Reviews: THE BOOK OF MAGIC & VESPERTINE

 

Sorry I pretty much dropped off the radar by the middle of the week last week.  We had a huge deadline at work on Friday, and we’re short-staffed yet again so it was all hands on deck to get everything finished.  Thankfully we made the deadline but I was exhausted and just didn’t have it in me to do much of anything except be a coach potato all weekend.  I plan to get caught up this week though so thanks for your patience in the meantime.  I had also planned to post these two reviews last week but was too tired to even write them.  Happy to share my thoughts on both of these today though. 🙂

 

Reviews:  THE BOOK OF MAGIC & VESPERTINEThe Book of Magic (Practical Magic, #2) Goodreads

Author: Alice Hoffman

Publication Date: October 12, 2021

Publisher:  Simon & Schuster

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

It’s no secret to anyone who follows my blog that I’m a huge fan of Alice Hoffman’s books, especially her Practical Magic series.  My love for this series about the Owens women, their magic, and the fact that they have been cursed in matter of love for generations has only grown with each passing book.  I loved how Hoffman used the second and third books in the series as prequels to gradually take us all the way back to the origins of the Owens family curse.  What I was not expecting, however, was a fourth book, and specifically a fourth book that would function as an actual sequel to Practical Magic, but that’s what we get with The Book of Magic

The Book of Magic takes us full circle back to Gillian and Sally from the first book, along with their beloved, quirky old aunts, Jet and Franny.  When the story opens, we learn that Jet has seen and heard the death watch beetle and knows she only has seven days left to live.  She decides it’s time to try to end the family curse.  She wants future generations of Owens women to be able to fall in love and live happily ever after rather than suffer the endless heartbreaks that have plagued her, her sister, and all other Owens family members going back 300 years.  Seven days isn’t enough, however, and while she sets some things into motion, she is unable to complete the task prior to her death and knows it will fall to someone else in the family to finish what she has started.  She has left clues for what must come next but it remains to be seen which Owens will find her clues and if they’ll be brave enough to make the sacrifice that needs to be made to set the rest of the family free.

Jet and her sister Franny were my two favorite characters from the first book, so I was heartbroken from the opening pages of the book learning that Jet was going to die.  At the same time though, I loved how determined she was to break this awful curse once and for all.  Her family has had way more than its fair share of heartbreak and it has ruined so many lives over the years, and I just loved how she really wanted breaking it to be her legacy.

I also loved getting to see all the beloved characters from the earlier books – Gillian, Sally, Franny, Vincent, and so many more, as well as meeting two younger members of the Owens clan, Sally’s daughters Kylie and Antonia.  Kylie and Antonia, thanks to their overprotective mother, have grown up not knowing about magic or their family’s curse, and when they start to hear whispers of it at Jet’s funeral, Kylie in particular, starts looking for answers and stumbles upon some of Jet’s clues.  When her boyfriend Gideon falls into a coma, Kylie’s desperate actions put her in danger and become the catalyst for the bulk of the story’s plot, which involves the entire Owens family coming together to confront enemies from the past, try to save both Kylie and Gideon and to finish what Jet started.

I don’t want to say anything else for fear of spoiling the journey, but with The Book of Magic, Alice Hoffman has gifted me with everything I could have possibly wanted in a sequel for these beloved characters, and so much more.  This story broke my heart and made me cry, and yet somehow it was also heartwarming and left me with a smile on my face. There’s just something so satisfying about closure and Hoffman absolutely nails it with The Book of Magic.  5 MAGICAL STARS.

 

Reviews:  THE BOOK OF MAGIC & VESPERTINEVespertine (Vespertine, #1) Goodreads

Author: Margaret Rogerson

Publication Date: October 5, 2021

Publisher:  Margaret K. McElderry Books

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

Vespertine by Margaret Rogerson is the atmospheric and action-packed fantasy novel I didn’t know I needed this spooky season.   I’m a big fan of Rogerson’s earlier novels, An Enchantment of Ravens and A Sorcery of Thorns because I love the strong heroines she creates as well as her exquisite worldbuilding so I was thrilled as soon as I dove into Vespertine and discovered that we have another fabulous heroine to root for.

Vespertine follows Artemisia, a young nun-in-training who prefers to live a solitary life and stay in the background attending to the dead, but who finds herself thrust unexpectedly into the role of heroine when her convent is threatened and she stands up to defend it.  She does so by wielding a weapon, an ancient relic, that few are able to wield and in doing so, becomes possessed by a revenant.  This becomes a life-changing moment for Artemisia as she not only has to contend with this spirit basically riding shotgun in her mind and with people trying to elevate her to sainthood, but she also somehow finds herself tasked with solving a complex mystery that features old magic, nuns, spirits, saints, as well as secrets and trickery.

While the plot itself is action-packed and guaranteed to keep you turning the pages, and the world and magic system Rogerson has created here is sure to enthrall, my favorite part of the story were the characters.  As an introvert myself, I found Artemisia immensely relatable and cringed right alongside her when she found herself unable to escape the spotlight.  I also found her to be an incredibly sympathetic character because she comes from a troubled background, including a downright abusive childhood.  The more we learn about her, the more I can understand why she is such an awkward and retreating figure.

All of that said, however, my second favorite character is the Revenant who possesses Artemisia.  It is unclear whether the spirit is male or female, young or old, but what is clear is that whatever it is, it has the most hilariously snarky personality.  The Revenant reminded me of a grumpy old man, and I lived for its banter with Artemisia, especially because it brought out her equally snarky side.  The story itself has a very dark atmosphere and Artemisia’s overall journey is pretty dark, but you can always count on the unexpectedly funny banter between these two to keep things entertaining.  I was also fascinated by the bond that formed between them even though Artemisia never knew if she could trust the spirit not to consume her completely.  I wouldn’t say they become friends but there’s a very interesting dynamic between them that I became very invested in.

The last thing I want to mention is the lack of a romance and the fact that I liked it this way.  Vespertine is very much all about Artemisia and her journey and I think a romance would have just been in the way.  If you prefer your fantasies with a bit of romance, Vespertine may not be your cup of tea, but if you’re all about stories where underdogs learn they are stronger than they ever thought they could be, then Vespertine is the book for you.  4 STARS.

Romance Reviews: IT STARTED WITH A DOG, PAYBACK’S A WITCH, & A HOLLY JOLLY DIWALI

Hello everyone!  I’m back today with some October releases you’re going to want on your radar if you’re in the mood for romance.  There’s a little something for the dog lovers, something for those who enjoy a good spooky season read, and last but not least, for those who enjoy a romance that also feeds their need to travel to faraway places.

 

Romance Reviews: IT STARTED WITH A DOG, PAYBACK’S A WITCH, & A HOLLY JOLLY DIWALIIt Started with a Dog (Lucky Dog, #2) Goodreads

Author: Julia London

Publication Date: October 5, 2021

Publisher:  Berkley Books

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

It Started with a Dog is the second book in Julia London’s charming Lucky Dog series. It follows Harper Thompson, a young woman trying to work her way up the corporate ladder at her job. She is currently vying for a promotion and her boss has given her the major task of opening a flagship coffee shop for their Déjà Brew brand, including promoting it and making all the arrangements for the shop’s grand opening.  While she has no time at all for romance, an accidental swapping of cell phones during a Lyft ride from hell leads her to meet Jonah Rogers, a scientist at NASA who is on sabbatical to help his family with their struggling business while his dad recovers from cancer.  As they make arrangements to meet up and swap phones back once Jonah is back in town, Harper and Jonah really hit it off and engage in a series of flirty texts all week.  Harper is already obsessed with Truck, the enormous dog Jonah has as his phone’s wallpaper, and can’t wait to meet Truck and his owner.

Once Hannah and Jonah finally meet in person, the sparks really fly as it becomes clear they have major chemistry and a shared love of dogs.  They start dating, including a date where they go to a shelter and walk dogs.  It’s all sweet and they’re so happy getting to know one another, until a major obstacle appears before them – the Déjà Brew shop that Harper is helping to launch is directly across the street from Jonah’s family business, a mom and pop coffee shop called The Lucky Star.  Can their fledging new relationship survive the strain of being rivals?

I adored both Harper and Jonah.  Harper is so fierce and determined to land that promotion. I really loved her attitude and her spunk.  I loved Jonah too, especially because of the sacrifices he’s willing to make to try to help his family, including passing up an opportunity of a lifetime at his job.  My heart broke for both Harper and Jonah when they realized they were rivals and that Harper could actually be the one to cause The Lucky Star to go under and devastate Jonah’s family.  I was so invested in them and just really wanted them to find a solution that worked for everyone.  The wondering what would happen added a nice layer of suspense to keep me turning the pages.  If you like a little drama to balance out your romance, this element of the story should do the trick for you.

I’m enjoying Julia London’s Lucky Dog series so much.  I’m a sucker for a book that features dogs anyway, and with this series, I think I have a new favorite romantic trope – dogs serving as the catalyst to bring couples together.  4 STARS

 

Romance Reviews: IT STARTED WITH A DOG, PAYBACK’S A WITCH, & A HOLLY JOLLY DIWALIPayback's a Witch (The Witches of Thistle Grove #1) Goodreads

Author: Lana Harper

Publication Date: October 5, 2021

Publisher:  Berkley Books

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

Lana Harper’s new witchy romance Payback’s a Witch follows Emmy Harlow, a young witch who abandoned her magical hometown of Thistle Grove years ago in favor of the bright lights of Chicago.  Emmy left in part because a warlock broke her heart, but also because she’s tired of being looked down  upon because the Harlows are the weakest and least magical of all the prominent witch families in Thistle Grove.  Emmy wants to make her way in the world where her magic doesn’t define or limit her.

When the story opens, however, Emmy is reluctantly on her way back to her hometown.  She has promised her father she will fulfill one last witchy duty – to serve as Arbiter at the annual spellcasting tournament.  When Emmy arrives in town, she reunites with her best friend, Linden, and also becomes reacquainted with another young witch she had a crush on in high school, Talia Avramov.  Emmy is appalled to hear that the same warlock who broke her heart years ago, Gareth Blackmoore, has been toying with Linden and Talia’s hearts as well.  Gareth thinks he can do whatever he wants just because his family is the most powerful in the town, and the three witches decide it’s time to take him down a peg or two and that the tournament will provide the perfect opportunity for revenge.

I don’t want to spoil anything about the tournament but it definitely has a bit of a Harry Potter Triwizard Tournament feel to it with the three most magical families vying for supremacy.  I loved the competition itself, which was action packed and a lot of fun, and of course, the witches putting their plan of revenge into motion made it all the more entertaining.

Aside from the tournament, Emmy’s journey is also quite compelling.  Once she is back home and can feel the magic she abandoned so long ago coursing through her veins again, she becomes very conflicted about who she is and where she wants to be.  She also finds herself very attracted to Talia and is beyond excited to realize that her feelings are reciprocated.  I enjoyed watching Talia and Emmy get to know one another, especially since that relationship adds another layer of complexity to Emmy’s journey of self-discovery.

I also really enjoyed the author’s atmospheric descriptions of Thistle Grove. It’s such a magical place with the perfect autumn vibe.  It was very easy to see why Emmy was torn about leaving once she was back under its spell.

If you’re looking for a fun witchy read to dive into this spooky season, I highly recommend Payback’s a Witch.  4 STARS

 

Romance Reviews: IT STARTED WITH A DOG, PAYBACK’S A WITCH, & A HOLLY JOLLY DIWALIA Holly Jolly Diwali Goodreads

Author: Sonya Lalli

Publication Date: October 5, 2021

Publisher:  Berkley Books

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

Sonya Lalli’s new contemporary romance, A Holly Jolly Diwali, follows Niki Randhawa, a young woman who has just been let go from her job and is trying to figure out what to do with her life.  Niki has always considered herself a rule follower and a very practical sort of person and is really bummed that living in such a way clearly hasn’t gotten her anywhere.  She is also being gently pressured by her parents, who think she really needs to live a little and start dating. She reluctantly agrees to go on a date with Raj, a young man her parents approve of, and surprisingly, it is this young man who convinces Niki to do the most spontaneous thing she has ever done – pack her bags and head for Mumbai, India at the last minute to attend her friend Diya’s wedding.

I loved this journey for Niki because she really breaks out of her comfort zone by going on this trip.  It’s also a wonderful time for her to connect with her roots and learn more about her Indian culture and particularly about the Diwali celebration since she doesn’t really know as much about it as she feels she should.  Niki’s trip gets off to a bit of a bumpy start since she is so unfamiliar with Indian customs, but after a few awkward encounters, she starts to really embrace the experience and enjoy her time with family and friends.  I really enjoyed this aspect of Niki’s journey since it allowed me to learn about Indian culture and customs right alongside her.

My review wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t touch on the romance.  While watching a band perform, Niki becomes somewhat infatuated with one of the musicians.  When an Auntie offers to set her up on a date with her son, Sam, Niki is about to refuse until she realizes that Sam is actually the hot guy from the band she was watching.  Sam and Niki cross paths later that same evening and it becomes clear that the attraction between them is mutual.  Their connection only grows when they join the married couple on the group honeymoon they have booked in beautiful Goa.  By the end of the vacation, Niki is so invested in her relationship with Sam that she’s conflicted – does she follow her head and go back home to Seattle where Raj, the perfectly nice guy her parents already like, is waiting?  Or does she follow her heart and do the less practical thing – move to London where Sam lives and start a new life there?  Niki and Sam were really cute together so I was rooting with all my might for her to follow her heart.  I always enjoy stories that involve that head vs. heart debate since it’s such a relatable situation for so many people.

I’ve been hearing good things about Sonya Lalli’s novels for a while now and was eager to try them for myself.  I’m so glad I did too because A Holly Jolly Diwali is an absolute delight! 4 STARS

Thriller Thursday Reviews: Rock Paper Scissors & The Stalker

 

Happy Thriller Thursday everyone! It’s Sharon here and this week I am excited to share my thoughts on Alice Feeney’s new book Rock Paper Scissors and Sarah Alderson’s new book The Stalker. I really loved both of these books and it wasn’t until I was writing these reviews that I realized both books are set in remote areas of Scotland and both are centered around a married couple that is being stalked LOL. Visiting Scotland is on my bucket list, and after reading these books if I ever do get to visit, I am going to make sure that the area I visit is well populated 😀

 

Thriller Thursday Reviews: Rock Paper Scissors & The StalkerRock Paper Scissors Goodreads

Author: Alice Feeney

Publication Date: September 7, 2021

Publisher: Flatiron Books

I am such a fan of Alice Feeney’s writing because she always keeps me on my toes with plot twists. I have loved all of her books, so I was very excited to read her latest book Rock Paper Scissors. I have to say this book did not disappoint and is by far my favorite.

Adam and Amelia Wright, along with their black lab Bob, are taking a much-needed weekend getaway to Scotland. Amelia won the trip in a raffle, and the destination is a secluded chapel in a remote town in Scotland.  This weekend is just what their marriage needs and will be a make or break.  They drive through a snowstorm to reach the chapel only to find it was not what they were expecting. There is no heat, the place is dusty, all the bedrooms are locked except for their room, though the freezer is full of ready-made meals to heat up and the wine cellar is fully stocked. When they see that their bedroom is decorated almost exactly like their bedroom at home, and then the power goes out, Bob goes missing, and Amelia see someone looking in the window, it becomes clear that Amelia winning this trip was not luck, but someone wanted them there.  Who would go to all this trouble of getting them there? What is their alternative motive?

I loved the way that Feeney presented the story. We get chapters that are told from the POV of Adam and Amelia, so we get to know their thoughts on everything that is going on and also learn secrets they both are keeping.  We also get chapters from the mysterious person that set this weekend up. I love how these chapters brought suspense to the book, and as I was reading these chapters I kept trying to figure out who this person was and what their motive was. There are also chapters that are from letters that Adam’s wife writes him every year on their anniversary but never lets him read. From these letters we get an inside look on what their marriage was like and what went wrong.

I was also fascinated by the neurological disorder that Adam suffered from. Adam has Prosopagnosia (also known as face blindness), he is unable to recognize facial features. Alice Feeney does a great job explaining what Adam sees when he looks at someone and those descriptions really creeped me out. I cannot imagine what it would be like to not recognize anyone that I know.

I really cannot say anything more about what happens during their weekend and the secrets that are revealed because that would just spoil the entire book. I will say that I loved the creepy atmosphere of this book. The beginning of the book gave me the chills with the creepy setting of the chapel. I was so engrossed in reading that I did not see or expect the plot twist that happened. This twist took the book in a whole new direction and made me stop and digest what I had just read. The creepiness was gone and was replaced with a high dose of suspense and tension that kept me on the edge of my seat for the rest of the book.   4 ½ stars

 

Thriller Thursday Reviews: Rock Paper Scissors & The StalkerThe Stalker Goodreads

Author: Sarah Alderson

Publication Date: July 8, 2021

Publisher: Avon

When I read in the synopsis that Sarah Alderson’s new book, The Stalker, was about a newlywed couple spending their honeymoon on a remote island and that they were being stalked by someone who wanted them dead, I knew this book was right up my alley and I had to read it.

Liam and Laura have been married for a couple of months but postponed their original Greece honeymoon after the sudden death of Laura’s mother.  They are now ready for a romantic getaway and have booked a private island off the coast of Scotland.  The only way on or off the island is by private boat that will pick them up at the end of the week.  What starts off as the perfect honeymoon, however, soon turns into a nightmare, as Liam and Laura discover that there is someone else on the island and this person wants them dead.

I loved how right off the bat the eeriness starts when a couple of local men tell Laura some stories of the island’s history, which makes Laura feel uneasy about the island.  As they are enjoying their first couple of days and exploring the island, Laura cannot shake the feeling they are being watched and those feelings turn out to be true.  When they are exploring an old, ruined castle, they find that someone has been living in one of the rooms. From the look of the room, they assume it is just a homeless person that made their way to the island and took up residency.  But that night while they are having an intimate moment in-front of the fireplace in their cabin, Liam sees someone watching them through the window. The person is gone by the time Liam goes out to check, but that night as they slept someone has scratched ‘devil’ into the window glass. The next day they go in search of this person and while they are gone, the power is cut from their cabin and most of their food is stolen.  With no way off the island, no food, and a psycho that is after them, Liam and Laura are in for the fight of their lives.

I loved the vivid descriptions Alderson gives of the island. I could just feel the creepy atmosphere flowing off the pages. This book is told mainly from the POV of Laura, but we also get some chapters from the POV of the stalker, and it was these chapters that really gave me the chills. Reading those chapters really added to the suspense and tension of the book.

As the tension and suspense mounted as Liam and Laura were trying to stay alive until the boat returns to pick them up, there is a plot twist that takes the book in a whole new direction.  I was so caught up in what was happening that I did not see this twist coming and literally sat there with my mouth open after I read it. The pace of the book really picks up then and I was on the edge of my seat as I was reading.

I really cannot say much more about what happens because I don’t want to spoil anything, but if you enjoy stories that have a creepy, eerie setting, and a plot twist that will throw you through a loop, then I recommend Sarah Alderson’s The Stalker.    4 stars

Reviews: EIGHT PERFECT HOURS & THE SWEETEST REMEDY

 

It’s the start of another new week and I’m finally sharing the last of my September ARC reviews.  I’m closing out with two great ones too, especially if you’re a fan of women’s fiction and romances of the slow-burn variety.

 

Reviews:  EIGHT PERFECT HOURS & THE SWEETEST REMEDYEight Perfect Hours Goodreads

Author: Lia Louis

Publication Date: September 28, 2021

Publisher:  Atria Books / Emily Bestler Books

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

Eight Perfect Hours is a charming and heartwarming story about the power of fate and about living your life to the fullest.  This was my first time reading a novel by Lia Louis and it was just delightful from start to finish.

The story follows Noelle Butterby, a young woman who is headed home from an event at her former college when she finds herself trapped on the interstate because a blizzard has closed the roads.  Noelle has no food, no water, her phone is dead and so is her phone charger.  She desperately needs to phone her very anxious mother and let her know that she’ll be later getting home than expected, but has no options. That is, until a handsome stranger named Sam knocks on her car window and offers to lend her his charger.  Noelle is hesitant to agree since he’s a stranger but her desperation finally gets the better of her and she takes him up on his offer.  Sam and Noelle end up chatting and bonding for the next eight hours until the roads finally open up.  They part ways without exchanging numbers, never expecting to see each other again since Sam lives in America, while Noelle is in the UK.

Fate apparently has other ideas though and Sam and Noelle keep bumping into each other in the most random of places.  Noelle is a romantic so she starts to feel like this is fate’s way of telling her Sam is the one.  I thought both Noelle and Sam were adorable together so I of course was rooting for fate to keep on pushing them together so that something could happen between them.  It’s a slow burn romance though.  Both Sam and Noelle are dealing with a lot of things personally, including parents who are getting older and starting to struggle physically and mentally, so in a lot of ways, a romantic relationship is just in the way.  Fate doesn’t care though and through every twist and turn of their lives, somehow Sam and Noelle keep finding each other.  I swear it was so cute every time it happened. They got to the point where they would just grin and shake their heads, and I would just find myself sitting there grinning right along with them.

There are definitely some more serious moments, especially as Noelle is still working through some painful memories that the school event had returned to the forefront of her mind.  Overall though, Eight Perfect Hours is just the sweetest and most heartwarming story and I highly recommend it to all of the romantics out there!  4.5 STARS

 

Reviews:  EIGHT PERFECT HOURS & THE SWEETEST REMEDYThe Sweetest Remedy Goodreads

Author: Jane Igharo

Publication Date: September 28, 2021

Publisher:  Berkley Books

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

I really enjoyed Jane Igharo’s debut novel Ties That Tether. In that book Igharo delivered a heartfelt, thought-provoking, and dramatic story about a young woman caught between following her heart and meeting her family’s expectations. I was eager to get my hands on a copy of her newest book, The Sweetest Remedy in hopes of getting another equally compelling story to fall into, and I’m excited to say that Igharo delivers big!

The Sweetest Remedy follows Hannah Bailey, a young woman who is the product of an affair between her white mother and a Nigerian man.  Hannah only met her father once, when she was 9, but then he never came back.  Hannah has therefore lived her live feeling like a piece of herself was missing and wondering what was wrong with her, that her father didn’t want to be part of her life. When he passes away, Hannah is therefore pretty shocked to receive an invitation to come to Nigeria to attend his funeral and meet the family she never knew she had, including several siblings. And what a life changing trip it turns out to be.

For those going into this story looking for a romance, it’s there and while it’s lovely, it does take a backseat to Hannah’s journey.  Her journey is all about discovering and embracing her Nigerian roots, learning about her culture, and bonding with her siblings.  I really liked Hannah and felt bad for her growing up feeling like her father had abandoned her, so I enjoyed this journey for her because she got to fill in so many pieces she had always felt were missing from her life.

That’s not to say that the journey was all smooth sailing.  Some members of her father’s family were far more welcoming to Hannah than others, and there were a couple that were downright hostile, blaming Hannah for ripping their lives apart because they never knew she existed either and hated feeling like she had come to Nigeria to steal what was rightfully theirs.  It’s hard for them to believe that their father was simply trying to right what he saw as the biggest wrong of his life, leaving Hannah alone and also keeping his children apart, living as strangers.  I’m a sucker for a good family drama, so I was glued to the pages watching Hannah navigate these emotional minefields and try to win over everyone in her new family.

 If you enjoy emotionally-charged stories about family, love, and finding oneself, I highly recommend The Sweetest Remedy4 STARS

Fantasy Review: ONCE UPON A BROKEN HEART by Stephanie Garber

Fantasy Review:  ONCE UPON A BROKEN HEART by Stephanie GarberOnce Upon a Broken Heart (Once Upon a Broken Heart, #1) by Stephanie Garber
Also by this author: Caraval, Legendary
five-stars
Series: Once Upon a Broken Heart #1
Published by Flatiron Books on September 28, 2021
Genres: Fantasy
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.

 

Thanks so much to Cat Kinney from Flatiron Books for inviting me to take part in the blog tour for Once Upon a Broken Heart. I’m thrilled to share my thoughts with you today on one of my most anticipated reads of 2021.

Stephanie Garber’s new novel, Once Upon a Broken Heart, is the first installment in her new fantasy series of the same name and it’s a companion series to her wildly popular Caraval series.  As the title hints with its “once upon a time” tease, Once Upon a Broken Heart has a fairytale-like feel to it.  I loved this vibe and found it very fitting for the main premise of the story, which explores how far a person will go to secure a happily ever after for themselves.

The protagonist of the novel is Evangeline Fox, a young woman who grew up in her dad’s curiosity shop, where she steeped herself in myths and legends.  When Luc, the love of Evangeline’s life, abruptly dumps her in favor of her stepsister and wants to marry her immediately, Evangeline is desperate to stop the wedding and win Luc back.  It comes quite naturally to her that she should seek out help from one of the legendary Fates, in particular Jacks, the Prince of Hearts.  If anyone can help her, she’s sure it’s him and is willing to pay whatever price he asks of her. She knows that whatever bargain she makes with the Fate will change her life forever; she just doesn’t know if that change will be for better or for worse.

I really adored Evangeline.  I felt so bad for her in those opening scenes because she’s absolutely distraught that Luc and her stepsister would betray her like this and doesn’t know who to trust anymore.  She’s somewhat naïve about love and relationships and the fact that some people just cheat, but I did admire the sense of determination she displayed when going to the Prince of Hearts.  Her plan to get help from a Fate might not be the smartest idea, but I had to give her credit for taking matters into her own hands to try to make something happen for herself.  I don’t want to give away any spoilers about Evangeline’s journey overall and whether or not she gets that happily ever after she so desperately wants but if you enjoy a story where the protagonist experiences tremendous growth as the story progresses, you’ll enjoy this one.

Now, let me talk about Jacks, the Prince of Hearts.   Jacks is your guy if you love a story that features an anti-hero because he’s the ultimate anti-hero.  He was one of my favorite characters from the Caraval series and was the main reason I was so excited to read this book.  And he does not disappoint. I love Jacks so much! He’s mysterious and broody, and he’s also a sexy, bad boy.  He’s all about tricks and making deals with desperate souls like Evangeline, and his motives are always selfish and sometimes nefarious. He’s just such a great character, and what I loved in Once Upon a Broken Heart, is the added depth we are given with respect to him.  Even though he’s clearly making this bargain with Evangeline for his own personal gain, he still can’t seem to stop himself from helping her and protecting her whenever she finds herself in trouble, which is quite often thanks to the precarious situation the deal puts her in.  There’s an almost indefinable connection between them. I wouldn’t call it a romantic connection and it’s not quite a friendship either. Whatever it is though, the chemistry between the two of them is fantastic and I became immensely invested in the relationship between them as soon as they struck that fateful bargain. Trying to figure out what it is that Jacks wants out of the deal, coupled with whether or not Evangeline will get her heart’s desire, had me flying through the pages and I devoured the book in a day.

The worldbuilding is also exquisite in this story. We are introduced to a new kingdom in this series that we didn’t see in Caraval.  This kingdom is in the North and Garber beautifully uses imagery and myths and folklore, to add to that fairytale-like atmosphere I mentioned earlier and vividly bring the setting to life.

Once Upon a Broken Heart is a companion to Caraval, and while it would work quite well as a standalone, if you’re ever planning to read Caraval, it’s probably best to read that series first to avoid any possible spoilers.  Scarlett and Tella from Caraval make a brief appearance and it was delightful to see them again, but otherwise there isn’t much overlap in plot at all.  As much as I enjoyed Caraval though, I have to admit that I actually loved Once Upon a Broken Heart even more and can’t wait to see what’s next for Evangeline and Jacks!

five-stars

About Stephanie Garber

Stephanie Garber is the #1 New York Times and Sunday Times bestselling author of THE CARAVAL SERIES, which has been translated in over 25 languages. Her newest book, ONCE UPON A BROKEN HEART, releases September 28, 2021.

When she’s not writing, she’s usually reading or watching television shows with vampires. Now that her dream of becoming a published author has come true, her new dream is to visit Club 33 at Disneyland.

Fantasy Review: UNDER THE WHISPERING DOOR by T.J. Klune

Fantasy Review:  UNDER THE WHISPERING DOOR by T.J. KluneUnder the Whispering Door by T.J. Klune
five-stars
Published by Tor Books on September 21, 2021
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 373
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.

 

 

T.J. Klune’s new novel Under the Whispering Door is pure, heartwarming magic.  I loved this story so much that I know nothing I write here is going to convey just how special this book is.  I’m going to try though so bear with me.

The story follows Wallace Price and it actually begins with his death.  Wallace was apparently such a jerk while he was alive that only four people show up for his funeral — his ex-wife and his three partners from his law firm — and based on their comments, they all clearly did not like him.  Also in attendance at the funeral, is Wallace himself, or rather the ghost of Wallace.  He’s somewhat in disbelief that he’s actually dead and mad because he still had so much work to do, cases to prepare for, etc. He’s also furious about the nasty comments the funeral attendees are making about him.

Wallace is distracted by all of this, however, when he realizes that a mystery woman who is also attending the funeral can actually see him in his ghost form.  She introduces herself as Mei and explains that she is a Reaper who has come to collect his soul and help him to cross over to the afterlife.  Instead of taking him directly to the afterlife, however, Mei instead leads the reluctant Wallace to a tea shop located in a small, remote village.  There she introduces him to Hugo, the owner of the tea shop who also happens to be a ferryman to souls who need to cross to the afterlife. Wallace insists he isn’t ready to leave his life behind and thus begins a journey with Hugo that allows him to fully discover and explore all the things he missed out on in life while he was so fully obsessed with work and power, including love, kindness, and family, just to name a few biggies.

This story is filled with laugh out loud moments as Wallace adjusts to his “life” as a ghost and particularly as he is constantly teased by Mei and punked by another resident ghost, Hugo’s grandfather. Hugo’s grandfather steals every scene he is in, as does Hugo’s loyal ghost dog, Apollo.  Aside from being hilarious though, Under the Whispering Door is also just an all around moving, emotional story because of its focus on love and loss, and living life to the fullest. It explores death and how we all deal with loss and grief differently, and I guess maybe because I had just lost a loved one right before I read this book, that aspect of the story really resonated with me. I cried just as much as I laughed, especially because Wallace grows so much throughout the story that I went from hating him and thinking he was the worst person ever to absolutely adoring him and never wanting him to pass on and leave Hugo and Mei, his wonderful found family, behind. That’s a pretty powerful transformation for a character to make and T.J. Klune does it in such a beautiful and realistic way.

I could go on and on about everything I loved about this book, but you’ll really want to experience all of its magic yourself.  Under the Whispering Door is a book that’s going to stay with me for a long time and it has definitely placed T.J. Klune on my list of auto-buy authors.

five-stars

About T.J. Klune

TJ KLUNE is a Lambda Literary Award-winning author (Into This River I Drown) and an ex-claims examiner for an insurance company. His novels include the Green Creek series, The House on the Cerulean Sea and The Exraordinaries. Being queer himself, TJ believes it’s important—now more than ever—to have accurate, positive, queer representation in stories.

Tj can be reached at tjklunebooks@yahoo.com.

Fantasy Reviews: DEFY THE NIGHT & THE INHERITANCE OF ORQUIDEA DIVINA

 

TGIF! Work has been kicking my butt so I’m even more happy than usual that Friday is upon us.  I haven’t been reading much fantasy since the start of the pandemic, but I just couldn’t resist reading new fantasy releases from two of my favorite authors, Brigid Kemmerer and Zoraida Córdova.  I’ve loved everything I’ve read from Kemmerer, both her fantasy novels and her YA contemporary books, and I’m a big fan of Córdova’s Brooklyn Brujas YA fantasy series.  I’m excited to share my thoughts on their latest with you today. 🙂

 

Fantasy Reviews:  DEFY THE NIGHT & THE INHERITANCE OF ORQUIDEA DIVINADefy the Night (Defy the Night, #1) Goodreads

Author: Brigid Kemmerer

Publication Date: September 14, 2021

Publisher:  Bloomsbury YA

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

Brigid Kemmerer’s latest novel, Defy the Night, is the first installment in her brand new fantasy series of the same name.  The series is set in Kandala, a kingdom that has been ravaged by a deadly pandemic.  The only way to treat the sickness is with an elixir made from moonflower petals, but there’s only a limited supply of such petals and those regions of the kingdom who have them charge a premium for them, thus making it easy for the rich to hoard more elixir than they could ever possibly need and hard for poor folks to afford the elixir at all.  How can there be any hope of helping everyone survive with such an uneven distribution of resources?  Tessa Cade, an apprentice apothecary, wonders the same thing and decides to take matters into her own hands.  She and her partner, Wes, steal moonflower petals from anywhere they can, manufacture their own elixir, and sneak out in the dead of night to deliver it to poor families across the kingdom, under penalty of death if they are caught.

I really loved everything about this book, but I especially adored Tessa and this whole Robin Hood “rob from the rich, give to the poor” vibe she has going on.  Tessa is feisty, brilliant, and she just has the biggest heart.  All she wants to do is save everyone she can, and I had tremendous sympathy for her because she’s following in her parents’ footsteps and they were both killed for doing exactly what she’s doing. She’s also quite headstrong and sometimes acts rashly.  When Wes is captured by the royal guards on one of their runs, Tessa, heartbroken and alone, races off to the palace looking for revenge.  Little does she know, however, but her life is about to change forever.

Another character in the story I adored was Prince Corrick, who Tessa encounters when she enters the palace.  Corrick is the King’s Justice. His job is to dole out punishments to those who break the law, and he’s known by all to be brutal and ruthless.  Corrick is hard to like, at first, just based on his reputation alone.  But I grew to love him as soon as I realized there’s so much more to Corrick than meets the eye.  Corrick and his brother the King were forced to take on their roles at a very young age because their parents were murdered.  Corrick is determined to protect his brother at all costs, even if it means doling out the most horrid of punishments to discourage any future betrayals.  He hates what he does, however.  It tears him up inside and he desperately wants to be a different kind of person.  Could Tessa be the one to help him become who he wants to be?

I don’t want to give anything away about what happens when Tessa and Corrick encounter each other, but it’s a game changer for both and one heck of a ride for the reader when they unexpectedly join forces to take on those who pose a threat to the health and stability of the kingdom.  If you like a little romance in your fantasies, there’s definitely plenty of chemistry between Tessa and Corrick.  And if you like a little political intrigue, with a side of backstabbing and treachery, Kemmerer has you covered there too.  I enjoyed Defy the Night immensely and can’t wait to see what happens next!  4 STARS

 

Fantasy Reviews:  DEFY THE NIGHT & THE INHERITANCE OF ORQUIDEA DIVINAThe Inheritance of Orquídea Divina Goodreads

Author: Zoraida Córdova

Publication Date: September 7, 2021

Publisher:  Atria Books

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

I’ve enjoyed Zoraida Córdova’s YA novels for a few years now.  I love her style of storytelling, particularly her lush worldbuilding and unforgettable characters, so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on her adult debut, The Inheritance of Orquidea Divina.  This book was everything I hoped it would be and more.

It’s a multi-generational family saga that centers on Orquidea Montoya. Orquidea is the matriarch of the family and she has always been a bit of an enigma to her children and grandchildren, especially the fact that she has refused to leave her home for any reason and thus has missed out on weddings, graduations, baptisms, etc.  When Orquidea realizes she is near the end of her life, she unexpectedly invites her entire family to her home for her funeral. She promises to give them each their inheritance and to finally shed some light on why she has lived her life the way she has. The family obeys her wishes, but instead of getting the answers they seek, Orquidea transforms right before their eyes, her life ending in a most unexpected and magical way, and they are left with even more questions than they had before.

This is a hard story to review because I think it really does make the reading experience more special to go in blindly, but I do want to mention a few elements that I really enjoyed that I can talk about without spoiling anything.  The first thing I loved was the use of the dual timeline.  In one timeline, we follow Orquidea’s descendants through several years and see how the gifts she bestowed upon them have improved their lives. That is, until they all start to sense danger and realize they are being targeted and travel to Ecuador where Orquidea once lived, looking for answers. The second timeline, which alternates with the first, follows Orquidea through her life and slowly reveals the secrets she was hiding for most of her life.  I loved how the author intricately wove the details of these two timelines together and it was most satisfying, although heartbreaking, when the two timelines meet and everything is revealed.

I loved the focus on family, the vivid descriptions of Ecuador, the use of South American folklore, and I also really enjoyed the way the author used magical realism in the story.  Magical realism seems to be one of those storytelling elements that people either love or hate, but Córdova uses it effectively and beautifully here to add to the sense of mystery surrounding Orquidea, very reminiscent of the way Alice Hoffman, one of my favorite authors, weaves it into some of her stories.

If you enjoy intricately-plotted stories that feature family, love, magic, danger, long-held secrets and curses, The Inheritance of Orquidea Divina is sure to captivate you.  4 STARS

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).