2019 Book #15 – Just Friends: Friends to Lovers series box set by Camilla Isley

5160JaNqjuLI’ve read a few books by Camilla in the past and really enjoyed them, so I was excited when she gave me the opportunity to read this boxed set of her Friends to Lovers Series. I decided to read the whole thing in one full sweep so I wouldn’t lose track of which character was which. I decided to rate the series as a whole but I also discussed each of the separate books below. I’d probably recommend reading them as a series since they’re fairly connected (mostly the last 3 in the set) and might end up being confusing when read as a stand alone, though I’m sure you’d still enjoy it.

Series Title: Just Friends: A Friends to Lovers Series
Author: Camilla Isley
Date finished: 2/25/19
Genre: Contemporary romance, romantic comedy
Publisher: Pink Bloom Press
Publication Date: June 28, 2018
Pages in book: 694
Stand alone or series: Full Just Friends series
Where I got the book from: Author/publisher NOTE: I received this book for free from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Love and friendship mix in the Just Friends series… the books follow the misadventures and exploits of a group of college students in Boston.

For Rose being in love with her best friend has never been easy, but now that she’s moved in with Tyler her feelings have become impossible to ignore.

Tyler has bitten more than he can chew, torn between two girls he must decide where his heart stands.

Georgiana is determined to do everything in her power to keep Tyler and Rose apart. After all, all is fair in love and war.

Alice fell in love with Jack the day she moved into her freshman dorm. Problem is, she’s been stuck in the friend zone ever since. After another meaningless breakup, she’s ready to confess her feelings to Jack.

Jack has mistaken friendship for love once before and has vowed never to do it again. A varsity sports player, he’s determined to enjoy college with no strings attached.

Peter is Jack’s best wingman. He enjoys his popularity as team captain and when he meets Alice, he’s ready to steal her heart.

David and Scott Williams are in love with the same girl, again.

Haley has never been happier than in her relationship with Scott. But she can no longer deny bad-boy David has gotten under her skin.

Madison has always been insecure in love. The only satisfying romances in her life come from the many books she reads. Book-boyfriends are easy to fall for, but the real world seems short of swoon-worthy heroes. And just when she thought she might’ve found one, he fell in love with her best friend…

My rating: 3.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of these books in exchange for an honest and fair review. I read this book as part of the Bookish Romance Novel Bookish Bingo Reading Challenge. This book will be checking off my “Indie Publisher” box, since it was published by a smaller publishing company!

I enjoyed this series, though there were some of the books that I liked more than others. I think my favorite story of the couples was Jack and Alice’s. Madison’s story was a little too quick for me, and Haley’s was a little too sad. And honestly Georgianna and Tyler’s story was just heart-breaking for me and made me so angry. Georgianna was a horrible person and I really hoped that she would get more of a “lesson learned” than what she did. Rose’s story was definitely not what I expected it to be! I kept expecting it to take a hard left and turn around and it never happened. And then I got to the end and was just surprised that was where it ended! There were a lot of characters in this story and many of them were interesting, though I was a little put off by the obsession with “boys” in the story lines. I can certainly understand it but I think being so far removed from that period of my life has made me forget what it feels like to be “boy-crazy.” It reminded me a lot of my youth though, and I didn’t want to put it down. The story line was interesting and I felt involved enough with the characters that I felt engaged in their stories. I’d recommend the series! Thought maybe space it out a little, I think if I had even a tiny bit of room between the books I would’ve been more patient with some of the characters.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

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2019 Book #11 & #12 – Romantic Re-reads!

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As part of my Bookish Bingo reading challenge for February – I decided to go back and re-read a couple of my all time favorites. 

51MIUFVflXL._SX294_BO1,204,203,200_My Nerdy Valentine by Vicki Lewis Thompson

Finished 2/12/19, 3.0 stars out of 5 stars, Romance Novel Bingo “Geeky Lead” box

This book was published back in 2007 and I’ve had it in my library since about then. VLT has been one of my favorite authors since I discovered her back when I was in high school. She wrote a number of books in her “Nerd Series” and while this one wasn’t one of my favorites, it was a good re-read for Valentine’s Day. I struggled a lot in high school with being a “nerd” and this book was one of the first to really help me understand that there is someone out there for everyone, whether you’re cool or a nerd. This is definitely a steamy series, though this read in particular is probably one of the more “tame” of the set. With an underlying mystery, it was a great read to get into the Valentine’s spirit. My main issue with the book is that I honestly just can’t stand Gloria (Amanda’s boss), she is WAY too aggressive for me. Overall though this is a cute read, I’d recommend it – though there are others in the series that I’d recommend first I think!

51pbplI+NrL._SX314_BO1,204,203,200_Now You See Her by Linda Howard

Finished 2/16/19, 4.75 stars out of 5 stars, Romance Novel Bingo “Your Fave Romance Author” box

Linda Howard is one of, if not my top, favorite author. I can re-read her books time and again and continually get the same thrill from reading them. This book has always been one of my all-time favorites of hers, and I’m super glad I got a chance to re-read it for Valentine’s Day this year. This was one of the first books I read by LH and probably one of my first forays into romantic suspense. And even though this book was written 20 years ago, it is still as great today as it was then. Some books that I read from the 90’s or before can be outdated, with heavy handed alpha characters and wilting heroines. This book definitely has an alpha hero – Richard is just about as alpha as they get – but he also respects and listens to his heroine. I think I probably read this book in high school too, and it created a love of alpha heroes for me, but more than that it instilled the idea in me that alphas don’t necessarily have to overpower their heroines but instead can work as a team. This is a great read and I’d highly recommend it!

2019 Book #9 – The Beast’s Heart by Leife Shallcross

51rYxamUQJLTitle: The Beast’s Heart
Author: Leife Shallcross
Date finished: 2/7/19
Genre: Romance, fairy-tale retelling, fantasy
Publisher: Ace
Publication Date: February 12, 2019
Pages in book: 414
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

I am neither monster nor man—yet I am both.

I am the Beast.

He is a broken, wild thing, his heart’s nature exposed by his beastly form. Long ago cursed with a wretched existence, the Beast prowls the dusty hallways of his ruined château with only magical, unseen servants to keep him company—until a weary traveler disturbs his isolation.

Bewitched by the man’s dreams of his beautiful daughter, the Beast devises a plan to lure her to the château. There, Isabeau courageously exchanges her father’s life for her own and agrees to remain with the Beast for a year. But even as their time together weaves its own spell, the Beast finds winning Isabeau’s love is only the first impossible step in breaking free from the curse . . .

My rating:  2.25 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. I read this book as part of the Bookish Romance Novel Bookish Bingo Reading Challenge. This book will be checking off my “Retelling” box, since its a retelling of the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale!

So I just love Beauty and the Beast, I have since I was a kid. Who wouldn’t love a story about a smart, book-reading, law-abiding woman who gets kidnapped/rescued by a prince with a kick ass library! So I was intrigued by this novel as I’ve never thought about fully delving into the Beast’s point of view through this whole debacle. And I’m glad that I read this – there were definitely some interesting points to the novel and some creative differences from the original story line that I enjoyed. I didn’t end up loving this however, for a few reasons. I found the Beast’s “voice” to be, well, whiny. And pretty feminine-sounding for the character he was trying to portray. He just kept going on and on, the book ended up feeling so repetitive. And this book seemed (for me) to bring into stark light how unhealthy the Beauty and the Beast story line is. I’ve always loved the movie(s) but this scary dude kidnaps this young girl and its basically a romanticized case of Stockholm syndrome. While I will continue to like the story, the book itself and these particular versions of Beauty and the Beast didn’t really come to live for me. Also, as interesting as it sounded hearing the story from Beast’s point of view, I ended up finding it frustrating that I didn’t know what Isabeau / “Belle” was thinking at any of the times throughout the book. Overall I’m still glad I read the book since it did have some very creative aspects that were added to the traditional story line but overall it wasn’t my favorite read.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2019 Book #7 – Forget You Know Me by Jessica Strawser

51xmnzcmral._sx328_bo1,204,203,200_Title: Forget You Know Me
Author: Jessica Strawser
Date finished: 1/27/19
Genre: Thriller/suspense
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: February 5, 2019
Pages in book: 332
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

The secrets it exposes threaten to change their lives forever.

Molly and Liza have always been enviably close. Even after Molly married Daniel, the couple considered Liza an honorary family member. But after Liza moved away, things grew more strained than anyone wanted to admit―in the friendship and the marriage.

When Daniel goes away on business, Molly and Liza plan to reconnect with a nice long video chat after the kids are in bed. But then Molly leaves the room to check on a crying child.

What Liza sees next will change everything.

Only one thing is certain: Molly needs her. Liza drives all night to be at Molly’s side―but when she arrives, the reception is icy, leaving Liza baffled and hurt. She knows there’s no denying what she saw.

Or is there?

In disbelief that their friendship could really be over, Liza is unaware she’s about to have a near miss of her own.

And Molly, refusing to deal with what’s happened, won’t turn to Daniel, either.

But none of them can go on pretending. Not after this.

Forget You Know Me is a “twisty, emotionally complex, powder keg of a tale” (bestselling author Emily Carpenter) about the wounds of people who’ve grown apart. Best friends, separated by miles. Spouses, hardened by neglect. A mother, isolated by pain.

One moment will change things for them all.

My rating:  3.25 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I had read a couple of this author’s previous novels (Not That I Could Tell and Almost Missed You) in the last couple years and really enjoyed them. This novel I still did enjoy but just not quite as much as the previous two I’ve read. This one was just so sad to me, that a marriage could fail that intensely. In both marriages and friendships it is easy for two people to grow apart. Molly’s character seemed so hopeless to me though – I almost wanted Molly to end up with Rick in the end just to have some semblance of happiness. The story was still very interesting and made me think about the characters and their motivations. The plot stayed with me even when I was done reading it. There was a lot of complex relationships and situations going on within the plot. I really liked the final plot twist too – I didn’t see it coming at all! This was a good read and I’d recommend it.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2019 Book #4 – An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

419p4e1xfql._sx327_bo1,204,203,200_Title: An Anonymous Girl
Author: Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen
Date finished: 1/16/19
Genre: Thriller/suspense
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: January 8, 2019
Pages in book: 372
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Seeking women ages 18–32 to participate in a study on ethics and morality. Generous compensation. Anonymity guaranteed.

When Jessica Farris signs up for a psychology study conducted by the mysterious Dr. Shields, she thinks all she’ll have to do is answer a few questions, collect her money, and leave.

Question #1: Could you tell a lie without feeling guilt?

But as the questions grow more and more intense and invasive and the sessions become outings where Jess is told what to wear and how to act, she begins to feel as though Dr. Shields may know what she’s thinking…and what she’s hiding.

Question #2: Have you ever deeply hurt someone you care about?

As Jess’s paranoia grows, it becomes clear that she can no longer trust what in her life is real, and what is one of Dr. Shields’ manipulative experiments. Caught in a web of deceit and jealousy, Jess quickly learns that some obsessions can be deadly.

Question #3: Should a punishment always fit the crime?

From the authors of the blockbuster bestseller The Wife Between Us comes an electrifying new novel about doubt, passion, and just how much you can trust someone.

My rating:  4.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I had read The Wife Between Us by these authors last year and enjoyed it so much – I was exciting to see they had a new book coming out. Similar to that book, this book makes the reader question what is the “truth,” and additionally in this book we begin to question our own ethics and morality. This was a SUPER creepy book, I was on the edge of my seat the whole book waiting to find out what was going to happen and I couldn’t stop myself from looking over my shoulder. The author did such a great job of infusing paranoia and fear into Jessica’s narrative. I loved the two points of view too, and how they were written – with all of Dr. Shields’ entries reading as if she was telling Jessica a story. It was an interesting dynamic and created an obvious difference between their two points of view. The reasoning wasn’t revealed until later in the story but it ended up making complete sense. There were some good plot twists in this story, but while they were exciting, they may have also been a tad predictable. The premise behind this book reminded me a little of another book I had read last year, Believe Me, as the main character in that book is hired to entrap husbands in compromising situations, and the reader is led to question what the truth is and who is the more reliable narrator – similar to this novel. Overall I really enjoyed this read and I thought it brought up some really interesting questions on morality, plus it was sufficiently suspenseful. I can see why this one is a hot topic in the book world right now – I would definitely recommend!

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2019 Book # 2 – The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden

51qqjkvcdqlTitle: The Winter of the Witch
Author: Katherine Arden
Date finished: 1/10/19
Genre: Fiction, fantasy, magical realism, fairy tale
Publisher: Del Rey
Publication Date: January 8, 2019
Pages in book: 384
Stand alone or series: #3 in the Winternight Trilogy
Where I got the book from: Publisher NOTE: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Following their adventures in The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower, Vasya and Morozko return in this stunning conclusion to the bestselling Winternight Trilogy, battling enemies mortal and magical to save both Russias, the seen and the unseen.

“A tale both intimate and epic, featuring a heroine whose harrowing and wondrous journey culminates in an emotionally resonant finale.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Reviewers called Katherine Arden’s novels The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower “lyrical,” “emotionally stirring,” and “utterly bewitching.” The Winternight Trilogy introduced an unforgettable heroine, Vasilisa Petrovna, a girl determined to forge her own path in a world that would rather lock her away. Her gifts and her courage have drawn the attention of Morozko, the winter-king, but it is too soon to know if this connection will prove a blessing or a curse.

Now Moscow has been struck by disaster. Its people are searching for answers—and for someone to blame. Vasya finds herself alone, beset on all sides. The Grand Prince is in a rage, choosing allies that will lead him on a path to war and ruin. A wicked demon returns, stronger than ever and determined to spread chaos. Caught at the center of the conflict is Vasya, who finds the fate of two worlds resting on her shoulders. Her destiny uncertain, Vasya will uncover surprising truths about herself and her history as she desperately tries to save Russia, Morozko, and the magical world she treasures. But she may not be able to save them all.

My rating: 5.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I have read the first two books in this series and loved them. For me, this series has been so interesting, different and refreshing, and I have thoroughly enjoyed each book. Also, I don’t know who designed the covers for this trilogy, but they have been GORGEOUS. They really draw the reader to the book and represent each book’s story so well.  I found this book a bit easier to jump back into than the last, though it does still take a good amount of additional concentration compared to some of the other novels I’ve read recently. There are just so many characters to keep track of and they’re all called multiple names/nicknames throughout the book. It can be daunting to keep track of at times, but it’s definitely do-able. This book could possibly be classified as “wordy” – to be honest if it were any other book I would probably say it is – but with this book I found each word to be so necessary to the magic of the story, and I found myself going back over the pages because I didn’t want to miss a single word. The author uses intense descriptions to draw the reader into the story and trap them in this Russian world of magic and wonder. And the narratives surrounding the fight scenes were so good that I felt like I was there, watching the sweat drip from the warriors’ faces.

This book really made the reader question the idea of right vs wrong and good vs evil. I love when books make us reevaluate our ideas of morality, and I thought this was a very interesting sub-layer to the story. One of my favorite quotes in the book was “monsters were for children,” as Vasya learns that the truth is more complicated than simply being able to pick a side and call it the “right” side or the “good” side. All of us have the potential for goodness inside of us and all of us have the ability to make a difference in the world, even in unorthodox ways. I just loved delving into this concept within the story line amidst all of the action and magic that the book brought to life for me. I highly recommend reading this series and I can’t wait to see what this author comes up with next!

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2018 Book #100! – A Simple Favor by Darcy Bell

Title: A Simple Favor
Author: Darcey Bell
Date finished: 12/30/18
Genre: Suspense, thriller
Publisher: Harper Paperbacks – movie tie-in edition
Publication Date: August 28, 2018 (originally published March 21, 2017)
Pages in book: 298
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: Purchased! from Amazon

Blurb from the cover:

It starts with a simple favor—an ordinary kindness mothers do for one another. When glamorous Emily asks Stephanie to pick up her son after school, Stephanie happily says yes. Emily has a life that would make any woman jealous. She is the perfect mother with a dazzling career working for a famous fashion designer in Manhattan. Stephanie, a widow with a son in kindergarten, lonely in their Connecticut suburb, turns to her daily blog for connection and validation. Stephanie imagines Emily to be her new confidante and is shocked when Emily suddenly disappears without a trace, leaving her son and husband with no warning.

Stephanie knows something is terribly wrong. Unable to keep away from the grieving family, she soon finds herself entangled with Sean, Emily’s handsome, reticent British husband. But she can’t ignore the nagging feeling that he’s not being honest with her about Emily’s disappearance. Is Stephanie imagining things? How well did she really know her “best” friend? 

Stephanie begins to see that nothing—not friendship, love, or even an ordinary favor—is as simple as it seems.

A Simple Favor exposes the dark underbelly of female friendship in this taut, unsettling, and completely absorbing story that holds you in its grip until the final page.

My rating:  4.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review:

For those of you that haven’t seen it, this book was made into a movie in 2018. The movie features Blake Lively as Emily and Anna Kendrick as Stephanie. I’ve seen a lot of trailers for this movie and I have been so jazzed to see it! I wanted to read the book before seeing the movie though, and since we’re watching the movie tonight I had to get it read! I liked the story a lot, I’m excited to see the movie and see how it compares to the book. The plot line of the book was very interesting, it reminded me a lot of the Gone Girl novel because of the mid-book revelation. I thought the ending for this book was kind of anti-climactic though, there was a lot of tension leading up to the end and then the ending kind of fell a little flat for me. Overall though I really enjoyed the novel and I would recommend it! Looking forward to seeing the movie tonight and seeing how it measures up!

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page