Reviews: ON LOCATION & AS IF ON CUE

 

Hey everyone, I hope your Monday is off to a good start.  I’m back today with a couple more fun romances to share with you.  Normally by this time, I would have already switched over to spooky season reads, but I seem to still be in full-on romance mode these days, although I do have a couple of fantasy reviews coming up later in the week. Anyway, I’m excited to share my thoughts on these books, which have two things in common – the enemies-to-lovers trope and a focus on Arts and Entertainment.

 

Reviews:  ON LOCATION & AS IF ON CUEOn Location Goodreads

Author: Sarah Smith

Publication Date: September 21, 2021

Publisher:  Berkley Books

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

Sarah Smith’s new contemporary romance On Location checked a lot of boxes for me.  As someone who loves books that feed my wanderlust, I loved that it’s centered around a travel documentary that highlights iconic national parks in Utah.  I’m also a sucker for a protagonist who is an underdog, so I was excited that the main character was a young woman trying to succeed in a male-dominated industry surrounded by mansplainers.  And last but not least, On Location also features an enemies-to-lovers romance, which is one of my favorite romance tropes.  Needless to say, I couldn’t wait to dive into this story and fell head over heels for it from the very first scene, an adorable meet cute that takes place in the most unlikely of places, the NYC subway.

On Location follows Alia Dunn, a young woman who has just scored the chance of a lifetime, the opportunity to produce her very own travel series at the TV network where she has worked for years.  It’s everything Alia has ever dreamed of career-wise, plus it has the added bonus of being set in the national parks of Utah, which Alia has a very personal connection to from her childhood. There are just two catches:  1) the network executives (all men of course) insist on selecting the show host, and their choice, a D-list celebrity supposedly trying to rehab his image, is questionable at best, and 2) the newest member of her production crew turns out to be Drew Irons, the sexy guy Alia met on the subway a couple of weeks ago.  This wouldn’t be a problem except that after their meet cute and what Alia thought was a lovely first date, Drew then ghosted her.  Awkward much?

I really liked Alia and admired her determination.  As awkward as her situation is, she isn’t about to let a D-list celebrity who behaves like a diva and a guy who ghosted her ruin her vision for this series.  She is feisty and resilient and doesn’t hesitate to put these guys in their places if the situation warrants it.  I had mixed feelings about Drew at first because, like Alia, I was skeptical about his excuse for why he disappeared after their date.  I was also not a big fan of him stepping in to pacify the D-list Diva instead of letting Alia handle things herself.  It came across as very sexist and I cheered for Alia every time she confronted Drew about overstepping, and I also applauded Drew because he seemed to really listen to her and try to learn from his mistakes.  That growth won me over, especially since it was also very clear that he and Alia had major chemistry so I was really rooting for them to figure out if they could move forward as a couple.

Aside from Alia and Drew’s evolving relationship, I was also a big fan of the actual process of putting together a travel series.  I never would have thought I’d find that interesting, but the author does a wonderful job of showing all of the hard work that goes on behind-the-scenes, while at the same time, keeping it an entertaining read.  Another highlight for me were a couple of younger secondary characters who had a major case of puppy love for one another.  So adorable.

On Location is a fun and sexy read that is sure to please romance fans.  4 STARS

 

Reviews:  ON LOCATION & AS IF ON CUEAs If on Cue Goodreads

Author: Marisa Kanter

Publication Date: September 21, 2021

Publisher:  Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

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

Marisa Kanter’s new YA novel As If on Cue is a cute and fun enemies-to-lovers romance that follows Natalie and Reid, two teens who have been rivals for most of their lives.  Their heated rivalry started with the clarinet, where they each vied to be First Chair and tried to sabotage each other’s chances, thus beginning the prank wars.  The prank war between Natalie and Reid have become so intense over the years that they have actually drafted rules for them that must be followed.  Natalie eventually stopped playing and found her passion elsewhere, in theater and in writing plays, and yet the prank wars continued on.

When she learns that the budget for the arts has been decimated and that band is the only arts class that will be funded, Natalie devises a plan of attack to save the arts, one that uses a play she has written and that will bring together students from all of the other arts programs.  Her plan, which potentially pits her yet again against Reid, but also against her dad, who is the high school band teacher, backfires spectacularly due to a prank gone wrong, and as punishment, Natalie and Reid are forced to work together to bring Natalie’s play to life, basically their worst nightmare come true.

As If on Cue has a lot of hilarious moments in it as Natalie and Reid have to figure out how to work as a team when all they’ve ever done is try to outdo one another.  While the pranks themselves are pretty juvenile and annoying to their friends, there’s also an interesting undertone though where the author introduces a dual timeline, with flashbacks that show how the prank wars originated and that really showcases the complex feelings Natalie and Reid have for one another. I really appreciated this because it gave more context to some of Natalie’s actions in the book, which were downright bratty at times.  It becomes pretty clear that perhaps Natalie and Reid don’t hate each other as much as they thought they did and I enjoyed seeing how their prankish relationship originated as well as how it evolved once they finally started working together and appreciating one another.  I always love a story where characters show personal growth and there was a lot of that with Natalie as the story progressed.

The Arts getting cut is also such a relevant and timely topic because it happens frequently.  I loved that the author really spotlighted how truly important the arts are and I really enjoyed watching the students come together to try to save them.  I especially loved the behind-the-scenes action and seeing everything that takes place, from the writing process all the way through to the performance itself. I actually enjoyed this aspect of the story just as much as, if not more so, than the romantic angle.

If prank wars, a student-written retelling of Disney’s Frozen called Melted, and a fierce student-driven campaign to try to keep the Arts from being cut from their high school’s budget sounds like your thing, you’ll definitely want to check out As If on Cue4 STARS

Thriller Thursday Reviews: Getaway & 56 Days

 

Hi Everyone! It’s Sharon, back with another edition of Thriller Thursday. 🙂  This week I am sharing my thoughts on Zoje Stage’s new book Getaway and Catherine Ryan Howard’s new book 56 Days. I am a fan of both of these authors and I loved both of these books.

 

Thriller Thursday Reviews: Getaway & 56 DaysGetaway Goodreads

Author: Zoje Stage

Publication Date: August 17, 2021

Publisher: Mulholland Books

I fell in love with Zoje Stage when I read her first book Baby Teeth and she blew me away again with Wonderland, so I couldn’t wait for her latest book Getaway to be released and I am happy to report that it did not disappoint. I loved this just as much as her first two books.

Imogen and Beck are sisters and they have been best friends with Tilda since high school. After an incident in college, which Imogen refers to as “The Thing”, her friendship with Tilda fractured and now twenty years later, they do not really have anything to do with each other. Tilda and Beck are still friends and after Imogen survives a mass shooting at her Synagogue and has pretty much become a hermit, Beck decides they all need to reunite and go backpacking at the Grand Canyon. A week in nature with no electronics is just what they need. It sounds good, but as their past tensions build up and their supplies go missing and then a mysterious stranger appears, this girls’ backpacking trip becomes a week of survival.

I really connected with Imogen and Beck’s relationship. Beck is older and is the take charge type, whereas Imogen is more likely to just go along. And that reminded me of me and my older sister. I love my sister, but she is the type that since she is older, she thinks she knows it all and at times it is just better to go along with her rather than start drama.  So when Imogen raised concerns about their supplies going missing and having the stranger at camp and Beck pretty much blew her off, I could understand how frustrated she felt.  I had such sympathy for Imogen. Right at the beginning of the book we learn how she was a survivor of a mass shooting and the impact it has had on her life. I had to give her kudos for leaving the safe cocoon of her home to go on this adventure. I also loved the growth that Imogen had. She started off as very timid (and rightfully so with what has happened to her), but by the end of this book, she became one strong, badass woman.

I loved the Grand Canyon setting and the visualization of going backpacking and all that it entailed. It kind of made me want to just pack up and go. That is until Tilda was explaining how she thought backpacking would be a piece of cake since she is used to hiking and is in great shape, and how it in no way was. LOL!  I loved how Stage made it all come to life. I could visualize everything, from climbing over the rocks and cliffs, to the campsite and sleeping out in the open and gazing up at the stars and also the terror of what was happening once the stranger came into the book.

I don’t want to say anything about what went on with the mystery stranger, only that once he appeared Imogene, Beck and Tilda were in for the fight of their lives.  This book started off slow and steady, but the further along it went the more the tension and suspense started picking up and by the end of the book I was on the edge of my seat.   4 stars

 

Thriller Thursday Reviews: Getaway & 56 Days56 Days Goodreads

Author: Catherine Ryan Howard

Publication Date: August 17, 2021

Publisher: Blackstone Publishing

When I read in the synopsis that Catherine Ryan Howard’s latest book 56 Days was set during Covid-19 and included a mystery with a dead body, I couldn’t wait to read it.

Ciara and Oliver meet while waiting in line at a supermarket in Dublin, Ireland. Covid-19 has just reached Ireland, and just as they are starting to get to know each other and become close, the threat of a lockdown threatens to keep them apart. Oliver suggests that they move in together for the ‘2 week’ lock down. What better way to get to know each other. Well, that is until one of them ends up dead.

Both Ciara and Oliver are hiding a secret and I loved the mystery of trying to figure out what their secrets were. We find out what Oliver’s secret is early in the book, but Ciara’s secret we do not find out until the end. I thought I had hers figured out, but boy oh boy, was I wrong.

DI Leah Riordan and DS Karl Connolly are the detectives that are investigating if the death was an accident or murder.  I loved the relationship between them; their back-and-forth banter had me chuckling at times. Especially at the beginning of the book when Leah had to go and “rescue” Karl, you see Karl was a ladies’ man and the particular lady he was with the night before handcuffed him naked to the bed and left, so Leah had to go and unlock him from the cuffs. But not until after she has some pretty funny comments about his predicament.

I really liked that the setting of this book took place right at the beginning of Covid-19. Reading about what it was like trying to remember to wear a mask, washing your hands all the time, not touching your face, waiting in lines to get into stores to buy food and only being able to buy certain amounts of toilet paper and cleaning supplies, was weird. It is so much the normal now that I kind of forgot how strange it was at the beginning.  And when they kept talking about a 2-week shut down, at first I was like, it was not 2 weeks, but then I remembered, originally that is what everyone thought. I remember leaving work on a Thursday in March of 2020 and being told to bring home everything we need to do our job because we would be working from home for 2 weeks. But here we are a year and a half later and I am still working from home (which I love by the way lol.)

The book is told in a dual timeline. We find out at the beginning of the book who is dead. I really enjoyed reading the past chapters of when Ciara and Oliver met, all the while knowing which one of them had died and trying to piece together along with the detectives what happened.  The present chapters are when DI Riordan and DS Connolly are investigating what happened in the apartment. I thought I figured out what happened because I was sure I knew Ciara’s secret. Oh, how wrong I was though.

If you are looking for a unique mystery that centers around the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, I highly recommend Catherine Ryan Howard’s 56 Days.   4 stars

Review: THE LOVE HYPOTHESIS by Ali Hazelwood

Review:  THE LOVE HYPOTHESIS by Ali HazelwoodThe Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood
five-stars
Published by Berkley Books on September 14, 2021
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Romance
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.

 

The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood is quite possibly the sweetest, most adorable romance novel I’ve ever read.  It checked so many boxes for me (a STEM heroine, the fake dating trope, hilarious banter, and so much more) and it just had me grinning from ear to ear pretty much the entire time I was reading.

The story follows Olive Smith, a third-year Ph.D. candidate at Stanford.  Olive has just learned that her best friend, Anh, is attracted to Jeremy, a guy Olive used to date.  Anh and this guy have major chemistry but Anh doesn’t want to hurt Olive by dating him.  Olive thinks that’s sweet and is grateful to have such a loyal friend but she also knows that Anh and Jeremy would actually be perfect together.  Olive decides to also be a great friend and let Anh think she is head over heels in love with a new guy so that Anh will go for it with Jeremy.  The next time she sees Anh, Olive panics, grabs the first guy she sees and plants a kiss on him.  There’s just one problem – the guy she kisses is none other than Adam Carlsen, a rock star of a professor who also happens to have a reputation for being an ass and making his students cry.  Not exactly who Olive had in mind, to say the least, but to her utter shock, once she explains to Adam why she did what she did, he agrees to fake-date her so that Anh and Jeremy can get together.

I honestly can’t even get over how much I adored both Olive and Adam.  As we’ve established, Olive is such a lovely friend who would clearly do anything to help a friend find happiness.  I also just found her overall personality delightful. She’s smart, determined, resilient, and she’s also hilarious. Once she gets comfortable fake dating Adam, he repeatedly calls her a pain in his rear because she’s always gently mocking and teasing him about his awful reputation and of course tormenting him with her love of all things pumpkin spice, lol.  After hanging out with him just a few times, Olive has picked up on the fact that Adam is anything but an ass. He’s actually quite sweet and surprisingly soft, and she can really open up to him in ways she never has with anyone else. I loved watching the two of them interact because they really did bring out the best in each other and I loved the slight tension as they each began to realize that their feelings for each other weren’t fake at all.

Aside from the romance, the author also tackles some more serious topics, such as the challenges women face in academia, particularly in STEM.  She explores sexism, bias, and what happens when a professor grossly abuses his power. The romance definitely takes center stage and makes up the bulk of the story, but I liked having these “meatier” topics to add some depth to the overall story.

I could go on and on about how much I adored the book. If you’re looking for a charming and heartwarming romance that features lovable characters, witty banter, and fake dating, be sure to check out The Love Hypothesis.  It’s an absolute gem of a book that I will be recommending to every romance reader I know.

five-stars

About Ali Hazelwood

Ali Hazelwood is a multi-published author–alas, of peer-reviewed articles about brain science, in which no one makes out and the ever after is not always happy. Originally from Italy, she lived in Germany and Japan before moving to the U.S. to pursue a Ph.D. in neuroscience. She recently became a professor, which absolutely terrifies her. When Ali is not at work, she can be found running, eating cake pops, or watching sci-fi movies with her two feline overlords (and her slightly-less-feline husband).

Review: THE NIGHT SHE DISAPPEARED by Lisa Jewell

Review:  THE NIGHT SHE DISAPPEARED by Lisa JewellThe Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell
Also by this author: Watching You, The Family Upstairs
four-half-stars
Published by Atria Books on September 7, 2021
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 416
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.

 

 

I’m a big fan of Lisa Jewell’s storytelling so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on her latest mystery, The Night She Disappeared.  I knew I would be in for a wild ride and I was not disappointed.

It’s 2017, and 19 year old Tallulah and her boyfriend have left their baby with Tallulah’s mom, Kim, while they go out for a much-needed night on the town.  When they don’t return home, Kim becomes frantic because it’s just not like Tallulah to be irresponsible.  After calling all her daughter’s friends and learning only that Tallulah had decided to go to a party at Dark Place, a mysterious house in the nearby woods, Kim decides it’s time to call the police.  The police investigate but there’s just no sign of either of them, dead or alive.

Two years later, Sophie moves to the same town. Sophie’s husband has just taken a job as headmaster at a local boarding school and they’ll be living in a house on campus.  One day while wandering in the woods around the school, Sophie comes across a note affixed to a tree that reads “DIG HERE.”  The note looks pretty new so, intrigued, Sophie does as instructed, unaware that she is about to uncover new evidence in Tallulah’s missing persons case.

My favorite part of this story is how Jewell lets the pieces of this mystery come together through dual timelines.  The 2017 timeline shows us both the lead up to what ultimately happens with Tallulah and her boyfriend, as well as the initial police investigation as witnessed through the eyes of Kim, who is determined to find out what happened to her daughter.  I was so heartbroken for Kim because I just can’t even imagine how she could go on from day to day, raising her grandson alone and wondering everyday what had become of his mother. I was also very sympathetic to Tallulah herself because it becomes clear she had some pretty major issues that she was dealing with up until the time of her disappearance.

The second timeline, which Sophie really kicks into motion with her digging, focuses on what the new evidence brings to light as Sophie decides to do a little sleuthing on her own.  Sophie is an author of cozy mysteries who is currently suffering from writer’s block so she goes into this thinking it might help inspire her to write.  She has no idea what she is getting herself into as she slowly starts to put together the pieces and gets closer to the truth than anyone has gotten thus far.

It’s definitely a slow burn when it comes to learning the fate of Tallulah and her boyfriend, but the journey is filled with plenty of twists and turns, riveting drama, ever increasing suspense and tension, and a wonderfully intricate plot that will keep you guessing until the very end.  I’ve read four of Jewell’s thrillers so far and The Night She Disappeared is my favorite. I read it in a single day and just could not put it down until I had answers, which is what I look for in a great mystery. If you’re looking for a read that will keep you turning pages until the wee hours of the morning, The Night She Disappeared is the book for you.

four-half-stars

About Lisa Jewell

Lisa was born in London in 1968. Her mother was a secretary and her father was a textile agent and she was brought up in the northernmost reaches of London with her two younger sisters. She was educated at a Catholic girls’ Grammar school in Finchley. After leaving school at sixteen she spent two years at Barnet College doing an arts foundation course and then two years at Epsom School of Art & Design studying Fashion Illustration and Communication.

She worked for the fashion chain Warehouse for three years as a PR assistant and then for Thomas Pink, the Jermyn Street shirt company for four years as a receptionist and PA. She started her first novel, Ralph’s Party, for a bet in 1996. She finished it in 1997 and it was published by Penguin books in May 1998. It went on to become the best-selling debut novel of that year.

She has since written a further nine novels, as is currently at work on her eleventh.

She now lives in an innermost part of north London with her husband Jascha, an IT consultant, her daughters, Amelie and Evie and her silver tabbies, Jack and Milly.

Reviews: NEVER SAW YOU COMING & PORTRAIT OF A SCOTSMAN

 

It was a short week, but boy did it feel like a long one!  I had a pretty quiet holiday weekend and therefore was able to get tons of reading done.  Thank goodness too because I have so many books to review in September.  Anyway, I’m thrilled to share my thoughts with you today on two great books I read over the holidays — the third book in a fun historical romance series called A League of Extraordinary Woman and also on my very first read from Erin Hahn.

 

Reviews:  NEVER SAW YOU COMING & PORTRAIT OF A SCOTSMANNever Saw You Coming Goodreads

Author: Erin Hahn

Publication Date: September 7, 2021

Publisher:  Wednesday Books

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

I was a little hesitant going into Erin Hahn’s new novel Never Saw You Coming because of its focus on religion.  I have very complicated feelings about religion myself and worried that my own feelings might get in the way and make this a less than enjoyable read for me. I was pleased to discover that the exact opposite happened – this book and its main character, Meg Hennessey, really spoke to me mainly because Meg shares many of the conflicted feelings I’ve always had so I found her very easy to relate to.

What I found most relatable about Meg is that regardless of whatever conflicted feelings she has about church and her fellow Christians, those conflicted feelings never spill over into her feelings about God.  Her relationship with God is strong; she just takes issue with those holier than thou Christians who somehow think they have the right to act as judge and juror over everyone else’s morality.  I also like that the author uses very realistic scenarios to explore Meg’s conflicted feelings.  Her feelings, for example, really come to a head when she finds herself attracted to a young man named Micah and wonders if exploring any kind of intimate relationship with him makes her a sinner.  Meg also has to contend with a parent from the church deeming her unfit to lead the church youth group because Meg has purple streaks in her hair and because the parent witnessed Micah leaving Meg’s house late at night.

I really liked Meg and felt especially sympathetic toward her because at the beginning of the story, she has recently learned that her entire life has basically been a lie and that her parents have been keeping a huge secret from her.  She runs away looking for answers, not just about religion, but really, about her entire sense of self and identity.

While I enjoyed watching Meg explore her faith and work through all the questions she has, I also really loved her growing relationship with Micah.  He too has a complicated relationship with religion and so he and Meg are able to have some pretty frank and enlightening discussions about faith and purity and sex.

I also loved that the religious themes didn’t completely take over the story, but instead meshes very naturally into the budding romance between Meg and Micah.  The author does a lovely job keeping the two parts of the story well balanced.

Overall, Never Saw You Coming is both a sweet romance and an exploration of faith that will leave readers with plenty of food for thought.  4 STARS.

 

Reviews:  NEVER SAW YOU COMING & PORTRAIT OF A SCOTSMANPortrait of a Scotsman (A League of Extraordinary Women, #3) Goodreads

Author: Evie Dunmore

Publication Date: September 7, 2021

Publisher:  Jove

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

Portrait of a Scotsman is the third installment in Evie Dunmore’s entertaining historical romance series, A League of Extraordinary Women.  I’ve enjoyed this series immensely so far and this latest book is no exception.

This time around, the extraordinary woman in question is Hattie Greenfield.  Hattie is a suffragist and an Oxford scholar who is studying art.  Hattie’s desires in life are quite simple:  1) she wants to become a famous artist, 2) she wants to find a noble cause to fight for that she is passionate about, and 3) she eventually wants to find a suitable gentleman to marry.  Hattie is also the daughter of a prominent London businessman and therefore an heiress to a pretty substantial fortune.  All of this comes crashing down around her, however, when she is found in an uncompromising position with the dark and broody Scotsman, Lucian Blackstone, a business rival of Hattie’s father.  Lucian has a terrible reputation, both in business and in his personal dealings, so Hattie has set herself up for quite the scandal.  The only way to save her reputation is for her and Lucian to marry, a prospect neither of them is overly excited about but that they are both resigned to.

Thus begins a slow burn of a journey as Hattie and Lucian begin an awkward married life together.  Hattie is alternately attracted to and repulsed by Lucian, and doesn’t know what she wants from one moment to the next, and Lucian, while he’s most definitely attracted to Hattie, finds her to be a distraction from what he is really trying to do, which is seek revenge against someone who hurt him years ago.  There is a lot of sexual tension as the two of them alternate between fighting their feelings and giving in to them.  A trip to Scotland, Lucian’s homeland, really takes their relationship to the next level.  Hattie learns that there’s a lot more to Lucian than meets the eye and as they finally start to have honest heart-to-heart conversations with one another, she realizes that they may have a lot more in common than she ever would have dreamed of.

I really enjoyed watching the relationship between Hattie and Lucian grow and evolve.  There are awkward moments as well as hilarious ones, spirited arguments, and of course plenty of steamy, sexy moments as well.  There’s also a bit of politics, feminism, social commentary regarding the rich vs the poor, and a pretty solid revenge story, so basically a little something for everyone.  As with the prior two novels, Portrait of a Scotsman also appears to be well-researched in terms of events and issues of the Victorian Era.

All in all, another very satisfying installment in the A League of Extraordinary Women series.  Fans of the prior two books in the series should enjoy this one as well, as should fans of historical romance.  4 STARS.

Rom-Com Reviews: WITCH PLEASE and A SPOT OF TROUBLE

 

Happy Friday everyone!  Today is the start of a long holiday weekend here and I, for one, cannot wait to have a few days off to relax. Life has been pretty intense lately, so I’m all the more grateful for cute reads like the two I’m sharing my thoughts on today to distract me from real-life problems.

 

Rom-Com Reviews:  WITCH PLEASE and A SPOT OF TROUBLEWitch Please (Fix-It Witches, #1) Goodreads

Author: Ann Aguirre

Publication Date: September 7, 2021

Publisher:  Sourcebooks Casablanca

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

I was drawn to Ann Aguirre’s new witchy rom-com Witch Please as soon as I saw it being compared to Practical Magic meets Gilmore Girls.  Add to that comparison, a witch who has sworn off men, a man who is looking for true love but is pretty sure he’s cursed, and a meddling, matchmaking grandmother and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a very entertaining read.

Witch Please follows Danica Waterhouse, a modern witch whose magic centers around electricity and technology.  Danica and her cousin Clem, also a witch and also a technomancer, use their magic to run their technical repair shop, Fix-It Witches.  Both Danica and Clem have had bad luck in the love department and have made a pact to swear off serious relationships with men.  Flings are great, but that’s it.  This of course does not please their grandmother, who has made it her mission in life to find Danica a suitable magical husband.  Needless to say, things get awkward every time grandma shows up.

Titus Winnaker is the handsome owner of Sugar Daddy’s bakery.  Titus feels like he has been looking for love forever but every time he starts to get serious with a woman, she inexplicably dumps him.  This has gone on for so long that not only is Titus still a virgin, but he has become convinced that he is literally cursed.  He has no idea that when one of his ovens goes on the fritz and seeks service from the Fix-It Witches, that his life is about to change.

I really adored both Danica and Titus.  Danica is feisty and passionate, and she’s also very witty.  I also felt tremendous sympathy for her with respect to the tension with her grandmother.  Titus is a sweetheart too.  He’s a bit awkward but he’s so sincere about wanting to find someone to spend the rest of his life with that you can’t help but cheer him on.  He’s also got some unsettling family drama in the form of his father trying to force Titus and his sister to bond with their pregnant new stepmother.  Considering he was never around for his first family, Titus and his sister aren’t overly interested in bonding with family number 2.

Looking at everything these two had going on in their lives, I immediately wanted them to find each other.  It was clear from the first moment they met that they had off the charts chemistry.  The banter between them was both cute and hilarious and I immediately wanted more.  It’s a wild ride watching Danica and Titus get to know each other though because per her pact with Clem, all Danica wants is a one-night stand, whereas Titus is smitten with Danica from that first moment and knows she’s the one.  There’s a real push and pull between them as they both give in to and yet constantly fight their attraction to each other.

I did get a little bogged down along the way a few times.  There are some details that feel like loose ends or pieces of a puzzle and it took almost the entire story for those pieces to finally click into place and make sense.  I wanted the cute and sexy so I felt like my brain was having to work too hard to piece those elements together, haha!  There was also one character that shows up that just feels out of place and unnecessary. It turns out that there’s going to be a second book and I think he’ll feature in that one, but for this one, I was just like ‘Why are you here?  There’s already enough drama without you.”

Even with those couple of issues, I still quite enjoyed Witch Please.  If you’re looking for a super cute witchy rom-com to ease you into the spooky season, this is a great pick!  3.5 STARS

 

Rom-Com Reviews:  WITCH PLEASE and A SPOT OF TROUBLEA Spot of Trouble Goodreads

Author: Teri Wilson

Publication Date: September 7, 2021

Publisher:  Sourcebooks Casablanca

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

I had no idea until I read the author’s note that A Spot Of Trouble is actually a loose retelling of the Disney classic 101 Dalmatians.  I just saw that adorable cover and that it’s written by Teri Wilson, whose books I enjoy, and I knew I had to read it.  Having this turn out to be a fresh take on one of my favorite Disney films just made it all the more appealing to me.

You guys, this one is so cute and so funny!  Here’s a quick run down of the highlights.  It has a smalltown setting with a very close knit community, the kind where everyone knows everyone else’s business.  There’s also a major rivalry between the local firefighters and police officers, which comes to a head every year during the Guns and Hoses baseball tournament. There’s also a mischievous trio of old ladies who fancy themselves matchmakers and call themselves Charlie’s Angels.  Last but not least, the stars of the story are Violet Marsh, a bubbly cupcake baker/yoga instructor who owns an out-of-control goofy dalmatian named Sprinkles, and Sam Nash, a grumpy firefighter who is new to town and who also owns a dalmatian, Cinder, who has been trained to near perfection.   Add all of these ingredients together and it’s a recipe for nonstop laughs!

The sparks flew between Violet and Sam from their very first meeting when Violet accuses Sam of dognapping Sprinkles and sends the police after him.  As the daughter of the police chief, she is firmly on the Guns side of the Guns and Hoses rivalry and declares Sam her nemesis even though the two of them are clearly attracted to each other.  Hilarity ensues when the “Charlie’s Angels” also see the attraction and start hatching various zany plans to try to force Violet and Sam together.  I loved seeing what these ladies would come up with and how well their plans really did work in terms of making Violet and Sam look past the silly rivalry and really see one another and how good they could be for each other.

I don’t want to give anything else away, but if you’re in the mood for a fun read that delivers laugh after laugh and that features an opposites-attract romance, and of course two adorable dalmatians, A Spot of Trouble should be on your reading list. 4 STARS

Thriller Thursday Reviews: Not A Happy Family & The Perfect Family

 

Happy Thriller Thursday!   Sharon here, and this week’s theme is dysfunctional families LOL. Today I am reviewing Shari Lapena’s new book Not a Happy Family and Robyn Harding’s new book The Perfect Family and let me just say, I thought my family had some issues but compared to the families in these books, my family looks like The Brady Bunch 🙂

 

Thriller Thursday Reviews: Not A Happy Family & The Perfect FamilyNot a Happy Family Goodreads

Author: Shari Lapena

Publication Date: July 27, 2021

Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books

Shari Lapena’s newest novel Not a Happy Family follows the dysfunctional wealthy Merton family. Fred and Sheila Merton were brutally murdered in their home the night after a disastrous Easter dinner with their adult children, Catherine, Dan and Jenna. As the police begin their investigation, they obviously start with their children, who stand to inherit millions and who each had a motive for wanting their parents dead.

Catherine is the oldest and knew that she would be inheriting the family home one day, that is until their father announced at Easter dinner that he was selling the house.

Dan has never had a good relationship with his father. Dan expected to take over the family business one day, that is until Fred sold it because he didn’t think Dan would be able to handle running it. So now after a few bad investments Dan needs money and asks his father for a loan on the night of Easter only to have his father tell him in no uncertain terms No!

Jenna is an artist; she likes to sculpt images of women’s anatomy, much to her parents’ dismay. She gets a monthly allowance from her parents. But they have decided it is time to cut her off.

Fred was not the best father. He got great joy in causing emotional pain to his children. And Sheila was not a very comforting mother; she left that job to their housekeeper Irene. So, it was not very surprising that the children were not overly devastated by their parents’ death.  They all have alibis for the night their parents died, well according to each of their spouses they did.  But those alibis are soon unraveled.

The siblings are not extremely close, but when the police start narrowing their suspicions onto them, they do rally around each other. Even though they figured one of them was the killer and they could have easily thrown each other under the bus, they stuck together. They figured which ever one of them was the killer did them a favor by getting rid of their toxic parents and made them all rich at the same time. Okay it was a bit of a twisted way of thinking, but hey they are family and are sticking together.

I liked the perspectives we got from each of them and watching them sweat when the investigation got to close to one of them.

As the police keep hitting walls as they try and figure out which of the siblings is the killer, they get some help from Fred’s sister Audrey. She has never really liked Catherine, Dan and Jenna, so she is more than happy to spill all the family secrets. And the Merton’s have a lot of secrets.

I really cannot say much more because I don’t want to spoil anything, I will say this book was full of twists and turns that had me all over the place on who I thought did it. Every time I thought I had it figured out, a twist would happen to point me in a different direction. I was completely clueless when the killer was finally revealed.  And without giving anything away, I love how Shari Lapena ended this book.

If you like stories that center around dysfunctional families and that keep you guessing throughout, I recommend Shari Lapena’s Not a Happy Family.   4 stars

 

Thriller Thursday Reviews: Not A Happy Family & The Perfect FamilyThe Perfect Family Goodreads

Author: Robyn Harding

Publication Date: August 10, 2021

Publisher: Gallery Books

Robyn Harding’s newest novel The Perfect Family, is full of unlikeable characters and a train wreck of a family, and I enjoyed every minute of it.

The Perfect Family follows the Adler family, Thomas, a real estate agent; his wife Viv, an interior designer; their twenty year old Son, Eli; and seventeen year old daughter, Tarryn. Thomas and Viv have tried to create the image of a perfect family, from their jobs, their cars, their home, and their children. But their perfect world is about to come crashing down. One morning when they wake up, they find their house has been egged. Thomas insists that it is just teenagers. But then a smoke bomb is thrown at their house, their car tires are slashed, and someone has set fire to their hedges. The police cannot help them since they don’t know who is doing this and even the surveillance cameras they installed only show a shadowy figure in a hoodie. Why is someone targeting the Adlers? Well, the answer to that question lies in the secrets they each have.

I don’t want to give much away about what secrets they each have. Even though they are not real spoilers, I think it is still best to figure them out on your own because as each family member’s secret is revealed to the reader it adds more to the mystery to who is behind the attacks on the Adler family.  As each secret was revealed, I would switch my thinking on what I thought was going on and why.

The Adlers are such a dysfunctional family and none of them came across as sympathetic, even after their secrets were revealed. They are all so sure that their secret cannot be the reason the attacks are happening, that they are all quick to point the finger at each other. Tarryn had the finger pointed at her the most. Her parents were so sure that these pranks were the act of teenagers, so it had to be someone that she made mad at some point. When I learned each of their secrets all I could think of was “You are blaming Tarryn when you are hiding that?” They were all such hypocrites.

I love how Robin Harding slowly revealed bits of information, it wasn’t all just a big data dump. She had my attention fully as I couldn’t wait to find out more about each of the Adler’s secrets and what else was going to happen to them. And even though I don’t think any of the characters were very likeable, I love how Harding gave them each a voice. The book is told from each of their POV’s and I really liked getting into their thoughts and couldn’t wait to find out what they were hiding.

The Perfect Family was a suspenseful read, with many twists that will keep you guessing until the end. If you are a fan of Robin Harding, I think you will enjoy this as much as I did.  3 ½ stars

Review: MOM JEANS AND OTHER MISTAKES

Review:  MOM JEANS AND OTHER MISTAKESMom Jeans and Other Mistakes by Alexa Martin
five-stars
Published by Berkley Books on September 7, 2021
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Women's 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.

 

 

I was honestly not prepared for how much I would fall in love with Alexa Martin’s new novel Mom Jeans and Other Mistakes.  I requested it for review because of the fun title, cute cover, and because I enjoyed my last read from this author, but I’m going to tell you all right now before I break it down any further, this is my new favorite book about female friendships!

The story follows two women, Jude Andrews and Lauren Turner, who have been best friends since the third grade.  Jude is a popular social media influencer whose online brand is healthy eating, pilates, and a positive attitude.  Her online life, however, doesn’t even remotely resemble her real life, where she has a toxic relationship with her out-of-work celebrity mother and where a bad decision involving the guy she was dating left her with an empty bank account.  Lauren isn’t faring much better unfortunately.  She had to abandon her dream of becoming a doctor when she unexpectedly got pregnant and even more unexpectedly, when her fiancé decided to dump her and leave her to raise her daughter all alone.  Jude and Lauren turn to each other, as they have all their lives, and decide that the solution to their troubles is to move in together and be, as they like to call themselves, “Sister Wives”!

The relationship between Jude and Lauren just really spoke to me.  Sure, the book is filled with plenty of laughs and good times, particularly surrounding a fun podcast that Lauren and Jude decide to do together, but at the heart of the story is this truly beautiful friendship.  They are each other’s ride-or-die and it shows in everything they do for each other. I especially adored how much their love for each other spilled over to Lauren’s adorable daughter, Addy.  Jude would seriously lay down her life for that little girl and it just made me smile from ear to ear every time the two of them interacted.

Although the podcast provides plenty of laughs, Mom Jeans and Other Mistakes still has its fair share of more dramatic moments.  Jude and Lauren both have personal drama that weighs on them, Lauren in the form of her ex deciding, out of the blue, that he wants full custody of Addy, and Jude in the form of a mom who is little more than a parasite, constantly coming to Jude to beg for money to finance her career comeback.  Jude is so used to putting on this happy mask for her social media followers that she tries to do it to Lauren as well, but Lauren sees through her act and forces Jude to stop keeping everything all bottled up.

I really just loved everything about their friendship and about the book as a whole.  The book, like Jude and Lauren’s podcast, very realistically explores the ups and downs women, whether they’re moms or not, go through every day and sends the message that we should all support each other.  If you’re looking for a book that explores and celebrates the bonds of female friendship and sisterhood, I highly recommend Alexa Martin’s Mom Jeans and Other Mistakes.

five-stars

About Alexa Martin

Alexa Martin is a writer and stay at home mom. A Nashville transplant, she’s intent on instilling a deep love and respect for the great Dolly Parton in her four children and husband. The Playbook Series was inspired by the eight years she spent as a NFL wife and her deep love of all things pop culture, sparkles, leggings, and wine. When she’s not repeating herself to her kids, you can find her catching up on whatever Real Housewives franchise is currently airing or filling up her Etsy cart with items she doesn’t need.

Review: THE LAST CHANCE LIBRARY by Freya Sampson

Review:  THE LAST CHANCE LIBRARY by Freya SampsonThe Last Chance Library by Freya Sampson
four-half-stars
Published by Berkley Books on August 31, 2021
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.

 

 

 

The Last Chance Library by Freya Sampson is an absolute gem of a book.  I’m a sucker for a book about books anyway, but throw in a charming smalltown setting, a group of feisty senior citizens determined to do whatever it takes to save their local library, and an introverted library assistant who really wants to find her voice and this book was just an all around wonderful experience for me.

The story follows June Jones, a timid but lovable library assistant who works at Chalcot Library.  The library holds a special place in June’s heart, not just because she loves assisting fellow book lovers but also because for years, her mother also worked there.  Since June’s mother passed away, working at the library has been a way for June to still feel close to her.

I loved watching June interact with the patrons, especially the children, who she did everything she could to help foster their love of reading, and the elderly, who she not only helped with book recommendations but also with any technology/internet needs they have.  When the local council starts talking of closing the library as a way to save money and it appears that the head librarian, Marjorie, may be in on it and tells June she is forbidden from speaking out against the possible closure,  June is determined to do whatever she has to do to save the library, in spite of Marjorie’s warning, thus sealing her place in my heart as the beloved underdog.

I also had tremendous sympathy for June because in some ways, it seems that she is so busy trying to preserve her mother’s memory that she has stopped living her own life.  She still lives in her childhood home, hasn’t packed up any of her mother’s old belongings even though she died 10 years ago, and June has indefinitely put on hold her dreams of going to university to study writing.  Helping to save the library really seems to be the spark she needs to finally move forward and start living again.

It’s not just June fighting to save the library though.  The library’s elderly patrons spring into action, forming a Friends of the Library group to protest the closing.  I adored the members of this group so much.  They’re so much fun to read about –  all scrappy, full of wit, and just so incredibly devoted to the library.  Through their actions, it becomes clear that the library is so much more than just a building full of books. It’s a safe haven for the homeless, a place where teenagers who live in crowded homes can have a quiet place to study, a place where unlikely friendships are forged between a cranky old woman and an immigrant who is new to the area.  In short, the library is the very heart of the community.

I don’t want to say anything else that may spoil the plot, but this really is such a special story.  If you enjoy books about friendship, finding your voice and standing up for what you believe in, and of course books about books, be sure to check out The Last Chance Library!

four-half-stars

About Freya Sampson

Freya Sampson works in TV and was the executive producer of Channel 4’s Four in a Bed and Gogglesprogs. She studied History at Cambridge University and is a graduate of the Faber Academy. She lives in London with her husband, two young children and an antisocial cat. The Last Library (called The Last Chance Library on the U.S. version) is her debut novel.

Thriller Thursday Review: Billy Summers

 

Hi Everyone! It’s Sharon, back with another edition of Thriller Thursday. This week I am sharing my thoughts on Stephen King’s new book, Billy Summers. I know I normally have two reviews to share, but I loved this book so much and I had so much to say about it, that I didn’t think it would be fair to another author to only give a short blurb for their book. But don’t worry, next Thriller Thursday I will be back to two reviews. I even know which books they will be and I am almost finished with the first one. 🙂

 

Thriller Thursday Review: Billy SummersBilly Summers Goodreads

Author: Stephen King

Publication Date: August 3, 2021

Publisher: Scribner

Stephen King’s latest book Billy Summers is now in my top ten favorite King books. This was not a scary read. It’s more of a crime/suspenseful mystery. As always with Stephen King’s books, I was fully invested in the characters and cared about them so much. I had butterflies in my stomach almost the entire time I was reading because I had no idea where this book was going and was afraid for their safety with every turn of the page.

The book centers around Billy Summers, who is an Iraq war vet whose specialty is being one of the best snipers in the world. When Billy leaves the Marines, he puts that specialty to use and becomes a killer for hire. But Billy will only kill men who he deems are bad. So yeah, he is a killer with scruples. Billy is ready to retire but has decided to do one last job, for two million dollars. He does this job and he is set for life. What could possibly go wrong? Everything, that’s what.

I fell in love with Billy from the very beginning. Yes, he is a killer, but beneath all that there is a very nice and caring man. And we get to see this man while Billy is waiting for his mark to arrive. The man Billy has been hired to kill is currently in L.A. fighting extradition to be returned to a southern town called Riverdale to face murder charges. While waiting, Billy has been set up with a false identity and cover story. He is a writer that is working on a novel. He is living in a house in a family neighborhood and it is here that we get to see the man Billy really is as he gets to know and become friends with his neighbors. I really enjoyed watching him interact with his neighbors. They would go to each other’s house for dinners, and he would play with their children. He was just an all-around great guy (I know, I know he is a killer for hire lol).  When it got closer to the time the kill would take place, Billy started to feel bad at how upset his neighbors, especially the children, would be when they learned who he really was.

I don’t want to say what went wrong with the hit, but I will say that all does not go as planned and Billy has to go into hiding. It is while he is in hiding that we meet another great character, Alice. Alice was the victim of a rape and she was left on the side of the road across the street from the apartment that Billy was hiding out in.  When Billy saw a van drive down the street and dump her out, he assumed she was dead but when he went out to check and found that she was alive he brought her back to the apartment. See he is really a nice guy. I really liked Alice, she was one tough and smart cookie. She joins Billy on his trip across the country to right the wrongs that were done against him. I loved watching the relationship between Billy and Alice grow. It wasn’t instant trust between the two of them, which made it feel all the more realistic. Billy and Alice brought out the best in each other.

While Billy was waiting for the hit to occur, he actually did do some writing and then continued with the writing after, and it is through his writing that we learn more about him. When Billy was 11 years old his stepfather killed his little sister and then came after Billy, but Billy shot and killed him. After spending a few years in a foster home Billy joined the Marines. We get a good look as to what it was like to be on the ground in Iraq through Billy’s writings. The writing of being in Iraq was so authentic that I could visualize everything. I really liked having the chapters of the actual story broken up with pages from Billy’s writing. As much as I loved Billy from the beginning of the book, reading the words he wrote about his life made him all the more loveable and also sympathetic.

This book was a slow but steady build up to a tension filled ending that had me in tears. If you are a fan of Stephen King I think you will enjoy Billy Summers. If you have been looking for a Stephen King book to read, but don’t want the pants scared off you (lol), I recommend Billy Summers.  4 ½ stars