The Highwayman

The Highwayman by Kerrigan Byrne

2.5 stars

This is a book that’s very much beloved and lots of people have recommended it to me. And while historical romance isn’t my top choice when picking up a romance, I do enjoy the genre. This book, just……

The plot was okay, and I really enjoyed the beginning, but near the middle to the end I felt very disconnected from the characters. I literally did not care if they ended up together or not. When I should have been feeling empathetic or heartbroken, I felt mostly blah. I felt like a sociopath, I felt nothing.

I want to read more in the series because there are conflicting reviews, but otherwise this one fell kind of flat for me.

The Queen and the Cure

The Queen and the Cure by Amy Harmon

5 stars!

“Come to me, and I will try to love you. I will try to love you, if you but come back.”

The Queen and the Cure is the story of Kjell, brother of King Tiras, bastard son and soldier. He and his men have been traveling the lands hoping to hunt and kill the last of the Volgar, a bird creature hybrid that is dwindling in size. During his journey, they come upon a young woman named Sasha, who has the Sight and can see the future. Locals deemed her a witch and pushed her off of a cliff, leaving her bloodied and broken. Kjell, heals her and in return Sasha thinks she belongs to him.

As much as Kjell tries, he cannot keep Sasha away from him as she is determined to remain by her side. He decides to bring her back to his home city, and along the way Sasha begins to creep under his skin. But Kjell has lost his heart to the wrong woman before, and he has no wish to let anyone else in.

“He would not be able to let her go, he thought. He would never be free of her.”

Amy Harmon has such a beautiful way with words, she weaves them to what she wills, and spins beautiful tales and descriptive stories that will remain with you for a long time to come. The Bird and the Sword was one of my favorite books from last year, and to get a sequel set in the same verse was an unexpected and very welcome surprise.

For someone who is mostly successful for her contemporary works, I always find myself blown away at the depth and intricate world building Harmon has to deliver, as if she has always been writing fantasy and not anything else. Her fantasy rivals the greats, current and deceased.

I love the world created in this book, it’s one I want to get lost in. In my mind, this world is real and I don’t want to leave. The characters so tangible and genuine they could be real instead of fiction. I felt for them, my heart stretched for them and their love and their pain.

Basically I loved this book, and I hope you give it a chance and read it too. You won’t be disappointed. By the end, this book had me like:

“I fell in love with you in pieces. Layer by layer, day by day, inch by inch.”

Dating-ish

Dating-ish by Penny Reid

5 stars!

“I’d had some terrible first dates since breaking up with David, but this one took the cake. It took all the cakes. In less than twenty minutes, my perfect match had irrevocably propelled himself to the top of my worst dates list.”

I want to study Penny Reid’s brain. Like not in a murdery creepy way, but a you fascinate me tell me all of your secrets and make me interesting kind of way. Not weird at all, right? Nope. K. Brilliant.

Anyways my first draft of this review looked like this:
I LOVED IT. YOU WILL TOO. ROBOTS, CUDDLING, OMG. PIZZA SHOES.

But I’ve had a while to think on it now and I may sound a bit more coherent. On Facebook Penny had mentioned she didn’t know how readers would respond to this novel, citing it as really weird. To be completely honest, I get really friggin excited when she says things like this, because those are the books by her that I love the most. I always enjoy her books, but those are the ones that feel most free to me, like she had no barriers when writing them.

I should probably talk about the plot. This book opens with Marie going on an internet date, meeting a stranger and it just goes completely wrong in every possible way. Like it is literally her worst date EVER. As a result of this Marie decides to do research for an article on alternatives to men. This leads Marie to an interesting world of professional cuddlers, dry humpers and orgasm meditation.

While researching, her date reappears, and he’s not the man she met on that disastrous date. And he may have a solution to her dating problem….

“ Where are all the men? And I don’t mean man-children. I mean men. You know, the guys whose interests extend beyond playing Halo on their Xbox, and who actually make eye contact, and aren’t constantly scanning the room for a better option.”

It’s hard to say this fellow Reiders, but Dating-ish may have become my favorite book in the Knitting in the City series. It hurts me to say that because I feel like I am betraying/cheating on Sandra and Alex, but this book was SO DANG GOOD. Like I mentioned above, I had a very hard time writing a review after reading it, my mind just needed to wrap itself around all of the awesomeness that was thrown my way. I loved Marie, I loved Matt. I loved them together, I pined, I burned I perished when they were apart. This book had the perfect combination of humor and angst that we only ever get in a Penny Reid novel. I am like a drug addict waiting for my next hit of Reid, even though the woman puts out numerous quality books a year I want MORE. There will never be enough!!! Lol.

Honestly, go into this book without spoilers, don’t even look at key plot points. I feel this book is better experienced if you go in almost blind. I went in not even knowing who the hero was and it totally enhanced the reading experience for me.

There’s a reason Penny Reid has made a name for herself in a community that is oversaturated with thousands of authors and books. She delivers original and unique concepts, is able to make them relatable, and she makes you fall in love with her odd yet realistic characters. You’ll never get the same book twice with her. And that’s why she’s one of my all time favorite authors EVER. And why I will read any book written by her, even if it’s about a person watching paint dry while eating rice crackers.

“You are my person.”

ARC kindly provided by the author in exchange for an honest review

Tease

Tease by Ella Frank

3.5 stars!

“You’re where my heart is. So that’s where I stay.”

Try by Ella Frank was my first ever MM novel. In fact, I went into it not even knowing it was MM. After a while I had thought, where’s the love interest? Yeah. That was my dumb blonde moment. I ended up loving that book and it opened up a new world of romance for me. I love Tate and Logan and will read anything involving the two of them.

Tease takes place about four years after the original trilogy and we get to see what is happening in the “domesticated” lives of Tate and Logan. Both have been busy with work, and when Logan realizes this, he demands they make more time for each other.

I like that this book cleared up lose ends from the last book, things I definitely had questions about and some resolutions I never expected to get, so I was very happy for those. Why not a higher rating? I felt the pacing was off and I was skimming through the hot parts. I wish we had gotten more plot than hot, and it’s how I also felt about book 3. Again, I did enjoy this book and the fact that we got answers, it was just a bit too slow and didn’t hold my attention as well as books 1 and 2 did.

PS I am dying for the next book after the end of this one. So Ella still has me hooked!

“Forever’s a long time.”
“What? Worried you couldn’t put up with me for that long?”
“No. I’m worried it won’t be long enough.”

Always and Forever, Lara Jean

Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han

3.5 stars

I all but ran to the bookstore on release day for this book I was dying to read it so bad. A surprise third book in the Lara Jean series? I WAS ON IT. And while I didn’t love it, I have to admire Jenny Han for bringing out that reaction in me. When purchasing this book the nice teller at Barnes and Noble recommended to me other books by this author she enjoyed, and I’ll be sure to bump them up my tbr asap!

This started out strong and about midway through lost its luster for me. By the end I was questioning why we even got a third book when not much really happened. What I remember most is mason jars, chocolate chip cookies, and Kitty. Peter redeemed himself a lot since the last book, but again, by the end I was just left wondering, why? You could say I was a bit underwhelmed with this book.

I love that Jenny Han is writing romance for teens that isn’t white washed and covering real issues they deal with on a day to day basis. I know I’ll be recommending this series a lot in the future (in fact, I already have!)

Buns

Buns by Alice Clayton

4 stars!

Clara Morgan makes her living rebranding hotels on the verge of closing. It’s a job she’s wonderful at and it’s given her the stability she never had growing up. Clara is tasked by her boss at a classic hotel in Bailey Falls, The Bryant Mountain House. Upon arrival Clara finds the owner is thrilled to have her there, but his son Archie is not. Clara finds she must prove herself to Archie, that she has the best interest in his hotel at heart, no matter how much he resists her.

The longer Clara stays in Bailey Falls, the more she grows to love the place. And the more time she and Archie spend together, it’s hard to deny an attraction between the two of them. But both of them have a past that can interfere with their future, not to mention in a way Archie is Clara’s boss. It’s up to them to decide whether or not they will let their issues get in the way.

Alice Clayton never fails to make me smile. I’ve read every single one of her books, and I love the anticipation of a new release by her. Will it be funny? Or angst? Or sweet? This book was all three! From the moment I began reading until the very last page I was enamored with the story and these characters. I feel like Clara is unlike any character we have seen by this author, and I loved that Clayton tackled a more sensitive subject with this characters past and did it in a way that’s accurate but tactful.

I thought Archie was great as well, I wish we had delved a bit more into his past, maybe developed him a bit more. But what I loved most about him was he was the perfect counterpart to Clara, knowing when to push and when to let things go. His heart and soul was in that hotel and he wanted to save it, so while he may have fought change, ultimately he wanted what was best for his family legacy and those he employed.

This is a great hate to love story about two people who weren’t looking for each other, but found each other. Oh and if you are wondering about the title, it refers to hot cross buns sold by the hotel. And Archie may have had some buns too…….

ARC provided by the publisher via netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Who We Are

Who We Are by TJ Klune

4 stars!

“… it’s not about where you come from. It’s about who you are.”

This is such a sweet series. I am dying to read the next book so I am very quickly gonna review this one so they don’t blend. Who We Are is the second part to Bear Otter & the Kid, a continuation. Bear and Otter have moved in together and are in the process of adopting the Kid. It’s an adjustment period in their lives and while nothing is perfect, they are very happy together.

First thing I have to get off my chest. The cover of this book is HORRIBLE. It didn’t affect my rating or how I felt, but I put off reading these books because of the covers. Yes I judge a book by its cover, and I honestly think these would sell better with a cover update. That being said, I loved the story. I love how in this book Bear seems to have gotten over his “no homo” phase as my friend Eva and I call it (referring to the numerous times he said in the first book “I’m not like that”). Bear is working out his feelings for the opposite sex, and what seems to be GFY may not necessarily be the case.

I laughed a lot while reading this, all of the family dynamics and antics are so much fun to read. This being my 5th book by Klune I do see some of his patterns in his writing (older/younger couple, meet when one is a kid, family support systems, tragic moments, etc…)

But what I loved most was Otter and his unwavering devotion to Bear and Ty. He’s such an amazing man and I wish we got more of his POV and how he feels about everything. He’s got a touch of alpha in him and I love it!

If you haven’t read this series (or Klune’s books) yet, please do yourself a favor and just read them already. Guaranteed lots of smiles and feels…. in a good way.

“Nothing’s too fast if it means forever.”

Mister Romance

Mister Romance by Leisa Ravyen

4.5 stars!

Eden is on her last leg at her job at Pulse magazine when she gets wind of a man named Mister Romance, a high paid escort who gives women the most romantic night of their dreams, without sex. Intrigued, Eden makes it her mission to find out who this mystery man is. When she does find him, he wants to make her a deal: if he can make her fall in love with him in three dates, Eden drops the story. If not, she gets full exclusive.

Eden:

Ever since I picked up Bad Romeo three years, I knew Leisa Rayven was one of those authors, the one where I love every single one of her books. Mister Romance is a book I fell in love with right from the beginning, with original strong characters readers can relate to, and a romance that had me holding my breath at times and swooning a bit. And I don’t friggin swoon.

The book is a little bit slow to start but really picks up at that 20% mark. I loved Eden as the main character, she was tenacious and driven, but at the same time had empathy and integrity. Max was a bit harder to pin down, but ultimately I loved him by the end of the book and was rooting so hard for him and Eden. This book is a bit sweeter and less angsty than I prefer, my reading tastes lean toward angsty and emotional, but I loved it.

I truly believe that so many readers will love this story. In a time when it’s hard to find a book with an original idea, Ravyen delivers a unique and fascinating romance that I know I will be rereading in the future!

ARC kindly provided by author in exchange for an honest review

Windfall

Windfall by Jennifer E Smith

3 stars

We’ve all had that thought. You know, what you would do if you won the lottery? The choices and actions you would make. This book answers that question, but more like if you won the lottery at a young age.

When Alice buys a lotto ticket for her best friend Teddy on his 18th birthday, the very last thing she expects is for him to win. But he does, making him the youngest lottery winner ever. Since both Alice and Teddy had a less than privileged upbringing, Teddy is overjoyed with his good fortune. They promise things will never change, but money has the ability to change everything….

I enjoyed this what if scenario in a teen book. I think most adult readers going into it can predict what will happen, but for younger readers it’s a good lesson on greed, responsibility and friendship. I had a hard time putting this one down, it’s a very interesting concept and reads very quickly. What I didn’t really care for was Teddy himself, I found him to be selfish and undeserving of most things in his life. And Alice seemed to be a bit of a doormat heroine.

This book will make you want to go out and buy a lotto ticket! A fun, fast read for any age.

Olive Juice

Olive Juice by TJ Klune

Well, I just spent the last hour like this:

I loved this book. DON’T READ SPOILERS, GO IN BLIND!

What a beautiful and heartbreaking story! This reminded me a bit of a play; I know Klune had a blog post referencing a one shot scene but honestly this felt like something you would see on a stage. Extremely well written, Klune is obviously very talented and there’s a reason why I will read anything he writes.

Pipe Dreams

Pipe Dreams by Sarina Bowen

5 stars!

OH MY GAWD. I loved this book so hard! Sarina Bowen, you have outdone yourself!!!

Pipe Dreams is the third book in the Brooklyn Bruisers series but can easily be read as a standalone novel. This book follows Mike Beacon, goalie for the Bruisers and Lauren, the office manager to the man who owns the team. Four years ago they had been in a relationship, happy and in love, until two years ago when Mike broke up with Lauren and basically disappeared from her life very rapidly. What Lauren didn’t know was Mike needed to take care of his young daughter, as his wife who he was in the middle of divorcing became terminally ill.

Currently, Lauren has been brought in by the team owner to cover the Bruiser’s while they are in the playoffs. Mike and Lauren find themselves together more often and old feelings resurface. Mike wants to pursue Lauren again, but after he left her Lauren has issues with trust and doesn’t want to risk getting hurt again.

This is a book that every single time I put it down, I found myself craving to pick it back up. I gobbled this one up and wanted to hug it to my chest after reading it! Sarina Bowen is one of my favorite authors, and this book just reaffirmed why I always come back to her books every single time. I was even hesitant to pick this one up, because I just kind of liked the first book, and dnf’d the second. But I wanted to see what else was happening in the Bruiser’s world and I am so glad I did!

Second chance romance is my favorite subgenre of romance, I love seeing two people who belong to each other, make their way back to one another. Mike made a mistake two years before, but in my opinion he made it for all the right reasons. Does that mean he still didn’t mess up big time? No. But my heart bled for the man and the tough choices he had to make, and the one he chose ultimately for the better for his daughter.

Surprisingly for a second chance romance, there was zero to no drama. I kept waiting for it to happen at the 70% point on and when it didn’t, I was impressed! There was a little bit of angst, mostly because Lauren had to learn to trust again, but I completely understand that and so did Mike. And for having a 13 year old daughter in the book, delivering no drama is quite the achievement! What we did get as readers is emotional moments, ones that squeezed your heart but not too hard that it hurt. I found myself rooting for this couple for all that they had been through and was pulling for them so hard!

Anyways, this is a single parent, second chance, hockey sports romance that I think many readers will love and enjoy. After what felt like a rough start to the series (for me) it’s good to know that it just keeps getting better.

ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Before I Ever Met You

Before I Ever Met You by Karina Halle

4 stars!

“Where there’s a will there’s a way.”

Before I Ever Met You is an office romance between twenty five year old single mother Jackie and recently divorced forty one year old Will. Will had returned to Vancouver after his divorce, in which his wife slept with and got pregnant with another man. Jackie came back home to her parents with her son Ty after her ex was put in jail. Ted, Jackie’s father, works with Will and gets Jackie a job as Will’s assistant.

Right away Jackie and Will feel a pull toward each other. But with a 16 year age difference and a boss and employee relationship between them, both are hesitant to take the plunge. The more they work together, it becomes clear the attraction is strong, one of them just needs to act on it….

“I’ll call you Dream Girl, cause that’s what you are to me.”

Who knew Karina Halle could put out a sweet romance! Normally Karina does the angsty and emotional reads, but this was a wonderful Cinderella story. It was unlike anything we have seen from her before! I loved Jackie and will equally, both pulled at my heart in their own way. I now desperately want to watch Bridesmaids because Jon Hamm was the inspiration (and I don’t like Mad Men, don’t kill meh!). This book basically made me feel better crushing on older hot men, because I am only 2 years older than Jackie is in this book. So thank you Karina for making my older men crushes seem a little bit more attainable!

Honestly, this is easily one of Karina’s best contemporary reads, the characters were relatable and I wanted them both to find their happily ever after, with Cinderella and Prince Charming. This hits two boxes for tropes people love, single parent and office romance. What are you waiting for??? Go and get it!!!

“The heart is nothing if not resilient.”

ARC provided by author in exchange for an honest review

Midnight Target

Midnight Target by Elle Kennedy

4.25 stars!

What a thrilling, action packed ride!!

Midnight Target is about Cate, the daughter of a famous mercenary. When she was seventeen she met her father, and while he would do anything to protect her, he doesn’t want her in the same life as his. Cate has since dropped out of a college and become a freelance photographer. She’s working for a reporter on a story in South America when she captures something dangerous on film, and then finds her life in danger.

Cate’s father comes to save her, along with one of his coworkers Ash. Cate can’t stand Ash after he rejected her advances on his years ago, leaving her humiliated and alone. Cate isn’t happy to see Ash, but he’s hopeful they can at least be friends. With tensions high and a criminal psycho after them all, things get rough and heated.

I’ve really only read Elle Kennedy’s Off Campus series, along with her MM books and Erin Watt; I hadn’t picked up any of her Killer Instincts books before. But I love her writing style and trusted she would deliver a good story and a fulfilling read. This book was such a fun and fast paced read. It reaches almost 450 pages and didn’t feel long at all, it just flew by! Technically this is the eighth book in the series, but it can be read as a standalone. I personally can vouch for this because this was my first time reading this series and I was able to navigate the novel easily, even with all the background players.

Despite this being about a couple that cannot be together (due to age difference in the beginning and daughter of the boss issues) there was only mild angst. I prefer a bit more, but it fit the tone and theme of the book. I really liked spitfire Cate and southern boy Ash, the two just made sense, even when they were friends only. I wish things had progressed a bit faster for the two of them, but enjoyed it very much once they did.

The best part about the book though? The surprise MM plot mixed in between Liam and Sully. That was my favorite aspect of the book, I found myself waiting impatiently for their POVs because I just wanted MORE. Elle Kennedy is amazing in general, but when she writes MM I want to use the worship hands emoji all the time.

Once my reading schedule opens up a bit more, I know for sure I will be going back and reading other books in the Killer Instincts series ASAP! And if you haven’t you should too!

Copy for review provided by the publisher

Next to Never

Next to Never by Penelope Douglas

3.75 stars!

“That’s the hardest thing about being a parent. Living through heartache, bearing your struggles, learning the hard lessons the hard way, and enduring years of climbing a wall only to fall back down and have to start all over again . . .”

Next to Never opens with Quinn, the younger sister of Jared and Madoc, two characters from the Fall Away series. Quinn is seventeen and doesn’t know her path in life, she does what her parents want, but she wants to find something she’s passionate about. Randomly, Quinn receives a romance book from Canada, no return sender listed. As she reads, she begins to realize this story might not be fiction at all, and connected to her life….

“We could say we were young and stupid, but that excuse only lasts so long before you realize that you were selfish and just really big assholes.”

I spent the first part of the book extremely confused:

I had a lot of trouble figuring out who was married to whom, who was blood related or not, and just keeping track of names in general. I think this book really could have used a family tree diagram to follow in the beginning of the book. Once I got the hang of things it became easier to read but I honestly still don’t know a lot of which kids belong to whom…..

I went into this book blind, I didn’t really read the blurb beyond knowing Quinn was Jared’s younger sister. I didn’t know a huge part of the plot would be Quinn reading about the story of her parents, how Kat and Jase fell in love and how it affected their lives. I thought it was a beautiful love story, one of two people who just didn’t know how to get the timing right.

I do feel this book despite being from Quinn’s perspective, she was just an observer, it wasn’t her own story. Even in the present time she’s just observing what her other younger family members were doing, except for one racing instance and the end. I wish we had seen more of her in the story, but after the end I suspect there is more to come. If Quinn and Lucas get their own book I will be DESPERATE for it!

“When I come back for you, it will be forever. Tell me it’s not over.”
“I guess we’ll see.”

The Dead List

The Dead List by Jennifer Armentrout

4.5 stars!

“Cardinals were Penn’s favorite…”

Just before the start of her senior year in high school, Ella is attacked after a party on her way home. She escapes because a childhood friend Jensen rescued her, but other girls have gone missing. Afraid, Ella decides to take self-defense classes, as her attacker doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon.

But as more and more people begin to disappear Ella begins to think these random acts aren’t so random, that they’re connected to something that happened in the past. Except the person related to all of this died, four years ago….

“Sometimes I needed to get my head out of real life, and reading was the best and quickest way to do it.”

I really enjoyed this book, thrillers normally aren’t my thing buy Armentrout writes them in such a way that I cannot figure out the villain and the plot isn’t predictable. It’s so refreshing because when I normally read a mystery/thriller I can pretty much figure out what’s happening about halfway in. A very compelling and engaging story, I was captivated by everything that was happening, from the attack on Ella at the beginning, her issues at school and the romance with her and Jensen.

I was freaked out that the killer wore a clown mask, that was just too creepy for me. Plus the descriptions of the sounds he made gave me the chills and I had to stop reading this book at night so I could get some sleep without nightmares. The romance between Jensen and Ella was so sweet, JLA writes the best heroes in her books. All of them are very swoonworthy and a tiny bit alpha.

This is a bit mature for YA so I would recommend to older teens and not younger ones, just with the murder and adult content I think this is better for older readers. Just depends on the reader. A fantastic and thrilling read, many people will love this novel of suspense and be guessing until the very end.

“I want to be that guy-the one that when your phone rings, you hope it’s me. The one who holds your hand in the hallway at lunch. The guy who gets to hold you. I want to be the one who gets to touch you. I want to be yours.”

ARC provided by author in exchange for an honest review