Book Reviews · Recommendations

For the Love of Friends by Sara Goodman Confino

For the Love of Friends
By: Sara Goodman Confino

Book Cover

Published: August 2021
Published by: Lake Union Publishing
Format Read: ebook, Net Galley, Kindle
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Romance

Rating: 3/5

Note: I was sent a copy of For the Love of Friends by Sara Goodman Confino, from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis

A sharp and hilariously relatable novel about the business of weddings, the toll they can take, and the lengths one exasperated bridesmaid will go to for the love of friends.

Lily Weiss is her mother’s worst nightmare: thirty-two and single—the horror! She’s also a talented writer but hides behind a boring job at a science foundation. To her friends, she’s reliable and selfless, which is how she winds up a bridesmaid in five weddings in six weeks. Anything for her three best friends and two (younger) siblings, right? Even if her own love life is…well, she’d rather not talk about it. To keep her sanity, Lily needs a safe place to vent.

And so her anonymous blog, Bridesmania, is born. The posts start pouring out of her: all the feels about mom-zillas, her vanishing bank balance, the wicked bridesmaids of the west, high-strung brides-to-be, body-shaming dress clerks, bachelorette parties, and Spanx for days, not to mention being deemed guardian of eighty-eight-year-old Granny (who enjoys morning mimosas in the nude) for her brother’s destination wedding.

So far the blog has stayed anonymous. But as everyone knows, few things online remain secret forever…

When all is said and done, can Lily help all five couples make it to happily ever after? And will her own happy ending be close behind?

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

32 years old, single and stuck in a job beneath her talent; that describes Lily, the main character in Sara Goodman Confino’s debut novel. Life was pretty uneventful until she agrees to be in, not one, but five different weddings! That’s five weddings in the span of only 6 weeks! Piece of cake, right? Wrong! Especially when you throw in numerous celebrations, commitments, bridesmaids from hell and a nearly non-existent budget.

Anyone who has ever planned or been in a wedding party can relate to the chaos that occurs in For the Love of Friends. I’ve had the pleasure of standing in two weddings to date and while it was an honor, they were anxiety inducing experiences for sure. I couldn’t imagine juggling five at once, like Lily. This was a character I was able to easily relate to.

The author did a great job of conveying the emotions Lily experienced including; feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. Although the blogging of the mania would get her into hot water, I enjoyed reading about this aspect. Although this is a lighthearted contemporary, I appreciate and was able to relate to the inclusion of body shaming in the wedding industry. Sure, it sounds nice for all the bridesmaids to wear the same dress, but not every women has the same body type. Some of the demands the brides made in this story were way over the top. The hectic pace of this book reminded me of The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger.

I would recommend For the Love of Friends by Sara Goodman Confino to fans of humorous contemporaries with a dash of romance.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

Mother/Daughter Buddy Read 1: Secrets of the Lighthouse

Growing up reading was a big part of my childhood. In fact I would say that my love for books came from both of my parents, although my reading taste is more similar to that of my Mom’s. One of our favourite things to do together is to share and talk about books.

While unpacking my numerous boxes of books I discovered that I had two copies of Santa Montefiore’s Secrets of the Lighthouse. I gave one copy to my mom and kept the other for myself. We decided to both read it at the same time and so we officially did our first Mother/Daughter buddy read.

Secrets of the Lighthouse
By: Santa Montefiore

Book Cover

Published: January 2013
Published by: Simon Schuster
Format Read: Hardcover
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Romance

Rating: 3.5/5

Synopsis

Ellen Trawton is running away from it all—quite literally. She is due to get married to a man she doesn’t love, her job is dragging her down, and her interfering mother is getting on her nerves. So she escapes to the one place she know her mother won’t follow her—to her aunt’s house in rural Ireland. Once there, she uncovers a dark family secret—and a future she never knew she might have.

Meanwhile, Caitlin Macausland is mourning the future she can never have. She died tragically in what the village thinks is suspicious circumstances, and now she is stuck in a limbo, unable to move on.

And between the two of them is an old lighthouse—the scene of so much tragedy. Can each woman find the peace she so desperately longs for? And can they find the way to live again?

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

Secrets of the Lighthouse follows Ellen Trawton, a privileged woman who runs away to Ireland and discovers a family she didn’t know she had. Meanwhile the rural seaside town she escapes to is defined by family loyalty and tradition.

My Mom and I have both read Santa Montefiore in the past. While we both enjoyed The Girl in the Castle, I did find it to be drawn out. Thankfully I did not find this novel to be this way. We found the descriptions of the small Irish village to be beautiful and the reading experience was made even more enjoyable by being able to discuss it as we read along.

There is a supernatural element to this storyline that I was unsure of at first. However in the end I thought that the author presented it in a way that was thought provoking.

My Mom and I both recommend Secrets of the Lighthouse by Santa Montefiore to fans of contemporary fiction, with a pinch of magical realism. We both look forward to reading more from this author and sharing more buddy reads in the future.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

After You (Me Before You, 2) by Jojo Moyes

After You
(Me Before You, 2)
By: Jojo Moyes

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Published: December 2016
Published by: Penguin Group
Format Read: Paperback
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Romance, Series

Rating: 3.5/5

Synopsis

The sequel to Me Before You, which is now a major motion picture.”We all lose what we love at some point, but in her poignant, funny way, Moyes reminds us that even if it’s not always happy, there is an ever after.” —Miami Herald

“You’re going to feel uncomfortable in your new world for a bit. But I hope you feel a bit exhilarated too. Live boldly. Push yourself. Don’t settle. Just live well. Just live. Love, Will.”

How do you move on after losing the person you loved? How do you build a life worth living?

Louisa Clark is no longer just an ordinary girl living an ordinary life. After the transformative six months spent with Will Traynor, she is struggling without him. When an extraordinary accident forces Lou to return home to her family, she can’t help but feel she’s right back where she started.

Her body heals, but Lou herself knows that she needs to be kick-started back to life. Which is how she ends up in a church basement with the members of the Moving On support group, who share insights, laughter, frustrations, and terrible cookies. They will also lead her to the strong, capable Sam Fielding–the paramedic, whose business is life and death, and the one man who might be able to understand her. Then a figure from Will’s past appears and hijacks all her plans, propelling her into a very different future. . . .

For Lou Clark, life after Will Traynor means learning to fall in love again, with all the risks that brings. But here Jojo Moyes gives us two families, as real as our own, whose joys and sorrows will touch you deeply, and where both changes and surprises await. 

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

I enjoyed this story of moving on after tragedy. Lou’s family brought a touch of humor to the sad situation and Ambulance Sam was a great love interest. However I found the plot moved along slowly, which I should have expected as the first book was written in the same vein. I wonder if this is just the style of Jojo Moyes’ writing?

I highly advise readers to read Me Before You, first before picking up this sequel, as it will spoil the outcome of the first book. I would recommend After You to fans of the contemporary romance genre.

Currently Reading · Recommendations · Wrap-ups

Another Late Monthly Wrap-up: October 2020

Total Books Read in October: 2
Total Books Read in 2020: 37

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The Last Bathing Beauty
By: Amy Sue Nathan

Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
Rating: 2.5/5
NOTE: I was sent a copy of The Last Bathing Beauty by Amy Sue Nathan, from the publisher, via Net Galley, in exchange for an honest review.

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You Can Thank Me Later a Novella
By: Kelly Harms

Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Novella, Audiobook
Rating: 4/5

The Stats

Total Number of Books Read: 2
Total Number of Fiction: 2
Total Number of Non-Fiction: 0
Total Books Sent for Review: 1
Total Books Read from My Shelves: 1
Total Library Books Read: 0

Formats Read

Physical Books: 0
eBooks:
 1
Audio Books: 
1

Currently Reading

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Book Reviews · Recommendations

The Last Bathing Beauty by: Amy Sue Nathan

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The Last Bathing Beauty
By: Amy Sue Nathan

Published: April, 2020
Published by: Lake Union Publishing
Format Read: ARC, Kindle, eBook
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance

Rating: 2.5/5

NOTE: I was sent a copy of The Last Bathing Beauty y Amy Sue Nathan, from the publisher, via Net Galley, in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis

A former beauty queen faces the secrets of her past—for herself and the sake of her family’s future—in a heartfelt novel about fate, choices, and second chances.
Everything seemed possible in the summer of 1951. Back then Betty Stern was an eighteen-year-old knockout working at her grandparents’ lakeside resort. The “Catskills of the Midwest” was the perfect place for Betty to prepare for bigger things. She’d head to college in New York City. Her career as a fashion editor would flourish. But first, she’d enjoy a wondrous last summer at the beach falling deeply in love with an irresistible college boy and competing in the annual Miss South Haven pageant. On the precipice of a well-planned life, Betty’s future was limitless.
Decades later, the choices of that long-ago season still reverberate for Betty, now known as Boop. Especially when her granddaughter comes to her with a dilemma that echoes Boop’s memories of first love, broken hearts, and faraway dreams. It’s time to finally face the past—for the sake of her family and her own happiness. Maybe in reconciling the life she once imagined with the life she’s lived, Boop will discover it’s never too late for a second chance.

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

Eighteen year old Betty “Boop” Stern wants more than a husband and children. She has dreams of being a fashion editor and having a full career. This is rare for a women in 1950’s America. The Last Bathing Beauty is a dual timeline novel that follows present day senior citizen “Boop” as she reminisces about the life changing events of the summer of 1951.

Fans of the movie Dirty Dancing will appreciate the summer resort setting. Readers will be transported back to a time that is often described as more simple. Although Betty would be faced with some life changing events, this book was chalk full of all things stereotypical of the 1950s. While I enjoyed these aspects, I often found our young main character to be too sugar sweet.

The Last Bathing Beauty showed an interesting comparison between the past and present differences in society, family values and scandal. While I did enjoy the 1950s setting, I liked present day “Boop” more than the naïve beauty queen of her adolescence. I struggled to finish this book as I didn’t feel motivated to read and I felt that too much of the plot was given away too soon.

Although my experience reading Amy Sue Nathan’s The Last Bathing Beauty, garnered a 2.5 rating, I would recommend it to fans of light historical romance.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

What You Wish For by Katherine Center

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What You Wish For
By: Katherine Center

To Be Published: July 2020
Published by: St. Martin’s Press
Format Read: ARC, NetGalley, eBook, Kindle
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Romance

Rating: 5/5

NOTE: I was sent a copy of Katherine Center’s What You Wish For, from the publisher via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis

From Katherine Center, the New York Times bestselling author of How to Walk Away comes a stunning new novel full of heart and hope.
Samantha Casey loves everything about her job as an elementary school librarian on the sunny, historic island of Galveston, Texas—the goofy kids, the stately Victorian building, the butterfly garden. But when the school suddenly loses its beloved principal, it turns out his replacement will be none other than Duncan Carpenter—a former, unrequited crush of Sam’s from many years before.
When Duncan shows up as her new boss, though, he’s nothing like the sweet teacher she once swooned over. He’s become stiff, and humorless, and obsessed with school safety. Now, with Duncan determined to destroy everything Sam loves about her school in the name of security—and turn it into nothing short of a prison—Sam has to stand up for everyone she cares about before the school that’s become her home is gone for good.

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

Samantha Casey has finally found a home for herself with a job as a librarian at a Galveston Texas independent school. Then her life is turned upside down after the death of her mentor and the arrival of a man from her past. Fans of Katherine Center may already by familiar with the male lead; Duncan Carpenter, as he was a minor character in the book Happiness for Beginners.

I began What You Wish For expecting this to be more of a literary fiction. So I was surprised to be introduced to such a quirky main character. I wasn’t sure if I liked Samantha or which genre this book would fall into. But I knew that I liked the current writing style and was eager to see how the plot played out.

I appreciated how just when a situation was about to get too cheesy, it was shut down. and sent in a different direction. But for all Samantha Casey’s quirkiness, What You Wish For, actually touches on some very serious topics. In fact, I would advise caution to those who are sensitive to tragedies and medical issues. One topic of social commentary this book touched on is the importance of good teachers and a positive educational experience. This is especially important during this time of homeschooling during a global pandemic.

Although I found sections to drag on, there were so many points that really spoke to me. In fact there were several passages I marked and read over and over again. I had a profound reading experience, which is why despite some grievances I gave this book 5 stars.

What You Wish For is a story of coping with tragedy and finding joy in life, which really resonated with me. I would highly recommend this book and I look forward to reading more from Katherine Center.

Favourite Quotes

“It’s one of the secrets to life that no one ever tell you. Joy cures everything.”

“It’s a choice,” I went on, feeling like I needed to make him see. “A choice to value the good things that matter. A choice to rise above everything that could pull you down. A choice to look misery right in the eyes.. and then give it the finger.”

“The world keeps hanging on to this idea that love is for the gullible. But nothing could be more wrong. Love is only for the brave.”

“We made a choice to do joy on purpose. Not in spite of life’s sorrows. But because of them.”

“..choose joy on purpose.”

Book Reviews · Recommendations

Quick Thoughts on May 2020 Reads

My Lost Family
By: Danny Ben-Moshe

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Published: October 2019
Published by: Audible Audio, Audible Original
Format Read: Audiobook
Genre: Nonfiction

Rating: 5/5

Synopsis

Growing up in a poor Yiddish speaking home in 1950s London, Lillian – then just a teenager – marries charming older man Raymond. One day he takes their children to the local park. But he never returns.
When they reappear 40 years later – the search for the truth begins.
Unfolding like a mystery, we follow Danny Ben-Moshe and his eccentric Jewish family as they unearth secrets, attempt to reconcile, and hear shocking news that sheds a new light on events.
This series builds upon the story from Danny’s award-winning documentary film My Mother’s Lost Children.
A Somethin Else production for Audible.

Source: Audible

My Thoughts

Thanks to Audible Originals, I have been introduced to so many fascinating stories, that I wouldn’t have otherwise discovered. My Lost Family was tragic and sad, but had me hooked from the start. It questions how people of different means, times and maturity handle unthinkable situations. I would highly recommend this audiobook.

Nights in Rodanthe
By: Nicholas Sparks

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Published: August 2004
Published by: Warner Books
Format Read: Hardcover
Genre: Romance, Contemporary Fiction

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author Nicholas Sparks comes a tender story of hope and joy; of sacrifice and forgiveness — a moving reminder that love is possible at any age, at any time, and often comes when we least expect it. At forty-five, Adrienne Willis must rethink her entire life when her husband abandons her for a younger woman. Reeling with heartache and in search of a respite, she flees to the small coastal town of Rodanthe, North Carolina to tend to a friend’s inn for the weekend. But when a major storm starts moving in, it appears that Adrienne’s perfect getaway will be ruined — until a guest named Paul Flanner arrives. At fifty-four, Paul has just sold his medical practice and come to Rodanthe to escape his own shattered past. Now, with the storm closing in, two wounded people will turn to each other for comfort — and in one weekend set in motion feelings that will resonate throughout the rest of their lives.

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

Insta-love done right! Nights in Rodanthe was a short yet quiet romance between a mature man and woman. This beautiful story ranks among my favourite Nicholas Sparks books and I would highly recommend reading it.


Book Reviews · Character Spotlight · Recommendations

The Number of Love (The Codebreakers 1) by Roseanna M. White

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The Number of Love
(The Codebreakers, 1)
By: Roseanna M. White

Published: June 2019
Published by: Bethany House Publishers
Format Read: eBook, ARC, Kindle
Genre: Historical Fiction, Christian Fiction, Romance

Rating: 3.5/5

NOTE: I was sent a copy of The Number of Love by Roseanna M. White, from the publisher via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis

Three years into the Great War, England’s greatest asset is their intelligence network—field agents risking their lives to gather information, and codebreakers able to crack every German telegram. Margot De Wilde thrives in the environment of the secretive Room 40, where she spends her days deciphering intercepted messages. But when her world is turned upside down by an unexpected loss, for the first time in her life numbers aren’t enough.

Drake Elton returns wounded from the field, followed by an enemy that just won’t give up. He’s smitten quickly by the too-intelligent Margot, but how to convince a girl who lives entirely in her mind that sometimes life’s answers lie in the heart?

Amidst biological warfare, encrypted letters, and a German spy who wants to destroy not just them, but others they love, Margot and Drake will have to work together to save them all from the very secrets that brought them together.

Source: Goodsreads

My Thoughts

The Number of Love is the first book in a new series by Roseanna M White, called The Codebreakers. Fans of this Christian fiction author may already be familiar with some of the characters in this book from her previous series Shadows Over England.

I was attracted to the synopsis of The Number of Love at the mention of intelligence working to decipher enemy codes. I have previously learned about code breakers in World War II and was eager to learn about their World War I counterparts.

Margot De Wilde was a very unique character. I appreciate how the author wrote her as an indispensable asset to Room 40, despite her differences. This book shined a light on how people who may not interact in a way that is considered socially “normal”, or experience feelings like the majority, are indeed worthy of love and friendship. Although her understanding of mathematics went far over my own head, I found the way she interpreted the numbers in her head to be fascinating.

I would highly recommend The Number of Love by Roseanna M White, to fans of Christian historical fiction.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

Snowfall and Secrets (Omega Mu Alpha Brothers, 1) by Kimberly Loth

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Snowfall and Secrets
(Omega Mu Alpha Brothers, 1)
By: Kimberly Loth

Published: September 2016
Format Read: eBook, Kindle App
Genre: Romances, Contemporary Fiction, Series

Rating: 2.5/5

Synopsis

Tess escapes from Florida with a secret as big as Miami. She needs to find someplace to lay low and hide from her overbearing family. Mackinac Island, Michigan, should be the perfect place to hide out. However, her timing is a little off, it’s the dead of winter and she’s never been in temperatures below fifty degrees. Just her luck, her landlord, Lukas, is as hot as the sun. He’s also moody and hiding secrets as well. Which suits Tess fine. A man is the last complication she needs. A Michigan blizzard leaves them trapped in the same house together and things heat up, fast. Tess finds herself falling for Lukas, in spite of the secrets that could ruin everything before it even begins.

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

Snowfall and Secrets attracted my attention for two main reasons;

1. It is set during my favourite season: winter.

2. Mackinac Island is one of my bucket list locations.

I don’t usually pick up romance novels like this as they tend to be too over the top for my liking. And yes, Snowfall and Secrets did have those kind of moments, however I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed Tess and Lukas story as much as I did. The author got straight to the point with their attraction to each other. Although their individual circumstances kept boundaries in place.

As I anticipated, the setting, season and community on Mackinac Island were my favourite parts of this book. Now I want to visit there more than ever. The story behind the fraternity brother’s dogs and their names was a clever way to keep them connected so long after they finished college and thus giving a basis for this series.

I would recommend Snowfall and Secrets to fans of the romance genre. However I am not interested enough to continue on with the Omega Mu Alpha Brothers Series.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary

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The Flatshare
By: Beth O’Leary

Published: May 2019
Published by: Flatiron Books
Format Read: Hardcover
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Romance

Rating: 3.5/5

Synopsis

Tiffy and Leon share an apartment. Tiffy and Leon have never met.

After a bad breakup, Tiffy Moore needs a place to live. Fast. And cheap. But the apartments in her budget have her wondering if astonishingly colored mold on the walls counts as art.

Desperation makes her open minded, so she answers an ad for a flatshare. Leon, a night shift worker, will take the apartment during the day, and Tiffy can have it nights and weekends. He’ll only ever be there when she’s at the office. In fact, they’ll never even have to meet.

Tiffy and Leon start writing each other notes – first about what day is garbage day, and politely establishing what leftovers are up for grabs, and the evergreen question of whether the toilet seat should stay up or down. Even though they are opposites, they soon become friends. And then maybe more.

But falling in love with your roommate is probably a terrible idea…especially if you’ve never met.

What if your roommate is your soul mate? A joyful, quirky romantic comedy, Beth O’Leary’s The Flatshare is a feel-good novel about finding love in the most unexpected of ways.

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

One of the most read releases of 2019 was Beth O’Leary’s debut novel The Flatshare. When I first read the synopsis, I knew I had to read it. The premise of two people who haven’t met sharing a flat and a bed, communicating via notes sounded like a great idea for a contemporary novel.

Tiffy and Leon were interesting characters that I could relate to. Written in dual perspective, Beth O’Leary really gave her characters their own distinct voices. I can understand why some people didn’t like how Leon’s sections were written but I thought it stayed true to his personality.

The story took a very serious turn, that I wasn’t quite expecting, as the tone of the book started in more of a lighter contemporary style. It is for this reason that I advise caution, as it might be a trigger to some people due to the subject matter.

Other aspects of The Flatshare, I enjoyed included how Tiffy and Leon got to know each other and Leon’s relationships with his patients at the hospice.

But for some reason this book didn’t captivate me like I anticipated, nor did it garner a 5 star rating. With so many aspects that I did enjoy, I’m not sure why that is. Perhaps it was the slow pace, or maybe it was the shift in the tone.

Regardless, I would still recommend The Flatshare to fans of slow burn contemporaries.