Book Review: Howl-O-Ween by Gary L. Holleman

Howl-O-Ween

Howl-O-Ween

Title: Howl-O-Ween
Author: Gary L. Holleman
Genre: Horror
Date of Publication: October 1996
Publisher: Leisure Books


Synopsis

Cyrus Twigg, a professional bodyguard, is hired by the mysterious and beautiful Kyna to protect her while she delivers jewels to clients across Canada and the US. Little known to either of them, her boyfriend and boss, Bryan, gave her a jewel that she wears around her neck, one that’s more valuable than the rest to the strange “Dark Man” who’s hot on their trail.

My Thoughts

What a weird book. Now, don’t get me wrong–I love weird. But this was weird in a way that didn’t quite make sense.  I don’t even know if I would classify it as horror, even though there were some gory bits. Also: werewolves.

The book has a noir-style feel to it, which normally I love, but if a book with a ridiculous premise takes itself too seriously… I think you see where I’m going with this. I think that in order to enjoy this book, you have to appreciate the dry humour, if that’s what it was intended to be. Still not sure on that point.

I was a fan of the Voodoo and the way that magic and werewolves worked in this novel.  However, it was a little convoluted and hard to keep my interest at parts. I’ve read a few books on Voodoo, and Holleman took some fact and threw it in with his fiction, which makes for a more interesting read.  While I love a book that’s heavy on the magic, however, I needed more likeable characters and a stronger plot to keep me interested.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the main character, Russ.  He was a typical thug.  His interactions with Kyna, the gorgeous woman who magically transforms into his lover (shocker) were so cheesy they bordered on comical. Here is an excerpt:

They made love. Not the way they usually did–like two sumo wrestlers in heat trying to pin each other–but slowly, carefully, lovingly, the way the Swiss make watches.

That said, the intentionally unlikeable characters were great. Holleman did a phenomenal job of making me detest characters like the boyfriend/boss “Bryan”, who fortunately get what’s coming to him in the end of the book.

Howl-O-Ween

I recommend this book to those looking for a cheesy horror book that’s set around Halloween.

starstar

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Book Review: Picket Fences by Emma L. R. Hogg

Picket Fences

54882437._SY475_Title: Picket Fences 
Author: Emma L. R. Hogg
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Date of Publication: October 15, 2020
Publisher: Tidewater Press


Synopsis

Sloane Sawyer had it all planned—she and her best friend Stephie would graduate from high school, get out of Tippett Valley and have dazzling complementary careers. Sloane would become an award-winning graphic designer, creating band posters using Stephie’s artwork. She would also have a loving husband, the requisite two kids and a house with a white picket fence. As she turns thirty, Sloane has a boring job and a boss who ignores her. She has no children, doesn’t own a house, has gained fifteen pounds and questions how her video game-playing husband could possibly love her. And Stephie, working in a bar and living in Tippett Valley with the disreputable Randy, is increasingly distant. Even as Sloane clings to her dream, she comes to realize that she and Stephie won’t be able to move forward until they finally confront an old tragedy. A funny and poignant story about coming of age after you’ve already grown up.

Goodreads

My Thoughts

Picket Fences tells the story of a thirty-year-old woman whose life hasn’t turned out quite how she had expected.  She was passed over for a transfer into the graphic design department at her work, and her career aspirations seem to be slipping through her fingers. She’s been married for years, and she’d expected to have had a child with her husband by now.   Even her relationship with her husband has grown is lukewarm over the years.

There are two timelines in this novel–present day and the past, which begins when Sloan was in high school and first met her best friend, Stephie. Sloan’s idealism and excitement for what she thinks their shared future will look like is naive and sweet. The flashback chapters carry us through Sloan’s life experiences as she grows up.  She hasn’t attained the goals that she made in high school, yet she hasn’t let go of them either.  In late high school, someone close to Stephie passes away, forever changing who she is and what she wants from life.  Sloan refuses to acknowledge that both she and Stephie have changed because of this life-altering event, and tries to continue on as if it had never happened.

There are important messages carrying through this novel.  Sloan is unhealthily attached to her best friend, forcing this friendship to continue far beyond the time they normally would have drifted apart.  At work, she wants to become a graphic designer, yet she hasn’t done anything in years to further this goal.  She and her husband were trying to get pregnant, but with the complications, Sloan has withdrawn from him and stopped communicating about how she feels, or listening to him when he reaches out.  As the novel progresses, Sloan’s co-dependency with Stephie and other flaws become more and more clear.  By the end, there are some powerful lessons learned, transforming a somewhat bleak book into one of a powerful message of hope and perseverance.

The symbolism of picket fences floats throughout the novel, coming to the surface occasionally and bringing together a cohesive imagery that ties so beautifully with the story itself. There is other symbolism and imagery that I found quite poignant, including Sloan’s fitness tracker that her mother gifted to her. Sloan tries so hard to get the counter up to 10,000 steps every day, only to have it reset at midnight. This ties quite nicely to the concept that Sloan putting in effort in the wrong places, and her frustration from not making progress towards achieving satisfaction with her life.

This is a work of literary fiction that encompasses many themes that are relatable to millennial women, and it has some valuable messages that everyone could learn from.

*Thank you to Tidewater Press for the arc to review*

Four stars

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Book Review: Love Your Life by Sophie Kinsella

53479913Title: Love Your Life 
Author: Sophie Kinsella
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Date of Publication: October 27, 2020
Publisher: The Dial Press


Synopsis

Call Ava romantic, but she thinks love should be found in the real world, not on apps that filter men by height, job, or astrological sign. She believes in feelings, not algorithms. So after a recent breakup and dating app debacle, she decides to put love on hold and escapes to a remote writers’ retreat in coastal Italy. She’s determined to finish writing the novel she’s been fantasizing about, even though it means leaving her close-knit group of friends and her precious dog, Harold, behind.

At the retreat, she’s not allowed to use her real name or reveal any personal information. When the neighboring martial arts retreat is canceled and a few of its attendees join their small writing community, Ava, now going by “Aria,” meets “Dutch,” a man who seems too good to be true. The two embark on a baggage-free, whirlwind love affair, cliff-jumping into gem-colored Mediterranean waters and exploring the splendor of the Italian coast. Things seem to be perfect for Aria and Dutch.

But then their real identities–Ava and Matt–must return to London. As their fantasy starts to fade, they discover just how different their personal worlds are. From food choices to annoying habits to sauna etiquette . . . are they compatible in anything? And then there’s the prickly situation with Matt’s ex-girlfriend, who isn’t too eager to let him go. As one mishap follows another, it seems while they love each other, they just can’t love each other’s lives. Can they reconcile their differences to find one life together?

Goodreads

My Thoughts

Sophie Kinsella does it again! This book is equal parts hilarious and heartwarming from cover to cover. 

Kinsella’s brand of humour often has me alternating between cringing and giggling. You just know that characters are misinterpreting what others are thinking, and this makes for a hilarious, yet super uncomfortable read. There were a couple of times when I had to put the book down to pace my living room. 

This novel has some important relationship advice peppered throughout. Matt and Ava fall in love while at a writing retreat where personal talk is forbidden. They don’t know each others’ hobbies, where they come from, or even their real names. They view this as a magical experience, where they fall in love without really knowing each other. However, they know who each other is in essence, just not trivial details like whether or not one of them is a vegetarian, or if they share similar taste in art (spoiler alert: they really, really don’t).  After returning to London, they try to keep this magic alive by not talking about past relationships and anything else that could end the honeymoon phase of their relationship.  It quickly becomes obvious that communication and honesty are key in a successful relationship, and Ava and Matt learn that the hard way. 

Their differences are many, and some of them are hilarious, while others are a tad too extreme.  I understand that this is a romantic comedy, but there are a few points where I couldn’t help but think that Ava just can’t be a real person. She’s just too ridiculous in her beliefs and behaviours.  But just when you think that maybe Matt and Ava can’t make it work out, there’s always a sweet moment that shows their true feelings for each other (Two words: pebble tower. My heart swelled at that point! You’ll see).

As usual with a good chick lit book, the side characters are what makes the book extra special.  Both Matt and Ava’s friends are unique and funny in their own ways.  Although, a couple of parts had me shaking my head in disbelief. (Basically everything to do with Maud. She’s a little too much.) Other characters, however, were loveable in their own, sometimes unlikeable ways (I know that’s a little contradictory, but some characters were so contrary and grumpy that you couldn’t help but love them). Topher and Nell were my favourites, and I kind of wish that they had been featured a little more in this book. 

This is a sweet and hilarious book about falling (and staying) in love when all odds are against you.

*Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the arc to review*

Four stars

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Book Review: Five Total Strangers by Natalie D. Richards

Five Total Strangers

51BedWD7g7L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Title: Five Total Strangers
Author: Natalie D. Richards
Genre: Young Adult, Thriller, Mystery
Date of Publication: October 6, 2020
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire


Synopsis

A hitched ride home in a snow storm turns sinister when one of the passengers is plotting for the ride to end in disaster.

When Mira flies home to spend Christmas with her mother in Pittsburgh, a record-breaking blizzard results in a cancelled layover. Desperate to get to her grief-ridden mother in the wake of a family death, Mira hitches a ride with a group of friendly college kids who were on her initial flight.

As the drive progresses and weather conditions become more treacherous, Mira realizes that the four other passengers she’s stuck in the car with don’t actually know one another.

Soon, they’re not just dealing with heavy snowfall and ice-slick roads, but the fact that somebody will stop at nothing to ensure their trip ends in a deadly disaster.

Goodreads

My Thoughts

This is a slow-burn psychological thriller that kept me enraptured from cover to cover. There is no prologue with a gritty murder to open this book. In fact, it all starts out fairly normal, yet the words and events still carry a sharp edge to them. We first meet Mira when she’s on a plane on Christmas Eve during a blizzard. The plane hits turbulence, and the stress that Mira feels about this, despite being a frequent flyer, nearly oozes off the pages. 

A lot of the creepy things that happen in the early pages of this book are easily explained away. I love how Mira questions her paranoia and isn’t sure if anything malicious is actually going on.  The four strangers that she’s traveling with are all “normal” at a surface level, but there are little unsettling quirks and unlikeable personality characteristics that make themselves known the longer they travel together.  Harper seems to have two different personalities that don’t quite mesh.  Brecken seems like a nice pre-med student, yet he says several misogynistic things that bring his “niceness” into question.  Josh also comes across as kind, but he can be condescending and pushy.  Kayla is the quiet one in the group, and she is sleeping far too much.  They all have their secrets, even Mira, who’s pretending to be a college student out of fear that they wouldn’t let her tag along if she told them she was still in high school. 

Throughout the novel, we’re made privy to the content of letters to Mira that were mailed to her over the last year.  Last year Mira’s Aunt Phoebe died after a long battle with cancer, and when she was in the hospital, a kind stranger bought her a coffee. While it’s obvious that Mira doesn’t remember this stranger, the stranger remembers her. These letters detail this stranger’s growing obsession with her, and it quickly becomes clear that they’ve found her. They’re one of the four strangers she’s travelling with–but which one? 

While the events escalate quite gradually, the book is far from boring. Every little possibly innocuous thing that goes wrong seems suspicious.  Not only is one of the strangers potentially dangerous, but they’re also battling the elements and other unpredictable obstacles in their journey home.  I did notice that the group tended to have long, drawn out conversations while outside the car a few too many times. Maybe blizzards are different in the US than in Canada (I mean, I’m sure they are), but I was expecting the snow and ice that was causing thirty-car pileups on the highway to be a deterrent for standing outside and chatting. That said, emotions were running high, and if they’re afraid to get back into the car with strangers, maybe a little frostbite is preferrable to being shanked by a new “friend”. Aside from this little criticism, the events of this book are quite plausible, making this into one of the more realistic psychological thrillers that I’ve read in a while.

Five Total Strangers

I recommend this book to anyone looking for an intense slow-burn thriller featuring suspicious characters, questionable choices, and unpredictable weather.

*Thank you to Sourcebooks Fire and Netgalley for the ebook to review*

Five stars

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Book Review: Crazy Stupid Bromance by Lyssa Kay Adams

Book Cover

Title: Crazy Stupid Bromance
Author:  Lyssa Kay Adams
Genre: Romance
Series: Bromance Book Club #3

Date of Publication: October 27, 2020
Publisher: Berkley Publishing Group


Synopsis

A hacktivist and a cat café owner decode the friend zone in this romantic comedy from the author of Undercover Bromance.

Alexis Carlisle and her cat café, ToeBeans, have shot to fame after she came forward as a victim of a celebrity chef’s sexual harassment. When a new customer approaches to confide in her, the last thing Alexis expects is for the woman to claim they’re sisters. Unsure what to do, Alexis turns to the only man she trusts—her best friend, Noah Logan.

Computer genius Noah left his rebellious teenage hacker past behind to become a computer security expert. Now he only uses his old skills for the right cause. But Noah’s got a secret: He’s madly in love with Alexis. When she asks for his help, he wonders if the timing will ever be right to confess his crush.

Noah’s pals in The Bromance Book Club are more than willing to share their beloved “manuals” to help him go from bud to boyfriend. But he must decide if telling the truth is worth risking the best friendship he’s ever had.

Goodreads

My Thoughts 

I have fallen in love with this book series. Like the other instalments in this series, Crazy, Stupid Bromance is light, fun, hilarious, sweet, romantic, steamy, and everything else I could ask for in a feel-good novel. 

Noah and Alexis were introduced in Undercover Bromance, and I was beyond excited to find out that they would be the couple in this book. The novel opens a year and a half after the events from the second book, and Alexis and Noah have become best friends. Unfortunately for Noah, who is hopelessly in love with Alexis, he’s afraid that he’s now stuck in the friend zone. Little does he know, Alexis might just share some of his feelings…

I just can’t handle how freaking hilariously wise romance novels have made these guys in the Bromance Book Club. The parts where the entire group gets together to stage “interventions” (which is seemingly becoming a regular occurrence in this series) are definitely a highlight of these books. They have such a comfortable dynamic, and they always seem to know what’s going on or what’s wrong with each other, though they seem to be hopeless when it comes to their own love lives. Which is why having this group is so important.

While the focus of the novel is somewhat equally distributed between the romance between Alexis and Noah and Noah’s joining the Bromance Book Club, the author doesn’t neglect other relationships in the characters’ lives. Alexis has her own plotline involving her family (no spoilers!) and Noah comes to terms with his father’s premature death fifteen years earlier.  While the main attraction of these books is the cutesy romance and the unique idea of guys reading romance novels, there is a lot more to this book that involves self-discovery and acceptance–for both Alexis and Noah.

There are also quite a few laugh-out-loud hilarious moments. I love the vicious cat, Beefcake, and Noah’s genuine fear of him. The scene where the guys are preparing for a massage at the spa had me laughing so hard that tears streamed down my face. And, of course, like with the previous books in this series, literally everything that comes out of the Russian’s mouth had me in hysterics. I know his primary purpose is to be comic relief, but I really, really hope that he will be the star of a future instalment in this series.  That said, I’m 90% sure that Colton will find love next time.

Crazy Stupid Bromance

I recommend this book to anyone looking for a laugh while reading a wholesome (yet sometimes quite steamy) romance.

 

*Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the arc to review*

starstarstarstarstar

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Book Review: Media Queen by Michelle Prak

Media Queen

Media QueenTitle: Media Queen 
Author: Michelle Prak
Genre: Young Adult, Chick Lit
Series: HollyAnna book 2
Date of Publication: May 4, 2020
Publisher: Self-Published


Synopsis

Jordyn Fairweather has worked hard to reach the top of the magazine world, but now she’s in trouble.

Younger media stars are scrambling to steal her crown, and companies are collapsing around her in the face of a new threat – the internet.

She’s come a long way from small town Beddo, where she obsessed over teen glossies until pushing her way into an internship with Sixteen magazine. But if Jordyn’s empire is going to survive, she needs to move fast and keep reinventing herself.

Spanning the late 90s and 2000s, Media Queen is a compulsive read with an outrageous main character. It comes with the essential ingredient that Jordyn demands of all her stories: juice!

Goodreads

My Thoughts

The biggest strength of this novel is getting to see what it’s like to work in media over the span of two decades.  The distribution and consumption of media changed so rapidly in such a seemingly short amount of time.  Jordyn adapts with the times, moving from magazines to newspapers to other forms of media as they emerge.  It’s quite interesting to see how she takes lessons learned in the magazine business and applies them to later forms of media.  It was absolutely fascinating to see the differences between working for different media. The slow newsroom in Beddo is starkly contrasted against working at a popular youth magazine in Sydney.  

Jordyn is a fascinating protagonist. She’s very driven from the young age of sixteen. She has no intention of graduating from high school, and plans to move to Sydney immediately to start her career in magazines.  While she’s clearly a picture of the working woman in the nineties and early 2000s, her lifestyle is far from balanced. She is so focused on her career and climbing up the ladder that her personal life suffers.  And to be honest, it doesn’t seem like she cares much about the relationships that disintegrate because of her inability (and unwillingness) to put time and effort into maintaining them. 

Jordyn is a textbook narcissist, which can either make or break this novel for you. She’s  self-centred, and she doesn’t hesitate to do whatever it takes to succeed, even if she ends up hurting her friends. I found it quite interesting how she never seems to understand or recognize that what she’s doing is wrong, though she does have some character development in that area as the years go on.  She also doesn’t seem to appreciate what she has until it’s gone, but even then, she doesn’t have regrets. It’s refreshing to read a book where the main character is driven and successful, yet isn’t perfect. She has flaws, and these are clearly demonstrated through her actions and the way that she treats her friends, family, and coworkers.

Scattered throughout the narrative are news items regarding Jordyn and her successes (or failures) in media. While the rest of the book is written in third person, it’s still undoubtedly from Jordyn’s perspective.  What we’re told is happening is somewhat unreliable, because it’s coloured by Jordyn’s view of herself and what she’s doing. These little snippets, however,  show us what’s really going on, and the picture isn’t quite as pretty as Jordyn would let everyone believe.  This adds a further level of depth to the novel, that makes this book and intriguing and more satisfying read.

Media Queen

*Thank you to the author for the ebook to review*

Four stars

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Book Review: Dogversations: Conversations with my Dogs by David Leswick

Dogversations

52816051._SX318_ (1)Title: Dogversations
Author: David Leswick
Genre: Humor
Date of Publication: March 26, 2020
Publisher: FriesenPress


Synopsis

If these dogs could talk…here’s precisely what Eva, the Brittany spaniel, Bruno, the golden retriever, and Agnes, the genetically diverse rescue dog, would say. Photographer David Leswick flawlessly captures the fun, quirky, clever, curious, and witty personalities of his family’s three canine companions in this collection of heartwarming photography-along with the hilarious dogalogue that comes along with it. The perfect doggie treat for the eyes, heart, and sense of humour of any animal lover, Dogversations is a laugh-out-loud hysterical glimpse at how this canine crew tries to make heads or tails out of their daily lives with the human family that loves them….

Goodreads

My Thoughts

This book is quite ingenious in its simplicity. It’s a coffee table book that has photographs of dogs alongside “conversations” with them.  Dogversations isn’t intended to be read from front to back (at least, that’s my interpretation), and selecting stories at random is a perfect way to go about enjoying this book.

The right-hand side of each two-page spread has a beautiful colour photograph depicting one or more of Dave’s dogs.  The left-hand side depicts a conversation–either between Dave and his dogs or among the dogs themselves. These conversations are light and sweet, with a tinge of dry humour. The situations are simple, yet amusing, and the dogs say exactly what you would expect them to say.  For instance, the dogs sometimes have misinterpretations about the English language – like mistaking “Skittles” for the word “riddles”.  Many of the situations are quite common (as most pet owners will know), from Bruno trying to escape its crate to Agnes losing her ball under the bed.  It’s the dialogue that makes these common occurrences unique and flavorful. For instance, there’s one photo where Bruno is wearing underwear on his head and refers to himself as a Jedi.  

The photographs throughout this book are stunning and capture the distinct personalities of all three dogs.  I also want to mention that there are seasonal spreads, which I appreciated, especially the one of Eva next to a jack-o-lantern (It’s perfect for this time of year!).  

I recommend this book to all dog lovers.  These little snippets of Dave and his family’s life with their dogs are a perfect pick-me-up for after a long day at work.  

*Thank you to the author for the book to review*

Four stars

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Book Review: The Switch by Beth O’Leary

The Switch

54504739Title: The Switch
Author: Beth O’Leary
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance
Date of Publication: August 18, 2020
Format: Audiobook
Publisher: MacMillan Audio


Synopsis

A grandmother and granddaughter swap lives in The Switch, a charming, romantic novel by Beth O’Leary.

When overachiever Leena Cotton is ordered to take a two-month sabbatical after blowing a big presentation at work, she escapes to her grandmother Eileen’s house for some long-overdue rest.

Eileen is newly single and about to turn eighty. She’d like a second chance at love, but her tiny Yorkshire village doesn’t offer many eligible gentlemen.

So they decide to try a two-month swap.

Eileen will live in London and look for love. She’ll take Leena’s flat, and learn all about casual dating, swiping right, and city neighbors. Meanwhile Leena will look after everything in rural Yorkshire: Eileen’s sweet cottage and garden, her idyllic, quiet village, and her little neighborhood projects.

But stepping into one another’s shoes proves more difficult than either of them expected. Will swapping lives help Eileen and Leena find themselves…and maybe even find true love? In Beth O’Leary’s The Switch, it’s never too late to change everything….or to find yourself.

Goodreads

My Thoughts 

The Switch is told from two points of view–that of 79 year old Eileen, and that of her workaholic granddaughter Leena.  A year ago, Leena’s sister passed away from cancer, and both Leena and Eileen haven’t been the same since.  To top it all off, Eileen’s husband left her a year ago, and she wants to find companionship, but there are hardly any eligible men her age living in her small town. Leena has been having panic attacks at work, and she’s forced on a two month “sabbatical” to take a break.  On a whim, they decide to swap places for two months. Eileen will try her hand at online dating in the big city of London, and Leena will take a break from work and take on some of Eileen’s responsibilities, including being on the neighborhood watch. 

The novel is lighthearted, sweet, and at times downright hilarious, but it also deals with the more difficult theme of overcoming grief.  These darker bits are handled delicately, and are what transformed The Switch into a heartfelt novel that is “literature” not “chick lit”.

The plot has Freaky Friday vibes, as neither Eileen or Leena knew what they were getting into when they agreed to this “switch”.  O’Leary packs so much plot and a myriad of characters into this book, but it somehow works so well.  There is romance, for both Eileen and Leena, and their relationship building with side characters is phenomenal. Eileen gets to know Leena’s friends in the city, realizing that they aren’t as hoity toity as she’d previously thought. Leena gets to know the people on the neighborhood watch (some hilarity ensues, of course), and meets the handsome teacher Jackson.  Side characters are surprisingly well developed. You’d think that the sheer number of them would make any author struggle to differentiate between them and make them each interesting enough to be memorable.  But that’s not the case for The Switch.

I was expecting the focus for both of their storylines to be the romance aspect, but that’s not the case.  There are so many subplots, and they’re all intricately tied together. For instance, Eileen discovers that there are many older adults living in London who feel isolated, and she decides to do something about it.  Leena and her mother have a rift in their relationship that needs repairing.  All of this is going on while Leena is planning the town’s May Day festival.

Review of the audiobook

The readers for both the parts of Eileen and Leena (Alison Steadman and Daisy Edgar-Jones) did an excellent job conveying the wide range of emotion required in a book like this. They effortlessly shift from heart-wrenching grief in one chapter to butterflies and romance in the next.  I also want to comment on the production. Whenever someone was “on the phone” the voice on the other end had a slightly echoic sound, which added to the authenticity of the experience.

The switch small

I recommend this book to those looking for a light women’s fiction with humour, romance, and a spotlight on the importance of family and friends.

*Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the audiobook to review*

starstarstarstarstar

Find the book:

Goodreads | Amazon

Book Review: Well Played by Jen DeLuca

Well Played

Well PlayedTitle: Well Played
Author: Jen DeLuca
Genre: Romance
Series: Well Met #2

Date of Publication: September 22, 2020
Publisher: Berkley


Synopsis

Stacey is jolted when her friends Simon and Emily get engaged. She knew she was putting her life on hold when she stayed in Willow Creek to care for her sick mother, but it’s been years now, and even though Stacey loves spending her summers pouring drinks and flirting with patrons at the local Renaissance Faire, she wants more out of life. Stacey vows to have her life figured out by the time her friends get hitched at Faire next summer. Maybe she’ll even find The One.

When Stacey imagined “The One,” it never occurred to her that her summertime Faire fling, Dex MacLean, might fit the bill. While Dex is easy on the eyes onstage with his band The Dueling Kilts, Stacey has never felt an emotional connection with him. So when she receives a tender email from the typically monosyllabic hunk, she’s not sure what to make of it.

Faire returns to Willow Creek, and Stacey comes face-to-face with the man with whom she’s exchanged hundreds of online messages over the past nine months. To Stacey’s shock, it isn’t Dex—she’s been falling in love with a man she barely knows.

Goodreads

My Thoughts

I was so excited to return to the Willow Creek’s Renaissance Faire! 

I adore Jen Deluca’s writing style.  Like Well Met, her voice shines through in the protagonist’s inner dialogue.  This is definitely a feel-good novel, and the book is chock full of humorous observations and witty banter.

Unfortunately, the romance was lacking for me in this book.  It seemed a little too easy, and, quite frankly, Daniel was bland.  I loved Simon Well Met. He was a strict rule follower, had a sense of obligation to continue on his brother’s legacy, but he gradually revealed a playful side when he played his part of pirate in the Renaissance Faire. But with Daniel? I really couldn’t tell you much about him, other than the fact that he feels like he’s trapped in his cousins’ shadow and he kind of likes cats. We only get Stacey’s point of view in this novel, and unfortunately we weren’t privy to any scenes where Daniel may or may not have talked about his likes and interests while they were falling in love.

That said, there are some sweet moments, particularly when they’re still in the long-distance, lies-riddled, texting/emails stage of their relationship.  

Stacey’s decisions were also a little foreign to me.  She is far too forgiving of Daniel’s lies, and to be honest, he didn’t even expect her to forgive him. He never really fights for their relationship, even in the climactic scene, when this burden lies on Stacey’s shoulders. The word that comes to mind when describing Daniel is “passive”.  He’s very nonconfrontational, dispassionate, and… boring. Sorry!

That said, Stacey is a compelling and three-dimensional protagonist, and I did love reading her perspective and revisiting this captivating world that DeLuca has created. I’m hoping that Emily’s sister will be the one to find love in the next book!  (Maybe with Mitch???)

Well Played

I recommend this book to those who want to return to the Willow Creek Renaissance Faire for another romantic getaway.

*Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the arc to review*

starstarstar

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Book Review: Hex, Love, and Rock & Roll by Kat Turner

Hex, Love and Rock and Roll photo

Book coverTitle: Hex, Love, and Rock & Roll
Author:  Kat Turner
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance
Series: Coven Daughters #1

Date of Publication: September 15, 2020
Publisher: City Owl Press


Synopsis

With a business skidding toward bankruptcy and bone-dry bank account, Helen Schrader is willing to do the unthinkable. But what will happen when she hires a witch to cast a money spell?

When the spell sets in motion her own latent magic and her inexperience causes her to accidentally hex her celebrity crush, rocker Brian Shepherd, all that good fortune she hoped for flies out of the window.

Now, Helen and Brian struggle to break the curse and tackle their growing feelings for each other. Problem is, the harder they fall for each other, the deadlier the curse becomes.

But as a dark magic cult with an unquenchable thirst for power closes in on them, the couple will have to face more than just their inconvenient desire. With time running out and danger mounting, can they beat the hex before Brian becomes its next victim?

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My Thoughts 

Helen Schrader is a tough-as-nails yoga teacher whose studio is going bankrupt.  Desperate for money, she goes to Nerissa, a local witch, for a spell that will help her business earn more money. Her trip doesn’t go quite as planned, however.  Nerissa informs her that she’s a witch, and Helen is thrilled to learn that she can use her own magic to save her business.  But later that day, Helen meets her rock star crush Brian Shepherd at the local state fair, and she makes a potentially fatal mistake.  He’s now hexed, and Helen has to do whatever it takes to save him.

Brian Shepherd isn’t your typical fading rock star. He’s ambitious and isn’t the type to sleep with groupies or do drugs.  He’s had writer’s block for years, and it seems like his encounter with Helen just might be the inspiration he needs to get back into songwriting. Brian is a little older than I’d expected from the book cover–it’s hinted in the book that he’s in his late forties. While this makes this book technically an age-gap romance, Brian and Helen have so much in common that it really works.  The two have a witty repartee and an undeniable chemistry right off the bat.

Turner has created a complex world of magic, one that has many nuances and facets that are explored throughout the novel.  The explanation of how magic works in this world was a little heavy in the first chapter, but it lightens up after that as the plot plunges forward.

The hex plotline is quite complex and compelling, and we learn about the world of magic as Helen does. However, it does seem like she figures it out a lot quicker than I would have. She’s quite intelligent, and I like that she uses her wit to outsmart the villains. That said, she isn’t perfect, and she does make mistakes, which makes her far from the dreaded Mary Sue character that I hate to see as the protagonist in books of any genre.  Helen has a tragic backstory that she hasn’t quite been able to overcome, and her character arc over the span of this novel is intriguing and complements the main storyline nicely.

While you can enjoy this novel at a surface level, as it’s a fast-paced and unique urban fantasy, there are also deeper themes that keep the novel fresh and intriguing.  Kat Turner uses magic and hexes as a metaphor for emotional baggage. The novel also has feminist undertones, which are particularly evident in scenes with Brian.

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I recommend this book to those who like a little magic in their rock star romances.

*Thank you to Let’s Talk Promotions and Psst… Promotions for the arc to review!*

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