Wednesday, October 7, 2020

ARC REVIEW: In A Holidaze By: Christina Lauren

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…but thirty-year-old Maelyn Jones is in the midst of a major crisis. She’s living with her mom, hates her boring job, and has yet to make any romantic progress with Andrew, the friend she’s been in love with for the last thirteen years. But perhaps worst of all, this is the last Christmas Mae will be at her favorite place in the world—the Utah cabin where she and her family have spent every holiday since she was born. Devastated as she drives away from the cabin for the final time, Mae throws out what she thinks is a simple wish to the universe: show me what will make me happy. The next thing she knows there’s a screech of tires and metal, followed by Mae gasping awake…on an airplane bound for Utah. Now Mae has the chance to live the holidays all over again but with one disaster after another sending her repeatedly back in time, she has to figure out how to end this strange holiday loop and get Andrew under the mistletoe. Otherwise, she’s going to need a miracle.

I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Is October too early to read a Christmas book? You know what? It's 2020 and I just don't care. I needed some holiday cheer in my life and this book had that in spades. I honestly wasn't sure how I felt about this book for maybe the first 25% of it. I didn't really get a sense of who Maelyn was (other than someone in a dead end job and crushing on someone she thinks she will never get) and the story was kind of meh. I just didn't know how I would feel about the whole Groundhog Day thing. The beginning did move very slowly and her interactions with Andrew didn't leave me with much optimism for their romance. However, after a couple of her "deaths," the romance really revved up and the story just turned into something so sweet. There was so much warmth and chemistry and humor and heart in this story. I loved it. I got to know all the many characters and the friendships between all of them. And there was so much holiday joy! I loved the traditions and the snow and all the fun. It definitely put me in the holiday spirit a whole two months early and I have no issues with that. I also loved Maelyn's growth and her relationship with Andrew. Fantastic read once again by two fantastic women!

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Saturday, October 3, 2020

ARC REVIEW: Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell

Owen Pick’s life is falling apart. In his thirties, a virgin, and living in his aunt’s spare bedroom, he has just been suspended from his job as a geography teacher after accusations of sexual misconduct, which he strongly denies. Searching for professional advice online, he is inadvertently sucked into the dark world of incel—involuntary celibate—forums, where he meets the charismatic, mysterious, and sinister Bryn. Across the street from Owen lives the Fours family, headed by mom Cate, a physiotherapist, and dad Roan, a child psychologist. But the Fours family have a bad feeling about their neighbor Owen. He’s a bit creepy and their teenaged daughter swears he followed her home from the train station one night. Meanwhile, young Saffyre Maddox spent three years as a patient of Roan Fours. Feeling abandoned when their therapy ends, she searches for other ways to maintain her connection with him, following him in the shadows and learning more than she wanted to know about Roan and his family. Then, on Valentine’s night, Saffyre Maddox disappears—and the last person to see her alive is Owen Pick.

I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

I have read a few Lisa Jewell books before and I really enjoyed them. But something about this one was just meh. A seventeen year old girl, Saffyre, is missing. She has connections to Roan, her previous psychologist and Owen, Roan's next door neighbor. The book has three POV's: Saffyre, Owen and Cate (Roan's wife). Cate and Owen's POVs are told through third person, but it's told in present tense (basically, real time). Something about this writing style just turned me off and it made it hard to connect fully with the characters. Saffyre's POV is told in the first person and there is a different timeline. The difference in voices and timelines was a little jarring.

I liked the concept of the missing girl, as well as the incel community. The problem was that the issue with the incel community was never fully developed. It was just . . . there. Mainly, it was used as a way to cast doubt on Owen. I didn't think there was a lot of suspense regarding Saffyre's disappearance either. While I was interested enough to keep reading to find out what happened, there were many periods of the story where I was just kind of bored. There were also a lot of other subplots and so much happening with the story that I didn't feel that any one part of the story really got the attention that it deserved. The end of the book was a bit much. There was so much that happened at the climax of the book and a lot of it came out of nowhere and I didn't feel fully satisfied with the ending. What happened to Saffyre was alluded to throughout so much of the story and yet it wasn't as dramatic as it should have been, given all the references to it. I also thought that the changes with Owen were too sudden and unrealistic for the character. I did actually guess one of the twists, but the surprises were things that just came out of nowhere and didn't really make sense in the grand scheme of things. 

This may just be a case of "it's not you, it's me" since the book does get rave reviews from other readers. In my opinion, I think the premise of this one had a lot of potential, but the author just couldn't quite make it work.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Monday, September 14, 2020


Well Met (Well Met #1)

Emily knew there would be strings attached when she relocated to the small town of Willow Creek, Maryland, for the summer to help her sister recover from an accident, but who could anticipate getting roped into volunteering for the local Renaissance Faire alongside her teenaged niece? Or that the irritating and inscrutable schoolteacher in charge of the volunteers would be so annoying that she finds it impossible to stop thinking about him? The faire is Simon's family legacy and from the start he makes clear he doesn't have time for Emily's lighthearted approach to life, her oddball Shakespeare conspiracy theories, or her endless suggestions for new acts to shake things up. Yet on the faire grounds he becomes a different person, flirting freely with Emily when she's in her revealing wench's costume. But is this attraction real, or just part of the characters they're portraying? This summer was only ever supposed to be a pit stop on the way to somewhere else for Emily, but soon she can't seem to shake the fantasy of establishing something more with Simon, or a permanent home of her own in Willow Creek. 

Wow. I did not expect to love this book as much as I did. I got it specifically because of all the hype and it's been on my Kindle for a while. Since I got the ARC for the sequel, I figure I should finally read this one. Ha. It was AMAZING!! I absolutely loved the characters and the Renaissance Faire setting made want to go to one in the worst way. I was so engrossed in the writing and the setting. Emily is in Willow Creek for a temporary time to help out with her sister and niece after her sister had been in a very bad car accident that left her immobile for a while. She is recovering from a bad breakup with a jerk who dumped her once he graduated from law school and she had ceased to be useful to him. Ugh. Simon is straight laced and an English teacher and a Shakespeare nerd and he was AWESOME. I thought he would be boring and predictable at first, but it turned out that he had a lot more swagger than I thought. I thought the chemistry between these two characters was so steamy and their banter and slow burn romance left me swooning. I did not want this book to end. I can't wait to read the sequel with one of the many awesome supporting characters!

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Well Played (Well Met #2)

Stacey is jolted when her friends Simon and Emily get engaged. She knew she was putting her life on hold when she stayed in Willow Creek to care for her sick mother, but it's been years now, and even though Stacey loves spending her summers pouring drinks and flirting with patrons at the local Renaissance Faire, she wants more out of life. Stacey vows to have her life figured out by the time her friends get hitched at Faire next summer. Maybe she'll even find The One. When Stacey imagined "The One," it never occurred to her that her summertime Faire fling, Dex MacLean, might fit the bill. While Dex is easy on the eyes onstage with his band The Dueling Kilts, Stacey has never felt an emotional connection with him. So when she receives a tender email from the typically monosyllabic hunk, she's not sure what to make of it. Faire returns to Willow Creek, and Stacey comes face-to-face with the man with whom she’s exchanged hundreds of online messages over the past nine months. To Stacey's shock, it isn't Dex—she's been falling in love with a man she barely knows.

I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

I absolutely LOVED Well Met, so it pains me to say that I was very disappointed with this installment of the series. I was happy to be back in the Renaissance Faire setting once again and I did love the character of Stacey. I thought her sadness over feeling stuck in her life and not really knowing what to do next was very relatable. 

The problem I had was that I just didn't care for the romance aspect of the story. Stacey spent a year being catfishes . . . A YEAR! And then when she finds out the truth, she is pissed off for all of five minutes. Then she's fine with it. Not only that, but she is suddenly okay with dating the guy behind the words, despite the fact that she had not shown any interest in him at all. Then their relationship was just skimmed over. I never really felt their chemistry and since the guy had been pretending to be someone else while emailing Stacey, I never really felt their emotional connection either. I won't give away any spoilers, but it frustrated me that Stacey ALWAYS had to go chasing after him. Did he ever make a grand gesture? No. He acted like a coward and decided to just give up, but it was Stacey's responsibility to make everything happen. Also, I never really got a sense of who Stacey's romantic lead was or what moved him. I also never really understood what Stacey actually wanted to do besides travel and I just thought the ending was too contrived and it fell flat.

I really wanted to love this one, but I was bored throughout most of it and I actually skimmed some of the last chapter. I am still excited to read the third book though. I have been waiting for April and Mitch's book since I love both characters. 

Rating: ⭐⭐

ARC REVIEW: The White Coat Diaries by Madi Sinha

Having spent the last twenty-something years with her nose in a textbook, brilliant and driven Norah Kapadia has just landed the medical residency of her dreams. But after a disastrous first day, she's ready to quit. Disgruntled patients, sleep deprivation, and her duty to be the "perfect Indian daughter" have her questioning her future as a doctor. Enter chief resident Ethan Cantor. He's everything Norah aspires to be: respected by the attendings, calm during emergencies, and charismatic with the patients. As he morphs from Norah’s mentor to something more, it seems her luck is finally changing. When a fatal medical mistake is made, pulling Norah into a cover-up, she must decide how far she’s willing to go to protect the secret. What if “doing no harm” means risking her career and the future for which she’s worked so hard?

I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

I went back and forth with my rating on this one. I was very intrigued for a large part of the story. I thought the author did such a great job with the day to day life of an intern: the crazy patients, the attending who thought they were God, the lack of sleep and junk food, the lack of a social life, etc. It was all very interesting. I was confused because the premise made it seem as though it was more of a romance. The romance played second fiddle to Norah's life as an intern though. Don't get me wrong, I was fine with that. But if you are looking for a romance, you should look elsewhere. I was also disappointed because the main part of the plot didn't occur until about 70% of the way through the book and when it did, it was skimmed over and seemed to resolve itself more quickly than I would like. 

I thought that the author did a very good job with the character of Norah and with the changes that she went through during the course of her internship. She started out very naive and very much a sort of doormat with people, especially with her mother. I loved the parts that revolved around Norah's family. Yes, the dynamics were extremely frustrating. Between her mother's grief and her mother's desire to see her married instead of a doctor to her brother and sister-in-law's wish that she would give up on her dreams to make things easier on them, it was all a bit much. But those dynamics helped explain why Norah was the way that she was. 

Besides the fact that it took a while to get to the main events of the plot, I did have a few issues with Norah's choices at the end of the book. I thought she was more assertive and that was fantastic, and I thought that the choices she made were understandable. However, I didn't really think where she ended up fit with her goals or the rest of the story. That part didn't really make sense to me. Also, she had done a few things that were questionable and suggested that she was going down the same path as her mother, but that part was never addressed. It seemed like the author forgot about that part and maybe Norah just ended those things on her own.

This book was pretty good in certain areas and definitely an interesting look at the life of an intern, but I still had a few issues with the pacing in certain areas and Norah's character arc.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Thursday, August 27, 2020

BOOK REVIEW: Girl Gone Viral (Modern Love #2) By Alisha Rai

One minute, Katrina King’s enjoying an innocent conversation with a hot guy at a coffee shop; the next, a stranger has live-tweeted the entire episode with a romantic meet-cute spin and #CafeBae is the new hashtag-du-jour. The problem? Katrina craves a low-profile life, and going viral threatens the peaceful world she’s painstakingly built. Besides, #CafeBae isn’t the man she’s hungry for... With the internet on the hunt for the identity of #CuteCafeGirl, Jas Singh, bodyguard, friend, and possessor of the most beautiful eyebrows Katrina’s ever seen, comes to the rescue and whisks her away to his family’s home. Alone in a remote setting with the object of her affections? It’s a recipe for romance. But after a long dating dry spell, Katrina isn’t sure she can trust her instincts when it comes to love—even if Jas’ every look says he wants to be more than just her bodyguard…

So it would seem like I am on a total Alisha Rai kick right now. I have recently read several books by her, but I can't help it. She is amazing!! Right Swipe was the first book in this series and also the very first book I read by this author. You don't have to read that one first at all. But after finishing the first one, I knew I wanted to read Katrina's story. Katrina is sweet and loyal and somewhat naive at times and she also struggles with panic disorder and agoraphobia. And can I just say that I need a Katrina in my life to cook for me?? All of her food sounded AMAZING! Anyway, Jas is Katrina's security guard and is struggling with PTSD after his time in the Army. These two people are struggling with their attraction to each other and with their emotions. It was frustrating at times, the lack of communication on their part. But both characters had histories that made it difficult for them to admit what they were feeling. Even though the romance was a very slow burn, the author still did an incredible job of showing their chemistry and showing how much these people cared for each other. And I loved how Katrina grew throughout the book and how she started working through her issues. This was a fantastic read and I really can't wait for the next in the series! 

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Friday, July 31, 2020

ARC Review: The Dark Tide (The Dark Tide #1) by Alicia Jasinska

Every year on St. Walpurga's Eve, Caldella's Witch Queen lures a boy back to her palace. An innocent life to be sacrificed on the full moon to keep the island city from sinking. Lina Kirk is convinced her brother is going to be taken this year. To save him, she enlists the help of Thomas Lin, the boy she secretly loves, and the only person to ever escape from the palace. But they draw the queen's attention, and Thomas is chosen as the sacrifice. Queen Eva watched her sister die to save the boy she loved. Now as queen, she won't make the same mistake. She's willing to sacrifice anyone if it means saving herself and her city.When Lina offers herself to the queen in exchange for Thomas's freedom, the two girls await the full moon together. But Lina is not at all what Eva expected, and the queen is nothing like Lina envisioned. Against their will, they find themselves falling for each other. As water floods Caldella's streets and the dark tide demands its sacrifice, they must choose who to save: themselves, each other, or the island city relying on them both.
First of all, thank you NetGalley for this ARC! Second of all, excuse me while I flail helplessly at this book because I just loved it so freaking much. The writing sucked me in immediately and I DID NOT WANT IT TO END! The writing was beautiful and magical and atmospheric and it was amazing. And it was so incredibly dark too. The world building was incredible and I loved the magic. There was something so poetic about this book. I can't even put it into words, which is s shame, mainly because I know that is the one requirement for a book review. Ha. I loved the two characters too. Lina was fierce and determined and oh, so passionate. She was amazing. Eva was just as passionate, but mainly about being queen and trying to get revenge for what happened to her sister. If there is one complaint I had, it's that I wanted a little more depth to the relationship between the two girls. But their chemistry was off the charts, so it's all good. The author kept me engaged throughout the entire book; there was so much action and the climax was unreal. The ending was so satisfying, but there is still a sequel. I don't know where the author will be going with it, but I can't wait to read it!

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

ARC Review: The Extraordinaries (The Extraordinaries #1) By: TJ Klune

Nick Bell? Not extraordinary. But being the most popular fanfiction writer in the Extraordinaries fandom is a superpower, right? After a chance encounter with Shadow Star, Nova City’s mightiest hero (and Nick’s biggest crush), Nick sets out to make himself extraordinary. And he’ll do it with or without the reluctant help of Seth Gray, Nick's best friend (and maybe the love of his life).
This book just exceeded every single expectation that I had. Nick is the most lovable and awkward and realistic character I have encountered in a long time. Nick has ADHD and I have to say that there were conversations where I felt like I was listening to my husband . . . it was eerily accurate! He went on so many tangents and his friends just teased him and loved him through it all. I loved how well the author portrayed his ADHD and that it wasn't just a convenient plot device. What I liked about this book is that even though there are obvious fantasy elements (what with all the superheroes and everything), this was also a contemporary novel about friendship and dealing with death and family and Nick's crazy obliviousness when it came to his feelings for his best friend, Sam.

First of all, Nick's friends are AMAZING. Gibby and Jazz are lesbians and they were so incredibly freaking sweet and adorable -- they made my tooth ache they were so sweet. I loved their relationship with each other, and with Nick. I loved how they just sat back sometimes and watched him be awkward while making their quips. They were hilarious. Sam and Nick are best friends and it is obvious to EVERYONE but Nick that they are in love with each other. It's so cute. And here's the thing: there was so much diversity with race and sexual orientation and I loved that someone being gay or bisexual wasn't a huge deal -- it was just a part of who they were. I also loved Nick's relationship with his dad. Nick and his dad have been struggling big time ever since Nick's mom died in a bank robbery. Theirs was an incredible relationship. It was obvious that Nick's dad loved him, even if they both made mistakes sometimes. Part of the reason why Nick wanted to be a superhero so much was because he wanted to save people the way he could not save his mother. 

So the main issue I did have with the book was that the pacing was a little slow at times. Sometimes Nick's tangents just went on a little too much. And I would have loved a little more of the superhero part of it. We got a lot of action from the two superheroes (and the "twist" where they were concerned was kind of predictable, but still amazing), but we didn't get a whole lot of world building around it. Maybe that will come in future installments? I did love the message of the book and that epilogue was AMAZING and made me want to get my hands on the sequel RIGHT NOW!!! 

This was a fantastic read and I can't wait for more from these characters!  

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐