2021 Book #58 – When Life Gives You Lululemons by Lauren Weisberger

Title: When Life Gives You Lululemons
Author: Lauren Weisberger
Date finished: 7/24/21
Genre: Fiction, women’s fiction
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: June 5, 2018
Pages in book: 354
Stand alone or series: #3 in the Devil Wears Prada series
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Welcome to Greenwich, Connecticut, where the lawns and the women are perfectly manicured, the Tito’s and sodas are extra strong, and everyone has something to say about the infamous new neighbor.

Let’s be clear: Emily Charlton does not do the suburbs. After leaving Miranda Priestly, she’s been working in Hollywood as an image consultant to the stars, but recently, Emily’s lost a few clients. She’s hopeless with social media. The new guard is nipping at her heels. She needs a big opportunity, and she needs it now.

When Karolina Hartwell, a gorgeous former supermodel, is arrested, her fall from grace is merciless. Her senator-husband leaves her, her Beltway friends disappear, and the tabloids pounce.

In Karolina, Emily finds her comeback opportunity. But she quickly learns Greenwich is a world apart and that this comeback needs a team approach.

So it is that Emily, the scorned Karolina, and their mutual friend Miriam, a powerful attorney turned stay-at-home mom, band together to navigate the social land mines of suburban Greenwich and win back the hearts of the American public. Along the way, an unexpected ally emerges in one Miranda Priestly.

My rating:  3.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I had requested this book a couple years ago – even though I hadn’t read the first two books in the series, I have seen the Devil Wears Prada movie so I knew the players. I was worried when I first started reading that it was going to be an annoying story about white rich people woes, but I ended up liking this book a lot more than I expected to. The plot lines ended up drawing me in, especially Karolina’s which was particularly rage-inducing. There were a lot of terrible people in the book, who were doing awful things to the people around them, which wasn’t always fun to read. And ended up being somewhat repetitive in terms of everyone being jerks to each other. I didn’t love too that Emily did a complete turn around from not wanting kids to being ecstatic that she’s pregnant. It’s ok for people to just not want to have kids, and I thought it would’ve been ok (and more in line with her character) for Emily to not want kids. Other than that – all the drama would likely be exciting for most readers but it isn’t my favorite type of story. Overall it was a good book but I didn’t love it.

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2021 Book #57 – Best Friends Forever by Margot Hunt

Title: Best Friends Forever
Author: Margot Hunt
Date finished: 7/23/21
Genre: Suspense, thriller
Publisher: MIRA
Publication Date: January 23, 2018
Pages in book: 296
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

How well do you really know your best friend?

Kat Grant and Alice Campbell have a friendship forged in shared confidences and long lunches lubricated by expensive wine. Though they’re very different women—the artsy socialite and the struggling suburbanite—they’re each other’s rocks. But even rocks crumble under pressure. Like when Kat’s financier husband, Howard, plunges to his death from the second-floor balcony of their South Florida mansion.

Howard was a jerk, a drunk, a bully and, police say, a murder victim. The questions begin piling up. Like why Kat has suddenly gone dark: no calls, no texts and no chance her wealthy family will let Alice see her. Why investigators are looking so hard in Alice’s direction. Who stands to get hurt next. And who is the cool liar—the masterful manipulator behind it all.

My rating:  4.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I had signed up to review this book awhile ago and finally had the chance to read it. And I ended up really enjoying it! The plot of this book was great – there were some great plot twists that I never saw coming, which is somewhat rare for me. I was pretty shocked at the ending! The characters were well developed and the pacing of the book was well done. I liked that the book was told through alternating passages between present day and the past. I can’t say too much without giving away the ending but overall this was a really good book. I didn’t want to put it down because I wanted to find out what happened. And like I said the plot twists in the end were shocking, if a little dark and twisted. I’d definitely recommend it though!

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2021 Book #55 – Meet Me at Beachcomber Bay by Jill Mansell

Title: Meet Me at Beachcomber Bay
Author: Jill Mansell
Date finished: 7/21/21
Genre: Contemporary romance
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publication Date: May 2, 2017
Pages in book: 370
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

When Clemency meets the brilliant Sam Adams, she could just about fall in love with him—if he weren’t married. Three years later, Clemency has settled into her cozy home village of Cornwall to focus on her career. Everything is smooth sailing until Sam upends her entire life…by showing up as her stepsister’s boyfriend.

Caught in the midst of a love triangle, Clemency has to pretend she’s never met Sam…and choose between the love of her life and the bond of sisterhood.

My rating:  2.25 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I had signed up to review this book awhile ago and had some time available while I was in the hospital recently to catch up on a little reading. I can’t say that I liked this book – there were a few things I enjoyed while reading it but overall there was a lot that I didn’t love. The writing felt a tad two-dimensional to me. The characters all felt like exaggerated versions of themselves and their conversations and internal monologues felt very cliched. I didn’t love Clemency’s character either, her sunny attitude got to e a bit much and she just felt very under developed. And the start of the book where she’s being super chatty with Sam on the plane was just jarring to me – as an introvert that’s pretty much my worst nightmare is a stranger trying to talk to me. So just from the start of the book I felt like maybe this one wasn’t for me. There were a number of subplots going on in this book, which in some ways helped to move the story along faster, but also felt like a bit much for one novel. So overall this wasn’t my favorite book but it was a good enough novel and if you like light contemporary romances with no sex scenes then I would give this one a try.

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2021 Book # 53 – Brass by Xhenet Aliu

Title: Brass
Author: Xhenet Aliu
Date finished: 7/15/21
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date: January 23, 2018
Pages in book: 306
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

A waitress at the Betsy Ross Diner, Elsie hopes her nickel-and-dime tips will add up to a new life. Then she meets Bashkim, who is at once both worldly and naïve, a married man who left Albania to chase his dreams—and wound up working as a line cook in Waterbury, Connecticut. Back when the brass mills were still open, this bustling factory town drew one wave of immigrants after another. Now it’s the place they can’t seem to leave. Elsie, herself the granddaughter of Lithuanian immigrants, falls in love quickly, but when she learns that she’s pregnant, Elsie can’t help wondering where Bashkim’s heart really lies, and what he’ll do about the wife he left behind.

Seventeen years later, headstrong and independent Luljeta receives a rejection letter from NYU and her first-ever suspension from school on the same day. Instead of striking out on her own in Manhattan, she’s stuck in Connecticut with her mother, Elsie—a fate she refuses to accept. Wondering if the key to her future is unlocking the secrets of the past, Lulu decides to find out what exactly her mother has been hiding about the father she never knew. As she soon discovers, the truth is closer than she ever imagined.

Told in equally gripping parallel narratives with biting wit and grace, Brass announces a fearless new voice with a timely, tender, and quintessentially American story.

My rating:  2.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I was interested in this book based on the description – I grew up about 15 minutes from Waterbury so I’m pretty familiar with the area and I was interested in reading a book centered around someone from there. It was fun to see so many local things mentioned in the book, like nearby towns and restaurants. Other than that though I couldn’t find much interest in the story line of the book. I found both POV’s to be immature and somewhat annoying. The plot of the story was also pretty depressing, and if I’m being honest the ending felt like a rip off and left a lot of things unresolved. The story line was interesting in some parts but overall was just not something that I personally enjoyed. I thought the author’s voice was very interesting and that she told the story well, it just wasn’t a story line that I personally found much enjoyment in.

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2021 Book #51 – A Duke in Time by Janna MacGregor

Title: A Duke in Time
Author: Janna MacGregor
Date finished: 7/1/21
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Publication Date: June 29, 2021
Pages in book: 380
Stand alone or series: The Widow Rules series Book #1
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

A Duke in Time is the first book in a three-story arc that will have you rooting for leading heroines, searching for lost dowries, and falling for swoon-worthy heroes.

Katherine Vareck is in for the shock of her life when she learns upon her husband Meri’s accidental death that he had married two other women. Her entire business, along with a once-in-a-lifetime chance to be a royal supplier, is everything she’s been working for and now could be destroyed if word leaks about the three wives.

Meri’s far more upstanding brother, Christian, Duke of Randford has no earthly clue how to be of assistance. He spent the better part of his adult years avoiding Meri and the rest of his good-for-nothing family, so to be dragged back into the fold is…problematic. Even more so is the intrepid and beautiful Katherine, whom he cannot be falling for because she’s Meri’s widow. Or can he?

With a textile business to run and a strong friendship forming with Meri’s two other wives, Katherine doesn’t have time for much else. But there’s something about the warm, but compellingly taciturn Christian that draws her to him. When an opportunity to partner in a business venture brings them even closer, they’ll have to face their pasts if they want to share each other’s hearts and futures.

My rating:  3.25 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I have read other books by this author in the past and have enjoyed them so I wanted to try this first in a new series. I’m not sure if it’s just timing in terms of where I was in life when reading this book (distracted, stressed, cranky) but I found some pieces of the book / plot to be somewhat annoying. Kat was pretty dramatic about everything and (while I did think it was admirable that she wanted to handle things on her own) I didn’t like that she just left town without telling Christian what was going on. Christian also was a somewhat “flowery” character for me – he was really in touch with his emotions and waxed poetic a good amount about his love for Kat. It was obviously romantic but it also got to be a bit corny for me. I did really enjoy the little sisterhood created between Kat and the other wives – I thought that was cute. I’m somewhat interested to read the stories of the two other wives (I’m assuming those’ll be the next books in the series) but I am not sure if I’ll end up reading those or not. Overall this was a good book but definitely not one of my favorites.

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2021 Book #41 – The Lies We Told by Camilla Way

Title: The Lies We Told
Author: Camilla Way
Date finished: 6/12/21
Genre: Psychological thriller, suspense
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: October 9, 2018
Pages in book: 333
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

The highly acclaimed author of Watching Edie returns with a new novel of dark psychological suspense that explores how those closest to us have the most to hide…

A daughter
Beth has always known there was something strange about her daughter, Hannah. The lack of emotion, the disturbing behavior, the apparent delight in hurting others…Sometimes Beth is scared of her and what she could be capable of.

A son
Luke comes from the perfect family, with the perfect parents. But one day, he disappears without a trace, and his girlfriend, Clara, is desperate to discover what has happened to him.

A life built on lies
As Clara digs into the past, she realizes that no family is truly perfect, and uncovers a link between Luke’s long-lost sister and a strange girl named Hannah. Now Luke’s life is in danger because of the lies once told and the secrets once kept. Can Clara find him before it’s too late?

My rating:  4.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I have had this book on my backlog for a while and finally had a chance to read it. It was a very interesting book too – there was a great amount of plot twists and the story line really kept me guessing. I thought that the author did an excellent job of alternating between the past and the present as well as alternating between points of view to create additional suspense. I really didn’t want to put it down! There were a few things I didn’t end up loving – overall the book was pretty depressing and the ending is left somewhat open / unresolved which isn’t my favorite thing. Overall though I really liked the book and I’d definitely recommend it!

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2020 Book #46 – Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward

Title: Beautiful Bad
Author: Annie Ward
Date finished: 6/9/21
Genre: Psychological thriller, suspense
Publisher: Park Row
Publication Date: March 5, 2019
Pages in book: 317
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

In the tradition of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train comes a riveting psychological thriller about a devoted wife, a loving husband, and a chilling crime that will stun even the cleverest readers.


It seemed like such a beautiful marriage…

Maddie and Ian’s love story began at a party overseas, while she was visiting her best friend, Jo. Now, almost two decades later, they are married with a beautiful son and living the perfect American life. But when a camping accident leaves Maddie badly scarred, she begins attending writing therapy, where she gradually reveals her fears about Ian, her concerns for her safety, and the couple’s tangled and tumultuous past with Jo.

From the electric streets of the Balkans to a quiet suburb in Kansas, sixteen years of love and fear, adventure and suspicion, culminate in the Day of the Killing, when a frantic 911 call summons the police to the scene of a shocking crime. Twisty and utterly original, Beautiful Bad shows that appearances are deceptive and even the most seemingly perfect couples have something to hide.

My rating:  3.25 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I am pretty excited to say that this is the last of my 2019 backlog books! I had originally requested this book because it sounded pretty interesting. And I was interested in the story – I liked the structure of the book and how it switched between the past and the present to tell the story. Maddie as a character was.. interesting. She was a little bat-shit crazy, but then again it seemed like a lot of the characters were kind of crazy. I just felt bad for Charlie with having to grow up with all these kooks. I was pretty on board with the story line I guess until the plot twist towards the end. It was a good plot twist, don’t get me wrong. It definitely wasn’t one that I was fully expecting. But at the same time it was not one that I was really excited about, to be honest I found it pretty depressing. It left me feeling unsettled even after the book’s ending was resolved. This one wasn’t exactly for me but overall it was still a good book and I would recommend it, especially if you like thrillers / suspense books.

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2021 Book #44 – The Turnout by Megan Abbott

Title: The Turnout
Author: Megan Abbott
Date finished: 6/4/21
Genre: Thriller, suspense
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Publication Date: August 3, 2021
Pages in book: 352
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: Edelweiss
NOTE: I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Bestselling and award-winning author Megan Abbott’s revelatory and mesmerizing new novel set against the hothouse of a family-run ballet studio.

With their long necks and matching buns and pink tights, Dara and Marie Durant have been dancers since they can remember. Growing up, they were homeschooled and trained by their glamorous mother, founder of the Durant School of Dance. After their parents’ death in a tragic accident nearly a dozen years ago, the sisters began running the school together, along with Charlie, Dara’s husband and once their mother’s prized student.

Marie, warm and soft, teaches the younger students; Dara, with her precision, trains the older ones; and Charlie, sidelined from dancing after years of injuries, rules over the back office. Circling around one another, the three have perfected a dance, six days a week, that keeps the studio thriving. But when a suspicious accident occurs, just at the onset of the school’s annual performance of The Nutcracker—a season of competition, anxiety, and exhilaration—an interloper arrives and threatens the sisters’ delicate balance.

Taut and unnerving, The Turnout is Megan Abbott at the height of her game. With uncanny insight and hypnotic writing, it is a sharp and strange dissection of family ties and sexuality, femininity and power, and a tale that is both alarming and irresistible.

My rating: 2.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I have read other books by this author in the past and have enjoyed them. The author has an interesting way of telling a story. And that is consistent with this novel as well. As the reader you can see the layers of the story that the author is weaving together. This book was complicated for me because it was complex, twisted and dark and I could see the mastery of the plot line but it just wasn’t one that I enjoyed. It was a little too perverse for me and made me feel icky. And some pieces of the plot frustrated me because if some crap like that was happening to me with the contractor I’d be calling the police or the Better Business Bureau or whoever I needed to call to get that asshole out of there. He was entirely inappropriate and he’d be fired within a day if it were up to me. Dara’s character was fascinating to me but it still felt like she just let a lot of things happen to her and that’s not what I’m about. Overall I think this book was really twist and interesting but it just wasn’t for me personally.

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2020 Book #43 – Neon Gods by Katee Robert

Title: Neon Gods
Author: Katee Robert
Date finished: 6/1/21
Genre: Contemporary romance
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Publication Date: June 1, 2021
Pages in book: 318
Stand alone or series: Dark Olympus series book #1
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

He was supposed to be a myth.
But from the moment I crossed the River Styx and fell under his dark spell…he was, quite simply, mine.

*A scorchingly hot modern retelling of Hades and Persephone that’s as sinful as it is sweet.*

Society darling Persephone Dimitriou plans to flee the ultra-modern city of Olympus and start over far from the backstabbing politics of the Thirteen Houses. But all that’s ripped away when her mother ambushes her with an engagement to Zeus, the dangerous power behind their glittering city’s dark facade.

With no options left, Persephone flees to the forbidden undercity and makes a devil’s bargain with a man she once believed a myth…a man who awakens her to a world she never knew existed.

Hades has spent his life in the shadows, and he has no intention of stepping into the light. But when he finds that Persephone can offer a little slice of the revenge he’s spent years craving, it’s all the excuse he needs to help her—for a price. Yet every breathless night spent tangled together has given Hades a taste for Persephone, and he’ll go to war with Olympus itself to keep her close…

My rating:  3.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I’ve heard a lot about this author from a couple of the podcasts that I listen to so I was excited to get the chance to read this new release. And not only that but it features stories around modern day Greek gods – which certainly peaks my interest. I thought the plot line was really interesting, especially with it being based on the various gods and their power struggles. The author did a good job of world building without making it overly complicated. I found it interesting that Amazon categorized this one as erotic fantasy – it was certainly steam but there was so much else going on in the book beyond the sex journey of the characters that I wouldn’t necessarily agree on it being in the erotica category. While I found the plot interesting, there were a few pieces of it that didn’t sit quite right with me. Specifically some pieces of the sexual evolution of the characters, it felt weird to have that as almost a sub plot while there was already so much else going on. And I thought it was weird that there was so much of the lore of Greek gods in there but no one expected that Hades and Persephone might end up together. That one I know I’m just reading too much into it but I couldn’t get it to make sense to me. I liked the book a lot and would recommend it, but I think there was some potential for it to be better and it just fell a tad short in certain areas for me personally.

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2021 Book #42 – Heartbreak for Hire by Sonia Hartl

Title: Heartbreak for Hire
Author: Sonia Hartl
Date finished: 5/30/21
Genre: Contemporary romance
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: July 27, 2021
Pages in book: 320
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

A smart, sexy, and witty romantic comedy—perfect for fans of Christina Lauren and Sally Thorne—about a twentysomething who lives out every woman’s fantasy: getting paid to give men who do us wrong a taste of their own medicine. But when a previous target unexpectedly shows up at her office, she’s forced to rethink her life as a professional heartbreaker.

Brinkley Saunders has a secret.

To everyone in the academic world she left behind, she lost it all when she dropped out of grad school. Once a rising star following in her mother’s footsteps, she’s now an administrative assistant at an insurance agency—or so they think.

In reality, Brinkley works at Heartbreak for Hire, a secret service that specializes in revenge for jilted lovers, frenemies, and long-suffering coworkers with a little cash to spare and a man who needs to be taken down a notch. It might not be as prestigious as academia, but it helps Brinkley save for her dream of opening an art gallery and lets her exorcise a few demons, all while helping to empower women.

But when her boss announces she’s hiring male heartbreakers for the first time, Brinkley’s no longer so sure she’s doing the right thing—especially when her new coworker turns out to be a target she was paid to take down. Though Mark spends his days struggling up the academic ladder, he seems to be the opposite of a backstabbing adjunct: a nerd at heart in criminally sexy sweater vests who’s attentive both in and out of the bedroom. But as Brinkley finds it increasingly more difficult to focus on anything but Mark, she soon realizes that like herself, people aren’t always who they appear to be.

My rating:  4.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I was really interested by the premise behind this novel and was excited to get the chance to read it. It’s coming out in a couple months but I am not sure on my availability for posting this July so I figured I’d just read and post it a little early. The plot line on this was was different than the other romances I’ve read of late and it was a refreshing change of pace. Brinkley’s profession is really what made this book so interesting to me. I felt terrible that she got screwed over so much but I loved how she stood up for herself in the end. Her “meet-cute” with Mark was really unusual too and it was just intriguing to me to see such a different plot line. I’d be interested to hear stories about the other H4H ladies falling in love too and their journeys. I’m not sure if Hartl is planning to do a series of sorts but I hope so! Overall this was an interesting and different book and was also a great romantic story. I would recommend it to other readers!

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page