Monday, January 22, 2024

Review: Random in Death by J.D. Robb

Random in Death by J.D. Robb
Series: In Death, Book 58
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Futuristic/Mystery/Suspense 
Random in Death cover
ISBN: 9781250289544
Release Date: January 23, 2024
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible
J.D. Robb Reading Order

Jenna’s parents had finally given in, and there she was, at a New York club with her best friends, watching the legendary band Avenue A, carrying her demo in hopes of slipping it to the guitarist, Jake Kincade. Then, from the stage, Jake catches her eye, and smiles. It’s the best night of her life.

It’s the last night of her life.

Minutes later, Jake’s in the alley getting some fresh air, and the girl from the dance floor comes stumbling out, sick and confused and deathly pale. He tries to help, but it’s no use. He doesn’t know that someone in the crowd has jabbed her with a needle—and when his girlfriend Nadine arrives, she knows the only thing left to do for the girl is call her friend, Lieutenant Eve Dallas.

After everyone on the scene is interviewed, lab results show a toxic mix of substances in the victim’s body—and for an extra touch of viciousness, the needle was teeming with infectious agents. Dallas searches for a pattern: Had any boys been harassing Jenna? Was she engaging in risky behavior or caught up in something shady? But there are no obvious clues why this levelheaded sixteen-year-old, passionate about her music, would be targeted.

And that worries Dallas. Because if Jenna wasn’t targeted, if she was just the random, unlucky victim of a madman consumed by hatred, there are likely more deaths to come.

When the pool of potential victims is vast and the killer’s method of picking targets seems random, Lieutenant Eve Dallas and her team won’t rest. Random in Death is fast-paced, tense, and engaging. There’s no down time for Eve, Roarke, Peabody, or McNab as they try to form a profile of a killer who selects their victims at random.

The In Death series can be roughly divided into stories that are primarily case-centric and those that are mainly character-centric. This story is the former, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be invested in it. I loved watching Eve and company put together the clues to form a picture of the villain. The deaths in this book weigh heavily on Eve, as all the victims she stands for do, and to see the innocence snuffed out was heartbreaking. I really enjoyed seeing the pieces of the puzzle come together as Eve and her team (with the help of their civilian consultant, Roarke) work tirelessly to form a picture from not much. And the picture is that of a psychopath with a brilliant mind.

Even with the timeline of the cases being so tight, we still get to see the characters we know and love over the course of the story. Roarke continues to watch out for his cop, the “great house project” of Mavis, Leonardo, Peabody, and McNab moves along, some other fan favorites have a small role to play, and we get to see more of Nadine’s boyfriend, rock star Jake Kincade. You can read this book pretty much as a standalone, but you’d be missing out on the characters and relationships if you aren’t at least familiar with the series.

Regardless of whether you’re a longtime fan of the In Death series or are just looking for an interesting mystery to get caught up in, Random in Death is sure to please. With fifty-eight full-length novels in this series and counting, J.D. Robb shows no sign of slowing down – and with a mystery as solidly entertaining as this one there’s no reason to. I thoroughly enjoy every outing with Eve and Roarke and Random in Death is no exception.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Review: The Bright Spot by Jill Shalvis

The Bright Spot by Jill Shalvis
Series: Sunrise Cove, Book 5
Publisher: Avon
Genre: Contemporary Romance 
The Bright Spot cover
ISBN: 9780063235755
Release Date: January 16, 2024
Source: Author
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible
Jill Shalvis Reading Order

Luna Wright is a lot of things, but sweet and trusting isn’t on the list. However, she’s a sucker for the underdog and a hard-luck story. Adopted at birth, with scant knowledge of her biological family, she’s created her own inner circle, a motley crew which includes her bestie Willow, to help her run the struggling but charming Apple Ridge Farm.

With a farm-to-table café as well as a menagerie of rescued animals (complete with a baby goat who keeps escaping to the pantry to eat the secret stash of decidedly not organic potato chips), it’s the best home she’s ever known. But when the owner Silas, who they secretly call The Grinch, passes away, Luna discovers the farm is now under control of his investment manager, the enigmatic Jameson Hayes….and her. And that Silas had many, many secrets.

Now Luna’s carefully controlled corner of the world is threatened and she—along with some help from her friends—has to dig deep to find true strength and the real meaning of love and family.

A sunny, welcoming farmer, her beloved family and friends, and a protagonist in a suit who is on leave from his big city job are all that stand between greedy people and saving a farm with adorable rescue animals. This may sound like a Hallmark movie formula, but the cast of characters are signature Jill Shalvis. The Bright Spot is fast-paced and lively, with ridiculously cute animals and bubbly characters who are easy to adore.

Luna is a farmer who has a gift for making people love her. She works tirelessly to make Apple Ridge Farm a success, but when the owner passes away, she learns she has inherited half of the farm with the other half going to some stiff-necked investment manager. Only Jameson isn’t just a numbers geek in a suit. He’s kind, caring, and fits right into the misfit family that makes up Apple Ridge Farm. He and Luna have sparks from the beginning and it’s not long before they’re falling fast for each other.

The Bright Spot follows a predictable path, but it’s a path Shalvis does well. The quirky characters – who have zero boundaries when it comes to their friends who are like family – are familiar to anyone who enjoys Shalvis’s work. As much as I enjoyed them, because I am so familiar with Shalvis’s books I didn’t feel much fresh and new, nor did the characters feel like they had much depth. This didn’t bother me overmuch, to be honest (I enjoy a good, fluffy read). The only real snag I hit with this book was the secondary plotline involving Luna’s best friend, Willow. This could just be reader preference, but I found her a bit irritating and irrational. Even though Shalvis showed why, there wasn’t enough depth to her for me to feel connected or understanding enough that I was invested in Willow’s story.

Overall, The Bright Spot is bright, fluffy, and fun to read. The animals (especially DZ the goat) were a definite bright spot but the humans were mostly charming as well. This is a solid beach read with the humor and heart I’ve come to expect from anything Jill Shalvis writes.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Sunday, January 7, 2024

Review: Last Call at the Local by Sarah Grunder Ruiz

Last Call at the Local by Sarah Grunder Ruiz
Series: Love, Lists & Fancy Ships, Book 3
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary Romance 
Last Call at the Local cover
ISBN: 9780593549063
Release Date: January 2, 2024
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Raine Hart is used to the challenges of living with ADHD. It’s why she ditched her life in Boston to busk around Europe as a traveling musician. No boss. No schedule. No one to disappoint but herself. But when a careless mistake in Ireland leaves her unable to perform, she sees no other option but to give up her nomadic life.

Since inheriting the Local, Jack Dunne has wanted to make the pub his own. But the baggage of running a family business and the intrusive thoughts that stem from his OCD make changing things a challenge.

Over a pint with handsome, tattooed Jack, Raine accidentally insults him and the pub. Instead of taking offense, Jack, impressed by her vision of what the pub could be, offers her a job bringing it to life.

But when Raine and Jack develop feelings for one another their opposite lifestyles won’t accommodate, it becomes clear the pub isn’t the only thing that needs reinventing. As the end of their business collaboration draws near, they’ll have to find a way past the limits they’ve placed on themselves or let go of a love that could last a lifetime.
Last Call at the Local is a slow-burn romance that is as cozy as a big hug. I absolutely loved Jack and Raine and their love story warmed my heart. Sarah Grunder Ruiz delivered some of the best ADHD rep and hands down the best OCD rep I’ve seen so far in Raine and Jack and it made this story truly special.

Raine Hart is a travelling musician making her way around Europe when she lands in Cobh, Ireland and has her stuff stolen. She ends up at the Local and when she gives her opinion of the rather empty pub to the owner. Instead of telling her to leave, he offers her a job. Like recognizes like, and as a fellow owner of a messy brain Jack Dunne sees possibilities rather than problems with Raine. Jack is a cat dad with an adorable floof named Sebastian and a pub that could use some revitalization. What follows is a sweet, funny, heartwarming story of finding someone who loves you for all that you are and not just when everything in your brain is perfect.

I loved watching Jack and Raine flirt and banter. Even more, I loved the realism that came from how their OCD and ADHD manifested. Grunder Ruiz skillfully weaves the challenges Jack and Raine face while never making them people who identify solely by their neurodivergence. Raine is a brilliant musician who is scared to take that leap into sharing her own music with the world. Jack is a tattoo artist as well as a pub owner, but his relapse has taken that joy from him. They are full and complete people separately but they really come into their own together, each giving the other courage and understanding that helps them grow.

I loved the world Grunder Ruiz creates in the Local. The family and friends of Jack and Raine are a delight and fill out the story perfectly. Jack and Raine are the heart of the book, however, and they charmed the heck out of me. Their chemistry is divine and their love story left me smiling. Raine and Jack aren’t perfect, but they’re the perfect characters to enjoy a truly lovely romance about. I loved Last Call at the Local from beginning to end and I cannot wait to read the rest of Grunder Ruiz’s Love, Lists & Fancy Ships series.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Monday, January 1, 2024

Best Books of 2023

2024 is here and I'm so excited by all the possibilities this new year will bring. But before I dive into a year of wonderful new reads and re-reads, it's time to look back at my 2023 year in books. In 2023 I read 75 books, including a few re-reads that I fell in love with all over again. I tried 23 debut/new-to-me authors and discovered some wonderful authors whose backlists I cannot wait to dive into. And finally, I participated in my lucky fourteenth A to Z Reading Challenge, a fun challenge that usually leads me to at least a couple of books I might not have moved to the top of my TBR pile otherwise.

I read a number of excellent books last year, but below are my top reads of 2023 (six in total made the list - I just couldn't narrow it down to five). All of the books on this list were first-time reads because re-reads are generally books that are already favorites of mine.

Best Books of 2023

Wit and Sin's Best Books of 2023

1. Emma of 83rd Street by Audrey Bellezza and Emily Harding
Genre: Contemporary Romance
My Review
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2. Identity by Nora Roberts
Genre: Romantic Suspense
My Review

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You Just Need to Lose Weight cover
3. “You Just Need to Lose Weight”: And 19 Other Myths About Fat People by Aubrey Gordon
Genre: Non-Fiction
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4. Codename Charming (Palace Insiders, Book 2) by Lucy Parker
Genre: Contemporary Romance
My Review

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5. The Secret Lives of Country Gentlemen (The Doomsday Books, Book 1) by KJ Charles
Genre: Historical Romance
My Review

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6. One Duke Down (Rogues to Lovers, Book 2) by Anna Bennett
Genre: Historical Romance
My Review

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2024 A to Z Reading Challenge

I've had a blast doing this challenge for the past few years and I can't resist doing it again. I've discovered a few now-favorite books I might not have otherwise noticed because of this challenge :)

Challenge details:
- Duration: January 1, 2024 - December 31, 2024
- Read 26 books which titles begin with the letters of the alphabet.
- You may ignore articles like A, An and The at the beginning of the title.
- For the letter X, any book title with the letter X in it is acceptable if you can't find one that begins with X.
- Please only list books you have read. You can read them in any order.
- A book only counts once, so you can include a re-read the first time you read it.

My List:
Astrid Parker Doesn’t Fail by Ashley Herring Blake – 3/10/24
Bright Spot, The by Jill Shalvis – 1/9/24
Catch, The by Amy Lea – 2/12/24
Duke’s All That, The by Christina Britton – 2/6/24
Funny Thing Happened…, A by Josh Lanyon – 3/15/24
Goldie Standard, The by Simi Monheit – 4/28/24
Last Call at the Local by Sarah Grunder Ruiz – 1/7/24
Matzah Ball Blues by Jennifer Wilck – 4/2/24
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen – 1/10/24
On a Night Like This by Liz Maverick – 1/19/24
Quill Me Now by Jordan Castillo Price – 3/17/24
Random in Death by J.D. Robb – 1/22/24
Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal, The by KJ Charles – 2/20/24
Trouble in Taco Town by Jordan Castillo Price – 3/20/24
What the Hex by Alexis Daria – 1/7/24
Not Your EX’s Hexes by April Asher – 2/18/24

2024 New (to me) Author Challenge

I've done this challenge for the past thirteen years and discovered some amazing authors along the way (not hard to believe since I've read 680 debut/new-to-me authors in that time). It's fun for me to look back on these lists, especially when I see authors who are now auto-buys for me.

The Challenge: Read 10 or more books this year by authors you’ve never read before.
Dates: January 1, 2024 - December 31, 2024

My list:

1. Author: Sarah Grunder Ruiz
Title: Last Call at the Local (Love, Lists & Fancy Ships, Book 3)

2. Author: Eva Siedler
Title: Work It Out

3. Author: Ashley Herring Blake
Title: Delilah Green Doesn’t Care (Bright Falls, Book 1)

4. Author: Erin Clark
Title: The Break-Up Artist

5. Author: Laura Lovely
Title: The Break-Up Artist

6. Author: Melodie Edwards
Title: Once Persuaded, Twice Shy: A Modern Reimagining of Persuasion

7. Author: Simi Monheit
Title: The Goldie Standard

8. Author: Alexene Farol Follmuth
Title: Twelfth Knight

Books I've Read in 2024

For the past fourteen years I've kept track of the books I read and it's been quite a fun project. I read so much that everything tends to blend together in my mental library and it's fun to look back and see what I've I've read, loved, and want to re-read (and - on the rare occasion - want to avoid). Plus, it's great to share and compare lists with other book bloggers.

This list is only of books and novellas I've read and finished (though if I read an entire anthology, I list only the anthology title). The books are listed in the order I read them and if I write a review for a book I link it here as well.

There are sure to be many wonderful stories on the list, but the ones with a ** by them are ones I highly recommend.

1. Last Call at the Local (Love, Lists & Fancy Ships, Book 3) by Sarah Grunder Ruiz**
2. What the Hex by Alexis Daria
3. The Bright Spot (Sunrise Cove, Book 5) by Jill Shalvis
4. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (re-read) **
5. On a Night Like This (Winter Nights, Book 3) by Liz Maverick
6. Random in Death (In Death, Book 58) by J.D. Robb
7. Work It Out by Eva Siedler
8. The Duke’s All That (Synneful Spinsters, Book 3) by Christina Britton
9. Delilah Green Doesn’t Care (Bright Falls, Book 1) by Ashley Herring Blake **
10. The Catch (The Influencer, Book 3) by Amy Lea
11. Not Your Ex’s Hexes (Supernatural Singles, Book 2) by April Asher
12. The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal by KJ Charles **
13. Not Your Crush’s Cauldron (Supernatural Singles, Book 3) by April Asher
14. The Break-Up Artist by Erin Clark and Laura Lovely
15. Once Persuaded, Twice Shy: A Modern Reimagining of Persuasion by Melodie Edwards
16. Astrid Parker Doesn’t Fail (Bright Falls, Book 2) by Ashley Herring Blake
17. Speculations in Sin (Below Stairs Mysteries, Book 7) by Jennifer Ashley
18. A Funny Thing Happened… (The Adrien English Mysteries) by Josh Lanyon
19. Quill Me Now (The ABCs of Spellcraft, Book 1) by Jordan Castillo Price (re-read)
20. Trouble in Taco Town (The ABCs of Spellcraft, Book 2) by Jordan Castillo Price
21. Barbie: The World Tour by Margot Robbie, Andrew Mukamal, and Craig McDean (Photographer) **
22. Matzah Ball Blues (Holidays, Heart and Chutzpah, Book 2) by Jennifer Wilck
23. The Night Island (The Lost Night Files, Book 2) by Jayne Ann Krentz
24. Otherworldly by F.T. Lukens
25. Archangel’s Lineage (Guild Hunter, Book 16) by Nalini Singh**
26. The Lady Plays with Fire (Goode’s Guide to Misconduct, Book 2) by Susanna Craig
27. Nice Earls Do (Goode’s Guide to Misconduct, Book 0.5) by Susanna Craig
28. Rotten to the Core (Lady Hardcastle Mysteries, Book 8) by T.E. Kinsey
29. The Goldie Standard by Simi Monheit
30. Twelfth Night, or, What You Will by William Shakespeare (re-read) **
31. Mind Games by Nora Roberts
32. Gabriel’s Angel by Nora Roberts
33. Wild Man (Dream Man, Book 2) by Kristen Ashley (re-read)
34. Twelfth Knight by Alexene Farol Follmuth
35. The Summer Escape (Sunrise Cove, Book 6) by Jill Shalvis