Thursday, June 13, 2024

Book Review: "Margo's Got Money Troubles" by Rufi Thorpe

I hate being an outlier, especially on a book I’ve really been anticipating, but this just didn’t grab me, although I appreciated its message.

Margo is a student at a junior college, working as a waitress to make ends meet. She really doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life, but her English professor, Mark, thinks she’s tremendously intelligent and can do almost anything.

It’s not long before Margo and Mark start sleeping together, despite the fact that he’s married with children of his own. But after Mark ends the affair, Margo discovers she is pregnant. Although everyone—Mark, her mother, her friends—tell her that she should have an abortion, that having a baby will ruin her life, she decides to give birth.

When her son Bodhi is born, she’s 20 years old, and she’s quickly at the end of her rope. Her mother won’t help, and she can’t find anyone to watch the baby, so she can’t work. When her estranged father Jinx, a former pro wrestler, needs a place to live, he moves in and helps take care of the baby.

Margo still needs money, however. Her father tells her about OnlyFans, and while she can’t quite imagine filming herself, the money she could make is a powerful enticement. Little by little, she comes out of her shell, and the experiment becomes a smashing success.

There are definitely some funny moments in the book, including the baby shower (IYKYK), but there’s a lot of poignancy as well. The gimmick in which the narration shifted between first and third person threw me off a lot. But lots of people have loved this, so give it a try!

Book Review: "Free Fall" by Kathryn Nolan

I was yesterday years old when I discovered that there’s a bodyguard romance sub-genre. I mean, I read Katherine Center's The Bodyguard, but who knew it was an actual sub-genre? If there are other books like this one, my devotion to hockey romance might be in jeopardy!

When Luke Beaumont’s enormously wealthy father, whom he hadn’t spoken to in five years, dies, he is shocked to learn that he’s now the heir to a massive real estate development company. Luke doesn’t get why his father would leave him the company, when he was grooming his brother Preston to take over.

Luke would like to get as far away from the family business as he can, and continue working as a water safety and surfing instructor. Of course, his father manipulated things so he’d lose his trust fund if he tried to shirk his responsibilities. Another thing that Luke inherited is a need for a full-time bodyguard, especially because his father had been getting death threats.

Elijah, his bodyguard, is a strict rule-follower, and he doesn’t like that Luke won’t listen to him. Elijah is also seriously sexy, which isn’t lost on Luke. They feel a very strong connection, but Elijah doesn’t want to jeopardize his imminent promotion—plus if he lets Luke distract him, it could prove dangerous.

Just as the death threats are heating up, so is the fire between them. When Luke is kidnapped, Elijah will do anything to find Luke, not just because it’s his job, but because it’s the man he loves.

“When I stayed close, I kept Luke from danger. When I stayed close, Luke was the danger.”

This was STEAMY, emotional, romantic, and suspenseful. Couldn’t get enough!!

Book Review: "The Great Cool Ranch Dorito in the Sky" by Josh Galarza

How could I resist reading a book with a title like this, even though I’m a Doritos purist? As lighthearted as the title is, however, this book packs a real emotional punch.

Life can be challenging when you’re a teenager, but for Brett, things are even harder. His adoptive mother has cancer, so he’s living with his best friend, Reed. The only things that make him feel better are drawing comics and eating. He eats a lot, so of course, he finds himself upset with how he looks, which leads to bulimia.

Brett doesn’t really think there’s a problem with binging and purging all the time. And when some of his journal entries are leaked online by someone he trusted, he hits rock bottom. But then he starts to realize that he has a problem and needs help, and he discovers that he’s not as alone as he thinks.

This is a tough book to read. You really feel Brett’s sadness and trauma, and it’s fairly graphic in describing his eating disorder. However, this book is so important, because there are so few books out there that address eating disorders in teenage boys.

As someone who struggled with my weight all through high school (and beyond), this definitely hit close to home for me. But while the book is a bit heavy, it’s also hopeful. It’s a story about asking for help and realizing you’re not alone. It’s also a story about love, of friends and chosen family, but also loving yourself.

Thanks to NetGalley and Henry Holt Books for Young Readers for the advance copy. The book will publish 7/23.

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Book Review: "All Friends Are Necessary" by Tomas Moniz

“But now, I understood that finding your family and your friends often happens despite anything you choose to do. You have no real control. And maybe that’s for the best. You can prepare and devise and court and romance all you want, and sometimes that works. But trauma can lead to family. Accidents can create friendships.”

This gorgeously written, character-driven book is about the family we choose and the family we’re born into. It’s about resilience and recovery and finding your own way. And it’s a beautiful tribute to the power of belonging, of love, of being seen.

Efren (aka Chino) is a biology teacher in Seattle, preparing for his wife to have a baby. But when tragedy strikes, he moves back to the Bay Area, where he ekes out a simple existence, working temp jobs, hanging with his college best friends, and longing for connection and companionship.

Chino needs to find his way out of his grieving, anger, and guilt. He moves about 90 minutes away from the Bay Area, still trying to find himself, and he dates both men and women in an effort to find the person who feels most right. And while he finds a home and dreams of an opportunity, he eventually heads back to the Bay to be with his friends.

The book spans between 2018 and 2023, watching the group of friends deal with changes in their lives, their relationships, even the pandemic. And in the end, they realize that life is real, it is hard, and it is uncertain, but it’s worth all of it.

“Perhaps Genevieve is right. All your pain and all your joy. All the ridiculous memories and regrets and mistakes: Why would you want to leave all those memories of family and friends and broken hearts and birth and death behind?”

Monday, June 10, 2024

Book Review: "The Hollywood Assistant" by May Cobb

Holy twists and turns, Batman! May Cobb’s upcoming thriller definitely kept me on the edge of my seat. While not everything was a surprise, there was a lot that kept me guessing.

Since the end of her last relationship, Cassidy has been struggling emotionally and professionally. An aspiring novelist, she can’t seem to find the right story to hook a publisher. So her best friend Lexie convinces her to move to Los Angeles, and she lines up a job for Cassidy, as the personal assistant to a famous couple, Nate and Marisol Sterling.

Cassidy quickly realizes the job is a dream come true. She does a lot of shopping, runs errands, and organizes Marisol’s stuff, but there are a lot of perks, including being gifted a large amount of clothes that Marisol doesn’t need. And when Nate offers her the opportunity read a script and share her opinions, she gets to do that fairly often.

With Lexie shooting a film in Prague, Cassidy is pretty lonely, so she enjoys the easy camaraderie she feels with the Sterlings. They are a tempestuous couple, often fighting and then making up, which is awkward to watch, especially the more Cassidy feels a connection to Nate.

And then things start to go off the rails for the Sterlings, and Cassidy finds herself entangled in the mess. Amidst the chaos, she learns that things aren’t what they seemed. But is Cassidy, for that matter?

This definitely reads like a movie, and it is twisty and melodramatic. It’s fun when you don’t know whom to trust or how things are going to unfold. Thanks to Berkley and NetGalley for the advance copy. The book will publish 7/9.

Book Review: "You Should Be So Lucky" by Cat Sebastian

Cat Sebastian’s last book, We Could Be So Good, was one of my favorites of 2023. I love how she built a slow-burn romance between two men despite the fears and possible repercussions of the 1950s. In her new book, she does something similar with equally beautiful results.

Eddie is a young baseball player on the rise in 1960. He was ambushed with news of a trade to the pitiful New York Robins just after a game, and he made some comments to reporters about his new team that he probably shouldn’t have. Now he’s being ostracized by his teammates, he’s afraid to talk to reporters, he’s in the midst of a horrible batting slump, and he's living in a hotel because he's so sure he'll get traded again.

Mark is a newspaper reporter who is barely hanging on following the sudden death of his partner, a relationship unknown to nearly everyone. He is not a sports reporter, but the publisher assigns him to write a series of articles on Eddie which hopefully will endear him to the fans. The last thing Eddie wants to do is talk to another reporter, but he feels a connection to Mark fairly quickly, and trusts the man won’t make him look bad.

As Eddie tries to find his swing again, in Mark, he finds a friend and confidante, and recognizes that Mark is as attracted to him as he is to Mark. However, there’s no way Eddie can be an out baseball player (especially in 1960), and Mark is determined he doesn’t want to be someone else’s secret lover again. He tries to discourage Eddie’s feelings but at the same time, wants him as well.

“Mark always had to be careful, and careful means dishonest; careful means making sure that there’s always a lie at hand that he can reach for and use to paper over the truth.”

This was such a fantastically moving story, full of emotion, hope, fear, and far more acceptance than I would’ve imagined. I loved the supporting characters as much as Mark and Eddie, and was so happy with the way Sebastian let the story unfold. Can’t wait for her next one!!

Book Review: "You Had Me at Happy Hour" by Timothy Janovsky

My second book in a week featuring a bartender/mixologist…this is the best way to experience cocktails without a hangover!

Julien is a certified sommelier working in a bar/restaurant owned by his aunt and uncle. He dreams of becoming a master sommelier, which will help him write his ticket out of small-town Bethlehem, PA.

In an effort to attract more business to the restaurant, Julien’s aunt and uncle decide to hire Greg, a tremendously handsome mixologist who had gained some notoriety on TikTok. They believe with Greg’s cocktail-making skills and Julien’s expertise about wine, a huge flow of customers should be imminent.

But after Greg and Julien’s initial meeting fizzles awkwardly and their subsequent interactions go awry, business is flowing…away from the restaurant. So the two are tasked with creating new happy hours at the restaurant which can feature fun cocktails and excellent wine. That means they have to overcome whatever issues they have with one another and work together. Or else.

Of course, the awkwardness hides the strong mutual attraction between the two at first, but it’s not long before their feelings for each other intensify. But with Julien’s OCD and Greg’s anxiety and ED issues, the road to casual sex isn’t as smooth as it should be. And as their relationship heads towards love, both panic in their own ways.

I’ve read all of Timothy Janovsky’s books and this may be my favorite. I loved how he balanced the banter and the incredible steam with the serious emotional issues both Julien and Greg were dealing with. It turned what could have been a typical M/M rom-com into something more complex, and I loved it.

Thanks so much to NetGalley and Afterglow Books by Harlequin for the advance copy. The book will publish 7/23.