Love Your Life

⭐⭐⭐

Sophie Kinsella

Call Ava romantic, but she thinks love should be found in the real world, not on apps that filter men by height, job, or astrological sign. She believes in feelings, not algorithms. So after a recent breakup and dating app debacle, she decides to put love on hold and escapes to a remote writers’ retreat in coastal Italy. She’s determined to finish writing the novel she’s been fantasizing about, even though it means leaving her close-knit group of friends and her precious dog, Harold, behind.

At the retreat, she’s not allowed to use her real name or reveal any personal information. When the neighboring martial arts retreat is canceled and a few of its attendees join their small writing community, Ava, now going by “Aria,” meets “Dutch,” a man who seems too good to be true. The two embark on a baggage-free, whirlwind love affair, cliff-jumping into gem-colored Mediterranean waters and exploring the splendor of the Italian coast. Things seem to be perfect for Aria and Dutch.

But then their real identities–Ava and Matt–must return to London. As their fantasy starts to fade, they discover just how different their personal worlds are. From food choices to annoying habits to sauna etiquette . . . are they compatible in anything? And then there’s the prickly situation with Matt’s ex-girlfriend, who isn’t too eager to let him go. As one mishap follows another, it seems while they love each other, they just can’t love each other’s lives. Can they reconcile their differences to find one life together?

My Thoughts:

I really liked it at first. I struggled through the middle and thought the end was good. Ava and Matt immediately connect and all is well until they go back to real life. Then the problems start.  Ava was optimistic and positive to a fault. I felt like it got bogged down in the middle because it was like listening to a teenager talk about the boy she just met, how they are in love, their going to get married. Obstacles? Bah! They don’t matter because they are in LUUUV. It might have been in the wrong mood when I was reading, but I thought it  was obnoxious, unrealistic and over the top. Any time the main characters group of friends voiced their objections to her  I was nodding right along with them. But, I’m glad I kept going. The characters grow up a little along the way and I ended up liking the choices Ava makes. The end was really sweet and really enjoyed her friends. 

A big thank you to #SophieKinsella, #NetGalley and #DialPress for providing a free Advance Reader Copy. This is my honest opinion.

The Lost Love Song

⭐⭐⭐

Minnie Darke

Concert pianist Diana is finally ready to marry her longtime fiance, Arie; she’s even composing a beautiful love song for him, and finishes it while on tour. Before she can play it for him, though, tragedy strikes–and Diana is lost to Arie forever.

But her song might not be.

In Australia, the world has gone quiet for Arie and he lives his life accordingly, struggling to cope with his loss. In Scotland, a woman named Evie is taking stock of her life after the end of another lackluster almost-relationship. Years of wandering the globe and failing to publish her poetry have taken their toll, and she might finally be ready to find what her travels have never been able to give her: a real home. And through a quirk of fate or circumstance, Diana’s song is passed from musician to musician. By winding its way around the world, it just might bring these two lost souls together.

With heart-wrenching emotion, The Last Love Song explores what it means to be lost, what it means to be found, and the power of music to bring people together.

My Thoughts:

This book is very character driven and holy moly there are a lot of characters to keep track of. For the length of this book I felt the main characters’ backgrounds should have been developed a bit more so I really knew who they were, but not knowing the backgrounds better didn’t stop my heart from breaking a bit when tragedy strikes. That said, it was an enjoyable read and had a sweet ending.

A big thank you to #MinnieDarke, #NetGalley and #BallantineBooks for providing a free Advance Reader Copy. This is my honest opinion.

Return to Virgin River

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Robyn Carr

Kaylee Sloan’s home in Southern California is full of wonderful memories of the woman who raised her. But the memories are prolonging her grief over her mother’s recent death. A successful author, Kaylee hoped she could pour herself into her work. Instead she has terrible writer’s block and a looming deadline.

Determined to escape distractions and avoid the holiday season, Kaylee borrows a cabin in Virgin River. She knows the isolation will help her writing, and as she drives north through the mountains and the majestic redwoods, she immediately feels inspired. Until she arrives at a building that has just gone up in flames. Devastated, she heads to Jack’s Bar to plan her next steps. The local watering hole is the heart of the town, and once she crosses the threshold, she’s surprised to be embraced by people who are more than willing to help a friend—or a stranger—in need.

Kaylee’s world is expanding in ways she never dreamed possible. And when she rescues a kitten followed by a dog with a litter of puppies, she finds her heart opening up to the animals who need her. And then there’s the dog trainer who knows exactly how to help her. As the holidays approach, Kaylee’s dread turns to wonder. Because there’s no better place to spend Christmas than Virgin River.

My Thoughts:

It is hard to top the first few books in the Virgin River series. I fell in love with Mel and Jack, Preacher and Paige, and Brie and Mike and loved it when I could visit Virgin River again through Kaylee’s eyes. Kaylee has lost her mom and has a complicated relationship with her dad. She’s come to Virgin River to grieve and to hopefully write again. But life is what happens when you are busy making plans! 
This is a stand alone book, but readers who are not familiar with the series will be a little lost with all the names and couples that are referenced. I *have* read the whole series and I occasionally had to reference previous books so I could remember who was being talked about.  Kaylee’s and Landry’s story was lovely to read. It was believable and I was pretty surprised by the bump in their road to romance. The only thing that I didn’t find to be believable was how fast Kaylee got over her fear of dogs. But that is getting pretty picky. I would recommend this to anyone looking for a light read or an escape to the pine scented mountains of Virgin River. 

A big thank you to #RobynCarr, #Mira, and #NetGalley for providing a free Advance Reader Copy in exchange for this honest review.
#ReturntoVirginRiver

The Secret French Recipes of Sophie Valroux

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Samantha Verant

Published September 8, 2020 by Berkley  

A disgraced chef rediscovers her passion for food and her roots in this stunning novel rich in culture and full of delectable recipes. French-born American chef Sophie Valroux had one dream: to be part of the 1% of female chefs running a Michelin-starred restaurant. From spending summers with her grandmother, who taught her the power of cooking and food, to attending the Culinary Institute of America, Sophie finds herself on the cusp of getting everything she’s dreamed of.
Until her career goes up in flames.

Sabotaged by a fellow chef, Sophie is fired, leaving her reputation ruined and confidence shaken. To add fuel to the fire, Sophie learns that her grandmother has suffered a stroke and takes the red-eye to France. There, Sophie discovers the simple home she remembers from her childhood is now a luxurious château, complete with two restaurants and a vineyard. As Sophie tries to reestablish herself in the kitchen, she comes to understand the lengths people will go to for success and love, and how dreams can change.


My thoughts:
I was hooked from the first sentence and finished the book the same day I started it. I really liked it. The book starts out with Sophie on top of the world only to find it crashing down on her moments later. When she was betrayed by her coworker, I took it a little personally myself as well and was emotionally invested in her from then on. I loved following her journey that began with self doubt and celebrated each success with her as she redefined herself as a chef and person. The story bogged down a bit when she was wallowing in self pity and a few times I did feel impatient with her. But once you are past that, the story picks up and starts flowing again. The descriptions of the food are gorgeous and as someone who loves to cook, I really enjoyed the foodie parts of the book.

A big thank you to #SamanthaVerant, #Berkley, and #NetGalley for providing a free Advance Reader Copy in exchange for this honest review.