Tag Archive for: book review

Review: THE SUMMER PLACE by Jennifer Weiner

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

four-stars

About Jennifer Weiner

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

Review: SET ON YOU by Amy Lea

Review:  SET ON YOU by Amy LeaSet on You by Amy Lea
four-stars
Published by Berkley Books on May 10, 2022
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Romance
Pages: 384
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

four-stars

About Amy Lea

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

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

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

Review: BOOK LOVERS by Emily Henry

Review:  BOOK LOVERS by Emily HenryBook Lovers by Emily Henry
Also by this author: Beach Read
five-stars
Published by BERKLEY on May 3, 2022
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Romance
Pages: 384
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

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

 

 

Emily Henry’s new novel Book Lovers follows Nora Stephens, a top notch literary agent in Manhattan. She’s great at what she does, has a take no prisoners attitude, and thus has earned herself a reputation as a shark in the industry.  Nora also has a softer side though, when it comes to her younger sister, Libby.  They lost their mom when they were young and so Nora has practically raised Libby.  Even though Libby is a grown, married woman with baby number three on the way, Nora still deems herself Libby’s protector and the person who fixes things so that Libby is always happy and safe.  So when Libby announces she and Nora are going to get away from New York for an adventure before the new baby arrives, of course Nora drops everything and follows Libby, to of all random places, Sunshine Falls, North Carolina, the tiny town that inspired one of Nora’s client’s most famous novels.

I really adored Nora and liked that we got to see both that tough, driven workaholic side of her personality as well as the softer, more vulnerable, yet ultra-protective side that comes out whenever she’s with her sister. You can just tell that Nora and Libby have been through a lot together and their close bond is very moving to witness. I also loved that as part of their trip to Sunshine Falls, Libby has created a “bucket list” of sorts for her and Nora to complete – wear flannel, date a local, go skinny dipping, etc.  Libby’s list lends itself to many entertaining, often laugh out loud moments as it forces Nora way outside of her comfort zone.

Watching the sisters interact was definitely a highlight of Book Lovers for me, but that’s not to say the romantic element was any less satisfying.  In fact, it was pretty spectacular, particularly if you’re into romance of the slow-burn variety with witty banter that moves from sharp and cutting to increasingly flirtatious the closer the characters become to one another.  Even though Nora wasn’t a fan at first, I really loved Charlie Lastra from the first moment we meet him, mainly because he really gives Nora a run for her money in the shark department.  He’s a broody editor type who is not impressed by Nora showing up late for their meeting and isn’t bashful about telling her this.  The fireworks between them are immediate, and even though Nora swears she can’t stand the guy, she also can’t stop thinking about him.  When he also shows up in Sunshine Falls unexpectedly and runs into Nora, the sparks just keep flying.  I loved watching their relationship grow once they each get past their initial impressions of one another.  It turns out that Charlie is actually from Sunshine Falls and is home dealing with some complicated family issues.  Henry excels at writing realistic characters with messy lives, and both Nora and Charlie fit the bill.  As the older sibling in my family, I could relate to many of the things each character was trying to work their way through.  That said, I was also very much rooting for them to team up and face life’s challenges together.

I love Emily Henry’s books anyway, but Book Lovers truly felt like it was custom-made for me.  I love New York and I love small town settings, and I get both with this book.  I also adore book loving characters and the enemies-to-lovers romance trope, and again, I get both here. Lastly and perhaps the biggest draw of all, the sisterly bond between Nora and Libby, and all of the complicated family issues facing both Nora and Charlie.  If you’re familiar with my blog and the types of books I tend to gush over, you already know that Book Lovers checked pretty much all the boxes for me. It made me laugh, it made me cry, and it ultimately left me with a smile on my face.  I think Emily Henry has another winner on her hands with Book Lovers.

five-stars

About Emily Henry

Emily Henry writes stories about love and family for both teens and adults. She studied creative writing at Hope College and the now-defunct New York Center for Art & Media Studies. Find her on Instagram @EmilyHenryWrites.

Reviews: THE WEDDING SEASON & I KISSED SHARA WHEELER

TGIF!  I’m so happy the weekend is here.  I don’t really have any big plans to speak of, but I’m hoping for nice enough weather to actually be able to read outside for a bit.  Today I’m sharing reviews on two pretty great reads I had this week, one from a favorite author, Casey McQuiston, and one from a new-to-me author, Katy Birchall.

 

Reviews:  THE WEDDING SEASON & I KISSED SHARA WHEELERThe Wedding Season Goodreads

Author: Katy Birchall

Publication Date: May 3, 2022

Publisher:  St. Martin’s Griffin

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

 

I’ve been wanting to try Katy Birchall’s novels for a while now and when I saw her latest novel, The Wedding Season, described as Four Weddings and a Funeral meets The Wedding Party, I knew I had to read it.

The story opens with the protagonist, Freya Scott, happily preparing to marry her longtime boyfriend, Matthew.  That is, until Matthew pulls her into a broom closet the day before the wedding and breaks up with her.  Feeling utterly humiliated, Freya wonders how in the world she will survive the seven weddings she has to attend in the upcoming months, what she and her friends have dubbed “The Wedding Season.”  She has no idea how she’ll be able to cope with the awkward pitying looks, the gossip, and even worse, the fact that Matthew will probably also be attending most of them since they have so many mutual friends.  Freya’s best friends Ruby and Leo, who as an aside, are very much friendship goals, come to the rescue.  They devise a list of outrageous challenges, one per wedding, that will serve to distract Freya and keep her from dwelling on her own misfortune.  The tasks range from being the last person standing on the dancefloor, to kissing a stranger, to running naked down a hotel corridor.  Armed with this survival guide and endless moral support from Ruby and Leo, Freya sets out to tackle “The Wedding Season.” She has no idea how truly life changing her challenges will turn out to be!

You guys, this book was such a delight!  I think what Freya was going through is an experience that many will find either relatable or else one of their own worst nightmares.  I loved how even though she was devastated, Freya does start to embrace the idea of moving on without Matthew and that she just goes for it when it comes to completing the tasks on her list.  That list provides so many laugh out loud moments and they made for a fantastic balance with the more serious elements of the story, just as they made Freya an even more endearing character than she already was.

Watching Freya find her way forward without Matthew was such a wonderful experience.  It’s an awkward journey for her at times as she navigates through some confrontational moments with Matthew, but it’s also very healing and freeing for her as she comes to realize she doesn’t need him in her life and that she may actually be better off without him.  She also starts to open her eyes and heart to the possibility of a new romance, but that aspect of the story takes a bit of a backseat to Freya’s personal journey.  I would have loved a little more romance, but I was all in for Freya so the story was still fantastic as is.

The Wedding Season is a heartwarming and hilarious story about love and friendship.  It left me feeling so hopeful about Freya’s future and also wanting sequels that feature all of Freya’s fabulous friends.  Just an all around delightful read!  4.5 STARS

 

Reviews:  THE WEDDING SEASON & I KISSED SHARA WHEELERI Kissed Shara Wheeler Goodreads

Author: Casey McQuiston

Publication Date: May 3, 2022

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

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

 

I was a big fan of Casey McQuiston’s first two novels, Red White and Royal Blue and One Last Stop, so I was excited to hear she has a new one coming out and that it’s her YA debut.

I Kissed Shara Wheeler follows Chloe Green, a high school senior who moved from California to Alabama her freshman year. Enrolled in a conservative Christian school, Chloe has felt like the black sheep of the school the entire time she has been there.  When the story opens, she is just months away from graduation and has her eyes on the prize, class Valedictorian.  She has been competing neck and neck for the coveted title and all its glory with the school darling, Shara Wheeler.  Shara is the Principal’s daughter, a good Christian girl, and everyone just adores her.  Well, everyone except Chloe.  Chloe can’t stand her and would love nothing more than to beat her out for the top spot.

A month before graduation everything changes though – out of nowhere, Shara kisses Chloe and then by the next morning, has disappeared.  Chloe starts desperately hunting for clues as to Shara’s whereabouts, because let’s face it, winning Valedictorian because your main rival stopped coming to school isn’t very satisfying.  During her search, she learns that she isn’t the only one Shara kissed. She also kissed Rory Heron, the bad boy who lives next door to her, and she kissed her longtime boyfriend, Smith Parker. What kind of game is Shara playing?  Because it clearly is a game, considering that before she vanished, she left each of them a letter, followed by a series of clues that promise to lead to her whereabouts.  It becomes clear that if they want to solve the mystery of where Shara is, why she chose to disappear, and why she chose them to play the game, they’re going to have to work together to piece together this odd scavenger hunt.

McQuiston has a gift for writing lovable characters so it’s no surprise that I really liked Chloe, Rory, and Smith. I enjoyed them all individually, and as a group, as they begin to bond while they work to solve each of Shara’s clues.  Chloe is scrappy and determined, Rory has a reputation for being a bad boy but is actually pretty sweet, and Smith is also just a cinnamon roll.  While I was just as clueless as these three as to why Shara has them jumping through so many hoops for her, I loved what the quest actually does for them.  It leads them to interact with each other as well as other students in the school they’ve never really interacted with before because the school is full of cliques.  Chloe, in particular, shows a lot of growth in this area because as she interacts with more and more different people, she realizes that she isn’t as different from some of her fellow students as she had led herself to believe and it leads her to examine some of her own prejudices and realize how unfair she was being.  As fascinating as the journey was to find Shara and learn her reasons for doing what she did, I found this journey of Chloe’s to be my favorite part of the story. Speaking of the mystery surrounding Shara, I don’t want to spoil anything there so I’ll leave it for you to discover on your own. It’s one heck of a ride though, I’ll say that much, and eye opening for all of the characters involved.

The only real downside for me was that we only get chapters from Chloe’s perspective.  I think some chapters from Rory or Smith as they are on Shara’s trail, or even from Shara herself to give us some hints into her motivations, would have made the story even better.  Still a fabulous read though so it’s only a minor quibble.

I Kissed Shara Wheeler is a story about relentlessly pursuing what you think you want in life, only to stumble into what it is you really need. It’s a mystery, a romance, a story about second chances, and so much more.  There’s definitely a little something for everyone, so be sure to check it out!  4 STARS.

 

Reviews: THE HOMEWRECKERS & EVERYTHING MUST GO

Happy Monday all! I hope everyone had a nice weekend.  We had absolutely fantastic weather here so I spent a lot of time outside starting to get our yard and flower beds ready for planting.  I’ve also been helping my son prepare for his AP Science test so lots of nights spent quizzing on vocabulary words.  I did manage to squeeze some reading time in as well though, so I’m back today with a couple of new reviews for you.

 

Reviews:  THE HOMEWRECKERS & EVERYTHING MUST GOThe Homewreckers Goodreads

Author: Mary Kay Andrews

Publication Date: May 3, 2022

Publisher:  St. Martin’s Press

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

The Homewreckers by Mary Kay Andrews is a story about love, loss, and how to find your path forward after losing the love of your life.  Set in beautiful Savannah, Georgia, the story follows Hattie Kavanaugh, a young woman who tragically lost her husband in a motorcycle accident seven years ago.  Since his death, Hattie has basically thrown herself completely into her work, while leaving the rest of her life on hold. Hattie’s work is restoring old historic homes to their former glory, a passion she shared with her husband and which she still shares with her father-in-law.  Hattie’s head still isn’t completely in the game though and so when she makes a bad investment on a house she was hoping to restore and flip, she finds herself in desperate need of cash and reluctantly agrees to star in a reality TV show about flipping houses.  Little does she realize that not wanting to be on TV will soon be the least of her worries.

Hattie is a fantastic protagonist. She’s feisty and fierce, takes no crap from anyone, probably a byproduct of working in a field that is filled predominantly with men and therefore constantly underestimated.  Beneath that tough exterior, however, there’s also the vulnerable, heartbroken side of Hattie.  I found her such an easy character to love and I was fully invested in her story.  I also loved that she has maintained such a close relationship with her father-in-law.  It was sweet watching the two of them interact.  Even though her husband is gone, it’s clear that Hattie is still very much part of the Kavanaugh family.

Aside from my love for Hattie, what really took this story to the next level for me was all the drama that ensued from the moment production starts on Hattie’s show.  First, there’s the aggressively determined producer who is convinced Hattie and this TV show are going to be huge hits.  Then there’s the handsome and all-too-charming cohost whose interest in Hattie may or may not be genuine.  Lastly, there’s the renovation project itself, which seems to be downright cursed. One bad thing after another keeps happening – fires, threats, code violations, and when they open up one of the walls in the old house to repair some damage, they even find the wallet of a beloved high school teacher who has been missing for 17 years and presumed dead.  In short, there’s drama, intrigue, and suspense in spades, making for one heck of a wild ride!

I don’t want to give away anything about the developments in that missing person case, but wow, talk about twists and turns. Andrews kept me guessing every step of the way and glued to this book until I had all the answers.  There is a bit of romance as well, but I’d say it definitely takes a backseat to Hattie’s overall journey, to what is going on with the house renovations (the actual filming, the butting of heads between cast members, showrunners, network executives, etc.), and of course with finding out what happened to the teacher and how her wallet ended up inside the wall of a random old beach house.

If the way I devoured this story in less than a day is any indication, I think The Homewreckers is going to land in a lot of beach bags this summer.  It’s the perfect beach read!  4 STARS

 

Reviews:  THE HOMEWRECKERS & EVERYTHING MUST GOEverything Must Go Goodreads

Author: Camille Pagán

Publication Date: April 26, 2022

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

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

Everything Must Go by Camille Pagan is a wonderful, heartfelt story about love, family, and second chances.  It also explores the strength of the bond between mother-daughter, as well as that of the bond between sisters.

Laine Francis’ life is in turmoil. More than anything, she wants to be a mother, but her husband has been putting her off for years, saying he’s not ready.  Laine’s biological clock is ticking so loudly that it’s all she can hear and so she tells her husband she wants a divorce since they clearly don’t want the same things.  On top of that, she has received a frantic call from one of her sisters, begging her to come to New York to help with their mom, who hasn’t been herself lately.  Even though Laine has no desire to come back to New York, she knows she is the only sibling who doesn’t have small children to care for so she’s the logical choice. When Laine arrives in New York, she runs into Ben, her former best friend. She hasn’t seen Ben since they had a huge falling out years ago, so seeing him again after all this time brings back a lot of memories. She hopes seeing him again will provide the opportunity to mend their relationships, but she soon realizes that her sisters were right about their mom.  Something is definitely wrong and it’s not just the occasional forgetfulness.

I think this is a story that many readers, especially those with aging parents, are going to find so relatable.  As the sisters try to determine the full extent of their mom’s memory loss, they have to have tough heart-to-heart conversations about what to do, how best to care for her, while maintaining as much of her independence and dignity as possible, etc.  I loved how realistically these relationships were portrayed and how the sisters all came together to help their mom.  I also loved that in addition to Laine’s perspective, which we got since she was the one taking the lead when it came to their mom, we also got the perspective of Sally, so we could see what was going on in her head, both as she realized what was happening to her and as she realized that her girls knew as well.  Not only that, but we also get an inside look at some pretty major secrets Sally has been keeping from her family.  I found Laine’s journey to figure out what she really wants from her life, especially regarding motherhood, just as compelling as Sally’s story.  There were so many different layers that kept me turning the pages and fully invested in seeing how things would turn out for both Laine and Sally.

While Everything Must Go touches on some pretty weighty topics like divorce and dementia, it’s ultimately a feel good story that left me shedding a few happy tears by the time I got to the last page.  4 STARS

Review: THE NO-SHOW by Beth O’Leary

Review:  THE NO-SHOW by Beth O’LearyThe No-Show by Beth O'Leary
Also by this author: The Switch
four-stars
Published by BERKLEY on April 12, 2022
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Women's Fiction
Pages: 352
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

four-stars

About Beth O’Leary

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

Reviews: FOUR AUNTIES AND A WEDDING & LESSONS IN CHEMISTRY

 

Hey everyone, hope you all had a wonderful weekend.  I’ve been a coach potato for the past two weekends, first binging season 2 of Bridgerton, followed by Emily in Paris, and finally Cruella on Disney Plus.  I’m blaming it on the cold/allergy funk I’ve been in almost ever since I got back from New York.  Whatever it is, it’s not Covid but has kept me ridiculously congested for two weeks now.  I’ve gone through so many tissues I feel like I should buy stock in Puffs, haha.  Anyway, not a lot of blogging happened but I have gotten a fair amount of reading done, including the two novels I’m reviewing today.  Both were exactly what I needed to take my mind off my illness, so I’m thrilled to share my thoughts on them with you today. 🙂

 

Reviews:  FOUR AUNTIES AND A WEDDING & LESSONS IN CHEMISTRYFour Aunties and a Wedding (Aunties, #2) Goodreads

Author: Jesse Q. Sutanto

Publication Date: March 29, 2022

Publisher:  Berkley Books

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

I read Dial A for Aunties, the first book in Jesse Q. Sutanto’s Aunties series back when much of the world was on lockdown because of the COVID-19 pandemic.  That book with its crazy and lovable Aunties delivered so many laughs and left me with a huge smile on my face at a time when I didn’t think there was much of anything that could cheer me up.  I therefore couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy of the second book, Four Aunties and a Wedding. I’m thrilled to report that the Aunties are back and are just as much of a hilarious delight as they were in the first book!

The wedding in question is of course Meddy Chan’s and her college sweetheart, Nathan, and the Aunties are going to do everything in their power to make sure their niece’s big day is picture perfect.  If you read the first book, you’ll remember Meddy. She’s a bit more traditional and conservative than her Aunties and sometimes wishes they would tone it down a bit, but no matter how over-the-top they are, Meddy ultimately knows that everything they do, they do out of love for her.  Whether it’s wearing hats with gigantic kimono dragons perched on them or taking secret lessons in British slang and speaking in fake British accents so that they’ll “fit in” better at the ceremony, which is taking place in Oxford, England, the Aunties’ goal is to make a good impression on Nathan and his parents. I lost track of how many times I laughed out loud, but the Aunties saying “bugger off” and calling people “tossers” was definitely a highlight, haha!

Even though humor is the main order of the day with this book, there are also a few lovely and more serious moments, both between Meddy and Nathan, and between Meddy and her Aunties.  There’s a lot of love and loyalty in this book and it really comes shining through.

The key to the Auntie books is that you really have to love over-the-top antics.  It’s non-stop craziness and hilarity, especially once Meddy and her Aunties uncover an assassination plot that is going to ruin Meddy’s wedding and the Aunties make it their mission to foil the plot and save the day.  If you’re expecting anything less than a zany good time, you might end up a bit disappointed.  But if you want to straight up laugh yourself silly, you’ll definitely want to check out Four Aunties and a Wedding4 STARS.

 

Reviews:  FOUR AUNTIES AND A WEDDING & LESSONS IN CHEMISTRYLessons in Chemistry Goodreads

Author: Bonnie Garmus

Publication Date: April 5, 2022

Publisher: Doubleday Books

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

I wasn’t at all sure what to expect going into Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus, but I was too intrigued by the unusual premise of a female scientist becoming the beloved star of a popular cooking show to pass up a chance to read and review this book.

The story is set in the 1960s and Elizabeth Zott is a woman ahead of her time.  She’s a brilliant scientist, by far smarter than every man she studied with or worked for, but the scientific community at that time was dominated by males and misogyny.  No one wants to give her the time of day and even worse, many of her colleagues seem to go out of their way to try to discredit and degrade her every step of the way.  I adored Elizabeth. Not only is she brilliant, but she’s also stubborn, resilient, and downright inspiring in the way she refuses to let these men hold her back.  I loved her strength and her belief that if she just worked hard enough and smart enough, that somehow she would get the recognition she deserves.

The one man who believes in Elizabeth’s brilliance is Calvin Edwards, a fellow scientist who Elizabeth falls in love with.  Their relationship is a bit nontraditional in the sense that Elizabeth doesn’t believe in marriage, but married or not, it’s clear the pair are soulmates, which makes it all the more devastating when Elizabeth ends up a single parent raising Calvin’s child by herself.  Again she finds herself belittled and demeaned by the men in her profession, and again Elizabeth is determined to succeed in spite of them, which is where the cooking show comes into play.

A TV producer, who happens to be a fellow parent at the school Elizabeth’s daughter attends, is fascinated by Elizabeth’s unique and quirky, no-nonsense personality.  He convinces her to host an afternoon cooking show geared towards housewives, and has no idea what he gets himself into because in true Elizabeth Zott fashion, she turns the show on its end.  I really loved what she did with this show and found myself rooting for her every step of the way because what she creates is an environment that educates, celebrates and empowers women, reminding them of their self-worth in what is often a thankless job, that of being a homemaker and raising children.

Lesson in Chemistry covers a wild variety of topics and while Elizabeth’s delightfully quirky personality makes for some hilarious moments, overall the story is a pretty serious one, tackling weighty issues such as misogyny and sexual abuse.  I found myself very passionate as I was reading about Elizabeth’s experiences, cheering her on but also just so angry on her behalf because of the way she is mistreated so badly by those who want to keep her in her place.

With its many layers and the unforgettable Elizabeth Zott, Lessons in Chemistry is an absolute gem of a book. 4.5 STARS

Romance Reviews – SADIE ON A PLATE and IN A NEW YORK MINUTE

Hey everyone!  I’m back from my trip to New York and ready to get back to blogging.  I had a wonderful trip and loved being able to share my love of the city with my son since it was his first time there.  We had great weather most days, although it did rain a bit and was pretty foggy on Thursday.  We took him on a boat ride so he could see the Statue of Liberty, the Freedom Tower, the Brooklyn Bridge, and other iconic sites around the island, and we also did a carriage ride in Central Park and took him shopping in SoHo, among other activities.  The bright lights and chaos of Times Square was his favorite part of the trip, with New York style pizza a close second, haha.  I also introduced him to Broadway with Hamilton and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.  I was not the biggest fan of the printed script version of Cursed Child or of she who shall not be named but I have to admit that seeing it on stage was pretty great. The special effects are amazing.  My son gave two thumbs up to New York overall, but we are all definitely glad to be back to the comfort and quiet of home now.

Today I’m sharing reviews of two books I read while traveling to and from New York.  Both are quick and wonderful reads, perfect for my trip.

 

Romance Reviews – SADIE ON A PLATE and IN A NEW YORK MINUTESadie on a Plate Goodreads

Author: Amanda Elliot

Publication Date: March 15, 2022

Publisher:  Berkley Books

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

Sadie on a Plate is Amanda Elliot’s debut adult romance novel and it is an absolute delight.  It follows Sadie who is making a name for herself as a rising star in Seattle’s culinary world.  That is, until a very public breakup with her famous chef boyfriend gets her blacklisted from pretty much every restaurant in the area. When we meet Sadie, she is sure her career is over and is reeling from the loss until a stroke of good fortune lands in her lap – she has been chosen for a coveted spot on the next season of the popular reality TV show, Chef Supreme.  If Sadie can perform well in this competition, she can get her career back on track.

I love a good underdog story so I was rooting for Sadie to kick butt in this competition. Sadie is smart, sweet, talented, and resilient and I just really wanted her to prove everyone wrong since there have been some folks in her life who don’t think she has what it takes to succeed.  I was also rooting for her to hit it off with Luke, the sexy seatmate she meets on her cross-country flight, because she deserves someone better in her life than her ex. Even though Sadie and Luke have major chemistry, however, there’s one major obstacle to any possibility of a happily ever after for them.  When Sadie arrives at the Chef Supreme studios, she learns that Luke is actually one of the judges so he is off limits unless she wants to be disqualified.

While I really enjoyed the forbidden love element of their relationship because it added drama and suspense, not to mention longing looks from afar, the romance does not take center stage in this story.  Instead, it bookends the main focus of the story, which is actually the competition itself.  If you enjoy reality TV cooking shows like Top Chef, you are sure to enjoy the competition scenes in this book. Between the delectable descriptions of each dish Sadie and her fellow competitors created, to the tense competitive atmosphere, it truly felt like I was watching a cooking competition.  The entire cast of secondary characters was great, but I most enjoyed following Sadie as she came up with so many creative ways to show that Jewish cuisine is so much more than just latkes and pastrami.  By the end, she had me wishing she really did have a restaurant where I could partake of her delicious sounding creations.

I would have liked a little more focus on the romance, but honestly, watching Sadie come into her own and grow both on a personal level and as a chef was more than enough for me.  I would highly recommend Sadie on a Plate to anyone who enjoys a good underdog story with a side of romance and to fans of reality TV cooking shows.  4 STARS

 

Romance Reviews – SADIE ON A PLATE and IN A NEW YORK MINUTEIn a New York Minute Goodreads

Author: Kate Spencer

Publication Date: March 15, 2022

Publisher: Forever

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

Kate Spencer’s new novel In a New York Minute is a hilarious yet tender romantic comedy that perfectly illustrates how you just never know what (or who) life is going to throw your way.  It follows Franny Doyle, a young woman, who in the opening scene of the book, has just been laid off from her job.  It wasn’t a great job, by far, but it at least paid the bills.  Feeling sad and defeated, Franny lugs her box of belongings onto the crowded subway.  Just when she thinks her day can’t possibly get any worse, she feels the back of her dress get caught in the subway doors and rip wide open.  A dashing stranger offers her his suit jacket so that she doesn’t moon all of Manhattan, and their embarrassingly awkward meet cute is captured on video.  They go their separate ways without even exchanging names, but the incident goes viral on social media and soon, half of New York is rooting for the “Subway QTs” to get together.  True to form, the local media outlets know a good story when they see it and so they set out to find and reunite Franny and her mystery hero.

I was hooked on this book from this laugh out loud funny opening scene and was immediately rooting for Franny to find happiness and to follow her dream of owning her own design business.  I was also hardcore rooting for the Subway QTs.  Even though their meeting on the subway was brief, there were definitely sparks, although you wouldn’t know it when they are finally reunited on the local news for an even more awkward encounter than their first one.  The hero, Hayes Montgomery III, handsome and chivalrous as he is, is truly as socially awkward as they come.  Pretty much everything he says comes out wrong and he is way more self-conscious than you would expect.  As much as I liked Franny, it’s Hayes who really stole my heart. His awkwardness is just so endearing, especially since you can also tell what a great guy he is. I loved watching he and Franny get to know each other.

In addition to the delightful slow burn romance between Franny and Hayes, there is also a fabulous cast of secondary characters. I especially loved Franny’s best friends, Cleo and Lola. They were so much fun to watch in action and I just loved how loyal and supportive they were of each other. They were total squad goals!

I was also a huge fan of the New York setting and thought the author did a brilliant job capturing the vibrant atmosphere of the city.  I was actually reading this novel while riding the train up to New York and it had me even more excited to experience the city than I already was.

In a New York Minute is a gem of a book. It’s filled with heart, humor, and heat and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a slow burn romance as well as an engaging story that is laugh out loud funny. 4.5 STARS

Reviews: THE GOLDEN COUPLE & THE BOOK OF COLD CASES

I know Sharon usually posts the majority of our thriller reviews on Thriller Thursday, but today I actually have two thriller reviews of my own to share.  I think I’m finally starting to come out of my pandemic funk with respect to darker reads because these two books were great and have me craving even more thrillers to read.  If you have any thriller recs to share, hit me up in the comments.

 

Reviews:  THE GOLDEN COUPLE & THE BOOK OF COLD CASESThe Golden Couple Goodreads

Author: Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

Publication Date: March 8, 2022

Publisher:  St. Martin’s Press

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

Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen, my favorite thriller writing duo, are back with a brand new domestic psychological thriller that is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat. The Golden Couple follows a married couple who turn to an unconventional therapist for help when they realize their marriage is in big trouble. They get more than they bargained for when the therapist decides to play detective and uncovers a treasure trove of secrets and lies, beneath the surface of what, to outsiders, seemed like the perfect marriage.

Avery Chambers, the therapist, is such an intriguing character.  She’s actually not even a licensed therapist, well not anymore anyway. She had her license revoked due to some ethically questionable actions on her part and now she works as a consultant, picking and choosing her clients based on her unconventional 10 step therapy program.  She’s a bit infamous, often referred to as a rogue therapist, but she gets results, which is why Marissa and Matthew Bishop turn to her for help. I really enjoyed following Avery throughout this story – she’s shrewd, resourceful, and definitely has a knack for seeing through people and getting to the truth of the matter. In addition to the work she does for the Bishops, Avery also has a personal crisis of her own that she is dealing with. She’s being stalked by a pharmaceutical corporation because she helped one of their employees blow the whistle on their unsavory business practices.  They want a name and she refuses to give them one, so they are aggressively pursuing her.  I loved the extra layer of suspense, drama, and the surprisingly creepy factor this pursuit added to the story.

Avery’s work with the Bishops is what takes center stage and I loved watching Avery peel back the layers of this couple’s relationship.  As soon as she meets with them the first time, she manages to coax the confession out of Marissa that she has cheated on Matthew.  But even as that explosive secret comes to light, it’s clear to Avery that not only are Matthew and Marissa keeping secrets from each other; they’re also not being forthright with her.  The authors do a fabulous job of creating tension and suspense in each of these therapy sessions.  I found myself eager for each appointment to see what tricks Avery would have up her sleeve as she pursued her unconventional route to saving the Bishop’s marriage.

There were also several very intriguing threads running through the story that kept me thoroughly engaged because I couldn’t wait to see how they fed into the main plot.  One, the whole time Avery is working to reconcile Matthew and Marissa, there is someone out there sending Marissa flowers and leaving her notes, as if trying to derail their therapy.  And two, there’s Marissa’s assistant, Polly, who is acting stranger and stranger by the day – dressing like Marissa, wearing the same perfume, and even mimicking some of her gestures. And why is she suddenly trying to make contact with Matthew, whom she barely knows?

The Golden Couple is a riveting psychological thriller that is about so much more than a marriage in trouble, as becomes clear when all of the pieces finally come together in an explosive and unpredictable conclusion.  If you enjoy gripping reads filled with multi-layered characters, plenty of suspenseful twists and turns to keep you guessing, and a reveal that will shock you, this is the book for you.  4 STARS

 

Reviews:  THE GOLDEN COUPLE & THE BOOK OF COLD CASESThe Book of Cold Cases Goodreads

Author: Simone St. James

Publication Date: March 15, 2022

Publisher: Berkley

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

The Book of Cold Cases by Simone St. James is a creepy, atmospheric thriller that delivers not only a riveting murder mystery but also endless thrills and chills.  If you enjoyed St. James’ last novel, The Sun Down Motel, I think her latest novel will be right up your alley because it has a similar haunting vibe.

The story follows Shea Collins, a young woman who is obsessed with true-crime and who runs a successful blog called The Book of Cold Cases where she dishes about cold cases with fellow true crime fans.  By day, however, Shea works as receptionist in a medical office, and is shocked when Beth Greer casually walks into her office one day. Forty years ago, Beth Greer was the prime suspect in the brutal Lady Killer Murders, a string of brutal murders where men were shot in the face at close range, the only evidence left behind being notes written in what appears to be a woman’s handwriting.  Beth ended up being acquitted when she went to trial, but the murders have never been solved so a cloud of suspicion still hangs over her head. Shea follows Beth when she leaves and manages to secure an interview with the infamous woman. The rest of the story unfolds from both Shea’s and Beth’s perspectives as we finally learn the truth about the murders.

Both Shea and Beth are fascinating characters with many layers to them.  We learn that Shea is obsessed with true crime in part because she was the victim of a crime herself when she was a child and was nearly abducted by a man who coaxed her into his car. Shea managed to escape, but the man went on to abduct, rape and murder another little girl.  This incident haunts Shea and has colored many aspects of her life – she has an absolute phobia when it comes to getting into cars, she doesn’t trust people very easily, etc.  Even with her trust issues, however, Shea finds herself irresistibly drawn to Beth and her story, even though she has no idea if she’s meeting an innocent woman or an elusive serial killer. And I could easily understand why. There’s just something almost intoxicating about Beth and the whole “Is she or isn’t she a cold-blooded killer?” vibe she has going on.  I desperately wanted to know the truth as much as Shea did and I’m not even a true crime fan!

I loved how St. James kept me guessing the entire book.  I didn’t know which characters I could trust and which ones I couldn’t, but each interview between Shea and Beth was that much more engrossing, especially when it became clear that it would not be Beth who revealed all, but instead it was the Greer House itself that had a jaw-dropping story to tell.  I don’t want to give away any spoilers but if you enjoy a bit of supernatural creepiness in your thrillers, you’re going to love the scenes that unfold in that house.  Let’s just say it had me giving my own house the side eye the entire time I was reading, haha.

It’s hard to say more without giving away the reveal, so I’m going to stop here but if the idea of a determined blogger trying to solve two forty-year old murders, while at the same time, coming to terms with her own childhood trauma, appeals to you, you’ll definitely want to pick up a copy of The Book of Cold Cases.  It’s atmospheric, haunting, and unputdownable.  4 STARS

Reviews: THE SUITE SPOT & IF YOU ASK ME

 

How in the world is it March already?  It feels like just last week I was reading my first book of 2022 and now it’s nearly spring and I’ve read 46 books. Amazing how much reading time insomnia and cancelling your cable can get you, lol. Anyway, I hope everyone is doing well. Today, I’m sharing two more fabulous reads that straddle the line between romance and women’s fiction.  This was my second read from Trish Doller this year and she’s now an auto-buy author for me.  This was my first time reading LIbby Hubscher and I enjoyed this one so much that I’m really hoping to read her last book Meet Me in Paradise later this month.

 

Reviews:  THE SUITE SPOT & IF YOU ASK METhe Suite Spot (Beck Sisters, #2) Goodreads

Author: Trish Doller

Publication Date: March 8, 2022

Publisher:  St. Martin’s Griffin

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

One of my first five star reads of 2022 was Float Plan, the first book in Trish Doller’s Beck Sisters series.  It was such a beautifully written story about loss and grief and about how Anna Beck finds her path forward after losing the love of her life.  That book just blew me away, so needless to say, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the second book in the series, The Suite Spot, and meet Anna’s sister Rachel Beck. How did this book compare to the first one?  5 stars all the way!

Rachel Beck’s life is not going as she had hoped it would.  She’s still living with her parents and she’s a single mom dealing with a flaky baby daddy.  Rachel loves her daughter, and she loves her job as a night reservations manager at a posh hotel in Miami Beach, that is until she gets fired for telling off one of the hotel’s VIP guests when he tries to ram his tongue down her throat.  With limited prospects, Rachel decides it’s time for a fresh start and she takes a management position at a brewery hotel on an island in Lake Erie called Kelleys Island.

I really admired Rachel’s spunk and determination.  It’s not easy to just pack up and move across the country, but she knew she needed to do something both for herself and to make sure her daughter has the best possible life.  I hated that she was wrongfully terminated from a job she loved, but I was so happy for her when it becomes clear that this new job is the chance of a lifetime, definitely professionally but also personally – if she can get Mason, the sexy but moody hotel owner to open up to her.

As much as I loved Rachel, I think I may have loved Mason even more.  Under that moody exterior is a man who has suffered a devastating personal loss and is clearly still reeling from it and struggling to move forward.  As soon as the townsfolk meet Rachel, they are rooting for her to be the one to help him put the pieces of his life back together.  And I was rooting right along with them because I loved the chemistry between Rachel and Mason and I loved how they were such a great team when it came to bringing all of the details of the hotel together.  They were just so in synch with one another and I thought they really brought out the best in each other too.  Each is exactly what the other needed.

Rachel and Mason’s growing relationship had me 100% invested in the story from a romantic standpoint, and there was also plenty of angst and drama to keep me turning those pages.  I also really loved all of the scenes that dealt with the brewery and with the designing of the hotel’s interior.  Those scenes could have easily been dry and dull and pulled me out of the story, but instead, I thought the scenes were vibrant and really helped enhance the reading experience. I could practically see the beautiful rooms coming together and taste the new delicious craft beers that Mason was brewing.

I flew through The Suite Spot in just a couple of sittings and was left thoroughly satisfied by the book’s conclusion.  If you’re in the mood for an engaging and heartwarming story with a strong focus on romance, family, and how to cope with loss and grief, you’re going to want to check out The Suite Spot. 5 STARS.

 

Reviews:  THE SUITE SPOT & IF YOU ASK MEIf You Ask Me Goodreads

Author: Libby Hubscher

Publication Date: March 8, 2022

Publisher: Berkley

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

Libby Hubscher’s new novel If You Ask Me is a heartwarming and hilarious romance that follows what happens when a popular advice columnist finds her own life in turmoil.

Violet Covington writes Dear Sweetie, a popular advice column in North Carolina.  She doles out sage wisdom on everything from matters of etiquette to parenting to relationship advice.  When the story opens, Violet has just received the great news that her column is being considered for national syndication.  She goes home, intending to tell her husband and celebrate, only to get there and discover he’s in their bed, naked with their neighbor.  Feeling betrayed and hurt, rather than take a page from the countless times she has given advice on this subject, Violet goes off the rails, first by using her column to dole out some uncensored brutally honest advice and vent her frustration, and second, by torching almost all her cheating husband’s belongings on her front lawn.  The second one isn’t all bad though as it brings a sexy firefighter named Dez to her door.

I found Violet to be a very sympathetic character and I liked her a lot, even though some of her rogue moments had me cringing for her, knowing she would regret her actions later.  I also really loved Dez. It’s clear from those first moments with Violet that he’s a sweet and caring man, and that he’s a bit smitten with Violet even though she’s obviously a hot mess.  I was so excited for her when he stopped by the next morning to make sure she was okay and left his phone number for her.  I was rooting hard for the two of them to get together because they just seemed so perfect together, and Violet deserves so much better than a man who had the nerve to bring another woman into their bed.

As sweet as Violet and Dez’s journey to a possible happy ending is, it’s really Violet’s personal journey that drives this story.  When she goes off the rails, it is not without consequences.  There’s fallout professionally and personally because her boss is also her best friend.  The hole she digs for herself forces Violet to take a good hard look at herself and decide how she’s going to find her path forward from the infidelity, especially if she hopes to have a future with Dez.

If You Ask Me is one of those books that has a little something for everyone. It made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me angry at times, and I loved how hopeful it had me feeling as the story wound to its conclusion.  The writing is also wonderful, flowing smoothly so the story is an easy read, and I especially loved the entertaining excerpts we get from Violet’s Dear Sweetie column.

If You Ask Me is an enjoyable read that is sure to appeal to romance fans and to fans of women’s fiction.  4 STARS