Friday, April 28, 2017

Review: Secrets in Summer by Nancy Thayer

Blurb from Goodreads:
The queen of beach books (The Star-Ledger) returns to the shores of Nantucket in a novel about one memorable summer when flirtations flourish, family dramas play out, and scandalous secrets surface.

Memorial Day weekend means that seasonal visitors have descended on the glamorous island of Nantucket. For year-round resident Darcy Cotterill, it means late-night stargazing in the backyard of the beautiful house she grew up in and inherited from her beloved grandmother. It's also Darcy s chance to hit the beach and meet her new summertime neighbors. But the last person the thirty-year-old librarian expects to see staying next door is her ex-husband, Boyz, along with his wife, Autumn, and stepdaughter, Willow.

Darcy must also navigate the highs and lows of a new romantic relationship with local carpenter Nash Forester even as she becomes smitten with handsome vacationer Clive Rush, a musicologist in town to write a book and visit family. And she finds herself pulled into the concerns of Boyz, Autumn, a charming elderly neighbor, and an at-risk teen.

As the season nears its end, Darcy must decide her next move: retreating to the comforts of her steady and secure island life, or risking it all for a chance at true happiness. 
My Review:
Nancy Thayer is among few authors whose books I look forward to every summer because they are such perfect summer reads. While Secrets in Summer wasn't my favorite of hers, it was still a great beach read - captivating and effortless.  What I liked about this book was, as always, the setting of Nantucket.  As with Elin Hilderbrand, I cannot get enough of books set on this island. I also loved the flashbacks to Darcy's past and all scenes involving her lovely grandmother.  Finally, this book really centered on the friendship between four women, all of whom met through the location of their summer homes, and I loved that aspect even if how the women met felt a bit staid.  What tripped me up in this book was Darcy and, really, Darcy's relationship with her "boyfriend" Nash. I don't feel like this relationship was well developed or that Darcy should have focused such energy on this relationship. It was very unhealthy to me but was made out to be something important and romantic. There were a lot of issues with gossip and Darcy's internal monologue but I still recommend this one as a great summer/beach read along with Nancy Thayer's entire catalog.
Secrets in Summer comes out next month on May 16, 2017, and you can purchase HERE.  
But it wasn't Bessie's beauty that fascinated Darcy. It was how she listened to Darcy speak, focusing all her attention on her, often remaining silent for a minute or two while she contemplated Darcy's words. 
"Um-hum," Bessie would hum. "Let me think on that." The subject might be as enormous as the HolocaustHow could such a thing happen? Or as trivial as why women needed to possess so many pairs of shoes. 
Often, Bessie would reply, "Child, I don't think that's a question anyone on this earth has the true answer for. The best advice I can give you is to keep reading."

Monday, April 24, 2017

Review: 'Round Midnight by Laura McBride

Blurb from Goodreads:
From the author of We Are Called to Rise comes a novel about the interconnected lives of four women in Las Vegas, each of whom experiences a life-changing moment at a classic casino nightclub.

Spanning the six decades when Las Vegas grew from a dusty gambling town into the melting pot metropolis it is today, ‘Round Midnight is the story of four women—one who falls in love, one who gets lucky, one whose heart is broken, and one who chooses happiness—whose lives change at the Midnight Room.

June Stein and her husband open the El Capitan casino in the 1950s, and rocket to success after hiring a charismatic black singer to anchor their nightclub. Their fast-paced lifestyle runs aground as racial tensions mount.

Honorata leaves the Philippines as a mail order bride to a Chicago businessman, then hits a jackpot at the Midnight Room when he takes her on a weekend trip to Las Vegas.

Engracia, a Mexican immigrant whose lucky find at the Midnight Room leads to heartbreak, becomes enmeshed in Honorata’s secret when she opens her employer’s door to that Chicago businessman—and his gun.

And then there is Coral, an African-American teacher who struggles with her own mysterious past. A favor for Honorata takes her to the Midnight Room, where she hits a jackpot of another kind.

Mining the rich territory of motherhood and community, ‘Round Midnight is a story that mirrors the social transformation of our nation. Full of passion, heartbreak, heroism, longing, and suspense, it honors the reality of women’s lives.
My Review:
This book is definitely one of my favorites of this year, so far! Admittedly, I requested this book because I grew up in Las Vegas and, although I no longer live there, there was something magical about growing up there before the boom, before the growth.  And so I could completely relate to the setting in this book but I also loved the way the story was told.  These characters had such meat - such sorrow and such depth - and they way their stories intertwined felt true and realistic to me.  This was a book that I just couldn't stop reading; it was so seamless, so authentic.  I'm going to read this author's first book now because I really love her voice and her writing - there's something in it that's hard to describe but something that I crave. I was kind of reminded of Anita Shreve when I read this but it had a uniqueness all its own as well. I think this would be a great summer read for anyone.

'Round Midnight comes out next month on May 2, 2017, and you can purchase HERE.  I really loved this one so much and I definitely recommend it, especially if you love books with lots of intertwining lives and story lines over a span of time.
There had been a bomb detonation ever five days all summer and fall. Operation Plumbbob. June called it Operation Plumbrich. Tourists flocked from all over the country, from Canada, from Mexico. People who wouldn't have come to Las Vegas otherwise. But everyone wanted see an explosion. Ever since National Geographic had described a bright pink mushroom cloud turning purple and then orange, spraying ice crystals like an ocean surf in the sky, people had been coming. They drove up the dusty road to Charleston Peak and leaned against their cars to watch the white dawn burst against the night, or they crowded into tiny Beatty and asked the locals if the air was safe.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Review: The Forever Summer by Jamie Brenner

Blurb from Goodreads:
The discovery of long-buried secrets brings three generations of women together to Cape Cod for the summer homecoming of a lifetime. 

Marin Bishop has always played by the rules, and it's paid off: on the cusp of thirty she has a handsome fiancé, a prestigious Manhattan legal career, and her father's hard-won admiration. But with one careless mistake at work, Marin suddenly finds herself unemployed and alone. Before she can summon the courage to tell her parents, a young woman appears, claiming to be Marin's half-sister. Seeking answers, Marin agrees to join her on a soul-searching journey to Cape Cod, to meet the family she didn't even know she had.

As the summer unfolds at her grandmother's beachside B&B, it becomes clear that her half-sister's existence is just the first in a series of truths that will shake Marin's beliefs--in love, and in her own identity--to the core. Filled with shocking revelations, heartfelt romance, and resilient women banding together against the most unexpected twists of fate, THE FOREVER SUMMER is an emotionally resonant page-turner, and a delicious escape for any season. 
My Review:
I really liked this one - I read it in one sitting because it was immediately engaging.  You don't quite understand how all of these families are going to come together but then secrets are revealed and it just makes sense.  The setting was awesome, of course, but it also felt unique in that it was not just a typical beach town. I loved that the Portuguese culture was a big part of the book.  In the book, there's also a focus on mosaics and I loved the descriptions of these being created with found objects on the beach. I felt like I was right there.  I honestly loved all of the characters in this book, too - I was pulling for them and I related to each and every one of the, which is rare to read.

The Forever Summer comes out next week on April 25, 2017 and you can purchase HERE.  I definitely recommend adding this one to your beach bag this summer, especially if you love Elin Hilderbrand or Emily Giffin!
Marin wanted him--instantly. She'd never felt such pure physical attraction in her life. She walked around the office charged up, adrenalized, all of her senses heightened. She felt like one big raw nerve. When we spoke to her, it took all of her effort to absorb what he said and not just stare at his lips. Over the conference table, she found herself leaning too close. She could barely sleep at night, she was so eager to get back into the office. 

Friday, April 14, 2017

Review: Blade Bound (Chicagoland Vampires #13) by Chloe Neill

Blurb from Goodreads:
The thrilling final installment of Chloe Neill’s New York Times bestselling urban fantasy series sees a sinister sorcery advancing across Chicago, and it may usher in the fall of Cadogan House… 

Since the night of her brutal attack and unwilling transformation to vampire, Merit’s stood as Sentinel and protector of Chicago’s Cadogan House. She's saved the Windy City from the forces of darkness time and again with her liege and lover, Ethan Sullivan, by her side.

When the House is infiltrated and Merit is attacked by a vampire seemingly under the sway of dark magic, Merit and Ethan realize the danger is closer than they could have ever imagined. As a malign sorcery spreads throughout the city, Merit must go to war against supernatural powers beyond her comprehension. It’s her last chance to save everything—and everyone—she loves.
My Review:
Series enders are necessarily bittersweet and I've been waiting for this one forever (pretty sure I've been reading this series for nearly ten years!).  So, yes, I had high expectations but I also was waiting for so many things to be wrapped up in this last book.  And, yes, ostensibly, all the threads were wrapped up but I can't help but feel disappointed by this end. If there is one thing I can point to it's that it tried too hard - it tried too hard to be funny, it tired too hard to be spectacular in the supernatural, it tried too hard to be romantic. And it failed a bit on all accounts.  Without spoiling you for the series if you haven't yet read it (and you absolutely should!), there was a prophecy throughout the latter half of the series.  I've been waiting anxiously for this prophecy - as to how it would occur - and it felt like a complete afterthought. Although I won't forget this last book, and yes everything wrapped up in it, my fondest memories from this series won't come from this book. That being said, this is still one of my overall favorite urban fantasy series and I think everyone should read it!
Blade Bound comes out later this month on April 25, 2017, and you can purchase HERE. While I'm sad to see this series end, it definitely felt like it was time after thirteen books and I can't wait to read what Chloe does next! #MEthan forever !
"Not to mention the fact that she's narcissistic and unpredictable. She has changed the weather. Endangered the lives of millions. Brought the city to a standstill because she could." He glanced at Mallory. "Because you didn't let her have her way at Towerline." 
"She's acting like a hormonal teenager," Lindsey said. "She is basically the worst Sweet Valley High novel ever written."

Monday, April 10, 2017

Review: Slightly South of Simple by Kristy Woodson Harvey

Blurb from Goodreads:
Caroline Murphy swore she’d never set foot back in the small Southern town of Peachtree Bluff; she was a New York girl born and bred and the worst day of her life was when, in the wake of her father’s death, her mother selfishly forced her to move—during her senior year of high school, no less—back to that hick-infested rat trap where she'd spent her childhood summers. But now that her marriage to a New York high society heir has fallen apart in a very public, very embarrassing fashion, a pregnant Caroline decides to escape the gossipmongers with her nine-year-old daughter and head home to her mother, Ansley.

Ansley has always put her three daughters first, especially when she found out that her late husband, despite what he had always promised, left her with next to nothing. Now the proud owner of a charming waterfront design business and finally standing on her own two feet, Ansley welcomes Caroline and her brood back with open arms. But when her second daughter Sloane, whose military husband is overseas, and youngest daughter and successful actress Emerson join the fray, Ansley begins to feel like the piece of herself she had finally found might be slipping from her grasp. Even more discomfiting, when someone from her past reappears in Ansley's life, the secret she’s harbored from her daughters their entire lives might finally be forced into the open.

Exploring the powerful bonds between sisters and mothers and daughters, this engaging novel is filled with Southern charm, emotional drama, and plenty of heart.
My Review:
This is a definite beach read and I enjoyed it but it wasn't as much of an escape as I had hoped. Maybe it's just me but I'm finding it harder and harder to escape in a book given the news every. single. day. But turning back to this book, in particular, I really liked the alternating POV between mother and daughter.  I don't think I've read a book before with that sort of switch and it worked well here.  I really liked the mother, Ansley, but Caroline (one of the daughters and the one in whose POV half the book was told) was so incredibly selfish and harsh. It was hard to relate to her and I think anyone would have a hard time relating to her. The setting was good and I do think this would be a fun summer read-- perfect for the beach-- because it was fairly light but also had its own complexities and nuances.  Without giving anything away, there were a few surprises that made this an enjoyable read.
Slightly South of Simple comes out later this month on April 25, 2017, and you can purchase HERE.  
That was the moment I realized that what you see in movies, what you read about in books, that isn't the good part. Not at all. The butterflies make you feel giddy and alive, and that's sweet. But it's what happens after that really matters. It's the time you realize that you love has grown exponentially since that first day, when you discover that being someone's wife, being in it for the long haul, having someone there beside you day in and day out, is o much better than y any roses on Valentine's Day or any first-date jitters you could ever have.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Review: The F Word by Liza Palmer

Blurb from Goodreads:
At once a funny, whip-smart sendup of Los Angeles culture and an irresistible love story, internationally bestselling author Liza Palmer's The F Word is a novel about how sometimes who we become isn t who we really are. 

We re all pushing some version of the life we want you to believe. It s all just PR. 

Olivia Morten is perfect. Maybe her high-flying publicist job has taken over her life, but her clients are Los Angeles' hottest celebrities. Maybe her husband is never around, but he is a drop-dead-gorgeous, successful doctor. Maybe her friends are dumb, but they know how to look glamorous at a cocktail party. And maybe her past harbors an incredibly embarrassing secret, but no one remembers high school right?

When Ben Dunn, Olivia s high school arch nemesis and onetime crush, suddenly resurfaces, Olivia realizes how precarious all of her perfection is. As she finds herself dredging up long-suppressed memories from her past, she is forced to confront the most painful truth of all: maybe she used to be the fat girl, but she used to be happy, too.
My Review:
I started off not loving this one - so many #firstworldproblems - because I just couldn't connect to the story or the characters.  But, about half way through, we got a better sense of Olivia and I appreciated her dimensions.  What didn't work for me in this book were the descriptions of Olivia's job (she does PR for celebrities) because I seriously didn't care; I didn't care about uber famous actors and their petty shit and I could not imagine being fulfilled by devoting your life to helping celebrities with the same.  What did work for me was Olivia's internal monologue - she slowly describes a lot about her past and how it has informed her present and it felt very real to me. I read this in one day so, if nothing else, that should tell you how much I liked this one once I got into it!

The F Word comes out later this month on April 25, 2017 and you can purchase HERE. I definitely recommend this one to fans of Marian Keyes and/or Jane Green - definitely reminiscent of both with a Southern California spin!
My face is hot and the cold morning air burns my throat as I take deeper and deeper breaths.   
Over and over and over again.   
I can't keep it in anymore. I want to scream it and scream it and scream it. I'm exhausted. I know I'm not he only woman who's fucking exhausted. We work tirelessly only to be told that the hings at which we excel are unimportant. Running a home and having a career, all the while keeping effortlessly slim. Being cheerleaders and therapists to men who assure that, unlike women, they need neither. How can I help? What can I do? What more can I give you? Will this be enough? Am I valuable now? Will I ever do enough for you tell I'm important? Why do I care so much? Why do I believe you when you tell me I'm crazy and emotional? Why do I left you dictate what is meaningful?

Monday, April 3, 2017

Review: The Perfect Stranger (All the Missing Girls #2) by Megan Miranda

Blurb from Goodreads:
Confronted by a restraining order and the threat of a lawsuit, failed journalist Leah Stevens needs to get out of Boston when she runs into an old friend, Emmy Grey, who has just left a troubled relationship. Emmy proposes they move to rural Pennsylvania, where Leah can get a teaching position and both women can start again. But their new start is threatened when a woman with an eerie resemblance to Leah is assaulted by the lake, and Emmy disappears days later.

Determined to find Emmy, Leah cooperates with Kyle Donovan, a handsome young police officer on the case. As they investigate her friend’s life for clues, Leah begins to wonder: did she ever really know Emmy at all? With no friends, family, or a digital footprint, the police begin to suspect that there is no Emmy Grey. Soon Leah’s credibility is at stake, and she is forced to revisit her past: the article that ruined her career. To save herself, Leah must uncover the truth about Emmy Grey—and along the way, confront her old demons, find out who she can really trust, and clear her own name.

Everyone in this rural Pennsylvanian town has something to hide—including Leah herself. How do you uncover the truth when you are busy hiding your own?
My Review:
I was so excited to read this one - I read a lot of thrillers last year and All the Missing Girls was one of my favorites. So I am forced a bit to compare the two and tell you that I liked All the Missing Girls more but that this one was still really good and I couldn't put it down once I started! I also admit that I am pretty hard to impress in this genre but Megan Miranda has a definite skill to make the thriller genre feel unique and I love the multi-layered and complex female narrators that she wrote for both of these books. The entire time I couldn't figure out if liked or hated Leah - it was hard to get into her head but I appreciated that complexity. I can't wait to read more by this author!

The Perfect Stranger comes out next week on April 11, 2017 and you can purchase HERE. You can read my review of All the Missing Girls HEREI definitely recommend both of these if you are a fan of thriller/mysteries!
In Boston, they don't really do a good job of warning you about the winter. The postcards look snow-covered and beautiful, the streets still filled with people, the wisps of cold air and the wool coats and waterproof boots all part of the charm, the allure. They don't tell you that most of the time, it's pure misery. Waiting for the bus, walking to the T stop, the persistent dry cough that permeates through the office. The bathrooms and office lobbies covered in melted snow. And us, slowly thawing out inside. The chapped lips, the red noses, the dry skin around our knuckles, and the way the sweaters itch across our collarbones. How you want nothing more than to stay in. The things you do to stay warm. 
And then there's the gray. How the sky cover goes dark in the late fall and seems to stay that way until early spring, always ready for snow or rain. How the cold seems to hover in a fog, like a mirage, just off the ground. And everyone bundles up in layer after layer because you all have to walk everywhere, the puffs of white escaping like smoke as you elbow past one another. 
And nobody seems to notice you. You could be anyone under the down jacket and scarf wrapped over your mouth, your hat pulled down over your ears and your hair. A wolf in sheep's clothing. A sheep in wolf's. And this is why, no matter how many people are out on a street, this does not make for more witnesses but somehow less. It could be anyone. Anyone standing on their toes, peering in the window.
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