Book Review | Pride and Protest by Nikki Payne

Title: Pride and Protest
Author: Nikki Payne
Genre: Adult Contemporary / Romance / Retelling
Publication Date: November 15th, 2022
Publisher: Berkley Books
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐✨

“Liza B.–the only DJ who gives a jam–wants to take her neighborhood back from the soulless property developer dropping unaffordable condos on every street corner in DC. But her planned protest at a corporate event takes a turn after she mistakes the smoldering-hot CEO for the waitstaff. When they go toe-to-toe, the sparks fly–but her impossible-to-ignore family thwarts her every move. Liza wants Dorsey Fitzgerald out of her hood, but she’ll settle for getting him out of her head.
At first, Dorsey writes off Liza Bennett as more interested in performing outrage than acting on it. As the adopted Filipino son of a wealthy white family, he’s always felt a bit out of place and knows a fraud when he sees one. But when Liza’s protest results in a viral meme, their lives are turned upside down, and Dorsey comes to realize this irresistible revolutionary is the most real woman he’s ever met.” (Goodreads)

I wanted to pick this one up after seeing Julie @ One Book More review it on her blog. I’ve enjoyed some other Pride & Prejudice retellingso this one sounded perfect!

The book is told from two point-of-views and they come from Liza Bennett and Dorsey Fitzgerald. They come from different backgrounds and how they have grown up definitely plays into their view point of the world. I liked how open they both were to getting to know one another after a spark between them was felt. They were very cute together and I liked when they interacted. Passionate it definitely a word that would describe both of them!

I would say that all of the characters were well done. I was always curious to see how their plot line would turn out in comparison to the original work. Their personalities matched up well but it was also a refreshing take.

A lot of important topics are discussed in the book and it’s easy to see where the inspiration comes from. I liked seeing it relate to our own world and thought it was a good modern retelling. Sometimes retellings can be hard to do, especially when someone has read the original work. Even though I had ideas on how things could go I was still excited to continue on and wanted to listen to it every chance I got.

This is just my personal taste but the internal spicy dialogue was a bit too much. I know others will enjoy this and so it’s not really a complaint but you know what I mean! I also thought that the timeline was a bit confusing when time was mentioned but it didn’t really impact the story.

Overall, this was a good retelling and I thought the narrators did a great job!

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Book Review | The Fraud Squad by Kyla Zhao

Title: The Fraud Squad
Author: Kyla Zhao
Genre: Adult Contemporary / Romance
Publication Date: January 17th, 2023
Publisher: Berkley Books
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐✨

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for a complimentary earc to review! All opinions are my own.

“For as long as she can remember, Samantha Song has dreamed of writing for a high-society magazine—and she’d do anything to get there. But the constant struggle to help her mom make ends meet and her low social status cause her dream to feel like a distant fantasy.

Now Samantha finds herself working at a drab PR firm. Living vicariously through her wealthy coworker and friend, Anya Chen, is the closest she’ll get to her ideal life. Until she meets Timothy Kingston: the disillusioned son of one of Singapore’s elite families—and Samantha’s one chance at infiltrating the high-society world to which she desperately wants to belong.

To Samantha’s surprise, Timothy and Anya both agree to help her make a name for herself on Singapore’s socialite scene. But the borrowed designer clothes and plus-ones to every glamorous event can only get her so far. The rest is on Samantha, and she’s determined to impress the editor in chief of Singapore’s poshest magazine. But the deeper Samantha wades into this fraud, the more she fears being exposed—especially with a mysterious gossip columnist on the prowl for dirt—forcing her to reconcile her pretense with who she really is before she loses it all.” (Goodreads)

This was a fun read and even though I have read books with a similar plot, I thought this one really shined on its own.

The book is told from one point-of-view and it comes from Samantha Song. She has watched the high-society world from the outside for a long time, mostly through a magazine she wishes she could work for. Through her job at a PR agency, she meets Anya and through her Timothy. Both have connections to that world and they make a plan to turn her into a socialite.

Samantha is an interesting character. Sometimes I disliked her and other times I felt for her situation. I understand why and how she could act the way she did because fame and popularity can definitely cause a big head. I just felt so bad for those she mistreated, especially her friend who was also on the lower side of society. Samantha did have good qualities though. She cares for her mother and wants to see everyone be able to mingle. I also like that she is opinionated.

The other characters were decent but I feel like they didn’t get the same attention and felt a bit one-dimensional at times. This is also why the romance was on the meh side.

Where this book shines is the plot! I couldn’t put it down when it came to her becoming a socialite. It was cool to see her shine in a place outside of her own. She did it with such grace. I wish I had her confidence.

Overall, this was a good read. I am looking forward to what she writes next.

Book Review | The Reunion by Kayla Olson

Title: The Reunion
Author: Kayla Olson
Genre: Adult Contemporary / Romance
Publication Date: January 17th, 2023
Publisher: Atria Books
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for a complimentary earc to review! All opinions are my own.

“Liv Latimer grew up on TV. As the star of the popular teen drama Girl on the Verge, Liv spent her adolescence on the screen trying to be as picture perfect as her character in real life. But after the death of her father and the betrayal of her on-screen love interest and off-screen best friend Ransom Joel, Liv wanted nothing more than to retreat, living a mostly normal life aside from a few indie film roles. But now, twenty years after the show’s premiere, the cast is invited back for a reunion special, financed by a major streaming service.
Liv is happy to be back on set, especially once she discovers Ransom has only improved with age. And their chemistry is certainly still intact. They quickly fall into their old rhythms, rediscovering what had drawn them together decades before. But with new rivalries among the cast emerging and the specter of a reboot shadowing their shoot, Liv questions whether returning to the past is what she needs to finally get her own happy ending.” (Goodreads)

This is one of those reads where it would be considered a popcorn book. It wasn’t amazing but it had it’s moments and made for a good read where you don’t have to think much about it.

The book is told from one point-of-view and it comes from Liv Latimer. She was a child actress who retreated from the spotlight after the death of her father. I couldn’t imagine losing someone so close and then having paparazzi in your face about your feelings. I understood a lot of her choices. She was doing what was best for her mental health and that is something a lot of people have a hard time with.

A lot of the other characters felt very surface level, even Liz at times. I didn’t feel a grand connection to them outside of what I mentioned about the main character. Because of this, the romance felt lacking. There wasn’t a big connection between them besides what was in the past that never happened and they remained with those feelings their whole lives. It felt like everything we got from them was mostly past experiences and not enough “in the moment”. I just wish it hasn’t been so insta-love when it came to their second chance. They did at least have some cute moments together.

The format of the book includes articles and social media comments to pull everything together when it comes to celebrities and being in the spotlight. I thought they were a nice touch and always like seeing other formats of writing included.

Overall, this was a cute read but it also felt lacking in some areas.

Book Review | A Brush with Love by Mazey Eddings

Title: A Brush with Love
Author: Mazey Eddings
Genre: Adult Contemporary / Romance
Publication Date: March 1st, 2022
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Rating: ⭐⭐

“Harper is anxiously awaiting placement into a top oral surgery residency program when she crashes (literally) into Dan. Harper would rather endure a Novocaine-free root canal than face any distractions, even one this adorable.
A first-year dental student with a family legacy to contend with, Dan doesn’t have the same passion for pulling teeth that Harper does. Though he finds himself falling for her, he is willing to play by Harper’s rules.
So with the greatest of intentions and the poorest of follow-throughs, the two set out to be “just friends.” But as they get to know each other better, Harper fears that trading fillings for feelings may make her lose control and can’t risk her carefully ordered life coming undone, no matter how drool-worthy Dan is.
Blood, gore, and extra-long roots? No problem. The idea of falling in love? Torture.” (Goodreads)

I’ve been wanting to pick this one up since it came out but just haven’t been able to fit it in my schedule until now. Although it was an interesting premise and I liked that they wanted to be dentists (never read about it before!) it just didn’t live up to the hype I have seen for it.

The book is told from two point-of-views and they come from Harper and Dan. They are both at the same school for dentistry but haven’t really had any interactions with each other until an embarrassing moment happens. I did think that this setup was nice, but it didn’t really put them on the wrong foot. They were very attracted to each other from the beginning so obviously it would never be “just friends”. It was just too insta-lust for me and I don’t feel like their connection was very strong outside of that.

I do think that both characters have good development when it comes to their personal lives and I liked seeing them work through it. I also felt like the humor wasn’t entirely funny and it was also lacking since it is considered a rom-com. The book was definitely more serious than funny.

Overall, this one just wasn’t for me but at least I tried it out!

Book Review: Fake It Till You Bake It by Jamie Wesley

Title: Fake It Till You Bake It
Author: Jamie Wesley
Genre: Adult Contemporary / Romance
Publication Date: June 21st, 2022
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

“Jada Townsend-Matthews is the most reviled woman in America after turning down a proposal on a reality dating show. When she comes home to lick her wounds, Jada finds herself working at San Diego’s newest cupcake bakery, Sugar Blitz, alongside the uptight owner and professional football player Donovan Dell.
When a reporter mistakenly believes Jada and Donovan are an item, they realize they can use the misunderstanding to their advantage to help the struggling bakery and rehabilitate Jada’s image. Faking a relationship should be simple, but sometimes love is the most unexpected ingredient.
Fake it Till You Bake It is a sweet confection of a novel, the perfect story to curl up with and enjoy with a cupcake on the side.” (Goodreads)

This was a cute book and I was hooked from the beginning!

The book is told from two point-of-views and they come from Jada Townsend-Matthews and Donovan Dell. One is the villain of a reality tv show and the other is a football player who is looking to win big in the cupcake industry. I liked that they both had different backgrounds and identities. It made them unique and yet they could still find common ground. Jada and Donovan also don’t always see eye to eye and it shows within their first encounter. I love a couple that gets off on the wrong foot!

Their romance is definitely a softer enemies-to-lovers that includes fake dating and I love that trope so much. They become what each other needs and finds out that their can really be sparks in the least likely places. I really did enjoy their banter.

The plot is filled with hilarious moments between the couple and their friends. I liked the surprise appearances in the beginning and Jada’s grandma is the best! I do wish we had seen more from her but I can’t be mad for what we did get. Since it deals with business, sports, and reality tv, you can bet there will be drama. I don’t think that it was over-the-top and I actually had a hard time putting the book down when it would get to the good parts. Honestly, I read this book in less than a day.

Overall, this was a great read for me. I loved the couple and I hope that the author revisits this world so we can dive into the other characters!

Book Review: The Marriage Jinx by Krista Noorman

Title: The Marriage Jinx
Author: Krista Noorman
Genre: Adult Contemporary / Romance
Publication Date: April 22nd, 2022
Publisher: Indie / Kindle Unlimited
Rating: ⭐⭐

Will a jinx keep them from happily ever after?

When my best friends and I made a pact after college to wait until we turn thirty to get married, I never thought we’d jinx ourselves. But ever since we signed our names on the dotted line, our dating lives have been one catastrophe after another. That can’t be a coincidence, right?
If that wasn’t bad enough, my new boss is Lucas Abbott—my high school crush and our town’s most eligible bachelor—and the attraction I feel is definitely not one-sided this time.
But before I get too excited about that, we’ve got problems. He’s not allowed to date employees because of a past family scandal His ex-wife won’t keep her nose out of his business.
And don’t forget the jinx.
Now that the guy might finally be in my life, I’m worried it will end in another disaster. But is the jinx our biggest obstacle or are deeper issues standing in our way?” (Goodreads)

I have been trying to read more fall books before it becomes winter and this was one I was looking forward to get to. Unfortunately, it wasn’t for me but it happens!

The book is told from dual point-of-views and they come from Penny and Lucas. They were decent characters. I think they both had some things to deal with, especially Lucas being divorced but not totally putting his ex-wife in her place. The marriage pact on Penny’s side was a fun, unique aspect in the beginning but towards the middle it felt like it fizzled out and didn’t have the repercussions it should have from her friends who created it with her.

The other characters in the book were fine. I did want more from them and with this being a series I’m sure some will get more page time. I didn’t really connect or feel drawn to the other characters so I don’t know if I would move on with the sequel to give it another try.

My biggest problem was the romance. It was very much insta-love. Penny had longed for him ever since high school and then they meet conveniently and then she starts working for him, he was infatuated with her without even really knowing her besides from long ago. This type of romance just never works for me.

I think that this book could have been better by being longer and using the setting better. I wish there would have been more about the farm and the small town. It also would have helped the romance to be drawn out more.

Overall, this one was okay but ultimately didn’t work for me.

Audiobook Review: The Holiday Swap by Maggie Knox

Title: The Holiday Swap
Author: Maggie Knox
Genre: Adult Contemporary / Romance / Holiday
Publication Date: October 5th, 2021
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐✨

“When chef Charlie Goodwin gets hit on the head on the L.A. set of her reality baking show, she loses a lot more than consciousness; she also loses her ability to taste and smell–both critical to her success as show judge. Meanwhile, Charlie’s identical twin, Cass, is frantically trying to hold her own life together back in their quaint mountain hometown while running the family’s bustling bakery and dealing with her ex, who won’t get the memo that they’re over.
With only days until Christmas, a desperate Charlie asks Cass to do something they haven’t done since they were kids: switch places. Looking for her own escape from reality, Cass agrees. But temporarily trading lives proves more complicated than they imagined, especially when rugged firefighter Jake Greenman and gorgeous physician’s assistant Miguel Rodriguez are thrown into the mix. Will the twins’ identity swap be a recipe for disaster, or does it have all the right ingredients for getting their lives back on track?” (Goodreads)

The book is told from two point-of-views and they come from twin sisters Cass and Charlie. Like with many twin plots, they switch places. I actually liked how it was done in this one. They had similar interests, like baking, and both had a career that dealt with baking. The book also did a great job of showing that siblings don’t always get along. They had their issues and after letting things settle they begin to understand what the other was doing for them. It was nice and I could definitely relate since I have sisters.

There are two different romance plotlines. One for each sister. They meet their love interests in the least likely places and of course, it kind of backfires when everything hits the fan after swapping lives. I don’t think that it was overly dramatic and I liked how it played out. Both of the love interests were super sweet!

Each sister is going through something different in their careers. The swap did help them come to terms with what was happening and their sister was able to help in some way with it. Sometimes you don’t see what is going on and so in this way there was a different set of eyes and thoughts. It helped them get the the fire lit under their butts!

There is a bit of Christmas here and there but it isn’t a lot and that was kind of disappointing.

Overall, I liked this one. It took a bit to get into and the second half is definitely better than the first. The audiobook was great! I just wish there had been more when it came to Christmas.

Arc Review: Well Traveled (Well Met #4) by Jen DeLuca

Title: Well Traveled (Well Met #4)
Author: Jen DeLuca
Genre: Adult Cointemporary / Romance
Publication Date: December 6th, 2022
Publisher: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for a complimentary earc to review! All opinions are my own.

“A high-powered attorney from a success-oriented family, Louisa “Lulu” Malone lives to work, and everything seems to be going right, until the day she realizes it’s all wrong. Lulu’s cousin Mitch introduced her to the world of Renaissance Faires, and when she spies one at a time just when she needs an escape, she leaps into the welcoming environment of turkey legs, taverns, and tarot readers. The only drawback? Dex MacLean: a guitarist with a killer smile, the Casanova of the Faire… and her traveling companion for the summer.
Dex has never had to work for much in his life, and why should he? Touring with his brothers as The Dueling Kilts is going great, and he always finds a woman at every Faire. But when Lulu proves indifferent to his many plaid charms and a shake-up threatens the fate of the band, Dex must confront something he never has before: his future.
Forced to spend days and nights together on the road, Lulu’s interest in the kilted bad boy grows as he shows her a side of himself no one else has seen. The stresses of her old lifestyle fade away as she learns to trust her intuition and follow her heart instead of her head. But when her time on the road is over, will Lulu go with her gut, or are she and Dex destined for separate paths?” (Goodreads)

This one was hard to rate. One side, I did like it but on the other, it wasn’t a favorite which is really disappointing. Again, I did like it though! Close proximity, finding oneself, and kilts? Come on!

The book is told from one point-of-view and it comes from Lulu. We were introduced to her in the last book and I loved her! I couldn’t wait to see what her story would be about. She definitely goes through a lot of growth when it comes to her job, family, and love. I do wish that there would have been more when it came to her family but I understand, she was living off-the-grid. It’s just a shame we saw them in the last book with Mitch but not in this one. I think it would have added a bit more.

There are other characters that were present in other books come back for this one. Stacey and Daniel are one of my favorite couples! I am happy they are back and helping Lulu find her purpose. It was nice to see another side from them as well as the others in the Dueling Kilts, especially Dex. He is the definition of not judging a book by its cover and he gets judged a lot from those close to him as well as all of the other people putting on a show at the ren faire. He is hiding a softer interior and I loved getting to know him a whole lot better.

The romance between Dex and Lulu was cute. It involves close-proximity and not knowing what the future holds. They learn a lot about each other before ever getting into anything I liked that approach. The downside is that even though they were getting to know each other, it felt like a rapid stride from somewhat friends to lovers and it just didn’t work for me. Don’t get me wrong, there were cute moments between them and I still loved them but I just wanted more between them. You know what I mean?

Overall, I liked this one. Not a favorite but it was still a good read and I’m glad that Dex had a happy ending after meeting him in book two. I’m also glad we got to see Lulu and understand her better as well. She really is a great character.

Arc Review: To Get to the Other Side by Kelly Ohlert

Title: To Get to the Other Side
Author: Kelly Ohlert
Genre: Adult Contemporary / Romance
Publication Date: December 6th, 2022
Publisher: Alcove Press
Rating: ⭐⭐

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for a complimentary earc to review! All opinions are my own.

“Trixie isn’t exactly sure what she was thinking when she stopped her car in the middle of downtown Chicago, scooped up a chicken struggling to cross the road, and drove off… but she does know that she has to find a new home for herself and her new feathered friend. The landlord at her apartment doesn’t allow pets and has caught Trixie in one too many pet-smuggling attempts in the past.

Bear likes his quiet life with his close-knit family, who own a flower business, but he’s in for a rude awakening when his meddlesome sisters post an ad to rent the spare room in his simple home, without asking his permission. Still, when Trixie responds to the ad, he agrees to let her move in, despite immediate worries about keeping things platonic.

Determined to keep her new room, befriend Bear, and give her rescue chicken the care she deserves, Trixie fights to keep her walls up and resist her romantic feelings for Bear. However, it’s not long before the pair’s proximity and chicken parenting ignite flames that have Trixie and Bear testing the boundaries of their platonic ground rules. They have to figure out how to save a family business, pay for mounting vet bills, and navigate their own emotional baggage if they want to find the love that they all deserve.” (Goodreads)

This book may be someone else’s cup of tea, but it wasn’t for me. This isn’t the worst book I have read and had some decent aspects to it but it wasn’t as cute as I had wanted it to be.

The book is told from two point-of-views, Trixie and Bear. They are complete opposites and have one run-in before she notices an ad for a roommate and it happens to be his home. Not of his doing though, pesky sisters. Although I liked the setup for the book, I felt like the characters stayed the same throughout and kind of fell flat. I also felt that out of all of the people he could have as a roommate it’s her and he has only seen her chase a chicken, literally. The romance feels very insta-lovey from this point and that is not my vibe.

I did think that the plot line which included a chicken was real unique. I had never seen it done before. As someone who has chickens in the backyard it was fun to see. This plot line does drag on a bit and can get old and boring because it feels like it should have been resolved sooner than it had.

Overall, this was interesting and had a unique setup but it lost it’s charm and ended up only being an okay read for me.

Book Review: Pumpkin Spice and Not So Nice by Becky Monson

Title: Pumpkin Spice and Not So Nice
Author: Becky Monson
Genre: Adult Contemporary / Romance
Publication Date: September 8th, 2022
Publisher: Indie / Kindle Unlimited
Rating: ⭐⭐

“If I were ever to write a memoir, it would be titled, Jenna Peterson’s Guide to Dating Emotionally Unavailable Men. I’m like a professional at it. I’m so good, I can take any dysfunctional man and turn him into Prince Charming, just in time for him to dump me and then go on to marry the next woman he dates. I’m about ready to give up on loving real men and focus on lusting over fictional men in the Turkish dramas I can’t stop devouring.
But then . . . I find a mysterious fifty-dollar bill with a handwritten note on it that was donated to my family’s pumpkin patch by accident. And wouldn’t you know it, the mystery man it belongs to is emotionally unavailable, albeit freakishly attractive. I keep telling myself to walk away, but there’s something about Aidan St. Claire that makes me want to unravel all his secrets. All I know is he sure can heat up the cozy fall nights. I can’t help but think that maybe this time I’ll get to keep Prince Charming for myself.” (Goodreads)

I didn’t know that this was connected to the book A Pumpkin and a Patch by Jennifer Peel. This one is about the other cousin and it’s pretty much happening simultaneously with the other plot. I thought this was pretty cool and well done. It was interesting to see another perspective on certain events. Unfortunately, I didn’t like this one as much.

I did like Jenna but I wasn’t a fan of Aidan. He was pretty boring from the beginning and I never got over how dull he was. There was nothing soon-worthy about him when compared to the rogue pirate. Their romance was also on the bland side as nothing happened between them until the last part of the book. I know that this is a clean romance but they really just felt like friends and continued with that montage.

Overall, this book just wasn’t for me but I can see others enjoying it more. I did like being back at the farm and exploring other areas in the same world as the other book.