eARC Review – Never Fall for Your Fiancee by Virginia Heath

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Title: Never Fall for Your Fiancee (The Merriwell Sisters #1)

Author: Virginia Heath

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

Publication date: November 9th, 2021

368 pages

3.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

The first in a new historical rom-com series, a handsome earl hires a fake fiancée to keep his matchmaking mother at bay, but hilarity ensues when love threatens to complicate everything.

The last thing Hugh Standish, Earl of Fareham, ever wants is a wife. Unfortunately for him, his mother is determined to find him one, even from across the other side of the ocean. So, Hugh invents a fake fiancée to keep his mother’s matchmaking ways at bay. But when Hugh learns his interfering mother is on a ship bound for England, he realizes his complicated, convoluted but convenient ruse is about to implode. Until he collides with a beautiful woman, who might just be the miracle he needs.

Minerva Merriwell has had to struggle to support herself and her two younger sisters ever since their feckless father abandoned them. Work as a woodcut engraver is few and far between, and the Merriwell sisters are nearly penniless. So, when Hugh asks Minerva to pose as his fiancée while his mother is visiting, she knows that while the scheme sounds ludicrous, the offer is too good to pass up.

Once Minerva and her sisters arrive at Hugh’s estate, of course, nothing goes according to his meticulous plan. As hilarity and miscommunication ensue, while everyone tries to keep their tangled stories straight, Hugh and Minerva’s fake engagement starts to turn into a real romance. But can they trust each other, when their relationship started with a lie?

Review

Hugh, the Earl of Fareham is so much of a commitment-phobe that he invented a fiancee two years ago to get his matchmaking mother off his back. But, his mother is on her way to visit from Boston, so Hugh’s scheme is going to blow up in his face unless he can figure out a plan. When he meets Minerva, a charming young lady who happens to have the same name as his fake fiancee – he proposes a solution, Hugh will pay Minerva to pose as his fiancee for a short time before he can break off the engagement and fool his mother. What could go wrong?

Regency romance is a fairly new genre for me, but I’ve found that I enjoy it. This one is pretty average for me though, I liked the MC’s sisters more than her (which since this is the beginning of a series, means I am more invested in the upcoming books). The main issue with this book is that it all hinges on dumb, straight, white man logic. Hugh thinks because his father and grandfather cheated, it’s literally in his blood and he can’t control it and is fated to do the same – so he avoids romantic entanglements. Like, free will does’t exist? It rubbed me the wrong way, it’s such a common trope in cheating culture and is used as an excuse in real life all the time. Granted, the MC doesn’t cheat, just assumes he will and is broken because of his family history. Not my favorite use of conflict and commitment phobia, personally. Also, the conflict was resolved shockingly quickly.

Never Fall For Your Fiancee is also fairly closed door, there are a few kissing scenes and a fade to black. It is a regency romance so it’s set in England, but there is a feminist twist to it where Hugh’s mom insists he marry for love instead of status, even though he is an earl. Tropes include forced proximity and fake engagement.

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

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – Year of the Reaper by Makiia Lucier

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Title: Year of the Reaper

Author: Makiia Lucier

Publisher: Clarion Books

Publication date: November 9th, 2021

336 pages

5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

The past never forgets . . .

Before an ambush by enemy soldiers, Lord Cassia was an engineer’s apprentice on a mission entrusted by the king. But when plague sweeps over the land, leaving countless dead and devastating the kingdom, even Cas’ title cannot save him from a rotting prison cell and a merciless sickness.

Three years later, Cas wants only to return to his home in the mountains and forget past horrors. But home is not what he remembers. His castle has become a refuge for the royal court. And they have brought their enemies with them.

When an assassin targets those closest to the queen, Cas is drawn into a search for a killer…one that leads him to form an unexpected bond with a brilliant young historian named Lena. Cas and Lena soon realize that who is behind the attacks is far less important than why. They must look to the past, following the trail of a terrible secret—one that could threaten the kingdom’s newfound peace and plunge it back into war.

Review

Year of the Reaper is an excellent, stand alone, YA Fantasy that has writing so immersive you feel like you’d been dropped into the story line and experiencing everything. Lord Cassia is our MC as he is returning home from breaking out imprisonment and surviving the plague – with one quick… he can see and speak to spirits. His return home after being presumed dead kicks off a sequence of events where the crown is targeted, and everyone must figure out who wants the Queen dead – and why. Because even though she is from an enemy country, the union brought the two lands peace – so everyone should be happy, right?

I have a hard time putting this book into words. There is so much pain, heartbreak, and love written into this storyline and plot. It was an honest to god joy to read and I couldn’t tear myself away. There is also the slowest of all slow burn romances, because the romance was not at all the focal point. This is a true fantasy novel, worthy of everyone’s time. I don’t think you’ll regret it.

There were some twists that I foresaw and expected, but the final one took me unawares. I remember looking at my husband and saying, “someone has a secret, but I can’t figure out what it is!”. I did leave this book with some questions, so I wouldn’t say it fully wraps up. But I could maybe a future book coming, even if it currently is billed as a stand alone. I would very much dive back into this world if given the opportunity.

**Thank you to Clarion Books and Netgalley for an early copy in exchange for an honest review **

Happy reading, folks!

November TBR – 2021 Edition

Happy November! This month has a lot of exciting new opportunities for me, a new job, a Marvel movie, and a comedy show with my husband in Virginia. And of course, Thanksgiving. I’m blown away that 2021 is almost over and we’re 2 months away from 2022 – I still feel like it’s the beginning of 2020 some days, this pandemic is endlessly stretching on and there is no real end in sight.

But, moving on to my TBR for November. As I’ve mentioned, I’m reading more audiobooks but I don’t have much control over when my holds come in from the library – so I’m not going to include that category in my TBR. I’m also going to list fewer physical books than normal as I am feeling particularly mood reading-esque this month. I am still sticking to a pretty rigid ARC schedule, especially because I didn’t hit my ARC goal for October. I am very stoked for my reading this month though, my anti-depressant finally feels like it’s working and I have hope and excitement for this month.

So, see below for my TBR!

PHYSICAL

  1. The Ex Hex, Erin Sterling
  2. When Night Breaks (Kingdom of Cards #2), Janella Angeles
  3. Cupcake, Cookie O’Gorman
  4. Kingdom of the Wicked (Kingdom of the Wicked #1), Kerri Maniscalco
  5. The Widow of Rose House, Diana Biller

ARCS

  1. Mother of All (Women’s War #3), Jenna Glass
  2. Year of the Reaper, Makiia Lucier
  3. You’ve Reached Sam, Dustin Thao
  4. All of Us Villains (All of Us Villains #1), Amanda Foody
  5. The Ballerinas, Rachel Kapelke-Dale
  6. If This Gets Out, Sophie Gonzales
  7. Fools in Love, Rebecca Podos
  8. How to Book a Murder (Starlit Bookshop Mystery #1), Cynthia Kuhn
  9. A History of Wild Places, Shea Ernshaw
  10. The Excalibur Curse (Camelot Rising #3), Kiersten White
  11. How Not to Fall in Love, Jacqueline Firkins
  12. The Kindred, Alechia Dow
  13. Bad Luck Bridesmaid, Alison Rose Greenberg

KINDLE

  1. Battle Royal (Palace Insider #1), Lucy Parker
  2. Dear Evan Hanson, Val Emmich

I hope you have a great month of reading!

Happy reading, folks!

October Wrap Up – 2021 Edition

Wow, what a month! I had my birthday, a trip to Chicago, and I put in my notice at my job! I start a new job mid-November and I’m so ready for the change and a new challenge. I did plenty of reading, but not as much of my TBR as I planned! Turns out a month of spooky reads is to much for me, and I need to break them up with some romance. Will have to remember that for next year as I make that TBR!

I finished with 27 books in October, which is a pretty average number for me. I also have reached over 200 books for the year, and am on pace for the best reading year I’ve ever had even beating last year’s record numbers. The pandemic really does help my reading, and I’ve been reading audiobooks more which also increases my numbers.

So, see below for the books I read in October! Check back tomorrow for my November TBR, which I’ve decided to do differently than the last few months (again).

PHYSICAL

  1. Horrid, Katrina Leno – 3/5 stars
  2. The Last Legacy, Adrienne Young – 4/5 stars
  3. The Bone Thief (The Bone Charmer #2), Breeana Shields – 4/5 stars
  4. The Bone Witch (The Bone Witch #1), Rin Chupeco – 4/5 stars
  5. The Last Time I Lied, Riley Sager – 4.5/5 stars
  6. The Corpse Queen, Heather Herrman – 4/5 stars
  7. The River Has Teeth, Erica Waters – 4/5 stars

KINDLE

  1. Ruthless Empire (Royal Elites #6), Rina Kent – 3/5 stars
  2. The Spanish Love Deception, Elena Armas – 5/5 stars
  3. Window Shopping, Tessa Bailey – 4/5 stars
  4. Twisted Love (Twisted #1), Ana Huang – 4/5 stars
  5. Beautiful Stranger (Beautiful Bastard #2), Christina Lauren – 5/5 stars
  6. Beautiful Player (Beautiful Bastard #3), Christina Lauren – 3/5 stars
  7. Twisted Games (Twisted #2), Ana Huang – 3/5 stars

ARCS

  1. Well Matched (Well Met #3), Jen DeLuca – 5/5 stars
  2. Donut Fall in Love, Jackie Lau – 3.5/5 stars
  3. The Brightest Star in Paris, Diana Biller – 4/5 stars
  4. Within These Wicked Walls, Lauren Blackwood – 4/5 stars
  5. I Hate You More, Lucy Gilmore – 3.5/5 stars
  6. You Can Go Your Own Way, Eric Smith – 3.5/5 stars
  7. The Lucky Escape, Laura Jane Williams – 3/5 stars
  8. Never Fall For Your Fiancee (The Merriwell Sisters #1), Virginia Heath – 3.5/5 stars

AUDIO

  1. The Night Country (The Hazel Wood #2), Melissa Albert – 3/5 stars
  2. The Boy Who Didn’t Come Home (The Hazel Wood #1.5) – 3/5 stars
  3. Big Girl Panties, Stephanie Evanovich – DNF
  4. Dial A for Aunties (Aunties #1), Jesse Q. Sutanto
  5. Girl, Serpent, Thorn, Melissa Bashardoust – 4/5 stars

Had a very well balanced month in terms of the format of my reading as well!

Happy reading, folks!

October Haul – 2021 Edition

So I asked last month in my haul post if people still wanted to see this kind of post – and several of you commented saying yes, that you love to read haul posts. So, I’m here to oblige and continue posting my monthly hauls 🙂

I have a larger haul this month than I’ve had recently, and I have to thank publishers for a lot of that! I received several gifted copies over the month, which I’m very luck to receive and appreciate the generosity of publishers. I also received my free birthday book from Book of the Month! To summarize, it was a good month for me.

So, see below for my haul!

SUBSCRIPTION BOXES

  1. The Ex Hex, Erin Sterling
  2. Everything We Didn’t Say, Nicole Baart
  3. The Sweetest Remedy, Jane Igharo
  4. The Keeper of the Night (The Keeper of the Night #1), Kylie Lee Baker
  5. When Night Breaks (Kingdom of Cards #2), Janella Angeles – Owlcrate Special Edition preorder

PUBLISHERS

  1. Not Your Average Hot Guy (Not Your Average Hot Guy #1), Gwenda Bond
  2. When Night Breaks (Kingdom of Cards #2), Janella Angeles
  3. Cupcake, Cookie O’Gorman

BARNES AND NOBLE

  1. Kingdom of the Cursed (Kingdom of the Wicked #2), Kerrie Maniscalco (birthday gift)
  2. The Gilded Cage (The Prison Healer #2), Lynette Noni

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – I Hate You More by Lucy Gilmore

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Title: I Hate You More

Author: Lucy Gilmore

Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca

Publication date: November 2nd, 2021

272 pages

3.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Discover what makes Lucy Gilmore an instant fan favorite with this unforgettably funny enemies-to-lovers romcom starring:
• a grumpy dog show judge
• a determined former beauty queen
• and a Golden Retriever more interested in stealing bacon than winning Best in Show.

Ruby Taylor gave up pageant life the day she turned eighteen and figured she’d never look back. But when an old friend begs her to show her beloved Golden Retriever at the upcoming Canine Classic, Ruby reluctantly straps on her heels and gets to work.

If only she knew exactly what the adorably lazy lump of a dog was getting her into.

If there’s one thing veterinarian Spencer Wilson knows in this world, it’s dogs. Human beings are an entirely different animal. Especially stubborn, gorgeous women clearly in way over their heads. As judge for the local dog show, Spencer advises Ruby to quit while she still can, but her old fervor for winning has returned―and she wants to show the stern, broody-eyed judge that she’s more than just a pretty face. In the end, she’ll show him who’s best in show.

Review

It’s pretty much a given that I will request a book with an illustrated cover on it, but one that ALSO has a dog on the cover?? Sold. Immediately.

Ruby is our MC, an ex-pageant girl turned CNA in a retirement home. She is conned by one of the tenants to enter her recalcitrant pup into the area dog show, where she meets the grumpy judge Spencer and his charming twin brother Caleb. Spencer wants nothing to do with Wheezy, the mixed breed golden retriever who is incredibly untrained and basically does the opposite of whatever Ruby instructs. But Spencer is drawn to Ruby’s beauty and personality, so drama ensues.

The spice in this book?? Holy hell. Reminded me a lot of Andie J. Christopher’s writing, and especially her newest. There are several open door scenes so beware of that before reading if that isn’t your vibe. Also, there are some prime romantic moments as well, it’s not just the spice that makes this romance attractive.

However, I found the overall story and plot line to be lacking in depth. I enjoyed the characters, I had a fun time, but this is a shorter than average romance – so if it were longer I feel more could have been down to provide the depth it is lacking. It’s also a tad ridiculous with some of the events, especially around the dog.

Worth the read but not a story likely to stick. I may have bookmarked those spicy pages for future reading though ;).

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

Happy reading, folks!

Book Review – The Lucky Escape by Laura Jane Williams

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Title: The Lucky Escape

Author: Laura Jane Williams

Publisher: HarperCollins

Publication date: June 10th, 2021

368 pages

3/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

ONE CANCELLED WEDDING

When the day finally comes for Annie to marry Alexander, the last thing she expects is to be left standing at the altar. She was so sure he was Mr Right. Now, she has no idea how she could have got it so wrong.

ONE UNEXPECTED ENCOUNTER

After a chance meeting with Patrick, an old friend who reminds her of who she used to be, Annie takes a vow of her own: she’ll say yes to every opportunity that comes her way from now on.

ONE SPARE TICKET FOR THE HONEYMOON

Could a spontaneous trip with Patrick be the way to mend Annie’s heart? She’s about to find out as she embarks on her honeymoon – with a man who’s nother husband…

Review

When Annie gets left at the altar by her fiance and informed by a text to their wedding planner that he isn’t coming back, Annie needs a change. Her almost MIL insisted she take the scheduled honeymoon anyway as an apology, and Annie drunkenly decides to bring Patrick, a childhood acquaintance she recently reunited with. The two head off to Australia for 3 weeks and learn more about each other every day.

The romance in this book was okay. It was minimal spice, with a closed door scene, very little description. It is more of a slow burn romance as they are both going through some emotional turmoil and decide to take it slow. Mostly this book just made me wish I could spend 3 weeks in Australia on vacation, the imagery is very detailed.

I would’ve preferred more of a confrontation and closure around Annie and her ex-fiance – it felt like it was just very glossed over. The conflict between Annie and Patrick seemed pretty forced as well. It was an okay romance, but I had those issues with it.

Thank you to HarperCollins and Edelweiss for an early copy in exchange for an honest review.

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – You Can Go Your Own Way by Eric Smith

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Title: You Can Go Your Own Way

Author: Eric Smith

Publisher: Inkyard Press

Publication date: November 2nd, 2021

336 pages

3.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

No one ever said love would be easy…but did they mention it would be freezing?

Adam Stillwater is in over his head. At least, that’s what his best friend would say. And his mom. And the guy who runs the hardware store down the street. But this pinball arcade is the only piece of his dad that Adam has left, and he’s determined to protect it from Philadelphia’s newest tech mogul, who wants to turn it into another one of his cold, lifeless gaming cafés.

Whitney Mitchell doesn’t know how she got here. Her parents split up. She lost all her friends. Her boyfriend dumped her. And now she’s spending her senior year running social media for her dad’s chain of super successful gaming cafés—which mostly consists of trading insults with that decrepit old pinball arcade across town.

But when a huge snowstorm hits, Adam and Whitney suddenly find themselves trapped inside the arcade. Cut off from their families, their worlds, and their responsibilities, the tension between them seems to melt away, leaving something else in its place. But what happens when the storm stops?

Review

Eric Smith’s newest is in the same contemporary world as his last release, Don’t Read the Comments. There is brief mention of the MCs from DRTC, but it can definitely be read as a standalone. It’s a completely unrelated story following Whitney and Adam, ex-best friends fighting a social media war on behalf of their parents. Tropes included enemies to lovers and forced proximity.

This is a solid contemporary YA read with some highly entertaining social media banter, dual POVs (which is always my favorite), and a lot of character growth from beginning to end. I love how social media is taking a bigger role in books coming out as it’s more realistic for the current world. I loved how close the community was and that the main setting was in a pinball arcade in Philly, very unique.

There were pieces I didn’t love in this – Whitney’s dad, somehow they were never in school even though it was winter?, and the lack of parental supervision. But, they were all fairly minor grievances – something else was lacking in the plot line specifically but it’s hard to explain what.

A solid read, but not one likely to stick with me long term.

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

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – Donut Fall in Love by Jackie Lau

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Title: Donut Fall in Love

Author: Jackie Lau

Publisher: Berkley

Publication date: October 26th, 2021

368 pages

3.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

A baker provides the sweetest escape for an actor in this charming romantic comedy.

Actor Ryan Kwok is back in Toronto after the promotional tour for his latest film, a rom-com that is getting less-than-stellar reviews. After the sudden death of his mother and years of constant work, Ryan is taking some much-needed time off. But as he tries to be supportive to his family, he struggles with his loss and doesn’t know how to talk to his dad—who now trolls him on Twitter instead of meeting him for dim sum.

Innovative baker Lindsay McLeod meets Ryan when he knocks over two dozen specialty donuts at her bakery. Their relationship is off to a messy start, but there’s no denying their immediate attraction. When Ryan signs up for a celebrity episode of Baking Fail, he asks Lindsay to teach him how to bake and she agrees.

As Lindsay and Ryan spend time together, bonding over grief and bubble tea, it starts to feel like they’re cooking up something sweeter than cupcakes in the kitchen.

Review

Fair warning, this book will make you want donuts. Like seriously, with the amount of time spent talking about donuts I think a half dozen should be delivered with each book.

So this book has a actor/normal person romance that I think was done really well – two people with anxieties, insecurities, and experiencing the grief of losing a parent find each other in a donut filled meet cute in Canada. There’s a baking competition, a lot of boba tea, and some spicy scenes. Also, this has Chinese representation, and I’ve been loving Asian romances lately. It’s great to see more diversity in romance books.

It is a dual POV romance which is always my favorite, so that’s a huge plus. But I felt like the conflicts were resolved too quickly. There was just something missing from the story that took some points away for me.

Overall, a solid romance that will have you craving chocolate espresso donuts.

Thank you to Berkley and Edelweiss for an early copy in exchange for an honest review

Happy reading, folks!

Book Review – The Dark Tide by Alicia Jasinska

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Title: The Dark Tide

Author: Alicia Jasinska

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Publication date: August 4th, 2020

336 pages

3/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Every year on St. Walpurga’s Eve, Caldella’s Witch Queen lures a boy back to her palace. An innocent life to be sacrificed on the full moon to keep the island city from sinking.

Lina Kirk is convinced her brother is going to be taken this year. To save him, she enlists the help of Thomas Lin, the boy she secretly loves, and the only person to ever escape from the palace. But they draw the queen’s attention, and Thomas is chosen as the sacrifice.

Queen Eva watched her sister die to save the boy she loved. Now as queen, she won’t make the same mistake. She’s willing to sacrifice anyone if it means saving herself and her city.

When Lina offers herself to the queen in exchange for Thomas’s freedom, the two girls await the full moon together. But Lina is not at all what Eva expected, and the queen is nothing like Lina envisioned. Against their will, they find themselves falling for each other as water floods Caldella’s streets and the dark tide demands its sacrifice.

Review

“Betrayal cut so much deeper when you loved the hand that held the knife.”

Alicia Jasinska, The Dark Tide

I read The Dark Tide as part of the 12 Reads from 12 Friends challenge – but it had been on my list for awhile because of this beautiful, mysterious cover. But, I was sadly disappointed overall by this book. It was almost too atmospheric for me, if that makes sense? Like it just flew right over my head.

There is very little world-building happening in this book, which would’ve been very helpful for me. I don’t understand the magic system and how it works, though I know it can be sold and each witch only has a certain amount of magic to use in their lifetime. But I would’ve loved some more explanation around the magic, the festival, and the history of Caldella. But I imagine that would’ve required more books and there wasn’t enough plot for that.

I respected the sapphic love story, especially when it seemed like the love interest was Thomas but it turned into Queen Eva – against all the odds. Always here for an enemies to lovers romance arc, especially a deadly one. The fun twist was that the magic required Queen Eva to fall in love with Lina in order to save the island, but Eva didn’t want to just on principle – but then did anyway. It was a ride.

The plot and setting were dark and spooky befitting the season, so I’m glad I read it when I did. But, it’s not a fantasy that will stick with me very long.

Happy reading, folks!