REVIEW: Not That Kind of Guy

Author: Andie J. Christopher

Rating: ★ ★ ★ (3.5)

Genre: Romance

Pages: 336

Date of Publication: April 14, 2020

Synopsis: State attorney Bridget Nolan is successful in all aspects of her life—except romance. After breaking up with her longtime boyfriend, she’s been slow to reenter the dating scene. To be honest, she has more important things to do like putting bad guys behind bars. But with her brother’s wedding right around the corner, she suddenly needs a date and fast. Lucky for Bridget, the legal intern is almost done with his program.

Matt Kido is dumbstruck by Bridget—total love at first sight—but there’s one problem. She’s totally off-limits while she’s his boss. But the moment he no longer reports to her, Matt decides to take a chance. An impulsive decision takes them to Las Vegas where, as the saying goes, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.

Unless you put a ring on it.

Review: Workplace romances are my JAM so I was super excited to read Not That Kind of Guy and experience a different take on the trope. And while this definitely wasn’t my all-time favorite, it was still a charming, easy, and enjoyable read! I wasn’t aware of this going in, especially since I had never read from this author before, but apparently Christopher draws inspiration for her novels from popular rom-com movies. Looking back, this book definitely gave off slight The ProposalWhat Happens in Vegas, and even Crazy Rich Asian vibes, which is a fun and interesting approach. I mean it when I say slight, though. There were very subtle nods and overlapping plot points from these movies in the book – it was still very much its own story.

WHAT WORKED: Bridget was GREAT – such a girl boss. Her character felt very developed and relatable, which I really enjoyed. I liked that she was the one established in her career and that Matt was presented as the less experienced intern, which as I stated above, was a really refreshing take on workplace romance. The storyline was very cute, light, and rom-com-y, which kept me engaged for the most part. Bridget’s friendship with Hannah was another one of the aspects of this book that really worked for me. I love seeing strong female friendships represented in romances.

WHAT DIDN’T: While I loved how Bridget was characterized and presented, I had a difficult time connecting with Matt. He came across pretty flat and not as well developed, and because of that, I had a hard time connecting to his relationship with Bridget and believing their chemistry, which felt a little insta-lovey to me at times? The last quarter of the book dragged a bit and the conflict seemed a bit cliche and drawn out, however, I was ultimately satisfied with the ending!

REVIEW: Fight or Flight

Author: Samantha Young

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Genre: Romance

Pages: 382

Date of Publication: October 9, 2018

Synopsis: The universe is conspiring against Ava Breevort. As if flying back to Phoenix to bury a childhood friend wasn’t hell enough, a cloud of volcanic ash traveling from overseas delayed her flight back home to Boston. Her last ditch attempt to salvage the trip was thwarted by an arrogant Scotsman, Caleb Scott, who steals a first class seat out from under her. Then over the course of their journey home, their antagonism somehow lands them in bed for the steamiest layover Ava’s ever had. And that’s all it was–until Caleb shows up on her doorstep.

When pure chance pulls Ava back into Caleb’s orbit, he proposes they enjoy their physical connection while he’s stranded in Boston. Ava agrees, knowing her heart’s in no danger since a) she barely likes Caleb and b) his existence in her life is temporary. Not long thereafter Ava realizes she’s made a terrible error because as it turns out Caleb Scott isn’t quite so unlikeable after all. When his stay in Boston becomes permanent, Ava must decide whether to fight her feelings for him or give into them. But even if she does decide to risk her heart on Caleb, there is no guarantee her stubborn Scot will want to risk his heart on her….

Review: Fight or Flight is a super fun, fast-paced enemies-to-lovers romance that centers around two strangers who meet in an airport following a flight delay. Caleb is tall, bearded, tattooed and Scottish. The CEO of a large tech company, he’s extremely successful and confident in himself. Ava is a small, put-together, sassy interior designer who’s been hurt in the past and has thus developed a tough exterior. When they’re seated next to each other on the flight, they bicker and banter but sparks fly and they can’t deny their underlying chemistry. Recognizing their undeniable attraction to each other, they agree to a steamy one night stand, which leads to a no-strings-attached friend with benefits deal, which works out perfectly until they’re forced to confront their true feelings for each other.

What Worked: I picked this book up on a whim one night, honestly not expecting too much, and then proceeded to stay up way past my bedtime in order to finish it. This was a super addicting read full of tension, witty dialogue and angsty situations – a few of my favorite things! The relationship between Caleb and Ava was entertaining and heartwarming as they discover their feelings for each other. I was rooting for them so hard. Aside from their romantic relationship, I also found Ava’s relationship with her best friend, Harper, to be super sweet and endearing, and would love to see a spin-off book following her and her story. Regardless, I’ll definitely be picking up more of Samantha Young’s work in the future.

What Didn’t Work: While I ended up giving this book a 4-star rating, I would be amiss if I didn’t acknowledge that this book definitely had its cheesy moments and some slightly problematic instances as well. Caleb has no filter and is often downright rude to those around him, including flight attendants and waitstaff, which was frustrating. There’s a difference in being a confident “alpha male” and having zero respect for those around you. Just because you’ve been hurt in the past doesn’t mean you get a free pass and can be an a**hole to everyone around you, especially people that are just trying to do their jobs. The ending was super abrupt and wrapped up too nicely and too quickly, in my opinion. I felt like Ava was way too quick to forgive Caleb for his misgivings and that he should have been made to grovel a lot more. She seemed super adamant on staying strong and sticking to her guns and then ultimately takes him back the first chance she gets.

Overall, this was a really cute, light read that I enjoyed. If you’re a fan of Scottish men and a good enemies-to-lovers trope with lots of chemistry, give this Fight or Flight a try!

REVIEW: The Simple Wild

Author: K.A. Tucker

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Genre: Romance/Women’s Fiction

Pages: 401

Date of Publication: August 7, 2018

Synopsis: Calla Fletcher was two when her mother took her and fled the Alaskan wild, unable to handle the isolation of the extreme, rural lifestyle, leaving behind Calla’s father, Wren Fletcher, in the process. Calla never looked back, and at twenty-six, a busy life in Toronto is all she knows. But when her father reaches out to inform her that his days are numbered, Calla knows that it’s time to make the long trip back to the remote frontier town where she was born.

She braves the roaming wildlife, the odd daylight hours, the exorbitant prices, and even the occasional—dear God—outhouse, all for the chance to connect with her father: a man who, despite his many faults, she can’t help but care for. While she struggles to adjust to this new subarctic environment, Jonah—the quiet, brooding, and proud Alaskan pilot who keeps her father’s charter plane company operational—can’t imagine calling anywhere else home. And he’s clearly waiting with one hand on the throttle to fly this city girl back to where she belongs, convinced that she’s too pampered to handle the wild.

Jonah is probably right, but Calla is determined to prove him wrong. As time passes, she unexpectedly finds herself forming a bond with the burly pilot. As his undercurrent of disapproval dwindles, it’s replaced by friendship—or perhaps something deeper? But Calla is not in Alaska to stay and Jonah will never leave. It would be foolish of her to kindle a romance, to take the same path her parents tried—and failed at—years ago.

It’s a simple truth that turns out to be not so simple after all.

Review: *AIR HORN* First 5-star read of 2020 and one of my new favorite books of all time! I am kicking myself for taking so long to get around to this heartbreaking, beautiful story that made me feel things, y’all.

The Simple Wild follows twenty-six-year-old Calla, who was born in Alaska but moved to Toronto with her mother at a very young age. Because of this, her relationship with her father, who stayed in Alaska to run his airline business, Alaska Wild, has always been strained and nearly non-existent. When she receives a phone call one day with news that he has been diagnosed with lung cancer, she makes the decision to travel to Alaska in order to get to know him and repair their relationship before it’s too late. Upon arriving in Alaska, she meets Jonah, a hot-headed pilot and one of her father’s employees who seems intent on making her life miserable. Calla has to not only brave the Alaskan wilderness, but her relationship with her father, Jonah and their community and the result is *chefs kiss.*

While I definitely wasn’t a huge fan of some of Jonah’s actions (i.e., hiding Calla’s makeup and luggage, the Barbie nickname, etc.), he, much like all of the characters, grew on me so quickly and I was truly rooting for their romance after learning more about him and his heart. More importantly, watching Calla and her dad’s relationship rekindle and blossom as they both grow to understand one another was heartbreaking and beautiful all at the same time. I didn’t want this book to end and highly recommend you pick it up!

REVIEW: My Dark Vanessa

Author: Kate Elizabeth Russell

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Genre: Psychological Fiction

Pages: 384

Date of Publication: January 23, 2020

Synopsis: Exploring the psychological dynamics of the relationship between a precocious yet naïve teenage girl and her magnetic and manipulative teacher, a brilliant, all-consuming read that marks the explosive debut of an extraordinary new writer.

2000. Bright, ambitious, and yearning for adulthood, fifteen-year-old Vanessa Wye becomes entangled in an affair with Jacob Strane, her magnetic and guileful forty-two-year-old English teacher.

2017. Amid the rising wave of allegations against powerful men, a reckoning is coming due. Strane has been accused of sexual abuse by a former student, who reaches out to Vanessa, and now Vanessa suddenly finds herself facing an impossible choice: remain silent, firm in the belief that her teenage self willingly engaged in this relationship, or redefine herself and the events of her past. But how can Vanessa reject her first love, the man who fundamentally transformed her and has been a persistent presence in her life? Is it possible that the man she loved as a teenager—and who professed to worship only her—may be far different from what she has always believed?

Alternating between Vanessa’s present and her past, My Dark Vanessa juxtaposes memory and trauma with the breathless excitement of a teenage girl discovering the power her own body can wield. Thought-provoking and impossible to put down, this is a masterful portrayal of troubled adolescence and its repercussions that raises vital questions about agency, consent, complicity, and victimhood. Written with the haunting intimacy of The Girls and the creeping intensity of RoomMy Dark Vanessa is an era-defining novel that brilliantly captures and reflects the shifting cultural mores transforming our relationships and society itself. 

Review: Y’all… How lucky am I to have received one of most anticipated books of 2020 for free from – of all things – a Goodreads giveaway?! I didn’t think that it was possible, that people actually won those things, but now that I know it can be done I can’t stop entering them. I don’t think the likelihood of me winning again is very high, but I digress.

Yes, My Dark Vanessa was one of my most anticipated books of 2020 and as you can tell from my 5-star rating above, I really enjoyed it. I hesitate to say that I loved it as the subject matter is really dark and disturbing, and while a complete work of fiction, something terrible that occurs – and probably more often than we’re aware.

I was honestly shocked to learn that this was Russell’s first novel because My Dark Vanessa is masterfully written and entirely engaging. A thought-provoking conversation starter on abuse of power, consent, trauma, and the uber-relevant #MeToo movement, the book’s narrative switches back and forth between timelines; a vulnerable, 15-year-old Vanessa who’s being groomed for a sexual relationship with her English teacher, Mr. Strane, and present-day Vanessa, as she struggles with the aftermath of his abuse and manipulation. The trauma from her experiences runs deep and it’s something that, to be expected, has impacted all aspects of her adult life – her relationships, her career, her sense of well being and mental state, etc. She struggles with her identity outside of her abuser -she even struggles to see Mr. Strane as what he is and was – an abuser. The verbal and mental manipulation she suffered at the hands of her teacher was astounding and heartbreaking, and honestly hard to read. Equally hard to read was Vanessa’s processing of the situation and the ways she convinces herself that Strane was her true love. He ruined her life and she was blind to his manipulation.

A main plot point of the novel involves a former student coming forward and alleging abuse by the same teacher. She encourages Vanessa to join her in speaking out against their perpetrator and the institution that allowed the abuse to occur. For Vanessa, the decision to respond and speak out is no easy feat, mainly because she struggles to see her relationship with Strane as an abuse of power. She questions yet defends his intentions and the validity of their “romance.” Was she really in love? Is she delusional? Was she partly responsible for their relationship?

This is a very challenging, raw read but one that I highly recommend you pick up.

**I received this book for free from William Morrow Books through a #GoodreadsGiveaway, however, this is an honest review and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

Sarah & Her Shelves Recommended? YES.

REVIEW: Fix Her Up

Author: Tessa Bailey

Rating:  ★ ★

Genre: Romance

Pages: 400

Date of Publication: June 11, 2019

Synopsis: Georgette Castle’s family runs the best home renovation business in town, but she picked balloons instead of blueprints and they haven’t taken her seriously since. Frankly, she’s over it. Georgie loves planning children’s birthday parties and making people laugh, just not at her own expense. She’s determined to fix herself up into a Woman of the World… whatever that means.

Phase one: new framework for her business (a website from this decade, perhaps?)

Phase two: a gut-reno on her wardrobe (fyi, leggings are pants.)

Phase three: updates to her exterior (do people still wax?)

Phase four: put herself on the market (and stop crushing on Travis Ford!)

Living her best life means facing the truth: Georgie hasn’t been on a date since, well, ever. Nobody’s asking the town clown out for a night of hot sex, that’s for sure. Maybe if people think she’s having a steamy love affair, they’ll acknowledge she’s not just the “little sister” who paints faces for a living. And who better to help demolish that image than the resident sports star and tabloid favorite?

Travis Ford was major league baseball’s hottest rookie when an injury ended his career. Now he’s flipping houses to keep busy and trying to forget his glory days. But he can’t even cross the street without someone recapping his greatest hits. Or making a joke about his… bat. And then there’s Georgie, his best friend’s sister, who is not a kid anymore. When she proposes a wild scheme—that they pretend to date, to shock her family and help him land a new job—he agrees. What’s the harm? It’s not like it’s real. But the girl Travis used to tease is now a funny, full-of-life woman and there’s nothing fake about how much he wants her… 

Review: Y’all…. where do I even start? This book DID NOT do it for me and I’m disappointed for so many reasons. First of all, I typically love a good fake dating trope and I also really enjoy a good “I’m in love with my brother’s best friend” story line. In theory, I should have enjoyed this book. The cover is illustrated and super cute. I also found my copy at a used bookstore for $5 and snatched it off the shelves so fast. Unfortunately, now I understand why it ended up being passed along and I’m about to do the same!

SO many elements of this book ANNOYED me to no end. Let’s start with Travis. He is NOT the kind of love interest that I gravitate toward. At all. His excessive use of “baby girl” made me want to throw up (I don’t mind one or two ~baby girls~ thrown in there, I don’t like it but I can stomach it, but the dude literally says it every other page, like please stop) and his cockiness was a major turn off for me. He was an a**hole! He didn’t treat Georgie well, he was jealous, controlling and overprotective of her when he had no right to be?

The dirty talk/sex scenes had me cringing so hard. So hard. Terribly written, not anything anyone would ever or should ever say. Circling back to Travis being one of the most annoying love interest I’ve ever seen, he hyper focuses on Georgie’s virginity. I was rolling my eyes at the fact that Georgie, who has pined over Gavin since childhood, is a virgin. There is nothing wrong with a woman being a 23 year-old virgin, but it’s constantly mentioned and glorified by Gavin, the womanizer, who LITERALLY, I’m not kidding, says, “You’re about to meet your God” in reference to his d*ck. OF COURSE she’s a “wholesome” virgin who’s saved herself for Travis, who’s slept with a plethora of woman. And of course, he has to repeatedly mention how he’s the first guy to mark his territory with Georgie and that she’s his property and all that. Gross.

The story really revolves around Georgie, who works as a clown for children’s birthday parties, wanting to be taken seriously by her family. However, I couldn’t take her seriously throughout the entirety of the book due to her horrendous, cheesy dialogue. She didn’t come across as quirky or relatable, just annoying and childish. Which, let me tell you, made the sex scenes ever weirder.

Sarah & Her Shelves Recommended? NO.

REVIEW: One Day in December


Rating: 4.5 stars

Genre: Romance, ChickLit

Pages: 392

Date of Publication: Oct. 16, 2018

Pages: 392

“Sarah is my best friend in the entire world, and however much and for however long it kills me, I’ll never silently, secretly hold up signs to tell Jack O’Mara, without hope or agenda, that to me he is perfect, and that my wasted heart will always love him.”

Is love at first sight real? Laurie is on a crowded bus, headed home after a long day at a job she hates when she spots a man reading at the bus stop. He looks up, they make eye contact, and sparks fly. “It’s a look of Hello you, and Oh My God, it’s you, and I can’t believe how good it is to see you, all in one.” The bus lurches away; a missed connection.

For the next year, Laurie searches for this stranger. She dreams about him, longs for him, and vows to find him. And find him she does. Except he’s on the arm of her best friend, Sarah. Unbeknownst to Sarah, her new boyfriend Jack is the man her best friend has been hopelessly in love with for the past year.

Over the next ten years, we follow Laurie, Sarah, and Jack on an emotional rollercoaster. From friendship and relationships to finding happiness and learning to heal, this book will warm your soul like a big mug of coffee in the wintertime.