2021 Book #87 – When Sparks Fly by Helena Hunting

Title: When Sparks Fly
Author: Helena Hunting
Date finished: 9/22/21
Genre: Contemporary romance
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication Date: September 21, 2021
Pages in book: 371
Stand alone or series: Stand alone (kind of hoping to see more books for the friends or the sisters though!)
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:

Charming, hilarious, and emotional…When Sparks Fly is Helena Hunting at her very best!

Avery Spark is living her best life. Between her friends, her sisters, and Spark House, the event hotel her family owns, she doesn’t have much time for anything else, especially relationships. She’d rather hang out with her best friend and roommate, Declan McCormick, than deal with the dating scene. But everything changes when she is in a car accident and needs someone to care for her as she heals.

Declan avoids relationships, giving him a playboy reputation that he lives up to when he puts a one-night stand ahead of a promise he made to Avery. While he may not have been the one driving the car, he feels responsible for Avery’s injuries and is determined to make it up to her by stepping into the role of caretaker.

Little did they know that the more time they spend in compromising positions, the attraction they’ve been refusing to acknowledge becomes impossible to ignore. When they finally give in to the spark between them, neither is prepared for the consequences. Their love is fragile and all it will take is a blow from the past to shatter it all.

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’ve read a few other books by this author and really enjoyed them so I was excited to read her new release! Helena Hunting is an interesting author to me because she spans the genre between more steamy (her Pucked series from what I remember is on the steamier side) to very low steam level. This book was on the lower side and I have to say I thought there was a lack of chemistry really between the protagonists. They definitely were well suited for each other and it was still a romantic story but I just didn’t necessarily buy into there being a strong attraction between the two of them. Other than that I thought this book was pretty good. I liked the plot – it was different from a lot of others in the romance genre and I found it pretty original. I would recommend it, especially if you like romance that is a little less graphic!

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

2021 Book #74 – The Telling by Alexandra Sirowy

Title: The Telling
Author: Alexandra Sirowy
Date finished: 9/15/21
Genre: Young adult, thriller, suspense, mystery
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: August 2, 2016
Pages in book: 400
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 chilling new novel about a girl who must delve into her past if she wants to live long enough to have a future when a series of murders that are eerily similar to the dark stories her brother used to tell start happening in her hometown.

Lana used to know what was real. That was before, when her life was small and quiet. Her golden stepbrother, Ben was alive. She could only dream about bonfiring with the populars. Their wooded island home was idyllic, she could tell truth from lies, and Ben’s childhood stories were firmly in her imagination.

Then came after.

After has Lana boldly kissing her crush, jumping into the water from too high up, living with nerve and mischief. But after also has horrors, deaths that only make sense in fairy tales, and terrors from a past Lana thought long forgotten. Love, blood, and murder.

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 haven’t read many young adult books lately so this was a nice change of pace. And the mystery plot line was interesting and had an unexpected outcome that I was surprised by. I’m getting further away from my young adult years so I have trouble connecting somewhat to the characters. There were parts of the plot that I thought were a little ridiculous but overall it was a good story. I was surprised at how much murder there was considering it was a young adult book but I would still recommend it!

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

2021 Book #70 – Under My Skin by Lisa Unger

Title: Under My Skin
Author: Lisa Unger
Date finished: 8/18/21
Genre: Thriller, suspense
Publisher: Park Row
Publication Date: October 2, 2018
Pages in book: 369
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:

From New York Times bestselling author and master of suspense Lisa Unger comes an addictive psychological thriller about a woman on the hunt for her husband’s killer.

What if the nightmares are actually memories?

It’s been a year since Poppy’s husband, Jack, was murdered during his morning run through Manhattan’s Riverside Park. In the immediate aftermath, Poppy spiraled into grief, disappearing for several days only to turn up ragged and confused wearing a tight red dress she didn’t recognize. What happened to Poppy during those lost days? And more importantly, what happened to Jack?

The case was never solved, and Poppy has finally begun to move on. But those lost days have never stopped haunting her. Poppy starts having nightmares and blackouts, unable to distinguish between what is real and what she’s imagining. When she begins to sense that someone is following her, Poppy is plunged into a game of cat and mouse, determined to unravel the mystery around her husband’s death. But can she handle the truth about what really happened?

My rating:  2.75 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 didn’t end up loving this one, though I did enjoy pieces of it. I had trouble getting into the mindset of the narrator, and the lack of definition between real events and dream sequences was tough for me. I understand that it was supposed to add to the suspense but it made it hard for me to keep track of what was happening. There were some good plot twists in the story, but overall the story line was just so sad. And for how sad it was, the ending was oddly hopeful and didn’t jive with the feeling of the rest of the book for me. I enjoyed some of the book but didn’t like it overly much. I would recommend it if you like thrillers and you enjoy an unreliable narrator.

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

2021 Book #66 – You Were Always Mine by Nicole Baart

Title: You Were Always Mine
Author: Nicole Baart
Date finished: 8/9/21
Genre: Mystery, women’s fiction
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication Date: October 16, 2018
Pages in book: 385
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:

Jessica Chamberlain, newly separated and living with her two sons in a small Iowa town, can’t believe that a tragedy in another state could have anything to do with her. But when her phone rings one quiet morning, her world is shattered. As she tries to pick up the pieces and make sense of what went wrong, Jess begins to realize that a tragic death is just the beginning. Soon she is caught in a web of lies and half-truths—and she’s horrified to learn that everything leads back to her seven-year-old adopted son, Gabriel.

Years ago, Gabe’s birth mother requested a closed adoption and Jessica was more than happy to comply. But when her house is broken into and she discovers a clue that suggests her estranged husband was in close contact with Gabe’s biological mother, she vows to uncover the truth at any cost. A harrowing story of tenacious love and heartbreaking betrayal, You Were Always Mine is about the wars we wage to keep the ones we love close, perfect for fans of Liane Moriarty and Jodi Picoult.

My rating:  4.75 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 couldn’t put this one down! The plot of this book was so good – the twist ending was not at all what I expected. I loved the little pieces of information disclosed at the start of each chapter from Evan’s patient notes too. I was so intrigued to figure out what the short hand notes meant and how it connected to the story. The whole story was really interesting and thought provoking in terms of adoption, having babies while incarcerated, process of child protective services, etc. Jessica’s emotions leapt off the page and I really felt myself inserted into her heartache. I thought it was so sad that Evan died (**spoiler kind of – you find out pretty early**) before he could reconcile with Jessica though because they did honestly love each other. Overall though this was a great book and I really enjoyed it, I would definitely recommend it!

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

2021 Book #62 – The English Wife by Lauren Willig

Title: The English Wife
Author: Lauren Willig
Date finished: 8/2/21
Genre: Historical fiction, mystery
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: January 9, 2018
Pages in book: 379
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:

From New York Times bestselling author, Lauren Willig, comes this scandalous novel set in the Gilded Age, full of family secrets, affairs, and even murder.

Annabelle and Bayard Van Duyvil live a charmed life in New York: he’s the scion of an old Knickerbocker family, she grew up in a Tudor manor in England, they had a whirlwind romance in London, they have three year old twins on whom they dote, and he’s recreated her family home on the banks of the Hudson and renamed it Illyria. Yes, there are rumors that she’s having an affair with the architect, but rumors are rumors and people will gossip. But then Bayard is found dead with a knife in his chest on the night of their Twelfth Night Ball, Annabelle goes missing, presumed drowned, and the papers go mad. Bay’s sister, Janie, forms an unlikely alliance with a reporter to uncover the truth, convinced that Bay would never have killed his wife, that it must be a third party, but the more she learns about her brother and his wife, the more everything she thought she knew about them starts to unravel. Who were her brother and his wife, really? And why did her brother die with the name George on his lips?

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 absolutely loved the cover on this novel, and the description sounded interesting. It was a little outside my normal go-to so I was excited to read something different. The book was a little slower than I expected, it was a little wordy and I found that the start of the book took a while to get moving plot wise for me. I struggled a little through the start, but once it got towards the middle of the book things started to pick up and I wanted to keep reading to find out what was going to happen next. The plot was interesting, there were some good plot twists in the story line. The characters were nuanced. I just found the plot to be a little sad, especially Georgie’s gradual disillusionment of her marriage. I did love the ending though, especially how things ended for Jane. Overall it was a good book and I enjoyed it but I wouldn’t say that I was super thrilling.

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

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.

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

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

2021 Book #37 – The Soulmate Equation by Christina Lauren

Title: The Soulmate Equation
Author: Christina Lauren
Date finished: 5/9/21
Genre: Contemporary romance
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: May 18, 2021
Pages in book: 365
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:

Single mom Jessica Davis is a data and statistics wizard, but no amount of number crunching can convince her to step back into the dating world. Raised by her grandparents—who now help raise her seven-year-old daughter, Juno—Jess has been left behind too often to feel comfortable letting anyone in. After all, her father was never around, her hard-partying mother disappeared when she was six, and her ex decided he wasn’t “father material” before Juno was even born. Jess holds her loved ones close, but working constantly to stay afloat is hard…and lonely.

But then Jess hears about GeneticAlly, a buzzy new DNA-based matchmaking company that’s predicted to change dating forever. Finding a soulmate through DNA? The reliability of numbers: This Jess understands.

At least she thought she did, until her test shows an unheard-of 98 percent compatibility with another subject in the database: one of GeneticAlly’s founders, Dr. River Peña. This is one number she can’t wrap her head around, because she already knows Dr. Peña. The stuck-up, stubborn man is without a doubt not her soulmate. But GeneticAlly has a proposition: Get to know him and we’ll pay you. Jess—who is barely making ends meet—is in no position to turn it down, despite her skepticism about the project and her dislike for River. As the pair are dragged from one event to the next as the “Diamond Match” that could launch GeneticAlly’s valuation sky-high, Jess begins to realize that there might be more to the scientist—and the science behind a soulmate—than she thought.

Funny, warm, and full of heart, The Soulmate Equation proves that the delicate balance between fate and choice can never be calculated

My rating:  4.25 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 love these authors a ton and they always publish books that I enjoy so much. And this was another great book of theirs! I thought this book was a great strangers/dislike to falling in love and it was really well done. The way that the relationship developed between River and Jess was immensely heart warming and I really loved both their interactions with Juno. It was enchanting to see their love story unfolding. Even more, it was so interesting to see Jess’s journey to accepting help from her loved ones and also to accepting herself. River was so painfully shy and earnest, I loved his character. Honestly all the characters were quirky and hilarious – Fizzy especially and I loved that she was a romance author. I also loved that the story featured Jess cutting off a toxic relationship with a relative. I think too often books manage to turn things around and things magically work out somehow. But sometimes a toxic relationship is just that and needs to end. I thought it was a really brave thing to do. Overall I thought it was a great love story and I really enjoyed it!

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

2021 Book #32 – How To Train Your Earl by Amelia Grey

Title: How To Train Your Earl
Author: Amelia Grey
Date finished: 4/28/21
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Publication Date: April 27, 2021
Pages in book: 352
Stand alone or series: First Comes Love series #3
Where I got the book from: Publisher / NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from the publisher / 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 roguish earl must fight using his honor and not his sword to win his lady’s hand in How To Train Your Earl, the third book in the First Comes Love trilogy from bestseller Amelia Grey.

Brina Feld has settled into a life devoted to helping others since the sinking of the Salty Dove left her widowed. She has no need for a man in her contented life. But when the notorious and handsome Lord Blacknight returns and awakens her desires, her peace and serenity vanish. If she agrees to an alliance with him, she knows she will have to battle her heart to keep from being snared under his spell.

Zane, the Earl of Blacknight, was never supposed to inherit the earldom, so he didn’t much care to lead a respectable life before then. Fistfights, card games, and drinking are the order of the day. Now he’s determined to change his rakish ways and he knows the proper lady who can help him. There’s just one problem: He’s already bet he’ll win her hand before the Season is over. With her resolve to out-scheme him, how can he show her that his love is true?

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 read the first book in this series and when I saw this one I thought it sounded interesting. And I liked it but I can’t say that I loved it. It was a solid romance novel but there were parts that I didn’t care for personally. I thought Zane’s family was a little overly involved and not always very nice to him, of course he had not proven to be a very reliable fellow through his youth. Also I didn’t love that Brina was so closed-minded even though she had strong feelings for Zane. And I especially didn’t like that she wouldn’t listen to Zane at the climax of the story – I know it was necessary for the plot but it was so frustrating. Zane spends all this time proving to her how devoted he was and how much he cared about her, and she wouldn’t give him the benefit of the doubt and at least listen to what he had to say. It all worked out fine in the end but some parts I found frustrating. So overall I liked the book but I can’t say that I loved it.

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