Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Review: The Sunday Girl - Pip Drysdale

The Sunday Girl
by Pip Drysdale
Published May 19, 2020 by Sourcebooks

Any woman who’s ever been involved with a bad, bad man and been dumped will understand what it feels like to be broken, broken-hearted and bent on revenge.

Taylor Bishop is hurt, angry and wants to destroy Angus Hollingsworth in the way he destroyed her: Insidiously. Irreparably. Like a puzzle, he’d slowly dissembled … stolen a couple of pieces from, and then discarded, knowing that nobody would ever be able to put it back together ever again.

So Taylor consults The Art of War and makes a plan. Then she takes the next irrevocable step — one that will change her life forever.

Things start to spiral out of her control — and The Sunday Girl becomes impossible to put down.

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Review
5 Stars
Creepy, engaging, and impossible to put down. Pip Drysdale's The Sunday Girl is the revenge you always wish the girls in the books with the bad boyfriends would take, yet it isn't at all as simple as one would like to think. Taylor Bishop is more than hurt by the end of her relationship, her world has tilted off its axis and with it some of her sanity. Desperate to hurt him in a way that damages him as much as he has done to her she begins to take the steps to ruin him. Reputation, money, career, nothing is off the table, but Angus Hollingsworth isn't just a bad boyfriend he's far worse than Taylor even knows. Nothing is off the table as the two start a terrifying battle of wits, one that puts both of their lives into jeopardy with only one winner guaranteed.

I went into The Sunday Girl blind and I am so glad I did, there is nothing more satisfying than reading a novel with a good girl narrator who has slowly and insidiously had darkness poured into her. I had no idea the part that The Art of War would play, no clue the abuse she had taken, and absolutely no hint as to the steps both she and her ex would take to tear one another apart. This isn't just a story of a jilted lover, this is a woman whose life has been taken apart piece by piece and her ex won't let her even get a step up on him, no he has plans to take those puzzle pieces and scatter them, leaving it impossible to put back together.

Taylor seems to be brave, but it is clear she was once a meek girl with no self-confidence that landed a relationship with a man she thought far superior to herself. I really enjoyed the breaks from the warfare to see who Taylor really was and could be without the narcissistic Angus pulling her strings. It is only through some brutal psychological abuse that she drops her sweet side for a mask made of armor. The Sunday Girl isn't all domestic drama though, no things spill over into their careers, their friendships, and their romantic dalliances. No one is spared and it is hard to imagine how life could possibly move forward after the events in this novel.

The Sunday Girl held my attention from start to finish, I could not put it down. It was just twisted enough, just girl power enough, and just unique enough that I could not predict what would happen next. If you love psychological thrillers, this is the next book to pick up. For Book Club fans, there are some excellent guided questions in the back of this novel.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Audiobook Review: You Are Not Alone - Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

You Are Not Alone
by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
Narrated by Barrie Kreinik, Dylan Moore 
Time: 11 hours 1 Minute
Published: March 3, 2020

Shay Miller has three strikes against her: no job, no apartment, no love in her life. But when she witnesses a perfectly normal looking young woman about her age make the chilling decision to leap in front of an ongoing subway train, Shay realizes she could end up in the same spiral. She is intrigued by a group of women who seem to have it all together, and they invite her with the promise: "You are not alone." Why not align herself with the glamorous and seductive Moore sisters, Cassandra and Jane? They seem to have beaten back their demons, and made a life on their own terms—a life most people can only ever envy. They are everything Shay aspires to be, and they seem to have the keys to getting exactly what they want.

As Shay is pulled deeper and deeper under the spell of the Moore sisters, she finds her life getting better and better. But what price does she have to pay? What do Cassandra and Jane want from her? And what secrets do they, and Shay, have that will come to a deadly confrontation?

You are not alone: Is it a promise? Or a threat?

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Review
4 Stars

Shay is awkward, but she knows she is deserving of a good job, a good life, a good relationship, and good friends. After witnessing a horrible incident Shay's life seems to tip upside down. What starts as intrigue about the death of a woman turns into a desire to befriend her friends. It seems sinister, but Shay truly just loves the quest for data and finds that the woman's friends are just the kind she'd like. The Moore Sisters are the key to what Shay wants, but the cost is far higher than she could have ever imagined. At first the sisters seem charming, on audio they're the elite girls you want to know, but as things take a turn and the tricks get a bit crueler you find there's quite a dark side to the sisters and their band of women. Shay is so swept up in it all she doesn't see that they've turned her into the bad guy, not until it's far too late.

I don't know that I would have enjoyed this book quite as much had I read it instead of listened to it. The changing accents and two narrators really helped bring the characters, and there are a lot of them, to life. You Are Not Alone relies heavily on multiple characters taking on different looks, voices, and hats to take Shay Miller from a convincing, reliable narrator to an unreliable one, all for friendship and happiness. While we predominantly follow the story from Shay and the sisters' perspectives, the occasional chapter is told by another, often in disguise. Plus, Shay is a data fan and the excerpts from her journal are so interesting, but absolutely would've been confusing had there not been more than one narrator.

I went into this book a bit blind, I find suspense thrillers are too easily spoiled by the blurb, and I've come to enjoy the total surprise as I discover what the book is about. Greeg Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen are definitely my favorite writing duo in the genre, the characters they write are unique and while we all love a good suburban drama, these books are nothing like that. They write the books that somehow I both can't believe and yet can picture from beginning to end. You Are Not Alone was just like that, Shay is just not super likable at first, but as you uncover who she really is and what's happening to her as she tries so hard for friendship you find space for her. I was protective of her and I so badly wanted to be able to tell her, "watch out!" I was swept up in this book, from beginning to end, and I really enjoyed all the varying plots we tumbled down, each piece fitting together like a puzzle that you can't picture until the final piece goes in.

Audiobook provided by Macmillan Audio on Libro.fm.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Release Blitz & Review: That's the Way I Loved You - Carrie Aarons

That's the Way I Loved You

by Carrie Aarons
Published: May 12, 2020

Savannah

This town ain't big enough for the two of us.
Which is why I left.

I was determined never to return to Hale, Texas. But when my new life in the Big Apple throws me a curve ball, I have to go back to tie up loose ends. One of those being him.

Jason Whitney was my first everything. Kiss, love, epic heartbreak. He shattered my world once upon a time, and apparently, he’s not done yet.

With old demons lurking around every corner, hightailing it out of my hometown is at the top of my list. Complete my unfinished business, and I get to leave any memory of my country existence behind.

Only, with each day I spend in it, with each moment I spend with him, I’m turning back into the girl who laid in the tall grass and swam in the creek all those years ago.

And I’m not sure that who I was is ready to let me go again.

Jason

We drew a line down the middle, and neither of us has crossed it.
That is, until Savannah Reese blew back into our hometown.

The day my high school sweetheart left, she took my whole heart with her. We promised each other forever, made plans that only teenagers could believe in, and crashed and burned on the grandest of scales.

When Savannah last saw me, I was a disgraced high school athlete. All washed up, I took it out on the only person who loved me. Then her world really fell apart, and I was too selfish to care.

Now she’s back, ready to sell the only remaining thing tying us to each other. I’ve been breaking my back for the last ten years not to think about her, not to be reminded of the love we shared.

But now that she’s right here, it’s impossible to forget how we used to be. Or let go of what we still are.

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Review
4.5 Stars
Savannah left behind her small Texas town the minute she landed in New York. She thought all that was left there was heartbreak, loss, and judgement, but when forced to return to settle some land issues she finds that home really is where the heart is. Friends and family welcome her back with open arms, but she's not prepared for the emotions that seeing her old love would stir in her. Jason Whitney has spent every day since Savannah ran trying to become a better man, a better man for her. He never knew if he'd get a chance to prove to her he's changed, but he's not missing the opportunity to try now. As old hurts surface Savannah tries to run again, but Jason knows the spark of life is once again being lit in her.

"Savannah Reese thinks she can just waltz back into town, have her way with it, and leave again like a breeze on the wind."

Small town, cute, and full of the good fluff. That's the Way I Loved You is just as promised, a second chance romance à la Sweet Home Alabama. Savannah is all New York City, Jason is all small town country boy, but the love they shared in their youth lives in that town. Savannah may fly in full of harsh words and a puffed ego, but the town centers her and I went from hating her to recognizing the pain that had made her that way. She's lost herself along the way and mixed into the romance is the story of Savannah finding herself again. The separated couple carry hurt, they share a past of heartbreak and loss and anger, but through the support of friends, family, and their own strong wills, they find their way back.

"Crazy in love, about each other, and just about every other shade of crazy under the sun."

So, I docked half a star for the first 20%, it took me a while to get into the book. Initially it was just too much like Sweet Home Alabama, the characters are very similar and some of the dialogue is too, but as it went on it became its own unique story. It went from too much to a few subtle references here and there that made me think of my favorite movie, but didn't feel like copying. Plus, That's the Way I Loved You is a lot less comedy and a whole lot more feelings. I swore I wasn't going to get teared up, but classic Carlene, I did indeed need some tissues.

"But that was once upon a time. And this was after the fallout."

A sweet, standalone romance for second-chance fans, That's the Way I Loved You was just the light romance read I needed. Low in angst, heavy on the feel good Carrie Aarons takes readers on a journey into Texas filled with sweet tea, pick up trucks, and friends that take you to the salon just to gossip.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Review: The Honey-Don't List - Christina Lauren

The Honey-Don't List
by Christina Lauren
Published March 24th 2020 by Gallery Books

Carey Douglas has worked for home remodeling and design gurus Melissa and Rusty Tripp for nearly a decade. A country girl at heart, Carey started in their first store at sixteen, and—more than anyone would suspect—has helped them build an empire. With a new show and a book about to launch, the Tripps are on the verge of superstardom. There’s only one problem: America’s favorite couple can’t stand each other.

James McCann, MIT graduate and engineering genius, was originally hired as a structural engineer, but the job isn’t all he thought it’d be. The last straw? Both he and Carey must go on book tour with the Tripps and keep the wheels from falling off the proverbial bus.

Unfortunately, neither of them is in any position to quit. Carey needs health insurance, and James has been promised the role of a lifetime if he can just keep the couple on track for a few more weeks. While road-tripping with the Tripps up the West Coast, Carey and James vow to work together to keep their bosses’ secrets hidden, and their own jobs secure. But if they stop playing along—and start playing for keeps—they may have the chance to build something beautiful together…

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Review
4 Stars
Christina Lauren are the romance duo I turn to when I want a fluffy read, whether sweet, spicy, or hilarious, these two are dependable and have got it covered. From the very first page The Honey-Don't List is a fast-paced, I'm talking a train going at full speed, romance filled with drama and excitement. Told from the perspectives of main characters Carey and James, The Honey-Don't List is just as wild as the jobs the two hold for the famous owners of Comb + Honey. While they may have tried to keep a minimum of 6 feet apart (sorry I had to!) previously Carey and James are forced into close proximity in order to ensure the feuding married couple hold it together long enough to complete a five stop book tour. It isn't all romance behind the scenes for Melly and Rusty Tripp, but it lights the spark between the two assistants.

I cannot be the only one who couldn't stop picturing Chip and Joanna, it really took away from the story for me, because the two secondary characters didn't feel unique. Yes, it really gives you the full picture of just how famous they are and what a mess Carey and James have to mop up, but boy is the time spent on them distracting. The story ultimately revolved around them, leaving little room for a true romance to be developed in the novel. Sure, the chemistry between Carey and James is off the charts and their pairing is so cute, but we don't actually get enough interactions for it to be believable beyond a casual fling. But, when I read a silly romance like this I tend to give in to the unbelievable, so I still like the cute HEA we get.

The Honey-Don't List is a silly romance read with just the right amount of humor and smut. With a heaping dose of reality TV drama Christina Lauren give readers a quick read that sure to have them charmed. Well-written and just the right length, The Honey-Don't List is another romance novel to add to your shelf.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Review: The Vine Witch - Luanne G. Smith

The Vine Witch
by Luanne G. Smith
Published October 1st 2019

A young witch emerges from a curse to find her world upended in this gripping fantasy of betrayal, vengeance, and self-discovery set in turn-of-the-century France.

For centuries, the vineyards at Château Renard have depended on the talent of their vine witches, whose spells help create the world-renowned wine of the Chanceaux Valley. Then the skill of divining harvests fell into ruin when sorcière Elena Boureanu was blindsided by a curse. Now, after breaking the spell that confined her to the shallows of a marshland and weakened her magic, Elena is struggling to return to her former life. And the vineyard she was destined to inherit is now in the possession of a handsome stranger.

Vigneron Jean-Paul Martel naively favors science over superstition, and he certainly doesn’t endorse the locals’ belief in witches. But Elena knows a hex when she sees one, and the vineyard is covered in them. To stay on and help the vines recover, she’ll have to hide her true identity, along with her plans for revenge against whoever stole seven winters of her life. And she won’t rest until she can defy the evil powers that are still a threat to herself, Jean-Paul, and the ancient vine-witch legacy in the rolling hills of the Chanceaux Valley.

Review
5 Stars
The Vine Witch is a magical adventure in turn-of-the-century France where witches are depended upon for their special talents in the vineyards. Vigneron Jean-Paul Martel believes in science, he knows he can produce a perfect wine at Château Renard just as the vignerons of the past, he doesn't need a witch. Elena Boureanu doesn't give him the option of accepting her help though, even if she has to lie about her talents. After spending seven years cursed she'd do anything to return Château Renard to its glory days and exact the revenge she's had far too much time to think about. There's something sinister happening in the Chanceaux Valley though, more than gargoyles and shadow spells, and Elena will have to turn to her ancient vine-witch lessons to save the vineyards, Jean, and the legacy of vine-witches everywhere.

"Intuition knows the truth when heard, but the sound can leave a terrible ringing in the ears."

I haven't reached for a fantasy novel in a long time, but The Vine Witch reminded me of why I love the genre so much. For the hours I read time was suspended, I was no longer in my warm home in California, but rather walking the sprawling acres of vineyards and cobblestone streets. The storytelling is rich and ambient, with multidimensional characters, a gorgeous setting, and just the right mixture of mystery, romance, and suspense. I loved the historical details too, I could picture the entire novel happening in real life, like it was more than just folklore. Elena's return to Château Renard finds the world changed, science has taken over and automobiles threaten those who still travel by horse and foot. We aren't taken on a long winded story about her adjustments, no there is no time for that. This fast paced story finds Elena unraveling spells, plotting deadly revenge, on the run from law enforcement, and learning the power of friendship, family, love and the magic that can be used for good and evil.

"She gave the wine a swirl, and Jean-Paul knew if there was ever magic in the world it was in that glass of perfectly blended seven-year-old pinot noir."

What started quite slowly, and in a very unique way, soon grasped my attention and had me turning page after page as quickly as possible. The Vine Witch is quite short, but the descriptive storytelling by Luanne G. Smith more than paints a picture, you can quite literally taste the bakery treats and feel the heavy weight of shadow vision. I need never try a bug, Elena has done so for me. If you're looking for your next spellbinding read, The Vine Witch is at the top of my recommendation list. Grab some wine and dive into this rich and complex novel. While this is a standalone novel, I cannot wait to read the next two novels in the series, each featuring a character we meet in The Vine Witch with backstories I cannot wait to learn about.
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