Review: The Allure of Dean Harper by R.S. Grey

There was an overwhelming amount of praise for this book. And unfortunately, I didn’t finish this book completely enchanted by the story or the characters. Overall, it was enjoyable. But not something that I loved.

The Allure of Dean Harper tells the story of Lily Black and Dean Harper. Lily has recently moved to New York and in need of a job. By the help of her best friend, she gets a job at one of New York’s trendiest restaurant. Unfortunately, for her the owner, Dean Harper, is not very kind.

Like mentioned prior, I didn’t love The Allure of Dean Harper but it did keep me interested. It was a hard book to put down.  However, I did have a problem with the pacing. Especially in terms of Lily and Dean’s relationship. It felt as if the relationship was purely attraction. There was not any heartbreaking moments nor were there any moments where I could pinpoint that these two particular people should be together.

Their relationship went in hyper speed and I do not necessarily think that it was fleshed out fully. There is not really a clear path to how these characters ended up how they were at the end of the book.

This was a relatively short book, and the pacing issue could have been solved if it had around one hundred more pages. I think that would have been enough to fully explore these two character’s relationship. Separately, they were okay. Dean had a little more backstory than Lily. But nevertheless, I understood where she was coming from. And they both were extremely witty characters.

Final Analysis

The Allure of Dean Harper feels like a first half of a larger book. It feels like a beginning that has not quite earned the ending that it got.

Review: The Chase by Elle Kennedy

This is not necessarily a bad book. However, I would not classify it as a great book. It is somewhere in-between. The Chase did enough to keep me interested; but it was missing something and I am not sure what.

The Chase centers on Summer and Fritz.  After being kicked out of her college, Summer transfers to Briar U. And because of the circumstances of her expulsion, she is forced to live with a few of her older brother’s friends. And one of her new roommates happens to be Colin Fitzgerald- someone she has had a crush on for a while.

Like mentioned prior, this book felt a little flat. It checked all of the boxes, but still after reading it, it feels a little unforgettable. It is hard to describe it, but it also felt as if it was going through the motions and trying to cross the finish line.

Characters

The book is told in both Summer and Fitz’s POV. Both likeable characters. I didn’t feel a strong connection to either characters, but I appreciate the depth that Kennedy attempted to create with both. Although Summer had this seemingly perfect lifestyle, she was internally struggling and felt a little lost.  

Summer and Fitz did have chemistry. But I found myself much more interested in the relationships of side characters then I was in their relationship.

Final Analysis

The Chase is the definition of having all the right ingredients but still missing a little extra something.

Review: Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners by Gretchen Anthony

Summary

A formidable matriarch learns the hard way that no family is perfect in this witty, sparkling debut novel

Dearest loved ones, far and near—evergreen tidings from the Baumgartners!

Violet Baumgartner has opened her annual holiday letter the same way for the past three decades. And this year she’s going to throw her husband, Ed, a truly perfect retirement party, one worthy of memorializing in her upcoming letter. But the event becomes a disaster when, in front of two hundred guests, Violet learns her daughter Cerise has been keeping a shocking secret from her, shattering Violet’s carefully constructed world.

In an epic battle of wills, Violet goes to increasing lengths to wrest back control of her family, infuriating Cerise and snaring their family and friends in a very un-Midwestern, un-Baumgartner gyre of dramatics. And there will be no explaining away the consequences in this year’s Baumgartner holiday letter…

Full of humor, emotion and surprises at every turn, Evergreen Tidings from the Baumgartners brings to life a remarkable cast of quirky, deeply human characters who must learn to adapt to the unconventional, or else risk losing one another. This is the story of a family falling to pieces—and the unexpected way they put it all back together.

Review

Where do I start with this book. Oh goodness, the family drama. So glad Violet isn’t my mother. Violet Baumgartner, the matriarch and control freak of the family, seems to want to control everyone and everything. Every year she writes these letters meant to be given to family and friends to share updates about the family for the year. Anticipating this year’s upcoming letter, her husband Ed is retiring from his job which she is more than excited for him to have this moment all to himself. When a huge secret get dropped at the party, Violet’s perfect world gets shattered sending her on a journey that leads to many consequences but unexpected resolutions.

This was an interesting one to read before the holidays. I’m on the fence about a few things with the book. When I first started the book, once the first holiday letter started, I set myself up with some expectations for what I anticipated the book to go like but then we were introduced to Violet. I found myself slightly irritated throughout the book by her controlling personality. It took away from my experience with the book but despite my irritation with her, once the book got going, it turned out to be a nice read. The characters and their moments throughout were funny but I don’t think I’d want to be a part of any of the families in the book. Such drama made an interesting read but had some life lesson takeways were nice to see and the characters evolve through their dysfunction. Overall, the holiday letters, the familial relationships, the secrets and full circle moments give the reader a glimpse into characters that found the an unconventional way to the meaning of family.

Review: Not So Nice Guy by R.S. Grey

 Buy on  Amazon

Buy on Amazon

This was a fun, entertaining book. Was it a little unrealistic at times? Absolutely. But nevertheless, a good time. 

Not So Nice Guy revolves around Sam & Ian. Two best friends who literally do everything today. Dinner? Check. Sharing food? Check. West Wing Wednesday? Check. Like the two are inseparable. They even teach at the same high school. However, unbeknownst to each other they both have massive crush on each other. 

There were many times that I laughed or had a smile on my face while reading. This is book isn't heavy on the angst, instead it is like a fun Rom-com. 

Although the best friend to lovers tropes has been done millions of times, Not So Nice Guy manages to stay somewhat unpredictable and fresh.  

I did enjoy this book, but the pacing was a tad inconsistent. In the beginning, I didn't have a problem with the pacing. But around the 75% mark, everything went a little hyperspeed. I would have liked it it had slowed down, because almost everything felt a little rushed. 


Characters
Sam & Ian had amazing chemistry. These two characters needed to be together. And although, the story does not chronicle they beginning of their friend, it is undeniable that have this great friendship. It was believable that they were that close. 
In addition to a satisfying romance, both main characters were extremely likeable. There are so many books where the romance over shadows the individual characters, but this book is not one. Yes, the romance was exciting and great, but so were Sam & Ian as people. 

Final Analysis Not So Nice Guy is a refreshing and fun rom-com with great characters and a great romance. It does feel a little rushed at the end, but nevertheless, a good read. 

Review: Bess and Frima by Alice Rosenthal

Summary

When Bess and Frima—best friends, both nineteen and from the same Jewish background in the Bronx—get summer jobs in upstate hotels near Monticello, NY, in June 1940, they have visions of romance . . . but very different expectations and needs. Frima, who seeks safety in love, finds it with the “boy next door,” who is also Bess’s brother. Meanwhile, rebellious Bess renames herself Beth and plunges into a new life with Vinny, an Italian American, former Catholic, left-wing labor leader from San Francisco. Her actions are totally unacceptable to her family—which is fine with Beth. Will their young loves have happy endings? Yes and no, for the shadow of world war is growing, and Beth and Frima must grow up fast. As their love lives entangle with war, ambitions, religion, family, and politics—all kinds of conventional expectations—they face challenges they never dreamed of in their struggles for personal and creative growth.

Review

Beth and Frima, a novel that takes place in the 40s, featues two best friends from the Bronx. A common bond of their Jewish heritage, we follow their evolution as young women through love, friendship, loss, family and cultural challenges.

Overall, the heart of the book was the friendship and Bess and Frima. It was a refreshing contrast seeing these women as they were through the influences of their time and the challenges they faced. Bess, being such a progessive and rebellious woman to not only the societal norms but her cultural ones, was such a great character to see break free to be in her own shell. Frima, who embodied conventional and traditional expectations found her way in the confines of who she was expected to be, found her way to be the best version of herself.Despite the challenges they faced, they always were their for each other no matter what which is so lovely to read novels featuring beautiful friendships.

There were other parts of the storylines that caught my interest such as the familial relationships and the supporting friendships which brought some nice elements to the book. I will say there were moments that I felt a bit drifted only because it feels like there was more to tell but had no affect on the interest of the main characters. I saw in the conclusion of the book this story continues which I found this book interesting enough to continue. I'm curious to see what happens next and experience the next chapter with them. Overall, I enjoyed reading the book and look forward to what's to come.

Review: Milk and Vine by Adam Gasiewski and Emily Beck

I missed the Vine craze a couple of years ago. I never downloaded the app, however, I was fully aware that people were obsessed with the short form video hosting app. I didn’t know how obsessed until Vine announced that it was shutting down. People went insane; and it was hard to even scroll through Twitter without seeing a list of someone’s favorite vines.

Vine eventually shut down in January of 2017. And like those do in mourning, people had thousands of compilations of the most popular vines. A couple of months ago, I finally got around to watching some. And I finally was able to get some references that those around me kept mentioning.

Milk and Vine is a parody of the popular poetry book Milk and Honey. Whereas Milk and Honey deals with dark and empowering tones, Milk and Vine is light and aims to be humorous.

It is a tribute to the short lived app. It features several of the most popular vines. There were a few references that I did get and chuckled because it was funny. But there were a few that I didn’t get, and I had a confused look on my face.

This is not anything serious, and there is not any underlying meaning to this book.  But it is a book that any vine level could potentially enjoy.  I will admit that the Youtube tributes are a little better. Actually seeing the material play out, is much better than reading it in modern poetic form.  

Review: Whiskey in a Teacup by Reese Witherspoon

 Buy on  Amazon

Buy on Amazon

I had the privilege of attending her book tour for Whiskey in a Teacup. Let’s dramatic for second- it was a life changing experience. The Academy Award winner actress is a class act; and I’m thrilled that I got to experience the release of this book with her.

Whiskey in a Teacup is in essence a love story to Nashville. Although Witherspoon was not born in Nashville, she spent a great deal of her life in the famous musical city. She moved there when she was five, and the majority of her family stills live there. She frequently visits the city, and it is very clear that she has not forgotten her Southern roots.

Whiskey in a Teacup serves as a biography, a how-to book, and an inspirational book. All aspects of the book are intertwined nicely together. It does not feel unorganized or crowded. Just right. For example, during a chapter about friendship, Reese would explain why female friendship are so important and then also include recipes for the perfect brunch party.

This is book that I could see myself flipping through several times because of all the recipes and How-To’s within the pages. It serves many purposes. It is not a book that deserves to sat on the shelf to collect dusk.

Another thing I enjoyed about Whiskey in a Teacup was that it did not feel forced. There are a lot times where you can feel that a person is sort of trying to be depicted a certain way. In this case, that is not true. It truly felt that Reese had this great love for Nashville and the South. It felt authentic.

This book is aesthetically pleasing visually. The pictures are gorgeous. I will admit that the pictures of food did make me kind of hungry, but nevertheless, gorgeous.

Final Analysis

Whiskey in a Teacup serves many purposes. It’s about Reese’s family, her childhood, her present. It’s about recipes and how to be a southern lady. But it is also a funny, real, entertaining love story to the South.

Review: Lifesaving for Beginners by Anne Edelstein

What happens when someone you have mixed feelings about dies? What happens when that someone is your mother? In her first memoir, Anne Edelstein examines just that as she details —often by means of looking to the past for answers—the initial years following her mother’s sudden death.

“As the anniversary of my mother’s death approaches, I feel like I’m somehow running out of time, trying to figure out how much I loved my mother.” - Anne Edelstein

With the news of her mother’s drowning, she finds herself overwhelmed by a number of past discontentment that has resurfaced after never being properly put to rest; starting with the violent suicide of her young brother years before, we see the inscrutable role death has played in her life like a parasitic ivy enveloping her family tree. It can take a long time to ease into the cold waters of death, no matter how familiar, and the tenuous relationship she once shared with her mother makes it all the harder by muddying the waters. Over the course of three years, she struggles to untangle a delicate past and know what it all means for the future of her family.

Edelstein gives an especially raw look into an unconventional mourning with sincere bravery and vulnerability. She offers us a glimpse into the complicated and not always guiltless feelings she met in the aftermath of her mother’s death, while still in the shadow of her brother’s. At times it could seem that Edelstein was claiming a certain victimhood and, while that often lent itself to a narrative rife with allegation, it is a by-product of her candor. She dares to say the difficult things that can so often feel unmentionable. This memoir will rouse the hearts of anyone who has experienced the inherent complications of family; anyone who has known the cruel inevitability of death; anyone who has loved. By coming to terms with a severe past, Edelstein offers a unique but reliable hope. There is real connection to be made in Lifesaving for Beginners.


Review: The Boy at the Keyhole by Stephen Giles

Have you ever read a book where you are checking to see if there are any pages missing? After reading the last few chapters, hoping to get a definitive conclusion to what happened, I'm left with a

The story between Samuel and Ruth built up to have hopefully a definitive conclusion but then it flatlined. The story seemed much along the way implied though their pov. Even though the plot was interesting, I really hoped for more to push the book where it could've gone as a great page turner. As speculation whether Ruth killed his mother overshadowed the book, I wish the ending could've elevated that suspense climb in the book.

The dynamics that led to Samuel's mother disappearance and the sequence of events that led to uncover a trail of perceived guilt of Ruth kept me going to want to get an answer. That psychological teeter totter between him and Ruth gave the book a little edge to push it along but there were many loose ends that could've made it a bit tighter. Overall, the plot had a great promise that kept me wanting to read but took my satisfaction away in the end leaving me a bit frustrated.

Review: The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas

The Cheerleaders is a captivating read filled with unpredictable and edge of the seat storytelling. I enjoyed this book. I must say that I enjoyed the premise of the book a little bit more, but nevertheless, this was a good book and it was hard to stop reading at times.

The Cheerleaders is set place five years after the tragic deaths of five Sunnybrook cheerleaders. Two were killed in a crack wreck. Another two brutally murdered. And one died because of a suicide. After the last death, the cheerleading squad was disbanded. As the anniversary of their deaths nears, Monica begins to find clues that could reveal that everything is not as it seemed to be and some people know more than what they had originally led on.

When writing a thriller, pacing is extremely important. I found The Cheerleaders’s pacing to be just right. Not overly slow or overly fast, just enough to keep the story interesting. I also quite enjoyed her writing style. It was easy to read and easy to follow. I will mention that there were times when she was a little too vague for my liking. I would have liked if she flat out said what had happened.

Although this book did have a strong ending, I still have so many unanswered questions.

Characters

I will admit that I was not particularly fond of Monica in the beginning of the book. However, she did grow on me. I think she was initially because the reader were not aware of what she had went through. So I didn’t understand where she was coming from, or why she was acting the way that she had been. As the book progressed, it was quite clear that this is a character who is hurting and still has not recovered after losing her sister five years ago.

The book is mainly told in Monica’s POV, but it did switch to her sister’s, Jen, POV a couple of times. I thought this was an effective tool in this book. Jen had, unfortunately, committed suicide five years prior. And it was sad to read what the chain of events that took place with her and her friends.   

Final Analysis

The Cheerleaders is a harboring YA thriller that has several twists and turns. It definitely a book that leaves you wanting more.