Tag Archives: books: 5*

Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman’s Awakening by Manal al-Sharif

Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman’s AwakeningARC received from: Netgalley

Rating: 5*

One-Sentence Summary: Growing up as a woman in Saudi Arabia

Review: This book gave a fascinating insight into what of the most paradoxical countries in the world – on the one hand there are Saudis competing who can drive the most expensive car and buying into all kinds of Western ideals, on the other hand they won’t even recognise women as being their own person and not in need of a male “guardian” to speak for them.

I have no shame in admitting that I didn’t know too much about Saudi Arabia. What I knew was a balance of the stereotyping I hear in the media and a friend trying to tell me it’s not as oppressive there as the media makes out any more. I think the media got it right for once!

One of the most fascinating things for me was learning that Saudi Arabia went the opposite way to nearly every other country out there: instead of becoming more open and less oppressive in the mid-end 90’s, it actually became more dictatorial and it was the younger generation that forced religious extremism on their parents.

Manal al-Sharif gives a very honest description of what she went through as a child from regular beatings from her father to female circumcision. Her change from religious extremism to fighting for women’s rights was really fascinating to read. Hardly any of us can fathom how anyone could get imprisoned for the crime of being a woman driver. A real eye-opener and reinforced the belief that even if could travel there (which I can’t), I wouldn’t want to.

Nothing Stays Buried (Monkeewrench #8) by P.J. Tracy

Nothing Stays Buried (Monkeewrench, #8)In retrospect, she probably could have been more tactful, but that was another thing she considered a deplorable waste of time.

ARC received from: Netgalley

Rating: 5*

One-Sentence Summary: The Monkeewrench crew Versus a Cartel serial killer

Review: The Monkeewrench series is without a doubt my favourite crime series out there and P.J. Tracy never disappoints.

This plot in this book revolves around Magozzi and Gino’s hunt for a serial killer targeting female joggers and leaves a calling card next to the bodies. At the same time, the Monkeewrench crew are looking into a missing person’s case as a favour to a sheriff out in the country. Needless to say, it soon becomes apparent that their cases are linked leading to a manhunt out in the middle of nowhere.

In addition to the serial killer manhunt, Tracy throws in a tornado to amp up the action and I was riveted by the last quarter of the book which read like something out of Twister the film crossed with Criminal Minds the TV show.

As ever though whilst the whodunnit element is interesting, what really makes this series the best is that the mother-and-daughter writing team have created such a fantastic family in Magozzi & Gino and the Monkeewrench gang that it is an absolute pleasure coming back to them time-after-time. There are also a number of secondary characters in this book, like Walt and Jacob, that you warm to and you’re on tenterhooks hoping and praying that the serial killer’s latest victim will be found alive.

It saddens me to hear that P.J. has passed away. I only hope that Traci will continue writing this series in her memory.

“Lesson number one—don’t ever argue with a pregnant woman, or she’ll take a pound of flesh, and it’s not the flesh a man wants to lose.”
Magozzi crawled out from under the crib. “That’s kind of a generous weight estimate, isn’t it?”
Gino smirked. “Speak for yourself.”

Crossing Hearts (Cross Creek #1) by @KimberlyKincaid

Crossing HeartsARC received from: Netgalley

Rating: 5*

Trope: Reconciliation romance

Chemistry: Simmering

One-Sentence Summary: Small town reconciliation romance

Review: When I first saw a that there was a new release for Kimberly Kincaid I was filled with a mix of emotions – excitement and then disappointment that it wasn’t a new addition in her Rescue Squad series and then excitement again as I realised that hopefully this means that she has two series on the go and therefore multiple books for me to look forward to this year!

Well, this new venture into the world of small town living and farming definitely did not disappoint. This is a reconciliation romance at heart but it was nicely paced and the two characters didn’t just fall into bed and pick up where they left off immediately. Additionally, the addition of Emerson’s illness added a unique layer absent from most romance – can the hot sexy guy really be perfect enough to be willing to commit to someone with a debilitating illness (*spoiler alert* Yes he can!).

Add in some family drama on both sides (Emerson trying to avoid her controlling parents and Hunter trying to referee his two brothers) and you’ve got all the makings of a perfect small town romance.

Now I’m eager to get my paws on Eli and Owen’s stories and more importantly find out what the hell is going on between those two brothers!

The Trouble with Mistletoe (Heartbreaker Bay #2) by @JillShalvis

The Trouble with Mistletoe (Heartbreaker Bay, #2)“Hello?” Willa answered, sounding soft and sleepy.
“I woke you. I’m sorry.”
“Keane?”
“Yeah,” he said. “I’ve got a problem.”
“Still?” She yawned. “Aren’t you supposed to call a doctor if that conditions persists for more than four hours?”
He froze for a beat and then laughed. Pinching the bridge of his nose, he shook his head. “Not that kind of problem.” He paused. “And I’m pretty sure there’s no guy on earth who’d actually go to a doctor for that.”
“Yet another reason why men die younger than women. What’s the problem, Keane?”
“Pita.”
“You have her today too?”
“Yeah. My aunt had to go into a rehab facility with assisted living. While I was working, Pita went down a vent and either joined a rat compound or she’s just enjoying fucking with me like every other female I know, but I can no longer see or hear her.”
Silence.
“Willa?”
“Your aunt had to go into a home?”
Hadn’t he just said so? “Yes, and—”
“And you’re holding on to Pita for her? Indefinitely?”
“Well I was,” he said. “Now I’m pretty sure I’ve accidentally killed her.”
“I’ll be right there.”

ARC received from: Edelweiss

Rating: 5*

Trope: Festive romance

Chemistry: Simmering

One-Sentence Summary: Hot guy, cute cat and lovable heroine meet under the mistletoe

Review: Is there anything more perfect than a Jill Shalvis novel which combines Christmas, cute animals and an even cuter Hero?

Probably not.jill-shalvis-keane

This book ticked all the right boxes for me from the setting, the hilarious group of friends, the festive season and all the cute animals. Keane and Willa had oodles of chemistry and the book had just the right amount of focus on their history for the readers to understand their mutual reservation about relationships without it taking over the whole story.

Added bonus shipping material came in the form of Archer and Elle whose story I absolutely cannot wait to get my paws on.

For Better or Worse (The Wedding Belles #2) by @_LaurenLayne

For Better or Worse (The Wedding Belles, #2)ARC received from: Netgalley

Rating: 5*

Trope: Friends-turned-lovers

Chemistry: Off the charts Scorchio

One-Sentence Summary: When neighbours become something more

Review: When I first read the summary for this book, I have to say it didn’t give me any real excitement; to me, this book was just the filler before we got to Logan/Alexis’s story.

But ohmygod I loved it.

It’s not the usual friends-to-lovers story in that Heather and Josh aren’t friends for a longtime before they get together and they acknowledge their attraction early on, even if they don’t cross the line for awhile. There is fun neighbourly banter and I loved the whole 4A/4C nicknames.lauren-layne-josh

Also refreshing is the fact that it’s the guy who has the secret and the angsty past that he is hiding underneath his happy-go-lucky attitude.

This was a fun, flirty read and everything you could want from a Lauren Layne romance ….. (apart from the whole use of the word “bullocks” (should be bollocks)).

Playing By Her Rules (Sydney Smoke Rugby #1) by @AmyAndrewsbooks

Playing By Her Rules (Sydney Smoke Rugby, #1)ARC received from: Netgalley

Rating: 5*

Trope: Sport + reconciliation romance

Chemistry: Off the charts Scorchio

One-Sentence Summary: A journalist has to do a feature on her crazy hot rugby-playing ex

Review: One of my favourite romance authors writing a sports romance? The romance gods must finally have heard my prayers!

Whilst I can safely say that all my knowledge about sport, especially any game which involves running and tackling to get the ball, comes from Friday Night Lights (Kyle Chandler *sigh*) and books, I LOVE a good sports romance.

This was a GREAT sports romance.Amy Andrews - Tanner

Matilda is a journalist who has to write a story on her high school boyfriend Tanner. The book is full of everything I love in a sports romance including a locker room scene, raucous-but-good-natured friends, a couple being set-up for exploration in a future book, lots of chemistry between the couple and the playback jock being revealed to be a really nice guy.

I especially loved the use of Twitter messages in the book which got to show Tanner’s charming and funny side. The chemistry between him and Matilda was explosive and their interactions full of UST.

All in all, it was complete perfection.

Finally, you know how they say not to leave the cinema until the end credits finish because there may be a fun bonus scene right at the very end? Well, don’t close this book until you read the glossary included at the end!!!

Forgive Me by @joshuacorin

Forgive MeARC received from: Netgalley

Rating: 5*

One-Sentence Summary: An ex-FBI Agent has to figure out who is out to kill her before it’s too late

Review: Ex-FBI Agent Xanadu Marx is pretty much unique amongst crime thriller heroes: she is a recovering alcoholic, lesbian, ex-FBI agent and full of snark. And whilst she is undoubtedly the central character in the story and around who this series is built, this book is more than just about her, and is told from the perspective of many different characters – and that is what makes this book so interesting and so easy to read.

I read the first book in the series but I have to admit that apart from the fact that I enjoyed it, I don’t remember much so I had a tiny bit of trouble at the start trying to remember who Hayley and Em were and how they had met Xanadu and the only thing that could possibly be improved in the book was maybe giving more context for people who hadn’t read (or forgotten!) the first book.

As to the rest, it was absolutely gripping. I especially loved the opening couple of chapters which almost seemed to be poking fun at the crime genre by making the whole situation quite ridiculous and like the start of a joke – what do you get when a Haitian priest, a mortgage broker and a newly wed couple all end up in a luxury hotel room ……?!

The twist at the end? I totally didn’t see coming and it made my jaw drop. Now who do I need to kill to get my hands on the third book in the series ……

May the Best Man Win (The Best Men #1) by @MiraLynKelly

May the Best Man WinARC received from: Netgalley

Rating: 5*

Trope: Enemies turned lovers turned friends turned lovers

Chemistry: Off the charts Scorchio

One-Sentence Summary: Jase and Emily light the pages on fire with their chemistry

Review: HOLY CRAP YOU GUYS! I don’t think I’ve ever read a book with so much UST between the characters. The first half of the book was just full of lust-covered hatred and jibes and UNRESOLVED SEXUAL TENSION. And then when the sexual tension was resolved? CRAZY HOT SEX SCENES.

But let’s rewind back to the beginning. Meet Jase and Emily. They have a RIDICULOUS number of mutual friends. Seriously, before you get through the first third of the book the author is going to make you feel like you have an inadequate social life because there is no way normal people have that big of a social circle……. right? Anyway, as you can imagine Jase and Emily keep running into each other at weddings and because of a BIG MISUNDERSTANDING when they were at school together (cue delicious backstory and character layers being peeled back), they hate each other. But secretly lust after each other. Then not quite so secretly lust each other.

The way the book is structured is very much around Jase/Emily’s Mira Lyn Kelly - Jaseencounters and each chapter is pretty much a new month, a new wedding or a new run-in so you don’t get any of the filler stuff that takes up all the room, everything you get is important relationship development. It has been a long time since I read a romance which would be so amazing if it was turned into the latest Hollywood blockbuster. Seriously, I can picture it in my head: imagine the set-up of 27 Dresses but take out the mildly irritating Katherine Heigl and replace it was the wonderful UST and chemistry of Reese Witherspoon and Josh Lucas’s characters from Sweet Home Alabama. If a Hollywood producer happens to be reading this and umming and ahhing about which book to adapt into a film next (since when was the last time Hollywood produced anything original?!) then let me make clear a future romcom blockbuster is sitting right here!

In case you’re still wondering about how I feel about this book, *spoiler alert*, I LOVED IT. It hit all the right notes for me with the UST, the relationship progressing (and regressing) at just the right speed, some likeable secondary characters and of course a happy ever after.

I loved the way the book ends with an epilogue from Max’s POV thereby revealing to us that his book is up next. I can’t wait to find out what is in store for him and Brody but most importantly, GIVE ME SEAN/MOLLY’S BOOK NOW!!!!!! Thanks.

Nothing Short of Dying (Clyde Barr #1) by @ErikStorey

Nothing Short of Dying: A Clyde Barr thrillerARC received from: Goodreads

Rating: 5*

One-Sentence Summary: Clyde Barr will stop at nothing to rescue his sister

Review: Very seldom do I come across a book so good that I will clear my entire day just to sit and read it in one go. This debut by Erik Storey was one of those!

This book is being sold as the “new Jack Reacher series” and it was very much in that vein, except with even more fights and gun battles (if that’s even possible!). It was non-stop action from start to finish with a few brief softer moments thrown in courtesy of a love interest of sorts.

One of the key differences between Clyde Barr and Jack Reacher is the fact that Barr still has living relatives and his relationship with his three sisters is key to this book. His whole mission is to rescue his sister Jen and throughout the book there are flashbacks to Barr and Jen’s childhood which helps explain why Barr is the way he is.

With Barr’s sisters, his murky job history and his time in prison, there is plenty of material here for hopefully a long and successful thriller series. I can’t wait to read the next one.

The Night Stalker (DCI Erika Foster #2) by @RobertBryndza

The Night Stalker (DCI Erika Foster, #2)ARC received from: Netgalley

Rating: 5*

One-Sentence Summary: Detective Erika Foster is back in action tracking down a serial killer in South East London

Review: I love the second book in a series– the first book lays all the groundwork with the characters, the setting and relationships so the second book always feels like you’re coming home to a familiar world but there still many layers of the main characters to peel back and discover. That’s the reason why I have no hesitation to say that I enjoyed this latest Detective Erika Foster offering even more than the first.

I go past those bits of the tracks just outside London Bridge twice a day on my commute to/from London and every time I see those houses mentioned in the opening of this book, I always wonder to myself who on earth would live there?! Definitely not me after reading this book! Is there anything scarier to coming home to realise that your sanctuary has been invaded and someone is waiting in the dark for you?

Bold move going against the “white, male” stereotype of serial killers and it worked well. The plot had me hooked from the beginning and even after it was revealed to the reader who the killer was, I was just as interested in finding out how Erika was going to catch them. The only loose end that I could see was that it was never really explained how the killer was finding out where all her victims lived, or more importantly Erika who I am guessing is definitely not in the phone book? I suppose the perp had some hidden hacking skills.

As to the ending, I was angry on Erika’s behalf at the way she was passed over for promotion and, dare I say it without sounding like a raging feminist, in real life it would probably have a lot to do with being a woman (and a foreigner to boot!)! I love the world created in Lewisham though and Erika’s friendship with Moss, Isaac and Petersen so whilst I’d like to see her start over in another station on principle, an ideal solution might have her moving somewhere else and then a case (Jerome Goodman?) brings her back? Which brings me onto wondering just how long we have to wait before Erika’s showdown with the man who killed her husband? Any clues Robert Bryndza?