Thursday, May 23, 2024

In a Nutshell Reviews

Better Left Unsent
 by Lisa Louis
Published by Atria on May 21, 224
Age/Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Fiction 

So many ways to torpedo your career and your love life…So little time.

A woman accidentally reveals all her secrets in this witty and charming novel from the author of Eight Perfect Hours.

Two years ago, thirty-year-old receptionist Millie Chandler had her heart spectacularly broken in public. Ever since, she has been a closed book, vowing to keep everything to herself—her feelings, her truths, even her dreams—in an effort to protect herself from getting hurt again.

But Millie does write emails—sarcastic replies to her rude boss, hard truths to her friends, and of course, that one-thousand-word love declaration to her ex who is now engaged to someone else. The emails live safely in her drafts, but after a server outage at work, Millie wakes up to discover that all her emails have been sent. Every. Single. One.

As every truth, lie, and secret she’s worked so hard to keep only to herself are catapulted out into the open, Millie must fix the chaos her words have caused, and face everything she’s ever swept under the carpet.

Before I deleted my Facebook, I used to compose replies to posts that annoyed me or got me fired up. The catch - I never hit post. I found it very cathartic to get it out there, but I knew many of those comments were better kept to myself. Because of this, I really related to Millie's penchant for composing emails she would never send. I understood the why, but oh, boy! I felt terrible for her when all 100+ emails were sent out. 

I liked the way Louis explored all the different ways these way-too-honest emails affected the recipients. Obviously, there were people who were hurt, but surprisingly, the emails motivated some to make changes in their lives. One of those people ended up being Millie herself. Initially, she went into cleanup mode, but as she kept digging to figure out how those emails got sent, she also dug a bit into herself and reflected on her past, present, and future.

Part of her future could be her co-worker, Jack. He was this affable, free-spirit type and I liked him for Millie. He may have seem too "shake it off" at times, but I think Millie needed someone like that in her life as she became more and more obsessed with the emails. There were some wonderfully swoony and sweet scenes between these two, and I had my fingers crossed for them the entire time. I just wish they had a bit more time together as a couple.

This book started out with the email debacle, and it felt very much like reading a Shopaholic book. That humor and energy was there, and I found it easy to like Millie. Somewhere in the middle, the pacing was off and it dragged a bit, but then it got to that BIG moment where important story-things happen and all the heartwarming stuff played out, and I was very pleased that I had pushed through.

Overall, this was a fun and light one from Louis which put a smile on my face.

Malibu Summer
 by Libby Gill
Published by Penguin Books on May 21, 2024
Age/Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Lose yourself in this opposites-attract romance set on a sunny Malibu hillside

Ivy Bauer is a young, bright environmental scientist, PhD candidate, and inventor of a game-changing organic irrigation system. She’s on top of the world when, suddenly, her husband is killed in a biking accident. Needing space to grieve, she takes a summer job as a gardener in Malibu.

Conrad Reed is a wealthy Hollywood has-been who, after the death of his young wife, feels overwhelmed by the care of his rambunctious stepson Hudson, massive beach estate, and deteriorating career. Enter Ivy with her gig as gardener-for-the-summer, who—he hopes—will help take at least one thing off his plate. But the bossy, opinionated Ivy isn’t making things any easier for him. When she starts cutting back his late wife’s prized rose bushes to plant indigenous grasses, sparks fly between these two uber-driven people—and not the good kind of sparks.

It’s when Ivy finds the key to Hudson’s heart that Conrad’s own heart begins to melt as well. . . and then the sparks that fly are the ones that kindle the best kind of love affair. . .

Following the untimely deaths of their spouses, two people attempt to heal together.

I have a thing for stories about loss and healing. I love shedding tears for these characters as they work through their pain, and I celebrate their progress as they figure out a way to remember their loved ones while also continuing to live.

This story began with Ivy losing her husband. My heart ached for her, and I was glad when she gave herself some time to heal. The gardening position brought her back to her roots and love of nature. As she planted and nurtured the garden, its life seeped into her. I may not have a green thumb, but I found myself very interested in all the plant and garden talk. It sounded lush and beautiful, and I swear, I could smell the flowers and grasses.

There were also parts where she shared her love of plants, and my favorites were when she was sharing with Hudson. Hudson was Conrad's stepson. He was precious, even if he read a bit older at times (maybe that's how kids are grown in Malibu). He was also dealing with the loss of his mother, and the connection he formed with Ivy was a standout part of the book.

But Ivy also connected with Conrad. Now, this book may be called Malibu Summer, but it actually spans a year. During that time both Conrad and Ivy try to get back to their lives, and they seem to enjoy doing it while in each other's orbits. I will admit, the romance did not seem the main focus of the story and felt a bit rushed. It seemed the focus was more on Conrad and Ivy and their healing process, but I still always wanted them together in a romantic way.

There were two subplots which I felt served a purpose for moving the story forward, but I didn't necessarily care for. They had a bit a suspense element that seemed out of place, at least to me. But, charming characters, a lovely setting, and a wonderful ending helped smooth over those parts for me.

Overall, I enjoyed spending the year with Conrad and Ivy as they worked through their grief and found a way to open their hearts to love again.


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  1. I don't read books that I know will make me cry as of late. But both of these books sound good.

    1. I love when books make me cry, but then they must leave me happy

  2. Both great reviews, Sam. I am looking forward to Lia Louis' book. It sounds like something that could happen to anyone. Malibu Summer sounds touching, but probably not for me, I cried at the end of Young Sheldon. 💕📚

    1. It wasn't my favorite from Louis, but it was a solid book. I never watched Young Sheldon, I am assuming someone died?

  3. Ooh Malibu Summer sounds good you know I love a celebrity romance!

    1. It was a solid book. A lot more time was given to the healing process than the romance, but I enjoyed it.

  4. I am intrigued to read Better Left Unsent by Lisa Louis

  5. I can't imagine being in Millie's position, but it's a great setup for a story! Glad you enjoyed both books.

    1. I thought Louis approached it in an interesting way

  6. OMG Better Left Unsent seems to be indeed funny with a Shopaholic tinge! I will add it to my TBR Sam as I relish books with awkward situations!

    1. Absolutely had a touch of Becky's brand of chaos.

  7. Oh, I feel so hard for Ivy and Conrad!

    1. There were so many circumstances too that made their pain a bit deeper.