Divine Rivals by. Rebecca Ross | ARC Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Divine Rivals (#1)

Author: Rebecca Ross

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 368

Publication Date: 4/4/23

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Categories: Historical Fantasy, War, Gods, Romance, Young Adult, Grief

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

Thank you to Wednesday Books for giving me a chance to read this eARC in exchange for an honest review!

After centuries of sleep, the gods are warring again. But eighteen-year-old Iris Winnow just wants to hold her family together. Her mother is suffering from addiction and her brother is missing from the front lines. Her best bet is to win the columnist promotion at the Oath Gazette.

To combat her worries, Iris writes letters to her brother and slips them beneath her wardrobe door, where they vanish―into the hands of Roman Kitt, her cold and handsome rival at the paper. When he anonymously writes Iris back, the two of them forge a connection that will follow Iris all the way to the front lines of battle: for her brother, the fate of mankind, and love.

When two young rival journalists find love through a magical connection, they must face the depths of hell, in a war among gods, to seal their fate forever. Shadow and Bone meets Lore in this epic enemies-to-lovers fantasy novel filled with hope and heartbreak, and the unparalleled power of love.

Content Warning: violence, death, alcoholism, war, wounds, grief

I requested this book because it said Rebecca Ross wrote it and I was not disappointed. Here is what I thought:

+ I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this story and I was so surprised at what I got. This is a historical fantasy, set in a time similar to the 1950’s – the main characters are reporters who use typewriters to write their article for the newspaper. The fascinating thing in this story is the war wasn’t started by humans that we know of, but gods. And the gods have used humans to fight their war. We get a bit of the lore between the gods Dacre and Enva and why they started fighting. There is even magic in this world, magic typewriters, enchanted houses, which I thought was really fun.

+ Because this is basically a war drama – there is sweeping rivals to lovers romance, there is loved ones missing on the front lines, the horrors of war, the strength of love and character and I experienced so many emotions in this one book alone. I think I teared up three times. And I wasn’t expecting this book to do that to me.

+ The romance is a big part of this story and I love it. It’s the type of romance I would expect in a war drama actually and fits so beautifully. I’m a sucker for written letters (I am old enough to have done this back in my day lol), two people who love the written word – falling for one another because of the words they are writing to one another. It grabbed the romantic in me by the heart and I was rooting for their love from beginning to end!

+ There is more to the story especially when it comes to Iris trying to find her brother. My heart felt for both Iris and Roman. Mostly Iris because she was so all alone in the world. But what a tough young lady to keep on going even when it seems she has nothing left. She’s determined to find her brother and know if he was dead or alive. And Roman for overcoming an accident in his past that has ruined his family forever. I commend both of them for trying to love again even when they’ve both been so hurt.

~ There is a cliffhanger at the end and this book is a series. The ending broke my heart for Iris and her crew at the end of this book.

~ I do want more back story about the Gods because other Gods are mentioned besides Dacre and Enva, but I’m hoping that information comes in book two.

Tropes: magical correspondence, rival journalists

Why you should read it:

  • fan of Rebecca Ross
  • it’s got a little bit of everything: war, drama, gods, romance
  • I love Iris and Roman

Why you might not want to read it:

  • some readers might the story lacking in world-building especially in the mythology department but I’m hoping there is more of it in book two – the Dacre/Enva story kind of reminds me of Hades and Persephone but different

My Thoughts:

Where does Rebecca Ross come up with these stories? She is becoming my new must-read author only because she tries different things, different time periods, different settings and I always enjoy what she creates. I went with 5 stars for this book because the way this story took me for a ride, an emotional one at that, it even though it made me cry. I was caught up in the heartbreak for Iris, the horrors of war and the sweeping love story between Iris and Roman. I am so excited for book two, I’m just sad I have to wait awhile for it.

Book Links:

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Sisters of Sword and Song by. Rebecca Ross | Book Review ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

A River Enchanted by. Rebecca Ross | Book Review ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Book Review: The Queen’s Rising ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


The Sweetest Betrayal by. Natalie Mae | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: The Sweetest Betrayal (#3)

Author: Natalie Mae

Format: ebook (own)

Pages: 394

Publication Date: 2/14/23

Categories: Fantasy, Young Adult, Series, Magic, Adventure, Romance

In this heart-pounding conclusion to The Kinder Poison trilogy—which People magazine proclaimed a “delicious high-stakes adventure”—war looms over Orkena, but can Zahru save her people without losing herself?

War has come to Orkena.

Zahru has risen as Mestrah, and she is determined to peacefully end the escalating tensions with Wyrim, her country’s long-time enemy. Yet diplomacy proves to be futile, and when Zahru turns to Orkena’s allies for help, she finds that none are willing to come to her aid—not without Kasta ruling at her side.

As Wyrim advances on the capital, Zahru is desperate to protect her people, even if that means accepting Kasta’s help. But her enemy is merciless. And as ambushes and betrayals push Zahru to increasingly dark tactics, she wonders if perhaps Kasta had it right all along: maybe peace was never an option … and maybe she was never meant to do this alone.

Can Zahru spare her enemy without sacrificing her kingdom? Or will Orkena’s salvation only come if Zahru becomes the monster her people need?

Content Warning: violence, kidnapping

This is one of my most anticipated reads for 2023 and it did NOT disappoint. And the covers for these series – absolutely stunning. Simple and stunning and I will be adding this to my bookshelf for sure. Here’s what I thought:

+ Things carry on right away from the ending of book two and boy does Zahru have a lot to answer for and face in this last book of the series. She goes through some things! But she has to in order to grow. She has major trust issues especially when it comes to Kasta. But also she doesn’t know if she can even trust herself with this god-like power. Is she a good person? Is she bad? Is she a good leader? She has a lot of growing up to do if she wants to prove she can be Mestrah.

+ One reason I love this series? The characters! From our main ones like Zahru and Kasta to all her friends her found family of sorts, they are all different, complex and amazing. They fight, argue, have fun together, support one another – intervene if need be. I love this group of characters. Hen is my favorite! I want her as my bestie.

+ Zahru and Kasta are off the charts and I didn’t even know if they would make it in the end! I didn’t even trust him for most of the story. 😅They had me anxious, eyes wide, palm over my mouth when some things happen. But wow the tension between them is so good and then also wondering as a reader if they are even good for one another made me question a lot of things but honestly and I don’t know if it’s my hormones but I teared up in some places of this book. I love them so much. They are the perfect couple in all their imperfections and I love that ultimately it was about them finding their way to trust one another and forgive. I can go on but yeah…I found a new favorite couple. They have a few steamy moments but what I love about it is it’s quick, not super detailed but you still feel the heat, maybe because it’s a long time coming and it comes as a relief that they finally stop fighting one another.

+ Wonderful story telling! It has humor, romance (and not only between Zahru and Kasta), friendship, battles, danger, adventure and more. I read this in one day without expecting to! And I wrote this review after I finished because I was feeling so much things about this book.

+ A perfect ending to a great series!

~ Some of the young characters sounded like the spoke in modern day speech which sometimes threw me off but I went with it and laughed a lot when it happened because it was mostly between Zahru and her friends. I didn’t mind it at all but I don’t remember if the previous books had the characters talking this way. I’ll have to re-read the whole series and I most definitely WILL since I loved this conclusion so much.

Tropes: enemies to lovers

Why you should read it:

  • Zahru and Kasta 🥰 – angst, bickering, tension, enemies to lovers and a very happy ending
  • great cast of characters – Hen is amazing
  • great story-telling, action, adventure, politics, romance

Why you might not want to read it:

My Thoughts:

I loved this conclusion – it had everything I wanted and really exceeded any expectations I had. I just wanted it to be as amazing as the cover and I can say it did it’s job in making me happy and satisfied at the end. Great series that I will be re-reading again hopefully soon! I want Natalie Mae to be working on her next series now with more enemies to lovers please 😅. I look forward to reading more from this author!

Book Links:

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

The Kinder Poison | Book Review ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

The Cruelest Mercy by. Natalie Mae | Book Review ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Stolen Heir by. Holly Black | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: The Stolen Heir (#1)

Author: Holly Black

Format: hardcover (own)

Pages: 374

Publication Date: 1/3/23

Categories: Fantasy, Romance, Faerie, Series, Young Adult

A runaway queen. A reluctant prince. And a quest that may destroy them both.

Eight years have passed since the Battle of the Serpent. But in the icy north, Lady Nore of the Court of Teeth has reclaimed the Ice Needle Citadel. There, she is using an ancient relic to create monsters of stick and snow who will do her bidding and exact her revenge.

Suren, child queen of the Court of Teeth, and the one person with power over her mother, fled to the human world. There, she lives feral in the woods. Lonely, and still haunted by the merciless torments she endured in the Court of Teeth, she bides her time by releasing mortals from foolish bargains. She believes herself forgotten until the storm hag, Bogdana chases her through the night streets. Suren is saved by none other than Prince Oak, heir to Elfhame, to whom she was once promised in marriage and who she has resented for years.

Now seventeen, Oak is charming, beautiful, and manipulative. He’s on a mission that will lead him into the north, and he wants Suren’s help. But if she agrees, it will mean guarding her heart against the boy she once knew and a prince she cannot trust, as well as confronting all the horrors she thought she left behind.

#1 New York Times bestselling author Holly Black returns to the opulent world of Elfhame in the first book in a thrilling new duology, following Jude’s brother Oak, and the changeling queen, Suren.

Content Warning: violence, child abuse, parental neglect, foster parents

Holly Black is my Queen of Faerie. She was the author who made me love the Fae and will always be hands down the one who will make me want to live in their world and yet make me feel terrified to do it. Here’s is what I thought about The Stolen Heir:

+ Wren. Suren gutted me. Her story is not easy. A foster child who is then taken away by her “true” parents but then abused at the hands of them. A girl who only wants a family, to be loved, and not to be hurt and yet she’s surviving and scavenging the world alone, hurt, afraid and her story broke my heart. I wanted to help her and keep her safe and I couldn’t ~ Wren made me so emotional. She is raw and real.

+ Oak has turned into a golden boy with a penchant for violence! He is honey-tongued and Wren doesn’t know if she can trust him. I want to trust him but he is Madoc’s son and Jude’s sister. He and Wren are really fascinating characters. He’s that boy you love because he makes everyone feel amazing, he really is like a golden light. Is it weird he has hooves and antlers? Nope! I think it lent to the pure fantasy of this book, that’s what I expect from Holly Black. If she’s taking us to Faerie, taking us to Faerie and all the strange creatures there! Yes.

+ I did not come to this book looking for Jude and Cardan. I was happy with their series and didn’t see a need for them to appear and I’m glad they didn’t because this is Wren’s story. But I love that this love story is going to be all Wren and Oak. Their relationship is wrought with mistrust and who can blame either of them, especially Wren. I found Oak becoming his own man very fascinating with the way he was raised – so to see how he has turned out is really amazing.

+ I read this slowly over a few days because I was savoring it. The way Holly Black tells a story about faerie is beautiful, dark, lush, addictive and exactly the way I like it. I like the betrayals, I like the mistrust, I like the backstabbing and imperfect characters. All of them is flawed – isn’t that why Jude made such a compelling character? Even Madoc who is all about violence – Oak is trying to save him even though his dad is a murderer hundred times over. I like all the morally gray characters. I like that Wren can break curses, but she’s afraid of power. I like that she runs when she’s afraid but helps people who shouldn’t be kept prisoner. I like that she’s learning to realize she can learn to use her power.

Why you should read it:

  • you love Elfhame and the world Holly Black created
  • you want to see how Oak is, all grown up
  • Wren/Suren’s story

Why you might not want to read it:

  • if you are looking for Jude and Cardan, they are not in this book

My Thoughts:

I didn’t have high expectations going in but I can honestly say if Holly Black is writing something about Faerie, I will love it. I loved it when she first wrote Tithe and she made me aware of this world called Faerie and here I am 20 years later loving her world of Elfhame! I can’t even believe I’ve been reading her books for 20 years. ❤️ I can’t wait for the second book!

Book Links:

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Heartbreaker by. Sarah MacLean | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Heartbreaker (Hell’s Belles, #2)

Format: ebook (borrowed)

Author: Sarah MacLean

Pages: 391

Publication Date: 8/22/22

Categories: Romance, Historical Romance

New York Times bestselling author Sarah MacLean follows her highly acclaimed Bombshell with Heartbreaker, featuring a fierce, fearless heroine on a mission to steal a duke’s secrets…and his heart.

A Princess of Thieves

Raised among London’s most notorious criminals, a twist of fate landed Adelaide Frampton in the bright ballrooms of Mayfair, where she masquerades as a quiet wallflower—so plain and unassuming that no one realizes she’s the Matchbreaker…using her superior skills as a thief to help brides avoid the altar.

A King of Reputation

Henry, Duke of Clayborn, has spent a lifetime living in perfection. He has no time for the salacious gossip that arises every time the Matchbreaker ends another groom. His own reputation is impeccable—and the last thing he needs is a frustrating, fascinating woman discovering the truth of his past, or the secrets he holds close.

A Royal Match

When the two find themselves on a breakneck journey across Britain to stop a wedding, it’s impossible for Clayborn to resist this woman who both frustrates and fascinates him. But late-night carriage rides make for delicious danger…and soon Adelaide is uncovering Clayborn’s truths, throwing his well-laid plans into chaos…and threatening to steal his heavily guarded heart.

Content Warning: violence

I haven’t read a historical romance in SO long but Sarah MacLean is a must-read author for me so I had to read her newest book. This is what I thought:

+ It’s Sarah MacLean and she writes historical romance the way I like it and this book is no exception. There is swoon worthy romance, chemistry, spicy sexy scenes, humor and a fun cast of characters!

+ I love Adelaide as our heroine! She’s the thief of the Hell’s Belles with a shady past – I love that she’s from the streets and the daughter of a notorious leader of a gang. She’s smart, brave, and drives the Duke of Clayborn, Henry, crazy. She has her insecurities from growing up without parental love but Henry is going to show her in every way possible he’s noticed her for a long time. Henry is a stable love interest – he has the ducal airs but has a secret of his own. They are a perfect match!

+ The romance is fantastic and I like that Addie is the one who makes the first move. They have great chemistry and the scenes between them are filled with tension, heat and eventually love – it’s so well done. I loved it and it made me miss historical romance books! I love all the emotions and the room for humor even at a climactic scene.

+ I’m excited to read Imogen’s story! A plus-size, short, young woman with a love for explosives? Yes!

~ I did feel like we didn’t know much about Henry until we hear about his secret but it didn’t make my reading less enjoyable.

Tropes: close proximity

Spice Level: 🌶🌶🌶

Why you should read it:

  • this is historical romance at it’s finest, full of romance, chemistry, heat and a happy ever after
  • the cast of characters is so much fun – yes this is about Addie and Henry falling in love but the Hell’s Belles are an amazing group of young women
  • you read the first book in the series, Bombshell – this one is way better

Why you might not want to read it:

  • not into the Hell’s Belles series

My Thoughts:

This book is so much fun from the action, the romance, the sexy times and the cast of characters. I wasn’t sure if I was going to read this one because I liked Bombshell but I didn’t love it – but this one I love a lot. I felt all the emotions I want to feel when I read a historical romance. I love Addie and Henry as a couple. I’m looking forward to book three!

Book Links:

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Other books by this author that I have reviewed on my blog:

Bombshell by. Sarah MacLean | ARC Review ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Daring and the Duke | Book Review ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Book Review: Brazen and the Beast ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Belladonna by. Adalyn Grace | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Belladonna (#1)

Format: ebook (own)

Author: Adalyn Grace

Pages: 416

Publication Date: 8/29/22

Categories: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult, New Adult, Gothic, Mystery, Paranormal

New York Times bestselling author Adalyn Grace brings to life a highly romantic, Gothic-infused world of wealth, desire, and betrayal.

Orphaned as a baby, nineteen-year-old Signa has been raised by a string of guardians, each more interested in her wealth than her well-being—and each has met an untimely end. Her remaining relatives are the elusive Hawthornes, an eccentric family living at Thorn Grove, an estate both glittering and gloomy. Its patriarch mourns his late wife through wild parties, while his son grapples for control of the family’s waning reputation and his daughter suffers from a mysterious illness. But when their mother’s restless spirit appears claiming she was poisoned, Signa realizes that the family she depends on could be in grave danger and enlists the help of a surly stable boy to hunt down the killer.

However, Signa’s best chance of uncovering the murderer is an alliance with Death himself, a fascinating, dangerous shadow who has never been far from her side. Though he’s made her life a living hell, Death shows Signa that their growing connection may be more powerful—and more irresistible—than she ever dared imagine.

Content Warning: poisoning, illness, death, grief

I have finally read the book everyone is talking about and I feel like the hype is well deserved. Here’s what I thought:

+ This book has a little bit of everything! Romance, mystery and gothic vibes and all of it worked so well together. Usually mysteries can be too slow for me, but I was totally engaged in this story. There are a few twists in this story that was so good – it makes me wonder what book two will bring!

+ Signa is no wilting flower – she’s been basically been passed off from relative to relative all her life. I love that she is optimistic even with Death always near her. I like how she helps her cousin even though she barely knows her. She’s not afraid when most people would be. And I love Death too – I mean, what a gentleman and so unexpected! Who knew he could be such a romantic figure. But I love how he isn’t an evil entity because really what is life without death? They have great chemistry and their love story is sweet and romantic.

+ A mystery always needs a good cast of characters to make us keep guessing and though I had my suspicions who was the villain, I still wasn’t spot on with my assessment. I love the paranormal aspect of the story and how Signa can see spirits. It really had everything I want in a gothic mystery and I actually wish I read this near Halloween!

+ This could have been a standalone book with how questions were answered at the end but I love the twist in the end! Glad we will get a sequel.

Tropes: Death is a character, a girl who cannot die

Spice Level: 🌶🌶

Why you should read it:

  • it’s a dark fantasy with Death as a character, ghosts, mystery, gothic vibes and romance
  • the mystery about what is happening at Thorn Grove kept me on my toes
  • the romance between Death and Signa

Why you might not want to read it:

  • not into Death falling in love? lol

My Thoughts:

I waited to read this one because I wanted the hype to die down and go in with lower expectations and I’m glad I waited. I fell in love with this story about Signa and Death. The dark tones, mystery, ghosts and gothic vibes were captivating and kept me engaged with the story. The romance between Signa and Death I thought was unexpectedly sweet and romantic. I’m looking forward to reading the sequel!

Book Links:

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

The Serpent and the Wings of Night by. Carissa Broadbent | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: The Serpent and the Wings of Night (#1)

Author: Carissa Broadbent

Format: ebook (borrowed)

Pages: 532

Publication Date: 8/29/22


Categories: Romance, Young Adult, Fantasy, Romantasy

Human or vampire, the rules of survival are the same: never trust, never yield, and always – always – guard your heart.

The adopted human daughter of the Nightborn vampire king, Oraya carved her place in a world designed to kill her. Her only chance to become something more than prey is entering the Kejari: a legendary tournament held by the goddess of death herself.

But winning won’t be easy amongst the most vicious warriors from all three vampire houses. To survive, Oraya is forced to make an alliance with a mysterious rival.

Everything about Raihn is dangerous. He is a ruthless vampire, an efficient killer, an enemy to her father’s crown… and her greatest competition. Yet, what terrifies Oraya most of all is that she finds herself oddly drawn to him.

But there’s no room for compassion in the Kejari. War for the House of Night brews, shattering everything that Oraya thought she knew about her home. And Raihn may understand her more than anyone – but their blossoming attraction could be her downfall, in a kingdom where nothing is more deadly than love.

The Serpent and the Wings of Night is the first book in a new series of heart-wrenching romance, dark magic, and bloodthirsty intrigue, perfect for fans of From Blood and Ash and A Court of Thorns and Roses.

Content Warning: violence, sexual assault

I love it when I pick a book I know nothing about – I chose it because of the cover and interesting synopsis and the book turns out to be everything I’m craving for at the moment. I wanted vampires…and I got it! Here’s what did and didn’t work for me:

+ I wanted a book about vampires and I got it! I thought this world building of different vampire houses living among humans was very fascinating. Different types of vampires had characteristic to show what kind of vampires they were – and some of them have wings, which is great. I love me a vampire with wings! There is some good world building and would love to learn more about the other Houses. The action in the trials are so good too. I also love the twist in the end.

+ I like Oraya. She’s human, but raised by the ruthless vampire king Vincent. She’s been protected by him but also is aware at how human and vulnerable she is. Oraya never forgets she is human but she longs for vampire powers just so she can stop feeling so powerless. Oraya has gone through some trauma in her life and have learned to survive in her own way. I also like Raihn who is protective, always wears a smirk and at odds with Oraya most times but he loves it.

+ Raihn and Oraya are everything I want in a romantasy couple. They meet and have secrets, they can’t trust one another but Raihn has a way of befriending Oraya and getting under her walls. It’s a slow burn but not too slow – which I love. I don’t have to wait for book two for some steamy scenes – I felt like it came in the right time for Raihn and Oraya. I like how they become allies and partners to pass these trials, they learn more about one another and soon their attraction is undeniable.

+ The side characters like Mische did a lot to help show Oraya there were different kinds of vampires out there. There are the ones who are born and the ones who are Turned. She only grew up vampires who barely showed expression except when fueled by blood. Mische and Raihn were turned and still have a bit of their humanity to them which helps Oraya come to terms with her humanness.

~ Vincent! He was a character you didn’t to love or what until the end. I hope we learn more about Oraya’s background because it was quite a mystery.

Tropes: slow burn, survive the trials, rivals, vampire and human romance

Spice Level: 🌶 🌶🌶

Why you should read it:

  • slow burn romantasy ~ I love Raihn and Oraya together
  • lots of action, and some good twists
  • nice flow to the story, I read it in one day even though it was over 500 pages

Why you might not want to read it:

  • you don’t like romantasy
  • maybe you should wait to binge the series

My Thoughts:

This has everything I wanted in a book right now. It’s a romantasy so we get the fantasy, vampires, and we get some steamy romance. I love that nothing was rushed or too slow and it was paced so well it kept my attention. I wanted to read book two right after I read it but I can’t because it’s not out yet! I want to see what happens to Raihn and Oraya and if we find out more about Oraya’s background. I want to see what happens with the House of Night and what the House of Blood has up their sleeve…I can’t wait to read book two and hope the wait isn’t too long.

Book Links:

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Hook, Line and Sinker by. Tessa Bailey | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Hook, Line and Sinker (Bellinger Sisters, #2)

Author: Tessa Bailey

Format: ebook (borrowed)

Pages: 385

Publication Date: 3/1/22

Publisher: Avon

Categories: Romance, Friends to Lovers, Rom Com

King crab fisherman Fox Thornton has a reputation as a sexy, carefree flirt. Everyone knows he’s a guaranteed good time–in bed and out–and that’s exactly how he prefers it. Until he meets Hannah Bellinger. She’s immune to his charm and looks, but she seems to enjoy his… personality? And wants to be friends? Bizarre. But he likes her too much to risk a fling, so platonic pals it is.

Now, Hannah’s in town for work, crashing in Fox’s spare bedroom. She knows he’s a notorious ladies’ man, but they’re definitely just friends. In fact, she’s nursing a hopeless crush on a colleague and Fox is just the person to help with her lackluster love life. Armed with a few tips from Westport’s resident Casanova, Hannah sets out to catch her coworker’s eye… yet the more time she spends with Fox, the more she wants him instead. As the line between friendship and flirtation begins to blur, Hannah can’t deny she loves everything about Fox, but she refuses to be another notch on his bedpost.

Living with his best friend should have been easy. Except now she’s walking around in a towel, sleeping right across the hall, and Fox is fantasizing about waking up next to her for the rest of his life and… and… man overboard! He’s fallen for her, hook, line, and sinker. Helping her flirt with another guy is pure torture, but maybe if Fox can tackle his inner demons and show Hannah he’s all in, she’ll choose him instead?

Content Warning:

Life has been so busy for me the past few weeks that this book was exactly what I needed to sweep me away for a little bit, fall in love with the characters falling in love and not think about my problems 😅. Let’s get to what I did and didn’t like:

+ I love that we are back in Westport, where the ocean is near, and the Bellinger sisters are together again but this one is all about Hannah, the supporting actress, the one in Piper’s shadow, the sweet sister who has her head all up into music. I loved Hannah from book one because she seems down to earth, she’s more practical about things and even has a normal job. She’s trying to work on being the “leading lady” in certain aspects of her life, like with her job and with Fox.

+ The best part of this whole book was Hannah and Fox’s relationship. They go from friends…and yes I think I can say they are friends even though it’s been only a few months of really texting each other. But it continues when she comes back except the physical attraction is now an issue – they want each other…but the challenge is trying to decide if it’s worth ruining the friendship for and I love that they make it work. I’m more of a lover of the “enemies to lovers” trope…but maybe I’m emotional because of PMS, but this one had me in my feels. I love that they were trying to understand one another, be honest even if it was scary – they listened to one another. Love that because relationships are a long haul and knowing how to get through the bumps are so important. And they have their own way which works for them.

+ Speaking of physical attraction 🔥 – these two were definitely hot for one another. But I like how they tried to talk about things before actually getting to the point of acting on it.

~ I felt like book one had more of an emotional connection between Piper and her dad’s memory, the town and the bar. Sadly Hannah doesn’t have that connection because she doesn’t remember him and that is realistic but she was hardly at her grandma’s place, or connecting to anyone really in the book except for with Fox. BUT…I totally get it, some people just need their space and she even said she liked the idea of moving from Westport to be able to work, and have space so they could figure out their relationship with Fox without people always giving their two cents. So I respected that about her. I just felt like there wasn’t much of Piper in the book or anyone else, this really focused on Hannah and Fox relationship.

~ I think some parts about Fox’s commitment issues got a bit repetitive in the middle of the story. I get it that he had to work through these issues though and actually I think it’s relatable (I grew up with a few guys like this.) There are those guys out there and it’s sad that they think their only worth is their looks and being a F-buddy, which is why I thought it was sweet how he connected with Hannah and how Hannah saw who he really was and was patient enough with him.

Tropes: friends to lovers, forced proximity, afraid to commit, small town

Spice Level: 🌶🌶🌶🌶

Why you should read it:

  • Hannah and Fox are perfect for one another, she’s trying to be more confident in her job and he has major insecurities, especially when it comes to his feelings about Hannah – but what I love about them is they try to listen and understand one another. They are each other’s safe space. They grew together which melts my heart!
  • sweet, steamy, and funny

Why you might not want to read it:

  • you didn’t like the first book…OR if you did like the first one, just know this one is different because Piper isn’t Hannah and vice versa. Hannah has a lesser connection to the town and her dad’s memory. Hannah is her own person but it would have been nice to have her reconnect more with her sister too – but that’s just me. I like when Hannah and Piper are together because they are the most loving sisters.

My Thoughts:

Overall, this was the perfect book for my current mood – I just wanted to escape and read a book with a happily ever after. I definitely felt all the emotions while reading Hannah and Fox’s love story. They are the cutest together with their shared love of music and wanting to take care of each other. This one gave me all the feels!

Book Links:

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

It Happened One Summer by. Tessa Bailey | Book Review ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I just kind of stand around waiting for things to happen, while other people seem to make them happen so easily. I can help others—I like doing that—but I’m a supporting actress, not a leading lady.

Tessa Bailey, Hook, Line and Sinker

The Guncle by. Steven Rowley | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: The Guncle

Author: Steven Rowley

Format: hardcover (borrowed)

Pages: 326

Publication Date: 5/25/21

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Categories: Contemporary, Fiction, Family, Grief, LGBTQ+

Patrick, or Gay Uncle Patrick (GUP, for short), has always loved his niece, Maisie, and nephew, Grant. That is, he loves spending time with them when they come out to Palm Springs for weeklong visits, or when he heads home to Connecticut for the holidays. But in terms of caretaking and relating to two children, no matter how adorable, Patrick is honestly a bit out of his league.

So when tragedy strikes and Maisie and Grant lose their mother and Patrick’s brother has a health crisis of his own, Patrick finds himself suddenly taking on the role of primary guardian. Despite having a set of “Guncle Rules” ready to go, Patrick has no idea what to expect, having spent years barely holding on after the loss of his great love, a somewhat-stalled career, and a lifestyle not-so-suited to a six- and a nine-year-old. Quickly realizing that parenting—even if temporary—isn’t solved with treats and jokes, Patrick’s eyes are opened to a new sense of responsibility, and the realization that, sometimes, even being larger than life means you’re unfailingly human.

Content Warning: grief, death of a loved one, addiction, anxiety, story of sexual assault

I had my eye on this book since last year and finally got it from my library. I’m glad I did because I felt like it would be a great summer read and it’s Pride month so why not read about a guncle (gay uncle). This book hit me in the feels!

+ Yes Patrick, GUP, Guncle is a bit self-centered and snarky. He is a golden globe winning actor and was a star for a time. He loves to talk about when he was super famous, he loves all things television, movies, broadway, and theatre. But things happened in his life and he’s now in his 40’s and living a quiet life in Palm Springs until he is forced to be out again because his family needs him. His best friend and sister-in-law has passed on, his brother needs to go to rehab and leaves his kids with Patrick. I love how taking care of his niece and nephew scared him but he stepped up in the best way possible. It warmed my heart so much.

+ This book is about relationships and grief. It gave us a peek at how relationships we have with our siblings, the ones or we have with our parents can be messy. Messy and yet it can still be loving. Patrick is relatable in that way. I could also relate to his fear of wanting to love people because he is still stuck in his grief losing his partner, Joe. There is a lot of loss Patrick is dealing with and I felt like his fears were my own. I could totally relate.

+ Patrick’s experiences growing up gay, trying to explain to his sister how he had to protect his inner, real self in the outside world by pretending was such an important point. I love that he could tell his side of this story especially when he was trying to explain it to his sister Clara who in turn felt like she had to struggle also being a woman. Everyone around Patrick had their own trauma and I like that the story was honest and truthful about these struggles.

+ I love the humor – when Patrick is on, he is ON and the children have no clue what he is saying have the time. I can already imagine this book as a tv series, it has that sitcom kind of feel but with some tough issues. I was laughing one moment and then heartbroken the next when the kids talked about missing their mother or Patrick was missing Joe. 😭

Why you should read it:

  • Patrick is a force – he’s funny, snarky, self-centered but loves his family even though they have problems – no matter, he is there for them the best way he can be.
  • Patrick with his niece and nephew have such adventures in Palm Springs
  • This story is full of grief and yet full of hope, the will to survive a broken heart, the beauty of life that come with tragedy. The medicine of laughter and love, family and friends.

Why you might not want to read it:

  • not into Patrick talking about himself all the time lol…I can picture him talking fast, like how some people just do

My Thoughts:

This one hit my heart with so many feels! The story dealt with so many issues about grief, fear and anxiety – letting go and moving on. It hurt. But I was also laughing when Patrick was trying to take care of two kids for the first time in his life, and he did it without much help – he’s even too afraid to drive! Thank goodness for ride-share! I love that the kids taught him things like youtube lol. But seeing those two kids melt through his guarded heart was a glorious thing. I love that we get Patrick’s point of view as a gay man trying to raise two kids on his own, trying to deal with his grief and figuring out what will be act two in his life after his tv stardom has ended. His journey was rocky but like he said in the end, he survived it…the show must go on. I love Patrick and his family and was rooting for all of them to help each other get through grief, addiction, divorce, resentment and anything else that was holding them back from bonding. This is a beautiful story and I’m glad I finally read it!

📚 ~ Yolanda

Quotes From the Book:

We’re hyper-connected, but at the same time desperately lonely.”

~ Steven Rowley, The Guncle

What do you think gay people do? Have done for generations? We adopt a safe version of ourselves for the public, for protection, and then as adults we excavate our true selves from the parts we’ve invented to protect us. It’s the most important work of our queer lives.”

~ Steven Rowley, The Guncle

I am less of me. I left part of myself with you. I don’t know what it was, but I felt it leave my body the last time I held your hand.|

~ Steven Rowley, The Guncle

The sky is not going to fall. That’s what I’m telling you. The pain you feel, the disaster you think is imminent. Those feelings fade. And some day you even miss it. Some days you miss the pain, because you’re afraid. Afraid that as the pain softens so do memories of the one you lost.”

~ Steven Rowley, The Guncle

Grief orbits the heart. Some days the circle is greater. Those are the good days. You have room to move and dance and breathe. Some days the circle is tighter. Those are the hard ones.”

~ Steven Rowley, The Guncle

It Happened One Summer by. Tessa Bailey | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: It Happened One Summer (Bellinger Sisters, #1)

Author: Tessa Bailey

Format: ebooks (borrowed)

Pages: 397

Publication Date: 7/13/21

Publisher: Avon

Categories: Contemporary, Romance, Adult Fiction, Opposites Attract

Piper Bellinger is fashionable, influential, and her reputation as a wild child means the paparazzi are constantly on her heels. When too much champagne and an out-of-control rooftop party lands Piper in the slammer, her stepfather decides enough is enough. So he cuts her off, and sends Piper and her sister to learn some responsibility running their late father’s dive bar… in Washington.

Piper hasn’t even been in Westport for five minutes when she meets big, bearded sea captain Brendan, who thinks she won’t last a week outside of Beverly Hills. So what if Piper can’t do math, and the idea of sleeping in a shabby apartment with bunk beds gives her hives. How bad could it really be? She’s determined to show her stepfather—and the hot, grumpy local—that she’s more than a pretty face.

Except it’s a small town and everywhere she turns, she bumps into Brendan. The fun-loving socialite and the gruff fisherman are polar opposites, but there’s an undeniable attraction simmering between them. Piper doesn’t want any distractions, especially feelings for a man who sails off into the sunset for weeks at a time. Yet as she reconnects with her past and begins to feel at home in Westport, Piper starts to wonder if the cold, glamorous life she knew is what she truly wants. LA is calling her name, but Brendan—and this town full of memories—may have already caught her heart. 

Content Warning: death of spouse

Lately I’ve been thinking what qualities make for a good summer-pool-beach read – then I read this book and THIS would be an ultimate summer read!

Piper is rich and an instagram influencer – she is superficial, a social media queen, comes off as an airhead but despite all of that, she’s really a sweet person. Her best qualities? She can adapt to new situations, no matter how out of her comfort zone she is, she’s fun and she loves her younger sister, Hannah, to pieces. I absolutely love Piper and Hannah together – they have a tight sisterly bond and a very loving and supporting one at that.

Brendan is Piper’s opposite – he’s grumpy, loves routine, he is a fisherman, good at his job and he’s a widower. When Piper comes into his life, he doesn’t know what hit him. Piper and Brendan are hot, hot, hot together! Their sex scenes are steamy and spicy but their growing relationship is so sweet. I thought they were perfect for one another. Brendan gave her comfort, and security and likes her for who she is. Piper makes him laugh and he falls for her so hard and fast. But like I said, they really complimented one another – I love their opposites attract love affair and how it grows into so much more.

Brendan’s crew are too funny! I love when they were together and joking with Brendan. I love how Fox is soft on Hannah too – I thought that was cute and can’t wait to read their story!

Overall I loved the story about a rich girl who has to atone for her mistakes by going to a small fishing town where her birth dad is a legend. Piper is such a softie and I like that she was herself, even if she was high-maintenance. She really is a sunshine girl and Brendan is mister grumpy who can’t help himself around her.

Why you should read it:

  • romance feels – steamy and sweet, Piper is sunshine, Brendan is grumpy
  • Piper and Hannah’s sister relationship is beautiful, I love the two of them
  • great book for summer reading, lots of humor and makes you feeling happy

Why you might not want to read it:

  • too much steaminess? I thought it made the story better because these two were so hot for each other lol

My Thoughts:

I loved this book and read it in one sitting. I found Piper sweetness and Brendan’s gruffness perfect – the steamy scenes between them added to their amazing relationship – because miss Piper was not sweet in bed! I loved reading about them falling for one another and seeing Piper try to figure out what kind of life is right for her. Also the humor is great! But mostly I loved all the heart warming feelings I got from Piper and Hannah’s relationship. The romance is great and all, but the family bond between them really made me want to hug those girls. This is a wonderful book, great for summertime reading or if you want a romance story with a little bit of everything in it. I look forward to reading Hannah’s story!

📚 ~ Yolanda

Quotes From the Book:

Had she ever dated a real man before? Or had they all been boys?”

– Tessa Bailey, It Happened One Summer

This girl. He’d be keeping her. There was no way around it.”

– Tessa Bailey, It Happened One Summer

All My Rage by. Sabaa Tahir | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: All My Rage

Author: Sabaa Tahir

Format: ebooks (borrowed)

Pages: 384

Publication Date: 3/1/22

Publisher: Razorbill

Categories: Family, Grief, Coming of Age, Contemporary, Young Adult

Lahore, Pakistan. Then. 
Misbah is a dreamer and storyteller, newly married to Toufiq in an arranged match. After their young life is shaken by tragedy, they come to the United States and open the Cloud’s Rest Inn Motel, hoping for a new start.

Juniper, California. Now. 
Salahudin and Noor are more than best friends; they are family. Growing up as outcasts in the small desert town of Juniper, California, they understand each other the way no one else does. Until The Fight, which destroys their bond with the swift fury of a star exploding. 

Now, Sal scrambles to run the family motel as his mother Misbah’s health fails and his grieving father loses himself to alcoholism. Noor, meanwhile, walks a harrowing tightrope: working at her wrathful uncle’s liquor store while hiding the fact that she’s applying to college so she can escape him—and Juniper—forever.

When Sal’s attempts to save the motel spiral out of control, he and Noor must ask themselves what friendship is worth—and what it takes to defeat the monsters in their pasts and the ones in their midst. 

From one of today’s most cherished and bestselling young adult authors comes a breathtaking novel of young love, old regrets, and forgiveness—one that’s both tragic and poignant in its tender ferocity.

Content Warning: Grief, Death of Loved One, Abuse, Addiction, Overdose, Trauma, Prison, Racism, Islamophobia

I am a fan of Sabaa Tahir because of her fantasy series but her venture into contemporary young adult is powerful. This is not a happy story. It is filled with trauma, hurt, despair and the characters in it just seems so desolate and lost – add to that the setting of a motel in a town near Death Valley in California and I felt as trapped as Noor and Sal does in the book.

Noor is an immigrant, her parents are dead and her uncle brought her to California from Pakistan. She is grateful to him for saving her but her dream is to leave Juniper, California after high school. I cannot imagine what Noor’s been through and then to come to a new country and try to fit in, learn the language and lifestyle? It’s a lot for anyone to deal with – on top of dealing with an uncle who resents her presence. I love that she had good moments though, especially with Salahudin’s mother, Misbah, before she dies. And I adore her love of music. I know she used it to escape the bad things happening in her life but every time she mentioned a song I could totally relate to her mood.

Salahudin’s parents immigrated to California and bought a motel they named the Cloud’s Rest Inn Motel. It was his mother’s dream – she loved running the motel but Sal’s dad is an alcoholic and when his mother gets very ill and dies, it’s up to him to keep things going but he doesn’t know how. He’s a high school student just barely surviving the loss of his mother and his drunk and grieving father. Sal is also dealing with some of his own issues – he hates being touched and doesn’t know why and not sure if he wants to know why.

I love all the characters and how the story unfolds. The characters are solid and I felt I got to know them so well, well enough to care about them. Usually flashbacks in a story can be jarring but having this story told through Noor, Salahudin and Misbah (her tales of the past), were seamless and it flowed so well. As I read the story, I felt rage also – for Noor and Sal. Here are these two high school kids just trying to make the best of their lives. They are strong, they will do what it takes to either get out or keep their family afloat but it seems so lonesome for both of them. I felt like there was hardly anyone in their corner. I also love that this story wasn’t preachy on faith and the message here was that religion is there for comfort, for people to have when they need guidance through life because life is tough. There are so many hard times.

As mentioned above, this story is not light and fluffy. It’s full of despair, it’s raw and real and deals with tough things like drug dealing, drug addiction, racism, discrimination, abuse, death. I wanted to reach into the book and help Noor and Sal because they are just kids! Bless Misbah’s heart – she tried, that dear woman tried her best. They all did the best they could under all the circumstances.

Why you should read it:

  • a powerful story and wonderful Pakistanis and Muslim representation
  • it will break your heart and fill you with despair but the writing is so good and the characters are so real
  • getvto know Noor, Sal and Misbah’s story

Why you might not want to read it:

  • triggers everywhere so be in the right mood to read this one – a mood to have your heart broken and to rage at the world!

My Thoughts:

This story is a real look at the Pakistani immigrant experience and gives us a peek at the beautiful culture of the people, and the religion of Islam, especially through Misbah’s words, memories and actions. It’s a story about love – love of family, and falling in love with your best friend. It’s a story about many scary things that happen to good people also – drugs, death, abuse, making desperate choices and facing consequences. And also, it’s a story about hope and how to keep going when life doesn’t go as expected. This book is heartbreaking, captivating, and so powerful and definitely a must read.

📚 ~ Yolanda

Quote from the Book:

I’ll survive this. I’ll live. But there’s a hole in me, never to be filled. Maybe that’s why people die of old age. Maybe we could live forever if we didn’t love so completely. But we do. And by the time old age comes, we’re filled with holes, so many that it’s too hard to breathe. So many that our insides aren’t even ours anymore. We’re just one big empty space, waiting to be filled by the darkness. Waiting to be free.|

-Sabaa Tahir, All My Rage

Shock has faded into numbness. But grief is an animal I know. It’s retreated for now. But it’ll be back.

-Sabaa Tahir, All My Rage

Because what religion—many religions, really—offers is comfort when it’s all too much. A reason for the pain. A hand in the darkness if we reach for it.”

-Sabaa Tahir, All My Rage

Sometimes we hold on to things we shouldn’t. People. Places. Emotions. We try to control all of it, when what we should be doing is trusting in something bigger.”

-Sabaa Tahir, All My Rage

Rage can fuel you. But grief gnaws at you slow, a termite nibbling at your soul until you’re a whisper of what you used to be.”

-Sabaa Tahir, All My Rage