Tag Archive for: ARC review

Reviews: THE WEDDING SEASON & I KISSED SHARA WHEELER

TGIF!  I’m so happy the weekend is here.  I don’t really have any big plans to speak of, but I’m hoping for nice enough weather to actually be able to read outside for a bit.  Today I’m sharing reviews on two pretty great reads I had this week, one from a favorite author, Casey McQuiston, and one from a new-to-me author, Katy Birchall.

 

Reviews:  THE WEDDING SEASON & I KISSED SHARA WHEELERThe Wedding Season Goodreads

Author: Katy Birchall

Publication Date: May 3, 2022

Publisher:  St. Martin’s Griffin

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

 

I’ve been wanting to try Katy Birchall’s novels for a while now and when I saw her latest novel, The Wedding Season, described as Four Weddings and a Funeral meets The Wedding Party, I knew I had to read it.

The story opens with the protagonist, Freya Scott, happily preparing to marry her longtime boyfriend, Matthew.  That is, until Matthew pulls her into a broom closet the day before the wedding and breaks up with her.  Feeling utterly humiliated, Freya wonders how in the world she will survive the seven weddings she has to attend in the upcoming months, what she and her friends have dubbed “The Wedding Season.”  She has no idea how she’ll be able to cope with the awkward pitying looks, the gossip, and even worse, the fact that Matthew will probably also be attending most of them since they have so many mutual friends.  Freya’s best friends Ruby and Leo, who as an aside, are very much friendship goals, come to the rescue.  They devise a list of outrageous challenges, one per wedding, that will serve to distract Freya and keep her from dwelling on her own misfortune.  The tasks range from being the last person standing on the dancefloor, to kissing a stranger, to running naked down a hotel corridor.  Armed with this survival guide and endless moral support from Ruby and Leo, Freya sets out to tackle “The Wedding Season.” She has no idea how truly life changing her challenges will turn out to be!

You guys, this book was such a delight!  I think what Freya was going through is an experience that many will find either relatable or else one of their own worst nightmares.  I loved how even though she was devastated, Freya does start to embrace the idea of moving on without Matthew and that she just goes for it when it comes to completing the tasks on her list.  That list provides so many laugh out loud moments and they made for a fantastic balance with the more serious elements of the story, just as they made Freya an even more endearing character than she already was.

Watching Freya find her way forward without Matthew was such a wonderful experience.  It’s an awkward journey for her at times as she navigates through some confrontational moments with Matthew, but it’s also very healing and freeing for her as she comes to realize she doesn’t need him in her life and that she may actually be better off without him.  She also starts to open her eyes and heart to the possibility of a new romance, but that aspect of the story takes a bit of a backseat to Freya’s personal journey.  I would have loved a little more romance, but I was all in for Freya so the story was still fantastic as is.

The Wedding Season is a heartwarming and hilarious story about love and friendship.  It left me feeling so hopeful about Freya’s future and also wanting sequels that feature all of Freya’s fabulous friends.  Just an all around delightful read!  4.5 STARS

 

Reviews:  THE WEDDING SEASON & I KISSED SHARA WHEELERI Kissed Shara Wheeler Goodreads

Author: Casey McQuiston

Publication Date: May 3, 2022

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

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

 

I was a big fan of Casey McQuiston’s first two novels, Red White and Royal Blue and One Last Stop, so I was excited to hear she has a new one coming out and that it’s her YA debut.

I Kissed Shara Wheeler follows Chloe Green, a high school senior who moved from California to Alabama her freshman year. Enrolled in a conservative Christian school, Chloe has felt like the black sheep of the school the entire time she has been there.  When the story opens, she is just months away from graduation and has her eyes on the prize, class Valedictorian.  She has been competing neck and neck for the coveted title and all its glory with the school darling, Shara Wheeler.  Shara is the Principal’s daughter, a good Christian girl, and everyone just adores her.  Well, everyone except Chloe.  Chloe can’t stand her and would love nothing more than to beat her out for the top spot.

A month before graduation everything changes though – out of nowhere, Shara kisses Chloe and then by the next morning, has disappeared.  Chloe starts desperately hunting for clues as to Shara’s whereabouts, because let’s face it, winning Valedictorian because your main rival stopped coming to school isn’t very satisfying.  During her search, she learns that she isn’t the only one Shara kissed. She also kissed Rory Heron, the bad boy who lives next door to her, and she kissed her longtime boyfriend, Smith Parker. What kind of game is Shara playing?  Because it clearly is a game, considering that before she vanished, she left each of them a letter, followed by a series of clues that promise to lead to her whereabouts.  It becomes clear that if they want to solve the mystery of where Shara is, why she chose to disappear, and why she chose them to play the game, they’re going to have to work together to piece together this odd scavenger hunt.

McQuiston has a gift for writing lovable characters so it’s no surprise that I really liked Chloe, Rory, and Smith. I enjoyed them all individually, and as a group, as they begin to bond while they work to solve each of Shara’s clues.  Chloe is scrappy and determined, Rory has a reputation for being a bad boy but is actually pretty sweet, and Smith is also just a cinnamon roll.  While I was just as clueless as these three as to why Shara has them jumping through so many hoops for her, I loved what the quest actually does for them.  It leads them to interact with each other as well as other students in the school they’ve never really interacted with before because the school is full of cliques.  Chloe, in particular, shows a lot of growth in this area because as she interacts with more and more different people, she realizes that she isn’t as different from some of her fellow students as she had led herself to believe and it leads her to examine some of her own prejudices and realize how unfair she was being.  As fascinating as the journey was to find Shara and learn her reasons for doing what she did, I found this journey of Chloe’s to be my favorite part of the story. Speaking of the mystery surrounding Shara, I don’t want to spoil anything there so I’ll leave it for you to discover on your own. It’s one heck of a ride though, I’ll say that much, and eye opening for all of the characters involved.

The only real downside for me was that we only get chapters from Chloe’s perspective.  I think some chapters from Rory or Smith as they are on Shara’s trail, or even from Shara herself to give us some hints into her motivations, would have made the story even better.  Still a fabulous read though so it’s only a minor quibble.

I Kissed Shara Wheeler is a story about relentlessly pursuing what you think you want in life, only to stumble into what it is you really need. It’s a mystery, a romance, a story about second chances, and so much more.  There’s definitely a little something for everyone, so be sure to check it out!  4 STARS.

 

Reviews: THE HOMEWRECKERS & EVERYTHING MUST GO

Happy Monday all! I hope everyone had a nice weekend.  We had absolutely fantastic weather here so I spent a lot of time outside starting to get our yard and flower beds ready for planting.  I’ve also been helping my son prepare for his AP Science test so lots of nights spent quizzing on vocabulary words.  I did manage to squeeze some reading time in as well though, so I’m back today with a couple of new reviews for you.

 

Reviews:  THE HOMEWRECKERS & EVERYTHING MUST GOThe Homewreckers Goodreads

Author: Mary Kay Andrews

Publication Date: May 3, 2022

Publisher:  St. Martin’s Press

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

The Homewreckers by Mary Kay Andrews is a story about love, loss, and how to find your path forward after losing the love of your life.  Set in beautiful Savannah, Georgia, the story follows Hattie Kavanaugh, a young woman who tragically lost her husband in a motorcycle accident seven years ago.  Since his death, Hattie has basically thrown herself completely into her work, while leaving the rest of her life on hold. Hattie’s work is restoring old historic homes to their former glory, a passion she shared with her husband and which she still shares with her father-in-law.  Hattie’s head still isn’t completely in the game though and so when she makes a bad investment on a house she was hoping to restore and flip, she finds herself in desperate need of cash and reluctantly agrees to star in a reality TV show about flipping houses.  Little does she realize that not wanting to be on TV will soon be the least of her worries.

Hattie is a fantastic protagonist. She’s feisty and fierce, takes no crap from anyone, probably a byproduct of working in a field that is filled predominantly with men and therefore constantly underestimated.  Beneath that tough exterior, however, there’s also the vulnerable, heartbroken side of Hattie.  I found her such an easy character to love and I was fully invested in her story.  I also loved that she has maintained such a close relationship with her father-in-law.  It was sweet watching the two of them interact.  Even though her husband is gone, it’s clear that Hattie is still very much part of the Kavanaugh family.

Aside from my love for Hattie, what really took this story to the next level for me was all the drama that ensued from the moment production starts on Hattie’s show.  First, there’s the aggressively determined producer who is convinced Hattie and this TV show are going to be huge hits.  Then there’s the handsome and all-too-charming cohost whose interest in Hattie may or may not be genuine.  Lastly, there’s the renovation project itself, which seems to be downright cursed. One bad thing after another keeps happening – fires, threats, code violations, and when they open up one of the walls in the old house to repair some damage, they even find the wallet of a beloved high school teacher who has been missing for 17 years and presumed dead.  In short, there’s drama, intrigue, and suspense in spades, making for one heck of a wild ride!

I don’t want to give away anything about the developments in that missing person case, but wow, talk about twists and turns. Andrews kept me guessing every step of the way and glued to this book until I had all the answers.  There is a bit of romance as well, but I’d say it definitely takes a backseat to Hattie’s overall journey, to what is going on with the house renovations (the actual filming, the butting of heads between cast members, showrunners, network executives, etc.), and of course with finding out what happened to the teacher and how her wallet ended up inside the wall of a random old beach house.

If the way I devoured this story in less than a day is any indication, I think The Homewreckers is going to land in a lot of beach bags this summer.  It’s the perfect beach read!  4 STARS

 

Reviews:  THE HOMEWRECKERS & EVERYTHING MUST GOEverything Must Go Goodreads

Author: Camille Pagán

Publication Date: April 26, 2022

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

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

Everything Must Go by Camille Pagan is a wonderful, heartfelt story about love, family, and second chances.  It also explores the strength of the bond between mother-daughter, as well as that of the bond between sisters.

Laine Francis’ life is in turmoil. More than anything, she wants to be a mother, but her husband has been putting her off for years, saying he’s not ready.  Laine’s biological clock is ticking so loudly that it’s all she can hear and so she tells her husband she wants a divorce since they clearly don’t want the same things.  On top of that, she has received a frantic call from one of her sisters, begging her to come to New York to help with their mom, who hasn’t been herself lately.  Even though Laine has no desire to come back to New York, she knows she is the only sibling who doesn’t have small children to care for so she’s the logical choice. When Laine arrives in New York, she runs into Ben, her former best friend. She hasn’t seen Ben since they had a huge falling out years ago, so seeing him again after all this time brings back a lot of memories. She hopes seeing him again will provide the opportunity to mend their relationships, but she soon realizes that her sisters were right about their mom.  Something is definitely wrong and it’s not just the occasional forgetfulness.

I think this is a story that many readers, especially those with aging parents, are going to find so relatable.  As the sisters try to determine the full extent of their mom’s memory loss, they have to have tough heart-to-heart conversations about what to do, how best to care for her, while maintaining as much of her independence and dignity as possible, etc.  I loved how realistically these relationships were portrayed and how the sisters all came together to help their mom.  I also loved that in addition to Laine’s perspective, which we got since she was the one taking the lead when it came to their mom, we also got the perspective of Sally, so we could see what was going on in her head, both as she realized what was happening to her and as she realized that her girls knew as well.  Not only that, but we also get an inside look at some pretty major secrets Sally has been keeping from her family.  I found Laine’s journey to figure out what she really wants from her life, especially regarding motherhood, just as compelling as Sally’s story.  There were so many different layers that kept me turning the pages and fully invested in seeing how things would turn out for both Laine and Sally.

While Everything Must Go touches on some pretty weighty topics like divorce and dementia, it’s ultimately a feel good story that left me shedding a few happy tears by the time I got to the last page.  4 STARS

Review: THE NO-SHOW by Beth O’Leary

Review:  THE NO-SHOW by Beth O’LearyThe No-Show by Beth O'Leary
Also by this author: The Switch
four-stars
Published by BERKLEY on April 12, 2022
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Women's Fiction
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.

 

 

Don’t let the rom-com vibes of its cover fool you, Beth O’Leary’s new novel The No-Show is no rom-com.  While the story did make me smile at times, it also made me shed a tear or two because it’s such an emotional journey for some of the characters.  The story also took a huge unexpected turn that I don’t want to spoil so I’m going to be a bit vague with what I enjoyed about this book.

The No-Show follows three women who only have one thing in common – they were all stood up by the same man, Joseph Carter, on Valentine’s Day.  Siobhan is a life coach whose life is so over-booked that she doesn’t have time or the desire for a relationship. Since her past relationships haven’t been great, she has decided that booty calls are the way to go, with Joseph Carter being her go-to when she’s in the mood.  Then there’s Miranda, a tree surgeon, the only woman on an all-male crew.  She’s okay with being treated like one of the guys but she gets defensive when her crew makes fun of her boyfriend, Joseph Carter, because he’s so different from her that they don’t seem like they should be compatible.  Lastly, there’s Jane, a young woman who volunteers at a charity job and who has decided, after a disastrous romance at her former workplace, that she will no longer date.  To keep everyone she knows off her case about finding herself a man, she has a friend that she fake-dates whenever she has a function to attend.  That is, until she realizes she actually has feelings for him.  That man is, you guessed it, Joseph Carter.

Aside from the mystery of how this guy manages to keep up relationships with all three of these women but somehow manages to stand them all up on the most romantic day of the year, what really fascinated me were these women’s reactions to being stood up and the fact that all three of them actually forgive him and let him back into their lives.  In that sense, the story focuses much more on the emotional and personal journeys of Siobhan, Miranda, and Jane than it focuses on Carter.  I loved how well-developed and fleshed out all three of the women were.  Their voices and experiences were each unique, as was their path forward after being stood up.  I loved watching the other relationships they cultivated that in many ways were more important than their relationships with Carter.  I loved the friends Jane made through the charity shop and how they supported her and boosted her confidence, and I loved Miranda’s teammates who, although they razzed her at times, ended up being a pretty great support system for her as well.

Solving the enigma of Joseph Carter and wondering if one of these women was going to end up kicking his butt also had me very invested in the story.  I was so ready to hate this guy, and that’s when the entire story gets turned on its end and takes a direction I was not even remotely expecting.  I’m used to this kind of huge twist in thrillers, so it really caught me off guard here.  Beth O’Leary is sneaky here and I mean that in the best possible way.

I don’t want to say anything else because you really need to meet Joseph Carter and follow the women in his life yourself to get the full experience.  If you’re in the mood for a beautifully crafted story of love, friendship, and how to move forward when life doesn’t turn out the way you thought it would, you’ll want to check out Beth O’Leary’s new novel, The No-Show. 4 STARS

four-stars

About Beth O’Leary

Beth studied English at university before going into children’s publishing. She lives as close to the countryside as she can get while still being within reach of London, and wrote her first novel, The Flatshare, on her train journey to and from work.
You’ll usually find her curled up with a book, a cup of tea, and several woolly jumpers (whatever the weather).

Reviews: FOUR AUNTIES AND A WEDDING & LESSONS IN CHEMISTRY

 

Hey everyone, hope you all had a wonderful weekend.  I’ve been a coach potato for the past two weekends, first binging season 2 of Bridgerton, followed by Emily in Paris, and finally Cruella on Disney Plus.  I’m blaming it on the cold/allergy funk I’ve been in almost ever since I got back from New York.  Whatever it is, it’s not Covid but has kept me ridiculously congested for two weeks now.  I’ve gone through so many tissues I feel like I should buy stock in Puffs, haha.  Anyway, not a lot of blogging happened but I have gotten a fair amount of reading done, including the two novels I’m reviewing today.  Both were exactly what I needed to take my mind off my illness, so I’m thrilled to share my thoughts on them with you today. 🙂

 

Reviews:  FOUR AUNTIES AND A WEDDING & LESSONS IN CHEMISTRYFour Aunties and a Wedding (Aunties, #2) Goodreads

Author: Jesse Q. Sutanto

Publication Date: March 29, 2022

Publisher:  Berkley Books

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

I read Dial A for Aunties, the first book in Jesse Q. Sutanto’s Aunties series back when much of the world was on lockdown because of the COVID-19 pandemic.  That book with its crazy and lovable Aunties delivered so many laughs and left me with a huge smile on my face at a time when I didn’t think there was much of anything that could cheer me up.  I therefore couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy of the second book, Four Aunties and a Wedding. I’m thrilled to report that the Aunties are back and are just as much of a hilarious delight as they were in the first book!

The wedding in question is of course Meddy Chan’s and her college sweetheart, Nathan, and the Aunties are going to do everything in their power to make sure their niece’s big day is picture perfect.  If you read the first book, you’ll remember Meddy. She’s a bit more traditional and conservative than her Aunties and sometimes wishes they would tone it down a bit, but no matter how over-the-top they are, Meddy ultimately knows that everything they do, they do out of love for her.  Whether it’s wearing hats with gigantic kimono dragons perched on them or taking secret lessons in British slang and speaking in fake British accents so that they’ll “fit in” better at the ceremony, which is taking place in Oxford, England, the Aunties’ goal is to make a good impression on Nathan and his parents. I lost track of how many times I laughed out loud, but the Aunties saying “bugger off” and calling people “tossers” was definitely a highlight, haha!

Even though humor is the main order of the day with this book, there are also a few lovely and more serious moments, both between Meddy and Nathan, and between Meddy and her Aunties.  There’s a lot of love and loyalty in this book and it really comes shining through.

The key to the Auntie books is that you really have to love over-the-top antics.  It’s non-stop craziness and hilarity, especially once Meddy and her Aunties uncover an assassination plot that is going to ruin Meddy’s wedding and the Aunties make it their mission to foil the plot and save the day.  If you’re expecting anything less than a zany good time, you might end up a bit disappointed.  But if you want to straight up laugh yourself silly, you’ll definitely want to check out Four Aunties and a Wedding4 STARS.

 

Reviews:  FOUR AUNTIES AND A WEDDING & LESSONS IN CHEMISTRYLessons in Chemistry Goodreads

Author: Bonnie Garmus

Publication Date: April 5, 2022

Publisher: Doubleday Books

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

I wasn’t at all sure what to expect going into Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus, but I was too intrigued by the unusual premise of a female scientist becoming the beloved star of a popular cooking show to pass up a chance to read and review this book.

The story is set in the 1960s and Elizabeth Zott is a woman ahead of her time.  She’s a brilliant scientist, by far smarter than every man she studied with or worked for, but the scientific community at that time was dominated by males and misogyny.  No one wants to give her the time of day and even worse, many of her colleagues seem to go out of their way to try to discredit and degrade her every step of the way.  I adored Elizabeth. Not only is she brilliant, but she’s also stubborn, resilient, and downright inspiring in the way she refuses to let these men hold her back.  I loved her strength and her belief that if she just worked hard enough and smart enough, that somehow she would get the recognition she deserves.

The one man who believes in Elizabeth’s brilliance is Calvin Edwards, a fellow scientist who Elizabeth falls in love with.  Their relationship is a bit nontraditional in the sense that Elizabeth doesn’t believe in marriage, but married or not, it’s clear the pair are soulmates, which makes it all the more devastating when Elizabeth ends up a single parent raising Calvin’s child by herself.  Again she finds herself belittled and demeaned by the men in her profession, and again Elizabeth is determined to succeed in spite of them, which is where the cooking show comes into play.

A TV producer, who happens to be a fellow parent at the school Elizabeth’s daughter attends, is fascinated by Elizabeth’s unique and quirky, no-nonsense personality.  He convinces her to host an afternoon cooking show geared towards housewives, and has no idea what he gets himself into because in true Elizabeth Zott fashion, she turns the show on its end.  I really loved what she did with this show and found myself rooting for her every step of the way because what she creates is an environment that educates, celebrates and empowers women, reminding them of their self-worth in what is often a thankless job, that of being a homemaker and raising children.

Lesson in Chemistry covers a wild variety of topics and while Elizabeth’s delightfully quirky personality makes for some hilarious moments, overall the story is a pretty serious one, tackling weighty issues such as misogyny and sexual abuse.  I found myself very passionate as I was reading about Elizabeth’s experiences, cheering her on but also just so angry on her behalf because of the way she is mistreated so badly by those who want to keep her in her place.

With its many layers and the unforgettable Elizabeth Zott, Lessons in Chemistry is an absolute gem of a book. 4.5 STARS

Romance Reviews – SADIE ON A PLATE and IN A NEW YORK MINUTE

Hey everyone!  I’m back from my trip to New York and ready to get back to blogging.  I had a wonderful trip and loved being able to share my love of the city with my son since it was his first time there.  We had great weather most days, although it did rain a bit and was pretty foggy on Thursday.  We took him on a boat ride so he could see the Statue of Liberty, the Freedom Tower, the Brooklyn Bridge, and other iconic sites around the island, and we also did a carriage ride in Central Park and took him shopping in SoHo, among other activities.  The bright lights and chaos of Times Square was his favorite part of the trip, with New York style pizza a close second, haha.  I also introduced him to Broadway with Hamilton and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.  I was not the biggest fan of the printed script version of Cursed Child or of she who shall not be named but I have to admit that seeing it on stage was pretty great. The special effects are amazing.  My son gave two thumbs up to New York overall, but we are all definitely glad to be back to the comfort and quiet of home now.

Today I’m sharing reviews of two books I read while traveling to and from New York.  Both are quick and wonderful reads, perfect for my trip.

 

Romance Reviews – SADIE ON A PLATE and IN A NEW YORK MINUTESadie on a Plate Goodreads

Author: Amanda Elliot

Publication Date: March 15, 2022

Publisher:  Berkley Books

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

Sadie on a Plate is Amanda Elliot’s debut adult romance novel and it is an absolute delight.  It follows Sadie who is making a name for herself as a rising star in Seattle’s culinary world.  That is, until a very public breakup with her famous chef boyfriend gets her blacklisted from pretty much every restaurant in the area. When we meet Sadie, she is sure her career is over and is reeling from the loss until a stroke of good fortune lands in her lap – she has been chosen for a coveted spot on the next season of the popular reality TV show, Chef Supreme.  If Sadie can perform well in this competition, she can get her career back on track.

I love a good underdog story so I was rooting for Sadie to kick butt in this competition. Sadie is smart, sweet, talented, and resilient and I just really wanted her to prove everyone wrong since there have been some folks in her life who don’t think she has what it takes to succeed.  I was also rooting for her to hit it off with Luke, the sexy seatmate she meets on her cross-country flight, because she deserves someone better in her life than her ex. Even though Sadie and Luke have major chemistry, however, there’s one major obstacle to any possibility of a happily ever after for them.  When Sadie arrives at the Chef Supreme studios, she learns that Luke is actually one of the judges so he is off limits unless she wants to be disqualified.

While I really enjoyed the forbidden love element of their relationship because it added drama and suspense, not to mention longing looks from afar, the romance does not take center stage in this story.  Instead, it bookends the main focus of the story, which is actually the competition itself.  If you enjoy reality TV cooking shows like Top Chef, you are sure to enjoy the competition scenes in this book. Between the delectable descriptions of each dish Sadie and her fellow competitors created, to the tense competitive atmosphere, it truly felt like I was watching a cooking competition.  The entire cast of secondary characters was great, but I most enjoyed following Sadie as she came up with so many creative ways to show that Jewish cuisine is so much more than just latkes and pastrami.  By the end, she had me wishing she really did have a restaurant where I could partake of her delicious sounding creations.

I would have liked a little more focus on the romance, but honestly, watching Sadie come into her own and grow both on a personal level and as a chef was more than enough for me.  I would highly recommend Sadie on a Plate to anyone who enjoys a good underdog story with a side of romance and to fans of reality TV cooking shows.  4 STARS

 

Romance Reviews – SADIE ON A PLATE and IN A NEW YORK MINUTEIn a New York Minute Goodreads

Author: Kate Spencer

Publication Date: March 15, 2022

Publisher: Forever

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

Kate Spencer’s new novel In a New York Minute is a hilarious yet tender romantic comedy that perfectly illustrates how you just never know what (or who) life is going to throw your way.  It follows Franny Doyle, a young woman, who in the opening scene of the book, has just been laid off from her job.  It wasn’t a great job, by far, but it at least paid the bills.  Feeling sad and defeated, Franny lugs her box of belongings onto the crowded subway.  Just when she thinks her day can’t possibly get any worse, she feels the back of her dress get caught in the subway doors and rip wide open.  A dashing stranger offers her his suit jacket so that she doesn’t moon all of Manhattan, and their embarrassingly awkward meet cute is captured on video.  They go their separate ways without even exchanging names, but the incident goes viral on social media and soon, half of New York is rooting for the “Subway QTs” to get together.  True to form, the local media outlets know a good story when they see it and so they set out to find and reunite Franny and her mystery hero.

I was hooked on this book from this laugh out loud funny opening scene and was immediately rooting for Franny to find happiness and to follow her dream of owning her own design business.  I was also hardcore rooting for the Subway QTs.  Even though their meeting on the subway was brief, there were definitely sparks, although you wouldn’t know it when they are finally reunited on the local news for an even more awkward encounter than their first one.  The hero, Hayes Montgomery III, handsome and chivalrous as he is, is truly as socially awkward as they come.  Pretty much everything he says comes out wrong and he is way more self-conscious than you would expect.  As much as I liked Franny, it’s Hayes who really stole my heart. His awkwardness is just so endearing, especially since you can also tell what a great guy he is. I loved watching he and Franny get to know each other.

In addition to the delightful slow burn romance between Franny and Hayes, there is also a fabulous cast of secondary characters. I especially loved Franny’s best friends, Cleo and Lola. They were so much fun to watch in action and I just loved how loyal and supportive they were of each other. They were total squad goals!

I was also a huge fan of the New York setting and thought the author did a brilliant job capturing the vibrant atmosphere of the city.  I was actually reading this novel while riding the train up to New York and it had me even more excited to experience the city than I already was.

In a New York Minute is a gem of a book. It’s filled with heart, humor, and heat and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a slow burn romance as well as an engaging story that is laugh out loud funny. 4.5 STARS

Reviews: THE GOLDEN COUPLE & THE BOOK OF COLD CASES

I know Sharon usually posts the majority of our thriller reviews on Thriller Thursday, but today I actually have two thriller reviews of my own to share.  I think I’m finally starting to come out of my pandemic funk with respect to darker reads because these two books were great and have me craving even more thrillers to read.  If you have any thriller recs to share, hit me up in the comments.

 

Reviews:  THE GOLDEN COUPLE & THE BOOK OF COLD CASESThe Golden Couple Goodreads

Author: Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

Publication Date: March 8, 2022

Publisher:  St. Martin’s Press

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

Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen, my favorite thriller writing duo, are back with a brand new domestic psychological thriller that is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat. The Golden Couple follows a married couple who turn to an unconventional therapist for help when they realize their marriage is in big trouble. They get more than they bargained for when the therapist decides to play detective and uncovers a treasure trove of secrets and lies, beneath the surface of what, to outsiders, seemed like the perfect marriage.

Avery Chambers, the therapist, is such an intriguing character.  She’s actually not even a licensed therapist, well not anymore anyway. She had her license revoked due to some ethically questionable actions on her part and now she works as a consultant, picking and choosing her clients based on her unconventional 10 step therapy program.  She’s a bit infamous, often referred to as a rogue therapist, but she gets results, which is why Marissa and Matthew Bishop turn to her for help. I really enjoyed following Avery throughout this story – she’s shrewd, resourceful, and definitely has a knack for seeing through people and getting to the truth of the matter. In addition to the work she does for the Bishops, Avery also has a personal crisis of her own that she is dealing with. She’s being stalked by a pharmaceutical corporation because she helped one of their employees blow the whistle on their unsavory business practices.  They want a name and she refuses to give them one, so they are aggressively pursuing her.  I loved the extra layer of suspense, drama, and the surprisingly creepy factor this pursuit added to the story.

Avery’s work with the Bishops is what takes center stage and I loved watching Avery peel back the layers of this couple’s relationship.  As soon as she meets with them the first time, she manages to coax the confession out of Marissa that she has cheated on Matthew.  But even as that explosive secret comes to light, it’s clear to Avery that not only are Matthew and Marissa keeping secrets from each other; they’re also not being forthright with her.  The authors do a fabulous job of creating tension and suspense in each of these therapy sessions.  I found myself eager for each appointment to see what tricks Avery would have up her sleeve as she pursued her unconventional route to saving the Bishop’s marriage.

There were also several very intriguing threads running through the story that kept me thoroughly engaged because I couldn’t wait to see how they fed into the main plot.  One, the whole time Avery is working to reconcile Matthew and Marissa, there is someone out there sending Marissa flowers and leaving her notes, as if trying to derail their therapy.  And two, there’s Marissa’s assistant, Polly, who is acting stranger and stranger by the day – dressing like Marissa, wearing the same perfume, and even mimicking some of her gestures. And why is she suddenly trying to make contact with Matthew, whom she barely knows?

The Golden Couple is a riveting psychological thriller that is about so much more than a marriage in trouble, as becomes clear when all of the pieces finally come together in an explosive and unpredictable conclusion.  If you enjoy gripping reads filled with multi-layered characters, plenty of suspenseful twists and turns to keep you guessing, and a reveal that will shock you, this is the book for you.  4 STARS

 

Reviews:  THE GOLDEN COUPLE & THE BOOK OF COLD CASESThe Book of Cold Cases Goodreads

Author: Simone St. James

Publication Date: March 15, 2022

Publisher: Berkley

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

The Book of Cold Cases by Simone St. James is a creepy, atmospheric thriller that delivers not only a riveting murder mystery but also endless thrills and chills.  If you enjoyed St. James’ last novel, The Sun Down Motel, I think her latest novel will be right up your alley because it has a similar haunting vibe.

The story follows Shea Collins, a young woman who is obsessed with true-crime and who runs a successful blog called The Book of Cold Cases where she dishes about cold cases with fellow true crime fans.  By day, however, Shea works as receptionist in a medical office, and is shocked when Beth Greer casually walks into her office one day. Forty years ago, Beth Greer was the prime suspect in the brutal Lady Killer Murders, a string of brutal murders where men were shot in the face at close range, the only evidence left behind being notes written in what appears to be a woman’s handwriting.  Beth ended up being acquitted when she went to trial, but the murders have never been solved so a cloud of suspicion still hangs over her head. Shea follows Beth when she leaves and manages to secure an interview with the infamous woman. The rest of the story unfolds from both Shea’s and Beth’s perspectives as we finally learn the truth about the murders.

Both Shea and Beth are fascinating characters with many layers to them.  We learn that Shea is obsessed with true crime in part because she was the victim of a crime herself when she was a child and was nearly abducted by a man who coaxed her into his car. Shea managed to escape, but the man went on to abduct, rape and murder another little girl.  This incident haunts Shea and has colored many aspects of her life – she has an absolute phobia when it comes to getting into cars, she doesn’t trust people very easily, etc.  Even with her trust issues, however, Shea finds herself irresistibly drawn to Beth and her story, even though she has no idea if she’s meeting an innocent woman or an elusive serial killer. And I could easily understand why. There’s just something almost intoxicating about Beth and the whole “Is she or isn’t she a cold-blooded killer?” vibe she has going on.  I desperately wanted to know the truth as much as Shea did and I’m not even a true crime fan!

I loved how St. James kept me guessing the entire book.  I didn’t know which characters I could trust and which ones I couldn’t, but each interview between Shea and Beth was that much more engrossing, especially when it became clear that it would not be Beth who revealed all, but instead it was the Greer House itself that had a jaw-dropping story to tell.  I don’t want to give away any spoilers but if you enjoy a bit of supernatural creepiness in your thrillers, you’re going to love the scenes that unfold in that house.  Let’s just say it had me giving my own house the side eye the entire time I was reading, haha.

It’s hard to say more without giving away the reveal, so I’m going to stop here but if the idea of a determined blogger trying to solve two forty-year old murders, while at the same time, coming to terms with her own childhood trauma, appeals to you, you’ll definitely want to pick up a copy of The Book of Cold Cases.  It’s atmospheric, haunting, and unputdownable.  4 STARS

Reviews: THE SUITE SPOT & IF YOU ASK ME

 

How in the world is it March already?  It feels like just last week I was reading my first book of 2022 and now it’s nearly spring and I’ve read 46 books. Amazing how much reading time insomnia and cancelling your cable can get you, lol. Anyway, I hope everyone is doing well. Today, I’m sharing two more fabulous reads that straddle the line between romance and women’s fiction.  This was my second read from Trish Doller this year and she’s now an auto-buy author for me.  This was my first time reading LIbby Hubscher and I enjoyed this one so much that I’m really hoping to read her last book Meet Me in Paradise later this month.

 

Reviews:  THE SUITE SPOT & IF YOU ASK METhe Suite Spot (Beck Sisters, #2) Goodreads

Author: Trish Doller

Publication Date: March 8, 2022

Publisher:  St. Martin’s Griffin

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

One of my first five star reads of 2022 was Float Plan, the first book in Trish Doller’s Beck Sisters series.  It was such a beautifully written story about loss and grief and about how Anna Beck finds her path forward after losing the love of her life.  That book just blew me away, so needless to say, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the second book in the series, The Suite Spot, and meet Anna’s sister Rachel Beck. How did this book compare to the first one?  5 stars all the way!

Rachel Beck’s life is not going as she had hoped it would.  She’s still living with her parents and she’s a single mom dealing with a flaky baby daddy.  Rachel loves her daughter, and she loves her job as a night reservations manager at a posh hotel in Miami Beach, that is until she gets fired for telling off one of the hotel’s VIP guests when he tries to ram his tongue down her throat.  With limited prospects, Rachel decides it’s time for a fresh start and she takes a management position at a brewery hotel on an island in Lake Erie called Kelleys Island.

I really admired Rachel’s spunk and determination.  It’s not easy to just pack up and move across the country, but she knew she needed to do something both for herself and to make sure her daughter has the best possible life.  I hated that she was wrongfully terminated from a job she loved, but I was so happy for her when it becomes clear that this new job is the chance of a lifetime, definitely professionally but also personally – if she can get Mason, the sexy but moody hotel owner to open up to her.

As much as I loved Rachel, I think I may have loved Mason even more.  Under that moody exterior is a man who has suffered a devastating personal loss and is clearly still reeling from it and struggling to move forward.  As soon as the townsfolk meet Rachel, they are rooting for her to be the one to help him put the pieces of his life back together.  And I was rooting right along with them because I loved the chemistry between Rachel and Mason and I loved how they were such a great team when it came to bringing all of the details of the hotel together.  They were just so in synch with one another and I thought they really brought out the best in each other too.  Each is exactly what the other needed.

Rachel and Mason’s growing relationship had me 100% invested in the story from a romantic standpoint, and there was also plenty of angst and drama to keep me turning those pages.  I also really loved all of the scenes that dealt with the brewery and with the designing of the hotel’s interior.  Those scenes could have easily been dry and dull and pulled me out of the story, but instead, I thought the scenes were vibrant and really helped enhance the reading experience. I could practically see the beautiful rooms coming together and taste the new delicious craft beers that Mason was brewing.

I flew through The Suite Spot in just a couple of sittings and was left thoroughly satisfied by the book’s conclusion.  If you’re in the mood for an engaging and heartwarming story with a strong focus on romance, family, and how to cope with loss and grief, you’re going to want to check out The Suite Spot. 5 STARS.

 

Reviews:  THE SUITE SPOT & IF YOU ASK MEIf You Ask Me Goodreads

Author: Libby Hubscher

Publication Date: March 8, 2022

Publisher: Berkley

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

Libby Hubscher’s new novel If You Ask Me is a heartwarming and hilarious romance that follows what happens when a popular advice columnist finds her own life in turmoil.

Violet Covington writes Dear Sweetie, a popular advice column in North Carolina.  She doles out sage wisdom on everything from matters of etiquette to parenting to relationship advice.  When the story opens, Violet has just received the great news that her column is being considered for national syndication.  She goes home, intending to tell her husband and celebrate, only to get there and discover he’s in their bed, naked with their neighbor.  Feeling betrayed and hurt, rather than take a page from the countless times she has given advice on this subject, Violet goes off the rails, first by using her column to dole out some uncensored brutally honest advice and vent her frustration, and second, by torching almost all her cheating husband’s belongings on her front lawn.  The second one isn’t all bad though as it brings a sexy firefighter named Dez to her door.

I found Violet to be a very sympathetic character and I liked her a lot, even though some of her rogue moments had me cringing for her, knowing she would regret her actions later.  I also really loved Dez. It’s clear from those first moments with Violet that he’s a sweet and caring man, and that he’s a bit smitten with Violet even though she’s obviously a hot mess.  I was so excited for her when he stopped by the next morning to make sure she was okay and left his phone number for her.  I was rooting hard for the two of them to get together because they just seemed so perfect together, and Violet deserves so much better than a man who had the nerve to bring another woman into their bed.

As sweet as Violet and Dez’s journey to a possible happy ending is, it’s really Violet’s personal journey that drives this story.  When she goes off the rails, it is not without consequences.  There’s fallout professionally and personally because her boss is also her best friend.  The hole she digs for herself forces Violet to take a good hard look at herself and decide how she’s going to find her path forward from the infidelity, especially if she hopes to have a future with Dez.

If You Ask Me is one of those books that has a little something for everyone. It made me laugh, it made me cry, it made me angry at times, and I loved how hopeful it had me feeling as the story wound to its conclusion.  The writing is also wonderful, flowing smoothly so the story is an easy read, and I especially loved the entertaining excerpts we get from Violet’s Dear Sweetie column.

If You Ask Me is an enjoyable read that is sure to appeal to romance fans and to fans of women’s fiction.  4 STARS

Reviews: DELILAH GREEN DOESN’T CARE and FULL FLIGHT

 

Hey fellow book lovers! I hope you all had a nice weekend and were able to get in plenty of reading time.  I had a pretty good weekend. We’re in a lull right now between winter and spring travel soccer so we didn’t really have anywhere we needed to be so that was nice.  Today I’m back with my last two February review books, just in time for their publication dates tomorrow.  I’ve been trying to do a better job of getting my ARCs reviewed before the publication dates this year. I don’t know how long I’ll be able to keep up with it, but so far so good.  Anyway, on to the reviews.  One is the adult debut from one of my favorite YA authors, Ashley Herring Blake, and the other is a YA contemporary from Ashley Schumacher, whose first novel Amelia Unabridged was a big hit in 2021. I didn’t review it on the blog but I did read it and thought it was wonderful.

 

Reviews: DELILAH GREEN DOESN’T CARE and FULL FLIGHTDelilah Green Doesn't Care (Bright Falls, #1) Goodreads

Author: Ashley Herring Blake

Publication Date: February 22, 2022

Publisher:  Berkley

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

Ashley Herring Blake’s adult debut Delilah Green Doesn’t Care follows Delilah Green, a young woman who is in New York following her dream of becoming a professional photographer.  She is finally getting noticed professionally and she’s also content with her personal life, which is filled with fun casual hookups, basically a different woman in her bed most nights.  Having been burned in her last serious relationship, Delilah has no interest in falling in love again.  She also has no interest in returning to Bright Falls, the town she grew up in.  As far as she’s concerned there’s nothing there for her. Her mom died when she was very young, and although her dad remarried, he died as well, leaving Delilah with her stepmother and with a stepsister, Astrid, who clearly doesn’t like her. For reasons Delilah cannot fathom, however, Astrid begs Delilah to be her wedding photographer and offers to pay her $10,000 to do it.  Short on cash, Delilah reluctantly agrees and mentally steels herself for a painfully awkward visit home.

Claire Sutherland is a single mom raising an 11 year old daughter.  The dad is partially in the picture but is unreliable and seemingly not up to the task of being a full time dad. In addition to all of her parental duties, Claire also runs a bookstore in Bright Falls.  For Claire, raising her daughter is her number one priority and everything else comes second, and that includes romance.  On a rare night out with her best friends, one of whom happens to be Astrid, Delilah’s stepsister, Claire’s friends tease her mercilessly about her lack of a love life and dare her to get someone’s phone number before she leaves the bar that night.  When a sexy tattooed brunette dressed all in black struts into the bar, Claire decides to make her move, not realizing that the woman she is about to hit on is none other than Delilah.

Oh goodness, where to start with what I enjoyed about this book!  I of course loved Delilah and Claire. They’re both strong women trying to make their way in the world. I also loved their chemistry, but even more so that it’s not a straightforward insta-love situation.  Instead, it’s actually super awkward, which felt so much more realistic to me.  Any attraction between Delilah and Claire is hampered not only because of Astrid and Delilah’s strained relationship, but also because Astrid’s whole circle of friends, including Claire, completely ignored or made fun of Delilah while they were growing up.  They were some of the main reasons why Delilah couldn’t wait to leave Bright Falls.  Is there any way Claire and Delilah can move past that and make a fresh start?

I loved watching Delilah and Claire navigate this journey, but even more so, I was completely engrossed by the relationship between Delilah and Astrid.  I’m a sucker for a sibling story, and man, theirs is a good one with lots of layers.  I have to admit that I kind of hated Astrid and a couple of the ladies in her circle early on in the novel, but by the end of this journey, they won me over.

With its combination of fully developed characters, riveting family drama, fun wedding antics, a lovable found family, as well as a sexy steamy romance, Delilah Green Doesn’t Care has it all.  4 STARS

 

Reviews: DELILAH GREEN DOESN’T CARE and FULL FLIGHTFull Flight Goodreads

Author: Ashley Schumacher

Publication Date: February 22, 2022

Publisher: Wednesday Books

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

Don’t let that beautiful swoony cover fool you, Full Flight by Ashley Schumacher packs an emotional punch that will make you ugly cry.  It’s a heartbreaking but beautifully written story about feeling like you’re missing half of yourself, until you finally find someone who makes you feel whole, and what happens if you were then to lose that someone…

I was drawn to this book because of its focus on high school students in the marching band.  I didn’t personally play an instrument myself but I was in the color guard when I was in high school so I felt a kinship to this entire group of kids.  The main characters, Anna James and Weston Ryan, are both members of the band, and are assigned to play a duet together.  Anna is new to the band and struggling with her half of the duet, so she begs Weston to help her since the band director is threatening to give her part to someone else.  Anna and Weston have never so much as exchanged a single word with one another prior to Anna’s request for help so it’s awkward to say the least.

Weston is the character who intrigued me the most, mainly because he just has so many layers. He has somehow earned the reputation of being a weirdo and a troublemaker, even though it doesn’t appear to be who he really is at all.  Aside from a small circle of friends, most of his fellow students don’t really have much to do with him and he feels very much out of place and alone, with music as his only solace.  Because of his reputation, he’s absolutely shocked that Anna wants his help and at first tries to push her away.

I loved Anna, not only because she was stubborn and persistent enough to finally convince Weston to help her, but also because she flat out did not care about what other people thought about Weston.  She thinks he’s a great guy and that’s all that matters to her. She makes it her mission to make others give Weston a chance, including her parents who judge Weston very harshly when they find out their daughter is associating with him.

I really enjoyed watching Anna and Weston connect, both in the practice rooms as they worked to perfect their duet, and in their personal lives as they first become friends and then realize they feel more than just friendship for one another.  Watching their first love blossom was just so sweet and endearing, which made the tragedy that brought it all crashing down that much more heart-wrenching.   I don’t want to spoil anything but you might want to have some tissues handy.

My absolute favorite part of Full Flight is a reference to the Kauai O’o bird that runs through the entire book.  On the brink of extinction, this bird was the last of its kind and still called to its mate, ever hopeful that its mate would respond.  Weston did a school report on the bird when he was younger and felt that it was a kindred spirit.  The way the author ties this bird to Weston and Anna’s story was beautiful and heartbreaking and yet still somehow filled with hope, just like Full Flight itself.  This is a story that is going to stay with me for a very long time. 4 STARS

Blog Tour Review: Ramón and Julieta by Alana Quintana Albertson

Blog Tour Review:  Ramón and Julieta by Alana Quintana AlbertsonRamón and Julieta by Alana Albertson, Alana Quintana Albertson
four-stars
Published by Berkley Books on February 1, 2022
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Romance, Retelling
Pages: 304
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.

 

As you can probably tell from its name, Ramón and Julieta by Alana Quintana Albertson is a retelling of the Shakespearean tragedy Romeo and Juliet.  Julieta Campos is a gifted chef who specializes in seafood based Mexican dishes.  She and her mother own a restaurant in Barrios Logan.  They have both sacrificed a lot to keep their restaurant open, but when Ramón Montez and his father, who own the Taco King fast food chain, buys up the entire street their restaurant is located on, they know their days as restaurant owners are numbered.  It stings all the more because the fish taco recipe Ramón’s father used to build his Taco King empire is one he stole from Julieta’s mother years ago. Needless to say, the Campos hate the Montez.

Ramón and Julieta have no idea their families hate each other when they first meet at the local Dia de los Muertos celebration. Ramón helps Julieta properly honor her recently deceased father after she misses the official procession to the cemetery.  Then he proceeds to serenade Julieta with romantic Mexican ballads.  The chemistry between them is undeniable and they can’t wait to see each other again.  That is, until Julieta realizes who Ramón is. Even though she has very strong feelings for Ramón and he feels the same attraction, how can they possibly be together when his father betrayed her mother? Not to mention the fact that he’s now her landlord and wants to turn her beautiful little restaurant and the other Mexican-American owned businesses on the block into Taco Kings and Starbucks.

I really loved Albertson’s contemporary romantic spin on the original Romeo and Juliet.  The obstacles that threaten to tear Ramón and Julieta apart, while modern in nature, are still essentially the same obstacles Romeo and Juliet faced. If Ramón wants to be with Julieta, he cannot strip her beloved community of its culture, which means he must stand up to his father.  If Julieta wants to be with Ramón, she has to convince her mother that Ramón is not like his father, but she also has to face the fact that she may lose her business because of his family, as well as the love of her community since they will brand her a traitor if she chooses him.  They both have very tough decisions to make.  Do they choose each other or do they remain loyal to their families?

What I also loved about this take on Romeo and Juliet was that aside from the drama surrounding the star-crossed lovers, there’s also a much lighter element to the story and that involves the Mexican food and the infusion of Mexican culture.  I loved the author’s vivid descriptions of both the incredible sounding fish tacos Julieta was known for, and of the Dia de los Muertos festivities and costumes.  She brought it to life in such a way that I felt like I was there and a part of the wonderful community vibe.  She also had me seriously craving beer battered fish tacos, haha!

The big question though is that even though Ramón and Julieta is technically a contemporary romance, can a contemporary romance that is inspired by a Shakespearean tragedy have a happily ever after?  You’ll have to pick up a copy of Ramón and Julieta if you want to find out!

four-stars

About Alana Quintana Albertson

Alana Albertson is a multi-award winning author, current President of Romance Writers of America’s Contemporary Romance Chapter and the former President of both Romance Writers of America’s Young Adult and Chick Lit chapters. Alana Albertson holds a Masters of Education from Harvard University and a Bachelor of Arts in English from Stanford University. A recovering professional ballroom dancer, Alana currently writes contemporary romance, new adult and young adult fiction. She lives in San Diego, California, with her husband, two young sons, and four dogs. When she’s not spending her time playing with her sons, dancing, or saving dogs from high kill shelters through Pugs N Roses, the rescue she founded, she can be found watching episodes Homeland, Devious Maids, or Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team.

Reviews: FINLAY DONOVAN KNOCKS ‘EM DEAD & GOOD GIRL COMPLEX

 

I’m back today with some of my final January reads.  I don’t know about you all, but my 2022 reading year is off to a great start.  So far I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read and have no DNFs.  Today’s review post is unofficially the “Elle” edition since both author’s first names are Elle (I didn’t even notice that until I started putting this together, lol).

 

Reviews:  FINLAY DONOVAN KNOCKS ‘EM DEAD & GOOD GIRL COMPLEXFinlay Donovan Knocks 'Em Dead (Finlay Donovan, #2) Goodreads

Author:  Elle Cosimano

Publication Date: February 1, 2022

Publisher:  St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books

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

Finlay Donovan Knocks ‘Em Dead is the second book in Elle Cosimano’s new series “Finlay Donovan” which follows the misadventures of author and divorced single mother, Finlay Donovan.  For those who haven’t read the first book yet, Finlay finds herself accidentally hired as an assassin when a woman overhears her and her agent discussing the plot of the thriller she is writing.  The woman thinks Finlay is the perfect person to “off” her husband and practically starts throwing money at her.  Finlay could really use the cash, and thus begins a surprisingly hilarious journey into murder-for-hire, organized crime, and all the while, Finlay is still trying to write her book.

This latest book opens with Finlay learning that someone out there actually wants to murder her ex-husband. As much as she hates Stephen, she doesn’t want her kids to lose their Dad and so she makes it her mission to find out who is responsible and convince them to call off the hit.  This sends her on a dangerous yet surprisingly comical adventure, full of twists and turns, that takes her, amongst other places, way closer to the Russian mob than she would ever wish to be.

It’s hard to talk about details from the story without spoilers and I definitely don’t want to spoil the plot as it pertains to her ex-husband.  I’ll just say that I adore Finlay. She’s sarcastic and funny, quirky as heck and very resourceful, and she has clearly learned a lot from writing her crime thrillers.  It impresses me how she and her roommate/nanny, Vero, constantly get themselves into dangerous and often ridiculous predicaments, but somehow always manage to get themselves right back out of trouble.   I’m also a big fan of Vero and was pleased that we got to learn a bit more about her in this book.

Finlay Donovan Knocks ‘Em Dead is well-plotted and fast-paced, so much so that I flew through the book in just a couple of sittings.  The Finlay Donovan series may involve serious topics like murder-for-hire and organized crime, but it’s truly one of the funniest and most entertaining series I’ve ever read.  I really hope there will be more books in this series because I need more of Finlay and Vero. What a team they are!  4.5 STARS

 

Reviews:  FINLAY DONOVAN KNOCKS ‘EM DEAD & GOOD GIRL COMPLEXGood Girl Complex Goodreads

Author: Elle Kennedy

Publication Date: February 1, 2022

Publisher:  St. Martin’s Press/St. Martin’s Griffin

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

Good Girl Complex is the first installment in a new contemporary romance series by Elle Kennedy. I tend to gravitate to books with small town and/or university settings and this book has both.  I also typically enjoy romances that feature the good girl/bad boy dynamic so Good Girl Complex just seemed like it would be a great fit for me.

Local bad boy Cooper Hartley is tired of the rich “clones” who invade Avalon Bay to attend college every year and act like they own the community and everyone in it.  One night, at the bar where he works, he witnesses one of them forcing himself on a waitress. When the clone won’t take no for an answer, Cooper intervenes and ends up punching the guy. Rich boy whines to the owner and gets Cooper fired, which only fuels Cooper’s hatred of this guy and everyone like him. Cooper learns the guy has a girlfriend and decides he’s going to steal her right out from under the guy’s nose. Cooper’s quest for revenge doesn’t go exactly as planned, however, because when he meets the girlfriend, whose name is Mackenzie (Mac), he realizes that she’s not at all like her boyfriend and his kind, and Cooper wants to be friends, maybe even more than friends, with her.  But can any kind of relationship survive between them if the truth about his revenge plot comes out?

I loved both Mac and Cooper right away so it was very easy to become invested in their journey.  Both characters are flawed and come across as very realistic and relatable because of those flaws. Yes, Mac comes from money, but she is also an entrepreneur and a self-made millionaire.  It’s an impressive accomplishment, particularly for someone her age, so it shocked me to learn that neither her parents nor her boyfriend Preston support her in this endeavor. They have her life mapped out for her and there’s no room on that map for anything that doesn’t revolve around her mother’s charity work and becoming Preston’s wife. Mac has always just gone along with what they’ve dictated, not wanting to upset anyone.  But when she meets Cooper and they start talking, Mac suddenly realizes there’s more to life than pleasing everyone else. It’s a true awakening for her.

I also loved that as much as Cooper teaches Mac about being her own person and not letting anyone hold her back, Cooper also learns a lot along the way, particularly about passing judgment on an entire group of people just because he has had a few bad experiences.  I also love that there’s so much more to him than his bad boy reputation and that he and Mac aren’t very different from one another, despite their different backgrounds.  I enjoyed watching them interact – whether they’re being sassy, supportive, or sexy, their chemistry was off the charts.  They made such a great couple that I was truly on the edge of my seat waiting for the truth about the revenge plot to smack them both in the face and hoping that they could survive it when it did.

Good Girl Complex is a great start to Elle Kennedy’s new series and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys watching characters figure out who they’re meant to be as well as who they’re meant to be with.  4 STARS