Reviews: FANGIRL DOWN & NOT YOUR CRUSH’S CAULDRON

 

Hey everyone! Sorry for disappearing yet again.  I had yet another blog issue where Jetpack kept disconnecting from my site therefore removing all of my posts from the wpreader.  Jetpack has been such a hot mess ever since they started monetizing it and I would really love to dump it but all of my blog stats are tied to it so I feel stuck.  It has been one thing after another with it for the past few months and I just needed to step away and take a deep breath before I did something drastic like delete my entire blog, haha.  It seems to be working now so I’m carrying on and hoping for the best because I really do have a lot of reviews and book recs I want to share with you!

 

Reviews: FANGIRL DOWN & NOT YOUR CRUSH’S CAULDRONFangirl Down (Big Shots, #1) Goodreads

Author: Tessa Bailey

Publication Date: February 13, 2024

Publisher: Avon

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary e-copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley and a complimentary ALC from Libro.fm.  All opinions are my own.

 

Fangirl Down is a golf romance and the first book in Tessa Bailey’s new “Big Shots” series.  I’m fairly new to sports romances and even though I’ve enjoyed all that I’ve read so far, I wasn’t sure if a golf romance would be my thing. I love Tessa Bailey’s books though so I knew if anyone could win me over, it would be her.  Not only did she win me over, but Fangirl Down is actually my new favorite book from her.

I fell in love with the premise of the story right away, that Wells Whittaker, a down-on-his-luck pro golfer ends up turning to his biggest fan to help him out of his slump.  I also adored the main female character from the first moment we meet her.  Josephine “Joey” Doyle is smart, sassy, upbeat, loyal to a fault, and she probably knows more about golf than even Wells does.

I wanted to hate Wells at first because he was so unpleasant to Joey, but just like Joey’s charm quickly won Wells over, his newfound appreciation of Joey once he finally stopped having a pity party and opened his eyes won me over.  He especially won me over though when he learned that Joey is a diabetic who has been rationing her medical supplies to save money.  Once she agrees to caddy for him and help him out of his slump, he becomes determined to mount a comeback and split his earnings with her so that she can afford to take care of her health and buy the supplies she needs.

I’m a big fan of the “he fell first” trope and so I enjoyed every moment of watching Wells realize what an absolute gem of a person Joey is.  She’s not just a great caddy, but the more time they spend together, the more Wells appreciates that Joey is the perfect partner for him in every way. Throw in some of Tessa Bailey’s fun banter and plenty of sexy, steamy moments and Fangirl Down was a hole-in-one for me!

The audiobook was narrated by Callie Dalton and I highly recommend it because Dalton does such a wonderful job of bringing these two characters to life and making their banter and chemistry just pop!  It was also a very comfortable listen at a speed of 1.75x.

4.5 STARS

 

Reviews: FANGIRL DOWN & NOT YOUR CRUSH’S CAULDRONNot Your Crush's Cauldron (Supernatural Singles, #3) Goodreads

Author: April Asher

Publication Date: February 13, 2024

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffn

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary e-copy and an ALC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

 

Not Your Crush’s Cauldron is the third book in April Asher’s paranormal romance series, Supernatural Singles, and it focuses on the youngest Maxwell sister, Olive. Unlike her sisters who are major players in the magical community, Olive has chosen to teach about the supernatural rather than to actively take part. When she assigns a project to her students that requires them to step out of their comfort zones, she decides that it’s time for her to do the same and creates a to-do list of challenging tasks that will accomplish just that.

Bax Donovan, a Guardian Angel, is Olive’s friend, long time secret crush, and now also her roommate. Bax is the pierced, tattooed, motorcycle-riding opposite to Olive’s shy, introverted personality but the two of them still have amazing chemistry.

Bax finds himself in an uncomfortable situation when something on Olive’s to-do list puts her on the Guardian Angel Affairs radar as needing protection and they make her Bax’s assignment. Bax is not allowed to tell Olive she’s his assignment, so he decides to accompany her as a friend to help her complete the tasks on her list.

There’s just one problem with that – the more time they spend together, the more Bax and Olive realize they have more than friendly feeiings toward each other, which is another no-no for Bax as her Guardian Angel. Is an HEA possible for them?

This one was so much fun! I enjoyed being back in this world and seeing Olive’s sisters again, and I also really loved the chemistry, and especially the fun banter between Bax and Olive. They’re just so cute together. I also loved that underlying tension that comes with forbidden love. It really made for a fantastic read that I couldn’t put down.

The audiobook was narrated by Zura Johnson who did a beautiful job capturing all aspects of the relationship between Bax and Olive and really enhanced my reading experience. 4 STARS

Reviews – THE BRIGHT SPOT & RED STRING THEORY

 

Hey everyone!  Well, we’ve made it through another week. I can’t decide if the year is already flying by or if it’s dragging, but all I know is that I’m ready for some warmer weather. The older I get, the less I like the cold.  Anyway, today I’m back to share a couple of romance reads that I enjoyed this month.  I’m so late to the Jill Shalvis game, but I am really loving her Sunrise Cove series.  I want to read some of her backlist titles but the list is overwhelming. If anyone has a rec for which series I should try next, let me know!  I’m also sharing my thoughts on Lauren Kung Jessen’s latest novel, which is just as much of a gem as her debut was last year.  Let me know if you have read either of these!

 

Reviews – THE BRIGHT SPOT & RED STRING THEORYThe Bright Spot (Sunrise Cove, #5) Goodreads

Author: Jill Shalvis

Publication Date:  January 16, 2024

Publisher: Avon

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

 

The Bright Spot is the fifth book in Jill Shalvis’ heartwarming Sunrise Cove series.  As with the other books in the series, The Bright Spot is set in the picturesque Lake Tahoe region and even though it’s part of a series, it works quite well as a standalone.

Luna Wright, adopted at birth, grew up knowing little about her biological family.  She has created a home and family for herself at Apple Ridge Farm, the charming but struggling farm she has managed for years.  When the crotchety owner Silas passes away suddenly, Luna is surprised to find that she has inherited one half of the farm. The other half is under the control of his investment manager, Jameson Hayes, who arrives unexpectedly to help Luna save the farm.   Luna doesn’t trust him but is willing to do whatever it takes to save her beloved farm so she and Jameson begin to forge an uneasy alliance.

There’s so much to love about this book. Apple Ridge Farm is just the most perfect setting, filled with adorable rescue animals, including a baby goat named Dammit Ziggy who had me laughing from the very first page of the book.  There’s also a quirky and lovable cast of secondary characters who all adore Luna and think she’s amazing, even when she doesn’t see it for herself.  The found family vibes on this farm are everything!

I also just loved watching Luna find her way, especially after several big secrets Silas was keeping are discovered after his death and practically turn her life upside down.  Jameson has some issues that he is working through as well so in many ways, the story is a journey of self-discovery for them both.  I also enjoyed the two of them interacting.  Once they get past those initial trust issues, it was lovely to watch them start to grow closer. I loved the easy banter between them and that they worked together so well as a team.

If you’re in the mood for a heartwarming story, you can’t go wrong with The Bright Spot! 4 STARS

 

Reviews – THE BRIGHT SPOT & RED STRING THEORYRed String Theory Goodreads

Author: Lauren Kung Jessen

Publication Date: January 9, 2024

Publisher: Forever

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

 

Red String Theory is the latest romance novel from Lauren Kung Jessen. I really enjoyed her debut, Lunar Love, so I was eager to read this new one, an opposites-attract romance that explores the idea of whether or not some people are fated to be together.

Rooney is a Chinese-American artist who wholeheartedly believes in the Chinese legend that everyone is tied to their soulmate by the red string of fate.  She believes in this idea so passionately that she has even created an outdoor art exhibit that is inspired by it.  Jack is a NASA engineer who is all about science and facts.  He doesn’t believe in fate at all but on a trip to New York, he happens across Rooney’s red string art and is very intrigued by it.

When Jack later meets Rooney, he has no idea that she is the red string artist, but the two of them really hit it off and end up spending the most magical night seeing all of the sights around the city and just enjoying each other’s company.  By the end of that night, they both feel that they have a special connection and Jack tells Rooney his number so that they can keep in touch after he heads back home.  Sadly, Rooney mistypes the phone number and Jack is lost to her. When fate unexpectedly reunites them months later as coworkers, Rooney is convinced that this is a sign and that Jack must be her soulmate.

I really enjoyed this one. I’m always on the fence about whether or not I believe in fate, so as Jack and Rooney find themselves debating the topic, I could understand where they were both coming from since they were each voicing some of my own thoughts on the subject.  Ultimately though, I just loved them together so much that I was just rooting for them to find a way to agree to disagree and just be happy together.

Jack and Rooney’s magical night in NYC was a highlight of Red String Theory for me, as was the inclusion of so many elements from Chinese culture.  This was a sweet romance, but at the same time, a thought provoking read, which is a combination I enjoy.  I look forward to reading more from Lauren Kung Jessen.  4 STARS

Thriller Thursday Reviews: For the Last Time & The Engagement Party

 

Happy February everyone! It’s Thursday, so that means another edition of Sharon’s Thriller Thursday. This week I am happy to share my thoughts on For the Last Time by Heidi Perks and The Engagement Party by Darby Kane. I really enjoyed both of these books.

 

Thriller Thursday Reviews: For the Last Time & The Engagement PartyFor the Last Time Goodreads

Author: Heidi Perks

Publication Date: December 5, 2023

Publisher: Crooked Lane Books

Erin and Will Harding had a perfect marriage, that is until one Valentine’s Day when something triggered Erin and now she no longer trusts Will. They decide to go to marriage counseling, but walking into the office of Maggie Day could be the worst mistake they made. During one of their sessions Erin mentions something that is connected to Maggie’s past and Maggie is determined to figure out what Erin knows, even if that means crossing ethical lines and putting Erin’s life in jeopardy. That is the premise of Heidi Park’s latest book, For the Last Time, and what a read it was.

The story opens with the prologue in which Erin has been rushed to the hospital after being struck by a car and left on the side of the road in a hit and run. She has severe internal injuries and is in a coma. What was Erin doing out so late at night on such a deserted road? Detective Lynsey Clayton is assigned to the case and after her preliminary interviews with Will and Erin’s best friend, Zoe, it looks like this may not have been an accident and someone deliberately ran Erin down. The book then jumps back six months, to Valentines Day and is told from the POV of Erin and Maggie and at the end of some of the chapters the story jumps to the present and the investigation.

I really liked getting the build up to the accident and learning more about what is going on in Erin and Will’s lives. I really liked Erin, but at times I did find that she was an unreliable character and I think that added to the mystery of the story. Erin accuses Will of doing all sorts of things and he denies them all, which had me thinking that he was gaslighting her. I had a lot of sympathy for Erin, as something was definitely going on, but no one believed her. Not even her best friend Zoe. Whenever Erin voiced her concerns about Will to Zoe, Zoe would defend him. Which shot up red flags to me.

I started out liking Maggie. Her sister was killed twenty years ago, and she has been carrying around that grief, since Maggie is the one that was supposed to be keeping an eye on her. The murderer was caught and convicted, but now that he is about to go before the parole board, Maggie is starting to have doubts that he is guilty. When Erin mentions something that connects to her sister’s murder she becomes obsessed with finding out what Erin knows. And it is here that I started to not like Maggie so much. LOL! I understand she wants the truth for her sister, but she did not have Erin’s best interest at heart.

For the Last Time was full of twists and turns and I didn’t know what to believe or who to trust at times. By the end of the book the tension ramped up and I was on the edge of my seat and couldn’t wait to find out what was going to happen.   4 stars

 

Thriller Thursday Reviews: For the Last Time & The Engagement PartyThe Engagement Party Goodreads

Author: Darby Kane

Publication Date: December 5, 2023

Publisher: William Morrow

I have loved all the books I have read by Darby Kane, so I was excited for her newest book, The Engagement Party. This was described as, And Then There Were None meets I Know What You Did Last Summer and I think that was a perfect description.

Twelve years ago, Emily Hunt was found dead floating in a river near her college campus. Her death was ruled a murder and the police focused their suspicions on a quiet, shy student Brendan Clarke. A week later Brendan committed suicide and even though he was never convicted, that convinced everyone he was guilty. Twelve years later Emily’s closest friends; Mitch, Will, Alex, and Cassandra, are getting together on a secluded island in Maine to celebrate Will’s engagement to Ruthie. However, someone has other intensions and this someone wants to find out the truth about what happened to Emily. When a storm comes in and strands the group on the island and then a body is found in the trunk of a car with a note, time to tell the truth, it becomes clear that this group of friends know more than they are saying, and they are all hiding secrets.  To survive the night and stop a killer, this group will have to come face to face with their past.

This story is told from the POV of Ruthie, Alex, and Sierra. Sierra is Mitch’s guest, they work with each other and though they won’t admit it, they have feelings for each other as well.  Sierra and Mitch were the only two characters I really liked, and I hoped they would survive and finally get together.

Right off the bat we know that Ruthie has a hidden agenda, but things do not go as she planned. She planned somethings for this weekend, but not the murders. So, who else is on this island and is taking Ruthie’s plan and expanding it?

As with all slasher books I have read, I found myself yelling at the characters and asking how they can be so stupid. LOL!  Stay together people, do not break up into groups and do not go out by yourself. And if you happen to escape from would be killer, arm yourself so when you face them again, which you know you will, you will be able to defend yourself. Hahahaha!

We also get excerpts from a book someone is writing that gives a backstory on what happened twelve years ago. Between these excerpts, the secrets that are revealed and the body count that starts to rise, I was on the edge of my seat and my adrenaline was pumping the whole time I was reading.

The Engagement Party was a fast-paced read, full of twists and turns. There was a twist at the end that I need to give Darby Kane two thumbs up for. I so did not see that coming.   4 stars

Reviews: EVER AFTER ALWAYS & WITH YOU FOREVER

 

Hey everyone!  I hope your week is going well and that you’re finishing the month with some amazing reads.  I had a pretty great reading month and one of the major highlights for me was continuing to read the Bergman Brothers series.  This one had been on my TBR for a few years, but it wasn’t until Berkley started re-releasing the books with these gorgeous new covers that I was convinced to finally take the plunge.

 

Reviews: EVER AFTER ALWAYS & WITH YOU FOREVEREver After Always (The Bergman Brothers #3) Goodreads

Author: Chloe Liese

Publication Date: Originally published January 12, 2021, Rereleased on January 2, 2024

Publisher: Berkley

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

 

I started reading Chloe Liese’s Bergman Brothers series late last year and it’s quickly becoming one of my favorite romance series.  I reviewed the first two books in the series over on my instagram account but wanted to spread my love for the series here as well, especially since books 3 and 4 are my favorites so far.

Ever After Always actually features Freya, a Bergman sister.  We meet Freya and her husband Aiden in the earlier books and learn so much more about them here.  I loved their relationship in those earlier books so my heart sank when I started reading this one and realized they actually have a marriage in crisis.  I thought Liese did a fabulous job in this book of giving accurate portrayal of the fact that marriage is hard sometimes no matter how much a couple loves each other.  I found all of the struggles that Freya and Aiden went through to be very realistic and relatable, and the range of intense emotions both of them experience felt so authentic.

After seeing Aiden play the fun matchmaker in the first book, my heart especially broke for him in this story. We learn that Aiden grew up poor and when he and Freya start talking about having a baby, it triggers a deep fear within him that he will not be a good provider for a growing family.  Instead of talking to Freya about his fears, Aiden chooses to keep them all bottled up, which then puts a tremendous strain on their relationships because Freya can tell he’s keeping something from her.  The lack of communication was frustrating but again, very realistic.

I also thought it was fabulous that Liese has them actually choose to go to marriage counseling and that we get to sit in on one of their appointments.  I loved that they were both willing to put in the work to try to get their relationship back on track. I’ve not seen marriage counseling in a romance novel before and again, I really appreciated the authenticity.

One last highlight for me is, of course, the whole Bergman family.  I adore this family and Liese has brought them to life so vividly that I feel like I actually know them.  I just love how they have accepted Aiden as one of their own, and they aren’t letting his marriage fall apart without a fight.

If you’re a fan of marriage in crisis stories and second chance romances, you’ll definitely want to take a chance on Ever After Always.  4.5 STARS

 

Reviews: EVER AFTER ALWAYS & WITH YOU FOREVERWith You Forever Goodreads

Author: Chloe Liese

Publication Date: Originally published September 14, 2021, Rereleased on January 23, 2024

Publisher: Berkley

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

 

I’ve probably said this with every book I’ve read in this series so far, but I’m saying it again. I’m obsessed with the Bergman Brothers!

I just love how heartfelt each of the stories in the series are, but that they are also infused with a bit of humor. With You Forever definitely falls on the less humorous end of the scale, but wow, did it have my whole heart! I really liked Rooney Sullivan and Axel Bergman when we first met them in earlier books, but fell head over heels for them here.

Rooney is an outgoing ray of sunshine even in spite of the fact that she is dealing with an often debilitating chronic illness. Axel is her polar opposite in many ways, quiet, reserved and a bit broody. But he’s also sweet and gorgeous and Rooney has had a secret crush on him forever. When Rooney needs a quiet getaway and ends up staying at the Bergman’s cozy A-frame, right next door to Axel, it soon becomes clear that he also has a crush on Rooney. When Rooney overhears that Axel can’t inherit money he desperately needs for his business unless he’s married, Rooney volunteers to help him out with that.

Watching Rooney and Axel spend more and more time together as they pretended to be a couple truly melted my heart since it was so obvious how much they really did care for one another. I especially loved when Axel confesses to Rooney that some of the reason why he’s the way he is is because he’s autistic and when Rooney shares with him the details of her chronic illness and how it impacts her life. The two of them are so gentle with one another and so respectful and understanding that I actually cried more than once because they were just so freaking perfect together.

I don’t want to give away anything else, but if you’re a fan of grumpy sunshine, opposites attract, marriage of convenience, and/or forced proximity romances and also love when an author does a wonderful job with autism rep and chronic illness rep, please go read this book. It’s amazing! 5 STARS

Thriller Thursday Reviews: First Lie Wins & That’s Not My Name

 

Hi Everyone, It’s Sharon back with another edition of Thriller Thursday.  One of my favorite things with reading is finding authors that are new to me and this week I have two such authors. I am very excited to share my thoughts on First Lie Wins, by Ashley Elston and That’s Not My Name, buy Megan Lally. I loved both of these books and look forward to reading more from these authors.

 

Thriller Thursday Reviews: First Lie Wins & That’s Not My NameFirst Lie Wins Goodreads

Author: Ashley Elston

Publication Date: January 2, 2024

Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books

I love when I am scrolling through new releases on Goodreads and come across a book by an author I have never read before, and it sounds like it would be an enjoyable read, so I give it a try and it turns out to be an awesome read. That is exactly what happened with First Lie Wins by Ashley Elston.

The story centers around Evie Porter. Only Evie Porter is not her real name, in fact Evie Porter doesn’t really exist. Evie got her identity from her mysterious boss, Mr. Smith. Evie does not know who Mr. Smith really is, but he helped her out of a bind eight years ago and she has been working for him ever since. So, what does Evie do for Mr. Smith? Well, she pretty much is a con artist. Every job is different, but when needed Mr. Smith gives Evie a new identity and location to move to. Once Evie has learned all she can about the location and the people who live there, she is then given the identity of her mark and what she either needs to find out about them or steal from them. Evie is good at what she does, but on her last job she failed and was not able to retrieve what Mr. Smith wanted, so she is not in his good favor at the moment, so this new job means everything. Do what she is asked, and she is back in Mr. Smith’s good graces, fail and she most likely will die. Evie’s newest target is Ryan Sumner, and her goal is to get everything she can on Ryan’s transportation company. Everything is going great, Evie has become Ryan’s girlfriend and moves in with him, but then someone shows up who claims to be Luca Marino. But Evie knows that is not her real name, because that is who Evie really is. What is Mr. Smith up to? To figure this out Evie has to up her game and stay one step ahead of Mr. Smith if she wants to survive.

I loved Evie! She was smart and very resourceful. She took on any job Mr. Smith gave to her and if she knew the original plan was not going to work, she would figure out a better plan. When Evie realizes that Mr. Smith has also put a target on her back, she works with her friend Devon to figure out who Mr. Smith really is and take him down. Evie met Devon online, he is very tech savvy and had helped Evie on many of her jobs. I loved how he became her found family and how they had each other’s backs. I also loved following them as they try and figure out who Mr. Smith is.

Aside from following Evie on her current job, we also get chapters from her past jobs and aliases. I loved getting this look into her past.

First Lie Wins had so many twists and turns that I had no idea where it was heading or how things were going to turn out. This was a very addicting read and I finished it in a couple of days.  4 ½ stars

 

Thriller Thursday Reviews: First Lie Wins & That’s Not My NameThat's Not My Name Goodreads

Author: Megan Lally

Publication Date: December 26, 2023

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

That’s Not My Name is Megan Lally’s debut novel, and what a debut it was. The story is told from the POV of Mary and Drew. There is not a lot I can say about what happens in this book without giving away any spoilers, but I will do my best.

The book opens with a seventeen-year-old girl waking up in a ditch on the side of the road in the middle of the night. She has cuts and bruises all over her and she cannot remember how she got there or who she is. A local sheriff finds her and takes her back to the station and while he is trying to figure out who this girl is, a man shows up frantic to report his daughter missing. Turns out he is this girl’s father. His name is Wayne, and her name is Mary. After showing the officer her birth certificate and photos of them together, Wayne takes Mary back to the cabin they are staying at. I was skeptical right off the bat that this man was her father and even though he had proof I still could not believe the officer let her go with him. As the book went on Wayne became more and more shady to me, as well as to Mary. He forgot she was allergic to strawberries, the clothes he had for her were too small, he didn’t want her to leave the cabin, etc.. I was truly worried for Mary’s safety.

The other POV we get is from Drew, a seventeen-year-old, whose girlfriend Lola disappeared a couple of months ago. Drew was the last person to see Lola. They had a fight, and she slammed his car door and walked off into the night never to be seen again. Everyone in town believes that Drew killed Lola and instead of looking for her the local sheriff is looking for clues that will convict Drew. Drew is doing anything he can to find Lola, but with the whole town against him it is hard. That is until he finally convinces his cousin Max and Lola’s best friend Autumn that he is innocent, and together the three work to find out what happened to Lola. I loved Drew and my heart just broke for him. He really loves Lola, and he feels responsible for her being missing, because of the fight they had. The guilt is eating him up and I just wanted to give him a big hug. I was so happy when Max and Autumn finally joined forces with Drew, finally he has some support. As they find information that could solve the mystery of what happened to Lola, I was hoping and praying they would all get a happy ending.

By the end of the book the suspense and tension built up so much that I could not turn the pages fast enough. And that epilogue. Megan Lally had me in tears reading that.

That’s Not My Name is a young adult mystery/thriller that kept me engrossed from start to finish.  4 stars

Romance Review – THE BREAKUP TOUR by Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka @berkleyromance

Romance Review – THE BREAKUP TOUR by Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka @berkleyromanceThe Breakup Tour by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka
Also by this author: The Roughest Draft
four-stars
Published by Berkley Books, Berkley Romance on January 23, 2024
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Romance
Pages: 352
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookshop
Goodreads

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

 

 

Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka are one of my favorite author duos.  I really enjoyed the realistic and angsty vibes of their last two adult romances and so was curious to see what they would do with their latest novel, The Breakup Tour, which I’ve seen described several times as being perfect for Swifties. How intriguing is that?

Riley Wynn is a rising star in the music industry, who is catapulted to mega-stardom thanks to her latest album, which chronicles all of her relationships which have ended in breakups, and especially thanks to its unforgettable lead single about the one who got away.  That song was inspired by Max Harcourt, Riley’s college boyfriend and fellow musician.  When Riley’s narcissistic and very toxic ex-husband starts telling everyone that song is about him, Riley approaches Max, even though she hasn’t spoken to him in ten years, and asks if he would be willing to go public as the inspiration behind the song. Max isn’t entirely comfortable with the idea but he eventually agrees to go on tour with her and perform the song at each concert.

I wasn’t entirely convinced that this was a realistic scenario but after watching Riley and Max interact, I decided I didn’t care, haha. I’m a huge fan of second chance romances and it was clear from the moment, Riley and Max first reconnect after a decade apart, that they still have major chemistry.  I enjoyed watching them reconnect against the backdrop of the concert tour, and I especially enjoyed watching them interact as they learned to play together once again.

Now, this was definitely a slow burn romance as both Riley and Max have some personal baggage that they need to work through before they could even begin to consider a future together, but I was definitely invested enough in their journey to wait for them to figure everything out, especially since the authors write those angsty, emotional scenes so well.

When I read this, I alternated between the e-arc and the ALC (thank you Berkley Romance and PRH Audio).  The writing flows smoothly, making the e-arc a read that I breezed right through, while the ALC, which was narrated by Dan Bittner and Brittany Pressley, was a great choice too. Bittner and Pressley beautifully capture both the chemistry between the characters as well as those angsty, emotional moments, really drawing me into the story.

I think whether you’re a Swiftie or not, if you enjoy slow-burn, swoony second chance romances and are interested in a behind-the-scenes look at a concert tour, you’ll definitely want to check out The Breakup Tour.

 

Thanks so much to Kristin Cipolla for the opportunity to take part in the blog tour!

four-stars

About Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka

Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka met and fell in love in high school. Austin went on to graduate magna cum laude from Harvard, while Emily graduated magna cum laude from Princeton. Together, they are the authors of Always Never Yours, If I’m Being Honest, Time of Our Lives, What’s Not to Love, The Roughest Draft, and Do I Know You? Now married, they live in Los Angeles, where they continue to take daily inspiration from their own love story.

Reviews – THE GETAWAY LIST & BETTING ON YOU

 

TGIF!  I’m not sure why but this week has felt so incredibly long. I’m beyond excited that the weekend is finally upon us because I’m so ready for some downtime.  I don’t read much YA anymore but I still have a few authors that if they write YA, I’m going to read it.  Emma Lord and Lynn Painter are two of those authors and they both have new novels either out or coming out soon so this week I actually have two YA reviews to share with you.

 

Reviews – THE GETAWAY LIST & BETTING ON YOUThe Getaway List Goodreads

Author: Emma Lord

Publication Date: January 23, 2024

Publisher: Wednesday Books

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Wednesday Books via Netgalley and a complimentary ALC from Macmillan Audio.  All opinions are my own.

 

With her latest novel, Emma Lord has penned one of the most relatable coming of age stories I’ve ever read. She perfectly captures what I think is a pretty universal experience for most young people as they turn 18, graduate from high school, and look to leave home and find their path forward as adults, in some cases, before their parents are really ready to let them go.

Riley finds herself in just such a situation when we meet her on her graduation day. She has been following a path her mom laid out for her but then fails to get into any of the colleges she applied to. Her mom is pushing her to go ahead and at least start community college, but Riley just isn’t feeling it and after some awkward exchanges with her mother where she really has to stress the fact that she is now an adult, Riley finally just tells her that she is going to NYC to see her childhood best friend, Tom, and to think about what she wants.

I loved seeing Riley re-connect with Tom. Their bond was clearly a special one and I especially loved that they still had this “getaway list” they had written years before and that they were now determined to actually complete the items on the list. Not only does this list help facilitate Riley & Tom’s re-connection but it also introduces Riley to several wonderful new friends who become like family for her. And while the list and its antics are meant to be fun, they also start to open Riley’s eyes and give her some concrete thoughts about what she might like her future to look like.

There is also a sweet romance brewing as Riley realizes she may have more than just friendly feelings for Tom, but at its heart, The Getaway List is really about Riley’s personal journey and Emma Lord has delivered her readers yet another gem of a read.

I alternated between the physical copy & the audiobook. The audiobook was narrated by Norma Butikofer who did a great job capturing both the fun and the soul searching vibes of Riley’s journey. I enjoyed both formats immensely!  4.5 STARS

 

Reviews – THE GETAWAY LIST & BETTING ON YOUBetting on You Goodreads

Author: Lynn Painter

Publication Date: November 28, 2023

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

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

 

Lynn Painter is the queen of witty banter and I’m a big fan of her books because I just know I’m going to have a good time while reading them.  For that reason, even though I don’t read much YA anymore, I’ll always make an exception for Painter.  Betting on You is her latest YA book, and although not my favorite because that will always be Better Than the Movies, it was still an enjoyable read for me.

Charlie and Bailey first meet on a flight to Nebraska. Bailey’s parents are divorcing and her nerves are frayed anyway, but pretty much everything about Charlie rubs her the wrong way, particularly his cynical views about the world and relationships. By the time the flight lands, she really hopes she’ll never see this annoying guy again. Flashforward a few years and Bailey finds herself working at a waterpark with who of all people, Charlie of course.  This time around though, she gives him a second chance and they actually become friends, even though Charlie’s “When Harry Met Sally” belief that male and female coworkers cannot be just friends tests her patience at times.

I really enjoyed Charlie and Bailey together.  While that initial plane ride had some hilarious moments just because Charlie annoyed Bailey so much, I definitely preferred to see the two of them bonding.  It turns out that they are both parents of divorce.  Charlie’s parents divorced a few years before Bailey’s so she is able to turn to him for advice or comfort whenever she’s feeling down about the changes taking place in her life.

Bailey also turns to Charlie for help when she decides she wants to break up her mom’s new relationship.  I have to admit that as a child of divorce myself, while I found Bailey’s fear of change very relatable, I was not the biggest fan of her trying to sabotage her mom’s happiness, especially since the guy in question seemed like such a good one.  The whole scenario does offer the opportunity for personal growth while we wait for Bailey to realize this too, which I liked, but I guess as an older and maybe wiser (haha!) reader, I just wanted to scream at her to just let her mom be happy.

Even with that issue though, I still overall really enjoyed reading about Charlie and Bailey and the changing dynamic of their own relationship.  As always, Painter’s banter is on point, and she uses some of my favorite romance tropes to bring their story to life, including a little fake dating and of course friends to lovers.  Betting on You is another solid YA read from Painter and the perfect read for anyone who enjoys the tropes I mentioned or stories that have When Harry Met Sally vibes.  4 STARS

Romance Reviews – Cane Brothers Series by Meghan Quinn

Happy Friday everyone! I haven’t actually posted what my reading/blogging goals for 2024 are yet, but one of them is definitely to finish up some of the series that I’ve had sitting on my shelf for way too long.  So far I’ve finished up the last two books in the Daevabad fantasy series and this morning I finished the last book in Meghan Quinn’s Cane Brothers romance series.  Bloom Books gave me the push I needed on that one when they re-released the series with the gorgeous new covers I’m featuring above.  I thoroughly enjoyed all three books so I wanted to share my thoughts with you.

 

Romance Reviews – Cane Brothers Series by Meghan QuinnA Not So Meet Cute (Cane Brothers, 1) Goodreads

Author: Meghan Quinn

Publication Date: Originally published November 2, 2021, re-released November 14, 2023

Publisher: Bloom Books

A Not So Meet Cute is the first book in Meghan Quinn’s Cane Brothers series and this is the spiciest book in the series! The story follows Huxley, the oldest Cane Brother, and it’s an enemies-to-lovers, grumpy-sunshine romance that also features fake dating.  Those are some of my favorite romance tropes and as if those weren’t enough, A Not So Meet Cute also has major Pretty Woman vibes, so I had a great time reading this one.

When we first meet Huxley Cane, he has gotten himself into a mess while trying to secure a big business deal.  In trying to wine and dine his potential client, Huxley lies and tells them that he is engaged and that his fiancée is pregnant.  There’s just one problem with that. There’s no baby and Huxley doesn’t even have a girlfriend, much less a fiancée.  Enter Lottie Gardner. Lottie has just unexpectedly been fired from her job and is trolling around Beverly Hills jokingly searching for a Sugar Daddy.  Her unexpected run-in with Huxley leads to her spilling her guts about her predicament, which then leads to Huxley having her sign a business contract, where she pretends to be his pregnant fiancée until he lands the big business deal.  Lottie thinks Huxley is a jerk, but the terms of the contract would allow her to pay off her debts so she reluctantly agrees and moves into his mansion.  Neither of them realizes just how much their lives are about to change…

Lottie had my heart right from her first scene.  She’s fierce, sassy, and very resilient.  She doesn’t care that Huxley is a billionaire and refuses to take any crap from him.  Huxley is a sexy but broody, grump of a man and it takes time to warm up to him, both for me and for Lottie.  I enjoyed watching Lottie push the boundaries of their agreement and force Huxley out of his grumpy comfort zone.  They have intense chemistry with one another and keeping their arrangement professional becomes more challenging, the more time they are forced to spend together.

While it is definitely filled with tension and spice, A Not So Meet Cute is also hilarious.  I’ve never read a fake pregnancy story before so I wasn’t sure I would like it since I’m not a fan of the accidental pregnancy trope. I didn’t need to worry though because I thoroughly enjoyed all of the crazy and awkward antics that took place as Lottie and Huxley were forced to bond with Huxley’s client over breast pumps, lamaze classes, and so many other pregnancy-related activities. I laughed my way from cover to cover and rooted for Lottie and Huxley to get together all the more!

While this is a series, all three books work as interconnected standalones, so if your vibe is super spicy Pretty Woman, you’ll definitely want to check this one out and meet Lottie and Huxley!  4 STARS

 

Romance Reviews – Cane Brothers Series by Meghan QuinnSo Not Meant to Be (Cane Brothers, 2) Goodreads

Author: Meghan Quinn

Publication Date: Originally published June 7, 2022, re-released December 5, 2023

Publisher:  Bloom Books

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary e- copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

 

So Not Meant to Be is the second book in Meghan Quinn’s Cane Brothers series and boy does it deliver the laughs! It’s an enemies-to-lovers workplace romance that centers on the middle Cane brother, JP.  JP is a charmer and has won the heart of everyone who works for him. Well, everyone except for Kelsey, who thinks he’s just obnoxious and refuses to give in to his charms.  She also very much disagrees with JP’s belief, a la When Harry Met Sally, that a man and a woman cannot work together and just remain friends.  When Kelsey is forced to not only go on a business trip with JP, but to also stay in the same penthouse with him, JP’s theory is put to the test with hilarious and heartfelt results.

I adored JP and was charmed by him immediately.  He’s a flirt and he’s very intrigued by Kelsey, and he likes to push her buttons to get a rise out of her. Kelsey, on the other hand, took some getting used to because she came across as a bit prickly and judgmental in the beginning.  Once I got used to her personality, and especially once she and JP started to get to know each other better, I really warmed up to her.  I also love the forced proximity trope so it was definitely a good time watching the two of them share the same space as they slowly work through their feelings for one another.  As always with Meghan Quinn’s writing, the humor, and especially the banter, is top notch and had me downright cackling at times!

So Not Meant to Be was another fun installment in the series and even though this is a series, the books do work as interconnected standalones so if When Harry Met Sally is your vibe, you could easily start with this one.  4 STARS

 

Romance Reviews – Cane Brothers Series by Meghan QuinnA Long Time Coming (Cane Brothers, 3) Goodreads

Author: Meghan Quinn

Publication Date:Originally published January 10, 2023, re-released January 2, 2024

Publisher:  Bloom Books

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary e- copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

 

A Long Time Coming is the third installment in Meghan Quinn’s Cane Brothers series and this one was my favorite.  A friends-to-lovers romance, I found this one to be the sweetest book in the series.  This story focuses on Breaker, the youngest Cane brother, and his best friend of ten years, Ophelia Fairweather-Fern (Lia).  Breaker and Lia met and bonded over all things nerdy when they were in college. Even now, all these years later, they are still inseparable, having weekly board game nights, and they actually live next door to one another.  When Lia announces that she and her boyfriend Brian are getting married, it’s only natural that Breaker, as her best friend, would serve as her Man of Honor.  But is he only just a friend?

I adored both Lia and Breaker.  They were just so sweet and fun together, and their banter had me in stitches the whole time I was reading.  I also really felt for Lia too though because the whole situation with her wedding is a nightmare.  Brian’s mother, an upper crust snob, has deemed Lia as a somewhat acceptable choice for her son but decides that she should be the one to make ALL of the decisions regarding the ceremony, up to and including what Lia should wear, where the ceremony should be held, and when it should take place (5 weeks after Brian’s proposal because an elite location has one opening!).  She stomps on Lia’s ideas at every turn and makes her feel inferior over and over again, while Brian just stands there and lets his mother behave this way.  It is Breaker who steps in time and time again to defend Lia and to put Brian’s mother in her place.  I already loved Breaker and thought he was a sweetheart before watching him in action to defend Lia, so he became ultimate book boyfriend material when he went after Brian’s awful mother.

I’m a huge sucker for a friends-to-lovers romance so I was in heaven watching Breaker and Lia slowly come to realize that their love for one another has long since left the friend zone.  While this is a series, all three books work as interconnected standalones, so if sweet, sexy and fun is your vibe and you enjoy movies like My Best Friend’s Wedding, you’ll definitely want to check out A Long Time Coming.   4 STARS

Thriller Thursday Reviews: One of Us Is Back & The Wedding Guest

 

Happy New Year!  Sharon here with my first Thriller Thursday of 2024!  Looking at my to read list and all of the new books coming out this year, I predict that 2024 is going to be a great reading year. 🙂   To start off the new Thriller Thursday year, I have my last read from 2023; One of Us Is Back by Karen M. McManus and my first read from 2024; The Wedding Guest by Kathryn Croft.

 

Thriller Thursday Reviews: One of Us Is Back & The Wedding GuestOne of Us Is Back (One of Us Is Lying, #3) Goodreads

Author: Karen M. McManus

Publication Date: July 25, 2023

Publisher: Delacorte Press

I really liked the first two books in Karen M. McManus’ One of Us series, One of Us Is Lying and One of Us Is Next, so I was very excited to read the third book, One of Us Is Back. I am happy to report this was everything I had hoped it would be. In this third installment someone has a new game for the Bayview crew, but no one understands the rules. Everyone is a target and things turn deadly when the biggest secret of all is revealed.

I was so excited to have the gang from the first two books back. This book is told from the POV of Nate, Addy, and Phoebe. We also get chapters from the POV of Simon and Jake from six years in the past. I really liked getting Simon and Jake’s chapters as it gives us insight into what started the whole scheme with Simon in the first place and how they may link to what is happening now.

I don’t really want to say too much because I don’t want to spoil anything. A local billboard is hacked with a message stating, “Time for a new game, Bayview.”, but no one really pays attention to it at first. It is only when one of the Bayview group goes missing after a party at Nate’s house and is found with a partial message on their arm, that the crew realizes that someone is playing a new game and they need to figure out who it is before something worse happens. I love how this whole crew comes together to work out this mystery.

I loved reconnecting with the Bayview Murder Crew, as they now call themselves. I loved the banter they had back and forth and how they were there for and watched out for each other. Even when secrets are revealed and things get messy because of those secrets, they still had each other’s backs.

McManus did a great job in creating this newest Bayview mystery. I thought I had figured things out a few times but was completely in the dark when all was revealed. I also liked how at the front of the book it lists all the characters and gives a brief description of who they are. This helped me a lot to reconnect and remember each character. I don’t know about you, but when I am reading a series and it is a couple years in between each new release it takes me a while to acclimate myself with the characters, so having this list lets me get right into the book and not miss a beat.

If you enjoyed the first two books in the One of Us series, then I really think you will enjoy One of Us Is Back4 stars

 

Thriller Thursday Reviews: One of Us Is Back & The Wedding GuestThe Wedding Guest Goodreads

Author: Kathryn Croft

Publication Date: September 14, 2023

Publisher: Bookouture

Emily Thomas is marrying the man of her dreams, Jeremy Jordan. She loves Jeremy and cannot wait to be a family with him and his ten-year-old daughter, Lexi. The day is perfect, and she is ready to start her new life and forget her dark past. But when she looks out at the guests she sees Christian Holmes, the man from her past who can destroy her perfect new life. Emily will do whatever it takes to keep her secrets from being revealed. And that is the premise of Kathryn Croft’s latest psychological thriller, The Wedding Guest.

The story is told in a dual timeline, starting in the present when Christian shows up at Emily and Jeremy’s wedding and then fifteen years in the past when Emily and Christian met at Uni in London. I loved both timelines equally.

The present-day chapters had me so filled with tension because I had no idea what Christian was going to do next. I did not like him from the moment I met him in the first chapter, and my dislike for him grew as the book went on. We don’t know what secret Christian and Emily share, but Christian is using it to make Emily do what he wants. Christian moved to the United States after the events from fifteen years ago and has not had any contact with his family, but now he is making Emily go with him to visit his father and brother and act like they are engaged. He has also gotten to be friends with Jeremy and is using that friendship to torture Emily. When Emily, Jeremy and Lexi go away for a long weekend, Christian just happens to show up at the same place and ends up staying with them. Christian has also created a wedge between Emily and her mother in-law, who were always close, by hinting to Pam that Christian and Emily were not just old friends, but that they had a relationship when they were at Uni.

I liked Emily and was so afraid for her that Christian was going to ruin her life. Everything he was doing to her in the present just got me so mad on her behalf. And as we got more of a look into their relationship from the past chapters, I really worried for her. When they met at Uni, Emily was a shy naïve girl. Her mother had psychological issues and really kept her sheltered, but Emily was determined to get an education and make her own way in life. So, when she met Christian, she fell for him hard and could not see that he was gaslighting her.

The Wedding Guest was a slow burn read, but as the book neared the end the tension and suspense picked up. I thought I knew where the story was going, but I was so wrong. There was a twist at the end that I never saw coming.  I was completely shocked!   4 stars

Romance Review – LAST CALL AT THE LOCAL by Sarah Grunder Ruiz @berkleyromance

Romance Review – LAST CALL AT THE LOCAL by Sarah Grunder Ruiz @berkleyromanceLast Call at the Local by Sarah Grunder Ruiz
four-half-stars
Series: Love, Lists & Fancy Ships #3
Published by Berkley Romance on January 2, 2024
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Romance
Pages: 368
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookshop
Goodreads

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

 

Last Call at the Local is the third installment in Sarah Grunder Ruiz’s Love, Lists & Fancy Ships series and it honestly might be my favorite one yet! What I love about this series is that each book makes me feel so much. Whether I’m laughing at some hilarious banter or shedding tears about a sad turn of events, my heart is just always full the entire time I’m reading. Last Call at the Local was no exception to that and I thoroughly enjoyed my reading experience.

Set in Ireland, the story follows Raine, a young American woman who has run into some bad luck that has left her broke and with little more than the clothes on her back. She stops in at a pub called the Local, where she has a very one-sided conversation with the pub’s cat, Sebastian, and meets Jack, who is not only Sebastian’s charming owner but he’s also part owner of the Local.  Jack and Raine hit it off immediately and once he hears about the predicament she is in, he offers her a temporary job at the pub to help her get back on her feet.  Neither Raine nor Jack realize how life changing this chance encounter and temporary job will turn out to be.

I cannot even express how much I adored both Jack and Raine.  They were just so perfect together and it was a joy to watch them interact and explore their growing feelings for one another.  I also admired them as individuals though because they’re both facing some mental health challenges.  Raine initially comes across as a free spirit, and while she is to a degree, she is also living with ADHD, which makes it hard for her to buckle down and focus. That’s why, when we meet her, she has been working as a traveling musician all over Europe. She figured it was the best of both worlds, a way to make money from her passion for music, but also no set schedule, no boss to answer to, and no family to be disappointed in her.  Jack, on the other hand, is dealing with the challenges of living with severe OCD. Ruiz handles the exploration of both ADHD and OCD thoroughly and respectfully, and I felt like I learned so much by having access to Jack’s and Raine’s inner thoughts and experiencing ADHD and OCD from their perspectives.

I loved being back in this world and was absolutely thrilled to bump into Ollie and Nina again and see what they’ve been up to.  Everything about this book was just perfect and I can’t recommend it and the whole series highly enough.  If you’re looking for a book that will leave you with a full heart and a smile on your face, be sure to check out Last Call at the Local.

 

Thanks so much to Kristin Cipolla from Berkley Romance for the opportunity to take part in this blog tour.

four-half-stars

About Sarah Grunder Ruiz

Sarah Grunder Ruiz is a writer, educator, and karaoke enthusiast. Originally from South Florida, she now lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with her husband and two children. She holds an MFA in creative writing from North Carolina State University, where she now teaches First-Year Writing.