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Reviews: BATTLE ROYAL, HOT UNDER HIS COLLAR, & DELIA SUITS UP

Happy Monday all!  After delving into a few thrillers last week, I found myself running back to the rom-coms this week for some lighter, more upbeat reads.  I had a lot of fun with all three of the books I’m sharing with you today.

 

Reviews:  BATTLE ROYAL, HOT UNDER HIS COLLAR, & DELIA SUITS UPBattle Royal (Palace Insiders, #1) Goodreads

Author: Lucy Parker

Publication Date: August 17, 2021

Publisher:  Avon

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

Lucy Parker’s new romantic comedy Battle Royal became a must-read for me as soon as I learned that it features a reality TV baking show and two rival bakers who truly cannot stand one another.  Not only are these rivals forced to serve as judges together, but there is also a battle royal where the two rivals go head-to-head as they each try to win a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to design and bake a cake for a royal wedding.   This sounded like the perfect recipe (pardon the pun) for entertainment and Lucy Parker sure delivers!

I loved the main character Sylvie Fairchild from the moment she’s introduced.  She is a charming ray of sunshine and her shining personality comes through in every whimsical, often glittery, creation that she bakes in her shop, Sugar Fair.  Four years ago, she appeared on her way to victory on the reality TV show, Operation Cake, until the famous (and sexy) pastry chef, Dominic De Vere, voted her off the show and pronounced her as lacking in talent and relying on gimmicks.  When Sylvie is offered the opportunity to serve as a judge on the same show, she reluctantly agrees to do it even though it means she’ll have to deal with Dominic again.

In addition to serving as a judge on the reality show, Dominic also owns a well-respected bakery that is often used by businesses in the area and even by the palace at times. Sylvie snarks that everything Dominic bakes is beige and colorless, just like his personality.

I loved the tension between Sylvie and Dominic as the sparks flew between them.  It became clear pretty quickly that what they were feeling for each other wasn’t hate at all and it was very entertaining to watch their relationship grow and evolve, especially as they each vie for the contract to bake the royal wedding cake. It also becomes clear that they have more in common than they ever realized, particularly as it relates to loneliness and loss.

Battle Royal also features a fabulous cast of lovable secondary characters, including Dominic’s sweet sister Pet, as well as Sylvie’s coworkers at Sugar Fair, who, although they love to snark at each other all the time, are loyal to Sylvie above all else and were definitely her found family.  These characters were all so great. I became very invested in all of them and I’m hoping we’ll see them in future books since this is apparently the beginning of a new Palace Insiders series.

If you enjoy romances that feature rivals to lovers and sunshine personalities versus grumpy, Battle Royal is the book for you!  4 STARS.

 

Reviews:  BATTLE ROYAL, HOT UNDER HIS COLLAR, & DELIA SUITS UPHot Under His Collar (The Nolans, #3) Goodreads

Author: Andie J. Christopher

Publication Date: July 20, 2021

Publisher:  Berkley Books

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

Andie J. Christopher’s new novel, Hot Under His Collar, is a forbidden romance, and the latest installment of her The Nolans series.  It focuses on Sasha Finerghty, an event planner with a bit of a problem.  She’s always drawn to what she can’t or shouldn’t have.  Her latest obsession with forbidden fruit comes in the form of a huge crush on Father Patrick Dooley.  She has drooled over the sexy priest from a far for a while now, but when she is paired up with him on a fundraising event to save the church’s pre-K program, her crush rises to a whole new level.

Father Patrick was very close to his devout mother and when she passed away, he decided to join the clergy to fulfill her dying wish.  He has questioned his choice for a while now and when he meets Sasha and realizes he is physically attracted to her, Patrick becomes even more conflicted about his path in life.

Both of these characters are super likeable and it’s very clear from their early interactions that, forbidden or not, they have major chemistry.  I had a lot of fun watching the two of them trying and failing to fight their attraction to one another.  The more time they spend together planning the fundraiser, the more opportunities there are for awkward and potentially inappropriate moments.   There are also a lot of engaging and thought-provoking internal monologues as both Sasha and Patrick reflect on what it would mean if they were to try to pursue a relationship.

The only drawback for me was that this was definitely a slow burn romance and I found myself getting impatient with them dancing around one another for so long.  I just wanted them to just hurry up and get together already so it was a little frustrating.  Even with that though, Hot Under His Collar is still a pretty fun and sexy read.  3.5 STARS

 

Reviews:  BATTLE ROYAL, HOT UNDER HIS COLLAR, & DELIA SUITS UPDelia Suits Up Goodreads

Author: Amanda Aksel

Publication Date: August 3, 2021

Publisher:  Berkley Books

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

Amanda Aksel’s new novel Delia Suits Up is a hilarious modern day take on popular films like Freaky Friday and Big, but instead of just swapping bodies, you also swap genders.  Delia Reese wants to make it big on Wall Street and she has the credentials to do it.  However, no matter how many job interviews she goes on, no one will hire her.  She becomes more and more convinced she can’t land a job because she’s a woman.  During a drunken round of Truth or Dare with her roommates, Delia says if she could change one thing about herself, she’d wish to be a man.  When she wakes up the next morning, she has gotten her wish, penis and all.

After Delia’s initial freakout and after she has convinced her roommates she’s really her and not some random stranger who has turned up in their apartment, Delia changes the name at the top of her existing resume to a man’s name, dresses up in her roommate’s best suit, and heads back to Wall Street to make something happen for herself.

You guys, this is such a fun and entertaining read! Delia is such a great character and her frustrations with job hunting are all too relatable.  She’s also really funny.  I laughed out loud so many times as she was trying to get used to her new body, and in particular, to her new appendage.  Some might consider the humor to be a bit crude at times since a lot of it revolves around exploring that appendage.  Crude or not, it’s pretty hilarious.

It’s not all just over-the top humor though. There’s obviously a more serious exploration of sexism in the workplace as Delia tries to break through into the “boy’s club” that is Wall Street.  Another layer is added to the story when Delia encounters her best friend Eric, who she also has a crush on, while she is dressed as a man and accidentally learns how Eric feels about her.   One of the only downsides for me was actually that I would have liked a lot more of Eric and Delia together because he was such a sweet guy.

If you’re looking for a fun and fast-paced read and enjoy movies like Big, Freaky Friday, and 13 Going on 30, you’ll want to check out Delia Suits Up3.5 STARS

Romance Reviews: Isn’t It Bromantic? & It Happened One Summer

 

I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend.  It was a quiet one here, filled with lots of quality reading time.  Today I’m sharing my thoughts one two fun romance novels, one of which, Isn’t It Bromantic? was one of my most anticipated reads of the year.  Check out my reviews and let me know if you’re planning to read either of these. 🙂

 

Romance Reviews:  Isn’t It Bromantic? & It Happened One SummerIsn't It Bromantic? (Bromance Book Club, #4) Goodreads

Author: Lyssa Kay Adams

Publication Date: July 20, 2021

Publisher:  Berkley

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

If you’ve been following my blog for awhile, you know I’m pretty obsessed with Lyssa Kay Adams contemporary romance series, Bromance Book Club, and that the latest installment Isn’t It Bromantic? is one of my most anticipated reads of 2021.

Isn’t It Bromantic? finally gives us a story featuring Vlad, aka “The Russian,” the adorable but gaseous Russian professional hockey player.  Vlad is a fan favorite, and he’s definitely my favorite character so expectations were high. I didn’t think it was possible to love Vlad more than I already did, but this book proved me wrong.  For a beast of a hockey player, Vlad is actually the softest of soft boys and quite possibly the biggest romantic on the planet.  Women love him, animals love him, and his Bromance Book Club brothers love him.  The man even writes his own romance novels!

Vlad being such a romantic makes it all the more sad that he has spent the last 6 years in a marriage of convenience with Elena, a fellow Russian and his childhood best friend.  My heart truly broke for Vlad in the opening scenes of the novel when he confesses to Elena that he’s in love with her and wants a real relationship with her, and she snubs him and tells him she’s moving back to Russia. I have to admit that this at first made me feel pretty hostile toward Elena, but once it’s revealed why she’s acting the way she does, I felt more sympathetic toward her and really wanted her and Vlad to work things out since it was pretty clear her feelings for Vlad run way deeper than she’s letting on.

I don’t want to say much else since it’s best to watch the drama of Vlad and Elena’s relationship unfold for yourself, but suffice it to say that if you’ve enjoyed the hilarious shenanigans of the Bromance Cook Club boys in the past, you’re sure to enjoy yourself this time around too. There’s also a fun new cast of secondary characters, including a sassy group of widows who call themselves the Loners and who are very protective of Vlad and the mysterious Cheese Man, who feeds Vlad’s cheese addiction.

Four books in and I’m still loving the Bromance Book Club series so much.  They’re fun, sexy, and quick reads, perfect for devouring over a weekend or a day at the beach.  Here’s hoping that there will be a fifth book in the series!  4.5 STARS

 

Romance Reviews:  Isn’t It Bromantic? & It Happened One SummerIt Happened One Summer Goodreads

Author: Tessa Bailey

Publication Date: July 13, 2021

Publisher:  Avon

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

When I saw Tessa Bailey’s latest novel, It Happened One Summer, described as a Schitt’s Creek-inspired rom-com, it immediately landed on my must-read list. Schitt’s Creek is one of my favorite television series so I’ll admit that I was a little nervous about the comparison since it creates high expectations in the humor department for me, but I’m thrilled to report that It Happened One Summer really delivers. The Schitt’s Creek-inspired part of the story involves Piper Bellinger, a Hollywood party girl and influencer, who takes her partying one step too far and lands herself in jail.  Piper’s mother and stepfather are beyond furious at her behavior and decide to cut her off from their money and send her to live in a fishing town in the Pacific Northwest.  She’ll be living in an apartment above a bar that her father used to own and will have to fend for herself for three months.  The hope is that Piper will learn there’s more to life than parties, fashion, money, and getting likes on Instagram.

The characters in It Happened One Summer are what really made me fall in love with this story.  I honestly really wanted to dislike Piper when we first meet her, just because she comes off as such a flake, but she wormed her way into my heart almost immediately.  There’s so much more to her than first meets the eye.  She’s got a huge heart, she’s a lot stronger than she thinks she is but at the same time, she has a vulnerable side as well, particularly when it comes to her own sense of self worth. I felt so much sympathy for her when she talked about how alone she feels in Hollywood, even when she’s in the middle of a crowd.  The more I got to know Piper, the more I wanted her to find happiness in this little fishing town so that she wouldn’t return to the toxic Hollywood environment.

As much as I adored Piper’s character, I loved Brendan, the sea captain, even more.  He’s big, burly, and gruff, but like with Piper, there’s so much more to him than first meets the eye. He might be a grizzly bear on the outside, but he’s soft like a teddy bear on the inside.  Brendan’s wife Desiree died seven years ago and he now devotes most of his time to helping his father-in-law keeping Desiree’s memory alive.  In essence, Brendan himself has stopped living.  That is, until he meets Piper and the sparks fly.  From the moment the two of them meet, it’s clear they are each exactly what the other needs and I was hardcore rooting for them to get together.  I don’t want to give anything away about how their relationship progresses, but I was fully invested in every page, every scene of it, even the inevitable angsty, dramatic moments of their journey.

It Happened One Summer is a sexy, flirty, romance that will leave you feeling swoony, but at the same time, it’s a hilarious read that will have you laughing out loud page after page.  It’s truly just a delightful read! 4.5 STARS

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
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

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
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

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: 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
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 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.

Romance Reviews: VERY SINCERELY YOURS & LOVE SCENES

Happy Friday everyone!  Today I’m sharing my thoughts on two romance novels that I think are going to find their way into a lot of beach bags this summer because they are both truly delightful.

 

Romance Reviews:  VERY SINCERELY YOURS & LOVE SCENESVery Sincerely Yours Goodreads

Author: Kerry Winfrey

Publication Date: June 15, 2021

Publisher:  Berkley Books

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

Very Sincerely Yours by Kerry Winfrey follows Teddy Phillips, a young woman who is going through a rough patch.  Her longtime boyfriend has just unexpectedly dumped her and kicked her out of their home.  After spending so many years catering to this man’s every whim, Teddy feels like she doesn’t even know who she is without him.  She spends most of her days working at a vintage toy store and engaging in her biggest guilty pleasure, watching a local children’s show that is hosted by a sexy Mr. Rogers type named Everett St. James.  Of course Everett is easy on the eyes but what Teddy really loves about his show is how kind and respectful he is to all of the children who send him letters looking for advice.  When Teddy decides to take a chance and send him a letter herself, she has no idea how much her life is about to change.

I swear this book was like catnip for me.  I loved every page of it and just couldn’t get enough of both Teddy and Everett.  They’re both just such sweet, soft, adorable characters and as soon as I met each of them, and especially as soon as Everett wrote a response to Teddy and they basically became flirty email pen pals, I knew they would be perfect for one another. Their emails truly gave me life as I was reading.  They’re filled with witty banter, good advice from Everett, as well as humorous sign offs that made me laugh out loud.  The more Teddy and Everett wrote to each other, the more I was rooting for them to find their way to each other in person.

It’s not even just Teddy and Everett that made Very Sincerely Yours such a wonderful read for me; it was also all of Teddy’s friends.  She has such a lovely and supportive relationship with the owner of the  toy store.  They’re more like mother-daughter than boss-employee and I really enjoyed their friendship.  I also adored Teddy’s roommates, who were her best friends prior to her relationship with loser guy.  He basically monopolized her attention to the extent that she drifted apart from her besties, but they were right there for her every step of the way after she got dumped and they really helped her pick up the pieces and get back to living her life and having fun.  It was just so nice to see Teddy surrounded by so much love and support.

Very Sincerely Yours is one of the most delightful romantic comedies I’ve read so far this year.  It’s a gem of a book that is sure to put a smile on your face.  5 STARS!

 

Romance Reviews:  VERY SINCERELY YOURS & LOVE SCENESLove Scenes Goodreads

Author: Bridget Morrissey

Publication Date: June 22, 2021

Publisher:  Berkley Books

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

Love Scenes by Bridget Morrissey follows Sloane Ford, a young actress who hails from Hollywood royalty.  Everyone in her family works in film and they’ve decided to work on a project together, a WWII era romance, and although they wanted Sloane to play the lead, she declined because it conflicted with work she was doing on a TV series.  When her character is abruptly killed off, Sloane’s mother offers her a job as a producer on their film, but doesn’t tell her they’ve cast Joseph Donovan, her arch nemesis and the man who almost derailed her acting career, to play the male lead.  Oh boy, what has Sloane gotten herself into?

I really enjoyed the chemistry between Sloane and Joseph from the moment they come face to face on the movie set.  It’s clear that there is some loaded history between them, and it’s also clear that they have feelings for one another, whether they want to admit it or not.  Joseph knows how awful he was to Sloane the last time they worked together and he really wants to make amends.  Sloane was recently dumped by her musician boyfriend and is completely off the whole idea of love. But when she steps on the movie set, and the female lead is abruptly fired and Sloane is asked to fill in, the more she works with Joseph, the more she realizes she doesn’t hate him as much as she thought she did. I really liked both Sloane and Joseph a lot and wanted her to give him a chance to prove he has changed.

As much as I enjoyed the evolving relationship between Sloane and Joseph, what I loved most about this book is Sloane’s family.  They’re such a fun, tight-knit, and quirky group and I love watching them all interact as they worked together on the film.  The egos, the personalities, the ex-husbands and ex-wives who are still very much part of the family, etc. were just so entertaining to watch and I loved how vividly and realistically the author brings this family to life. I especially loved the relationship between Sloan and her sister Tyler, who is also directing the film.  The two of them are very close and actually used to make home movie versions of their favorite films for fun when they were kids.  I love a good sibling relationship and watching these two sisters work and grow together just made for a lovely read.

Love Scenes is a fun read that is filled with romance, family, and all the drama you could ever expect to find on a movie set and then some! It’s also a wonderful story about second chances that will warm your heart.  4 STARS.

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.

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.

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

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
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

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.