Book Review – Accidentally Engaged by Farah Heron

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Title: Accidentally Engaged

Author: Farah Heron

Publisher: Forever

Publication date: March 2nd, 2021

357 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Reena Manji doesn’t love her career, her single status, and most of all, her family inserting themselves into every detail of her life. But when caring for her precious sourdough starters, Reena can drown it all out. At least until her father moves his newest employee across the hall–with hopes that Reena will marry him.

But Nadim’s not like the other Muslim bachelors-du-jour that her parents have dug up. If the Captain America body and the British accent weren’t enough, the man appears to love eating her bread creations as much as she loves making them. She sure as hell would never marry a man who works for her father, but friendship with a neighbor is okay, right? And when Reena’s career takes a nosedive, Nadim happily agrees to fake an engagement so they can enter a couples video cooking contest to win the artisan bread course of her dreams.

As cooking at home together brings them closer, things turn physical, but Reena isn’t worried. She knows Nadim is keeping secrets, but it’s fine— secrets are always on the menu where her family is concerned. And her heart is protected… she’s not marrying the man. But even secrets kept for self preservation have a way of getting out, especially when meddling parents and gossiping families are involved.

Review

Accidentally Engaged follows Reena and Nadim, two Muslims living in Canada, who are expected by their parents to get engaged. Reena has absolutely no intention of doing that, she does not have a love life but does not have a good relationship with her parents to allow that to happen. No matter how attractive Nadim is, or how much he loves her bread making, or how he lives across the hall from her…

I love reading romances from cultures that aren’t mine to experience the differences. As I am not Muslim, I cannot speak to the representation accuracy – but knowing Farah Heron is a Muslim writer I feel confident that the story is Own Voices and is a good representation. Also, this book absolutely made me want to learn how to make bread from scratch and do it all the time. I still haven’t done that – but I still might do it!! I would definitely also name my sourdough starter with no shame.

There is a lot of themes about family and acceptance in the book as well, Reena goes through a lot of growth with her relationship with her family members throughout the book. Whereas I think the ending wasn’t congruent with the rest of the story, it really did allow Reena to make strides with her family.

Definitely a solid read, and it is my first from Farah Heron but I would read others. It wasn’t completely memorable for me, especially when it comes to the side characters. I normally like side characters to have more attention and their own story lines and I didn’t feel that was as much the case in this book.

Happy reading folks!

eARC Review – Hot Desk by Zara Stoneley

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Title: Hot Desk

Author: Zara Stoneley

Publisher: One More Chapter

Publication date: August 31st, 2021

2/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

TW: contains references to life after the Covid pandemic

Same desk, different days.A post-it note is just the beginning…

A must read for fans of Beth O’Leary, Mhairi McFarlane and Sophie Kinsella!

Alice loves her job and wants to keep it – whatever the price. But then she’s told the company is switching to flexible working and hot desking…Alice’s desk might look a mess, but she knows exactly where everything is. Or she did. Until she found out she’s going to share it with the most annoying guy in the office.
 
Jamie can work from anywhere. He’s quite happy to sweep his work life into a box at the end of the working day. But can sharing a desk with Alice be as much fun as teasing her in person?
 
With no option but to try it and see, will their relationship turn into open warfare or will it ever progress beyond a post-it note?

Review

Hot Desk is set in England and is a second chance romance when two people who shared a kiss in college end up working together and sharing a desk when the company needs to downsize. Alice and Jamie start to share notes and become closer, and Jamie helps Alice when an ex begins to be aggressive with her. There are some themes of family included as well.

This book was not for me. I read a similar romance before & loved it, but the writing in this book was not for me. Most of the book was Alice’s internal monologue rambling and going back and forth in time with no rhyme or reason. I didn’t find the romance to be at all engaging and the miscommunication between the two was excessive.

I wanted to like this book, but the writing really stopped that from happening for me. Not to say there isn’t an audience for this writing style and book, it’s just not me. If the summary sounds intriguing, I say read it and ignore my review – everyone should form their own opinions and has their own preferences.

Thank you to One More Chapter and Netgalley for an early copy in exchange for an honest review.

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – Every Day in December by Kitty Wilson

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Title: Every Day in December

Author: Kitty Wilson

Publisher: One More Chapter

Publication date: August 20th, 2021

384 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Two people. One month to fall in love.

Belle Wilde loves December. Yes, she’s just lost her job and Christmas is not a good time to find yourself ‘financially challenged’. And yes, her parents are still going on about the fact that she really should have it all together by now. But Belle believes that in December, magic can happen.

Rory Walters hates December. Whilst it looks like his life is together, he’s still reeling from a winter’s night five years ago when his life changed forever. Now back at home, he’s certain that this will be yet another Christmas to endure rather than enjoy.

But as midnight on December 31st draws closer, Belle and Rory’s time together is coming to an end. With a little help from a Christmas miracle could Belle find the one thing she really wants underneath the mistletoe?

Review

Every Day in December is a friends to lovers, almost second chance romance set in England at Christmas time. Rory is back in town to visit his mom as she has surgery for breast cancer and runs into Belle, a friend from college. Belle is newly unemployed, treated terribly by her family, and in need of a friend. Rory helps her out with work and they begin to spend more time together. But both of them have a lot of baggage to unpack and need each other’s help to heal.

I found this one to be engaging and really gave you characters to root for. Belle and Rory both had a lot of character development through the story and worked hard to get to where they were at the end. They both had family issues to work through, and I felt it was handled really well. I think the plot itself is what was engaging, not necessarily the writing though.

I don’t read a lot of Christmas books, no matter the time of year, but I did enjoy this one as Belle was trying to sell Rory on the concept of Christmas and Christmas activities. I thought it was a cute twist to the normal plot of Christmas books. I would have loved more at the end of this book to really wrap everything up.

Thank you to One More Chapter and Netgalley for an early copy in exchange for an honest review.

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – Daughter of Lies and Ruin by Jo Spurrier

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Title: Daughter of Lies and Ruin (Tales of the Blackbone Witches #2)

Author: Jo Spurrier

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Publication date: October 5th, 2021

352 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

If they didn’t want to get turned into beasts and used to fuel a ritual, they shouldn’t have attacked a witch. That’s all there is to it.

There’s something strange brewing in this tinder-dry forest – a girl with a sword and a secret, a troupe of vicious bandits vanished without a trace, beasts that don’t belong and a witch with a macabre plan.

Elodie hasn’t been learning witchcraft for long, but she knows enough to be worried, and the fact that her mentor Aleida wants to pack up and leave in short order isn’t helping to settle her nerves.

Elodie just hopes to get everyone out of this mess unharmed, but it’s looking more unlikely with every passing hour. And when the strange witch’s ire falls on her, Aleida’s wrath sparks a fire that threatens to scorch the earth itself … 

Review

A great next installment in the series. I would have loved to see more information about the magic that Dee is working on, I feel it could be explained better. But, her relationship with Aleida is amazing and there was so much character development for the two of them through this book.

There was a huge emotional aspect to this book that I wasn’t expecting and really added to the plot of the book. I look forward to reading the conclusion to the trilogy! Definitely a series I recommend for fantasy lovers as it is unique and quirky in the way it is written.

Happy reading, folks!

Book Review – Bad Blood by John Carreyrou

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Title: Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup

Author: John Carreyrou

Publisher: Knopf

Publication date: May 21st, 2018

353 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

The full inside story of the breathtaking rise and shocking collapse of a multibillion-dollar startup, by the prize-winning journalist who first broke the story and pursued it to the end in the face of pressure and threats from the CEO and her lawyers.

In 2014, Theranos founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes was widely seen as the female Steve Jobs: a brilliant Stanford dropout whose startup “unicorn” promised to revolutionize the medical industry with a machine that would make blood tests significantly faster and easier. Backed by investors such as Larry Ellison and Tim Draper, Theranos sold shares in a fundraising round that valued the company at $9 billion, putting Holmes’s worth at an estimated $4.7 billion. There was just one problem: The technology didn’t work.

For years, Holmes had been misleading investors, FDA officials, and her own employees. When Carreyrou, working at The Wall Street Journal, got a tip from a former Theranos employee and started asking questions, both Carreyrou and the Journal were threatened with lawsuits. Undaunted, the newspaper ran the first of dozens of Theranos articles in late 2015. By early 2017, the company’s value was zero and Holmes faced potential legal action from the government and her investors. Here is the riveting story of the biggest corporate fraud since Enron, a disturbing cautionary tale set amid the bold promises and gold-rush frenzy of Silicon Valley.

Review

“Like her idol Steve Jobs, she emitted a reality distortion field that forced people to momentarily suspend disbelief.”

John Carreyrou, Bad Blood

Before reading this book for the 12 Friends, 12 Reads challenge I had never heard of Theranos or Elizabeth Holmes. I frankly don’t keep up with the news that often, especially not in the tech or start up world. I normally also don’t read non-fiction, so this book was so far out of my wheelhouse and comfort zone it wasn’t even funny. BUT I found myself really enjoying this book about halfway through. Once the investigation really got started into Theranos by John Carreyrou I was enthralled and found it all fascinating.

As a psych major, I find Elizabeth Holmes’ bravado and manipulation to be very intriguing and would love to psychoanalyze her. There has to be some sort of Narcissistic Personality Disorder happening there but I’m not qualified to actually diagnose someone. But, I’m glad I read this book and learned something. I frankly don’t ever read to learn, but I’m happy I made this one exception!

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – The Dating Playbook by Farrah Rochon

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Title: The Dating Playbook (The Boyfriend Project #2)

Author: Farrah Rochon

Publisher: Forever

Publication date: August 17th, 2021

368 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

When a personal trainer agrees to fake date her client, all rules are out the window in this delightful romantic comedy from the USA Today bestselling author of The Boyfriend Project!

When it comes to personal training, Taylor Powell kicks serious butt. Unfortunately, her bills are piling up, rent is due, and the money situation is dire. Taylor needs more than the support of her new best friends, Samiah and London. She needs a miracle.

And Jamar Dixon might just be it. The oh-so-fine former footballer wants back into the NFL, and he wants Taylor to train him. There’s just one catch — no one can know what they’re doing. But when they’re accidentally outed as a couple, Taylor’s game plan is turned completely upside down. Is Jamar just playing to win . . . or is he playing for keeps?

Review

After The Boyfriend Project, I knew I needed to continue with reading Taylor’s story. Taylor is trying to build her company, but she’s broke and it’s not exactly easy to become an Instagram gymfluencer. After some questionable business decisions, Taylor is even more desperate than ever. In comes Jamar, a retired football player who was knocked out of the game his rookie year with an injury. He will do anything to get back on the field, and thinks Taylor is the coach to train him back to peak shape.

I related to Taylor so much, and Jamar’s story was so incredibly sad and touching. The main trope in this romance is fake dating, in order to hide the fact that Taylor is training Jamar – they pretend to date so the time they spend together isn’t unusual. I loved still getting to see Samiah and London, and this book seems to pick up pretty immediately after The Boyfriend Project ended.

I highly recommend for all romance lovers out there. I also cannot wait for London’s story, which I’m feeling pretty confident will come next!

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

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – The Mismatch by Sara Jafari

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Title: The Mismatch

Author: Sara Jafari

Publisher: Dell

Publication date: August 3rd, 2021

368 pages

3/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

For a young woman who just wants to get her first kiss out of the way, a rugby player seems like the perfect mismatch. But a kiss is never just a kiss. . . .

Now that Soraya Nazari has graduated from university, she thinks it’s time she get some of the life experience that she feels she’s still lacking, partly due to her upbringing–and Magnus Evans seems like the perfect way to get it.

Whereas she’s the somewhat timid, artistic daughter of Iranian immigrants, Magnus is the quintessential British lad. Because they have so little in common, Soraya knows there’s no way she could ever fall for him, so what’s the harm in having a little fun as she navigates her postgrad life? Besides, the more she discovers about her mother’s past and the strain between her parents, the less appealing marriage becomes.

Before long, Soraya begins to realize that there’s much more to Magnus than meets the eye. But could she really have a relationship with him? Is she more like her mother than she ever would have thought?

With unforgettable characters at its heart, The Mismatch is a gorgeously written coming-of-age story that shows that love can be found in even the most unexpected places.

Review

The Mismatch is an emotional tale told in dual, alternating timelines detailing the Iranian/Muslim experience in romance and dating for a mother and daughter. It is more than a romance, it’s a life journey in what it means to be religious, a woman, and a partner. As I am not Iranian or Muslim, I will recommend reading an own voices review of the representation whereas I will focus on the writing and other opinions!

The first half of the book is paced a bit slow in my opinion, but it really does pick up once you get farther in Neda and Soraya’s lives and experience the details of their stories. Do not go into this thinking it’s a feel good romance novel, it closer to Women’s Lit than romance. There are a lot of serious topics tackled, so please check trigger warnings before going into it.

The second half is where the author really shows her strength in story telling – i couldn’t put it down until the timelines converged and I could get to the end. The story was moving and provided a different perspective to life in a way I can never fully understand as a white human.

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

Happy reading, folks!

Book Review – Back in the Burbs by Avery Flynn and Tracy Wolff

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Title: Back in the Burbs

Authors: Avery Flynn & Tracy Wolff

Publisher: Entangled: Amara

Publication date: March 30th, 2021

400 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Ever have one of those days where life just plain sucks? Welcome to my last three months—ever since I caught my can’t-be-soon-enough ex-husband cheating with his paralegal. I’m thirty-five years old, and I’ve lost my NYC apartment, my job, my money, and frankly, my dignity.

But the final heartache in the suck sandwich of my life? My great-aunt Maggie died. The only family member who’s ever gotten me.
Even after death, though, she’s helping me get back up. She’s willed me the keys to a house in the burbs, of all places, and dared me to grab life by the family jewels. Well, I’ve got the vise grips already in hand (my ex should take note) and I’m ready to fight for my life again.

Too bad that bravado only lasts as long as it takes to drive into Huckleberry Hills. And see the house.
There are forty-seven separate HOA violations, and I feel them all in my bones. Honestly, I’m surprised no one’s “accidentally” torched the house yet. I want to, and I’ve only been standing in front of it for five minutes. But then my hot, grumpy neighbor tells me to mow the lawn first and I’m just…done. Done with men too sexy for their own good and done with anyone telling me what to do ever again.

First rule of surviving the burbs? There is nothing that YouTube and a glass of wine can’t conquer.

Review

I read Back in the Burbs right after reading Twice Shy by Sarah Hogle, and the premises are very similar. An elderly, estranged family member dies and the MC goes back to refurbish the house to escape their miserable life only to find a grouchy man who pushes their buttons but are crazy attractive. Cue hate to love romance. Now, I’m not saying one book is too similar to the other in terms of it being a negative reaction, it was just interesting how similar it was and how I read them so close to each other.

I really enjoyed Back in the Burbs, it was quick and easy to read while also incorporating some more serious topics. The MC is funny and self-deprecating, which is a combination I love. I appreciated reading about her career journey and standing up to her ex-husband – and eventually family.

The book was missing just a little something to push it to a 5 star read. I also would’ve loved for it to be a dual POV, I always love getting both perspectives in romance books.

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – The Endless Skies by Shannon Price

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Title: The Endless Skies

Author: Shannon Price

Publisher: Tor Teen

Publication date: August 17th, 2021

354 pages

3/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

High above the sea, floats the pristine city of the Heliana. Home to winged-lion shapeshifters―the Leonodai―and protected from the world of humans by an elite group of warriors, the Heliana has only known peace.

After years of brutal training, seventeen-year-old Rowan is ready to prove her loyalty to the city and her people to become one of the Leonodai warriors. But before Rowan can take the oath, a deadly disease strikes the city’s children. Soon the warriors―including two of Rowan’s closest friends―are sent on a dangerous mission to find a fabled panacea deep within enemy lands.

Left behind, Rowan learns a devastating truth that could compromise the mission and the fate of the Heliana itself. She must make a decision: stay with the city and become a warrior like she always dreamed, or risk her future in an attempt to save everyone she loves. Whatever Rowan decides, she has to do it fast, because time is running out, and peace can only last so long…

Review

The Endless Skies is a stand alone YA Fantasy, with a light love triangle romance plot line. The world is split between the humans and the magic folk, tribes that can turn into specific animals at will. The two groups have been at war for years, but now the Leonodai, the lion faction, are besieged with a plague that affects children, and they’re dying. The cure resides in the human lands, and warriors must fight to bring the cure back home, especially when the young Prince falls ill. Told in alternating POVs from Rowan, Callen, and Shirene – their sides of the journey to save their home is told.

I liked this book for the unique nature of the magic system, and the alternating POVs. I think they were done well and were necessary to the plot line as they told very important sides of the plot, without feeling redundant. The writing is solid, good flow and pacing – though I feel it could have been longer and it would’ve been a bit better.

I wish the world-building was presented a lot earlier than it was. It takes at least 30-50 pages for the background/history of the Leonodai/humans to be presented and I spent those initial pages very confused. I think the author tried to avoid info-dumping, but went a bit too far into the other direction for my preferences. But overall, a solid and entertaining fantasy that wrapped up all the story lines well.

Thank you to Tor Teen and Netgalley for an early copy in exchange for an honest review.

Happy reading, folks!

Book Review – Forever With You by Barb Curtis

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Title: Forever With You (Sapphire Springs #1)

Author: Barb Curtis

Publisher: Forever

Publication date: November 10th, 2020

316 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

From debut author, Barb Curtis, a heartwarming small-town romance about high school sweethearts who return home and discover that first love sometimes gets a second chance. . .

Jay Wynter wants to be successful on his own merit. That’s why he left Sapphire Springs and his family’s winery to build a career from scratch. But now that he’s successor to Wynter Estate, Jay must return to his small hometown to face everything, and everyone, he left behind-especially his high school sweetheart, who happens to be his stunning new business partner . . .

Leyna Milan knows family legacies come with strings attached, but she’s determined to prove that she can run her family’s restaurant. Of course, Leyna never expected that honoring her grandfather’s wishes meant opening a second location on her ex’s property-or having to ignore Jay’s sexy grin and guard the heart he shattered years before. But as they work closely together, she begins to discover that maybe first loves deserve a second chance . . .

Review

A debut novel by Barb Curtis brings readers to the town of Sapphire Springs, an idyllic small town in wine country where everyone knows each other and there are no secrets. In terms of setting, think Nicholas Sparks without North Carolina. The characters are older in this book than I normally read – the MCs are in their mid-thirties, and the trope most prominent is second chance romance. Leyna and Jay broke up when they were 18, and now 18 years later Jay comes back and throws Leyna for a spin.

Forever With You was a sweet romance. I was more invested in Leyna as a character than Jay – he just made so many mistakes and it got harder to look past them every time. The side characters were amazing, I loved the development and the look into this town and their relationships with each other. There are more serious moments in this book while sticking with the HEA theme. Also, there is very little steam in this book. Very minor details, and then fade to black scenes so if closed door romance is your jam – this will fit in well for you.

Looking forward to reading the second book in the Sapphire Springs series, Only For You!

**Thank you to Forever Publishing for a finished copy to review**

Happy reading, folks!