10 Feel-Good Books to Read This Fall

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This year has been tough. Between the pandemic, murder hornets, riots, and the impending TikTok ban, the lighthearted fun of Tiger King seems like it was eons ago and there’s really no end in sight.

I, personally, am heading into learning how to help my first grader with distance learning while keeping my three year old from destroying the house. I’ve mainly read thrillers, suspense, and some horror over the last few years, but lately, I’ve been gravitating toward more chick lit in an effort to escape from the heaviness of reality. I’ve read a few romances, but I don’t really want to JUST read romance. So I set out on a quest to find more feel-good books to dig into and settled on ten.

This list includes romance of all varieties, fantasy, a memoir, a motivational book, a graphic novel, and a Murderbot. All ten have been added to my Goodreads TBR, but as I have not yet read any of them, I will give a short blurb of each and my personal thoughts.

  1. The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary
    400 pages; Published April 2019
    Goodreads rating: 4.13 ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Blurb: Tiffy and Leon both need a flat. Tiffy works days; Leon works nights. Somehow, they end up occupying the same flat – and sleeping in the same bed – but at opposite times, so they’ve never met.

My thoughts: How?? How did they even learn the other person existed, much less know the other needed a roommate? If they have mutual friends, why didn’t the friends introduce them first? They obviously have to communicate in order to coordinate bills, possible schedule changes, flatmate complaints, etc. So do they leave notes? Do they text or talk on the phone? I need all of the answers.

Link to purchase: https://amzn.to/3kpHG1C


2. Beach Read by Emily Henry
361 pages; Published May 2020
Goodreads rating: 4.11 ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Blurb: Augustus and January are both authors, but that’s where the similarities end. Augustus is an acclaimed literary fiction writer, while January is a bestselling romance author. The writers end up living next to each other for three months, both struggling with writer’s block. And so, they decide to challenge each other. Augustus will spend the summer creating chick lit, while January will try her hand at gloom and doom. Oh, and supposedly, no one falls in love.

My thoughts: This is obviously going to end up being a romance…right? They’re going to be spending time together, exchanging advice, helping each other learn a different writing style, bonding over a shared passion. It’s a recipe for strangers-to-friends-to-lovers. But what if the blurb is telling the truth and they just form an awesome friendship? I’m here for that, too! I’m also REALLY interested to see how their new books turn out.

Link to purchase: https://amzn.to/3a9ZNnM


3. How the Penguins Saved Veronica by Hazel Prior
368 pages; Published March 2020
Goodreads rating: 4.19 ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Blurb: Wealthy, 85 year old Veronica knows she’s nearing the end of her life, but she’s estranged from her family and doesn’t know what will happen to her wealth when she dies. She sees a documentary about a team of scientists studying penguins in Antarctica and decides to go there. Soon after arriving, she’s able to convince the team of scientists to rescue an orphaned baby penguin, which results in her starting to let down the wall she has built around her heart. Veronica’s grandson, Patrick, decides to visit his grandmother in Antarctica in one final, last-ditch effort to forge a relationship between them, and together they begin a journey of love and acceptance.

My thoughts: For some reason, I feel a connection to Veronica just from reading the blurb. A story about a lonely woman going on an impromptu trip to Antarctica to help rescue baby penguins is absolutely a story I want to read. I am super interested in the specific events that lead up to the trip and in seeing what kind of dynamic exists between Veronica and the team of scientists. As far as the grandson, the cynic in me wonders if he makes this effort in order to gain his grandmother’s fortune. That part of me hopes he doesn’t receive it…but maybe I’m wrong. I look forward to finding out.

Link to purchase: https://amzn.to/2XICxIu


4. Harry’s Trees by Jon Cohen
432 pages; Published June 2018
Goodreads rating: 4.18 ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Blurb: When 34-year-old Harry Crane loses his wife in a tragic accident, he decides to travel to Pennsylvania’s Endless Mountains and lose himself in the woods there. In the woods, he encounters young Oriana, who has lost her father. She believes Harry is meant to help her find her way back to her father, so Harry agrees to help. The life-changing adventure waiting for Harry and Oriana includes a tree house, a wolf, a librarian, and a book called The Grum’s Ledger.

My thoughts: This book is recommended for fans of A Man Called Ove and The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. I haven’t read either of those, but the plot of Harry’s Trees alone was enough to make me add all three to my Goodreads TBR. Reviews describe Harry’s Trees as being full of humor and magic, which sounds like a perfect reprieve from our current, very somber, reality. I’m curious if Oriana’s father has died or if she’s physically lost in the woods. If he has passed, how does she think Harry can help her? One theory that occurred to me is that maybe Harry’s wife suffered a miscarriage and Oriana is the spirit of that child. This book is definitely on my radar to be one of the next I dive into.

Link to purchase: https://amzn.to/3gHI9dw


5. Red, White, & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
421 pages; Published May 2019
Goodreads rating: 4.24 ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Blurb: Alex Claremont-Diaz is the smart, handsome, charismatic son of The President of the United States – his mother. Alex becomes the American equivalent of royalty. However, Alex harbors a strong disdain for Prince Henry of Wales and ends up in an altercation with the Prince – which, of course, ends up all over the tabloids. In a desperate effort for damage control, the families hatch a plan for Alex and Henry to fake an Instagram-worthy friendship in order to salvage the families’ reputations. Alex and Henry soon discover their feelings for one another run much deeper than a social media stunt and the two find themselves in a dangerous secret relationship.

My thoughts: Yes, please! This sounds like it has all the elements of an easy, therapeutic read. Humor, romance, secrets, family drama. OK, so it’s chick lit, but an interesting spin on the “Romeo and Juliet” story line. Why does Alex hate Henry so much? What causes the altercation that ended up changing their lives? How do they keep their relationship alive…and secret… when they live across the world from each other? So many questions, so many answers awaiting me in this highly, highly recommended novel.

Link to purchase: https://amzn.to/2Pz81MD


6. All Systems Red (Murderbot Diaries #1) by Martha Wells
144 pages; Published May 2017
Goodreads rating: 4.15 ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Blurb: All Systems Red is a novella and is the first in a series of six “Murderbot” stories. Murderbot is a self-aware A.I. that was originally intended to be a Security Unit. It eventually manages to override its governor and gain independence as it struggles to understand the world around it, listens to space opera, and expresses its disdain for humans.

My thoughts: I am NOT a sci-fi reader. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever completed any book resembling science fiction. I remember seeing one of my favorite YouTube book vloggers, Merphy Napier, review this book and thinking it actually didn’t sound terrible. Even so, I was beyond surprised when it kept turning up in searches for feel-good books and I realized I WANT to read it. The blurb didn’t really grab me, but the reviews did. Murderbot is described as sarcastic, witty, cynical, and downright hilarious. And, as previously mentioned, it enjoys space opera. I am excited to try this book because I want to meet Murderbot and get to know it; I’m also nervous because I have never been interested in sci-fi and as a result, have had trouble in the past even following the story, but reviews say it’s a great starting point for the novice sci-fi reader. I’m interested to see how a book that sounds so dark to me is regarded as “feel-good” to so many fans. We shall see, and soon.

Link to purchase: https://amzn.to/31z9DLZ


7. I Can’t Make This Up: Life Lessons by Kevin Hart & Neil Strauss
378 pages; Published June 2017
Goodreads rating: 4.11 ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Blurb: Beloved comedian and actor, Kevin Hart, was born in Philadelphia to a drug addict father and an abusive mother. This is the story of how he used hard work, determination, talent, and a unique perspective on life to overcome the hand he was dealt and rise to worldwide fame and overwhelming success.

My thoughts: I love memoirs. I’ve only read a couple, but I adore them. To be honest, I haven’t paid too much attention to Kevin Hart over the years, but I know I’m in the minority. When I first saw this book online, I almost passed it over, but then I saw the puppies. I can’t ignore puppies. So then I researched it a bit more and sifted through some reviews, and now I’m all-out excited to read about Kevin Hart. A quote from the book caught my eye: “Not only do you get to choose how you interpret each chapter, but your interpretation writes the next chapter. So why not choose the interpretation that serves your life the best?” I now feel I have grossly underestimated this man as a person and am really looking forward to learning more about him and his perspective on life.

Link to purchase: https://amzn.to/31zURVn


8. The Princess Affair (Princess Affair #1) by Nell Stark
264 pages; Published March 2013
Goodreads rating: 3.9 ⭐⭐⭐

Blurb: New York native, Kerry Donovan, is a scholar who moves to Oxford, England to study at the famous Oxford University. Princess Sasha is the sassy, sexy heir to the British throne. When the two meet by chance in a nightclub, the attraction between them is immediate and intense. Soon, they find themselves in a whirlwind romance as Kerry tries to keep her priorities straight and Sasha struggles under the weight of the crown. Will their connection be strong enough to keep them together despite everything that threatens to tear them apart?

My thoughts: I’m just going to say it. I’ve never read a lesbian romance. That alone is enough to intrigue me to give this book a try. The story line sounds a little bit cookie cutter and predictable, but sometimes predictable is comforting when the world is in a state of chaos. I do enjoy stories where characters learn about different walks of life from each other, so this rich princess/poor college student dynamic appeals to me a lot. I’m also interested to see if Sasha really is the hot mess the tabloids make her out to be, because my Spidey senses tell me that’s probably not the case. At just over 250 pages, this one will be a quick read.

Link to purchase: https://amzn.to/3fCBXSz


9. Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker & Wendy Xu (Artist)
256 pages; Published October 2019
Goodreads rating: 3.86 ⭐⭐⭐

Blurb: In this graphic novel, Nova Huang is a teenage witch who works at her grandmother’s bookshop. In addition to her bookish duties, she also helps investigate local supernatural occurrences. One night, while following reports of a white wolf, she goes into the woods and unexpectedly finds werewolf, Tam Lang, battling a horse demon. Tam is Nova’s longtime crush, but lives a nomadic lifestyle as he tries to escape the demons who are hell-bent on capturing the magic of werewolves. Tam turns to Nova for help winning the war against the demons and they soon find themselves on a spectacular journey of witchcraft, magic, occult rituals, and family ties.

My thoughts: This book sounds like a LOT of fun and I’m pretty much a newbie to fantasy/supernatural stories. I want to know what life is like as a teen witch who hunts down the supernatural. I want to know what the dynamic is like between a witch and a werewolf. I want to know what a horse demon is and why the demons have chosen Tam as the object of their pursuit. Also, based on the book’s cover, I really want to see the rest of the art. Super excited for this one!

Link to Purchase: https://amzn.to/33EUjQo


10. #VERYFAT #VERYBRAVE: The Fat Girl’s Guide to Being #Brave and Not a Dejected, Melancholy, Down-in-the-Dumps Weeping Fat Girl in a Bikini by Nicole Byer & Kim Newmoney (Photographer)
192 pages; Published June 2020
Goodreads rating: 4.26 ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Blurb: “If you’ve ever seen a fat person post a bikini shot on social media, you already know that they are #verybrave, because apparently existing in a fat body in public is #brave. I, Nicole Byer, wrote this book to 1. share my impressive bikini collection and my hot body with the world and 2. help other people feel #brave by embracing their body as it is. In this book, I share my journey to becoming #brave, give you my hot tips and tricks — on how to find the perfect bikini, how to find your own #bravery, and how to handle haters — and serve you over 100 bikini looks.”

My thoughts: As a bigger girl, this book called out to me the first time I saw the cover photo and read the title. Nicole is #onpoint with her assessment of how larger people, not even just women, are viewed on social media. If a fit, trim person and a fat person each share a photo of themselves in swimwear or a video of the same exact dance, the comments are stunningly different. This is a short book at fewer than 200 pages, but I’m betting it packs a whole lot of punch.

Link to purchase: https://amzn.to/3kqSV9Z


Have you read any of these books? If so, what did you think? Leave (spoiler free) reviews below!

Finding Perfect

Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Author: Colleen Hoover
Print Length: 130 pages
Publication Date: 12-31-19

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Yes, a THIRD Colleen Hoover book! This review will be pretty short and sweet, though, because I can’t say much about it.

Finding Perfect is the 4th and final installment of Colleen’s Hopeless series, which also includes Hopeless, Losing Hope, and Finding Cinderella (Review here). However, Colleen made a recommendation at the beginning of Finding Perfect that says, “Note to reader: This short story focuses on characters in both Finding Cinderella and All Your Perfects. This will make more sense once you’ve read both of the novels that this short story ties together.” So while All Your Perfects is technically a standalone and not part of the Hopeless series, readers will get SO much more satisfaction from Finding Perfect after both other novels have been read. Do yourself a favor and make sure you read these three together, almost as if they were a series of their own.

Since Finding Perfect is a sequel to Finding Cinderella, a lot remains the same. At the end of FC, Six revealed a huge, heartbreaking secret to Daniel. FP is the continuation of that story line as Daniel and Six face the situation head on and try to find a solution. We also have the same main cast with Daniel and Six as our leads, Holder and Sky as the faithful best friends, and other family and friends. We do meet Daniel’s older sister, Hannah, and I absolutely adored what her character brought to the story. She provides a calm strength as she does her best to help her brother find the answers he needs.

The one complaint I had from Finding Cinderella was that Daniel’s dialogue sounded more like that of a 30-something than of a teenager. I didn’t find that issue in Finding Perfect, so either he was a little bit better written or I was just so wrapped up in the story that I didn’t notice. Either way, no complaints in that area!

This little novella packs a lot of punch. I was holding my breath from the beginning to the end, rooting for Daniel and Six, but so incredibly nervous for them. I would also recommend having a box of tissues and a lame “who’s cutting onions??” excuse ready for this one. Perfect ending to an amazing story!

Get your copy here.

About Colleen Hoover

Colleen Hoover is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of twenty novels and novellas. Hoover’s novels fall into the New Adult and Young Adult contemporary romance categories, as well as psychological thriller. 

Website: www.colleenhoover.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorColleenHoover/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/colleenhoover/
Snapchat: https://www.snapchat.com/add/colleenhoover
Twitter: https://twitter.com/colleenhoover

Finding Cinderella

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https://amzn.to/3hZIR67

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

This was my second Colleen Hoover romance to read. My first was All Your Perfects, which was AMAZING, but it was also very heavy and left me with some pretty deep feelings of sadness.

Almost immediately after finishing All Your Perfects, I downloaded and started reading Finding Cinderella. This is a novella as opposed to a novel, so it was a very quick and easy read.

I didn’t know much going into it and I think that was for the best, so I’m not going to give away much of the plot here (this is becoming a pattern for Colleen Hoover’s books). The story begins with a high school student named Daniel who, due to a scheduling glitch, spends 5th period every day alone in a maintenance closet. One fateful day, his solitude is interrupted when his own personal Cinderella quite literally falls into his lap and he becomes her Prince Charming. That’s it. That’s all anyone needs to know before going into this fun, heart-warming story.

I loved everything about this book. The characters are so quirky and real. I’m 35 now, but my 17-year-old self would have had a major character crush on Daniel. He’s funny and outgoing, but he has a heart of gold. I would have wanted to be best friends with Six, who is the independent, low-maintenance, down-for-anything female lead. I also really enjoyed the friendship between Daniel and Holder and am excited to see more of them in Hopeless – which, technically, I should have read before this one, but I wasn’t aware of that at the time and it all worked out fine.

Again, this is a novella, so the pacing is pretty quick. There isn’t a lot of time to delve into backstory or too much of Daniel’s thoughts. Most of the book is dialogue and action — not in a shootouts-and-car-chases kind of way, but in a high school romance kind of way. The overall tone is light and fun — I smiled and laughed my way through almost the entire thing. There are a couple of twists. One of them literally made me squeal out loud in my bedroom, BUT. I would not have caught this twist had I not already read All Your Perfects. That being said, having read AYP is not a requirement in order to enjoy this book.

The only complaint I have about Finding Cinderella is that, at times, Daniel’s speech and especially his monologues with his significant other make him sound 25 instead of 17-ish. It was just off enough to make me raise an eyebrow and pull me out of the story briefly, but not enough to take away an entire star from the rating.

If you like quirky high school romance, definitely check this one out. If you’ve already read it, let me know what you thought!

Get yours here: https://amzn.to/3hZIR67

All Your Perfects

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Here is my Amazon Associates link for this book: https://amzn.to/3jSkKYD

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

A little bit of backstory:
I used to read a lot of romance. Like…a LOT. But somewhere over the course of the last couple of years, I started reading more psychological/domestic thrillers and ended up just kind of staying there. In 2019, I read Colleen Hoover’s first and only thriller to date, Verity, and loved it. I had never heard of her before, but I soon realized she has a MASSIVE following and I was shocked to discover she had only written romance prior to Verity. I have several friends who read everything she writes (yes, her writing really is that good), so I decided to check out some of her other work.

In March, when I grabbed All Your Perfects from the library, I didn’t realize it was part of a series. I just really liked the title and the cover. Almost immediately after checking out the book, my city went into lock down, the libraries and schools closed, and I was suddenly thrown into doing virtual kindergarten. My library suspended all due dates and fines until further notice and reading fell pretty close to the bottom of my list of priorities. I’ve been staring at this book on my shelf for four months, admiring the colors on the cover. Sometimes, I would pick it up and flip through it. I even read the first chapter and liked it, but I always ended up doing something else instead. Three days ago, I finally decided it had sat on my shelf long enough, so I picked it up and started reading. I was determined to give it a fair shot, but my expectations weren’t high.

“If you only shine light on your flaws, all your perfects will dim.”

Colleen Hoover, All Your Perfects

I read about a quarter of the book that Sunday night and then spent the next 36 hours fitting in a few minutes of reading whenever I could until I finished it on Tuesday morning. When I finally closed it, I just sat there for a while, legitimately wondering how my kids were running around so carefree after what I just experienced. I was dazed and awestruck and grateful and happy and sad and absolutely in love.

” ‘Call me someday. After your rebound guy.’ Graham”

Colleen Hoover, All Your Perfects

I don’t want to say too much about the plot. I will say that the story revolves around what could be very sensitive content for some. Otherwise, all you really need to know going in is that this is the story of Quinn and Graham and their relationship as they face unfathomably difficult circumstances. There are dual timelines: “Then,” pre-marriage/very early marriage, and “Now,” several years into the marriage. The split timelines are not hard to follow as the tones are extremely different. The lighthearted feel of “Then” provides much needed relief from the weight of “Now.”

“We are who our circumstances turn us into.”

Colleen Hoover, All Your Perfects

These characters, especially Graham, are some of my favorites to date. They feel like real people in real marriages and real families…almost too real at times. This is not, for the most part, a happy story, and the parts that are happy are marred by the devastation of everything else. Colleen does a phenomenal job of creating characters with depth, personality, and a full range of emotion. Some of the more pivotal moments were so raw and intense that I experienced physical reactions right along with the characters. I cried. I laughed out loud. I felt nervous. I felt sick. I wanted to scream. My heart melted. My heart broke. I wanted to jump for joy. I wanted to throw the book across the room.

“Sadness is like a spiderweb. You don’t see it until you’re caught up in it and then you have to claw at yourself to try to break free.”

Collen Hoover, All Your Perfects

I cannot adequately put into words how this book made me feel or how happy I am to have read it. I would, without a doubt, recommend it to anyone looking for a REAL love story. Not just a romance, a love story. I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book prior to this one that so clearly demonstrated the difference between romance and love, but All Your Perfects nails it.

Amazon Associates link: https://amzn.to/31e3Viz

The Mother-In-Law

BOOK REVIEW
The Mother-In-Law by Kiersten Modglin
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I finally read a book for the first time in months! I’m in a mom group here on Facebook and some of us in the group are part of a book club inside the group. I have been kind of following what they read, but I haven’t participated until this month. I’ve been in the WORST reading slump, and the book they chose sounded like something that might help, so I decided to jump in.

We read/are reading The Mother-In-Law by Kiersten Modglin. This domestic thriller was a quick, easy read and an absolute page-turner. Just what I needed.

The story begins by introducing us to Lorin and her daughter, Rynlee. Loren is a single mom who owns a small boutique. Her life is fine, but she’s bored with it and wishing she had someone to share it with. While out with her daughter one day, she unexpectedly meets Jack. One thing leads to another and they decide to get married. On their wedding day, Lorin and Rynlee meet Jack’s mother, Coralee, for the first time…and things go downhill from there with a quickness.

“Family certainly complicates things, doesn’t it?”

I won’t give any spoilers, but Coralee is one of my favorite villains that I’ve read. She is manipulative, cunning, and downright evil, but skilled at playing up her “old woman” innocence — at least to her son. I found Lorin to be very believable as a single mom as I could relate to a lot of her frustrations and feelings. I had mixed feelings about Rynlee. She’s supposed to be 5 years old, but I thought her actions and behaviors were more that of a 3 or 4 year old. That, however, is very minor and did not stop me from enjoying her character. She’s adorable, innocent, and a perfect addition to the story.

As for the twist, I can honestly say I was semi-surprised a couple of times and REALLY surprised once. I feel like experienced psychological/domestic thriller readers will find enough suspense and creepiness to keep them entertained, but this would also be a great starter for anyone who is new to the genre and wants to try it out. Loved it!

Get your copy here: https://amzn.to/32SerOO

The Slump

So many of us readers have been in a major reading slump this year. The chaos and stress that has embodied 2020 so far have made it almost impossible to concentrate on anything besides the news and what’s going on in the world. What used to be an escape for us is now a chore or, at best, a struggle.

From my own personal experience (I fully understand everyone’s realities are different), people who find genuine joy and peace in reading seem to be…sensitive. We feel deeply. We question everything. We seek answers to ALL of the questions and when we find those answers, they usually lead to more questions. We absorb. Many of us are empaths, which can make life feel very heavy in the best of times. At a time like this, when the world seems to literally be falling apart around us, it can make the most basic daily functions feel impossible. It’s not a surprise that we would find reading more difficult than we normally would. It’s so much easier and requires less mental energy to scroll Facebook, flip through TikTok, or watch TV.

And this is all OK. We’re just trying to survive right now in whatever way we can. If that means watching a hundred different takes on the latest TikTok dance trend, so be it.

That being said, I wonder what would happen if we made a concentrated effort to do the harder thing going forward. Less TV…maybe none at all. Less social media. Fewer headlines. More time with family, friends, or pets (whomever you have in your home). More writing, drawing, and creating. More of the desperately needed self care that so many of us have put on the back burner for the past several months, even basic things like showering, wearing real clothes, and drinking enough water (most hypocritical statement of the year, right there). And, yes. More reading.

We live in stressful, uncertain, downright hard times right now. Death and destruction seem to surround us more every day. I challenge you, whoever is reading this, to do something today to counter what’s going on in the world. Create something good. Turn off the tv, put down the phone, and do something that brings you joy and peace.

Book Review – My Lovely Wife

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“‘I wanted to surprise you,’ she said. ‘For our anniversary.’

I stare at her. My lovely wife.

‘It’s demented,’ I say.

She raises an eyebrow at me. Before she can speak, I put my finger against her lips.

‘And it’s brilliant,’ I say.”

-Samantha Downing, My Lovely Wife

My Lovely Wife is a domestic thriller that follows the story of our unnamed narrator (code name: Tobias), his wife Millicent, and their two children, Jenna and Rory – the all-American family next door. Tobias is a tennis coach for rich people, Millicent is a successful real estate agent, and Jenna and Rory are good kids. Everything seems perfect from the outside, but Tobias and Millicent are harboring a secret – they like to kill people. Why? It spices up their marriage, of course. What happens when a husband and wife team up to murder unsuspecting women? Chaos erupts and we get a front-row seat to the mess that ensues.

Things I Didn’t Love

Character development is almost non-existent. The book jumps immediately into the action, which is great, but we only see backstory for Tobias and Millicent through brief flashbacks and pieces of narrative. There wasn’t quite enough given about either of them to allow me to know or care much about them. Who they are at the beginning of the book is exactly who they are at the end of the book with very little to no change in between. The only character we see a little bit of change in is the daughter, Jenna, but I honestly can’t decide if her arc was an asset or a detriment to the story.

My second complaint involves the pacing of the book. If the speed limit is 70mph, this story started at about 60mph and cruised there until the last few chapters, when it kicked up to 70mph. There weren’t really any ups or downs or much contrast to different parts of the story. I would have liked to see the thrills a little higher and the downtime a little more chill. Most of our downtime is spent in Tobias’s head as he thinks about his kids and how his and Millicent’s extracurricular activities are affecting them.

Finally, the ending. While the “big twist” did surprise me, what played out after the reveal felt very unrealistic and out of character for the characters involved. It left me feeling a little bit detached from the climax because, in my opinion, it just wasn’t believable.

Things I Loved

The above complaints are not to say the book was without its merits. It’s a good, engaging story and I think Downing did a solid job on her debut novel. In fact, I think I would have been surprised to learn it was her first had I found out after I read it.

The story line is exciting and engaging. My Lovely Wife has been compared a LOT to “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” and that’s a fair comparison. (It’s also been compared to Dexter, but I cannot comment on that as I have not seen the show). The plot is unique and fun – despite the flat pacing, it was still a page-turner and each chapter’s end left me wanting more. I had a physical copy of the book, but I ended up downloading the audio book as well so that I could continue the story when I wasn’t able to read.

There are several surprises throughout the story. About a third of the way through, I thought I knew what the “big twist” was going to be. I was 99% sure I had figured it out. However, a couple of the smaller twists chipped away at my theory until I had to admit that I was wrong and had no idea where we were headed. When THE twist was revealed, I was legitimately surprised and really enjoyed the way things unfolded. I found myself flipping back through parts of the book, looking for things I missed. The final line of the epilogue made my mouth drop open and made me burst into giggles, which left me very confused about my own sanity and state of morality. Will there be a sequel? I really don’t think so, but I suppose time will tell.

Also, I liked how we got to see the effects of Tobias and Millicent’s actions on their kids. Jenna, the becomes almost obsessed with what’s going on and is afraid for own safety to the point of taking some pretty drastic measures. Rory develops his own theories about what’s going on and deals with that by finding a way to make the situation profitable for himself…in multiple ways.

I will also note, for more sensitive readers, that despite the book’s premise, there was very little actual violence, no graphic sex, and no profanity. Most of the actual violence is only hinted at or briefly described.

Final Thoughts

In general, I enjoyed this book. It kept my attention, it gave me a few surprises, and it was just overall a fun ride. It would have taken only a few tweaks to take this from a 3.5 to a solid 4 or 4.5 read for me. Is it the best thriller I’ve ever read? No. Is it worth the read? Absolutely.

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Titles are NOT My Niche

Here I sit on this chilly February evening, listening to my kids run and play (and fight). My body is tired, my nerves are shot, my brain is fried…but I am happy. I am content. I feel excited, nervous, overwhelmed, hopeful, optimistic and pessimistic. I feel empowered and brave. I feel anxious and unsure.

But most of all, I am happy.

Since I was just a kid in grade school, writing has been my outlet. It’s the way I express myself the best. My first college English professor once made a note on an essay I turned in. She wrote, “I so admire your crisp, clear writing style.” That was, by far, one of the most encouraging things anyone has ever said to me and almost 18 years later, I still think of her comment often. Writing helps me make sense out of all the chaos in my mind. The process of choosing just the right words to create sentences and paragraphs that perfectly convey my thoughts is therapeutic to me. It’s my calm, my escape. It’s my dream and my passion.

I could say I never chased this dream because it wasn’t practical. I could say I was just as interested or even more excited about other things. I could give a million excuses for why I didn’t do this long ago, but I would be lying.

I didn’t do it because I was afraid. Afraid of failure, of rejection, of judgment. I knew, logically, that I had a knack for the art (yes, art) of writing. But would anyone else recognize it? Pursuing this thing for which I hold so much love is… terrifying. I’m still afraid of failure, rejection, and judgment. I’m still afraid no one will enjoy my writing except me. The thought of throwing myself into this and possibly failing produces a physical reaction in my body. My chest tightens, my head pounds, my hands tingle, my face turns red and feels hot. I can feel my throat and eyes preparing to cry.

So why now? Why, at 34 years old, would I decide to do this?

Because I’m tired of playing it safe. I’m tired of just feeling “meh” about my life because I lack the confidence or motivation to go after what I really want. I had to hit rock bottom to get to this place, but honestly, it’s the best thing that possibly could have happened to me.

I’m Nichole. I’m a writer. And I’m ready.