The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

Publication Date: June 2, 2020
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Rating:
★★★

The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Many years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ storylines intersect?

Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person’s decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.

Review:

There were many aspects of this book that I enjoyed. I am not someone who enjoys “historical” books, whether that is in the 1950s or not. However, I think this book was very “timely” and relevant to current situations. It was a story that I hadn’t heard before and that made it all the more interesting to me.

Starting in Mallard, Louisiana, we learned about the Vignes sisters, Stella and Desiree. Their main goal was to leave the town of Millard. After they did, we take a look into their separate lives as one of the sisters passes off as a different color. You see how different their lives become pretty quickly. Desiree moves back to Mallard with her daughter after leaving her abusive husband. I thought this was going to be the most significant part of this book, but then we move on from that quickly and have a plot change.

Stella’s life went different because she “passed” off as white. We see the differences pretty quickly and how significant they were. She develops a friendship with a Black family across the street, but she was so scared to be found out. You can see how her life is so complicated because she’s pretending to be someone she’s not. Personally, I think this was the best part of the book. There was a lot of switching up, but this part had the best detail and information throughout.

There was something that felt off to me in this book – and that was Jude and Reese. Reese is a transgender man who passes as a straight cis man to others. I feel like there were times where trans-passing and racial-passing were classified in the same category and I’m unsure I liked the way that made me feel when reading. This section of the book confused me quite a bit, especially when giving detail about their lives socially. I didn’t understand how the acceptance levels were portrayed in this book at all.

Overall, I think without all of the extras that this book gave me, I would’ve rated it higher. The plot being switched up multiple times wasn’t good for me and just the overall feelings I got from Reese and Jude made me rate this book lower. This was a powerful book, but definitely just not for me.

She’s Faking It by Kristin Rockaway

Publication Date: June 30, 2020
Publisher: Graydon House
Rating: ★★★★

You can’t put a filter on reality.

Bree Bozeman isn’t exactly pursuing the life of her dreams. Then again, she isn’t too sure what those dreams are. After dropping out of college, she’s living a pretty chill life in the surf community of Pacific Beach, San Diego…if “chill” means delivering food as a GrubGetter, and if it means “uneventful”.

But when Bree starts a new Instagram account — @breebythesea — one of her posts gets a signal boost from none other than wildly popular self-help guru Demi DiPalma, owner of a lifestyle brand empire. Suddenly, Bree just might be a rising star in the world of Instagram influencing. Is this the direction her life has been lacking? It’s not a career choice she’d ever seriously considered, but maybe it’s a sign from the universe. After all, Demi’s the real deal… right?

Everything is lining up for Bree: life goals, career, and even a blossoming romance with the chiseled guy next door, surf star Trey Cantu. But things are about to go sideways fast, and even the perfect filter’s not gonna fix it. Instagram might be free, but when your life looks flawless on camera, what’s the cost?

Review:

Thank you to Kristin Rockaway, Harlequin Books & NetGalley for a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. I read this as a participant of the Harlequin Books 2020 Summer Reads Blog Tour.

I read Kristin Rockaway’s How to Hack a Heartbreak last summer and I absolutely adored it. Kristin Rockaway is becoming an auto-buy/request author for me! Her writing is spectacular in She’s Faking It! If you’re looking for a quick, fun summer read, definitely pick this one up.

Bree, a 25-year old college drop out, is completely over delivering food to people’s houses through a service called GrubGetter. After a run in with an old professor who made her feel insecure in her choices in life, Bree decides it’s time for a change. Bree decides that she is going to become an influencer on social media to make a living after reading a book about “faking it until she makes it”. She finds out that faking it is unfortunately not that easy.

This story is a testament to today’s society. It’s about how the world sees people on Instagram with the Photoshopped backgrounds and beautiful scenery. It shows that even though things online might be happy and cheery on their page, you have zero idea what their life is truly like behind the pictures. Kristin Rockaway did such a fantastic job writing this because I was able to relate to it so much with how technologically the world is running today.

Next, I loved the fact that this was a very feel-good story. It was motivational, watching this woman try to turn her life around after going through what she did with dropping out of school. It really is like that nowadays where there’s the question of what you’re going to do with your life if you don’t have a direction or degree. I love that Kristin Rockaway turned this into a “you can do whatever you want” story instead of making it seem like people can’t make it unless they have some sort of certification or degree. I especially loved the sisterly bond in this story. Sisters fight and sometimes have a hard time with relationships, but at the end of the day, there’s a protective feeling that I was able to share with Bree and Natasha. It was easy to see the love that they shared.

Finally, I loved the fact that this was a romance novel, but it didn’t take over the entire story. This was more of a feel-good/fiction/self-help story over being a romance. I am a romance fanatic, but I loved that it wasn’t overbearing and didn’t take away from the original message.

Overall, I will always pick up a Kristin Rockaway novel. Her stories are fantastic and her writing is impeccable. I’m always able to relate and her characters are always developed in the best kind of way. Definitely pick this one up this summer! Put it next on your TBR!


Posted on my Instagram.

No One Saw by Beverly Long

Publication Date: June 30, 2020
Publisher: MIRA Books
Rating: ★★★

Nobody saw a thing. Or so they say…

Baywood police department detective A.L. McKittridge is no stranger to tough cases, but when five-year-old Emma Whitman disappears from her day care, there isn’t a single shred of evidence to go on. Neither the grandmother who dropped her off, nor the teacher whose care she was supposed to be in, can account for the missing child. There are no witnesses. No trace of where she might have gone. There’s only one thing A.L. and his partner, Rena Morgan, are sure of—somebody is lying.

With the clock ticking, A.L. and Rena are under extreme pressure as they discover their instincts are correct: all is not as it seems. The Whitmans are a family with many secrets, and A.L. and Rena will have to race to untangle a growing web of lies if they’re going to find the thread that leads them to Emma…before it’s too late.

Review:

To see the full A.L. McKittridge series review, click here.

Thank you to Beverly Long, MIRA Books & NetGalley for a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. I read this as a participant of the Harlequin Blog Tour.

This is the second installment of the A.L. McKittridge series. A.L. is a detective with the Baywood Police Department. In the first of this series, Ten Days Gone, there was a serial killer killing women ten days apart from each other. As the story started, I was super interested. In No One Saw, there’s a little girl, Emma, missing and again, I was super interested. However, in both books, even though they started off super strong for me, I found myself never getting as interested again throughout the novel. Things of course pick up, but never as strong as the start of the novel.

I noticed in the first novel that there were a lot of characters that I was introduced to that I felt like I should’ve known already. Again, in No One Saw, there were so many characters introduced in the interviews. I felt as though I was getting confused on keeping track with who was who. I also felt as though I should’ve known them again, and I still had no idea who they were. On the other hand, I did enjoy A.L. and Rena again. There were some development in characters which I appreciated.

There was absolutely a shock factor to this book. In the first novel, I wasn’t too sure about the story. However, in this novel, I was definitely surprised about the reveal. The burn was definitely slow, but I did get a surprise which is good!

Overall, I would keep reading this series. The second book in this series was definitely stronger than the first. If you’re interested in a detective mystery with strong main characters, this is definitely for you!



Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

Pubilication Date: June 30, 2020
Publisher: Dutton Books
Rating: ★★★★★

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.

Review:

This was my second Riley Sager book and I was definitely not disappointed in this new release! This mystery was definitely that and it gave me all of the spooky vibes in the summertime. The main thing that this book gave me was the Haunting of Hill House vibes and I loved that.

Maggie’s father wrote a book called House of Horrors about the experience that him and his family had at Baneberry Hall. It took only three weeks before Ewan and Jess, Maggie’s mother, ran away from there for good. Or so Maggie thought. Maggie never believed anything from House of Horrors as she couldn’t ever remember what happened during those three weeks. Maggie finds that her father never got rid of the house or sold it and it is now hers to do what she wants with it. In the time that Maggie decides to fix it up to sell it, many things happen to make Maggie believe that her father’s book might have not been made up at all.

First, Riley Sager’s writing had me on the edge of my seat the entire novel. I was curious and had suspicions of what was going on, but by the next chapter, there was something else going on in my head. I found this to be exceptional writing as I had really no idea what was going on until the end of the book where the twist is. Some might say it was clear to see, but I didn’t see it coming at all. The fact that I couldn’t tell if this was going to end paranormal or not was actually quite fun.

I loved the fact that the book went back and forth between Maggie’s point-of-view and her father’s book. It was interesting to see the similarities between her and her father’s experiences. It was looking at current day versus back when Maggie was just a little girl. It was clear to see that she wasn’t even close to the same person.

Finally, I don’t think I could’ve found a flaw in this book if I tried. The characters developed in an amazing way, the story kept me interested the entire time, it was just overall an amazing book. I could relate to the characters as well, which is always good.

I need to read the rest of Riley Sager’s books. Both of his books that I read were five-star ratings for me and I will always continue to read what he puts out in the future. His writing alone is enough for me to want to read one of his books.

The Girls Weekend by Jody Gehrman

Publication Date: June 9, 2020
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Rating: ★★★

Their reunion just became a crime scene . . .

June Moody, a thirty-something English professor, just wants to get away from her recent breakup and reunite with girlfriends over summer break. Her old friend and longtime nemesis, Sadie MacTavish, a mega-successful author, invites June and her college friends to a baby shower at her sprawling estate in the San Juan Islands. June is less than thrilled to spend time with Sadie–and her husband, June’s former crush–but agrees to go.

The party gets off to a shaky start when old grudges resurface, but when they wake the next morning, they find something worse: Sadie is missing, the house is in shambles, and bloodstains mar the staircase. None of them has any memory of the night before; they wonder if they were drugged. Everyone’s a suspect. Since June had a secret rendezvous with Sadie’s husband, she has plenty of reason to suspect herself. Apparently, so do the cops.

A Celtic knot of suspense and surprise, this brooding, atmospheric novel will keep you guessing as each twist reveals a new possibility. It will remind you of friendships hidden in the depths of your own past, and make you wonder how well you really know the people you’ve loved the longest.

Review:

Thank you to Jody Gehrman, Crooked Lane Books & NetGalley for a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

This book started off pretty interesting. It was the story of women who went to college together, but lost touch over the 20 years since then. June is the main character who we learn most about throughout this novel. There are many different characters, but we see June and her old friend and famous author, Sadie, the most. When the group starts to party at Sadie’s mansion, things get weird. No one can remember things from the night before, Sadie is missing, and there’s a giant blood stain on the wall. No one can seem to remember what happened and there’s suddenly a lot of questions surrounding this story.

A very important part of this story is that Sadie’s husband, Ethan, is June’s old crush. They met in the woods during this little getaway, so it’s very easy and also explained in the synopsis that it could’ve been June that caused Sadie’s disappearance. Jody Gehrman’s writing was good to where you thought it was everyone at one point. However, I was able to guess who it was pretty early on.

I wasn’t really able to connect with the characters. I didn’t feel like there was really any growth or development. I’m someone who really enjoys seeing a difference in a character by the end, and I didn’t feel as though there was any difference.

The thing I liked the most was the fact that the story could’ve actually been real. You hear about these types of stories on the news all of the time. Once you read this book, you’ll understand what I mean by that. I don’t want to give anything away. This book felt real. The characters felt real and so did the story. I could definitely see the way they spoke and the dialogue being real.

Overall, I liked this story, but I wish I was able to connect with the characters more. The writing was well-done and I would definitely give Jody Gehrman another try!

That Summer in Maine by Brianna Wolfson

Publication Date: June 23, 2020
Publisher: MIRA Books
Rating: ★★★

Years ago, during a certain summer in Maine, two young women, unaware of each other, met a charismatic man at a craft fair and each had a brief affair with him. For Jane it was a chance to bury her recent pain in raw passion and redirect her life. For Sue it was a fling that gave her troubled marriage a way forward.

Now, sixteen years later, the family lives these women have made are suddenly upended when their teenage girls meet as strangers on social media. They concoct a plan to spend the summer in Maine with the man who is their biological father. Their determination puts them on a collision course with their mothers, who must finally meet and acknowledge their shared past and join forces as they risk losing their only daughters to a man they barely know.

Review:

Thank you to Brianna Wolfson, MIRA Books & NetGalley for a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review. I read this book as a participant of the 2020 Summer Reads Blog Tour.

That Summer in Maine is a story that alternates between past and present. There are three narrators, Susie, Jane, and Hazel. In the past, two women, Susie and Jane, meet a man named Silas during a trip to Maine. Susie and Jane have two different relationships with Silas. Jane gets caught up in a whirlwind romance until she finds out that Silas slept with another woman. Susie was happy in her marriage, but she ended up sleeping with Silas as a one-night stand. Both of these resulted in unexpected pregnancies.

Sixteen years later, Jane’s daughter, Hazel is contacted online by another sixteen year old, Eve, saying that they are sisters. Of course, to anyone, this would come as a shock, but especially to a sixteen year-old girl. Eve had already met Silas and spent the summer with him the previous year. Eve invites Hazel and with Hazel’s current predicament with her mother having twins and no time for her, she accepts.

This book was a very beautiful telling about something that truly can happen within a family. Hazel feels like she’s being replaced because her mother got married and had twin boys. She is unable to feel heard with her mother and doesn’t feel as though she’s a part of that family. She feels like she’s an outsider. With the age gap between her and the twin boys, she finds it hard to fit in with her mother’s “new family”. I think people with siblings that have an age gap definitely could find this book relatable.

There was a lot about this book that I wanted to love. I had a hard time finding any development within the characters except for Hazel. Eve and Hazel are both supposed to be sixteen and I found myself thinking that their ages were not even close to the same. Hazel portrayed herself as a child almost. Eve seemed like a mean girl, but not like “high-school” mean. I found her seeming older than sixteen while I was reading it. It was hard to relate because they didn’t seem the same age. I really didn’t like the characters either. I did towards the end when I saw why they acted the way that they did. However, it was a little hard reading this not liking the characters until the end.

I did like that this was a story between mothers and daughters. It was almost like it was two stories in one book. I learned about the mother’s stories and what happened and what they would do or wouldn’t do differently. I got to see the outcomes from sixteen years of secrets. That alone was pretty interesting as a premise of the story.

Overall, I think more people should give this book a chance. The characters aren’t that likable until the end, but once you see the background development, you’ll like the ending and how everything plays out. I definitely would read Brianna Wolfson again as this was my first novel by her. If you are looking for a quick, feel-good family story, definitely pick this one up!