Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn – #BookReview

Goodreads: Love Lettering
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Panda Rating:

Meg Mackworth’s hand-lettering skill has made her famous as the Planner of Park Slope, designing beautiful custom journals for New York City’s elite. She has another skill too: reading signs that other people miss. Like the time she sat across from Reid Sutherland and his gorgeous fiancée, and knew their upcoming marriage was doomed to fail. Weaving a secret word into their wedding program was a little unprofessional, but she was sure no one else would spot it. She hadn’t counted on sharp-eyed, pattern-obsessed Reid…

A year later, Reid has tracked Meg down to find out—before he leaves New York for good—how she knew that his meticulously planned future was about to implode. But with a looming deadline, a fractured friendship, and a bad case of creative block, Meg doesn’t have time for Reid’s questions—unless he can help her find her missing inspiration. As they gradually open up to each other about their lives, work, and regrets, both try to ignore the fact that their unlikely connection is growing deeper. But the signs are there—irresistible, indisputable, urging Meg to heed the messages Reid is sending her, before it’s too late…

Oh my heart… I can’t even with this book and how it’s made me feel!!! I knew I was going to enjoy this but I didn’t think that I’d fall so hard and fast (after a slightly rocky start) for Meg and Reid, and their love story. Swoonsh, indeed! I literally just finished this book two minutes ago (when I reviewed this on Monday…) and my heart is still soaring and I don’t know if I’ll be able to write a coherent review but I’m going to try anyway!

Continue reading “Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn – #BookReview”

That Secret Crush (Getting Lucky #3) by Meghan Quinn – #BookReview

Goodreads: That Secret Crush (Getting Lucky #3)
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Panda Rating:

What happens when your secret crush isn’t so secret anymore?

I’ve had feelings for Eve Roberts for as long as I can remember, but because she also happens to be the twin sister of my best friend, Eric, I’ve never acted on my feelings and long ago resigned myself to keeping my crush under wraps.

But after a terrible falling-out with Eric involving a failed restaurant venture and plenty of blame on both sides, I’m back in Port Snow without my best friend and without any direction. But can you guess who’s here? Eve. And my attraction to her is as strong as ever.

As old feelings rush back, Eve and I find ourselves pulled together, whether we like it or not. Lines are crossed, secrets are kept, and we soon discover that the difference between love and friendship may not be so black and white, after all.

Everyone wants that secret crush to love them back…but will I be ready when she does?

I’ve been counting down to the release of this book since I finished book two and it didn’t disappoint! I didn’t think much about Reid’s character when we meet him in the first two books. He’s known for not being able to take much of anything seriously, so I was surprised by how much I connected with his story. Fair warning: out of all the books in the series this has the most sex and it gets pretty steamy up in this read, my friends. Reid’s character also has zero filter and he does lay it on real thick with the sexual innuendos etc., so if neither of those are your jam then this book might not be for you! Safe to say, this best-friend’s-sister/friends-to-lovers story would be a 6/5 on the steamy scale (for reals).

Continue reading “That Secret Crush (Getting Lucky #3) by Meghan Quinn – #BookReview”

Well Met (Well Met #1) by Jen DeLuca – #BookReview

Goodreads: Well Met (Well Met #1)
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Panda Rating:

All’s faire in love and war for two sworn enemies who indulge in a harmless flirtation in a laugh-out-loud rom-com from debut author, Jen DeLuca.

Emily knew there would be strings attached when she relocated to the small town of Willow Creek, Maryland, for the summer to help her sister recover from an accident, but who could anticipate getting roped into volunteering for the local Renaissance Faire alongside her teenaged niece? Or that the irritating and inscrutable schoolteacher in charge of the volunteers would be so annoying that she finds it impossible to stop thinking about him?

The faire is Simon’s family legacy and from the start he makes clear he doesn’t have time for Emily’s lighthearted approach to life, her oddball Shakespeare conspiracy theories, or her endless suggestions for new acts to shake things up. Yet on the faire grounds he becomes a different person, flirting freely with Emily when she’s in her revealing wench’s costume. But is this attraction real, or just part of the characters they’re portraying?

This summer was only ever supposed to be a pit stop on the way to somewhere else for Emily, but soon she can’t seem to shake the fantasy of establishing something more with Simon, or a permanent home of her own in Willow Creek.

Continue reading “Well Met (Well Met #1) by Jen DeLuca – #BookReview”

Let’s Get Textual (Texting #1) by Teagan Hunter – #BookReview

Goodreads: Let’s Get Textual (Texting #1)
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Panda Rating:

A wrong number is supposed to be just that—a wrong number.
Delete. Done.
Do not continue to text. Do not flirt.

A wrong number shouldn’t be the first person on your mind in the morning, or the last at night…and you’re definitely not supposed to talk them into buying a baby goat.

Because that would be weird.

When Zach Hastings and I get into a wrong-number mix-up, we don’t follow the rules. We keep texting and flirting, because he’s wicked funny and perfectly nerdy and a wonderful distraction.

I’m not looking for love, and Zach definitely had the wrong number.
But maybe…
Maybe he’s the right guy.

This was such a fun and funny romance! I’d never heard of Teagan Hunter before but I came across this book while looking at recs for “books with puns in the title” for the 2020 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge. I started it on a whim yesterday and I don’t regret it! I found myself bursting with laughter half the time and caught in giggling fits the other half. While we don’t really go too “in-depth” with the characters, the banter between our MCs, and even the side characters, was just too good and I had a really great time reading about them all!

As the book and series title indicates, the main form of communication between is text but the whole story isn’t only told through their messages. I’m not always the biggest fan of this format because I don’t usually get a good sense of personalities and the all important “spark” that’s supposed to exist between characters, but that was definitely not the case with this one! I already mentioned it once but I’ll say it again: the banter was so great. I loved the sassiness, sarcasm, and spectacular nerdery of both Zach and Delia (especially Zach), and the progression of their relationship from strangers-to-friends-to-lovers was believable and well-written. It wasn’t a slow burn romance but there was some good anticipation and build up that I was pleasantly surprised by! I loved that it was more than just sex but that you can feel the strength of their friendship! That said this did get pretty steamy at points and I’d give it a 4/5 on the steaminess scale.

For the most part, I found Delia and Zach level-headed and mature and I always find that refreshing in a romance! They complemented each other really well. Delia was head strong and vocal but she was also compassionate and hard working. Zach was whip smart, sweet and a total goofball. Its been a while since I had such a huge crush on a fictional character but as Delia was falling head over heels for Zach, so was I! He is the epitome of a hot nerd and I was here for it. His nerd humor was on point and I was swooning hard.

Did I mention that there’s also an adorably cheeky baby goat called Marshmallow in the story? Yep, he’s a thing. I didn’t think I was about that baby goat life, but Marshy was a certified cutie pie and I wanted baby goat cuddles too. Not to mention that I also really loved the side characters: Zoe (an awesome BFF) and Caleb (the total sweetheart of an ex), even Robbie. I’m hoping that we get to learn more about them and their stories in the Texting series because they grew on me as much as Zach and Delia! Overall, I’m really glad I read this wonderful romcom and I’m looking forward to trying other books by Hunter — it’s quite possible that I’ve found a new romance favourite in 2020! 😍

Have you read Let’s Get Textual or is it on your TBR?

How to Build A Heart by Maria Padian – #eARC #BookReview

Goodreads: How to Build A Heart
Publish date: 28 January 2020
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Panda Rating:

All sixteen-year-old Izzy Crawford wants is to feel like she really belongs somewhere. Her father, a marine, died in Iraq six years ago, and Izzy’s moved to a new town nearly every year since, far from the help of her extended family in North Carolina and Puerto Rico. When Izzy’s hardworking mom moves their small family to Virginia, all her dreams start clicking into place. She likes her new school—even if Izzy is careful to keep her scholarship-student status hidden from her well-to-do classmates and her new athletic and popular boyfriend. And best of all: Izzy’s family has been selected by Habitat for Humanity to build and move into a brand-new house. Izzy is this close to the community and permanence she’s been searching for, until all the secret pieces of her life begin to collide.

How to Build a Heart is the story of Izzy’s journey to find her place in the world and her discovery that the choices we make and the people we love ultimately define us and bring us home.

There were elements to this that I really enjoyed and really didn’t enjoy. The start hooked me in quickly but around the 30% mark I started to struggle with our main character Izzy, and I found myself only wanting to read the story in small doses. I’m glad I pushed through though because I ended up really liking the new characters that were introduced further on, and most importantly how Izzy’s story ended. I obviously knew that this book wouldn’t have an unhappy ending but it was, for the most part, a very satisfying end to a story full of teenage angst and struggles. Padian delivered a sincere story about family, friendships, finding yourself and understanding where your heart belongs. Some content warnings include: (cyber) bullying, depression, racism, and physical abuse.

Surprisingly, what I enjoyed the least was the portrayal of one of the main friendships. Also, the character that I started out liking the most, ended up being the character I felt most frustrated towards for the majority of the story, and unfortunately that was our MC, Izzy. To me it was clear as day from early on how Izzy’s actions would spiral and end up exploding into exactly what happened in the story, and it filled me with such angst. I couldn’t help wanting to shake sense into Izzy and to tell her to stop lying and digging an even bigger hole for herself. I didn’t like Roz at the start and thought she wasn’t a great influence but I also felt that her character deserved better considering that she also didn’t have it easy (something that even Izzy attested to). While I’m not saying what Roz did in the story was okay, I really didn’t like how Izzy ended up treating their friendship; especially as she claimed Roz was the only one who knew the truth about her and was the only person that understood the “real” her. Although their friendship was more or less mended at the end, I personally didn’t think it was a very satisfying resolution and I felt that Roz deserved better than Izzy’s lack of apology and brushing over for her own selfish reasons.

That said, I thought the cultural representation was very well done. That’s the aspect I related to the most in the story and it’s the reason why I requested it in the first place. I appreciated the author’s note at the start about how she came to write this story and how much of her own experiences went into forming Izzy’s character and relationship with her mixed heritage. Although I’m not of mixed heritage, growing up outside of my own country made it difficult for me to connect and relate to a lot my Indonesian heritage and extended family. Izzy’s limited understanding of her Puerto Rican heritage and the language was a struggle that hit close to home. The most satisfying part of ‘How to Build A Heart’ was the growth that Izzy experienced in regards to her identity and when she finally stood proud of who she is.

I also have to mention that there were some really great side characters like Mark and Betts who I adored, not to mention the warmth of the Shackleton family, and the rallying support behind the Habitat for Humanity house building. There were only a few Habitat scenes and they were mostly at the end but they filled me up with such warmth and happiness. I used to volunteer for Habitat in high school and it’s such a truly rewarding experience!

The more I let this story sink in the more satisfied I am with how it went. There was a lot more depth in many aspects of the story than I expected and it was such a pleasant surprise. Yes, Izzy made some very questionable decisions throughout but then again I have to remind myself that she’s a teenager. and I’m certainly no stranger to making similarly bad decisions when I was her age (and even when older–oops)! It’s all a part of growing up and her character certainly did that at the end. I think many young adults who read this will be able to relate to and enjoy it!

Thanks to NetGalley and Algonquin Young Readers for the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review. This book is now available!
Have you read How to Build A Heart? Is it on your TBR?

Bitter Falls (Stillhouse Lake #4) by Rachel Caine – #eARC #BookReview

Goodreads: Bitter Falls (Stillhouse Lake #4)
Publish date: 21 January 2020
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Genre: Mystery & Thriller, Crime, Suspense
Panda Rating:

She’s investigating a cold case no one else could—by going places no else would dare.

In spite of a harrowing past still haunting her, Gwen Proctor is trying to move forward. Until a new assignment gives her purpose: the cold-case disappearance of a young man in Tennessee. Three years missing, no clues. Just Ruth Landry, a tortured mother in limbo. Gwen understands what it’s like to worry about your children.

Gwen’s investigation unearths new suspects…and victims. As she follows each sinister lead, the implications of the mystery grow more disturbing. Because the closer Gwen gets, the closer she is to a threat that looms back home.

In a town that’s closed its ranks against Gwen; her partner, Sam; and her kids, there’s no bolder enemy than the Belldene family—paramilitary, criminal, powerful, and vengeful. As personal vendettas collide with Gwen’s investigation, she’s prepared to fight both battles. But is she prepared for the toll it could take on everyone she loves?

Bitter Falls is just as intense and action packed as the first three books in the Stillhouse Lake series. Once again we’re swept up in a high-stakes thrilling drama as Gwen and her family face harassment from a town that shuns them, harrowing messages from trolls that want to see them grievously harmed, and getting caught in the cross-fires of the latest case that Gwen has been assigned in her new job. I’ve been a big fan of this series ever since I read the first book and I’ve truly come to appreciate all the main characters (Gwen, Sam, Lanny and Connor), as well as the recurring side characters in the series (Javi, Kezia, Agent Lustig etc.)

Continue reading “Bitter Falls (Stillhouse Lake #4) by Rachel Caine – #eARC #BookReview”

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin – #BookReview

Goodreads: The Immortalists
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Historical Fiction, Family Saga, Magical Realism
Panda Rating:

If you knew the date of your death, how would you live your life?

It’s 1969 in New York City’s Lower East Side, and word has spread of the arrival of a mystical woman, a traveling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the day they will die. The Gold children—four adolescents on the cusp of self-awareness—sneak out to hear their fortunes.

The prophecies inform their next five decades. Golden-boy Simon escapes to the West Coast, searching for love in ’80s San Francisco; dreamy Klara becomes a Las Vegas magician, obsessed with blurring reality and fantasy; eldest son Daniel seeks security as an army doctor post-9/11; and bookish Varya throws herself into longevity research, where she tests the boundary between science and immortality.

“Our language is our strength.
Thoughts have wings.”

It was difficult for me to write this review so apologies if it’s more nonsensical blabber than anything. I really enjoyed this touching novel about family and death. It sounds morose and it certainly isn’t the most fast paced storytelling, but as the story dove deeper into each characters’ life, I found that I couldn’t put the book down and very quickly sped through the pages. The Immortalists is a family saga that explores faith and the idea of destiny/fate. It asks readers the timeless question: if you could learn when/how you die, would you do it?

Continue reading “The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin – #BookReview”

Trophy Life by Lea Geller – #eARC #BookReview

Goodreads: Trophy Life
Publish date: 09 April 2019
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Chick Lit, Women’s Fiction
Panda Rating:

For the last ten years, Agnes Parsons’s biggest challenge has been juggling yoga classes and lunch dates. Her Santa Monica house staff takes care of everything, leaving Agnes to focus on her trophy-wife responsibilities: look perfect, adore her older husband, and wear terribly expensive (if uncomfortable) underwear.

When her husband disappears, leaving Agnes and their infant daughter with no money, no home, and no staff, she is forced to move across the country, where she lands a job teaching at an all-boys boarding school in the Bronx. So long, organic quinoa bowls and sunshine-filled California life. Hello, processed food, pest-infested house, and twelve-year-old-boy humor—all day, every day.

But it’s in this place of second chances (and giant bugs), where Agnes is unexpectedly forced to take care of herself and her daughter, where she finds out the kind of woman she can be. Ultimately, she has to decide if she prefers the woman and mother she has become…or the trophy life she left behind.

This was slow to start and was a little difficult to get into at first but once the story got rolling, I found the ‘light and fluffy’ contemporary I expected. I didn’t find it very surprising or different to anything that I’ve read in women’s fiction before though. For some reason (probably based on the cover) I might have thought the story and characters would be more comedic, but it was still an enjoyable and entertaining enough read.

Continue reading “Trophy Life by Lea Geller – #eARC #BookReview”

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton – #BookReview

Goodreads: The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
Genre: Crime, Mystery, Thriller, Historical Fiction
Panda Rating:

“Gosford Park” meets “Groundhog Day” by way of Agatha Christie – the most inventive story you’ll read this year.

Tonight, Evelyn Hardcastle will be killed… again.
It is meant to be a celebration but it ends in tragedy. As fireworks explode overhead, Evelyn Hardcastle, the young and beautiful daughter of the house, is killed.

But Evelyn will not die just once. Until Aiden – one of the guests summoned to Blackheath for the party – can solve her murder, the day will repeat itself, over and over again. Every time ending with the fateful pistol shot.

The only way to break this cycle is to identify the killer. But each time the day begins again, Aiden wakes in the body of a different guest. And someone is determined to prevent him ever escaping Blackheath…

I guess it’s time for my unpopular opinion because this one has received really great ratings on GR. This book was chosen as the January read by the Goodreads group for the 2019 Popsugar Reading Challenge following the prompt: “a book revolving around a puzzle or game”. I was really excited to start reading this, especially for my first reading challenge book of the year; but unfortunately, I think this book just really wasn’t for me.

Continue reading “The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton – #BookReview”

The Snowman (Harry Hole #7) by Jo Nesbø – #BookReview

Goodreads: The Snowman
Genre: Crime, Mystery, Thriller, Fiction
Panda Rating:

Soon the first snow will come
A young boy wakes to find his mother missing. Outside, he sees her favourite scarf – wrapped around the neck of a snowman.
And then he will appear again
Detective Harry Hole soon discovers that an alarming number of wives and mothers have gone missing over the years.
And when the snow is gone…
When a second woman disappears, Harry’s worst suspicion is confirmed: a serial killer is operating on his home turf.
…he will have taken someone else

This was my first Harry Hole novel and my first book by Nesbø, and while I enjoyed The Snowman and its compelling plot, I also found I struggled with the writing and it took me longer than expected to get through the book. I enjoyed it though and I’m even curious enough to one day check out more of Nesbø’s novels, especially the ones involving Harry Hole! I’m certainly wondering what’ll happen to him next.

Continue reading “The Snowman (Harry Hole #7) by Jo Nesbø – #BookReview”