Book Review: A Class Act by January James

A Class Act

Title: A Class Act 
Author: January James
Genre: Romance
Series: Square Mile #1
Date of Publication: June 2, 2020
Publisher: Self-Published


Synopsis

Lottie Matheson has everything going for her: wealth and privilege, single-minded ambition and a brand new graduate job in the thick of London’s thrilling start-up scene.

But Lottie Matheson isn’t who she seems. Hiding behind a false identity to distance herself from a troubled background, Lottie becomes embroiled in an affair with her brilliant and charismatic but famously attached CEO Marcus Armstrong. But, as their relationship intensifies, their colleagues become suspicious and before long, the secrets are out. All of them.

With everything broken – her heart, her reputation, her spirit – will Lottie ever find the strength to start again?

A Class Act is part of the Square Mile interlinked series of books, perfect for fans of Louise Bagshawe, Tasmina Perry, LJ Shen and Anna Todd.

The Square Mile series follows some of the sexiest and most privileged alpha men in London’s famous banking quarter in the City, along with the bright, beautiful and ambitious women who torture them. The books are filled to the brim with brains, money, desire, obsession and rivalry. Not forgetting the all-important happy ending.

Goodreads

My Thoughts

Lottie is my favourite type of protagonist: one who’s pretending to be something she’s not.  In her world, if she doesn’t have a perceived privilege (i.e. born into a rich family) she won’t have the same professional opportunities. Since she has a juvenile record and grew up going to public school, she had to lie about her past in order to get a job at her dream company. She works what seems like a thousand times harder than her coworkers, and she’s extremely capable and intelligent.  I loved the way that James gradually reveals Lottie’s backstory as the novel progresses, as her past begins to catch up with her.

A Class Act is not just a romance. There’s a lot of marketing and business talk–and it genuinely seemed like the author knew what she was talking about–which adds to the authenticity of the characters and setting.  James doesn’t just tell us that Lottie is smart, driven, and exceptional at her job, it’s shown to us by her long hours, the sheer amount of research she puts into her marketing plans, and the way that she rattles off information when questioned about her ongoing projects.  I found these parts to be just as compelling as the romantic bits (nerd alert!).  The storylines with some of her clients are quite engaging, and, in my opinion, this is what makes this book better than other boss/employee romance trope novels.  I absolutely loved reading about Lottie strategizing with clients, putting out fires, and impressing her clients with her honesty and out-of-the-box thinking.

Lottie and Marcus have fabulous chemistry, though I would have liked to have seen just a bit more of their attraction in their earlier interactions.  Marcus works Lottie hard because he knows that she’s the best employee he’s had, despite her being freshly out of university.  He’s hard on her, and Lottie gets the impression that he doesn’t like her.  Of course, once their mutual attraction becomes impossible to resist, she no longer thinks that. 😉

A Class Act small

I recommend this book to anyone looking for a boss/employee romance with a little more substance.

*Thank you to the author for the ebook to review!*

starstarstarstar

Find the book:

Goodreads | Amazon

Book Review: My Baby the Spy by Annie Dolze

My Baby the Spy

My Baby the Spy

Title: My Baby the Spy
Author: Annie Dolze 
Genre: Romance, Spy
Length: 129 pages 

Date of Publication: June 2020
Publisher: Self-Published


Synopsis

Two spies. One very secret baby.

Alex Vance – Handsome, womanizing, and dangerous, Alex has always known what he wants—a private jet and a quick exit. As a top agent for an underground network of spies with headquarters in New York—unknown even to the FBI and CIA—his generous pay can more than afford his luxurious and decadent lifestyle. Alex enjoys living on the edge and outracing death. The absolute last thing he suspects is that the newest international disaster might be a baby—his baby.

Anya Lisovya – Ravishing and deadly, Anya was trained since she was an orphaned girl to be ruthless in her service to Ryzkonova’s Secret Service. Then she met Alex. For years she enjoyed their cat-and-mouse game of manipulation, her determination to expose his organization warring with her attraction for the suave and infuriating American.

When she discovers the consequence of that attraction, Anya knows she can’t keep her pregnancy hidden forever. Closely watched by her own colleagues in the Secret Service, Anya doesn’t know where to turn—except to the one man who trusts her least and desires her most.

Goodreads

My Thoughts

My Baby the Spy is a perfect blend of spy thriller and romance.  Ryzkanova is a fictional country, and while the book is more plot-driven than setting-driven, I still got a good sense of what the country is like, the Big Brother-like government and its policies, and what it means to be a spy for RIS.  

This book starts off with a bang, and the action never stops. Despite the fast pace and the fact that it’s a novella that’s only 129 pages, the plot never feels rushed. However, I did feel like the story ended too quickly for my liking! I want more of Anya and Alex and their sweet love story.

The chemistry between Anya and Alex is what makes this book compulsively readable. They’re polar opposites, which is what makes their “relationship” so compelling, yet believable.  While the story begins with Anya already eight months pregnant, we get lots of flashbacks to flesh out the evolution of their clandestine relationship. 

There are quite a few surprising twists in the spy-related storyline, and I was quite pleased with how the entire book was resolved. At one point, I wrote in my review notes “Oh, the intrigue!” which is a good sign that I found the developments in the spy plotline intriguing. 😂

My Baby the Spy

 

I recommend this book to anyone looking for a sweet spy romance that they can consume in a single evening.

*Thank you to the author for the ebook to review!*

starstarstarstar

Find the book:

Goodreads | Amazon

Book Review: You Lucky Dog by Julia London

Book Cover

Book Cover

Title: You Lucky Dog
Author: Julia London
Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction
Date of Publication: August 25, 2020
Publisher: Berkley Romance


Synopsis

An accidental dog swap unleashes an unexpected love match in this new romantic comedy from New York Times bestselling author Julia London.

Carly Kennedy’s life is in a spiral. She is drowning in work, her divorced parents are going through their midlife crises, and somehow Carly’s sister convinces her to foster Baxter–a basset hound rescue with a bad case of the blues. When Carly comes home late from work one day to discover that the dog walker has accidentally switched out Baxter for another perkier, friendlier basset hound, she has reached the end of her leash.

When Max Sheffington finds a depressed male basset hound in place of his cheerful Hazel, he is bewildered. But when cute, fiery Carly arrives on his doorstep, he is intrigued. He was expecting the dog walker, not a pretty woman with firm ideas about dog discipline. And Carly was not expecting a handsome, bespectacled man to be feeding her dog mac and cheese. Baxter is besotted with Hazel, and Carly realizes she may have found the key to her puppy’s happiness. For his sake, she starts to spend more time with Hazel and Max, until she begins to understand the appeal of falling for your polar opposite.

Goodreads

My Thoughts

This is a sweet romance with some laugh-out loud funny moments. Carly is a publicist for a fashion designer, and she has to wear his outfits as a part of her promotion–outfits that get her into some truly hilarious trouble when she has to do, well, anything.

The theme of dogs carries throughout the story, and it is a definite strength of the novel. Max and Carly are brought together because of their nearly identical dogs, who are seemingly smitten with one another.  Max’s research at the university deals with the neuroscience of the brain and he uses dogs in his research. His younger brother has autism, and he loves dogs.

This book also has strong family themes, as both Carly and Max have complicated personal lives.  Max’s love for his younger brother makes him a sweet and caring character, despite the fact that he may come across as aloof and overly “scientist-y” to others.

While the tone of the novel itself is sweet, it has a bit of a gloomy feel to it. It’s hard to explain. Maybe it’s because of their personal lives, but I felt quite sad while reading it, even during the funny bits.  Both Max and Carly are under a lot of pressure–Carly with losing her job, her parent’s divorce, the ever-increasing rent of her home, and Max with going up for tenure against the department’s star researcher.  The one highlight in their lives seems to be each other, and of course, their relationship isn’t easy. There’s a major twist about halfway through the book that really puts a wrench in what they have found together, and while it seemed like it was intended to be funny, it did fall flat to me a little.

Book Cover

I recommend this book to lovers of romance novels that have a strong dog-lovers theme.

*Thank you to Netgalley and Berkley for the arc to review*

starstarstar

Find the book:

Goodreads | Amazon

Book Review: More than Maybe by Erin Hahn

More than Maybe

More than Maybe Book Cover

Title: More than Maybe
Author: Erin Hahn
Genre: Young Adult, Romance
Date of Publication: July 21, 2020
Publisher: Wednesday Books


Synopsis

“Growing up under his punk rocker dad’s spotlight, eighteen-year-old Luke Greenly knows fame and wants nothing to do with it. His real love isn’t in front of a crowd, it’s on the page. Hiding his gift and secretly hoarding songs in his bedroom at night, he prefers the anonymous comfort of the locally popular podcast he co-hosts with his outgoing and meddling, far-too-jealousy-inspiringly-happy-with-his-long-term-boyfriend twin brother, Cullen. But that’s not Luke’s only secret. He also has a major un-requited crush on music blogger, Vada Carsewell.

Vada’s got a five year plan: secure a job at the Loud Lizard to learn from local legend (and her mom’s boyfriend) Phil Josephs (check), take over Phil’s music blog (double check), get accepted into Berkeley’s prestigious music journalism program (check, check, check), manage Ann Arbor’s summer concert series and secure a Rolling Stone internship. Luke Greenly is most definitely NOT on the list. So what if his self-deprecating charm and out-of-this-world music knowledge makes her dizzy? Or his brother just released a bootleg recording of Luke singing about some mystery girl on their podcast and she really, really wishes it was her?”

Goodreads

My Thoughts

More than Maybe is like a music-nerd’s heaven.  It’s chock full of references to great bands and artists, and as I was reading, I kept wanting to listen to the songs they were talking about.  (In case you were wondering, lounging on the couch listening to The Neighbourhood’s “Sweater Weather” while reading a good book is the perfect way to spend a Monday night!)

While More than Maybe is well written, and I truly connected with the characters, it was missing that X-Factor.  Parts of the book felt a lot stronger than others. In particular, the prologue had me itching to read the novel, but it did start off very slow.  It gradually becomes clear that Vada and Luke already know who each other is (which isn’t entirely obvious from the description of the book), and they’ve been casual acquaintances for the last 3 – 4 years. We don’t get a meet cute, and the very beginning is so vague that it’s hard to tell how long they’ve known each other or how well they know each other until a little too far into the book.  

I loved both Vada and Luke and their dynamic, but I felt like the plot was lacking… something. There weren’t many obstacles for them to overcome in their love, unless of course both of them suffering from varying degrees of shyness is truly an obstacle.  Also–Luke is shy, and he’s had a crush on Vada since they met, BUT he’s had a bunch of girlfriends in the past? That part I don’t get. If he liked Vada, why didn’t he ask her out? There needed to be an explanation for this, and it could have been something simple and cliche like “He didn’t really like the other girls as much as he liked Vada, and he was afraid of rejection”. It would be cheesy, but still a solution to this little plothole.

Both Vada and Luke have issues in their lives that keeps the plot fresh.  Vada wants to go to college, and she’s dealing with navigating her relationship with her deadbeat dad and trying to find the courage to ask him for the money she needs.  Luke’s father is a former rock star, and Luke is dealing with the problem that his family doesn’t respect that he doesn’t want to perform music, and he’s writing his music in secret for himself.  There is a very subtle and well-executed character arc that Luke goes through as he discovers who he is.  (Super vague, I know, but I don’t really want to spoil anything).  

While the plot isn’t quite what I was expecting, this romance is very cute, and the novel has a nice, fulfilling conclusion.  

More than Maybe

I recommend this book to those looking for a music-themed young adult romance.  

*Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the arc to review*

starstarstar

Find the book:

Goodreads | Amazon

Book Review: Spark a Little Flame by Jennifer Archer

Spark a Little Flame

Spark a Little FlameTitle: Spark a Little Flame 
Author: Jennifer Archer
Genre: Romance, Fantasy
Series: Make a Little Magic # 1
Date of Publication: updated re-release March 2020
Publisher: Jennifer Archer Books


Synopsis

J.T. Drake’s father is a mad scientist, so he isn’t surprised when his father’s neighbour calls him to inform him that he needs to check up on his father. He is surprised, however, when he gets struck by lightning in his father’s lab and wakes up… invisible.

Roselyn Peabody is a scientist who is working with Professor Hershell Drake on an electromagnetic refractor.  But when she finds out that it worked–transforming his son and making him invisible–she’s nervous. They have no way of turning him back.  

J.T. flirts unabashedly with Roselyn, but she’s hesitant to explore her feelings for him.  Is he just interested in her because he knows she’s the only person who can make him visible again?

Plot 

This book is absolutely adorable and sweet and has some steamy scenes, all just enough to keep me up late finishing this compelling book.  

There are quite a few cute scenes that were only possible because J.T. was invisible, and they are what made this book truly unique and worth checking out. For instance, when she’s studying a physics book, looking for clues about how to make him visible again, and he comments on the fact that she has pretty ears.  She’d had no idea he’d been watching her so intently. So freaking cute!

However, I was surprised when there wasn’t one of those scenes in the middle of the novel where Rosy and J.T. temporarily break up/fight.  This is expected in romantic novels, and I was a little floored when it never quite happened.  I would have liked to have seen their commitment to each other questioned in the form of a dramatic fight at some point.  

We do get some action in the story, in the form of espionage that can only be done with an invisible man in tow. I won’t reveal much more because of spoilers, but it made for an entertaining, thrilling, and at times hilarious novel.

Characters

J.T. is a typical lady’s man, though I was relieved to see that the author didn’t lean too heavily into this stereotype. J.T. is charming and used to dating a certain type of woman. Rosy, with her petite frame, glasses, and intelligence, definitely doesn’t fit the bill. Nevertheless, he’s attracted to her and her sweet sassiness and her devotion to his father who is like the father she never had.

Roselyn tries to write off J.T. as a spoiled jock, but there’s something about him that seems different.  They exchange witty banter and he isn’t too embarrassed to offer a genuine apology when he crosses the line.  

We also get scenes from the point of view of J.T.’s father — Hershell.  He’s sweet and absentminded, and his older, nosy neighbour definitely has the hots for him.  These scenes helped to flesh out his shared past with J.T., providing the other side of the story.  Where J.T. felt neglected as a child, like he came second-fiddle to his father’s research, his father was going through something that J.T. could never have understood.  Hopefully that’s vague enough for you, I don’t want to spoil any twists in the story!

Spark a Little Flame

This is a sweet romantic fantasy for fans of books where opposites attract.

starstarstarstar

Find the book:

Goodreads | Amazon

Book Review: One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London

One to Watch

Book Cover

Title: One to Watch
Author:  Kate Stayman-London
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance
Date of Publication: July 7, 2020
Publisher: Dial Press


Synopsis

Real love…as seen on TV

Bea Schumacher is a devastatingly stylish plus-size fashion blogger who has amazing friends, a devoted family, legions of Insta followers–and a massively broken heart. Like the rest of America, Bea indulges in her weekly obsession: the hit reality show Main Squeeze. The fantasy dates! The kiss-off rejections! The surprising amount of guys named Chad! But Bea is sick and tired of the lack of body diversity on the show. Since when is being a size zero a prerequisite for getting engaged on television?

Just when Bea has sworn off dating altogether, she gets an intriguing call: Main Squeeze wants her to be its next star, surrounded by men vying for her affections. Bea agrees, on one condition–under no circumstances will she actually fall in love. She’s in this to supercharge her career, subvert harmful anti-fat beauty standards, inspire women across America, and get a free hot air balloon ride. That’s it.

But when the cameras start rolling, Bea realizes things are more complicated than she anticipated. She’s in a whirlwind of sumptuous couture, Internet culture wars, sexy suitors, and an opportunity (or two, or five) to find messy, real-life love in the midst of a made-for-TV fairy tale. In this joyful, razor-sharp debut, Bea has to decide whether it might just be worth trusting these men–and herself–for a chance to live happily ever after.

Goodreads

My Thoughts

The blurb for this book says that if you’re a fan of the Bachelor, you’ll enjoy this story. I’ve only seen one season of that TV show, and I didn’t particularly like it. That said, I loved this book. It helped that I’d watched the show before, because I recognized the blatant similarities between the show Main Squeeze and the Bachelor.  I couldn’t help but chuckle every time someone said that someone else wasn’t there “for the right reasons”. Comedy gold, right there. But One to Watch is so much more than just a novelization of a season of the hit reality TV series. 

I absolutely adored Bea, and she is well written in the sense that the author delicately balanced her strengths with her vulnerabilities. She’s proud of who she is, but she still has insecurities because of her weight.  That said, it got to be a little much, particularly earlier on in the book. I have to imagine that there wouldn’t be quite so many fatphobic “bachelors” on the show that weren’t able to hide their prejudices on national television (I mean, do they want to be fired/ostracized by America?). Bea’s character development is quite compelling.  The story of her having been in love with her male best friend for years and the way that he treated her has fueled her insecurities, and going onto the show Main Squeeze turns out to not only benefit her career, but also her self-perception. I was completely taken in by this story arc, and it’s definitely the highlight of this book.

Peppered throughout the narrative are epistolary-style excerpts meant to provide information and entertainment. These include: receipts, blog posts, tweets, and even the chat from a Main Squeeze fan Slack channel.  I particularly enjoyed the latter, and I was definitely shipping Beth and Colin getting together, since it was clear (to me, anyway), that he was probably only watching the show because Beth loved it. *Swoons*

I loved the bachelors in the book–all of the ones who made it towards the end. I won’t name names, because obviously those names would be spoilers! But it was impressive how the author was able to cultivate unique and intriguing relationships between Bea and each of these men.  While I suspected who she would end up with from the beginning, I wasn’t sure, and there were times throughout the novel when I flipped back and forth between a few of the guys.  

A suspension of disbelief was required a few times while reading this book–particularly the fact that the show was shot in real time. As a fan of other reality shows that are filmed live, I was hoping there would be some bombshells dropped on the production for various characters, since that seems to happen with every reality show in, well, reality. Unfortunately that didn’t happen, which was surprising to me, especially when considering the “villains” cast on Bea’s season. 

One to WatchUltimately, this is a book about a woman who goes onto a romance reality show to help her career, and she finds herself (and love) in the process. 

*Thank you to NetGalley and Dial Press for the arc to review!*

starstarstarstar

Find the book:

Goodreads | Amazon

Book Review: The Billionaire Needs a Bodyguard by Ravina Hilliard

51173909._SY475_

Title: The Billionaire Needs a Bodyguard
Author: Ravina Hilliard
Genre: Romance
Date of Publication: February 4, 2020
Publisher: Dawn Hill Publications


Synopsis

Alexandra “Lex” Granger is a private security consultant who has to go undercover to protect billionaire businessman Michael Thornton, pretending to be an escort. Michael does not think he needs a bodyguard, despite the death threats he has received from protesters against his takeover of a Danish company, but he does need protection against the predatory wife of the Danish ambassador. Lex knows that this assignment is dangerous, made more so because her client does not even know that he is being protected.

She doesn’t know that he thinks she is a con-artist a gold-digger who takes rich men for everything that she can get. As sparks fly, and the attraction between the two go stronger, they face a deadly danger from an unknown assailant. Lex and Mike embark on a turbulent affair in the beautiful city of Copenhagen, with Mike realising that there is much more to the sexy seductress, her bewildering vulnerability evoking unfettered passion and feelings that he has never experienced before. Lex realises that she has committed the ultimate folly, that of falling in love with a man who despises her. Will she overcome the dangers to Michael to her breaking heart?

Goodreads

My Thoughts

This was such a cute and engaging book! Lex is a great protagonist.  She’s a bad-ass bodyguard who is somewhat insecure in her femininity. Parts of the book reminded me a lot of Miss Congeniality.  She undergoes a transformation (read: makeover) so that she can take this undercover assignment, and afterwards everyone is surprised by how attractive she’s become.

Lex does her job of protecting someone who doesn’t want to be protected very well.  Michael doesn’t have a clue that she’s actually there to ensure that there are no assassination attempts on him before he completes his business deal.  Michael is a bit of an a*s towards Lex, but only because he thinks she’s a gold-digger.  He has to reconcile two very different women in his head–the person that his private investigator dug up while researching Lex’s alias and the woman he’s gotten to know.  We get scenes from both of their points of view, which helps to build their backstories and give us more insight into who they are and how they really feel about each other.

The mystery in this novel (who is trying to kill Michael) is quite compelling.  We get to meet quite a few interesting side characters as Michael works on his big business deal in Copenhagen, and I found the twists and turns in the case quite surprising.

My only complaint is that I would have liked for them to have spent more time getting to know each other. Maybe through a conversation or two talking about their pasts (with Lex lying through her teeth, but at least trying to be honest wherever she can). For instance, we know that they both had similar upbringings, and I would have liked to have had a scene where they bonded over that.  Without this, the book is a tad too insta-lovey for me.

At the end of the novel, the cheese factor ratcheted up to 11, but I didn’t care. I just love a happy ending!

billionaire needs a bodyguard small

starstarstarstar

*Thank you to Dawn Hill Publications for the ebook to review!*

Find the book:

Goodreads | Amazon

Book Review: Witch’s Jewel by Kater Cheek

Witch's Jewel

Witch's Jewel

Title: Witch’s Jewel
Author: Kater Cheek
Genre: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy
Series: Kit Melbourne Book #1

Date of Publication: April 17, 2020
Publisher: Self Published


Synopsis

A sorcerous jewel. A mysterious uncle. Can a barista keep her magical heirloom safe from murderous crooks?

Kit Melbourne longs to quit her brother’s coffee shop to pursue her artistic dreams. And despite the temptation to sell the sought-after enchanted gem she inherited from her uncle, she promises her family to protect it at all costs. But when her brother’s tea-leaf reading predicts her imminent death, she’s terrified to discover those who want it will kill to make it theirs.

Forced to dig into her late relative’s murky past, Kit is doubly shocked when she learns the artifact’s mighty power cannot be transferred unless its caretaker is dead. But despite her command of karate and fierce vampiric allies, her attackers show no sign of giving up their relentless lethal pursuit.

Has Kit’s vow not to sell sealed her doom?

Witch’s Jewel is the first book in the engrossing Kit Melbourne urban fantasy series. If you like strong female leads, high-stakes action, and nail-biting plots, you’ll love Kater Cheek’s enthralling tale.

Goodreads

My Thoughts

Witch’s Jewel grabbed my attention from the very first line and held it until the last pages. The novel is fast-paced and light in tone, which is a perfect combination for a good urban fantasy novel.

It becomes clear early on in the book that this world that Kater Cheek has created is unique and like no other. This first instalment in the series seems to only scratch the surface, and I’m looking forward to delving deeper into how magic works in the sequel.

I love a sassy and bad-ass protagonist who is not necessarily the “chosen one” trope, but has something special about her. In this case, Kit Melbourne is an ordinary human, but she inherits a jewel that has magical powers–enabling her to see the magic and supernatural beings in her midst. As you would expect, this puts her in danger, because there are those who want this unique jewel.  When her brother, James, who is a witch, reads her tea leaves, he tells her that someone is going to try to murder her.  Much of the book is Kit trying to figure out who this is, while navigating the realization that magic truly exists and finding out that many of the people in her life are not quite who (or what) she thought they were.  It also seemed like everyone is out to get her (or, more specifically, her stone), and this made for a thrilling read.

While Kit is an “ordinary” human, she’s far from boring. She has a tragic past, she’s proficient in Karate, and she makes questionable (yet relatable) decisions throughout the book that make her interesting and kept me on my toes.

The novel features a very sweet romance subplot. I fell in love with Fenwick, and the friends turned lovers plot nicely compliments the novel’s mystery.  The side characters are surprisingly three-dimensional.  I particularly liked Silvara and Ulrich, and I’m hoping they continue to make appearances in this series.

Witch's Jewel

I recommend this book to those who love books that blend mystery, fantasy, and romance.

*Thank you to the author for the ebook to review*

starstarstarstar

Find the book:

Goodreads | Amazon

Book Review: The Shadows by Alex North

The Shadows

The Shadows

Title: The Shadows
Author: Alex North
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Horror
Date of Publication: July 7, 2020
Publisher: Celadon Books


Synopsis

The haunting new thriller from Alex North, author of the New York Times bestseller The Whisper Man

You knew a teenager like Charlie Crabtree. A dark imagination, a sinister smile–always on the outside of the group. Some part of you suspected he might be capable of doing something awful. Twenty-five years ago, Crabtree did just that, committing a murder so shocking that it’s attracted that strange kind of infamy that only exists on the darkest corners of the internet–and inspired more than one copycat.

Paul Adams remembers the case all too well: Crabtree–and his victim–were Paul’s friends. Paul has slowly put his life back together. But now his mother, old and senile, has taken a turn for the worse. Though every inch of him resists, it is time to come home.

It’s not long before things start to go wrong. Reading the news, Paul learns another copycat has struck. His mother is distressed, insistent that there’s something in the house. And someone is following him. Which reminds him of the most unsettling thing about that awful day twenty-five years ago.

It wasn’t just the murder.

It was the fact that afterward, Charlie Crabtree was never seen again…

Goodreads

Plot

I absolutely adore the plot trope of a person who returns home after being gone for years and solving a decades-old mystery. The Shadows takes this trope and runs with it, giving it a fresh new take.

Like The Whisper Man, this novel is eerie, bordering on horror, and it’s atmospheric while still fast-paced.  As I read the novel, I noticed another similarity to North’s previous work.  It’s very difficult to tell if there are paranormal elements at work, or if everything can be explained away by fact and reason. This questioning of what is real and what isn’t adds to the novel’s mystery, making it one of a kind, and a must read of 2020.

The Shadows has numerous surprising twists. One of them was quite shocking, but also required just a little too much backtracking and explaining to make it plausible. That said, the twists at the very end of the book were perfectly executed.  The resolution was well thought out and I just adore a book that has plainly laid out clues that I should have noticed while reading.

Characters 

I genuinely liked Paul, and I easily slipped into his head during the scenes written in his point of view.  It was refreshing to see a vulnerable, imperfect character who isn’t intentionally written to be “unlikable”, which is so common in thrillers these days. He was far from perfect, but I didn’t feel the urge to reach into the book and slap him in the face, either. An ideal compromise.

Language

Alex North writes with such a powerful prose that I got tingles while reading certain chapters, particularly towards the end as everything tied together perfectly and he revisited imagery that was introduced earlier in the book.  While I’ve found that novels with dual timelines often lag during the flashbacks, North’s style made the past timeline just as compelling as the present day events.

The Shadows

I recommend this book to those looking for a spooky, almost-horror thriller about a decades old mystery that centres around a spooky small-town legend.

*Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the arc to review*

starstarstarstarstar

Find the book:

Goodreads | Amazon

Book Review: Not Like the Movies by Kerry Winfrey

Not Like the Movies

Not like the movies

Title: Not Like the Movies 
Author: Kerry Winfrey
Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction
Series: Waiting For Tom Hanks #2
Date of Publication: July 7, 2020
Publisher: Berkley Jove


Synopsis

In Not Like The Movies we finally get to see Chloe and Nick’s love story unfold! Chloe is a waitress at Nick’s Cafe, and she is slowly working towards getting her bachelor’s degree in business while juggling her job, taking care of her father who’s suffering from Alzheimer’s, and preparing for her best friend’s wedding.  She’s also dealing with the fact that her best friend wrote a screenplay based on a romanticized version of her relationship with her boss–Nick.  Now that she’s seen the trailers for the upcoming movie and read the Buzzfeed articles on why Nick would be the perfect boyfriend, she can’t help but look at her boss differently. But Chloe doesn’t believe in true love, and she definitely doesn’t have time for it… 

Plot & Characters

All while reading the first book in this series, I couldn’t help but connect with Chloe a lot more than Annie. I thought Annie was selfish in the first book, and honestly, this shines through even stronger in the second. Chloe is a fascinating protagonist. She’s so used to taking care of others that she doesn’t have time to stop and think about what she wants or needs. Like Annie, Chloe is self-destructive in love, but it just makes sense, because she doesn’t truly believe that she deserves it. Chloe is a three-dimensional and fascinating character, and I just love her coping mechanisms, including the “five-minute cry” which I know isn’t healthy, but damn if it isn’t efficient. 

Nick, on the other hand, is much less of an open book. We get to know him as Chloe does.  Their dynamic reminds me so much of Luke and Lorelai in Gilmore Girls, so if you’re into that, you should definitely be checking out this novel, regardless of if you read the first.

The romance is sweet and drawn out, and there are fewer cringey moments than there are in the first book. Chloe makes bad decisions, sure, but her life is such a mess that they just made me feel for her more.  I was heavily invested in the Chloe/Nick endgame (I had been since they were first introduced in the Waiting for Tom Hanks), so Not Like the Movies was perfect for me. 

Setting 

We get to return to the setting of Waiting for Tom Hanks–German Village in Columbus.  It’s very Gilmore Girls-esque, with Nick being gruff and owning a cafe.  If you like taht small-town vibe in your romance novels, then this book is a perfect fit.  There’s even a total weirdo regular at the cafe named Gary, and he frequently blurts out the most inappropriate and hilarious things. 

Not Like the Movies

I recommend this book to any fan of Gilmore Girls, the parallels are uncanny and you’ll love the way that the romance unfolds.

*Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the e-arc to review!*

starstarstarstarstar

Find the book:

Goodreads | Amazon