Thursday, September 29, 2022

Yours Truly by Abby Jimenez


Title: Yours Truly
Author: Abby Jimenez
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: April 11, 2023

A novel of terrible first impressions, hilarious second chances, and the joy in finding your perfect match from "a true talent" (Emily Henry, #1 New York Times bestselling author).

Dr. Briana Ortiz’s life is seriously flatlining. Her divorce is just about finalized, her brother’s running out of time to find a kidney donor, and that promotion she wants? Oh, that’s probably going to the new man-doctor who’s already registering eighty-friggin’-seven on Briana’s “pain in my ass” scale. But just when all systems are set to hate, Dr. Jacob Maddox completely flips the game . . . by sending Briana a letter.

And it’s a really good letter. Like the kind that proves that Jacob isn’t actually Satan. Worse, he might be this fantastically funny and subversively likable guy who’s terrible at first impressions. Because suddenly he and Bri are exchanging letters, sharing lunch dates in her “sob closet,” and discussing the merits of freakishly tiny horses. But when Jacob decides to give Briana the best gift imaginable—a kidney for her brother—she wonders just how she can resist this quietly sexy new doctor . . . especially when he calls in a favor she can’t refuse.

“Abby Jimenez’s words…sprinkle humor and warmth all over my life.” –Ali Hazelwood, New York Times bestselling author of The Love Hypothesis

Totally a 5!

Love shows up and that is it!!

Ok, maybe you want to know more about Yours Truly. If you do read below.

We met our heroine in the last book. Her name is Briana Ortiz and she is an ER physician. She is soon to be divorced and hoping to get a promotion if her boss ever retires. She was married for ten years when she discovered her ex was cheating on her good friend. And if that was not enough to deal with, her younger brother has end-stage renal disease. He is on dialysis and waiting on a match for a transplant has been hard.

Our hero, Dr. Jacob Maddox is also an ER physician. He recently transferred to the same hospital where Briana works. He also comes from a broken relationship. His brother is now engaged to his ex-girlfriend, Amy. Jacob was with her for two and a half years. Jacob also suffers from terrible social anxiety.  He prefers the quiet of his home and his dog, lieutenant Dan, to a night at the bar.

Talk about both being a mess, right?

Yours Truly works! I adore both characters. I thought Abby Jimenez fleshed them out perfectly. The social anxiety Jacob experienced felt real to me. I also understood Briana's fears after what she went through. There were so many details I loved: The letters, the getting-to-know questions, LT Dan, and both main characters' families. Jacob was one of the good guys and Briana needed to finally find someone who deserved her.

Thank you Abby Jimenez for distracting me from Hurricane Ian while it was causing havoc in my backyard. I knew I needed something like this to get me through this storm without power. 

Cliffhanger: No

5/5 Fangs

A complimentary copy was provided by Forever via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Long Gone by Joanna Schaffhausen
Detective Annalisa Vega #2


Title: Long Gone
Series: Detective Annalisa Vega #2
Author: Joanna Schaffhausen
Publisher: St. Martin's Press, Minotaur Books
Release Date: 23 Aug 2022

Long Gone, the next installment of Joanna Schaffhausen's critically acclaimed Detective Annalisa Vega series.

Chicago detective Annalisa Vega shattered her life, personally and professionally, when she turned in her ex-cop father for his role in a murder. Her family can’t forgive her. Her fellow officers no longer trust her. So when detective Leo Hammond turns up dead in a bizarre murder, Annalisa thinks she has nothing to lose by investigating whatever secrets he hid behind the thin blue line.

Annalisa quickly zeroes in on someone who had good reason to want Hammond dead: a wealthy, fast-talking car salesman who’d gotten away with murder once and wasn’t about to let Hammond take a second shot. Moe Bocks remains the number one suspect in his girlfriend’s brutal unsolved death, and now he’s got a new woman in his sights—Annalisa’s best friend.

Annalisa is desperate to protect her friend and force Bocks to pay, either for Hammond’s death or his earlier crime. But when no one else believes the connection, she takes increasingly risky chances to reveal the truth. Because both Hammond and Bocks had secrets to die for, and if she doesn’t untangle them soon, Annalisa will be next.

The second book in the series.

Annalisa Vega and her partner (and ex-husband) Nick Carrelli are called in to investigate the murder of a fellow cop, Leo Hammond.

Leo and 3 other policemen, Tom Osborne, Frankie Vaughn, and Paul Monk were part of the Fantastic Four and together they had a reputation for solving crimes and busting drug dealers. However, Annalisa knows something is not adding up. Did the wife do it or someone he busted years ago? Was Leo dirty? And how about the wife claiming someone wearing a diving suit did it?

The more Annalisa investigates, the closer she puts her life in danger. Someone doesn't want her to find the truth. At the same time, she is trying to close a cold case with the suspect being too close for comfort.

Usually, reading the second book in a series after a year has passed, the tendency is to make the characters forgettable. I can tell you this was not the case with Long Gone. I knew who Annalisa and Nick were after just a few sentences without reading the blurb.

Annalisa is still too impulsive and still pinning for her first crush way more than she should. Give it up already, he is not worth it. In case you didn't realize it I'm team, Nick. He is there, supportive, wants a family, and color me surprised, I've forgiven him :)

Despite Annalisa's issues, what I like about Vega is that she won't rest until she finds the truth. You know she will. She is like my English Springer Spaniel once he knows the opossum is hiding in our tree.

I wonder what the next Gone book will bring to this detective.

Cliffhanger: No

4/5 Fangs

A complimentary copy was provided by St. Martin's Press, Minotaur Books, SMPInfluencers via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The New House by Tess Stimson


Title: The New House
Author: Tess Stimson
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Release Date: August 9, 2022

A totally addictive and absolutely gripping psychological thriller you won’t be able to put down…
Three couples.

About to purchase their dream home.

How far would you go to get the perfect life?

Perfect for fans of Louise Candlish and Shari Lapena, this domestic, psychological suspense novel will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Three couples connect through real estate.

The first couple is Stacey and Felix. They have a son. Stacey works as a news anchor while Felix is in business.

The second couple is Millie and her husband Tom. They have two children, Peter and Medussa. Millie is a cardiothoracic surgeon who is magnificent at her job. She wants to buy the Glass House which is owned by Stacey and Felix. 

And the third couple is Harper and Kyle. Harper is a vlogger who is becoming quite famous. She wants to buy the house Millie and Tom will be selling. 

Then, the plans all go south. 

This book is about a psychopath. You just have to figure out which of the characters is the one. 

The New House was quite entertaining. Millie and Tom were my favorites. I like their relationship and all their secrets. The twists were good and even though the ending was a little nutso, I was in for the crazy!

Cliffhanger: No

4/5 Fangs

A complimentary copy was provided by Minotaur Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Run Time by Catherine Ryan Howard

Title: Run Time
Author: Catherine Ryan Howard
Publisher: Blackstone Publishing 
Release Date: August 09 2022

Movie-making can be murder.

The project
Final Draft, a psychological horror. Promising Young Thing Steve Dade will direct.

The tagline
'Based on a terrifying true story. That hasn't happened - yet.'

The location
A cottage deep in a forest, miles from anywhere in the wintry wilds of West Cork.

The lead
Former soap-star Adele Rafferty has stepped in to replace the original actress at the very last minute. She can't help but hope that this will be her big break.

The problem
Something isn't quite right on the set of Final Draft.
Adele is about to discover that the real horror lies off the page...

A book about a film featuring a book. 

Did I like it? Yes. Did I love it? No. That's why it gets a 3-star review from me. 

Adele Rafferty is ready to quit her career as an actress. She used to be in a popular soap opera in Ireland after being "discovered" as a teenager. She left the soap opera in order to star in new projects. However, during her first new one,  an "incident" happened on set that made her leave Ireland.

At present, Adele is working in a motel and auditioning for commercials when she gets a call with a movie offer. The caveat is that it will begin filming in the next couple of days in Ireland. It's a hush-hush horror movie and she will need to take the job asap if she wants to get it. Without any other choices, Adele signs the NDA. As soon as she arrives at the remote location, weird things start happening. She begins wondering if she is losing her mind or if someone wants her to believe she is.

Run Time was predictable and yet I was never bored. I do wish the ending would have been a little different. 

Even though this one is not my favorite by Catherine Ryan Howard, I would definitely read her next. 

Cliffhanger: No

3/5 Fangs

A complimentary copy was provided by Blackstone Publishing via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Uncharted Waters by Sally Hepworth

Title: Uncharted Waters
Series: Getaway#1
Author: Sally Hepworth
Publisher: Amazon Original Stories
Release Date: August 31, 2022

“Speak your truth.” An icebreaker leads to unintended consequences for two strangers aboard a luxury yacht in this seductively twisty short story by the New York Times bestselling author of The Good Sister.

When Ella boards a sumptuous charter off the coast of Australia, she feels…dread. Her husband, Mac, the social butterfly who makes these wellness retreats so much easier to navigate, is stuck at work, leaving her exposed to the other passengers. Luckily, she forms an instant bond with the charismatic Chloe, a newly single woman salving a broken heart. But as the friendship grows, Ella discovers they share more than the need for an escape, and their devastating connection has the power to forever alter their lives.

Uncharted Waters by Sally Hepworth is part of Getaway, a collection of six stories about dream escapes that take unimaginable, even sinister, turns. Each piece can be read or listened to in a single sitting.

Taking a trip on a luxury yacht should be fun, right?

Not so much for Ella who is mostly a shy person. Her husband Mac, a dermatologist, is usually the one who makes friends with everyone. Mac couldn't make it so Ella is alone on this trip. Although, she does meet a young woman named Chloe. Chloe has a magnetic personality but is she hiding something from Ella?

This was a short story that is part of six-short stories in the Getaway series written by different authors. Uncharted Waters is a good bridge while we wait for Sally Hepworth's next book.

The audio narrator, Candice Moll, did a great job navigating through these characters' time on the boat.

Cliffhanger: No

4/5 Fangs

Amen Maxine by Faith Gardner

Title: Amen Maxine
Author: Faith Gardner
Publisher: Mirror House Press
Release Date: July 23, 2022

A new marriage.
A perfect home.
A machine that says it’s all a lie.

Welcome to Silicon Valley, where the weather is perfect, the income is high … and Rowena Snyder is miserable. A transplant from New York, Rowena moved into her husband Jacob’s idyllic childhood home with their new baby. But suburbia isn’t Rowena’s cup of Starbucks. And she’s got serious anxiety and depression to boot.

Jacob, worried about their marriage, scores a new product currently in beta testing from his tech job: Maxine, a “digital friend” that bonds with an individual by continually gathering their personal data. Along with functioning like an upscale digital assistant, Maxine has “advice” and “prediction” modes that have shown promise for patients with mental health issues. To Rowena’s shock, the device turns out to be not just helpful, but eerily accurate, predicting events before they occur.

It’s a godsend until Maxine offers a series of increasingly bone-chilling predictions that will change Rowena’s life forever.

This domestic suspense novel set in a near-future dystopia asks, who do you trust more—your mind, your man, or your machine?

A domestic suspense with an AI twist.

Rowena Snyder is unhappy, anxious, and depressed. She met her husband Jacob online during the pandemic and when they finally connected in person, she thought they had chemistry. After she discovers she is pregnant with her daughter Michelle, they married and Jacob convinces her to leave her job as an editor in NYC and move to California with him to live at his childhood home. 

Michelle is now 6 months old and Rowena has noticed that her husband is not attentive anymore. Anytime she is in crisis, his answer to her is to take another lorazepam. Rowena knows she is spiraling but is this because her husband is gaslighting her or is she truly losing her mind?

Jacob decides that Rowena needs help. He brings home an AI assistant named Maxine who can help her get organized and keep things straight for her. She can be her "friend". Maxine is still in beta testing mode and there was a problem before with an AI used by people with anxiety. 

Can this machine make her anxiety worse or will it help her using her "advice" and "prediction" mode?

There is no way this reader wouldn't root for Rowena. She is a mess but she is dealing with a lot. A new baby, a move, leaving her job, not having her best friend or mother around, and a husband who is not behaving like he used to. 

I also loved Maxine. Can I have one? 

I know there is another book in this series already, Violet Is Nowhere. 

Amen to that!

Cliffhanger: No

4/5 Fangs

A complimentary copy was provided by Mirror House Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

The Children on the Hill by Jennifer McMahon


Title: The Children on the Hill
Author: Jennifer McMahon
Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press
Release Date: April 26, 2022

A genre-defying new novel, inspired by Mary Shelley’s masterpiece Frankenstein, which brilliantly explores the eerie mysteries of childhood and the evils perpetrated by the monsters among us.

1978: at her renowned treatment center in picturesque Vermont, the brilliant psychiatrist, Dr. Helen Hildreth, is acclaimed for her compassionate work with the mentally ill. But when she's home with her cherished grandchildren, Vi and Eric, she’s just Gran—teaching them how to take care of their pets, preparing them home-cooked meals, providing them with care and attention and love.

Then one day Gran brings home a child to stay with the family. Iris—silent, hollow-eyed, skittish, and feral—does not behave like a normal girl.

Still, Violet is thrilled to have a new playmate. She and Eric invite Iris to join their Monster Club, where they catalogue all kinds of monsters and dream up ways to defeat them. Before long, Iris begins to come out of her shell. She and Vi and Eric do everything together: ride their bicycles, go to the drive-in, meet at their clubhouse in secret to hunt monsters. Because, as Vi explains, monsters are everywhere.

2019: Lizzy Shelley, the host of the popular podcast Monsters Among Us, is traveling to Vermont, where a young girl has been abducted, and a monster sighting has the town in an uproar. She’s determined to hunt it down, because Lizzy knows better than anyone that monsters are real—and one of them is her very own sister.

The Children on the Hill takes us on a breathless journey to face the primal fears that lurk within us all.

An atmospheric and eerie novel that I have come to expect from Jennifer McMahon.

The book is about monsters. The question is are there monsters among us or are we the monsters?

Two timelines are relevant to the story.

In 2019, Lizzy Shelley is on the search to prove monsters do exist. She has a very successful podcast that has a large following. The latest monster she is following, Rattling Jane, is bringing her close to her home in Vermont. She can't stop feeling like she is being pulled back toward her past.

In 1978, Vi and Eric are children living with their grandmother, Helen. Helen Hildreth is a renowned psychiatrist and surgeon. She has a psychiatric facility, Hillside Inn which is having great success with patients. Then Helen brings home a new child. Her name is Iris. She wants the children to treat her as a sister. Iris doesn't speak and she wears a hat that she never wants to remove. Who is Iris and why is she living with them?

The more you get involved in the story the more you learn about these characters and what happened in 1978 and how it is all connected in 2019.

I enjoyed this one but not as much as The Drowning Kind. I like the detail of Lizzy's last name giving you an idea about the connection to Frankenstein. I think what was missing for me was more action or more of a horror/thriller vibe to make it a favorite.

Cliffhanger: No

3.5/5 Fangs

A complimentary copy was provided by Gallery/Scout Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood


Title: Love on the Brain
Author: Ali Hazelwood
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: August 23, 2022

A STEMinist rom-com in which a scientist is forced to work on a project with her nemesis--with explosive results.

Like an avenging, purple-haired Jedi bringing balance to the mansplained universe, Bee Königswasser lives by a simple code: What would Marie Curie do? If NASA offered her the lead on a neuroengineering project--a literal dream come true after years scraping by on the crumbs of academia--Marie would accept without hesitation. Duh. But the mother of modern physics never had to co-lead with Levi Ward.

Sure, Levi is attractive in a tall, dark, and piercing-eyes kind of way. And sure, he caught her in his powerfully corded arms like a romance novel hero when she accidentally damseled in distress on her first day in the lab. But Levi made his feelings toward Bee very clear in grad school--archenemies work best employed in their own galaxies far, far away.

Now, her equipment is missing, the staff is ignoring her, and Bee finds her floundering career in somewhat of a pickle. Perhaps it's her occipital cortex playing tricks on her, but Bee could swear she can see Levi softening into an ally, backing her plays, seconding her ideas...devouring her with those eyes. And the possibilities have all her neurons firing. But when it comes time to actually make a move and put her heart on the line, there's only one question that matters: What will Bee Königswasser do?

Did I miss something? Is it normal now that all romance novels must have political statements attached to the main protagonist?

Love on the Brain is the second romance I read in a week where there were so many political comments thrown at the reader that I had whiplash. I understand having a stance but does it really have to come out as verborrhea from the female character?

I don't know about you, but it was a turn-off for this reader.

Love on the Brain had the potential to be quite a cute story. I liked the main characters as well as the secondary ones. There were cute cats, a smart precious little girl, miscommunications that caused the heroine to believe the hero didn't like her, details about Madame Curie that were quite interesting, and talks about NASA helmets with neurostimulation that were exciting to learn.

What was lacking? Admission of love by one of the characters. The thought was there but was never spoken out loud. I think that was a big miss.

One last thing, if you are an "open door" romance reader, this one qualifies as one.

Cliffhanger: No

2.5/5 Fangs

A complimentary copy was provided by Berkley via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Love in the Time of Serial Killers by Alicia Thompson

Title: Love in the Time of Serial Killers
Author: Alicia Thompson
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: August 16, 2022

Turns out that reading nothing but true crime isn’t exactly conducive to modern dating—and one woman is going to have to learn how to give love a chance when she’s used to suspecting the worst.

PhD candidate Phoebe Walsh has always been obsessed with true crime. She’s even analyzing the genre in her dissertation—if she can manage to finish writing it. It’s hard to find the time while she spends the summer in Florida, cleaning out her childhood home, dealing with her obnoxiously good-natured younger brother, and grappling with the complicated feelings of mourning a father she hadn’t had a relationship with for years.

It doesn’t help that she’s low-key convinced that her new neighbor, Sam Dennings, is a serial killer (he may dress business casual by day, but at night he’s clearly up to something). It’s not long before Phoebe realizes that Sam might be something much scarier—a genuinely nice guy who can pierce her armor to reach her vulnerable heart.

"I don’t regret giving you my heart, Phoebe. I just wish you’d taken more care with it.”

This is one of those times when a cover made me want to read the book. It also had a clickbait title for someone who likes to read thrillers and romance too.

Phoebe Walsh is doing her Ph.D. dissertation on true crime. She travels to Florida to have her dad’s house fixed before selling it. Her dad who was in his 50s passed away suddenly from a heart attack at the grocery store.

When she was a teenager Phoebe’s parents divorced. She left with her mother, and her brother Connor stayed with her father. This scarred her for life. She is closed off to love. She doesn’t trust easily and prefers to be a loner in the company of her serial killer books.

However, seeing her once best friend Allyson around is making her discover that she misses having a girlfriend she can count on. In addition, meeting her young neighbor Sam who is nice to look at, and spending time with her brother and his girlfriend are all causing her heart to thaw. Especially, when a feral cat enters her life too.

I liked the story but didn't love it. I did love Sam. He was sweet and supportive. I understood why Phoebe was so scared of opening her heart coming from a broken home but I thought she was really rude to Sam most of the time. I understand protecting yourself but I have no clue why Sam would let her treat him that way.

I will say that this novel has plenty of political comments so if you're like me who prefers romance without any of them in it, this might not be for you.

Cliffhanger: No

3.5/5 Fangs

A complimentary copy was provided by Berkley via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Look Closer by David Ellis


Title: Look Closer 
Author: David Ellis
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Release Date: July 5, 2022

From the bestselling and award-winning author comes a wickedly clever and fast-paced novel of greed, revenge, obsession--and quite possibly the perfect murder.

Simon and Vicky couldn't seem more normal: a wealthy Chicago couple, he a respected law professor, she an advocate for domestic violence victims. A stable, if unexciting marriage. But one thing's for sure ... absolutely nothing is what it seems. The pair are far from normal, and one of them just may be a killer.

When the body of a beautiful socialite is found hanging in a mansion in a nearby suburb, Simon and Vicky's secrets begin to unravel. A secret whirlwind affair. A twenty-million-dollar trust fund about to come due. A decades-long grudge and obsession with revenge. These are just a few of the lies that make up the complex web...and they will have devastating consequences. And while both Vicky and Simon are liars, just who exactly is conning who?

Part Gone Girl, part Strangers on a Train, Look Closer is a wild rollercoaster of a read that will have you questioning everything you think you know.

This is a must-read and I will say, it should also be a must-make movie.

How cool would it be to see these characters come to life?

After hearing so many good things about this book from Jayme, Holly, and Christina (to name a few), I had a huge FOMO. I knew I had to read Look Closer.

I can honestly say that I found it to be addicting. I listened to the audible every waking moment I had when I was not working and finished it in record time.

The characters were intriguing and I was rooting for Simon and Vicky Dobias almost from the very beginning. Yes, neither was perfect but I liked them individually. The other two characters that had a POV were Christian Newsome who is a financial advisor and Jane, the detective in charge of the investigation.

The murder of Lauren Betancourt was committed on Halloween night and maybe one of the main characters was the killer.

That is it. My lips are sealed in regards to any more details. I had none when I started it and I believe this is the way to go to get the most out of it.

Deception, intrigue, vengeance, revenge, and cleverness were all pieces that made this puzzle, one to be remembered.

Cliffhanger: No

5/5 Fangs