book review, fantasy, romance, series, Young Adult

The Gilded Ones by. Namina Forna | Book Review

My Rating: 3/5 Stars

Title: The Gilded Ones (Deathless, #1)

Author: Namina Forna

Format: Hardcover (borrowed)

Pages: 432

Publication Date: 2/9/21

Publisher: Delacorte

Categories: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance

Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs.

But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity–and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death.

Then a mysterious woman comes to her with a choice: stay in the village and submit to her fate, or leave to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. They are called alaki–near-immortals with rare gifts. And they are the only ones who can stop the empire’s greatest threat.

Knowing the dangers that lie ahead yet yearning for acceptance, Deka decides to leave the only life she’s ever known. But as she journeys to the capital to train for the biggest battle of her life, she will discover that the great walled city holds many surprises. Nothing and no one are quite what they seem to be–not even Deka herself.

First thing I love about this book is the cover. It’s vibrant and has a beautiful girl on the cover looking fierce. The synopsis sounded intriguing and for the beginning part of the book, I was hooked.

Deka is going through a rough time – her blood ceremony went haywire and it showed she wasn’t pure as she was hoping. She finds out she’s an alaki, basically a half-demon and she gets sent to the emperor to join his alaki soldiers to fight the Deathstrikers. Deathstrikers are demon creatures terrorizing the empire and Deka has a link to them, which makes her different.

I liked how the other alaki ~ all girls ~ decide to bond together instead of fight one another. They realize it’s not going to be pretty training as alaki but together, they can come out of this period successfully. So they become their own family and look out for one another. There was a lot of women power themes in this story.

There is a tiny bit of romance, nothing that takes away from Deka and her journey of finding out what she really is.

Triggers: death in many gruesome ways, violence towards women, torture, mention of rape

It’s gory. Deka is killed multiple times, in various ways but she’s a demon so – she doesn’t die yet, but her village elders definitely used her golden blood to profit from. Ugh. Many of the other alaki girls who didn’t arrive with Deka were violated and killed multiple times as well. So there is a lot of violence towards girls! On the other hand, the emperor’s elite fighting warriors/assassins are women, so the story showed both violence towards women and women committing violence. It showed the girls suffering because their survival shows how strong they are.

The story lost me at the halfway point when I felt like I wasn’t connecting to Deka at all. She tries to find out more about her mom, she keeps changing and as a reader, I could guess what she was changing into. I got a little bored and not even Ixa the shapeshifting animal could rouse my interest. Maybe I wanted Deka to be more angry? Like Belcalis? If my community tried to kill me nine times in every way possible, I’d be enraged and come back with a vengeance – but that’s me. Deka has more grace than I do! Haha! She’s a good person.

The message of The Gilded Ones is great – though we may suffer, whatever doesn’t kill us – makes us stronger. I enjoyed the world building because it is unique but I wish I connected more to Deka, I think I connected more to her friends. I think many readers will definitely love this book even if I didn’t, because it has a strong message and so much girl power infused in the story.

📚 ~ Yolanda

adult fiction, contemporary, romance

Accidentally Engaged by. Farah Heron | Book Review

My Rating: 3/5 Stars

Title: Accidentally Engaged

Author: Farah Heron

Format: eBook (borrowed)

Pages: 357

Publication Date: 3/2/21

Publisher: Forever

Categories: Romance, Cooking, Family, Fake-Dating, Muslim/Indian Representation, Contemporary

Reena Manji doesn’t love her career, her single status, and most of all, her family inserting themselves into every detail of her life. But when caring for her precious sourdough starters, Reena can drown it all out. At least until her father moves his newest employee across the hall–with hopes that Reena will marry him.

But Nadim’s not like the other Muslim bachelors-du-jour that her parents have dug up. If the Captain America body and the British accent weren’t enough, the man appears to love eating her bread creations as much as she loves making them. She sure as hell would never marry a man who works for her father, but friendship with a neighbor is okay, right? And when Reena’s career takes a nosedive, Nadim happily agrees to fake an engagement so they can enter a couples video cooking contest to win the artisan bread course of her dreams.

As cooking at home together brings them closer, things turn physical, but Reena isn’t worried. She knows Nadim is keeping secrets, but it’s fine— secrets are always on the menu where her family is concerned. And her heart is protected… she’s not marrying the man. But even secrets kept for self preservation have a way of getting out, especially when meddling parents and gossiping families are involved.

First off I liked that this book had characters that are Muslim and Indian, but Indians who have “double” immigrated, as Nadim in the book pointed out to Reena. Their parents left India, move to Tanzania and then to Canada. In Nadim’s case he triple immigrated because he also went to boarding school in London. So it was very eye opening for me to learn about Tanzania, even though this story is set in Canada.

Learning about the culture also means getting to read about the foods these characters were always eating. Reena is obsessed with making sourdough, it’s her greatest passion right now and she needs a passion when she finds her job as an accountant so dull. Outside of the sourdough though, Reena and her mom is constantly making Indian food, some with a Tanzanian twist because of Nadim – but yes I loved all the foodie content in this story. Yum! But yes, Reena enters this cooking contest (where she needs a partner), because she wants to win and go to a cooking school – it’s where the magic between her and Nadim happen.

Reena is Indian and her family is very involved in her life, there is so much pressure to be successful which in her parents minds means married and with a good job. They try to set her up with Nadim, but Reena isn’t down with her parents finding her a husband. There is also a lot of family drama with Reena’s sister – the two had some issues in the past and haven’t resolved them yet. For parents that are very involved in their children’s lives, there are a lot of secrets in this family and they only get closer as a family once the truth is out.

The romance between Nadim and Reena goes from fake-dating to casual dating to happily ever after. Nadim is very charming, sweet, and so easy going. Reena is the same as well so their relationship always felt light and not too stressful even when a secret about Nadim is revealed. They made a cute couple that seemed to get along well and bonded over food and understanding family drama.

Triggers: family pressure

I don’t know the Islam religion very well but there were a few things in the story that made me pause and think…oh okay – so this family doesn’t follow strict rules? Or is this normal? I’m not sure because I’m not Muslim. After I read the book, I read some reviews on it and at least on Goodreads, I saw many Muslim readers who did not approve of how they were portrayed. I understand no one is perfect and these characters are portrayed as being very real, imperfect people – but I did need a little clarity on that and glad those readers spoke out in their reviews.

The beginning was a little slow, I think it picked up when secrets started being revealed but before that, it seemed just light and easy going.

Maybe a little spoiler? But there a lice situation and maybe a foot fetish on Nadim’s part? For me it was weird and awkward haha – I think it was supposed to be funny lice? No…not sexy! You know Nadim is charming, very flirty but I just felt like I couldn’t trust him even by the end of the story. Maybe because the romance never got super deep for either of them and the secrets of course.

Some mental health issues are mentioned in the book but super quick. Would have like to learn more about that.

I definitely enjoyed all the mentions of food and cooking scenes. Also learning about Indians from Tanzania was eye-opening! Getting to know Reena and her family was interesting and her friends are great. I think the romance in this is cute and light but I felt like it was missing some spark. Overall it was just an okay read for me.

📚~ Yolanda

adult fiction, historical romance, romance

The Importance of Being Wanton by. Christi Caldwell | ARC Review

My Rating: 3/5 Stars

Title: The Importance of Being Wanton

Author: Christi Caldwell

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 335

Publication Date: 6/29/21

Publisher: Montlake

Categories: Historical Romance

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

Emma Gately and the Earl of Scarsdale were betrothed as children—less a vow of future happiness than an obligation. Seventeen years later, the independent miss severs the contract with the now notorious libertine in an unprecedented act of independence. And Emma cofounds the Mismatch Society, where like-minded ladies are free of the constraints and inevitable broken hearts that men bring. But Emma’s rejection sparks in her intended a new consideration of the spirited woman he took for granted—and a determination to win her back.

Despite his wicked reputation, misguided and suddenly lovestruck, Charles Hayden is on a mission to gain Emma’s respect, and he has just the idea—one that the daringly unconventional Emma is sure to appreciate. But as Charles takes bold steps and sets tongues wagging, he makes himself an accidental opponent of his former betrothed. Soon a rivalry is born that has the whole ton abuzz.

Emma never anticipated that with every fiery test of wills, passion would surge. Passion that’s impossible to ignore. In going toe-to-toe with Charles, she risks her heart and pride by falling in love with the one man she vowed to scorn.

  • I always enjoy an enemies to lovers story. In Emma and Charles’ case, they are betrothed as children and as such children grow up, they change. Emma decides she doesn’t want to be married to Charles and end their engagement. Of course their paths are always crossing since both their fathers are good friends, so it’s inevitable they run into each other. The enemies comes one sided because it’s Emma who ends the engagement on bases of rumors about Charles.
  • After the end of their engagement is when Charles starts seeing Emma for who she is and falling for her. Charles does something thinking it would earn Emma’s respect but instead it’s the opposite. But Emma also learns the truth about Charles and so they are basically learn about each other without being engaged. It was nice watching them interact and of course see the attraction growing.
  • There is a lot of woman empowerment in this book which was nice.
  • Heat level of this one is not too high, there is a very steamy scene but it was sweet. I think it needed more steamy scenes or just more of them seducing one another.
  • I wasn’t connecting to this story as much as I was hoping too.

For me, this one didn’t hold my attention like the author’s past books. I still think if you like historical romance with an enemies to lovers trope and strong ladies who strive to be independent, then you might enjoy this one.

📚 ~ Yolanda

book review, coming of age, contemporary, romance, Young Adult

Pumpkin by. Julie Murphy | Book Review

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Title: Pumpkin (Dumplin’, #3)

Author: Julie Murphy

Format: eBook (borrowed)

Pages: 336

Publication Date: 5/25/21

Publisher: Blazer + Bray

Categories: Young Adult, Body Image, LGBTQIA+, Romance, Coming of Age, Small Town, Contemporary

Waylon Russell Brewer is a fat, openly gay boy stuck in the small West Texas town of Clover City. His plan is to bide his time until he can graduate, move to Austin with his twin sister, Clementine, and finally go Full Waylon, so that he can live his Julie-the-hills-are-alive-with-the-sound-of-music-Andrews truth. 

So when Clementine deviates from their master plan right after Waylon gets dumped, he throws caution to the wind and creates an audition tape for his favorite TV drag show, Fiercest of Them All. What he doesn’t count on is the tape accidentally getting shared with the entire school. . . . As a result, Waylon is nominated for prom queen as a joke. Clem’s girlfriend, Hannah Perez, also receives a joke nomination for prom king. 

Waylon and Hannah decide there’s only one thing to do: run—and leave high school with a bang. A very glittery bang. Along the way, Waylon discovers that there is a lot more to running for prom court than campaign posters and plastic crowns, especially when he has to spend so much time with the very cute and infuriating prom king nominee Tucker Watson. 

Waylon will need to learn that the best plan for tomorrow is living for today . . . especially with the help of some fellow queens. . . .

I watched the movie Dumplin’ but never read the books and didn’t even know there was a book two! But I loved the cover of this one and decided to borrow it. I’m glad I did!

Waylon is fat, gay and has plans to leave the small town he’s from after graduation. Luckily he has a very supportive family and a lesbian twin sister, who is his best friend. He thought he knew his plans for life after high school but plans are changing and maybe for the better, though it doesn’t seem like it at first.

I loved a lot of things about this book. We meet Waylon, who is gay and out of the closet but still holding back a little and still exploring everything about his sexuality. He’s meeting guys, but still wants to meet the guy who won’t be ashamed to be with him in public. He is trying out drag, even though he doesn’t know how to put on makeup and enjoys being on stage. Waylon’s family is awesome. They are so super supportive from his grandparents down to his twin sister who is also part of the LGBT+ community. She has a girlfriend Hannah, who I believe was in Dumplin’.

We have a lot of representation and diversity in this story. There is an LGBT school club called Prism and mind you, this story is set in a small town in Texas. There is a m/m couple, and a f/f couple, which I adored because these couples were in loving relationships and we get to see that love. And of course there is a drag show – I feel like there should always be a drag show in this series!

Waylon doesn’t only deal with being gay but being fat as well. For the most part he is confident about himself until he is with his ex-friend Kyle who used to be fat and lost weight or if he’s an event where his body would be exposed, like the pool. But mostly Waylon doesn’t let it stop him from living. He is a good son, grandson and brother – he’s funny and charming.

I enjoyed the romance! For one, his sister, Clem and her girlfriend Hannah, are the whole opposites attract cuteness. Waylon has some prospects as well and the chemistry with Tucker is heart-thumping! I mean, Tucker was flirting-flirting! I totally understood Waylon’s insecurities about the whole thing though.

Triggers: bullying, body shaming, homophobia, alcoholism

Waylon has a supportive group of people in his family, but at school it’s a little bit different. He doesn’t do anything to stand out and say he’s gay – he tries to blend in, even though he is out of the closet. Many of the jocks bully him about being fat and gay – that’s why it was interesting to see Tucker’s reaction to it all, since he was a jock too or friends with them.

Kind of wished I read the two previous books because I don’t know if I missed anything? I felt like I did because there is a cast of characters I don’t remember such as, Millie and Callie. But even without reading the books, I enjoyed Pumpkin a lot.

Overall I thought this book was fun, heartfelt, well-written and a joy to read. I cared about Waylon and his lovely family and the sparks between him and Tucker were undeniable. It has a happy ending and this should definitely be made into a movie like Dumplin’.

📚~ Yolanda

Quotes From the Book:

Ground shifts around you and you figure out the fastest way to fall is to stand still. But sometimes when we know we need to take a leap, we’re jumping off the wrong cliffs.”

-Pumpkin by. Julie Murphy

You gotta get it wrong before you can get it right.”

-Pumpkin by. Julie Murphy

When the world isn’t selling what you’re looking to buy, you just have to take it upon yourself to cut your own pattern.”

-Pumpkin by. Julie Murphy
book review, fantasy, romance, Young Adult

A Vow So Bold and Deadly by. Brigid Kemmerer | Book Review

My Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Title: A Vow So Bold and Deadly (Cursebreakers, #3)

Author: Brigid Kemmerer

Format: Hardcover (borrowed-library)

Pages: 408

Publication Date: 1/26/21

Publisher: Bloomsbury YA

Categories: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Series

Face your fears, fight the battle.

Emberfall is crumbling fast, torn between those who believe Rhen is the rightful prince and those who are eager to begin a new era under Grey, the true heir. Grey has agreed to wait two months before attacking Emberfall, and in that time, Rhen has turned away from everyone—even Harper, as she desperately tries to help him find a path to peace. 

Fight the battle, save the kingdom.

Meanwhile, Lia Mara struggles to rule Syhl Shallow with a gentler hand than her mother. But after enjoying decades of peace once magic was driven out of their lands, some of her subjects are angry Lia Mara has an enchanted prince and a magical scraver by her side. As Grey’s deadline draws nearer, Lia Mara questions if she can be the queen her country needs.

As the two kingdoms come closer to conflict, loyalties are tested, love is threatened, and a dangerous enemy returns, in this stunning conclusion to bestselling author Brigid Kemmerer’s Cursebreaker series.

I’ve made it to the end of the Cursebreakers series with this final installment called A Vow So Bold and Deadly. I thought the second book was just okay. It wasn’t my favorite, I didn’t like how Rhen got worse after the curse was broken, and I was hoping Grey and Harper would have a shot together.

This book picks up right away from the last. Grey and Rhen are on the verge of war, Rhen and Harper are not as tight as before since all the events in book two where Rhen was just awful. Grey is with Lia Mara in Syhl Shallow and about to march on Rhen’s kingdom. Can’t they all just get a long?

There was a lot of issues to be resolved. With Rhen and Harper, it’s not as easy between like it was before. Rhen was always a cold character and he is still a tough one to crack. Sometimes Harper gets through, but most times – he just doesn’t let anyone in and it’s frustrating. Did he have to go through hell though? We get some explanations, lots of talk about choices that were made and all of them trying to move forward from the past.

I loved that Harper had Zo beside her, her only real friend in Emberfall. And I’m glad Grey had Tycho and Iisak.

Grey at least is happy with Lia Mara. He seems more sure of where he stands and what he’s chosen for himself. Grey and Rhen confront one another in the end, but it’s when Rhen is just finally broken – it’s sad really that their relationship has come to this.

I will say, Lilith is a badass villain. I hate her but she’s written well. She is so hateful, I wanted Harper to kill her many times over. She manipulated people so well, played into their fears so they gave in to her and hurt Rhen so much. It’s no wonder he’s so cold and detached.

Triggers: abuse, manipulation, death, violence

I always had a wish for Grey and Harper together so Rhen at times just didn’t live up to my standards, for what I think Harper deserved in a guy. But the heart wants, what it wants, as they say.

Did Lia Mara need to be in this series? She didn’t live up to my expectations. We get to see her try to set a different precedent in her own kingdom by not being as kill happy as her mother was, I suppose. But why couldn’t she and Grey be happy in Syhl Shallow together and call it a day? They could have had peace!

After I put the couples and romance aside, because it didn’t go my way lol…I said fine, what is this all about? Rhen and Grey. It’s a heavy relationship because they have a scary past together. They were abused and traumatized by Lilith when they only thought they were friends and then finding out they were actually brothers broke them. It made me sad. So sad. Rhen who was broken over and over, who shielded Grey…needed to be broken some more in this series because why? Lilith just did not quit. Now Rhen and Grey only confront each other at the end which means most of this book is talking, explanations and preparing for war. There isn’t any action until the very end.

All four characters and yes, the story is told by four POV’s – we see all their flaws in this story, we examine their choices and actions. It’s all very real and muddled and nothing is just black and white.

Overall, I think this series went in a direction I never expected. I was all in for the Beauty and the Beast reimagining in book one but I didn’t expect Rhen to stay a “beast” after the curse was broken. I guess the story reflected how in real life, it is hard to break the effects of trauma and abuse. It showed how as people in close relationships, miscommunication happens a lot, at times our choices affect others in ways we don’t think about all the way through. I didn’t get the couple pairing I wanted, but after I closed the book I was okay with that – I just wanted Rhen to be okay, and I don’t even know if he is. It’s a start I guess, towards healing the past and starting afresh in his present with he and Grey at peace…finally.

📚 ~ Yolanda

book review, historical fiction, romance

Devil in Disguise by. Lisa Kleypas | ARC Review

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Title: Devil in Disguise (Ravenels, #7)

Author: Lisa Kleypas

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 384

Publication Date: 6/27/21

Publisher: Avon

Categories: Historical Romance, Series

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

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

“The devil never tries to make people do the wrong thing by scaring them. He does it by tempting them.”

Lady Merritt Sterling, a strong-willed young widow who’s running her late husband’s shipping company, knows London society is dying to catch her in a scandal. So far, she’s been too smart to provide them with one. But then she meets Keir MacRae, a rough-and-rugged Scottish whisky distiller, and all her sensible plans vanish like smoke. They couldn’t be more different, but their attraction is powerful, raw and irresistible.

From the moment Keir MacRae arrives in London, he has two goals. One: don’t fall in love with the dazzling Lady Merritt Sterling. Two: avoid being killed.

So far, neither of those is going well.

Keir doesn’t know why someone wants him dead until fate reveals his secret connection to one of England’s most powerful families. His world is thrown into upheaval, and the only one he trusts is Merritt.

Their passion blazes with an intensity Merritt has never known before, making her long for the one thing she can’t have from Keir MacRae: forever. As danger draws closer, she’ll do whatever it takes to save the man she loves… even knowing he might be the devil in disguise.

  • I am a big fan of Lisa Kleypas and have read all her books. As this is the seventh book in the Ravenel series, I absolutely love seeing how characters from past books intersect in this series. The Wallflowers and their escapades were among my favorite of her books so seeing Sebastian, Evie, Marcus and Lillian and their kids is like having a family reunion! It’s chaotic but lovely at the same time.
  • Merritt is a widow and she’s got a head for running her late husband’s business. She’s smart, knows herself, nice and yes she has an instant connection with one of her clients. A sexy Scotsman who makes whiskey. Keir MacRae is in lust with Merritt right away but he knows he is beneath her station and tells himself not to make a move. But that doesn’t last long since the attraction between them is hot. Their love story is sweet though, I love how they are together.
  • There is a reveal in this story and without revealing it, I thought it fit well and enjoyed it but some fans may not like it.
  • I read this in one sitting because like I said, I am a big fan and I tend to devour Lisa Kleypas historical romances pretty quickly!
  • This is an arc version and near the end, a whole chunk of paragraphs need to be edited out because they are repeated haha. So that made me pause in my reading for a moment.

I devoured the Devil in Disguise and I’m ready for the next Lisa Kleypas. This book gave me everything I wanted in a historical romance! It had the perfect balance of sexiness, warmth, humor and nostalgia. If you like historical romance, definitely try out Devil in Disguise.

📚 ~ Yolanda

adult fiction, book review, contemporary, romance

Plot Twist | ARC Review

My Rating: 3.5/5 STARS

Title: Plot Twist

Author: Bethany Turner

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 320

Publication Date: 6/14/21

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Categories: Christian Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Romance, Friendship

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

February 4, 2003, is just another day for Olivia Ross—a greeting card writer whose passion project is a screenplay of her own. After she and a handsome, struggling actor have a near-magic encounter in a coffee shop, they make a spontaneous pact: in ten years, after they’ve found the success they’re just sure they’re going to achieve, they’ll return to the coffeehouse to partner up and make a film together. The only problem? Olivia neglected to get the stranger’s name. But she doesn’t forget the date.

For the next ten years, every February 4, Olivia has an exceptional day, full of coincidences and ironies. As men come and go and return to her life, and as she continues to write her screenplay, she still wonders about the guy from the coffee shop—the nameless actor she’s almost certain was Hamish McDougal, now a famous member of the Hollywood elite.

But a lot can happen in ten years, and while waiting for the curtain to rise on her fate, the true story of Olivia’s life is being written—and if she’s not careful, she’ll completely miss the epic romance playing out right before her eyes.

  • I love the cover!
  • This story follows Olivia Ross for ten years on every February 4th because something happens to her on that date that solidified it as a special day. I thought this concept was pretty cool, it definitely made me want to keep reading to see if the day mention ten years into the future will play out as Olivia hoped.
  • This is a slow burn, very clean romance – the only thing that happens are a few kisses.
  • Olivia and Fi’s best friend relationship is the long lasting one in this story. It goes through a few bumps here and there but ultimately they are besties forever.
  • There are a few men that come into Olivia’s life but Liam was the one that got away – or did he? It’s complicated, let’s just leave it at that.
  • I thought the plot twist was cute and really unexpected. I was hoping for something bigger but it turned out okay in the end.
  • I didn’t realize this was Christian fiction until I saw it in the thread in Goodreads. I don’t read Christian fiction but this one was really cute. Thing is, there was nothing about faith in this book, so I’m a bit confused about that. Was it “fate” or “faith” that brings Olivia all the way to February 4, 2013?
  • As for Olivia’s love life, it was getting a bit tiring for me. Obviously we know who is the best guy for her, and she knows it but always too late and always pushing him away when he is trying to move on? I was getting annoyed with her – I wanted her to make up her mind.

I found this story to be am engaging read especially since every chapter is a February 4th with something interesting always happening to Olivia Ross. Plot Twist is a light hearted, slow burn romance with a very fun and unique premise.

📚 ~ Yolanda

adult fiction, book review, contemporary, romance

Float Plan by. Trish Doller | Book Review

My Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Title: Float Plan

Author: Trish Doller

Format: eBook (Overdrive Library)

Pages: 272

Publication Date: 3/02/21

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

Categories: Contemporary, Romance, Sailing, Grief, Mental Health

Critically acclaimed author Trish Doller’s unforgettable and romantic adult debut about setting sail, starting over, and finding yourself…

Since the loss of her fiancé, Anna has been shipwrecked by grief—until a reminder goes off about a trip they were supposed to take together. Impulsively, Anna goes to sea in their sailboat, intending to complete the voyage alone.

But after a treacherous night’s sail, she realizes she can’t do it by herself and hires Keane, a professional sailor, to help. Much like Anna, Keane is struggling with a very different future than the one he had planned. As romance rises with the tide, they discover that it’s never too late to chart a new course.

In Trish Doller’s unforgettable Float Plan, starting over doesn’t mean letting go of your past, it means making room for your future. 

  • Love the cover because it’s so bright and yellow. Makes you think of a happy story and yet Anna our main character is dealing with grief throughout the book.
  • I related to Anna’s grief a lot because I lost my first husband in my late 20’s. So everything she felt, I’ve been through but I like that even though the topic is heavy – Anna being on the water, learning how to sail and navigate foreign waters was therapeutic not only for her as a character but me as a reader. It keep her moving forward, working through the grief and I appreciated that about the story. Also the dog she adopts, Queenie? I wouldn’t have gotten through my grief without my dogs. 💗 They are angels on earth.
  • Keane, her crew mate and eventually lover is the sweetest. I love how good he is, not only to her, but overall. Even with his own challenges about his past, his kindness is beautiful. Anna needed that.
  • I found all the sailing terminology go over my head because I am not a sailor but I loved learning what I could and imagining what each part of the boat is. I loved that Anna had to learn to sail because Keane wasn’t in her plans for the path home. She did it, even if she was scared. As for me, I’d suck at sailing ~ I need my comforts like a bed, a shower every day haha and internet but the idea of roughing it out there under the stars every night sounds amazing.
  • The setting of this book is really fantastic. I’m an island girl, I live in Hawaii, but I’m not a sailor and I have never sailed to any of the islands nearby, I think our waters are very different from the Caribbean where you can reach so many different islands, daily. So I loved island hopping with Anna and Keane! I hope to visit these islands one day and learn more about the history and people that live there. I’m glad they mentioned how the slavery trade made an impact there.

Triggers: triggers, grief, suicide, accident/injury

  • Even though Anna is grieving I didn’t feel immersed in her grief while reading this, maybe because the sailing keeps her moving. She was never really stuck and I know being stuck and grieving is one of the scariest places to be. So this book didn’t trigger me as much as I thought it would, which I liked!
  • I do like how Anna and Keane’s relationship progressed very slowly but for the most part, they are friends. They don’t flirt a lot with another, and that’s to respect Anna’s space as she grieves, but when they do get together, I don’t feel explosions – it’s more of a nice melting into one another that they do. It really feels like a friendship that blossoms into love, the sex is an added bonus, but you know it’s deeper than that with both of them. So don’t expect a lot of romance from the beginning of this book ~ this is Anna’s journey of grief.

As a romance book, this one is a slow burn and barely a burn at that, more like a comforting warmth by the end. As a book about a woman grieving her fiance and trying to move her life forward, I think it hit a lot of the right spots. Anna learns to sail and open her heart again on this adventure through the Caribbean. She hits some bumps along the way but ultimately she learns to navigate her life on her own again, with the help of Keane, and for someone who has experienced grief on that level, I found Anna’s journey inspirational.

⛵️ ~ Yolanda

adult fiction, Blog tour, Book Excerpt, book review, contemporary, romance

BLOG TOUR } Talk Bookish to Me by. Kate Bromley | ARC Review + Excerpt

Welcome to the blog tour for Talk Bookish to Me by. Kate Bromley!

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Title: Talk Bookish to Me

Author: Kate Bromley

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 320

Publication Date: 5/25/21

Publisher: Graydon House

Buy Links: BookShop.org | Harlequin | Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Books-A-Million | Powell’s

Categories: Second Chance Romance, Contemporary

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

Thank you to Graydon House for giving me a chance to read this eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Kara Sullivan is definitely not avoiding her deadline. After all, it’s the week of her best friend’s wedding and she’s the maid of honor, so she’s got lots of responsibilities. As a bestselling romance novelist with seven novels under her belt, she’s a pro and looming deadlines and writer’s block (which she definitely doesn’t have) don’t scare her. She’s just eager to support Cristina as she ties the knot with Jason.

But who should show up at Cristina and Jason’s rehearsal dinner but Kara’s college ex-boyfriend, (the gorgeous and infuriating) Ryan? Apparently, he’s one of Jason’s childhood friends, and he’s in the wedding party, too. Considering neither Kara nor Ryan were prepared to see each other again, it’s decidedly a meet-NOT-cute. There is nothing cute about this situation, and a bit of notice to mentally prepare would’ve been nice, Cristina! However, when Kara sits down to write again the next day, her writers’ block is suddenly gone. She has to wonder what’s changed. Are muses real…? And is Kara’s muse…Ryan?

  • Talk Bookish to Me is about a romance author, Kara, who is trying to finish up her next book and help her best friend with her wedding. On top of that, she runs into Ryan – her ex from college, and it seems like whatever happened in the past is still lingering between them. There is a whole emotional journey that takes place between these two from the moment they reunite to the end of the book.
  • The story really does start off light with a rom-com feel but the deeper we get into the story, we get into some bitter feelings of the past, regrets, resentment, guilt – so many feelings to work through. I wasn’t expecting where this story was headed but I had an inkling after a certain event.
  • The chemistry between them is electric as they remember how it used to be between them but I also liked that they could see how each other changed or stayed the same in some aspects. There is only really one particularly steamy scene in this story, but it was definitely a culmination of the tension between them.
  • I love Kara’s friends, but especially Maggie, she was there for her in every aspect of her life and I loved her for that.
  • How can you not love a book with a dog in it?
  • Triggers: grief, cheating
  • I’m not a fan of a having book within a book – so at times I mostly skimmed those parts.
  • This story has a great rom-com vibe and then the fun, games and sexy times end. Honestly, if it were me, I don’t think I could forgive Ryan as Kara did but they have the history together. Just for me personally, Ryan messed up bad. I will say the moment they fight about it was pretty intense and it was needed, they needed the truth out on both sides but wow…it was a emotionally heavy scene.

I enjoyed this enemies to lovers, second chance romance love story even though I don’t think I could have forgiven Ryan as Kara did. That was the only part of the story that brought my mood a bit down. I did understand though with young love, so much can go wrong as both people in the relationship grow and change. It gives us a chance to see if grown Kara and Ryan feel like what they feel for each other is what they want to fight for. Definitely check this one out if you like second chance romance stories.

📚 ~ Yolanda

*****

About the Author:

KATE BROMLEY lives in New York City with her husband, son, and her somewhat excessive collection of romance novels (It’s not hoarding if it’s books, right?). She was a preschool teacher for seven years and is now focusing full-time on combining her two great passions – writing swoon-worthy love stories and making people laugh. Talk Bookish to Me is her first novel.

Author Website

Twitter: @kbromleywrites | Instagram: @katebromleywrites | Facebook: @katebromleywrites | Goodreads

Catch Kate on tour!

The Book Revue virtual launch event at May 25th @ 7 pm ET

In conversation with Brenda Janowitz

Book Excerpt:

One

“Wait, was I supposed to bring a gift?”

I turn my gaze from the floor to the well-dressed man standing beside me. There are only two of us in the elevator, so he must be talking to me.

“I think it’s a matter of personal preference,” I answer. “I’m the maid of honor so I had to be excessive.”

His eyebrows bob up as I adjust my grip on the Great-Dane-sized gift basket I’m carrying. The cellophane wrapping paper crinkles each time I move, echoing through the confined space just loudly enough to keep things weird. Because if everyone isn’t uncomfortable for the entire ride, are you even really in an elevator?

I’m low-key ecstatic when the doors glide open ten seconds later. With my basket now on the cusp of breaking both my arms and my spirit, I beeline it out of there and stride into the rooftop lounge where my best friend is hosting her pre-wedding party, drinking in the scent of heat and champagne as I maneuver through the sea of guests.

Like most maids-of-honor, I flung myself down the Etsy rabbit hole headfirst and ordered an obscene amount of decorations for tonight’s event. Burlap “Mr. & Mrs.” banners dangle from floating shelves behind the bar as twinkle lights weave around the balcony railings like ivy. Lace-trimmed mason jars filled with pink roses sit on every candlelit cocktail table. Cristina and I worked with the tenacity of two matrimonial Spartans to get everything ready this morning, and it’s clear that our blood, sweat and tears were very much worth it.

It’s then that I spot Cristina mingling near the end of the bar. Beautiful, petite and come-hither curvy, I’d hate her if she weren’t one of my favorite people ever. Her caramel hair spills down her back and her white high-low dress sets her apart from the crowd in just the right way—she’s a princess in the forest and we’re her adoring woodland animals. I’m her feisty chipmunk sidekick to my core.

I place my gift on a nearby receiving table and give a little wave when I catch her eye. She’s waiting for me with a huge grin when I arrive at her side.

“Hey, lady!” she says, pulling me in for a hug. “Look at you, rolling in here looking all gorgeous.”

We step apart and I stand up a bit taller. “Why, thank you. I feel pretty good.”

It’s also very possible that Cristina is just so used to me dazzling the world with yoga pants and sweaters every day that my transformation seems more dramatic than it is.

“Were you able to get any writing done this afternoon?” she asks, handing me a glass of champagne from off the mahogany bar top.

I get a twisting knot in my gut at the mention of my writing, or lack thereof. Having been dying a slow literary death for almost a year, I’m never without some stomach-turning sensation for long. The final deadline for my next romancenovel is officially a month away and if I don’t deliver a bestseller by then—

“Okay, you’re making your freak-out face,” Cristina interjects. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have brought it up.”

I inhale a shallow breath and force a smile. “It’s fine. I’m good.”

“Let’s switch gears—are you sure it’s not weird that I’m having a pre-wedding party? Was booking the salsa band too much since I’m having one at the wedding, too?”

Beyond grateful for the booming trumpet and bongos that are drowning out my own thoughts, I turn to the corner and find the ten-piece group playing with addictive abandon. Cristina’s relatives, who are essentially non-trained professional salsa dancers, dominate the dance floor, and rightfully so. Cristina’s brother, Edgar, once tried to teach me the basics but I’m fairly confident I looked like a plank of wood that was given the gift of limbs. Cristina recommended dance lessons. Edgar suggested a bottle of aguardiente and prayer.

“The band is amazing,” I say as I swing back around, “and of course people have pre-wedding parties.” I’ve actually never heard of a pre-wedding party. An engagement party, yes. A bachelorette party, absolutely. But what’s going down tonight is basically a casual reception days before the mega-reception.

“Jason and I just have so many people coming in from out of town, plus we wanted the bridal party to get acquainted. We figured a little get-together would be fun.”

“I’m all for it. Who doesn’t want to pre-game for a wedding a week in advance?”

“I know I do,” Cristina says, lifting her own champagne and taking a sip. “Everyone is here except Jason and some groomsmen. Can you believe that creep is late to his own party?”

“Should you really be calling your fiancé a creep?”

“He’s my creep so it’s okay.”

“Valid point.”

“Picture please! Will you girls get together?”

I look to my right and find a teenage boy with wildly curly hair pointing a camera at us. He’s dressed in all black and looks so eager to take our photo that I can’t help but to find him endearing.

“Absolutely! Big smile, Kara.” Cristina throws her arm around my waist and after we withstand an intense flash, the young man is gone before my eyes can readjust. “That was Jason’s cousin, Rob. He wants to be a photographer, so I hired him for the night.”

“That was thoughtful of you,” I say, still recovering from my momentary blindness. “By the way, where is Jason?”

“He’s still at home. Two of his groomsmen are driving up and he wanted to wait for them since, apparently, grown men can’t find their way to a party by themselves.”

“Driving in Manhattan is intimidating. He probably didn’t want them to get lost.”

“Right, because neither of them has GPS? Jason should be here.”

I’m honestly shocked that Jason isn’t here. I love Cristina and Jason both to death but they’re one of those couples that rarely go out socially without each other. Even when I invite Cristina over to my apartment for a wine night, she asks to bring Jason. I’ve always thought it was a bit much, but I guess it works for them.

“Okay, forget everyone else, let’s toast.” I clear my throat and hold up my champagne. “When we were both waitressing at McMahon’s Pub in grad school, I had no idea it would lead to nine amazing years of friendship. Now I’d be lost without you. Here’s to you having a magical night. I’m so glad I’m here to celebrate with you.”

We smile and tap our glasses together, the ding of the crystal echoing my words.

I take a sip and the bubbly drink slips easily down my throat. Still savoring the sweetness, I ask, “So, who are these mystery groomsmen Jason’s waiting for?”

“One is named Beau and I can’t remember the other one. They’re two guys he grew up with when his family lived in North Carolina.”

“North Carolina? I thought Jason was from Texas?”

“He spent most of his life in Texas, but he lived in North Carolina until he was ten. He somehow kept in contact with these two through the years.”

“That’s nice, him staying friends with them for so long.”

“Yeah, it’s adorable, but they still should have gotten their asses here on their own.” Cristina is poised to elaborate when her gaze locks on something across the room. She tries and fails to look annoyed instead of excited.

“I’m guessing the groom has arrived,” I say, glancing over my shoulder. My suspicions are confirmed as I see Jason making his way toward us, smiling at Cristina like a fifth grader saying “cheese” on picture day. He’s tilting his head and everything.

“There she is! There’s my incredibly forgiving future wife.” Jason leans down and kisses Cristina before she can verbally obliterate him. He gives me a quick kiss on the cheek next and then shifts back to his fiancée’s side, sneaking an arm around her waist and pulling her to his hip.

“So, I’m going to go ahead and disregard all the semi-violent text messages you’ve sent me over the past hour. Bearing that in mind, how’s everything going?”

Cristina looks up at him, feigning disinterest. “It’s going great. Since you weren’t here, I talked to several nice men. Turns out, pre-wedding parties are a great place to meet guys.”

“I’m so happy for you.”

“I appreciate that. Four contenders, specifically, really piqued my interest.”

“Are they taller than me?” Jason asks. “Do they make a lot of money?”

“Obviously. They’re way taller and all of them are independently wealthy.”

“Nice. Kara, did you meet these freakishly tall and rich men?”

“I did and spoiler alert, I’m engaged now, too! Double wedding here we come!”

Jason smiles and pulls Cristina in even closer, his gaze holding hers. “I guess this is where being late gets you. I’m sorry I wasn’t here. Do you forgive me?”

“Don’t I always?”

He leans down and gives her another picture-perfect kiss.

It’s official. I’m dying alone. Just putting that out there.

“Now, where are these friends of yours? Oh! Let’s set one of them up with Kara!” Cristina looks at me with a dangerous matchmaker gleam in her eyes.

“Actually, I already mentioned Kara, and one of my buddies said he went to college with her.”

Went to college with me?

Jason looks towards the entrance and waves. “Hey, Ryan! Come over here!”

And then I go catatonic. I can’t move. I stand stock still, looking at Cristina like she sprouted a third arm out of her forehead and it’s giving me the middle finger.

Someone walks past me and a soft breeze ghosts across my overheating skin. I stare in a state of utter disbelief as Ryan Thompson steps into view beside Jason.

“It’s been a while, Sullivan,” he says, his voice as steady and tempting as ever.

My champagne glass falls from my fingers and shatters against the floor.

“Kara?” Cristina’s voice rings with concern as she nudges us away from the broken glass that’s now littered around our feet. She grasps my elbow, but I don’t feel it. She could backhand me across the face with a polo mallet and I wouldn’t feel it. My mind is spiraling, plummeting inwards as I come to grips with the realization that Ryan is standing two feet away from me.

Dressed in a navy suit, a crisp white button-down and brown dress shoes, he’s come a long way from the sweatshirts and jeans that were his unofficial uniform in college. His dirty-blond hair is on the shorter side, but a few wayward strands still fall across his forehead. Ten years ago, I would have reached up and brushed them aside without a thought. Now, my hand curls into a tight, unforgiving fist at my side.

If we were another former couple, seeing each other for the first time in a decade might be a dreamy, serendipitous meet-cute—a Nancy Meyers movie in pre-production. We’d have a few drinks and spend hours reminiscing about old times before picking up right where we left off. It would be comfortable and familiar as anything, like a sip of hot chocolate at Christmas with Nat King Cole crooning on vinyl in the background.

But we are not that kind of former couple, and I’m convinced that if Nat King Cole were here and knew my side of the story, he would grab Ryan by the scruff of his shirt and hold him steady as I roundhouse-kicked him in the throat.

It’s a tough pill to swallow but Ryan looks good. Like, really good. His face is harder than it was when he was twenty-one and the stubble on his chin tells me he hasn’t shaved in a few days, making him seem like he just rolled out of bed. And not rolled out of bed in a dirty way, but in a “I just rolled out of bed and yet I still look ruggedly handsome and you fully want to make out with me” kind of way.

The bastard.

“Ryan,” Cristina says, always the first to jump in, “Jason mentioned that you and Kara went to college together.”

“We did.” His eyes don’t move from mine for even a second. “It’s got to be what, ten years now?”

“Yeah, it’s been a long, long time,” I say quickly, turning to face Cristina. “I think I may have mentioned him before. Remember my friend from North Carolina?”

If someone were to look up “my friend from North Carolina” in the Dictionary of Kara, they would find the following:

My friend from North Carolina (noun): 1. Ryan Thompson. 2. My college boyfriend. 3. My first real boyfriend ever. 4. My first love. 5. Taker of my virginity. 6. Guy who massacred my heart with a rusty sledgehammer and fed the remains to rabid, ravenous dogs.

Cristina is well versed in the dictionary of Kara and recognition washes over her. “No way,” she says, her voice dropping.

“Yes way,” I answer happily, overcompensating.

Now’s it’s Cristina’s turn to panic. “Wow. Okay, wow, what a small world, huh?” She grabs Jason’s hand in an iron grip, making him wince as she blasts an over-the-top smile. “Well, we should give you guys a chance to catch up. My abuelita just got here so Jason and I are going to say hello.”

“Your abuelita died two years ago,” I hiss.

“I know, it’s a miracle. See you two later!” She drags her soon-to-be husband away before he can get a word out.

I watch them go, sailing away like the last lifeboat as I stand on deck with the string quartet, the cheerful Bach melody only further confirming that this ship is going down.

Excerpted from Talk Bookish to Me by Kate Bromley, Copyright © 2021 by Kate Bromley

Published by Graydon House Books.

book review, coming of age, contemporary, magic, netgalley, romance, Young Adult

Better Together by. Christine Riccio | ARC Review

My Rating: 2/5 Stars (DNF’ed @ 20% but read the ending)

Title: Better Together

Author: Christine Riccio

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 448

Publication Date: 6/1/21

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Categories: Contemporary, Young Adult, Sisterhood, Family, Romance

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 arc in exchange for an honest review!

Jamie’s an aspiring standup comic in Los Angeles with a growing case of stage anxiety.

Siri’s a stunning ballerina from New Jersey nursing a career-changing injury.

They’ve both signed up for the same session at an off the grid Re-Discover Yourself Retreat in Colorado. When they run into each other, their worlds turn upside down.

Jamie and Siri are sisters, torn apart at a young age by their parent’s volatile divorce. They’ve grown up living completely separate lives: Jamie with their Dad and Siri with their Mom. Now, reunited after over a decade apart, they hatch a plot to switch places. It’s time they get to know and confront each of their estranged parents.

With an accidental assist from some fortuitous magic, Jamie arrives in New Jersey, looking to all the world like Siri, and Siri steps off her flight sporting a Jamie glamour.

The sisters unexpectedly find themselves stuck living in each other’s shoes. Soon Siri’s crushing on Jamie’s best friend Dawn. Jamie’s falling for the handsome New Yorker she keeps running into, Zarar. Alongside a parade of hijinks and budding romance, both girls work to navigate their broken family life and the stresses of impending adulthood.

  • I liked the moment the sisters meet because we get to learn a bit of the back story of their history. It’s a sad history though and they get at least someone to help them navigate reintroducing one another to their lives again.
  • They are different in personality. Jamie is loud, says what she wants – she’s a comedian in life and as her profession. Siri is more subdued, was a ballerina until that dream came to a halt, so they are very different.
  • There is a happy ending (yes I read the ending), so it all works out with the family and the romance storylines in each girl’s life.
  • I couldn’t connect with any of the girls. I couldn’t get over Siri’s name being Siri, it just reminded me too much of Siri from the iPhone. Also, the fact that they were named after Game of Thrones characters (I Love GoT too but…), bugged me because Jamie and Cersei, the incestuous siblings? Interesting choice of names.
  • Jamie tries too hard and there is a lot of swearing (I don’t mind swearing) but a lot of it is in caps, so okay, Jamie is loud. But then her sister Siri likes to swear also…but using non-curse words such as “excrement” and just other random alternative curse words. But excrement is used a lot and after awhile it isn’t cute or funny.
  • I skipped a lot and apparently I skipped too much because there was a parent trap situation somewhere in the story and there’s magic that made that happen.

This one was clearly not for me since I did not finish and mostly skipped but I think there are readers out there who will enjoy it especially if you like stories like the Parent Trap.

📖 ~ Yolanda