Review: Safe in my Arms by Sara Shepard

Goodreads

Release date: July 27, 2021

Publisher: Dutton

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Synopsis:

Andrea, Lauren, and Ronnie all see themselves as good, loving moms who are trying their best, but they each arrive at the Silver Swans preschool Welcome Breakfast with something to hide. Andrea is running away from a past on the East Coast, which she cannot afford for the other parents to discover. Lauren is recovering from a postpartum condition her husband has warned her not to disclose. And Ronnie is hiding herself and her daughter from the one man who could at any moment appear in their lives and ruin everything she holds dear. They already feel like impostors among the school’s community of polished parents. But then notes appear in their children’s backpacks after the first day at school. Notes that indicate that someone knows their deepest, darkest secrets and needs them gone. Does someone not want them in the community? Or is it something more menacing—does someone know everything?

When the principal of the school is the victim of an almost-fatal attack, it quickly becomes clear that the Silver Swans community is not as flawless as the brochures and website would have you believe. The three moms must band together to uncover the school’s many secrets before the other suspicious parents and town police close in and use their outsider status to blame them . . . and before they lose what they have worked so hard for.

Review:

I’ve been a big fan of the author since her PLL books and have enjoyed a couple of her adult thrillers as well but her books always seem to be missing a little something for me in the end. It’s kind of weird because while I’m reading I’m usually engrossed and entertained but when I finish I often find myself thinking, that’s it? So I’m not sure but I do know that I always end up finishing her books, I just find them to be a little lacking in some way.

I’m a sucker for any book that explores motherhood, even more so if the book is a thriller so I was hooked from the start here. The setting of a ritzy private preschool also appealed to me and then three women with secrets is basically my catnip. Like I said earlier, I’m always reeled in enough to read SS books quickly, but I think what was missing for me here was a more mature quality to make this feel like an adult thriller. I think where this author shines is her YA books so maybe next time I read her I just need to remember to go into it pretending it’s YA and I’ll like it more? Who knows honestly, I’m sure I’ll read her books in the future she does come up with some interesting premises. I think if you don’t mind a juvenile feeling “thriller” this may work for you, because her style is compelling for sure and while some parts of this were easy for me to predict I definitely didn’t see everything coming either. Clearly I have mixed feelings.

Overall rating: 3.5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Audiobook Review: It Happened One Summer by Tessa Bailey

Goodreads

Release date: July 13, 2021

Publisher: Harper Audio

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Synopsis:

Piper Bellinger is fashionable, influential, and her reputation as a wild child means the paparazzi are constantly on her heels. When too much champagne and an out-of-control rooftop party lands Piper in the slammer, her stepfather decides enough is enough. So he cuts her off, and sends Piper and her sister to learn some responsibility running their late father’s dive bar… in Washington.

Piper hasn’t even been in Westport for five minutes when she meets big, bearded sea captain Brendan, who thinks she won’t last a week outside of Beverly Hills. So what if Piper can’t do math, and the idea of sleeping in a shabby apartment with bunk beds gives her hives. How bad could it really be? She’s determined to show her stepfather—and the hot, grumpy local—that she’s more than a pretty face.

Except it’s a small town and everywhere she turns, she bumps into Brendan. The fun-loving socialite and the gruff fisherman are polar opposites, but there’s an undeniable attraction simmering between them. Piper doesn’t want any distractions, especially feelings for a man who sails off into the sunset for weeks at a time. Yet as she reconnects with her past and begins to feel at home in Westport, Piper starts to wonder if the cold, glamorous life she knew is what she truly wants. LA is calling her name, but Brendan—and this town full of memories—may have already caught her heart.

Review:

I have a new favorite Tessa Bailey book!! I love having trusted authors like TB that I can count on when I’m not really feeling any other books I try and read and I started this gem at the perfect time. I was immediately hooked by Piper as the odd man out in a tiny fishing town, her naivety was hilarious as she had to navigate the real world for the first time in her whole life. Brendan as the gruff, closed off macho man was the polar opposite of Piper and there were so many adorable and funny scenes between these two. Their chemistry was great as they started off as enemies though their attraction is undeniable and the banter was on point as well. Their relationship seemed to progress in a really natural manner, I think sometimes romance authors can struggle to get that aspect to real genuine and it was perfection here. The author also knows how to right a super sexy and steamy love scene and this was no exception, add in interesting secondary characters and I’m already dying to get my hands on the next book which will follow Piper’s sister, Hannah.

Charlotte North was an amazing narrator and she had me engaged the whole time. While I was already totally invested in the story, her narration added an additional layer of depth and emotion that made this one impossible for me to put down! I think this may be the first book I’ve listened to that she narrated but it will not be my last she’s awesome!

Overall rating: 5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Isn’t It Bromantic? by Lyssa Kay Adams

Release date: July 20, 2021

Publisher: Berkley

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Synopsis:

With his passion for romance novels, it was only a matter of time before Vlad wrote one.

Elena Konnikova has lived her entire adult life in the shadows. As the daughter of a Russian journalist who mysteriously disappeared, she escaped danger the only way she knew how: She married her childhood friend, Vladimir, and moved to the United States, where he is a professional hockey player in Nashville.

Vlad, aka the Russian, thought he could be content with his marriage of convenience. But it’s become too difficult to continue in a one-sided relationship. He joined the Bromance Book Club to learn how to make his wife love him, but all he’s learned is that he deserves more. He’s ready to create his own sweeping romance—both on and off the page.

The bros are unwilling to let Vlad forgo true love—and this time they’re not operating solo. They join forces with Vlad’s neighbors, a group of meddling widows who call themselves the Loners. But just when things finally look promising, Elena’s past life intrudes and their happily ever after is cast into doubt.

Review:

I freaking love this series and was SO excited to finally get to read The Russian’s story! His backstory has been a bit of a mystery since the start and I’ve been dying to know more about this gentle giant and his wife, Elena. All I’ve known about him before this installment was that he’s a hockey player with a sensitive stomach and a heart bigger than Russia and now that I’ve finished I’m so happy to have learned more about him, he’s the sweetest.

I’m always eager to read a romance where there’s a marriage in crisis and I liked the unique spin here as Vlad and Elena were also in a marriage of convenience. Add in some forced proximity and Vlad writing his own romance novel and this was the sweetest and most tender book of the series. I adore Vlad and am a little in love with him myself, he’s this badass aggressive player on the ice and off he’s an amazing friend and the most sensitive of all the Bros, SWOON! As always I love checking in on the other boys and can’t wait to see who gets to shine in book five. If you haven’t read this series and you love romance novels as much as I do it’s a must, they’re all fantastic!

Overall rating: 5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Audiobook Review: The House Guests by Emilie Richards

Release date: June 29, 2021

Publisher: MIRA

Genre: Mystery/Contemporary Fiction

Synopsis:

Two women. Two families. Two lifetimes’ worth of secrets.

In the wake of her husband’s sudden death, Cassie Costas finds her relationship with her teenage stepdaughter unraveling. After their move to historic Tarpon Springs, Florida, Savannah hates her new town, her school and most of all her stepmom, whom she blames for her father’s death. Cassie has enough to contend with as she searches for answers about the man she shared a life with, including why all their savings have disappeared.

When Savannah’s rebellion culminates in an act that leaves single mother Amber Blair and her sixteen-year-old son homeless, Cassie empathizes with the woman’s predicament and invites the strangers to move in. As their lives intertwine, Cassie realizes that Amber is hiding something. She’s evasive about her past, but the fear in her eyes tells a darker story. Cassie wonders what the woman living under her roof is running from…and what will happen if it finally catches up to her.

Review:

Do you ever go into a book with the wrong expectations and that basically ruins the whole thing for you? I really thought this would be a domestic suspense/thriller and instead it was more women’s fiction with a side of lighter suspense and unfortunately that just didn’t work for me so well here. There were definitely still elements that I liked but overall I was hoping for more.

I do want to say that the narrator, Vanessa Johansson was fantastic and I credit her with me even finishing this one. I’m quicker to set a book aside in print versus audio and that’s especially true for me if the narrator is engaging and this one was. Between that and the fact that I was invested in the mystery aspect I felt compelled to finish and I’m mostly glad I did. This was character driven with two women who were interesting enough but anything related to the mystery of both Cassie’s husbands death and Amber’s past were both easy for me to figure out. I was hoping for more surprises than I got and I guess just overall I wanted more tension and suspense.

Overall rating: 3/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Razorblade Tears by S. A. Cosby

Goodreads

Release date: July 6, 2021

Publisher: Flatiron

Genre: Thriller

Synopsis:

A Black father. A white father. Two murdered sons. A quest for vengeance.

Ike Randolph has been out of jail for fifteen years, with not so much as a speeding ticket in all that time. But a Black man with cops at the door knows to be afraid.

The last thing he expects to hear is that his son Isiah has been murdered, along with Isiah’s white husband, Derek. Ike had never fully accepted his son but is devastated by his loss.

Derek’s father Buddy Lee was almost as ashamed of Derek for being gay as Derek was ashamed his father was a criminal. Buddy Lee still has contacts in the underworld, though, and he wants to know who killed his boy.

Ike and Buddy Lee, two ex-cons with little else in common other than a criminal past and a love for their dead sons, band together in their desperate desire for revenge. In their quest to do better for their sons in death than they did in life, hardened men Ike and Buddy Lee will confront their own prejudices about their sons and each other, as they rain down vengeance upon those who hurt their boys.

Provocative and fast-paced, S. A. Cosby’s Razorblade Tears is a story of bloody retribution, heartfelt change – and maybe even redemption.

Review:

Last summer you may remember me raving about this authors book, Blacktop Wasteland because I couldn’t shut up about it. It was such an incredible story and definitely still a favorite to this day. While this was another highly original story it had many of the same elements that I loved in BW which really solidified this authors place on my auto buy list, he’s outstanding.

I think where this author shines the most is that he is able to combine an action packed series of events with an emotionally charged motivation and that combo will always reel me right in. Ike and Buddy Lee’s sons have already been murdered when the book begins so the whole thing is about the two men teaming up to get revenge. The cops have no leads so it’s up to them and since both men failed their sons while they were alive, the only option left is to get them vengeance in death. This was powerful as you have not only two grieving fathers but two grieving fathers who don’t really have many nice memories to look back on with their sons. Both men were homophobic and totally unaccepting of Derek and Isiah’s marriage and seeing their raw struggle was such a powerful thing. It’s hard to say what’s better here, the depth of the characters or the high octane, action packed plot because both were just amazing. This one is a must read and definitely a favorite of the year for me so it’s highly recommended!

Overall rating: 5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: No More Words by Kerry Lonsdale

Release date: July 6, 2021

Publisher: Lake Union

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Synopsis:

Forced to choose between abortion or adoption, Olivia Carson’s younger sister, Lily, runs away from home. Sixteen and pregnant, she never returns. But she writes. Once a year, Lily mails a picture of her son, Josh, to Olivia until his thirteenth year. Then it’s Josh himself who arrives at Olivia’s house, alone, terrified, and in possession of a notarized declaration from Lily. It begins, “In the event I go missing…”

Josh has difficulty talking. He can’t read or write, but he’s a prolific artist, exhibiting skill beyond his age. His drawings are as detailed as they are horrific. Olivia soon realizes Josh’s artwork tells a story. There’s more to his arrival and to Lily’s untimely disappearance than it seems. Using the drawings as a road map, Olivia traces Josh’s path back to his mom. Each drawing sheds light on Lily’s past and reveals a darkness that forces Olivia to question everything she thought she knew about her family

Review:

The start of a new trilogy from Kerry Lonsdale is cause for celebration for me, I loved her previous series and I’ve loved her standalones as well. This was such a strong start to a series, I cannot wait for the next two books!

One of the best things about this authors books is that they’re a blend of so many genres so there’s literally something for everyone. There’s a mystery surrounding both her nephews appearance and her sister’s disappearance, a romance between Liv and Blaze, and an emotional plot as family secrets are revealed. I loved seeing Liv connect with her nephew and build a familial bond over their concern over Lily and found Josh to be such a sweet kid. I found this to be such a page turner and I was invested almost immediately, definitely recommended as an engrossing summer read.

Overall rating: 4.5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Summer Reading Guide

My first summer reading guide is finally here and I could not be more thrilled! For years now I’ve wanted to put together a list of some of my favorite book recommendations and I finally managed to do it. Just in time too, today is the first official day of summer and I have you covered so you can fill up your online shopping carts or put those holds in at the library or maybe get your Kindle loaded before your vacation. From recent releases, to upcoming ones I’m excited about all the way to favorites from summers past there is something for everyone here. Let me know what’s on your summer TBR!

New Release Recommendations

This one is the ultimate summer read, you get to follow the main characters on several notable vacations and it’s a funny and sexy rom com as well.
The cover for this one just screams summer, right?! So does what’s inside, you can find my review here.
If you’re a fan of Dirty Dancing and family dramas this is a must, check out my review here
If you’re looking for a quirky read with great characters and a fun setting this is for you! Find my review here.
I loved the nostalgia this one brought me, and if you’re a wine drinker there’s plenty of that here too. Fans of women’s fiction with strong female leads and a side of “trashy” novels will like this.
If you like books about weddings, a large ensemble cast and are a fan of the movie Love Actually this one is a must! Find my review here.
A cross between Finlay Donovan and Crazy Rich Asians this one is hilarious! Read this when you want a silly story that will crack you up. My review is here.
This one is heartfelt, bittersweet and poignant and follows a group of lifelong friends when they reunite after some time apart.
It’s TJR, do I even have to say more? Her books are ultimate summer reads and this one is more than most, it’s a multilayered family drama with the best descriptive settings.
This is YA rom com gold and the audio version is perfection! If you like rom com movies of the past you’ll love the nods found here, find my review here .
A little dark and heavy for a summer read but I couldn’t resist adding it because I still loved it so much. The balance between heavy and light was perfect and I didn’t find it too much personally. My review is here.

Upcoming Releases

These next ones are basically my summer TBR, they’re not out yet but will be between the end of June through August.

Past Faves

I tried to really comb through my old reviews and find books that I really enjoyed in past summers in the hopes that they may be easier for everyone to get their hands on. I’ve also linked to my review when I could if you want more details.

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I’m not gonna link to my review because it has some spoilers because it was like one of the first reviews I ever wrote and I didn’t know any better but I remember absolutely loving this one!
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Review and an FYI this whole series is amazing!
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Review: The Stranger in the Mirror by Liv Constantine

Goodreads

Release date: July 6, 2021

Publisher: Harper

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Synopsis:

Addison’s about to get married, but she’s not looking forward to the big day. It’s not her fiancé; he’s a wonderful man. It’s because Addison doesn’t know who she really is. A few years ago, a kind driver found her bleeding next to a New Jersey highway and rescued her. While her physical wounds healed, Addison’s memory never returned. She doesn’t know her real name. Or how she ended up injured on the side of a road. Or why she can’t shake the notion that she may have done something very, very bad . . .

In a posh home in the Boston suburbs, Julian tries to figure out what happened to his loving, caring wife, Cassandra, who disappeared without a trace two years ago. She would never have left him and their seven-year-old daughter Valentina of her own free will—or would she?

As these two lives intersect, The Stranger in the Mirror hooks readers with riveting drama, told with Liv Constantine’s hallmark blend of glamour, tense psychological thrills, and jaw-dropping twists.

Review:

At first glance, and even for the first quarter of the book honestly, this seemed like a formulaic thriller with a path that would be very easy to follow. Things seemed so straightforward and predictable really, but there’s something about the authors writing style that never fails to grip me. Amnesia storylines have been done time and time again, but this put a new spin on things that I certainly haven’t ever seen before so it actually made it feel like a fresh read.

I think the most important thing to know about this one before you start it is that you cannot take it too seriously. It’s outlandish and ridiculous but it’s deliciously fun as well. You have to suspend all disbelief and just take it for what it is, a fun, entertaining and wild thriller that’s twisty and totally consuming. I flew through this in record time and found myself thinking about it when I did have to put it aside so there’s definitely an addictive quality to it. It was also disturbing and slightly creepy at moments, and despite a few predictable things, there were a couple unpredictable parts for me as well, so overall a fun summer thriller.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Audiobook Review: Nothing Personal by Nancy Jo Sales

Goodreads

Release date: May 18, 2021

Publisher: Hachette Audio

Genre: Memoir

Synopsis:

At forty-nine, famed Vanity Fair writer Nancy Jo Sales was nursing a broken heart and wondering, “How did I wind up alone?” On the advice of a young friend, she downloaded Tinder, then a brand-new dating app. What followed was a raucous ride through the world of online dating. Sales, an award-winning journalist and single mom, became a leading critic of the online dating industry, reporting and writing articles and making her directorial debut with the HBO documentary Swiped: Hooking Up in the Digital Age. Meanwhile, she was dating a series of younger men, eventually falling in love with a man less than half her age.

Nothing Personal is Sales’s memoir of coming-of-middle-age in the midst of a new dating revolution. She is unsparingly honest about her own experience of addiction to dating apps and hilarious in her musings about dick pics, sexting, dating FOMO, and more. Does Big Dating really want us to find love, she asks, or just keep on using its apps?

Fiercely feminist, Nothing Personal investigates how Big Dating has overwhelmed the landscape of dating, cynically profiting off its users’ deepest needs and desires. Looking back through the history of modern courtship and her own relationships, Sales examines how sexism has always been a factor for women in dating, and asks what the future of courtship will bring, if left to the designs of Silicon Valley’s tech giants—especially in a time of social distancing and a global pandemic, when the rules of romance are once again changing.

Review:

Do you read many memoirs? I really don’t honestly, but if I do I tend to prefer to listen to them as opposed to reading them. This one caught my eye because I myself have never used a dating app before, I met my husband long before apps in general were even a thing, but they’ve always intrigued me in a, damn I’m glad I didn’t have to deal with them when I was single type of way. I’ve had friends tell me horror stories of course and then I’ve had other friends who have met the love of their life using one, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard such a raw, honest and vulnerable portrayal of just how exhausting being on one can be until I read this one. The author digs deep into the pitfalls of apps like Tinder and speaks about how addictive they can be and also how toxic, unhealthy and ultimately unfulfilling and damaging they can be for women. I was fascinated by some of the stories she shared and found her to be witty, insightful and honest.

My favorite audiobook narrator is Therese Plummer so imagine my utter delight when I started this one and heard her voice! She also narrated the Virgin River series which I devoured in audio format last year and she could read me the dictionary and I would be mesmerized, she’s THE best!! You know how when some female narrators try to change their voice when they’re speaking as a man? Oftentimes it sounds silly or forced but she nails this and many other inflections and accents. I’m telling y’all, she’s amazing! If you haven’t listened to her before start here, she did an excellent job of bringing Nancy Jo’s story to life.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Just Married by Kiersten Modglin

Goodreads

Release date: July 5, 2021

Publisher: Bookouture

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Synopsis:

When my husband found this perfect little cabin in the woods for our honeymoon, I couldn’t wait to get away. Just us in the middle of the forest, waking up every day in the trees, ending each night in the hot tub under the stars. But now I’m not sure that I know my husband at all…

I just wish we’d gone to the police when someone left a note on the doormat saying: She’s dead, you’re next. Ryan said I was overreacting, but I don’t understand why he won’t go to the cops now things are getting worse. Can I trust my husband?

I’ve known about the terrible thing that Ryan did for years and it’s been tearing me apart. Last night I told him I would always keep his secret. But is the man I married hiding something else from me?

Now someone has cut the phone lines and we’re trapped here. Ryan swears he has no idea what’s going on and just wants to keep us safe. I’m here alone in the middle of the dark forest with the man I thought I could trust. My heart is racing and there’s no one I can call…

My husband promised till death do us part. Am I about to find out what that means?

Review:

Have you read a book by this author before? I discovered her last year and have been making my way through her books ever since. Whenever I feel kinda slumpy or when I need a guaranteed fast paced and exciting thriller I know I can grab one of her books because that’s exactly the type she consistently writes. All of that to say, if you haven’t read her before she has an extensive backlist and she comes out with new books several times a year, I swear she’s a writing machine, but I’ve totally enjoyed every book of hers I’ve read thus far!

I love an atmospheric thriller and this one delivers, the isolated cabin in the woods was eerie and then add in the creepy things that keep happening to Grace and Ryan and you have a chilling read. This was a fast read, both because it’s under 300 pages with short and snappy chapters, but also because things unfold so quickly you can’t bear to put it down. As always I didn’t see the twists coming ahead of time and I was definitely surprised by the direction this took, lots of secrets and lies and plenty of darkness as well, overall everything I want in an entertaining thriller.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.