Beach Reads + Contemporary Romance: July Review Roundup #1 

You likely know that summer is my biggest reading season, in part that if I’m spending the day in the pool or on the beach, I have a book (or two) with me, & that I am fortunate enough to enjoy some extra time off in the summer as a teacher. I’m definitely doing the most amount of reading than I have ever done before in the summer, averaging anywhere between 4-6 books a week. I mentioned in my 10+ book mini review round up back in June that because I’m reading so much, I haven’t been necessarily writing full reviews for every single book I read & I’ve been enjoying the shorter length mini review format where I maybe don’t write as much in my traditional mini review posts and share more books that I’ve read. I have a few full length reviews planned for the next few weeks, but I definitely have a feeling I’ll be sharing another similar round-up in July! Today I’ll be sharing mini reviews forYA and adult contemporary books (including some romances of course) & a few beach reads from Elin Hilderbrand. 

The Secret Bridesmaid by Katy Birchall – I LOVED The Secret Bridesmaid. This British contemporary following a woman whose hired by brides to be a bridesmaid/undercover wedding planner and is recommended to serve in a royal wedding for a diva of a bride was SO good. It was the perfect blend of self-growth, relationship development (including friendship & romance), and having such a fun story. If you’re a fan of books with some sort of wedding storyline, check this one out! My Rating: 5/5 Stars 

If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane – My local county library branch is closed for at least the first half of July, so I’ve been visiting another local branch and I’ve loved getting to find books that my local library doesn’t have, including so many books from Mhairi McFarlane! She’s a go-to British contemporary romance author from some of my most trusted book rec sources, so I started with what feels like her most recommended book, If I Never Met You. The book uses the fake dating trope, as lawyer Laurie agrees to fake date her co-worker after her long-time boyfriend and also fellow colleague breaks up with her. I liked that the book begins with Laurie’s relationship with her ex and we see the break-up happen and unravel instead of jumping right into the fake-dating. This was overall a fun read and I’m looking forward to checking out more of her books. My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Heart & Seoul by Jen Federick – I was running on the reading rush that was Axie Oh’s upcoming XOXO (review coming to the blog on Monday!) That made me want to read another book set in South Korea, leading me to Jen Frederick’s Heart & Seoul. This contemporary romance (although I think it does read more as a women’s fiction/contemporary drama) follows Hara, a Korean adoptee who decides to go to Seoul for the first time to learn more about her birth parents. I liked that the book balanced so many elements and wasn’t all about the romance or Hara’s adoption/birth story. The book puts way more focus on family than the romance, although I did like the relationship. I’ve read a few books with Korea as the setting, but this book gave such an interesting perspective on the lifestyle and customs there. I was kind’ve mixed on the ending, in the sense that I thought it would’ve been a unique ending for a contemporary romance while also wanting MORE and I was happy to find out that there will be a book #2, Soulmates, in January 2022. My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Silver Girl by Elin Hilderbrand – I’m on a slight & unexpected mission to read as many Elin Hilderbrand book as possible this year. Elin was recently interviewed on Bad on Paper Podcast, and Silver Girl came up in their conversation. I was a bit hesitant going into this one because I wasn’t super intrigued by the synopsis, as the book follows Meredith’s downfall due to her husband’s Ponzi scheme and hiding from the media with her former best friend in Nantucket for the summer. However, I became so much more addicted to this story than expected, having actually loved the focus on friendship and how the story intertwined the past & present. My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars 

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ADD THESE SUMMER READS: May 2021 Mini Reviews

I’ve been in such a great reading mood lately! I’ve been able to read 1-2 books during the week & then another book or two on the weekends. We’ve been having a few sunny Saturdays and Sundays, which means spending the day outside reading in my backyard. If you’re already preparing your summer TBR like I am, make sure you check out these 4 contemporary books below.

Summer of ’69 by Elin Hilderbrand 

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

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Two weekends ago on a sunny Saturday, I was craving a book that I could binge-read while sitting outside all day, which meant it was time to pick up another Elin Hilderbrand book! After loving 28 Summers back in March, I decided to pick up another one of her more recent releases, Summer of ’69. Set in, you guessed it, the summer of 1969, the book follows three daughters and their mother’s summer on Nantucket and Martha Vineyard while their brother & son has been recently deployed to Vietnam. 

I love books that place over the summer and follow the daily happenings of the main characters. Summer of ’69 exactly fits that premise, with a few secrets and minor scandals along the way. I totally admit that I was a little hesitant going into the 1960s setting, but it was so interesting getting transported to the days of the space race and the Vietnam War. There’s also commentary on women’s roles and race, between Blair’s husband’s desire for Blair to stay home & raise their family and Kirby’s relationship with a young black man. I really like Elin Hilderbrand’s books because she’s able to handle so many plot lines and conflicts while also keeping the writing style quick and easy to fly through -aka the perfect beach read. I definitely liked reading from the daughters, Blair, Kirby, and Jessie’s perspectives, more than their mother, who was a bit on the melodramatic side, but I overall loved this book!

I am SO going to read more Elin Hilderbrand books this summer – I think she’s going to be one of my go-tos when I want a book-in-a-day beach or pool read. I immediately put Elin Hilderbrand’s June release, Golden Girl, on hold after I finished reading Summer of ’69

Anna K: Away (Anna K #2) by Jenny Lee 

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars 

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Let it be know already that I love anything having to do with Anna K because I absolutely  LOVED Anna K: Away. The sequel to Jenny Lee’s 2020 release, Anna K, the book picks up during the summer after the events of book #1, in which Anna K & co. are grieving over the loss of Anna K’s beloved (trying to avoid spoilers, but if you’ve read Anna Karenina, you can probably figure out who I’m talking about). Anna K is whisked off to Korea, Dustin, Steve, and Lolly are dealing with their own relationship troubles in NYC, and Bea is off to California for a change of pace of her own.

I just love everything about Anna K: Away so much, from Jenny Lee’s writing style to the glamour and drama of these teens’ world. Yes, it is super extravagant and probably unrealistic, but this book is the absolute perfect kind of escape. I loved all of the settings, from California to the Hamptons to South Korea. I think Anna K’s storyline was particularly my favorite because I loved the K-pop and paparazzi storyline while Anna K deals with loss and figuring out her next steps. I really like Bea as a character so it was fun following her storyline, and Lolly and Steve’s relationship always made for some fun drama. I read Anna K: Away nearly a year after reading book #1 and don’t think you necessarily need a reread to get invested in this sequel. You definitely need to read book #1 before book #2 — and should just read this series regardless because it is such a refreshing and mature take on Gossip Girl-esque YA contemporary. 

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RECENT CONTEMPORARY & NON-FICTION READS: March 2021 Mini Reviews 

During March so far, I just have been in the mood to READ. Things have been pretty busy when it comes to grad school and my personal life right now, so whenever I do have some down time, I have been turning to books the most (and my rewatch of Sex & the City on HBO Max). Today’s three mini reviews are all books that I finished reading last week. I ate up the two contemporaries in a matter of days, while I finally finished up my non-fiction pick for the month – blame it on A Court of Silver Flames and my need for some lighter reads for distracting me from finishing it sooner.

28 Summers by Elin Hilderbrand

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars 

You likely know that I tend to save any book having to do with summer for late spring and summer time in order to embrace the season. But let’s be honest, I’m always ready for a read featuring my favorite season. Elin Hilderbrand is such a classic summer reading author, so I was excited to check out her much loved 28 Summers. I actually didn’t feel too guilty picking up this beach read in March because the book takes place throughout the year. 28 Summers follows love interests Mallory and Jake, who spend Labor Day Weekend with one another every year since the 1990s, no matter where they are or their relationship status. Ever since she inherited her aunt’s cottage on Nantucket in her twenties, Mallory has always called Nantucket home and longs for her annual weekend with Jake. Jake’s own relationship status with his childhood sweetheart has taken him all over the place in life, but like Mallory, always drops whatever he is doing for their weekend. 

I know it may be difficult for some readers to set aside their feelings about Mallory and Jake’s annual affair – trust me, I had SO many moments while reading this where I just wanted to scream at the two to just be together full time – but my biggest piece of advice is to just enjoy the ride at face-value. This is the PERFECT book to fly through in one sitting on the couch on a chillier day or at the beach this year. I purely am giving it a high star rating because I loved the reading experience of setting down almost everything to just read. I absolutely loved the way the story unfolded, as Elin Hilderband first brings readers to present day 2020 and then transports back in time to the start of Mallory and Jake’s relationship in 1992. Don’t be alarmed by the title of the book as well, since while most of the chapters recap Mallory and Jake’s long weekend, they also explore their lives throughout the year. Most of the book actually doesn’t recap their weekends together, but the time spent apart. I really loved following Mallory’s small-town life living on Nantucket and teaching at the local high school while following her relationship endeavors with Jake and other men. There was something just so wholesome about her personality and life. In short, if you’re any kind of contemporary fan, READ THIS ONE. Read More »