Saturday, July 31, 2021

The Dating Dare by Jayci Lee

 Release Date - August 3, 2021


After being horribly mistreated by a college boyfriend, Tara Park has lived by one rule. Quick flings are okay. Falling in love is off the table. She's busy running the family-owned brewery. When her best friend's new brother-in-law hits on Tara during the wedding, she isn't sure what to make of it. But Seth is about to move to Paris, so he could be a bit of fun for the next few weeks.

Seth Kim enjoys his playboy image, even if it isn't exactly accurate. He's been burned before and is happy doing what he does. He can't help but notice Tara during the wedding. He knows he's soon leaving, so his dare seems perfect for a quick bit of fun. She has to let him take her on four dates of his choosing with obligations beyond having fun together for a few weeks.

Neither of them expected that their feelings will start to turn towards something else. With Seth soon leaving, he's not sure he's ready for his new relationship to come to an end. Meanwhile, Tara is terrified of falling for a man and would rather walk away in pain than give a real relationship a fighting chance.

The Dating Dare is the second novel in The Sweet Mess series. I am pretty sure there are more on the way given some teasers that popped up in the novel. Even though time had passed since I read the first book, I found it very easy to settle back in and pick up where things left off.

This book is packed full of romantic moments with touches of humor. I loved watching them turn the corner and start to realize that their similar attitudes of "no love allowed" may be safe but not very much fun. Now that it's over, I just hope that Tara's brothers get their own stories. I'm eagerly waiting.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix

 Release Date - July 13, 2021

The Final Girl Support Group is classified as "Horror Suspense." I'm not sure I agreed with that. The main characters are all victims who have survived brutal attacks. These five women meet up in a support group that's designed to help them get on with their lives. These "Final Girls" all have their strengths and weaknesses, and they do what they can to get on with the day.

Then one day, one of the women misses a meeting. That throws the group off kilter. When it appears someone knows about them and plans to eradicate them one by one, the women are prepared to fight like they've never had to fight before.

The Final Girl Support Group pays homage to horror movies of the past. I found myself reminiscing about some of my favorite horror movies from the '80s. From Freddy to Jason to Michael, I've cheered on some horror movie villains over the years. This brought me back to those movies and experiences.

That said, I never felt this was a horror novel. Suspense sure, but I never felt it fit with horror and I never felt compelled to keep reading. At times the story lagged and I struggled to keep reading. I know others have loved it, but for me, it wasn't as compelling as it sounded.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Kill All Your Darlings by David Bell

Release Date - July 6, 2021

College professor Connor Nye finally has published his novel. The problem is he didn't create the original idea. It was a student's thesis, but she vanished two years ago. Connor made a few changes and released it as his own work. There's one sudden problem. The student who vanished is now back and determined that he owes her. She demands money that he's already spent. If he doesn't pay up, she'll expose him.

Things go from bad to worse when one of the detectives reads his novel and realizes he knows detail about a murder that took place years ago. He becomes the prime suspect, and the only way he can clear his name is by researching the facts from his book and using information that to figure out the killer's true identity.

Kill All Your Darlings is a gripping novel. I had the real killer figured out early, though. I didn't find it as difficult as others seemed to make it out to be. Was that a bad thing? No. It actually made it a lot of fun as I was eager to see when Connor would realize what I was pretty sure I already knew.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Falling by T.J. Newman

 Release Date - July 6, 2021

As the pilot of a plane with 143 souls on board, you're given the impossible choice. Crash the plane or kill your family. Those are the choices Captain Bill Hoffman is given. He can either save his passengers and kill his wife and children or kill the plane full of people and save his family. He tells the terrorists he refuses to do either. Can he figure out how to save everyone in time?

This book had me on the edge of my seat. It's sad and a little too close to reality at times. I'd say I loved it, but the ending lost me a little. It became a little too "All-American," but I don't want to give any spoilers. 

Despite this, there were two things that made the book stand out. One was that you got to see the situation through the terrorist's viewpoint. I also loved that the details from the flight attendant's point of view were detailed and drew you in. 

Right now, I've been saying that Hollywood seems to be in a slump and keeps rehashing movies and TV shows from my childhood. I'd love to see Falling get picked up. As I read it, I was already imagining some people in the leading roles. This does have the makings of a gripping movie if cast and scripted well. Hopefully, it will be.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

The Boy Who Lived in the Ceiling: An Arnhurst Novel by Cara Thurlbourn

 Release Date - July 8, 2021

Freddie never dreamed his mother would die when he was only a young boy or that his father and step-mother turn their backs on him and leave him in the street to fend for himself. Now homeless, Freddie does what he can to keep himself fed, sheltered, and clothed. 

While walking down the street, he spies on a family leaving on a trip. The teen daughter catches his attention, and in the rush to get to the car, she leaves her journal stuck in the door. Freddie retrieves it and realizes the door is unlocked. He knows he shouldn't, but he uses their home for the three weeks that's marked on their calendar. 

Violet is having troubles of her own. A three-week ski vacation isn't her dream trip. She'd rather have spent her school break with her friends. Her parents fight all of the time. Her brother stopped speaking, and no one is able to get him to speak again. Plus, she's being forced to move to a public school, which has her friends leaving her behind.

When Violet's family returns home unexpectedly, Freddie is trapped. He hides in their attic hoping no one will hear him, yet something else happens that brings him into Violet's radar. The impact of this has a profound change on both of them.

From the start, you know that what Freddie did is wrong, yet it's impossible to blame his impromptu decision to temporarily move in. He's harboring a secret that led to his being kicked out of his dad's home. That broke my heart. I get his dad's heartbreak, but at no point does that mean you turn your back on your child. The stepmother, well, she's just the stereotypical "you're not my child so I don't care" classic stepmother.

My heart broke for Freddie, and often for Violet, too, who is dealing with many of the things that make your teen years hard to navigate. Bullying, handsy teen boys, vicious teen girls, and parents who don't seem to get what you're going through. I loved when these two found each other and started to see life from another point of view.

This is the first of two books coming out in 2021 from Cara Thurlbourn. The other, The Girl Who Wasn't, is due out in September.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

The Sweetest Day by John Hough, Jr.

 Release Date - June 22, 2021

In The Sweetest Days, high school sweethearts Pete and Jackie have been through ups and downs. They found each other after college and have had a long marriage and raised a daughter together. She's an adult now working for a law firm in another city. As empty-nesters, they get hit with the biggest blow ever. Jackie has breast cancer and must undergo surgery.

First, Pete's debut novel is coming out, so they return to their hometown for a book signing. Returning to the town they left years ago, Jackie faces coming to terms with their past, her cancer, and her dad's Alzheimer's. Everything takes a bigger turn when a person from Pete's past appears and the book signing and leaves Jackie with more questions than ever before, and the demand that it's time for Pete to tell the truth about the period when they broke up.

I wish I could have loved their characters, but I didn't, and that made it difficult to enjoy this novel. Sometimes, I think there may be some autobiographical notes as the author, like Pete, comes from a family of journalists and lives in Cape Cod. His knowledge of Cape Cod shines in this novel, but the characters left me disappointed.

The story takes place in present-day and in the 1960s. Pete's agnostic, and Jackie's growing up in a religious household, which makes their relationship shakey to start, as her parents don't necessarily approve of Pete. Pete's dad is a bit of a drinker and creates waves within the community with his strong political and social views. Something happens in the past that completely changes Pete's life, distancing him from Jackie in the process.

Fast forward to the present time. They're both in their late-50s and dealing with Jackie's cancer diagnosis. Jackie is withdrawn, and Pete feels helpless. There's also a modern battle with Jackie not fully supporting her daughter's life choices, and Pete's full support. It's clear from the start that the daughter bonds more with dad than mom, and that adds to the tension between them.

Given all of that, this novel seems to be more of a look at the crumbling marriage between them, and whether they'll be able to bounce back from all of the difficulties they're having. It's really a sad look at a marriage that maybe never should have happened in the first place. 

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Shutter by Melissa Larsen

 Release Date - June 15, 2021


You know the books you pick up, start reading, and think to yourself "okay, so when is the suspense going to kick in..." Eventually, one of two things happens. You either get blown away or you keep reading hoping for that moment and it never arrives.

For me, Shutter was one of those books where I kept reading thinking something amazing was going to shatter my perception of the characters. That never happened, and I feel that I lost a few hours that I'll never get back.

Following her father's death, Betty Roux isn't sure what to do. It's over with her boyfriend. Her already fragile relationship with her mother is reaching a breaking point. With so much weighing on her shoulders, Betty leaves for New York City to stay with a friend until she figures things out. There, her friend and her friend's boyfriend introduced her to a brilliant filmmaker. Betty doesn't tell him she watched his indie film and loved it. She wants to act aloof, but that gets harder when he invites her to be one of the stars in his next project.

As plans start kicking into high gear, Betty is slightly unnerved by the limited information Anthony shares with her. All she knows is there is no script and they're filming on a remote island in Maine. Her mother isn't comfortable with her going off to this island with several strangers, but Betty cannot say no.

Once in Maine, Betty learns that her name will become Lola. She has to bleach her hair and take on a whole new persona. She's determined to nail this role, but the situation keeps getting weirder by the moment. When she meets the odd caretaker on the island, she starts to realize there are things Anthony isn't telling her. Suddenly, she has no idea who to trust.

I think the marketing of the book left me a little confused. I'd seen this book described as supernatural, horror, and thriller, and none of those fit. I never liked Betty's character. I certainly didn't appreciate her friends. It made it hard to form a bond with any of the characters. Sammy, the caretaker, is probably the one I like the most, and even then, it was a meager interest. I couldn't stand Anthony, and it left me wondering what Betty saw in him.

You Can Go Your Own Way by Eric Smith

 Release Date - October 25, 2022 After his dad's death, Adam Stillwater and his mom do everything in their power to keep the family...