eARC Review – The Plus One Pact

Title: The Plus One Pact

Author: Portia MacIntosh

Publisher: Boldwood Books

Publication date: May 21st, 2020

Unknown # of pages

4.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

What if your plus one could be the one…?



Cara has officially run out of men. Her most recent dates have gone from bad to worse, and when her dating app informs her there is no one left in her area to choose from, she is at a dead end.

But with a summer of events ahead of her, she needs to find a solution, fast; someone to keep her company at the never-ending weddings, family gatherings and gender reveal parties that she can’t face going to alone. So when she meets handsome, confident, Millsy on a night out she may be in luck. They could not be more different in personality, but he too has a summer of events ahead and is desperate to get his family off his back about finding a ‘nice girl’. What if they made a pact to help each other out and be a plus one for the summer? Just as friends of course…?

Review

**Thank you to Boldwood Books, Netgalley, and Portia MacIntosh for an early copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

The Plus One Pact is an adorable and clean Adult Contemporary Romance. Cara is struggling with the dating scene. She strikes out every time she tries to date someone on a dating app, and she’s beginning to give up. When she is stood up by the last available guy on her dating app, she is ready to throw in the towel. At least until a handsome stranger comes over to save her. Millsy notices Cara has been stood up, and wants to help her. He enlists friends to give her a makeover and revamp her life as he tries to help her navigate the dating scene. They become fast friends, but could it ever be more?

I found this book to be so cute and I liked that it focused more on Millsy and Cara’s friendship for the summer instead of forcing a romance. Sometimes books jump straight into romance, but there are a lot amazing relationships that begin as just friends and organically grow into something more. That is Millsy and Cara’s story. They spend the summer being each other’s Plus One’s to family events – while trying not to ruin said events (there are some close calls!). At every point of the books, they are what the other needs in that moment, it’s truly beautiful.

As much as I enjoyed the friendship aspect, I almost wish the book was longer so you got to see more of the relationship aspect. It seemed to end kind of abruptly so I feel another few chapters could have continued the story without feeling unnecessary.

The Plus One Pact was an easy read that makes you wish you have a friend as good as Millsy. Because at the end of the day, it’s important to be friends with your partner.

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – The Bride

Title: The Bride

Author: Wendy Clarke

Publisher: Bookouture

Publication date: May 20th, 2020

300 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

The moment Joanna told me she was engaged, I had this awful feeling that something was wrong. 

We used to speak on the phone every day. Growing up I spent more time at her house than I did at my own. I’d always imagined what it would be like to see her get married, and now I didn’t even know her fiancé’s name. 

She asked me to come and meet Mark and I intended to tell her to slow down. You can’t know someone for a month and be sure that you want to spend the rest of your lives together. 

When I got to Joanna’s front door, only Mark was there. He was charming and gorgeous and nothing but nice to me, and I started to understand. 

And then he told me that Joanna was missing.

Review

**Thank you to Bookouture, Netgalley, and Wendy Clarke for an early copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

The Bride is a suspense filled mystery/thriller novel where the MC Alice is contacted by her long lost best friend and asked to come visit to meet her new fiance. When Alice arrives, Joanna is not there… but Mark her fiance is. It appears Joanna has gone on a vacation, after inviting Alice to stay the weekend. Mark convinces Alice to stay in case Joanna returns, but after a few days he admits that Joanna has been missing for several days. The question is… where is Joanna? And why does Alice allow Mark to convince her to stay in their apartment?

I love a thriller that can keep me guessing. There are some pretty strong hints and sketchy behavior in this book from all characters, so it’s hard to pin down what really is happening. In my opinion, this is the sign of a good mystery/thriller novel. The book is told from Alice’s point of view, at least until just over halfway through then you get a look into Joanna’s circumstances as well. Alice has her own issues, but is a fairly reliable narrator – even if she makes some poor decisions at times… Mark as a character is weird and sketchy, you never quite know what to think of him – and frankly I still don’t!

One thing I will point out is that I don’t feel like everyone’s story lines are wrapped up at the end of the book. There are still some questions I had at the end. I don’t really take this as a negative, but I do wish I had answers to some of those questions.

If you’re looking for a book filled with suspense, a mystery involving a missing wife, and a friendship that has some terrible secrets – check out The Bride!

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – A Taste of Sage

Title: A Taste of Sage

Author: Yaffa S. Santos

Publisher: Harper Paperbacks

Publication date: May 19th, 2020

320 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Lumi Santana is a chef with a gift: she can perceive a person’s emotions by tasting their cooking. Despite being raised by a mother who taught her that dreams and true love were silly fairy tales, she puts her heart and savings into opening her own fusion restaurant in Upper Manhattan. The restaurant offers a mix of the Dominican cuisine she grew up with and other world cuisines she is inspired by.

When her eclectic venture fails, she is forced to take a position as sous chef at a staid, traditional French restaurant owned by Julien Dax, a celebrated chef known for his acid tongue as well as his brilliant smile. After he goes out of his way to bake a tart to prove her wrong in a dispute, she is so irritated by his smug attitude that she vows to herself never to taste his cooking.

But after she succumbs to the temptation and takes a bite one day and is overcome with shocking emotion, she finds herself beginning to crave his cooking and struggling to stay on task with her plan to save up and move on as soon as possible. Meanwhile, Julien’s obsessed secretary watches with gnashed teeth as they grow closer and becomes determined to get Lumi out of her way permanently.

Review

**Thank you to Harper Paperbacks, Netgalley, and Yaffa S. Santos for a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

Lumi is a chef who just opened up her own restaurant, Caraluna in New York City. Julien is a chef who has a highly successful restaurant, DAX. They both has VERY different cooking styles, and when Lumi’s restaurant goes under, she’s forced to accept a sous chef position at DAX working directly with Julien. Will Lumi’s influence have an effect on Julien’s overall demeanor in the kitchen? And will Julien change Lumi’s opinions on serious relationships? Read to find out!

What I found to be most interesting was Lumi’s ability to sense the emotions of whoever cooks the food she eats. It adds an interesting, fantastical element to this adult contemporary novel. I just wish there was more about it in the book, but it does affect the storyline pretty significantly.

I really enjoyed the banter between Lumi and Julien, and there is a bit of love at first sight as a trope. They balance each other well, and each mellows the other in different ways. Julien is such a sweet man under the hard exterior of ball busting head chef of a fancy French restaurant. The dichotomy within his personality is well done. Out of the two, he is my favorite due to something he does for Lumi about halfway through.

This book also made me SUPER hungry when I was reading because there was so much description of cooking!!

Happy reading, folks!

eARC Review – What Lies Between Us

Title: What Lies Between Us

Author: John Marrs

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Publication date: May 15th, 2020

371 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

Nina can never forgive Maggie for what she did. And she can never let her leave.

They say every house has its secrets, and the house that Maggie and Nina have shared for so long is no different. Except that these secrets are not buried in the past.

Every other night, Maggie and Nina have dinner together. When they are finished, Nina helps Maggie back to her room in the attic, and into the heavy chain that keeps her there. Because Maggie has done things to Nina that can’t ever be forgiven, and now she is paying the price.

But there are many things about the past that Nina doesn’t know, and Maggie is going to keep it that way—even if it kills her.

Because in this house, the truth is more dangerous than lies.

Review

**Thank you to Thomas & Mercer, Netgalley, and John Marrs for a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

What Lies Between Us is a fantastic psychological thriller straight out of a 60 Minutes special. The twists and turns keep coming, with some well-placed foreshadowing and perfect dropping of hints throughout. Told in 2 POV’s (Nina and Maggie) you come to learn about the warped relationship between the two, and what happened to arrive at this situation. There a flashbacks that are actually necessary, and give much needed context to each character’s mind sets when everything is happening.

There is definitely a Mystery aspect to this novel, but it’s not a whodunnit. It’s more trying to figure out who did what, and WHY. Each new bit of information sways the blame in one direction and then back. There’s no knowing everything that happened until the very end. There were some minor mysteries I figured out, but Mars did a great job of burying the lead with all the major questions.

The characters were also written so well. Maggie adjusting to her imprisonment and accepting her sentence (but not completely) and Nina rationalizing her decision to chain her mother in the attic for 2 years. Neither character is very morally grey. Both have made serious mistakes, and it’s so fun to to see the relationship between them change and warp and grow. However, the ending absolutely stunned me. You’ll have to read it to find out what happens!

Trigger warning: abuse, neglect, physical violence, domestic abuse, elder abuse

eARC Review – Queen of the Unwanted

Title: Queen of the Unwanted (The Women’s War #2)

Author: Jenna Glass

Publisher: Random House/Del Rey

Publication date: May 12th, 2020

592 pages

3.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

In this feminist fantasy series, the ability to do magic has given women control over their own bodies. But as the patriarchy starts to fall, they must now learn to rule as women, not men.

Alys may be the acknowledged queen of Women’s Well—the fledgling colony where women hold equal status with men—but she cares little for politics in the wake of an appalling personal tragedy. It is grief that rules her now. But the world continues to turn.

In a distant realm unused to female rulers, Ellin struggles to maintain control. Meanwhile, the king of the island nation of Khalpar recruits an abbess whom he thinks holds the key to reversing the spell that Alys’s mother gave her life to create. And back in Women’s Well, Alys’s own half-brother is determined to bring her to heel. Unless these women can all come together and embrace the true nature of female power, everything they have struggled to achieve may be at risk.

Review

**Thank you to Random House/Del Rey, Netgalley, and Jenna Glass for an early copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

Queen of the Unwanted is the second book in the epic fantasy Women’s War. Events pick up closely after the end of The Women’s War, but with several new characters and POV’s from across the world. As with any good epic fantasy, the plot is complex with political intrigue and war time strategies.

What I enjoyed about this book was the progression of the plot from the first novel and the character development of some of my favorite characters. The plot line in this series is so complex and different from anything I’ve read. The progression of the magic system is also very unique and gives the world a lot of potential for new and life changing spells. The magic system is not hard to understand yet is very powerful and the main magical event from book one is still in effect in this book.

As a second book goes, this was on the medium level of having second book syndrome. Some parts dragged and didn’t seem entirely relevant to the book, but there was also a good amount of political maneuvering and scheming across all the countries and main characters. So, it has a touch of second book syndrome but without being among the worst offenders.

One thing I had to ding Queen of the Unwanted on was the way some of the character’s arcs have progressed. I do not agree with several of the character’s decisions and it feels like the wrong choice for them. I can only hope that some of the bad decisions and questionable behavior is continued to be addressed in future books and swings back around to the more positive end of life.

Happy readings, folks!

eARC Review – By the Book

Title: By the Book

Author: Amanda Sellet

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers

Publication date: May 12th, 2020

384 pages

3.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

As a devotee of classic novels, Mary Porter-Malcolm knows all about Mistakes That Have Been Made, especially by impressionable young women. So when a girl at her new high school nearly succumbs to the wiles of a notorious cad, Mary starts compiling the Scoundrel Survival Guide, a rundown of literary types to be avoided at all costs.

Unfortunately, Mary is better at dishing out advice than taking it—and the number one bad boy on her list is terribly debonair. As her best intentions go up in flames, Mary discovers life doesn’t follow the same rules as fiction. If she wants a happy ending IRL, she’ll have to write it herself.

Review

**Thank you to HMH Books for Young Readers, Netgalley, and Amanda Sellet for a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

By the Book is a Young Adult Contemporary read that follows Mary, a sophomore just starting at a new high school. She had been going to school in a small, experimental school so she has no experience with “typical” high school life, and at this point has no friends. She’s the second youngest out of 5 children, and she knows everything there is to know about classic literature. Mary is timid and quiet, but can have some sass to her. She meets a group of girls to befriend, and they start classifying the guys in their schools as some of the villains in European literature, but no one is worse than Alex Ritter. He is a senior and a huge player who will hit on any girls around…. or is he?

The story line is sweet and has a fun group of friends. It’s also interesting to see the family dynamic with 5 kids who are all literature and theater inclined. The love story is sweet, a kind of enemies to lovers in a PG rated way.
I loved the LGBTQIA aspects and the nod given to other characters who aren’t hetero.

Frankly, Mary is my least favorite character in the book. I just think she came across as very flat, whereas other characters were given a lot of dimension. There was mention of her feeling slighted and ignored in a huge family, but there was never anything done or said about it. I wanted her to have more life in the book than she did.

Overall, I felt this book was sweet but could have gone deeper with the MC.

eARC Review – The Trouble with Hating You

Title: The Trouble with Hating You

Author: Sajni Patel

Publisher: Forever

Publication date: May 12th, 2020

384 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

A laugh-out-loud romantic comedy debut about first impressions, second chances, and finding the love of your life in the most unexpected way. 

Liya Thakkar is a successful biochemical engineer, takeout enthusiast, and happily single woman. The moment she realizes her parents’ latest dinner party is a setup with the man they want her to marry, she’s out the back door in a flash. Imagine her surprise when the same guy shows up at her office a week later — the new lawyer hired to save her struggling company. What’s not surprising: he’s not too thrilled to see her either after that humiliating fiasco.

Jay Shah looks good on paper…and off. Especially if you like that whole gorgeous, charming lawyer-in-a-good-suit thing. He’s also arrogant and infuriating. As their witty office banter turns into late night chats, Liya starts to think he might be the one man who truly accepts her. But falling for each other means exposing their painful pasts. Will Liya keep running, or will she finally give love a real chance?

Review

**Thank you to Forever, Netgalley, and Sajni Patel for an early copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

TW: sexual assault, domestic abuse, slut shaming

The Trouble with Hating you is a more serious contemporary romance where both characters have more tragic backstories and have some demons to overcome together. Told in alternating POV’s, Liya and Jay are being set up by their traditional Indian families. Neither wants to be set up to get married, but in this culture it is hard to say no. They both have different reasons for not wanting to get married, by when Liya flees the meeting Jay is interested in knowing why she is so against the idea of marriage.

Liya and Jay do not initially get along, this is a definite hate to love plot line. Liya has her defenses up so high due to her past and she can’t accept that a man is seriously interested in her for more than just a night. Jay means well, but Liya’s brand of honesty and bluntness causes him to rile her up further, even without always meaning to. It was a good transition from hate to love, it wasn’t too fast or too slow. There also was not a lot of steam.

There were very serious aspects to this book too, which can make it hard to read or be triggering for some people. Please see the trigger warnings at the top of the page before you read. I do believe the scenes were handled well and weren’t too much to handle at any given point. It was heartbreaking to see Liya shunned by her community and her father over something that was done TO her.

Overall, I really enjoyed this and think it was a solid contemporary romance.

Happy reading, folks!