Welcome to my book recommendations, fellow book nerds.  As a writer, I not only love writing stories for the enjoyment of others, I love talking about books I've enjoyed as well. The following are just a few of those books.
 
I've Got Your Number
Sophie Kinsella

 
Poppy Wyatt has never felt luckier. She is about to marry her ideal man, Magnus Tavish, but in one afternoon her “happily ever after” begins to fall apart. Not only has she lost her engagement ring in a hotel fire drill, but in the panic that follows, her phone is stolen. As she paces shakily around the lobby, she spots an abandoned phone in a trash can. Finders keepers! Now she can leave a number for the hotel to contact her when they find her ring. Perfect!
 
Well, perfect except that the phone’s owner, businessman Sam Roxton, doesn’t agree. He wants his phone back and doesn’t appreciate Poppy reading his messages and wading into his personal life.
 
What ensues is a hilarious and unpredictable turn of events as Poppy and Sam increasingly upend each other’s lives through emails and text messages. As Poppy juggles wedding preparations, mysterious phone calls, and hiding her left hand from Magnus and his parents, she soon realizes that she is in for the biggest surprise of her life.

 
My Review
★★★★★/5

 
I’m a new reader to Sophie Kinsella (I know, what’s wrong with me, right?), but I can guarantee you this will not be the last Sophie Kinsella book I read. I’ve Got Your Number is everything I love in a rom-com. Poppy, the MC, was hilarious, albeit a little naïve at times, and LI Sam was as swoon-worthy as they come. I often joke that I have an affinity for brooding jerks, and Sam was no disappointment in that area. I often gravitate toward LIs who are tough on the outside but are absolute piles of mush on the inside – a marshmallow, if you will. The relationship between Sam and Poppy evolved perfectly. Nothing felt forced or rushed, even though there were times I really wanted to hit the gas on their relationship. I also loved how Sam looked after Poppy and was there for her in ways that no one really has ever been before, including Magnus, her gag-worthy fiancé. About the only gripe I have is the fact that this is one of those books that could really, really have used an epilogue, as with the way the last chapter ended, I wanted more and still would like to know what happened next. Hint, Hint, Sophie Kinsella.

Sara xxxxx (you’ll have to read the book to figure out why I did that)
 
Kiss My Cupcake
Helena Hunting

 
Blaire Calloway has planned every Instagram-worthy moment of her cupcake and cocktails shop launch down to the tiniest detail. What she didn't plan on? Ronan Knight and his old-school sports bar next door opening on the very same day. He may be super swoony, but Blaire hasn't spent years obsessing over buttercream and bourbon to have him ruin her chance at success.

From axe throwing (his place) to frosting contests (hers), Blaire and Ronan are constantly trying to one-up each other in a battle to win new customers. But with every clash, there's also an undeniable chemistry. When an even bigger threat to their business comes to town, they're forced to call a temporary time-out on their own war and work together. And the more time Blaire spends getting to know the real Ronan, the more she wonders if it's possible to have her cupcake and eat it too.

 
My Review
★★★★.5/5

 
If I had to describe Kiss My Cupcake in one word, it would be: freakin’ cute. Okay, so that was two words, but it’s the truth.

This book was one of the cutest enemies-to-lovers romances I’ve read in a long time. Plus, the word cute fits the MC Blaire Calloway to a tee. Blaire was raised in less than ideal circumstances in a, putting it mildly, rather unconventional family situation. So, it’s no surprise that she’s now doing everything in her power to distance herself from her family’s eccentricities, striving, instead, to be more like the matriarchs of the families she emulated as a child—June Cleaver, to be more specific. Even her outfits are inspired by ‘50s couture, and her cupcake shop, Buttercream and Booze, has everything anyone could possibly want.

But Blaire’s picture-perfect, cutesy world is turned upside down when her neighbor and local rival, Ronan Knight, owner of The Knight Cap sports bar, begins renovations on his bar that include an area for axe throwing (how cool is that), and, of course, he plans on opening his business on the same day as Blaire. Also, Ronan is literally the opposite of Blaire in every single way. Think the Paul Bunyan to her June Cleaver—a sexy lumberjack, so to speak.

Starting off on the wrong foot, the pair embark on ways to outdo one another, resulting in often humorous circumstances. However, when a chain restaurant opens across the street, threatening to steal their business, the two must set aside their differences and work together to keep their dreams alive.

This book checked basically every box for me. There was witty banter, dual perspective, a fair amount of steam, a swoon-worthy love interest, some memorable supporting characters, and just the right amount of angst. Plus, Blaire’s dysfunctional family’s incredibly awkward Thanksgiving was pretty much the icing on the cupcake. The only negative thing I can say about this book is that it started out a wee bit slow for me. But, with that said, around chapter five or so, it really takes off, and I couldn’t stop myself from reading, finishing the book quite quickly.
Loathe at First Sight
Suzanne Park

 

Melody Joo is thrilled to land her dream job as a video game producer, but her new position comes with challenges: an insufferable CEO; sexist male coworkers; and an infuriating—yet distractingly handsome—intern, Nolan MacKenzie, aka “the guy who got hired because his uncle is the boss.”

Just when Melody thinks she’s made the worst career move of her life, her luck changes. While joking with a friend, she creates a mobile game that has male strippers fighting for survival in a post-apocalyptic world. Suddenly Melody’s “joke” is her studio’s most high-profile project—and Melody’s running the show.

When Nolan is assigned to Melody’s team, she’s sure he’ll be useless. But as they grow closer, she realizes he’s smart and sexy, which makes Melody want to forget he’s her intern. As their attraction deepens, she knows it’s time to pump the brakes, even with her Korean parents breathing down her neck to hurry up and find a man.

With her project about to launch, Melody suddenly faces a slew of complications, including a devastating trolling scandal. Could the man she’s falling hard for help her play the game to win—in work and in love?

My Review
★★★/5

 
Okay, let me preface this by saying that if you go in thinking this is an enemies-to-lovers story, you are going to be disappointed. Because it’s not. In fact, it’s really not a romance at all. There’s a smidgen of romance tucked inside the story of a woman taking on the male-dominated gaming industry. Except it’s not packaged like that. From my rating, you’re probably able to discern that Loathe at First Sight was not one of my favorite reads. Don’t get me wrong, it had some high points to it, the MC and her parents being one of them. I really enjoyed Melody Joo’s personality. She was witty and incredibly funny, which makes sense given that the author is a former stand-up comic. Melody’s parents also never failed to make me laugh, and I crossed my fingers that they would appear in every chapter.

But, aside from those two things, the rest of the story just wasn’t for me. I’m all for female empowerment and taking on a field that’s been considered a man’s world for far too long. But something about the story just seemed disjointed and cobbled together, forcing things to fit that really didn’t. Also, the misogyny, racial stereotypes, and events in the book seemed way too over-the-top for me. Unfortunately, racism and sexism still run rampant in this country and are present in the workplace, but some of the events in the book just felt overblown. I also couldn’t really connect with any of the supporting characters, either. Melody’s friend Jane was insufferable, Asher was a caricature who did a complete 180 about halfway through the book, and I never felt a connection between Melody and Nolan, the love interest.

I wish I could have liked this book a little more; however, for me, it was just okay.
Home Before Dark
Riley Sager

 
What was it like? Living in that house.

Maggie Holt is used to such questions. Twenty-five years ago, she and her parents, Ewan and Jess, moved into Baneberry Hall, a rambling Victorian estate in the Vermont woods. They spent three weeks there before fleeing in the dead of night, an ordeal Ewan later recounted in a nonfiction book called House of Horrors. His tale of ghostly happenings and encounters with malevolent spirits became a worldwide phenomenon, rivaling The Amityville Horror in popularity—and skepticism.

Today, Maggie is a restorer of old homes and too young to remember any of the events mentioned in her father's book. But she also doesn’t believe a word of it. Ghosts, after all, don’t exist. When Maggie inherits Baneberry Hall after her father's death, she returns to renovate the place to prepare it for sale. But her homecoming is anything but warm. People from the past, chronicled in House of Horrors, lurk in the shadows. And locals aren’t thrilled that their small town has been made infamous thanks to Maggie’s father. Even more unnerving is Baneberry Hall itself—a place filled with relics from another era that hint at a history of dark deeds. As Maggie experiences strange occurrences straight out of her father’s book, she starts to believe that what he wrote was more fact than fiction.

 
My Review
★★★★★/5
 

This was my first book by Riley Sager and I must say it did not disappoint. I’ve not read a book told from dual perspectives from two different time periods before, and I was a little hesitant at first, but this was so well done that the book wouldn’t have worked any other way.

After the death of her father, Maggie Holt reluctantly inherits Baneberry Hall, a residence made infamous by her father Ewan’s bestselling novel, House of Horrors, where he recounts the family’s brief stay in the home, which abruptly ended one night when escalating paranormal activity drove them away. As a result of their experiences in the home, Ewan pens his novel and, from Maggie’s point of view, subsequently ruins her childhood and her parent’s marriage after the family receives a barrage of attacks from the book’s skeptics. A non-believer in the paranormal and believing her father made the home’s strange occurrences up for the sake of fame and fortune, Maggie, against her mother Jess’s wishes, returns to Baneberry Hall to fix it up and, hopefully, sell it for a profit. However, soon after Maggie steps over the threshold, a series of strange events begins to make her question whether the book she thought was fiction may be rooted in fact, after all. 

My Thoughts: This book had more twists and turns than a labyrinth. It is seriously a puzzle, giving you a piece here and piece there, however, just when you think you have all the pieces you need to finally put it together, a tornado comes and everything you thought you knew no longer exists. It takes a lot to scare me, and although this book is chilling, I would say I was more creeped out than frightened. Taking more of a skeptical point of view, like Maggie, I found myself trying to find a more logical reason for the events that transpired in the home. Yet, no matter how much I thought I knew, the ending and all its twists, proved I knew absolutely nothing, and I will say that I was not prepared for how this book ended.

Are the happenings at Baneberry Hall paranormal or something more? I guess you’ll have to read the book to find out. 
The Trouble with Hating You
Sajni Patel


Liya Thakkar is a successful biochemical engineer, takeout enthusiast, and happily single woman. The moment she realizes her parents' latest dinner party is a setup with the man they want her to marry, she's out the back door in a flash. Imagine her surprise when the same guy shows up at her office a week later -- the new lawyer hired to save her struggling company. What's not surprising: he's not too thrilled to see her either after that humiliating fiasco.

Jay Shah looks good on paper...and off. Especially if you like that whole gorgeous, charming lawyer-in-a-good-suit thing. He's also infuriating. As their witty office banter turns into late-night chats, Liya starts to think he might be the one man who truly accepts her. But falling for each other means exposing their painful pasts. Will Liya keep running, or will she finally give love a real chance?
My Review
★★★★.5/5
 
I have to admit that I was a little nervous when I first started this book. I didn’t connect well with Liya, and found her to be entirely too brash and unnecessarily rude, especially to Jay, who only had the best of intentions when it came to her. However, as the story progressed and the complicated layers comprising Liya Thakkar were peeled back, a broken, yet incredibly strong and resilient woman was revealed. Liya has been hurt badly. Shunned both by her community and her “father” (and I use that term loosely) after a traumatic event, Liya has proven to be a survivor. The embodiment of girl power, rising from the ashes of her past. It’s no wonder she was resistant to letting any man into her heart, even a man as seemingly perfect as Jay.

Jay Shah, wow, he was great. He was progressive, kind, compassionate, and never gave up on Liya no matter how much she pushed him away. Yet, he also had layers of his own and a trauma that shaped him into the man he is, precipitating in a ton of guilt. Unlike Liya, Jay is welcomed into his community and is the object of affection by many of the women, including one in particular that just couldn’t take no for an answer.

All of the other characters in the book were well-developed. I adored Liya’s friends, especially Preeti, who’s getting her own book next year, and Jay’s mother, who was everything a parent should be. Even the “villains” in this book were well-developed. Mukesh and Liya’s dad were terrible human beings (again, using that term loosely), and I hope they receive their comeuppance in the next book.

What Ms. Patel does well throughout the entire book is making her readers feel. I felt such a broad range of emotions while reading this book. From frustration, to elation, fear, and anger to the point where I bent my book from gripping it so hard. The feelings were raw and real and the hallmark of a great writer. 
Mexican Gothic
Silvia Moreno-Garcia


 
After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.   
 
Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.
 
Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness. 
 
And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.

 
My Review
★★★.5/5
 
Upon receiving an odd note from her newly-wed cousin, Catalina, Noemi Taboada is sent to High Place, a mansion in the Mexican countryside, to investigate what’s going on in this mysterious house.

Let me preface this review by saying that I don’t normally read thrillers/horror/gothic fiction, and although I only gave Mexican Gothic 3.5 stars, it doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it.

Because I really did.

I enjoyed the writing. Boy can Silvia Moreno Garcia write! I love how descriptive she is. The world building is spectacular and, for the most part, the characters had real depth to them. What I think bogged me down a bit with this book was the slow build…and I mean really, really, slow. There was a lot to set up to lead to the climax of the story, and the first 2/3 if the book did just that. The creep factor was strong, the ominous nature of the house and the Doyle family, it’s eccentric inhabitants, had to be fleshed out for the reader to truly understand and appreciate the big reveal. It just felt like the story dragged on in some places.

But that last 1/3—Wow! I won’t give away too much, but that portion of the book takes off and doesn’t stop running until the very end.

What I loved the most was Noemi Taboada. Noemi is a real kick ass female lead, something of which I truly appreciated. She’s headstrong and determined, and I enjoyed her voice throughout the book and her love for her cousin. I also appreciated the tiny sliver of a romantic element that the story provides, along with the hint of a potential HEA in that regard.

Something that made me scratch my head a little was the big reveal itself–the true goings on at High Place, if you will. Again, I can’t say anything without giving everything away. I just couldn’t understand how it could possibly all work as described in the book. But like I said, I don’t normally read thrillers/horror. If I did, I think that the reveal would have been easier to swallow.

All in all, this is a really good read, one that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys a good mystery, who loves being creeped out, and who appreciates a lighter element of horror.
Dear Emmie Blue
Lia Louis

 
At sixteen, Emmie Blue stood in the fields of her school and released a red balloon into the sky. Attached was her name, her email address…and a secret she desperately wanted to be free of. Weeks later, on a beach in France, Lucas Moreau discovered the balloon and immediately emailed the attached addressed, sparking an intense friendship between the two teens.

Now, fourteen years later, Emmie is hiding the fact that she’s desperately in love with Lucas. She has pinned all her hopes on him and waits patiently for him to finally admit that she’s the one for him. So dedicated to her love for Lucas, Emmie has all but neglected her life outside of this relationship—she’s given up the search for her absentee father, no longer tries to build bridges with her distant mother, and lives as a lodger to an old lady she barely knows after being laid off from her job. And when Lucas tells Emmie he has a big question to ask her, she’s convinced this is the moment he’ll reveal his feelings for her. But nothing in life ever quite goes as planned, does it?

 
My Review
★★★★★/5

 
I didn’t think I was going to read a book this year that would dethrone Beach Read as being my favorite read of the year, but here we are. Dear Emmie Blue is without a doubt my favorite read of the year so far.

Emmie Blue has had a rough life. She has an, at best, absentee mother, no idea who her father is, and is ostracized by her entire school over a traumatic event that is nowhere near to being her fault as she’s accused – by a teacher and man she considered a father figure, no less. All alone in the world, at the age of sixteen, she releases a balloon that makes it all the way from England to France and to Lucas Moreau.

Lucas and Emmie, along with Lucas’s brother, Eliot, become fast friends, and forge a bond so strong, Emmie begins considering Lucas’s family her own. So, when Lucas asks Emmie to their favorite restaurant to tell her something important, Emmie immediately thinks it’s to take their relationship to the next level…not to tell her he’s engaged to be married to another woman.

Dear Emmie Blue is not only a love story. It’s the story of a broken woman who finds herself able to put the pieces of her life back together again to make herself whole. It’s the story of friendship, of facing your fears and insecurities, and realizing that sometimes the greatest love of your life has been right under your nose the whole time.

Like several of the other books I’ve read recently, the supporting characters in this book are on point. Fox and Rosie supplied some of the best comic relief and really lightened up some of the heavier moments in the story. I also enjoyed Louise, Emmie’s landlady/roommate and, of course, Eliot. Eliot is everything a man should be and more. He’s supportive, loyal, responsible, caring, funny, and thoughtful. The only bad thing I can say about the man is his taste in a certain woman, but that’s a whole different rant for another day.

Keep in mind this book deals with some pretty heavy subjects and it starts out incredibly depressing and slow. Stick with it! Trust me, you’ll be so glad you did!
 
 
Not Like the Movies
Kerry Winfrey

 
What happens when your life is a rom-com . . . but you don’t even believe in true love?

Chloe Sanderson is an optimist, and not because her life is easy. As the sole caregiver for her father, who has early-onset Alzheimer’s, she’s pretty much responsible for everything. She has no time—or interest—in getting swept up in some dazzling romance. Not like her best friend, Annie, who literally wrote a rom-com that’s about to premiere in theaters across America . . . and happens to be inspired by Chloe and her cute but no-nonsense boss, Nick Velez.

As the buzz for the movie grows, Chloe reads one too many listicles about why Nick is the perfect man, and now she can’t see him as anything but Reason #4: The scruffy-bearded hunk who’s always there when you need him. But unlike the romance Annie has written for them, Chloe isn’t so sure her own story will end in a happily-ever-after.

 
My Review
★★★★/5

 
I read Waiting for Tom Hanks with my book club and absolutely adored it so much that I didn’t hesitate to become part of the buddy read for Not Like The Movies. Just like Waiting for Tom Hanks, Not Like the Movies was filled with banter and one-liners that literally made me LOL, garnering questioning stares from the rest of my household.

Also, let’s discuss the cover. I love vibrant, bold colors, so this book earned instant brownie points with me based on the cover alone.

Also working in this book’s favor is the fact that Chloe is its MC. Chloe was one of my favorite characters from the first book, and I quickly became invested with her and Nick’s will-they-or-won’t-they relationship dynamic. Nick is Chloe’s boss at the coffee shop where Chloe proudly displays her baking prowess in the form of, mainly, pies and other pastries. Seriously, if you finish this book without craving pie, there’s something wrong with you.

I absolutely loved Chloe’s personality. She’s beyond hysterical, and there’s hardly a page where there isn’t a memorable line or two. She uses humor to deal with the hand she’s been dealt, being the sole caretaker for her father with Alzheimer’s and just trying to find her way in life, all while her best friend Annie’s career and love life are skyrocketing before her eyes (due to a romcom Annie wrote about Chloe and Nick, no less). I honestly related to Chloe and her constant need to please people and take everything on her shoulders. She reminded me a lot of myself in that way and inadvertently provided me with some insight into my own life.

The relationship between Chloe and Nick is cute. Nick is one of the sweetest LIs ever. He’s also one of the first people to ever take care of Chloe. However, I was a little frustrated with the way Chloe treated Nick, all because she was too afraid to allow herself to fall in love.

In all, I really enjoyed Not Like the Movies. Like Waiting for Tom Hanks, it was a quick, humorous read that was hard to put down (I may or may not have finished it before I was supposed to), with likable main characters and stellar supporting characters as well (Once again, coffee shop patron Gary practically carried the book for me). 
Waiting for Tom Hanks
Kerry Winfrey

 

Annie Cassidy dreams of being the next Nora Ephron. She spends her days writing screenplays, rewatching Sleepless in Seattle, and waiting for her movie-perfect meet-cute. If she could just find her own Tom Hanks—a man who’s sweet, sensitive, and possibly owns a houseboat—her problems would disappear and her life would be perfect. But Tom Hanks is nowhere in sight.

When a movie starts filming in her neighborhood and Annie gets a job on set, it seems like a sign. Then Annie meets the lead actor, Drew Danforth, a cocky prankster who couldn’t be less like Tom Hanks if he tried. Their meet-cute is more of a meet-fail, but soon Annie finds herself sharing some classic rom-com moments with Drew. Her Tom Hanks can’t be an actor who’s leaving town in a matter of days...can he?

 
My Review
★★★★★/5

I’d had Waiting for Tom Hanks sitting in my TBR pile for a few months when I saw that The Chicklit Book Club on Instagram was reading it as a buddy read. I decided then and there that it was fate that I read this book next, so I joined in.

And am I ever glad I did!

The MC, Annie, is a dreamer. She’s been obsessed with rom-coms her entire life, those featuring Tom Hanks, in particular. I mean, come on, it’s Tom Hanks. Who wasn’t obsessed with Tom Hanks in the '90s—or even now, really? As such, Annie has developed this skewed view on how her love life should play out, including a just as equally as distorted vision of who her Tom Hanks should be, so when she lands a job as an assistant to the director of a rom-com filming her hometown, she has an idea of who should play the lead character.

And it’s certainly not Drew Danforth.

Drew is known around Hollywood for being a bit of a prankster who’s unable to take life seriously. His reputation as a playboy precedes him everywhere he goes, and in Annie’s mind, he’s certainly no Tom Hanks.

Or is he?

Obviously, based upon my rating, I LOVED this book, despite the cheesiness (I mean, who doesn’t love cheese?). Part of what ensures a five-star rating for me is a book that captures my attention, has great banter, and stellar supporting characters. Let me tell you, this book has all of that and more. The banter between Annie and Drew is on point throughout the entire book. There was hardly a page where there wasn’t a line that made me chuckle, and it made it hard for me not to read ahead of the assigned chapters for the day (Spoiler alert: I ended up reading ahead, finishing the book early—oops!). But that’s how well this book is written; I didn’t want to stop! Also, the ending. THAT ending makes the whole book worth it in the end.

Of particular awesomeness (I think that’s a word), were the secondary characters. I adored Annie’s best friend Chloe, and coffee shop owner, employee, and patron, Nick, Tobin, and Gary. Uncle Don also added a nice touch to the story.

The only complaint I have is Annie’s tendency to be a tad immature at times. She jumps to conclusions all the time and reacts before having all of the information. Other than that, the story is beyond adorable and a nice escape from the world that 2020 has brought us. I will be reading anything and everything Kerry Winfrey puts out in the future.


 
BEACH READ
Emily Henry

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

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

They're polar opposites.

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

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

 
My Review
★★★★★/5

Full disclosure: this book instantly scored points with me solely based on the fact that it takes place in Western Michigan. I’m from West Michigan, and I appreciated reading about one of my favorite places—the Lake Michigan shoreline—and the name-dropping of cities of which I’m familiar, such as Grand Rapids. I haven’t read too many books set where I live, and this was a pleasant surprise.

Okay, on to the review.

January is a romance author, struggling with a bout of writer’s block (oh, how I can relate to that). After her father, with whom she was close, dies, January learns that he had been living a double life, with a girlfriend in North Bear Shores, Michigan. Also in North Bear Shores is a beach house at which her father would live with his girlfriend when he would go on “business trips”. Having inherited the beach house, January travels to Michigan for the summer to begin clearing it out in order to sell it. And that’s when she happens upon her next-door neighbor: college nemesis and fellow best-selling author, Augustus “Gus” Everett.

January quickly surmises that Gus, too, is suffering from writer’s block and comes up with the idea for them to essentially genre swap. Gus would spend the summer writing a story with a HEA ending, and January would write a story featuring darker and more serious content than she’s used to writing. Along the way, the pair go from passive-aggressive, but always witty, banter that literally made me LOL, to friends and then, eventually, so much more. I honestly fell in love with their relationship and was so frustrated that a simple misunderstanding and misreading of cues lead to January believing that Gus hated her, when nothing could have been further from the truth (an often-used trope in enemies-to-lovers romances). Nevertheless, I adored this book. The characters were well-written, and I totally fell in love with Gus.

There were just a couple of things I really didn’t care for. One of those things was the resolution between January and Sonya (aka That Woman). I wish there would have been more of a resolution than there was and, quite frankly, I would have loved it if January and Sonya could have made amends. I think that would ultimately have helped with January’s overall healing—though I did appreciate her growth in the book. The other thing that irritated me had to do with the reappearance of a certain someone in Gus’s life and a decision he claimed he had to make. In my opinion, this decision shouldn’t have had to have been made, and the unnecessary pain it caused January was a tad frustrating.

Obviously, given the fact that I gave this book five stars, those two issues really didn’t bother me too much. As a whole, Beach Read is a fabulous summer read, one that I’ll carry with me for a while.


 
The Hating Game
Sally Thorne

 

Nemesis (n.) 1) An opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome.

                       2) A person’s undoing

                       3) Joshua Templeman

Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman hate each other. Not dislike. Not begrudgingly tolerate. Hate. And they have no problem displaying their feelings through a series of ritualistic passive aggressive maneuvers as they sit across from each other, executive assistants to co-CEOs of a publishing company. Lucy can’t understand Joshua’s joyless, uptight, meticulous approach to his job. Joshua is clearly baffled by Lucy’s overly bright clothes, quirkiness, and Pollyanna attitude.

Now up for the same promotion, their battle of wills has come to a head and Lucy refuses to back down when their latest game could cost her her dream job…But the tension between Lucy and Joshua has also reached its boiling point, and Lucy is discovering that maybe she doesn’t hate Joshua. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game.
 

My Review
★★★★★/5

 

It took a bit for me to really get into this one, as it started out a bit slow, but once I did…Yowza! The chemistry between Lucy and Joshua is off the charts. I have a soft spot for enemies-to-lovers romances and this one did not disappoint.  Since day one, Joshua Templeman has hated Lucy Hutton’s very existence (or did he?) and the two engage in various “games” in an attempt to either one-up or just plain mess with each other.  The games are a bit juvenile but entertaining at the same time…until everything comes to a head in an elevator after work one night.

Joshua has been burned by those who should have loved him unconditionally, while Lucy has had a nearly perfect life, and their personalities reflect their life experiences.  Joshua is a hardened skeptic, while Lucy is more of a bubbly free spirit. They are total opposites, but when they come together, it’s pure magic. I really adored the slow burn and progression of Lucy and Joshua’s relationship. It was never dull and provided plenty of sweet and comical moments.

One of the few things I didn’t really care for, however, was Joshua’s jealousy and aggression toward another love interest of Lucy’s.  He reverted to a caveman mentality, his possessiveness becoming a bit too much at times. There were also a couple of twists that I saw coming a mile away, and I never could quite understand why Lucy had decided to quit if Joshua was promoted over her. But other than those minor gripes, I loved the flow of the story and was thoroughly rooting for a HEA for Lucy and Josh.

Does said HEA come to fruition? I guess you’ll have to read to find out.

One to Watch
Kate Stayman-London

 
Bea Schumacher is a devastatingly stylish plus-size fashion blogger who has amazing friends, a devoted family, legions of Insta followers—and a massively broken heart. Like the rest of America, Bea indulges in her weekly obsession: the hit reality show Main Squeeze. The fantasy dates! The kiss-off rejections! The surprising amount of guys named Chad! But Bea is sick and tired of the lack of body diversity on the show. Since when is being a size zero a prerequisite for getting engaged on television?

Just when Bea has sworn off dating altogether, she gets an intriguing call: Main Squeeze wants her to be its next star, surrounded by men vying for her affections. Bea agrees, on one condition—under no circumstances will she actually fall in love. She’s in this to supercharge her career, subvert harmful beauty standards, inspire women across America, and get a free hot air balloon ride. That’s it.

But when the cameras start rolling, Bea realizes things are more complicated than she anticipated. She’s in a whirlwind of sumptuous couture, Internet culture wars, sexy suitors, and an opportunity (or two, or five) to find messy, real-life love in the midst of a made-for-TV fairy tale. In this joyful, wickedly observant debut, Bea has to decide whether it might just be worth trusting these men—and herself—for a chance to live happily ever after.

 
My Review
★★★★★/5

 
First of all, let me say that I’ve never read a book written the way this one is written. The use of tweets, blog posts, podcasts, magazine articles, and other forms of social media and press to tell the story were very unique, and I felt they added a lot to the book. I’m not usually one for reality television shows, but I have found myself covertly indulging in The Bachelor here and there, mainly live-tweeting all of its absurdities on Twitter. And in many ways, I felt this book was a bit of a satire, pointing out all of the ridiculousness and the obvious ways unscripted television is actually scripted, and that our choices aren’t always our own.

I really appreciated MC Bea’s growth throughout the book. Initially, I wasn’t certain whether I was going to like her, and I was worried that I may end up disliking the book because of that. She was constantly down on herself, pessimistic, and instantly thought the worst of everyone she met. Oh, and she slept with her best friend who was engaged to be married to another woman. But then I thought about everything Bea had been through in her life, and the torment a few of the contestants put her through on the show, along with all of the horrendous commentary from the internet trolls and asshats of the world, and I realized that I may be just as pessimistic and judgmental as Bea was had I’d been subjected to that my whole life.

However, as the story progressed, a beautiful thing happened: Bea began to grow more and more self-confident and was actually somewhat of a badass. And. I. Was. Here. For. That.

If you’re going into One to Watch expecting a romantic comedy, be prepared to get so much more. Yes, there’s romance and, yes, there’s comedy, but at its core, the story is about finding yourself and the strength to move beyond your past. It’s a story about loving yourself for who you are, perceived flaws and all, and not allowing anyone else to steal your light.

Yes, I loved One to Watch for many, many reasons, but the actual romance was just the cherry on top of an otherwise fabulous sundae (also, the guy I wanted to “win” won in the end, so there’s that, too).
Happy & You Know It
Laura Hankin

A dark, witty page-turner about a struggling young musician who takes a job singing for a playgroup of overprivileged babies and their effortlessly cool moms, only to find herself pulled into their glamorous lives and dangerous secrets....
 
After her former band shot to superstardom without her, Claire reluctantly agrees to a gig as a playgroup musician for wealthy infants on New York's Park Avenue. Claire is surprised to discover that she is smitten with her new employers, a welcoming clique of wellness addicts with impossibly shiny hair, who whirl from juice cleanse to overpriced miracle vitamins to spin class with limitless energy.
 
There is perfect hostess Whitney who is on the brink of social-media stardom and just needs to find a way to keep her flawless life from falling apart. Caustically funny, recent stay-at-home mom Amara who is struggling to embrace her new identity. And old money, veteran mom Gwen who never misses an opportunity to dole out parenting advice. But as Claire grows closer to the stylish women who pay her bills, she uncovers secrets and betrayals that no amount of activated charcoal can fix.
 
Filled with humor and shocking twists, Happy and You Know It is a brilliant take on motherhood – exposing it as yet another way for society to pass judgment on women – while also exploring the baffling magnetism of curated social-media lives that are designed to make us feel unworthy. But, ultimately, this dazzling novel celebrates the unlikely bonds that form, and the power that can be unlocked, when a group of very different women is thrown together when each is at her most vulnerable.

 
My Review
★★★★★/5
 
Initially, Happy & You Know It took me a couple of chapters to really get into it, but once I did, all I can say is WOW. This was one crazy roller coaster of a book, and I loved every minute of it. The drama was off the charts, keeping me glued to my chair.

The book starts off with Claire, a down-on-her-luck musician who was let go from her band, Vagabond, that, of course, later hit it big with a new singer and a song that Claire helped them write. Finding herself unemployed, Claire accepts a job singing for a playgroup comprised of women with more privileged lives than she has ever known. However, underneath the women’s perfectly polished and poised exteriors are secrets that could threaten to not only tarnish their picture-perfect images, but also destroy the lives they’ve built for themselves.

Told from the perspectives of several of the women, namely Claire, Amara, Whitney, and Gwen, Happy & You Know It is also a bit of a satire when it comes to the absurdities and impossible expectations placed on new and veteran mothers to be “perfect” and raise the “perfect children”. I related to it in so many ways and found myself cracking up quite a bit, especially whenever Amara was in the picture. Seriously, I want to be besties with Amara—she’s amazing and swears like a sailor. Oh, and that twist—yeah, I NEVER saw that twist coming.

So, yes, I absolutely adored Happy & You Know It and will emphatically recommend it to anyone and everyone looking for a fun escape from life in general.

Verity
Colleen Hoover


Lowen Ashleigh is a struggling writer on the brink of financial ruin when she accepts the job offer of a lifetime. Jeremy Crawford, husband of bestselling author Verity Crawford, has hired Lowen to complete the remaining books in a successful series his injured wife is unable to finish. 

Lowen arrives at the Crawford home, ready to sort through years of Verity's notes and outlines, hoping to find enough material to get her started. What Lowen doesn't expect to uncover in the chaotic office is an unfinished autobiography Verity never intended for anyone to read. Page after page of bone-chilling admissions, including Verity's recollection of the night their family was forever altered. 

Lowen decides to keep the manuscript hidden from Jeremy, knowing its contents would devastate the already grieving father. But as Lowen's feelings for Jeremy begin to intensify, she recognizes all the ways she could benefit if he were to read his wife's words. After all, no matter how devoted Jeremy is to his injured wife, a truth this horrifying would make it impossible for him to continue to love her. 

Due to graphic scenes and mature content, this book is recommended for readers 18+.

My Review

★★★★/5

It’s no secret that I’m a huge Colleen Hoover fan, and Verity certainly doesn’t disappoint, even though it was NOTHING like I expected it would be. Verity was a dark and, at times, creepy thriller that kept me on the edge of my seat and my headphones firmly planted to my ears. I really related to Lowen Ashleigh and felt a kinship with her…at first. (Like Lowen, I’m also an introvert who really only ventures out of the house when I have to.) However, the deeper into the book I got, the further I began to distance myself from Lowen and her choices.  You see, around three-quarters to the very end of the book, things take a drastic turn, and I found myself feeling sorry for Verity Crawford, who was basically the antagonist throughout the entire book. It was at this point that a five-star read became a four-star read for me. I can’t get into too much detail without basically spoiling the book for you, but I will say that I HATED the decision that Lowen and Jeremy made at the end. I believe a completely different choice could have been made (and should have been made) to handle the situation, especially given what Lowen finds later. Lowen and Jeremy’s relationship was also an issue for me. In the beginning, after Lowen finds Verity’s secret manuscript, I was all for it, but as the relationship progressed, it kind of weirded me out a little, especially with Verity being under the same roof. 

Still, Verity is a psychological thriller that really did a number on me, and I honestly still don’t know what to believe when it comes to Verity Crawford, which is a true testament to Colleen Hoover’s gifted storytelling abilities.

 

Valentine
Elizabeth Wetmore

 
Mercy is hard in a place like this . . .

It’s February 1976, and Odessa, Texas, stands on the cusp of the next great oil boom. While the town’s men embrace the coming prosperity, its women intimately know and fear the violence that always seems to follow.

In the early hours of the morning after Valentine’s Day, fourteen-year-old Gloria Ramírez appears on the front porch of Mary Rose Whitehead’s ranch house, broken and barely alive. The teenager had been viciously attacked in a nearby oil field—an act of brutality that is tried in the churches and barrooms of Odessa before it can reach a court of law. When justice is evasive, the stage is set for a showdown with potentially devastating consequences.

Valentine is a haunting exploration of the intersections of violence and race, class and region in a story that plumbs the depths of darkness and fear, yet offers a window into beauty and hope. Told through the alternating points of view of indelible characters who burrow deep in the reader’s heart, this fierce, unflinching, and surprisingly tender novel illuminates women’s strength and vulnerability, and reminds us that it is the stories we tell ourselves that keep us alive.

 
My Review
★★★★★/5

 
Elizabeth Wetmore’s Valentine is a poignant, beautifully descriptive look into 1970s West Texas, where the oil industry is booming as much as the misogyny. It’s the story of the brutal rape and beating of a teenage Hispanic girl at the hands of a white, well-liked local man, and the resulting fallout throughout a town gripped by its own racist beliefs.  The story is told through the perspective of five women of varying classes and beliefs and contains just as much hope as it does despair.

I loved the female-driven storyline, especially the characters of Mary Rose Whitehead and Corrine Shepard. Mary Rose is a take charge, take no crap kind of woman who understands that a woman’s place isn’t in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant. She stands up for her convictions, despite facing threats and ostracization from the rest of the town. She’s the kind of woman I hope to be. Corrine is a lot like Mary Rose, except she adds slightly more humor to the mix. A retired schoolteacher, Corrine is a recent widower who needed the permission of her husband to return to work after their daughter is born. When I reached this point in the audiobook, I had to remind myself of the year this story is set. To think that only 40 years ago, this kind of thing was taking place is absolutely mind-blowing.

As much as I loved the beautiful flow of the author’s writing and many of her characters, I felt that the five different character perspectives were a bit too much and made the story hard to follow at times.  It also felt like some of the weaker character’s voices were lost among the voices of the stronger ones. Still, it’s a brilliant story and a breathtaking debut by Ms. Wetmore. I highly, highly recommend this read.


 
The Happy Ever After Playlist
Abby Jimenez


 
Two years after losing her fiancé, Sloan Monroe still can't seem to get her life back on track. But one trouble-making pup with a "take me home" look in his eyes is about to change everything. With her new pet by her side, Sloan finally starts to feel more like herself. Then, after weeks of unanswered texts, Tucker's owner reaches out. He's a musician on tour in Australia. And bottom line: He wants Tucker back.

Well, Sloan's not about to give up her dog without a fight. But what if this Jason guy really loves Tucker? As their flirty texts turn into long calls, Sloan can't deny a connection. Jason is hot and nice and funny. There's no telling what could happen when they meet in person. The question is: With his music career on the rise, how long will Jason really stick around? And is it possible for Sloan to survive another heartbreak?
 

My Review

★★★★/5

What a sweet, delightful, well-written romp this was! The story starts out with one of the MCs, Sloan Monroe, on her way to visit the grave of her fiancé, who was killed in a tragic motorcycle accident. While on her way, a dog runs out in front of her. Believing the dog to be dead, she’s shocked when he climbs onto her car and crawls inside her broken sunroof.  Sloan is eventually able to locate and contact the dog’s owner, Jason (aka rising music star Jackson Waters), who is presently working outside the country, and the two engage in witty banter via phone calls and texts as Sloan makes Jason prove his love for Tucker (aka the dog). What follows is a brilliant romance surrounding the trials and tribulations of a blossoming love and the complexities presented with falling for someone in the music industry. The story is both beautiful, heartbreaking, and, at times, extremely frustrating (there’s something Jason tells Sloan to protect her, but of which I thought was completely unnecessary), but the ending (OMG, that ending!) makes up for it.
 
Don't You Forget About Me
Mhairi McFarlane

 

You always remember your first love... don’t you?

If there’s anything worse than being fired from the worst restaurant in town, it’s coming home early to find your boyfriend in bed with someone else. Reeling from the humiliation of a double dumping in one day, Georgina takes the next job that comes her way—bartender in a newly opened pub. There’s only one problem: it’s run by the guy she fell in love with years ago. And—make that two problems—he doesn’t remember her. At all. But she has fabulous friends and her signature hot pink fur coat... what more could a girl really need?

Lucas McCarthy has not only grown into a broodingly handsome man, but he’s also turned into an actual grown-up, with a thriving business and a dog along the way. Crossing paths with him again throws Georgina’s rocky present into sharp relief—and brings a secret from her past bubbling to the surface. Only she knows what happened twelve years ago, and why she’s allowed the memories to chase her ever since. But maybe it’s not too late for the truth... or a second chance with the one that got away?
 

My Review

★★★★/5

I have to admit, it was hard for me to get into this book at first. The first third or so of the book more or less seemed to drag, and I was worried I wasn’t going to finish it. The MC, Georgina, is having a bad day, to say the least. After being fired from her shitty waitressing job at an equally as shitty restaurant, she goes to her boyfriend’s apartment to find him sleeping with another woman. Ugh..Robin. I detested Robin, and it wasn’t only because he was cheating on Georgina.  He’s just a vile human, and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what Georgina ever saw in him to begin with. Aside from being a mildly famous comedian, there really wasn’t anything about him that’s special or in any way attractive. Actually, I wanted to puke every time one of his scenes came up, especially when he began blatantly harassing Georgina.

Just when I thought all hope was lost and I was going to abandon ship, here comes Lucas McCarthy.  Lucas happens to be the owner of the new restaurant Georgina is hired into. Lucas and Georgina dated in high school and were quite serious; so serious in fact that Georgina was going to give her virginity to Lucas before he abruptly broke up with her. Now here they are twelve or so years later, face to face. Georgina recognizes Lucas right away, though Lucas doesn’t seem to know who she is at all. That was one of the more unbelievable aspects of the story. A lot can change in twelve years, but short of plastic surgery or a REALLY hard life, a person’s change in appearance from 18 to 30 is probably not going to be too drastic. At least, not enough for you to completely not recognize the person you were supposedly in love with once upon a time. When Lucas doesn’t seem to recognize Georgina, she goes along with it to avoid the awkwardness of the two of them working together.

As the story progresses, the attraction between Georgina and Lucas is quite evident and comes to a head, wherein Lucas reveals to Georgina that nothing can ever happen between them because, from his perspective, Georgina was the one who broke his heart. Little does Lucas know how wrong he actually is and what devastating secret Georgina has kept to herself the whole time.

I thoroughly enjoyed the last half of this book. The chemistry between Lucas and Georgina was well done and there were plenty of LOL moments in the book.  I just wish it would have strayed away from the played-out “it was all a misunderstanding” trope, but all in all, it was a great read.



 
The Unhoneymooners
Christina Lauren

 
Olive Torres is used to being the unlucky twin: from inexplicable mishaps to a recent layoff, her life seems to be almost comically jinxed. By contrast, her sister Ami is an eternal champion . . . she even managed to finance her entire wedding by winning a slew of contests. Unfortunately for Olive, the only thing worse than constant bad luck is having to spend the wedding day with the best man (and her nemesis), Ethan Thomas.

Olive braces herself for wedding hell, determined to put on a brave face, but when the entire wedding party gets food poisoning, the only people who aren’t affected are Olive and Ethan. Suddenly there’s a free honeymoon up for grabs, and Olive will be damned if Ethan gets to enjoy paradise solo.

Agreeing to a temporary truce, the pair head for Maui. After all, ten days of bliss is worth having to assume the role of loving newlyweds, right? But the weird thing is . . . Olive doesn’t mind playing pretend. In fact, the more she pretends to be the luckiest woman alive, the more it feels like she might be.

 
My Review
★★★★/5

One of the great things about books is their inherent ability to completely pull you away from the trial and tribulations of real life, making you momentarily forget they even exist at all. It’s escapism, pure and simple. And that’s exactly what The Unhoneymooners is – escapism at its finest.

The Unhoneymooners tells the story of “enemies” Olive Torres and Ethan Thomas, who find themselves having to set aside their differences after disaster strikes at the wedding of Olive’s sister and Ehtan’s brother, Ami and Dane. A buffet of bad seafood strickens everyone but Olive and Ethan with severe food poisoning. Unable to go on their honeymoon, Ami, suggests that Olive and Ethan go in their place, posing as the newlyweds. Being Ami’s identical twin sister, it wouldn’t be hard for Olive to pass for Ami, and after a lifetime of terrible luck, she accepts Ami’s offer, despite knowing she’ll be stuck with Ethan the entire time. What ensues is a relationship that blossoms from disdain fueled by a misunderstanding, to friendship, to lust, and, eventually, love.

I adored this story and read it fairly quickly. It was an easy read that offered plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. In particular, I enjoyed the banter between Olive and Ethan, both of whom seemed to adore getting under the other’s skin. The character development was on point and the story never became stagnant. It flowed continuously, keeping this reader glued to the pages.

However, there were just three things I didn’t really care for.

For starters, the misunderstanding that occurred shortly after Olive and Ethan first met years before the events of this book take place was, in a sense, ridiculous, stemming from Olive believing that Ethan was body shaming her for consuming cheese curds in front of him. It’s hard to believe this misunderstanding could result in a grudge that lasted for years and even harder to believe that Olive wouldn’t have confronted Ethan sooner. Next, Olive is fired for a lie she told to her new boss on her first day on the job. In my opinion, it was a dumb thing to be fired over. The lie Olive told in no way affected her work or anyone or anything at her new job. As such, I find it hard to believe that any employer could fire their employee over something so trivial. Lastly, toward the end of the book we find out something troubling about one of the characters (I’ll spare you the spoilers). When this information comes to light, instead of supporting Olive, Ethan and Ami completely turn on her. For me that was hard to swallow and really left a bad taste in my mouth concerning those two characters.

Despite my minor gripes, I thoroughly enjoyed The Unhoneymooners. It’s a charming, witty rom-com that serves as the perfect distraction to the insanity going on in the world today.

 
 
Well Met
Jen DeLuca
 
Emily knew there would be strings attached when she relocated to the small town of Willow Creek, Maryland, for the summer to help her sister recover from an accident, but who could anticipate getting roped into volunteering for the local Renaissance Faire alongside her teenaged niece? Or that the irritating and inscrutable schoolteacher in charge of the volunteers would be so annoying that she finds it impossible to stop thinking about him?

The faire is Simon's family legacy and from the start he makes clear he doesn't have time for Emily's lighthearted approach to life, her oddball Shakespeare conspiracy theories, or her endless suggestions for new acts to shake things up. Yet on the faire grounds he becomes a different person, flirting freely with Emily when she's in her revealing wench's costume. But is this attraction real, or just part of the characters they're portraying?

This summer was only ever supposed to be a pit stop on the way to somewhere else for Emily, but soon she can't seem to shake the fantasy of establishing something more with Simon or a permanent home of her own in Willow Creek.

My Review

★★★★/5


“I didn’t choose the wench life. The wench life chose me.”

This is one of the best first lines in any book I’ve ever read. It seriously sets the tone for this delightful romcom that can only be summed up in one word: cute.

After her douchebag ex leaves her high and dry and suddenly homeless, Emily is forced to leave her life behind to begin anew in the small town of Willow Creek, Maryland. Emily moves into the home of her sister, April, who was in a terrible car accident, which left her with a shattered leg and an inability to properly take care of her teenage daughter. Emily assumes somewhat of a motherly role, taking care of her niece, Caitlin, basically shuttling her to wherever she needs to go. So, when Caitlin tries out for the town’s annual Renaissance Faire, Emily tags along and “volunteers” to take part in the Ren Faire so that Caitlin can participate in it.

And that’s where we meet Simon Graham.

Simon Graham is uptight and, for some reason that’s not apparent, really seems to dislike Emily. That’s one of the few problems I had with this book. It’s an enemies to lovers romance, but the reason why the two characters are enemies is never fully fleshed out. Simon is rude to Emily and Emily can’t stand Simon because he’s rude, but that’s about it. I think one of the reasons for the animosity may have been because Simon didn’t feel like Emily was taking the Ren Faire seriously. The Ren Faire means everything to Simon, as it was started by his late brother who tragically passed away from cancer three years prior. Since his brother’s passing, Simon has made it his mission to keep his brother’s legacy alive, almost obsessively so.

Unqualified for many of the positions with the Ren Faire, Emily is designated as a tavern wench, a role she takes to naturally having been a bartender. Over the course of the summer, Emily becomes acquainted with the residents of the small town she was forced to move to and actually begins to enjoy her role at the Ren Faire, even finding herself hopelessly drawn to Simon, who takes on the confident, flirtatious persona of the pirate character he portrays at the Faire.

Simon and Emily’s romance is a slow burn, which I enjoyed. The buildup was handled well and kept me listening (I listened to the whole book in one day). I loved peeling back Simon’s layers and getting to know him better. Simon is clearly damaged, as is Emily, and together they heal each other’s wounds. Like I said above, all in all, this was a cute read, with some pretty funny moments interlaced within. The audiobook was well-narrated, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a sweet romcom to pass the time.
The Worst Best Man
Mia Sosa


A wedding planner left at the altar? Yeah, the irony isn’t lost on Carolina Santos, either. But despite that embarrassing blip from her past, Lina’s offered an opportunity that could change her life. There’s just one hitch… she has to collaborate with the best (make that worst) man from her own failed nuptials. 

Marketing expert Max Hartley is determined to make his mark with a coveted hotel client looking to expand its brand. Then he learns he’ll be working with his brother’s whip-smart, stunning—absolutely off-limits—ex-fiancée. And she loathes him. 

If they can nail their presentation without killing each other, they’ll both come out ahead. Except Max has been public enemy number one ever since he encouraged his brother to jilt the bride, and Lina’s ready to dish out a little payback of her own. 

Soon Lina and Max discover animosity may not be the only emotion creating sparks between them. Still, this star-crossed couple can never be more than temporary playmates because Lina isn’t interested in falling in love and Max refuses to play runner-up to his brother ever again...

My Review

★★★★/5

The Worst Best Man took me a bit to get into, but once I did, I was hooked, and I finished the audiobook in two days. I don't know what it was about Lina, the MC, but I couldn't warm up to her at first. I think she was just too abrasive for my taste. However, like the story, I eventually began to relate to her, especially when she finally started to let her guard down and revealed that she had formerly been a paralegal who was fired after making a mistake. As a paralegal, I know all about the anxiety associated with that scenario.

Max, on the other hand, I took to right away. He was everything I adore in a LI. Funny, smart, with a rough exterior that easily melts away to reveal a soft, marshmallowesque interior. Yet, beneath the cockiness he projected, he was full of self-doubt brought on by feelings of inferiority when comparing himself to his brother, Andrew.

Andrew was a spineless weasel who left Lina at the altar after making Max deliver the news. Instead of Andrew, however, Lina blamed Max for her fiancé’s cold feet due to a text message sent by Andrew the night before.

Years later, Max, Andrew, and Lina find themselves brought together again when the three of them vie for a coveted position working with a popular hotel. 

And that's where the story really takes off.

A relationship characterized by sheer loathing (more by Lina than Max) gradually turns into a slow burn romance, peppered with numerous laugh out loud moments and plenty of steam.

But can Lina and Max move beyond their past to a well-deserved HEA? I guess you'll have to read/listen to find out. 

 

 

Where The Crawdads Sing
Delia Owens

 
For years, rumors of the "Marsh Girl" have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life--until the unthinkable happens.
 
My Review 
 
★★★★★/5

I can't even begin to describe this book. I've never read anything quite like it, and I probably never will again. Each sentence was pure poetry, and the ending-oh, that ending-was the definition of poetic justice. Ms. Owens does a fabulous job creating both characters the reader loves and characters the reader loves to hate. I can't tell you how often I felt compelled to wrap my arms around Kya Clark (aka "The Marsh Girl"), a girl who only wanted to be loved and never abandoned again. I found myself inspired by Kya's strength, her tenacity, and her love of nature-the one constant in her life. Ms. Owens' descriptions of the marshlands, estuaries, and various flora and fauna were so vivid you honestly felt like you were standing on the shore with Kya feeding the gulls. Where the Crawdads Sing was by far one of the best books I've read in quite a while, and I highly recommend it to, well, everyone.

Sanctum
Sarah Fine


"My plan: Get into the city. Get Nadia. Find a way out. Simple."

A week ago, seventeen-year-old Lela Santos’s best friend, Nadia, killed herself. Today, thanks to a farewell ritual gone awry, Lela is standing in paradise, looking upon a vast gated city in the distance – hell. No one willingly walks through the Suicide Gates, into a place smothered in darkness and infested with depraved creatures. But Lela isn’t just anyone – she’s determined to save her best friend’s soul, even if it means sacrificing her eternal afterlife.

As Lela struggles to find Nadia, she’s captured by the Guards, enormous, not-quite-human creatures that patrol the dark city’s endless streets. Their all-too human leader, Malachi, is unlike them in every way except one: his deadly efficiency. When he meets Lela, Malachi forms his own plan: get her out of the city, even if it means she must leave Nadia behind. Malachi knows something Lela doesn’t – the dark city isn’t the worst place Lela could end up, and he will stop at nothing to keep her from that fate.

Delirium
Lauren Oliver


In an alternate United States, love has been declared a dangerous disease, and the government forces everyone who reaches eighteen to have a procedure called the Cure. Living with her aunt, uncle, and cousins in Portland, Maine, Lena Haloway is very much looking forward to being cured and living a safe, predictable life. She watched love destroy her mother and isn't about to make the same mistake.

But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena meets enigmatic Alex, a boy from the Wilds who lives under the government's radar. What will happen if they do the unthinkable and fall in love?

It Ends With Us 
Colleen Hoover
Lily hasn’t always had it easy, but that’s never stopped her from working hard for the life she wants. She’s come a long way from the small town in Maine where she grew up—she graduated from college, moved to Boston, and started her own business. So when she feels a spark with a gorgeous neurosurgeon named Ryle Kincaid, everything in Lily’s life suddenly seems almost too good to be true.

Ryle is assertive, stubborn, maybe even a little arrogant. He’s also sensitive, brilliant, and has a total soft spot for Lily. And the way he looks in scrubs certainly doesn’t hurt. Lily can’t get him out of her head. But Ryle’s complete aversion to relationships is disturbing. Even as Lily finds herself becoming the exception to his “no dating” rule, she can’t help but wonder what made him that way in the first place.

As questions about her new relationship overwhelm her, so do thoughts of Atlas Corrigan—her first love and a link to the past she left behind. He was her kindred spirit, her protector. When Atlas suddenly reappears, everything Lily has built with Ryle is threatened.

My Review

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ /5

"In the future... if by some miracle you ever find yourself in the position to fall in love again... fall in love with me.” 

Oh, my word. I cannot express how powerful this book was. It touched me on such a deeply emotional and personal level. It was probably the most accurate portrayal of what it's like to be in an abusive relationship I've read. How hard it can be to walk away and how brave those who do are. I can't wait for the movie! 

 
The Guernsey Literary and
Potato Peel Pie Society
Mary Ann Shaffer and Anne Barrows
“I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some sort of secret homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers.”

January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb. . . .

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members
were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all.

Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives. Captivated by their stories, she sets sail for Guernsey, and what she finds will change her forever.


 
My Review
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ /5

I saw the movie based on this book on NetFlix and loved it so much that I picked up the book. There are some pretty significant differences between the two. The movie had more of a romantic element. But overall, I enjoyed the book and the history surrounding Guernsey during World War II.

 
The Time Traveler's Wife
Audrey Niffenegger

A MOST UNTRADITIONAL LOVE STORY, this is the celebrated tale of Henry DeTamble, a dashing, adventuresome librarian who inadvertently travels through time, and Clare Abshire, an artist whose life takes a natural sequential course. Henry and Clare’s passionate affair endures across a sea of time and captures them in an impossibly romantic trap that tests the strength of fate and basks in the bonds of love.
Water for Elephants
Sara Gruen
Jacob Janowski's luck had run out--orphaned and penniless, he had no direction until he landed on a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. A veterinary student just shy of a degree, he was put in charge of caring for the circus menagerie. It was the Great Depression and for Jacob the circus was both his salvation and a living hell. There he met Marlena, the beautiful equestrian star married to August, the charismatic but brutal animal trainer. And he met Rosie, an untrainable elephant who was the great hope for this third-rate traveling show. The bond that grew among this group of misfits was one of love and trust, and ultimately, it was their only hope for survival.
RED QUEEN
Victoria Aveyard

Mare Barrow's world is divided by blood—those with common, Red blood serve the Silver-blooded elite, who are gifted with superhuman abilities. Mare is a Red, scraping by as a thief in a poor, rural village, until a twist of fate throws her in front of the Silver court. Before the king, princes, and all the nobles, she discovers she has an ability of her own.

To cover up this impossibility, the king forces her to play the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks everything and uses her new position to help the Scarlet Guard—a growing Red rebellion—even as her heart tugs her in an impossible direction.

One wrong move can lead to her death, but in the dangerous game she plays, the only certainty is betrayal.

 

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