women’s fiction

Review: SURPRISE ME by Sophie Kinsella

Surprise Me

by Sophie Kinsella

Published by The Dial Press
432 pages
Genre: women’s fiction; romance
3.5 / 5

My Review:

You think you know what Sophie Kinsella is doing in this book, and then you realize that the book you’re reading is not, in fact, the book you think you’re reading. And that’s a good thing.

The initial premise feels familiar: a couple who have been together long enough to be an established unit begin to realize that they have a LOT of years ahead of them, and panic ensues.

But rather than making this a book about a couple getting to the edge and then finding their way back to each other, Kinsella makes it clear from the start that Dan and Sylvie are an unshakable unit. What threatens them isn’t so much the shock of the time they have yet to share together as a secret one of them harbors. And Kinsella surprises you there, too. The purpose behind this secret — and the secret itself — is not what you think it will be.

The weakness of the book lies squarely with Sylvie. She comes across as either silly and immature or as flighty and unreliable. Neither is a good thing. I wondered on more than one occasion whether Dan might be better off giving her the big heave.

I do love that Sophie Kinsella has elevated herself as a writer, moving beyond those Shopaholic books into someone who writes pretty solid chick lit. My favorite of hers remains Can You Keep a Secret, but I look forward to that being topped some day.

Blurb:

A witty and emotionally charged novel that delves into the heart of a marriage, and how those we love and think we know best can sometimes surprise us the most—from #1 New York Times bestselling author Sophie Kinsella

After ten years together, Sylvie and Dan have a comfortable home, fulfilling jobs, and beautiful twin girls, and they communicate so seamlessly they finish each other’s sentences. They have a happy marriage and believe they know everything there is to know about each other. Until it’s casually mentioned to them that they could be together for another sixty-eight years . . . and panic sets in.

They decide to bring surprises into their marriage to keep it fresh and fun. But in their pursuit of Project Surprise Me—from unexpected gifts to restaurant dates to sexy photo shoots—mishaps arise, with disastrous and comical results. Gradually, surprises turn to shocking truths. And when a scandal from the past is uncovered, they begin to wonder if they ever really knew each other at all.

With a colorful cast of eccentric characters, razor-sharp observations, and her signature wit and charm, Sophie Kinsella presents a humorous yet moving portrait of a marriage—its intricacies, comforts, and complications. Surprise Me reveals that hidden layers in a close relationship are often yet to be discovered.

About the Author:

Sophie Kinsella has sold over 40 million copies of her books in more than 60 countries, and she has been translated into over 40 languages.

Sophie Kinsella first hit the UK bestseller lists in September 2000 with her first novel in the Shopaholic series – The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic (also published as Confessions of a Shopaholic). The book’s heroine, Becky Bloomwood – a fun and feisty financial journalist who loves shopping but is hopeless with money – captured the hearts of readers worldwide. Becky has since featured in seven further bestselling books, Shopaholic Abroad (also published as Shopaholic Takes Manhattan), Shopaholic Ties the Knot, Shopaholic & Sister, Shopaholic & Baby, Mini Shopaholic, Shopaholic to the Stars and Shopaholic to the Rescue. Becky Bloomwood came to the big screen in 2009 with the hit Disney movie Confessions of a Shopaholic, starring Isla Fisher and Hugh Dancy.

Sophie has also written seven standalone novels which have all been bestsellers in the UK, USA and other countries around the world: Can You Keep A Secret?, The Undomestic Goddess, Remember Me?, Twenties Girl, I’ve Got Your Number, Wedding Night, and My Not So Perfect Life, which was a Goodreads Choice Awards finalist for Best Fiction in 2017.

In 2014 she published a Young Adult novel Finding Audrey about a teenage girl with social anxiety and her madcap family, and in January 2018, Sophie published her first illustrated book for young readers about the charming adventures of a mother-daughter fairy duo, Mummy Fairy and Me (also published as Fairy Mom and Me).

Sophie’s latest novel, Surprise Me, published in February 2018, presents a humorous yet moving portrait of a marriage—its intricacies, comforts, and complications. Surprise Me reveals that hidden layers in a close relationship are often yet to be discovered.

Sophie wrote her first novel under her real name, Madeleine Wickham, at the tender age of 24, whilst she was working as a financial journalist. The Tennis Party was immediately hailed as a success by critics and the public alike and became a top ten bestseller. She went on to publish six more novels as Madeleine Wickham: A Desirable Residence, Swimming Pool Sunday, The Gatecrasher, The Wedding Girl, Cocktails for Three and Sleeping Arrangements.

Sophie was born in London. She studied music at New College, Oxford, but after a year switched to Politics, Philosophy and Economics. She now lives in London, UK, with her husband and family.

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Review copy provided from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.

 

Review: THE QUEEN OF HEARTS by Kimmery Martin

The Queen of Hearts

by Kimmery Martin

Published by Berkley
348 pages
Genre: women’s fiction
4 / 5

My Review:

There are so many times while reading this book when I wanted to reach into its pages and shout at Zadie to WAKE UP. I wanted to beg her to follow her instincts. I wanted to grab her by the shoulders and ask her if she was actively choosing to be blind or if she really is one of those people whose heart only sees the best in people.

And then I thought about the title and realized that, perhaps, Kimmery Martin was giving me the answer right there.

Zadie is pretty awesome. She’s kind, she’s frazzled, she is a good friend, she runs perpetually late, she’s a supportive spouse (even to her own detriment at times), and she is REAL. When Zadie tells her kids that she has had IT with their shenanigans, she speaks a language most mothers know very well. She also wastes very little energy contemplating her past. She looks at it with a sort of “it is what it is” sentiment, grateful that it got her where she is and smart enough to know that it does not define her.

A pediatric cardiologist, Zadie specializes in little hearts, trying to heal them from defects. Looking at the larger metaphor, Zadie protects hearts, while her best friend Emma, a trauma surgeon, bears the responsibility of making snap decisions that affect lives.

I’m not sure what you will make of Emma, and I don’t want to say too much about her because she is someone about whom you need to form your own opinion without interference or influence. She is a complex character and so perfectly constructed for a book club discussion that if you aren’t in one, you will want to start one.

A physician herself, Kimmery Martin includes many scenes with precise medical detail. Sometimes these threw off her pacing. She would end a scene making you wonder what happens next, only to move onto an unconnected scene about practicing medicine. I admit to skimming through more than a couple of those.

Kimmery Martin tells this story through the eyes (and hearts) of Zadie and Emma, and she does a fantastic job of differentiating their voices. Even if you didn’t have the chapter titles to guide you, you’d still know in whose head you were. The third member of the triangle is Nick, who, as the blurb tells you, dated Zadie when she was in medical school. To a great extent, Nick remains a mystery, perhaps too much of one. Yet I also feel that’s intentional. You never really know the heart of the person you’re with, even when you’re married. Zadie, who takes care of hearts for a living, would certainly understand that.

Blurb:

A debut novel set against a background of hospital rounds and life-or-death decisions that pulses with humor and empathy and explores the heart’s capacity for forgiveness…

Zadie Anson and Emma Colley have been best friends since their early twenties, when they first began navigating serious romantic relationships amid the intensity of medical school. Now they’re happily married wives and mothers with successful careers—Zadie as a pediatric cardiologist and Emma as a trauma surgeon. Their lives in Charlotte, North Carolina are chaotic but fulfilling, until the return of a former colleague unearths a secret one of them has been harboring for years.

As chief resident, Nick Xenokostas was the center of Zadie’s life—both professionally and personally—throughout a tragic chain of events in her third year of medical school that she has long since put behind her. Nick’s unexpected reappearance during a time of new professional crisis shocks both women into a deeper look at the difficult choices they made at the beginning of their careers. As it becomes evident that Emma must have known more than she revealed about circumstances that nearly derailed both their lives, Zadie starts to question everything she thought she knew about her closest friend.

About the Author:

Kimmery Martin won her first short story contest in the first grade, and was awarded a red stuffed elephant and publication in the school newspaper.  Her writing career then suffered an unfortunate dry spell, finally broken with the publication of the enthralling journal article Lymphatic Mapping and Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy in the Staging of Melanoma, followed by the equally riveting sequel Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy for Pelvic Malignancies, both during medical school.

Conscious readers remained elusive, however, prompting her to wait another decade or so before trying again.  This time, spurred on by a supportive husband and three constantly interfering children, she produced an entire novel.  The Queen of Hearts, exploring the startling secrets in a friendship between a cardiologist and a trauma surgeon, became an instantly beloved classic amongst three of her friends.  It will be published by Penguin Random House in 2018.

When not working on her next novel, Kimmery spends her time mothering her slew of perfect children.  She’s also occupied with poorly executed household chores, working as a physician, and serving on various non-profit boards in Charlotte, North Carolina.  She exercises grudgingly, cooks inventively, reads voraciously, offers helpful book recommendations, interviews authors, publishes travel articles, and edits her son’s middle grade book reviews. Finally, she is a world-class Boggle champion, which most people find to be sexy beyond all description.

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Review copy provided from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.

 

Review: THE SMALLEST PART by Amy Harmon

The Smallest Part

by Amy Harmon

305 pages
Genre: women’s fiction; romance
5 / 5

My Review:

How many times have you taken something apart, then put it back together, only to discover that you left out a small part or two? “It will work fine,” you tell yourself.

Only it doesn’t work fine. Those small parts you deemed so easily disposable turned out to be integral. WIthout it, function ceases. Everything falls apart.

This is the core idea behind Amy Harmon’s exquisitely beautiful The Smallest Part. The titular piece in this tale is Mercedes, “the girl who didn’t get the guy,” as the blurb describes her. Shorter than her best friends Noah and Cora, Mercedes is the small part who isn’t so much discarded as she is set aside. When Cora asks Mercedes if she loves Noah, Mercedes denies that she does, effectively setting herself off to the side. Through Noah’s and Mercedes’s points of view, you come to see how this happened — why Noah and Cora wound up together. Yet there will be no happy, fulfilling relaitonship without its smallest part. Both Norah and Cora need Mercedes.

Harmon plays on a riff of a song that Mercedes sings, “A La Puerta del Cielo,” in which “little angels” come shoeless to heaven. Mercedes has a thing about shoes. At five-two, she wears sky-high heels in an attempt to give herself some height. Knowing her love of shoes, Noah gifts them to her on more than one occasion. Harmon draws a distinct line between “little angels” and Mercedes, whose care and devotion to her best friends is nothing short of angelic.

But who takes care of Mercedes? Harmon infuses her story with a sense of spirituality, that those “little angels” look out for us in ways we can’t understand. You are never alone, Harmon wants you to know, not even when you feel abandoned. Trust that not even your smallest parts are forgotten or unprotected.

Noah and Cora also need watching over, too, albeit in different ways. Fortunately for them, their smallest part is steadfast. Mercedes is there for them, even in their darkest hours. But as she learns so painfully, you can only help those who let you help them.

This is a stand alone novel, although if you have read The Law of Moses and/or The Story of David, you have previously met some of the characters in this book. I have not read either of those books, but I want to – I need to – because I can’t get enough of Amy Harmon’s storytelling.

Blurb:

“In the end, only three things matter. How much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.”
– Unknown

It was a big lie. The biggest lie she’d ever told. It reverberated through her head as she said it, ringing eerily, and the girl behind her eyes—the girl who knew the truth—screamed, and her scream echoed along with the lie.

“Are you in love with Noah, Mercedes?” Cora asked. “I mean . . . I know you love him. You’ve been friends forever. We all have. But are you in love with him?”

If it had been anyone else—anyone—Mercedes would have stuck out her chest, folded her skinny arms, and let her feelings be known. She would have claimed him. But it was Cora. Brave, beautiful, broken Cora, and Cora loved Noah too.

So Mercedes lied.

And with that lie, she lost him. With that lie, she sealed her fate.

She was the best friend, the bridesmaid, the godmother, the glue. She was there for the good times and the bad, the ups and the downs, the biggest moments and the smallest parts. And she was there when it all came crashing down.

This is the tale of the girl who didn’t get the guy.

Purchase links:

 

➜ Paperback: http://amzn.to/2Eibfh6
➜ Kindle 🇺🇸: http://amzn.to/2jrXE06
➜ Kindle 🇬🇧: http://amzn.to/2FGauOg
➜ Kindle 🇦🇺: amazon.com.au/dp/B077GMCKXF
➜ Kindle 🇨🇦: amazon.ca/dp/B077GMCKXF
➜ Kobo: http://bit.ly/2z90iip
➜ Nook: http://bit.ly/2yNSaQp
➜ iBooks: http://apple.co/2yNKNbn

About the Author:

Amy Harmon is a Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and New York Times Bestselling author. Amy knew at an early age that writing was something she wanted to do, and she divided her time between writing songs and stories as she grew. Having grown up in the middle of wheat fields without a television, with only her books and her siblings to entertain her, she developed a strong sense of what made a good story. Her books are now being published in thirteen languages, truly a dream come true for a little country girl from Levan, Utah.

Amy Harmon has written ten novels – including the USA Today Bestsellers, Making Faces and Running Barefoot, as well as The Law of Moses, Infinity + One and the New York Times Bestseller, A Different Blue. Her recent release, The Bird and the Sword, is a Goodreads Choice finalist in Fantasy. FROM SAND AND ASH, her historical romance, will be released via Lake Union Publishing on December 1st. For updates on upcoming book releases, author posts and more, join Amy at www.authoramyharmon.com.

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Review copy provided from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.

 

Review: NO TIME TO BLINK by Dina Silver

No Time to Blink

by Dina Silver

Published by Lake Union Publishing
283 pages
Genre: women’s fiction
4.5 / 5

My Review:

Late in this book, there is a moment that will overwhelm you with its emotional impact. And in this moment, Dina Silver proves how smart of a writer she is. She does not tell you what’s said between two characters. She shows you. She depicts their actions, letting you see, from a distance, how these two people interact, revealing to you their feelings. It is a powerful moment, one that Silver imparts with poignant – but minimal – detail.

That’s what makes this book so remarkable: Silver’s ability to tell a story largely through showing.

The two women at the center of the book each are forced to react to their circumstances without knowing why they are in the positions in which they find themselves. They do not know why their husbands behave as they do, yet they have to decide how they will respond. And that’s life, isn’t it? We never have all the answers, yet we have to make decisions based on what we know at the time.

Ann Marie’s story begins the book, and Silver immediately plunges you into a mystery focused on her about which Ann Marie is unaware: “I can’t believe you’re the little girl.” Silver then takes you into the perspective of Catherine, Ann Marie’s mother. You learn about her privileged upbringing in Greenwich, Connecticut, and her passionate, whirlwind romance and quick marriage to Gabriel, a Lebanese man who soon takes her back to his homeland. Through Gabriel, Silver shows – again, shows – cultural differences, borne both of time and place. You understand that Gabriel represents freedom to Catherine, even as you hold your breath, knowing that something terrible will happen. Meanwhile, Ann Marie struggles with the demise of her marriage. All the while, Silver builds to an emotional crescendo, one that will leave you grabbing for tissues.

There are moments in this book that are fraught with anxiety and tension, and there are moments that are sweetly beautiful and even romantic. Silver lets some things remain a mystery, which makes the impact of what you do know all the more powerful.

I enjoyed this book tremendously. Catherine and Ann Marie are stronger than they realize. And when they feel themselves showing weakness, they are best served by Catherine’s adage: “Put your pearls on and fake it.”

 

Blurb:

He knows the one thing that would destroy me would be to separate me from my daughter…

Catherine Clarke defied her family’s expectations when she married Gabriel, a handsome Lebanese businessman. After moving to Gabriel’s homeland and welcoming a baby daughter, Catherine knew she had to acclimate herself to the strange new world. Yet both her husband and her surroundings became more volatile and threatening than she could have ever imagined.

When Gabriel forbids her to return to the States, Catherine devises a plan to deceive him, but she vastly underestimates how far he will go to punish her. And after her daughter, Ann Marie, is abducted and taken deep into the mountains of Beirut—protected by family, culture, and law—the only thing on Catherine’s side is the fierceness of a mother’s love. She’s prepared to move heaven and earth to find her child.

Told from alternating points of view—that of a daughter whose past is a mystery and of a mother with painful secrets to share—this profoundly moving story of impossible risks will resonate with anyone whose love has no boundaries.

About the Author:

Dina Silver is an author, a wine drinker, a lover of cheese fries, and an excellent parallel parker.

She is the author of SIX books: No Time To Blink, The Unimaginable, Kat Fight, Finding Bliss, Whisper if You Need Me, and One Pink Line, which was chosen as a 2012 Top Title by IndieReader and was a finalist in their 2012 Discovery Awards.

Dina lives with her husband, son, and twenty-pound tabby cat in suburban Chicago where she also works as a realtor. When she’s not writing books or selling homes, she’s likely watching Netflix or wandering the aisles of her local grocery trying to decide what to make for dinner.

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Review copy provided from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.

 

Review: SHE REGRETS NOTHING by Andrea Dunlop

She Regrets Nothing

by Andrea Dunlop

Published by Washington Square Press
400 pages
Genre: women’s fiction
5 / 5

My Review:

It takes tremendous skill to populate a book nearly entirely with unlikable — truly despisable — characters and still make it a riveting page-turner. Andrea Dunlop has done just that.

You may think you will like Laila, but you won’t. Oh, sure she starts off as some sort of Forever 21-wearing Midwestern innocent, but give her ten minutes of realizing that she is a member of an obscenely rich New York family, and she sloughs off her discount duds for a sense of entitlement. Some of my favorite moments were when other characters point out her brazen desire to climb up in the social (and financial) ranks.

You will find Nora and Leo, Laila’s twin cousins, entertaining, and you may even develop a fondness for them. While they, too, are entitled, they were born with it and to it. Neither can hold down a job (neither wishes to, which perhaps is the point), which causes them no concerns whatsoever. There were a few moments when I felt for Nora, but then she would say something ridiculously meanspirited, and my empathies would evaporate.

You won’t like the twins’ parents, either, and although you never actually meet him, you are smart enough not to like their grandfather.

There are, however, two characters you will love and who earn your love. One of them is Liberty, the twins’ elder sister and an heiress who thinks like a career girl. She is too good for these people, and she’s too good to realize that. Dunlop’s pacing impresses because she knows when she needs to turn the story over to Liberty. If you spend too much time in Laila’s and Nora’s heads, you will find yourself overcome with irrational anger.

The other character you will love is best not revealed in a review. Suffice it to say that Dunlop is a smart, canny writer who knows that Liberty needs an ally, and this story needs to end on a hopeful note.

The ending, by the way, is PERFECTION. I loved that Dunlop never tries to redeem these people. They are who they are, and no amount of wishful thinking will turn them from entitled brats into tolerant, generous humans.

This book is perfect for book clubs. Dunlop gives you a lot to discuss and debate, and you will devour her storytelling. I loved this book so much. If you give it a chance, which you should, please come back and let me know your thoughts.

Blurb:

Named a “Must-Read” by Town & Country * Elite Daily InStyle

In the tradition of The Emperor’s Children and The House of Mirth, the forgotten granddaughter of one of New York’s wealthiest men is reunited with her family just as she comes of age—and once she’s had a glimpse of their glittering world, she refuses to let it go without a fight.

When Laila Lawrence becomes an orphan at twenty-three, the sudden loss unexpectedly introduces her to three glamorous cousins from New York who show up unannounced at her mother’s funeral. The three siblings are scions of the wealthy family from which Laila’s father had been estranged long before his own untimely demise ten years before.

Two years later, Laila has left behind her quiet life in Grosse Point, Michigan to move to New York City, landing her smack in the middle of her cousins’ decadent world. As the truth about why Laila’s parents became estranged from the family patriarch becomes clear, Laila grows ever more resolved to claim what’s rightfully hers. Caught between longing for the love of her family and her relentless pursuit of the lifestyle she feels she was unfairly denied, Laila finds herself reawakening a long dead family scandal—not to mention setting off several new ones—as she becomes further enmeshed in the lives and love affairs of her cousins. But will Laila ever, truly, belong in their world? Sly and sexy, She Regrets Nothing is a sharply observed and utterly seductive tale about family, fortune, and fate—and the dark side of wealth.

About the Author:

Andrea Dunlop is an author and social media consultant based out of Seattle, WA with over a decade of experience in book publishing.

She began her career as an in-house publicist for Doubleday (Random House) where she worked with bestselling authors such as Tina Brown, Jonathan Lethem, Linda Fairstein, and many others.

After moving back to Seattle in 2009, she took over as publicity manager for Kim Ricketts Book Events promoting a wide range of cookbook and literary events with authors such as Laurie David, Rene Redzepi, and Steven Johnson. Next, she spent five years with editorial and book production firm Girl Friday Productions as their executive director of social media and marketing, working with both traditionally and self-published clients and spearheading the company’s marketing efforts.

In February 2016, Andrea released her debut novel, Losing the Light (Atria), and is currently working on a second novel for the publisher, due out in 2017. In addition to her writing and social media work, Andrea is an accomplished speaker and has presented at book and publishing conferences nationwide including The San Francisco Writers Conference, The Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Conference, The Pacific Northwest Writers Association Conference, and many others.

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Review copy provided from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.

 

Review: I LOVE YOU TOO MUCH by Alicia Drake

I love You Too Much

by Alicia Drake

Published by Little, Brown and Company
224 pages
Genre: fiction; women’s fiction
4 / 5

My Review:

Sometimes you encounter a character so affectingly heartbreaking that you wish you could reach into the book, wrap your arms around him, and tell him everything will be okay.

Such is the case with Paul, the young teeange narrator of this bittersweet story.

Alicia Drake depicts loneliness and isolation so remarkably well that you want to get a group rate on Prozac. As if being fourteen isn’t tough enough, Paul loves so many people so deeply with such little reciprocation that it is no wonder that he finds solace and comfort in food. It’s the only thing that loves him without reservation. His mother, the beautiful and beauty-obsessed Séverine, has just had a new baby, giving Paul a half-sister. There are a few scenes in shich Séverine delays feeling Lou, and given the priority she places on outer perfection, those scenes feel chilling.

If only Séverine were as concerned as what’s on the inside of people. Maybe then she would see how much her son is struggling. Maybe then she would be as worried about his mental and emotional well-being as she is about his math scores.

Just as disappointing is Paul’s father, a man whose efforts to compete in triathlons is far more intense than his efforts to connect with his son. Paul fares no better with his grandparents, who seem equally determined to see what they want to see. When he tries to connect with a troubled classmate, you worry even more for him because you sense that he will continue to suffer.

Drake does a fantastic job of infusing this book with a sense of sadness and isolation. She also takes you on a little tour of some areas in Paris, and when she talks about the food there, I want to join Paul at a table. What impresses me most is that, in spite of all of Paul’s attempts to have his love reciprocated, only to be disappointed, Drake doesn’t let him feel defeated for long. She gives him his chance to act out, to show his frustration, to fill himself with calories just so he can feel some sort of fullness. And she also gives him a hopefulness that gives you hope that Paul will be okay. This is largely found in Lou, the baby he did not want to admit into his heart and whom he found purple and unappealing when she was born. But Lou’s heart, untouched by loss and disappointment, is open and innocent. Paul sees her unbridled glee and realizes that life is going to be okay.

Still, though, you want someone to love this kid. He gives, as the title implies, too much love. Someone needs to return it.

Blurb:

I knew I was in Paris, I knew that was the Seine beneath me, the sky above, but when I looked around for help, the grand apartment buildings of the Quai Voltaire stared back at me, indifferent.

Alicia Drake, author of the critically acclaimed biography The Beautiful Fall, evokes contemporary life in the City of Lights lavishness of Edward St. Aubyn and the sophistication of Julia Pierpont’s Among Ten Thousand ThingsI Love You Too Much is a novel of extraordinary intelligence and heart, a devastating coming of age story told from the sidelines of Parisian perfection.

In the sixth arrondissement everything is perfect and everyone is lonely. This is the Paris of thirteen-year-old Paul. Shy and unloved, he quietly observes the lives of the self-involved grown-ups around him: his glamorous Maman, Séverine, her younger musician lover, Gabriel, and his fitness-obsessed Papa, Philippe. Always overlooked, it’s only a matter of time before Paul witnesses something that he’s not supposed to see…

Seeking solace in an unlikely friendship with rebellious classmate Scarlett and succumbing to the temptation of the numerous patisseries in his elegant neighborhood, Paul searches for unconditional love. But what will he do if he can’t find it?

About the Author:

Brought up in Liverpool, Alicia Drake read History and History of Art at Newnham College, Cambridge. She went to Paris for six months and stayed for eighteen years. There she worked as a writer and fashion journalist and had five children. She is the author of The Beautiful Fall, a book of narrative nonfiction about Paris fashion and creativity in the 1970s. She returned to the UK recently and now lives in the countryside with her husband and children. I love you too much is her first novel.

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Review copy provided from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.

 

Review: BETWEEN ME AND YOU by Allison Winn Scotch

Between Me and You

by Allison Winn Scotch

Published by Lake Union
358 pages
Genre: women’s fiction; romance
5 / 5

My Review:

I’m going to tell you straight up: I loved this book.

I loved how Allison Winn Scotch told this story backwards from Ben’s point-of-view and forwards from Tatum’s. I loved seeing events from their perspectives, and I enjoyed anticipating the overlap of their POVs.

I loved Ben. Not all the time; sometimes I wanted to grab his face and shout at him to STOP RIGHT NOW. But I loved that I felt that way about him. Ben grows in fits and starts. He’s emotionally stymied to a certain extent, and it takes undergoing a series of losses to get him to understand the extent of his own culpability. You know, though, that at his core, Ben is a good guy. He deserves to be seen by the people he loves.

That is a running theme in this book: being seen. Tatum craves it, too, even as she also (somewhat desperately) tries to conceal herself. Knowing that Ben sees her is vital to her. When she feels as if he no longer does, she feels devastated. When you love someone, Allison Winn Scotch says, you need to try to see them, every day.

Seeing also means accepting. Ben has to accept that Tatum’s career arc soars while his flatlines, and she needs to accept that this affects her husband. She cannot justify or ignore, nor can she patronize and coddle. She has to see.

I loved Tatum, for all of her flaws. I loved her insecurities. I loved her umbrage (“I was number one at Tisch!”) I loved her courage and her determination. I loved seeing her vulnerability when she starts to feel that Ben no longer sees her. And I loved when she realized that she cannot perform to herself, that she needs to be true.

Winn Scotch keeps you wondering if Ben and Tatum will find their way back to each other. At times she even makes you wonder if they should. Maybe they hurt each other too much when they stopped seeing each other. Maybe the “Hollywood ending” that Ben typically writes is not the right ending for them.

Or maybe it is.

You’ve got to read this wonderfully conceived, beautifully written story. Promise that you will come back and tell me what you thought.

Blurb:

From New York Times bestselling author Allison Winn Scotch comes an honest, touching, and funny exploration of falling in and out of love, told from two perspectives—one rewinding history, one moving it forward—and each with bias and regret.

When their paths first cross, Ben Livingston is a fledgling screenwriter on the brink of success; Tatum Connelly is a struggling actress tending bar in a New York City dive. They fall in love, they marry, they become parents, and they think only of the future. But as the years go by, Tatum’s stardom rises while Ben’s fades. In a marriage that bears the fallout of ambition and fame, Ben and Tatum are at a crossroads. Now all they can do is think back…

A life of passion, joy, tragedy, and loss—once shared—becomes one as shifting and unpredictable as a memory. As the pieces of their past come together, as they explore the ways love can bend and break, Ben and Tatum come to see how it all went wrong—and wonder what they can do now to make it all right.

About the Author:

I’m not sure how one condenses a lifetime of experience onto an “About Me” page, but I’ll do my best. I’m a writer, after all. How hard can this be?

Well…

There’s a reason I write fiction, not memoir, because I’m not sure that anything I’ll have to say here is particularly revelatory. But let’s try.

I had a perfectly normal, wonderful childhood spent in Charlottesville, Virginia and then later, Seattle, where I had a funny slightly-Southern drawl but otherwise found my calling among all the flannel and the grey skies. My mom was a teacher who encouraged us to read a lot (and used to send vocab words in the mail to camp over the summer), so I suppose the seeds of literature, coupled with an active imagination (hello, I could have SO been an actress) led me to one day believe that I could write fiction.

While earning my keep as a freelance magazine writer (all of those “10 Ways to a Better Life” articles you read? I wrote them on every subject), I tucked away pockets of time toward a novel. Which, four years later, I finally finished. It was terrible. But I wrote another one that proved less so, and now, a decade later, I’m six books deep. Which seems completely implausible because: seven books? But yes, I suppose it’s true. Proof: The Song Remains the SameThe One That I WantTime of My LifeThe Department of Lost and FoundIn Twenty Years, and The Theory of Opposites, which may or may not eventually be a movie. (But wouldn’t it be fun to say that it will be?!) These days, in addition to fiction, I primarily focus on celebrity interviews and profiles, which indulge my pop culture obsession and give me an excuse to read junky magazines and watch lots of tv.

My seventh novel, Between Me and You, will be released on January 9th, 2018.

I don’t know: is that enough about me? A few other things: I moved to Los Angeles in 2012 and love it (go ahead and judge me); I never expect anyone to have read any of my books (but it’s fantastic if you do!); I often write about dysfunctional parents (but mine are really awesome); I’m always, always listening to music and am the lookout for bands or songs that will resonate with my writing (hello, The Killers, I love you!), and if you’re dying to know more, more, more, I do my best to offer a sliver of my life (and hilarious wit and cutting insights) on Twitter and Facebook.

My fiction is represented by Elisabeth Weed at The Book Group. She can be contacted at elisabeth@thebookgroup.com.

Other Tidbits

I graduated cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania with a BA in Honors History and Concentration in Marketing from the Wharton School of Business.

When I’m not planted in front of the computer (go ahead: send me a note!), I’m hiking, running (well, I was before I broke my leg this year, so let’s now say I’m trying to go running), doing yoga, reading, serving as an Uber service for my kids, or hanging out with my family and our pooches, Pele and Paco.

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Review copy provided from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.

 

Review: ROOMIES by Christina Lauren

Roomies

by Christina Lauren

Published by Gallery Books
368 pages
Genre: romance; women’s fiction
4 / 5

My Review:

Maybe you’ve been there. Maybe you’ve been quietly fascinated (obsessed) with a stranger you frequently see. Maybe you go out of your way to chance a sighting. Maybe you think about this person you do not know and imagine what would happen if you spoke to him or introduced yourself.

Holland certainly knows these feelings. So when she gets her chance to actually (gasp!) talk to the guitarist who busks by a NY subway station, she becomes even more fascinated by his Irish accent. Another layer has been added to her interest. Imagine how all of her emotions become even more amplified when the object of her adoration rescues her from an attempted robbery.

Christina Lauren set up this story by putting you squarely into Holland’s perspective. You understand how she feels and that tremor of excitement that hits her when Calvin (the guitarist) speaks to her for the first time. You understand her desperation to stay connected to him.

What makes Holland relatable is how she views herself. As her uncles keep pointing out, she does not see her own value, to the point that taking a risk petrifies her. What she does with Calvin certainly represents a break from the patterns she established, until you realize that she really hasn’t broken away from her inability to put herself first.

You may not anticipate the tears you will shed, but Christina Lauren make you do so. Your sympathies with Holland are so entrenched that you will fear for her heart. You also can see things that she can’t: for instance, you know how Calvin feels about her, even as she is blind to that.

There are many layers at play here, and there is even a sexy time or two. What you come to realize is that the true “roomie” Holland needs to get to know and learn to live with is herself. How Christina Lauren get you to that is a fun, poignant read.

Blurb:

From subway to Broadway to happily ever after. Modern love in all its thrill, hilarity, and uncertainty has never been so compulsively readable as in New York Times and #1 international bestselling author Christina Lauren’s (Beautiful Bastard, Dating You / Hating You) new romance.

Marriages of convenience are so…inconvenient. 

Rescued by Calvin McLoughlin from a would-be subway attacker, Holland Bakker pays the brilliant musician back by pulling some of her errand-girl strings and getting him an audition with a bigtime musical director. When the tryout goes better than even Holland could have imagined, Calvin is set for a great entry into Broadway—until he admits his student visa has expired and he’s in the country illegally.

Holland impulsively offers to wed the Irishman to keep him in New York, her growing infatuation a secret only to him. As their relationship evolves from awkward roommates to besotted lovers, Calvin becomes the darling of Broadway. In the middle of the theatrics and the acting-not-acting, what will it take for Holland and Calvin to realize that they both stopped pretending a long time ago?

About the Authors:

Yes, there are two of us! Lauren (on the left) and Christina (on the right).

Christina Lauren is the combined pen name of long-time writing partners/besties/soulmates Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings. The #1 international bestselling coauthor duo writes both Young Adult and Adult Fiction, and together has produced fourteen New York Times bestselling novels. They are published in over 30 languages, have received starred reviews from Kirkus ReviewsLibrary Journal and Publishers Weekly, won both the Seal of Excellence and Book of the Year from RT Magazine, named Amazon and Audible Romance of the Year, and been nominated for several Goodreads Choice Awards. They have been featured in publications such as ForbesThe Washington PostTimeEntertainment Weekly, People, O Magazine and more. Their third YA novel, Autoboyography was released in September, and will be followed by a contemporary romance, Roomies in December, and their first Women’s Fiction, Love and Other Words in April.

Lauren Billings (but everyone calls her Lo) has a Ph.D. in neuroscience and before she made writing her full-time job, would spend her days doing nerdy research-type things wearing a lab coat and goggles. She is silly Mommy to two littles, wife to one mountain biking homebrewing scientist, bestie to a shoe-stealer, and an unabashed lover of YA and romance.

Christina Hobbs (but you’ll always hear Lo call her PQ) used to spend her days in a junior high counseling office surrounded by teenagers. She grew up in Utah and is absolutely not old enough to be the mom of a 16 year old (right??), thinks she’s the luckiest person in the world to write books with her best friend, and is an unapologetic lover of boy bands and glitter. She also likes to steal Lo’s shoes.

You can follow their shenanigans at:

@lolashoes (Lauren) & @seeCwrite (Christina) on Twitter. On Tumblr! where we post kissing gifs and writerly stuff and Wattpad for short stories and sneak peeks!

For official information about their books, events, interviews, movie/TV news and more, follow @christinalauren.

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Review copy provided from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.

 

Review: NOW THAT YOU MENTION IT by Kristan Higgins

Now that You Mention It

by Kristan Higgins

Published by HQN Books
416 pages
Genre: romance; women’s fiction
4.5 / 5

My Review:

Reading a Kristan Higgins book is like settling onto a snuggly couch with a friend and a glass of wine. You know you’re going to enjoy laughter, love, and a little bit of tears. Sometimes a lot of bit of tears.

When she is hit by a pest control van and overhears her boyfriend flirt with another doctor, Nora realizes that the life she crafted for herself in Boston – she’s a doctor, too, and lives with one – is neither as fulfilling nor as stable as she thought. So she packs up and heads home to Scupper Island, a coastal Maine isle where her mother, a woman as sturdy and remote as Scupper itself, still lives.

One of the things I’ve always enjoyed about Higgins’ books is their comedic elements. Now that You Mention It has those moments, but it is a little more serious, a little more heartbreaking. This is largely due to the circumstances behind Nora’s flight from Boston. She has survived something terrible, yet she doesn’t quite see herself as a survivor. Rather, she still thinks of herself as a victim.

I liked how Higgans established this sense of Nora’s not solely from the horrific event that occurred to her, but far earlier, when she was a kid growing up on Scupper. Nora has always seen herself as secondary, as an accessory of sorts. She saw others thrive while she retreated. Yet Higgans also shows you those moments when Nora sort of channels her mother’s steady survivor attitude. You know, long before Nora does, that she will be just fine. Better, even.

Like most of Higgans’ heroines, Nora is someone you wish you knew in real life. And like most of Higgans’ heroes, Nora’s love interest is someone who makes you swoon. He, too, has survived something awful, but unlike Nora, he hasn’t let that experience defeat him in the least. He’s quite dreamy.

I love Kristan Higgins’ books, and this one is no exception.

 

Blurb:

“The kind of book I enjoy the most—sparkling characters, fast-moving plot and laugh-out-loud dialogue. A winner!” —New York Times bestselling author Susan Elizabeth Phillips on If You Only Knew

New York Times bestselling author Kristan Higgins welcomes you home in this witty, emotionally charged novel about the complications of life, love and family

One step forward. Two steps back. The Tufts scholarship that put Nora Stuart on the path to becoming a Boston medical specialist was a step forward. Being hit by a car and then overhearing her boyfriend hit on another doctor when she thought she was dying? Two major steps back.

Injured in more ways than one, Nora feels her carefully built life cracking at the edges. There’s only one place to land: home. But the tiny Maine community she left fifteen years ago doesn’t necessarily want her. At every turn, someone holds the prodigal daughter of Scupper Island responsible for small-town drama and big-time disappointments.

With a tough islander mother who’s always been distant, a wild-child sister in jail and a withdrawn teenage niece as eager to ditch the island as Nora once was, Nora has her work cut out for her if she’s going to take what might be her last chance to mend the family. Balancing loss and opportunity, dark events from her past with hope for the future, Nora will discover that tackling old pain makes room for promise…and the chance to begin again.

About the Author:

Kristan Higgins is the New York Times, USA TODAY, Wall Street Journal and Publishers Weekly bestselling author of 18 novels, which have been translated into more than twenty languages. Her books have received dozens of awards and accolades, including starred reviews from Kirkus, The New York Journal of Books, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and Booklist. She is a five-time nominee for The Kirkus Prize for Best Work of Fiction, and her books regularly appear on the lists for best novels of the year of many prestigious journals and review sites.

 

Kristan lives in Connecticut with her heroic firefighter husband, two children with advanced vocabularies and long eyelashes, two frisky rescue dogs and an occasionally friendly cat.

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Review copy provided from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.

 

Review: SEX HAPPENS by Carol Soloway

Sex Happens

by Carol Soloway

Published by Bayliss Enterprises
282 pages
Genre: women’s fiction
3.5/ 5

My Review:

Alexandra Rose, a successful chiropractor, heads to Las Vegas to spend her twentieth anniversary with her husband Gabe, a heart surgeon. She packs lacy lingerie and prepares to seduce Gabe back into the romance of their marriage. Unfortunately, Gabe not only is unreceptive, he announces that he’s been having an affair and wants a divorce.

Carol Soloway immediately makes you feel sympathy for Alex. She explains Gabe’s complaints about Alex’s infrequent interest in him through every day family busyness. The two share three active sons, and each has a medical practice. The day-to-day maneuverings and management of their family move Alex away from being Gabe’s wife and into more of a focus on motherhood. You sympathize with her. You worry for her.

To help Alex navigate her way through this new life, Soloway gives her a tight band of friends who support Alex and provide necessary guidance. Not that Alex won’t occasionally frustrate you with some of the decisions she makes. There are several times in which you will want to shout at her to stop doing what she’s doing because she’s making things worse.

There are a few plot points that are a bit of a head-scratcher and require a suspense of logic. Yet you forgive these lapses because the story is so gripping. You want to know what’s going to happen with Alex, particularly since Gabe is determined to get custody of their children. You want her to be victorious, even as Soloway makes you wonder how that will happen.

My biggest problem with this book is its title and cover. Both are misleading. The titular sex relates to something Gabe tells Alex, yet it doesn’t have much more significance in the novel. And the cover is just completely unrelated to anything you read. Yes, Alex has a bit of a sexual awakening, but it’s hardly the point of her personal growth.

Let me know what you think.

Blurb:

Dr. Alexandra Rose has everything a woman could want. She’s the wife of a renowned cardiologist, the mother of three adorable sons, and a successful chiropractor. But on their twentieth anniversary, her husband shocks her with his affair. Her life spins out of control, and she faces the other side of marriage where dreams implode and people are not who they seem.

Alexandra wants custody of her children, but so does her husband, and he’ll stop at nothing. Thrust into a nightmare spawned by chilling deception, a custody battle erupts that’s so poisonous it threatens to become murderous.

In this stay-up-all-night portrait of a contemporary family, Alexandra’s bittersweet journey of love, loss, and sexuality leads her to a miraculous discovery of self and power. Sex Happens explores the very essence of all we value as women—marriage, motherhood, sex—and what we’ll do for each.

About the Author:

After each decade of my life, I’ve changed careers, and writing is the synthesis of all of the knowledge and skills I’ve accumulated along the path. My first career was as an English teacher during which time, I completed a master’s degree in English. Ten years later, I went back to school and became a chiropractor and established a rewarding practice which my son, also a chiropractor, now runs. Another decade passed and another career beckoned. I became a Qualified Medical Examiner and have been enjoying the challenges of that career for—of course, ten years.

Since writing has always been my passion, I returned to school and took numerous creative writing courses including Squaw Valley Community of Writers summer program. Now, I’m enjoying the pinnacle of all of my careers as the author of SEX HAPPENS.

I live with my wonderful husband who is nothing like any of the characters in the novel. Together, we have five grown sons with families of their own, all of whom have promised not to read the sex scenes.

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Review copy provided from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.