Review: Little Threats by Emily Schultz

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Both a taut whodunit and a haunting snapshot of the effects of a violent crime, Little Threats tells the story of a woman who served fifteen years in prison for murder…and now it’s time to find out if she’s guilty.

In the summer of 1993, twin sisters Kennedy and Carter Wynn are embracing the grunge era and testing every limit in their privileged Richmond suburb. But Kennedy’s teenage rebellion goes too far when, after a night of partying in the woods, her best friend, Haley, is murdered, and suspicion quickly falls upon Kennedy. She can’t remember anything about the night in question, and this, along with the damning testimony from a college boy who both Kennedy and Haley loved, is enough to force Kennedy to enter a guilty plea.

In 2008, Kennedy is released into a world that has moved on without her. Carter has grown distant as she questions Kennedy’s innocence, and begins a relationship with someone who could drive the sisters apart forever. The twins’ father, Gerry, is eager to protect the family’s secrets and fragile bonds. But Kennedy’s return brings the tragedy back to the surface, along with a whole new wave of media. When a crime show host comes to town asking questions, believing the murder wasn’t wasn’t as simple as it seemed, murky memories of Haley’s death come to light. As new suspects emerge and the suburban woods finally give up their secrets, two families may be destroyed again.

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

Little Threats publishes November 10, 2020. 

Based on that intriguing synopsis, I expected Little Threats to have a little more mystery and a little more thrills than it actually produced. Unfortunately, I just found it a little – maybe a lot – disappointing.

As I read this book, two words continually came to mind. Pretentious and Familiar. I can’t even count how many thrillers out there revolve around a character not being able to remember some violent and tragic event. It’s a cliché for a reason, though, right? Some books use it really effectively and some not so much. Also, the whole “poor little rich girl” thing. The girls who have every opportunity and advantage rebel against their privilege by doing inane things like shoplifting and drugs and dating bad boys. I’ve read it a hundred times before and I found myself just really bored for so much of the book. And the characters, with the exception of Everett, were truly awful. So much of the story is just them being in their own heads and the writing was so pretentious I couldn’t really take it seriously.

I found the mystery pretty underwhelming, as well. I read some reviews that talked about multiple twists throughout the story and a shocking ending and I didn’t get any of that. I thought it was predictable and completely lacked suspense.

Overall, Little Threats was not for me. I found the plot cliched, the writing pretentious and the pace extremely slow. The book was heavily character focused, which might have saved it if I had cared anything about them. Everett was the one character that came across as sympathetic, but again, this wasn’t enough to turn the book around for me. This isn’t one that I would recommend, but I have seen some good reviews on it, so it might just be me.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars

Review: Love Your Life by Sophie Kinsella

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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: In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

In a Holidaze, the quintessential holiday romantic novel by the New York Times bestselling author of The Unhoneymooners, asks what happens when wishes come true…

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…but not for Maelyn Jones. She’s living with her parents, hates her going-nowhere job, and has just made a romantic error of epic proportions.

But perhaps worst of all, this is the last Christmas Mae will be at her favorite place in the world—the snowy Utah cabin where she and her family have spent every holiday since she was born, along with two other beloved families. Mentally melting down as she drives away from the cabin for the final time, Mae throws out what she thinks is a simple plea to the universe: Please. Show me what will make me happy.

The next thing she knows, tires screech and metal collides, everything goes black. But when Mae gasps awake…she’s on an airplane bound for Utah, where she begins the same holiday all over again. With one hilarious disaster after another sending her back to the plane, Mae must figure out how to break free of the strange time loop—and finally get her true love under the mistletoe.

Jam-packed with yuletide cheer, an unforgettable cast of characters, and Christina Lauren’s trademark “downright hilarious” (Helen Hoang, author of The Bride Test) hijinks, this swoon-worthy romantic read will make you believe in the power of wishes and the magic of the holidays.

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

In a Holidaze publishes October 6, 2020. 

Whenever I am in a book slump, I can always count on Christina Lauren to pull me out. Before I picked this up, I hadn’t been having great luck with the books I was reading, but In a Holidaze definitely broke me out of my rut.

The story ended up being a little different than I thought it would be, though. The synopsis mentions “hilarious disasters” send Mae back to start the day over and over again and I guess I expected a little more hijinks. What sends her back are life-threatening accidents – and not funny ones. And she didn’t “reboot” as often as I expected, either. I thought there would be several reimaginings of the same scene, but this was limited to only one or two specific scenes before that part of the plot was basically left behind and Mae goes on to live several days in a row that we hadn’t seen before. This isn’t really a bad thing as I like how the story unfolded, I just wish the authors would have committed a little more to the hook of the plot.

That said, I enjoyed watching Mae’s week of Christmas vacation unfold. Every year, her family joins a few other families at a cabin to spend the holiday together. They’ve been doing it since before Mae was even born and the week is steeped in tradition. I loved the cast of characters. They were such a fun, close group of people and I would love to have a group like them in my life. Included in that group is Andrew, who Mae has had a crush on for half her life. He’s always thought she had a thing for his younger brother, so he’s always treated her like more of a little sister than potential love interest. When Mae decides the universe is telling her to go for it with Andrew, she lets him know how she feels and a bit of a slow burn romance begins.

I really enjoyed the romantic development between Mae and Andrew. He was just so sweet. It seemed almost impossible that he could be so perfect and I kept waiting for him to do something awful. Thankfully, he is just a really great guy. There was a bit of time where I got annoyed with him for how he reacted to something, but overall I thought he was a great romantic lead and I definitely shipped him with Mae.

Overall, I really enjoyed In a Holidaze. While I wish it had committed to the whole “groundhog day” gimmick a little more, I liked the romance and the family atmosphere of the cabin. While I did like Mae’s journey to becoming a more confident person, I thought the “big lesson” was a little underwhelming and could have done without a passage regarding religion that I found a little offensive. However, Christina Lauren’s addictive writing and the cute romance definitely broke me out of the reading slump I was in and this book is one I would recommend to Romance fans.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: A Path to Redeeming Love: A Forty Day Devotional by Francine Rivers and Karin Stock Buursma

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

This one-of-a-kind devotional based on the timeless classic novel Redeeming Love provides forty days of inspiration–featuring essays from the author on her beloved novel.

A Path to Redeeming Love: A 40-Day Devotional welcomes readers to revisit Francine Rivers’s life-changing story of God’s all-consuming love in an inspiring new way: a personal, 6-week journey through Angel and Michael’s iconic love story.

Following the novel’s key themes–Rejected, Resigned, Rescued, Redeemed, Reconciled, Restored–each daily devotion includes a Redeeming Love story tie-in with an excerpt from the novel; selected quotes from Scripture embodying both the message of the devotion and its theme; and prompts for reflection and activities including Bible study, prayer, journaling, and outreach. Each theme begins with a personal essay from Francine in which she shares stories from her life and her thoughts on Angel, Michael, and God’s unconditional and unending love. A meaningful devotional with depth and heart, this book is a perfect companion to Redeeming Love for its many fans.

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

A Path to Redeeming Love: A 40 Day Devotional publishes October 13, 2020. 

Even though it’s been many years since I’ve read Redeeming Love, it’s a story that has stayed with me. I still find myself thinking about it from time to time and comparing other books to it. I was looking for a new daily devotional when I came across A Path to Redeeming Love and it felt like an obvious choice.

I usually prefer devotionals that involve a little more study – scriptures to look up, questions to answer, etc. While this devotional didn’t have as much as that, it was longer than a lot of other one verse/one page ones I’ve tried and I liked that. Each day starts with an excerpt from Redeeming Love, which is then analyzed in respect to the theme of the day’s lesson. It goes deeper than the book, though, and the lesson digs into several passages of scripture. The verses are all included in the text, but I also liked to look them up separately for more context. Each day ends with a small assignment – memorize a verse, meditate/pray on a subject, reach out to someone who has been an important part of your spiritual journey, etc.

I really enjoyed the devotional. I loved the passages of Redeeming Love and it has really made me want to re-read the book. While the story is obviously a romance, it’s also a parable of God’s love. Rivers mentions that she has received many responses from readers about how they wish they could find a man to love them like Michael loves Angel and she tells them that they can. The selfless, sacrificial way he loves her is the same way that God loves us. I found the daily installments easy to read and understand and often relatable. I definitely recommend this to someone who is looking for new devotional, especially if you were a fan of the book. I’m going to be buying a copy of the devotional for my mother, who is the one who introduced me to Redeeming Love.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: They Never Learn by Layne Fargo

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

From the author of the “raw, ingenious, and utterly fearless” (Wendy Walker, USA TODAY bestselling author) Temper comes a dynamic psychological thriller about two women who give bad men exactly what they deserve.

Scarlett Clark is an exceptional English professor. But she’s even better at getting away with murder.

Every year, she searches for the worst man at Gorman University and plots his well-deserved demise. Thanks to her meticulous planning, she’s avoided drawing attention to herself—but as she’s preparing for her biggest kill yet, the school starts probing into the growing body count on campus. Determined to keep her enemies close, Scarlett insinuates herself into the investigation and charms the woman in charge, Dr. Mina Pierce. Everything’s going according to her master plan…until she loses control with her latest victim, putting her secret life at risk of exposure.

Meanwhile, Gorman student Carly Schiller is just trying to survive her freshman year. Finally free of her emotionally abusive father, all Carly wants is to focus on her studies and fade into the background. Her new roommate has other ideas. Allison Hadley is cool and confident—everything Carly wishes she could be—and the two girls quickly form an intense friendship. So when Allison is sexually assaulted at a party, Carly becomes obsessed with making the attacker pay…and turning her fantasies about revenge into a reality.

Featuring Layne Fargo’s trademark “propulsive writing style” (Kirkus Reviews) and “sinister, of the moment” (Chicago Review of Books) suspense, They Never Learn is a feminist serial killer story perfect for fans of Killing Eve and Chelsea Cain.

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

They Never Learn publishes October 13, 2020. 

I’ve been struggling lately to find books that keep my attention and when I picked up They Never Learn I didn’t have very high expectations. So it took me completely by surprise by how addictive and compelling this story turned out to be.

There have been a lot of #MeToo type of stories to come out over the last couple of years. While it’s obviously an important topic, I have to say I’ve been getting a little bored with it. None of these books have really brought anything new to the table and it feels like reading the same thing over and over again. The Never Learn definitely took a different spin on the subject. A serial killer who targets sexual predators? It was like a feminist Dexter and I was here for it.

The chapters alternate POVs between Scarlett, a college professor/serial killer, and Carly, a college Freshman. I thought the alternating POVs were done pretty well. The story was very character driven and I felt like I got to know them pretty well. There were several twists throughout the book and the first one actually ended up surprising me. I felt a little mad at myself for not figuring it out earlier – in hindsight you’ll definitely see the clues – but I like that it surprised me because it doesn’t happen that often these days. The rest of the twists are a little more subtle and not as shocking, but I thought they were pretty well done. I don’t feel like I can say too much about how the story plays out because it will be too spoilery.

Overall, I really enjoyed They Never Learn. I always enjoy a good serial killer story and I especially liked how it made a #MeToo storyline a little more fresh. While the characters weren’t always very likable, they were compelling and I was invested in seeing how things would turn out for them. This was my first book by Fargo, but I’m definitely going to go back and read her debut book and will look forward to whatever she does next.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

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(I had to include the non-American cover because it’s perfect. You’ll understand when you read the book.)

Synopsis from Goodreads:

This is a poignant comedy about a crime that never took place, a would-be bank robber who disappears into thin air, and eight extremely anxious strangers who find they have more in common than they ever imagined.

Viewing an apartment normally doesn’t turn into a life-or-death situation, but this particular open house becomes just that when a failed bank robber bursts in and takes everyone in the apartment hostage. As the pressure mounts, the eight strangers slowly begin opening up to one another and reveal long-hidden truths.

As police surround the premises and television channels broadcast the hostage situation live, the tension mounts and even deeper secrets are slowly revealed. Before long, the robber must decide which is the more terrifying prospect: going out to face the police, or staying in the apartment with this group of impossible people.

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

Anxious People publishes September 8, 2020. 

Even though the Beartown books made me a Fredrick Backman fan for life, this is only my third book from him. I was a little afraid that no other book could live up to my sky high expectations. And while the Beartown books are still my favorites, Anxious People did not disappoint.

Backman has such a way with words. I am continually blown away by his honest – and humorous and sometimes heart wrenching – description of the human condition. There is no other author that can make me want to laugh and cry in equal measure. This story is about depression, anxiety, and desperation. But it’s also about hope, love, and forgiveness. It’s about idiots. It’s about the thoughts we have in our lowest moments and the reassurance that we are not alone. There was one passage that described my teenage self so accurately, that I really wish there were more books like this back then.

“She isn’t traumatized, she isn’t weighed down by any obvious grief. She’s just sad, all the time. An evil little creature that wouldn’t have shown up on any X-rays was living in her chest, rushing through her blood and filling her head with whispers, saying she wasn’t good enough, that she was weak and ugly and would never be anything but broken…In the end you get exhausted from always tensing the skin around your ribs, never letting your shoulders sink, brushing along walls all your life with white knuckles, always afraid that someone will notice you, because no one’s supposed to do that.”
(Quote taken from ARC, may be different in final version.)

The story is very character driven, and there is quite the quirky cast to get to know. I loved how we learned things about each of them, bit by bit. Characters who might come across a little unlikable at first are given context and background that will make you grow to love them instead. There’s even a twist or two that will keep you on your toes. I will say there were a few times where it felt like things dragged just a little and I wanted to get on with the story, but the character development was still definitely worth it. The story is told in a non-linear way, which could have gotten confusing, but I think Backman handled it really well. I loved the excerpts of the witness interviews most of all.

Overall, I loved Anxious People. Backman’s writing was just as wonderful as I hoped it would be. It was honest and relatable and filled with emotion. It was also laugh out loud funny at times. I definitely recommend this one and am looking forward to going back and reading more of Backman’s backlist.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

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

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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

Review: Louisiana Lucky by Julie Pennell

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

From the critically acclaimed author of The Young Wives Club, a “heartwarming story about friendship, heartache, and self-discovery” (Karen White, New York Times bestselling author), comes a charming novel reminiscent of the works of Mary Alice Monroe and Kristy Woodson Harvey, about three sisters who win a huge lottery prize and learn what it truly means to be lucky.

Lexi, Callie, and Hanna Breaux grew up in small-town Louisiana, and have always struggled to make ends meet. For years, they’ve been playing the lottery, fantasizing about how much better life would be if they had the money.

For Lexi, it means the perfect wedding; for Callie, it means having the courage to go after her career dreams; and for Hanna, it means buying a house that isn’t falling apart and sending her bullied son to private school. When the incredible happens and the Breaux sisters hit it big—$204 million dollars big—all their dreams come true. Or so they think. Because it’s actually not a cliché—money isn’t the answer to everything, and it often comes with problems of its own.

Heartfelt, engaging, and featuring characters you’ll root for from the first moment you meet them, Louisiana Lucky is a satisfying page-turner from a rising star in women’s fiction.

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

Louisiana Lucky publishes August 4, 2020. 

Who hasn’t fantasized about winning the lottery? Would you quit your job? Buy a new house? Give yourself a makeover? Plan yourself the most over the top wedding the town has ever seen? For sisters Hanna, Callie, and Lexi, these fantasies becomes reality when they win a $204 million jackpot. The story follows the three sisters as they deal with the joys and the pitfalls of receiving a windfall of cash. Each chapter switches between POVs and I really enjoyed all of them. Though I often found myself frustrated with them, I thought all of the main characters were likable and I was rooting for them to make smart choices.

Despite meeting with a financial planner who warns them not to spend too much too fast, only one of the sisters takes the advice. Callie keeps her job as a journalist for the local paper, where she’s worked with her best friend/long time crush since she graduated college. It’s only after the handsome, charming local tv news anchor takes an interest in her that she uses her new found wealth to give herself a makeover so she can be the type of woman she thinks will keep his attention. He also encourages her to get out of print media and join him on tv. He seems a little too good to be true and while he didn’t really do anything that hinted he was after her money, it did seem a little suspicious that it was at the press conference where she was announced as a millionaire that he approached her.

Hanna and Callie both went a little more crazy with the money than Callie did. Lexi was planning a small and intimate wedding with her fiance, but now she can afford the best of everything. When Seth’s mother, who Lexi has never felt accepted by, joins the wedding planning, things get even more over the top and Seth isn’t thrilled about it. Hanna is tired of all the repairs her husband’s old family home needs and she has her eye on a million dollar listing, instead. And a new car and wardrobe that will help her fit in with the snooty mothers at her children’s new private school.

All three sisters continue to throw money at their problems, but they come to realize that money may not solve everything quite as easily as they expected. Even though the direction of the plot seemed a little obvious, I felt invested in all of the sisters and wanted to see how they handled things. The story is very character-driven and because of that, the pace could feel a little slow at times. However, I was completely addicted to the book and never wanted to put it down. There was one aspect I have a bit of a complaint about, though. While there was a lot of character development for the sisters, I would’ve liked to see more development for the other people in their lives. There are quick mentions of Hanna’s son being bullied, her husband, Tom, having abandonment issues, Lexi’s fiance’s dysfunctional relationship with his parents, Callie’s close friendship with Garrett, and the growing relationship between Callie and her new boyfriend, Wynn. I wanted to know more about all of these things and get to know all the characters surrounding the sisters a little better.

Overall, I really enjoyed Louisiana Lucky. Lately I find myself struggling with books that fall under the Women’s Fiction umbrella, but I did not have that problem at all while reading this book. I was drawn in by that beautiful cover, but it was the character-driven, addictive writing that kept me hooked. I was a fan of Pennell’s debut book, The Young Wives Club, and I’ve been eagerly awaiting her follow up. With Louisiana Lucky, she’s proven she definitely deserves a spot on my author auto-read list.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: The Wife Who Knew Too Much by Michele Campbell

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

From Michele Campbell, the bestselling author of It’s Always the Husband comes a new blockbuster thriller in The Wife Who Knew Too Much.

Tabitha Girard had her heart broken years ago by Connor Ford. He was preppy and handsome. She was a pool girl at his country club. Their affair should have been a summer fling. But it meant everything to Tabitha.

Years later, Connor comes back into Tabitha’s life—older, richer, and desperately unhappy. He married for money, a wealthy, neurotic, controlling woman whom he never loved. He has always loved Tabitha.

When Connor’s wife Nina takes her own life, he’s free. He can finally be with Tabitha. Nina’s home, Windswept, can be theirs. It seems to be a perfect ending to a fairy tale romance that began so many years ago. But then, Tabitha finds a diary. “I’m writing this to raise an alarm in the event of my untimely death,” it begins. “If I die unexpectedly, it was foul play, and Connor was behind it. Connor—and her.”

Who is Connor Ford? Why did he marry Nina? Is Tabitha his true love, or a convenient affair? As the police investigate Nina’s death, is she a convenient suspect?

As Tabitha is drawn deeper into the dark glamour of a life she is ill-prepared for, it becomes clear to her that what a wife knows can kill her.

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

The Wife Who Knew Too Much publishes July 28, 2020.

I really enjoyed Michele Campbell’s last book, A Stranger on the Beach, so I was pretty excited to get my hands on The Wife Who Knew Too Much. While the story didn’t go quite the way I had expected, it still had that addictive writing that kept me completely hooked.

In the beginning, we get both Nina and Tabitha’s POV. I liked the flashbacks to how both of their relationships started with Connor and then to the events leading up to Nina’s death. I kind of wished Nina didn’t die so soon because I wanted to spend more time with her. I liked that both women seemed sympathetic, but also a little untrustworthy. It kept me on my toes and I liked that.

The story didn’t quite unfold in the way I thought it would. The synopsis mentions Tabitha finding Nina’s diary warning of her untimely death, but that doesn’t actually happen to about the 80% mark. The book was a lot less gothic, claustrophobic drama than I expected. There was perhaps a little too much time spent of Tabitha just doing whatever Connor told her and not being nearly as suspicious as she should be. I also came up with my theory pretty early on in the story, which ended up being correct. Thankfully, the writing was still really addictive and compelling and I couldn’t stop reading it.

Overall, I enjoyed The Wife Who Knew Too Much. I really enjoyed the writing and the multiple POVs and timelines. The ending went in a slightly different direction than I was expecting, which disappointed me, but I don’t think most readers will be upset by it. If you’ve enjoyed Campbell’s other books, I definitely recommend this one. I look forward to whatever she writes next.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

Review: The Vacation by T.M. Logan

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

In The Vacation, a captivating thriller from T. M. Logan, the bestselling author of Lies and 29 Seconds, four lifelong friends on a luxurious vacation come face-to-face with an explosive secret.

It was supposed to be the perfect vacation, dreamed up by Kate as the ideal way to turn 40: four best friends and their husbands and children, spending a week in a luxurious villa under the blazing sunshine of Provence.

But there is trouble in paradise.

Kate suspects that her husband is having an affair—and that the other woman is one of her best friends. One of these women is willing to sacrifice years of friendship and destroy her family. But which one?

As Kate closes in on the truth in the stifling Mediterranean heat, she realizes—too late—that the stakes are far higher than she ever imagined. And someone in the villa may be prepared to kill to keep their lies hidden.

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

The Vacation will be published July 21, 2020. 

Addictive writing, a steady pace, and a teasingly revealed mystery made The Vacation an unputdownable read for me.

The characters were all mostly awful people, but I felt invested in finding out what happened with them. Kate has been noticing that her husband has been acting off recently and when she stumbles upon messages on his phone, she suspects he’s having an affair with one of her three best friends, all of whom they are on vacation with. She spends a lot of time trying to figure out which of her friends is lying to her and there are suspicious things about each of them. It doesn’t help that her husband, Sean, remains cagey when she eventually tries to confront him. Thrown into the mix are the group’s children and a subplot you might be tempted not to pay too much attention to, but should. All of the children were even more awful than their parents, with the exception of sweet, innocent Daniel, Kate and Sean’s son.

The story is mostly told through Kate’s POV, but interspersed are chapters from other characters’ point of views and I thought it was done very well. It helped keep the pace steady and move the mystery along. I will say, though, that I thought things dragged on a little too long. While I didn’t guess everything that Kate eventually discovers, I was certain that things weren’t all they appeared to be. The clues that something more was going on felt pretty obvious, which made me a little frustrated with how long it took to get to a resolution. That said, I thought everything did come together nicely and I enjoyed it.

Overall, I enjoyed The Vacation. I thought the writing was addictive and I loved the use of multiple POVs. While I wish there was a little more of a twist, I was surprised by how things wrapped up and I liked that. I definitely recommend this one and look forward to Logan’s next book.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars