Review: The Bookstore on the Beach by Brenda Novak

Goodreads

Release date: April 6, 2021

Publisher: MIRA

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Synopsis:

How do you start a new chapter of your life when you haven’t closed the book on the previous one?

Eighteen months ago, Autumn Divac’s husband went missing. Her desperate search has yielded no answers, and she can’t imagine moving forward without him. But for the sake of their two teenage children, she has to try.

Autumn takes her kids home for the summer to the charming beachside town where she was raised. She seeks comfort working alongside her mother and aunt at their bookshop, only to learn that her daughter is facing a huge life change and her mother has been hiding a terrible secret for years. And when she runs into the boy who stole her heart in high school, old feelings start to bubble up again. Is she free to love him, or should she hold out hope for her husband’s return? She can only trust her heart…and hope it won’t lead her astray.

Review:

Don’t let the beachy cover fool you, this one had way more depth than I was expecting based on that alone. This was an emotional, multigenerational story that explores some very timely and relevant issues in a beautiful manner.

You hear from Autumn, her daughter Taylor and her mother Mary and I loved the various perspectives from all different age brackets. I can’t even imagine how Autumn is dealing with a missing husband and her kids as well, someone in my own circle going missing is my biggest nightmare. Each woman had their own issues they’re struggling with besides the disappearance of Nick and this brought so much substance to the story. It was definitely a multilayered story with some light moments, but overall it’s emotional. I think it could appeal to all types of readers, there’s romance, a mystery and family drama which is such a perfect combination for me.

Overall rating: 4.5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Twice Shy by Sarah Hogle

Goodreads

Release date: April 6, 2021

Publisher: Putnam

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Synopsis:

Can you find real love when you’ve always got your head in the clouds?

Maybell Parish has always been a dreamer and a hopeless romantic. But living in her own world has long been preferable to dealing with the disappointments of real life. So when Maybell inherits a charming house in the Smokies from her Great-Aunt Violet, she seizes the opportunity to make a fresh start.

Yet when she arrives, it seems her troubles have only just begun. Not only is the house falling apart around her, but she isn’t the only inheritor: she has to share everything with Wesley Koehler, the groundskeeper who’s as grouchy as he is gorgeous—and it turns out he has very different vision for the property’s future.

Convincing the taciturn Wesley to stop avoiding her and compromise is a task more formidable than the other dying wishes Great-Aunt Violet left behind. But when Maybell uncovers something unexpectedly sweet beneath Wesley’s scowls, and as the two slowly begin to let their guard down, they might learn that sometimes the smallest steps outside one’s comfort zone can lead to the greatest rewards.

Review:

What a unique and fresh feeling romance this one was! Maybell was such a refreshing character to read about, especially in a romance and Wesley was as well. This was a softer, more tender read than the authors debut, but there was definitely something special about this one, it definitely felt like a cozy, comforting read.

Maybell is the type of person with a larger than life imagination, I’m talking she can daydream so hard and so vividly she sometimes loses hours fantasizing about the life she wishes she had. I loved seeing her grow and blossom under Wesleys attention, although he brought out a wonderful side to each other, the beauty here was that she did the same for him. It wasn’t about changing yourself for your partner but rather about coming into your own with the support of the right partner and it was adorable, sweet and so nice to read about. This one was a slow burn and very low on the steam scale, but honestly that’s pretty much how it had to be with these too, super steamy would’ve felt disingenuous to them. Read this when you want a soft and sweet romance.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: An Invincible Summer by Mariah Stewart

Goodreads

Release date: April 6, 2021

Publisher: Montlake

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Synopsis:

It was a lifetime ago that recently widowed Maggie Flynn was in Wyndham Beach. Now, on the occasion of her fortieth high school reunion, she returns to her hometown on the Massachusetts coast, picking up right where she left off with dear friends Lydia and Emma. But seeing Brett Crawford again stirs other emotions. Once, they were the town’s golden couple destined for one another. He shared Maggie’s dreams—and eventually, a shattering secret that drove them apart.

Buying her old family home and resettling in Wyndham Beach means a chance to start over for Maggie and her two daughters, but it also means facing her rekindled feelings for her first love and finally confronting—and embracing—the past in ways she never thought possible. Maggie won’t be alone. With her family and friends around her, she can weather this stormy turning point in her life and open her heart to the future. As for that dream shared and lost years ago? If Maggie can forgive herself, it still might come true.

Review:

As the weather starts to warm up I’m drawn to beachy, breezy reads so when I read the description of this one, I knew immediately it would be just what I’ve been in the mood for lately. A multigenerational storyline, an idyllic setting and a new series from one of my tried and true authors? Yes please!

As much as I loved the setting and the premise of this one, the characterization is where it really shines. Maggie and her two lifelong friends were all such lovely, authentic women and I also loved that they were middle aged and had more life experience. You also get the viewpoints of Maggie’s two daughters so there’s definitely something for everyone here, a little romance, some drama and lots of friendship. A truly heartfelt read that I enjoyed so much, can’t wait to see what the next book is about.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: The Girls Are All So Nice Here by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn

Goodreads

Release date: March 9, 2021

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Synopsis:

Two former best friends return to their college reunion to find that they’re being circled by someone who wants revenge for what they did ten years before—and will stop at nothing to get it—in this shocking psychological thriller about ambition, toxic friendship, and deadly desire.

A lot has changed in the years since Ambrosia Wellington graduated from college, and she’s worked hard to create a new life for herself. But then an invitation to her ten-year reunion arrives in the mail, along with an anonymous note that reads “We need to talk about what we did that night.”

It seems that the secrets of Ambrosia’s past—and the people she thought she’d left there—aren’t as buried as she’d believed. Amb can’t stop fixating on what she did or who she did it with: larger-than-life Sloane “Sully” Sullivan, Amb’s former best friend, who could make anyone do anything.

At the reunion, Amb and Sully receive increasingly menacing messages, and it becomes clear that they’re being pursued by someone who wants more than just the truth of what happened that first semester. This person wants revenge for what they did and the damage they caused—the extent of which Amb is only now fully understanding. And it was all because of the game they played to get a boy who belonged to someone else, and the girl who paid the price.

Alternating between the reunion and Amb’s freshman year, The Girls Are All So Nice Here is a shocking novel about the brutal lengths girls can go to get what they think they’re owed, and what happens when the games we play in college become matters of life and death.

Review:

Ahh this was such a devious, wickedly fun thriller! Think Mean Girls with a sharper, darker edge and that’s what you have here. Secrets, lies and girls behaving appallingly make up this tale of horribly toxic relationships, backstabbing and revenge.

Told from alternating timelines from back when Amb was in college and then ten years later as she’s getting ready to go to her reunion, this style almost always keeps my attention. I usually prefer one timeline over the other but here I was equally invested in both. It starts out a little slow but then about halfway through things ramp up and I was totally hooked. I kinda predicted a few of the twists, but seriously didn’t even care because this was so dark and shocking that I was just too swept up in the story I couldn’t be bothered enough to be mad about guessing. This one was pretty disturbing and hits basically every trigger around, but if that doesn’t bother you definitely check this one out!

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: The Intimacy Experiment by Rosie Danan

Goodreads

Release date: April 6, 2021

Publisher: Berkley

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Synopsis:

Naomi Grant has built her life around going against the grain. After the sex-positive start-up she cofounded becomes an international sensation, she wants to extend her educational platform to live lecturing. Unfortunately, despite her long list of qualifications, higher ed won’t hire her.

Ethan Cohen has recently received two honors: LA Mag named him one of the city’s hottest bachelors and he became rabbi of his own synagogue. Taking a gamble in an effort to attract more millennials to the faith, the executive board hired Ethan because of his nontraditional background. Unfortunately, his shul is low on both funds and congregants. The board gives him three months to turn things around or else they’ll close the doors of his synagogue for good.

Naomi and Ethan join forces to host a buzzy seminar series on Modern Intimacy, the perfect solution to their problems–until they discover a new one–their growing attraction to each other. They’ve built the syllabus for love’s latest experiment, but neither of them expected they’d be the ones putting it to the test.

Review:

Last year Rosie Danan’s The Roommate was hands down one of the best romances I read all year. It was funny, fresh, and incredibly sexy and I’ve been waiting for Naomi’s book ever since I finished it. Once again the author wrote another original and sexy romance, I mean a rabbi and an ex porn star?! GIMME

Really quick for those that didn’t love TR because it was too spicy don’t pass this one up thinking it’ll be the same. I was actually expecting more steam than this one had and while it definitely wasn’t closed door, it was nowhere near the level of hotness that TR was.

Ok, while I didn’t love this one as much as the previous book I did like it, I think my expectations were just unrealistic and way too high. Totally on me though, I can still recommend it for sure, I was just really hoping this would be another favorite of the whole year. I did really enjoy the merging of faith and sexuality and liked learning more about Naomi but I still didn’t feel like I truly knew her in the end. I guess I basically wanted more of her past and even how she would take her experiences into a future with Ethan, but I did really like him, so adorable! Overall I flew through this one, so there’s something to be said for that, I just hope that special magic that happened for me in book one will be back again in book three.

Overall rating: 3.5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: A Million Reasons Why by Jessica Strawser

Goodreads

Release date: March 23, 2021

Publisher: St. Martin’s

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Synopsis:

When two strangers are linked by a mail-in DNA test, it’s an answered prayer―that is, for one half-sister. For the other, it will dismantle everything she knows to be true.

But as they step into the unfamiliar realm of sisterhood, the roles will reverse in ways no one could have foreseen.

Caroline lives a full, happy life―thriving career, three feisty children, enviable marriage, and a close-knit extended family. She couldn’t have scripted it better. Except for one thing:

She’s about to discover her fundamental beliefs about them all are wrong.

Sela lives a life in shades of gray, suffering from irreversible kidney failure. Her marriage crumbled in the wake of her illness. Her beloved mother and lifelong best friend passed away. She refuses to be defined by her grief, but still, she worries about what will happen to her two-year-old son if she doesn’t find a donor match in time.

She’s the only one who knows Caroline is her half-sister. That Caroline may be her best hope for a future. But Sela’s world isn’t as clear-cut as it appears―and one misstep could destroy it all.

After all, would you risk everything to save the life of the person who turned yours upside down?

From the moment Caroline meets Sela, both must reexamine what it really means to be family, the depths of a mother’s love, and the limits and the power of forgiveness.

Review:

I’ve become such a fan of this author, she really has the kind of writing style that I enjoy and she creates these characters that are relatable and believable and this was no exception. I feel like DNA testing has been a hot topic in quite a few books lately, so I was slightly hesitant if she could bring something new to the table and I feel like she did. It was remarkably thought provoking and made me wonder what I would do if I was in either Caroline or Sela’s shoes.

This one was very twisty for a book that isn’t even remotely a thriller which gave the whole thing a suspenseful feel. Not that it was fast paced and tense necessarily, just that so many secrets kept coming out that you really didn’t know what would happen next. A family drama would be my best way of explaining what it was for me, with an emphasis on drama, it veered slightly into Lifetime movie territory but I actually love that vibe. Ultimately I loved the exploration of the usual family dynamics and found it to be an engrossing read.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Meet Me in Paradise by Libby Hubscher

Goodreads

Release date: March 23, 2021

Publisher: Berkley

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Synopsis:

Marin Cole has never:
Seen the ocean
Climbed a mountain
Taken a risk on love
….But if her sister’s plan works, she just might do all three.

Ever since her journalist mother died on assignment, Marin has played it safe, refusing to set foot outside the state of Tennessee. Her wild-child younger sister, Sadie, has trotted the globe as a photographer, living off of art and adrenaline.

When Sadie returns from a tough assignment abroad and looks a little worse for wear, Marin reluctantly agrees to a sisters’ spa weekend on the tropical island of Saba. But her lifelong fear of travel is affirmed when Sadie misses the flight, Marin’s luggage gets mixed up with another passenger’s, and an episode of turbulence sends her hurtling into the lap of Lucas Tsai, the handsome stranger who stole her sister’s seat.

For the first time in a long time, Marin has to step outside of her comfort zone as she explores the island with Lucas and learns what she’s been missing out on. With each breathtaking new experience, Marin gets closer to her real self, the man she’s falling for, and the heart-wrenching truth about why she’s there in the first place.

Review:

Before I get into my thoughts on this one I feel the need to talk about some triggers. If you don’t want anything to be spoiled skip this review. I always try and keep my reviews completely spoiler free but in this case, the content is so heartbreaking I feel like it needs a big warning, especially since the cover and synopsis combination makes it seem like a light hearted rom com and it’s really not. Last warning…………..Sadie has cancer and her death plays out on page. It was brutal and I cried, I’m not a crier but this was absolutely tragic y’all. If cancer is at all a trigger for you please know that this one is heavy.

This starts off lighthearted and fun, exactly what I expected to begin with based on that adorably cheerful cover and description. I loved Marin and was excited to see how her island adventure, I agreed with Sadie that she needed to step outside her comfort zone and let loose. But then things turned dark and instead of a spicy rom com it read like women’s fiction with a secondary romantic plot line. This was fine by me, I had some friends that gave me a heads up, but I just don’t want anyone to go into this one with the wrong expectations. If you go in knowing like I did that this is more of a story about sisters and one’s journey to self discovery. It was heart wrenching, beautiful and memorable though. This review may lead you to believe that I didn’t enjoy it, but I actually liked it a lot. Between the gorgeous setting, vibrant secondary characters and a bittersweet story about Marin and Sadie, I was super invested. It’s just not necessarily the book you would think it’s being marketed as and I wanted to make that very clear. But if you don’t mind crying your eyes out for a good chunk of the book, this was such a heartfelt read! Just proceed with caution and have those tissues ready.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: It’s Been a Pleasure, Noni Blake by Claire Christian

Release date: February 23, 2021

Publisher: MIRA

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Synopsis:

What if you made yourself your number one priority?

Of all the women and men Noni Blake has pleased in her life, there’s one she’s often overlooked–herself. After the end of a decade-long relationship, Noni decides it’s time for that to change. She’s finally going to prioritize her wants and desires and only do things (and people) that feel good in the moment.

As she embarks on a pleasure-seeking quest that takes her halfway around the world, she discovers that maybe she can have everything, and everyone, she’s ever wanted.

Effortlessly hilarious and relatable, Claire Christian spins a fresh, feel-good tale about starting over as a thirtysomething woman who’s been living life for everyone else. A story of self-discovery for the ages, Noni’s journey serves as a sparkling reminder that life is what we make of it–so why not enjoy it?

Review:

Ok I loved this one you guys! I didn’t expect it to be so inspirational and uplifting, but it was really wonderful. How often do we, as adults do things just for the simple pleasure of it? Not often I’m afraid, and following along with Noni as she embarks on a pleasure quest was such a damn delight. It was a unique way for her to start a path of self discovery and I was rooting for her so hard!

Noni was such a complex and well crafted character, she was very honest and vulnerable throughout the book as she faced her own insecurities. There was so much body positivity and sex positivity and I am SO here for that. It was refreshing to read about a strong woman going after what she wanted and to put her own needs and wants first. I adored my time with Noni and was sad to say goodbye. Read this is you want to feel empowered and hopeful, it was sexy, funny and utterly charming.

Overall rating: 4.5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Are We There Yet? by Kathleen West

Goodreads

Release date: March 16, 2021

Publisher: Berkley

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Synopsis:

Alice Sullivan feels like she’s finally found her groove in middle age, but it only takes one moment for her perfectly curated life to unravel. On the same day she learns her daughter is struggling in second grade, a call from her son’s school accusing him of bullying throws Alice into a tailspin.

When it comes to light that the incident is part of a new behavior pattern for her son, one complete with fake social media profiles with a lot of questionable content, Alice’s social standing is quickly eroded to one of “those moms” who can’t control her kids. Soon she’s facing the very judgement she was all too happy to dole out when she thought no one was looking (or when she thought her house wasn’t made of glass).

Then her mother unloads a family secret she’s kept for more than thirty years, and Alice’s entire perception of herself is shattered.

As her son’s new reputation polarizes her friendships and her family buzzes with the ramification of her mother’s choices, Alice realizes that she’s been too focused on measuring her success and happiness by everyone else’s standards. Now, with all her shortcomings laid bare, she’ll have to figure out to whom to turn for help and decide who she really wants to be.

Review:

With a twelve year old daughter set to be a seventh grader next year this one read a bit like a cautionary tale to me. I don’t mean that in a bad way, more like it brought all my worst fears to life but in a very relatable, witty and entertaining way. It tackles some very relevant and timely topics and I think many parents will be super engaged with this one.

I love a family drama, and even better for me is when there are multiple points of view and this one has several. You have from Alice and her son Teddy, and her mom Evelyn. Then there’s Meredith and her daughter Sadie and a couple of random chapters from other characters that I don’t want to spoil. It provided a delicious birds eye view of the events that unfolded in an insightful way and I was totally wrapped up in the drama of all of the characters. A really engaging read that surprisingly gave me a lot to think about.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Heartbreak Bay by Rachel Caine

Goodreads

Release date: March 9, 2021

Publisher: Thomas and Mercer

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Synopsis:

They’re hunting a killer so silent, so invisible, that his unspeakable crimes are the only proof he exists.

A car submerged in a remote pond. The bodies of two girls strapped into their seats. The mystery of their mother, vanished without a trace, leads Gwen Proctor and Kezia Claremont into dangerous territory.

On the surface, Gwen’s life is good—two children approaching adulthood, a committed partner, and a harrowing past dead and gone. But that past is attracting the attention of someone invisible…and unstoppable. Trouble’s just beginning. So is the body count in this backwoods Tennessee town.

As threats mount and Gwen’s hunted by an enemy who pulls all the strings, Kezia has her back. But working to solve these vicious and unreasonable crimes will expose them both to a killer they can’t for the life of them see coming.

Review:

This is the fifth book in the Stillhouse Lake series and it’s not one of those series where you can just jump in late. Every book does focus on a new case but there is a ton of history and backstory with Gwen, Sam and her kids that you would most likely be pretty confused if you didn’t start with book one. Plus, the growth of Gwen as a character throughout the series is pretty freaking phenomenal too, so just trust me and start at the beginning.

So I wasn’t super impressed with the previous book in this series, it was missing something for me and I was pretty bummed. I mentioned in my review of that book that I was hoping it was just one of those middle books in a series that falls flat and would be a one off and I’m so happy to say that this was back on par for the first three books for me! It was dark, exciting and fast paced and I was totally sucked in right away. Parts of it may have required me to suspend some disbelief but I was so throughly entertained that I didn’t even care. Fans of the series will be pleased!

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.