Truth by S.J. Sylvis

truth

official blurb
There’s only one thing that stands in the way of having my name stamped on a big, fat check trailing with several zeros. And it goes by the name of Reid King. What is a totally average elementary school music teacher doing standing in a tour bus with the King of Music? I have no idea, but for some reason, the stars have aligned and the universe thinks I’m the one who can to help him. That, somehow, Reid King and I can collaborate on an album together and make him the authentic, raw, soul-crushing singer that he once was. Reid King thinks I’m in over my head. Heck, even I think I’m in over my head. But that check will solve all my problems, and nothing will stand in my way of getting it. Not Reid King, or his devilish smirk, or his soul-gripping voice, or his talented fingers that roam effortlessly over a guitar. Not even the steely glances he throws my way every three seconds. I’ll get that money and save my family from years of heartache. And maybe… just maybe… I’ll save Reid from his heartache, too.

my blurb!
Brooklyn, a public school music teacher, agrees to a summer job to help Reid, a rockstar in danger of losing his star power.  She’s supposed to help him unlock his writing block for songs, but a summer on a small tour bus together and she might end up helping him with a whole different problem.

Trigger warning- this book has a background character struggling in the arena of mental health.

arc review

3.5 stars

  🔥🔥🔥 out of 5 steam level

what i liked
I read this book super quickly.  I mean I was suffering from insomnia, but still. It was a one night read for me.  If I didn’t have insomnia I still think I would’ve finished it in two sittings.  It was quick to read and enjoyable.
When the author teased a slow-burn for this romance, she was not lying!  It is indeed a slow burn featuring alternating POVs – which I find particularly helpful especially if one of the characters behaves like a jerk for any period of time.
Reid was complex and likable- you understood what he’s struggling with and why.  His pain was palpable.
Brooklyn was cute and funny (although I wouldn’t call this book a romcom).  I liked the way she dressed and how she and Reid spoke the same language.  She had genuine kindness that made her seem like you could be friends with her.
I did a couple of late night chuckles while I was reading this book (Don’t worry, I didn’t wake up my husband soundly sleeping next to me.  Although don’t you sometimes want to wake up the good sleeper in your relationship, just to tell them that you’re not sleeping? No? Just me? Okay.) But again would reiterate that this book is high drama.  Contemporary, angsty romance at its best.
I also want to mention how strong the Prologue is in this book- it snags your attention right from the beginning!  If you’re a friend of the rockstar romance, you’re gonna really enjoy this book!

what i didn't like
There was a plotline that contained a bit of mystery- you were waiting for the truth to be uncovered.  See what I did there? I know, I’m a comedic genius.  Well, I guessed the mystery pretty easily.  This isn’t totally abnormal for me- as you know by now I live on a steady diet of BBC Masterpiece Mysteries – but it does take away from the book when you don’t get your “aha!” moment.
This book featured a grand gesture – which is fine!  I think I’m not particularly a fan of that plot device but (like this entire review) that is purely subjective- it does add to the negative column for me though.
The last bit that didn’t sit perfectly for me was Brooklyn getting this gig in the first place.  She gets this summer job to help this very well known singer/songwriter get back into writing music.  And she has zero experience…. which I could kind of (maybe) move past.  But I actually felt like she was straight up clueless and wasn’t doing anything to help herself to not be clueless.  I would’ve loved for a scene with her googling how to help someone write a song.  Or maybe talk about a skype session she just finished with a different artist who struggled with writer’s block (who she easily could’ve been put in contact with by her BFF in the book).

Overall this book was a really quick and enjoyable romance that I think a lot of readers will absolutely love. Especially if you like a rockstar romance- I would definitely snag this one!

DuxSignature smallercopy

The Rest of the Story by Sarah Dessen

the rest of the story

official blurb
Emma Saylor doesn’t remember a lot about her mother, who died when she was ten. But she does remember the stories her mom told her about the big lake that went on forever, with cold, clear water and mossy trees at the edges. Now it’s just Emma and her dad, and life is good, if a little predictable…until Emma is unexpectedly sent to spend the summer with her mother’s family—her grandmother and cousins she hasn’t seen since she was a little girl. When Emma arrives at North Lake, she realizes there are actually two very different communities there. Her mother grew up in working class North Lake, while her dad spent summers in the wealthier Lake North resort. The more time Emma spends there, the more it starts to feel like she is divided into two people as well. To her father, she is Emma. But to her new family, she is Saylor, the name her mother always called her. Then there’s Roo, the boy who was her very best friend when she was little. Roo holds the key to her family’s history, and slowly, he helps her put the pieces together about her past. It’s hard not to get caught up in the magic of North Lake—and Saylor finds herself falling under Roo’s spell as well. For Saylor, it’s like a whole new world is opening up to her. But when it’s time to go back home, which side of her will win out?

3.5 stars

what i liked
Sarah Dessen does such a good job of getting you really annoyed with the parents featured in her books!  Like just remembering how unfair your parents were in high school and how you somehow have to obey them still… and how much it sucks that they just plain don’t get it! OMG her ability to capture that feeling is uncanny!
There were a couple of moments while reading that I laughed out loud.
I really liked Roo but I had a hard time picturing him.
Roo reminded me a lot of Dexter from Sarah Dessen’s book This Lullaby. I really enjoyed his and Emma Saylors humor.

what i didn't like
The ending was good…well good-ish… but felt rushed with Roo. I know a lot of people like YA books that are a bit more open ended bc teens don’t know where they’ll be in life. But I didn’t like that as a teen and I don’t like it now either. (Seriously, I remember feeling this way in high school… like “What? Do authors not believe we can meet the loves of our lives in high school?! Like we’re not deep enough for that?!”  I still feel that way! Give me the ending I want!)
There are so many things I wanted from the ending! (Kind of/ but not really spoilers ahead) :
I felt like we could have had a scene with a mention of her dad apologizing to Roo.
I felt like we could have had a good reminiscing scene with her dad and her mom on the lake.
Also,Saylor should have met roos mom and she could have told a story!
It just felt lacking. But also made you wanna be on the lake and you were rooting for Emma Saylor, I just didn’t feel a huge payoff in the end…

DuxSignature smallercopy

 

On the Corner Between Love and Hate by Nina Bocci

on the corner of love and hate

official blurb
What’s a campaign manager’s worst nightmare? A smooth-talking charmer who’s never met a scandal that he didn’t like. When Emmanuelle Peroni’s father—and mayor of her town—asks her to help rehab Cooper Endicott’s image, she’s horrified. Cooper drives her crazy in every way possible. But he’s also her father’s protégé, and she can’t say no to him without him finding out the reason why: Cooper and her have a messy past. So Emmanuelle reluctantly launches her father’s grand plan to get this Casanova someone to settle down with and help him lose his lothario reputation.  Cooper Endicott wanted to run for Mayor, but he never wanted the drama that went with it. Now that he’s on the political hamster wheel, the other candidates are digging up everything from his past. Even though he’s doing all the right things, his colorful love life is the sticking point for many of the conservative voters. He wants to win, badly, and he knows that if he wants any chance of getting a vote from the female population, he needs to change his image. The only problem? He might just be falling in love with the one person he promised not to pursue: the Mayor’s off-limits daughter.

my blurb!
Two friends who were in a long term frelationship gone awry, now try to coexist as coworkers.

3.5 stars

                                                               🔥🔥 out of 5 steam level

 

what i liked
This book was really funny. It actually started out funnier than it ended, but I still laughed quite a few times throughout it. I wonder if there will be a companion book because there are so many characters described in the friendship group that seemed to have enough of a backstory to warrant other books!
I liked all the scenes at her apartment… does she need a hypothetical roommate?  Because I’m available.  The town she lived in was really cute, I could totally live there! Definitely Stars Hollow vibes.
Her parents were really enjoyable.  I loved the scenes featuring her mom.
For the amount of sexual innuendos that were present in this book – I was expecting the actual steam level to be a lot higher than it was. I think this will be a really good book for fans of the unHoneymooners who like a low steam novel!
I read this book really quickly!  It was honestly almost four stars, you’ll have to read on to find out why it wasn’t!
You know when two characters really dislike each other and you read the whole book and you’re like… wait what was the big deal? This book explained why she had hatred for Cooper really well.  It made a lot of sense and I appreciated that.
So, this also turned out to be a second chance romance…which I tend to really dislike. So overall this rated a lot higher than most second chance romances I read!

what i didn't like
It featured my least favorite thing in a book where the characters in love with somebody but once they can get together they’re not sure if they actually want to be with them… which is annoying to read about. It would have benefited from dual point of view chapters. Cooper’s POV could have explained the scenario with his “girlfriend” a lot better than the book did – so that left me wanting more.
So, I almost gave it four stars but I can’t get over the annoyance of a character who isn’t sure if she is in love with somebody or not, and then thinks she’s in love with them, but then isn’t sure if she should be with him because it’ll change the friendship. Kind of gave me Josh and Hazel vibes in that sense. I just find that plot point to be really annoying.  I root for someone who wants something and finally gets it. Not for someone who wants something and gets it and then turns it down because it’s now “too real.”

I would definitely pick up other books by this author I really enjoyed her writing style and if she does write companion books for the series, I would read them!

arc review

DuxSignature smallercopy

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not by Iris Morland (The Flower Shop Sisters #2)

he loves me he loves me not

 

official blurb
I’ve always lived my life by the rules. Unlike my two sisters, I’m the good one. The responsible one. Going outside my comfort zone is when I wear red lipstick before five PM. That comfort zone of mine? It’s smashed to smithereens on a wild night in Las Vegas when I met—and married—Liam Gallagher. After one shot of tequila, then two, then too many to count, a good girl’s rules tend to disappear. And so do her panties, and her bra, and various other articles of clothing when she’s with an Irishman who knows his way around a woman’s body. Now my husband wants us to stay married. For six months. He says it’ll be worth my while. Considering our chemistry underneath the sheets, I can’t say that he’s wrong.
Liam isn’t safe, though. Liam definitely isn’t comfortable. He’s like the male equivalent of wearing red lipstick in the daytime all wrapped up in an irresistible, dangerous package. Yet this stubborn Irishman isn’t about to let me go, drunken Princess Bride-themed Vegas wedding or no. Now I have to decide if I’m brave enough to break the rules for love.

my blurb!
After drunkenly getting married in Vegas, two people decide to keep up the facade for 6 months, fooling everyone around them…maybe even themselves.

arc review

3.75 our of 5

                                                               🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥 out of 5 steam

 

what i liked
I did a buddy read with Kelissa from @ksquaredreads, she also read the first book in this series (Petal Plucker).  When I was talking to her about this one I realized I didn’t laugh nearly as much in this book as I did during Petal Plucker but I still felt like it maybe rated higher for me earlier on.
I loved Mari…who I kept pronouncing as Marie instead of Mary (I was constantly correcting myself!)  I appreciated her practicality.  I loved any description that features her ex-fiance.  From him driving a prius, to his sex buttons.  (That’s not as weird as it sounds.  Okay it was still really weird but… you’re just going to have to read the book).
This book also featured one of my favorite storylines- a fake relationship.  I know, I know, there are a million books with this but it never gets old to me!!! It is a classic storytelling maneuver and you can’t change my mind! I also love when you get to observe the characters sharing a living space.  There is something about proximity that always builds the tension and it’s great!
It was good to get scenes of Dani and Jacob’s life from Petal Plucker.  While technically I believe this is a stand alone book, I still recommend reading Petal Plucker first so you can get the full experience while you read this one!

what i didn't like
I didn’t love Liam. I’m not sure why I didn’t, to be honest with you. But I wasn’t swooning for him.  The plot line was a little like Roomies– but I loved Calvin and I just didn’t share a fictional relationship with Liam.  This is a big bummer when it comes to reading romance novels – you really want to ship the characters together.
The bedroom scenes were a bit too spicy for me.  This is a 5 star steam level for vulgar word usage and high steam bedroom scenes.  It is marketed as a steamy romcom so this won’t be in the negative for a lot of readers- it was just a bit too steamy for this particular reader.

while reading you should
Listen to: When You Move by Parachute
Watch: Flower Shop Mysteries series on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries

DuxSignature smallercopy

The Girl The Sea Gave Back by Adrienne Young

the girl the sea gave back

official blurb
For as long as she can remember, Tova has lived among the Svell, the people who found her washed ashore as a child and use her for her gift as a Truthtongue. Her own home and clan are long-faded memories, but the sacred symbols and staves inked over every inch of her skin mark her as one who can cast the rune stones and see into the future. She has found a fragile place among those who fear her, but when two clans to the east bury their age-old blood feud and join together as one, her world is dangerously close to collapse. For the first time in generations, the leaders of the Svell are divided. Should they maintain peace or go to war with the allied clans to protect their newfound power? And when their chieftain looks to Tova to cast the stones, she sets into motion a series of events that will not only change the landscape of the mainland forever but will give her something she believed she could never have again—a home.

my blurb!
A story told in two points of view about two tribes at war with each other after a prolonged time of peace.

Remember me ranting and raving about Sky in the Deep?  Well this is the second book in that series.  Technically I think it is a standalone novel but I personally think they overlap enough that Sky in the Deep needs to be read first. When I saw this book was coming out, I requested it like crazy.  I’m so happy to have been gifted a physical copy from the publisher!  Like Sky in the Deep, this book features some graphic war scenes – reader beware! Ready to hop into the review? Let’s do it!

arc review

3 out of 5

what i liked
This book ended on a real high note for me.  The war scenes are well written and fast paced.  They wrap you up in the pace and leave you feverishly turning the pages.  I enjoyed the last bit of the book a lot.  This sentiment reminded me a lot of the Red Queen series, where most of the book you’re not loving it and the end is so good that you end up rating the book a lot higher than you thought you would.
I loved getting a glimpse back to my old friends lives! And by friends I mean the characters previously written in Sky in the Deep.  Fictional friends totally count as friends!
One of the main narrators is Halvard- it’s great to see where he is now, and his interactions with the other members of his tribe.  It is also really interesting to learn about what was happening in this world of theirs with other tribes during the time period of Sky in the Deep!
This might be a silly pro, but honestly the cover of this book is unreal.  It’s so well designed, and there are different textures. You just feel cool carrying it around.  It almost makes you want to read it longer so more people can see you reading it.

what i didn't like
There were some errors while reading that made some sentences confusing.  Because this is an advanced readers copy, this shouldn’t be held against the overall rating of the book, so I didn’t factor that in.  I mean, I’m mentioning it because I should-  but I’m hopeful that all of it will be corrected before printing.
In the beginning of the book I had a really hard time keeping track of the characters.  This was crazy to me because I just read Sky in the Deep. There was a character named Espen and I was thinking…  should I know who that is? Who is that?!
The best word I can describe for the tone of the first 2/3 of the book is…messy.  It’s told in dual POVs, which isn’t a big deal- I read a lot of those.  But it also time hops.  Present day. Then 11 years ago. Then present day. Then three years ago.  Then present day.  Then 7 years ago.  …See what I mean?  It just didn’t work as well as it should’ve.  World building still needed to happen because two additional tribes were introduced but the time jumps took away from the world building.
There is a large plot point about Tova, our other main character, being hated. It was touched on numerous times and when I finished the book- I still thought that plot line fell flat for me.  It didn’t make sense to me this intense hatred and the reasoning behind it.  The responsibility that Tova takes personally for this hatred never correlated for me.
There’s some insta-love in this book.  I’m not a fan of insta-love personally, so this is a negative for me.  The characters were supposed to be pulled together by fate.  I wasn’t feeling it myself.
I sighed a lot while reading this book. I know- I’m telling you, most of the way through reading it- I was going to rate it 2 stars!  (That’s how much the last bits of the books paid off!)
The things I adored about Elyn in Sky in the Deep were missing from this one.  Tova and Elyn were so different from each other.  So was Halvard.  So this viking/warrior vibe that I adored in the first book – was not present in this one.  Tova literally begs not to be killed and curls up in a ball, covering her head for protection.  I’m not expecting the characters to be the same, for sure.  But this was one of my favorite aspects of Sky in the Deep, so it was disappointingly lacking in this book.
Ready for my last gripe?  The cover of this book is epic.  I mean I LOVE it. But alas, it was misleading.  Tova has her arrows taken away very early on. I made a note that at page 238- we have barely encountered her with her arrows.  I felt like she was gonna be a little more like Legolas with the cover of the book…and that just wasn’t the case.

while reading you should
Do: sign up for a self defense class.  Why not feel empowered?!
Listen: What I believe from the Wonder Woman soundtrack
Drink: water- something about fighting scenes makes me want to stay hydrated

DuxSignature smallercopy

Meet Cute by Helena Hunting

meet cute

official blurb
Talk about an embarrassing introduction. On her first day of law school, Kailyn ran – quite literally – into the actor she crushed on as a teenager, ending with him sprawled on top of her. Mortified to discover the Daxton Hughes was also a student in her class, her embarrassment over their meet-cute quickly turned into a friendship she never expected. Of course, she never saw his betrayal coming either… Now, eight years later, Dax is in her office asking for legal advice. Despite her anger, Kailyn can’t help feeling sorry for the devastated man who just became sole guardian to his thirteen-year-old sister. But when her boss gets wind of Kailyn’s new celebrity client, there’s even more at stake than Dax’s custody issues: if she gets Dax to work at their firm, she’ll be promoted to partner. The more time Kailyn spends with Dax and his sister, the more she starts to feel like a family, and the more she realizes the chemistry they had all those years ago is as fresh as ever. But will they be able to forgive the mistakes of the past, or will one betrayal lead to another?

my blurb!
After a law school experience, steeped in sexual tension, ends with being backstabbed.  Two people are forced to coexist while trying to do what’s best in a custody agreement.

3.5 stars                                                             4 out of 5 steam level

 

what i liked
This book starts off laugh out loud funny.  I was laughing, cringe reading (lots of embarrassment) and smile reading throughout the first few chapters of this book.  Here’s a little snippet of funny exchanges:

“I don’t have time to shave regularly these days, let alone time for hot dates.” She sighs.  “I hate this whole online generation crap.  Why can’t I just meet a nice guy in a coffee shop, or the library or something?”
“I think you’d have to frequent coffee shops and library for that to happen, wouldn’t you?” I ask.

But don’t let the humor fool you.  This book isn’t entirely funny.  In fact, in the first 4 chapters- it starts to get pretty serious.  The overall plot of this book revolves around a custody dispute.  The writing, even when it wasn’t funny, still packed a good punch.  I included a snippet of this too (you’re welcome):

“Heartache is the worst affliction.  It robs a person of rationality, or logic, of forethought and patience.  It makes everything good painfully bright and magnifies the bad with an intensity that’s difficult to tolerate.”

Another thing in the pro column for me is their jobs.  The two main characters were both lawyers.  You got to see them in law school and then see them practicing different types of law.  I really enjoyed that whole aspect of the book.
The last chapter of the book was great so it definitely ended on a high note for me.  It felt a little disjointed from being laugh out loud funny to being heavy and not very funny at all.  But overall I enjoyed reading this and read it quickly!

what i didn't like
Okay, you know how I feel about names.  The main characters name was Daxton.  You read that correctly.  DAXTON.  The whole book, I kept thinking… how does that name even dawn on you to use? I’ve never even heard of that name before!  It did have a saving grace though because towards the latter end of the book we get to experience this funny exchange:

“Oh my God, Emme, look, Liam is waiting for you! Who’s with him? Oh! Oh! That’s Clark and Jackson and River.”
“Who the hell named these kids?”  I mutter.
“Your name is Daxton,” Emme points out.

Another thing I didn’t love was how predictable this book was.  I knew exactly what was going on in all of the plotlines- and in fact, ended up being a little annoyed that it took the characters so long to catch on.  It got to be a little bit stressful at times!
Speaking of stressful- when these characters get together it seems ethically unsound.  So I was pretty stressed throughout the book waiting for the shoe to drop on that part of the plot.
I think my biggest gripe was that this was titled Meet Cute and it’s not a cutesy book- but more of a heavy hitter.

while reading you should
Watch: Legally Blonde (because… lawyers)
Watch:  What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (Siblings raising siblings storyline!)
Eat: Shepherd’s Pie

DuxSignature smallercopy

 

Fame, Fate and The First Kiss by Kasie West

fame fate

official blurb
Lacey Barnes has dreamt of being in a movie for as long as she can remember. However, while her dream did include working alongside the hottest actor in Hollywood, it didn’t involve having to finish up her senior year of high school at the same time she was getting her big break. Although that is nothing compared to Donavan, the straight-laced student her father hires to tutor her, who is a full-on nightmare. As Lacey struggles to juggle her burgeoning career, some on-set sabotage, and an off-screen romance with the unlikeliest of leading men, she quickly learns that sometimes the best stories happen when you go off script.

my blurb!
A teen actress who hates homework, is forced to work with a tutor on more than one assignment.

3.75 our of 5

what i liked
I love a Kasie West book.  She writes roughly 1 million books a year.  Okay, I might be exaggerating but seriously she churns these suckers out.  Some of her books have made it to my Required Reading List. 
There were some great quotes in this book.  There’s one in particular that I wrote down because it just screamed wisdom from Kasie West.

“Life lesson, Grant,” I said.  “Just because someone says another person is attractive doesn’t mean they’re saying you’re not.  And just because you’re good-looking doesn’t mean everyone is attracted to you.”

Gotta love it right?!  I did read this book in one sitting.  I mean, it was a night when I was having insomnia but still.  I did really enjoy this book!
There was a small mystery in this book- and I am NEVER surprised in mysteries.  But honestly, I wasn’t sure who the culprit was! I had many theories but none strong enough to slap the handcuffs on someone with authority.  That’s a big win for this book!
The dad in this book was really solid. I love when YA books feature good parents.  It gives me hope in the world for some reason. (They do say that art imitates life!)
The two main characters were fun and cute.  It should be noted that this IS a companion novel to Love, Life and The List.  I remember not loving that book, but you get a glimpse back to those characters in this novel and I enjoyed hanging out with them again.
Overall the story moved quickly and it was funny.
Oh also, it featured the topical item of zombies. So that’s something.

what i didn't like
I actually initially rated this book 4 stars, but even a 4 star rating for me usually means I’m recommending it a lot- and I haven’t recommended this since I read it at the end of February (Okay, so I’m behind on reviews. You caught me).
The main problem is that I didn’t find the characters sticking with me.  I didn’t strive for an outside of the pages friendship.  (What? I’m totally normal, I promise).  I liked them but they were maybe a tad boring? I’m not sure. Pretty quickly after I read this book I couldn’t remember any of the characters names.  That’s not a big deal but I felt like that needed to be reflected in my rating.
I couldn’t picture Lacey. Like ever.  The whole book I kept thinking… what does she look like?!  I wish all authors would supply you with their pinterest board of inspiration so you can get a good handle on who they were thinking of while they were writing. (Ps. if you missed my review from Sky in the Deep – the author DOES provide a pinterest board for that book!)

when to read
Read this book during the school year. Specifically during you junior or senior year of high school!

while reading you should
Eat: at a restaurant where your friend is the waiter. (My friend in high school worked at Baskin Robbins.  If yours does too, I am in full support of eating there instead of a place where you can get an actual meal).
Do: Decide what you would do if you realized zombies were a real thing
Listen to: Everybody’s Girl by Jennifer Lopez

DuxSignature smallercopy