Reviews: THE HEIR AFFAIR & NOT LIKE THE MOVIES

 

I hope everyone who was celebrating this weekend had a safe and fun 4th of July holiday.  I spent most of my holiday weekend reading so today I’m sharing reviews for a couple of fun contemporary reads that are coming out this week.  The Heir Affair and Not Like the Movies are the perfect reads to escape into this summer.

 

Reviews:  THE HEIR AFFAIR & NOT LIKE THE MOVIESThe Heir Affair (Royal We, #2) Goodreads

Author: Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan

Publication Date: July 7, 2020

Publisher:  Grand Central Publishing

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

 

If you enjoy books about royalty or have ever fancied yourself marrying the future King of England, The Royal We series by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan needs to be on your must read list.  The Royal We, the first book in the series, follows American college student Rebecca Porter (Bex) and Prince Nicholas (Nick), the future King of Great Britain as they meet, fall in love, and navigate the many obstacles that stand in the way of Bex becoming a member of the Royal Family, while the newest novel in the series, The Heir Affair, picks up with Nick and Bex as a newly married couple starting out their lives together.

While I thoroughly enjoyed both of these books, what I really loved about The Heir Affair is that it really takes a deep dive into Nick and Bex’s relationship.  Some very dramatic events from the first book have really shaken them.  They need time to heal and regroup, and then they also need to work to try to reconcile with Nick’s brother, Freddie, as well as mend their reputations with respect to the people of Great Britain.  The authors do a wonderful job of making Bex and Nick’s relationship easy to relate to.  Even though they are royalty and many of their issues and challenges are royal problems that most of us can only imagine in our wildest dreams, many of the other challenges they face are normal, everyday couple issues.

Of course there are still plenty of humorous moments sprinkled throughout the book, particularly with respect to Bex’s relationship with the Queen and with Bex and Nick’s circle of friends from college who are always entertaining.  As much as Bex and Nick’s journey through married life and, in particular, their strained relationship with Freddie, tugged at my heartstrings, the humorous moments really balanced things out, as did some of the long-buried, juicy royal secrets that come to light and shake things up for everyone.

As much as I enjoyed The Royal We, I couldn’t have asked for a better sequel in The Heir Affair. Overall, a very satisfying read. 4 STARS

 

 

Reviews:  THE HEIR AFFAIR & NOT LIKE THE MOVIESNot Like the Movies (Waiting for Tom Hanks, #2) Goodreads

Author: Kerry Winfrey

Publication Date: July 7, 2020

Publisher:  Berkley Books

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

 

I went into Kerry Winfrey’s new novel, Not Like the Movies, hoping for a bit of light rom-com goodness, but I have to say that I fully underestimated this book because Not Like the Movies has turned out to be one of my favorite reads of the summer so far.  While yes, it has plenty of that rom-com goodness I was looking for, it also has so much more.

Chloe Sanderson is the protagonist of the story and I adored her and just found her so relatable. Chloe has a big heart, always going out of her way to do nice things for others.  She also has a lot on her plate, working as a waitress and baker at Nick’s Café, going to school to finish her business degree, and, most importantly, caring for her aging father who has Alzheimer’s.  Chloe’s life is further complicated when her best friend Annie, an up and coming filmmaker, writes a rom-com screenplay inspired by Chloe’s life and her romance with her boss, Nick.  There’s just one problem…Chloe and Nick are not in a relationship and never have been.

When Annie’s screenplay is actually picked up by a major studio, Chloe’s fictionalized life is suddenly everywhere and everyone thinks she and Nick are together. Awkward!  Things become even more awkward as Chloe starts to consider the possibility of dating her boss. She doesn’t have time for it with everything else on her plate and doesn’t even know if she believes in love, but Nick is kind of irresistible in a sexy, grumpy yet super sweet Luke Danes from Gilmore Girls kind of way. I loved Nick and Chloe’s chemistry and immediately became fully invested in the “Will they or won’t they?” pull of the story.

As much as I adored the rom-com aspect of Nick and Chloe’s evolving relationship, what really took Not Like the Movies to the next level for me was Chloe’s journey as she tries to balance everything she has going on in her life.  It’s an emotional one for her because she’s always so worried about caring for others, especially her Dad, and leaves her own self-care out of the equation.  Even though the journey is a struggle for her, I loved watching Chloe grow as a person, and I especially enjoyed watching her assert herself when it comes to her brother, who has conveniently stayed away and not pulled his weight when it comes to matters of their family.

There’s just so much to love about Not Like the Movies. I flew through it in a couple of sittings and even though I was completely satisfied with the ending, I was actually still just a little sad just because I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Chloe and Nick yet.  If you’re in the mood for a story that features romance, family drama, and friendship, this is your book.  Oh and there’s pie too!  Lots of pie!  4.5 STARS

Review: I KILLED ZOE SPANOS by Kit Frick

Review:  I KILLED ZOE SPANOS by Kit FrickI Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick
Also by this author: All Eyes on Us
four-stars
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books on June 30, 2020
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 384
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kit Frick’s new novel, I Killed Zoe Spanos, has all of the ingredients that make for a great summer read.  It has a compelling mystery regarding what has happened to Zoe Spanos and who is responsible, and it also features a fantastic podcast run by a teenager who doesn’t think the police are doing enough to solve the mystery.  Top that off with an unreliable narrator and a small town setting in the ultra-elite Hamptons and you’ve got yourself a must-read book for the beach or your next vacation.

The protagonist of I Killed Zoe Spanos is Anna Cicconi.  Anna has come to Herron Mills, a village in the Hamptons, to work as a nanny for a family there.  She is hoping this job will be a fresh start for her.  Anna has gone through a rough patch lately and spent entirely too much time partying and drinking, to the point where she has started experiencing blackouts and memory loss.  Anna’s journey takes an unexpected turn when she arrives in Herron Mills and is immediately told by everyone she meets that she looks just like Zoe Spanos, a young woman who went missing in the village months earlier.  Anna becomes interested in Zoe’s disappearance and starts having little flashes of memories that convince her that she knows Zoe and that she has been to Herron Mills before.  When the story opens and we are faced with a scene in which Anna is confessing to Zoe’s murder, it becomes clear that Anna’s summer in the Hamptons is life changing in all the wrong ways.

We get most of the story from Anna’s perspective, and Anna is a classic unreliable narrator.  From the moment we meet her as she is confessing to Zoe’s murder, it’s clear that we can’t necessarily trust what she’s saying.  The confession is oddly specific yet filled with comments like “I guess,” “I think,” etc. It doesn’t sound at all like a statement made by someone who is sure she committed the crime.  An even bigger cloud of doubt is cast over Anna’s story when we learn from her best friend Kaylee that she was with Anna and they weren’t even at the house where Anna is saying Zoe died.  Even though the story opens with a confession, the mystery of what happened to Zoe and what, if any, role Anna had in it, is truly about as muddled as it gets and I was hooked on wanting to get to the bottom of it.  I also really liked Anna and that she was trying to get her life under control, so I wanted her account to be wrong. I didn’t want her to be a killer.  Sometimes unreliable narrators don’t work well for me, but I loved its use here.

I was also a big fan of the author’s use of a dual timeline.  One timeline follows the events that lead up to the discovery of Zoe’s body, while the other timeline deals with the fallout after the body is discovered.  I always love watching the pieces of a puzzle come together this way, as it allows me lots of opportunities to try to fit those pieces together and come up with my own theories about what has happened, as I did with this story.  In this case, the chapters alternate between the two timelines so that the reader is fed a few crumbs at a time from each end of the mystery, both from Anna’s perspective and from the perspective of Martina Jenkins, who is conducting her own investigation into what happened to Zoe, and broadcasting her findings on a podcast called Missing Zoe.

I don’t want to give away any details about what actually happened to Zoe, but I will say that it’s a wild ride to the final reveal.  I came up with lots of theories along the way and was wrong every time.  In addition to the mystery about Zoe, there are also plenty of little side plots filled with secrets and drama that add extra layers of intrigue and suspense to the overall story.  I devoured I Killed Zoe Spanos in just a couple of sittings and definitely recommend it if you’re in the mood for a good mystery.

four-stars

About Kit Frick

Kit Frick is a novelist, poet, and MacDowell Colony fellow. Originally from Pittsburgh, PA, she studied creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College and received her MFA from Syracuse University. When she isn’t putting complicated characters in impossible situations, Kit edits poetry and literary fiction for a small press, edits for private clients, and mentors emerging writers through Pitch Wars. She is the author of the young adult novels See All the Stars, All Eyes on Us (2019), and Windermere (2020), all from Simon & Schuster / Margaret K. McElderry Books, and the poetry collection A Small Rising Up in the Lungs (New American Press). Her fiction is represented by Erin Harris at Folio Literary Management / Folio Jr.

Review: MEXICAN GOTHIC by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Review:  MEXICAN GOTHIC by Silvia Moreno-GarciaMexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
four-stars
Published by Del Rey on June 30, 2020
Genres: Horror, Historical Fiction
Pages: 352
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t normally read much in the way of horror, but when I read the synopsis for Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s new novel, Mexican Gothic, and saw the comparisons to gothic classics Jane Eyre and Rebecca, I just couldn’t resist stepping out of my comfort zone and giving it a try.  I’m so glad I did too because Mexican Gothic is one wild and seriously creepy ride!

Set in Mexico during the 1950’s, the story follows Noemi Taboada, a stylish debutante who spends much of her time either going to parties or studying anthropology.  She’s trying to figure out what she wants to do with her life when her family receives a disturbing and cryptic letter from Noemi’s recently married cousin, Catalina.  In her letter, Catalina rants and raves, makes it sound like she’s being held against her will, and begs for someone to come and save her from a mysterious doom.  Noemi and her family hadn’t heard from Catalina much since she moved away with her new husband so her letter comes as a huge shock.  Fearful for both her physical and mental well-being, Noemi sets out on the long journey to visit Catalina and assess the situation.

As soon as Noemi arrives at High Place, the remote mansion in the countryside where Catalina is living, she can tell that something is just off.  The mansion is creepy, rundown, and there are signs of decay everywhere, and the family themselves doesn’t appear much better off.  Howard Doyle, the patriarch of the household, is practically on his deathbed, and all rules of the house are set up so as not to disturb him, with the ultra-stern housekeeper Florence enforcing them.  Catalina’s husband Virgil is equally creepy and has a predatory vibe about him that Noemi immediately dislikes, and she quickly begins to understand why Catalina could be distressed by her living arrangements.  Speaking of Catalina, Noemi is rarely allowed to see or speak to her cousin, and is told that she is recovering from an illness.  The few times Noemi does speak to her, she seems agitated and not at all like herself.  The longer Noemi stays in the house, the more she starts to sense that something is very wrong and that it may be starting to affect her as well.

I really enjoyed the character of Noemi.  She’s smart, resourceful, and quite brave.  She went to that house wanting answers and she wasn’t leaving without them. She also refused to back down to anyone who got in her way, no matter how much they tried to intimidate or threaten her.

I don’t want to say anything else about the plot since the bulk of the book deals with Noemi trying to figure out what is going on in this house.  I will say though that what Noemi finds blows her mind, and mine as well.  Mexican Gothic is a dark, disturbing, utterly twisted and such a unique story that all of the big reveals kept me guessing.  In addition to the uniqueness of the story itself, I also loved the gothic atmosphere of the setting, especially the rundown mansion with the creepy graveyard on the property.   Everything about this story had me on the edge of my seat from the moment Noemi started poking around in the mansion.  One of my favorite elements of the storytelling was that the author creates an environment where it becomes hard to distinguish what is real from what is illusion or perhaps an imagination run wild.  I mention this in part because I do want to give a trigger warning for some graphic scenes involving a real or imagined sexual assault.

Circling back to touch on those comparisons to Jane Eyre and Rebecca, I think both of those are apt and I would also toss in a little V.C. Andrews’ Flowers in the Attic as well.  If you’re craving a dark and haunting read, Mexican Gothic is sure to satisfy your appetite.

four-stars

About Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Silvia Moreno-Garcia is the author of several novels, including Gods of Jade and Shadow. She has also edited a number of anthologies, including the World Fantasy Award-winning She Walks in Shadows (a.k.a. Cthulhu’s Daughters). Mexican by birth, Canadian by inclination.

Review: PARTY OF TWO by Jasmine Guillory

Review:  PARTY OF TWO by Jasmine GuilloryParty of Two by Jasmine Guillory
Also by this author: Royal Holiday (The Wedding Date, #4)
four-stars
Series: The Wedding Date #5
Published by Berkley Books on June 23, 2020
Genres: Fiction, Romance, Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 320
Also in this series: Royal Holiday (The Wedding Date, #4)
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own..

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t know if it’s the stress of the pandemic or because it’s finally summer, but I have found myself craving romantic reads lately.  I seriously just can’t get enough of them.  I’ve been enjoying Jasmine Guillory’s series, The Wedding Date, so when I saw she had a new installment in the series coming out this month, Party of Two, I couldn’t resist requesting it.

Olivia Monroe is smart, sexy, and savvy, and she’s also a successful attorney who has recently moved to L.A. to start her own law firm with her best friend.  The last thing Olivia has time for in her life right now is romance, but a chance encounter in a hotel bar with a handsome man has her thinking a little romance might not be a bad thing.  That is, until she later learns that the handsome man is none other than Senator Max Powell.  Olivia has absolutely no interest in dating a politician or in the pressure of being in the spotlight.  She still can’t deny that Max is gorgeous though…

I wanted to cringe as much as Olivia did when I realized Max was a politician, but I’ll freely admit that he won me over right away.  Max is smart and handsome, but he’s also just flat out adorable.  He wears disguises so he can have privacy while he’s out and about, he’s very passionate about causes that are important to him, and perhaps the biggest selling point for me, he tries to woo Olivia with cake!  This is a guy after my own heart, haha.  He’s not perfect though and I think that’s actually what I liked most about him. Max tends to be a little impulsive, especially when it comes to matters of love and romance.  His heart is always in the right place, but he can sometimes make a mess of things because he acts first and thinks second.

I really adored both Max and Olivia from that first encounter in the hotel bar.  Their chemistry was off the charts and their flirty banter was truly giving me life!  Even though I’m not really a believer in love at first sight, I was immediately rooting for the two of them to give it a go.  I also thought the author did a wonderful job of making both characters and their evolving relationship feel so authentic. As with most relationships, there are lots of fun moments, but also some more dramatic and stressful moments.  I was completely invested in both Max and Olivia as if I actually knew them and found myself glued to the book, finishing it in just a couple of sittings, because I just had to know if they were going to get a happy ending together or not.

If you’re in the mood for a smart, sexy romance, I highly recommend giving Party of Two a try.  As much as I have enjoyed The Wedding Date series overall, I won’t hesitate to say that Party of Two is my new favorite book in the series.  To quote Mary Poppins, it’s “practically perfect in every way.”

four-stars

About Jasmine Guillory

Jasmine Guillory is a graduate of Wellesley College and Stanford Law School. She is a Bay Area native who has towering stacks of books in her living room, a cake recipe for every occasion, and upwards of 50 lipsticks.

Review: REBEL SPY by Veronica Rossi

Review:  REBEL SPY by Veronica RossiRebel Spy by Veronica Rossi
three-half-stars
Published by Delacorte Press on June 23, 2020
Genres: Historical Fiction, Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 368
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was drawn to Veronica Rossi’s new novel Rebel Spy because although I love historical fiction and read it often, I’ve not read much in the way of fiction that focuses on the American Revolution.  I was especially intrigued by Rebel Spy because the rebel spy in question is actually a woman, which was definitely new information to me.  Aside from those who went on to become First Ladies, the only other female figure that even comes to mind when I think of the Revolutionary War is Betsy Ross.  Needless to say, I was thrilled to learn that there were actually female spies in George Washington’s intelligencer networks and that they played a vital role in the war.

Rossi’s novel follows a woman identified in our historical records only as Agent 355 “Lady.”  Agent 355’s  true identity remains unknown to this day and all we know of her is that she was a woman of high society in New York and that she worked as a part of Washington’s Culper spy network.  In her novel, Rossi has used her imagination to fill in the gaps and reimagine Agent 355’s life.

In Rossi’s reimagining, Agent 355 is Frannie Tasker, an orphaned young woman who lives on Grand Bahama Island with her abusive stepfather.  Frannie dreams of a new life free from his abuse, and when her stepfather announces that he wants to marry her, Frannie becomes all the more desperate to get away from him.  A timely storm, a devastating shipwreck with no survivors, and the body of a young woman who drowned in the wreck and bears a striking resemblance to Frannie provides her the escape she has been looking for.  With her quick thinking, Frannie switches places with the young woman, thus assuming her identity. She learns that the young woman has lost her entire family in the shipwreck and the plan is now to put her on the next ship to New York, where her new guardian is located.  The story follows Frannie as she takes on this new identity, learns to behave like a proper lady of society, and begins her life anew in New York City.  It is while she is on the journey to New York that Frannie meets a young man who puts the idea of rebelling against the Crown into her head and sets into motion her journey to joining a spy ring.  Frannie’s new position as a lady of society in New York gives her a prime vantage spot for intelligence as there are constantly British soldiers milling around at events she attends.

Rebel Spy is definitely a character driven story in the sense that while we do see Frannie in action as a spy, the spy ring and the Revolutionary War itself are very much in the background.  This is a story about Frannie, the life she has left behind, the new life she embraces in New York, the new friends and more-than-friends she meets along the way, and then finally her introduction to the world of spying.  As much as I enjoyed reading about Frannie’s life and what a resourceful and principled young lady she was, I would have rated this book even higher if we had gotten to see a little more of the actual spying and the war up close.

Even with that little quibble, I still found Rebel Spy to be a quick and satisfying read and one that has definitely made me want to learn more about the women who played a role in the American Revolution.

three-half-stars

About Veronica Rossi

Veronica Rossi is a best selling author of fiction for young adults. Her debut novel, UNDER THE NEVER SKY, was the first in a post-apocalyptic trilogy, and was deemed one of the Best Books of Year by School Library Journal. The series appeared in the NY Times and USA Today best seller lists and was published in over 25 foreign markets.

Her second series for young adults began with RIDERS and tells the story of four modern day teens who become incarnations of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, and the prophetic girl who brings them together. SEEKER completes the duology.

Veronica completed her undergraduate studies at UCLA and then went on to study fine art at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco. She is a lifelong reader and artist. Born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, she has lived in Mexico, Venezuela, and all over the United States, to finally settle in Northern California with her husband and two sons.

When not writing, Veronica enjoys reading painting, hiking, and running. She does not like anything involving numbers, the addition of them, subtraction of them, you name it. They terrify her. Her obsessions generally lead to fictional works. Currently, she has just finished delving into New York City during the Revolutionary War.

Review: THE LAST TRAIN TO KEY WEST by Chanel Cleeton

Review:  THE LAST TRAIN TO KEY WEST by Chanel CleetonThe Last Train to Key West by Chanel Cleeton
five-stars
Published by BERKLEY on June 16, 2020
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 320
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Set in the Florida Keys during the Great Depression, Chanel Cleeton’s latest novel, The Last Train to Key West is a heart-stopping read that follows three young women whose lives are forever changed when a devastating hurricane strikes.

Helen has lived in the Keys all her life. She is nine months pregnant and married to an abusive man whose abuse has only gotten worse as times have gotten more desperate.  When we first meet Helen, she is daydreaming about what life could be like if her husband were to die.  Helen captured my heart right from that scene because imagine being in such a bad situation that trying to make it alone in the world with an infant in the middle of the Depression is preferable to living with your own husband.

Mirta, a young woman from Cuba, has come to the Keys with her new husband.  Her marriage is an arranged marriage to pay off her family’s debts and all Mirta knows about the man she has married is that he is from New York and that he appears to be involved in an unsavory and potentially dangerous line of work.  As they arrive in the Keys on their honeymoon before heading home to NYC, Mirta is feeling incredibly anxious, having been forced to leave her family and the only home she has ever known to go with this man who is a stranger to her.  As with Helen, I immediately became invested in Mirta and her well being.

The last young woman we meet is Eliza, a native New Yorker who has traveled to the Keys.  She tries to play it cool and be coy about why she’s traveling so far alone, but the truth is that she’s desperately searching for a long-lost family member.  Eliza has heard rumors that he may be at a work camp in the Keys, which is what has brought her to Florida.  Eliza is determined to find him and bring him home because he’s the only one who can save her from a future she does not want and a man she does not love.  I admired Eliza right away because of her spunk and determination, so as with both Helen and Mirta, I was immediately hoping that Eliza would find her happy ending.

Cleeton’s storytelling just pulled me in right away.  I loved the way the story unfolds through alternating chapters from Helen, Mirta and Eliza and how their journeys eventually become intertwined with one another.  The characters are so complex and beautifully drawn, and all three of them possess an inner strength and sense of resiliency that made me love them all the more.  Their stories were all so compelling that I just couldn’t put the book down.

It wasn’t just these wonderful characters that made The Last Train to Key West such a fantastic read, however.  The story is also fraught with danger, suspense, and mystery, and kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time I was reading.  As if these women didn’t already have enough to contend with, there are also potential dangers with the mob afoot as well as a deadly hurricane bearing down on the island contrary to weather reports that had the storm taking a different path. I don’t want to say anything else for fear of spoiling but, just wow!  I devoured this book in a couple of sittings and still wanted more when I finished the final page!

These characters and their lives grabbed hold of my heartstrings and didn’t let go, which just made for a perfect read for me.  I also didn’t realize when I first started reading that the hurricane in the book is also based on an actual catastrophic storm that struck the Keys back in 1935.  Cleeton made that whole experience feel so real and so devastating that I shed tears when I realized it was based on an actual event.  The Last Train to Key West is, by far, one of my favorite reads of 2020 thus far and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical fiction and stories that feature women trying to make their own happy endings.

five-stars

About Chanel Cleeton

Chanel Cleeton is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick Next Year in Havana and When We Left Cuba. Originally from Florida, Chanel grew up on stories of her family’s exodus from Cuba following the events of the Cuban Revolution. Her passion for politics and history continued during her years spent studying in England where she earned a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Richmond, The American International University in London and a master’s degree in Global Politics from the London School of Economics & Political Science. Chanel also received her Juris Doctor from the University of South Carolina School of Law. She loves to travel and has lived in the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia.

Mini Reviews: TAKE A HINT, DANI BROWN & I WAS TOLD IT WOULD GET EASIER

 

Today I’m sharing reviews of a couple of contemporary reads that are coming out in the next couple of weeks.  I adored both of these novels; they were just the perfect reads to distract me and help pass the time while stuck in quarantine because of the pandemic.

 

Mini Reviews:  TAKE A HINT, DANI BROWN & I WAS TOLD IT WOULD GET EASIERTake a Hint, Dani Brown (The Brown Sisters, #2) Goodreads

Author: Talia Hibbert

Publication Date: June 23, 2020

Publisher:  Avon

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

 

I wasn’t sure Talia Hibbert would be able to top Get a Life, Chloe Brown, but as much as I enjoyed that book, I fell head over heels in love with Take a Hint, Dani Brown.

Dani is a professor and is absolutely brilliant at most things…the one exception to that being love.  When it comes to matters of the heart, she is admittedly completely clueless and therefore just doesn’t even try anymore.  All she wants out of life is to be successful professionally and academically, and a friends-with-benefits relationship on the side to satisfy her physical needs.  When the universe places Zaf, a tall, dark, and handsome university security officer in her path, Dani thinks it must surely be a sign.

Zaf, however, has other ideas when it comes to love. An avid reader of romance novels, Zaf knows what he wants too and it’s all about romance and a happily ever after for him.  When a chance encounter between Zaf and Dani is captured on video and goes viral,  it’s game on, especially when both he and Dani realize their video is actually generating positive buzz and much-needed donations to Zaf’s sports charity for kids.  Dani agrees to pose as his girlfriend for a while to keep that positive press coming. Zaf is great with this arrangement at first, but finds his attraction to Dani growing with every encounter.   Can Zaf win Dani over to his way of thinking when it comes to love and romance?  Or can Dani persuade Zaf that her way is the way to go?

The main characters, Dani and Zaf were both so adorable. I just couldn’t get enough of them.  The chemistry and sexual tension between them is off the charts, and I just loved all of their flirty banter.  Dani is so outspoken when it comes to her thoughts on sex and it cracked me up because she could so easily fluster Zaf and leave him blushing.  I love the fake dating trope because it makes for such a fun storyline, but man was I rooting for these two to get together for real.  They were just so perfect for each other, and I devoured page after page eagerly waiting to see what would happen between them.

If you’re looking for a quick, fun and sexy read with a “Will they or won’t they?” vibe, definitely check out Take a Hint, Dani Brown. You won’t regret it!  4.5 STARS

 

Mini Reviews:  TAKE A HINT, DANI BROWN & I WAS TOLD IT WOULD GET EASIERI Was Told It Would Get Easier Goodreads

Author: Abbi Waxman

Publication Date: June 16, 2020

Publisher:  Berkley Books

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

 

I became a huge fan of Abbi Waxman’s writing and her sense of humor when I read The Bookish Life of Nina Hill last year, so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy of her latest book, I Was Told It Would Get Easier.

I fell in love with this book as soon as I started reading it and realized it was about a mother and daughter taking a road trip to visit colleges and especially as soon as I felt the tension between them.  I love those complicated relationship dynamics and couldn’t wait to dive in and learn more about what was going on with these two.  Jessica and her daughter Emily used to be very close, but as often happens when our children enter their teen years, things get a little more challenging, and in this case, mother and daughter have gradually grown apart.  Jessica is really hoping this college tour will give them a chance to bond; however, Emily doesn’t even know if she wants to go to college so she isn’t overly invested in the trip and doesn’t know how to tell her mom that college may not be for her.  Emily is also completely distracted by a potential scandal that seems to be unfolding at the private school she attends. This all makes for an even more strained mother-daughter dynamic as they embark on this trip.

While Jessica and Emily’s emotional journey is definitely at the heart of I Was Told It Would Get Easier, the novel is also filled with Waxman’s trademark humor, especially when it came to the actual college tours, which sometimes went completely off the rails in the most amusing ways.  The cast of secondary characters was very entertaining as well, filled with a nice mix of characters I loved and even a couple that I loved to hate, which is always fun.  I also enjoyed watching Emily and Jessica interact with other kids and their parents.  Waxman’s mix of heart and humor kept me turning the pages, as did the dramatic hints of some trouble brewing at Jessica’s workplace as well as that school scandal Emily seems to be obsessing over.

Abbi Waxman definitely has another winner on her hands with I Was Told It Would Get Easier.  I whole heartedly recommend it to anyone who enjoys heartwarming and humorous reads and stories that focus on mother-daughter relationships.  4.5 STARS

Review: THE GUEST LIST by Lucy Foley

Review:  THE GUEST LIST by Lucy FoleyThe Guest List by Lucy Foley
four-stars
Published by William Morrow on June 2, 2020
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 320
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lucy Foley’s The Guest List is an atmospheric thriller that centers on a high society wedding event gone wrong.  The wedding in question is that of Jules and Will.  Jules is a successful magazine publisher, while Will is an up and coming reality TV star.  With an exotic location, designer gowns, and boutique whiskey, Will and Jules’ wedding is shaping up to be the stuff dreams are made of.  That is, until it turns into a nightmare, complete with a dead body.

I was very intrigued by all the different points of view the author chose to use in this story.  We get alternating chapters from Jules, the bride; Olivia, Jules’ sister and only bridesmaid; Hannah, the wife of Jules’ best friend; Johnno, the best man; and Aoife, the wedding planner.  When I first started reading, I thought this was such an odd assortment of characters to choose and was eager to find out why in the world they had been selected.  As the story started to come together, it became obvious why these characters had been selected and I was eager to learn more about them, particularly what each of them was hiding since it was clear they all had secrets they were holding close to their chests.

In addition to the seemingly random points of view that weren’t so random after all, the author also uses a very effective timeline to pull together all of the threads of this mystery.  The Guest List begins the night of Jules and Will’s wedding. A fierce storm has blown in just after the ceremony and the guests are riding out the storm inside.  The environment quickly turns chaotic as the power starts flickering on and off and then the guests start to hear screams. It’s clear that something has gone terribly wrong and the ushers decide it’s up to them to go out and investigate the source of the screams.  The story then alternates between following the aftermath of discovering the dead body, and following the events that led up to the discovery of the body, with special attention to certain members of the wedding party and guests to see what, if any, role they played in the tragedy.

While I loved watching the different points of view and the two timelines come together, it was the atmospheric remote setting of The Guest List that really took this story to the next level for me.  It’s set on a small island off the coast of Ireland.  The island is practically deserted and is rumored to be haunted, and is composed of a landscape that is rocky, wild, and particularly dangerous if you stray from the designated paths.  All I kept thinking as I was reading was “Who in their right mind would want to have a wedding in such a dangerous and creepy place?”

I don’t want to give away any details since this is a thriller, so I’m going to close now before I say too much.  If you’re a fan of creepy atmospheric, slow burn thrillers reminiscent of Agatha Christie and Ruth Ware, you’re going to love The Guest List.

four-stars

About Lucy Foley

Lucy Foley studied English literature at Durham University and University College London and worked for several years as a fiction editor in the publishing industry. She is the author of The Book of Lost and Found and The Invitation. She lives in London.

Review: ALWAYS THE LAST TO KNOW by Kristan Higgins

Review:  ALWAYS THE LAST TO KNOW by Kristan HigginsAlways the Last to Know by Kristan Higgins
Also by this author: Good Luck with That
four-stars
Published by BERKLEY on June 9, 2020
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Women's Fiction
Pages: 400
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kristan Higgins is fast becoming one of my go-to authors when I’m in the mood for a moving read that focuses on family.  That’s exactly what I was in the mood for when I picked up her latest novel, Always the Last to Know, and wow, does it deliver! I just finished reading and I’m sitting here with tears in my eyes as I’m writing this review.

Always the Last to Know follows the Frost family.  Barb and John have been married for five decades but have gradually drifted apart over the years. They have two daughters, Juliet and Sadie, who are night and day in terms of personality. Juliet is an Ivy League graduate and a brilliant and successful architect, while Sadie is a struggling artist trying to make it in New York, currently working as an elementary school art teacher to make ends meet.  Juliet is also happily married with two beautiful children, while Sadie lost the love of her life when she moved to New York to follow her dream.  Because they’re so different, the relationship between Sadie and Juliet is somewhat contentious at times.  Sure, they love each other; they just don’t necessarily like each other very much.  Their lives all come to a screeching halt, however, when John suffers a stroke and ends up unable to care for himself or even speak.

I have to admit that the novel did start off a little slow for me, but thankfully it picked up as soon as Sadie moved home to help with her dad.  I loved that the story is presented in alternating chapters between Barb, Sadie, Juliet, and John, and Higgins does a wonderful job of conveying what each of them was thinking and feeling as they are trying to navigate John’s recovery. It’s an emotional journey for everyone, as they are all dealing with personal and/or professional dramas as well.  John’s chapters are of course moving since we’re the only ones who know what he’s feeling.  My heart also went out to Barb as she is forced to really examine her relationship with John and where it went wrong over the years, as well as to Juliet, who is starting to cave under the pressure of always having to be the “perfect” one.

For me though, it was Sadie who is actually the heart and soul of Always the Last to Know.  I was in her corner as soon as I realized she was the underdog in her family, and her journey is the one that I found myself the most emotionally invested in.  Even before her dad had the stroke, Sadie has already gone through so much, being rejected repeatedly in terms of her art, and then having to choose between her art and Noah, her first love.  When Sadie moves home and comes face-to-face with Noah again, I felt their chemistry so hard and was immediately rooting for them to find their way back to each other.

I don’t want to give away any major spoilers, so I’m just going to say that Always the Last to Know was an emotional roller coaster for me as I followed each of these characters.  The family dynamics, the secrets revealed, and the ensuing drama all felt very realistic, not over the top at all, and everything about this family just really got to me.  I cried several times the closer I got to the end of the story and even though I was still in tears when it was all over, I was very content with the way the story ended.  If you’re looking for a moving story about love, family, self discovery, and second chances, look no further.

four-stars

About Kristan Higgins

Kristan Higgins is the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of more than a dozen novels. Her books have been honored with dozens of awards and accolades, including starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Library Journal, the New York Journal of Books and Romantic Times. She is a two-time winner of the RITA award from Romance Writers of America and a five-time nominee for the Kirkus Prize for best work of fiction. She is happily married to a heroic firefighter and the mother of two fine children.

Mini Reviews: June 2nd Releases

 

Today I’m sharing reviews of some great new books that are being released this week.  I’ve got a couple of contemporary reads and the first installment in an exciting new YA fantasy trilogy. And yes, I know my “mini” reviews aren’t all that mini, but I easily could have written so much more for each of these books so these are definitely mini for me, haha.

 

Mini Reviews:  June 2nd ReleasesThe Second Home Goodreads

Author: Christina Clancy

Publication Date: June 2, 2020

Publisher:  St. Martin’s Press

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

 

Christina Clancy’s debut novel, The Second Home, is a compelling and emotionally-charged family drama that centers on three siblings, Ann, Poppy, and Michael, and one fateful summer when they were teenagers that turned all of their lives upside down.

Ann is the sibling we encounter first, and we meet her at her family’s beach house in Cape Cod, where the events of that infamous summer took place.  Their parents have died in a car accident and their affairs, including what to do about the beach house, must be put into order.  We soon learn that Ann and her siblings have had minimal contact over the years and that Ann feels particularly hostile toward her adopted brother, Michael. It’s unclear what Michael has done to hurt Ann, but it’s obvious that the hurt runs deep. Ann not only doesn’t want him to inherit anything from their parents, she also seems determined to cut him out of her life permanently. Relations are only slightly better with Poppy, a free spirit with no fixed address, who is usually only available by email.  Considering Ann had to email Poppy to even let her know their parents were dead, Ann isn’t convinced Poppy will actually show up and help with their estate.  It’s clear that there is a pretty high level of family dysfunction between the siblings.

I’m always up for a story that focuses on family drama and the author really delivers in that department.  She allows the drama of that ill-fated summer to unfold in vivid flashbacks.  I don’t want to give anything away, but I will say that much of what unfolds in those flashbacks is a pretty tragic chain of events, including instances of abuse, deception, manipulation, and more than a few troubling family secrets.  In the midst of all of the drama unfolding, the author also paints such sympathetic portraits of Ann, Poppy, and Michael, that the more I got to know them, the more I just really wanted them to reconcile.  They’re family and they clearly need each other, especially after suffering the loss of their parents.

The Second Home isn’t a light read by any stretch, but it is a poignant story that moved me to tears more than once.  I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys books that focus on sibling relationships and family drama.

 

 

Mini Reviews:  June 2nd ReleasesAgain Again Goodreads

Author: E. Lockhart

Publication Date: June 2, 2020

Publisher:  Delacorte Press

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

 

What I always enjoy about E. Lockhart’s books is how unique and creative they always are. Again Again is no exception as it explores the idea of the multiverse and all its various possibilities.  It does so through the protagonist, teenager Adelaide Buchwald, as she spends her summer living on campus at the private school she attends and where her father is a professor.

The story is unique in the sense that every time Adelaide has an important conversation with someone, be it an ex boyfriend, a new potential boyfriend, a teacher, family member, whatever – in her mind and actually on the page, we get to see Adelaide process how these conversations could potentially go.  If she changes just a word or a phrase or tone of voice, there could be a completely different outcome and chain reaction of events.  At first I found the repetitive nature of each scene a little confusing, but once I got into a rhythm, I loved exploring all of the different possibilities.

As much as I enjoyed the unique aspect of the storytelling, the biggest draw for me was Adelaide herself.  She and her family have gone through some difficult times, particularly with respect to her brother, and not wanting to add more stress, Adelaide spends a lot of time pretending that she’s much happier than she really is.  In reality, she’s struggling to concentrate in school and her grades are falling because of it and she just lacks the motivation to try to stop the free fall.  On top of that, her boyfriend abruptly breaks up with her so she’s trying to come to terms with that, as well as figure out what’s going on with another boy she has just met on campus.  I found many of her experiences, as well as her frustration and confusion, just so relatable, and I also found her especially endearing because of her attachment to all the dogs she has been hired to walk during the summer.  How can you not love a dog person?

The synopsis of Again Again advertises it as mostly a romance, but I personally viewed it as more of a coming of age story for Adelaide as she comes to terms with everything that has been dragging her down. It’s a story that can definitely be funny at times, but I also found it quite moving.  If you usually enjoy Lockhart’s unique brand of storytelling, I think you’ll enjoy Again Again as well.

 

 

Mini Reviews:  June 2nd ReleasesThe Court of Miracles Goodreads

Author: Kester Grant

Publication Date: June 2, 2020

Publisher:  Knopf Books for Young Readers

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

 

The Court of Miracles is Kester Grant’s debut novel and the first installment in her YA fantasy “A Court of Miracles” series.  It’s an ambitious novel, advertised as a reimagining/retelling of Les Miserables with some Six of Crows vibes thrown in. Those are two of my favorite books so I was excited to give this new series a try.

As with the original Les Mis, The Court of Miracles is set in Paris at the time of the French Revolution.  In The Court of Miracles, however, the revolution has failed.  The ruthless royals still rule the city, and there is now an underground society called the Court of Miracles, which is comprised of various criminal guilds, including a Guild of Assassins, a Guild of Thieves, and a Guild of Flesh, among others.  It was a little confusing at first, but the worldbuilding for this underground society ended up being one of my favorite parts of the book. It’s a dark and fascinating world that sometimes appears lawless, but in reality, has its own set of laws that they loosely abide by.

The protagonist Nina, Eponine in the original Les Mis, lands in the Court of Miracles after her father betrays both her and her sister.  Quick, quiet, and resourceful, Nina can break in and out of anywhere and can steal anything and therefore finds that she fits right in with the Guild of Thieves.  Nina is a great character, very complex and well-drawn – she’s smart, passionate, and she can also be impulsive and headstrong, often throwing herself directly into harm’s way to protect those she loves.  Her bond with little Ettie, Cosette from the original Les Mis, is wonderful too.  Even though Nina is originally ready to betray Ettie because she thinks it will help save her own sister, she quickly grows to think of Ettie as her sister as well and is willing to lay down her life to keep Ettie safe. The leader of the Guild of Flesh becomes obsessed with getting his hands on Ettie, and it’s Nina’s determination to protect Ettie that actually drives much of the action of this first book.  It’s an exciting and dangerous mission and it kept me on the edge of my seat!

If you’re a fan of Les Miserables and especially of the character Eponine, I think you’re going to enjoy this one.  A very solid start to what I think is going to be an exciting series!