The Stolen Kingdom (2021)

by Jillian Boehme
ASIN/ISBN: 9781250298836
Publication: March 2, 2021

**I received a copy of the book through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

Mara goes from being the daughter of a well-known vintner to the heir of the Perrin Faye throne after her lineage is uncovered. Her appearance sets in motion a secret plot to free the kingdom from the Thrungraves, which includes killing the king and his two heirs.

The Stolen Kingdom is good but has the potential to be better. The plot is interesting with some twists I saw coming and others I did not. While I enjoyed the novel, especially as the magic system was slowly unveiled, I never reached that climactic moment where I thought it was too good to put down. I was, instead, continually thinking how great it would be as a duology or even a trilogy because there is a lot packed here that could easily be expanded had there been more details. For instance, with minimal descriptions, there lacked a sense of place with the world appearing generic even if the political intrigue and the magic system kept me interested in continuing to the end.

In addition to a lack of detail, there was little build-up to pivotal moments in the plot. I didn’t have to wait long to find out what would happen or how a problem was resolved. I only just inched toward the edge of my seats, and then it was over. While this wasn’t as much an issue in the beginning while the story was being set up, it was more apparent in the latter half when events happened one after the other. This also contributed to a pace I wanted to be slowed down so things wouldn’t just keep flashing by. Aside from these factors, I generally liked Boehme’s writing style, especially as it relates to characterization.

Mara and Alac, with their backstories and aspirations, are compelling characters even if I didn’t particularly connect with them like I have other characters in similar situations. They are similar in their desire to do something different from the paths open to them.  Mara is smart and has compassion for the people affected by Thungraves’ rule although her family has suffered less than most. She’s also quite frank. All these things have her fall into the “not like other girls” trope, but that isn’t a trope I particularly mind, and it’s also what draws Alac to her. Alac is “the spare,” and wants to get away from his princely duties secretly to have his own winery. Unlike his father and brother, he doesn’t appear to be particularly power-hungry and is considerate of others. His status hasn’t gone to his head either–his best friend is head of his guard. Mara and Alac seem like they’d be perfect for each other as soon as they’re introduced in the book. While their time together is sweet–the attraction is instant between them–I questioned how their feelings so easily overcame their common sense. 

I enjoyed the book. The book is written with all the pieces fitting together, which is good but almost too easy. I liked Mara and Alac even if the connection I had with them wasn’t entirely present. I look forward to more from Boehme, with hopes that future books will provide greater detail and keep me on the edge of my seat.  

Cinderella Is Dead (2020)

by Kaylynn Bayron
ASIN/ISBN: 9781547603879
Publication: July 7, 2020

I’ve been meaning to read Cinderella Is Dead since it was first published nearly a year ago, but being a mood reader means wanting and doing are two different things. I finally finished it yesterday. The premise behind the book is rather interesting, providing readers with a retelling of the fairy tale and what happens after Cinderella and her prince supposedly lived happily ever after.  While I did enjoy the book, it didn’t quite live up to the expectations I built around it. 

Sophia is in love with her best friend Erin, and while Erin seems to return those feelings, she is unwilling to rebel. The laws are explicit that young women are to attend balls where suitors will choose them as brides. And just like the fairy tale, they are meant to then live happily ever after with some caveats. The happily is optional, women only have three tries at finding a suitor, and men can terminate the ever after if they choose to. The ball maintains the illusion of what Cinderella had to go through to find her prince including arriving in one’s best dress and finding a life partner at the end of it. For over 200 years, this has been the way of things, and women have been without rights. Forced to attend her first ball, Sophia makes a run for it, choosing an alternate path she carves for herself.

While Sophia is tenacious and daring, willing to risk her life not only for love but freedom for herself as well as those of other young women in her position, I found her character naively idealistic at times. I wanted to yell at her and tell her to consider the consequences including thinking through her actions more carefully before doing anything risky. Maybe it’s meant to be part of her character but I wanted more complexity from Sophia. With the plot moving so quickly, jumping from one thing to the next, Sophia hardly ever gets to think many things through. I was also bothered by how quickly Sophia moves on despite being adamant about her love for Erin and her willingness to risk everything to be with Erin. She jumps from one love interest to the next in a matter of what seems like days. This feeds into the too fast pace of the novel, which I was not particularly fond of. I didn’t get the depth I was expecting in a story with a premise that fascinated me. The lack of depth also extends to Constance, Erin, and a few other characters.

While it lacked depth, I did like the dominant themes in the novel. The recurring theme of empowerment was particularly done well. There are several lines from Sophia that highlighted this that I loved. One of my favorites is Sophia saying, “I don’t want to be saved by some knight in shining armor. I’d like to be the one in the armor, and I’d like to be the one doing the saving.” I also thought one of the most poignant lines in the book asks who the tale of Cinderella is really for. It highlights how problematic fairy tales can become and the book confronts this through the retelling.

Cinderella Is Dead offers a retelling of the classic fairy tale that turns it on its head. Rather than waiting for a prince or princess, the book emphasizes seizing the opportunity to be your own hero. While not all my expectations were met, those who look forward to alternatives to the stories they’ve heard or watched growing up may enjoy the book.


To Sir, With Love (2021)

by Lauren Layne
ASIN/ISBN: 9781982152819
Publication: June 29, 2021

**I received a copy of the book from the publisher through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

(If you’ve never seen You’ve Got Mail then this review will be filled spoilers for both the movie and the book. Please proceed with caution. Sorry!)

To Sir, with Love updates the dial-up connection of You’ve Got Mail with the DM alerts of a dating app; however, the romance doesn’t quite hit the mark. Of course, Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks’s chemistry is a tough one to recreate. The book closely mirrors the plot of You’ve Got Mail, which mirrors the plots of those titles it is an adaptation of. A woman has a connection with a man whom she has regular correspondence, but they have never met, except they have and just don’t realize it. In person, they mostly despise each other, but there’s a bit of a spark that is the complete opposite of hate. There’s enough to differentiate To Sir, With Love and appreciate it on its own merit, but if you love You’ve Got Mail as I do, the comparisons are inevitable.

Gracie’s backstory is compelling. She is a budding artist who gave up her dreams to fulfill her dad’s dreams of keeping their store in the family. Faced with the impending close of the store, she has to figure out what she wants to do–continue daydreaming or live her dreams. The exploration of Gracie’s character beyond the store was an aspect of the book I especially liked, giving her character a bit more depth. The secondary characters fill out Gracie’s life and help enhance the plot. I especially liked neighbor and friend Keva’s potential love line with her boss Grady. There’s just enough information about it for me to want a book about it from Layne in the future.

Here comes the inevitable comparison. I wanted to like the romance but was disappointed with the development of Gracie’s relationships with both Sir and Sebastian. Sir is introduced through messages to Gracie on the dating app. Their interactions appear more formal than personal and sometimes even a bit detached. I could believe it to be an attraction, but I wouldn’t think it was love, not enough to stake my entire love life around it especially because there is no declaration of love, even if you read between the lines.

With Sebastian, Gracie shares a moment–more Sleepless in Seattle than You’ve Got Mail–and it didn’t work that well for me. This is the moment Gracie harkens back to when she thinks of Sebastian. They meet again and grab food a few times, but it never feels like they move beyond that first magical connection. It’s something to build on but the building never reaches love or friendship potential. There lacked a book equivalent of a montage of them getting to know each other and becoming friends. Remember how Tom Hanks knows he needs to change Meg Ryan’s perception of him so he works hard for them to become friends before the final reveal? There’s hardly any of it before Gracie was already saying she was in love with two people. Just like with Sir, this relationship felt one-sided as well. The addition of Sebastian’s point of view might have helped remedy this, helping to establish a connection on his part and build a sturdier foundation for possible later declarations.

I liked the book but had expected a bit more. Despite my disappointment, my heart still managed to flutter as the book neared its conclusion–I am still a hopeless romantic after all.

Lying with Lions (2021)

by Annabel Fielding
ASIN/ISBN: B095J8D5XC
Publication: June 21, 2021

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DESCRIPTiON

Edwardian England. Agnes Ashford knows that her duty is threefold: she needs to work on cataloguing the archive of the titled Bryant family, she needs to keep the wounds of her past tightly under wraps, and she needs to be quietly grateful to her employers for taking her up in her hour of need. However, a dark secret she uncovers due to her work thrusts her into the Bryants’ brilliant orbit – and into the clutch of their ambitions.

They are prepared to take the new century head-on and fight for their preeminent position and political survival tooth and nail – and not just to the first blood. With a mix of loyalty, competence, and well-judged silence Agnes rises to the position of a right-hand woman to the family matriarch – the cunning and glamorous Lady Helen. But Lady Helen’s plans to hold on to power through her son are as bold as they are cynical, and one day Agnes is going to face an impossible choice…


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Annabel Fielding, having graduated from the University of Arts London with an MA in Public Relations, is a PR assistant by day and a novelist by night. Being a self-professed history geek, she dedicates her free time to obscure biographies, solo travel and tea. Her special areas of interest are Edwardian age and Late Middle Agnes/Renaissance, but sometimes veers into other directions, too, when distracted by a shiny thing.  She is the author of A Pearl for My Mistress (2017).

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REViEW

**I was provided a copy of the book by the author through NetGalley as a Tour Participant. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

Lying with Lions is not the typical book I read but on occasion I am willing to venture out and try new genres.  I found an intricate character-driven plot and knew immediately this was my type of movie as opposed to my type of book. As I read, the thought that I would enjoy this on the big screen accompanied was often on my mind.

The story is written in present tense, which was a bit jarring at first.  Eventually I settled into it along with the feeling that I was watching the events unfold as an omniscient narrator allowed me a glimpse into the machinations of high society through Agnes.  From a humble background, Agnes is hired by the Bryant family to serve as their archivist to compile and organize the family history.  Eventually she becomes more than just a bystander, becoming Lady Bryant’s secretary.  Rather than an observer, she becomes a willing participant in the political maneuvers of those she comes to be associated with.

Agnes was often an enigma to me, making it hard to figure out her motives. Is she being genuine? Does she have something planned? Is she a “good” person? Part of me wanted to skip to the end because I wanted to know the why behind Agnes’s actions. My urge to spoil the ending was further spurred on by the novel’s slow build.  It was not until about a fifth of the way when the pieces started to fall into place, and I recognized with some amount of certainty where the book was heading. The pace was slow, but it was the deliberate kind that encourages readers to be immersed in the plot and observe as well as question the decisions of characters, what will those in power do to remain in power? I had to exercise a fair amount of self-control but the ending was worth it as revelations are made. 

This Is for Tonight (2021)

by Jessica Patrick
ASIN/ISBN: 9781250757159
Publication: May 4, 2021

**I received a copy of the book from the publisher through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

Andi enters a scavenger hunt for social media influencers at a music festival. With a prize that can help pay for college, she’s intent on winning the scavenger hunt so she can attend the same college with her brother. One of the competitors is Jay Bankar, the host of a prank channel and someone she loathes. Jay was kind enough to help her set up camp for the festival. While she’s certain she dislikes him, she also can’t help her attraction to the person she met before she realized who he was.  

This Is for Tonight is a cute YA romance that takes place in the span of a few days. Although the burgeoning romance between Andi and Jay is the central focus of the story, it also touches on grief, family, and the inevitability of growing up. However, I wouldn’t quite categorize it as a coming-of-age story. The elements are present, but the exploration of the themes is surface level.

I enjoyed the book for the light romance. Andi loves crafting, which serves as the main content of her YouTube channel. She makes no apologies for what she likes to do and also speaks her mind. When she first meets Jay, she doesn’t realize who he is, and they’re attracted to each other nearly instantly. The scavenger hunt plays a minor obstacle in comparison to Andi’s dislike of Jay, which is completely understandable. While Jay initially comes off sweet, Andi notes there are so many sides to him that it’s difficult to trust him. Who is he exactly? He appears genuine and helpful in person, but his personality runs opposite to how he appears on his channel–obnoxious and misogynistic. The only thing certain about him is how confusing he is. The bulk of the book is about trying to figure him out and whether a relationship is even possible. There are a few moments in the book that were frustrating because Andi would be on the cusp of finding out only to be left hanging.

One of the other highlights is Andi’s relationship with her brother Jordan. She is the more responsible twin, while he is the sociable and popular twin. He also doubles as her best friend. Although somewhat unreliable and more than willing to blow her off for a pretty girl, Jordan is also there for her when it counts, but is that enough? She also feels like she has to take on more responsibility than she has to, especially when one of the reasons for going to the same college as her brother Jordan comes to light. While the sibling relationship is a highlight, it isn’t thoroughly examined, and any tension that might exist gets resolved rather quickly.

This Is for Tonight is a light romance set within the backdrop of a music festival. It is relatively short and doesn’t delve deeply into some of the topics it touches on, but I still had a good time reading it.

Scavenge the Stars (2020) / Ravage the Dark (2021)

by Tara Sim
Series Review

**This is a series review that contains spoilers for Scavenge the Stars**

ScavengeTheStars_cover

Scavenge the Stars
ASN/ISBN: 9781368051415
Publication: January 7, 2020


Amaya is nearing her final day on a debtor ship when she saves a stranger from drowning. He gives her an opportunity to take vengeance on the man who destroyed her family but things get complicated when she starts to fall for the mark’s son, Cayo.

I’ve never read The Count of Monte Cristo so I likely missed the book’s references to the novel it is based on. Aside from this, having not read the foundational material doesn’t take away from enjoying the book. It might even be better since that means I’m less likely to compare it to what I hear is a phenomenal classic. Up until about the end of Scavenge the Stars, I felt this was what revenge novels should be like. Amaya’s chapters were my favorite, a lot darker and intriguing, while I was not nearly as invested in Cayo’s plight.


Ravage the DarkRavageTheDark_cover
ASN/ISBN: 9780753555334
Publication: March 9, 2021

Betrayed by someone she thought was more friend than foe, Amaya and her friends narrowly escape with the help of a friend. Cayo and his sister also accompany Amaya and her colleagues. While it’s difficult to tell whether Cayo and Amaya will be able to overcome Amaya’s betrayal, everyone will have to work together to save the state of Moray. 

Ravage the Dark focuses more on Cayo’s development as he searches for his place outside of his father’s household. There’s less of a focus on Amaya and she does a lot of brooding in this one–so much. Ravage the Dark is repetitive in many parts, following Cayo and then trying to figure out the source of the illness.


Characters: Amaya & Cayo

Amaya is trying to fulfill the revenge plot of her benefactor while also trying to understand why her mother gave her up to a debtor ship. Her time on the ship has stolen her childhood and hardened her to life, but has amplified her desire to protect the other children she served her time with–those too young to fight against the life their parents have given them to. There are two sides to Amaya: the hardened child slave seeking revenge on those who have wronged her and the girl who believes in love, yearning to break free of the chains of vengeance placed upon her. She is strong and full of conviction, ready to uncover what happened to her family.

While Amaya as this stronger, capable individual, Cayo is written less so. Aside from his father’s wealth and reputation, Cayo comes across as weaker in character. He is trying to overcome a gambling habit and hasn’t been able to live up to his father’s expectations. Except for loving his sister, initially his only redeeming quality, I wasn’t a big fan. Of course, he is trying to be a better person. Cayo is constantly trying to prove his worth throughout both books, but it’s not until Ravage the Dark that he slowly comes into his own. Overall, Cayo isn’t a particularly likeable character. In each other, Amaya and Cayo see qualities they desire in themselves. Additionally, in each other, they seek freedom from their obligations and even hope to find redemption.

Overall Assessment

This is a well-written duology, however, both books suffer from the same fate: a great build-up with somewhat lackluster endings. Sim does a great job of creating the world along with an intricate plot. I kept turning the pages, wanting to find out what would happen next. As I got closer to the end, however, I became increasingly frustrated. This happened with both books. I was able to forgive the ending of Scavenge the Stars, just a little, because most everything before the end was great. Also, I hoped it was building to something bigger in the next book. I was more frustrated with Ravage the Dark than I was with Scavenge the Stars. There was a character who had so much potential but was underutilized. Then, what could have been an epic ending happened outside the pages of the book! I was flabbergasted by this. Sim had me fully immersed in Amaya’s plot for revenge but the endings in both books reduced my overall enjoyment of the duology. I couldn’t return from that even though there was much to like, especially in the first book.

I Pucking Love You (2021)

by Pippa Grant
ASIN/ISBN: B091P5TKQG
Publication: April 8, 2021
Series: Copper Valley Thrusters #5

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DESCRIPTION

You know those stories where an adorably misunderstood clumsy girl needs a fake date to a wedding so she asks her brother’s best friend and they accidentally fall in love?

I wish that was the kind of life I lead, but it’s not.

I don’t need a date to a wedding. I need a date to a funeral.
Clumsy sometimes fits, but then, that’s true for all of us, right? But adorable? No. Misunderstood? Nope again. I’m just your average girl, standing in front of a funeral invitation, asking it to be a winning lottery ticket instead.

And I don’t have a brother, or a best friend with a brother available, which means I’m stuck with Tyler Jaeger.

Sure, he’s a professional hockey player who also knows advanced calculus, but let’s say we’re not compatible and leave it at that. I should know. I am a matchmaker.

Not a very good one, but that’s beside the point.

I know a mismatch when I see one.

Still, Tyler’s what I’ve got, and I am not going to this funeral solo, so he’s what I’ll take.

After all—what could go wrong at a funeral?

I Pucking Love You is a hilariously wrong romantic comedy about the world’s worst matchmaker, a hockey player with a problem he doesn’t want to talk about, and an awkward date-of-convenience that everyone would prefer to forget. It comes complete with a cat working his way through his nine lives, all the sexy times, fish and chips, and a swoony happily-ever-after. 


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#1
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EXCERPT

Tyler

We all have to be at practice tomorrow morning—check that, this morning, as it’s shortly after midnight—but I don’t want to go home.

I don’t want to drink. I don’t want to talk. I don’t want to screw.

I want—

Dammit.

I want a bucket of greasy fried fish and chips, because it’s what my big brother used to take me to get every time he came home on leave from the Marines and got annoyed at being hen-pecked by the four sisters between us.

My car’s cold, thanks to the early November weather, and no, I’m not telling you what kind of car I drive, because yes, it very much feels like compensation tonight.

It gets me where I want to go.

That’s all that matters.

That, and getting my ass to Cod Pieces before they close for the night.

Could I stay at the bunny bar and get fried fish and chips?

Yes.

Will I?

No fucking way.

I’m still stewing in my own misery when the bright neon sign with the armored cod and the storefront that looks like a medieval castle comes into view at the edge of a strip mall four miles the wrong direction from my downtown condo. I roll the window down, letting in a blast of chilly air and the scent of fries.

Just in time.

I holler my order over the sound of my engine, then pull around to the window to get my fish.

Debate calling my brother in Miami.

It’s one AM. He and his wife recently celebrated their kid’s first birthday, and I think they’re working on baby number two.

If I call him in the middle of the night to bitch about how I can’t get it up, he’ll probably hang up on me, then tell our sisters.

And Mom.

She’s a professional comedienne with her own popular Netflix special. There’s no damn way I’m bothering West in the middle of the night for this.

I’ll talk to the fried fish and call it even.

Has as much personality as West had before he married Daisy.

The window swings open. “That’ll be fourteen seventy-three, please.”

My car lurches forward before I remember to put it in park, and I gape up at the woman staring down at me. “Muffy?”

My brain is playing tricks on me.

It has to be.

Because there’s no way the curvy, clumsy, smart-mouthed goddess who’s haunting my dick is standing there wearing a Cod Pieces polo and hat.

But she is.

And I swear to god, her long brown braids are recoiling in horror as her whole face twists, her lip curling, her left eye squeezing shut, before she snaps herself together. “For the hundredth time today, I have no idea who this Muffy person is. My name is Octavia Louisa Beaverhousen.”

Fuck me.

There are two of them? She looks exactly like Muffy. I’m not seeing things, and I’m not projecting just because I want my dick to work again and the bunnies made me think about screwing Muffy in the walk-in fridge at the bunny bar.

“Fourteen seventy-three, please.” She turns away as she holds out a hand, twitching her fingers like she’s waiting for cash or a card.

And that’s when I see the tattoo.

Rufus.
Her cat’s name. It’s on her wrist.

Octavia Louisa Beaverhousen, my ass. This is Muffy.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Pippa Grant is a USA Today Bestselling author who writes romantic comedies that will make tears run down your leg. When she’s not reading, writing or sleeping, she’s being crowned employee of the month as a stay-at-home mom and housewife trying to prepare her adorable demon spawn to be productive members of society, all the while fantasizing about long walks on the beach with hot chocolate chip cookies.

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REVIEW: I PUCKING LOVE YOU


**I was provided a copy of the book by Give Me Books as part of the promotional campaign. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

Muffy is a matchmaker, but not a very successful one. Normally she wouldn’t set foot back in Richmond, but her best friend and business investor Veda needs her to attend a funeral. Rather than go alone, she’s desperate to bring a date along and the only choice she has is Tyler Jaeger. Tyler plays for the Copper Valley Thrusters and usually a hit with the ladies. However, he’s dealing with some interesting problems of his own so he volunteers to go as Muffy’s date, not realizing it’s a funeral. Of course, hilarity ensues.

Pippa Grant remains one of my favorite authors with her over-the-top humor. I know when I pick up one of her novels, there will be absurdity along with lots of laughs. As soon as she comes out with a new book, my spirit fingers come out and I’m reaching for it. As the newest addition to The Copper Valley Thrusters series, I Pucking Love You retains Grant’s signature humor.

I was conflicted about how much I really liked the book, much of it due to Muffy’s reasons for not wanting to return to Richmond. Muffy reminded me of Henri from Grant’s Real Fake Love but Muffy is a bit more awkward and a bit less successful. Like Henri, those who know her also are fiercely supportive of her and Muffy is also fiercely protective of them. Although Muffy presents this sort of “devil may care attitude,” she’s more vulnerable than people think, and Tyler is the perfect match for her. Having grown up with so many sisters, he’s very aware of Muffy’s needs, which includes large doses of confidence boosting and loving her for the person she is. I loved how protective over her he eventually becomes.

While it was a fun book, it was also tinged with melancholy that isn’t as apparent in the other books I’ve read by Grant. I enjoyed Muffy and Tyler’s chemistry, but I couldn’t quite overcome the bit of sadness even as the book headed towards our main couple’s HEA. I Pucking Love You is entertaining and will provide lots of laughs even though it has some sad undertones.

MINI-REVIEWS: COPPER VALLEY THRUSTERS SERIES

**With the exception of Royally Pucked, I was provided a copy of the the series as part of the promotion campaign for I Pucking Love You. I voluntarily read and reviewed each book. All opinions are my own. **

The Pilot & The Puck Up (#1)

It’s hard not to have a soft spot for The Berger Twins if you’re a fan of Grant’s books. They randomly show up in places and it can often be hilarious. Zeus, one-half of the Berger Twins, finally finds love. Despite being a tough guy, the woman he falls for, Joey/”Fireball”, is a lot tougher. I loved her right away and could tell at least one of the twins had met his match. Bailey, the caddie at the golf tournament who idolizes Joey, definitely stole my heart! Can she have her own book one day in Pippaverse? Can she be part of an all-girl hockey team? That would be awesome!

Royally Pucked (#2)

I was a bit hesitant about the book because I’m not fond of two of the prevailing tropes, royal-plebian romance and unexpected/secret pregnancy. Gracie, Joey’s sister, and Manning, Willow’s stepbrother, continue their dalliance from The Pilot & The Puck Up which leads to an unexpected pregnancy. I appreciated that the pregnancy happens early in the story, and there isn’t any kind of hiding or miscommunication between Gracie and Manning. Grant handles the pregnancy well here with both parties in-the-know and not keeping it a surprise until somewhere in the middle–thank goodness! Although I understood Manning’s predicament, I can’t say I was a fan of him to begin with so this made me like him even less. I eventually warmed to him, but he ranks low on my list of male leads from the Pippaverse.

Beauty and the Beefcake (#3)


Ares finally gets a love interest! AND he says more than a grunt or two because he gets chapters and chapters of them!! Okay…I’m kidding. He says words too. As much as I like Zeus, I’ll be honest and say that I have a soft spot for Ares. Felicity is a ventriloquist and talks a lot. She has conversations with herself in her different voices often so it’s great that she’s paired with a minimal talking, mostly grunting Ares. The book solidifies why I like Ares. He only makes the effort when he wants to and the effort he gives here is swoony when he starts catching feelings for Felicity. More than that, he understands and sees into Felicity like knowing what she’s channeling into the multiple voices for her puppets. It’s a forbidden romance–Nick his Felicity’s brother and Nick is Ares’s teammate–and I love how the sparks start slow because both are aware of the position they’re in since they both care about Nick.

Charming as Puck (#4)

Kami is one of Felicity’s besties and her crush on Nick is well known by all. Nick knows it to and has been known to use it to his advantage…as per Felicity in book #3. What no one at least guessed was they had an arrangement, a mutually beneficial one that Kami has decided is no longer enough for her. I love when someone realizes they deserve better than what they’ve been getting!! She asks her cousin Muffy of Muff Matches (yes, this is the introduction of Muffy of I Pucking Love You) to find her someone so she can move on from the guy who obviously doesn’t realize he is actually in love with her. If Royally Pucked contained my least liked tropes, Charming as Puck has one of my favorites (okay, this is a long one), the “I have a crush on you so I agree to an arrangement and now realize I deserve better so I break it off and try to date other people but you finally come to your senses and realize need/want me back and that you love me” trope (whew!). The nuance to this trope that I dislike is when one side heads into it with the hope that the arrangement will eventually lead to them being end game despite the understanding that a relationship is what neither wants. That’s what happens here, and so I can’t really be all that mad at Nick. BUT I still like Kami more, so I liked the groveling that happens and a jealous Nick is satisfying too.

Of the series, Kami might be my favorite female lead and Ares is the male lead I have the soft spot for. Charming as Puck and Beauty and the Beefcake are the top two contenders for the books I like best in the series. Overall, this is another fun series from Grant. If you’re fan and have read the other books, it’s a lot of fun to see cameos especially because in Pippaverse the degrees of separation are likely less than 6. Now, I need to conquer the rest of Grant’s series.

Pippaverse Throwdown: Girl Band vs Copper Valley Thrusters

Both are great, but if I had to choose between the two, I’m going to have to say I prefer The Girl Band series (you can find the reviews here) over the Copper Valley Thrusters series. I liked the stories that accompanied each of the Girl Band members and, except for maybe the first book, the books all had fairly good plots. Similar to The Pilot and The Puck Up, Mister McHottie doesn’t have a lot of plot, but they’re both fun introductions into each series. Although I generally liked all the female leads in both series, I connected with all members of the band much more, and I generally liked the men each ended up with as well. While I adore the Berger Twins and the Thrusters, my heart lies with an all girl band that covers boy bands–they just have the right stuff.


Rebelwing (2020)

by Andrea Tang
ASN/ISBN: 9781984835093
Publication: February 25, 2020
Series: Rebelwing #1

Prep school student Prudence Wu regularly smuggles out illicit materials to customers outside of the city. In her haste to complete a deal, she leaves without her partner Anabel Park and, of course, it just has to be the one where she meets with dire consequences–her customer double-crosses her, and enforcers come after her. After being unexpectedly rescued by a cybernetic dragon, Pru is forced to work for a secret organization to keep her “extracurricular activities” off her records.

The overall story and the world Tang creates is an interesting one. The story is set in an alternate United States, in a different Washington D.C., one of the last places that has yet to be consumed by a growing authoritarian regime the UCC. The efforts of a past resistance have kept New Columbia one of the last strongholds of democratic governance; it’s not only independent but thriving in the aftermath of wars fought long ago. Although a tenuous peace has been established between it and the UCC, it’s becoming more difficult to determine how long peace can be maintained. This is the world that Pru, an Asian American teen, is trying to survive in.

Pru is a tough, wise-cracking heroine, and I liked her a lot. I’m prone to liking sarcastic heroines who stand up for themselves when life tries to shove them around. It’s especially when in the face of authority that her sarcasm and defiance are entertaining. In many ways, Pru bucks the model minority myth placed on Asian Americans. She is by no means a straight-laced rule follower, but one who takes risks (i.e. smuggling censored materials like graphic novels to UCC incorporated areas). She isn’t as privileged as her colleagues but does the best she can with what she has. Sure, she might be taking calculus but things don’t necessarily come easily to her–you know, like bonding with a mechanical dragon. As a fan of science fiction growing up, Pru and Rebelwing would have been the book I needed to feel represented in the literature I was so fond of. 

While the story was promising, it was lacking in one of the elements I was most excited about: the sentient cybernetic dragon. Rebelwing is the mecha dragon that saves Pru, imprinting on Pru and leaving her in a difficult situation. While Rebelwing is pivotal to the plot, there are only glimpses of her whereas I expected more interaction and bonding between Pru and the sentient dragon. I would have gladly read on for another hundred or so pages if it meant that I got more Pru and Rebelwing together, hopefully getting a better understanding of why Pru was chosen when there were so many potential pilots such as Alex or Anabel that would have been better options. Of course, this is touched on slightly, but not near the extent I was hoping for.

While I enjoyed Pru’s story, the more interesting storylines were not that of Pru or her peers, rather it was of Pru’s mom and Alex’s uncle. Who were they in their past lives? Who are they now? Who could have they been in the present had they made different choices? The little that is revealed about Pru’s mom and Alex’s uncle, of each of their past and how those decisions shaped who they eventually became was intriguing to me. Yes, I would have settled for more reading if it meant reading more about these two as well. Or, how about a prequel novella?

Rebelwing is a fun book and packed with action. Is it good? Yes. Is the writing good? Yes. However, it left me somewhat unfulfilled due to my expectations of the Pru and dragon imprinting bond. If you’re expecting a metal dragon, you won’t see too much so it’s best to put that notion aside and soak up what you do get. If you can set that hope aside, you’ll be able to enjoy the novel a lot more. The sequel Renegade Flight was released on March 23, 2021. That will be a forthcoming review while I wait for it to arrive.

**If you’ve read Rebelwing, I’d love to hear your thoughts. I’ve read reviews that range in ratings, from one end to the other, so I’d like to know what you think. There are different themes it touches on that I didn’t talk about in the review, but I’d love to discuss some more as well. And the ending was pretty good.**

The Secret Recipe for Moving On (2021)

by Karen Bischer
ASN/ISBN: 9781250242303
Publication: March 23, 2021


**I was provided a copy of the book through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

Senior year is off to a heartbreaking start after Ellie’s boyfriend unexpectedly breaks up with her. Forced to continue taking home ec(onomics) with her ex and his new girlfriend, Ellie sets her eyes on beating the other teams by working with her group to ensure they get the most points in the class. Initially, she doesn’t have high hopes for her group of misfits–horse racing obsessed Isaiah, tough guy A.J., and biker Luke–but she begins to change her mind once she gets to know them. They even start feeling like a family.

Change is hard but maybe it’s the motivation needed to force us to do things we normally wouldn’t do. The breakup forces Ellie to get out of her comfort zone and pursue activities she would never have thought about before or things her ex wouldn’t have approved of. As readers come to this realization alongside Ellie, they’ll cheer her on just like I did. Her growth from the beginning of the novel to the end was a mostly pleasant experience. Why only mostly? Despite knowing the break up is inevitable–it’s right there in the blurb–it’s still a pretty uncomfortable experience to read through. It can only mean that Bischer did a great job setting it up.

The best part of the novel is the camaraderie that eventually develops between Ellie and her home ec group. While the other groups in the class are cohesive from the start because most are already friends, Ellie, Isaiah, A.J., and Luke are a makeshift group. They’re individuals who don’t hang out together and probably wouldn’t have spoken to each other outside the classroom. Being forced to work as a group (I know, I know we all generally hate group work) facilitated meaningful interaction between the members in the classroom, eventually spilling over into life outside of class and even school. If we only stick to what we know and the people we know, we might be missing out on so many other wonderful things!

I enjoyed it overall. It’s a high school slice-of-life novel about growing up and trying to find your bearings after a breakup. It’s a cute, light read–something that can be quickly read in an afternoon.

The Girl Band Series (2017-2018)

by Pippa Grant
**Reviews are at the End. Click here to Jump to Reviews**

PRESENTING THE NEW COVERS FOR

THE GIRL BAND SERIES

BY PIPPA GRANT


I am an avid reader of Pippa Grant novels because they are hilarious. I think she might be my most read author. It’s a series cover re-reveal, and I was very happy to jump on board to help with the promotions through Give Me Books to celebrate. I was provided with copies of the latter three books, which did not affect my review. I’ve combined my reviews of the books, much like my romance interludes. I’ve placed them all at the end just to make it easier. I’ll also provide a side-by-side comparison of the covers as well.


Mister McHottie Ebook Cover

The best enemies make the best lovers…

There are things I hate:
Bratwurst in any form, my neighbors boinking like farm animals at 3AM, and Chase Jett.

Mostly I hate Chase Jett. It’s been ten years since he took my virginity—I’d make a bratwurst joke, but the unfortunate truth is that it would have to be a brat-best joke, and yes, it kills me to admit that—and now he’s not only a billionaire, he’s also my new boss.

Turns out our hate is mutual. And this kind of hate is horrifically twisted, filthy, and banging hot.

I just might have to hate him forever.

Mister McHottie is the hilariously sexy romantic comedy that your mother warned you about, complete with an organic happy-ever-after (or seven), a Bratwurst Wagon, ill-advised office pranks, and no cheating or cliffhangers. (Photo: Wander Aguiar)

Free in Kindle Unlimited
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Stud in the Stacks Ebook CoverHe’s a librarian by day and the ideal fake boyfriend by night.

When it comes to women, I know what they want. And all day long, I give it to them. Dark, broody, and sexy? You got it. Need to laugh? I’m your guy. Desperate for something to put you in the mood? You’ve come to the right place, kitten.

Every morning when my library opens, there’s a line around the block, the ladies flocking to me in need of their next book boyfriend. I’m that dude. The one who knows his way around the romance section.

And after years of study, my skills don’t stop at the day job. Need a fake boyfriend, fiancé, or friend-with-benefits? I know that plot. I also know to keep my heart off the table, because love is only real between the pages of a book.

So when Parker Elliott needs a temporary fake boyfriend for a reunion, of course I step in. She rocks a mean guitar, she has no idea how sexy she is, and we have something of a history.

Easy, right?

Yep. Piece of cake.

Except this time, I’m actually in danger of falling in love.

Stud in the Stacks is 55,000 sexy, hilarious, sometimes embarrassing words, complete with tacos, romance novel love, unicorn parties, and no cheating or cliffhangers. (Photo: Rafa Catala)

Free in Kindle Unlimited
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Rockaway Bride Ebook CoverA Rock Star Kidnaps a Runaway Bride…Kidnapping the bride seemed like a good idea at the time.

Her fiancé stole my fortune, so I stole his woman.

Tit for tat. Or tat for tit. However you want to look at it.

The one thing I didn’t expect?

Willow Honeycutt, preschool teacher, boy band super fan, is completely crazy.

And somehow she’s turned the tables on me.

Now, she’s holding me hostage, and she won’t let me go until we hit every item on her sparkly new, completely insane bucket list.

And that last item?

That last item might cost me more than any fortune.

It very well might cost me my heart.

Rockaway Bride is a romping fun romance between a down-on-his-luck rock star and a boy band-loving preschool teacher, complete with a road trip, handcuffs, and fun with nuns. This romantic comedy stands alone with no cheating or cliffhangers and ends with a rockin’ awesome happily ever after. (Photo: Furious Fotog)

Free in Kindle Unlimited
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For anyone who’s ever been on the receiving end of an unsolicited d*ck pic… The Hero and the Hactivist Ebook Cover

He has the muscles of Adonis, an ego bigger than the sun, and a very clear desire to get back in my pants. Which would be fantastic if he weren’t a SEAL and I wasn’t a criminal.

Although, I prefer the term avenger. 

I’m a hacktivist, cleaning up the cesspool of cyberspace one scam artist and troll at a time, and I sometimes bend a few rules to get justice done.

He’s a military man with abs of glory, sworn to uphold the letter of the law no matter its shortcomings. And if he’d known who—or what—I was, I doubt he would’ve banged me at my best friend’s wedding reception.

Or come back for more.

Which is why he’s now the only thing standing between me and one very pissed off internet troll who’s figured out where I live.

I’m pretty sure he’ll get me out of this alive—and quite satisfied, thank you very much—but I’m also pretty sure this mission will end with me in handcuffs.

And not the good kind of handcuffs.

The Hero and the Hacktivist is a romping fun SEAL / Best Friend’s Brother / Robin Hood in Cyberspace romance between a meathead and an heiress, complete with epic klutziness, terrible leg warmers, and an even worse phone virus gone wrong. This romantic comedy stands alone with no cheating or cliffhangers and ends with a fabulously fun happily ever after. (Photo: Wander Aguiar)

Free in Kindle Unlimited
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Pippa Grant is a USA Today Bestselling author who writes romantic comedies that will make tears run down your leg. When she’s not reading, writing or sleeping, she’s being crowned employee of the month as a stay-at-home mom and housewife trying to prepare her adorable demon spawn to be productive members of society, all the while fantasizing about long walks on the beach with hot chocolate chip cookies.

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REVIEW

The Girl Band Series is a quartet by Pippa Grant starring each member of an all girl pop music cover band: Ambrosia (Bro/Sia), Parker, Willow, and Eloise. Each book contains Grant’s signature humor, and each book gets a little bit zanier than the last. If you’re going to read anything by Pippa Grant, you have to prepare for the absurd and suspend your belief at some things. Ha…Of course, I say it in a positive way because I enjoy her novels so much. I previously did a mini-review of Rockaway Bride, which I’ve included here and some additional words. My choice of leading men here? Definitely Knox and then the other three are a bit of toss up with Dax just slightly ahead. Overall, the series is a lot of fun, an overall 3.5 stars, but there were two that I liked more than the others.

#1: Mister McHottie

As hot as Mister McHottie is, this was probably the book I liked the least in comparison to the other books in the series. Overall, it’s still a book with parts I know I will probably reread again. Chase was a closely family friend, best friend to Sia’s twin brothers, but an incident before college involving a Bratwurst Wagon led to a bad breakup. It was funny and I laughed through most of the book but Chase and Ambrosia (Bro/Sia) had a really intense kind of love–the hate you so much I want to smash your head in then make love to you after–and I wasn’t really into it. They do have great chemistry and can be pretty hilarious when paired with her twins. The book moved so quickly, I was more than half way finished before I realized how far I was into the book.

“If you sleep with any of my friends, so help me, I will rub ghost chilis all over your mouth guard, smear Icy Hot in your cup, and I’ll call ESPN and tell them you still wet the bed.”

#2: Stud in the Stacks

Knox is the swoon-worthy kind of lead. He’s a former exotic dancer and the book opens to his hot moves. It was pretty funny. He’s a librarian and supports causes trying to eliminate literacy. He loves romance novels and he’s a blogger, Mr. Romance. Did I mention that he was a librarian? This book was great! How could I not fall for the hot librarian who advocates for romance novels and matches people with romance novels? He’s nearly perfect! I liked the plot of this one a lot and the surprises had me laughing. Parker’s vulnerability and insecurities were things I identified with so I was rooting for her to kick butt at her high school reunion, with or without Knox. I loved how Knox loved her for just being her and helped to boost her self-esteem.

“I do believe I finally understand the term hot mess. And that’s me. A total hot mess.”

#3: Rockaway Bride

Being one of the first Pippa Grant novels I read, Rockaway Bride remains close to my heart. It helped to solidify Pippa Grant as one of my favorite steamy rom com authors (the other being Kayley Loring). Being taken hostage by Dax, which quickly unravels and spirals out of hand for Dax, might have been the best thing to happen to Willow. It ends up being a trip to unleash her true self, the one who likes the bad boy and taking risks, the one she’s kept locked away so her mother would never have to worry about her. Her bucket list is insightful about who she really is and it’s also inspiring. I also cannot forget the nuns on a bus Dax and Willow encounter–who would have thought?! Ha… Of the four novels, this was probably the most consistent book for me. If it hadn’t dragged a bit at the end, I think this would have been a near 5 star for me.

“I want to be brave. And bold. I want to have stories to tell my grandchildren someday. Okay, maybe not this story, but a girl has to start somewhere.”

#4: The Hero and the Hacktivist

I liked Eloise immediately when I first read Rockaway Bride. I was excited to learn more about her after reading the the first three books. She projects this overly sexual persona but is also very secretive. She’s always propositioning the Berger Twins (Sia’s brothers), Parker’s brothers, and even Willow’s stepbrothers, but only Rhett (Parker’s Navy SEAL brother who keeps appearing out of nowhere in the second book…heh) has taken her up on her offer. The funny but albeit heartbreaking thing about this is that she’s completely surprised that he does and keeps wondering why. In this book we find out why Eloise seems to keep people at a distance, and yes, she’s the hacktivist in the title. The beginning of the book is pretty hilarious but as it began to wind down, it got more serious (e.g. bad guys looking for her, Rhett beating people up, knives in warmers). It was still funny in places, but didn’t keep the same tone it had in the beginning. I still enjoyed it, of course.

“…the closer you let people, the more they let you down and the greater possibility you’ll let them down too.”

So…how about those covers?

I appreciate the consistency the new covers bring, from the playful candy colored backgrounds to the fonts utilized in the titles. Now, it looks and feels like the books are part of a single series as opposed to being standalone novels. Random observations…For The Hero and the Hacktivist, there’s emphasis on his biceps and the addition of dog tags–here, now you’re a SEAL! And the rockstar? Let’s give you a guitar! Ha…Both covers are similar in that aspect. I think I’ll miss the old Mister McHottie cover and the Rockaway Bride cover. The first one because it’s a bit of a tease and the latter because of the mood and filter used. Otherwise, I do like the new covers.