Review: THE SUMMER PLACE by Jennifer Weiner

Review:  THE SUMMER PLACE by Jennifer WeinerThe Summer Place by Jennifer Weiner
Also by this author: Mrs. Everything, Big Summer
four-stars
Published by Atria Books on May 10, 2022
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Women's Fiction
Pages: 432
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.

 

It’s almost summer so you know what that means — it’s time for a new novel from Jennifer Weiner!  The Summer Place is everything I’ve come to expect from Weiner’s novels – a healthy dose of family drama, juicy secrets, flawed but relatable characters, and a whole lot of heart.

The drama in the story revolves around an upcoming wedding.  The story opens with Sarah Danhauser’s 22-year-old stepdaughter unexpectedly announcing that she and her boyfriend are getting married in three months.  Everyone in the family, Sarah included, thinks she’s too young and the wedding is too soon, but Ruby is determined so wedding plans commence and the wedding is set to take place at Sarah’s mom’s beach house in Cape Cod.  The house is about to be sold so the wedding will also serve as a perfect goodbye to a house that has been in the family for generations.

As the wedding plans are being made, however, it soon becomes clear that nearly every character in the book has a secret they’re trying to keep under wraps.  You can almost immediately tell that there’s going to be some pretty intense drama if and when these secrets start to come to light, especially since there are hints that the secrets could very well derail Ruby’s wedding.

Weiner is a master when it comes to fully fleshing out her characters, and The Summer Place is no exception to that.  She has the story unfold from the perspective of several key characters: Sarah; her husband Eli; Ruby; Sarah’s twin brother, Sam; Sarah’s mother, Ronnie, and Rosa, the mother of the groom. Weiner provides pretty extensive background on each of these characters, and I have to admit that it took me a little while to really become invested in the story.  Once all the characters are fully introduced though, the story takes off and becomes one heck of an addicting ride!

I can’t say much more without spoiling the plot, but I will say that there are secrets and mistakes from the past that come back to haunt many of these characters, there are misunderstandings that get blown way out of proportion, and there are confrontations and revelations that could rock everyone in the family to the core.  That said, The Summer Place is also a heartfelt and satisfying story about love, sacrifice, and especially about families sticking together no matter how messy things get.  Throw this one in your beach bag because you’re going to love it!

four-stars

About Jennifer Weiner

Jennifer Weiner is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of seventeen books, including Good in Bed, In Her Shoes, and, most recently, Mrs. Everything. Her new novel, Big Summer, debuted May 5, 2020. A graduate of Princeton University and contributor to the New York Times Opinion section, she lives with her family in Philadelphia. Visit her online at JenniferWeiner.com.

Review: SET ON YOU by Amy Lea

Review:  SET ON YOU by Amy LeaSet on You by Amy Lea
four-stars
Published by Berkley Books on May 10, 2022
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Romance
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.

 

 

SET ON YOU is Amy Lea’s debut novel and it is a delight!  It’s a contemporary romance that focuses on fitness, features a plus size heroine and her sexy gym rival, but that also shines a light on the unfair standards our society has when it comes to beauty and anyone who isn’t a size zero.

The protagonist Crystal Chen is a biracial curvy fitness influencer.  The gym is her happy place and she doesn’t go there to lose weight.  She goes there because she loves to lift weights.  Being strong and healthy is her goal.  Her social media channels are devoted to supporting others like her who aren’t a size zero but who are looking to improve their overall fitness. She posts workout tutorials and lots of support and encouragement.  Crystal is such a fabulous character.  I loved that she embraced her curves and that she worked so hard to inspire others and keep them motivated to achieve their goals.  I also liked that even though she’s so inspirational, she also comes across as a realistic and relatable character, and sometimes she’s a downright hot mess.

The romantic element of the story is fresh and fun too, as it centers on Crystal and her gym nemesis.  Crystal is meticulous and regimented when it comes to her gym workouts.  For that reason, she doesn’t take too kindly to Scott, the new guy at the gym, a sexy firefighter who seems to be going out of his way to be annoying, even taking equipment that she is clearly about to use.  Now I’ll admit that some of Scott’s antics were a little juvenile, but it was hilarious watching him get under her skin, especially when she starts referring to him as Squat Rack Thief.  It’s pretty obvious that Scott is attracted to Crystal and trying to get her attention, and it’s equally obvious that no matter how mad Crystal gets at the Squat Rack Thief, she is pretty obsessed with him.

The evolution of their relationship is adorable too.  Crystal and Scott are forced to relate to each other as something other than rivals when they realize that Crystal’s grandmother has been dating and wants to marry Scott’s grandfather.  Getting to see each other outside of the competitive gym environment really helped take their relationship to the next level.  Crystal begins to think of Scott in ways she never would have imagined, while Scott becomes one of Crystal’s biggest supporters when it comes to both her career and her fitness, working out with her and even helping her film workouts for her social media account.  Both of their families are great too, and I especially enjoyed watching the grandparents embrace a second chance for love. They were so sweet together!

Aside from the fun rivals to lovers romance, Set On You also does a lot to tackle those unfair perceptions about size and beauty and it offers some interesting commentary on the body positivity movement and the effect internet trolls and haters can have on a person’s self esteem. As much as I enjoyed the romance between Crystal and Scott, Crystal’s work to inspire others and to honestly talk about her struggles with her own perception of her curvy body really made this a powerful read in addition to being a super fun one. If you’re looking for an entertaining and timely read to toss in your beach bag this summer, definitely check out Set On You!

four-stars

About Amy Lea

Amy Lea is a Canadian bureaucrat by day and contemporary romance author by night (and weekends). She writes laugh out loud romantic comedies featuring strong heroines, witty banter, mid-2000s pop culture references, and happily ever afters.

When Amy is not writing, she can be found fan-girling over other romance books on Instagram (@amyleabooks), eating potato chips with reckless abandon, and snuggling with her husband and goldendoodle.

Her Spring 2022 debut romantic comedy SET ON YOU from Berkley Romance at Penguin Random House is now available.

Review: BOOK LOVERS by Emily Henry

Review:  BOOK LOVERS by Emily HenryBook Lovers by Emily Henry
Also by this author: Beach Read
five-stars
Published by BERKLEY on May 3, 2022
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Romance
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.

 

 

Emily Henry’s new novel Book Lovers follows Nora Stephens, a top notch literary agent in Manhattan. She’s great at what she does, has a take no prisoners attitude, and thus has earned herself a reputation as a shark in the industry.  Nora also has a softer side though, when it comes to her younger sister, Libby.  They lost their mom when they were young and so Nora has practically raised Libby.  Even though Libby is a grown, married woman with baby number three on the way, Nora still deems herself Libby’s protector and the person who fixes things so that Libby is always happy and safe.  So when Libby announces she and Nora are going to get away from New York for an adventure before the new baby arrives, of course Nora drops everything and follows Libby, to of all random places, Sunshine Falls, North Carolina, the tiny town that inspired one of Nora’s client’s most famous novels.

I really adored Nora and liked that we got to see both that tough, driven workaholic side of her personality as well as the softer, more vulnerable, yet ultra-protective side that comes out whenever she’s with her sister. You can just tell that Nora and Libby have been through a lot together and their close bond is very moving to witness. I also loved that as part of their trip to Sunshine Falls, Libby has created a “bucket list” of sorts for her and Nora to complete – wear flannel, date a local, go skinny dipping, etc.  Libby’s list lends itself to many entertaining, often laugh out loud moments as it forces Nora way outside of her comfort zone.

Watching the sisters interact was definitely a highlight of Book Lovers for me, but that’s not to say the romantic element was any less satisfying.  In fact, it was pretty spectacular, particularly if you’re into romance of the slow-burn variety with witty banter that moves from sharp and cutting to increasingly flirtatious the closer the characters become to one another.  Even though Nora wasn’t a fan at first, I really loved Charlie Lastra from the first moment we meet him, mainly because he really gives Nora a run for her money in the shark department.  He’s a broody editor type who is not impressed by Nora showing up late for their meeting and isn’t bashful about telling her this.  The fireworks between them are immediate, and even though Nora swears she can’t stand the guy, she also can’t stop thinking about him.  When he also shows up in Sunshine Falls unexpectedly and runs into Nora, the sparks just keep flying.  I loved watching their relationship grow once they each get past their initial impressions of one another.  It turns out that Charlie is actually from Sunshine Falls and is home dealing with some complicated family issues.  Henry excels at writing realistic characters with messy lives, and both Nora and Charlie fit the bill.  As the older sibling in my family, I could relate to many of the things each character was trying to work their way through.  That said, I was also very much rooting for them to team up and face life’s challenges together.

I love Emily Henry’s books anyway, but Book Lovers truly felt like it was custom-made for me.  I love New York and I love small town settings, and I get both with this book.  I also adore book loving characters and the enemies-to-lovers romance trope, and again, I get both here. Lastly and perhaps the biggest draw of all, the sisterly bond between Nora and Libby, and all of the complicated family issues facing both Nora and Charlie.  If you’re familiar with my blog and the types of books I tend to gush over, you already know that Book Lovers checked pretty much all the boxes for me. It made me laugh, it made me cry, and it ultimately left me with a smile on my face.  I think Emily Henry has another winner on her hands with Book Lovers.

five-stars

About Emily Henry

Emily Henry writes stories about love and family for both teens and adults. She studied creative writing at Hope College and the now-defunct New York Center for Art & Media Studies. Find her on Instagram @EmilyHenryWrites.

Thriller Thursday Reviews: The Night Shift & Beneath Devil’s Bridge

 

Sharon is back with Thriller Thursday! Sorry it has been a while since I posted my Thriller Thursday reviews, but life just got in the way. But all is good and back on track now. 🙂  This week I am happy to share my thoughts on Alex Finaly’s, The Night Shift and Loreth Anne White’s, Beneath Devil’s Bridge. I loved both of these books. They both involve relooking at old murder cases and figuring out if the original suspect was the correct one. I love this concept in thrillers because it always makes me put on my detective hat. LOL!

 

Thriller Thursday Reviews: The Night Shift & Beneath Devil’s BridgeThe Night Shift Goodreads

Author: Alex Finlay

Publication Date: March 1, 2022

Publisher: Minotaur Books

Alex Finlay’s latest book The Night Shift, was everything I was hoping it would be. This was an edge of my seat thriller, that kept me guessing until the very end. It was also a trip down memory lane for me in regard to the Blockbuster Video store. Oh, the memories of the days of renting VHS tapes!

On New Year’s Eve in 1999, four teenage girls were attacked at a Blockbuster Video store in Linden, New Jersey. The only survivor was Ella. The police only had one suspect (Vince Whitaker), but before they could gather enough evidence to charge him, he disappeared and has not been seen since.  It is now fifteen years later and in the same town, four teenage girls were attacked at an ice cream store. The only survivor of this attack was Jesse. Ella is now a therapist and has been called to talk to Jesse and see if she can get any information on who attacked them. The only thing Jesse can remember is that the killer whispered to her “Goodnight, pretty girl.” These are the same words the killer whispered to Ella fifteen years ago. Has the original suspect resurfaced after all this time, and if so why? Or is there a copycat on the loose?

The story is told from the POVs of Ella, Sarah Keller and Vince’s younger brother, Chris.  All three of these characters will intercept as they each search for the truth, and their lives will be changed forever when the truth is finally revealed.

I really liked Ella. She was a damaged character, how could she not be with what she went through. But she is also a tough and determined character. She has formed a bond with Jesse and wants to do whatever she can to help her.  I also had a lot of sympathy for Ella. The current murders have brought back memories of the night she was attacked. Chris never believed that Vince was the killer in the 1999 murders. He and Ella team up when a mysterious vlogger, who Chris believes is Vince, has turned up in New Jersey.

Those of you who read Alex Finlay’s Every Last Fear, will remember FBI Agent Sarah Keller. I loved Sarah in both books. In this book Sarah has teamed up with local detective, Atticus Singh (yes he was named after the character from To Kill a Mockingbird and I loved every time this was referenced), and they are tasked with tracking down Vince Whitaker to see if he has resurfaced. During their investigation they discover that there were a lot of inconsistencies in the original investigation that pertained to evidence that pointed to Vince as the killer. I loved both of their determination to get to the truth.

I cannot really say what happens in this book, because anything I say will just spoil things. I will say though that The Night Shift is full of twists and turns and by the end of the book I was on the edge of my seat.  4 stars

 

Thriller Thursday Reviews: The Night Shift & Beneath Devil’s BridgeBeneath Devil's Bridge Goodreads

Author: Loreth Anne White

Publication Date: June 1, 2021

Publisher: Montlake

I have had Loreth Anne White’s Beneath Devil’s Bridge on my to read list since last May and now that I have finally gotten around to reading it, I am kicking myself for not picking it up sooner.

In 1997, 14-year-old Leena Rai was brutally murdered. Respected family man and guidance counselor, Clayton Jay Pelley confessed to the murder. Rachel Walczak was the detective who investigated the case, and even though there were a lot of loose ends, when Clayton confessed, the case was closed. Now in 2021, True Crime Podcaster Trinity Scott’s new podcast “It’s Criminal” is focusing on Leena Rai’s murder. In a series of exclusive interviews, Clayton is ready to tell what happened that night. But no one expects it when Clayton says he did not kill Leena. Is Clayton lying now? Or was he lying then? And if he didn’t kill Leena, then the actual killer is still roaming free.  As Clayton reveals more about what happened that night, it becomes clear that a lot of people in Twin Falls are keeping secrets.

I love how this story was presented from two different POV’s and timelines. From Rachel’s POV we get both timelines. In 1997 we get to follow Rachel as she investigates Leena’s murder and in the present we follow her as she tries to make sense of why Clayton would now recant his confession and the consequences this has on her original investigation and the loose ends that were never followed-up on.  From Trinity’s POV, we follow her as she tries to interview everyone who was connected to the original investigation, as well as her interview with Clayton.

I thought all the characters in this book were very well written. All of the characters had flaws and secrets they were hiding, from the teenagers that were classmates of Leena’s to Rachel and even Trinity. I really cannot say what any of the secrets were, as that would just spoil things. I will say I kept thinking I had things figured out, but then a secret would be revealed that would push me in a different direction.

I also loved how Loreth Anne White was able to bring Leena to life. From both timelines we were able to get to know Leena through interviews that were done with her family and peers. I felt such sadness for Leena. She was an unpopular girl that was just trying to fit in.  She was also a talented girl with dreams and wanted to leave her mark on the world.

Beneath Devil’s Bridge starts off with a bang with the murder of Leena and does not stop. It is full of twists and turns that will keep you guessing until the very end. The only real issue I had with this book is that there were a lot of secondary characters to keep track of and I got a bit confused on who was who. But other than that, I would definitely recommend Loreth Anne White’s Beneath Devil’s Bridge.  4 stars

Romance Reviews: THE SPANISH LOVE DECEPTION & BY THE BOOK

 

Hey everyone! I want to start off by apologizing in advance for the fact that I’m yet again behind on blog visits.  The other person who does my job at work was on vacation all last week so I had to cover for her and it was a bit hectic.  Add in soccer practice for my son, helping him prep for tomorrow’s AP exam, and then ending the week in pure frustration when I got a call from the school Principal because my son got caught doing something he shouldn’t have been doing, and there just wasn’t much motivation or energy left for blogging.  I did a couple of posts on instagram and then just wanted to hide in a blanket fort coloring the rest of the weekend.  Anyway, enough of my parenting/life woes, because I do have reviews to share today for two wonderful reads that I’ve enjoyed recently.  How cute are those covers?

 

Romance Reviews:  THE SPANISH LOVE DECEPTION & BY THE BOOKThe Spanish Love Deception Goodreads

Author: Elena Armas

Publication Date: February 23, 2021

Publisher:  Atria Books

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

I was a little nervous going into Elena Armas’ debut contemporary romance, The Spanish Love Deception, because of all the hype surrounding it.  I couldn’t resist the pull of an enemies-to-lovers romance that also featured fake dating and a fabulous trip to Spain though so I finally dove into it.  I immediately wanted to kick my own butt for putting this book off for so long because it is an absolute delight!

I was hooked on this story from the very first scene.  We meet the protagonist, Lina Martin, as she is lamenting to her best friend about needing a date for a family wedding she will be attending in Spain in four weeks. Lina’s coworker Aaron overhears their conversation and offers to be her date.  While taking Aaron as her fake boyfriend would definitely get her family off her back about her “forever single” status, there’s just one problem – Lina and Aaron hate each other, or at least Lina hates Aaron anyway.  In her mind, he’s always up in her business, offering opinions where they aren’t wanted, and just quite possibly the most annoying person she has ever met.  Needless to say, the fireworks are off the charts whenever Lina and Aaron interact and I was practically screaming for her to say yes to him, just to see how the trip would play out, specifically if Aaron would make it back home alive, haha. At first, Lina says no, but out of sheer desperation, she caves and accepts Aaron’s offer.  I was positively gleeful by this point waiting to see what would happen.

I adored Lina so much. She’s smart, sarcastic, and she is driven to be successful in her career.  But she’s definitely not perfect, which made her so real and so relatable.  She’s almost ridiculously stubborn when it comes to her feelings about Aaron too, which made for some very entertaining moments, especially since he’s practically standing in front of her with heart eyes.  And oh my goodness, Aaron!  Even though Lina thinks she hates him, he’s seriously book boyfriend material.  I loved everything about the man. He’s smart, sexy, and kind and caring, and just so obviously into Lina.  Watching the two of them grow closer and realize their feelings was definitely the highlight of the book for me.  It’s a slow burn but Armas writes their growing relationship so well that it ended up being very easy for me to patiently wait because each step along the way is so satisfying.

The Spanish Love Deception is a wonderful new addition to the romance genre.  I found it sexy and hilarious, and the ending left me with a big grin on my face.  It’s perfect for enemies to lovers and fake dating fans.  4 STARS

 

Romance Reviews:  THE SPANISH LOVE DECEPTION & BY THE BOOKBy the Book (Meant to Be #2) Goodreads

Author: Jasmine Guillory

Publication Date: May 3, 2022

Publisher: Hyperion Avenue

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

Have you ever enjoyed a book so much that you actually breathed a contented sigh as you finished the last page?  Well, that was exactly my experience with Jasmine Guillory’s latest novel By the BookBy the Book is a contemporary retelling of Beauty and the Beast that is set in the publishing industry.  In some ways I felt like this novel was tailor made for me because I’m a sucker for bookish characters, books about books, and Beauty and the Beast is my favorite fairytale.

In Guillory’s reimagined version of the classic fairytale, Belle is now Isabelle. Isabelle works at Tale As Old As Time publishing house and she has aspirations of becoming an editorial assistant one day.  In order to prove to her boss that she is worthy of such a promotion, Isabelle volunteers to take on one of their most problematic clients, Beau Towers, a rude and gruff young man who is supposed to be writing a memoir for them.  Beau is months behind his deadline, has not submitted a single page, and doesn’t respond to correspondence from anyone at the publishing house.  If you guessed that Beau is the Beast character, you would be correct. And if you guessed that sparks would fly between Beau and Isabelle from the first moment Isabelle shows up on his front door step, you would also be correct!

As with the classic tale, there are enemies to lovers and grumpy sunshine romantic vibes everywhere.  It’s easy to see that there’s a lot more to Beau than first meets the eye, if only Isabelle can get him to open up, which she is very determined to do, at first for her career but later because she starts to see beyond his gruff exterior and likes what she sees for more personal reasons.  I loved watching their relationship evolve from those hostile moments when they first met, to a tentative friendship and productive working relationship, and then to a more personal connection.  I especially loved that most of their bonding took place through scenes that focused on the actual writing of the book, with Isabelle coaching Beau through passages he was having trouble putting on paper.  Isabelle is an aspiring writer as well but she hasn’t touched her book in months because of some cruel feedback she received from a coworker.  One of my favorite moments of the book is when Beau learns this and gives Isabelle her own advice and coaxes her to start writing again. It was just so sweet and they were adorable sitting there together each working on their own books.

By the Book feels fresh and new, yet with a comforting sense of familiarity with its many nods to the original fairytale.  If you’re a contemporary romance fan who also loves Beauty and the Beast, you’ll definitely want to check out By the Book.  4 STARS

Reviews: THE WEDDING SEASON & I KISSED SHARA WHEELER

TGIF!  I’m so happy the weekend is here.  I don’t really have any big plans to speak of, but I’m hoping for nice enough weather to actually be able to read outside for a bit.  Today I’m sharing reviews on two pretty great reads I had this week, one from a favorite author, Casey McQuiston, and one from a new-to-me author, Katy Birchall.

 

Reviews:  THE WEDDING SEASON & I KISSED SHARA WHEELERThe Wedding Season Goodreads

Author: Katy Birchall

Publication Date: May 3, 2022

Publisher:  St. Martin’s Griffin

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

 

I’ve been wanting to try Katy Birchall’s novels for a while now and when I saw her latest novel, The Wedding Season, described as Four Weddings and a Funeral meets The Wedding Party, I knew I had to read it.

The story opens with the protagonist, Freya Scott, happily preparing to marry her longtime boyfriend, Matthew.  That is, until Matthew pulls her into a broom closet the day before the wedding and breaks up with her.  Feeling utterly humiliated, Freya wonders how in the world she will survive the seven weddings she has to attend in the upcoming months, what she and her friends have dubbed “The Wedding Season.”  She has no idea how she’ll be able to cope with the awkward pitying looks, the gossip, and even worse, the fact that Matthew will probably also be attending most of them since they have so many mutual friends.  Freya’s best friends Ruby and Leo, who as an aside, are very much friendship goals, come to the rescue.  They devise a list of outrageous challenges, one per wedding, that will serve to distract Freya and keep her from dwelling on her own misfortune.  The tasks range from being the last person standing on the dancefloor, to kissing a stranger, to running naked down a hotel corridor.  Armed with this survival guide and endless moral support from Ruby and Leo, Freya sets out to tackle “The Wedding Season.” She has no idea how truly life changing her challenges will turn out to be!

You guys, this book was such a delight!  I think what Freya was going through is an experience that many will find either relatable or else one of their own worst nightmares.  I loved how even though she was devastated, Freya does start to embrace the idea of moving on without Matthew and that she just goes for it when it comes to completing the tasks on her list.  That list provides so many laugh out loud moments and they made for a fantastic balance with the more serious elements of the story, just as they made Freya an even more endearing character than she already was.

Watching Freya find her way forward without Matthew was such a wonderful experience.  It’s an awkward journey for her at times as she navigates through some confrontational moments with Matthew, but it’s also very healing and freeing for her as she comes to realize she doesn’t need him in her life and that she may actually be better off without him.  She also starts to open her eyes and heart to the possibility of a new romance, but that aspect of the story takes a bit of a backseat to Freya’s personal journey.  I would have loved a little more romance, but I was all in for Freya so the story was still fantastic as is.

The Wedding Season is a heartwarming and hilarious story about love and friendship.  It left me feeling so hopeful about Freya’s future and also wanting sequels that feature all of Freya’s fabulous friends.  Just an all around delightful read!  4.5 STARS

 

Reviews:  THE WEDDING SEASON & I KISSED SHARA WHEELERI Kissed Shara Wheeler Goodreads

Author: Casey McQuiston

Publication Date: May 3, 2022

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

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

 

I was a big fan of Casey McQuiston’s first two novels, Red White and Royal Blue and One Last Stop, so I was excited to hear she has a new one coming out and that it’s her YA debut.

I Kissed Shara Wheeler follows Chloe Green, a high school senior who moved from California to Alabama her freshman year. Enrolled in a conservative Christian school, Chloe has felt like the black sheep of the school the entire time she has been there.  When the story opens, she is just months away from graduation and has her eyes on the prize, class Valedictorian.  She has been competing neck and neck for the coveted title and all its glory with the school darling, Shara Wheeler.  Shara is the Principal’s daughter, a good Christian girl, and everyone just adores her.  Well, everyone except Chloe.  Chloe can’t stand her and would love nothing more than to beat her out for the top spot.

A month before graduation everything changes though – out of nowhere, Shara kisses Chloe and then by the next morning, has disappeared.  Chloe starts desperately hunting for clues as to Shara’s whereabouts, because let’s face it, winning Valedictorian because your main rival stopped coming to school isn’t very satisfying.  During her search, she learns that she isn’t the only one Shara kissed. She also kissed Rory Heron, the bad boy who lives next door to her, and she kissed her longtime boyfriend, Smith Parker. What kind of game is Shara playing?  Because it clearly is a game, considering that before she vanished, she left each of them a letter, followed by a series of clues that promise to lead to her whereabouts.  It becomes clear that if they want to solve the mystery of where Shara is, why she chose to disappear, and why she chose them to play the game, they’re going to have to work together to piece together this odd scavenger hunt.

McQuiston has a gift for writing lovable characters so it’s no surprise that I really liked Chloe, Rory, and Smith. I enjoyed them all individually, and as a group, as they begin to bond while they work to solve each of Shara’s clues.  Chloe is scrappy and determined, Rory has a reputation for being a bad boy but is actually pretty sweet, and Smith is also just a cinnamon roll.  While I was just as clueless as these three as to why Shara has them jumping through so many hoops for her, I loved what the quest actually does for them.  It leads them to interact with each other as well as other students in the school they’ve never really interacted with before because the school is full of cliques.  Chloe, in particular, shows a lot of growth in this area because as she interacts with more and more different people, she realizes that she isn’t as different from some of her fellow students as she had led herself to believe and it leads her to examine some of her own prejudices and realize how unfair she was being.  As fascinating as the journey was to find Shara and learn her reasons for doing what she did, I found this journey of Chloe’s to be my favorite part of the story. Speaking of the mystery surrounding Shara, I don’t want to spoil anything there so I’ll leave it for you to discover on your own. It’s one heck of a ride though, I’ll say that much, and eye opening for all of the characters involved.

The only real downside for me was that we only get chapters from Chloe’s perspective.  I think some chapters from Rory or Smith as they are on Shara’s trail, or even from Shara herself to give us some hints into her motivations, would have made the story even better.  Still a fabulous read though so it’s only a minor quibble.

I Kissed Shara Wheeler is a story about relentlessly pursuing what you think you want in life, only to stumble into what it is you really need. It’s a mystery, a romance, a story about second chances, and so much more.  There’s definitely a little something for everyone, so be sure to check it out!  4 STARS.

 

Reviews: THE HOMEWRECKERS & EVERYTHING MUST GO

Happy Monday all! I hope everyone had a nice weekend.  We had absolutely fantastic weather here so I spent a lot of time outside starting to get our yard and flower beds ready for planting.  I’ve also been helping my son prepare for his AP Science test so lots of nights spent quizzing on vocabulary words.  I did manage to squeeze some reading time in as well though, so I’m back today with a couple of new reviews for you.

 

Reviews:  THE HOMEWRECKERS & EVERYTHING MUST GOThe Homewreckers Goodreads

Author: Mary Kay Andrews

Publication Date: May 3, 2022

Publisher:  St. Martin’s Press

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

The Homewreckers by Mary Kay Andrews is a story about love, loss, and how to find your path forward after losing the love of your life.  Set in beautiful Savannah, Georgia, the story follows Hattie Kavanaugh, a young woman who tragically lost her husband in a motorcycle accident seven years ago.  Since his death, Hattie has basically thrown herself completely into her work, while leaving the rest of her life on hold. Hattie’s work is restoring old historic homes to their former glory, a passion she shared with her husband and which she still shares with her father-in-law.  Hattie’s head still isn’t completely in the game though and so when she makes a bad investment on a house she was hoping to restore and flip, she finds herself in desperate need of cash and reluctantly agrees to star in a reality TV show about flipping houses.  Little does she realize that not wanting to be on TV will soon be the least of her worries.

Hattie is a fantastic protagonist. She’s feisty and fierce, takes no crap from anyone, probably a byproduct of working in a field that is filled predominantly with men and therefore constantly underestimated.  Beneath that tough exterior, however, there’s also the vulnerable, heartbroken side of Hattie.  I found her such an easy character to love and I was fully invested in her story.  I also loved that she has maintained such a close relationship with her father-in-law.  It was sweet watching the two of them interact.  Even though her husband is gone, it’s clear that Hattie is still very much part of the Kavanaugh family.

Aside from my love for Hattie, what really took this story to the next level for me was all the drama that ensued from the moment production starts on Hattie’s show.  First, there’s the aggressively determined producer who is convinced Hattie and this TV show are going to be huge hits.  Then there’s the handsome and all-too-charming cohost whose interest in Hattie may or may not be genuine.  Lastly, there’s the renovation project itself, which seems to be downright cursed. One bad thing after another keeps happening – fires, threats, code violations, and when they open up one of the walls in the old house to repair some damage, they even find the wallet of a beloved high school teacher who has been missing for 17 years and presumed dead.  In short, there’s drama, intrigue, and suspense in spades, making for one heck of a wild ride!

I don’t want to give away anything about the developments in that missing person case, but wow, talk about twists and turns. Andrews kept me guessing every step of the way and glued to this book until I had all the answers.  There is a bit of romance as well, but I’d say it definitely takes a backseat to Hattie’s overall journey, to what is going on with the house renovations (the actual filming, the butting of heads between cast members, showrunners, network executives, etc.), and of course with finding out what happened to the teacher and how her wallet ended up inside the wall of a random old beach house.

If the way I devoured this story in less than a day is any indication, I think The Homewreckers is going to land in a lot of beach bags this summer.  It’s the perfect beach read!  4 STARS

 

Reviews:  THE HOMEWRECKERS & EVERYTHING MUST GOEverything Must Go Goodreads

Author: Camille Pagán

Publication Date: April 26, 2022

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

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

Everything Must Go by Camille Pagan is a wonderful, heartfelt story about love, family, and second chances.  It also explores the strength of the bond between mother-daughter, as well as that of the bond between sisters.

Laine Francis’ life is in turmoil. More than anything, she wants to be a mother, but her husband has been putting her off for years, saying he’s not ready.  Laine’s biological clock is ticking so loudly that it’s all she can hear and so she tells her husband she wants a divorce since they clearly don’t want the same things.  On top of that, she has received a frantic call from one of her sisters, begging her to come to New York to help with their mom, who hasn’t been herself lately.  Even though Laine has no desire to come back to New York, she knows she is the only sibling who doesn’t have small children to care for so she’s the logical choice. When Laine arrives in New York, she runs into Ben, her former best friend. She hasn’t seen Ben since they had a huge falling out years ago, so seeing him again after all this time brings back a lot of memories. She hopes seeing him again will provide the opportunity to mend their relationships, but she soon realizes that her sisters were right about their mom.  Something is definitely wrong and it’s not just the occasional forgetfulness.

I think this is a story that many readers, especially those with aging parents, are going to find so relatable.  As the sisters try to determine the full extent of their mom’s memory loss, they have to have tough heart-to-heart conversations about what to do, how best to care for her, while maintaining as much of her independence and dignity as possible, etc.  I loved how realistically these relationships were portrayed and how the sisters all came together to help their mom.  I also loved that in addition to Laine’s perspective, which we got since she was the one taking the lead when it came to their mom, we also got the perspective of Sally, so we could see what was going on in her head, both as she realized what was happening to her and as she realized that her girls knew as well.  Not only that, but we also get an inside look at some pretty major secrets Sally has been keeping from her family.  I found Laine’s journey to figure out what she really wants from her life, especially regarding motherhood, just as compelling as Sally’s story.  There were so many different layers that kept me turning the pages and fully invested in seeing how things would turn out for both Laine and Sally.

While Everything Must Go touches on some pretty weighty topics like divorce and dementia, it’s ultimately a feel good story that left me shedding a few happy tears by the time I got to the last page.  4 STARS

Reviews: THIS MAY END BADLY & GO HEX YOURSELF

 

I hope everyone who was celebrating this weekend had a wonderful holiday weekend. Huge apologies from me for not blog hopping most of last week.  I think busy season at work finally caught up to me and I pretty much crashed and burned every evening after I signed off from work and even though I planned to play catch up with blogging on Saturday, I ended up napping most of that day as well.  Today is deadline day though so hopefully I’ll be back to my normal blogging habits this week.  I will try my best to play catch up but may end up having to just start fresh this week since I’ve just missed so many posts.  Anyway, I’m back today with a couple of reads I managed to fit in last week in spite of the crazy busy schedule.  These were mostly read while sitting in the parking lot at my son’s soccer practices, lol.

 

Reviews:  THIS MAY END BADLY & GO HEX YOURSELFThis May End Badly Goodreads

Author: Samantha Markum

Publication Date: April 12, 2022

Publisher:  Wednesday Books

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

I love a good boarding school story so I couldn’t resist requesting Samantha Markum’s debut YA contemporary novel, This May End Badly, which is set at Weston, a prestigious all girls boarding school.  I was especially intrigued by the premise that there is an equally prestigious all boys boarding school, Winfield Academy right across the street and that the two schools have a century-long rivalry that is ongoing.  I was hooked on the story from the opening pages, which centers on epic beginning-of-the-school year pranks the students from each school play on each other.

As entertaining as I found the pranks, however, I will admit that I got off to a very rough start with the protagonist, Doe.  She’s the prank mastermind at Weston and she is also obsessed with Three, a boy at Winfield that she considers to be her arch nemesis.  Even though she’s a senior and should be applying to colleges and preparing for her future, she is completely obsessed with escalating the prank wars between the schools and even more obsessed with getting under Three’s skin in any way she can, especially once it’s announced that the two schools will be merging into one next year and Doe suspects that Three’s family had something to do with it.  I could understand her frustration that Weston, which has been her safe haven since her parents divorced, would basically cease to exist after the merger, but in the early chapters of the book, she just came off as immature and obnoxious.  I read a couple of reviews on Goodreads that advised being patient with Doe, that she would eventually grow and learn from her mistakes, and I was glad I stuck it out because there really is tremendous character growth with Doe.

Even though I struggled a bit with Doe in the beginning, the same cannot be said of her friend group. I adored these young women.  They were so much fun when it came to helping Doe with the pranks, but it wasn’t all fun and games for them either. They truly cared about Doe and were not afraid to step in and give her tough love when she needed it, when it was clear she had lost her way and was crossing lines she shouldn’t be crossing.  These girls are friendship goals!

I’m also a big fan of the fake dating trope so I was really into the plot line where Doe fake-dates Three’s cousin and fellow Winfield Academy student, Wells.  I did think it was a bit odd that Doe chose to fake date Wells just to annoy Three, but the reason aside, Wells and Doe were so cute and sweet together.  I loved their banter and loved it even more when their feelings for one another started to change so that it became more about them and less about annoying Three.

The ending of the novel is also fabulous, particularly in the way it brings those rival schools and their pranking super powers together for a very worthy cause.  I found myself very proud of all of these kids by the time I finished reading.  If you’re interested in reading a book about friendship, falling in love, and standing up for what you believe in, you should give This May End Badly a try.  3.5 STARS

 

Reviews:  THIS MAY END BADLY & GO HEX YOURSELFGo Hex Yourself Goodreads

Author: Jessica Clare

Publication Date: April 19, 2022

Publisher: Berkley Books

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

I’ve been enjoying all of the witchy rom-coms that have come out recently and Go Hex Yourself by Jessica Clare is the latest addition to this fun trend.  It features two of my favorite romance tropes, enemies to lovers and grumpy/sunshine so I hoped it would be a perfect fit for me.  I’m thrilled to report I was not disappointed!

The story follows Reggie Johnson, a young woman who answers a newspaper ad and thinks she’s going to be working as a design assistant for Spellcraft: The Magicking, her favorite card game.  When she is led into a lab instead of an office and her new employer, an elderly woman named Dru, starts talking about casting spells and creating potions, Reggie begins to suspect that her new job might not be exactly what she thought it was.  Reggie is skeptical that magic is real, that is until someone curses Dru with a sleeping spell.  Reggie is forced to work with Dru’s nephew, Ben, a sexy but surly warlock who has been nothing but rude to her ever since she first arrived on the job.

I really adored Reggie right from the start.  She’s very much an underdog character and those always have my heart.  She’s in debt up to her ears, thanks to her awful parents, who do shady things like sign up for endless credit cards in Reggie’s name and then not paying the bills, ruining Reggie’s credit in the process. Reggie has a big heart and loves them anyway, but at the same time, is disheartened that they keep taking advantage of her.  Overall, Reggie is a spunky and resilient character but I did like seeing this more vulnerable side of her when it came to her parents.

I also really enjoyed both Dru and Ben. Dru comes across as a bit silly and possibly senile when Reggie first meets her, but it soon becomes clear that she’s quite a character and that there’s way more than meets the eye when it comes to her.  Every time Reggie and Dru interacted, I could practically picture Dru with a little twinkle of mischief in her eyes.  She’s a pretty lovable character. Ben, while not quite as lovable early on in the book, grew on me quickly as we started to get more chapters from his perspective.  It becomes clear that he is not nearly as surly and grumpy as he first seems and that he is mostly misunderstood.  Like Reggie, he has also been shaped by heartbreaking experiences with his parents.

While I found the witchy aspect of the book entertaining and intriguing, especially the curses and the fact the witches in the book were inspired by Roman times, and then of course, the hilarious magical cast of secondary characters, what really kept me thoroughly invested in the story was watching Reggie and Ben finally start to bond and open up to one another while they’re working to uncurse Dru.  What develops between them is special and it was just lovely to watch.  Fans who like a bit of steam in their romance reads will also not be disappointed.

If you’re enjoying the witchy rom-com trend as much as I am, you’ll definitely want to check out Go Hex Yourself.  4 STARS.

Review: THE NO-SHOW by Beth O’Leary

Review:  THE NO-SHOW by Beth O’LearyThe No-Show by Beth O'Leary
Also by this author: The Switch
four-stars
Published by BERKLEY on April 12, 2022
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Women's 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.

 

 

Don’t let the rom-com vibes of its cover fool you, Beth O’Leary’s new novel The No-Show is no rom-com.  While the story did make me smile at times, it also made me shed a tear or two because it’s such an emotional journey for some of the characters.  The story also took a huge unexpected turn that I don’t want to spoil so I’m going to be a bit vague with what I enjoyed about this book.

The No-Show follows three women who only have one thing in common – they were all stood up by the same man, Joseph Carter, on Valentine’s Day.  Siobhan is a life coach whose life is so over-booked that she doesn’t have time or the desire for a relationship. Since her past relationships haven’t been great, she has decided that booty calls are the way to go, with Joseph Carter being her go-to when she’s in the mood.  Then there’s Miranda, a tree surgeon, the only woman on an all-male crew.  She’s okay with being treated like one of the guys but she gets defensive when her crew makes fun of her boyfriend, Joseph Carter, because he’s so different from her that they don’t seem like they should be compatible.  Lastly, there’s Jane, a young woman who volunteers at a charity job and who has decided, after a disastrous romance at her former workplace, that she will no longer date.  To keep everyone she knows off her case about finding herself a man, she has a friend that she fake-dates whenever she has a function to attend.  That is, until she realizes she actually has feelings for him.  That man is, you guessed it, Joseph Carter.

Aside from the mystery of how this guy manages to keep up relationships with all three of these women but somehow manages to stand them all up on the most romantic day of the year, what really fascinated me were these women’s reactions to being stood up and the fact that all three of them actually forgive him and let him back into their lives.  In that sense, the story focuses much more on the emotional and personal journeys of Siobhan, Miranda, and Jane than it focuses on Carter.  I loved how well-developed and fleshed out all three of the women were.  Their voices and experiences were each unique, as was their path forward after being stood up.  I loved watching the other relationships they cultivated that in many ways were more important than their relationships with Carter.  I loved the friends Jane made through the charity shop and how they supported her and boosted her confidence, and I loved Miranda’s teammates who, although they razzed her at times, ended up being a pretty great support system for her as well.

Solving the enigma of Joseph Carter and wondering if one of these women was going to end up kicking his butt also had me very invested in the story.  I was so ready to hate this guy, and that’s when the entire story gets turned on its end and takes a direction I was not even remotely expecting.  I’m used to this kind of huge twist in thrillers, so it really caught me off guard here.  Beth O’Leary is sneaky here and I mean that in the best possible way.

I don’t want to say anything else because you really need to meet Joseph Carter and follow the women in his life yourself to get the full experience.  If you’re in the mood for a beautifully crafted story of love, friendship, and how to move forward when life doesn’t turn out the way you thought it would, you’ll want to check out Beth O’Leary’s new novel, The No-Show. 4 STARS

four-stars

About Beth O’Leary

Beth studied English at university before going into children’s publishing. She lives as close to the countryside as she can get while still being within reach of London, and wrote her first novel, The Flatshare, on her train journey to and from work.
You’ll usually find her curled up with a book, a cup of tea, and several woolly jumpers (whatever the weather).

Thriller Thursday Reviews: The Overnight Guest & Her Last Goodbye

 

Hi everyone! Welcome to another installment of Sharon’s Thriller Thursday 🙂  I hope you all are doing well. No complaints on my end, I have been reading a lot of great books lately. Today I would like to share my thoughts on two great mysteries I have read. The Overnight Guest by Heather Gudenkauf and Her Last Goodbye by Rick Mofina.  If you like mysteries, then I definitely recommend these books.

 

Thriller Thursday Reviews: The Overnight Guest & Her Last GoodbyeThe Overnight Guest Goodreads

Author: Heather Gudenkauf

Publication Date: January 25, 2022

Publisher: Park Row

The Overnight Guest is my first read by Heather Gudenkauf. The eerie cover and the synopsis drew me in and I am so glad it did because I was hooked from beginning to end.

Wylie Lark is a true crime writer who is staying in an isolated farmhouse in a small town in Iowa to finish her latest book. Her book is about the people that were murdered twenty years ago in that very same farmhouse and the young girl that disappeared without a trace. With a snow and ice storm hammering down, Wylie finds herself trapped in the house haunted by its secrets as well as her own. When Wylie finds a child lying in the snow in the yard, she brings him into the house for warmth and safety, but Wylie soon learns that with this child comes danger.

This book is told in a dual timeline. The timeline in the present centers around Wylie. I loved the eeriness this timeline brought to the book. Gudenkauf’s writing of the snow and ice storm actually made me cold and I could just visualize everything I was reading. We get a little back story on Wylie in this timeline, she is divorced and is estranged from her teenage son. She comes across as a bit cold to start but I did grow to like her by the end of the book. When she first brings the child into the house, she gets very agitated when he shied away from her and wouldn’t talk. But when push came to shove, Wylie stepped up and did what ever she had to do to keep herself and the child safe from the evil that was after him.

The second timeline takes place in the summer of 2000 and is told from the POV of 12-year-old Josie. Josie’s parents were murdered in the farmhouse and her best friend Becky went missing. Again, Gudenkauf does an excellent job of describing the farms in this setting. This timeline starts the morning of the murders, and as we see the day playing out, we get a few murder suspects. Right from the start I was suspecting everyone. Josie was such a well written character and my heart just broke for her.

In addition to these two timelines, we also get short chapters from the POV of a little girl. This girl and her mother are living in the basement of their home, well I should say they are locked in the basement by the girl’s father. We do not know who this girl and her mother are, but they both pulled at my heart strings. These chapters also gave me an Emma Donoghue “Room” vibe.

I love how these seemly unconnected timelines eventually come together in an ending that had a few twists and left a few tears in my eyes.

Heather Gudenkauf’s The Overnight Guest, is a suspenseful mystery that kept me guessing for the most part. I thought all of the characters and each timeline setting was very well written. I also loved how Gudenkauf slowly increased the tension in the present day timeline until I was on the edge of my seat at the end. I definitely want to check out more of Heather Gudenkauf’s books.   4 stars

 

Thriller Thursday Reviews: The Overnight Guest & Her Last GoodbyeHer Last Goodbye Goodreads

Author: Rick Mofina

Publication Date: January 25, 2022

Publisher: Mira Books

Rick Mofina’s Her Last Goodbye is an addictive mystery that kept me guessing until the very end. It is full of twists and turns that kept my sleuth mind going until the final twist. It is also a book that deals with loss and how different we cope with grief, which made me shed a few tears.

Jennifer (Jenn) and Greg Griffin have a normal life.  Greg owns a construction company, Jenn works part time in a doctor’s office and is involved in a lot of charities as well as school activities for their eight-year-old son, Jake. The night Jenn went to her book club was an ordinary night so Greg did not think anything of it when he went to bed and Jenn was not home, sometimes the club went late. But when he woke up in the middle of the night and Jenn was still not home, Greg started to worry and called her friends from the book club. When they said she had left hours ago, Greg went out looking for her and when he could not find her he called the police to report her missing. As the police begin their investigation, they discover that Greg and Jenn both have secrets they have been keeping from each other. With their son at a sleep over, Greg has no alibi for that night, and he also has scrapes on his hands. Did Greg do something to Jenn? Did Jenn just take off on her own? Or did someone else take Jenn? And if so, why?   All of these questions made for a very engrossing mystery.

My favorite part of this book was how the investigation played out. Each chapter gave us information on leads the police were following as well as what seemed to be random events that were happening. And while they may have seemed random at the time, everything was somehow connected. I really liked having the chapters this way as it had the sleuth part of me trying to piece together how they were connected and how it was all going to unearth the mystery of what happened to Jenn and who was responsible. I really cannot say much about the investigation or the different events that were happening throughout the book because that would spoil the mystery.

While I did like all the characters in this book, to me they were more like secondary characters as the mystery and investigation took center stage. That’s not to say that I didn’t sympathize with them because I did. Both Jenn and Greg had suffered tragedy when they were younger. Jenn lost both of her parents in a house fire when she was a child and Greg lost his mother when he was a teenager. They both were also keeping secrets from each other that added to the mystery.

If you are looking for a mystery that will keep you guessing and have your inner detective working, then Rick Mofina’s Her Last Goodbye is the book for you.  3 ½ stars