Review: The Switch by Beth O’Leary

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Eileen is sick of being 79.
Leena’s tired of life in her twenties.
Maybe it’s time they swapped places…

When overachiever Leena Cotton is ordered to take a two-month sabbatical after blowing a big presentation at work, she escapes to her grandmother Eileen’s house for some overdue rest. Eileen is newly single and about to turn eighty. She’d like a second chance at love, but her tiny Yorkshire village doesn’t offer many eligible gentlemen.

Once Leena learns of Eileen’s romantic predicament, she proposes a solution: a two-month swap. Eileen can live in London and look for love. Meanwhile Leena will look after everything in rural Yorkshire. But with gossiping neighbours and difficult family dynamics to navigate up north, and trendy London flatmates and online dating to contend with in the city, stepping into one another’s shoes proves more difficult than either of them expected.

Leena learns that a long-distance relationship isn’t as romantic as she hoped it would be, and then there is the annoyingly perfect – and distractingly handsome – school teacher, who keeps showing up to outdo her efforts to impress the local villagers. Back in London, Eileen is a huge hit with her new neighbours, but is her perfect match nearer home than she first thought?

Ever since reading The Flatshare, I have been anxious to see what Beth O’Leary would write next. I will admit I was a little underwhelmed with the synopsis for The Switch, but it ended up being such a sweet, enjoyable story. I’m going the list route on this one.

What I Liked

-I loved the small town where Eileen lives and Leena comes to stay. It was so cute and the quirky townspeople were the perfect cast of supporting characters. I loved them. I also loved Leena’s friends in London and how they so thoroughly accepted Eileen into their lives. All of the characters were so likable (except, of course, for the couple that aren’t supposed to be).

-I really liked that the older characters were given so much development. I think a lot of the time elderly characters in books that feature a younger generation are kind of caricatures instead of people.

-The romances weren’t quite as central as I expected them to be, but that ended up being ok. They were still very cute. I absolutely loved every single thing about Jackson. He’s a little too perfect to be realistic, but I don’t care. I also loved who Eileen ended up with.

-I really enjoyed the general atmosphere of family and community. I feel like so much of what we encounter today is rooted in hate and division and it was refreshing to see people of different walks of life come together, instead.

-As someone who often feels stuck in life, it was kind of inspiring to see both Leena and Eileen take charge of their lives and make positive changes. I thought both their character arcs were well done and I could’ve gone on reading much more about them.

What Didn’t Work for Me

-One thing that really brought the story down for me was Eileen’s relationship with Tod. She meets  him online and he basically tells her he’s not interested in a relationship, but just wants to sleep with her – non-exclusively – while she’s in London and she’s like ok, sounds fun. This isn’t a new concept or anything in Romance novels, but it’s never a plotline I like. It made me respect her a little less and it honestly didn’t add that much to the story for me. You know almost the whole time that she will end up with someone else and it was a little frustrating how long it took her to realize it.

-Leena’s boyfriend, Ethan, is barely a part of the story for most of the book. She barely even mentions him. It made her dramatics towards the end of the book seem a little out of of left field, to be honest.

-I liked that we got both Leena and Eileen’s POVs, but I didn’t think they needed to change every other chapter. Even though I liked both, I was always disappointed at the end of each chapter when it switched again. I think it would have been just as effective to give several chapters in a row to the same POV sometimes.

Overall

Overall, I really enjoyed The Switch. I loved the characters and the sense of community. I’ve been in a bit of a mood lately where I’ve had trouble finding books that keep my attention, but I found myself always looking forward to picking this story back up again. I’m definitely looking forward to whatever O’Leary writes next.

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: Head Over Heels by Hannah Orenstein

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

The past seven years have been hard on Avery Abrams: After training her entire life to make the Olympic gymnastics team, a disastrous performance ended her athletic career for good. Her best friend and teammate, Jasmine, went on to become an Olympic champion, then committed the ultimate betrayal by marrying their emotionally abusive coach, Dimitri.

Now, reeling from a breakup with her football star boyfriend, Avery returns to her Massachusetts hometown, where new coach Ryan asks her to help him train a promising young gymnast with Olympic aspirations. Despite her misgivings and worries about the memories it will evoke, Avery agrees. Back in the gym, she’s surprised to find sparks flying with Ryan. But when a shocking scandal in the gymnastics world breaks, it has shattering effects not only for the sport but also for Avery and her old friend Jasmine.

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

Head Over Heels publishes June 23, 2020. 

I always enjoy watching the Olympics and was pretty disappointed to hear that they are going to be postponed until next year. Head Over Heels looked like a good way to get a small Olympics fix in the mean time. However, it wasn’t really much more than that.

I was pretty bored throughout most of this book. I did enjoy the gymnastics included and reading about Hallie’s training routine as she prepared for the Olympic trials. I just wish there was a little more of an inside look. I feel like everything shared are things you can pick up by watching any of the countless features that play during the Olympics every year. There’s a lot more said about how hard gymnasts work than actually showing them working that hard.

I also never really cared about the romance. Avery and Ryan had crushes on each other as kids and their crushes have bled over into adulthood and they get together fairly quickly. I didn’t feel invested in their relationship at all, so when things went poorly and then got better, I just didn’t care. They could have ended the books as just friends and I wouldn’t have minded.

I expected a lot more to be said about the sexual abuse scandal, as well. It follows a lot of what happened in real life, just with fictional names. The doctor that is accused is one that made Hallie feel uncomfortable once, but thankfully nothing more than that happened with her. There’s a lot of talk about backlash online and a hearing scheduled for the doctor, but no type of resolution. I felt like from the synopsis this would be a major part of the plot, but it mostly stayed in the background. Avery and her old training partner come together to create a foundation to help the mental and emotional health of gymnasts and even that is barely addressed.

Overall, Head over Heels was not really for me. I would have liked for things to be more developed. It felt like just the bare minimum was done in terms of character development, relationship development, gymnastic research, and #MeToo details. What should have been interesting and emotional came off as boring and superficial. This is the second book I’ve tried by this author and I think it will probably be my last.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars

Review: The Heir Affair (Royal We #2) by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Making it up the aisle was the easy part: After marrying the heir to the throne, Rebecca “Bex” Porter must survive her own scandals as she adjusts to life in the glamorous British royal family, in this “highly anticipated” follow-up to The Royal We, the “fun and dishy” bestseller and NYT Summer Reading List pick inspired by Will and Kate’s romance (People).

After a scandalous secret turns their fairy-tale wedding into a nightmare, Rebecca “Bex” Porter and her husband Prince Nicholas are in self-imposed exile. The public is angry. The Queen is even angrier. And the press is salivating. Cutting themselves off from friends and family, and escaping the world’s judgmental eyes, feels like the best way to protect their fragile, all-consuming romance.

But when a crisis forces the new Duke and Duchess back to London, the Band-Aid they’d placed over their problems starts to peel at the edges. Now, as old family secrets and new ones threaten to derail her new royal life, Bex has to face the emotional wreckage she and Nick left behind: with the Queen, with the world, and with Nick’s brother Freddie, whose sins may not be so easily forgotten — nor forgiven.

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

The Heir Affair publishes June 16, 2020. 

I remember being very pleasantly surprised by how much I loved The Royal We and I was so excited to see it was finally getting a sequel. Much like the first book, it wasn’t really what I was expecting it to be, but it was everything. This is easily my favorite book of the year so far.

I decided to re-read the first book before jumping into The Heir Affair and I’m glad I did. I loved it just as much the second time around, maybe even more. I found myself still getting very anxious or sad at parts, even though I knew how everything turned out, which I think is a real testament to the writing. I am so invested in these characters and I already miss them.

The Heir Affair picks up soon after The Royal We ended. The first book was written to be a standalone and it ended on a very positive note of implied Happily Ever After. However, that’s not quite how things turned out. And really, can we expect anything to be that easy for Bex and Nick? Right as the royal wedding was ending, Clive published his story about Bex and Freddie and the public immediately turned on them. Bex and Nick end up running away from their problems for awhile and get to start married life in their own private bubble, which they’ve always thrived in. Once they have to return to reality, though, they have to face everything they’ve ignored – especially the Freddie of it all.

I would love to tell you that things were easily worked out and it was all cute and funny and happily ever after. And while there was definitely a lot of cute and funny, there is so much more substance to it than that. That means that along with the fun banter and the highs, there were also some real lows. It gave my cold, black heart some FEELINGS and I loved every minute of it, even when I kind of hated what was happening sometimes. There are a lot of layers to this story, but at the forefront are the big three relationships: Bex and Nick, Nick and Freddie, and Bex and Freddie. There is just so much emotion there to unpack and I felt all of it. They each had to work at mending their relationships and coming to terms with their feelings and I think it wrapped up in realistic and satisfying ways, if not quite the neat little bow I like things tied up in.

As I mentioned previously, I absolutely love the characters in this series. I loved seeing Bex’s friends, Cilla, Gaz, and Bea again. We didn’t see quite as much as Cilla as we did in the first book, but both Gaz and Bea had some good subplots. I had absolutely hated Bex’s twin sister, Lacey, in the first book and was kind of hoping she’d be killed off or something here, but she was actually quite palatable in this one. She was the character I wished she was in the first book. I loved watching Bex begin an actual relationship with members of Nick’s family, especially the queen. And of course, my dear Freddie. He grew up so much in this book and while my heart broke for him time and time again, I like to think that he’s found his own happily ever after. I still wouldn’t mind a Freddie spin-off, though. And can I just say that one of my favorite things about this series is that Freddie’s nickname for Nick is Knickers. I love the relationship between these brothers and they really put me through the wringer in this one.

Overall, I absolutely loved The Heir Affair. This review does not even come close to expressing how much. The cute cover and overall storyline may fool you into thinking this is just a light and easy Romance, but it is emotional and intense – in the very best of ways. It’s very character driven and has many threads to connect, but I think the authors did a great job of tying everything together. There were a couple things left a little more open than I like, though, which I have my fingers crossed means that another book will be coming in the future. This is a must read for anyone who’s read The Royal We and if you haven’t started this series yet, you really should.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Beach Read by Emily Henry

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

A romance writer who no longer believes in love and a literary writer stuck in a rut engage in a summer-long challenge that may just upend everything they believe about happily ever afters.

Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast.

They’re polar opposites.

In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they’re living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer’s block.

Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She’ll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he’ll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really.

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

Beach Read publishes May 19, 2020. 

It’s pretty rare that I say this about a popular book, but Beach Read totally deserves all the hype it’s been getting. I loved it!

I did find that I had to adjust my expectations when I started the book. I expected a tropical location and nothing but cuteness. However, the beach being referenced in the title is on Lake Michigan and there was a whole lot of seriousness and emotional punches mixed in with the cuteness. That ended up working for me, though. I really loved both January and Gus and thought they were relatable and likable characters. I thought they brought out the best in each other and were a great example of how a couple should grow together in a relationship and not just be “fixed” by love.

I loved January and Gus’ banter. They made me smile throughout so much of this book and there were so many cute and romantic moments between them. They also managed to make me emotional, as well. I thought Gus’ general pessimism was relatable, while also wanting to see him find happiness and heal from his awful childhood. January is not only dealing with the grief of her father’s passing, but she has also found out that he had cheated on her mother and is left wondering how much of her childhood was a lie because of it. I, personally, also found this very relatable. There were several things she tried to work through which I found pretty cathartic and I liked that while she came to terms with things, she didn’t necessarily get the closure she wanted on it, either. It felt real.

I also loved that both main characters are authors. Books about authors or journalists are my weakness. I liked reading about what they thought about different genres and their daily writing routines and dealing with writer’s block. I also wanted to read the books they were writing, especially Gus’ cult book.

Overall, I really loved Beach Read and this little review probably doesn’t do justice to how much. I loved the characters and the town (once I got over it not being a tropical beach location, I found the small town charming, even if it is in Michigan (I’m a Buckeye)) and the emotions and the romance. It was a perfect blend of serious and cute and I couldn’t get enough of it. I definitely recommend this one!

Overall Review (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: The Better Liar by Tanen Jones

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

When a woman conceals her sister’s death to claim their joint inheritance, her deception exposes a web of dangerous secrets in this addictive new thriller for fans of Megan Abbott, Gillian Flynn, and Paula Hawkins.

“Like most of the dead, I want to be remembered.”

Robin Voigt is dead. If Leslie had arrived at her sister’s cramped Las Vegas apartment just hours earlier, this would have been their first reunion in a decade. In the years since Robin ran away from home as a teenager, Leslie has stayed in New Mexico, taking care of their dying father even as she began building a family of her own. But when their father passed away, Leslie received a rude awakening: She and Robin would receive the inheritance he left them together—or not at all. Now her half of the money may be beyond her grasp. And unbeknownst to anyone, even her husband, Leslie needs it desperately.

When she meets a charismatic young woman who bears an uncanny resemblance to Robin—and has every reason to leave her past behind—the two make a reckless bargain: Mary will impersonate Robin for a week in exchange for Robin’s half of the cash. But neither realizes how high the stakes will become when Mary takes a dead woman’s name. Even as Mary begins to suspect Leslie is hiding something, and Leslie realizes the stranger living in her house, babysitting her newborn son, and charming her husband has secrets of her own, Robin’s wild, troubled legacy threatens to eclipse them both.

An electric, twisted portrait of sisterhood and the ties that bind, The Better Liar is a stunning debut with a heart-stopping, twist-after-twist finale that will beg the question: How far would you go to get what’s yours?

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

The Better Liar will be available January 14, 2020. 

I had really high hopes for The Better Liar. It sounded intriguing and suspenseful and multiple twists are promised in the synopsis. Unfortunately, none of those things ended up being true for me. Instead of the psychological suspense I was expecting, this book read much more like a Women’s Fiction story, focusing on two sisters with a dysfunctional childhood who turned into two dysfunctional adults. It’s also supposed to shine a light on postpartum depression, but I don’t think that was done all that effectively, even with the condescending Author’s Note about it at the end of the book.

The story is told from three points of view: Leslie, Robin, and Mary. I liked the multiple perspectives, even if they all sounded basically the same. The premise definitely had promise, but I found myself pretty bored for most of the book. I disliked all of the characters and found a lot of their actions a little unrealistic. I kept waiting for the multiple twists and when they finally happened I thought they were kind lackluster. I expected a really explosive, twisted ending and was left pretty disappointed.

Overall, The Better Liar was just not for me. While it had promise, it failed to live up to it. I think if this had been packaged as Women’s Fiction rather than Mystery/Thriller, I could have adjusted my expectations and enjoyed it more. However, I have seen many more favorable reviews on this than mine, so it may still be worth picking up for some.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars

Review: Four Christmases and a Secret by Zara Stoneley

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

Except for Daisy Christmas means another of Uncle T’s dreaded Christmas parties, complete with Christmas jumper and flashing antlers.  And Oliver Cartwright.  Gorgeous Oliver Cartwright. Who she hates.

Every year Daisy has to face insufferable Ollie and hear all about how BRILLIANT he is.  Whereas Daisy has no job, no man and no idea how to fix things.

This Christmas however Daisy is determined things will be different.  There will be no snogging Ollie under the mistletoe like when they were teenagers.  No, this year she’ll show Ollie that she’s a Responsible Adult too.

But as the champagne corks pop, and the tinsel sparkles, Uncle T has news of his own to share…and it could change Daisy’s life forever…

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

Four Christmases and a Secret will be available September 27, 2019. 

When it comes to gearing up for the holidays, I don’t typically want to see anything Christmas-related until after Thanksgiving. However, I will always make an exception for two things: Hallmark Christmas movies and Christmas-themed books. Throw in that beautiful cover and I was all in for Four Christmases and a Secret.

This is one of those books where I don’t feel the synopsis does the story justice. It’s slightly misleading and doesn’t really explain about what the book really is. While there are definite Christmas and Romance themes, I really felt like this one fell more into the Women’s Fiction category. Daisy is quite a mess when we first meet her and a big part of the book is made up of her getting her act together. With a lot of encouragement and support from Uncle Terrence and Ollie, she gets her confidence back and figures out what she actually wants out of life. I did like her journey and found her a likable character. I also loved Ollie, Uncle Terrence, and Daisy’s mother. It seems to be a bit of a Stoneley signature for the main character to have a very loud, outspoken, quirky mother and she was on full display here. The only character I didn’t really like was Daisy’s best friend, Frankie, who I thought was awful right from the beginning.

I enjoyed the friendship and romance between Daisy and Ollie. I thought they fit really well together. I felt like a lot of their relationship was kind of glossed over, though. In one scene they’re having their first real kiss and then in the next they’ve been ‘together’ for awhile and we didn’t get to see any of that discussion or proper dates or anything like that. The first time they say they love each other is off page, as well. I didn’t really know how serious they were or where they were at in the relationship because there were jumps in time and a lot of the development happened between scenes. I thought this could have been handled a little better, but I still shipped them and was happy where they ended up.

Overall, I enjoyed Four Christmases and a Secret. I liked the characters and the romance and the journey of self-discovery Daisy went on. It ended up being a lot more serious than I thought it would be – more Women’s Fiction than Romance – but it still worked for me. It definitely put me in the mood for some good holiday themed movies and books. I look forward to checking out more from Stoneley in the future.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

Review: Life and Other Inconveniences by Kristan Higgins

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

From the New York Times bestselling author of Good Luck with That comes a new novel about a blue-blood grandmother and her black-sheep granddaughter who discover they are truly two sides of the same coin.

Emma London never thought she had anything in common with her grandmother Genevieve London. The regal old woman came from wealthy and bluest-blood New England stock, but that didn’t protect her from life’s cruelest blows: the disappearance of Genevieve’s young son, followed by the premature death of her husband. But Genevieve rose from those ashes of grief and built a fashion empire that was respected the world over, even when it meant neglecting her other son.

When Emma’s own mother died, her father abandoned her on his mother’s doorstep. Genevieve took Emma in and reluctantly raised her–until Emma got pregnant her senior year of high school. Genevieve kicked her out with nothing but the clothes on her back…but Emma took with her the most important London possession: the strength not just to survive but to thrive. And indeed, Emma has built a wonderful life for herself and her teenage daughter, Riley.

So what is Emma to do when Genevieve does the one thing Emma never expected of her and, after not speaking to her for nearly two decades, calls and asks for help?

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

Life and Other Inconveniences will be available August 6, 2019. 

Kristan Higgins has been one of my favorite authors for a long time. I’ve read all of her Romance books multiple times and they never fail to lift my mood. Higgins’ writing has evolved over the last few years, though, as she’s moved into the Women’s Fiction market. She is still an excellent writer, perhaps even more popular now than ever, but I have to admit I don’t love the books of her newer genre as much as her backlist.

Life and Other Inconveniences is a multi-generational story focusing on the lives of Emma, her estranged grandmother Genevieve, and her daughter Riley. In addition to their POVs, there are a couple chapters from Genevieve’s son and Emma’s father, Clarke, and Miller, a widower/single father and Emma’s new love interest. I felt like there was kind of a lot to keep track of, even though there wasn’t a lot actually happening. The story is heavily character-driven and the first half was almost nothing but character history. One of the things that makes Higgins’ writing so distinctive is her use of flashback chapters and I usually love them, but they just didn’t work as well for me here. At one point there were three flashback chapters in a row from different POVs and it felt like too much. They are usually so effectively placed and I was a little disappointed how they were used here. I think the story could have benefited from sticking with fewer POVs.

I often say that such a character-driven story either has to have characters I love or love to hate, but I felt a little ambivalent to the characters here. I did like Emma (for the most part), Riley, Miller, and a few of the side-characters, but I never really loved them. Emma would be completely wonderful and level-headed one moment and then petty and insulting when someone made her mad. It made me a little sad that it was every time she was standing up for herself – or someone else – that she devolved to name-calling and this was supposed to be applauded. I also thought Genevieve was a pretty awful person. I never felt sorry for her, despite the things she went through. I just didn’t really care about her and it made it hard to get through her chapters.

One part of the story that I loved, though, was the romance between Emma and Miller. It played just a small part of the book, but it was cute and sweet and I liked how they helped each other. I honestly would’ve loved it if their relationship was the focus of the book instead. I don’t tend to read a ton of straight up Romance books (unless I’m in the midst of a Kindle Unlimited binge), but I will never stop hoping Higgins will return to her roots and give us another one.

Overall, Life and Other Inconveniences was enjoyable, but also a little disappointing to me. I feel like I need to say that it very well might be that I just wasn’t in the mood for this type of book when I read it and I’m sure there will be many people that absolutely love it. When I think of a Kristan Higgins book, though, I think of those sweet and funny Romances that I love and this book just didn’t fall into that category.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: One Little Secret by Cate Holahan

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Everyone has a secret. For some, it’s worth dying to protect. For others, it’s worth killing.

The glass beach house was supposed to be the getaway that Susan needed. Eager to help her transplanted family set down roots in their new town – and desperate for some kid-free conversation – she invites her new neighbors to join in on a week-long sublet with her and her workaholic husband.

Over the course of the first evening, liquor loosens inhibitions and lips. The three couples begin picking up on the others’ marital tensions and work frustrations, as well as revealing their own. But someone says too much. And the next morning one of the women is discovered dead on the private beach.

Town detective Gabby Watkins must figure out who permanently silenced the deceased. As she investigates, she learns that everyone in the glass house was hiding something that could tie them to the murder, and that the biggest secrets of all are often in plain sight for anyone willing to look.

A taut, locked room mystery with an unforgettable cast of characters, One Little Secret promises to keep readers eyes glued to the pages and debating the blinders that we all put on in the service of politeness.

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

One Little Secret will be available July 9, 2019. 

I’m so sad to say that I found One Little Secret a little disappointing. I loved the previous book I read by Cate Holahan (the cleverly written Lies She Told) and had high expectations for this one. Unfortunately, while not a bad book, the mystery and the writing ended up falling a little short for me.

One Little Secret is told in alternating chapters from the POVs of three women. Jenny is a successful sports medicine commentator in an abusive marriage. Susan is a stay-at-home mom with a drinking problem and a workaholic husband. Together, with their husbands, they are renting a beach house with their other neighbors, Rachel and Ben. The third POV is from Gabby, the detective that investigates when one of the vacationing women is found dead. Out of the three of them, the only really likable character was Gabby, but I don’t feel like we ever really got to know her that well. I found both Jenny and Susan very frustrating. All three couples on vacation seemed pretty dysfunctional. I was actually expecting a lot more scandal from them, though, and was a little disappointed in how straightforward and cliched everything seemed to be.

I also felt like this almost read more like Women’s Fiction than Mystery/Thriller. While Holahan did do a good job of making me second guess myself at times, the mystery didn’t really involve anything surprising. Everything that happened seemed so coincidental and a little unbelievable. Also, I felt like every break in the case kind of just fell into Gabby’s lap instead of involving any real detective work from her. There was also a side plot involving the date rape of a young woman at a party that just barely tied into the main mystery. It felt tacked on as an effort to make some sort of relevant comment on today’s culture and was not given the attention such a topic deserves. The story seemed to focus much more on the women’s marriage, family, identity, and self-worth. The murder seemed almost an afterthought.

Overall, One Little Secret, was an ok read, but did not live up to my expectations. While the multiple narrators helped move the story along, I never really connected to any of the characters, which made it hard to care about what happened to them. While this isn’t one I would pick up again, I’d still be interested in reading more from this author.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars