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.

What You Wish For by Katherine Center

Publication Date: July 14, 2020
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Rating: ★★★

Samantha Casey is a school librarian who loves her job, the kids, and her school family with passion and joy for living.

But she wasn’t always that way.

Duncan Carpenter is the new school principal who lives by rules and regulations, guided by the knowledge that bad things can happen.

But he wasn’t always that way.

And Sam knows it. Because she knew him before―at another school, in a different life. Back then, she loved him―but she was invisible. To him. To everyone. Even to herself. She escaped to a new school, a new job, a new chance at living. But when Duncan, of all people, gets hired as the new principal there, it feels like the best thing that could possibly happen to the school―and the worst thing that could possibly happen to Sam. Until the opposite turns out to be true. The lovable Duncan she’d known is now a suit-and-tie wearing, rule-enforcing tough guy so hell-bent on protecting the school that he’s willing to destroy it.

As the school community spirals into chaos, and danger from all corners looms large, Sam and Duncan must find their way to who they really are, what it means to be brave, and how to take a chance on love―which is the riskiest move of all.

Review:

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

This is my third Katherine Center novel and she is definitely an auto buy / request author for me. Her writing is always very good for me, and I’m always able to connect to her characters instantly.

However, this one wasn’t a home run for me as much as her other books. I struggled to read this story as well as connecting with the characters. I didn’t necessarily mind Sam but I had a hard time with Duncan which isn’t good since he was a main character.

I read How to Walk Away and Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center. In these two books, the characters correlate, but are not listed in a series. As I’ve read from other reviews, apparently Duncan is the brother of Sam from Happiness For Beginners. I didn’t have any issues in her previous novels with reading them “out of order” but I’m not entirely sure if the circumstances are different with this one.

I will say that this story is truly about seeking happiness and joy in life. There is a lot going on in the world right now and this message about finding joy in the small things in life was actually very needed. I could appreciate that message coming from this book.

Overall, I love Katherine Center and I love her writing. I go to her when I need a good, heart-felt story with laughs and smiles. I did like the message behind this book, but it wasn’t my favorite book in the world with the characters and story. I will give Happiness for Beginners a try as well hopefully to learn more about who these characters are.

Hurry Home by Roz Nay

Publication Date: July 7, 2020

Publisher: Crooked Lane Books

Rating: ★★★

From the bestselling author of Our Little Secret comes a suspenseful new thriller featuring two estranged sisters desperate to keep their deepest and darkest secret where it belongs–in the past.

Close to my heart you’ll be, sisters forever you and me...

Alexandra Van Ness has the perfect life. She lives in an idyllic resort town tucked away in the Rocky Mountains, shares a designer loft with her handsome boyfriend, Chase, and has her dream job working in child protection. Every day, Alex goes above and beyond to save children at risk. 

But when her long-lost sister, Ruth, unexpectedly shows up at her door, Alex’s perfect life is upended. Growing up, Ruth was always the troublemaker, pulling Alex into her messes, and this time will be no different. Still, Alex will help Ruth under one condition: we will never, ever, talk about the past. But when trouble befalls a local child, both women are forced to confront the secrets they’ve promised to keep buried.

Utterly engrossing and claustrophobic, Hurry Home is a tantalizing reflection of the chain-and-shackles relationship between sisters that asks: what lines wouldn’t you cross for your own?

Review:

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

I love sister stories. Whether its drama, long distance, good relationships, bad relationships, mysteries, any kind of story. I think it’s because I have a sister myself so that I’m able to relate a lot.

This sister story was not my favorite unfortunately. I believe it’s because this is classified as a thriller and I didn’t really get that from this book. This was more about the sister relationship and how you could just feel the drama between them.

I thought this story was interesting, but it didn’t really give me the surprise or mystery that I was looking for. The interest from this story comes from the fact that you are curious on why these two ladies have the relationship that they do.

The thing I liked about this novel was the slow burn aspect. You do find yourself sitting there wondering when something will happen or when the other shoe is going to drop. I was able to guess the ending, but I will say it was pretty interesting getting there.

Overall, it wasn’t my favorite book in the world, but it wasn’t the worst either. I think that if it was more of a thriller like it was classified, I would’ve enjoyed it more. There isn’t anything necessarily wrong with this book, I just went in with a different expectation!

A Forgotten Murder by Jude Deveraux

Publication Date: March 10, 2020
Publisher: MIRA Books
Rating: ★★★

An English manor home, an unsolved mystery, too many suspects to count… It’s the perfect holiday for romance novelist Sara Medlar.

After solving two murder cases in their hometown of Lachlan, Florida, Sara Medlar, her niece Kate and their friend Jack need a change of scenery. Sara arranges for them to visit an old friend of hers in England. Upon arrival at Oxley Manor, a centuries-old estate that has been converted to a luxury hotel, Kate and Jack quickly realize that Sara is up to something. They learn that Sara has also invited a number of others to join them at Oxley.

When everyone assembles, Sara lets them know why they are there. Decades earlier, two people ran off together from Oxley and haven’t been heard from since—and Sara wants to solve the case. As the people who were there the night the two went missing, the guests find themselves cast in a live mystery-theater event.

In reenacting the events of that night, it becomes clear that everyone has something to hide and no one is safe, especially when the discovery of a body makes it clear that at least one of the people who disappeared was murdered.

Sara, Jack and Kate are once again at the heart of a mysterious case that only they are able to solve. But someone is willing to continue to kill to keep the truth about Oxley Manor buried, and none of the guests are safe.

Review:

Thank you to Jude Deveraux, MIRA Books & NetGalley for a copy of this novel in exchange for an  honest review.

The synopsis of this story is what drew me to this book right away. I thought that the idea of having a couple disappear never to be seen again sounded very real. There’s actually a story local to me about a couple that disappeared 15 years ago in Philadelphia and still have not been seen or found in that time. It hit a little close to home. I really liked that it was at a later time too that they were brought back to solve the case. There were a lot of questions surrounding the case, and it was cool to see after over twenty years, that there was still so much interest. There was a long list of suspects and they all had a motive so that made it exciting to see where this was going to end up.

I had a lot of interest in the story, but the details and the writing fell a little flat for me. I think this was a very good mystery for it’s genre, but the writing just wasn’t the main point of excitement here. I think if the details were a little more in depth and the writing was the bigger part of interest with dialogue, etc., this book would be a five-star rating from me.

The characters weren’t as big of a point for me in this book as they should have been. As this is a series, I wasn’t sure if I was missing a part of these characters due to the fact that I hadn’t read the previous two. I went to the Goodreads page to see if there were issues for anyone else regarding this and I found that you should be able to read this novel first as a standalone. I still don’t know if that’s true, I guess I’ll have to find out!

During this crazy time in the United states and around the world, I’d definitely recommend this book to someone who likes a cozy mystery. If you’re stuck in the house, definitely give this series a try! It was definitely fast-paced and will give you a treat for the next however many weeks!

 

 

We Used to Be Friends by Amy Spalding

Publication Date: January 7, 2020
Publisher: Amulet Books
Rating: ★★★

Told in dual timelines—half of the chapters moving forward in time and half moving backward—We Used to Be Friends explores the most traumatic breakup of all: that of childhood besties. At the start of their senior year in high school, James (a girl with a boy’s name) and Kat are inseparable, but by graduation, they’re no longer friends. James prepares to head off to college as she reflects on the dissolution of her friendship with Kat while, in alternating chapters, Kat thinks about being newly in love with her first girlfriend and having a future that feels wide open. Over the course of senior year, Kat wants nothing more than James to continue to be her steady rock, as James worries that everything she believes about love and her future is a lie when her high-school sweetheart parents announce they’re getting a divorce. Funny, honest, and full of heart, We Used to Be Friends tells of the pains of growing up and growing apart.

Review:

Thank you to Amy Spalding, Amulet Books & NetGalley for a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

I’ll be completely honest and say that the cover was the exact reason I picked this book. I like LGBT and best friend battles in young adult novels, but the cover is what really got me. The curiosity of what makes these two best friends separate is what pulled me in through the beauty of the front of the book.

I thought We Used to Be Friends was very realistic. I think that Amy Spalding did a great job taking the reader into the background to watch everything unfold right along the characters. The plot was very refreshing as it was something I haven’t really read before. I really do believe that this was an honest story and you really got to see the truth behind friends growing apart, no matter how long they’ve been friends for. It’s a very real thing.

The only reason why I had a little trouble with this book was the timeline and the characters. The timeline is shown at the beginning of each chapter. Make sure to pay attention to this, very closely, or you will be confused. I had to go back a few times to remind myself if I was before or after “senior year” and how long it had been month-wise. James’ story is told from the end and Kat’s is told from the beginning. It was kind of hard to follow along.

With the characters, I feel like it was a little complicated because I became frustrated with some of them. I really enjoyed the dads in this book, but the main characters were tough on me. I had a really hard time with Kat and James. They were pretty interested in making sure each other knew that they had issues with the friendships but never really took the blame on themselves. I understand that they’re young and that’s how life works when you’re young, but I feel as though I couldn’t see the growth behind them because of that.

Lastly, I think that the ending was a little too much… left for interpretation? The ending definitely is up to the reader. When reading, I wish it had more of a direct ending instead of an ambiguous one where we have to think and decide what it is.

Overall, I think that if I were a couple years younger, I would’ve liked this book more. It’s definitely a high school (or fresh-out of) story. It’s definitely a book that I would read again and recommend to those with children in high school or high school students.

 

Full Support by Natalee Woods

Publication Date: December 3, 2019
Publisher: Amberjack Publicaitons
Rating: ★★★

Lingerie is the foundation for every woman’s wardrobe, but it’s also where we feel the most pressure to be beautiful—and feel the most shame at falling short of impossible standards. Concerns about our age, body type, family expectations, jobs, and romantic partners crowd into the dressing room with us. The result is a bra that fits other people’s standards instead of our own bodies.

As a bra-fitter at a high-end department store for more than a decade, Natalee Woods watched women bravely facing down their fears and embracing what worked for them. Full Support shares their stories alongside judgment-free secrets for a good fit.

Review:

Thank you to Natalee Woods, Amberjack Publications & NetGalley for a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

The first thing I noticed about is how easy of a read this was. I read it within a day because the language was easy to read and comprehend.

Natalee’s story was very interesting. You learn the life of a bra-fitter and what they go through every day. I would’ve never really even thought about it if I wasn’t interested by Natalee’s synopsis. It was very intriguing to see her stories and the daily duties from a high-end department store.

Unfortunately, after reading her stories, I felt as though this dragged a little bit for me. Sometimes, I caught myself skimming because I almost didn’t feel like reading through the next story. Natalee’s words were funny, but sometimes were pretty dry.

I loved the name of the chapters and some of the words that she wrote were laugh-out-loud funny. I think that Natalee is very funny in real life and not just on paper. It’s interesting to see how she was going through the things she was and still had me cracking up at some of her words.

Overall, I didn’t love this book and I didn’t hate it either. I think that there was a lot of interesting and funny moments in the words, but I had a hard time sometimes getting through the chapters. I’m someone who enjoys nonfiction here and there, and if you are a nonfiction lover, I’d recommend this book.

Well Met by Jen Deluca

Publication Date: September 3, 2019
Publisher: Berkley
Rating: ★★★

All’s faire in love and war for two sworn enemies who indulge in a harmless flirtation in a laugh-out-loud rom-com from debut author, 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.

Review:

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

Well Met started out so strong for me. I loved the learning about the characters, what their situations were and where they came from. I especially loved Emily and her sister because it showed their relationship and how eager she was to help her after her accident. It gave me a warm feeling that I would do for my sister as well.

Now, I picked this up because:
1) I was seeing it everywhere on Goodreads & Instagram.
2) I saw that it was a debut author which I love to read because it’s something fresh and usually has a new type of story which I haven’t ever read. (YAY for Renaissance Faires!)
3) I am a SUCKER for enemies-to-lovers romances.
4) It was nominated for the Goodreads Best of 2019 Awards!

I am someone who likes some steam in a romance novel, but this book didn’t have that much in it and I still found it to be adorable and a great story. The only issue that I noticed with this book is that it took a little too long to get started for me.

As I was reading, I thought that the book was progressing alright. I kept reading and then realized I was a little bit past the halfway point where things finally started to progress. If it started maybe 10-15% earlier, I think that this book would’ve kept my attention to the point where I would’ve finished this book right away. I am someone who loves a good slow burn novel, ESPECIALLY when it comes to friends-to-lovers and enemies-to-lovers books, but this burn was just a littletoo slow for me.

Overall, I think that Jen DeLuca did a great job in her debut novel. I loved the beginning of this story and the ending was very sweet as well. I am very excited to see what will come from her in the future!

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.