THE STAND-IN by Lily Chu 🎧

How to upend your life:
-Get fired by gross, handsy boss
-Fail to do laundry (again)
-Be mistaken for famous Chinese actress
-Fall head-first into glitzy new world

Gracie Reed is doing just fine. Sure, she was fired by her overly “friendly” boss, and yes, she still hasn’t gotten her mother into the nursing home of their dreams, but she’s healthy, she’s (somewhat) happy, and she’s (mostly) holding it all together.

But when a mysterious SUV pulls up beside her, revealing Chinese cinema’s golden couple Wei Fangli and Sam Yao, Gracie’s world is turned on its head. The famous actress has a proposition: Due to their uncanny resemblance, Fangli wants Gracie to be her stand-in. The catch? Gracie will have to be escorted by Sam, the most attractive – and infuriating – man Gracie’s ever met.

If it means getting the money she needs for her mother, Gracie’s in. Soon Gracie moves into a world of luxury she never knew existed. But resisting Sam, and playing the role of an elegant movie star, proves more difficult than she ever imagined – especially when she learns the real reason Fangli so desperately needs her help. In the end, all the lists in the world won’t be able to help Gracie keep up this elaborate ruse without losing herself…and her heart. 


Title : The Stand-In
Author : Lily Chu
Narrators : Phillipa Soo
Format : Audiobook
Length : 10 hours, 55 minutes
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Audible Original
Release Date : July 15, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Sweet and engaging
Funny moments
Fake relationship

The Stand-In brought such a fresh and sweet romance orientated around a fake relationship but it wasn’t as straight forward as that sounds. The three people involved (Gracie, Sam and Fangli) really grew into three characters I felt totally invested in, especially Gracie. This grudging period these three navigated together was mostly light but it did bring some deeper themes of mental illness and physical illness.

Sam really grew on me from the arrogant, judgemental guy to the one willing to listen and be supportive. I loved seeing Gracie challenge his prejudicial views on her mixed cultural heritage. The whole stand-in storyline was fun and delightful.

This audio came with an almighty twist that I didn’t see coming. Major writing props for that! It truly finished this story in place where it felt like more than the average contemporary romance.

The narration was single POV and the narration captured all the characters and dialogue well. It brought the story perfectly to life.

Thank you to Audible for the early listening copy.

FALLING by T.J. Newman 🎧

You just boarded a flight to New York.

There are one hundred and forty-three other passengers onboard.

What you don’t know is that thirty minutes before the flight your pilot’s family was kidnapped.

For his family to live, everyone on your plane must die.

The only way the family will survive is if the pilot follows his orders and crashes the plane.

Enjoy the flight.


Title : Falling
Author : T.J. Newman
Narrators : Steven Weber
Format : Audiobook
Length : 8 hours, 26 minutes
Genre : Thriller
Publisher : Simon & Schuster Audio
Release Date : July 6, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Fast-paced
Two tandem/linked stories
Won’t put you off flying

I’m giving this book 4 stars as much for the sweeping audio experience and the storyline in general. I think audio was the right format for this thriller for me, it felt like watching a really great disaster movie.

The story was fast-paced following a hostage situation and a plane situation. All focus was on Bill the pilot and Jo the head steward. These two characters really made the story but in addition, so did the whole air steward crew.

The baddies of the piece weren’t always obvious and I enjoyed the twists we got along the way. The backdrop for why all this happened was an interesting piece of contemporary political history that feels less explored in thrillers.

This was a ride and I sure enjoyed, punching through this in a few days, wishing myself back to the audiobook.

Thank you to LibroFM & Simon and Schuster Audio for the review copy.

https://libro.fm/audiobooks/9781797128221-falling

ISN’T IT BROMANTIC? by Lyssa Kay Adams

With his passion for romance novels, it was only a matter of time before Vlad took up the pen to write a novel the Bromance Book Club would swoon over.

He’s ready to create his own sweeping romance – both on and off the page.

Elena Konnikova has lived her entire adult life in the shadows. As the daughter of a Russian journalist who mysteriously disappeared, she escaped danger the only way she knew how. She agreed to marry her childhood friend, Vladimir, and move to the United States, where he is a professional hockey player in Nashville.

Vlad, aka The Russian, thought he could be content with his marriage of convenience. But it’s become too difficult to continue in a one-sided relationship. He joined the Bromance Book Club to learn how to make his wife love him, but all he’s learned is that he deserves more.

The Bros are unwilling to let Vlad forgo true love – and this time they’re not operating solo, joining forces with Vlad’s senior citizen neighbours, a group of meddling widows who call themselves The Loners. But just when things finally look promising, the danger from Elena’s past life intrudes. Now the book club face their first-ever life-or-death grand gesture as they race to a happy ever after.


Title : Isn’t It Bromantic?
Author : Lyssa Kay Adams
Series : Bromance Book Club #4
Format : e-ARC
Page Count : 352
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : Headline Eternal
Release Date : July 20, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Second chances
All the good guy vibes
Dr Doolittle

Vlad ‘The Russian’ story has been long awaited and this installment of the series was fun, sweet and warm. For those wondering, the gluten allergy was under control and toilets weren’t a big feature of this story. What was a big thing of this story was Vlad’s marriage of convenience to Elena and how that evolved.

Vlad finally had a dose of the Bromance Book Club and the twist to the book in this one was pretty great; I’d definitely read Promise Me. I really enjoyed getting to know Vlad’s personality, his warmth, his integrity and affinity to animals. He really was the kind of good guy I love to read about.

Elena was a complex and restrained character but she did open up. The banter and dialogue was en pointe in this book, just as I have come to expect from this series. I would share some quotes but most are pretty hilariously double entendre. Friendships are always a theme in this series and I’m wholly entertained by the guys but I have to say the women stole the friendship stakes in this one. Claud was particularly funny.

I do hope there’s more to come of this series because I’m not tired of it yet.

Thank you to Headline Eternal for the early review copy.

THE SOULMATE EQUATION by Christina Lauren – double review!

Single mom Jess Davis is a data and statistics wizard, but no amount of number crunching can convince her to step back into the dating world. Raised by her grandparents–who now help raise her seven-year-old daughter, Juno–Jess has been left behind too often to feel comfortable letting anyone in. After all, her father’s never been around, her hard-partying mother disappeared when she was six, and her ex decided he wasn’t “father material” before Juno was even born. Jess holds her loved ones close, but working constantly to stay afloat is hard…and lonely.

But then Jess hears about GeneticAlly, a buzzy new DNA-based matchmaking company that’s predicted to change dating forever. Finding a soulmate through DNA? The reliability of numbers: This Jess understands. At least she thought she did, until her test shows an unheard-of 98% compatibility with another subject in the database: GeneticAlly’s founder, Dr. River Pena. This is one number she can’t wrap her head around, because she already knows Dr. Pena. The stuck-up, stubborn man is without a doubt not her soulmate. But GeneticAlly has a proposition: Get to know him and we’ll pay you. Jess–who is barely making ends meet–is in no position to turn it down, despite her skepticism about the project and her dislike for River. As the pair are dragged from one event to the next as the “Diamond” pairing that could make GeneticAlly a mint in stock prices, Jess begins to realize that there might be more to the scientist–and the science behind a soulmate–than she thought.


Title : The Soulmate Equation
Author : Christina Lauren
Format : eBook (overdrive)/Paperback
Page Count : 365
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Gallery Books/Piatkus Books
Release Date : May 18, 2021/August 5, 2021

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


Hollis’ 4 star review

I have been so disappointed by the last handful of CLo novels so I guess it was about time my luck changed.

I saw a lot of early buzz and excitement for this release but I expected nothing less. What intrigued me was seeing the same excitement from other often-disappointed CLo fans. That made me sit up and take notice.

It’s so hard for me to be inspired to pick up a book during the working week and yet I sat down the same night my library hold came in and I d e v o u r e d the whole thing. It made me laugh. It made me soft. It maybe even made me tear up once.

Is the premise of this book a little outlandish? Yes (if it’s based in real science pls insert my apologies here but I suspect not). Did some elements of the romance veer a little too quickly into the all-systems-go lane once the hook had taken over, particularly after the way their previous interactions had gone? Yes. Did I hate the financial conflicts with the MC’s mother? A thousand times yes (this kind of plot is a huge issue for me in general though so I didn’t expect anything different). So, is it perfect? No. But I had such a great time.

There’s a core group of supporting characters that are funny and charming and lovely, the reluctant connection between humans who don’t seem to click, or are so different, as a base for the romance is always (often) a hit, and I was definitely feeling the chemistry even in this lower range of heat we’ve come to expect from the new CLo books. Though I do think maybe there was more going on this time than there has been. Coincidence? I think not.

Suffice it to say I had a really good time and while I will not hold out hope that this trend will remain true with what’s to come from this duo, there’s a reason I keep picking these authors up. When they are good, they are good.


Micky’s 4 star review

Headlines:
Lets have more geeky scientist/mathematician combos
Fakey breaky goodness
Sold down the river for River

The Soulmate Equation seemed to find that sweet spot of the right push and pull alongside sweetness and angst; everything was in good measure to formulate the ideal equation for a story. Sorry, I’ll stop using title puns now. But seriously, the characters and plot brought a cross of Darcy with The One and equaled a lose-yourself read.

River Pena was all of Darcy’s best angles: arrogance, dismissal but alluringly handsome. I felt on a string from his first ‘Americano’ sighting. Jess, a single mom with her own brand of geek was a great protagonist with the best family to read about.

…the only thing she could focus on was the way he spoke like he was reading aloud from a textbook. God, Siri carried on a more familiar conversation.

This couple’s journey carried elements of awkwardness but staying for the journey to reach the delicious chemistry was worth the wait. This story really grew for me, especially from a third into the book. The way River stepped up in certain situations was complete swoon territory. There wasn’t a lot of on-page steam but you felt every inch of chemistry between these two.

I thoroughly enjoyed this standalone from Christina Lauren and I can’t see a day when I will not be reading their offerings.

Thank you to Piatkus Books for the review copy.

A DOWRY OF BLOOD by S.T. Gibson

A lyrical and dreamy reimagining of Dracula’s brides, A DOWRY OF BLOOD is a story of desire, obsession, and emancipation. 

Saved from the brink of death by a mysterious stranger, Constanta is transformed from a medieval peasant into a bride fit for an undying king. But when Dracula draws a cunning aristocrat and a starving artist into his web of passion and deceit, Constanta realizes that her beloved is capable of terrible things. Finding comfort in the arms of her rival consorts, she begins to unravel their husband’s dark secrets. 

With the lives of everyone she loves on the line, Constanta will have to choose between her own freedom and her love for her husband. But bonds forged by blood can only be broken by death. 


Title : A Dowry of Blood
Author : S.T. Gibson
Format : eBook
Page Count : 248
Genre : historical fiction fantasy
Publisher : Nyx Publishing
Release Date : January 31, 2021

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Hollis’ 4 star review

Maybe had I not been disliking so much of what I have been reading this wouldn’t have been as memorable. Or maybe it just is that good. I can’t tell anymore.

I should have paid more attention to the convenience with which you arrived. There are no angels in this world to accompany the dying in their final moments, only pickpockets and carrion birds.

A Dowry of Blood is a sorta epistolary/memoir-style recounting of what basically amounts to the brides of Dracula, even though she never names him, and their undead lives over the course of centuries. Much like the first bride, Constanta, I was enthralled. Not only in the story but how it was told.

This isn’t very long, there are passages of time we only get vague explanations for, but the retelling of events centers around three specific brides, and how the arrival of each changed the dynamic of Constanta’s relationship and inevitably led to its downfall; by unmasking the abuse hidden just below the surface of a suffocating love used as an excuse for control. Each bride responds to it differently and I thought the author’s choices in this regard were so well done.

It’s not only all that and a bag of chips but it’s also sapphic, it’s also queer, and it’s almost novella-like. The winning just doesn’t quit.

Definitely recommend if this seems like your jam.

THE IDEA OF YOU by Robinne Lee

EVERYONE IN THE WORLD KNOWS HIS NAME.
BUT IT’S YOU HE WANTS.

At thirty-nine, Solène Marchand is a devoted mother, a dedicated colleague and a considerate ex-wife.

But it’s a long time since she’s felt like herself.

So when someone comes along who seems to see her – to want her – for who she really is, the attraction is instant. And so begins a jet-setting, earth-shattering secret love affair.

But what if that someone is world-famous sex symbol Hayes Campbell? Captivating frontman of boy band of the moment August Moon – whose face is everywhere. Including Solène’s teenage daughter’s bedroom wall.

Can Solène allow herself to fall for the boy the whole world wants?

OR WILL SHE HAVE TO MAKE A DEVASTATING CHOICE..?


Title : The Idea of You
Author : Robinne Lee
Format : eARC
Page Count :374
Genre : Romance
Publisher : Michael Joseph Books
Release Date : July 22, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 5 star review

Headlines:
Beware of sparks
Discomforting swooning
Tragedy felt on the horizon
Please Sir, can I have more?

I think that less is going to be more with this review. The Idea Of You blew me away, discomforted me, challenged me and devastated me. And yet, I loved every minute of the ride; I couldn’t look away as I devoured it page by page, waiting for the impending car crash.

I don’t want to give a thing away beyond the blurb. The characters, Hayes and Solène transfixed me with their story and their pairing. They glued me to the page, the strangeness of their match felt less strange with each page until you were convinced they should be together.

“So this is what twenty looked like. That sweet spot between adolescence and the moment things began to unravel.”

There were other characters in this story but it’s very hard not to feel anything but absorbed by Hayes and Solène. The complications and angst were intense so that I don’t think I will recover for a while. Plan to shelve your life when you pick this up.

The writing in this book is sublime, seamless and this is a writing debut. Robinne Lee is an author to look out for. As many readers of this book will say, I want need more, just so that I can keep on breathing.

Thank you to Michael Joseph for the review copy.

A COURT OF SILVER FLAMES by Sarah J. Mass

Nesta Archeron has always been prickly-proud, swift to anger, and slow to forgive. And ever since being forced into the Cauldron and becoming High Fae against her will, she’s struggled to find a place for herself within the strange, deadly world she inhabits. Worse, she can’t seem to move past the horrors of the war with Hybern and all she lost in it.

The one person who ignites her temper more than any other is Cassian, the battle-scarred warrior whose position in Rhysand and Feyre’s Night Court keeps him constantly in Nesta’s orbit. But her temper isn’t the only thing Cassian ignites. The fire between them is undeniable, and only burns hotter as they are forced into close quarters with each other.

Meanwhile, the treacherous human queens who returned to the Continent during the last war have forged a dangerous new alliance, threatening the fragile peace that has settled over the realms. And the key to halting them might very well rely on Cassian and Nesta facing their haunting pasts.

Against the sweeping backdrop of a world seared by war and plagued with uncertainty, Nesta and Cassian battle monsters from within and without as they search for acceptance-and healing-in each other’s arms.


Title : A Court of Silver Flames
Author : Sarah J. Maas
Series : ACOTAR #4
Format : e-book
Page Count : 757
Genre : Fantasy Romance
Publisher : Bloomsbury Publishing
Release Date : February 16, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 5 star review

Headlines:
Prickly characters
Fighting for yourself
Sisterhood in found family form

In no suprise to anyone, I adored this book from front to back. In complete surprise to me, no-one, not one person on SM spoiled this book and considering the significant cross-series storylines that were key in this, I am shocked and delighted.

In some ways, Nesta and Cassian brought something that Feyre and Rhysand didn’t bring (even though I do love that pairing). Nesta was a prickly as a cactus and that wasn’t an easy fix. Cassian was an overall less problematic male character, more supportive, less alpha and an overall good guy without hidden issues.

Nesta made this story but what enhanced this story was the beautiful found family in Emerie and Gwyn. This threesome and what they strived to achieve and why, was such a fabulous storyline. I wasn’t once bored, I didn’t once skim a line, on full reading engagement.

There’s probably not much I can add to the many reviews of this book out there, only to say that I am fulfilled, I will re-read and Maas can bring me more anyday.

THESE HOLLOW VOWS by Lexi Ryan

From New York Times best-selling author Lexi Ryan, Cruel Prince meets A Court of Thorns and Roses in this sexy, action-packed fantasy about a girl who is caught between two treacherous faerie courts and their dangerously seductive princes.

Brie hates the Fae and refuses to have anything to do with them, even if that means starving on the street. But when her sister is sold to the sadistic king of the Unseelie court to pay a debt, she’ll do whatever it takes to get her back—including making a deal with the king himself to steal three magical relics from the Seelie court.

Gaining unfettered access to the Seelie court is easier said than done. Brie’s only choice is to pose as a potential bride for Prince Ronan, and she soon finds herself falling for him. Unwilling to let her heart distract her, she accepts help from a band of Unseelie misfits with their own secret agenda. As Brie spends time with their mysterious leader, Finn, she struggles to resist his seductive charm.

Caught between two dangerous courts, Brie must decide who to trust with her loyalty. And with her heart.


Title : These Hollow Vows
Author : Lexi Ryan
Format : eARC
Page Count : 448
Genre : Fantasy
Publisher : Hodder Books
Release Date : July 20, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3.5 – 4 star review

Headlines:
Familiar tropes
Seelie-unseelie good and bad
Un-trustworthiness

My, my, that was some knotted up mess of character disaffection veiled as loyalty. This story keeps you spinning in terms of who to set your hopes on, who is trustworthy and who is downright sneaky. I have to say that I called it totally wrong and ended up surprised by the final twists in this story.

This book took a little while to really capture my attention but when life changed for Brie and Jas, that was when I got fully on board. This story had some very familiar tropes and I did see those parallels I’ve heard mentioned with The Cruel Prince and ACOTAR characters. If they’re not your bag, this probably won’t be either.

The only characters I really liked in this story were Brie (although she did occasionally frustrate me), Jas and Lark. The rest of the characters, including the love interests just garnered my suspicion and I felt like I was looking over my shoulder throughout the read. Even so, I was gripped.

I loved the creatures like the banshee, barghest and sluarg that invaded the story and although they weren’t pleasant, they added colour and excitement.

This book leaves you with a gasp, a bucket-load of questions and a burning read to know more. This story definitely builds as it goes and it you can take the angst, the back and forth and some of the relationship tropes, then this could be a favourite.

Thank you to Hodder Books for the early review copy.

LOBIZONA by Romina Garber

Some people ARE illegal.

Lobizonas do NOT exist.

Both of these statements are false.

Manuela Azul has been crammed into an existence that feels too small for her. As an undocumented immigrant who’s on the run from her father’s Argentine crime-family, Manu is confined to a small apartment and a small life in Miami, Florida.

Until Manu’s protective bubble is shattered.

Her surrogate grandmother is attacked, lifelong lies are exposed, and her mother is arrested by ICE. Without a home, without answers, and finally without shackles, Manu investigates the only clue she has about her past–a mysterious “Z” emblem—which leads her to a secret world buried within our own. A world connected to her dead father and his criminal past. A world straight out of Argentine folklore, where the seventh consecutive daughter is born a bruja and the seventh consecutive son is a lobizón, a werewolf. A world where her unusual eyes allow her to belong.

As Manu uncovers her own story and traces her real heritage all the way back to a cursed city in Argentina, she learns it’s not just her U.S. residency that’s illegal. . . .it’s her entire existence.


Title : Lobizona
Author : Romina Garber
Series : Wolves of No World (book one)
Format : physical
Page Count : 400
Genre : YA fantasy
Publisher : Wednesday Books
Release Date : August 4, 2020

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

Right off the bat, I have to say, I absolutely love and respect what Garber is both saying and doing with this story. Between the very real-world fear about being undocumented, illegal, deported, the author has also transported that same fear into their fantasy setting where the origins of our MCs birth make her just as illegal but with the added bonus of her existence also being punishable by death. That said, the real-world scenes with ICE were scarier.

Despite the creativity of the fantasy portion of this world, I rather wish we hadn’t been in it. And not just because of the constant references to a certain Wizarding World and school (which, hey, warning! now you know). I almost wish all the fantasy bits had happened within the real world setting somehow and this had been more urban fantasy than what it was. Because I did like parts of the magical side of things, even if, brujas and lobizones (witches and werewolves) the whole society, was stuck in binary gender roles — though at least with more open-mindedness at the possibility of being other.. for reasons.

If you hadn’t noticed, this book tackles Lots Of Things.

Sometimes I liked the descriptions but I could feel myself glazing over a bit, skimming, until a certain reveal was revealed (clever). But even in the lead up to a certain confrontation I just felt lost in this other world. We definitely hit a point near the end where it’s just a frenetic rush to get some action in before the end and I was definitely feeling checked out.

I like, though don’t love, the characters but totally appreciate the slight deviation of formula in regards to the romance. But ultimately it does get a similar YA fantasy treatment, snowflake and all, and is saved by all the important dialogue happening around the fantastic elements (I stupidly didn’t keep track of any quotes but man there were some really great lines in here). And, again, not only what Manu represents but all the who she represents.

I’m interested to see where book two goes, and thankfully have an ARC I can dive into soon. I can totally see why so many people love this and hope I come around to those same feels in the sequel.

THE OTHER BLACK GIRL by Zakiya Dalila Harris 🎧

Twenty-six-year-old editorial assistant Nella Rogers is tired of being the only Black employee at Wagner Books. Fed up with the isolation and the micro-aggressions, she’s thrilled when Hazel starts working in the cubicle beside hers. They’ve only just started comparing natural hair care regimens, though, when a string of uncomfortable events cause Nella to become Public Enemy Number One and Hazel, the Office Darling. 

Then the notes begin to appear on Nella’s desk: Leave Wagner. Now.

It’s hard to believe Hazel is behind these hostile messages. But as Nella starts to spiral and obsess over the sinister forces at play, she soon realises that there is a lot more at stake than her career. 

A whip-smart and dynamic thriller and sly social commentary, The Other Black Girl will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last twist.


Title : The Other Black Girl
Author : Zakiya Dalila Harris
Narrators : Aja Naomi King, Joniece Abbott-Pratt, Bahni Turpin, Heather Alicia Sims
Format : Audiobook
Length : 13 hours, 33 minutes
Genre : Thriller
Publisher : Bloomsbury Publishing
Release Date : June 1, 2021

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 3 star review

Headlines:
Office politics
Undertones and rumblings
Allies or enemies

The Other Black Girl was an incredibly unusual thriller in terms of plot. It was an office-based story about the relationhip and power dynamics between the bosses and those wanting to move up the ranks, twinned with the inequality of people of colour in the workplace. All that led to a blend of competition, underhandedness and suspicion.

I’d seen this book heralded as a ‘Devil Wears Prada’ thriller but there was little I could equate to that story. There was zero humour or levity, but a lot of looking over the MC’s shoulder. It was hard to see who was friend or foe.

This was a fast-paced read with mulitple POVs and to be honest, I wanted to stay with Nella’s perspective most of the time. I got lost at points when the story moved back to a drama in office from some time ago with an black editor and author.

I didn’t like where the story ended up and that factor definitely brought the rating down for me. However, the journey through the story was tense and entertaining, so I would be eager to read Zakiya Dalila Harris again.

The narration of the audio was strong. Nella’s POV was pitched well, with that kind of suspicious tension that set the tone. There were other POVs that again were a little confusing at times but well narrated.

Thank you to Bloomsbury for the audio and physical copies.