Legend has it that when the Dove family has seven daughters, something special happens. Sarah Dove is that seventh daughter, and since she was seven years old, books have whispered to her. They tell her which person in town needs them—and the books are always right. So when a cranky old book tells Sarah who is going to save Dove Pond, she listens.
Grace Wheeler moved to Dove Pond because dementia is encroaching on her beloved mother, and she hopes that returning to her mother’s hometown might slow its progress. She also has her niece to care for and giving up her high-powered financial job to move to a small town and take care of family wasn’t in Grace’s plans.
The town of Dove Pond is in trouble, and Grace may be the only one who can save it. But she’ll need the help of Sarah, Travis—her gruff neighbor—and everyone else in Dove Pond if she’s to pull it off.
I loved this book! I grew up in a small town (much smaller than Dove Pond) and have always been grateful that I no longer live there, but I’d move to Dove Pond. The town is such a character in this story. Its people are vibrant and quirky, and I wanted to hang out with all of them. Especially Sarah. As much as I love books and reading, she’s someone I could absolutely be friends with. And Grace is so strong. She’s like a force of nature. I cannot wait to read more of this series! This is labeled as romance, but that’s a secondary plot here, as the book is much more about friendship, family, and saving Dove Pond.
Karen Hawkins is a bestselling author. The Book Charmer, the first book in the Dove Pond series, is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Gallery Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Bonnie Blythe is an English professor with her life planned out: her fiancé is about to finish grad school, so now they can start planning their wedding. If he’ll ever settle on a date, that is. So she helps her best friend plan her wedding and tries not to be bitter about her own lack of wedding planning. And she tries not to think about Theo, the handsome, dashing Brit she met last year, who’s straight out of an Austen novel.
Theo knew Bonnie was engaged when he met her, so he kept a polite, respectful distance, even when all he wanted was the fiery redhead. When Bonnie’s engagement ends badly and she takes a teaching position at Cambridge, only an hour away from Theo, he’s happy to be the friend she needs. Theo would like to be more than friends, but family duty—and a secret he’s keeping from Bonnie—make that impossible.
I love the lighthearted and fun voice of this series. Getting Hot with the Scot foreshadowed the attraction between Bonnie and Theo, and I love when series allow you to find out more about characters from previous books. Theo is handsome and charming, and Bonnie deserves better than her wishy-washy fiancé anyway, so this was an enjoyable read.
According to her website, Melonie Johnson is a “Redhead. Writer. Drama Mama.” Smitten by the Brit is the second book in her Sometimes in Love series.
(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
It’s bad enough Sara’s boyfriend cheated on her and she found out when she saw sexting pics on his phone. But now he and the other girl are flaunting it around town, when all Sara wants is to get through the summer and spend senior year with her best friend, Devi, and get into an Ivy League school. Surely a drunken hook-up at a party will at least take Sara’s mind off her problems.
She forgot to get the guy’s number, and when she finds out she’s pregnant, well, things change. She and her mom move in with her grandmother, and instead of starting senior year with Devi, Sara is the new girl at a new school. She meets some new friends and Leaf, a Romani boy who really gets her, and whose flirting makes her happy. Except she’s also the pregnant new girl. She should probably tell Leaf about that, but she wants to hold on to her happiness for just a little longer.
Belly Up wasn’t quite what I expected. Sara is an amazing character, and her voice is so much fun. This is an incredibly diverse book, and friendship is a main theme, as is love (and not romantic love, either). This was a fun read about serious subjects, and I recommend it.
Eva Darrows/Hillary Monahan is a New York Times-bestselling author. Belly Up is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Harlequin TEEN/Inkyard Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Cassie Crow is a pop culture reporter for a talk show, but she wants to be a “serious” reporter. Even though she’s on the vacation of a lifetime with her friends, her upcoming big interview is all she can think about. Until a mix-up in a Scottish castle leads to a chance encounter with a handsome man in a kilt.
Logan’s career is doing pranks before a camera and making it big is all he can think about. Until he meets Cassie and needs her to agree before he can use the footage that may capture the hearts of his target audience.
What was supposed to be a one-night-stand might become more, but only if Cassie and Logan conquer the fears from their pasts.
Getting Hot with the Scot was a quick, fun read. Running into a sexy Highlander in a kilt—in a castle, no less—is probably the dream of a lot of women, so I found the way the novel took that idea and ran with it to be quite entertaining. The best part of this book, besides Logan’s accent, was the friendship between Cassie and her group of friends.
Melonie Johnson is a writer, a wife, a mother, and many other things, depending on her current interests. Getting Hot with the Scot is the first book in the Sometimes in Love series.
(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Grace has been married for twenty-five years, and she has a surprise all planned out for her husband: a romantic trip to Paris. But he has a surprise as well: he wants a divorce. With her world in pieces, Grace decides to take the trip anyway and spend the summer in Paris—where memories of the one who got away haunt her.
Audrey has worked for years to get away from her alcoholic mother. A summer in Paris and a job at a bookstore is her way out, and she intends to enjoy every moment to the fullest. Now she’s in Paris, but doesn’t speak French, and has no money, so maybe she’ll be wandering the streets of Paris alone.
Then she meets Grace, and the unlikely pair form a bond that draws them together even as they help each other spread their wings.
One Summer in Paris made me want to visit the city…and I’ve never had the impulse to go there before. I would love to visit this bookstore—let alone work there—and the city came alive on the pages of this book. I’m more like Grace than like Audrey, but I thoroughly enjoyed this read!
Sarah Morgan is a bestselling author. One Summer in Paris is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/HQN via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Sophie loves living in a small town. She has her four best friends, marching band, and the Yum Yum Shoppe and its fourteen flavors of ice cream. She also has a few regrets, but she tries not to let them get her down. This year, she just wants the band to be able to march in the Rose Bowl parade, and she’s ready to go all-out to make sure that happens. Even if that includes a social media campaign to the country star who is from their small town.
When August moves in down the street, he’s determined to keep everyone at arm’s length, especially Sophie, but soon he’s hanging out with her friends and joining the social media campaign. Her friends aren’t sure he deserves a permanent spot in the group, but August makes a home for himself there—if he’s willing to claim it.
I enjoyed this light, funny read, but it does have some deeper themes as well. Sophie is good at pushing the bad stuff to the back of her mind, but sometimes you just have to face things. August prefers to expect the worst—and not to bother hoping for the best. The friendships in this story are so realistic: good, bad, at times ugly. I’d love to hang out with these people.
Emma Mills lives in Indianapolis. Famous in a Small Town is her newest novel.
(Galley provided by Henry Holt & Company in exchange for an honest review.)
Willa and Flor have been friends for years, so when Flor’s boyfriend breaks up with her, they start writing The Girl Code—starting with Never date a friend’s ex. Too bad Flor’s ex is Zach, Willa’s next-door-neighbor, best friend, and the guy she’s secretly had a crush on for years. But Willa would never betray a friend, so Zach is strictly off-limits.
Until she realizes there just might be a chance for her and Zach to be more than friends. Willa has always put others before herself, but she realizes that doing something for yourself can sometimes be important.
Flor wants to get back together with Zach. Her dad is obsessed with his much-younger girlfriend. She’s almost failing math. And she just wants something to change. Then she meets Grayson, her math tutor, and realizes sometimes the best things are hidden in plain sight.
I liked the female friendships in this book. They’re strong—even when tested to their limit. Neither Willa or Flor are clichés, they’re individuals with real problems, determined to support each other. Honestly, the romance took a back seat to the friendship aspects, which I really liked.
Sophie Jordan grew up in the Texas hill country and is a best-selling author. The Me I Meant to Be is her newest novel.
(Galley provided by HMH Books for Young Readers in exchange for an honest review.)
Sadie has a boyfriend she loves, Henry, who plays in a band and loves her even though she can’t understand why. Her best friend, Lucie, runs Cross Country and is a secret nerd, but still loves to hang out with Sadie. Then there’s George. George just gets her. They talk for hours. They go on adventures. They explore the world around them. Together, they are magic.
George is a secret. He’s imaginary. But when a car accident leaves Sadie calling out his name, she ends up in a hospital for people with issues like hers.
Life with George is more extraordinary than anything Sadie has experienced without him. But, while trying to keep her secret, she starts to yearn for something more, for something real. Can she give up George and the magical lives she leads with him?
At first, I wasn’t too sure about this book. I mean, daydreaming is one thing, but Sadie takes it to a whole other level. Her adventures with George are fantastic, but she just can’t see how great her real life is, too. I just didn’t get it at first, but then it all started to make sense, and I really felt for Sadie and all she’d been through. This is an exploration of mental illness from the inside—and it is very, very well done and vivid.
Tara Wilson Redd lives in Washington D.C. The Museum of Us is her debut novel.
(Galley provided by Random House Children’s/Wendy Lamb Books in exchange for an honest review.)
Lulu Saad has her squad, her family, and a huge chip on her shoulder. She doesn’t need anything else. She’s fasting for Ramadan, which she does every year, and her squad still doesn’t get it, but Lulu is determined to make it through this time.
Except Lulu and her friends have a falling out. And she alienates half of her extended family. And she can’t quite figure out why everything in her life is going wrong…
Okay. I didn’t realize quite how…plotless this book was until I tried to write a synopsis. And now it’s all so clear to me…Lulu and her friends aren’t very likeable. Scratch that. They aren’t likable at all. They do stupid stuff, knowingly. They talk about people. They sabotage people. They’re judgmental. Basically, this book is all angst and anger, with a lot of cultural diversity thrown in.
Now, that part was very well done, and executed so well that I caught all the nuances of Lulu’s struggle to fit in when she feels like she doesn’t belong in either culture. But she’s also touchy to the point of looking for things to take offense at. Have some respect for yourself. Guys should absolutely respect women, and women should be able to wear whatever they want without having to be afraid of guys’ reactions…but, it’s not okay to sexualize men for their bodies, either. Lulu doesn’t get this, and she thinks it’s okay for her to be focused on the guys and for her to react inappropriately towards them. So…all the stars for diversity, but no stars for plot or character likability.
Aminah Mae Safi has studied art History, but now writes fiction. Not the Girls You’re Looking For is her debut novel.
(Galley provided by in exchange for an honest review.)
Hannah and Emory are next-door-neighbors and best friends. Until a few months ago, when they had a fight and said some things they can never take back. Hannah’s life at the Christian school her father runs is great, but is her faith really her own, or is it something she just picked up from her family? These questions become even harder when she realizes she may never get the chance to live out her dreams and gets involved with someone she should never have been involved with.
Emory is preparing for her UCLA performing arts audition and enjoying every moment she has left with her boyfriend, Luke. They’ll be going off to separate colleges, and she knows they don’t have much time left. Emory just wants to avoid her memories of the fight with Hannah—and what caused them.
The distance between the two girls seems unsurpassable, until the night Hannah finds Luke in his car outside Emory’s house, doubled over and on the verge of death. In the aftermath of that ordeal, the girls seek to sort out their differences, and realize their friendship is the strength that keeps them both afloat.
I loved this book. I could relate to Hannah so much, and the way she struggles with defining her own faith, while fighting for the chance to chase her dreams, was both poignant and uplifting. She makes some bad decisions, but learns from them, and changes as a result. Emory is a vibrant girl who practically dances across the pages. Her outgoing personality hides a secret—and a fear of the future. The two of them are drawn back together because of Luke, but their friendship is the backbone of this wonderful novel.
Tamara Ireland Stone is a New York Times-bestselling author and her novels have won several awards. Little Do We Know is her newest novel.
(Galley provided by Disney-Hyperion in exchange for an honest review.)