Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Review: The Girlfriend by Michelle Frances


Title: The Girlfriend
Author: Michelle Frances
Published: January 2018, Kensington Books
Format: ARC Paperback, 432 pages
Source: Publisher


Summary:
A girl. A boy. His mother. And the lie she'll wish she'd never told.

The Girlfriend by Michelle Frances is a gripping and chilling debut psychological thriller, based on the fall-out following an unforgiveable lie. It looks at the potentially charged relationship between girlfriend, boyfriend and his mother, which most women can identify with, and locates it in an extreme but believable setting.

Laura has it all. A successful career, a long marriage to a rich husband, and a twenty-three year-old son, Daniel, who is kind, handsome, and talented. Then Daniel meets Cherry. Cherry is young, beautiful and smart but she hasn't had the same opportunities as Daniel. And she wants Laura's life.

Cherry comes to the family wide-eyed and wants to be welcomed with open arms, but Laura suspects she's not all that she seems.

When tragedy strikes, an unforgiveable lie is told. It is an act of desperation, but the fall-out will change their lives forever.



My thoughts: I read a lot of psychological thrillers - just putting that label on a book has me already eager to dig in. But with that, comes the problem that I find I'm reading a bit of the same old every once in a while...but not with this one. Michelle Frances has crafted this psychological thriller with undertones of a domestic drama and turned it into one addicting read!

This book starts with one heck of an intense, intriguing prologue. It gets you wondering just where this story is going and has you thinking all sorts of things as the book then moves back in time to where the beginning of these characters story. I will say that the first half of the book is a little slow, sort of like a slow burn as we see how all the players fit into this crazy story.

One of the stand-out features of this book are the characters and just how devious and manipulative they were. It was amazing how much you can come to dislike characters over the book of a book and still love the story. Watching these two women, who claim to love the same man - one his mother, one his girlfriend - was like watching a trainwreck...you don't want to keep looking, but you can't help it. You need to know how it is all going to play out.

The characters are so well-developed and drawn. There were times I disliked both Laura and Cherry intensely, yet there were also times I felt sympathy for them. And then there's Daniel, who is just caught in the crossfire of all this scheming and manipulation. 

I found this book to keep me on edge all the way through. Especially once you reach the halfway point, where things reach a point where you cannot walk away without knowing how it is all going to play out. It's crazy, twisted and the slow burn at the beginning just adds to the overall tension, especially when it's ramped up towards the end. 

I am beyond shocked that this is the author's debut novel and at the same time extremely thrilled that it has already been optioned for film - I think this will definitely make a great movie! This is an author to watch...and I can't wait to see what comes next from her.


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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Review: Here We Lie by Paula Treick DeBoard


Title: Here We Lie
Author: Paula Treick DeBoard
Published: January 2018, Park Row Books
Format: ARC Paperback, 368 pages
Source: Author

Summary:
A riveting novel about how the past never stays in the past, from the critically acclaimed author of The Drowning Girls and The Mourning Hours.

Megan Mazeros and Lauren Mabrey are complete opposites on paper. Megan is a girl from a modest Midwest background, and Lauren is the daughter of a senator from an esteemed New England family. But in 1999, Megan and Lauren become college roommates and, as two young women struggling to find their place on campus, they forge a strong, albeit unlikely, friendship. The two quickly become inseparable, sharing clothes, advice and their most intimate secrets.

The summer before their senior year, Megan joins Lauren and her family on their private island off the coast of Maine. The weeks go by, filled with fun and relaxation, until late one night at the end of the vacation, something unspeakable happens, searing through the framework of the girls' friendship and tearing them apart. Many years later, in the midst of a political scandal, Megan finally comes forward about what happened that fateful night, revealing a horrible truth about Lauren's family and threatening to expose their long-buried secrets.

In this captivating and moving novel of domestic suspense, Paula Treick DeBoard explores the power of friendship and secrets and shows how betrayal can lead to disastrous, and deadly, consequences.



My thoughts: Paula Treick DeBoard is still a relatively new author to me, having only read her previous book, The Drowning Girls, which I really enjoyed. So of course, I was thrilled and honored when Paula herself reached out to me to read and review her latest book. 

This is another book that is so timely and relevant in today's society - which is such a sad commentary to make, yet a true one nonetheless. Right from the beginning, you find out that something has happened 14 years ago to cause Megan and Lauren's friendship to fracture - something big enough that a press conference was warranted. We aren't given the full details - of course! - but we are given just enough that we can certainly guess where the book might be headed.

From there, the story takes off, moving back and forth in time, really developing these two characters - a huge strength that this writer has. She is able to give us a story, with a compelling, engaging plot, and yet have the characters take center stage. We see the girls' unlikely friendship grow from their first meeting in college, we get their backgrounds and what makes them them. We see the first hints of the lies and secrets that start to build between the girls - as their friendship continues, we see that all really isn't as well as they make it out to be.

This book is an addicting read. It will get under your skin as you try to put the pieces together. You know some big "thing" has happened to cause the ultimate fracture of the girls' friendship, and you will make guesses - you might even guess correctly what has happened before it is revealed - but it's really the way the story is told, the building up to it and the way things are handled afterwards that make this book. It also shows just how damaging a lie or two can be - they always have a way of coming back to haunt you.

I devoured this book...once I started reading it, I could think of nothing else. This is an emotionally charged read and one that has such strong characters, they will certainly stay with you long after you have finished reading that last page. I cannot wait to go back and pick up the two books I have not read of Paula's - her writing is just so good I cannot get enough. And at least those will tide me over until any future releases come out!


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Monday, January 29, 2018

#WRC2018 Book Spotlight: All We Knew by Jamie Beck


Title: All We Knew
Author: Jamie Beck
Series: The Cabots, #2
Published: January 2018, Montlake Romance
Format: Paperback, 336 pages

Summary: 
For Hunter and Sara, getting married was easy. It’s staying together that’s the true test of love…

Hunter Cabot deeply loves two things: the international tea company he’s helped his father build, and his wife, Sara. From the moment he first saw her wide smile on their college campus years ago, Hunter fell hard. Yet now, with other family members pushing to sell the thriving business and Sara grieving their failure to start a family, he’s suddenly facing the crushing loss of both.

The relentless ambition that Sara once admired in Hunter is now driving them apart. Each missed doctor’s appointment, neglected dinner date, and family squabble accentuates their differing priorities. Still, Sara struggles to create the home life they’d envisioned, until unsettling developments—both personal and professional—push them to the breaking point.

When love is put to the ultimate test, can Hunter and Sara stop fighting each other long enough to fight for their marriage?



What readers are saying:

“Family tenderness and conflict are vividly portrayed in Beck’s second Cabot contemporary…[Beck] effectively captures hope and disillusionment as thirtysomething Sara and her husband, Hunter, struggle to conceive a child…Beck creates authentic protagonists and cleverly sets up the conflicts between them…A moving story about the flux of life and the steadfastness of family.” —Publishers Weekly

“A romance novel by a true master of the genre, All We Knew by Jamie Beck is an impressively crafted and deftly entertaining read from first page to last.” —Midwest Book Review

“The story of two people who have come apart, and how they find their way back together. There’s a touch of The Gift of the Magi in Hunter and Sara’s search for grace.” —RT Book Reviews


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All We Knew  by Jamie Beck is one of  BookSparks "Winter Reads" reading selection picks.  

 Follow the #WRC2018 hashtag on twitter to read reviews on this book as well as reviews on the other winter books! Also, be sure to check out the BookSparks Facebook page for the #WRC2018  and other fun links.
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Review: Still Me by Jojo Moyes


Title: Still Me
Author: Jojo Moyes
Series: Me Before You, #3
Published: January 2018, Pamela Dorman Books/Viking
Format: ARC Paperback, 400 pages
Source: Publisher


Summary:
From the #1 New York Times bestselling author Jojo Moyes, a new book featuring her iconic heroine of Me Before You and After You, Louisa Clark

Louisa Clark arrives in New York ready to start a new life, confident that she can embrace this new adventure and keep her relationship with Ambulance Sam alive across several thousand miles. She steps into the world of the superrich, working for Leonard Gopnik and his much younger second wife, Agnes. Lou is determined to get the most out of the experience and throws herself into her new job and New York life.

As she begins to mix in New York high society, Lou meets Joshua Ryan, a man who brings with him a whisper of her past. Before long, Lou finds herself torn between Fifth Avenue where she works and the treasure-filled vintage clothing store where she actually feels at home. And when matters come to a head, she has to ask herself: Who is Louisa Clark? And how do you reconcile a heart that lives in two places?

Funny, romantic, and poignant, Still Me follows Lou as she navigates how to stay true to herself, while pushing to live boldly in her brave new world.



My thoughts: I don't think there has ever been as charming and endearing a character as Louisa "Lou" Clark and I have to admit, Jojo Moyes has given her readers so much time to fall in love with her - three books, of which at the onset, I'm not sure Jojo knew she'd take this character so far along. 

Before I get into talking about this book - which, spoiler alert, I absolutely loved!!! - I will say this. This is a series that really does need to be read in order. There are quite a lot of references to not only the first book but also the second book and I really do think a lot of the nuances and overall meaning will be lost if you don't read those other two. You will have a better connection to Lou having read the prior books.

I admit, I loved the first book of this series, Me Before You - was on such a reader's high from it, that I needed time to process it before moving on to book 2, After You. I only  just read that one last week...and it was ok. But this latest book, Still Me - OMG, I loved it. I once again finished it and felt that same reader's high. One thing I will say for this series as a whole, though - it will definitely make you think...and to me as a reader, there is nothing better.

I loved that this book finds Lou moving to NY for a job. She is still trying to find herself after all that has happened in her past and is trying to live up to the advice Will gave her a while back - you only get one life, make the most of it. Oh, she is trying...and I love her all the more for it! The ups and downs she has during this book are both heartwarming and heartbreaking. It will take you through a range of emotions - but isn't that what we've come to love and expect from Jojo Moyes and her writing?

This book is filled with not only some of the familiar characters we have already come to love from the previous books, but also a whole new set of faces, some that you will end up loving and some you will end up not loving as much. But they are all vividly drawn and all have a part in helping Lou find herself. 

I've come to love Jojo Moyes and her writing and this just proves why. She has taken a beloved character from an emotionally charged book and given her a life of her own. She has taken risks with this series and it has worked. I adored these books and look forward to seeing what comes next from this talented author. 



Books in this series: 
  1. Me Before You
  2. After You
  3. Still Me

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Friday, January 26, 2018

Review: Copycat by Alex Lake


Title: Copycat
Author: Alex Lake
Published: September 2017, HarperCollins
Format: Paperback, 416 pages
Source: Personal copy

Summary: 
Your stalker is everywhere.
Your stalker knows everything.
But the real problem is that your stalker is you.

Sarah Havenant discovers–when an old friend points it out–that there are two Facebook profiles in her name.

One, she recognizes: it is hers. The other, she has never seen. But everything in it is accurate. Recent photos of her and her friends, her and her husband, her and her kids. Even of her new kitchen. A photo taken inside her house.

She is bemused, angry, and worried. Who was able to do this? Any why?

But this, it soon turns out, is just the beginning. It is only now–almost as though someone has been watching, waiting for her to find the profile–that her problems really start…



My thoughts: I have been a huge fan of Alex Lake since reading the author's first book, After Anna. Since then, I have devoured his books and have not been disappointed - they are quick reads, great psychological thrillers and incredibly twisted!

This latest book not only was twisted and creepy, but really kept me thinking! In an age where we all use social media on a daily basis, it's scary to think just how wrong things can go when someone takes advantage of what you put out there. Just how well do you really know the people that you "friend" on these sites? We really are quite vulnerable when it comes to these sites, and let's be honest...do we really take the time to make sure we are up to date on all the latest security settings with all the social media sites we frequent? Do we have them set to the highest level so that we are protecting ourselves from cyber-stalkers?

These were just some of the thoughts that were running through my head while I was reading this book because this is what was happening to Sarah. Someone was stalking via cyberspace and it was creeping her out - heck it was creeping me out! And the crazy part was that it all starting so innocently and at first, no one believed it wasn't her doing it. 

The way this book is crafted is so brilliant that even I questioned her...I loved that! I really couldn't decide if she was mentally unstable or a victim for a while. But I admit, I did figure it out just before the reveal. But no worries - this in no way detracted any enjoyment of this book...even though I figured it out, I needed to know the why and believe me, I was knocking my head against the wall trying to put all the pieces together.

This is a dark, twisted, fast-paced book that grips you from the first page and never really lets up. It will get under your skin and have you questioning twice about the information you share online. Just how private are our private lives in the digital world? 

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Thursday, January 25, 2018

Review: The Black Painting by Neil Olson


Title: The Black Painting
Author: Neil Olson
Published: January 2018, Hanover Square Press
Format: ARC Paperback, 320 pages
Source: Publisher

Summary: 
An old-money East Coast family faces the suspicious death of its patriarch and the unsolved theft of a Goya painting rumored to be cursed

There were four cousins in the Morse family: perfect Kenny, the preppy West Coast lawyer; James, the shy but brilliant medical student; his seductive, hard-drinking sister Audrey; and Teresa, youngest and most fragile, haunted by the fear that she has inherited the madness that possessed her father.

Their grandfather summons them to his mansion at Owl’s Point. None of them has visited the family estate since they were children, when a prized painting disappeared: a self-portrait by Goya, rumored to cause madness or death upon viewing. Afterward, the family split apart amid the accusations and suspicions that followed its theft.

Any hope that their grandfather planned to make amends evaporates when Teresa arrives to find the old man dead, his horrified gaze pinned upon the spot where the painting once hung. As the family gathers and suspicions mount, Teresa hopes to find the reasons behind her grandfather’s death and the painting’s loss. But to do so she must uncover ugly family secrets and confront those who would keep them hidden.



My thoughts: I came across this book while at the Speed Dating For Book Clubs Session at BookExpo last Spring. It just caught my eye and I decided to give it a shot...and I'm so glad I did as I really enjoyed it. I find that I am always intrigued by the art world - not that I know much about it, but I love books that combine a good mystery with the power of art.

This was a good psychological thriller with just a hint of a ghost story and I really liked it. It kept me captivated and engaged from start to finish. I think the fact that it involved a totally dysfunctional family really had a big draw - there's just something so fascinating about a messed up family and getting into all their drama, and when you throw in a suspicious death, you know it's going to be good!

I loved the characters in this book. Each one was more fascinating and flawed than the next. I was unsure who to trust. Not only are they trying to figure out what happened to the grandfather, but there's the mystery surrounding the disappearance of the famous Goya painting - a painting that has been missing for many years and is rumored to be cursed. 

This book is filled with secrets and the twists and turns will keep you on your toes. It's also quite atmospheric - enough to have me reading with the lights on! I really enjoyed this book and learned quite a bit about Goya's Black Paintings, something I knew nothing about before this book. I just love learning a little something in my reading adventures, don't you?


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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Review: After You by Jojo Moyes


Title: After You
Author: Jojo Moyes
Series: Me Before You, #2
Published: September 2015, Pamela Dorman Books/Viking
Format: Hardcover, 352 pages
Source: Publisher

Summary: 
How do you move on after losing the person you loved? How do you build a life worth living?

Louisa Clark is no longer just an ordinary girl living an ordinary life. After the transformative six months spent with Will Traynor, she is struggling without him. When an extraordinary accident forces Lou to return home to her family, she can’t help but feel she’s right back where she started.

Her body heals, but Lou herself knows that she needs to be kick-started back to life. Which is how she ends up in a church basement with the members of the Moving On support group, who share insights, laughter, frustrations, and terrible cookies. They will also lead her to the strong, capable Sam Fielding—the paramedic, whose business is life and death, and the one man who might be able to understand her. Then a figure from Will’s past appears and hijacks all her plans, propelling her into a very different future. . . .

For Lou Clark, life after Will Traynor means learning to fall in love again, with all the risks that brings. But here Jojo Moyes gives us two families, as real as our own, whose joys and sorrows will touch you deeply, and where both changes and surprises await.



My thoughts: So it should be no surprise that I waited until the last minute to read this book - basically right before book 3 in this series came out. After all, I didn't read the first book until this one was being released, so why not follow the pattern. And I'm not really sure why I did that...I absolutely loved Me Before You...and when I read it, I hadn't read anything about this one - I just knew that this book had been written.

So...my thoughts on this one are tricky. I'm definitely glad I waited a while to read it. I needed time to come down from that reader's high you sometimes get from such a fabulous book as I did from reading Me Before You. If you haven't read Me Before You, you might be a little lost because there are lots of references and spoilers to that book - so I highly recommend reading that first.

I read this book because I had to know how Lou handled moving on. I wanted to know how Jojo Moyes handled another story with this endearing character, because let's face it - Lou is absolutely hands-down one of the most endearing, yet quirky, characters there are. I love her and she went through something no one should have to go through and I was curious to see what came next for her.

I went into this book to reconnect with familiar characters...and I got that. It's a good story, with familiar characters that we've already come to love as well as some new ones. There is, of course, a sense of sadness throughout the book as well as hope and the sense of moving on. I liked the book, but I didn't love it. Yes, there is still the laugh-out-loud humor that we saw in the first book, and yes there is the heartbreak, but it was just ok. It didn't leave me with that same reader's high as Me Before You did. But you can be sure that I will be reading the third book,  Still Me, because I have to see where it goes...and because I'm not quite ready to say goodbye to Lou just yet!


Books in this series:
  1. Me Before You
  2. After You
  3. Still Me - due out January 30, 2018 
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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

#CoverReveal: All Your Perfects by Colleen Hoover

Today, Colleen Hoover's latest novel, due out July 17, finally had it's cover revealed, and I'm so happy to be able to share it with you. I may have come to the #CoHo fan club late, having only read, and loved, her last two books, but I can tell you with absolute certainty that I will be adding this book to my reading list. And let's just take a minute to admire this cover...I just love the colors!!!

If July is too long a wait, fear not. US Weekly has an excerpt that you can read now...head over there to read it - you can find the link here. And if you want to pre-order the book, the links can be found below.  



Title: All Your Perfects
Author: Colleen Hoover
Published: July 2018, Atria Books
Format: Hardcover, 320 pages


Summary: 
The #1 New York Times bestselling author of It Ends with Us--whose writing is "emotionally wrenching and utterly original" (Sarah Shepard, New York Times bestselling author of the Pretty Little Liars series)--delivers a tour de force novel about a troubled marriage and the one old forgotten promise that might be able to save it.

Quinn and Graham's perfect love is threatened by their imperfect marriage. The memories, mistakes, and secrets that they have built up over the years are now tearing them apart. The one thing that could save them might also be the very thing that pushes their marriage beyond the point of repair.

All Your Perfects is a profound novel about a damaged couple whose potential future hinges on promises made in the past. This is a heartbreaking page-turner that asks: Can a resounding love with a perfect beginning survive a lifetime between two imperfect people?




ABOUT THE AUTHOR: COLLEEN HOOVER is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of SlammedPoint of RetreatThis GirlHopelessLosing HopeFinding CinderellaMaybe SomedayMaybe NotUgly LoveConfessNovember 9It Ends with Us, and Without Merit. Colleen has won the Goodreads Choice Award for Best Romance twice—for Confess in 2015 and It Ends with Us in 2016. Confess was adapted into a seven-episode online series. In 2015, Colleen and her family founded The Bookworm Box, a bookstore and monthly subscription service offering signed novels donated by authors. All profits are given to various charities each month to help those in need. Colleen lives in Texas with her husband and their three boys.

Authors Links: Website   |   Twitter   |   Facebook  |   Instagram  



PRE-ORDER ALL YOUR PERFECTS NOW:
ALL YOUR PERFECTS by Colleen Hoover
Atria Books
  July 17, 2018
Hardcover ISBN: 9781501171598
eBook ISBN: 9781501171604
 
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Review: Walking the Bones by Randall Silvis


Title: Walking the Bones
Author: Randall Silvis
Series: Ryan DeMarco Mystery, #2
Published: January 2018, Sourcebooks Landmark
Format: ARC E-book, 464 pages
Source: Netgalley

Summary: 
When long-buried secrets come back to the surface...

The bones of seven young girls, picked clean and carefully preserved, discovered years ago... that's all Sergeant Ryan DeMarco knows about the unsolved crime he has unwittingly been roped into investigating during what is supposed to be a healing road trip with his new love, Jayme.

DeMarco is still reeling from the case that led to death of his best friend months ago and wants nothing more than to lay low. Unfortunately, the small southern town of Jayme's idyllic youth is not exactly a place that lets strangers go unnoticed--especially strangers who have a history of solving violent crimes. And if there's anything DeMarco knows, it's that a killer always leaves clues behind, just waiting for the right person to come along and put all the pieces together...

Walking the Bones is a story about things buried--memories, regrets, secrets, and bodies. Acclaimed author Randall Silvis delivers another heart-stopping investigation as DeMarco finds himself once again drawn into a case that will demand more of himself than he may be willing to give.



My thoughts: This is the second book in Randall Silvis' Ryan DeMarco Mystery series and I have to say, I am hooked on this series! It's different and unique...and I am loving that! I read a lot of series and so I find it a breath of fresh air when I stumble upon a series that goes in a different direction and that's what I find here. Yes, this is still classified as a mystery and yes there is suspense, but the writing is fresh and so far, both books have been quite different.

I would say this latest installment is more of a character study than anything else. There is still a mystery to be solved for sure, but I think there was almost more time devoted to delving into just who Sergeant Ryan DeMarco is and how is past has made him who he is today. And, just a note - I would strongly suggest reading the previous book, Two Days Gone, before jumping into this one...a lot of references to that case are made. Plus, part of what DeMarco is struggling with has to do with that case. 

We also get a lot of insight into DeMarco's new relationship...again, a lot of character development here. I liked this. I felt that there was a lot to explore in both DeMarco and Jayme and loved that the story would move back and forth in time, helping to give us a better picture of who both these characters are and what they are made of. Neither one of them had great childhoods and some of that has stayed with them - how could it not? 

The case they end up working on is not without its challenges and was quite interesting. It brought them in contact with quite a contrary bunch of characters. It is filled with twists and turns and kept me engaged throughout.

This story is about all things buried - bodies, secrets, regrets, and memories. While not necessarily a fast-paced book, it will consume you once you start reading, getting under your skin until you reach the final page. I have enjoyed both books in this series so far and look forward to seeing where it goes next.



Books in this series:
  1. Two Days Gone
  2. Walking the Bones 
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Monday, January 22, 2018

#WRC2018 Book Spotlight: Match Made in Manhattan by Amanda Stauffer



Title: Match Made in Manhattan
Author: Amanda Stauffer
Published: January 2018, Skyhorse Publishing
Format: Paperback, 320 pages

Summary: 
After two intense, dead-end relationships, serial monogamist Alison finds herself confused, lonely, and drastically out of touch with the world of modern dating. Refusing to wallow, she signs up for a popular dating app and resolves to remain open-minded and optimistic as she explores the New York City singles' scene. With the click of a button, her adventures begin: On one date, she's dumped before the first kiss; on another, she dons full HAZMAT gear; she meets a tattooed folk singer turned investment banker, an undercover agent who tracks illegal exotic animals, and dozens of other colorful, captivating personalities.

Giving them each her signature "pants speech"--her pants aren't coming off unless she has a real connection with someone--she desperately wants to push past the awkward small-talk phase to find true love, but finding "the one" is starting to feel impossible. That is, until she meets Luke, who is sophisticated, funny, and not to mention, hot. Alison finds herself falling for Luke harder than any guy she's dated and finally letting her walls down, but will he stick around or move on to his next match?

Match Made in Manhattan is a fast-paced, contemporary story about the struggles of dating in the digital age. Replete with online profiles, witty dialogue, and a super-supportive group of female friends, this all-too-real and relatable debut novel will have readers laughing, crying, and rooting for Alison all the way to the end.



What readers are saying:

“Twentysomething New York City architectural conservator Alison has just gotten out of the second of her two long-term relationships. Her roommates convince her to join Match.com to meet New York’s most eligible bachelors. From a snowboarding lawyer to an undercover agent to a closeted folk singer, Alison navigates her way, date by date, in the digital age. Stauffer joins the ranks of women’s fiction writers with this cute debut. . . . The characters that Alison encounters are funny in their own right, and keep the story moving. From the Pants Speech to the Three Martini Questions, and all of the text messages and emails in between, readers will follow Alison as she encounters both bad and interesting dates, which may, or may not, lead her to The One. VERDICT: A frothy read. This novel will be popular in collections where light chick lit is in demand.”--Library Journal

"An ideal story for fans of New Adult fiction and contemporary romance, but it's got a fun unexpected arc. Not your momma's rom-com."--IndiePicks Magazine

"Stauffer has embodied what dating is like in the digital age: unexpected, fast-paced, and a journey of self-discovery." --RT Book Reviews

"Match Made in Manhattan works on so many levels. There are the great, juicy dating parts (I wish I could sit in on all the book clubs as they enjoy trading their dating stories.) But there's also a depth to this book that is such a welcome surprise. Amanda's writing pulls you in and takes you on the most satisfying journey." -- Amy Cohen, New York Times bestselling author of The Late Bloomer's Revolution

Whether you're single yourself or simply curious about the world of modern dating, Alison's quest for 'The One' will draw you in (and may even have you nodding in recognition). Match Made in Manhattan will inspire you to reflect on all the most important relationships in your life - the ones with romantic partners, with friends, and, perhaps most importantly, with yourself." -- Rachel Bertsche, New York Times Bestselling author of MWF Seeking BFF

"Match Made in Manhattan is an entertaining romp through New York's Internet dating scene. You will root for Alison--and cringe at some of her suitors--as she explores whether a virtual spark can turn into real-life love."-- Dana Bate, author of Too Many Cooks

"Match Made in Manhattan may begin with a familiar premise, but it quickly becomes specific, thought-provoking, hilarious, and touching. Alison is not your average ingenue." --Elyssa Friedland, author of The Intermission and Love and Miss Communication

"Match Made in Manhattan gamely plumbs the depths of online dating in NYC -- the inbox of would-be suitors, the awkward dates, and the all-important debrief with your girlfriends. Stauffer has written a relatable, realistic narrative that explores dating in the digital age with all its ups, downs, and ambiguities in between."-- Jessica Tom, author of Food Whore: A Novel of Dining and Deceit

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Match Made in Manhattan  by Amanda Stauffer is one of  BookSparks "Winter Reads" reading selection picks.  

 Follow the #WRC2018 hashtag on twitter to read reviews on this book as well as reviews on the other winter books! Also, be sure to check out the BookSparks Facebook page for the #WRC2018  and other fun links. 
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Review: Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan


Title: Anatomy of a Scandal
Author: Sarah Vaughan
Published: January 2018, Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Format: ARC Paperback, 400 pages
Source: Publisher

Summary: 
Sophie’s husband James is a loving father, a handsome man, a charismatic and successful public figure. And yet he stands accused of a terrible crime. Sophie is convinced he is innocent and desperate to protect her precious family from the lies that threaten to rip them apart.

Kate is the lawyer hired to prosecute the case: an experienced professional who knows that the law is all about winning the argument. And yet Kate seeks the truth at all times. She is certain James is guilty and is determined he will pay for his crimes.

Who is right about James? Sophie or Kate? And is either of them informed by anything more than instinct and personal experience? Despite her privileged upbringing, Sophie is well aware that her beautiful life is not inviolable. She has known it since she and James were first lovers, at Oxford, and she witnessed how easily pleasure could tip into tragedy.

Most people would prefer not to try to understand what passes between a man and a woman when they are alone: alone in bed, alone in an embrace, alone in an elevator… Or alone in the moonlit courtyard of an Oxford college, where a girl once stood before a boy, heart pounding with excitement, then fear. Sophie never understood why her tutorial partner Holly left Oxford so abruptly. What would she think, if she knew the truth?



My thoughts: I picked this book up at BookExpo last Spring and was quite excited to read it. Little did I know how timely a read it would turn out to be, nor how good!

This is absolutely a slow-burning type of read, that little by little peels back the layers until you have the full story. And I loved that it was crafted that way - it kept me in suspense and on edge all the way through, trying to put all the pieces together, and wondering just how it would all play out. It's one of those books where it's probably best that the less you know going into it, the more you will enjoy it, so I won't say too much about the plot itself. 

At it's core, this is a tale about whether being privileged gives you cart blanch to do what you want. What I loved is that right from the start, I felt no sympathy for James, and I felt like I was never made to. He was despicable all the way through - there was no wavering on this. 

I loved that as the story progresses, so does the intensity. The courtroom drama was as compelling as it was interesting - I didn't know much about they ways of the British legal system, so this was quite an education. And the characters are all vivid and complex. Having it told from multiple points of view and moving back and forth in time really gives it a dynamic feel. 

This book is one that had me thinking throughout. It's sad that this type of fiction is such a reality in our world today, in one way or another, and yet I feel as if Sarah Vaughan has still created quite the addicting read. It's a gripping read that, while maybe not for everyone, is sure to be a hit with those who enjoy a slow-burning suspenseful read. 
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Sunday, January 21, 2018

Reading Goals/Challenges 2018

This year, I have decided not to partake in the many reading challenges I have in the past. The reason for this being that I rarely, if ever, end up linking my reviews to these challenges, nor participate in any of the other activities they may have. I have been using those challenges mainly as a way of tracking what I have been reading - How Many Books I've Read, Library Books, E-books, New Authors, Audio Books - and I can surely do that without the added work of updating all the challenge pages. 

This year, I've decided to officially join one challenge, which is more about reading goals than anything else. I am joining the #UnReadShelfProject2018 where I hope to read more of the books I have already sitting on my shelf. As of Janaury 1, 2018, I had over 200 unread books sitting on my shelf...this is insane!!! And that doesn't even take into account all the e-books and audio books I have that are unread/unlistened to. But for this year, I am solely focusing on my print books.


While there are no hard-set rules with this, I have given myself some guidelines:

  • Read more of my own books - I am not setting a specific number, because then I am destined to fail. I am just going to make more of a conscious effort to read my own books.
  • Try to limit book buying - I am not banning myself from buying new books, rather I am going to be more mindful of what I buy. 
  • Revisit my list of unread books and determine if I still want to even read them - it is quite possible that some of the books I have sitting on my shelf are no longer of interest to me...reading tastes do change after all!  

I think these guidelines will help me to be successful in this challenge. At the end of the year, if I have gotten my number down even a little bit, I'll be happy. 

So, do you have a ton of unread books sitting on your shelf or do you read the books you buy right away?  

Let me know if you are participating in this challenge - we can cheer and motivate each other!
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Short & Sweet Review: Hardcore Twenty-Four by Janet Evanovich (audio)


Title: Hardcore Twenty-Four
Author: Janet Evanovich
Series: Stephanie Plum, #24
Narrator: Lorelei King
Published: November 2017, Random House Audio
Length: 6 hours 8 minutes
Source: Library

Summary: 
Janet Evanovich’s #1 New York Times bestselling sensation Stephanie Plum returns in her twenty-fourth thriller as mutilated corpses litter the streets of New Jersey...
Trouble comes in bunches for Stephanie Plum. First, professional grave robber and semi-professional loon, Simon Diggery, won’t let her take him in until she agrees to care for his boa constrictor, Ethel. Stephanie’s main qualification for babysitting an extremely large snake is that she owns a stun gun—whether that’s for use on the wandering serpent or the petrified neighbors remains to be seen.

Events take a dark turn when headless bodies start appearing across town. At first, it’s just corpses from a funeral home and the morgue that have had the heads removed. But when a homeless man is murdered and dumped behind a church Stephanie knows that she’s the only one with a prayer of catching this killer.

If all that’s not enough, Diesel’s back in town. The 6-foot-tall, blonde-haired hunk is a man who accepts no limits—that includes locked doors, closed windows and underwear. Trenton’s hottest cop, Joe Morelli isn’t pleased at this unexpected arrival nor is Ranger, the high-powered security consultant who has his own plans for Stephanie.

As usual Jersey’s favorite bounty hunter is stuck in the middle with more questions than answers. What’s the deal with Grandma Mazur’s latest online paramour? Who is behind the startling epidemic of mutilated corpses? And is the enigmatic Diesel’s sudden appearance a coincidence or the cause of recent deadly events?

 
***Short & Sweet Reviews are short, quick reviews. These will mainly be used for series books where I have already done full reviews on some of the earlier books or for books that I feel will suffice with a quick review. These will not be used for review requests or blog tours.


My thoughts: Do you ever continue with a series just to see how it will end? I think that's where I am with the Stephanie Plum series. At book 24, I feel like it's the same old, same old - Stephanie gets herself into crazy predicaments with Lula, some hi-jinx ensue, they eventually capture who they need to, and along the way, she ends up blowing up a car or two, with Ranger coming to her rescue as always. Does anyone else feel this way? And yet, I can't abandon this series until I know how it's going to end. Who is she going to end up with?

And speaking of romance, the love triangle is still going strong - Morelli and Ranger, Ranger and Morelli. Though, this time around, there was a new guy added to the mix - Diesel was staying at Stephanie's apartment because he was involved in a case in the area and there is definitely some chemistry there, too. But seriously...how much longer can this be drawn out? 

I think what makes the series is the crazy humor, and that comes not only from Stephanie and Lula, but from Grandma Mazur. She is hands down one of my favorite characters ever! As Stephanie describes her in this book, "she is a hoot!" I can't agree more!!! She definitely keeps me coming back - that and knowing that these books are pure mindless escapism.  

This one is filled with zombies, snakes and headless corpses...not my favorite things to read about, but the humor and the characters are what made it tolerable. So, are you sticking with this series to the very end or have you already bailed?


Audio thoughts: I just love Lorelei King and her narration of this series. Her enthusiasm for the characters and her unique voices is consistent from book to book, and as an avid audio book listener and avid series listener, I really appreciate that. This is just a fun book, and series, to listen to and Lorelei King makes it that much better!


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