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Romance Reviews: IT STARTED WITH A DOG, PAYBACK’S A WITCH, & A HOLLY JOLLY DIWALI

Hello everyone!  I’m back today with some October releases you’re going to want on your radar if you’re in the mood for romance.  There’s a little something for the dog lovers, something for those who enjoy a good spooky season read, and last but not least, for those who enjoy a romance that also feeds their need to travel to faraway places.

 

Romance Reviews: IT STARTED WITH A DOG, PAYBACK’S A WITCH, & A HOLLY JOLLY DIWALIIt Started with a Dog (Lucky Dog, #2) Goodreads

Author: Julia London

Publication Date: October 5, 2021

Publisher:  Berkley Books

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

It Started with a Dog is the second book in Julia London’s charming Lucky Dog series. It follows Harper Thompson, a young woman trying to work her way up the corporate ladder at her job. She is currently vying for a promotion and her boss has given her the major task of opening a flagship coffee shop for their Déjà Brew brand, including promoting it and making all the arrangements for the shop’s grand opening.  While she has no time at all for romance, an accidental swapping of cell phones during a Lyft ride from hell leads her to meet Jonah Rogers, a scientist at NASA who is on sabbatical to help his family with their struggling business while his dad recovers from cancer.  As they make arrangements to meet up and swap phones back once Jonah is back in town, Harper and Jonah really hit it off and engage in a series of flirty texts all week.  Harper is already obsessed with Truck, the enormous dog Jonah has as his phone’s wallpaper, and can’t wait to meet Truck and his owner.

Once Hannah and Jonah finally meet in person, the sparks really fly as it becomes clear they have major chemistry and a shared love of dogs.  They start dating, including a date where they go to a shelter and walk dogs.  It’s all sweet and they’re so happy getting to know one another, until a major obstacle appears before them – the Déjà Brew shop that Harper is helping to launch is directly across the street from Jonah’s family business, a mom and pop coffee shop called The Lucky Star.  Can their fledging new relationship survive the strain of being rivals?

I adored both Harper and Jonah.  Harper is so fierce and determined to land that promotion. I really loved her attitude and her spunk.  I loved Jonah too, especially because of the sacrifices he’s willing to make to try to help his family, including passing up an opportunity of a lifetime at his job.  My heart broke for both Harper and Jonah when they realized they were rivals and that Harper could actually be the one to cause The Lucky Star to go under and devastate Jonah’s family.  I was so invested in them and just really wanted them to find a solution that worked for everyone.  The wondering what would happen added a nice layer of suspense to keep me turning the pages.  If you like a little drama to balance out your romance, this element of the story should do the trick for you.

I’m enjoying Julia London’s Lucky Dog series so much.  I’m a sucker for a book that features dogs anyway, and with this series, I think I have a new favorite romantic trope – dogs serving as the catalyst to bring couples together.  4 STARS

 

Romance Reviews: IT STARTED WITH A DOG, PAYBACK’S A WITCH, & A HOLLY JOLLY DIWALIPayback's a Witch (The Witches of Thistle Grove #1) Goodreads

Author: Lana Harper

Publication Date: October 5, 2021

Publisher:  Berkley Books

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

Lana Harper’s new witchy romance Payback’s a Witch follows Emmy Harlow, a young witch who abandoned her magical hometown of Thistle Grove years ago in favor of the bright lights of Chicago.  Emmy left in part because a warlock broke her heart, but also because she’s tired of being looked down  upon because the Harlows are the weakest and least magical of all the prominent witch families in Thistle Grove.  Emmy wants to make her way in the world where her magic doesn’t define or limit her.

When the story opens, however, Emmy is reluctantly on her way back to her hometown.  She has promised her father she will fulfill one last witchy duty – to serve as Arbiter at the annual spellcasting tournament.  When Emmy arrives in town, she reunites with her best friend, Linden, and also becomes reacquainted with another young witch she had a crush on in high school, Talia Avramov.  Emmy is appalled to hear that the same warlock who broke her heart years ago, Gareth Blackmoore, has been toying with Linden and Talia’s hearts as well.  Gareth thinks he can do whatever he wants just because his family is the most powerful in the town, and the three witches decide it’s time to take him down a peg or two and that the tournament will provide the perfect opportunity for revenge.

I don’t want to spoil anything about the tournament but it definitely has a bit of a Harry Potter Triwizard Tournament feel to it with the three most magical families vying for supremacy.  I loved the competition itself, which was action packed and a lot of fun, and of course, the witches putting their plan of revenge into motion made it all the more entertaining.

Aside from the tournament, Emmy’s journey is also quite compelling.  Once she is back home and can feel the magic she abandoned so long ago coursing through her veins again, she becomes very conflicted about who she is and where she wants to be.  She also finds herself very attracted to Talia and is beyond excited to realize that her feelings are reciprocated.  I enjoyed watching Talia and Emmy get to know one another, especially since that relationship adds another layer of complexity to Emmy’s journey of self-discovery.

I also really enjoyed the author’s atmospheric descriptions of Thistle Grove. It’s such a magical place with the perfect autumn vibe.  It was very easy to see why Emmy was torn about leaving once she was back under its spell.

If you’re looking for a fun witchy read to dive into this spooky season, I highly recommend Payback’s a Witch.  4 STARS

 

Romance Reviews: IT STARTED WITH A DOG, PAYBACK’S A WITCH, & A HOLLY JOLLY DIWALIA Holly Jolly Diwali Goodreads

Author: Sonya Lalli

Publication Date: October 5, 2021

Publisher:  Berkley Books

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

Sonya Lalli’s new contemporary romance, A Holly Jolly Diwali, follows Niki Randhawa, a young woman who has just been let go from her job and is trying to figure out what to do with her life.  Niki has always considered herself a rule follower and a very practical sort of person and is really bummed that living in such a way clearly hasn’t gotten her anywhere.  She is also being gently pressured by her parents, who think she really needs to live a little and start dating. She reluctantly agrees to go on a date with Raj, a young man her parents approve of, and surprisingly, it is this young man who convinces Niki to do the most spontaneous thing she has ever done – pack her bags and head for Mumbai, India at the last minute to attend her friend Diya’s wedding.

I loved this journey for Niki because she really breaks out of her comfort zone by going on this trip.  It’s also a wonderful time for her to connect with her roots and learn more about her Indian culture and particularly about the Diwali celebration since she doesn’t really know as much about it as she feels she should.  Niki’s trip gets off to a bit of a bumpy start since she is so unfamiliar with Indian customs, but after a few awkward encounters, she starts to really embrace the experience and enjoy her time with family and friends.  I really enjoyed this aspect of Niki’s journey since it allowed me to learn about Indian culture and customs right alongside her.

My review wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t touch on the romance.  While watching a band perform, Niki becomes somewhat infatuated with one of the musicians.  When an Auntie offers to set her up on a date with her son, Sam, Niki is about to refuse until she realizes that Sam is actually the hot guy from the band she was watching.  Sam and Niki cross paths later that same evening and it becomes clear that the attraction between them is mutual.  Their connection only grows when they join the married couple on the group honeymoon they have booked in beautiful Goa.  By the end of the vacation, Niki is so invested in her relationship with Sam that she’s conflicted – does she follow her head and go back home to Seattle where Raj, the perfectly nice guy her parents already like, is waiting?  Or does she follow her heart and do the less practical thing – move to London where Sam lives and start a new life there?  Niki and Sam were really cute together so I was rooting with all my might for her to follow her heart.  I always enjoy stories that involve that head vs. heart debate since it’s such a relatable situation for so many people.

I’ve been hearing good things about Sonya Lalli’s novels for a while now and was eager to try them for myself.  I’m so glad I did too because A Holly Jolly Diwali is an absolute delight! 4 STARS

Fantasy Reviews: DEFY THE NIGHT & THE INHERITANCE OF ORQUIDEA DIVINA

 

TGIF! Work has been kicking my butt so I’m even more happy than usual that Friday is upon us.  I haven’t been reading much fantasy since the start of the pandemic, but I just couldn’t resist reading new fantasy releases from two of my favorite authors, Brigid Kemmerer and Zoraida Córdova.  I’ve loved everything I’ve read from Kemmerer, both her fantasy novels and her YA contemporary books, and I’m a big fan of Córdova’s Brooklyn Brujas YA fantasy series.  I’m excited to share my thoughts on their latest with you today. 🙂

 

Fantasy Reviews:  DEFY THE NIGHT & THE INHERITANCE OF ORQUIDEA DIVINADefy the Night (Defy the Night, #1) Goodreads

Author: Brigid Kemmerer

Publication Date: September 14, 2021

Publisher:  Bloomsbury YA

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

Brigid Kemmerer’s latest novel, Defy the Night, is the first installment in her brand new fantasy series of the same name.  The series is set in Kandala, a kingdom that has been ravaged by a deadly pandemic.  The only way to treat the sickness is with an elixir made from moonflower petals, but there’s only a limited supply of such petals and those regions of the kingdom who have them charge a premium for them, thus making it easy for the rich to hoard more elixir than they could ever possibly need and hard for poor folks to afford the elixir at all.  How can there be any hope of helping everyone survive with such an uneven distribution of resources?  Tessa Cade, an apprentice apothecary, wonders the same thing and decides to take matters into her own hands.  She and her partner, Wes, steal moonflower petals from anywhere they can, manufacture their own elixir, and sneak out in the dead of night to deliver it to poor families across the kingdom, under penalty of death if they are caught.

I really loved everything about this book, but I especially adored Tessa and this whole Robin Hood “rob from the rich, give to the poor” vibe she has going on.  Tessa is feisty, brilliant, and she just has the biggest heart.  All she wants to do is save everyone she can, and I had tremendous sympathy for her because she’s following in her parents’ footsteps and they were both killed for doing exactly what she’s doing. She’s also quite headstrong and sometimes acts rashly.  When Wes is captured by the royal guards on one of their runs, Tessa, heartbroken and alone, races off to the palace looking for revenge.  Little does she know, however, but her life is about to change forever.

Another character in the story I adored was Prince Corrick, who Tessa encounters when she enters the palace.  Corrick is the King’s Justice. His job is to dole out punishments to those who break the law, and he’s known by all to be brutal and ruthless.  Corrick is hard to like, at first, just based on his reputation alone.  But I grew to love him as soon as I realized there’s so much more to Corrick than meets the eye.  Corrick and his brother the King were forced to take on their roles at a very young age because their parents were murdered.  Corrick is determined to protect his brother at all costs, even if it means doling out the most horrid of punishments to discourage any future betrayals.  He hates what he does, however.  It tears him up inside and he desperately wants to be a different kind of person.  Could Tessa be the one to help him become who he wants to be?

I don’t want to give anything away about what happens when Tessa and Corrick encounter each other, but it’s a game changer for both and one heck of a ride for the reader when they unexpectedly join forces to take on those who pose a threat to the health and stability of the kingdom.  If you like a little romance in your fantasies, there’s definitely plenty of chemistry between Tessa and Corrick.  And if you like a little political intrigue, with a side of backstabbing and treachery, Kemmerer has you covered there too.  I enjoyed Defy the Night immensely and can’t wait to see what happens next!  4 STARS

 

Fantasy Reviews:  DEFY THE NIGHT & THE INHERITANCE OF ORQUIDEA DIVINAThe Inheritance of Orquídea Divina Goodreads

Author: Zoraida Córdova

Publication Date: September 7, 2021

Publisher:  Atria Books

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

I’ve enjoyed Zoraida Córdova’s YA novels for a few years now.  I love her style of storytelling, particularly her lush worldbuilding and unforgettable characters, so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on her adult debut, The Inheritance of Orquidea Divina.  This book was everything I hoped it would be and more.

It’s a multi-generational family saga that centers on Orquidea Montoya. Orquidea is the matriarch of the family and she has always been a bit of an enigma to her children and grandchildren, especially the fact that she has refused to leave her home for any reason and thus has missed out on weddings, graduations, baptisms, etc.  When Orquidea realizes she is near the end of her life, she unexpectedly invites her entire family to her home for her funeral. She promises to give them each their inheritance and to finally shed some light on why she has lived her life the way she has. The family obeys her wishes, but instead of getting the answers they seek, Orquidea transforms right before their eyes, her life ending in a most unexpected and magical way, and they are left with even more questions than they had before.

This is a hard story to review because I think it really does make the reading experience more special to go in blindly, but I do want to mention a few elements that I really enjoyed that I can talk about without spoiling anything.  The first thing I loved was the use of the dual timeline.  In one timeline, we follow Orquidea’s descendants through several years and see how the gifts she bestowed upon them have improved their lives. That is, until they all start to sense danger and realize they are being targeted and travel to Ecuador where Orquidea once lived, looking for answers. The second timeline, which alternates with the first, follows Orquidea through her life and slowly reveals the secrets she was hiding for most of her life.  I loved how the author intricately wove the details of these two timelines together and it was most satisfying, although heartbreaking, when the two timelines meet and everything is revealed.

I loved the focus on family, the vivid descriptions of Ecuador, the use of South American folklore, and I also really enjoyed the way the author used magical realism in the story.  Magical realism seems to be one of those storytelling elements that people either love or hate, but Córdova uses it effectively and beautifully here to add to the sense of mystery surrounding Orquidea, very reminiscent of the way Alice Hoffman, one of my favorite authors, weaves it into some of her stories.

If you enjoy intricately-plotted stories that feature family, love, magic, danger, long-held secrets and curses, The Inheritance of Orquidea Divina is sure to captivate you.  4 STARS

Reviews: NEVER SAW YOU COMING & PORTRAIT OF A SCOTSMAN

 

It was a short week, but boy did it feel like a long one!  I had a pretty quiet holiday weekend and therefore was able to get tons of reading done.  Thank goodness too because I have so many books to review in September.  Anyway, I’m thrilled to share my thoughts with you today on two great books I read over the holidays — the third book in a fun historical romance series called A League of Extraordinary Woman and also on my very first read from Erin Hahn.

 

Reviews:  NEVER SAW YOU COMING & PORTRAIT OF A SCOTSMANNever Saw You Coming Goodreads

Author: Erin Hahn

Publication Date: September 7, 2021

Publisher:  Wednesday Books

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

I was a little hesitant going into Erin Hahn’s new novel Never Saw You Coming because of its focus on religion.  I have very complicated feelings about religion myself and worried that my own feelings might get in the way and make this a less than enjoyable read for me. I was pleased to discover that the exact opposite happened – this book and its main character, Meg Hennessey, really spoke to me mainly because Meg shares many of the conflicted feelings I’ve always had so I found her very easy to relate to.

What I found most relatable about Meg is that regardless of whatever conflicted feelings she has about church and her fellow Christians, those conflicted feelings never spill over into her feelings about God.  Her relationship with God is strong; she just takes issue with those holier than thou Christians who somehow think they have the right to act as judge and juror over everyone else’s morality.  I also like that the author uses very realistic scenarios to explore Meg’s conflicted feelings.  Her feelings, for example, really come to a head when she finds herself attracted to a young man named Micah and wonders if exploring any kind of intimate relationship with him makes her a sinner.  Meg also has to contend with a parent from the church deeming her unfit to lead the church youth group because Meg has purple streaks in her hair and because the parent witnessed Micah leaving Meg’s house late at night.

I really liked Meg and felt especially sympathetic toward her because at the beginning of the story, she has recently learned that her entire life has basically been a lie and that her parents have been keeping a huge secret from her.  She runs away looking for answers, not just about religion, but really, about her entire sense of self and identity.

While I enjoyed watching Meg explore her faith and work through all the questions she has, I also really loved her growing relationship with Micah.  He too has a complicated relationship with religion and so he and Meg are able to have some pretty frank and enlightening discussions about faith and purity and sex.

I also loved that the religious themes didn’t completely take over the story, but instead meshes very naturally into the budding romance between Meg and Micah.  The author does a lovely job keeping the two parts of the story well balanced.

Overall, Never Saw You Coming is both a sweet romance and an exploration of faith that will leave readers with plenty of food for thought.  4 STARS.

 

Reviews:  NEVER SAW YOU COMING & PORTRAIT OF A SCOTSMANPortrait of a Scotsman (A League of Extraordinary Women, #3) Goodreads

Author: Evie Dunmore

Publication Date: September 7, 2021

Publisher:  Jove

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

Portrait of a Scotsman is the third installment in Evie Dunmore’s entertaining historical romance series, A League of Extraordinary Women.  I’ve enjoyed this series immensely so far and this latest book is no exception.

This time around, the extraordinary woman in question is Hattie Greenfield.  Hattie is a suffragist and an Oxford scholar who is studying art.  Hattie’s desires in life are quite simple:  1) she wants to become a famous artist, 2) she wants to find a noble cause to fight for that she is passionate about, and 3) she eventually wants to find a suitable gentleman to marry.  Hattie is also the daughter of a prominent London businessman and therefore an heiress to a pretty substantial fortune.  All of this comes crashing down around her, however, when she is found in an uncompromising position with the dark and broody Scotsman, Lucian Blackstone, a business rival of Hattie’s father.  Lucian has a terrible reputation, both in business and in his personal dealings, so Hattie has set herself up for quite the scandal.  The only way to save her reputation is for her and Lucian to marry, a prospect neither of them is overly excited about but that they are both resigned to.

Thus begins a slow burn of a journey as Hattie and Lucian begin an awkward married life together.  Hattie is alternately attracted to and repulsed by Lucian, and doesn’t know what she wants from one moment to the next, and Lucian, while he’s most definitely attracted to Hattie, finds her to be a distraction from what he is really trying to do, which is seek revenge against someone who hurt him years ago.  There is a lot of sexual tension as the two of them alternate between fighting their feelings and giving in to them.  A trip to Scotland, Lucian’s homeland, really takes their relationship to the next level.  Hattie learns that there’s a lot more to Lucian than meets the eye and as they finally start to have honest heart-to-heart conversations with one another, she realizes that they may have a lot more in common than she ever would have dreamed of.

I really enjoyed watching the relationship between Hattie and Lucian grow and evolve.  There are awkward moments as well as hilarious ones, spirited arguments, and of course plenty of steamy, sexy moments as well.  There’s also a bit of politics, feminism, social commentary regarding the rich vs the poor, and a pretty solid revenge story, so basically a little something for everyone.  As with the prior two novels, Portrait of a Scotsman also appears to be well-researched in terms of events and issues of the Victorian Era.

All in all, another very satisfying installment in the A League of Extraordinary Women series.  Fans of the prior two books in the series should enjoy this one as well, as should fans of historical romance.  4 STARS.

Reviews: BATTLE ROYAL, HOT UNDER HIS COLLAR, & DELIA SUITS UP

Happy Monday all!  After delving into a few thrillers last week, I found myself running back to the rom-coms this week for some lighter, more upbeat reads.  I had a lot of fun with all three of the books I’m sharing with you today.

 

Reviews:  BATTLE ROYAL, HOT UNDER HIS COLLAR, & DELIA SUITS UPBattle Royal (Palace Insiders, #1) Goodreads

Author: Lucy Parker

Publication Date: August 17, 2021

Publisher:  Avon

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

Lucy Parker’s new romantic comedy Battle Royal became a must-read for me as soon as I learned that it features a reality TV baking show and two rival bakers who truly cannot stand one another.  Not only are these rivals forced to serve as judges together, but there is also a battle royal where the two rivals go head-to-head as they each try to win a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to design and bake a cake for a royal wedding.   This sounded like the perfect recipe (pardon the pun) for entertainment and Lucy Parker sure delivers!

I loved the main character Sylvie Fairchild from the moment she’s introduced.  She is a charming ray of sunshine and her shining personality comes through in every whimsical, often glittery, creation that she bakes in her shop, Sugar Fair.  Four years ago, she appeared on her way to victory on the reality TV show, Operation Cake, until the famous (and sexy) pastry chef, Dominic De Vere, voted her off the show and pronounced her as lacking in talent and relying on gimmicks.  When Sylvie is offered the opportunity to serve as a judge on the same show, she reluctantly agrees to do it even though it means she’ll have to deal with Dominic again.

In addition to serving as a judge on the reality show, Dominic also owns a well-respected bakery that is often used by businesses in the area and even by the palace at times. Sylvie snarks that everything Dominic bakes is beige and colorless, just like his personality.

I loved the tension between Sylvie and Dominic as the sparks flew between them.  It became clear pretty quickly that what they were feeling for each other wasn’t hate at all and it was very entertaining to watch their relationship grow and evolve, especially as they each vie for the contract to bake the royal wedding cake. It also becomes clear that they have more in common than they ever realized, particularly as it relates to loneliness and loss.

Battle Royal also features a fabulous cast of lovable secondary characters, including Dominic’s sweet sister Pet, as well as Sylvie’s coworkers at Sugar Fair, who, although they love to snark at each other all the time, are loyal to Sylvie above all else and were definitely her found family.  These characters were all so great. I became very invested in all of them and I’m hoping we’ll see them in future books since this is apparently the beginning of a new Palace Insiders series.

If you enjoy romances that feature rivals to lovers and sunshine personalities versus grumpy, Battle Royal is the book for you!  4 STARS.

 

Reviews:  BATTLE ROYAL, HOT UNDER HIS COLLAR, & DELIA SUITS UPHot Under His Collar (The Nolans, #3) Goodreads

Author: Andie J. Christopher

Publication Date: July 20, 2021

Publisher:  Berkley Books

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

Andie J. Christopher’s new novel, Hot Under His Collar, is a forbidden romance, and the latest installment of her The Nolans series.  It focuses on Sasha Finerghty, an event planner with a bit of a problem.  She’s always drawn to what she can’t or shouldn’t have.  Her latest obsession with forbidden fruit comes in the form of a huge crush on Father Patrick Dooley.  She has drooled over the sexy priest from a far for a while now, but when she is paired up with him on a fundraising event to save the church’s pre-K program, her crush rises to a whole new level.

Father Patrick was very close to his devout mother and when she passed away, he decided to join the clergy to fulfill her dying wish.  He has questioned his choice for a while now and when he meets Sasha and realizes he is physically attracted to her, Patrick becomes even more conflicted about his path in life.

Both of these characters are super likeable and it’s very clear from their early interactions that, forbidden or not, they have major chemistry.  I had a lot of fun watching the two of them trying and failing to fight their attraction to one another.  The more time they spend together planning the fundraiser, the more opportunities there are for awkward and potentially inappropriate moments.   There are also a lot of engaging and thought-provoking internal monologues as both Sasha and Patrick reflect on what it would mean if they were to try to pursue a relationship.

The only drawback for me was that this was definitely a slow burn romance and I found myself getting impatient with them dancing around one another for so long.  I just wanted them to just hurry up and get together already so it was a little frustrating.  Even with that though, Hot Under His Collar is still a pretty fun and sexy read.  3.5 STARS

 

Reviews:  BATTLE ROYAL, HOT UNDER HIS COLLAR, & DELIA SUITS UPDelia Suits Up Goodreads

Author: Amanda Aksel

Publication Date: August 3, 2021

Publisher:  Berkley Books

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

Amanda Aksel’s new novel Delia Suits Up is a hilarious modern day take on popular films like Freaky Friday and Big, but instead of just swapping bodies, you also swap genders.  Delia Reese wants to make it big on Wall Street and she has the credentials to do it.  However, no matter how many job interviews she goes on, no one will hire her.  She becomes more and more convinced she can’t land a job because she’s a woman.  During a drunken round of Truth or Dare with her roommates, Delia says if she could change one thing about herself, she’d wish to be a man.  When she wakes up the next morning, she has gotten her wish, penis and all.

After Delia’s initial freakout and after she has convinced her roommates she’s really her and not some random stranger who has turned up in their apartment, Delia changes the name at the top of her existing resume to a man’s name, dresses up in her roommate’s best suit, and heads back to Wall Street to make something happen for herself.

You guys, this is such a fun and entertaining read! Delia is such a great character and her frustrations with job hunting are all too relatable.  She’s also really funny.  I laughed out loud so many times as she was trying to get used to her new body, and in particular, to her new appendage.  Some might consider the humor to be a bit crude at times since a lot of it revolves around exploring that appendage.  Crude or not, it’s pretty hilarious.

It’s not all just over-the top humor though. There’s obviously a more serious exploration of sexism in the workplace as Delia tries to break through into the “boy’s club” that is Wall Street.  Another layer is added to the story when Delia encounters her best friend Eric, who she also has a crush on, while she is dressed as a man and accidentally learns how Eric feels about her.   One of the only downsides for me was actually that I would have liked a lot more of Eric and Delia together because he was such a sweet guy.

If you’re looking for a fun and fast-paced read and enjoy movies like Big, Freaky Friday, and 13 Going on 30, you’ll want to check out Delia Suits Up3.5 STARS

Reviews: SUCH A QUIET PLACE & FOR YOUR OWN GOOD

 

I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend.  Apologies for my absence around the blogosphere the past few days.  My son is dealing with some health issues so my blogging and blog hopping has slacked a bit while I’ve been caring for him.  I’m also slightly behind on my reviews, so these two books are actually already out in the world even though I had them as ARCs.  I’m still happy to share my thoughts on them with you though as they were both pretty solid mystery/thriller reads.

 

Reviews:  SUCH A QUIET PLACE & FOR YOUR OWN GOODSuch a Quiet Place Goodreads

Author: Megan Miranda

Publication Date: July 13, 2021

Publisher:  Simon & Schuster

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

Hollow’s Edge used to be the perfect neighborhood, a quiet serene little paradise with a tight-knit community and where nothing bad ever happened.  That is, until two of its residents, Brandon and Fiona Truett, were murdered, and a third resident, Ruby Fletcher, was convicted of their murders and sent to prison.  The loss of their neighbors is painful for most of the residents, as is living with the guilt that many of them testified against Ruby and sent her to prison.  With the shadow of those murders and the still-empty Truett house hanging over it, Hollow’s Edge has become a place no one wants to live. Tanking home values, however, have made it nearly impossible to sell their homes, so the residents are trapped.  Being stuck in Hollow’s Edge is bad enough, but it takes an even worse turn when Ruby gets out of jail and returns to the neighborhood after her conviction is overturned.  Why has she come back?  Is she truly just looking to start over or does she have revenge on her mind?

That’s the basic premise of Megan Miranda’s latest thriller, Such a Quiet Place, and it’s a riveting one.  I was glued to the pages from start to finish, trying to figure out what exactly Ruby’s motivation was for returning to the scene of the crime.  She has maintained her innocence throughout so it seems odd for her to return to the place where so many people betrayed her. The story is a bit of a slow burn in terms of the suspense and the mystery, a little too slow for my liking at times, but I really enjoyed watching all of the paranoid neighbors trying to figure out what Ruby was up to and if she was out to get them. Not only that but it starts to become clear that Hollow’s Edge was never really the idyllic setting its residents made it out to be.  Seems like everyone has at least a secret or two that they’re trying desperately to keep buried.

Ruby’s interactions with her former roommate, Harper Nash, were especially fascinating to me.  When she returns to the neighborhood, Ruby shows up on Harper’s doorstep as if she expects to pick up where they left off before the murders.  She tells Harper she has nowhere to go and Harper feels sorry for her and lets her move back in. Ruby practically takes over the place, eating Harper’s food, wearing her clothes, borrowing her car without asking, etc.  It’s almost like she’s trying to push Harper as far as she can push her, even as she professes gratitude to Harper for letting her stay there.  Harper starts to become as paranoid as the rest of the neighbors in thinking that Ruby is just biding her time before she makes someone pay for ruining her life.

I don’t want to give anything away about Ruby’s true motives, but I’ll just say that the story has plenty of twists and turns to keep you guessing and it really gets wild starting with the neighborhood’s big Fourth of July bash.  If you enjoy a slow burn mystery, with lots of secrets, lies and drama, you’ll have fun reading Such a Quiet Place.  3.5 STARS.

 

Reviews:  SUCH A QUIET PLACE & FOR YOUR OWN GOODFor Your Own Good Goodreads

Author: Samantha Downing

Publication Date: July 20, 2021

Publisher:  Berkley

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

I was drawn to Samantha Downing’s latest thriller For Your Own Good because it’s set in a private school and because its synopsis promises lots of dark and twisty goodness to keep me on the edge of my seat.  This book really delivers too, especially if you enjoy a little dark comedy mixed in with your murder mysteries.  I was not only entertained from start to finish, but I also couldn’t have begun to predict the wild and unexpected ending even if I had tried.

Belmont Academy is a prestigious private school.  Wealthy parents send their children here in hopes of best preparing them for an Ivy League education.  These parents try to bully teachers into giving their children better grades, and while many teachers cave in, not Teacher of the Year, Teddy Crutcher.  Teddy thinks he knows what’s best for everyone and sometimes he feels the need to teach an entitled student a lesson, bring them down a peg or two.  Sometimes he extends those lessons to fellow teachers who annoy him too.

All Teddy really wants is for everyone to be their best and he wants everyone to just stay out of his way while he works to achieve his goal.  Things start to get especially frustrating for Teddy when a parent unexpectedly dies at a school function and everyone at school is on edge once the death is ruled a homicide.  Teddy is annoyed by this distraction since in his mind, big deal, people die every day, and he’s especially frustrated because a student he actually likes is arrested for the murder.  Teddy decides that since he knows best, he needs to fix things.

It’s actually Teddy’s “fixing” of things that hilariously drive this dark and twisty tale because, even though he clearly thinks he’s a genius, the more Teddy tries to “fix” things, the worse things get.  Then as if things aren’t bad enough for Teddy because of his failed “fixings”, a former student he decided to teach a lesson to has come back to town and is looking to take Teddy down.

What really made this a great read for me was Teddy, not because he was a likeable character by any stretch, but on the contrary, because I loved to hate him.  He’s arrogant and obnoxious, but so delightfully diabolical with the lessons and punishments he doles out.  I found him to be such a fantastic character and I enjoyed his over-the-top antics and all the twists and turns he added to the story.

I don’t want to give anything away with respect to the murder or any of the additional fallout from Teddy’s endless schemes, but if you’re looking for a read that is suspenseful, dark and twisty, yet also quite funny, be sure to check out For Your Own Good.  It’s a wild ride!  4 STARS.

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

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

 

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

Author: Rachel Lynn Solomon

Publication Date: June 8, 2021

Publisher:  Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Author: Julia Lynn Rubin

Publication Date: June 1, 2021

Publisher:  Wednesday Books

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Author: Beth O’Leary

Publication Date: June 1, 2021

Publisher:  Berkley

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Author: Casey McQuiston

Publication Date: June 1, 2021

Publisher:  St. Martin’s Griffin

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

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

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

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

 

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

Author: Paul Rudnick

Publication Date: May 25, 2021

Publisher:  Berkley Books

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Author: Nicola Yoon

Publication Date: June 1, 2021

Publisher:  Delacorte Press

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Author: Dahlia Adler

Publication Date: May 11, 2021

Publisher:  Wednesday Books

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

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

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

 

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

Author: S.K. Ali

Publication Date: May 25, 2021

Publisher:  Salaam Reads / Simon & Schuster for Young Readers

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

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

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

Reviews: The Break-Up Book Club & Talk Bookish to Me

 

I’ve got a totally bookish theme going on for today’s reviews.  I’ll be sharing my thoughts on a book about a most delightful book club and on a book that features a romance author desperately seeking inspiration for her new book.  Fun times!

 

Reviews:  The Break-Up Book Club & Talk Bookish to MeThe Break-Up Book Club Goodreads

Author: Wendy Wax

Publication Date: May 18, 2021

Publisher:  Berkley Books

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

I couldn’t resist a chance to read a book about a book club so I was excited to dive into Wendy Wax’s new novel, The Break-Up Book Club.  The story follows four women of different generations whose lives have been turned upside down by the men they love. They each go to their local book club’s meetings in hopes of finding a distraction from their problems, but what they find is so much more.  There’s nothing quite like the healing power of good friends and good books.

The story is told from the perspectives of these four women.  I really like how the author chose to present their stories, with us following each woman’s individual journey but also having them come together regularly at their book club meetings.  There’s Sara, whose husband is always out of town for work which leaves her saddled with Dorothy, her incredibly difficult mother-in-law who has been living with them.  There’s Judith, whose children have grown up and moved out, leaving her at home alone to ponder the state of her marriage and how she feels like nothing but a supporting player in her husband’s life.  Rounding out the main cast of characters are Jazmine and Erin, who work together at a sports agency.  Jazmine is an agent and a single mom, trying to make it in an arrogant man’s world, and her young assistant, Erin, has just been dumped by her high school sweetheart less than a week before they were supposed to get married.  I really liked all of the main characters and found them all to be quite sympathetic.

I also really enjoyed all of the secondary characters as well.  The members of the book club are a fun, diverse, and quirky bunch and I thoroughly enjoyed sitting in on their meetings. There’s always good food and wine, a spirited debate about whatever book they’ve read, and there’s also a fun contest to finally give their little club a name that really brings out the competitive side of these book lovers.  I loved watching the friendships blossom within the club and just how therapeutic these relationships become over time for Jazmine, Erin, Judith, and Sara.  The book club is basically their “found” family, which just made this such a feel good read.

If you’re in the mood for an uplifting read about the power of friendship and community that will leave you with a smile on your face, you’ll definitely want to check out The Break-Up Book Club.  4 STARS

 

Reviews:  The Break-Up Book Club & Talk Bookish to MeTalk Bookish to Me Goodreads

Author: Kate Bromley

Publication Date: May 25, 2021

Publisher:  Graydon House

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

Kate Bromley’s debut novel Talk Bookish to Me is a contemporary romance that was irresistible to me because it features so many of my favorite things. It’s set, first in Manhattan and then later in Italy, it features a romance author as the protagonist, and it’s equal parts enemies-to-lovers and second chance romance. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you can see this book practically has my name written all over it.  Talk Bookish to Me didn’t disappoint either.  It’s filled with loveable characters, witty and hilarious banter, some seriously intense chemistry, and, as if all of that isn’t enough, there’s also an adorable bulldog named Duke.

The story follows Kara Sullivan, who is a romance writer with no inspiration to write.  With the deadline for her latest novel fast approaching, Kara needs to find the spark that will get her writing mojo back on track.  That spark unexpectedly appears in the form of her ex-boyfriend, Ryan, who she runs into because he is in town for their friend’s wedding.  Kara and Ryan parted on bad terms ten years ago and after this tense and awkward reunion, Kara is suddenly able to crank out a few chapters for her book.  When Ryan’s dog, Duke, destroys their hotel room and gets Ryan kicked out, Kara surprises herself and offers to let Ryan and Duke stay at her place.  Her thought behind this crazy idea is that if she continues to trade barbs with Ryan, perhaps she’ll be inspired enough to actually get her book written on time.  What could possibly go wrong?

I had so much fun reading this book.  I loved Kara right away and found her so relatable. She’s fun, sweet, quirky, and not only is she an author, she also loves to take photos of books and post them on Bookstagram.  In many ways she felt like a kindred spirit.  She’s also carrying around some pretty heavy emotional baggage involving her father’s death that put me in her corner rooting for her all the more.

Ryan is a great character too.  I loved watching him with his dog and his banter with Kara is just so entertaining.  It’s clear from the moment they reconnect that he still cares for her and would love a second chance.  The more I watched them interact, the more I wanted him to get that second chance as well.  I will say there was one moment where I really wanted to kick his butt and wanted Kara to kick it as well, but he eventually digs himself out of that hole and then I was rooting for the two of them to get their long-postponed happily ever after.

I also enjoyed the way the author gave us Ryan and Kara’s journey but also mixed in chapters from Kara’s book as she was writing it. It was fun to see what her interactions with Ryan inspired her to write each step of the way.

Talk Bookish to Me is a fun and sexy read that is sure to please romance fans. 4 STARS

Reviews: THE WOMAN WITH THE BLUE STAR & THE LAST NIGHT IN LONDON

Today I’m sharing my thoughts on two powerful and compelling works of WWII historical fiction, one by Pam Jenoff and the other by Karen White.  This is my third time reading a novel from Jenoff and as with the first two, it was a very emotional experience for me.  This was my first time reading a novel from White, although I’ve been wanting to try her books for years now.

 

Reviews: THE WOMAN WITH THE BLUE STAR & THE LAST NIGHT IN LONDONThe Woman with the Blue Star Goodreads

Author: Pam Jenoff

Publication Date: May 4, 2021

Publisher:  Park Row

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

Pam Jenoff’s latest novel, The Woman with the Blue Star, is a powerful and inspiring story of strength, resilience, love, and friendship set against the dangerous backdrop of Nazi-occupied Poland during WWII.  The story follows two young women, one Jewish and the other not, and the unlikely friendship they are able to forge in such a deadly environment.

Sadie Gault is an eighteen year old Jewish girl who has been living with her parents in the Krakow Ghetto.  When the Nazis arrive to liquidate the Ghetto, Sadie and her family, along with another family, manage to escape into the sewers beneath the city. Unbeknownst to Sadie, her father had made arrangements with a trusted friend who works in the sewers and this friend has created a shelter for them to seek refuge in until they can safely leave.  What they thought would be a few days stretches into weeks and months.  My heart just broke for Sadie and for everyone else with her, having to live in such squalid conditions and fearing for your life every minute of every day.  I also found them inspiring though because of the inner strength they all clearly possessed and their will to survive. I’m not sure I would have that kind of strength.

In contrast to Sadie, there is also Ella Stepanek. Ella comes from a wealthy Polish family and finds herself living in relative comfort and able to move about with relative ease, in part because of her stepmother who has allied herself with the Nazis who occupy their city.  She knows she has it good in comparison to others but doesn’t really know how good until one day while at the market, she sees a pair of eyes staring up at her from a sewer grate.  At first Ella cannot believe her own eyes but then realizes it’s a Jewish girl about her own age and that she must be hiding down there.  Ella, who has herself been desperate for friendship and is disgusted that her stepmother is collaborating with Nazis, vows to do whatever she can to protect Sadie from being discovered.

I loved the friendship that formed between Sadie and Ella.  It was so beautiful to see amidst so much horror and death, and I longed for them both to survive the war so they could continue their sister-like bond in times of peace.  I just really loved both girls so much and how they were each exactly what the other needed.  I also loved another unlikely friendship that formed in the book between Sadie and Saul, another Jewish boy who was also sheltering in the sewer.  His family is much more religious than hers and he shouldn’t really associate with Sadie, but in such close quarters with no one else to talk to, he and Sadie become close and it’s another beautiful relationship to contrast with the ugliness all around them.

I don’t want to go into any specifics about what ultimately happens to all of these characters, but I will say that I flew through this book in less than a day and I cried more than once, especially when I got to the author’s notes at the end and realized that while these specific characters were not real, there are real accounts of Jewish families living in sewers while trying desperately to escape the Nazis.  The Woman with the Blue Star really is a powerful and emotional testament to how strong the will to survive is. 5 STARS.

 

Reviews: THE WOMAN WITH THE BLUE STAR & THE LAST NIGHT IN LONDONThe Last Night in London Goodreads

Author: Karen White

Publication Date: May 4, 2021

Publisher:  Berkley

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

I’ve been wanting to try one of Karen White’s novels for a while now so when I saw that her newest novel, The Last Night in London, is primarily set in London during WWII, I thought that would be a great place to start, considering my love of WWII historical fiction. And it turns out I was right, as I found myself enveloped in an intricately-crafted story of family and friendship, romance and drama, suffering and resilience, all wrapped up in a web of long-buried secrets and deception set against the deadly backdrop of the Blitz.

I was sucked into White’s story from the opening pages of the prologue where we meet an unnamed woman running through the streets of London with bombs falling all around her.  She knocks on a door, hands over a suitcase which when opened reveals there is an infant within, and then she flees into the night.  Who is this woman, where is she running off to, and if that is her baby, why is she leaving it with someone else?  I was already on the edge of my seat wanting answers to all of these questions and more.  White’s story is a slow burn though so fair warning that lots of threads will need to be pulled together before those answers are revealed. The reveal is definitely worth the wait though so just enjoy the journey.

The story features a dual timeline, one set in present day London while the other is set during WWII London around the time of the Blitz.  The present day timeline follows American journalist Maddie Warner who is traveling to London to interview Precious Dubose, a former fashion model, who is about to turn 100 years old. Maddie, a distant relative of Precious’, is only there to interview Precious about WWII fashion and her time living in London around the war, but the more Maddie interacts with Precious, she gets the feeling Precious has something weighing her down and that she would like to share more with Maddie than just her thoughts on fashion.  The WWII timeline, coupled with some investigative work Maddie does on her own, slowly begins to unravel the long-held secrets Precious has been keeping for over 50 years.

Both timelines made for pretty compelling reads, but I was definitely drawn in more by the WWII timeline because I wanted answers to my questions from the prologue.  I also loved the various characters that were introduced in this timeline, including a young Precious and her roommate, Eva, who also has her fair share of secrets.  It was fascinating watching the two of them try to live, work, and love in wartime London, sometimes getting caught up in questionable activities with even more questionable people.  I was captivated by their adventures and was waiting to see how their stories culminated in that moving scene from the prologue.

I very much enjoyed my first foray into a Karen White novel and look forward to reading more from her.  4 STARS.