Review: The Last Time I Saw You by Liv Constantine

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Release date: May 7, 2019

Publisher: Harper

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

Dr. Kate English has it all. Not only is she the heiress to a large fortune; she has a gorgeous husband and daughter, a high-flying career, and a beautiful home anyone would envy.

But all that changes the night Kate’s mother, Lily, is found dead, brutally murdered in her own home. Heartbroken and distraught, Kate reaches out to her estranged best friend, Blaire Barrington, who rushes to her side for the funeral, where the years of distance between them are forgotten in a moment.

That evening, Kate’s grief turns to horror when she receives an anonymous text: You think you’re sad now, just wait. By the time I’m finished with you, you’ll wish you had been buried today. More than ever, Kate needs her old friend’s help.

Once Blaire decides to take the investigation into her own hands, it becomes clear that all is not as it seems in Baltimore high society. As infidelity, lies, and betrayals come to light, and tensions rise to a boiling point, she begins to alienate Kate’s friends and relatives with her relentless, accusatory questions, as she tries to find Lily’s killer. The murderer could be anyone—friend, neighbor, loved one. But whoever it is, it’s clear that Kate is next on their list. . .

In The Last Time I Saw You, Liv Constantine takes the lightning pace of The Last Mrs. Parrish and raises the stakes, creating an exquisitely tension-filled and absorbing tale of psychological suspense in which innocent lives—and one woman’s sanity—hang in the balance.

Review:

I was a little late to the party with Constantine’s debut, The Last Mrs. Parrish and I had kind of put it off because it was so hyped up and I didn’t want to be underwhelmed. I ended up really liking it and was fairly certain I would like this one as well, the premise sounded good, nothing groundbreaking, but I was interested for sure. Unfortunately this one just work for me and I found myself sorely disappointed in the end. I will admit it was a weirdly fast read for me, I think I kept expecting some sort of shift that would turn things around but that never happened 🤷‍♀️

I’m not going to waste a bunch of time bashing this book, I HATE writing negative reviews but I pride myself on honesty and believe in transparency, so I’m just going to quickly give you some highlights as to why I can’t recommend this one.

🙊 For anyone that’s read more than a handful of thrillers this is predictable throughout and then by the end, things take a turn towards the ridiculous with strange “twists” that reminded me of a soap opera. I like soaps but this was just too much.

🙊 The characters behaved so oddly, everything was over the top and dramatic, think bad lifetime movie. Again, I like those movies, but no.

🙊 The believability factor was at like a zero, it was absurd and outlandish.

Overall rating: 2/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: The Southern Side of Paradise by Kristy Woodson Harvey

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Release date: May 7, 2019

Publisher: Gallery

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Blurb:

With the man of her dreams back in her life and all three of her daughters happy, Ansley Murphy should be content. But she can’t help but feel like it’s all a little too good to be true.

Meanwhile, youngest daughter and actress Emerson, who is recently engaged and has just landed the role of a lifetime, seemingly has the world by the tail. Only, something she can’t quite put her finger on is worrying her—and it has nothing to do with her recent health scare.

When two new women arrive in Peachtree Bluff—one who has the potential to wreck Ansley’s happiness and one who could tear Emerson’s world apart—everything is put in perspective. And after secrets that were never meant to be told come to light, the powerful bond between the Murphy sisters and their mother comes crumbling down, testing their devotion to each other and forcing them to evaluate the meaning of family.

With Kristy Woodson Harvey’s signature charm, wit, and heart, The Southern Side of Paradise is another masterful Peachtree Bluff novel that proves she is a “Southern writer with staying power” (Booklist). 

Review:

Ahh what a bittersweet review this is for me, I’ve been a fan of this series since the beginning and have been both anxiously awaiting the third and final book but also dreading it, simply because I’m not ready to say goodbye to these characters that I have come to adore. In case you want to see me gush over the other books in this series here’s my reviews for Slightly South of Simple and The Secret to Southern Charm, all highly recommended by me!

Three books in and it’s finally Emerson’s time to shine! Each book focuses on one of the Murphy sisters and you also hear from their mom, Ansley in alternating chapters, so by this point these characters feel like family. I’ve loved watching their family dynamics shift over the course of the series, so much has changed for all of them since the first book and I feel like things have come full circle for each of the Murphy women as well.

There have been some family secrets lurking in the background all along and all the unanswered issues and questions are resolved here, and for me, everything came to a totally satisfying conclusion. These women have messy, complicated relationships, both with each other and also in their romantic relationships and things were handled in a way that felt true and genuine. As much as this whole series feels heartfelt this one took that to a whole new level, I teared up a few times, I laughed, I was surprised and most of all I closed this one feeling completely content and ready to say goodbye to Peachtree Bluff, even though it was with a tinge of sadness.

The Southern Side of Paradise in three words: Charming, Sincere and Entrancing.

Overall rating: 5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Drawing Home by Jamie Brenner

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Release date: May 7, 2019

Publisher: Little Brown

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Blurb:

Summer has started in idyllic Sag Harbor, and for Emma Mapson that means greeting guests at the front desk of The American Hotel. But when one of the town’s most famous residents, artist Henry Wyatt, dies suddenly, Emma learns he has mysteriously left his waterfront home – a self-designed masterpiece filled with his work – to her teenage daughter, Penny. 

Back in Manhattan, legendary art patron Bea Winstead’s grief at her lifelong friend and former business partner Henry’s passing turns to outrage at the news of his shocking bequest. How did these unknown locals get their hands on the estate? Bea, with her devoted assistant Kyle in tow, descends on Sag Harbor determined to reclaim the house and preserve Henry’s legacy.

While Emma fights to defend her daughter’s inheritance, Bea discovers that Henry left a treasure trove of sketches scattered around town. With Penny’s reluctant help, Bea pieces them together to find a story hidden in plain sight: an illustration of their shared history with an unexpected twist that will change all of their lives.

Drawn together in their battle for the house, Emma and Bea are forced to confront the past while facing a future that challenges everything they believe about love, fate, and family.

Review:

Last year I fell in love with Jamie Brenner’s writing when I read The Husband Hour and I knew after reading just one of her books that I had found a new must read author for myself. From the stunning cover to the very final page this one had me enraptured throughout and only made me even more sure that the author is an auto buy for me.

You know what makes an perfect “beach read” for me? It’s a combination of a few key elements and Brenner has perfected this for me. Setting is obviously huge here, I wanna be swept away to somewhere gorgeous and well described, I also want to connect with the characters, they’ve gotta have depth and dimension, but there’s also gotta be a lighter side too, a tricky balance for some. Finally, I want to be invested in the story, it has to have substance and intrigue. Guess what?! This book has all of that and more.

Sag Harbor was fully brought to life here, there is so much history alongside the charming little town that I found myself wishing I could vacation there this summer. I connected with Emma from the start, she was extremely likable and her daughter Penny was just as easy to love, although Bea was the kind of character I love to hate, but that’s always fun. All three women were complex and interesting, so check off great characterization as well. There’s a light mystery at play as well, why exactly did Henry leave his estate to Penny? And who will wind up with the property in the end? There were many engaging plot points and angles here, deep familial bonds and history and how their dynamics evolved and grew over time, romance, grief and so much more. This one had it all for me friends, I’m calling it a must read for summer and I urge you all to read it on vacation this year!

Drawing Home in three words: Immersive, Intriguing and Genuine.

Overall rating: 5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

April Wrap Up

Yet another monthly wrap up and another weird month for me. The past two weeks have been SO weird for me, I started and stopped like ten books but I think I’m finally starting to pull myself out of a slump 🙌 Again I find myself gravitating towards lighter reads and not thrillers but I’m going with it again 🤷‍♀️

How was your month? Read anything amazing?!

Gimme Some Sugar: Saucy, Sexy and Spirited

You’d Be Mine: Adorable, Angsty and Enjoyable

Trophy Life: Refreshing, Genuine and Funny

Someone Knows: Tense, Gripping and Dark

The Unhoneymooners: Hilarious, Delightful and Saucy

One Summer in Paris: Heartfelt, Poignant and Captivating

The Library of Lost and Found: Quirky, Lovely and Bewitching

Meet Cute: Hot, Amusing and Candid

I Know You: Compulsive, Twisty and Absorbing

Miracle Creek: Memorable, Vivid and Intoxicating

Call Me Star Girl

I’ll Be Watching You: Creepy, Nuanced and Methodical

The Mother In Law: Fresh, Fascinating and Complicated

The Better Sister: Engrossing, Fluid and Scandalous

The Stillwater Girls was a really entertaining read

The Last Dance: Genuine, Sweet and Adorable

Amazing Grace: Evocative, Hopeful and Beautiful

Swimming for Sunlight was cute but I had issues with the protagonist

I Know Who You Are: Disturbing, Dark and Twisted

The View from Alameda Island: Genuine, Warm and Charming

Park Avenue Summer: Captivating, Vivid and Inspiring

Review: Park Avenue Summer by Renee Rosen

Goodreads

Release date: April 30, 2019

Publisher: Berkley

Genre: Historical Fiction

Blurb:

Mad Men meets The Devil Wears Prada as Renée Rosen draws readers into the glamour of 1965 New York City and Cosmopolitan Magazine, where a brazen new Editor-in-Chief–Helen Gurley Brown–shocks America by daring to talk to women about all things off limits…

New York City is filled with opportunities for single girls like Alice Weiss who leaves her small Midwestern town to chase her big city dreams and unexpectedly lands the job of a lifetime working for Helen Gurley Brown, the first female Editor-in-Chief of a then failing Cosmopolitan Magazine.

Nothing could have prepared Alice for the world she enters as editors and writers resign on the spot, refusing to work for the woman who wrote the scandalous bestseller, Sex and the Single Girl. While confidential memos, article ideas, and cover designs keep finding their way into the wrong hands, someone tries to pull Alice into this scheme to sabotage her boss. But Alice remains loyal and becomes all the more determined to help Helen succeed. As pressure mounts at the magazine and Alice struggles to make her way in New York, she quickly learns that in Helen Gurley Brown’s world, a woman can demand to have it all. 

Review:

I used to be obsessed with Cosmo, I had a subscription for years and one of the best days every month was always when a copy showed up in my mailbox, so when I found out Park Avenue Summer focused on the woman who gave Cosmo a makeover in the sixties I was super excited about this one! NYC in this era is also fascinating for me, so I had a strong feeling that this would be an amazing read for me and it was!

I imagine it would be really tricky and somewhat complicated to blend fact with fiction but Rosen did an incredible job here. This is told solely from Alice’s perspective but you also learn so much about HGB through her eyes which was totally fascinating. Alice was well drawn, at the start she’s new to the city and trying to find her place there and she grows and matures so much throughout the book. HGB is quite a character, she’s endlessly interesting to me and after reading the authors note and seeing that much of what was portrayed was really true, I was even more impressed. Rosen’s attention to detail and obvious research is very apparent and impressive.

This one has it all my friends, rich historical detail, love, loss, family and maybe most importantly, it was inspiring. Both Alice and Helen were bold in their own way and ahead of their time despite the heavy pushback from the men in their lives and I so admired their sheer will and perseverance. Highly recommended by me, it’s a perfect summer read, light and fun but with depth and heart as well!

Park Avenue Summer in three words: Captivating, Vivid and Inspiring.

Overall rating: 4.5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: The View from Alameda Island by Robyn Carr

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Release date: April 30, 2019

Publisher: MIRA

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Blurb:

From the outside looking in, Lauren Delaney has a life to envy—a successful career, a solid marriage to a prominent surgeon and two beautiful daughters who are off to good colleges. But on her twenty-fourth wedding anniversary Lauren makes a decision that will change everything.

Lauren won’t pretend things are perfect anymore. She defies the controlling husband who has privately mistreated her throughout their marriage and files for divorce. And as she starts her new life, she meets a kindred spirit—a man who is also struggling with the decision to end his unhappy marriage.

But Lauren’s husband wants his “perfect” life back and his actions are shocking. Facing an uncertain future, Lauren discovers an inner strength she didn’t know she had as she fights for the love and happiness she deserves. 

Review:

I just love Carr’s style, something about it almost soothes me even if she’s writing about some heavy stuff. I think it’s because she strikes the perfect balance between dark and light, and also due to the fact that her characterization is always on point and she has me invested in the people in her books before I’ve finished the first chapter. Whatever it may be, she’s damn good and I always know when I start one of her books that I’m about to begin an emotional journey alongside some memorable characters.

Lauren is just the type of character I’ve come to expect from a RC novel, she’s extremely likable and it was very easy for me to sympathize with her almost instantly. Right at the beginning of the book she’s preparing to leave her abusive husband after over twenty years of marriage and you just can’t help but feel for the poor woman. Initially I thought this would only be about her personal journey in starting over and while it definitely was, it was also so much more than that. She finds love again and that was developed in a really realistic and authentic way, but what surprised me the most was actually how many surprises the plot took. It was really unexpected for me, most WF novels follow a somewhat predictable path but this one was really different and I just love that!

Highly recommended for fans of the author, her trademark warmth and charm is heavily apparent but I think this is also my favorite of her books so far, so if you haven’t read her before this is a great place to start!

The View from Alameda Island in three words: Genuine, Warm and Charming

Overall rating: 4.5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: I Know Who You Are by Alice Feeney

Hahahahaha

Goodreads|Amazon

Release date: April 23, 2019

Publisher: Flatiron

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

Meet Aimee Sinclair: the actress everyone thinks they know but can’t remember where from.

Except one person.

Someone knows Aimee very well.

They know who she is and they know what she did.

When Aimee comes home and discovers her husband is missing, she doesn’t seem to know what to do or how to act. The police think she’s hiding something and they’re right, she is—but perhaps not what they thought. Aimee has a secret she’s never shared, and yet, she suspects that someone knows. As she struggles to keep her career and sanity intact, her past comes back to haunt her in ways more dangerous than she could have ever imagined.

In I Know Who You Are, Alice Feeney proves that she is a master of brilliantly complicated plots and killer twists that will keep you guessing until the final page.

Review:

You may remember me raving about Feeney’s debut novel, Sometimes I Lie all year last year so I was so anxious to see if her second novel would pack the same punch as the first and the answer to that is a resounding hell yeah!! I was just as blown away by this one and can say I’ll be reading anything the author writes in the future.

This is told via two timelines, one with Aimee in 2017 London and the other back in the 80’s follows a little girl and that’s all I’m going to say about that. Both timelines were equally captivating, I was hooked right away. I started this before bed one night just to get a feel for the story and ended up staying up way later than I had planned because it was just that addictive. I can’t even begin to tell you how many twists and turns this one took I swear there was some sort of reveal almost every single chapter and that’s what made it truly difficult to stop reading this one once I started.

Besides an insanely fast paced plot Feeney came up with a really original concept here and that’s something that I’ve personally found lacking in so many thrillers lately. She pushed the boundaries and I absolutely love that, she went dark and twisted, so much so that I was downright shocked in the end. I had no idea where this was going and that’s my favorite type of thriller, I love being surprised and confused even and I had like a zillion theories about this one. Only one was actually partially right so bravo to the author for that! If you like SIL this is a must read and if you haven’t read that then go ahead and get both of her books they’re fantastic!

I Know Who You Are in three words: Disturbing, Dark and Twisted.

Overall rating: 5/5

Review: Swimming for Sunlight by Allie Larkin

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Release date: April 23, 2019

Publisher: Atria

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Blurb:

When recently divorced Katie Ellis and her rescue dog Bark move back in with Katie’s grandmother in Florida, she becomes swept up in a reunion of her grandmother’s troupe of underwater performers—finding hope and renewal in unexpected places, in this sweet novel perfect for fans of Kristan Higgins and Claire Cook.

Aspiring costume designer Katie gave up everything in her divorce to gain custody of her fearful, faithful rescue dog, Barkimedes. While she figures out what to do next, she heads back to Florida to live with her grandmother, Nan.

But Katie quickly learns there’s a lot she doesn’t know about Nan—like the fact that in her youth Nan was a mermaid performer in a roadside attraction show, swimming and dancing underwater with a close-knit cast of talented women. Although most of the mermaids have since lost touch, Katie helps Nan search for her old friends on Facebook, sparking hopes for a reunion show. Katie is up for making some fabulous costumes, but first, she has to contend with her crippling fear of water. 

As Katie’s college love Luca, a documentary filmmaker, enters the fray, Katie struggles to balance her hopes with her anxiety, and begins to realize just how much Bark’s fears are connected to her own, in this thoughtful, charming novel about hope after loss and friendships that span generations. 

Review:

I love a good book about starting over and this one caught my eye with the mention of a close relationship between a grandmother and her granddaughter. I was incredibly close to my own grandma and valued our relationship so very much and I figured I would really enjoy reading about Katie and Nan’s special bond. I was mostly right, this was a light and sweet read that will make for good summer reading.

At the surface level there is plenty about Katie to like and I did admire her resolve when it came to starting over after her painful divorce. But once more about her character is revealed I’m afraid I never quite connected with her. She had a childlike quality about her and it grated on my nerves instead of bringing out my usual nurturing side for some reason. Thankfully I was totally obsessed with Nan and her mermaid friends, these ladies totally made the whole book for me and made me wish that I had a group of elderly women fussing over me! They were sassy, strong, brave and inspiring and made me laugh out loud several times.

Overall this was a solid read for me, despite my lack of connection with Katie I really did enjoy it. It was pretty predictable but the quirky supporting cast of characters including the mermaids and Katie’s best friend Mo more than made up for that aspect. There’s also a pretty sweet dog named Bark that features heavily in the story so if you’re an animal lover you would probably appreciate this one.

Overall rating: 3.5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Amazing Grace by Kim Nash @KimTheBookworm @HeraBooks @Rararesources

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Release date: April 10, 2019

Publisher: Hera

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Blurb:

She’s taking her life back, one step at a time…

Grace thought she had it all. Living in the beautiful village of Little Ollington, along with head teacher husband Mark and gorgeous son, Archie, she devoted herself to being the perfect mum and the perfect wife, her little family giving her everything she ever wanted. 

Until that fateful day when she walked in on Mark kissing his secretary – and her perfect life fell apart.

Now she’s a single mum to Archie, trying to find her way in life and keep things together for his sake. Saturday nights consist of a Chinese takeaway eaten in front of the TV clad in greying pyjamas, and she can’t remember the last time she had a kiss from anyone aside from her dog, Becks… 

Grace’s life needs a shake up – fast. So when gorgeous gardener Vinnie turns up on her doorstep, his twinkling eyes suggesting that he might be interested in more than just her conifers, she might just have found the answer to her prayers. But as Grace falls deeper for Vinnie, ten-year-old Archie fears that his mum finding love means she’ll never reconcile with the dad he loves. 

So when ex-husband Mark begs her for another chance, telling her he’s changed from the man that broke her heart, Grace finds herself with an impossible dilemma. Should she take back Mark and reunite the family that Archie loves? Or risk it all for a new chance of happiness? 

A funny, feel good romance about finding your own path and changing your life for the better – readers of Cathy Bramley, Jill Mansell and Josie Silver will love this uplifting read.

Review:

I have been anxiously awaiting this gem of a book for what feels like forever so when it was finally time for me to pick it up I was beyond excited! From that cover alone I knew I was going to be reading a light and uplifting book which is honestly all that I’m the mood for lately, but what I didn’t realize what how emotional this one would be, my god it made me tear up too many times to count! I do mean that in the best possible way though, they weren’t tears of pure sadness but instead ones that came from a place of happiness and inspiration, this had a little bit of everything for everyone.

Grace is a newly single mom who’s son Archie is her whole world and while I’m not single myself, I could easily relate to her feelings about motherhood. She does everything for her son and her one purpose in life is to ensure that he’s a happy, well adjusted kid, but somewhere along the way she’s lost herself, her spark. Slowly but surely over the course of the book she begins to find herself again and starts to put her own needs if not before Archie’s, at least towards the top of this list. I really love stories where characters undergo a transformation, there’s something so beautiful about watching it happen and this one was really special. I want a friend like Grace in my own life and to me, that shows the author has done a fantastic job bringing their characters to life.

I said earlier this had something for everyone and it really does, there’s friendship, love, humor, romance and family and a unique and unexpected aspect that really moved me. Grace’s mother died years ago and she’s still grieving the loss but there was a clever little way the reader hears from her that was just so touching and sweet. Highly recommended for anyone who wants a book full of heart and hope, I wholeheartedly loved this and can’t wait to see what Nash comes up with next!

Amazing Grace in three words: Evocative, Hopeful and Beautiful

Overall rating: 5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: The Last Dance by Aimee Brown @AimeeBWrites @aria_fiction

Goodreads|Amazon

Release date: April 16, 2019

Publisher: Aria

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Blurb:

Can you truly forgive and forget?

Ambri and Henry have been best friends forever. They’ve been through the highs and lows of life with each other by their sides. The worst? When Henry’s wife, and Ambri’s sister, died. Together, they can face it all. Until one night destroys everything.

Two years after he stepped out of it Henry walks back into Ambri’s life and she’s more than a little shocked. But as old friends fall into even older habits they need to decide whether they can forget the past and embrace their future.

Perfect for fans of Nicholas Sparks, Jodi Picoult and Anna Bell. 

Review:

Everyone knows that transitioning from friends to more than friends can be messy but what if that shift in a relationship happens after your sister dies? Oh and she was also married to your best friend now turned more than friend, can you say complicated?! Complex love stories are the best, real life relationships are super complex and reading a book with authentic relationships is always so refreshing and this one was as genuine as they come.

One of the things I liked the most in the authors previous book was the fantastic characters that feel like real people and there is that same feeling here. This flips back and forth between Ambri and Henry and I had her back right away, she was so adorable and endearing but poor Henry didn’t win me over until much later, he had to prove himself to me 😜 Besides those two they have friends, Chloe and Ben who are married and I loved them as well, their marriage was fun and silly and added some lightness when things went deep between Ambri and Henry.

There was such a nice balance here, plenty of wit and humor one minute and then heartbreak and grief the next but it all flowed together so well for me. Overall this was a really sweet second chance romance full of heart and humor, I absolutely loved it! Recommended when you want a cute romance with depth that mirrors real life, it’s totally authentic.

The Last Dance in three words: Genuine, Sweet and Adorable.

Overall rating: 4.5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.