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

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Review: Christa Comes Out of Her Shell by Abbi Waxman

Just when she thought she’d gotten far enough away . . . a life-changing phone call throws an antisocial scientist back into her least favorite place—the spotlight. A hilarious and insightful new novel from the USA Today bestselling author of The Bookish Life of Nina Hill.

Series: N/A
Publication date: April 16, 2024
Published by: Berkley
Genre: contemporary romance

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After a tumultuous childhood, Christa Liddle has hidden away, both figuratively and literally. Happily studying sea snails in the middle of the Indian Ocean, Christa finds her tranquil existence thrown into chaos when her once-famous father—long thought dead after a plane crash—turns out to be alive, well, and ready to make amends. The world goes wild, fascinated by this real-life saga, pinning Christa and her family under the spotlight. As if that weren’t enough, her reunion with an old childhood friend reveals an intense physical attraction neither was expecting and both want to act on . . . if they can just keep a lid on it. When her father’s story starts to develop cracks, Christa fears she will lose herself, her potential relationship, and—most importantly—any chance of making it back to her snails before they forget her completely.
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Praise for Christa Comes Out of Her Shell:
“Abbi Waxman has done it again! I laughed out loud, I swooned, I … unexpectedly learned a lot about snails? (And they’re awesome, by the way). I live for Abbi’s awkward, lovable-yet-socially-anxious heroines, and Christa Liddle is hands-down my new favorite.”
—Colleen Oakley, USA Today bestselling author of The Mostly True Story of Tanner and Louise

"If I could go on vacation inside Abbi Waxman's books, the utterly charming Christa Comes Out of Her Shell would be the centerpiece of my itinerary. Waxman's witty voice, complex and oh-so-loveable characters, and knack for writing romance that's both swoony and sexy absolutely shine in this hilarious, tender story about family, fame, and marine mollusks. I'll definitely be screaming about this one to anyone who will listen!"
—Sarah Adler, author of Mrs. Nash's Ashes

"Waxman displays her usual talent for creating main characters who are wry and great with a one-liner... Christa is endearingly antisocial…and it’s satisfying to watch her come out of her shell as she accepts the chaos of her family and learns to make peace with the past."
Kirkus Reviews

“Readers who find comfort in Waxman’s likable nerds will enjoy smart and snarky Christa. Christa’s mother and sisters add delightful color and humor as they make clear where Christa’s personality originated, and Christa’s second chance at romance with an old family friend feels natural and genuine and full of heat.” 

“Readers will relish this lively take on legacy and manipulation.”
Publishers Weekly


Abbi Waxman was born in England in 1970, the oldest child of two copywriters who never should have been together in the first place. Once her father ran off to buy cigarettes and never came back, her mother began a successful career writing crime fiction. Naturally lazy and disinclined to dress up, Abbi went into advertising, working as a copywriter and then a creative director at various advertising agencies in London and New York. Eventually she quit advertising, had three kids and started writing books, mostly in order to get a moment’s peace.

Abbi lives in Los Angeles with her husband, three kids, three dogs, three cats, a gecko, a snake, five pigeons, four chickens, and two guinea pigs. Every one of these additions made sense at the time, it’s only in retrospect that it seems foolhardy.
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Christa Comes Out of Her ShellChrista Comes Out of Her Shell by Abbi Waxman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I haven't read an Abbi Waxman book since The Bookish Life of Nina Hill. This one immediately caught my attention because it has one of my greatest female character weaknesses: the introverted nerd. If she is socially awkward (even anti-social is acceptable), quirky, super intelligent, or shy...count me in. All of the above? Even better! After many years of reading many variations of this heroine, IT has finally happened. I found one that unlikely unicorn that I don't like. Christa is a contradiction, an anomaly. On paper, I should like her, but for me but all of her flaws overshadowed the things that should have endeared her to me.

Humans talk so much and look at you 
expectantly, as if you’d been 
paying attention. Fools.

Christa Liddle grew up in the public eye because of her famous father. He had his own television show, and was co-founder of a copycat beanie baby toy company. He was a charming media darling until he took a flight to Alaska and disappeared. Christa was two the last time they all saw him off in that plane, so his absence is more memorable to her than his brief presence was. The media and internet were like a pack of wolves fighting over the bloody carcass of their lives, but Christa especially got the brunt of their unwanted attention. To lose a father is hard enough, but to try to work through everything emotionally while the world watches your every move is near impossible. She doesn't handle it well as a young adult, and her rebellious ways escalated until one traumatic event sends her running to isolate herself on an island in the Indian Ocean. There, she finds quiet, serenity, and only the snails she's studying as her companions. For four years, she was happy hiding away from her uncomfortable past, but her father had to go and "return from the dead."

From the start, Christa was rubbing me the wrong way. She's prickly, quick to get angry and defensive, pushes everyone away around her, and is emotionally closed off. I'm all for a socially awkward character, but when you throw rudeness into the equation, that's not a good side. Even her "crush" Nate is victim of her sharp tongue, but he can't see past the hearts in his eyes whenever he looks at her. These two grew up together, but there was an age gap as kids. Now, they discover an almost immediate attraction for each other, but I genuinely couldn't see why he was so enthralled with her so quickly. She doesn't spare him much attention, and when she does, she makes sure to emphasize that if they get involved, it will only be a fling until she jets back to her solitary life again. They go on one walk, and one date on the beach and suddenly are supposed to be on the fast track to falling for each other. I never saw any reason why they would feel this way. It all feels very manufactured based on their completely platonic interactions growing up. She never fails to dismiss him like his wants are unimportant when making decisions about where to take her life in the next stage. Even up until the last 15% of the book she's making decisions purely on her own needs making me feel that she hadn't grown at all throughout the book. I felt that he deserved someone who would make compromises and sacrifices for him some of the time, because he was all in, wasn't afraid to express that to her, and he deserved it.

   It’s fine, it’s just a fling. We’ll both get over it 
soon enough. I had a brief flash of the 
previous night, the connection I had felt—
and feel—with him. I shoved it down because 
this girl has no time for love. 
Who even mentioned love?

Aside from the weak romance, the plot was a little out there. The disappearance, assumed death, return "from the dead", amnesia, and cartoonishly one-dimensional villain were very soap opera over-the-top for my taste. This came off as a rom-com rather than a women's fic that you would expect from this author, but without the humor or charm. For me, it really fell flat. There wasn't enough exploration into Christa's broken relationship with her family, and a lack of time spent of mending it. All of that was glossed over in a quick and tidy way, while the chaotic antics surrounding her dad were always the focus.

Personally, whatever story her dad was currently spinning, I never had any sympathy and I wouldn't have been so quick to let him back into the family. It was a little annoying how they just accepted the pain that he put them all through (let's just say that his original version of events didn't actually check out). Even Christa who was the only one giving any resistance, quickly caved and spent time with him without any discussion of the turmoil she suffered because of him. However, ignoring uncomfortable situations and conversations is on brand for her I guess.

   “I can’t do this now,” I said, 
suddenly restless and uncomfortable. 
“Maybe I should be a stronger 
person or something, 
but all I want to do 
now is hide.

My problem with Christa is that she needs character growth, badly, and I didn't see it happen. Her big flaw-running from her problems is not addressed. At all. At 90% in the book she runs from her uncomfortable feelings again. Nate shows that he is willing to uproot his entire life and fit his alongside wherever she decides to go. What does she ever do to show him that he is as important to her? I didn't feel any chemistry at all, and I wasn't ever really rooting for them. Overall, more time should have been spent on developing Christa's familial and romantic relationships rather than the OTT drama. While I was a fan of The Bookish Life of Nina Hill, this one was a miss for me. Not every book can be a winner, and that's perfectly okay.


Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Blog Tour with Review: The Day Tripper by James Goodhand

The right guy, the right place, the wrong time.

Series: n/a
Publication date: March 19, 2024
Published by: HQ Mira
Genre: time travel, sci-fi

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It’s 1995, and Alex Dean has it a spot at Cambridge University next year, the love of an amazing woman named Holly and all the time in the world ahead of him. That is until a brutal encounter with a ghost from his past sees him beaten, battered and almost drowning in the Thames. 

He wakes the next day to find he’s in a messy, derelict room he’s never seen before, in grimy clothes he doesn’t recognize, with no idea of how he got there. A glimpse in the mirror tells him he’s older—much older—and has been living a hard life, his features ravaged by time and poor decisions. He snatches a newspaper and finds it’s 2010—fifteen years since the fight. 

After finally drifting off to sleep, Alex wakes the following morning to find it’s now 2019, another nine years later. But the next day, it’s 1999. Never knowing which day is coming, he begins to piece together what happens in his life after that fateful night by the river. 

But what exactly is going on? Why does his life look nothing like he thought it would? What about Cambridge, and Holly? In this page-turning adventure, Alex must navigate his way through the years to learn that small actions have untold impact. And that might be all he needs to save the people he loves and, equally importantly, himself.

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SEPTEMBER 6, 1995 | AGE 20

   It’s three-deep at the bar, and I get my order in seconds before they ring for time. I double up: a JD and Coke each and two beers to take with us. The lights are up and the music’s gone quiet as I weave the tray through the punters. Standing in the doorway out to the terrace, I am disorientated. There must be fifty tables outside between here and the river and it’s still packed out, darker and smokier than ever. I search the crowd but can’t see Holly.
   I negotiate my way down to the water’s edge. She’s maybe ten tables away, oblivious, a ciggie poised skyward in her fingers like she’s posing for Vettriano. I smirk, enjoy my good fortune again.
   “Excuse me, good gentlemen,” I say to a group of four in my path, voice cocky with booze and lust. They shuffle over, not breaking from their conversation. The resulting gap between their circle and the edge of the path isn’t wide enough—a careless elbow would send the tray of drinks into the river, possibly me with them.

   “If you don’t mind, guys?” I lay a palm on the forearm of the bloke with his back to me. Their circle opens out and he turns side-on, ushering me past. “Nice one,” I say, glancing at him as I pass.
I look back at the ground. There’s a delay in my brain processing who it is I’m walking past. There’s a moment in which it seems that we’ll just carry on, pretend like we don’t know each other.
   The air thickens. Time slows. I stop, a step past him. Look again.    Razor-sharp short back and sides, hooded eyes, lopsided mouth.    Preppy. It’s a face I catch myself imagining sometimes, never for long. A waking nightmare. Not that my imagination does it justice. Not even close, I now realize.
   His recognition of me unfolds in slow motion. Perhaps like me, alcohol has dulled his synapses, delayed the inevitable shift of mode.
Blake Benfield. There have been times in the past when just hearing that name in my head has stopped me dead, left me incapable.
How long since we last ran into each other? I was sixteen—best part of four years, then. Feels so recent. Our paths crossing has always been inevitable; we grew up barely a mile apart. He spat at me that last time, called me faggot cunt. The many times before that I’d just legged it, hidden from his fury and his hatred. But you get too old to do that.
This crowded place seems so quiet now. Like there’s cotton wool stuffed in my ears. The two bottles tip over on my trembling tray, foam splattering to the ground. One rolls over the edge and shatters on the concrete. People turn.
   How long have we stood here, him glaring at me, me unable to hold his stare? Saying nothing. A few seconds? Feels longer.
   There’s the smell of burned-out house in my nose. The sound of his whisper in my ears that I try to drown out.
   Don’t think about it. Do not think about that day. 

   Why do I shake? I’m a fucking grown man. Why am I shaking?
   He takes a half step closer to me.
   I once told him I was sorry. It was years ago—when I was still a kid.       I was sorry. Does he remember?
   I spin around. Where’s Holly? She must be watching this.
There’s no more delay. There is, of course, nothing for me and this bloke to say to each other. We have ventured into each other’s space, and that brings with it a remembering. And, as we always have, we must deal with that in our own way.
   His knuckles graze my chin. I stumble backward and the tray falls to the ground. His swing is off, though; there is no pain. Not even surprise. We definitely have an audience now.
   My response is pure instinct: palms raised, lean away. Easy now.
I don’t want to fight this man. I want to go back thirty seconds, walk a different route, have this night back for myself.
   Blake closes the gap, my weakness an invitation. His second punch crashes into my ear like a swinging girder. My brain slaps side to side in my skull. Vision sways. My head boils, a cool trickle from my eardrum.
   Where is Holly? Panic grips. I can’t just stand here and take this.
My eyes flit to our audience. He swings again, this time with his left. But I see it coming, dodge. He stumbles.
   I drive my weight, shoulder first, into his ribs. He goes over, sprawled among the spilled drinks and shattered glass.
   On all fours, he stares up at me. I’m perfectly positioned. I could kick him square in the face. End this right now. Why don’t I do it? Why can’t I bring myself to do it? I’d rather turn my back and cry than kick his head in.
   He glares up at me. Why do I pity him? Why am I so uncomfortable towering over him like this? It’s like the positions we’ve always held have been reversed. The power is mine.
   I let him find his feet.

   He’s up and level with me again. He glares like a bloodthirsty dog, wipes his nose on the sleeve of his polo shirt. If we were alone, maybe I’d run. But with people watching, with Holly watching, that’s no option.
   My punch lands perfectly. His jaws scissor against each other. For a second his head floats, eyes rolling.
   I realize my error too late. I should’ve followed up when I had the chance. One punch is only enough in the movies, everyone knows that. His hands are on the collar of my shirt, cloth tearing as he holds firm. His forehead slams into the bridge of my nose like a sledgehammer. My face is suddenly and totally numb. I drop to the ground. A ruby-red stain spreads fast through the jewels of broken glass around me.
He shouts above me. Every filthy word I’ve long come to expect. Something soft disperses against my head. Spit.
   The neck of the Stella bottle I dropped lies on the ground. Inches away. Blood gurgles in my mouth as I take a deep breath. I launch like a sprinter. Leading with the dagger of green glass, I’m aiming straight at his face and closing fast.
   Blake backs into a table, stumbles, hands slow to cover his face. His eyes widen, abject fear. But this is no time to be derailed.
   I see it too late. No time to react. One of Blake’s friends windmilling a table ashtray. The side of my skull cracks like thunder.
   The ground feels like a cushion, drawing me in and bouncing me back. My vision finds enough order in time to see the sole of boot accelerating toward me, like a cartoon piano from the sky.
   There is no pain. Just a sense of floating in space.
   Time passes. More blows land.
   The surface of the Thames billows like a black satin sheet as it rises toward me. There’s no fear. Is that Holly I can hear calling my name? It’s so distant, so hard to tell.
   The river gathers me in like it’s here to take care of me.

   Cool water spears my lungs like sharpened icicles. I sink forever.
A low hum builds in my ears. Lights fades to nothing.
   And I sleep.

NOVEMBER 30, 2010 | AGE 35

   My head throbs. It doesn’t matter if I open or close my eyes, the pain worsens either way. My mouth is like dust. Joints and muscles lie seized.
   Last night is a blank. I hate that. I look above me. Focusing is excruciating. The ceiling is browny cream, textured in spikes like a Christmas cake. An unshaded bulb swings in the draft, the filament shivering. It’s really cold in here.
   Where the fucking hell am I?

Excerpted from THE DAY TRIPPER by James Goodhand. Copyright © 2024 by James Goodhand. Published by MIRA Books, an imprint of HarperCollins.

Praise for The Day Tripper:
“Witty and wise, The Day Tripper had me pulling for Alex through all of his mixed-up days. James Goodhand brings a fun, fresh voice to the time travel genre in this gem of a novel. I loved it!”
—Shelby Van Pelt, New York Times bestselling author of Remarkably Bright Creatures 

“The Day Tripper is absolutely astonishing, from first page to last. Warm, clever, hopeful, and superbly written. James Goodhand is a brilliant storyteller at the top of his game. I adored it.”
—Stuart Turton, Sunday Times bestselling author of The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

“The Day Tripper is a brilliantly-written exploration of the choices we make every day, and how those choices shape the people we become. It blew my mind and broke my heart, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since I finished it!”
—Gareth Brown, author of The Book of Doors

"A page-turner."

“Goodhand’s debut is a compelling look at the way decisions, good and bad, build up over time to create a life.”
—Library Journal

“A powerful, poignant twist on the time travel story that had me gripped right from the start.”
—Bobby Palmer, Sunday Times bestselling author of Isaac and the Egg

“I adored The Day Tripper. Utterly original, moving, and so brilliantly crafted.”
Louisa Reid, author of The Poet


James Goodhand has written two YA novels. His YA debut, Last Lesson, was called "a powerfully charged study in empathy," by the Financial Times. This is his adult debut. He lives in England with his wife and young son. 

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The Day TripperThe Day Tripper by James Goodhand
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm a big time travel fiction fan, so of course when I came across The Day Tripper, it immediately appealed to me. This is a new-to-me author so I didn't know what to expect with the writing style. From page one, the story is told disassembled and jumbled back together in non-lineal order. We are experiencing the disorientation right along with Alex as he slips from one moment to another in his life. It did take some getting used to, which caused my reading pace to lag for a time.

If you've read the synopsis, you get the general idea: Alex Dean suddenly finds himself waking up every day at different points in the timeline of his life. It all seemed to start after a near-fatal assault he experienced in the mid 90s. After this day, life as he knew it was gone. It's certainly intriguing to think about seeing the effects things make on your life almost instantaneously. For most, collections of bad decisions and actions can take years to manifest into dire consequences. Alex sees his life destroyed before he even knows the cause.

Much of the first half is pretty grim and depressing. I can't say that I was a big fan of Alex as his alcoholism, bad choices with his girlfriend Holly, and his broken family comes to light. He's a damaged man who was deeply influenced by his father's emotional abuse, and his murky relationship with Blake Benfield as a troubled kid. None of the details come out until much later in the book, but we do know that there are significant events in his past that are driving his bad choices. Typically, in a normal, linear storyline, you get the backstory of the character fairly early and that helps you understand them better and empathize with them. That is very hard to do when you're reading things so out of order and trying to make sense of what is even happening and how.

Since my last memory, since the fight, has time 
really passed? What have I missed? 
What of Cambridge? What of Holly?

Alex is drowning in the current of his bad decisions from one moment to the next. Homelessness, alcoholism, prison time, rejection and shame from his parents, loss of the love of his life, and a short, failed marriage are things that he sees jumping through time in his life. He is desperate to find out what is happening to him, but more importantly, if he could alter anything and return to the promising life he once had. His one beacon of hope is a strange man that he encounters by the name of Dr. P.H. (Paul) Defrates. Paul seems to know quite a bit about his personal situation but isn't very willing to share any answers with him. He does explain Einstein's theory of time: how each moment in time is happening simultaneously rather than in individual, chronographic order. Alex seems to be viewing his life in a way that others can't because of an aberration that occurred. It's imperative that he finds out what jarred him into this new reality so he can try to repair his broken life.

Once Alex starts to face some hard truths about himself, he begins to make changes in his impulsive and unhealthy actions. This is when the "updates" start to occur and he finally believes that there may be a way to escape his doomed fate. In the end, the story is an uplifting one because Alex goes through a considerable amount of growth and is able to identify how he was his own worst enemy. He wants to make a difference in his own life as well as others'. He learns to express his pain, reach out for help, and share his gratitude and love with those that mean the most to him. In doing this, he gradually starts to heal-and the effects are clearly evident. Many people have regrets in life as they get older. Who doesn't wish that they could turn back time and do things a little differently? This story is an intriguing play on that idea, which fortunately ends with a lot of introspection in a positive light. While I didn't necessarily care for the main character for much of the book, I do appreciate the journey he went on and seeing the character development along the way. It was executed in a way that was a bit more dismal and gritty for my taste, but worthwhile if you hang on until the end.

“Change, Alex, comes about from a commitment 
to making a difference. To deviating from the path of history.” 
“Walking into the headwind.” 


Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Review: Lonely For You Only by Monica Murphy

From New York Times bestselling author and BookTok sensation Monica Murphy comes a swoon-worthy new adult romance full of love songs.

Series: Lancaster Prep
Publication date: February 6, 2024
Published by: Blackstone Publishing
Genre: new adult

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Young heiress Scarlett Lancaster is delighted when her father tells her he hired a famous pop star and former boy band member to play at her eighteenth birthday. But delight becomes utter disappointment when it turns out he wasn't talking about Harry Styles. No, Scarlett's dad hired Tate Ramsey, former lead singer of the band Five Car Pileup, who hasn't been popular for years. Tate, after years of alcohol- and drug-fueled partying, is sober and ready for a comeback. He is in top form at Scarlett's party and blows the audience away with his performance--though Scarlett herself still isn't impressed. But when they talk after he leaves the stage, their encounter ends in a kiss that surprises them both--and immediately goes viral. The viral kiss and the video of Tate singing at the party do wonders for both of their burgeoning careers. So after some careful negotiation, the two of them agree to start a fake relationship. But before long they discover their feelings might not be fake after all ...

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New York Times, USA Today and international bestselling author. A believer in kissing. A believer of love.

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Lonely for You Only (Lancaster Prep)Lonely for You Only by Monica Murphy
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

His smile is slow. 
“I didn’t think this could happen.” 
“Me either.” 
“I thought you were uptight.” 
“I thought you were a smug prick.” 
He rears back with a laugh, resting his hand on his chest. 
“Tell me how you really feel.”

The Lancasters are the equivalent of New York royalty. Filthy rich, members of the upper echelon of high society, with the world at their fingertips. Scarlett Lancaster is the oldest child of Fitzgerald and Gloria Lancaster, so she's used to the attention attached to her last name. The problem is, at eighteen, she feels as if she's standing in the shadow of her successful, charismatic father. She's been sheltered and pampered, and now that she's graduated high school, she wants to find a way to shine bright all on her own. Her first goal is to finally get her crush Ian to notice her at her birthday bash. She's been infatuated with him for years, and hasn't found the nerve to pin the man down once and for all. Never mind the fact that none of her friends or family seem to think he's the right guy for her. He's two years older, responsible, and disciplined. He's everything she wants for a safe, respectful relationship. Her birthday party is her chance to make it out of the friend zone.

Tate Ramsey, former lead singer of the band Five Car Pileup has been hired as entertainment at Scarlett's party. She used to have a major crush on him in his glory days, but he's no longer a relevant celebrity after a string of scandals broke up his band. Singing at a private party seems like an embarrassing thing for a former rockstar, but Tate is grateful for the rare opportunity for a big paycheck. He's no longer drinking or doing drugs, and is humbly working hard to stay on the right path. Although his performance is a big hit with all of the ladies at her party, Scarlett is a bit judgmental and disappointed. I thought she acted rude and snobbish towards him when they first met, and I kind of felt a little bad for him. Their impulsive kiss backstage was faked for a paparazzi who was hiding nearby-neither thought anything significant would result from it. They were wrong.

Suddenly, pictures of the kiss are all over social media and their follower counts are blowing up. It's a fantasy that everyone is falling for: the former boy band star meeting a former fan and finding romance. It's something every girl fantasizes about at one time or another, and the world is giddy with excitement over the pairing. Tate is getting calls from his former manager, his music career could be resurrected, and it's all due to a harmless, innocent kiss shared with Scarlett. If he can get her to agree to publicly pose as his adoring girlfriend and keep the frenzy going, he could have a second chance at redemption.

   Damn it, I want another shot. I want 
to prove that I can create quality music 
that the general public wants to listen to.

Scarlett doesn't want anything to do with him at first. The kiss and the attention surrounding it pushed Ian further away just when she was trying to make things happen with him. It takes a bit of convincing, but in the end, Scarlett decides to the fake relationship. It could have the benefit of making Ian jealous and in the end drawing his interest. Despite his presence in the story, I would not say that there's a love triangle trope happening here. Ian's role is almost non-existent, so if you're not a fan of triangles, you have no worries with this book. This book centers around the fake relationship, which honestly typically isn't what I gravitate to. This one was enjoyable however, and there were several elements regarding the characters that I found intriguing.

One of the things that stood out was Scarlett's dad. He was quite the character, and had some unconventional takes when parenting his daughter. Her parents had their wild "party" days when they were younger, and he encourages her to live life to the fullest and find what makes her happy. When she introduces Tate to him as her boyfriend, he's all for it, despite the fact that he's a former addict and down on his luck career-wise. He likes Tate much more than boring, responsible Ian and isn't afraid to speak his mind about that. The way he encouraged Scarlett to run off to California with Tate after such a short acquaintance was rash in my opinion, but he seems to have a sixth sense that he can be trusted around his daughter. I liked that he wasn't the stereotypical, boorish, controlling father. It made him an interesting, layered secondary character.

  They want me to live my life, especially 
my dad. He always talks about dreams and 
adventures and doing something wild and crazy.

I also liked that Tate wasn't your cliche manwhore, commitment-phobe rockstar. At the height of his fame, he was in a committed relationship with his high school girlfriend, and didn't "play the field" until she cheated on him with one of his band members. He may have gone on a downward spiral, but Tate is a good guy who isn't allergic to relationships. He does feel a little leery of starting anything real with Scarlett for a while because she's completely inexperienced, but he really can't deny the truth of his attraction for long. It's evident that he's drawn to her from the very beginning, and his obsession only grows by the minute. I liked that about him, and how sweet and protective he was towards her.

Scarlett was described as someone who was a homebody, shy, and enjoyed reading instead of socializing. I don't think she was shown as someone who's shy, just sheltered from the world. Inexperienced in all aspects. Her character could have used more fleshing out in my opinion. In the beginning, we are told that she wants to find her own place in the world-somewhere where she shines independently from her family. I don't feel that there was really any growth for her in that aspect by the end. Yes, she finds a level of fame as Tate's girlfriend, but I was waiting for her to find some way to stand out on her own and that never happened.

This was a cute new adult romance, just simple and fun. I didn't dislike any characters, and there were no major dramas. If you're looking for an easy musician romance where the heroine becomes his "muse" this could be the book for you.


Thursday, February 1, 2024

Review: Bride by Ali Hazelwood

A dangerous alliance between a Vampyre bride and an Alpha Werewolf becomes a love deep enough to sink your teeth into in this new paranormal romance.

Series: n/a
Publication date: February 6, 2024
Published by: Berkley
Genre: paranormal romance

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Misery Lark, the only daughter of the most powerful Vampyre councilman of the Southwest, is an outcast—again. Her days of living in anonymity among the Humans are over: she has been called upon to uphold a historic peacekeeping alliance between the Vampyres and their mortal enemies, the Weres, and she sees little choice but to surrender herself in the exchange—again...

Weres are ruthless and unpredictable, and their Alpha, Lowe Moreland, is no exception. He rules his pack with absolute authority, but not without justice. And, unlike the Vampyre Council, not without feeling. It’s clear from the way he tracks Misery’s every movement that he doesn’t trust her. If only he knew how right he was….

Because Misery has her own reasons to agree to this marriage of convenience, reasons that have nothing to do with politics or alliances, and everything to do with the only thing she's ever cared about. And she is willing to do whatever it takes to get back what’s hers, even if it means a life alone in Were territory…alone with the wolf.

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Praise for Ali Hazelwood:
"Bride is a delight! Passionate and witty and primal in its intensity, Ali Hazelwood's paranormal debut introduces a world as intriguing as its characters. I absolutely adored this read."—Nalini Singh, New York Times bestselling author

“Ali Hazelwood finally gives us paranormal, with her trademark humor, twisty plot, and spice that doesn’t quit—buckle up.”—Hannah Whitten, New York Times bestselling author on Bride

“Hazelwood unleashes her sparkling voice and wit on a paranormal Romeo and Juliet.”—Ruby Dixon, international bestselling author on Bride

“The romance that blooms from a marriage of convenience is both tender and foxy, indisputably sexy and brimming with heart.”—Isabel Cañas, USA Today Bestselling Author of Vampires of El Norte on Bride

“It’s official. There’s nothing Ali Hazelwood can’t do brilliantly when it comes to writing. LOVED it.”—Jodi Picoult, #1 New York Times bestselling author

"Ali Hazelwood is a romance powerhouse and she's put me firmly back in my werewolf era.”—#1 New York Times bestselling author Hannah Grace

"Whenever I want a sexy, witty, delicious romance, told in a fresh and intelligent voice, I read Ali Hazelwood. Prepare to get addicted. Each book is pure joy."—Simone St. James, New York Times bestselling author

“Hazelwood is an absolute romance powerhouse.”New York Times bestselling author Christina Lauren

“Funny, sexy and smart.”New York Times bestselling author Mariana Zapata


I'm Ali, and I write contemporary romcom novels about women in STEM and academia. I love cats, Nutella, and side ponytails. I'm also currently learning to crochet, so as you can tell I'm a super busy gal with an intense and exciting life!

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BrideBride by Ali Hazelwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Misery and Lowe are voluntarily entering into an arranged marriage for the good of their respective species. The Vampyres and Werewolves would form a shaky truce between them if their wedding could conclude without anyone killing each other. As the Vampyre Councilman's daughter, Misery is used to sacrificing her happiness and safety for the good of their kind. Her father sent her to live among the humans when she was a child to be what is called the Vampyre Collateral. This is a grudging agreement between humans and Vamps in which a child is exchanged on both sides to live on the alternate side. If the treaty is broken by either side, it's understood that the Collateral child will be killed. Misery's father had no regrets about placing his daughter in danger then, and definitely not now for this dangerous marriage of "convenience."

   Heartbeats are like fingerprints, one of a 
kind, distinctive, the easiest way to tell 
people apart. Father’s was pressed into 
my flesh on the day I was born, when he 
was the first person to hold me, the first 
person to care for me, the first person to 
know me. And then he washed his hands of me.

She takes it all in stride though-if there's one thing she's used to, it's being an outcast with a target on her back. Besides, she has her own motivation for agreeing to marry Alpha Were Lowe Moreland.

Misery is a tough, gritty heroine, and very much a loner-with one exception. Serena Paris is her one and only best friend that she met while growing up with in human territory. Their relationship goes beyond friendship, she's like the sister she never had. Vampyres are notorious for being aloof and undemonstrative with their emotions, but Serena is her weakness. She may not be the touchy-feely type, but she has her own snarky, sarcastic way of showing her that she cares. They are very similar in that way, which is why I really enjoyed their scenes together when we finally meet her in the later chapters. I honestly wish we could have gotten more page time with Serena to establish her character early on and their friendship dynamic. She was a fantastic secondary character that held her own and I'm looking forward to hopefully reading her story in the future. There is foreshadowing at the end that hints that she will be paired with a certain Were character and I'm totally down for it.

Lowe is a strong, respected alpha who has also lived a life of sacrifice. He and Misery have that in common and it is one of the first things that they see and respect in each other. They try to keep their physical and emotional distance, but fate has a way of turning plans upside down. Bride has a "he falls first" trope which I actually really enjoyed. You don't really see that with Were/shifter books so I found that to be pretty unique. You also get forbidden romance vibes from them, because they have a lot of obstacles to overcome due to the prejudices of their species towards each other.

Lowe is a very caring, giving person, so despite the intensity of his feelings for her, he conceals his true emotions for much of the book to protect her. This is something that bothered me a bit because it caused a huge conflict in their potential relationship. Lowe unilaterally makes the decision to hide important information from her as well as his true feelings in order to give her the "freedom of choice." He feels that she's been pushed into situations her whole life that trapped her, and he does not want to do the same. My issue is...by not being completely open and honest with her, he is making the choice for her instead of allowing her the free will to make an informed decision. I don't exactly view that as freedom. So the non-communication and dishonesty on his part caused some mildly irritating issues that could have easily been avoided.

There is a mystery side story which didn't have a lot of page time once Misery was living in Were territory which seemed a bit unrealistic for me. She felt desperate to find answers to all of her questions, but we barely see her looking into the matter at all. Also, I found the antagonist very easy to guess from the beginning, so it lacked any surprise towards the end. None of these things were big issues, but noticeable enough to bring up.

I enjoyed the romance between Misery and Lowe quite a bit and felt that they made a complimentary, supportive pair. You get third person POV snippets of Lowe's thoughts regarding her at the beginning of the chapters as well as the epilogue. This gives you some insight into his private internal battle as he struggles with his very uncomfortable attraction. Misery really blossoms under his care and protection. You see a softer side emerge by the end because Lowe is able to make her feel safe and wanted for the first time in her life. She never fit in quite right with any of the species, but he finally gives her a true home and sense of what family should feel like.

   I would take anything she chose to give me—
the tiniest fraction or her entire world.

I'm glad I chose this book as my first read by Ali Hazelwood. It was a good first impression to her work and I'll definitely be checking out any future additions to this potential series in the future. There is no series listed yet, but all signs are pointing in that direction.


Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Review: The Star and the Strange Moon by Constance Sayers

From the author of A Witch in Time comes a haunting tale of ambition, obsession, and the eternal mystery and magic of film. 

Series: n/a
Publication date: November 14, 2023
Published by: Redhook
Genre: fantasy

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1968: Actress Gemma Turner once dreamed of stardom. Unfortunately, she’s on the cusp of slipping into obscurity. When she’s offered the lead in a radical new horror film, Gemma believes her luck has finally changed. But L’Etrange Lune’s set is not what she expected. The director is eccentric, and the script doesn’t make sense. 

Gemma is determined to make this work. It’s her last chance to achieve her dream—but that dream is about to derail her life. One night, between the shadows of an alleyway, Gemma disappears on set and is never seen again. Yet, Gemma is still alive. She’s been transported into the film and the script—and the monsters within it—are coming to life. She must play her role perfectly if she hopes to survive. 

2015: Gemma Turner’s disappearance is one of film history’s greatest mysteries—one that’s haunted film student Christopher Kent ever since he saw his first screening of L’Etrange Lune. The screenings only happen once a decade and each time there is new, impossible footage of Gemma long after she vanished. Desperate to discover the truth, Christopher risks losing himself. He’ll have to outrun the cursed legacy of the film—or become trapped by it forever.

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Praise for Constance Sayers:
A captivating tapestry of a tale, A Witch in Time weaves together the supernatural, historical fiction, and a humorous present day heroine, while traveling the macabre brambles of a dark curse-through lifetimes-with a compass to the heart.-- "Gwendolyn Womack, bestselling author of The Fortune Teller & The Time Collector on A Witch in Time"

A spellbinding historical fantasy....Fans of Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus will love this page-turning story of dark magic, star-crossed love, and familial sacrifice.-- "Publishers Weekly (starred review) on The Ladies of the Secret Circus"

A sweeping story of magical, star-crossed love, as glamorous as it is romantic. Prepare to be dazzled.-- "Alma Katsu, author of The Hunger on A Witch in Time"

Ambitious and teeming with magic, Sayers creates a fascinating mix of art, The Belle Époque, and more than a little murder.-- "Erika Swyler, author of The Book of Speculation on The Ladies of the Secret Circus"

At once a sweeping tale of dark magic, artistic obsession, and a love unbound from the limits of time, The Star and the Strange Moon captivates with lush prose and moments of poignant, heartbreaking beauty. A soaring celebration of female agency and the power of free will, this is Constance Sayers at her finest.-- "Paulette Kennedy, bestselling author of The Witch of Tin Mountain"

At times decadent and macabre, The Ladies of the Secret Circus is a mesmerizing tale of love, treachery, and depraved magic percolating through four generations of Cabot women.-- "Luanne G. Smith, author of The Vine Witch on The Ladies of the Secret Circus"

Be warned! The Star and the Strange Moon will cast its spell on you. Constance Sayers has created a book of worlds within worlds. Like the main characters, the reader is irresistibly drawn into the dangerous intrigue and dark truth at the heart of the story. Highly recommended!-- "Paula Brackston, New York Times bestselling author"

Fans of Deborah Harkness will devour this page-turning tale of love, reincarnation, and dark magic. A highly unique and enjoyable read!-- "Hester Fox, author of The Witch of Willow Hall on A Witch in Time"

Fresh and original... a narrative rich in historical detail, brightened by flashes of humor, and filled with colorful characters and fascinating settings. A most rewarding read!-- "Louisa Morgan, author of A Secret History of Witches on A Witch in Time"

Sayers traverses time periods effortlessly with lush, graceful descriptions....This spiraling narrative will appeal to fans of historical fiction and complicated love stories .-- "Publishers Weekly on A Witch in Time"


Constance Sayers is the author of the Amazon best-selling novel, A Witch in Time (2020 Redhook/Hachette) as well as The Ladies of the Secret Circus (2021 Redhook/Hachette) that received a starred review from both Publishers Weekly and Library Journal. Her books have been translated into six languages.

A finalist for Alternating Current’s 2016 Luminaire Award for Best Prose, her short stories have appeared in Souvenir and Amazing Graces: Yet Another Collection of Fiction by Washington Area Women as well as The Sky is a Free Country. Her short fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net.

She received her master of arts in English from George Mason University and graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor of arts in writing from the University of Pittsburgh. She attended The Bread Loaf Writers Conference where she studied with Charles Baxter and Lauren Groff. A media executive, she’s twice been named one of the “Top 100 Media People in America” by Folio and included in their list of “Top Women in Media.”

She lives in Washington DC. Like her character in The Ladies of the Secret Circus, she was the host of a radio show from midnight to six.

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The Star and the Strange MoonThe Star and the Strange Moon by Constance Sayers
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Arriving here, a hollowness had enveloped her. 
Perhaps a horror film was appropriate 
for her current state of mind, 
yet she had a premonition of sorts that this
film was going to be the undoing of her.

Constance Sayers has just joined a very short list of authors that are so good I will auto-read their books no questions asked. The Star and the Strange Moon is the third book in a row of hers that I absolutely LOVED. Like the first two reads by Sayers, this story had a dark, foreboding edge that keeps you turning the pages with equal parts anxiety and wonder. I've never really been a big fan of the horror genre, but this novel leans towards the gothic sub-genre with the element of romance involved. The romance was not in the forefront of the story, which I didn't mind at all. The dual timelines and time travel feel (I would describe it as traveling to an alternate world/dimension rather than time travel) both added to the complexity of this thought-provoking story.

Christopher Kent's childhood was very unstable and chaotic. From a very early age, he had to learn how to deal with his mother's extreme mood swings, addictions, and unpredictable behavior. Constantly on the move to a new place and a new job, they lived a nomadic life out of hotels filled with uncertainty and dread. Christopher knew he wouldn't stay in any one place too long, so he wouldn't allow himself to make friends. While it wasn't an easy childhood, it was what he had become accustomed to in order to take care of his mother and keep them safe. Then his world came crashing down one day when his mother seemed to have a complete mental breakdown. The catalyst was (strangely enough) a poster of an old black and white movie star named Gemma Turner. It seemed to send his mother into an unhinged loss of control that became her final breaking point.

After Christopher couldn't hold the pieces of their life together any longer, and he was sent to live with his aunt and uncle. He never forgot Gemma Turner and the strange effect she seemed to have on his mother. It started a lifelong obsession-a quest to learn everything he could about the actress and her possible connection to his mother. It was a quest that would ultimately dig up dark secrets that were meant to stay hidden forever.

Christopher knew in his heart that 
his mother’s true tale had been hidden 
from him—from all of them. 
He just had to find it.

Gemma Turner's POV is ominous from page one. If you've read the synopsis, you know that she is doomed to disappear during her last movie. That movie, L’Etrange Lune, grew to have a cult-like following as well as the strange deaths of some people connected to it. Was there some sort of curse on the property they were filming at? The world had a macabre fascination with the unexplainable events. To Christopher, it was more than that. He felt uncontrollably drawn to the story. Obsessed. Gemma's fate meant something to him in a very personal way and he couldn't stop until he had closure. Her alternating chapters become hard to read because you're filled with dread for her. Knowing she has nothing but a living nightmare waiting for her in the near future, in a living story that alters with each decision she makes.

I can't say much more about the plot without spoiling the mystery of it all, but I will say that Christopher and Gemma's worlds eventually will collide. He must find a way to extract her or he may become entangled right along with her. What sacrifices is he willing to make in order to put this cursed movie to rest once and for all?

The book was a little slow going at first, partly due to my impatience to just get Gemma's entrance into the movie over with. Even though I was impatient, the attention to detail created a fine-tuned plot and three dimensional characters. Everything was brought to life in an exquisite, sinister package that kept me hooked until the very last page. I can't wait to see what this author has in store for us next!