Review: Smothered by Autumn Chiklis

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Release date: August 7, 2018

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Genre: YA/NA

Blurb:

A humorous debut crossover young adult novel about what happens when entering the “real world” means moving back in with your mother, inspired by actress and celebrity Autumn Chiklis’ real life.

Eloise “Lou” Hansen is graduating from Columbia University summa cum laude, and she’s ready to conquer the world. Just a few minor problems: she has no job, no prospects, and she’s moving back into her childhood bedroom. Lou is grimly determined to stick to a rigorous schedule to get a job and get out of her parents’ house. Shelly “Mama Shell” Hansen, on the other hand, is ecstatic, and just as determined to keep her at home. Who else will help her hide her latest binge-shopping purchases from her husband, go to SoulCycle with her, and hold her hand during Botox shots?

Smothered is a hilarious roman à clef told via journal entries, text messages, emails, bills, receipts, tweets, doctor’s prescriptions, job applications and rejections, parking tickets, and pug pictures, chronicling the year that Lou moves back home after college. Told from Lou’s point-of-view, Smothered tells the story of two young(ish) women, just trying to get it right, and learning that just because we all grow up doesn’t mean we necessarily have to grow old. (After all, what is Juvaderm for?)

Review:

I love books written in diary style, it feels so intimate like you’re seeing someone’s innermost thoughts, secrets and desires. Besides journal entities from Lou you also get Facebook messages, texts,?emails and Instagram posts SO fun! The format made for a quick read and made me legit laugh out loud quite a few times.

What made this such an entertaining read was the over the top personalities and behaviors of Lou and her family. Mama Shell is so overbearing and controlling that I had to laugh, some of her actions were so outlandish and out of bounds, poor Lou. Everyone from Lou’s friends to her moms friends were over the top, not super believable but completely engaging and funny!

This isn’t a read to be taken seriously, it’s dramatic and wild but incredibly positive in the end. For a pretty light read Lou did go through some serious changes by the end too, character growth is always appreciated especially when it’s unexpected! Recommended when you need a light, easy and hilarious read that will most likely make you feel better about your own relationship with your mother.

Smothered in three words: Humorous, Light and Outrageous.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Believe Me by J. P. Delaney

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Release date: July 24, 2018

Publisher: Ballantine

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Blurb:

One out-of-work British actress pays the rent on her New York City apartment the only way she can: as a decoy for a firm of divorce lawyers, hired to entrap straying husbands. When the cops begin investigating one of her targets for murdering his wife–and potentially others–they ask her to lure the suspect into a confession.

But with the actress pretending to be someone she isn’t, differentiating the decoy from the prey becomes impossible–and deadly.

Review:

While I totally loved Delaney’s debut, The Girl Before it had mixed reviews among my Goodreads friends and one of the biggest complaints was that the entire story didn’t seem plausible. I’m generally not bothered by that, I read fiction because the idea of something far fetched happening intrigues me to no end, so I ended up on the love it side of the fence. This time around I wasn’t as pleased, I didn’t actively dislike Believe Me but I definitely did not enjoy it as much as TGB and I think it’ll be another polarizing read.

Claire is a typical psychological thriller narrator, her reliability is questionable and she’s extremely interesting because of it. She’s broke and new to NYC and desperately wants to stay, she has no desire to go back home to London so when she gets an opportunity to make some fast cash as a decoy she happily accepts. I never really liked her as a character but she did fascinate me, her motivation wasn’t clear and she definitely kept me guessing. There was a sense of the same addictive writing style here as in TGB and I definitely was curious about how things would end, but I wasn’t even half as invested which is troubling.

I found the premise to be somewhat believable but the things that followed were outrageous and wild. I really don’t want to spoil anything but everything from the decisions that Claire made to the outlandish directions Delaney took the story left me pretty unsatisfied. It was one of those books that got worse as I got further along instead of better and I just couldn’t muster up any excitement in the end. If you don’t mind suspending all disbelief while reading then maybe this will work better for you though as it is really well written and a pretty fast read.

Overall rating: 2.5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: All These Beautiful Strangers by Elizabeth Klehfoth

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Release date: July 10, 2018

Publisher: William Morrow

Genre: YA, Mystery

Blurb:

In the last day of summer, Grace Fairchild, the beautiful young wife of real estate mogul Allister Calloway, vanished from the family’s lake house without a trace, leaving behind her seven-year old daughter, Charlie, and a slew of unanswered questions.

Years later, seventeen-year-old Charlie still struggles with the dark legacy of her family name and the mystery surrounding her mother. Determined to finally let go of the past, she throws herself into life at Knollwood, the prestigious New Englandschool she attends. Charlie quickly becomes friends with Knollwood’s “it” crowd.

Charlie has also been tapped by the A’s—the school’s elite secret society well known for terrorizing the faculty, administration, and their enemies. To become a member of the A’s, Charlie must play The Game, a semester-long, diabolical high-stakes scavenger hunt that will jeopardize her friendships, her reputation, even her place at Knollwood.

As the dark events of past and present converge, Charlie begins to fear that she may not survive the terrible truth about her family, her school, and her own life.

Review:

I have a rocky relationship with YA mystery/thrillers, I actually quit reading them over a year ago because I found the ones I picked up to be predictable and not suitable for an avid reader of thrillers like myself. But as soon as I saw the cover of this I did a double take, it’s stunning! Then I read the description and got a Gossip Girl meets The Skulls vibe so I said, to hell with my self imposed YA thriller ban and added it to my TBR. I’m SO glad that I did, while this most assuredly is a YA novel it had enough depth and maturity to satisfy me and made for the ideal light summer mystery.

This flips between 2017 as Charlie begins her junior year at a prestigious prep school and then goes back in time to the mid nineties and you hear from both her mom and dad as they meet and get married. This was easy to follow along with, all the chapters are labeled clearly and each character had a distinct voice of their own, no confusion to be found. The whole elite, secret society at a boarding school has been done before but the author still managed to keep me engaged as Charlie had to complete a hazing of sorts to be granted admittance to the A’s. At the same time she is starting to look into her moms disappearance and finds out some things about her family that are shocking and disappointing. There was plenty of intrigue surrounding her moms disappearance to keep me interested, dark and long buried secrets and old feuds that Charlie knows nothing about along with a fairly tense current plot about her initiation. It’s also chock full of the type of characters I love to hate, always a bonus for me.

While there is nothing groundbreaking here Klehfoth was a talented enough writer that I was completely wrapped up in the dark history of the Calloway family and it felt like an ultimate guilty pleasure read. I may have figured out a few things before they were revealed but in the end I wasn’t totally right and I had a whole lot of fun along the way, and if I’m entertained when I’m reading I’ll always call that a win!

All These Beautiful Strangers in three words: Manipulative, Dramatic and Polished.

Overall rating: 3.5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott

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Release date: July 17, 2018

Publisher: Little Brown

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

Kit Owens harbored only modest ambitions for herself when the mysterious Diane Fleming appeared in her high school chemistry class. But Diane’s academic brilliance lit a fire in Kit, and the two developed an unlikely friendship. Until Diane shared a secret that changed everything between them.

More than a decade later, Kit thinks she’s put Diane behind her forever and she’s begun to fulfill the scientific dreams Diane awakened in her. But the past comes roaring back when she discovers that Diane is her competition for a position both women covet, taking part in groundbreaking new research led by their idol. Soon enough, the two former friends find themselves locked in a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse that threatens to destroy them both.

Review:

Do you ever have certain authors that you feel like you should like, but just don’t? Let me elaborate, maybe their books sound exactly like the kind that you usually love or their writing is fantastic and their style is totally appealing, but something is missing for you, some little piece of magic that makes you a fan? I’m pretty sure that’s the case with me and Abbott’s books, they never quite satisfy me and I’m pretty sure it’s one of those situations where it’s me and not her.

This follows Kit and Diane Now and Then, the then chapters are back when they first meet in high school and the now are when they both wind up working in the same lab with a highly regarded Dr. Severin. There were several things that I really liked her, the setting primarily being in a science lab was cool and new, these aren’t some amateurs, these are truly skilled scientists trying to break ground in new ways. I also loved the exploration of Kit and Diane’s odd relationship, female friendships can be so toxic and theirs had a great sinister vibe that worked well for me.

My only true complaint, (besides thinking that I’m just not the right reader for Abbott’s style) is that I wasn’t as gripped by this as I had assumed I would be. It took me a fairly long time to finish this and when I’m reading a thriller that I’m super into, you can’t get me to stop reading easily. There was none of that here, which is a shame.

Final thoughts, if you’re a fan of the authors then I’m sure you’ll enjoy this one more than me and if you’ve never read her before and are intrigued by the sound of this then check it out for yourself because I have a feeling I’ll be in the minority on this one and giving full credit where it’s due, Abbott is one hell of a writer, she has a razor sharp style that cuts deep.

Overall rating: 3/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Those Other Women by Nicola Moriarty

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Release date: June 26, 2018

Publisher: William Morrow

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Blurb:

The author of The Fifth Letter takes a laser look at the uneasy relationships between women and the real-world ramifications of online conflicts and social media hostilities in this stunning domestic drama. A story of privilege, unspoken rivalries, and small acts of vengeance with huge repercussions sure to please fans of Sarah Jio and Ruth Ware.

Overwhelmed at the office and reeling from betrayals involving the people she loves, Poppy feels as if her world has tipped sideways. Maybe her colleague, Annalise, is right—Poppy needs to let loose and blow off some steam. What better way to vent than social media?

With Annalise, she creates an invitation-only Facebook group that quickly takes off. Suddenly, Poppy feels like she’s back in control—until someone begins leaking the group’s private posts and stirring up a nasty backlash, shattering her confidence.

Feeling judged by disapproving female colleagues and her own disappointed children, Frankie, too, is careening towards the breaking point. She also knows something shocking about her boss—sensitive knowledge that is tearing her apart.

As things begin to slide disastrously, dangerously out of control, carefully concealed secrets and lies are exposed with devastating consequences—forcing these women to face painful truths about their lives and the things they do to survive.

Review:

I think most of us are are guilty of watching drama unfold online in various groups, I know I sure am and reading this was exactly like having a front row seat at someone else’s virtual cat fight. The mommy wars are nonstop arguing and bickering about how to parent the right way, but what if the fighting was actually not only between the mothers themselves but divided between those who have children and those who actively chose not to? An interesting premise to say the least and one that was rife with backstabbing, betrayals, secrets and lies.

While this was a super light and easy read I did appreciate that the author dove into some relevant issues surrounding womanhood in a unique way. The vast majority of WF seems to highlight women with children or who are desperate to have children and are struggling and while I can definitely relate to those types of characters, it was refreshing to read about the other side of the coin. Having kids is such a deeply personal decision and one that no one should ever be questioned about, so why is it common practice for people to boldly ask women why they made the choice not to have kids? It’s a bit absurd really and this book made me really think about why it’s a fairly common occurrence. I have several friends who don’t have kids and won’t ever and while we’ve had discussions about it I would never dream of interrogating them, or worse yet trying to convince them to change their mind. Imagine a friend trying to tell you not to have more kids, ridiculous right?!

This was a gossipy, fun read with a little intrigue and spice that had me turning pages easily. It was also quick witted and entertaining, it had a very fly on the wall feeling to it, maybe because it included snippets of Facebook posts and messages, but either way it made for one juicy read and one that doesn’t take itself too seriously but also dives a little deeper than the average Chick Lit book.

Those Other Women in three words: Gossipy, Sassy and Amusing.

Overall rating: 3.5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Her Pretty Face by Robyn Harding

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Release date: July 10, 2018

Publisher: Scout Press

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

Frances Metcalfe is struggling to stay afloat.

A stay-at-home mom whose troubled son is her full-time job, she thought that the day he got accepted into the elite Forrester Academy would be the day she started living her life. Overweight, insecure, and lonely, she is desperate to fit into Forrester’s world. But after a disturbing incident at the school leads the other children and their families to ostracize the Metcalfes, she feels more alone than ever before.

Until she meets Kate Randolph.

Kate is everything Frances is not: beautiful, wealthy, powerful, and confident. And for some reason, she’s not interested in being friends with any of the other Forrester moms—only Frances. As the two bond over their disdain of the Forrester snobs and the fierce love they have for their sons, a startling secret threatens to tear them apart…because one of these women is not who she seems. Her real name is Amber Kunick. And she’s a murderer.

In her masterful follow-up to The Party, Robyn Harding spins a web of lies, deceit, and betrayal, asking the question: Can people ever change? And even if they can, is it possible to forgive the past?

Review:

God I love domestic thrillers so much you guys! There’s something about average people being in bizarre situations that never fails to reel me in and I was sucked into Her Pretty Face right from the start. This book was highly compulsive and utterly addicting, I raced through it in just a few hours never quite sure how things would play out in the end.

You have several viewpoints here, Frances a Mom struggling to fit in with the other moms at her sons school, Daisy the daughter of Kate who is Frances only friend and DJ who’s connection to the story is murky at first. The pacing of this was amazing, the chapters were short and the various switches only served to keep me more engaged. I was always eager to see what would happen with each character at the end of a chapter and was equally invested in all three perspectives. Harding has a smooth, fluid writing style and the jumps from character to character were seamless.

I do want to say that I had most of the little twists worked out early on, so if you’re expecting a bunch of shocking reveals and are an avid thriller reader, you won’t find that here. However, Harding did catch me off guard on one aspect and the book didn’t rely on a bunch of twisty moments to propel the plot forward but instead focused more on the characters behavior and decisions to keep it on the exciting side.

I would say this is a lighter style mystery with some darkness lurking under the surface. These women are hiding some secrets that are disturbing but there isn’t much graphic violence. Recommended for a summer mystery best read by the water, the pages will fly by and you’ll be hooked from the start, dying to know what secrets will be revealed.

Her Pretty Face in three words: Compulsive, Fluid and Engaging.

Overall rating: 4.5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Ghosted by Rosie Walsh

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Release date: July 24, 2018

Publisher: Pamela Dorman

Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Romance

Blurb:

Seven perfect days. Then he disappeared. A love story with a secret at its heart.

When Sarah meets Eddie, they connect instantly and fall in love. To Sarah, it seems as though her life has finally begun. And it’s mutual: It’s as though Eddie has been waiting for her, too. Sarah has never been so certain of anything. So when Eddie leaves for a long-booked vacation and promises to call from the airport, she has no cause to doubt him. But he doesn’t call.

Sarah’s friends tell her to forget about him, but she can’t. She knows something’s happened–there must be an explanation.

Minutes, days, weeks go by as Sarah becomes increasingly worried. But then she discovers she’s right. There is a reason for Eddie’s disappearance, and it’s the one thing they didn’t share with each other: the truth.

Review:

The idea of ghosting someone both appalls and fascinates me, in an era where everyone is constantly posting their whereabouts on various forms of social media why is this such a common phenomenon? Of course people disappeared out of each other lives before technology took over, but it was definitely easier to do so back then and you didn’t have nearly the tools available to track them down that you do now. All of that to say, further exploring this concept of ghosting seemed like such an interesting premise for a book and this one definitely took some surprising and unexpected turns along the way.

Initially I wasn’t drawn in to the story, it took me a little while to warm up and become totally invested, but by about page one hundred I was more intrigued. Did Eddie disappear for a cliched reason like he already has a wife and family? Did he just use Sarah for a quick fling? Or is there more to it, something much deeper? Plenty of questions and once I settled into the pacing I found that things unfolded at an excellent pace, reveals and discoveries were shared at perfect moments and I raced through until the end.

Walsh caught me off guard several times and most of the twists worked well for me, but I will say that in the end I was hoping for some more darkness as there was a edginess for most of the story that didn’t exactly line up with my own personal expectations as to how things should finish off. This definitely isn’t a typical romance though, again it had depth and a darkness that I really liked, recommended for those looking for a very unique love story.

Ghosted in three words: Current, Unique and Surprising.

Overall rating: 4/5

Review: Playing With Matches by Hannah Orenstein

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Release date: June 26, 2018

Publisher: Touchstone

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Blurb:

In the tradition of Good in Bed and The Assistants comes a funny and smart comedy about a young matchmaker balancing her messy personal life and the demands of her eccentric clients.

Sasha Goldberg has a lot going for her: a recent journalism degree from NYU, an apartment with her best friend Caroline, and a relationship that would be amazing if her finance-bro boyfriend Jonathan would ever look up from his BlackBerry. But when her dream career falls through, she uses her family’s darkest secret to land a job as a matchmaker for New York City’s elite at the dating service Bliss.

Despite her inexperience, Sasha throws herself into her new career, trolling for catches on Tinder, coaching her clients through rejection, and dishing out dating advice to people twice her age. She sets up a TV exec who wanted kids five years ago, a forty-year-old baseball-loving virgin, and a consultant with a rigorous five-page checklist for her ideal match.

Sasha hopes to find her clients The One, like she did. But when Jonathan betrays her, she spirals out of control—and right into the arms of a writer with a charming Southern drawl, who she had previously set up with one of her clients. He’s strictly off-limits, but with her relationship on the rocks, all bets are off.

Fresh, sweet, and laugh-out-loud funny, Playing with Matches is the addictive story about dating in today’s swipe-heavy society, and a young woman trying to find her own place in the world.

Review:

One of the first things I thought when I started this one was, thank god I don’t have to navigate dating anymore! Back when I was single the internet was in it’s infancy, there were definitely no apps much less dating apps. Mybfirst cell phone was a travesty, there was nothing smart about it. It wasn’t quite as huge as Zach Morris dinosaur phone, but it wasn’t much better. Hats off to all you guys trying to date in this crazy era, I don’t know how you guys manage! Through Sasha, Orenstein brings this world of matchmaking and Tinder to life with hilarity and genuine warmth, singles and smug marrieds alike will be cracking up at some of these matches.

Sasha is a recently graduated early twenty something with big hopes and dreams and no money. Her new job at Bliss seems like the easiest way to earn a living in the world, but as messy as her life is before she starts, it gets worse. Her professional and personal life starts to blend together and she has some seriously difficult clients as well, girlfriend has her hands full. The clients of Bliss were one of the best parts to me, they represented all ages, races and sociological statuses and they well all pretty picky and demanding as well. So many funny scenarios and situations came about through these dates, you can read this for the comic relief alone and be satisfied.

This was just a really fun and silly read, ideal when you really want to escape your own reality and just be entertained by someone else’s drama. I didn’t have much in common with Sasha but I did still really like her and was rooting for her all the way through. The ending wasn’t as wrapped up as I usually prefer but it did work here and I respect the author for leaving things how she did, it was bold and realistic which is always refreshing.

Playing With Matches in three words: Fresh, Easy and Entertaining.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: The Season of Silver Linings by Christine Nolfi

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Release date: July 17, 2018

Publisher: Lake Union

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Blurb:

She can’t change what’s come before. But letting go could bring healing—and the rare love that comes once in a lifetime.

When Ohio pastry chef Jada Brooks and her two best friends restored the glorious Wayfair Inn, it was a boon to Sweet Lake—and to their own lives. Now Linnie and Cat are focused on private matters: one engaged, the other swept up in newlywed bliss. Jada has also begun looking to the future by dating widower Philip Kettering and forging a sudden, sweet bond with his six-year-old daughter.

But the past isn’t finished with Jada. When a curious guest checks into the Wayfair, her delving questions stir Jada’s guilt about the heartbreaking events that scarred the town seven years ago. The risks Jada must take by revealing the truth will test every assumption she’s made about the meaning of family and the magic of enduring love.

Review:

This is the third book in the Sweet Lake series but having not read the first two books wasn’t a problem for me at all. It sounds like the first two books focused on different characters, Cat and Linnie who are Jada’s best friends and co owners of the Wayfair Inn, but this book was focused on Jada and Cat and Linnie are secondary characters. While you can definitely jump in as I did I will say that I’m wishing I had the time to read the first two books because this was such a sweet, fun read.

Jada was a wonderful character, a great friend and a valued member of her community and while I enjoyed her, her boyfriend Phillip’s daughter Fancy stole the show. She’s a six year old going on sixteen, precocious and sassy with a penchant for sparkles, glitz and glam and I too have a six year old with similar qualities so naturally she captured my heart. All of the characters were fabulous, besides Fancy I was also fond of a group of women coined the Sweet Lake Sirens, think meddling, bossy women with the purest intentions with the added bonus of no filters, you really never know what they’ll do or say next, so fun!

There was a mysterious aspect to the plot and I assumed it would be wrapped up in a predictable way but I was dead wrong. I love being wrong and when an author in a non mystery/thriller can still manage to surprise me then I’m thrilled! If you’re already a fan of this series then I’m sure you’ll be pleased with this one and if you’ve never read it before then I can definitely recommend it.

The Season of Silver Linings in three words: Delightful, Hopeful and Light.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: How to Keep a Secret by Sarah Morgan

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Release date: July 10, 2018

Publisher: HQN

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Blurb:

When three generations of women are brought together by crisis, they learn over the course of one hot summer the power of family to support, nourish and surprise

Lauren has the perfect life…if she ignores the fact it’s a fragile house of cards, and that her daughter Mack has just had a teenage personality transplant.

Jenna is desperate to start a family with her husband, but it’s… Just. Not. Happening. Her heart is breaking, but she’s determined to keep her trademark smile on her face.

Nancy knows she hasn’t been the best mother, but how can she ever tell Lauren and Jenna the reason why?

Then life changes in an instant, and Lauren, Mack, Jenna and Nancy are thrown together for a summer on Martha’s Vineyard. Somehow, these very different women must relearn how to be a family. And while unraveling their secrets might be their biggest challege, the rewards could be infinite…

Heartwarming and fresh, Sarah Morgan’s brilliant new novel is a witty and deeply uplifting look at the power of a family of women.

Review:

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my life so far it’s that when tragedy strikes family is everything and that’s the basis for How to Keep a Secret. Who can you turn to when your world comes crashing down around you? Your family of course, and even though Lauren and Jenna are as close as two sister can be their relationship with their mom Nancy is strained. Mack is Lauren’s teenaged daughter and like any mother and daughter their relationship is also rocky. Family dynamics are usually complex, but family dynamics between women take complex to a whole new level and the Stewart women have plenty of secrets they’ve been keeping from each other as well making for one juicy read.

Every single woman of the family has a point of view and it’s always nice to hear all the various perspectives, but Mack was my favorite of them all. Poor kid has been through a lot and while she does have her typical, moody teenage moments she also has a fierce and sassy side that I admired. All of the characters were great though and all were very well drawn, there was much more depth her than in Morgan’s rom coms and I do have to admit I missed some of her trademark humor here. This wasn’t a funny story though, humor wouldn’t have been appropriate so this really isn’t a complaint, just an observation.

While some of the secrets seemed fairly obvious to me others did surprise and please me and while there wasn’t comedy here there was still some light romance, but the book really centers on the family bond of the Stewart women and that’s always something that interests me. This would be yet another perfect book to add to your summer TBR when you want a lighter read with heart and depth written by a gifted author who always brings out a wide variety of emotions within me.

How to Keep a Secret in three words: Bittersweet, Complicated and Heartfelt.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to Anna at Aro Publicity for my review copy.