B O O K R E V I E W : Luck and Last Resorts

LUCK AND LAST RESORTS
By Sarah Grunder Ruiz
Publication Date: Tomorrow, August 9, 2022!

Thanks to @berkleypub / @berkleyromance for sending me a gifted copy of the book.

Nina Lejeune lives her life by two rules: 1) Always have fun and 2) Never depend on anyone else. As chief stewardess of THE SERENDIPITY, she works hard four months of the year so she can have independence the rest of the time. Single by choice, she doesn’t want her life to change.

Nina’s contentment is threatened when Ollie Dunne shows up on the first day of cruise season. Nina and Ollie had been co-workers and casually hooked-up until the previous year when Ollie left yachting to become the chef for a well-regarded restaurant.

Now, he’s back for Nina. He believes there is something serious between them, but if she can’t admit she loves him by the end of the season, he’s resolved to return to Ireland for good.

This is a clear violation of her rules. Relationships aren’t always fun, and they require depending on and trusting someone else. But can she stand to lose Ollie forever?

To be honest, I struggled with this book in the beginning. Nina’s idea of fun often seemed at best selfish and at worst cruel. It was hard, also, to understand Ollie’s attraction to her. However, as their backstories were revealed, their attitudes and behavior made more sense.

Before reading this book, I knew nothing about working on charter ships, so it was interesting to see how things operated below deck. Nina had to manage her second in command, Britt, as well as two new hires, and their personalities and conflicts provided a respite from the romance. Jo Walker also makes a few appearances in this book.

Most of all, I liked that the book showed a grand gesture is meaningless without real change and that relationships require attention and work to succeed.

Definitely pick this up tomorrow if you enjoy any of these tropes in your romances:

✅Enemies-to-Lovers

✅ Forced Proximity

✅ Second Chance

✅ Realistic Challenges

Where is your favorite place to watch the sunrise/sunset?

B O O K R E V I E W : Book Lovers by Emily Henry

Happy publication day to Book Lovers by Emily Henry, and thank you so much to @berkleypub and @berkleyromance for a gifted copy of one of my most anticipated books of the year! #berkleypartner #berkleyig

Book agent Nora Stephens always gets the best deals for her authors. She’s organized, tough, and a workaholic. She’s also careful not to fall in love; she’s not that kind of heroine. After all, three of her ex-boyfriends have gone on work trips to small towns only to find their true loves in the wholesome locales. Her one weakness is her little sister, Libby, whom she will always protect and to whom she will never say no.

So when Libby, five months pregnant, asks Nora to visit Sunshine Falls, North Carolina for the month of August for a sister’s getaway, Nora packs her bags. Libby has a list—laminated no less!—of things they (Nora) need to do during their vacation, including ride a horse, date a local, and save a small business. Nora can’t resist a good list.

Instead of finding a charming hamlet, though, Sunshine Falls leaves a little to be desired, such as reliable wi-fi and decent restaurants. And rather than running into a handsome denizen, Nora keeps seeing Charlie Lastra, an editor she knows from the city. Two years ago, when first meeting, Charlie chastised her for being six minutes late to a meeting. As far as Nora can tell, time has not made him less serious or brusque. They both know what they want, and it doesn’t include a future with the other, but that might not be the final chapter of their story.

“This book, this job, this trip, this never-ending, days-spanning conversation. I want to make it all last, and I need to know how it ends. I want to finish it, and I need it to go on forever.”

I’ve been eagerly awaiting Book Lovers since I first heard Henry mention it at a virtual event last summer. It’s as good as Beach Read, and transcends the romance genre. Reading this, I both laughed and cried.

📖 Full of bibliophiles and set in the publishing industry, the book celebrates writing and reading.
📖 Multiple characters have to negotiate how to manage balancing their own needs and desires against those of loved ones. It questions when sacrifices are necessary and when they verge into martyrdom.
📖 The book talks a lot about tropes in books, but another theme is family relationships (particularly among siblings) and how people are assigned roles within families.
📖Even though it’s set in South Carolina, it gives a lot of love to NYC!
📖 Charlie might be more swoonworthy than Gus!
📖 No one writes snarky banter (my favorite) better than Henry!

B O O K R E V I E W : Trailed: One Woman’s Quest to Solve the Shenandoah Murders by Kathryn Miles

Trailed: One Woman’s Quest to Solve the Shenandoah Murders
Kathryn Miles
Algonquin Books
Publication Date: May 3, 2022

Women have not always been welcomed into the outdoors community, but Lollie Winans and Julie Williams both loved nature and had extensive backcountry leadership experience. The two met in 1995 through Woodswomen, an adventure and travel organization run for and by women. In May 1996, the women, still dating and now based in Maine where Lollie was completing her college degree, visited Shenandoah National Park for a week-long backcountry camping with Lollie’s dog, Taj.

When the women didn’t return home as planned, park rangers initiated a search. Their first attempts to locate Lollie and Julie were unsuccessful but then they found their campsite in an isolated clearing not too far from the Appalachian Trail. The scene was a nightmare: their tent had been slashed open, and the women were both found dead, bound by duct tape, and wrapped in their sleeping bags. (Taj, missing, was later found and returned to Lollie’s ex-fiancé.)

Acclimated journalist Kathryn Miles started researching the case for a planned article which became her book, Trailed. As an experienced backpacker herself, Miles told many people she was writing the book so she’d no longer be scared—scared out in nature, doing what she loved. Her experience and comfort with the culture also gave her added insight into both the Lollie and Julie and the people who may have crossed path.

One aspect of the book I appreciated was it’s celebration of the lives of Lollie and Julie and how their loss reverberated through their families, friends, communities, and the author herself.

As she tried to understand what happened to the women, Miles had access to the primary investigators, legal documents, and members of the defense team representing Darrel David Rice. Over her four years of research, she interviewed countless individuals connected to the case, including family members, friends, and people who were in the park in late May 1996. I was very impressed with the depth of her research, the variety of her sources, her determination to complete the story despite the personal costs, and her writing skills.

Miles’s research shows how lack of resources plus human error—-deliberate and unintentional—focused blame on Rice even though no evidence could connect him to the scene. Though a more likely suspect arose, the investigators refused to authorize the forensic tests that might implicate him and finally provide resolution.

If you liked The Third Rainbow Girl or The Facts of a Body, you will love this. I highly recommend to those who enjoy reading true crime.

Thanks to Algonquin Books for including me on the book tour and for an advanced reading copy of the book.

B O O K R E V I E W : Cover Story by Susan Rigetti

Thank you so much to Bibliolifestyle and William Morrow Books for including me on the tour for Cover Story by Susan Rigetti and for a gifted copy of the book. (Publication Date: April 5, 2022)

Although Lora Ricci landed a coveted summer internship at ELLE before her senior year at NYU—a stepping stone to her dream of becoming an editor at a fashion magazine—she harbors a festering secret. She lost her scholarship, and unless she can find a way to pay full tuition to the private university, she’ll lose her standing. She can’t bear to admit her situation to her parents, blue collar workers in Allentown, Pennsylvania, who are so proud of her accomplishments.

Instead, she tries to get the most out of her internship where she is assigned the beauty closet, organizing the makeup samples sent by beauty companies. Her work puts her in the path of Cat Wolff, a contributing editor and mysterious daughter of a European clean-energy mogul. While assigned to work on a story with Cat, as Lora’s time is running out on her summer lease and her summer internship, Lora confesses her situation to the woman who has become her idol and mentor.

Cat offers Lora a solution: drop out of NYU and work full-time as her ghostwriter on a selection of stories that will launch them both into the literary limelight. When Lora loses her apartment, Cat invites her to stay at with her at her lavish suite at the Plaza Hotel, telling her that food, haircuts, spa treatments—anything she wants is available courtesy of her father, as long as she doesn’t tell anyone she is staying with Cat. Lora cannot believe her good fortune, telling herself that nothing in her life will ever compare.

Yet, as the two work and live together, Lora finds that Cat can be unreliable and sometimes even cruel, and as she explores Cat’s world, she fears the world she’s exposed herself to.

Told through diary entries, emails, slack chats, notes, and even Instagram captions, Cover Story’s original format and inventive story introduce unforgettable characters—the sweet, yet gullible Lora, and the glamorous, savvy, and greedy Cat. Even though I worried so much for Lora, I enjoyed reading the book which combines high fashion, publishing, earnest students, hackers, and con artists. I might have whiplash from the ending which is so perfect. Since I finished the book—which I read in a day—I’ve been thinking about it, and I imagine I’ll read it again to try to figure out what I missed the first time. This is definitely in contention for my favorite April read!

B O O K R E V I E W : Nobody But Us by Laure Van Rensburg

Nobody But Us
Laure Van Rensburg
Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: April 12, 2022

Ellie Masterson, a smart but naïve graduate student at NYU, and her boyfriend, the much older and handsome professor Steven Harding leave New York City on a cold winter morning for a short vacation to celebrate their six-month anniversary. They arrive at a beautiful, though isolated, modern cabin with large windows overlooking the woods around the structure.

Their romantic getaway begins with a cozy candlelight dinner and walk on the nearby shore, but soon the fractures in the relationship widen as secrets rise to the surface. After a ferocious storm, the couple are snowed in without cell service or a landline, and what started out as a celebration becomes a battle of wills—one that they may not survive.

This psychological thriller shifts between Ellie and Stephen’s perspectives, along with a journal whose provenance is unknown for most of the book. Learning new information and being surprised along with the characters enhances the suspense. Most of the story advances through their internal processing as well as conversation between the two characters, though there is a flurry of dramatic action towards the end of the book.

Behind the conflict between the characters lies a heartbreaking truth. The book has some significant trigger warnings but sharing them would reveal spoilers. If you’d like them, please send me a DM!

Thank you to Grand Central Publishing for sending me an advanced reading copy of Nobody But Us!

Check out the book’s Spotify playlist!