Book Corner

Book Review: Dirty Letters

I’d never forgotten him—a man I’d yet to meet.

Griffin Quinn was my childhood pen pal, the British boy who couldn’t have been more different from me. Over the years, through hundreds of letters, we became best friends, sharing our deepest, darkest secrets and forming a connection I never thought could break.

Until one day it did.

Then, out of the blue, a new letter arrived. A scathing one—one with eight years of pent-up anger. I had no choice but to finally come clean as to why I stopped writing.

Griffin forgave me, and somehow we were able to rekindle our childhood connection. Only now we were adults, and that connection had grown to a spark. Our letters quickly went from fun to flirty to downright dirty, revealing our wildest fantasies. So it only made sense that we would take our relationship to the next level and see each other in person.

Only Griff didn’t want to meet. He asked that I trust him and said it was for the best. But I wanted more—more Griff, in the flesh—so I took a big chance and went looking for him. People have done crazier things for love.

But what I found could change everything.

First of all, can we take a minute to appreciate the male HOTNESS of the model on the book cover. Wow.

Secondly, the first line of the blurb is KILLER. Love it.

I’ve always been fascinated by building relationships sight unseen. I would like to think that one has a better chance of building a solid relationship by getting to know the PERSON first before becoming distracted by the gift wrapping … but maybe that’s an unrealistic view because physical attraction is a big part of a relationship.

So when I read the blurb to this book, I was immediately intrigued. It sounded pretty close to an idea I had for a story a few years back (and one I might still cultivate).

It started out really cute. I loved how the authors built up the suspense between the characters but I would have liked to have had more letter writing and more tension building before they actually met. And by that I mean, I wanted to see more character development. The transition from writing each other and being friends to suddenly crossing the friend line was just too abrupt for me. I wanted more friendship and a gradual jump.

And then when that jump finally occurred, I wanted it dirtier. They were almost too polite with one another.

The transition from friendship to downright talking dirty was smooth, I just wanted to see MORE of it.

And the part where Griff doesn’t want to see her was a nice touch but the reason why Griff didn’t want to see her … I actually rolled my eyes. It seemed cliche but I understood why the authors picked that occupation because it directly conflicted with Luca’s “issues.”

I thought Luca’s (platonic) relationship with her therapist was cute and believable since the therapist was pretty much a stand-in father to Luca. I feel like that relationship really brought some humor to the story and made Luca more likable, in my opinion. Though again, I understand why the authors picked Luca’s phobia, it almost felt like they picked a phobia out of a hat because it just didn’t seem to fit Luca’s personality and I often times felt like her character was inconsistent.

I felt like Griff tried harder than Luca did and at times, it almost felt like he was chasing her, nay, obsessed by her at times.

Overall, it’s a cute story and the premise was different and interesting. I just wish we could have seen more of their relationship develop via the letters before they actually met.

Book Corner

Book Review: Verity

Lowen Ashleigh is a struggling writer on the brink of financial ruin when she accepts the job offer of a lifetime. Jeremy Crawford, husband of bestselling author Verity Crawford, has hired Lowen to complete the remaining books in a successful series his injured wife is unable to finish.

Lowen arrives at the Crawford home, ready to sort through years of Verity’s notes and outlines, hoping to find enough material to get her started. What Lowen doesn’t expect to uncover in the chaotic office is an unfinished autobiography Verity never intended for anyone to read. Page after page of bone-chilling admissions, including Verity’s recollection of what really happened the day her daughter died.

Lowen decides to keep the manuscript hidden from Jeremy, knowing its contents would devastate the already grieving father. But as Lowen’s feelings for Jeremy begin to intensify, she recognizes all the ways she could benefit if he were to read his wife’s words. After all, no matter how devoted Jeremy is to his injured wife, a truth this horrifying would make it impossible for him to continue to love her.

Oh my words, dear readers, the  premise of this book … THE PREMISE! This was a really interesting, disturbing and thought provoking read. At first, your sympathies lie with Verity – poor Verity. She was involved in an accident that left her basically a shell of a woman. She’s present, but she’s not. And though I understand Lowen’s situation and the temptation of taking the job of becoming one of her favorite author’s ghostwriter, I find myself disgusted with her for taking the job and for developing feelings for Jeremy, Verity’s husband.

So, I’m not a fan of Lowen’s at first.

But then Lowen finds Verity’s autobiography and now Verity is not who we all think she is.

Bit by bit, the reader learns more about Verity and the evil that resides inside this shallow, selfish, apathetic woman. Now, I’m cheering Lowen and Jeremy along because it’s clear that Verity is crazy and doesn’t deserve Jeremy.

I love how Hoover alternates between what is happening and Lowen’s gradual read through Verity’s autobiography. Though I wanted Lowen to read faster, I’m really glad Hoover resisted the temptation because the drawn out suspense was what really pulled me in.

I love that this was a suspenseful book without the usual suspense elements. Perhaps suspense is the wrong word, tension is a better word and the growing tension between all of the characters kept me immersed in the story. In the meantime, Lowen and Jeremy are trying to fight their attraction for each other but the reader is cheering them on.

There is a lot of creepy factor in this story, too. Is Verity faking it? Or is Lowen’s over-active imagination playing tricks on her?

The climax of the story is pretty great but what shoves it into five stars for me is the very ending where Lowen finds a letter and it throws her, and the reader, into utter disbelief and confusion; did it really happen that way, or didn’t it? Was it a writing exercise or did it really happen the way Verity portrays in her autobiography?

My theory is, it really happened and Verity wrote that letter as a way of further manipulating her gullible husband and as a last-ditch effort of trying to disguise the evil that seeped from every pore of Verity’s body.

The only thing I wasn’t a fan of was how the book opened and how Lowen and Jeremy met. I think beginning the book at the office would have been sufficient and I felt like Hoover’s opening felt out of place to the rest of the story and not necessary though it didn’t really put me off – just felt like a strange decision on Hoover’s part. Then again, maybe that opening had a deeper meaning and went completely over my head – the whole story was so full of unexpected surprises.

One last thing – I couldn’t figure out why my spellchecker didn’t put a red line under Verity’s name.  I’ve never heard that word before and to my knowledge, it wasn’t a word. Oh, contraire readers. I looked it up – Verity means truth. Holy shit, I love this book even more because there wasn’t a truthful bone in Verity’s body – or was there?!

Highly recommend you read it. It’s a great spin on a twisted premise. It’s a story that stays with you long after you read it and makes you go HMMMMM….

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I finished my GoodReads challenge for 2019! I read 100 books! That is a personal best for me and I probably could have made it to 105 but I decided to give myself a break from reading for a few weeks before diving into next year’s challenge. I will try my best to write reviews on all the books I read next year. I’d still like to start a reading group, in fact, I started one way back when on GoodReads but never did anything with it, but it just seems like so much organizing … I’ve had a few peeps at work express interest so maybe I’ll do something with it at some point. Would this be something you would be interested in? Leave me a comment below!

Book Corner

Book Review: Losing Leah Holloway

Five years ago, Claire Fletcher escaped her abductor. But some scars never fade, and surviving was just the beginning…

When Claire sees a car full of children careen into a river, she rushes to the rescue. But the driver, a mother named Leah Holloway, prefers to drown. For Claire and her ex, Detective Connor Parks, it doesn’t add up. What would motivate a woman with a beautiful family and a successful career to resort to such unspeakable extremes? What Connor finds out confirms Claire’s suspicions of something dreadful behind Holloway’s picture-perfect facade: a link between the terrified mother and a serial strangler targeting Sacramento soccer moms.

As Claire and Connor are drawn back together, their investigation leads them to unearth everything Holloway was hiding. What they find could be the only way to stop a killer from striking again.

First of all, if you haven’t read Finding Claire Fletcher, I would highly recommend it. Though Losing Leah Holloway is not about Claire, she is a character in this story that gets pushed into the drama and to understand her character and her struggles, reading Finding Claire Fletcher will help you understand Claire better.

I gave this story four stars but that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it, I just didn’t love it. And I think I didn’t love it because the “main” characters played more of a secondary role in the story, which makes no sense and on the surface sounds really weird, but in this story, it worked, I just wish the story centered more on the main characters and less on Claire.

Though Claire is an interesting character and the reader feels like she knows Claire through the previous book and she is central to the beginning of the story, (her and her sister witness the car driving off the bridge and Claire is the one who saves the children), she’s not really who the story is about. She is a character who keeps things moving – the glue that makes the story stick together.

This story is not about Claire specifically, it’s about the story that happens around Claire – on her peripheral, and it’s …… interesting.

Once again, the premise is different and disturbing. Though I ultimately predicted where the story was going I wasn’t quite sure how it would end. It was somehow satisfying for Claire to be the catalyst at the beginning of the story and then be the inhibitor at the end of the story as well. That approach felt well rounded and complete, somehow, even though the main story wasn’t really about her.

I know this sounds confusing, but Ms. Regan does a good job of making it work and I appreciated the creative approach to this story. It was almost as if Leah’s story was told through Claire.

And though interesting and entertaining, I still felt like it missed something. Though the author takes us back in time and you can see Leah’s rationale for doing what she did, I still felt like I didn’t really know her, D.J. or Rachel. I would have like to get inside their heads a bit more just to fully flesh out the story.

But I understand why Ms. Regan didn’t approach it this way because again, it was a story that happened TO Claire, it wasn’t Claire’s story.

At any rate, I really enjoyed the bread crumbs that Regan dropped into the story. Things are definitely not as they appear and Leah’s life is all about appearances. I find this concept fascinating because it makes me wonder what sort of lives people are TRULY living when they drop their facade.

We all have a public face, a public persona, but who are we, truly? I can tell you with 100% conviction my public face is NOT who I really am.

What goes on behind closed doors? What are people really thinking? How exhausting is it to maintain that facade? What is the thing that makes that carefully constructed castle finally crumble?

This is really what this story is about. Human endurance and reaching the breaking point. It’s a story about desperation and depression and the lengths people will go to mask those feelings and fake normal. It’s about finally opening the “forbidden” drawers in your psyche, pulling out the horrors folded within and allowing them out to air dry.

And if that doesn’t sound pretty, it’s because it’s not.

Book Corner

Book Review: Play Dirty

Love this cover, too.

After five long years in federal prison, Griff Burkett is a free man. But the disgraced Cowboys quarterback can never return to life as he knew it before he was caught cheating. In a place where football is practically a religion, Griff committed a cardinal sin, and no one is forgiving.

Foster Speakman, owner and CEO of SunSouth Airlines, and his wife, Laura, are a golden couple. Successful and wealthy, they lived a charmed life before fate cruelly intervened and denied them the one thing they wanted most — a child. It’s said that money can’t buy everything. But it can buy a disgraced football player fresh out of prison and out of prospects.

The job Griff agrees to do for the Speakmans demands secrecy. But he soon finds himself once again in the spotlight of suspicion. An unsolved murder comes back to haunt him in the form of his nemesis, Stanley Rodarte, who has made Griff’s destruction his life’s mission. While safeguarding his new enterprise, Griff must also protect those around him, especially Laura Speakman, from Rodarte’s ruthlessness. Griff stands to gain the highest payoff he could ever imagine, but cashing in on it will require him to forfeit his only chance for redemption…and love.

Griff is now playing a high-stakes game, and at the final whistle, one player will be dead.

Play Dirty is Sandra Brown’s wildest ride yet, with hairpin turns of plot all along the way. The clock is ticking down on a fallen football star, who lost everything because of the way he played the game. Now his future — his life — hinges on one last play.

Disclaimer: Sandra Brown is one of my all-time favorite authors. If I ever get off my lazy butt and actually write something, her style of writing appeals to me and I would want to emulate that to the best of my ability.

So I’m coming at this review a bit biased. But I will try my best to be objective and fair.

I haven’t read a Sandra Brown book in quite some time. Mainly because I’m on a Kindle Unlimited kick and I refuse to pay money for books when I have so many options at my fingertips for $10 bucks a month through Kindle Unlimited.

I was so surprised when I saw a Sandra Brown book pop up in Kindle Unlimited that I snatched it up.

The reviews on this story surprised me a bit, at least on GoodReads – it has 4.3 out of five on Amazon.

I usually go by the reviews on GoodReads as opposed to the reviews on Amazon as I have found my peeps on GoodReads seem to align with my personal tastes better.

But Play Dirty on GoodReads only has 3.92 stars out of five.

And I think I know why.

The premise of the story is unusual and ethically questionable. It’s disturbing but fascinating at the same time and that’s a large reason why I liked it; it was different and interesting. Most stories follow a certain format and I appreciated the fact that this story did not.

At first, I was a bit repulsed by the premise. A wealthy couple pay for a stud. Our star quarterback basically prostitutes himself out to get back on easy street and at first, you don’t like Griff but you can understand his desperation and reasons why he might decide to do this deed, though you may not like it very much.

And though the reasons why the wealthy couple go this route as opposed to other more conventional routes makes sense … in a bizarre, okay it’s your money and if you’re willing to do this way then go for it.

Still weird. But interesting enough to keep me reading.

What I thoroughly enjoyed from this story was the unpredictability. Nearly every scenario took me somewhere I wasn’t expecting. It’s like Ms. Brown got to a comfortable spot in her story, stopped and thought, “what new hell can I put these characters through?” And I LOVED it. I get so tired of reading stories that follow a formula. True, writers can vary how they get to the answer of the problem but ultimately, we all get there eventually.

And though this story ultimately reaches a satisfactory ending, it’s more of a REALISTIC ending.

I like unusual, real stories. Life is messy and weird and confusing at times and though the premise of this story is unusual and likely not probable, it’s possible. Which for me, is the only thing required. I can buy pretty much anything if leading up to the situation is possible.

Truth really IS stranger than fiction.

I liked how Griff wasn’t a wealthy, asshole alpha male. Wait, let me rephrase that, he was until he cheated and landed himself in jail. I love how Brown started the story AFTER all of that occurred though it would be interesting to read a story about Griff’s life BEFORE he went to jail, too.

Griff is majorly flawed. He allowed his greed and big ego to overshadow common sense and it landed him in big trouble. So when he was released from jail, he wasn’t broken but he was certainly different.

When you’re first introduced to Griff, he’s a douche. He cheated. He went to jail. He is looking for a fast buck to get his life back on track. Everyone hates him because of what he did. He’s pretty much at the bottom of the barrel and at first, your sympathies lie with Foster, a wheelchair-bound man just trying to achieve his greatest desire, to have a child. I didn’t really feel much for Laura at first. She’s just the vehicle stuck between the two men doing what she is being told. If anything, I felt impatient with her and couldn’t understand why she would go along with her husband’s unusual request.

But then, Brown starts to throw me bits and pieces of character backstory and motivations and suddenly my interest piques and my sympathies shift.

And instead of giving me these tidbits all at once, Brown does a great job of spoon feeding me more and more as the story progresses so that by the end, it’s not the same story you began with.

I LOVED that aspect of the story.

I also really love how Brown writes. She provides just enough detail to place you in the scene but leaves out enough for your imagination to kick in and fill in the blanks. Her dialogue was snappy and realistic and the story just kept moving forward. I didn’t really feel like there were any stagnant parts, every part had something interesting.

Though the parts where Griff and Laura meet for the first few times are incredibly awkward and cringe worthy, it was believable and horrifying at the same time. Brown placed those characters in an impossible situation and yet somehow, they made it work.

Whenever I stop to think about story ideas for my own writing, THIS is the sort of plot I’m looking for. I want to write something that makes my reader squirm, shift loyalties and be surprised. I want to write about messy lives and awkward situations and put my characters through hell. This story does all of that and Brown does an excellent job of balancing different genres,: mystery, thriller, romance, into one cohesive, entertaining read.

I’m inspired.

Book Corner

Book Review: What I’ve Done

Morgan Dane’s new client has blood on her hands—and no recollection of what happened—as the #1 Amazon Charts bestselling series continues.

Haley Powell wakes up covered in blood, with no memory of the night before. When she sees a man lying in the backyard, stabbed to death, she has only one terrified thought: What have I done?

Agreeing to take the case as a favor to her PI friend Lincoln Sharp, Morgan must scale a mountain of damning circumstantial and forensic evidence to prove her client innocent. Haley couldn’t appear more guilty: her bloodstained fingerprints are on the murder weapon, and she has no alibi. But Morgan can’t shake the feeling that this shocked young woman has been framed.

Someone out there is hell-bent on sabotaging her defense, targeting Morgan, her partner, and especially Haley. Someone who will stop at nothing—and whose next move will be deadly.

Definition of cozy mystery – “a sub-genre of crime fiction in which sex and violence are downplayed or treated humorously, and the crime and detection take place in a small, socially intimate community. Cozy mysteries do not employ any but the mildest profanity. The murders take place off stage, frequently involving relatively bloodless methods such as poisoning and falls from great heights. The wounds inflicted on the victim are never dwelt on and are seldom used as clues. Sexual activity, even between married characters, is only ever gently implied and never directly addressed, and the subject is frequently avoided altogether.”

That definition sums up the Morgan Dane mysteries. Clearly, I like the character enough to keep coming back, this is my fourth time and there is a fifth story that I will read at some point but it is simplistic and though not entirely predictable, the author does a good job leading us down the path to a very probable solution.

Morgan is a defense attorney and I like how her character is learning about investigating crimes the same time as her readers. I like how she’s a strong female and has a level head about her but is still a female and does have physical limitations. Hence the reason for her love interest, Lance.

I also really like that Morgan is a non-traditional female in that she has lost her husband and is raising three small girls, lives with her grandfather and employs a rather interesting nanny. Nothing about her “family” is traditional, though more and more common nowadays and yet it works for me.

Though I personally prefer my mysteries to be a bit more gritty and messy, it’s nice to read a cozy mystery from time-to-time if for no other reason than to cleanse my rather disturbing palate.

If you’re looking for an easy, entertaining read, I would recommend the Morgan Dane series.

Book Corner

A New Book to Mooch

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I just added another book to my Bookmooch collection. I’ve reserved this book for 7 days on my Bookmooch account. This means, if you’re my friend on Bookmooch, you’ll have first dibs on this book. Not a friend? No problem. Just sign into your bookmooch account and add me (take2max) to your friends!

Lipstick Jungle by Candace Bushnell

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Book blurb:
Book blurb:

The new novel that fans of the bestselling author have been waiting for, about three sexy, powerful career women who will do anything to stay at the top of their fields

Victory Ford is the darling of the fashion world. Single, attractive, and iconoclastic, she has worked for years to create her own signature line. As Victory struggles to keep her company afloat, she learns crucial lessons about what she really wants in a relationship.

Nico O’Neilly is the glamorous, brilliant editor of Bonfire Magazine—the pop-culture bible for fashion, show business, and politics. Considered one of the most powerful women in publishing, she seems to have it all. But in a mid-life crisis, she suddenly realizes this isn’t enough.

Wendy Healy’s chutzpah has propelled her to the very top of the cut-throat movie industry. When it becomes clear that a competitor is trying to oust her, something has to give—and Wendy must decide between her career and her marriage.

In Lipstick Jungle, Bushnell once again delivers an addictive page-turner of sex and scandal that will keep readers enthralled and guessing to the very last page.

If you would like to join Bookmooch (or if you’re already a member, look me up!) and mooch books off of me, you can find my inventory and my account information here. My Bookmooch ID is: take2max – in case the link doesn’t work and you want to find me. 🙂

Sorry, I’m only shipping to the U.S at this time. International shipping just isn’t in the budget right now. 😦

I’ve got some bookmooch points burning a hole in my pocket. Any bookmoochers out there that want to get rid of some of their books? If so, leave me a link to your inventory in the comment section and I’ll take a look!

Check Dear Reader soon for my review of Lipstick Jungle