eARC Review – Life’s a Beach by Portia MacIntosh

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Title: Life’s A Beach

Author: Portia MacIntosh

Publisher: Boldwood Books

Publication date: May 5th, 2021

287 pages

3/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Sun, sea and inescapable exes…

Peach is excited to hear that her sister, Di, is getting married. Of course, she would have preferred her little sister to be engaged to someone she’s known longer than a week – and the fact that his name is Charles doesn’t bode well – but who is she to judge?! After all, her own love life is non-existent, and who doesn’t love a destination wedding…?

Whisked away to the gorgeous Italian coast, Peach assumes her role as chief bridesmaid and, despite her reservations about the groom, she tries to ensure everything goes to plan.

But weddings are never straightforward affairs… throw in some unexpected guests in the form of ex-boyfriends and one night stands, and soon enough there is more drama than a reality tv show.

Can Peach keep the show on the road, or might she end up in a whirlwind romance of her own…?

Review

I’m a huge fan of Portia MacIntosh’s book so every time one loads on Netgalley I race to request it and cross my fingers. They are always so delightful and charming, set in the UK without being extra confusing for us foreigners who don’t fully understand the lingo. Life’s a Beach is no different.

Peach is a mystery shopper, paid to review brands by pretending to be customers. She meets Matt at the airport when her sister’s and his friend’s plane gets delayed – so she asks him to join her on her hotel mystery shopper experience that evening on a whim. One thing leads to another, and she wakes up alone in a hotel room – and Matt is gone. When her sister gets engaged after a week long relationship, and plans the wedding for the following week in Italy, Peach will do anything to stop the wedding – including inviting her sister’s ex to the wedding (not on purpose!), only to find out the groom to be is the man she lost her virginity to, and he’s you guessed it, Matt’s best friend.

Confused yet? Don’t be, there are so many entanglements on this wedding holiday which leads to hilarious hijinks, awkward moments, and secrets aplenty. Life’s a Beach is short but charming, and has several different romance stories wrapped into one book. I would personally rethink the ending, I don’t think it fits perfectly well, but that’s the only critical feedback I would provide. Just wasn’t to my taste.

**Thank you to Boldwood Books and Netgalley for an early copy of this book in exchange for an honest review **

Happy reading, folks!

Book Review – Vicious Spirits by Kat Cho

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Title: Vicious Spirits (Gumiho #2)

Author: Kat Cho

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Publication date: August 18th, 2020

429 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

As Vicious Spirits begins, Miyoung and Jihoon are picking up the pieces of their broken lives following the deaths of Miyoung’s mother, Yena, and Jihoon’s grandmother. With the support of their friend Somin, and their frenemy, Junu, they might just have a shot at normalcy. But Miyoung is getting sicker and sicker by the day and her friends don’t know how to save her. With few options remaining, Junu has an idea but it might require the ultimate sacrifice and, let’s be honest, Junu isn’t known for his “generosity.” Meanwhile, the events at the end of Wicked Fox have upended the forces that govern life and death and there are supernatural entities lurking in the background that will stop at nothing to right their world.

Review

“As with any tragedy, it came about because he loved.”

Kat Cho, Vicious Spirits

As a companion novel to Wicked Fox, Vicious Spirits exceeded my expectations. Not a true sequel as it focuses on Somin and Junu’s story instead of an extension of Miyoung and Jihoon’s – but it picks up shortly after Wick Fox ends. Miyoung is dealing with the consequences of not having her fox bead, and the friends are looking for ways to save her as the world starts to get more confusing. Junu may be the only creature who can help Miyoung, and the last person that Miyoung trusts. And Junu will need to give up a lot to help, including the new feelings he has for Somin.

Truly, I enjoyed this follow up more than Wicked Fox. I found Wicked Fox to be good, but not very exciting or gripping. I felt very differently about Vicious Spirits, which could be due to the characters or an improved story line and writing by the author. The pacing and flow of events seemed a lot more seamless and the events that transpired felt necessary. There were plenty of emotional moments, and I loved that it wasn’t a true sequel, but you still got to see a lot of Miyoung and Jihoon – just through the lens of other characters.

I would have loved more from the ending, however it was written very emotionally and I was drawn in – but I felt like something was lacking. Really that would be my only critique. I love this fantasy mixed with magical realism and fantastical creatures and magic blend with real life and the real world. Also, this cover is LIFE.

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – It Had To Be You by Georgia Clark

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Title: It Had To Be You

Author: Georgia Clark

Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books

Publication date: May 4th, 2021

384 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

The author of the novel The Bucket List returns with a witty and heartfelt romantic comedy featuring a wedding planner, her unexpected business partner, and their coworkers in a series of linked love stories—perfect for fans of Christina Lauren and Casey McQuiston.

For the past twenty years, Liv and Eliot Goldenhorn have run In Love in New York, Brooklyn’s beloved wedding-planning business. When Eliot dies unexpectedly, he even more unexpectedly leaves half of the business to his younger, blonder girlfriend, Savannah. Liv and Savannah are not a match made in heaven, to say the least. But what starts as a personal and professional nightmare transforms into something even savvy, cynical Liv Goldenhorn couldn’t begin to imagine.

It Had to Be You cleverly unites Liv, Savannah, and couples as diverse and unique as New York City itself, in a joyous Love-Actually-style braided narrative. The result is a smart, modern love story that truly speaks to our times. Second chances, secret romance, and steamy soul mates are front and center in this sexy, tender, and utterly charming rom-com.

Review

It Had To Be You is the book version of the movie Valentine’s Day and I LOVED it. Going into this book I thought it would be one love story but I was surprised with MANY different love stories! Each character was interconnected with other characters and went through their own unique journey. This book is truly about the journey of life, the friends you meet along the way, and second chance romance.

It starts off with Savannah and Liv, brought together when Liv’s husband dies and leaves half of their wedding planning business to Savannah – his mistress. From these two unlikely business partners, several love stories off shoot with people in their lives (including their own love stories!). There is also a great story arc about a character questioning her sexual identity and discovering who she is.

I really found this book to be charming and dleightful, a breath of fresh air. Romance in similar, yet new forms. I recommend it for the romantics at heart, who love to read love stories of all shapes and sizes. However, many of the stories bring out very serious topics – interracial dating, open relationships, dating after abuse or mistreatment, etc. It hits on so many important, but real, topics.

TW: description of domestic violence, abuse

Thank you to Atria Books and Netgalley for an early copy in exchange for an honest review.

Happy reading, folks!

May TBR – 2021 Edition

Happy May! I get married this month, so I’m not planning to read too many books. If you read my April Wrap Up post, you’ll know that I am working on downsizing my monthly TBR’s and do more mood reading, especially with how busy this month is. So, I’m only going to highlight the ARCs that I need to get to this month, and leave the other books I read up to my mood!

It’s a bit of a scary process, because I often have a hard time picking what books to read if I’m not very strict about the books I read. But, I need to be flexible and my mind is telling me I need to take it easy right now with my mental health. So, we’re trying this new thing this month, and we’ll see how it goes!

So, the ARCs I plan to read are below!

ARCS

  1. The Tower of Fools (Hussite Trilogy #1), Andrzej Sapkowski
  2. These Feathered Flames (These Feathered Flames #1), Alexandra Overy
  3. The House of Always (A Chorus of Dragons #4), Jenn Lyons
  4. The Soulmate Equation, Christina Lauren
  5. People We Meet on Vacation, Emily Henry
  6. Life’s a Beach, Portia MacIntosh
  7. Tools of a Thief, D. Hale Rambo
  8. The Queen Will Betray You (Kingdoms of Sand and Sky #2), Sarah Henning

I will of course read more books than this – I recently took a bunch of books out of the library and I have an overflowing TBR cart of books to read at home. I also have the 12 Reads from 12 Friends challenge to continue on, but you’ll have to see which books those are at the end of the month. These are the only books I’m strongly urging myself to finish this month!

Happy reading, folks!

April Wrap Up – 2021 Edition

April wasn’t the best reading month for me, about halfway through I got very unmotivated to read and didn’t pick up a book for 10 days. So I threw my TBR out the window and just checked a bunch of romance books out of the library to end the month. And honestly, it was the best decision I’ve made reading wise in a long time. Sometimes, you just need to mood read, and I was not in the mood for any of the books I thought I “should” be reading.

To hell with what you “should” read. My new philosophy is to read what I want, at least until my wedding is over and I can focus more on reading. I still plan on reading ARCs and fulfilling my publisher requirements as much as I can, but I’m going to be much more free spirited about it for the next few months.

So below is my full wrap up. Still managed 14 books even though it was a harder reading month for me.

PHYSICAL

  1. Vicious Spirits (Gumiho #2), Kat Cho – 4/5 stars
  2. Crier’s War (Crier’s War #1), Nina Varela – 4/5 stars

EBOOKS

  1. The Ex Talk, Rachel Lynn Solomon – 4.5/5 stars
  2. Twice Shy, Sarah Hogle – 5/5 stars
  3. Second First Impressions, Sally Thorne – 4/5 stars
  4. The Roommate, Rosie Danan – 4/5 stars
  5. Much Ado About You, Samantha Young – 4/5 stars
  6. Ten Rules for Faking It – 4/5 stars

ARCS

  1. Before I Saw You, Emily Houghton – 4/5 stars
  2. Dustborn, Erin Bowman – 3.5/5 stars
  3. Hurricane Summer, Asha Bromfield – 4/5 stars
  4. It Had to Be You, Georgia Clark – 4/5 stars
  5. The Secret Bridesmaid, Katy Birchall – 4/5 stars
  6. Talk Bookish to Me, Katie Bromley – 3/5 stars

Did we read any of the same books? Any on your TBR? Let me know!

Happy reading, folks!

April Haul – 2021 Edition

The end of another month! Each month seems to be going faster than the one before it, time is passing so quickly. I wasn’t as diligent this month with my bookish purchases, but I don’t regret any of my choices.

Below are the books I bought or received this month. Special thanks to Wednesday Books for the ARC they sent me!

SUBSCRIPTION BOXES

  1. Bone Crier’s Dawn (Bone Grace #2), Kathryn Purdie – Owlcrate Special Edition
  2. Blessed Monsters (Something Dark and Holy #3), Emily A. Duncan – Owlcrate Special Edition
  3. Firekeeper’s Daughter, Angeline Boulley – BOTM
  4. People We Meet on Vacation, Emily Henry – BOTM

AMAZON

  1. The Prison Healer (The Prison Healer #1), Lynette Noni
  2. Jade City (The Green Bone Saga #1), Fonda Lee
  3. Jade War (The Green Bone Saga #2), Fonda Lee

PUBLISHERS

  1. Where It All Lands, Jennie Wexler

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – The Secret Bridesmaid by Katy Birchall

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Title: The Secret Bridesmaid

Author: Katy Birchall

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

Publication date: May 4th, 2021

400 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Matrimony meets mayhem in a modern British romcom about a young woman charged with pulling off the biggest aristocratic wedding of the year––and the misadventures that ensue.

Sophie Breeze is a brilliant bridesmaid. So brilliant, in fact, that she’s made it her full-time job.

As a professional bridesmaid, Sophie is hired by London brides to be their right-hand woman, posing as a friend but working behind the scenes to help plan the perfect wedding and ensure their big day goes off without a hitch. When she’s hired by Lady Victoria Swann––a former model and “It Girl” of 1970’s London; now the Marchioness of Meade––for the society wedding of the year, it should be a chance for Sophie to prove just how talented she is.

Of course, it’s not ideal that the bride, Lady Victoria’s daughter, Cordelia, is an absolute diva and determined to make Sophie’s life a nightmare. It’s also a bit inconvenient that Sophie finds herself drawn to Cordelia’s posh older brother, who is absolutely off limits. But when a rival society wedding is announced for the very same day, things start to get…well, complicated.

Can Sophie pull off the biggest challenge of her career––execute a high-profile gala for four hundred and fifty guests in record time, win over a reluctant bride, and catch the eye of handsome Lord Swann––all while keeping her true identity a secret, and her dignity intact?

Heartwarming and hilarious, The Secret Bridesmaid celebrates the joys (and foibles) of weddings, the nuances of female friendship, and the redeeming power of love in its many unexpected forms.

Review

Sophie is the ultimate bridesmaid… for a price. For brides who need help with planning, a shoulder to cry on, and a professional who knows her way around weddings – they call Sophie. Sophie seamlessly assimilates into the bride’s life as a long lost friend, college pal, etc and helps them plan the most important day of their life. When she gets her biggest client to date, Lady Cordelia the Marchioness of Meade’s daughter, Sophie knows she needs to pull out all the stops to rocket herself to the next level in her career. But Cordelia has no interest in Sophie’s brand of bridesmaid and does everything she can to make Sophie quit. Can Sophie pull of the wedding of the century in England or will she crash and burn?

As someone who is getting married shortly after the release of this book, I knew it would be topical and was excited to read it. I found the antics in this book incredibly funny and enjoyable while maintaining the Adult Contemporary aspects. The hint of romance was very much welcome and appreciated. I loved the pranks Cordelia plays on Sophie and the emotional journey both women take together.

I could have used a bit more romance in this book, however I don’t think the book was diminished by being more light on the romance side – it’s just my preference. This leans more on the literary fiction side of the line, so if that is a favorite genre of yours I would recommend this title. No stand out critiques, though something was missing that could have taken it to a five star book in my opinion.

Thank you to St. Martin’s Griffin and Netgalley for an early copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Happy reading, folks!

Book Review – The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon

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Title: The Ex Talk

Author: Rachel Lynn Solomon

Publisher: Berkley

Publication date: January 26th, 2021

336 pages

5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Public radio co-hosts navigate mixed signals in Rachel Lynn Solomon’s sparkling romantic comedy debut.

Shay Goldstein has been a producer at her Seattle public radio station for nearly a decade, and she can’t imagine working anywhere else. But lately it’s been a constant clash between her and her newest colleague, Dominic Yun, who’s fresh off a journalism master’s program and convinced he knows everything about public radio.

When the struggling station needs a new concept, Shay proposes a show that her boss green-lights with excitement. On The Ex Talk, two exes will deliver relationship advice live, on air. Their boss decides Shay and Dominic are the perfect co-hosts, given how much they already despise each other. Neither loves the idea of lying to listeners, but it’s this or unemployment. Their audience gets invested fast, and it’s not long before The Ex Talk becomes a must-listen in Seattle and climbs podcast charts.

As the show gets bigger, so does their deception, especially when Shay and Dominic start to fall for each other. In an industry that values truth, getting caught could mean the end of more than just their careers.

Review

“Sometimes I wonder if content is really just a synonym for complacent.”

Rachel Lynn Solomon, The Ex Talk

Holy banter! I am here for so many parts of this book; the enemies to lovers, workplace romance, the diversity, the Jewish/Asian representation, and the podcast spin! Truly, this book was a joy to read and the only thing that could have made it better was if it was dual POV {which is just my all time favorite and I want all my romances to be dual POV}.

I love so much that the whole storyline revolved around Dominic and Shay pretending to be exes, but instead falling in love. It’s a whole new take on enemies to lovers romance that I haven’t read before and it made for some seriously amazing banter and a great dynamic. The steam level was pretty moderate/high, so it that isn’t your jam just know there is more spice than average in this one.

I legit hated the boss, anytime he was on the screen I wanted to throw my kindle across the room because he was the absolute worst. I wanted more of a take down sequence for him from Shay, but alas it was not to be had. Might be my one big critique of the book is I feel like Shay needed to stand up to him more, instead of waiting for Dominic to do it. If you want power and equality, you need to demand it – not wait for the man to do it.

Excuse me while I go fantasize about my own Dominic. Read this book!

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – Before I Saw You by Emily Houghton

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Title: Before I Saw You

Author: Emily Houghton

Publisher: Gallery Books

Publication date: May 4th, 2021

400 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

For fans of Close Enough to Touch and Me Before You comes a poignant and moving novel about two patients who fall in love as they recover from traumatic injuries in the same hospital ward…all without seeing each other.

Alice Gunnersley and Alfie Mack sleep just a few feet apart from one another. They talk for hours every day. And they’ve never seen each other face-to-face.

After being in terrible accidents, the two now share the same ward as long-term residents of St. Francis’s Hospital. Although they don’t get off to the best start, the close quarters (and Alfie’s persistence to befriend everyone he meets) brings them closer together. Pretty soon no one can make Alice laugh as hard as Alfie does, and Alfie feels like he’s finally found a true confidante in Alice. Between their late night talks and inside jokes, something more than friendship begins to slowly blossom between them.

But as their conditions improve and the end of their stay draws closer, Alfie and Alice are forced to decide whether it’s worth continuing a relationship with someone who’s seen all of the worst parts of you, but never seen your actual face.

A tender novel of healing and hope, Before I Saw You reminds us that connections can be found even in the most unexpected of places—and that love is almost always blind.

Review

Before I Saw You was a very different type of contemporary romance novel, set in a rehab unit of a hospital in Europe. Our two MC’s are recovering from traumatic accidents and help each other along the way as they share a room. Alfie loses a leg in a horrible car accident, but doesn’t let it dim his positivity and outlook on life. Alice is the opposite, she is severely burned while at work in her office and doesn’t speak for weeks after being admitted to the hospital. Alfie recognizes the pain and suffering in Alice, and works to make her feel comfortable in the unit.

If I had to sum up this book in a word it would be “heartwarming”. Before I Saw You is a tale of grief and suffering, but also trust and redemption and finding love in the most unexpected places. Alfie and Alice’s journey together was incredible to watch as they both dealt with their traumas and helped each other through it all. I loved the side characters and the serious notes. This is a not a light and fluffy rom com, it tackles intense emotions and topics while keeping a bit of humor.

I would have loved to see more of the romance aspect between Alfie and Alice, which would be my only critique. But that comes from someone who is just super romance minded and loves to read that! If you’re looking for a fantastic contemporary read, light on romance, this will be right up your alley. I’ve always enjoyed TV shows set in hospitals but this is the first book I’ve read with that setting and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Thanks to Gallery Books and Netgalley for an early copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Happy reading, folks!

ARC Review – Hurricane Summer by Asha Bromfield

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Title: Hurricane Summer

Author: Asha Bromfield

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Publication date: May 4th, 2021

400 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Tilla has spent her entire life trying to make her father love her. But every six months, he leaves their family and returns to his true home: the island of Jamaica.

When Tilla’s mother tells her she’ll be spending the summer on the island, Tilla dreads the idea of seeing him again, but longs to discover what life in Jamaica has always held for him.

In an unexpected turn of events, Tilla is forced to face the storm that unravels in her own life as she learns about the dark secrets that lie beyond the veil of paradise—all in the midst of an impending hurricane.

Hurricane Summer is a powerful coming of age story that deals with colorism, classism, young love, the father-daughter dynamic—and what it means to discover your own voice in the center of complete destruction.

Review

TW: death, sexual assault, domestic violence, fat shaming

Hurricane Summer is raw and real in a way that you don’t always see in YA Contemporary novels. Set in Jamaica, Tilla is trying to bond with her wayward father and experience her homeland for the first time. But when she arrives, Jamaica is nothing like she expected it to be, and she gets caught up in dangerous love, dark secrets, and a destructive hurricane.

Tilla’s experience in Jamaica is so heartbreaking with how she is treated by family and friends, but it goes to show the inherent judgment that is held for ‘foreigners’ in many different places. Tilla learns that the American version of ‘poor’ is leaps and bounds above the Jamaican version of well off, and that the cultural hierarchy of men over women is deafening and threatening. Many topics explored in this book are difficult to read and could be triggering, so please read with care.

I appreciate Tilla’s journey through this book so much. For just spanning a summer, Tilla really grows and learns so much of what it means to be Jamaican, a woman, and part of a family. I wished for a better ending for Tilla, but this ending felt very real, just like life and there are no magical, perfect endings in real life. It was hard to read Tilla being treated the way she was, but it’s one of those instances where the story isn’t happy – but still deserves to be told.

For a debut novel, Asha Bromfield knocked it out of the part. Read with caution for triggers, but definitely read.

Happy reading, folks!