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Reviews: PEOPLE WE MEET ON VACATION & THAT SUMMER

Happy Monday all!  I hope all of the moms out there had a wonderful Mother’s Day weekend.  My son had a soccer tournament so I spent my holiday at my second home, the soccer field, lol. Today I’m sharing my thoughts on two books hitting the shelves this week that also happen to be two of my most anticipated reads of 2021, Emily Henry’s People We Meet on Vacation and Jennifer Weiner’s That Summer.

 

Reviews:  PEOPLE WE MEET ON VACATION & THAT SUMMERPeople We Meet on Vacation Goodreads

Author: Emily Henry

Publication Date: May 11, 2021

Publisher:  Berkley Books

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

Emily Henry’s novel Beach Read was one of my favorite books of 2020.  It was a five-star read for me and I adored everything about it.  I therefore had very high expectations going into her new novel, People We Meet on Vacation.  I’m thrilled to report that Henry not only met my expectations, but she really hit it out of the park.

People We Meet on Vacation follows Poppy and Alex.  Poppy and Alex both come from a small town in Ohio and that, aside from the fact that they attended the same college, which is where they met and became best friends, is pretty much the only thing they have in common.  Poppy is a travel writer and a quirky extrovert, while Alex is a high school teacher and a highly reserved introvert.  They are truly the most unlikely of friends, but as the old saying goes, opposites attract and their friendship just works.  They have not only stayed friends long after graduating from college, but every year they get together and take an epic vacation.  That is, until two years ago when something happened to completely derail their friendship to the point where they stopped speaking to each other.  Poppy desperately wants her best friend back and reaches out to Alex with an offer she hopes he won’t refuse.

I fell in love with both Poppy and Alex right away.  Henry has the story unfold through a dual timeline where in the present, we watch Poppy and Alex take a trip together to try to rekindle their friendship and move forward, while in the past, we get lots of flashbacks of Poppy and Alex’s first meeting, their friendship growing, scenes from those amazing yearly vacations, etc.  I loved watching the two of them interact because 1) the banter is hilarious, 2) it’s clear they have intense chemistry, and 3) they really bring out the best in each other.  I was utterly heartbroken to learn that something had happened to fracture their relationship and I shared Poppy’s desperation to fix it.  I was also shipping them so hard to become more than friends because they were truly just adorable together in the flashback scenes.

I don’t want to spoil anything so I’m just going to say if I had to compare this book to any other book, I’d say it has a similar vibe to Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren.  If you enjoy a good friends-to-lovers story filled with lovable characters and hilarious banter, you are in for a treat with People We Meet on Vacation. This one left me with a full heart and happy tears in my eyes.  5 STARS.

 

Reviews:  PEOPLE WE MEET ON VACATION & THAT SUMMERThat Summer Goodreads

Author: Jennifer Weiner

Publication Date: May 11, 2021

Publisher:  Altria Books

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

Based on the cover of Jennifer Weiner’s latest book, That Summer, I was expecting a light and fun read, perfect for the beach.  What I got instead was a powerful story about the long-lasting psychological impact of rape on its victims and a heartfelt story about the healing qualities of friendship. That Summer was darker at times than I had anticipated, but with the incredible Cape Cod setting as a backdrop and the focus on a wonderful female friendship, it was still a very compelling and satisfying read.

The story focuses on two women named Diana.  We meet the first one, Diana Starling, when she is a teen spending her summer in Cape Cod.  She is having the time of her life, meeting new friends, attending parties on the beach, etc. until one night changes her life in the worst imaginable way.  Fast forward a couple of decades and we meet the second Diana, who goes by the nickname Daisy.  Daisy Shoemaker is a busy but bored housewife.  She dropped out of college years ago to marry and start a family, and now, with her husband frequently occupied with his own career, Daisy feels like she’s all on her own to run their household and to deal with their teen daughter who has been kicked out of private school for behavioral issues and is a real handful.  Daisy is also receiving emails intended for someone else named Diana S. (coincidentally our first Diana now all grown up) and Daisy finds herself envious of what appears to be a much more exciting life than her own.  After exchanging a few emails, the two Dianas decide it would be fun to meet up.  Neither of them has any idea just how life changing this meeting will be.

I really loved how Jennifer Weiner has crafted this story.  Both of these women are very likeable and I enjoyed the bond of friendship that immediately sprung up between them.  But what I loved most was how Weiner then starts building suspense by making it clear that it’s no accident these two women have met and by making it just as clear that Diana Starling is preparing to do something that will turn Daisy’s life upside down.  She hates the thought of doing it because she really likes Daisy, but in her mind, it still has to be done.  I loved how ominous this aspect of the story was and the tension and suspense that built as it became more and more apparent that their lives were bound together by secrets and lies from the past and that Diana Starling was on a mission to take down someone who hurt her.

Weiner handles a difficult topic with care and in such a way that does not demean rape victims, but also in a way that takes direct aim at the old “boys will be boys” mentality that has pervaded our society for so long.

That Summer is a powerful story about revenge and holding people accountable for their actions, but it’s also an emotional and hopeful story about survival, moving forward, and the healing power of friendship.  4 STARS

Can’t Wait Wednesday – THAT SUMMER by Jennifer Weiner

 

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, which encourages fellow bloggers to spotlight upcoming releases that we’re excited about.  It is a meme that I have  loved participating in since I first started blogging, but as Jill is no longer actively posting, from now on I’ll be linking to Can’t Wait Wednesday, hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings, which is a spinoff of the original WoW meme.

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My selection for this week is THAT SUMMER by Jennifer Weiner. I absolutely loved Weiner’s last novel, Big Summer, so I’m really looking forward to reading another one from her.  This new one is calling to me because of its focus on female friendships and because of its Cape Cod setting.

 

THAT SUMMER by Jennifer Weiner

Publication Date:  May 11, 2021 by Altria Books

 

From Goodreads:

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Big Summer comes another timely and deliciously twisty novel of intrigue, secrets, and the transformative power of female friendship, set on beautiful Cape Cod.

Daisy Shoemaker can’t sleep. With a thriving cooking business, full schedule of volunteer work, and a beautiful home in the Philadelphia suburbs, she should be content. But her teenage daughter can be a handful; her husband can be distant, her work can feel trivial, and she has lots of acquaintances, but no real friends. Still, Daisy knows she’s got it good. So why is she up all night?

While Daisy tries to identify the root of her dissatisfaction, she’s also receiving misdirected emails meant for a woman named Diana Starling, whose email address is just one punctuation mark away from her own. While Daisy’s driving carpools, Diana is chairing meetings. While Daisy’s making dinner, Diana’s making plans to reorganize corporations. Diana’s glamorous, sophisticated, single-lady life is miles away from Daisy’s simpler existence. When an apology leads to an invitation, the two women meet and become friends. But, as they get closer, we learn that their connection was not completely accidental. Who IS this other woman, and what does she want with Daisy?

From the manicured Main Line of Philadelphia to the wild landscape of the Outer Cape, written with Jennifer Weiner’s signature wit and sharp observations, THAT SUMMER is a story about surviving our pasts, confronting our futures, and the sustaining bonds of friendship.

 

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I’d love to hear what upcoming book releases you’re waiting on this Wednesday? Leave me your link in the comments below and I’ll stop by and check out your CWW selection for this week. 🙂

Review: BIG SUMMER by Jennifer Weiner

Review:  BIG SUMMER by Jennifer WeinerBig Summer by Jennifer Weiner
Also by this author: Mrs. Everything
four-half-stars
Published by Atria Books on May 5, 2020
Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 368
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wow, what a read.  There’s so much to love about Jennifer Weiner’s latest novel, Big Summer, that I hardly know where to even begin. It has everything I’ve come to love and expect from a Jennifer Weiner novel, but then so much more!

The protagonist, Daphne Berg, is such a wonderful character and I loved her from the moment we meet her. She’s smart, resourceful, warm and witty, big-hearted, and she also has a great relationship with her parents, especially her dad, which is always lovely to see.  Daphne has had a life-long struggle with her weight and with her self-image.  She has had to contend with bullying, fat shaming, and learning the very hard lesson that sometimes people who you think are your friends really aren’t. Instead of letting these bad experiences crush her, Daphne takes control of her life and spins those negatives into a very successful business venture for herself as a plus size social media influencer.  Her Instagram account has gained thousands of followers who tune in to watch Daphne embrace her body as it is and encourage others to do the same.  I just loved Daphne’s resiliency in this situation and that she creates this community that’s not only a career for herself, but it also helps others who are struggling to love themselves and their bodies.

Something else I really enjoyed about Big Summer is Weiner’s exploration of what I think is such a relevant theme and that’s forgiveness. One of the story’s many layers focuses on Daphne’s relationship with childhood best friend, rich girl Drue Cavanaugh.  Drue was spoiled and a quintessential mean girl, best known for befriending kids and then promptly discarding them once she lost interest.  She left a trail of hurt and embarrassed classmates in her wake, including Daphne.  No matter how cruel Drue is to Daphne, she keeps coming back for more, until they finally have a huge falling out. That fall out is what ultimately led to Daphne’s social media career and she has never looked back…until years later when Drue unexpectedly shows up, apologizing profusely and begging for forgiveness and for Daphne to be in her wedding.  Daphne is torn – there’s a part of her that wants to tell Drue off all over again because she’s so toxic, but then there’s the other part of her that remembers the good times they had and who wants to believe Drue has changed.  Weiner does an incredible job of exploring the complexities of their relationship and especially of letting us inside Daphne’s head to see just how conflicted she is.  It all felt authentic and their relationship is one I could see many people finding very relatable.

The wonderful characters and the relationship complexities were definitely what I was expecting when I started reading Big Summer.  What I didn’t expect and what really took the story to a whole new level was a huge plot twist that happens about the halfway point of the novel.  I can’t even talk about it without spoilers, but it had me running back to the synopsis to see if I had missed something because it threw me for such a loop.  That’s not a criticism though because as much as I loved learning about Daphne and her relationship with Drue, the surprise plot twist added a layer of mystery to the story that had me flying through the second half of Big Summer. I was desperate to find out what exactly happened and who was responsible.

I’m going to leave it at that, but suffice it to say, I absolutely loved Big Summer.  It’s Jennifer Weiner at her best with wonderful characters and relationships, but also with a mystery twist that makes it unlike any of Weiner’s books I’ve read so far.  If you’re a Jennifer Weiner fan, you’re going to love it and I also think you’ll love it if you’re a fan of mysteries.

four-half-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: MRS. EVERYTHING by Jennifer Weiner

Review:  MRS. EVERYTHING by Jennifer WeinerMrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner
Also by this author: Big Summer
four-half-stars
Published by Atria Books on June 11, 2019
Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Women's Fiction
Pages: 480
Source: Netgalley
Amazon
Goodreads

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

 

 

 

MRS. EVERYTHING Review

I’ve always considered Jennifer Weiner to be the unofficial queen of “Chick Lit,” so when I requested her latest novel, Mrs. Everything, I was expecting a fun, sexy read. What I got, however, was so much more than I anticipated, and I mean that in the best possible way.  I honestly cannot remember the last time a book resonated with me as much as Mrs. Everything did.  It packs an emotional punch on many levels – it made me smile at times, but it also made me shed a few tears, and sometimes it even just made me angry and frustrated.  Why?  Because it accurately, vividly, and sometimes painfully explores how hard it can be to grow up as a woman, especially during the time period when the book is set.  The whole time you’re trying to figure out who you are and what your place in the world is, someone is looking over your shoulder trying to pigeon-hole you into some pre-determined notion of what makes an ideal woman, telling you your life will be best if you just do what you’re “supposed” to do.

Mrs. Everything captured my attention right away because it’s actually more of a historical fiction in that it follows two sisters, Jo and Bethie, from their childhood in the 1950’s through the sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll era of the 60’s and 70’s, all the way up to their senior years, including Hillary Clinton’s historic run for the U.S. Presidency in 2016.  Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres and Weiner does an incredible job of capturing each decade in terms of fashion, hair, pop culture references, etc. I truly felt transported back in time.

Weiner also captured my heart with Jo and Bethie.  When we first meet Jo as a child in the 1950’s, she’s a rebellious tomboy who would much rather wear jeans and read books than do anything her mother considers “ladylike.”  In contrast, Bethie is Mommy’s little princess, the epitome of beauty and femininity.  In their mom’s eyes, Bethie is doing everything just right in order to secure herself a husband who will take care of her when she’s an adult, while who knows what will happen to Jo since she’s clearly on the “wrong” path.  At first Jo had the bulk of my sympathy because her mother was so awful to her, always making her feel like she’s a disappointment, but later, when Bethie’s life doesn’t go as expected and her journey takes a darker turn, she earned my sympathy as well.

In following Jo and Bethie from childhood up into their senior years, Weiner fully explores what it was like to be a woman back in the latter 20th century all the way up to what it’s like now.  She takes us through the highs and lows, the successes and the failures, and most especially, how hard it can be to stand up and be brave when the easier path is often to let fear win out.  Even though the story takes a few dark turns through addiction and abuse, it’s ultimately a very uplifting story that shows how much has changed over time and proves women can be whoever they want to be: sisters, mothers, daughters, aunts, wives, friends, lovers, teachers, role models, and yes, even Presidential candidates (and hopefully Presidents someday!).

I feel like I just don’t have the words to convey just how powerful and moving a read this is, so I’m just going to close by saying this is one of my favorite reads of the year so far and that I highly recommend it to everyone!

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

From Jennifer Weiner, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Who Do You Love and In Her Shoes, comes a smart, thoughtful, and timely exploration of two sisters’ lives from the 1950s to the present as they struggle to find their places—and be true to themselves—in a rapidly evolving world. Mrs. Everything is an ambitious, richly textured journey through history—and herstory—as these two sisters navigate a changing America over the course of their lives.

Do we change or does the world change us?

Jo and Bethie Kaufman were born into a world full of promise.

Growing up in 1950s Detroit, they live in a perfect “Dick and Jane” house, where their roles in the family are clearly defined. Jo is the tomboy, the bookish rebel with a passion to make the world more fair; Bethie is the pretty, feminine good girl, a would-be star who enjoys the power her beauty confers and dreams of a traditional life.

But the truth ends up looking different from what the girls imagined. Jo and Bethie survive traumas and tragedies. As their lives unfold against the background of free love and Vietnam, Woodstock and women’s lib, Bethie becomes an adventure-loving wild child who dives headlong into the counterculture and is up for anything (except settling down). Meanwhile, Jo becomes a proper young mother in Connecticut, a witness to the changing world instead of a participant. Neither woman inhabits the world she dreams of, nor has a life that feels authentic or brings her joy. Is it too late for the women to finally stake a claim on happily ever after?

In her most ambitious novel yet, Jennifer Weiner tells a story of two sisters who, with their different dreams and different paths, offer answers to the question: How should a woman be in the world?

four-half-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.