Tag: friends

Book Review: The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones, by Daven McQueen

juniper jones
Image belongs to Wattpad Books.

Title:   The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones
Author Daven McQueen
Genre:   YA
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

It’s the summer of 1955. For Ethan Harper, a biracial kid raised mostly by his white father, race has always been a distant conversation. When he’s sent to spend the summer with his aunt and uncle in small-town Alabama, his Blackness is suddenly front and center, and no one is shy about making it known he’s not welcome there. Except for Juniper Jones. The town’s resident oddball and free spirit, she’s everything the townspeople aren’t—open, kind, and full of acceptance.

Armed with two bikes and an unlimited supply of root beer floats, Ethan and Juniper set out to find their place in a town that’s bent on rejecting them. As Ethan is confronted for the first time by what it means to be Black in America, Juniper tries to help him see the beauty in even the ugliest reality, and that even the darkest days can give rise to an invincible summer.

This is an excellent read! I was by turns horrified (by people’s treatment of Ethan) and enchanted (by Juniper and her personality) throughout the entire book. I’m sure the portrayal of life in small-town Alabama in 1955 is accurate. Sadly. But it’s interesting to see how far we’ve come as a society—and how far we still have to go.

Juniper is such a quirky, spirited character, and I enjoyed her antics so much! It was sad seeing Ethan’s realization of how life in Alabama was different from what he’d known. I loved this read!

Daven McQueen lives in Boston. The Invincible Summer of Juniper Jones is her new novel.

(Galley courtesy of Wattpad Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Girls Weekend, by Jody Gehrman

the girls weekend
Image belongs to Crooked Lane Books.

Title:   The Girls Weekend
Author: Jody Gehrman
Genre:  Suspense/thriller
Rating:   4.0 out of 5

Their reunion just became a crime scene . . .

June Moody, a thirty-something English professor, just wants to get away from her recent breakup and reunite with girlfriends over summer break. Her old friend and longtime nemesis, Sadie MacTavish, a mega-successful author, invites June and her college friends to a baby shower at her sprawling estate in the San Juan Islands. June is less than thrilled to spend time with Sadie–and her husband, June’s former crush–but agrees to go.

The party gets off to a shaky start when old grudges resurface, but when they wake the next morning, they find something worse: Sadie is missing, the house is in shambles, and bloodstains mar the staircase. None of them has any memory of the night before; they wonder if they were drugged. Everyone’s a suspect. Since June had a secret rendezvous with Sadie’s husband, she has plenty of reason to suspect herself. Apparently, so do the cops.

I feel like this is the sort of situation I would get myself into: it starts with an invitation I really have no desire to accept—but I do because I get guilt-tripped into it—I’m miserable at the event because I really don’t even like these people, and, just my luck, someone winds up dead. And we’re all suspects. Yep. Just my luck.

I was just as much in the dark as the characters were about what had actually happened. Except…I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have cleaned up the crime scene or not told the cops we thought we’d all been drugged. So that bit was a touch hard to believe. Other than that, I really had no idea who did it, as everyone had a motive for wanting Sadie dead—she was that unlikable.

Jody Gehrman is a professor of English and Communications. The Girls Weekend is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Crooked Lane Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Summer House, by Lauren K. Denton

the summer house
Image belongs to Thomas Nelson.

Title:  The Summer House
AuthorLauren K. Denton
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  5 out of 5

Lily Bishop wakes one morning to find a good-bye note and divorce papers from her husband on the kitchen counter. Having moved to Alabama for his job only weeks before, Lily is devastated but forced to contemplate her next steps when she sees a flier at the grocery store for a hair stylist position in a local retirement community.

Rose Carrigan built the small retirement village of Safe Harbor years ago–just before her husband ran off with his assistant. Now she runs a tight ship, making sure the residents follow her strict rules. Rose keeps everyone at arm’s length, including her own family. But when Lily shows up asking for a job and a place to live, Rose’s cold exterior begins to thaw. Lily and Rose form an unlikely friendship, and Lily’s salon soon becomes the place where residents share town gossip, as well as a few secrets of their own. Lily even finds herself drawn to Rose’s nephew, Rawlins–a single dad and shrimper who’s had some practice at starting over, and one of the residents may be carrying a torch for Rose as well.

Neither Lily nor Rose is where they expected to be, but the summer makes them both wonder if there’s more to life and love than what they’ve lived so far. The Summer House weaves Lauren Denton’s inviting Southern charm around a woman’s journey to find herself.

I’m just going to say it:  I love Lauren K. Denton’s writing! This was another entrancing summer read! If only I’d been at the beach reading….I was glued to the page from the moment Lily woke up to find her husband gone without warning.

Rose changed the most during this novel, and her journey was wonderful to read. Despite her emotionally barricaded life, she learns to open up and trust people, just as Lily does. Even the secondary characters are wonderful, and this is definitely a book worth binge reading!

Lauren K. Denton is a bestselling author. The Summer House is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Thomas Nelson in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Summer Villa, by Melissa Hill

the summer villa blog tour

the summer villa
Image belongs to Harlquin/MIRA.

Title:  The Summer Villa
AuthorMelissa Hill
Genre:  Women’s fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

Three women. One summer reunion. Secrets will be revealed…

Villa Dolce Vita, a rambling stone house on the Amalfi Coast, sits high above the Gulf of Naples amid dappled lemon groves and fragrant, tumbling bougainvillea. Kim, Colette and Annie all came to the villa in need of escape and in the process forged an unlikely friendship.

Now, years later, Kim has transformed the crumbling house into a luxury retreat and has invited her friends back for the summer to celebrate.

But as friendships are rekindled under the Italian sun, secrets buried in the past will come to light, and not everyone is happy that the three friends are reuniting… Each woman will have things to face up to if they are all to find true happiness and fully embrace the sweet life.

On one hand, I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Italy—and a vacation sounds wonderful right about now! On the other, I found Kim and Annie to be mildly annoying characters at best. Kim was rather self-absorbed, spoiled, and selfish. Annie was…well, she had a huge chip on her shoulder and spent quite a bit of time feeling sorry for herself. That’s a no-go for me.

I liked Colette, and I would have enjoyed more time spent with her, but a lot of this novel fell in the “too good to be true” category for me. I mean, doesn’t everyone meet handsome strangers who fall immediately in love with you on vacation…and end up wildly successful in your chosen field? This is still an quick, breezy read that doesn’t require too much mental involvement to enjoy.

Melissa Hill is a bestselling author. The Summer Villa is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/MIRA in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Feels Like Falling, by Kristy Woodson Harvey

feels like falling
Image belongs to Gallery Books.

Title:  Feels Like Falling
AuthorKristy Woodson Harvey
Genre:  Women’s fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5 

It’s summertime on the North Carolina coast and the livin’ is easy.

Unless, that is, you’ve just lost your mother to cancer, your sister to her extremist husband, and your husband to his executive assistant. Meet Gray Howard. Right when Gray could use a serious infusion of good karma in her life, she inadvertently gets a stranger, Diana Harrington, fired from her job at the local pharmacy.

Diana Harrington’s summer isn’t off to the greatest start either: Hours before losing her job, she broke up with her boyfriend and moved out of their shared house with only a worn-out Impala for a bed. Lucky for her, Gray has an empty guest house and a very guilty conscience.

With Gray’s kindness, Diana’s tide begins to turn. But when her first love returns, every secret from her past seems to resurface all at once. And, as Gray begins to blaze a new trail, she discovers, with Diana’s help, that what she envisioned as her perfect life may not be what she wants at all.

I loved the relationship Gray had with her assistant and her best friend! Their interactions, especially when adding Diana into the mix, made the whole novel come alive. I didn’t quite get why Gray had such a problem with the age difference between herself and her new man—it wasn’t that big, and he was in graduate school, it’s not like he was a freshman or something. She also dropped him pretty quick and was interested in someone else—who she then handed to her best friend like he was a purse she tried out and didn’t like. This was definitely a novel about opposites, as Diana was a far cry from Gray’s posh and privileged life. A fun read, but not a lot of character depth.

Kristy Woodson Harvey is a bestselling author. Feels Like Falling is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Gallery Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me, by Gae Polisner

jack kerouac
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press/Wednesday Books.

Title:  Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me
AuthorGae Polisner
Genre:  YA
Rating:  4.5 out of 5 

Fifteen-year-old JL Markham’s life used to be filled with carnival nights and hot summer days spent giggling with her forever best friend Aubrey about their families and boys. Together, they were unstoppable. But they aren’t the friends they once were.

With JL’s father gone on long term business, and her mother struggling with her mental illness, JL takes solace in the tropical butterflies she raises, and in her new, older boyfriend, Max Gordon. Max may be rough on the outside, but he has the soul of a poet (something Aubrey will never understand). Only, Max is about to graduate, and he’s going to hit the road – with or without JL.

JL can’t bear being left behind again. But what if devoting herself to Max not only means betraying her parents, but permanently losing the love of her best friend? What becomes of loyalty, when no one is loyal to you?

This book. Seriously. I am not even sure what to say about it. It broke my heart—not because it was bad, but because it was so good! I felt for JL so much. She’s lost her best friend to whatever came between them, she’s lost her dad to business, her mom to dissociative disorder, her grandmother who seems to be in denial…she’s basically lost everyone in her life. Except Max, her new, older boyfriend…that everyone at school says horrible things about, including her in the rumors, too.

JL is on the verge of growing up. She wants to grow up—at least she thinks so—but she has no one to show her the way. She can’t even sort out what she wants in her own mind, she just knows she wants more. I was right there with her, experiencing everything—even the horrible stuff—and I loved every page. Even when it broke my heart.

GAE POLISNER is the award-winning author of In Sight of Stars, The Memory of Things, The Summer of Letting Go, The Pull of Gravity, and Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me. She lives on Long Island with her husband, two sons, and a suspiciously-fictional looking dog. When Gae isn’t writing, you can find her in a pool or the open waters off Long Island. She’s still hoping that one day her wetsuit will turn her into a superhero.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Sparrow, by Mary Cecilia Jackson

sparrow
Image belongs to Tor Teen.

Title:  Sparrow
AuthorMary Cecilia Jackson
Genre:  YA
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Sparrow—Savannah Darcy Rose—thought she would be safe after her mother died. She thought she could finally stop hiding. She’s a gifted ballerina with a tight-knit circle of friends, she’s starring in a new production, and her future looks bright.

Then she meets Tristan:  handsome, wealthy, the most popular boy in school. Sparrow is in love, but Tristan isn’t quite as perfect as he seems, and soon Sparrow finds herself keeping secrets from everyone. She’s not the kind of girl who tells, but after a brutal assault, she must learn how to open up to those around her.

This wasn’t an easy book to read. You could see the disaster looming…but you were helpless to divert it. Sparrow’s backstory is horrifying, and the emotional scars she bears lead to physical scars in her present. I loved her strength and determination—and the strong friendships made the novel shine.

Mary Cecilia Jackson loves being a Southerner and reading. Sparrow is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of Tor Teen in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Rome of Fall, by Chad Alan Gibbs

the rome of fall
Image belongs to Borne Back Books.

Title:  The Rome of Fall
AuthorChad Alan Gibbs
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

Twenty years ago, Marcus Brinks left Rome, Alabama behind quickly, quietly, and mysteriously. The small town worshiped its football gods—back when Marcus was in high school, that was Deacon Cassburn—and allowed them to get away with anything short of murder, including bullying Marcus and his best friends, Silas and third-string quarterback Jackson. So Marcus and his friends decide to take down Deacon—state championship on the line or not.

Now Marcus is back in Rome to care for his dying mother. Things have changed in Rome…or have they? Marcus is a teacher and former indie rock star and Jackson is the football god/coach, while Deacon and his buddies plot to take him down. Things are ugly in Rome, and Marcus just wants to keep out of the drama and maybe have a bit of romance with his high school crush. But the past has a way of shaping the future, and even in Rome, it will catch up to you.

I’m not a football fan, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying every page of this. I graduated in ’95, so all the references the author made brought that back to life for me. I’m from Texas, so I get the Friday Night Lights hoopla—even though my high school didn’t have football until just a couple of years ago, the basketball coach back then could have gotten away with murder—and it was so vivid and realistic in The Rome of Fall.

Marcus isn’t entirely likable, but he’s relatable. The whole teen angst storyline in the ‘90s was vivid, angry, and full of pain. The present-day storyline was more nostalgic, but also angry and painful. I loved how everything resolved at the end, bringing Marcus full-circle and the reader hoping he finds happiness along with his dreams.

Chad Alan Gibbs is an award-winning author. The Rome of Fall is his newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Borne Back Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Little Bookshop on the Seine, by Rebecca Raisin

the little bookshop
Image belongs to harlequin/HQN.

Title:  The Little Bookshop on the Seine
AuthorRebecca Raisin
Genre:  Women’s fiction
Rating:  5 out of 5

Sarah Smith loves her little bookstore in tiny Ashford, Connecticut. She swears her books talk to her, and she’s happy with her life, her tight-knit group of friends—and their pastries—and her boyfriend, globe-trotting journalist Ridge. Except he’s gone so much, and Sarah is a little bit bored. So, when her Parisian friend Sophie offers a six-month bookshop exchange, Sarah finds herself flying to Paris to take care of Once Upon a Time, a famous, and popular, bookstore on the Seine.

But Sarah’s dreams of quiet time spent reading, forays to explore Paris, and getting to see Ridge as he travels the world fade quickly once she arrives in Paris. The staff at the bookshop are suspicious and uncooperative. The customers are rude. There’s barely time to breathe, much less read. And instead of spending time with Ridge, their relationship is reduced to occasional quick phone calls. But Sarah has had enough. Christmas is coming and she is determined to get things sorted out, no matter what.

I loved this book! I didn’t realize until I finished it that Rebecca Raisin also wrote Rosie’s Traveling Tea Shop, which was also a lovely read…but it all makes sense now. The Little Bookshop on the Seine made me want to visit Paris, which has never been on my Places to Go list, but I’d pack right up for a chance to work in Once Upon a Time, and Sarah, with her love of books and reading contrasting with her desire to experience life is so me that I related to every page. I highly recommend this!

Rebecca Raisin loves books. The Little Bookshop on the Seine is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/HQN in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: This Really Happened, by Annmarie McQueen

this really happened
Image belongs to the author.

Title:  This Really Happened
Author:    Annmarie McQueen
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

For Erin, university is her chance to stretch her wings. She’d like to make some friends, but she also must focus on her studies—economics, which her emotionally-distant parents approve of. Then she meets her five flatmates, including Allen, the quiet, creative boy who just seems to get her. Their friendship grows, as do Erin’s feelings for Allen, until one day Allen starts dating Charlotte, another of their flatmates.

Erin is devastated but struggles to be okay with it and be happy for her friends. Then one night leaving a crowded club, Charlotte is struck by a car, and everything changes.

This Really Happened is told in alternating timelines:  Erin’s experiences in the present day and her blog posts about Charlotte’s accident and its aftermath, the times slowly growing closer together as the reader gets closer to the truth. Erin only has one friend—her older sister—when she comes to university. She’s not close to her parents, so having a ready-made group of friends is a heady experience with her.

I enjoyed reading about how the friendships developed and I was fascinated by the alternating timelines. I found Allen a bit annoying, but I can see how he interested Erin. This is a solid read for anyone who likes to be intrigued with their reading choice.

Annmarie McQueen is a London-based writer and blogger who loves tea. This Really Happened is her new novel.

(Galley courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.)