Review: Side Trip by Kerry Lonsdale

Goodreads

Release date: July 7, 2020

Publisher: Lake Union

Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Romance

Blurb:

With her deceased sister’s Route 66 bucket list in hand, California girl Joy Evers sets out on a cross-country road trip to meet up with her fiancé, checking off the bullets along the way.

Singer-songwriter Dylan Westfield has a serious case of wanderlust and a broken-down car. Stuck at a diner between LA and Flagstaff, he meets Joy, his complete opposite. She’s energetic. He’s moody. She’s by the book. He’s spontaneous. She believes in love at first sight. He thinks love is a complicated mess. But Joy has a brand-new convertible.

They strike a deal. She’ll drive him to New York. He’ll pay for gas. Only three rules apply: no exchanging of last names; what happens on the road, stays on the road; and if one of them wants to take a side trip, they both must agree.

A heart-stirring love story that spans a decade, Side Trip explores what-if. What if Joy and Dylan had exchanged last names? What if he’d told her she made him believe love was worth the risk? And what if they hadn’t made that second deal when they couldn’t say goodbye? 

Review:

Who’s ready for a road trip? With vacation plans across the world pretty much cancelled I think we’re all in need of a vacation and going alongside Joy and Dylan for an emotional, unforgettable road trip was the next best thing to taking a trip myself. I’ve followed along and read all of the authors books over the years and this is her best yet!

I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all wondered what if? about many different things in our lives, what if you and your partner never crossed paths? Or what if one small decision changed the course of your life forever and you don’t even realize it? That’s the heart of this book because when Joy and Dylan randomly meet and decide to team up for a road trip they lay some ground rules that include no last names so it makes it near impossible for them to find each other afterwards, what happens on the road trip stays there, but what if one or both of them decides the rules should be broken? This was much more clever than I can accurately convey to you guys, there was a super smart little twist that was a game changer for the whole story and without verging into spoiler territory that’s really all I can say. I definitely appreciated the direction this one took though and can only applaud the author for managing to pull off something unique and pretty magical in the end. Definitely recommended by me, especially if you’re looking for a truly escapist read.

Overall rating: 5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: All the Broken People by Leah Konen

Goodreads

Release date: June 30, 2020

Publisher: Putnam

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

Fleeing Brooklyn with little more than a suitcase and her trusty dog, Lucy King heads to rustic Woodstock, New York, eager to lose herself in a quiet life where her past can never find her. But when she meets Vera and John, the alluring couple next door, their friendship proves impossible to resist. Just as Lucy starts to think the worst is behind her, the couple delivers a staggering bombshell: they, too, need to escape their troubles — and the only way they can begin their new life is if Lucy helps them fake John’s death.

Afraid to lose her newfound support system, Lucy reluctantly conspires with them to stage an “accidental” death on a hike nearby. It’s just one little lie to the police, after all, and she knows a thing or two about the importance of fresh starts. But what begins as an elaborate ruse turns all too real when John turns up dead in the woods the morning after their hike. Now, Lucy must figure out who she can trust and who’s pulling the strings of her tenuous new life… before she takes the fall for murder.

Review:

The premise of this one totally sucked me in, faking someone’s death just sounds like the worst idea ever and you just know that nothing will go off as planned, right?! On top of that, Lucy has a shadowy past and the relationship dynamics between her and her new neighbors, Vera and John just intrigued me to no end. It definitely had me gripped and felt like a pretty solid domestic thriller.

This is one of those tricky thrillers that I figured would be pretty predictable and average at best the whole time I was reading it. It was definitely compulsive and entertaining, I just assumed I knew exactly where things were headed and I was dead wrong which is always the best! The ending was solid and threw me for a loop (or two) and I found it to be really clever in the end. It made me appreciate the whole book all the more with one of those, ok I see what you did there moments with a really fantastic reveal. Definitely recommended if you’re tired of thrillers all feeling the same, this one was pretty original.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: The Last Flight by Julie Clark

Goodreads

Release date: June 23, 2020

Publisher: Sourcebooks

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

Two women. Two Flights. One last chance to disappear.

Claire Cook has a perfect life. Married to the scion of a political dynasty, with a Manhattan townhouse and a staff of ten, her surroundings are elegant, her days flawlessly choreographed, and her future auspicious. But behind closed doors, nothing is quite as it seems. That perfect husband has a temper that burns as bright as his promising political career, and he’s not above using his staff to track Claire’s every move, making sure she’s living up to his impossible standards. But what he doesn’t know is that Claire has worked for months on a plan to vanish.

A chance meeting in an airport bar brings her together with a woman whose circumstances seem equally dire. Together they make a last-minute decision to switch tickets ― Claire taking Eva’s flight to Oakland, and Eva traveling to Puerto Rico as Claire. They believe the swap will give each of them the head start they need to begin again somewhere far away. But when the flight to Puerto Rico goes down, Claire realizes it’s no longer a head start but a new life. Cut off, out of options, with the news of her death about to explode in the media, Claire will assume Eva’s identity, and along with it, the secrets Eva fought so hard to keep hidden.

The Last Flight is the story of two women ― both alone, both scared ― and one agonizing decision that will change the trajectory of both of their lives. 

Review:

This one felt like the best blend of WF and thriller combined, it had the fast paced, anxious and suspenseful feeling of a thriller and the gut punching emotional trauma that WF sometimes has. It also had an incredibly strong premise, great characterization and awesome pacing that kept me engaged throughout.

I mentioned the characterization earlier and I wanted to elaborate on that a bit more, I think many of us avid thriller fans are sick and tired of reading books where the female characters are weak. It was SO refreshing to read about not just one, but two women who are strong and determined and I found myself easily rooting for both of them. It flips between Claire in present day and Eva in the past and I was very caught up and interested in both of their stories. A super solid mystery and definitely a great addition to your summer TBR!

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: The Lion’s Den by Katherine St. John

Goodreads

Release date: June 30, 2020

Publisher: Grand Central

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Blurb:

Belle likes to think herself immune to the dizzying effects of fabulous wealth. But when her best friend, Summer, invites her on a glamorous getaway to the Mediterranean aboard her billionaire boyfriend’s yacht, the only sensible answer is yes. Belle hopes the trip will be a much-needed break from her stalled acting career and uniquely humiliating waitressing job, but once she’s aboard the luxurious Lion’s Den, it soon becomes clear this jet-setting holiday is not as advertised.

Belle’s dream vacation quickly devolves into a nightmare as she and the handful of other girls Summer invited are treated more like prisoners than guests by their controlling host-and in one terrifying moment, Belle comes to see Summer for who she truly is: a vicious gold digger who will stop at nothing to get what she wants. 

Belle realizes she’s going to have to keep her wits about her — and her own big secret closely hidden — if she wants to make it off the yacht alive.

Review:

Alright I have yet another ideal summer read for you guys today, this one is wicked and salacious and way more fun that I was expecting it to be. It gave me Jackie Collins vibes with the whole rich people behaving badly thing and then also reminded me a little of Below Deck as it’s set mostly on a luxury yacht. I expected it to be fluffy and light, total brain candy and while it was, it also ended up being a little dark and mysterious as well.

This is all told from Belle’s POV as she joins her BFF Summer on her much older, much richer boyfriends yacht for a week spent luxuriating in the Mediterranean. It all winds up being too good to be true as the guests are all heavily monitored and controlled turning a dream vacation into a total nightmare. There are also flashback chapters dating all the way back to when Summer and Belle first met and then leading up to right before the trip began, and secrets, deception and lies are slowly revealed making this such a tantalizing read. It really is the ultimate summer binge read, entertaining and wildly fun!

Overall rating: 4.5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: She’s Faking It by Kristin Rockaway

Goodreads

Release date: June 30, 2020

Publisher: Graydon House

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Blurb:

You can’t put a filter on reality.

Bree Bozeman isn’t exactly pursuing the life of her dreams. Then again, she isn’t too sure what those dreams are. After dropping out of college, she’s living a pretty chill life in the surf community of Pacific Beach, San Diego…if “chill” means delivering food as a GrubGetter, and if it means “uneventful”.

But when Bree starts a new Instagram account — @breebythesea — one of her posts gets a signal boost from none other than wildly popular self-help guru Demi DiPalma, owner of a lifestyle brand empire. Suddenly, Bree just might be a rising star in the world of Instagram influencing. Is this the direction her life has been lacking? It’s not a career choice she’d ever seriously considered, but maybe it’s a sign from the universe. After all, Demi’s the real deal… right?

Everything is lining up for Bree: life goals, career, and even a blossoming romance with the chiseled guy next door, surf star Trey Cantu. But things are about to go sideways fast, and even the perfect filter’s not gonna fix it. Instagram might be free, but when your life looks flawless on camera, what’s the cost? 

Review:
I know there are quite a few books out right now featuring social media influencers in some manner but I really liked the spin the author put on that trendy theme. Bree isn’t an established influencer by any means, she has an Instagram account but she rarely uses it until she decides to use it as her own personal vision board. Before she can get very far in her plan to visualize herself into a better life she stumbles into becoming a nano influencer and becomes super caught up into crafting a well maintained, if inauthentic online presence. It was a funny and all too relatable look at how SM impacts our lives and I couldn’t not like Bree even if she seemed a little too helpless at times.
Bree’s relationship with her sister plays a big role in the story and I always enjoy reading about the dynamics of a sister relationship. Trey was a swoon worthy hero for the most part though he did irritate me a little towards the end. The best part for me was seeing Bree push herself outside of her comfort zone and try and take action in her own life. Fake it until you make it is a saying for a reason and watching her take risks and try and better herself was uplifting. Definitely recommended as a fun, breezy summer read!
Overall rating: 4/5
Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

Goodreads

Release date: June 30, 2020

Publisher: Dutton

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

What was it like? Living in that house.

Maggie Holt is used to such questions. Twenty-five years ago, she and her parents, Ewan and Jess, moved into Baneberry Hall, a rambling Victorian estate in the Vermont woods. They spent three weeks there before fleeing in the dead of night, an ordeal Ewan later recounted in a nonfiction book called House of Horrors. His tale of ghostly happenings and encounters with malevolent spirits became a worldwide phenomenon, rivaling The Amityville Horror in popularity—and skepticism.

Today, Maggie is a restorer of old homes and too young to remember any of the events mentioned in her father’s book. But she also doesn’t believe a word of it. Ghosts, after all, don’t exist. When Maggie inherits Baneberry Hall after her father’s death, she returns to renovate the place to prepare it for sale. But her homecoming is anything but warm. People from the past, chronicled in House of Horrors, lurk in the shadows. And locals aren’t thrilled that their small town has been made infamous thanks to Maggie’s father. Even more unnerving is Baneberry Hall itself—a place filled with relics from another era that hint at a history of dark deeds. As Maggie experiences strange occurrences straight out of her father’s book, she starts to believe that what he wrote was more fact than fiction.

Review:

As a longtime RS fan I have to start by saying I think this may be his best yet, you’ve got a suspenseful storyline with the added bonus of a creepy AF haunted house, a book within a book AND two timelines. There is something about the authors style that is truly his own, there’s a scariness of the type that gives you legit goosebumps, coupled with a taut and twisty plot that always seems to leave my head spinning and this was no exception.

Per usual one of the best aspects of this is the setting, did I mention there’s a haunted house?! There is such scary, well crafted atmosphere in this setting that by the time I finished it I was convinced my own house was haunted. I’m not really gonna get into the plot because it’s best left discovered on your own, but I will say that the flipping back and forth between the book House of Horrors and Maggie in present day was fantastic, especially as Maggie’s experiences started to mirror what had happened at Baneberry Hall when she was a kid, SO creepy! Definitely another hit from the author, especially if you like a thriller with a supernatural touch.

Overall rating: 5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert

Goodreads

Release date: June 23, 2020

Publisher: Avon

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Blurb:

Danika Brown knows what she wants: professional success, academic renown, and an occasional roll in the hay to relieve all that career-driven tension. But romance? Been there, done that, burned the T-shirt. Romantic partners, whatever their gender, are a distraction at best and a drain at worst. So Dani asks the universe for the perfect friend-with-benefits—someone who knows the score and knows their way around the bedroom. 

When brooding security guard Zafir Ansari rescues Dani from a workplace fire drill gone wrong, it’s an obvious sign: PhD student Dani and ex-rugby player Zaf are destined to sleep together. But before she can explain that fact, a video of the heroic rescue goes viral. Now half the internet is shipping #DrRugbae—and Zaf is begging Dani to play along. Turns out, his sports charity for kids could really use the publicity. Lying to help children? Who on earth would refuse? 

Dani’s plan is simple: fake a relationship in public, seduce Zaf behind the scenes. The trouble is, grumpy Zaf’s secretly a hopeless romantic—and he’s determined to corrupt Dani’s stone-cold realism. Before long, he’s tackling her fears into the dirt. But the former sports star has issues of his own, and the walls around his heart are as thick as his… um, thighs. 

Suddenly, the easy lay Dani dreamed of is more complex than her thesis. Has her wish backfired? Is her focus being tested? Or is the universe just waiting for her to take a hint?

Review:

Opposites attract in the next installment of the Brown sisters trilogy, and yes you do get to check in on Chloe and Red for those of you who were fans of the first book. (If you haven’t read it yet I loved that one too) Dani and Zaf don’t have much in common at first glance, but deep down they’re actually quite similar and I adored both of them. Dani is quirky, confident, super smart and supremely sexy and Zaf is basically the same but add in sweetness where Dani is snarky, sharp tongued and very guarded.

Fake relationships are one of my favorite romance tropes, I think it’s the way the characters usually try and fight the chemistry between them and while Dani and Zaf didn’t put up too much of a fight, it was still super entertaining to see them try and deny that they were made for each other. Their chemistry was so undeniable that I wouldn’t have been surprised if my Kindle caught on fire during some of their encounters. Yes, this was spicy and super sexy, but their banter and flirting was also 🔥 and the build up before they hooked up was fantastic. Zaf is definitely swim worthy and in the end Dani herself opened up and had some pretty romantic gestures herself. This is a romance for everyone, definitely recommended by me.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Summer at Lake Haven by RaeAnne Thayne

Goodreads

Release date: June 23, 2020

Publisher: HQN

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Blurb:

Return to Haven Point for one last summer by the lake…

Samantha Fremont may still be grappling with her mother’s death, but this summer she’s determined to build a new life for herself. Starting with making her friend’s dream wedding dress and establishing herself as a boutique fashion designer in the process. What she does not need is a surprise litter of puppies, the voice in the back of her mind saying she can’t do any of this—or her friend’s gorgeous brother who’s visiting from England for the wedding.

Ian Somerhill knows a sabbatical in Haven Point is exactly what his children need to recover from their own mother’s death. And even if he and Sam got off on the wrong foot, she has a way with Miranda and Thomas. As Sam—and her adorable puppies—bond with his children, they fall into a friendship unlike any he’s had in a long time. But Ian has obligations in England her can’t ignore—and a complicated past that might just stop this summer romance from ever blooming into something more. 

Review:
I write this review feeling bittersweet because it’s the final book in the Haven Point series 😩😭 This series has brought me so much joy, I’ve fallen in love with the town and its residents over the years and I’ll miss looking forward to a new book. I took my sweet time reading this one too knowing that it was the last and I have to say, it was a very fitting ending to one of my favorite small town romance series.
I’ve been dying to read a book following Samantha forever now, she’s been one of the best reoccurring characters throughout the entire series and I was so happy she was finally getting her own book. Besides finally getting to learn more about Sam you have this charming English family visiting for the summer and a wedding, talk about the perfect setting for romance. This is romance at its purest and sweetest, it’s clean and adorable and so heartwarming. Highly recommend this whole series!
Overall rating: 4/5
Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Eliza Starts a Rumor by Jane L. Rosen

Goodreads

Release date: June 23, 2020

Publisher: Berkley

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Blurb:

It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. When Eliza Hunt created The Hudson Valley Ladies’ Bulletin Board fifteen years ago she was happily entrenched in her picture-perfect suburban life with her husband and twin preschoolers. Now, with an empty nest and a crippling case of agoraphobia, the once-fun hobby has become her lifeline. So when a rival parenting forum threatens the site’s existence, she doesn’t think twice before fabricating a salacious rumor to spark things up a bit.

It doesn’t take long before that spark becomes a flame.

Across town, new mom and site devotee Olivia York is thrown into a tailspin by what she reads on the Bulletin Board. Allison Le is making cyber friends with a woman who isn’t quite who she says she is. And Amanda Cole, Eliza’s childhood friend, may just hold the key to unearthing why Eliza can’t step out of her front door.

In all this chaos, one thing is for sure…Hudson Valley will never be the same.

Funny, romantic, raw, and hopeful, this is a story about being a woman and of the healing power of sisterhood. 

Review:

Ahh rumors and gossip in the suburbs, why is this a topic that never fails to intrigue me? The whole premise of the book is exactly what the title states, an empty nester named Eliza starts what she thinks will be a harmless rumor and turns out to be anything but. In actuality it is the catalyst for a series of events that effects many people in the Hudson Valley, some she knows and others she doesn’t. So, an interesting premise for me for sure and it’s told via multiple perspectives providing a birds eye view of an entire community which I always enjoy. I loved the female friendships that developed throughout the book and was invested in all of the characters lives.

This wasn’t quite the lighthearted summer read that I was expecting it to be, yes it had plenty of humor but it really dove into some pretty dark topics. Just wanted to give a heads up for anyone that may mistakenly think this is all lightness like I did. I still wouldn’t say it’s super heavy overall, just know there are some moments that were rough. But in the end it was ultimately an uplifting read and one I enjoyed.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Two Truths and a Lie by Meg Mitchell Moore

Goodreads

Release date: June 16, 2020

Publisher: William Morrow

Genre: Contemporary Fiction/ Suspense

Blurb:

Truth: Sherri Griffin and her daughter, Katie, have recently moved to the idyllic beach town of Newburyport, Massachusetts. Rebecca Coleman, widely acknowledged former leader of the Newburyport Mom Squad (having taken a step back since her husband’s shocking and tragic death eighteen months ago), has made a surprising effort to include these newcomers in typically closed-group activities. Rebecca’s teenage daughter Alexa has even been spotted babysitting Katie.

Truth: Alexa has time on her hands because of a recent falling-out with her longtime best friends for reasons no one knows—but everyone suspects have to do with Alexa’s highly popular and increasingly successful YouTube channel. Katie Griffin, who at age 11 probably doesn’t need a babysitter anymore, can’t be left alone because she has terrifying nightmares that don’t seem to jibe with the vague story Sherri has floated about the “bad divorce” she left behind in Ohio. Rebecca Coleman has been spending a lot of time with Sherri, it’s true, but she’s also been spending time with someone else she doesn’t want the Mom Squad to know about just yet.

Lie: Rebecca Coleman doesn’t have a new man in her life, and definitely not someone connected to the Mom Squad. Alexa is not seeing anyone new herself and is planning on shutting down her YouTube channel in advance of attending college in the fall. Sherri Griffin’s real name is Sherri Griffin, and a bad divorce is all she’s running from.

A blend of propulsive thriller and gorgeous summer read, Two Truths and a Lie reminds us that happiness isn’t always a day at the beach, some secrets aren’t meant to be shared, and the most precious things are the people we love. 

Review:

What a delicious, slightly wicked summer read this one was! It was like a mash up of Liane Moriarty and Elin Hilderbrand and that combination worked really well for me. It had the secretive, light style mystery of LM and the ensemble cast and idyllic setting of EH, everything I look for in a summer read for sure!

This is told via several viewpoints, Rebecca, her daughter Alexa and new to town Sherrie are the main ones and then there are a few random chapters from other characters thrown in but the best ones were from the collective Mom Squad. These women were BRUTAL,they were catty, judgmental and wicked and I loved how juicy and dramatic their chapters were. The whole book was slightly scandalous as almost every single character was keeping some sort of secret and it felt really gossipy and just ideal for a summer read. Some of it was a little predictable in the end but other aspects were surprising, overall I enjoyed it a lot and definitely recommend it!

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.