Review: Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain

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Release date: January 14, 2020

Publisher: St. Martin’s

Genre: Historical Fiction

Blurb:

North Carolina, 2018: Morgan Christopher’s life has been derailed. Taking the fall for a crime she did not commit, she finds herself serving a three-year stint in the North Carolina Women’s Correctional Center. Her dream of a career in art is put on hold—until a mysterious visitor makes her an offer that will see her released immediately. Her assignment: restore an old post office mural in a sleepy southern town. Morgan knows nothing about art restoration, but desperate to leave prison, she accepts. What she finds under the layers of grime is a painting that tells the story of madness, violence, and a conspiracy of small town secrets. 

North Carolina, 1940: Anna Dale, an artist from New Jersey, wins a national contest to paint a mural for the post office in Edenton, North Carolina. Alone in the world and desperate for work, she accepts. But what she doesn’t expect is to find herself immersed in a town where prejudices run deep, where people are hiding secrets behind closed doors, and where the price of being different might just end in murder. 

What happened to Anna Dale? Are the clues hidden in the decrepit mural? Can Morgan overcome her own demons to discover what exists beneath the layers of lies? 

Review:

I love when a book is told in alternating timelines, especially if the author manages to seamlessly switch between past and present and I don’t know if any author does this better than DC. Can she do any wrong?! I’m beginning to think not, I’ve only read a handful of her books and have finished each one feeling so impressed and awed.

One of my very favorite things about cracking open a DC book is I always know that I’m going to learn something new and I’ll most likely be fascinated with whatever topic she covers and this was no exception. I know next to nothing about art in general, never mind art restoration but I was totally taken with the whole process was which is something I never would’ve guessed. Add in a mystery and her trademark characterization and I was all in. Fans of the author will be thrilled with her latest and if you’ve never read her before get on it!

Overall rating: 4.5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Love Her or Lose Her by Tessa Bailey

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Release date: January 14, 2020

Publisher: Avon

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Blurb:

Rosie and Dominic Vega are the perfect couple: high school sweethearts, best friends, madly in love. Well, they used to be anyway. Now Rosie’s lucky to get a caveman grunt from the ex-soldier every time she walks in the door. Dom is faithful and a great provider, but the man she fell in love with ten years ago is nowhere to be found. When her girlfriends encourage Rosie to demand more out of life and pursue her dream of opening a restaurant, she decides to demand more out of love, too. Three words: marriage boot camp.

Never in a million years did Rosie believe her stoic, too-manly-to-emote husband would actually agree to relationship rehab with a weed-smoking hippy. Dom talking about feelings? Sitting on pillows? Communing with nature? Learning love languages? Nope. But to her surprise, he’s all in, and it forces her to admit her own role in their cracked foundation. As they complete one ridiculous—yet surprisingly helpful—assignment after another, their remodeled relationship gets stronger than ever. Except just as they’re getting back on track, Rosie discovers Dom has a secret… and it could demolish everything.

Review:

This is the second in a series, I read and enjoyed the first, Fix Her Up last year. As much as I liked the first book I freaking loved this one, way more than I was expecting to actually. It was just as racy and steamy as the first book but it also had so much emotional depth which was just a great balance for me.

I really liked that this focused on a married couple that was having issues. For me, that’s much more relatable than a super young couple trying to figure things out. So many of Rosie and Dom’s problems are ones that I think many married couples face and it was refreshing to see said issues explored honestly. The characterization of both of them was fantastic, I really felt like I knew both of them by the end and felt like they were both portrayed in a raw and authentic manner.

Guys I just loved this one and if you like your romance novel super spicy then don’t miss this one! I love when the second in a series is just as good, or in this case, better and I’m so excited to see where it goes next.

Overall rating: 5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: You Were There Too by Colleen Oakley

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Release date: January 7, 2020

Publisher: Berkley

Genre: Contemporary Fiction/ Romance

Blurb:

Acclaimed author Colleen Oakley delivers a heart-wrenching and unforgettable love story about a woman who must choose between the man she loves and the man fate has chosen for her in a novel that reminds us that the best life is one led by the heart.

Mia Graydon’s life looks picket-fence perfect; she has the house, her loving husband, and dreams of starting a family. But she has other dreams too — unexplained, recurring ones starring the same man. Still, she doesn’t think much of them, until a relocation to small-town Pennsylvania brings her face to face with the stranger she has been dreaming about for years. And this man harbors a jaw-dropping secret of his own—he’s been dreaming of her too. 

Determined to understand, Mia and this not-so-stranger search for answers. But when diving into their pasts begins to unravel her life in the present, Mia emerges with a single question—what if?

Review:

I love the premise of this one, the whole reoccurring dream thing actually fascinates me to no end and this took that idea to a whole new level. It definitely requires the reader to be open minded and just take the book for what it is, but if you can just go with the flow and be open to strange happenings and odd coincidences you may enjoy it.

Based on the description alone I really expected this one to be highly emotional and gut wrenching and I felt like for the majority of the book I was waiting for an emotional punch that never came until the very end. It wasn’t even that there was a bunch of buildup and then a big payoff in the end, it was more that it was lacking something for me, maybe a connection with the main character, Mia? I’m not sure but there was definitely something missing for me and despite a tumultuous ending that packed a punch, I can’t say the rest of the book held up for me. This isn’t a bad book by any means, and it did have original components, but it didn’t wow me as much as I had hoped.

Overall rating: 3/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Husband Material by Emily Belden

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Release date: December 30, 2019

Publisher: Graydon House

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Blurb:

Sometimes love is unpredictable…

Twenty-nine-year-old Charlotte Rosen has a secret: she’s a widow. Ever since the fateful day that leveled her world, Charlotte has worked hard to move forward. Great job at a hot social media analytics company? Check. Roommate with no knowledge of her past? Check. Adorable dog? Check. All the while, she’s faithfully data-crunched her way through life, calculating the probability of risk—so she can avoid it.

Yet Charlotte’s algorithms could never have predicted that her late husband’s ashes would land squarely on her doorstep five years later. Stunned but determined, Charlotte sets out to find meaning in this sudden twist of fate, even if that includes facing her perfectly coiffed, and perfectly difficult, ex-mother-in-law—and her husband’s best friend, who seems to become a fixture at her side whether she likes it or not.

But soon a shocking secret surfaces, forcing Charlotte to answer questions she never knew to ask and to consider the possibility of forgiveness. And when a chance at new love arises, she’ll have to decide once and for all whether to follow the numbers or trust her heart. 

Review:

Do you ever finish a book and just think, meh? That’s what happened to me with this one, I didn’t love or hate it, I didn’t even really like or dislike it either, I just feel pretty apathetic about it overall. Kind of a bummer because the authors previous book, Hot Mess was such a hit for me that I wasn’t expecting this to be such a miss.

There were definitely some things I liked about this one, the fact that Charlotte was a young widow was interesting and the author has a really quirky, sarcastic style I like. There were also some great secondary characters that entertained me but I didn’t really connect with either Charlotte or Brian on any level. I also felt like this really lacked romance which was probably the biggest disappointment for me. The ending was also lackluster for me and by that point I was just ready for it to be over, never a good sign for me. Because I loved Hot Mess so much though I would definitely give the author another try and if you haven’t read that one I can definitely recommend it over this one.

Overall rating: Honestly a 2.75ish but I’ll go with 3/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Unspeakable Things by Jess Lourey @jesslourey

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Release date: January 1, 2020

Publisher: Thomas and Mercer

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

Inspired by a terrifying true story from the author’s hometown, a heart-pounding novel of suspense about a small Minnesota community where nothing is as quiet—or as safe—as it seems.

Cassie McDowell’s life in 1980s Minnesota seems perfectly wholesome. She lives on a farm, loves school, and has a crush on the nicest boy in class. Yes, there are her parents’ strange parties and their parade of deviant guests, but she’s grown accustomed to them.

All that changes when someone comes hunting in Lilydale.

One by one, local boys go missing. One by one, they return changed—violent, moody, and withdrawn. What happened to them becomes the stuff of shocking rumors. The accusations of who’s responsible grow just as wild, and dangerous town secrets start to surface. Then Cassie’s own sister undergoes the dark change. If she is to survive, Cassie must find her way in an adult world where every sin is justified, and only the truth is unforgivable. 

Review:

Unspeakable Things is out today and man you guys, this one was such a different read from the type of book I’ve been gravitating towards lately. It’s a mix between a coming of age story and suspense and is set in 1980’s Minnesota and follows a thirteen year old girl named Cassie. She lives in a small town and suddenly a string of local boys start to disappear, but most of them return quickly. They’re all changed and haunted by whatever happened while they were gone and Cassie is terrified by what’s going on in her town. Terrifying, right? It’s also inspired by true events making it all the more creepy!

This one went super dark, and had an overall sense of foreboding, hints of menace and just the general feeling that something was off. I found it to be atmospheric and eerie and really emotional all at the same time. It almost had a literary feel to it as the author has a beautiful way with words and the angst and emotional turmoil Cassie was facing added so much depth and heartbreak to a really gripping story.

The ending of this wasn’t my favorite, I was disappointed until I found out the author had originally written an epilogue then decided to pull it before publication. She has it up on her website and after reading it and getting some more firm answers I was satisfied. Don’t read it first though, there are huge spoilers for the book. Other than that minor gripe that was easily resolved for me I really enjoyed this one.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the author for my review copy.

9 Books to add to your 2020 TBR

For the final day of the year I’m sharing some books I’ve read for 2020 and really enjoyed! Definitely recommend preordering or getting in the library holds list.

American Dirt was just incredible and so timely.

HEAPL was my most anticipated book for 2020 and it lived up to my expectations and then some!

I’m obsessed with Greer and Sarah as an author duo and definitely enjoyed their newest!

New D. D. and Flora book is always a treat for me and this one was amazing!

Follow Me was creepy and awesome!

A Good Neighborhood was a really well written and complex story that broke my heart.

The Wife and the Widow was an incredibly clever thriller, just awesome!

Love Her or Lose Her was a fantastic romance with the perfect mix of tenderness and steam.

Followers was a really clever story that examines social media with a sharp lens.

What books are you excited about for 2020?

Best Audiobooks of 2019 #bestof2019

Audio was a lifesaver for me in 2019, I listened to SO many incredible books while driving, running errands and doing chores. I’ve partnered up with my friends at Libro.fm and if you sign up you can get 3 audiobooks for the price of 1! These were my favorite listens and a couple weren’t even released this year, I just had to include them.

Many of these I didn’t write a full review but trust me when I say they were all amazing and there’s something for everyone here!

Are you an audiobook fan?!

Best Thrillers of 2019 #bestof2019

Admittedly I struggled with mystery/thrillers for a good part of the year but there were still quite a few standouts for me that make me want to continue reading the genre!

TSP took the book world by storm, and rightly so. If you still haven’t read it yet it’s a must!

Stalker was just an incredibly smart and sharp thriller.

Miracle Creek is more of a literary mystery but it’s phenomenal and a must read!

The Last Act was another super solid read from an author I’ve grown to trust. This was twisty and compelling!

KBelle is another trusted author for me and Dear Wife was another wickedly delicious and smart thriller from her!

It’s Harlan Coben, he’s phenomenal read it! Run Away was even a book I convinced my husband to read and he’s not a reader AT ALL.

The Arrangement was juicy and dramatic and just awesome!

I Know Who You Are was dark, twisted and shocking, what more could I want in a thriller?!

The Family Upstairs had a really cool gothic vibe and was super edgy!

Whisper Man was creepy AF!

Have you read any of these?

Best Romance of 2019 #bestof2019

2019 was the year of romance for me, I read a TON of them and really found myself enjoying the genre.

Well Met had everything I look for in a romance, humor, sweetness and a unique premise!

Bromance was another one with a unique premise and I couldn’t be more excited that it’s the start of a series!

Alaskan Christmas was my first Jennifer Snow book and I was blown away, SO good!

HH proved with her sophomore novel that she’s an extremely talented writer and she brings so much diversity to the genre Bride Test

It’s CoHo, obviously Regretting You makes my list!

Tom Hanks couldn’t be any cuter, a must for rom com fans!

Again, it’s CL of course at least one of their books made my list Unhoneymooners

One Summer could’ve also fit on my WF list but it definitely has romance as well 🤷‍♀️

Unbreakables was sexy and modern, LOVED it!

TFZ is the must read romance of the year!

How to Hack is an adorable and fun rom com!

Have you read any of these?