Contemporary: Books that are set in the modern world without strong elements of mystery, romance, etc. Sometimes called "chick lit" but I never really liked that term; it seems frivolous and dismissive.
Review method--totally subjective and my personal opinion.
Five Stars are for life-altering books that I think you should keep and read again and again.
Four Stars are for great books.
Three Stars are for good books.
All of the above I recommend reading. You will very rarely see me give a review of One Star (awful) or Two Stars (not worth reading) because I usually don't finish books that I don't think are awful and/or not worth reading. Sadly, sometimes, I do get tricked into wasting my time.
Best Enemies by Jane Heller **** (Four Stars)
I loved this book about "best" friends, the secrets they keep, the lies they tell, and the bonds that keep them together. Told from two points of view, you will love it, too. Different, intriguing, wonderful.
Bet Your Bottom Dollar by Karin Gillespie **** (Four Stars)
I really liked this book. Charming characters, a sweet and appealing hero, and a lost baby is found. What else could you ask for?
Coconut Cowboy by Tim Dorsey **** (Four Stars)
"Serge Storms is hitting the road." America's most charming serial killer is on the road again.
The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger **** (Four Stars)
You've seen the movie, but you don't know evil until you read the book.
The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson ***** (Five Stars)
Do you think your family is dysfunctional? Well, the family Fang takes it to a whole new level. I think this book should be required reading for everyone. It's absolutely terrific.
Finding Mr. Right by Emily Carmichael *** (Three Stars)
"Right before her untimely death, Lydia...had an affair with her best friend's husband." This book sat on my shelf for a LONG time because of that line but, when I finally picked it up, it was a good read.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling ** (Two Stars)
How did Harry grow up to be such a jerk? Stop reading after the original series and avoid disappointment.
How Nancy Drew Saved My Life by Lauren Baratz-Logsted **** (Four Stars)
This is a very good story. Once you stop yelling "Stop sleeping with your boss!" at the main character you realize that, in addition to being an easy victim, she's smart, capable of learning from her mistakes (eventually) and someone that you'd like to know.
The History of Lucy's Love Life in Ten and a Half Chapters by Deborah Wright *** (Three Stars)
I kinda dithered about where to put this book. Is she fantasizing her affairs? Is she really time-travelling? I think we're not really meant to know...but we are supposed to wonder if Lucy is going to let her make-believe lovelife ruin her chances at real love. A fun read.
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini **** (Four Stars)
This disturbing story of rivals, birthright, and friendship will linger in your mind long after you sigh over the ending. It has graphic and sickening violence. If you don't want to be shaken out of your middle-class American life, don't open it. I won't blame you.
Lunatics by Dave Barry and Alan Zweibel ***** (Five Stars)
This madcap ride will leave you guessing and gasping for air. I can't remember laughing so hard. It was absolutely incredibly hilarious. Dave Barry is always funny, but this is rolling-on-the-floor-and-crying funny.
Miss Julia Throws a Wedding by Ann B. Ross ***** (Five Stars)
I loved everything about this book. The characters are so real they could live next door. The conflict is gentle but urgent and believable. This is a series and this is not the first book, but the author did a great job of bringing me up to speed without making me less interested in reading the earlier books. I'm definitely going to read more by this author.
Night of the Avenging Blowfish by John Welter **** (Four Stars)
"A novel of covert operations, love, and luncheon meat." The Secret Service hero is so charmingly inept that I couldn't help but love him. And, somehow, he manages to stumble his way to true love and real heroism.
Paying the Price by Madge Walls **** (Four Stars)
Contemporary, some elements of mystery
I loved the setting and the main character's job as a realtor. Her strained relationship with her ex-husband and sometimes-missing daughter was very believable. Once I got past some rather hard-to-swallow plot points, I could appreciate the main character's struggles to do what was right--for herself, her daughter, and her granddaughter.
Past Imperfect by Julian Fellowes *** (Three Stars)
I would have probably enjoyed this story more if I lived in my head, held grudges, and let the past rule my present and future. I don't like the premise that you can't escape your past.
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion **** (Four Stars)
An autistic college professor decides he wants to get married. You'll root for him even while you wince at his social awkwardness. An excellent book and a great story.
The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion **** (Four Stars)
Just buy this sequel when you buy the first book. You'll love it.
Riders of the Pale Horse by T. Davis Bunn **** (Four Stars)
Action/Adventure with a dash of romance
This has several stories woven together in a surprisingly intricate dance. Nuclear scientists, mercenaries, and missionaries are all thrown into the same pot but produce a surprisingly tasty meal. It was written in 1994 and reminds me a lot of some of Ken Follet's stories.
Sick Puppy by Carl Hiassen ***** (Five Stars)
Twilly Spree is back; the one-eyed converted environmentalist comes out of his swamp for another adventure.
Skinny Dip by Carl Hiassen ***** (Five Stars)
The zany characters, the unlikely hero, the plucky heroine.... I love Carl Hiassen more than ever.
Slave to Love by Rebecca Campbell **** (Four Stars)
This story is funny and charming, romantic and adventurous--and shocking. I really enjoyed it.
Stormy Weather by Carl Hiassen ***** (Five Stars)
I love Carl Hiassen and this (in my humble opinion) is one of his best books ever. It's got adventure and romance (!) and a sexy hero who can shoot tranquilizer darts into feral monkeys and falls like a rock for the heroine. Who doesn't love a guy in love?
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini ***** (Five Stars)
This tale of two Afghan women is as beautiful as the ending is inevitable. Less disturbingly violent (although there is violence) than The Kite Runner, this story will make you think.
You're (Not) The One by Alexandra Potter ***** (Five Stars)
What happens when "The One" gets away--and you get another chance for your happily ever after? Read this funny, startling, and thoughtful story and find out!
The Wild Beasts of Wuhan by Ian Hamilton*** (Three Stars) 2012
I enjoyed the detail about China and Hong Kong. I did not like the characters and the end of the story was deeply unsatisfactory.