Posted in Book Reviews, Chick Lit, Contemporary, General Books, Romance, Women's Fiction

Matchmaking for Beginners by Maddie Dawson – #BookReview

Goodreads: Matchmaking for Beginners
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Reviewed: January 2019
Panda Rating:

Marnie MacGraw wants an ordinary life—a husband, kids, and a minivan in the suburbs. Now that she’s marrying the man of her dreams, she’s sure this is the life she’ll get. Then Marnie meets Blix Holliday, her fiancé’s irascible matchmaking great-aunt who’s dying, and everything changes—just as Blix told her it would.
When her marriage ends after two miserable weeks, Marnie is understandably shocked. She’s even more astonished to find that she’s inherited Blix’s Brooklyn brownstone along with all of Blix’s unfinished “projects”: the heartbroken, oddball friends and neighbors running from happiness. Marnie doesn’t believe she’s anything special, but Blix somehow knew she was the perfect person to follow in her matchmaker footsteps.
And Blix was also right about some things Marnie must learn the hard way: love is hard to recognize, and the ones who push love away often are the ones who need it most.

“You need a mantra to help you. You can borrow mine, if you want: ‘Whatever happens, love that.”

What a seriously charming book! The characters are lovingly quirky and the situations they find themselves in are emotional and heartfelt, but not without comedy injected here and there to lighten the mood up a little bit. It’s also endlessly quotable!

Marnie McGraw doesn’t want for much except a normal life with the white picket fence, doting husband and adorable children, and she knows that being engaged to Noah (a.k.a. the man of her dreams) brings her one step closer to achieving all that. But life doesn’t always go as planned and she experiences that first hand when her world falls apart after Noah leaves her on their honeymoon, she loses her teaching job in California and has to move back home to her parent’s house in Florida. As she deals with the aftermath of her disastrously short-lived marriage, Marnie is beyond shocked to receive a letter informing her that not only has Noah’s ‘crazy aunt’ Blix passed away, but she has left her a home in Brooklyn.

Eccentric, life-of-the-party, and carefree Blix is the black sheep of her family. When she meets Marnie at a family gathering, she feels an instant kinship and spiritual connection to her and believes that Marnie is meant to take up her mantle of matchmaker once she’s gone. She tells Marnie that no matter how things work out between her and Noah, she has a big, big life ahead of her.Although she’s still reeling from recent events, and is convinced all of it is a mistake, Marnie goes to Brooklyn to fulfill the wishes of a person she remembers fondly and who gave her comfort when she needed it, despite only having met Blix all of two times.

“You need to forget what society has told you about life and expectations, and don’t let anybody make you pretend. You are enough, just the way you are—do you hear me? You have many gifts. Many, many gifts.”

What follows is an emotional, heartfelt, and comedic rollercoaster of a journey, as Marnie tries to leave the past behind and deal with an unexpected present that doesn’t quite fit with the picture she’s always had of her future. It is in Brooklyn, where she meets all the characters from Blix’s life and explores the magic of her matchmaking gift–not without plenty of mishaps along the way, that Marnie discovers the power of love and healing, and she finally finds where she truly belongs.

“It’s in the broken places where the light gets in.”

As corny as all of this sounds, I finished this book feeling so happy and comforted, and sometimes, that’s all you really need from a book, isn’t it? I’m glad that I followed along with the Audiobook because although it took me nearly three times as long to finish it, it gave me the chance to really immerse myself in the story and build a strong attachment to the characters. Although I found Marnie’s character desperate and pretty annoying at the start, her character growth throughout the story was very satisfying, and I’m happy with how she learned to embrace herself in the end. I think Amy McFadden does a wonderful job narrating Marnie, and I don’t think I could have picked a better voice than Joyce Bean for Blix. There’s something so grandmotherly and comforting about Bean’s voice and although it was only for the first few chapters, every time Blix would ‘reappear’ in subsequent chapters, I would still hear the part as if she spoke it. 😂

If you’re looking for a fun, sassy romcom, I’d definitely recommend this!

Have you read Matchmaking for Beginners? Do you like romance?
Let me know in the comments and let’s chat!

Posted in ARC, Book Reviews, Chick Lit, Contemporary, General Books, Romance

The Stopover by T L Swan – #eARC #BookReview

Goodreads: The Stopover
Publish date: 29 October 2019
Publisher: Amazon Publishing UK
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Panda Rating:

I was upgraded to first class on a flight from London to New York. The food, champagne, and service were impeccable—the blue-eyed man sitting next to me, even better. He was smart, suave, and sexy. We talked and flirted—and though the plane was unexpectedly grounded, we still felt sky high in each other’s company. We danced and laughed our way around Boston…and had a night of crazy passion that no woman could forget.
That was twelve months ago, and I haven’t heard from him—until today. I started a new job and met the CEO. Imagine my surprise when I saw those naughty blue eyes gazing at me from behind his mahogany desk. But I’m not that carefree girl anymore. I have a boyfriend now, and responsibilities. Now he wants to see me in his office for a private meeting. How can I resist?

I’m torn with how to review this because I won’t lie: I read it straight through the night and suffered from lack of sleep at the office the next day because of it. It’s a very quick and easy read, but there’s also nothing here that I haven’t read before. This was also one of the most toxic relationships I’ve ever read! I found myself laughing at how ridiculous the ‘relationship’ was, and then I was tearing my hair out and trying not to scream in complete frustration with what was happening. But then again, I couldn’t seem to put the book down and found myself staying up until 5am to finish it… So, there’s that? I’m warning you now, this is a fair bit of a rant (but I’ve tried to reign it in as much as possible)!

It me. FULL OF CONFUSION.

My favorite part of the book had to be the friendship and banter between Emily, Aaron and Molly. I was so worried the latter would end up being bad people but I was glad to be proven wrong! Their friendship reminded me a lot of how I interact with my friends and it just felt completely natural. The interactions between these friends brought much needed comedy to the story to distract from all the silly drama between the two MCs. I initially also liked Emily’s character, mostly for her drive to pursue her passion without letting anything deter her. She knew what she wanted and she went for it without letting anything hold her back. It’s a pity that all but disappeared the minute Jameson came into her life. She mildly protested every now and again but it’s like her backbone shriveled up whenever he came around.

Like I mentioned, this was one of the most toxic relationships I’ve ever read. Emily and Jameson/Jim/Jay’s relationship yo-yo’d from getting into ridiculously blown out of proportion fights over (literally) nothing, to jumping straight into bed for wild sex. It took a really long time for them to even get to the point where they would try being civil and having normal conversations without blowing up; and even then it didn’t really last long most of the time. The basis of their relationship was physical and in my opinion, it never really progressed out of that phase by the end. I will say though that their physical chemistry was off-the-charts. If you don’t like explicit sexual scenes in books, this will not be for you! If I had to rate the heat out of 5, it’d be a solid 5 though lol

But literally me throughout this whole read

For someone who’s meant to be an “older man”, Jay was the most immature rich CEO character I’ve encountered. He was petulant, emotionally unavailable and often times acted like a really big man-child, and at his office no less. He would be cruel and cold one minute and in the next he’d be messaging Emily, demanding she go with him to dinner, as if he hadn’t just treated her like trash not too long back? I wanted to slap him so hard. What gave me hope the first time was that she would say no and I’d be like HELL YEAH EMILY! And then in the next scene she’d cave and they’d end up screwing like rabbits before the night’s out. GIRL, PLEASE! *roll my eyes so far back they get stuck* 🙄 At the same time though, towards the end of the book, I found myself curled over with laughter over some of Jay’s drama queen antics–especially during the camping scene. It was actually hilarious and 100% amusing? Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to redeem his character from start to finish. There were other inconsistencies with the events in the book that had me scratching my head for a while before shrugging and moving past it because I was more concerned with other issues in the book.

All in all, I finished this book laughing in bewilderment (at myself mostly) and I was genuinely curious whether this is what people felt when they finished reading the After series. I’m referring to the people who acknowledge that the relationship in that series was toxic AF and yet they STILL couldn’t put that book down. Is this how you felt?? Haha I’ll still never read that series, but after reading this book, I do think I get what you mean with your comments 😂

Thanks to NetGalley and Amazon Publishing UK for the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review. This book is out 29 October 2019.
Have you read The Stopover? Have you read the After series? I’m still shook by how I just couldn’t put this down.
Come chat in the comments if you feel this! LOL

Posted in Book Reviews, Chick Lit, Contemporary, General Books, Romance, Women's Fiction

One Day In December by Josie Silver – #BookReview

Goodreads: One Day in December
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Reviewed: December 2018
Panda Rating:

Two people. Ten chances. One unforgettable love story.
Laurie is pretty sure love at first sight doesn’t exist anywhere but the movies. But then, through a misted-up bus window one snowy December day, she sees a man who she knows instantly is the one. Their eyes meet, there’s a moment of pure magic… and then her bus drives away. Certain they’re fated to find each other again, Laurie spends a year scanning every bus stop and cafe in London for him. But she doesn’t find him, not when it matters anyway. Instead they “reunite” at a Christmas party, when her best friend Sarah giddily introduces her new boyfriend to Laurie. It’s Jack, the man from the bus. It would be.
What follows for Laurie, Sarah and Jack is ten years of friendship, heartbreak, missed opportunities, roads not taken, and destinies reconsidered. One Day in December is a joyous, heartwarming and immensely moving love story to escape into and a reminder that fate takes inexplicable turns along the route to happiness.

My heart is soaring and a silly grin is still plastered to my face as I lie in bed with this book. What a roller coaster of emotions this book gave me! I was worried at the start that it would be a love-triangle-type of story that would leave me feeling uncomfortable and annoyed, but as I kept reading and realized that it wasn’t, I loved it even more. It’s a story of romance, passion, triumphs, loss, grief, secrets, family and friendships.

If you’re not into romances then this book might not be for you. I, on the other hand, am a hopeless romantic and I loved every heartbreaking, breath stealing, beautiful page of it. It could have very easily been just a sappy, romantic, not-so-well-done novel, but I think that Josie Silver did a fabulous job of writing characters that worm their way into your heart. I think that all of the characters are relatable, they’re not these perfect beings, and you can connect to them on a certain level. I particularly connected with Laurie – her slight shyness, awkwardness in social situations and devotion to family and her closest friends. All of them had endearing qualities that grow on you and by the end of the book it almost feels as if you’re closing a chapter on old friends.

There were several things I enjoyed with the romance in this book. I might have mentioned it previously in another review, but I have this thing for serendipity, fate, destiny or whatever you want to call it. I like the thought of “that one moment” and in this story, I liked how Laurie and Jack had their one moment at the start and although they didn’t get together right then, the world brought them back together in some way. What I also appreciated was the fact that although Laurie felt the way she did about Jack, she didn’t close herself up to the possibility of other love. Is there only one person made for you in this lifetime? In so many romances, it’s boy meets girl, they both fall in love and live happily ever after, the end. Although at times it felt like the characters would endlessly spin around in this dance of falling in love with other characters and it not working out because of their true feelings for someone else, I thought it added more realness to the story.

“I said I know how painful it can be letting someone you think you love go, but that I don’t believe there’s only one person in the world for each of us. It’s too fanciful, too limiting. … I told him that there comes a point where you have to make the choice to be happy, because being sad for too long is exhausting.”

I also liked that despite the tricky “triangle-esque” situation with Sarah, Laurie and Jack, it didn’t get in the way of the friendship between the girls, but also didn’t get in the way of a real friendship blossoming between the latter. I think I would have been as devastated as Laurie was at finding Jack again, only to know that it could never be and it could have been ugly between friends (in the name of love and all of that) but I’m glad that Silver respected that friendship boundary and even strengthened it in the end.

Was it sappy? Sure. Was the ending predictably happy and not at all unexpected? Yeah. But this is definitely one of those feel good novels that you journey through and that give you a satisfying ending and makes you feel happy to read. It makes you want to take chances and to do things that scare you a little bit a lot. That’s life, right?

Have you read One Day in December? Are you a hopeless romantic? Lol
Let me know in the comments and let’s chat!

Posted in Book Reviews, Contemporary, General Books, Young Adult

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas – #BookReview

Goodreads: The Hate U Give
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary, Contemporary Fiction
Reviewed: August 2018
Panda Rating:

“What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?”
Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed.

Side note: I reviewed this book in 2018 and well, this was really at the start of when I started reviewing books more. I think I probably could’ve said a lot more about this book but I just really sucked at writing reviews back then, which you can obviously tell!

“Sometimes you can do everything right but things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right”

I think this book has shot to the top of my best reads in 2018 and I think it will be one of the books I recommend people read if they ask. I cried countless times and laughed like crazy while reading this. I loved the Carter family and their relationship with each other; I loved that despite the tough situation Starr found herself in, the family could still find reasons to laugh and they continued to live their life doing good and right. I also loved the sense of community that was shared too. It was like a shared commiseration of their situation but still, they didn’t let that get them down.

Honestly, I admit that I found Starr’s attitude a bit childish/petulant at the beginning, I realized that I was expecting her to act like an “adult” and to speak from that “adult perspective”. Once I realized how silly my perception was, and I changed how I viewed her character, I realized that Angie Thomas perfectly captured a young teenage girl who is not only going through the typical “high school drama” but is also trying to navigate her way through the two worlds she straddles, without having to diminish herself in any way. She struggles but she gets there in the end. It was a heart-wrenching, heart-warming journey that I’m glad we got to go on.

“Brave doesn’t mean you’re not scared. It means you go on even though you’re scared.”

This book covers such important issues (prejudice, injustice, racism) that unfortunately haven’t lost traction in today’s “modern world”. It’s disheartening, frustrating and mind-boggling to know that issues people faced decades ago are still an issue today – it’s like humans haven’t progressed and we’ve only regressed. Okay, I’m discounting all the good people in this world, but it’s frustrating to know that people are still so arrogant and so blind to their privilege and that they refuse to acknowledge that they are, indeed, privileged…

Anyway, before I go on a crazy rant about this, I will say that I recommend everyone read this book. I hope people read this and come away with some understanding. Thomas provides a glimmer of light amidst the darkness with this one.

Have you read The Hate U Give? What’d you think of it?
Let me know in the comments and let’s chat!

Posted in Book Reviews, Contemporary, General Books, Romance

Fake Date (Dating #2) by Monica Murphy – #BookReview

Goodreads: Fake Date (Dating #2)
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Fiction
Panda Rating:

Working at Bliss, Sarah Harrison deals with all sorts of—interesting clientele. Yet no one sparks her interest more than Jared Gaines, the ultra-rich, ultra-sexy businessman who frequents her shop, buying delicate little “gifts” for the women in his life. But one day, Jared sends her a gift from Bliss. Then another—and another. So when Sarah walks into his office demanding to know why he can’t stop sending her gifts, he makes her an offer she somehow can’t refuse: be his fake girlfriend for the weekend while attending his brother’s engagement party.
Next thing Sarah knows, she’s in San Francisco, pretending to be in love with Jared. Not that it’s a hardship. Once you get the man away from the office, he’s much more relaxed. Sweet. Funny. Even…thoughtful? Oh, and sexier than ever, of course. Their pretend relationship feels very real, very quickly. Soon Sarah’s in over her head. Could what she and Jared share turn into something real? Or is it all actually…fake?

I’m torn between 2.5-3 stars for this. Fake Date was a very easy and quick read that was enjoyable enough for me in certain parts, but it sadly lacked depth/development. I know not all romances need it, but as this sits at almost 400 pages, you’d think there’d be more substance. When I first saw this book I didn’t realise it was part of a series, but it works as a standalone too. I liked where the story was going initially, but the follow through wasn’t quite there. This had a few sexy scenes, but the actual scenes are fade to black or very mildly sexy (imo), but I wasn’t fussed. The build up of tension was great though, and it’s honestly what kept me going (what can I say, I’m a sucker for the angst).

I enjoyed Sarah’s character well enough, although her indecisiveness got to me (literally one minute she didn’t care about Jared’s attention, and the next she’s walking with an extra swing in her step so he’ll notice her sexy hips). She kept repeating until the end that she didn’t like Jared, even after they got together and all her emotions surfaced, and it just became a bit eye-roll inducing. I felt her character wasn’t as well formed as she could’ve been, and that was a little disappointing. I loved her relationship with her siblings and her friends though, and I wanted more of that!

When it comes to Jared… Look, y’all know we love a good grumpy bear of a hero who changes as he lets the heroine chip away at his very high and strong walls, teaching him how to love again, how to be civil to people again, etc. etc. It heightens the tension between characters and gives you all the angsty drama feels, and usually without too much drawn out drama. Unfortunately, Jared was a bit too much of an asshole and he never really changed by the end. We were told by various characters half-way through that he was changing, but we’re never really shown it; and when we do see it, the change was so abrupt that it felt forced. I understand that those walls came up because of the losses he experienced, but I felt that his attitude was entirely OTT. Some of the things he’d say were waay out of line and it angered me that each time he’d say something degrading or rude, he’d need someone to point out what a douchebag he was being and who’d force him to apologise. Like, are you seriously that dense, mate? I liked that Sarah didn’t let him get away with shit, but she’s also not his mother and shouldn’t be continuously reprimanding him for his bad behaviour.

My favorite part about this book is the group of strong supportive women though. This is what every woman needs in their life: friends who tell it like it is without being vindictive or catty, and who support you wholeheartedly. I loved that there were so many women supporting women scenes, even between the would be ‘enemy’. It’s so refreshing and much needed in romances!

Overall, while I’m a little disappointed in how it turned out, I’m still glad I picked this up because the blurb really caught my eye. Will I read the first book of the series? I’m not sure. But I think I’d like to check out book three because Candice’s character really grew on me and I want to hear more about her!

Have you read Fake Date? What’d you think of it?
Let me know in the comments and let’s chat!

Posted in Book Reviews, Chick Lit, Contemporary, General Books, Romance, Women's Fiction

The Ingredients of Us by Jennifer Good – #BookReview

Goodreads: The Ingredients of Us
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Fiction
Panda Rating:

Elle, an accomplished baker, has a recipe for every event in her life. But when she discovers her husband’s infidelity, she doesn’t know what to make of it. Jam, maybe? Definitely jam.
Fed up with the stale crumbs of her marriage, Elle revisits past recipes and the events that inspired them. A recipe for scones reminds her of her father’s death, cinnamon rolls signify the problematic courtship with her husband, and a batch of chocolate cookies casts Elle in a less-than-flattering light. Looking back, Elle soon realizes that some ingredients were missing all along.
After confronting her husband, Elle indulges her sweet tooth in other ways, including a rebound that just leaves her more confused. As secrets from the past collide with the conflicts of the present, Elle struggles to manage her bakery business and maintain the relationships most important to her. In piecing her life back together, will Elle learn to take the bitter with the sweet?

This is kind of hard for me to review because although I really related to the internal struggles and the experience that Elle went through, I also found her character frustrating, the storyline a bit slow, and I found myself wishing that we got more development in the present.

Gold’s writing flows well and is easy to follow. It’s not overly descriptive but it’s laced with emotions; she really knows how to make readers feel what her characters are going through. I enjoyed the recipes that were laced throughout the story, and they highlighted well the importance of baking to Elle’s character. I really want to try some of the recipes because they sound delectable!

The story was told through Elle’s perspective and the story alternates between the past and present with the affair being the main point of reference (i.e. four months after Elle found out; nine years before Elle found out etc.). I’ve come to realise that I’m not always keen on this style, but I know the author was trying to show how Elle & Tom’s relationship developed through the struggles, successes, good times and bad. Sometimes I felt the flashback chapters dragged a bit so I would find myself skimming pages because nothing happened that significantly contributed to getting a better understanding of the story. I think the hardest part for me to read was the day that Elle found out because it was basically a cut/copy of what happened to me, so naturally I became very emotional.

I think one of the main issues I had was that while I empathised with Elle, I also found her character’s insecurity overwhelmed all other aspects of her character. I found her indecisiveness also very frustrating and it honestly filled me up with a lot of anxiety! I also found that I never really trusted Tom but we also really don’t learn much about his character. I think the story would’ve benefited from including his perspective in it, and to give the story a bit more depth. While I absolutely hate cheating, in the end I found myself feeling a bit… sorry for him? There’s clearly a lack of openness between Tom and Elle that basically led to the break down of their marriage, and I wish that we would’ve seen more acknowledgement on Elle’s part especially, that it takes two to tango because a marriage isn’t a relationship with yourself (and that’s not me placing blame on her character at all)!

Judging from the cover of the novel, you’d think this would be a happy and fluffy story, but it really isn’t and is actually quite emotionally heavy; although the ending does provide a glimmer of hope, maybe, for our characters. While it wasn’t a favorite, I did enjoy Gold’s debut and I’m looking forward to seeing what she comes up with next!

Have you read The Ingredients of Us? What’d you think of it?
Let me know in the comments and let’s chat!

Posted in ARC, Book Reviews, Chick Lit, Contemporary, General Books, Romance

The Love Solution by Ashley Croft – #ARC #BookReview

Goodreads: The Love Solution
Publish Date: 15 August 2019
Publisher: Avon Books UK
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Chick Lit
Panda Rating:

It’s all in the chemistry…
Sisters Sarah and Molly are close, but they couldn’t be more different. Sarah runs a craft business and is obsessed with all things shiny and glam, whilst Molly is much more at home in her white coat and goggles, working in a science lab. When Molly is put onto a new assignment, she’s over the moon. It’s a high-profile, top secret project – and she has a handsome new boss to ogle at when she’s not bending over a petri dish… But when Sarah finds herself on the painful end of a disastrous break-up, no amount of Ben & Jerry’s or trashy rom-coms can cheer her up. She wants to take a more drastic approach to dealing with her heartbreak, and one that only her sister – and perhaps a sprinkle of science – can help with…
Will Sarah find love where she least expects it, or is it really all in the chemistry?

I’m really torn about this one. It held promise at the start, but as the story continued I only kept noticing how there was so much missed potential for character development and deepening the plot. It’s such a shame because I think it could’ve been a great read otherwise! A lot of the time I was confused because there’s no indication of how much time has passed but considering how all of a sudden characters have become “very close”, you can only assume a fair amount of time has passed. One thing I can say is that the pace of the story never really lagged, but at the same time, there wasn’t a whole lot that happened.

I enjoyed the premise of following two sisters on their journey to finding love after losing their parents at such a young age. While the idea of one sister giving up her dreams to raise her younger sister so they won’t get separated isn’t anything we haven’t seen before, I always love to see how this new dynamic has shaped them and their relationship with each other. I liked Molly and Sarah’s characters initially but again, I felt like there was so much missed potential in developing them. We never really saw how they were affected by their parents’ death or how it shaped their characters; whenever their parents would come up randomly in conversations, they’d move on so quickly and never touch the topic again. I also felt that their chapters were a bit repetitive after a while, with Sarah going back and forth on Niall, and Molly continuously thinking about having sex with Ewan everywhere. I wished that we got more beyond that! You could see that they both cared for and loved each other, but I also felt that was more told than actually shown through the writing. Can we also talk about how frustrating it is to watch characters make insanely stupid decisions — that they also know are stupid — and that you’re going to have to watch it all play out anyway? Yep. That’s exactly what happened here. It’s like a train wreck you can see coming but can do nothing to stop it and I hate that feeling!

I was also not 100% sold on the romances, although Ewan and Molly’s budding romance was a lot more believable than Sarah and Liam’s. There was absolutely no development in the latter’s relationship and yet we’re meant to believe they’ve grown extremely fond of the other and might even be in love? I’m not sold. And I won’t even go into how much I disliked Niall’s spineless character. I didn’t see what was great about him at all that Sarah would go to such lengths to make him grovel.

Overall, while I hoped to enjoy this read, it really fell short for me. It could’ve been so much more developed in so many aspects, and I was disappointed that it never happened.

Thanks to NetGalley and Avon Books UK for the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review. This book is now available in stores! Have you read The Love Solution? What did you think?