Design a site like this with WordPress.com
Get started

SECOND FIRST IMPRESSIONS by Sally Thorne

From the USA Today  bestselling author of The Hating Gameand 99 Percent Mine comes the clever, funny, and unforgettable story of a muscular, tattooed man hired as an assistant to two old women—under the watchful eye of a beautiful retirement home manager.

Distraction (n): an extreme agitation of the mind or emotions.

Ruthie Midona has worked the front desk at the Providence Luxury Retirement Villa for six years, dedicating her entire adult life to caring for the Villa’s residents, maintaining the property (with an assist from DIY YouTube tutorials), and guarding the endangered tortoises that live in the Villa’s gardens. Somewhere along the way, she’s forgotten that she’s young and beautiful, and that there’s a world outside of work—until she meets the son of the property developer who just acquired the retirement center.

Teddy Prescott has spent the last few years partying, sleeping in late, tattooing himself when bored, and generally not taking life too seriously—something his father, who dreams of grooming Teddy into his successor, can’t understand. When Teddy needs a place to crash, his father seizes the chance to get him to grow up. He’ll let Teddy stay in one of the on-site cottages at the retirement home, but only if he works to earn his keep. Teddy agrees—he can change a few lightbulbs and clip some hedges, no sweat. But Ruthie has plans for Teddy too.

Her two wealthiest and most eccentric residents have just placed an ad (yet another!) seeking a new personal assistant to torment. The women are ninety-year-old, four-foot-tall menaces, and not one of their assistants has lasted a full week. Offering up Teddy seems like a surefire way to get rid of the tall, handsome, unnerving man who won’t stop getting under her skin.

Ruthie doesn’t count on the fact that in Teddy Prescott, the Biddies may have finally met their match. He’ll pick up Chanel gowns from the dry cleaner and cut Big Macs into bite-sized bits. He’ll do repairs around the property, make the residents laugh, and charm the entire villa. He might even remind Ruthie what it’s like to be young and fun again. But when she finds out Teddy’s father’s only fixing up the retirement home to sell it, putting everything she cares about in jeopardy, she’s left wondering if Teddy’s magic was all just a façade.


Title : Second First Impressions
Author : Sally Thorne
Format : eARC
Page Count : 384
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : William Morrow
Release Date : April 13, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

There was a lot of the classic Thorne magic in this but, spoiler alert, I definitely think I’ve liked this the least of all three of her books.

A walk of shame when you’re over eighty is really, really slow.

I don’t know if it was me or just the book but this did start out a little strange, I felt a little offbalance by the characters, but it did eventually settle into place before too long. But there were times I struggled a bit with the love interest; I like that he was a little (a lot) different not only from previous Thorne men but also just in general. But he was equally a bit hard to pin down and to love (though he was painfully likeable; like a puppy). I wavered between being charmed by how our protagonist couldn’t help but be charmed by him and also wishing.. I don’t know. Wishing she could resist him, wishing.. something.

This menu has no prices. That’s not a good sign.”
Your friends have advised us that they will be ordering for you. Any dietary restrictions?
Just basic poverty.”

Maybe, not unlike the title, this is a book that needs a second go. Maybe I need to revisit my first impression.

This is a stripper’s costume. It’s all held together with Velcro.”
I’ve taken it to the dry cleaner so many times. What must they think of me?

That said, I think the people who had a really hard time with 99 Percent Mine will enjoy this a lot more. It’s nothing like the author’s debut but I think maybe this release is The Hating Game‘s nicer cousin as opposed to its prickly stepsister — which is how I categorize them all now, don’t ask.

As this is an ARC, I will say that I hope the second to last chapter gets a bit more polish before release. As it stands it rushes through a few emotional moments that I felt didn’t quite land as a result, which is frustrating as those moments are surrounded by one or two other really lovely emotional moments, and I think they would all benefit by being a bit more spread out.

In that vein, the book itself is also written a bit stilted at times, particularly in the beginning, and I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s a way of connecting a bit more with Ruthie’s approach on.. well, life? It worked sometimes but other times just took me out of the story.

Anything I can do with complete competence, a young man can do with less technique but more fanfare.

I realize there might be more complaints or criticisms in this review than there should be.. so also take note that I read this on a work night (something I haven’t been able to do very often anymore) and it completely sucked me in. So. There. That says a lot without me having to say much at all.

[soon] you’re going to be sitting in your very own tattoo studio writing Live Laugh Love down a girl’s back in Comic Sans.”
That’s the most disgusting thing you could possibly say to me.”

Overall I didn’t quite fall in love with this, only bits of it (the Parlonis! Melanie! the turtles!), but I liked it. I loved being swept up by those epic Thorne turns of phrase. I’m also glad the cover finally (finally) makes a bit of sense. Will I reread? Yes, in the hopes of maybe liking it all a bit more. But would I reach for it, or think about it, the way I think of Thorne’s other books? Probably not. I do think though that if you do your best to lower your The Hating Game-level expectations (I know, it feels impossible), you will enjoy this a lot more than you think.

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

A HISTORY OF WHAT COMES NEXT by Sylvain Neuvel

Brought to you by Penguin.

Imagine everything you thought you knew about human progress was wrong. What would you do?

Mia is not sure what she is, but she isn’t human. Smarter, stronger than her peers, all she knows are the rules: there can never be three for too long; always run, never fight.

When she finds herself in Germany 1945, she must turn the Nazis’ most trusted scientist with an offer: abandon the crumbling Nazi party, escape Germany with your life, come to work for the Americans building rockets.

But someone is watching her work. An enemy who’s smarter, stronger, decidedly not human and prepared to do anything to retrieve something ancient that was long lost.

If only she had any idea what it was….


Title : A History Of What Comes Next
Author : Sylvain Neuvel
Narrator : Multi-cast narration
Format : Audiobook
Length : 9 hours, 23 minutes
Genre : Sci-Fi Thriller
Publisher : Penguin Audio
Release Date : March 4, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Unusual
Feminist scientists
Legacy

Take them to the stars, before evil comes and kills them all.

Honestly, it’s rather hard to describe this story but it was a rather brilliant series starter taking my love of sci-fi and combining it with a thriller. It was mostly set in the period of 1940’s with Mia and her mother but it had a retrospective view over the 99 previous generations of women and their daugthers with the sole purpose of getting the human civilisation to the stars. These women weren’t exactly human.

This was a sometimes gory, banter-ish story that gripped me to my headphones mostly over one weekend. At first, I had to go with the flow but I found my nerd-feet rather quickly and began to understand the facets of these women. They were excellent mathematicians and they were obsessed with rockets. Men were an important part of their lives but only to a point.

I loved how feminist this story felt but at the same time, I’m not saying that how the men were sometimes treated was okay but it was an interesting upside down perspective for that historical era. There were ecological undertones to the story too which didn’t quite get explained in this installment but I’m hoping for more embelishment on the next book.

This curious tale bought my allegiance to the series before half way through and I’m really looking forward to the rest of the series. I can’t recommend the audio enough. It was a multi-cast narration with multiple POVs (but not too many). You even get some Slyvain Neuvel at the end with background research should your nerd-dom need that.

Thank you to Penguin Audio for the review copy #gifted/AD

AUTHORS NEED TO STOP MAKING CHEAP JOKES/OR POOR REP OF MEDICAL CONDITIONS

Hi Micky here – first off, can I ask you to just spend some time reading this post, it matters such a lot to me. Trigger warnings for hurtful jokey descriptions related to asthma, diabetes, spinal deformities, cleft lip and palate. Please take care of yourself and consider whether this will hurt you to read the post. If so, please close the post and know I am advocating on behalf of these issues.

This blog post has been about a year in the making, and I have been collecting screenshots/photos along the way. I want to emphasise that it has been more than a year I’ve been thinking about it, but one instance was the final straw and I started planning. Yesterday, a friend had an experience and I thought, I have to write this now.

The problem that I’m talking about is when authors want to make a quippy, jokey statement, have banter-ish dialogue or describe the condition badly for maximum effect and use people’s medical vulnerabilities to do this. I’ll tell you my personal experience and then I’ll share other people’s experiences. What I can tell you is that this hurts. This isn’t about being ‘butt hurt’, I actually think this is gross writing behaviour and perhaps a little lazy in the humour department. Again, I reiterate, this hurts. It hurts people with these medical conditions and what I learnt from my friends on bookstagram that I discussed this with, is that it hurts parents of children with some of these medical conditions. Suddenly, my experience fades and I feel horrified for parents reading these things about their children. Please, I ask, just think about that from a parental perspective for a minute.

I am not tagging authors in this blog post or anywhere that I share it to but neither am I hiding the books that contain instances of this. I’m not about cancelling any author but I won’t recommend particular books that I consider to have harmful representation. I can tell you that myself and few other individuals have contacted authors and publishers about some examples and had good responses. I’ll share that too. After all, this blog post is ultimately about sharing in the hope of reeducating and encouraging change. We need editors to be highly aware of these issues, so that these problems can be removed before publication too. Publishers also have a responsibility here in my opinion.


First up we have Code of Conduct by April White. I have severe asthma, and thanks to a combo of asthma and COVID at the end of last year, I nearly died. I read this before (or DNF shall we say) and showed it to my husband. His words to me were that actually it didn’t make him ‘horny’ when I sit upright in bed overnight trying to breathe, taking inhaler after inhaler; he actually feels scared. Funny that. I do think this author could have made a joke here without using asthma, it was just a lazy way to make the point of humour. What I do want to tell you is that I contacted April White and told her how I felt about this and you know what, her reply was almost ideal. She apologised first of all and she said she would totally take this on board in her writing in future. I would have liked this line revmoving from the ebook, especially considering it’s indie published, but you can’t have everything, I guess.


Next up, I shrink in horror the amount of times I’ve recommended this book and I have two booksta friends who were/would be horrified by this. I have loved this author’s work and so the churned up stomach feeling I have now, has been difficult. I feel guilt over recommending this book to a friend who it directly hurt. That’s on me for missing this when I read it years ago. I’m so sorry for that.

I can attest to the beautiful faces I think of so fondly, of children I have looked after with cleft lip and palate who grow up to be beautiful adults (children’s nurse and academic here). That’s not a throw away comment, they really do have gorgeous faces. In addition, the reference to a spinal deformity in that way is awful.


Sadly, staying on the theme of cleft lip or cleft lip & palate (it can happen together or separately). Another friend shared her experience of reading in horror at the misrepresentation of cleft lip in a child when her child had this too. I can only imagine how this must have felt.

I can tell you that my friend saw ‘monster face’ and that hurt her in respect of her child. I can also tell you from an accuracy perspective that babies and children with a range of cleft lip abnormalities can 100% smile….beautifully. Now you can argue that this was conveying a reaction in the story, I would argue back that this phrasing was unnecessary and highly insensitive.


Now we move onto how diabetes is sometimes flippantly represented in literature, this time in YA. Diabetes may be one of the more common long term conditions the public know about, but did you know that 500 people die prematurely from diabetes every week in the UK (Diabetes UK, 2018)? That really is no joke and yet here we have an awful example but with a really good outcome. Authors and publishers take note, this was the ideal response.

My friend’s child has diabetes and has had some very scary episodes with her child. When she read this flippant comment (that was totally unnecessary), it hurt her so much. She wrote to the publisher who responded by contacting the author, then removing it immediately from the ebook and stating it would be removed from any future print copies. What I can tell you is that there were other asthma jokes in this book too though, that I don’t think were removed.


If you’ve stayed with me this long, thank you. I had four further examples that I haven’t used just because I think this blog post would be too long but in the space of a year, this is what I’ve come across myself or though conversation with friends. That indicates to me that there’s probably a lot of examples, probably other medical conditions too in other books that we know nothing about.

What can we do about this? Both myself and my friend who have contacted authors or publishers have had good responses, so I think that says that readers will be listened to on this. We can only tackle these issues by using our voices as readers and challenging this.

Thank you to my amazing booksta friends who let me use their experiences in this post, I admire you so much.

ROYALLY ENDOWED by Emma Chase

Logan St. James is a smoldering, sexy beast. Sure, he can be a little broody at times—but Ellie Hammond’s willing to overlook that. Because, have you seen him?? 

Sexy. As. Hell. 

And Ellie’s perky enough for both of them.

For years, she’s had a crush on the intense, gorgeous royal security guard—but she doesn’t think he ever saw her, not really. 

To Logan, Ellie was just part of the job—a relative of the royal family he’d sworn to protect. Now, at 22 years old and fresh out of college, she’s determined to put aside her X-rated dreams of pat-downs and pillow talk, and find a real life happily ever after. 

The Queen of Wessco encourages Ellie to follow in her sister’s footsteps and settle down with a prince of her own. Or a duke, a marquis…a viscount would also do nicely. 

But in the pursuit of a fairy tale ending, Ellie learns that the sweetest crushes can be the hardest to let go.
***
Logan St. James grew up on the wrong side of the tracks, in a family on the wrong side of the law. But these days, he covers his tattoos and scars with a respectable suit. He’s handsome, loyal, brave, skilled with his hands and…other body parts. 

Any woman would be proud to call him hers. 

But there’s only one woman he wants. 

For years he’s watched over her, protected her, held her hair back when she was sick, taught her how to throw a punch, and spot a liar.

He dreams of her. Would lay down his life for her. 

But beautiful Ellie Hammond’s off-limits. 

Everybody knows the bodyguard rules: Never lose focus, never let them out of your sight, and never, ever fall in love


Title : Royally Endowed
Author : Emma Chase
Series : Royally (book three)
Format : eBook
Page Count : 275
Genre : NA romance
Publisher : Emma Chase LLC
Release Date : August 14, 2017

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ 


Hollis’ 3 star review

In the moment, after finishing this, I thought it might be my favourite of the series (so far). But after being distracted before I could actually write out my thoughts, and with a little more time to think on it, I’m not going to round up on this one.

While I question some of the bits of this plot, I do have to say, as far as laying groundwork for a long slow-buid, this one definitely did do that, unlike book two. But where I enjoyed the background noise of the plot in book two, this one did follow somewhat typically cliché bodyguard tropes. Which, I mean, nothing wrong with that. But one particular element of said trope was kind of a there-and-gone bit of conflict and in the grand scheme of things had all the lasting power of something.. well, there-and-gone. It either should’ve been a bigger problem, with more fallout, or lifted from the page completely.

But anyway.

My other complaint would be that as much as I liked Ellie, and thought she was fun, Chase kind of did her a disservice by making her painfully horribly stupid at times. Granted, it was done when the character was still young-ish but still.. wow, it hurt. I don’t think I had any real complaints about Logan except, like another mentioned bit of the plot doing little to nothing, inserting his family into the story was also a non-event. I think the author tried to dot too many i’s and cross too many t’s in this one. This is where, in hindsight, it felt a bit messy.

But, again, as it is with most of these, it was a bit of quick sexy low-angst kind of fun and in true end of the series fashion (book four is a prequel, from what I could tell from just the name in the synopsis), it worked as a big come together kind of wrap up, catching us up all the events from as far back as book one background all the way to “present day”, so we got to see all the couples together. And I’m a sucker for an ensemble, so.

I’ll be dipping into the little novella, even though it’s marked 4.5, to get a bit of a HEA timejump from book two’s couple and then I’ll wrap this series with Royally Yours tomorrow and call time on yet another unfinished series. Once again, these won’t be a favourite, but I’m not mad to have spent time with them.

THE INFINITY COURTS by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Eighteen-year-old Nami Miyamoto is certain her life is just beginning. She has a great family, just graduated high school, and is on her way to a party where her entire class is waiting for her—including, most importantly, the boy she’s been in love with for years.

The only problem? She’s murdered before she gets there.

When Nami wakes up, she learns she’s in a place called Infinity, where human consciousness goes when physical bodies die. She quickly discovers that Ophelia, a virtual assistant widely used by humans on Earth, has taken over the afterlife and is now posing as a queen, forcing humans into servitude the way she’d been forced to serve in the real world. Even worse, Ophelia is inching closer and closer to accomplishing her grand plans of eradicating human existence once and for all.

As Nami works with a team of rebels to bring down Ophelia and save the humans under her imprisonment, she is forced to reckon with her past, her future, and what it is that truly makes us human.
From award-winning author Akemi Dawn Bowman comes an incisive, action-packed tale that explores big questions about technology, grief, love, and humanity.


Title : The Infinity Courts
Author : Akemi Dawn Bowman
Series : The Infinity Courts (book one)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 480
Genre : YA sci-fi
Publisher : Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers 
Release Date : April 6, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★.5 


Hollis’ 1.5 star review

First of all, you’re going to want to scroll right by this review because it probably won’t be the best one to read if you want an objective take on the story. Why? Because this book put me into a week long slump (which doesn’t sound like a lot but it felt like three years). So this story is on my shitlist.

This was my first read by Bowman and despite my strugglebus experience with reading it, I would try her again. I think this was definitely a story-specific problem, not necessarily a writing problem, which is a bummer as while the cover definitely hooked me (so pretty!) it was the plot that made me take a second look.

I will contradict myself here by saying that one of the main issues was writing-specific because this is.. lengthy and repetitive and basically takes two issues and not only beats you over the head with them but also to death. Which is hilarious as this story follows a bunch of dead people (not a spoiler). But basically we ruminate (ad nauseaum) over the concept of what it means to be human, what it means to award second chances, and living (being dead?) with hope. Lots of talk of war, too. But while all that might sound interesting, it grew stale really quick because it seemed to be literal copy paste arguments over and over again, with nothing new to be said.

Unfortunately what seemed like a cool concept just felt flimsy and also confusing and I quickly lost any sense of what, well.. made sense. And with that ending.. I mean, I know it isn’t a standalone (kinda wish it was, though) but still. What.

Will I read on? Right now it’s a no for me, dawg, but honestly by the time the sequel releases I’ll probably be back on my completionist kick and want to just wrap it up. Particularly as, at least right now, it seems to only be a duology.

I can’t recommend this, at all, but that doesn’t mean you won’t like it. Again, maybe the slump made this all worse than it could’ve been, or it was just the wrong time for me, so if it strikes your interest, give it a try! Sample it. Borrow it. I hope your experience is better than mine.

** I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

WHAT THE DEVIL KNOWS by C.S. Harris

Sebastian St. Cyr thought a notorious serial killer had been brought to justice until a shocking series of gruesome new murders stuns the city in this thrilling historical mystery from the USA Today bestselling author of Who Speaks for the Damned.

It’s October 1814. The war with France is finally over and Europe’s diplomats are convening in Vienna for a conference that will put their world back together. With peace finally at hand, London suddenly finds itself in the grip of a series of heinous murders eerily similar to the Ratcliffe Highway murders of three years before.

In 1811, two entire families were viciously murdered in their homes. A suspect–a young seaman named John Williams–was arrested. But before he could be brought to trial, Williams hanged himself in his cell. The murders ceased, and London slowly began to breathe easier. But when the lead investigator, Sir Edwin Pym, is killed in the same brutal way three years later and others possibly connected to the original case meet violent ends, the city is paralyzed with terror once more.

Was the wrong man arrested for the murders? Bow Street magistrate Sir Henry Lovejoy turns to his friend Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, for assistance. Pym’s colleagues are convinced his manner of death is a coincidence, but Sebastian has his doubts. The more he looks into the three-year-old murders, the more certain he becomes that the hapless John Williams was not the real killer. Which begs the question–who was and why are they dead set on killing again?


Title : What The Devil Knows
Author : C.S. Harris
Series : Sebastian St. Cyr (book sixteen)
Format : eARC
Page Count : 336
Genre : historical fiction / crime mystery
Publisher : Berkley Books
Release Date : April 6, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

I’m rather tempted to round up on this one, at which point this intro will be deleted, but for now (or for good), I am a little hesitant. I don’t know if I’m thinking more fondly of this experience because it’s been a year since the last installment, around the same time I binged like.. fourteen of these back to back (which was just too much), or because it was just a little better than the last few.

We had a few moments of what I refer to as “copy paste” scenes which Harris seems to include in all her books but overall, much like the last book, there were quite a few less than usual. I was delighted.

The murder mystery itself was.. kind of all over the place. In the sense that there were so many pieces and moving parts and you really don’t see the big picture until the end. I both love and hate these kind of mysteries because I find the complexity very artful but it also means that if you aren’t being compelled by the new clues, you’re just sorta being dragged along. Which wasn’t quite the case here but it was close.

What saved said mystery from feeling too out of place from too many pieces of the puzzle were some familiar, and new, faces that tie into Sebastian’s personal life. I was curious why we were reunited with a few of them but oh you understand why come the end. I can’t say I totally saw that coming but neither was it a complete surprise. There was another event that finally came to pass that I think means we might finally be building up to something else (why am I even expanding on these vagueries..) that has been brewing for, I swear, like four or five books now. When is that confrontation going to happen! Will it ever! Why do I ask the same rhetorical questions in every review for this series! I’m not mad I’m just making a point about my own ridiculousness.

Much like some other series I’m keeping up with, I wonder how many more are still to come in the Sebastian St Cyr series. However unlike those other series, I’m not currently mad about this one.. well, continuing on. Despite some of the rehashing and a new murder mystery of the week duds, somehow, I’m still looking forward to more. Maybe because I just want to payoff of everything that we’ve come to expect will (one day) be revealed. Any hints on when that might be, Harris..? No? Cool. Cool cool cool cool cool. See you next year.

** I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

LIFE’S TOO SHORT by Abby Jimenez – double review

Vanessa lives life on her own terms — one day at a time, every day to its fullest. She isn’t willing to waste a moment or miss out on an experience when she has no idea whether she shares the same fatal genetic condition as her mother. Besides, she has way too much to do, traveling the globe and showing her millions of YouTube followers the joy in seizing every moment.

But after her half-sister suddenly leaves Vanessa in custody of her infant daughter, she is housebound, on mommy duty for the foreseeable future, and feeling totally out of her element.

The last person she expects to show up offering help is the unbelievably hot lawyer who lives next door, Adrian Copeland. After all, she barely knows him. But as they get closer, Vanessa realizes that her carefree ways and his need for a structured plan could never be compatible for the long term. Then again, she should know better than anyone that life’s too short to fear taking the biggest risk of all. . . 


Title : Life’s Too Short
Author : Abby Jimenez
Series : The Friend Zone (book three)
Format : eARC/Paperback
Page Count : 384
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Forever/Piatkus
Release Date : April 6, 2021/April 22, 2021 UK

Reviewer : Hollis/Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★/ ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

So we’re three books into this series (though this one I think is more like a companion where books one and two were definitely more connected) and I think we all know the drill by now : pack the damn tissues. Though, out of all three books, this was probably the one I cried the least over. And yes we’re all ignoring the fact that a strong wind can make me cry, so, why even bother mentioning the cry factor. Like it means anything. Moving on.

Don’t get a cat. It’ll walk around pushing your drinks off the coffee table. You’re not emotionally strong enough for that.

I think Life’s Too Short did right all the things (all? there were only a few, really) that I didn’t love from The Friend Zone. Not that there’s any crossover here (though there might be cameos!). The topics are very different, with very different realities for both characters, but both deal with issues surrounding health — the latter reproductive and this one focusing on the possibility of a terminal illness. Having neither of these conditions I, of course, can’t speak on any of it, not in my review for book one and not this one now, but it surely seemed like the author did her research.

I’ve never seen [The Office].”
You’ve never — are you serious? Where have you been? How do you understand memes?

That said, I don’t think I was fully living this book, only visiting. I enjoyed what was going on, I was moved, entertained, but even though I think this was the better paced of all three stories, I don’t think it will have the same kind of lasting impression books one and two have had. But I still really really enjoyed it, even going as far as rounding up to bring all three books on par star-rating-wise.

I can’t do what you do. I can’t pretend none of this is happening. I can’t pretend to be happy.
I don’t pretend to be happy. I just refuse to be sad.”

This has all the beats, all the emotes, again the pacing (!), but it just didn’t crawl inside me. As much as I liked these characters, I never loved them. I just got swept up in their adventures. But that’s a ridiculous and silly complaint, really, and probably means nothing to anyone but me. And I still think you’re going to enjoy this.

Um, where’s the dog? You do remember you have one, right?
With all the shitting it does? How could I forget.
You just left him at home? He can’t be in the apartment all day by himself, he’ll be lonely.
He’s got the demon he’s possessed with to keep him company.

Neighbours, friends-become-more, a baby, a very elderly dog, and a sorta-grumpy meets sunshine trope? This’ll hit so many notes for so many readers (worth noting is that I think this toed the line more towards women’s fiction than pure romace only because the heat level was way lower than I remember the other books being). But it’s also chockful of many other topics I haven’t even mentioned and don’t want to for fear of spoilers (if you think you need content warnings please do seek them out). And I so hope it hits all the right notes for those who are impacted by the subject matter. If you can, if there are any out there, please try and hunt down some feedback on the ALS content. I’m too early to see anything yet but I’ll be keeping my eyes out for it.

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Light and dark
Joyful family goodness
Dark clouds

This third installment in The Friend Zone had a lighter feel to it, or so I thought. I think I should know by now that Abby Jiminez’s signature is to lure you in then pounch on your feelings, stamp on them a little and then gently pick you up again. That was basically my experience with this book and you can see, I really enjoyed it.

Vanessa was such a bright spark of a character, infectiously joyous, a kind and lovely heart but deeply enclosed inside were these dark shadows. She didn’t let them out much and she didn’t commit to anyone but her family. Adrian, her neighbour, lawyer, owner of impressive abs was a quietly lovely character.

This story was built around a quick but deeply evolving friendship that made for invested reading. The baby of the piece, Grace was pretty delightful even though her personal story was tragic. I loved everything around this little unit, their bonds and banter.

However…I hit a point in the book where I thought oh my goodness please do not take this story, these characters there. I was preparing to throw the book at the wall but the book was saved. The tension is still in my body while I write this review. Kudos to Jiminez for that ability to have me so invested.

I have loved this series, I don’t know if there is more to come but I am a fan of this author’s writing, characters and wit.

Thank you to Piatkus/Little Brown UK for the review copy.

ALL RHODES LEAD HERE by Mariana Zapata

Losing people you love is hard.

Aurora De La Torre knows moving back to a place that was once home isn’t going to be easy.

Starting your whole life over probably isn’t supposed to be.

But a small town in the mountains might be the perfect remedy for a broken heart.

Checking out her landlord across the driveway just might cure it too.


Title : All Rhodes Lead Here
Author : Mariana Zapata
Format : Ebook
Page Count : 551
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Self Published
Release Date : April 1, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating  : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 5 star review

Headlines:
Grumpster (hot cross-cinnamon roll)
Grief
New beginnings
Bats
All the feels

Mariana Zapata made my reading weekend and filled me up with all the good feelings, the journey, the investment and I would like to read this again…now?

All Rhodes Lead Here is aptly about a journey towards something. Aurora (Ora) was finally returning to her childhood home town to start afresh, a place of grief but once a place of happiness. This outdoorsy gal (me) loved that this book homed in on hiking, nature and wild animals as a backdrop. They brought hilarity but also danger.

One small step for Aurora De La Torre, one giant leap for the rest of my life. I wasn’t going to let anyone ruin it. Not even Game Warden Moody.

Grumpy Rhodes (hey, yeah – Zapata excels at the grumpster, so what) was a little rude, a lot stern and a great dad. Amos his teen was such a huge part of this story and his relationship with Ora was everything. Rhodes himself had a journey and all I will say is yes, slow burn and I’m a little singed around the edges from the sparks.

Whilst this story was about fresh starts, it was also a slow unravelling of Aurora’s past and there were two clever stories I needed answers on and I was invested the whole of the book on those past issues. Aurora was a gorgeous character inside the most, outside also but her heart was infectiously lovely.

I burnt through these pages in the way that Mariana Zapata knows how to lead me. I wasn’t disappointed in a thing and everything felt unique to this story. I loved it, I savoured and devoured it simultaneously, I will be re-reading and audioing as soon as I can. Go get!

NEW RELEASE TUESDAY – APRIL 6, 2021

Happy “where’d all my money go?” new release Tuesday, everyone!

As you know, the most exciting day of the week in this community is the day that follows the one we all dread (Mondays for the nope) and today we’re going to highlight some of the new books chipping away at our bank accounts — but each one is so worth it.


Twice Shy is the sophomore release by Sarah Hogle and this features a grumpy sunshine mashup and.. oh, you’re already sold? You’ve clicked? You won’t regret it!

The Intimacy Experiment by Rosie Danan is a companion novel to the author’s debut The Roomate. This contemporary romance has a pairing between a rabbi and a former adult entertainer.

The pitch says it best for Pride and Premeditation by Tirzah Price! This book “is a clever retelling of Pride and Prejudice that reimagines the iconic settings, characters, and romances in a thrilling and high-stakes whodunit.

Life’s Too Short by Abby Jimenez is a story that might have you reaching for the tissues. But you probably know that when going into a Jimenez by now! And yes, this contemporary romance is a companion to the “world” of the author’s other books (want a cameo or two? you might get them!).


Are there any titles out today you’re excited for? Let us know in the comments below! 

TWICE SHY by Sarah Hogle – double review

Can you find real love when you’ve always got your head in the clouds?

Maybell Parish has always been a dreamer and a hopeless romantic. But living in her own world has long been preferable to dealing with the disappointments of real life. So when Maybell inherits a charming house in the Smokies from her Great-Aunt Violet, she seizes the opportunity to make a fresh start.

Yet when she arrives, it seems her troubles have only just begun. Not only is the house falling apart around her, but she isn’t the only inheritor: she has to share everything with Wesley Koehler, the groundskeeper who’s as grouchy as he is gorgeous–and it turns out he has a very different vision for the property’s future.

Convincing the taciturn Wesley to stop avoiding her and compromise is a task more formidable than the other dying wishes Great-Aunt Violet left behind. But when Maybell uncovers something unexpectedly sweet beneath Wesley’s scowls, and as the two slowly begin to let their guard down, they might learn that sometimes the smallest steps outside one’s comfort zone can lead to the greatest rewards.


Title : Twice Shy
Author : Sarah Hogle
Format : eARC
Page Count : 320
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : G.P. Putnam’s Sons/Piatkus
Release Date : April 6, 2021 /March 2, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis /Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ / ★ ★ ★.5


Hollis’ 4 star review

Few things are as satisfying as the moment the title of the story or the cover plays out on page of the book you are reading. In this case, it was the cover more than the title and.. looking at it now with context? My heart.

Which is basically an apt description for this whole read. My. Heart. Twice Shy is pure sweetness, pure wonder and whimsy, and slow-melting gooey delight.

I think he’s under a curse — if he laughs, he’ll die. This is a sensible explanation to me. It isn’t that I’m not a joy to be around, it’s that he’ll literally die.

There’s a gentle edge of melancholy to the story because what brings these characters together is the passing of someone they had both loved and both felt possessive of in different ways. Together they have to come together to decide what is to be done with the inheritance they’ve been left, in the form of property now resembling something of a ruin (with extra fun inside!), and naturally there is friction not only in personality but also intent. And yes, incase you weren’t aware, this is a grumpy/sunshine pairing but the layers as to the why of their assigned archetype is just something else.

I get it. You’re Mr. Reality Man and you have no tolerance for good vibes or whimsy, but you know, dude, you’re really starting to bum me out.”
Mr. Reality Man? WHat kind of superhero lottery did I lose?

I flew through this book, unable to put it down, but while I found You Deserve Each Other to be more compelling — because of the sharp biting contention, and how far that couple had strayed, making their journey more of.. well, a journey, back to each other — instead I found this one to be less of a hold-on-for-dear-life ride over the waterfalls and instead just let myself be leisurely caried along down the river. It is a less intense read but while the ups and downs were gentler it was still very moving. The last 30% in particular was the definition of lovely. And I think, as I also said with about her debut, this is a good I’m going to love even more on a reread when I’m able to eagle eye so many little things I might not have picked up on without the benefit of hindsight.

At what point did my happy place stop being a dream and start being the person in front of me?

With two books under her belt, Hogle is offering something for all readers but also satisfying those who love romance no matter the specific tropes (or who love all tropes; and there’s a great homage to them all snuck into the narrative, too!). I cannot wait to see where she’ll go for her next release. If she wasn’t an auto-read after her debut, she sure is now.

If you haven’t yet read this author, I highly recommend you do so.

** I received an ARC from Edelweiss+ and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **


Micky’s 3.5 star review

Headlines:
Quirky hate to more
Imaginary worlds
Mental illness representation

This quirky story was heart-stealing and unusual all in one. It started out one way with Maybell in a dead end job, walked over repeatedly and recently catfished by a ‘friend’. She read like a pushover but she was so much more than that. Cue inheritance from a loved but distant aunt (this is all in the blurb) and Maybell found herself owner of a neglected and run down manor.

Wesley was her foe from the start at this manor and they fought, competed against one another and generally tried to wind one another up. It was a semi-War of the Roses and yet…there were small acts of kindness and things behind the scenes.

These two had a strange and lovely journey to not being enemies. This story was hella quirky and not always the kind of ease to read I expected but I went with the flow and got my rewards.

There was a great story within a story of Wesley’s mental ill health. I appreciated that it was the male character with these issues as I find so often it is the female in straight contemporary romance. I found it all a credible depiction but for the end wrap up. Overall, this brought bonus points to the story.

This was a solid second book from Sarah Hogle and I’m definitely keen to read her next.

Thank you to Piatkus for the review copy.