Book Review – How to Fail at Flirting by Denise Williams

Title: How to Fail at Flirting

Author: Denise Williams

Publisher: Berkley

Publication date: December 1st, 2020

336 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

One daring to-do list and a crash course in flirtation turn a Type A overachiever’s world upside down.

When her flailing department lands on the university’s chopping block, Professor Naya Turner’s friends convince her to shed her frumpy cardigan for an evening on the town. For one night her focus will stray from her demanding job and she’ll tackle a new kind of to-do list. When she meets a charming stranger in town on business, he presents the perfect opportunity to check off the items on her list. Let the guy buy her a drink. Check. Try something new. Check. A no-strings-attached hookup. Check…almost.

Jake makes her laugh and challenges Naya to rebuild her confidence, which was left toppled by her abusive ex-boyfriend. Soon she’s flirting with the chance at a more serious romantic relationship—except nothing can be that easy. The complicated strings around her dating Jake might destroy her career.

Naya has two options. She can protect her professional reputation and return to her old life or she can flirt with the unknown and stay with the person who makes her feel like she’s finally living again.

Review

“Lord, give me the confidence of an old, rich white man.”

Denise Williams, How to Fail at Flirting

TW: domestic violence, revenge porn

When I first started reading this book I didn’t realize it was about a woman recovering from an abusive relationship. I had to put it down until I felt comfortable picking it back up again, but a friend sent me all the trigger warnings and I felt so much more prepared after that. It helped me to read this book knowing what events to expect, so please just reach out if you’d like me to do that for you – in more specifics that the general trigger warning above.

I’m so glad I continued reading, because I loved Naya and Jake’s burgeoning relationship so much. Their banter, the immediate connection the two had at the bar, and the genuine respect they felt for each other and treated each other with. I feel the domestic violence situation was handled as well as it could be – it’s hard to read but these things do take place so it’s important to reflect it in books. I also loved the friends that Naya had and their support of her through the old and new relationships, while sticking to side character roles.

I recommend this book, but please be careful with the trigger warnings. Also, there is a decent level of steam, with detailed, open door scenes throughout the book. I enjoy this type of romance book, but I know not everyone does so just know that going in.

I’m glad I picked this one up and I hope you all love Naya and Jake as much as I do!

Happy reading, folks!

Book Review – Boyfriend Material

Title: Boyfriend Material (Boyfriend Material #1)

Author: Alexis Hall

Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca

Publication date: July 7th, 2020

427 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Wanted:
One (fake) boyfriend
Practically perfect in every way

Luc O’Donnell is tangentially–and reluctantly–famous. His rock star parents split when he was young, and the father he’s never met spent the next twenty years cruising in and out of rehab. Now that his dad’s making a comeback, Luc’s back in the public eye, and one compromising photo is enough to ruin everything.

To clean up his image, Luc has to find a nice, normal relationship…and Oliver Blackwood is as nice and normal as they come. He’s a barrister, an ethical vegetarian, and he’s never inspired a moment of scandal in his life. In other words: perfect boyfriend material. Unfortunately apart from being gay, single, and really, really in need of a date for a big event, Luc and Oliver have nothing in common. So they strike a deal to be publicity-friendly (fake) boyfriends until the dust has settled. Then they can go their separate ways and pretend it never happened.

But the thing about fake-dating is that it can feel a lot like real-dating. And that’s when you get used to someone. Start falling for them. Don’t ever want to let them go.

Review

“In any case, I wasn’t prepared for the truth of you.”

Alexis Hall, Boyfriend Material

Luc is somewhat famous and has a bad public image currently. This causes issues with his job, forcing him to try and rehabilitate his image by dating a respectable man. Enter Oliver Blackwood; barrister, boring, and ambivalent towards Luc. They have met before and not gotten on well, but when Luc propositions him to pretend to date him – Oliver realizes he can get something out of this situation as well. These two may dislike each other now, but they may find out they are more alike than they ever knew.

I fell in love with these two over the course of the book, along with their friends and the other side characters. There were legitimately funny moments over the book once Luc and Oliver meet – but the beginning is a bit slow when it is just Luc. You definitely have to stay the course with him until he meets Oliver, Oliver makes him a better person and more interesting to read. Boyfriend Material is pretty similar to Red, White, and Royal Blue – but set in London and with an even more adult theme (but not necessarily in the steam department). There are more serious, side story lines that help to round out the characters and cut into the humorous aspects to balance the book out. I appreciate the author’s use of banter and emotion to give depth and dimension to these two characters.

I can’t wait to read more in this universe, as it was announced that there will be two more books in the Boyfriend Material universe.

For fans of Casey McQuiston, Boyfriend Material starts a new series with diverse characters, laugh out loud funny moments, and a relatable romance.

Happy reading, folks!

April TBR – 2021 Edition

Because I took a bunch of time off reading in March and didn’t complete all of the ARCs I needed to, I will have to make up ground in April. So, I have a lot of books I plan to get to in April in order to fulfill my ARC commitments and still try to cut my physical TBR down, which makes my fiance happy!

Each month from now on I plan on reading a full duo and trio that is being finished this year. It was so fun planning out these binges and I think it will be something I look forward to every month.

PHYSICAL

  1. House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City #1), Sarah J. Maas
  2. Rule of Wolves (King of Scars #2), Leigh Bardugo
  3. Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy #1), Emily A. Duncan
  4. Ruthless Gods (Something Dark and Holy #2), Emily A. Duncan
  5. Blessed Monsters (Something Dark and Holy #3), Emily A. Duncan
  6. A River of Royal Blood (A River of Royal Blood #1), Amanda Joy
  7. A Queen of Gilded Horns (A River of Royal Blood #2), Amanda Joy
  8. The Invited, Jennifer McMahon
  9. Crier’s War (Crier’s War #1), Nina Varela
  10. Iron Heart (Crier’s War #2), Nina Varela
  11. Vicious Spirits (Gumiho #2), Kat Cho

EBOOKS

  1. The Ex Talk, Rachel Lynn Solomon

ARCS

  1. Dustborn, Erin Bowman
  2. These Feathered Flames (These Feathered Flames #1), Alexandra Overy
  3. Before I Saw You, Emily Houghton
  4. To Sir, With Love, Lauren Layne
  5. It Had to Be You, Georgia Clark
  6. The Tragedy of Dane Riley, Kat Spears
  7. Ace of Spades, Faridah Abike-Iyimide
  8. The Secret Bridesmaid, Katy Birchall
  9. The Soulmate Equation, Christina Lauren
  10. The House of Always (A Chorus of Dragons #4), Jenn Lyons
  11. Hurricane Summer, Asha Bromfield

What books are you looking forward to reading in April?

Happy reading, folks!

March Wrap Up – 2021 Edition

March was a more difficult reading month. I spent February voraciously reading in a depressive episode, just trying to escape life and avoid responsibilities. I started a medication and began to feel better, and needed a break from reading. For too long my purposes for reading wasn’t for enjoyment, but out of what felt like necessity. So I had to take some time to remember why reading is a hobby, and why I love it. By the end of the month I was reading more, but I certainly did not hit my reading goals by far.

So, I read 17 books total this month. I read a whole trilogy, which I have planned for every month for the rest of the year. Starting in April I’m also doing a duology each month for the rest of the year. Looking forward to cutting down my physical TBR as series are being finished this year.

PHYSICAL BOOKS

  1. The Grace Year, Kim Liggett – 3/5 stars
  2. Chain of Iron (The Last Hours #2), Cassandra Clare – 4/5 stars
  3. Dark Shores (Dark Shores #1), Danielle L. Jensen – 4/5 stars
  4. Dark Skies (Dark Shores #2), Danielle L. Jensen – 5/5 stars
  5. Namesake (Fable #2), Adrienne Young – 4/5 stars
  6. Boyfriend Material, Alexis Hall – 4/5 stars
  7. A Curse So Dark and Lonely (Cursebreakers #1), Brigid Kemmerer – 4/5 stars (REREAD)
  8. A Heart So Fierce and Broken (Cursebreakers #2), Brigid Kemmerer – 3/5 stars
  9. A Vow So Bold and Deadly (Cursebreakers #3), Brigid Kemmerer – 3/5 stars

EBOOKS

  1. First Comes Like (Modern Love #3), Alisha Rai – 4/5 stars
  2. How to Fail at Flirting, Denise Williams – 4/5 stars

ARCS

  1. The Good Sister, Sally Hepworth – 4.5/5 stars
  2. It Happened One Summer, Tessa Bailey – 4.5/5 stars
  3. Gilded Serpent (Dark Shores #3), Danielle L. Jensen – 4.5/5 stars
  4. The Prison Healer (The Prison Healer #1), Lynette Noni – 5/5 stars
  5. Slingshot, Mercedes Helnwein – 3/5 stars
  6. Cool For the Summer, Dahlia Adler – 4/5 stars

Did we read any of the same books?

Happy reading, folks!

March Haul – 2021 Edition

Happy April! Another month has gone by, another opportunity to get books! I am still holding steady on purchasing new books and being conscious about spending as it gets closer to the wedding. So, I hauled 5 books this month, 3 purchases, 1 book box, and 1 sent to me from a publisher. Two of the books are on my April TBR!

I don’t have many purchases planned for April, so I feel confident I can keep my book haul low next month as well. Once my wedding is over, it’s allll off the table though!

So, below are the books I brought in this month. Let me know if you got any of the same!

AMAZON

  1. Chain of Gold (The Last Hours #2), Cassandra Clare
  2. Namesake (Fable #2), Adrienne Young
  3. Rule of Wolves (King of Scars #2), Leigh Bardugo

SUBSCRIPTION BOXES

  1. Sweet & Bitter Magic, Adrienne Tooley – Owlcrate special edition

FROM PUBLISHERS

  1. Hurricane Summer, Asha Bromfield – thanks to Wednesday Books!

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – To Love and to Loathe

Title: To Love and to Loathe (The Regency Vows #2)

Author: Martha Waters

Publisher: Atria Books

Publication date: April 6th, 2021

384 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopis

The widowed Diana, Lady Templeton and Jeremy, Marquess of Willingham are infamous among English high society as much for their sharp-tongued bickering as their flirtation. One evening, an argument at a ball turns into a serious wager: Jeremy will marry within the year or Diana will forfeit one hundred pounds. So shortly after, just before a fortnight-long house party at Elderwild, Jeremy’s country estate, Diana is shocked when Jeremy appears at her home with a very different kind of proposition.

After his latest mistress unfavorably criticized his skills in the bedroom, Jeremy is looking for reassurance, so he has gone to the only woman he trusts to be totally truthful. He suggests that they embark on a brief affair while at the house party—Jeremy can receive an honest critique of his bedroom skills and widowed Diana can use the gossip to signal to other gentlemen that she is interested in taking a lover.

Diana thinks taking him up on his counter-proposal can only help her win her wager. With her in the bedroom and Jeremy’s marriage-minded grandmother, the formidable Dowager Marchioness of Willingham, helping to find suitable matches among the eligible ladies at Elderwild, Diana is confident her victory is assured. But while they’re focused on winning wagers, they stand to lose their own hearts.

Review

The second book in Martha Water’s The Regency Vows series, To Love and to Loathe features two side characters from the first book and their love story. Diana Templeton is a widow, and currently in the market for a super secret love affair. Jeremy recently was given a negative critique on his bedroom performance, and is looking for an ego boost with someone he trusts to give it to him straight. These two have always had a hot and cold relationship, fraught with sexual tension, so it seems they both suit the other’s current needs. But are they both in danger of falling for the other as well?

The plot of this book is very similar to Evie Dunmore’s second novel in her regency series, A Rogue of One’s Own, which wasn’t my favorite of her two. However, I enjoyed To Love and the Loathe even more than To Have and to Hoax. Loathe brought everything that I was missing from Rogue. I loved both of the characters so much, and there were even more antics and societal intrigue (along with a secret LGBTQ love affair!), and Loathe seemed to set up a love story for a third book – which I would be super excited to read.

You also got to see Violet and James in this story, and see bits and pieces of the aftermath of Hoax. I do think the plot line of Jeremy needing to be reassured on his bedroom prowess was a touch cheesy at times, but it led to interesting, feminist dialogue between the two in regards to relations between men and women in this time period – or what I would imagine they were like! I also just love the idea of a 2 week house party?? Like YES, sign me up now.

I highly recommend this romance, regency series by Martha Waters and I will just be here, impatiently waiting and hoping to hear that another will be coming!

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

Happy reading, folks!

Book Review – To Have and to Hoax

Title: To Have and to Hoax (The Regency Vows #1)

Author: Martha Waters

Publisher: Atria Books

Publication date: April 7th, 2020

367 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

In this fresh and hilarious historical rom-com, an estranged husband and wife in Regency England feign accidents and illness in an attempt to gain attention—and maybe just win each other back in the process.

Five years ago, Lady Violet Grey and Lord James Audley met, fell in love, and got married. Four years ago, they had a fight to end all fights, and have barely spoken since.

Their once-passionate love match has been reduced to one of cold, detached politeness. But when Violet receives a letter that James has been thrown from his horse and rendered unconscious at their country estate, she races to be by his side—only to discover him alive and well at a tavern, and completely unaware of her concern. She’s outraged. He’s confused. And the distance between them has never been more apparent.

Wanting to teach her estranged husband a lesson, Violet decides to feign an illness of her own. James quickly sees through it, but he decides to play along in an ever-escalating game of manipulation, featuring actors masquerading as doctors, threats of Swiss sanitariums, faux mistresses—and a lot of flirtation between a husband and wife who might not hate each other as much as they thought. Will the two be able to overcome four years of hurt or will they continue to deny the spark between them?

With charm, wit, and heart in spades, To Have and to Hoax is a fresh and eminently entertaining romantic comedy—perfect for fans of Jasmine Guillory and Julia Quinn. 

Review

To Have and to Hoax starts a series of regency romance novels akin to Evie Dunmore’s series. Hoax follows Lady Violet, wife to Lord James Audley, though they have barely spoken in four years after a terrible fight. When Lord James is hurt being thrown off his horse and doesn’t deign to tell her, Violet decides to take revenge and fake her own illness, to force her husband to show some emotions. But Lord James catches on quickly, and the whole plan devolves.

I was wildly entertained by this story. Regency romances aren’t always my favorite style, but Martha Waters writes the version of regency that I love. The friend group on both sides of the couple are interesting and compelling, the sexual tension between Violet and James leaped off the page, and the intrigue of high society in England is always fascinating to me. Waters feeds bits of the conflict between Violet and James to you over the course of the book, so you’re kept guessing at the details of the big fight that led to the rift.

There is a decent level of steam to this book, open door scenes and descriptions. There aren’t a lot of scenes, but they are there. There are times where both characters seem a bit childish, playing pranks on each other (especially when they are supposed to be high society, stuffy types). It’s similar to You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle.

For fans of regency, Evie Dunmore, and Sarah Hogle, To Have and to Hoax starts a new series with titled lords and ladies, societal intrigue, steam, and love.

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – She’s Too Pretty to Burn by Wendy Heard

Title: She’s Too Pretty to Burn

Author: Wendy Heard

Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)

Publication date: March 30th, 2021

336 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

An electric romance set against a rebel art scene sparks lethal danger for two girls in this expertly plotted YA thriller. For fans of E. Lockhart, Lauren Oliver and Kara Thomas.

The summer is winding down in San Diego. Veronica is bored, caustically charismatic, and uninspired in her photography. Nico is insatiable, subversive, and obsessed with chaotic performance art. They’re artists first, best friends second. But that was before Mick. Delicate, lonely, magnetic Mick: the perfect subject, and Veronica’s dream girl. The days are long and hot―full of adventure―and soon they are falling in love. Falling so hard, they never imagine what comes next. One fire. Two murders. Three drowning bodies. One suspect . . . one stalker. This is a summer they won’t survive.

Inspired by The Picture of Dorian Gray, this sexy psychological thriller explores the intersections of love, art, danger, and power.

Review

Veronica and Nico are artists and best friends. Veronica aspires to be a famous photographer, Nico creates sculptures and political art a la Banksy to stand up for injustices. Enter Mick, a lonely, neglected young woman who wants nothing more than to belong and to hide in the background. Veronica falls for Mick, and Mick gets sucked into Nico’s art web. Soon enough, bodies are turning up around Nico’s art installation and Veronica and Mick must figure out what is happening before they are found next.

She’s Too Pretty to Burn started off slow for me, but got very thrilling by the end. I wasn’t in love with any of the characters, but they all served an important purpose and had strengths and weaknesses – no perfect characters in this book. The psychological aspect of this book was well hidden for a large portion before springing to live and sucking you in.

I haven’t read The Picture of Dorian Gray, which this book is inspired by, so I can’t speak to how closely or not it resembles Dorian Gray – but even not knowing the original work, I feel She’s Too Pretty to Burn stands on it’s own. I would have liked more background into Mick’s family life, I feel like it’s a thread that isn’t really pursued especially towards the end. But other than that, I don’t have critiques for this book.

If you find yourself in the mood for a YA thriller with art, stalking, and unreliable characters – sign up for this one quickly!

Thank you to Netgalley and Henry Holt and Co (BYR) for an early copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – The Flipside of Perfect by Liz Reinhardt

Title: The Flipside of Perfect

Author: Liz Reinhardt

Publisher: Inkyard Press

Publication date: April 6th, 2021

432 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

A heartfelt, fun, and romantic novel about balancing who we are with who we’re expected to be, perfect for fans of Jenna Evans Welch, Morgan Matson and Jenn Bennett!

What happens when her two worlds collide?

AJ is a buttoned-up, responsible student attending a high-achieving high school in Michigan. She lives with her mother, stepfather, and two younger half sisters.

Della spends every summer with her father in Florida. A free-spirited wild child, she spends as much time as possible on the beach with her friends and older siblings.

But there’s a catch: AJ and Della are the same person. Adelaide Beloise Jepsen to be exact, and she does everything she can to keep her school and summer lives separate.

When her middle sister crashes her carefree summer getaway, Adelaide’s plans fall apart. In order to help her sister, save her unexpected friendship with a guy who might just be perfect for her, and discover the truth about her own past, Adelaide will have to reconcile the two sides of herself…and face the fact that it’s perfectly okay not to be perfect all the time.

Review

The Flipside of Perfect features a main character, Adelaide, who spends the school year with her mom, stepdad, and two younger sisters before spending every summer with her dad and two older siblings. Pretty normal divorced parents situation, except that Adelaide is a completely different person in both places. In Michigan with her mom she is AJ, the buttoned up, type A, super popular girl but in Florida with her dad she is Della, the chill, beach going, party girl. She loves her split life, but when her younger sister joins her summer with her dad – her two worlds collide in unexpected ways.

I loved the concept behind this book as I completely understand what it’s like to want to be a completely different person in different situations. I related a lot to AJ/Della in these feelings and enjoyed reading about how she handled both worlds. I loved the supporting casts, especially the Della side of the family in Florida. Don’t get me started on Lex vs. Jude either.

I wasn’t a hug fan of the switching timelines. I normally don’t mind that style in books but for some reason it didn’t work in this book. The scenes in the past certainly provided needed context, I just wish it had been provided in a different way as I had a hard time keeping up with what was happening in which time line. There was also a lot going on in this book, I think it tried to do too much with the plot and didn’t quite swing it.

Overall I think The Flipside of Perfect is a charming YA Contemporary about growing up, the power of family and sisters, and is an interesting taking on split families.

Thank you to Inkyard Press and Netgalley for an early copy in exchange for an honest review.

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – Prom Theory

Title: Prom Theory

Author: Ann LaBar

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Publication date: March 30th, 2021

400 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

In this heartwarming and whip-smart YA spin on The Rosie Project, a teen girl is determined to prove that love, like all things, should be scientifically quantified…right?

Iris Oxtabee has managed to navigate the tricky world of unspoken social interactions by reading everything from neuroscience journals to Wikipedia articles. Science has helped her fit the puzzle pieces into an understandable whole, and she’s sure there’s nothing it can’t explain. Love, for example, is just chemistry.

Her best friend Seth, however, believes love is one of life’s beautiful and chaotic mysteries, without need for explanation. Iris isn’t one to back down from a challenge; she’s determined to prove love is really nothing more than hormones and external stimuli. After all, science has allowed humanity to understand more complex mysteries than that, and Iris excels at science.

The perfect way to test her theory? Get the popular and newly-single Theo Grant, who doesn’t even know Iris exists, to ask her to prom. With prom just two weeks away, Iris doesn’t have any time to waste, so she turns her keen empirical talents and laser-focus attention to testing her theory.

But will proving herself correct cause her friendship with Seth—and the tantalizing possibility for something more—to become the failed experiment?

Review

Prom Theory is about Iris, a high school junior who has two best friends, Esther and Seth (Squeak). Iris has NLVD, and has difficulty reading social situations and is very interested in learning facts. She decides she can make the most popular boy in school ask her to Prom if she just conducts scientific experiments designed to attract his attention and prove that love is nothing more than a scientific process. But through her experiments, she might just end up hurting her friends and creating more of a mess.

I did find this book to be enjoyable, however I had a few concerns with it. First off, I found the depiction of NLVD to be good (speaking as someone who is neurotypical, so I’m no expert). However the author’s bio indicates she has experience so I’m trusting her knowledge. Iris’s ‘wiki-mode’ moments were very interesting, if a bit scientific for the target audience? It helped to underscore her presentation of NLVD but it was a bit much at times. I like the two friends Iris has, but I feel they could have done a better job of helping her realize this experiment was a bad idea. They kind of enabled the behavior and then got mad at it afterwards.

This book is pretty cliche, it’s definitely YA and has a high school level maturity. The prom scene was hard to read for me, as I imagine it would be for anyone who has experience with being treated badly for being “different” from the average for any reason. I respect Iris’s growth through the book and the idea that she was learning the emotional side of being human instead of just analytical.

Overall, this was a good book if you’re looking for a high school romance with a diversity rep for the main character.

Thank you to Simon Pulse and Netgalley for an early copy in exchange for an honest review.

Happy reading, folks!