Review: Sunshine on Silver Lake by Annie Rains

Goodreads

Release date: July 21, 2020

Publisher: Forever

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Blurb:

Welcome back to Sweetwater Springs, North Carolina for a heartwarming second-chance romance between a quirky café owner and a handsome park ranger.


With summer just around the corner, Emma St. James is eagerly planning a 5K run at Sweetwater Springs National Park. But first she needs the help of one charming, rugged, and handsome park ranger. Her brief high school romance with Jack Hershey may have ended in heartbreak, but Emma can’t deny that he still gives her butterflies. So when Jack responds to her request with an all-too-tempting plea to pretend to be his girlfriend for the summer, how can she say no?

Jack would do anything for his sister — even pretend to give up his bachelor life to care for his nephew. Passing his days with his high school sweetheart guarantees one long, hot summer — but only because every moment together leaves him wanting a real relationship. He can’t imagine spending another season without Emma by his side. Can he convince her to give their love a second chance before the summer draws to a close?

Review:

I know I say this every single time I review one of the authors books but I’m saying it again, this is hands down my new favorite in the series! This is book five and while you could definitely read it as a standalone, I think you would be missing out if you started here. Every single book is just incredibly charming and by now the characters feel like friends and I love checking in with past couples in each new installment. I’m telling you, if small town romances are your thing don’t miss this series.

This book follows Emma and Jack and I’ve been dying to hear Emma’s story for some time now. It’s a second chance romance, but Emma and Jack were in high school when they briefly dated so seeing if they could make it work as adults was seriously adorable. I love a couple with some backstory and history and I adored both of them. They had great chemistry and their developing romance was both sweet and sexy. This one gave me all the feels and Emma is dealing with her mother’s death so there was definitely an emotional component alongside the romance. Another cozy and warm addition to the cutest series, definitely recommended by me!

Overall rating: 5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Musical Chairs by Amy Poeppel

Goodreads

Release date: July 21, 2020

Publisher: Atria

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Blurb:

Bridget and Will have the kind of relationship that people envy: they’re loving, compatible, and completely devoted to each other. The fact that they’re strictly friends seems to get lost on nearly everyone; after all, they’re as good as married in (almost) every way. For three decades, they’ve nurtured their baby, the Forsyth Trio—a chamber group they created as students with their Juilliard classmate Gavin Glantz. In the intervening years, Gavin has gone on to become one of the classical music world’s reigning stars, while Bridget and Will have learned to embrace the warm reviews and smaller venues that accompany modest success.

Bridget has been dreaming of spending the summer at her well-worn Connecticut country home with her boyfriend Sterling. But her plans are upended when Sterling, dutifully following his ex-wife’s advice, breaks up with her over email and her twin twenty-somethings arrive unannounced, filling her empty nest with their big dogs, dirty laundry, and respective crises.

Bridget has problems of her own: her elderly father announces he’s getting married, and the Forsyth Trio is once again missing its violinist. She concocts a plan to host her dad’s wedding on her ramshackle property, while putting the Forsyth Trio back into the spotlight. But to catch the attention of the music world, she and Will place their bets on luring back Gavin, whom they’ve both avoided ever since their stormy parting.

With her trademark humor, pitch-perfect voice, and sly perspective on the human heart, Amy Poeppel crafts a love letter to modern family life with all of its discord and harmony. In the tradition of novels by Maria Semple and Stephen McCauley, Musical Chairsis an irresistibly romantic story of role reversals, reinvention, and sweet synchronicity. 

Review:

I became a super fan of the author after I read Limelight and totally fell in love with her writing style so Musical Chairs was definitely one of my most anticipated 2020 reads. I was hoping there would be the same humor, wit, charm, authentic characters and an entreating story and I was not disappointed, I adored this one too!

Bridget has big plans for her summer, she’s heading to her house in Connecticut with her boyfriend and she’s counting on lots of romance and some time spent with Will, her lifelong friend and musical partner. Shit hits the fan almost immediately when her boyfriend dumps her and her two grown children show up unannounced to spend the summer with her. There’s also more chaos and drama but I’ll stop there, suffice it to say it’s funny as hell and I sympathize with poor Bridget. I mean, who’s plan haven’t been ruined this summer? I loved the ensemble cast of characters, you get to hear from people from all walks of life and they all made me laugh. Definitely recommend this as a great summer escapist read!

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: The Truth Hurts by Rebecca Reid

Goodreads

Release date: July 28, 2020

Publisher: Harper Perennial

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

Is her new husband hiding something? 

Caught up in a whirlwind romance that starts in sunny Ibiza and leads to the cool corridors of a luxurious English country estate, Poppy barely has time to catch her breath, let alone seriously question if all this is too good to be true. Drew is enamored, devoted, and, okay, a little mysterious—but that’s part of the thrill. What’s the harm in letting his past remain private? 

Maybe he’s not the only one… 

Fortunately, Drew never seems to wonder why his young wife has so readily agreed to their unusual pact to live only in the here and now and not probe their personal histories. Perhaps he assumes, as others do, that she is simply swept up in the intoxication of infatuation and sudden wealth. What’s the harm in letting them believe that? 

How far will they go to keep the past buried? 

Isolated in Drew’s sprawling mansion, Poppy starts to have time to doubt the man she’s married, to wonder what in his past might be so terrible that it can’t be spoken of, to imagine what harm he might be capable of. She doesn’t want this dream to shatter. But Poppy may soon be forced to confront the dark truth that there are sins far more dangerous than the sin of omission… 

Review:

Imagine you make a deal with your future spouse that you guys don’t discuss your past at all. No past relationships, no childhood stories, very little is revealed about your family history, basically you’re starting fresh. Nothing sounds shady about that, right? 😏 This is the pact Drew and Poppy make after their whirlwind romance and right before their marriage and if that seems slightly ridiculous it’s because it is. But sometimes I like ridiculous and over the top and I flew through this wicked story about the past coming back to haunt you.

Of course you know there will be several secrets, I mean come on, why would you want to limit past talk unless you’re hiding something, but while I clearly knew that skeletons would be coming out of the closet, I did enjoy the way things all played out. For the majority of the book it almost felt like a contemporary romance with a dash of darkness and then by the time I got to the end things took a sharp turn to the super dark and twisted. So basically, the end saved it for me and I’m the type of reader that has everything riding on a strong ending. This was oddly fast and entertaining for me, I would hesitate to recommend this as a true thriller as I think it’s more of a light popcorn style thriller at best. Kinda perfect for summer though and can imagine it would be fun to read poolside.

Overall rating: 3.5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Guest Post: Lori Allen, author of Say Yes to What’s Next

Release date: July 14, 2020

Publisher: Thomas and Nelson

Genre: Non Fiction

Blurb: From the star of Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta, now filming its eleventh season for TLC, comes a book and a life-makeover movement for women approaching fifty and beyond.

Move over, girlfriend, Lori Allen is here to help you say yes to what’s next! Star of Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta, Lori Allen uses her confidence, wisdom, and signature humor not only to help young brides on their most important day ever but also to model to them and their mothers how to live out the coming years as the best of their lives.

Lori Allen is owner/operator of one of the biggest and busiest bridal mega-salons in the country, Atlanta’s Bridals by Lori. But she’s also a wife, mother, grandmother, and breast cancer survivor.

Whether you’re feeling invisible, disappearing into the fabric of your couch a little more every year, or simply being indecisive about what’s next, Lori offers herself as the poster child of what to do, not do, and how to see your way through the unexpected.

In Say Yes to What’s Next she addresses essential issues, such as

  • don’t let yourself go,
  • marriage is awesome, but it’s no fairytale,
  • keep your mouth shut and your heart open to your kids (and they’ll bring you grandkids),
  • make time to parent your parents,
  • maintain a close circle of girlfriends,
  • get off the couch and live your passion,
  • take charge of your money, and
  • what to do when life gives you a faceplant.

Say Yes to What’s Next is a life makeover and therapy session from a relatable you-can-and-you-should-do-this straight-shooter as Lori helps women shape their own futures with confidence, style, and sass.

“Say Yes” to Positive Thinking with Lori Allen

 

When I was raising my family — my daughter Mollie and my son Cory— I always strived to give them happy childhood experiences that allowed them to feel good about themselves. As a Grandmother, I strive to recreate those same experiences with my grandchildren.

Here are just some of my recommended techniques for helping your kids see life through a glass is half full lens.

 

1. Positive Thinking Starts with YOU – That’s right, children emulate what they see and experience and you are their shining example. Make sure that you’re practicing what you preach; show your children how you look at the bright side when something challenging comes your way and they’ll quickly learn that that’s the best way to deal with daily frustrations and adversity. 

 

2. Positive Reinforcement: Parents frequently use reinforcement the wrong way. For example, when a child wins their tennis match, parents’ heap on praise. When that same child loses a match, those parents tend to go quiet. They think it’s best not to say anything at all, which is a big mistake. Pick out the positive parts of the match that they lost – whether it was a great serve or that they displayed good sportsmanship – and let them know that their efforts have been noticed. 

 

3. Play UP Their Natural Strengths – Another way to raise positive thinkers is by emphasizing the greatest natural strengths your child possesses. If your child has a lofty goal, encourage them like my parents did to me when I told them I wanted to open my own bridal salon. Use phrases like “I know you can do it if you work hard!” and “You got this, you can accomplish anything once your mind is made up!” Showing absolutely confidence in your child’s abilities will help them to not just think – but to KNOW – that the sky’s the limit!

 

4. Focus on the Good– You need to teach your children to focus on the positive and not on the negative, to always look for the silver lining. I’m not saying that they should never tell you when something is bothering them, instead help them focus first on the good parts of their day and minimize some of the bad parts. 

 

Find more great tips in Say Yes to What’s Next” by Lori Allen.

 

 

Review: Survival Instincts by Jen Waite

Goodreads

Release date: July 14, 2020

Publisher: Dutton

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

FOURTEEN YEARS BEFORE THE CABIN: Twenty-something Anne meets the man of her dreams right out of college, but after they get married, Anne notices that her husband begins acting differently. Why is Ethan suddenly so moody? And will their marriage endure?

A WEEK BEFORE THE CABIN: Ten years later, Anne and her twelve-year-old daughter, Thea, are safely living in Vermont. Anne is a successful therapist, Thea has friends at her new school, and they receive an endless stream of love, support, and baked goods from Anne’s sweet mom, Rose. When Thea takes to brooding and showing classic signs of teen angst, a trip for the three women to the White Mountains of New Hampshire seems like the perfect chance to bond.

THE CABIN: A man follows the three women on a hike at a nature reserve and drags them at gunpoint to an abandoned cabin in the woods. And just like that their peaceful weekend away turns into a fight for survival. It isn’t clear what this man wants from these women or how he is connected to them if at all, but it is increasingly clear that they won’t all get out of the cabin alive.

SURVIVAL INSTINCTS is a captivating and terrifying novel that brings to life one of the scariest truths of all–that people’s inner monsters come in various forms, some more recognizable than others, and that we are all one random encounter away from tragedy.

Review:

Before I get into my own thoughts about this one I want to address the problematic issues that I didn’t even realize were in the book until after I read my friend Toya’s review Be sure to check her post out, it was eye opening for me for sure. I also want to say that the team at Dutton and the author herself listened to Toya’s concerns and immediately began working on implementing changes. While it was too late to edit the hardcover book, the ebook and audio version will have edits and I have to applaud all parties involved in making said edits. You can also check out this post from the author as well.

I love an emotionally charged thriller and is there anything more fraught with emotion than a mother/daughter relationship? Throw in a scenario where a mom, daughter and grandma are fighting for their lives and you have one hell of a tense situation. This flips between multiple viewpoints and the one from the Man who kidnaps the family were chilling and super fascinating. He clearly had an agenda and a reason for taking them but I couldn’t figure out what that reason was before it was revealed, always a great sign in a thriller for me. This was a really solid read for me, if you like character driven thrillers check this one out!

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: What You Wish For by Katherine Center

Goodreads

Release date: July 14, 2020

Publisher: St. Martin’s

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Blurb:

Samantha Casey loves everything about her job as an elementary school librarian on the sunny, historic island of Galveston, Texas—the goofy kids, the stately Victorian building, the butterfly garden. But when the school suddenly loses its beloved principal, it turns out his replacement will be none other than Duncan Carpenter—a former, unrequited crush of Sam’s from many years before.

When Duncan shows up as her new boss, though, he’s nothing like the sweet teacher she once swooned over. He’s become stiff, and humorless, and obsessed with school safety. Now, with Duncan determined to destroy everything Sam loves about her school in the name of security—and turn it into nothing short of a prison—Sam has to stand up for everyone she cares about before the school that’s become her home is gone for good. 

Review:

There are a very select few authors who’s books are pure magic for me and Center is most definitely one of them. There is something in the way that she tells a story that is just really special to me and I think it’s the combination of humor, wit, heart, emotion and fantastic characterization that just knocks it out of the park for me every single time.

This is definitely the kind of book that will make you feel all the feelings, Sam and Duncan both have traumatic events in their past that they’re working through and while there were definitely some heavy issues explored here, the author handles them with grace, sensitivity and humor which is just the best combination ever. They’re the kind of characters that you fall in love with yourself and root for and I was truly sad when I finished and had to say goodbye to them. Highly recommended by me and if you’ve never read a KC book before and love uplifting, funny and warm reads what are you waiting for?!

Overall rating: 5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Blacktop Wasteland by S. A. Cosby

Goodreads

Release date: July 14, 2020

Publisher: Flatiron

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

Beauregard “Bug” Montage is an honest mechanic, a loving husband, and a hard-working dad. Bug knows there’s no future in the man he used to be: known from the hills of North Carolina to the beaches of Florida as the best wheelman on the East Coast.

He thought he’d left all that behind him, but as his carefully built new life begins to crumble, he finds himself drawn inexorably back into a world of blood and bullets. When a smooth-talking former associate comes calling with a can’t-miss jewelry store heist, Bug feels he has no choice but to get back in the driver’s seat. And Bug is at his best where the scent of gasoline mixes with the smell of fear.

Haunted by the ghost of who he used to be and the father who disappeared when he needed him most, Bug must find a way to navigate this blacktop wasteland…or die trying.

Like Ocean’s Eleven meets Drive, with a Southern noir twist, S. A. Cosby’s Blacktop Wasteland is a searing, operatic story of a man pushed to his limits by poverty, race, and his own former life of crime.

Review:

Ok friends, this one is a MUST read! This is especially true if you’re fan of action packed, dark, gritty, emotionally charged thrillers. The writing is painfully beautiful and evocative and while it’s exciting and bold, it also examines race and poverty through a sharp lens. It’s also highly atmospheric and so well described, it’s basically begging to be made into a movie, I really can’t say enough good things about this one.

Bug is the type of character that is so well crafted you wouldn’t be surprised to see him jump off the pages, hop into a car and drive like the wind. Never before have I read about a character that is more conflicted than he is, he’s a good man who wants what’s best for his family but he has demons, he can’t escape his past and he can’t quite get rid of the feeling that being a getaway driver is what he’s made to do, it’s who he is, it’s in his blood. It’s a constant struggle for him and that’s even before you touch on his struggles as a Black man trying to provide for his family in a world that is constantly pushing him backwards for every step forward he manages to take. His conflicts and issues were so well written they were a tangible thing, at times his pain and brutal honesty took my breath away.

Between the vivid and action packed scenes and the deep and complex characterization of Bug and his family I just couldn’t get enough of this one. If you enjoy dark noir style crime fiction that may break your heart a little one minute and then have you on the edge of your seat in anticipation the next you cannot miss this one!

Overall rating: 5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: How to Save a Life by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke

Goodreads

Release date: July 14, 2020

Publisher: Lake Union

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Blurb:

Dom is having a very bad day—one he literally can’t escape.

When Dom bumps into Mia, his ex-fiancée whom he hasn’t seen in almost a decade, he believes they’ve been given a second chance and asks her out. When Mia dies tragically on their date, Dom makes a desperate wish: to be given the chance to save her life. And when he wakes the next morning to the shock that she’s alive, he thinks his wish may have been granted. But day after day, no matter what he changes about their time together, she still meets a terrible fate.

Dom frantically searches for answers to save his beloved Mia and rekindle their former love. But the further he digs, the more obsessed he becomes, making him realize that slowing down time may be the only way to see things clearly. As he’s forced to confront the truth about himself and those he’s closest to, Dom vows that he’ll watch Mia die a thousand times if it means he can save her once.

Review:

In a time where we all feel like we’re living in the movie Groundhog Day I found an odd comfort in reading about Dom who is truly living the same day over and over again, and friends it’s not the best day for him. If I was feeling a little bit sorry for myself about how repetitive my own days have been feeling this quickly made me grateful that I wasn’t truly stuck in a time loop like Dom and made me count my own blessings just a little bit more.

While the basics of the plot may feel like they’ve been done before I do want to tell you that the authors put their own fresh twist on the concept. This was a departure from their latest few books and I’m once again super impressed by how they manage to come up with original story ideas time and time again. This felt like a combination of contemporary fiction and romantic suspense because the whole time you’re wondering if Dom will be able to save Mia and if so, how?! I’ll quit discussing the plot right here, but I found it to be fun and uplifting in the end. It’s also a super fast one sitting type of read and one that I definitely recommend that you add to your summer TBR.

Overall rating:4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

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.