Review: People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

With one week to win back the best friend she might just be in love with, a travel writer plans the trip of a lifetime in this sparkling new novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Beach Read.

Poppy and Alex. Alex and Poppy. They have nothing in common. She’s a wild child; he wears khakis. She has insatiable wanderlust; he prefers to stay home with a book. And somehow, ever since a fateful car share home from college many years ago, they are the very best of friends. For most of the year they live far apart–she’s in New York City, and he’s in their small hometown–but every summer, for a decade, they have taken one glorious week of vacation together.

Until two years ago, when they ruined everything. They haven’t spoken since.

Poppy has everything she should want, but she’s stuck in a rut. When someone asks when she was last truly happy, she knows, without a doubt, it was on that ill-fated, final trip with Alex. And so, she decides to convince her best friend to take one more vacation together–lay everything on the table, make it all right. Miraculously, he agrees.

Now she has a week to fix everything. If only she can get around the one big truth that has always stood quietly in the middle of their seemingly perfect relationship. What could possibly go wrong?

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

People We Meet on Vacation publishes May 11, 2021. 

Emily Henry’s Beach Read was one of my favorite books of 2020, so I had very high expectations for People We Meet on Vacation. While I’m not sure it will make my 2021 Favorites list, I still definitely enjoyed it.

I absolutely loved the relationship between Poppy and Alex. They had amazing banter and it was obvious how much they cared about each other. So many of their scenes just put a big smile on my face. The chapters jump around between the present and the past, where we see many of their summer trips, going back from when they first met twelve years ago. I enjoyed both timelines and being able to see the evolution of their friendship.

While I loved the humor and the romance, there were a few things that brought the story down for me. There was some subtle bashing of religion, which I found a little offensive. There was also a lot of build up to the big Croatia trip that ruined their friendship two years ago and it ended up being pretty anticlimactic to me. It was a short chapter and I expected a bit more than what actually happened. I also was a little confused about how impactful to Poppy’s life she kept saying the people she met on her travels were, when there were very few examples of that in the actual story. I can only think of a couple of examples and they left no lasting impact to me.

Overall, People We Meet on Vacation was a very cute story. It had terrific banter and several adorably romantic scenes. The characters were likable and I loved their friendship. I felt like it was a little messy at the end, though. What happened in Croatia and the fall out didn’t feel like it lived up to all the build up about it. I also felt like too much was crammed into the final chapters. Trying to make the theme of the title so important at the end when there was very little about it in the rest of the story was a little jarring. Despite that, though, this is a book that I see myself re-reading in the future.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: The Love Proof by Madeleine Henry

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

“Henry has done a masterful job…This book is academic and heartfelt and tender and loving. It is worth every minute spent reading it.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

A brilliant physicist studying the nature of time embarks on a journey to prove that those we love are always connected to us, leading to surprising revelations in this fresh and unique love story.

Sophie Jones is a physics prodigy on track to unlock the secrets of the universe. But when she meets Jake Kristopher during their first week at Yale they instantly feel a deep connection, as if they’ve known each other before. Quickly, they become a couple. Slowly, their love lures Sophie away from school.

When a shocking development forces Sophie into a new reality, she returns to physics to make sense of her world. She grapples with life’s big questions, including how to cope with unexpected change and loss. Inspired by her connection with Jake, Sophie throws herself into her studies, determined to prove that true loves belong together in all realities.

Spanning decades, The Love Proof is an unusual love story about lasting connection, time, and intuition. It explores the course that perfect love can take between imperfect people, and urges us to listen to our hearts rather than our heads.

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

The Love Proof publishes February 9, 2021. 

To be perfectly honest, I expected that I would end up DNF-ing The Love Proof. Books that are heavily influenced by science usually don’t work for me and it’s the reason I put off reading this one. However, not only did I end up finishing the book, I finished it in one day.

Despite the heavy science-y influence, the story is much more character driven. I thought the author did a great job of developing the characters and making me care about them. I was very invested in Sophie and Jake’s relationship and how everything would turn out. It feels too spoiler-y to go into any details, but they put me through an emotional wringer and even though I got pretty frustrated at times, I enjoyed the journey.

While the book surprised me in many ways, I was right in predicting the science-y bits wouldn’t work for me. While it did feel like Henry gives us a more “Physics for Dummies” explanations on things, a lot of it still went over my head. I also thought the central theme of how only someone who has fallen in love is able to see time was kind of corny.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Love Proof. I found it compulsively readable and could not put it down. If you are someone like me who might be scared off by the inclusion of science and academia, I really encourage you to give it a try. I think you’ll end up pleasantly surprised.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

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