Review: The Stranger in the Mirror

The Stranger in the Mirror by Liv Constantine
Publisher: Harper
Pub Date: 7/6/21

Disclaimer: I received a free advanced physical copy this book from Harper in exchange for my honest opinion. This has no effect on my opinion, review, or rating.

GoodReads Synopsis: Addison’s about to get married, but she’s not looking forward to the big day. It’s not her fiancé; he’s a wonderful man. It’s because Addison doesn’t know who she really is. A few years ago, a kind driver found her bleeding next to a New Jersey highway and rescued her. While her physical wounds healed, Addison’s memory never returned. She doesn’t know her real name. Or how she ended up injured on the side of a road. Or why she can’t shake the notion that she may have done something very, very bad . . .

In a posh home in the Boston suburbs, Julian tries to figure out what happened to his loving, caring wife, Cassandra, who disappeared without a trace two years ago. She would never have left him and their seven-year-old daughter Valentina of her own free will—or would she?

As these two lives intersect, The Stranger in the Mirror hooks readers with riveting drama, told with Liv Constantine’s hallmark blend of glamour, tense psychological thrills, and jaw-dropping twists.

Review: The Stranger in the Mirror is the fourth book I’ve read from Liv Constantine. This thriller explores memory loss, toxic relationships, deception, and secrets. Overall, I enjoyed reading this novel! The small chapters, multiple POVs, unreliable narrators captured my interest. I really loved that the writing style kept me on my toes since the beginning. I usually don’t like amnesia thrillers, but this one was done well. There were some twists towards the end that I didn’t see coming which made this wild ride even more fun. Definitely recommend picking this one up if you loved The Last Mrs. Parrish and/or if you love amnesia thrillers.

Review: Isn’t It Bromantic?

Isn’t It Bromantic? by Lyssa Kay Adams
Publisher: Berkley Romance
Pub Date: 7/20/21

Disclaimer: I received a free advanced digital copy of this book from Berkley Romance in exchange for my honest opinion. This has no effect on my opinion, review, or rating.

GoodReads Synopsis: With his passion for romance novels, it was only a matter of time before Vlad wrote one.

Elena Konnikova has lived her entire adult life in the shadows. As the daughter of a Russian journalist who mysteriously disappeared, she escaped danger the only way she knew how: She married her childhood friend, Vladimir, and moved to the United States, where he is a professional hockey player in Nashville.

Vlad, aka the Russian, thought he could be content with his marriage of convenience. But it’s become too difficult to continue in a one-sided relationship. He joined the Bromance Book Club to learn how to make his wife love him, but all he’s learned is that he deserves more. He’s ready to create his own sweeping romance—both on and off the page.

The bros are unwilling to let Vlad forgo true love—and this time they’re not operating solo. They join forces with Vlad’s neighbors, a group of meddling widows who call themselves the Loners. But just when things finally look promising, Elena’s past life intrudes and their happily ever after is cast into doubt.

Review: Isn’t It Bromantic? is the fourth novel in the Bromance series that final features Vlad (the Russian). This has been one my most anticipated summer reads! The romance troupe in this one focuses on marriage by convenience. I loved this one! Out of all the Bromance series, I think this may be my favorite tied with Undercover Bromance. I really liked that the author didn’t shy away from Vlad’s vulnerable side and it was wonderful to see him grow throughout the books. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from Elena but I did enjoy how the author made her character grow as well. The only part I didn’t like was that I felt the ending  was a bit too rushed, but other than that, I really enjoyed that we caught glimpses of characters from previous novels and there were snippets of their relationships progressing.I’m really hoping that we get Colton’s love story next! I’m curious who he will end up with. I highly recommend picking this up if you’re a fan of the Bromance series. This is definitely a book you can read as a stand alone, but I think you’d enjoy it more if you read the previous books. Lastly, I’m super stoked for the movie which I can’t wait to be released!

Review: While We Were Dating

While We Were Dating by Jasmine Guillory
Publisher: Berkley
Pub Date: 7/13/21

Disclaimer: I received a free advanced digital copy of this book from Berkley and free audiobook copy from Penguin Random House audio in exchange for my honest opinion. This has no effect on my opinion, review, or rating.

GoodReads Synopsis: Ben Stephens has never bothered with serious relationships. He has plenty of casual dates to keep him busy, family drama he’s trying to ignore and his advertising job to focus on. When Ben lands a huge ad campaign featuring movie star Anna Gardiner, however, it’s hard to keep it purely professional. Anna is not just gorgeous and sexy, she’s also down to earth and considerate, and he can’t help flirting a little…

Anna Gardiner is on a mission: to make herself a household name, and this ad campaign will be a great distraction while she waits to hear if she’s booked her next movie. However, she didn’t expect Ben Stephens to be her biggest distraction. She knows mixing business with pleasure never works out, but why not indulge in a harmless flirtation?

But their lighthearted banter takes a turn for the serious when Ben helps Anna in a family emergency, and they reveal truths about themselves to each other, truths they’ve barely shared with those closest to them.

When the opportunity comes to turn their real-life fling into something more for the Hollywood spotlight, will Ben be content to play the background role in Anna’s life and leave when the cameras stop rolling? Or could he be the leading man she needs to craft their own Hollywood ending?

Review: While We Were Dating is the sixth book into the Wedding Date series by Jasmine Guillory. This contemporary romance novel is a fast lighthearted read. This book features Ben Stephens, Theo’s younger brother, who meets Anna, a famous actress, and end up from secret dating to fake dating. Overall, this was decent read for me. One of of the strongest points in this book was mental health representation. I love the Bay Area and Palm Springs setting in this novel. I also liked that Theo and Maddie from The Wedding Party popped in the background and so did Nic and Carlos from The Proposal. The part that didn’t work for me was the conflict in this book which seemed trivial. There also a couple of California logistics that I was hung up on while reading. If you like the wedding date series, you may want to pick this up.

3 YA Books Paired With Matching Songs

This past month I’ve been reading more Young Adult books than I typically do. I thought I would match a few I read with songs that they remind me of. Hope you enjoy!

Sunny Song Will Never Be Famous by Suzanne Parker
Delicate – Taylor Swift

Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Young
Sway – The Pussycat Dolls
Heartbreakers and Fakers by Cameron Lund
Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F) – Katy Perry

Review: When the Stars Go Dark

When the Stars Go Dark by Paula McLain
Publisher: Ballantine Books | Penguin Random House
Pub Date: 4/13/2021

Disclaimer: I received a free finished physical copy and audiobook copy of this book from Penguin Random House in exchange for my honest opinion. This has no effect on my opinion, review, or rating.

GoodReads Synopsis: From the New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Wife comes a novel of intertwined destinies and heart-wrenching suspense: A detective hiding away from the world. A series of disappearances that reach into her past. Can solving them help her heal?

Anna Hart is a missing persons detective in San Francisco. When tragedy strikes her personal life, Anna, desperate and numb, flees to the Northern California village of Mendocino to grieve. She lived there as a child with her beloved foster parents, and now she believes it might be the only place left for her. Yet the day she arrives, she learns a local teenage girl has gone missing. The crime feels frighteningly reminiscent of the most crucial time in Anna’s childhood, when the unsolved murder of a young girl touched Mendocino and changed the community forever. As past and present collide, Anna realizes that she has been led to this moment. The most difficult lessons of her life have given her insight into how victims come into contact with violent predators. As Anna becomes obsessed with the missing girl, she must accept that true courage means getting out of her own way and learning to let others in.

Weaving together actual cases of missing persons, trauma theory, and a hint of the metaphysical, this propulsive and deeply affecting novel tells a story of fate, necessary redemption, and what it takes, when the worst happens, to reclaim our lives–and our faith in one another.

Review: When the Stars Are Dark is the first book I’ve read from Paul McLain. This mystery novel takes place in Northern California and explores missing children cases, community, trauma, and courage. Overall, this was a really interesting read. This books is definitely a slow burn. The writing style kept my attention from the first page. I didn’t see some of the twists coming. However, I will note that there are some trigger warnings to watch out for since it is a heavy read: death of a child, drug use, and sexual assault. I’d recommend reading this one if you are interested in true crime and missing person cases.

Review: Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake

Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake by Alexis Hall
Publisher: Read Forever Pub
Pub Date: 5/18/2021

Disclaimer: I received a free advanced digital copy of this book from Read Forever Pub and a finished audiobook copy from Hachette Audio in exchange for my honest opinion. This has no effect on my opinion, review, or rating.

GoodReads Synopsis: Following the recipe is the key to a successful bake. Rosaline Palmer has always lived by those rules—well, except for when she dropped out of college to raise her daughter, Amelie. Now, with a paycheck as useful as greaseproof paper and a house crumbling faster than biscuits in tea, she’s teetering on the edge of financial disaster. But where there’s a whisk there’s a way . . . and Rosaline has just landed a spot on the nation’s most beloved baking show.

Winning the prize money would give her daughter the life she deserves—and Rosaline is determined to stick to the instructions. However, more than collapsing trifles stand between Rosaline and sweet, sweet victory.  Suave, well-educated, and parent-approved Alain Pope knows all the right moves to sweep her off her feet, but it’s shy electrician Harry Dobson who makes Rosaline question her long-held beliefs—about herself, her family, and her desires.

Rosaline fears falling for Harry is a guaranteed recipe for disaster. Yet as the competition—and the ovens—heat up, Rosaline starts to realize the most delicious bakes come from the heart.

Review: Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake is the first book I’ve read from Alexis Hall. This contemporary romance novel explores expectations vs. desires, confidence, strained familial relationships, and cut-throat baking competition. I was initially drawn to this book because Estelle from Read Forever Pub has the best contemporary romance book recommendations and I adore food competition settings in romcoms. All the characters were well-developed and it was great to see how some of them changed for the better (or for the worse) throughout the story. As for the writing style, I really enjoyed the hilarious moments and also the way that the author was able to discuss sensitive subjects as well. I also loved that the author not only had romance in here, but he also weaved in personal growth. Overall, I’d highly recommend picking this one up if you’re a romance reader! I can’t wait for the book book in the series. 

Review: The Soulmate Equation

The Soulmate Equation by Christina Lauren
Publisher: Gallery Books
Pub Date: 5/18/2021

Disclaimer: I received a free advanced digital copy of this book from Gallery Books in exchange for my honest opinion. This has no effect on my opinion, review, or rating.

GoodReads Synopsis: Single mom Jess 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’s never been 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% compatibility with another subject in the database: GeneticAlly’s founder, Dr. River Pena. This is one number she can’t wrap her head around, because she already knows Dr. Pena. 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” pairing that could make GeneticAlly a mint in stock prices, 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.

Review: Christina Lauren is one of my favorite duo romance authors! The Soulmate Equation is a fake dating troupe that takes place in lovely San Diego. This contemporary romance novel explores using DNA testing to find your true love. Overall, I enjoyed this one! I really loved the supporting character’s: Fizzy (Jess’s best friend) and Juno (Jess’s 7 year old daughter). This is definitely a slow burn romance. I liked the descriptions of the setting in San Diego as well. The only part that didn’t work for me was River’s character. There were times where I felt like we didn’t know much about him or something felt out of character. Besides that, this was a 3.5 star read for me which I rounded up to 4 stars on GoodReads. I really hope there’s a sequel so we can get Fizzy’s love story!

Review: Dial A for Aunties

Dial A For Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto
Publisher: Berkley | Penguin Random House
Pub Date: 4/27/2021

Disclaimer: I received a free finished copy of this book from Berkley | Penguin Random House in exchange for my honest opinion. This has no effect on my opinion, review, or rating.

GoodReads Synopsis: A hilariously quirky novel that is equal parts murder mystery, rom-com, and a celebration of mothers and daughters as well as a deep dive into Chinese-Indonesian culture, by debut author Jesse Q. Sutanto.

1 (accidental) murder
2 thousand wedding guests
3 (maybe) cursed generations
4 meddling Asian aunties to the rescue!

When Meddelin Chan ends up accidentally killing her blind date, her meddlesome mother calls for her even more meddlesome aunties to help get rid of the body. Unfortunately, a dead body proves to be a lot more challenging to dispose of than one might anticipate, especially when it is accidentally shipped in a cake cooler to the over-the-top billionaire wedding Meddy, her Ma, and aunties are working, at an island resort on the California coastline. It’s the biggest job yet for their family wedding business—“Don’t leave your big day to chance, leave it to the Chans!”—and nothing, not even an unsavory corpse, will get in the way of her auntie’s perfect buttercream cake flowers.

But things go from inconvenient to downright torturous when Meddy’s great college love—and biggest heartbreak—makes a surprise appearance amid the wedding chaos. Is it possible to escape murder charges, charm her ex back into her life, and pull off a stunning wedding all in one weekend?

Review: Dial A For Aunties is the first book I’ve read from Jesse Q. Sutanto. This hilarious contemporary romance takes place in Southern California and explores second chance love, family, self discovery, and filthy rich weddings. Overall, I enjoyed this novel. From the first page, it’s over-the-top and cheesy filled with hilarious characters. I loved the main character Meddy and felt for her in terms of putting her family’s needs over her own desires. This book is a great one to pick up if you need something lighthearted and want a laugh. Definitely recommend!

Review: Gold Diggers

Gold Diggers by Sanjena Sathian

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Pub Date: 4/6/2021

Disclaimer: I received a finished listening copy from Penguin Random House in exchange for my honest opinion. This has no effect on my opinion, review, or rating.

GoodReads Synopsis: A floundering second-generation teenager growing up in the Bush-era Atlanta suburbs, Neil Narayan is authentic, funny, and smart. He just doesn’t share the same drive as everyone around him. His perfect older sister is headed to Duke. His parents’ expectations for him are just as high. He tries to want this version of success, but mostly, Neil just wants his neighbor across the cul-de-sac, Anita Dayal.

But Anita has a secret: she and her mother Anjali have been brewing an ancient alchemical potion from stolen gold that harnesses the ambition of the jewelry’s original owner. Anjali’s own mother in Bombay didn’t waste the precious potion on her daughter, favoring her sons instead. Anita, on the other hand, just needs a little boost to get into Harvard. But when Neil–who needs a whole lot more–joins in the plot, events spiral into a tragedy that rips their community apart.

Ten years later, Neil is an oft-stoned Berkeley history grad student studying the California gold rush. His high school cohort has migrated to Silicon Valley, where he reunites with Anita and resurrects their old habit of gold theft–only now, the stakes are higher. Anita’s mother is in trouble, and only gold can save her. Anita and Neil must pull off one last heist.

Gold Diggers is a fine-grained, profoundly intelligent, and bitingly funny investigation in to questions of identity and coming of age–that tears down American shibboleths.

Review: I was initially intrigued by Gold Diggers by the vibrant cover and that Mindy Kaling is adapting this novel into a TV series which I’m sure will be amazing! This magical realism novel explores family pressure, mental health, finding your identity, and Indian culture. The writing style in this novel will capture you from page one especially with the complex flawed character and the intriguing backstory of the older generations. The audiobook narrator did an incredible job narrating this novel. The way he did the different characters voices made the story come alive. I loved the audiobook so much that I went out to buy a physical copy from Barnes & Noble to add to my bookshelf last night. Highly recommend picking this one up!

Review: Second First Impressions

Second First Impressions by Sally Thorne
Publisher: William Morrow
Pub Date: 4/13/2021

Disclaimer: I received a free advanced digital copy of this book from William Morrow in exchange for my honest opinion. This has no effect on my opinion, review, or rating.

GoodReads Synopsis: From the USA Today bestselling author of The Hating Game and 99 Percent Mine comes the clever, funny, and unforgettable story of a muscular, tattooed man hired as an assistant to two old women—under the watchful eye of a beautiful retirement home manager.

Distraction (n): an extreme agitation of the mind or emotions.

Ruthie Midona has worked the front desk at the Providence Luxury Retirement Villa for six years, dedicating her entire adult life to caring for the Villa’s residents, maintaining the property (with an assist from DIY YouTube tutorials), and guarding the endangered tortoises that live in the Villa’s gardens. Somewhere along the way, she’s forgotten that she’s young and beautiful, and that there’s a world outside of work—until she meets the son of the property developer who just acquired the retirement center.

Teddy Prescott has spent the last few years partying, sleeping in late, tattooing himself when bored, and generally not taking life too seriously—something his father, who dreams of grooming Teddy into his successor, can’t understand. When Teddy needs a place to crash, his father seizes the chance to get him to grow up. He’ll let Teddy stay in one of the on-site cottages at the retirement home, but only if he works to earn his keep. Teddy agrees—he can change a few lightbulbs and clip some hedges, no sweat. But Ruthie has plans for Teddy too.

Her two wealthiest and most eccentric residents have just placed an ad (yet another!) seeking a new personal assistant to torment. The women are ninety-year-old, four-foot-tall menaces, and not one of their assistants has lasted a full week. Offering up Teddy seems like a surefire way to get rid of the tall, handsome, unnerving man who won’t stop getting under her skin.

Ruthie doesn’t count on the fact that in Teddy Prescott, the Biddies may have finally met their match. He’ll pick up Chanel gowns from the dry cleaner and cut Big Macs into bite-sized bits. He’ll do repairs around the property, make the residents laugh, and charm the entire villa. He might even remind Ruthie what it’s like to be young and fun again. But when she finds out Teddy’s father’s only fixing up the retirement home to sell it, putting everything she cares about in jeopardy, she’s left wondering if Teddy’s magic was all just a façade.

Hilarious, warm, and romantic, Sally Thorne’s novel delivers an irrepressibly joyous celebration of love and community for fans of 99% Mine and The Hating Game.

Review: Sally Thorne’s third book, Second First Impressions, has been on my radar! I was a bit hesitant to read this because I adored The Hating Game, but wasn’t a fan of 99 Percent Mine. Second First Impressions is a sweet romance that explores taking chances, self discovery, community love, and finding happiness. I enjoyed the cast of characters in this storyline and seeing the character growth in the main characters. Though I enjoyed the storyline and hilarious side characters, I wasn’t a big fan of the main characters. I really love the banter and friendship all the characters had with one another, but I kind of felt that the relationship was forced between the two main characters. Towards the last quarter of the book, things seemed to wrap up too quickly. Other than that, I would recommend this novel if you loved The Hating Game!