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.

Today Tonight Tomorrow (2020)

by Rachel Lynn Solomon
ASN/ISBN: 9781534440241
Publication: July 14, 2020

**May contain spoilers. Please proceed with caution.**

When Neil is announced as the school’s valedictorian, it puts a dent in Rowan’s diabolical daydream of having him finally bow to her as the more formidable opponent. Now, she has only one last chance to beat him, the school’s annual scavenger hunt for graduating seniors known as the Howl. The competition takes an unexpected turn when she finds out a group of seniors are out to eliminate both her and Neil, turning the academic rivals into an unlikely team. Spending time working with each other as opposed to against one another has Rowan reevaluating her perception of Neil, seeing him in a different (possibly more rosy-colored) light.

As a fan of Sleepless in Seattle, Rachel Lynn Solomon had me at Seattle but my adoration of the book is all Solomon’s doing. “It was like…magic” mixed with a hefty dose of nostalgia when I first read it last summer. It remained much the same when I reread it recently. During my first reading, words evaded me when I tried writing a review. Even months after, I was unable to express how I felt about my best read of 2020. As May comes around with graduation ceremonies abound, I finally found the words to write something coherent.

Today Tonight Tomorrow completely and unexpectedly overwhelmed me. It felt like I was thrown back into high school. I was flooded with nostalgia as I simultaneously lived Rowan’s last day of high school and recalled celebrating my last days–mine was nowhere near as exciting as the Howl but I did get one last hurrah with friends.

Rowan and Neil were well-rounded characters. We learn about their hopes, dreams, and fears. I couldn’t help but adore them as they turned from rivals into an unexpected team. Initially, they have a one-dimensional relationship due to their rivalry but teaming up forces them into a different relationship that allows them to discover different sides of the other. While the events of the book take place in the span of 24 hours, the feelings that blossom in a single night don’t feel new at all–just newly uncovered. The feelings have been nurtured throughout their rivalry, and the layers of their relationship are now being peeled back, or maybe more accurately ripped off like a bandaid considering the time frame. With the book told strictly from Rowan’s point of view, it was entertaining to observe her thoughts and feelings, to see the different stages of her discovery, and to witness her initial shock that (gasp!) Neil is a person with feelings (I’m completely exaggerating here), that he could be someone she would feel anything other than antagonism toward. It was deeply satisfying.

There are so many things I admire about Rowan, including her passion and drive to go after what she wants (like bringing Neil down). One of my favorite scenes is when her friends tell her that for someone she dislikes, Neil occupies an alarming amount of her thoughts and time. Rowan thinks they’re clearly out of their minds for suggesting she feels anything beyond wanting to take him down. I couldn’t help but also agree that her friends were onto something. I also admire her commitment to her writing aspirations, which leads to Rowan explaining her love of romance novels. I agree with her assessment of the genre and the less than warm reception it generally receives. Solomon, through Rowan, helped me be comfortable with my love for romance novels even as my friends cringed when I (cautiously) confessed my undying love for the genre.

In an interview, she says the book is an homage/a love letter to Seattle. What a love letter it is! I’ve never been to Seattle, but I’ve always wanted to visit one day. Solomon created a sense of urgency to visit the rainy city, as though I should have done it yesterday. She does a tremendous job creating a sense of place with the vivid descriptions of the many places, both touristy spots and hidden gems, throughout Seattle. All this is possible because Solomon isn’t just a writer, she’s a conjurer of images and feelings, able to stir my long-forgotten memories of high school to life and make Rowan and Neil feel alive.

Today Tonight Tomorrow solidified Solomon as an automatic buy author for me. If you’re still wondering if I recommend Today Tonight Tomorrow, then I haven’t done a good job of divulging my love for this novel. I hope you’re itching to read it, even if you’ve already read it before. It’s my chef’s kiss of 2020!

To deal with the feelings you might have after finishing the book (book coma anyone?), here’s a short list of things that might help. I wish I had prepared them in advance. You know what they–whoever they are–say, “Hindsight is always 20/20.”

GRADUATiON PLAYLiST

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Twisted Love (2021)

by Ana Huang
ASIN/ISBN: B08Y6DCS1Y
Publication: April 29, 2021
Series: Twisted #1

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Also available in Special Edition Paperback
Cover designed by E. James Designs


DESCRIPTION

He has a heart of ice…but for her, he’d burn the world.

Alex Volkov is a devil blessed with the face of an angel and cursed with a past he can’t escape.

Driven by a tragedy that has haunted him for most of his life, his ruthless pursuits for success and vengeance leave little room for matters of the heart.

But when he’s forced to look after his best friend’s sister, he starts to feel something in his chest:

A crack.
A melt.
A fire that could end his world as he knew it.

***

Ava Chen is a free spirit trapped by nightmares of a childhood she can’t remember.

But despite her broken past, she’s never stopped seeing the beauty in the world…including the heart beneath the icy exterior of a man she shouldn’t want.

Her brother’s best friend.
Her neighbor.
Her savior and her downfall.

Theirs is a love that was never supposed to happen—but when it does, it unleashes secrets that could destroy them both…and everything they hold dear.

Twisted Love is a brother’s best friend/opposites attract romance with plenty of heat and no cliffhangers. Recommended for 18+ due to adult language and explicit content.


Coming Soon!
Twisted Games #2
Releasing July 29
(click for Goodreads Links)


EXCERPT

Something smelled delicious, like spice and heat. I wanted to wrap it around me like a blanket.

I snuggled closer to the source, enjoying the strong, solid warmth beneath my cheek. I didn’t want to wake up, but I’d promised Bridget I would volunteer at a local pet shelter with her this morning, before my afternoon shift at the gallery.  

I allowed myself one more minute of coziness—had my bed always been this big and soft—before I opened my eyes and yawned. 

Weird. My room looked different. No photograph prints papering the walls, no vase of sunflowers by the bed. And did my bed just move by itself?

My eyes latched onto the broad expanse of bare skin beneath me, and my stomach dropped. I looked up, up—straight into a pair of familiar green eyes. Eyes that stared back at me with no hint of the humor from last night. 

He flicked his gaze down. I followed it…and realized, to my abject horror, that I was touching Alex Volkov’s dick. Unintentionally, and he had on sweats, but still.

I. Was. Touching. Alex. Volkov’s. Dick.

And it was hard.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ana Huang is an author of primarily steamy New Adult and contemporary romance. Her books contain diverse characters and emotional, sometimes twisty roads toward HEAs (with plenty of banter and spice sprinkled in). Besides reading and writing, Ana loves traveling, is obsessed with hot chocolate, and has multiple relationships with fictional boyfriends.

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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.**

I enjoyed reading Huang’s previous new adult works, the If Love series, so I was excited to see her coming out with a new book. Opposites attract? Forbidden love/brother’s best friend trope? Count me in! Just as the title suggests, the book is twisted in all kinds of ways–in love, in life, in everything. While I was conflicted about the book as a whole, the parts I did like were simply titillating.

Ava is a “Pollyanna” who finds herself intrigued and ultimately falling for a dark and vengeful Eric, who explicitly tells her that she’s not his type and that she shouldn’t romanticize him. His warnings, of course, fall to deaf ears. Who would hear his words when Huang has created a seemingly unfeeling, single-minded hot male as the love interest? I’m not a fan of alpha males with their overprotective tendencies and possessiveness–all characteristics of the love interest here–but I can’t be mad at Huang because I knew what kind of love interest I was getting when I picked up the book. It bothered me, but putting that aside, Eric is hot. I mean, look at his eyes on that cover…**swoon** I also liked Ava for being such an optimistic character. She’s sweet and genuinely good-natured and is Eric’s complete opposite. While there is chemistry between the leads, I would have liked a more fine-tuned build up. I ultimately rooted for them because Eric needed good things in his life and she could possibly be that for him. There was some groveling…and that was nice.

The events of the book certainly live up to its title but not every thing seemed necessary to me. It would have been just as twisted had the book focused solely on the main plotline with a supporting subplot or two as opposed to the multitude of things that happen. The main plotline is an interesting one but sometimes I would forget what it was amidst all the other things happening. As much as I enjoyed the book when Huang gets it right–I mean, I relished those parts that I liked (one of my favorite scenes is Ava’s sudden appearance at an alumni gathering and it clearly has Eric hot and bothered)–there was also jumping from one event to the next that interrupted the overall flow of the novel for me. Some felt like unnecessary obstacles that didn’t move the plot forward nor established much about what I already knew about the characters; thus seeming more like filler than anything else. Overall, the book falls smack dab in the middle because the good stuff is really good but then it would be interrupted with other things that were not so good.

THAO (2021)

by Thao Lam
ASN/ISBN: 9781771474320
Publication: April 21, 2021


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

This has been a year of so many great children’s books being published. THAO is one I immediately liked. On the surface, Thao is a simple story about having a name that is continually mispronounced but names hold a lot of power. Our identities are often intertwined with our names and have the ability to negatively affect us when no one seems to get it right; thus, the desire to have a name that is more familiar and easier to pronounce–I am speaking from personal experience. Individuals with unfamiliar names (and potentially even those with unconventionally spelled names) will be able to relate to Thao Lam’s story and will applaud the ending, which encourages individuals to be proud of their name and who they are.

My name was an unusual one in the area I grew up as well as spelled phonetically different from how it is pronounced, so it was hard to get my name write. I always hated the beginning of the school year and when we had substitutes. I desperately wanted to be called Victoria because I was obsessed with a TV show with a heroine named Victoria. I can empathize with Thao’s experience, but it took me a lot longer to be proud of my name. I adored the book and Lam’s illustrations and collages.

Twist of Fate (2021)

by Tia Louise
ASN/ISBN: 9798704702146
Publication: February 22, 2021
Series: Standalone but crossover with other books

**Jump to Review**

A sexy, friends-to-lovers, second-chance romance with a twist by USA Today bestselling author Tia Louise.

$2.99 for a limited time!!
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AUDIO COMING SOON!
Releasing in March and narrated by Sebastian York & Samantha Brentmoor

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DESCRIPTION

To be “just friends” with a guy, you’ve got to follow The Rules:
Don’t touch him unnecessarily.
Don’t share your intimate dreams with him (even if he asks).
Don’t kiss him, and definitely don’t sleep with him.

Scout Dunne and I have been “just friends” since childhood.
He’s everything you could want—sexy, charming, confident—every girl’s wet dream.
Until we broke The Rules.
We broke them in the ocean, in my aunt’s bathroom, in my bed…
It was the hottest week of my life.
I’m one of the few people who knows the first-round NFL draft pick wants more than a life of sports.
Because we’re friends, right?
Not anymore.

Now he’s gone, and I’m trying to get my career back on track.
Mamma said a guy would never put your dreams ahead of his.
But the twist of fate?
It’s something you never see coming.

(TWIST OF FATE is a STAND-ALONE friends-to-lovers, single-parent romance. No cheating. No cliffhanger.)


ALSO AVAILABLE!


EXCERPT

Scout

“It’s been a long time since we danced together.”

She doesn’t look up, but her smile grows. “It was homecoming, first dance of the year.”

“And the last. I still can’t believe you didn’t go to prom with me. All high school romances end at the prom.”

Her nose curls. “We were not a high school romance.”

“We might’ve been. The high school quarterback, all around hot guy who falls for the quiet, bookish future librarian. It’s the perfect setup for a movie.”

“All-around hot guy…” Her brown eyes roll adorably, and I’m glad the tension seems to have melted. “I’m not a future librarian.”

“I know.” I think about that night. “You did promise to have my back, though.”

“Until you broke the rules and kissed me.”

“It was a really good kiss. We should try it again to see if we’ve still got it.”

She steps out of my arms. “I’ve got a job to finish. Then I’m leaving Fireside.”

“Okay.” I shrug. “I’m not going to be here for long. Maybe we could pass the time together. Hang out.” I lean down to catch her eye. “What do you say, Tink?”

“Tink?”

“Tinkerbell. You remind me of her.”

“Does that make you Peter Pan, the eternal man-child?”

“I’m no child.” It comes out a bit hungrier than I intended, and her cheeks turn red so fast.

Should I say oops? I’m sure as hell not taking it back.

“I’ve got to go.”

She does it, too. She walks off, leaving me alone on the dance floor…

© TLM Productions LLC, 2021

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tia Louise is the USA TODAY best-selling, award-winning author of super-hot and sexy romances. All her heroes are alphas with hearts of gold, and all her heroines are the smart, sassy ladies who love them.

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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.**

Twist of Fate is an appropriate title for a book that’s all about how lives can change when least expected. Sometimes the things we want will also change along with what life throws at us. The plot of the book reflects the title along these lines starting with Daisy and Scout’s relationship–or lack of one–when they unexpectedly meet each other again. The twists continue to fall like dominoes from here.

One reason I like a friends-to-lovers stories is because when characters get together at the very beginning, it never feels like their relationship is moving too fast, especially when it’s possible one is in love with the other or they’re both in love with each other right from the start. Louise sets this up really well because in the span of one week, Daisy and Scout can’t keep their hands off each other and I was all for it. There was chemistry and I was rooting for then. I did want more of a backstory about the rules they set up in high school when they kept referring to what happened, but it doesn’t take away too much from the present day storyline. There were some events in the story I wish had been given more time or better explanations. While it can be read as a standalone, there’s a time or two when there was a reference to events that happen in a related book This Much is True (Scout’s brother JR’s book) and it made me wonder what happened or if I was missing something.

Life can change at any moment, and sometimes the things we want may change too. We just need to figure out what we’re willing to do about it. The twists that befall Daisy and Scout aren’t exactly surprising but it was still an enjoyable read.