Review | Fire and Ice (Mauzzy & Me Mystery Book 2) by B.T. Polcari

Disclosure: I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author and/or publisher. All views expressed are only my honest opinion. A positive review is not required. Also, I may earn a commission on some affiliate links below, whose fees support independent bookshops. Hope you will consider getting it at a local bookstore.

Published on: 15 August 15
Published by: The Wild Rose Press, Inc
Type: series, no cliffhangers
Genre: Teen & Young Adult, Mysteries & Detective Stories, Humorous Fiction
Tropes: cozy mystery tropes
Author: B.T. Polcari
Book Length: 309 pages
Read: 01 June 2022
Shelved: 10 June 2022
Rating: 4 / 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Synopsis

After encountering a brief power outage at work, college student Sara Donovan might be allowing her imagination to run wild. The main vault in the Carlton Museum holds the Fire and Ice Exhibit, a collection of rare gems, including the Star of Midnight, a 175-carat diamond. Although all the stones are accounted for, Sara suspects the Star of Midnight was stolen and replaced with a fake.

While conducting her own investigation, what Sara uncovers is beyond even her wildest imagination: a coded message, papers with strange characters, and a mysterious set of numbers carved into an office wall. Despite dismissive historians and other experts, she is certain these clues point to a mysterious centuries-old legend.

Unfortunately, her colorful history of usually being right, but always being wrong, means she must solve the mystery to prove her theory.


Review

Disclosure:  I highly suggest readers start from Book 1 so as not to miss out on the “importance” of these guest characters to the plot and why Sara has to trust/not trust them, especially when they seem to know more than they say

As expected in most mystery theme books, Fire & Ice is told from Sara’s POV only. The writing is clear, descriptive, and fascinating, although with some “overwhelming parts, especially when ciphering codes and math jargon spewed out. 

The story continues with Sara Donovan working at another museum (different from Book 1) and on the trail of another mystery that seems to have her using her investigative skill again. She tackles interesting theories and intriguing locations that, at first glance, are not related to the questioned mystery until the many layers of mystery peel off.

It was great to see “the gang” from Book 1, helping Sara again, especially Mrs. Majelski! I miss that spunky lady’s sense of humor and cryptic messages to Sara. Mejelski’s more fierce in this book and will surely win readers again!

I love how the author portrayed other supporting characters like Zoe, Matt, and even her father, clarifying a lot of technical stuff about code-breaking theories Sara got herself into. Even with the many new cast of characters helping Sara in the book, the hero and problem-solving came from Sara.

Although many moments showed how “lucky” Sarah stumbled on relevant tips and essential clues because of her friends, everything still felt organically developed as the story progressed.

The writing is well researched, especially with the clues and connections. The pacing is just right, but I must mention that there were moments that frustrated me. It was when the author would add a specific detail that I thought would add to Sara’s advantage or not but later found out that it didn’t “work.” Some parts repeated, like Sara’s boyfriend, Connor (in Book 1), was mentioned often to vouch for Sara’s credibility constantly. It’s great and good that Connor reassured that particular friend of Sara’s credibility, BUT that friend’s faith in Connor showed less and less each time Sara discovered something extraordinary and even started doubting her at some point in the book. I am not sure if maybe that’s the author’s point – to provide much doubt and “stack everything against Sarah” that when it all came down at the end, it will have more “weight.”

Ultimately, Fire & Ice is an excellent cozy mystery read with many code-cracking mysteries, suspense, and danger. It was so engaging that I could not stop reading and then later reflect on each inch of the clues. I was taken out of my comfort zone of cozy mystery and thrown into the headspace of double meanings, misleading clues, and well-placed deflections. This book is full of twists and turns that will make one flip-flop between who is involved and who is the “mastermind.” It is one marvelous adventure anyone can have in problem-solving.

Don’t just take my word for it. Read it and find out for yourself!

PROS:

– cute doggie Mauzzy helping out then leading Sara to go further
– excellent character development versus Book 1 for MC
– new casts and old converging to help solve the mystery
– ample Mrs. Majelski’s “air time” that provided the fierceness and spunk
– bigger picture lies outside of the museum piece (the diamond) and becomes a more explosive revelation in the end
– code-cracking skills well used and explained thoroughly

CONS:

– repetition of some minor events seems to distract than emphasize; could have done without
– not enough of Connor Reed (!!!)


About the Author

B. T. Polcari  is a graduate of Rutgers College of Rutgers University, an award-winning mystery author, and a proud father of two wonderful children. He’s a champion of rescue pups (Mauzzy is but one example), craves watching football and basketball, and, of course, loves reading mysteries. Among his favorite authors are D.P. Lyle, Robert B. Parker, and Michael Connelly. He is also an unapologetic fantasy football addict. He lives with his wife in scenic Chattanooga, Tennessee.

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Review | The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea by Axie Oh

Disclosure: All views expressed are only my honest opinion. A positive review is not required. Also, I may earn a commission on some affiliate links below, whose fees support independent bookshops. Hope you will consider getting it at a local bookstore.

Published on: 22 February 2022
Published by: Feiwel & Friends
Type: standalone
Genre: Fairytale & Folklore, Teen & Young Adult Historical Romance, Fantasy Romance
Tropes: Paranormal Romance, Fantasy
Reading age ‏ : ‎ 13 – 18 years
Grade level ‏ : ‎ 7 – 9
Author: Axie Oh
Book Length: 336 pages
Read: 08 August 2022
Shelved: 10 August 2022
Rating: 5 / 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Synopsis

Deadly storms have ravaged Mina’s homeland for generations. Floods sweep away entire villages while bloody wars are waged over the few remaining resources. Her people believe the Sea God, once their protector, now curses them with death and despair. In an attempt to appease him, each year, a beautiful maiden is thrown into the sea to serve as the Sea God’s bride, in the hopes that one day the “true bride” will be chosen and end the suffering.

Many believe that Shim Cheong, the most beautiful girl in the village—and the beloved of Mina’s older brother Joon—may be the legendary true bride. But on the night Cheong is to be sacrificed, Joon follows Cheong out to sea, even knowing that to interfere is a death sentence. To save her brother, Mina throws herself into the water in Cheong’s stead.

Swept away to the Spirit Realm, a magical city of lesser gods and mythical beasts, Mina seeks out the Sea God, only to find him caught in an enchanted sleep. With the help of a mysterious young man named Shin—as well as a motley crew of demons, gods, and spirits—Mina sets out to wake the Sea God and bring an end to the killer storms once and for all.

But she doesn’t have much time: A human cannot live long in the land of the spirits. And there are those who would do anything to keep the Sea God from waking…


Review

POV: first-person – Mina Song (from the Songs of the Lower Mountain)

I couldn’t mention much since most of the storyline has a lot of underlying secrets that made the book memorable because they were all hidden well before their revelations. 

I do want to say that as an avid reader of myths and mythology, especially the Asian ones, expect a few unexplained things NOT mentioned. Instead, I would ask readers to keep an open mind and give some leeway for the impossible – i.e., Mina being able to breathe underwater when she fell into the Sea God’s court.

Storyline/Plot: intricate and multi-layered

The book retells the Korean folklore, The Tale of Shim Cheong – a dutiful daughter who jumps into the sea to sacrifice herself to help her blind father and, later, is granted to return to the human realm as a reward for her selflessness.

The spin-off of the story is that Mina is part of this and instead jumps to the sea to take Shim’s place in being the Sea God’s bride as a sacrifice.

I love the unpredictability and uncertainty upon Mina’s arrival at the Sea God’s court. The magic and mysticism of the Sea God’s court were eye-opening, where one’s intentions aren’t as straightforward as they seem. The pacing was slower at the beginning, but as Mina’s time becomes limited, things pick up, which is great since many things were getting affected as Mina stays longer in the Sea Realm – both pleasant and unpleasant surprises. The taciturn and dire situation of saving the Sea God and Mina’s village morph and evolve into a beautiful gift, in the end, wrapped with healing, redemption, and fated love.

The world of the Sea, Spirit, and the Living Realms collide with Mina at its center. Mina’s journey has a lot of connection to the past SeaGod brides. I loved the flashbacks and recollections she had, even before Shim Cheong, woven into the path she had to encounter. These recollections help make the story believable and more endearing.

Characters: dynamic, diverse, and distinct

I do want to mention that Mina was consistently brave and selfless. She is witty and clear enough to adapt her grandmother’s wisdom and storytelling to get her out of sticky situations. It was one of the most endearing traits that inked its way in the Sea God’s head even after everything was set right. Her grit, persistence, and love beyond her happiness make the story work and genuine to her purpose from the beginning.

The supporting characters of Namgi, Kirin, Mask, and Dai were perfect. They all supported Mina and Shin in saving all the realms. I love the brotherly love between Namgi and Kirin, which gave much comic relief. Mask and Dai were perfect in guiding and helping Mina navigate through the Sea God’s realm and fiercely protecting each other in one of the most heartwrenching scenes! I was smiling ear-to-ear when later, Mask revealed their connection to Mina.

Side note before I conclude: Who cursed the Sea God?

Before I end this review, I had a few reader friends mention how they felt when they read this book. One mentioned that she still didn’t know who cursed the Sea God in the first place. Without giving away too much again, note that many answers will come up at the end, and most are stated passively due to angst, frustration, and guilt. The reader may breeze over it in passing without realizing that fact, BUT readers can deduce and connect the answers. 

Conclusion

I highly recommend The Girl Who Fell Beneath The Sea to YA romantic fantasy fanatics and myth and legends buffs. Its colorfully depicted world-building and dynamic characters will surely entice and charm readers. The plot is simple, yet the characters and their added conflicts and personalities make the story glow and shine. The twists and turns left hidden until the very end are what will get readers hooked. Though it may feel short, the epic ending was executed perfectly, given all of Mina’s risks and sacrifices. 


**NOTE: This book has been in my TBR for the longest time, and whenever I try to start on it, something “comes up,” so I always believe that readers should approach books in the “right frame of mind and time.” Good thing that I was in a reading slump after a few books failed to impress me, and I had to DNF most than write a review that I feel might be more my fault than the author.


About the Author

Axie Oh is a first-generation Korean American, born in New York City and raised in New Jersey. She studied Korean history and creative writing as an undergrad at the University of California San Diego and holds an MFA in Writing for Young People from Lesley University. Her passions include K-pop, anime, stationery supplies, and milk tea, and she currently resides in Las Vegas, Nevada, with her dog, Toro (named after Totoro). Axie is the New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea, XOXO, and the Rebel Seoul series. Her fifth novel, The Floating World, releases in 2024.

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Review | The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

Disclosure: All views expressed are only my honest opinion. A positive review is not required. Also, I may earn a commission on some affiliate links below, whose fees support independent bookshops. Hope you will consider getting it at a local bookstore.

Published on: 06 August 2013
Published by: William Morrow
Type: standalone
Genre: Asian American Literature & Fiction, Ghost Fiction, Cultural Heritage Fiction, Adventure and Romance
Tropes: Paranormal, Romance
Author: Yangsze Choo
Book Length: 368  pages
Read: 08 August 2022
Shelved: 09 August 2022
Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Synopsis

A startlingly original voice makes her literary debut with this wondrous coming-of-age story infused with Chinese folklore, romantic intrigue, adventure, and fascinating, dreamlike twists.

‘One evening, my father asked me whether I would like to become a ghost bride…’

Though ruled by British overlords, the Chinese of colonial Malaya still cling to ancient customs. And in the sleepy port town of Malacca, ghosts and superstitions abound.

Li Lan, the daughter of a genteel but bankrupt family, has few prospects. But fate intervenes when she receives an unusual proposal from the wealthy and powerful Lim family. They want her to become a ghost bride for the family’s only son, who recently died under mysterious circumstances. Rarely practiced, traditional ghost marriages are used to placate restless spirits. Such a union would guarantee Li Lan a home for the rest of her days but at a terrible price.

After an ominous visit to the opulent Lim mansion, Li Lan finds herself haunted not only by her ghostly would-be suitor but also by her desire for the Lims’ handsome new heir, Tian Bai. Night after night, she is drawn into the shadowy parallel world of the Chinese afterlife, with its ghost cities, paper funeral offerings, vengeful spirits, and monstrous bureaucracy—including the mysterious Er Lang, a charming but unpredictable guardian spirit. Li Lan must uncover the Lim family’s darkest secrets—and the truth about her own family—before she is trapped in this ghostly world forever.


Review

POV: first-person – Pan Li Lan (Li Lan)

PROs:

Detailed and unique world-building of Melaka (Malaysia)

This book dives into the fantastic world of the multi-racial population of Melaka, consisting of Chinese, Indians, and Malays, the Portuguese and Peranakan influences, beliefs, and culture of Malacca.

It is a page-turner with its exciting and engaging storyline making it hard to put down!

I remember wanting to hasten my read speed since many suspenseful moments kept me on edge! It is not to say that the author offered easy resolutions, too, since there were many sacrifices and self-discoveries that, if it weren’t for those, Li Lan would have made grave assumptions and more mistakes.

I enjoyed reading the secondary characters like Er Lang, Old Wong, and Amah. The story would not have worked for Li Lan without their insight, faith, and guidance. Ironically, I took more liking to Amah among the many characters in the book. She felt more like my grandmother with her superstitious beliefs and practices while my consciousness shuns away the young, naive Li Lan. I was more connected and invested in them than Li Lan. I am glad that Li Lan makes the best decision for her and her family in the end because of these characters.

CONs:

The limited character development of Pan Li Lan is because the author’s primary focus is on showcasing the culture and practices. Based on her situation, I felt the story is more about documenting the tradition and what happened to Pan Li than expecting much of her to take revolutionary steps in growing herself. 

There were too many “bad decisions” on Li Lan’s part that would not have been necessary if she had been patient and cool enough to find what she sought. She was inexperienced, naive, impatient, and more immature than someone who is supposedly wife material.

I have to credit Li Lan for hardening herself with each discovery of her family and the Lim family. Still, it didn’t progress enough, as seen when she returned to her home and started finding a way to get her HEA. She somehow still is the same girl from the beginning of the story, which frustrated me more! She is still lost and unable to overcome her dilemma and takes a lot of risks, even after escaping many dire situations! 

Determined and relentless qualities describe her very well, and she finally resolved so many questions in the end. I am happy that she followed her heart and found out the truth about herself, and resolved things for the families involved.

Final Verdict:

I rarely stay on a book if I can’t connect to the main characters or find them frustrating. I did love the storyline, so I pushed on even when the characters were “weaker” than I expected. There is a lot of suspense, action, and drama, but ultimately, I am glad that the ending was befitting and gave me much relief when it came time.

If you want a detailed look and the exoticism of Asia, namely the mix of mainly Chinese, Indians, and Malays, the Portuguese and Peranakan culture, AND a very plot-driven storyline. In that case, The Ghost Bride is for you!


About the Author

Yangsze Choo is a NYTimes bestselling novelist and a fourth-generation Malaysian of Chinese descent. Due to a childhood spent in various countries, she can eavesdrop (badly) in several languages. After graduating from Harvard University, she worked in various corporate jobs and had a briefcase while writing fiction on a coffee table at home in her spare time. 

Her first novel, THE GHOST BRIDE (2013), was a Goodreads Choice finalist, CILIP Carnegie nominee, Oprah.com’s best book of the week, and now a Netflix Original series, which was released Jan 23, 2020. Her second novel, THE NIGHT TIGER (2019), was Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club Pick, Amazon’s Spotlight Pick, and a Book of the Month Club selection, as well as one of the best books of the year for Amazon, The Washington Review of Books, Bookpage, Chicago Public Library, Los Angeles Public Library, Parade, Real Simple, and Self Magazine.

Yangsze loves to eat and read and often does both at the same time. Neither of her books would have been possible without large quantities of dark chocolate. Yangsze is represented by literary agent Jenny Bent.

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Review | Need You Now (Nashville Star Series 3) by Ava Hunter

Disclosure: I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author and/or publisher. All views expressed are only my honest opinion. A positive review is not required. Also, I may earn a commission on some affiliate links below, whose fees support independent bookshops. Hope you will consider getting it at a local bookstore.

Published on: 18 July 2022
Publisher: Julia Archer
Type: series, standalone
Genre: Sisters Fiction, Southern Fiction, Women’s Friendship Fiction
Tropes: Music/Band/Rocker, Second Chances, Small Town Boy/City Girl
Author: Ava Hunter
Book Length: 366 pages
Read: 12 July 2022
Shelved: 17 July 2022

Rating: 3 / 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐

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Synopsis

She saved him when he needed her. Now he’ll save her too.

After making a tragic mistake that nearly cost him his brother, his reputation, and his sobriety, playboy Seth Kincaid wants nothing more than to hide the secrets of his past. When he hears that his sometimes-secret fling—and his guardian angel in high heels —Lacey Sutton is injured, he’s determined to repay her by stepping up to take care of her.

But Lacey is off-limits. She’s Seth’s best friend’s little sister.

Even if her sassy banter, wild temper, and gorgeous curves are the best kind of addiction.

Event planner Lacey Sutton has time for only one thing in her life: her job. She doesn’t have time for relationships or injuries that could cost her the party of the century. And she definitely doesn’t have time for cocky country singers with ocean-blue eyes, broad shoulders, and chiseled jaws.

Love is not on Lacey’s carefully planned agenda. Even if the way Seth looks at her has her wanting to let him into her guarded heart.

However, their close confines soon transform their attraction from lust to love. But when Seth’s superstardom calls him back to Nashville—and reality—Seth and Lacey must face the truth about themselves and their secrets, or they’ll risk losing what they never knew they needed: each other.

Need You Now is the third book in the Nashville Star series. It’s a full-length second-chance country romance with no cliffhanger, no cheating, and a happily-ever-after guaranteed. Content and trigger warnings: references to drug abuse and eating disorders.


Review

Trigger Warning: drugs and alcohol abuse, depression, anxiety, mugging, impostor syndrome, bulimic tendencies, fractured/dysfunctional family dynamics

Story: Seth and Lacey’s story
POV: first-person, dual-POV; Seth and Lacey

The bad boy of the group, Seth Kinkaid, is showcased in this book. It discusses heavier topics from previous books in the series. 

Need You Now‘s plot is well-paced and developed, though there were moments when I felt it could have been shorter and still would have been effective for me. The characters were honest and raw, mainly based on past books. I appreciate the continuity that helped piece together the character traits and personalities. 

I like how readers of the series will get to know Seth and Lacey more this time through intimate conversations and admissions. There is much self-doubt for both characters, which pushes the story longer and more detailed. Both MCs shared heartbreaking backgrounds that impacted them during stressful situations.

It was interesting to see the character development process in these characters, but one more striking is Seth’s development to show his emotions to Lacey versus the latter. I must admit that the relationship from friendship to more turned out so cute in the end! I love how Seth was more forthright on his emotions versus Lacey, which is an uncommon trait for a man.

Did all the proclamation of love and devotion help me love the book more? Maybe, but I got frustrated when Lacey jumped two or more steps backward in her commitment to Seth and even to her sister, Sal, at some point. The self-deprecating moments were a sure downer. No matter what anyone said, Lacey wouldn’t believe she had so much strength and opportunities as she first realized.

I enjoyed seeing the previous book’s characters’ relationship with each other even after much turmoil and conflict happened in the past that were controversial and tragic due to being famous.

In conclusion, Need You Now is a slow-burn read, full of angst between two attractive MCs. The enemies-to-friends-to-soulmates theme runs deep in this book. I am glad these two MCs finally got their HEA after much pain and tragedy in each backstory. There are moments of self-doubt, even after much reassurance from everyone around them. It further shows readers how flawed these MCs are and had to work things out within themselves versus depending on others for the solutions outside.

Pros:
– Angst, slow-burn
– Character development is slow but steady
– Better insight of MC through past characters

Cons:
– Moment of repetitiveness was a downer at times


About the Author

Ava Hunter is a strong believer in black coffee, red wine, and then there’s-only-one-bed trope. She writes contemporary romance with healthy amounts of angst where the damsels are never quite damsels, but the men they love (good, bad, and rugged) are always there for them. Her first series, Nashville Star, centers on sexy country singers and their honky-tonk drama-filled lives. When Ava isn’t parked in front of the computer writing, she is coming, reading, traveling, drinking wine, baking, and watching good TV. She writes from her home in Arizona, where she lives with her husband, daughter, and a very chonky cat.

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Review | Cutter (Badges of the Capital 2) by Misha Blake

Disclosure: I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author and/or publisher. All views expressed are only my honest opinion. A positive review is not required.

Published on: 12 July 2022
Type: HEA, series
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Suspense/ Mystery, Drama, Second Chances
Author: Misha Blake
Read: 05 July 2022
Shelved: 07 July 2022
Rating: 3 / 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐

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Synopsis

Firefighter Mason “Cutter” Carter is one of the lucky ones—he is still alive after his life nearly got claimed in a fire. So when he wakes up from a coma, Mason is ready to get back to the life he knows—or the one he thinks he knows where the idea of a wife and a marriage is non-existent, but where the heart-stoppingly gorgeous brunette still haunts his nights and torments his days.

Ensley Carter-Walker puts the fire and the fighter in the term firefighter. Always strong, forever the one people would count on, Ensley has the fire in her soul and the fight in every fiber of her being. Now, more than ever, these attributes are challenged as she begins the battle of her life—fighting for Mason’s love and their marriage while experiencing his excruciating denial to succumb to his feelings for her.

Lies are told and truths are hidden.
Secrets are harbored and emotions are triggered.
Attraction skyrockets and tension builds.
Denied temptation hangs on by a thread and blurred lines get crossed.
Mason and Ensley gamble on a chance that could bring them a thriving forever or a tragic cessation.

The present’s stakes are high when Mason can’t outrun his deceitful and well-concealed past that catches up to him, creating an uncertain future. But the price to be paid gets even steeper when Ensley proves to be the only one standing between him and his looming legacy, and her life is in danger.

A fast-ticking clock sets off and every second that clicks by wagers against the love and happily ever after they once promised to each other—a vow remarkably close that’s within reach, but so dangerously far all the same.


Review

Trigger Warning: divorce (mentioned), foster care, broken family

Cutter talks about a man who got lost and then rescued by love, family, and friends. It talks about how far one is willing to go to protect their loved ones while, at the same time, finding the strength to hold on to one’s soulmate.

The POV is from both MCs – Mason Carter and Ensley Walker, two firefighters trying their best to help their community.

I enjoyed the lessons in the book, like:

  1. How marriage is an ongoing project wherein couples must work with each other constantly to show their love and support.
  2. A family can come from many forms beyond giving birth.
  3. If all ends fail, be honest and let others in to help.

It is realistic and raw. It shows that a HEA married couple can still fall and run into big problems. Ensley was fearless in doing what she did. It was risky, but I understand her position, no matter how frustrating. I believe that with proper communication (and fewer secrets) from the start, everyone involved would have minimized all the heartache. BUT this is the author’s specialty…to bring in as much angst in a story. I cannot fault the author for this formula/direction. I would have better accepted the whole premise if the MCs had good communication from the start, then they brought in conflict, insecurity, and angst. I would be in a better headspace to accept the situation. 

I find the pacing a bit slower and repetitive at times. There is the point of Mason forgetting what he is to Ensley that shows through flashbacks and recollection that seems to drag some bits of the story. There was much grief and anguish in both Ensley and Mason’s situations and internal discussions that would distract me from focusing on the problem and piecing together the “missing pieces” of the story. 

About three-fourths of the story, the pace gets faster and more exciting – when Mason finally becomes vulnerable, and his secret slowly emerges. Readers get to see why Mason did what he did and the past that comes catching up with him. I love the action-packed, suspenseful ending that will grip readers till the end. 

Even with the above, I would still recommend Cutter. It is a good continuation of the series that will tie in many questions on what happened to Ensley. It continues from where it left off and provides an in-depth exploration of life after a wedding, basically how to make marriages last, which is to love and “fight” fiercely and honor their vows.


Meet the Author

Misha Blake is a new young author who lives her life in rainy England.
She has only just begun her long-postponed and long-overdue journey into the world of writing, but she is no stranger to romance herself.
Misha finds her inspiration for her books in everything that surrounds her, in her family, friends, and even the strangers on the streets.
Her genre is a steamy romance with a pinch of suspense and drama. It surrounds around strong and sexy heroes who dare to fall in love and love the heroines who are just as incredibly stubborn as they are alluring.

Connect with Misha
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Review | Under a Whispering Door by T.J. Klune

Disclosure: All views expressed are only my honest opinion. A positive review is not required. Also, I may earn a commission on some affiliate links below, whose fees support independent bookshops. Hope you will consider getting it at a local bookstore.

Published on: 21 September 2021
Published by: Tor Books
Type:
standalone, series
Genre:
LGBTQ+ Humorous Fiction,  Fantasy Fiction
Author:
TJ Klune
Book Length:
390 pages (hardcover)
Read:
20 June 2022
Shelved:
25 June 2022
Rating: 4 / 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Synopsis

When a reaper comes to collect Wallace Price from his own funeral, Wallace suspects he really might be dead.

Instead of leading him directly to the afterlife, the reaper takes him to a small village. On the outskirts, off the path through the woods, tucked between mountains, is a particular tea shop, run by a man named Hugo. Hugo is the tea shop’s owner to locals and the ferryman to souls who need to cross over.

But Wallace isn’t ready to abandon the life he barely lived. With Hugo’s help, he finally starts to learn about all the things he missed in life.

When the Manager, a curious and powerful being, arrives at the tea shop and gives Wallace one week to cross over, Wallace sets about living a lifetime in seven days.

By turns heartwarming and heartbreaking, this absorbing tale of grief and hope is told with TJ Klune’s signature warmth, humor, and extraordinary empathy.


Review

Trigger Warning: discussion of death, mention of suicide, murder, coping with grief

Representation : Asian, LGBTG+, BIPOC

Disclosure: I may be biased after reading the author’s previous book that I enjoyed, so I guess I expected more or maybe too much after reading this book. Note that I did like it, and I believe it’s a great follow-up to Book 1, BUT it didn’t give me as much of the “wow factor” as its predecessor.

The POV is from Wallace’s; first person. This technique made things mysterious and emphasized Wallace’s journey towards redemption even after death. There are the usual themes of “seize the day” present, but what stands out is the ‘new possibilities’ for Wallace beyond the living that catches me. These stages of self-acceptance and forgiveness ring loud and truel. I found it beautiful that Wallace still wanted to help others even after his death.   

The plot may seem simple at first, but as the reader dives deeper into the book, the reader gets to peeling layers of complexity that incorporate various life messages like 

The pace started slow and then maintained that calm pacing, even if the MC was getting worked up with discovering he was now dead and no one seemed to care. 

Some references to Book 1 were like Easter eggs, especially when things got desperate for the MCs. It provided great pause/relief to the tension. Philosophical themes and messages resonate in both – this book, and Book 1, provides a welcome treat.

Aside from Wallace, I found my connection to Hugo Freeman. 

Hugo reminds me of a doula for ghosts to help them pass on. His patience and non-invasive presence make him an excellent fit for the job as a ferryman. To an extent, he helped Wallance connect to the what, why, and how of his position as a ghost. A lot of hand-holding that is endearing that went beyond the relationship between a ferryman and his assigned ghost.

Wallace’s internal and external conflicts were many and complex. I remembered feeling trapped for many moments in the book. Wallace is dead and had to cross over, but at the same time, he wants to prove that he is a better person, dead versus alive. Wallace goes through a unique path of redemption juxtaposed with a unique “after-life” bureaucracy to test his beliefs and morals in helping himself and the rest of the characters in the book.

There is much character development, making this book captivating and addicting to read. Wallace learned to be “part of a team” and become a better person/ghost. Yes, there were mistakes, but Wallace learned from them and used his expertise to help Hugo, Mei, Nelson, etc., to make things right. It’s how life, even beyond the living, is still done as per the book. 

The ending was not something I expected. I think readers will agree that it was the “right ending” for this book. I appreciate the author giving options at the end, even if it seems too “obvious” if Wallace wants to “help” now versus before. The message of “never too late to help” resonates. When life’s frivolities are taken out, people will choose kindness.

In summary, Under the Whispering Door got me so hooked that I did not want it to end! The message of love, connections, found family, redemption, and forgiveness – make this book an excellent read with thought-provoking life lessons when faced with urgency. It is geared to a higher reader audience but is current and relevant for the times.


About the Author

Tj Klune is a Lambda Literary Award-winning author (Into This River I Drown) and an ex-claims examiner for an insurance company. His novels include the Green Creek series, The House on the Cerulean Sea, and The Exraordinaries. Being queer himself, TJ believes it’s important—now more than ever—to have accurate, positive, queer representation in stories.

Connect with TJ
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Review | An Unreliable Magic  (A Hundred Names for Magic 2) by Rin Chupeco

Disclosure: All views expressed are only my honest opinion. Also, I may earn a commission on some affiliate links below, whose fees support independent bookshops. Hope you will consider getting it at a local bookstore.

Published on: May 3, 2022
Published by: Sourcebooks Fire
Type: trilogy, series
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary Fantasy, Wizard & Witches Fantasy, Fairy Tales & Folklore
Tropes: fairytale retelling, folklore-inspired, LGBTQ+, Fantasy, Savior/champion, quest/adventure tropes, friends-to-enemies, grey moral characters, reluctant hero
Author: Rin Chupeco
Book Length: 432 pages
Reading age ‏ : ‎ 14 – 18 years
Grade level ‏ : ‎ 8 – 12

Read: 14 June 2022
Shelved: 16 June 2022
Rating: 4 / 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Synopsis

The second book in the A Hundred Names for Magic trilogy, an unforgettable alternative history fairy-tale series from the author of The Bone Witch about finding family, modern-day magic, and finding the place you belong.

Tala, Alex, and the rest of their friends are safe for now but know the Snow Queen is still out there. They have to be prepared for when she eventually attacks—and all decide to do so in their own way.

When Ryker comes out of the woodwork, showing himself when he starts attacking American detention facilities and freeing refugees. And the Nameless Sword, a legendary weapon that according to Avalon legend, will make its wielder the most powerful warrior of their time turns up with her name on it, Tala’s life gets messier…But when the Snow Queen arrives with an unlikely ally, the group will have to work together.


Review

Trigger Warnings:

– institutional abuse
– war / destruction
– immigration issues
physically and psychologically abuse
homophobia, racism,
police abuse/brutality
– actions of violence,
– mention of death
mind control or manipulation
“ugly side of capitalism”

Representation: 

– LGBTQ representation: cis, pan, sapphic, nonbinary, gay – supporting and otherwise
– Myriad cultures, heritage, ethnicity, race, and nationalities like Filipino, Chinese, Japanese, Nigerians, and Europeans

POV: multi-characters, limited

Note: this is a trilogy, so coming into this book would require readers to read Book 1 first to ensure all the characters and settings are well developed. Plus, the most important – the ending still needs resolving, which Book 3 will have to finish. So, if you are a reader who already wants everything laid out well, it is best to get all three books before starting the trilogy. 


Tala Warnock is back with her band of characters. This time, she’s more prepared with her powers and learns even more from her ancestors, who came straight from the Philippines to help protect Avalon.

This time, she and her team start learning more about themselves at a deeper level – their purpose, their prophecies, and how these prophecies weave into the fate of Avalon.

Things I Love About An Unreliable Magic

Amazingly fantastic adventures, extraordinary abilities.

Even if most of the exciting moments are within the kingdom of Avalon, there were many ground-breaking, memorable ones for the characters. Each character goes through a lot of self-reflection and discovery of their heritage, background, and purpose while protecting Avalon from villains besides the Snow Queen, as first realized. There were many heart-stopping and emotionally draining moments that got to me. 
Each character’s special “powers” are unique and further develop as Tala and her gang fight to defend Avalon.

Mini telenovela feels and drama. 

The multi-POV helps readers connect to the characters better and later connect each one of the “partnered-up” groupies to realize the importance of each character. Believe me that there are a lot of “voices.” Still, it was not confusing since (a) the chapter tiles mention something about the chapter and the character POV, and (b) each tone and voice is distinctly unique personalities and colloquialism oozing out of the scenes.

Plot twists that dug into the “meat” of the series

Leaving Book 1 with a hint of a traitor at the end was surprising BUT interesting as Book 2 began. I wasn’t sure how that traitor came into play until the absolute end! Flabbergasted is not even close to how I felt when the traitor revealed itself at the end. All the workings of the book culminated quite nicely. 
Aside from the traitor, there were “other players” that felt harmless at the start but as the book went on, what these players possessed seemed to have manipulated the populous perception that the good guys like Tala and Alex, Avalon’s king. 
Also, no matter what the good guys did, countless “detractors” feeding “bad press” kept popping up to destabilize Avalon further. 
All of the above, the traitors, “enemies in sheep’s clothing,” and double agents, seem to hit underlying political connotations regarding the state of the world. I get it and can see it hinted at in various political unrest depicted, and I respect the author for pulling those themes to the forefront.

Funny banter in Filipino!

One of my most looked-forward moments is when the Filipino characters inject their brand of Filipino slang expected from Filipino titos/titas (uncles/aunties). I couldn’t help bawling over so much, especially when Tita Baby told General Luna to “Landian mo” – a definite Filipino signature of flirting and “making the best of the situation.” *wink wink* 
It is hilarious each time. I LOVE LOVE LOVE the sassy, spice, and spunk of the Katipuneros! 

The ending…a cliffhanger of the sort.

Closing on the ending of this book, Tala somewhat gets what she wishes for as what she wished at the very beginning. But at what cost? The basis of Tala being the MC is that she was remarkable and noteworthy. A reluctant savior in Book 1, a slow acceptance in this book, then poof! What happens when it all disappears? What if she comes into the next book as not the Tala we all knew?
Did I pique your interest, readers? She seems that way, even after a big, epic enough battle that cost everyone to evolve and change – for the better or worse? This is anyone’s guess for now. 


Quotes I Love About An Unreliable Magic

This is a sense of the romantic and the adventurous that is linked to the Nameless Sword…The legend fires up the imagination. It’s a tragic history, but very popular.

~ Lola Urduja

Her fears may not as phobia-specific as yours is, but that doesn’t mean they’re not valid either. Just because she likes you doesn’t mean she’s not afraid of her doom coming true.

~ Tala Warnock

” The sword must always have a wielder. Reject it, and it will only find someone else. Most people think prophecy is like a mountain, unlikely to adapt to the whimsy of humans. That’s not the case. Prophecy is more like a river. filling in the spaces and crevices so it can continue moving in the direction it desires. And people forget that even mountains are impermanent.”

~ The Cheshire

“I’m afraid,” Tala said.
“As well you should be. It is not a responsibility to be taken lightly, no matter how many foolish people believe it will give them nothing but riches and prestige. People believe that the spells we use, with their sets of bound laws and explicit repercussions, are what natural magic is made of. What they don’t understand is that the wilder Wonderland magic is what magic actually is at its most basic form. It is the laws ad restrictions we place that make it unnatural, and those are where our problems often begin. Every spell comes with a price, and that is the same for this sword as for everything else.”

~ Tala and The Cheshire

“Saying no when others say yes doesn’t make it the wrong choice for you.”

~ The Cheshire

Forgive yourself. It’ll be the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do and also the best.

~ The Cheshire

Every day when he can prove to me that he is a better man than he was in the past is his ongoing proof of his love for me. For every person he helps without my prompting, for every day when he can realize his presence will help someone – that is his continuing penance. I love your father, and he loves me. But with us, forgiveness is always an ongoing process. It’s complicated.

~ Lumina Makiling-Warnock

Overall, An Unreliable Magic is a non-stop, emotionally charged rollercoaster of emotions with a good balance of light-hearted “Filipino” etiquette and beliefs that are relatable and tug my heart each time. I love the witty writing and creative plot that shaped the character’s growth and development. Each event helps the characters evolve through thought and choices that bring out bravery and courage to take on their fates, reunite families, and unrealized love. 

I appreciate the author continuing her underlying theme (mentioned in Book 1) of racial and socio-political implications are explored, discussed, and later criticized, drawing a lot of afterthoughts. I am excited to see the following (and final) book in the series, which should be a real doozy on how the author will resolve the complex items readers are left within this book and wrap up the series nicely.  


About the Author

Rin Chupeco wrote obscure manuals for
complicated computer programs, talked
people out of their money at event shows, and
did many other terrible things. They now write
about ghosts and fairy tales but is still
sometimes mistaken as a revenant. They were
born and raised in the Philippines and, or so
the legend goes, still haunt that place to this
very day. Their pronouns are she/they.

Sign up for updates, events, and new releases for their newsletter here.

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The second book in the A Hundred Names for Magic trilogy, an unforgettable alternative history fairy-tale series from the author of The Bone Witch about finding family, modern-day magic, and finding the place you belong.
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Review | Accidentally Perfect (Hideaway Harbor 1)by Melissa Clarke

Disclosure: I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author and/or publisher. All views expressed are only my honest opinion. A positive review is not required. Also, I may earn a commission on some affiliate links below, whose fees support independent bookshops. Hope you will consider getting it at a local bookstore.

Published on: 01 March 2022
Published by: Entangled Publishing: Amara
Type: series, standalone
Genre: Small Town & Rural Fiction, Clean & Wholesome Romance, Contemporary Romance
Tropes: Rom-Com, Against-All-Odds, Second Chances, Grumpy Alpha, Strong female MC
Author: Marissa Clarke
Book Length: 338 pages
Read: 17 May 2022
Shelved: 19 May 2022
Rating: 4 / 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Synopsis

Workaholic Lillian Mahoney has given everything to her job. The hugely popular lifestyle show she helped create monopolizes her time, energy, creativity, and anything remotely resembling a life. But all it takes is the show’s womanizing, egomaniac star throwing a massive hissy on live TV to utterly implode Lillian’s career in a New York minute.

Now Lillian’s hiding out in the gorgeous and completely unknown seaside village of Blink, Maine. Out of gas. A stolen wallet. A broken heel. And worse, she’s somehow managed to completely piss off the town’s resident hunk, Caleb Wright. She’ll show that hot, grumpy single father exactly what she’s made of.

But Blink isn’t quite what Lillian expects—and neither is Caleb…or his feisty teen daughter she can’t help but love. And while her entire life and career are in shreds, Lillian might just discover what happens when she gives her bad first impression a second chance…


Review

Characters:
Lillian Mahoney – single workaholic, lifestyle content creator, the brains behind the Sharpe Lifestyle brand based in NYC

Caleb Wright – a single parent to a teenager, owns Wright Boat Works in Blink, NY.

POV: multiple POVs – Caleb and Lillian’s.

What I love about the book:

1.) A community saving a dying town
I did not know this premise from the summary. It wasn’t an easy problem for the MCs to resolve, and it took a bit more “creative” thinking and motivation to get the rest of the townspeople in on “Reviving and Revitalizing” Blink. 

“People will forgive ignorance; they won’t forgive laziness.”

~ Accidentally Perfect, Marissa Clarke

2.) Undeniable sexual chemistry
I love the grumpy-sunshine theme with a dose of opposites attract. I came into the book expecting a light-hearted, feel-good read, mainly because it is considered a “clean romance book.” Hence, I was pleasantly surprised to see hot sizzling flirting, banter, and chemistry that made the relationship believable with the amount of attraction on paper that worked from hate to love. 

3.) Colorful and humorous set of small-town characters that spice up Lillian’s uptight city life and see the beauty of a small-town environment.
There is no other way to describe the Blink Maine “peanut gallery” aside from nosey, crazy, yet supportive! Being in a small town, everyone’s at each other’s business, especially in Caleb’s love life. People like Amanda, Cassidy, Roger, etc., used everything to ensure that Lillian and Caleb found their way to each other. The group’s gentle nudge/manipulation got to me, and although there were many times that either MC sighted the group for their “sly ways,” Lillian and Caleb still felt for it and did end up with their HEA.

“That’s perfect. Just let me know the schedule. “
She waited for them to take her lead, but they stayed seated. Cassidy gave her an I told you so smirk complete with arched eyebrow.
“You’ll need dynamite to blast them out now,” she whispered as Lilian passed her on the way to the sink.

~ Accidentally Perfect, Marissa Clarke

4.) Story pacing and character development are well done! 
With the many things happening in the story, it was still great to see the focus on the characters and make them relatable. Many characters will make readers come to love and appreciate, like Amanda’s controlling yet ways or Roger’s manipulative yet well-thought-out plans.

5.) World-building was beautifully written!
I could see myself standing at the pier by Caleb’s boat in Blink, Maine, through the author’s vivid descriptions. I also got a few visuals as Lillian explored the town, and each rock/cliff was not left unturned. Lillian mapped out each inch of the place through her hikes and exploration of the town. Nature took center stage and was given much importance. It is why a city folk Lillian:
(a) got her inspiration after a slight “burnout,”
(b) found a way to marry her passion for organization and social media position to help the town, and
(c) found inspiration and love with Caleb – all the lovely views and breathtaking scenes.

Conclusion: I enjoyed reading Accidentally Perfect. It was well-written and full of magnetic chemistry on each page! Lillian is the perfect example of a workaholic NY perfectionist that paired well with Caleb’s laid-back yet hardworking lifestyle of a small-town business owner. How the author resolved the ending was hilarious, with the small-town AND Sharpe Lifestyle group combining their efforts to save a town from extinction AND ensure two people do not miss out on their second chance this time around. I cannot wait to see what the series will hold for the rest of the people in Hideaway Harbor!

” People should always help each other out. It’s what we’re put here for. “

~ Accidentally Perfect, Marissa Clarke

About the Author

Marissa Clarke lives in Texas, where everything is bigger, especially the mosquitoes. When not writing, she wrangles her rowdy pack of three teens, her husband, and a Cairn Terrier named Annabel, who rules the house (and Marissa’s heart) with an iron paw. She also writes young adult novels for Penguin USA as Mary Lindsey. You can contact her here.

Connect with Melissa
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Thank you to Entangled Publishing / Amara Publishing for my gifted copy.

Review | Hidden Moon (The Stoneridge Pack 4) by CJ Cooke

Disclosure: I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author and/or publisher. All views expressed are only my honest opinion. A positive review is not required. Also, I may earn a commission on some affiliate links below, whose fees support independent bookshops. Hope you will consider getting it at a local bookstore.

Published on: 19 May 2022
Type: series, the finale
Genre: Paranormal Romance, Drama
Tropes: Reverse Harem, shifter/witch, paranormal romance
AuthorCJ Cooke
Book Length: pages
Read: 05 May 2022
Shelved: 18 May 2022
Rating: 4/ 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Retailers:
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Other books in the series:
Book 1 – Wolf Hunts
Book 2 – Shadow Wars
Book 3 – Blood Feud

Synopsis

When had my life turned into trying to survive a war? It felt like just yesterday I was a ‘mostly’ normal girl. Okay, maybe being a shifter-witch hybrid meant I’d never been normal, but at least I’d led a quiet life.

We might have struck back at Councillor Stone, but it was only a matter of time before he made his next move. It was time for the pack to get serious about how we were going to survive the mess we’d been dragged into. That meant learning new magic and embracing a role I’d been trying to ignore.

When the fight comes to us and we have to leave the packlands, were we really going somewhere safe, or could it be possible that we still had no idea who we were really fighting? Power seemed to attract violence in our world and it was time to decide if we were going to fight back or find another way to survive.


Review

Disclosure: Aside from being a reverse harem book, there are a few scenes that depict physical, emotional, and psychological abuse that may trigger some readers. Take this as your warning. In my case, it triggered me to be frustrated but more towards the ones who inflicted it, and I felt for the characters involved. 

Hidden Moon is the fourth and final installment in the Stoneridge Pack series. Reading Books 12, and 3 are advisable before getting lost in the plot, characters, and concepts. This book starts directly where Book 3 ended – an epic battle! It will be a disservice to the whole story if readers miss one of the best battle scenes in the book to date.

The saga continues, and yes, this is the final book of the series! I am sad yet thankful since the series was exciting and addicting! I still needed to reread the previous book before diving back due to the new names, and admittingly, the last few chapters of Book 3 were the BOMB!

The Stoneridge pack grows as the book continues from the ending of the last with survivors taking shelter at Stoneridge Pack lands. The secrets shared in that secret lab that Calli and her mates destroyed were beyond imaginable! There was so much horror that the trauma affected everyone, even those not in the fight. 

What to expect:-

1. Amazing powers unfold further for Calli and her pack. Yes, all her mates start to evolve in this book. It goes beyond the shifter/witch powers since Calli learns a lot more about her destiny and the roles of her five (5!!) mates in all this. 

2. More politics and secrets about the Council, Calli’s parents, and the “other entities” working behind the scenes unfold.
While dealing with trauma survivors, Calli and her mates start discovering a lot more of the politics of the Council and the “hidden agenda” they seem to brew behind everyone’s backs. Too many backstabbing and betrayals make this final book an epic one. Each villain’s explanation and goals floored me because they were all so twisted!

3. Sinister plots and new revelations – even within the pack’s midst. The concept of mixed breeding and genetic chemistry are tackled – experimenting within themselves got “nasty” with dire consequences. I am still reeling over one of the characters, Jessa, on how she should supposedly see the future, plan and warn everyone, but not realize the one mistake that will directly affect her at the end.

4. Character growth and development finally come full circle in this book. Other new characters will be bringing in the trouble that moves the story to unexpected levels. This time, a few witches (again) cause the trouble in this book. Ironically, family relatives brought about more harm than help, which will frustrate anyone.

5. Epic battle brought me to my knees from start to finish! Why?!?! Because Calli’s pack is still the underdog in everything – even with so much power, it can only go so far with the many enemies they face. My only comment – the ending felt a bit too simple, based on the previous endings. I was surprised by how things “went,” but it felt a bit lacking, or was it supposed to be this simple?! I get that the author might want a more uncomplicated ending after the three previous books’ gruesome and messy endings that brought so much horror and tragedy.

Overall, I love how the author wrapped up the series with Hidden Moon. Calli and her mates have gone through so much growth and self-reflection that it was impossible not to connect to one or more of them. The series explored many facets of life’s teachings, healing, and hope. I am very excited about the hint of a spinoff with one or more characters in the series.


About the Author


CJ Cooke
 is an indie author who writes paranormal romance fiction. She’s just celebrated the release of her fifth book, Wolf Hunts. She lives in Nottinghamshire, England with her husband and son. She likes to rock the English cliché of being addicted to tea. Her background is in law but started writing the type of stories she wants to read.
Cat, as her friends know her, lives in the ever-rainy UK. She is Mama to one human child and a cat that possibly hates her. Always found with a cup of tea in one hand and a book in the other, unless there are biscuits available, then she’s definitely holding onto at least one biscuit!

Connect with C.J.
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Review | I’ll Stand By You (Carolina Classics prequel) by Karen Grey

Disclosure: I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author and/or publisher. All views expressed are only my honest opinion. A positive review is not required. Also, I may earn a commission on some affiliate links below, whose fees support independent bookshops. Hope you will consider getting it at a local bookstore.

Published on: 18 May 2022
Published by: Home Cooked Books
Type: standalone, series
Genre: Coming of Age Fiction, Short Reads Fiction, Women’s Friendship Fiction
Tropes: nostalgic, growing-up, childhood friendship
Author: Karen Grey
File size ‏ : ‎ 3446 KB
Read: 05 May 2022
Shelved: 06 May 2022
Rating: 4 / 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Synopsis

Can five friends grow up without growing apart?

Summer, 1991: Working at a beachfront hotel in their sleepy southern coastal town gives life-long friends Violet, Danielle, Whitney, Ford, and Sully the chance to spend as much time as possible together after college graduation and before real life begins.

One exceptionally busy and very long night—which includes a wedding, a lost dog, hatching sea turtles, and a job offer— has each of them facing hopes and fears for the future. Wrestling with choices means loyalties are tested while alliances shift.

Don’t miss this combo sequel to Grey’s Boston Classics series and prequel to her new Carolina Classics series. It’ll take you from the neon, big-haired, shoulder-pads of the 1980’s into the boho, laidback 1990’s.


Review

Characters: Violet, Dani, Whitney, Sully, and Ford

POV: multi-character, limited

I’ll Stand By You is a nostalgic short story of five friends working at a hotel for one last summer after graduation that will lead them all on different paths. This prequel is an excellent crossover because it gives a good taste of what’s to time to these new set of characters! 

Also, the Boston Classic series characters lend their star power and storylines by slowly intersecting with Henry Smith’s (Boston Classics #4) family dog named Ribsy.

I enjoyed the mystery and how the MCs found clues to finding Ribsy and, simultaneously, tackle big decisions of what will be the following “chapters” after their summer job at the hotel.

I love the multi-character POV with the exciting and intriguing premises for the next book series. Each POV gives excellent insight into each character’s issues and, at the same time, keeps many details hidden for the upcoming books. The sharing and character development are just suitable for a novella. 

This book, set in the 1990s, brings back many fun memories for generation readers that is relatable, which all would appreciate as these moments are a great teaser to start the series!

Overall, I’ll Stand By You is a quick and easy read that gives the right amount of build-up to have readers excited for the upcoming new series. It is about growing up (coming of age), friendship, trust, and hope. With these new and complex characters coming with so much “baggage” and insecurities, the next series will indeed have a lot of “explaining” and “unraveling” soon!


Meet the Author

Karen Grey (also known as Karen White and K.E. White) has had several essays published, in Salt Magazine and the Nevertheless We Persisted collections (one an Audies Finalist and the other a SOVAs finalist), and a short story in the collection Vintage Love Stories. Her first romance novel was a winner of the NJ Romance Writers’ Put Your Heart in a Book contest and Hearts Through History’s Romance Through the Ages contest in the Modern History category and won second place in the GA Romance Writers’ Maggie Award. The first book in her 1980’s era romance series Boston Classics, What I’m Looking For releases June 23, 2020.

Connect with Karen
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