and her teenage daughter, Riley.

So what is Emma to do when Genevieve does the one thing Emma never expected of her and, after not speaking to her for nearly two decades, calls and asks for help?

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

Life and Other Inconveniences will be available August 6, 2019. 

Kristan Higgins has been one of my favorite authors for a long time. I’ve read all of her Romance books multiple times and they never fail to lift my mood. Higgins’ writing has evolved over the last few years, though, as she’s moved into the Women’s Fiction market. She is still an excellent writer, perhaps even more popular now than ever, but I have to admit I don’t love the books of her newer genre as much as her backlist.

Life and Other Inconveniences is a multi-generational story focusing on the lives of Emma, her estranged grandmother Genevieve, and her daughter Riley. In addition to their POVs, there are a couple chapters from Genevieve’s son and Emma’s father, Clarke, and Miller, a widower/single father and Emma’s new love interest. I felt like there was kind of a lot to keep track of, even though there wasn’t a lot actually happening. The story is heavily character-driven and the first half was almost nothing but character history. One of the things that makes Higgins’ writing so distinctive is her use of flashback chapters and I usually love them, but they just didn’t work as well for me here. At one point there were three flashback chapters in a row from different POVs and it felt like too much. They are usually so effectively placed and I was a little disappointed how they were used here. I think the story could have benefited from sticking with fewer POVs.

I often say that such a character-driven story either has to have characters I love or love to hate, but I felt a little ambivalent to the characters here. I did like Emma (for the most part), Riley, Miller, and a few of the side-characters, but I never really loved them. Emma would be completely wonderful and level-headed one moment and then petty and insulting when someone made her mad. It made me a little sad that it was every time she was standing up for herself – or someone else – that she devolved to name-calling and this was supposed to be applauded. I also thought Genevieve was a pretty awful person. I never felt sorry for her, despite the things she went through. I just didn’t really care about her and it made it hard to get through her chapters.

One part of the story that I loved, though, was the romance between Emma and Miller. It played just a small part of the book, but it was cute and sweet and I liked how they helped each other. I honestly would’ve loved it if their relationship was the focus of the book instead. I don’t tend to read a ton of straight up Romance books (unless I’m in the midst of a Kindle Unlimited binge), but I will never stop hoping Higgins will return to her roots and give us another one.

Overall, Life and Other Inconveniences was enjoyable, but also a little disappointing to me. I feel like I need to say that it very well might be that I just wasn’t in the mood for this type of book when I read it and I’m sure there will be many people that absolutely love it. When I think of a Kristan Higgins book, though, I think of those sweet and funny Romances that I love and this book just didn’t fall into that category.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars