Tinkering with Love by Aliyah Burke

Genre: Adult, Romance

Publication Date: June 20, 2022

Rating: 2 stars

NetGalley Blurb:
Dawson Shay could never be accused of being a bubbly ray of sunshine. Like, not ever. But her outlook on life has only gotten worse since she moved across the country for her dream job rebuilding motorcycles…only to lose the job to someone else. Now her run of bad luck includes a wilderness retreat with the entire company—including the asshat who stole her job. Fortunately, Tully Faulkner’s bearded, tattooed hotness is pretty much the perfect distraction.

Except, Tully isn’t just Mr. Hometown Hero, he’s also said asshat who stole her job. And if he thinks he can win her over with his ability to charm the pants off everybody else, he’s got another thing coming. But Dawson can’t avoid him forever… or the seriously hot sparks between them. Somewhere between the breathtaking northern lights and teaming up to win their company’s scavenger hunt, Dawson starts to think that Tully’s magic touch might be just what she’s been missing.

But even sexy gearheads have their secrets. And Dawson’s about to discover that falling for the too-perfect-to-be-true Tully might just backfire on her completely…

Review:
Thank you to NetGalley and Entangled Publishing for the chance to read this ARC. I am leaving my honest review voluntarily.

Ugh…I really should have loved this. As a California bay area-adjacent woman with a Triumph Bonneville and a sarcastic viewpoint on life, I should have loved this story, especially Dawson. Unfortunately, that was not the case.

What I liked about the book:
1. I really liked the idea behind this story. Enemies to lovers is a trope I love, especially if it’s grumpy/sunshine MCs.

2. I liked that there were a handful of characters I could see getting a spin off. Though, I likely would not read them.

3. I liked seeing an interracial relationship represented, though I felt more could have been focused on there, like the hurdles she may face as a black woman that Tully would not face as a white man.

What didn’t do it for me:
1. The writing style was not my favorite. It was very choppy. It had a lot of short sentences and complete thoughts were broken into multiple sentences often. It was pretty bothersome for me.

2. Ok, I hated his nickname for her was “legs”. I’m not against bodily names. In fact, I’ve quite enjoyed the nice, although slightly overused, brown eyed girl reference many of men have used on me. However, I am against bad bodily names: i.e. “hips”, “lips”, “legs”, etc. They do absolutely nothing for me. If you’re calling me “legs”, I’m calling you “d*ck”.

Oh and then he calls her grumpy in front of people. So she’s either reduced to a body part or she’s one of the seven dwarves??? No sir.

3. Tully falls way too fast. It’s like page 20 and he’s saying she’s the one without even having a normal conversation with her first. It’s one thing if I went into this book expecting over the top insta-love, like with my Cassie Mint books I love so much, but for it to come out of nowhere was bizarre.

4. Dawson ran so hot and cold all the time that I kept getting whiplash. No wonder Tully didn’t know how to handle her. She was also super judgey of everyone. Like girl, chill tfo.

5. Between his bet and her being pissy at him for taking her job unintentionally, this one was just a little too petty for me.

As a whole, this book felt very juvenile. I read smut, I get it, they can’t all be Tolstoy’s and Orwell’s. But this was a whole different level of insta-love and pettiness.

The Book Blogger Memory Challenge Book Tag!

What a title, huh? Special thanks to Andrew for the fun challenge!

The rules of this tag are simple, Answer the prompts without using the internet or looking at your bookshelves. Your answers have to all come from memory! Make sure to link to the person who originally tagged you and, once you’re done, you can tag five other people if you’d like.

Alright, let’s see how this goes…


Name a Book by an Author Called Michael

Alright, starting out strong, I’m going with Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park. Haven’t read this one yet (I know! Something’s wrong with me…), but it’s definitely on the ever-growing TBR list.

1/1


Name a Book with a Dragon on the Cover

Oh yay, we’re going to focus on all these books I want to read but haven’t yet. This one comes from ten year old Britt’s library that still hasn’t been read: Eragon by Christopher Paolini.

Feeling pretty good so far! 2/2


Name a Book Written by an Author with the Surname Smith

And I’ve done so well not mentioning Will Smith since the incident

Will by Will Smith.

3/3


Name a Book Set in Australia

Ok, I’m at a total loss for this category. I’m seriously just going to start guessing…Love Down Under?…nope, that’s not a book and I’m kinda confused why. The Great Barrier Thief?…Holy sh*t! That’s actually a book!! And it’s written by Suzie Starfish. Well that’s f*cking adorable.

I’m giving myself a half point for this one for creativity!

3.5/4


Name a Book with the Name of a Month in the Title

November 9 by the fantastic Colleen Hoover who is responsible for 90% of my annual tears! I haven’t read this one yet because I have to read 9,876,543,210 happy books to make up for a single CoHo book and my body is just not ready yet!

4.5/5


Name a Book with a Knife on the Cover

Peter Pan! Side note- it took way too long to find this version of the cover, but I knew that little rascal had a knife!

5.5/6


Name a Book with the Word “One” in the Title

Ah, another TBR item (and this one I actually own in physical copy, so I’m running out of reasons to keep putting it off for more ARCs!). One Day by David Nicholls

6.5/7


Name a Book with an Eponymous Title

Oh goodness, soooooo many romance books come to mind. Let’s go with Nyx by Serena Akeroyd. Recently read this one and Nyx was….just so good.

7.5/8


Name a Book Turned into a Movie

Definitely the easiest one! I’m going to go with Because of Winn-Dixie because this was my absolute favorite book as a child and I was so happy when it was turned into a movie!

Final Score: 8.5/9. Not bad!


Want to get in on the fun? Try these out yourself and see how many you can get!

Officially tagging:

Have fun all!

He’s a Keeper by Stacy Travis

Genre: Adult, Romance, Sports Romance

Publication Date: May 24, 2022

Rating: 3.5 stars

Goodreads Blurb:
Drunk-texting a grumpy soccer star?

Best worst decision of my life.

Especially when the player is the sinfully handsome, foul-mouthed Holden Sanders… my new library assistant.

The benched bad boy needed an image makeover, I needed to save my job, and his star status was just what the library ordered to raise awareness for our fundraising campaign. The press can’t get enough of Mr. Growly reading to kids.

It’s win-win and completely platonic.

Until I need a shoulder to cry on after drowning my heartbreak in too many margaritas. I only typed that invitation to his brawny biceps and perfect pectorals for fun–I never meant to hit send. Holden isn’t the kind of guy to care about tears and feelings, least of all mine. He’s made it clear good girls aren’t his type.

But he shows up–with his strapping shoulder, a box of tissues, and a supersized bag of Doritos.

That’s when I realize there’s more to him than meets the eye.

One soulful, smoldering mistake of a kiss has me craving more, and the heat between us quickly builds to a blaze neither of us can control.

But I’m not the only one guarding secrets, and Holden’s might push us to the breaking point.

Even if I’m surrounded by books, I know better than to believe in storybook endings.

And yet, I want to believe… Because I know he’s a keeper.

Review:
Given this is an ARC of the book and it is yet to be published, I will be keeping my review very high level.

Special thanks to my friends at Smuthood Reviews and Stacy Travis. I am leaving my honest review voluntarily.

What I liked about the book:
1. This was a cute sports-romance book that definitely embraced the nerdy-girl-player-guy trope, which I love! Furthermore, I love a good drunk texting fiasco, which this book totally delivered.

2. I enjoyed all of the cat and other random facts that Holden spouted off. I love fun facts in books, especially when they come from the character we least expect.

3. I definitely felt that Molly is good people. I loved what her monthly income was going towards. While I can’t say I would have done the same thing in her situation, I did enjoy watching it come full circle for her.

What didn’t do it for me:
1. None of the side-characters were interesting to me.

– A cute as hell niece of the manly soccer player? Barely in the story.
– A twin brother? Absolutely no shenanigans.
– A pop-culture savvy best friend who is also a math genius? Where the hell was she the whole story?

2. There was nothing that stood out about this book as super unique. It was a pretty run-of-the-mill, although cute, romance book.

Survivor of the Undead by Atley Wykes

Genre: Sci-Fi, Horror, Romance

Publication Date: May 31, 2022

Rating: 4.5 breathtaking stars!

Quote that sums up the book: “Looks like I’ve found my entertainment for the next day. Irritating Alex. I almost rubbed my hands in anticipation. This would be fun.”

Goodreads Blurb:
This big, scary-looking dude can’t be here for me… can he?

When I found out my sister was trapped in the Institute, I jumped on a plane and rushed home, determined to be the one to take care of her for once. Of course, that didn’t happen. Now I’m trying to escape from a zombie-infested city that’s about to be razed, waiting for my sister to bail me out… again. So when my savior arrives in the form of a giant, grumpy former Navy SEAL, I can’t help but needle him, regardless of how gorgeous he is. His long-suffering sighs when I insist on eating gummy bears as we dodge zombie attacks make survival fun. I’m only teasing him to entertain myself, not because his smiles make my breath catch. Right?

Review:
Ivy Baylor, hippie, fun-loving, party-girl, is having a bad day. Not only did she have to wait on standby and watch the horrifying events of book 1 (my review here!) that plagued her sister play out on television, but now she’s flown across the world and can’t even talk to her…Oh, and there’s the little issue of zombies taking over their city.

While always playing up the little sister card, she now has to depend on herself and what she remembers from her sister’s rants about the Infected in order to survive. Securing herself in her apartment with her sister’s medication and a good ole’ cast-iron skillet, Ivy decides to hunker down. That is until a 6’6 hunk with tan skin, black hair, and a Navy Seal background shows up to help her get out of the city. Did I mention she has a relationship ban?…because that always works out well.

Sent by his good friend Ethan to retrieve Ivy, Alex is jaded and surly and wants a good little lamb who can follow his directions to get out of the city…but does he really? Who REALLY wants that???

Together, these “partners” will take down hordes of zombies, men with strong Deliverance vibes, and a city-wide explosion, saving one another countless times.

Can Alex realize that all work and no play is not the way? Can little Ivysaur evolve in more ways than one?

What I liked about the book:
1. Ok, I’m stealing my number 1 from my review of book 1. Let’s start with how this book was basically written for me.

– Zombies with super sciencey progression patterns (bonus points to Ivy for remembering all that sh*t I’m sure she only half listened to her sister talk about)
– Crazy action scenes complete with a flame thrower boat speeding away from a bombed city just in time
– A quickly dwindling time limit before the city is bombed
– A sunshine female main character with a chip on her shoulder about men
– Steamy, steamy romance with a Navy Seal who shows her not all men are the same

This book had all the elements I love in one story! With all the action and scenery changes, this felt like a goddamn Bruce Willis movie, and I loved it.

2. Ok, I thought Ethan was good in the last book…but Alex is the man! He has a dirty mouth, he builds motorcycles, and he was a sniper. Ummm…hello! Was Atley Wykes trying to write to me specifically when she dreamed up Alex Lacota??? If so, she succeeded!

3. I absolutely loved Ivy!!! She was so optimistic, but also careful. I loved how she was so invested in everyone else and really had a group mentality. And who couldn’t love her little candy addiction? She perfectly walked the hippie-badass line I aspire to walk.

4. In book 1, I think Atley was getting her feet settled (which, I mean, fanfuckingtastic job for a debut novel right there!), but she really came into her writing style in this book. The character development was much more prevalent and there were less out of place scenes.

5. I loved how this one brought in even more political intrigue. There is definitely something messed up going on here and I can’t wait to find everything out! National guard sets up an evacuation zone but then doesn’t tell anyone where it is? Cable is working but internet isn’t?? The company in charge of the medication that fights the infection is rounding up people off the street to be test subjects???

6. I loved how many times she saved him! I’m a sucker for the FMC saving the MMC, and it happened several times in this book!

What didn’t do it for me:
1. The single POV is killing me on these books! But not enough to knock a whole star off 😜

2. Atley really likes her cliffhangers….that’s fine, but I’m really not sure how Avery is going to live up to these two ladies in the third book. I guess we’ll see!

A phenomenal second installment in this sci-fi, horror, romance series!

Keeper of the Undead by Atley Wykes

Genre: Sci-Fi, Horror, Romance

Publication Date: May 2, 2022

Rating: 4 deliciously creepy stars!

Quote that sums up the book: “Ooh, talk creepy to me, baby.” I joked. He chuckled, “Anytime, Sweets.”

Goodreads Blurb:
A bad day at work shouldn’t end in a zombie apocalypse… or hooking up with the hot new Security Chief.

But when you work at the Institute of the Undead and there’s an outbreak, well, things happen. Now I’m stuck in lockdown with a museum full of infected patrons trying to sink their teeth into me with only a former Navy SEAL—who thinks I may have caused the outbreak—and my wits for protection. My heart races when demands I stay by his side, and even though I know better than to trust him, I’ll have to if I want to stay alive. I should be focused on surviving the next forty-eight hours until the military arrives. Instead, all I can think about is how I’d like to sink my teeth into him.

Review:
Penelope Baylor, de-facto Head Specimen Conservator (in duties only, not title and pay, of course) at the Institute of the Infected Undead, is having a bad day. Not only is she overqualified and underpaid for her current position, but she just found out that she won’t be getting that promotion and she’s going to have a large “shadow” following her around trying to poke holes in her work. And that’s the least of her concerns…

Penelope originally started at the institute as an assistant to Joel, the previous Head Specimen Conservator and one of the original openers of the institute, before he retired 2 months ago. Ever since, she has been biding her time waiting to get Joel’s position, that was never officially filled despite her doing the work solo. Isn’t that always how it goes? Keep you as an “assistant”, keep your pay unlivable, but expect you to do the work of the guy that left?

With her day starting full of promise (she got the interview for the position!), it all quickly goes to hell when she is introduced to Ethan Aldine, the institute’s new Head of Security. 6’6” with shaggy hair, a beard, and a gorgeous smile, this ex-military man adds a new layer of complexity to her workday by trailing her looking for weaknesses in her safety precautions.

As the day progresses, we meet terrorists trying to steal the disease causing people to become the undead, the “human specimens” (aka zombies) are broken out while the 300+ inhabitants of the museum are kept locked in by the military due to contamination from the breakout, and we find out who Penelope’s true friends are.

What I liked about the book:
1. Ok, let’s start with how this book was basically written for me.

– Zombies with super sciencey progression patterns
– Crazy action scenes complete with a flame thrower
– A quickly dwindling time limit
– Sarcastic as all hell female main character
– Steamy, steamy romance with a Navy Seal who falls in love first

This book had all the elements I love in one story! It felt like a dark comedy version of Night at the Museum, and I never knew that was missing from my life!

2. I loved how Ethan really embodied the Southern Gentleman persona…until he didn’t. He pushed her chair in as she sat, but he also had no problem pushing her up against walls and manhandling her!

He also loved her dark humor and snark, which is obviously a plus in my book!

3. I loved how Penelope was a strong female, but she also realized early on that to survive, she had to let someone watch her back. I loved the partnership between her and Ethan through the whole story, and I was REALLY hoping he wasn’t behind the breakout/terrorist attack because I would not have handled these two not staying together well.

“If shit gets hairy, run straight to the lounge and wait for me. I don’t want you in the thick of it”

“No. I go where you go. I’ll cover your back.”

“I can’t focus if I’m worried about you.”

“You don’t need to worry about me. I can take care of myself.”

“I know you can. Doesn’t stop me from worrying, though.”

4. I loved the thought put into the phases of the undead, as well as the humanizing that was done around them. It was very interesting and sciencey and I loved it!

5. There was a Bettie Page reference that made me, a huge Bettie fan, fall in love with Atley Wykes!

What didn’t do it for me:
1. I felt Penelope was a bit dull at times. I wanted more from her as the main character. I loved her snark, I loved her independence, and I loved how she wielded that flame thrower like no other, but I wish there was a bit more personality. I felt she was chalked up to the “snarky, goth girl” and nothing more personality-wise was expanded on.

2. Ok, why was there so much mention of Joel but there were no interactions with Joel? Also, what was that line in passing where Joel didn’t want to research a new specimen that was in Russia?? Why do I have a bad feeling Joel has something to do with all of this???

Overall, a great start to a new sci-fi, horror, romance series! Stay tuned this month for my review on book 2, “Survivor of the Undead”!

Until There Was You by G. Colgrove

Genre: New Adult, Romance

Publication Date: February 15, 2022

Rating: 4 stars!

Goodreads Blurb:
Fairytales have led us to believe that somewhere out there is a prince charming waiting to sweep us off our feet. A strong and handsome man who swoops in and is ready, willing, and able to save you from whatever it is you need to be rescued from. It’ll be love at first sight, and together the two of you will live happily ever after. What a crock!

Regan Doyle, who stopped believing in fairytales a long time ago, has only ever had one real goal in life: Get the hell out of South Boston. After graduating high school, she is more focused than ever, and nothing will get in her way, until him.

Jeremy Stone is focused on his own goals: Proving to his father that he’s ready to take over the family business. Then he meets Regan. She is just the distraction he doesn’t need.

Will Regan and Jeremy get their happily ever after, or will fate step in and destroy what little bit of happiness they’ve built?

What I liked about the book:
1. I am always super skeptical when the main characters get together really soon in a story. It makes me feel like, “Ok, now what?”. HOWEVER, this story was done right! We see how quickly Regan and Jeremy fall for one another and then we get to see the ups and downs of a real relationship. Yeah, there are things called work and family that cause us to not be around each other 24 hours a day in a little bubble of happiness. Yes, sometimes our significant others develop drinking problems or other coping mechanisms. But it’s how we work through that after the meet cutes and “Happily Ever Afters” that makes or breaks a couple. Loved watching them through it all!

2. I loved how the dynamic between them never felt like there was an age gap. Regan never really felt 19 to me, which makes sense given everything in life she’s been through. And I loved that Jeremy never used her age against her. As a woman with quite a few age gap relationships in her past, where I was at times the more mature one in the relationship, I loved this!

3. For getting this book from my friends at Smuthood Reviews, I was not disappointed. Jeremy is so bossy…and I loved every minute of it.

4. There were a lot of lines where I deeply connected with Regan, and then there were some that were just plain fun:

“The idea that a person will continue to carry everything good and bad that they did from life to life made me come to a realization. First, karma must not have an expiration date. And second, I must have been pretty fucked up in the past to deserve the cards life had dealt me this time.”– As a firm believer in karma, I’ve definitely uttered this word for word before.

“Taking the book out of my pocket, I open it and see red. A five-dollar tip for an almost ninety-dollar bill. Even ten percent would’ve been nine dollars. ‘Cheap assholes’”– I did not laugh at all your terrible jokes for the last hour to make less than it cost me to park tonight…for real people, tip your servers!!!

“I have to remind myself that he isn’t the prince I dreamed of as a little girl. This is reality and I’m responsible for protecting and saving myself.”

“He can play dress-up with you all he wants as long as I’m the one who gets to fuck it up after.” – Umm, yes please! What’s that quote? “Find a man who ruins your lipstick not your mascara.”

“My mouth might be able to downplay my feelings for him- but my vajayjay…she’s a traitorous bitch.”– I mean…who hasn’t been there?? Trust me, if I could control the part of me that can’t say no to the jock/bro-type…

5. I really love sappy epilogues years in the future, and G. Colgrove did a great job with this.

What didn’t do it for me:
1. While the male cover model looks like Chris Evans (which is a definite plus for me!), the female cover model looks like Amber Heard…and I just can’t right now.

2. I hate when one character breaks up with another “for their own good”. LET THEM DECIDE WHAT’S GOOD FOR THEM! YOU DO NOT KNOW EVERYTHING!

3. I wanted to know more about Shane’s and Bri’s baby!! As a sappy mom, I need to know when babies are born and who they look like!!! You can’t dangle a baby in front of me and then never deliver!

I received a copy of this book from Smuthood Reviews and G.Colgrove in exchange for my honest review.

The Q by Amy Tintera

Genre: Sci-Fi, Teens & YA

Publication Date: November 8, 2022

Format/Length: Kindle, 352 pages

Rating: 5 infectious stars!

Favorite Quote:“Maisie, let me give you a tip. You will never be old enough for them. You will always be too young, or too inexperienced, or too much of a woman. You can either let them keep pushing you aside, or you can take this opportunity and tell them all to deal with it.”

NetGalley Blurb:
Seventeen-year-old Maisie Rojas has spent her entire life in the Q—a post-pandemic quarantine zone that was once Austin, Texas. Born and raised behind the high security walls that sealed their fate, she’s now a trusted lieutenant for one of the territory’s controlling families.

Lennon Pierce, the charismatic son of a US presidential candidate, has just been kidnapped by his father’s enemies and dropped out of a plane into the Q with nothing but a parachute strapped to his back. Lennon is given a temporary antidote to the disease and crucial intel for his father, but Maisie must get him out of the zone within forty-eight hours–or he will be permanently infected and forced to remain.

With unrest brewing both inside and outside the Q, reaching the exit is a daunting and dangerous task. But if Maisie and Lennon fail, it could mean disaster for the entire quarantine zone and its inhabitants—and could cost Lennon his life.

Strap in for breakneck action and compelling characters in this timely, nonstop thriller.

What I liked about the book:
1. I loved the realistic worldbuilding and how the events of this book could really happen!

Here’s the deal:
The virus, much like the pandemic we have experienced for the last 2 years, was bad…It started in Austin, Texas and quickly began to spread, having a 40% mortality rate. As a result of this, the US Government built a wall around Austin, where they put all the sick people and labeled it “The Q”, or “The Quarantine Zone”. Unfortunately, like in most great government schemes, there were a lot of people who weren’t sick, but just couldn’t get out of Austin before the wall was erected (read that as people of limited means, because isn’t that always what happens???).

One small problem: the virus did not provide long-term immunity to people who got infected with it. So basically, all these people in the quarantine zone kept repetitively getting sick. And of course, no vaccine could be effective because the virus kept mutating. Feeling eerie about this yet?

When people started seeing the light and trying to escape from the zone, the non-infected on the outside said, “Nope” and built another wall containing the life of sickness for these unfortunate souls. (What the f*ck is it with these walls? Why is that always the “solution”?)

Anyways, I digress.

Of course, everyone on the inside became jaded AF. Laws went to the wayside, cops and military gave up, no one could be controlled. Eventually the zone seceded from the US and built their own rules, being governed by two gang families: the Spencer family in the north and the Lopez family in the south. Obviously, these fools hated each other to the point of there was even a “neutral zone” between the north and south.

Further to the political drama, the north was split between 4 siblings in the Spencer family, with very different ideas on how to run factions. Oh, and did I mention that the only way food, medical supplies, etc. came into the zone was through a small gate in the north? So, you know, that’s great for the south, especially when products stopped showing up at the beginning of the story.

That’s a lot of set up and political intrigue that definitely kept me hooked on their journey from one end of the zone to the other!

2. I loved the grungy feel of the settings and the high-action sequences. I would love to see this spun off into a graphic novel!

I also really loved the sarcastic and witty writing style. This coupled with the short chapters really made the book fly by so fast, I was legitimately a little bummed when it ended.

3. I loved all the strong female characters. Especially Val, (basically Queen of the North!). She had a badass gang of female warriors and she was a BOSS. The fact that she was only willing to help if Maisie was allowed, and willing, to take over the South was such a great instance of women helping women.

Speaking of that, Maisie had such incredible support not just from Val and her ladies, but from her friends Hadley and Elise. They were willing to break so many rules and were prepared to respect any decisions that Maisie made without judgment or guilt. The female comradery in this book definitely reminded me of one of my favorite quotes:

“Behind every successful woman is a tribe of other successful women, who have her back.” LOVE IT!

4. Speaking of characters, our MCs were fun to follow. They were so different, yet such a good team that I loved watching them interact and get through so many troublesome situations.

Lennon was hilarious! He had great internal monologue, was always thinking strategically from many angles, and was definitely ok letting Maisie save him. I especially loved every time Lennon proved all the stereotypes of being a stuffy, Congressman’s son wrong and when we found out about his street racing tendencies.

Maisie was fantastic to watch because she had so much character development! She went from just wanting to prove herself scary enough to be in charge to legitimately being a great leader because she was able to make alliances and help people instead of rule with an iron fist like leaders of the past. She genuinely cared about her people, so once she got through her “I need to be the biggest badass in the room” complex, she was able to initiate real change. I really hope we get to see more of this in the future!

4. I loved the mystery around the beloved Queso and I really hope there is a second book to follow him and Hadley!!! It would just be so damn perfect!

5. As a former college radio DJ, I appreciated all of the broadcasts, especially the “You can’t say that on air” moments. Too damn accurate!

What didn’t do it for me:
1. The ONLY thing I can say, and I’m really grasping for straws here, is I wish we had more interaction with Ethan once we “met” him. I have this intense need for us to see him and Hadley interact and have the Romeo + Juliet love affair (with a less disastrous ending) we deserve!

I received a copy of this ARC from NetGalley, Random House Children’s, Crown Books for Young Readers, and Amy Tintera. I am leaving my honest review voluntarily. Check it out later this year!

Nonverbal by Raina Ash

Genre: New Adult, Romance

Publication Date: April 8, 2022

Rating: 4 no-words-needed stars!

Favorite Quote: “Can we discuss this like the two rational people who we’re not?”

BookSirens Blurb:
Love is more than words. But can love be trusted?

Paige yearns for one thing and one thing only: to connect with someone fully and completely. But physical barriers make that wish seem impossible. Thanks to a shattered home life, she also doesn’t know how to trust. Especially those she loves.

When Paige moves in with her best friend desperate for a new life, she isn’t expecting a spark with her friend’s brother, Brody. He’s gigantic and protective and makes her feel something she hasn’t felt in a very long time: safe. Can she trust him to stay when he learns her secrets?

Brody is trying to keep his relationship with Paige platonic, but he can’t get the troubled woman out of his mind. There’s just something about her. Maybe it’s her sense of humor. Maybe it’s her fierce determination. Or maybe it’s the way she makes him question his entire stance on relationships. But his sister, Amber, warns him to stay away, and he needs to listen. For everyone’s sake.

As Paige struggles to navigate her tumultuous emotions, words fail her. How can she understand her heart when her past left her damaged?

And what if revealing the truth means losing Brody forever?

An intense, beautiful, and inspiring new adult romance about learning to trust love and breaking free of the past—perfect for fans of Colleen Hoover, Talia Hibbert, and Helen Hoang.

Nonverbal is the first book in the Love Beyond Words series. If you enjoy strong, protective heroes, bubbly and compassionate neurodiverse heroines, and friends who are ride or die, you’ll fall in love with Brody, Paige, and Amber.

This is an Own Voices book and contains graphic scenes and sensitive subject matter.

What I liked about the book:
1. I absolutely loved that Paige was nonverbal autistic. I loved even more that the author showed how freaking smart, resourceful, and empathetic she was, as these are traits frequently thought of as not being associated with autistic individuals.

2. I loved that there is not a single character in this book who is not dealing with something. This book is chalked full of super rich and emotionally complex characters who you just want to hug one right after the other.

Amber has legit demons that she chases with any relief she can get, Brody has straight up trust issues, and Paige has essentially been brainwashed her whole life as to what love and a relationship are. I am honestly so happy these three found each other. This is the found family stuff I love!

3. I’m totally calling the next book is Miguel and Amber! Love spin off potential and they have to be end game right??? I mean, he’s a total love addict while she is addicted to literally everything else, and he paid for her rehab as a “favor” to his best friend / her brother…If that doesn’t say soul mates in a romance series, I don’t know what does!

4. I love watching a “player” fall to his knees in love, especially for the “nerd girl”. It’s such a fun trope and I can’t help but love it every damn time.

What didn’t do it for me:
1. I did not love the commentary from her stepdad. It felt pretty out of place at points and unrealistic. Whatever, we’re not supposed to like him anyways, so I guess it doesn’t matter.

2. As an extremely sex-positive person (I mean, you’ve read my blog right??), I was a little wide-eyed over how much of the book was about sex and chasing the elusive big “O”. I appreciated the way the book handled porn and her watching it, but I could have dealt with a little less of her mind focusing on nothing but sex. It took away a bit of the romantic tone I was looking for at the beginning.

I received a copy of this ARC from BookSirens and the publisher in exchange for my honest review. Check it out if you like strong MCs, guys that fall first, and found family!

Lost and Found (A Lost Boys Novel #1) by Gina L. Maxwell

Genre: Adult, Romance, Fairy Tale Retelling/Reimagining

Publication Date: January 22, 2019

Rating: 4 darling stars!

Favorite Quote: “Because in times like this, the last thing I want you to be, is a gentleman.”

NetGalley Blurb:
Not every story that starts with once upon a time ends in happily ever after…

Peter and I were drawn to each other from the very beginning—even when I was just a kid, sneaking out to see him at the rundown orphanage for boys. I thought we’d be forever.

We weren’t.

So, I left our small town with nothing but a map for my future and a shattered heart, and I didn’t look back.

Until now.

See, I’m organizing the fundraiser of the year, and I need Peter, master mechanic, to help me rebuild a classic car for an auction that’ll help hundreds of foster kids.

I was sure I was prepared to see him again. After all, I wasn’t the naïve girl I’d been when his touch made me fly. I could ignore his magnetic pull this time around.

I was wrong.

Because the boy who broke my heart grew into a man who wants a second chance, and our connection is deeper and hotter than ever.

But love wasn’t enough to keep us together once upon a time. Why should I believe in it—and him—now?

Lost and Found, book one in the Lost Boys novels, is a super sexy, lightly angsty, friends-to-lovers and second-chance contemporary romance.

Review:
Another great book by Gina L. Maxwell! Seriously, I think I’m in love with her!!

What I liked about the book:
If you have read any of my reviews, you probably know that I love three things:

1. Fairy-tale retellings/reimaginings. Something about taking the concepts I grew up on and twisting them for my now-adult brain really works for me (let’s not look into the psychology behind that one).

I especially enjoy when something as magical as Peter Pan is worked into an everyday setting, like mechanics and illegal businesses.

2. I love a good dirty, yet sweet romance. In other words, I love the whole “dominate-me-during / cuddle-me-after” scenario, and Mr. Pan delivered! He is without a doubt a total dom, but he still calls her baby.

ALSO, when he asked if he could give Wendy a “real kiss”, when he stated “I used to be a Lost Boy, but the night I met Wendy, I became found”, and when he made them necklaces from their childhood gifts to one another??? STAHP! He is just the sweetest, most adorable badass I’ve read in a while. Like, can we stop with the perfect MMCs, Gina??? You’re creating unrealistic expectations!

3. I love spinoff potentials!!! So glad I got the chance to read this now when I can go scoop up Hooks book next!

…Ahem…Gina…where is my Tink book? I feel that one is going to be

I need Tink and Michael…STAT!

What didn’t do it for me:
1. This is totally a me problem, but I guess I was looking for a bit more maturity in Peter Pan. I know, that’s stupid. But it’s a reimagining…Why did you wait until the last minute to order something knowing this was the biggest event of your woman’s career? Come on, dude, get your sh*t together.

I received a copy of this ARC from NetGalley and Gina L. Maxwell in exchange for my honest review. Check it out!

Of Beast and Burden by Kelsey Kicklighter

Genre: Sci-Fi & Fantasy, Young Adult

Publication Date: May 10, 2022

Rating: 3.5 promising stars!

Favorite Quote:“I’ve always loved monstrous things, even when I wasn’t supposed to.”

NetGalley Blurb:
For fans of SARAH J. MAAS, ELISE KOVA, and HOLLY BLACK comes an exciting new fantasy-romance based on Celtic lore.

A fae girl with a human heart. A Seelie Queen with a penchant for stealing mortals. And an Unseelie King who must surrender his throne. On the coast of Georgia rests a small town where faeries still take changelings. Faye lost her mother to the Folk but has spent her whole life longing for a glimpse behind the veil.

When Faye finally finds her way in, she also discovers why the dark and alluring world of the Folk has always called to her: she’s half faerie, and heiress to the Dark Court’s throne.

When the rival court steals her best friend, Faye must claim the crown to save her. That means learning how to use her glamour so she can face three deadly trials and ensuring she doesn’t fall for the dark. brooding king she’s meant to replace…or the nymph-turned-knight teaching her to fight.

Review:
This debut novel by Kelsey Kicklighter has all the elements of a promising new series!

It had elements of Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, and Alice in Wonderland, but it also had fae!

What I liked about the book:
1. Totally not relevant to the book in any way but the title, BUT I couldn’t help but get “Beast of Burden” by The Rolling Stones stuck in my head every time I picked up this book. That’s totally fine with me given it’s one of my favorite songs by them.

2. I liked that Faye wasn’t great at everything she did and she made mistakes often. She definitely had to go through learning how to fight, how to harness her magic, hell, even how to dance properly. She also just couldn’t shake those “Thank yous” that are super dangerous in the fae world. She definitely wasn’t a Mary Sue and that was refreshing.

I also felt that she started to come into her own in this book, but I hope there is a lot more progress on that front in the next. At the beginning of the book, she was only friends with a “wild-child” named Delia because “Delia gives me permission to be as reckless as I want to be.” When she wasn’t with Delia, she appeared to live a rather reserved life, taking no chances and thinking too much to actually act without Delia’s influence. However, after Ellie was taken, she acted and thought quickly, as well as made sacrifices. Throughout the story, we saw her embrace change, accept life beyond the veil, and start to come into her own. I want this progress to continue so she can evolve into the Queen we know she can be.

3. All of the other characters had a lot of promise!

Gage – I really liked Gage. He wasn’t the typical grumpy MMC, but he definitely had his underdog/dark side. He reminded me of a mix of the Beast from Beauty and the Beast and Li Shang from Mulan which is basically my ideal man. He was stupid sexy with his smirks, grunts, and ability to wield a sword, he checked all my boxes and I love him.

Kellan – Kellan was such a hopeless flirt who you couldn’t help but feel sorry for despite some of his decisions. It was fun to read his lines and his little sexy nicknames for Faye, but ultimately, he just couldn’t hold a candle to Gage for me.

Isla – I liked that Isla definitely stuck to her guns, whether that was about which court she wanted to belong to, wanting to obtain knighthood, or following the rules of the court she was loyal to. I found her a bit boring at times, but I can’t wait for her to come into her own. Maybe in the next book?

Ellie – I loved Ellie’s spirit! I have a feeling she is going to “find” a lot of interesting things to help bring down the Seelie Court.

Soliel – She was definitely Glinda the Good Witch, if Glinda was a sadist. Can’t wait to see the evil she unveils because I know her plan is still in motion!

4. I liked that this book is from the perspective that the “monstrous” Unseelie are just misunderstood and actually way better fae than the glimmering and polished, usually seen as the “good guys” Seelie.

5. I liked the twists around her parents, Gage’s involvement in getting the throne, and how the next ruler is crowned. It definitely gave this book full of typical fae elements its own edge that I really appreciated!

6. There were some pretty great lines in this book.

“Elation and fear, strange bedfellows.”– Interesting, and true.

“No. I am having emotions, and I am going to hide until they go away again.”– I feel so seen…

“You have to be the monster’s monster.” – Well, that’s dark and definitely going to come back around at some point.

“It’s been a considerably long time since you glared at me. I was starting to miss it.”– Just one of the beautiful lines out of Gage’s mouth.

“You should never tell a queen what she cannot do.” – YESSSSS! Own that title babe!

What didn’t do it for me:
1. My biggest problem with this book was the love triangle. Typically, when we see a love triangle, I feel there is a clear winner and a clear schmo. There is one person who we are more invested in and the writer definitely writes them better than the other. They’re hotter or smarter or better in bed. Something that makes them the end goal in the little competition. However, that was not the case in this story.

Gage and Isla are the two individuals in Faye’s love triangle, and while I am bias and love Gage, there is no clear winner. They are both great and Faye seems to have about the same level of feelings for them both, which is SUPER BOTHERSOME TO ME! Either push her together with Isla and make me burn with disagreement or push her together with Gage and make me want Isla to find another Queen more her speed! Do not leave me hanging like this though!

2. Despite the love triangle, I felt the romance was more told to us that experienced by us. There were a lot of references to “when we hung out the last few days, [insert thing] happened”. I don’t want to hear about [insert thing] in passing, I want to experience [insert thing].

Because of this, I felt irrationally upset about the things that were focused on in the book, while the romance aspect was rushed over. Honestly, this is a case where the book could have been longer to accommodate this and I would have gobbled up every damn word. Please don’t leave me out of [insert thing]. Insert all the things!!!

I received a copy of this ARC from NetGalley, Independent Publishers Group, The Parliament House, and Kelsey Kicklighter in exchange for my honest review. Highly recommend you check it out!

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