Review: The Soulmate Equation by Christina Lauren

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Single mom Jess Davis is a data and statistics wizard, but no amount of number crunching can convince her to step back into the dating world. Raised by her grandparents–who now help raise her seven-year-old daughter, Juno–Jess has been left behind too often to feel comfortable letting anyone in. After all, her father’s never been around, her hard-partying mother disappeared when she was six, and her ex decided he wasn’t “father material” before Juno was even born. Jess holds her loved ones close, but working constantly to stay afloat is hard…and lonely.

But then Jess hears about GeneticAlly, a buzzy new DNA-based matchmaking company that’s predicted to change dating forever. Finding a soulmate through DNA? The reliability of numbers: This Jess understands. At least she thought she did, until her test shows an unheard-of 98% compatibility with another subject in the database: GeneticAlly’s founder, Dr. River Pena. This is one number she can’t wrap her head around, because she already knows Dr. Pena. The stuck-up, stubborn man is without a doubt not her soulmate. But GeneticAlly has a proposition: Get to know him and we’ll pay you. Jess–who is barely making ends meet–is in no position to turn it down, despite her skepticism about the project and her dislike for River. As the pair are dragged from one event to the next as the “Diamond” pairing that could make GeneticAlly a mint in stock prices, Jess begins to realize that there might be more to the scientist–and the science behind a soulmate–than she thought.

Funny, warm, and full of heart, The Soulmate Equation proves that the delicate balance between fate and choice can never be calculated.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Soulmate Equation publishes May 18, 2021. 

First, I want to address those “eugenics” criticisms. I’ve seen reviews that say using DNA to match people together automatically falls under eugenics, but I don’t really agree with that. I think there needs to be actual intent to (or results that) only match certain demographics of people with other certain demographics of people for it to be considered eugenics – which is obviously repulsive. It’s not what’s going on in this book at all, though. I do feel like the authors could have gone a little bit more out of their way to make this distinction more clear, though. And while we’re on the topic of science, I thought it could have been handled a little more thoughtfully than it was. There is a lot scientific terminology thrown out in short bursts and I found it all pretty confusing.

I also struggled a bit with the main character, Jess. She made so many assumptions on River before ever even talking to him, that it colored all of her interactions with him once they officially meet and she was so rude. She went on and on about how he was the worst when she was the one that was acting so horribly. It drove me a little crazy. As she eventually gets to know him and realizes she was wrong about him, I started to like her a little more, just to get frustrated again by how she reacted to the Big Conflict. The unevenness of her character really brought down my overall enjoyment of the book.

While Jess wasn’t my favorite, I did really like River. He made a couple missteps – including how he handled the Big Conflict, as well – but other than those he was pretty perfect. He was sweet and romantic and probably one of my favorite male characters Christina Lauren has written. I also enjoyed Jess’ grandparents and daughter. I thought they were all kind and supportive and I wouldn’t have minded seeing a bit more of them.

Overall, I enjoyed The Soulmate Equation, but I didn’t love it. While there was some good banter occasionally and I shipped the romance, my struggle with the main character brought everything down a bit for me. While this one may not be my favorite Christina Lauren book, I look forward to checking out whatever they write next.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: A Dark and Secret Place by Jen Williams

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Synopsis from Goodreads

For readers of Jane Harper and Rachel Caine comes a chilling thriller from award-winning author Jen Williams about a woman who discovers her late mother had been secretly corresponding with a serial killer for decades.

When prodigal daughter Heather Evans returns to her family home after her mother’s baffling suicide, she makes an alarming discovery–stacks and stacks of carefully preserved letters from notorious serial killer Michael Reave. The “Red Wolf,” as he was dubbed by the press, has been in prison for over twenty years, serving a life sentence for the gruesome and ritualistic murders of several women across the country, although he has always protested his innocence. The police have had no reason to listen, yet Heather isn’t the only one to have cause to re-examine the murders. The body of a young woman has just been found, dismembered and placed inside a tree, the corpse planted with flowers. Just as the Red Wolf once did.

What did Heather’s mother know? Why did she kill herself? And with the monstrous Red Wolf safely locked inside a maximum security prison, who is stalking young women now? Teaming up with DI Ben Parker, Heather hopes to get some answers for herself and for the newest victims of this depraved murderer. Yet to do that, she must speak to Michael Reave herself, and expose herself to truths she may not be ready to face. Something dark is walking in the woods, and it knows her all too well.

A Dark and Secret Place publishes June 8, 2021

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review. 

I’m always on the lookout for a good serial killer book and I thought A Dark and Secret Place looked pretty intriguing. Unfortunately, I ultimately found it disappointing.

I thought the “Before” chapters about Michael’s early life were well done and compelling. I found Michael a sympathetic, if unsettling, character. Once Michael started to grow up, though, I didn’t find the Before chapters as well done. I wanted a lot more background information about the mysterious man that takes him in and the commune he starts. There is very little said about it’s purpose and motivations and it left me with a lot of questions. 

I struggled a lot with Heather’s character. She was so unlikable and barely anything she did made sense to me. I really felt like I had to suffer through the chapters from her point of view to get to the Before parts I enjoyed more. I also thought that as she investigated, everything fell into place just a little too easily for her. 

Overall, I found A Dark and Secret Place pretty disappointing. I really wanted to like it and was intrigued in the beginning, but the over the top turns the story took, how unlikable the main character was, and the unsatisfactory explanations in the end really let me down.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars

Review: The Insiders by Tijan

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

The Insiders is the first in a brand new, page-turning romance trilogy from New York Times bestseller, Tijan!

Bailey is as normal as could be, with a genius IQ and a photographic memory. But still, normal for her. Then, things happen—a guy breaks into her house in the middle of the night to take her hostage. She finds out her father is actually billionaire tech genius Peter Francis, the same guy she’s idolized all her life. She learns all this when she meets dark, mysterious, and electrifying Kashton Colello. He’s an associate of her father’s, and he gives Bailey two choices—go with him and meet her father or survive on her own because those kidnappers are going to try again. It’s a no-brainer.

After this, three things become clear for Bailey:

1. She’s living at her father’s sprawling estate, complete with bodyguards and the best security that money can buy.

2. She’s no longer an only child. She has three siblings and has no idea what to do with them and vice versa.

3. She is being guarded by Kash himself. Personally guarded. And there is a lot of guarding going on there and some of it is going to drive her crazy.

A complete outsider in a world of wealth and decadence, Bailey has to find her way within a family that has more secrets than she could have imagined. One of these secrets could be deadly…

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Insiders publishes May 4, 2021. 

This is an odd one to review. I really enjoyed the reading experience for most of the book, but I also kind of have a lot of issues with it. I’m going to go the list route on this one.

*For about the first 3/4 or so of the book, I could not read this fast enough. Tijan has a very addictive quality to her writing where I just need to keep reading. I found myself really enjoying it, even though basically NOTHING was happening, plot-wise.

*Though I do often find Tijan’s writing addictive, I always feel like it could use just a little more editing. I believe this is her first traditionally published book, so I expected things to be tightened up a little more than usual. For a little while, it felt like it was. However, as the book went on, it felt like the editing got less and less polished.

*Is it weird that I both shipped the romance while also not really believing in it? It was insta-lust. There wasn’t really any development before they jumped into an intensely physical relationship. They barely talked. There were barely any cute moments or banter. But I wanted them to be together. I liked how protective Kash was of Bailey. I just wanted them to have an actual conversation once in awhile.

*So what about the plot? It felt like there wasn’t one for most of the book. And then everything happened all at once in the final few chapters. And I wasn’t terribly impressed with the direction the story went. It seemed anti-climatic. I will say that I didn’t realize this was the beginning of a series when I read it, so now that I know that, it makes more sense that a lot of larger plot issues were just hinted at to set up for the future books. I just think the story could have been a little more balanced, though.

*Some other super random thoughts — *Kashton Collelo is a cool name.* *How was Bailey’s mom able to just leave her job and whole life to move in with her former baby daddy? And WHY? Nothing that woman did made any sense to me.* *It’s not a Tijan book without some crazy drama – enter Matt and his risque partying ways.* *Who’s that blonde girl on the cover? I can only think of one side-character that could possibly be and I barely remember anything about her. Definitely not prominent enough of a character to make the cover.*

Overall, I enjoyed The Insiders, but not as much as I was hoping to. The addictive writing couldn’t quite make up for the lack of plot for me. Still, I have no doubt Tijan fans will love it and I’ll look forward to the next book in the series.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: Where Secrets Lie by Eva V. Gibson

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Told in two interwoven timelines—the summer when everything changed, and the summer that changes everything—Where Secrets Lie is a seductive thriller as dark as it is enthralling.

Amy Larsen has spent every summer with her cousin Ben and their best friend Teddy in River Run, Kentucky, loving country life and welcoming the break from her intensive ambitions and overbearing mother—until the summer she and Teddy confront the changing feelings and simmering sexual tension growing between them, destroying the threesome’s friendship in a dramatic face-off.

One year later, Amy returns to River Run dreading what she might find. But when Teddy’s sister disappears, Amy, Ben and Teddy agree to put aside their differences to search for her. As they dig deeper into the dark history of their small town, all three friends must unearth the truths that tie their families to tragedy, cope with their own toxic upbringings and beliefs, and atone for the damage done to each other and themselves.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

Where Secrets Lie publishes April 20, 2021.

While I had some issues with it, I remember enjoying Eva V. Gibson’s angsty debut, Together we Caught Fire and I was really looking forward to her follow up. Unfortunately, this one did not work for me.

My biggest issue was that I was pretty incompatible with the writing style. I don’t like a lot of description or imagery and this book is over the top with the imagery and metaphors. It didn’t work for me at all and honestly just really annoyed me. I’m sure there will be readers that will love this aspect of the writing, but I have very little patience for it.

I thought all the relationships in this book were toxic. Amy and her whole extended family are obviously dysfunctional, but I thought the friendship between her, her cousin Ben, and her friend Teddy was pretty awful, as well. Honestly, I thought they were abusive towards each other and the way they kept coming back together over and over again was like a beaten spouse that can’t leave a marriage. Even if there were a couple of sweet or funny moments thrown in, I never stopped wanting these kids to get therapy and less-toxic friends.

The whole mystery aspect of the story didn’t really work for me, either. I felt like it made the story just drag on and on, as nothing they investigated brought about the resolution. Also, my very first suspect early on in the story ended up being the villain. There were a couple of other big “secrets” that I thought were super obvious long before they were revealed. I also thought that with the heavy and serious subject matter, throwing in pages upon pages of Amy being mad at Teddy for not returning her romantic feelings in the way she wanted him to was ridiculously petty and childish.

Overall, Where Secrets Lie was not for me. I didn’t connect with the writing style and could never really get on board with either the mystery or the romance. The one bright spot in the book was Ben, who I actually really disliked about half the time, but still found pretty compelling.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars

Review: Bookshop by the Sea by Denise Hunter

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Sophie Lawson should be enjoying her sister’s wedding day. But nothing could have prepared her to see the best man again.

After her mother became bedridden and her father bailed on the family, Sophie found herself serving as a second mother to her twin brother, Seth, and younger sister, Jenna. Sophie supported her siblings through their college years, putting aside her own dream of opening a bookshop in Piper’s Cove—the quaint North Carolina beach town they frequented as children.

Now it’s finally time for Sophie to follow her own pursuits. Seth has a new job, and Jenna is set to marry her college beau in Piper’s Cove. But the destination wedding reunites Sophie with best man Aiden Maddox, her high school sweetheart who left her without a backward glance.

When an advancing hurricane strands Aiden in Piper’s Cove after the wedding, he finds the hotels booked to capacity and has to ask Sophie to put him up until the storm passes. As the two ride out the weather, old feelings rise to the surface. The delay also leaves Sophie with mere days to get her bookshop up and running. Can she trust Aiden to stick around? And will he find the courage to risk his heart?

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review. 

Bookshop by the Sea publishes April 13, 2021

It’s been awhile since I’ve read a Denise Hunter book, but I thought Bookshop by the Sea looked pretty cute. Her books are often hit or miss for me, but this one ended up somewhere in the middle.

I really enjoyed the beginning as Sophie and Aiden found themselves stuck together after seven years apart. I liked seeing them start to communicate and forgive each other. Once they hit that point, though, I kind of started to lose interest. I felt like the pace dragged and there wasn’t really much plot. I also wasn’t completely sold on them rekindling their romance. For one thing, Aiden is dating someone else for the first half of the book. He goes to great pains to say they’re not exclusive, but it still made him come across a little skeevy.

There was some added drama with Sophie’s family being basically awful and selfish people and Aiden dealing with abandonment issues. While I think there were some good lessons learned, it was all crammed into the ending, where everything was resolved surprisingly easily.

Overall, Bookshop by the Sea was just ok for me. It had a promising start and while Hunter seemed to know where she wanted all the characters to end up, it felt like the middle was kind of phoned in. While this one wasn’t really for me, I’ll still be checking out more from this author in the future.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: The Songbook of Benny Lament by Amy Harmon

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

From the bestselling author of What the Wind Knows and From Sand and Ash comes a powerful love story about a musical duo who put everything on the line to be together.

New York, 1960: For Benny Lament, music is his entire life. With his father’s deep ties to the mob, the Bronx piano man has learned that love and family can get you in trouble. So he keeps to himself, writing songs for other musicians, avoiding the spotlight…until the night his father brings him to see Esther Mine sing.

Esther is a petite powerhouse with a gorgeous voice. And when Benny writes a hit song and performs it with her, their collaboration thrusts the duo onto the national stage…and stirs up old issues and new scrutiny that the mob—and Benny—would rather avoid.

It would be easier to walk away. But the music and the woman are too hard for the piano man to resist. Benny’s songs and Esther’s vocals are an explosive combination, a sound that fans can’t get enough of. But though America might love the music they make together, some people aren’t ready for Benny Lament and Esther Mine on—or off—the stage.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Songbook of Benny Lament publishes March 16, 2021. 

This book was excellent! Every time I read an Amy Harmon book I can’t believe that I somehow forgot what a beautiful writer she is. She continues to just blow me away every time.

The story is told through Benny Lament’s first person POV with excerpts from a radio interview several years later between each chapter. I loved the use of the radio excerpts to help tell the story and I adored Benny. I really felt like I got to know and understand him and I just wanted good things for him. I loved his relationship with Esther, as well. Right from the start, they had terrific give and take and there wasn’t really a scene between them that I didn’t like.

One big thing that the synopsis doesn’t mention is that it’s not just Esther and Benny performing. Esther is part of a band, Minefield, with her three brothers, Money, Alvin, and Lee Otis and they are all there for the adventure. I really liked all they brought to the story, especially Alvin.

There’s a lot more to this book than just music, though. It’s set in the 60s, with a backdrop of the mob, corrupt politics, and the civil rights movement. Though it all happened decades ago, it felt incredibly relevant to today. While the world has come a long way in some regards, it definitely still has a long way to go. I felt like Harmon had a lot of issues to juggle and threads to connect and she did a good job with it. If there is one complaint that I have about the book, it’s that there is a reveal to a mystery that felt a little anti-climactic compared to everything else going on.

Overall, The Songbook of Benny Lament is a beautiful book. I have read and loved many books by Amy Harmon and this is without a doubt one of her best yet. I’m sure this will show up on my Best of 2021 list. I definitely recommend this one!

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: To Sir, with Love by Lauren Layne

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Love Is Blind meets You’ve Got Mail in this laugh-out-loud romantic comedy following two thirty-somethings who meet on a blind dating app—only to realize that their online chemistry is nothing compared to their offline rivalry.

Perpetually cheerful and eager to please, Gracie Cooper strives to make the best out of every situation. So when her father dies just five months after a lung cancer diagnosis, she sets aside her dreams of pursuing her passion for art to take over his Midtown Manhattan champagne shop. She soon finds out that the store’s profit margins are being squeezed perilously tight, and complicating matters further, a giant corporation headed by the impossibly handsome, but irritatingly arrogant Sebastian Andrews is proposing a buyout to turn the store into a parking garage. But Gracie can’t bear the thought of throwing away her father’s dream like she did her own.

Overwhelmed and not wanting to admit to her friends or family that she’s having second thoughts about the shop, Gracie seeks advice and solace from someone she’s never met—the faceless “Sir”, with whom she connected on a blind dating app where matches get to know each other through messages and common interests before exchanging real names or photos.

But although Gracie finds herself slowly falling for Sir online, she has no idea she’s already met him in real life…and they can’t stand each other.

I received a copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley and Edelweiss.

To Sir, with Love publishes June 29, 2021

There is nothing like a Lauren Layne book to break you out of a book rut and uplift your mood. Her books are often among my most anticipated of the year and To Sir, with Love did not disappoint. I really loved it!

The premise of the story is a familiar one. Two people who meet and start off on the wrong foot with each other don’t realize that they’ve just met the person they’ve been anonymously corresponding with.  In this case, they’ve been messaging as “Sir” and “Lady” on a photo free dating app when Sebastian comes into Gracie’s fledgling champagne shop offering to buy out the remainder of the lease. An offer she resents, letting that resentment transfer over to Sebastian. 

Sebastian begins to win her over, though, and I loved watching it unfold. Their animosity towards each other pops up occasionally, but didn’t overshadow all the cute moments going on. I was definitely shipping Sebastian and Gracie and was anxiously waiting for them to figure things out. Speaking of which, I really enjoyed the chat excerpts between them that were interspersed throughout the story. There was some good banter that I always enjoy. I do have to say, though, that since it’s obvious to the reader that Sebastian and Sir are the same person, I got a little annoyed at Gracie for taking so long to figure it out. All of the times she’s debating about her feelings between Sir and Sebastian seemed a little fruitless to me. However, it eventually all comes to light in a very sweet scene, so it still worked for me.

Another thing I really liked about this story is that the romance falls more on the sweet side. Those that are familiar with Layne’s other books know that she often includes a couple of explicit love scenes, but there aren’t any here and it made me like the book even more. 

In addition to to the romance, I loved the friendships and family dynamics. Gracie’s friend and neighbor, Keva, was funny and I wouldn’t mind seeing a book about her in the future. I also enjoyed Gracie’s siblings, Caleb and Lily, and I loved Lily’s husband, Alec. They were so supportive of Gracie and I liked seeing them grow closer. 

If there is one thing that I didn’t really care for, though, it’s the title of the book. It’s also the title of a movie. At first I thought this was supposed to be based on the movie, but it isn’t at all. I understand how the title works for the book, but I maybe would have changed a word so there would be no confusion in trying to compare it to the movie. 

Overall, I really loved To Sir, with Love. It was such a sweet story and I enjoyed every minute I was reading it. The characters were likable and the romance was shippable. I was feeling like I was in a book slump when I started this book and it pulled me out of it. Rom-Com fans will definitely want to add this to their TBR list for this summer!

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: The Minders by John Marrs

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

“The new high concept thriller from the author of The Passengers and the word-of-mouth sensation The One, soon to be a Netflix original series. In the 21st century, information is king. But computers can be hacked and files can be broken into – so a unique government initiative has been born. Five ordinary people have been selected to become “minders” – the latest weapon in thwarting cyberterrorism. Transformed by a revolutionary medical procedure, the country’s most classified information has been taken offline and turned into genetic code implanted inside their heads. Together, the five know every secret – the truth behind every government lie, conspiracy theory and cover up. In return, they’re given the chance to leave their problems behind and a blank slate to start their lives anew. But not everyone should be trusted, especially when they each have secrets of their own they’ll do anything to protect…”

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Minders publishes February 16, 2021. 

This is why I can’t have nice things. I’ve heard so many great things about The Minders and I was excited to finally read it, my first John Marrs novel. Unfortunately, I did not find it to live up to any of the hype for me.

Let’s start with what I enjoyed. Going into the book, I was a little wary of the sci-fi elements and expected that to bring the story down for me, but it was actually my favorite part. Everything felt futuristic, but not that futuristic that it seemed unbelievable. A lot of it seemed like things that could still happen in my lifetime and that was kind of cool – and a little scary.

I thought the concept of the story was interesting and unique, but I ended up feeling really bored for most of it. The story is incredibly slow paced until the final third or so. It’s heavily character-driven, but I felt pretty ambivalent about all of them, which made it feel like a chore to get through. None of the characters were likeable and where there were a few sympathetic elements to all of them, I just never felt a connection to them. I almost DNF-ed the book several times, but the promises of crazy twists and suspense I kept reading in other reviews kept me going.

Sadly, I felt left down by the twists, as well. There were a few surprises that I didn’t guess beforehand, but most of the larger plot twists I predicted far in advance. I thought there were enough clues that anyone paying attention would guess them. Or even if you just read a lot of thrillers, you will probably be able figure it out. While the sci-fi backdrop felt unique, the actual execution of the plot seemed redundant.

Overall, The Minders was not for me. I liked the concept and the action did pick up in the last third or so of the book, but everything leading up to it was really boring to me. I didn’t care for the characters and I guessed a couple of the major plot twists long before there were revealed. While I didn’t really enjoy the story, I am obviously in the minority opinion, so it still may be worth checking it out.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars

Review: The Love Proof by Madeleine Henry

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

“Henry has done a masterful job…This book is academic and heartfelt and tender and loving. It is worth every minute spent reading it.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

A brilliant physicist studying the nature of time embarks on a journey to prove that those we love are always connected to us, leading to surprising revelations in this fresh and unique love story.

Sophie Jones is a physics prodigy on track to unlock the secrets of the universe. But when she meets Jake Kristopher during their first week at Yale they instantly feel a deep connection, as if they’ve known each other before. Quickly, they become a couple. Slowly, their love lures Sophie away from school.

When a shocking development forces Sophie into a new reality, she returns to physics to make sense of her world. She grapples with life’s big questions, including how to cope with unexpected change and loss. Inspired by her connection with Jake, Sophie throws herself into her studies, determined to prove that true loves belong together in all realities.

Spanning decades, The Love Proof is an unusual love story about lasting connection, time, and intuition. It explores the course that perfect love can take between imperfect people, and urges us to listen to our hearts rather than our heads.

I received a copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Love Proof publishes February 9, 2021. 

To be perfectly honest, I expected that I would end up DNF-ing The Love Proof. Books that are heavily influenced by science usually don’t work for me and it’s the reason I put off reading this one. However, not only did I end up finishing the book, I finished it in one day.

Despite the heavy science-y influence, the story is much more character driven. I thought the author did a great job of developing the characters and making me care about them. I was very invested in Sophie and Jake’s relationship and how everything would turn out. It feels too spoiler-y to go into any details, but they put me through an emotional wringer and even though I got pretty frustrated at times, I enjoyed the journey.

While the book surprised me in many ways, I was right in predicting the science-y bits wouldn’t work for me. While it did feel like Henry gives us a more “Physics for Dummies” explanations on things, a lot of it still went over my head. I also thought the central theme of how only someone who has fallen in love is able to see time was kind of corny.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Love Proof. I found it compulsively readable and could not put it down. If you are someone like me who might be scared off by the inclusion of science and academia, I really encourage you to give it a try. I think you’ll end up pleasantly surprised.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Public radio co-hosts navigate mixed signals in Rachel Lynn Solomon’s sparkling romantic comedy debut.

Shay Goldstein has been a producer at her Seattle public radio station for nearly a decade, and she can’t imagine working anywhere else. But lately it’s been a constant clash between her and her newest colleague, Dominic Yun, who’s fresh off a journalism master’s program and convinced he knows everything about public radio.

When the struggling station needs a new concept, Shay proposes a show that her boss green-lights with excitement. On The Ex Talk, two exes will deliver relationship advice live, on air. Their boss decides Shay and Dominic are the perfect co-hosts, given how much they already despise each other. Neither loves the idea of lying to listeners, but it’s this or unemployment. Their audience gets invested fast, and it’s not long before The Ex Talk becomes a must-listen in Seattle and climbs podcast charts.

As the show gets bigger, so does their deception, especially when Shay and Dominic start to fall for each other. In an industry that values truth, getting caught could mean the end of more than just their careers.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review. 

The Ex Talk publishes January 26, 2021. 

I really liked the premise of The Ex Talk. Fake Relationship is my favorite romance trope and I liked the twist to make it into a Fake Ex-Relationship. Add in my love of any book that includes journalists or writers and this book seemed like it was made for me. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite live up to my expectations, but it still did have several enjoyable moments.

I liked Shay and Dominic together. There was some terrific banter between them that put a big smile on my face while I was reading. I really liked seeing them become friends and then become more. I thought they complemented each other well and I enjoyed every scene where they were cute together.

While Shay had likable moments, I found her frustrating most of the time. She was the definition of someone who keeps getting in her own way. She was very self involved and spent a lot of time blaming other people for her problems or her feelings. I especially didn’t like how she handled the big dramatic moment with Dominic.

While normally I love stories about journalists, it was just ok for me here. The book starts with Shay extolling the virtues of public radio and it kind of rubbed me the wrong way. She came off as so superior and condescending. And then her great big idea to revolutionize public radio is a dating show? Really? There was a lot of the characters having these ideas that they thought were so terrific that seemed kind of lame to me.

Overall, The Ex Talk ended up being just ok for me. While I really enjoyed Shay and Dominic’s banter and their growing relationship, the rest of the story was kind of hard to make myself get through. Shay’s total self-involvement, the too frequent sex scenes, and the overall superior attitude of the characters really brought the story down for me.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars