Reviews: BATTLE ROYAL, HOT UNDER HIS COLLAR, & DELIA SUITS UP

Happy Monday all!  After delving into a few thrillers last week, I found myself running back to the rom-coms this week for some lighter, more upbeat reads.  I had a lot of fun with all three of the books I’m sharing with you today.

 

Reviews:  BATTLE ROYAL, HOT UNDER HIS COLLAR, & DELIA SUITS UPBattle Royal (Palace Insiders, #1) Goodreads

Author: Lucy Parker

Publication Date: August 17, 2021

Publisher:  Avon

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

Lucy Parker’s new romantic comedy Battle Royal became a must-read for me as soon as I learned that it features a reality TV baking show and two rival bakers who truly cannot stand one another.  Not only are these rivals forced to serve as judges together, but there is also a battle royal where the two rivals go head-to-head as they each try to win a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to design and bake a cake for a royal wedding.   This sounded like the perfect recipe (pardon the pun) for entertainment and Lucy Parker sure delivers!

I loved the main character Sylvie Fairchild from the moment she’s introduced.  She is a charming ray of sunshine and her shining personality comes through in every whimsical, often glittery, creation that she bakes in her shop, Sugar Fair.  Four years ago, she appeared on her way to victory on the reality TV show, Operation Cake, until the famous (and sexy) pastry chef, Dominic De Vere, voted her off the show and pronounced her as lacking in talent and relying on gimmicks.  When Sylvie is offered the opportunity to serve as a judge on the same show, she reluctantly agrees to do it even though it means she’ll have to deal with Dominic again.

In addition to serving as a judge on the reality show, Dominic also owns a well-respected bakery that is often used by businesses in the area and even by the palace at times. Sylvie snarks that everything Dominic bakes is beige and colorless, just like his personality.

I loved the tension between Sylvie and Dominic as the sparks flew between them.  It became clear pretty quickly that what they were feeling for each other wasn’t hate at all and it was very entertaining to watch their relationship grow and evolve, especially as they each vie for the contract to bake the royal wedding cake. It also becomes clear that they have more in common than they ever realized, particularly as it relates to loneliness and loss.

Battle Royal also features a fabulous cast of lovable secondary characters, including Dominic’s sweet sister Pet, as well as Sylvie’s coworkers at Sugar Fair, who, although they love to snark at each other all the time, are loyal to Sylvie above all else and were definitely her found family.  These characters were all so great. I became very invested in all of them and I’m hoping we’ll see them in future books since this is apparently the beginning of a new Palace Insiders series.

If you enjoy romances that feature rivals to lovers and sunshine personalities versus grumpy, Battle Royal is the book for you!  4 STARS.

 

Reviews:  BATTLE ROYAL, HOT UNDER HIS COLLAR, & DELIA SUITS UPHot Under His Collar (The Nolans, #3) Goodreads

Author: Andie J. Christopher

Publication Date: July 20, 2021

Publisher:  Berkley Books

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

Andie J. Christopher’s new novel, Hot Under His Collar, is a forbidden romance, and the latest installment of her The Nolans series.  It focuses on Sasha Finerghty, an event planner with a bit of a problem.  She’s always drawn to what she can’t or shouldn’t have.  Her latest obsession with forbidden fruit comes in the form of a huge crush on Father Patrick Dooley.  She has drooled over the sexy priest from a far for a while now, but when she is paired up with him on a fundraising event to save the church’s pre-K program, her crush rises to a whole new level.

Father Patrick was very close to his devout mother and when she passed away, he decided to join the clergy to fulfill her dying wish.  He has questioned his choice for a while now and when he meets Sasha and realizes he is physically attracted to her, Patrick becomes even more conflicted about his path in life.

Both of these characters are super likeable and it’s very clear from their early interactions that, forbidden or not, they have major chemistry.  I had a lot of fun watching the two of them trying and failing to fight their attraction to one another.  The more time they spend together planning the fundraiser, the more opportunities there are for awkward and potentially inappropriate moments.   There are also a lot of engaging and thought-provoking internal monologues as both Sasha and Patrick reflect on what it would mean if they were to try to pursue a relationship.

The only drawback for me was that this was definitely a slow burn romance and I found myself getting impatient with them dancing around one another for so long.  I just wanted them to just hurry up and get together already so it was a little frustrating.  Even with that though, Hot Under His Collar is still a pretty fun and sexy read.  3.5 STARS

 

Reviews:  BATTLE ROYAL, HOT UNDER HIS COLLAR, & DELIA SUITS UPDelia Suits Up Goodreads

Author: Amanda Aksel

Publication Date: August 3, 2021

Publisher:  Berkley Books

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

Amanda Aksel’s new novel Delia Suits Up is a hilarious modern day take on popular films like Freaky Friday and Big, but instead of just swapping bodies, you also swap genders.  Delia Reese wants to make it big on Wall Street and she has the credentials to do it.  However, no matter how many job interviews she goes on, no one will hire her.  She becomes more and more convinced she can’t land a job because she’s a woman.  During a drunken round of Truth or Dare with her roommates, Delia says if she could change one thing about herself, she’d wish to be a man.  When she wakes up the next morning, she has gotten her wish, penis and all.

After Delia’s initial freakout and after she has convinced her roommates she’s really her and not some random stranger who has turned up in their apartment, Delia changes the name at the top of her existing resume to a man’s name, dresses up in her roommate’s best suit, and heads back to Wall Street to make something happen for herself.

You guys, this is such a fun and entertaining read! Delia is such a great character and her frustrations with job hunting are all too relatable.  She’s also really funny.  I laughed out loud so many times as she was trying to get used to her new body, and in particular, to her new appendage.  Some might consider the humor to be a bit crude at times since a lot of it revolves around exploring that appendage.  Crude or not, it’s pretty hilarious.

It’s not all just over-the top humor though. There’s obviously a more serious exploration of sexism in the workplace as Delia tries to break through into the “boy’s club” that is Wall Street.  Another layer is added to the story when Delia encounters her best friend Eric, who she also has a crush on, while she is dressed as a man and accidentally learns how Eric feels about her.   One of the only downsides for me was actually that I would have liked a lot more of Eric and Delia together because he was such a sweet guy.

If you’re looking for a fun and fast-paced read and enjoy movies like Big, Freaky Friday, and 13 Going on 30, you’ll want to check out Delia Suits Up3.5 STARS

Thriller Thursday Reviews: The Therapist & The Drowning Kind

 

Happy Thriller Thursday!  It’s Sharon, and my reviews this week are for B.A. Paris’ new book, The Therapist and Jennifer McMahon’s new book, The Drowning Kind. I loved both of these books and I am excited to share my thoughts on them.

 

Thriller Thursday Reviews: The Therapist & The Drowning KindThe Therapist Goodreads

Author: B.A. Paris

Publication Date: July 13, 2021

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

I have been a fan of B.A. Paris ever since I read her debut thriller Behind Closed Doors a few years ago. Seriously, if you want to read an amazing book, I highly recommend that one. As soon as I see she has a new book coming out I immediately add it to my To Read list and buy it as soon as it is released. This was the case with The Therapist, and it did not disappoint.

Alice and her partner Leo move into a house in The Circle, a gated community in London.  As Alice is getting to know her neighbors, she finds out that Leo never told her that the former owner, Nina Maxwell who was a therapist, was murdered in the house and her husband, Oliver, who ended up killing himself, was accused of killing her.  About twenty years ago Alice’s parents and her sister, Nina, were killed in a car accident and ever since then, whenever Alice meets another Nina, she becomes obsessed with them. This is the case with Nina Maxwell, and as she digs into Nina’s life, she discovers that Oliver may not have killed her. Alice’s neighbors, however, don’t want to talk about it. Even though they do not think Oliver killed Nina, they are willing to believe it since he killed himself once he was accused of the murder. It is a lot better to believe Oliver did it than someone else in their community. The more Alice digs and the more questions she asks, Alice finds that all of her neighbors are keeping secrets and this community is not as perfect as it seems.

I loved how Paris kept me guessing throughout this book.  Just when I thought I may know what was going on and who killed Nina, a curveball would be thrown in to point me in another direction. I love when an author keeps me on my toes and makes me suspect everyone in the book. No one in this community was above suspicion, not even Alice’s partner Leo.  Once Alice found out that Leo knew about the murder and did not tell her, she started questioning if she could ever trust him again. And she started looking into him and found that he was not all he said he was. On top of all the secrets and lies, strange things start to happen to Alice in the house. Sorry, I cannot say what they are because that would spoil things.  But add all of this together and you have a read that will have your brain all over the place.

We also get chapters from the past that are the POV of a therapist as they are having sessions with a client.  We do not know who the therapist or client is and that adds to the mystery and suspicion of Alice’s investigation. As with Alice, I was all over the place and suspected everyone. At one point I thought I had things figured out, but boy oh boy, was I wrong. By the end of the book when all was revealed, I was on the edge of my seat.

If you are a fan of B.A. Paris or if you like books that keep you guessing I highly recommend The Therapist, I don’t think you will be disappointed.    4 stars

 

Thriller Thursday Reviews: The Therapist & The Drowning KindThe Drowning Kind Goodreads

Author: Jennifer McMahon

Publication Date: April 6, 2021

Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press

I have not read anything by Jennifer McMahon in a few years, but the synopsis for The Drowning Kind jumped out at me and I had to read it. I borrowed this from the library, but this was so good that as soon as I was finished reading it, I bought a copy because I needed to have this book in my collection.

The Drowning Kind alternates in dual timelines. The first timeline is in the present and follows Jax. Jax and her sister Lexie used to visit their grandmother every summer at her estate in Brandenburg Vermont called Sparrow Crest. Jax and her sister were very close when they were younger. They would spend their summers exploring around the estate, riding their bikes into town and swimming in the pool. The pool at the estate is said to have magical powers, it is fed from underground springs that bubble up to fill the pool. When Lexie was diagnosed with bipolar Jax tried to be there for her but when it got too much for her Jax moved across the country. When their grandmother died and left Sparrow Crest to Lexie, it was too much for Jax to handle so she cut off all ties with Lexi. When Jax came home one night and she had nine missed calls with frantic voice mails from Lexi she assumed that Lexi was off her meds again. The next morning Jax gets a call from her aunt telling her Lexie has drowned in the pool. When Jax gets to the estate she finds that Lexi had been researching their family and the land the estate was built on. When Jax continues the research, she discovers that the land had a very dark and deadly history.

The second timeline starts in 1929 and follows Ethel Monroe, who married late in life and desperately wants a baby. When she and her husband take a trip to a new hotel that had opened in Brandenburg Vermont, Ethel learns of the springs that is able to cure any ailment by either drinking it or swimming in it. The springs can also grant wishes. But nothing in life is free and while the springs does give it also takes. Through this timeline we get the history of the Springs and how Sparrow Crest came to be. I don’t really want to say too much and spoil anything. But I did figure out a couple things from this timeline.

While I like the timeline in 1929, the present-day timeline with Jax was my favorite. I had so much sympathy for Jax. She felt so guilty about not taking her sister’s calls and then being back at the estate brought up so many of her childhood memories. It is from these memories that we get to know Lexie. I think Jennifer McMahon did a great job of bringing a dead character to life. Lexie’s energy just jumped off the pages. I cannot say to much about what Jax and Lexie uncovered in their research on the land, but I will say it involves drownings and ghosts.

This book was so creepy and eerie, there were a few nights that I dreamt of the book and would jolt awake and have to turn on my bedroom light to make sure no one was in my room. LOL!  The Drowning Kind was also about family, grief, and forgiveness. I actually had tears in my eyes a few times while reading.  And the ending literally had my mouth drop open and me saying out loud “What?!”   4 ½ stars

Reviews: SUCH A QUIET PLACE & FOR YOUR OWN GOOD

 

I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend.  Apologies for my absence around the blogosphere the past few days.  My son is dealing with some health issues so my blogging and blog hopping has slacked a bit while I’ve been caring for him.  I’m also slightly behind on my reviews, so these two books are actually already out in the world even though I had them as ARCs.  I’m still happy to share my thoughts on them with you though as they were both pretty solid mystery/thriller reads.

 

Reviews:  SUCH A QUIET PLACE & FOR YOUR OWN GOODSuch a Quiet Place Goodreads

Author: Megan Miranda

Publication Date: July 13, 2021

Publisher:  Simon & Schuster

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

Hollow’s Edge used to be the perfect neighborhood, a quiet serene little paradise with a tight-knit community and where nothing bad ever happened.  That is, until two of its residents, Brandon and Fiona Truett, were murdered, and a third resident, Ruby Fletcher, was convicted of their murders and sent to prison.  The loss of their neighbors is painful for most of the residents, as is living with the guilt that many of them testified against Ruby and sent her to prison.  With the shadow of those murders and the still-empty Truett house hanging over it, Hollow’s Edge has become a place no one wants to live. Tanking home values, however, have made it nearly impossible to sell their homes, so the residents are trapped.  Being stuck in Hollow’s Edge is bad enough, but it takes an even worse turn when Ruby gets out of jail and returns to the neighborhood after her conviction is overturned.  Why has she come back?  Is she truly just looking to start over or does she have revenge on her mind?

That’s the basic premise of Megan Miranda’s latest thriller, Such a Quiet Place, and it’s a riveting one.  I was glued to the pages from start to finish, trying to figure out what exactly Ruby’s motivation was for returning to the scene of the crime.  She has maintained her innocence throughout so it seems odd for her to return to the place where so many people betrayed her. The story is a bit of a slow burn in terms of the suspense and the mystery, a little too slow for my liking at times, but I really enjoyed watching all of the paranoid neighbors trying to figure out what Ruby was up to and if she was out to get them. Not only that but it starts to become clear that Hollow’s Edge was never really the idyllic setting its residents made it out to be.  Seems like everyone has at least a secret or two that they’re trying desperately to keep buried.

Ruby’s interactions with her former roommate, Harper Nash, were especially fascinating to me.  When she returns to the neighborhood, Ruby shows up on Harper’s doorstep as if she expects to pick up where they left off before the murders.  She tells Harper she has nowhere to go and Harper feels sorry for her and lets her move back in. Ruby practically takes over the place, eating Harper’s food, wearing her clothes, borrowing her car without asking, etc.  It’s almost like she’s trying to push Harper as far as she can push her, even as she professes gratitude to Harper for letting her stay there.  Harper starts to become as paranoid as the rest of the neighbors in thinking that Ruby is just biding her time before she makes someone pay for ruining her life.

I don’t want to give anything away about Ruby’s true motives, but I’ll just say that the story has plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing and it really gets wild starting with the neighborhood’s big Fourth of July bash.  If you enjoy a slow burn mystery, with lots of secrets, lies and drama, you’ll have fun reading Such a Quiet Place.  3.5 STARS.

 

Reviews:  SUCH A QUIET PLACE & FOR YOUR OWN GOODFor Your Own Good Goodreads

Author: Samantha Downing

Publication Date: July 20, 2021

Publisher:  Berkley

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

I was drawn to Samantha Downing’s latest thriller For Your Own Good because it’s set in a private school and because its synopsis promises lots of dark and twisty goodness to keep me on the edge of my seat.  This book really delivers too, especially if you enjoy a little dark comedy mixed in with your murder mysteries.  I was not only entertained from start to finish, but I also couldn’t have begun to predict the wild and unexpected ending even if I had tried.

Belmont Academy is a prestigious private school.  Wealthy parents send their children here in hopes of best preparing them for an Ivy League education.  These parents try to bully teachers into giving their children better grades, and while many teachers cave in, not Teacher of the Year, Teddy Crutcher.  Teddy thinks he knows what’s best for everyone and sometimes he feels the need to teach an entitled student a lesson, bring them down a peg or two.  Sometimes he extends those lessons to fellow teachers who annoy him too.

All Teddy really wants is for everyone to be their best and he wants everyone to just stay out of his way while he works to achieve his goal.  Things start to get especially frustrating for Teddy when a parent unexpectedly dies at a school function and everyone at school is on edge once the death is ruled a homicide.  Teddy is annoyed by this distraction since in his mind, big deal, people die every day, and he’s especially frustrated because a student he actually likes is arrested for the murder.  Teddy decides that since he knows best, he needs to fix things.

It’s actually Teddy’s “fixing” of things that hilariously drive this dark and twisty tale because, even though he clearly thinks he’s a genius, the more Teddy tries to “fix” things, the worse things get.  Then as if things aren’t bad enough for Teddy because of his failed “fixings”, a former student he decided to teach a lesson to has come back to town and is looking to take Teddy down.

What really made this a great read for me was Teddy, not because he was a likeable character by any stretch, but on the contrary, because I loved to hate him.  He’s arrogant and obnoxious, but so delightfully diabolical with the lessons and punishments he doles out.  I found him to be such a fantastic character and I enjoyed his over-the-top antics and all the twists and turns he added to the story.

I don’t want to give anything away with respect to the murder or any of the additional fallout from Teddy’s endless schemes, but if you’re looking for a read that is suspenseful, dark and twisty, yet also quite funny, be sure to check out For Your Own Good.  It’s a wild ride!  4 STARS.

Romance Reviews: Isn’t It Bromantic? & It Happened One Summer

 

I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend.  It was a quiet one here, filled with lots of quality reading time.  Today I’m sharing my thoughts one two fun romance novels, one of which, Isn’t It Bromantic? was one of my most anticipated reads of the year.  Check out my reviews and let me know if you’re planning to read either of these. 🙂

 

Romance Reviews:  Isn’t It Bromantic? & It Happened One SummerIsn't It Bromantic? (Bromance Book Club, #4) Goodreads

Author: Lyssa Kay Adams

Publication Date: July 20, 2021

Publisher:  Berkley

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

If you’ve been following my blog for awhile, you know I’m pretty obsessed with Lyssa Kay Adams contemporary romance series, Bromance Book Club, and that the latest installment Isn’t It Bromantic? is one of my most anticipated reads of 2021.

Isn’t It Bromantic? finally gives us a story featuring Vlad, aka “The Russian,” the adorable but gaseous Russian professional hockey player.  Vlad is a fan favorite, and he’s definitely my favorite character so expectations were high. I didn’t think it was possible to love Vlad more than I already did, but this book proved me wrong.  For a beast of a hockey player, Vlad is actually the softest of soft boys and quite possibly the biggest romantic on the planet.  Women love him, animals love him, and his Bromance Book Club brothers love him.  The man even writes his own romance novels!

Vlad being such a romantic makes it all the more sad that he has spent the last 6 years in a marriage of convenience with Elena, a fellow Russian and his childhood best friend.  My heart truly broke for Vlad in the opening scenes of the novel when he confesses to Elena that he’s in love with her and wants a real relationship with her, and she snubs him and tells him she’s moving back to Russia. I have to admit that this at first made me feel pretty hostile toward Elena, but once it’s revealed why she’s acting the way she does, I felt more sympathetic toward her and really wanted her and Vlad to work things out since it was pretty clear her feelings for Vlad run way deeper than she’s letting on.

I don’t want to say much else since it’s best to watch the drama of Vlad and Elena’s relationship unfold for yourself, but suffice it to say that if you’ve enjoyed the hilarious shenanigans of the Bromance Cook Club boys in the past, you’re sure to enjoy yourself this time around too. There’s also a fun new cast of secondary characters, including a sassy group of widows who call themselves the Loners and who are very protective of Vlad and the mysterious Cheese Man, who feeds Vlad’s cheese addiction.

Four books in and I’m still loving the Bromance Book Club series so much.  They’re fun, sexy, and quick reads, perfect for devouring over a weekend or a day at the beach.  Here’s hoping that there will be a fifth book in the series!  4.5 STARS

 

Romance Reviews:  Isn’t It Bromantic? & It Happened One SummerIt Happened One Summer Goodreads

Author: Tessa Bailey

Publication Date: July 13, 2021

Publisher:  Avon

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

When I saw Tessa Bailey’s latest novel, It Happened One Summer, described as a Schitt’s Creek-inspired rom-com, it immediately landed on my must-read list. Schitt’s Creek is one of my favorite television series so I’ll admit that I was a little nervous about the comparison since it creates high expectations in the humor department for me, but I’m thrilled to report that It Happened One Summer really delivers. The Schitt’s Creek-inspired part of the story involves Piper Bellinger, a Hollywood party girl and influencer, who takes her partying one step too far and lands herself in jail.  Piper’s mother and stepfather are beyond furious at her behavior and decide to cut her off from their money and send her to live in a fishing town in the Pacific Northwest.  She’ll be living in an apartment above a bar that her father used to own and will have to fend for herself for three months.  The hope is that Piper will learn there’s more to life than parties, fashion, money, and getting likes on Instagram.

The characters in It Happened One Summer are what really made me fall in love with this story.  I honestly really wanted to dislike Piper when we first meet her, just because she comes off as such a flake, but she wormed her way into my heart almost immediately.  There’s so much more to her than first meets the eye.  She’s got a huge heart, she’s a lot stronger than she thinks she is but at the same time, she has a vulnerable side as well, particularly when it comes to her own sense of self worth. I felt so much sympathy for her when she talked about how alone she feels in Hollywood, even when she’s in the middle of a crowd.  The more I got to know Piper, the more I wanted her to find happiness in this little fishing town so that she wouldn’t return to the toxic Hollywood environment.

As much as I adored Piper’s character, I loved Brendan, the sea captain, even more.  He’s big, burly, and gruff, but like with Piper, there’s so much more to him than first meets the eye. He might be a grizzly bear on the outside, but he’s soft like a teddy bear on the inside.  Brendan’s wife Desiree died seven years ago and he now devotes most of his time to helping his father-in-law keeping Desiree’s memory alive.  In essence, Brendan himself has stopped living.  That is, until he meets Piper and the sparks fly.  From the moment the two of them meet, it’s clear they are each exactly what the other needs and I was hardcore rooting for them to get together.  I don’t want to give anything away about how their relationship progresses, but I was fully invested in every page, every scene of it, even the inevitable angsty, dramatic moments of their journey.

It Happened One Summer is a sexy, flirty, romance that will leave you feeling swoony, but at the same time, it’s a hilarious read that will have you laughing out loud page after page.  It’s truly just a delightful read! 4.5 STARS

YA Review: WHERE IT ALL LANDS by Jennie Wexler

YA Review:  WHERE IT ALL LANDS by Jennie WexlerWhere It All Lands by Jennie Wexler
four-stars
Published by Wednesday Books on July 6, 2021
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 352
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

 

Jennie Wexler’s debut YA contemporary novel Where It All Lands is one of the more unique stories I’ve read recently.  It’s a story about love, friendship, missed opportunities and second chances, and it’s about how something as simple as the flip of a coin can alter the course of a person’s journey.

The story follows three teens: new girl Stevie Rosenstein and Shane and Drew, who have been best friends forever.  Both Shane and Drew find themselves drawn to Stevie and want to ask her out.  They don’t want to step on each other’s toes though and have a girl come between their friendship, so they do what they always do when they need to resolve something and move on – they flip a coin.  Whoever wins the coin flip gets to ask Stevie out and the loser steers clear.

It’s here that the story takes a unique turn because the author presents the rest of the story in a dual timeline:  in one timeline, Shane has won the coin toss and becomes involved with Stevie and in the other timeline, Drew has won and it is he who gets to ask out Stevie. I have to admit I was a little nervous when I realized it was somewhat of a love triangle, but I really loved how the author presented the relationships in each timeline. She really fleshes out all three characters and shows how sometimes even the smallest choices people make can have a huge impact on their lives and the lives of those around them.

Even though it was the unique concept of the love triangle/coin flip dual timeline that drew me to this story, what really made me love it was the cast of characters.  I adored Stevie, Shane, and Drew.  I was particularly drawn to Stevie because she had spent her whole life moving from city to city because of her father’s job.  Every time she makes friends, she immediately has to pack up and move.  She’s lonely and at this point in her life is hesitant to even bother trying to make new friends.  I felt so bad for her and was immediately rooting for her to find some great friends and convince her dad to settle in one place so she can put down roots.

I also adored Shane and Drew, especially because of their friendship.  They’ve both been through so much and no matter what, have always been each other’s number one support system.  I didn’t want them to let a girl, or anyone else for that matter, come between them, so I was anxious to see if they would really be able to abide by the rules of their coin toss or if the tension would come to a head and cost them not only Stevie, but also their lifelong friendship.  Wexler does a wonderful job creating tension and straining these relationships to the brink.  I don’t want to give away any spoilers but I’ll say that this book also had me in tears a few times.  I just became so invested in these characters that when tragedy strikes (also presented in a dual timeline with different outcomes) I was immediately a wreck.

Even though there’s definitely quite a bit of heartbreak sprinkled throughout, overall Where It All Lands is still a heartfelt and hopeful book.  If you enjoy unique stories that feature love, friendship, trust, second chances, and possibilities, you’ll want to check out Where It All Lands.

four-stars

About Jennie Wexler

Jennie Wexler spent the first part of her career producing television shows appearing on VH1, Bravo, and The Travel Channel. She has a BA in literature/rhetoric from Binghamton University and an MA in television/radio/film from The S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. Jennie’s debut young adult contemporary novel will be released on July 6th, 2021. She is a member of SCBWI and lives in New Jersey with her husband, son, and Havanese puppy.

Thriller Thursday Reviews: Survive the Night & Mother May I

 

Hi everyone!  It’s Sharon, back with another edition of Thriller Thursday. This week I am sharing my thoughts on Riley Sager’s new book, Survive The Night and Joshilyn Jackson’s new book, Mother May I. Riley Sager is a favorite author of mine, and Joshilyn Jackson is a new author for me. I loved both of these books and I am excited to share my thoughts on them.

 

Thriller Thursday Reviews: Survive the Night & Mother May ISurvive the Night Goodreads

Author: Riley Sager

Publication Date: June 29, 2021

Publisher: Dutton Books

I have been a fan of Riley Sager since I read his first thriller Final Girls so I was very excited to read his latest book Survive the Night, and I am happy to report this book did not disappoint.

When Charlie Jordan was sixteen she lost both of her parents in a car accident. It was at their funeral that something snapped in Charlie’s brain and she started seeing movies in her mind. Not movies that have been on the big screen, but the real life situations that are happening, only Charlie’s brain makes it into a movie. Everything is more vivid and the people she sees or the actions that she sees happening are not what is actually going on. These movies come when Charlie is afraid or stressed. Fast forward four years and Charlie is now in college. But a couple months ago her roommate was murdered by a serial killer called “The Campus Killer” and Charlie feels responsible because she left her alone that night. Unable to deal with all that is going on Charlie decides to go home to visit her grandmother. At the campus ride-share board she meets Josh and agrees to ride with him. But it doesn’t take long for Charlie to start doubting Josh and suspects he could be the campus killer. And so begins the game of cat and mouse as Charlie tries to figure out if Josh really is dangerous or is it just her movie filled mind.

The story takes place during the 6 hour drive, and I really liked how Sager titled each chapter almost script like, “Ext- Grand Am 10:00pm, Int- Grand Am 11:00pm, Int- Rest stop 12:00 am etc.” And even though the book is only told through a few hours, Sager also does a great job of fleshing out the characters and scenery.  We got a lot of backstories on both Charlie and Josh in the short time we know them and I really liked both characters. Okay I kept going back and forth on Josh lol.

I loved how Charlie was such an unreliable character. I didn’t know if things were really happening or if they were just movies in her mind. I also had a lot of sympathy for her, she has been through a lot between her parents dying and then her roommate’s murder, so she was a very vulnerable character. But I also loved how when push came to shove she became one badass woman.

I cannot say much about what transpired during Charlie and Josh’s drive to make Charlie suspect that Josh was a killer, but I will say I did not see a couple of the twists that took place. I was all over the place on what I thought was going to happen, on whether Josh was a good guy or a bad guy and if what I was reading was true or Charlie’s movies.

If you are a fan of Riley Sager or if you like books that keep you guessing, I definitely recommend checking out Survive the Night.  I don’t think you will be disappointed.   4 ½ stars

 

Thriller Thursday Reviews: Survive the Night & Mother May IMother May I Goodreads

Author: Joshilyn Jackson

Publication Date: April 6, 2021

Publisher: William Morrow

I have come across other books by Joshilyn Jackson that looked interesting but have never picked any of them up to read. Well I am glad I did not let Mother May I pass by because this book was awesome. I was on the edge of my seat and my heart was beating so fast the whole time I was reading.

Bree Cabbat has the perfect life. She is happily married to Trey, a corporate lawyer, and they have 2 teenage daughters and a 10 week old son, Robert. But Bree’s perfect life is about to come crashing down.  One morning she wakes up and is startled to see a gray haired old lady, all dressed in black looking in her bedroom window. She shakes it off as a trick of the light, but then she sees this lady again in the parking lot of her daughters’ school. When she was watching her oldest daughter’s school play rehearsal with her son Robert in his car seat, she turned her back on him for just a few minutes and when she looked back he was gone. Next to his bottle was a note saying “If you ever want to see your baby again, go home. Tell no one. Do not call the police. Be at your house by 5:15PM or he is gone for good.” Bree assumes Robert was abducted for a ransom, but when the old woman who took Robert calls, Bree learns his abduction is for revenge and this woman needs Bree to perform a task.

I cannot say anything about what the revenge was for or what task Bree had to perform as that is the whole plot of the story and would spoil things. But I will say once Bree performs this task it becomes a race against time to find baby Robert. And Bree and the old lady who took him play a game of cat and mouse.

Bree enlists the help of Marshall, the widow of Bree’s best friend who is an ex police officer, to help her work to try and figure out who this lady is and where she may have taken Robert and why. And it is the why that is about to make Bree’s perfect marriage and life come crumbling down. I will say the more we learn of this old lady and the reasons for her actions, I did find myself having some sympathy for her. That is not to say I thought what she was doing was right. There is no reason to put a child in jeopardy and if she wanted revenge then go to the source and leave the child alone.

I really liked how  Bree went into massive mama bear mode and would do anything to get her son back. She was an incredibly strong woman who just wanted to make sure her children were safe at any cost.

Mother May I is an adrenaline rush book that does not let up until the very end.  I am glad I chose this as my first Joshilyn Jackson read and I look forward to reading more of her books.  4 stars

Romance Review: WHILE WE WERE DATING by Jasmine Guillory

Romance Review:  WHILE WE WERE DATING by Jasmine GuilloryWhile We Were Dating by Jasmine Guillory
Also by this author: Royal Holiday (The Wedding Date, #4), Party of Two
four-stars
Series: The Wedding Date #6
Published by Berkley Books on July 13, 2021
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Romance
Pages: 336
Also in this series: Royal Holiday (The Wedding Date, #4), Party of Two
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

While We Were Dating is the sixth book in Jasmine Guillory’s popular contemporary romance series, The Wedding Date. I’m a big fan of this series so I’m thrilled to report that Guillory’s latest is just as delightfully sexy and swoony as its five predecessors.  One of the things I love about this series is that even though the books are loosely interconnected and characters sometimes make appearances in later books in the series, each book still works quite well as a standalone.  While We Were Dating follows Hollywood actress Anna Gardiner and Ben Stephens, an up and coming executive at an ad agency.  For those familiar with the series, Ben is the younger brother of Theo Stephens who appears in The Wedding Party.  Theo and his girlfriend Maddie also make an appearance in this story.

Guillory always does a wonderful job of crafting main characters that are likeable, relatable, and that have undeniable chemistry between them and Anna and Ben are no exception here.  Anna has been struggling with anxiety recently and so has had to put her acting career on the backburner.  She feels ready to take on the world again and is determined to take control of both her career and her personal life and mount a comeback.  I loved Anna right away because while she may be ultra-famous, she’s not a diva at all.  While she’s clearly aware of how talented she is, there’s never a time when she tries to act like she’s more entitled than anyone else. I loved how down-to-earth she is.  She’s also funny, sexy, sassy, and smart, so there’s plenty about her to love.

Anna meets Ben when the ad agency he works for decides to make a pitch for a campaign that is going to feature Anna. Ben usually takes a backseat when it comes to pitching big campaigns like this one, but when his colleagues are delayed in getting to the pitch meeting, it’s finally Ben’s turn to shine in the spotlight.  And shine he does!  Ben is charming, sexy, funny, and he’s also very good at his job.  The chemistry between Anna and Ben becomes immediately apparent during the meeting. In fact, Anna is so impressed by Ben that she tells the campaign heads that she wants Ben’s agency but only if Ben runs the show.

I loved watching Anna and Ben grow closer and especially enjoyed that their relationship wasn’t just all about the sex.  Sure, there were plenty of swoony sexy scenes between them sprinkled throughout, but there are also many heartfelt discussions as they discuss their families as well as their own mental health struggles.  Both Anna and Ben regularly see therapists and they have some very healthy discussions about why they do.  In addition to the sexy and the heartfelt moments, there are also some downright comical moments that involve road trips, fake dating, as well as shenanigans to avoid the paparazzi.

I don’t want to spoil anything so I’m going to stop now, but as with all of the other books in this series, I just had a lot of fun reading While We Were Dating.  It’s one of those stories that just has something for everyone and it just left me feeling so content when I reached the last page.

four-stars

About Jasmine Guillory

Jasmine Guillory is a graduate of Wellesley College and Stanford Law School. She is a Bay Area native who has towering stacks of books in her living room, a cake recipe for every occasion, and upwards of 50 lipsticks.

Review: THE FOREST OF VANISHING STARS by Kristin Harmel

Review:  THE FOREST OF VANISHING STARS by Kristin HarmelThe Forest of Vanishing Stars by Kristin Harmel
Also by this author: The Room on Rue Amélie
five-stars
Published by Gallery Books on July 6, 2021
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 384
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

 

Kristin Harmel is fast becoming one of my favorite authors of WWII historical fiction.  I love how she always manages to uncover and shine a spotlight on some aspect of the war, and in particular of the various Resistance movements, that I was completely unaware of.  In the case of her latest novel, The Forest of Vanishing Stars, Harmel’s subject matter are groups of Jewish refugees who flee from the Nazis and try to survive by hiding in the vast forests of Poland. The author’s note at the end of the novel is just as fascinating a read as the book itself because Harmel shares the details of her research, including information about the real-life groups of Jewish refugees she based her fictional groups on.

The Forest of Vanishing Stars centers on a young woman named Yona who is stolen from her crib by an elderly Jewish woman when she is only two years old.  It is unclear at first what the old woman’s motivation is. She seems to have some mystical powers that allow her to see the future and she “sees” that Yona is destined for something special and that she must teach her so that she is ready when the time comes.  The old woman raises Yona in the forest and gives her what seems like the oddest of educations.  She teaches her all about how to survive in the forest – how to build various kinds of shelters, how to gather and preserve food, how to use plants and herbs for medicinal purposes, and how to defend herself.  She also teaches Yona many languages: Polish, German, and Russian to name a few. The old woman dies soon after Yona’s education is complete and she is left to wonder what exactly she is meant to do with all she has learned.  It soon becomes clear when she encounters a large group of Jewish refugees fleeing for their lives deep in the forest.  They are doing everything wrong and if they continue as they are, they will all surely perish.  Yona makes it her mission to ensure that they all survive and begins to teach them everything she knows about living off the land and about how to stay hidden.

The survival aspect of the story is definitely compelling enough in its own right, but I especially adored the character of Yona.  She is such a special young woman and I loved how fully she devoted herself to caring for this group of people even though they are complete strangers and she could be executed if she is caught helping them. I admired her bravery and her selflessness.  I also became quite attached to the group of refugees.  They are all so eager to learn everything Yona has to teach them and they become just as devoted to her as she is to them.  They become a family and it’s just beautiful to see that bond form when everything around them is so dark and treacherous.

Made all the more poignant by Harmel’s characters and her exquisite storytelling, The Forest of Vanishing Stars is a story of strength, resilience, love, family, and sacrifice.  If you think you’ve read it all when it comes to WWII historical fiction, I highly recommend giving Kristin Harmel’s novels a try.  I’ve enjoyed all that I’ve read from Harmel so far and The Forest of Vanishing Stars is my favorite yet; it’s a real gem.

five-stars

About Kristin Harmel

Kristin Harmel is the New York Times bestselling, USA Today bestselling, and #1 international bestselling author of The Book of Lost Names, The Winemaker’s Wife, and a dozen other novels that have been translated into twenty-nine languages and are sold all over the world.

A former reporter for PEOPLE magazine, Kristin has been writing professionally since the age of 16, when she began her career as a sportswriter, covering Major League Baseball and NHL hockey for a local magazine in Tampa Bay, Florida in the late 1990s. After stints covering health and lifestyle for American Baby, Men’s Health, and Woman’s Day, she became a reporter for PEOPLE magazine while still in college and spent more than a decade working for the publication, covering everything from the Super Bowl to high-profile murders to celebrity interviews. Her favorite stories at PEOPLE, however, were the “Heroes Among Us” features—tales of ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

In addition to a long magazine writing career (which also included articles published in Travel + Leisure, Glamour, Ladies’ Home Journal, Every Day with Rachael Ray, and more), Kristin was also a frequent contributor to the national television morning show The Daily Buzz and has appeared on Good Morning America and numerous local television morning shows.

Kristin was born just outside Boston, Massachusetts and spent her childhood there, as well as in Columbus, Ohio, and St. Petersburg, Florida. After graduating with a degree in journalism (with a minor in Spanish) from the University of Florida, she spent time living in Paris and Los Angeles and now lives in Orlando, with her husband and young son. She is also the co-founder and co-host of the weekly web show and podcast Friends & Fiction.

Thriller Review: RAZORBLADE TEARS by S.A. Cosby

Thriller Review:  RAZORBLADE TEARS by S.A. CosbyRazorblade Tears by S.A. Cosby
Also by this author: Blacktop Wasteland
five-stars
Published by Flatiron Books on July 6, 2021
Genres: Fiction, Thriller
Pages: 336
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

 

S.A. Cosby’s high octane crime thriller Blacktop Wasteland was one of my favorite reads of 2020, and as high as my expectations were for his follow up novel, Razorblade Tears, I was pretty sure there was no way he could top Blacktop Wasteland.  I was dead wrong though because Razorblade Tears is one of the most powerful and provocative books I’ve ever read.  It’s a story about loss and grief, revenge and justice, and it’s also a story about regret and about learning from the mistakes of your past.

Set in Virginia, the story follows ex-cons Ike Randolph and Buddy Lee Jenkins.  On the surface it would appear these two men have nothing in common aside from their criminal pasts.  Ike is a Black man who used to run with a gang, while Buddy is, as he refers to himself, redneck, white trash. What these two men do have in common though is their sons, a married gay couple, both of whom were brutally murdered.  What they also have in common is that both men let their homophobia prevent them from having loving relationships with their boys and now they’re filled with regret because they can no longer make things right between them.

Most of the book focuses on Ike and Buddy Lee’s quest to bring their sons’ killers to justice and their road to justice is paved with violence, blood and gore as well as coarse language as Ike and Buddy Lee encounter some pretty rough crowds.  To put it mildly, it’s an intense read that isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s also a fast-paced adrenaline rush that I devoured in a day because I just had to know who was responsible for the murders and whether or not Ike and Buddy Lee would bring them down.

Razorblade Tears, as its name implies, is also a story that is filled with pain, grief and raw emotion and it’s this angle that really took this book to the next level for me. These two fathers know they made terrible mistakes when it came to their sons and how they refused to just love them and accept them for who they were.  Both Ike and Buddy Lee desperately wish they could go back and do things differently.  I enjoyed reading their journey, both as they became unlikely friends bonding over this tragedy and as they both try to learn from their mistakes and become better men. This personal journey of growth made for such an interesting contrast with the gritty violence of their revenge quest.

With Blacktop Wasteland and Razorblade Tears, S.A. Cosby has proven he’s a force to be reckoned with in the crime thriller genre.  I highly recommend both books if you’re looking for a powerful read that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

five-stars

About S.A. Cosby

S. A. Cosby is a writer from Southeastern Virginia. He won the 2019 Anthony Award for Best Short Story for “The Grass Beneath My Feet”, and his previous books include Brotherhood of the Blade and My Darkest Prayer. He resides in Gloucester, Virginia. When not writing, he is an avid hiker and chess player.

Romance Reviews: TO SIR, WITH LOVE & ONCE UPON A ROYAL SUMMER

Happy Monday!  Today I’m sharing my thoughts on two fantastic contemporary romances that I devoured this weekend.  This was my first time reading a novel from Lauren Layne even though I’ve wanted to for ages, and this was my second novel from Teri Wilson, whose novel The Accidental Beauty Queen I fell in love with a couple of years ago. Also, how cute are these covers together? I just noticed they’re color-coordinated as I was putting this post together, lol.

 

Romance Reviews:  TO SIR, WITH LOVE & ONCE UPON A ROYAL SUMMERTo Sir, with Love Goodreads

Author: Lauren Layne

Publication Date: June 29, 2021

Publisher:  Gallery Books

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

I’ve been wanting to read one of Lauren Layne’s contemporary romances for a while now, and when I saw her latest book, To Sir, With Love, being compared to You’ve Got Mail, one of my favorite films, I knew this was the book for me.

The premise of the story is a fun one.  Main characters, Gracie Cooper and Sebastian Andrews, meet on a dating app and really hit it off.  They haven’t exchanged real names, only referring to themselves as Sir and Lady, and have not met in person, but they regularly correspond through the app and it’s clear they have great chemistry.  There’s just one catch.  Gracie and Sebastian do know each other in real life, and Gracie can’t stand Sebastian.  She thinks he’s nothing more than a greedy corporate big shot who is trying to force her to sell her family’s struggling champagne business.

I had so much fun reading this story.  I loved the contrast between the friendly and flirty messages Sir and Lady send to one another versus the outright sparks that fly between Gracie and Sebastian every time they interact.  I also loved watching Gracie’s feelings toward Sebastian evolve as she gradually starts to realize he isn’t the monster she had made him out to be in her head.  I love a good enemies to lovers story so I was completely invested in the changing status of their very entertaining relationship.

In addition to the relationship between Gracie and Sebastian and their alter egos, Sir and Lady, there’s also a big focus on family that I loved.  Gracie’s two siblings feature prominently as they are also part owners of the family business, even though they’ve pretty much abandoned Gracie to run it alone while they live their own lives.  There’s a bit of family drama around that, but I did love the bond between these siblings and how they’re able to come together and have an honest and supportive discussion about what to do when it becomes clear the store may not make it.  There’s also a wonderful cast of secondary characters who work in the shop with them, as well as Gracie’s neighbor Keva, a quirky chef who pops in at all hours. They all add an extra layer of fun and humor to the story.

There’s also a very important message about the importance of living your own life and following your dreams and passions.   Gracie didn’t want to let her father down since it was his dying wish that they keep the business in the family, but it was his passion, not hers. Gracie’s struggle with that is a struggle I think many readers will relate to.

I truly loved everything about To Sir, With Love, from its Manhattan setting to waiting with anticipation to see what would happen once Gracie and Sebastian realized their connection through the dating app.  The reading experience was everything I hoped it would be and more and I look forward to reading more from Lauren Layne. 5 STARS

 

Romance Reviews:  TO SIR, WITH LOVE & ONCE UPON A ROYAL SUMMEROnce Upon a Royal Summer: A delightful royal romance from Hallmark Publishing Goodreads

Author: Teri Wilson

Publication Date: June 15, 2021

Publisher:  Hallmark Publishing

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

The tagline on the cover of Teri Wilson’s new contemporary romance, Once Upon a Royal Summer, describes it as “A theme park princess. A real-life prince.” As a Disney fanatic and a romantic at heart, I couldn’t resist the story’s premise and its promise of a modern-day fairy tale.  And boy does it deliver!

Wilson grabbed my attention and my heartstrings from the opening pages when we meet Lacey, who works at Once Upon a Time theme park in Florida as Princess Sweetpea.  We learn that Lacey’s mom passed away when Lacey was seven and that one of the few joys she had during her mom’s many hospital stays were princesses who would come around and visit the children to keep their spirits up.  Lacey remembers how special they made her feel and now she wants to pay that forward by doing her best to make special moments for as many children as she can. I had tremendous sympathy for her for losing her mom so young and I just loved how big-hearted she is.

Our real-life Prince Charming, Prince Henry of Bella-Moritz, is also a lovable character.  Henry has brought his young daughter, Princess Rose, to Florida to celebrate her birthday and to let her have a few days where she can just be a normal little girl, without all the pressures of being a Royal, which have already started to bear down on her.  When Lacey first meets Henry and Rose, she has no idea who they are.  All she sees is a girl who loves princesses and a single dad doing his best to give his daughter the time of her life.  Henry’s devotion to his daughter just melted my heart and I just knew from the moment we met him that he would be perfect for Lacey. I was so happy to see sparks between them as soon as they met.

After their initial meeting, Lacey is informed who Henry and Rose are and is charged with giving these VIP guests a magical vacation. I adored watching Lacey spend time with Rose.  She brings out the best in her and also makes her happy in a way Henry hasn’t seen since Rose’s mom died.  And she does the same with Henry. Henry and Lacey share so many sweet, romantic and flirty moments. At first neither of them can tell if it’s just the magic of the theme park or if there’s really something between them, but the answer soon becomes clear and I was loving every minute of it because I’m just such a sucker for the royal falling for a commoner trope!

There’s so much to love about this story beyond just Lacey, Rose, and Henry.  I also really enjoyed the magical, romantic setting, which is split between the theme park and Henry’s charming kingdom of Bella-Moritz.  It’s a picture-perfect backdrop for romance.  I also loved the fabulous secondary characters, including Ava, Lacey’s best friend who works as  Little Red Riding Hood at the theme park, and Ian, Prince Henry’s bodyguard, who is like an uncle to Princess Rose and who according to Ava, looks like a long-lost Hemsworth brother.  The Queen is also a pretty great character as she struggles between what is “right and proper” for royals, but is also a caring mother and grandmother who just wants her son and granddaughter to be happy and loved.

If you’re into modern-day fairytales that will warm your heart and leave a smile on your face, I highly recommend Once Upon a Royal Summer.  I devoured the story in less than a day so it’s a perfect choice to throw in your bag for a weekend at the beach or to read poolside.  4.5 STARS