5 Stars · Book Reviews · romance

Review | Heartbreak for Hire

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Heartbreak for Hire by Sonia Hartl
Gallery Books, 2021
Romance
320 pages
5/5 Stars

Trigger Warnings: Misogyny/sexism, emotional and verbal abuse, toxic relationship with parent.

GoodReads Synopsis:

Brinkley Saunders has a secret.

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To everyone in the academic world she left behind, she lost it all when she dropped out of grad school. Once a rising star following in her mother’s footsteps, she’s now an administrative assistant at an insurance agency—or so they think.

In reality, Brinkley works at Heartbreak for Hire, a secret service that specializes in revenge for jilted lovers, frenemies, and long-suffering coworkers with a little cash to spare and a man who needs to be taken down a notch. It might not be as prestigious as academia, but it helps Brinkley save for her dream of opening an art gallery and lets her exorcise a few demons, all while helping to empower women.

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But when her boss announces she’s hiring male heartbreakers for the first time, Brinkley’s no longer so sure she’s doing the right thing—especially when her new coworker turns out to be a target she was paid to take down. Though Mark spends his days struggling up the academic ladder, he seems to be the opposite of a backstabbing adjunct: a nerd at heart in criminally sexy sweater vests who’s attentive both in and out of the bedroom. But as Brinkley finds it increasingly more difficult to focus on anything but Mark, she soon realizes that like herself, people aren’t always who they appear to be.

Review:

Okay, I absolutely LOVED this book. It pretty much opened with a spicy AF scene between our love interests (Brinkley and Mark… hot damn), and then evolves into an enemies to lovers story.

Like are you kidding me??? Can a romance book get anymore perfect???

Oh, yeah. Mark is a dang professor.

I enjoyed Brinkley’s hijinks as a professional heartbreaker. Homegirl makes bank to take down icky men? I know exactly what I want to do when I grow up.

Mark was an absolute sweetheart, the spice had me fanning myself (good thing I was reading in the pool, TBH.), and honestly, the sexual tension between Mark and Brinkley when they were enemies was just… wow. I have never wanted two characters to bang more than the two of them.

That might be a lie, I want all my romance characters to bang.

Perfect for readers who can’t get enough spice or enemies to lovers in their romance books.

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Rating: 5 out of 5.
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3 stars · Book Reviews · non-fiction

Review | The Hidden Power of F*cking Up

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase an item using my link, I will receive a small commission with no extra cost to you.

The Hidden Power of F*cking Up by The Try Guys
Dey Street Books, 2019
Non-Fiction
288 pages
3/5 Stars

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Trigger Warnings: Mention of racism, homophobia, childhood mental illness, diet culture.

GoodReads Synopsis:

The Try Guys deliver their first book—an inspirational self-improvement guide that teaches you that the path to success is littered with humiliating detours, embarrassing mistakes, and unexpected failures.

To be our best selves, we must become secure in our insecurities. In The Hidden Power of F*cking Up, The Try Guys – Keith, Ned, Zach, and Eugene – reveal their philosophy of trying: how to fully embrace fear, foolishness, and embarrassment in an effort to understand how we all get paralyzed by a fear of failure. They’ll share how four shy, nerdy kids have dealt with their most poignant life struggles by attacking them head-on and reveal their – ahem – sure-fail strategies for achieving success.

But they’re not just here to talk; they’re actually going to put their advice to work. To demonstrate their unique self-improvement formula, they’ll each personally confront their deepest insecurities. A die-hard meat-lover goes vegan for the first time. A straight-laced father transforms into a fashionista. A perpetually single sidekick becomes the romantic lead. A child of divorce finally grows more intimate with his family. Through their insightful, emotional journeys and surprising, hilarious anecdotes, they’ll help you overcome your own self-doubt to become the best, most f*cked up version of yourself you can be!

Review:

Let me start by saying that I’m a pretty big fan of the Try Guys. I’m not like, a die hard fan, nor can I say that I’ve seen every single one of their videos or anything like that… but I really like them, and I know all of their partners’ names, so I think that qualifies me as a ‘pretty big fan’.

That being said, I was really disappointed by this book. I listened to the audiobook, and I thought I would love it, because I enjoyed the few episodes of their podcast that I listened to, but I felt like the narrator changed too often without being identified, which confused me.

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There was also a lot of diet culture talk which I found extremely disappointing. For example, Keith was talking about how since eating less meat and exercising more frequently, he feels so much more healthy… and then immediately followed that with how he’s lost a pants size. He then goes on to say that it’s about health, not weight loss, which simply isn’t true if he found his weight loss meaningful enough to mention in his book.

I also was disappointed that the guys never seemed to acknowledge the privilege behind many of their suggestions and experiences. This was super disappointing to me, because I never get that vibe from their videos. In their videos, they seem to be very aware of their privileges and mention it when necessary, but they seemed just so out of touch in this book, and it made me really sad.

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Similarly, many of their suggestions and experiences don’t seem to take things like mental health or class into account. The only mention of mental illness and health is when Zach talks about his experience with major depression as a child, which don’t get me wrong, was very interesting. But none of the guys really talked about how they take care of their mental health as adults besides exercise and meditation (which are very good things, but many, many people need medication, therapy, or other treatments for their mental health). A lot of their suggestions simply don’t seem sustainable for those who struggle with their mental health more than they do.

I still like the Try Guys. I still plan on watching their videos, but this book didn’t seem to be written by the same men you see on YouTube.

Perfect for Try Guys fans who watch the videos and think “wow, I really wish these guys were less likable.”

Rating: 3 out of 5.
3 stars · romance

Review | Float Plan

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase an item using my link, I will receive a small commission with no extra cost to you.

Float Plan by Trish Doller
St. Martin’s Griffin 2021
Romance
272 pages
3/5 Stars

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Trigger Warnings: Suicide, Addiction, Self-harm

GoodReads Synopsis:

Critically acclaimed author Trish Doller’s unforgettable and romantic adult debut about setting sail, starting over, and finding yourself…

Since the loss of her fiancé, Anna has been shipwrecked by grief—until a reminder goes off about a trip they were supposed to take together. Impulsively, Anna goes to sea in their sailboat, intending to complete the voyage alone.

But after a treacherous night’s sail, she realizes she can’t do it by herself and hires Keane, a professional sailor, to help. Much like Anna, Keane is struggling with a very different future than the one he had planned. As romance rises with the tide, they discover that it’s never too late to chart a new course.

In Trish Doller’s unforgettable Float Plan, starting over doesn’t mean letting go of your past, it means making room for your future.

Review:

When I was a little girl, my grandfather took my sister and I sailing in the Hudson River. We cried the entire time as the boat rocked back and forth in the New York night. I hated every minute. Meanwhile my grandfather was a sailor who had sailed the Caribbean and had sailing in his blood, so he enjoyed it immensely.

But. This book made me want to give sailing another shot so that I can sail the Caribbean and find myself. Okay, fine. Find the handsome Irish sailor of my dreams.

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This was a lovely book. I really appreciated Anna and Keane’s adventure and their growth as individuals. Is Keane the man of my dreams? I mean, he is Irish Catholic, and I’m Irish American Catholic, so probably.

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Please note that there were graphic mentions of suicide at times, which I found unnecessary and triggering, but also understood that it made sense for Anna’s inner monologue.

Perfect for dreamers and people looking to let go of the past.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

5 Stars · Book Reviews · romance

Review | Get a Life, Chloe Brown

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase an item using my link, I will receive a small commission with no extra cost to you.

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
Avon, 2019
Romance
373 pages
5/5 Stars

Trigger Warnings: PTSD, Chronic illness, Aftermath of abusive relationship (Talia Hibbert does include a content warning at the beginning of her books, bless her.)

GoodReads Synopsis

Chloe Brown is a chronically ill computer geek with a goal, a plan, and a list. After almost—but not quite—dying, she’s come up with seven directives to help her “Get a Life”, and she’s already completed the first: finally moving out of her glamorous family’s mansion. The next items?

• Enjoy a drunken night out.
• Ride a motorcycle.
• Go camping.
• Have meaningless but thoroughly enjoyable sex.
• Travel the world with nothing but hand luggage.
• And… do something bad.

But it’s not easy being bad, even when you’ve written step-by-step guidelines on how to do it correctly. What Chloe needs is a teacher, and she knows just the man for the job.

Redford ‘Red’ Morgan is a handyman with tattoos, a motorcycle, and more sex appeal than ten-thousand Hollywood heartthrobs. He’s also an artist who paints at night and hides his work in the light of day, which Chloe knows because she spies on him occasionally. Just the teeniest, tiniest bit.

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But when she enlists Red in her mission to rebel, she learns things about him that no spy session could teach her. Like why he clearly resents Chloe’s wealthy background. And why he never shows his art to anyone. And what really lies beneath his rough exterior…

Review

I actually read this book for the first time in August or September of 2020, but I wasn’t regularly blogging then. Since it was immediately one of my favorite reads and I had a lot of thoughts on it, I decided to re-read it so I could give you an up-to-date review with my thoughts. It was also one of the first romance books I read that made me think, “Wait… I really like this genre….” I always kind of read and viewed romance books as cheap entertainment before that, which I now realize is an opinion based on my own internalized misogyny.

The re-read was worth it, and the book still lives up to the hype in my opinion. The romance is just as sweet and heartwarming the second time. The sex scenes are still as steamy the second read, but a little less shocking (not a bad thing.). Red and Chloe were just as amazing the second read, and now that I own all of the Brown sister books (I haven’t read the last one yet!), I paid more attention whenever Dani and Eve were featured.

I do want to say this book has WAY steamier sex scenes than I’d thought before reading it. I always read sexy scenes in secret and felt ashamed of it. Yay purity culture (Maybe I’ll talk more on that later.)! I remember reading it at the hotel with my mom and clutching my metaphorical pearls at the explicit language and imagery in the sex scenes. That’s something I liked a little better during my re-read, I was a little less scandalized.

This is also probably one of my most recommended books. I feel like I recommend it to almost everybody. I have a friend who has almost identical taste in books as me (Hi, Michelle!) and I think I’ve recommended it to her like five times?!

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Perfect for lonely hearts after a year of quarantine and readers who wish Mr. Darcy was real.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

5 Stars · Book Reviews · non-fiction · politics · Reading

Review | Where the Light Enters

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase an item using my link, I will receive a small commission with no extra cost to you.

Where the Light Enters by Jill Biden
Flatiron Books, 2019
Non-Fiction
210 pages
5/5 Stars

GoodReads Synopsis

An intimate look at the love that built the Biden family and the delicate balancing act of the woman at its center.

“How did you get this number?” Those were the first words Jill Biden spoke to U.S. senator Joe Biden when he called her out of the blue to ask her on a date.

Growing up, Jill had wanted two things: a marriage like her parents’ – strong, loving, and full of laughter – and a career. An early heartbreak had left her uncertain about love, until she met Joe. But as they grew closer, Jill faced difficult questions: How would politics shape her family and professional life? And was she ready to become a mother to Joe’s two young sons?

She soon found herself falling in love with her three “boys,” learning to balance life as a mother, wife, educator, and political spouse. Through the challenges of public scrutiny, complicated family dynamics, and personal losses, she grew alongside her family, and she extended the family circle at every turn: with her students, military families, friends and staff at the White House, and more.

This is the story of how Jill built a family – and a life – of her own. From the pranks she played to keep everyone laughing to the traditions she formed that would carry them through tragedy, hers is the spirited journey of a woman embracing many roles.

‘WHERE THE LIGHT ENTERS’ is a candid, heartwarming glimpse into the creation of a beloved American family, and the life of a woman at its center.

Review:

I got this book a few weeks ago when Audible was having a 2-for-1 sale on select books. I voted for Biden, though I’m not his biggest fan (Being on TikTok over the summer pretty much turned me into a complete Leftist.) and I didn’t know anything about Jill Biden besides that she’s a teacher. And what that one scene of Leslie and Ben going to the White House to play Charades with Joe and Jill showed in Parks and Rec.

So, all I knew about Jill Biden was that she was a teacher, and that she thought Leslie Knope was too competitive.

Jill is an extraordinary woman. Her story follows her from her family background and childhood to her rebellious teenaged years (which to her time as the Second Lady of the United States being a rebellious teenager (which was my favorite thing, honestly) to the Second Lady (This was written before the 2020 election!) of the United States. It shows how she and Joe met (which might be my all-time favorite meet-cute, oh my God.) and how she became a mother to his sons (Fun fact, Joe proposed FIVE times before Jill agreed to marry him.)

I loved how this book was written, and since I listened to it on Audible, I got to hear Jill her story herself. I learned so much about her, Joe, and the rest of the Biden family (If a Biden is reading this, please adopt me.). She is down to earth, and takes her jobs as mother, grandmother, teacher, wife, and Second Lady very seriously. But never ever reluctantly. The way that she speaks of the work that she does, and the way she speaks about her family shows how much she loves all of it, despite the difficulties she experiences attimes.

This book is a beautiful story of how The Bidens we see in the White House became a family. It’s a story of loss and grief, of new beginnings, of faith, but mostly of love.

Recommended For: Anyone who voted for Biden and people who love stories of close and loving families.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

4 stars · Book Reviews · Reading · Uncategorized · young adult

Review | With the Fire on High

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase an item using my link, I will receive a small commission with no extra cost to you.

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
Quill Tree Books, 2019
Young Adult
400 pages
4/5 Stars

GoodReads Synopsis:

With her daughter to care for and her abuela to help support, high school senior Emoni Santiago has to make the tough decisions, and do what must be done. The one place she can let her responsibilities go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness. Still, she knows she doesn’t have enough time for her school’s new culinary arts class, doesn’t have the money for the class’s trip to Spain — and shouldn’t still be dreaming of someday working in a real kitchen. But even with all the rules she has for her life — and all the rules everyone expects her to play by — once Emoni starts cooking, her only real choice is to let her talent break free.

Review:

So, this was a hard book for me to rate. I went between four and five stars no less than three times, I swear. I really enjoyed it. The audiobook was incredible, and the imagery and descriptions really transported me. I loved the story. I loved the characters.

But. The ending disappointed me. I’m not sure what it is, exactly, it’s a fine ending!

I just felt like something was missing. It left me really wanting more in terms of Emoni’s journey, and not in a good way.

Besides that, though, I really enjoyed the book. I loved Pretty Leslie’s redemption arc, and when Emoni was cooking, I could truly feel her love and passion for expressing herself through food and creating food that moves people.

Perfect for aspiring chefs, foodies, and fans of ‘Waitress’ the musical.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

4 stars · Book Reviews · Reading · young adult

Review | The Girls I’ve Been

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase an item using my link, I will receive a small commission with no extra cost to you.

The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe
G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2021
Young Adult
336 pages
4/5 Stars

Trigger Warnings: violence, abuse.

GoodReads Synopsis

Nora O’Malley’s been a lot of girls. As the daughter of a con-artist who targets criminal men, she grew up as her mother’s protégé. But when mom fell for the mark instead of conning him, Nora pulled the ultimate con: escape.

For five years Nora’s been playing at normal. But she needs to dust off the skills she ditched because she has three problems:

#1: Her ex walked in on her with her girlfriend. Even though they’re all friends, Wes didn’t know about her and Iris.

#2: The morning after Wes finds them kissing, they all have to meet to deposit the fundraiser money they raised at the bank. It’s a nightmare that goes from awkward to deadly, because:

#3: Right after they enter bank, two guys start robbing it.

The bank robbers may be trouble, but Nora’s something else entirely. They have no idea who they’re really holding hostage…

Review

I’m usually not a thriller reader, but when I saw this on Instagram, I knew I had to read it. A reformed con AND bisexual representation?? I don’t know, that sounds pretty perfect to me.

And I was NOT disappointed. This book had me on the edge of my seat wondering what was going to happen next. It was absolutely incredible to watch Nora use the lessons she’d learned from the girls she’d been (get it?!) to save her and her friends’ lives. She is clever, crafty and quick, and because of her past, she has future.

I also LOVED Nora’s relationships with Wes and Iris. The night before the story starts, Wes, Nora’s ex-boyfriend (who had suggested Iris was interested in a relationship with Nora, and whose relationship with Nora ended because of a lack of honesty) walked in on Nora and Iris. I really appreciated that Wes wasn’t upset because his ex was moving on, or was with a girl, but because he and Nora were close friends, and she didn’t tell him. Also because he knew that Nora hadn’t been honest with Iris about her past yet. But it wasn’t anything to do with his pride, and only concern for his friendship with Nora and Nora and Iris’ relationship. Wes said no toxic masculinity in this house.

I also appreciated seeing Nora in therapy. Although she couldn’t be completely honest in her sessions, (because, you know, her life was in danger.) it was really powerful to see her trying to work through her trauma in such a healthy environment.

I absolutely loved this book. Here’s to hoping for a sequel in which we get to see Nora (with the help of Iris and Wes, because let’s be honest, they’re perfect) taking down more of her demons.

Perfect for Reputation era stans,

Rating: 4 out of 5.

3.5 stars · Book Reviews · Entertainment · historical fiction · Lifestyle · Reading · young adult

Book Review: “Lovely War”

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Lovely War by Julie Berry
Viking Books for Young Readers, 2019
Young Adult / Historical Fiction
480 pages
3.5/5 Stars

Trigger Warnings: Violence, War, Death, Sexual Assault, Racism, Race Related Violence and Death, Depictions of PTSD

GoodReads Synopsis:

It’s 1917, and World War I is at its zenith when Hazel and James first catch sight of each other at a London party. She’s a shy and talented pianist; he’s a newly minted soldier with dreams of becoming an architect. When they fall in love, it’s immediate and deep–and cut short when James is shipped off to the killing fields.

Aubrey Edwards is also headed toward the trenches. A gifted musician who’s played Carnegie Hall, he’s a member of the 15th New York Infantry, an all-African-American regiment being sent to Europe to help end the Great War. Love is the last thing on his mind. But that’s before he meets Colette Fournier, a Belgian chanteuse who’s already survived unspeakable tragedy at the hands of the Germans.

Thirty years after these four lovers’ fates collide, the Greek goddess Aphrodite tells their stories to her husband, Hephaestus, and her lover, Ares, in a luxe Manhattan hotel room at the height of World War II. She seeks to answer the age-old question: Why are Love and War eternally drawn to one another? But her quest for a conclusion that will satisfy her jealous husband uncovers a multi-threaded tale of prejudice, trauma, and music and reveals that War is no match for the power of Love.

Review:

I believe this was one of those “BookTok” made me do it purchases I made at the height of quarantine this summer. Lovely War has sat on my bookshelf for months, and when I needed to read a book with a pink cover for a read-a-thon I participated in in January, I knew it was finally time to read it.

When I first started reading this book, I was absolutely amazed by the Greek mythology , beautiful love stories, and music references. It was absolutely incredible, and I decided only a few pages in that this was going to be a five star read.

Alas, it is not. Pretty quickly, some things I wasn’t a fan of began to happen. There was a sexual assault that I was not prepared for, and while it was not violent, it was described as almost identical to my own experience ten years ago. It was very triggering, and I only wish I had been prepared. There was also racism and a race-related murder that I wasn’t expecting that was difficult to read, especially in today’s day and age. Finally, the endings seemed to be very rushed, which is kind of funny, considering the book is over 400 pages. The amazing detail and imagery that I loved in the beginning seemed to vanish towards the end.

I liked this book. I did. But the sexual assault scene really, really rubbed me the wrong way. I think this goes to show why trigger warnings are important. When I was triggered, I froze. I read the same sentence over and over again as my own trauma replayed in my head. I’m grateful that with a lot of therapy, I’ve come a long way to being able to cope when I’ve been triggered. But it wasn’t always like that. In high school, I stayed away from books and movies with certain themes. I would ask my English teacher to give me a heads up, and had a plan in place with my resource counselor as what to do if I was assigned a book that could trigger me.

This isn’t a weakness. It’s self-awareness. I know myself very well, and I know what can trigger me. Trigger warnings allow me to prepare myself and cope ahead. Half of the power of my triggers is that they can blindside me. Trigger warnings take the power away from my trauma and put it back in my hands.

In all the hype I saw for this book, I don’t remember seeing one trigger warning for sexual assault. Granted, I bought the book around six months ago, so I could be wrong, and his could be my own error. But another reason that the sexual assault really bothered me is that it seemed so needless. I think the scene was only thrown in for shock value, and I really didn’t appreciate that.

If you’d like to purchase this book for yourself, please consider purchasing from an independent bookstore, or if that isn’t possible for you, please consider using my Amazon Affiliate Link.

Rating:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

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