Every Dog Has His Day by Jenn McKinlay

Publication Date: January 2, 2018
Publisher: Berkley Books

A stray kitten and a rambunctious poodle bring together a small-town bachelor and a single mother in the latest romance set in Bluff Point, Maine.

Bluff Point brewery owner Zachary Caine wants nothing to do with commitment. His wild bachelor lifestyle suits him perfectly—until a foster kitten named Chaos makes him a reluctant hero. Now he’s BFFs with the kitten’s two little girls and finds himself falling for their gorgeous mother, who couldn’t think less of him.

Divorced mother Jessie Connelly wants nothing to do with men like Zach. He’s sexy and charismatic and bad news, just like her ex. But her girls adore him, and he’s doing a good job filling in for their deadbeat dad. Then a snowstorm brings out the best in both neighbors, who, it turns out, have more in common than their mutual attraction…

So when Jessie’s past threatens her and her girls, Zach is determined to do whatever it takes to protect them—and live happily ever after with this family he has made his own.”

Review:

Thank you to NetGalley, Berkley Publishing, and Jenn McKinlay for allowing me to read a copy before the publication date in exchange for an honest review. 

This book is listed as #3 in the Bluff Point series, but I read it as a standalone and understood everything.

This was an adorable contemporary romance. If you are a lover of a cutesy romance and animals, I would absolutely recommend this book to you! The chemistry in this book was enough to make me swoon, so as an avid contemporary romance reader, read this book!!

The first thing that I really enjoyed about this book were the characters. I loved the two little girls in the beginning. They were so cute and innocent. When I got further into this book, I realized that I had fallen in love with Zach’s character. He was adorable and capturing from the beginning. There were a few times where his character pulled on my heart strings. His home life was interesting to learn about. I’ve rarely read a book with a foster child, so it was great to learn about the experience.

The chemistry between Zach and Jessie was very hard not to notice. Jenn McKinlay did a great job with showing just how well these two worked together. From the beginning, I was rooting for them. I liked how just like in every relationship, there were points of angst and it shows that even in romance novels, not every relationship is perfect.

Again, contemporary romance lovers,  read this!! I couldn’t say it enough that you will fall in love with this story. As an animal lover and romance reader, this was easily a great book. It’s short, sweet, and has a great narrative. I would love to give Jenn McKinlay’s other books in the Bluff Point series a read!

The Future She Left Behind by Marin Thomas

Publication Date: September 5th, 2017
Publisher: Berkley Publishing

One woman’s journey home gets derailed by her soon-to-be ex-mother-in-law in a novel filled with humor, small-town charm, rekindled love, and the resilient ties of family.

Cast aside by her cheating husband, Katelyn Chandler is ready to pack it all in and drive home to Little Springs, Texas. She wants a chance to regroup, reconnect with her mother, and get back to her art.

But Shirley Pratt–master manipulator, elitist snob, and Katelyn’s terror of a live-in monster-in-law–has other ideas. Shirley insists on joining Katelyn’s trip after her son tries to pack her off to a retirement community. Katelyn has no choice but to play peacekeeper between the ornery old woman and the proud matrons of Little Springs. Yet the small town seems to be changing Shirley. And as Katelyn weighs the wisdom of picking up where she left off with Jackson Mendoza, the town bad boy and her high school sweetheart, she must find a way to believe in the strength of her dreams.”

Review:

Thank you to NetGalley, Berkley Publishing, and Marin Thomas for allowing to me have an arc before the publication date. 

This book was adorable! I didn’t know how I would feel after reading the synopsis, but I fell in love with the way Marin Thomas wrote this story.

After being served divorce papers from her husband who is away on business, Katelyn is forced to take her mother-in-law back to Little Springs. Shirley, Katelyn’s mother-in-law, always berates her and makes her feel like she wasn’t ever worth her son. After finding out the reasons why Katelyn and Don’s marriage ended, Shirley and Katelyn started to bond while in Katelyn’s hometown.

The stories that each individual character had were loving, sad, motivational, heartbreaking and more. There was a lot in this book that were extremely realistic. The ending of relationships, returning home to your parents, finding love whether you’re older or starting over, etc. Marin Thomas did a very good job on making it seem realistic.

There were some things in this book that pleasantly surprised me. There were some things that I just weren’t expecting and I think that it made the book better for me.

The characters didn’t shine for me all too much. I really enjoyed Katelyn, but they weren’t all like she was. There were things with the characters that I would change, but not too much that it would change the book drastically.

I think that this book definitely has great potential and I loved the story. I wasn’t really sure in the beginning what to think, but I’m glad I gave this one a try!

Rating: ★★★★

Friend Request by Laura Marshall

Publication Date: September 5th, 2017
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

A paranoid single mom is forced to confront the unthinkable act she committed as a desperate teenager in this addictive thriller with a social media twist. Maria Weston wants to be friends. But Maria Weston’s dead. Isn’t she? 1989. When Louise first notices the new girl who has mysteriously transferred late into their senior year, Maria seems to be everything Louise’s other friends aren’t. Authentic. Funny. Brash. Within just a few days, Maria and Louise are on their way to becoming fast friends.

2016. Louise receives a heart-stopping email: Maria Weston wants to be friends on Facebook. Long-buried memories quickly rise to the surface: Those first days of their budding friendship; cruel decisions made and dark secrets kept; the night that would change all their lives forever.

Louise has always known that if the truth ever came out, she could stand to lose everything. Her job. Her son. Her freedom. Maria’s sudden reappearance threatens it all, and forces Louise to reconnect with everyone with whom she’d severed ties in order to escape the past. But as she tries to piece together exactly what happened that night, Louise discovers there’s more to the story than she ever knew. To keep her secret, Louise must first uncover the whole truth, before what’s known to Maria-or whoever is pretending to be her-is known to all.

With her mesmerizing debut, Laura Marshall offers a timely and essential story of how who we were shapes who we become, the hidden cost of our increasingly connected world, and the dangerous shape that revenge can take in our modern era.”

Review:

Thank you to NetGalley, Grand Central Publishing, and Laura Marshall for providing me with an arc before the release date in exchange for an honest review. 

Louise Williams is a divorced mom of a four-year-old who has been holding onto a secret since 1989. Now, in 2016, she still lives with the drama and guilt from that night. When Louise receives a friend request on Facebook from a girl that drowned in 1989, what will be brought up about that night from the past? Who can Louise turn to?

This story was absolutely wild from start to finish. This was an amazing debut from Laura Marshall. Her writing style was so riveting that I couldn’t put this book down even if I tried. I wanted to know what was going to happen in the end so I felt compelled to sit and read as much as I could in one sitting. I didn’t want to do anything before finishing this book.

The characters were my favorite thing about this book. There were so many individual developments with each character as well as their friend groups. If I had to pick a favorite character, it would be Louise. Louise has this dilemma of no friends, ex-husband, a four-year-old, and nothing to show for what life has given her. After dealing with all of this, she puts on this strong facade even though her life is falling apart. She is a really strong character that the reader will definitely latch on to.

Overall, I want to say great job to Laura Marshall on her debut novel. This was the perfect book to read since we are transitioning into Fall where I live. I honestly would recommend this to anyone, at any age. As crazy as this story was, I feel like it had a very important message about watching what you put on social media.

Rating: ★★★★★

Less by Andrew Sean Greer

Publication Date: July 18th, 2017
Publisher: Lee Boudreaux Books

Who says you can’t run away from your problems?

You are a failed novelist about to turn fifty. A wedding invitation arrives in the mail: your boyfriend of the past nine years is engaged to someone else. You can’t say yes–it would be too awkward–and you can’t say no–it would look like defeat. On your desk are a series of invitations to half-baked literary events around the world.

QUESTION: How do you arrange to skip town?

ANSWER: You accept them all.

What would possibly go wrong? Arthur Less will almost fall in love in Paris, almost fall to his death in Berlin, barely escape to a Moroccan ski chalet from a Saharan sandstorm, accidentally book himself as the (only) writer-in-residence at a Christian Retreat Center in Southern India, and encounter, on a desert island in the Arabian Sea, the last person on Earth he wants to face. Somewhere in there: he will turn fifty. Through it all, there is his first love. And there is his last.

Because, despite all these mishaps, missteps, misunderstandings and mistakes, LESS is, above all, a love story.

A scintillating satire of the American abroad, a rumination on time and the human heart, a bittersweet romance of chances lost, by an author The New York Times has hailed as “inspired, lyrical,” “elegiac,” “ingenious,” as well as “too sappy by half,” LESS shows a writer at the peak of his talents raising the curtain on our shared human comedy.”

Review:

Thank you to NetGalley, Lee Bourdreaux Books, and Andrew Sean Greer for providing me an arc in exchange for an honest review. 

I love this book. I could go on and on about the main character, Arthur Less. He was one of the best characters in a book I’ve read in a long time. A failing novelist who can’t find love and deals with it along the way. There’s so many things that could go wrong in life, and Arthur Less is the champion of that happening to him. Above all, this story is about love and how it can bring you down and lift you up.

This book definitely shows heartbreak. I resonate with these kind of books because I’ve seen love fall apart and mend back together. This book is so great because it would stand out to a lot of people for the same reason. So many people have had their hearts broken, whatever their sexual orientation is. Writing about something that so many people can talk about was definitely well done by the author. Andrew Greer really made me feel like he was the heartbroken one himself. He wrote this book so beautifully that it made me feel for Arthur on multiple occasions.

Next, this book was so very quotable. There were many quotes that I will take from this book. I highlighted a lot on my Kindle, and I love when that happens because it shows how quotable a book really was. It seemed that every page had a different theme, but each theme wrapped into one big theme at the end. There was one specific quote I took from this and I think it was written in to each page: “Just for the record: happiness is not bullshit“. And it’s not. Arthur Less proves that through everything he goes through.

This was absolutely wonderful to read. It was comforting because it shows that in the end, it will all work out. Arthur Less goes through a myriad of things and he comes out of it okay. It’s a very important message, and it is displayed very well throughout this book on every single page you read.

Overall, a beautiful, dazzling, comforting, heartbreaking read by Andrew Sean Greer and it was magnificent. I will be recommending it to a lot of people.

Rating: ★★★★★

 

See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt

Publication Date: August 1st, 2017
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press

“In this riveting debut novel, See What I Have Done, Sarah Schmidt recasts one of the most fascinating murder cases of all time into an intimate story of a volatile household and a family devoid of love.

On the morning of August 4, 1892, Lizzie Borden calls out to her maid: Someone’s killed Father. The brutal ax-murder of Andrew and Abby Borden in their home in Fall River, Massachusetts, leaves little evidence and many unanswered questions. While neighbors struggle to understand why anyone would want to harm the respected Bordens, those close to the family have a different tale to tell—of a father with an explosive temper; a spiteful stepmother; and two spinster sisters, with a bond even stronger than blood, desperate for their independence.

As the police search for clues, Emma comforts an increasingly distraught Lizzie whose memories of that morning flash in scattered fragments. Had she been in the barn or the pear arbor to escape the stifling heat of the house? When did she last speak to her stepmother? Were they really gone and would everything be better now? Shifting among the perspectives of the unreliable Lizzie, her older sister Emma, the housemaid Bridget, and the enigmatic stranger Benjamin, the events of that fateful day are slowly revealed through a high-wire feat of storytelling.”

Review:

We all know the story of Lizzie Borden:

“Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks.
When she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one.”

This debut novel from Sarah Schmidt describes what seems like what happened the day of the murders of Mr. and Mrs. Borden. This book is told by four people: Lizzie, Emma, Bridget, and Benjamin. Going through each individual part, they each have their own story to tell. There are some things I actually learned from this book. I never knew that Mrs. Borden was their stepmother, for example. I liked this book, but it didn’t do spectacular things for me.

I think that Sarah Schmidt did a great job for her debut novel. This story was pretty interesting, and how she wrote it was pretty cool too. This is what she posted on her Goodreads page:

“I met Lizzie Borden in a second hand bookstore when a pamphlet about the Borden case fell off a shelf and landed at my feet. I wasn’t interested in the case whatsoever. I put it back and left the shop. That night I dreamt of Lizzie sitting at the end of my bed and she told me, ‘I have something to tell you about my father. He has a lot to answer for.’ It was one of the creepiest and most unsettling dreams I’d ever had but I ignored it, tried to go back to sleep. I had the same dream every night for a week. So I decided to write the dream down hoping it would go away. That was the very beginning of See What I Have Done. I had no idea it would take me 11 years to write it.”

This response, the synopsis, and the cover are what interested me in this book in the first place. This seems like she really thought about this book a lot, especially if it took 11 years to write.

First, the characters were all very good. I think Lizzie was the best in my opinion (as she should be). Sarah Schmidt made Lizzie come to life as a young girl who’s living with the explosive personality of her father and the spite of her stepmother. Sarah Schmidt really writes Lizzie like she is crazy, and I appreciate that so much. Emma moved out and receives the news that her father has been murdered. It seems like there is sadness there, but not too much. Benjamin is just a weird, weird guy. Every time I read his parts I thought the same thing over and over again.

I thought that the story was brilliant, but it just didn’t have the pizzazz for me. It didn’t shine like I expected it to. The writing style seemed a little slow at times, especially during the middle section of the book. There were some parts where I felt like I was reading the same thing over and over again. It definitely felt repetitive at times, but towards the end, it really picked up for me. I was very happy about that because I didn’t have a problem finishing the book. The ending was very, very good and I love the way Sarah Schmidt wrote it.

The last thing that I was confused on were the flashbacks and taking the reader to a different time. I feel like they were a bit out of place, and made me have to stop and go back. It stopped flowing for me a few times, unfortunately.

Overall, I think this book had a lot of potential and was good, but it definitely had it’s flaws. It’s expected from a debut novelist that it will have flaws, but I think Sarah Schmidt did very well. I love the story of how this ended up being written, and the cover makes me have heart eyes. I think this book is a job well done, and Sarah Schmidt should continue writing her dreams into reality!

Rating: 3.75/5

 

Girl In Snow by Danya Kukafka

Published: August 1st, 2017
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Who Are You When No One Is Watching?

When a beloved high schooler named Lucinda Hayes is found murdered, no one in her sleepy Colorado suburb is untouched—not the boy who loved her too much; not the girl who wanted her perfect life; not the officer assigned to investigate her murder. In the aftermath of the tragedy, these three indelible characters—Cameron, Jade, and Russ—must each confront their darkest secrets in an effort to find solace, the truth, or both.

In crystalline prose, Danya Kukafka offers a brilliant exploration of identity and of the razor-sharp line between love and obsession, between watching and seeing, between truth and memory. Compulsively readable and powerfully moving, Girl in Snow offers an unforgettable reading experience and introduces a singular new talent in Danya Kukafka.”

Review:

First, I want to say thank you to NetGalley, Simon & Schuster, and Danya Kukafka for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

This is a story of how a small town suffers loss as a young girl, Lucinda Hayes, is found murdered at the local park. The story is told between three characters: Cameron, Jade, and Russ. Cameron is a young boy who’s father is an ex-cop who went AWOL, leaving him and his mother behind in this small town in Colorado. Jade is a girl who used to be friends with Lucinda. She used to be a lot of things before she secluded herself to only herself, her home, and her sister. She can barely take those things. Lastly, Russ is a current police officer working in that Colorado town. He watched many things throughout the years, including what happened to Cameron’s father, Lee. The three struggle through the death of Lucinda in their own ways, but intertwine and help each other along the way.

The first thing I want to talk about is the cover. Goodness, it’s beautiful. The cover was the first thing that drew me to this book in the first place. After reading the synopsis, it sounded like a book that I would really enjoy. Originally, this book wasn’t marked as young adult, but personally, I believe it should be classified as such. It’s a high school story that anyone would enjoy.

I want to congratulate Danya Kukafka on having such a beautiful debut novel. She really wrote each character delicately, making sure that they seemed like they were living the lives that she had for them. I appreciate when there is more than one character in a book because it’s easy to forget when there’s only one. With three characters, the going back and forth between them all really kept my attention.

The only thing that saddens me is that I feel like there was just something missing. I think it was towards the end, I was waiting for a certain thing to happen between a few people, and it unfortunately never did. It might be just more of a personal preference of what I wanted to happen, but it fell a little short.

Overall, I gave this book 4 stars because it was a great read. The characters throughout were amazing and I really loved a lot of the scenes that Kukafka had written. I wish I could’ve given this five stars, but there were some things missing for me.

Rating: ★★★★

The Housekeeper by Suellen Dainty

Expected Publication: February 28th, 2017

“I am the housekeeper, the hired help with a messy past who cleans up other people’s messy lives, the one who protects their messy little secrets.” When Anne Morgan’s successful boyfriend—who also happens to be her boss—leaves her for another woman, Anne finds herself in desperate need of a new job and a quiet place to recover. Meanwhile, her celebrity idol, Emma Helmsley (England’s answer to Martha Stewart), is in need of a housekeeper, an opportunity which seems too good to be true. Through her books, website, and blog, Emma Helmsley advises her devoted followers on how to live a balanced life in a hectic world. Her husband, Rob, is a high profile academic, and her children, Jake and Lily, are well-adjusted teenagers. On the surface, they are the perfect family. But Anne soon finds herself intimately ensconced in the Helmsley’s dirty laundry, both literally and figuratively. Underneath the dust, grime, and whimsical clutter, everyone has a secret to hide and Anne’s own disturbing past threatens to unhinge everything. For fans of Notes on a Scandal and The Woman Upstairs, The Housekeeper is a nuanced and nail-biting psychological thriller about the dark recesses of the human mind and the dangerous consequences of long-buried secrets.”

First, I would like to say thank you to NetGalley and Atria Books for sending me a copy of this book early!

I’m sorry to say but I barely could get through this book. I got stuck multiple times, especially before 50% completed. This book is described as a thriller. I don’t see where or why this could be a thriller. There are some parts in the beginning that were interesting, but going through I kept dragging and dragging. This book could’ve easily taken me a few days to read, maybe even less. It took me weeks to finish because I couldn’t find the motivation to complete this book with this story line. I didn’t like really any of the characters and it was hard to connect with any of them. I’m sure that if I didn’t have to complete a review of this book, I probably would’ve labeled it as did not finish.

About the Author:
“I worked as a journalist and television producer after leaving university. It never occurred to me to write fiction. Like many working single mothers, I was too busy and too tired to try for anything more. But my two children grew up. Finally I could ditch the day job. I moved from London to a small farm in Somerset, where I ran a B and B and learned how to be a short order cook and iron mountains of bedlinen very quickly. I also studied creative writing at the University of Oxford and at Bath Spa University.Then a fight against breast cancer gave me the impetus I needed. No time to lose! At the age of 62, my first novel, After Everything, was published by Simon and Schuster in the U.S. and by Picador in Australia. I’m currently writing my second, in between looking out the window at my sheep and my hens.”

Rating: ★