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

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

 

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

Author: Lauren Layne

Publication Date: June 29, 2021

Publisher:  Gallery Books

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Author: Teri Wilson

Publication Date: June 15, 2021

Publisher:  Hallmark Publishing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

YA Reviews: WE CAN’T KEEP MEETING LIKE THIS & TROUBLE GIRLS

Happy Monday all! I hope everyone had a lovely weekend. We had really nice weather here so I spent a lot of my weekend outside reading.  Today I’m sharing my thoughts on two of my weekend reads, We Can’t Keep Meeting Like This by Rachel Lynn Solomon and Trouble Girls by Julia Lynn Rubin.

 

YA Reviews:  WE CAN’T KEEP MEETING LIKE THIS & TROUBLE GIRLSWe Can't Keep Meeting Like This Goodreads

Author: Rachel Lynn Solomon

Publication Date: June 8, 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.

We Can’t Keep Meeting Like This is my third time reading Rachel Lynn Solomon and once again she has captured my heart with her relatable storylines and her wonderfully complex characters and their equally complex relationships.

Quinn Berkowitz is headed to college in the fall.  She has gotten into a great school but doesn’t seem all that excited about her future. Why? Well, her parents have basically mapped it out for her, from deciding that she will be a business major, choosing her courses for her, and making the assumption that when she graduates, she will join them in their family wedding planning business.  Quinn hasn’t corrected them in this assumption because she doesn’t want to hurt their feelings, but it has left her feeling trapped and frustrated.  To make matters worse, her longtime crush, Tarek Mansour, is back home after his first year away at college and Quinn doesn’t really want to see him because of an embarrassing confession she made to him when he left for college the previous fall.  Avoiding Tarek is pretty much impossible though as his parents run the catering business that Quinn’s parents frequently partner up with for their weddings.  So basically Quinn has set herself up for a summer of awkwardness.

I think most readers will find Quinn to be a likable relatable character and will sympathize with the situation she finds herself in.  None of us want to disappoint our parents and I know, like Quinn, I would probably put off a difficult and painful conversation like that for as long as I possibly could.    Her situation with Tarek is probably going to be equally relatable because there are plenty of us out there who have done embarrassing things in front of someone we were crushing on.  Quinn’s situation with Tarek made me especially sympathetic toward her because she has major trust issues when it comes to love and putting herself out there because her parents temporarily separated when she was much younger and that separation really messed with Quinn’s head when she was little and continues to do so to this day because her parents have never talked about it.

Speaking of Tarek though, what a sweetheart this boy is.  He’s a hopeless romantic who likes to bake wedding cakes and who loves Sleepless in Seattle.  He is the softest of soft boys and it’s clear that he has feelings for Quinn.  I was hardcore rooting for him to break through the walls Quinn has put up around her own heart and I really enjoyed watching the ups and downs as their relationship evolved.

As much as I enjoyed the romantic storyline between Quinn and Tarek, Quinn’s journey to figure out her place in this world and the future of her relationship with her parents was what really made We Can’t Keep Meeting Like This such a compelling read for me.  4 STARS

 

YA Reviews:  WE CAN’T KEEP MEETING LIKE THIS & TROUBLE GIRLSTrouble Girls Goodreads

Author: Julia Lynn Rubin

Publication Date: June 1, 2021

Publisher:  Wednesday Books

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

Trouble Girls by Julia Lynn Rubin is a retelling of the popular ’90s film, Thelma and Louise. Rubin puts a fresh and timely spin on this classic film by making it a queer YA retelling that is set in present day during the #MeToo movement.

The story follows Trixie and Lux, two young women who have been best friends forever and who are looking to escape their dead-end little town for a few days.  They pack for a weekend getaway and make a pitstop at a college bar on their way out of town.  The night goes terribly wrong and in one violent moment, Trixie and Lux’s lives are changed forever.

Just as in the original tale, the author does a wonderful job of painting both women as sympathetic characters.  Trixie is an only child who has the huge and often overwhelming responsibility of caring for her mother who is suffering from what appears to be dementia.  It’s a huge weight to carry and Trixie is exhausted.  Lux also has a less than stellar home life.  Her mother is gone, and her overbearing father treats her as if she’s his maid and babysitter.  When their one chance to get away and relax and have fun is torpedoed by a pig who can’t keep it in his pants, it’s hard not to root for them when they fight back.

The story becomes an action-packed thrill ride as Trixie and Lux flee west hoping to escape from both the law and the media. The media attention is unexpected as Trixie and Lux find themselves at the center of the #MeToo movement when protesters become aware that their attacker has a track record of similar incidents in his history.  There are just as many people cheering the girls on as there are people who want them to pay for what they did.

The writing is taut and sharp, making this a real page turner for me even though I was very familiar with the original Thelma and Louise and could somewhat guess where the story was headed.  I do wish it hadn’t followed the original storyline quite so closely, but what did make it a fresh take though was the journey of self-discovery that we get as Trixie and Lux gradually realize they have more than just friendly feelings toward each other.  It’s a beautiful and hopeful journey tucked into what is otherwise a pretty dark tale.

If a fresh take on Thelma and Louise sounds like something you would enjoy, I highly recommend Trouble Girls3.5 STARS

Book Reviews: The Road Trip, One Last Stop, & Playing the Palace

It’s hard to believe that summer is already almost upon us, but here we are nearly finished with the month of May already.  One of the many wonderful things to look forward to about summer are the fantastic romance books that will be soon be hitting the shelves.  Today I’m sharing my thoughts on three more books that I read recently and really enjoyed.

 

Book Reviews:  The Road Trip, One Last Stop, & Playing the PalaceThe Road Trip Goodreads

Author: Beth O’Leary

Publication Date: June 1, 2021

Publisher:  Berkley

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

Beth O’Leary’s new novel The Road Trip hilariously combines a second chance romance with what might actually be the worst road trip ever.  The story follows Addie and Dylan, who broke up two years ago and haven’t spoken to each other since but find themselves traveling to attend the same wedding.  Addie is traveling with her sister, Deb, and some random, socially awkward guy named Rodney who needed a ride to the wedding. As if that isn’t awkward enough for an 8 hour car ride, almost as soon as they start out on their trip, their car is rammed from behind in traffic by none other than Dylan and his best friend, Maurice.  It’s an accident of course, but Dylan and Maurice’s car is totaled. Addie and Deb reluctantly agree to give Dylan and Maurice a ride and all five adults pile into Deb’s mini Cooper and off they go!

This was a fun and quick read for me.  The road trip itself was a highly entertaining comedy of errors where truly everything that could possibly go wrong did, and I loved the way the author structures the story into Now and Then timelines.  The Now timeline is where all of the hilarity takes place, while the Then chapters gradually reveals the backstory between Addie and Dylan, how they met and fell in love and of course what happened to drive them apart as well as the role Maurice plays in their breakup.

The road trip is messy, and Addie and Dylan’s history is equally messy, but I couldn’t help but root for them to somehow find their way back to each other through all of the awkwardness.  I won’t say that I was quite as attached to Addie and Dylan as I was to the characters in O’Leary’s last two books, The Flatshare and The Switch, but I still liked them both and thought they belonged together.  I also really enjoyed the secondary cast of characters, especially Addie’s sister, Deb.  Maurice was the character I loved to hate, although he grew on me over time, while Rodney might have been the biggest surprise of them all. No spoilers but keep your eye on that guy!

If you enjoy road trip stories and second chance romances, you’re going to want to add Beth O’Leary’s The Road Trip to your list of must-reads. 4 STARS.

 

Book Reviews:  The Road Trip, One Last Stop, & Playing the PalaceOne Last Stop Goodreads

Author: Casey McQuiston

Publication Date: June 1, 2021

Publisher:  St. Martin’s Griffin

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

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston is one of my favorite reads of 2021 so far.  The protagonist of the story is 23-year old August, who has moved to New York City because she has become cynical about everything to do with her life and feels like New York is the perfect place for her to embrace her cynicism and go through life alone.  August’s new roommates, however, have other ideas.  They help her find a job, show her everything that is wonderful about New York, and basically adopt her into their little found family and it’s the cutest thing ever.  Think “Friends” but with a much more diverse cast, including a drag queen who lives across the hall and a lovable extended family at the 24-hour pancake diner where August ends up working.

August is also taking college courses and encounters a young woman named Jane on the subway one morning when she spills coffee all over herself and Jane comes to her rescue.  August is attracted to Jane right away and it seems like Jane feels the same way. They meet on the train every morning and evening and grow closer with each encounter. August even starts thinking that maybe she doesn’t want to be alone after all and decides to ask Jane out.  Every time August asks Jane to go out, Jane tells her she can’t come.  August is confused by the mixed signals Jane is sending until she finally figures out that something very strange is going on.  Jane has somehow been displaced in time from the 1970s and is trapped on the subway line.  She can’t go out with August because she’s literally stuck on the train.  August loves Jane and is determined to figure out how to set her free, even if it means sending her back to her own timeline and never seeing her again and she calls on her roommates to help.

I don’t want to give anything away about how this all plays out, but wow, I just fell so hard for this entire lovable, quirky cast of characters and I also loved how unique the overall premise of the story is. Sometimes magical realism doesn’t work for me, but I thought McQuiston used it perfectly here.  It was like Quantum Leap with a side of romance set in the subway.  One Last Stop is such a refreshing and original read and I just loved every page of it.  4.5 STARS

 

Book Reviews:  The Road Trip, One Last Stop, & Playing the PalacePlaying the Palace Goodreads

Author: Paul Rudnick

Publication Date: May 25, 2021

Publisher:  Berkley Books

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

I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much while reading a book, but Paul Rudnick’s new romantic comedy Playing the Palace delivers nonstop laughs and kept me entertained from cover to cover. The story follows Carter Ogden, who is an event planner and an adorable hot mess whose number one skill is self-sabotage.  When Carter meets Edgar, the openly gay Prince of England, their attraction is immediate and the two men decide to get to know each other better. They try to keep it lowkey with little pancake dates at the local IHOP, but it doesn’t take long for the media to figure things out and to go looking for trouble.  The more nervous Carter gets about the fact that he is dating a Prince, the more his self-sabotage skills kick into high gear, resulting in one embarrassing incident after another, much to his dismay as well as that of the Royal Family.

I was invested in Carter and Edgar’s relationship from that first meeting and really wanted Carter to get his act together, although his blunders did make for hilarious reading.  I also loved his encounters with Edgar’s Nana (a.k.a. the Queen of England). She gives Carter a hard time but he gives it right back to her and they are actually quite hilarious together.  Add in Carter’s loud and lovable Jewish family, in particular his sister Abby who is just the absolute best, and his Aunt Miriam, who practically becomes bffs with the Queen, and the story really is just one big barrel of fun.

If you’re in the mood for a romantic comedy that is truly laugh out loud funny, Playing the Palace is the book for you. 4 STARS

YA Reviews: Instructions for Dancing, Cool for the Summer, & Misfit in Love

Happy Friday everyone!  I’ve had a crazy, busy week and I’m behind on pretty much everything, which means you get mini reviews for my latest reads.  Just because the reviews are mini doesn’t means the books aren’t fabulous though.  I’ve got three great YA reads to share my thoughts on today.

 

YA Reviews: Instructions for Dancing, Cool for the Summer, & Misfit in LoveInstructions for Dancing Goodreads

Author: Nicola Yoon

Publication Date: June 1, 2021

Publisher:  Delacorte Press

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

Nicola Yoon’s new novel Instructions for Dancing follows Evie Thomas, a senior in high school, whose world has been rocked because she walked in on her dad cheating on her mother.  Her utter disappointment in her dad, coupled with her parents’ divorce, has left Evie feeling like there’s no point in falling in love if it’s just going to end in misery.  Evie is so off the whole idea of love at this point, she takes all of her old romance novels to donate to a Little Free Library. An elderly woman there encourages Evie to take a book as well and gives her a book called Instructions for Dancing. Evie doesn’t want to be rude so she takes it and when she sees an address on the back for a local dance studio, she decides to check out the studio and while there, she meets ‘X’ (short for Xavier).  They bond immediately as they begin taking dance lessons together and as they grow closer and closer, Evie starts to wonder if she’s wrong about love being a waste of time…

I don’t want to give away any further details about the story, so that teaser about how Evie’s emotional journey begins is all I’m giving you.  Her path is a beautiful one, although painful at times. If you have parents who are divorced, you will relate very strongly to where Evie is emotionally. I know I did.  As Evie finds, it can be hard to open yourself up to love when you know there’s the possibility you could get hurt. The message of this book though is that it’s not about how that love might end in heartbreak. Instead it’s about the journey of falling in love so deeply that when you do loose them, it crushes you, and the idea that we should all hope to be lucky enough to experience a love that deep.  I thought this was such a powerful and important message both for Evie and for all of us and I loved how this beautiful sentiment, which reduced me to tears several times, balances out with some of the lighter and more fun elements of the story.

Oh yes, it’s not all doom and gloom by any stretch.  Evie’s group of friends is a lot of fun and so are the people Evie meets at the dance studio.  There’s intense training for a dance competition that brings Evie and X even closer together, as well as lots of dates for them as their instructor forces them to get to know each other better so that they have better chemistry on the dance floor.

Instructions for Dancing is a story that will tug at your heartstrings and make you believe that no matter what, love is always worth it.  As the old Dr. Seuss quote says, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”  4.5 STARS

 

YA Reviews: Instructions for Dancing, Cool for the Summer, & Misfit in LoveCool for the Summer Goodreads

Author: Dahlia Adler

Publication Date: May 11, 2021

Publisher:  Wednesday Books

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

When Larissa arrives to school on the first day of her senior year, everyone can tell there’s something different about her and it’s not just the new haircut and blond highlights.  It’s more that she has a new attitude, a certain confidence she didn’t have before.  Whatever it is, it has gotten the attention of her forever-crush Chase Harding and now he has gone from barely acknowledging her existence to blatantly flirting with her.  Chase Harding is everything Larissa has ever wanted, and between him, her close-knit friend group, and a fantastic job, Larissa is sure her senior year is going to be incredible…until Jasmine walks through the door.  Jasmine, the girl Larissa met and had a summer romance with when she traveled to the Outer Banks in North Carolina with her mom.  What is Jasmine doing here in New York, at Larissa’s school?  And the bigger question, why is she now ignoring Larissa and pretending they don’t know each other? Was their romance just a summer fling or could it be more than that?

I really enjoyed the way the author lets this story unfold through a dual timeline, with the first timeline set in the present as Larissa and Jasmine try to navigate getting to know one another in a completely different environment from where they first met. The second timeline takes place in the Outer Banks over the summer and shows us how Jasmine and Larissa meet.  Larissa had no idea she was possibly bisexual until she met Jasmine and I thought the author did a wonderful job of showing Larissa exploring this newly discovered aspect of her sexuality in a positive light. There is of course a bit of a love triangle in the present-day timeline and even though I’m not usually a fan of those, it works here because the triangle reflects how Larissa finds herself torn between the person she used to be and the person she has grown into since meeting Jasmine.  She has some big decisions to make and doesn’t want to hurt anyone or get hurt in the process.  Larissa’s journey is somewhat painful at times as she attempts to navigate this awkward terrain, but I really enjoyed watching her grow throughout the story. Cool for the Summer is a satisfying coming of age story that left me feeling nostalgic for my own summer romances from years gone by. 4 STARS

 

YA Reviews: Instructions for Dancing, Cool for the Summer, & Misfit in LoveMisfit in Love Goodreads

Author: S.K. Ali

Publication Date: May 25, 2021

Publisher:  Salaam Reads / Simon & Schuster for Young Readers

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

I loved S.K. Ali’s debut novel Saints & Misfits when I read it a couple of years ago so I was beyond excited to hear that we would be returning to that world with Ali’s latest novel, Misfit in Love.  I adored Janna, the protagonist from both books, just as much this time around.  She’s a little older now and will be off to college soon, but before that, she has a big family wedding to attend.  Her beloved brother Muhammad is getting married, which means that Janna will soon be surrounded by family and friends, including Nuah. The last time she saw Nuah, Janna had told him she wasn’t ready to start a relationship, but now that she’s about to see him again, she thinks she has changed her mind and hopes he’s still interested even though he has been away at college.

There’s so much to love about Misfit in Love.  I really enjoyed reading about all of the wedding traditions as well as the preparations and, of course, the fun shenanigans, as well as some of the drama between Muhammad’s family and his bride’s family. It was also so much fun to see old friends from Ali’s first two books.  I was especially excited to see Adam and Zayneb from Love from A to Z as wedding attendees.  I would love to revisit their world with another book at some point too. They’re just so sweet together. In addition to the fun surrounding the wedding, I also enjoyed watching Janna continue to grow and mature.  She is still somewhat of a misfit when it comes to love and relationships but she’s finding her way, and I was especially proud of her when she has a very difficult conversation with her father about his racism. She makes a statement that many of us should take to heart.  If you see someone being racist and hateful, you can’t just sit there passively.  If anything is ever going to change, you have to speak out against the hate.  Misfit in Love might be a light summer read about a wedding and falling in love, but it also packs a strong punch with that message from Janna.  I don’t want to say anything else because of spoilers, I think fans of Ali’s other books will adore this one too and I’ll be sitting here hoping that we get another book that follows Janna when she goes off to college. 🙂  4 STARS.

Fantasy Book Reviews: A COURT OF SILVER FLAMES & NAMESAKE

 

Happy Monday all!  I hope everyone had a great weekend.  We had wonderful weather to usher in the first day of Spring so I definitely won’t complain.  I was also finally able to get my first dose of a COVID vaccine this weekend, which has really got me hoping this is the start of good things to come.  Anyway, back to blog stuff…  I’m sure you guys are used to mainly seeing rom-com reviews from me these days, but I actually did veer away from the rom-coms long enough to read a couple of new fantasy novels this month and wanted to share my thoughts on them with you.

 

Fantasy Book Reviews:  A COURT OF SILVER FLAMES & NAMESAKEA ​Court of Silver Flames (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #4) Goodreads

Author: Sarah J. Maas

Publication Date: February 16, 2021

Publisher:  Bloomsbury Publishing

I’m going to confess right now that I went into Sarah J. Maas’ new novel A Court of Silver Flames with somewhat low expectations.  For me, A Court of Mist and Fury set the bar so high that the rest of the books in the series have paled in comparison.  Nesta Archeron was also one of my least favorite characters in the series, so I was not overly excited to have an entire book that focused on her.  All of that said, I was very pleasantly surprised with this book.

Maas does a beautiful job of taking us inside of Nesta’s thoughts so that it’s so much easier to understand how much pain she is in and why she lashes out at everyone the way she does.  From losing her father to having to live with the guilt of how she treated him while he was alive, and of course, having to deal with the fact that she was forced to become High Fae against her will, Nesta’s life has been turned upside down in every way.  When the story opens, she is not taking any of these things well and has pretty much turned her back on everyone who cares about her.  I don’t want to give away any spoilers about Nesta’s journey in this book, so I’ll just leave it at there’s definitely plenty of the badass Nesta we already knew, but now we’re allowed to see a whole new vulnerable side that makes it much easier to have empathy for her.

In addition to Nesta’s journey, I was also a big fan of the further exploration of Nesta’s relationship with Cassian.  It’s no secret that the two of them are attracted to one another, but this book takes that attraction to a whole new level, both sexually and emotionally, as Cassian is the one who is there for her no matter how hard she tries to push everyone away.  I loved that he was so supportive of her and that he also wasn’t afraid to show her tough love if he thought that’s what would best serve her.  And of course, don’t even get me started on the sex scenes. The sexual tension between Nesta and Cassian makes Rhys and Feyre’s scenes seem tame by comparison.  Holy hotness!

Aside from getting to know Nesta and Cassian better, I also just loved being back in this world again and seeing some of my old favorites, like Rhys, Feyre, Mor, and Az, but I also loved that some great new characters were introduced.  Gwyn and Emerie, two women Nesta meets while she’s avoiding everyone else, are such great additions to this cast of characters.  I don’t want to give away too much about them but they are the friends Nesta doesn’t even realize she so desperately needs and they provide her with a sense of sisterhood that she is unable to achieve with her own biological sisters right now.  I loved their bond and really hope that they will make appearances later in the series.

Bottom line:  I was not expecting to come out of A Court of Silver Flames adoring Nesta and wanting to see more of her, but here we are. Well done, Sarah J. Maas!  4 STARS

 

Fantasy Book Reviews:  A COURT OF SILVER FLAMES & NAMESAKENamesake (Fable, #2) Goodreads

Author: Adrienne Young

Publication Date: March 16, 2021

Publisher:  Wednesday Books

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

Namesake is the second book in an exciting YA fantasy duology by Adrienne Young.  I loved the first book, Fable, because it featured a badass heroine and of course pirates, so I couldn’t wait to dive into the finale.

Namesake picks up right where the first book leaves off so you definitely need to have read the first book to have any idea as to what is going on.  The crux of the story is that even though all Fable wants to do is sail away with the Marigold ship and its crew, free from the influence of her estranged father, Saint, Fable instead finds herself being used as a pawn in what turns out to be a very complicated scheme, the ultimate goal of which is to eliminate Fable’s father as a force in the shipping trade.  Even though she’s estranged from Saint, she doesn’t want to see him ruined and so Fable must come up with a plan of her own, to save her father and to get back the crew (and the man) she loves.

Fable and her relationship with her father has definitely been one of the major draws for me of this series, so I was pleased to see it at the forefront of the finale.  I was excited by the depth of the family drama that we delve into, not only with Saint, but also with Fable’s mother, who apparently took some pretty big secrets to the grave with her when she died.  Where the first book in the series was all about gem trading and Fable trying to make her way in the world, Namesake is all about secrets, betrayal, deception, and the idea that no one Fable has known throughout her life is entirely as they seem.  I don’t want to give anything away, so I’ll just say here that I never would have expected going into this duology that Saint would end up being one of my favorite characters, but that’s exactly what happened.

While I enjoyed the family aspect of Namesake immensely, especially the unexpected addition of another member of Fable’s extended family who isn’t what she seems, I didn’t enjoy this book quite as much as I enjoyed the first book in the duology.  There were some places along the way where the pacing felt a little slow for me, particularly each time they went back into the water looking for gems. I think it was such a novelty in the first book that it fascinated me, but by the second book, I just really wanted to get back to the family drama stuff with Fable and didn’t care as much about how skilled she was at finding gems.  I also wasn’t as into the romance in the second book as I was in the first.  I’m honestly not even sure why.  I think maybe it was, again, due to the fact that I was most interested in the family drama and everything else just felt in the way.

Even with those couple of issues though, I still found Namesake to be a satisfying conclusion to the series overall.  I even teared up a bit at some of the final family moments.  I would definitely recommend this series to anyone who enjoy YA fantasy, pirate adventures, and stories that feature complicated father-daughter relationships.  3.5 STARS

Romance Reviews: FIRST COMES LIKE & THE WEDDING GAME

 

If you saw my Top Ten Tuesday post last week, you’ll remember that I shared ten rom-coms I’m excited to read this year.  Well, in honor of Valentine’s Day, I got a jump on reading them this past week and have reviews to share for the first two I read, First Comes Like by Alisha Rai and The Wedding Game by Meghan Quinn.

 

Romance Reviews: FIRST COMES LIKE & THE WEDDING GAMEFirst Comes Like (Modern Love, #3) Goodreads

Author: Alisha Rai

Publication Date: February 16, 2021

Publisher:  Avon

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

Even though I’m only reviewing First Comes Like, the latest book in Alisha Rai’s Modern Love series, I actually binge-read all three books in the series last month.  Usually I’m terrible at keeping up with series, but once I started this one, I just couldn’t stop reading.  What hooked me on Modern Love is the way Rai writes her main characters.  I love the mix of strength and vulnerability she infuses them with and of course, the chemistry is always off the charts. I also love that, as the title of the series implies, all of the books are modern and focus on where many people turn these days when they are looking for love, social media.

First Comes Like follows Jia Ahmed, who is a very popular beauty influencer on social media. She’s busy making connections and trying to build her brand and has no time for men, although she’s willing to make an exception for Dev Dixit, a sexy Bollywood soap opera star, who has recently slid into her DMs and started flirting with her. Jia decides to score an invite to a party for his new film so that she can finally meet Dev in person.  All is going swimmingly until she meets Dev face to face and he says he has no idea who she is.  Awkward!  It quickly becomes clear that someone has used Dev’s social media account to catfish Jia; the question is who. Things between them take an even more awkward turn when paparazzi photos of Dev and Jia embracing become public. Even though the photos are in actuality way more innocent than they seem, the public and both of their families flip out and that’s where things got really fun.

I had so much fun with this book.  I loved the chemistry between Jia and Dev, especially watching their relationship evolve from her wanting to kill him at that first party to the two of them working together to concoct a plan on how best to deal their families. I also really loved the focus on their beliefs and culture, in particular the respect Jia and Dev each gave to the other’s beliefs as their relationship grows.  I also thought it was wonderful that Dev was so respectful of Jia’s career.  He didn’t think it was silly or shallow at all and even watched all of her videos and even helped her film and take photos.  The two of them were just really sweet together and I was of course rooting for them to continue to grow closer.

I wouldn’t call this a hot and steamy romance, but it’s definitely a sweet, slow burn and I enjoyed every page of it.  4 STARS.

 

 

Romance Reviews: FIRST COMES LIKE & THE WEDDING GAMEThe Wedding Game Goodreads

Author: Meghan Quinn

Publication Date: March 1, 2021

Publisher:  Montlake

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

Meghan Quinn’s new novel, The Wedding Game is one of the most charming and entertaining romances I’ve read in a long time.  I laughed, I cried, and I honestly loved every single character in the book. Okay, well two of them I loved to hate, but you know what I mean!

Set in New York City, the story follows Luna Rossi, a self-professed jack of all trades when it comes to crafting. There’s pretty much nothing Luna can’t do when it comes to crafts and she even has her own very popular social media accounts where she offers tips and tricks to others who share her passion for all things crafty.  About the only thing Luna loves more than crafts is her brother, Cohen, so when she learns that a DIY reality TV contest called The Wedding Game is coming to NYC and is seeking contestants, she takes it upon herself to sign her brother and his fiancé up.  Luna lives to make sure the people she loves are happy and so can’t resist the idea of giving her brother and the love of his life a perfect wedding day. Plus the grand prize of a NYC penthouse apartment for whoever designs the best wedding doesn’t hurt either.  With the Queen of Crafts in their corner, how can they lose?

The Wedding Game also follows Alec, an attorney who, like Luna, has a brother, Thad, who is about to get married.  Unlike Luna though, Alec is not especially close to his brother and has no interest in his wedding plans.  Alec and Thad used to be incredibly close, but have drifted apart in recent years.  Thad sees the ad for The Wedding Game and begs Alec to do it with him and his fiancé.  For Thad, it’s a great opportunity to get his family started off on the right foot, but even better, it’s a chance for he and Alec to reconnect. Alec reluctantly agrees and it’s off to the races.

The bulk of the story focuses on the contest itself and an unexpectedly fierce rivalry that develops between Luna and Alec.  Oh my goodness, you guys!  I don’t want to give away any spoilers but these two have such intense chemistry from their very first hostile encounter.  It was hard to tell if they were going to kill each other or rip each other’s clothes off, haha! I thoroughly enjoyed every scene they had together and some of their banter truly had me laughing out loud.  The evolution of their relationship had me captivated more and more with each turn of the page and before long, I was rooting for them to have a happy ending of their own.

It wasn’t even just the relationship between Luna and Alec that had me so invested in The Wedding Game either. Honestly it was all of the relationships. Yes, this is a sexy, steamy enemies-to-lovers romance with a hilarious reality TV show as its backdrop, but it’s also a beautiful and heartwarming story about love, family, and forgiveness that left me with a big smile on my face.  4.5 STARS