Posts

Reviews: THE WOMAN WITH THE BLUE STAR & THE LAST NIGHT IN LONDON

Today I’m sharing my thoughts on two powerful and compelling works of WWII historical fiction, one by Pam Jenoff and the other by Karen White.  This is my third time reading a novel from Jenoff and as with the first two, it was a very emotional experience for me.  This was my first time reading a novel from White, although I’ve been wanting to try her books for years now.

 

Reviews: THE WOMAN WITH THE BLUE STAR & THE LAST NIGHT IN LONDONThe Woman with the Blue Star Goodreads

Author: Pam Jenoff

Publication Date: May 4, 2021

Publisher:  Park Row

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

Pam Jenoff’s latest novel, The Woman with the Blue Star, is a powerful and inspiring story of strength, resilience, love, and friendship set against the dangerous backdrop of Nazi-occupied Poland during WWII.  The story follows two young women, one Jewish and the other not, and the unlikely friendship they are able to forge in such a deadly environment.

Sadie Gault is an eighteen year old Jewish girl who has been living with her parents in the Krakow Ghetto.  When the Nazis arrive to liquidate the Ghetto, Sadie and her family, along with another family, manage to escape into the sewers beneath the city. Unbeknownst to Sadie, her father had made arrangements with a trusted friend who works in the sewers and this friend has created a shelter for them to seek refuge in until they can safely leave.  What they thought would be a few days stretches into weeks and months.  My heart just broke for Sadie and for everyone else with her, having to live in such squalid conditions and fearing for your life every minute of every day.  I also found them inspiring though because of the inner strength they all clearly possessed and their will to survive. I’m not sure I would have that kind of strength.

In contrast to Sadie, there is also Ella Stepanek. Ella comes from a wealthy Polish family and finds herself living in relative comfort and able to move about with relative ease, in part because of her stepmother who has allied herself with the Nazis who occupy their city.  She knows she has it good in comparison to others but doesn’t really know how good until one day while at the market, she sees a pair of eyes staring up at her from a sewer grate.  At first Ella cannot believe her own eyes but then realizes it’s a Jewish girl about her own age and that she must be hiding down there.  Ella, who has herself been desperate for friendship and is disgusted that her stepmother is collaborating with Nazis, vows to do whatever she can to protect Sadie from being discovered.

I loved the friendship that formed between Sadie and Ella.  It was so beautiful to see amidst so much horror and death, and I longed for them both to survive the war so they could continue their sister-like bond in times of peace.  I just really loved both girls so much and how they were each exactly what the other needed.  I also loved another unlikely friendship that formed in the book between Sadie and Saul, another Jewish boy who was also sheltering in the sewer.  His family is much more religious than hers and he shouldn’t really associate with Sadie, but in such close quarters with no one else to talk to, he and Sadie become close and it’s another beautiful relationship to contrast with the ugliness all around them.

I don’t want to go into any specifics about what ultimately happens to all of these characters, but I will say that I flew through this book in less than a day and I cried more than once, especially when I got to the author’s notes at the end and realized that while these specific characters were not real, there are real accounts of Jewish families living in sewers while trying desperately to escape the Nazis.  The Woman with the Blue Star really is a powerful and emotional testament to how strong the will to survive is. 5 STARS.

 

Reviews: THE WOMAN WITH THE BLUE STAR & THE LAST NIGHT IN LONDONThe Last Night in London Goodreads

Author: Karen White

Publication Date: May 4, 2021

Publisher:  Berkley

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

I’ve been wanting to try one of Karen White’s novels for a while now so when I saw that her newest novel, The Last Night in London, is primarily set in London during WWII, I thought that would be a great place to start, considering my love of WWII historical fiction. And it turns out I was right, as I found myself enveloped in an intricately-crafted story of family and friendship, romance and drama, suffering and resilience, all wrapped up in a web of long-buried secrets and deception set against the deadly backdrop of the Blitz.

I was sucked into White’s story from the opening pages of the prologue where we meet an unnamed woman running through the streets of London with bombs falling all around her.  She knocks on a door, hands over a suitcase which when opened reveals there is an infant within, and then she flees into the night.  Who is this woman, where is she running off to, and if that is her baby, why is she leaving it with someone else?  I was already on the edge of my seat wanting answers to all of these questions and more.  White’s story is a slow burn though so fair warning that lots of threads will need to be pulled together before those answers are revealed. The reveal is definitely worth the wait though so just enjoy the journey.

The story features a dual timeline, one set in present day London while the other is set during WWII London around the time of the Blitz.  The present day timeline follows American journalist Maddie Warner who is traveling to London to interview Precious Dubose, a former fashion model, who is about to turn 100 years old. Maddie, a distant relative of Precious’, is only there to interview Precious about WWII fashion and her time living in London around the war, but the more Maddie interacts with Precious, she gets the feeling Precious has something weighing her down and that she would like to share more with Maddie than just her thoughts on fashion.  The WWII timeline, coupled with some investigative work Maddie does on her own, slowly begins to unravel the long-held secrets Precious has been keeping for over 50 years.

Both timelines made for pretty compelling reads, but I was definitely drawn in more by the WWII timeline because I wanted answers to my questions from the prologue.  I also loved the various characters that were introduced in this timeline, including a young Precious and her roommate, Eva, who also has her fair share of secrets.  It was fascinating watching the two of them try to live, work, and love in wartime London, sometimes getting caught up in questionable activities with even more questionable people.  I was captivated by their adventures and was waiting to see how their stories culminated in that moving scene from the prologue.

I very much enjoyed my first foray into a Karen White novel and look forward to reading more from her.  4 STARS.

Reviews: THE INFINITY COURTS & HELLO, CRUEL HEART

 

Hey everyone!  I’m back today with a couple of new reviews to share on some upcoming YA releases.  I was very excited to read the first book as it’s a sci-fi/fantasy novel written by Akemi Dawn Bowman.  I’ve read several of her YA contemporary novels so it was fun to read something so different from her.  I was equally excited to read the second book because Cruella is one of my favorite Disney villains.  It was fun to imagine a backstory for her.

Reviews:  THE INFINITY COURTS & HELLO, CRUEL HEARTThe Infinity Courts (The Infinity Courts, #1) Goodreads

Author: Akemi Dawn Bowman

Publication Date: April 6, 2021

Publisher:  Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

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

The Infinity Courts by Akemi Dawn Bowman quite literally starts off with a bang when the main character, 18 year old Nami Miyamoto, is shot and killed on her way to her high school graduation party.  I was hooked right away because of course I’m trying to figure out where the story is going if the main character is dead within the first few pages.  Well, it turns out we’re following her to the afterlife, specifically to a place called Infinity.  Infinity is where a human’s subconscious goes after his or her physical body is no longer living.  Once she realizes where she is, Nami is shocked to learn that the afterlife has been taken over by Ophelia, the popular virtual assistant humans use to do their bidding.  Ophelia has crowned herself Queen of Infinity and she seeks revenge against the humans by forcing them all into servitude as they die. Revenge isn’t Ophelia’s endgame either though.  Nami flees before she falls into Ophelia’s clutches, meets up with a small band of human rebels, and joins them in their fight to preserve the afterlife for their loved ones who have yet to die.

First of all, I have to give props to Bowman for coming up with such a unique premise for a story.  She definitely had me giving the side-eye to both Alexa and Siri as I was reading this, haha. I was also fascinated by the creative worldbuilding with respect to Infinity and the various courts it contains.  There’s Victory court, which is beautiful and vivid and known for its many parties, at which humans work as servants.  There’s also War, a grim and brutal court where uncooperative humans are sent to battle for their souls. And finally, there’s Death, the mysterious court that appears to be where Ophelia conducts experiments related to her endgame, which is to exterminate all human consciousness so that she can have Infinity all to herself.

Aside from the creative worldbuilding, I was also a fan of the complex characters Bowman has created.  Nami and her band of rebels are of course very easy to root for as they are the underdogs trying to take down an AI tyrant who doesn’t seem to have a weakness of any kind.  Nami was all the more interesting though because she has moments where she’s torn about what they’re trying to do.  She of course wants to preserve the afterlife for her family for when they die, but at the same time, to a degree, she understands why Ophelia hates humans and wants to get back at them.  Nami wonders if there’s any way for Ophelia and the humans to reach a compromise and ignores the other rebels when they tell her they’ve already tried.  Nami’s internal struggle creates tension and mistrust within the group because they’re never 100% sure if they can trust her.  Ophelia is also an incredibly complex character. She is not your typical AI by any stretch of the imagination, especially as it relates to her desire for revenge.

The unique premise, creative worldbuilding and the complex characters kept me entertained from start to finish.  I also really loved the exploration of humanity and what it really means to be a human.  The only weakness for me was the ending, which just fell a little flat for me and seemed abrupt.  I’m definitely on board with continuing the series though. I need to see who will come out on top!  3.5 STARS

 

Reviews:  THE INFINITY COURTS & HELLO, CRUEL HEARTHello, Cruel World Goodreads

Author: Maureen Johnson

Publication Date: April 6, 2021

Publisher:  Disney Press

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

Have you ever wondered how Cruella de Vil came to be the way she is?  Was she always evil or once upon a time, was she just a normal average young girl with dreams of love, success, and happiness? Inspired by the upcoming Disney live action film, Cruella, Hello, Cruel Heart by Maureen Johnson sets out to explore that exact topic and provide a plausible origin story for this Disney villain extraordinaire.

The story is set in London in the late 60’s and follows 16-year-old Cruella, actually known as Estella here, on her quest to become a famous fashion designer.  Orphaned at a young age, Estella has been basically homeless for years, living in an old bombed-out building with two boys, Jasper and Horace, who are in similar dire straits.  They teach her how to pick pockets and shoplift, and thus the three of them muddle along, stealing enough to survive and forming a little makeshift family of their own.  Estella dreams of bigger things for herself though.  She aspires to become a famous fashion designer and often steals fabric and other items so that she can practice her craft. Sadly, much of her time is spent sewing disguises and costumes for their many heists rather than the high fashion clothing she dreams of creating.

Johnson does a wonderful job of making young Cruella/Estella very likeable and sympathetic. Who wouldn’t root for an orphan, who also happens to be a gifted fashion designer, to realize her dream? When Estella has a chance encounter with Richard and Magda, two of London’s most fashionable young people, and they invite her to join them, Estella wonders if this is the out from her old life she has been looking for, especially when they take such special interest in her designs.  She hopes this friendship is the start of something big and is invited to one party after another and is inspired to create dress after dress for these events that are the envy of everyone she meets. She’s so happy doing what she loves and making friends and even meeting boys that I found myself cheering her on that she really would have a happy ending even though I knew it was impossible.

The only area where I struggled a bit to connect with the story was that Cruella was used almost as an alter ego whenever Estella did something bad, like a ‘It wasn’t me, it was Cruella” kind of thing.  As Estella got a little older, Cruella then became a mean voice in her head telling her would never have friends or love. This Cruella alter ego didn’t turn up very often in the story, but each time she did, it just read awkwardly for me.  There was an instance, for example, where she gets into a fight with Horace and Jasper and when she goes to apologize to them later, they’re all “We know it wasn’t you, it was Cruella.” The ending of the book was also somewhat awkward for me for similar reasons.  I just couldn’t exactly tell what Cruella was supposed to be.  At first I thought maybe mental illness but, by the end, I had more questions than answers.  Hopefully the movie will bring some clarity.

Even with my Cruella issues though, I still enjoyed Hello, Cruel Heart overall. It’s a creative villain origin story that definitely made me feel sympathy for one of Disney’s most despicable villains, which is quite a feat in and of itself.  3.5 STARS

Reviews: THE INITIAL INSULT & DESTINATION ANYWHERE

 

Happy Friday!  I hope you’ve all had a great week.  Mine was pretty good, just swamped at work as our busy season gets fully underway.  I still managed to get some reading done this week though, so I have two new ARC reviews to share today.  On the surface these are two books that are very different from one another, one with a dark vibe and one with a more uplifting vibe.  The theme that they both share, however, is friendship — friendships lost and friendships found.

 

Reviews:  THE INITIAL INSULT & DESTINATION ANYWHEREThe Initial Insult (The Initial Insult, #1) Goodreads

Author: Mindy McGinnis

Publication Date: February 23, 2021

Publisher:  Katherine Tegen Books

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

Even though I haven’t really been in the mood for dark reads lately, I couldn’t resist Mindy McGinnis’ new novel, The Initial Insult.  First because I’m a big fan of McGinnis’ writing, and second, because The Initial Insult is a modern day retelling of the classic Edgar Allan Poe short story, The Cask of Amontillado.  I love Edgar Allan Poe and The Cask of Amontillado is a favorite of mine, so this was a must read.  You don’t have to have read the classic Poe tale to understand and appreciate McGinnis’ version though so don’t let not having read the original deter you.  While it somewhat mirrors Poe’s classic tale of revenge, The Initial Insult is at its core a story about a friendship that has fallen apart and all of the residual hurt feelings that still linger between the two former friends.

The Initial Insult follows Tress Montor, whose parents disappeared without a trace seven years ago.  The last person to see them alive?  Tress’ then best friend, Felicity Turnado.  Tress’ life has pretty much fallen apart since her parents disappeared, while Felicity has become the social climbing belle of the ball, so to speak. As their lives have moved in such opposite directions, so has their friendship until they basically become more enemies than friends.  It drives Tress crazy that Felicity can offer no insight into what happened to her parents, so she devises a dark and twisted plan to force Felicity to confess everything she remembers about that night because Tress is convinced she has been lying for all of these years.  Tress’ plan involves bricks, mortar, manacles, and a party with lots of distractions so that no one will notice she and Felicity have gone missing. Sounds sinister, right?  Because it totally is!

I don’t want to give away anything else about the story, but it’s definitely a wild ride and a dark and twisted one at that.  I do have to say that I wasn’t a huge fan of either girl, although I did sympathize with them both as we learn more and more about their friendship and about some other secrets they are each hiding.  They are both tragic characters in their own way, and Tress is definitely one of the more interesting and complex morally gray characters I’ve come across.

I do want to forewarn anyone who is sensitive when it comes to animals being harmed in books, there is a pretty devastating incident involving a family pet.  I hope that’s not a spoiler, but I wish I had known it was coming when I started reading so I could mentally prepare myself for it.

The Initial Insult is a dark and heartbreaking read that ends on a jaw dropping note.  I didn’t realize until I got to the end that it’s actually the first book in a duology, so I can’t wait to get my hands on the second book, which is apparently named The Last Laugh4 STARS

 

Reviews:  THE INITIAL INSULT & DESTINATION ANYWHEREDestination Anywhere Goodreads

Author: Sara Barnard

Publication Date: February 23, 2021

Publisher:  Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

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

Sara Barnard writes some of the most relatable stories I’ve ever read.  The struggles her characters face are struggles that I almost always identify with and that is definitely the case with her new novel, Destination AnywhereDestination Anywhere follows Peyton King, a seventeen-year-old college student who has struggled her entire life to make friends.  As if having no friends wasn’t bad enough, she was also the target of relentless bullying for most of her school career.  Desperate to make friends once she arrives at college, she falls in with the wrong crowd and ends up in a world of trouble.  Between that and the fact that she’s miserable at college because her parents are forcing her to study something she’s not interested in, Peyton takes matters into her own hands.  She packs a bag and her sketchbook, buys a one-way plane ticket from England to Canada, and sets out to find herself and her own path in life.

Peyton’s journey is presented in present day chapters, alternated with chapters from her past, and I have to say that those past chapters were truly heartbreaking.  I felt so bad for her as I was reading the feelings of self-doubt that Peyton expresses as she is rejected by classmate after classmate and then bullied by them on top of it.  Those thoughts of “What is wrong with me?”  or when she does finally find a potential friend and then overthinking it to the point where she’s trying too hard and makes things awkward.  While I always had a core group of friends when I was in school, I was painfully shy and could relate to some of Peyton’s inner monologue.

While those past chapters were somewhat painful to read, however, the present chapters were pretty amazing.  I loved watching Peyton’s confidence start to grow as she learned from past mistakes and challenged herself to get out there, pursue her passion, and find like-minded people.  I was especially impressed with the way she stands her ground when it comes to her parents.  That can be a hard thing to do.

I don’t want to give away any details of Peyton’s journey, but one of the highlights of her trip for me was the friend group she meets when she checks in to the hostel in Canada.  It’s a group of young travelers from all around the globe and they practically adopt her as their little sister and make it their mission to ensure she gets the most out of her trip and finds whatever it is she’s looking for.  Their mission even turns into a road trip at one point and I’m all about a good road trip, so I especially loved those adventures and of course the gorgeous Canadian scenery.

Destination Anywhere is a lovely and heartwarming story about finding yourself and about finding your people.  It’s one of those wonderful reads that engaged all of my emotions. I went from being heartbroken for Peyton to absolutely elated for her, and pretty much everything in between.  And don’t even get me started on the ending, which left me crying happy tears.  Such an all around satisfying read.  4.5 STARS

Romance Reviews: FIRST COMES LIKE & THE WEDDING GAME

 

If you saw my Top Ten Tuesday post last week, you’ll remember that I shared ten rom-coms I’m excited to read this year.  Well, in honor of Valentine’s Day, I got a jump on reading them this past week and have reviews to share for the first two I read, First Comes Like by Alisha Rai and The Wedding Game by Meghan Quinn.

 

Romance Reviews: FIRST COMES LIKE & THE WEDDING GAMEFirst Comes Like (Modern Love, #3) Goodreads

Author: Alisha Rai

Publication Date: February 16, 2021

Publisher:  Avon

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

Even though I’m only reviewing First Comes Like, the latest book in Alisha Rai’s Modern Love series, I actually binge-read all three books in the series last month.  Usually I’m terrible at keeping up with series, but once I started this one, I just couldn’t stop reading.  What hooked me on Modern Love is the way Rai writes her main characters.  I love the mix of strength and vulnerability she infuses them with and of course, the chemistry is always off the charts. I also love that, as the title of the series implies, all of the books are modern and focus on where many people turn these days when they are looking for love, social media.

First Comes Like follows Jia Ahmed, who is a very popular beauty influencer on social media. She’s busy making connections and trying to build her brand and has no time for men, although she’s willing to make an exception for Dev Dixit, a sexy Bollywood soap opera star, who has recently slid into her DMs and started flirting with her. Jia decides to score an invite to a party for his new film so that she can finally meet Dev in person.  All is going swimmingly until she meets Dev face to face and he says he has no idea who she is.  Awkward!  It quickly becomes clear that someone has used Dev’s social media account to catfish Jia; the question is who. Things between them take an even more awkward turn when paparazzi photos of Dev and Jia embracing become public. Even though the photos are in actuality way more innocent than they seem, the public and both of their families flip out and that’s where things got really fun.

I had so much fun with this book.  I loved the chemistry between Jia and Dev, especially watching their relationship evolve from her wanting to kill him at that first party to the two of them working together to concoct a plan on how best to deal their families. I also really loved the focus on their beliefs and culture, in particular the respect Jia and Dev each gave to the other’s beliefs as their relationship grows.  I also thought it was wonderful that Dev was so respectful of Jia’s career.  He didn’t think it was silly or shallow at all and even watched all of her videos and even helped her film and take photos.  The two of them were just really sweet together and I was of course rooting for them to continue to grow closer.

I wouldn’t call this a hot and steamy romance, but it’s definitely a sweet, slow burn and I enjoyed every page of it.  4 STARS.

 

 

Romance Reviews: FIRST COMES LIKE & THE WEDDING GAMEThe Wedding Game Goodreads

Author: Meghan Quinn

Publication Date: March 1, 2021

Publisher:  Montlake

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

Meghan Quinn’s new novel, The Wedding Game is one of the most charming and entertaining romances I’ve read in a long time.  I laughed, I cried, and I honestly loved every single character in the book. Okay, well two of them I loved to hate, but you know what I mean!

Set in New York City, the story follows Luna Rossi, a self-professed jack of all trades when it comes to crafting. There’s pretty much nothing Luna can’t do when it comes to crafts and she even has her own very popular social media accounts where she offers tips and tricks to others who share her passion for all things crafty.  About the only thing Luna loves more than crafts is her brother, Cohen, so when she learns that a DIY reality TV contest called The Wedding Game is coming to NYC and is seeking contestants, she takes it upon herself to sign her brother and his fiancé up.  Luna lives to make sure the people she loves are happy and so can’t resist the idea of giving her brother and the love of his life a perfect wedding day. Plus the grand prize of a NYC penthouse apartment for whoever designs the best wedding doesn’t hurt either.  With the Queen of Crafts in their corner, how can they lose?

The Wedding Game also follows Alec, an attorney who, like Luna, has a brother, Thad, who is about to get married.  Unlike Luna though, Alec is not especially close to his brother and has no interest in his wedding plans.  Alec and Thad used to be incredibly close, but have drifted apart in recent years.  Thad sees the ad for The Wedding Game and begs Alec to do it with him and his fiancé.  For Thad, it’s a great opportunity to get his family started off on the right foot, but even better, it’s a chance for he and Alec to reconnect. Alec reluctantly agrees and it’s off to the races.

The bulk of the story focuses on the contest itself and an unexpectedly fierce rivalry that develops between Luna and Alec.  Oh my goodness, you guys!  I don’t want to give away any spoilers but these two have such intense chemistry from their very first hostile encounter.  It was hard to tell if they were going to kill each other or rip each other’s clothes off, haha! I thoroughly enjoyed every scene they had together and some of their banter truly had me laughing out loud.  The evolution of their relationship had me captivated more and more with each turn of the page and before long, I was rooting for them to have a happy ending of their own.

It wasn’t even just the relationship between Luna and Alec that had me so invested in The Wedding Game either. Honestly it was all of the relationships. Yes, this is a sexy, steamy enemies-to-lovers romance with a hilarious reality TV show as its backdrop, but it’s also a beautiful and heartwarming story about love, family, and forgiveness that left me with a big smile on my face.  4.5 STARS 

 

Reviews: GLIMPSED and JOINT CUSTODY

 

Happy New Year, everyone! Hard to believe it’s 2021 already but here we are. I had a lovely break, quiet and relaxing, and was able to get a lot of reading done.  Today I’m sharing my thoughts on two rom-coms that are coming out this month, Glimpsed and Joint Custody.

Reviews:  GLIMPSED and JOINT CUSTODYGlimpsed Goodreads

Author: G. F. Miller

Publication Date: January 5, 2021

Publisher:  Simon and Schuster for Young Readers

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

 

If you follow my blog, you know that I love a good fairytale retelling. When I read that G.F. Miller’s new novel Glimpsed is a modern-day Cinderella retelling from the perspective of the Fairy Godmother, I knew I had to read it. Charity is a high school student with an unusual and magical gift – she can glimpse a person’s deepest desires and can make their dreams come true.  Making people’s wishes come true fills Charity with a sense of joy and purpose, that is, until one of her wish fulfillments ends in disaster.  This causes Charity to question everything she has ever done – Is she really helping people or is she setting them up for failure and unhappiness in the long-term?  Her feelings of self-doubt aren’t helped at all when she is confronted by Noah, a boy in her class, who says he knows what Charity does and threatens to expose her to her classmates because she ruined his life by making the girl he liked fall in love with someone else.

I really enjoyed this modern spin on the Cinderella story and especially that it focused on the Fairy Godmother who is so firmly in the background of the original tale.  I also loved the exploration of whether or not granting a person’s wishes actually leads to a happily ever after.  It adds so much more depth to this beloved character who never once questions that granting a wish could have ramifications that she hasn’t considered.  I also really liked that even though it’s technically a retelling, Glimpsed still has a unique and fresh feel to it. It’s not just a rehashing of the story we already know.

Charity and Noah are also a huge draw for me. Their relationship starts out in such an antagonistic yet entertaining way. Even though Noah is blackmailing Charity, it soon becomes clear that he’s really just a softie and a sci-fi geek to boot. In short, he’s adorable and even though she kind of wants to strangle him, Charity soon finds herself thinking of him as a friend and then wonders if they could be more than friends.  Is a Fairy Godmother allowed to have a happy ending of her own?  If you want to know the answer to that question, you’ll definitely want to check out Glimpsed4 STARS

 

Reviews:  GLIMPSED and JOINT CUSTODYJoint Custody Goodreads

Author: Lauren Baratz-Logsted and Jackie Logsted

Publication Date: January 5, 2021

Publisher:  Berkley Books

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

 

If you’re a dog lover, you’re going to want to check out Joint Custody, the new novel from Lauren Baratz-Logsted and Jackie Logsted.  It follows Gatz, a mischievous border collie who is none too pleased when his owners break up.  Gatz knows they’re perfect for each other, and of course, the perfect owners for him so he decides to take matters into his own paws and get them back together.

And when I say it follows Gatz, the story really follows Gatz.  We see everything from his perspective and we are fully in his head as he plots and schemes to get his owners back together.  It’s a really fun read too as we get Gatz’s inner thoughts as he orchestrates ways to bring his owners in proximity to one another, to remind them that they belong together. It gets downright hilarious at times too as Gatz seeks to sabotage any dates his owners go on with other people.  He’s just not having it, haha.

Because we are getting the story from the perspective of a dog, we don’t get a lot of in depth information about the humans in the book.  The owners are The Man and The Woman, and when one of them goes on a date, the date is New Man, New Woman, etc.  That took a little getting used to at first, but once I settled in, I thoroughly enjoyed the overall story.

If you love dogs and/or enjoy books like A Dog’s Purpose, Joint Custody is a book that will warm your heart and put a smile on your face.  3.5 STARS

 

Review: THE BOY TOY by Nicola Marsh

Review:  THE BOY TOY by Nicola MarshThe Boy Toy by Nicola Marsh
four-stars
Published by BERKLEY on November 17, 2020
Genres: Romance, Contemporary 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With a name like The Boy Toy, I went into Nicola Marsh’s new novel expecting a sexy romance featuring a woman with a young lover.  While I’m excited to report that the romance is, in fact, steamy and yes the story does feature a relationship between an older woman and a younger man, The Boy Toy is so much more than just a sexy read. And it’s that “so much more” that really made this read such a winner for me.

The Boy Toy follows Samira, an Indian-American physical therapist, and Rory, a gorgeous stunt man who lives in Melbourne, Australia, Samira’s hometown. The two of them have a chance encounter while Samira has returned to her hometown for a brief visit to help her cousin with her new business.  Sparks fly from the moment they meet, but all either Rory or Samira are really looking for is a one-night stand. After a night of sizzling sex, however, it becomes all too clear that a one-night stand simply isn’t enough.  Both are hesitant when it comes to relationships though. Samira is still reeling from the fall-out of a short-lived arranged marriage to an Indian man who ended up cheating on her, while Rory feels vulnerable because he has been battling a life-long stutter that often leaves him feeling like a disappointment to those around him, particularly his father.  In reading the author’s note, I learned that she too has a stutter and so she has done a wonderful job authentically capturing how having a stutter can impact your life.

I really loved Samira and Rory together so much.  They have so much chemistry and I just loved the way they played off each other.  I was immediately rooting for them to have a happy ending, particularly as soon as Samira’s mother and aunties started in all over again with their determination to find Samira a suitable husband, and by suitable, they mean Indian, which Rory is not.  I loved the strength Samira displays throughout the story as she stands her ground and firmly tells them she will chose for herself this time.  That’s not to say they listen, but she makes herself very clear time and time again.  I also adored Rory. He’s such a sweetheart and I was an especially big fan of the scenes where he visits the center where he got help for his stutter as a kid.  There are a couple of scenes between him and a little boy with a stutter that will just melt your heart. I also loved that he wanted to give back to this center because it had given him so much.

In addition to cheering on Rory and Samira as they navigate the terrain of a multi-cultural relationship, I also loved the family interactions in the book and all the secondary characters that we meet along the way.  Samira’s close relationship with her cousin Pia was one of my favorites in the book, and I also adored Samra’s mother, Kushi, even when she was being pushy about Samira’s love life.  And don’t even get me started on Kushi’s cooking skills.  The descriptions of Indian food sprinkled throughout her scenes had me so hungry the entire time I was reading!  Samira’s aunties were not quite as delightful and loveable as Kushi, but they still added a nice dramatic element to the story.  Rory brings his fair share of family drama to the table as well in the form of a very strained relationship with his father. Family friend, Manish, who is Kushi’s choice to be Samira’s next husband, is also a great character. I really enjoyed his friendship with Samira.  The scenes with family provide some lovely heartfelt moments as well as some more dramatic moments to balance with the steamy scenes between Samira and Rory.

If you’re looking for a fun and sexy read that features an older woman and a younger man, the challenges of a multi-cultural relationship, and also a fair share of family drama, look no further than The Boy Toy. It’s sure to please!

 

four-stars

About Nicola Marsh

USA TODAY bestselling and award-winning Australian author Nicola Marsh writes feel-good fiction…with a twist.

She has published 70 books and sold over 8 million copies worldwide.

She currently writes contemporary romance for Penguin Random House Berkley USA, domestic suspense novels for Hachette UK’s Bookouture, and rural romance for Harper Collins Australia’s Mira imprint.

She’s a Waldenbooks, Bookscan, Amazon, iBooks and Barnes & Noble bestseller, a 2013 RBY and National Readers’ Choice Award winner, and a multiple finalist for awards including the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award, HOLT Medallion, Booksellers’ Best, Golden Quill, Laurel Wreath, More than Magic and has won several CataRomance Reviewers’ Choice Awards.

She loves chatting on social media!

October Reviews: CRAZY STUPID BROMANCE, LOVE YOUR LIFE, & SNAPPED

 

So my birthday was last week and I celebrated by reading three of my most anticipated romance reads of the year.  I had saved them all for last week in hopes that I would be in for a real treat, and I’m happy to say I was not disappointed.  🙂

 

October Reviews:  CRAZY STUPID BROMANCE, LOVE YOUR LIFE, & SNAPPEDCrazy Stupid Bromance (Bromance Book Club, #3) Goodreads

Author: Lyssa Kay Adams

Publication Date: October 27, 2020

Publisher:  Berkley

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

 

Crazy Stupid Bromance is the third installment in Lyssa Kay Adams’ Bromance Book Club series and what a delightful installment it is!  This time we follow Alexis and Noah, who are both friends with the members of the book club.

We met Alexis Carlisle in an earlier book when she came forward as a victim of sexual harassment at the hands of a famous celebrity chef.  Since she came forward, Alexis and her cat café “Toe Beans” have become a magnet for other victims who want to share their stories in a safe place.  Crazy Stupid Bromance opens with Alexis being approached by a young woman.  Alexis assumes she is another victim wanting to share her story and is thus shocked when the woman tells her that they are actually sisters and that their father is dying and needs a kidney.  Stunned and uncertain about how to proceed, Alexis turns to her friend and confidante Noah for guidance.

Noah Logan has a checkered past as a hacker.  He’s now on the up-and-up and works in cybersecurity.  He does still have one big secret though – he’s completely head over heels for Alexis. There’s just one problem…Alexis is also the best friend he has ever had.  If he tries to take the next step and it backfires, he loses both his best friend and the love of his life.  Cue Mack and the rest of the guys from The Bromance Book Club.  Can they help Noah figure out how to move his relationship with Alexis from friends to lovers?

You guys!  I am loving this series so much.  Crazy Stupid Bromance is every bit as entertaining as the first two books in the series are.  I breezed through it in a day and was just so drawn in by both the dramatic story of Alexis and her newfound family as I was by the heartfelt and sometimes comical journey to coupledom of Noah and Alexis.  They have so much chemistry and I just loved their shared nerdiness as they worked Doctor Who Lego sets together, etc.  And of course, I can’t leave out Mack and Company either. They are hilarious as always, especially the Russian, who is always such a scene stealer. (The fourth book is going to be about the Russian and I seriously cannot wait!).  The Russian had a little competition this time though when it came to stealing scenes as Alexis’ cat, Beefcake, gave him a run for his money in that department.

If quirky and hilarious with a side of family drama sounds like your thing, you really need to check this series out!  4.5 STARS

 

 

October Reviews:  CRAZY STUPID BROMANCE, LOVE YOUR LIFE, & SNAPPEDLove Your Life Goodreads

Author: Sophie Kinsella

Publication Date: October 27, 2020

Publisher:  The Dial Press

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

 

Sophie Kinsella’s new rom-com Love Your Life follows Ava, a young woman who has very strong opinions when it comes to love and romance.  Ava is not a fan of dating apps and the power of the almighty algorithms.  A romantic at heart, she believes that the path to love can only be found out in the real world, not behind a computer screen.  She is therefore beyond thrilled when she meets the man of her dreams while she’s in Italy at a writing retreat.  The philosophy behind the retreat is that nothing should get in the way of writing, especially nothing personal.  Therefore, the participants go by fake names and reveal nothing personal about themselves to the rest of the group.  Ava and Mr. Perfect can’t resist each other and end up spending nearly the entire retreat together, skipping classes, cliff diving, and yes, having passionate sex.  The romance is everything Ava could want it to be, and when, at the end of the retreat, she learns that Mr. Perfect’s name is Matt and he lives in London not far from where she lives, life couldn’t be better.  Or could it?

Once the real world encroaches on her fantasy, things with Matt aren’t nearly as perfect as Ava thought they were. What appeared to be perfect compatibility in Italy suddenly appears to be the exact opposite.  Ava and Matt don’t have the same taste in food, art, music, décor, and even in mattresses. She meets his parents and they’re awful to her and constantly throw the name of Matt’s ex in her face.  Ava puts on a brave face and tries to pretend that everything is still picture perfect, but deep down, she starts to wonder if she and Matt have anything at all in common. Ava wants her Italian fantasy romance back, but since that’s not possible, she knows she and Matt need to figure out if they have a path forward.

Love Your Life has a lot of things going for it. It was of course very entertaining to watch Ava and Matt try to navigate the awkwardness of their relationship and I was also a huge fan of Ava’s crazy rescue beagle, Harold who was an adorable scene stealer, and of each of their quirky friend groups.  Their hilarious banter and comical antics had me chuckling to myself every time they appeared in scenes.  I also found both Ava and Matt quite likeable, although I do have to admit that Ava could be a little frustrating.  I loved her big heart and especially her need to rescue things, be it animals, old furniture, discarded houseplants, etc.  She was such a lovely and colorful character, but at the same time, that huge heart and her desire to always look on the bright side of things made her seem almost ridiculous at times when she was trying to pretend to everyone (and to herself) that her relationship with Matt was perfect.  Thankfully Ava finally does open her eyes and eventually shows some growth as the story progresses.  If she hadn’t, I wouldn’t have enjoyed the story nearly as much.

Even with my initial frustration with Ava, I still found Love Your Life to be a charming and fun romance, sure to please all you romantics out there.  3.5 STARS

 

 

October Reviews:  CRAZY STUPID BROMANCE, LOVE YOUR LIFE, & SNAPPEDSnapped (Playbook, #4) Goodreads

Author: Alexa Martin

Publication Date: October 20, 2020

Publisher:  Berkley

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

 

Snapped is the fourth book in Alexa Martin’s Playbook series.  I actually haven’t read the first three books in the series, but I’m thrilled to say I was able to jump right in without any issues.  The series follows the Denver Mustangs football team and their significant others and the focus in Snapped is starting quarterback Quinton Howard, Jr., and Mustangs PR rep Elliott (Elle) Reid.

Snapped opens with a bang. It’s the season opener and as Quinton takes the field, he covers the league logo on his jersey with black tape and then proceeds to take a knee as the national anthem is played.  The owner of the Mustangs is outraged by Quinton’s actions and sends Elliott Reid to get to the bottom of it and find a way to make Quinton stop what he’s doing. Quinton explains his reasons for protesting to Elliott. It’s all about racial injustice with two specific focuses:  1) He wants to lend his support to Black Lives Matter, and 2) He wants to call out the football league for mistreating and neglecting retired players of color.  He then tells her he wants to start a charitable foundation and Elle decides that’s her ‘in’ and vows to help Quinton get that up and running.

I absolutely adored Quinton’s character.  He’s intelligent and sensitive and just so passionate about this cause.  It’s impossible not to root for him and I just loved listening to him speak his truth.  I really liked Elle too, although I did find her to be somewhat naïve at times.  Elle is bi-racial but was raised almost entirely by her white parent.  She says that she was raised in an environment that taught her not to see color.  What this has led to is Elle tending to explain away actions that are clearly racist as not racist.  As she and Quinton start to work together, he calls her out on this and starts to open her eyes to the truth about racial injustice and, in particular, how pervasive it really is.

I thought Snapped was a fantastic read overall and that the author struck a perfect balance between the romance and social justice storylines. I loved watching Quinton and Elle grow closer as they worked together and I especially loved how Quinton helped Elle grow as a person. I also adored the whole Mustangs family, especially the significant others. Such a fun group!

If you’re into romance, and especially if you’re into football, be sure to check out the Playbook series. I’m really looking forward to going back and reading the earlier books in the series.  4 STARS

 

 

 

 

Reviews: MAGIC LESSONS and IN A HOLIDAZE

 

Today I’m sharing reviews of two of my most anticipated reads of 2020, Alice Hoffman’s latest installment in her Practical Magic series and the new holiday-themed novel from Christina Lauren, In a Holidaze.  If these two books are any indication of the caliber of reads we can expect in October, I think we’re all in for a real treat!

 

Reviews:  MAGIC LESSONS and IN A HOLIDAZEMagic Lessons Goodreads

Author: Alice Hoffman

Publication Date: October 6, 2020

Publisher:  Simon & Schuster

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

 

Alice Hoffman is one of my favorite authors so, as you can guess, her latest novel, Magic Lessons, is one of my most anticipated reads of 2020.  I’m thrilled to say, not only did Magic Lessons meet my high expectations, it far exceeded them. I haven’t had many 5 star reads this year, but Magic Lessons is definitely one of them.

Magic Lessons is Hoffman’s third venture into the world of her beloved Owens witches.  Where Hoffman’s second venture into this world, The Rules of Magic, gave us the backstory for the Owens sisters who grew up to be the aunts in Practical Magic, with Magic Lessons, Hoffman ventures back to the 1600s and the Salem Witch Trials, this time to give us the origin of the Owens bloodline as well as the events that led to the curse that has haunted their family for generations.

As always, what I love most about Hoffman’s novels is that her storytelling is truly exquisite.  I felt transported back in time as soon as I started reading and was immediately caught up in the life of Maria Owens, the matriarch of the Owens witches.  Hoffman does such a beautiful job creating an unforgettable character and crafting an origin story for her that flows seamlessly into the other two books in the series.  As an infant, Maria was abandoned by her own mother, left in a snowy field in the English countryside.  A woman named Hannah Owens, who is gifted in the “Unnamed Arts” finds Maria and raises her as her own.  She recognizes that Maria shares her gift and therefore teaches her everything she knows.  After Hannah’s death, Maria falls in love with a man and when he abandons her, she decides to follow him. This is how she ends up in Salem, right as the infamous witch hunts are getting underway, and this man’s betrayal of her is what ultimately leads to the Owens curse everyone who has read the other books is so familiar with.

Magic Lessons is a gorgeous and atmospheric read and I found myself completely invested in Maria’s journey, which is filled with both love and heartbreak, but also with hope, and of course with magic.  I especially loved watching all of the pieces fall into place, with little shout outs here and there to the magic we see in the books that come later in the Owens timeline.

If you’re looking for the perfect atmospheric read to kick off spooky season, look no further than Alice Hoffman’s Magic Lessons. It was everything I wanted for this series and more! 5 STARS

 

 

Reviews:  MAGIC LESSONS and IN A HOLIDAZEIn a Holidaze Goodreads

Author: Christina Lauren

Publication Date: October 6, 2020

Publisher:  Gallery Books

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

 

I don’t normally start my holiday reading this early in the year, but I’m more than happy to make the exception when it’s to read a new novel by Christina Lauren. Their latest collaboration, In a Holidaze,,  follows Mae Jones, a young woman who has found herself in a bit of a rut. She’s stuck in a job that’s going nowhere and is currently living with her parents.  Mae’s life spirals in an even more downward direction when, at her family’s traditional Christmas vacation at their best friends’ cabin in Utah, two terrible things happen:  1) she drunkenly kisses the brother of the guy she’s in love with, and 2) she learns their friends have decided to sell the cabin.

While Mae is mortified about kissing the wrong brother, she’s truly heartbroken about the cabin because it’s her absolute favorite place in the world and they’ve been coming there every Christmas for her entire life.  As they prepare to leave the cabin for what will be the last time, Mae makes one simple wish to the universe:  “Show me what will make me happy.”  The universe is more than happy to oblige Mae’s request, in its own special way, and Mae ends up somehow reliving this last week at the cabin over and over again because apparently the key to her happiness can only be found there.

I had so much fun reading this book!  I’ve always enjoyed the movie Groundhog Day so having that kind of déjà vu, time travel element in the story was such a treat for me.  I also really loved Mae and found her entire situation, and particularly her sadness about the potential loss of such a huge family tradition incredibly relatable.  I was in her corner every step of the way, hoping she would not only figure out what would make her truly happy but that she would also find a way to convince the family not to sell the cabin.

While I adored Mae, what really made the story such a special read for me was the family tradition and how it brought both family and friends together in such a wonderful way. I loved watching them spend the holidays together, especially all of their often hilarious holiday traditions.  They really did become one giant extended family over the years and it was just so heartwarming to read.

And it wouldn’t be a Christina Lauren book if there wasn’t a romance and I was totally on board with the romance in In a Holidaze.  Mae’s chemistry with the brother she really is attracted to is undeniable, and he’s adorable, so I really wanted her to figure out a way as she keeps reliving this week to make it work out between them.

If a mashup of the film Groundhog Day and your favorite Hallmark Christmas movie sounds good to you, I highly recommend Christina Lauren’s In a Holidaze.  It’s the perfect read to get you into the holiday spirit! 4 STARS

Reviews: DON’T LOOK FOR ME & WE ARE NOT FROM HERE

 

 

 

Reviews:  DON’T LOOK FOR ME & WE ARE NOT FROM HEREDon't Look for Me Goodreads

Author: Wendy Walker

Publication Date: September 15, 2020

Publisher:  St. Martin’s Press

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

 

Who’s in the mood for an exciting psychological thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat?  If you are, then look no further that Wendy Walker’s new novel, Don’t Look for Me.  This is my third read from Walker and it’s my favorite yet.

The story follows Molly Clark, whose life is just a mess.  As soon as we meet her, we learn that one evening while driving through her neighborhood, she accidentally struck and killed her youngest daughter, who had unexpectedly darted into the street.  Instead of the rest of Molly’s family coming together to grieve their loss, they choose to collectively give Molly the cold shoulder.  Her other two children constantly say cruel things to her, and Molly is pretty sure, based on his standoffish behavior, that her husband is having an affair.  One night while out driving, Molly’s car runs out of gas.  As she sits there pondering what to do, she thinks about taking it as a sign that she should just walk away from everything in her life.  No one will even miss her and in fact, they’ll probably consider themselves better off without her.  The next morning, Molly’s car is found abandoned and a note is left behind indicating that Molly has done exactly that – left her family with no intention of returning.  Is that really what happened though?

One of my favorite aspects of Don’t Look for Me is that the story comes to us from two points of view, one is Molly and the other is her eldest daughter, Nicole.  Nicole doesn’t buy it for one second that her mother just took off and abandoned the family.  Riddled with guilt over some of the awful things she has said to her mother recently, Nicole vows not to rest until she has found her mother and brought her back home.  The story alternates between giving us glimpses of what has happened to Molly since we saw her in her car and Nicole’s amateur sleuthing to try to track down her mom.  The journey is equal parts riveting and downright creepy, especially the deeper Nicole digs and the longer Molly stays missing.  I was glued to my seat as it became more and more apparent that something way more sinister than a mom abandoning her responsibilities was afoot.

I don’t want to say anything else because you really need to experience these two women’s journeys for yourself, but if you’re looking for an excellent atmospheric thriller to kick off your fall reading, Don’t Look for Me is a great choice.  4 STARS 

 

Reviews:  DON’T LOOK FOR ME & WE ARE NOT FROM HEREWe Are Not From Here Goodreads

Author: Jenny Torres Sanchez

Publication Date: May 19, 2020

Publisher:  Philomel Books

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

 

Jenny Torres Sanchez’s latest novel, We Are Not From Here, is an absolutely heart-wrenching story about three teenagers, Pequena, Pulga, and Chico, who are trying to escape the abusive and dangerous conditions they’ve been surrounded by for most of their young lives. Traveling from Guatemala and up through Mexico, the teens are desperate to find a way across the Mexican border into America where they have a chance to live a better and safer life.

I became invested in Pequena, Pulga, and Chico from the moment I first met each of them.  My heart broke for them because they felt like they had no choice but to take off on such a dangerous and potentially deadly journey, but I also admired their courage and their loyalty to one another.  It was impossible not to root for them to make it safely into America.  In that sense, it was a very emotional read for me.  I laughed with them at times, but then I also cried a lot and just felt so angry and frustrated that their lives are so hard.  As touched as I was by these incredible kids though, it was the tension and suspense that really pulled me along through the story.  Every moment of their journey is downright terrifying and tragedy touches them way too many times along the way.  I was on the edge of my seat and flew through the pages waiting to see what their fate would be.

We Are Not From Here is a powerful and emotional read, and it’s also an important and timely one.  It’s one of those stories I wish everyone would read because I think it would help to create some much needed empathy and understanding toward those who are so desperately looking for a better life for themselves and their loved ones.

If you’re looking for a timely and thought provoking read filled with unforgettable characters and experiences that will move you to tears, We Are Not From Here should be on your reading list.  4.5 STARS

Reviews: August Book Releases That Should Be on Your Reading List

I’ve been quiet on the blog for a few days because I found myself lost in some pretty amazing reads.  If these three novels are anything to go by, August is going to be a fabulous month for new releases.  I’m also a big mood reader and my mood was all over the place this week so there’s a little something here for everyone – a heartwarming contemporary, a suspenseful mystery/thriller, and a compelling work of historical fiction.

Reviews:  August Book Releases That Should Be on Your Reading ListVanessa Yu's Magical Paris Tea Shop Goodreads

Author: Roselle Lim

Publication Date: August 4, 2020

Publisher:  Berkley

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

Roselle Lim’s new novel, Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop is a heartwarming story about love, family, second chances, and most importantly, about finding one’s self.  Vanessa Yu, the protagonist, is a fortune teller but wishes she wasn’t.  For most of her life, Vanessa has been unable to control her “gift,” blurting out fortunes at random and driving away friends and potential boyfriends.  Because the gift has been nothing but a curse her entire life, Vanessa longs to just be rid of it so she can live a normal life.  That doesn’t appear to be an option so when her aunt Evelyn, the only other family member who can tell fortunes, offers to train her, Vanessa jumps at the chance, especially once she realizes it means she’ll be traveling with Evelyn to Paris where Evelyn is opening up a new branch of her popular tea shop.

One of my absolute favorite parts about this book were the author’s lush descriptions of the sights, sounds, and especially the FOOD of Paris.  My mouth was watering with each turn of the page as I read about decadent French pastries and the like.  Vanessa is also a very likeable character, so it was easy to root for her.  I felt so much sympathy for her as she began to fear she would live her entire life alone if she didn’t get control over her abilities. I can’t even imagine that kind of pressure.

The story isn’t just about Vanessa though.  There’s also a fabulous subplot involving Aunt Evelyn. She’s actually leaving the Yu family permanently and relocating to Paris. When it becomes clear to Vanessa that Evelyn’s trip to Paris isn’t a temporary one, she is dying to know why, and since Evelyn isn’t talking, she enlists the wonderful Yu Aunties, who are more than willing to go undercover and find out what Evelyn is up to. I adored the closeness of the Yu family overall and those Yu Aunties are a hilarious addition to what is already an entertaining story.

I don’t want to say much more but I will say that I think this is a story that romance fans are going to love.  Love is in the air for several characters as Vanessa discovers that while she may hate fortune telling, she thoroughly enjoys playing matchmaker and bringing lovers together.  If you’re in the mood for a charming and romantic story that will tug at your heartstrings and leave a smile on your face, be sure to pick up a copy of Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop.  4 STARS

 

Reviews:  August Book Releases That Should Be on Your Reading ListThe Night Swim Goodreads

Author: Megan Goldin

Publication Date: August 4, 2020

Publisher:  St. Martin’s Press

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

With her latest thriller, The Night Swim, Megan Goldin explores the connections between two criminal cases that took place in the same small town 25 years apart.  Rachel Krall, the protagonist of the novel, is a successful crime podcaster.  For the first two seasons of her podcast, “Guilty or Not Guilty, the Podcast that Puts You in the Jury Box”, Rachel looked back at cold cases with a fresh set of eyes.  Now that her show has become immensely popular, Rachel wants to up her game by going to court and sitting in on a live, ongoing trial to present and interpret the evidence to her listeners as it becomes available.  The trial she has chosen in set in a small town and the accused is the town’s golden boy, a talented swimmer who hopes to make the Olympic team someday.  He is accused of brutally raping a high school student who also happens to be the granddaughter of the sheriff.  Tensions are high and opinions are very divided as to whether or not the young man is guilty.

Things take an odd turn, however, when she starts receiving mysterious handwritten letters imploring her to take a look at an old case from 25 years ago.  The case was ruled a drowning because there were no witnesses aside from the victim’s nine-year-old sister who couldn’t really provide any information.  The incident received little press at the time, but the letter writer, who turns out to be the younger sister of the drowning victim, swears her sister’s death was not an accident.  Rachel is laser focused on the current case but the pleading tone of the letters get to her and so she starts to casually ask some of the townsfolk about what happened 25 years ago.  When it becomes clear that no one wants to talk to her about it, Rachel starts to dig deeper and soon discovers some disturbing connections between the old case and the new case.  Will Rachel discover the truth about both of the crimes and thus justice for the victims or will someone try to stop her from exposing long hidden secrets in this small town?

The Night Swim is a riveting mystery that kept me on the edge of my seat from start to finish. The podcast aspect of the novel was also very well done. As Rachel produces each episode, we then get to listen to it before returning to the courthouse to hear more.  I was completely invested in both mysteries and dying to learn the truth as the clues were slowly revealed.  Be forewarned that because this story does deal with rape, there are some violent and heartbreaking scenes as we get closer and closer to the truth.  I found myself near tears a couple of times as the truth came to light.

I enjoyed Megan Goldin’s last thriller, The Escape Room, but I have to say that with her latest effort, The Night Swim, she really knocks it out of the park.  4 STARS.

 

Reviews:  August Book Releases That Should Be on Your Reading ListThe Lions of Fifth Avenue Goodreads

Author: Fiona Davis

Publication Date: August 4, 2020

Publisher:  Dutton Books

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

I love historical fiction and I love New York City, so I’m always drawn to the novels of Fiona Davis because she sets each one in an iconic NYC location.  This time around, Davis has selected the beloved New York Public Library as her setting.

In 1913, Laura Lyons is living in the library with her two young children and her husband, who is the Superintendent of the library.  She aspires to be a journalist and enrolls at Columbia University’s Journalism School.  Her journalism classes take her to the doorstep of an all-women’s club called the Heterodoxy Club. While attending club meetings and listening to “radical” women discuss women’s issues like suffrage and birth control, Laura begins to question her own existence as little more than wife and mother.  There’s a whole world out there she wants to experience.  Her thoughts of taking an alternative path in life are cut short, however, when rare books start disappearing from the library and it’s thought to be an inside job, which places her husband squarely on the suspect list.

In 1993, we meet Sadie Donovan, who also works at the New York Public Library.  Everyone at the library knows Sadie loves her job and is passionate about books, so it’s a given that she’s the best choice to curate the library’s next big exhibit featuring rare books.  What everyone doesn’t know about Sadie is that she’s actually the granddaughter of Laura Lyons.  With her family’s muddled history regarding the library and missing books, Sadie figures the little said about that the better, especially when, to her shock and dismay, rare books she plans to use in her exhibit start to disappear from the library.  As only a small handful of people have keys to the rare books room, it’s considered an inside job and Sadie finds herself on the suspect list.  Sadie becomes determined to find out how the books are being stolen and who is responsible and also hopes deep down that she can somehow redeem the Lyon name and legacy with respect to the library.

What intrigued me the most about this story is that we learn early on in Sadie’s timeline that Laura Lyons, although now deceased, had become a famous feminist essayist at some point in her life. In addition to being eager to find out how the book thefts were being pulled off in each timeline, I was also even more eager to find out what had transpired in Laura’s life to transform her from wife and mother on the verge of tragedy to world renowned author.  I loved how the author wove these two timelines together to gradually reveal the answers to both questions.

It actually surprised me how emotional I found myself getting as I was reading this book. I actually gasped a few times when certain beloved rare books went missing and in one case, where a page was torn out of a beloved treasure.  If you are passionate about books, libraries, New York, and historical fiction, The Lions of Fifth Avenue is the perfect book for you.  4.5 STARS