Showing posts with label debut author 2022. Show all posts
Showing posts with label debut author 2022. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Mini Reviews: Best Seller Edition


 

I've been meaning to read these two best sellers for quite awhile now and I had the opportunity to listen to them recently. They did not disappoint and were both fantastic audio books.

 


Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt
Pub. Date: May 3, 2022
Publisher: HarperCollins
Source: Library
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


 

Goodreads says, "After Tova Sullivan's husband died, she began working the night shift at the Sowell Bay Aquarium, mopping floors and tidying up. Keeping busy has always helped her cope, which she's been doing since her eighteen-year-old son, Erik, mysteriously vanished on a boat in Puget Sound over thirty years ago. Tova becomes acquainted with curmudgeonly Marcellus, a giant Pacific octopus living at the aquarium. Marcellus knows more than anyone can imagine but wouldn't dream of lifting one of his eight arms for his human captors--until he forms a remarkable friendship with Tova. Ever the detective, Marcellus deduces what happened the night Tova's son disappeared. And now Marcellus must use every trick his old invertebrate body can muster to unearth the truth for her before it's too late. Shelby Van Pelt's debut novel is a gentle reminder that sometimes taking a hard look at the past can help uncover a future that once felt impossible."

 

 

 

Tova Sullivan's husband dies, so she takes a job as a janitor at the local aquarium. Tova finds herself talking to the sea creatures, but is especially drawn to Marcellus, an octopus. One day she finds Marcellus out of his tank and rescues him; this obviously furthers their bond. Then Cameron, new to town, takes a job as a night shift janitor and works alongside Tova. Cameron is on the hunt for his father and as Tova gets to know Cameron, she learns more of his story. His mother abandoned him with an aunt years ago and Tova is dealing with similar grief in that her son died in a boating accident. As they share more of their stories, they realize that Cameron's mom and Tova's son may have known each other. Only Marcellus knows the truth though as he once lived in the ocean. Although this is a fantastical debut novel that at times is difficult to truly believe, Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt is a heartwarming novel that examines grief, as well as the power of family and friendship.

I really enjoyed the audio version of Remarkably Bright Creatures as the narrator for Marcellus really made the story for me. I did not enjoy Cameron's side of the story as much as Marcellus and Tova, but nonetheless, it didn't stop me from enjoying the book as well as its overall message. If you are looking for a heartwarming and whimsical read, this is it. 

 

 
 
The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine 
Pub. Date: October 17, 2017
Publisher: HarperAudio
Source: Personal Copy
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
 
 

Goodreads says, "Amber Patterson is fed up. She’s tired of being a nobody: a plain, invisible woman who blends into the background. She deserves more—a life of money and power like the one blond-haired, blue-eyed goddess Daphne Parrish takes for granted. To everyone in the exclusive town of Bishops Harbor, Connecticut, Daphne—a socialite and philanthropist—and her real-estate mogul husband, Jackson, are a couple straight out of a fairy tale. Amber’s envy could eat her alive . . . if she didn't have a plan. Amber uses Daphne’s compassion and caring to insinuate herself into the family’s life—the first step in a meticulous scheme to undermine her. Before long, Amber is Daphne’s closest confidante, traveling to Europe with the Parrishes and their lovely young daughters, and growing closer to Jackson. But a skeleton from her past may undermine everything that Amber has worked towards, and if it is discovered, her well-laid plan may fall to pieces.  With shocking turns and dark secrets that will keep you guessing until the very end, The Last Mrs. Parrish is a fresh, juicy, and utterly addictive thriller from a diabolically imaginative talent."

 

 

Amber Patterson, a con-artist, targets wealthy Daphne Parrish while at the gym. Working out next to her, she drops her magazine from the cystic fibrosis foundation and this catches Daphne's eye since her sister died of CF years before. They discuss their mutual interest in CF and Amber shares that her own sister has died of CF as well. How convenient. An unlikely friendship forms with Amber volunteering for Daphne's CF charity and before Daphne knows it, they are friends. It appears Daphne values her friendship with Amber as she is one of the only people who truly understands what it's like to lose a sister to this horrible disease. As time passes, Daphne and Amber become inseparable and Amber visits the Parrish's vacation homes, starts working for Daphne's husband, spends holidays together, birthdays for the Parrish children, and even vacations to Europe. Amber has her eye on Daphne's husband Jackson and hopes to be the next Mrs. Parrish even if it means having to deal with their two "bratty" daughters. The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine is a wild ride and perfect for fans of twisty psychological thrillers.

The audio version kept me entertained. If you like psychological thrillers like Gone Girl, The Last Mrs. Parrish is along the same vein. There's twists galore in this book and it will keep you guessing. Be forewarned that there's a lot of vivid descriptions of domestic abuse, both physical and emotional, so keep this in mind. If you can stomach that and enjoy a good twisty tale, this one will guarantee to keep you flipping the pages. 

 

 

So, have you read Remarkably Bright Creatures or The Last Mrs. Parrish? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.


Thursday, February 2, 2023

Mini Reviews: Mystery/Thriller Edition


These two new releases are both mystery/thrillers in their own sense of the way and while both have an amazing premise, they both are missing something to really make them hits for me. Let me know your thoughts on these two new releases.


The Cloisters by Katy Hays
Pages: 312
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: November 1, 2022
Publisher: Atria
Source: Personal Copy
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
 
 
 

 

Goodreads says, "When Ann Stilwell arrives in New York City, she expects to spend her summer working as a curatorial associate at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Instead, she finds herself assigned to The Cloisters, a gothic museum and garden renowned for its medieval art collection and its group of enigmatic researchers studying the history of divination. Desperate to escape her painful past, Ann is happy to indulge the researchers’ more outlandish theories about the history of fortune telling. But what begins as academic curiosity quickly turns into obsession when Ann discovers a hidden 15th-century deck of tarot cards that might hold the key to predicting the future. When the dangerous game of power, seduction, and ambition at The Cloisters turns deadly, Ann becomes locked in a race for answers as the line between the arcane and the modern blurs. A haunting and magical blend of genres, The Cloisters is a gripping debut that will keep you on the edge of your seat."

 

 

Ann Stilwell just graduated college and has an internship in New York City, which is much different than her hometown of Walla Walla. She thought she was interning at the prestigious Met, but instead is assigned to a much smaller museum, The Cloisters. Patrick, the curator, is very interested in the Renaissance, with a strange focus on the occult. Rachel, also a recent college graduate, is working there as well assisting Patrick with his strange exhibition on Renaissance occult, divination, and tarot. While there, Ann meets Leo, the gardener, and while he is extremely charismatic and interesting, he has some strange hobbies. One night Patrick, Rachel, and Ann perform a tarot reading which changes everything. Cue major creepiness, tragedy, and a haunting mood. While I felt The Cloisters by Katy Hayes was an atmospheric read, ultimately, it was missing something to take it from a good read to a great one.

My favorite aspect of The Cloisters was the haunting setting. In fact, the novel was a bit darker than I thought it would be, like in a sinister sense. Also, Rachel is a very complex character and is hiding some things. She is more than just a wealthy college graduate. Leo, who appears to be a simple gardener, is actually growing hallucinogenics and selling them! So, obviously, there is more than meets the eye here for Ann. I really liked the incorporation of tarot and like I said, the setting was fantastic. The ending was also surprising! However, this is the author's debut novel and quite frankly, it felt like it. The writing felt a little heavy at times and some of the ideas weren't fully executed in my opinion. So, all in all, it was an entertaining read, especially if you like dark academia novels, but overall, quite average.  



The Villa by Rachel Hawkins
Pages: 279
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: January 3, 2023
Publisher: St. Martin's
Source: Personal Copy
Other Books By Author: Reckless Girls,
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
 
 

Goodreads says, "As kids, Emily and Chess were inseparable. But by their 30s, their bond has been strained by the demands of their adult lives. So when Chess suggests a girls trip to Italy, Emily jumps at the chance to reconnect with her best friend. Villa Aestas in Orvieto is a high-end holiday home now, but in 1974, it was known as Villa Rosato, and rented for the summer by a notorious rock star, Noel Gordon. In an attempt to reignite his creative spark, Noel invites up-and-coming musician, Pierce Sheldon to join him, as well as Pierce’s girlfriend, Mari, and her stepsister, Lara. But he also sets in motion a chain of events that leads to Mari writing one of the greatest horror novels of all time, Lara composing a platinum album––and ends in Pierce’s brutal murder. As Emily digs into the villa’s complicated history, she begins to think there might be more to the story of that fateful summer in 1974. That perhaps Pierce’s murder wasn’t just a tale of sex, drugs, and rock & roll gone wrong, but that something more sinister might have occurred––and that there might be clues hidden in the now-iconic works that Mari and Lara left behind. Yet the closer that Emily gets to the truth, the more tension she feels developing between her and Chess. As secrets from the past come to light, equally dangerous betrayals from the present also emerge––and it begins to look like the villa will claim another victim before the summer ends."

 

Emily and Chess have been best friends since they were children and now as adults even though they don't talk daily, they are still close. Emily writes cozy mysteries and Chess is a full-blown self-help guru who has even been featured by Oprah. Chess decides she needs a good vacation away from it all and invites Emily to come along as well. She has rented an Italian villa for six weeks, so how could Emily possibly say no? Emily is going through a divorce and experiencing a writing slump, so perhaps this is the change she desperately needs. After some research, Emily finds out that this house is notorious for a murder back in the 70s. Despite her hesitation, she still goes on vacation. While there, she finds a book, Lilith Rising, and it was written by one of the people who stayed in the house during the infamous murder. Now Emily is feeling inspired to write again, but Chess has been acting so weird. Does Chess really have Emily's best interests in mind? Hawkins also switches the narrative to the 1970s and to Mari, the house guest/resident author. She is there with her boyfriend and up and coming musician, Pierce, as well as her step-sister, a famous musician, Noel, and a groupie. This particular part of the novel is a re-imagining of Mary Shelley, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Lord Byron's ghost story contest where Frankenstein was born.  While The Villa by Rachel Hawkins is a brilliant concept and I was most definitely entertained, something was missing from the story to take it to the next level. 

The gothic vibe of The Villa was well done by Hawkins. I was here for it as well as the Italian setting. I mean who wouldn't want to stay at a private villa for six weeks in Italy? It sounded luxurious minus the creep factor. To add to the creep factor, Chess and Emily's relationship is very complex and as they spend more time there, readers will realize that their friendship isn't healthy. The narrative then switches back to the past, which was interesting in that it highlights a lot of the tension within the household before the night of the murder. Like I said, the premise in The Villa is brilliant, but the execution of all of these ideas felt too heavy. Despite it's flaws, it was still a fun read and a nice way to spend an afternoon caught up in this low-key thriller.


Have you read The Cloisters or The Villa? Are they on your TBR list? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

 

Thursday, October 6, 2022

Book Review: Spells for Forgetting by Adrienne Young

Pages: 352
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: September 27, 2022
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars 
 
 
Goodreads says, "A deeply atmospheric story about ancestral magic, an unsolved murder, and a second chance at true love. Emery Blackwood’s life changed forever the night her best friend was found dead and the love of her life, August Salt, was accused of murdering her. Years later, she is doing what her teenage self swore she never would: living a quiet existence on the misty, remote shores of Saoirse Island and running the family’s business, Blackwood’s Tea Shoppe Herbal Tonics & Tea Leaf Readings.  But when the island, rooted in folklore and magic, begins to show signs of strange happenings, Emery knows that something is coming. The morning she wakes to find that every single tree on Saoirse has turned color in a single night, August returns for the first time in fourteen years and unearths the past that the town has tried desperately to forget. August knows he is not welcome on Saiorse, not after the night everything changed. As a fire raged on at the Salt family orchard, Lily Morgan was found dead in the dark woods, shaking the bedrock of their tight-knit community and branding August a murderer. When he returns to bury his mother’s ashes, he must confront the people who turned their backs on him and face the one wound from his past that has never healed—Emery.  The town has more than one reason to want August gone, and the emergence of deep betrayals and hidden promises spanning generations threaten to reveal the truth behind Lily’s mysterious death once and for all."

 

Saoirse is a tiny island in the Pacific Northwest and its residents are a quirky and close-knit bunch of people. August Salt left Saoirse fourteen years ago and had no plans to return until his mother's untimely death brought him back. His mother would like her ashes spread on Saoirse, so he is back where he grew up and must face his complicated past. August was accused of murdering Lily Morgan, and once accused, he and his mother left the island for good to start over. Lily's killer was never found. Now that he is back, various townspeople are extremely unhappy with this, except for Emery Blackwood.  She has spent most of her teen years dating August and has never really gotten over him. His return stirs up a lot of complicated feelings. On top of this mystery surrounding Lily's death, there's also the fact that the women on Saoirse are all witches and dabble in magic. This definitely adds to the mystery and atmosphere on Saoirse.  Adrienne Young's adult debut, Spells for Forgetting, is a somewhat compelling mystery filled with magical realism and a complicated romance.

I really enjoyed Emery Blackwood from the start of Spells for Forgetting. Her family's tea house is definitely a place I'd like to visit and spend time in. She hasn't forgotten her romance with August and his return definitely stirs up feelings that she has been trying to forget for a long time. The question is does he still feel the same? The chapters also jump to August's point of view, which was also well done and I really enjoyed their complicated relationship. 

Young is talented in that she really did a good job with the setting of Saoirse and made it spooky, atmospheric, and at times, the island became a character in and of itself. The magical realism was also well done in Spells for Forgetting although I do wish it played a more dominant role. The murder mystery, which really took off in the second half of the book, definitely added to the spooky vibe on the island.

I have two issues with Spells for Forgetting. One is that the pacing was off. At times I felt the novel definitely trudged along slowly. Secondly, I wasn't sure if Young was writing for a young adult audience. Halfway through the book, I went to go check if I was actually reading a YA novel. To be honest it felt like it. I am not sure she bridged the gap completely between adult and young adult and it definitely shows in her adult debut as the dialogue also felt immature at times.  Maybe Spells for Forgetting has crossover appeal?

Needless to say, while this was definitely a fairly entertaining and atmospheric read for the fall season, it wasn't my favorite of the witchy reads.  Fans of Young's young adult novels will probably appreciate this one the most.  So, are you a fan of Adrienne Young? Have you read Spells for Forgetting? Let me know in the comments below.  

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Book Review: The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna

Pages: 336
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: August 23, 2022
Publisher: Berkley
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
 

Goodreads says, "As one of the few witches in Britain, Mika Moon knows she has to hide her magic, keep her head down, and stay away from other witches so their powers don't mingle and draw attention. And as an orphan who lost her parents at a young age and was raised by strangers, she's used to being alone and she follows the rules...with one exception: an online account, where she posts videos pretending to be a witch. She thinks no one will take it seriously. But someone does. An unexpected message arrives, begging her to travel to the remote and mysterious Nowhere House to teach three young witches how to control their magic. It breaks all of the rules, but Mika goes anyway, and is immediately tangled up in the lives and secrets of not only her three charges, but also an absent archaeologist, a retired actor, two long-suffering caretakers, and...Jamie. The handsome and prickly librarian of Nowhere House would do anything to protect the children, and as far as he's concerned, a stranger like Mika is a threat. An irritatingly appealing threat. As Mika begins to find her place at Nowhere House, the thought of belonging somewhere begins to feel like a real possibility. But magic isn't the only danger in the world, and when a threat comes knocking at their door, Mika will need to decide whether to risk everything to protect a found family she didn't know she was looking for...."

 

Mika Moon has lived a nomadic life, moving often, and not putting down roots. There's a few reasons for this: one, being that her parents have died, and two, she is a witch.  She doesn't want to bring too much attention to herself; however, she does dabble on the internet as a "pretend" witch by posting videos. Mika does meet every few months with another group of witches, but it's all very secretive.  One day she receives a message asking her to come to a country estate to help young witches control their powers.  Mika finds this very intriguing, so off she goes to a country estate aptly named Nowhere House. While there, she meets three young children who are learning the ropes and trying to control their magic. There are also other people that live at the estate, a caretaker, a retired actor, and a hot librarian.  Before she knows it, she has become close with not only the kids, but the other quirky people who live there as they accept her for who she is. She doesn't have to hide her magic here. But things aren't all rainbows and unicorns. There's a lawyer investigating some things at Nowhere House and this threatens there very perfect world they have built for themselves. Sangu Mandanna's adult debut, The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches, is an adorable romance that is perfect for fans of a cozy fall read.

Mika is such a fun character in The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches. I loved watching her let down her walls and have real relationships with the people at Nowhere House. Each person brings something special to the story and Mika slowly let them in. It was nice to see this as she has always been on her own.  The cast of quirky characters in the novel were very well done and I especially liked the good looking Irish librarian, Jamie. Lastly, the three young witches were also very entertaining and were adorable to say the least.

My only issue with The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches was the fact that the pull to keep reading wasn't there. I liked the story, the characters were quirky, and it was an adorable romantic fantasy, but it didn't pull me to keep going. Something was definitely missing. However, if you want a fall read that is cozy and on the quieter side, give this novel a try.  It left me smiling, so, really, what more could you ask for? 

Is The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches on your TBR list? Have you read it already? Do you like a good witchy tale? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.  

 

Friday, August 19, 2022

Book Review: Nora Goes Off Script by Annabel Monaghan


 
Pages: 272
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: June 7, 2022
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Source: Personal Copy
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
 
 
 
Goodreads says, "Nora's life is about to get a rewrite... Nora Hamilton knows the formula for love better than anyone. As a romance channel screenwriter, it's her job. But when her too-good-to work husband leaves her and their two kids, Nora turns her marriage's collapse into cash and writes the best script of her life. No one is more surprised than her when it's picked up for the big screen and set to film on location at her 100-year-old-home. When former Sexiest Man Alive, Leo Vance, is cast as her ne'er do well husband Nora's life will never be the same. The morning after shooting wraps and the crew leaves, Nora finds Leo on her porch with a half-empty bottle of tequila and a proposition. He'll pay a thousand dollars a day to stay for a week. The extra seven grand would give Nora breathing room, but it's the need in his eyes that makes her say yes. Seven days: it's the blink of an eye or an eternity depending on how you look at it. Enough time to fall in love. Enough time to break your heart. Filled with warmth, wit, and wisdom, Nora Goes Off Script is the best kind of love story--the real kind where love is complicated by work, kids, and the emotional baggage that comes with life. For Nora and Leo, this kind of love is bigger than the big screen."
 
You know those cheesy romance movies that all follow the same formula? Well, Nora Hamilton writes them for The Romance Channel.  Newly single after her husband left her to raise their two children on her own, she channels her anger, sadness, and other difficult emotions into a screenplay. Except this isn't her usual screenplay that has a happy ever after moment. It's based on her husband leaving her and how she finally felt like she could breathe. She could exhale. Her agent sold it to a big time movie company, not The Romance Channel, and now it's being adapted with legitimate Hollywood stars. They need to film for a few days at her house to capture the story fully, so Nora's perfectly curated routine is blown out of the water for a few days, not to mention when Leo Vance, one of the hottest men in Hollywood, camps out at her house and front porch. Once production is done, Nora hopes to go back to her routine that is laid out carefully, but there's one flaw in her plan. Leo wants to stay on to recenter himself.  Apparently, the simple country life is good for him. He offers to pay her $1,000 a day, so how can she say no? She really needs the money as her ex-husband doesn't help out at all. Meanwhile Nora is trying to live her everyday life of porch sitting, long runs, grocery shopping, school pickup, dinner making, assisting with homework, etc, all while Leo Vance tags along for a taste of normalcy.  Slowly, sparks fly between the two and more importantly, Nora finds out who and want she wants out of her life.  Nora Goes Off Script by Annabel Monaghan is an adorable romantic comedy that is the perfect escape.
 
I really enjoyed Nora in Nora Goes Off Script. I found her to be funny, smart, relatable, and cringe worthy. She could be a little over emotional and clingy at times, but it made for a good story.  After all, she is trying to find her way after her ex left her, so she is a bit vulnerable. Once Hollywood shows up at her door, she starts to have feelings for Leo and enjoys him following her around. It's good to have support and a friend in life after doing things on her own for so long.  But slowly, the sparks between them point to something more. However, how could a regular mom in a small town somehow get the attention of Leo Vance, one of the sexist men in Hollywood? In real life, probably not, but in Monaghan's version, a girl can dream, right? I loved this aspect of the novel as it made for a great summer escape.
 
Once things played out in Nora Goes Off Script, I was eye rolling a bit. It just seemed very obvious what would happen, but Monaghan proved me wrong. I didn't see some of the plot twists coming and enjoyed the ride for sure.  Monaghan's writing is so good and thoroughly enjoyable.  Her writing style is exactly what I gravitate towards when I am looking for a vacation read.
 
I think most mothers can relate to Nora in Nora Goes Off Script and I think that's why it resonates with so many of us. The awkwardness, the putting ourselves last, the mundane routine, the school pickup, the PTO, the Saturday sports games, the wine before bed, etc, it's all there. And if divorced, who wouldn't want to bring a Hollywood heartthrob to the school pick-up line? I mean that's the stuff of dreams right there.  

My only minor complaint about this novel was the lack of steam--not that I need something explicit, but I didn't feel Nora and Leo's romance blooming as much as I had hoped. It seemed a little lacking in that area, and rather one dimensional. Monaghan focused more on Nora's arc and self-growth, which I get, but I would have loved more.

Nonetheless, I really enjoyed Nora Goes Off Script. If you are looking for a last minute summer escape, pick up a copy.  Living in Nora's world means every forty year old mom comes out a winner, realizes her full potential, and everyone else just watches in awe.  So, have you read Nora Goes Off Script? Is it on your summer TBR list? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. 

 
 
 

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Book Review: The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston


 
Pages: 368
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: June 28, 2022
Source: Publisher for review
Publisher: Berkley
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars 


Goodreads says, "A disillusioned millennial ghostwriter who, quite literally, has some ghosts of her own, has to find her way back home in this sparkling adult debut from national bestselling author Ashley Poston. Florence Day is the ghostwriter for one of the most prolific romance authors in the industry, and she has a problem—after a terrible breakup, she no longer believes in love. It’s as good as dead. When her new editor, a too-handsome mountain of a man, won’t give her an extension on her book deadline, Florence prepares to kiss her career goodbye. But then she gets a phone call she never wanted to receive, and she must return home for the first time in a decade to help her family bury her beloved father. For ten years, she’s run from the town that never understood her, and even though she misses the sound of a warm Southern night and her eccentric, loving family and their funeral parlor, she can’t bring herself to stay. Even with her father gone, it feels like nothing in this town has changed. And she hates it. Until she finds a ghost standing at the funeral parlor’s front door, just as broad and infuriatingly handsome as ever, and he’s just as confused about why he’s there as she is. Romance is most certainly dead . . . but so is her new editor, and his unfinished business will have her second-guessing everything she’s ever known about love stories."

 

Florence Day used to be a romantic, after all, she is a ghostwriter for a well known romance author.  The latest book she is writing is dragging though; she is feeling entirely uninspired after the breakup with her boyfriend. Perhaps true love doesn't exist and happily-ever-afters aren't for everyone? Now she is late for her deadline and her editor, Ben, isn't having it.  Then Florence receives a phone call that rocks her world. Her father has unexpectedly died and she must return home. Of course Florence drops everything to be home with her family and they ironically own the town's funeral parlor. You see, Florence has always been able to see and communicate with ghosts, an ability passed on from her father. She is hoping to connect with him, but instead, up pops her editor, Ben.  He has shockingly died the day after she met with him. Ghosts have unfinished business; what could Ben's possibly be? Now Florence has to deal with her father's last wishes and Ben following her around, sometimes to the most unfortunate of places, such as the shower. While home, Florence deals with her grief as well as with the hometown that she left long ago, all while getting to know Ben better. What blossoms between them is so much more than friends- they have a true connection, but what's the point? He is dead and it's heartbreaking.  Ashley Poston's adult debut, The Dead Romantics, is such a fun take on the usual paranormal romance; I adored it!

Florence is someone I liked right from the beginning of The Dead Romantics. I truly felt for her when her father died, because you could really tell that she had a close relationship with him. When she returns home, readers get to know her family much better, including her eccentric sister, Alice, and I really enjoyed the other Day family members as well. I think Poston portrays dealing with the ups and downs of death accurately, but she does so in a manner that it doesn't make it too dark and depressing.  The death of her father is counterbalanced by her relationship with Ben. Although he is a ghost, it felt like so much more.

Ben is a delight of a character in The Dead Romantics. I enjoyed his relationship with Florence and how it evolved. I appreciated their love of books and all the nods to publishing within the novel. There were some real laugh-out-loud moments between them and moments that truly tugged on my heartstrings. It really made long for Ben and Florence to have a real chance at love, but how could they if he is dead? As time progresses, readers will wonder what Ben's unfinished business is and what he wants from Florence. Slowly, Poston connects the dots and I absolutely adored the mystery and the subtle plot twists.

Also, Poston did a fabulous job of bringing a sleepy southern town to life. I loved all of her descriptions of the nighttime sounds, the graveyard, her memories of growing up down south, the big funeral home, the wildflowers, and even the nosy townspeople. It was definitely reminiscent of Stars Hollow.

If you like a good paranormal romance, look no further. The Dead Romantics was surprisingly good and I loved being lost in Florence's world. The Dead Romantics would make for a great vacation read! 

So, are you a fan of paranormal romance? Have you read The Dead Romantics? Is it on your TBR list? Let me know in the comments below.  


 

 

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Audio Book Review: Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus



Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: April 5, 2022
Source: Personal Copy
Publisher: Random House Audio
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
 

 

Goodreads says, "A delight for readers of Where'd You Go, Bernadette and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, this blockbuster debut set in 1960s California features the singular voice of Elizabeth Zott, a scientist whose career takes a detour when she becomes the star of a beloved TV cooking show. Chemist Elizabeth Zott is not your average woman. In fact, Elizabeth Zott would be the first to point out that there is no such thing as an average woman. But it's the early 1960s and her all-male team at Hastings Research Institute takes a very unscientific view of equality. Except for one: Calvin Evans; the lonely, brilliant, Nobel-prize nominated grudge-holder who falls in love with--of all things--her mind. True chemistry results. But like science, life is unpredictable. Which is why a few years later Elizabeth Zott finds herself not only a single mother, but the reluctant star of America's most beloved cooking show Supper at Six. Elizabeth's unusual approach to cooking ("combine one tablespoon acetic acid with a pinch of sodium chloride") proves revolutionary. But as her following grows, not everyone is happy. Because as it turns out, Elizabeth Zott isn't just teaching women to cook. She's daring them to change the status quo. Laugh-out-loud funny, shrewdly observant, and studded with a dazzling cast of supporting characters, Lessons in Chemistry is as original and vibrant as its protagonist."

 

Elizabeth Zott is a household name. It's the 1960s and she is the star of a cooking show called Supper at Six.  Except Elizabeth isn't like Julia Child, she is more like Albert Einstein. Elizabeth is a chemist and has a brilliant mind. She once worked in a lab doing important work, but was let go due to an out of wedlock pregnancy. Yup. You heard that right. Cue the patriarchy.  While on her show, Elizabeth Zott gives women during the time period hope and her cooking show isn't just mix flour and sugar...viola! Elizabeth uses terms like lipids, sodium chloride, H20, and more jargon that empowers her viewers.  After all, cooking is a form of chemistry, right? Let's go back to how she ended up here. In the late 1950s, men were always taking advantage of her at work, stealing her ideas, etc, but she could always count on her boyfriend, Calvin Evans, a world famous chemist, for his respect.  Calvin was the love of her life and they have a daughter together, but the path of true love isn't a smooth one, especially for Elizabeth.  Bonnie Garmus's debut, Lessons in Chemistry, is such a laugh-out-loud brilliant book that would be perfect for vacation, especially if you love a smart, feminist read.

Elizabeth Zott. Just saying her name brings a smile to my face. I don't think I have rooted more for a protagonist than Zott in Lessons in Chemistry. I loved her mind, her spunk, and her determination.  As she navigates jerks at work and blatant sexism, I was rooting even more for her. How could I not? I also really liked her relationship with Calvin and learning more about his childhood in the orphanage, and of course, his dog Six-Thirty. As a dog lover, I really enjoyed the chapters that were from his point of a view--a fun touch to the story.

I listened to the audio version of Lessons in Chemistry and was hooked. The narrator, Miranda Raison, did a great job and I thoroughly enjoyed being lost in Zott's world.  It's a impressive debut from Garmus, and I definitely have my eye on her future work for sure.

Fans of quirky novels will especially enjoy Lessons in Chemistry, which will most definitely be one of my favorite books of the year. Have you read Lessons in Chemistry? Is it on your TBR list? 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, May 10, 2022

Book Review: Every Summer After by Carley Fortune


 
Pages: 320
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: May 10, 2022
Publisher: Berkley
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
 
 
Goodreads says, "Six summers to fall in love. One moment to fall apart. A weekend to get it right.  They say you can never go home again, and for Persephone Fraser, ever since she made the biggest mistake of her life a decade ago, that has felt too true. Instead of glittering summers on the lakeshore of her childhood, she spends them in a stylish apartment in the city, going out with friends, and keeping everyone a safe distance from her heart. Until she receives the call that sends her racing back to Barry’s Bay and into the orbit of Sam Florek—the man she never thought she’d have to live without. For six summers, through hazy afternoons on the water and warm summer nights working in his family’s restaurant and curling up together with books—medical textbooks for him and work-in-progress horror short stories for her—Percy and Sam had been inseparable. Eventually that friendship turned into something breathtakingly more, before it fell spectacularly apart. When Percy returns to the lake for Sam’s mother’s funeral, their connection is as undeniable as it had always been. But until Percy can confront the decisions she made and the years she’s spent punishing herself for them, they’ll never know whether their love might be bigger than the biggest mistakes of their past.  Told over the course of six years and one weekend, Every Summer After is a big, sweeping nostalgic look at love and the people and choices that mark us forever."

 

Percy Fraser's parents bought a cottage by the lake in Ontario and at thirteen years old, her first summer there, she meets her next door neighbors, the Floreks.  The Floreks own a restaurant in town and the two Florek brothers, Charlie and Sam, live at Barry's Bay year round.  Percy and Sam are the same age and hit it off immediately.  They become best friends and Percy looks forward to seeing Sam every summer.  As the years progress, Percy and Sam start to have romantic feelings for one another and for awhile, Percy thought it might last forever. They spend many glorious summers together watching scary movies, reading Percy's latest short story, swimming in the lake, helping Sam study, working at the family restaurant, and more. Their time together is so special to both of them, but as college approaches, things fall apart.  Fast forward many years later and Sam and Charlie's mother has died and Charlie called Percy with the hope that she would attend the funeral and return to Barry's Bay as she hasn't been back in years.  Obviously something happened between Sam and Percy, and slowly Fortune teases us with flashbacks back to that one fateful summer.  Meanwhile in present day, Percy must face her past at Barry's Bay and her first love, Sam.  Carley Fortune's Every Summer After is a brilliant debut that tugged on my heartstrings. It has everything I could want in a summertime read--a beautiful lakeside setting, a friends-to-something more romance, and flashbacks to incredible summers over the years.

I really enjoyed Percy from the start of Every Summer After.  I immediately felt her connection to Sam, but loved that they formed a strong friendship first.  I appreciated that she was a complex person with her own dreams, anxieties, and strong feelings.  She is trying to find her way socially when she meets Sam and as the years go on, he provides her with a strong friendship to lean on, vice versa.  The school year separates them for sometime, but they always have summer to fall back on. I absolutely loved how Fortune told the story though flashbacks and that helped me piece together what exactly happened to between Percy and Sam. Presently, Percy hasn't been back to Barry's Bay or talked to Sam in twelve years.  Their friendship was previously so tight, it's almost unimaginable that this could have happened, but slowly Fortune provides us with all the details.

Sam is such a swoon-worthy protagonist. I really enjoyed him in Every Summer After. He has dealt with his own trauma, as his dad unexpectedly died before he met Percy.  He is also a multi-faceted character and I loved how was a genuinely good guy.  It was an absolute treat to watch their friendship bloom as he is such a good guy, how could you not root for him? He has so many dreams that pertain to him becoming a doctor, and I really enjoyed how Percy supported him just as he supported her dream of becoming a writer. They were the perfect couple, until things fell apart and it broke my heart. Nonetheless, I adored Sam and I loved his relationship with his older brother, Charlie, too. Charlie, is also a gem of a character whom I really adored. Fortune did an expert job creating "real" characters that I truly got attached to.

If you love summertime stories filled with a lot of heart, a gorgeous setting, and a romance that will make you swoon, look no further. Every Summer After is a hit and I think it will be one of the best beach reads of the summer.  It was like stepping into an adult version of Jenny Han's Summer series or an adult Sarah Dessen novel. I adored it!

So, is Every Summer After on your TBR list? Let me know what you think in the comments below. 

  

 
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