Book Reviews

Book Review: Last Couple Standing: A Novel, by Matthew Norman

Last Couple Standing

A Novel

by Matthew Norman

Publication: Ballantine Books; March 17, 2020

last coupleAbout: The Core Four have been friends since college: four men, four women, four couples. They got married around the same time, had kids around the same time, and now, fifteen years later, they’ve started getting divorced around the same time, too. With three of the Core Four unions crumbling to dust around them, Jessica and Mitch Butler take a long, hard look at their own marriage. Can it be saved? Or is divorce, like some fortysomething zombie virus, simply inescapable?

To maximize their chance at immunity, Jessica and Mitch try something radical. Their friends’ divorces mostly had to do with sex—having it, not having it, wanting to have it with other people—so they decide to relax a few things. Terms are discussed, conditions are made, and together the Butlers embark on the great experiment of taking their otherwise happy, functional marriage and breaking some very serious rules.

Jessica and Mitch are convinced they’ve hit upon the next evolution of marriage. But as lines are crossed and hot bartenders pursued, they each start to wonder if they’ve made a huge mistake. What follows is sexy, fun, painful, messy, and completely surprising to them both. Because sometimes doing something bad is the only way to get to the heart of what’s really good.

**My Review**

Last Couple Standing is the upcoming novel by author Matthew Norman about a couple, Jessica (a therapist) and Mitch (a high-school English teacher), who out of their best friends, ‘The Core Four,’ they are the last couple still married. The four couples met about the same time in college, got married at about the same time, had kids, and so on. But at the start of the novel, the third couple in their group has just finalized their divorce, leaving Jessica and Mitch as the last couple still together. So what does an otherwise happily married couple decide to do? They decide to “evolve” in hopes of saving their marriage. They have a few conversations about it, establish some ground rules, and then they are free to be with other people. 

First, let me rant about other reviews I’ve seen saying that they just couldn’t enjoy this book because of the subject matter… Hello people! Did you read the blurb? That drives me absolutely crazy when people write poor reviews for a book because they didn’t agree with the subject matter. When the blurb explains what’s going to happen, don’t read it if it’s something you don’t like and/or agree with!

Moving on from that, I am so glad to have discovered this author. Matthew Norman’s witty banter and portrayal of married life with small children is fabulous! Very early on in the story, the reader learns that Mitch has traumatized his small children after taking them to a free showing of E.T. at the theater. What parent hasn’t sat down with their kids to watch a “kid movie,” only to learn that it’s much more frightening than you remembered or frightening when you weren’t expecting it??? I think I did that to my daughter with the animated movie Iron Giant. 

The bulk of the novel, of course, focuses on Jessica and Mitch’s marriage, adjustments to their friends’ divorces, and adjustments to their new lifestyle and marital rules. But there are several subplots which at first glance, may seem a little bit much for one book, but ended up making it that much more lovable. There is teenager Luke next door who is a student of Mitch’s, their babysitter, his parents are divorcing, and he’s developed a crush on bad-girl Scarlet. Then there is Scarlet who is also Mitch’s student and is a patient of Jessica’s due to her impulsive, dangerous, and sometimes illegal choices. I was rooting for them both the entire time and loved the amazing connection between the two seemingly different characters.

Another huge part of the novel was Mitch and Jessica adjusting to their friendships with the split-up ‘Core Four’ members. Jessica was coming to terms with her three female friends out partying, on the prowl for men, and discussing the frequency of dick pics texted to them by potential dates/hook-ups. Mitch had one friend dating a much younger woman who had started leaving extra buttons undone on his shirt and wearing cologne, another killing himself in Crossfit, and one trying to establish a new norm for his children post-divorce. 

Jessica and Mitch try their new rules and “evolving,” but coupled with their divorced friends’ slow realizations that the grass is not always greener, they start to wonder if what they really want in life is what they have had all along. 

Last Couple Standing is a hilarious novel that certainly has a unique storyline regarding marriage, relationships, parenting, and friendship. I enjoyed all of the characters, although, surprisingly, Jessica was my least favorite of them all. Mitch stole my heart from the beginning and I honestly felt as if I related to his character more than Jessica’s. I feel almost anti-feminist saying this, but her desire to try new rules in their marriage seemed selfish, as to where Mitch’s agreement to the new rules felt like something he was doing simply to appease his wife. 

This book is a quick and fun read despite the heavy topics included in the plot and subplots. It made me laugh out loud several times and as I said before, I fell in love with almost all of the characters. I definitely recommend this one to readers who want a funny and unique take on growing up and growing apart from one another. Most of all, I’m so happy to have discovered Matthew Norman and can’t wait to read more from him in the future!

*Thanks to NetGalley and Ballantine Books for providing this ARC in exchange for my honest opinion. 

Book Reviews

Book Review: You Were There Too, by Colleen Oakley

You Were There Too,

by Colleen Oakley

Publication: Berkley; January 7, 2020


you were there tooAbout the book:

Mia Graydon’s life looks picket-fence perfect; she has the house, her loving husband, and dreams of starting a family. But she has other dreams too—unexplained, recurring ones starring the same man. Still, she doesn’t think much of it, until a relocation to small-town Pennsylvania brings her face to face with the stranger she has been dreaming about for years. And this man harbors a jaw-dropping secret of his own—he’s been dreaming of her too.

Determined to understand, Mia and this not-so-stranger search for answers. But when diving into their pasts begins to unravel her life in the present, Mia emerges with a single question—what if?

**My Review**

Oh my goodness, this was a good one! If anyone out there has an obsession (or semi-obsession) with dreams, then this is your next read. If you’re not one of those people, just play along because this is a damn good book. Mia and Harrison have a somewhat wonderful life and marriage. Granted, she’s had several miscarriages, they have just moved to a new town, no one wants to display her art in their gallery, etc. – but they are happy. Harrison is battling his demons, Mia is battling hers, but an important factor in her life is dreams that she has been having for decades about the same man. The dreams have been in a variety of settings with a variety of things occurring within them, and then one day she sees the man that she has been dreaming of right there in the flesh.  The best part? He’s been dreaming of her too! He has no idea why, but his dreams don’t have the happy or non-descript endings like Mia’s. As Mia and Oliver start trying to understand their unusual connection, Mia starts to notice Harrison pulling further away from her and their marriage. Not only is she trying to make sense of her and Oliver’s dreams, but she is also trying to understand the changes within Harrison and how to save their marriage.

I loved this novel. Although this was my first time reading Colleen Oakley, I had heard of her previous two novels, especially Before I Go. Her character development is fantastic in regards to Mia, although I felt a little slighted regarding other characters. I’m not saying that I loved Mia throughout the entire novel because there were numerous times I was just done hearing about her unwillingness to get up, move around, shower, unpack, buy furniture, and so on. I tried to empathize with her situation and emotions, but she annoyed me to death. Nevertheless, I was completely drawn into and addicted to her story. Even better – all of the surprises and twists. This book did not go like I thought it would at all. I had predictions very early on and also drew off of the prologue, but nothing I expected to happen actually happened. Except for the tears. I did expect early on that there would be some heart-wrenching moments and I was right about that. But there are plenty of wonderful moments to make it all worthwhile. 

This was truly a 5-star read for me, although I’m still not sure about the ending. I guess that I just wanted and needed more closure than what was given, something more concrete. However, if you don’t mind an ending that is happy, although a bit ambiguous, I think you will truly enjoy this novel. It’s original, emotional, moving, and above all truly encompasses the wonderful emotion that is love. I was more than impressed with Oakley’s plot development and originality and I look forward to reading more from this author in the future. 

*Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing this ARC in exchange for my honest review!

Blog Tour, Book Reviews

Blog tour & review: My Husband’s Wives, by Faith Hogan

My Husband’s Wives,

by Faith Hogan

Publication: Aria; April 4, 2019

Book cover

About the book:

Is it better to have loved and lost, then never to have loved?

Paul Starr, Ireland’s leading cardiologist, has died in a car crash with a pregnant young woman by his side. A woman who is not his wife.

Evie, Grace, and Annalise never thought they’d meet, but now they have to uncover the truth of their pasts. And suddenly they find themselves united by a man they never really knew at all.

As these women begin to form unlikely friendships they discover that Paul’s death could prove to be the catalyst they needed to become the people they always wanted to be…

**My Review**

It is with my pleasure that I get to share my review of Faith Hogan’s latest in paperback, My Husband’s Wives! This book is one part the worst nightmare and one part blessing – and I truly loved it. The main cast of characters is cardiologist Paul Starr, his first wife, Evie, his second wife, Grace, and his third wife, Annalise. However, when Paul is killed in a car crash, a fourth woman comes into the picture, the young and pregnant Kasia. Before you dismiss this as another book about a man cheating on the woman he supposedly “loves,” know that there is so much more to this novel than just Paul’s indiscretions, or I guess I should say, his inability to find long-term contentment with one woman.

I will admit that I struggled with this one initially as I attempted to decipher who was who and what each person’s true intentions were. As I stated previously, Evie was Paul’s first wife and they each claimed that it was love at first sight for each of them. Yet, years later Paul and Grace meet and fall in love and have a daughter. Years into their marriage, things take a sharp decline, leading up to Paul and Annalise falling in love, having children, and getting married. Annalise is Paul’s wife at the time of his death, although they are separated, then there’s the issue of the other woman in the vehicle with him, Kasia, and whether they were romantically involved. 

However, one consistent theme became clear early on in the novel and continued to the end – Paul was an ass. I won’t get into all of the details of his parting ways with one wife and moving onto another, etc., but he refused to let anyone move on after him. Paul’s character was a textbook example of a narcissist man that needs love and attention from as many people as possible. Furthermore, he continued to be a constant presence in their lives in order to maintain the flow of ego-stroking needed in order to feel like a man. But, the clever one that he was, he masked this behavior by coming by the house to fix a sink, or take care of the lawn, visits with children, etc. 

The one positive thing about Paul is that he brought Evie, Grace, Annalise, and Kasia together. Each of these women had experienced highs and lows throughout life both personally and professionally, but as they were forced together after Paul’s death and their relationships grew, so did each woman individually. And that is where the light bulbs begin to go off above each of their heads! After spending so much time loving and taking care of Paul, watching Paul move on with someone else, and then mourning Paul’s death, these women found that life went on without this man and that finally, they had the chance to truly look at themselves and the lives they wanted, separate from Paul and what each of them had been for him. 

Maybe not to everyone, but to me and countless others that I know, a family does not have to be genetic relatives. We have the beauty of building our families in a way that represents what we want and need from others, as well as, what we want and are able to give. Granted, we may have family out there that we would prefer not to have, but the family that you spend time with, support, and love doesn’t have to be someone technically related to you. The beauty of this novel was not only the woman learning to become their own selves, but also learning that their unusual, blended family was the family that they never knew they wanted or needed. 

My Husband’s Wives is certainly a character-driven novel but there is plenty of depth and structure to the plot to avoid making you feel overwhelmed with mundane details about everyone while reading. There were some surprises throughout the plot and certainly some twists and turns, but I would consider this more of a steady-paced novel than an edge-of-your-seat read. 

My only real issue with the novel is the time frames. There were times I felt like Evie’s character was 80 years old and other times maybe in her 50’s. And I remained confused about Grace’s age and the length of time between when she met Paul and when the book ended. Towards the end of the novel, I’m thinking Grace is in her 60’s but then there was her crush Jake who was in his late 30’s. It was just a bit confusing to me. 

Enough with my rambling! My Husband’s Wives is an engaging novel that evokes a variety of emotions while reading. I loved the themes and the characters, I just hope any younger woman out there reading this will find this one as an example of what not to do concerning men and relationships. 

*Thanks to Aria and the author for providing this copy in exchange for my honest review!

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About the author

Faith Hogan

Faith lives in the west of Ireland with her husband, four children, and two very fussy cats. She has an Hons Degree in English Literature and Psychology, has worked as a fashion model and in the intellectual disability and mental health sector.

Follow Faith:   

Twitter: @GerHogan

Facebook: @faithhoganauthor

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Twitter: @aria_fiction

Facebook: @ariafiction

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Blog Tour, Book Reviews

Blog tour & review: With or Without You, by Shari Low

With or Without You,

by Shari Low

Publication: Aria (June 1, 2018)

With or Without YouAbout the book:

Have you ever made a life-changing decision and then wondered if you made the right one…?

A clever, captivating and bittersweet story of what might have been. Perfect for the fans of Jojo Moyes and Marian Keyes.

When Liv and Nate walked up the aisle, Liv knew she was marrying the one, her soul mate and her best friend. Six years later, it feels like routine and friendship is all they have left in common. What happened to the fun, the excitement, the lust, the love?

In the closing moments of 1999, Liv and Nate decide to go their separate ways, but at the last minute, Liv wavers. Should she stay or should she go?

Over the next twenty years, we follow the parallel stories to discover if Liv’s life, heart, and future have been better with Nate… Or without him?

Perfect for the fans of Jojo Moyes, Lucy Diamond, and Marian Keyes.

**My Review**

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Shari Low’s With or Without You! I am such a huge fan of this author and was crazy excited about reading and reviewing this uniquely written novel. Have you ever wondered if you married the right person or if you made the right decision in either staying with or leaving someone? This is the story of Liv and her husband Nate, who six years after getting married have decided to call it quits. The marriage lacks passion, romance, and has become like a roommate situation. But right before they part ways, Nate tells Liv that he’s changed his mind and wants to keep working on their marriage. This book follows Liv and Nate, as well as, their wonderful group of friends and loved ones over the next 20 years, first telling what happened if she left and then, telling their story her if she had stayed with Nate. 

Before I started reading this one, I was actually worried about getting bored with a book divided into two sections, telling different versions of the same people’s’ lives. Oh, silly me! This was a very good novel that held my attention from beginning to end. The first part of the novel tells the events if Liv decides to stick with their pre-arranged plans and separate after New Year’s Eve, while the second part tells about the same time period if Liv decided to stay with Nate after New Year’s Eve.  The characters are the same in both parts, some events are the same, some are different, but the biggest difference was when things occurred

As typical when I read Shari Low’s books, I was insanely jealous over their tight-knit group of friends that were hilarious, loving, honest, challenging at times, but always there. She always has such dedicated friendships in her novels that are always as interesting, if not more so, than the romances which makes me curious about the author’s own life and circle of friends!

Another thing I always love about this author is that her main characters are always so relatable and “normal.” She doesn’t share the tales of super-model type women with perfect lives, but “real” women that seem familiar and at times, like ourselves. Liv is a palliative care nurse that loves her job but definitely takes some emotional hits because of it. She’s a size 14, discusses her laziness regarding body hair removal, and isn’t afraid to admit to ridiculous hangovers after a night with her friends. 

But what I truly love about this book is the overall message. If things are meant to be, then most likely, they will be. Whether it be about a romantic relationship or a job, we could spend our whole lives second-guessing decisions and wondering if things would have ended up differently, if only if. However, the course of the universe is unlikely to change because of a choice we made years ago or last week. People grow older, their lives change (some for the better, some for the worse), people have affairs, they have children, they fall in love, they divorce, and people die. 

When I was younger, I recall so many times regretting decisions and worrying about something that I felt would impact the entire universe. Let’s say I forgot that it was my day to take snacks to my son’s soccer game and ended up buying individual bags of chips at the last-minute rather than spending the night before slicing and bagging up oranges  – therefore, everyone will think I’m a lazy mom, my son’s nutrition has been jeopardized, he’ll be overweight and get bullied, then blame. And on, and on, and on… Those days are way behind me, but silly things like that did not matter.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m fully aware of the consequences of actions and would never think that what we do has no impact on our lives. But it’s a nice feeling to think that things will work out as they should and when they should. We only have so much power 🙂 

This book is wonderful and I recommend it to just about anyone who loves reading fiction, but especially anyone that’s ever wondered if they made the right choice in a relationship.

*Many thanks to Aria and to Shari Low for providing this review copy in exchange for my honest review!

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Shari LowAbout the author

Shari Low is the No1 best-selling author of over 20 novels, including With Or Without You, Another Day In Winter, One Day In December, A Life Without You and The Story Of Our Life.

And because she likes to overshare toe-curling moments and hapless disasters, she is also the shameless mother behind a collection of parenthood memories called Because Mummy Said So.  Once upon a time she met a guy, got engaged after a week, and twenty-something years later she lives near Glasgow with her husband, a labradoodle, and two teenagers who think she’s fairly embarrassing except when they need a lift.

Follow Shari:

Twitter: @sharilow

Facebook: @sharilowbooks


Follow Aria


Twitter: @aria_fiction

Facebook: @ariafiction

Instagram: @ariafiction

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