Tag Archive for: ARC review

Review: THE ROUGHEST DRAFT by Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka

Review:  THE ROUGHEST DRAFT by Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-BrokaThe Roughest Draft by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka
four-half-stars
Published by Berkley Books on January 25, 2022
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Romance
Pages: 336
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
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FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

 

The Roughest Draft is a slow-burn contemporary romance from co-authors Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka. It follows another pair of cowriters, Katrina and Nathan, who, after penning a best-selling novel together, had a major falling out and haven’t spoken to each other in three years.

Neither Katrina nor Nathan have any desire to work together again, but unfortunately for them, their book deal was for two books so unless they want to pay back the advance, they need to make peace and write together one more time. Reluctantly, the pair agrees to move in together for a few months and get this second book written.  They actually move into the same house they used the last time they wrote together so they are both surrounded by memories, both good and bad, and  it’s all fireworks from there!

I will say up front that it does take a few chapters to really get a feel for just how much bad blood and hurt feelings there are between Katrina and Nathan.  At first I was just sitting there like “OMG, why are they feeling so hostile toward one another?  What could have possibly been so bad?” As the story begins to unfold, I became completely engrossed in learning the details about what happened and in seeing if they would be able to move forward and write together again without killing one another. Both characters are immensely likeable and their chemistry is undeniable, even when they’re sniping at one another. Think Emily Henry’s Beach Read but way angstier and that should give you a pretty good feel for this book.

The Roughest Draft was such a wonderful read for me.  It just checked so many boxes.  It’s filled with romance tropes I love like enemies to lovers (actually more like friends to enemies to lovers), second chance romance, and forced proximity.  The story is presented to us from both Nathan and Katrina’s perspectives and through the use of dual timelines, which I always love when they’re used well.  In this case, they are used to perfection:  the present-day cowriting experience is presented parallel to the cowriting journey that went so wrong.  I loved watching Nathan and Katrina trying to navigate in the present while simultaneously learning what happened in their past to create the present-day angst and awkwardness.

I also tend to really enjoy books that give us an inside look at writers and their process, and The Roughest Draft gives us that sneak peek at Nathan and Katrina’s cowriting process because while the two of them are unable to really talk about what happened between them, everything they’re feeling comes pouring out onto the pages as they write together.  There’s so much passion and emotion flying between them I’m surprised they didn’t melt their keyboards!

If you’re in the mood for a slow-burn, angsty contemporary romance, you’re definitely going to want to add The Roughest Draft to your must-read list.

four-half-stars

About Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka

Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka met and fell in love in high school. Austin went on to graduate magna cum laude from Harvard, while Emily graduated magna cum laude from Princeton. Together, they are the authors of Always Never Yours, If I’m Being Honest, Time of Our Lives, and What’s Not to Love. Now married, they live in Los Angeles, where they continue to take daily inspiration from their own love story.

Reviews: THE LAST HOUSE ON THE STREET & THE MAGNOLIA PALACE

 

Happy Friday fellow bookworms! I don’t know about you but I’m so ready for the weekend.  Today I’m sharing reviews for new book releases for two of my favorite authors, Diane Chamberlain and Fiona Davis.  Both books feature rich history, compelling characters, and intriguing mysteries that kept me fully captivated as I was reading.

 

Reviews: THE LAST HOUSE ON THE STREET & THE MAGNOLIA PALACEThe Last House on the Street Goodreads

Author:  Diane Chamberlain

Publication Date: January 11, 2022

Publisher:  St. Martin’s Press

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

My first 5 star read of the year is The Last House on the Street by Diane Chamberlain, a beautifully written work of historical fiction with such a compelling element of mystery that it kept me turning the pages long into the night.

The story follows a young woman named Kayla who is about to move into her new home in Round Hill, North Carolina. She is unexpectedly confronted by a strange woman who tells her she shouldn’t move into the house, that the house should never have been built there in the first place. Kayla is rattled by this and when strange things start happening on the property, she is downright spooked.

It’s obvious someone is trying to scare her into leaving. Something terrible clearly happened on her property and Kayla is determined to find out what. Ellie, a neighbor down the street seems like she may know more than she’s telling.  Kayla stops by Ellie’s house, hoping to befriend her since hers is the only other house on the street. But every time Kayla tries to talk to her, particularly if it’s anything about the history of Round Hill and in particular the property Kayla’s house now sits on, Ellie clams up and gets extremely defensive.

The story is told in dual timelines, Kayla’s which is present day, and Ellie’s, which takes us back to the 1960’s and the Civil Rights Movement. What we get as the threads from the two timelines come together is a powerful and heartbreaking story filled with secrets, lies, shocking prejudice and violence, forbidden love, as well as a quest for justice.

Wow, what a book! Once I started it, I couldn’t put it down. I was just dying to know what the heck happened at Kayla’s house all those years ago and I cried when the truth came out and the full scope of the tragedy was revealed. It was so heartbreaking and made all the more poignant by Chamberlain’s exquisite writing.   5 STARS

 

Reviews: THE LAST HOUSE ON THE STREET & THE MAGNOLIA PALACEThe Magnolia Palace Goodreads

Author: Fiona Davis

Publication Date: January 25, 2022

Publisher:  Dutton

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

New York City is my favorite city and I love learning the history of its many landmarks so Fiona Davis’ historical fiction novels are always such a treat for me.  In her latest novel, The Magnolia Palace, Davis gives us an inside look at the history behind the iconic Gilded Age mansion that we now know of as The Frick Collection.  Not only do we get to explore the rich history behind the mansion and the wealthy Frick family who lived there, but Davis also gives us an engrossing mystery or two to sink our teeth into as well.

Davis explores all things Frick using two very compelling timelines, one set just after World War I and the other set during the 1960s. The early timeline follows Lillian Carter, a famous artists’ model who has found herself embroiled in a scandal and wanted for questioning by the police in connection with a murder.  Lillian needs a place to hide until she can get out of town and follow her dreams to Hollywood.  She somehow manages to luck her way into a job as the private secretary of Miss Helen Frick.  Lillian thinks she’ll be able to hide in plain sight while earning money to pay for her trip west, but she has no idea what she has signed on for.  She soon finds herself hired by Helen’s father to secretly play matchmaker for her, and even gets caught up in a web of lies involving stolen family jewels and yet another murder.  Lillian is an intriguing and resourceful heroine and I thoroughly enjoyed watching her navigate the endless minefield of drama that seems to surround the Fricks.

The second timeline features an equally resourceful and intriguing heroine that is easy to root for.  Veronica, like Lillian, is a model, and also like Lillian, finds herself unexpectedly at the Frick House.  Veronica is there for a big modelling job and is trying to earn enough money to help support her family after the death of her father.  Veronica gets fired from the job after butting heads with the arrogant photographer and then somehow ends up locked in the building overnight.  While looking for a way out, she stumbles upon a dusty old packet of what appears to be clues for a scavenger hunt and decides to try to follow them since she has nothing else to do. Following those clues leads her on a hunt that could not only solve Veronica’s financial troubles but it also leads her to the truth about the now decades-old murder that we see in Lillian’s timeline.

I loved the way Davis wove the threads of these two timelines together.  I was a little more captivated by the old Hollywood glamorous feel of Lillian’s timeline, but honestly, both made for great reading because I was invested in both Lillian and Veronica’s stories and completely fascinated by the Fricks.

If you’re interested in learning more about one of New York’s most iconic buildings and families, and in being entertained by an engaging mystery while you learn, be sure to check out The Magnolia Palace4 STARS

 

Reviews: HOW TO LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR & MUST LOVE BOOKS

 

Hey everyone!  Today I’m sharing reviews for some contemporary fiction.  These two novels will be out in the world on January 18, 2022, so you won’t have to wait long if they sound like something you would be interested in.  I enjoyed Sophie Sullivan’s last novel, <em>Ten Rules for Faking It</em> so I was excited to learn that her new novel How to Love Your Neighbor takes place in the same world and we get to see Everly and Chris from the first novel again.  I’ve also been wanting to read more debut novels so I was excited to be approved for Shauna Robinson’s book.

 

Reviews:  HOW TO LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR & MUST LOVE BOOKSHow to Love Your Neighbor Goodreads

Author:  Sophie Sullivan

Publication Date: January 18, 2022

Publisher:  St. Martin’s Griffin

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

How to Love Your Neighbor by Sophie Sullivan is an absolute delight.  It’s an enemies-to-lovers romance that is packed with equal parts heart and humor, not to mention a healthy dose of interior design and home renovations.

Life is going pretty well for Grace Travis.  She is currently finishing up her degree in interior design and she has just inherited a cute little house on the beach from her grandmother.  Grace can’t wait to fix the house up so that she has a place of her own.  There’s just one problem. Her neighbor Noah Jansen is a successful real estate developer and he wants to buy her house so he can tear it down and make his property larger.  Noah is also a jerk, or at least Grace thinks so anyway, even though she has to admit that he’s a pretty cute jerk.

I was hooked from the moment Grace and Noah first encounter each other – a hilarious meet-cute on the beach involving a collision and two enormous and overenthusiastic dogs named Tequila and Lime. They didn’t know they were neighbors at this point and the chemistry between them was so undeniable.  Then when they realized they were neighbors and started butting heads over whether or not Grace should sell her house to Noah, the sparks really started to fly.  I loved Grace so much. She’s strong and independent, creative and resourceful, and she’s hilarious on top of it.  When it came to Noah, at first I agreed with Grace, that he was a jerk used to always getting his way by throwing money at what he wanted.  But the more we learn about him after he and Grace come to an understanding, the more I loved him.  He’s a lot more vulnerable than he lets on, especially because he has a strained relationship with his father.

Watching Grace and Noah’s relationship grow was my favorite part of the story.  Not only do they agree to a truce, but they even start helping each other with their home renovations.  I really loved all the scenes involving interior design and painting, especially if they led to opportunities for flirting and sassy banter or if they involved the fabulous cast of secondary characters that are in the book, including Noah’s siblings and a grumpy but lovable elderly man named Morty who is like a dad to Grace. Aside from getting flirty with each other, Grace and Noah also learn a lot from each other, including how to support one another when dealing with dysfunctional parental relationships.  I especially loved that aspect of their relationship and it had me flying through the pages hoping they would get a happy ending together.

If you’re in the mood for a light-hearted romantic read with a side of family drama, How to Love Your Neighbor is a great choice. 4 STARS.

 

Reviews:  HOW TO LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR & MUST LOVE BOOKSMust Love Books Goodreads

Author: Shauna Robinson

Publication Date: January 18, 2022

Publisher:  Sourcebooks

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

I’m always drawn to books about books and book lovers so I couldn’t resist requesting Shauna Robinson’s debut novel, Must Love Books.  I’m so glad I did too because I think the journey of self- discovery the protagonist Nora Hughes embarks on is one that will resonate with many readers, especially anyone who is searching for their “dream” job or anyone who thought they had their “dream” job until it became more of a nightmare than a dream.

Nora loves books and all she knows when she starts looking for her ideal job is that it has to somehow involve books.  When she lands an editorial assistant position at Parsons Press, she is in heaven because what could be better than working for someone who actually puts books out in the world.  Nora’s job isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, however, and after a series of layoffs and corporate restructuring, she finds herself bogged down in administrative tasks like ordering lunches and office supplies rather than doing much that is directly involved with the books themselves.  It’s a bit disheartening for Nora as is but then things take an even worse turn and she is asked to take a 15% cut in her pay.  Nora can barely make ends meet with her existing salary, so when her pay is cut, she is forced to take drastic measures and secretly takes on part-time freelance work at a rival publishing company.

About the only thing that makes her happy at all these days is Andrew Santos, a bestselling Parson author who has taken an interest in Nora after they exchange some flirty banter involving avocados, of all random things.  As the two of them grow closer, Nora finds herself uncertain of where her loyalties should lie – the full-time job she has but hates or the freelance job that has the possibility of becoming permanent if she could score a big author like Andrew for them even though it involves manipulating Andrew. All Nora knows is that she is so unhappy that her mental health is suffering, so something has got to give.

Even though there is the possibility of a budding romance there with Andrew, Must Love Books is really all about Nora and her search for what is going to make her happy both personally and professionally.  Nora is a very likeable and relatable character in the sense that we’ve pretty much all been where she is at some point in our lives, that crossroads where you have to make some tough choices if you’re ever going to change your life.  I was rooting hard for her to find the happiness and sense of fulfillment she deserves.  I also liked that the author presents what Nora did with the two rival publishers in a very realistic manner and that the character development is equally realistic.  Nora is not presented as a hero trying to stick it to the company that has wronged her; instead, there are real consequences for what she does, and she really doesn’t like the person she becomes while she’s living this double life of secrets and lies.

If you’re in the mood for a heartfelt, reflective story about finding yourself and your place in the world, definitely check out Must Love Books4 STARS

Reviews: WEATHER GIRL & MADE IN MANHATTAN

 

Hey everyone, hope your week is off to a great start.  It snowed 14 inches here last week and since we don’t really do snow well here in central Virginia, the whole area was pretty much shut down all week.  I work from home so it didn’t impact me too much, plus it made for a great excuse to cozy up in front of the fire with some wonderful books, two of which I’m sharing reviews for today.

 

Reviews:  WEATHER GIRL & MADE IN MANHATTANWeather Girl Goodreads

Author:  Rachel Lynn Solomon

Publication Date: January 11, 2022

Publisher:  Berkley Books

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

Rachel Lynn Solomon’s latest contemporary romance, Weather Girl, follows Ari Abrams, a young Jewish woman whose lifelong fascination with the weather has landed her a dream job as a TV meteorologist.  Working alongside her longtime idol, legendary Seattle weatherwoman, Torrance Hale, Ari’s job is everything she ever hoped it would be.  That is, with one exception:  the unbearable tension in the workplace between Torrance and Seth, who happens to be the news director at the station as well as Torrance’s ex-husband.  The two of them are constantly at each other’s throats, making everyone around them feel awkward and uncomfortable, including one of Ari’s coworkers, sports reporter Russell Barringer.  Unable to take it anymore, Ari and Russell cook up a scheme to get Torrance and Seth back together.  Adult version of The Parent Trap, anyone?

I had a lot of fun with this story.  Ari and Russell are both such likeable characters and I enjoyed their attempts at nudging Torrance and Seth back together, especially since it became clear that the two of them were also growing closer along the way.

I also just loved how realistic and relatable Ari came across, particularly when it came to her struggles with mental health.  Ari suffers from depression but has also struggled with the fear that no one would like her if they knew of her depression.  Her way of coping with that has been to keep her depression and therapy a secret, put on a happy face and be a walking ray of sunshine to everyone around her.  It was clearly not healthy and in fact, was downright exhausting at times, because all Ari really wanted was to feel like she could be herself.  Could Russell finally be the one who gets her to let her guard down?

Speaking of Russell, I really loved this guy and honestly found him to be more realistic than most of the male leads I’ve read about in romance novels.  He’s a Jewish single dad and he hasn’t been on a date in at least five years.  Russell also struggles with his weight and so doesn’t really think of himself as a “catch” for any woman. I liked that sense of vulnerability about him, and I also liked that the more he and Ari hung out together, the more it was clear what a great match they could be because, even though their matchmaking schemes weren’t exactly professional, they really did bring out the best in each other.

If matchmaking a la The Parent Trap, a realistic exploration of a person coping with depression, excellent Jewish representation, and a friends-to-lovers romance appeal to you, Weather Girl by Rachel Lynn Solomon needs to be on your must-read list. It’s the fourth novel I’ve read from Solomon, and it’s definitely another winner for me.  4 STARS.

 

Reviews:  WEATHER GIRL & MADE IN MANHATTANMade in Manhattan Goodreads

Author: Lauren Layne

Publication Date: January 18, 2022

Publisher:  Gallery Books

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

As soon as I saw that Lauren Layne’s new contemporary romance, Made in Manhattan, was being advertised as a modern-day reverse My Fair Lady, I knew I had to read it.  I’m a huge fan of My Fair Lady, the musical and the film, so I’m always up for a fresh take on an old favorite.

Made in Manhattan follows Violet Townsend, a young woman born and raised in the wealthy, privileged Upper East Side of Manhattan.  Violet is an expert when it comes to knowing what to say, how to act, and what to wear in all elite social settings.  Violet also loves to make people happy, especially Edith, who while not a blood relative, has practically raised her since Violet’s parents and grandparents all died when she was much younger.  Edith runs a successful international corporation and has been troubled by the fact that she has no living family to take over the business when she retires, that is until she learns that she has a grandson named Cain Stone she never knew about.  Edith is determined to groom Cain to take over the business, but there’s just one problem: Cain, who hails from New Orleans, is about as rough around the edges as they come.  With his long hair, scuffed boots, faded jeans, and a vocabulary that consists largely of the four-letter ‘f’ word, Cain doesn’t exactly fit in with NYC’s elite. Edith enlists Violet to help give Cain a Manhattan makeover.  Less than thrilled at the prospect, Violet reluctantly agrees because she just can’t say no to Edith. Unfortunately for Violet, Cain is even less thrilled at the prospect.

As with the original My Fair Lady, there are just sparks flying everywhere between Violet and Cain as soon as the makeover commences.  Cain is impossible, fighting Violet every step of the way, and Violet becomes more and more frustrated. She can’t understand why he even bothered to come to New York if he’s not willing to do whatever it takes to become CEO of the company that is pretty much being handed to him.  Cain, on the other hand, can’t understand why Violet, or Duchess as he refers to her, has nothing else better to do with her time than treat him as a human mannequin.  While I found all the awkward, snarky banter at the beginning of their relationship quite entertaining, what I really enjoyed was watching their relationship evolve as they got to know each other better and could look past their initial impressions of one another. It becomes all too clear that the two of them have the hots for each other, whether they want to admit it or not.

The only thing better than watching their relationship evolve was watching Violet herself evolve.  She really does start to question what she is even doing with her life and why she feels the need to be such a people pleaser all the time, even if it makes her miserable in the process. The more time she spends with Cain, the more she finds herself willing to step out of her lifelong comfort zone and try new things.  It’s as if she’s undergoing just as much of a transformation as Cain is, and I loved to see it.

Made in Manhattan was everything I could have wanted from a My Fair Lady-inspired book and then some. I flew through the pages in less than a day and was sad when the story was over, even though the ending was immensely satisfying.  4 STARS.

Reviews: THE MAID & RECKLESS GIRLS

 

I’m not Sharon and it’s not Thriller Thursday, but today I have two mystery/thriller reviews to share.  One is in the vein of a cozy mystery, while the other is somewhat of a locked door mystery that reminds me a lot of the TV show Lost.  I read both of these while I was on vacation the week after Christmas and quite enjoyed them.

 

Reviews:  THE MAID & RECKLESS GIRLSThe Maid Goodreads

Author:  Nita Prose

Publication Date: January 4, 2022

Publisher:  Ballatine Books

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

The Maid by Nita Prose follows a lovable, quirky maid named Molly who discovers a dead man in one of the hotel rooms she cleans and then ends up wrongfully accused of the man’s murder.

Molly is such a unique and charming character that I fell in love with her right away.  She may only be 25 but she has somewhat of an old soul, probably because she was raised by her recently-deceased grandmother.  Molly is all about cleanliness and order, and so she loves working as a maid to help bring a sense of order to the lives of others.  It was actually adorable listening to her describe her work with such pride and passion.  She reminded me a bit of Mary Poppins! Although she comes across as this old soul, Molly is also quite naïve and innocent in the ways of the world.  When someone befriends her, she immediately trusts that their motives are sincere.  Her trusting nature, endearing as it is, is unfortunately what lands her in hot water regarding Mr. Black, the murdered hotel guest.

The bulk of the story follows Molly as she sets out to prove her innocence and to figure out what really happened to Mr. Black. I don’t want to give away too many details about the plot itself since it is a murder mystery, but I did want to share that what made this such a special read for me was that the entire story comes to us from Molly’s perspective.  As you can imagine based on what I’ve shared about Molly and the way she views the world, it’s quite an interesting and unique perspective.

Molly stole my heart and had me cheering her on to prove her innocence, but there were also several other fantastic characters in the story, a number of whom come to Molly’s aid because they believe in her and because they know she has no one else in her corner now that her grandmother has passed away.  There’s a definite “found family” vibe with these characters and I loved that for Molly.  It’s not often that I think of a murder mystery as having a heart-warming element, but this one definitely does.

The Maid is an engaging mystery that is filled with twists and turns and features a heroine that you can’t help rooting for.  I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys mysteries, especially cozies. 4.5 STARS

 

Reviews:  THE MAID & RECKLESS GIRLSReckless Girls Goodreads

Author: Rachel Hawkins

Publication Date: January 4, 2022

Publisher:  St. Martin’s Press

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

Reckless Girls by Rachel Hawkins is advertised as being perfect for fans of Lucy Foley and Ruth Ware and I agree wholeheartedly as those two authors immediately came to mind once I started reading this book. Reckless Girls is a variation on the locked door mystery in the sense that it takes place on an isolated island in the Pacific Ocean and the characters in the book end up stranded there.  We all know that no good can come from that and as the story unfolds, we get to see firsthand just how bad things can get.

The novel’s main character is Lux, a young woman who has recently been fired from her job and is temporarily crashing at a friend’s place with her boyfriend.  In need of cash and eager for an adventure, Lux and her boyfriend accept an offer to earn a tremendous amount of money by sailing two women, Amma and Britney, out to a remote island in the South Pacific that they keep hearing about.  What they don’t realize is that they’re about to get way more adventure than they had planned on, starting with a treacherous storm that nearly capsizes their boat before they even get to the island.  When they finally make it to the island, they realize they won’t be alone because another man and woman apparently had the same idea they did.  No worries though. The more the merrier, right?  That is, until yet another stranger shows up and things take an ominous turn.  Missing people, disappearing boats, sabotaged radio equipment, the list goes on and on. If they’re alone on the island, who is responsible?

I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I will say that the most fascinating part of the book for me were the backstories we get on each of the other characters who are on the island with Lux.  As their stories unfold, it becomes clear that no one is as they seem and there are definitely some hidden agendas as to why they have all converged on this island at the same time.  I enjoyed watching all of their threads come together to give a complete picture, especially as we follow Lux who is trying to put all of the same pieces together we are.  Hawkins definitely kept me guessing the truth about all of them until the very end.

Aside from the twisty mystery itself, I also really loved how atmospheric the story is. The island itself has an ominous, creepy history that we learn about as the story progresses.  It reminded me a lot of the TV show, Lost.  The story also has a Gothic, almost supernatural vibe to it at times.

One element that surprised me was that I didn’t really like any of the characters in the book. I guess Lux is probably the one I cared about the most, but even then, I wasn’t overly attached to her. Normally I don’t like books where I don’t feel like I’m rooting for anyone, but with this book, I was so curious about what bad things would happen next and whether or not they would all make it off the island alive, that not liking them didn’t really bother me.

 If twisty thrillers, locked door mysteries, and Gothic settings are your jam, be sure to check out Reckless Girls.  3.5 STARS

Reviews: WHEN YOU GET THE CHANCE & 30 THINGS I LOVE ABOUT MYSELF

 

Happy New Year, everyone! Here’s hoping that 2022 is good to all of us, both in terms of our lives in general and of course in terms of our reads for the upcoming year.  Today I’m sharing my first reviews of 2022, a fun read from an author I enjoy, Emma Lord, and a thought-provoking read by a new-to-me author, Radhika Sanghani.

 

Reviews:  WHEN YOU GET THE CHANCE & 30 THINGS I LOVE ABOUT MYSELFWhen You Get the Chance Goodreads

Author:  Emma Lord

Publication Date: January 4, 2022

Publisher:  Wednesday Books

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

If, like me, you’re a huge fan of the musical Mamma Mia, you’re going to just fall in love with Emma Lord’s latest contemporary romance, When You Get the Chance.  It follows Millie Price, a talented teen who has dreamed of becoming a Broadway star from the moment she saw her first musical.  She’s determined to get there and nothing and no one will stand in her way – not her overprotective father, not her drama club rival Oliver, not even her own intensely emotional moments of self-doubt.  When Millie secretly applies to an elite high school drama school and gets accepted, her dad says no way.

Millie decides she needs someone on her side and thus embarks on a search to find the mother she has never known.  She thinks she has hit the jackpot when she stumbles across her dad’s LiveJournal from 2003.  After reading post after cringy embarrassing post, Millie has come up with a list of three possible women who might be her mother.  First there’s Steph, an aspiring actress who works as a receptionist at a local talent agency.  Then there’s Farrah, a dance teacher in the area. And finally, there’s Beth, a fellow musical theater enthusiast who also happens to have a daughter just a couple years younger than Millie.  Millie sets out on a mission to get to know all three of these women in hopes that it will become obvious who her mom is, and thus begins her “Millie Mia” journey, which is the focus of this book.

I had so much fun reading this book!  I adored Millie and was fully invested in both her dream of being on Broadway and her search for her birth mom.  I loved her spirit and her sense of determination.  I also fell in love with basically all the other characters in the book too.  Millie’s nerdy dad and cool aunt are both so fantastic and so supportive of her, even if they don’t necessarily agree with her choice of schools.  Millie’s best friend and neighbor, Teddy, is a sweetheart and I loved the closeness of their friendship.  Steph, Farrah, and Beth were all so delightful that I couldn’t even decide which one I hoped would turn out to be Millie’s mom.  Millie’s nemesis, Oliver, is also fabulous.  I loved watching the two of them interact when they both end up working as interns at the same talent agency.  Their escalating rivalry is hilarious, especially since it’s pretty clear they’re both just hiding their true feelings for one another.

If you’re in the mood for a heartwarming story about family, friendship, and following your heart that also features an utterly delightful cast of characters, I highly recommend Emma Lord’s When You Get the Chance4.5 STARS

 

Reviews:  WHEN YOU GET THE CHANCE & 30 THINGS I LOVE ABOUT MYSELF30 Things I Love about Myself Goodreads

Author: Radhika Sanghani

Publication Date: January 4, 2022

Publisher:  Berkley Books

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

Life is not going well for Nina Mistry.  Her career is going nowhere, she has just broken up with her fiancé and moved back home with her overbearing mother, and as if that isn’t enough, she finds herself locked up in jail on her 30th birthday wearing only her pajamas. While sitting in her cell contemplating the sad state of her life, Nina finds herself in possession of a self-help book called “How to Fix Your Shitty Life by Loving Yourself,” Nina decides to embrace the philosophy of this book and it turns out to be a life changing experience for her.  30 Things I Love About Myself by Radhika Sanghani follows Nina on her journey of self-discovery and self-love.

Nina’s journey to find 30 things she loves about herself is compelling and it’s one that had me wondering if I could find anywhere near 30 things I loved about myself. I found myself very interested in what kind of wisdom Nina’s self-help book would dole out and even though some of Nina’s experiences as she follows the book’s instructions might be a little over the top for dramatic purposes, I think the essence of the story is one that many readers, especially those right around Nina’s age, will relate to.  Nina makes plenty of mistakes along the way as she pushes herself out of her comfort zone, but overall, the book’s advice to embrace bold actions and try new things, whether it’s yoga, meditation, or even tantric sex is truly the game changer Nina needs.

While I enjoyed following Nina on her journey, I do have to confess that I found my attention wandering a little by about the halfway point.  I think part of that was that her story is so sad in the early stages that I found it somewhat draining, especially since I was grieving the loss of two loved ones around the time I read this book. I probably wasn’t in the best headspace to read a book about someone hitting rock bottom.  Plus, her brother, who is also living with their mom, is suffering from depression and can barely function, which was also just so heartbreaking to watch. Thankfully though, the more Nina learns about herself and continues to build her list of 30 things, the more upbeat and hopeful the story got.

Even though the emotional weight of the book made me struggle with it a bit, I still think 30 Things I Love About Myself is a very worthwhile read.  I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys stories about self-love or who may be looking for inspiration to embark on a similar journey.  3.5 STARS

Reviews: IF THIS GETS OUT & HOW NOT TO FALL IN LOVE

 

Here we are, another week closer to the end of 2021.  This week I’ll be wrapping up the last of my 2021 review books and then will be getting a jump on my January 2022 books.  I thought I had been cutting back on the number of review books I requested but somehow have 13 for January. Oops.  Anyway, I’m sharing my thoughts on two very different books today. The first takes a hard behind-the-scenes look at the music industry, while the second is a heartwarming story about love, family, and friendship.

 

Reviews:  IF THIS GETS OUT & HOW NOT TO FALL IN LOVEIf This Gets Out Goodreads

Author:  Sophie Gonzales and Cale Dietrich

Publication Date: December 7, 2021

Publisher:  Wednesday Books

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

If This Gets Out by Sophie Gonzales and Cale Dietrich is one of those books that wasn’t exactly what I was expecting it to be. I knew going in that there was a romance between two members of a boy-band, but it’s so much more than that.  It’s also an in-depth exploration of what goes on behind-the-scenes of the music industry, where apparently there’s not much of the good but a lot of the bad and ugly.

The story follows Ruben and Zach, two members of the ultra popular boy-band, Saturday.  Ruben and Zach, along with the other two members, Jon and Angel, all became best friends years ago in music camp and eventually decided to form a band together.  Over the years, as they have all grown closer, Ruben realizes that he has developed more than just friendly feelings toward Zach and is elated to learn that Zach feels the same way.  Both boys want to come out publicly as queer and tell the world that they are in love with one another, but to their utter dismay, the record company management just isn’t having it for fear of alienating the band’s female fans and the parents who ultimately buy the band’s albums for their children.

I adored all four of the boys in the band and my heart also broke for them all on so many levels.  It becomes clear that even though they are mega celebrities, they have no control over their own lives or even of their own personalities and sexual identities.  Management decides how each of them will look and dress, often creating personas for them that in no way match up with what each boy is really like.  When they go to Europe on tour, they are practically kept like animals in cages, not allowed to even go out and see the sights.

The strain on each boy’s mental health is intense, and it was this raw and dark look at the music industry that really made If This Gets Out such a powerful and compelling read for me.  It was horrifying to think the mental health and well-being of these boys fell a distant second to exploiting them and doing whatever was necessary to keep the money rolling in. All I kept thinking while I was reading was thank goodness these boys have each other to turn to. I loved their friendship; in so many ways, they’re truly like brothers, always there for each other no matter how hard things get.  Those friendships and the love between Zach and Ruben nicely balance out what would otherwise be a very dark story.  4 STARS

 

Reviews:  IF THIS GETS OUT & HOW NOT TO FALL IN LOVEHow Not to Fall in Love Goodreads

Author: Jacqueline Firkins

Publication Date: December 21, 2021

Publisher:  Clarion Books

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

How Not to Fall in Love by Jacqueline Firkins is an absolutely delightful YA contemporary romance.  It follows Theo and Harper who have been best friends since they were toddlers and who are now trying to navigate the often treacherous waters of teenage love and romance.  Harper is actually completely off love at the moment after recently getting her heart broken by a boy she thought was the one.  It also doesn’t help her thoughts on love that she works at her mom’s bridal shop and is surrounded by Bridezillas all day.  But when she sees Theo, a hopeless romantic, getting his heart broken time and time again because he just tries too hard, Harper vows that she’s going to help Theo by teaching him how to tone down his approach to dating.

I adored the friendship between Harper and Theo.  They have such an easy banter and a wonderful chemistry, and I especially loved how Harper found endearing every quality about Theo that all of his potential girlfriends found weird or too nerdy.  She truly appreciates what a special and unique person he is.  I also had such heart eyes for Theo because he’s so soft and he just loves everything about love.  He was adorable and nerdy in the cutest possible way, and it was so frustrating that girls didn’t appreciate him.  I thought Harper was great too and I especially loved how badly she wanted to help Theo even though she herself wanted nothing to do with love and was still hurting from her own failed relationship.  I also found Harper’s overall journey in this book to be quite compelling, especially because even though she’s the teacher in their arrangement, Harper also learns a lot from Theo as well, which gives her the nudge she needs to open her heart again.

I also loved all the scenes that took place at the bridal shop.  Harper and her mom made such a great team, and Pippa, the fun and quirky shop girl who is a great friend to Harper and who also appreciates Theo and all of his nerdy goodness, is a fabulous secondary character.  There were also several wonderful scenes where Harper gets to interact with non-Bridezilla clients who help make her a little less jaded when it comes to love and realize that once you’ve found the right person, nothing else matters.

If you’re in the mood for a heartfelt story of love, friendship, and family, be sure to check out How Not to Fall in Love4 STARS

 

Romance Reviews: THE SINGLES TABLE & LOVE AND LET BARK

 

Is it me or are the weeks just flying by?  It feels like I’m going to blink and it will be 2022. Thankfully my last work deadlines of the year are fast approaching and then I’ll be able to enjoy some downtime over the holidays.  Today I’m reviewing two more fabulous romance novels, both from Berkley.  I’ve had such wonderful luck with Berkley’s romances this year (I think almost my entire Best of 2021 list is from them)  and today’s books continue that trend.

 

Romance Reviews:  THE SINGLES TABLE & LOVE AND LET BARKThe Singles Table Goodreads

Author:  Sara Desai

Publication Date: November 16, 2021

Publisher:  Berkley Books

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

I don’t know if a free-spirited lawyer shooting an obnoxious former military security specialist in the rear end with a paintball technically counts as a meet cute, but it was definitely enough to have me fully entertained and invested in seeing what happens between the protagonists of Sara Desai’s latest romance, The Singles Table.

After a bad break up, attorney Zara Patel has decided she’s done with trying to find love for herself. Instead, she’s going to focus on her career and on what she believes is her special gift, matchmaking. She plans to help her friends find romance during the wedding season and prides herself on her success record when it comes to matching guests at the singles table.  That is, until she meets sexy but surly Jay Donovan, a security specialist with no time or interest in finding romance.  Jay, a former military guy, is all about order, staying focused and working hard on his business.  He has no idea that a paintball to his rear end during a pre-wedding paintball match is about to turn his world upside down.  When Zara and Jay keep finding themselves at the singles table at wedding after wedding and Zara brags to Jay about her matchmaking prowess and confesses that she’s a little obsessed with celebrities, they end up making a little wager.  If Zara can find Jay a match, he’ll introduce her to some of his celebrity clients.

Zara has this vibrant, larger than life personality that Jay can’t help but be captivated by, no matter how much he tries to tell himself she’s just annoying and too chaotic for him.  And even though Jay comes across as rigid and gruff when she first meets him, Zara finds herself seeking him out at every wedding.  I’m a sucker for a grumpy/sunshine romance so Jay and Zara’s often hilarious interactions were like catnip for me and I loved watching their relationship evolve, especially since they have such amazing chemistry and the more Zara interacts with Jay, the more she starts thinking maybe she doesn’t want to match him up with someone else.

Sara Desai’s The Singles Table was such a fun read. Jay and Zara’s journey, the festive wedding celebrations, and the meddling aunties who hound Zara throughout the wedding season, all made for such a delightfully entertaining and heartwarming read.  If you’re in the mood for a grumpy/sunshine romance, The Singles Table is the perfect match for you.  4 STARS

 

Romance Reviews:  THE SINGLES TABLE & LOVE AND LET BARKLove and Let Bark (Hearts of Alaska #3) Goodreads

Author: Alanna Martin

Publication Date: November 30, 2021

Publisher:  Berkley Books

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

Love and Let Bark by Alanna Martin is the third book in her contemporary romance series, Hearts of Alaska.  I’m freely going to admit that I was drawn to this book by the adorable husky puppies on the cover and the promise of a snowy Alaskan setting.  I didn’t even realize it was part of a series, but thankfully not having read the first two books in the series didn’t hamper my enjoyment of this latest installment at all.

When they were younger, Lydia Lipin and Nate Porter were secretly friends in spite of their families’ century-long feud. They soon developed more than friendly feelings for one another, but frustrated that he would never be able to have Lydia openly in his life because of their families’ dislike for one another, Nate decides he needs to leave town.  Years later, Nate comes back to his hometown, and as soon as he sees Lydia again, he realizes that time apart has done nothing to dull his feelings for her.

Lydia has always played the role of the responsible and reliable daughter.  She dutifully takes over the family business when it’s time, and she always puts the needs of others above herself, including her sister, who decides she’s in love with and wants to marry a Porter and doesn’t care about the feud.  Even though it’s incredibly stressful, Lydia spends much of her time running interference between the two families so as to spare her sister the stress.  When she sees Nate again, however, Lydia realizes she still has feelings for him and becomes frustrated with the state of their families and the peacemaking role she has been forced into.

Lydia and Nate were both such sweet, likeable and sympathetic characters.  It was so obvious how much they love each other and that they were both heartbroken when it didn’t work out the first time.  They were stuck in such a horrible and awkward situation that wasn’t even of their making.  I loved that they have the opportunity for a second chance at love and was really rooting for them to just tell off their families and run away together.

The husky puppies were of course adorable little scene stealers and the snowy Alaska setting was the picture perfect background for this delightful, feel-good story.  If you’re a fan of second chance romances, I highly recommend Love and Let Bark. 4 STARS.

 

Reviews: HEARD IT IN A LOVE SONG & LOVE, LISTS AND FANCY SHIPS

 

Happy Monday all!  I hope everyone who was celebrating Thanksgiving this past week had a lovely holiday.  We kept our celebration small but I did get to spend some time with my mom and sister so that was really nice.  I worked off and on the rest of the weekend and painted a room in my house yesterday, which is why I was mostly offline.  I’ll be catching up on blog visits over the next few days.  Today I’m sharing reviews for two excellent books I’ve read recently, one from a favorite author, Tracey Garvis Graves, and one from a new-to-me author, Sarah Grunder Ruiz, who is sure to become a favorite if this first book is any indication.  And apparently my accidental theme this week, which I didn’t notice until I made the above graphic, is sunglasses with images reflected in them, lol.

 

Reviews:  HEARD IT IN A LOVE SONG & LOVE, LISTS AND FANCY SHIPSHeard It in a Love Song Goodreads

Author:  Tracey Garvis Graves

Publication Date: November 9, 2021

Publisher:  St. Martin’s Press

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

Heard It in a Love Song by Tracey Garvis Graves is a beautiful story about finding love again after having your heart broken. What I loved about this story is that although it focuses on two characters who are coming out of toxic relationships and trying to start over, there isn’t a lot of heavy drama filling the pages.  Instead, the story focuses more on each character’s inner journey to find themselves again.  There’s a lot of looking back and reflecting on what went wrong with their previous relationships, but it’s looking back so as to be able to move forward and I really enjoyed that angle.

Heard It in a Love Song follows Layla Hilding, a 35-year old elementary school music teacher.  Layla is recently divorced after her 10-year marriage to Liam ended.  When we first meet Layla, we learn that although she has a passion for music, her dream was not to become a music teacher.  Instead, her dream was actually to be a professional musician and, prior to getting married, she was actually the lead singer in a band.  Although Liam was initially enamored by watching Layla perform, once they were in a relationship, he became quite toxic, often belittling her performances and her musical skills.  He basically sucked the life right out of her dream.  One of the first things Layla purchases once she is on her own again is a guitar, and it’s with that guitar that her journey to self-rediscovery begins.

Although being a music teacher wasn’t her first choice, it is at her elementary school that Layla first meets Josh Summers, a 35 year old electrician with a 5 year old daughter who is in Layla’s class.  Josh is coming out of a failed relationship.  He had married his high school sweetheart, but after 20 years together, it was like living with a stranger and so they had separated.  Like Layla, Josh is trying to move forward and figure out what’s next for him.  When Layla and Josh meet, it’s obvious that they have major chemistry, but they’re both still reeling from their previous relationships and hesitant to start a new one.

I had tremendous sympathy for both Layla and Josh, who are both very likable and vulnerable characters.  It was easy to understand why they were both so cautious about getting involved with someone new, but at the same time, it was also obvious that they would be so great together so I was definitely rooting for them to open their hearts to each other.

I also loved how Graves chose to present Layla and Josh’s journey. Although the story mostly stays focused on their paths forward, Graves gives her readers several flashbacks as Layla and Josh reflect on the highs and lows of their previous relationships.  Seeing some of the more painful moments from their pasts had me rooting for these two all the more because they both deserve so much better than what they had.

Heard It in a Love Song is a poignant story about love, second chances, and about finding yourself.  4 STARS

 

Reviews:  HEARD IT IN A LOVE SONG & LOVE, LISTS AND FANCY SHIPSLove, Lists, and Fancy Ships Goodreads

Author: Sarah Grunder Ruiz

Publication Date: November 23, 2021

Publisher:  Berkley Books

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

Love, Lists, and Fancy Ships by Sarah Grunder Ruiz is a contemporary romance that follows Jo Walker, a soon-to-be 30 year old yacht stewardess.  As a way to commemorate the last year of her 20s, Jo decides to come up with a bucket list of 30 things she wants to do by the time she turns 30.  It’s a list that really focuses on stepping out of her comfort zone – get a tattoo, go skinny dipping, run a marathon, visit ten foreign countries, etc.  For the past year, Jo has been completing her list and humorously documenting her efforts on her blog.

It is when Jo works up the nerve to complete item number 5 on her list – kissing a stranger – that Jo’s life takes an unexpected turn.  After she kisses a handsome stranger at the local bar, she’s mortified to learn that said stranger, whose name is Alex, is actually her new neighbor, which she learns when he accidentally comes across her late one night in the community pool, checking off another item on her bucket list, skinny dipping.  As if that wasn’t embarrassing enough, it turns out Alex is also the new chef on the yacht where she works so, as much as Jo would like to forget about their previous encounters, there’s just no avoiding him, which leads to some awkward but entertaining moments.  Even though Jo swears she isn’t interested in starting a relationship with anyone, Alex is pretty irresistible to her so the temptation is definitely there.  I loved their scenes together, both the fun, flirty ones and then later, the more serious ones when they discuss their families, etc.  I really enjoyed the romantic aspect of this story because Jo and Alex have amazing chemistry and could be so good together if Jo would just let herself take another big step out of that comfort zone of hers.

While Jo’s blog and her adventures with Alex as they got to know each other provided lots of fun moments, what really made this a special read for me was the more emotional and personal journey that Jo faces.  Because while there is definitely a potential romance, this is also a story about grief and loss.  In Jo’s case, it’s the loss of her beloved nephew, who was killed when he was hit by a car while riding his bike.  Jo has been repressing her grief by trying to stay busy and not think about it, but when her two nieces come to spend the summer with her and she realizes they are struggling with the loss of their little brother too, it brings all of Jo’s grief to a head.  I found this part of the story so incredibly moving and well written and my heart just ached for Jo and the girls as they try to process such a devastating loss.

As much as I enjoy a good rom-com, a contemporary romance that makes me feel all the feels is what I’m really a sucker for and Love, Lists, and Fancy Ships by Sarah Grunder Ruiz really delivers in that department.  4 STARS

 

Review: THE WEDDING RINGER by Kerry Rea

Review:  THE WEDDING RINGER by Kerry ReaThe Wedding Ringer by Kerry Rea
five-stars
Published by Berkley Books on November 9, 2021
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Romance, Women's 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.

 

 

The Wedding Ringer by Kerry Rea is a hilarious and heartwarming story about finding love and friendship when you least expect it.  It’s Kerry Rea’s debut novel and she really knocks it out of the park with this gem of a story.  It has that perfect balance of humor and weightier topics.  I laughed a lot but then there were also some sadder moments that made me want to wrap up these characters in a big hug.

After finding her fiancé and her best friend in bed together, Willa Callister has decided that she is done with both love and friendship and would rather just be alone.  This betrayal hasn’t just dampened Willa’s enthusiasm for companionship, however. It has also killed her writing mojo, which is problematic since she makes her living as a blogger. What Willa really wants to do is make enough money to move away and get a fresh start, but until that happens, she finds herself living with her sister, licking her wounds, and occasionally playing Princess Sparkle Fairy at children’s parties for a little cash.

I adored Willa from the moment we meet her at a disastrous children’s party where she accidentally drops the birthday cake after coming face to face with her cheating ex-bff.  Humiliated, Willa storms out of the party, flings her plastic throne to the ground, and dubs her character Princess Effing Sparkle Fairy.  Although it’s clearly a comical scene, I’m a sucker for an underdog and I could easily relate to and sympathize with Willa’s extreme frustration.  She’s lost her best friend and the love of her life in one fell swoop, betrayed by the two people she cares about most in the world.  The author does a wonderful job of creating a scenario that immediately had me rooting for Willa to get the fresh start she so desperately needs.

Willa’s chance comes in the form of another character I fell in love with, Maisie Mitchell.  Maisie is getting married and unexpectedly finds herself down a bridesmaid.  Rather than rearranging everything with an uneven number of people, she decides to hire a professional bridesmaid.  A chance encounter with Willa at a coffeeshop convinces Maisie that Willa is the perfect person for the job.  Even though Willa doesn’t really want to do it, Maisie offers her a sum of money that is too big to refuse.  What neither Willa nor Maisie realizes is that this business arrangement is actually the start of a beautiful, potentially life-changing friendship.  Even though Willa is determined that she doesn’t need anyone, there’s just something about Maisie that makes her heart open no matter how hard she tries to distance herself and keep it from happening.  I especially adored how protective Willa becomes of Maisie when it becomes apparent that she’s marrying into a family that looks down on her.

There is also a lovely side romance for Willa, featuring a sexy pediatrician named Liam. While I loved this relationship and thought Liam was perfect for Willa in every way and that they had tremendous chemistry, it’s truly the friendship between Willa and Maisie that makes The Wedding Ringer such a special book.

five-stars

About Kerry Rea

Kerry Rea lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband and their small army of dogs. She grew up in Youngstown, Ohio and graduated from The University of Notre Dame. She believes that a happy ending is always possible. Visit her at authorkerryrea.com and on Instagram at @authorkerryrea, and on Twitter at @kerrymrea.