The Bodyguard by. Katherine Center | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: The Bodyguard

Format: ebook (borrowed)

Author: Katherine Center

Pages: 309

Publication Date: 7/18/22

Categories: Contemporary, Romance

She’s got his back.
Hannah Brooks looks more like a kindergarten teacher than somebody who could kill you with a wine bottle opener. Or a ballpoint pen. Or a dinner napkin. But the truth is, she’s an Executive Protection Agent (aka “bodyguard”), and she just got hired to protect superstar actor Jack Stapleton from his middle-aged, corgi-breeding stalker.

He’s got her heart.
Jack Stapleton’s a household name—captured by paparazzi on beaches the world over, famous for, among other things, rising out of the waves in all manner of clingy board shorts and glistening like a Roman deity. But a few years back, in the wake of a family tragedy, he dropped from the public eye and went off the grid.

They’ve got a secret.
When Jack’s mom gets sick, he comes home to the family’s Texas ranch to help out. Only one catch: He doesn’t want his family to know about his stalker. Or the bodyguard thing. And so Hannah—against her will and her better judgment—finds herself pretending to be Jack’s girlfriend as a cover. Even though her ex, like a jerk, says no one will believe it.

What could possibly go wrong???
Hannah hardly believes it, herself. But the more time she spends with Jack, the more real it all starts to seem. And there lies the heartbreak. Because it’s easy for Hannah to protect Jack. But protecting her own, long-neglected heart? That’s the hardest thing she’s ever done.

Content Warning: violence, hostage situation

This has been on my TBR and I forgot it was then saw it on my online library and borrowed it. This was kind of an unexpected read and I enjoyed so much about it! Here’s what I thought:

+ A female bodyguard? Yes! And not the type of bodyguard we usually think about that tails someone closely wearing black. Those are usually huge, beefy guys but in this story Hannah is the kind of bodyguard that gets all the details and prevents something from happening to her client. This was such a unique take on a romance – I found it refreshing.

+ Hannah is going through some things! Her mom died, her a-hole of a boyfriend dumped her, and she’s not doing too hot mentally and her boss has noticed. So instead of giving her the international jobs she covets so she can escape, her boss gives her an assignment in town to prove she can handle bigger jobs. I like Hannah. She’s level headed, detailed, straight-forward and even though her life seems to be caving in – she still pushed forward.

+ The romance is so cute! Jack is a hot, famous actor but he has issues of his own to do with his family. I thought Jack and Hannah complimented each other well. He brought the fun and she brought the protection.

~ Because Jack and Hannah had chemistry I wish this book was steamier! But it’s super mild and perfect for the readers who like it that way. But a bodyguard and an actor? I was hoping for some action. There is barely any romance until the end! I wanted sparks but we get more of a friendship/comforting vibe between them.

~ I didn’t feel like there was much of a threat for Jack to have a bodyguard really. But it makes for a cute story.

Tropes: fake dating

Spice Level:

Why you should read it:

  • fake dating trope
  • it’s a cute, sweet, slow burn romance – no spice at all (if that is your thing)
  • great banter and chemistry between Jack and Hannah, some heart warming situations

Why you might not want to read it:

  • needs more spice (in my opinion)

My Thoughts:

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this one but I was very pleasantly surprised! I thought Hannah being Jack’s bodyguard was so cute because they were opposites in personality. This one is a light-hearted story and a super slow burn. My only issue with it was that it needed more sparks between the characters and spice would have been really nice! But if you like a sweet romance, with just one amazing kiss, then you will love this book.

Book Links:

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Pride & Puppies by. Lizzie Shane | ARC Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Pride & Puppies (Pine Hollow, #4)

Author: Lizzie Shane

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 368

Publication Date: 11/21/22

Publisher: Forever

Categories: Contemporary, Romance, Dogs, Jane Austen, Friends to Lovers

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

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

Struggling to find her modern-day Mr. Darcy, a Jane Austen fan gets more than she bargained for when she swears off men and adopts an adorable puppy. 

Dr. Charlotte Rodriguez is single—again—and she blames Jane Austen. She made brooding, aloof men sound oh sodreamy. But after years of failing to find her own Mr. Darcy, Charlotte decides it’s time to swear off dating. She’s going to lavish all her love and affection on someone who actually deserves it: her new puppy, Bingley.

And there’s no one better to give her pet advice than her neighbor and coworker George Leneghan. He’s quiet and patient and, best of all, way too sweet to ever be her type. But as their friendly banter turns flirty, the unimaginable happens—Charlotte starts catching feelings.

Just as Charlotte is trying to untangle what it is she truly wants, George announces he’s contemplating a cross-country move. Suddenly, Charlotte wonders if she’s kept her soulmate in the friend zone so long that she’s entirely missed her chance at a happily ever after. Dear Reader, could it be possible she’s had it wrong all this time?

Content Warning:

I got sucked into requesting this arc because of the title. Pride & Puppies? The two things I love in one book: Jane Austen and dogs? I had to read it and this is what I think about it:

+ Two people, Charlotte and George are friends and now both are dog owners. Charlotte has given up on men and decided to get a puppy. The dogs are so cute especially with Charlotte naming hers Bingley! Loved all the Jane Austen love in the story. They are two good people that find love.

+~ There is a whole cast in this book – Charlotte has a tight group of friends and her sisters. Then George has all his sisters too! Thing is I didn’t know this was book #4 in a series! I wish I knew that before requesting it. Thing is I didn’t feel totally lost reading it without reading the others but now I wonder is that how Charlotte and George already knew each other?

+ It’s a sweet romance. They go from friends to lovers so not too much big drama happen between them.

~ I don’t think I connected to the romance very much even though it was cute because of the dogs. I did like how sweet they were together but I guess I wanted more.

Tropes: small town romance, friends to lovers, meddling families

Why you should read it:

  • sweet romance
  • its has Jane Austen love and dogs
  • both Charlotte and George have large families that you get to know throughout the story

Why you might not want to read it:

  • it’s book number 4 in a series

My Thoughts:

I thought this was a cute and sweet romance between two nice people who both love dogs and their families. For me, I wanted a little more chemistry between the two characters but I think it was still cute how they bonded. It’s light-hearted and heart warming, definitely perfect for Jane Austen lovers.

Book Links:

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Nothing More to Tell by. Karen M. McManus | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Title: Nothing More to Tell

Format: ebook (borrowed)

Author: Karen M. McManus

Pages: 368

Publication Date: 8/29/22

Categories: Young Adult, Thriller, Murder Mystery, Romance, Crime

True crime can leave a false trail.

Four years ago, Brynn left Saint Ambrose School following the shocking murder of her favourite teacher. The case was never solved, but she’s sure that the three kids who found Mr. Larkin’s body know more than they’re telling, especially her ex-best friend Tripp Talbot. He’s definitely hiding something.

When Brynn gets an internship working on a popular true-crime show, she decides to investigate what really happened that day in the woods. But the further she dives into the past, the more secrets she finds.

Four years ago someone got away with murder. Now it’s time to uncover the truth . . .

Content Warning: neglectful parent, murder scene description, underage drinking

I’ve read one book from this author and enjoyed it. I’ve been meaning to read more so I decided to borrow this one and enjoyed it! Here’s what I thought:

+ The story flows so well and I could not figure who the murderer was yet had all my suspicions! I like many of the twists the story took, it really kept me on my toes and engaged. I read this in one sitting.

+ I like Brynn and Tripp a lot. They used to be friends, until Tripp pushed her away. Brynn moved away and is now back in Sturgis. Clearly Tripp had the biggest crush on her when they were kids, but it’s cute to see her like him now as they are older. I liked them together and though the romance takes a back seat, I did like that it was there because I’m a romance lover.

+ I thought the whole cast was great and had their roles to play. I love Brynn’s younger sister who actually helped Brynn kind of solve this murder mystery.

~ My major issue with the book is the ending. It didn’t seem like a totally shut case for who they suspected the murderer to be. I know the story was pulled in so many directions which left me guessing as to who really committed the crime, but even the ending didn’t give us solid evidence or a confession of the crime. This story may bug me…unless they turn it into a series. I want closure! lol

~ This is supposedly set in a private school and though it mentions the division between elite and dregs…not much comes out of that. It doesn’t show much division between the kids. So I’d say it didn’t really give off those vibes.

Tropes: childhood friends to enemies to lovers

Spice Level:

Why you should read it:

  • kept me on my toes, it’s fun, engaging and entertaining – read it in one sitting
  • Brynn and Tripp’s little romance was cute in the midst of the murder mystery

Why you might not want to read it:

  • ending felt a little anti-climatic, is it going to be a series? 🤔

My Thoughts:

I’m glad I read this one, it kept me on the toes to the very end! I just wish the ending evidence around the supposedly killer was more concrete – it was left a bit open I think. So I’m not sure if there will be a spin off? It would be cool to see Brynn’s sister have her own story because that girl was on it and helping Brynn figure stuff out. Overall, I enjoyed this book!

Book Links:

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

The Cousins | Book Review ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The River Has Teeth by. Erica Waters | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Title: The River Has Teeth

Format: hard cover (own)

Author: Erica Waters

Pages: 393

Publication Date: 7/26/21

Categories: Young Adult, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller, Paranormal, Romance, Horror, LGBT+, Witches

Natasha’s sister is missing.

Her car was found abandoned on the edge of a local nature preserve known as the Bend, but as the case goes cold, Natasha’s loss turns to burning anger.

She’ll do anything to find answers.

Della’s family has channeled magic from the Bend for generations, providing spells for the desperate. But when Natasha appears on her doorstep, Della knows it will take more than simple potions to help her.

But Della has her own secrets to hide.

Because Della thinks she knows the beast who’s responsible for the disappearance — her own mother, who was turned into a terrible monster by magic gone wrong.

Natasha is angry. Della has little to lose.

They are each other’s only hope.

Content Warning: murder scene, violence, drugging someone

I’ve had this book on my shelf since summer and it was time to finally read it for spooky season! I love the book cover and was intrigued by the synopsis. Here is what I thought of the book:

+ I enjoyed the mystery and suspense of the story. I love the witchcraft and history and lore about The Bend and Lloyd family. I was intrigued with it throughout the whole book. I loved the atmosphere of the Bend and the woods, it was definitely creepy at times, especially in the abandoned prison!

+ The story is told between two perspectives. Natasha who is looking for her missing sister and Della, the witch, a recluse of a girl who lives in the woods with her dad. Della is a Lloyd and we learn about the magic and history through her. I felt like the author did a great job highlighting how women are treated if they disappear – she even mentions the difference between white and black women and who gets the most coverage in the news.

+ There is a romance that happens between Natasha and Della and though it doesn’t overtake the story, I thought it worked for this type of suspense and mystery story. It’s not a sweet romance, more like one of desperation and desire because of the heavy emotions both are going through but I like how they do fit together. They are opposites that attract one another. Natasha is headstrong and Della is more of someone who thinks things through.

~ I wasn’t vibing with Natasha’s character. I know she was in a rage and desperate to find her sister, I related to that but she was angry throughout the whole book. So angry she was blinded by it and her actions really weren’t thought out. It’s why Della being with her was a good balance. Natasha could have really lost herself in the anger by the end and transformed into something else but Della pulled her back.

Tropes: opposites attract, rich girl/poor girl

Spice Level:

Why you should read it:

  • creepy, mysterious, great setting and very atmospheric
  • f/f romance, opposites attract
  • loved the lore of the The Bend and the witchcraft

Why you might not want to read it:

  • Natasha’s POV was full of anger, rightly so, but made her be rash about some of her decisions which annoyed me

My Thoughts:

I’m so glad I chose this to read for spooky season! It had the perfect creepy vibes, witchcraft, girls going missing and a possible serial killer on the loose. The Lloyd family has a fascinating history and a strong character in Della. I wish Natasha was just as likable but at times I was annoyed with her character. Overall though an enjoyable and entertaining story and I look forward to reading more from this author.

Book Links:

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Tokyo Ever After by. Emiko Jean | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Title: Tokyo Ever After (#1)

Format: ebook (kindle unlimited)

Author: Emiko Jean

Pages: 336

Publication Date: 5/17/21

Categories: Young Adult, Romance, Japanese Royalty, Contemporary, Teen

Izumi Tanaka has never really felt like she fit in—it isn’t easy being Japanese American in her small, mostly white, northern California town. Raised by a single mother, it’s always been Izumi—or Izzy, because “It’s easier this way”—and her mom against the world. But then Izzy discovers a clue to her previously unknown father’s identity… and he’s none other than the Crown Prince of Japan. Which means outspoken, irreverent Izzy is literally a princess.

In a whirlwind, Izzy travels to Japan to meet the father she never knew and discover the country she always dreamed of. But being a princess isn’t all ball gowns and tiaras. There are conniving cousins, a hungry press, a scowling but handsome bodyguard who just might be her soulmate, and thousands of years of tradition and customs to learn practically overnight.

Izzy soon finds herself caught between worlds, and between versions of herself—back home, she was never “American” enough, and in Japan, she must prove she’s “Japanese” enough. Will Izumi crumble under the weight of the crown, or will she live out her fairytale, happily ever after?

Content Warning:

I found this on kindle unlimited and thought I could use something different from my fantasy books. This totally reminded me of the movie “What a Girl Wants” with Colin Firth and Amanda Bynes! Do you remember it? American girl finds out her dad is like a wealthy guy in England and she goes to meet him? Anyway here’s what I thought about Tokyo Ever After:

+ It’s a fun trope – girl finds out she’s actually daughter of the Crown Prince of Japan! So she goes to finally meet him and learn about royalty life and try to get know her dad.

+ The setting of Japan and learning Japanese culture is wonderful. I love the mentions of the royal family, the food, different cities like Tokyo and Kyoto – Izumi gets a whirlwind introduction to her homeland plus learning princess duties on top of that. Mind you she’s only there for 2 weeks – so a lot happens.

+ Another fun trope in the book: princess falling for her bodyguard. Swoon! I thought their romance was so sweet as he starts off grumpy and she’s new to the country. They get to know each other more because of close proximity, but it moves fast and we get some stolen kisses and even a scandal in the story.

+~ Izumi is a teenager and when she leaves American to visit Japan, she tries to figure where she belongs. She doesn’t feel American enough in America, and doesn’t feel Japanese enough in Japan. So she really does her best, trying to figure those things and I think she does great. She has a great group of girlfriends who is always keeping her grounded.

~+ It’s a book definitely that will appeal to teens. Don’t know if it will appeal to older readers but I enjoyed it a lot, and I’m way older.

~ Whirlwind romance in two weeks means it’s insta-love but I don’t mind it. Just noting it for those who don’t like insta-love.

Tropes: girl learns she is a princess, princess falls for bodyguard, girl tries fitting in

Spice Level:

Why you should read it:

  • lots of enjoyable tropes
  • light-hearted, fluffy story – reminds me of the movie “What a Girl Wants” or “Princess Diaries” but with Japanese culture
  • cute insta-love story

Why you might not want to read it:

  • insta-love
  • more appealing for teens

My Thoughts:

I thought this story was entertaining and fun. I love the trope where the girl finds out she’s a princess! There are other fun tropes in this book as well. I’ll definitely read the next book!

Book Links:

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

The Dead Romantics by. Ashley Poston | Book Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Title: The Dead Romantics

Author: Ashley Poston

Format: ebook (borrowed)

Pages: 368

Publication Date: 6/28/22

Categories: Romance, Paranormal, Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Women’s Fiction

Florence Day is the ghostwriter for one of the most prolific romance authors in the industry, and she has a problem—after a terrible breakup, she no longer believes in love. It’s as good as dead.

When her new editor, a too-handsome mountain of a man, won’t give her an extension on her book deadline, Florence prepares to kiss her career goodbye. But then she gets a phone call she never wanted to receive, and she must return home for the first time in a decade to help her family bury her beloved father.

For ten years, she’s run from the town that never understood her, and even though she misses the sound of a warm Southern night and her eccentric, loving family and their funeral parlor, she can’t bring herself to stay. Even with her father gone, it feels like nothing in this town has changed. And she hates it.

Until she finds a ghost standing at the funeral parlor’s front door, just as broad and infuriatingly handsome as ever, and he’s just as confused about why he’s there as she is.

Romance is most certainly dead… but so is her new editor, and his unfinished business will have her second-guessing everything she’s ever known about love stories.

A disillusioned millennial ghostwriter who, quite literally, has some ghosts of her own, has to find her way back home in this sparkling adult debut from national bestselling author Ashley Poston.

Content Warning: death, grief

I went into this one without expectations! I saw the book cover on my Overdrive online library selections and thought the synopsis was intriguing so I borrowed it without reading any reviews on in. I was so pleasantly surprised and touched. Here is what did and didn’t work for me:

+ A ghostwriter who can see ghost and falls for someone who is a ghost?! I love the idea and the story. Florence is a young woman, nursing a broken heart. It’s made it impossible for her to continue writing the romance novel she is working on and on top of that her beloved father dies. So it’s not only a romance, it’s a story about Florence trying to figure out heartbreak, grief and what love really is. It’s a beautiful story.

+ Her family is one of my newest favorite fictional families. They own a funeral home and even though Florence doesn’t totally get along with her younger sister, you can tell the bonds between this loving family is tight even when their father dies. I also love the people from her home town and her best friend in New York. We get both the small town romance and big city one too in this one book.

+ The romance between Florence and Ben is so cute and honestly I did figure out how things were going to end up but I was going to be so upset if it wasn’t that way. I love how they get to know one another – realistic? No, but that’s why I love how this is a paranormal romance. The two of them melted my heart.

+ Florence and her family are grieving but I so love how they celebrate her father’s life. Did I cry in a few spots? Definitely did.

~ My only issue with the story was the beginning where I thought I was getting a straight romance and then the story took a left turn with the death of Florence’s father and the whole situation with Ben which I won’t spoil. But the story smoothed out right after that.

Tropes: seeing ghosts, small town and big city romance, editor/writer romance

Spice Level: 🌶

Why you should read it:

  • heartwarming story about family, grief, heartbreak and love
  • a ghostwriter falling in love with a ghost
  • the Day family is my new favorite fictional family

Why you might not want to read it:

  • beginning of the story was just a little bit jarring with the romance and sudden death but it worked out after that

My Thoughts:

I loved this one. I was all for the ghostwriting and ghost-seeing! It was unexpected and I went in with no expectations and maybe because my trauma with grief, I resonated with stories about grief. But even though there is death and loss in this book, I love that it still was a story about celebrating life, love, and those who have gone but linger. A wonderful story that melted my heart and made me shed a few tears as well.

Book Links:

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Love was putting up with someone for fifty years so you’d have someone to bury you when you died. I would know; my family was in the business of death.”

~ Ashley Poston, The Dead Romantics

He was a bullet journal guy, and I was a sticky note kind of girl.”

~ Ashley Poston, The Dead Romantics

Love was a high for a moment that left you hollow when it left, and you spent the rest of your life chasing that feeling.”

~ Ashley Poston, The Dead Romantics

Grief was the exact opposite. It was full and heavy and drowning because it wasn’t the absence of everything you lost—it was the culmination of it all, your love, your happiness, your bittersweets, wound tight like a knotted ball of yarn.”

~ Ashley Poston, The Dead Romantics

It’s never easy. It’s also never really goodbye—and trust me, we’re in the business of goodbyes. The people who pass through here live on in you and me and everyone they touched. There is no happy ending, there’s just . . . happily living. As best you can.

~ Ashley Poston, The Dead Romantics

Built to Last by. Erin Hahn | ARC Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Built to Last

Author: Erin Hahn

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 336

Publication Date: 10/18/22

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

Categories: Romance, Contemporary, Second Chance Romance, Reality Home Renovation Show

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

Thank you to St. Martin’s Griffin for giving me a chance to read this eARC in exchange for an honest review!

Shelby Springfield has spent the last ten years trying to overcome her past, sanding it away like she does the rough spots on the vintage furniture finds she makes over. But as a former child star, it’s hard to forget a mediocre pop career, a meltdown widely documented by the paparazzi, and a huge public break with her former co-star Lyle Jessup. It’s also hard to forget her other co-star and childhood sweetheart, Cameron Riggs — the one who got away.

Anytime Shelby has called, Cameron has come running… And then he runs right off again to chase stories around the world by making documentaries, too scared to admit what he really wants. But when Lyle stirs the pot, getting the two back in the spotlight with a home renovation show, Cameron can’t help but come on board.

There’s something in it for everyone — almost. Cameron wants to come home and set down some roots. Shelby wants to prove to the world she’s not the messy party girl anymore. And Lyle wants to twist the screws on his two childhood friends who had more chemistry than he could dream of with anyone. Sparks and sawdust fly as Shelby and Cameron film the pilot for “Homemade” and battle Lyle’s shenanigans at every turn.

Erin Hahn’s sparkling rom com debut, Built to Last, is a second chance romance sure to have readers falling in love fast.

Content Warning:

I thought the synopsis for this book was cute: second chance romance, and a home renovation show. Here’s what I thought:

+ Second chance romances aren’t my favorite trope but this one is cute and the chemistry between Shelby and Cam is there and has been there since they were kids and tv stars on a show together. Ever since then it’s been rough for both of them but they find their way back together. The best thing about second chance romances is the history the two characters have with one another – which I feel make their bond stronger. I thought the romance between them was well done.

+ I love a rom-com with a good supporting cast and Shelby’s friends in this book are some fun characters. There is one in particular I’m wondering about – is she going to have her own story? Seems like the ending was hinting to that.

+ I don’t watch a lot of home improvement shows anymore but even I know the popularity of them, especially Chip and Joanna Gaines. I barely watched their show but I remember them blowing up and now they have a magazine, merch…an empire! I love that Shelby’s passion got her out of the Hollywood life and back into Cam’s arms. Same for Cam – seems like he was jumping around doing lots of things before realizing he just wanted to be where Shelby is.

~ It took me awhile to connect to Shelby and Cam only because there was a bunch of drama in their past involving their ex-costar and Shelby’s ex-boyfriend Lyle, who is such a jerk. Lots of things seemed to come in between Shelby and Cam – and they hold back a lot until Shelby decides not to.

~ Lyle – why did he have to be there? Why did they have to do a show with him as their “boss” so to speak? I would have said no. 😅 He’s such a drama starter.

Tropes: second chance romance, friends to lovers, childhood stars finding their way

Spice Level: 🌶🌶🌶

Why you should read it:

  • a home renovation, second chance romance with a fun cast of characters (minus Lyle)
  • if you like HGTV and all the home improvement/home reno shows, you’ll like this one
  • Shelby and Cameron have a sweet romance

Why you might not want to read it:

  • a bit of a slow start and too much drama with Lyle – I wish they just didn’t do business with him

My Thoughts:

This one was cute and you will adore it if you like the second chance romance trope. These two have always been into one another so there isn’t really anything stopping them from being together this time except for themselves. Lyle and Marcella got on my nerves but the rest of the characters were fun. Shelby and Cam have a sweet happy ever after and the ending is left open for one of Shelby’s friends.

Book Links:

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Salt and Sugar by. Rebecca Carvalho | ARC Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: Salt and Sugar

Author: Rebecca Carvalho

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 368

Publication Date: 10/31/22

Publisher: Inkyard Press

Categories: Young Adult, Romance, Coming of Age, Rival Familys, Culinary, Teen Readers

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

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

The grandchildren of two rival Brazilian bakeries fall in love despite their families’ feud.

Trust neither thin-bottomed frying pans nor Molinas.

Lari Ramires has always known this to be true. In Olinda, Brazil, her family’s bakery, Salt, has been at war with the Molinas’ bakery across the street, Sugar, for generations. But Lari’s world turns upside down when her beloved grandmother passes away. On top of that, a big supermarket chain has moved to town, forcing many of the small businesses to close.

Determined to protect her home, Lari does the unthinkable—she works together with Pedro Molina to save both of their bakeries. Lari realizes she might not know Pedro as well as she thought—and she maybe even likes what she learns—but the question remains: Can a Ramires and a Molina truly trust one another?

Content Warning: death of loved one, illness

This was a fun, young adult romance book (leans more towards teen readers) about two rival families and they cook delicious Brazilian food! So if you like foodie romances, you will like this one. Here’s what did and didn’t work for me:

+ I love all the food and Brazilian culture. I like that this was also set in Brazil! Both families have bakeries and bad blood between them but eventually they work together to fight the big box chains encroaching on their towns. But if you love food romances, this has a lot of different foods I never heard of or even tried and it makes me want to go somewhere and try Brazilian food.

+ There is definitely a Romeo and Juliet feel to this book, minus the death of our MC’s but the rivalry is there. Lari and Pedro hate one another because of their family history. When they are put together in a cooking club at school, there is a lot of fighting between them at first but then eventually they start to open up and admit they have an attraction. I feel like the romance is perfect for teen readers.

+ Good side characters like the other kids in the cooking club.

~ I found Lari sometimes acting a bit childish, she fought with Pedro a lot and I didn’t quite connect to her. It took me awhile to get into the story. She was grieving her grandmother and also trying to figure out how to help her mom not lose their shop but still – at times she was always fighting Pedro too hard.

~ Speaking of childish, everyone seemed so volatile in this story. Pedro and Lari’s moms went at it all the time and you would think they would act a little bit better in front of their children. The fights became repetitive at some point and silly.

Tropes: rivals to lovers, enemies to lovers, family rivals, Romeo and Juliet inspired

Why you should read it:

  • it’s got Brazilian bakery goodies and culture, it’s set in Brazil also
  • rival families, enemies to lovers
  • story about family

Why you might not want to read it:

  • more geared towards teen readers
  • lots of dramatic family feud fighting – a bit repetitive

My Thoughts:

I loved that Salt and Sugar is centered around Brazilian food and that it’s set in Brazil. I definitely saw the Romeo and Juliet inspiration with the two feuding families but I did wish the fighting was taken down a notch. It’s a story about family, cooking, trying to have a better life and keeping the community authentic, while fighting the big corporate store. There’s also a little love story between Pedro and Lari and of course a happy ending. Overall I thought this one was a cute romance that teen readers would enjoy.

Book Links:

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Meet Me Under the Mistletoe by. Jenny Bayliss | ARC Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️

Title: Meet Me Under the Mistletoe

Author: Jenny Bayliss

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 448

Publication Date: 10/17/22

Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group

Categories: Women’s Fiction, Holiday Romance, Contemporary, Christmas

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

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

Elinor Noel – Nory for short – is quite content running her second-hand bookshop in London. Forever torn between her working-class upbringing and her classmates’ extravagant lifestyles at the posh private school she attended on scholarship, Nory has finally figured out how to keep both at equal distance. So, when her oldest friends invite their school gang to spend the days leading up to their wedding together at the school castle, Nory must prepare herself for an emotionally complicated few days.

The reunion brings back fond memories, but also requires Nory to dodge an ill-advised former fling. When she falls quite literally into the arms of Isaac, the head gardener with nothing but contempt for the ‘snobby prep school kids’, the attraction between them is undeniable. And as Nory spends more time with Isaac over the wedding festivities, she finds herself falling hard for the boy who used to throw mud at her and her posh friends.

As Nory and Isaac explore their common ground, pressures mount on all sides and Nory must decide what kind of life she wants to live and what sort of love is worth the risk…

Content Warning: mention of suicide, cheating

I was expecting a light-hearted Christmas romance but I got something a little bit more than that. Here’s what I think about this book:

+ It starts off in a cozy bookstore, I got the holiday feels right away just from that alone but then it moves on to a castle in the English countryside where Nory’s friend is going to get married at. It’s a reunion of Nory and her boarding school friends and the castle is in her hometown. This is where she runs into Isaac and an attraction between them sparks.

+ There is a big cast of characters because we get to meet Nory’s friends from school. I thought they were a fun group and I loved how they interacted with one another. Everyone had such different personalities, they each stood out.

+ I thought the love story was very sweet. Isaac is someone from Nory’s hometown and past and it was pretty funny how they reunite again.

~ I was expecting light hearted but got a book with some heavy topics like a friend who committed suicide and even Nory’s past scandal of sleeping with one of her friends while drunk (and he’s married). There is also the subject of classism throughout the story. Nory went to a boarding school and all her friends are rich, compared to Isaac and everyone at home who isn’t rich. So there was a lot of judging going around. There was a lot of friend drama, maybe too much drama, but I was hoping for a simple, sweet Christmas love story.

~ The story starts off in a cozy bookstore that Nory owns and then moves to the castle but where is the Christmassy vibes? I felt like it had Christmas stuff near the end of the book but I was expecting it from beginning to end.

Tropes: childhood acquaintances to lovers

Spice Level: 🌶

Why you should read it:

  • fun interactions between a big group of friends, humor and drama
  • a cozy bookstore and a beautiful castle in the English countryside, some Christmas vibes
  • sweet love story between Nory and Isaac

Why you might not want to read it:

  • needs more Christmas
  • too much drama between the friends and some heavy topics – reads more like women’s fiction than romance

My Thoughts:

I struggled to get through this one even though the beginning was fine. I loved the beginning because it starts off in a cozy bookstore and then at a castle and we get to meet Nory’s friends. Someway in the middle of the story, I started to lose interest. I wanted more of Isaac and Nory but I felt like a lot of the friend drama got in the way of that love story. I wish it was more Christmassy also. So it didn’t work for me because I was expecting a light-hearted story but if you like romance with a little something more, then you will enjoy this one.

Book Links:

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

The Luminaries by.Susan Dennard | ARC Review

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Title: The Luminaries

Author: Susan Dennard

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 304

Publication Date: 10/31/22

Publisher: Tor Teen

Categories: Secret Society, Fantasy, Contemporary, Mystery

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

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

Hemlock Falls isn’t like other towns. You won’t find it on a map, your phone won’t work here, and the forest outside town might just kill you.

Winnie Wednesday wants nothing more than to join the Luminaries, the ancient order that protects Winnie’s town—and the rest of humanity—from the monsters and nightmares that rise in the forest of Hemlock Falls every night.

Ever since her father was exposed as a witch and a traitor, Winnie and her family have been shunned. But on her sixteenth birthday, she can take the deadly Luminary hunter trials and prove herself true and loyal—and restore her family’s good name. Or die trying.

But in order to survive, Winnie enlists the help of the one person who can help her train: Jay Friday, resident bad boy and Winnie’s ex-best friend. While Jay might be the most promising new hunter in Hemlock Falls, he also seems to know more about the nightmares of the forest than he should. Together, he and Winnie will discover a danger lurking in the forest no one in Hemlock Falls is prepared for.

Not all monsters can be slain, and not all nightmares are confined to the dark.

Content Warning: violence, bullying

I’ve only read two books from Susan Dennards Witchland series and I didn’t stop because it wasn’t good. I just think I forgot about the series because there were just so many other books I was reading at the time. So I was curious about the blurb from this book, The Luminaries – a forest that could kill you? Sounds perfect for fall reading and I was right! This is what I liked and didn’t like about the book:

+ I love all the tropes in this story: a mysterious, dark forest that filled with monsters or nightmares as they are called, a girl trying to redeem the scandalized family name, a girl lacking in skills who wears ill fitting glasses but filled with passion and drive, a boy who was a best-friend and first crush who shunned her and is now training her, a secret…I loved the intensity and the action that moved that story.

+ The world-building is fascinating and creative. There is a secret society called The Luminaries and they are monster hunters. Monsters are called Nightmares in this story though and basically they are the stuff of nightmares like werewolves, vampira, melusine, kelpies, banshees – every monster of myth and legend but there is something new in the forest. The Luminaries go into the forest each night and kill Nightmares. Winnie interestingly enough is assigned to clean-up duty, she picks up what’s left in the forest when it’s morning and the mist is gone. The hunter clans are interesting and their last names correspond with a day of the week (Monday, Tuesday…etc…) they all have their own niche and expertise.

+ Winnie Wednesday is that kind of heroine that you can easily cheer on. Her appearance sounds mousy because she’s not wealthy, she wears glasses that need to be updated, she never sounds put-together and yet she is brave and a natural hunter instinct even with a lack of training. She is determined to get back into the Luminaries good graces and don’t underestimate this girl, she can kick butt when she needs to! There is a lot of growth in character and I look forward to seeing what happens to her in book two.

+ The friends to enemies to lovers trope is teasing us in this book. I want more of Winnie and Jay. I love their interactions and the spark between them, the intense emotions that’s going on under the surface. I’m invested!

+ There are a lot of interesting characters in this book, like Mario the lab guy and Erica, Winne’s ex best friend. There is so much more to uncover in this world, that I’m looking forward to the next book.

~ This is just the beginning of the world building and it sounds like there is so much more to learn about The Luminaries and the different families. I did have some questions about the forest and how it works all over the world with different Luminaries – there is mention of international Luminaries. We need more information about the Dianas who are witches and Luminaries enemy.

~ It ends with a cliffhanger where many things are revealed but nothing resolved…but makes me want book two ASAP. It’s definitely not a bad thing, I just need more info!

Tropes: secret society, girl trying to redeem her family reputation, friends to enemies to lovers, monsters in the forest, a trial,

Spice Level: (there is no kiss, there is no romance…but there is intensity!)

Why you should read it:

  • world building, story with scandal, redemption, secret society, monsters and a girl who has a desire to belong again
  • budding romance between Winnie and Jay
  • diverse characters, lots of action, mystery

Why you might not want to read it:

  • I feel like the world-building for this series is going to be huge, but we are only getting the tip of the iceberg for now. So much more to learn about the Luminaries, the Dianas, what happened to Winnie’s dad and Erica’s sister, what is up with the daywalker, what is the Whisperer… so with that said…you may want to wait until more books are out to binge it?

My Thoughts:

This story is fun and exactly what I was kind of looking for in a contemporary with fantasy elements. I love the scary forest and the mist and monsters that come in the night. There was lots of action because Winnie is taking part in trials to become a hunter and that was fun because we get to see her fight or try to monsters. Winnie is a heroine I can root for as she tries to redeem the family name, but there is more to the story – a mystery about her father and some other characters in the book. I love the intense interactions between Winnie and Jay and I just want to learn more about this world about Luminaries! The only issue I had was that I wanted more information about everything and now I have to wait for book two. This is a great start to what seems like an exciting new series.

Book Links:

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