Showing posts with label 3 stars. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 3 stars. Show all posts

Thursday, June 1, 2023

Mini Reviews: Summer Indulgence Edition


Summer is the perfect time to indulge in some books that you normally might not read, whether they be out of your comfort zone or a new-to-you genre, summer is the time to try it out. For me, that is anything that is recommended for fans of Colleen Hoover as those type of books tend to be hit or miss for me. However, they can be the perfect type of novels to bring on vacation and read with a margarita in hand. 

 

My Summer Darlings by May Cobb

Pages: 368
Pub. Date: May 17, 2022
Genre: Adult Fiction/Romance
Publisher: Berkley
Source: Publisher for review 
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars


Goodreads says, "Three lifelong friends plus a dangerous, sexy new stranger in town add up to a scorching summer of manipulation, obsession, and murder, from the acclaimed author of The Hunting Wives. A woman in the forest thinks she’s going to die. I know he’s coming back for me. Jen Hansen, Kittie Spears, and Cynthia Nichols have been friends since childhood. They are now approaching forty and their lives have changed, but their insular East Texas town has not. They stay sane by drinking wine in the afternoons, dishing about other women in the neighborhood, and bonding over the heartache of their own encroaching middle age and raising ungrateful teens. Then Will Harding comes to town, moving into one of the neighborhood’s grandest homes. Mysterious and charming, he seems like the answer to each woman’s prayers. He’s a source of fascination for Jen, Kittie, and Cynthia, but none of them are ready for the way Will disrupts their lives. As Will grows closer with each of the women, their fascination twists into obsession, threatening their friendships and their families. When he abruptly pulls away, each woman scrambles to discover the source of his affection. But what they’ll uncover is far more sinister and deadly than any of them could have ever imagined."

 

Jen Hansen moves back home with her teenage son after a nasty divorce. She hopes to start over in her hometown in Texas and it will be great to have the support of her best friends Kittie and Cynthia. They love to spend the evenings sipping wine on each other's patios and discussing the latest gossip. A recent hot topic is the new neighbor Will Harding. He is good-looking, single, and has caught the eye of Jen. Of course, her best friends support Jen and want her to put herself out there with Will; what better way to get over her cheating ex-husband? Except things aren't as they seem at all. As Kittie and Cynthia get closer to Will (under the guise that they want to get Jen with him) they start to have feelings for him, too. Before we know it, all three women are obsessed with him and things get dangerous in more ways than one. May Cobb's My Summer Darlings is a juicy beach read of a novel that is part thriller, romance, and mystery. While it is absurdly far-fetched at times, I needed to know how this novel was going to end for these highly dysfunctional women.


You know when you read a novel and you hate all the characters? Like not one character has redeeming qualities? That was
My Summer Darlings for me. It was a train wreck. If Desperate Housewives had a love child with a soap opera, it would be this novel. The catty behavior was next level from full-grown women who are all pining for this guy. I didn't buy it. I mean who is he? Even if he was Henry Cavill's look-alike brother, I still don't buy it. So, if you can suspend your disbelief and just go along for this crazy ride, then you'll enjoy My Summer Darlings, which was probably the most absurd beach read/summer thriller I've read in years.

 


Things We Never Got Over by Lucy Score

Pages: 560
Genre: Romance
Pub. Date: January 12, 2022
Publisher: Sourcebooks 
Source: Personal Copy
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
 

Goodreads says, "Bearded, bad-boy barber Knox prefers to live his life the way he takes his coffee: Alone. Unless you count his basset hound, Waylon. Knox doesn’t tolerate drama, even when it comes in the form of a stranded runaway bride. Naomi wasn’t just running away from her wedding. She was riding to the rescue of her estranged twin to Knockemout, Virginia, a rough-around-the-edges town where disputes are settled the old-fashioned way…with fists and beer. Usually in that order. Too bad for Naomi her evil twin hasn’t changed at all. After helping herself to Naomi’s car and cash, Tina leaves her with something unexpected. The niece Naomi didn’t know she had. Now she’s stuck in town with no car, no job, no plan, and no home with an 11-year-old going on thirty to take care of. There’s a reason Knox doesn’t do complications or high-maintenance women, especially not the romantic ones. But since Naomi’s life imploded right in front of him, the least he can do is help her out of her jam. And just as soon as she stops getting into new trouble he can leave her alone and get back to his peaceful, solitary life. At least, that’s the plan until the trouble turns to real danger."

 

 

Naomi has left her fiance at the altar and is en route to Knockemout, Virginia, where her hot mess of a twin sister, Tina, has gotten herself into trouble, again. She goes to her sister's rescue, but instead is played by her, again. Tina steals her car, and her money, and leaves behind her eleven-year-old daughter. So, it appears Naomi is stuck in Virginia without a car, job, or house, and now has to take care of her niece whom she didn't even know she had. Enter Knox. Everyone knows him around town. He likes to be alone and is often in a grumpy mood, but deep down is a good guy. He can't possibly leave Naomi and her niece on the streets, so he decides to help her out even though he and Naomi are opposites and get along like water and oil. Slowly, Naomi gets acclimated to Knockemout and helps her niece. Even though Knox feels something for Naomi, he can't possibly get involved with such a high-maintenance woman, except trouble seems to follow her. Plus, Naomi can't stop thinking about Knox, the local hot guy barber who seems to be everywhere. Lucy Score's romance, Things We Never Got Over, has a lot of buzz surrounding it and I can see why. It's a compulsively readable romance that's perfect for fans of Colleen Hoover.


While I can see why
Things We Never Got Over is such a hit for many, for me it was just an average read. I will admit it was hard to put down, but I do feel like it could have used a bit more editing and the dialogue felt really cheesy. Knox was calling Naomi "baby" it felt like right off the bat and that seemed a little much. Also, it's 560 pages! That's a bit long for a contemporary romance. Nonetheless, if you love a good grumpy/sunshine or enemies to lovers trope, this one is done well overall and you'll definitely be flipping the pages this summer regardless of the novel's minor issues.


So, are you a fan of beach reads with extra doses of drama? Are these books on your TBR list or have you read them? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

 

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Book Review: Lucy by the Sea by Elizabeth Strout

Pages: 304
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: September 20, 2022
Publisher: Random House
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books By Author: Oh William!
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
 
 
Goodreads says, "With her trademark spare, crystalline prose--a voice infused with "intimate, fragile, desperate humanness" (The Washington Post)--Elizabeth Strout turns her exquisitely tuned eye to the inner workings of the human heart, following the indomitable heroine of My Name Is Lucy Barton through the early days of the pandemic. As a panicked world goes into lockdown, Lucy Barton is uprooted from her life in Manhattan and bundled away to a small town in Maine by her ex-husband and on-again, off-again friend, William. For the next several months, it's just Lucy, William, and their complex past together in a little house nestled against the moody, swirling sea. Rich with empathy and emotion, Lucy by the Sea vividly captures the fear and struggles that come with isolation, as well as the hope, peace, and possibilities that those long, quiet days can inspire. At the heart of this story are the deep human connections that unite us even when we're apart--the pain of a beloved daughter's suffering, the emptiness that comes from the death of a loved one, the promise of a new friendship, and the comfort of an old, enduring love."

 

 

Lucy Barton is living her quiet life in New York City until one day the COVID-19 pandemic occurs and Lucy is in denial about what is happening. William, her ex-husband, convinces her to leave the city and come with him to a house in Maine by the ocean as it's the perfect spot for lockdown. At first, Lucy thinks that it will be just a week or so and doesn't even want to bring her computer, but slowly she realizes that COVID is something that is going to hand on much longer.  Lucy goes through all of the feelings that we all felt: loneliness, hopelessness, worry, scared for the future, scared for her health, missing family, and more. All this time on her hands, gives her more time to reflect on her life: her relationship with her mother, her marriage to William and his affair, her daughters, health issues, William's sister, and just about anything else that crosses her mind.  While I find Lucy to be a fascinating character and Elizabeth Strout's writing to be superb, Lucy by the Sea  fell flat for me.   

Lucy is dealing with what we all dealt with not very long ago and actually are still dealing with--the COVID pandemic. I mean it's not entire over, so it felt a little unusual to read a story about its first days.  For some of us, that wasn't too long ago and it is a wound that hasn't' completely healed.  So, revisiting this topic was tough for me in Lucy by the Sea. What kept me reading was Lucy. I appreciate her point of view and could relate to her at times with her thoughts surrounding COVID and how it impacts just about every aspect of her life. I also appreciated her time with William so much more in Lucy by the Sea. While I was never a big fan of William in her other novels, he definitely warmed up in this one and I found myself enjoying him much more than in Oh William!

Strout also takes us back to the uncertainty surrounding the early days of the pandemic. As time goes by, she also highlights some of the upsetting events of the time, such as George Floyd's injustice, the vaccines (finally!), and the unsettling events of January 6th. While I appreciate her doing this, it just felt too soon for me. It felt like I was going back to a time I wasn't necessarily ready to visit. Shouldn't we at least wait ten years till authors start writing about it? Instead of it feeling fresh, it just felt like she was taking us through the events and Lucy was processing it all. Even the difficulties she faced with her daughters felt boring at times and mundane. I do think women that have adult children may be able to appreciate Lucy's perspective a bit more than me.  Which leads me to my next point.

I felt like Lucy was super privileged during her quarantine in Maine in Lucy by the Sea. It was difficult for her, but most of society, especially the younger generation, were still having to work via Zoom or go into work masked, and/or teach their kids from home, etc, and there was no escape to Maine for a lot of us. So, I was completely lacking sympathy for her on that end in that her main concern was her outdoor walk and watching the news. 

I will say that Strout is a phenomenal writer. I appreciate her style and her ability to only use a few words to really convey a scene. I like how she develops her characters and their relationships. However, Lucy by the Sea just felt so uninspired to me and ended up being difficult to read. COVID is still pretty fresh in my eyes; why revisit it just yet? Some of us are still unboxing our own trauma from it and can't take on Lucy's.  However, if you are a fan of Strout, and are ready to read books about the pandemic, you will find Lucy by the Sea to be a relatable tale.

So, are you a fan of Strout's novels? Have you read Lucy by the Sea? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.


Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Book Review: The Beach Trap by Ali Brady


 
Pages: 384
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: June 14, 2022
Publisher: Berkley
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars



Goodreads says, "Two best friends torn apart by a life-altering secret. They have one summer to set the record straight. When twelve-year-olds Kat Steiner and Blake O’Neill meet at Camp Chickawah, they have an instant connection. But everything falls apart when they learn they’re not just best friends—they’re also half-sisters. Confused and betrayed, their friendship instantly crumbles.  Fifteen years later when their father dies suddenly, Kat and Blake discover he’s left them a joint inheritance: the family beach house in Destin, Florida. The two sisters are instantly at odds. Blake, who has recently been demoted from regular nanny to dog nanny, wants to sell the house, while social media influencer Kat is desperate to keep the place where she had so many happy childhood memories.  Kat and Blake reluctantly join forces to renovate the dilapidated house with the understanding that Kat will try to buy Blake out at the end of the summer. The women clash as Blake’s renovation plans conflict with Kat’s creative vision, and each sister finds herself drawn into a summer romance. As the weeks pass, the two women realize the most difficult project they face this summer will be coming to grips with their shared past, and learning how to become sisters."

 

As young girls, Kat Steiner and Blake O'Neill both spent their summers at Camp Chickawah and were good friends.  That is until they realized that they share the same father.  Yes, unbelievably so, but true without a doubt.  Fast forward many years later and their father has died. He left both women a beach house in gorgeous Destin, Florida.  This is a dream, right? Wrong. The house is in horrific condition and needs major renovations before they even consider selling it for top dollar. How can Kat and Blake work together to renovate this house when they haven't spoken to each other in years? Also, do they both want to sell? Because one can't sell without the other's permission.  Cue the drama both renovation wise and emotionally.  Fans of The Parent Trap will enjoy the similarities to this novel, but ultimately, The Beach Trap by Ali Brady fell flat. 

Each chapter alternates the point of view between Kat and Blake in The Beach Trap. I enjoyed the flashbacks to camp and appreciated it as well as I needed to fully understand how these former best friends could have ended up enemies.  The flashbacks explain it all.  Once we are in present day though, that's when things went off track for me, specifically looking at Kat's chapters.  Kat is a fashion influencer and I found her chapters to be mind numbing. She was insufferable.  Truly, I didn't care what happened to her or what she wanted out of the beach house.  On the other hand, I liked Blake and my heart went out to her as she is the one who grew up without a relationship with her father and is now dealing with this sticky situation.  Also, both women have a chance for love this summer, which added to the beach-read feel of this story along with the beautiful setting of Florida.  I mean who doesn't love Destin?

I also liked some of the home renovation descriptions of the house and the similarities to The Parent Trap (always one of my favorite childhood movies!), but that's where my enjoyment ended in The Beach Trap. The romances for both women were a bit too perfect, especially that overly saccharine ending. Perhaps I am too jaded. Don't get me wrong, I love a happy ending, but this seemed over the top and just not realistic.  

Essentially, The Beach Trap was a miss for me. There are so many other great beach reads out there this summer to pick up. I'd say skip this one unless you are curious about the nod to The Parent Trap and you love a good sisters having a second chance story.  

So, what do you think? Have you read The Beach Trap? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. 

 


Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Blog Tour: The Christmas Wedding Guest by Susan Mallery


 
Pages: 432
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: September 28, 2021
Publisher: HQN Books
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
 

Goodreads says, "The Somerville sisters believe in love, but they’ve lost faith it will happen for them. Reggie hasn’t been home since the end of the world’s shortest engagement. When her parents decide to renew their vows, she buffs up her twinkle to help with the Christmas wedding. Unexpectedly, Toby, her first love, is back too, and the spark between them shines as brightly as ever. In the spirit of the season, will they let go of past hurts and greet the New Year together?  Done waiting for the one, Dena is pregnant and on her own—on purpose. But then a gorgeous, sad-eyed songwriter checks in to a room at her inn. Micah, unable to write since he lost his wife, finds inspiration in Dena’s determination to be a mom. One snowflake-speckled kiss and he’s a goner. But Dena is afraid to believe that a rock star could fall for a cookie-cutter small-town girl like her.  As the Christmas wedding draws closer, these two sisters just might unwrap the most treasured gift of all—love."

 

 

Reggie Somerville hasn't returned to her idyllic home town since her engagement broke off.  Her sister, Dena, is a local schoolteacher, newly pregnant, and is working on a charity knitting project with her students. To top it off, Dena and Reggie's parents are renewing their vows this holiday season, so Reggie will most definitely have to return home to Wishing Tree.  Reggie offers to help her mom with her vow renewal plans and to assist Dena with her class project as Dena is suffering from morning sickness.  Dena's situation isn't a conventional one. Dena decided to get pregnant as a single mother through artificial insemination and not only is she dealing with her pregnancy by herself, she is also teaching, and she runs the local B&B.  She is, quite simply, overextended. While Reggie is helping Dena's class project, she runs into her ex-boyfriend, Toby, who has moved back home to raise his son, Harrison.  Toby has also volunteered to help with the class project, so cue the awkward situation as well as the eventual butterflies between them.  Toby hasn't had it easy either and has a lot of baggage.  Then Micah shows up at the B&B, a well-known musician, to find some rest and relaxation with the hope he can find inspiration for his next song.  He is also healing from a tragic event, but Dena catches his eye.  Even though both Somerville sisters are bridesmaids this holiday season, it appears they will have their own chance for love in The Christmas Wedding Guest

I really liked the character of Reggie in The Christmas Wedding Guest. I liked her relationship with her sister, her parents, and even her dog.  When she returns home, she has to face her past and things become even more complicated when her high school ex-boyfriend re-enters the picture.  I really enjoyed how they slowly rekindled the spark while also addressing a lot of their baggage.  Toby's story is a sad one and I did feel badly for him as well as his son.  Dena, on the other hand, is an interesting character in that she is taking things into her own hands by deciding to become a single mom.  I like her determination; however, I didn't find her story (or her love interest in Micah) to be as interesting at Reggie's.

The secondary characters were just ok in The Christmas Wedding Guest. Reggie and Dena's mother is a bridezilla. The worst. I am not kidding. There's no way as a grown adult I would have put up with her. I mean this is a vow renewal not a wedding at Windsor Castle.  Relax.  The stuff she put her grown daughters through is bizarre. I really didn't care for that part of the story or her antics.

Be forewarned that The Christmas Wedding Guest can be rather dark for a holiday novel. There's some issues throughout the novel that pop up that can be considered serious, so that took me by surprise a bit; however, it was balanced nicely by the possible love matches and the upcoming wedding.

The thing I liked the most about The Christmas Wedding Guest was the adorable town of Wishing Tree, Washington.  I loved the Stars Hollow vibe, the friendly neighbors, and their adorable traditions around Christmas and the first snowfall.  I thought it was very well done and reminiscent of a Hallmark movie. Who doesn't love when a charming town comes together to celebrate the holidays?

So, are you a fan of Susan Mallery? Is The Christmas Wedding Guest on your TBR list? Do you enjoy holiday reads? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. 

 

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Book Review: The Newcomer by Mary Kay Andrews


 
Pages: 448
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: May 4, 2021
Publisher: St. Martin's
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books By Author: Hello, Summer,
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars 



Goodreads says, "In trouble and on the run... After she discovers her sister Tanya dead on the floor of her fashionable New York City townhouse, Letty Carnahan is certain she knows who did it: Tanya’s ex; sleazy real estate entrepreneur Evan Wingfield. Even in the grip of grief and panic Letty heeds her late sister’s warnings: “If anything bad happens to me—it’s Evan. Promise me you’ll take Maya and run. Promise me.”   With a trunkful of emotional baggage... So Letty grabs her sister’s Mercedes and hits the road with her wailing four-year-old niece Maya. Letty is determined to out-run Evan and the law, but run to where? Tanya, a woman with a past shrouded in secrets, left behind a “go-bag” of cash and a big honking diamond ring—but only one clue: a faded magazine story about a sleepy mom-and-pop motel in a Florida beach town with the improbable name of Treasure Island. She sheds her old life and checks into an uncertain future at The Murmuring Surf Motel.   The No Vacancy sign is flashing & the sharks are circling...  And that’s the good news. Because The Surf, as the regulars call it, is the winter home of a close-knit flock of retirees and snowbirds who regard this odd-duck newcomer with suspicion and down-right hostility. As Letty settles into the motel’s former storage room, she tries to heal Maya’s heartache and unravel the key to her sister’s shady past, all while dodging the attention of the owner’s dangerously attractive son Joe, who just happens to be a local police detective. Can Letty find romance as well as a room at the inn—or will Joe betray her secrets and put her behind bars? With danger closing in, it’s a race to find the truth and right the wrongs of the past."

 

Letty Carnahan quickly leaves New York City with her niece after her sister, Tanya, was murdered. She always promised her sister that she would take her daughter, Maya, if anything happened to her. They are on the run from her sister's shady husband, Evan, who Letty thinks murdered her sister.  The FBI is after him for running fraudulent Airbnb properties; plus, Tanya has confided in Letty that she is afraid of him.  So, Letty puts two and two together and gets out of town with Maya in tow.  She had Tanya's "go bag," which has a bunch of cash in it and along with a tip from Tanya, she ends up at a motel in Treasure Island, Florida.  The motel is a quiet sort of place run by a woman named Ava. Letty ends up with a job in exchange for a room that wasn't quite a room to begin with. Good thing Letty knows how to work hard.  While there, Letty befriends all of the motel's long term guests and Joe, Ava's son, catches Letty's eye.  Meanwhile Letty is trying to figure out Tanya's connection to Treasure Island and a local criminal ring all the while Evan is searching for her. The Newcomer by Mary Kay Andrews is a mysterious beach read with a lot going on.

Letty is an interesting character in The Newcomer. Her dedication to her sister and her niece are admirable. She works hard and is often put in difficult situations.  Letty she tries to piece together her sister's involvement with Treasure Island, Florida and slowly she starts to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Also, I had high hopes for a romance between Joe, the cop, and Letty, and while it does eventually happen, it ended up being disappointing.  I felt like Andrews could have really developed their relationship a bit more. I wasn't feeling it at all.

The best part of The Newcomer was the fun setting of The Murmuring Surf hotel. I loved the long-term guests, Letty's part in the motel, and the small town coastal feel. Andrews brought to life the west coast of Florida and the motel life very well.  Essentially, the setting of this story really made it a beach read for me. 

I did have issues suspending my disbelief while reading The Newcomer. There was a lot going on in and at times it felt really contrived and unbelievable.  It also felt overly complicated, like maybe Andrews should have focused on one villain.

Nonetheless, Andrews fans will like how she combines a mystery with a classic beach read. She does it well and usually it works for me, but ultimately, The Newcomer fell a little bit flat.  

Are you a fan of Mary Kay Andrews? Have you read The Newcomer? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. 


Thursday, June 10, 2021

Book Review: The Summer of Lost and Found by Mary Alice Monroe


 
Pages: 368
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: May 11, 2021
Publisher: Gallery
Source: Publisher for review
Other Books By Author: Beach House for Rent,
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
 
 


Goodreads says, "The Beach House series returns with this tender and compassionate novel following the historic Rutledge family of Charleston, South Carolina as they face a summer of upheaval and change with perseverance, a spirit of unity, and a dose of humor.  The coming of Spring usually means renewal, but for Linnea Rutledge, Spring 2020 threatens stagnation. Linnea faces another layoff, this time from the aquarium she adores. For her—and her family—finances, emotions, and health teeter at the brink. To complicate matters, her new love interest, Gordon, struggles to return to the Isle of Palms from England. Meanwhile, her old flame, John, turns up from California and is quarantining next door. She tries to ignore him, but when he sends her plaintive notes in the form of paper airplanes, old sparks ignite. When Gordon at last reaches the island, Linnea wonders—is it possible to love two men at the same time?  Love in the time of coronavirus proves challenging, at times humorous, and ever changing. Relationships are redefined, friendships made and broken, and marriages tested. As the weeks turn to months, and another sea turtle season comes to a close, Linnea and the Rutledge family continue to face their challenges with the strength, faith, and commitment that has inspired readers for decades. In The Summer of Lost and Found, Mary Alice Monroe once again delves into the complexities of family relationships and brings her signature storytelling to this poignant and timely novel of love, courage, and resilience. "

 

If you are familiar with Monroe's The Beach House series, you know that Linnea Rutledge loves her job at the aquarium; however, she is furloughed due to COVID cutbacks, and on top of it, her boyfriend, Gordon, was supposed to come back from England to the Isle of Palms, but due to the COVID outbreak, it's looking like he won't be able to.  Thanks to COVID, her life has been thrown for a loop.  Even her ex-boyfriend, John, the one who had her move to California, is back home on the Isle of Palms and is now quarantining next door.  She is set to ignore him, because he broke her heart, but how can she when he is next door and throwing paper airplanes with notes her way?  Like many Americans last year, the rest of the Rutledge family is challenged during COVID. There's love, there's heartbreak, there's friendship and marriages tested, and so much more.  Mary Alice Monroe's latest edition in the The Beach House series, The Summer of Lost and Found, is a decent beach read; however, I could have done with more descriptions of the Isle of Palms and less focus on the coronavirus.

Linnea is a character I have come to enjoy in The Beach House series. Although I haven't read every novel in this series, I have read enough that I've started to get to know the Rutledge family though the years and appreciate them.  Linnea finally has found her happiness (at least we thought she did) with her boyfriend coming back from England, and her dream job at the aquarium.  However, things are turned upside down due to COVID, which I am sure we can all relate to.  The distance between her and Gordon has her thinking about things, not to mention John's presence next door is a difficult one. At first, she is dead set against dealing with John, but he slowly breaks down her walls, especially when he connects with Hope, who Linnea is watching for a bit.  Despite my hesitation, I think Monroe does a good job illustrating the complications of love during COVID.

One of the reasons I gravitate towards Monroe's novels is the fact that she describes nature so beautifully. Her descriptions of the Isle of Palms are so well done in each novel and of course, I appreciate her details regarding the island's sea turtles as well as the environmental themes. Well, if you are like me and look forward to that, you may be disappointed with The Summer of Lost and Found. There wasn't much appreciation of nature in this novel, especially in comparison to the other books in the series. I knew this The Summer of Lost and Found was going to deal with the COVID outbreak in its early stages, but I didn't realize it was going to be such a big focus of the novel.  If you are mentally ready to read stories about the pandemic, then definitely pick up The Summer of Lost and Found; however, I wasn't ready in the slightest. This took me by surprise, but I found it triggering to relive it all again, especially the early stages when there were so many unknowns.  Maybe if Monroe tackled this topic a few years down the road, I'd be ready, but for now it was stressful and quite frankly, who wants that in a beach read?  So, if you are looking for a beautiful island escape, look elsewhere. I hope Monroe's next book in The Beach House series is more of what we have come to love.

Are you a fan of Mary Alice Monroe? Is this book on your TBR list? Are you mentally ready to read about the pandemic? Let me know in the comments below.

 

  

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Audio Book Review: The Bookstore on the Beach by Brenda Novak


 
Genre: Adult Fiction
Publisher: Harlequin Audio
Pub. Date: April 6, 2021
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
 
 

Goodreads says, "How do you start a new chapter of your life when you haven't closed the book on the previous one?  Eighteen months ago, Autumn Divac's husband went missing. Her desperate search has yielded no answers, and she can't imagine moving forward without him. But for the sake of their two teenage children, she has to try.  Autumn takes her kids home for the summer to the charming beachside town where she was raised. She seeks comfort working alongside her mother and aunt at their bookshop, only to learn that her daughter is facing a huge life change and her mother has been hiding a terrible secret for years. And when she runs into the boy who stole her heart in high school, old feelings start to bubble up again. Is she free to love him, or should she hold out hope for her husband's return? She can only trust her heart...and hope it won't lead her astray."

 

 

Autumn's husband has gone missing while at work. She hasn't stopped looking for him, but she wonders if maybe it's time to move forward just a little as it's been a year and a half. She has two teenage children to think about.  So, she decides to take her kids home for the summer and see her mother.  Autumn grew up in a gorgeous coastal town in Virginia, so she is excited to have her kids experience a small town community and spend time with her mother, Mary.  Her mother owns a bookstore right on the beach, so this adds further charm to the beachy community.  Once at home, Autumn finds out her ex-boyfriend, Quinn, is also back in town and newly divorced.  He isn't home for good reasons though. His mother is battling cancer, so he is obviously there to support her.  When Autumn reconnects with Quinn, sparks fly, but could they really give their relationship another chance with the amount of baggage they both have?  Then there's Autumn's kids, Taylor and Caden.  Taylor is harboring some major secrets this summer and we are talking major.  Then there's Mary, the grandmother, who is also withholding family secrets that would impact Autumn greatly, but she can't tell her any of it with all she is going through.   Looks like this is going to be anything but a quiet summer at Sable Beach.  Brenda Novak's The Bookstore on the Beach isn't your quiet beach read. It's filled to the brim with family secrets and shocking drama.

At first, I really liked the character of Autumn in The Bookstore on the Beach. Despite all she has been through, she returns home to get away from things and center herself back in Sable Beach.  I absolutely LOVED the idea of a bookstore on the beach and really enjoyed those parts of the novel where Autumn would help out at the store as well as describe the close-knit community of Sable Beach.  I also saw the budding relationship with Quinn coming from a mile away despite all the drama surrounding the two. To clarify, Autumn's husband is still missing and was working with the FBI and  Quinn's ex-wife tried to kill him. I'm not kidding. So, we aren't dealing with a drama free relationship here. 

The chapters also include many from Taylor's point of view. Again, at first I really liked how Novak included many generations in The Bookstore on the Beach, but quickly it got serious for Taylor.  Taylor is dealing with a lot of issues this summer. She isn't just lounging in the sun meeting new friends and possibly catching up on summer reading. Oh, no. She is dealing with teen pregnancy, sexuality questions, and even friends who have abusive fathers. I mean it's some serious stuff.  As I was reading, I kept checking the cover of the book, because I don't think the cover accurately reflects the actual plot.

And if you didn't think there could be further drama in The Bookstore on the Beach, there is.  Mary, the grandmother, is also hiding secrets. These aren't your usual grandmother secrets. Once again, Novak really goes over the top and let's just say the secrets surround Autumn's birth. These secrets we are privy to as Novak includes some chapters narrated by her as well. It's quite the soap opera if you ask me. Once the private investigator comes to town, I knew Novak was going to pile on even more drama.

So, if this is the kind of beach read you like - one that is overflowing with outlandish drama much like an oversized tropical cocktail they serve at all-inclusive resorts, then dive right in.  I listened to the audio version and I will say I was hooked, because it was so unbelievable.  That made for a nice escape, but just not one the type I was hoping for.  Maybe it's me, because Publishers Weekly gave The Bookstore on the Beach a starred review, but I just wasn't sold.

So, are you a fan of Brenda Novak? Have you read her other novels? Have you read The Bookstore on the Beach? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

  

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Book Review: Island Affair by Priscilla Oliveras


Pages: 352
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: April 28, 2020
Publisher: Kensington
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Sought-after social media influencer Sara Vance, in recovery from an eating disorder, is coming into her own, with a potential career expansion on the horizon. Despite the good news, her successful siblings (and their perfect spouses) have a way of making her feel like the odd one out. So, when her unreliable boyfriend is a no-show for a Florida family vacation, Sara recruits Luis Navarro—a firefighter paramedic and dive captain willing to play the part of her smitten fiancĂ© . . .  Luis’s big Cuban familia has been in Key West for generations, and his quiet strength feeds off the island’s laidback style. Though guarded after a deep betrayal, he’ll always help someone in need—especially a spunky beauty with a surprising knowledge of Spanish curse words. Soon, he and Sara have memorized their “how we met” story and are immersed in family dinners, bike tours, private snorkeling trips . . . sharing secrets, and slow, melting kisses. But when it’s time for Sara to return home, will their island romance last or fade with the stunning sunset?"


Sara Vance and her near perfect siblings and parents are headed to Key West for a family vacation.  All of her siblings are very successful, not to mention her parents are successful doctors.  Sara is the odd one out.  She is a social media influencer, which obviously her family doesn't really take seriously.  On this trip, she was supposed to bring her boyfriend whom she was getting serious with.  Her family was thrilled to finally meet him; however, they broke up at the last minute.  In fact, he pretty much stood her up.  So, while at the Key West airport, Sara convinces Luis Navarro, a firefighter paramedic, to accompany her on this trip and pose as her ex-boyfriend.  She really doesn't want to let down her parents by not bringing her boyfriend, not to mention the last minute cancellation is embarrassing. Luis has an unexpected week off and Sara is pretty good looking, so why not help her out and have fun along the way?  But things aren't always going to go smoothly for Luis and Sara.  Sara is hiding some other secrets and Luis, a Key West local, rarely lets his guard down.  Could sparks really fly for this faux couple while on vacation? Island Affair by Priscilla Oliveras is a delightful romance novel that's perfect for fans of the Florida Keys as well as the fake boyfriend trope.

Sara is not my favorite character I've encountered this summer. I mean being a social media influencer really made me roll my eyes; plus, there's the fact that she is recovering from an eating disorder. Ugh.  Nonetheless, I tried to accept her in Island Affair despite her shortcomings.  I did love the family dynamic in the novel and the idea of her family coming together to celebrate her mother's recent good health.  What didn't work for me was the fake boyfriend trope and this leads me to Luis.

Luis Navarro is an interesting character in Island Affair. I loved the dynamic between the two of them, especially since he is a Key West local. I mean it's much harder for him to pull off the "fake boyfriend" plan since he knows half of Key West.  But what didn't work for me was how willing he agreed to be Sara's boyfriend after just meeting her for a few seconds at the airport. I understand he has a forced vacation, much to his dismay, but would a real person actually agree to this? Either way, this part of the story didn't work for me. Once I let the fake boyfriend trope go, I was able to enjoy their blossoming romance, but be forewarned, things do not go easily for them.  Would you really expect it to though?

What I liked most about Island Affair was the setting of Key West. The Florida Keys are some of my favorite places in the world and I daydream daily of Key West.  So, this was a nice escape, especially while during quarantine.  Who doesn't want to armchair travel to the Keys and enjoy a cocktail and a beautiful sunset?  Oliveras brought it to life beautifully.

To be honest, Island Affair was just an ok read for me despite the stellar setting. I think if you like this sort of thing, Christina Lauren's The Unhoneymooners is a much better bet.  However, let me know what you think. Did you read this book? Do you enjoy the fake boyfriend trope or are you over it? Let me know in the comments below.  


Thursday, May 16, 2019

Book Review: Cape May by Chip Cheek


Pages:
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: April 30, 2019
Publisher: Celadon Books
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "A mesmerizing debut novel by Chip Cheek, Cape May explores the social and sexual mores of 1950s America through the eyes of a newly married couple from the genteel south corrupted by sophisticated New England urbanites.  Late September 1957. Henry and Effie, very young newlyweds from Georgia, arrive in Cape May, New Jersey, for their honeymoon only to find the town is deserted. Feeling shy of each other and isolated, they decide to cut the trip short. But before they leave, they meet a glamorous set of people who sweep them up into their drama. Clara, a beautiful socialite who feels her youth slipping away; Max, a wealthy playboy and Clara’s lover; and Alma, Max’s aloof and mysterious half-sister, to whom Henry is irresistibly drawn.  The empty beach town becomes their playground, and as they sneak into abandoned summer homes, go sailing, walk naked under the stars, make love, and drink a great deal of gin, Henry and Effie slip from innocence into betrayal, with irrevocable consequences.  Erotic and moving, this is a novel about marriage, love and sexuality, and the lifelong repercussions that meeting a group of debauched cosmopolitans has on a new marriage."

Henry is a young country boy from Georgia and he just married his high school sweet heart, Effie.  They are on their honeymoon in Cape May, New Jersey and the year is 1957.  They are not only exploring their sexuality as newlyweds, but they are also expanding their horizons as this isn't rural Georgia anymore.  In fact, Cape May is pretty much abandoned for the season except for a group of sophisticated city dwellers from up North.  They have money, they throw lavish dinner parties, they drink, they go boating, they drink more.... rinse and repeat.  When Henry and Effie fall into their clutches, it alters their marriage irrevocably.  Cape May by Chip Cheek is an erotic story filled with despicable characters and horrible situations--very much so that I was unable to put down the book.

At first, I really thought Henry and Effie were cute in Cape May. Adorable, really. But then I realized how naive they actually are.  When they meet up with Clara, Max, and Alma who are also in Cape May during the off season that is where things go awry.  It was like watching two baby rabbits fall into the clutches of a vulture.  Clara, Max and Alma are worldly, experienced, and live life by their own rules.  When Henry and Effie try to assimilate into their world, things don't go well as one could easily predict.  So, this is where I thought the story would take on this Great Gatsby vibe with partying and different psychologically thrilling details, but I was wrong.  

Without giving too much away, Henry is seduced by someone (on his honeymoon!) and starts an affair with her. Willingly. And continues it. On his honeymoon.  I repeat. On his honeymoon.  I was appalled. I won't say more, but it's like just the tip of the iceberg here with these two.  Everything that could possibly go wrong on a honeymoon goes wrong in Cape May and it almost became unbelievable at one point.  Then I started disliking all the characters.  To the point where I put down the book, because I don't want my beach reads to stress me out in this manner.  This was just.too.much.  

And the sex. Oh, man. Now I am not a romance novel reader per se and I didn't read 50 Shades of Grey, but I like to think I can deal with an average amount of sex scenes in a novel.  I can also let go of a lot of erotic details if the story is strong.  But this was just too much.  The sex scenes were so overly detailed that it left a bad taste in my mouth and it felt almost smutty.  In fact, there was so much detail that all the sex became ineffective and I became numb to it.

But I will say I somehow became addicted to Cape May in the same way I might watch a reality TV show that is a disaster. I usually don't finish books like this, which is why I rarely review a book that I rate as two or three stars, but I had to know how it would end for these characters.  And once I got to the end, I was disappointed and almost depressed by it.  The overall message of Cape May, for me, was dismal.

Was Cape May well written? I guess. I will admit I was entertained, but I was disappointed because Cape May is one of my favorite places in the world and I was hoping for so much more. The town doesn't shine through the novel in the least bit.  However, there are some outstanding reviews for this novel; in fact, Kirkus gave it a starred review, but ultimately, this book is not for me and one I wouldn't recommend unless novels about drinking, sex, bad decisions, and more drinking are your cup of tea.

Did you read Cape May? Let me know your thoughts in the comment below.

 

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Book Review: Forget You Know Me by Jessica Strawser

Pages: 336
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: February 5, 2019
Publisher: St. Martin's
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "When a video call between friends captures a shocking incident no one was supposed to see, the secrets it exposes threaten to change their lives forever.  Molly and Liza have always been enviably close. Even after Molly married Daniel, the couple considered Liza an honorary family member. But after Liza moved away, things grew more strained than anyone wanted to admit—in the friendship and the marriage.  When Daniel goes away on business, Molly and Liza plan to reconnect with a nice long video chat after the kids are in bed. But then Molly leaves the room to check on a crying child.  What Liza sees next will change everything.  Only one thing is certain: Molly needs her. Liza drives all night to be at Molly’s side—but when she arrives, the reception is icy, leaving Liza baffled and hurt. She knows there’s no denying what she saw.  Or is there?  In disbelief that their friendship could really be over, Liza is unaware she’s about to have a near miss of her own.  And Molly, refusing to deal with what’s happened, won’t turn to Daniel, either.  But none of them can go on pretending. Not after this.  Jessica Strawser's Forget You Know Me is a “twisty, emotionally complex, powder keg of a tale” (bestselling author Emily Carpenter) about the wounds of people who’ve grown apart. Best, friends, separated by miles. Spouses, hardened by neglect. A mother, isolated by pain.  One moment will change things for them all."
Molly and Liza have been best friends for years.  Even when Molly married Daniel, they still stayed very close.  In fact, Liza was a bit of a third wheel.  Liza moved to Chicago for work and this distance has put a damper on their close friendship.  Meanwhile, Molly has issues at home in suburbia.  She suffers from chronic illnesses and this impacts her life at work, with her husband, and her kids. She also doesn't feel like she is connected with her husband and to make matters worse, Daniel travels frequently for work. One night when Daniel is away on business, Molly and Liza have plans to video chat after her kids go to bed and spend some "girl time" together.  One of Molly's kids wakes up and calls for her, so Molly briefly leaves the room to check on the child. While Liza is waiting for Molly to return to their video chat, she sees a masked man stealthy sneak through her living room. Obviously, this freaks Liza out beyond belief and she notifies the police for Molly.  The masked man closes the laptop and then Liza's connection with Molly is gone.  She tries to call Molly's cell phone and once they connect, she sort of dismisses the whole thing and tells Liza the cops said everything was clear. She doesn't seemed concerned at all.  However, Liza is so worried that drives through the middle of the night to be with her best friend and once she arrives at her house, Molly is pretty much dismissive again. What is going on? What happened to their friendship?  Jessica Strawser's Forget You Know Me is an emotional tale about friendship and the many challenges people face in life as well as the consequences for their choices.  

Molly is an interesting character in Forget You Know Me. It took me awhile to figure her out. I could relate to her struggles of parenting two toddlers all while dealing with chronic illnesses.  She does miss Liza's friendship, but has made a new friendship with a single dad and a daughter with special needs who lives right by her house.  At first, I couldn't quite figure out Molly's relationship with this neighbor.  Regardless, Molly is quite alone both physically and emotionally and in turn, I did feel badly for her.  Then there's her husband, Daniel, who I didn't really enjoy. I also wasn't quite sure who to trust or even if Molly was a reliable narrator. 

Which leads me to Liza. Liza moved to Chicago to try life in the big city, but doesn't feel quite at home there in Forget You Know Me.  She only has one good friend in Chicago, but that's about the extent of her social life. While she is driving through the night to get to Molly's house to be by her side after the home invasion, something catastrophic happens back in Chicago.  It's definitely a series of unfortunate events for Liza, but these events lead her back to her hometown.   

So, I thought Forget You Know me was going to be a suspense and maybe a mystery trying to figure out what happened that fateful night, but it wasn't. The whole incident was suspenseful, but then the rest of the novel was more about feelings, consequences, and ultimately, the story read more like women's fiction.  I was a bit disappointed by this, because I expected to be on the edge of my seat a bit more.  Instead, I was feeling depressed for all of these extremely dysfunctional and somewhat despondent characters. I also found the characters to be generally unlikable.  However, I will say I was interested in how everything would play out for all of them.

If you like women's fiction with a small side of a suspense, check out Forget You Know Me this winter. However, if you are looking for a domestic thriller, look elsewhere.  


 
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