Book Reviews: We Were Never Here, Violeta and Next Year in Havana

We Were Never Here by Andrea Bartz

Goodreads blurb: Emily is having the time of her life–she’s in the mountains of Chile with her best friend, Kristen, on their annual reunion trip, and the women are feeling closer than ever. But on the last night of their trip, Emily enters their hotel suite to find blood and broken glass on the floor. Kristen says the cute backpacker she’d been flirting with attacked her, and she had no choice but to kill him in self-defense. Even more shocking: The scene is horrifyingly similar to last year’s trip, when another backpacker wound up dead. Emily can’t believe it’s happened again–can lightning really strike twice? Back home in Wisconsin, Emily struggles to bury her trauma, diving head-first into a new relationship and throwing herself into work. But when Kristen shows up for a surprise visit, Emily is forced to to confront their violent past. The more Kristen tries to keep Emily close, the more Emily questions her friend’s motives. As Emily feels the walls closing in on their coverups, she must reckon with the truth about her closest friend. Can she outrun the secrets she shares with Kristen, or will they destroy her relationship, her freedom–even her life?

my take: 3 out of 5. This wasn’t my favorite thriller. It’s not bad, it just didn’t engage me. I could see things a mile coming, and I was growing exasperated as to how the girls relationship was played out. More than a thriller this is all about toxic relationships and psychological warfare which was not the mood I was in. It’s not a bad book, just not my taste for the moment.

Violeta by Isabel Allende

Goodreads blurb: Violeta comes into the world on a stormy day in 1920, the first girl in a family of five boisterous sons. From the start, her life will be marked by extraordinary events, for the ripples of the Great War are still being felt, even as the Spanish flu arrives on the shores of her South American homeland almost at the moment of her birth. Through her father’s prescience, the family will come through that crisis unscathed, only to face a new one as the Great Depression transforms the genteel city life she has known. Her family loses all and is forced to retreat to a wild and beautiful but remote part of the country. There, she will come of age, and her first suitor will come calling. . . .

She tells her story in the form of a letter to someone she loves above all others, recounting devastating heartbreak and passionate affairs, times of both poverty and wealth, terrible loss and immense joy. Her life will be shaped by some of the most important events of history: the fight for women’s rights, the rise and fall of tyrants, and, ultimately, not one but two pandemics. Told through the eyes of a woman whose unforgettable passion, determination, and sense of humor will carry her through a lifetime of upheaval, Isabel Allende once more brings us an epic that is both fiercely inspiring and deeply emotional. ( This in an ARC book review, thanks to a gift from the publisher. It comes out 1/25/22 )

My take: 4 out of 5. I was very excited to get an ARC copy to check out Isabel Allende’s new book, and found it interesting to check her out in English as I’ve only previously read her in Spanish. This An epic tale expanding the life of a woman that is 100 years old, it falls very much in line of Isabel Allendes Books, lots of family and historical drama intertwined and with the Chilean political system at a lamplight. However, unlike long petal of the sea, which tended to drag on and be a bit tedious, this book was a breeze to read and the characters very engaging. I also loved the pandemic bookmarks of the storytelling, between two pandemics, which made it relevant and telling of the time, without digging to much into it (which has become a PTSD thing for me in book). Definitely recommend it for fans of Isabel Allende and of Historical Fiction.

Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton

Goodreads blurb: After the death of her beloved grandmother, a Cuban-American woman travels to Havana, where she discovers the roots of her identity–and unearths a family secret hidden since the revolution… Havana, 1958. The daughter of a sugar baron, nineteen-year-old Elisa Perez is part of Cuba’s high society, where she is largely sheltered from the country’s growing political unrest–until she embarks on a clandestine affair with a passionate revolutionary… Miami, 2017. Freelance writer Marisol Ferrera grew up hearing romantic stories of Cuba from her late grandmother Elisa, who was forced to flee with her family during the revolution. Elisa’s last wish was for Marisol to scatter her ashes in the country of her birth. Arriving in Havana, Marisol comes face-to-face with the contrast of Cuba’s tropical, timeless beauty and its perilous political climate. When more family history comes to light and Marisol finds herself attracted to a man with secrets of his own, she’ll need the lessons of her grandmother’s past to help her understand the true meaning of courage

My take: 4.75 out of 5. Loved this book. Loved the characters, the mix of romance and historical fiction, the local and the two timelines. I was very invested in this, finished it really fast and have already gone to her next book in the Series. It has a beautiful way of blending fiction with politics, light and deep, happiness and sadness that I really enjoyed. There are so many wonderful characters I kind of want to hang out with them.

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