The Celebrants by Steven Rowley Publisher: G.P. Putnam Pub Date: 5/30/2023
Thank you to Random House for the free advanced copy on NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
GoodReads Synopsis: The night after one of their own is tragically taken away from them, a group of seven college friends form a pact: a promise to reunite every few years to throw each other “living funerals,” constant reminders that life is worth living, if not for them then for their late friend.
Now, twenty-eight years into the hard-worn lines of adulthood, their “funerals” only remind them of all the opportunities they missed. But when one member of the old gang receives an unexpected diagnosis, the pact takes on new meaning, and each friend is forced to confront old secrets, and weigh their now-middle-age lives against the idealistic dreams of their youth.
A deeply honest tribute to selfhood and the people who keep us going, The Celebrants, coupled with Steven Rowley’s signature humor and heart, is a moving tale about the false invincibility of youth, and all the beautiful ways in which friendship can transcend our deepest losses.
Review: The Celebrants was one of my most anticipated spring reads! I’ve been a fan of Steven Rowley’s work since Lily and the Octopus. The Celebrants is a touching story about a group of five college friends who make a pact to throw each other “living funerals” after one of them dies tragically. As they approach middle age, their reunions remind them of missed opportunities, but when one member is diagnosed with a terminal illness, they are forced to confront their secrets and the idealistic dreams of their youth. As I started reading The Celebrants, I braced myself for the tough subjects that the novel explores: suicide, drug abuse, death, cancer, and terminal illness. Despite the heavy themes, I was touched by the heartfelt nature of the book. I found myself crying at the end, which is an extremely rare occurrence for me when it comes to books, and wanted to hug Steven Rowley after reading it. I admired how the author was able to capture emotion, heart, and humor into the story despite the heavy topics. The character development was impressive and I appreciated the thought put into each character, as well as the chapters that delved into their past and present. Although the book started off slow, the ending was worth the wait. I highly recommend this book to Steven Rowley fans, but please read with care.
The Comeback Summer by Ali Brady Publisher: Berkley Pub Pub Date: 5/9/2023
Thank you to Berkley Pub for the free advanced copy on NetGalley and PRH Audio for the free audiobook in exchange for my honest review.
GoodReads Synopsis: Hannah and Libby need a miracle. The PR agency they inherited from their grandmother is losing clients left and right, and the sisters are devastated at the thought of closing. The situation seems hopeless—until in walks Lou, an eccentric self-help guru who is looking for a new PR agency. Her business could solve all their problems—but there’s a catch. Whoever works with Lou must complete a twelve-week challenge as part of her “Crush Your Comfort Zone” program.
Hannah, whose worst nightmare is making small talk with strangers, is challenged to go on twelve first dates. Libby, who once claimed to have period cramps for four weeks straight to get out of gym class, is challenged to compete in an obstacle course race. The challenges begin with Hannah helping Libby train and Libby managing the dating app on her sister’s behalf. They’re both making good progress—until Hannah’s first love rolls into town, and Libby accidentally falls for a guy she’s supposed to be setting up with her sister.
Things get even more complicated when secrets come to light, making the sisters question the one relationship they’ve always counted each other. With their company’s future on the line, they can’t afford to fail. But in trying to make a comeback to honor their grandmother, are they pushing themselves down the wrong path?
Review:The Comeback Summer is the second book by author duo Ali Brady. Inheriting their grandmother’s struggling PR agency, sisters Hannah and Libby are desperate to save it when eccentric self-help guru Lou offers them a lifeline—with a catch. Both sisters must complete daunting personal challenges as part of Lou’s “Crush Your Comfort Zone” program, but secrets and romantic entanglements threaten not only their progress but their relationship as well. As they strive to honor their grandmother, the sisters must confront the question: Are they on the right path? I absolutely adored the premise of The Comeback Summer and appreciated the distinct personalities of each sister. I found myself drawn more to Libby’s perspective and storyline than Hannah’s. Libby’s inner monologue and challenges were well-developed and I felt they could have made a complete book on their own. On the other hand, Hannah’s challenge seemed somewhat sidelined and her love interest, Josh, really bothered me due to his underdeveloped character. The conflict between Hannah and Josh felt unresolved towards the end which was a bit strange. I enjoyed Libby’s ending much more. Overall, I would recommend this book to those who loved the author duo’s previous work, The Beach Trap.
The True Love Experiment by Christina Lauren Publisher: Gallery Books Pub Date: 5/16/2023
Thank you to Gallery Books for the free advanced copy in exchange for my honest review.
GoodReads Synopsis: Felicity “Fizzy” Chen is lost. Sure, she’s got an incredible career as a beloved romance novelist with a slew of bestsellers under her belt, but when she’s asked to give a commencement address, it hits her: she hasn’t been practicing what she’s preached.
Fizzy hasn’t ever really been in love. Lust? Definitely. But that swoon-worthy, can’t-stop-thinking-about-him, all-encompassing feeling? Nope. Nothing. What happens when the optimism she’s spent her career encouraging in readers starts to feel like a lie?
Connor Prince, documentary filmmaker and single father, loves his work in large part because it allows him to live near his daughter. But when his profit-minded boss orders him to create a reality TV show, putting his job on the line, Connor is out of his element. Desperate to find his romantic lead, a chance run-in with an exasperated Fizzy offers Connor the perfect solution. What if he could show the queen of romance herself falling head-over-heels for all the world to see? Fizzy gives him a hard pass—unless he agrees to her list of demands. When he says yes, and production on The True Love Experiment begins, Connor wonders if that perfect match will ever be in the cue cards for him, too.
The True Love Experiment is the book fans have been waiting for ever since Fizzy’s debut in The Soulmate Equation. But when the lights come on and all eyes are on her, it turns out the happily ever after Fizzy had all but given up on might lie just behind the camera.
Review: The True Love Experiment is the sequel to The Soulmate Equation. Felicity “Fizzy” Chen, a successful romance novelist, realizes she has never experienced true love despite preaching about it in her books. Connor Prince, a documentary filmmaker, proposes a reality TV show where Fizzy falls in love to save his job. Fizzy agrees only if Connor meets her demands, leading to the production of The True Love Experiment. As the show progresses, Fizzy begins to wonder if she too could find love, and realizes it might be closer than she thought. The True Love Experiment is a contemporary romance novel sets in LA and delves into the themes of friendship, reality dating shows, and intentions. This has become my all-favorite CLo book with so many tab-worthy quotes!!! 🤩The character development for both Fizzy and Connor was well-done and the alternating chapters between them were enjoyable. The supporting roles of River, Jess, and Juno from The Soulmate Equation were also great to see along with the introduction of new fun characters such as Natalia, Stevie, Ash, and the Heroes to name a few. Despite the main characters’ flaws, the story explores their past and their journey towards making better choices for themselves. The slow-building relationship between Fizzy and Connor, from opposites to friends to secret lovers, was beautifully executed. Overall, I would highly recommend The True Love Experiment for fans of CLo and those who enjoy swoon-worthy MCs! 😍
Jana Goes Wild by Farah Heron Publisher: Forever Pub Date: 5/2/2023
Thank you to Forever Pub for the free advanced copy in exchange for my honest review.
GoodReads Synopsis: Jana Suleiman has never really fit in—everyone always sees her as too aloof, too cool, too perfect. The one time she stepped out of her comfort zone she ended up with a broken heart and a baby on the way. Aaaand lesson learned . Now she’s a bridesmaid for a destination wedding in Serengeti National Park, and almost everyone she knows will be there. Her five-year-old daughter. Her mom. Her friends. Even her potential new boss. And of course (because who doesn’t love surprises!) her gorgeous-but-not-to-be-trusted ex.
Fortunately, Anil Malek is a great dad, even if Jana hasn’t quite forgiven him for lying to her all those years ago. Determined to show he has no effect on her whatsoever, she and the bridesmaids concoct a go-wild list to get Jana through the week. Sing karaoke? Sure. Perform their high school dance routine in front of strangers? Okay. But the more she lets down her guard, the less protection she has against her attraction to Anil. And Jana soon realizes it’s one thing to walk on the wild side . . . and quite another to fall for her ex all over again.
Review:Jana Goes Wild is the fourth book I’ve read from Farah Heron. Jana Suleiman attends a destination wedding in Serengeti National Park, where she encounters her charming ex and father of her child, Anil Malek. As she completes a go-wild list with her bridesmaid friends to prove she’s moved on, Jana realizes that letting her guard down might lead to falling for Anil once more. I was captivated by the vivid descriptions of Tanzania and delighted to see Kamila and Rohan from Kamila Knows Best as supporting characters. However, I struggled to connect with Jana’s character and felt that Anil’s personality was underdeveloped. I would have appreciated more insight into their chemistry and relationship outside of their shared parenting responsibilities, gossip/rumors, and the quick summary of their past. Exploring each of their perspectives or contrasting past and present chapters could have added depth to the story. I also would have enjoyed seeing more positive interactions with their child. Overall, I had mixed feelings about this book and second chance romances usually don’t resonate with me.
Her Good Side by Rebekah Weatherspoon Publisher: Penguin Teen Pub Date: 5/30/2023
Thank you to Penguin Teen for the free advanced copy in exchange for my honest review.
GoodReads Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Bethany Greene, though confident and self-assured, is what they call a late-bloomer. She’s never had a boyfriend, date, or first kiss. She’s determined to change that but after her crush turns her down cold for Homecoming–declaring her too inexperienced–and all her back-up ideas fall through, she cautiously agrees to go with her best friend’s boyfriend Jacob. A platonic date is better than no date, right? Until Saylor breaks up with said boyfriend.
Dumped twice in just two months, Jacob Yeun wonders if he’s the problem. After years hiding behind his camera and a shocking summer glow up, he wasn’t quite ready for all the attention or to be someone’s boyfriend. There are no guides for his particular circumstances, or for taking your ex’s best friend to the dance.
Why not make the best of an awkward situation? Bethany and Jacob decide to fake date for practice, building their confidence in matters of the heart.
And it works–guys are finally noticing Bethany. But things get complicated as their kissing sessions–for research of course!–start to feel real. This arrangement was supposed to help them in dating other people, but what if their perfect match is right in front of them?
Review: I love Rebekah’s romance books and was excited to hear that she’s releasing her young adult debut, Her Good Side. This YA contemporary romance contains fake dating, late bloomers, self discovery, and friendship. This was my first read of 2023 and I thought it was a cute read. I loved the budding relationship between Bethany (a star basketball player who wants to be chef) and Jacob (a skater boy/want to be filmmaker) who decide to fake date for a homecoming dance. Bethany and Jacob’s families and friends were all wonderful supporting characters and really loved how the author showed healthy relationships among them. I also really liked the dimension that the author gave to each character. I also thought it was pretty cool that Bethany loves Chef Evie’s show (Evie is from Cowboy to Remember). Definitely recommend picking this one up if you’re looking for a fun high school romance read!
Happy Place by Emily Henry Publisher: Berkley Romance Pub Date: 4/25/2023
Thank you to Berkley Romance for the free advanced ebook copy on NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
GoodReads Synopsis: Harriet and Wyn have been the perfect couple since they met in college—they go together like salt and pepper, honey and tea, lobster and rolls. Except, now—for reasons they’re still not discussing—they don’t.
They broke up six months ago. And still haven’t told their best friends.
Which is how they find themselves sharing the largest bedroom at the Maine cottage that has been their friend group’s yearly getaway for the last decade. Their annual respite from the world, where for one vibrant, blue week they leave behind their daily lives; have copious amounts of cheese, wine, and seafood; and soak up the salty coastal air with the people who understand them most.
Only this year, Harriet and Wyn are lying through their teeth while trying not to notice how desperately they still want each other. Because the cottage is for sale and this is the last week they’ll all have together in this place. They can’t stand to break their friends’ hearts, and so they’ll play their parts. Harriet will be the driven surgical resident who never starts a fight, and Wyn will be the laid-back charmer who never lets the cracks show. It’s a flawless plan (if you look at it from a great distance and through a pair of sunscreen-smeared sunglasses). After years of being in love, how hard can it be to fake it for one week…in front of those who know you best?
Review:Happy Place was one of my most anticipated spring reads! This contemporary romance novel delves into college friendships, rekindled love, self-growth, and change. The author tackles heavy subjects of mental health and grief throughout the story. I enjoyed the use of present-day and flashback chapters, which helped me understand the relationship between the main characters, Wyn and Harriet, from their first meeting to their breakup and its aftermath. The friendship group dynamic was well-done, and each character was unique and contributed to the story. The book had many memorable one-liners. However, the pacing of the story was a weak point for me. I found that the middle dragged and the ending felt rushed. Despite this, it was a solid four-star rating. I’d recommend this book to fans of Emily Henry’s work.
Forget Me Not by Julie Soto Publisher: Forever Pub Pub Date: 7/11/2023
Thank you to Forever for the free advanced copy & LibroFM for the free advanced audiobook copy in exchange for my honest review.
GoodReads Synopsis: Ama Torres loves being a wedding planner. But with a mother who has been married more times than you can count on your fingers, Ama has decided that marriage is not the route for her. But weddings? Weddings are amazing. As a small business owner, she knows how to match her clients with the perfect vendor to give them the wedding of their dreams. Well, almost perfect…
Elliot hates being a florist, most of the time. When his father left him the flower shop, he considered it a burden, but he’s stuck with it. Just like how he’s stuck with the way he proposed to Ama, his main collaborator and girlfriend (or was she?) two years ago. But flowers have grown on him, just like Ama did. And flowers can’t run off and never speak to him again, like Ama did.
When Ama is hired to plan a celebrity wedding that will bring her business national exposure, there’s a catch: Elliot is already contracted to design the flowers. Things are not helped by the two brides, who see the obvious chemistry between Ama and Elliot and are determined to set them up, not knowing their complicated history. Add in a meddling ex-boss, and a reality TV film crew documenting every step of the wedding prep, and Ama and Elliot’s hearts are not only in jeopardy again, but this time, their livelihoods are too.
Review:Forget Me Not is Julie Soto’s debut. This contemporary romance contains second chance romance trope, takes place in the wedding planning industry, strained relationships, and small business life. Ama Torres loves planning weddings but has decided that marriage is not for her due to her mother’s history. Elliot is a florist who inherited his father’s flower shop but is not passionate about it. When Ama is hired to plan a celebrity wedding where Elliot is already contracted to design the flowers, their complicated history and obvious chemistry put their hearts and livelihoods in jeopardy, especially with the interference of two brides and a reality TV film crew. I liked the plot of the book, but the execution was lacking. While Ama’s present-day perspective was interesting, Elliot’s character development in present day seemed to be lacking. Ama’s behavior and her admiration for her ex-boss, Whitney, were also irritating. Although Elliot’s past POV was helpful, it would have been better if this was shown as flashbacks in both perspectives instead of just Elliot’s. I felt that the ending was too rushed. Ama and Elliot’s present-day chemistry seemed forced and not well-developed. The reason for their past breakup and present day reconciliation didn’t make sense as to how they planned to move forward or resolve their issues. Overall, I had mixed feelings about this book and wasn’t my cup of tea.
Yours Truly by Abby Jimenez Publisher: Forever Pub Date: 4/11/2022
Thank you to Forever for the free advanced copy on NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
GoodReads Synopsis: Dr. Briana Ortiz’s life is seriously flatlining. Her divorce is just about finalized, her brother’s running out of time to find a kidney donor, and that promotion she wants? Oh, that’s probably going to the new man-doctor who’s already registering eighty-friggin’-seven on Briana’s “pain in my ass” scale. But just when all systems are set to hate, Dr. Jacob Maddox completely flips the game . . . by sending Briana a letter.
And it’s a really good letter. Like the kind that proves that Jacob isn’t actually Satan. Worse, he might be this fantastically funny and subversively likeable guy who’s terrible at first impressions. Because suddenly he and Bri are exchanging letters, sharing lunch dates in her “sob closet,” and discussing the merits of freakishly tiny horses. But when Jacob decides to give Briana the best gift imaginable—a kidney for her brother—she wonders just how she can resist this quietly sexy new doctor . . . especially when he calls in a favor she can’t refuse.
Review:Yours Truly features Briana (Alexis’s best friend in Part of Your World) and her new coworker, Jacob. This contemporary romance contains a fake dating trope and explores healing, family drama, moving on, and anxiety. Overall, I liked this book, but not as much as I loved Part of Your World. I loved the budding relationship and banter between Briana and Jacob. The dual POVs were great and it was interesting to read how each character was trying to handle or move on the current situations they were in and their struggles. I also really loved the side characters as well especially Jacob’s family members. It was great getting a glimpse into what Alexis and Daniel were doing from Part of Your World as well. The only part that didn’t work for me was the ending which I won’t spoil. Though I knocked it down a star, it was a four star read for me and I’d definitely recommend this to anyone who loved Part of Your World.
The Soulmate by Sally Hepworth Publisher: St. Martin’s Press Pub Date: 4/4/2023
Thank you to St. Martin’s Press for the free advanced copy on NetGalley and Macmillan Audio for the free advanced audiobook in exchange for my honest review.
GoodReads Synopsis: There’s a cottage on a cliff. Gabe and Pippa’s dream home in a sleepy coastal town. But their perfect house hides something sinister. The tall cliffs have become a popular spot for people to end their lives. Night after night Gabe comes to their rescue, literally talking them off the ledge. Until he doesn’t.
When Pippa discovers Gabe knew the victim, the questions spiral…Did the victim jump? Was she pushed?
And would Gabe, the love of Pippa’s life, her soulmate…lie? As the perfect facade of their marriage begins to crack, the deepest and darkest secrets begin to unravel.
Review:The Soulmate is the fourth book I’ve read from Sally Hepworth. Gabe and Pippa’s dream home on a cliff in a sleepy coastal town has become a popular spot for people to end their lives. Gabe has been talking them off the ledge until he fails to rescue a victim who he knew, raising questions about whether she jumped or was pushed and causing their seemingly perfect marriage to unravel. This thriller explores themes of marriage, betrayal, secrets, and compliance. This is one of those books were the outcome may feel predictable from the start, but the way the story dives into why it happened the way it did with twists makes this an entertaining read. The author’s writing style kept me hooked. I liked the alternating perspectives between Pippa and Amanda (the victim) and the author’s use of “before and after” chapters for each character added depth to the story that I found helpful to keep with the pacing of the storyline. I found that I liked Amanda’s chapters more because the author sheds light on the motives behind her actions. Though Pippa’s chapters were necessary for the progression of the story, I found her character to be quite frustrating due to the acceptance of her husband’s behavior. Overall, The Soulmate was 3.5 stars for me, but I rounded it up to 4 stars.
The Mostly True Story of Tanner & Louise by Colleen Oakley Publisher: Berkley Pub Date: 3/28/2023
Thank you to Berkley for the free copy and PRH Audio for the free audiobook copy in exchange for my honest review.
GoodReads Synopsis: Twenty-one-year-old Tanner Quimby needs a place to live. Preferably one where she can continue sitting around in sweatpants and playing video games nineteen hours a day. Since she has no credit or money to speak of, her options are limited, so when an opportunity to work as a live-in caregiver for an elderly woman falls into her lap, she takes it.
One slip on the rug. That’s all it took for Louise Wilt’s daughter to demand that Louise have a full-time nanny living with her. Never mind that she can still walk fine, finish her daily crossword puzzle, and pour the two fingers of vodka she drinks every afternoon. Bottom line — Louise wants a caretaker even less than Tanner wants to be one.
The two start off their living arrangement happily ignoring each other until Tanner starts to notice things—weird things. Like, why does Louise keep her garden shed locked up tighter than a prison? And why is the local news fixated on the suspect of one of the biggest jewelry heists in American history who looks eerily like Louise? And why does Louise suddenly appear in her room, with a packed bag at 1 a.m. insisting that they leave town immediately?
Thus begins the story of a not-to-be-underestimated elderly woman and an aimless young woman who—if they can outrun the mistakes of their past—might just have the greatest adventure of their lives.
Review: The Mostly True Story of Tanner and Louise is the second book I’ve read from Colleen Oaklay and I enjoyed this! This contemporary romance has an element of mystery, friendship, female power, and finding your way. Tanner Quimby, a 21-year-old with no money or credit, takes a job as a live-in caregiver for an elderly woman named Louise Wilt. Although Louise does not want a caretaker, the two women eventually form an unlikely bond. However, strange things start to happen, including Louise’s involvement in a heist, and the two women embark on an adventure together. This book gave me major Thelma and Louise vibes and I’m here for it! Their intricacies were fascinating to me and the author’s ability to capture their distinct mannerisms was impressive. The book’s structure, with sections dedicated to before, during, and after Tanner and Louise’s journey, as well as intermittent commentary from Louise’s adult children, was effective in pacing the story which I appreciated. The only part I didn’t like was that it felt slightly lengthy. The audiobook narrator really brought the story to life for me which made this a compelling read. Definitely recommend picking this one up!