40 – Love (There’s Something About Marysburg #2) by Olivia Dade

40 love

 

official blurb
This match is no game.  When a rogue wave strips Tess Dunn of her bikini top, desperate, half-naked times call for desperate, please-cover-me-kids-are-coming-closer measures. Enter Lucas Karlsson, AKA that flirty Swede in the water nearby. When he prevents her bare buoys from being exposed to fellow vacationers, even an ocean can’t drown the sparks that fly.  Lucas, a former top-level tennis pro now giving lessons at the resort, fled there after the abrupt, painful end to his injury-plagued career. But he’s finally ready to move on with his life—and after a few late-night, hands-on sessions with Tess, he’s eager to prove he’s the ace she wants.  But this match comes with challenges: She’s forty, and at twenty-six, he’s barely old enough to rent a car. Worse, they only have two weeks together before Tess returns to her assistant-principal life in Virginia. During that brief time, they’ll have to play hard, take a few risks, and find out whether their chemistry is a one-shot wonder…or whether they’re meant to be doubles partners for life.

4 out of 5

🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥  out of 5 steam level

what i liked
I really enjoyed this book!  It featured a lot of body positivity that was very enjoyable to read!  I would describe the tropes in this book as: age gap, vacation romance, and plus size heroine.
I’m honestly not sure if I’ve read a plus size heroine book that I’ve enjoyed this much before!  Some of the previous ones that I’ve read had a lot of the guy liking the girl despite of her size.  That was not the case with this book.  Our main man, Lucas, is totally into Tess and there is no “despite of” involved!
Another major pro for this book (no pun intended… but also I’m now proud of that pun) is that Lucas was a former pro tennis player. I’ve never read a tennis book before, but I LOVE tennis!!!  It is a bucket list item for me to attend every major tennis open.  So far I’ve done the US Open and it was amazing.  Oh… what’s that?  This is a book review and not me fangirling about Roger Federer?  Fine.  Well, lets just say that I loved that this book had a tennis storyline in it and I now want to read 210982083 other books that feature tennis!  (Let me know if you have any recommendations!)
This is my first Olivia Dade book but it sure won’t be my last.  I laughed out loud multiple times when reading this book.  The banter between the two characters was amazing.  I should also mention that i rarely root for a couple when they fall in love in a really quick time frame in a book.  I was rooting for Lucas and Tess! I think that just says something about Dade’s writing of the couple in general that you want to root for them.
As you can see, this is the second book in a series.  I actually didn’t even know that and it didn’t affect the flow of reading this book at all.  So it is safe to say that it is a stand alone book within a series!  (Btw, how cool is it that so many romance books do that? Why don’t other genres do that as often?)

what i didn't like
Tess talks about her goal to be the principal at her school. She talks about it a lot.  Too much.  Did I convey that point enough? Haha.  I liked that she had a professional goal but it was driven home too much for me.
Also, at one point in the book I lost steam a bit.  The dialogue slowed down and I found myself skimming a bit to try to reach some dialogue.  That doesn’t necessarily say anything about the writing style of the book because it could honestly have been my attention span while reading it.  But I feel it must me mentioned in my review!

while reading you should
Do: Play tennis.  It’s okay if you suck at it, it’s still fun!
Eat: a cupcake.  Preferably after you play tennis as a reward.
Watch: Borg vs McEnroe

when to read
This book is a total vacation read.  Summertime is even better.

arc review

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Wall of Winnipeg by Maria Zapata

wall of winnipeg

official blurb
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?

4.25 out of 5
🔥🔥🔥 out of 5 steam level

Wow I cannot believe how long it took me to get into this book and also how much I ended up loving it for how long it took me to get into it!

There are a LOT of trigger warnings in this hefty book. That’s right… It’s hefty. Her books are SO long and this one was 673 pages! Alcoholism, physical abuse, drug addiction (side character), foster care. There were maybe more than that if I really broke it all down but those were the majors.

It was my first Zapata book and she was described to me as the master of a slow burn. Totally agree after reading and I am here for it! But let me tell you, I was well over 100 pages into this book… maybe 175-ish and I was so close to DNFing this book.  The only reason I didn’t is because I’ve had so many friends rave about it.  I totally get the hype now.  As I’ve been away from this book I almost upped my rating to 5 stars because I’ve thought about this book so frequently, but it is (in my opinion) too long.  Like, way too long.  But dang, was it good!!

There was one sex scene in the book. It was probably around a three steam level- and this scene could easily be skipped. There’s also cursing in it, in case that bothers you!

Aiden gave me major Joshua Templeman vibes from The Hating Game and I loved that! I do wish some of the chapters were written in his perspective.

I also stalled out a LITTLE bit in the end. I usually love an epilogue but this book was so long that I honestly didn’t enjoy the epilogue much at all. After finally getting into this book though, I cruised through the middle/end of it! So a solid four stars for me!

while reading you should
Watch: Love on the Sidelines
Eat: a vegan meal
Do: go for a run

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Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

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Okay, I know you’ve seen this book everywhere because I have too.  And guess what? I finally actually read it!  I will tell you that this makes my list for REQUIRED READING FOR EVERY AMERICAN.  

Shall we get into the review? Okay let’s do it!  This book is a tough read.  There are a few reasons why it’s so tough.  I’ll start with the obvious- the subject matter is heavy.  There are a LOT of trigger warnings in this book. Abuse, neglect, rape, mental illness, child endangerment, bomb threats.  A lot.  Another reason why this book is tough to read is… well quite frankly, it’s poorly written.  I know, you weren’t expecting that. And how did it make the list for required reading if it’s poorly written?!  Well, that’s because the content is so incredibly important to read!  It just simply must be read.  BUT honestly- some parts were repetitive, the sentences were long and confusing. I would often have to reread a long sentence that had multiple commas and a parenthetical statement included.  I think it’s quite clear that this book was written for the common reader- so I personally think the author and editor did a disservice to the audience by publishing it the way it was written.  Overall though- what everyone says about this book is true.  It’s subject matter is eye opening and shocking.  The stats in it were mind blowing.  I have exactly 97 highlights I made while reading this book! So I’ll end this review with some quotes from the book.  But pick up a copy yourself it will open up your mind to how comfortable we’ve all become to living a life with bias!  It’s REQUIRED!

“For years, we’ve been the only country in the world that condemns children to life imprisonment without parole; nearly three thousand juveniles have been sentenced to die in prison.”


“The State of Idaho banned interracial marriage and sex between white and black people in 1921 even though the state’s population was 99.8 percent nonblack.”


“Even though the restriction couldn’t be enforced under federal law, the state ban on interracial marriage in Alabama continued into the twenty-first century. In 2000, reformers finally had enough votes to get the issue on the statewide ballot, where a majority of voters chose to eliminate the ban, although 41 percent voted to keep it. A 2011 poll of Mississippi Republicans found that 46 percent support a legal ban on interracial marriage, 40 percent oppose such a ban, and 14 percent are undecided.”

“Only a handful of countries permitted the death penalty for children—and the United States was one of them.”

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Tweet Cute by Emma Lord

tweet cute 1

official blurb
Meet Pepper, swim team captain, chronic overachiever, and all-around perfectionist. Her family may be falling apart, but their massive fast-food chain is booming ― mainly thanks to Pepper, who is barely managing to juggle real life while secretly running Big League Burger’s massive Twitter account. Enter Jack, class clown and constant thorn in Pepper’s side. When he isn’t trying to duck out of his obscenely popular twin’s shadow, he’s busy working in his family’s deli. His relationship with the business that holds his future might be love/hate, but when Big League Burger steals his grandma’s iconic grilled cheese recipe, he’ll do whatever it takes to take them down, one tweet at a time. All’s fair in love and cheese ― that is, until Pepper and Jack’s spat turns into a viral Twitter war. Little do they know, while they’re publicly duking it out with snarky memes and retweet battles, they’re also falling for each other in real life ― on an anonymous chat app Jack built.  As their relationship deepens and their online shenanigans escalate ― people on the internet are shipping them?? ― their battle gets more and more personal, until even these two rivals can’t ignore they were destined for the most unexpected, awkward, all-the-feels romance that neither of them expected.

Full disclosure while I was reading this book I was sure it was either written by Emma Mills or Emory Lord… only later did I realize that it was an entirely new to me author!

what i didn't like
Tweet Cute was a really adorable YA read.  It could easily have been five stars but I got stressed out a couple of times while I was reading it.  The relationship between the main character and her mom was pretty realistic as far as strained relationships but the “don’t rock the boat” mentality of a teen I just can’t get behind.  That could be because I’m not a huge people pleaser.

what i liked
What this book did have going for it was a teeny tiny mystery/ twist.  A really cute high school couple that didn’t have huge communication issues!  A You’ve Got Mail vibe.  Overall it was a quick read that almost everyone will enjoy!  There were multiple times reading this book that I got real Chilton vibes from the school (Gilmore Girls reference) so that was fun!  Also, remember Prof Umbridge from Harry Potter?  There’s some total Umbridge parts as well!

Looking for LGBTQ books?  This book has a supporting character that you’ll like!

while reading you should
do: bake!
watch: you’ve got mail
eat/drink: a milkshake!

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The Happy Ever After Playlist by Abby Jimenez

Remember me screaming about my love for The Friend Zone?  Well this book takes place after that one… it can definitely be read as a standalone book but honestly… why would you ever skip The Friend Zone?

arc review

happy ever after playlist

official blurb
Two years after losing her fiancé, Sloan Monroe still can’t seem to get her life back on track. But one trouble-making pup with a “take me home” look in his eyes is about to change everything. With her new pet by her side, Sloan finally starts to feel more like herself. Then, after weeks of unanswered texts, Tucker’s owner reaches out. He’s a musician on tour in Australia. And bottom line: He wants Tucker back. Well, Sloan’s not about to give up her dog without a fight. But what if this Jason guy really loves Tucker? As their flirty texts turn into long calls, Sloan can’t deny a connection. Jason is hot and nice and funny. There’s no telling what could happen when they meet in person. The question is: With his music career on the rise, how long will Jason really stick around? And is it possible for Sloan to survive another heartbreak?

my blurb!
An amazing grieving girl falls for a famous world traveling boy…before she realizes she would have to travel all of the time too.

4.5 out of 5

 

🔥🔥🔥🔥 out of 5 steam level

what i liked
I loved this story! I read it really quickly… like in two sittings.  It had me hooked! I loved the love story and meet cute!  Revisiting Josh and Kristen from The Friend Zone added so much to the story!  The best part of this book was easily how in love Sloan and Jason were.  I kept thinking that the whole time I was reading it!  I think a lot of people who may not have bonded with Kristen as much in TFZ will love Sloan.  Jimenez wrote both characters really well and their personalities are so different from one another – I could just see a lot of people being #teamsloan.  I loved the closeness of Jason and his family in this book- that was a big highlight for me.  I hope to even see more glimpses of the family in future books!  (Hey, it’s a three book deal! Maybe book three will be about his family!)

what i didn't like
I think one takeaway from this book could be that the main couple was codependent.  It might be a turn off for some readers.  This was easily my favorite rockstar romance that I’ve ever read- in general that trope really doesn’t hit home for me.  With that being said- there were still moments in this book that I wanted to hurry the rockstar drama along.
There was a bit of mystery (strong word here… more like a plot point that is revealed later on in the story) regarding a character named Lola and I solved that really easily and early on.  It didn’t take away from the storyline per say – but I felt it should be noted.  Overall this book had high drama.  I didn’t love this aspect of it, but I adored the love story so much that it was able to drive the story home for me and still had me adoring this book.

while reading you should
Do: Go through a car wash
Do: Make a new playlist!
Listen to: …well the entire playlist that the author includes at the back of the book. but if you’re too lazy to flip there I’ll include one song… Keep Your Head Up by Ben Howard
Eat: A cupcake. And if you’re close to Nadia’s cupcakes – go there! (The author owns that bakery!)

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No Whisk, No Reward (Donner Bakery #3) by Ellie Kay

no whisk no reward

 

official blurb
How do you know if a risk is worth taking? If you knew, there wouldn’t be any risk. Following a disastrous appearance on a televised baking show, Sophie Copeland is certain things can’t get any worse. Several calamities later, Sophie finds herself in Green Valley, Tennessee with no plan, no place to stay, and no prospects. But at least she has a temporary seasonal arrangement with the famed Donner Bakery. And that’s something, right? It’s not permanent, and it’s not a home, but it’s still something. Enter Joel Barnes, a Green Valley mystery, wrapped in rumors, and a whispered connection to the local notorious biker gang. Joel’s got a name for being bad news, but he also has an apartment for rent. Intrigued by the dichotomy of Joel’s reputation and sexy southern pull, Sophie can’t help but be tempted, even though she knows—given her (bad) luck—she should stay far, far away. . . Yet as everyone knows, without risk, there’s no reward.

arc review

4 out of 5

🔥🔥🔥🔥 out of 5 steam level
The steam level is a four. There are *I think* two sex scenes and both take place after he 75% mark. They can be easily skipped if the steam level is too high for you!

Okay this Penny-verse book was a lot of fun to read. It had what I was looking for: a quirky and sassy heroine, strong female friendships, LOTS of overlapping scenes with the Winston brothers (specifically Cletus and Jen but also Beau). It also featured overlap of other main/side characters from the previous Donner Bakery series! (Tempest and Joy!)
There was a lot of baking in this, which I am all here for! After just finishing the most recent series of The Great British Bakeoff, I needed to get my fix in still and this did it! Where are my GBB fans?!
Now remember how I haven’t loved the whole biker gang being a main plot point in a lot of these spin off books- it was featured in this book but done really well!
I think this might’ve been the longest smartypants romance I’ve read yet- in fact I’ve read some Goodreads reviews mentioning the length. I wasn’t bothered by it! I was enjoying the ride even if it slowed down my books read for the month!
The humor in this book was so enjoyable to me… I mean, wanting to start a bakery called Yeast Affection?! Haha!
This is a debut book for this author and I will definitely read more in the future!

Where does this take place in the Pennyverse? I think it takes place after the last Winston Brothers book- but perhaps it is after Dr. Strange Beard.

when to read
This book would be great to read over the fall and winter!

while reading you should
There are a LOT of songs mentioned in this book so here are a few that you can add to your playlist while reading this book:
-Wake me Up Before You Go Go by Wham
-Africa by Toto
-Take Me Home Country Roads by John Denver
– Rumours by Fleetwood Mac
-Motownphilly by Boyz 2 Men
Watch: a Paul Newman movie… specifically Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
If that movie isn’t your style you always have the option of watching 2 Fast 2 Furious (which, let’s be honest, is my choice out of the two for sure)
Eat: pie!

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Code of Conduct (Cipher Security #1) by April White

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arc review

official blurb
There are three things you need to know about Shane P.I.
1) P.I. is not her last name, it’s her job title, 2) Her specialty is catching cheaters, and 3) She’s a superhuman – kind of. Gabriel is a security expert for Cipher Security, and a former UN Peacekeeper with a fierce protective streak that finds its focus on the beautiful P.I. Their attraction is like an elephant in a room full of breakable things, and figuring out how to trust each other with their hearts, and maybe their lives, is the most fragile thing of all.

4 out of 5(If you’re reading this book you’re PROBABLY a fan of Smartpants Romances and in that case within this specific world, I think that could up this book to 5/5 stars!  As a stand alone romance it is 4/5 stars)
🔥🔥🔥 out of  5 Steam Level

 

what i liked
The dedication is a quote from love hacked by Penny Reid. That just made me feel like this author was really appreciative of being able to write in her universe and it started me off on the right foot for the book!
I loved EVERY quote that started out the chapter sections in this book! I swear I highlighted every single one.  You had SO much character overlap with this one! (From the Knitting in the City series) It was amazing!
It also had a lower steam level than the other books in this SmartyPants Romance series so far! I love being able to recommend a romance with a low steam level!
There were big topics being talked about- being black in America, being black and being found with a gun, moving on from past ghosts, having a physical disability, being underestimated. I mean it was everything and it was well done.
Lots of superhero talk for the Marvel and DC fans. A mystery to solve and a slow burn. It was such a fun read, I loved every minute of it!
This was everything I was hoping for in the SmartyPants Romance series!  I can’t wait to pick up some more books from this author!

while reading you should
Read- Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama
Listen to- The Hamilton Soundtrack
Watch- A Marvel Movie… Might as well start with Iron Man!

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