A MONSTER LIKE ME by Pamela Sparkman

Heart of Darkness series #2

HELLO STRANGER by Lisa Kleypas

The Ravenels series #4


Companion to the Full Tilt series


Heartbreaker Bay series #7

UNWRITTEN by Jen Frederick

Woodlands series #5

Cross My Heart by L.H. Cosway

Hearts series #5.75

MOONSHADOW by Thea Harrison

Moonshadow series #1

Monday, September 11, 2023

Review: The Blonde Identity by Ally Carter

The New York Times bestselling YA author of the beloved Gallagher Girls series bursts onto the adult scene with a fast-paced, hilarious road trip rom-com about a woman with amnesia who discovers she’s the identical twin sister of a rogue spy… and must team up with a rugged, grumpy operative to stay alive.

Series: Unknown
Publication date: August 8, 2023
Published by: Avon
Genre: rom-com, romantic suspense

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It’s the middle of the night in the middle of Paris and a woman just woke up with no memory.

She only knows three things for certain:

1. She has a splitting headache.

2. The hottest guy she has (probably) ever seen is standing over her, telling her to run.

And oh yeah…

3. People keep trying to kill her.

She doesn’t know who. Or why. But when she sees footage of herself fighting off a dozen men there’s only one explanation: obviously. . . she’s a spy!

Except, according to Mr. Hot Guy, she’s not. She’s a spy’s identical twin sister.

Too bad the only person who knows she’s not the woman they’re looking for is this very grouchy, very sexy, very secret agent who (reluctantly) agrees to help her disappear. Which is easier said than done when a criminal organization wants you dead and every intelligence service in the world wants you caught.

Luckily, no one is looking for a pair of lovesick newlyweds on their honeymoon. And soon they’re lying their way across Europe—dodging bullets and faking kisses as they race to unravel a deadly conspiracy and clear her sister’s name.

But with every secret they uncover, the truth shifts, until she no longer knows who to trust: the twin she can’t remember or the mysterious man she can’t let herself forget…

Purchase your copy now!
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Praise for The Blonde Identity:
“Ally Carter wrote a unique, delightful, hilarious, unputdownable romance! I didn’t know I needed an adventure romcom about grumpy/sunshine spies with amazing chemistry and a dash of amnesia, but it was exactly what was missing in my life. I’m wonderstruck by The Blonde Identity! (Also, this book needs to be a movie!)” 
— Ali Hazelwood, New York Times Bestselling author of The Love Hypothesis 

"Spies! Amnesia! And banter that’ll make you chant “Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!” No one writes an action rom-com quite like Ally Carter." — Rachel Hawkins, New York Times bestselling author of The Wife Upstairs

“A delightful, delicious joy ride of a romp!"  — Susan Elizabeth Phillips, #1 New York Times bestselling author of When Stars Collide

"The Blonde Identity was everything I wanted in rom-com and more! Full of brilliant banter, clever humor, and so many swoon worthy scenes, this was a perfect book. I hope Ally Carter writes more stories in this world, because every second of this unexpected adventure made me smile. I can't remember the last time I had so much fun reading a book.” — Stephanie Garber, #1 New York Times bestselling author of A Curse for True Love 

“Completely captivating—funny, fresh and deliciously swoon-worthy, The Blonde Identity had me smiling over every action packed page. I loved it.” — Annabel Monaghan, author of Nora Goes Off Script and Same Time Next Summer

"The Blonde Identity is hands-down the cutest, most fast-paced wild ride of a rom-com I’ve ever read. Utterly impossible to put down!" — Lynn Painter, New York Times bestselling author of The Love Wager

"The Blonde Identity is explosively funny and jam-packed with chemistry! I couldn’t have loved this hilarious romcom more. The story is full of humor, action, romance, and emotions that tug on your heartstrings. Ally is a romcom genius!"  — Sarah Adams, author of The Cheat Sheet

“I absolutely adored The Blonde Identity! I loved the humor, Zoe and Sawyer were perfection, and the chemistry… I couldn’t put it down.”   — Lorraine Heath, New York Times bestselling author

"I am a Gallagher Girls fan, and The Blonde Identity satisfied ALL of my GG cravings! Carter has that magic formula of the perfect amount of brilliance, fun, and sizzling banter down pat!"  — Jesse Q Sutanto, bestselling author of Dial A for Aunties and Vera Wong's Unsolicited Advice for Murderers


Ally Carter writes books about sneaky people and movies about Christmas. She is the New York Times Best-selling author of the Gallagher Girls, Heist Society, and Embassy Row series for teens as well as WINTERBORNE HOME FOR VENGEANCE AND VALOR for younger readers. Her books have been published all over the world, in over twenty languages. 

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The Blonde IdentityThe Blonde Identity by Ally Carter
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When I read the synopsis for the book, my interest was piqued immediately for several reasons. Sometimes I get stuck in a rut reading the same authors and genres over and over, and I need something new and refreshing. I have read romantic suspense in the past and enjoyed it, but it is not a genre I read very often. I usually do not read the grumpy-sunshine trope either, which Sawyer and Zoe represented perfectly. Another draw was that this seemed to be like a rom-com suspense which I have not experimented in reading before. Ally Carter is new-to-me, but she has an established fanbase for her popular Gallagher Girls YA books. All of these factors appealed to me and I hoped would satisfy my appetite for something outside my typical box.

The book starts out with the heroine waking up on the ground on a snowy night in Paris. She has no idea how she got there, but before she can even start to try to comprehend what's going on, a strange man shows up and starts yelling at her to run. Obviously, anyone would be scared out of their mind, but Zoe decides to worry about her apparent amnesia at a more convenient time. Getting shot at kind of puts things into perspective. It isn't until much later that she comes to the conclusion that she's in a very precarious situation, and the only person who seems to remotely be an ally is Jake Sawyer. A man who doesn't seem to like her very much, and may not be altogether trustworthy.

   Alex was looking at herself. But she was 
also looking at a stranger. And the tiny 
smidge of hope that she’d been carrying 
for the past two hours faded away, 
because her memory didn’t 
come back with her reflection.

Alex is Zoe's twin sister-the root of all of her current problems. She and Sawyer are both operatives, and she has gone "rogue", disappearing with a flash drive full of information that criminals and every alphabet agency in existence want to get their hands on. For a short time, Zoe believes she actually is Alex, but thankfully Sawyer puts it together that there has been a case of mistaken identity. Turns out, a mistaken identity and a forgotten identity is a very bad combination.

I honestly don't think I've read a book before where the protagonist has amnesia during the entire book, right from page one. For me, it created my biggest issue with the book: it created a barrier in getting to know and understand the character I was reading about. If the character doesn't know anything about her history or who she is as a person, how will the reader know? How do I, as the reader, connect to that person and understand them? Well, it was hard. I do give the author credit, because she added things to Zoe's dialogue that slipped out unconsciously that hinted at her profession. I guessed that pretty early. She seemed to be naive and didn't like swearing, and that was the extent of her personality.

   The good thing about being an amnesiac 
is that when your life flashes before 
your eyes it doesn’t take very long.

Although Zoe was completely unprepared for the danger she was thrown into, she managed to hold her own. She probably gave Sawyer an ulcer and a few grey hairs, but at least she didn't let an impossible situation defeat her. The two of them are complete opposites-a severe, blunt, curmudgeon and a flighty, wide-eyed innocent. He would bark orders and she'd correct his language and tease him to lighten the mood. Their differences played off of each other, and very quickly she started to melt his hardened heart.

Once Zoe and Sawyer got onto the boat, they had some down time where they could have some more personal interactions. I couldn't exactly say they got to know one another as one was an amnesiac and the other was filled with secrets and uncommunicative, but they did start to grow an attachment towards one another. Sawyer starts to yearn for a normal life where he isn't trading his self-respect and safety for the government. He's seen the trade-off that his father made, and he doesn't ever expect to have a happy and fulfilling life with a family of his own. The solitary existence he lives is a lonely one filled with regrets and trauma. There is no one he can lean on to help heal his battered heart. For the first time he begins to imagine what that might feel like the more time he spends with Zoe.

   I just . . . I just want you to know that in this business . . . 
in this life . . . people like Alex—and me—
we don’t get a happy ending.” 
She looked at him with more pity and compassion 
than he’d seen in decades. 
“Then what do you get?” 
Not you, he thought. I’ll never get you.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. I did have a bit of difficulty getting into the story because of my lack of connection to Zoe, but she grew on me in the second half. The plot was powered by the action scenes rather than any romantic emotional development, so the feelings that came about between the protagonists did feel abrupt rather than organic. Having said that, I did think they were cute together and just based on the few scenes with Zoe's sister Alex, I would probably read her upcoming book as well. If you like the grumpy-sunshine trope, and rom-coms, this could be the right fit for you. Even though it wasn't a five star enthusiastic read, I'm glad I decided to try this author's new series out.


Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Review: How to Tame a Wild Rogue by Julie Anne Long

In USA Today bestselling author Julie Anne Long’s thrilling new romance in the Palace of Rogues series, an infamous privateer’s limits are put to the test when he’s trapped during a raging tempest with a prickly female at the Grand Palace on the Thames.

How to Tame a Wild Rogue by Julie Anne Long
Series: The Palace of Rogues #6
Publication date: July 25, 2023
Published by: Avon
Genre: historical romance

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He clawed his way up from the gutters of St. Giles to the top of a shadowy empire. Feared and fearsome, battered and brilliant, nothing shocks Lorcan St. Leger—not even the discovery of an aristocratic woman escaping out a window near the London docks on the eve of the storm of the decade. They find shelter at a boarding house called the Grand Palace on the Thames—only to find greater dangers await inside. 

Desperate, destitute, and jilted, Lady Daphne Worth knows the clock is ticking on her last chance to save herself and her an offer of a loveless marriage. But while the storm rages and roads flood, she and the rogue who rescued her must pose as husband and wife in order to share the only available suite. Crackling enmity gives way to incendiary desire—and certain Lorcan is everything she never dreamed she’d wanted, but he can never be what she needs. But risk is child’s play to St. Leger. And if the stakes are a lifetime of loving and being loved by Daphne, he’ll move any mountain, confront any old nemesis, to turn “never” into forever.
Purchase your copy now!
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Praise for Julie Anne Long:
“Smart, funny, and brimming with passion.”  — Julia Quinn, New York Times bestselling author

“Long finds that delectable sweet spot with Angel in a Devil’s Arms, welcoming us all to the cozy warmth of the Grand Palace on the Thames with the peculiar blend of humor and pathos she writes with such aplomb.” — Entertainment Weekly

“Each of the brilliantly written entries in Long’s Palace of Rogues series is master class in how to successfully marry stunning sensuality with scintillating wit, and the fifth entry is no exception with its resplendent prose, impeccable plotting, and perfect-for-each-other protagonists.” — Booklist (starred review)

“Julie Anne Long reinvents the historical romance for modern readers.”  — Amanda Quick, New York Times bestselling author


Well, where should I start? I've lived in San Francisco for more than a decade, usually with at least one cat. I won the school spelling bee when I was in 7th grade; the word that clinched it was 'ukulele.' I originally set out to be a rock star when I grew up (I had a Bono fixation, but who didn't?), and I have the guitars and the questionable wardrobe stuffed in the back of my closet to prove it.

But writing was always my first love. 

I was editor of my elementary school paper (believe it or not, Mrs. Little's fifth grade class at Glenmoor Elementary did have one); my high school paper (along with my best high school bud, Cindy Jorgenson); and my college paper, where our long-suffering typesetter finally forced me to learn how to typeset because my articles were usually late (and thus I probably have him to thank for all the desktop publishing jobs that ensued over the years).

Won a couple of random awards along the way: the Bank of America English Award in High School (which basically just amounted to a fancy plaque saying that I was really, really good at English); and an award for best Sports Feature article in a College Newspaper (and anyone who knows me well understands how deeply ironic that is). I began my academic career as a Journalism major; I switched to Creative Writing, which was a more comfortable fit for my freewheeling imagination and overdeveloped sense of whimsy. I dreamed of being a novelist.

But most of us, I think, tend to take for granted the things that come easily to us. I loved writing and all indications were that I was pretty good at it, but I, thank you very much, wanted to be a rock star. Which turned out to be ever-so-slightly harder to do than writing. A lot more equipment was involved, that's for sure. Heavy things, with knobs. It also involved late nights, fetid, graffiti-sprayed practice rooms, gorgeous flakey boys, bizarre gigs, in-fighting—what's not to love?

But my dream of being a published writer never faded. When the charm (ahem) of playing to four people in a tiny club at midnight on a Wednesday finally wore thin, however, I realized I could incorporate all the best things about being in a band — namely, drama, passion, and men with unruly hair — into novels, while at the same time indulging my love of history and research. 

So I wrote The Runaway Duke, sent it to a literary agent (see the story here), who sold it to Warner Books a few months after that...which made 2003 one of the most extraordinary, head-spinning years I've ever had. 

Why romance? Well, like most people, I read across many genres, but I've been an avid romance reader since I got in trouble for sneaking a Rosemary Rogers novel out of my mom's nightstand drawer (I think it was Sweet Savage Love). Rosemary Rogers, Kathleen Woodiwiss, Laurie McBain...I cut my romance teeth on those ladies. And in general, I take a visceral sort of pleasure in creating a hero and a heroine, putting them through their emotional paces, and watching their relationship develop on the page. And of course, there's much to be said for the happy ending. :) 

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How to Tame a Wild Rogue (The Palace of Rogues, #6)How to Tame a Wild Rogue by Julie Anne Long
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

   She did not know how to make a wild rogue 
into a husband, or an interlude into forever.

The sixth installement in The Palace of Rogues series is about privateer Lorcan St. Leger and an impoverished lady named Daphne Worth. I don't know if either of these characters were introduced in the previous book, as it is the only book in the series that I haven't managed to read. Both of these main characters have a significant connection to the owners of the Grand Palace on the Thames, though they do not discover that until they set foot inside together looking for lodging late at night.

The book pulls you in immediately as Lorcan is strolling through a dangerous neighborhood near the docks and stumbles upon a woman's legs dangling out of a window. He debates with himself: should he just stroll on by, or find a bit of entertainment assisting her to the ground? He takes her for a thief trying to make a less than elegant escape, but because of his colorful history, passes no judgement. Lorcan is hardly a saint, as he grew up fending for himself in the roughest of circumstances, but he feels as if he is a stronger person and self-sufficient as a result so he regrets nothing. He has this cavalier, playful attitude about him, but only a fool would be deceived by that and think he's harmless. He is a survivor, after all, and is absolutely lethal to anyone he perceives as a threat. He has clawed his way up from the gutter and made a name for himself as a pirate sanctioned by the crown. Lorcan has achieved a comfortable amount of wealth, a reputation that brings him fear and respect equally, and a life just on the right side of the law.

   By the time he was scarcely more than twenty 
years old he’d built a shadowy empire from 
one end of England to the other of men and 
women who would have killed for him.

It was quite entertaining to see Lorcan deliberately ruffling the prim and proper Lady Daphne's feathers from their first interaction. It becomes a game of sorts for him to find all of the buttons he needs to push in order to fluster her. He isn't really sure why he follows her once she's safely on the ground, but maybe he feels a bit obligated to see her to her destination. He had no way of knowing that once he walks into the Grand Palace with her, he will become entangled in their fabricated story of marriage and forced to continue playing a part. There's only a suite with separate bedrooms available to them, so of course they pretend to be married in order to bypass the rules of propriety. So we have forced proximity, opposites attract, and fake relationship tropes going on in the story. If you like any or all of these in your romances this story will most likely be perfect for you. I will say that even having read the first four books, the two year gap I took in the series left me a little lost in the beginning as I struggled to remember all of the names and situations of previous characters. A completely new reader may find the struggle to be a bit much as they navigate through the list of people to remember.

I think I would have been happier to have more focus centered on the two main characters for the entire book rather than Angelique, Delilah, their spouses, Mr Delacorte, Dot, and the various house guests. While they did lend a good amount of humor to the book (as always) I think the romance would have felt more balanced if the secondary characters played more of a backseat role this late in the series. Daphne and Lorcan's romance kind of went from 0 to 100 in the second half, and needed a bit more of a natural progression.

There was one humorous scene in particular that was one of my favorites that had me chuckling out loud. When the three couples all got into a fight, and there was lots of hall wandering and bed-hopping, poor Lorcan discovered that Mr Delacorte was not a good roommate to have during the night. The sounds and *ahem* scents coming from underneath the covers were just as bad as the obnoxious snoring from above the covers. Their reactions were seriously priceless...best scene in the beginning of the book by far.

Daphne has led a more sheltered, pampered life as part of the ton, however, her family has fallen on hard times due to her father's gambling problem. Since her mother died when she was a child, she has stepped into the role of caregiver for her father and two older brothers. She learned to take care of their home, manage their budget, and do whatever it took to give the three men the illusion that they could still afford the life they were accustomed to. While the men in her life carelessly allow her to shoulder the burden of keeping them afloat, they never show her the appreciation she deserves. She clings to her responsibilities and order, and doesn't let herself acknowledge what is lacking in her family relationships. They are all she has after a failed engagement that broke her heart and changed her opinion about love.

Loving anyone had not yet done much but crush her.

While Lorcan is lightyears ahead of her in street smarts, he's shocked to discover that she has a way of viewing the world that helps him see things in a brand new way. They were both also not able to have a real, carefree childhood. He had to fend for and raise himself, and she had to take on the role of her mother with all of the responsibilities that entailed. So, while she was fortunate enough to have a safe home where her needs were met, she could relate to having to grow up too early as he did. As different as they were in so many ways, they realized that they weren't so different where it counted. He was the first man in her life to listen to her thoughts and feelings, and value her for who she was rather than what she could give. It took a while for me to warm up to them as a couple, but once I did, I enjoyed their connection very much. I absolutely loved how Lorcan went out of his way to bring her birthday gifts that showed her that he genuinely listened to her and valued her happiness.

I gave this one four stars even though it didn't pick up until the second half, because I feel that the second half was good enough to earn that rating on its own. I really loved seeing the romance finally unravel in the story and genuinely felt that the couple deserved the sweet HEA that they were given. If you like the tropes I've mentioned in my review, or if you're just a faithful reader of this series/author in general give this one a shot. I think you'll find a lot to love here.


Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Review: Not That Duke by Eloisa James

The Duke of Huntington has no interest in an eccentric redhead who frowns at him over her spectacles...until he realizes that she is the only possible duchess for him. A new enemies-to-lovers romance by New York Times bestselling author Eloisa James.

Series: Would-Be Wallflowers #3
Publication date: July 25, 2023
Published by: Avon
Genre: historical romance

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Bespeckled and freckled, Lady Stella Corsham at least has a dowry that has attracted a crowd of fortune-hunting suitors--which definitely doesn't include the sinfully handsome Silvester Parnell, Duke of Huntington, who laughingly calls her "Specs" as he chases after elegant rivals.

And then--

The worst happens. Marriage.

To the duke. To a man marrying her for all the wrong reasons.

How can Silvester possibly convince Stella that he's fallen in love with the quirky woman he married? Especially after she laughingly announces that she's in love--but not with that duke.

Not with her husband.
Purchase your copy now!
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Praise for Not That Duke:
“Eloisa James writes with a captivating blend of charm, style, and grace that never fails to leave the reader sighing and smiling and falling in love. Her style is exquisite, her prose pure magic. Nothing gets me to a bookstore faster than a new novel by Eloisa James.”  — Julia Quinn

“Bestseller James’s fun third Would-Be Wallflowers historical romance (after The Reluctant Countess) sets itself apart in the depth of its interpersonal complexities. Lovers of historical romance will delight in these well-rounded, flawed characters learning to live their best lives.” — Publishers Weekly

“This enemies-to-friends-to-lovers romance uses humor to show how a match that looks perfect on paper may be no match at all when it comes to chemistry… a compelling and delightful read. Enjoy this light and humorous historical romance.” — Library Journal


New York Times bestselling author Eloisa James writes historical romances for HarperCollins Publishers. Her novels have been published to great acclaim. A reviewer from USA Today wrote of Eloisa's very first book that she "found herself devouring the book like a dieter with a Hershey bar"; later People Magazine raved that "romance writing does not get much better than this." Her novels have repeatedly received starred reviews from Publishers' Weekly and Library Journal and regularly appear on the best-seller lists.

After graduating from Harvard University, Eloisa got an M.Phil. from Oxford University, a Ph.D. from Yale and eventually became a Shakespeare professor, publishing an academic book with Oxford University Press. Currently she is an associate professor and head of the Creative Writing program at Fordham University in New York City. Her "double life" is a source of fascination to the media and her readers. In her professorial guise, she's written a New York Times op-ed defending romance, as well as articles published everywhere from women's magazines such as More to writers' journals such as the Romance Writers' Report.

Eloisa...on her double life: 

When I'm not writing novels, I'm a Shakespeare professor. It's rather like having two lives. The other day I bought a delicious pink suit to tape a television segment on romance; I'll never wear that suit to teach in, nor even to give a paper at the Shakespeare Association of America conference. It's like being Superman, with power suits for both lives. Yet the literature professor in me certainly plays into my romances. The Taming of the Duke (April 2006) has obvious Shakespearean resonances, as do many of my novels. I often weave early modern poetry into my work; the same novel might contain bits of Catullus, Shakespeare and anonymous bawdy ballads from the 16th century.

When I rip off my power suit, whether it's academic or romantic, underneath is the rather tired, chocolate-stained sweatshirt of a mom. Just as I use Shakespeare in my romances, I almost always employ my experiences as a mother. When I wrote about a miscarriage in Midnight Pleasures, I used my own fears of premature birth; when the little girl in Fool For Love threw up and threw up, I described my own daughter, who had that unsavory habit for well over her first year of life.

So I'm a writer, a professor, a mother - and a wife. My husband Alessandro is Italian, born in Florence. We spend the lazy summer months with his mother and sister in Italy. It always strikes me as a huge irony that as a romance writer I find myself married to a knight, a cavaliere, as you say in Italian.

One more thing...I'm a friend. I have girlfriends who are writers and girlfriends who are Shakespeare professors. And I have girlfriends who are romance readers. In fact, we have something of a community going on my website. Please stop by and join the conversation on my readers' pages.

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Not That Duke (Would-Be Wallflowers, #3)Not That Duke by Eloisa James
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Title: Not That Duke
Series: Would-Be Wallflowers #3
Author: Eloisa James
Release date: July 25, 2023
Cliffhanger: no
Genre: historical romance

I was really looking forward to reading this installment in the Would-Be Wallflowers series. I have a weakness for reading nerdy, hyper intelligent heroines, and Lady Stella fit that description to a T. No proper wallflower series is complete without a "bluestocking" heroine-it's well known that they were seen as an oddity and undesirable for the time. Not only is Stella well read, she is basically as blind as a bat which forces her to wear eyeglasses. Another strike against her. Strike three and four are her unconventional freckles and body type. The ideal beauty of the time was willowy thin and delicate. Stella was sturdy, curvy, and accident-prone due to her eyesight. Unlike many other wallflower characters I've read, she isn't that distressed about not fitting in. It does give her poor self-confidence, but she isn't all that desperate to change people's minds about her.

   Gentlemen entered ballrooms looking for 
a woman to adore. To worship. Stella didn’t qualify.

Stella accepts people's unfair opinions of her stoically, most of all her aunt, Mrs. Thyme. I must say, that woman get on my nerves quite a bit. While her intentions were good, and I wouldn't go so far as to say that she was being intentionally cruel, she spent all her time trying to "fix" Stella's "negative" traits so she could help her find a husband. She was constantly harping on her about trying to hide/minimize her freckles, to avoid activities that could bring out her clutziness, and to keep her intelligence tucked away like it was a dirty secret. It felt like every character trait and physical trait was something she disapproved of and she didn't let Stella forget it. Is it really any wonder that the poor girl felt that she would only be chosen to marry for her dowry and was doomed to a love-less union?

   Many men had an eye on her dowry, but as far as 
she could see, not a single one of them had designs on her virtue. 
They were looking for lovable women. Stella would be the first 
to admit that she failed on that front. She was too awkward, 
too outspoken, too argumentative. Too peculiar. Too much hair. 
Not to mention the spectacles.

I didn't hate Mrs. Thyme, but let's just say she wasn't my favorite person. I mean, I didn't even get into her absolute feverish panic about men and their animal "appetites" that threatened every respectable woman's fragile reputation. She literally thought that being alone with a woman next to a bed would instantly turn them into savage beasts with no control over their baser instincts. Good grief, the woman should have kept a solid supply of smelling salts on her at all times to counteract her frequent hysterics.

   In her own way, Mrs. Thyme loved her. Unfortunately, 
“in her own way” was the only way anyone 
ever loved Stella: as second choice, second best.

In Part One, pretty much the whole first half is a rehash of the love quadrangle from the previous book, albeit from different POVs of course. If you haven't read The Reluctant Countess it centers around Giles and Yasmin. So many of the events involving these four characters are shown once again. Lord Silvester (the hero) is infatuated with Yasmin and is in a love triangle with her and Giles. Giles fights his feelings for Yasmin, but secretly wants her and the two men are very competitive for her affections. Stella is somewhat of an outsider in this scenario, though she ends up being courted by Giles for a time while secretly being attracted to Silvester. What I didn't like about the first half was seeing Stella be treated as a consolation prize by both men and made to feel inferior because of it. If the two love interests have zero romantic interactions in the first half and he is in fact heavily pursuing another woman, that takes away from the romance building. We are told that they are friends and have intellectual chats rather than shown. There is nothing concrete, no hint of developing feelings on his part aside from a brief passionate encounter between them. It was a tad disappointing and then eventually jarring when Silvester suddenly came to the realization in the beginning of Part Two that he wants Stella. This is after he was rejected by Yasmin, of course.

Silvester was resisting thinking of Stella as a romantic partner for so long mostly because she reminded him of his own quirky mother. His mother is an engineer and has awkward social behavior that made him embarrassed and uncomfortable growing up. He wanted a wife that would fit in more, and take more care with social niceties and manners. Silvester has constructed a facade around himself in order to blend in well with others rather than rock the boat. So when his mother gives him her hearty approval of Stella as his future bride, he runs far in the other direction. It was actually sweet to see the interactions between his mother and Stella because they were so alike. The whole lake scene with Merry, Stella, and the Duchess of Huntington was fantastic.

When Silvester finally set his mind on Stella and pursued her things picked up. He does have his work set out for him in convincing her that even though she was his second choice, she was the best choice. There was some residual jealousy and hurt feelings, but he's more than ready to make her feel wanted beyond their very healthy physical relationship. The two of them are certainly not lacking chemistry and passion, that's for sure.

Overall, I wish there would have been more romance development between the two main characters, as it made the first half pretty slow for me. I thought they made a cute couple once the other two characters were out of the picture, but I ended up feeling as if I needed a bit more. Still, it was a very well-researched book with lots of interesting historical details. The author never disappoints in that area, that's for sure. I also appreciated all of the quirky characters and seeing Stella find the love that she never thought she would have as well as flourishing in her new role as a duchess. I'm looking forward to seeing what story Eloisa James has to offer next.


Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Review: How To Be Remembered by Michael Thompson

For fans of Matt Haig and The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue comes a big-hearted novel following a man who can never be remembered and his journey to become unforgettable...

Series: n/a
Publication date: June 27, 2023
Published by: Harper/HQ
Genre: romance, magical realism

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On an ordinary night in an ordinary year, Tommy Llewellyn's doting parents wake in a home without toys and diapers, without photos of their baby scattered about, and without any idea that the small child asleep in his cot is theirs.

That's because Tommy is a boy destined to never be remembered.

On the same day every year, everyone around him forgets he exists, and he grows up enduring his own universal Reset. That is until something extraordinary happens: Tommy Llewellyn falls in love.

Determined to finally carve out a life for himself and land the girl of his dreams, Tommy sets out on a mission to trick the Reset and be remembered. But legacies aren't so easily won, and Tommy must figure out what's more important - the things we leave behind or the people we bring along with us.

How to be Remembered is a heart-warming, poignant and ultimately inspiring novel about the important things in life.
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Praise for How To Be Remembered:
"How to Be Remembered wears its heart proudly, earnest in the way of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button or, dare I say, Forrest Gump." ― The Guardian

"Original, engrossing, sweet" ― Graeme Simsion, New York Times bestselling author of The Rosie Project

"With turns of poignant hilarity and quiet grief, How to Be Remembered is sure to be a new favorite for readers who enjoyed V. E. Schwab's The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue. . .a stunning tale." Booklist, STARRED review

"An inspiring novel about how everyone makes an impact, even after the world forgets them." ― Foreword Reviews

"How to Be Remembered is my favorite kind of book: a story with a 'wow' factor. Michael Thompson has taken a fun and intriguing idea -- a big idea -- and turned it into a wonderful, humorous, very human ride." ― Michael Poore, author of Reincarnation Blues

"An engrossing story about keeping determination, hard work and hope steady despite adversities. A coming of age with an intriguing supernatural twist, How to Be Remembered will inspire you to hang on tight to what you hold dear and will rekindle your appreciation for what it means to be human" ― Sarah Jost, author of Five First Chances


Michael Thompson has been a journalist, producer and media executive for the last fifteen years. He now co-owns a podcast production company called Fear and Greed – home of Australia’s most popular business podcast. He lives in Sydney with his wife, two young children, two cats and his beloved lawn. How to Be Remembered is Michael’s first novel. 

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How To Be RememberedHow To Be Remembered by Michael Thompson

Lately, I've been getting into books with magical realism a lot, so when I saw this story pop up on Netgalley, I was excited to give it a try. The plot is quite different from anything I have heard before as well, which is always an encouraging factor when choosing something to read. Tommy Llewellyn is an odd anomaly in a familiar world. He's faced with the herculean task of starting his life over from scratch every single year on the same day-his birthday. Even his own birth parents forget his existence on his first birthday, leaving him to figure out a way to survive and thrive all by himself. It really makes you think about the ramifications of a situation like this. What would it be like to be completely alone in the world, to have the ability to make friends and memories with other people, only to have your existence wiped clean every year? Not only is your existence deleted, but everything you earn, create, possess-every physical, tangible thing you own of sentimental or financial value is taken from you. You are "rebooted" with only the clothes on your back and your wits. It's obviously a very lonely existence because you can never truly share your true self with others when they can only remember a sliver of time with you, and even that is temporary.

One obvious hurdle comes to mind when presented with Tommy's plight: how is he able to find a permanent home to grow up in year after year, as a helpless child? The answer? He becomes part of the government system where everyone knows that incompetency reigns. This was one of the few explanations received about him, and a believable one I thought. At one year old, he arrives at Milkwood House, a home for kids run by a very caring woman named Michelle. No matter how many times she forgets Tommy, she is always there for him year after year. She is the kind of selfless person that puts the children first and works tirelessly in order to help them pave their way in the world. When Tommy's life is "reset" as he calls it, no one understands how he got to be in the house, but assumes that his paperwork has been lost due to human error. This is perhaps the only time bureaucracy could ever actually benefit anyone, but poor Tommy needs all the breaks he can get.

The reader is told about many one year increments of Tommy's life, some of them detailed, and others are merely mentioned or skimmed over. Once he learns how to bluff his way through the beginning of the reset, his focus is building his friendships/relationships with those around him as quickly as he can in the limited time that he has. The faster he can bond with the people he cares about, the more time he will have to enjoy these relationships before they are erased again. For many, it's hard enough to form attachments with others in normal circumstances. I can't even comprehend how hard it must be to constantly have to rebuild the same connections with others-to always be the new person on the scene that nobody knows. It would obviously be extremely challenging, lonely, and discouraging.

Despite the odds always being stacked against Tommy, he manages to stay optimistic even when the worst-case scenario plays out. He finds small victories to celebrate and occasionally tries to find new loopholes that give him an advantage. One year, when he's hit by a car and ends up in the hospital, it ends up being his first gift in disguise. The reset happens while he's in the hospital bed, and he is shown a way to retain physical items into the next year. This is a huge advantage because it means that he can save any money that he makes throughout the year as well as personal identification and paperwork he needs. This is also where he meets one of the few people in his life that he works hard to maintain a connection with. Josh becomes his best friend and business partner. Although Tommy doesn't make friends easily, when he does, he does everything in his power to keep them in the repetitive rhythm of his world.

Tommy's life is told in stages: his first year with his birth parents, his time in Milkwood House, the years at the hostel, and the period when he moves into his girlfriend's apartment. Each stage has a lot of repetition and not a whole lot of expansion of his predicament. The problem is that Tommy is wary of "rocking the boat" so to speak. Once he finds himself in a comfortable spot where he can cruise through resets without much hassle, he's content to do just that. He has goals for the future, but with very little knowledge of how to overcome his erasure, he just cannot make much progress. Frankly, there are chunks of the book that become a bit monotonous. I guess I was hoping that he would explore his magical boundaries more, try theories, and be more proactive in discovering the answers to his odd reality. Instead, what he discovers is very little, and most of it merely by chance. This leaves the reader in a somewhat stagnant plot that becomes mired in predictability. It never felt so slow that I had to force myself to keep reading, or take small, frequent breaks. However, I think it was merely the main character's likability and determination that kept me reading steadily. You really do root for him to find a way to create a permanent life for himself and maybe even someday create a family.

There is a romance in the story, though I would say that it remains in the background for at least half of the book. We meet Tommy's girl Carey in his Milkwood House days, but she doesn't reappear again until much later. He falls hard for her as a young teen, but unfortunately for him, she never notices him in a romantic way. This is why his long-lasting "love" for her does not quite feel realistic to me. It's more of a one-sided crush that he never really gets over. In the back of his mind, he's always wondering if she's okay somewhere out there in the world, and if she's happy. Once he finally does cross paths with her, their relationship escalates quickly. The problem is, we are told of this escalation rather than shown, and I don't think that allows their feelings to develop naturally. This is probably a result of the time constraints that he has, but I do think it could have been explored at a deeper level.

I'm used to reading full fantasy novels as opposed to magical realism, so the lack of explanations takes some getting used to. Apparently, this is a common feature of the genre-not being told why these magical things happen in an otherwise average world. I have so many questions about why things are happening, and just being forced to believe for no reason at all is a hard one for me. For example, what is Richie's significance to Tommy? He is clearly a sociopath based on what he did to him when they were children, however, we never know why he is at the center of these horrible scenarios that upset his hard-won routines. Why does it simply take being in his vicinity to risk not just an erasure, but a total replacement? I thought surely some backstory with Richie would be given at some point, something substantial to make me understand why he seemed to alter Tommy's reality in such a different way. Why is it that when mistakes happen, it's only someone that he despises that replaces him? If it were a friend instead of a sociopath or abuser that takes his place, there wouldn't be the same kind of despair as a result. It begins to feel like a plot device rather than a natural element in the story.

I appreciated Tommy's exploration of his small, lasting impacts in a world that is unable to remember him. We all want to leave our own footprints in the world, making a difference to others in a way that will never be forgotten. For Tommy, he must be satisfied with anonymous impacts like a cactus he plants that gives comfort to a kind nurse, and a window that he fixes that stays fixed long after he's gone. These things are not monumental, though they do give him comfort that his actions can have permanence in a positive way. I really feel like this could have been delved into more. Perhaps he could have tried to make a large impact in the year he's given, to show that even without money or power we can change other people's lives significantly. I just feel like we barely scratched the surface in what he could have experimented with and the ways he could have learned to game the system.

The end rushes up quickly, and I was worried with the small amount of time left that it would end in tragedy. Again, he discovers a huge advantage by chance, and this sets him up to be able to hold onto something very precious to him: a true home. There was one major flaw in the way that this was explained, however, I was glad that he finally got his happy ending.

This was an okay read, I feel that it could have been much more exciting had it lived up to all of its potential. There were so many thought-provoking possibilities that were never touched on, and the characters could have used a lot more detail and definition to flesh out the relationships better. However, I did appreciate the unique idea of the story so I would recommend it to anyone looking for something a little different with an endearing main character.


Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Review: The Seven Year Slip by Ashley Poston

An overworked book publicist with a perfectly planned future hits a snag when she falls in love with her temporary roommate…only to discover he lives seven years in the past, in this witty and wise new novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Dead Romantics.

Series: n/a
Publication date: June 27, 2023
Published by: Berkley
Genre: romance, magical realism

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Sometimes, the worst day of your life happens, and you have to figure out how to live after it.

So Clementine forms a plan to keep her heart work hard, find someone decent to love, and try to remember to chase the moon. The last one is silly and obviously metaphorical, but her aunt always told her that you needed at least one big dream to keep going. And for the last year, that plan has gone off without a hitch. Mostly. The love part is hard because she doesn’t want to get too close to anyone—she isn’t sure her heart can take it.

And then she finds a strange man standing in the kitchen of her late aunt’s apartment. A man with kind eyes and a Southern drawl and a taste for lemon pies. The kind of man that, before it all, she would’ve fallen head-over-heels for. And she might again.

Except, he exists in the past. Seven years ago, to be exact. And she, quite literally, lives seven years in his future.

Her aunt always said the apartment was a pinch in time, a place where moments blended together like watercolors. And Clementine knows that if she lets her heart fall, she’ll be doomed.

After all, love is never a matter of time—but a matter of timing.

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Praise for The Seven Year Slip:
“I ADORED this book. Ashley is such a talent. The worlds she creates are so warm and specific and beautifully rendered. The Seven Year Slip is a gorgeous love story from one of the finest romance writers out there. I laughed, I cried, I didn’t want it to end. Consider me Ashley Poston’s greatest admirer!”
—Carley Fortune, New York Times bestselling author of Every Summer After

“Ashley Poston has again created a world that is off-kilter, romantic, and irresistible. If you love The Lake House but also want some top notch make out scenes, this is the book for you.”
—Emma Straub, New York Times bestselling author of This Time Tomorrow

“Warm, funny and heartbreakingly hopeful, The Seven Year Slip is a magical love story, a devastating portrait of grief, and a loving ode to what it means to grow, evolve and blossom.”
—Sangu Mandanna, bestselling author of The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches


Ashley Poston is the New York Times and USA Today best-selling author of The Dead Romantics. 

After graduating from the University of South Carolina with a bachelor’s in English, she spent the last decade working in the publishing industry before deciding to pursue writing full-time.

When not writing, she likes trying various arts and crafts (she’s currently addicted to building miniature rooms) and taking long walks as an excuse to listen to Dungeons & Dragons podcasts. She bides her time between South Carolina and New York, and all the bookstores between.

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The Seven Year SlipThe Seven Year Slip by Ashley Poston
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Over the last few years, I've noticed feeling a growing cynicism when it comes to reading. I can count on one hand the amount of five star books I've found over the last three years. I've read all of the common tropes in my favorite genres so many times that it's harder and harder to find a book that hits me perfectly in the feels. I can honestly say that I have read a lot of good books. A lot of great books too. But for me, a five star read has a completely different feeling than all the others. That warm glow-euphoric, dreamy...otherwise known as The Book Hangover™. You've been reading with razor sharp focus on those characters, staying up until the early hours of the morning with them as they try to overcome their conflicts, and cry when the ending hits you squarely in your cynical heart. (Okay, the cynical part is all me, but you get the picture.) I am now in the phase where I worry that the next books that follow will fall flat because my head is still stuck in Ashley Poston's fictional world.

I've got to be honest. In the beginning, Clementine didn't make a good first impression on me and I was fully expecting for that to affect my overall enjoyment. She comes off as a very closed-off individual, hyper focused on her career, and somewhat cold. That wall that she has up was off-putting at first, but the author does a wonderful job humanizing her flaws and quickly helping you understand them. Clementine had a very special bond with her aunt Analea, and losing her has had a profound effect on her life. Before losing her, she had a passion for life, chasing adventure across the globe with her aunt, and her future was filled with hope and endless possibilities. After...she used her job as a shield in her romantic relationships, and has forgotten what it feels like to be passionate about anything or anyone. Once you start to understand what's hiding underneath the surface with her, it's very easy to feel empathy for this broken woman. On the outside, she has a lot going for her: two best friends who she gets to work with, a job that she excels at with a possible promotion in the near future, and loving parents who support her. Inside, she feels shattered with grief because she lives in a world where her aunt Analea no longer exists.

Analea was the type of person that lived every day like it was her last. She appreciated each moment for the simple joy it could bring, and was the master at "fake it until you make it." She taught Clementine to seek adventure around every corner and if you didn't feel like you belonged somewhere, it was only a matter of convincing others until you convince yourself. Her aunt was quirky, yes, but also inspiring. If she thought that her apartment was magical, the elevator had a mirror that shows you your past self, and that immortal pigeons nested right outside her window, who was she to judge? It was all part of her distinctive charm.

   She only ever had two rules in this apartment—
one, always take your shoes off by the door. 
And two: never fall in love. Because anyone you 
met here, anyone the apartment let you find, 
could never stay. No one in this apartment 
ever stayed. No one ever would.

Clementine no longer entertained the harmless "fantasies" that her aunt spun to her growing up. Her wondrous stories about the magical apartment that transports you seven years into the past is simply entertainment for a child. She is now living a cruel reality filled with loneliness and heartache-as harsh as it is, it leaves no room for risk or disappointment anymore. Everyone deals with grief in their own personal way, but Clementine is simply numbing herself rather than working through it. Now, faced with moving into the apartment that holds so many painful memories, she knows she's not going to have anywhere to hide anymore.

   The apartment was foreign to me now, missing 
something terribly large, but it still felt like home 
in a way that nothing else ever could. Like a place 
I once knew, but which no longer welcomed me.

I was eagerly anticipating the first time "slip" which would introduce Clem's love interest, Iwan. I loved the movie The Lake House that had a time slip connected to a home, and I was hoping for the feel-good angst of that story. The Seven Year Slip delivered on that. While this was actually time travel happening rather than communicating through time, that was actually a good thing. Clementine and Iwan's story is entirely theirs, and filled with their own brand of heart-wrenching moments. Past and present versions of Clem and Iwan meet and intersect and multiple points, but it's never quite the right moment for them to be able to be together. Even though Iwan has the ability to meet the Clementine of his time, she wouldn't know who he was for another seven years, and she would be a completely different person in that stage of her life. We are always changing and growing throughout life-they have a profound effect on each other when they first meet because those versions of each other connect perfectly. In the present time, things have changed between them. Things that haven't happened in the past yet (for her) have already been experienced by him. So they have a bit of a waiting game for her to travel back however many times she needs to in order to catch up to him. It's very easy to have plot holes with time travel books, and as much as I picked it apart in my mind the plot seemed airtight. It really made their romance come to life off the pages that much more.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention some issues I found. Yes, I loved the book to pieces, but it wasn't flawless by any means. Clementine mentions that her aunt told her about a book that writes itself, and an alleyway that leads to the other side of the world in addition to the mysteriously immortal pigeons and the time portal apartment. Those things never came up again in the story, which I found to be odd. In fact, the pigeons were never really explained. They were just there and seemingly always watching the habitants of the apartment through the window. It would have been helpful to get some backstory with them, but it didn't affect my feelings for the romance in the story. Also, at the end of the book, one thing that occurred was considerably frustrating regarding her last interaction with somebody in the past.

Even though there were things that could have been clarified better for my own satisfaction, I fell head over heels for this emotional love story and couldn't give it anything less than a full five stars. For me, the experience was just as magical as that century old apartment on the Upper East Side that brings these soulmates together through time. Even when they had "bad" timing, it was still right. Their brief interactions set one another on a path that would eventually lead them back together where they were supposed to be. It isn't often that a book can make me cry anymore...not just watery eyes, but tears falling-tight chest-heart clenching crying. That's what this book did to me, and that is why it deserves all the stars in the world. I can't recommend this one enough! Read it!