ARC Review: Sweeter Than Honey by Joy Avery

Special thanks to Montlake for providing an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!

Goodreads: Sweeter Than Honey (Honey Hill #2)
Publisher: Montlake
Published: 28 June 2022
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Panda Rating:

(3.5 pandas)

A talented baker and a small-town sheriff forced into a fake relationship decide whether to take a chance on love in this delectable romance from Joy Avery.

Baker extraordinaire Rylee Harris has a recipe for everything—except love. It’s been five years since she lost her husband, but romance is still a struggle for Rylee. In her small hamlet of Honey Hill, North Carolina, Rylee knows she’ll be the talk of the town when she finds someone new.

To ease her mother’s worries about her love life, Rylee impulsively invents a fake relationship with the only man who’s caught her eye: the town sheriff, Canten Barnes. It’s supposed to be a secret, but secrets don’t last long in Honey Hill. One bit of gossip leads to another, and soon the whole town thinks Rylee and Canten are an item.

As Rylee and Canten embark on a make-believe relationship to save face, they slowly realize that their feelings for each other aren’t fake at all. Can Rylee and Canten keep the charade going—or will the town’s prized baker and respected lawman take a real chance on love?

TL;DR: There was a lot about this small-town romance between the sheriff and the baker that I really enjoyed, but certain aspects made it a little difficult for me to really get into. While I definitely had fun with all of the characters and our main couple, I’m bummed that I didn’t enjoy this one more; although I do feel like I’m in the minority with this feeling. Sweeter Than Honey had: brother’s best friend/best friend’s little sister, friends-to-lovers, fake dating, and a small-town setting complete with meddling parents and nosy and gossiping elderly folk.

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ARC Review: The Devil You Know by Elizabeth O’Roark

Special thanks to Valentine PR for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review!

Goodreads: The Devil You Know (Devil #3)
Publisher: Elizabeth O’Roark Books
Published: 23 June 2022
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Panda Rating:

(4.5 pandas)

There’s a devil on my shoulder, and every Monday morning she announces herself. She’s this delicious flame in my chest, a flurry of whispered suggestions in my ear. Suggestions I ignore…because every single one of them is about Ben Tate.

Ben—Stealer of Clients, Evicter of Homeless Women, Nemesis. Sitting across from me every damn Monday with his lovely, smug smile and his too-perfect teeth, the living symbol of everything I hate. It’s been my policy to avoid him, but when a case comes into the firm—one that could change his career and mine—I make an exception. It means weekends and evenings by his side. It means enduring his smirk and his smart mouth and never taking the bait.

Until the night Ben says, “Beg.”
And that devil on my shoulder decides to make a few demands of her own.

TL;DR: This was probably my favourite book in the series so far. This is a rivals-to-lovers office romance done so perfectly! I absolutely loved Ben and Gemma’s snippy banter, their insanely hot chemistry that could set the world on fire, and the way they built trust and a relationship together. Seriously, SO GOOD that it will have you swooning hard!

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

Special thanks to St. Martin’s Press for providing an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!

Goodreads: Fake It Till You Bake It
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Published: 21 June 2022
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Panda Rating:

(4.5 pandas)

A reality star and a cupcake-baking football player pretend to be a couple in order to save his bakery in this sweet and sexy romance from Jamie Wesley, Fake It Till You Bake It.

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. 

TL;DR: This was such a delightful romance and while I did have some issues with it at the beginning, I’m so glad that I ended up loving it as much as I thought I would! Jada and Donovan were such a great couple and their romance made me so giddy. If you love fake-dating, great banter, fun playful chemistry between H/h, and A FOODIE ROMANCE, I would recommend picking this up. Also, prepare to get hungry and crave cupcakes while reading this because all the flavours sounded *exquisite*! 🤤

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ARC Review: The Ivory Key by Akshaya Raman

Special thanks to Clarion Books for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review!

Goodreads: The Ivory Key (The Ivory Key Duology #1)
Publisher: Clarion Books
Publish Date: 04 January 2022
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Panda Rating:

(3.5 pandas)

Magic, a prized resource, is the only thing between peace and war. When magic runs out, four estranged royal siblings must find a new source before their country is swallowed by invading forces. The first in an Indian-inspired duology.

Vira is desperate to get out of her mother’s shadow and establish her legacy as a revered queen of Ashoka. But with the country’s only quarry running out of magic–a precious resource that has kept Ashoka safe from conflict–she can barely protect her citizens from the looming threat of war. And if her enemies discover this, they’ll stop at nothing to seize the last of the magic.

Vira’s only hope is to find a mysterious object of legend: the Ivory Key, rumored to unlock a new source of magic. But in order to infiltrate enemy territory and retrieve it, she must reunite with her siblings, torn apart by the different paths their lives have taken. Each of them has something to gain from finding the Ivory Key–and even more to lose if they fail. Ronak plans to sell it to the highest bidder in exchange for escape from his impending political marriage. Kaleb, falsely accused of assassinating the former maharani needs it to clear his name. And Riya, a runaway who cut all family ties, wants the Key to prove her loyalty to the rebels who want to strip the nobility of its power.

They must work together to survive the treacherous journey. But with each sibling harboring secrets and their own agendas, the very thing that brought them together could tear apart their family–and their world–for good. 

TL;DR: My journey reading this was quite an experience! Although it was a bit of a rough first half, I ended up enjoying this Indian-inspired fantasy and the characters plus the strong focus on family and sibling relationships. We get several POVs but the author does a great job in creating distinct voices for each sibling. The second half was so full of Indian Jones-style mystery adventure and I sped through it so quickly! With the surprising twists and baby-cliffhanger ending, I’m excited to know what happens next and how this duology concludes.

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Book Review: A Not So Meet Cute by Meghan Quinn

Goodreads: A Not So Meet Cute
Published: 02 November 2021
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Panda Rating:

(3.5 pandas)

How did you two meet?
The quintessential question asked to every couple. And the answer is usually some bubbly, lovey dovey tale of being struck in the bum by Cupid’s arrow.

My meet cute (well not so meet cute) is slightly different. I was trolling a wealthy neighborhood in Beverly Hills, searching for someone to take me as their bride, you know, to make my arch nemesis jealous who consequently just fired me. He was stomping around the block like some sort of gorgeous ogre, mumbling about a business deal gone wrong and attempting to finagle his way out of it.

And that’s when we bumped into each other.
There were no sparks.
Not even a hint of blossoming love.

But next thing I knew, I was scarfing down free chips and guac, listening to this man lay out all of his problems which led to his big ask . . . he wanted me to be his Vivian Ward, you know, from Pretty Woman–minus the frisky behavior.
We’re talking about living in a mansion, intimate double dates, and pretending we were head over heels in love . . . and engaged. Can you imagine?
The absolute audacity.
But people do crazy things when they’re desperate. And I reeked of desperation. So, I struck up a deal.
My one big mistake, though . . . big . . . HUGE? I accidentally fell for the incomparable Huxley Cane

TL;DR: I got exactly what I wanted with A Not So Meet Cute—a slightly cheesy, sometimes OTT romantic comedy with lots of cheeky banter, sizzling chemistry between our H/h and all the steamy moments! Overall, this was an entertaining rom-com that maybe started off on the not-so-cute side for me but ended up getting to that entertaining place that Meghan Quinn always brings us to with her romances.

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ARC Review: A People’s History of Heaven by Mathangi Subramanian

Special thanks to Algonquin Books for the gifted ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!

Goodreads: A People’s History of Heaven
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Published: 19 March 2019
Genre: Literary Fiction

Panda Rating:

(4.5 pandas)

Heaven is a thirty-year-old slum hidden between brand-new, high-rise apartment buildings and technology incubators in contemporary Bangalore. In this tight-knit community, five girls on the cusp of womanhood-a politically driven graffiti artist; a transgender Christian convert; a blind girl who loves to dance; and the queer daughter of a hijabi union leader-forge an unbreakable bond.

When the local government threatens to demolish their tin shacks in order to build a shopping mall, the girls and their mothers refuse to be erased. Together they wage war on the bulldozers sent to bury their homes, and, ultimately, on the city that wishes that families like them would remain hidden forever.

Elegant, poetic, and vibrant, A People’s History of Heaven takes a clear-eyed look at adversity and geography and dazzles in its depiction of love and female friendship.

TL;DR: A People’s History of Heaven is a beautifully crafted literary debut full of so much heart! With her lyrical prose and vivid descriptions of everyday life, it was as if Mathangi Subramanian reached through the pages of this novel and pulled me right into Heaven itself. This is a story about the strong and proud women that live in Heaven—the grandmothers, the mothers, and the daughters, who do whatever it takes to survive the hardships of not only living in a slum but being part of an oppressive patriarchal society that was not designed for women and girls to succeed.

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Book Review: Captain Heartbreaker by Brighton Walsh

Check out my review for the prequel novella Pact with a Heartbreaker!

Goodreads: Captain Heartbreaker (Havenbrook #4)
Publisher: Bright Publishing
Published: 31 March 2020
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Panda Rating:

(5 pandas)

Adventure’s in Captain Hudson Miller’s blood. For the past ten years, he’s spent his days in the sky, serving as a pilot for the Army. But where adventure called him away, something—someone—else is calling him home. On post-deployment leave, he escapes to the one place he hasn’t been since he enlisted: Havenbrook, Mississippi. Hometown of his momma’s peach cobbler, enough memories to last a lifetime, and the only girl who ever left an imprint on his heart.

Mackenna Haven thought she’d have her life figured out by now. Instead, she’s a twenty-seven-year-old college dropout who works at her soon-to-be brother-in-law’s bar and lives on her parents’ land. No husband or kids to her name. Not even a consistent weekend booty call. She’s been pretending she’s happy working dead-end jobs in an even deader-end town, but she can’t stop thinking she was meant for more than this.

After a childhood as best friends and a single weekend exploring more, Mackenna and Hudson haven’t seen each other in ten years. But they made a pact that long ago weekend, and Hudson’s coming to make good on his promise. Except she has no interest in it or him. After all, he walked away from her once already, and she’s not interested in opening her heart and allowing him a second chance at destruction. 

TL;DR: If you’re a fan of friends-to-lovers romances and second-chances between two people who have a wonderfully goofy friendship and sizzlingly hot chemistry, then I would definitely recommend this book! This couple is my favourite in this series and probably one of the best friends-to-lovers couples that I can remember reading! Also, if you’re a fan of small-town romances with a memorable cast of supporting characters, then I’d highly recommend checking out the Havenbrook series!

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Book Review: The Roommate Risk by Talia Hibbert

Goodreads: The Roommate Risk
Publisher: Nixon House
Published: 04 May 2021
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Panda Rating:

(4.5 pandas)

Jasmine Allen believes in bad luck, great wine, and the seductive power of a stiletto heel. What she doesn’t believe in is love. Her life is perfect without all that romance rubbish—until a plumbing disaster screws everything up and leaves Jas homeless. Luckily, she has someone to turn to: her best friend Rahul.

For seven years, Rahul Khan has followed three simple rules.
* Don’t touch Jasmine if you can help it.
* Don’t look at her arse in that skirt.
* And don’t ever—ever—tell her you love her.
He should’ve added another rule: Do not, under any circumstances, let Jas move into your house.

Now Rahul is living with the friend he can’t have, and it’s decimating his control. He knows their shared dinners aren’t dates, their late-night kisses are a mistake, and the tenderness in Jasmine’s gaze is only temporary. One wrong word could send his skittish best friend running.
So why is he tempted to risk it all?

This book was previously published as Wanna Bet?. The Roommate Risk is a steamy, standalone, diverse romance. This book is 75,000 words of fluff, angst, and extreme pleasure, with NO cliffhangers, NO cheating, and a guaranteed HEA. Please be aware: this story contains themes of parental neglect and abandonment, parental death, and alcohol dependence that could trigger certain audiences.

TL;DR: Talia Hibbert can do no wrong. Although this was a tad bit more angsty than I usually enjoy, I couldn’t help but fall head over feet for Jas and especially Rahul. Who gave that man permission to be so perfect? Please! Their chemistry was sizzling, their character development so satisfying and their romance heated things up something fierce! 🥵

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Blog Tour Review: Skin of the Sea by Natasha Bowen

Today is my stop on the TBR & Beyond Tours for Skin of the Sea by Natasha Bowen. Special thanks to Random House Children’s for providing an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!

Click here or on the banner above to check out the rest of the amazing bloggers on tour!

Goodreads: Skin of the Sea
Publisher: Random House Children’s
Publication Date: 02 November 2021
Genre: YA Fantasy

Panda Rating:

(4.5 pandas)

An unforgettable fantasy debut inspired by West African mythology, this is Children of Blood and Bone meets The Little Mermaid, in which a mermaid takes on the gods themselves.

A way to survive.
A way to serve.
A way to save.

Simi prayed to the gods, once. Now she serves them as Mami Wata–a mermaid–collecting the souls of those who die at sea and blessing their journeys back home. But when a living boy is thrown overboard, Simi does the unthinkable–she saves his life, going against an ancient decree. And punishment awaits those who dare to defy it.

To protect the other Mami Wata, Simi must journey to the Supreme Creator to make amends. But all is not as it seems. There’s the boy she rescued, who knows more than he should. And something is shadowing Simi, something that would rather see her fail… Danger lurks at every turn, and as Simi draws closer, she must brave vengeful gods, treacherous lands, and legendary creatures. Because if she doesn’t, then she risks not only the fate of all Mami Wata, but also the world as she knows it.

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Blog Tour Review: The Keeper of Night by Kylie Lee Baker

Today is my stop on the TBR & Beyond Tours for The Keeper of Night by Kylie Lee Baker.
Special thanks to Inkyard Press for providing an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!

Be sure to click on the banner above to check out the rest of the amazing bloggers on tour!

Goodreads: The Keeper of Night (The Keeper of Night #1)
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Publication Date: 12 October 2021
Genre: Young Adult Dark Fantasy

Panda Rating:

(3.5 pandas)

Death is her destiny.

Half British Reaper, half Japanese Shinigami, Ren Scarborough has been collecting souls in the London streets for centuries. Expected to obey the harsh hierarchy of the Reapers who despise her, Ren conceals her emotions and avoids her tormentors as best she can.

When her failure to control her Shinigami abilities drives Ren out of London, she flees to Japan to seek the acceptance she’s never gotten from her fellow Reapers. Accompanied by her younger brother, the only being on earth to care for her, Ren enters the Japanese underworld to serve the Goddess of Death… only to learn that here, too, she must prove herself worthy. Determined to earn respect, Ren accepts an impossible task—find and eliminate three dangerous Yokai demons—and learns how far she’ll go to claim her place at Death’s side.

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