Review: THE SUMMER PLACE by Jennifer Weiner

Review:  THE SUMMER PLACE by Jennifer WeinerThe Summer Place by Jennifer Weiner
Also by this author: Mrs. Everything, Big Summer
four-stars
Published by Atria Books on May 10, 2022
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Women's Fiction
Pages: 432
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

four-stars

About Jennifer Weiner

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

Review: SET ON YOU by Amy Lea

Review:  SET ON YOU by Amy LeaSet on You by Amy Lea
four-stars
Published by Berkley Books on May 10, 2022
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Romance
Pages: 384
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
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FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

four-stars

About Amy Lea

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

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

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

Review: THE NO-SHOW by Beth O’Leary

Review:  THE NO-SHOW by Beth O’LearyThe No-Show by Beth O'Leary
Also by this author: The Switch
four-stars
Published by BERKLEY on April 12, 2022
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Women's Fiction
Pages: 352
Source: Netgalley
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FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

four-stars

About Beth O’Leary

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

Review: THE WEDDING VEIL by Kristy Woodson Harvey

Review:  THE WEDDING VEIL by Kristy Woodson HarveyThe Wedding Veil by Kristy Woodson Harvey
Also by this author: Feels Like Falling, Under the Southern Sky
four-half-stars
Published by Gallery Books on March 29, 2022
Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction, Historical Fiction
Pages: 416
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.

 

 

Those who have followed my blog for a while know that I’m a big fan of Kristy Woodson Harvey’s novels.  I love how she writes her characters with warmth and depth, as well as how vibrantly she brings to life the settings for each of her books.  I was thrilled to learn that The Wedding Veil is actually a historical fiction novel since that’s one of my favorite genres and I couldn’t wait to see how Harvey reimagines the lives of one of the most famous families of the Gilded Age, the Vanderbilts.

In short, I loved everything about The Wedding Veil! I thought the premise of having the lives of four generations of women bound together by something as seemingly as simple as a wedding veil was just so creative and I loved watching their stories unfold and learning how it was possible that the treasured Vanderbilt heirloom veil ends up in the hands of another unrelated family altogether.

Harvey traces the journey of the veil from one family to the other through the use of dual timelines.  We follow Edith Vanderbilt and her daughter Cornelia in the early 20th century, and the struggles they encountered while trying to keep their famous home, The Biltmore Estate, up and running after Mr. Vanderbilt unexpectedly passes away.  I admired their strength and determination in the face of such difficult odds, including, particularly in Cornelia’s case, being forced into roles that they didn’t necessarily want and how the symbol of the wedding veil tied into all of that.  I thought that Harvey did a wonderful job of telling the Vanderbilt women’s stories with great respect and compassion.

As much as I enjoyed learning more about the Vanderbilt women and the Biltmore estate, the contemporary timeline was actually the one that captivated me the most, especially since it starts out with a runaway bride who is encouraged to run away, by all people, her grandmother!  I loved Julia and Grandma Babs from that opening scene and just couldn’t get enough of them.  Julia does a runner because she learns her soon-to-be-husband has been cheating on her and feels like she would be tainting the treasured family wedding veil if she were to go through with the wedding.  The veil and all it stands for leads Julia to go on a soul searching journey to figure out what she wants out of life, everyone else’s expectations be damned.  I really liked Julia – she’s smart, spunky, and resilient, and the more we get to see Grandma Babs in action, it’s easy to see where Julia gets her spark from.

I don’t want to say anything else because I think it’s best to experience the journeys of these four extraordinary women yourself, but I will say that with all of its intricate threads woven together between past and present, The Wedding Veil is a beautifully written story that spotlights the inner strength of these four unforgettable women and that celebrates love, family, and a woman’s right to choose her own path.  4.5 STARS

four-half-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 son where she is working on her next novel.

Review: THE WEDDING RINGER by Kerry Rea

Review:  THE WEDDING RINGER by Kerry ReaThe Wedding Ringer by Kerry Rea
five-stars
Published by Berkley Books on November 9, 2021
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Romance, Women's Fiction
Pages: 368
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.

 

 

The Wedding Ringer by Kerry Rea is a hilarious and heartwarming story about finding love and friendship when you least expect it.  It’s Kerry Rea’s debut novel and she really knocks it out of the park with this gem of a story.  It has that perfect balance of humor and weightier topics.  I laughed a lot but then there were also some sadder moments that made me want to wrap up these characters in a big hug.

After finding her fiancé and her best friend in bed together, Willa Callister has decided that she is done with both love and friendship and would rather just be alone.  This betrayal hasn’t just dampened Willa’s enthusiasm for companionship, however. It has also killed her writing mojo, which is problematic since she makes her living as a blogger. What Willa really wants to do is make enough money to move away and get a fresh start, but until that happens, she finds herself living with her sister, licking her wounds, and occasionally playing Princess Sparkle Fairy at children’s parties for a little cash.

I adored Willa from the moment we meet her at a disastrous children’s party where she accidentally drops the birthday cake after coming face to face with her cheating ex-bff.  Humiliated, Willa storms out of the party, flings her plastic throne to the ground, and dubs her character Princess Effing Sparkle Fairy.  Although it’s clearly a comical scene, I’m a sucker for an underdog and I could easily relate to and sympathize with Willa’s extreme frustration.  She’s lost her best friend and the love of her life in one fell swoop, betrayed by the two people she cares about most in the world.  The author does a wonderful job of creating a scenario that immediately had me rooting for Willa to get the fresh start she so desperately needs.

Willa’s chance comes in the form of another character I fell in love with, Maisie Mitchell.  Maisie is getting married and unexpectedly finds herself down a bridesmaid.  Rather than rearranging everything with an uneven number of people, she decides to hire a professional bridesmaid.  A chance encounter with Willa at a coffeeshop convinces Maisie that Willa is the perfect person for the job.  Even though Willa doesn’t really want to do it, Maisie offers her a sum of money that is too big to refuse.  What neither Willa nor Maisie realizes is that this business arrangement is actually the start of a beautiful, potentially life-changing friendship.  Even though Willa is determined that she doesn’t need anyone, there’s just something about Maisie that makes her heart open no matter how hard she tries to distance herself and keep it from happening.  I especially adored how protective Willa becomes of Maisie when it becomes apparent that she’s marrying into a family that looks down on her.

There is also a lovely side romance for Willa, featuring a sexy pediatrician named Liam. While I loved this relationship and thought Liam was perfect for Willa in every way and that they had tremendous chemistry, it’s truly the friendship between Willa and Maisie that makes The Wedding Ringer such a special book.

five-stars

About Kerry Rea

Kerry Rea lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband and their small army of dogs. She grew up in Youngstown, Ohio and graduated from The University of Notre Dame. She believes that a happy ending is always possible. Visit her at authorkerryrea.com and on Instagram at @authorkerryrea, and on Twitter at @kerrymrea.

Review: THE FASTEST WAY TO FALL by Denise Williams

Review:  THE FASTEST WAY TO FALL by Denise WilliamsThe Fastest Way To Fall by Denise Williams
Also by this author: How to Fail at Flirting
five-stars
Published by Berkley Romance on November 2, 2021
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Women's Fiction
Pages: 384
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

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

 

 

Denise Williams’ How to Fail at Flirting was one of my favorite reads from last year so I was excited to get my hands on a copy of her latest novel, The Fastest Way to Fall.  Williams has a knack for creating wonderful protagonists that you just find yourself wanting to be bffs with, and Britta Colby, the protagonist of The Fastest Way to Fall is no exception.

Britta works as an editorial assistant for a popular lifestyle website.  She likes her job well enough, but her passion is actually to write so she would love to be promoted to the writing staff.  At a staff meeting, Britta goes out on a limb and pitches an idea for a story and is thrilled when the bosses actually give her a chance to write it.  Her task is to join a hot new body fitness app that includes a virtual personal coach and to write about her experience with it. Although Britta’s primary reason for joining the app is to secure that promotion, she does like the idea that the program focuses on overall fitness rather than weight loss.  She likes it even more when she starts chatting with Wes, her virtual coach, and they quickly become friends.

I immediately liked Britta. She’s warm and funny, and I also loved her determination to make something happen with her career.  We get to read some of Britta’s posts as she goes through this fitness journey and I loved how authentic and real she comes across and I also loved the focus on body positivity.  Even though she’s clearly the underdog here, she shines like a star and I was excited to see the number of comments on her posts grow as more and more people became invested in her journey.

Wes Lawson is actually the CEO of the Fit Me app Britta is reviewing.  Even though he has enjoyed tremendous success with the app, he’s feeling out of sorts these days and is dealing with a lot of family issues. He decides he needs to clear his head and the best way to do that is to get back to what he really loves, the coaching.  He selects one of the app’s new clients to coach; that client of course turns out to be Britta. Britta’s sense of humor wins him over from the start and he finds himself wanting to interact with her more and more, and not just to talk fitness.

I really enjoyed watching their friendship grow. I loved how Wes gently challenges Britta to up her fitness game, and I loved that Britta helps him escape everything that is weighing him down. My heart truly broke for Wes when it’s revealed exactly what kind of family issues he is dealing with, so I was all the more glad he had someone like Britta to talk to.  Their chemistry is so intense that when an accident leads to them meeting in person, I was immediately rooting for them to get together even though it would clearly lead to some sticky situations at work for them both.  Britta dating the CEO of the app she’s reviewing is not a good look for either of them even if the relationship started innocently enough.  Each of them has some tough decisions to make, both personally and professionally, and I thought Williams did a wonderful job realistically portraying how such a situation would play out.

The Fastest Way to Fall is the perfect read for anyone who enjoys warm and engaging characters with personal journeys you can’t help but become invested in, along with a healthy serving of both romance and family drama.

five-stars

About Denise Williams

Denise Williams wrote her first book in the 2nd grade. I Hate You and its sequel, I Still Hate You, featured a tough, funny heroine, a quirky hero, witty banter, and a dragon. Minus the dragons, these are still the books she likes to write. After penning those early works, she finished second grade and eventually earned a PhD.

A diversity trainer and co-creator of a women’s empowerment group, she is dedicated to developing flawed, multidimensional characters who struggle with those issues impacting real women. After growing up a military brat around the world and across the country, Denise now lives in Iowa with her husband, son, and two ornery shih-tzus who think they own the house.

Denise was a 2019 Romance Writers of America ® Golden Heart Finalist and How to Fail at Flirting is her debut novel.

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
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 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
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

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.

Thriller Review: RAZORBLADE TEARS by S.A. Cosby

Thriller Review:  RAZORBLADE TEARS by S.A. CosbyRazorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby
Also by this author: Blacktop Wasteland
five-stars
Published by Flatiron Books on July 6, 2021
Genres: Fiction, Thriller
Pages: 336
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.

 

 

S.A. Cosby’s high octane crime thriller Blacktop Wasteland was one of my favorite reads of 2020, and as high as my expectations were for his follow up novel, Razorblade Tears, I was pretty sure there was no way he could top Blacktop Wasteland.  I was dead wrong though because Razorblade Tears is one of the most powerful and provocative books I’ve ever read.  It’s a story about loss and grief, revenge and justice, and it’s also a story about regret and about learning from the mistakes of your past.

Set in Virginia, the story follows ex-cons Ike Randolph and Buddy Lee Jenkins.  On the surface it would appear these two men have nothing in common aside from their criminal pasts.  Ike is a Black man who used to run with a gang, while Buddy is, as he refers to himself, redneck, white trash. What these two men do have in common though is their sons, a married gay couple, both of whom were brutally murdered.  What they also have in common is that both men let their homophobia prevent them from having loving relationships with their boys and now they’re filled with regret because they can no longer make things right between them.

Most of the book focuses on Ike and Buddy Lee’s quest to bring their sons’ killers to justice and their road to justice is paved with violence, blood and gore as well as coarse language as Ike and Buddy Lee encounter some pretty rough crowds.  To put it mildly, it’s an intense read that isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s also a fast-paced adrenaline rush that I devoured in a day because I just had to know who was responsible for the murders and whether or not Ike and Buddy Lee would bring them down.

Razorblade Tears, as its name implies, is also a story that is filled with pain, grief and raw emotion and it’s this angle that really took this book to the next level for me. These two fathers know they made terrible mistakes when it came to their sons and how they refused to just love them and accept them for who they were.  Both Ike and Buddy Lee desperately wish they could go back and do things differently.  I enjoyed reading their journey, both as they became unlikely friends bonding over this tragedy and as they both try to learn from their mistakes and become better men. This personal journey of growth made for such an interesting contrast with the gritty violence of their revenge quest.

With Blacktop Wasteland and Razorblade Tears, S.A. Cosby has proven he’s a force to be reckoned with in the crime thriller genre.  I highly recommend both books if you’re looking for a powerful read that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

five-stars

About S.A. Cosby

S. A. Cosby is a writer from Southeastern Virginia. He won the 2019 Anthony Award for Best Short Story for “The Grass Beneath My Feet”, and his previous books include Brotherhood of the Blade and My Darkest Prayer. He resides in Gloucester, Virginia. When not writing, he is an avid hiker and chess player.

Review: THE MAIDENS by Alex Michaelides

Review:  THE MAIDENS by Alex MichaelidesThe Maidens by Alex Michaelides
four-stars
Published by Celadon Books on June 15, 2021
Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller
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.

 

 

I was very impressed with Alex Michaelides’ debut psychological thriller The Silent Patient when I read it last year.  It was a shocking and compelling read that I just couldn’t put down, so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy of his latest offering, The Maidens.  Set primarily at Cambridge University in England, The Maidens is a twisty, atmospheric psychological thriller that follows Mariana Andros, a group therapist who unexpectedly finds herself at the center of a murder investigation and becomes obsessed with catching the killer.

Mariana is a pretty complex character with a lot of layers, so having the story unfold from her perspective made for a very addicting read.  Mariana is a former Cambridge student herself and she also met her husband there, so her ties to the university run deep, especially since her husband has recently died in a tragic accident.  Mariana is still grieving and just going through the motions from day to day, so when her niece Zoe, currently a Cambridge student, calls to tell Mariana that her roommate is missing and a dead body has been found on campus, Mariana heads to the university right away.  She goes on the premise of offering comfort to Zoe, but when it’s determined that Zoe’s roommate is the victim and that she was a member of a secret all female society called The Maidens, whose members are all hand-picked by the handsome and charismatic Greek Tragedy professor, Edward Fosca, Mariana becomes convinced he must be involved in the girl’s death, especially when it becomes clear that his only alibi are the other girls in his secret society and when another one of them turns up dead.  Mariana’s obsession with proving Fosca’s guilt is what drives the action in the story and makes for such an intense, unputdownable read.

It is of course a wild, twisty, and suspenseful ride as we follow Mariana on her quest. I loved how unpredictable the story is. It took me in directions I never expected to go and kept me guessing to the very end. As intoxicating as the murder mystery itself was though, I was also very much drawn to both Mariana and to Fosca. I love it when a thriller has complex characters to complement its complex plot.  Mariana is such a sympathetic character because she has experienced so much loss and is obviously still trying to cope. Being surrounded by university memories of her dead husband has to be so overwhelming and in some ways, I think she tunnel visions on the murders as a distraction from her own pain.  Fosca, on the other hand, is fascinating in his own right because he’s so charismatic.  Students line up for a chance to sit in on his lectures and the young women he chooses for his special society are clearly willing to do anything for him.  The subject matter he is so passionate about also ties quite closely to the manner in which the girls were murdered. Is it a coincidence or is this guy’s charm all an act to cover up something sinister?

I don’t want to give anything away with respect to the murders, but if you’re looking for an atmospheric psychological thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat and that has an almost Gothic feel to it at times, be sure to check out The Maidens.

four-stars

About Alex Michaelides

Alex Michaelides was born and raised in Cyprus. He has an M.A. in English literature from Trinity College, Cambridge University, and an M.A. in screenwriting from the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. The Silent Patient was his first novel and was the biggest-selling debut in the world in 2019. It spent more than a year on the New York Times bestseller list and sold in a record-breaking forty-nine countries. Alex lives in London.