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.

First Earl I See Tonight (Debutante Diaries #1) by Anna Bennett-A 5/5 Star Review!

In order to protect her family, Fiona must do something unconventional: propose to an Earl.  Not just any Earl, but the angry and recently single from an engagement Earl Ravenport.  Also, their marriage needs to happen in a matter of weeks in order to save her family.  Who would possibly say no to that?

This book was fantastic! It had romance, humor, adventure and an especially heartless villain.  It also tested loyalties among the characters as well as how far one is willing to go for the ones they love. Easy and fun to read with the narratives alternating between Fiona and Gray.  It was especially hard to put down around the 75-80% mark where all of the tiny details sprinkled along the way turned into a storm (literally) of chaos where I just kept saying “no no no no no no”.  This was the part of the book that I think was the best!

Favorite character was Earl (“Gray”) Ravenport because the author was able to slowly reveal his warm, funny, and charming personality.   Initially he comes across as defensive and distant (often described in the book as “cold”) but through interactions with his grandmother and Fiona he finally warms up.

Furthermore, I enjoyed the use of the Fortress in disrepair like Gray was after his broken engagement to Lady Helena.  Yet with his grandmother as his main motivation and Fiona’s help he was able to get a lot of progress on restoring it, and himself.  It reminded me a little bit of Beauty and the Beast, without the animated furniture, in that Belle’s love for Beast was able to restore the castle (and Beast) to it’s original beauty.

Lastly, I really appreciated the use of the relationship between Fiona and her sister Lily, as well as the relationship with Gray and his grandmother.  I am fortunate enough to be very close with my sister, just as Fiona and Lily are close.  I am also fortunate to be very close with my grandmother whom is well-loved by everyone she meets, just like Gray’s grandmother.  I hope the next book in the series is about Fiona’s sister, Lily, as it seemed to have set up a conflict that could continue for her that I would like to see resolved.

I would recommend this book for adult readers who enjoy romance, especially regency romance, the strong bonds of sisterhood, and the restorative power of love.

On the other hand, I would not recommend this book for readers who may be offended or triggered by the following: graphic violence, foul language, suicide, blackmail, betrayal, gambling, prostitution, and sexually explicit scenarios.

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

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.

How To Keep A Secret by Sarah Morgan-a 5/5 Star Review!

Lauren has her home and her life in England in perfect order, until one afternoon-everything becomes a disaster.

Her sister, Jenna, across the pond comes to the rescue but has struggles of her own.

Little do they know, their own mother also has secrets of her own that may tear the family apart.

Can these three find a way to work together and work though these issues?

​This book was heavy! I cried with the characters, I laughed with the characters, I felt second-hand embarrassment. Basically, this book has all of the feels and I absolutely loved it. Just when you think it can’t get worse, it often does. The images we portray are a mask for the secrets we keep. Thankfully, there is some scandal, humor, and hope thrown in to lighten the mood at times when it gets almost too dark.

​​How To Keep A Secret​ is different from the previous books that I have read from ​Sarah Morgan​, the From Manhattan With Love series (see reviews: #1 , #2, #3#4 , #5, #6#7 ) in ​the sense that the perspectives alternate from more than just the two main characters. On the other hand, this book was compares in the way that it dealt with more than one crisis at a time. But this one had four surprising crises! However, Sarah Morgan wrote this novel so fluidly that it all blended together well in a realistic “when it rains, it pours” sense. For me, it also helped with the pace. The emotions were so raw at times that I had to put the book down as the pain that each of these characters are going through is very evident. Most prominent were: grief, frustration, regret, and panic.

​My favorite character was Lauren’s teenage daughter, Mack, because she is brutally honest yet terribly insecure. I think out of all of the characters, she developed the most. She also was the source of a very pivotal surprise in the plot of which I laughed out loud in surprise then immediately felt guilty. I really appreciated that some of the perspective was told in her point-of-view as it added depth to the overall mood of the novel.

For those who may be triggered or offended: there are themes of ​grief, struggles with infertility, infidelity, mild foul language, and one graphically sexual scenario.

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

Sharing You (Sharing You #1) by Molly McAdams-DNF at 20%

DNF at 20%-unrealistic and irritating. KC runs away from her upper-class family to avoid an arranged marriage and sets up her own bakery in a small town. This comes across as justified as her groom-to-be was painted as a misogynist snob. Brody is stuck in a marriage to a vicious woman who drains their bank accounts for fun. They accidentally run into each other (literally) and the spell was cast. They both can’t stop thinking about each other, dreaming about each other, and neither have ever felt this alive. Oh, the tragedy! To me, it all felt like a modernized regency romance where she is running away from her betrothed and miraculously into the arms of the rake/rogue/duke/earl (Brody who is miserably married in this case) that cannot marry/shouldn’t marry her for whatever reason.

Also, the dialogue was so cheesy to me that it was unrealistic. Someone you have only had a five minute conversation with comes into your work and asks you to define the relationship that you don’t have yet because you’ve only had a five minute conversation? And this is shortly after “accidentally” crashing the date you were on with someone else? How is this realistic? I have not read any books by Molly McAdams before but, based off of the writing in this book, I can’t say that I would be eager to read another one anytime soon.

Please note: A physical copy of this book was generously provided through the LibraryThing Early Reviewer’s program in exchange for an honest review.