Under Locke by Mariana Zapata – #BookReview

Goodreads: Under Locke
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Panda Rating:

He was my boss, my brother’s friend, a Widower, an ex-felon, and a man I’d seen casually with a handful of women. But he was everything that gripped me, both the good and the bad. Worst case scenario if things turned awkward between us, I could go somewhere else. I’d gotten over epic heartbreak before, one more wouldn’t kill me.

After moving to Austin following six months of unemployment back home, Iris Taylor knows she should be glad to have landed a job so quickly… even if the business is owned by a member of the same motorcycle club her estranged father used to belong to. Except Dex Locke might just be the biggest jerk she’s ever met. He’s rude, impatient and doesn’t know how to tell time.

And the last thing they ever expected was each other.
But it was either the strip club or the tattoo shop.
… she should have chosen the strip club. 

It’s official: I’m a big Mariana Zapata fan and I think she’ll be an auto-read (maybe even auto-buy) author from now on. I’m so glad that Jen recommended this to me because I absolutely loved it! I was waiting for the right time to start reading this because past experience has shown me that once I start a Zapata book I won’t want to put it down.

Under Locke was surprisingly not as much of a slow burn compared to her other books; although compared to most other romances, it was still very much a slow burn. I don’t think there’s anyone who does slow burns as well as Zapata and it’s always so damn satisfying when the MCs finally get together. I can safely say that it’s absolutely always worth the wait and this one was no different. Although Dex did grate on my nerves a little bit with his extremely volatile temper and asshole-ish behavior, I pretty much fell in lovelust with him at the same pace as Iris did. Although his attitude does soften as the story goes on (especially towards her), he’s unapologetically himself and while I can see how that can rub people the wrong way, I appreciated that about his character. Can I also say that tattoos + men + me = (almost) guaranteed win? They’re kind of like my Achilles heel? Especially when they’re tall, brooding and totally inked (mega bonus points to Dex for owning his own parlor)!

Unsurprisingly, Iris is the total opposite of Dex. She’s sweet, shy, very innocent and it doesn’t take much to make her blush. She’s a pretty strong and resilient character, and did I mention that she’s also bookish and smart? Iris has been through some pretty tough shit in life that made her have to grow up faster than usual. While she’s only in her early twenties, she comes off as pretty mature and I really admired her character! Is the dynamic between Iris and Dex sounding a little too cliché and tropey right now? Well, maybe it is…but Zapata really does it so well and I wasn’t mad about it! Their chemistry was FIRE and those steamy scenes… Damn, those steamy scenes! 😏 I was doing a lot of swooning while reading this book (lmao).

What I also really loved about Under Locke were the side characters. The friendships that form between Iris and the rest of the artists at the parlor really gave me ‘found family’ vibes and I was here for it! The banter (oh, the banter) between everyone that worked at the store had me genuinely bent with laughter and the scenes that showed Dex relaxing/laughing with the group were also some of my favorites! Iris’ half-brother was another character that really grew on me and I really hope that we get his story because he’s such marshmallow/cinnamon roll and I want to know more ASAP!

Overall, I clearly loved this book and it definitely is a contender for my top Zapata book next to The Wall of Winnipeg and Me and Wait For It. I took off half a star because of some repetitive things some characters did which I found slightly eye-roll inducing. I’ve definitely noticed this repetitive trait in Zapata’s characters in other books too though; so by now it’s not unexpected, it’s just a little eh. But that won’t stop me from reading her books because LOVE 😍

Have you read Under Locke? Are you a Mariana Zapata fan?
Let’s chat in the comments!

#WWWWednesday: 16 October

It’s time for another WWW Wednesday, a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World of Words, which means I’ll be answering these questions:

  1. What did you read last?
  2. What are you currently reading?
  3. What will you read next?

What did you read last?

Since the last check in, I’ve managed to finish four books! I’m really loving Mariana Zapata’s books and finished two in the last week alone. Although the formula to her stories isn’t all that complicated and not entirely unpredictable, I really enjoy the journey I go through with her characters. Sometimes it’s just really satisfying to get what you sign up for in these reads, you know? I finished Dear Aaron and Wait For It. Dear Aaron was alright but Wait For It had me smiling constantly. I also finally finished House of Salt and Sorrows and I also read Faker, another contemporary romance.

What are you currently reading?

I started Serpent & Dove yesterday and um… I love it so much?! Lou is so bad ass and why am I developing a soft spot for Reid?! I haven’t had much time to read since my friend is visiting, but I’m really fighting the desire to read this book non-stop! At the same time, because my friend is here I’ve decided that NOW IS THE TIME to start reading Rules for Vanishing. It’s… TERRIFYING. I’ve only managed to read a little bit but my toes are curling thinking about how scary this is sounding. I don’t honestly don’t know if I’ll be ready for the scary shit, with or without my friend here 😅

What will you read next?

I’m still trying to give priority to several eARCs that are well overdue! I’m still hoping to read TH1RT3EN soon because I’ve seen a ton of people posting about it and I think it’d be great to stick to my goal of reading more creepy books this month. I’ve heard great things! Shadow Frost is also a bit of a priority since it was just published earlier this month but I’ve heard so many mixed reviews (mostly not so great ones) that it’s making me reluctant to read it 🤦🏻‍♀️

What are you currently reading? How’s your week going?
Leave me a comment and let’s chat 🙂

Sundays in Bed With… #MyWeeklyWrapUp

We’re back with another Sundays in Bed With… meme! This meme dares to ask you what book has been in your bed this morning and is hosted by Midnight Book Girl. Come share what book you’ve been you’ve spent time curled up reading in bed with, or which book you wish you had time to read today!

This Sunday I spent the day in bed with Faker by Sarah Smith. When I heard about this romance earlier in the year, I was super excited to get my hands on it because it’s an enemies-to-lovers romance, plus I’m always keen to see more diverse characters in this genre (the female MC is half Filipina). Have you heard of this one before?

Emmie Echavarre is a professional faker. She has to be to survive as one of the few female employees at Nuts & Bolts, a power tool company staffed predominantly by gruff, burly men.
From nine to five, Monday through Friday, she’s tough as nails–the complete opposite of her easy-going real self. One thing she doesn’t have to fake? Her disdain for coworker Tate Rasmussen. Tate has been hostile to her since the day they met. Emmie’s friendly greetings and repeated attempts to get to know him failed to garner anything more than scowls and terse one-word answers. Too bad she can’t stop staring at his Thor-like biceps… When Emmie and Tate are forced to work together on a charity construction project, things get…heated.
Emmie’s beginning to see that beneath Tate’s chiseled exterior lies a soft heart, but it will take more than a few kind words to erase the past and convince her that what they have is real.

What are you currently reading?

I CAN’T BELIEVE IT’S SUNDAY. HOW?! I’ve literally spent this weekend tucked up in bed because I’ve been whacked by the red wave out of the blue and I’ve been suffering from more pain than usual. I’ve been feeling so nauseated and dehydrated since Saturday despite drinking almost 2L of water a day, and this tropical heat isn’t helping at all! 🙁Why must we suffer so?! ANYWAY. That’s probably TMI so we’re moving on from this uneventful weekend news 😅

In other news, my bestie who I haven’t seen in four years is arriving tonight and will be staying with me in my shoebox flat for a week! Our friendship is the kind where we can pick up where we left off and I’m so glad that she’ll be visiting me because not only am I really looking forward to the time off I’ll be taking, but I think we both could really use some BFF time. This will mean that I’ll be pretty MIA on the blogosphere for a week or so, but I’m going to try to post as much as possible (and maybe even schedule some posts in advance?)!

Reading & Blogging Recap

I’ve been basically reading non-stop since Friday and managed to finish two books this weekend. If it isn’t obvious from my weekly check-ins and reviews, I’ve been on a little bit of a contemporary romance kick lately! There are books I feel like I “should” be reading right now but all my heart really seems to want is some romance 🤣Mariana Zapata style romance in particular–oh, those epic slow burns are just so damn good! Safe to say that I have been bingeing her books this week and despite them usually being over 650 pages on average, I always finish them in one night because I just CAN’T STOP READING! Aren’t those kinds of books the best? 😊

It’s been a week friends but WordPress is telling me that I’m on a 55-day posting streak so, woo me! But seeing as next week is gonna be hectic I’ll probably end up breaking this streak 😕 Hopefully not but we’ll see. I noticed that I’ve really not been posting reviews lately–I’ve been reading so much but just haven’t felt motivated to write reviews? EEK. I have quite a few to catch up on but I will get back to it. Also, I just wanted to apologize that I’ve been so MIA with engaging with all your wonderful posts. I’ve been feeling a cave-ish lately and have been trying to push out of that mindset, but it’s been a struggle, friends… Thank you all for not deserting me and continuing to engage with me on my blog though! Mad appreciation and love to you all 💜For now, here’s a wrap up of all the posts I did this week, in case you missed them:

Top 5 Saturday: Books that Cast A Spell On Me!
#Blogtober: Witchy YA
Friday Favorites: Childhood Favorites (Pt. II)
First Lines Friday: 11 October
Review: The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman
The Netgalley Book Tag!
#Blogtober: Reading Challenge Update
eARC Review: My Life as Marlee by Victoria Anders
WWWWednesday: 09 October
#TopTenTuesday: Falling in Love with Book Characters!
eARC Graphic Novel Review: Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker, Wendy Xu
Down the TBR Hole – 03
Goodreads Monday: 07 October

I’m leaving you with one of the tracks that has been on constant repeat for me this week. YEBBA’s voice is MAGIC. Not only does her sultry tone suck you in but her range and power is incredible! And honestly I’m just a sucker for Mark Ronson 💚

How has your week been? Hope everyone has/had a great weekend!
Let me know how you’re doing in the comments and let’s chat, friends 🙂

#WWWWednesday: 09 October

It’s time for another WWW Wednesday, a weekly meme hosted by Sam @ Taking On A World of Words, which means I’ll be answering these questions:

  1. What did you read last?
  2. What are you currently reading?
  3. What will you read next?

What did you read last?

I managed to finish four books since last Wednesday! I finally finished The Bookish Life of Nina Hill yesterday and even though I didn’t fall head over heels for the cast of very quirky characters, I still thought this was an adorable read! Nina was such a great bookish character and the whole story in general was very quirky and charming! Fairlady, Vol. 1 was a fantasy graphic novel that I enjoyed for the world building but I was disappointed that the stories were so disconnected. My Life As Marlee was an ARC I got from Book Sirens and which I’m so proud of finishing before the deadline (this is sad really lol)! While the book started off well for me, I didn’t end up enjoying the rest of the story as much as I thought I would. Maybe I’m just too old and cynical for these types of YA romances? The Wall of Winnipeg and Me was by far my favorite out of all of these and I’m so glad I picked up another Zapata book after being somewhat let down by the first of hers that I read. I’m a fan of the slow burn romance and this was one heckuva slow burn but never have I been so damn satisfied by it! All the reviews for these books are coming as soon as I finish getting my thoughts down and organizing them coherently 😅

What are you currently reading?

I’ve been reading House of Salt and Sorrows since last week and it’s taking me so long only because my last week was hella busy and I didn’t have as much time to read it at night, but it’s mostly because I’m too scared to read it alone at night in my flat. I’ve been trying to read it at work during my lunch breaks but people keep chatting to me 🙃and I’m trying to be a little less anti-social at work LOL that said, I’m almost done and I really don’t want to wait until tomorrow to continue reading it but will I be able to conquer the chicken in me? Not sure. It’s creepier than I thought it’d be!!! I’m also reading Dear Aaron by Mariana Zapata, which I started late last night as my melatonin was kicking in and will continue to read tonight, I think. I’ve been really bingeing on romances lately, it seems to be the mood I’ve settled in for now!

What will you read next?

I’m still trying to give priority to several eARCs that are well overdue! Even though I’m *obviously* not doing as well as I’d hoped in tackling them, there’s still time to improve! I’m hoping to read TH1RT3EN next because I’ve seen a ton of people posting about it and I think it’d be great to stick to my goal of reading more creepy books this month. I’ve heard great things! Shadow Frost is also a bit of a priority since it was just published 01 October! 🤦🏻‍♀️

What are you currently reading? How’s your week going?
Leave me a comment and let’s chat 🙂

Sundays in Bed With… #MyWeeklyWrapUp

We’re back with another Sundays in Bed With… meme! This meme dares to ask you what book has been in your bed this morning and is hosted by Midnight Book Girl. Come share what book you’ve been you’ve spent time curled up reading in bed with, or which book you wish you had time to read today!

I stayed up well into Sunday morning (the sun was out and the neighborhood coming to life) in order to finish reading The Wall of Winnipeg and Me by Mariana Zapata and then managed to catch a few hours of zzz’s before finishing getting up to finish The Bookish Life of Nina Hill.

Vanessa Mazur knows she’s doing the right thing. She shouldn’t feel bad for quitting. Being an assistant/housekeeper/fairy godmother to the top defensive end in the National Football Organization was always supposed to be temporary. She has plans and none of them include washing extra-large underwear longer than necessary.

But when Aiden Graves shows up at her door wanting her to come back, she’s beyond shocked. For two years, the man known as The Wall of Winnipeg couldn’t find it in him to tell her good morning or congratulate her on her birthday. Now? He’s asking for the unthinkable.
What do you say to the man who is used to getting everything he wants?

Meet Nina Hill: A young woman supremely confident in her own…shell. The only child of a single mother, Nina has her life just as she wants it: a job in a bookstore, a kick-butt trivia team, a world-class planner and a cat named Phil. If she sometimes suspects there might be more to life than reading, she just shrugs and picks up a new book.

When the father Nina never knew existed suddenly dies, leaving behind innumerable sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews, Nina is horrified. They all live close by! They’re all–or mostly all–excited to meet her! She’ll have to Speak. To. Strangers. It’s a disaster! And as if that wasn’t enough, Tom, her trivia nemesis, has turned out to be cute, funny, and deeply interested in getting to know her. Doesn’t he realize what a terrible idea that is?

Nina considers her options.
1. Completely change her name and appearance. (Too drastic, plus she likes her hair.)
2. Flee to a deserted island. (Hard pass, see: coffee).
3. Hide in a corner of her apartment and rock back and forth. (Already doing it.)

It’s time for Nina to come out of her comfortable shell, but she isn’t convinced real life could ever live up to fiction. It’s going to take a brand new family, a persistent suitor, and the combined effects of ice cream and trivia to make her turn her own fresh page.

What are you currently reading?

This last week was ridiculously busy. Mum was over and left Saturday morning at the butt crack of dawn and I drove her to the airport and then I came home and fell asleep for way too long. Oops? After that I went out to the cinema for the first time in ages and watched Abominable with my bestie. It was ADORABLE! I had no clue what it was about other than it looked cute and exactly what I needed! I loved that it was set in Asia (China) because it’s still so rare to see diverse mainstream movies, especially cartoons. DreamWorks definitely delivered all the cuteness and laughs that I was looking for and I left the theater feeling giggly and buoyant!

This week was (unsurprisingly) super busy with lots of family things because mum was around. We also had some old family friends visiting, which meant more late nights with dinners and socializing after work. It left me completely drained of energy at the end of every night, so I think I really needed a weekend doing as little as possible. I just realized that October is going to be a really busy month with next week being the only one I have to myself until the end of the month. I have some besties coming to visit me for a little over a week and I’m planning to take a few days off from work to spend time with them. After that the office is having the second round of annual meetings and then the month will be over. I’m finding it ridiculous how quickly time is flying!

Reading & Blogging Recap

It was a pretty meh week on the reading and blogging front. Most nights I would normally spend reading was spent out socializing and when we got home, it was spent chatting with mum. It’s moments like these that I miss living closer to my parents (even though only live a short flight over). As it usually is with mothers and daughters, it got a bit rocky sometimes (especially with mum staying over with me in my tiny flat), but it was nice having her around even if it meant I was reading less. The only books I managed to finish this week are the ones I mentioned above. I’m still going on with House of Salt and Sorrows but I haven’t read anymore since Friday night because it’s a lot spookier than I expected and now I’m alone at home and not sure if I can tuck my chicken away and continue reading at night? I’ll bring the book to work and see if I can finish it over my lunch breaks in the coming week!

Despite how hectic the week was I’m impressed that I still managed to post every day, even if it was only one post per day, this week though! Here’s a quick recap of what I posted, in case you missed it:

Top 5 Saturday: Books with the Scariest Covers!
Friday Favorites: Favorite Characters That Other People Hate!
First Lines Friday: 04 October
Summer Bucket List Book Tag!
September Monthly Wrap Up!
WWWWednesday: 02 October
Review: Two Weeks Notice by Whitney G
#TopTenTuesday: Books with Numbers in the Title!
Down the TBR Hole – 02
Goodreads Monday: 30 September

I’m leaving you with one of my favorite (if not my favorite) tracks from TS’s latest album, Lover. I’m still obsessed with this album and it’s kept me company in the background as I read all day today!

How has your week been? Hope everyone has/had a great weekend!
Let me know how you’re doing in the comments and let’s chat, friends 🙂