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Reviews: THE PARTY CRASHER & WELL MATCHED

 

Hey everyone, I hope you all had a wonderful weekend.  Today I’m sharing my thoughts on two contemporary reads that are perfect if you’re looking to escape your troubles for a few hours.

 

Reviews:  THE PARTY CRASHER & WELL MATCHEDThe Party Crasher Goodreads

Author:  Sophie Kinsella

Publication Date: October 12, 2021

Publisher:  Random House Publishing Group – The Dial Press

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

If you’re familiar with Sophie Kinsella’s books, you know she’s the queen of heartwarming, humorous reads and The Party Crasher is no exception.

The novel follows Effie, a young woman who has been struggling with the news of her parents’ divorce.  The fact that she thought they were blissfully happy and didn’t see the divorce coming has really tarnished Effie’s view of what she had always thought of as a happy, loving childhood.  It comes as even more of a blow when Effie’s father suddenly has a new, and much younger, girlfriend, Krista, and that he and Krista have decided to sell Greenoaks, the quirky old country house that Effie and her family grew up in.

Effie and Krista have butt heads so often over the selling of the house that even Effie’s relationship with her dad has suffered, so when Krista decides to throw a “house cooling” party so the family can say goodbye to Greenoaks, she doesn’t even send Effie an invitation.  Effie doesn’t want to go anyway, that is, until she remembers that she had hidden a beloved childhood toy somewhere in the house and becomes determined to retrieve it without Krista or her father knowing she has returned to Greenoaks.  She decides the perfect time is the night of the house cooling party since everyone will be distracted by the festivities.  What could possibly go wrong?

What I always love about Kinsella’s novels is the balance between family or personal drama and laugh out loud hilarious moments.  The drama in this story is obviously Effie struggling to deal with all of these changes in her life, and her antics as she tries to stealthily crash the house cooling party provide endless comical moments since pretty much anything that can go wrong, absolutely does.  I found Effie to be an incredibly sympathetic character, even if she did occasionally have some juvenile reactions to her potential new stepmother. Haven’t we all had some family drama that makes such reactions easy to relate to?

I also loved the dynamic of Effie’s relationship with her sister, Bean, who is stuck in the middle of Effie’s feud with Krista. Bean is just so pure, like a golden retriever in human form. She just wants everyone to be happy, especially Effie, and she tries her hardest to make that happen, even if it means helping Effie with her crazy scheme to crash the party.  Another unexpected source of help in Effie’s scheme comes in the form of Effie’s ex-boyfriend, Joe.  Plenty of awkward, hilarious, and heartwarming moments ensue.

I’ve been going through a rough time lately so I was really in the mood for a funny and heartwarming read. The Party Crasher was exactly what I needed.  4.5 STARS

 

 

Reviews:  THE PARTY CRASHER & WELL MATCHEDWell Matched (Well Met, #3) Goodreads

Author: Jen DeLuca

Publication Date: October 19, 2021

Publisher:  Berkley Books

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

With its wonderful characters and magical Renaissance Faire backdrop, I’ve been enjoying Jen Deluca’s contemporary romance series, Well Met, so much. April and Mitch, two of my favorite secondary characters from the previous books, have undeniable chemistry, so I was beyond excited to learn that Well Matched, the third book in the series, would bring them center stage and that the fake dating trope would be involved.

April is such a fantastic character. She’s a forty-year old, single mom who is used to doing everything herself.  I really admired her sense of independence.  As she says, it has always been just her and her daughter, Caitlyn, against the world and she likes it that way.  She has big plans too, now that Caitlyn is heading off to college.  It’s time to sell the house, leave Willow Creek, and have a fresh start somewhere else.

Even though she has no plans to stay in town and no interest in romance, she can’t help but admire Mitch Malone, the high school gym teacher.  Mitch has a reputation for being a lady’s man and also for wearing a kilt every year at the Ren Faire that shows off his attributes.  April can’t deny he’s easy on the eyes, so when he asks her to be his fake girlfriend at a family function to appease his grandmother, who thinks he’s never going to settle down, April agrees in exchange for him helping her with some work on her house.

April and Mitch’s journey together is a bit of a slow burn.  It’s clear they are attracted to one another but April fights her attraction every step of the way, in part because of Mitch’s reputation and in part because she’s leaving anyway.  Friends with benefits, yes, but an actual future together, nope.  I loved watching their relationship evolve, especially as they get to know each other better and April realizes there’s a lot more to Mitch than she had previously given him credit for and finds it harder to fight her attraction to him.  I thought DeLuca did a wonderful job of portraying April’s struggle over whether to follow her head or her heart and couldn’t wait to find out which path April would decide to follow.

I also had a great time being back in Willow Creek.  I’m always captivated by the magic and charm of the Ren Faire setting and loved that I got to see beloved characters from the first two books in the series and see what they’re up to. I became so invested in these characters that it was like visiting with old friends and I truly loved that feeling.

If Ren Faires, sexy men in kilts, single mom protagonists, and fake dating are your jam, then you definitely want to check out Well Matched4.5 STARS

Reviews: THE BOOK OF MAGIC & VESPERTINE

 

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

 

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

Author: Alice Hoffman

Publication Date: October 12, 2021

Publisher:  Simon & Schuster

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Author: Margaret Rogerson

Publication Date: October 5, 2021

Publisher:  Margaret K. McElderry Books

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reviews: EIGHT PERFECT HOURS & THE SWEETEST REMEDY

 

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

 

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

Author: Lia Louis

Publication Date: September 28, 2021

Publisher:  Atria Books / Emily Bestler Books

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Author: Jane Igharo

Publication Date: September 28, 2021

Publisher:  Berkley Books

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fantasy Review: ONCE UPON A BROKEN HEART by Stephanie Garber

Fantasy Review:  ONCE UPON A BROKEN HEART by Stephanie GarberOnce Upon a Broken Heart (Once Upon a Broken Heart, #1) by Stephanie Garber
Also by this author: Caraval, Legendary
five-stars
Series: Once Upon a Broken Heart #1
Published by Flatiron Books on September 28, 2021
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 416
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

five-stars

About Stephanie Garber

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

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

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

Fantasy Review:  UNDER THE WHISPERING DOOR by T.J. KluneUnder the Whispering Door by T.J. Klune
five-stars
Published by Tor Books on September 21, 2021
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 373
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

five-stars

About T.J. Klune

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

Tj can be reached at tjklunebooks@yahoo.com.

Reviews: ON LOCATION & AS IF ON CUE

 

Hey everyone, I hope your Monday is off to a good start.  I’m back today with a couple more fun romances to share with you.  Normally by this time, I would have already switched over to spooky season reads, but I seem to still be in full-on romance mode these days, although I do have a couple of fantasy reviews coming up later in the week. Anyway, I’m excited to share my thoughts on these books, which have two things in common – the enemies-to-lovers trope and a focus on Arts and Entertainment.

 

Reviews:  ON LOCATION & AS IF ON CUEOn Location Goodreads

Author: Sarah Smith

Publication Date: September 21, 2021

Publisher:  Berkley Books

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

Sarah Smith’s new contemporary romance On Location checked a lot of boxes for me.  As someone who loves books that feed my wanderlust, I loved that it’s centered around a travel documentary that highlights iconic national parks in Utah.  I’m also a sucker for a protagonist who is an underdog, so I was excited that the main character was a young woman trying to succeed in a male-dominated industry surrounded by mansplainers.  And last but not least, On Location also features an enemies-to-lovers romance, which is one of my favorite romance tropes.  Needless to say, I couldn’t wait to dive into this story and fell head over heels for it from the very first scene, an adorable meet cute that takes place in the most unlikely of places, the NYC subway.

On Location follows Alia Dunn, a young woman who has just scored the chance of a lifetime, the opportunity to produce her very own travel series at the TV network where she has worked for years.  It’s everything Alia has ever dreamed of career-wise, plus it has the added bonus of being set in the national parks of Utah, which Alia has a very personal connection to from her childhood. There are just two catches:  1) the network executives (all men of course) insist on selecting the show host, and their choice, a D-list celebrity supposedly trying to rehab his image, is questionable at best, and 2) the newest member of her production crew turns out to be Drew Irons, the sexy guy Alia met on the subway a couple of weeks ago.  This wouldn’t be a problem except that after their meet cute and what Alia thought was a lovely first date, Drew then ghosted her.  Awkward much?

I really liked Alia and admired her determination.  As awkward as her situation is, she isn’t about to let a D-list celebrity who behaves like a diva and a guy who ghosted her ruin her vision for this series.  She is feisty and resilient and doesn’t hesitate to put these guys in their places if the situation warrants it.  I had mixed feelings about Drew at first because, like Alia, I was skeptical about his excuse for why he disappeared after their date.  I was also not a big fan of him stepping in to pacify the D-list Diva instead of letting Alia handle things herself.  It came across as very sexist and I cheered for Alia every time she confronted Drew about overstepping, and I also applauded Drew because he seemed to really listen to her and try to learn from his mistakes.  That growth won me over, especially since it was also very clear that he and Alia had major chemistry so I was really rooting for them to figure out if they could move forward as a couple.

Aside from Alia and Drew’s evolving relationship, I was also a big fan of the actual process of putting together a travel series.  I never would have thought I’d find that interesting, but the author does a wonderful job of showing all of the hard work that goes on behind-the-scenes, while at the same time, keeping it an entertaining read.  Another highlight for me were a couple of younger secondary characters who had a major case of puppy love for one another.  So adorable.

On Location is a fun and sexy read that is sure to please romance fans.  4 STARS

 

Reviews:  ON LOCATION & AS IF ON CUEAs If on Cue Goodreads

Author: Marisa Kanter

Publication Date: September 21, 2021

Publisher:  Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

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

Marisa Kanter’s new YA novel As If on Cue is a cute and fun enemies-to-lovers romance that follows Natalie and Reid, two teens who have been rivals for most of their lives.  Their heated rivalry started with the clarinet, where they each vied to be First Chair and tried to sabotage each other’s chances, thus beginning the prank wars.  The prank war between Natalie and Reid have become so intense over the years that they have actually drafted rules for them that must be followed.  Natalie eventually stopped playing and found her passion elsewhere, in theater and in writing plays, and yet the prank wars continued on.

When she learns that the budget for the arts has been decimated and that band is the only arts class that will be funded, Natalie devises a plan of attack to save the arts, one that uses a play she has written and that will bring together students from all of the other arts programs.  Her plan, which potentially pits her yet again against Reid, but also against her dad, who is the high school band teacher, backfires spectacularly due to a prank gone wrong, and as punishment, Natalie and Reid are forced to work together to bring Natalie’s play to life, basically their worst nightmare come true.

As If on Cue has a lot of hilarious moments in it as Natalie and Reid have to figure out how to work as a team when all they’ve ever done is try to outdo one another.  While the pranks themselves are pretty juvenile and annoying to their friends, there’s also an interesting undertone though where the author introduces a dual timeline, with flashbacks that show how the prank wars originated and that really showcases the complex feelings Natalie and Reid have for one another. I really appreciated this because it gave more context to some of Natalie’s actions in the book, which were downright bratty at times.  It becomes pretty clear that perhaps Natalie and Reid don’t hate each other as much as they thought they did and I enjoyed seeing how their prankish relationship originated as well as how it evolved once they finally started working together and appreciating one another.  I always love a story where characters show personal growth and there was a lot of that with Natalie as the story progressed.

The Arts getting cut is also such a relevant and timely topic because it happens frequently.  I loved that the author really spotlighted how truly important the arts are and I really enjoyed watching the students come together to try to save them.  I especially loved the behind-the-scenes action and seeing everything that takes place, from the writing process all the way through to the performance itself. I actually enjoyed this aspect of the story just as much as, if not more so, than the romantic angle.

If prank wars, a student-written retelling of Disney’s Frozen called Melted, and a fierce student-driven campaign to try to keep the Arts from being cut from their high school’s budget sounds like your thing, you’ll definitely want to check out As If on Cue4 STARS

Review: THE LOVE HYPOTHESIS by Ali Hazelwood

Review:  THE LOVE HYPOTHESIS by Ali HazelwoodThe Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood
five-stars
Published by Berkley Books on September 14, 2021
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Romance
Pages: 384
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

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

 

The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood is quite possibly the sweetest, most adorable romance novel I’ve ever read.  It checked so many boxes for me (a STEM heroine, the fake dating trope, hilarious banter, and so much more) and it just had me grinning from ear to ear pretty much the entire time I was reading.

The story follows Olive Smith, a third-year Ph.D. candidate at Stanford.  Olive has just learned that her best friend, Anh, is attracted to Jeremy, a guy Olive used to date.  Anh and this guy have major chemistry but Anh doesn’t want to hurt Olive by dating him.  Olive thinks that’s sweet and is grateful to have such a loyal friend but she also knows that Anh and Jeremy would actually be perfect together.  Olive decides to also be a great friend and let Anh think she is head over heels in love with a new guy so that Anh will go for it with Jeremy.  The next time she sees Anh, Olive panics, grabs the first guy she sees and plants a kiss on him.  There’s just one problem – the guy she kisses is none other than Adam Carlsen, a rock star of a professor who also happens to have a reputation for being an ass and making his students cry.  Not exactly who Olive had in mind, to say the least, but to her utter shock, once she explains to Adam why she did what she did, he agrees to fake-date her so that Anh and Jeremy can get together.

I honestly can’t even get over how much I adored both Olive and Adam.  As we’ve established, Olive is such a lovely friend who would clearly do anything to help a friend find happiness.  I also just found her overall personality delightful. She’s smart, determined, resilient, and she’s also hilarious. Once she gets comfortable fake dating Adam, he repeatedly calls her a pain in his rear because she’s always gently mocking and teasing him about his awful reputation and of course tormenting him with her love of all things pumpkin spice, lol.  After hanging out with him just a few times, Olive has picked up on the fact that Adam is anything but an ass. He’s actually quite sweet and surprisingly soft, and she can really open up to him in ways she never has with anyone else. I loved watching the two of them interact because they really did bring out the best in each other and I loved the slight tension as they each began to realize that their feelings for each other weren’t fake at all.

Aside from the romance, the author also tackles some more serious topics, such as the challenges women face in academia, particularly in STEM.  She explores sexism, bias, and what happens when a professor grossly abuses his power. The romance definitely takes center stage and makes up the bulk of the story, but I liked having these “meatier” topics to add some depth to the overall story.

I could go on and on about how much I adored the book. If you’re looking for a charming and heartwarming romance that features lovable characters, witty banter, and fake dating, be sure to check out The Love Hypothesis.  It’s an absolute gem of a book that I will be recommending to every romance reader I know.

five-stars

About Ali Hazelwood

Ali Hazelwood is a multi-published author–alas, of peer-reviewed articles about brain science, in which no one makes out and the ever after is not always happy. Originally from Italy, she lived in Germany and Japan before moving to the U.S. to pursue a Ph.D. in neuroscience. She recently became a professor, which absolutely terrifies her. When Ali is not at work, she can be found running, eating cake pops, or watching sci-fi movies with her two feline overlords (and her slightly-less-feline husband).

Review: THE NIGHT SHE DISAPPEARED by Lisa Jewell

Review:  THE NIGHT SHE DISAPPEARED by Lisa JewellThe Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell
Also by this author: Watching You, The Family Upstairs
four-half-stars
Published by Atria Books on September 7, 2021
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 416
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

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

 

 

I’m a big fan of Lisa Jewell’s storytelling so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on her latest mystery, The Night She Disappeared.  I knew I would be in for a wild ride and I was not disappointed.

It’s 2017, and 19 year old Tallulah and her boyfriend have left their baby with Tallulah’s mom, Kim, while they go out for a much-needed night on the town.  When they don’t return home, Kim becomes frantic because it’s just not like Tallulah to be irresponsible.  After calling all her daughter’s friends and learning only that Tallulah had decided to go to a party at Dark Place, a mysterious house in the nearby woods, Kim decides it’s time to call the police.  The police investigate but there’s just no sign of either of them, dead or alive.

Two years later, Sophie moves to the same town. Sophie’s husband has just taken a job as headmaster at a local boarding school and they’ll be living in a house on campus.  One day while wandering in the woods around the school, Sophie comes across a note affixed to a tree that reads “DIG HERE.”  The note looks pretty new so, intrigued, Sophie does as instructed, unaware that she is about to uncover new evidence in Tallulah’s missing persons case.

My favorite part of this story is how Jewell lets the pieces of this mystery come together through dual timelines.  The 2017 timeline shows us both the lead up to what ultimately happens with Tallulah and her boyfriend, as well as the initial police investigation as witnessed through the eyes of Kim, who is determined to find out what happened to her daughter.  I was so heartbroken for Kim because I just can’t even imagine how she could go on from day to day, raising her grandson alone and wondering everyday what had become of his mother. I was also very sympathetic to Tallulah herself because it becomes clear she had some pretty major issues that she was dealing with up until the time of her disappearance.

The second timeline, which Sophie really kicks into motion with her digging, focuses on what the new evidence brings to light as Sophie decides to do a little sleuthing on her own.  Sophie is an author of cozy mysteries who is currently suffering from writer’s block so she goes into this thinking it might help inspire her to write.  She has no idea what she is getting herself into as she slowly starts to put together the pieces and gets closer to the truth than anyone has gotten thus far.

It’s definitely a slow burn when it comes to learning the fate of Tallulah and her boyfriend, but the journey is filled with plenty of twists and turns, riveting drama, ever increasing suspense and tension, and a wonderfully intricate plot that will keep you guessing until the very end.  I’ve read four of Jewell’s thrillers so far and The Night She Disappeared is my favorite. I read it in a single day and just could not put it down until I had answers, which is what I look for in a great mystery. If you’re looking for a read that will keep you turning pages until the wee hours of the morning, The Night She Disappeared is the book for you.

four-half-stars

About Lisa Jewell

Lisa was born in London in 1968. Her mother was a secretary and her father was a textile agent and she was brought up in the northernmost reaches of London with her two younger sisters. She was educated at a Catholic girls’ Grammar school in Finchley. After leaving school at sixteen she spent two years at Barnet College doing an arts foundation course and then two years at Epsom School of Art & Design studying Fashion Illustration and Communication.

She worked for the fashion chain Warehouse for three years as a PR assistant and then for Thomas Pink, the Jermyn Street shirt company for four years as a receptionist and PA. She started her first novel, Ralph’s Party, for a bet in 1996. She finished it in 1997 and it was published by Penguin books in May 1998. It went on to become the best-selling debut novel of that year.

She has since written a further nine novels, as is currently at work on her eleventh.

She now lives in an innermost part of north London with her husband Jascha, an IT consultant, her daughters, Amelie and Evie and her silver tabbies, Jack and Milly.

Rom-Com Reviews: WITCH PLEASE and A SPOT OF TROUBLE

 

Happy Friday everyone!  Today is the start of a long holiday weekend here and I, for one, cannot wait to have a few days off to relax. Life has been pretty intense lately, so I’m all the more grateful for cute reads like the two I’m sharing my thoughts on today to distract me from real-life problems.

 

Rom-Com Reviews:  WITCH PLEASE and A SPOT OF TROUBLEWitch Please (Fix-It Witches, #1) Goodreads

Author: Ann Aguirre

Publication Date: September 7, 2021

Publisher:  Sourcebooks Casablanca

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

I was drawn to Ann Aguirre’s new witchy rom-com Witch Please as soon as I saw it being compared to Practical Magic meets Gilmore Girls.  Add to that comparison, a witch who has sworn off men, a man who is looking for true love but is pretty sure he’s cursed, and a meddling, matchmaking grandmother and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a very entertaining read.

Witch Please follows Danica Waterhouse, a modern witch whose magic centers around electricity and technology.  Danica and her cousin Clem, also a witch and also a technomancer, use their magic to run their technical repair shop, Fix-It Witches.  Both Danica and Clem have had bad luck in the love department and have made a pact to swear off serious relationships with men.  Flings are great, but that’s it.  This of course does not please their grandmother, who has made it her mission in life to find Danica a suitable magical husband.  Needless to say, things get awkward every time grandma shows up.

Titus Winnaker is the handsome owner of Sugar Daddy’s bakery.  Titus feels like he has been looking for love forever but every time he starts to get serious with a woman, she inexplicably dumps him.  This has gone on for so long that not only is Titus still a virgin, but he has become convinced that he is literally cursed.  He has no idea that when one of his ovens goes on the fritz and seeks service from the Fix-It Witches, that his life is about to change.

I really adored both Danica and Titus.  Danica is feisty and passionate, and she’s also very witty.  I also felt tremendous sympathy for her with respect to the tension with her grandmother.  Titus is a sweetheart too.  He’s a bit awkward but he’s so sincere about wanting to find someone to spend the rest of his life with that you can’t help but cheer him on.  He’s also got some unsettling family drama in the form of his father trying to force Titus and his sister to bond with their pregnant new stepmother.  Considering he was never around for his first family, Titus and his sister aren’t overly interested in bonding with family number 2.

Looking at everything these two had going on in their lives, I immediately wanted them to find each other.  It was clear from the first moment they met that they had off the charts chemistry.  The banter between them was both cute and hilarious and I immediately wanted more.  It’s a wild ride watching Danica and Titus get to know each other though because per her pact with Clem, all Danica wants is a one-night stand, whereas Titus is smitten with Danica from that first moment and knows she’s the one.  There’s a real push and pull between them as they both give in to and yet constantly fight their attraction to each other.

I did get a little bogged down along the way a few times.  There are some details that feel like loose ends or pieces of a puzzle and it took almost the entire story for those pieces to finally click into place and make sense.  I wanted the cute and sexy so I felt like my brain was having to work too hard to piece those elements together, haha!  There was also one character that shows up that just feels out of place and unnecessary. It turns out that there’s going to be a second book and I think he’ll feature in that one, but for this one, I was just like ‘Why are you here?  There’s already enough drama without you.”

Even with those couple of issues, I still quite enjoyed Witch Please.  If you’re looking for a super cute witchy rom-com to ease you into the spooky season, this is a great pick!  3.5 STARS

 

Rom-Com Reviews:  WITCH PLEASE and A SPOT OF TROUBLEA Spot of Trouble Goodreads

Author: Teri Wilson

Publication Date: September 7, 2021

Publisher:  Sourcebooks Casablanca

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

I had no idea until I read the author’s note that A Spot Of Trouble is actually a loose retelling of the Disney classic 101 Dalmatians.  I just saw that adorable cover and that it’s written by Teri Wilson, whose books I enjoy, and I knew I had to read it.  Having this turn out to be a fresh take on one of my favorite Disney films just made it all the more appealing to me.

You guys, this one is so cute and so funny!  Here’s a quick run down of the highlights.  It has a smalltown setting with a very close knit community, the kind where everyone knows everyone else’s business.  There’s also a major rivalry between the local firefighters and police officers, which comes to a head every year during the Guns and Hoses baseball tournament. There’s also a mischievous trio of old ladies who fancy themselves matchmakers and call themselves Charlie’s Angels.  Last but not least, the stars of the story are Violet Marsh, a bubbly cupcake baker/yoga instructor who owns an out-of-control goofy dalmatian named Sprinkles, and Sam Nash, a grumpy firefighter who is new to town and who also owns a dalmatian, Cinder, who has been trained to near perfection.   Add all of these ingredients together and it’s a recipe for nonstop laughs!

The sparks flew between Violet and Sam from their very first meeting when Violet accuses Sam of dognapping Sprinkles and sends the police after him.  As the daughter of the police chief, she is firmly on the Guns side of the Guns and Hoses rivalry and declares Sam her nemesis even though the two of them are clearly attracted to each other.  Hilarity ensues when the “Charlie’s Angels” also see the attraction and start hatching various zany plans to try to force Violet and Sam together.  I loved seeing what these ladies would come up with and how well their plans really did work in terms of making Violet and Sam look past the silly rivalry and really see one another and how good they could be for each other.

I don’t want to give anything else away, but if you’re in the mood for a fun read that delivers laugh after laugh and that features an opposites-attract romance, and of course two adorable dalmatians, A Spot of Trouble should be on your reading list. 4 STARS

Review: MOM JEANS AND OTHER MISTAKES

Review:  MOM JEANS AND OTHER MISTAKESMom Jeans and Other Mistakes by Alexa Martin
five-stars
Published by Berkley Books on September 7, 2021
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Fiction, Women's Fiction
Pages: 384
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

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

 

 

I was honestly not prepared for how much I would fall in love with Alexa Martin’s new novel Mom Jeans and Other Mistakes.  I requested it for review because of the fun title, cute cover, and because I enjoyed my last read from this author, but I’m going to tell you all right now before I break it down any further, this is my new favorite book about female friendships!

The story follows two women, Jude Andrews and Lauren Turner, who have been best friends since the third grade.  Jude is a popular social media influencer whose online brand is healthy eating, pilates, and a positive attitude.  Her online life, however, doesn’t even remotely resemble her real life, where she has a toxic relationship with her out-of-work celebrity mother and where a bad decision involving the guy she was dating left her with an empty bank account.  Lauren isn’t faring much better unfortunately.  She had to abandon her dream of becoming a doctor when she unexpectedly got pregnant and even more unexpectedly, when her fiancé decided to dump her and leave her to raise her daughter all alone.  Jude and Lauren turn to each other, as they have all their lives, and decide that the solution to their troubles is to move in together and be, as they like to call themselves, “Sister Wives”!

The relationship between Jude and Lauren just really spoke to me.  Sure, the book is filled with plenty of laughs and good times, particularly surrounding a fun podcast that Lauren and Jude decide to do together, but at the heart of the story is this truly beautiful friendship.  They are each other’s ride-or-die and it shows in everything they do for each other. I especially adored how much their love for each other spilled over to Lauren’s adorable daughter, Addy.  Jude would seriously lay down her life for that little girl and it just made me smile from ear to ear every time the two of them interacted.

Although the podcast provides plenty of laughs, Mom Jeans and Other Mistakes still has its fair share of more dramatic moments.  Jude and Lauren both have personal drama that weighs on them, Lauren in the form of her ex deciding, out of the blue, that he wants full custody of Addy, and Jude in the form of a mom who is little more than a parasite, constantly coming to Jude to beg for money to finance her career comeback.  Jude is so used to putting on this happy mask for her social media followers that she tries to do it to Lauren as well, but Lauren sees through her act and forces Jude to stop keeping everything all bottled up.

I really just loved everything about their friendship and about the book as a whole.  The book, like Jude and Lauren’s podcast, very realistically explores the ups and downs women, whether they’re moms or not, go through every day and sends the message that we should all support each other.  If you’re looking for a book that explores and celebrates the bonds of female friendship and sisterhood, I highly recommend Alexa Martin’s Mom Jeans and Other Mistakes.

five-stars

About Alexa Martin

Alexa Martin is a writer and stay at home mom. A Nashville transplant, she’s intent on instilling a deep love and respect for the great Dolly Parton in her four children and husband. The Playbook Series was inspired by the eight years she spent as a NFL wife and her deep love of all things pop culture, sparkles, leggings, and wine. When she’s not repeating herself to her kids, you can find her catching up on whatever Real Housewives franchise is currently airing or filling up her Etsy cart with items she doesn’t need.