Monday, October 31, 2022

I could spend every single day afraid of losing your love: KISS HER ONCE FOR ME.

Kiss Her Once for MeKiss Her Once for Me by Alison Cochrun
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Ellie Oliver lost her dream job in animation and now works at a coffee shop, just passing the mindless days and going home to her closet-sized apartment. She keeps flashing back to the magical Christmas Eve a year ago, when she met an amazing woman on a snowy morning and fell in love over the course of the day, but lost her. Then the coffee store's landlord comes up with a shocking proposition: he needs to get married to earn his inheritance, and she needs money. They'll have a (short) marriage of convenience, which includes spending the holidays at his family's winter cabin. But when Andrew and Ellie arrive to meet the fam, she cannot believe that his sister Jacqueline is actually "Jack," the woman she fell in love with last Christmas Eve. Now Ellie has to decide between keeping up the ruse with Andrew for financial security or risking everything for love.

KISS HER ONCE FOR ME is so charming! Christmas! Fake romance! Lesbians! It felt a little more serious than CHARM OFFENSIVE despite the holiday theme, but it's still such a great story. Cochrun said she was inspired by the movie "While You Were Sleeping," which is one of my absolute favorite films, and I could totally see it. (We even have a Jack!)

Much like CHARM, KISS covers anxiety in such a thoughtful way. Ellie is an anxious soul, afraid to to trust or take chances. Her fear of failure hit me in the gut. As for Jack, after you read this, no real lesbian may ever match up again. She's a lesbian ideal, a flannel-laden, pastry baking hottie. Andrew's family is a trip too, especially his grandmas, who are totally amusing (and very "While You Were Sleeping)."

I loved how the theme of art and web comics ran across the book (Ellie wrote a web comic about her day with Jack, and we learn about their encounter through excerpts from it). It's pretty hard not to enjoy a book about love, snow, and finding yourself. It has serious parts, but embraces its tropes, such as dating a friend's brother and the good 'ol fake fiance. It also really made me want to visit Portland!

Overall, this is such a lovely, touching, and fun read. Hallmark, Lifetime, please come and make this into a holiday movie! 4.5 stars.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley and Atria Books in return for an unbiased review. Look for KISS HER ONCE FOR ME on 11/1/2o22!!

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Monday, October 17, 2022

I've been kind and I've been ruthless: FIRST BORN.

First Born: A NovelFirst Born: A Novel by Will Dean
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Molly is a very quiet and shy person who lives her life based on routine and structure. She's the exact opposite of her outgoing identical twin sister, Katie. Molly has always relied on Katie, but her sister recently moved to New York City from London. Then Molly receives the worst news: Katie has died, a possible murder. She has to overcome her fears and travel to New York City to try to figure out exactly what happened to her sister.

FIRST BORN is a twisty thriller that offers a ton of surprises, but I confess that I just didn't love it all that much. I kept reading to find out what happened, so the book captured my attention, but I did not find the characters very engaging or likeable. There was not much character development here, and the writing style was rather weird. It's a wild plot, for sure; so if you can suspend disbelief and just go for it, you'll enjoy this one. Barely 3 stars for me.

I received a copy of this book from Atria/Emily Bestler Books and Netgalley in return for an unbiased review.

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Monday, October 10, 2022

But I've been searching high and low and all around this town: THIS WICKED FATE.

This Wicked FateThis Wicked Fate by Kalynn Bayron
My rating: 4.5+ of 5 stars

Briseis has grown up a lot. (Spoilers if you haven't read book #1). She's learned how her family, descendants of Medea, daughter of Hecate, niece of Circe, wife of Jason, is tasked with guarding the Absyrtus Heart--a plant that just happens to be incredibly deadly. Pieces have been separated over hundreds of generations. Jason's line has always wanted the heart and has been hunting it and Bri's family. Her family has been trying to get the pieces of the heart back and destroy them all. But the stakes are even higher now: if they do not get them all back within 28 days, Bri's mom will be lost forever.

What follows is a wonderful, queer mythical fantasy adventure that will completely sweep you off your feet! Bri is one of my absolute favorite heroines in YA literature. She is smart, funny, and real (and bi), and her focus on family is just lovely. Bayron's writing is just gorgeous: the descriptions of gardens and plants are so beautiful, not to mention all the mythology. She brings to life the world of Medea and all these mythical places and gods and goddesses. I felt as if we truly got to know Circe more.

These books are wonderful in that they are fun fantasy reads but also cover serious topics; as Bayron states: generational burden, grief, and healing. It covers the bonds of family and also friendship.

Overall, I love this series, and I found this book to be absolutely stunning! 4.5+ stars.

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Thursday, October 06, 2022

When you said you don't need me anymore: IN THE TRAP.

In The Trap (Hazel & Maeve: The Campus Mysteries #1)In The Trap by Jessica Cranberry
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hazel is a quiet college student who mostly minds her own business (while watching the world happen around her) until she gets to know her roommate, Maeve, better. One evening as they pass through the Trap, an outdoor space at their university, the two are harassed by some drunk male classmates. When one of them ends up dead, Hazel is a potential suspect, and she and Maeve try to solve the case before the police can trace either girl to the dead guy. Set just when internet diaries were becoming popular, the two delve into the campus' supposedly anonymous site. Can Hazel and Maeve figure out what happened--before anything else happens to them?

The time setting (college campus around when I attended) lured me in here. The writing wasn't always the best-- it was rather simplistic--and the mystery was a little easy to work out due to the limited cast, but I am hooked enough to want to read book #2. I definitely hoped for more of a lesbian storyline here (as I think Hazel did too) but maybe there will be more in the second book. It was nice to read a book set when I went to college, though, and I appreciated the author's focus on assault and the overall treatment of women.

I received a copy of this book from Nine Star Press and Netgalley in return for an unbiased review.

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Tuesday, October 04, 2022

But I'm wide awake and afraid to fight: MAD HONEY.

Mad HoneyMad Honey by Jodi Picoult
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Olivia McAfee never expected to return to her New Hampshire hometown with her son Asher, to live in her parents' farmhouse, and to take up beekeeping after the death of her father. But after a dark turn in her marriage, here she is. And she and Asher have made a nice, quiet life with one another. Asher is happy, playing hockey on the high school team and dating Lily Campanello, who is new to town. Then one day Olivia receives a call that Lily is dead and Asher is being questioned by the police, and suddenly their idyllic existence is threatened.

This was an excellent and thought-provoking read by Picoult and her co-author, Jennifer Finney Boylan. I don't want to give much away, so I'll keep my review short. The story alternates between Lily and Olivia's point of views, with Lily's going backward in time, chronicling her relationship with Asher. It's a neat plot device, but a little confusing sometimes. MAD HONEY focuses on the fierce and tumultuous relationships between teens and between mothers and sons. It delves into domestic violence and gender identity in deep and explorative ways. It also features a very Picoult-like trial (featuring a reoccurring character you may recognize from a few of her other books). It was sad, but lovely and mesmerizing. 4+ stars.

I received a copy of this book from Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine and Netgalley in return for an unbiased review. Look for MAD HONEY on October 4th!

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Monday, October 03, 2022

Everything I'd do if I could leave this place and never look back: ENOLA HOLMES AND THE ELEGANT ESCAPADE.

Enola Holmes and the Elegant Escapade (Enola Holmes, #8)Enola Holmes and the Elegant Escapade by Nancy Springer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thanks to my wife Kate for this guest review! :)

Nancy Springer has once again given us a peek into the clever mind of Enola Holmes, the younger, eager, and (more?) talented sister of the notable Sherlock Holmes. Her adventures in Elegant Escapade continue to highlight her precocious nature and ingenious insight into solving mysteries.

Seeking to visit her best friend, Lady Cecily, Enola finds Cecily confined to her rooms by her father, Sir Eustace. Enola assists Cecily with her grande escape - only to have Lady Cecily slip away and go on the run alone!

With Sherlock’s help, Enola begins to unravel the sordid details of Sir Eustace’s past and figure out ways to use the information to finally free Lady Cecily.

As always, Springer does a magnificent job highlighting Enola’s incredible investigative skills and finding ways to show that her keen problem solving skills match (if not exceed) her brother’s. A fun, fast, read from beginning to end.

We received a copy of this book from Netgalley and Wednesday Books in return for an unbiased review.

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