Three Kisses, One Midnight by Roshani Chokshi, Evelyn Skye, and Sandhya Menon // Book Review

Three Kisses, One Midnight by Roshani Chokshi, Evelyn Skye, and Sandhya Menon // Book Review

Three characters, three stories, one book. If you’re a fan of contemporary YA romance series and wish you can get three stories in one book, then this is the one for you. Thanks to Wednesday Books for the gifted read.

Here’s more about Three Kisses, One Midnight

The town of Moon Ridge was founded 400 years ago and everyone born and raised there knows the legend of the young woman who perished at the stroke of twelve that very same night, losing the life she was set to embark on with her dearest love. Every century since, one day a year, the Lady of Moon Ridge descends from the stars to walk among the townsfolk, conjuring an aura upon those willing to follow their hearts’ desires.

“To summon joy and love in another’s soul
For a connection that makes two people whole
For laughter and a smile that one can never miss
Sealed before midnight with a truehearted kiss.”

This year at Moon Ridge High, a group of friends known as The Coven will weave art, science, and magic during a masquerade ball unlike any other. Onny, True, and Ash believe everything is in alignment to bring them the affection, acceptance, and healing that can only come from romance—with a little help from Onny’s grandmother’s love potion.

But nothing is as simple as it first seems. And as midnight approaches, The Coven learn that it will take more than a spell to recognize those who offer their love and to embrace all the magic that follows.

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My thoughts

I honestly went into this book thinking that it was going to be an anthology of short stories. However, it’s a little bit more unique than that and really creates a unique experience. Three incredible YA authors write three separate stories all set at the same place, same time, and follow one of the main characters through their evening. I loved the concept. I loved the idea of writing a short story in a trilogy collection that’s set throughout the same night.

The first story is based off Onny. She’s the magical one of the group who’s made a love potion for the three of them to use sometime before midnight of the town’s Halloween ball. Onny was my favorite as she prepares her potion for the boy she has a crush on only to have her nemesis drink it instead. And as they try to make more of the potion, of course their feelings for each other changes as well.

The second story is based off Ash, who is a talented artist that’s terribly shy. He lives next door to a wondrous girl who plays basketball and runs with a much more popular crowd and while he may know every detail about her, she doesn’t really know he exists. That is, until her brothers break the fence between their two homes and Ash is recruited to help rebuild the fence with her. Of course, things start to change between the two of them from there.

The final story follows True, a straightforward no-nonsense girl who’s nursing a broken heart. Of course, she wouldn’t let on that she’s a bit heartbroken, but when she finds herself at the ball talking to a boy she’s never met before, things change for True and open her up to a possibility of love.

The three stories separately all had some favorite moments. I loved that each had its different trope and has a little bit for everyone. Of course, it’s a super fast read, but still such a darling set of stories. I most definitely loved Onny’s story the best, but each had me gasping and sighing at some of the romantic moments for each of them.

Of course, the book has all the fall vibes. The book is set around Halloween with a Halloween-themed ball to attend. The people in town dressed in elaborate costumes all sipping party drinks and dancing together is just the perfect mood for the story. Of course, there’s a little bit of witchy magic, which also ties into the Halloween theme without being spooky. I absolutely loved that this book is made for this season and if you’re looking to cozy up with a comforting YA romance, then this one is for you.

The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy by Megan Bannen // Book Review

The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy by Megan Bannen // Book Review

If you’re a fan of zombies, demigods, undertakers, and You’ve Got Mail, then this book is 100% for you. The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy was a lot and I mean that in a positive way. Thanks to Orbit Books for the gifted copy.

Here’s more about The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy

Hart is a marshal, tasked with patrolling the strange and magical wilds of Tanria. It’s an unforgiving job, and Hart’s got nothing but time to ponder his loneliness.

Mercy never has a moment to herself. She’s been single-handedly keeping Birdsall & Son Undertakers afloat in defiance of sullen jerks like Hart, who seems to have a gift for showing up right when her patience is thinnest.

After yet another exasperating run-in with Mercy, Hart finds himself penning a letter addressed simply to “A Friend”. Much to his surprise, an anonymous letter comes back in return, and a tentative friendship is born.

If only Hart knew he’s been baring his soul to the person who infuriates him most – Mercy. As the dangers from Tanria grow closer, so do the unlikely correspondents. But can their blossoming romance survive the fated discovery that their pen pals are their worst nightmares – each other?

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My thoughts

I had already heard a buzz about this book before I picked it up and I picked it up before the book was officially published, so I feel like that was a good sign that what I was getting into would be stellar. And folks, it was a wild and crazy ride that I wholeheartedly loved.

Mercy is a 30-something-year-old who’s been tirelessly working to keep her family’s funeral business afloat. Her father’s aging, her brother doesn’t care, and in a world where undertaking is passed on from father and son, there’s no room for Mercy to pursue this full time. However, she’s determined to keep it open despite the competition offering to pay a lot to shutter.

Hart is a 30-something demigod who has spent the last fifteen years traveling across the vastness of this world. He’s a marshal, who travels outside of their little world to defeat drudges (aka zombies) and return the lost bodies of loved ones to be buried properly. His work requires him to visit Mercy at her family’s funeral home every few weeks, but it’s not his favorite part of the job.

From the very beginning, you can tell Hart and Mercy had it out for each other. They’ve given each other crude nicknames, refuse to work together, and just really consider each other in any sort of working relationship despite their jobs requiring them to work together. But then one day, Hart writes an anonymous letter and sent it out into the world with no hopes that someone would read it only to have the letter mailed to Mercy. At that point on, Hart and Mercy write deeply intimate letters to each other creating a kinship that would have never happened in their very real lives.

The story reads so much like you’re watching You’ve Got Mail. I think there’s an entire scene that feels frame-for-frame a scene from the movie. For all intents and purposes, you can call this a contemporary romance story with a grumpy/sunshine dynamic that are enemies-to-lovers. But the addition of this strange world with its drudges and demigods really brings a fresh spin to the average romance story.

I will say, I was a bit confused by the world-building when I first started reading. I kept on imagining this book to be a more modern Western, but it didn’t feel like the wild west that we’ve seen in the past. The world is most definitely a fantasy world completely different than the one we know, but with some of the familiar bits to keep you grounded. Yes, there’s demigods that have magical powers and can sometimes be immortal, but then you also have someone making quiches for breakfast. It’s a good blend of reality with fantasy and a touch of science fiction and horror. It really creates a dynamic world that isn’t too difficult to comprehend, but also brings a level of high fantasy you wouldn’t normally see.

The characters in this book are definitely the driving force. Alongside Hart and Mercy, there were Mercy’s family and Hart’s family who all play intricate roles within their lives. Getting to know them and how much they love the main characters and support them truly made the story so much more fun. I love a big cast of characters especially if they’re not directly involved in any conflict.

Overall, this was such a fun story to get into and if you’re not typically a romance fan, then this might be a great one to get into. It was such a weird little world, but I absolutely indulged in it thoroughly.

The Hookup Plan by Farrah Rochon // Book Review

The final book in the Boyfriend Project series, and in my honest opinion, Farrah Rochon saved the best for last! Thanks to Read Forever for the gifted copy of this book.

Here’s more about The Hookup Plan

Strong female friendships and a snappy enemies-to-lovers theme take center stage in this highly anticipated romantic comedy from the USA Today bestselling author of The Dating Playbook.

Successful pediatric surgeon London Kelley just needs to find some balance and de-stress. According to her friends Samiah and Taylor, what London really needs is a casual hookup. A night of fun with no strings. But no one—least of all London—expected it to go down at her high school reunion with Drew Sullivan, millionaire, owner of delicious abs, and oh yes, her archnemesis.

Now London is certain the road to hell is paved with good sex. Because she’s found out the real reason Drew’s back in Austin: to decide whether her beloved hospital remains open. Worse, Drew is doing everything he can to show her that he’s a decent guy who actually cares. But London’s not falling for it. Because while sleeping with the enemy is one thing, falling for him is definitely not part of the plan.

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My thoughts

If you’re a fan of enemies to lovers, romance stories with realistic conflict, and watching two people grow as individuals and as a couple through some turbulent times, then this is the book for you.

The Hookup Plan is my kind of romance. I talk about this a lot, but this one also hits all of my favorite things in a romance story. Yes, it focuses on the couple. Yes, it has an HEA/HFN that will satisfy you, but what this book also has are two very flawed humans coming to terms with the drama of their lives and making room for each other, their love, and a future that’s worth fighting for.

I absolutely loved London and Drew’s story. London is this hardworking pediatric surgeon who needs to make the next big decision of her life: whether she should stay at the County hospital that she’s currently working at or follow a really great fellowship in a much bigger city like Chicago. Drew is a super wealthy financial guy who has the unique opportunity of auditing London’s hospital and seeing whether or not selling the hospital makes sense or if it’s something that can be avoided with some clever financial work on his end.

London and Drew already know each other from their past as high school rivals fighting for the position of Valedictorian (only to be co-Valedictorians on the day of graduation). London despised Drew for always being the roadblock in the way of her ultimate success. Drew, on the other hand, only competed with London in order to gain a little bit of her attention. Because Drew has been in love with the idea of London since he first laid eyes on her.

15 years later and an awkward meet-cute at their high school reunion, London and Drew decide the best course of action for their amorous behavior is to be friends…with benefits. And you can guess where the story goes from there.

London and Drew were such real people in this book faced with very realistic issues in their life. This isn’t some lie by omission child’s play, but the real deal: having complicated family lives, having to make major decisions that will change the trajectory of their life. Dealing with the stresses that work and coworkers provide and navigating all while also maintaining some semblance of a social life. It felt real and that was the biggest draw for me here. I was rooting for London with the difficult conversations she had to have. I was hoping Drew would come clean about his feelings. The fact that the story felt so realistic made it more interesting for me to see where it goes. I knew Farrah Rochon wouldn’t let me down and she definitely didn’t!

It was such a heartwarming story with the kind of fantastical romantic gestures that will make you swoon. My heart was overflowing and a little bit breaking when it came to the realities they each had to face. I was so invested in this couple and rooting for them the entire time. The steam was pretty steamy and the relationship between London, Samiah, and Taylor was in full force in this novel. I know folks felt like they were absent throughout the first book, but I love seeing them all comfort each other, hold each other accountable, and really come into their own as best friends.

Another great one in the books for me. So happy to have read this one and I hope you pick it up too.

The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston // Book Review

The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston // Book Review

I picked this book on a whim. One of my reader friends loved it. It’s a Good Morning America Book Club pick. And someone asked me to read it. So I thought why not? Well, it definitely exceeded my expectations and even brought a tear to my eye. If a book can make me cry, then it’s a pretty good book in my opinion.

Here’s more about The Dead Romantics

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.

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My thoughts

This was such a complex story centered on one character, Florence, and her very unique life. She’s a ghostwriter that can see and speak to ghosts. Her father has recently passed, so she’s heading back to the hometown that’s bullied her to leave. She’s also finding out that her new very good looking editor, Ben, has recently passed and his ghost is showing up as she mourns her father, understands why she can’t write romance anymore, and figures out how to come to terms with her past. There’s a lot going on for Florence.

And the great part is that Ashley Poston expertly interweaves all the parts of this book together. It’s like a symphonic orchestra of themes and conflict that all somehow make the most beautiful music. It also helps that Ashley Poston’s writing is lyrical and beautiful sharing wisdom about life, death, and love throughout the story.

I found myself tearing up at so many different parts of this book. I cried during the funeral for her father. I cried during the end. I cried when the family was dancing around the funeral home and reminiscing about their lives in that place. And they were all tears of joy. It takes a lot for an author to make me cry, but it truly touched me to see how beautifully you can imagine death despite it being such a heavy subject.

Ashley Poston also doesn’t shy away from the conversation of death. In fact, she leans into it really hard but in a way that makes you happy. Yes, you’ll be happy about death by the end of this book! It did trigger my anxiety on the entire subject, but it also comforted me.

I know that the romance folks won’t like this one as much because it’s not too centered on the romance, but I fell in love with Florence and Ben. Yes, Ben is a ghost and yes they can never be together until Florence probably dies, but I had so many Casper vibes between the two of them and it made me wish so hard that Ben was real. While they may not have been able to touch each other or be intimate the way a couple would be in a romance, I think Ashley Poston really nailed the emotional and supportive components of a relationship; the parts that truly make a partnership between two people rather than just the sex. It was kind of beautiful.

I think the only thing I didn’t like is that the language got repetitive. There were some things that Ashley Poston tended to repeat over and over again, which made for a little dislike, but not enough to hate the overall story.

But in the end, I absolutely adored it. I’m so glad my friend loved it and influenced me to read it. I’m so glad someone brought it up and asked for my opinion. I’m so glad that I got a “skip the line” on my Libby app because this truly brought me comfort and joy in a time that feels really dark.

Book Lovers by Emily Henry // Book Review

Book Lovers by Emily Henry // Book Review

Is it worth the hype? Yep. It definitely is.

Here’s more about Book Lovers

One summer. Two rivals. A plot twist they didn’t see coming….

Nora Stephens’ life is books—she’s read them all—and she is not that type of heroine. Not the plucky one, not the laidback dream girl, and especially not the sweetheart. In fact, the only people Nora is a heroine for are her clients, for whom she lands enormous deals as a cutthroat literary agent, and her beloved little sister Libby.

Which is why she agrees to go to Sunshine Falls, North Carolina for the month of August when Libby begs her for a sisters’ trip away—with visions of a small-town transformation for Nora, who she’s convinced needs to become the heroine in her own story. But instead of picnics in meadows, or run-ins with a handsome country doctor or bulging-forearmed bartender, Nora keeps bumping into Charlie Lastra, a bookish brooding editor from back in the city. It would be a meet-cute if not for the fact that they’ve met many times and it’s never been cute.

If Nora knows she’s not an ideal heroine, Charlie knows he’s nobody’s hero, but as they are thrown together again and again—in a series of coincidences no editor worth their salt would allow—what they discover might just unravel the carefully crafted stories they’ve written about themselves.

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My thoughts

If you’re not a fan of romance novels featuring book nerds, then I highly recommend this book. For all intents and purposes, it is a contemporary romance story between two bookish people who find love in a small town in the middle of nowhere, but it’s so much more. And if you’ve been following my reviews, then you know that my kind of romance are the ones that have a little bit more going on. This is the perfect blend of romance with something extra (which I know won’t be a big draw for the more die-hard romance readers, I’m sorry).

The story follows Nora, a literary agent living in New York who considers herself “the other girl.” You know, the one that the main male lead leaves in order to help the small-town main female lead with her mother’s stationery store in country. She’s the “shark,” who knows what she wants, willing to do anything for it, and will fight fiercely for it. That goes double for her clients and her sister. And when her sister suggests they spend a month in the same small town that one of her client’s books takes place, she agrees because Nora is the type of person who will stop at nothing to make her sister happy.

I know this book is already criticized for having too much of a sibling relationship in a romance story, but honestly, that was one of my favorite parts of the story. The relationship between Nora and Libby has its ups and downs, but the love they have for each other is desirable. As they live out the various tropes they read in romance novels as a kid, Nora and Libby eventually grow to understand each other. They love each other, but Nora has a tendency to sacrifice everything for Libby while Libby encourages her to do what makes her happy. It’s the crux of their relationship throughout the story and something that I truly loved watching play out throughout the book. Their relationship throughout the book is just as important as the one between the two main protagonists.

Of course, the story follows two enemies-to-lovers book nerds who work in the same industry. Nora is the tough literary agent who will sacrifice evenings and weekends for her clients while Charlie is the hard-headed editor who’s scrutiny of her client’s books makes her blood boil. And when they both find themselves in the small town in the middle of nowhere, well, you know the rest.

In so many ways, Nora and Charlie reminded me of Rory and Jess in Gilmore Girls. Granted, the circumstances between these two characters is completely different than the ones in Gilmore Girls, but the small town where everyone is in everyone’s business with two very bookish people reside and they’re a little off the beaten path? It really gave me the cutest vibes and I was happy about it. I mean, who didn’t root for Rory and Jess? They were fire and ice with each other, banter playing between them in their own intimate flirtation. You wanted someone to give, but both of them being so stubborn provides for some entertaining and eventually steamy scenes.

Another added feature was learning the backgrounds of Libby, Nora, as well as Charlie. It’s not the brightest thing you want to read when you’re in the middle of a romance story, but I imagined scenes like Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail where she reminisced on her mother and how the bookstore reminded her of the fond memories they shared together. I was getting the same exact feeling with Nora and Libby. There’s a lot of mention of their mother throughout the story and it made the characters feel so much more realistic having that anchor of love between them.

Truly, I loved every minute of this story and reading it on audio (narrated by the talented Julie Whelan), really made the experience so much more fun. Am I a fan of romance novels yet? Not really, but this one definitely made me turn my head.

Eclipse the Moon by Jessie Mihalik // Book Review

Eclipse the Moon by Jessie Mihalik // Book Review

Ok, if you’re a fan of love stories plus a lot of action/adventure and a plot to save the universe from another war between two different beings, then this series is for you. Thanks to Harper Voyager for the gifted book.

Here’s more about Eclipse the Moon

Kee Ildez has been many things: hacker, soldier, bounty hunter. She never expected to be a hero, but when a shadowy group of traitors starts trying to goad the galaxy’s two superpowers into instigating an interstellar war, Kee throws herself into the search to find out who is responsible—and stop them.

Digging up hidden information is her job, so hunting traitors should be a piece of cake, but the primary suspect spent years in the military, and someone powerful is still covering his tracks. Disrupting their plans will require the help of her entire team, including Varro Runkow, a Valovian weapons expert who makes her pulse race.

Quiet, grumpy, and incredibly handsome, Varro watches her with hot eyes but ignores all of her flirting, so Kee silently vows to keep her feelings strictly platonic. But that vow will be put to the test when she and Varro are forced to leave the safety of their ship and venture into enemy territory alone.

Cut off from the rest of their team, they must figure out how to work together—and fast—because a single misstep will cost thousands of lives.

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My thoughts

After finishing Eclipse the Moon (the second book in the Starlight’s Shadow series), I have to say that this is the perfect story for anyone who wants to read science fiction, but felt super intimidated by the genre. It’s also for folks like me who don’t like romance novels too much, but prefer ones with a bit more story to them.

In fact, similar to the first book in the series, this focuses more on what’s happening in space than on the romance. Don’t be fooled, the romance readers will get their steamy scenes and emotional roller coaster ride throughout the story, but it’s also such a great adventure story.

Eclipse the Moon follows Kee (the hacker) and Varro (the weapons expert) as they head off on an adventure on their own. They decide to attend a fashion show hosted on Bastion, the space station they visited in the first book. The interesting part of this fashion show is that both Valovians and humans collaborated to create clothing that combines both art and technology together. This is all in an effort to bring their two races together in peace rather than continue to promote harm and war between the two of them. However, Kee has a sinking suspicion that the folks who stole the Empress’s young grandson will also be at Bastion during this time. She heads to the event with Varro in hopes of finding more information on their plans to start another war.

I really loved this adventure and while most of this story focused on Kee and Varro infiltrating the fashion show, saving some key folks from the event, and then helping to track down the traitors, I loved it. I think many folks looking for another found family story may be a bit disappointed to see that it’s only featuring Kee and Varro, but I loved watching them take action, defend the good folks (regardless if they were human or Valoff), and helping track down the villains.

The romance itself was much lighter than the first one. While there wasn’t any lack of romantic gestures and beautiful words, it didn’t feel as intensely as it did between Tavi and Tarron. That’s okay with me since many relationships are different and love is shown in many different ways. It might also be because this was a classic grumpy/sunshine trope and Varro is 100% grumpy.

Since this book is in Kee’s perspective, a lot of what she did was hacking and looking at data to find one piece of information here or there. I think my least favorite part was reading through that because not much is going on aside from her looking through lines of code. It’s not the most tantalizing thing in the world, so I wasn’t that excited to read those parts. However, they are redeemed with all the action as they try to escape the situations they found themselves in and make it back to the Starlight Shadow.

Overall, this was another great adventure for the team and another great love story for me. I can’t wait for book 3!

Hunt the Stars by Jessie Mihalik // Book Review

Hunt the Stars by Jessie Mihalik // Book Review

This was such a great start to a new series from Jessie Mihalik and definitely achieves what I believe is the perfect romance for me!

Here’s more about Hunt the Stars

Octavia Zarola would do anything to keep her tiny, close-knit bounty hunting crew together—even if it means accepting a job from Torran Fletcher, a ruthless former general and her sworn enemy. When Torran offers her enough credits to not only keep her crew afloat but also hire someone to fix her ship, Tavi knows that she can’t refuse—no matter how much she’d like to.

With so much money on the line, Torran and his crew insist on joining the hunt. Tavi reluctantly agrees because while the handsome, stoic leader pushes all of her buttons—for both anger and desire—she’s endured worse, and the massive bonus payment he’s promised for a completed job is reason enough to shut up and deal.

But when they uncover a deeper plot that threatens the delicate peace between humans and Valoffs, Tavi suspects that Torran has been using her as the impetus for a new war. With the fate of her crew balanced on a knife’s edge, Tavi must decide where her loyalties lie—with the quiet Valoff who’s been lying to her, or with the human leaders who left her squad to die on the battlefield. And this time, she’s put her heart on the line.

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My thoughts

I’m not a huge fan of romantic stories that focuses soley on the couple. I know I’m in the minority here, but when I heard that this is a romance with a bit of science fiction, I had to check it out. I’m so glad I did. Not only does this book feature romance, but it has a big political plot, a cast of quirky characters, an enemies-to-lovers trope, and so much more. I mean, this is everything I’ve ever wanted in a romance story.

But I will say that the science fiction comes first and the romance comes second, which is all super fine with me. It starts off with Tavia and her crew aboard her ship and receiving the details of a bounty mission; to find a missing ring lost by Torran, a Valovian general. Now, the background between humans and Valovians goes back a long time where both these races fought each other for land and power. To have a Valovian ask a human crew to find a missing item is a huge risk and Tavia is will to take it for the huge cashout at the end.

Of course, the crew alongside Torran’s gets into their own rows as they travel back to Valovia in search of the missing item. This is where it gets really good because the twists and surprises are endless. It totally caught me off guard in a good way and I found myself racing towards the end to see what happened.

I would also consider this book science fiction lite because it doesn’t delve too deeply into worldbuilding. That’s okay with me because despite the lack of worldbuilding, there was enough intrigue and suspense to keep me going. If anything, this would be a great starter for anyone who wants to get into science fiction, but feel intimidated by the big worlds.

The romance itself was really well done as well. I loved seeing our protagonists go from enemies-to-lovers and while there are only closed door scenes, I will say that this telepathic caresses were something I wish existed in real life lol.

The only thing I wasn’t a huge fan of was the pace. It felt a bit slow in the beginning as you’re building towards the ultimate ending, but I also loved getting to see these two crews from completely different worlds get to know each other and become friends.

Overall, a great start to a new science fiction series and I can’t wait to read the next!

This is definitely my kind of romance story. I love it when there’s a little bit more going on than just the couple getting together and this one combines it with one of my favorite genres: science fiction.

I will note that the worldbuilding isn’t that strong, but I don’t really care. It comes secondary to the plot and conflict that the author built and I’m all here for it.

Island Time by Georgia Clark // Book Review

Island Time by Georgia Clark // Book Review

I’m always excited to read what Georgia Clark has to offer. Her books have always been interesting with a blend of fun, engaging story and serious conversations. You get a little bit of both worlds with Georgia Clark’s books and I’m excited to say that Island Time is no exception. Thanks to Atria Books for the gifted read.

Here’s more about Island Time

Love is in the salty sea air in this smart and steamy ensemble romantic comedy set in a tropical paradise, from the author of the “sparkly and entertaining” (Oprah Daily) It Had to Be You. This is one island you won’t want to be rescued from.

The Kellys are messy, loud, loving Australians. The Lees are sophisticated, aloof, buttoned-up Americans. They have nothing in common…except for the fact that their daughters are married. When a nearby volcano erupts during their short vacation to a remote tropical island off the coast of Queensland, the two families find themselves stranded together for six weeks.

With only two island employees making up the rest of their party, everyone is forced to question what—or who—they really want. Island Time is a sumptuous summer read that dives deep into queer romance, family secrets, ambition, parenthood, and a bird-chasing bromance. This sexy, sun-soaked paradise of white sandy beaches, crystal-clear waters, and lush rainforest will show you it’s never too late to change your destiny.

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My thoughts

I went into this book thinking it would be a departure from Georgia Clark’s normal repartee of stories. It’s supposed to be a rom-com about two families who are literally stranded on an island together. The Lees and the Kellys were two imperfect families come together through their daughters’ marriage and hoping to celebrate the next phase of their life. But it was obvious after the freak tsunami/earthquake/volcano eruption that there was much more going on beneath the surface of both of these families.

The driving force of this novel were its characters and there were a ton of them. Not only did you have Matty and Parker making their final decisions on moving to Sydney from New York, but you also had Matty’s younger sister, Amelia, and her parents, Glen and Jules. Then you had Parker’s mother and father, Ludmila and Randall, who also had their fair share of secrets and character development to run into throughout the story. Plus, the island’s caretaker, Liss, who wanted to escape her life (and her ex, Sofia) in Montreal and Jarrah, a local man who loved to immerse himself in the Aboriginal culture and world that he was born into. Yep, it’s a lot of folks and I think the only person who really didn’t have any change or development was Randall, Parker’s father.

Everyone else, well, they had their own thing going on. From both Matty and Parker’s careers on the brink of a huge change to their decision to have a child to Jules and Glen’s separation they haven’t told their daughters. Then there was Ludmila who’s change I personally didn’t see coming and was pleasantly surprised by. And Glen trying to find himself while Jules trying to get laid by Jarrah. And then Amelia and her recent run-in with Liss. There was a lot of ground to cover, which definitely added to the bulk of this novel.

On top of what’s happening in everyone’s lives, there was also a deep examination on Australian nature and ecosystem. I loved this part because I know little to nothing about Australia and learning more about the culture (both naturally and the history of the Aboriginals) through a digestible package like a contemporary story made me want to visit. I don’t want to encounter any spiders the size of a dinner plate, but the way the author incorporated the pieces of her homeland into the story made it feel like such a love letter.

I think one of the benefits of Georgia Clark’s writing is that she covers everything. She will get into making the decision to have a baby with every single emotion and thought that goes into it. She will tell you the background of how Aboriginals were cast out by the English settlers. She will go through every nuanced emotion a young person may feel when they’re falling in love. She does not quit. But I felt like in this particular book, there was just too much. With each character having a unique experience and development to the island itself, there was a lot of information to juggle and a lot of loose ends that needed to be tied up. I think Georgia does a great job pacing herself to wrangle all of these bits of information together, but I also feel like if she stuck to a few topics rather than each character having some sort of identity crisis then it wouldn’t have felt like an undertaking of a story to complete.

Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed the heck out of this novel. I loved the characters (especially Glen for some random reason), I loved rooting for them and following them through this very strange season of life, and I loved how they all made the best of their time stuck on a stranded island together. If you’re a fan of literary fiction with a slow burn, then I highly recommend this book to you.

Overall, this is the beach read for those who don’t like beach reads. The romance is very light with a couple of open-door scenes, but the main focus was this family, their identities, and who they will become after they get off this silly island.

Half a Soul by Olivia Atwater // Book Review

Half a Soul by Olivia Atwater // Book Review

What do you get when you combine a historical romance with a little bit of magic? You get this really enchanting first book in the Regency Fairy Tales series and fans of Bridgertons and fantasy will really get a kick out of this one. Thanks to Orbit Books for a gifted copy.

Here’s more about Half a Soul

It’s difficult to find a husband in Regency England when you’re a young lady with only half a soul.

Ever since she was cursed by a faerie, Theodora Ettings has had no sense of fear or embarrassment – a condition which makes her prone to accidental scandal. Dora hopes to be a quiet, sensible wallflower during the London Season – but when the strange, handsome and utterly uncouth Lord Sorcier discovers her condition, she is instead drawn into dangerous and peculiar faerie affairs.

If Dora’s reputation can survive both her curse and her sudden connection with the least-liked man in all of high society, then she may yet reclaim her normal place in the world. . . but the longer Dora spends with Elias Wilder, the more she begins to suspect that one may indeed fall in love, even with only half a soul.

Bridgerton meets Howl’s Moving Castle in this enchanting historical fantasy, where the only thing more meddlesome than faeries is a marriage-minded mother.

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My thoughts

This was such a fun little fairy tale with a little bit of historical romance thrown into it as well. I was immediately swept away by the idea of a young girl having half of her soul removed by a faerie she meets one day. With one grey eye and a lot of her emotions pulled from her, Dora spends most of her life trying not to make the rest of her family look silly in front of the ton. But her and her cousin, Vanessa, are now at the marrying age and she must find a husband.

However, Vanessa has other plans and she wants to help Dora break her curse and retrieve the other half of her soul. So, they plan to go to London and meet the Lord Sorcier (the king’s magician), Elias in hopes that his magic will be powerful enough to break the faerie curse. Elias turns out to be the grumpiest grump who’s more focused on helping those in need than going to balls and finding a wife. I mean, he says it a few times throughout the book so it’s pretty obvious. But of course, Dora and Elias are the main couple of the story. I really loved Dora and Elias. Their relationship starts off rocky, but as the story progresses , well, you can imagine the rest. II will note, for those romance fans, that this doesn’t have any steam. I want to make sure that’s out there.

I’m not a huge fan of historical romances. In general, I need a bit more plot and some more themes throughout the romance to really keep me excited about it. This book has that Regency period romance, but what I loved the most about it was that it took the perspective from outside the ton. I’m not an authority on the subject, but I’ve never read a historical romance novel that looks at how the over half lives; the people who aren’t involved in the ton, who are trying to make it every day with whatever they can make, and the poor treatment of these people by people like the ton. The book explores not only the obvious tropes of a Regency drama, but it also shows the workhouses of the period. Dora and much of the cast of characters outside her own family actually use their wealth to help the needy. It was probably my favorite part of the entire book!

While they’re at the workhouse, they come across a little girl who is sleeping but can’t wake up. It turns out that she’s plagued by something that causes her to sleep without ever waking up and that becomes the main goal for Elias and Dora to figure out. I will say, this part gets a bit dull. It’s great that they are looking for a cure for this plague, but the constant reading books and studying made the story stop short without anything to continue to move it forward.

However, I did love the final part of the book and the conclusion to both Dora’s curse and the sleeping plague. I did think that it moved quickly suddenly especially with the slowness of the middle, but the ending was thrilling, the look into the faerie world was delightful, and I loved how it resolves itself.

Overall, this was a fun little book and I enjoyed it immensely. Coming off of reading Howl’s Moving Castle, I wanted it to be as whimsical as that story, but I still felt enchanted.

I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston // Book Review

I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston // Book Review

Shara freaking Wheeler. This is my third Casey McQuiston and I’m so excited to read their first foray into YA fiction. And let me tell you, it’s so good! Thanks to Wednesday Books for a gifted copy.

Here’s more about I Kissed Shara Wheeler

Chloe Green is so close to winning. After her moms moved her from SoCal to Alabama for high school, she’s spent the past four years dodging gossipy classmates and a puritanical administration at Willowgrove Christian Academy. The thing that’s kept her going: winning valedictorian. Her only rival: prom queen Shara Wheeler, the principal’s perfect progeny.

But a month before graduation, Shara kisses Chloe and vanishes.

On a furious hunt for answers, Chloe discovers she’s not the only one Shara kissed. There’s also Smith, Shara’s longtime quarterback sweetheart, and Rory, Shara’s bad boy neighbor with a crush. The three have nothing in common except Shara and the annoyingly cryptic notes she left behind, but together they must untangle Shara’s trail of clues and find her. It’ll be worth it, if Chloe can drag Shara back before graduation to beat her fair-and-square.

Thrown into an unlikely alliance, chasing a ghost through parties, break-ins, puzzles, and secrets revealed on monogrammed stationery, Chloe starts to suspect there might be more to this small town than she thought. And maybe—probably not, but maybe—more to Shara, too.

Fierce, funny, and frank, Casey McQuiston’s I Kissed Shara Wheeler is about breaking the rules, getting messy, and finding love in unexpected places.

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My thoughts

I picked up this book because I was desperately in need of something different to read than the heavy fantasy books I was reading. I’m so glad I did what I did because this was such a wonderful story with an exploration in identity, persona, and really finding and being your authentic self.

Chloe Green is one of the top students in school. She’s been head-to-head with her biggest school rival, popular and pretty Shara Wheeler. But one day Shara kisses Chloe in an elevator and then disappears a few days later. In hopes of finding out what happened to her, Chloe sneaks into Shara’s bedroom only to meet Rory, another person Shara kissed. From there, they find the first note in a series of letters that lead them to Shara’s whereabouts.

I loved the level of mystery this book had. Shara wasn’t kidnapped. Nothing terrible happened to her. She ran away and created a puzzle for Chloe, Rory, and her ex-boyfriend, Smith, to uncover. With each letter they find, they learn a little bit more about where Shara may be as well as a little bit about Shara.

The story itself was super lighthearted with some serious conversations throughout. I knew that there would be big laughs and joking moments, but I also really appreciated the honest parts discussing gender identity, sexual identity, and just truly finding out who you are.

Another part that I truly appreciated was the consistency in the story. I always read YA stories where the characters are in school, but they never go to class. I loved that Chloe was still going to class everyday, showing up for final exams, and that part of their world was incorporated into the bigger story. It felt genuine for the kids to juggle their real lives with the mystery behind Shara.

This is definitely one of those propulsive books that make you keep reading. You want to find out what happened to Shara. You’re on this big scavenger hunt with Chloe, Smith, and Rory. You want to see what the next letter says and learning more about the kids (as well as the adults) in this book makes it feel more realistic. Although, I will admit there were some parts that really require you to suspend your disbelief, but it still made you laugh.

There’s a lot of play on persona in this novel and I commend Casey McQuiston for diving deep into Jungian psychology throughout the book. I think the only person in this book who didn’t have a persona was Chloe, who came to the school much later than the rest of the main characters in the story. Shara Wheeler was most definitely a study in persona and even Chloe was fooled by the multiple masks she wore. I won’t go any further into it because it might spoil the story, but once you think you’ve figured Shara Wheeler out, a new little twist appears revealing deeper layers behind her.