Review: The Mistletoe Trap (Heart in the Game #2) by Cindi Madsen

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

From the moment Julie sees her best friend, Gavin, in the airport, it’s like no time at all has gone by instead of months and months. No matter how long they’ve been apart, their relationship has always been steady, comfortable, and decidedly just friends. Even though their meddling parents have hung what seems like unlimited amounts of mistletoe everywhere she goes this holiday season, Julie knows some things will never change.

Gavin is well-aware his family’s wanted him and Julie to get together since forever, even though he’s been friend-zoned since they could talk—and he’s been happy to play that role. After all, as the new starting quarterback for the San Antonio Mustangs, he’s got enough on his plate without adding romance to the mix.

But between playing elves in the holiday bazaar to nights spent one-on-one watching rom-coms or soaking in their town’s hot springs, suddenly the “reverse parent trap” they’ve fallen into is actually starting to work. But this could be one scheme where letting themselves get trapped might be way too dangerous.

Each book in the Heart in the Game series is STANDALONE:
* The Wedding Deal
* The Mistletoe Trap

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

What I Liked:

*I love a good Friends to More Romance and Madsen does them well. I really enjoyed Julie and Gavin’s friendship and shipped them to get together.

*Though I thought their parents bordered on rude and over the top sometimes when it came to wanting Julie and Gavin to be together, I did really like how close their families were. It’s nice to see happy marriages and even nicer to see big, happy families. It made me wish my family was as close to another as Julie and Gavin’s are.

*I liked the small town and all the cute holiday traditions.

*While I had some problems with the evolution of their relationship (I’ll get to that), I liked the big, cheesy, romantic gesture at the end. It was cute and made me smile.

What Didn’t Work for Me:

*I’m not a fan of the whole “looking for a casual fling” thing. After Julie breaks up with her boyfriend and he calls her boring, she decides she needs a fling to prove she’s not boring and also improve her bedroom skills. This is kind of a common Romance plotline and I never appreciate it. It made me like Julie a little less.

*I also am not a fan of the Friends-with-Benefits plotline. Though we know that the couple are obviously in love with each other, I didn’t like that they – especially Gavin – chalked it up to just being a new physical attraction and wanted to work it out of their systems and then move on with their friendship. I also didn’t like how either one of them handled the fall out when they realized it wasn’t that simple.

*I thought the book was a little longer than it needed to be. For how little actually happens in the book, it could have been about half the length.

Overall

Overall, I did enjoy The Mistletoe Trap. Though it’s definitely not my favorite Madsen book, it had it’s cute moments and helped put me in the holiday mood. If you’re looking for a Christmas Romance, you should give this one a try.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: Love Your Life by Sophie Kinsella

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of I Owe You One, an utterly delightful novel about a woman who ditches her dating app for a writer’s retreat in Italy–only to find that real love comes with its own filters

“As close to perfect as romantic comedies get.”–Jenny Colgan, New York Times bestselling author of The Bookshop on the Corner

Call Ava romantic, but she thinks love should be found in the real world, not on apps that filter men by height, job, or astrological sign. She believes in feelings, not algorithms. So after a recent breakup and dating app debacle, she decides to put love on hold and escapes to a remote writers’ retreat in coastal Italy. She’s determined to finish writing the novel she’s been fantasizing about, even though it means leaving her close-knit group of friends and her precious dog, Harold, behind.

At the retreat, she’s not allowed to use her real name or reveal any personal information. When the neighboring martial arts retreat is canceled and a few of its attendees join their small writing community, Ava, now going by “Aria,” meets “Dutch,” a man who seems too good to be true. The two embark on a baggage-free, whirlwind love affair, cliff-jumping into gem-colored Mediterranean waters and exploring the splendor of the Italian coast. Things seem to be perfect for Aria and Dutch.

But then their real identities–Ava and Matt–must return to London. As their fantasy starts to fade, they discover just how different their personal worlds are. From food choices to annoying habits to sauna etiquette . . . are they compatible in anything? And then there’s the prickly situation with Matt’s ex-girlfriend, who isn’t too eager to let him go. As one mishap follows another, it seems while they love each other, they just can’t love each other’s lives. Can they reconcile their differences to find one life together?

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

Love Your Life publishes on October 27, 2020. 

Love Your Life was pretty classic Kinsella. The story was cute with charming, if sometimes very frustrating, characters.

There was a lot that I enjoyed about this book. The cast of characters and quirky situations they found themselves in made me laugh out loud often. While they all were a little unbelievable, Ava and Matt’s group of friends were definitely my favorite part of the book. I loved the scenes when they were all together and the banter was great. I even though Matt’s awful parents provided opportunity for a lot of humor.

While the friendships were great, the romantic relationship is what I struggled with. Ava and Matt have a whirlwind romance during a one week writing retreat where they’re not allowed to use their real names or talk about their personal lives. They both form a picture of who the other person really is and declare their love by the end of the retreat. They’re thrilled to find out they both live in the same city, but they quickly find out that their real life selves are not anything like what they expected. They forge ahead into a relationship anyways, even though it’s obvious from the start that they are totally incompatible. What really drove me crazy, though, was how Ava tried to pretend like everything was fine.

Have you ever noticed that the people who yell about tolerance the loudest are often the most intolerant people? That was Ava. She came off like she was free spirited and accepting of everything and everyone, but in reality she was very judgmental about anything that differed from what she thought. She also blamed all of the relationship problems on Matt instead of admitting anything wrong on her part. Matt also didn’t help things by refusing to communicate most of the time. I honestly thought this story would end up with them not being together. I even found myself rooting for Ava to wind up with one of Matt’s roommates. However, as this is a Romance, the moral of the story is obviously going to be more about how love can help people change for the better instead of how it sometimes doesn’t work out.

Overall, I had a pretty good time reading Love Your Life, but my frustration with Ava kept me from enjoying the story as much as I wanted to. I loved the group of friends and could have gone on reading much more about them. While the romance did work out for me in the end, the journey there left me more annoyed than anything else. This wasn’t my favorite Kinsella book, but I’ll definitely still be reading more from her in the future.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

In a Holidaze, the quintessential holiday romantic novel by the New York Times bestselling author of The Unhoneymooners, asks what happens when wishes come true…

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…but not for Maelyn Jones. She’s living with her parents, hates her going-nowhere job, and has just made a romantic error of epic proportions.

But perhaps worst of all, this is the last Christmas Mae will be at her favorite place in the world—the snowy Utah cabin where she and her family have spent every holiday since she was born, along with two other beloved families. Mentally melting down as she drives away from the cabin for the final time, Mae throws out what she thinks is a simple plea to the universe: Please. Show me what will make me happy.

The next thing she knows, tires screech and metal collides, everything goes black. But when Mae gasps awake…she’s on an airplane bound for Utah, where she begins the same holiday all over again. With one hilarious disaster after another sending her back to the plane, Mae must figure out how to break free of the strange time loop—and finally get her true love under the mistletoe.

Jam-packed with yuletide cheer, an unforgettable cast of characters, and Christina Lauren’s trademark “downright hilarious” (Helen Hoang, author of The Bride Test) hijinks, this swoon-worthy romantic read will make you believe in the power of wishes and the magic of the holidays.

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

In a Holidaze publishes October 6, 2020. 

Whenever I am in a book slump, I can always count on Christina Lauren to pull me out. Before I picked this up, I hadn’t been having great luck with the books I was reading, but In a Holidaze definitely broke me out of my rut.

The story ended up being a little different than I thought it would be, though. The synopsis mentions “hilarious disasters” send Mae back to start the day over and over again and I guess I expected a little more hijinks. What sends her back are life-threatening accidents – and not funny ones. And she didn’t “reboot” as often as I expected, either. I thought there would be several reimaginings of the same scene, but this was limited to only one or two specific scenes before that part of the plot was basically left behind and Mae goes on to live several days in a row that we hadn’t seen before. This isn’t really a bad thing as I like how the story unfolded, I just wish the authors would have committed a little more to the hook of the plot.

That said, I enjoyed watching Mae’s week of Christmas vacation unfold. Every year, her family joins a few other families at a cabin to spend the holiday together. They’ve been doing it since before Mae was even born and the week is steeped in tradition. I loved the cast of characters. They were such a fun, close group of people and I would love to have a group like them in my life. Included in that group is Andrew, who Mae has had a crush on for half her life. He’s always thought she had a thing for his younger brother, so he’s always treated her like more of a little sister than potential love interest. When Mae decides the universe is telling her to go for it with Andrew, she lets him know how she feels and a bit of a slow burn romance begins.

I really enjoyed the romantic development between Mae and Andrew. He was just so sweet. It seemed almost impossible that he could be so perfect and I kept waiting for him to do something awful. Thankfully, he is just a really great guy. There was a bit of time where I got annoyed with him for how he reacted to something, but overall I thought he was a great romantic lead and I definitely shipped him with Mae.

Overall, I really enjoyed In a Holidaze. While I wish it had committed to the whole “groundhog day” gimmick a little more, I liked the romance and the family atmosphere of the cabin. While I did like Mae’s journey to becoming a more confident person, I thought the “big lesson” was a little underwhelming and could have done without a passage regarding religion that I found a little offensive. However, Christina Lauren’s addictive writing and the cute romance definitely broke me out of the reading slump I was in and this book is one I would recommend to Romance fans.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Head Over Heels by Hannah Orenstein

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

The past seven years have been hard on Avery Abrams: After training her entire life to make the Olympic gymnastics team, a disastrous performance ended her athletic career for good. Her best friend and teammate, Jasmine, went on to become an Olympic champion, then committed the ultimate betrayal by marrying their emotionally abusive coach, Dimitri.

Now, reeling from a breakup with her football star boyfriend, Avery returns to her Massachusetts hometown, where new coach Ryan asks her to help him train a promising young gymnast with Olympic aspirations. Despite her misgivings and worries about the memories it will evoke, Avery agrees. Back in the gym, she’s surprised to find sparks flying with Ryan. But when a shocking scandal in the gymnastics world breaks, it has shattering effects not only for the sport but also for Avery and her old friend Jasmine.

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

Head Over Heels publishes June 23, 2020. 

I always enjoy watching the Olympics and was pretty disappointed to hear that they are going to be postponed until next year. Head Over Heels looked like a good way to get a small Olympics fix in the mean time. However, it wasn’t really much more than that.

I was pretty bored throughout most of this book. I did enjoy the gymnastics included and reading about Hallie’s training routine as she prepared for the Olympic trials. I just wish there was a little more of an inside look. I feel like everything shared are things you can pick up by watching any of the countless features that play during the Olympics every year. There’s a lot more said about how hard gymnasts work than actually showing them working that hard.

I also never really cared about the romance. Avery and Ryan had crushes on each other as kids and their crushes have bled over into adulthood and they get together fairly quickly. I didn’t feel invested in their relationship at all, so when things went poorly and then got better, I just didn’t care. They could have ended the books as just friends and I wouldn’t have minded.

I expected a lot more to be said about the sexual abuse scandal, as well. It follows a lot of what happened in real life, just with fictional names. The doctor that is accused is one that made Hallie feel uncomfortable once, but thankfully nothing more than that happened with her. There’s a lot of talk about backlash online and a hearing scheduled for the doctor, but no type of resolution. I felt like from the synopsis this would be a major part of the plot, but it mostly stayed in the background. Avery and her old training partner come together to create a foundation to help the mental and emotional health of gymnasts and even that is barely addressed.

Overall, Head over Heels was not really for me. I would have liked for things to be more developed. It felt like just the bare minimum was done in terms of character development, relationship development, gymnastic research, and #MeToo details. What should have been interesting and emotional came off as boring and superficial. This is the second book I’ve tried by this author and I think it will probably be my last.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2 Stars

Release Day Review: Cheesy on the Eyes (Slice #5) by Teagan Hunter

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Dating is hard. Dating in a small town? Impossible.

Leave it to my little brother to come back home announcing he knocked up his fiancée and the wedding has been moved…to next month.

When he tries to set me up with one of his football buddies, I tell him I’ll be bringing my own plus-one.

Only problem? I’m hopelessly single.

Enter Sullivan Scott, AKA my hero.

We strike a deal: he’ll pretend to be my boyfriend, and I’ll use my mechanic skills to help him fix his boat. That’s it. No funny business, and definitely no feelings involved.

Sully’s quiet and reserved, and I’ve been told I’m too much to handle on a good day. We’re opposites, and neither of us is looking for anything serious.

I’m certain we can keep this strictly platonic…

I received an advanced copy of this title. It does not impact my review.

This book was so fun! Teagan Hunter excels at laugh-out-loud banter and cute romance and Cheesy on the Eyes was no exception.

Current fans of the Slice series will be happy to see Sully finally get a chance to be leading man. He’s always been a likable character in the series and I really enjoyed getting his POV. Thea is a relatively new character to the series and I mostly enjoyed her, as well. She is a bit of a quirky character, so she had to grow on me, but I ultimately ended up liking her and appreciated her growth.

The banter in this book was so much fun. Hunter always manages to make me laugh out loud when I’m reading her books. It occasionally got a little more crude than I like, but that didn’t really hinder my enjoyment. I absolutely loved the scenes that brought the characters from all the previous books together. It was non-stop banter and I just had a big smile on my face while reading it. I would love to be a part of their group.

Sully and Thea start off as a fake relationship, which is my favorite romantic trope. There were some funny and slightly uncomfortable scenes that I always looks for, but for the most part, they didn’t spend too much time trying to fool other people. Their friendship begins very quickly and real feelings soon follow. There’s still a little angst and a big cheesy romantic gesture at the end, though. I definitely shipped them.

Overall, Cheesy on the Eyes was a quick, fun read that I enjoyed. The banter was great and the romance was cute. I definitely recommend this one to Romance fans.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Meet Teagan Hunter

I’m a Missouri-raised gal, but currently live in North Carolina with my US Marine husband and 9-year-old dog. I spend my days begging him for a cat, and I survive off coffee, pizza, and sarcasm. When I’m not writing, you can find me binge-watching various TV shows, especially Supernatural and One Tree Hill. I like cold weather, buy more paperbacks than I’ll ever read, and I never say no to brownies.

 

Writing is my passion, and this is just the beginning of my journey.

 

Connect with Teagan Hunter
➜ Website: www.teaganhunterwrites.com 
➜ Facebook: www.facebook.com/teaganhunterwrites 
➜ Instagram: www.instagram.com/teaganhunterwrites 
➜ Newsletter: www.teaganhunterwrites.com/newsletter
➜ Reader Group: http://bit.ly/TeagansTidbits

Grab Your Copy Here:

Amazon US | Amazon CA | Amazon AUAmazon UK

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Review: The Heir Affair (Royal We #2) by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Making it up the aisle was the easy part: After marrying the heir to the throne, Rebecca “Bex” Porter must survive her own scandals as she adjusts to life in the glamorous British royal family, in this “highly anticipated” follow-up to The Royal We, the “fun and dishy” bestseller and NYT Summer Reading List pick inspired by Will and Kate’s romance (People).

After a scandalous secret turns their fairy-tale wedding into a nightmare, Rebecca “Bex” Porter and her husband Prince Nicholas are in self-imposed exile. The public is angry. The Queen is even angrier. And the press is salivating. Cutting themselves off from friends and family, and escaping the world’s judgmental eyes, feels like the best way to protect their fragile, all-consuming romance.

But when a crisis forces the new Duke and Duchess back to London, the Band-Aid they’d placed over their problems starts to peel at the edges. Now, as old family secrets and new ones threaten to derail her new royal life, Bex has to face the emotional wreckage she and Nick left behind: with the Queen, with the world, and with Nick’s brother Freddie, whose sins may not be so easily forgotten — nor forgiven.

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

The Heir Affair publishes June 16, 2020. 

I remember being very pleasantly surprised by how much I loved The Royal We and I was so excited to see it was finally getting a sequel. Much like the first book, it wasn’t really what I was expecting it to be, but it was everything. This is easily my favorite book of the year so far.

I decided to re-read the first book before jumping into The Heir Affair and I’m glad I did. I loved it just as much the second time around, maybe even more. I found myself still getting very anxious or sad at parts, even though I knew how everything turned out, which I think is a real testament to the writing. I am so invested in these characters and I already miss them.

The Heir Affair picks up soon after The Royal We ended. The first book was written to be a standalone and it ended on a very positive note of implied Happily Ever After. However, that’s not quite how things turned out. And really, can we expect anything to be that easy for Bex and Nick? Right as the royal wedding was ending, Clive published his story about Bex and Freddie and the public immediately turned on them. Bex and Nick end up running away from their problems for awhile and get to start married life in their own private bubble, which they’ve always thrived in. Once they have to return to reality, though, they have to face everything they’ve ignored – especially the Freddie of it all.

I would love to tell you that things were easily worked out and it was all cute and funny and happily ever after. And while there was definitely a lot of cute and funny, there is so much more substance to it than that. That means that along with the fun banter and the highs, there were also some real lows. It gave my cold, black heart some FEELINGS and I loved every minute of it, even when I kind of hated what was happening sometimes. There are a lot of layers to this story, but at the forefront are the big three relationships: Bex and Nick, Nick and Freddie, and Bex and Freddie. There is just so much emotion there to unpack and I felt all of it. They each had to work at mending their relationships and coming to terms with their feelings and I think it wrapped up in realistic and satisfying ways, if not quite the neat little bow I like things tied up in.

As I mentioned previously, I absolutely love the characters in this series. I loved seeing Bex’s friends, Cilla, Gaz, and Bea again. We didn’t see quite as much as Cilla as we did in the first book, but both Gaz and Bea had some good subplots. I had absolutely hated Bex’s twin sister, Lacey, in the first book and was kind of hoping she’d be killed off or something here, but she was actually quite palatable in this one. She was the character I wished she was in the first book. I loved watching Bex begin an actual relationship with members of Nick’s family, especially the queen. And of course, my dear Freddie. He grew up so much in this book and while my heart broke for him time and time again, I like to think that he’s found his own happily ever after. I still wouldn’t mind a Freddie spin-off, though. And can I just say that one of my favorite things about this series is that Freddie’s nickname for Nick is Knickers. I love the relationship between these brothers and they really put me through the wringer in this one.

Overall, I absolutely loved The Heir Affair. This review does not even come close to expressing how much. The cute cover and overall storyline may fool you into thinking this is just a light and easy Romance, but it is emotional and intense – in the very best of ways. It’s very character driven and has many threads to connect, but I think the authors did a great job of tying everything together. There were a couple things left a little more open than I like, though, which I have my fingers crossed means that another book will be coming in the future. This is a must read for anyone who’s read The Royal We and if you haven’t started this series yet, you really should.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Always a Bridesmaid (Getting Hitched in Dixie #2) by Cindi Madsen

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Violet Abrams has always been in love with everything love and weddings. Good thing, too, since she’s been a bridesmaid no less than seven times. Sure her turn was next, she’d been planning her own nuptials meticulously in a treasured three-ring binder…until her longtime boyfriend left her for someone else.

Fast-forward to the day of his wedding, an ill-advised match being lit to said binder, and the fire department getting called to her sister’s bakery. Violet’s always been a little impulsive and a lot awkward, but having to explain to the super-cute firefighter, Ford Maguire, why she was setting fire to a bunch of wedding dress photos? Worst day ever.

Except now her bridesmaid expertise has her helping Ford cover his “man of honor” duties in his best friend’s upcoming wedding. Ford may be a “bridesdude,” but forever is the last thing on his mind. And if there’s one thing a perpetual bridesmaid knows, it’s the importance of a happily ever after.

Each book in the Getting Hitched in Dixie series is STANDALONE:
* Just One of the Groomsmen
* Always a Bridesmaid

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

Always a Bridesmaid publishes May 26, 2020. 

I really loved Just One of the Groomsmen and have been eagerly awaiting another book in the series. I am happy to report that I enjoyed Always a Bridesmaid just as much as Just One of the Groomsmen – maybe even more.

One of the things I loved about the first book so much was the group of friends. I loved being able to revisit them and enjoyed their always fun banter. I also liked how they always look out for each other. I’m glad that we got to see Addie work on planning her wedding to Tucker. I really enjoyed getting to know Ford better this time around. He was a great leading man and I definitely shipped him with Violet. I thought their romance was so cute and I really enjoyed watching it unfold.

I thought Violet was a likable main character, as well. She had a lot of baggage in the form of a cheating ex and tenuous relationship with her father and step-mother, but I liked how she was determined to move forward. She also has pretty severe ADHD and I thought that was interesting to read about. I did think she maybe acted a little more bi-polar sometimes than someone with just ADHD, but it did make me look at ADHD in a new light and have more understanding for people who live with that.

Overall, I really loved Always a Bridesmaid. I loved Ford and Violet together and really shipped their romance. I also loved seeing Ford’s group of friends again and all of his adorable dogs. I definitely recommend this series to Romance fans and can’t wait for Easton’s book next!

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Beach Read by Emily Henry

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

A romance writer who no longer believes in love and a literary writer stuck in a rut engage in a summer-long challenge that may just upend everything they believe about happily ever afters.

Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast.

They’re polar opposites.

In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they’re living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer’s block.

Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She’ll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he’ll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really.

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

Beach Read publishes May 19, 2020. 

It’s pretty rare that I say this about a popular book, but Beach Read totally deserves all the hype it’s been getting. I loved it!

I did find that I had to adjust my expectations when I started the book. I expected a tropical location and nothing but cuteness. However, the beach being referenced in the title is on Lake Michigan and there was a whole lot of seriousness and emotional punches mixed in with the cuteness. That ended up working for me, though. I really loved both January and Gus and thought they were relatable and likable characters. I thought they brought out the best in each other and were a great example of how a couple should grow together in a relationship and not just be “fixed” by love.

I loved January and Gus’ banter. They made me smile throughout so much of this book and there were so many cute and romantic moments between them. They also managed to make me emotional, as well. I thought Gus’ general pessimism was relatable, while also wanting to see him find happiness and heal from his awful childhood. January is not only dealing with the grief of her father’s passing, but she has also found out that he had cheated on her mother and is left wondering how much of her childhood was a lie because of it. I, personally, also found this very relatable. There were several things she tried to work through which I found pretty cathartic and I liked that while she came to terms with things, she didn’t necessarily get the closure she wanted on it, either. It felt real.

I also loved that both main characters are authors. Books about authors or journalists are my weakness. I liked reading about what they thought about different genres and their daily writing routines and dealing with writer’s block. I also wanted to read the books they were writing, especially Gus’ cult book.

Overall, I really loved Beach Read and this little review probably doesn’t do justice to how much. I loved the characters and the town (once I got over it not being a tropical beach location, I found the small town charming, even if it is in Michigan (I’m a Buckeye)) and the emotions and the romance. It was a perfect blend of serious and cute and I couldn’t get enough of it. I definitely recommend this one!

Overall Review (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: The F List by Alessandra Torre

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

There was a lot I did to get to this point, to get 42 million followers. Some of it I was proud of, most of it I wasn’t.

There was a group of us, all internet celebrities, and everyone wanted in, which is how six of us ended up living in this mansion, a camera always on, the public always watching. Two months and nine carefully scripted TV episodes that would get us more of the three F’s we were desperately chasing.

Fame. Fortune. Followers.

I knew my role. I was Emma, the unlikeable one. The dark villain with the devious smile. The package of dynamite that would blow up any chance of peaceful living and harmony.

Cash knew his role. He was the good guy. The lovable one. The one that everyone, even the darkest cast member of them all, would fall in love with.

They were supposed to just be roles.
None of it was supposed to be real.

My heart didn’t get that memo.

I loved this! I started reading it on a day that I had already picked up and put down three different books and nothing was keeping my attention. But, as soon as I started The F List, I was hooked.

I thought the story would start with the reality show, but we get to watch Emma’s journey to becoming internet famous before we get there. While I find myself generally not caring about celebrities these days, I find the behind the scenes work really fascinating. It’s crazy how many people are behind a simple social media post and how publicity is manufactured. Reading about Emma’s rise in followers was kind of akin to watching a reality you don’t know why you’re watching, but can’t look away from.

Interspersed with chapters from Emma’s POV are various quotes from interviews and chapters from Cash’s POV. I thought Torre did a great job of making Emma and Cash’s voice distinguishable. I also loved the interview quotes. I thought they were used really effectively and added a lot to the story. I also liked the growth we see in both Emma and Cash. Neither were very likable in the beginning, but I loved both of them by the end of the story. And I was definitely rooting for them to be together.

Speaking of the romance, that’s one of the only pieces I have a little bit of a problem with. It was a little too insta-lovey for me. They meet briefly at a party several years previously where Cash defended Emma when someone was making fun of her, then all these years later she’s still someone he thinks about. I understand Emma’s crush since he “rescued” her and she already had a crush on him before that because he was already a little famous, but I found it a little unbelievable that Cash would still hold a torch for her based on their very brief interaction. That didn’t ruin the love story for me, though. Their next encounter shifts them into an enemies-to-lovers scenario and I enjoyed it. I did really ship them and there were several sweet moments. I also want to mention that while Torre is known for books with more of an erotic edge to them, there are no sex scenes in this book. It made me enjoy it even that much more, to be honest. The only other thing that I didn’t entirely love about the book is that I found the end just a little over the top. I still liked it, though.

Overall, I loved The F List. It was super addicting and I never wanted to put it down. I liked the character’s growth, shipped the romance, and found the whole internet famous plotline fascinating. I loved Torre’s writing style with the use of multiple POVs and quote excerpts, as well. I definitely recommend this one!

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Real Men Knit by Kwana Jackson

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

When their foster-turned-adoptive mother suddenly dies, four brothers struggle to keep open the doors of her beloved Harlem knitting shop, while dealing with life and love in Harlem.

Jesse Strong is known for two things: his devotion to his adoptive mom, Mama Joy, and his reputation for breaking hearts in Harlem. When Mama Joy unexpectedly passes away, he and his brothers have different plans on what to do with Strong Knits, their neighborhood knitting store: Jesse wants to keep the store open; his brothers want to shut it down.

Jesse makes an impassioned plea to Kerry Fuller, his childhood friend who has had a crush on him her entire life, to help him figure out how to run the business. Kerry agrees to help him reinvent the store and show him the knitty-gritty of the business, but the more time they spend together, the more the chemistry builds. Kerry, knowing Jesse’s history, doesn’t believe this relationship will exist longer than one can knit one, purl one. But Jesse is determined to prove to her that he can be the man for her—after all, real men knit.

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

Real Men Knit publishes May 19, 2020. 

I have to admit that I wanted to like this book much more than I actually liked it. The synopsis sounded cute and I liked that there was a diverse cast. I was looking forward to some fun family dynamics between the brothers, too. Unfortunately, I found everything that happened really lackluster.

I wasn’t very impressed with the writing, though it did get better as it went on. The first couple chapters were extremely heavy on the internal monologues that set up the story was a massive info dump of characters and circumstances. I would have liked to have seen things start out a little more naturally and get to know the characters in a more authentic way. After two chapters I almost decided to DNF it since I knew I couldn’t take a whole book written in this way. However, I kept reading and it got a little better. There were still some parts where I skimmed when things got a little dense, but it became much easier to read.

While I liked Jesse and Kelly well enough, all the other characters were pretty one-dimensional. I was really looking forward to seeing the relationship between the brothers, but it was pretty underwhelming. I had a hard time even telling some of them apart. I expected to see them bond and come together as they grieved the passing of their mother, but that didn’t really happen. I felt like there was so much potential there and it just didn’t live up to it.

Overall, Real Men Knit left me underwhelmed. I really wanted to like it, but poor character development and a writing style I didn’t connect with kept me from really enjoying it. There were a few funny or cute moments, but they were too few and far between to make up for the rest of the story. While the book wasn’t for me, I’m sure there will be some others than can overlook the issues I had with it and enjoy the romance.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2.5 Stars