PositiveAll About Romance... while it isn’t a flawless reading experience, there’s quite a bit to love in these pages ... a delightful story about friendship, social media, and the ways in which our past actions are never really forgotten, and in Daphne, Jennifer Weiner has created a heroine most women will be able to relate to. She’s intelligent and resourceful, but she also has some intense vulnerabilities that get in the way of both her personal and professional success ... This book would have been absolutely perfect if not for the appearance of a murder mystery. As someone who reads a ton of thrillers, I’m usually the first one to applaud the introduction of a bit of mystery, but here, it struck a bit of an awkward note ... If you’re a fan of Weiner’s writing, you’ll definitely want to pick up Big Summer. It’s full of the romance, wit, and summer magic we’ve come to expect from this author. The mystery portion didn’t completely work for me, but your mileage may vary.
RaveAll About RomanceThis is what I love most about historical fiction, the chance to learn things we unfortunately aren’t taught in schools ... I’ve read a ton of historical fiction about the Civil War, but I haven’t found nearly as much written about the reconstructionist era. Here, Lisa Wingate brings this piece of history to life, and I was utterly entranced by her descriptions of the way so many lives were altered by the war. Certain passages were very difficult to read, as you might expect given the subject matter, but I never felt the author was trying to shock. Instead, she handles tough subjects with a great deal of sensitivity ... I adore dual timeline novels, but it’s not uncommon for one timeline to hold my interest more than the other...Fortunately though, Ms. Wingate managed to make both stories equally compelling. Hannie and Benny are on very different journeys, but both learn a lot along the way, and so did I ... There’s a lot to unpack as you read this book, but the engaging nature of the writing makes that super easy to do. The subject matter is understandably heavy, but the stark beauty of the prose carried me through even the most difficult passages, allowing me to identify with the characters and their various plights. Not everyone is likable, but that’s okay. In fact, it adds an extra layer of authenticity to this already excellent story, making The Book of Lost Friends one of my favorite novels of 2020.
RaveAll About RomanceThe story feels utterly believable .. some of the situations the characters get wrapped up in might come off as a bit over the top to some readers, but that’s honestly one of the things I liked best about this book. The basic premise could have been taken from the headlines, but the mystery itself is addictive enough to keep readers up well past their bedtimes. There’s something so delightful about reading a book where all sorts of crazy things happen, things you’d roll your eyes at in any other setting. You’re content to suspend your disbelief and follow where the author leads, and trust me when I say Ms. Barber isn’t taking you anywhere you might be expecting to go. Certain aspects of the story are pretty dark, so if you’re disturbed by stories that center around stalking, you might want to give Follow Me a pass. I don’t think the author goes overboard when it comes to the level of violence contained in the novel, but everyone’s tolerance for violence on the page is a little different. I’ve read much worse, but I have a pretty strong stomach when it comes to books like this ... It’s everything I love in a good thriller with several unique twists that make it stand out from the crowd of other similar stories.
PositiveAll About RomanceMr. Robotham definitely knows how to create a suspenseful plot that goes in directions I never expected ... My one quibble with the book has to do with the lack of supporting characters. Both Evie and Cyrus do their best to keep the world at a bit of a distance, and as a result, the novel feels a little sparse ... Even so, Good Girl, Bad Girl is a solid start to what promises to be an engrossing new series. There’s so much more to learn about these people, and I’m confident in Mr. Robotham’s ability to create another blockbuster of a series.
PositiveAll About RomanceOnce again, Nora Roberts has created a cast of characters I wish I could meet in real life. I loved the warm and inviting nature of the town and the people who make their home there ... Some readers might take issue with the ease with which Zane and Darby achieve their happy ending, but I was quite willing to suspend my disbelief and fall into the story. There’s definitely a place in my reading life for fast-paced, high conflict stories, but there’s also a place for books like this where the hero and heroine don’t have to work quite so hard for the good things in life. Under Currents isn’t my favorite of Ms. Roberts’ books, but it’s one I’m glad I read.
RaveAll About RomanceSome authors have trouble keeping readers invested in multiple time periods, but Ms. Willig manages to imbue both stories with enough intrigue, romance, and historical detail to keep readers completely enthralled ... both timelines contain strong romantic elements, making it a book that will appeal to fans of the author’s previous works ... The pacing is wonderful and I found myself flying through the story, both eager to reach the end and unwilling to say goodbye to these characters at the same time. It’s an odd dichotomy that doesn’t occur very often, but for me, it’s the mark of a truly fantastic book. If you love large, sprawling novels rich with enough historical detail to make the setting itself feel like a character in the story, you won’t want to miss The Summer Country.
MixedAll About Romance... another psychological thriller filled with compelling twists and complex characters, and while it lacks a bit of the previous novel’s wow factor, it’s definitely a book fans of this genre should plan to pick up ... If you don’t like reading stories filled with extremely wealthy characters, The Last Time I Saw You isn’t the book for you ... The author does try to make her relatable, but the huge amount of privilege that’s a part of Kate’s everyday life was hard to swallow at times ... I was completely shocked by the identity of the killer ... I wouldn’t say The Last Time I Saw You is one of the best thrillers I’ve read lately, but it’s far from one of the worst. It must be hard to follow something as stellar as Ms. Constantine’s first novel, but this was a solid effort, and an overall enjoyable read.
RaveAll About Romance... a book that kept me reading late into the night ... Even as I read the different accounts of the days leading up to the fateful sleepover, it was clear that no one was telling the truth, and I knew I couldn’t take anything at face value. Some readers might find this style of storytelling a bit frustrating, but I was completely captivated from start to finish. I love a good puzzle, and Ms. Gudenkauf provided me with one of the best I’ve come across in quite some time ... It’s sometimes difficult to keep large casts of characters straight in your head, especially when each of them is relaying a slightly different version of events. Fortunately, Ms. Gudenkauf has managed to make each of the people in this story unique and three-dimensional ... I was literally in awe of the twists the author incorporated into this novel ... The way things wrapped up shocked me in the very best way ... It’s everything I love in a novel of psychological suspense and then some, and it’s literally one of the best things I’ve read so far this year.
PositiveAll About RomanceThe question of whether you’ll enjoy this book depends largely upon your expectations when you start reading. If you’re looking for the next twisty psychological thriller, you might be disappointed. Forget You Know Me does contain a few good twists, but they’re not what really stood out to me. Instead, the novel’s greatest strength lies in the ever-changing relationships between the characters; so if you’re looking for a novel that takes an unflinching look at what it really means to be a good friend, this just might be the book for you ... Both Molly and Liza are well-drawn, incredibly relatable characters ... a story that celebrates love and friendship in all their many forms. The suspense is compelling, and the author manages to strike the perfect balance between the action-packed scenes and those that are more introspective.
Thomas Christopher Greene
PanAll About RomanceIt’s not uncommon for me to find one character in a story difficult to like, especially in a domestic thriller like this one, but it’s hard to deal with when both the novel’s main characters rub me the wrong way ... This novel contained way too many twists for my taste, and in fact, I lost track of what was actually going on, something I rarely do. It felt as if Mr. Greene was trying too hard to keep the reader from learning the truth, and by the time it was finally revealed, I was too confused to care all that much ... I was also troubled by the novel’s pacing. At just under 300 pages, this is not a book that should crawl by, but that’s exactly what it did. Thrillers are usually fast-paced and action-packed, but that wasn’t the case here. I read page after page where nothing much seemed to happen, only to have the last few very short chapters be filled with too many key details ... The premise was intriguing, but the story itself puzzled and annoyed me. There are a ton of other fantastic thrillers out there, and I urge fans of the genre to skip this one in favor of something more satisfying.
Catherine Ryan Howard
PositiveAll About Romance\"I was expecting a fast-paced story filled with lots of twists and turns, and, while The Liar’s Girl is pretty twisty, I wouldn’t exactly call it fast-paced. The middle portion drags quite a bit, and I found it hard to remain interested in all the minutiae the author choses to include ... The Liar’s Girl is far from my favorite mystery so far this year, but I still consider it worth reading. Its setting is refreshing, and its characters are complex enough to feel like real people. Plus, it has an utterly stellar ending. If I could recommend this book on the strength of that ending alone, I totally would.\
RaveAll About Romance\"I’m happy to say [the novel] exceeded all my expectations, cementing Ms. Gaynor’s place on my list of auto-buy authors ... If you’re a reader who enjoys stories based around a historically documented event, this is definitely the book for you ... I can only speak to the huge amounts of joy I got from reading this engrossing tale that examines the lives of two very different women who live a century and an ocean apart, but who are linked by a shared history and a compulsion to do what is right at all costs. It’s a novel that is sure to enchant readers from the very first page and keep them reading late into the night.\
RaveAll About RomanceAs soon as I started reading, I knew this was exactly what I was looking for in a thriller ... I adore books about people on the run, and In Her Bones is one of the best I’ve read in quite some time. Edie is unlike any other heroine I’ve encountered in recent years, and I loved her originality. She has a moral code all her own, but Ms. Moretti does a great job helping readers sympathize with her ... She does experience a great deal of personal growth over the course of the novel, but not in an unbelievable way ... It takes a lot to surprise me, since I read a ton of thrillers, but I was completely caught off guard when the identity of Peter’s killer was finally revealed. Somehow, I never saw it coming ... She’s a very skilled writer, and I can’t wait to immerse myself in another one of her dark thrillers.
RaveAll About RomanceIt’s a lovely romance set in a fascinating world, and I’m so glad I picked it up ... Since I’m not normally a fan of romances that center around abduction, I fully expected to have trouble with Azarion’s treatment of Gilene, but Ms. Draven does a fabulous job making him into a fully relatable hero. I definitely did not agree with his actions, but I was able to understand why he went to such extreme lengths to get what he wanted, and I ended up liking him quite a bit ... The world Gilene and Azarion inhabit is very rich and complex, but Ms. Draven was able to make me feel completely at home there, and to explain how the world works without resorting to massive info-dumps ... Phoenix Unbound is the first book I’ve read by Grace Draven, but it certainly won’t be my last.
PositiveAll About RomanceStands perfectly well on its own ... The only problematic part of the novel has to do with its villains...the characters [are] so completely over the top...I would have liked these two to have been presented with a bit more nuance ... a delightful story with relatable principles and a bit of sizzling sexual tension. It’s sure to appeal to established fans of Ms. Shupe’s work as well as those who are encountering it for the first time. This is a book that will remain with me for a long time to come, and I’m eager to see what else the author has up her proverbial sleeve.
C W Gortner
MixedAll About RomanceI was captivated by the first half of this novel and I loved watching Maria come into her own as Russia’s empress. Her relationship with Sasha is quite lovely to behold, especially once they realize they actually do love one another. Unfortunately, I found myself beginning to lose interest about midway through the story ... There are some fascinating tidbits in the novel’s second half, but most of it was extremely hard to get through ... the Russia he creates feels very real ... nothing feels overly sensationalized ... This is a sizable novel, at just under 450 pages, and there’s a part of me that wonders if it really needed to be that long. I’m all for big books, but they have to hold my interest in a way this one didn’t always manage to do.
RaveAll About RomanceMs. Olsen’s descriptions of the abuse Julia suffers feels completely real. In fact, I had to put the book down a few times to give myself a break from all the emotions the story brought up ... The plot didn’t go where I thought it would; things happened that I never saw coming ... I want to make it clear that this is not a mystery in the traditional sense in that we know who the bad guys are right from the start. Even so, I was gripped ... I could go on and on about the excellence of this novel, but I’ll spare you more of my rhapsodizing and just urge you to pick With You Always up at your earliest convenience.
MixedAll About RomanceNovels centered around toxic female friendships are a dime a dozen these days, and Robyn Harding’s Her Pretty Face is another book that covers this all-too familiar topic. It doesn’t do anything ground-breaking, but it’s an enjoyable read all the same ... Her Pretty Face is billed as a psychological thriller, but it didn’t quite feel like one to me. Instead, it had a women’s fiction vibe with a bit of a mystery thrown in for good measure ... There’s one thing about the narrative structure of the book that didn’t make total sense to me. We see most things through Frances’ lens, but there are a few chapters from the point of view of Kate’s teenaged daughter, and I found those chapters to be kind of jarring...I never felt fully invested in the secondary plot-line, which simply isn’t very compelling ... Her Pretty Face is a quick and easy read, and I blew through it in a little over a day. It isn’t the most gripping book I’ve picked up this year, but it ended up being an enjoyable way to spend a few hours on a lazy summer afternoon.
MixedAll About Romance\"Baby Teeth is a cross between a thriller and a horror novel. I’m not normally a horror fan, but the synopsis for this caught my eye, and I decided to take a chance on the book. Unfortunately, the story leaned a bit too heavily toward the horror side of things, and I found myself pretty dissatisfied ... This novel was incredibly hard for me to get through, and I found the subject matter quite disturbing. In fact, I had the take several breaks from the book, something I rarely have to do. I read a ton of thrillers, so violence isn’t normally a problem for me, but Baby Teeth takes things to the extreme. However, the violence wasn’t the biggest problem. Instead, it was Hannah’s manipulative nature that made me the most uncomfortable. There was something about a child plotting to kill her own mother that set my teeth on edge, and I was quite relieved when I turned the final page ... Her prose is lush without being overly descriptive and she brings her characters to life in a way that is almost startling, and I was able to identify with the difficulties they faced with no problem. But good writing doesn’t necessarily lead to a great book, and I can’t in good conscience recommend Baby Teeth.\
RaveAll About RomanceThis is a book I absolutely hated to put down, and if real life hadn’t interfered, I’m confident I would have blown through it in a single sitting. It really is that good ... I loved pretty much everything about this book. Charlie is an incredibly relatable heroine ... If you ever wished you could spend time at a fancy boarding school, you absolutely must read All These Beautiful Strangers. Ms. Klehfoth manages to bring the boarding school experience to life in a way that felt completely authentic.
RaveAll About Romance...it wasn’t until I picked up her latest novel, The Summer Wives, that I realized what a master storyteller the author really is ... I loved watching Miranda change from a timid wallflower into a self-assured, mature woman who refuses to let social conventions dictate the way she lives her life ... If you go into this book expecting a mystery, you’re likely to be disappointed. The Summer Wives does contain an undercurrent of suspense, but it’s not the force that drives the story. Instead, the novel’s focus is on the relationships between the various characters ... The writing is lyrical and poignant without being overly dramatic or pretentious. Ms. Williams managed to transport me to a different place and time.
PositiveAll About RomanceFeatures a group of four gifted young woman chosen by the enigmatic Celeste Beauchamp to live in her house for a year after her death and perfect their fields of study. This is the story of geologist, Gemma Hastings, the last of the heiresses to remain unmarried, and Lord Cameron Lisle, the man determined to win her heart ... One for the Rogue is the fourth and final installment in Manda Collins’ Studies In Scandal...though I’ve not read any of the previous books in the series, this one stands reasonably well on its own...(and) now that I’ve read this, I’m eager to go back and read the others.
RaveAll About RomanceThrity Umrigar’s The Secrets Between Us is one of those books I want to shout about from the rooftops. I want everyone to experience the depth and beauty of the author’s writing, the power of which moved me to tears ... a beautifully rendered story of the bonds between women and the lengths they’ll go to in order to achieve their dreams. It’s not an easy read by any means, as the author pulls no punches as she describes life in Mumbai ... I love when an author is able to bring a location completely to life, and Thrity Umrigar excels in this arena ... If you enjoy reading about female friendships, this is most assuredly the book for you.
PositiveAll About RomanceJar of Hearts is a complex book that is almost impossible to describe without ruining it for the reader. It’s a mystery for sure, but there’s also a delightful second chance romance that adds a bit of sweetness to what is otherwise an incredibly dark story. The romance definitely takes a backseat to the mystery though, something that won’t work for everyone ... If you’re looking for a dark, gritty thriller this summer, Jar of Hearts just might be the book for you; I had to force myself to put it down so I could go to bed at a somewhat reasonable hour. It’s a great mix of action and character development, and I’m glad I got the chance to read it.
R. F. Kuang
PositiveAll About RomanceThe Poppy War is not without its problems, but it\'s still an enjoyable book ... The cast of characters is quite diverse, and present day issues of racial inequality are handled quite well here. So if you’re someone who likes your fantasy a little on the darker side and if you’re not turned off by violence, you might want to give this one a try.
PanAll About Romance...the characters are all extremely difficult to like ... I also struggled to follow the plot. The timeline is all over the place, and it was difficult to keep the sequence of events straight ... The mystery might have been more engaging if the characters had been more sympathetic and the plot less chaotic.
PositiveAll About RomanceThe plot is much more complex than this review makes it out to be, but part of this novel’s power lies in allowing the reader to learn certain truths along with the characters ... Joanna Goodman has crafted a story that explores some deep subjects with sensitivity and grace.