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Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Review: Risky Play (Red Card #1) by Rachel Van Dyken


Print Length: 288 pages
Publisher: Skyscape (March 19, 2019)

From Goodreads.com: What else can a virgin do when she’s ditched at the altar? Seattle heiress Mackenzie Dupont is treating herself to a single-girl honeymoon in Mexico and a desire to relinquish her innocence to a gorgeous one-night stand. Fake names. True pleasure. But when she wakes up alone, Mackenzie realizes just how much anger is left in her broken heart.

Suffering a tragic personal loss, pro soccer player Slade Rodriguez has his reasons for vanishing without a goodbye. Right or wrong, he’s blaming the beautiful and infuriating stranger he never wants to see again. They’re both in for a shock when Mackenzie shows up as his new personal assistant. And they both have a lot to learn about each other. Because they share more than they could possibly know, including a common enemy who’s playing his own games. And he’s not afraid to get dirty.

Now there’s only one way Mackenzie and Slade can win: to trust in each other and to stop hiding from the lies they’ve told, the secrets they’ve kept, the mistakes they’ve made, and the attraction that still burns between them.

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My Rating: 3 stars out of 5

I didn't love this book, and I didn't hate this book. I did enjoy this book however. There were quite a few laugh out loud moments, a lot of witty banter between characters, and a definite attraction between more than one of the leads. It was also one of those quick reads that is perfect for a rainy (or in my case snowy) day. 

I'm a little confused about how two people who are supposedly so "well known" that they are featured on the cover of magazines were unable to recognize each other. I guess its more understandable that Slade didn't recognize Mackenzie as she seems to be more or less a "local socialite celebrity", but if he was truly the best in the world, his coming to the states would have been a huge deal, and I find it next to impossible (considering he was going to living/playing in the same area as she lived) that she had no idea who he was. There certainly would have been news coverage. But anyway. Maybe she didn't recognize him. For the sake of the story we will go with that.

I can even understand why he took off immediately after learning the news of his loss. And support to an extent why he blamed her. Grief is a heck of a thing. 

What I cannot support is the way he spoke to her and treated her when they were reunited. Some of the things that he said were downright crude and uncalled for. In fact, had I been in her shoes instead of trying to help him, I would have slapped him soundly across the face from the first minute, then told the hiring company I would not work for someone who spoke to me in such a degrading manner. But... she's got some feelings still for the jerk, so she stays. Although, it could be that she's just used to jerks as her ex-fiance speaks to her in much the same way. Honestly, he did her a huge favor when he left her at the altar. Also its worth pointing out that her own father is more prone to taking "the exes sides" over his own daughter.

Then again Mackenzie freaks out a little too hard when the guy whose house she is at calls the guy texting her a "cockblocker". Maybe I'm just jaded myself, but if a guy is offering friendship, but wants you to come to his house at night? Its not exactly friendship he has on his mind.

I feel like there is a bit too much of the "alpha male gone wrong" with this story, at least where Mackenzie is involved. She deserved better. She had the potential after Mexico to be this new version of herself, but I feel like she was so used to taking the crap, that she kept right on taking it. 

When it's just the Slade and Jagger or Slade and Matt or even the three of them? The conversations are literally laugh-out-loud. Even Mackenzie manages to earn a few laughs when she's with them. The easy banter between the characters is what makes this book. Now, I understand the point the author was trying to make when it comes to grief (and even lust and jealousy) making people act irrationally, but it felt like sometimes this was taken too far. Kudos to the boys for finally standing up for the girl though. 

As is typical with the first book in a new series by this author, while I didn't enjoy this one as much as I thought I would, I have a feeling the next will be better. There will be more focus on the next pairing and not so much of this back and forth third wheel kind of stuff. 

Overall, this story I think may still appeal to those who enjoy contemporary romances. What stood out to me may in fact be a product of the way my own cynical mind works. I already know this author will do well no matter what they write - it is a talent of theirs. I would read more from this author. 

DISCLAIMERI received a complimentary copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review. This has not affected my review in any way. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are 100% my own.


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                                  Risky Play is available from Amazon.com

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Review: Connections in Death (In Death #48) by J.D. Robb


Print Length: 384 pages
Publisher: St.Martin's Press (February 5, 2019)

From Goodreads.com: Homicide cop Eve Dallas and her billionaire husband, Roarke, are building a brand-new school and youth shelter. They know that the hard life can lead kids toward dangerous crossroads—and with this new project, they hope to nudge a few more of them onto the right path. For expert help, they hire child psychologist Dr. Rochelle Pickering—whose own brother pulled himself out of a spiral of addiction and crime with Rochelle’s support.

Lyle is living with Rochelle while he gets his life together, and he’s thrilled to hear about his sister’s new job offer. But within hours, triumph is followed by tragedy. Returning from a celebratory dinner with her boyfriend, she finds Lyle dead with a syringe in his lap, and Eve’s investigation confirms that this wasn’t just another OD. After all his work to get clean, Lyle’s been pumped full of poison—and a neighbor with a peephole reports seeing a scruffy, pink-haired girl fleeing the scene.

Now Eve and Roarke must venture into the gang territory where Lyle used to run, and the ugly underground world of tattoo parlors and strip joints where everyone has taken a wrong turn somewhere. They both believe in giving people a second chance. Maybe even a third or fourth. But as far as they’re concerned, whoever gave the order on Lyle Pickering’s murder has run out of chances…



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My Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Unfortunately, this felt more like someone else writing an In Death book than it does  J.D. Robb writing an In Death book. This again, this has been an ongoing theme with some of her more recent books. Its hard to tell if the author is just losing some steam (after all we are 48 books into this world she has created), or what is going on. 

This story begins with Eve meeting Crack's lady at a party, so immediately she wants to run her. I get being concerned for your friends, but he's a big boy (literally). After talking to Roarke, Eve finds out she's also about to be made head psychologist for their new children's home. She's also got a brother who is a recovering addict. Or so it appears. Until Rochelle finds her brother dead of an overdose in her apartment. 

It is here that things start to take a slow turn into a downward spiral. Its not that the overdose is merely staged, much like the murders that take place after are also staged, its how painfully obvious it is not only who is behind things, but how ridiculously stupid they are about it. Its hard to believe that these people are criminals of any sort as much as they botch even the simplest tasks. There is also an almost overwhelming amount of "suspects" added into this story, to the point even I had trouble keeping track of just who was who. 

There are some interactions between the main players that seem genuine to the original books, interactions that I found profoundly enjoyable, and I feel like it was those interactions kept this from completely feeling like a different author has taken over writing these books. 

Overall, if you've not read any of the prior novels, you are likely to be confused by the ins and outs of the relationships, so I would pick one or two of the older books to read first. If you are a fan of this series, chances are you will either love it, or like me, wish we could go back to the days when things were more in depth, and the killers harder to find. 

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                            Connections in Death is available from Amazon.com

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Review: Midnight in Chernobyl by Adam Higginbotham


Print Length: 560 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (February 12, 2019)

From Goodreads.com: The definitive, dramatic untold story of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster, based on original reporting and new archival research.

April 25, 1986, in Chernobyl, was a turning point in world history. The disaster not only changed the world’s perception of nuclear power and the science that spawned it, but also our understanding of the planet’s delicate ecology. With the images of the abandoned homes and playgrounds beyond the barbed wire of the 30-kilometer Exclusion Zone, the rusting graveyards of contaminated trucks and helicopters, the farmland lashed with black rain, the event fixed for all time the notion of radiation as an invisible killer.

Chernobyl was also a key event in the destruction of the Soviet Union, and, with it, the United States’ victory in the Cold War. For Moscow, it was a political and financial catastrophe as much as an environmental and scientific one. With a total cost of 18 billion rubles—at the time equivalent to $18 billion—Chernobyl bankrupted an already teetering economy and revealed to its population a state built upon a pillar of lies.

The full story of the events that started that night in the control room of Reactor No.4 of the V.I. Lenin Nuclear Power Plant has never been told—until now. Through two decades of reporting, new archival information, and firsthand interviews with witnesses, journalist Adam Higginbotham tells the full dramatic story, including Alexander Akimov and Anatoli Dyatlov, who represented the best and worst of Soviet life; denizens of a vanished world of secret policemen, internal passports, food lines, and heroic self-sacrifice for the Motherland. Midnight in Chernobyl, award-worthy nonfiction that reads like sci-fi, shows not only the final epic struggle of a dying empire but also the story of individual heroism and desperate, ingenious technical improvisation joining forces against a new kind of enemy.

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My Rating: 3 stars out of 5

Chernobyl has been a topic that has interested me for a good many years now, so I had high hopes when I read the synopsis of this story. And let me be clear from the beginning, it was fascinating. But it also dragged along in parts and for me became a bit hard to understand. 

It is however obvious just how much time, research and effort that the author put into this novel, and bringing not only the "technical" aspect of things to light, but adding a more human touch was brilliant. 

I do believe this story will hold the interest of anyone who is interested in the true story of what happened that day.

DISCLAIMERI received a complimentary copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review. This has not affected my review in any way. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are 100% my own.


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                        Midnight in Chernobyl is available from Amazon.com


Monday, March 4, 2019

Review: A Wicked Reputation (Once Wicked #3) by Liana LeFey


Print Length: 320 pages
Publisher: Entangled Publishing Amara (February 25, 2019)

From Goodreads.com: Betrayed by her fiancĂ© and her best friend, Lady Diana Haversham's reputation is left in ruins, and she is unjustly cast out by her family. Left with little choice, she agrees to pretend to be a courtesan to protect her benefactor's secret. What she didn't count on was meeting temptation in the form of one Lord Lucas Blackthorn. 

Lucas is fascinated by the shameless Diana, whom his friends claim is his perfect counterpart. He can't stop thinking about her sultry smile and captivating eyes, but what draws him most is the sharp mind she reveals—and the certainty she's hiding something.

When Lucas learns the scandalous truth, Diana will have to make a life-and-death choice.


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My Rating: 3 stars out of 5

DISCLAIMER 1: This is a stand alone story. You do not need to have read the others in order to enjoy this one.

While I admit that this was an interesting take on the whole idea of a courtesan (even a pretend one), and the friendship between the characters was endearing, I just didn't find this story believable. 

To begin with if Lucas could so easily figure out the truth based on what he saw through an open window there is no way they could have kept their secret as long as they did. Their lackluster approach to privacy completely went against how hard they worked to keep up the charade. And while I can understand why Harrow would do anything to protect her honor, the fact that he so readily agreed to letting Lucas "have her" for even one night was too unbelievable. If they were such good "friends" as they would have the ton believe, and Harrow and Diana into sharing, there would have been no need for the indecent wager in the first place. And yes, I fully understand that Harrow went along with it because Diana desired it, but it was definitely NOT in keeping up with the appearance they had so carefully cultivated. 

Aside from that, I very much enjoyed the banter between Diana and Lucas. Watching as they went from strangers to lovers, and then more was part of what made the story enjoyable. I do wish that Harrow's real lover would have made more of an impact. He seemed more an "Afterthought" than an actual character. As did Harrow's wife and son. Was the boy really his? Or was he protecting his wife the same way she protected him? How did they get along? I would have loved to have seen more interaction between them as well as learn their "story" other than the snippets we got.

Overall, it was a solid read that I enjoyed. I just wish there was more to it. I would read more from this author!

DISCLAIMER 2I received a complimentary copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review. This has not affected my review in any way. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are 100% my own.


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                              A Wicked Reputation is available from Amazon.com


Friday, March 1, 2019

Review: The Woman in the Lake by Nicola Cornick


Print Length: 320 pages
Publisher: Graydon House (February 26, 2019)

From Goodreads.com: London, 1765

Lady Isabella Gerard, a respectable member of Georgian society, orders her maid to take her new golden gown and destroy it, its shimmering beauty tainted by the actions of her brutal husband the night before.

Three months later, Lord Gerard stands at the shoreline of the lake, looking down at a woman wearing the golden gown. As the body slowly rolls over to reveal her face, it’s clear this was not his intended victim…

250 Years Later…

When a gown she stole from a historic home as a child is mysteriously returned to Fenella Brightwell, it begins to possess her in exactly the same way that it did as a girl. Soon the fragile new life Fen has created for herself away from her abusive ex-husband is threatened at its foundations by the gown’s power over her until she can't tell what is real and what is imaginary.

As Fen uncovers more about the gown and Isabella’s story, she begins to see the parallels with her own life. When each piece of history is revealed, the gown—and its past—seems to possess her more and more, culminating in a dramatic revelation set to destroy her sanity.
 


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My Rating: 1 star out of 5

Despite the promise of the synopsis, this book just did not deliver. I found the characters to be lacking, merely one dimensional shadows of what I had expected. There was nothing likable about any of them, and I found myself leaving this book in favor of reading another one and then coming back numerous times hoping that "this time" would be "the time". 

There was just something off about the flow of this story, that I didn't care what happened to the characters (either then or now). Even though I forced myself to finish it, I didn't feel as though it was "finished". There were too many things that I was left questioning. 

Overall, this story will appeal to some people, it was just not for me.

DISCLAIMERI received a complimentary copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review. This has not affected my review in any way. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are 100% my own.


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                        The Woman in the Lake is available from Amazon.com

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Review: The Last Letter by Rebecca Yarros


Print Length: 432 pages
Publisher: Entangled Publishing Amara (February 26, 2019)

From Goodreads.com: Beckett,

If you’re reading this, well, you know the last-letter drill. You made it. I didn’t. Get off the guilt train, because I know if there was any chance you could have saved me, you would have.

I need one thing from you: get out of the army and get to Telluride.

My little sister Ella’s raising the twins alone. She’s too independent and won’t accept help easily, but she has lost our grandmother, our parents, and now me. It’s too much for anyone to endure. It’s not fair.

And here’s the kicker: there’s something else you don’t know that’s tearing her family apart. She’s going to need help.

So if I’m gone, that means I can’t be there for Ella. I can’t help them through this. But you can. So I’m begging you, as my best friend, go take care of my sister, my family.

Please don’t make her go through it alone.

Ryan
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My Rating: 3 stars out of 5

I have been staring at this review for some time now, walking away and coming back to it, trying to figure out where best to begin. I suppose like all things, I should start at the beginning. 

The synopsis does not do this book justice. In fact it doesn't even scratch the surface. So all readers will go into this, like I did, not knowing what to expect other than Ryan is going to die. 

What it doesn't tell you is that this book will wreck your emotions, make you cry,  and (if you're anything like me) make you mad in the process. Seriously. As well written as this novel was, as much as it dealt with some very real and very hard to handle facts, this book pissed me off. 

Here is what the synopsis doesn't tell you. 

In a roundabout way Ryan is the one that brings his sister Ella and his best friend Beckett (call sign Chaos) together. He suggests she write to him and she does, and for some reason he responds. So this single mom of two kids that she had at the tender age of 19 (while married to an asshole) becomes a "pen pal" to a jaded soldier who is so special ops that he technically doesn't exist. Each chapter contains a letter from one to the other, allowing the reader to get a glimpse into how their relationship started. Except, when Ryan dies and Beckett makes it to Ella, he doesn't tell her who he is. He doesn't tell her that he stopped writing to her because he blamed himself for Ryan's death. He doesn't tell her that he stopped writing to her because he didn't want to hurt her anymore. Or that he had fallen in love with her simply through her letters. All things that can be forgiven. 

Instead he chooses to spend the first half of the book breaking down the barriers she keeps around herself, proving to her that he is there for her and won't leave. When she can't afford the life saving treatment her cancer stricken daughter needs, he ADOPTS them. Granted, he wanted to marry her, but she didn't trust him enough with herself. Her kids were fine though I guess because it meant his insurance would basically pay to keep her daughter alive. 

And then they find out he's being investigated for fraud. After all, its not every day someone adopts a child without marrying the mother, thus claiming them on their insurance and costing their company something like half a million dollars. And when the agent that is charged with "investigating" them declares that without proof he was invested in them before Ryan died she is going to do everything she can to tie them up in red tape (thus denying payment and claims on treatment still needed for the daughter's health) - Beckett comes clean. He shows the investigator the letters exchanged between himself and Ella. He shoes her the photos the twins had drawn for him. 

And what does he get in exchange for doing what was needed to ensure her daughter's continued care? He gets Ella telling him she can't trust him because he is nothing but a liar and not only telling him she never wants to see him again, but taking away his access to the children as well. 

Way to be an ungrateful, selfish bitch there Ella. You can call him a liar, justify it in any way that helps you sleep at night, but the fact remains Beckett spent months trying to prove he would be there, he adopted the kids, did everything a father should. And yet she still throws him out of their life. 

So Beckett spends more of the book trying to prove to her once again that he is there for her and the kids, and will be there. Her daughter is declared to be in remission. And finally. FINALLY. She starts to let him in. 

And then 

SPOILER ALERT

The son dies. Yup. After death has been hanging over the sister throughout the entire novel. After the reader has had time to mentally prepare themselves for her death. It is the brother that dies. And in the most freak accident ever. In a place a child never should have allowed to have been in if things like that could happen. Honestly, I was surprised there wasn't a lawsuit mentioned after. What school takes kids on a trip where there is a risk of falling off a cliff? Even if Colt didn't exactly fall off the cliff, the danger was already there. Even the ending didn't seem like a happily ever after. Sure Beckett and Ella are together, but as she tells her brother during a visit to his grave, she found an engagement ring, but hopes he doesn't ask her yet. AFTER ALL OF THAT YOU STILL DON'T WANT TO MARRY THIS MAN? I had a real hard time connecting with her.

All things considered, I feel this author did a great job portraying survivor's guilt and the demons soldiers of any kind battle upon returning home. I would have enjoyed this story more if one Ella hadn't been such a cold harpy, and two, I would have been prepared for the spoiler. This book didn't make me feel happy, and that was a real problem. 

DISCLAIMERI received a complimentary copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review. This has not affected my review in any way. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are 100% my own.


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                                       The Last Letter is available from Amazon.com

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Review: Wicked with the Scoundrel (Wicked Secrets #3) by


Print Length: 200 pages
Publisher: Entangled Publishing (February 11, 2019)

From Goodreads.com: After ten years of adventure, Colin Smith, the bastard son of a viscount, returns to the place he most despises ––London. But only until he can sell off some of his treasures. He has no use for the stifling rules of the ton, but he’s more than happy to play the game if it gets him what he wants. 

Lady Claire, daughter of a marquess, is everything Colin loathes about the ton, but she is determined to win him over. Her life is a catalog of dances and evening gowns, and thanks to an eidetic memory, she can remember every blasted, boring second of it. A treasure hunt for the Cleopatra Emerald promises adventure, but Claire wants more. If she can convince Colin Smith to take her with him as he travels the world, then she’ll have the life she’s always dreamed of. There’s just one problem, he doesn’t seem to like her much. 

But Lady Claire loves a good challenge and the intellectual beauty may be on her way to the grandest adventure of all.
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My Rating: 3 stars out of 5

UGH. I had such high hopes that this author (one I have read and loved before) would break my 2019 curse of only reading 3 star (or less) books. But unfortunately, this was another three star read.

It started off so promising. We meet Colin - an adventure hunter, and Claire - a girl who remembers absolutely everything. When Claire takes it in her head to find a lost treasure she once heard about and tries to enlist his help I was hooked. I remained interested when her father petitioned Colin to help her on this "fools errand", and I was even more encouraged when they actually manged to work together to find it. Their banter was amazing. The supporting characters (even those from other stories) kept my interest. I was 100% invested in their love story. 

And then Colin went stupid. And he seemed to think only of himself and forget all of the reasons why he fell in love with her in the first place (even if she is prone to moments of  life threatening stupidity). And then we got this drivel of how he's going to basically manipulate her into doing what he wants, only to be shocked when she goes against him. Did you hear my eyes roll? 

I will never understand why an author takes such strong and amazing characters and then de-evolves them into mere shadows of themselves (although I will say Claire showed more backbone than I would have thought possible).  

Overall, I know this story will be a fan favorite (the 4 and 5 star reviews ahead of mine cement this). And I would read more from this author. I just wish she wouldn't fall into such cliche moments.

DISCLAIMERI received a complimentary copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review. This has not affected my review in any way. All thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are 100% my own.


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                      Wicked with the Scoundrel is available from Amazon.com