Boyfriend Material – Alexis Hall

•September 8, 2021 • Leave a Comment

boyfriend material

Synopsis

Luc O’Donnell is tangentially–and reluctantly–famous. His rock star parents split when he was young, and the father he’s never met spent the next twenty years cruising in and out of rehab. Now that his dad’s making a comeback, Luc’s back in the public eye, and one compromising photo is enough to ruin everything.

To clean up his image, Luc has to find a nice, normal relationship…and Oliver Blackwood is as nice and normal as they come. He’s a barrister, an ethical vegetarian, and he’s never inspired a moment of scandal in his life. In other words: perfect boyfriend material. Unfortunately apart from being gay, single, and really, really in need of a date for a big event, Luc and Oliver have nothing in common. So they strike a deal to be publicity-friendly (fake) boyfriends until the dust has settled. Then they can go their separate ways and pretend it never happened.

But the thing about fake-dating is that it can feel a lot like real-dating. And that’s when you get used to someone. Start falling for them. Don’t ever want to let them go.

My Thoughts

Boyfriend Material is witty, angsty, romantic, full of character development, and an absolute fantastic, and fun book to read. All in all, it ticked all of my boxes.

Luc is an absolute disaster of a human being. He’s witty, biting, sarcastic, and, well, a bit of an asshole. Which he comes by honestly. You’d think the asshole bit would make him unlikeable, but that’s what endeared him to me. He was unapologetic about some of his asshole-ish behaviour, for very good, yet maybe obsessive, reasons. And I absolutely could not fault him for that.

Luc’s interactions with Oliver are an absolute delight. On the surface, it appears that they couldn’t be more opposite. But they’re more alike than either of them really think. As their ‘relationship’ grows, the actual care that they begin to develop for each other is heartwarming.

Between complex family dynamics, rambunctious groups of friends, and a work event honouring a dung beetle, Luc and Oliver are really thrown through the gambit in a really short amount of time. There is a lot of change, and a lot of development, in very quick succession. Luc definitely feels the whiplash, but wears it well.

The relationships in this book are so very heartwarming. Luc’s mother was so fascinating to me. Her “I don’t give a flying fuck” attitude was very, very inspiring to me, and I aspire to be that confident and free when I grow up. Between Oliver’s group of friends, and Luc’s group of friends, there are a number of large, loud, eccentric personalities that make the book flow, and the banter highly entertaining.

Boyfriend Material is a really good mix of feel-good, meets harsh truths, meets “holy shit that just happened”. I adored every minute of it. From the angst, to the banter, to Luc realizing he doesn’t need to be an asshole anymore. I loved this book so very much. It’s definitely a book I will revisit time and again when I need a pick me up.

All Come To Dust – Bryony Rheam

•September 5, 2021 • Leave a Comment

all come to dust

Synopsis

Marcia Pullman has been found dead at home in the leafy suburbs of Bulawayo. Chief Inspector Edmund Dube is onto the case at once, but it becomes increasingly clear that there are those, including the dead woman’s husband, who do not want him asking questions. The case drags Edmund back into his childhood to when his mother’s employers disappeared one day and were never heard from again; an incident that has shadowed his life. As his investigation into the death progresses, Edmund realises the two mysteries are inextricably linked and that unravelling the past is a dangerous undertaking, threatening his very sense of self.

My Thoughts

I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book originally fascinated me as something I’ve never read before – I’ve never read Zimbabwean literature, and I was really excited to check it out. And what I found just wasn’t really for me.

I found the pace meandering, and too slow for me. There was a deliberate point to the pacing, which definitely worked plot-wise, but it just didn’t suit me very well. I also found I could not relate to a single character, which made it difficult for me to really get into the book.

I stuck around for the plot – I really needed to know how the mystery ended. And within that mystery was a whole web of subterfuge, deceit, devastation, and just downright irreconcilable inhumanity. It was definitely way, way more than I ever bargained for.

Overall, if the pace had been faster, I think I would have really liked this book. But as it stands, I just didn’t. It was not for me, but I definitely understand the appeal. As such, I will keep this review short and sweet – the overall unraveling of the mystery made finishing the book well worth it, but I would most likely  not have read it had I known how slow the pace was.

Real Murders – Charlaine Harris

•August 29, 2021 • Leave a Comment

real murders

Synopsis

Aurora Teagarden, small town librarian and true crime buff, is looking forward to the monthly meeting of the Real Murders Society, a group of fellow crime enthusiasts who share a unique interest in historical murders. The Society meetings are the highlight of Roe’s social life in sleepy Lawrenceville, Georgia, and she’s ready for a quiet night of discussion, coffee, and cookies. But after she finds the body of a Society member in a staged crime scene eerily similar to the one the group was supposed to discuss that very night, Roe finds herself at the center of a murderous story of her own.

As the killer strikes again, it’s obvious that members of the Real Murders Society have become targets of a knowledgeable copycat. With the help of handsome police detective Arthur Smith and the town’s dashing new resident, mystery novelist Robin Crusoe, it’s up to Roe to discover if the murderer is one of the group’s own and to piece the perplexing puzzle together before another body appears.

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Charlaine Harris, this first book in the Aurora Teagarden mystery series combines the excitement of solving the crime and the charm of Southern hospitality. Real Murders, A Bone to Pick, Three Bedrooms, One Corpse and the rest of the Aurora Teagarden mysteries have been adapted into film for Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.

My Thoughts

After years of watching the Hallmark movies with my mother, I finally bit the bullet and found the first book on ebook loan with my local library. And I was not disappointed!

The first book takes a steep departure from what I remember of the movie series (it’s been a while since I’ve seen the first film in the series), but I really like that about this book. It felt like being introduced to the cast of characters that I’m familiar with for the very first time all over again.

One point early one that made me very, very giddy was that the case Roe was readying to present to the Reals Murders Society was a case I am very familiar with – the unsolved murder of Julia Wallace, in Liverpool, England, 1931. However, it hit way too close to home when Roe found a fellow member murdered in a fashion reminiscent of the case.

The twists and turns this book took were fun, and a little wild. Despite having seen the movie adaptation of this book – a very long time ago – I did not see the resolution coming, though I feel like I should have. But that also made it very exciting! I’d forgotten what that rush of a good whodunit being solved felt like.

I definitely enjoyed this book far more than I thought I would. I would even go so far as to say that I enjoyed this a bit more than the movies. Granted, that has more to do with Hallmark pretending to be wholesome (we all know disguised bigotry and extreme conservativism when we see it) than anything. These books don’t shy away from language, and adult themes, and leave the righteous judgement out of the equation – which is a very welcome change to a certain other cozy mystery I’m reading.

Overall, I enjoyed this book enough that I fully intend to keep reading the series! And maybe also checking out a certain other series by Charlaine Harris that was adapted into one of my favourite television series…

Apple Turnover Murder – Joanne Fluke

•August 25, 2021 • Leave a Comment

apple turnover murder

Synopsis

Early summer brings plenty of work for baker Hannah Swensen, even before Mayor Bascomb’s wife drops by The Cookie Jar to place an order for her charity event…For eleven-hundred cookies! And Hannah almost flips when her business partner, Lisa, suggests setting up an apple turnover stand. But she places her faith in Lisa and agrees to be a magician’s assistant in the fundraiser’s talent show. The only snag is the show’s host, college professor Bradford Ramsey. Hannah and her sister, Michelle, each had unfortunate romances with Ramsey, and when the cad comes sniffing around between acts, Hannah tells him off. But when the curtain doesn’t go up, she discovers Ramsey backstage – dead, with a turnover in his hand. Now Hannah must find a killer who’s flakier than puff pastry – and far more dangerous.

My Thoughts

If I’m reviewing another Hannah Swensen Mystery, it’s probably a good guess that I am visiting my parents, and my mom and I are reading these together! That said, let’s dive in.

More and more I’m finding the setup to the murder to take way too long. We get to almost the halfway mark, and then the resolution is just rushed. In this case, the setup not only took too long, but revealed the solution immediately. And the fact that it took Hannah as long as it did is astounding. I’m beginning to think living the sheltered, Lake Eden life is having an adverse affect on Hannah.

This time around, Hannah’s past comes back to haunt her, and it seems to have an effect on the entirety of Lake Eden. The list of suspects is long, and the way to clearing them even longer. And yet, somehow, Hannah can still take advantage of her business partner’s kind nature in order to, for whatever reason, solve a case the police are actively working in. (Look, I get that that’s the appeal of these books – but it’s starting to get a little too ridiculous, now.)

Despite Hannah’s… multitasking, for lack of a better word, the book still ends on a cliffhanger. A cliffhanger that will inevitably disrupt Hannah’s entire relationship dynamic with both Norman and Mike. A plot I’m entirely tired of by this point, as well.

After 14 books, the plots are getting a wee bit ridiculous, everything feels like it’s at a standstill, and nothing ever changes. I’m hoping this cliffhanger livens things up a little in the next book – which I will inevitably read because I’m both a glutton for punishment, and extremely stubborn now that I’ve invested this much time into this series.

Daughter – Kate McLaughlin

•August 22, 2021 • Leave a Comment

daughter

Synopsis

Scarlet’s life is pretty average. Overly protective mom. Great friends. Cute boy she’s interested in. And a father she’s never known – until she does.

When the FBI show up at Scarlet’s door, she is shocked to learn her father is infamous serial killer Jeffrey Robert Lake. And now, he’s dying and will only give the names and locations of his remaining victims to the one person, the daughter he hasn’t seen since she was a baby.

Scarlet’s mother has tried to protect her from Lake’s horrifying legacy, but there’s no way they can escape the media firestorm that erupts when they come out of hiding. Or the people who blame Scarlet for her father’s choices. When trying to do the right thing puts her life in danger, Scarlet is faced with a choice – go back into hiding or make the world see her as more than a monster’s daughter.

Kate McLaughlin’s Daughter is a novel about trying right deadly choices that were never yours to begin with

My Thoughts 

I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book is creepy, and spooky, and so, so difficult to put down. But I had to. For work reasons. Where this book invaded my every thought. (I do not regret even a little being that distracted at work.)

Scarlet is a teenager with an overbearing, overprotective mom. She just wants to hang out with her friends, go to parties, kiss boys, and maybe get into a little bit of trouble. When the last part finds her, it is the exact last thing she anticipates.

Scarlet is thrown into an absolutely wild situation with very little preparation. But, holy fuck can she roll with the punches.

Scarlet tackles her life being thrown upside down with an impressive amount of grace. And biting sarcastic wit. Which she can absolutely not be faulted for one little bit. The more Scarlet learned about her father, and, in turn, her mother’s past, the more she feels the itch to do something about it. This is a feeling that I know very, very well.

As much as this book focuses on the serial killer Jeffrey Lake, this book is entirely about Scarlet discovering this part of her life, previously unknown, and churning it into something positive; something that can overshadow Lake’s horrific actions.

Scarlet starts the book as a headstrong, independent teenager figuring out where she wants to go for Spring Break, and which film school she wants to go to. She ends the book with a mission, a path ahead of her, and a future to strive for.

Daughter is an intense thriller, mixed with a teeny bit of romance, and a very, very peculiar coming of age tale. It captured my attention, and kept it to the point of distraction. I loved this book, and plan on checking out my local library’s selection of Kate McLaughlin novels for further reading.

This May End Badly – Samantha Markum

•August 8, 2021 • Leave a Comment

this may end badly

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis

When a high stakes boarding school prank war leads to a fake dating scheme, two teens must decide if they are ready to take the ultimate risk — falling in love.

Pranking mastermind Doe and her motley band of Weston girls are determined to win the century-long war against Winfield Academy before the clock ticks down on their senior year. But when their headmistress announces that The Weston School will merge with its rival the following year, their longtime feud spirals into chaos.

To protect the school that has been her safe haven since her parents’ divorce, Doe puts together a plan to prove once and for all that Winfield boys and Weston girls just don’t mix, starting with a direct hit at Three, Winfield’s boy king and her nemesis. In a desperate move to win, Doe strikes a bargain with Three’s cousin, Wells: If he fake dates her to get under Three’s skin, she’ll help him get back his rightful family heirloom from Three.

As the pranks escalate, so do her feelings for her fake boyfriend, and Doe spins lie after lie to keep up her end of the deal. But when a teacher long suspected of inappropriate behavior messes with a younger Weston girl, Doe has to decide what’s more important: winning a rivalry, or joining forces to protect something far more critical than a prank war legacy.

This May End Badly is a story about friendship, falling in love, and crossing pretty much every line presented to you—and how to atone when you do.

My Thoughts

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book is a very good example of a coming of age story, mixed with romance, where the romance takes a back seat – for once.

Doe is steadfast, and firm in her beliefs. She is not easily swayed. And she especially wants to win. When her all-girls boarding school announces that it’s going coed, her entire world goes topsy turvy. And I can’t really blame her initial shock. When something that has meant a big deal to you for as long as Weston has meant to Doe, change does not come easy, nor is it usually welcome.

And I get that. I really do. Especially as a teenager, change is scary. (As someone who went to three elementary schools, and three high schools, I definitely get it.) But sometimes, change can be good. Sometimes.

Despite her direct reluctance on things she can’t change, a much larger, much more pervasive issue comes to light. And it needs addressing.

I won’t go into spoilers, but I will say that the way Doe and her friends approached this issue was very, very brave and impressive. I would have been far too cowed to do what these young women did at their age. And realizing that only makes me want to strive to do better.

One of the most appealing aspects of this book, for me, was the relationship that Doe had with her friends. They’re their own family. They’re everything to each other. And I love that. We need more books with this level of love and affection for friendship relationships. They’re so important! (I would even argue they’re more important than romantic relationships, even for those on the romance spectrum, but that’s just my opinion.)

Overall, there were melodramatic parts of this book that annoyed me. But those parts were so thrown between the character building, and the character growth, that I can live with it without too much complaint.

Rampage: Canadian Mass Murder and Spree Killing – Lee Mellor

•August 2, 2021 • Leave a Comment

rampage

Synopsis

A definitive compendium of Canada’s mass murderers and spree killers.

Rampage: a state of anger or agitation resulting in violent, reckless, and destructive behaviour. In 1989, Marc Lépine mercilessly executed 14 female students at Montreal’s École Polytechnique to become Canada’s most notorious mass murderer. The following year spree killer Peter John Peters roamed from London, Ontario, to Thunder Bay, leaving a trail of bloodied bodies, broken dreams, and stolen vehicles. Both men experienced the same devastating destiny – they embarked on homicidal rampages that shook their nation to the core.

Lee Mellor has gathered more than 25 of Canada’s most lethal mass and spree killers into a single work. Rampage details their grisly crimes, delves into their twisted psyches, and dissects their motivations to answer the question every true crime lover yearns to know: why? If you think serial killers are dangerous, prepare for something deadlier …

My Thoughts

Short but sweet review, coming right up!

As a well-known, avid fan of all things true crime, this book fascinated me. I don’t know very much about either spree killers, or mass murderers. I was excited to find out more. This book, however, just didn’t really mesh with me.

While each case was interesting in its own way – and a couple of them I had some prior knowledge of – I just don’t think I mesh well with the author’s writing style. And that’s okay! I still found the cases interesting. I just wasn’t too keen on the style of writing.

This book definitely gave me a few interesting cases to do deeper dives into at a later date. And others I think I would have rather been left in the dark about. (Which, for anyone who knows me, is a shocking statement.)

Overall, this book is very informative, and lays out clear distinctions between mass murderers and spree killers, and their various sub-types. It was well-organized, and very well researched. And even though I wasn’t super keen on the style, the author’s cynical flair was a nice touch.

Plum Pudding Murder – Joanne Fluke

•July 23, 2021 • Leave a Comment

plum pudding murder

Synopsis

Holiday business is booming at Hannah Swenson’s Cookie Jar pastry shop, but the mysterious murder of “Lunatic Larry” Jaeger puts a serious crimp in the season of good cheer.

From the looks of it, Larry had as many enemies as Hannah’s sugar cookies have sprinkles. With the 12 days of Christmas ticking down and cookie orders piling up, tracking down the killer won’t be easy.

A clever whodunit with pastry recipe dividends.

My Thoughts

Another visit to my parents’ place, and another Hannah Swensen mystery read!

Now that I’ve got the formula down, I know exactly what to expect from this series. This makes it so much easier to digest, especially with all the bits and pieces that do my head in about this series. I won’t rehash all of that all over again, but I’ll just say that skimming over those parts definitely makes reading these books so much more enjoyable for me.

It’s Christmas again in Lake Eden, and The Cookie Jar is busier than ever. But did we ever expect anything less?

I find it takes longer and longer to set up the murder in these books. We were well over halfway through by the time we got to Hannah discovering the body. But things picked up from there.

I have to be losing my mystery touch – or just overthinking – because I was so certain I had the killer pegged, and I was way, way off base. (I used to be a better ‘detective’, I must be getting rusty.)

For how long it took us to get to the murder, the discovery of the murderer, and the aftermath felt rushed. So, so rushed. It went by so fast, I felt like I got readers’ whiplash.

Overall, now that I have the hang of these books, they’re pretty quick to read, and fairly enjoyable. Hopefully the next one gets to the good bits in a more timely manner.

One Last Stop – Casey McQuiston

•July 11, 2021 • Leave a Comment

one last stop

Synopsis

From the New York Times bestselling author of Red, White & Royal Blue comes a new romantic comedy that will stop readers in their tracks…

For cynical twenty-three-year-old August, moving to New York City is supposed to prove her right: that things like magic and cinematic love stories don’t exist, and the only smart way to go through life is alone. She can’t imagine how waiting tables at a 24-hour pancake diner and moving in with too many weird roommates could possibly change that. And there’s certainly no chance of her subway commute being anything more than a daily trudge through boredom and electrical failures.

But then, there’s this gorgeous girl on the train.

Jane. Dazzling, charming, mysterious, impossible Jane. Jane with her rough edges and swoopy hair and soft smile, showing up in a leather jacket to save August’s day when she needed it most. August’s subway crush becomes the best part of her day, but pretty soon, she discovers there’s one big problem: Jane doesn’t just look like an old school punk rocker. She’s literally displaced in time from the 1970s, and August is going to have to use everything she tried to leave in her own past to help her. Maybe it’s time to start believing in some things, after all.

Casey McQuiston’s One Last Stop is a magical, sexy, big-hearted romance where the impossible becomes possible as August does everything in her power to save the girl lost in time.

My Thoughts

This book had me hooked from the get go. For one, there was an underlying mystery to solve. Though it wasn’t necessarily part of the main plot, it was important. Then, a second mystery presented itself. Two mysteries, one book, some romance, and some found family – this book was my goldmine of everything I love.

August is a character I relate to a lot. Not because our circumstances are similar, but because our personalities are similar. We’re anxious, and awkward, and trying to make our way through the world. I definitely relate to that. Hard.

I was not expecting the wee bit of sci-fi we got, but I definitely enjoyed it. Or maybe it was closer to magical realism. Either way, it was fun, and reading about August, Myla, Niko, and Wes figure it out was a lot of fun. They were the found family I never anticipated in a book, but desperately wanted. In a way, I almost wanted to live vicariously through August. Especially over this last year, I’ve been missing human interaction, and watching the four of them interact – and include various other friends, coworkers, neighbours, and then some – made me feel nostalgic for a time I would wander down the street, and have a drink with a friend.

Wes, Myla, and Niko take August into their fold instantly, despite her best efforts to keep them at a distance. They accept her, listen to her, respect her, and allow her to grow at her own pace while also using their own live experiences to gently guide her when they can tell she’s lost. In short, I love them. I love the love between the four of them. It makes me so, so happy!

This book really ticked all my boxes. I really, really enjoyed it. So much so, I savoured it; I made it last. I took my time with this book, digesting it chapter by chapter slowly, just for the sake of not wanting to part with the story, or its characters. Which is unusual for me, as I usually devour books rather quickly.

Overall, I really, really enjoyed this book. It had me gripped from the first page, and kept me gripped to the last. I’m very, very tempted to read this book over again. I’m just not ready to let go of August, or Jane, and their story, and their adventure.

One of Us is Next – Karen M. McManus

•June 23, 2021 • Leave a Comment

one of us is next

Synopsis

The highly anticipated sequel to the New York Times bestselling thriller everyone is talking about, One of Us Is Lying! There’s a new mystery to solve at Bayview High, and there’s a whole new set of rules.

Come on, Bayview, you know you’ve missed this.

A ton of copycat gossip apps have popped up since Simon died, but in the year since the Bayview four were cleared of his shocking death, no one’s been able to fill the gossip void quite like he could. The problem is no one has the facts.

Until now.

This time it’s not an app, though—it’s a game.

Truth or Dare.

Phoebe’s the first target. If you choose not to play, it’s a truth. And hers is dark.

Then comes Maeve and she should know better—always choose the dare.

But by the time Knox is about to be tagged, things have gotten dangerous. The dares have become deadly, and if Maeve learned anything from Bronwyn last year, it’s that they can’t count on the police for help. Or protection.

Simon’s gone, but someone’s determined to keep his legacy at Bayview High alive. And this time, there’s a whole new set of rules.

My Thoughts 

I really, really enjoyed Karen M. McManus’ other books, so when I heard that there was a sequel to One of Us is Lying, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. And I was not disappointed.

This book gets very dark, very fast. I was not expecting the twists and turns as they came. Usually, while reading a mystery, I try to figure it out as I go. I didn’t try that this time. This time, I just went along for the ride. And what a wild ride it was.

The more I got to know all the characters, the more I felt for all of them. They all have a lot going on in their lives, and the pressures of high school don’t make it any easier. And I get it. High school sucks. I’m just glad I went through it at a time where social media wasn’t something that was so readily available for the next gossip session.

But their social media savvy also makes these kids so, so clever. I never would have been able to figure out half of the things Meave did with just some clever googling, social media research, and general internet savvy and know-how. Meave was a true rockstar in this book. And she always had her friends’ backs.

Meave, Phoebe, and Knox make a great trio. I loved their growing friendship throughout the book. And while they were trying to figure out who was behind the Truth or Dare game, they were also helping each other out with just regular, every day stuff. They’re still kids, and they deserve to just act like kids.

I have no idea how much more this community can take. These two books gave me Pretty Little Liars vibes, which made me all kinds of nostalgic. I really enjoyed these two books, and I really look forward to more from Karen M. McManus. But maybe we can give the Bayview community a break, yeah?