Review: The Happy Ever After Playlist, by @AuthorAbbyJim

Title: The Happy Ever After Playlist
Author: Abby Jimenez
Rating: 4/5 stars

From the USA Today bestselling author of The Friend Zone comes a fresh romantic comedy full of “fierce humor and fiercer heart” about one trouble-making dog who brings together two perfect strangers. (Casey McQuiston, New York Times bestselling author of Red, White & Royal Blue)

Two years after losing her fiancé, Sloan Monroe still can’t seem to get her life back on track. But one trouble-making pup with a “take me home” look in his eyes is about to change everything. With her new pet by her side, Sloan finally starts to feel more like herself. Then, after weeks of unanswered texts, Tucker’s owner reaches out. He’s a musician on tour in Australia. And bottom line: He wants Tucker back.

Well, Sloan’s not about to give up her dog without a fight. But what if this Jason guy really loves Tucker? As their flirty texts turn into long calls, Sloan can’t deny a connection. Jason is hot and nice and funny. There’s no telling what could happen when they meet in person. The question is: With his music career on the rise, how long will Jason really stick around? And is it possible for Sloan to survive another heartbreak?” (description from Goodreads)

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It’s been about six months since I read Abby Jimenez’s debut The Friend Zone and the wait for her next book was a struggle. But at the same time, the wait was well worth it. The Happy Ever After Playlist delivered on my expectations, even though Jimenez set them high with The Friend Zone.

This book follows the story of Sloan, Kristen’s best friend from the first book, and Jason, the next big thing in the music business. Jason couldn’t have come at a better time for Sloan, or should I say Tucker his dog couldn’t have come at a better time. Her world was rocked two years before the beginning of this book and without saying more about that, a dog seemed to be something she needed at that moment in her life. Did the sexy musician and best friend of the dog Jason also come into her life at a good time? Yea. But again, dog! Tucker’s character was great and a big part of this book if you ask me.

This book started out a little big of a downer, at a time when I was in the mood for a solid rom-com. But it started there for a reason and picked up the com and the rom fast. I think the best part of the book was in the early stages of Jason and Sloan getting to know each other long-distance through texts and phone calls. If the book stayed that way the entire way through, I would not have complained. Once they met in person things only got better.

Love isn’t easy. Love can hurt. And while fame is fun, it can also hurt. This book explores all that and more and I want Jimenez’s next book right now! But I’ll sit back and wait patiently. It will be worth the patience. Until then, I have a playlist to listen to over and over again. (A real one. There are song titles with each chapter heading and I’m going to go listen to them all now.)

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If you’d like to buy a copy of this book, you can find it on:

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and if you haven’t read The Friend Zone yet, here’s Goodreads or just grab it from:

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About the Author:

Abby Jimenez is a Food Network champion, motivational speaker, and contemporary romance novelist living in Minnesota. Abby founded Nadia Cakes out of her home kitchen back in 2007. The bakery has since gone on to win numerous Food Network competitions and has amassed an international cult following. Abby’s wry literary wit was spotlighted as the admin behind the hilarious viral comments on the now famous Nadia Cakes Vageode™ cake.

Abby loves a good romance, coffee, doglets, and not leaving the house. Her debut novel, The Friend Zone, is scheduled for release July 2019.

Find out more:

Review: Under an Alaskan Sky, by @jennifersnow18

Title: Under An Alaskan Sky (Wild River #2)
Author: Jennifer Snow
Rating: 5/5 stars

Allowing himself to love always seemed too dangerous. Now it might be his only salvation…

Single dad Tank Wheeler has vowed to keep his heart shuttered in the name of keeping his young daughter’s life stable. But lately, the chemistry between him and his adrenaline-loving best friend, Cassie Reynolds, has been getting him a little hot under the collar. And then, with one scorching birthday kiss, these best friends are instantly more.

Exactly the wrong time for Tank’s ex to show up in Wild River, Alaska.

Cassie is pretty sure she’s having a waking nightmare. Not only is Tank’s gorgeous ex hoping to reclaim her family, but a new megastore is threatening the wilderness-adventure business she’s spent five years building. But Cassie never backs down from a fight. And now it’s time to make the most terrifying leap of her life—and hope that Tank catches her…before she falls too far.” (description from Goodreads)

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I was a big fan of the first book in Jennifer Snow’s Wild River series,  An Alaskan Christmas. But once I saw the couple who’d be starring in Under an Alaskan Sky, I had a feeling I was in for a treat. I can confidently say that that is the case, having now read the book.

In book one, we get a glimpse at Cassie and Tank, and their friendship. It’s really just a tease at a much bigger story. That’s what this book is. It’s the story of how Cassie and Tank, best friends in a complicated situation, get tossed into an even more complicated situation and how they make it out. Along the way they also have to navigate their feelings for each other without hurting each other or the people around them. The biggest variable in all of this is Tank’s daughter Kaia. I also really enjoyed Kaia as a character. It’s not unusual for children in books just to be there to create a single parent or something similar. They’re often forgotten about early on in order to not be a nuisance. This isn’t the case in Snow’s book. Kaia is often around and also not an unwelcome piece of the relationship puzzle. This book isn’t just about falling in love. It’s also about forming a family from many different parts.

I want to keep returning to Wild River as often as I can. I’m glad to see there will be more than enough books in this series this year to make that happen.

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If you’d like to buy a copy of this book, you can find it on:

Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iBooks

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About the Author:

Jennifer Snow lives in Edmonton, Alberta with her husband and four year old son. She is a member of the RWA, the Alberta Writers Guild, Canadian Authors Association and SheWrites.org. Her first Brookhollow book was a finalist in the Heart of Denver Aspen Gold contest and the Golden Quill Award.

Find out more:

 

#Review: Mermaid Inn, by @jennyholi

Title: Mermaid Inn (Matchmaker Bay #1)
Author: Jenny Holiday
Rating: 5/5 stars

Escape to Matchmaker Bay in this hilarious and heartwarming second chance romance from the USA Today bestselling “master of witty banter” (Entertainment Weekly).

Eve Abbott has a problem–actually, make that a lot of problems. And they’re all going to get worse the moment her toes hit the sand in Matchmaker Bay. Once a blissful summer escape, now the tiny town just reminds Eve of loss. Inheriting her aunt’s beloved Mermaid Inn is the only reason Eve is coming back. She’s definitely not ready to handle nosy neighbors, extensive renovations, or the discovery that a certain heartbreaker still lives down the street…

Police Chief Sawyer Collins always does the right thing, even when it costs him everything. Like Evie. He’s spent the past ten years trying to forget her–to forget how right she felt in his arms, to forget the pain in her eyes the day she left. The last thing he expects is to see her back in town or to find that the spark between them is as strong as ever. Sawyer knows this is his only chance to prove that his feelings have always been real… before Eve turns tail and leaves for good.

Includes the bonus novella Meant to Be by Alison Bliss!” (description from Goodreads)

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I can see big things ahead for the Matchmaker Bay series after reading Mermaid Inn from Jenny Holiday. It has everything in it from a Small Town Romance that I’ve come to love. What was especially great to see what the close-knit townspeople and their meddling ways. A lot of the character personalities made me feel that citizens of Stars Hollow from Gilmore Girls (my favorite TV show) had been transported to a lakeshore community in Canada. I haven’t felt as much of a Stars Hollow vibe in a book before now. Whether that was the author’s aim or not, I would love to read more, just for that element of the story.

Setting isn’t the only thing that makes a romance like this work so well. It also needs great characters. Mermaid Inn isn’t lacking in that department. Eve and Sawyer may have been highschool sweethearts, but the way they parted ways was definitely less than ideal. Reading how the two try to get over their past and go from being civil to much more had flying through this book. They both had many issues to work though. Whether it was something seemingly simple like not knowing how to swim or more complicated issues like an abusive past with a father, they work through it. They both realize they can’t do everything alone, whether it’s help from friends or someone even closer. It takes a village. And this book shows it.

Authors who can start off a series so strongly aren’t easy to find. It’s what have me coming back to “Matchmaker” Bay this summer when book two comes out.

P.S. – This book contains the novella Meant to Be by Alison Bliss. It was included in another author’s novel last year and released on it’s own around that time. If you’re interested in that novella, I reviewed it last year right HERE.)

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If you’d like to buy a copy of this book, you can find it on:

Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iBooks

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About the Author:

Jenny Holiday started writing at age nine when her awesome fourth grade teacher gave her a notebook and told her to start writing some stories. That first batch featured mass murderers on the loose, alien invasions, and hauntings. (Looking back, she’s amazed no one sent her to a kid-shrink.) She’s been writing ever since. After a detour to get a PhD in geography, she worked as a professional writer, producing everything from speeches to magazine articles. Later, her tastes having evolved from alien invasions to happily-ever-afters, she tried her hand at romance. Today she is a USA Today bestselling author of all sorts of romance novels: contemporary and historical, straight and gay. She lives in London, Ontario, with her family. She is represented by Courtney Miller-Callihan of Handspun Literary.

Find out more:

#Review: American Love Song, by @ladrianaherrera

Title: American Love Story (Dreamers #3)
Author: Adriana Herrera
Rating: 5/5 stars

“No one should have to choose between love and justice.

Haitian-born professor and activist Patrice Denis is not here for anything that will veer him off the path he’s worked so hard for. One particularly dangerous distraction: Easton Archer, the assistant district attorney who last summer gave Patrice some of the most intense nights of his life, and still makes him all but forget they’re from two completely different worlds.

All-around golden boy Easton forged his own path to success, choosing public service over the comforts of his family’s wealth. With local law enforcement unfairly targeting young men of color, and his career—and conscience—on the line, now is hardly the time to be thirsting after Patrice again. Even if their nights together have turned into so much more.

For the first time, Patrice is tempted to open up and embrace the happiness he’s always denied himself. But as tensions between the community and the sheriff’s office grow by the day, Easton’s personal and professional lives collide. And when the issue at hand hits closer to home than either could imagine, they’ll have to work to forge a path forward…together.

One-click with confidence. This title is part of the Carina Press Romance Promise: all the romance you’re looking for with an HEA/HFN. It’s a promise!

This book is approximately 95,000 words” (description from Goodreads)

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If it wasn’t for how strong of series starter American Dreamer was, I think that American Love Story would be my favorite book in the Dreamers series, so far. I still have American Fairytale to read. So we’ll see if that changes. This book has such a strong story that kept unfolding all the way to the end.

The journey Patrice and Easton have to travel to get to their HEA is such a rough one. Between both of their flaws and they way their careers naturally can come into conflict, there was no easy path for them. No matter how badly they both wanted it, at times it seemed like it would never happen. Herrera is great at writing such a realistic story of the struggles of love, life, and curveballs that come out of nowhere.

Another thing I thought was done well in this book was how racism within a police force and a community’s politics aren’t something that only happens in a big city. It can be, and is, an issue all over. Until it’s addressed in a serious way, it can continue and lead to an unwanted outcome. Herrera doesn’t beat the reader over the head with a message. The author hasn’t done that in any of her books so far. What she does do is show the realities people face in life and how things can play out from inside and outside of the system. This is how the world is and this is what people like their characters deal with daily. It’s not something to leave out of a story.

I keep coming back to Herrera’s books for their realism, fully fleshed out characters who seem like they’re actually real, and unapologetic use of food to get you wanting to hang out with her characters to try all the amazing dishes. It’s great that I found out the author has more books coming out this year. I was almost out of things to read from her and that’s not something I want to happen.

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You can find this book on:

Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iBooks

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About the Author:

Adriana was born and raised in the Caribbean, but for the last 15 years has let her job (and her spouse) take her all over the world. She loves writing stories about people who look and sound like her people, getting unapologetic happy endings.

When she’s not dreaming up love stories, planning logistically complex vacations with her family or hunting for discount Broadway tickets, she’s a social worker in New York City, working with survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

She’s one of the co-creators of the Queer Romance PoC Collective and serves as the VP of Programs for the Romance Writers of America New York City Chapter.

Find out more:

Review: American Sweethearts, by @ladrianaherrera

Title: American Sweethearts (Dreamers #4)
Author: Adriana Herrera
Rating: 4/5 stars

“Juan Pablo Campos doesn’t do regrets. He’s living the dream as a physical therapist for his beloved New York Yankees. He has the best friends and family in the world and simply no time to dwell on what could’ve been.

Except when it comes to Priscilla, the childhood friend he’s loved for what seems like forever.

New York City police detective Priscilla Gutierrez has never been afraid to go after what she wants. Second-guessing herself isn’t a thing she does. But lately, the once-clear vision she had for herself—her career, her relationships, her life—is no longer what she wants.

What she especially doesn’t want is to be stuck on a private jet to the Dominican Republic with JuanPa, the one person who knows her better than anyone else.

By the end of a single week in paradise, the love/hate thing JuanPa and Pris have been doing for sixteen years has risen to epic proportions. No one can argue their connection is still there. And they can both finally admit—if only to themselves—they’ve always been a perfect match. The future they dreamed of together is still within reach…if they can just accept each other as they are.

This book is approximately 90,000 words

One-click with confidence. This title is part of the Carina Press Romance Promise: all the romance you’re looking for with an HEA/HFN. It’s a promise!” (description from Goodreads)

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This is the third Herrera book I’ve read and as I knew from the first I read, American Dreamer, I’ll want to read anything the author puts out. So far I’ve only read that first book in the Dreamers series and this one. This didn’t hurt my enjoyment of American Sweethearts, even though it is the fourth in the series. Though, I do feel recommending reading the series in order or close together wouldn’t hurt. It’s a good series, so why not?

American Sweethearts is the story of Priscilla and Juan Pablo, two long time lovers…fighters…and best friends even if they don’t always get along. Part of what made this book enjoyable for me is their history. It’s troubled. It’s long. It needed to be resolved, though it wasn’t clear just how that’d be done. The entire time, though, I knew these two needed to be together. That was the only outcome for the characters or they’d be miserable the rest of their lives.

Another thing that keeps me coming back to Herrera’s work is the inclusion of diverse characters, be it their race or sexuality, the inclusion of mental health talk and it’s importance, and also mention of the good and bad of police work. That may seem like a lot to throw all in there and that it’d beat the reader over the head or be preachy, but it’s not. The author includes it in her book(s), but it’s naturally done. It’s all part of life for the characters because they’re accepting human beings from different walks of life.

I’ll be diving into both American Fairytale and American Love Story soon so I can finish this series and enjoy more of the character’s I’ve gotten tastes of in the books I’ve read so far.

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You can find this book on:

Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iBooks

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About the Author:

Adriana was born and raised in the Caribbean, but for the last 15 years has let her job (and her spouse) take her all over the world. She loves writing stories about people who look and sound like her people, getting unapologetic happy endings.

When she’s not dreaming up love stories, planning logistically complex vacations with her family or hunting for discount Broadway tickets, she’s a social worker in New York City, working with survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

She’s one of the co-creators of the Queer Romance PoC Collective and serves as the VP of Programs for the Romance Writers of America New York City Chapter.

Find out more:

Review: Once and Future, by @AmyRoseCapetta and @CoriMcCarthy

Title: Once & Future (Once & Future #1)
Author: Amy Rose Capetta & Cori McCarthy
Rating: 5/5 stars

I’ve been chased my whole life. As a fugitive refugee in the territory controlled by the tyrannical Mercer corporation, I’ve always had to hide who I am. Until I found Excalibur.

Now I’m done hiding.

My name is Ari Helix. I have a magic sword, a cranky wizard, and a revolution to start.

When Ari crash-lands on Old Earth and pulls a magic sword from its ancient resting place, she is revealed to be the newest reincarnation of King Arthur. Then she meets Merlin, who has aged backward over the centuries into a teenager, and together they must break the curse that keeps Arthur coming back. Their quest? Defeat the cruel, oppressive government and bring peace and equality to all humankind.

No pressure. (description from Goodreads)

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Most people are familiar with the legend of and surrounding King Arthur. For me that’s mostly what it is; a familiarity. I’ve seen the Disney version of Sword in the Stone. I’ve also seen an early 2000’s movie called King Arthur, though I don’t recall anything from it. I also have picked up the basics of the main legend here and there. Do you need to know any or more of that to enjoy Once & Future? No. I don’t think you do. Will you finish the book and want to read more about the legendary king? Well, I know I do.

Retellings of classic tales, whether they’re Pride & Prejudice from a few hundred years back or the Iliad millenia ago, always catch my eye. Putting King Arthur in space grabbed my attention more than most other settings probably would have. How would it work to have knights in space? Where would the sword be stuck? How would magic work up there? My questions were answered in this book in a very entertaining and developed way.

I think one of the strengths of this book was that the authors didn’t just retel the King Arthur story. King Arthur himself already had his time to do his thing in the story. In fact, he had his chance 41 other times. It’s time for Ari, a wanted refugee, to try to bring humankind back together and out from under an evil empirical corporations rule. She’s a reincarnation of Arthur, thousands of years later. This allowed for things to change, modernize, all while sticking with tropes necessary to the myth all while being self-aware of them. The Merlin in this book won’t let up on how things “should” be and who is a version of who.

I flew through this book since it was hard to put down often. I haven’t had a read like this in awhile. While it was great as its own book, I’m eager to see what happens in book two of the duology. There was a little bit of a lead-in to that book, and I’d really like to see Ari finally fulfill her role as this future Arthur and finish her journey.

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You can find this book on:

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About the Rebel Carter:

Amy Rose Capetta [she/they] is a bestselling and acclaimed author of YA fantasy, sci-fi, and mystery. Amy Rose’s first novels, Entangled and Unmade, comprise a spacepunk duet. Echo After Echo, a queer love story wrapped in a murder mystery and set on Broadway, was an ALA Rainbow List Selection and JLG Selection. The Brilliant Death, an Italian-inspired, nonbinary fantasy, made the Locus Reading List and Kirkus Best YA Books of the Year. Once & Future, a bestselling Arthurian space fantasy co-written with Cori McCarthy, received four starred reviews and was a finalist for the New England Book Award. The Lost Coast, aka queer teen witches in the redwoods, landed on Booklist’s Top 10 SF/Fantasy & Horror for Youth. Sequels to The Brilliant Death and Once & Future are forthcoming in 2020! Amy Rose holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from VCFA, and co-founded the Rainbow Writers Workshop, the first workshop for LGBTQIAP+ writers of YA and middle grade. AR lives in Vermont with Cori McCarthy and an adorable small reader.

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About the Cori McCarthy:

CORY (aka Cori)…earned degrees in poetry and screenwriting before falling in love with writing for children and young adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. They have authored four acclaimed YA novels, with a middle grade series and nonfiction picture book forthcoming. Cory coauthored the bestselling ONCE & FUTURE, a finalist for the New England Book Award, with their spouse Amy Rose Capetta. They live in the mountains of Vermont where they champion queer teens and raise a young maverick.

For more:

 

Review: An Alaskan Christmas, by @JenniferSnow18

 

An Alaskan ChristmasTitle: An Alaskan Christmas (Wild River #1)
Author: Jennifer Snow
Rating: 4/5 stars
 

In Alaska, it’s always a white Christmas—but the sparks flying between two reunited friends could turn it red-hot…

If there’s one gift Erika Sheraton does not want for Christmas, it’s a vacation. Ordered to take time off, the workaholic surgeon reluctantly trades in her scrubs for a ski suit and heads to Wild River, Alaska. Her friend Cassie owns a tour company that offers adventures to fit every visitor. But nothing compares to the adrenaline rush Erika feels on being reunited with Cassie’s brother, Reed Reynolds.

Gone is the buttoned-up girl Reed remembers. His sister’s best friend has blossomed into a strong, skilled, confident woman. She’s exactly what his search-and-rescue team needs—and everything he didn’t know he craved. The gulf between his life in Wild River and her big-city career is wide. But it’s no match for a desire powerful enough to melt two stubborn hearts… (description from Goodreads)

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Christmas books aren’t only good to read around the holiday. At least, I that’s how I feel about them. An Alaskan Christmas is no exception here. Christmas has been done for a few months and this book took me back to cold winter nights, a little festivity, and some romance to warm things up.

Jennifer Snow’s first Wild River book really helps establish the series, as well as the small town of Wild River up in Alaska.  It’s a small town, butted right up against the wilderness that is Alaska. There’s danger and beauty out there, and Snow shows that well on the search and rescue missions Reed and his crew take on in this book. Aside from the setting, the characters are strong elements of the book. They’re flawed, realistic, and make decisions that aren’t always easy to predict, which sets them apart for me.

Having only read this book, but knowing which characters will be coming up in the next one, I know I’ll be revisiting Wild River soon. And I feel that I’ll be coming back to this small Alaskan town again and again this year, with each new release.

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Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iBooks

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About the Author:

Jennifer Snow lives in Edmonton, Alberta with her husband and four year old son. She is a member of the RWA, the Alberta Writers Guild, Canadian Authors Association and SheWrites.org. Her first Brookhollow book was a finalist in the Heart of Denver Aspen Gold contest and the Golden Quill Award.

Find out more: