Posted in Contemporary Romance, LGBTQIA+

Don’t Miss: Love & Other Disasters

Can you cook your way into someone’s heart?

Thank you to Forever (Grand Central Publishing) and @netgalley for the complimentary digital copy for review.

Dahlia is looking to reinvent herself as a contestant on the popular cooking competition show, Chef’s Special. But she meets London, who is also a competitor and like no one she’s ever met before. When they announce their pronouns on national TV, London’s focus is pulled while trying to manage their family and the internet trolls that feel the need to comment. Dahlia and London grow closer and become support for each other as well as competitors.

Cooking competition shows are a favorite of mine, so it was fun to hear about the recipes and the fails/successes with the food and judging.

This is the first novel I’ve read with a nonbinary character and I loved it. I hope it becomes more commonplace. While there is transphobia and misgendering as a content warning, I love the way it was addressed in the story. Neither Dahlia and London were heteronormative and it was a refreshing take to see the interaction as the main story. The diversity in the cast of characters was phenomenal.

Posted in Domestic Suspense

Don’t Miss: The Favor

How far would you go to protect a friend?

Thank you to Minotaur Books and @netgalley for the complimentary digital book for review.

Leah and McKenna are leading parallel lives. While they have never met each other, Leah recognizes the signs when she sees Makenna in a liquor store. Leah decides to follow McKenna to see if she’s correct and when her suspicions are confirmed she decides to do something to protect her. After all, if she can’t help herself, she can at least try to help McKenna. 

In this gripping debut, Nora Murphy introduces us to two flawed women who are living a life of torture. In the public eye, these women were successful in careers, living in a beautiful community, and had everything they could ever want. Slowly, their husbands isolated and took from them the things that meant most in order to completely control their wives. It was difficult to read about, but it was a reminder that we never know what is happening behind closed doors. 

Told in the alternating voices of Leah, McKenna, and Detective Harrison, and flipping between past and present, there is a lot going on and it takes focus to keep track of it all. The emotion of the characters and the storyline made me want to keep reading. I needed to know if there was going to be a good outcome for the women. 

I think this book would lead to a lot of discussions of “What would you do?” and would be a great choice for book clubs. 

Trigger Warning: Domestic Violence

Posted in Contemporary Fiction, Mystery

Don’t Miss: Big Summer

“You are fine, just the way you are… Bodies come in all shapes and sized. Don’t let anyone make you feel any differently.”

Daphne has been living her life as a plus sized influencer who is being courted by a new plus-size designer to rep her line. It has taken Daphne some time to get to a place in her life where she can put her “mean girl” friend, Drue, behind her. But Drue shows up with an apology and a proposition for Daphne to be in her wedding, and Daphne can’t resist the pull of her former friend. Is Daphne headed for more heartbreak?

When I got this book, it looked like a fluffy summer read, but it turned out to be so much more. The main character, Daphne, is plus-sized, and Jennifer Weiner handled this issue so well. Body shaming that leads to body positivity. Daphne is a true heroine. Parts of this book were hard to read because Daphne was so relatable and her struggles were easy to internalize.

Unbeknownst to me, this also has a great little murder mystery involved too. It reads kind of like a cozy mystery as Daphne and her crew are actually the people who get to the bottom of the mystery. I enjoyed this part of the story immensely.

Jennifer Weiner never disappoints with her real women characters and engaging plot lines!

Posted in Horror

Don’t Miss: Just Like Mother

The power of a mother over her child cannot be denied.

Thank you to Tor Nightlife and @netgalley for the complimentary digital book for review.

Maeve and her cousin, Andrea, escape a cult as children. They were separated and haven’t seen each other since then. So when Andrea finally tracks Maeve down, they pick up where they left off. Andrea invites Maeve to spend time with her at her sprawling mansion and exposes her to her fertility business, which involves lifelike baby dolls. The more time Maeve spends with Andrea, the more disconnected she begins to feel with her real life. Until the unthinkable happens.

All I can say is – What the heck did I just read?! I tend to be drawn to books about cults, even though they really freak me out. Having a cult as the backstory in the lives of these characters made me question the motives of everyone involved. But even in my wildest imagination, I could not have guessed where this one would go. It was horrifying. Beware of Mother!

Posted in Psychological Thriller, Suspense

Don’t Miss: Can’t Look Away

Do you believe in love at first sight?

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press and @netgalley for the complimentary digital book for review.

When Molly and Jack’s eyes meet across a room in 2013, they fall madly in love. Molly is a barista who wants to be a writer and Jack is the lead singer of a band. Their love allows Jack to write a song that puts his band on the map and their fame is what finally tears Jack and Molly apart. Or so they think. Fast forward to the present, Molly is married to Hunter and a mother. Her dream of writing has faded and she’s lonely. Until she meets Sabrina. Sabrina relates to Molly over fertility struggles and yoga, and Molly is excited to have finally found a friend. Unfortunately, Sabrina has her own motivation for befriending Molly, and it’s not exactly friendly.

The structure of this book is one that really stands out. Molly’s chapters are told in third person, but Sabrina’s are in first person and refer to Molly in second person. Makes one wonder if we’re hearing Molly’s story or Sabrina’s. Which does the author want us to think is the protagonist? I found the writing style and the alternating voices fascinating. There is not much a reviewer can say without revealing too much because the first twist happens pretty early on. What I can confidently share is that Lovering takes you on a ride. The alternating emotions in the chapters keep you wanting to read more. I love the way the author’s mind works and I can’t wait to read more from her.

Posted in Romance

Don’t Miss: The Bodyguard

How can you protect your heart?

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press, Macmillan Audio, and Netgalley for the complimentary digital and audiobook for review.

Hannah Brooks doesn’t look like a traditional bodyguard, which makes her the perfect choice to work with mega movie star Jack Stapleton. A family tragedy caused Jack to set away from the spotlight, but that doesn’t stop a crazed corgi-loving fan from stalking him. When Jack’s mom gets sick and he’s forced to appear in public again, he needs protection from his stalker. Hannah is definitely up for the job, but it may be more than she bargained for.

Ah, there is something about the way Katherine Center writes characters and dialogue. I loved Hannah. She is a woman breaking into the stereotype of a man’s job. She is a tough, albeit little, woman who knows how to handle herself and Jack. Jack was a character I loved right away because you could tell there was so much heart under the hurt. Jack’s brother, on the other hand… I would have loved to see Hannah demonstrate her takedown on him!

Woven through the protection storyline, Hannah was dealing with her own discovery of self worth. It was a joy to watch her grow and evolve. Jack also had his own backstory and trauma to deal with. I loved the way the storylines all merged together. The Bodyguard was yet another amazing book from Katherine Center!

Posted in Contemporary Romance, RomCom

Don’t Miss: Maggie Moves On

Can you DIY your love life?

Thank you to Forever and Netgalley for the complimentary digital book for review.

YouTube star and house-flipper Maggie Nichols finds her next project in the little town of Kinship, Idaho. The sprawling Victorian Mansion comes with more than just the promise of a project of a lifetime. It also has its very own mystery. Plus, the cute landscaper, Silas Wright will make Maggie question all of her future plans. Can be be her Mr. Wright?

I love DIY shows! Seeing a project go from nothing to something spectacular is always so rewarding. So I was super excited to read this book. Maggie is a strong, independent character who knows what she wants. Enter Silas, who takes one look at Maggie and decides he can’t live without her. Really? Do things like that happen?

Silas was a dog with a bone and would not leave Maggie alone. It was actually kind of creepy at times. Thank goodness he had a cute sidekick in his dog Kevin. I may have been tempted to date Silas just for his dog!

Although the relationship seemed unnatural, it had a certain charm. I loved Dean, Cody and even the curmudgeonly Wallace! The banter between the characters made me chuckle. This was an enjoyable read overall!

Posted in Mystery, Police Procedural, Suspense

Don’t Miss: The Hidden One

What secrets are hidden behind the face of a trusted person?

Thank you to Minotaur Books and Macmillan Audio for the complimentary digital and audiobook for review.

When a beloved, missing Amish bishop’s remains are found, Kate Burkholder is asked to investigate. Making the situation more complicated, Kate’s first love, Jonas Bowman is accused of the murder. 

Yet another Burkholder book that I loved. This one gives us a glimpse into Kate’s young life through flashbacks which leads to an even deeper understanding of the character we have grown to love. There are already so many facets of the Amish community to learn about and the mystery in this one brings some new ones to light. The mystery behind this one is profound.

Kathleen McInerney is Kate’s voice. So much so that when I heard her narrate another book, I was like “Why is Kate Burkholder here?!” 🤣 Another brilliant narration!

I can’t wait until Kate’s next adventure in Painter’s Mill!

Posted in Contemporary Fiction

Don’t Miss: Flying Solo

What secrets would you leave behind?

Thank you to Penguin Random House Audio for the complimentary audiobook for review.

Laurie is tasked with handling the estate of her late Aunt Dot. Among all the photos and books, Laurie finds a wooden duck that sets up a mystery. Laurie wants to figure out why this duck is so important to her aunt, so she enlists the help of a “bereavement declutter”. With the help of her best friend, June, and her (maybe not so much) ex-boyfriend, Nick, she navigates this loss in her life and tries to decide how best to move forward.

Once again, Holmes writes rich characters who are believable and likable. There’s a tug at the heartstrings learning about Laurie’s relationship with her Aunt and how she modeled her life after her Aunt’s. It is what makes finding this wooden duck so special. She just knew there was a story behind it and she wanted to learn about that part of her Aunt’s life.

While the romance between Laurie and Nick is expected, it was a very slow burn. For me, the mystery of the duck is what gives this novel all its charm. I needed to find out what it represented.

I love the way Holmes spins a story and gives us substance in her characters and message. Julia Whelan’s narration is flawless, as always. Definitely a must read!

Posted in Horror, Psychological Thriller, Suspense

Don’t Miss: The House Across the Lake

Can curiosity kill you?

One of my favorite things about Riley Sager’s books is his use of classic films as an inspiration. So when I saw this was inspired by my absolute favorite Hitchcock film, Rear Window, I knew I was in for a great read.

Casey, a widowed actress with a drinking problem, takes an interest in her neighbors across the lake, Tom and Katherine Royce. When Casey saves Katherine from drowning one day, they become friends and Casey’s spying helps her realize that maybe not everything is as happy with the couple as it appears. Then Katherine disappears and Casey makes it her mission to find out what happened to her.

Unfortunately, there’s not much I can say about the plot without giving things away. I will say that I have seen many mixed reactions to the twist in the book. Some people found it to be mind-blowing and caused them to love the book! I thought it was a little hard to digest. Maybe my comparisons to Rear Window made it seem outrageous to me since I loved the spying part of the book. It didn’t take away the enjoyment entirely though!

Although Bernadette Dunne does have a distinctive voice, the narration didn’t seem to fit the main character’s voice in my head. 

What Sager always delivers is a unique reading experience with surprises you can’t imagine. This delivered on that for sure!