Daughters of Doubt and Eyerolling

Tag: contemporary romance

Quick Reviews – December ’22 Part I

I suppose there will be a part two towards the end of the month, just because I seem to be reading at least one book a day at the moment.

The Last Tale of the Flower Bride by Roshani Chokshi, expected publication day 14 February 2023.

A gorgeous UK cover. A Gothic tale with beautiful lyrical writing and different folk tales woven into it. 

Sadly, the very slow plot never really gripped my attention. 

Trigger warning: the relationships between the MCs is toxic, which made reading the story not easier. 

2/5 Harpy Eagles


Arden St. Ives trilogy by Alexis Hall

How to Bang a Billionaire (2017)

Arden St. Ives is a student at Oxford when he meets billionaire Caspian Hart. There is chemistry, but although Arden would like to pursue the relationship Caspian doesn't want to ... at first.

Arden is a bit neurotic, yet playful and has an interesting approach to life. Caspian has this dark secret that will be uncovered by the end of the trilogy. There is a billionaire throwing his money around, but it's kind of natural rather than OTT. It's not as steamy as I expected it to be, nor full of weird BDSM.

This first book ends without a cliffhanger. Still, you -just like me- might want to read the next book in this gay 50 Shades of Grey trilogy you didn't know you'd want to read until you started it. 

4/5 Harpy Eagles

How to Blow it with a Billionaire (2017)

Arden and Caspian are trying to make their relationship work, but the odds are stacked against them. Caspian is a workaholic and has limited time to spend with Arden. 

This book ends in a cliffhanger of sorts. There is a possibility for a happily ever after in the third book though.

5/5 Harpy Eagles

How to Belong with a Billionaire (2019)

Spoiler free! 
Arden and Caspian have a long way to go to get their HEA. 

The most important thing for me was knowing that Ardy-Baby was okay. We also get to see more of Ellery (Caspian's sister) and Bellerose (Caspian's PA), which makes me hope that either of them gets their own book in future. 

4/5 Harpy Eagles


The Paradox Hotel by Rob Hart, published 22 February 2022.

The Paradox Hotel caters for the super-rich who are about to embark on or have come back from a trip to another century at the Einstein Intercentury Timeport. Grumpy January Cole is the head of security at the hotel and her day just got harder. She's unstuck, which means she is no longer rooted in time. She sees her dead girlfriend, different timelines and there is a dead body not even her AI bot can see. On top of that, four trillionaires are about to meet for a summit to bid on the hotel. 

January is the perfect cynical sarcastic detective to find out who killed the dead body. She's pressed for time though, her mind is crumbling, and time is acting up in the weirdest way. 

It's a time travel detective story with a noir vibe, LGBTQ+ representation, and a very diverse found family. 

4/5 Harpy Eagles


The Locked Attic by B.P. Walter, published 24 November 2022.

I get that thrillers thrive on secrets, but this story was full of rather obvious secrets. Not only that, the secrets were dangle in front of me like a carrot in front of a donkey; they were clearly just used to make me turn the pages.

I didn't mind the non-linear storytelling. I was much more peeved that the two POV read very similar; shouldn't a teenager sound different from his mid-thirties mother? 

And why was the secret in the titular Locked Attic not the main topic of the story? The title and blurb are misleading. 

I really liked the author's The Dinner Guest, but his last book The Woman on the Pier and this book didn't really work for me. 

1/5 Harpy Eagles

Witch! Witch! You’re a witch!

The very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna, published 23 August 2022.

Did you know that there are witches all over the world hiding in plain sight? All orphans, because their parents died soon after it was clear they were witches. Obviously this is due to an age-old curse which also requires that witches are not allowed to meet each other regularly or live together, because that could cause the “muggles” to notice them.

Mika Moon is a young witch who wishes things had been different for her during her lonely upbringing, but accepting the terms of the curse told to her by the witch who had adopted her, but not raised her.

Mika is offered the job of tutoring three young witches who, in the absence of their adopted mother witch, have no one to teach them how to keep their magic in check and an outsider is about to visit in six weeks’ time. Seeing that she is desperately needed, Mika packs her belongings, plants, dog and fish and moves to the warded and hidden manor house by the sea in Norfolk.

The three girls are wonderfully written and their interactions with the grown-ups often made me laugh out loud. Of course there is a grumpy guy who feels the attracted to Mika, and there are the meddling “grandparents” – the housekeeper, the gardener and his spouse.

The book reminded me of The House in the Cerulean Sea, there is magic and found family and love and heart break and deeply seated pain, and an outsider who could ruin it all. Yet, in the end all will work out if not how the MCs thought it would.

4/5 Harpy Eagles

Quick ARC Reviews – October 2022

The Girl with the Dragonfruit Tattoo by Carrie Doyle, expected publication 31 January 2023.

I admit, I requested the ARC for this book solely because of the cover and title. Going in blind meant I didn't know that this was the third book in a cosy mystery series. Fortunately, it works as a standalone, even though the novice reader might miss out on some references to previous stories. 

I didn't like the main character Plum, a travel agent with no police training. Why would the police send her onto a yacht where there's a murderer on the lose?

1/5 Harpy Eagles


Georgie, All Along by Kate Clayborn, expected publication 31 January 2023.

This is a slow building romance that took me a while to get into. At first I thought it was the usual, small town girl returns home with her tail between her legs and then falls for the town baddie, whom she actually can't stand -enemies to lovers- romance. About a third into the story it really picks up. 

I've read previous books by Clayborn. So it shouldn't have come as a surprise that her MCs could be the people next door. They have to work through the issues in their lives, coming out stronger more stable people and a stronger couple in the end. 

3/5 Harpy Eagles


Death and Croissants by Ian Moore, published 01 July 2021.

British ex-pat Richard has a B&B in the Loire Valley in France where there might have been a murder. He, his guests and his cleaning lady set out to unravel the mystery. 

It's a cosy mystery with quirky characters and a lot of obvious clichés used for comic relief. The story takes some twists and turns that have no more obvious reason as to give the reader more time with the quirky characters. 

To sum it up, a perfect palate cleanser after a more 'substantial' read, but too cosy and quirky for me to actually enjoy. 

2/5 Harpy Eagles


One Dark Window by Rachel Gillig, published 27 September 2022.

I did not finish reading this book. 

1) I think it was marketed wrongly. I thought I was going to read an adult Gothic horror fantasy, but it read more like a Young Adult Gothic romance fantasy. 

2) The characters are supposed to find twelve specific Providence Cards, which enable the wielder with certain magical abilities. This will then help to overcome a magical plague that leaves children infected with dark magic which causes them to degenerate and die. [That's how I understood it. The premise might be more or less difficult.] 

3) The MC, Elspeth, was infected 11 years ago. She's been living with a demon in her head since then. She keeps repeating that using the demon, called the Nightmare, makes it stronger, and she won't let it overpower her mind. But as soon as she gets into a spot of bother she begs the demon to help her. 

4) The characters have no urgency to find those magical cards. Instead they have the 'usual' enemies-to-lovers insta-love romance that takes over the plot.  

That's when I bowed out. I read a few reviews and apparently the last bit of the story gets more action, but ends in a cliffhanger that will hopefully be resolved in the next book. 

1/5 Harpy Eagles


The Book of the Most Precious Substance by Sara Gran, expected publication 03 November 2022.

Lily Albrecht is a bookseller of antique and rare books. When one of her colleagues dies she takes over a commission to find an occult tome called "The Book of the Most Precious Substance" and sell it for a six to seven figure price to the anonymous buyer. 

Lily and another rare books selling colleague set out to find the buyer and find one of the few remaining copies of the 17th century book. A book about sex magic, granting the user a large boon when used correctly - or something like that.

So far this sounds good. Bookish people trying to find an occult book. And here's where the book becomes repetitive. The two fly to a city in the US or Europe to meet up with a book collector who might or might not have the book and sell it to them. They stay in a fancy hotel. Go out for an expensive -and described in detail- dinner with the book person. Find out details about the book. Go back to the hotel to have awkward sex. 

Not one sex scene is as sexy and erotic as the cover blurb makes you think it might be. Nor is the book as thrilling. The story is repetitive with a very predictable outcome that makes up the last 10-12% of the eARC. It all reminded me of that late 1990's film, "The Ninth Gate" with Johnny Depp; though not in a good way. 

1/5 Harpy Eagles

Quick Reviews – August 2022

Husband Material by Alexis Hall, published 02 August 2022.

The sequel to Boyfriend Material is not just as good as the first book, it's better. Knowing the characters already, it's seeing them grow and struggle and overcome obstacles, which makes it so much better. There were lots of LOL moments for me, but just as many moments where I empathised with both main characters and their struggles. 

Hall clearly knows how to write stories and how to play to the strengths of the English language. 

Caveat: The structure of the book kind of made the ending obvious, but it's the best ending for Oliver and Luc.

5/5 Harpy Eagles


Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake by Alexis Hall, published 18 May 2021.

Yes, another Alexis Hall book. I read this first book in the Winner Bakes All series in preparation for the upcoming sequel, Paris Daillencourt is about to Crumble (publishing day 18 Oct 2022). 

Does Hall know how to play with tropes? Yes! This novel features a love triangle, which is extremely well-executed; compared to all those cringe-y YA love triangles. Furthermore there's a sesquipedalian eight year old, witty banter and lots of cake since the love interests meet at a national baking competition.

Eventually though this is a story about personal growth and standing up for yourself. 

4/5 Harpy Eagles


The A.I. Who Loved Me by Alyssa Cole, published/released 19 December 2019.

An A.I. hotty who has to figure out his humanity, a woman suffering from PTSD following an accident, and an interesting (though not entirely unexpected) twist towards the end of the story. 

This audiobook-only sci-fi romance story was more interesting than I had expected. I thought this would be far more sizzling romance than sci-fi, but the SF parts of the story were well thought through. 

The dual point of view narration by Regina Hall and Feodor Chin is enhanced by the addition of a whole cast of narrators. 

4/5 Harpy Eagles


Grand Theft Astro by Scott Meyer, published 29 July 2021.

The Audible Originals audiobook-only story is about Baird, a thief, who, on her latest heist, had been infected with a virus that has no cure yet. She has seven days to live. Her 'handler' tells her that in order to ensure a proper medical treatment Baird not only has to steal certain components of the cure, she also has to remain in stasis while she's not actively stealing. While in stasis she's being transported to her next place of 'work', which often takes several years. 

So far I was on board, if a bit sceptical about how gullible the protagonist is; accepting and relying on all information necessary provided by the handler only. 

Then the book seemed to turn to middle-grade level without being for that audience. While scoping out the places Baird has to rob, she's told everything about how the security systems work by the security people themselves. The way she then executes her heists is supposed to be funny/comical; I thought not. But that might be me. 

I gave up after the second heist. It read too much like an underdeveloped middle-grade book with way too much tell and very little show. 

1/5 Harpy Eagles


Belladonna by Adalyn Grace, published 30 August 2022.

The audiobook of this YA gothic/paranormal fantasy novel was good. The narrator, Kristin Atherton, did a good job giving each character a distinct voice. Especially Death's voice was rather sultry.  

To be honest, I might have bailed on the book had it not been for the audiobook. Why would I have bailed? It was a bit too long-winded for my taste. There was too much woe-be-me by the main character, Signa. And the mysteries were, given I had paid attention from the start, obvious to me. Add jarring anachronisms and I'm normally out. So kudos to the narrator.

If you liked Kingdom of the Wicked, you will certainly like this book. After all, it's a story of romance between a not-so-mere mortal and Death. 

2.75/5 Harpy Eagles

Quick Reviews – July 2022

Beach Read Edition

I’ve read so many palate cleanser books -light entertainment, romance mainly- that I am wondering whether the real palate cleansers are the Sci-Fi and Fantasy books I read in between.

Anyway, here are a few of the books I have read that would make an ideal read for a day at the beach, or by the pool, or under a tree in the park, or wherever you like to spend a drowsy afternoon when the temperatures are high.

Stuck on You by Portia Macintosh, published 17 September 2020.

This is a Christmas themed book and might hence be a bit weird to read on a hot day, but reading about cold days might help you cool off a bit. You might also get a few ideas about how to celebrate Christmas in a quirky way.

Sadie is the PA of Damian Banks, famous portrait photographer. Hence her life revolves around his whims and she has no time for friendships or love. Except, she has a sticky-notes penpal-friendship with her desk-buddy Adam, whom she can confide in. 

With Christmas around the corner, and a new year coming up, Sadie wants to make more time for herself. Can she invite Adam out for a drink? Can she leave the demanding Damian for a new job? Or will she re-ignite the flame that once burned between her and her high-school boyfriend Brian?

The romance was very predictable and the major plot twist probably just came as a surprise for the female lead. Strange that the otherwise intelligent woman didn't catch on to it sooner. 

There was a lot of build-up about Mackie, a person Damian takes photos of, at the beginning of the story and I would have liked to see this rounded up; a snippet from a newspaper towards the end of the book would have been nice. It felt like a story line that was dropped half-way to its conclusion for the sake of the romantic Christmas plot. 

ARC provided by the publishers through NetGalley

3/5 Harpy Eagles


Note to Self by Anna Bell, published 23 June 2022.

Edie just turned 35 years old. A few days after her birthday emails arrive, written by her 18 y/o self during the summer she met Joel. The summer that changed her life forever. The summer Joel broke her heart. The summer her mother died. 

The emails are like entries in a diary. They remind Edie of who she was back then and how much her life and her goals in life have changed. And they make her reach out to the people she met working at a campsite that summer, reconnecting with old friends.

Of course Joel is part of that group. The chemistry between the two of them is still there. But Edie is in a relationship, and Joel has an American girlfriend he might want to follow to Florida for work. 

What I liked most about this book was how down to earth the individual characters' lives were. They all had their problems, but were projecting if not a perfect life than at least a happy life to the world. 

TW: grief, alcoholism

ARC provided by the publishers through NetGalley

5/5 Harpy Eagles


Stone Broke Heiress by Danielle Owen-Jones, published 21 March 2022.

From riches to rags. Or from Dom Pérignon to dumpster diving. The blurb sounded fantastic and if I was less of a sceptic it might have worked. If you like a really light read, where you can overlook a lot of the flaws of the premise behind this story, this is the perfect rom-com for you. 

Bella's family loses their tinned soup company. Bella loses her fiancé to her best friend. Bella is out of a job and broke. So Bella has to find a cheap flat and a job.

Of course she starts working at a soup kitchen, her familial background would make this an ideal job for her, but she's never wielded a spatula in her whole life. 

Dan, the owner of the soup kitchen, is a good looking grump. He holds a grudge against her family, so Bella has to lie about who she is...

The writing is easy to follow if a bit repetitive at times. 

ARC provided by the publishers through NetGalley

2/5 Harpy Eagles


Abridged Classics by John Atkinson, published 5 June 2018.

To give you the full title of the book:

Abridged Classics: Brief Summaries of Books You Were Supposed to Read but Probably Didn't.

What more could I tell you about the book? Each classic book is summed up in one or two fitting drawings with a one-liner at the bottom. 

Perfect if you need a good chuckle in between some very sad books. 

If you intend to still read those classics mentioned in the book, don't worry, the short summaries do not spoil the stories. 

4/5 Harpy Eagles


How to Swear by Stephen Wildish, published 10 April 2018.

Just in case the Abridged Classics didn't cheer you up, try this book. It has Venn diagrams and charts about swearing. 

This is the perfect book for you, if you feel like you need a refresher course on the four letter words you were told never to utter in polite and/or under-aged company. 

It's a very brief book, so don't expect in-depth etymology of words. What it lacks in depth, it makes up in summing up the important facts in handy graphs. 

4/5 Harpy Eagles

Ugh, so cliché!

One To Watch by Kate Stayman-London, published 07 July, 2020.

Unpopular opinion! Contains spoilers!

The premise: plus size woman, who is body positive and fashionable, is looking for love on a The Bachelorette-like show.

Bea is a plus size fashion blogger. She’s been pining after her best friend for years. They share one night together after which Ray, who’s engaged, basically ghosts Bea. After a wine induced social media rant about a reality TV show, the producers of the show want Bea to be their next bachelorette to find love among 25 contestants.

Bea is hesitant to go on the show, knowing what kind of trolling she might have to deal with due to it. She still signs the contract and meets the initial 25 men. The majority of them are handsome and not at all what Bea had expected. Here we get my first big issue: although body positive on the outside, Bea is not very positive on the inside. She’s insecure and despite the evidence pointing to the opposite she thinks the men despise her for her size.

I have the feeling that the author had a list of boxes that needed ticking while writing this book. Include a gay person, a black person, an asian person, someone asexual, someone who’s gender non-conform, someone with a fat-fetish, … They are all there! Are they handled well? Nope! Scratched at the surface of what would have been possible. Used as cliché? You bet!

Same for the body positivity. Do we get to see Bea eat healthy? Enjoy a dance lesson? Nope! We are being told that she eats healthy, but then her shopping list contains only snacks, not a single veggie. She tells us she does yoga and cross fit, but nearly freaks out when some of the love interests are personal trainers. Perfect opportunity to show that you don’t have to be stick thin to be fit.

Ray! Bleurgh! A guy who cheats on his fiancée with his best friend? Then there is radio silence? And she keeps pining after this guy?! A girl who takes her best friend to bed knowing he’s engaged to another woman? *hand me a bucket, please* Suddenly he shows up, a week before the finale show, to make sure she knows he loves her before she accepts the hand of another man. Bea’s best friend Skypes in and tries to reason with Bea, but, of course, they argue about the idiot who has been stringing Bea on for the past decade. And, of course, on their date Ray has lots of arguments why he suddenly noticed that Bea is the woman he wants to spend his life with. *where’s that bucket?*

Cue the very predictable finale!

2 very generous Goodreads stars

It’s that time …

… when supermarkets start stocking gingerbread, Stollen, and chocolate Santas – or in other words: It’s September!

Contrary to what I thought at the beginning of the month – that I might be happy if I get a few books off my TBR – I had a very productive August, thanks to the schools reopening. That offered me a lot of hours of audio-reading while doing the chores. You have no idea how much that has helped with regaining my equilibrium.

My August was filled with sci-fi, fantasy, (explicit) romance, a bit of horror and historical fiction. Goodreads, probably the only place that keeps a halfway accurate record of my reading, has 19 books logged for August. That’s not true. I read a couple of ARCs that are not in the Goodreads database yet; and a few excerpts of books, which I don’t count towards my Goodreads challenge. Which is looking fine, btw. Thanks for asking.

The Sceptre buddyread The Only Good Indians was interesting, although I wouldn’t say my favourite of the month. That honour goes to the romcoms I’ve read, Dawn with a Duke and The Switch and Erin Mallon’s Flirtasaurus. I needed a cozy feel-good read for a change. I had virtually thrown too many books at the wall in August.

Looking forward to September I have to admit, I might have said “yes, let’s buddyread this book/series/author” a few too many times. My plate is full.

There are, as always, books I’m reading with my kids; strangely that list is getting longer every month too. There’ll be the Sceptre buddyread; we’re busy speculating on which book it might be. It’s a book that’ll be published in early September, because the bookshop will send out the books later this time.

Buddyreads: There’s Katie MacAlister’s Improper English that I am reading with a friend in Australia. My postal book club book for August is still unread – Ugh! – and the next book is on it’s way to me. Pratchett’s Last Continent wants to be read by September 7th for the Litsy OokBOokClub. There is Shusterman’s Scythe, which I’m buddyreading with my son. Then I’m looking forward to Laura Lam and Elizabeth May’s Seven Devils, which I wanted to start but accidentally started reading Kit Rocha’s Deal with the Devil; I am also savouring the ARC of Turton’s next book The Devil and the Dark Water. Coincidence? I think it just means September is off to a good start.

If you’re wondering, the current state of the NetGalley-ARC-shelf-of-shame is 95. Hand me some gingerbread, please! I need something to snack on while I get through that pile.

Let’s Swap!

The Switch by Beth O’Leary, published 16 April 2020.

Leena uses her forced two-month sabbatical to swap places with her 79-year old grandmother Eileen. Eileen moves to live in the shared flat in London, looking for love. Leena moves to live in the tiny Yorkshire village and tries to take care of all of Eileen’s projects.

This story of grief, loss, family, recovery, and love was so good, I couldn’t put it down. Or rather, I couldn’t take my headphones off. The dual narration by Daisy Edgar-Jones and Alison Steadman was the perfect accompaniment to the story.

I fell in love with the characters and felt for them throughout the book. They are real, down-to-earth characters that it was easy to root for.

If you loved Beth O’Leary’s Flatshare, read this. It’s definitely better than watching a whole series of Gilmore Girls, because it’s set in Britain. 😉

5/5 Goodreads stars

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