Book Review: Well Matched by Jen DeLuca

Well Matched Book photo - picture of the book surrounded by princess bride funko pops, yellow flowers, and a yellow book

cover222764-mediumTitle: Well Matched
Author: Jen DeLuca
Series: Well Met #3
Genre: Romance, Chick Lit
Date of Publication: October 19, 2021
Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group


Synopsis

An accidentally in-love rom-com filled with Renaissance Faire flower crowns, kilts, corsets, and sword fights.

Single mother April Parker has lived in Willow Creek for twelve years with a wall around her heart. On the verge of being an empty nester, she’s decided to move on from her quaint little town, and asks her friend Mitch for his help with some home improvement projects to get her house ready to sell.

Mitch Malone is known for being the life of every party, but mostly for the attire he wears to the local Renaissance Faire–a kilt (and not much else) that shows off his muscled form to perfection. While he agrees to help April, he needs a favor too: she’ll pretend to be his girlfriend at an upcoming family dinner, so that he can avoid the lectures about settling down and having a more “serious” career than high school coach and gym teacher. April reluctantly agrees, but when dinner turns into a weekend trip, it becomes hard to tell what’s real and what’s been just for show. But when the weekend ends, so must their fake relationship.

As summer begins, Faire returns to Willow Creek, and April volunteers for the first time. When Mitch’s family shows up unexpectedly, April pretends to be Mitch’s girlfriend again…something that doesn’t feel so fake anymore. Despite their obvious connection, April insists they’ve just been putting on an act. But when there’s the chance for something real, she has to decide whether to change her plans–and open her heart–for the kilt-wearing hunk who might just be the love of her life.

Goodreads

My Thoughts

This book is marketed as a rom com, but it’s much closer to women’s fiction, (but with that expected Happy Ever After that we expect in romance novels). While the book is broadly about April finding love, she’s also finding a renewed purpose in life and figuring out who she really is in the process. While the pacing of this book is quite slow, the introspection gives us the opportunity to really get into April’s head and dive into the life she’s built for herself in Willow Creek. Her daughter is graduating from high school, and then she’ll be going off to university. April should be ecstatic–she’s wanted nothing more than to sell her house and leave this town behind. But this summer, she’s forced to confront what she really wants, and the true reason why Willow Creek has never truly felt like home, which has nothing to do with the town or its residents and everything to do with her and her outlook on life. 

The atmosphere of this book is tinged with melancholy. April is a forty-year-old divorcee. She broke up with her husband shortly after her eighteen-year-old daughter, Caitlin, was born, and she hasn’t had any serious relationships since. They moved to Willow Creek, but April resisted setting down roots. She has her book club, and her sister recently moved to town (Read Well Met for that epic tale!), but she doesn’t have much else tying her to this location. Even Mitch, who was delightful and cheery in the previous two books, seems a lot more subdued in this novel. He’s still got charisma, but it isn’t enough to make the contents of the book match its cheery blue cover.

Like the previous two books in this series, DeLuca has taken a common trope as the basis for this story. Mitch Malone asks April to be his fake girlfriend for a family gathering, and a lot of the expected clichés come out of it (sharing a bedroom–and a bed, etc.). My favourite part of the previous two books in this series–and subsequently this book–is the parts set at the Renaissance Faire. Unfortunately, the first half of this book is set before the faire rolls into town, and those chapters lacked the colour and flavour that I have come to love–and expect–in this series. Once the Faire does start, it’s still not quite the same, because the book is from April’s point of view, and she’s never been a huge fan of the Faire (or anything requiring any kind of participation or fun). DeLuca does make up for this later on in the book, but I was hoping for more than a few chapters set at the Renaissance Faire. It’s what makes this series truly unique, and it otherwise is just a rehashing of old tropes without a fresh new take on them.  Honestly, the scenes with Captain Blackthorne (the first book’s hero’s alter ego), made me nostalgic for the fun and renaissance faire-filled goodness from the first instalment in the series.

All in all, this is a quick read for fans of the fake girlfriend trope, but don’t go into it expecting the usual Willow Creek Renaissance Faire shenanigans.

Well Matched Book photo - picture of the book surrounded by princess bride funko pops, yellow flowers, and a yellow book

*Thank you to the publisher, Netgalley, and the author for the ebook to review*

Three stars

Find the book:

Goodreads | Amazon

Book Review: The Last Legacy by Adrienne Young

The Last Legacy book surrounded by quills, books, and flowers

The Last Legacy webTitle: The Last Legacy
Author: Adrienne Young
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Date of Publication: September 7, 2021
Publisher: Wednesday Books


Synopsis

New York Times bestselling author Adrienne Young returns with The Last Legacy, a captivating standalone about family and blood ties, reinventing yourself, and controlling your own destiny.

When a letter from her uncle Henrik arrives on Bryn Roth’s eighteenth birthday, summoning her back to Bastian, Bryn is eager to prove herself and finally take her place in her long-lost family.

Henrik has plans for Bryn, but she must win everyone’s trust if she wants to hold any power in the delicate architecture of the family. It doesn’t take long for her to see that the Roths are entangled in shadows. Despite their growing influence in upscale Bastian, their hands are still in the kind of dirty business that got Bryn’s parents killed years ago. With a forbidden romance to contend with and dangerous work ahead, the cost of being accepted into the Roths may be more than Bryn can pay. 

Goodreads

My Thoughts

In The Last Legacy we’re whisked back to the imaginative and fantastical world of Fable and Namesake

Readers don’t need to have read the Fable duology in order to enjoy this book. Yes, some characters cross over, but Young has done a wonderful job of making this book stand on its own. The worldbuilding is far from skeletal, and if I hadn’t immediately recognized the names of cities and some of the peripheral characters from Fable, I wouldn’t have realized that this book was written after that duology.

The Last Legacy has an intriguing plot that’s not at all predictable. I jumped into this book without reading the description, since Young has quickly become a “read without questioning anything” author for me. As usual, Young has made good use of her lyrical writing style, immediately capturing my attention. That said, the plot isn’t quite as gripping as the plot in her other books, and it took me a little while to get into the swing of what was going on. The atmosphere  is foreboding and mysterious, and for the first forty percent of the story, I wasn’t sure where the story was going, or even what type of story it was going to be.

Young has created characters that are incredibly compelling. I love the protagonist, Bryn. She’s a strong–albeit quite ordinary–young woman. I absolutely love books set in magical settings where the protagonist is seemingly ordinary, and she has to use her wits and other strengths to persevere against whatever life or the book’s antagonist throws in her direction. Bryn seems to be the picture of etiquette and what a proper young lady should be–which she should, since she was brought up to be that way. But it quickly becomes obvious that there’s much more to Bryn than meets the eye. Other characters are just as interesting, especially her family members and the mysterious Ezra.

I recommend this book to those who love a mystical young adult mystery set in a dynamic fantasy world. 

The Last Legacy book surrounded by quills, books, and flowers

*Thank you to the publisher, Netgalley, and the author for the ebook to review*

Five stars

Find the book:

Goodreads | Amazon

Book Review: The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward

The Last House on Needless Street book surrounded by black leaves, a black skull, and a little black raven

cover218770-mediumTitle: The Last House on Needless Street
Author: Catriona Ward
Genre: Horror
Date of Publication: September 28, 2021
Publisher: Tor Nightfire


Synopsis

Catriona Ward’s The Last House on Needless Street is a shocking and immersive read perfect for fans of Gone Girl and The Haunting of Hill House.

In a boarded-up house on a dead-end street at the edge of the wild Washington woods lives a family of three.

A teenage girl who isn’t allowed outside, not after last time.
A man who drinks alone in front of his TV, trying to ignore the gaps in his memory.
And a house cat who loves napping and reading the Bible.

An unspeakable secret binds them together, but when a new neighbor moves in next door, what is buried out among the birch trees may come back to haunt them all.

Goodreads

My Thoughts

This book is a literary masterpiece. The writing is quite phenomenal. First, we’re introduced to Tim, a strange man who lives in a strange house. It’s almost immediately apparent that he’s not quite right in the head. The way that he describes people and the world around him and what he’s doing seems a little… off. And then he refers to his “mommy”, and that seals the deal. There’s something quite odd about this man–but is he dangerous? Is he a killer? 

The other characters in this book are just as fascinating, but I fell in love with Olivia, the cat, almost instantaneously. Having the point of view of a cat is so unique, and I loved her attitude and the way that she, too, saw the world in a unique perspective that is reflected in her language and the way that she communicates to the reader.

The author is the master of the show-don’t-tell plot device. We’re shown how odd Ted is, rather than told it. We experience the same disorientation that he feels at certain parts in the story. 

Continue reading “Book Review: The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward”

Book Review: Beneath the Marigolds by Emily C. Whitson

Beneath the Marigolds photo

Beneath the Marigolds cover webTitle: Beneath the Marigolds
Author: Emily C. Whitson
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Date of Publication: September 21, 2021
Publisher: CamCat Books


Synopsis

When her best friend, Reese Marigold, goes missing after attending Last Chance, an exclusive singles’ retreat on a remote island off the coast of Hawaii, no-nonsense lawyer Ann Stone infiltrates the retreat.

Ann quickly realizes there’s more to Last Chance than meets the eye. The extravagant clothes, never-ending interviews, and bizarre dates hint that the retreat is a front for a reality dating show. Could Reese be safe, keeping a low profile until the premier, or did something sinister occur after all?

Torn between the need to uncover the truth and her desperate desire to get off the island, Ann partakes in the unusual routines of the “journey to true love” and investigates the other attendees who all have something to hide. In a final attempt to find Reese on the compound, she realizes that she herself may never get off the island alive. 

Goodreads

My Thoughts

Beneath the Marigolds is a fast-paced psychological thriller that mashes up the reality series The Bachelor with Gone Girl.

Told in three parts, the story alternates between the points of view of Ann and Reese. Ann is heading to Phaux Island under the guise of finding love, but she’s really searching for Reese, her close friend who went missing a month earlier. Reese’s point of view scenes begin when she first came to the island, eager to find her soulmate.

There’s a distinct writing style change between the two heroines’ points of view, which made it incredibly easy to recognize whose chapter I was reading.  Reese is a flighty, immature-for-her-age, hopeless romantic, and her chapters read as such. Ann, on the other hand, is far more reserved. She’s a realist. She’s a lawyer, who, like her best friend, is unlucky in love. Her chapters have a far more analytical style, and even the way she views what’s happening at the retreat is coloured by her experiences and her profession. 

Both Reese and Ann are recovering alcoholics, and this is a theme throughout the novel. Because they’re at a romantic retreat, of course they’re constantly being tempted with alcohol, almost to the point where it seems like the people running the resort want them off the wagon. There’s something sinister going on, and Ann is determined to get to the bottom of it, not just so she can find her friend, but so she can get out of there unscathed. 

There are many exhilarating twists and turns in the plot. There were a few developments that sent me reeling, and then I was back to hungrily devouring the book. The final reveal was quite shocking, and it nicely wrapped up a cohesive and entertaining story.

Beneath the Marigolds photo

*Thank you to CamCat Books, Edelweiss, and the author for the ebook to review*

Five stars

Find the book:

Goodreads | Amazon

Book Review: The Haunting of Leigh Harker by Darcy Coates

The Haunting of Leigh Harker book photo

The Haunting ofTitle: The Haunting of Leigh Harker
Author: Darcy Coates 
Genre: Horror, thriller
Date of Publication: September 7, 2021
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press


Synopsis

Sometimes the dead reach back…

Leigh Harker’s quiet suburban home was her sanctuary for more than a decade, until things abruptly changed. Curtains open by themselves. Radios turn off and on. And a dark figure looms in the shadows of her bedroom door at night, watching her, waiting for her to finally let down her guard enough to fall asleep.

Pushed to her limits but unwilling to abandon her home, Leigh struggles to find answers. But each step forces her towards something more terrifying than she ever imagined.

A poisonous shadow seeps from the locked door beneath the stairs. The handle rattles through the night and fingernails scratch at the wood. Her home harbours dangerous secrets, and now that Leigh is trapped within its walls, she fears she may never escape.

Do you think you’re safe?

You’re wrong.

Goodreads

My Thoughts

This novel gripped me with horror from the very first sentence. Coates combines metaphors and grotesque imagery in a way that immediately sets the reader on edge. 

The haunting of Leigh Harker is creepy in part because of its uniqueness. The strange occurrences that are happening in Leigh’s house are unlike your typical haunting. I can’t go into specifics without spoilers, but the way that the “something” that appears in her doorway looks and acts is all so peculiar, and because of that, there’s a fresh level of terror associated with it.

All this said, the terror grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go. It’s one horrifying scene after another, and there came a point where I became a little numb to it all. I started to notice not-so-minor plot holes. But then, there was the twist. 

I can’t say much about the twist without spoiling everything. But it’s a twist that simultaneously slowed the horror and added a new level of horror. The twist explained away the plot holes that I’d been rigorously making note of. A novel that was once just straight up chills and thrills without much depth beyond that became much more intriguing, the twist adding a layer of mystery to the plot.

Unfortunately, the very final twist wasn’t as good as the twist that happened fairly early on in the novel. It came somewhat out of left field, and wasn’t as well supported by the rest of the storyline. 

All this said, this is a creepy and beautifully written novel, worth reading for the immersive writing style and that first massive, jaw-dropping reveal that forced me to stay up all night reading until I reached the last page. 

The Haunting of Leigh Harker Book Photo

*Thank you to the publisher, Netgalley, and the author for the ebook to review*

Find the book:

Goodreads | Amazon

Book Review: The Necklace by Matt Witten

The Necklace book photo

The Necklace book cover

Title: The Necklace
Author: Matt Witten
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Date of Publication: September 7, 2021
Publisher: Oceanview Publishing


Synopsis

The clock ticks down in a heart-pounding crusade for justice

Susan Lentigo’s daughter was murdered twenty years ago—and now, at long last, this small-town waitress sets out on a road trip all the way from Upstate New York to North Dakota to witness the killer’s execution.

On her journey she discovers shocking new evidence that leads her to suspect the condemned man is innocent—and the real killer is still free. Even worse, her prime suspect has a young daughter who’s at terrible risk. With no money and no time to spare, Susan sets out to uncover the truth before an innocent man gets executed and another little girl is killed.

But the FBI refuses to reopen the case. They—and Susan’s own mother—believe she’s just having an emotional breakdown. Reaching deep, Susan finds an inner strength she never knew she had. With the help of two unlikely allies—a cynical, defiant teenage girl and the retired cop who made the original arrest—Susan battles the FBI to put the real killer behind bars. Will she win justice for the condemned man—and her daughter—at last?

Goodreads

My Thoughts

The Necklace is a fast-paced thriller that you won’t be able to put down. The story is told from the point of view of Susan, a woman whose seven-year-old daughter was brutally murdered twenty years ago. We get two timelines–one set twenty years ago, when the horrible crime occurred. The second timeline is present day, when the man put behind bars for killing her child is just days away from being executed. Susan has scrounged up just enough money to travel to the execution. This is the day that she’s waited for for twenty years. She should be ecstatic. She should be happy to finally be getting the closure she craves. But a simple piece of evidence sends her reeling. Is it possible that the man who’s being executed in mere days is not guilty?

This story is incredibly fast paced. I could easily tell that the author is ordinarily a writer for TV. The writing style is very direct–with little flowery language or description to bog down the prose. I’m a fast reader, but I can say that any other reader would also be compelled to finish this in one sitting. The novel reads a little like a James Patterson novel–you can’t help but think “One more chapter!” and before you know it, you’re at the climax of the book and there’s no way you’re stopping now. Continue reading “Book Review: The Necklace by Matt Witten”

Book Review: The Family Plot by Megan Collins

The Family Plot book in front of true crime shelf

The Family Plot book coverTitle:The Family Plot
Author: Megan Collins
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Date of Publication: August 17, 2021
Publisher: Atria Books


Synopsis

When a family obsessed with true crime gathers to bury their patriarch, horrifying secrets are exposed upon the discovery of another body in his grave in this chilling novel from the author of Behind the Red Door and The Winter Sister.

At twenty-six, Dahlia Lighthouse has a lot to learn when it comes to the real world. Raised in a secluded island mansion deep in the woods and kept isolated by her true crime-obsessed parents, she has spent the last several years living on her own, but unable to move beyond her past—especially the disappearance of her twin brother Andy when they were sixteen.

With her father’s death, Dahlia returns to the house she has avoided for years. But as the rest of the Lighthouse family arrives for the memorial, a gruesome discovery is made: buried in the reserved plot is another body—Andy’s, his skull split open with an ax.

Each member of the family handles the revelation in unusual ways. Her brother Charlie pours his energy into creating a family memorial museum, highlighting their research into the lives of famous murder victims; her sister Tate forges ahead with her popular dioramas portraying crime scenes; and their mother affects a cheerfully domestic façade, becoming unrecognizable as the woman who performed murder reenactments for her children. As Dahlia grapples with her own grief and horror, she realizes that her eccentric family, and the mansion itself, may hold the answers to what happened to her twin.

Goodreads

My Thoughts

The Family Plot is an atmospheric psychological thriller perfect for fans of true crime and gothic mysteries. The Lighthouses live in a small town where the gossip mill never stops, and their strange habits never cease to fuel it. The entire family is obsessed with true crime. They have a shrine dedicated to the victims of infamous true crime cases. The children were homeschooled, but their education didn’t follow the state-sanctioned curriculum, and they spent most of their time learning about murder and death. 

The book opens when Dahlia (named after the Black Dahlia), returns home following her father’s sudden death. It’s her first time back in ten years. When she was a teenager, her twin brother went missing. He was presumed to be a runaway, and she’s never stopped looking for him. 

This book is rife with mystery and there are many twists in the plot. It’s clear the author is a murderino (not just because of the book’s dedication), as a lot of the book has a focus on the victims, rather than the perpetrators, of true crimes. Those of us who are familiar with the big cases will recognize a lot of the names that get thrown around, both in the dialogue and in the narrative. 

Continue reading “Book Review: The Family Plot by Megan Collins”

Book Review: The Disappearance of Trudy Solomon by Marcy McCreary

Picture of book cover

trudy smallTitle: The Disappearance of Trudy Solomon
Author: Marcy McCreary
Genre: Mystery
Date of Publication: September 7, 2021
Publisher: CamCat Books


Synopsis

In a family like that, you won’t need enemies.

In the waning days of the Catskills hotel era, Stanley and Rachel Roth, the owners of The Cuttman Hotel, were practically dynasty—third generation proprietors of a sprawling resort with a grand reputation. The glamorous and gregarious matriarch, Rachel. The cunning and successful businessman, Stan. Four beautiful children. A perfect family deserving of respect and loyalty. Or so it seemed.

Fast forward forty years. The Roths have lost their clout. When skeletal remains are found on the side of the road, the disappearance of Trudy Solomon, a coffee shop waitress at the Cuttman in 1978, is reopened. Each member of the Roth family holds a clue to the case, but getting them to admit what they know will force Detective Susan Ford to face a family she’d hoped never to see again.

Goodreads

My Thoughts

The Disappearance of Trudy Solomon follows the daughter of a cop as she tries to crack a forty-year-old cold case that everyone thinks has already been solved. In 1978, Detective Susan Ford’s father investigated the disappearance of Trudy Solomon. In present day, the woman has finally been found. Trudy Solomon is safe and living in a retirement home. But she has severe dementia. She’s unable to share with the world where she’s been for almost half a century. 

The main point of view comes from Susan as she investigates Trudy’s disappearance alongside her father, who is retired, but compelled to solve this one last case. We also get the occasional point of view scene from Trudy herself. These scenes are present day, but because of Trudy’s dementia, time for her is not quite so linear. Her POV snippets give the reader hints at what really happened, the nature of her relationships forty years ago, and where she went, all through the lens of a woman who doesn’t know who she is anymore. These excerpts are quite fascinating and add another dimension to the book.

Continue reading “Book Review: The Disappearance of Trudy Solomon by Marcy McCreary”

Book Review: Isn’t it Bromantic? by Lyssa Kay Adams

Isn't it Bromantic

Isn't it bromanticTitle: Isn’t it Bromantic? 
Author: Lyssa Kay Adams
Series:
The Bromance Book Club #4
Genre: Romance
Date of Publication: July 20, 2021
Publisher: Berkley


Synopsis

With his passion for romance novels, it was only a matter of time before Vlad wrote one.

Elena Konnikova has lived her entire adult life in the shadows. As the daughter of a Russian journalist who mysteriously disappeared, she escaped danger the only way she knew how: She married her childhood friend, Vladimir, and moved to the United States, where he is a professional hockey player in Nashville.

Vlad, aka the Russian, thought he could be content with his marriage of convenience. But it’s become too difficult to continue in a one-sided relationship. He joined the Bromance Book Club to learn how to make his wife love him, but all he’s learned is that he deserves more. He’s ready to create his own sweeping romance—both on and off the page.

The bros are unwilling to let Vlad forgo true love—and this time they’re not operating solo. They join forces with Vlad’s neighbors, a group of meddling widows who call themselves the Loners. But just when things finally look promising, Elena’s past life intrudes and their happily ever after is cast into doubt.

Goodreads

My Thoughts

Lyssa Kay Adams does it again! This yet another smart, funny, tugging-at-the-heart-strings instalment in the Bromance Book Club series!

Finally, Vlad “The Russian” gets his happy ever after. Just like the other books in this series, his story is a common romance novel trope made fresh again. He’s been married to childhood friend Elena for six years before she asks for a divorce. He’s heartbroken, even though they’re technically not even together, and they haven’t even been living in the same state for the duration of their marriage. How can this be? Because they’re in a marriage of convenience!

For the last three books, Vlad has been an integral member of the Bromance Book Club. He’s provided much-needed comedic moments, and he’s the heart of the group. He’s mentioned his wife only occasionally, and we already knew how madly in love with her he is. However, he’s neglected to mention to his best friends the circumstances surrounding his “marriage”. Vlad married Elena six years ago so she could have her green card to leave Russia and her tragic past behind. They’ve only ever kissed once, and it was during the wedding ceremony.

Continue reading “Book Review: Isn’t it Bromantic? by Lyssa Kay Adams”

Book Review: Strange Gods by Alison Kimble

Strange Gods book cover with blanket, book, candle, and black rose

strange godsTitle: Strange Gods 
Author: Alison Kimble
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Date of Publication: July 20, 2021
Publisher: Immortal Works


Synopsis

Spooky arrives at a wilderness boot camp for troubled teens with two suitcases and an ultimatum: either she keeps her head down over the summer or she won’t be allowed home at the end of it. All she wants to do is survive the pyros, bullies, and power-tripping counselors, get through senior year, and start her life somewhere new. She’ll do just about anything to protect that future.

But when an encounter with another camper goes awry and ends with Spooky hiding in the woods, something else finds her. Something ancient and powerful has sent out feelers, hoping to catch a human alone. For its purposes, one human is as good as any other. Even a delinquent teen will do.

If Spooky wants to survive to see any kind of future, she will have to figure out how to gain leverage over a god. And as if the one wasn’t bad enough, a pantheon of dark entities are lining up between her and the life she’s always wanted…

For fantasy fans, comes one girl’s journey through dark worlds of magic, gods, and monsters.

Goodreads

My Thoughts

Allison Kimble has an effortlessly descriptive and humorous writing style. The plot of Strange Gods is delightfully peculiar. It’s original, unpredictable, and engaging. It reminded me a little of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, with some of the outlandish things that happen, the odd things characters will say, and the offbeat twists and turns in the plot. Kimble takes the simple “Hero’s journey” plot template and makes it fresh.

Laurel, who prefers to go by “Spooky”, is your typical teenager, despite being sent to a camp for delinquents. She’s an ordinary girl. She’s a little self-centred, but not overly selfish. She’s self-conscious, as demonstrated by how she brings up her over-sized ears frequently in her inner dialogue. She’s desperate for friends and longs for her parents’ acceptance. Oh, and she’s also humanity’s only chance to save Earth from certain doom.

Continue reading “Book Review: Strange Gods by Alison Kimble”