Review: The Soulmate Equation by Christina Lauren

55692620

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Single mom Jess Davis is a data and statistics wizard, but no amount of number crunching can convince her to step back into the dating world. Raised by her grandparents–who now help raise her seven-year-old daughter, Juno–Jess has been left behind too often to feel comfortable letting anyone in. After all, her father’s never been around, her hard-partying mother disappeared when she was six, and her ex decided he wasn’t “father material” before Juno was even born. Jess holds her loved ones close, but working constantly to stay afloat is hard…and lonely.

But then Jess hears about GeneticAlly, a buzzy new DNA-based matchmaking company that’s predicted to change dating forever. Finding a soulmate through DNA? The reliability of numbers: This Jess understands. At least she thought she did, until her test shows an unheard-of 98% compatibility with another subject in the database: GeneticAlly’s founder, Dr. River Pena. This is one number she can’t wrap her head around, because she already knows Dr. Pena. The stuck-up, stubborn man is without a doubt not her soulmate. But GeneticAlly has a proposition: Get to know him and we’ll pay you. Jess–who is barely making ends meet–is in no position to turn it down, despite her skepticism about the project and her dislike for River. As the pair are dragged from one event to the next as the “Diamond” pairing that could make GeneticAlly a mint in stock prices, Jess begins to realize that there might be more to the scientist–and the science behind a soulmate–than she thought.

Funny, warm, and full of heart, The Soulmate Equation proves that the delicate balance between fate and choice can never be calculated.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Soulmate Equation publishes May 18, 2021. 

First, I want to address those “eugenics” criticisms. I’ve seen reviews that say using DNA to match people together automatically falls under eugenics, but I don’t really agree with that. I think there needs to be actual intent to (or results that) only match certain demographics of people with other certain demographics of people for it to be considered eugenics – which is obviously repulsive. It’s not what’s going on in this book at all, though. I do feel like the authors could have gone a little bit more out of their way to make this distinction more clear, though. And while we’re on the topic of science, I thought it could have been handled a little more thoughtfully than it was. There is a lot scientific terminology thrown out in short bursts and I found it all pretty confusing.

I also struggled a bit with the main character, Jess. She made so many assumptions on River before ever even talking to him, that it colored all of her interactions with him once they officially meet and she was so rude. She went on and on about how he was the worst when she was the one that was acting so horribly. It drove me a little crazy. As she eventually gets to know him and realizes she was wrong about him, I started to like her a little more, just to get frustrated again by how she reacted to the Big Conflict. The unevenness of her character really brought down my overall enjoyment of the book.

While Jess wasn’t my favorite, I did really like River. He made a couple missteps – including how he handled the Big Conflict, as well – but other than those he was pretty perfect. He was sweet and romantic and probably one of my favorite male characters Christina Lauren has written. I also enjoyed Jess’ grandparents and daughter. I thought they were all kind and supportive and I wouldn’t have minded seeing a bit more of them.

Overall, I enjoyed The Soulmate Equation, but I didn’t love it. While there was some good banter occasionally and I shipped the romance, my struggle with the main character brought everything down a bit for me. While this one may not be my favorite Christina Lauren book, I look forward to checking out whatever they write next.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: The Insiders by Tijan

54860180

Synopsis from Goodreads:

The Insiders is the first in a brand new, page-turning romance trilogy from New York Times bestseller, Tijan!

Bailey is as normal as could be, with a genius IQ and a photographic memory. But still, normal for her. Then, things happen—a guy breaks into her house in the middle of the night to take her hostage. She finds out her father is actually billionaire tech genius Peter Francis, the same guy she’s idolized all her life. She learns all this when she meets dark, mysterious, and electrifying Kashton Colello. He’s an associate of her father’s, and he gives Bailey two choices—go with him and meet her father or survive on her own because those kidnappers are going to try again. It’s a no-brainer.

After this, three things become clear for Bailey:

1. She’s living at her father’s sprawling estate, complete with bodyguards and the best security that money can buy.

2. She’s no longer an only child. She has three siblings and has no idea what to do with them and vice versa.

3. She is being guarded by Kash himself. Personally guarded. And there is a lot of guarding going on there and some of it is going to drive her crazy.

A complete outsider in a world of wealth and decadence, Bailey has to find her way within a family that has more secrets than she could have imagined. One of these secrets could be deadly…

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Insiders publishes May 4, 2021. 

This is an odd one to review. I really enjoyed the reading experience for most of the book, but I also kind of have a lot of issues with it. I’m going to go the list route on this one.

*For about the first 3/4 or so of the book, I could not read this fast enough. Tijan has a very addictive quality to her writing where I just need to keep reading. I found myself really enjoying it, even though basically NOTHING was happening, plot-wise.

*Though I do often find Tijan’s writing addictive, I always feel like it could use just a little more editing. I believe this is her first traditionally published book, so I expected things to be tightened up a little more than usual. For a little while, it felt like it was. However, as the book went on, it felt like the editing got less and less polished.

*Is it weird that I both shipped the romance while also not really believing in it? It was insta-lust. There wasn’t really any development before they jumped into an intensely physical relationship. They barely talked. There were barely any cute moments or banter. But I wanted them to be together. I liked how protective Kash was of Bailey. I just wanted them to have an actual conversation once in awhile.

*So what about the plot? It felt like there wasn’t one for most of the book. And then everything happened all at once in the final few chapters. And I wasn’t terribly impressed with the direction the story went. It seemed anti-climatic. I will say that I didn’t realize this was the beginning of a series when I read it, so now that I know that, it makes more sense that a lot of larger plot issues were just hinted at to set up for the future books. I just think the story could have been a little more balanced, though.

*Some other super random thoughts — *Kashton Collelo is a cool name.* *How was Bailey’s mom able to just leave her job and whole life to move in with her former baby daddy? And WHY? Nothing that woman did made any sense to me.* *It’s not a Tijan book without some crazy drama – enter Matt and his risque partying ways.* *Who’s that blonde girl on the cover? I can only think of one side-character that could possibly be and I barely remember anything about her. Definitely not prominent enough of a character to make the cover.*

Overall, I enjoyed The Insiders, but not as much as I was hoping to. The addictive writing couldn’t quite make up for the lack of plot for me. Still, I have no doubt Tijan fans will love it and I’ll look forward to the next book in the series.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: Bookshop by the Sea by Denise Hunter

54287748. sy475

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Sophie Lawson should be enjoying her sister’s wedding day. But nothing could have prepared her to see the best man again.

After her mother became bedridden and her father bailed on the family, Sophie found herself serving as a second mother to her twin brother, Seth, and younger sister, Jenna. Sophie supported her siblings through their college years, putting aside her own dream of opening a bookshop in Piper’s Cove—the quaint North Carolina beach town they frequented as children.

Now it’s finally time for Sophie to follow her own pursuits. Seth has a new job, and Jenna is set to marry her college beau in Piper’s Cove. But the destination wedding reunites Sophie with best man Aiden Maddox, her high school sweetheart who left her without a backward glance.

When an advancing hurricane strands Aiden in Piper’s Cove after the wedding, he finds the hotels booked to capacity and has to ask Sophie to put him up until the storm passes. As the two ride out the weather, old feelings rise to the surface. The delay also leaves Sophie with mere days to get her bookshop up and running. Can she trust Aiden to stick around? And will he find the courage to risk his heart?

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review. 

Bookshop by the Sea publishes April 13, 2021

It’s been awhile since I’ve read a Denise Hunter book, but I thought Bookshop by the Sea looked pretty cute. Her books are often hit or miss for me, but this one ended up somewhere in the middle.

I really enjoyed the beginning as Sophie and Aiden found themselves stuck together after seven years apart. I liked seeing them start to communicate and forgive each other. Once they hit that point, though, I kind of started to lose interest. I felt like the pace dragged and there wasn’t really much plot. I also wasn’t completely sold on them rekindling their romance. For one thing, Aiden is dating someone else for the first half of the book. He goes to great pains to say they’re not exclusive, but it still made him come across a little skeevy.

There was some added drama with Sophie’s family being basically awful and selfish people and Aiden dealing with abandonment issues. While I think there were some good lessons learned, it was all crammed into the ending, where everything was resolved surprisingly easily.

Overall, Bookshop by the Sea was just ok for me. It had a promising start and while Hunter seemed to know where she wanted all the characters to end up, it felt like the middle was kind of phoned in. While this one wasn’t really for me, I’ll still be checking out more from this author in the future.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon

53415121. sy475

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Public radio co-hosts navigate mixed signals in Rachel Lynn Solomon’s sparkling romantic comedy debut.

Shay Goldstein has been a producer at her Seattle public radio station for nearly a decade, and she can’t imagine working anywhere else. But lately it’s been a constant clash between her and her newest colleague, Dominic Yun, who’s fresh off a journalism master’s program and convinced he knows everything about public radio.

When the struggling station needs a new concept, Shay proposes a show that her boss green-lights with excitement. On The Ex Talk, two exes will deliver relationship advice live, on air. Their boss decides Shay and Dominic are the perfect co-hosts, given how much they already despise each other. Neither loves the idea of lying to listeners, but it’s this or unemployment. Their audience gets invested fast, and it’s not long before The Ex Talk becomes a must-listen in Seattle and climbs podcast charts.

As the show gets bigger, so does their deception, especially when Shay and Dominic start to fall for each other. In an industry that values truth, getting caught could mean the end of more than just their careers.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review. 

The Ex Talk publishes January 26, 2021. 

I really liked the premise of The Ex Talk. Fake Relationship is my favorite romance trope and I liked the twist to make it into a Fake Ex-Relationship. Add in my love of any book that includes journalists or writers and this book seemed like it was made for me. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite live up to my expectations, but it still did have several enjoyable moments.

I liked Shay and Dominic together. There was some terrific banter between them that put a big smile on my face while I was reading. I really liked seeing them become friends and then become more. I thought they complemented each other well and I enjoyed every scene where they were cute together.

While Shay had likable moments, I found her frustrating most of the time. She was the definition of someone who keeps getting in her own way. She was very self involved and spent a lot of time blaming other people for her problems or her feelings. I especially didn’t like how she handled the big dramatic moment with Dominic.

While normally I love stories about journalists, it was just ok for me here. The book starts with Shay extolling the virtues of public radio and it kind of rubbed me the wrong way. She came off as so superior and condescending. And then her great big idea to revolutionize public radio is a dating show? Really? There was a lot of the characters having these ideas that they thought were so terrific that seemed kind of lame to me.

Overall, The Ex Talk ended up being just ok for me. While I really enjoyed Shay and Dominic’s banter and their growing relationship, the rest of the story was kind of hard to make myself get through. Shay’s total self-involvement, the too frequent sex scenes, and the overall superior attitude of the characters really brought the story down for me.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: Shipped by Angie Hockman

54304013

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Between taking night classes for her MBA and her demanding day job at a cruise line, marketing manager Henley Evans barely has time for herself, let alone family, friends, or dating. But when she’s shortlisted for the promotion of her dreams, all her sacrifices finally seem worth it.

The only problem? Graeme Crawford-Collins, the remote social media manager and the bane of her existence, is also up for the position. Although they’ve never met in person, their epic email battles are the stuff of office legend.

Their boss tasks each of them with drafting a proposal on how to boost bookings in the Galápagos—best proposal wins the promotion. There’s just one catch: they have to go on a company cruise to the Galápagos Islands…together. But when the two meet on the ship, Henley is shocked to discover that the real Graeme is nothing like she imagined. As they explore the Islands together, she soon finds the line between loathing and liking thinner than a postcard.

With her career dreams in her sights and a growing attraction to the competition, Henley begins questioning her life choices. Because what’s the point of working all the time if you never actually live?

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review. 

Shipped publishes January 19, 2021. 

Shipped started off pretty strongly for me. It had some fun banter and reminded me a lot The Hating Game. The characters were likable enough and the cruise setting was a nice change of pace. However, I felt like the story shifted focus towards the end and I started to lose interest. It ended up being just ok for me.

I did ship Henley and Graeme. The Hate-to-Love trope was more one-sided, with Henley not liking Graeme, but at least there’s a valid – if misguided – reason for it. I thought Graeme was really sweet and I liked watching how Henley’s view of him started to change.

Where the book started to lose me was when it shifted away from the romance and got kind of preachy about environmental issues. There’s even a kind of lengthy note from the author about it, along with a call for donations. There were also a few other blink-and-you’ll-miss-it social issues brought up that nothing really happens with. Homophobia. Immigration. Domestic abuse. It felt like halfway through the cute romance, the author suddenly remembered she wanted to write something with a little more substance. The things that happened with Henley’s work situation also played out in a really unrealistic and kind of cheesy manner.

Overall, Shipped started off strongly for me, but I started to lose interest by the end. While I don’t have a problem with Hocking trying to draw attention to environmental and social issues, they weren’t included as seamlessly as they needed to be and it made the latter half of the book a little jarring. However, if you like a dose of environmental activism with your Romance, Shipped might be for you.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: The Perfect Guests by Emma Rous

53231988

Synopsis from Goodreads:

The USA Today bestselling author of The Au Pair returns with another delicious, twisty novel–about a grand estate with many secrets, an orphan caught in a web of lies, and a young woman playing a sinister game.

1988. Beth Soames is fourteen years old when her aunt takes her to stay at Raven Hall, a rambling manor in the isolated East Anglian fens. The Averells, the family who lives there, are warm and welcoming, and Beth becomes fast friends with their daughter, Nina. At times, Beth even feels like she’s truly part of the family…until they ask her to help them with a harmless game–and nothing is ever the same.

2019. Sadie Langton is an actress struggling to make ends meet when she lands a well-paying gig to pretend to be a guest at a weekend party. She is sent a suitcase of clothing, a dossier outlining the role she is to play, and instructions. It’s strange, but she needs the money, and when she sees the stunning manor she’ll be staying at, she figures she’s got nothing to lose.

In person, Raven Hall is even grander than she’d imagined–even with damage from a fire decades before–but the walls seem to have eyes. As day turns to night, Sadie starts to feel that there’s something off about the glamorous guests who arrive, and as the party begins, it becomes chillingly apparent their unseen host is playing games with everyone…including her.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Perfect Guests publishes January 12, 2021. 

The Perfect Guests is a steadily paced, twisty story. Unfortunately, I found the twists predictable and I think that impacted how enjoyable I found the overall story.

The story is told in two timelines, one following Beth as she arrives at Raven Hall as a young teenager in the 80s, the other following Sadie in 2019 as she arrives at Raven Hall to play a role in a murder mystery party. There was also a third, anonymous POV that speaks up every few chapters. I thought the multiple POVs and timelines were well done. Though I did think Beth’s chapters were a little more interesting, I was never that upset when it was time to shift over to Sadie.

There are many twists and turns revealed throughout the story. I thought they were placed effectively, but there was exactly only one twist that I didn’t guess far before it was revealed. I thought they were all really predictable to anyone paying attention and so I never really felt any tension or suspense. It made this feel more like a Women’s Fiction story to me than a Mystery/Thriller.

Overall, The Perfect Guests was just ok for me. I thought the multiple POVs and timelines were well done, but was a little disappointed in how predictable I found the mystery. If you’re able to just enjoy a story as it goes without trying to predict anything about the mystery, you will probably enjoy this one a little bit more than I did.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: The Mistletoe Trap (Heart in the Game #2) by Cindi Madsen

55623391. sy475

Synopsis from Goodreads:

From the moment Julie sees her best friend, Gavin, in the airport, it’s like no time at all has gone by instead of months and months. No matter how long they’ve been apart, their relationship has always been steady, comfortable, and decidedly just friends. Even though their meddling parents have hung what seems like unlimited amounts of mistletoe everywhere she goes this holiday season, Julie knows some things will never change.

Gavin is well-aware his family’s wanted him and Julie to get together since forever, even though he’s been friend-zoned since they could talk—and he’s been happy to play that role. After all, as the new starting quarterback for the San Antonio Mustangs, he’s got enough on his plate without adding romance to the mix.

But between playing elves in the holiday bazaar to nights spent one-on-one watching rom-coms or soaking in their town’s hot springs, suddenly the “reverse parent trap” they’ve fallen into is actually starting to work. But this could be one scheme where letting themselves get trapped might be way too dangerous.

Each book in the Heart in the Game series is STANDALONE:
* The Wedding Deal
* The Mistletoe Trap

I received a copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley. It does not impact my review. 

What I Liked:

*I love a good Friends to More Romance and Madsen does them well. I really enjoyed Julie and Gavin’s friendship and shipped them to get together.

*Though I thought their parents bordered on rude and over the top sometimes when it came to wanting Julie and Gavin to be together, I did really like how close their families were. It’s nice to see happy marriages and even nicer to see big, happy families. It made me wish my family was as close to another as Julie and Gavin’s are.

*I liked the small town and all the cute holiday traditions.

*While I had some problems with the evolution of their relationship (I’ll get to that), I liked the big, cheesy, romantic gesture at the end. It was cute and made me smile.

What Didn’t Work for Me:

*I’m not a fan of the whole “looking for a casual fling” thing. After Julie breaks up with her boyfriend and he calls her boring, she decides she needs a fling to prove she’s not boring and also improve her bedroom skills. This is kind of a common Romance plotline and I never appreciate it. It made me like Julie a little less.

*I also am not a fan of the Friends-with-Benefits plotline. Though we know that the couple are obviously in love with each other, I didn’t like that they – especially Gavin – chalked it up to just being a new physical attraction and wanted to work it out of their systems and then move on with their friendship. I also didn’t like how either one of them handled the fall out when they realized it wasn’t that simple.

*I thought the book was a little longer than it needed to be. For how little actually happens in the book, it could have been about half the length.

Overall

Overall, I did enjoy The Mistletoe Trap. Though it’s definitely not my favorite Madsen book, it had it’s cute moments and helped put me in the holiday mood. If you’re looking for a Christmas Romance, you should give this one a try.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: Love Your Life by Sophie Kinsella

53479913

Synopsis from Goodreads:

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of I Owe You One, an utterly delightful novel about a woman who ditches her dating app for a writer’s retreat in Italy–only to find that real love comes with its own filters

“As close to perfect as romantic comedies get.”–Jenny Colgan, New York Times bestselling author of The Bookshop on the Corner

Call Ava romantic, but she thinks love should be found in the real world, not on apps that filter men by height, job, or astrological sign. She believes in feelings, not algorithms. So after a recent breakup and dating app debacle, she decides to put love on hold and escapes to a remote writers’ retreat in coastal Italy. She’s determined to finish writing the novel she’s been fantasizing about, even though it means leaving her close-knit group of friends and her precious dog, Harold, behind.

At the retreat, she’s not allowed to use her real name or reveal any personal information. When the neighboring martial arts retreat is canceled and a few of its attendees join their small writing community, Ava, now going by “Aria,” meets “Dutch,” a man who seems too good to be true. The two embark on a baggage-free, whirlwind love affair, cliff-jumping into gem-colored Mediterranean waters and exploring the splendor of the Italian coast. Things seem to be perfect for Aria and Dutch.

But then their real identities–Ava and Matt–must return to London. As their fantasy starts to fade, they discover just how different their personal worlds are. From food choices to annoying habits to sauna etiquette . . . are they compatible in anything? And then there’s the prickly situation with Matt’s ex-girlfriend, who isn’t too eager to let him go. As one mishap follows another, it seems while they love each other, they just can’t love each other’s lives. Can they reconcile their differences to find one life together?

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review. 

Love Your Life publishes on October 27, 2020. 

Love Your Life was pretty classic Kinsella. The story was cute with charming, if sometimes very frustrating, characters.

There was a lot that I enjoyed about this book. The cast of characters and quirky situations they found themselves in made me laugh out loud often. While they all were a little unbelievable, Ava and Matt’s group of friends were definitely my favorite part of the book. I loved the scenes when they were all together and the banter was great. I even though Matt’s awful parents provided opportunity for a lot of humor.

While the friendships were great, the romantic relationship is what I struggled with. Ava and Matt have a whirlwind romance during a one week writing retreat where they’re not allowed to use their real names or talk about their personal lives. They both form a picture of who the other person really is and declare their love by the end of the retreat. They’re thrilled to find out they both live in the same city, but they quickly find out that their real life selves are not anything like what they expected. They forge ahead into a relationship anyways, even though it’s obvious from the start that they are totally incompatible. What really drove me crazy, though, was how Ava tried to pretend like everything was fine.

Have you ever noticed that the people who yell about tolerance the loudest are often the most intolerant people? That was Ava. She came off like she was free spirited and accepting of everything and everyone, but in reality she was very judgmental about anything that differed from what she thought. She also blamed all of the relationship problems on Matt instead of admitting anything wrong on her part. Matt also didn’t help things by refusing to communicate most of the time. I honestly thought this story would end up with them not being together. I even found myself rooting for Ava to wind up with one of Matt’s roommates. However, as this is a Romance, the moral of the story is obviously going to be more about how love can help people change for the better instead of how it sometimes doesn’t work out.

Overall, I had a pretty good time reading Love Your Life, but my frustration with Ava kept me from enjoying the story as much as I wanted to. I loved the group of friends and could have gone on reading much more about them. While the romance did work out for me in the end, the journey there left me more annoyed than anything else. This wasn’t my favorite Kinsella book, but I’ll definitely still be reading more from her in the future.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: Midnight Sun (Twilight #5) by Stephenie Meyer

53287484

Synopsis from Goodreads:

When Edward Cullen and Bella Swan met in Twilight, an iconic love story was born. But until now, fans have heard only Bella’s side of the story. At last, readers can experience Edward’s version in the long-awaited companion novel, Midnight Sun.

This unforgettable tale as told through Edward’s eyes takes on a new and decidedly dark twist. Meeting Bella is both the most unnerving and intriguing event he has experienced in all his years as a vampire. As we learn more fascinating details about Edward’s past and the complexity of his inner thoughts, we understand why this is the defining struggle of his life. How can he justify following his heart if it means leading Bella into danger?

I feel like a lot of us in the book community have a connection to the Twilight series. For me, they’re the books that got me back into reading for fun. I loved the feeling of getting swept up in a story, shipping a couple (#TeamEdward), and having to immediately go out and buy the next book because I had to know what would happen next. I’ve been chasing that experience ever since. Just as I loved the books, I would read – and re-read – the leaked partial draft of Midnight Sun that Meyer posted on her website. I spent years hoping she would finish and publish it. As time went on, though, my hope for it waned, as did my love for the series. I went on to read a lot of other books, many with a greater quality of writing and plot, but the series will always have a special place in my heart. And I was unbelievably excited when Midnight Sun was announced. So, did it live up to years of hopes and expectations? Not really. But I did go into it expecting that it wouldn’t, so it ended up being a mostly enjoyable reading experience. I’m just going to share a few thoughts here.

-It’s a long book. Well over 600 pages. And the chapters are also pretty long. It took me several days more to read it than I had expected and it dragged at times.

-It also took awhile to reach a part of the story that I hadn’t read before. It kind of felt like nothing was added to – or improved upon – that first draft that was leaked all those years ago. I will say it’s been a long time since I read it, though, so there might have been more changes than I remembered. Once I got past where the leaked draft ended, I started to enjoy it more.

-What I appreciated the most was getting more details of Edward’s history, as well as the other Cullens. Things that are just mentioned briefly in the original books are given a little more details and context. I was glad there were still things to learn and it wasn’t just a straight rehash.

-I enjoyed Edward’s POV. Though it was a little repetitive at times, I liked getting to be in his head and seeing the thoughts behind his actions. I also really liked being able to hear all the thoughts of the characters around him. It allowed for more depth than you usually get in a first person narrative.

-Reading it made me want to watch the movies again, so I ended up binging the whole series. I had forgotten how truly awful those movies are. And how truly beautiful Robert Pattinson is…

-The odd cover is given context. I don’t really know my Greek mythology, but it has to do with Persephone tying herself to the underworld (which is how Edward thinks of Bella’s attachment to him).

Overall, I did enjoy reading Midnight Sun. It was a little too long and didn’t quite live up to my expectations from years ago, but I’m glad that it was finally published and I’m glad I read it. It made me nostalgic for that time when I first started the series and fell in love with reading again. If Meyer decides to write the rest of the series through Edward’s POV, I would read those, too.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: We Are All the Same in the Dark by Julia Heaberlin

49189494

Synopsis from Goodreads:

The discovery of a girl abandoned by the side of the road threatens to unearth the long-buried secrets of a Texas town’s legendary cold case in this superb, atmospheric novel from the internationally bestselling author of Black-Eyed Susans.

It’s been a decade since Trumanell Branson disappeared, leaving only a bloody handprint behind. Her pretty face still hangs like a watchful queen on the posters on the walls of the town’s Baptist church, the police station, and in the high school. They all promise the same thing: We will find you. Meanwhile, her brother, Wyatt, lives as a pariah in the desolation of the old family house, cleared of wrongdoing by the police but tried and sentenced in the court of public opinion and in a new documentary about the crime.

When Wyatt finds a lost girl dumped in a field of dandelions, making silent wishes, he believes she is a sign. The town’s youngest cop, Odette Tucker, believes she is a catalyst that will ignite a seething town still waiting for its own missing girl to come home. But Odette can’t look away. She shares a wound that won’t close with the mute, one-eyed mystery girl. And she is haunted by her own history with the missing Tru.

Desperate to solve both cases, Odette fights to save the lost girl in the present and to dig up the shocking truth about a fateful night in the past–the night her friend disappeared, the night that inspired her to become a cop, the night that wrote them all a role in the town’s dark, violent mythology.

In this twisty psychological thriller, Julia Heaberlin paints unforgettable portraits of a woman and a girl who redefine perceptions of physical beauty and strength.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review. 

We Are All the Same in the Dark publishes on August 11, 2020. 

We Are All the Same in the Dark started off so strong for me. The writing was addictive, the atmosphere was tense, and the mystery was intriguing. Unfortunately, it lost steam for me about halfway through. It wasn’t a bad book, but it ended up disappointing me after giving me such high hopes in the beginning.

The story was told in five parts and through three different POVs. I really enjoyed the first two parts and POVs. As I mentioned, I was really interested by the mystery and I thought Heaberlin did a great job of keeping the tension high. I found both Wyatt and Odette really compelling characters and was intrigued by their shared past and lasting connection. And then Part Three happened. It’s hard to talk about without revealing spoilers, but I found the transition to be really jarring. I didn’t really like that the third narrator got about the last half of the book. I thought the pace slowed down and the story started to drag. I also thought the identity of the murderer became pretty obvious long before the reveal.

I wanted a tense mystery/thriller and I while the story did start out that way, I felt like it shifted almost more into Women’s Fiction for a great deal of the book. The heart of the story are three strong, but damaged women. They are all special snowflakes type of ladies, that are are beautiful and clever and brave, but have been damaged physically, psychologically, or both. A lot of time is spent on what happened to them in their youth and how they cope. I wouldn’t necessarily say that I didn’t care about that, but I thought it would have been better placed in a different genre. I felt like the message got in the way of the development of the mystery sometimes and made the pace drag.

Overall, We Are All the Same in the Dark ended up being just ok for me. It started off really strong, but seemed to lose focus of the mystery and started to drag about halfway through. I think if you don’t mind a heavy handed lesson being handed out with your thrillers, you will enjoy this one a little more than I did.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars