Review: The Chestnut Man by Soren Sveistrup

The Chestnut ManThe Chestnut Man by Søren Sveistrup
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

If you find one, he’s already found you.

A psychopath, with a distinctive calling card, is terrorizing Copenhagen in this tense, debut Crime Thriller from Soren Sveistrup.

The Chestnut Man is a brutally fast-paced read. I needed a nap after I finished!!

Women are disappearing. When their battered and mutilated bodies are discovered, a chestnut man doll is always located at the grisly crime scenes.

Made of matchsticks and two chestnuts, the little doll comes to be thought of as the killer’s signature, but what could it mean?

When forensic evidence connects the chestnut men, via a fingerprint, to the missing daughter of a government minister, things really begin to heat up.

How could these crimes possibly be related?

Detectives, Thulin and Hess, team up to try to solve the mystery and prevent another woman from falling victim to the vicious Chestnut Man.

For a 500+ page novel, this book reads extremely quickly. The chapters are super short, keeping the narrative flowing at a feverish pace.

I found Sveistrup’s writing to be extremely engaging. It was smart, with twist, turns and red herrings around every corner. As I raced towards the conclusion, I loved how the case pieced itself together.

Thulin and Hess were both believable and compelling. I would love to read further mysteries with them at the helm.

From the very first pages, Sveistrup sets a grisly tone, which I love. Additionally, the intensity of the story never lets up. There was not one moment where it felt like the story wasn’t accelerating.

I was so impressed with his ability to do that. The execution of the plot is brilliant. I could use a little bit more development of Hess and Thulin’s characters, which is why I am really hoping for a second book featuring the two detectives.

I highly recommend this impressive piece of Nordic Noir!! You better clear your schedule though if you plan to pick it up, because once you start, you won’t want to put it down!

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Review: Malice by Heather Walter

MaliceMalice by Heather Walter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Once upon a time, an evil fairy cursed a line of Princesses to die. The only way to break the curse, true love’s kiss.

You may be thinking you’ve heard this story before, right?

I’d say, not quite like this. in Malice, Heather Walter has put her own darkly creative spin on the beloved tale, Sleeping Beauty.

Alyce is a Dark Grace, living in a house of Beauty Graces since she was just a young girl.

While the wealthy of Briar set appointments with the other Graces to enhance their beauty, they go to Alyce for more sinister potions and tinctures.

Alyce has never fit in with the other girls and is frequently harassed by them; particularly by the beautiful and talented, Rose.

As deplorable as their treatment of her is, Alyce grows used to it. She even comes to accept it, in a way.

That’s why when she crosses paths with the last Princess, Aurora, and Aurora shows her kindness, Alyce isn’t quite sure how to react. Why would the Princess want to be friends with her? It doesn’t make any sense.

In the midst of all of this, Alyce actually stumbles upon, and befriends someone else. Kal, a man magically imprisoned in a tower, who promises to teach her how to harness her powers.

Through her meetings with him, Alyce begins to learn more about her history, potential and the world outside of Briar.

The world Walter created within this story was absolutely immersive. I loved the magic system. Learning about the Graces and their powers, but also the interactions with Fae and the history of Briar.

It’s richly detailed, but in a way that stays engaging. Alyce was a fantastically created character. I felt her every emotion; also extra points for including her kestrel, Callow. Three cheers for animal companions.

I also thought the relationship between Alyce and Aurora was well done. It felt natural. The stakes were really high and it definitely pushed the drama of the story.

I did feel like the end dragged on a bit, but overall, I was so impressed with this. I would definitely recommend Malice for Readers who enjoy the darker side of fairy tales.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Del Rey, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review.

I appreciate the opportunity and look forward to reading more from Heather Walter!

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Review: 10 Truths and a Dare by Ashley Elston

10 Truths and a Dare10 Truths and a Dare by Ashley Elston
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

With 10 Truths and a Dare, Ashely Elston returns the Reader to the loving, yet chaotic, Messina family. You may recall them from Elston’s 2019-release, 10 Blind Dates.

In this installment, we follow Olivia, one of the cousins, at the very end of her Senior year in high school. In fact, there is just a week to go until graduation.

Olivia has always taken school very seriously, so it is no surprise to anyone that she will be graduating second in her class.

As Salutatorian, she will be giving the welcome speech at the graduation ceremony. It’s kind of a big deal.

What does come as a surprise to Olivia, is the email she receives from the school, saying her off-campus PE teacher never filled out the paperwork needed to show she completed her golf class.

Meaning, without that course officially completed, she is a half-credit short of the credits she will need to graduate!

Olivia cannot believe it. There has to be a mistake. Everything she has worked so hard for can all be taken away from her because of golf!?

She needs to get in touch with her PE teacher, Coach Cantu, in order to clear this up. Otherwise, she will never be able to enjoy all the graduation parties she has to attend this week.

After talking with the coach, it’s clear, she needs extra credit and the only way to get it, is by helping him with the 4-day golf tournament occurring that week.

Olivia needs to hide all of this from her parents, who are luckily out of town, but her Mom tracks her like a police dog. She literally has a tracking app on her phone.

Making matters worse, her Mom knows her graduation party schedule and is really excited for it. How can Olivia possibly be in two places at once?

She’s going to have to call in reinforcements. The other members of the Fab Four, her cousins, Charlie and Sophie, as well as their other best friend, Sophie’s boyfriend, Wes, agree to help and get Olivia through the week.

As with 10 Blind Dates, this story is full of wacky hijinks, romance, humor and touching family moments.

I laughed, cried and felt a whole host of emotions in between. I adored the dynamic of the Fab Four. They really go all in to help Olivia through, what turns out to be, the most difficult week of her life.

The narrative is so fast-paced. I completed it in under 24-hours. Once I started, I could not put it down. I had to know the conclusion.

While this story focused more on the Fab Four, and less on the extended family members, I didn’t mind that at all. The other family was still there around the periphery, bringing that classic Messina family chaos that I grew to love in the first book.

I hope Elston writes more books following this family. Could there be a book for Charlie in the works?

I highly recommend this, or any other book by Ashley Elston, actually. I cannot wait to see what she comes up with next. Also, be sure you read the Author’s Note at the end of this.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney-Hyperion, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review.

I appreciate the opportunity to provide my thoughts and opinion.

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Review: The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon

The Ex TalkThe Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

Shay Goldstein has been a producer at her local public radio station since she graduated from college nearly a decade ago. She enjoys her job and can’t imagine ever working anywhere else.

Dominic Yun is Shay’s newest coworker. He’s fresh out of a Masters Degree program in Journalism at a top school and boy, does he love to tell you about it.

He’s the current hot-shot at the station that all the higher-ups seem to love, but frankly, his very presence drives Shay a little batty.

Sure, he’s good-looking, tall and smells nice, but why does he have to be so darn condescending?

Pitching ideas to try to boost the ratings of their slightly floundering station, Shay presents an idea for a relationship chat show.

The concept is that exs would cohost and explore what went wrong in their relationship, tying in other popular dating topics at the same time. To Shay’s surprise, her boss okays the project with enthusiasm.

The only catch is, he expects Shay and Dominic to co-host. It’s true they’ve never dated, but there is certainly enough animosity flowing between them to convince people that they have.

Neither of them feels good about having to deceive their audience, but they also feel like they don’t have much choice. Ultimately, both Shay and Dominic begrudgingly accept the assignment.

They first need to make up an entire story behind their 3-month dating life, memorize it and stick to it. With that comes the opportunity to get to know each other better.

It’s no secret that I am a fan of Rachel Lynn Solomon’s work.

If I am not mistaken, this book is her debut in the Adult Romance space. I really enjoyed my time with these characters, although I will say they did both seem extremely young.

At times, I could have easily been convinced they were in high school interning at a radio station; except then I would be reminded of the fact they both had completed college and had their own apartments. Then, of course, there’s the steamy bits.

Those were well done. No further clarification required.

It’s true, I enjoyed this so, so much. I loved Shay. I loved Dominic. I loved Shay’s adopted dog. There’s miscommunication, flirting, workplace debacles and soft, romantic moments. It’s just a lot of fun.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review.

This story gave me all the feels and I look forward to picking up Solomon’s upcoming YA-release, We Can’t Keep Meeting Like This.

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Review: Rogue Protocol (The Murderbot Diaries #3) by Martha Wells

Rogue Protocol (The Murderbot Diaries, #3)Rogue Protocol by Martha Wells
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rogue Protocol is the third book within The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells.

I picked this series up on a whim last year and quickly fell in love with Murderbot and Martha Wells’ humorous writing style. It draws you in right away!

In this installment we rejoin Murderbot on its continued hunt for answers regarding its violent past.

It ends up on another mission, this time heading to a terraforming facility once run by the mysterious and sinister GrayCris Corporation.

More humans are involved; there mucky things up for our beloved Murderbot, yet again. It also needs to befriend, or intelligently influence, another AI. This time a tragically adorable, human-form companion robot named, Miki.

Miki’s entire personality was exploding with cute. I loved their interactions; so pure.

As usual, there was a lot of action, more betrayals and corporate cover-ups. It also ended much too quickly, although this one definitely crushed my heart a little bit there at the end. Not going to lie.

Why did I have to be listening to it before I had even had my first coffee of the day?

Sadness aside, I can’t quit Murderbot! I’m excited to continue on with their story.

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Review: Finlay Donovan Is Killing It by Elle Cosimano

Finlay Donovan Is Killing ItFinlay Donovan Is Killing It by Elle Cosimano
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Finlay Donovan Is Killing It is a hilarious, modern-day Cozy Mystery, that will leave you simultaneously at the edge-of-your-seat and clutching your sides with laughter.

As a start to a series, this story succeeded in making me fall in love with these characters. I cannot wait for more!

Finlay Donovan is a struggling novelist. She is also currently single-moming two small children, as her jerk ex-husband left her for the hot, blonde, real estate agent he had been having an affair with.

Making matters worse, on the morning of a very important meeting with her agent, to discuss her barely existent new novel, Finlay discovers her ex-hubby has also fired their nanny. Without giving her any advanced notice!

Not a great start to the day. As single-moms are known to do, however, Finlay figures it out, all whilst barely holding herself together on the inside.

She makes her meeting with her agent, at a Panera, of all places, and they have a great, albeit slightly stressful discussion about Finlay’s career.

Unbeknownst to Finlay, another patron was listening in on the conversation.

Not understanding they were discussing the plot of Finlay’s floundering novel, this woman now mistakenly believes Finlay to be a successful contract killer.

She then proceeds to try to hire Finlay to kill her husband. He’s a scoundrel, she says; he won’t be missed and she is willing to pay a hefty sum. While Finlay is intrigued, she obviously sees the problems with this plan.

However, somehow, as turns out to be common in Finlay’s life, she ends up in over her head. Before she knows it, she is embroiled in the dark underbelly of her community, where murder abounds.

This novel is fun from the first chapter. You are immediately thrown into the chaos of Finlay’s life and into her hilarious inner musings.

Not long after the Panera incident, Finlay is able to rekindle her relationship with their fabulous nanny, Vero and the two become, quite literally, partners in crime.

The relationship between Finlay and Vero gave me life. They played off each others personalities so well. I loved how they worked together and became like family.

There were great side characters, red herrings, action and drama. It is just pure fun to read; light, funny and full of over-the-top hijinks.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Minotaur Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I really appreciate it!

I cannot wait to see what Finlay and Vero get up to next!

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Review: Love & Olives (Love & Gelato #3) by Jenna Evans Welch

Love & Olives (Love & Gelato, #3)Love & Olives by Jenna Evans Welch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jenna Evans Welch has done it again. I absolutely loved my time spent reading Love & Olives.

This brought back the tone, humor, heart and gut-punching familial relationships of Love & Gelato. I’m so happy.

Liv Varanakis is surprised when she receives a postcard from her father asking her to travel to Greece to stay with him. He needs her help with a mystery project; something involving the lost city of Atlantis.

Honestly, Liv has been trying to forget her Dad. She has had little, to no, contact with him since he left when she was only 8-years old.

He returned to his native-country, Greece, and her and her mom were forced to make ends meet without him. It wasn’t always easy, but her mom has since remarried and she even has a half-brother now, who she adores.

She has to go though. Her Mom is making her go. It’ll be fine. Even though she has to miss her boyfriend’s Senior Trip; it’ll be fine.

Arriving on the beautiful island of Santorini, Liv’s nerves begin to get the best of her. She has no idea what to expect. Will she and her Dad even get along?

Things get off to a bit of a rocky start when a strange boy shows up in her Dad’s place to pick her up from the airport. Should she even trust this person?

He claims his name is Theo and that he works for her father. It’s like something out of a movie. She’s pretty sure she shouldn’t just go with him. She’s seen, Taken.

This story is an absolute delight. The Reader gets to follow along as Liv and her father try to repair their broken relationship. She gets to live in his book shop, with Theo, and their relationship blossoms as well.

Central to the story is the mystery of the lost city of Atlantis and the documentary film her father is making on the subject. Liv, an artist, is put in charge filming, a task she excels at.

The story is told through Liv’s perspective and it is full of humor. She has such a sarcastic, honest view of the events; it’s hilarious to read.

I loved the interactions between characters and how Welch incorporated some heavier topics throughout. Liv really grows over the course of the story. Watching her relationship with her father change, as she learns more about him, and about herself, was really lovely.

I have read some reviews where people commented on the length of the story; that it is too long. It is long, over 500-pages for a YA Contemporary, but looking back on it, I cannot think of one scene that I would have removed.

For me, every detail was needed in order to become as attached to Liv and her story as I did. Personally, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Ultimately, I am so glad I picked this up. I didn’t have the greatest experience with Love & Luck, but I knew what Welch was capable of because of Love & Gelato.

I actually think this story is my favorite out of the three. Liv is my favorite protagonist, combined with the Atlantis lore and the documentary aspect, makes this a near perfect book for me.

As one of my favorite BookTubers always says, 10 out of 10, recommend! Let Greece sweep you away!

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Review: Amari and the Night Brothers (Supernatural Investigations #1) by B.B. Alston

Amari and the Night BrothersAmari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Yes, yes, yes!!! Middle Grade Fantasy at its best!!!

I love Amari. I love the world. I love the magic system and humbly request at least ten volumes for this series.

Is that too much to ask? I think if you pick it up, you’d agree.

13-year old, Amari Peters, lives with her Mom in the Rosewood housing project. She had an older brother, Quinton, who was smart, fun and brave. He meant a lot to Amari. He was her best friend.

Quinton has gone missing and Amari doesn’t understand why it isn’t a bigger deal. Why isn’t it on the news? Why do the police act like if something happened to him, it was probably because he was up to no good?

Amari knows better. She doesn’t care what they insinuate about him, Quinton is the best person she knows and she is going to find out what happened to him, whether others believe her, or not.

Upon arriving home after an especially trying day, Amari is surprised by a visitor who gives her a clue that may help; the answer to which lies in a briefcase hidden in her missing brother’s closet.

She can’t believe what she finds. The Bureau of Supernatural Affairs? Is this for real?

Quinton has nominated her for a try-out? The prospect is sort of scary, but Amari knows this may be her best, perhaps only chance, of getting to the bottom of her brother’s disappearance. She’s got to go.

Thus begins Amari’s introduction to the hidden supernatural world around her. She also discovers the power within herself.

Under the guise of attending a ‘leadership camp’, Amari is able to stay at the Vanderbilt Hotel with the other Bureau trainees. There she is fully immersed in learning, training and competing. Did you hear that? Learning, training and competing.

It’s a MAGIC SCHOOL trope! I know, it’s called ‘camp’, but it’s a magic school, only one of the best tropes ever created.

The Reader learns along with Amari the ins-and-outs of the world and magic system. The good guys, the bad guys, the history. It’s all beautifully constructed and paced out.

I was totally engrossed in this while reading it. As first books in a series go, this is top notch. It definitely left me wanting more and I can’t wait to see how Amari grows in future books.

If you are looking for that good old-fashioned, kid discovering they are actually part of a magical world, then learns about it, competes within it, and fights evil forces, kind of book, you NEED to pick this up. There’s not even an option.

You can thank me later.

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Review: Go the Distance (A Twisted Tale) by Jen Calonita

Go the Distance (A Twisted Tale: Hercules)Go the Distance by Jen Calonita
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5-stars rounded up**

Picking up directly after the events of the Disney animated movie, Go the Distance follows Megara as she fights for her right to be with Hercules.

After Herc regains his godship, the couple are ready to celebrate. As Hercules is called by his parents to return to Mount Olympus, however, they run into a problem. Zeus quickly points out that Meg cannot go, as she is a mere mortal.

Meg can’t believe it. After everything they have been through, is this how it is going to end?

Hercules is shocked as well and advocates to stay with Meg. He’d rather be with her than have a life of immortality alone.

His parents aren’t going to stand for that though; no way. Hera, seeing how happy Meg makes her son, offers Meg a deal; a way for her to earn her way into a spot on Mount Olympus.

All she has to do is complete a mysterious quest in 10-days. Unfortunately, the quest involves saving her ex-boyfriend’s, new wife’s soul from the Underworld.

Obviously, Meg has some mixed feelings on this, but she agrees nonetheless. We’re talking about eternity with the man she loves here.

Joining her for support is Philoctetes, better known as Phil. The coach to the Gods. If anyone can help Meg work through her quest, it is him. And let’s not forget Pegasus!! He’s along as well, to give Meg a helping hoof.

Meg needs to put her hurt emotions aside, as well as face her nemesis, Hades, again. She escaped his clutches once, could she be so lucky as to do it again?

I really had a fun time reading this story. I love Megara. She’s one of my favorite characters within the Disney universe. She’s smart, she’s snarky and she’s not constantly looking for someone to save her.

I enjoyed the backstory Calonita created for her. The loss of her mother, their relationship, her previous relationship with her ex-boyfriend and even Hades manipulation of her.

I thought the quest was fun. Having Phil and Pegasus along definitely made it more humorous. I loved watching both of them come to accept Meg for who she is.

Overall, I think this is a fun addition to this series. If you are a Megara fan, as I am, you should definitely give this one a shot!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I always look forward to the new releases in the Twisted Tales series!!!

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Review: Hello, Cruel Heart by Maureen Johnson

Hello, Cruel WorldHello, Cruel World by Maureen Johnson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Hello, Cruel Heart is an origin story of sorts for one of my favorite villains ever, Cruella de Vil.

The timing for this release is perfect for Cruella fans, as we also have a live action Cruella film releasing at the end of May, starring Emma Stone.

We all know, I just love when a villain gets her time to shine.

In this story, set in 1967-London, we follow a 16-year old, Estella, Cruella’s true name, as she branches out for the first time and tries to find her place in the world.

Orphaned at a young age, Cruella moved herself, and her sweet dog, Buddy, to London, knowing not a soul in the world.

It’s on that first day in the city that she meets Jasper and Horace. The three kids immediately bond while fleeing from the local police.

They’re inseparable from that point forward, doing whatever they need to do to survive. They become family and rely on one another for everything.

In her quiet moments, Estella dreams of becoming a famous fashion designer. She spends a lot of her time sewing and creating. She’s really good at it. She has an eye.

It is partly due to this special talent that she drifts onto the radar of wealthy twins, Magda and Richard, who sweep her into their world as a sort of pet project.

They’re posh, sophisticated and live a carefree lifestyle that Estella can’t even imagine.

She’s blinded by the money and social circle, thinking she can use their friendship as a jumping off point for getting her name, and fashion designs, out in the world.

Before she knows it, it’s all happening. Everything she ever dreamed of. She’s dating a rock star, for goodness sake!

She’s also keeping her alter-ego, Cruella, quietly subdued in the background of her mind.

Everything is going great, until it isn’t.

I had fun with this story. It reads incredibly fast. I read it in about 4-hours. I enjoyed learning about Cruella’s early life and gaining some insight into her motivations as a character. I see you, Cruella. I get it.

Although the story was quick, it did transport me. I was fully engulfed in the world while I was reading it.

With this being said, I did expect a bit more substance. I would have been here for even more detail and background. Especially coming from Maureen Johnson.

If you are a Cruella fan, a villain origin story fan, or even just a Disney fan, I would recommend checking this one out.

It is definitely a great way to get you in the mood for the upcoming movie. I know I will definitely be watching it.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Disney Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I appreciate it very much!

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