Review: Fireworks

I recently reviewed the last True North series book, and it was also great, and yet here’s another. It’s amazing how Sarina Bowen can put out so many high quality books so quickly. I’m amazed. I have a feeling the series has been pointing in this direction for a long time however, because it intertwines so much with the previous books, going all the way back to the beginning.

We finally find out who nearly ran over Zara. We found out who Benito has been carrying a torch for. We find out more about what the Shipleys and Rossis were like as teenagers. And of course, mean old Jimmy Gage. I think his plot even wraps up Jude’s story with the weird drugs.

Skye and Benito’s story has a lot going on: teenage love and misunderstandings, abuse, the damage that can be caused by neglect in childhood, people making wrong choices, women not sticking up for themselves at work, the importance of female role models in the workforce, and the portrayal of consent.

God, this woman could rip my heart in half again. I know it, and I don’t even care.

Of course, I recommend starting from the beginning with Bittersweet, Griffin and Audrey’s story. There are unique dynamics and stories to each couple, but they all center around the same area, from different perspectives. The sexy times are hot, the stories are sweet and heartwarming, and there’s real emotional plot development with all of the characters. You can’t go wrong visiting this part of fictional Vermont.

Free book provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Down With Love

I have read Kate Meader before, and the book I read before wasn’t terrible, but I didn’t love it. I felt like it was middle of the road as far as romance goes. (Flirting With Fire, Hot in Chicago series 1) I rated it 3 stars, which means that it was just “okay”. I went ahead and requested this one because I love a good enemies-to-lovers and the premise sounded interesting. But this book told me quickly what kind of book it is, and I was not a fan.

Immediately, near the end of chapter one, I get this line:

My curiosity rears up like a punch. If it looks like her, it’s my type.

Excuse me? IT?! He’s talking about a human being here. A woman he completely objectifies. I’d like to say that this is just a one-off, throwaway line that doesn’t set the tone for the rest of the book, but alas.

The book repeatedly tries to characterize Max (the real winner I quoted above, who is the male main character of this romance) as a feminist (?) but falls completely flat. We get lines such as:

His grin tells me he knows it was, and hey, isn’t this fun how we’re all in the know? Again, I’m struck that maybe there’s more to Max than he’s chosen to present.


But I’m not some old-school guy who thinks women have their place. Hell, I’m downright encouraging of the women in my life being all that they can be.

But he constantly objectifies her, and slut shames women. He even references his brother’s matrimonial happiness as being a “girl” thing. (“…my goal is to ensure he gets everything he’s ever dreamed of since he was a little girl.”)

Even the third act conflict that drives a wedge between the main characters is contrived and a little stupid. Their initial conflict (wedding planner vs. divorce attorney) is never explored in a satisfactory way, Max ends up just getting swept up in the romance of it all and everyone lives happily ever after. There’s no stakes, no real character development, and Max is a huge jerk. The book was readable, it didn’t take me too long to get through it, but it nearly turned into a hate read because I do not abide slut-shaming jerks who think they are “woke” when they are anything but.

Free book provided by Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

Review: Stripped

I wanted to like this book. I really did. And it had a lot of great qualities. Some of the banter was really fun, and there was some good-ish female friendship stuff, but a lot of it for me got bogged down by poor characterizations and the focus was not on the parts that I was interested most in.

Zac Fallon is a male stripper, touring with a group of guys. He’s starting to feel a bit at loose ends. He’s older than the other guys (except for the manager who no longer strips? Maybe?) and now he feels like maybe he wants to settle down. He is definitely interested in the hottie that lives on the floor directly above him.

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Review: One and Only

I’m not going to lie. Part of the reason that I loved this book so much was because it was set in Canada, and referenced a lot of Canadian things and used Canadian ways of speaking. It was like going home to a place you love after a long time away. (Literally, in my case.)

Jane is in the wedding party of her dear friend Elise, who is driving them all a little insane with her Pinterest-perfect wedding plans. So of course, it’s defcon-1 when Elise realizes that her future brother-in-law is unexpectedly coming home after abruptly being discharged from the Canadian military, she decides he needs a babysitter to make sure that he doesn’t cause drama. And who else to do it but Reliable Jane?  Continue reading

Review: I Flipping Love You

The third installment in Helena Hunting’s Hooking Up series takes things in a somewhat different direction. While the first two are more solidly set in New York, this one lounges around the beachfront houses of the Hamptons. Pierce is Amalie’s brother, a lawyer and the current whipping boy of the family after an unfortunate paperwork mistake at his job as patent lawyer for his father’s doll company. He’s hiding in the Hampton’s with his brother, flipping houses, when his fancy car is hit by a woman who drives off after seeing what she’s done. When he thinks he’s found her in a random grocery store, he confronts her, only to find out that she is the twin of the person who actually hit his car.

Rian (pronounced Ryan) is worried about her financial situation, so she writes him a check and hopes that is the end of it, but apparently, Pierce decides that he is going to pursue her. And pursue her, he does. Somewhat relentlessly, but it’s okay, because she’s totally into it. I think. Continue reading

Review: Boy Toy

Boy Toy is the third book in the Man Hands series, which revolves around three friends who all happen to be divorced, and are looking for distraction but end up finding love. In this book, we get Sadie’s story, although we’ve gotten glimpses of what’s going on with her from the very beginning. Sadie has two twin girls who she loves but are exhausting the way that babies are, times two. We’ve known her marriage is kind of rocky all along, but near the end of the second book, Man Card, we find out that her husband has been banging the nanny.

When the action picks up in this book, Sadie is done with nannies (obviously), but still needs care for her girls, so she enrolls them at a local daycare center. She is started to find that the person in charge of the 2 year old room is a walking wet dream named Liam.

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Review: Do Over

The hardest reviews to write are for books that we just kind of meh. I didn’t like the structure of this book, so that really made it go downhill for me. There is a lot to commend it for, the characters seem to be pretty fleshed out, which doesn’t always happen. But the entire back-and-forth non-linear structure really didn’t work for this book.

We start with Jack (although we don’t find out his name for like two chapters or something, and it’s really weird, and at one point, his son is accidentally referred to as Jack instead of Gabe, and that really threw me), who works construction with his two buddies, who are given just enough backstory for me to know they will be getting their own novels later. Jack is watching his son on a weekend that’s not his usual weekend, because his son’s mother has a work thing. I have to admit from the lackluster way that he refers to the baby mama, I had no idea that we were getting a romance between the two of them until the next chapter, which is through her POV (that’s the magic way to know, I guess).  Continue reading

Review: Speakeasy

I gorged myself on Sarina Bowen’s True North series. I started with Bittersweet and gobbled them up like I was afraid I would starve without them. I shouldn’t have been surprised, I loved her Brooklyn Bruisers series, but for some reason, a small-town series set in rural Vermont wasn’t grabbing me. It wasn’t until Audible sponsored a group listen on Bittersweet that I figured I’d go ahead and start, and then I was hooked. (Never mind that I never figured out how to join in the group discussion, I inhaled those books.)

Speakeasy is the 5th book in the series. We get even more acquainted with May, who is Griffin Shipley’s (hero of book 1) little sister, Jude’s (hero of book 2) ride to Narcotics Anonymous, but we also learn more about Alec, who is Zara’s older brother (heroine of book 4). May and Alec both have reputations in their family of being the screw-up. That bumbling person that keeps messing up. (And while I feel like that title is quasi-deserved by Alec, May is rocking it and it’s mostly her low-self-esteem talking.) We learn in book 3 that May is an alcoholic, and that she’s been in love with her female best friend forever, but unfortunately for May, Lark is straight and also in love with a man. Book 4 shows us that May is moving on; she is in a committed relationship with another woman and seems to mostly have her feelings and her addiction under control.  Continue reading

Review: The One You Can’t Forget

Stories about school shootings are sadly never not relevant. In fact, the premise behind the tragedy that is the backdrop for the second installment in this series by Roni Loren is scarily prescient. I began reading this book the day of the Santa Fe shooting in Texas, trying to grapple with my own feelings about being so close to this latest preventable tragedy. The motive behind the fictional and the real murders appear to be unimaginably similar.

This book is barely about the shooting, however, and that’s how it should be. Tragedy shapes lives, but it doesn’t define them. Rebecca has to deal with a lot of the guilt that she has carried throughout the years, not only of being one of the few survivors, but also of her role in being the supposed inciting incident of one of the gunmen. There’s a lot to unpack here, which Loren doesn’t really spend much time on, but would make excellent discussion for a book group. Rebecca’s big secret shapes most of her life. She focuses on her career, trying to be the perfect daughter and career woman, taking pride in her efficient mask of productivity. The only problem is that she’s completely removed passion from her life in an effort to atone for past mistakes.

Wes Garrett has his own demons that he’s running from, but they are slightly less dramatic. After a series of poor choices, he’s now broke, teaching cooking classes at an alternative school for troubled youth. He was on the cusp of opening a fancy restaurant, having his photo in all the high end trade magazines, when a divorce completely knocked him off his feet, leading him to drown his sorrows in alcohol abuse. The catch is that the lawyer that represented his ex-wife is none other than Rebecca.

The romance between them goes in fits and starts, with both of them immediately recognizing their attraction to each other but trying to ignore it, while they are continually shoved into situations together out of coincidence. There’s great tension between them, from the agreement to be “friends who kiss” to the eventual “casual hook up” that turns into anything but.

Throughout the book, Wes has to deal with his tendency to run and hide in a bottle, and Rebecca has to come to terms with her PTSD and guilt over the shooting that occurred over a decade before. It all comes to a head with both of them having to set their fears aside in order to help a troubled kid.

If you are looking for tragedy porn here, look away. This book is not going to get into all of the whys and hows of school shootings, or any mass gun violence. This book focuses on the people who survive. And that’s where our attention should be.

free copy courtesy of NetGalley for review

Review: Brooklynaire

tl;dr: Exactly what I’ve come to expect from Sarina Bowen!

The Story:

Fans of Sarina Bowen’s Brooklyn Bruisers series have been waiting for this one since book one. Nate and Becca are well drawn characters from the beginning, and we get just enough of their story starting at the beginning to make it a tantalizing treat when we finally get to their story. In fact, the events of Brooklynaire and Pipe Dreams pretty much are concurrent.

Brooklynaire does go back in time a little bit, to when Nate’s company first starts, and gives a little backstory on why exactly he chooses to buy a hockey team. Of course, there’s a jilted ex-lover who hooks up with a hockey player, and of course there’s a showdown between his team and the team that guy plays for.

Technical Elements:

Overall, I loved this book. It was great seeing exactly what happened between Nate and Becca is the glimpses we got from the other books, and how exactly their relationship started. I felt like there had been slightly too much of a break in between when I read Pipe Dreams and this one, and so I kept wondering what connections I was missing since I’d forgotten some of that. Also, the conflict is a little shaky, and seems like Becca just doesn’t want to pursue a relationship for reasons, and Nate is unsure for other reasons.

Final Thoughts:

This book has the same amount of spice and humor that all the others of the Brooklyn Bruisers series have. I felt like the build up to the book made for a bit of let down, but that’s probably due to my inflated expectations. It was still a great book, and I recommend it highly.

Find a copy at your local library!

A free copy was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.