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: 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

Review: The Promise (DS Imogen Grey #4) by Katerina Diamond

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

‘All hail the new Queen of Crime!’ Heat

When troubled teen Connor moves to Exeter from the US to escape his past, he finds himself embroiled in a world of popular kids and easy girls. Everyone wants to be his friend, but they don’t know about what he did…and they don’t know about his father.

As Connor’s life in England begins to unravel, DS Adrian Miles and his partner Imogen Grey are working up against the clock to catch a serial killer who dates his victims before he kills them. Determined to uncover the truth, Imogen is forced to act as bait – but will she take it too far and risk her own life?

Katerina Diamond is back with a bang in this dark, twisted novel, perfect for fans of M.J. Arlidge and Karin Slaughter.

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

The Promise will be available September 20, 2018.

Last year I read and fell in love with the DS Imogen Grey series and The Promise was one of my most anticipated books of 2018. I’m so happy to report that it completely lived up to my expectations.

I just love Diamond’s writing style. The mysteries are always so well done and also really character driven. Even though the book was kind of long, I just flew right through it. I never wanted to put it down. I will say that this is the first of her books that I figured things out well before they were revealed, but I was so invested in all the characters that I didn’t mind not being surprised like I have been before.

While the story is told through several different viewpoints, we get quite a lot of Connor’s POV. I think we actually hear more from him than from Imogen or Adrian and while I expected that to upset me, it didn’t. As I mentioned earlier, I was heavily invested in the characters and that included Connor. I felt so bad for all that he went through and just wanted to see him catch a break. Though he plays an integral role in the mystery and the lead up to the resolution, I thought his own ending was left a little more open than I like. Though I don’t anticipate it happening, I really wouldn’t mind seeing more of him in future books.

There were a few developments in Imogen and Adrian’s personal relationships and their partnership, as well. Adrian is still grieving from the events of the previous book. Imogen struggles with making the decision  between keeping her relationship with Dean or moving along in her career. In addition, their own relationship begins to change and neither of them are sure about what’s happening. I don’t want to get too spoilery, but I am very, very anxious to see how things develop in the next book.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Promise. I’m afraid this little review doesn’t come close to expressing how much. I loved the writing, the mystery, and the characters. While this book still had plenty of dark content, it wasn’t as dark as some of the other books in this series and I liked that. Katerina Diamond has really become one of my favorite authors and I definitely recommend her to mystery and crime fans. I am really looking forward to the next book in the series.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars 

Review: Lies by T.M. Logan

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

What if you have the perfect life, the perfect wife and the perfect child—then, in one shattering moment, you discover nothing is as it seems? Now you are in the sights of a ruthless killer determined to destroy everything you treasure.

It’s the evening drive home from work on a route Joe Lynch has taken a hundred times with his young son. But today, Joe sees his wife meet another man—an encounter that will rip two families apart. Raising the question: Can we ever really trust those closest to us?

Joe will do whatever it takes to protect his family, but as the deception unravels, so does his life. A life played out without any rules. And a cunning opponent who’s always one step ahead.

In the tradition of The Girl Before by J. P. Delaney and Behind Closed Doors by B. A. Paris, T. M. Logan’s Lies is an unputdownable thriller that will keep readers guessing until the jaw-dropping finale.

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

Lies by T.M. Logan will be available September 11, 2018. 

Lies is a well-paced, entertaining thriller that managed to surprise me. The chapters were short and snappy and mostly ended in cliffhangers which made me keep saying “just one more, chapter” every time I thought I would put the book down. I thought the mystery was pretty well done, as well. I definitely guessed some of it, but not all of it, so I really enjoyed the reveal at the end. I did think it dragged just a bit in the middle, though, and could’ve been a little shorter.

While I liked Joe, I did have some issues with him. Here’s the thing about a lot of books with the whole “ordinary guy in extraordinary circumstances” thing. They try to play detective and think they know better than everyone else and EVERY. SINGLE. THING. they do makes them look bad. Joe fell heavily into this trope and he kind of drove me crazy for most of the book. I just couldn’t believe how he couldn’t realize he was basically shooting himself in the foot every time he opened his mouth or followed up some lead. That said, he was still a sympathetic character I couldn’t help but root for.

Technology and social media is an important part of the book and it’s really made me want to go live off the grid. Things like Amazon’s Echo products that listen to you all day every day already kind of freak me out, but I don’t usually think much of all the information my phone records. Technology is terrifying and the way it was so easy to manipulate it to make Joe look so guilty was chilling.

Overall, I enjoyed Lies. I loved that the chapters were so short and suspenseful. While Joe did frustrate me, he was still a likable character that I wanted to see vindicated. I’m upping my overall rating a bit because the end managed to surprise me. I definitely recommend this one if you’re looking for a fast and entertaining mystery.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars