She Lies in Wait (DCI Jonah Sheens #1) by Gytha Lodge – A 2/5 Star Review

One girl has to tag along embarrassingly with her older sister on a camping trip with her sister’s friends. One night of secrets. One death that will take 30 years to solve. One Detective who knows more than he lets on.

This book was kind of hard to fly through at times. There is a fine line between detailing the setting and overloading on details as filler. However, it could also be the case that the overwhelming amount of details was due to it being the author’s debut novel. It was mostly very heavy on the interactions and operations of the office.

Furthermore, there is a subplot on a newbie detective with an abusive stalker of an ex-boyfriend that forces her to spend the night in a hotel at one point. The main issue with this is: there doesn’t seem to be a point to it. Since this is the first book in a series, perhaps the author is setting up a villain for the next book. Or could it be that the author was trying to humanize the character? There is not a resolution to this issue and it makes the plot a bit sporadic.

Another reason why I did not care for this particular book is because of the alternating narratives. Authors like Liane Moriarty (see review ) can pull off weaving multiple storylines and distinct narratives into one cohesive plot. Unfortunately, this did not happen in She Lies in Wait. Mostly because it starts off solely as alternating narrators of DCI Jonah Sheens in the present and Aurora in the past with chapter separation. Then, the narration switches between a random assortment of characters with only Hanson as a fairly common one with her confusing subplot. Furthermore, some of the other detectives are not established well so sometimes it was confusing on who the narrator was even supposed to be and pretty much muddied the plot.

The final reason why I did not care for this book is because it was almost obvious who the killer was from the early chapters. I had hoped that it couldn’t possibly be that obvious and must be a red herring but I was disappointed.

And so I can’t say that I am eager for the next book in the series. I do give props to the author as it is very hard to get your debut novel published. I would imagine it is even harder if that book is the first in a series. But, for me, this book is not one that I would recommend.

The following things were found in my reading of the book that may be offensive or trigger some readers: violence, drug use, alcohol use, drug abuse, sexual assault, sexually suggestive scenarios, foul language, murder, stalking, and psychological abuse.

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

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Mutts and Mistletoe by Natalie Cox- a 5/5 Star review!

Charlie’s least favorite time of the year, the holidays, is the worst it could possibly be this year. Not only did her long-time boyfriend cheat on her, but her apartment is destroyed and she has a concussion as a result of it. Her cousin, Jez, needs Charlie as much as Charlie needs a place to stay peacefully to eat as much chocolate in front of the tv. Jez runs Cozy Canine Cottage, a dog boarding place, out of her country home on several acres in the country. Jez needs someone to look after the dogs while she jets off to the Arctic, Charlie needs a place to stay, sounds like an easy trade. There’s just one teensy, tiny problem: Charlie is a city girl who hates dogs as much as she hates the holidays.

I was at my local library on the hunt for a fun holiday romance book when I came across a recommendation from one of my favorite authors, Sophie Kinsella (see reviews: #1  & #2 ), for this book. I figured, she knew what she was talking about when it came to fun romances as I am a big fan of hers. I was right. Mutts and Mistletoe is a funny romance that will warm a reader from the inside out. Many times I audibly gasped followed by a “Noooo!” or I laughed out loud. It is an engaging storyline with a lovable yet mischievous main character that seems to attract disaster wherever she goes. I loved the tumultuous way in which the relationship between her and Cal, the veterinarian who seems to be opposite of her in every way, grew. This is further complicated when another love interest wedges his way into the house crammed with a growing number of friends of all species.

My favorite interaction was on page 233:

“What do you know about alpacas?” Hugo asks Cal in a jaunty tone.

“They make great sweaters,” says Cal stonily.

It was tough to choose my favorite character in this book as there are several great choices. My top three were: Cal, Charlie’s father, and Malcom-the great dane. Charlie’s father was very reasonable, open-minded, and optimistic-much like my own father- which was endearing and seemed to be very good at stabilizing Charlie. In the end, Cal won my heart as I am sure he will warm the hearts of many other readers, as will all of the animals in this book. Natalie Cox did a wonderful job of assigning each animal with distinctive personalities. She also created a fun winter wonderland in a remote location with situations that would be ridiculous outside of this plot. Furthermore, the vocabulary in the writing is exquisite. There were many times that I had to put the book down to look up words such as “munificence” and “rictus” or I resorted to consulting with my logophile friends.

I would recommend this book to adult readers looking for a fun holiday romance. I would also recommend this book for animal lovers, particularly of dogs, wolves, and alpacas. Fans of the English countryside, or small towns in general, and of winter snow will also enjoy this book. There were only suggestions of sexual scenarios and there is a big scene of birthing puppies which is why I did not recommend it for an audience younger than adults. I do not remember any foul language or violence but that is not to say that there was not any in the book. If there was, it was not enough to stick out in my mind.

 

The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton-A 5/5 Star Review!

Aiden Bishop awakens in an unknown forest with only one name resonating in his mind-Anna.  He does not know where he is, when it is, and he does not even know his own name.  The only thing he knows is that he has to get out of here.  Fast.

As he later discovers, he cannot get out of Blackheath until he solves the murder of Evelyn Hardcastle repeating the same day in a different body.  The clues will be given to each character and the events cannot and should not be changed.  Meanwhile, danger lurks in the shadows, in every corner, and not everything is what it seems.

Although the main character, Aiden Bishop, has to inhabit 8 individual bodies, the storyline remained the same and details from previous perspectives bring clarity to the mystery.  Not only does Aiden have to figure out who murdered Evelyn Hardcastle to save his own life, he also has to figure out how to save the life of both Evelyn and Anna.  This is made more difficult as there are others who are also trying to escape and manipulate him to advance their chances.  There is also the issue that the more bodies that Aiden resides in, the more voices and characters compound his psyche.  As if that was not complicated enough, he also has to do all of this while protecting his hosts from being prematurely murdered by The Footman who is stalking him and ready to pounce at any moment to shorten his day and thus reducing his chances of solving the murder and escaping.

All of these factors intertwine into a fantastic plot with surprises, mystery, and an epic finale.  I would recommend this book for all adult mystery readers.  It is very fast-paced and I felt myself rooting for Aiden and Anna through their many obstacles.  I loved the small details that became big clues later on in the story.  The fact that this is Stuart Turton’s debut novel is incredible!

Conversely, I would not recommend this book for readers who may be triggered or offended by the following: arranged marriage, murder, revenge, death, graphic violence, and suggestions of rape.

Please note: An Advanced Reader Copy of this book was generously provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

A Chance This Christmas (Road To Romance Book 3) by Joanne Rock-DNF at 13%

DNF at 13%-the first 13% is just basically repeating the events that chased Rachel out of town so many times that it is either excessive filler or the reader is supposed to be forced to pity Rachel.  Poor Rachel, her dad embezzled the town.  Poor Rachel, she has the Scarlet Letter because she kissed her ex-boyfriend’s friend.  Poor Rachel, she has to hide herself and sneak around town so they won’t come after her with pitchforks.  It was redundant and irritating.

Furthermore, it already made it abundantly clear that Gavin, the one she shared the controversial kiss with, is famous, handsome, perfect, and will be the hero and Prince Charming.  I cannot finish this book and I cannot imagine how it is the third book in a series.

Please note: an electronic copy of this review was generously provided via LibraryThing’s EarlyReviewer Program in exchange for an honest review.

A Lady’s Escape (Everton Domestic Society Book 2) by A.S. Fenichel-A 5/5 Star Review!

Millicent Edgebrook has had plenty of experience of societal backlash from the ton. Orphaned as a teenager and sent to live with her endearing yet notoriously eccentric scientist uncle, her reputation was not off to an easy start. An indecent incident with a boy during this trying time had her feel as if she were ruined forever-all as a teenager! Therefore, she decides to make something positive out of her life and become an Everton Lady.

Ladies of the Everton Domestic Society dedicate their lives to accomplish certain tasks requested by their clients. Accompanied by a chaperone, they are to be professional at all times and get the task done efficiently. They certainly are not to be distracted. They certainly are not to be flirtatious. And they most certainly are not to fall in love with their client. But who can truly stand in the way of true love?

I enjoyed this book and it was very easy to become immersed in this environment. I enjoyed the symbolism of chess as the power play between king and queen, yet also used as a symbol of Millicent and Preston as being treated as equal players. Furthermore, I enjoyed the dog and the kitten that were rescued and became family pets. They were my favorite characters in the book as they were not only adorable characters but also another way that Preston and Millicent bonded.

This is the second book in the Everton Domestic Society, however, it can be read as a standalone. This book also references characters from the Forever Brides series but can be read even if the reader has not read those series as the author provides a brief background on each of those characters. On the other hand, I had read the Forever Brides series (see my reviews: Forever Brides #1Forever Brides #2Forever Brides #3 , & Everton Domestic Society #1) and was very happy to see those characters added into this series as it was like catching up with old friends!

I would recommend this book for adult readers who enjoy regency romances, romances that defy society standards, and romances that develop after adversity. I would also recommend this book for dog, cat, and chess lovers. However, I would not recommend this book for those who may be offended or triggered by fire, parental death, manipulation, and explicitly sexual scenarios.

Please note: an electronic ARC of this book was generously provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review-thanks!

Our House by Louise Candlish- a 5/5 Star Review!

Fiona (Fi) Lawson and her husband Bram have separated but are trying a “Bird’s Nest” custody agreement in order to have shared parenting of their two boys. One parent is at an apartment while the other parent has their time with the kids at their enviable home in a well-known suburb. This way the kids are always at the house and the effort for stability is enforced as each parent takes turns between the house and the apartment. They try their best to keep everything together in a civil manner for the kids. That is until everything fell apart.

One day Fi comes to the house for her turn with the kids but someone else is moving into her house and her husband and children are nowhere to be found. How can everything turn upside down in an instant? When the rug gets pulled out from under you by those you trust.

This story is told through alternating perspectives between Fi in a podcast transcript format and Bram in a Word document. It was a unique way to read a story that I had not experienced before but once I got used to it, I enjoyed it. I honestly can’t decide if I liked the comments that were added at the end of each segment of Fi’s podcast with usernames and comments but they did eventually grow on me as the comments became funnier. It kind of reminded me of the comedian Jim Gaffigan and how he imitates what he thinks the audience thinks of him during his skits. It also reminded me somewhat of Shakespeare’s use of the chorus as a character in some of his plays.

Although some of the surprises were predictable, there is so much going on as the complex plot builds that it is almost a relief to have the main character, Fi, discover these secrets. The storyline accelerates as the pieces begin to fit together so, as a warning to my fellow readers, it is increasingly harder to put down the further into it you get. This is a twofold story about loyalty: between spouses and between friends. A balance between renewed faith and betrayal. I highly recommend it for adult readers that enjoy a thrilling plot and betrayal.

For those who may be sensitive/triggered: there are themes of violence, murder, road rage, manipulation, fraud, adultery, sexually suggestive scenarios (mild), bullying, suicide, and alcohol abuse.

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

Believe Me by JP Delaney- a 4/5 star review!

Claire Wright is a British immigrant in NYC with a passion for acting.  While waiting for her big break, she moonlights helping a private investigator catch cheating spouses.  Until one night, a client is brutally murdered.  Was Claire the last person to see the client alive?  Did Claire go too far and commit murder?

Another great book by JP Delaney! I should have known better than to think I had Believe Me all figured out halfway through.  It is a roller coaster ride with an epic conclusion.  This book is only similar to his previous book, The Girl Before, was my favorite book of 2017 because of it’s twisted ending that had me floored.   It is very heavy on theater as a whole as well as heavily focused on the poet Charles Baudelaire making the extreme research very apparent.

However, I did take one star away because although the main character, Claire, was dark and complex, I couldn’t feel connected to her.  She seemed very self-centered and shallow for most of the book.  This is told mostly in Claire’s perspective with the occasional input from other characters in script form (again, heavily focused on theater).

For those who may be sensitive to certain themes or triggered: there was mild foul language, graphic violence, sexually explicit scenarios, mental illness, stalking, and manipulation.

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