AN EVERYDAY HERO by Laura Trentham

From award-winning author Laura Trentham comes an emotionally layered novel about redemption, second chances and discovering that life is worth fighting for.

At thirty, Greer Hadley never expected to be forced home to Madison, Tennessee with her life and dreams of being a songwriter up in flames. To make matters worse, a series of bad decisions and even crappier luck lands her community service hours at a nonprofit organization that aids veterans and their families. Greer cannot fathom how she’s supposed to use music to help anyone deal with their trauma and loss when the one thing that brought her joy has failed her.

When Greer meets fifteen-year-old Ally Martinez, her plans to stay detached and do as little as possible get thrown away. New to town and dealing with the death of her father in action, she hides her emotions behind a mask of bitterness and sarcasm, but Greer is able to see past it and recognizes pieces of who she once was in Ally. The raw and obvious talent she possesses could take her to the top and Greer vows to make sure life’s negativities don’t derail Ally’s potential.

After Greer is assigned a veteran to help, she’s not surprised Emmett Lawson, the town’s golden boy, followed his family’s legacy. What leaves her shocked is the shell of a man who believes he doesn’t deserve anyone’s help. A breakthrough with Ally reminds Greer that no one is worth giving up on. So she shows up one day with his old guitar, and meets Emmett’s rage head on with her stubbornness. When a situation with Ally becomes dire, the two of them must become a team to save her—and along the way they might just save themselves too.


Title : An Everyday Hero
Author : Laura Trentham
Series : A Heart of a Hero #2
Format : eARC
Page Count : 336
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : St Martin’s Griffin
Release Date : February 4, 2020

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

There was nothing average about this second instalment in Laura Trentham’s A Heart of a Hero series. Book one knocked my socks off and book two solidified my commitment and affection for this series. This is a multi-dimensional read that is small town but big impression.

I was expecting to see a link to the previous book but this is not an interconnected standalone, it is a true standalone, connected in the series by the theme of military heroes. For a quick moment, I was disappointed about this, but I got into the story so quickly that I ended up entranced by the characters and forgot about the series connection.

The protagonist was washed-up muscian Greer, who found herself forced into volunteering at a music centre. Somehow she was put on the case of Emmett, a veteran with one less limb, who had given up on life and people. This was a realistic, quietly impactful story as these two navigated returning to living. Remember how I said it was multi-dimensional? There was a 15 year old Ally, who was a key character in the picture, as well as horses and a kitten that I pretty much want to come and live with me.

Emmett wrapped his arms around the horse’s neck, embarrassing tears pricking his eyes. He hadn’t cried before or after his amputation. He hadn’t cried the first time he tried to walk on the prosthetic. He hadn’t cried the day he received his discharge papers. But with his face buried in the mane of his best childhood friend, tears leaked out.

Suffice it to say, this heartwarming story has all the feels and is almost guarenteed to make your eyes leak. On top of that, Greer was a snarky, no prisoners type of character. I just got on so well with reading about her and her attempts to draw Emmett and Ally out, that I was a complete fan of this book and Laura Trentham’s style of writing.

This isn’t a dramatic, high action military romance, it is the quiet, sneak up on your feelings type and I couldn’t be happier about that.

Thank you to St Martin’s Griffin for the early review copy.

THE BOOK THIEF by Marcus Zusak

1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier.

Liesel, a nine-year-old girl, is living with a foster family on Himmel Street. Her parents have been taken away to a concentration camp. Liesel steals books. This is her story and the story of the inhabitants of her street when the bombs begin to fall.


Title : The Book Thief
Author : Markus Zusak
Format : ebook
Page Count : 564
Genre : Historical Fiction
Publisher : Transworld Digital
Release Date : September 1, 2005

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

Has anyone got a mop and bucket for my tears? I sure could use one right now. What a read and what a last part to the book, I don’t think I drew breath. This will be a short review so that I don’t spoil and because my heart is mush right now.

In terms of writing style and narrative, I think this is one of the quirkiest books I’ve ever read. Death was the narrator and Leisel was the protagonist. Each chapter was only a few pages and the saddest story in history was often told with an air of amusement in the background.

Leisel’s story was both ordinary and profound, her childhood before coming to live with her adoptive parents was brutal but she was resilient and kept some innocence about her. I adored her papa, Hans, just as Leisel clearly did. Their bond and connection was beautiful to read. Her mama and papa took steps to support the Jews and this formed a significant part of the story.

Trust was accumulated quickly, due primarily to the brute strength of the man’s gentleness, his thereness.

This story transported me to the context of a Germany under Nazi rule. More importantly, it transports the reader to an average Joe perspective, village life and an example of good German people just trying to survive the hideousness of war and the regime they were under. Told over decades, this was both a light-hearted and heavy and emotionally-laden tale.

This isn’t a 5 star read for me because the writing style was strange, I won’t say that I ever got on with it, but I rubbed along with it because of the great story and characters. I am left feeling very affected by the reading experience and that I may be a bit too emotionally raw to discuss this at bookclub tomorrow. Oops!

WICKED BY DESIGN by Katy Moran

1819. Jack ‘Crow’ Crowlas, the charismatic and troubled hero of K.J. Whittaker’s first novel, FALSE LIGHTS, has married his feisty love, Hester and with their baby daughter, settled down to enjoy their new life as Lord and Lady Lamorna of Nansmornow in Cornwall.

But for Crow, trouble is never far away and as Cornwall seethes with rebellion, he is arrested for treason. Spared execution on condition that he undertakes a highly dubious mission to St Petersburg, he finds himself tangled in a snare of treachery and illicit passion, violence and sexual deceit, where not only his love for Hester, but also his relationship with his only brother, serving with the British army in Russia, will be tested to the limit and beyond.


Title : Wicked By Design
Author : Katy Moran
Format : Hardback
Page Count : 464
Genre : Historical Fiction
Publisher : Head of Zeus
Release Date : September 5, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

I feel all the things on finishing this book, so many emotions. I didn’t expect such an angsty ride but it worked so well and I’m feeling a bit wrung out from the journey.

This was an epic historical novel, epic in that it spanned continents and the storytelling was vast and deep. There is a previous book about these characters (FALSE LIGHTS) but this book isn’t marketed as a series and it stands alone perfectly. WICKED BY DESIGN was a book with two main characters but it was so much about a family and the side characters were crucial to the story. The book was written in the era of the Napoleonic wars, where France was at war with England and the Cornish people were a separate country as such. I did some quick history brushing-up through my read of this book but I kept up with things well.

Lord John ‘Crow’ Lamora was a respected figure in the recent wars and was married to Hester, a black woman, daughter of a sea captain. Their marriage seemed to have begrudging acceptance in society but Hester was not truly accepted, only tolerated for the sake of her husband and his rank. The power dynamic between Hester and Crow was everything funny, heartbreaking and empowering. What these character went through in this book can only be described as hellish but I was glued to the page.

I went from really liking Crow to absolutely detesting his behaviour whilst understanding some of it. It was so hard to watch what happened to this man, to witness it and to feel it; and feel it I did. Not only for Crow but for Hester too, talk about putting my heart through the grater! Crow’s brother Kitto was a key character who I really liked. He was a bit young and impetuous but I found myself having a soft spot for him. The dynamic between Crow and Kitto however, was a difficult one. There needs be a little mention of Nadia’s character, she was superb in her gender role. Eventually, the story took these characters from Cornwall to St Petersburg. The description was rich but not heavy and it transported me to the sights, sounds and smells.

Katy Moran took me from page one and battered emotions out of me all along the way, right up until that last line. I felt dangled on a string, I wanted to lash out at the characters sometimes but all I can say is that her writing, her story made me feel. This is a historical fiction with some romance but more historical fiction than anything, I highly recommend it.

Thank you to Head of Zeus for this finished copy to review (the hardback is beautiful).

ONE YEAR HOME by Marie Force 🎧

He came home a hero and lost the only woman he’s ever loved…

John
I have no idea how to survive without my beloved Ava. She had no choice but to move on with her life during my six-year deployment and has now married Eric. I hate him for taking her from me. I’d prefer to wallow in my depression and heartbreak, but the whole damned world wants a piece of the SEAL Team leader who helped capture the world’s most-wanted terrorist. I need help handling the relentless requests, and when Ava sends her new sister-in-law to manage the media circus for me, I’m prepared to hate her on principle. Her brother took my Ava. What else do I need to know about her?

Julianne
It takes five seconds to realize Ava’s ex is going to be the most complicated and difficult client I’ve ever had, but the opportunity to represent the most celebrated man in the world could make my career. I’m determined to do the job, even if I dislike John from the moment I meet him. And I like everyone. So much so that my brothers worry about me being exploited by those who would take advantage of my unwavering love for others. But John… He’s in a class by himself, and his bitterness is a festering wound that I begin to wish I could somehow fix for him. The more time we spend together, the more our mutual disdain morphs into something that feels an awful lot like desire. There’s no way I can want this man, or so I tell myself, and when Eric finds out I’ve developed feelings for the man causing trouble in his new marriage, well…
That’s going to be a hot mess.


Title : One Year Home
Author : Marie Force
Series : Navy Captain John West #2
Format : Audio
Length : 8 hours, 37 minutes
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : HTJB, Inc
Release Date : August 20, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

If you were left after FIVE YEARS GONE (book one) satisfied like me, you might question the need for a second book. Ten minutes into this listen, I realised that this was the sequel I didn’t know I needed and I could quickly see I was in for an emotive and angsty ride.

I knew this story was going to centre on John, broken, battered and bruised both outwardly and psychologically. This reluctant hero, thrown into fame and fortune he didn’t want or seek, made for compelling reading. After FIVE YEARS GONE, I felt sorry for John but I still wasn’t his biggest fan, I wanted Ava with Eric so…yeah. Coming at this story from John’s POV meant everything from an altered perception and I became his cheer team.

John’s story included accurate and compelling narrative about recovery from amputation to shrapnel, PTSD and sepsis. I challenge anyone not to be pulled into the journey. Yet, most compelling was John’s mangled heart and broken soul. The story of John connecting to Julianne was fast but not too fast, and I devoured the story.

So you think you know where this review is going? Colour me surprised when this isn’t just John’s story but it was very much back to Ava and Eric. I didn’t know how I felt about that and what was happening with this very new HEA; it was a rollercoaster. I was just glad we had four fantastic narrators along to present the ride to the listener.

This duology has been one of my favourite and most memorable military romances. I don’t often seek out this kind of story but Navy Captain John West series is one you should read if you’re a fan of this sub-genre or if you’ve never tried it before. This duology has made a Marie Force fan of me and I am eager to try my hand at her other kinds of romances and in 2020, I will.

FIVE YEARS GONE by Marie Force

The most brazen terrorist attack in history. A country bent on revenge. A love affair cut short. A heart that never truly heals.

I knew on the day of the attack that our lives were changed forever. What I didn’t know then was that I’d never see John again after he deployed. One day he was living with me, sleeping next to me, making plans with me. The next day he was gone.

That was five years ago. The world has moved on from that awful day, but I’m stuck in my own personal hell, waiting for a man who may be dead for all I know. At my sister’s wedding, I meet Eric, the brother of the groom, and my heart comes alive once again.

The world is riveted by the capture of the terrorist mastermind, brought down by U.S. Special Forces in a daring raid. Now I am trapped between hoping I’ll hear from John and fearing what’ll become of my new life with Eric if I do.

From a New York Times bestselling author, Five Years Gone, a standalone contemporary, is an epic story of love, honor, duty, unbearable choices and impossible dilemmas.


Title : Five Years Gone
Author : Marie Force
Series : Navy Captain John West #1
Format : ebook
Page Count : 400
Genre : Contemporary Romance
Publisher : HTJB, Inc
Release Date : October 9, 2018

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

When I am in the mood, military romance (if that’s a sub-genre) can really float my boat, I’ve had some profound reads in this category that are totally memorable. With this title and the idea it conjures, I was looking forward to an angsty, emotional ride and guess what, that’s exactly what I got.

What surprised me about this book is that I expected this to be about the missing soldier but really it was about Ava, the women he left behind. It was a unique situation, John had kept her in the dark in their two year relationship, encouraging her not to share her connection to him and keep it a secret. Is this ringing any alarm bells for you? It did for me, but not Ava and in retrospect, she put this down to her age and naivety.

“I blame myself for not paying closer attention, but mostly I blame him for leaving me in this torturous state of limbo.”

Five years later, Ava had to move on. The story really concentrates on her new start in a new city and her friendship with Eric. Eric was a good guy, not unrealistically so but I did so like him; he won my heart. The slow development of something more between Ava and Eric was great to read, I’m here for the slow burn always. Ava was definitely a work in progress, a heart-repair project and I came to like her very much.

There were elements of this story that were predictable, it’s pretty obvious with the title that John, her first love returned but that didn’t take away from the reading experience at all. Whilst I didn’t cry, I can tell you that this is the kind of read that had all the feels and I enjoyed rolling with the emotions and occasionally closing my kindle for a breather.

This is my first book by Marie Force and I enjoyed her writing style and the story she crafted. There’s another book to this series, but FIVE YEARS GONE is written so that it can stand alone. That said, I think I’m going to have to pick up with the other character soon.

THE HOW AND THE WHY by Cynthia Hand

A poignant exploration of family and the ties that bind, perfect for fans of Far From the Tree, from New York Times bestselling author Cynthia Hand.

Today Melly had us writing letters to our babies…

Cassandra McMurtrey has the best parents a girl could ask for. They’ve given Cass a life she wouldn’t trade for the world. She has everything she needs—except maybe the one thing she wants. Like, to know who she is. Where she came from. Questions her adoptive parents can’t answer, no matter how much they love her.

But eighteen years ago, someone wrote Cass a series of letters. And they may just hold the answers Cass has been searching for.

Alternating between Cass’s search for answers and letters from the pregnant teen who gave her up for adoption, this voice-driven narrative is the perfect read for fans of Nina LaCour and Jandy Nelson.


Title : The How & The Why
Author : Cynthia Hand
Format : ARC
Page Count: 464
Genre: YA contemporary
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: November 5, 2019

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 4.5 star review

This is the second book I’ve finished today and both have made me cry. A lot. Is there a correlation between my tears and loving a book? Maybe. But not necessarily. I’ve definitely still cried for books I’ve hated, so. There’s that.

However. I didn’t hate this book at all. I figured this would be emotional as it was about adoption, family, and also likened to FAR FROM THE TREE by Robin Benway — another story that I’m pretty sure I remember made me cry a lot.

This one is told in two timelines of a sort; via present day Cassandra and the letters being written by her birth mother, eighteen years before, while she was pregnant and waiting to give up her baby for adoption.

There was such a richness to this story, both in the various situations where people were adopted, and also the reasons that lead to them, but also just family in general — both those of your blood and those you choose.

I honestly have so little to say about this book despite loving it so much. I think mostly because I’m still a little stunned by the ending. I was loving this book, solid four, but the final chapter? I mean.. sure, maybe it’s a little bit incredulous, a little bit unlikely, maybe even fantastical, but that.. oh my god, I’m just.. yeah, hello, this gets a bump for that. But honestly, ending aside, this book is so great.

THE HOW & THE WHY packs a lot of punch but I think it also does it in a smart way. There’s romance but it’s not the focus. There’s strong enduring friendships that aren’t without realistic jealousies and natural speedbumps. And I love the focus on the bright, miraculous, even luminous moments in life, even amongst all the sadness or tragedy that we still experience. Sometimes things do work out. Sometimes we overcome our pasts. Sometimes we say the wrong things but are forgiven. Something we make a fool of ourselves but get something good out of it in the end.

Sometimes that’s just the how and the why of life.

Sorry for the cheese.

Read this book.

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

THE GIVER OF STARS by Jojo Moyes

England, late 1930s, and Alice Wright — restless, stifled — makes an impulsive decision to marry wealthy American Bennett Van Cleve and leave her home and family behind.

But stuffy, disapproving Baileyville, Kentucky, where her husband favours work over his wife and is dominated by his overbearing father, is not the adventure — or the escape — that she hoped for.

That is, until she meets Margery O’Hare, a troublesome woman — and daughter of a notorious felon — the town wishes to forget.

Margery’s on a mission to spread the wonder of books and reading to the poor and lost — and she needs Alice’s help.

Trekking alone under big open skies, through wild mountain forests, Alice, Margery and their fellow sisters of the trail discover freedom, friendship — and a life to call their own.

But when the town turns against them, will their belief in one another — and the power of the written word — be enough to save them?

Inspired by a remarkable true story, The Giver of Stars features five incredible women who will prove to be every bit as beloved as Lou Clark, the unforgettable heroine of Me Before You


Title : The Giver of Stars
Author : Jojo Moyes
Format : Hardback
Page Count : 448
Genre : Women’s Fiction
Publisher : Michael Joseph, Penguin Books
Release Date : October 3, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ .5


Micky’s 4.5 star review

I should know…know that when I read a Jojo Moyes book that it’s going to pack an emotional punch but with this blurb, I just didn’t see it coming. THE GIVER OF STARS had me invested quickly and feeling like a family member to the librarian sisterhood, so that when things happened, I felt devastated and scared to read on. The themes of misogyny, racism and feminism made this both emotional and empowering.

The context of reading, teaching poor and downtrodden women, children and men to read through the distrubution of books was in the background but it also powerful to observe. These women on their riding rounds also comforted the sick, grieving and took on the role of friends, confidentes and substitute mother figures.

I didn’t expect this book to be unputdownable, but it was as Moyes made the mundane work of Alice, Margery, Izzy and Beth’s lives totally readable and absorbing. Alice was the main protagonist, an English newly-wed, a little prissy but a genuinely sweet woman. The life she found in Kentucky was not at all what she expected and I tore my hair out over her and Bennett’s relationship. There were some revolting men in this book but then there were also some fantastic characters in Fred and Sven, they were the light in my reading and this book.

There was a second supporting protagonist in Margery and she really captured my heart. I loved her rebelliousness, her unconventional ways and willingness to be different. Her later storyline had me distraught, sad and prone to weeping. I just did not know where this book was going to end, there were so many possibilities.

I have come away from this read inspired. Jojo Moyes took me on a journey with this story and I am all the richer for it. This is historical women’s fiction at it’s best and I will remember this book for years, I am sure.

Thank you to Michael Joseph for the review copy.

LETTERS TO THE LOST by Brigid Kemmerer

Juliet Young always writes letters to her mother, a world-traveling photojournalist. Even after her mother’s death, she leaves letters at her grave. It’s the only way Juliet can cope.

Declan Murphy isn’t the sort of guy you want to cross. In the midst of his court-ordered community service at the local cemetery, he’s trying to escape the demons of his past.
Juliet Young always writes letters to her mother, a world-traveling photojournalist. Even after her mother’s death, she leaves letters at her grave. It’s the only way Juliet can cope.

Declan Murphy isn’t the sort of guy you want to cross. In the midst of his court-ordered community service at the local cemetery, he’s trying to escape the demons of his past.

When Declan reads a haunting letter left beside a grave, he can’t resist writing back. Soon, he’s opening up to a perfect stranger, and their connection is immediate. But neither Declan nor Juliet knows that they’re not actually strangers. When life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, sparks will fly as Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart.


Title : Letters to the Lost
Author : Brigid Kemmerer
Series : Letters to the Lost #1
Format : Library ebook
Page Count : 393
Genre : YA contemporary
Publisher : Bloomsbury Publishing UK
Release Date : April 6, 2017

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 4 star review

I am so late to this series but it is nice to be reading the backlog and not only that but reading the backlog and enjoying it. This contemporary YA packed an emotional punch from the first page to the last and it was a strap-yourself-in kind of ride.

The story of The Dark and Cemetary Girl aka Declan and Juliet was one shrouded in secrets, reveals, lies and anger. These two crashed into each other through letters and messages and I enjoyed the brief epistolary starts to chapters.

The experiences that underpinned the stories, slowly revealed in this book were hefty ones but not unrealistic. The story flowed around grief and loss, touched on abuse and addiction and had that hated element of nasty parenting too. I do struggle with awful parents in YA sometimes but I was able to push through those elements in this story.

One of the absolute strengths of this story was the intensity of the online connection that these two had, it belied their ‘in real life‘ connection. What was even more surprising was that their intense relationship was all genuine and platonic compassion, concern and shared experience. There was a low level of romance but it really was not at the fore, nor did it need to be. I think for the kind of genre this is, it is unusual as romance is often the platform for connections in contemporary YA; Brigid Kemmerer showed her skill in this.

LETTERS TO THE LOST took me on an emotional journey, I felt the sadness and empathised with the loss and despite the lack of hope threaded through, I did enjoy this. It was definitely difficult to put the book down. I am really anticipating the next book and who I think the main character is. However, I have already read book three, chaotic reader that I am.

If you’re one of the few who haven’t read this book, like I was, I do recommend.

BEARD WITH ME by Penny Reid — double review!

No one is better at surviving than Scarlet St. Claire and making the best out of circumstances beyond her control is Scarlet’s specialty. In an apocalyptic situation, she’d be the last person on earth, hermitting like a pro, singing along to her CD Walkman, and dancing like no one is watching. 

Scarlet is clever, Scarlet is careful, and Scarlet is smart . . . except when it comes to Billy Winston.

No one is better at fighting than Billy Winston and raging against his circumstances—because nothing is beyond his control—is Billy’s specialty. In an apocalyptic situation, he’d be the first person on earth to lead others to safety, overcome catastrophe, or die trying. 

Billy is fearless, Billy is disciplined, and Billy is honorable . . . except when it comes to Scarlet St. Claire.


Title : Beard With Me
Author : Penny Reid
Series : The Winston Brothers (book 5.5/6)
Format : eARC
Page Count :
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Cipher-Naught
Release Date : September 16, 2019

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


Hollis’ 3.5 star review

Here it is, the highly anticipated origin story about Billy and Claire (Scarlet), easily the angstiest ship in the Winston Brothers series. And wow, there’s a lot to unpack here.

I wished she’d stop making everything so hard. I wished she’d just let me take care of her. Tricking her into doing the right thing, the smart thing, made me feel like an asshole.

A lot of this story worked for me and also a lot of it didn’t. I was mostly just going through the motions (sad motions because there is some unfortunate content to work through but still, not hooked) until about 70%. At which point things take a turn and I was so so so so here for it. The last 30% isn’t all greatness, of course, and it certainly isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. As warned, as we all knew to expect, this isn’t a romance, there is no HEA. Not yet. But it was still probably my favourite part of the whole story.

Have you ever wanted something you know you can’t have?
All the time.”

I also have a sorta mild discomfort with some of said romance. At least at this stage. Well, not just the romance; this book — and series — is rife with uncomfortable things, dark things, violent things. For all the quirky, home cooked, sweetness and charm, of the south, which Reid definitely infuses these books with, there is a darkness to this series, too. But my issue with the romance is that, well. These kids are young. There’s nothing graphic, it stays pretty solidly PG-13, but there is a weirdness to reading about people being attracted to a fourteen year old. Even if the other protagonist is only sixteen. Reid addresses this, not only through Billy but another character, but still.

I would’ve called him a sonofabitch, but his mother was a nice lady.

It was strange, but also delightful, to see Cletus in his younger form.. and yet still very much the same Cletus. Most of my highlights were from him, naturally. Literal highlights I mean, on my kindle. Though I suppose the high points also included him. I’ll admit, though, that it was hard to remember that these characters were much younger than we’re used to them being. Both because of circumstance and attitude, I think. Either they weren’t written young enough or I’m just too used to their future selves. Not sure which. Maybe both. And maybe that’s where, as much as we all wanted this prequel, maybe it would’ve just been better in a smaller doses. Like flashbacks within a book. But either way, I’ll be glad to reunite with Adult Winstons and Adult Claire. Though I did love seeing Bethany, the Winston matriarch, again.

Cletus Byron Winston! Are you crazy? You asked your twelve-year-old brothers to get you a keg?
If by ‘crazy’ you mean genius, then yes I am.”

The end of this book is achingly tragic and sad as we expect, not just because of the Billy and Claire situation, but because of the Billy and everything situation. My heart breaks for him. There are so many characters to dislike, either because of their bad intentions or because of their good intentions that still make them unlikeable, but at the core I love the Winstons, always. The upside of reading this, too, is that I’m extra pumped for my full series reread now. All the little easter eggs, all the foreshadowing, I’ll be able to relive with new eyes, now that we have this story.

The last thing I ever want to be for you is a regret.”

I’m so looking forward to Billy’s happy ending and definitely Claire’s. These two deserve it. But I know it’s going to be hella rough along the way. And, complicating matters, knowing it’s going to be the end? I fully expect much tears to come in this final book.

** I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review. ** 


Micky’s 4 star review

…and exhale. I feel like I’ve held my breath for the last 30 minutes reading this book. It’s been a journey, beautiful and tough in equal measure and I am left needing more from Billy and Scarlet, so much more. When will their next book be (rhetorical question).

The warning at the beginning of the book is right, there are triggers for days but call me up to the challenge and in I went. Clever Penny lulled me in with ease for a while until my adrenaline started pumping, my eyes filled and my heart hurt. This is an emotive story to the power of 10 and everything about Scarlet in particular, is tragedy with hope; it was that hope that kept me going in this book.

Amongst the tough and tragic is an engaging story of first love. What evolves between Billy and Scarlet is so tangible and everything lovely, that as a reader, I was on their side. Just as you get carried up in the lovely, it doesn’t matter because the story builds your trepidation, ready for the fall. Bonus time is that Cletus as a teen was pretty fun and this is a balm that will see you through the journey that this story takes you on.

BEARD WITH ME was discomfort sliced with beauty and it has left me discomforted now after reading. That said, I am glad I did and I feel that through all these Winston Brother stories I have read, I really was in the dark about the depth of what had gone on between these two. This is a story worth your time and unsettling.

Penny Reid wrote what is essentially a YA story but it felt more like contemporary romance because that is where I’m used to seeing this family. I am a mixed ball of feelings and I know I’m going to be thinking about this for a while when really I just want to move on. It’s hard not getting the ending you want, but I am ready to wait for it even so.

I voluntarily read an early copy of this book, thanks to the author.

THE BEST THING by Mariana Zapata

Some things are easily forgiven. Other things… not so much.

Lenny DeMaio made herself a promise: she was done.
Done thinking about him.
Done worrying about him.
Done reaching out to a man who clearly didn’t want to be found.

Too bad no one gave Jonah Collins the memo.


Title : The Best Thing
Author : Mariana Zapata
Format : ebook (KU)
Page Count : 493
Genre : contemporary romance
Publisher : Indie
Release Date : August 7, 2019

Reviewer : Micky
Rating : ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Micky’s 5 star review

I devoured this book in the best way I know how, on holiday, with my full and undivided attention, just what any Zapata book deserves. THE BEST THING gave me all the things I love from my favourite Zapatas – family and friends, the slow burn build and all of the stomach-crunching feelings. What was special about this book was that it went a direction that Mariana hasn’t gone before and it worked so darn well.

This story has a split sport context of MMA and rubgy…hello…this is fine by me. What a picture was painted, I loved the home of Maio House. This book delivered on some of the best characters I’ve read from a MZ book, Lenny (Elena), Jonah, Grandpa Gus, Mo (special squidge to the stomach here) and Peter. Each of these characters had my heart and all equally, I cannot favour one over the other.

Lenny was a woman let down, let down in the biggest way. Each chapter start gave a very brief past context to the ways in which Lenny had been let down and the more that the book progressed, the more those chapters starts kicked me in the gut. Jonah was the guy, THE GUY and it’s amazing how my heart, mind and affections moved towards understanding him. This big, bumbling, shy and gorgeous creature was swoon-heaven but guess what, Lenny was a champion MMA fighter, she could totally kick his ass with a foot swipe and her mouth.

There was nothing he could do that I couldn’t fight. There was nothing he could say that would possibly hurt me. I had prepared for this.

What was it that he wanted to explain? Why had he disappeared? Why hadn’t he called me back? What hadn’t he wanted to be part of…my life? Why he’d decided to come back now?

The unexpected element of this book was thrilling to me and this aspect was written so well, my heart was warm and cozy, wrapped up in the family-ness of this book. Sorry for the vagueness but it is necessary.

This second chance story with a deep connection at the heart, was fantastic. It was written with a style that just seemed to appeal to my mind and heart. I saved the last 6% for my flight home and what an idiot I am because that epilogue had my eyes sweating on take off. That said, that epilogue was just right for me.

Go read, go love, go savour.