His Semi-Charmed Life (Camp Firefly Falls #11) by Lisa Hughey-a 5/5 Star Review!

Diego Ramos has started from the bottom and rose to the top by one thing alone: hard work.  Inspired by an argument he had when he was a camp counselor with a summer camper has set his life on a path of success.  Now he is set to merge his company with a huge and successful company that will make him a billionaire; his dream.  The only hurdle left before the merge is a company retreat at a familiar place: Camp Firefly Falls.

Penny is finally back, many years later, at Camp Firefly Falls.  A place that holds many great summer memories-and a bad one.  However, even the bad memory of an interaction with a camp counselor years ago was good in that it gave her advantaged childhood some perspective.  Not everyone has food to eat.  Now she is determined to get her thesis, urban gardens for corporate offices that donate the food that grows to charity, into reality.  She is set to pitch the idea at a corporate retreat at Camp Firefly Falls.  This could be the opportunity to get her idea off of the ground.  Little does she know that history is going to be waiting for her when she gets there, in more ways than one.

I have been fortunate to have had access to other books by Lisa Hughey in the past (see reviews Here and Also here ).  Those books were differently themed in that those previous books had plots about special agents and intense action.  That being said, I enjoyed the difference! It really speaks to Lisa Hughey’s talent and skill to be able to write so strongly in multiple genres.  This book flowed just as well as the previous books and the characters developed just as strongly.  I found this book very difficult to put down and the pace is very quick.

Although this was the 11th book in the series, it can easily be read as a standalone.  I am very interested in the characters that were mentioned in the book, particularly those in the Billionaire Breakfast Club, and I hope to be able to go back and read the other books in the series to find out their stories.  I would recommend this book for readers who enjoy steamy romance, car repair, underdogs,  farming, the attraction of opposites, and who enjoy reading about summer camp life.  Although I myself have never been to summer camp, I was still able to enjoy the setting.

For those who may be triggered or offended: there are several graphic sexual scenes, explicit foul language, and infidelity.

Please note:  an electronic copy of this book was generously provided by the publisher (Red Adept Publishing) via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Breakdown by B.A. Paris-a 4/5 Star Review!

Cass and her husband, Matthew, live in a house far away from many things. Only a couple of neighbors down the road but it is quiet and peaceful. That is, until one stormy night on her way home a woman is stranded on the side of the road. Cass made the decision that she would later regret: she does not help her. The next morning, the woman is found dead.

Riddled with the guilt of not having done anything, and horrified that this could happen in her small and remote neighborhood, Cass gets spooked and lives in fear. When she discovers that the woman was her new friend, Jane, she nearly falls apart. Does the murderer know that it was Cass who passed by?

Let me begin with the end. The end of the book really ties everything together and makes up for the redundant middle of the book. Although many thriller books are compared to Girl On The Train, I will add this one to the list for this very reason. I gave up on Girl On The Train because the middle was so redundant on how she is drunk every day. I later had the book spoiled for me and wished I had carried on. I almost did the same for this book. The middle of The Breakdown becomes cumbersome to read as it does not feel like much of anything is progressing. The daily actions of Cass waking up devastatingly convinced to have early onset dementia like her mother had, taking pills, falling asleep, waking up again to pretend to be normal when her husband comes home, and going to bed again happens so often. However, there are snippets of clues subtly dropped within this chunk of monotony that it is easy to miss them. I would not say that this book is something that I could not put down. For a lot of the book I had a hard time actually picking it back up, but I am glad that I did as the ending makes up for everything.

I would recommend this book for anyone who could endure Girl On The Train. I also recommend this book for readers who enjoy getting in the mindset of the narrator. This reads in first-person narrative and does not jump back and forth between past and present.

For those who may be offended, there are themes of manipulation, stalking, murder, early onset dementia, and overdose.

Please note: An electronic advanced reader copy was generously provided by St. Martin’s Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Lost Letter by Jillian Cantor-a 5/5 Star Review!

Kristoff has found a home, finally. Having been abandoned as a young child, finding his way as an adult has proved difficult. He finds refuge as an apprentice in the home of well-known stamp engraver, Frederick Faber. Frederick and his family, a wife and two daughters, are Jewish and living in Austria. However, as winter begins to invade, so do the Nazis, tearing Kristoff’s new family apart.

In another time and place, (California, 1989 to be precise) another family is tearing at the seams. Kate is struggling at work because her co-worker is her soon to be ex-husband. He filed the papers, she just needs to sign them. She is also juggling that with her father, Ted, a formerly avid stamp collector who has Alzheimer’s. She meets Benjamin, a philatelist, to get her father’s stamp collection appraised and one stamp in particular sends them on an adventure.

Although the plot jumped between the two stories, I thought it was done seamlessly. There were some chapters, however, where I wish it had not jumped because I was too eager to find out what happens next in one setting. It had several twists and turns, as well as several times where my heart ached for the characters. Although romance stories from World War II have been done quite often, this one stands out as unique. It brings elements of stamp engraving as well as collecting that I have yet to read elsewhere. Furthermore, the romance is a subtle build that is often cast aside in the urgency of the war period timeframe. The characters are not begging for attention nor are they overdramatic in responses. This is true for the stories in both time periods.

I do recommend this book for those who enjoy historical fiction, a bit of adventure, and romance. I read through it quickly as I found it to be gripping at times and heart-wrenching at other times.

For those who may be offended: there was kidnapping, guns, and sexually suggestive scenarios.

Please note: an electronic copy of this book was generously provided for free from Penguin’s First To Read program in exchange for an honest review.

New York, Actually (From Manhattan With Love #4) by Sarah Morgan- a 4/5 Star Review!

Molly has been settling into New York City over the last couple of years since fleeing public humiliation in London. She has lost her friends and her pride. Since moving to New York, she only trusts her dalmatian, Valentine, and her friends and neighbors, Mark and Gabe. She stays busy by taking various classes such as salsa and spinning, and has a successful online blog as a relationship expert offering advice for those who ask.

This advice is usually the opposite of the advice that Daniel Knight gives his clients. As a successful divorce attorney, and as a witness to his parents’ tumultuous marriage, he has sworn off marriage and relationships in general. He does not have time for dogs, or women for that matter, but on his morning runs he has been crossing paths with a beautiful woman and her dalmatian. His sisters, twins Fliss and Harry, are the Bark Rangers who offer pet services. His decision to borrow a stubborn Brutus to help him talk to the woman in the park gets him far deeper than he could have ever expected.

My favorite characters in this book were the dogs. I loved how their interactions contributed to the story as well as how well they got along. I am not normally into book series, however, each book in this series reads as a standalone. I enjoyed that Eva and Lucas were characters in this one as they were the main characters in the previous book. Furthermore, I enjoyed that Daniel is the bridge from the Urban Genie trio of friends to the Bark Ranger sisters. I found it easy to figure out that the next few books will (hopefully) be about twins Fliss and Harry, Daniel’s sisters.

There are four reasons why I only gave this book 4 stars:
1. Molly being originally from England was not very apparent unless it was briefly mentioned in conversation that she had an “accent”. This “accent” did not come through to me, especially not in the chapters that were in her perspective.
2. Molly was supposed to be a psychologist yet she clearly had not moved on from a situation in her past that caused her to flee to New York. Furthermore, she was unable to figure out her feelings as well as was quick to become irrational in certain situations. For example: she finds out that Daniel borrowed a dog to try to find a way to talk to her and she is very angry and seeks revenge.
3. I am used to Sarah Morgan’s characters fighting their feelings for each other before they reach the point that they are in love. But in this story, once they had moved past that point, it seemed extremely rushed to reach the next steps in their relationship.
4. I may be biased, however, I could not help but compare Molly and Daniel to the main characters in the previous books ( See reviews: Here , here , here,  and this bonus one ). Despite being able to relate to parts of their backstories, I just could not feel strongly for either of them. I was more interested in both Fliss’ potential story as well as Mark and Gabe’s history.

Despite these minor setbacks, I did still really enjoy this book. As can be expected when I read a book by Sarah Morgan, I did look forward to reading it as well as mini-squealed whenever a character from a previous book was mentioned. Sarah Morgan is extremely talented and her books take me to a happy place. It truly feels as if one is part of this growing group of friends and family and I find myself missing the characters when the book is over. These books are the kind that stay with you after each conclusion. I would recommend this book for readers who enjoy romance and, most especially, dogs.

For readers who may be triggered or offended: there were mentions of divorce, animal abandonment, scenarios sexual in nature, and brief foul language.

Please note: An electronic copy of this book was generously provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

You Were Here by Gian Sardar-DNF at 28%-1 Star Review

Rarely do I ever put a book down as a DNF but I just could not get into this one. There were a lot of names thrown out and it was hard to know which names would develop into characters the reader would get to be familiar with later. Typically, I enjoy books with parallel plots and that jump from past to present. However, there were so many characters introduced in both tenses that it came off as overwhelming to me. Furthermore, I did not care for one of the main characters in the present tense, Abby. I was not sure if she was supposed to have a panic disorder, anxiety, or if her tragic theatrics are what attracted the attention of her boyfriend, a screenwriter looking for his big break. The meltdown that Abby has at a restaurant, where she just got into her hometown that she hadn’t been to in a long time, with her mother and her mother’s best friend about a potential serial rapist in town was what made me put the book down for good. Maybe it’s because I’m a city girl and her hometown was small suburb of Minneapolis, and therefore she might have been in imminent danger. But it just did not connect for me nor did it seem realistic.

DNF at 28%, maybe some time away from the book will allow me to come back and pick it up again.

Please Note: an electronic copy of this book was generously provided for free from Penguin Random House’s First To Read Program in exchange for an honest review.

Please also note: for readers who may be triggered or offended, there were mentions of infidelity, sexual harrassment, incest, violence, murder, and rape.

Hunted: ALIAS #2 by Lisa Hughey- a 3 Star Review

Maria Torres has had a large part of her life taken away from her.  She was kidnapped and held captive for many years until she finally had the courage and opportunity to escape.  That experience has been haunting her life, making it very difficult to establish relationships and even trust others.

Dwayne Lameko has had a crush on co-worker Maria Torres since she joined the company.  He can charm most women, except for her.  She shuts down when he is near and refuses to tell him anything about herself.  She shocks him when she volunteers to go in on a mission and is even more shocked when he is assigned to be her partner.  Can they get over their awkward boundaries and work together as a team?

I read the first book in the series, Stalked: ALIAS #1 (see review here: Stalked ARC (ALIAS #1) by Lisa Hughey-5/5 Star Review), and I enjoyed the fast pace and high-powered action scenes.  The plot in that book was well developed, as were the characters, and there was a great balance between action and passion.  That being said, this book was a bit of a let down.  I went into Hunted expecting the same level of pace and character development but the story line felt truncated.  It focused more on the awkward romance growing between evasive Maria and alpha Dwayne than the thrill of the mission.  Furthermore, the “plot twist” was predictable.

I would not recommend this book for readers who may be sensitive to violence, sexually explicit scenarios, kidnapping, rape threats, and foul language.

Please note:  an electronic copy of this book was generously provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Long Black Veil by Jennifer Finney Boylan-5/5 Star Review!

Judith Carrington has finally found herself and, in her middle age, she is content. The first couple of decades of her life were filled with torment and the peace she has found would have been inconceivable in her youth. As she is going through the airport on her way home from a work trip, the front page of a newspaper throws her back into the chaos of her younger years.

Casey has had it rough since the one fateful night in his early 20s. Ever since then, he has lost touch with his friends, lost his confidence, lost his hope. He is successful in business but it can never fill the void that was left in him since that night. Just when he thought it could not get worse, he finds himself as the main suspect in a murder investigation from that night.

The night when, young and dumb, he and his friends decide to visit an abandoned penitentiary. Not all of them come out alive. None of them can ever forget. Decades later, the past comes back for a visit in more ways than one.

The first few chapters were difficult to get through because there is so much information that is not coming together to make a clear picture yet. There are about 8 characters introduced in the first couple of pages and the plot jumps not only between past and present, but between narratives as well. It was almost enough to make me put down the book and mark it as a “DNF”. However, once this has been navigated, it reads far more smoothly.

Another reason why the first few chapters were difficult to get through, for me anyway, is because it started off in what seemed like a different genre at the time. It is a mystery/thriller but the mysterious villain initially seemed to be hinted towards supernatural in nature. I had feared it would become a sci-fi horror and it was starting to give me nightmares. It took me several days to read this book because I put it down often to try to understand the difference between characters or I was terrified.

Fortunately, by soldiering on through the chapters, the confusion cleared and it became far more exciting and deep. It is not just a book about murder. This is a book about how even the strongest of friendships can fray. How the future is never what we expect it to be, nor are people always what they seem. It is also a book that shows several examples of how one person’s choice can affect many people’s lives. Even if it is to make that person’s life better.

As I got further into this maze of a plot, I became entranced with the secrets of the characters. The turns are sharp but the design is masterful. I felt connected to each character. I felt fear, sorrow, happiness, and hope. Small details from the beginning of the book come back to play a bigger part later. I have already recommended this book to others and will continue to do so for it is just that incredible.

My favorite character in this book was a tie between Benny and Casey. Innocent little Benny whose childish mischief carries with him in age. Casey who has an excitable optimism, despite his weak self-image, and a pure sense of love.

I would recommend this book for readers who can fight through the initial confusion to get to the main road. I also would recommend this book for readers who enjoy deeply complex characters and do not mind the frequent jumping from past to present. Lastly, I would recommend this book for those who like fast-paced and mostly dark plots.

On the other hand, I would not recommend this book for readers who may be sensitive to the following: foul language, drug use, violence, sexually suggestive scenarios, and abortion.

Please note: a paperback copy of this book was generously provided by LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review.