General Fiction (Adult)

The Last Resort by Marissa Stapley

The Last ResortThe Last Resort by Marissa Stapley

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Out June 18th! Pre-order from Amazon here!

At a couple’s therapy retreat in sunny, beautiful Mexico run by a celebrity power couple a man is missing following a deadly hurricane. Rewind to a week earlier when the couples descend on the resort and journey through the drama. Because things aren’t really what they seem and the couples are in for an experience beyond what they signed up for.

I wish I could say I loved this book. Unfortunately, it was just okay for me. As a whole package, I enjoyed the content and how the story eventually came together. There were a lot of important, relevant, and timely issues presented throughout the prose which I found wonderful. But, I had some issues in the details.

First, I struggled with authenticity and believability. Some of the decisions the main characters made just didn’t feel realistic. I found myself wanting to smack a few of them in the face and tell them to use their brains. It made me frustrated more than anything.

The other thing that bothered me was that the transitions were awkward at times. This may have been due to the fact that I read an ARC and the formatting wasn’t yet complete. But one story line would end and the next story line would begin without a gap in paragraphs or a change in chapter. So there were times I was reading and found myself confused until I realized I was in another character’s story. There were also some parts told in transcript as well as use of TMZ articles to illustrate elements of the story, and while I thought these were useful and instrumental pieces of the book, they needed to be physically differentiated from the rest of the prose (i.e. on another page) rather than running into the rest of the story. Again, perhaps in the finished, published version of the book these issues will all be addressed, but in the ARC they were extremely distracting.

I did enjoy the ending and felt like Marissa Stapley did a good job of bringing everything together and tying up loose ends. I was a bit confused about the relevance of Grace’s brother, Garrett, in the story and felt like the book could have done without his presence. But otherwise, I understood the points Stapley was trying to make with the other story lines.

At the end of the day, this one was just okay for me. But I feel like I tend to always struggle a bit with domestic dramas. So if you’re a fan of the genre, I would definitely give it a try and see if you like it for yourself.

-I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to NetGalley, Marissa Stapley, and Graydon House Books for the opportunity to review.-

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Mystery, Thriller

Those People by Louise Candlish

Those PeopleThose People by Louise Candlish

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Out June 11th! Pre-order from Amazon here!

Have your neighbors ever driven you completely insane? Have you ever shaken your head when you looked out your window and wished the people next door would just sell their house and leave? Have you ever logged onto your neighborhood Facebook page and wondered how the heck people can be so ridiculously self absorbed? Welcome to Louise Candlish’s Those People.

This one is about a quaint little suburban street in the UK where everybody gets along. The neighbors are all friendly and happy. The kids play in the street every Sunday. The women and men congregate in their yards and everything is lovely. Until Darren and Jodie move in next door and all hell breaks loose. Think your typical loud, obnoxious, inconsiderate, awful neighbors who are so unpleasant to live next to that you question whether or not you should put a for sale sign on your front lawn. So the book is about these awful neighbors and somewhere in there is a murder mystery or two (but I won’t tell you much about that because it will give away half the fun).

I really enjoyed the concept of this book. I think we can all relate to having a neighbor or two that are not our favorite people. This one had me thinking of Investigation Discovery’s popular TV show Fear Thy Neighbor. The way that Louise Candlish unraveled the first half of the story was crafted wonderfully. She gave little snippets of information away at the right times, giving enough to keep me hooked while not revealing everything at once. However, right around the halfway point I started to slightly lose interest. The story slowed WAY down and seemed like it dragged on forever. I must say that I wasn’t entirely surprised by the “whodunit” in the end and felt like there was a really long and drawn out series of events to get there.

There was a whole cast of characters in this book and my impression is that they were put there as red herrings to throw you off the scent and place suspicion on other characters. But in the end I found myself feeling as if those characters felt a little unresolved. Given how drawn out the rest of the story was, the ending felt a bit rushed in the sense that I was looking for a little more closure, especially with those secondary characters.

Overall, this book was just okay for me. I struggled with whether I wanted to give it 3 stars or 4 stars because there was a lot about it that I really enjoyed. But at the end of the day, as a complete package, I found myself leaning closer to 3 stars. I have a feeling this one will still be a popular read this summer so definitely check it out for yourself.

-I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to NetGalley, Louise Candlish, and Berkley Publishing for the opportunity to review.-

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Audiobook Review, Historical Fiction

The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer

The Things We Cannot SayThe Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I can’t even express how much I loved this book. I had seen the cover around and had heard good things here and there but I was caught off guard by how special the story turned out to be. It was completely unexpected.

The Things We Cannot Say is told in two parts, past and present. The present portion is the story of a young woman named Alice and her babcia (Polish for grandmother). This reference was particularly special for me because I’m Polish and I called my great grandmother Babcia. When Alice’s babcia suffers a debilitating stroke, she tries to communicate secrets of her past before her life comes to an end but is unable to put her thoughts into words. Alice finds herself on a journey of discovering family secrets in an attempt to decipher her babcia’s thoughts. The portion of the story told in the past is about a young girl named Alina who is trapped in Nazi-occupied Poland trying to survive along with her young love Tomasz. But their lives will take a turn they never imagined as was the case of many of those who lived through the horrors of WWII.

This book gave me all the same feels as Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale which is quite a compliment given that The Nightingale is my favorite book of all time. I also felt like the family drama (particularly in the present timeline) was reminiscent of Chanel Cleeton’s Next Year in Havana. With those powerhouse authors and books as comparison, I would consider this book quite impactful.

Kelly Rimmer has a way of creating connection between reader and character. I adored Alina and Tomasz and was rooting for them from the start. The daily struggles of Alice’s life set in the present timeline were completely relatable and I could understand where her character was coming from in her choices and thoughts. I must also say that I was impressed by how Kelly Rimmer was able to distinguish the two story lines in terms of her writing style. The writing of the past felt vintage. The writing of the present felt modern.

This one was expertly crafted. If you loved The Nightingale or Next Year in Havana, I have a feeling this one will not let you down. It comes highly recommended and I don’t think it will be leaving me any time soon.

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Nonfiction, Self Help

Love You Like the Sky: Surviving the Suicide of a Beloved by Sarah Neustadter

Love You Like the Sky: Surviving the Suicide of a BelovedLove You Like the Sky: Surviving the Suicide of a Beloved by Sarah Neustadter

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had a unique opportunity through the Booksharks community to review an advanced copy of Love You Like the Sky which publishes on June 4th! Pre-order from Amazon here!

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One night in November 2008, John laid down next to the train tracks and took his own life. Devastated, his girlfriend Sarah begins to send John emails expressing her emotions surrounding his suicide. This book is a collection of those emails. They detail Sarah’s journey from “despair” to “shifting” to “beauty” and her walk through the stages of grief: shock, bargaining, depression, anger, and acceptance.

I must say that I’m not personally a suicide survivor so there were parts of the book that I couldn’t personally relate to, but I can definitely see how somebody with personal ties to suicide or people trying to provide support would benefit immensely from this book. Sarah does such a great job displaying her real, raw, unfiltered, and unapologetic emotions, sending the message, “You are not alone. I felt this pain. There is hope at the end of the tunnel.”

I personally enjoyed that she broke this book into three separate and distinct sections that may be applicable to different people based on the stage of grief they’re currently experiencing. And at the end of each section, she gives helpful advice and tips on ways to work through the emotional trauma. There is a little bit of something for everybody with all different belief systems. Sarah discusses her psychic abilities and clairvoyance which aren’t things that I personally believe in, but I can appreciate the value that it may provide to somebody else.

Having experienced a miscarriage last year I was hoping to garner some pearls of wisdom on how to work through the grief associated with that experience. There were little morsels along the way that I picked up and will take with me so I appreciate Sarah for that. But by and large, this is a book about surviving the suicide of a loved one and the content is specifically targeted to that audience so it’s not entirely translatable to other forms of grief.

If you’re a suicide survivor or are supporting a suicide survivor, I would highly recommend this book. Even if you can only make it through the “despair” portion and aren’t yet ready to process the “shifting” section. You may be able to come back to it at a later date and work your way through the content in a way that is meaningful as you process your trauma.

-I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to the Booksharks community, SparkPress, and Sarah Neustadter for the opportunity to review.-

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General Fiction (Adult)

The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin

The Last RomanticsThe Last Romantics by Tara Conklin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I saw the cover for this book all over the place last year and have wanted to read it for quite some time. After many weeks of patiently waiting at the library, I finally got my hands on it.

The Last Romantics is a story about a family. Plain and simple. It tells about the life of a widowed mother raising her four young children. The trials and tribulations they face while growing up and further into adulthood. How they overcome their demons. How they lean on each other to survive in a life that is sometimes complicated but also beautiful.

I must say that I loved the first half of the book. It sucked me in immediately and I was completely entranced by the family. Tara Conklin developed unique and relatable characters that were realistic and drew me in. However, somewhere around the halfway mark I have to admit I found myself getting bored. There wasn’t really much excitement in the story. Not that a story always needs to keep me on the edge of my seat, but it does have to continue to hook me and keep me invested. Toward the end I was kind of just waiting for it to be over. And while it was a sweet and endearing story, for me, it lacked that “stand out” quality.

Did I dislike this one? No, not really. It was perfectly fine. It just didn’t really shine in my opinion. But tons of people have really loved the story, so I would encourage you to read and form your own opinions!

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