Tuesday, March 21, 2023

REVIEW: Strip by Elisabeth Caldwell


I stumbled across Strip on NetGalley and it immediately reminded me of some of the New Adult reads we read way back in the 20-teens...a time I've started thinking of as the golden age of NA Romance when there were many new adult reads to choose from but they all kinda stayed in the same few trope lanes.  Anyway. Strip sounded like a throwback to those times and I thought I'd give it a try. I'm glad I did because it was very much like those first new adult novels I read, just updated to a 2023 sensibility. There was the smoldering, intense boss (Ryker) and the independent, yet vulnerable employee who had a secret reason for stripping (Sage). The moment they run into each other the chemistry sparks and despite him coming off as a closed off prick and her calling him on it, they manage to make a deal--he'll do her a favor for the favor of her company at a few upcoming events. As the days go on and they get to know each other better, neither of them can stop thinking of the other, even though that's (of course) against the deal they made. They trade childhood stories and worries and the fake dates become more and more real, just as suspicious and strange acts amp up. And just when he decides to take the plunge and allow himself to care for her and she decides to open up and tell him all of the truths she's been omitting, the shizz hits the fan and things seem to be over. But as this is a true romance, Ryker and Sage do get a happy ending.

It appears that this is the first of a series and I hope that Elisabeth Caldwell is dreaming up her next story because I enjoyed Strip and would love to see which characters she writes about next. 

BUY IT: https://amzn.to/3JBahzy 


Sage Cashman’s sister suffers from a terrible illness and Sage will do anything to help her, including dancing at a gentleman’s club to support the two of them. Every night, she puts on a show for the customers, and the naughtier and more flirtatious she acts, the better her tips. Sage is just going through the motions until she gets closer to the dark, silent Adonis who lurks in the shadows during her performances. When Ryker Madsen is in her orbit, she doesn’t have to pretend she’s a woman easily seduced.

Ryker Madsen turns out to be more than Sage’s boss—he’s the owner of the club. He’s also involved with the company producing the experimental drug that might be her sister’s only hope. Ryker is as arrogant as he is rich, and it’s no secret that he wants Sage and is determined to have her. He’s intrigued when Sage proposes a deal: companionship for connections. Preferring uncommitted and unemotional relationships, Ryker sees Sage’s proposal as the perfect way to get her out of his system. What Ryker doesn't know is that Sage, jaded from a string of betrayals, has many secrets. Including her identity.

The hotter their relationship gets, the closer the truth comes to the surface. When the skeletons in Sage’s family’s closet start tumbling out, they threaten both her plan to save her sister and her future with Ryker.


Monday, March 13, 2023

REVIEW: Shooters by Julia Boggio


Shooters grabbed my attention with its synopsis: a newbie wedding photographer falling for the rock star (and arrogant) photographer of the stars + comedy + set overseas? Yep, yep, and yep. And while Shooters most definitely had all of those things, it had a little bit more too. 

As the synopsis indicates, Stella is seeking a new career after her previous one blew up in her face. It's a career she has an affinity for and has dreamt of doing for a long time and so even though she enjoyed being lauded for her creative ideas, this seemed like a good change for her. It becomes immediately clear that she's working through some things...things that cause her incredible stress and can even immobilize her, if she's having a particularly rough moment. Not something she enjoys or wants witnesses to; so you can imagine her humiliation when Connor, Mr. Photography, finds her in mid panic attack. It sucks.

Fast forward through a series of funny events and we soon find Stella at Connor's weeklong photography course, where she's vacillating from lusting after Connor and being extremely frustrated by him. This push and pull goes on for quite a while, even after the course has ended. They keep running into each other and either have heated exchanges or try to freeze the other one out. It makes from some funny and, at times, frustrating moments.

Ultimately, Stella works through some of the cause of her stress and Connor works through his commitment-phobia and we finally get to see them together, getting the HEA every romance reader hopes for.

BUY IT: https://amzn.to/3yi4lFx


"The photography conference simmered with talent: those who had it, those who wanted it, and those who would always suck no matter how hard they tried. Stella Price wondered where she fell on that scale." Stella is determined to become a successful wedding photographer, even if it means learning from Connor Knight, a wedding shooter with sexy rock star status and an ego to match. Burned by an affair that ended her last career, Stella should know better than to get entangled with Connor during a residential course in a romantic French chateau. But while his arrogance turns her off, his talent turns her on. Their clashes lead to a whirlwind of passion, but Stella struggles to frame a future with a man who's come to distrust "happily ever afters" and hides a softer side behind his image. Can Stella learn from her past mistakes and teach Connor about real love before he disappears from the picture?

REVIEW: Never Ever Getting Back Together by Sophie Gonzales



Let me state for the record that when I read the synopsis of Never Ever Getting Back Together I mistakenly thought this was about post-college aged characters so I was a little thrown when I realized that we were really looking at 18-ish year olds. The premise (a game show where old flames have a chance to reconnect and maybe get together again) works with a younger crowd but to be honest, it felt a little hard to believe...maybe that's because I teach people around the age of the main characters and some of the conniving and contriving seemed a little much...as did the intensity of their feelings? So while those things didn't necessarily work for me, I enjoyed the writing, the humor, the burgeoning romance, and the ridiculous nature of many of the situations they found themselves in and I would definitely pick up another Sophie Gonzales novel, given the chance. 

BUY IT: https://amzn.to/3Eni6pw


When their now famous ex-boyfriend asks them to participate in a teen reality show, two eighteen year old girls—one bent on revenge, the other open to rekindling romance—get tangled up in an unexpected twist when they fall for each other instead in Never Ever Getting Back Together by nationally and internationally-bestselling and Indie Next Pick author Sophie Gonzales.

“Wickedly funny [and] searingly sexy.”—Kelly Quindlen, author of She Drives Me Crazy

It’s been two years since Maya's ex-boyfriend cheated on her, and she still can’t escape him: his sister married the crown prince of a minor European country and he captured hearts as her charming younger brother. If the world only knew the real Jordy, the manipulative liar who broke Maya’s heart.

Skye Kaplan was always cautious with her heart until Jordy said all the right things and earned her trust. Now his face is all over the media and Skye is still wondering why he stopped calling.

When Maya and Skye are invited to star on the reality dating show 
Second-Chance Romance, they’re whisked away to a beautiful mansion—along with four more of Jordy’s exes—to compete for his affections while the whole world watches. Skye wonders if she and Jordy can recapture the spark she knows they had, but Maya has other plans: exposing Jordy and getting revenge. As they navigate the competition, Skye and Maya discover that their real happily ever after is nothing they could have scripted.

Monday, March 6, 2023

REVIEW: Bitter Play by Alison Rhymes


Ever since June and Drew came on my radar, I've been curious about Reed (June's brother) and Leighton (her best friend). From book one they've been seemingly at each other's throats while also seeming to be very interested in the each other. Naturally, all of that tension had me curious and I snatched up Bitter Play as soon as I saw it was live. 

The reasons for their animosity and tension become clear, fairly early, and while it may be a little laudable that Reed was doing what he thought was the best thing for both of them, it kinda blew up in his face and the entirety of the novel is mostly him trying to patiently wait for Leighton to trust and believe him when he expresses his desire to be with her. 

Ultimately I enjoyed the novel but I found Reed to be a bit heavy handed and Leighton to be a little flaky at times. I get why they were the way they were but I (maybe unfairly) compared them to the main characters in the previous two novels and those characters were more dynamic and dramatic...so at times Bitter Play felt not as over the top dramatic as I think I was expecting.

Even though this wasn't my favorite book in the series, I'm still enjoying the world that Alison Rhymes has created and I will definitely read whatever she produces next. 

BUY IT HERE: https://amzn.to/3SchpFr


Reed Turner has loved his sister’s best friend, Leighton, for damn near a decade. He’s given her space to grow in her career and her life. Now he’s ready to claim the woman he’s always believed was his. It’s too bad another man in her life keeps getting in the way.

Leighton Ward has never been in love. Now, just as so many things are changing in her life, she finds two men vying for her heart. Both hold strong ties to her future and making the wrong decision comes with heavy consequences.

He knows what he wants.

She’s as confused as ever. 

Monday, February 27, 2023

REVIEW: The Candy House by Jennifer Egan

So I just finished The Candy House and I am hungry to find friends who've read it so that I can hash out all of my thoughts. I don't even know how I feel about any of it and I kinda like that I am this mixed up. On the one had, I really loved the episodic, non-linear experimental way that Jennifer Egan put this together (having not read her other works, I've heard this is just her style?). It kept me on my toes and forced me to stop trying to read it in my normal way. I had to give myself permission to not try and connect all the dots and know all the things; I had to relax and enjoy it for the journey that it was. As much as I enjoyed that, I also was uncomfortable with it. I didn't always like not knowing how the puzzle pieces fit and I hated thinking I was missing something or that I was missing the point because I couldn't see the small picture inside the bigger one. 

Days later, I'm still pondering all the things that The Candy House brought up about technology and relationships and how those work separately and together, about the ripple effect of relationships and how one innocuous moment can influence the entire life of someone, about how the more we progress, we sometimes seem to regress, and maybe at the heart of all of this the ideas of loneliness and grief and loss and desire and love and connection. 

I've talked two of my colleagues and friends into reading The Candy House and I cannot wait to hear what they think and why they think it. 


* Named a Top Ten Best Book of 2022 by The New York Times Book Review, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and Slate * Named a Best Book of 2022 by The New Yorker, NPR, Oprah Daily, Time, Harper's Bazaar, Entertainment Weekly, Esquire, Vogue, and many more! *

“A compelling read that showcases Egan’s masterful storytelling.” —Time
“Dazzling.” —
“Radiant, exhilarating.” —
“Mesmerizing…A thought-provoking examination of how and why we change.” —

From one of the most celebrated writers of our time comes an “inventive, effervescent” (Oprah Daily) novel about the memory and quest for authenticity and human connection.

The Candy House opens with the staggeringly brilliant Bix Bouton, whose company, Mandala, is so successful that he is “one of those tech demi-gods with whom we’re all on a first name basis.” Bix is forty, with four kids, restless, and desperate for a new idea, when he stumbles into a conversation group, mostly Columbia professors, one of whom is experimenting with downloading or “externalizing” memory. Within a decade, Bix’s new technology, “Own Your Unconscious”—which allows you access to every memory you’ve ever had, and to share your memories in exchange for access to the memories of others—has seduced multitudes.

In the world of Egan’s spectacular imagination, there are “counters” who track and exploit desires and there are “eluders,” those who understand the price of taking a bite of the Candy House. Egan introduces these characters in an astonishing array of narrative styles—from omniscient to first person plural to a duet of voices, an epistolary chapter, and a chapter of tweets. Intellectually dazzling, 
The Candy House is also a moving testament to the tenacity and transcendence of human longing for connection, family, privacy, and love.

“A beautiful exploration of loss, memory, and history” (
San Francisco Chronicle), “this is minimalist maximalism. It’s as if Egan compressed a big 19th-century novel onto a flash drive” (The New York Times).

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