eARC Review – Keep My Heart in San Francisco

Title: Keep My Heart in San Francisco

Author: Amelia Diane Coombs

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Publication date: July 14th, 2020

400 pages

3/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Sparks fly when two ex-best-friends team up to save a family business in this swoon-worthy and witty debut perfect for fans of Jenn Bennett and Sarah Dessen.

Caroline “Chuck” Wilson has big plans for spring break—hit up estate sales to score vintage fashion finds and tour the fashion school she dreams of attending. But her dad wrecks those plans when he asks her to spend vacation working the counter at Bigmouth’s Bowl, her family’s failing bowling alley. Making things astronomically worse, Chuck finds out her dad is way behind on back rent—meaning they might be losing Bigmouth’s, the only thing keeping Chuck’s family in San Francisco.

And the one person other than Chuck who wants to do anything about it? Beckett Porter, her annoyingly attractive ex-best friend.

So when Beckett propositions Chuck with a plan to make serious cash infiltrating the Bay Area action bowling scene, she accepts. But she can’t shake the nagging feeling that she’s acting irrational—too much like her mother for comfort. Plus, despite her best efforts to keep things strictly business, Beckett’s charm is winning her back over…in ways that go beyond friendship.

If Chuck fails, Bigmouth’s Bowl and their San Francisco legacy are gone forever. But if she succeeds, she might just get everything she ever wanted.

Review

**Thank you to Simon Pulse, Netgalley, and Amelia Diane Coombs for an early book copy in exchange for an honest review**

Caroline “Chuck” Wilson loves San Francisco – she would do anything to stay living there. When her father’s bowling alley, Bigmouth Bowl, starts to go under, Chuck thinks she can help out. Her ex-best friend, turned new best friend, Beckett suggests they participate in illegal bowling gambling by hustling bowlers under the table at lanes across San Fran. While she’s bowling her heart out to stay, she’s giving her heart away to someone who broke her trust a long time ago. Will she be able to save her family’s bowling alley?

A main focus of this book is Chuck’s struggles with her mental health, and the potential of turning out like her mom – who killed herself when Chuck was young. Her mother had bipolar disorder, and Chuck has already experience several depressive episodes. Every decision she makes, she wonders if it’s a decision that should be made or one she made impulsively – which would denote the manic side of bipolar. Due to the afterword, the reader knows this is an Own Voices novel, and I cannot speak on the mental health portrayal in this book as it’s likely very personal for the author.

The other main plots are the bowling and the romance. As someone who has been bowling for over 20 years, I have to say that there are several bowling inaccuracies in this manuscript, which could potentially be cleaned up in edits or with further research. However, the romance felt very flat and unconvincing to me. I’m all for friends to lovers and hate to love tropes but Beckett as a character was very one dimensional and I didn’t buy the romance. The date scene was good and unique, but it all fell flat for me.

Overall KMHISF was a decent Young Adult rom com with the unique twist of bowling. It wasn’t my favorite, but I guarantee there are many people who will read it and love it.

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – Dear Emmie Blue

Title: Dear Emmie Blue

Author: Lia Louis

Publisher: Atria Books

Publication date: July 14th, 2020

320 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

In this charming and poignant novel, teenager Emmie Blue releases a balloon with her email address and a big secret into the sky, only to fall head-over-heels for the boy who finds it; now, fourteen years later, the one thing Emmie has been counting on is gone for good, and everything she planned is up in the air. 

At sixteen, Emmie Blue stood in the fields of her school and released a red balloon into the sky. Attached was her name, her email address…and a secret she desperately wanted to be free of. Weeks later, on a beach in France, Lucas Moreau discovered the balloon and immediately emailed the attached addressed, sparking an intense friendship between the two teens.

Now, fourteen years later, Emmie is hiding the fact that she’s desperately in love with Lucas. She has pinned all her hopes on him and waits patiently for him to finally admit that she’s the one for him. So dedicated to her love for Lucas, Emmie has all but neglected her life outside of this relationship—she’s given up the search for her absentee father, no longer tries to build bridges with her distant mother, and lives as a lodger to an old lady she barely knows after being laid off from her job. And when Lucas tells Emmie he has a big question to ask her, she’s convinced this is the moment he’ll reveal his feelings for her. But nothing in life ever quite goes as planned, does it?

Emmie Blue is about to learn everything she thinks she knows about life (and love) is just that: what she thinks she knows. Is there such thing as meant to be? Or is it true when they say that life is what happens when you are busy making other plans? A story filled with heart and humor, Dear Emmie Blue is perfect for fans of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine and Evvie Drake Starts Over.

Review

**Thank you to Atria Books, Netgalley, and Lia Louis for an early copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

Emmie Blue has been in love with her best friend for almost 10 years. They met at 16 after she tied her email address to a balloon and sent it off into the sky. Emmie suffered a tramautic event and lost all her friends, so when the reply came from Lucas she was overjoyed. They share the same birthday, and didn’t live all that far apart. They became quick friends and spent every birthday together. On their 30th, Emmie was sure he was going to confess his love for her and they could start dating. Instead, he announced he was engaged and wanted Emmie to be his best woman.

This book was quite the rollercoaster. In the beginning, I found myself confused at times as the writing involves flashbacks. With the eARC version, it was hard to tell when the flashbacks were happening, but I’m sure this will be more clear in the finished copies so I would not take this as a criticism. Dear Emmie Blue is told entirely from Emmie’s perspective, and it contains themes of found family, overcoming traumatic events, and finding love for yourself. I found myself totally relating to Emmie throughout the entire book.

Without going into too much detail and giving spoilers, the highlights of this book include the romance, Emmie’s burgeoning friendship with her elderly landlord, and her dealing with the aftereffects of being sexually assaulted at her school by a faculty member when she was young. Lia Louis managed to fit so many plotlines into the novel without it feeling like it is too much.

I frankly was not a huge fan of Lucas as a character. You learn more about him as the book goes on, and I was not impressed by him as a person (which could be partially the point). His downfalls serve to pave the way for the love interest, but he did everything wrong, so I don’t know why Emmie sticks by him. It doesn’t make sense and really he seems unhealthy for Emmie to have in her life.

Overall, a very poignant and interesting story that makes you think about fairytale love stories, and the difference of being in love with someone and being in love with the idea of someone.

eARC Review – One Hundred Dogs & Counting

Title: One Hundred Dogs and Counting: One Woman, Ten Thousand Miles, and A Journey into the Heart of Shelters and Rescues

Author: Cara Sue Achterberg

Publisher: Pegasus Books

Publication date: July 7th, 2020

304 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

After nearly a year struggling to find a home for a particular foster dog, Cara begins to wonder how the story ends—when will all the dogs be saved? Even after the one-hundredth foster dog passes through Cara’s home, the stream of homeless dogs appears endless.  Seized by the need to act, Cara grabs her best friend, fills a van with donations, and heads south to discover what is really happening in the rural shelters where her foster dogs originate.

What she discovers will break her heart and compel her to share the story of heroes and villains and plenty of good dogs, in the hope of changing this world. 

From North Carolina where pit bulls fill the shelters and heart-worm rages to Tennessee where dogs are left forgotten in pounds and on to Alabama where unlikely heroes fight in a state that has largely forsaken its responsibilities to its animals, Cara meets the people working on the front lines in this national crisis of unwanted animals. The dogs, the people and their inspiring stories draw her south again and again in search of answers and maybe a dog of her own.

One Hundred Dogs and Counting will introduce the reader to many wonderful dogs—from sweet Oreo to quirky Flannery—but also to inspirational people sacrificing personal lives and fortunes to save deserving animals.

Join Cara on the rescue road as she follows her heart into the places where too many dogs are forgotten and discovers glimmers of hope that the day is coming when every dog will have a home.

Review

Thank you to Cara Sue Achterberg for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

100 Dogs & Counting is a narrative of one woman’s experiences with fostering over 100 dogs in her county of PA – and going on an emotional journey of the South’s animal shelters and “dog pounds” to learn more about the challenges affecting animal shelters striving to be “no kill”. In an emotional tale, Cara meets with many administrators in the South working to educate the public, save animals, and change attitudes towards pets. Most animal shelter workers spend their own money, time, and resources to help these animals in these underfunded counties.

Okay, I did not go into this book expecting it to be as emotional as it was. I was expecting an interesting memoir about Cara’s fostering journey – and enjoying some lighthearted stories about my favorite, furry animals. Now, that is the first part of the book – you learn about Gala and other dogs that Cara pours her heart and soul into (to the chagrin of her husband, Nick). But the second half of the book really shows Cara’s journey into the South and the eye opening experiences.

Y’all it is terribly sad the conditions animals are living under. This book made me so angry on behalf of the dogs and cats living in those situations – it is something that I’ve never really thought about or heard about before, and it is just awful. It was heartwarming to hear that even under those conditions, there are people working tirelessly to save as many animals as possible.

For an educational book, it didn’t read like non-fiction books can. It was interesting and kept me turning to page to learn more. The writing style is less a structured story, and more of a time lapse – if that makes sense. Basically it seems like a summary of a few months of her life, used to really portray the issues and her work to assist in the ways she can. Also, she talks about her own experiences and how even fostering over 100 dogs – it is really just a drop in the bucket.

This book made me want to foster dogs IMMEDIATELY. If I lived in more than a shoebox sized town house with my fiance and personal dog, I definitely would be. I’ve already told the fiance that we will be fostering once we buy our own house and have enough space.

Please read if you love dogs and animals!

Happy reading, folks!

BLOG TOUR Book Review – In the Neighborhood of True

Title: In the Neighborhood of True

Author: Susan Kaplan Carlton

Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers

Publication date: April 9th, 2019

320 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

A powerful story of love, identity, and the price of fitting in or speaking out.

After her father’s death, Ruth Robb and her family transplant themselves in the summer of 1958 from New York City to Atlanta—the land of debutantes, sweet tea, and the Ku Klux Klan. In her new hometown, Ruth quickly figures out she can be Jewish or she can be popular, but she can’t be both. Eager to fit in with the blond girls in the “pastel posse,” Ruth decides to hide her religion. Before she knows it, she is falling for the handsome and charming Davis and sipping Cokes with him and his friends at the all-white, all-Christian Club.

Does it matter that Ruth’s mother makes her attend services at the local synagogue every week? Not as long as nobody outside her family knows the truth. At temple Ruth meets Max, who is serious and intense about the fight for social justice, and now she is caught between two worlds, two religions, and two boys. But when a violent hate crime brings the different parts of Ruth’s life into sharp conflict, she will have to choose between all she’s come to love about her new life and standing up for what she believes.

Review

TW: racism, anti-Semitism, bombing

Set in Atlanta in the 1950’s, In the Neighborhood of True tackles anti-Semitism and racism through the eyes of 16 year old Ruth Robb. Ruth just moved to Atlanta and want to participate in being a debutante, but has to hide her Jewish faith as she wouldn’t be allowed to participate if people knew. She meets new friends, gets a boyfriend, and thinks all is swell until her temple is bombed by by someone with the KKK. The bomber took issues with her temple and rabbi assisting black churches in the efforts of integration and the equality of Black people in the South. Ruth must make a choice – honor her heritage or her newfound friends.

This story has a lot of timeliness, as there is much going on right now in America that frankly doesn’t feel much different than is portrayed in this book. The millennium may change, but people and hate have stayed consistent. It was interesting to read in the dialect and slang of the South at the time, and see just how different life was. Ruth’s story was eye opening in many ways.

The story felt slow in the beginning and the middle, I wasn’t quite sure where it was going. But by the last 100 pages, it really picked up and showed the true struggle that Ruth was going through. Because what 16 year old doesn’t want to fit in? But is it worth changing who you are, just to please others? I felt it was well done by the author to show Ruth not only learning to accept herself as Jewish, but see Black people as equal and deserving. Ruth messed up often in the book, but was open to correction, and sometimes that’s all we can do.

I highly recommend reading this if you have an interest in social justice and the current events happening now.

Thank you to Algonquin Young Readers for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – Unravel the Dusk

Title: Unravel the Dusk (Blood of Stars #2)

Author: Elizabeth Lim

Publisher: Knopf

Publication date: July 7th, 2020

416 pages

4.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

The thrilling sequel to SPIN THE DAWN, a magical series steeped in Chinese culture.

Maia Tamarin’s journey to sew the dresses of the sun, the moon and the stars has taken a grievous toll. She returns to a kingdom on the brink of war. The boy she loves is gone, and she is forced to don the dress of the sun and assume the place of the emperor’s bride-to-be to keep the peace.

But the war raging around Maia is nothing compared to the battle within. Ever since she was touched by the demon Bandur, she has been changing . . . glancing in the mirror to see her own eyes glowing red, losing control of her magic, her body, her mind. It’s only a matter of time before Maia loses herself completely, but she will stop at nothing to find Edan, protect her family, and bring lasting peace to her country.

YA fantasy readers will love the sizzling forbidden romance, mystery, and intrigue of UNRAVEL THE DUSK.

Review

**Thank you to Knopf, Netgalley, and Elizabeth Lim for a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

Unravel the Dusk is a stunning conclusion to a Chinese inspired story that is a mix of Mulan and Project Runway. Our main girl Maia is dealing with the aftermath of the events of Spin the Dawn, and is still working to save A’landi from the shansen. Her family is in danger, and Maia must make some very hard decisions in order to keep everyone safe, including herself.

I truly loved this sequel. Lim’s writing is so lyrical and beautiful that you feel transported to A’landi, seeing what Maia sees. Unravel the Dusk provides more background to other characters, instead of focusing mostly on Edan and Maia. The romance continues (no spoilers) but is still very PG and YA like. You get to see more of her family, the Emperor, Lady Sarnai, and the shansen – I liked this because Lim was able to add dimension to these characters.

The plot was a touch confusing and hard to follow at times, especially as it was reaching the climax. I had some difficulty following the potential consequences of Maia’s actions at any given time, and I think this is due to so many things happening. There were a few false endings where I thought the book was just about over, only to look down and see I was still only 77% through the book. This made the reading experience seem a bit disjointed as I got prepared for the “ending” only for it not to come.

I read through this book mostly in one day. It is a quick read, and I still loved the world that Lim created. I did not do a re-read of Spin the Dawn before I dove in, and I did not feel like I should have when reading. The plot picked right up from the ending and there were enough reminders in the text that I didn’t feel like I was missing anything.

Overall, a great conclusion and I am so lucky that I was approved to receive this book from Netgalley. I am so appreciative and can’t wait for this to be officially released! And, that cover is just gorgeous!

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – Just Saying

Title: Just Saying

Author: Sophie Ranald

Publisher: Bookouture

Publication date: July 3rd, 2020

300 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

I almost gave up on love. My ex, who called his private parts ‘Nigel’, was enough to put me off men forever. But then I met Joe.

Alice thought she’d found Mr Right. Her blue-eyed boyfriend Joe gives her butterflies, makes her bacon sandwiches when she’s hungover, and doesn’t have a nickname for any of his body parts.

She should have known it was too good to be true. Because one day, Alice and Joe bump into Zoe. According to him, Zoe’s ‘just an old friend’. But Alice saw the way they froze, and heard the strange note in Joe’s voice when he said her name.

Then, out of the blue, Zoe needs a place to live. And Joe has the bright idea of inviting her, and her fluffy ginger cat Frazzle, to stay with them.

Alice tries her hardest not to feel threatened. But the thing is, Zoe doesn’t survive off microwave meals, or go days without washing her glossy copper-coloured hair, or accidentally get mascara in her contact lenses.

Joe’s ex might be pretty much perfect, but there’s no way that Alice will let Zoe steal him. She’s on a mission to prove that three (four, if you count the cat) is definitely a crowd…

Review

TW: sexual assault

Just Saying follows Alice and Joe, trainee lawyers in England as they finish up their training years. Alice and Joe have been dating for a long time, and it’s just natural that they will continue to be together. Until it all starts to come apart. They bump into Joe’s college girlfriend Zoe, Alice loses her job prospect and becomes a bartender at a dive, and Zoe moves in with them when she breaks up with her boyfriend. Alice is convinced Zoe is there to steal her man, and it doesn’t help that Joe doesn’t particularly approve of her new profession. But as Alice comes to love her work at the bar and Joe becomes more distant, Alice wonders if they can continue like this. Are they meant to be together, or has he been in love with Zoe since college? Time will tell…

I genuinely thought this was a cute story with a LOT of layers to it. Just Saying tackles not only relationships and the drama that comes from exes, but sexual assault, career crises, and just in general being friends with the opposite sex. There are some communication problems between the characters, but I didn’t feel the main conflict could’e been resolved with one conversation so that’s a positive for me. As much as there are a lot of layers in this book, I didn’t feel like they were overwhelming or popping up randomly. The story arc flowed pretty smoothly even with new topics being broached.

The book in the end did not go how I was expecting, in a GOOD way. It avoided the one part of romance novels that I don’t like. I can’t really be more clear without giving away a spoiler, but it ended the way I would have wanted it to. Alice makes tremendous progress in tackling her own issues through this book, and as much as he is her boyfriend Joe really is a side character in this story almost. It is THEIR story as a couple it’s really Alice’s story which I appreciate.

The story was missing something to take it to a full 5 star level, I think some subplots were cut off too quickly or easily. Some more depth could have been added to take this to a 5 star level for me. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed it and stayed up until about 2am to finish it!

Thank you to Bookouture, Netgalley, and Sophie Ranald for an early copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review

Happy reading, folks!

July TBR!

If you read yesterday’s post you know that I didn’t do so well with structured reading in June. I’ve been having some rough mental health days and took a step back from reading. For July, I’d like to get back into it because reading always makes me feel better. Also, I’m going on a week vacation so I’m sure I’ll be able to do lots of reading!

For July, I’m taking part in #fournationsreadathon, an Avatar the Last Airbender themed readathon! I’m going to read in honor of the Water Nation, so some of my planned books will be going towards that readathon, and that will be denoted in the list. If you’re interested – visit instagram @fournationsreadation.

PHYSICAL BOOKS

  1. The Storm Crow (The Storm Crow #1), Kalyn Josephson
  2. The Crow Rider (The Storm Crow #2), Kalyn Josephson
  3. The Merciful Crow (The Merciful Crow #1), Margaret Owen
  4. The Faithless Hawk (The Merciful Crow #2), Margaret Owen
  5. Where Dreams Descend (Kingdom of Cards #1), Janella Angeles (also for netgalley)
  6. The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games #1), Suzanne Collins
  7. Catching Fire (The Hunger Games #2), Suzanne Collins
  8. Mockingjay (The Hunger Games #3), Suzanne Collins
  9. A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (The Hunger Games #0), Suzanne Collins
  10. Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass #3), Sarah J. Maas (fournations)
  11. In the Neighborhood of True, Susan Kaplan Carlton (also for netgalley)
  12. The Tao of Pooh, Benjamin Hoff (fournations)

NETGALLEY/EDELWEISS/AUTHOR EARCS

  1. Set Fire to the Gods (Set Fire to the Gods #1), Sara Raasch, Kristen Simmons
  2. The Morning Flower (The Omte Origins #2), Amanda Hocking
  3. One Hundred Dogs and Counting: One Woman, Ten Thousand Miles, and A Journey into the Heart of Shelters and Rescues, Cara Sue Achterberg
  4. A Tortured Soul, L.A. Detwiler
  5. The First to Lie, Hank Phillippi Ryan (fournations)
  6. Hieroglyphics, Jill McCorkle (fournations)
  7. The Baby Group, Caroline Corcoran
  8. I Hope You’re Listening, Tom Ryan
  9. In a Holidaze, Christina Lauren

AUDIOBOOKS

  1. The Lost City (The Omte Origins #1), Amanda Hocking
  2. Mortal Heart (His Fair Assassins #3), Robin LaFevers

It’s a lot of books, and I definitely won’t read them all. But I plan to choose between these books in a mood reading way, so we’ll see how far I get! I’m currently in the middle of In the Neighborhood of True and The Tao of Pooh.

What are you reading this month?

Happy reading, folks!

June Wrap Up!

I was very unmotivated to read this month. This month really was hard emotionally as I’m trying to work on my mental health (unsuccessfully). I didn’t at all read near the amount of books I planned, but honestly it’s okay. I’m up to date on my publisher and ARC reviews – and that’s really what matters. Next month I’m hoping to pick my reading up again because I do miss it, but I want to make sure I have the time and mental capacity for it – so we’ll see!

PHYSICAL BOOKS

  1. Escaping from Houdini (Stalking Jack the Ripper #3), Kerri Maniscalco – 4/5 stars
  2. Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2), Sarah J Maas – 4/5 stars
  3. The Guest List, Lucy Foley – 3/5 stars
  4. The Bone Houses, Emily Lloyd-Jones – 4.5/5 stars
  5. The Kiss Quotient (The Kiss Quotient #1), Helen Hoang – 5/5 stars

LIBRARY EBOOKS

  1. Mirage (Mirage #1), Somaiya Daud – 4/5 stars
  2. If I Never Met You, Mhairi MacFarlane – 4/5 stars
  3. Redwall (Redwall #1), Brian Jacques – 5/5 stars

NETGALLEY EARCS

  1. Ever Cursed, Corey Ann Haydu – 4.5/5 stars
  2. These Vengeful Hearts, Katherine Laurin – 4.5/5 stars
  3. Court of Lions (Mirage #2), Somaiya Daud – 4/5 stars
  4. Faking It, Rebecca Smith – 3/5 stars
  5. Chosen Ones (The Chosen One’s #1), Veronica Roth – 3.5/5 stars
  6. Just Saying, Sophie Ranald – 4/5 stars

What did you read this month?

Happy reading, folks!

June Haul

In a month where so much stuff happened, I managed to acquire a good amount of books from several different outlets. Quarantine has definitely made me more click happy with purchasing books, but next month I need to purchase a wedding dress so I will need to work on not buying more books! Though I do know I have another order or two that will come in early July…

SUBSCRIPTION BOXES

I received both May and June OwlCrates during this month along with my larger than normal BOTM haul!

  1. Ashlords (Ashlords #1), Scott Reintgen – BOTM
  2. Home Before Dark, Riley Sager – BOTM
  3. The Last Flight, Julie Clark – BOTM
  4. Incendiary (Hollow Crown #1), Zoraida Cordova – OwlCrate
  5. Where Dreams Descend (Kingdom of Cards #1), Janella Angeles – OwlCrate

GIVEAWAY WIN

I won a giveaway on bookstagram so I got an ARC of this book!

  1. The Other Mrs., Mary Kubica

BARNES AND NOBLE

Due to everything going on in the world, I decided to buy two books by BIPOC authors in order to support them in the book community. Too often they are underrepresented not just as characters in books but as agented and signed authors as well.

  1. Kingdom of Souls (Kingdom of Souls #1), Rena Barron
  2. A Song of Wraiths and Ruin (A Song of Wraiths and Ruin #1), Roseanne A. Brown

BLACK OWNED BOOKSTORES

With everything going on in the world, I also bought two book from black owned bookstores in order to support them.

  1. The Boundless (The Beholder #2), Anna Bright
  2. Aurora Burning (The Aurora Cycle #2), Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

AMAZON

There was a sale, what can I say. I’m not a perfect person.

  1. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (The Hunger Games #0), Suzanne Collins
  2. Wild at Heart (Wild #2), K. A. Tucker

BOOK OUTLET

So Book Outlet sucks now, but I ordered this haul before they posted horribly discriminatory and racial stereotyping nonsense.

  1. Dark Shores (Dark Shores #1), Danielle L. Jensen
  2. Through the White Wood, Jessica Leake
  3. The Last Namsara (Iskari #1), Kristen Ciccarelli
  4. This Cruel Design (This Mortal Coil #2), Emily Suvada
  5. Frost Like Night (Snow Like Ashes #3), Sara Raasch

What books did you all acquire this month?

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – Crushing It

Title: Crushing It

Author: Lorelai Parker

Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corporation

Publication date: June 30th, 2020

336 pages

3.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

In life, as in gaming, there’s a way around every obstacle . . .

To pitch her new role-playing game at a European conference, developer Sierra Reid needs to overcome her terror of public speaking. What better practice than competing in a local bar’s diary slam, regaling an audience with old journal entries about her completely humiliating college crush on gorgeous Tristan Spencer?

Until the moderator says, “Next up, Tristan Spencer . . .”

Sierra is mortified, but Tristan is flattered. Caught up in memories of her decade-old obsession as they reconnect, Sierra tries to dismiss her growing qualms about him. But it’s not so easy to ignore her deepening friendship with Alfie, the cute, supportive bar owner. She and Alfie were college classmates too, and little by little, Sierra is starting to wonder if she’s been focusing her moves on the wrong target all along, misreading every player’s motivations.

Maybe the only winning strategy is to start playing by her heart . . .

Review

**Thank you to Kensington Publishing, Netgalley, and Lorelai Parker for an early copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

Sierra is a video game developer with a horrible fear of public speaking, which causes issues as she’s trying to convince her investor to let her present at Gamescon to promote their new game. Her coworker and roommate Aida convinces her to go to an event being put on by a new bar near their home, a competition to get up in front of everyone and tell humiliating stories for the amusement of others. The catch is that it is for mostly alumni of their college, and the reason Sierra has public speaking fears dates back to college. When the source of her fears is in the bar, also in the competition, Sierra has to face all of her demons if she wants to further her career.

I liked the premise of this book a lot, and I really enjoyed the resulting romance. I liked the growth that the characters went through, and the strides Sierra made in overcoming her fears. I didn’t enjoy all of the side characters, for reasons you’ll probably understand when you read! I won’t say who though, because it would be a bit of a spoiler for you all and I don’t want to do that. I respected Sierra’s investor for making her prove to him and herself that she can represent the brand and game how they want it to be represented.

This book was a tad predictable though. I could see where it was going, and what the big reveal would be. I still enjoyed it, but some parts were just too obvious and maybe could’ve been covered up better.

Happy reading, folks!