REVIEW – A Brush with Love by Mazey Eddings

Reluctant romance readers (hi, yes, I am one of you). You have to give A Brush with Love a shot. Or at least remember the name Mazey Eddings – you’re going to be seeing her books all over the place soon.

A Brush with Love is smart and sweet and hilarious. The balance between each element in the story is flawless – Eddings will have you saying “awww” one moment and cracking up the next.

Harper is a dental student working towards a residency in oral surgery. She’s SMART. She’s DRIVEN. She’s…AWKWARD (sometimes). She’s dealing with some trauma and grief from her childhood and she tends to keep everyone at arm’s length. Dan is a first-year dental student, reluctantly trying to live up to a legacy left by his (complicated and not-so-nice) father.

After a meet-cute that’s more like a meet-funny or a meet-omg! Harper and Dan become fast friends and, although their story itself is something of a slow burn, they develop feelings for each other very quickly but it never feels insta-lovey or forced.

The good? A Brush with Love is heartfelt and emotional without being sappy. It’s sweet without being too sugary (come on, that would be bad for your teeth! …I’ll see myself out). Harper and Dan are lovable, Harper’s friends are a GODDAMN DELIGHT. Harper deals with some very real anxiety that is so accurately portrayed on the page, I sometimes forgot that I was reading fiction.

The bad? Most of you are going to have to wait until 2022 to read this. But I have a solution for you: preorder this delightful piece of romcom goodness. It’s basically like sending a gift to your future self.

Thank you St. Martin’s Press for the NetGalley ARC!

REVIEW – West End Earl by Bethany Bennett

West End Earl was a super delightful and heartwarming romance – Calvin and Ophelia are lovable characters and I found myself rooting for them right from the start.

Ophelia has had a rough life, and she’s spent the last decade hiding who she is just in order to survive. Calvin has to work hard to clean up his father’s affairs (literally.) and finds himself feeling more like the parent than the child when he has to deal with dear old dad.

When Calvin discovers Ophelia’s secret, he immediately works to support her and make sure she stays safe. And, yes, they fall in love in the process (duh!)

I haven’t read the first book in the series yet, but it’s sitting on my tbr shelf and i’ll definitely be picking it up soon! I’m also very excited for book three (you’ll hate Emma and then you’ll love Emma and she deserves to get her own story!)

Thank you Forever for sending me a copy of this book!

COZY MYSTERY REVIEW – It Takes Two to Mango by Carrie Doyle

Let’s get this out of the way: you’re probably going to hate Plum. She’s pretentious and mean and makes a lot of really nasty assumptions about people. However, Plum does grow as a person (no, really) and by the end of the book you might almost…like her? Or at least tolerate her.

The mystery is interesting (and a bit tough to solve) in this book, and the setting is just fantastic. Overall, a solid start to a new series.

Thank you Poisoned Pen Press for the ARC!

REVIEW – False Witness by Karin Slaughter

“If Callie could stay in this quiet moment, big sister by her side, for the rest of her life, then she would be happy. But that wasn’t how life worked.”

Karin Slaughter continues to remind me why she’s my favorite author. Time and time again I am blown away by her ability to weave an intriguing, emotional, gut-punch of a plot. The first Karin Slaughter book I read was one of her standalones, so i’m always excited when she releases a new one. I think they’re a great introduction to her writing for anyone looking to give her books a try.

False Witness is about two sisters with a long-buried secret. It provides an honest, heartbreaking look at addiction, abuse and sexual assault. It’s full of the twists and “OMG” moments you expect from a Karin Slaughter book. I won’t give too much away because it’s worth diving in headfirst, without taking too close of a look (avoid detailed reviews!)

This book does make mention of the pandemic, but I didn’t feel overwhelmed by it. It’s merely part of the story, instead of being a major focus. My recommendation? Definitely read the Author’s Note to get a glimpse into her thought process while writing the book.

As far as content warnings? I won’t list them all here, but please know that if you are a sensitive reader, this probably isn’t the book for you.

Thank you Bibliolifestyle and William Morrow for the free book!

REVIEW – Test Gods by Nicholas Schmidle

“Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth.”

I don’t know many people who aren’t at least somewhat fascinated by space and space flight/exploration. Now, with Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin mere days away from sending their respective billionaire owners into suborbital flight, this is the perfect time to pick up Test Gods.

Test Gods focuses on Virgin Galactic – the triumphs (and tragedies) of the company as they have worked towards making commercial spaceflight a reality. The main “character” here is Mark Stucky, one of Virgin Galactic’s test pilots. Stucky is a complicated man, and his passion for flight has often interfered with his personal relationships. But he’s whip-smart and quite possibly one of the bravest humans on the planet (and, sometimes, off of it).

Test Gods also has an underlying theme of the relationships between fathers and sons – and the author ties in stories about his own father (there’s a fascinating connection revealed later on in the book!)

Thank you Henry Holt for the ARC!

REVIEW – An Ambush of Widows by Jeff Abbott

I’ve had some not-so-great luck with new thrillers lately. As a longtime fan of the genre, I was struggling to pinpoint if either newer thrillers just weren’t good (to me, at least) or if I finally became burned out on the genre.

Well, kudos to Jeff Abbott for reminding me why I loved thrillers in the first place! An Ambush of Widows was a pleasant surprise. Sure, the synopsis sounded intriguing. But this exceeded my expectations by a mile.

So many chapters are left on a cliffhanger, and you have to make it through a few chapters from differing perspectives before you get your answers. Abbott drops clever clues throughout, and even though I had it (somewhat) figured out with a decent amount of the book left, there were still things I missed.

If you’re feeling a little disenchanted by the thriller genre as a whole, pick up An Ambush of Widows. It just might reignite your love of twisty, mysterious novels.

Thank you Novel Suspects for the ARC!

CONSTANT READER REVIEW – Lisey’s Story by Stephen King

“I was lost in the dark,” he whispers. “You found me.”

I went on a JOURNEY with Lisey’s Story. I picked it up, read a few dozen pages, got annoyed, decided to DNF. Then, a few minutes later (literally)…I picked it back up, read a few more sections, found myself annoyed again, decided to DNF. The next morning? Picked it back up and barely put it down again.

Here’s what you need to know: Lisey’s husband, Scott, has been dead for two years. Lisey is just now starting to sort through his office (he was a famous author, of course). This book feels almost feverish in the beginning. I felt like I was entering a story at the middle, and there was some jumping back and forth between the present moment and some memories that threw me off the timeline a bit. It took a while to get used to King’s cadence here and get a feel for the foundation of the story, but…stick with it.

Scott and Lisey have their own little language within their marriage, made up primarily of words from Scott’s childhood. And it’s incredibly annoying. Thankfully, after a certain point, it tapers off…but at the beginning of the book, it borders on insufferable and childish.

Scott’s backstory is unsettling and I found myself looking for clues about what was really going on, but I suppose I was meant to suspend disbelief and just buy in to the supernatural “bad-gunky” that has allegedly plagued Scott’s family for decades.

Avid King readers will find shades of Rose Madder and Bag of Bones here (and now, as I type this, I feel like maybe a little touch of Duma Key, even?) If you’ve read any or all of these books, you’ll almost feel like you’ve already read Lisey’s Story, but it does stand (albeit, a bit shakily) on its own.

There are some deeply emotional moments throughout Lisey’s Story and for that reason, i’m glad I read it (I reluctantly gave this four stars because the parts that I loved…I REALLY loved). Lisey’s Story is another one of those books that’s a must for the Constant Reader, but not necessarily required reading for the more casual King fan.

Scott & Lisey: Now We Are Two

REVIEW – Satisfaction Guaranteed by Karelia Stetz-Waters

I had SO MUCH FUN reading Satisfaction Guaranteed. Stetz-Waters pulls you right in from the first chapter – with countless laugh-out-loud moments packed into just a few pages. Not only is Satisfaction Guaranteed hilarious, but it’s also sweet (and spicy). What’s not to love about a sex-positive romance, filled with adorable, lovable characters and effortless humor? Even in the sweet moments, I found myself giggling at some of the subtle details and witty one-liners.

I don’t usually like to compare new books to other things, but I will say this: Fans of The Roommate, you’ll like this. Fans of huggable characters you want to be best friends with, you’ll like this. Fans of joy, you’ll like this.

Thank you Forever for sending me a copy of Satisfaction Guaranteed!

REVIEW – Haven Point by Virginia Hume

Haven Point is a (mostly) historical fiction novel that follows three generations of the same family – Maren, Annie and Skye Demarest have a lot in common but are also very unique characters on their own.

While I did go into this thinking we’d get chapters from each woman’s perspective, that’s not quite the case. Annie is a focus of the book but takes somewhat of a backseat to the narratives surrounding Maren and Skye. Given what we know about Annie’s character and what we learn throughout the book, I think this was a good choice. After a family tragedy, Annie really closes herself off and ends up in a dark spiral that culminates in her eventual death a few decades later (“present day” in the book’s timeline).

This book is mostly sad and melancholy – all three women feel like outcasts at some point or another during their time in Haven Point. There’s a lot of heartache and tragedy and dark family secrets, and most of these things are Maren’s burden to carry.

Content warning: alcoholism (a prominent theme in this book), suicide

Thank you Jennifer Musico and St. Martin’s Press for sending me an ARC of Haven Point!

REVIEW – How to Survive a Scandal by Samara Parish

What a delightful historical romance! From the first chapter I was pulled into the story. Amelia has been engaged to a duke practically since birth, but when she’s caught in a compromising situation with Benedict (a misunderstanding!), everything she’s worked for is ripped away.

I never thought the marriage of convenience trope would be something I would enjoy, but here we are. Parish handles the situation well – yes, Amelia and Benedict are married before really getting to know each other, but they take their time warming up to one another and eventually (I mean, duh) fall in love.

I absolutely loved Benedict – he’s a delightful character. His little sister, Cassandra, is precious (I hope we see more of her in future books!)

I’m also looking forward to book two, which will focus on Fiona (don’t worry, you’ll meet her and you’ll LOVE her!)

Thank you Forever for sending me a copy of How to Survive a Scandal!