Sunday, July 31, 2022

Book Review: "The Lifestyle" by Taylor Hahn

As Taylor Hahn shows you in The Lifestyle, sometimes you have to shake up your life to figure out what you really want.

Georgina has always gone after what she wants. She has a great job as a partner in a law firm, a great husband, and she’s always trying to put other people’s needs and wants above her own. (Even if her selflessness isn’t always as generous as it seems.)

But having it all means nothing when you walk in on your husband having sex with an associate at your law firm—the associate you’re mentoring. Georgina is devastated, but divorce isn’t part of her plan. When a client tells her that swinging saved her marriage and added the desire and passion back in, Georgina is determined that getting into “the lifestyle” (swinging is such a 70s term) is what she and Nathan need.

She’s excited when her two closest friends and their spouses/significant others decide to join her and Nathan on their foray into this new world. And while she finds her encounters immensely freeing, it’s not having the effect on her marriage that she had hoped. Do they have to try harder? Is this not the issue?

When Georgina runs into her college boyfriend at a party, she’s reminded of the path she chose not to take. But the more she thinks about her future, she’s not sure if the life she’s living is the one she really wants. And what does that mean for her marriage, her career, her future, her friends?

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this book, but I really enjoyed it. It’s funny, poignant, and a bit steamy, but it’s also thought-provoking. Swinging isn’t something I’ve ever thought about so it was interesting to learn more about how people go about it.

Book Review: "Misfit" by Elle Kennedy

Misfit, the latest from one of my favorite romance authors, Elle Kennedy, is a fun, steamy prep school novel for fans of Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars.

It’s been a whirlwind for RJ—his mother is suddenly getting married to a rich guy he never met, and they’re sending him to Sandover Prep for his senior year. Sandover is an exclusive prep school for rich boys who’ve gotten into trouble.

RJ, who is an accomplished hacker, has been in and out of several high schools, and knows that it won’t be long before he runs afoul of the administration at Sandover. He’s happy being a loner, despite all efforts from his new stepbrother, Fenn, to get him to make friends.

When a girl runs into RJ while he’s smoking in the woods, he’s immediately attracted to her. The fact that she’s the headmaster’s daughter—which means she’s totally off-limits—doesn’t seem to faze him. But even though Sloane is intrigued by his apathetic vibe, she’s sworn off guys this year. Or has she?

The more they banter, the more the attraction between them grows. But Sloane’s father isn’t the only threat to RJ—her ex-boyfriend, Duke, doesn’t like the new kid, and if he has to destroy him, he will. RJ is going to need the help of his friends, and maybe an attitude adjustment, if he’s going to prove he’s worthy of Sloane and survive senior year.

Thanks so much to Get Red PR Books and Elle Kennedy for a complimentary copy of this book. It has everything I love—banter, romance, steam, rich kids behaving badly—and I can’t wait for the second book in the series. You want to dislike the characters but behind their cocky façades they’re fun to read about.

Book Review: "Hawk Mountain" by Conner Habib

Hawk Mountain, Conner Habib's debut novel, is creepy and gory, yet shockingly emotional in places.

Todd is at the beach one afternoon with his young son Anthony when a man approaches. He is shocked to discover that the man is Jack, who transferred to Todd’s high school senior year and bullied him relentlessly, causing him to be the object of ridicule by many of his peers. But Jack is apparently thrilled to have run into his “old friend.”

Although Todd would like Jack to say hello and keep on walking, he wants to catch up. And grab dinner. And maybe stay the night? It’s not long before Jack has a fan in Anthony and starts insinuating himself into Todd’s life. His presence reawakens memories Todd had suppressed for years, as well as confusion about his feelings toward his old bully.

Little by little, Jack’s presence wreaks havoc in Todd’s life, causing trouble professionally and personally. And as Todd spirals out of control, everything is at risk.

This book had intrigued me for a while but it’s so far outside of my comfort zone that I hesitated reading it. It’s definitely gory, but at the same time, it’s a meditation on the lengths we go to hide our desires, and the cruelty we inflict on those we see ourselves in. Todd’s memories of Jack’s cruelty in high school definitely hit very close to home for me.

Habib is a tremendously talented writer and this is a very self-assured debut. This is definitely not for everyone but it’s a book that will make you think, and one you’ll want to discuss, even as it creeps you out.

Book Review: "A Thousand Miles" by Bridget Morrissey

A second-chance romance with a road trip thrown in? Yes, please!! That's A Thousand Miles in a nutshell.

The last thing Dee expected one night was to find Ben at her apartment door. They were absolutely inseparable friends through high school and then 10 years ago, they stopped speaking to one another. Dee was so affected by the end of their relationship—and still is—that she refers to him as “Name Redacted” on the popular podcast she co-hosts, and it’s a program where everyone divulges their secrets.

Ben has missed having Dee in his life. But following his grandmother’s death and a revelation that shocked him, he’s vowed to go after what he wants. Ten years ago, they took a road trip to visit his grandmother in Colorado and buried a time capsule in her yard; they made a promise to come back 10 years later to open it. (And you can’t go back on a pinkie swear.)

Dee agrees to take the road trip with Ben, and they quickly fall into their old banter. The chemistry between them is intense, and they’re both determined not to make the same mistakes again. But if there’s ever a chance for them to remain in each other’s lives—especially as more than friends—they’ll have to confront what happened 10 years ago that ended their friendship.

I love second-chance romances and I loved the banter between the characters, as well as the supporting characters. The snippets from Dee’s podcasts were hysterically funny.

I’m always loath to compare books and authors but this almost had a bit of an Emily Henry feel to it, but it was not duplicative in any way. I just rooted for Dee and Ben (swoon) so much!!

Monday, July 25, 2022

Book Review: "Acts of Violet" by Margarita Montimore

There's nothing quite like family drama that tests the boundaries of reality.

Thanks so much to BookSparks, Flatiron Books, and Margarita Montimore for the complimentary copy of this book as part of #SRC2022! I had been eagerly anticipating this, as I really enjoyed Oona Out of Order.

Violet was a famous magician. She was the flamboyant one while her sister Sasha was the more stable one who was happy staying out of the spotlight. And then one day, in the middle of her act, Violet disappeared and was never seen again.

Trying to figure out what happened to Violet transfixed the public. And as the 10-year anniversary of Violet’s disappearance approaches, a podcaster is looking for answers, and won’t stop until he gets them from Sasha. But as much as she’d like to put Violet behind her, she is plagued by physical and emotional issues that must be tied to her sister. What does it all mean?

I tend to love books that mix different storytelling formats. This has letters, news articles, even emails scattered throughout, which gives the book more of an investigative feel. The story takes a while to unfold and the pacing moves slowly, but the plot is so rich. You will have to suspend your disbelief in order to enjoy this, so if a little bit of magic irritates, this may not be the book for you.

This was really a fascinating, heartfelt, and altogether unique story of family. It’s definitely touching and memorable, proving Montimore has a knack for stories that challenge reality but tug at your heart.

Book Review: "The Work Wife" by Alison B. Hart

Alison B. Hart's The Work Wife is a story about ambition, power, and what sacrifices you must make to fulfill your dreams.

When Zanne was struggling with her sexuality and addiction years ago, she never would’ve believed she’d land a job as a personal assistant to a powerful Hollywood couple, Ted and Holly Stabler. She’s exceptionally good at getting things done, solving crises and fulfilling the family’s often-ridiculous requests.

Tonight is a big fundraising party at the Stablers’ mansion in support of a charity. Zanne is hopeful that if the party is a success, she might get promoted to chief of staff, which would mean more money and the power she’s been craving.

If the party is going to succeed, Zanne and the team will have to contend with major chaos, from finding circus animals to dealing with a reporter stirring up scandal. But when Phoebe Lee, Ted’s former business partner, shows up, suddenly Zanne has to question if her unswerving loyalty to Ted and the family is worth sacrificing everything, including her happiness and her sense of right and wrong.

I love books about personal assistants to famous people and I love books about show business, but this one never really grabbed me. The pacing was quite slow and I felt like there were a lot of moving parts that didn’t quite mesh.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Book Review: "The Catch" by Alison Fairbrother

Sometimes understanding those we love is one of the hardest things.

Ellie has always dreamed of being a writer, even though her job writing for a website—and chasing after clickbait—isn’t quite what she had in mind. Her father, a poet, has children with three different women, but as the oldest, she definitely feels like she’s his favorite, like they understand each other.

But when her father dies unexpectedly, his will left a gift with significance to each of her siblings. She figures he’ll leave her his prized baseball, probably his most cherished possession; she’s surprised, however, that instead, he leaves her what seems like a gag gift, with no explanation, and he leaves the baseball to someone she’s never heard of before.

What significance does the gift she receive have? Why would her father give the baseball to someone else? Ellie digs deep to try and find out what secrets her father had been hiding. Did she really know him like she thought she did? Meanwhile, she’s dealing with her own secrets, including an older, married lover.

This is a story about grief, family connections, secrets, and finding the strength to move on. It’s also about the power of love and how it motivates us. While the book moved a bit slower than I would have liked, I found the supporting characters in particular so fascinating.

Book Review: "I'm So (Not) Over You" by Kosoko Jackson

Fake boyfriends don’t always equal fake feelings.

“The first rule, and only rule, of getting over your ex is not to answer your ex’s messages.”

Kian knows this, but when his ex-boyfriend Hudson calls, he still can’t resist. And when they get together, he can’t believe Hudson says he wants to get back together with Kian…for a few days, tops. It seems that Hudson never told his parents that he and Kian broke up, and they’re coming to town.

Of course, Kian agrees to help Hudson, but it’s not long before their scheme gets a little more complicated, and he finds himself invited to be Hudson’s guest at a fancy wedding. It’s not all selflessness on Kian’s part—he’s hoping he can network with some media bigwigs, which might be the jumpstart his journalism career needs.

The more they pretend, the more they realize maybe their feelings run deeper than that. But will they run into the same problems they did the last time, or have they changed? And are they willing to try again or are they better off just walking away?

I love fake dating and second-chance romances, so this was a fun read. The banter between the characters is so fun and sexy, and while I didn’t necessarily love everything the characters did, I really rooted for them. It’s not often you get a Black Queer love story, so that was a definite plus.

Book Review: "Beneath Cruel Waters" by Jon Bassoff

Lies and denial can ripple for years to come.

Several friends raved about this book so I had to pick it up. It’s definitely bleak and poignant, but it’s tremendously gripping and well-told.

It’s been many years since firefighter Holt Davidson has returned to his Colorado hometown. But when he learns that his estranged mother committed suicide, he feels compelled to return for her funeral and perhaps come to terms with their strained relationship once and for all.

Being in his childhood home doesn’t really evoke feelings of nostalgia, though. Holt searches through his mother’s belongings to try to find some clues to why she might have taken her own life, not to mention why she treated him in such a cold way. But instead of answers, he finds a gun, a love letter, and a Polaroid picture of a dead man.

Who was this man? Could his mother have killed him? If so, why? Holt is desperate to figure out the truth, even if it means uncovering long-hidden secrets and traumas that affected not only him but his older sister Ophelia and those who kept the secrets all these years.

The story shifts back and forth between the present and 1984. While not all of the twists were surprising, I was drawn into the dark stories of this book. It’s sad and perhaps a bit triggering for some, but it will definitely stay in my mind.

Book Review: "The Setup" by Lizzy Dent

She has a plan. Fate has other ideas.

Mara rarely makes a move without checking her star sign each day. But somehow she finds herself in Budapest, making an impromptu visit to a fortune teller. The woman tells Mara that she’ll meet the man of her dreams imminently, but something will need to be fixed before love can take hold.

After a chaotic end to her session, Mara gives into the temptation of trying on the fortune teller’s garb. And that’s when he walks in—Josef, an absolutely handsome cellist from Austria—who thinks she’s the fortune teller. So what else should she do except pretend to be that woman, and tell him his destiny will await him at a cafe in the small English town of Broadgate at the end of August. And the crowning piece of his “fortune” is that his destiny’s name is Mara.

Of course, that doesn’t give Mara much time to transform herself into the woman she believes Josef will want. And along the way she has to deal with work crises, feeling abandoned by her best friend, and a handsome housemate, who makes her question whether Josef is the right man for her after all. But she’ll need to gather all of her courage and self-confidence in order to figure out just what her true destiny is.

This was a fun romp, full of quirky characters and romance. Lizzy Dent writes really enjoyable stories, even if they’re a bit predictable.

Book Review: "Heat Wave" by TJ Klune

With Heat Wave, TJ Klune's fantastic Extraordinaries series comes to a powerful and satisfying conclusion.

If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know that Klune is one of my absolute favorite writers; in fact, two of his books were my #1 favorite in 2020 and 2021. I love his balance of fantasy, emotion, humor, hope, and queer characters.

Heat Wave is the perfect conclusion to this series—although I’m sad it's over. All together, this is a tremendous series of books about making your way in the world when you feel different than others. More than that, it’s about friendship, love, hope, grief, loyalty, and superheroes. But it is definitely a series that should be read in order, so I'm avoiding spoilers.

This book made me feel a range of emotions. It made me laugh and cry, and it made me happy that despite the threats we face in our world today, books like this exist, to give us hope where many of us so desperately need it.

Book Review: "Hurricane Girl" by Marcy Dermansky

I literally read this in one sitting. I did not want to put it down!

Allison is tired of living in Los Angeles, tired of her movie producer boyfriend. After selling a script, she decides to take her money and buy a small beach house in North Carolina, where she can swim in the ocean and plan her next moves. But after living there only a week and a half, a Category 3 Hurricane hits the area and destroys her house.

Completely shaken by the sight of her house in pieces, scattered all around, Allison makes one bad decision after another. The next thing she knows, she decides to go home with a television cameraman who filmed an interview with her. He seems nice, and he says he has a cell phone charger, which she needs.

But the next day, things go spectacularly awry, and then she has a hole in her head and glass in her hair from a vase he hit her with. She’s determined to drive home to her mother in New Jersey despite her injury and the fact that she can’t quite think clearly.

This is a powerful, thought-provoking book, a significant portion of which is narrated by a woman with a brain injury. It’s tremendously accurate in the many different ways these injuries affect people physically, cognitively, and emotionally. And what’s so powerful is the fact that she’s desperately trying to regain control of her life at a time where she feels so out of sync.

I really was blown away by this. The narration is very blunt and to the point, and it works so well here.

Book Review: "The Floating Girls" by Lo Patrick

The Floating Girls is a lush, evocative coming-of-age story.

Kay is an outspoken and stubborn 12-year-old living in the marshes of Georgia. She’s excited to find a friend in Andy Webber, who lives in a neighboring marsh with his father. But Andy and his father are surrounded by rumors and gossip—they recently moved back to Georgia after fleeing to California for a while following the mysterious death of Andy’s mom.

Given all the rumors surrounding the Webbers, Kay’s father tells her to keep away from Andy. But what does a 12-year-old do when told to stay away from a friend? Spend more time with them, of course.

But when Kay’s older sister Sarah-Anne, who is usually non-verbal, disappears, the accusations fly and the secrets that Kay’s family has kept hidden for years—including those about the death of Andy’s mom—come to light. These secrets threaten to destroy Kay’s family and everything she’s known, so she and her brothers have to figure out how to survive through this crisis.

This book is both funny and sad, with a little mystery and some family secrets thrown in for good measure. I loved Kay—she knows she shouldn’t curse but she loves riling up her family—and she’s well aware of the poverty she’s growing up in.

I found this book tremendously affecting and memorable. If you love a good coming-of-age story, here’s one for you!

Book Review: "Body Grammar" by Jules Ohman

This debut novel from Jules Ohman is a beautifully written book about love, longing, and finding your way.

Everywhere Lou goes, her striking, androgynous looks catch the attention of modeling scouts. But the thought of being in front of the camera doesn’t appeal to Lou, who loves taking pictures of her own and dreams of studying ecology in college. She’s also nursing a serious crush on her best friend Ivy, yet neither is willing to make the first move.

When Lou is witness to a tragedy, her confusion about how to react causes a great deal of guilt and seems to widen the divide between her and Ivy. She decides to pursue modeling after all, learning how to be comfortable with a body she’s tried to hide all these years, and making connections with her fellow models.

Almost unwittingly, Lou becomes a sensation in the modeling world. And while she develops more comfort with being in front of the camera and on runways, she’s not sure if this is the life she wants. But mostly she can’t stop thinking about that one fateful day, and how much she still wants Ivy in her life.

This book is definitely character-driven, but I absolutely loved the emotions of the characters and the journeys they took. It’s tremendously self-assured for a debut novel, and it reminds me of one of my favorite authors, Nina LaCour, who writes so well about longing. I can’t wait to see what Ohman does next!!

Book Review: "A Quiet Life" by Ethan Joella

A Quiet Life is one of those books that grabs your heart and doesn’t let go.

A Little Hope, the debut novel by Ethan Joella, was one of my absolute favorite books last year. I received an advance copy and knew nothing about it, and still can’t get it out of my mind. So when Ethan offered me an advance copy of his upcoming novel, you bet I said yes—but I’ve been holding on to it since it doesn’t come out until November.

This is another of those books that sneaks up on you and hooks you completely. But, like the title says, it’s a quiet story, about love, about overcoming grief and taking tentative steps toward something new, and about our desperate need for connection, especially in times of trouble.

“Maybe loving someone so deeply means accepting the fact that they occupy a specific, clear place in you. You accept that there will be a hole if you lose them—the same way a painting or photograph will leave its shadow on the wall after it’s gone, the way a tree will leave a crater where the roots and stump were.”

The book follows the lives of three characters—Chuck, a widower still coming to terms with grief and guilt after his wife’s death, as he tries to will himself to make their annual sojourn to Hilton Head without her; Ella, a young mother struggling to hold on after her daughter goes missing; and Kirsten, whose father’s unexpected death has left her in a kind of emotional limbo. The three will interact in ways that will change them profoundly.

Joella’s storytelling, the emotions he imbues his story with, and the characters he has created, are so exceptional. It’s powerful without being flashy, and it touches you without being maudlin.

Thanks so much to Ethan and Scribner Books for the advance copy in exchange for an unbiased review!! The book will publish 11/29.

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Book Review: "The Measure" by Nikki Erlick

Profound, emotional, and thought-provoking. This one really blew my mind!!

One March day, small wooden boxes appear on the doorsteps of homes and apartments all across the world. Everyone receives one. Each box is inscribed, “The measure of your life lies within,” and in each box is a string representing the length of the person’s life.

At first, no one is sure where the boxes came from or if the strings are accurate, but after much research, it’s determined they are. People are torn as to whether they should open their boxes—do they want to know how much longer they have to live? And what happens if their string is shorter—or longer—than their loved ones’?

The world has to wrestle with the ramifications of this knowledge. Should those with shorter strings be treated differently? How should this knowledge be used, and by whom?

“Maybe it didn’t matter anymore where the strings had come from. Even if they were sent from heaven, or beamed down from outer space, or traveled back in time from the distant future, it was people who decided what to do with them now.”

Following eight characters whose lives have been touched in one way or another by the strings, the book is a tremendously evocative and timely look at how people, society, and government deal with those who are different. Nikki Erlick is immensely detailed and evokes many different emotions from this story. I was hooked completely, and won’t forget this one anytime soon.

Book Review: "Nora Goes Off Script" by Annabel Monaghan

Nora Goes Off Script is an adorable opposites-attract romance which left me an emotional puddle.

It’s been a year since Nora’s husband Ben left her and their two children, and she’s doing just fine. He wasn’t much of a husband or father, and since she was doing everything anyway AND earning the money, it’s better now that he’s gone.

Nora writes scripts for The Romance Channel and she’s got it down pat. Give her a location and an occupation and she can create a fluffy, feel-good love story. But her latest script, about her and Ben’s relationship, is a departure for her, and it is now being turned into an actual movie, with A-list stars playing the roles inspired by Nora and Ben. And that’s not all—they’re actually filming at her house about 90 minutes outside NYC.

Leo, the film’s star, once named Sexiest Man Alive, seems to be fascinated with the mundane details of Nora’s life. And once filming ends, Leo makes her a proposition: he’ll pay her $1000 a day if he can stay for a week. She certainly could use the money, and it seems like Leo could use some exposure to normal, small-town life, so she agrees.

Of course, just like in one of Nora’s scripts, a lot can happen in a week. Someone can become a fixture in a small town. Or fall in love. And yet, even though Nora knows how these relationships work—she’s certainly written a lot of them—it doesn’t prepare her heart for what comes next.

This was just so good. It totally took the rom-com script and played with it a bit, and all of the characters really took hold of my heart. And I would love to see any of the movies Nora wrote as part of the book!!

Book Review: "The Dead Romantics" by Ashley Poston

Take a love story, add friendship, grief, and self-discovery, and throw in some ghosts, and you’ll get this amazing book that has totally stolen my heart.

“…you don’t ever lose the sadness, but you learn to love it because it becomes a part of you, and bit by bit, it fades. And, eventually, you’ll pick yourself back up and you’ll find that you’re okay. That you’re going to be okay. And eventually, it’ll be true.”

Florence is the ghostwriter for a bestselling romance author. Unfortunately, she believes romance is dead, so following a bad breakup, she’s been unable to make progress on the author’s latest book. But when she asks her immensely handsome new editor for an extension, he refuses. The book must be done tomorrow.

While she’s prepared to lose the best job she’s ever had, she’s utterly unprepared for the phone call summoning her home to South Carolina for the first time in years. Her father has died, and she has to help her family bury him. But being home stirs up hurts and arguments, not to mention Florence’s ability to see and speak to ghosts. And when one ghost in particular appears, she’s unsure of what he needs from her—or does she need something from him?

I truly felt this book in my soul. It’s sappy and funny and sad and romantic and just absolutely beautiful. I want to read it again for the first time.

Book Review: "Greenland" by David Santos Donaldson

Greenland is creative, mesmerizing, and beautifully written.

Kip has dreamed of being a published author his entire life. His parents even named him Kipling (after the author), so how could that not be his destiny? But while his first manuscript had promise, it’s not ready to be published.

When an editor gives him the idea to shift the focus of his novel to tell the story of Mohammed El Adl, the Black Egyptian tram conductor who had an affair with famed British author E.M. Forster, Kip pounces on the idea, being Black and queer himself. But of course, there’s a catch: the editor is retiring in three weeks and the publishing house has been sold, so if he doesn’t finish in time, there’s no deal.

No matter. Kip has boarded himself in a basement study with “five boxes of Premium Saltine Crackers, three tins of Café Bustelo, and twenty-one one-gallon jugs of Poland Spring Water.” And a hammer. And a gun. And he won’t leave until he’s done, much to the worry of his ex-husband and his ex-best friend.

What ensues is a novel within a novel. We get Mohammed’s story, told while he was in prison, but we also get Kip’s story, and they intersect in many different ways. And as Kip’s mania drives him to finish this book, in essence, Mohammed is telling his story to Kip. It’s fascinating, a little confusing, and utterly dazzling.

This book is unlike any I’ve read. It’s a meditation on feeling like an outsider, a look at interracial relationships (particularly queer ones), and a portrait of the creative process. It’s definitely not a book for everyone but I’m so glad I finally read it.

Book Review: "Kaleidoscope" by Cecily Wong

This is a poignant story of family dynamics, secrets, and grief.

Hank and Karen Brighton owned an organic grocery store in Oregon until they’re inspired to start selling clothes and goods from India and other countries. It’s not long before they’ve created Kaleidoscope, which becomes a shopping empire, enticing wealthy people to explore the more exotic side of fashion, furnishings, and art.

Morgan, their oldest daughter, turns heads with her model-esque beauty, but her fashion savvy makes her the star of Kaleidoscope, even though she hasn’t graduated from college yet. And while her younger sister Riley finds it difficult to be in Morgan’s shadow, she also loves her sister fiercely.

When tragedy strikes the Brightons, combined with the economic collapse of the late 2000s, the family and the empire they’ve built threaten to collapse. Riley sets off on an international trip with a companion who raises eyebrows, and discovers herself—as well as some family secrets kept hidden.

This was an interesting book about family and grief and finding your own way. At times I found myself really immersed in the story but at other times I struggled to connect with the characters. It’s gotten a lot of rave reviews, though, so it may have just been me.

Book Review: "The Hotel Nantucket" by Elin Hilderbrand

The Hotel Nantucket has romance, second chances, even a ghost story!

I’ve never been to Nantucket but every time I read one of Elin Hilderbrand’s books I want to go there even more.

When a London business magnate decides to purchase the Hotel Nantucket, a once-grand hotel fallen on hard times, it energizes the community. Lizbet, fresh off the breakup of a long-term relationship, hopes becoming the hotel’s general manager will be the fresh start she needs. And Grace, the ghost of a young chambermaid killed in a fire at the hotel nearly 100 years earlier, hopes the hotel’s resurgence may lead to the truth about her death coming to light.

The hotel becomes a sought-after paradise with a restaurant/bar run by a celebrity chef. The owner—who communicates only via email from London—has one mission: the hotel must be awarded 5 keys by famed reviewer Shelly Carpenter, a feat that has never happened before. But chaos always seems to strike when those guests who could be Shelly arrive.

As Lizbet takes tentative steps toward a new romance, the hotel staff has their own secrets, and Grace the ghost has to decide when to cause trouble and when to lay low. Will the hotel succeed? Will they get their 5-key rating? Will the mystery of Grace’s death be solved?

As with all of Hilderbrand’s books, the setting is so incredibly vivid. While I enjoyed many of the characters individually (and there are a lot of them), I didn’t feel the story gelled quite the way some of her others have. There was almost too much going on to be completely immersed. But I still have some of her backlist to dive into!!

Book Review: "Lore Olympus, Volume Two" by Rachel Smythe

The gods and goddesses are at it again!

I honestly may be allergic to mythology thanks to some high school trauma, but for some reason, reading Rachel Smythe’s terrific graphic novels based on her webtoon series feels perfectly good! I had forgotten how much I enjoyed the first volume, but within the first few pages I was captivated by the amazing illustrations and all of the drama!

In Volume One, Hades and Persephone meet at a party. She’s new in town, he’s the god of the underworld, yet there is an immediate and intense connection between them. Persephone can’t get Hades out of her mind, even though she knows her mother and many others would disapprove. And Hades may be a little obsessed as well, to the chagrin of Hera, Minthe (his personal assistant/sometime girlfriend), and others in the underworld.

Can two wholly different gods and goddesses from two different worlds ever have a happy ending? Can they weather the manipulation of so many, not to mention the age difference (she’s 19, he’s 2000 and something)?

These graphic novels are funny, sexy, emotionally complex, dramatic, and even a little profane from time to time. I’m loving this series and can’t wait to see what happens next!

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Book Review: "How to Fake It in Hollywood" by Ava Wilder

Oh, how I loved this fake-dating romance with lots of emotional complexity!

Grey Brooks has been acting since she was 8 years old. She starred in a fairly popular teen drama for a number of seasons, but with that series ending, she’s not found much opportunity to advance her career.

While she’s not thrilled when her publicist suggests a fake relationship with a once-famous actor also looking at a comeback might get her into the public eye more, she’s definitely intrigued when she finds out who the actor is. Ethan Atkins was once at the top of his game—teen heartthrob turned Oscar winner and provocative filmmaker. But following the death of his best friend and collaborator, Ethan’s struggles with addiction destroyed his marriage and his career.

Ethan has been a recluse for several years, but if he has any hope of turning the last project he and his friend were working on into reality, he’ll need to play the Hollywood game again. So he reluctantly agrees to a fake relationship with Grey.

Their relationship quickly catches the attention of the public and definitely increases Grey’s star quality. There’s definitely chemistry between them but Ethan keeps Grey at arm’s length because he’s afraid of letting anyone near his heart again. When they finally give in to their attraction, the intensity scares them both—and then it quickly falls apart.

This is both a romance and a serious look at addiction, grief, keeping your heart protected, and finding the strength to fight for what you want. There’s definitely a few steamy scenes and some great banter—not to mention some fun supporting characters—but this was a more emotionally rich book than I expected, and I loved that.