Monday, November 15, 2021

Christmas Ever After by Jill Shalvis

Holiday Ever After: One Snowy Night/Holiday Wishes/Mistletoe in Paradise
by Jill Shalvis
Published October 26, 2021 by Avon

Three fan-favorite Jill Shalvis novellas are together for the first time in this holiday anthology!


One Snowy Night

It’s Christmas Eve and Rory Andrews is desperate to get home to her family. Problem is, her only ride to Lake Tahoe comes in the form of the annoyingly handsome Max Stranton, her long-time crush, and his big, goofy, lovable dog. A long road trip in a massive blizzard might be just what they need to face their past…and one steamy, snowy night is all it takes to bring Max and Rory together at last.


Holiday Wishes

When Sean O’Riley shows up for his older brother’s bachelor weekend, the last person he expects to see is Lotti Hartford, the woman he lost his virginity to a decade ago. As the weekend continues, Sean realizes he wants to leave his hook-up life behind, but can he convince Lotti to open her heart to him again?


Mistletoe in Paradise

Years after their secret fling ended, Hannah isn’t eager to see James during their families’ annual joint holiday-themed yacht adventure. But when they’re the only people who show up, James and Hannah are stuck together on the high seas for days. As the former lovers try to make the best of the Christmas snafu, they soon realize the best things in life can’t be planned, and sometimes love is sweeter the second time around. 

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Review
5 Stars


Three short, sweet, emotional stories that can, surprisingly, be read as standalones or after visiting Jill Shalvis' Heartbreak Bay and Wildstone series. They're quite quick reads, the romances move quick, but if you're a fan of second chance love you'll love the quick gratification you get from these. Plus, they're all based around the Christmas season, even the sunny island romance has holiday warmth.

“One Snowy Night” by Jill Shalvis is book # 2.5 in the Heartbreaker series and features Max and Rory. These two have a past, but not quite a warm and fuzzy one. With a ton of history between them and a snowstorm keeping them from their respective family homes, the two finally address the elephant in the truck. This novella is emotionally intense and has just the right amount of smut. It's a happily ever after that feels good, but certainly makes you want to read the other novels in the series.

"Holiday Wishes" by Jill Shalvis is book #4.5 in the Heartbreaker Bay series featuring Sean and Lotti. These two are old flames, separated by distance in their youth and running into one another on what should be a weekend bachelor/bachelorette weekend. Only, like only Northern California can, it dumps insane weather on them and shuts the world around them down. Keeping Sean's brother from his wedding plans, Sean enlists Lotti to make his rustic, Christmas dreams come true and in the process, Sean makes Lotti's vacation dreams come true. This one is lust-filled, silly, and entirely cute. I really enjoyed this one the most, I could've read a full length novel of these two.

"Mistletoe In Paradise" by Jill Shavlis is book #5.5 in the Wildstone series and features longtime family friends Hannah and James. They haven't seen one another since a secret, fated fling and the loss of James' brother. This, potentially last, Christmas charter only makes Hannah think negatively, but her dad has other plans and plays matchmaker with Hannah and James. This one is very fast, but it's warm and fuzzy and made me want to read the Wildstone series. I'm sure longtime Wildstone fans will like the couples' refreshed connection.

Friday, October 29, 2021

Blog Tour: Fan Club by Erin Mayer


Fan Club : A Novel
Erin Mayer
On Sale Date: October 26, 2021
9780778311591
Trade Paperback
$16.99 USD
320 pages

In this raucous psychological thriller, a disillusioned millennial joins a cliquey fan club, only to discover that the group is bound together by something darker than devotion.

Day after day our narrator searches for meaning beyond her vacuous job at a women's lifestyle website - entering text into a computer system while she watches their beauty editor unwrap box after box of perfectly packaged bits of happiness. Then, one night at a dive bar, she hears a message in the newest single by international pop-star Adriana Argento, and she is struck. Soon she loses herself to the online fandom, a community whose members feverishly track Adriana's every move.

When a colleague notices her obsession, she’s invited to join an enigmatic group of adult Adriana superfans who call themselves the Ivies and worship her music in witchy, candlelit listening parties. As the narrator becomes more entrenched in the group, she gets closer to uncovering the sinister secrets that bind them together - while simultaneously losing her grip on reality.

With caustic wit and hypnotic writing, this unsparingly critical thrill ride through millennial life examines all that is wrong in our celebrity-obsessed internet age and how easy it is to lose yourself in it.


Review
4 Stars

Oof, do I have thoughts about this book! 

A millennial editor with little hopes to ever meet her dreams, not that she has any, discovers the world of celebrity obsession when she hears the magical voice of one Adriana Argento. Our nameless, faceless narrator is anything, but the usual insta-filtered women you might think of. She's stuck in a nowhere job, she lives in a dream world of pretending it might be better while doing nothing, at least until Adriana. A love of music turns into something as important as air, what starts as just a scrolling of feeds and listening to interviews turns into The Ivies. The mean girls, the new Heathers, the women who accept her adult-age and love of the bubblegum pop princess. The Ivies aren't just a fan club though, they are something more, something much more.


With unexpected intensity and tabloid-esque fervor, Erin Mayer takes readers onto a journey into celebrity obsession. Fan Club reads like the cacophonous sounds of a night club at 1 AM; blurry with alcohol, messy with streaked eyeliner, and lusty like the kisses of strangers. It's an all-consuming read, it's accurate and creepy and the kind of thriller, with a tinge of cult-like love, that just cannot be predicted. I loved the deep dive into millennial fandoms, the desire to be loved and to love in return. I liked that our narrator wasn't this dream of success kind of girl, that she was struggling and trying to hang on, all while slipping into this dreamy world made up of Adriana music and pink clouds. I can relate to Mayer's critical view of flawed women making poor choices in an attempt to fit in anywhere.


With lengthy descriptions, thoughts that border on hallucinations, and inserted chapters from the perspective of Adriana herself, Fan Club borders on too much. I'd be lying if I said that didn't work for me, it takes you down a road just as twisted as the yellow bricks Dorothy walked, but I can see how it also won't work for everyone. It's a thriller that is a little bit adult fiction and a little bit literary fiction. Mayer uses words that your average reader won't know, see the use of cacophonous above. I loved that though, this was my cup of tea, however I did not love that Adriana is a spitting image of Ariana Grande. I am a fangirl of hers, she does no wrong, but it cheapened the experience of Fan Club. It's impossible not to picture her, despite the constant references to Adriana's bleached blonde hair, and in turn it makes all those around Adriana blend in with those in Ariana's past and present. I could have done with a unique singer, a mish mash of several personalities and styles, but alas, Ariana or rather, Adriana, is who we get and I ended up just listening to her music the entire time I read.


What starts as a slow, day-to-day subway ride to a boring job turns into a fever dream, a truly disturbing set of events that somehow are both believable and unbelievable all at once. On any given page you will ask yourself is this real or is our narrator losing it? It is somehow both and it is addictive like sugar. I recommend this one, I think it's the kind of book you'll love or you'll hate and I love a good polarizing read.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Erin Mayer is a freelance writer and editor based in Maine. Her work has appeared in Business Insider, Man Repeller, Literary Hub, and others. She was previously an associate fashion and beauty editor at Bustle.com.

Website | Twitter | Instagram


Thursday, October 28, 2021

Litani by Jess Lourey

Litani
by Jess Lourey
Published October 19, 2021 by Thomas & Mercer

The Amazon Charts bestselling author of Unspeakable Things and Bloodline explores the darkness at the heart of the rural Midwest in a novel inspired by a chilling true crime.

In the summer of ’84, fourteen-year-old Frankie Jubilee is shuttled off to Litani, Minnesota, to live with her estranged mother, a county prosecutor she barely knows. From the start, Frankie senses something uneasy going on in the small town. The locals whisper about The Game, and her mother warns her to stay out of the woods and away from adults.

When a bullying gang of girls invites Frankie to The Game, she accepts, determined to find out what’s really going on in Litani. She’s not the only one becoming paranoid. Hysteria burns through the community. Dark secrets emerge. And Frankie fears that, even in the bright light of day, she might be living among monsters.


4 Stars

Another profound, well-written novel from Jess Lourey, the new queen of secrets. Litani is Jess' first novel based on a true crime, but like her other works it takes place in a small Minnesota town. Frankie, our narrator, is just 14 and she's experienced plenty in her life. She's thrust into her mother's home after her father's passing, but her mom doesn't hold her with warmth, rather she warns her of the adults. Only play with children, stay out of the woods, don't go near any adults. Except there are whispers in this town, stares, and a pack of children playing something called The Game that Frankie can't help but notice sounds more bad than good. A natural detective, Frankie resolves to find out just what's going on in Litani.

Jess Lourey writes Frankie with a proud, loud voice and the strength of Wonder Woman. She guides you through this book with incredible detail and feeling. There is no way to read Litani and not be impacted. This one is sad, it's dark, it's hard to read, but Frankie's voice is there with kindness and youth and a form of vulnerability that keeps the novel from sinking too deep into the bad stuff. She trudges through the hard stuff with you, fighting for the truth and looking for the good, willing to give chances to anyone, except maybe herself. It's a coming-of-age within a mystery in a town that darkness holds onto.

This is not a thriller and I wish I'd had some sort of warning going into the book that there would be things that affected me on a personal level. I have to admit I think this one is billed incorrectly. Litani is a dark drama, a book that holds a mystery and secrets that impacts every child within the pages. It's a sad story, but also a story of strength and a story based on true crime. For me, unfortunately, it's a story that I relate too much to and I had a really difficult time reading it. This one gave me nightmares and while I acknowledge it's written incredibly well, I went in for a thriller and that is not what I got.

Jess Lourey continues to show readers that she can really write, giving us not one, but two incredible novels in the span of a single year. Litani is not the thriller that Bloodline is, but it is a novel that will stay with you in a different way. I'm glad I pushed on through this one, I really did enjoy it, I just think it is one of those books were a warning might be necessary.

Monday, October 25, 2021

The Killing Kind by Jane Casey

The Killing Kind
by Jane Casey
Published September 21, 2021 by HarperCollins

He tells you you’re special…

As a barrister, Ingrid Lewis is used to dealing with tricky clients, but no one has ever come close to John Webster. After Ingrid defended Webster against a stalking charge, he then turned on her – following her, ruining her relationship, even destroying her home.

He tells you he wants to protect you…

Now, Ingrid believes she has finally escaped his clutches. But when one of her colleagues is run down on a busy London road, Ingrid is sure she was the intended victim. And then Webster shows up at her door…

But can you believe him?

Webster claims Ingrid is in danger – and that only he can protect her. Stalker or saviour? Murderer or protector? The clock is ticking for Ingrid to decide. Because the killer is ready to strike again.


Review
4 Stars

A fantastic thriller with unexpected twists and a cast of characters that leaves you questioning just who you can trust. Ingrid Lewis is a barrister, crime doesn't shock her, and little used to scare her, at least until John Lewis set his sights on her. With increasing paranoia, Ingrid begins to investigate the deaths the police can't seem to connect to her, but she knows they must be. While constantly looking over her should, Ingrid revisits the cases she worked on, connecting the dots. She fails to think like a criminal though, she doesn't see what they see on the rainy streets, in the dark apartments, in the cluster of humans focused on getting to work each day. Jane Casey takes readers into the dark, dark belly of crime and despair as Ingrid struggles to figure out just who wants her dead, why they might, and the lengths they'll go to achieve it.


Here to admit I loved John Webster, he's so good and so bad and Ingrid plays right into his hands. He's such a key character in this novel and while I enjoyed reading from Ingrid's unexpecting view point, I would have loved John's perspective occasionally. His motives are fascinating to me. Ingrid, however, certainly has a love/hate thing with him and I have a love/hate thing with her. She's so smart, but not street smart at all and it's very apparent as you turn the pages of this crime thriller. There's also a whole list of other character names to remember and while I appreciated every single thing they brought to the table, it sure was a lot to remember. The Killing Kind is lengthy and filled with detail, that admittedly, begins to weigh down the read. The amount of detail and plot lends itself to plot holes and Casey suffered that in a few places. This is one where I had to stop myself from skimming and in the end it was worth it, I was totally surprised by the last few chapters.


If you love crime thrillers, The Killing Kind is sure to be a winner. It's dark, a bit gruesome, and filled with all the facts of legal work. Plus, it isn't at all the same as other thrillers out right now and the freshness of it felt so good to read. Jane Casey was a new to me author with this book, but I'll be reading her others now.

Friday, October 15, 2021

The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling

The Ex Hex
by Erin Sterling
Published September 28, 2021 by Avon Books

New York Times bestselling author Rachel Hawkins, writing as Erin Sterling, casts a spell with a spine-tingling romance full of wishes, witches, and hexes gone wrong.


Nine years ago, Vivienne Jones nursed her broken heart like any young witch would: vodka, weepy music, bubble baths…and a curse on the horrible boyfriend. Sure, Vivi knows she shouldn’t use her magic this way, but with only an “orchard hayride” scented candle on hand, she isn’t worried it will cause him anything more than a bad hair day or two.


That is until Rhys Penhallow, descendent of the town’s ancestors, breaker of hearts, and annoyingly just as gorgeous as he always was, returns to Graves Glen, Georgia. What should be a quick trip to recharge the town’s ley lines and make an appearance at the annual fall festival turns disastrously wrong. With one calamity after another striking Rhys, Vivi realizes her silly little Ex Hex may not have been so harmless after all.


Suddenly, Graves Glen is under attack from murderous wind-up toys, a pissed off ghost, and a talking cat with some interesting things to say. Vivi and Rhys have to ignore their off the charts chemistry to work together to save the town and find a way to break the break-up curse before it’s too late.


Review
5 Stars

Witches, ghosts, and curses gone awry, that's what makes a spooky romance fly. Okay fine, that was cheesy. The Ex Hex, though, is absolutely amazing. I laughed a lot, loved the comradery, and absolutely ate up the romance scenes. Vivi was just nineteen when handsome, infamous Rhys Penhallow broke her heart and she wished upon him, with vodka soaked feelings, a curse. Curses don't work though and Penhallows can't be cursed, at least that was the belief until now. When Rhys returns to town after nine years he thinks he'll swoop in and swoop out, no one the wiser, but he and Vivi run into each other immediately and sparks...and curses...fly.


I cannot get over how much I loved this book. Like, I knew it was up my alley, but this book was just impossible to put down. I can't say enough good things about it. It's fast, but the characters and setting are still well developed. We know Vivi. We know Rhys. We even know a bit about all the secondary characters. Penhallow is totally fleshed out, as cute as a Halloween town can get. On top of it, there's witchy magic and enemies-to-lovers romance? Give me more. I loved how much I laughed, I definitely blushed a little bit, and I rooted for every character every step of the way. I could read this book ten times in a row and not get bored, I could read 500 extra pages, and I 110% need Gwyn's book to exist. It's just that cute, that good, and that well done.


Y'all, my most anticipated read of October did not disappoint. In fact, it lived up to all my expectations and then some. The hype around this one is totally real and I cannot recommend picking this one up before the spooky season is over. I have all the emotions about this book.


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