The Girl Band Series (2017-2018)

by Pippa Grant
(Reviews at the end; This might be a somewhat long post.)

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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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.

Love at First (2021)

by Kate Clayborn
ASN/ISBN: 9781496725196
Publication: February 23, 2021


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

After inheriting his estranged uncle’s apartment, Will returns to the apartment and unexpectedly meets Nora, the girl he saw only once but never stopped thinking about. Will doesn’t understand why his uncle would leave him the apartment and immediately makes it clear that he has no plans to live there, instead opting to turn it into a vacation rental. Nora and the rest of the building residents are vehemently against this, so Will finds himself at odds with the girl he never forgot. Despite their feud, Nora and Will are constantly thinking about the other as well as hoping to catch a glimpse of the other.

I’d been reading so many books where things between the leads get hot and heavy fast, where emotions (and limbs) just fling off the pages, that I’d forgotten what a slow, subtle romance could do, what it could feel like. It didn’t immediately take hold of me, and my interest may have waned a bit in the beginning, but then I began to fall into its rhythm–slow and steady. Rather than an onslaught of passion, it was whispers of attraction. It was the little things Will and Nora noticed about one another–a thumb silently rubbing a palm, the pink indentations from wearing glasses–that slowly seeped its way in. Before I knew it, I was smiling, and then there were flutters, the zings appearing and multiplying as Will and Nora gravitated toward one another despite their current predicament. The book left a lasting impression, one filled with a long sigh of contentment.

This is a slow read, but one that is so good. If you have the patience and the time, you’ll be rewarded with a quiet romance filled with quirky side characters–Dr. Gerald Abraham was my absolute favorite. The story alternates between Will and Nora so you know exactly how they feel about one another, how each struggles with their feelings, and why the problem isn’t necessarily one easily contributed to just communication. They’re both still processing grief in their own ways. Nora is protective of her found family but also resistant to change. Will hides his wounds and is hesitant to start a relationship despite how attracted he is to Nora. There are things each has to work through before they can decide what the next step is. Clayborn’s beautiful prose provides us a snapshot into their lives and I am so glad got to read it.

Girl Gone Viral (2020)

by Alisha Rai
ASIN/ISBN: 9780062877888
Publication: April 1, 2020
Series: Modern Love #2

Katrina is a former model who has since left that life behind and now tries to stay out of the camera as much as possible. After sharing her table with a stranger at a cafe, Katrina finds her privacy invaded when the whole thing is posted on social media in real-time. To escape the potential media frenzy, her bodyguard–whom she’s secretly in love with–takes her to his hometown so they can figure out her next steps.

Recently, I was skimming books I liked for my top 5 favorite romance tropes for a post and I came across Girl Gone Viral. It was one of the books I read right after overcoming a long reading slump. Skimming the book turned into a full-blown reread. I wondered if its effects on me had worn off but quickly realized I had nothing to worry about. It still put a goofy smile on my face 8 months and many romance novels later.

The Modern Love series focuses on love in the modern age with apps to swipe right, social media, and meet cutes going viral. Rai addresses the darker aspect of social media and issues around privacy. The conversations in the book surrounding this were thoughtful in presentation. It’s a bit overwhelming to know that anything you do can potentially be uploaded somewhere for entertainment. That’s always bothered me when someone is live posting as things happen to someone or to people around them. There is always the potential that your privacy is being invaded because someone decides to share a picture or a video online. Maybe sharing without audio/video and images might not be so bad but I am not a fan of sharing things that might make people easily identifiable without permission. For individuals like Katrina who value their privacy, this can be both frightening and overwhelming. It’s common decency to think twice about what or who you’re posting about.

A few things about Girl Gone Viral make it stand out among the romance novels I’ve read. Girl Gone Viral remains one of the most racially/ethnically diverse romance novels I’ve read up to date. One would think the diversity that exists in the real world would be reflected in the more books being published, but that isn’t the case. Katrina is biracial, half-White and half-Thai, and Jas is Punjabi but also with Mexican heritage. They’re both considered non-traditional leads in a romance novel, which shouldn’t be the case but is. Jas’s family is one of my favorite parts of the book. His entire family including mom, dad, brother, and Grandpa are all likeable. Although Jas’s relationship with his family is somewhat strained, they all love each other dearly. The person he seems to get along the least with is his grandpa but it’s mostly because they’re both so much alike.

The romance itself is another aspect of the novel I adored. A lot of my original review posted on Goodreads still rings true, especially as it relates to the progression of Katrina and Jas’s relationship. It isn’t all passion and hormones. Their romance is slow but they both have this sweet innocence that makes it so easy to root for them. They’re both adults but lack more recent relationship experience. Both constantly wonder and second guess about whether the other person feels at all the same because they don’t believe their feelings are returned. I thought it was endearing. They’re always thinking of each other as well. Katrina wants to do things for Jas, and Jas always tries to make sure Katrina has everything she needs. How more thoughtful could two people be? The ending remains as sweet as ever.

It might not necessarily be for everyone because the beginning is slow but it’s worth it to get to the end. It’s a well-written novel with a diverse cast of characters with two endearing leads suffering from what each believes is unrequited love and are caught in a slow-burn romance. Alisha Rai knows how to bring on the zings while also addressing meaningful topics like romance in the age of social media and viral posts. I am looking forward to her next installment of the series with First Comes Like out on February 16.



The Mask of Mirrors (2021)

by M.A. Carrick
ISBN: 9780356515175
Publication: January 19, 2021
Series: Rook & Rose #1



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

Along with her sister Tess, Ren returns to the city she was born in to work a long con. Pretending to be a long lost cousin, Ren shows up at House Traementis, hoping to be added onto the family registrar so she and Tess can live off the fortunes of the family and never want for anything again. However, living among the elite is nearly as dangerous as being a river rat. Ren isn’t the only one living underneath a mask, nor is she likely the most dangerous.

The world is complex, making for a rich experience with well rounded characters. Political intrigue is core to the story, with players wearing multiple faces. The noble families play nice with each other but many are trying to undermine the other to ensure the success of their individual houses. With the noble families controlling the wealth, social unrest is also rampant due both to racism and classism. There are LGBTQIA+ characters. The head of houses can be male or female so heirs can be sons or daughters. The first half establishes a solid foundation and hints at the events of the second half of the book but it’s also a painfully slow burn. The initial focus is on Ren’s insertion into noble society, establishing and cultivating the relationships necessary for her to be included in House Traementis’s family registrar. It takes a long time for much to happen beyond this. I grew frustrated and impatient because of the promise of “nightmare magic weaving through the city” and “Ren at its heart” yet there was not much related to these, or the connections were at first unclear until I got to the second half of the book. The second half is more eventful but it takes patience to get there.

Religion and the magic system are crucial to the story but were confusing to me. While magic is mentioned in the book description, I kept wondering if it would show up at all or if it was outlawed since it took a while to appear. When it does, Carrick tries to be as detailed as possible but it’s still difficult to understand, especially numinatria. Numinatria required a more extensive explanation than what the book provided. Visuals would have been especially helpful here. The best I could do was picture it being similar to a pentagram but more complicated–more lines, more symbols, more connections, more meanings. In addition, I wasn’t really sure about the actual importance of the actual masks even though duality and masks were running themes. The purpose of the masks were not clear to me and how they fit into the Vraszenian religion.

Ren is a likeable heroine and can even seem too perfect, but I didn’t mind. She is smart and calculating, both qualities needed to successfully pull off this con. Her decisions are always strategic, motivated by securing her family’s future and possibly more. While Ren is the character we get to know best, there are multiple viewpoints from a slew of characters including Ren’s sister Tess, the head of House Traementis Donaia Traementis, heir Leato Traementis, hawk captain Grey Serrado, crime lord Derossi Vargo, and additional side characters. It can be a bit difficult to keep track of them all.

The Mask of Mirrors is a good book if you have patience and have the glossary bookmarked–you’ll need to flip back and forth until you’ve familiarized yourself with the world Carrick has built. After I finished reading it, I needed time to think about whether I really liked it. Because the first half didn’t meet expectations with its uneventful and slow pace, I was still on the fence but working through the details helped. I realized I liked it a lot more than I thought I did. Swiping back through the pages and reviewing the pieces helped me to make more sense of certain things. To fully appreciate the intricacies, I think the book warrants another reading–yes, all 600+ pages of it. I’ll probably do it again soon.

Meet Cute (2019)

by Helena Hunting
ASIN/ISBN: B07G73X7H2
Publication: April 9, 2019
Series: N/A


Kailyn is the fangirl in all of us…if we were lucky enough to have our famous crush literally fall over us and then be horrified when 1) we blurt out, “I love you,” 2) ask for an autograph, and 3) find out we share a class after this embarrassing debacle…er..meet cute, I mean. If only…right? In the present, Kailyn has successfully built her career as a trust lawyer and unexpectedly meets Dax (the aforementioned famous crush) again when he walks into her law firm seeking her help.

Sometimes there is a need for a book where it’s easy to see what’s coming, something that doesn’t pull any extra punches. Meet Cute was the right book for me at the right time. After reading so many books with “unexpected” surprises, I needed something fairly straight forward that would still provide me with zings and make me swoon. I didn’t realize that was what I needed until I started reading Meet Cute. Sometimes, things are exactly as they seem. The hero is really the hero. The villain is the villain. The butler really did do it. Kailyn is smart, doesn’t take any sh*t, and genuine in her willingness to help those who need her. Dax is a responsible and attentive individual doing what the best he can as his sister Emme’s guardian. Emme is a sweet kid trying to understand her new “normal.” All three have wonderful chemistry together. It’s easy to root for them for a happy ending.

In a time where the unexpected is expected, predictable novels like Meet Cute become the unexpected. It included many of my favorite tropes such as enemies-to-lovers, the cute kid, and a (former) idol falling in love with an average person. It’s a positive reflection on Hunting’s writing that she stirred my emotions and kept them aflutter by just greasing the wheel rather than creating something entirely different. I recommend this novel for anyone looking for a good romance without all the turbulence–it might get a bit bumpy but you’ll get to the other side just fine. It’s worth noting that I loved the epilogue–probably one of my favorites now. (I’m putting out a call for a meet cute and this particular epilogue IRL–ahem RM, ahem Jin)

Romance Interlude 2.3

Prince of the Other Worlds Series Overview
by Kara Lockharte & Cassie Alexander
Series Overall:

**Spoilers are going to run a bit rampant in this. I might also be more sarcastic than usual.**

This interlude focuses on the paranormal romance/urban fantasy series from Kara Lockharte and Cassie Alexander. It’s a quartet with an imaginative plot but also felt like a patchwork of different movies and shows. Rifts, doorways between realms, appear and monsters come into the mortal world (think Pacific Rim) while a rag tag team of paranormal beings try to prevent their entrance and the destruction of earth (think Ghostbusters without ghosts and the team is made up of a witch, dragon shifter, 2 werewolves, and a human with machine parts–pretty much a cyborg but mostly human). There is a cheese loving cat and a fire that erases memories of the supernatural as well as reverses the destruction caused by the supernatural to a certain extent (think the kids show Miraculous and Cat Noir’s miraculous who loves cheese). Of course, I didn’t mind it too much because it was good–at least in the beginning. While all this is going on human nurse Andie Ngo and dragon shifter billionaire Damian Blackwood fall for one another. It’s instalust/instalove under the guise of having found their mate with lots of open door bedroom scenes that sometimes aren’t in the bedroom at all.


Dragon Called (2020)
ASIN/ISBN: B086XLV1XQ
Publication: May 3, 2020
Goodreads Summary
Series: Prince of the Other Worlds #1

The first book was a fun read, introducing me to Andi, Damian, and the rest of the gang. Andi’s personality shined here and she was quite witty. I immediately liked her. While life has not always been kind to her, she is not exactly the woe-is-me type and she still cares about the well-being of others. Being a nurse is a perfect occupation for her. This book had some funny scenes and I liked some of the banter between Damian and Andi.


Dragon Destined (2020)
ASIN/ISBN: B086WX1QLW
Publication: May 17, 2020
Goodreads Summary
Series: Prince of the Other Worlds #2

The second book is more angsty with a remedied case of noble idiocy (Damian) that has now been overridden by a fear of being hurt again (Andi). What is noble idiocy you say? It’s the I love you but I’ll only hurt you syndrome which leads whoever is the noble idiot to then end up hurting who it is they love under the ruse that this is what is best even though it was to protect that individual from getting hurt in the first place. Andi is fighting her feelings for Damian and Damian is wondering why he put himself in this position. Monsters are still trying to come over from the other side(s) and Andi is still searching for her brother, although she might be getting closer this time.


Dragon Fated (2020)
ASIN/ISBN: B088C45KFP
Publication: May 31, 2020
Goodreads Summary
Series: Prince of the Other Worlds #3

The plot thickens in Dragon Fated but it gets overshadowed by how frisky the leads are. I’m guesstimating that nearly half of the book was all sex. Just about every time Andi and Damian were together, they were going at it. I get it. After so much time away from each other (I think it’s only been a few weeks from the time they first meet in the first book), it’s natural to want to be all over each other; however, the plot is originally what led me to continue with the series and I was disappointed I wasn’t getting my questions answered.


Dragon Mated (2020)
ASIN/ISBN: B089782J7L
Publication: October 13, 2020
Goodreads Summary
Series: Prince of the Other Worlds #4

Things got even more complicated in the final book. There were so many different things going on that it felt like the book spread itself too thin. The ending left me with more questions and the answers given to my other questions were not satisfying at all. The closure didn’t feel much like closure to me. All of a sudden people who probably wouldn’t work together were working together (what?! why?) even though the reasoning was somewhat flimsily established earlier. Sure, it’s possible that this can happen–you know, the enemy of my enemy is my friend–but I didn’t really believe it. Part of my disappointment is that I was hoping the fourth book would take a different direction. Book 3 hinted at the possibility of entering into a different realm and that doesn’t happen, so I was disappointed. Now I feel like there’s a loose ending floating somewhere.

Overall, this was an imaginative series that sets up the possibilities of additional books potentially set in different realms. It’s also possible for more Damion and Andi (Dandi? Andian?) centric stories. Despite having passed on the series a few times in my list of recommendations, I took a chance on it. I’m glad I did because at least the first two books were entertaining. I was disappointed in the last two books. I was left with an ending I didn’t really like, which then subsequently made me frustrated with the series.

A Very Friendly Valentine’s Day (2021)

by Kayley Loring
ASIN/ISBN: B08RCZ2NK1
Publication: January 14, 2021
Series: Standalone – connected to A Very Bossy Christmas (2020)

(Review at the end)

Get ready to spend Valentine’s Day with Eddie and Birdie!

A Very Friendly Valentine’s Day
is out today.

Goodreads
Amazon: US | UK | CA | AU

EDDIE: Cancel your dinky little roomette on the train. I’m booking us two of the big bedroom suites. 

BIRDIE: I’ll cancel it AFTER you’ve booked the other sleeper rooms. And reimburse you.

EDDIE: Don’t worry about it. Just cancel your tickets. I got this. Round trip. I’m on the Amtrak website right now.

BIRDIE: You don’t have to leave NYC when I do! You’ll hardly be able to spend any time with your Instagram girlfriend that you’ve never met!

EDDIE: It’s fine. She’ll be fine with it. Cancel your tickets.

BIRDIE: You aren’t going to stop texting me until I’ve canceled them, are you?

EDDIE: Damn right I’m not. Just do it. You can thank me later.

***

EDDIE: Um. Did you cancel your tickets?

BIRDIE: Yes, Edward. I canceled them.

EDDIE: Okay, because it turns out they only had one Family Bedroom from LA to Chicago. But the good news is I booked it for us. It’s the biggest room they had. The bad news is I booked it for us. And it’s the only sleeper room they have left now.

EDDIE: In related news, there was also only one room left from Chicago to New York. 

EDDIE: Hands up if you’re excited! *man raising hand emoji*

BIRDIE: I am so mad at you right now.

***

BIRDIE: I’ve compiled a list of ground rules re shared train bedroom. Check your email, please read carefully, and refer to it again on the ninth of February. Thank you.

EDDIE: *nerd face emoji* Received. I have some notes. 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Before writing steamy romantic comedy novels, Kayley Loring got a BFA in creative writing from a Canadian university and had a fifteen-year career as a screenwriter in Los Angeles (under a different name). She mostly wrote PG-13 family comedies that studios would pay her lots of money for and then never make into movies. In 2017 she decided to move to the Pacific Northwest and write about all the fun stuff that she wasn’t allowed to write about in those PG-13 scripts. Now she’s breathing cleaner air and writing dirtier words. It’s an adjustment she’s happily getting used to.

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REVIEW

**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.**

Best friends Birdie and Eddie straddle the line between friendship and possibly something more. While both are attracted to each other, Birdie doesn’t want to ruin a 6-year friendship and Eddie is trying really hard to stay faithful to his hot Instagram model girlfriend whom he has never met IRL. Separately, they make plans to head to New York for Valentine’s Day–Eddie to meet his girlfriend and Birdie to attend a Tedx talk–but decide to make the trip together.

A Very Friendly Valentine’s Day is short and sweet (short as in over 200 pages but under 300) Because it’s short, there isn’t a lot of room to digress from our leading couple. As a friends-to-lovers romance, this book hits all the good stuff from the angst of being in close quarters to the jealousy that occurs when someone tries to hit on your best friend…the one who you are very definitely not in love with. The chemistry and the angst start right away, making it easy to root for Birdie and Eddie. Missing was the endearing and very hilarious family bantering, although we hear from Eddie’s mom and his brother as well as get appearances from his cousins. However, as Eddie’s cousin Billy laments in the book, a lot of holidays like Christmas and New Year’s can be spent with family but Valentine’s Day is often about having a significant other so it makes sense that families only make brief appearances in this particular book. (Not that Valentine’s Day can’t be about friends and other relationships–I’m all for it. I’m just repeating what Billy said. Don’t shoot me.)

As a fan of rom coms, A Very Friendly Valentine’s Day is an example of why Loring has quickly become one of my favorite authors. I was reading this at 2AM because I couldn’t put it down. I had to self-ostracize to the living room because I kept laughing too much. If you’re a fan of friends-to-lovers and laughing (because laughing is one of life’s best cures!), this is the perfect novel to head into Valentine’s Day with.

Side note: As soon as I was done, I had to go reread A Very Bossy Christmas again (yup…you read that right, reread again as in I’ve already reread it a few times) because I needed some more laughs. Now that the single Cannavale brothers have had their stories, I very much need a story about Maddie’s niece Piper. I love her.

We Hunt the Flame (2019)

by Hafsah Faizal
ASIN/ISBN: 9780374311544
Publication: May 14, 2019
Series: Sands of Arawiya #1

To feed her village, Zafira dons the cloak of the Hunter to bring back meat from the Arz, a forest that ensnares all those who enter it…but Zafira returns time and again. Nasir is the Sultan’s assassin, loyally killing by request to gain his father’s approval and to protect those he pretends not to care about. Their paths cross when Zafira is tasked with retrieving a magical object to return magic to Arawiya and Nasir is sent to retrieve it from her.

It took a few false starts before I was finally able to get past the first chapter. The first part of the book is an introduction to our characters and Arawiya. Faizal creates a complex world, providing tales of its creation as well as background on events that led to the current state of the land. It was a bit slow for me but quickly picked up when Zafira sets out to retrieve the magical object. In the second half, as the search begins, the book becomes a lot more interesting; this is where all the fun starts. I couldn’t put it down after that.

Amidst the battle between good and evil is the struggle over one’s identity, and this was the more interesting fight (although not as exciting). Zafira and Nasir both have deeply held fears of not being accepted for who they are. Zafira pretends to be a hunter because she cares for her people but her good deeds wouldn’t be enough to save her if it is discovered that she is a woman. Nassir has not known love since his mother’s death. He’s been corrupted by his father who instilled in him that compassion and love are weaknesses that can only hurt him, so he hides them instead. Nassir isn’t necessarily looking for redemption as much as he is seeking acceptance for who he has become. In donning these disguises for the world, Zafira and Nasir also begin to lose parts of themselves. The journey to find the magical object presents both of them with the opportunity to choose who they want to be. Is it the disguise they wear or is it who lies underneath? Or, can they be both?

I enjoyed the novel. With the loss that many of the characters already faced, Faizal was able to beautifully capture the emotions associated with those losses into words, at times making it feel like she put my own feelings of loss onto the page as well. I found Zafira to be an admirable individual, and I really wanted to give Nasir a hug–someone, the man needs a hug! I look forward to We Free the Stars, which will be released on January 19, 2021. I’m crossing my fingers and hoping it will be similar to the last half of We Hunt the Flame.

Girl on the Ferris Wheel (2021)

by Julie Halpern & Len Vlahos
ISBN: 9781250169396
Publication: January 12, 2021


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

Contemporary YA is not a genre I typically read unless bloggers I follow recommend it (see…bloggers are influential and contribute to the bookish world going round, woohoo!).  With a glowing review and an interesting synopsis, I may be persuaded to pick it up. I don’t know if I would have picked The Girl on the Ferris Wheel had I not had access to an ARC. I’m glad I did because Girl on the Ferris Wheel turned out to be really good.

Halper and Vlaho took me on an emotional ride while navigating first love with Dmitri and Emilia.  It reverted me to high school when insecurities were often at their pinnacle and love was thought to conquer everything.  They successfully captured the ins and outs of a relationship, from the butterflies and sparks to the tears that often accompany the anguish and confusion.  While the book focuses on first love and a first relationship, many of the messages that can be taken away from Dmitri and Emilia’s relationship is universal to all relationships: relationships are hard and communication is key.  And, oftentimes, to put our best foot forward in a relationship, we have to learn to love ourselves first.

Emilia’s battle with depression was an added layer to her character and subsequently the relationship. I thought it was depicted fairly well, providing both the perspective of the person suffering from depression as well as the person in love with someone suffering from depression.  Emilia already had a lot of self-doubts but the depression seemed to exacerbate those doubts while Dmitri kept trying to show her how much he loved her. Experience with depression allowed me to connect easily with Emilia but Dmitri provided me a glimpse of what it feels like to be the person on the other side. It can be difficult for all those involved.

(A fast list of gripes and likes.) I hated the way Emilia treated her dad, and I had to remind myself that at that age sometimes I could be a little sh*t too. Some of the things she said about her guidance counselor also annoyed me despite all the things he did for her. Yia Yia, Dmitri’s grandma, was one of my favorite characters.  Her wisdom at poignant moments in the book was greatly welcomed.  Janina exemplified what a best friend should often be, someone who is supportive and listens but willing to give a push when needed.  I was back and forth about the inclusion of Dmitri’s family, particularly his father, being racist and anti-black, because I’m not sure how much value, if any, that added to the narrative. It appeared like it was meant to add to the detail of his father being ultra conservative. There is also an abundance of Harry Potter references–not one or two but scattered in nearly every chapter.

Overall, I think Halper and Vlaho pretty much nailed it.  It’s written well and I greatly enjoyed it. There were moments that made me laugh, moments I could relate to, and moments that made me shake my head because I recalled those feelings so well. In terms of age level, it might fall at the lower end of YA but that doesn’t necessarily mean it can’t be enjoyed by those older—again, I enjoyed it a lot. 

Romance Interlude 2.2

Along with Pippa Grant, Kayley Loring is quickly becoming one of my go-to romance authors. I discovered Kayley Loring last year and have been picking up her novels here and there. Fans of romance novels cannot go wrong with reading just about anything from Loring. Because the books below are not part of an official series (at least the last time I checked), I’m calling them standalone but the characters are connected to each other and make appearances. This is actually quite timely because Loring has a book coming out on January 14 for Valentine’s Day that I am really excited about, A Very Friendly Valentine’s Day (cover reveal and blurb here). I will be posting a review for that one as well. Until then, here are mini-reviews.


Sleeper (2019)
by Kayley Loring
ASIN/ISBN: B082H3TTBJ
Publication: December 12, 2019
Goodreads Summary
Series: Standalone

One liner: Willa has had a crush on her brother’s best friend Shane since she was a kid, and she’s just been hired to be the new nanny.

Willa is smart and has always known what she wants to do. She’s also a bit eccentric, which is part of the reason why I really liked her and also part of the reason why the kids adored her. When she and Shane meet again, there is bantering and there is a whole lot of chemistry. Shane is a great dad so I had heart eyes throughout most of the book for him. While I liked the characters, what sold me on this book is the writing. One of favorite quotes of 2020 comes from this book, and it’s beautiful. I’ll repeat it here because I really want to and I’ll be repeat this some more later too. How could I not fall more in love with Shane after this quote? (Sigh…)

“I already know that every time with her, it will be perfect, but I could do a million takes and never feel like I got it just right. Because I didn’t get to be her first. Because she wasn’t my first. But if I can be her best and last, I might come close to showing her that it’s the first time that anything I’ve ever done with a woman has felt this good and real.”


Charmer (2020)
by Kayley Loring
ASIN/ISBN: B086C9587P
Publication: March 25, 2020
Goodreads Summary
Series: Standalone

One liner: Nico has a crush on waitress Kat and asks her and her family to go on tour with him when he realizes he doesn’t want to be away from her that long.

Charmer didn’t appeal to me in the same way as Sleeper did. I liked it, but not nearly as much. While I liked both Nico and Kat, I felt like I knew him better as a character than I did Kat. I didn’t seem to connect with their romance as much either, maybe because I kept comparing him to Shane. I know it’s unfair to Nico’s character but Shane is a lot to live up to (please see quote above for reference…hahaha). Nico is still a sweetheart though. Grammie, who also makes an appearance in Sleeper, is awesome! I love her! My favorite aspect of Charmer is probably the video diaries. I like these a lot more than the journals being kept, even those in Sleeper.


Troublemaker (2020)
by Kayley Loring
ASIN/ISBN: B08CTHDLQ3
Publication: August 13, 2020
Goodreads Summary
Series: Standalone

One liner: Emilia finds out that the man she had a sparks with at a club and can’t stop thinking about is actually the father of one of her current students.

Before I begin, please see the quote above from Sleeper again. Please understand that this mini-review, like the one for Charmer, was also influenced by how much I enjoyed Sleeper (hehehe). I read them one after the other so that couldn’t be helped. I would rank Troublemaker to be on par with Charmer in terms of how much I enjoyed the story, but probably a little better. After reading the first two, this one was a bit of fresh air. Putting aside the whole famous director thing, I found this book to have the more realistic relationship, with adults trying to navigate an adult relationship rather than immediate sweeping off of feet. Alex’s son was pretty adorable as well. The best part is that Grammie and her awesomeness make an appearance.