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Historical Fiction Review: THE PARIS LIBRARY by Janet Skeslien Charles

Historical Fiction Review:  THE PARIS LIBRARY by Janet Skeslien CharlesThe Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles
four-stars
Published by Atria Books on February 9, 2021
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 368
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

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

 

 

 

 

 

I’m a huge fan of WWII historical fiction and I’ve read a lot of it over the years. For that reason, I’m always on the lookout for books that bring a fresh perspective or a story that I haven’t heard yet, and that it exactly what Janet Skeslien Charles does with her new novel, The Paris Library.  Based on a true story, The Paris Library shines a light on a part of the French Resistance movement that I was not familiar with, that of the heroic librarians at the American Library in Paris (ALP).  While the Nazis occupied and terrorized their city, the men and women of the ALP risked everything to keep the library open at all costs, even sneaking books across Paris to their beloved Jewish patrons who were barred from entering the building.  For these librarians and their book loving patrons, books were both an escape and a symbol of hope and so the librarians wanted to do their part to keep hope alive no matter how dark life seemed.

One of the things I enjoyed most about The Paris Library was how the story unfolded.  We are presented with a dual timeline, one in the 1980s that follows Lily, an awkward and lonely high school student living in a small town in Montana.  Lily becomes intrigued by her neighbor, an elderly woman named Odile who keeps to herself and has an air of mystery about her.  All anyone really knows about her is that she’s originally from France.  Lily decides she wants to get to know Odile better and so, under the guise that she’s doing a school project on Paris, she approaches Odile and requests to interview her.  A lovely friendship develops over time between Lily and Odile, and it is through this interview that we are introduced to Odile and the second timeline, which reveals that as a young woman, Odile worked as a librarian at the ALP and was a very active member of the Resistance.

While I loved watching the relationship blossom between Lily and Odile because Odile becomes almost like a second mom to Lily, I was of course most drawn to the incredible story that takes place during WWII.  The author had me fully invested in the lives of Odile and her fellow librarians.  I loved how committed they were to their cause, as well as how devoted they were to each other and to their patrons.  I never would have guessed that there was an actual Resistance movement within the walls of a library and was glued to the pages each time the librarians faced danger or the risk of betrayal since one never knew who might be a Nazi collaborator.  Even though the WWII timeline was the most engaging of the two, the author still manages to make the 1980s timeline compelling in the sense that there is some mystery surrounding Odile and why she keeps to herself and why she has never returned to Paris, not even once, after all these years.  I loved the scrappy and determined Odile of WWII so much that I really wanted to know what had happened to send her to live in isolation in Montana of all places.

The Paris Library is a beautiful story of friendship, family, resistance, and resilience.  If you’re looking for a WWII historical fiction that brings something new to the table, I highly recommend The Paris Library.

four-stars

About Janet Skeslien Charles

Janet Skeslien Charles is the award-winning author of Moonlight in Odessa and The Paris Library. Her shorter work has appeared in revues such as Slice and Montana Noir. She learned about the history of the American Library in Paris while working there as the programs manager. She divides her time between Montana and Paris.

Reviews: MUCH ADO ABOUT YOU & MAKE UP BREAK UP

 

My love for rom-coms has continued into 2021 and I’m excited to share my thoughts with you on two new ones that will hit bookstores tomorrow, Samantha Young’s Much Ado About You and Lily Menon’s Make Up Break Up.

 

Reviews: MUCH ADO ABOUT YOU & MAKE UP BREAK UPMuch Ado About You Goodreads

Author: Samantha Young

Publication Date: February 2, 2021

Publisher:  Berkley Publishing Group

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

Much Ado About You by Samantha Young is one of the most delightful rom-coms I’ve ever read.  From its Shakespeare-loving heroine to its sexy farmer love interest to its quaint English village setting, this book captivated me from cover to cover.

The story follows 33-year-old Evie Starling, who just feels like her life is going nowhere.  Her love life is not great to say the least, and when she is passed over for a big promotion at work that she fully expected to get, Evie decides it’s time for a change.  That change comes in the form of a last minute holiday package to England.  As part of the package deal, she will live in an apartment above a charming little bookstore called Much Ado About Books, which she will also temporarily manage. How perfect does that sound?!  Evie’s plan is to take four weeks to lick her wounds, regroup, and come up with a new game plan for her life.  She wants no distractions from this plan and for Evie, that especially means no men.

Let me just say how much I adored Evie from the opening chapter.  I was cheering her on from the moment she told her boss off and quit her job.  I admired her courage and her determination and I especially loved that she didn’t just wallow, but instead came up with this great plan to recharge and reset her life.  It was so much fun watching her travel to this little village and immediately start fitting in with them like she belonged there.

I knew Evie was doomed though as soon as we meet my second favorite character in Much Ado About You, the sexy English farmer, Roane Robson. Roane is the most eligible bachelor in town and all the ladies swoon over him. He’s not a player though and is heart-set on finding that special someone to share his life with.  Roane is kind, soft, and as soon as he meets Evie, he knows he wants to get to know her better.  Needless to say, I was eager for Roane to find a way to wear down Evie’s defenses and her “No Men” rule because he was practically perfect.  We’re talking serious book boyfriend material here! Not only that, but the chemistry between Evie and Roane is off the charts.

I devoured this book in just a couple of sittings because I was so invested in these characters and whether or not they would take their growing friendship to the next level.  What I also loved is that the townspeople were clearly right there with me, trying to play matchmaker whenever possible.  And speaking of the townspeople, the novel also features a delightful cast of secondary characters, including Roane’s cousin Caro, who becomes like a little sister to Evie, as well as Roane’s gigantic and fabulous dog, Shadow, who can be credited with Evie and Roane’s meet-cute when Evie runs into the street to keep him from being hit by a car.

Much Ado About You does pack some emotional weight to it as well as the fun and romance.  There are some town rivalries and fractured relationships floating about, a touch of deception, and Evie has some drama with her mom and with her best friend from home. All of these elements added just the right touch of drama and made me love Much Ado About You all the more.  4.5 STARS

 

Reviews: MUCH ADO ABOUT YOU & MAKE UP BREAK UPMake Up Break Up Goodreads

Author: Lily Menon

Publication Date: February 2, 2021

Publisher:  St. Martin’s Griffin

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

I’m a sucker for a good enemies-to-lovers story as well as a second chance romance, so I was eager to read Lily Menon’s new novel Make Up Break Up as soon as I heard it featured both.  It also features an inside look at dating apps and start up companies, and I’m drawn to books that feel timely when it comes to technology so in many ways, this book was a great fit for me.

I found myself very invested in the main character, Annika, primarily because she’s a female business owner in the tech industry.  I found myself rooting for her company’s success, especially when it became clear that not only were they the underdogs of the story, but it appears that Annika’s chief rival, Hudson Craft, is rising to fame on what appears to be an idea about a dating app that he stole from her when they met over the summer at a conference in Las Vegas.  The fact that Annika’s company is struggling while Hudson’s is clearly taking off makes matters all the worse.

I really wanted to hate Hudson on Annika’s behalf but I have to admit that he won me over pretty quickly because even though he could be totally obnoxious around Annika, he seemed like a nice guy otherwise.  The story takes an awkward but entertaining turn when Hudson moves into Annika’s office building so that now she has to see him every day.  In spite of her seeming animosity toward Hudson, it becomes clear pretty quickly that the two of them have major chemistry.  It’s hard to tell from one moment to the next if they’re going to kill each other or end up making out.

Even though I enjoyed their interactions overall and most of their scenes were a lot of fun, there were a few times where it just felt like they were acting pretty juvenile and I wanted to yell at them to grow up and behave like adults.  I also found myself a little torn when it came to the actual app development and business side of Annika’s life though. While it was really interesting at times, there were other moments when I wanted less tech talk and more relationship talk.

In spite of those issues, however, I still really enjoyed Make Up Break Up overall and look forward to reading more from Lily Menon in the future.  3.5 STARS

Reviews: THE NATURE OF FRAGILE THINGS and A BRIDGE ACROSS THE OCEAN

I’m going to start off by saying the reason you’re getting two Susan Meissner reviews today is that I loved her latest, The Nature of Fragile Things, so much that I immediately ran to my shelf to see what other books of hers I owned but hadn’t read yet and found A Bridge Across the Ocean.

Reviews: THE NATURE OF FRAGILE THINGS and A BRIDGE ACROSS THE OCEANThe Nature of Fragile Things Goodreads

Author: Susan Meissner

Publication Date: February 2, 2021

Publisher:  Berkley Publishing Group

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

The Nature of Fragile Things is set primarily in San Francisco around the time of the Great Earthquake of 1906.  It follows a young Irish immigrant named Sophie Whalen who has come to America looking for a better life.  Instead of a better life, however, she has found herself living in a dirty, overcrowded slum in New York.   Desperately searching for something better, Sophie answers a newspaper ad posted by a widow who is looking for a woman to marry him and help care for his 5-year-old daughter and run his household.  The two of them come to an agreement and Sophie travels to San Francisco to get married and begin her new life.

Married life isn’t quite what she expects it to be, however.  Her husband, Martin, is aloof and secretive, takes minimal interest in Sophie or his daughter, and stays away, supposedly for his job, for days at a time.  When another woman shows up on their doorstep claiming ties to Martin, it becomes clear that Martin has been keeping secrets from Sophie.  While Sophie is in the midst of confronting Martin about his deception, their lives literally and figuratively crumble around them when a devastating earthquake strikes the city. Will they make it out alive?  If so, where do they go from here now that trust has been broken?

I absolutely fell in love with Sophie as I was reading this book.  She’s just such a complex and well-drawn character. She’s definitely not without flaws and has a few secrets of her own, but I really admired her determination to keep pushing for the kind of life she’s looking for.  I also adored the relationship she cultivates with Martin’s young daughter.  She truly became a mom for that little girl and it was just so touching to watch the two of them together.  Where I loved Sophie though, I totally loathed her husband.   At first I just thought he was a little odd, but the more I saw of him, the more I grew to think of him as a monster who has lied his way through life.

In addition to crafting these incredibly vivid characters who made me feel so much, both good and bad, Meissner also does a wonderful job making me feel like I really was in San Francisco and that I was actually there when the earthquake struck.  Her descriptions are so vivid and terrifying that my heart felt like it was in my throat the entire time I was reading those scenes.

If you enjoy historical fiction that tells a story of deception, betrayal, and heartbreak but also of sisterhood, found families, hope and second chances, The Nature of Fragile Things is a must-read for you. 5 STARS

 

Reviews: THE NATURE OF FRAGILE THINGS and A BRIDGE ACROSS THE OCEANA Bridge Across the Ocean Goodreads

Author: Susan Meissner

Publication Date: March 14, 2017

Publisher:  Berkley Publishing Group

As anyone who has followed my blog for a while knows, I’m a huge fan of WWII historical fiction.  I’ve actually not read much about war brides though so I was intrigued to see that Susan Meissner’s novel, A Bridge Across the Ocean, focuses on them.

A Bridge Across the Ocean also features one of my favorite elements in historical fiction, a dual timeline, one in present day and the other in 1946 right after WWII.  The present timeline follows Brette Caslake, a young woman who can see and communicate with ghosts.  It can be overwhelming at times because the spirits tend to follow her around once they realize she can see and speak to them, but when Brette visits the RMS Queen Mary, a famous haunted ship that once transported war brides from England to the U.S., she meets a spirit with a tale she cannot ignore.  It sets her on a course to try and solve a 70-year old mystery surrounding a passenger who somehow fell overboard and drowned while the ship was crossing the Atlantic.  Brette knows if she can find out the truth about what happened, she can give this spirit the closure it so desperately desires.

The second timeline takes us back 70 years to follow the journey of two women who end up aboard the RMS Queen Mary on that fateful trip. Simone Deveraux is a young French woman whose father and brother, part of the French Resistance, were murdered by Nazis right in front of her. Desperate and alone, Simone runs for her life and ends up hiding in a basement for months waiting for France to be liberated. Annaliese Lange is a German ballerina who catches the eye of a Nazi officer and is soon married off to him, at her parents’ insistence because they thought it would keep her safe.  Unfortunately, that was not the case and Annaliese suffers greatly at the hands of this horrible man. After the war, Simone and Annaliese end up as roommates on the RMS Queen Mary headed to America for a fresh start.  When their ship docks in New York, however, only one of them disembarks and she is the only one who knows what happened to the other woman. Thus, the mystery that Brette is trying to solve.

I found the war brides’ timeline to be the more compelling of the two.  I was so invested in both Simone and Annaliese surviving the awful circumstances they found themselves in and was really rooting for them both to get that fresh start they so richly deserved.  Even though I wasn’t quite as invested in the present day timeline with the ghost, I still loved the way Meissner pulled all of the intricate threads of both timelines together as Brette followed the clues and found her way to the truth about what really happened on that ship.

A Bridge Across the Ocean is a captivating story of tragedy and heartbreak, love and loss, and of survival and resilience.  If you’re in the mood for a haunting mystery, you can’t go wrong with this book. 4 STARS

Review: THE EX TALK by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Review:  THE EX TALK by Rachel Lynn SolomonThe Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon
four-half-stars
Published by BERKLEY on January 26, 2021
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Romance
Pages: 352
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last year I read and fell in love with Rachel Lynn Solomon’s YA contemporary novel Today Tonight Tomorrow.  I was captivated by both her characters and her storytelling and couldn’t wait to get my hands on anything and everything else she’s written.  So when I heard she had a new adult contemporary novel called The Ex Talk coming out, I was quick to rush over to Netgalley and request a review copy.  And I’m thrilled to report that, as soon as I started reading, I fell in love with Solomon’s writing and storytelling all over again.

As with Today Tonight Tomorrow, it’s the incredibly realistic and well drawn characters Solomon creates that really pulled me in.  The Ex Talk follows Shay Goldstein, a radio producer who has been working at a public radio station in Seattle for almost ten years.  Shay loves her job and can’t imagine ever doing anything else.  Her job also makes her feel connected to her Dad, who passed away a while ago, as they both shared a love of public radio.  Shay has also held kind of a Rockstar status at the radio station because she’s young and talented.  That all changes, however, when Dominic Yun starts working at the station. Fresh out of grad school and anxious to prove himself, Dominic quickly threatens to steal the spotlight from Shay.  Needless to say, Shay is not impressed (although she has to admit he’s pretty cute, even though he is absolutely infuriating).

Shay is so likeable from the opening pages that I was immediately rooting for her to put Dominic in his place. That is, until the banter and the sparks started flying!  When the radio station falls on hard times and needs fresh new programming in a hurry, Shay suggests a talk show about relationships that features two exes as cohosts.  The boss loves the idea and says that since there’s no time to look for actual exes, Shay and Dominic will pretend to be exes and host the show together.  Can you say awkward?  I’m a sucker for a good enemies to lovers story anyway so throw in some fake dating on top of it and you’ve got yourself a practically perfect romcom.  As soon as Dominic and Shay started with the verbal sparring, both on and off air, I was completely hooked. And of course, as soon as we start to learn more about Dominic, I fell in love with his character too and just wanted the two of them to get together already, haha!

There’s so much more I could say, but I don’t want to spoil the evolution of their relationship.  I’ll just leave it at this – I loved pretty much everything about The Ex Talk.  I loved the characters, the dialogue, the focus on public radio, the actual scripts from their show, etc.  The Ex Talk is one of those books that was so much fun to read I didn’t want it to end and I’m predicting now that it will make my Best of 2021 list.

four-half-stars

About Rachel Lynn Solomon

Rachel Lynn Solomon writes, tap dances, and collects red lipstick in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of the YA novels Today Tonight Tomorrow, You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone, Our Year of Maybe, and We Can’t Keep Meeting Like This (June 2021). Her debut adult romantic comedy, The Ex Talk, will be published in January 2021.

In high school, Rachel sang and played keyboard in an all-girl band, and she was once part of a group of people who broke a Guinness World Record for the most natural redheads in one place.

She has written for newspapers, produced a radio show that aired in the middle of the night, and worked for NPR. Rachel has been a Pitch Wars mentor since 2014 and currently serves on the Pitch Wars leadership committee.

These days, she writes books about ambitious, messy, sometimes unlikable girls and women who are trying their best and often falling in love along the way. She is represented by Laura Bradford of the Bradford Literary Agency.

Review: THE WIFE UPSTAIRS by Rachel Hawkins

Review:  THE WIFE UPSTAIRS by Rachel HawkinsThe Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins
four-stars
Published by St. Martin's Press on January 5, 2021
Genres: Mystery, Thriller, Retelling
Pages: 304
Source: Netgalley
Goodreads

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rachel Hawkins’ latest novel, The Wife Upstairs, is a domestic thriller that is inspired by the popular Gothic classic, Jane Eyre. Thankfully, however, you don’t have to have read Jane Eyre to thoroughly enjoy this dark and suspenseful tale.  Jane Eyre’s Gothic English setting has been updated to a gated community in Birmingham, Alabama, and the Jane in this tale is not a governess, but instead is a professional dog walker.

As in the original tale, Jane is the classic underdog character.  She grew up in foster care and has been struggling to make ends meet.  She shares an apartment with a loser roommate who eats her food, uses her things without asking, and is just all around rude. Jane has some secrets in her past that she is running from and so she is living somewhat off the grid, making money by walking dogs for rich people in the elite Thornfield Estates and stealing trinkets from their homes to pawn for cash at every opportunity.

Life starts to look up for Jane, however, when she has a chance run-in with a handsome, wealthy widower, Eddie Rochester, while she’s out walking dogs.  Because his wife and her best friend drowned in a boating accident and their bodies still haven’t been recovered, Eddie is the talk of the neighborhood amongst the bored housewife set.  Jane sees her run in with Eddie as the doorway to a better life for herself, and lucky for her, Eddie is so enamored with her that he goes out and gets himself a dog so that he can hire Jane as his dog walker, which quickly escalates to Eddie asking Jane to move in with him.  That’s when Jane starts to realize that what seems too good to be true may actually be just that and that Eddie may have just as many dark secrets lurking in his closet as she does in hers.

One thing that surprised me about The Wife Upstairs is that I didn’t particularly care for any of the characters.  That was kind of a bummer since I would normally be rooting for the underdog, but something about Jane and her machinations just didn’t sit well with me and I felt the same way about Eddie.  Even feeling ambivalent about them, however, I still found myself completely invested in the story.  Why? Because, like those bored housewives, I really wanted to know the dirt on everyone. What is Jane running from? What is Eddie hiding?  If those deaths were just an accident, why haven’t the bodies turned up?  There were just so many questions and so many deliciously dark twists and each turn of the page would just ramp up the tension and suspense all the more.

I don’t want to say anything else because you really need to experience the unraveling of all of those deep, dark secrets yourself, but if you’re in the mood for a dark and suspenseful domestic thriller and/or are a fan of the original Jane Eyre, definitely check out The Wife Upstairs.

four-stars

About Rachel Hawkins

Rachel Hawkins is the author of Rebel Belle and the New York Times bestselling series Hex Hall. Born in Virginia and raised in Alabama, Rachel taught high school English for three years before becoming a full-time writer.

Review: IN THE GARDEN OF SPITE by Camilla Bruce

Review:  IN THE GARDEN OF SPITE by Camilla BruceIn the Garden of Spite by Camilla Bruce
four-stars
Published by BERKLEY on January 19, 2021
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 480
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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Man Shall Inherit the Earth…Unless She Kills Him First.”  I’ve been wanting to try one of Camilla Bruce’s books for a while now and when I saw this attention-grabbing tagline on the cover of her latest novel, In the Garden of Spite, I knew I had to read it.  In the Garden of Spite is a work of historical fiction that follows the life of Belle Gunness, perhaps better known as “The Black Widow of La Porte,” one of the most famous female serial killers in American History.

Let me start by saying In the Garden of Spite isn’t for the faint of heart.  Belle’s preferred methods of dispatching her victims ranged from poisons to cleavers, and she quite literally butchered them, chopping them into manageable pieces to make it easier to bury them in her backyard.  So yes, it’s gory and gruesome at times, but if you can get past that, this story is a fascinating, in-depth look inside the mind of a serial killer.  I was equally repulsed and riveted the entire time I was reading.

The author takes us through about thirty years of Belle’s life, from when she was a child living in poverty in Norway all the way through to the height of her killing spree once she has immigrated to America.  Belle’s early life was not an easy one and the author paints a vivid portrait as to how abuse, trauma, and poverty could have shaped her into the very disturbed woman we meet in this book.

Belle is a truly fascinating character and I found myself drawn to her more than I expected to be.  She’s not an especially likeable character, being a serial killer and all, but wow, her resourcefulness and determination is impressive! As twisted as she could be most of the time, I frequently found myself quite impressed by her at other times.  How she managed to spin her way out of trouble time and time again, and how she is constantly able to reinvent herself.  Normally an unlikeable main character would derail my enjoyment of a book, but Belle is just so fascinating that I found myself glued to the story in spite of myself.

One of my favorite parts of the story though is how Belle’s life is presented.  The author uses two perspectives, 1) Belle’s and 2) Belle’s older sister, Nellie, who also lives in America.  With Belle’s perspective, we obviously get that intimate look into what she’s thinking and feeling as she commits each heinous murder.  With Nellie’s perspective though, we get the perspective of a family member who loves her sister deeply, but who is also torn between her desire to protect her baby sister from the world and her increasing suspicion that there is something truly broken in Belle and that she may be forced to do something about it.  I just loved the contrast in these two points of view.

If you’re interested in learning more about The Black Widow of La Porte, I highly recommend In the Garden of Spite.  It’s a dark and grisly, yet truly riveting tale.

four-stars

About Camilla Bruce

Camilla Bruce is a Norwegian writer of dark speculative and historical fiction.

Her debut novel, You Let Me In, is out now from Bantam Press (UK) and Tor (US).

Her dark historical, In the Garden of Spite, will be published by Berkley (US) and Michael Joseph (UK) in 2021.

Review: JUST OUR LUCK by Julia Walton

Review:  JUST OUR LUCK by Julia WaltonJust Our Luck by Julia Walton
four-half-stars
on December 29, 2020
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Romance
Pages: 272
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.

 

 

 

 

 

Julia Walton’s new novel, Just Our Luck, is the feel good book I really needed in my life this year.  It follows Leo, a teen who has struggled with anxiety all his life.  His mom died when he was younger so his Greek grandmother, Yia Yia, was the one who watched over him and provided him, not only with coping mechanisms, like knitting, to help with his anxiety, but also with two “rules for life”:  1) Bad luck follows lies, and 2) Leave the Paros family alone.  When his grandmother passes away and his father is too wrapped up in his own grief to really know how to relate to Leo, Leo starts to struggle even more and manages to break both of Yia Yia’s “rules for life” in one fell swoop when a fist fight at school, followed by a fib to his father about what happened, lands Leo enrolled in a self-defense class at a gym where you guessed it, Evey Paros, of the forbidden Paros family from rule #2, works.  What follows is a life-changing journey for Leo and a delightfully, heartwarming coming of age story filled with humor, friendship, love, and so much more.

It was impossible not to root for Leo every step of the way as I was reading Just Our Luck. I’m a sucker for an underdog and for a soft boy and Leo is definitely both.  Leo’s passions are photography and knitting and the thought of having to even set foot in a martial arts style self defense class makes his heart race.  When Evey tells him she can secretly switch him over to a hot yoga class that takes place at the same time in exchange for a favor, Leo eagerly jumps at the chance even though he can practically hear his grandmother screaming at him to “LEAVE THAT PAROS GIRL ALONE!”  Even though he has no idea what he has gotten himself into, with either the hot yoga or with Evey, I loved watching Leo take this journey because he just grew so much every step of the way.  There were honest and raw moments as he continues to work through his anxiety and his overall awkwardness around people, and there were also hilarious moments in the yoga classes as well as with some of his antics with Evey.  I also enjoyed watching Leo and Evey grow closer and learning what the deal was with grandma’s rule about Evey’s family.

I think my favorite part of Just Our Luck though was the friendship that develops between Leo and Drake, the boy who punched Leo in the face and kicked off this whole chain of events.  Leo and Drake are forced to sit in a special detention every day and they have one goal:  to work through whatever issue led to the punch in the face.  It’s a hard sell at first with both boys just sitting there in awkward silence day after day, but once the breakthrough finally happens, a really wonderful friendship emerges.  One that left me with an even bigger smile on my face than Leo and Evey growing closer.

I could go on and on about how truly heartwarming and delightful Just Our Luck is, but just take my word for it.  If you’re in the mood for a feel good story, Just Our Luck is a must read.

four-half-stars

About Julia Walton

Julia Walton received her MFA in creative writing from Chapman University. When she’s not reading or baking cookies, she’s indulging in her profound love of Swedish Fish, mechanical pencils, and hobbit-sized breakfasts. Julia lives in Huntington Beach, California, with her husband and daughter.

Review: TEN RULES FOR FAKING IT by Sophie Sullivan

Review:  TEN RULES FOR FAKING IT by Sophie SullivanTen Rules for Faking It by Sophie Sullivan
three-half-stars
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on December 29, 2020
Genres: Romance, Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 384
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

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

 

 

 

 

 

Sophie Sullivan’s romcom debut novel Ten Rules for Faking It is a lighthearted read about two characters who are both in need of a happy ending.  The story follows Everly, a radio producer who has spent much of her adult life struggling with anxiety, horrendously bad birthdays, and apparently, awful taste in men as well.  Everly’s thirtieth birthday may be her worst yet too as she catches her boyfriend in bed with his assistant and then proceeds to accidentally rant about the cheating snake live on-air to all of her radio shows’ listeners.  The radio station’s manager, Chris, the other protagonist in the story, is initially not excited about the attention Everly’s on-air outburst is going to bring to the station, but when he realizes that nearly all the attention is positive and that all of Everly’s listeners think Everly deserved better, he comes up with a plan that will not only help Everly find someone better, but it could also benefit the radio station and land Everly’s show in a more coveted timeslot. His plan?  A Bachelorette-style radio contest where listeners enter for a chance to go out with Everly and prove that they are the Mr. Right she has been looking for.

The contest premise was so much fun and was definitely a highlight of the story for me.  I also thought the author did a wonderful job of showing just how much anxiety played a role in Everly’s everyday life and particularly as she is faced with the stressful prospect of going on so many blind dates per the rules of the contest.  I also liked the idea of Everly deciding that she really needed to take control of her life, and particularly that anxiety, so that she could really move forward and make things happen.  She comes up with a list of 10 “rules” that she’s going to try to live by, most of which are geared toward her not becoming a hoarder or crazy cat lady but also which force her to step out of her comfort zone and take chances both personally and professionally.  It’s a huge step and I was rooting Everly on every step of the way.

Everly and Chris were also highlights for me.  Both are just such likeable characters and I enjoyed watching them get to know each other better as the contest progressed.  I was an especially big fan of Chris, who is living under the shadow of his father, a cutthroat businessman who doesn’t think twice about pulling the plug on a company without any warning.  I found myself really invested in Chris as he tried to find a way to get out from under his father’s thumb and become a businessman in his own right, and one with a heart.  Watching both Chris and Everly evolve made for an enjoyable reading experience all around.  I did find myself wanting them to move through their issues faster and find their way to each other because this one is definitely a slow burn.

A final highlight for me was the cast of secondary characters at the radio station, especially Everly’s friendship with her DJ, Stacey.  Stacey is the friend who tells Everly what she needs to hear, even when she really doesn’t want to hear it.  As I was reading, I kept thinking it would be fun to read another book all about Stacey because she was such a scene stealer in this book.

If you’re in the mood for a fun and romantic read that will leave you with a smile on your face, give Ten Rules for Faking It a try.

three-half-stars

About Sophie Sullivan

SOPHIE SULLIVAN is a Canadian author as well as a cookie-eating, Diet Pepsi-drinking, Disney enthusiast who loves reading and writing romance in almost equal measure. She writes around her day job as a teacher and spends her spare time with her sweet family watching reruns of Friends. Ten Rules For Faking It is her romcom debut novel, but she’s had plenty of practice writing happily ever after as her alter ego, Jody Holford.

Review: THE ROOMMATE by Rosie Danan

Review:  THE ROOMMATE by Rosie DananThe Roommate by Rosie Danan
four-stars
Published by BERKLEY on September 15, 2020
Genres: Romance, Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 336
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

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

 

 

 

 

 

I went into Rosie Danan’s debut novel, The Roommate, spoiler free and just have to start off by saying this book is such a breath of fresh air.  The Roommate is a rom-com about a socialite and an adult entertainer (yep, a porn star) that I didn’t even know I needed in my life.  The premise, with its focus on the porn industry, is so unique and the main characters, Clara, Josh, and Josh’s ex, Naomi, are just so precious that I wanted to be bffs with all of them.

The characters are what really sold me on this story, mainly because they weren’t at all what I expected them to be like based on the usual stereotypes associated with socialites and porn stars.  Clara is pretty much the exact opposite of a Paris Hilton type.  She’s sweet, awkward, and lacks confidence when it comes to most areas of her life.  When the story opens, Clara has also just quit her job and moved from New York to California to live with her childhood crush because she has misread his signals and thinks she’s heading toward her happily ever after.  Instead of happily ever after, however, Clara finds herself shacking up with a random male roommate her crush has found on Craigslist and sublet his place to while he goes on tour with his band.  Talk about awkward!

Josh, the roommate in question, is just as endearing as Clara.  At first he comes across as very arrogant – he’s obviously proud of his ability to please women, but he’s also very charming, fun, and sweet, and pretty soon Clara warms up to him and so did I.  I grew to love him even more as Clara gets to know him better and it becomes clear that some of that arrogance is just a front.  Josh has a lot of layers to him, and just like with Clara, some of those layers are filled with insecurities, fears, and doubts.   I just loved how real both characters felt and how their relationship developed.  Yes, they certainly have their sexy, steamy moments filled with delicious banter, but they also have a lot of sweet, heartfelt moments that made me smile.

The Roommate also has its fair share of drama, some revolving around family expectations, but also specifically drama that revolves around the porn industry.  I really loved how Danan portrays all of the adult entertainers as scrappy underdogs fighting the greedy corporate villains for what is rightfully theirs.  She gives the readers an interesting look at what goes on behind the scenes and I really liked the depth it added to the story.  I also adored Josh’s ex, Naomi.  She’s Josh’s partner in most of his adult films and she’s also a badass in her own right.  I read that there will be a companion novel that focuses on Naomi, and I cannot wait to get my hands on a copy!

If you’re looking for a fresh, sexy, and heartfelt romance with perfectly imperfect characters that will have you wishing for a happy ending, The Roommate is the book you’re looking for.

four-stars

About Rosie Danan

Rosie Danan writes steamy, big-hearted books, articles, and tweets about the trials and triumphs of modern love.

The New York Times calls Rosie Danan’s debut novel, THE ROOMMATE “a book about people expanding into their best possible selves…warmly funny and gorgeously sexy.” The rom-com has been optioned for film, and a companion book THE INTIMACY EXPERIMENT is forthcoming April 6, 2021 in both the US and UK.

After participating in the writing mentorship program Pitch Wars as a 2018 mentee, she was thrilled to rejoin the organization as a 2019 and 2020 mentor.

When not writing, Rosie enjoys jogging slowly to fast music, petting other people’s dogs, and competing against herself in rounds of Chopped using the miscellaneous ingredients occupying her fridge.

As an American expat currently living in London, she’s developed an incurable fondness for electric kettles.

Review: HOW TO FAIL AT FLIRTING by Denise Williams

Review:  HOW TO FAIL AT FLIRTING by Denise WilliamsHow to Fail at Flirting by Denise Williams
four-stars
Published by BERKLEY on December 1, 2020
Genres: Romance, Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 336
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

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

 

 

 

 

 

How to Fail at Flirting by Denise Williams is exactly the kind of read I have been craving this year. It’s that perfect blend of rom-com fun and weightier, more dramatic moments that makes for such a satisfying multi-layered read.

How to Fail at Flirting follows Naya Turner, an education professor at a local university who finds her job in jeopardy because of possible budget cuts.  Since she left an abusive relationship, Naya has 100% thrown herself into her work, so she is devastated to hear her job may be in trouble.  In need of a distraction, Naya lets her friends convince her she needs to get out into the world of dating again.  Naya’s looking for a no-strings hookup but instead, she meets Jake, a man that she really just clicks with. Everything about him seems perfect, that is until she finds out what he does for a living and that it could directly impact her own career in a negative way. Can Naya and Jake find a way to overcome their conflict or is their relationship doomed before it ever gets started?

I really loved and admired Naya so much.  She’s smart, sassy, passionate about her teaching career, and she’s also brave and resilient.  After learning about her horrible experiences at the hands of an abusive ex, I was rooting so hard for her to find true happiness.  I wanted her to go to that bar, have a blast completing every item on the hilarious list of dating dares her friends had given her, and then find a wonderful man who appreciates her for the strong woman she is.

I also adored Jake, the man Naya meets at the bar.  Jake is handsome, eloquent, kind, and he has a great sense of humor.  He has also recently gotten out of a bad relationship, so he’s a little reluctant about putting himself out there in the dating pool as well, that is until he meets Naya and can’t deny his attraction to her.  I loved watching their relationship slowly develop and was heartbroken as soon as I realized there was a real possibility that his job might prevent them from finding happiness together.

The twist with Jake’s job possibly threatening Naya’s job made what was already a compelling read truly unputdownable.  I just had to know if Jake and Naya were going to get a happy ending.  If you enjoy stories that feature loveable characters with undeniable chemistry whose happy ending is threatened by unforeseen circumstances, How to Fail at Flirting is a must-read.

four-stars

About Denise Williams

Denise Williams wrote her first book in the 2nd grade. I Hate You and its sequel, I Still Hate You, featured a tough, funny heroine, a quirky hero, witty banter, and a dragon. Minus the dragons, these are still the books she likes to write. After penning those early works, she finished second grade and eventually earned a PhD.

A diversity trainer and co-creator of a women’s empowerment group, she is dedicated to developing flawed, multidimensional characters who struggle with those issues impacting real women. After growing up a military brat around the world and across the country, Denise now lives in Iowa with her husband, son, and two ornery shih-tzus who think they own the house.

Denise was a 2019 Romance Writers of America ® Golden Heart Finalist and How to Fail at Flirting is her debut novel.