Review: PACK UP THE MOON by Kristan Higgins

Review:  PACK UP THE MOON by Kristan HigginsPack Up the Moon by Kristan Higgins
Also by this author: Good Luck with That, Always the Last to Know
four-stars
Published by BERKLEY on June 8, 2021
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Romance, Women's Fiction
Pages: 480
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’ new novel Pack Up the Moon is a beautiful story about love, loss, and grief, and it’s about how to pick up the pieces of your life and start again when the love of your life is taken away way too soon.

The story follows Joshua and Lauren Park, a newly married couple who are just perfect for each other and madly in love.  Their happy lives come crashing down around them, however, when Lauren is unexpectedly and tragically diagnosed with a terminal illness and is told she probably only has 3-5 years to live.

What I loved most about this book is how Higgins chooses to unfold the story of Joshua and Lauren.  Within the first few pages of the book, Lauren dies and we are presented with Joshua, the grieving widow.  It is actually after Lauren’s death that we really get to know her because Lauren has spent many of her final months living writing letters for Joshua that he is to be given in the months after her death.  Her thought in doing that is that it will help him better cope with her death and start to live his life again.  She also tried to process her own life ending so prematurely by writing letters to her dead father.  She talks to him about her fears, about how sad she is that she’ll be leaving Joshua alone and that they never had children, etc.  She also communicates her hope that she will be reunited with her father in the afterlife.  Each chapter of the novel presents us with either a letter from Lauren to Joshua or one from Lauren to her dad.

I fell in love with both Lauren and Joshua as I read these letters and then read the flashbacks that accompanied so many of them.  Lauren is such a beautiful soul and it’s easy to see why Joshua loved her so much and is so devastated by her loss.  I loved the glimpses of their life together that the flashbacks provided, and I especially loved Lauren’s letters to Joshua, which were actually quite funny at times and gave him very explicit instructions that she fully expected him to follow, from simple things like go to the grocery store to more challenging tasks like ask a woman out on a date, and because he loved her so much, of course he followed them to the letter.

Pack Up the Moon broke my heart into a million pieces, but at the same time, it gave me hope that there is a way to move forward after tragedy.  Keep your tissues handy because this is a story that will make you cry your eyes out, but it will also surprise you with some humorous moments and, most importantly, it will leave you with a full heart because there’s just so much love in the story.

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.

YA Reviews: WE CAN’T KEEP MEETING LIKE THIS & TROUBLE GIRLS

Happy Monday all! I hope everyone had a lovely weekend. We had really nice weather here so I spent a lot of my weekend outside reading.  Today I’m sharing my thoughts on two of my weekend reads, We Can’t Keep Meeting Like This by Rachel Lynn Solomon and Trouble Girls by Julia Lynn Rubin.

 

YA Reviews:  WE CAN’T KEEP MEETING LIKE THIS & TROUBLE GIRLSWe Can't Keep Meeting Like This Goodreads

Author: Rachel Lynn Solomon

Publication Date: June 8, 2021

Publisher:  Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

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

We Can’t Keep Meeting Like This is my third time reading Rachel Lynn Solomon and once again she has captured my heart with her relatable storylines and her wonderfully complex characters and their equally complex relationships.

Quinn Berkowitz is headed to college in the fall.  She has gotten into a great school but doesn’t seem all that excited about her future. Why? Well, her parents have basically mapped it out for her, from deciding that she will be a business major, choosing her courses for her, and making the assumption that when she graduates, she will join them in their family wedding planning business.  Quinn hasn’t corrected them in this assumption because she doesn’t want to hurt their feelings, but it has left her feeling trapped and frustrated.  To make matters worse, her longtime crush, Tarek Mansour, is back home after his first year away at college and Quinn doesn’t really want to see him because of an embarrassing confession she made to him when he left for college the previous fall.  Avoiding Tarek is pretty much impossible though as his parents run the catering business that Quinn’s parents frequently partner up with for their weddings.  So basically Quinn has set herself up for a summer of awkwardness.

I think most readers will find Quinn to be a likable relatable character and will sympathize with the situation she finds herself in.  None of us want to disappoint our parents and I know, like Quinn, I would probably put off a difficult and painful conversation like that for as long as I possibly could.    Her situation with Tarek is probably going to be equally relatable because there are plenty of us out there who have done embarrassing things in front of someone we were crushing on.  Quinn’s situation with Tarek made me especially sympathetic toward her because she has major trust issues when it comes to love and putting herself out there because her parents temporarily separated when she was much younger and that separation really messed with Quinn’s head when she was little and continues to do so to this day because her parents have never talked about it.

Speaking of Tarek though, what a sweetheart this boy is.  He’s a hopeless romantic who likes to bake wedding cakes and who loves Sleepless in Seattle.  He is the softest of soft boys and it’s clear that he has feelings for Quinn.  I was hardcore rooting for him to break through the walls Quinn has put up around her own heart and I really enjoyed watching the ups and downs as their relationship evolved.

As much as I enjoyed the romantic storyline between Quinn and Tarek, Quinn’s journey to figure out her place in this world and the future of her relationship with her parents was what really made We Can’t Keep Meeting Like This such a compelling read for me.  4 STARS

 

YA Reviews:  WE CAN’T KEEP MEETING LIKE THIS & TROUBLE GIRLSTrouble Girls Goodreads

Author: Julia Lynn Rubin

Publication Date: June 1, 2021

Publisher:  Wednesday Books

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

Trouble Girls by Julia Lynn Rubin is a retelling of the popular ’90s film, Thelma and Louise. Rubin puts a fresh and timely spin on this classic film by making it a queer YA retelling that is set in present day during the #MeToo movement.

The story follows Trixie and Lux, two young women who have been best friends forever and who are looking to escape their dead-end little town for a few days.  They pack for a weekend getaway and make a pitstop at a college bar on their way out of town.  The night goes terribly wrong and in one violent moment, Trixie and Lux’s lives are changed forever.

Just as in the original tale, the author does a wonderful job of painting both women as sympathetic characters.  Trixie is an only child who has the huge and often overwhelming responsibility of caring for her mother who is suffering from what appears to be dementia.  It’s a huge weight to carry and Trixie is exhausted.  Lux also has a less than stellar home life.  Her mother is gone, and her overbearing father treats her as if she’s his maid and babysitter.  When their one chance to get away and relax and have fun is torpedoed by a pig who can’t keep it in his pants, it’s hard not to root for them when they fight back.

The story becomes an action-packed thrill ride as Trixie and Lux flee west hoping to escape from both the law and the media. The media attention is unexpected as Trixie and Lux find themselves at the center of the #MeToo movement when protesters become aware that their attacker has a track record of similar incidents in his history.  There are just as many people cheering the girls on as there are people who want them to pay for what they did.

The writing is taut and sharp, making this a real page turner for me even though I was very familiar with the original Thelma and Louise and could somewhat guess where the story was headed.  I do wish it hadn’t followed the original storyline quite so closely, but what did make it a fresh take though was the journey of self-discovery that we get as Trixie and Lux gradually realize they have more than just friendly feelings toward each other.  It’s a beautiful and hopeful journey tucked into what is otherwise a pretty dark tale.

If a fresh take on Thelma and Louise sounds like something you would enjoy, I highly recommend Trouble Girls3.5 STARS

Reviews: Find You First & House of Hollow

 

Hi everyone!  Sharon here with another edition of Thriller Thursday. This week I read a couple of books from authors that are new to me, Linwood Barclay’s Find You First and Krystal Sutherland’s House of Hollow. And I am happy to say these were both amazing reads.

 

Reviews: Find You First & House of HollowFind You First Goodreads

Author: Linwood Barclay

Publication Date: May 4, 2021

Publisher: William Morrow

When Stephen King gives a rave review on a book I just have to check it out, and he hit the nail on the head with Linwood Barclay’s Find You First. This book hit the ground running and kept going through the very last page.

Billionaire Miles Cookson has just been diagnosed with Huntington’s disease. Twenty years ago, Miles donated sperm to a sperm bank, that resulted in nine children. So, Miles has nine children that could possibly have the gene for this disease. After much soul searching Miles decides that he needs to find his “children” to let them know they should be tested, and he has also decided that he is going to leave them an inheritance. Chloe Swanson is one of Miles’ children who is on her own quest to find out who her biological father is. When Miles and Chloe find each other, the excitement is short lived when they find out that Miles’ other children are vanishing, with every trace of them eliminated, almost like they never existed. Could one of the nine have found out about the others and the inheritance and decided they want all of it for themselves? Or is there something more sinister going on?

The book starts off with a bang when one of Miles’ children, Todd, is murdered. Two unknown assailants posing as police officers show up at his door and once inside his house they inject him with some kind of poison that paralyzes him and then eventually kills him. That opening chapter had me like, Woah! Okay, you have my attention. Lol.   We then jump back in time 3 weeks to when Miles gets his diagnosis and the story plays out from there.

I really liked Miles. When he found out that his “children” were going missing, he turned into Papa bear. He may not know them, but he was going to do everything in his power to keep them safe.

Chloe was by far my favorite though. She did not take crap from anyone. She may only have been twenty, but she was a very strong woman. She sent her DNA into an ancestry app and found one of her siblings, Todd.  Yup the same Todd who was killed in the first chapter. Chloe’s interactions with Todd were bittersweet for me. I was happy that she had connected with her brother and they were getting to know each other, but also sad because I knew what Todd’s fate was.  But it was her interaction with Miles that I loved the most. She didn’t care about his money and she didn’t want to know if she had the gene for this disease. She just wanted to get to know her dad. And when he experienced symptoms of his disease, she showed such care and compassion for him. They really clicked and worked well together.

This book was a wild ride full of twists and turns that had me on the edge of my seat from beginning to end. I don’t want to say anything else about what was happening because that will just spoil things. But I will say, I was very happy with the ending, it left me with a smile on my face. This was my first book by Linwood Barclay, but it will not be my last.  4 ½ stars

 

Reviews: Find You First & House of HollowHouse of Hollow Goodreads

Author: Krystal Sutherland

Publication Date: April 6, 2021

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

I have never read anything by Krystal Sutherland, but when I saw the book cover for House of Hollow I knew I was going to have to read this book. And I am so glad I did because this book was as awesome as the cover is.  This is a dark and twisted read that I devoured in a few days.

Ten years ago the Hollow sisters (Grey, Vivi, and Iris) vanished. Their parents took their eyes off them for two seconds and they were just gone. One month later they mysteriously reappeared on the same street from which they vanished with no memory of where they were or what happened to them. Their once blue eyes are now black, their dark hair is now almost white and they each have a scar in the shape of a half moon on the base of their neck.  They also have the ability to make other people do what they want with a simple touch or kiss on the lips. What happened to the Hollow sisters and why did they come back changed? The answer to those questions makes for a terrifying, dark and at times grotesque story. Just the kind I love.

House of Hollow is told from the POV of Iris. Iris is now seventeen and since returning she has just been trying to lead a normal life. But when Grey goes missing, Iris and Vivi will do whatever they have to to find Grey and bring her home safe. I loved the bond the Hollow sisters had. Grey was the protector and when I say protector, I mean don’t mess with her younger sisters because you will not like what Grey will do. One example is when a girl in Iris’ school was bullying Iris, Grey used her ability to make this girl stand up in front of the whole school during an assembly and shave off her long dark hair. Yup Don’t mess with the sisters, got it lol.

To find their sister, Iris and Vivi must follow the clues that Grey left behind. One of the clues takes them to Grey’s apartment and while they are searching for clues as to where Grey could be, a dead body that has white flowers growing out of its eyes and covering most of the body, falls from the closet. They are also being stalked by a man wearing a Bull head.  ‘Cause you know, no thriller would be complete without a character walking around with a bull head on, trying to kill the main characters. LOL!  I actually loved the eeriness that this character brought to the book.

A secondary character I really liked was Grey’s boyfriend, Tyler. He has some great one liners that often gave me a chuckle during some tense moments, and I loved how he called Iris “Little Hollow”. He was just a great addition to round out a great group of characters.

I really liked how Krystal Sutherland slowly revealed what happened to Grey, as well as what happened to the Hollow sisters 10 years ago. As each layer was pulled back, the tension and suspense just increased to an ending that had my jaw dropping as well as wanting more. With that ending, I really hope there is a sequel to this book.  4 ½ stars

Be forewarned though, there are some grotesque moments in this book. I even shivered and crinkled my face at some of it, and it usually takes a lot to gross me out, lol.

Reviews: MALIBU RISING & THE INVISIBLE HUSBAND OF FRICK ISLAND

 

Sorry I disappeared off the blogosphere for a few days but man, it has been a week.  We are short-staffed at work, as usual, so the universe decided this would be a great week for a trip to the ER with my son, followed by a fender bender this weekend when a teen driver decided to plow into the back of my car while we were stopped at a traffic light.  We’re all fine thankfully, but if the universe could cut me a break for a bit, that would be fantastic.  Anyway, my life drama aside, I do have two reviews to share today, one for Malibu Rising, one of my most anticipated reads of the year, and one for The Invisible Husband of Frick Island, which I was drawn to because of the island setting. When I read the synopsis, it reminded me of a little island off the coast of Virginia called Tangier Island and being from Virginia, I was intrigued.

 

Reviews:  MALIBU RISING & THE INVISIBLE HUSBAND OF FRICK ISLANDMalibu Rising Goodreads

Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid

Publication Date: June 1, 2021

Publisher:  Ballantine Books

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

Taylor Jenkins Reid became one of my favorite authors after I fell in love with her most recent novels, Daisy Jones & the Six and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo.  Her masterful storytelling and her ability to bring unforgettable characters to life just really won me over, so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy of her new novel, Malibu Rising.

Malibu Rising is a story of love and loss, secrets and betrayals, and at the heart of it all is the Riva family, the parents Mick and June, and the four Riva children, Nina, Jay, Hud, and Kit.  Those familiar with TJR’s books will probably recognize Mick Riva, who appears in the Daisy Jones and Evelyn Hugo novels.  Mick is an iconic musician who can’t seem to break the cycle of infidelity that he falls into the moment he becomes successful as a musician.  He waltzes in and out of June and their kids’ lives, leaving wreckage in his wake each time he decides family life isn’t for him.  To say the Rivas are a dysfunctional family is probably putting it mildly.

Malibu Rising is told using a dual timeline, which I’m always a fan of if it’s done well, and TJR uses it effectively here to peel back the layers on the Riva family.  One timeline is set in the past which explores Mick and June Riva’s life together, showing how they met and the dramatic ups and downs of their relationship and how it impacted their young children.  The second timeline is set in the 1980s and focuses on the Riva children, Nina, Jay, Hud, and Kit, who are all adults now and are experiencing their own ups and downs.

This family’s journey is a wild and often heartbreaking one and because of that, I loved the modern timeline that shows the kids all grown up and trying to make their way in the world.  I loved how tight their sibling bond has grown over the years, probably because they could only rely on each other.  Nina, the eldest, was a particular favorite of mine in that she sacrificed everything to basically become a mother to her younger siblings.  Their lives are full of ups and downs as well, but they are all there for each other in ways their parents weren’t there for them.

The only part of the novel I didn’t enjoy was actually the big end-of-summer party that is the focal point of the story.  Yes, it’s most definitely a life-changing event as it brings many issues to a head and turns quite a few lives upside down.  At the same time, however, I found it to be somewhat tedious at times.  I guess the Hollywood life doesn’t appeal to me and I just got bored reading page after page of celebrity after celebrity showing up and behaving in utterly predictable ways.  The drama surrounding the Riva siblings at that party is riveting and everything else just felt like it was in the way.

Even though I wasn’t the biggest fan of the party itself, everything else about the novel made for a very compelling read.  If you enjoy family dramas and sibling stories, you’ll enjoy Malibu Rising. 4 STARS.

 

Reviews:  MALIBU RISING & THE INVISIBLE HUSBAND OF FRICK ISLANDThe Invisible Husband of Frick Island Goodreads

Author: Colleen Oakley

Publication Date: May 25, 2021

Publisher:  Berkley

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

Colleen Oakley’s new novel The Invisible Husband of Frick Island is an emotional story about love, loss, and grief and the lengths people will go to in order to help those they love.  The story centers on Piper Parrish, a young woman who lives on Frick Island, a tiny island located in the Chesapeake Bay and only accessible by ferry.  The Frick Island community, cut off as they are from the mainland, are a tightknit group who look out for each other.  When Piper’s husband Tom is lost at sea when his boat capsizes during a terrible storm, the community rallies together to help Piper cope with the loss.  It’s the method in which they choose to rally that brings a bit of a whimsical element to the story.  When they realize that Piper is hallucinating that Tom is still alive and by her side, the community decides to play along with it and pretend he’s still alive as well. When Anders Caldwell, an aspiring journalist, is sent to the island on assignment, he witnesses Piper and her hallucinations as well as the community going along with it, he can’t believe what he is seeing and decides he needs to investigate it further. He thinks this is a story that could make his career but has no idea how truly life changing it will end up being.

Overall, I really enjoyed this story.  I especially loved the small town island setting and how they’re all practically one big family.  I also loved all the quirky characters who live on the island.  They were fun and I immediately liked them all just by virtue of what they were willing to do to keep from breaking Piper’s heart.  Piper herself is of course an incredibly sympathetic character because of the loss she has suffered and it’s easy to see why her community loves her so much.  I very much enjoyed watching her interact with Anders as he tried to piece together what was motivating the community to go along with Piper’s hallucinations rather than set her straight about Tom’s death. There were times when I wanted to shake him for using Piper’s tragedy to further his career, but he shows tremendous growth in this area as he and Piper grew closer and he starts to realize his own mistakes.

My only real issue with The Invisible Husband of Frick Island is that it felt a little slow at times.  As much as I enjoyed it, I felt like the story got a little bogged down by Anders’ repetitive ferry rides back and forth to the island.  I think I would have preferred either fewer trips or maybe less description of them each time.

If you enjoy small town settings, quirky characters, and reading about the things we do for love, you’ll want to check out The Invisible Husband of Frick Island.  3.5 STARS.

Book Reviews: The Road Trip, One Last Stop, & Playing the Palace

It’s hard to believe that summer is already almost upon us, but here we are nearly finished with the month of May already.  One of the many wonderful things to look forward to about summer are the fantastic romance books that will be soon be hitting the shelves.  Today I’m sharing my thoughts on three more books that I read recently and really enjoyed.

 

Book Reviews:  The Road Trip, One Last Stop, & Playing the PalaceThe Road Trip Goodreads

Author: Beth O’Leary

Publication Date: June 1, 2021

Publisher:  Berkley

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

Beth O’Leary’s new novel The Road Trip hilariously combines a second chance romance with what might actually be the worst road trip ever.  The story follows Addie and Dylan, who broke up two years ago and haven’t spoken to each other since but find themselves traveling to attend the same wedding.  Addie is traveling with her sister, Deb, and some random, socially awkward guy named Rodney who needed a ride to the wedding. As if that isn’t awkward enough for an 8 hour car ride, almost as soon as they start out on their trip, their car is rammed from behind in traffic by none other than Dylan and his best friend, Maurice.  It’s an accident of course, but Dylan and Maurice’s car is totaled. Addie and Deb reluctantly agree to give Dylan and Maurice a ride and all five adults pile into Deb’s mini Cooper and off they go!

This was a fun and quick read for me.  The road trip itself was a highly entertaining comedy of errors where truly everything that could possibly go wrong did, and I loved the way the author structures the story into Now and Then timelines.  The Now timeline is where all of the hilarity takes place, while the Then chapters gradually reveals the backstory between Addie and Dylan, how they met and fell in love and of course what happened to drive them apart as well as the role Maurice plays in their breakup.

The road trip is messy, and Addie and Dylan’s history is equally messy, but I couldn’t help but root for them to somehow find their way back to each other through all of the awkwardness.  I won’t say that I was quite as attached to Addie and Dylan as I was to the characters in O’Leary’s last two books, The Flatshare and The Switch, but I still liked them both and thought they belonged together.  I also really enjoyed the secondary cast of characters, especially Addie’s sister, Deb.  Maurice was the character I loved to hate, although he grew on me over time, while Rodney might have been the biggest surprise of them all. No spoilers but keep your eye on that guy!

If you enjoy road trip stories and second chance romances, you’re going to want to add Beth O’Leary’s The Road Trip to your list of must-reads. 4 STARS.

 

Book Reviews:  The Road Trip, One Last Stop, & Playing the PalaceOne Last Stop Goodreads

Author: Casey McQuiston

Publication Date: June 1, 2021

Publisher:  St. Martin’s Griffin

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

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston is one of my favorite reads of 2021 so far.  The protagonist of the story is 23-year old August, who has moved to New York City because she has become cynical about everything to do with her life and feels like New York is the perfect place for her to embrace her cynicism and go through life alone.  August’s new roommates, however, have other ideas.  They help her find a job, show her everything that is wonderful about New York, and basically adopt her into their little found family and it’s the cutest thing ever.  Think “Friends” but with a much more diverse cast, including a drag queen who lives across the hall and a lovable extended family at the 24-hour pancake diner where August ends up working.

August is also taking college courses and encounters a young woman named Jane on the subway one morning when she spills coffee all over herself and Jane comes to her rescue.  August is attracted to Jane right away and it seems like Jane feels the same way. They meet on the train every morning and evening and grow closer with each encounter. August even starts thinking that maybe she doesn’t want to be alone after all and decides to ask Jane out.  Every time August asks Jane to go out, Jane tells her she can’t come.  August is confused by the mixed signals Jane is sending until she finally figures out that something very strange is going on.  Jane has somehow been displaced in time from the 1970s and is trapped on the subway line.  She can’t go out with August because she’s literally stuck on the train.  August loves Jane and is determined to figure out how to set her free, even if it means sending her back to her own timeline and never seeing her again and she calls on her roommates to help.

I don’t want to give anything away about how this all plays out, but wow, I just fell so hard for this entire lovable, quirky cast of characters and I also loved how unique the overall premise of the story is. Sometimes magical realism doesn’t work for me, but I thought McQuiston used it perfectly here.  It was like Quantum Leap with a side of romance set in the subway.  One Last Stop is such a refreshing and original read and I just loved every page of it.  4.5 STARS

 

Book Reviews:  The Road Trip, One Last Stop, & Playing the PalacePlaying the Palace Goodreads

Author: Paul Rudnick

Publication Date: May 25, 2021

Publisher:  Berkley Books

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

I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much while reading a book, but Paul Rudnick’s new romantic comedy Playing the Palace delivers nonstop laughs and kept me entertained from cover to cover. The story follows Carter Ogden, who is an event planner and an adorable hot mess whose number one skill is self-sabotage.  When Carter meets Edgar, the openly gay Prince of England, their attraction is immediate and the two men decide to get to know each other better. They try to keep it lowkey with little pancake dates at the local IHOP, but it doesn’t take long for the media to figure things out and to go looking for trouble.  The more nervous Carter gets about the fact that he is dating a Prince, the more his self-sabotage skills kick into high gear, resulting in one embarrassing incident after another, much to his dismay as well as that of the Royal Family.

I was invested in Carter and Edgar’s relationship from that first meeting and really wanted Carter to get his act together, although his blunders did make for hilarious reading.  I also loved his encounters with Edgar’s Nana (a.k.a. the Queen of England). She gives Carter a hard time but he gives it right back to her and they are actually quite hilarious together.  Add in Carter’s loud and lovable Jewish family, in particular his sister Abby who is just the absolute best, and his Aunt Miriam, who practically becomes bffs with the Queen, and the story really is just one big barrel of fun.

If you’re in the mood for a romantic comedy that is truly laugh out loud funny, Playing the Palace is the book for you. 4 STARS

YA Reviews: Instructions for Dancing, Cool for the Summer, & Misfit in Love

Happy Friday everyone!  I’ve had a crazy, busy week and I’m behind on pretty much everything, which means you get mini reviews for my latest reads.  Just because the reviews are mini doesn’t means the books aren’t fabulous though.  I’ve got three great YA reads to share my thoughts on today.

 

YA Reviews: Instructions for Dancing, Cool for the Summer, & Misfit in LoveInstructions for Dancing Goodreads

Author: Nicola Yoon

Publication Date: June 1, 2021

Publisher:  Delacorte Press

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

Nicola Yoon’s new novel Instructions for Dancing follows Evie Thomas, a senior in high school, whose world has been rocked because she walked in on her dad cheating on her mother.  Her utter disappointment in her dad, coupled with her parents’ divorce, has left Evie feeling like there’s no point in falling in love if it’s just going to end in misery.  Evie is so off the whole idea of love at this point, she takes all of her old romance novels to donate to a Little Free Library. An elderly woman there encourages Evie to take a book as well and gives her a book called Instructions for Dancing. Evie doesn’t want to be rude so she takes it and when she sees an address on the back for a local dance studio, she decides to check out the studio and while there, she meets ‘X’ (short for Xavier).  They bond immediately as they begin taking dance lessons together and as they grow closer and closer, Evie starts to wonder if she’s wrong about love being a waste of time…

I don’t want to give away any further details about the story, so that teaser about how Evie’s emotional journey begins is all I’m giving you.  Her path is a beautiful one, although painful at times. If you have parents who are divorced, you will relate very strongly to where Evie is emotionally. I know I did.  As Evie finds, it can be hard to open yourself up to love when you know there’s the possibility you could get hurt. The message of this book though is that it’s not about how that love might end in heartbreak. Instead it’s about the journey of falling in love so deeply that when you do loose them, it crushes you, and the idea that we should all hope to be lucky enough to experience a love that deep.  I thought this was such a powerful and important message both for Evie and for all of us and I loved how this beautiful sentiment, which reduced me to tears several times, balances out with some of the lighter and more fun elements of the story.

Oh yes, it’s not all doom and gloom by any stretch.  Evie’s group of friends is a lot of fun and so are the people Evie meets at the dance studio.  There’s intense training for a dance competition that brings Evie and X even closer together, as well as lots of dates for them as their instructor forces them to get to know each other better so that they have better chemistry on the dance floor.

Instructions for Dancing is a story that will tug at your heartstrings and make you believe that no matter what, love is always worth it.  As the old Dr. Seuss quote says, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”  4.5 STARS

 

YA Reviews: Instructions for Dancing, Cool for the Summer, & Misfit in LoveCool for the Summer Goodreads

Author: Dahlia Adler

Publication Date: May 11, 2021

Publisher:  Wednesday Books

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

When Larissa arrives to school on the first day of her senior year, everyone can tell there’s something different about her and it’s not just the new haircut and blond highlights.  It’s more that she has a new attitude, a certain confidence she didn’t have before.  Whatever it is, it has gotten the attention of her forever-crush Chase Harding and now he has gone from barely acknowledging her existence to blatantly flirting with her.  Chase Harding is everything Larissa has ever wanted, and between him, her close-knit friend group, and a fantastic job, Larissa is sure her senior year is going to be incredible…until Jasmine walks through the door.  Jasmine, the girl Larissa met and had a summer romance with when she traveled to the Outer Banks in North Carolina with her mom.  What is Jasmine doing here in New York, at Larissa’s school?  And the bigger question, why is she now ignoring Larissa and pretending they don’t know each other? Was their romance just a summer fling or could it be more than that?

I really enjoyed the way the author lets this story unfold through a dual timeline, with the first timeline set in the present as Larissa and Jasmine try to navigate getting to know one another in a completely different environment from where they first met. The second timeline takes place in the Outer Banks over the summer and shows us how Jasmine and Larissa meet.  Larissa had no idea she was possibly bisexual until she met Jasmine and I thought the author did a wonderful job of showing Larissa exploring this newly discovered aspect of her sexuality in a positive light. There is of course a bit of a love triangle in the present-day timeline and even though I’m not usually a fan of those, it works here because the triangle reflects how Larissa finds herself torn between the person she used to be and the person she has grown into since meeting Jasmine.  She has some big decisions to make and doesn’t want to hurt anyone or get hurt in the process.  Larissa’s journey is somewhat painful at times as she attempts to navigate this awkward terrain, but I really enjoyed watching her grow throughout the story. Cool for the Summer is a satisfying coming of age story that left me feeling nostalgic for my own summer romances from years gone by. 4 STARS

 

YA Reviews: Instructions for Dancing, Cool for the Summer, & Misfit in LoveMisfit in Love Goodreads

Author: S.K. Ali

Publication Date: May 25, 2021

Publisher:  Salaam Reads / Simon & Schuster for Young Readers

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

I loved S.K. Ali’s debut novel Saints & Misfits when I read it a couple of years ago so I was beyond excited to hear that we would be returning to that world with Ali’s latest novel, Misfit in Love.  I adored Janna, the protagonist from both books, just as much this time around.  She’s a little older now and will be off to college soon, but before that, she has a big family wedding to attend.  Her beloved brother Muhammad is getting married, which means that Janna will soon be surrounded by family and friends, including Nuah. The last time she saw Nuah, Janna had told him she wasn’t ready to start a relationship, but now that she’s about to see him again, she thinks she has changed her mind and hopes he’s still interested even though he has been away at college.

There’s so much to love about Misfit in Love.  I really enjoyed reading about all of the wedding traditions as well as the preparations and, of course, the fun shenanigans, as well as some of the drama between Muhammad’s family and his bride’s family. It was also so much fun to see old friends from Ali’s first two books.  I was especially excited to see Adam and Zayneb from Love from A to Z as wedding attendees.  I would love to revisit their world with another book at some point too. They’re just so sweet together. In addition to the fun surrounding the wedding, I also enjoyed watching Janna continue to grow and mature.  She is still somewhat of a misfit when it comes to love and relationships but she’s finding her way, and I was especially proud of her when she has a very difficult conversation with her father about his racism. She makes a statement that many of us should take to heart.  If you see someone being racist and hateful, you can’t just sit there passively.  If anything is ever going to change, you have to speak out against the hate.  Misfit in Love might be a light summer read about a wedding and falling in love, but it also packs a strong punch with that message from Janna.  I don’t want to say anything else because of spoilers, I think fans of Ali’s other books will adore this one too and I’ll be sitting here hoping that we get another book that follows Janna when she goes off to college. 🙂  4 STARS.

Reviews: The Break-Up Book Club & Talk Bookish to Me

 

I’ve got a totally bookish theme going on for today’s reviews.  I’ll be sharing my thoughts on a book about a most delightful book club and on a book that features a romance author desperately seeking inspiration for her new book.  Fun times!

 

Reviews:  The Break-Up Book Club & Talk Bookish to MeThe Break-Up Book Club Goodreads

Author: Wendy Wax

Publication Date: May 18, 2021

Publisher:  Berkley Books

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

I couldn’t resist a chance to read a book about a book club so I was excited to dive into Wendy Wax’s new novel, The Break-Up Book Club.  The story follows four women of different generations whose lives have been turned upside down by the men they love. They each go to their local book club’s meetings in hopes of finding a distraction from their problems, but what they find is so much more.  There’s nothing quite like the healing power of good friends and good books.

The story is told from the perspectives of these four women.  I really like how the author chose to present their stories, with us following each woman’s individual journey but also having them come together regularly at their book club meetings.  There’s Sara, whose husband is always out of town for work which leaves her saddled with Dorothy, her incredibly difficult mother-in-law who has been living with them.  There’s Judith, whose children have grown up and moved out, leaving her at home alone to ponder the state of her marriage and how she feels like nothing but a supporting player in her husband’s life.  Rounding out the main cast of characters are Jazmine and Erin, who work together at a sports agency.  Jazmine is an agent and a single mom, trying to make it in an arrogant man’s world, and her young assistant, Erin, has just been dumped by her high school sweetheart less than a week before they were supposed to get married.  I really liked all of the main characters and found them all to be quite sympathetic.

I also really enjoyed all of the secondary characters as well.  The members of the book club are a fun, diverse, and quirky bunch and I thoroughly enjoyed sitting in on their meetings. There’s always good food and wine, a spirited debate about whatever book they’ve read, and there’s also a fun contest to finally give their little club a name that really brings out the competitive side of these book lovers.  I loved watching the friendships blossom within the club and just how therapeutic these relationships become over time for Jazmine, Erin, Judith, and Sara.  The book club is basically their “found” family, which just made this such a feel good read.

If you’re in the mood for an uplifting read about the power of friendship and community that will leave you with a smile on your face, you’ll definitely want to check out The Break-Up Book Club.  4 STARS

 

Reviews:  The Break-Up Book Club & Talk Bookish to MeTalk Bookish to Me Goodreads

Author: Kate Bromley

Publication Date: May 25, 2021

Publisher:  Graydon House

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

Kate Bromley’s debut novel Talk Bookish to Me is a contemporary romance that was irresistible to me because it features so many of my favorite things. It’s set, first in Manhattan and then later in Italy, it features a romance author as the protagonist, and it’s equal parts enemies-to-lovers and second chance romance. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you can see this book practically has my name written all over it.  Talk Bookish to Me didn’t disappoint either.  It’s filled with loveable characters, witty and hilarious banter, some seriously intense chemistry, and, as if all of that isn’t enough, there’s also an adorable bulldog named Duke.

The story follows Kara Sullivan, who is a romance writer with no inspiration to write.  With the deadline for her latest novel fast approaching, Kara needs to find the spark that will get her writing mojo back on track.  That spark unexpectedly appears in the form of her ex-boyfriend, Ryan, who she runs into because he is in town for their friend’s wedding.  Kara and Ryan parted on bad terms ten years ago and after this tense and awkward reunion, Kara is suddenly able to crank out a few chapters for her book.  When Ryan’s dog, Duke, destroys their hotel room and gets Ryan kicked out, Kara surprises herself and offers to let Ryan and Duke stay at her place.  Her thought behind this crazy idea is that if she continues to trade barbs with Ryan, perhaps she’ll be inspired enough to actually get her book written on time.  What could possibly go wrong?

I had so much fun reading this book.  I loved Kara right away and found her so relatable. She’s fun, sweet, quirky, and not only is she an author, she also loves to take photos of books and post them on Bookstagram.  In many ways she felt like a kindred spirit.  She’s also carrying around some pretty heavy emotional baggage involving her father’s death that put me in her corner rooting for her all the more.

Ryan is a great character too.  I loved watching him with his dog and his banter with Kara is just so entertaining.  It’s clear from the moment they reconnect that he still cares for her and would love a second chance.  The more I watched them interact, the more I wanted him to get that second chance as well.  I will say there was one moment where I really wanted to kick his butt and wanted Kara to kick it as well, but he eventually digs himself out of that hole and then I was rooting for the two of them to get their long-postponed happily ever after.

I also enjoyed the way the author gave us Ryan and Kara’s journey but also mixed in chapters from Kara’s book as she was writing it. It was fun to see what her interactions with Ryan inspired her to write each step of the way.

Talk Bookish to Me is a fun and sexy read that is sure to please romance fans. 4 STARS

ROM COM Reviews: THE SOULMATE EQUATION & ROSALINE PALMER TAKES THE CAKE

Happy Friday!  We’ve made it through another week and I don’t know about you but I’m so ready for the weekend.  We are short-staffed at work yet again and it’s kicking my butt. I also don’t know about you, but I have so many books to review that are coming out on May 25th.  I’ve been reading as fast as I can but still have 4 to get through between now and then so I can review them.  There are definitely worse problems to have so I won’t complain. I just hope I can get them all read in time!  Anyway, today I’m sharing my thoughts on two fun and fabulous rom-coms that come out on May 18th, The Soulmate Equation by Christina Lauren and Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake by Alexis Hall.

 

ROM COM Reviews: THE SOULMATE EQUATION & ROSALINE PALMER TAKES THE CAKEThe Soulmate Equation Goodreads

Author: Christina Lauren

Publication Date: May 18, 2021

Publisher:  Gallery Books

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

Before I started reading Christina Lauren’s novels, I was not the biggest fan of romance books.  With their lovable characters, often hilarious banter, and addictive storylines, they won me over and now I can’t get enough of their books.  Their latest, The Soulmate Equation, is the tenth book I’ve read from them and I’m happy to say it’s one of my favorites yet.

The story follows Jess Davis, who is a freelance statistician.  Her passion is crunching numbers all day.  Abandoned by her mother at a young age and raised by her grandparents, Jess is now a single mom raising a 7-year-old daughter. Between her career and her daughter, Jess has no time or interest in dating.  I really liked Jess right away.  She’s a STEM girl, which I loved, and I also loved both her devotion to her adorable daughter, Juno, and her fierce sense of independence.   All of that said, I also loved that her curiosity about the data and the science behind a new DNA-based dating app called GeneticAlly leads her to actually submit a sample of her DNA to see if it actually works.  Even though she’s all about science and numbers, when she is found to be 98% compatible with another subject in the database, she is skeptical, especially because she has actually met the guy and can’t stand him!

The guy is Dr. River Pena, the sexy scientist who is the brains behind the GeneticAlly app.  Jess makes a snap judgment about River because she sees him at the local coffee shop every day and he doesn’t speak to anyone.  She thinks he’s arrogant, rude, and obnoxious, but as she starts to get to know him, she realizes she may have been a bit hasty and overly harsh in her initial assessment.  I loved watching Jess get to know River.  It becomes clear that what she deemed arrogant and rude was actually just him being shy and awkward.  The more they talk and interact, the more Jess starts to wonder if there’s any merit to that 98% compatibility score.  As much as I liked Jess, I have to say that I flat out adored everything about River, especially the way he interacts with Jess’ daughter, Juno, when he meets her. They are adorable together, which made it impossible not to root for a happy ending for River and Jess since it would mean a father figure for Juno as well.

The actual DNA science and how that worked was a little over my head at times, but I didn’t care.  I was so into Jess and River and their journey that I flew through the pages, smiling all the way.  With The Soulmate Equation, I think it’s safe to say Christina Lauren have another hit on their hands for romance fans.  4 STARS

 

ROM COM Reviews: THE SOULMATE EQUATION & ROSALINE PALMER TAKES THE CAKERosaline Palmer Takes the Cake Goodreads

Author: Alexis Hall

Publication Date: May 18, 2021

Publisher:  Forever (Grand Central Publishing)

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

I just finished reading Alexis Hall’s last novel, Boyfriend Material, a couple of months ago and loved it, so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy of her latest, Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake, the first book in a new queer romcom series called Winner Bakes All.  The lure of a reality TV baking competition and its potential for hilarious antics was just impossible to resist!

The story follows Rosaline Palmer, a single mom who has found herself in a dead end job after choosing to drop out of college to raise her daughter, Amelie.  Rosaline does not in any way regret her decision to do this but she really wishes she could do something to give her daughter a better life than she currently has.  When she hears about a reality TV baking competition, she thinks this could be exactly what she needs to turn things around, and so she applies and is selected to be a contestant.  The competition is fierce, and the judges can be harsh in their criticism, but Rosaline is convinced she has what it takes to go all the way.

Rosaline is such a great protagonist.  I loved pretty much everything about her.  She’s bisexual and very open about her sexuality, even to the point that her young daughter has been raised to know what it means to be bisexual and that it’s absolutely normal.  Rosaline is like this in every aspect of life with Amelie and is raising a very precocious, open-minded young lady.  Watching Amelie in action throughout the book made me feel lots of proud mom vibes on Rosaline’s behalf.  She might be on her own but she is doing a splendid job raising her daughter.

As much as I adored the mother-daughter moments with Rosaline and Amelie, the fun and most of the action takes place at the competition and I thought every aspect of the competition was fabulous and very well executed.  The descriptions of the glorious food items being prepared practically had me drooling while I was reading, and I loved the cast of characters, from Rosaline’s fellow competitors, most of whom become like a little family by the end of the competition, to the quirky judges and the borderline insane producer.

There’s a bit of a love triangle between Rosaline and two of her fellow competitors that at first I wasn’t sure about until it became clear that it wasn’t really much of a triangle.  Rosaline meets Alain Pope while traveling to the competition and at first he seems quite charming. He’s well educated, smooth, and he certainly knows his way around a kitchen.  The more Rosaline gets to know him, however, the less appealing he seems. In fact, she finds herself way more attracted to another competitor, a less educated, super awkward and shy electrician named Harry.  You guys, I just have to say that Harry is the most adorable cinnamon roll of a leading man.  I adored everything about him, from his cute banter with Rosaline, to his delightful creations that he bakes for the competition, including a mermaid cake, and most especially the way he treats Rosaline’s daughter.  As soon as I watched Harry in action with Rosaline and her daughter, I was rooting hard for Rosaline to tell Alain to kiss off so she could be with Harry.

I don’t want to give away anything about the competition or how things turn out for Rosaline, but I will say I came away very satisfied and with a smile on my face and can’t wait to see what Alexis Hall has in store for us with the next book in this fun series. 4 STARS.

Reviews: The Good Sister & Her Dark Lies

 

Hi everyone!  Sharon here with another edition of Thriller Thursday. This week I am sharing my thoughts on Sally Hepworth’s domestic thriller, The Good Sister and J.T. Ellison’s mystery/thriller, Her Dark Lies. I am a fan of both of these authors and happy to say I loved both of these books.

 

Reviews: The Good Sister & Her Dark LiesThe Good Sister Goodreads

Author: Sally Hepworth

Publication Date: April 13, 2021

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

I have loved all of the books I have read by Sally Hepworth, so I was very excited to read her latest book The Good Sister and it did not disappoint. This book exceeded all of my expectations and is my favorite so far.

Fern and Rose are fraternal twins who are very different from each other. Rose is the responsible one and has always taken care of Fern and protected her from their mother. Fern is on the autism spectrum, she is very sensitive to loud noises and light, she doesn’t like to be touched too much or crowds. Fern and Rose are very close and will do anything for each other. Years ago Fern did something very bad and Rose has kept that secret. Now Fern has learned that Rose cannot have children and has decided that she is going to get pregnant and give the baby to Rose. But Fern starts to realize that Rose is not the good sister she thought she was and is now rethinking about giving her baby to Rose. And that decision will have dire consequences.

This book is told from the POV of Rose through her journal pages which give us a look into what their childhood was like and also from the POV of Fern in present day, as she goes about her life and mission to give Rose a baby.

I really felt for Rose reading her journal entries. The things she endured at the hands of her mother made my heart break for her.  But my impression of Rose changed as more things were revealed and it started to become clear that Rose may not really be that much of a protector of Fern as was first thought.

Fern was my favorite, I loved her. She works in a library, so right there she is high up on my list lol. She just warmed my heart and made me laugh. Fern saw the good in everyone. Even when she started to suspect Rose did not have her best intentions in mind, she still wanted to believe that everything Rose did was for Fern’s protection. Fern loved working in the library, the one job she hated though was when someone needed help with the photocopier. If someone came to her for help she would pretend like she heard someone call her or act like she was on the phone. It was when she did quirky things like this that would make me laugh.

It was in the library that Fern meets another character that I loved, Wally. Though his real name was Rocco, Fern called him Wally because the clothes he wore reminded her of the character from the book ‘Where’s Wally”.  He is also socially awkward like Fern and understood her sensitivity to light and sound so when they went out he would give her noise cancelling headphones and swimming goggles to wear. I loved watching their relationship grow and from the moment they met I was hoping that Fern would get a happily ever after with him.

I really cannot say much about this book because I don’t want to spoil anything. I will say that The Good Sister is a domestic thriller that was very beautifully written, full of characters that I loved, and had me turning the pages wanting to know more about them and what was going to happen.   4 ½ stars

 

Reviews: The Good Sister & Her Dark LiesHer Dark Lies Goodreads

Author: J.T. Ellison

Publication Date: March 9, 2021

Publisher: Mira

J.T. Ellison’s new book Her Dark Lies was everything that I was hoping for.  From the amazing Italian setting to the secrets and lies and the dead body count, this book had everything that makes a great mystery thriller.

Claire Hunter is set to marry the wealthy Jack Compton on the Compton family’s remote island, Isle Isola, off the Italian coast. The night before they were to set off for the island someone broke into Claire and Jack’s home and Claire ended up shooting and killing the intruder. And then once they reach the island, skeleton remains have been found, Claire’s wedding dress was ruined by someone writing ‘whore’ in blood on the back of it, and more deaths occurred. It is safe to say that someone is trying to sabotage the wedding. But who? Claire and Jack both have secrets. When Claire was a teenager, her father died in a car accident that was Claire’s fault. And Jack’s first wife mysteriously died 10 years ago while they were on their honeymoon.

I loved the setting of this book and Ellison does an amazing job of describing the island and the Villa. I could picture it so vividly that it felt like I was actually there. I could imagine myself walking up the stone stairs to get to the Villa from the beach. And I could picture myself in the rooms. At times if felt like I was watching the book, rather than reading it.

We figure out early on who is behind all that is happening and to me that just added to the suspense. What are they going to do next? Why are they doing this? And the answers to those questions made this an edge of my seat read.  There was also so many twists and turns in this book that I didn’t want to put it down. Especially when the closer it got to the end, the more the body count was rising. All I could think of was “Damn! Who is going to make it off this island alive?”

The only issue I had was I didn’t really connect with any of the characters. I think they were well written, but I was so caught up in the setting of the book and all that was going on that they didn’t really pop for me. The only one that I can say had any growth was Claire. At the beginning of the book she annoyed me. Whenever something happened and she would get upset, Jack would tell her not to worry, that he and his family had everything under control, and she just went along with it and let him take care of things. But by the end of the book Claire turned into one bad ass woman. She had enough and was going to take down the person that was behind everything that was happening on the island. I actually found myself cheering for her at the end. You go Claire!   4 Stars

Reviews: PEOPLE WE MEET ON VACATION & THAT SUMMER

Happy Monday all!  I hope all of the moms out there had a wonderful Mother’s Day weekend.  My son had a soccer tournament so I spent my holiday at my second home, the soccer field, lol. Today I’m sharing my thoughts on two books hitting the shelves this week that also happen to be two of my most anticipated reads of 2021, Emily Henry’s People We Meet on Vacation and Jennifer Weiner’s That Summer.

 

Reviews:  PEOPLE WE MEET ON VACATION & THAT SUMMERPeople We Meet on Vacation Goodreads

Author: Emily Henry

Publication Date: May 11, 2021

Publisher:  Berkley Books

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

Emily Henry’s novel Beach Read was one of my favorite books of 2020.  It was a five-star read for me and I adored everything about it.  I therefore had very high expectations going into her new novel, People We Meet on Vacation.  I’m thrilled to report that Henry not only met my expectations, but she really hit it out of the park.

People We Meet on Vacation follows Poppy and Alex.  Poppy and Alex both come from a small town in Ohio and that, aside from the fact that they attended the same college, which is where they met and became best friends, is pretty much the only thing they have in common.  Poppy is a travel writer and a quirky extrovert, while Alex is a high school teacher and a highly reserved introvert.  They are truly the most unlikely of friends, but as the old saying goes, opposites attract and their friendship just works.  They have not only stayed friends long after graduating from college, but every year they get together and take an epic vacation.  That is, until two years ago when something happened to completely derail their friendship to the point where they stopped speaking to each other.  Poppy desperately wants her best friend back and reaches out to Alex with an offer she hopes he won’t refuse.

I fell in love with both Poppy and Alex right away.  Henry has the story unfold through a dual timeline where in the present, we watch Poppy and Alex take a trip together to try to rekindle their friendship and move forward, while in the past, we get lots of flashbacks of Poppy and Alex’s first meeting, their friendship growing, scenes from those amazing yearly vacations, etc.  I loved watching the two of them interact because 1) the banter is hilarious, 2) it’s clear they have intense chemistry, and 3) they really bring out the best in each other.  I was utterly heartbroken to learn that something had happened to fracture their relationship and I shared Poppy’s desperation to fix it.  I was also shipping them so hard to become more than friends because they were truly just adorable together in the flashback scenes.

I don’t want to spoil anything so I’m just going to say if I had to compare this book to any other book, I’d say it has a similar vibe to Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren.  If you enjoy a good friends-to-lovers story filled with lovable characters and hilarious banter, you are in for a treat with People We Meet on Vacation. This one left me with a full heart and happy tears in my eyes.  5 STARS.

 

Reviews:  PEOPLE WE MEET ON VACATION & THAT SUMMERThat Summer Goodreads

Author: Jennifer Weiner

Publication Date: May 11, 2021

Publisher:  Altria Books

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

Based on the cover of Jennifer Weiner’s latest book, That Summer, I was expecting a light and fun read, perfect for the beach.  What I got instead was a powerful story about the long-lasting psychological impact of rape on its victims and a heartfelt story about the healing qualities of friendship. That Summer was darker at times than I had anticipated, but with the incredible Cape Cod setting as a backdrop and the focus on a wonderful female friendship, it was still a very compelling and satisfying read.

The story focuses on two women named Diana.  We meet the first one, Diana Starling, when she is a teen spending her summer in Cape Cod.  She is having the time of her life, meeting new friends, attending parties on the beach, etc. until one night changes her life in the worst imaginable way.  Fast forward a couple of decades and we meet the second Diana, who goes by the nickname Daisy.  Daisy Shoemaker is a busy but bored housewife.  She dropped out of college years ago to marry and start a family, and now, with her husband frequently occupied with his own career, Daisy feels like she’s all on her own to run their household and to deal with their teen daughter who has been kicked out of private school for behavioral issues and is a real handful.  Daisy is also receiving emails intended for someone else named Diana S. (coincidentally our first Diana now all grown up) and Daisy finds herself envious of what appears to be a much more exciting life than her own.  After exchanging a few emails, the two Dianas decide it would be fun to meet up.  Neither of them has any idea just how life changing this meeting will be.

I really loved how Jennifer Weiner has crafted this story.  Both of these women are very likeable and I enjoyed the bond of friendship that immediately sprung up between them.  But what I loved most was how Weiner then starts building suspense by making it clear that it’s no accident these two women have met and by making it just as clear that Diana Starling is preparing to do something that will turn Daisy’s life upside down.  She hates the thought of doing it because she really likes Daisy, but in her mind, it still has to be done.  I loved how ominous this aspect of the story was and the tension and suspense that built as it became more and more apparent that their lives were bound together by secrets and lies from the past and that Diana Starling was on a mission to take down someone who hurt her.

Weiner handles a difficult topic with care and in such a way that does not demean rape victims, but also in a way that takes direct aim at the old “boys will be boys” mentality that has pervaded our society for so long.

That Summer is a powerful story about revenge and holding people accountable for their actions, but it’s also an emotional and hopeful story about survival, moving forward, and the healing power of friendship.  4 STARS