Book Review

Book Review: The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez

Rating: ☆☆☆ 
Audience: Contemporary romance
Length: 384 pages
Author: Abby Jimenez
Publisher: Forever
Release Date: June 11th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Kristen Petersen doesn’t do drama, will fight to the death for her friends, and has no room in her life for guys who just don’t get her. She’s also keeping a big secret: facing a medically necessary procedure that will make it impossible for her to have children.

Planning her best friend’s wedding is bittersweet for Kristen — especially when she meets the best man, Josh Copeland. He’s funny, sexy, never offended by her mile-wide streak of sarcasm, and always one chicken enchilada ahead of her hangry. Even her dog, Stuntman Mike, adores him. The only catch: Josh wants a big family someday. Kristen knows he’d be better off with someone else, but as their attraction grows, it’s harder and harder to keep him at arm’s length.

HMM.

I’ve had a lot of friends read this. And I have heard literally every review under the sun. All things from 1 star rants to 5 star raves. I have decided that I’m smack in the middle. There was some parts I did like (hint: Josh) and some parts I didn’t like (hint: Kristen).

Good stuff first, JOSH. Dude, this guy put up with so much crap throughout this entire book and I feels deserves more praise. He was sweet, funny, attractive and the kind of guy I would enjoy being around. The only thing that happened that I didn’t love was his drunk confession of love. I personally just don’t like those scenes.

Bad stuff next, Kristen. I was really hoping to see a bigger character arc from her. I knew the main subject of the book was infertility and the struggles Kristen was going through involving that. Her despair was palpable and I truly felt for her (and those) in that situation. I thought I would see her come to a better understanding of herself and knowing she is more than whether or not she can have a child. There was no change until the last page of the epilogue where I finally felt she was at peace. I wish this had come sooner. Her sarcasm and wit were on fire and she had me laughing at some point. Yet, Kristen’s CONTINUAL pushing away of Josh instead of just LISTENING for a minute almost annoyed me.

The romance was good. I liked the build up. The only thing that bothered me was the emotional cheating. I know some people don’t consider this cheating, personally I do. After that point I loved watching the banter and heat between Kristen and Josh.

I was emotionally attached to some parts of the book involving Kristen and Josh. I was HIGHLY involved emotionally in Sloan and Brandon’s story. I’m still a bit shaken up over it because I was blind-sided by that whole bit. Makes me curious where Jimenez’s next book will take us (I’ve heard good things about it too!).

Overall audience notes:

  • Adult contemporary romance
  • Language: A LOT of strong language
  • Romance: kisses, make-outs, two love scenes that were too descriptive for me personally (on the very explicit spectrum)
  • Violence: car accidents, discussion of a firefighters life
  • Trigger warnings: infertility

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Book Review

ARC Book Review: Don't Go Stealing My Heart by Kelly Siskind

Rating: ☆☆☆ 1/2
Audience: Contemporary romance
Length: 333 pages
Author: Kelly Siskind
Publisher: CD Books
Release Date: April 22nd, 2020
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

She wants to steal his Van Gogh. He wants to steal her heart.

Some people would call Clementine Abernathy a criminal. She considers herself a modern day Robin Hood, who steals from the rich and gives to the poor. Not exactly on the up-and-up, but she knows what it’s like to lose everything. Her latest heist involves swiping a priceless Van Gogh from its owner, who’s supposed to be an egotistical trust-fund brat.

Turns out Jack David is a sexy, kind-hearted man…and Clementine is in trouble. Falling for her mark would make her the World’s Dumbest Conwoman, but Jack is charmingly persistent, always singing sweet songs in her ear.

And that earth-shattering kiss? She never stood a chance.

Now she’s imagining a fresh start with this dashing man, but that means telling Jack about her past. And other nefarious sorts are after the same painting. Too soon, Clementine learns what it means to risk it all for love.

Thank you to Kelly Siskind and Netgalley for the eARC. All opinions are my own!

BURNING LOVE.

I didn’t know that I would love an Elvis, tribute artist, as much as I did. But Jack swooned me away with those hips and voice [which unfortunately had to be totally in my head] BUT STILL. Ultra-swoonworthy Not-Maxwell Jack is a lovely romantic interest.

Clementine was a solid heroine. I thought the way she approached her past was heart-breaking, but what she thought was best (at the time). I loved seeing her learn to accept love and trust in her life. It was a long time coming for Clementine to get a break for once. The way she gave up what she was doing, knowing it was wrong, was the kind of changes I love seeing. Especially the fact that she communicated with Jack.

Now, the communication was great for 95% of it. Then, the critical moment when she honestly should have just said something to Jack, she decided it was best to go in the complete opposite direction? WHY. Clementine spent the entire time learning to open up, and when the test came, she failed. And it bothered me. I thought it at least worked out better than I’ve seen in familiar moments in other books. It let to a bigger reveal that I hadn’t quite realized was happening.

I thought the story was cute and playful. The idea of Clementine being a Robin Hood-type criminal was different than my usual romances. Add in the fact that Jack loves dressing up as Elvis and I have definitely never read a book like this! I love its uniqueness factor. Kept me interested and flipping pages. The small town vibes and sub-plots were great. There was a good amount of steam and innuendo throughout. You can feel the slow burn between them (even as the time is short), for a more insta-love, it was written so well I hardly noticed. I was cheering on Clementine and Jack.

The ending was a bit abrupt. After the big ending, it skipped to a year-later epilogue. While that kind of jarred me, I did love the epilogue. It was perfectly cute and the best happily ever after. I can’t wait to read her next story!

Overall audience notes:

  • Contemporary romance
  • Language: some
  • Romance: kisses/make-outs, innuendo, a few very detailed love scenes
  • Violence: guns, physical, knives
  • Trigger warnings: mentions of Clementine’s parents suicides (at different times, methods mentioned); abusive foster family situations

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Book Review

Book Review: Christmas Like This (A Love Like This #2) by Carina Taylor

Rating: ☆☆
Audience: Contemporary romance novella
Length: 148 pages
Author: Carina Taylor
Publisher: Self-published
Release Date: November 14th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

I know exactly what I’d like to put in Trey’s stocking: the biggest lump of coal I can carry.
Unfortunately, I won’t get the chance, because our boss has delivered an ultimatum: plan the company Christmas party with Trey and learn to get along, or else.
After only one day of trying to plan the Christmas party, I’m ready to pick the “or else.” Is it possible to learn to get along with the most aggravating, overprotective, handsome guy I’ve ever known?
We’re about to find out if we can get our names off the naughty list or not.

IT WAS CHRISTMASY AT LEAST.

This is a novella, so my review will be shorter than usual. I am on a quest for some great Christmas reads, this could have been better.

I think this actually would have been more enchanting if it was longer. Things happened way too fast and background information was thrown out haphazardly and inconsistently. I know there was sadness and drama put in to add an emotional component, but I wasn’t feeling much towards anyone.

The banter between them did get better over the novella. At first, it honestly seemed flat out mean and made me cringe. The push to create the enemies to lovers trope flew off the handle and I was happy when it turned down and they were able to communicate civilly with each other.

Definitely great Christmas vibes and I loved the plot of them having to plan the Christmas party together. I did like the writing, just felt like everything needed a bit more.

Overall audience notes:

  • Contemporary romance novella
  • Language: none
  • Romance: some kisses
  • Violence: car wreck

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Book Review

Book Review: The Bromance Book Club (Bromance Book Club #1) by Lyssa Kay Adams

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: Contemporary Romance
Length: 352 pages
Author: Lyssa Kay Adams
Publisher: Berkley
Expected Release Date: November 5th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

The first rule of book club:
You don’t talk about book club.

Nashville Legends second baseman Gavin Scott’s marriage is in major league trouble. He’s recently discovered a humiliating secret: his wife Thea has always faked the Big O. When he loses his cool at the revelation, it’s the final straw on their already strained relationship. Thea asks for a divorce, and Gavin realizes he’s let his pride and fear get the better of him. 

Welcome to the Bromance Book Club.

Distraught and desperate, Gavin finds help from an unlikely source: a secret romance book club made up of Nashville’s top alpha men. With the help of their current read, a steamy Regency titled Courting the Countess, the guys coach Gavin on saving his marriage. But it’ll take a lot more than flowery words and grand gestures for this hapless Romeo to find his inner hero and win back the trust of his wife. 

SO REFRESHING.

I mean seriously. A romantic contemporary centered around a married couple? It’s a sub genre I didn’t know I needed, but now want entirely more of.

Gavin and Thea were so mesmerizing to watch. I read this book in under 24 hours because I truly could not put it down. I love how sweet Gavin was and how he truly wanted to make his marriage work.

Both Thea and Gavin enraged me at times with how stubborn and frustrating they were acting. While you’d think this would ruin the book, it doesn’t. This really made the characters real and human. Marriage is hard. Great, but hard. There’s so many layers to a marriage and what it takes to hold on when the best option truly seems like giving up. Mistakes were made on both sides and it took Gavin really diving into his backstory to convince Thea they both had more to give to their relationship.

Thea was the initial instigator in wanting a divorce and I love that this book had her perspective too. It took a lot of looking through her history and introspection for her to let go of her past. It’s hard to not allow past relationships and family dynamics play apart in your own life.

The book club was FANTASTIC. Oh my goodness, I loved it so much. They were such a random group of guys that all had this one connection, romance books. I love how they took Gavin in to their fold and helped him work through his issues. The dialogue and scenes with them had me laughing out loud. Actually laughing so much my husband asked what was so funny. They were the lighthearted and sincere group of friends that the book thrived off of.

My only issue was that the steaminess and language was a bit past my personal preference level. Language I can mostly overlook but I found myself skip/skimming over the steamy scenes because of the level of detail. The flirting and banter though? That was great and I could not stop reading during those scenes. Thea was so flustered with Gavin that it was absolutely precious.

Overall audience notes:

  • Contemporary romance
  • Language: a lot throughout
  • Romance: sexual banter, flirting, kisses, make-outs, detailed sex scenes
  • Violence: physical

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Book Review

Book Review: Say You Still Love Me by K.A. Tucker

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: Contemporary romance
Length: 373 pages
Author: K.A. Tucker
Publisher: Atria Books
Release Date: August 6th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Life is a mixed bag for Piper Calloway.

On the one hand, she’s a twenty-nine-year-old VP at her dad’s multibillion-dollar real estate development firm, and living the high single life with her two best friends in a swanky downtown penthouse. On the other hand, she’s considered a pair of sexy legs in a male-dominated world and constantly has to prove her worth. Plus, she’s stuck seeing her narcissistic ex-fiancé—a fellow VP—on the other side of her glass office wall every day.

Things get exponentially more complicated for Piper when she runs into Kyle Miller—the handsome new security guard at Calloway Group Industries, and coincidentally the first love of her life.

The guy she hasn’t seen or heard from since they were summer camp counsellors together. The guy from the wrong side of the tracks. The guy who apparently doesn’t even remember her name.

Piper may be a high-powered businesswoman now, but she soon realizes that her schoolgirl crush is not only alive but stronger than ever, and crippling her concentration. What’s more, despite Kyle’s distant attitude, she’s convinced their reunion isn’t at all coincidental, and that his feelings for her still run deep. And she’s determined to make him admit to them, no matter the consequences. 

THIS ONE TIME AT SUMMER CAMP.

As a parent I read this thinking my child is never going to a sleepaway camp HA. But that was just my musings. This was a pretty good read. Not The Simple Wild caliber, but this is my third Tucker book and I’m definitely hooked on her romances.

I always have a rough time with flashback books. There’s something jarring to me about flipping timelines back and forth a lot. This book used the device fairly well. I didn’t love how many chapters flipped back, yet it was less than it could have been. Kyle and Piper’s insta-summer-romance was actually kinda cute. The only thing? Kyle was a very much stereotypical *bad boy* and I could not even with that. Fauhawk, lip ring, tattoos, his character was trying way too hard at that time. It was fun seeing all the camp had to offer and the growing background story between the two.

Present day was my favorite part. Adult Kyle allllll daaaaaay looooooong. I’m still very much smitten over here. The way he walked back into Piper’s life, forever in love with her? YES PLEASE. I also thought the dynamics behind why he left were much more solid than I’ve seen in other second-chance romances. My general issue is that it’s an obvious communication error. And that drives me up a wall. Kyle’s choices at the time made so much sense and a frightened 17-year old did what he had to for his family and friends. I can roll with it.

I love the swoon worthy romance of it all as Piper and Kyle reconnected. Crossing barriers and letting all the secrets out, oh it was a lot. I love how Tucker conveys emotion into her books and gives us a deeper story. The way the side characters were brought in melted my heart and I was feeling all the emotions right along with them.

I enjoyed Piper as an MC. I thought it was amazing she was an executive at a company (even though she definitely had some daddy issues). Her Dad, Kieran, played a pivotal role that I didn’t even see coming. I liked the conflict resolution between them and how a truthful conversation really turns the tides.

Overall audience notes:

  • Contemporary romance (second chance trope)
  • Language: some throughout
  • Romance: kisses, make-outs, a handful of romance scenes from second base to all the way; moderately detailed (but easily skipped over)
  • Trigger warnings: cheating spouses, underage drinking (and a physical accident with lifelong medical issues as a result), underage smoking, parents incarcerated, bribing a minor

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Book Review

Book Review: Lovely War by Julie Berry

Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆
Audience: Young adult historical fiction + romance
Length: 480 pages
Author: Julie Berry
Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers
Release Date: March 5th, 2019
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

A sweeping, multi-layered romance with a divine twist, by the Printz Honor-winning author of The Passion of Dolssa, set in the perilous days of World Wars I and II.

It’s 1917, and World War I is at its zenith when Hazel and James first catch sight of each other at a London party. She’s a shy and talented pianist; he’s a newly minted soldier with dreams of becoming an architect. When they fall in love, it’s immediate and deep—and cut short when James is shipped off to the killing fields.

Aubrey Edwards is also headed toward the trenches. A gifted musician who’s played Carnegie Hall, he’s a member of the 15th New York Infantry, an all-African-American regiment being sent to Europe to help end the Great War. Love is the last thing on his mind. But that’s before he meets Colette Fournier, a Belgian chanteuse who’s already survived unspeakable tragedy at the hands of the Germans.

Thirty years after these four lovers’ fates collide, the Greek goddess Aphrodite tells their stories to her husband, Hephaestus, and her lover, Ares, in a luxe Manhattan hotel room at the height of World War II. She seeks to answer the age-old question: Why are Love and War eternally drawn to one another? But her quest for a conclusion that will satisfy her jealous husband uncovers a multi-threaded tale of prejudice, trauma, and music and reveals that War is no match for the power of Love.

CLOSED THE BOOK WITH TEARS IN MY EYES.

Y’all. When I first read the synopsis I thought it was a bit curious to combine Greek mythology with World War 1. I have heard good things about this book and decided to give it a shot, IT WAS AMAZING. SERIOUSLY.

The writing was absolutely beautiful. This had some insta-love that we all know I’m weary of. This is one of those times when it worked out flawlessly. The writing really captured my soul and it had me cheering on both of these couples through their trials.

Hazel and James were my precious broken souls. Oh how I love them. I was most involved in their story and was wrapped up in the nuances of the few chance meetings they got over the months while James was in the trenches of France. Lovely War showed a lot about the human condition. Struggling with having to kill others, PTSD, explosions, loss of friends and family. I felt the atrocities of war brought to an awful light.

Aubrey and Coletter were a wonderful relationship to watch flourish too. As an inter-racial couple in this time period the amount of awful things they had to deal with just to be together makes my stomach turn. They both had the hope and fight to be with one another and I begged for them to get a happy ending.

The narration of the story by the gods (mostly Aphrodite) was definitely unique. Thought it was a bit odd at first, but the deeper I got into the story, the more it all made sense. Bringing in Ares, Apollo and Hades brought new point of views. By the end their was an even bigger love story between Aphrodite and Hephaestus. I thought this played out beautifully and connected all the dots in the end.

One of my favorite tidbits was that it’s mostly set in World War 1. I’m always looking for different historical fiction books set in time periods I don’t normally read about.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult historical fiction + romance
  • Language: a few words
  • Romance: some kisses
  • Violence: war, physical, guns, see trigger warnings for more
  • Trigger warnings: racism, hate crime, PTSD, sexual assault (unwanted grab and kissing), descriptions of the trenches and battle scenes

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Book Review

Book Review: A Curious Beginning (Veronica Speedwell #1) by Deanna Raybourn

Rating: ☆☆☆☆  
Audience: Mystery + historical fiction + romance
Length: 339 pages
Author: Deanna Raybourn
Publisher: Berkley Books
Release Date: September 1st, 2015
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

London, 1887.

After burying her spinster aunt, orphaned Veronica Speedwell is free to resume her world travels in pursuit of scientific inquiry—and the occasional romantic dalliance. As familiar with hunting butterflies as with fending off admirers, Veronica intends to embark upon the journey of a lifetime.

But fate has other plans when Veronica thwarts her own attempted abduction with the help of an enigmatic German baron, who offers her sanctuary in the care of his friend Stoker, a reclusive and bad-tempered natural historian. But before the baron can reveal what he knows of the plot against her, he is found murdered—leaving Veronica and Stoker on the run from an elusive assailant as wary partners in search of the villainous truth.

THIS SLOW-BURN PARTNERSHIP IS AMAZING.

I read this based off a recommendation on Bookstagram and I was HOOKED.

I love Veronica. She is sassy and snarky and my kinda woman. I love that she chooses her own path and pursues the things she is passionate about. Veronica took her situation into her own hands (accepted some needed help) and figured out what plan would work best for her.

Stoker though? YES. Oh my goodness. Rugged, wild, gruff, yaaaaaas. But among those qualities is also the fact he never tried to control Veronica. They disagreed and argued, and then he would know she was going to make her own choices, AND HE WAS OKAY WITH THAT. They’re not even in a relationship, yet this slow-burn is going to ruin me. I can’t wait to see how they develop over the series. I hope they’re end game.

The mystery was great too. It actually kept me on my toes. The release of information was a slow trickle that was interesting and really added to each scene. It was crazy how everything actually unfolded. I did not see the entire picture at all. It loosely reminds of a better version of Stalking Jack the RIpper (which was fine, and I haven’t read the other books yet, but that’s kind of a vibe I got). So if you like those books, I would definitely recommend these!

There’s a big historical aspect to this as well since it’s set in London, 1887. That plus a mystery and some romance-esque things made for a solid read. I love a good historical aspect when it fits the plot well.

Overall audience notes:

  • Mystery + historical fiction + romance
  • Language: none
  • Romance: some witty/flirty banter; discussion of having relations, but no actual scenes
  • Violence: murder, fire, physical. guns; somewhat bloody/gory

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