Review: THE LOVE HYPOTHESIS by Ali Hazelwood

Review:  THE LOVE HYPOTHESIS by Ali HazelwoodThe Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood
five-stars
Published by Berkley Books on September 14, 2021
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Romance
Pages: 384
Source: Netgalley
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FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood is quite possibly the sweetest, most adorable romance novel I’ve ever read.  It checked so many boxes for me (a STEM heroine, the fake dating trope, hilarious banter, and so much more) and it just had me grinning from ear to ear pretty much the entire time I was reading.

The story follows Olive Smith, a third-year Ph.D. candidate at Stanford.  Olive has just learned that her best friend, Anh, is attracted to Jeremy, a guy Olive used to date.  Anh and this guy have major chemistry but Anh doesn’t want to hurt Olive by dating him.  Olive thinks that’s sweet and is grateful to have such a loyal friend but she also knows that Anh and Jeremy would actually be perfect together.  Olive decides to also be a great friend and let Anh think she is head over heels in love with a new guy so that Anh will go for it with Jeremy.  The next time she sees Anh, Olive panics, grabs the first guy she sees and plants a kiss on him.  There’s just one problem – the guy she kisses is none other than Adam Carlsen, a rock star of a professor who also happens to have a reputation for being an ass and making his students cry.  Not exactly who Olive had in mind, to say the least, but to her utter shock, once she explains to Adam why she did what she did, he agrees to fake-date her so that Anh and Jeremy can get together.

I honestly can’t even get over how much I adored both Olive and Adam.  As we’ve established, Olive is such a lovely friend who would clearly do anything to help a friend find happiness.  I also just found her overall personality delightful. She’s smart, determined, resilient, and she’s also hilarious. Once she gets comfortable fake dating Adam, he repeatedly calls her a pain in his rear because she’s always gently mocking and teasing him about his awful reputation and of course tormenting him with her love of all things pumpkin spice, lol.  After hanging out with him just a few times, Olive has picked up on the fact that Adam is anything but an ass. He’s actually quite sweet and surprisingly soft, and she can really open up to him in ways she never has with anyone else. I loved watching the two of them interact because they really did bring out the best in each other and I loved the slight tension as they each began to realize that their feelings for each other weren’t fake at all.

Aside from the romance, the author also tackles some more serious topics, such as the challenges women face in academia, particularly in STEM.  She explores sexism, bias, and what happens when a professor grossly abuses his power. The romance definitely takes center stage and makes up the bulk of the story, but I liked having these “meatier” topics to add some depth to the overall story.

I could go on and on about how much I adored the book. If you’re looking for a charming and heartwarming romance that features lovable characters, witty banter, and fake dating, be sure to check out The Love Hypothesis.  It’s an absolute gem of a book that I will be recommending to every romance reader I know.

five-stars

About Ali Hazelwood

Ali Hazelwood is a multi-published author–alas, of peer-reviewed articles about brain science, in which no one makes out and the ever after is not always happy. Originally from Italy, she lived in Germany and Japan before moving to the U.S. to pursue a Ph.D. in neuroscience. She recently became a professor, which absolutely terrifies her. When Ali is not at work, she can be found running, eating cake pops, or watching sci-fi movies with her two feline overlords (and her slightly-less-feline husband).

Review: MOM JEANS AND OTHER MISTAKES

Review:  MOM JEANS AND OTHER MISTAKESMom Jeans and Other Mistakes by Alexa Martin
five-stars
Published by Berkley Books on September 7, 2021
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Women's Fiction
Pages: 384
Source: Netgalley
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Goodreads

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

 

 

I was honestly not prepared for how much I would fall in love with Alexa Martin’s new novel Mom Jeans and Other Mistakes.  I requested it for review because of the fun title, cute cover, and because I enjoyed my last read from this author, but I’m going to tell you all right now before I break it down any further, this is my new favorite book about female friendships!

The story follows two women, Jude Andrews and Lauren Turner, who have been best friends since the third grade.  Jude is a popular social media influencer whose online brand is healthy eating, pilates, and a positive attitude.  Her online life, however, doesn’t even remotely resemble her real life, where she has a toxic relationship with her out-of-work celebrity mother and where a bad decision involving the guy she was dating left her with an empty bank account.  Lauren isn’t faring much better unfortunately.  She had to abandon her dream of becoming a doctor when she unexpectedly got pregnant and even more unexpectedly, when her fiancé decided to dump her and leave her to raise her daughter all alone.  Jude and Lauren turn to each other, as they have all their lives, and decide that the solution to their troubles is to move in together and be, as they like to call themselves, “Sister Wives”!

The relationship between Jude and Lauren just really spoke to me.  Sure, the book is filled with plenty of laughs and good times, particularly surrounding a fun podcast that Lauren and Jude decide to do together, but at the heart of the story is this truly beautiful friendship.  They are each other’s ride-or-die and it shows in everything they do for each other. I especially adored how much their love for each other spilled over to Lauren’s adorable daughter, Addy.  Jude would seriously lay down her life for that little girl and it just made me smile from ear to ear every time the two of them interacted.

Although the podcast provides plenty of laughs, Mom Jeans and Other Mistakes still has its fair share of more dramatic moments.  Jude and Lauren both have personal drama that weighs on them, Lauren in the form of her ex deciding, out of the blue, that he wants full custody of Addy, and Jude in the form of a mom who is little more than a parasite, constantly coming to Jude to beg for money to finance her career comeback.  Jude is so used to putting on this happy mask for her social media followers that she tries to do it to Lauren as well, but Lauren sees through her act and forces Jude to stop keeping everything all bottled up.

I really just loved everything about their friendship and about the book as a whole.  The book, like Jude and Lauren’s podcast, very realistically explores the ups and downs women, whether they’re moms or not, go through every day and sends the message that we should all support each other.  If you’re looking for a book that explores and celebrates the bonds of female friendship and sisterhood, I highly recommend Alexa Martin’s Mom Jeans and Other Mistakes.

five-stars

About Alexa Martin

Alexa Martin is a writer and stay at home mom. A Nashville transplant, she’s intent on instilling a deep love and respect for the great Dolly Parton in her four children and husband. The Playbook Series was inspired by the eight years she spent as a NFL wife and her deep love of all things pop culture, sparkles, leggings, and wine. When she’s not repeating herself to her kids, you can find her catching up on whatever Real Housewives franchise is currently airing or filling up her Etsy cart with items she doesn’t need.

Romance Review: WAIT FOR IT by Jenn McKinlay

Romance Review:  WAIT FOR IT by Jenn McKinlayWait for It by Jenn McKinlay
Also by this author: Paris Is Always a Good Idea
four-half-stars
Published by Berkley Books on August 10, 2021
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Romance
Pages: 352
Source: Netgalley
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FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

 

Jenn McKinlay’s new romance Wait for It is one of the most delightful books I’ve read so far this year. I’m pretty sure I had a smile on my face almost the entire time I was reading it.  It follows Annabelle Martin, a young woman who loves her job working as a freelance graphic designer but who has grown tired of the cold and dreary Boston winters.  She also has not one, but two ex-husbands even though she’s only in her twenties. Annabelle just really needs a change.  When her best friend Sophie offers her the job of a lifetime to come and work for her in Phoenix, Arizona, Annabelle jumps at the chance.  There’s just one drawback – based on his endless notes about rules, rules, and more rules, her anonymous landlord appears to be a cranky “Get off my lawn!” kind of guy.  Even though her friends warn her against approaching the guy, Annabelle considers herself a charmer and is convinced she can win him over so he’ll relax the rules.  She has no idea what she’s in for…

Enter Nick Daire, said landlord, who actually isn’t an old curmudgeon after all, but instead is a gorgeous young man who has recently suffered a stroke and is wheelchair bound.  Nick used to be a successful businessman but this stroke has really done a number on him both physically and emotionally, and so he has chosen to live as a recluse, shutting out almost everyone he knows.  Nick didn’t even want to rent out his guest house but was talked into it by Sophie’s husband, who Nick owes his life to. Nick can’t wait for his tenant to move out in six months and has absolutely no intention whatsoever of interacting with her.  He has no idea what he’s in for…

I can’t even express how much I enjoyed watching these two characters.  I loved watching their relationship grow from little snarky letters taped to doors to them finally meeting in person and bonding over of all things, a stray tuxedo cat Annabelle has named Sir.  It was so clear to me from the moment we meet each of them that they’re perfect for each other and I just couldn’t wait for them to figure it out too.

I also really enjoyed the journeys of personal growth both Annabelle and Nick experience.  They both have plenty of flaws that they need to work on, like Annabelle’s need to “mother” the men she dates and Nick’s fear of appearing vulnerable in front of anyone, even those who love and care about him.  I love watching characters really learn from their mistakes and grow, and both of these characters do.  Wait for It does explore some weighty topics with respect to mental health, but the author does a wonderful job balancing this more serious topic with the lighter romance.

If you’re looking for a fun and sweet romance that will leave you with a smile on your face, check out Jenn McKinley’s Wait for It. You won’t be disappointed!

four-half-stars

About Jenn McKinlay

Jenn McKinlay is the New York Times, USA Today, and Publisher’s Weekly bestselling author of several mystery and romance series and will be debuting a stand alone romantic comedy in July 2020 entitled PARIS IS ALWAYS A GOOD IDEA. She lives in sunny Arizona in a house that is overrun with kids, pets and her husband’s guitars.

YA Review: WHERE IT ALL LANDS by Jennie Wexler

YA Review:  WHERE IT ALL LANDS by Jennie WexlerWhere It All Lands by Jennie Wexler
four-stars
Published by Wednesday Books on July 6, 2021
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 352
Source: Netgalley
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FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

 

Jennie Wexler’s debut YA contemporary novel Where It All Lands is one of the more unique stories I’ve read recently.  It’s a story about love, friendship, missed opportunities and second chances, and it’s about how something as simple as the flip of a coin can alter the course of a person’s journey.

The story follows three teens: new girl Stevie Rosenstein and Shane and Drew, who have been best friends forever.  Both Shane and Drew find themselves drawn to Stevie and want to ask her out.  They don’t want to step on each other’s toes though and have a girl come between their friendship, so they do what they always do when they need to resolve something and move on – they flip a coin.  Whoever wins the coin flip gets to ask Stevie out and the loser steers clear.

It’s here that the story takes a unique turn because the author presents the rest of the story in a dual timeline:  in one timeline, Shane has won the coin toss and becomes involved with Stevie and in the other timeline, Drew has won and it is he who gets to ask out Stevie. I have to admit I was a little nervous when I realized it was somewhat of a love triangle, but I really loved how the author presented the relationships in each timeline. She really fleshes out all three characters and shows how sometimes even the smallest choices people make can have a huge impact on their lives and the lives of those around them.

Even though it was the unique concept of the love triangle/coin flip dual timeline that drew me to this story, what really made me love it was the cast of characters.  I adored Stevie, Shane, and Drew.  I was particularly drawn to Stevie because she had spent her whole life moving from city to city because of her father’s job.  Every time she makes friends, she immediately has to pack up and move.  She’s lonely and at this point in her life is hesitant to even bother trying to make new friends.  I felt so bad for her and was immediately rooting for her to find some great friends and convince her dad to settle in one place so she can put down roots.

I also adored Shane and Drew, especially because of their friendship.  They’ve both been through so much and no matter what, have always been each other’s number one support system.  I didn’t want them to let a girl, or anyone else for that matter, come between them, so I was anxious to see if they would really be able to abide by the rules of their coin toss or if the tension would come to a head and cost them not only Stevie, but also their lifelong friendship.  Wexler does a wonderful job creating tension and straining these relationships to the brink.  I don’t want to give away any spoilers but I’ll say that this book also had me in tears a few times.  I just became so invested in these characters that when tragedy strikes (also presented in a dual timeline with different outcomes) I was immediately a wreck.

Even though there’s definitely quite a bit of heartbreak sprinkled throughout, overall Where It All Lands is still a heartfelt and hopeful book.  If you enjoy unique stories that feature love, friendship, trust, second chances, and possibilities, you’ll want to check out Where It All Lands.

four-stars

About Jennie Wexler

Jennie Wexler spent the first part of her career producing television shows appearing on VH1, Bravo, and The Travel Channel. She has a BA in literature/rhetoric from Binghamton University and an MA in television/radio/film from The S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. Jennie’s debut young adult contemporary novel will be released on July 6th, 2021. She is a member of SCBWI and lives in New Jersey with her husband, son, and Havanese puppy.

Romance Review: WHILE WE WERE DATING by Jasmine Guillory

Romance Review:  WHILE WE WERE DATING by Jasmine GuilloryWhile We Were Dating by Jasmine Guillory
Also by this author: Royal Holiday (The Wedding Date, #4), Party of Two
four-stars
Series: The Wedding Date #6
Published by Berkley Books on July 13, 2021
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Romance
Pages: 336
Also in this series: Royal Holiday (The Wedding Date, #4), Party of Two
Source: Netgalley
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FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

While We Were Dating is the sixth book in Jasmine Guillory’s popular contemporary romance series, The Wedding Date. I’m a big fan of this series so I’m thrilled to report that Guillory’s latest is just as delightfully sexy and swoony as its five predecessors.  One of the things I love about this series is that even though the books are loosely interconnected and characters sometimes make appearances in later books in the series, each book still works quite well as a standalone.  While We Were Dating follows Hollywood actress Anna Gardiner and Ben Stephens, an up and coming executive at an ad agency.  For those familiar with the series, Ben is the younger brother of Theo Stephens who appears in The Wedding Party.  Theo and his girlfriend Maddie also make an appearance in this story.

Guillory always does a wonderful job of crafting main characters that are likeable, relatable, and that have undeniable chemistry between them and Anna and Ben are no exception here.  Anna has been struggling with anxiety recently and so has had to put her acting career on the backburner.  She feels ready to take on the world again and is determined to take control of both her career and her personal life and mount a comeback.  I loved Anna right away because while she may be ultra-famous, she’s not a diva at all.  While she’s clearly aware of how talented she is, there’s never a time when she tries to act like she’s more entitled than anyone else. I loved how down-to-earth she is.  She’s also funny, sexy, sassy, and smart, so there’s plenty about her to love.

Anna meets Ben when the ad agency he works for decides to make a pitch for a campaign that is going to feature Anna. Ben usually takes a backseat when it comes to pitching big campaigns like this one, but when his colleagues are delayed in getting to the pitch meeting, it’s finally Ben’s turn to shine in the spotlight.  And shine he does!  Ben is charming, sexy, funny, and he’s also very good at his job.  The chemistry between Anna and Ben becomes immediately apparent during the meeting. In fact, Anna is so impressed by Ben that she tells the campaign heads that she wants Ben’s agency but only if Ben runs the show.

I loved watching Anna and Ben grow closer and especially enjoyed that their relationship wasn’t just all about the sex.  Sure, there were plenty of swoony sexy scenes between them sprinkled throughout, but there are also many heartfelt discussions as they discuss their families as well as their own mental health struggles.  Both Anna and Ben regularly see therapists and they have some very healthy discussions about why they do.  In addition to the sexy and the heartfelt moments, there are also some downright comical moments that involve road trips, fake dating, as well as shenanigans to avoid the paparazzi.

I don’t want to spoil anything so I’m going to stop now, but as with all of the other books in this series, I just had a lot of fun reading While We Were Dating.  It’s one of those stories that just has something for everyone and it just left me feeling so content when I reached the last page.

four-stars

About Jasmine Guillory

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

Review: 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
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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.

Review: UNDER THE SOUTHERN SKY by Kristy Woodson Harvey

Review:  UNDER THE SOUTHERN SKY by Kristy Woodson HarveyUnder the Southern Sky by Kristy Woodson Harvey
Also by this author: Feels Like Falling
five-stars
Published by Gallery Books on April 20, 2021
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Women's Fiction
Pages: 400
Source: Netgalley
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FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

 

 

 

Under the Southern Sky is the fifth novel I’ve read from Kristy Woodson Harvey and it’s my favorite yet.  It’s a story about love, family and childhood friendships rekindled, and it’s also a story about loss and grief and how to move forward when you think your life has fallen apart.

The story follows journalist Amelia Saxton. Amelia is recently separated from her husband after catching him cheating on her and while licking her wounds, she is also researching the biggest story of her writing career, a story about what couples who have gone through IVF choose to do with any leftover embryos.  Amelia discovers that her childhood friend, Parker, and his late wife, Greer, are on the list of those who have abandoned their embryos.  After much consideration, Amelia decides she is obligated to reach out to Parker and make sure he is aware of the abandoned embryos and it is then that Amelia’s hunt for a story takes her on a far more personal journey than she ever anticipated.

I loved both Parker and Amelia and enjoyed watching them reconnect.  They both have some tough choices to make, particularly Parker with respect to those embryos, and they are both dealing with loss and how to move on.  So much of what they go through is heavy and heartbreaking but there are some lighter and more hopeful moments as well.  I found myself rooting for them to build a future together almost right away because they just seemed so well suited to one another.

I don’t want to give anything else about the plot away as the story packs an emotional punch and it’s best to let it unfold as spoiler free as possible, but I will say that as someone who has gone through IVF, everything about this story spoke to me and I thought the author handled this sensitive topic with respect and grace.  Even though Greer is deceased, we still get some chapters from her perspective so we get a feel for what her and Parker’s dreams for a family were before she got sick.

Filled with wonderfully complex characters and poignant moments, and all framed by gorgeous writing, Under the Southern Sky is a story that is sure to tug at your heartstrings and keep you invested from the first to the very last page.  It’s not a light read but it’s one of the most beautiful stories I’ve read this year.

 

five-stars

About Kristy Woodson Harvey

Kristy Woodson Harvey is the bestselling author of DEAR CAROLINA, LIES AND OTHER ACTS OF LOVE, SLIGHTLY SOUTH OF SIMPLE, THE SECRET TO SOUTHERN CHARM and THE SOUTHERN SIDE OF PARADISE. Kristy is the winner of the Lucy Bramlette Patterson Award for Excellence in Creative Writing, a finalist for the Southern Book Prize, her work has been optioned for film and her books have received numerous accolades including:

Southern Living’s Most Anticipated Beach Reads
Southern Living’s Best Spring Break Reads
Southern Independent Bookseller Association’s Okra Pick
Parade’s Big Fiction Reads Every Book Club Will Love
Entertainment Weekly’s Spring Reading Picks
Us Weekly’s Sweet Reads for Right Now
Woman’s WorldBest Books
PopSugar’s Ultimate Summer Reading
USA Today Happy Ever After’s Best Women’s Fiction
New York Live’s “Ashley’s A-List”
Deep South Magazine’s Summer Reading List
Raleigh News & Observer‘s “The Best Reads of Summer”
Charlotte Observer’s “Summer’s Best Books”
Bustle’s Books to Read and Discuss With Your Mom and Grandma
Huffington Post’s Summer Reading: Women’s Fiction Style

She blogs with her mom Beth Woodson on Design Chic about how creating a beautiful home can be the catalyst for creating a beautiful life. Design Chic is the inaugural member of the design blogger hall of fame, sponsored by Traditional Home, and winner of Amara’s Best Luxury Blog, as chosen by Roberto Cavalli. She also loves connecting with readers on kristywoodsonharvey.com.

Harvey is a Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s school of journalism and holds a master’s in English from East Carolina University, with a concentration in multicultural and transnational literature. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications and websites, including Southern Living, Traditional Home, Parade, USA Today, Domino, Our State and O. Henry. She has been seen in Today.com, Women’s Health,The Washington Post, US News and World Report, The Huffington Post,Marie Claire’s The Fix, Woman’s World, Readers’ Digest, Bustle, New York Live and North Carolina Bookwatch, among others.

She is a proud member of the Tall Poppy Writers, serves on the board of Beaufort Historical Association, and is a member of the University of North Carolina’s Women’s Leadership Council. She is a frequent speaker at fundraisers, book conferences and private events. She lives in North Carolina with her husband and seven-year-old son where she is working on her next novel.

Review: BETTER THAN THE MOVIES by Lynn Painter

Review:  BETTER THAN THE MOVIES by Lynn PainterBetter Than the Movies by Lynn Painter
five-stars
on May 4, 2021
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Romance
Pages: 368
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

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

 

 

 

 

 

Lynn Painter’s new novel Better Than the Movies follows Liz Buxbaum, high school student and hopeless romantic.  Liz is obsessed with romantic comedies and uses them partly as a coping mechanism to deal with the death of her mom, who was also a huge fan of rom-coms.  Liz daydreams about securing a happily ever after of her own and thinks the perfect opportunity for one has presented itself when Michael, her childhood crush, moves back to town.

I really loved Liz. Her extensive knowledge and love of romantic comedies was so endearing, as was her slightly misguided attempt to secure her own happy ending by fake dating her neighbor in an effort to get Michael’s attention. I also found Liz to be a very sympathetic character, as she is clearly struggling with the loss of her mom.  It’s clear they were very close and that Liz is feeling her absence tremendously.

Liz wasn’t perfect by any stretch though.  While trying to orchestrate that happy ending for herself, she all but ditches her best friend.  And while she’s struggling to cope with the loss of her mom, she pretty much pushes her stepmother Hannah, who is actually really cool, off to the periphery of her life and refuses to let her be a part of any of Liz’s senior year milestones.  These rocky, awkward moments just made Liz come across as all the more real and, for me, made her that much more likable and relatable.

My absolute favorite part of Better Than the Movies though was Liz’s relationship with her neighbor and arch nemesis, Wes Bennett.  When the novel opens, Liz and Wes are in the midst of an ongoing war over the parking space out in front of their homes.  They each resort to all sorts of dirty tricks to keep the other from getting the spot, which was just hilarious. It’s actually Liz promising Wes unlimited access to that parking space that makes him agree to help her get Michael to notice her.  Watching the relationship between Liz and Wes evolve was the aspect of the book that really had me smiling as I read.  No matter how much Liz professed to loathe Wes, it was all too clear the two of them had tremendous chemistry and that her actual happily ever after has quite possibly been living next door to her all along.

I don’t want to say anything else because you just really need to experience Wes and Liz’s immensely entertaining journey for yourself.  Not only is Lynn Painter’s new novel Better Than the Movies a delightful rom-com that features fake dating and the enemies-to-lovers trope, but it’s also filled with perfectly placed references to all of my favorite rom-com films.  I honestly don’t think a book has ever made me smile so much; I’m sure I was grinning from ear to ear pretty much the entire time I was reading.

five-stars

About Lynn Painter

Lynn Painter lives with her husband and pack of wild children in Nebraska, where she is a weekly contributor to the Omaha World-Herald and an avid fan of napping. When working on a new book, she can often be found sound asleep on her office floor. Some might say she should grow up and stop randomly dozing off like she’s a toddler, but Lynn considers it part of her writing “process.”

Review: THE KINDRED SPIRITS SUPPER CLUB by Amy E. Reichert

Review:  THE KINDRED SPIRITS SUPPER CLUB by Amy E. ReichertThe Kindred Spirits Supper Club by Amy E. Reichert
five-stars
Published by BERKLEY on April 20, 2021
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Romance, Women's Fiction
Pages: 336
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

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

 

 

 

 

 

I was first drawn to Amy E. Reichert’s new novel, The Kindred Spirits Supper Club because the cover is so sweet, but let me tell you, the story inside is even sweeter and sure to leave you with a smile on your face.

Sabrina Monroe is a journalist. She loves to write and thought this would be the perfect job for her. There’s just one problem; Sabrina is an introvert and has anxiety, which makes it nearly impossible for her to call and interview people so she can actually get the information she needs to write her articles.  Her anxiety has cost her more than one job over the years and when we first meet Sabrina, she is jobless and living at her parent’s house in a small town in Wisconsin, trying to regroup.

Sabrina is, by far, one of the sweetest, most lovable main characters I think I’ve ever come across. I can’t even express how much I both adored Sabrina and related wholeheartedly to her introverted personality and her anxiety.  Even though she has lost her job and is stuck working as a duck tour guide driving amphibious vehicles all day and working for someone who actually used to bully Sabrina when they were in school together, Sabrina is still a walking ray of sunshine. She spreads kindness wherever she goes, whether it’s to the library where she leaves $5 bills inside of her favorite books for other readers to find and treat themselves or to the laundromat where she’ll leave stacks of quarters on machines so some lucky person can do a load of laundry on her. I was invested in her happiness within a few pages of watching her in action. I mean, seriously, how can you not root for someone who is so utterly kind?

I also very much liked Ray Jasper, a new local restaurant owner, who becomes instantly smitten with Sabrina as soon as he sees her in action at the local waterpark, picking up strangers’ dropped towels and rehanging them so they’ll be nice and dry when they return for them.  Like me, Ray is immediately struck by Sabrina’s kindness and he is determined to get to know her better.  What’s great about Ray is that he not only appreciates how kind Sabrina is, but he could actually give her a run for her money in the kindness department because he’s also a sweetheart.  I immediately wanted them to get together because they each deserved someone as sweet as they were, so they were a perfect match.

In addition to cheering on this adorable two-some, I also loved that this story has an element of magical realism in it.  The women in Sabrina’s family have a rare gift – they are able to see local spirits who passed away, leaving behind unfinished business.  Whether it’s to let a cheating spouse know they didn’t get away with the cheating or to help dispose of some adult toys the deceased doesn’t want their family to discover, Sabrina and her mom help these spirits to wrap up their unfinished business so that they can move on and rest in peace.  There’s one spirit they haven’t been able to help though, a young woman named Molly.  Molly died long ago as did the person she has unfinished business with, so she is stuck in a kind of limbo and hangs out with Sabrina.  The two of them have become practically like sisters over the years and Molly is as delightfully upbeat and kind as Sabrina is. Even though she can’t move on, Molly does everything she can to help other spirits move on and she’s also determined to play matchmaker for Sabrina and Ray, which leads to some funny moments.  Sometimes magical realism doesn’t work for me, but it’s honestly just perfect for this story since the story itself is pretty magical.

If you’re into charming small town romances with absolutely adorable characters, you’re going to want to check out The Kindred Spirits Supper Club.

five-stars

About Amy E. Reichert

Amy E. Reichert, author of THE COINCIDENCE OF COCONUT CAKE, LUCK, LOVE & LEMON PIE, THE SIMPLICITY OF CIDER, and THE OPTIMIST’S GUIDE TO LETTING GO, loves to write stories that end well with characters you’d invite to dinner. A wife, mom, amateur chef, Fix-It Mistress, a volunteer baby snuggler, and cider enthusiast, she earned her MA in English Literature and serves on her library’s board of directors. She’s a member of Tall Poppy Writers.

Review: HANA KHAN CARRIES ON by Uzma Jalaluddin

Review:  HANA KHAN CARRIES ON by Uzma JalaluddinHana Khan Carries on by Uzma Jalaluddin
four-half-stars
Published by BERKLEY on April 13, 2021
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Romance
Pages: 368
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

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

 

 

 

 

I requested Uzma Jalaluddin’s new novel, Hana Khan Carries On, as soon as I read the synopsis which describes it as inspired by the popular romantic film, You’ve Got Mail, but set in two competing halal restaurants.  The promise of romance, rivalry, and descriptions of delicious food was too irresistible to pass up.  I’m happy I did too because it did not disappoint!

The story follows Hana Khan, a 24 year old second generation Muslim woman who lives with her family in Toronto.  Hana helps out at her family’s halal restaurant, but her real passion lies in radio.  In addition to her waitressing gig, Hana has an internship at a local radio station and she also hosts her own podcast.  I really adored Hana from the moment we meet her. I loved how devoted she is to her family and how much she wants to help her mom with the family restaurant even though that’s not where her true interest lies.  I also loved that she wants a career in radio specifically because she wants to share stories about her fellow Muslims. Stories that shine a true light on her people rather than just retreading tired and  harmful stereotypes.  I also liked that while she had so many admirable qualities, Hana was definitely still a flawed and very realistic character.  She makes plenty of mistakes throughout the course of the story, but I loved that she was always learning from her missteps and growing as a person.  She was just a really easy character to like.

In addition to adoring Hana, I also liked that the story had plenty of drama in the form of a rival restaurant that opens up in their neighborhood.  Hana has a run-in with Aydin, the handsome, young owner of the new restaurant and finds herself unexpectedly attracted to him.  She knows she should hate him because of what he’s doing to her family, but the struggle to fight her attraction to him is real.  Hana finds this especially frustrating since she also has a possible relationship budding online with Stanley P., one of her podcast fans.  She and Stanley haven’t exchanged real names or met in person yet, but they talk every day and he is always super supportive of her as she shares her hopes and dreams with him, as well as her fears and frustrations.  How can she possibly be attracted to a jerk like Aydin when she has Stanley P.?  Except that Aydin isn’t exactly a jerk and Hana and Aydin have amazing chemistry.  I’m a sucker for a good enemies-to-lovers romance anyway, so I was absolutely eating up the initial tension between them as well as the changing dynamic between them as they got to know each other better.

There’s honestly so much to love about Hana Khan Carries On, but what I think I loved most was it’s a story about love and family and sacrifice and that it’s also a story that is infused with culture, religion, and community.  It’s a story that has fun and romantic moments, but it’s also a powerful story that explores timely and relevant social issues, including racism, prejudice, and stereotypes.  I have not yet read Uzma Jalaluddin’s first novel Ayesha At Last yet, but I loved Hana Khan Carries On so much that I immediately purchased the first one and can’t wait to dive into it.

four-half-stars

About Uzma Jalaluddin

Uzma Jalaluddin grew up in a diverse suburb of Toronto. Her favourite place in the world is the nearest bookstore or library, so it came as no surprise to anyone when she started writing her own stories, poems, plays and other creative writing from an early age. Her debut novel, AYESHA AT LAST (2018), is a retelling of Pride and Prejudice set in the Toronto Muslim community. The novel was a Goodreads Choice Award Finalist, was featured on The Today Show, and was a Cosmopolitan UK Book of the Year. AYESHA AT LAST has been optioned for film by Pascal Pictures. Her second novel, HANA KHAN CARRIES ON, will be published in April 2021. She writes a culture and parenting column for The Toronto Star, and has written for The Atlantic. Uzma lives in Toronto, Canada, with her husband and two sons, where she also teaches high school. She is probably dreaming up ideas for her next book right about now.