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Saturday, May 18, 2019

REVIEW: Necessary People by Anna Pitoniak @netgalley @littlebrown @annapitoniak

Necessary People 
by Anna Pitoniak

Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Publish Date: May 21, 2019
Kindle Edition
352 Pages
Genre: Contemporary Thriller

One of them has it all. One of them wants it all. Only one of them can win.
Stella Bradley is beautiful, rich, and very good at getting herself into trouble. Violet Trapp is smart, self-aware, and laser-focused on escaping her humble background--especially after Stella gives her a glimpse into a world of glamour and wealth. They are best friends, and from the moment they meet in college, they know their roles: Stella in the spotlight, and Violet behind the scenes.

After graduation, Violet moves to New York and lands a job in cable news, where she works her way up from intern to assistant to producer, and to a life where she's finally free from Stella's shadow. Until Stella decides to use her connections, beauty and charisma to land a job at the same network. Stella soon moves in front of the camera, becoming the public face of the stories that Violet has worked tirelessly to produce-and taking all the credit for it.

But Violet isn't giving up so easily. As she and Stella strive for success, they each reveal just how far they'll go to get what they want--even if it means destroying the other person along the way.

Set against the fast-paced backdrop of TV news, Necessary People is a propulsive work of psychological suspense about ambition and privilege, about the thin line between friendship and rivalry, about the people we need in our lives--and the people we don't. 

My Review:

Oh good laws almighty, these girls.... Why is it so difficult to get out of toxic relationships? Here we have a story that we have seen before. Stella, the rich, entitled girl who is used to getting everything she wants. Money is no object and neither of people Violet, the girl from the wrong side of the tracks who lives in Stella's shadow. Low self esteem but a drive underneath.

The thing with girls like these is that it's SO hard to find any sympathy for either girl. Stella who shits on everyone and uses and abuses people to get her way. Violet, being one of those people allowing Stella (among others) to treat her this way. Yet... they also provide for the other in their own way. Stella thrives on the attention that Violet gives her - the only person who sees Stella's true colors and stays loyal. Violet appreciates the opportunities Stella gives her in regards to a place to live "cheaply" and somewhat a (nicer) family that she ever really had.

What it comes down to, is how much is too much? When do either of them reach their breaking point? Is one of them better or worse than the other? It's honestly really hard to say. I've seen this story before but the way the author attacks it made for a great read. This one truly sneaks up on you. While I saw certain instances coming, that added moment or two really elevated this thriller in my eyes.

Watch the evolution of their sordid and toxic friendship and especially pay attention to Violet. Keep your friends close, your enemies closer and the advantages in your back pocket. 


Thursday, May 16, 2019

REVIEW: The Art of Happy Moving by Ali Wenzke @wmmorrowbooks @aliwenzke

The Art of Happy Moving 
by Ali Wenzke

Publisher: William Morrow
Publish Date: May 7, 2019
262 Pages
Genre: Nonfiction

A comprehensive, upbeat guide to help you survive the moving process from start to finish, filled with fresh strategies and checklists for timing and supplies, choosing which items to toss and which to keep, determining the best place to live, saying farewell and looking forward to hello.
Moving is a major life change—time consuming, expensive, often overwhelming, and sometimes scary. But it doesn’t have to be! Instead of looking it as a burdensome chore, consider it a new adventure.

Ali Wenzke and her husband moved ten times in eleven years, living in seven states across the U.S. She created her popular blog, The Art of Happy Moving, to help others build a happier life before, during, and after a move. Infused with her infectious optimistic spirit, The Art of Happy Moving builds on her blog, offering step-by-step guidance, much-needed comfort, practical information, and welcome advice on every step of the process, including:
How to stage your home for prospective buyers How to choose your next neighborhood How to discard your belongings and organize your packing How to say goodbye to your friends How to make the transition easier for your kids How to decorate your new home How to build a new community And so much more.
Ali shares invaluable personal anecdotes from her many moves, and packs each chapter with a wealth of information and ingenious tips (Did you know that if you have an extra-large welcome mat at the entrance of your home, it’s more likely to sell?). Ali also includes checklists for packing and staging, and agendas for the big moving day.
Whether you’re a relocating professional, newly married, a family with kids and pets, or a retiree looking to downsize, The Art of Happy Moving will help you discover ways to help make your transition an easier one—and be even happier than you were before.
My Review:

"The average American moves 11.7 times in a lifetime..."  As a military brat, I've moved a lot more than this and sometimes several times in a single year. And Ali is right, every time you move can be an opportunity to start all over again... and thank goodness for that.  I remember one time as a kid that I didn't even care if I made friends since I knew I'd just be moving again soon. On top of all of this, except for moving from apartment to apartment at an obnoxious rate within the same city for years, moving to NYC was the first (and only) move I've done on my own.  I did not make a Pros and Cons list, I didn't research the city properly.  I just knew I wanted to be in a bustling city that was extremely diverse, so once I secured a job, I was OUT.  I truly wish I had a book like this or advice from Ali before I had made any moves.  **disclaimer - I have absolutely no regrets moving here but it would've probably been better to have done it more responsibly. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I'm not sure about the starting to declutter with your books *ahem* haha, but the advice Ali gives is fantastic and the best part is that this book is actually fun to read.  Most self-help or informational books are a bit of a bore for me.  I will absolutely be utilizing this in the future because I know I still have many moves ahead of me.  There are plenty of checklists that help.  Ali's experiences with moving a ton herself definitely shows throughout this book.  Honestly, if you're moving and need some direction on how to keep yourself organized, I highly recommend this book.  If you move a lot and think you have it all down... well, I suggest you maybe take a look at this anyways as you may find some tidbits you didn't know before. Also, there's a great blueberry muffin recipe in here I'm definitely going to try!


Tuesday, May 14, 2019

BLOG TOUR: A Perfect Lie by Lisa Renee Jones @lisareneejones

Secrets. Lies. A man. There's always a man. And there's always a truth to be told. 

I'm Hailey Anne Monroe. I’m twenty-eight years old. An artist, who found her muse on the canvas because I wasn’t allowed to have friends or even keep a journal. And yes, if you haven’t guessed by now, I’m that Hailey Anne Monroe, daughter to Thomas Frank Monroe, the man who was a half-percentage point from becoming President of the United States. If you were able to ask him, he’d probably tell you that I was the half point. But you can’t ask him, and he can’t tell you. He’s dead. They’re all dead and now I can speak.

Kobo →

My Review:

I wasn't sure what to expect walking into this thriller but whichever way, I somehow felt myself surprised with this read.  At first I wasn't sure if it was going to be my cup of tea as it starts with an almost journal-ish like start where we are in Hailey's mind as she starts to tell us her story. It's when we get into this story that things pick up and hooks me.

She's an unreliable narrator who keeps losing pockets of time that seems to correspond to drinking a drink or two only so of course the only logical explanation is that she's being drugged.  But during these black outs, terrible things seem to occur.  Did I mention her father is running for president and blames her for her mother's death? Yep, this girl has a LOT of pressure on her! When yet another occurrence happens, she's hell bent on figuring out what the hell is going on.  Or is she really the one to blame?

I really had no idea where this was going to go.  This would have been a five star read for me except for a couple of things.  I did a quick google check on a particular situation and though I didn't find anything, I'm sure the author did far better research than I did so that really didn't make much of a difference for me quite honestly.  I did think that the last couple sections were unnecessary.  I think I would've liked it to have stopped at one certain point to make a little more of an impact. Either way you guys, I absolutely recommend this book.  And I absolutely adore Hailey as a character, even with some of her traits. *wink*



New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Lisa Renee Jones is the author of the highly acclaimed INSIDE OUT series.

In addition to the success of Lisa's INSIDE OUT series, she has published many successful titles. The TALL, DARK AND DEADLY series and THE SECRET LIFE OF AMY BENSEN series, both spent several months on a combination of the New York Times and USA Today bestselling lists. Lisa is also the author of the bestselling WHITE LIES and LILAH LOVE series. 

Prior to publishing Lisa owned multi-state staffing agency that was recognized many times by The Austin Business Journal and also praised by the Dallas Women's Magazine. In 1998 Lisa was listed as the #7 growing women owned business in Entrepreneur Magazine.


“Can I join you?” he asks, motioning to the table.

There’s interest in his eyes, the kind a man has for a woman, but who knows, maybe it’s real or maybe it’s not real. Maybe he knows who I am and sees a path to power and fame. The way Tobey wanted me for money and power, right up until the moment I’d called his number aka his agenda; thus, he has not called me since I left. Maybe Harvard will lie even better than Tobey did. Maybe Harvard will at least kiss better than he did, and the lies would taste like temptation rather than convenience. At least then, if I’m used, I’ll enjoy being used.

Whatever the case, it’s clear I might actually be angry with Tobey and that aside, the interest that Harvard has shown in me, must be controlled before my Denver sanctuary is destroyed. “You can join me,” I say, “but only because I’m trying to save the rest of the place from the attorney in the house.”

I am pleased when Harvard laughs, where Tobey would have scowled, proving that Harvard has a sense of humor, which is rare for those in my life. I’ve barely completed this thought when he moves forward and claims the seat next to me, not across from me, settling his briefcase on that chair instead. In the process, his leg brushes my leg and for the briefest of moments, I’m transported back to the place that I’m now trying to forget: to Austin, to Drew’s leg next to mine, his wink, and I do now what I did then. I jerk back. If Harvard notices he doesn’t react. “Since we haven’t been formally introduced,” he says, resting his naked hands on the table. “I’m Logan. Logan Casey.”

“Logan Casey,” I repeat trying to ground myself in the present, at least for now, but some part of me is still swimming in that memory, which naturally has me wondering if this man is a shark in the water around me. “Two first names,” I add. “Sounds like your parents fought over who got to pick your first name. Did they draw straws for which choice became your middle name?”

“You’re actually right on target,” he says, laughing again, and it’s a nice, masculine laugh, and oddly this thought feels familiar while Logan does not. “No one has ever guessed that,” he adds. “My mother won the name war. The women always win. Speaking of names. Do you have one?”

“Hailey Anne Pitt,” I say, “and in my house, my father won the name war.” Because in my father’s world, I add silently, the women don’t win the wars. At least, not that he knows, not in an obvious way. I’ve learned this well.

“Well then, Hailey Anne Pitt,” he says, “what’s a Stanford girl like you, doing in a place like this? You’re a long way from school.”

I’m smacked in the face with a lesson I’ve long ago learned and forgotten with this man; strangers do not always remain strangers and all offhanded remarks can come back to haunt you. “That was a joke,” I say, shutting the door connected to my real life, and a path that leads to my father. “I hate attorneys, remember?”

He narrows his eyes on me, and for no reason other than instinct, I believe he’s looking for a lie that he won’t find. I’m simply too well-taught from birth, too skilled at being more than one person to allow such a detection. Well that, and the fact that I really do hate attorneys, which is why I’ll be a good one.

“That was a joke?” he confirms.

“Yes,” I say. “Are you amused?”

“Yes, actually. I am. What does a lawyer-hating smart ass like yourself do for a living?”

“When not busy taunting those who went to law school,” I say. “I’m an aspiring artist.” Both honest answers, if you put a “was” in front of the “aspiring artist” which I’d thought that I’d come to terms with, but the knot in my stomach says I have not.

Logan motions toward the art room. “Your career explains why you ended up here.”

“I guess it does,” I say, as this place serves me well to reconnecting to the Pitt part of my life, which is a place I really need to be right now, for all kinds of reasons.

“Are you good?” Logan asks, as if he’s read my mind.

My father’s words answer him in my head. Art is useless unless you’re famous, he used to say often, because of course, it was inconceivable that I might be good enough to be famous. “Art is like movies and food,” I say, shoving aside that bad memory. “Good is subjective.” I don’t give him time to reply. I ping the conversation back toward him. “What kind of law do you practice?”

“Corporate,” he says, and this time he pings back to me. “Do you live in the neighborhood?”

“Yes,” I say simply. “Do you?”

“I bought a building a few years ago where I live and work which means this is my home turf, and why I know you’re new here.”

“I am,” I say and since he’s clearly going to ask for details, I quickly preempt with an on-the-fly story. Actually, it’s the suggested story, Rudolf included in my file. “I came here for a job, and my new boss owns a house he’s rented to me for dirt cheap.”

“And what does an artist do but create art for a living?”

“I’m working for a private art acquisitions firm. I now hunt for treasures for a living.” This lie is actually my dream job that I’ve never been allowed to entertain. 

The horror flick loving waitress delivers my coffee and brownie. “Thank you,” I say, because every politician’s daughter has manners beaten into her.

“No problem,” she says, “but if you come to your senses and want a better version of that coffee, just shout.” She eyes Logan. “I already know you want a crappy tasting coffee, on endless pour and a chocolate chip cookie. Coming right up.”

“Thanks, Megan,” he says, giving her a wink that I don’t classify as flirtatious, just friendly, and Megan is gone.

“Obviously you’re a regular,” I comment, “and they even like you.”

“And they like me,” he confirms, “despite knowing I’m an attorney.

“Because you’re good looking and use it to your advantage.”

He arches a brow. “You think I’m good looking, do you?”

“Oh, come on,” I say, crinkling my nose. “Everyone thinks you’re good looking. I’m simply stating a fact. We use what we have and those of us that are smart, know what we have.” I move on from what is really quite inconsequential. “Why work here, not at home, or in the office?”

“I find I get a lot of work done with a cookie, coffee, and no access to streaming television,” he explains.

No one in my D.C. crowd would make an admission of being human and distractible. Some people in my situation might take comfort in that fact, but I don’t. Logan’s an attorney, and my gut, which I’ll confirm with research, says he’s a powerful one, the kind that radiates toward my father. Maybe that’s a coincidence and maybe it’s not. Maybe he’s testing how well I execute my cover story. The possibilities are many. Though in all fairness to Logan, perhaps I’d lean toward his innocence, if not for the laundry list of recent events such as Tobey being gay and the FBI agent, who is likely working for my father, that I slept with to prove I was a) still desirable and b) not a killer.

#ATBR2019 Review: Mine by Courtney Cole @gallerybooks @court_writes @jessmapreviews

by Courtney Cole

Thank you Gallery for these free books.

Publisher: Gallery Books
Publish Date: May 28, 2019
304 Pages
Genres: Domestic Thriller, Psychological Thriller

Our world was crumbling. You took advantage. 

He was weak. You’re weaker.  
A wedding ring isn’t a challenge.  It’s a promise. 
But that promise wasn’t for you.
Get some self respect.  And get your own life.  
My husband isn’t yours. 
He’s mine.  
And no matter how hard you try, you’ll never be me.  
You don’t have the balls.

F@ck you.

My Review:

I absolutely adored Cole's Saving Beck last year and when I saw she came out with this Domestic/Psychological Thriller, I was beyond excited to receive a surprise copy. SCORE! We get your typical premise when it comes to wife/mistress/husband... but Cole does it with such finesse that I literally opened this book to page one and three hours later turned the last page and finally put it down. Yes, ladies and gents, it's THAT compulsive of a read!

What happens when you make your bed and then your husband and his mistress sleeps in it?  You think you have a solid and loving marriage and then one tragic moment when you open his iPad and see his sexts to his mistress and your whole world implodes while the outside world explodes in a hurricane.  How apropos.  Lure said mistress to your house and let the crazy begin! When a woman feels disrespected and betrayed, on either side, anything can happen.  Your first thought is revenge on the woman and then potentially the man who caused the whole situation to begin with.  

Listen, shit gets real.  Everything contained in this book is plausible, bat shit or not. I could not put this book down.  Then, when I read the afterword and found that Cole wrote this based on her own experiences with infidelity - wow, just wow honestly.  Some couples can make it through, some can't. But what's true through and through is the rage that is felt.  Even for the woman who knew what she was walking into - does she really though? Love is blind but so is rage.

Absolutely recommend this for a quick, fast paced ride to crazy town - population: EVERYONE.


Jessica's Review:

I don't even know where to start with this. I read this in an evening - I just could not put it down! I started at home before we rand errands and continued in our hour drive to our destination. MINE is the definition of a binge-read. Make sure you clear out some time in your schedule when you pick this one up!

Tessa seems to have it all - a successful make up company, 3 teenage kids, and a loving husband of over 2 decades. After dropping her kids off at her parents' house for the weekend, she gets home to spend the time alone with her husband. Plans change when his flight is delayed from New York and a hurricane starts up. 

Planning on getting some work done, she comes across some explicit texts and photos on her husband's iPad from another woman. What do you do in a blind rage when you find out your husband is being unfaithful? Well, you lure the mistress to your home for some answers, right?

I don't want to go into anymore detail because this book is CRAZY! Tessa and Lindsey have a night they'll probably never forget as we're brought through the details of Ethan's infidelity. Going from Tessa's perspective (present day) and Lindsey's perspective (from when she meets Ethan to this night), we get a glimpse into how the events culminated into one insane evening. The emotions felt throughout this book are so real and this is an entirely plausible premise. I definitely recommend reading the Acknowledgments at the end - knowing this is based on Cole's experiences with infidelity made it even more authentic and real.

I recommend this to everyone and anyone that wants a thrill-ride and a good dose of crazy. Plenty of action and intensity to keep you sucked in from page one. Like they say - hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

5 stars

Monday, May 13, 2019

#ATBR2019 Review: The Night Before by Wendy Walker @stmartinspress

The Night Before 
by Wendy Walker

Thank you to St. Martin's Press for these copies.

Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publish Date: May 14, 2019
320 Pages
Genre: Thriller

First dates can be murder. 

Riveting and compulsive, national bestselling author Wendy Walker’s The Night Before “takes you to deep, dark places few thrillers dare to go” as two sisters uncover long-buried secrets when an internet date spirals out of control. 

Laura Lochner has never been lucky in love. She falls too hard and too fast, always choosing the wrong men. Devastated by the end of her last relationship, she fled her Wall Street job and New York City apartment for her sister’s home in the Connecticut suburb where they both grew up. Though still haunted by the tragedy that’s defined her entire life, Laura is determined to take one more chance on love with a man she’s met on an Internet dating site.

Rosie Ferro has spent most of her life worrying about her troubled sister. Fearless but fragile, Laura has always walked an emotional tightrope, and Rosie has always been there to catch her. Laura’s return, under mysterious circumstances, has cast a shadow over Rosie’s peaceful life with her husband and young son – a shadow that grows darker as Laura leaves the house for her blind date. 

When Laura does not return home the following morning, Rosie fears the worst. She’s not responding to calls or texts, and she’s left no information about the man she planned to meet. As Rosie begins a desperate search to find her sister, she is not just worried about what this man might have done to Laura. She’s worried about what Laura may have done to him…

My Review:

My second Walker book, I definitely see how her style can be compulsive, even with the slower pace that I have found in both this and Emma In The Night.  Short chapters, unreliable narrators and a plot that keeps you guessing until the final reveals.

Poor Laura - always so unlucky in love and willing to chameleon herself to make herself worthy of her new love.  A woman who believes in love but in the way that she is determined to make it happen, taking in the good things too much to heart.. and the bad things, calculating and untrusting.  This does not bode well for her as she goes on a date with a man from the internet.  

Nothing and no one is as they appear to be.  I was a bit confused on one part between two of the characters.  How did this little bit get thrown in and then not revisited? I'm a teeny bit baffled on this.  While I did enjoy the story line, some things just didn't quite add up for me.  There were definitely some lull parts but Walker does manage to make a slower pace still quite interesting.  

Would I read Walker again? Absolutely!  I'm not sure if this slow pace is her style across all of her books but I do absolutely appreciate the crazy stories that she seems to produce... even if some things don't quite add up.


Jessica's Review:

This was my first time reading Wendy Walker and I completely understand why people love her books. A weaving story line, different timelines, not knowing who to trust, and plenty of twists and turns. THE NIGHT BEFORE kept me turning the pages and had plenty of surprises that I didn't see coming. 

Laura hasn't always had the best luck when it comes to men. Desperately trying to find love but with all the wrong men it seems. After a nasty break up, she returns to her childhood home to live with her sister, Rosie, and her husband Joe. Laura, Rosie, Joe, and their friend Gabe all grew up together - they have secrets from their pasts that they are trying to keep in the past. When Laura decides it's time to get back in the dating pool, everyone is nervous for her but it's just a first date, what could happen?

Rosie goes into panic mode when Laura hasn't returned home the next morning. Could it be that she lost track of time and stayed the night somewhere? Could something back have happened to her? Or worse - could she have done something bad to her date? So many questions, some answers, and more doubt arises as we get Laura's background. Doubts are raised about her date - is she the only one lying about who she is?

While I did go through this quickly, there were some parts that felt a little on the slower side. We go between Laura's POV "the night before", Rosie's POV "the morning after", and then transcripts from Laura's meetings with her shrink when she was in New York months earlier. I think this was a well-written and constructed suspense novel. Like I said, I didn't see a lot of those twists coming and I really liked them! The only thing that dropped my rating was that it came to a couple lulls in the middle. Overall, I would still definitely recommend this one to anyone looking for a suspense novel and I will for sure be picking up more from Walker!

3.5 stars

Friday, May 10, 2019

#ATBR2019 Review: Wolfhunter River by Rachel Caine @amazonpub @rachelcaine @jessmapreviews

Wolfhunter River 
by Rachel Caine

Thanks so much to Amazon Publishing / Thomas & Mercer for these copies.

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Publish Date: April 23, 2019
Kindle Edition
330 Pages
Series: Stillhouse Lake #3
Genre: Thriller, Mystery

She can’t ignore a cry for help. But in this remote hunting town, it’s open season.
Gwen Proctor escaped her serial-killer husband and saved her family. What she can’t seem to outrun is his notoriety. Or the sick internet vigilantes still seeking to avenge his crimes. For Gwen, hiding isn’t an option. Not when her only mission is to create a normal life for her kids.
But now, a threatened woman has reached out. Marlene Crockett, from the remote town of Wolfhunter, is panicked for herself and her daughter. When Gwen arrives in the small, isolated rural community, Marlene is already dead—her own daughter blamed for the murder. Except that’s not the person Marlene feared at all. And Gwen isn’t leaving until she finds out who that was.
But it may already be too late. A trap has been set. And it’s poised to snap shut on everyone Gwen loves. Her stalkers are closing in. And in a town as dark as Wolfhunter, it’s so easy for them to hide…

My Review:

I absolutely love this series!  Books one and two came and slapped me in the face and I loved every minute of it and book 3 did the same, just not as hard. ;)

This book starts off, like the other two, with a bang. Instant hookage.  Then we get back to Gwen, Sam and her kids. I mean, they've already been through enough but it just NEVER ends.  I suppose if you're the wife of a serial killer and then you end up killing him... well, things aren't going to be easy.  The author does an amazing job bringing us right back in and the growth you see of each and every character was a pleasure to read.  

The only reason I didn't give this 5 stars is because after the opening, I had no idea where that story line went. It all but seemed to have disappeared.  Instead, we go on a different tangent and Gwen is off helping someone else.. and it took a bit to get to this point. Now, usually you'll get some glimpses of what's going on with said prologue character throughout the read and maybe all books don't need this but I wish there had been just a smidgen of these glimpses here.  *shrug*  Of course, it does come full circle at the end.  At this point though I was like oh, finally. Here we are. 

For me, this book wasn't even about this plot line.  It had more to do with the relationships between Gwen and her children, Gwen and Sam and how each of these characters grew and that alone makes this book amazing.

Maybe this could be read as a standalone but I would suggest starting from the beginning so you can fully appreciate these characters.  And quite frankly, all of these books are absolutely worth the read.  I'm really looking forward to seeing where Caine takes us in the next installment.


Jessica's Review:

I've been with this series from the beginning and I've been so impressed with all three of them! I would highly recommend picking up Stillhouse Lake and Killman Creek prior to this one so that you can appreciate the character growth in Wolfhunter River. However, I don't think it would be terrible to follow as a standalone. Books one and two are fantastic, so you won't be wasting your time!

We're back with Gwen, her kids, and Sam - they've all been through a lot but there's more in store for them! When your ex-husband was a serial killer, it's always hard to move forward and keep his terrible actions in the past. Gwen is back in Stillhouse Lake and trying desperately to live a normal life again, but when she is contacted by a woman in need of her help she immediately heads for Wolfhunter.

In true fashion with books one and two, there is the solid character building and development throughout. I think this installment is more character driven than the others, but there was still plenty of suspense and twists thrown at the reader! That's one thing I can always count on with Caine - a fast-moving and expertly woven thriller. What took off a little bit in my rating was that it felt like there were too many moving parts to this story and got kind of difficult to keep it all straight. Or I felt like we were losing some elements or stories along the way - but Caine did get them all tied together in the end.

WOLFHUNTER RIVER definitely went in a different direction than books one and two, but considering the end of the last book, it was inevitable. I personally loved seeing the characters continue to grow and get more fleshed out as this series progresses, so I'm very curious as to where Caine will take this series next.

4 stars

Thursday, May 9, 2019

#ATBR2019 Review: The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren @gallerybooks @christinalauren @jessmapreviews

The Unhoneymooners 
by Christina Lauren 

Thanks to Gallery for these free books!

Publisher: Gallery Books
Publish Date: May 14, 2019
432 Pages
Genres: Romance, Contemporary

Olive is always unlucky: in her career, in love, in…well, everything. Her identical twin sister Amy, on the other hand, is probably the luckiest person in the world. Her meet-cute with her fiancรฉ is something out of a romantic comedy (gag) and she’s managed to finance her entire wedding by winning a series of Internet contests (double gag). Worst of all, she’s forcing Olive to spend the day with her sworn enemy, Ethan, who just happens to be the best man.

Olive braces herself to get through 24 hours of wedding hell before she can return to her comfortable, unlucky life. But when the entire wedding party gets food poisoning from eating bad shellfish, the only people who aren’t affected are Olive and Ethan. And now there’s an all-expenses-paid honeymoon in Hawaii up for grabs.

Putting their mutual hatred aside for the sake of a free vacation, Olive and Ethan head for paradise, determined to avoid each other at all costs. But when Olive runs into her future boss, the little white lie she tells him is suddenly at risk to become a whole lot bigger. She and Ethan now have to pretend to be loving newlyweds, and her luck seems worse than ever. But the weird thing is that she doesn’t mind playing pretend. In fact, she feels kind of... lucky. 

My Review:

What a delightful, funny and engaging book!  I have the softest spot for romcoms that are done as well as they are by these two authors.  Whenever I feel I need to cleanse my palate from my darker reads, this is the type of book that does it so perfectly.

I can completely relate to Olive and her bad luck and always feeling like the less successful one. Though I can't relate to her amazing rack or ability to look that good in a swimsuit. haha.  But how lucky is she to be able to go to MAUI on her sister's honeymoon? I mean, all things aside, it's MAUI!!!!  Then to be with a guy she doesn't particularly care for.... well, we all know where this is going, don't we? YES WE DO.  Predictable as all get out and I DO NOT CARE.  The whole thing is hilarious - I absolutely love the banter and some of her inner monologue.

When we get towards the end of the book where they're back home, the book takes a little more of a serious turn.  By this point, I'm completely invested in both Olive and Ethan. Enamored.  So when things go awry, well, I was FEELING IT.  I don't know if it's just my current mood, the writing, or what - all I know is I felt angry FOR HER.

And like with all romcoms - I wish that real life included grand gestures. **sigh** Or maybe I should just learn like Olive to try and embrace the good and not always expect the bad. *wink*

As usual, absolutely loved this quick read by Christina Lauren and I certainly will always pick up their work.


Jessica's Review:

My first experience with Christina Lauren was MY FAVORITE HALF-NIGHT STAND, so I was ready to pick up their upcoming release, THE UNHONEYMOONERS. When you need a cleanser or just something fun, I know these ladies won't do me wrong. This is a quick one and the perfect beach read for this summer. 

Olive hasn't always been so lucky - her career, her love life - and it doesn't help when she is constantly compared to Ami, her identical twin sister. Ami's luck seems endless, she has won everything for their wedding from internet contests, so her wedding is virtually free. Meanwhile, Olive is forced to play nice with her nemesis, Ethan, who is also the best man. Her luck seems to turn around when she manages to avoid food poisoning from the catering. Ami insists that she take the non-refundable and all-inclusive honeymoon to Maui, but the groom insists that his brother, Ethan, go on the trip. Not wanting to pass up a free beach vacation and escape the Minnesota tundra, Olive agrees to go on the trip with Ethan with the plans to completely avoid him. Well, we all know how this enemies-to-lovers trope goes!

I'll always be a sucker for anything set in Minnesota, and I don't blame them for wanting to get out of the tundra for the sunny beaches! I loved Olive. She was such a fun and sassy character, and her witty banter was perfect. We all know how this book is going to play out and that did not take away from the story at all. The development of their relationship and then their time back home after Maui, I was here for all of it. 

If you want a fun rom-com read, then you can't go wrong with this one! If you're a fan of Christina Lauren, then this will be a no-brainer, and if you're wanting a cover buy, well you've got that checked here, too. It's got it all! A must-have for your summer TBR

5 stars

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Fast Readers, Large Wrap Up Posts and the Skeptics

Fast Readers, Large Wrap Up Posts 
and the Skeptics 

I have been seeing more and more how fast readers (like myself) are being questioned on the validity of their large wrap up posts.  Why does this happen? Well, people are people and there's always the select few who feel the need to rattle cages for whatever reason. I wanted to write this post to discuss a few points and have collaborated with other fast readers so we all have a more rounded showing of our different lives and how we make the time to read all the books, do all the reviews and still have time for socializing, mom-ing and working. Yes, you CAN have it all!

Please note that this post is in no way trying to change your mind, it's simply informational and a look at the other side.  

I've always thought that ANY reading is good reading.  Whether it's just street signs, a door stopper book, a novella, a magazine... the back of a shampoo bottle while you're taking a shit.  Who cares? Reading is fantastic no matter which way you decide to do it.  When people come out and say they don't understand it and we must not have lives, race to the finish, don't enjoy the books the way they do or are bragging - well, I wanted to be nice about it - but please stop the madness or find a nicer way to express your disbelief. (what I really want to say here is shut the fuck up, but we all know that's not gonna happen and ultimately, you're allowed to express yourself just as I am here).  We do not drag on slower readers.  What's the point in any of this? This is a community where we should be lifting each other up! I have always read fast - I do everything fast really ... I talk fast, type fast, play the piano fast, walk fast... trying to tell me to slow down is like asking me to stop reading altogether. NOT. GONNA. HAPPEN.

I've seen some people state that we are being hyper sensitive when we clap back at them in their comments.  Or that we take it so personally.  When you're making a blanket statement of a group of people about their habits, then yes, it can definitely get personal.  I've tried being nice about it.  I've tried ignoring it.  But I HAVE HAD IT.  Am I bragging when I post my large ass wrap up at the end every month?  No.  I'm simply using my page the way I want to and that includes being PROUD of what I'm reading.  Am I only about the free books? NO. But I will say I've worked hard with publishers to get them and it's a symbiotic relationship where I use my platform to promo the book so yes, you're gonna see it.  It's called keeping my promises to the publisher and building relationships.

I also understand and absorb everything that I read.  You refuse to believe it? That's all well and fine.  I refuse to believe that people feel the need to make a point of it and thus making people across Bookstagram feel that they can't post their wrap ups because they're going to be vilified by such rhetoric.  BUT, at the end of the day, it's your page, your stories, you can post and say what you want and so can we. 

Listen, even if you don't believe it, even if it completely baffles you to the point where it makes absolutely NO sense to you, then that's fine.  But be nice about it.  Don't assume shit about someone else when these platforms are to be used for good.  We're all here for reading and our love of books.  Just because someone else does it differently than you doesn't mean they're wrong or lying.  If your goal on social media (ANY platform for any reason/subject) is to antagonize, troll and continually make people feel like crap, then I kindly ask you to block me and we can go about our business without ever interacting.  Not a blocker? Then lets agree to disagree but if I see rude comments that are hurting my friends, you best believe I'll be the voice.  Don't clap at me if you can't take the clap back.

I come in peace, but with an attitude and I am not afraid to speak my mind. 

Below are the most common questions/comments I've seen from the non-believers along with comments/answers from a few of us fast readers.  One person has asked to be anonymous because she has received so much shit that it has come down to this.  Remember people, what you say actually DOES make a difference and can really hurt someone.  But also remember, this is just social media!  

Here are just clips of things we've seen:

"I'm baffled by people who read a dozen+ books per month. But the size of some of the 'monthly round-up' stacks I see on Instagram are insane, guys. At what point does reading become work?"

I don't consider it work because I absolutely love it.

"I've been skeptical of some of the 'big' stacks that people claim they read each month. I'd be interested to see how well somebody who speed reads like that could score on a simple quiz about each book they read. Not great would be my guess."

Nice guess but nope! I may get book amnesia but remind me of a certain point and I'll have a full on conversation with you about it.

"I don't like reading so much and so quickly that when I think back on a book I can't remember it. What's the point? I love reading some of my favorites over and over (who doesn't) but not because I don't remember them, but because I do, and it feels a little like going home. Books should be enjoyed."

I enjoy almost every book I read. If you can't remember it then don't read like this, but for those who can... let them be.

Some people even question if we just read dialogue.  I had never considered that! But WHAT?! HAHAHA. Makes me almost want to try it just to see how a book would actually come across.

"How do so many bloggers read a book 'in a single sitting'? If it takes 6-8 hours to read a typical novel, who has that much time to just sit and read? Doesn't anyone out there work full time or have families?" 

SIGH! Maybe it takes YOU that long to read a typical novel but I can read one in 3-4 depending on the length.  **shrug**

Some have wondered why I would get upset about something that doesn't pertain to me since I'm not one of these people who are lying about my reading for the month and I get that too.  However, these statements, when seen over and over again, can get irksome, DOES get irksome and is just unnecessary.  I would never give someone crap about how little they're reading compared to me.  I'm not here to compare you to me, or to anyone else.  Honestly, I'm just glad to be in a community where I have people to talk books with - so lets talk books! 

Contributors are:
Me. Chandra @wherethereadergrows
Jessica  @jessicamapreviews
Amy  @novelgossip
Jamie @beauty_andthebook_
Stacey @prose_and_palate
Jaclyn @sixminutesforme
Tracy @tracy_reads79
Emily @book.happy
Diana @direads
Kaisha @kaishajayneh
Megan @whatmeganreads

How many books do you typically read in a month?

Chandra: Anywhere from 20-25 depending on the month and how busy my life gets.

Jessica: Depending on the month it can be anywhere from 20-35 books (short stories really bump up that number!)

Amy: Anywhere between 20 and 30 depending on what I have going on

Jamie: Between 20-30 March was 24 - I’m at 71 for the year so far

Stacey: This varies greatly for me.  If my schedule is packed then sometimes I only read 5.  Other months I may read 20, it just all depends. 

Jaclyn: Anywhere from 10-25 on average, it just depends on what else is going on in any given month

Tracy:  So this number varies, but generally speaking anywhere from 12-20 books a month.  Length of book, life, and laziness all play a part in this number :)
**NOTE: I feel like I am defending myself with these answers.  I guess I am, and I hate that.  When I started teaching full time, I read maybe 1 or 2 books a year.  I was still a reader.  There were months when I did nothing but watch Netflix in my free time or play with my kids.  I was still a reader. I really got back into reading with a crazy vengeance in the spring of 2017 and I love it.  I am still a reader. 
Emily: Usually I read somewhere between 20-28 books per month, but it depends on what all I have to do that month. Sometimes it's less. Several of my books are poetry or novellas, so they're quite small.

Diana: I read anywhere from 10 to 20 books a month. That number includes audiobooks, which can range from two to four a month, because anyway you enjoy a book is reading. I'm quick to DNF a book, even if I don't hate it but it's just not making me want to keep reading, which helps me avoid slumps or getting stuck on a book I'm not enjoying. (DNFs don't count toward my total, though)

Kaisha: Ermm, anything from 20-30 a month. 

Megan: I read 9-13 books a month, depending on how crazy my life is at the time. Yes, that number includes audiobooks, and  YES, THEY COUNT.  If I can have a conversation with you about the story, characters, plot development, etc., then I read the dang book.

What other activities do you have going on in your life?

Chandra: I work full time as a real estate paralegal, which requires CONSTANT reading of documents.  When it's slow I can read a lot at work but when it's busy it's BUSY.  I live alone, I still have a social life and lots of friends, no pets, no kids, review for a local bookstore, etc.

Jessica: I manage a small business, which means we are on-call 24/7. Living on the property with the warehouse means we are security, maintenance, landscaping/snow removal, and damage control (we had our server go out at 1am on a Sunday and had to work until it was functioning again). We are constantly helping with projects at the different properties, I visit with friends when they're in town, we have two dogs, and I'm currently planning my wedding. So plenty to keep me occupied!

Amy: No job but 3 kids and a demanding husband ๐Ÿ˜‚ My son has special needs so we have lots of therapy, etc

Jamie:  work at least 40 hours a week, workout at least an hour every day too and YES I SLEEP

Stacey: I work full time as a data analyst and then part time as a reading tutor.  My average work week consists of about 50 hours give or take. I am a wife and a mom and I also like to hang out with my girlfriends whenever I have a chance.  Reading is how I unwind after a busy day and I always have books with me everywhere I go.  They are in my car, in my purse, on my desk, in totes bags and all over my house.  My prime reading time is late at night after everyone else has gone to bed.  And yes, I do sleep.  ๐Ÿ˜†

Jaclyn:  Work (and recently, a series of study/exams to requalify here) + I sit on two industry association boards as a director + family (My husband and I are currently living in Texas, and our family are all still in Australia) + I write reviews of law textbooks for industry publications. It took me months to make friends when we moved to Texas so I had loads of extra time to read and it really helped me combat homesickness too. I don’t always make the time for reading in my life, especially in my early career, but now see it as a vital component of my self-care and work/life balance.

TracyI am a full time high school/college Composition and Literature teacher, I have two kids (10 and under...3 kids if you count my husband....I do), extracurricular activities with my kids after school and throughout summer, I'm an avid gardener/outdoor stuff person, and everything else life sees fit to throw my way. I also read and review for the Sci Fi and Scary website and I run the Twitter account and review for the Ladies of Horror Fiction group.  And I'm known to zone out on my deck or in front of the tv with beverages and snacks - shocker!

Emily: I have a full-time job with frequent overtime. I live with my boyfriend, who is also a big reader, so sometimes we just read together. I have three dogs, and do not have children, so that opens up a lot of free time. My other activities are drinking and watching Real Housewives.

Diana: I have a full-time job as a sports reporter, which can me working 60 to 80-hour weeks in season. My job does afford me reading time in the form of travel time, but most of those long work hours are spent at rinks or tied to my computer. I always make time for reading because it's the only thing I can multi-task at. I can't get my brain to shut off while watching TV or anything else. Reading is the one time I can fully immerse in one thing and let the other stresses or thoughts melt a way.

Kaisha: I'm a full time, single mum to a daughter who I also homeschool. I'm chronically ill with 8 illnesses, I'm an award winning blogger and freelance writer.

Megan: I have a full time job working as an analyst in higher education for our state government and a part time job as an editor for a southern lifestyle magazine. In addition to work, I wrangle two kids who are involved in buckets of extracurricular activities, a firefighter husband who is at the fire station for 24 hours every third day, and a houseful of rescue animals that need a LOT of maintenance and attention. (Anyone know how to trim pig hooves?  Asking for a friend...) 

Have you always been a fast reader?

Chandra:  Always - it's just the way I'm built. 

Jessica: I've always been a fast reader. I hated the guidelines in school where we could only read certain chapters for what we were assigned in class.

Amy: Yes since I can remember


Stacey: Yes I have. I have always read anything I could get my hands on from the time I was very young. 

Jaclyn: Yes, and I’ve always read multiple books at once which I think plays a big role in the volume I read. I also read in multiple forms which again is what I respond when people ask “how do you read so much” - I’ll have audiobooks on when I’m running errands, commuting to work, or I’ll have my kindle (including kindle app on phone!) out if I’m stuck in a waiting room or a queue anywhere. I think always having a book on me in some form helps me sneak in reading where other people would scroll through Facebook or Instagram.

Tracy: ALWAYS. If I am in it - I am IN IT.  I used to take stacks of books in the car for long trips to the beach when I was a kid - all of them read before the return trip.  My undergrad is in English, and my two graduate degrees are in Education and English (almost done), so being able to read quickly from multiple sources as well as retaining said info has just been a part of my life.

Emily: Yes, I'm Matilda. My mom was always annoyed about having to deal with my library books because I would check out so many at once so I wouldn't run out of content.

Diana: When I first learned to read in kindergarten, I went from not reading to reading a giant stack of picture books, so yes. In middle school, our homework was to read at least 30 minutes a day. I always read more and then came to school with a new book most mornings.

Kaisha: Yes! Even at school when we had to read out loud I ended up zooming right ahead.

Megan: Yep - as far back as I can remember, I read books at a faster pace than others. I remember my mom thinking I was lying about needing to go to the library again, but it was true!  We would usually make the trip twice a week, and even then, sometimes I'd run out. My daughter reads at a more leisurely pace, but my son is even faster than I am. I recently called him out on a book I didn't think he possibly had time to complete. He scored 100% on the AR quiz at school the next day...and I had to pay him $10.  We all read at different speeds!

Do you retain what you're reading?

Chandra: Pretty much! Sometimes I'll forget some details until reminded but a book really has to wow me for me to remember everything.  I don't have a photographic memory.

Jessica: If the book stands out to me, then yes. Even then, I do have times where I can remember the basics of the book or the big twist (which, obviously, I can't tell people).

Amy: Yep! 

Jamie: Yes 

Stacey: If a book moves me, absolutely.  I take notes while I read and I also highlight and mark passages that speak to me as I read. 

Jaclyn: Yes - I write reviews for a podcast-newsletter as well as my own platforms, and speak about them on my booktube channel. If there’s something particular (a quote, for example) I want to recall later I’ll write it down in a notebook, but I have a fairly good hold on what I’ve read broadly.

Tracy: Yeah - especially if I really loved a story OR really hated it - but I can discuss books I've read years ago with intelligence - or at least I think so.  Have I forgotten some? OF COURSE - guys, I can't even remember basic math facts most days.  I'm a human, not a robot.

Emily: I take notes while I'm reading, and that helps me to retain information, and then I use the notes to write my reviews later. If this helps with my background, I have an English degree & am accustomed to always reading 500 things at once & taking notes on them so I could write my papers later. I kept everything sorted then, and I keep it sorted now. 

Diana: If I feel strongly about a book (positively or negatively), I might be receiting details long after I put it down. Maybe after binging a series, I have a hard time recalling what happened in which book. If a book is boring, I might not retain it all. Sometimes I mix up tertiary characters' names. But those are normal things that my friends who read fewer books find also.

Kaisha: Yeah I do! Granted I can end up mixing storylines but still Haha.

Megan: I wouldn't bet against me.  Ask me about All The Ugly and Wonderful Things that I read three years ago.  Or Rebecca from 10 years back.  I most certainly retain what I'm reading.  I can still remember that plot twist from The Wife Between Us like it was yesterday - I think I read that in the winter of 2017/18.

Do you lie or forge reviews to make it seem like you read more than you actually do? 

Chandra:  HAHA - Nope! What is the point? I'm a 44 year old woman, I'm not on social media to try and impress anyone.  Bookstagram is my online library. I see no point in pretending.

Jessica: I will never understand this question. My main question to these people that doubt it, how could we possibly write in-depth reviews if we never read it? How could we participate in discussions? Who would take the time to sit there and forge a review? It's insulting to be asked that because we put our time, effort, and thoughts into these reviews to share with everyone. (Don't get me started on people critiquing how we do star ratings - sorry I tend to choose books I know I'll enjoy and that I don't draw a bunch of attention to what I DNF)

Amy: Never, so insulting to even be asked that by random people.

Jamie: lol absolutely not. I move stuff to a DNF shelf and don’t mark dates - I only count books I’ve completed front to back toward my goal/monthly count 

Stacey:  I don't really understand why people ask this because what do you gain from that?  If I don't like a book or if I DNF something, I let people know in a respectful way.  Just because a book fails to make a connection with me does not mean that it won't be an amazing read for someone else, but I will always give you my honest opinion.   I get incredibly passionate when I love a book and I think that is obvious if you watch my stories or have interacted with me in the comments on my account.  It would be impossible to articulately engage with everyone and talk about all of these books if I had not actually read them.

I do want to elaborate a bit about the amount that is read since I experience both ends of the spectrum on this.  I am a very fast reader and when work is slow, I can knock out quite a lot of books in a week's time.  My son however, is severely dyslexic and while he LOVES books and reading, it can be a struggle for him and it takes him a lot longer than most people to read and process anything.  I can not tell you how many times he has come home upset because someone has made fun of how slowly he reads out loud or because he is re-checking the same book out from the school library that he got last week.  NOTHING will flip my mama bear switch faster then when someone is being ugly about someone else's reading habits. This applies across the board - whether you are criticizing someone because you think they have read too many books or mocking someone because they are a slow reader.  It's not cool, it's not appropriate and people need to mind their business. You should not be bothered by how much or how little you think someone else is reading.  Are they reading? Then they are rocking it.  Period.

JaclynNo - I’m very honest about not finishing a book if i dislike it and DNF (often boring the page I get upto in goodreads) and I’m not quite sure where the logic for this like of questioning comes from as it benefits no one to make up a review. I’m also fairly militant with updating goodreads so my reading habits on a daily basis are quite transparent if anyone really wanted to do the digging.

Tracy: This is actually a thing? I read all of the books I review.  I'd like to think that my reviews are detailed enough (without spoilers) that this would be obvious. All of the readers I have as friends or acquaintances read the books they review as well.  Reviews are for the reader, so this kind of practice would hurt the very community I am a part of, and honestly, my conscience wouldn't allow me to do this.  I read and review because I love horror and other genres and I just want to talk about books.  Even if no one reads my drivel.  But at least I can claim it's honest drivel.

Emily: Absolutely not - why would that be beneficial to me in any way? I'm not getting paid for this, so that would be a whole lot of effort for nothing. If you follow me on GoodReads or Instagram, you know that I am very open about my DNFs - I write a mini-review explaining why I DNFd, and then I do not count it toward my GoodReads challenge or my wrap-ups on Instagram.

Diana: Um, what? No. When I have a lot going on and don't read as much, that shows in my monthly wrap up. I am proud of my reading, but not to the extent that I feel the need to force it.

  • **NOTE: I don't understand why this is even a topic. Why does how much I read affect anyone else? Why do you even care if someone retains what they read or if they skim? Everyone should read the way they want and leave it at that. It's gotten to the point, that sometimes I don't want to post my wrapups because people seem to think I'm showing off or shaming those who didn't/can't read as much. I don't want others to shape how I enjoy my own account, so I always do post it. But when others ask "how many books did you read?" I never answer, because I don't want anyone to think I'm showing off. That's dumb, but it's how I feel at this point. 
Kaisha: Er no. That would take way more effort. People don't believe me when I tell them how much I read, with last year totalling 384 books. I don't get why fast readers get slammed, and the comments that go alongside the disbelief are so annoying. Yes, I read fast. Yes, I read a lot. No, I don't bullshit!

Megan:  Nope.  If I say I read it, then you can believe I read it.  If I DNF'd a book, I mark it as such on GoodReads - I'm in no way ambiguous about that.

From another fast reader who chooses to remain anonymous:

"We all make judgements, every one of us. But more people should think before they comment. Most of Bookstagram is amazing and supportive, but harassing people for how much they read - accusing them of skipping or not having lives - is rude. Reading a lot of books doesn't mean you don't have feelings and aren't upset when people say things to you, like how you must not understand what you read, or how they wish they could read as much as you but they have lives and families and jobs. People might not even be aware how insensitive their comments can be. It stems from jealousy. Reading is considered a leisurely activity. We do it because we love it, it's what brings us joy. So of course people are going to be envious of someone who reads more than they do. But everyone's situation is different, how people choose to spend their time is their own business, and people should be supportive of everyone in the community, no matter how little or how much they read. The book community is the most amazing community on the internet - just keep being awesome!"

If none of this makes sense to you still, then I implore you to check out this link:

Look, I'm not here to start a war or cause waves within the community.  I just want those of you who don't get it to try and understand why making blanket statements can be hurtful and where us fast readers are coming from.  If you still don't get it, then that's fine too.

There's never going to be a full answer or a full understanding as people are just who they are.  While I still get rattled when I see remarks, stories, postings about this subject and it still irks me to the umpteenth degree, the fact is - I'm not here to please you or anyone else.  This is my forum to say and do what I want.  If you choose not to believe what I am posting then please feel free to unfollow. 

I truly hate to see a community divided over something that is really just so silly.  Maybe there ARE people out there lying about what and how much their reading... but I choose to think that as a proper bibliophile and true reader, that this doesn't happen.  That we are building a community where we all feel welcome regardless of our reading speed, the types of books we read or the lives we choose to lead. 

Thanks for reading. I feel better now and will refrain from engaging with people in the future who (as allowed) still want to assume things.