Meant to Be Yours by Susan Mallery

I received this book as a part of the Harlequin Book Tour for Romance & Women’s Fiction! Thank you to Susan Mallery, Harlequin Books, & NetGalley for a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

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Publication Date: October 22, 2019
Publisher: Harlequin Books

Rating: ★★★

In Happily Inc, love means never having to say “I do”…

Wedding coordinator Renee Grothen isn’t meant for marriage. Those who can, do. Those who can’t, plan. But she never could have planned on gorgeous, talented thriller writer Jasper Dembenski proposing—a fling, that is. Fun without a future. And the attraction between them is too strong for Renee to resist. Now she can have her no-wedding cake…and eat it, too.

After years in the military, Jasper is convinced he’s too damaged for relationships. So a flirtation—and more—with fiery, determined Renee is way too good to pass up…until his flame becomes his muse.

Renee is an expert at averting every crisis. But is she finally ready to leap into the one thing that can never be controlled: love?

Review:

This is the 5th book in the Happily Inc. series and I will say that I didn’t have any trouble following along!

Renee is a wedding coordinator and has zero plans of getting married. She has a deep family history and has been left burned in the love department to the point where she doesn’t have marriage on her radar in the slightest. Enter Jasper. Jasper was a military man that was left with his own issues after returning home from the war.

I liked Renee right away. Her character was someone that can definitely be relatable in the love department. She had her own realistic issues and you could really see where she was coming from. I had a little bit of a hard time with Jasper’s character. I’m not someone who ever experienced war or had a friend/family member who did either. He seemed almost unlikable, but that’s how it is with people that have PTSD, etc. They are not always themselves.

I did enjoy the entertaining and romantic aspect of this book. I liked watching Jasper and Renee falling in love and they did not even realize their doing. It was a great story to read and I could absolutely imagine it in my head.

The only issue that I really had was the characters and the fact that it felt a little rushed to me. I was reading and reading and then I realized that it was the end and I was reading into the next story that was included in this book. I was a little confused and I thought that it could have been written a little more in depth with more details to really make it feel like they were perfect.

 

Twenty-one Truths About Love by Matthew Dicks

Publication Date: November 19, 2019
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Rating: ★★★

1. Daniel Mayrock loves his wife Jill…more than anything.
2. Dan quit his job and opened a bookshop.
3. Jill is ready to have a baby.
4. Dan is scared; the bookshop isn’t doing well. Financial crisis is imminent.
5. Dan hasn’t told Jill about their financial trouble. He’s ashamed.
6. Then Jill gets pregnant.

This heartfelt story is about the lengths one man will go to and the risks he will take to save his family. But Dan doesn’t just want to save his failing bookstore and his family’s finances—he wants to become someone.

1. Dan wants to do something special.
2. He’s a man who is tired of feeling ordinary.
3. He’s sick of feeling like a failure.
4. Of living in the shadow of his wife’s deceased first husband.

Dan is also an obsessive list maker, and his story unfolds entirely in his lists, which are brimming with Dan’s hilarious sense of humor, unique world-view, and deeply personal thoughts. When read in full, his lists paint a picture of a man struggling to be a man, a man who has reached a point where he’s willing to anything for the love (and soon-to-be new love) of his life.

Review:

Thank you to NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press & Matthew Dicks for a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Twenty-one Truths About Love is about a man named Daniel who quit his teaching career to open a bookstore. He’s going through a lot with his marriage, losing money and more when he finds out that his wife is pregnant. To help him cope with his life, he makes lists in a diary that displays all different types of areas in life. He figures out what he needs to do and his finances and how he will make it all work. Things are rough for Daniel, but you see just how his mind is working through the lists he creates.

There was a lot to love about this book. Daniel, as a character, was hilarious and had a lot of funny moments in his lists. With this character, you could see the changes in him. He tried to be funny when his life was “falling apart” and it was easy to see that. It reminded me of how we really are as humans. We put on this show of how we are alright on the outside when we are struggling on the inside. I think this is an important reminder for the author to point out, and I’m appreciative of Matthew Dicks doing so.

The book itself got a little tiring in the list format. It’s unique and I was definitely interested in the list aspect of it, but after a while, I got a little bored of it. It was a lot of numbers and titles and it was kind of hard to get through by the end.

The other issue that I had with this book was that I began reading this book because of the synopsis that Daniel was the owner of a bookstore. I feel as though the author only referenced books a couple of times and barely talked about Daniel’s bookish side of life a handful of times.

I think that this novel would be very promising if there were some paragraphs thrown into the mix with the lists. As someone who worked in a library for 10 years, I would’ve liked to see more of Daniel’s bookstore life. However, I understand that this was about Daniel and the journey he had on becoming a father, etc. If you are a lover of general fiction, I’d pick this one up!

 

Husband Material by Emily Belden

Publication Date: December 30, 2019
Publisher: Graydon House
Rating: ★★★

Sometimes love is unpredictable…

Twenty-nine-year-old Charlotte Rosen has a secret: she’s a widow. Ever since the fateful day that leveled her world, Charlotte has worked hard to move forward. Great job at a hot social media analytics company? Check. Roommate with no knowledge of her past? Check. Adorable dog? Check. All the while, she’s faithfully data-crunched her way through life, calculating the probability of risk—so she can avoid it.

Yet Charlotte’s algorithms could never have predicted that her late husband’s ashes would land squarely on her doorstep five years later. Stunned but determined, Charlotte sets out to find meaning in this sudden twist of fate, even if that includes facing her perfectly coiffed, and perfectly difficult, ex-mother-in-law—and her husband’s best friend, who seems to become a fixture at her side whether she likes it or not.

But soon a shocking secret surfaces, forcing Charlotte to answer questions she never knew to ask and to consider the possibility of forgiveness. And when a chance at new love arises, she’ll have to decide once and for all whether to follow the numbers or trust her heart.

Review:

Thank you to NetGalley, Emily Belden & Graydon House for an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

The first couple sentences of Husband Material will get you. It has that immediate shock value and you’re left thinking “excuse me?!“.

Charlotte Rosen is a coder with a hot social media analytics company. She works hard and it shows an idea of what it might be like to be in a field that has a predominantly different gender. She has a roommate that has really no idea of her past. Within the first few sentences, you find out a lot about Charlotte and the biggest thing is that she was married, and that her husband had passed away. When her late husband’s ashes show up at her front door five years after his passing, Charlotte’s entire life gets uprooted, so you think. When a major secret comes out to Charlotte about her late husband, things really get crazy for her. While dealing with all of these things, will she find love along the way?

This book had a lot of promising qualities. The interest of what was going to happen was definitely there for me. I think that the premise was something that I had never read before and that had me interested. The synopsis was why I requested it in the first place. There were a lot of good things that had me excited for this publication, but as I read on, there were a lot of things that I couldn’t really grasp either.

I think one problem that I had was that this novel was classified as a contemporary romance. I live for contemporary romances, so I was excited to see where the romance was going to be from this synopsis. In my opinion, the romance fell a little flat for me. I think there were sweet moments with angst mixed in which is one of my favorites. However, my heart felt as though things were a little rushed and crunched in towards the end. I am someone all for a slow burn, but this was extremely slow. I would’ve liked it more if things happened a little sooner. Also, I feel as though the romance was a little off. It felt a little stilted and made me question what was going on. There was zero steam, which I usually don’t mind, but with the romance-o-meter off, it didn’t make me feel my best about this novel.

I also had a problem connecting with Charlotte. I understand that I have never been through such a situation, but I feel like I had a hard time understanding her actions. There were some things that Charlotte did that frustrates me, and in some circumstances this might be good, but I didn’t find it giving me any positive, stimulating feelings. She was pretty unreliable with her actions. You definitely want to go through the pages and grab her by the shoulders to shake her.

Lastly, I will say that I found the author to be hilarious. There were some parts of this book that had me laughing out loud. It’s rare that a romance novel would be so funny, but I’d definitely consider this as a romantic comedy with some drama!

If you are a clean comedy, chick-lit lover, I’d recommend this book to you! I’m definitely interested in more Emily Belden novels just from the laughs!

Fake Like Me by Barbara Bourland

Publication Date: June 18, 2019
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Rating: ★★★★

At once a twisted psychological portrait of a woman crumbling under unimaginable pressure and a razor-sharp satire of the contemporary art scene, FAKE LIKE ME is a dark, glamorous, and addictive story of good intentions gone awry, from the critically acclaimed author of I’ll Eat When I’m Dead

What really happened to Carey Logan?

After a fire decimates her studio, including the seven billboard-size paintings for her next show, a young, no-name painter is left with an impossible task: recreate her art in three months-or ruin her fledgling career.

Homeless and desperate, she flees to an exclusive retreat in upstate New York famous for its outrageous revelries and glamorous artists. And notorious as the place where brilliant young artist Carey Logan-one of her idols-drowned in the lake.

But when she arrives, the retreat is a ghost of its former self. No one shares their work. No parties light up the deck. No one speaks of Carey, though her death haunts the cabins and the black lake, lurking beneath the surface like a shipwreck. As the young painter works obsessively in Carey’s former studio, uncovers strange secrets and starts to fall–hard and fast–for Carey’s mysterious boyfriend, it’s as if she’s taking her place.

But one thought shadows her every move: What really happened to Carey Logan?

Review:

I have to say, I don’t know much about modern art or the art world. There was something about this book that taught me quite a bit, but also left me feeling like I wanted to learn more. Even though I didn’t know much about what was happening surrounding the art world, it didn’t give me a sense of confusion. I feel like I personally enjoyed it more because I was learning and reading an interesting novel.

There were some turns in this novel and I think that they were all handled efficiently. The characters were a big part of the twists that you find. There’s a big sense of the narrator stepping into Carey Logan’s shoes, but what I appreciated was that they kept their own identities. I loved the fact that Carey Logan and the narrator were two separate people and that the art talked about in this book is kept apart and they are both equally important.

The thing that I liked the most about this book was that I pretty much knew what the major twist was going to be. Some might be upset or mad that they knew what was coming. However, I felt really satisfied when everything become upended and then came back down to be tied all together.

I originally classified this novel as a thriller as that’s what it was claimed to be. However, I think this has many different genres. Women’s fiction, mystery, contemporary, all wrapped into one novel. If you’re looking for a fast-paced mystery and looking to learn, I’d recommend this book!

Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss by Kasie West

Publication Date: February 5, 2019
Publisher: HarperTeen
Rating: ★★★

Lacey Barnes has dreamt of being in a movie for as long as she can remember. However, while her dream did include working alongside the hottest actor in Hollywood, it didn’t involve having to finish up her senior year of high school at the same time she was getting her big break. Although that is nothing compared to Donavan, the straight-laced student her father hires to tutor her, who is a full-on nightmare.

As Lacey struggles to juggle her burgeoning career, some on-set sabotage, and an off-screen romance with the unlikeliest of leading men, she quickly learns that sometimes the best stories happen when you go off script.

Review:

There isn’t a Kasie West book I haven’t read.

Every time I pick one up, I don’t even need to know what’s going on. I can gather it from the first few sentences and that’s why I love her books so much. I love the fluff in all of her books because she writes it so flawlessly. This book was interesting and threw me for a little bit of a loop. I didn’t expect to hear a story about teens on a movie set. It was cool to see the behind-the-scenes perspective.

I really enjoyed the characters. Lacey (what a GREAT name for a main character, haha) and Donovan. They were very similar and easy to like. They were stubborn, sweet, and driven to be better all the same.

One thing that I could complain about was the speed of this book. I feel like I was sitting in traffic that would open a little bit and then slam on its brakes. It was fast paced and then would dramatically slow down to the point where I was questioning if I wanted to skip over that part.

The other thing that I couldn’t really get into was the amount of sabotage that this book had in it. It kept me entertained in the beginning to see who it was going to be, but when nothing kept happening, I was beginning to get frustrated. I was wondering and wondering and it got old fast.

Overall, Kasie West books are always winners to me. If you are a young adult genre lover, then you need to read her books. There’s a lot of them so buckle down!

We All Fall Down by Natalie D. Richards

Publication Date: October 3, 2017
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Rating: ★★★★

“Theo’s always been impulsive. But telling Paige how he feels? He’s obsessed over that decision. And it’s time. Tonight. At the party on the riverbank, under the old walking bridge, site of so many tales of love and death.

Paige has had a crush on Theo since they first met, but she knows her feelings are one-sided. She’s trying to move on, to flirt. A party at the river is just what she needs. Except a fight breaks out, and when Paige tries to intervene–Theo’s fist lands in her face.

All Theo and Paige want to do is forget that fateful night. But strange events keep drawing them back to the bridge. Someone, something is determined to make them remember…and pay for what they each did.”

Review:

Thank you to NetGalley & Sourcefire Books for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

We All Fall Down was a pretty interesting young adult novel. I definitely had my attention grabbed from the beginning. I love the unrequited love, especially if the characters don’t know if it’s unrequited. It’s all a slow burn, and it grabs my attention every time.

I think this book had five star potential. I really liked the development and how their troubled pasts really shaped how this book turned out. I was pretty curious on how it would be when I reached towards the end. However, I think that this book lost me a couple of times which is why I gave it four stars. There were times where I had to stop and go back and think “huh”. Books like this generally intrigue me, but with this one, I didn’t totally understand one-hundred percent.

I really liked the concept of how this book was towards the end. It was a question of: is this a paranormal story or what’s even going on here? I loved that it was making me think in ways that a book hasn’t made me think in a while.

I’m excited to read Natalie D. Richard’s other books now. This was my first novel by her, but for sure not my last!

Penpal by Dathan Auerbach

Publication Date: June 2012
Publisher: 1000Vultures
Rating: ★★

Penpal began as a series of short and interconnected stories posted on an online horror forum. Before long, it was adapted into illustrations, audio recordings, and short films; and that was before it was revised and expanded into a novel!

How much do you remember about your childhood?

In Penpal, a man investigates the seemingly unrelated bizarre, tragic, and horrific occurrences of his childhood in an attempt to finally understand them. Beginning with only fragments of his earliest years, you’ll follow the narrator as he discovers that these strange and horrible events are actually part of a single terrifying story that has shaped the entirety of his life and the lives of those around him. If you’ve ever stayed in the woods just a little too long after dark, if you’ve ever had the feeling that someone or something was trying to hurt you, if you remember the first friend you ever made and how strong that bond was, then Penpal is a story that you won’t soon forget, despite how you might try.”

Review:

This one for sure had a creepy, creepy vibe. There were times where I would get goosebumps when reading the words Dathan Auerbach had written on these pages. However, there were somethings in this book I just couldn’t get into. And that hindered my ability to give it a higher rating.

This book was recommended to me, and I wasn’t disappointed. There were absolutely freaky moments and times where I had to stop and go“oh my god” or “woah, that’s weird”. On the other hand, there were times where I had to stop and reread a paragraph because it just wasn’t making sense to me. This was the most unfortunate part about the book, I think some things ended a little abruptly.

Penpal has potential and was a pretty decent read. If you are looking for a quick mystery, this might be a good choice for you. I’m giving it 3.5/5 starts because of some of the confusion and the ending wasn’t really good for my taste. Overall, it was okay and I’d recommend it to someone that is looking for a super quick read with a love of the mystery genre.