[Review] THE VALENTINE DINE OR DIE by JB Michaels, 4 out of 5 stars

JB Michaels’ The Valentine Dine or Die is the second Mac and Millie Mysteries book. Mac is a former cop who is supposed to be moving on and writing a memoir, but the cop life looks like it isn’t done with him just yet. Millie is a regular banker, or at least that’s what she wants others to believe. She and her family practice witchcraft, and while this is not a secret to Mac, she reserves her witchy side on more important things such as some of Mac’s cases. This romantic mystery book is all about their first Valentine’s as a couple. But the theatrical show where they go to turns into a suicide case. Or is it murder? With Mac’s background and Millie’s supernatural powers, they once again sleuth together to find the culprit.

The Valentine Dine or Die is a short read that can be finished in one sitting. The story and writing style may be simple, but the book is fast-paced and exciting. It can be read as a standalone, although the first book is a must-read for a few details which Michaels does not choose to elaborate on this one. Mac and Millie make a great team; they are one adorable couple who treats each other as equals. The book cover is just as cute as the story. Just imagine what science and witchcraft can bring when these two are around. There are some spelling and grammatical errors, but they are not disruptive in general. Trigger warnings include leg injury, bombing, murder, adultery, Seasonal Affective Disorder (i.e., winter depression), and a homosexual relationship.

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[Review] HAPPILY EVER HIS by Delancey Stewart, 4⚝

QOTD: Are you the type who revels in the spotlight or would you rather be a helping hand in the background?⁣

Ryan McDonnell’s acting career is falling apart. He’s not a bad actor, just a victim of badly-written films. Juliet Manchester is dubbed as America’s sweetheart, the hottest actress in Hollywood today. But she’s having a rough time after divorcing her husband who is also blackmailing her. Ryan and Juliet’s agents find a solution and they agree to be in a win-win fake relationship. With this game of pretend, Ryan can have another shot at fame with Juliet by his side, and the press won’t bombard Juliet with too many questions regarding her divorce. They cause a hot scene at LAX before flying to Maryland, Juliet’s hometown, to celebrate her grandma’s 90th birthday. Ryan is true to his promise not only to save his career but also to be able to send his dad in a suitable nursing home. But when Ryan lays his eyes on Juliet’s sister, Tess, he swears it was love at first sight.

⁣Delancey Stewart’s Happily Ever His is cheesy, hot, angsty, and funny. This book is a good choice if you’re looking for a quick rom-com read. The story unfolds with Ryan and Tess’ alternating points of view. It’s pretty amazing that the readers get to know both sides of every scene. I like Gran’s audacity, Juliet’s passion, Ryan’s sincerity, and Tess’ relatability. Tess is the perfect fangirl but I’m just sad that she’s always talking herself down. The romance is adorable; it happened pretty fast but it did not feel forced. The ending is appropriate and wonderful. Trigger warnings include profanity and sex.⁣

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[Review] SUCH A FUN AGE by Kiley Reid, 4⚝

Happy last day of 2019 and happy Pub Day to this book! Thanks to NetGalley & G.P. Putnam’s Sons for giving me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Emira Tucker is a twenty-five-year-old African American who is struggling to find a “normal” employment. She’s turning twenty-six soon and that means she has to find a job that will cover her own health insurance because she can’t depend on her parents anymore. She applies as a part-time babysitter for Alix and Peter Chamberlain’s eldest daughter, Briar. One night, the Chamberlains get one of their windows busted due to a racist comment made by Peter on national television. Filled with panic, Alix calls Emira, who’s in the middle of a friend’s party, to distract Briar for a while as they deal with the police. What Emira doesn’t know is that this night will have a huge impact on her life. This particular night, at Market Depot, Emira will encounter a racist guard, come to know her future boyfriend Kelley Copeland, and soon learn about the connection of Kelley and Alix.

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid is masterfully written. It is both feminist and diverse. Initially, the story was kind of slow for me but in the middle up ’til the end, everything got more exciting. I love how the friendships in this book were so relatable. I also love how adorable Emira is with Briar.

The conflict was so intriguing that I couldn’t wait until everything was explained and resolved. This book has got me scrutinizing Kelley and Alix page after page, looking for clues as to who is really telling the truth. I was also questioning and constantly checking-in with myself because this book made me realize that sometimes, privilege seems too mundane in our daily lives that we forget that there are people who don’t get to enjoy these things as much as we do.

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[Review] THE WINTER SISTERS by Tim Westover, 4⚝

It was spring of 1822 and Doctor Aubrey Waycross was hailed to Lawrenceville, Georgia. The mayor personally wrote to him about a case of rabies and was afraid that it might spread in his town. Waycross spends most of his money just to get there, only to find out that he was tricked. There wasn’t a case of rabies, at least not yet. Aside from this fraud, he gets more upset when he finds out that the people of Lawrenceville believe more in the Winter Sisters, who allegedly practice witchcraft, than in his scientific methods when it comes to curing their ailments. The Winter Sisters by Tim Westover may have been set in the 1800s but with the themes it tackled, I’d say it’s still relevant today.

I liked that the book showed us that healing can come in many forms. And what matters most is that people believe in whichever source it came from. I learned from this book that ignorance and laziness are a deadly combination. While it’s true that people are resistant to change, this resistance shouldn’t stop them from going forward in life. My favorite character is Waycross because instead of keeping on hating on the Winter sisters, he made an effort to confront them and understand their ways. I liked how the author kept Effie’s and their mother’s characters a mystery but I wish there was some big revelation about them. Until the end, they both remained unsolved puzzles. I also liked that this book is argumentative in nature because it makes you think if it’s really your responsibility to cure people when you can or choose to lead a simple life that is far from nosy followers. Trigger warnings include blind following, death by fire, and a surgery mistake. The Winter Sisters by Tim Westover is highly recommended to fans of literary fiction.

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[Review] SKETCHES OF LIFE by A. Gavazzoni, 4⚝

Lily Campbell’s family is falling apart. Her older sister, Adele, was kidnapped by a Nazi Captain. Her father, afraid of putting them in more danger, sends her and her mother to America while he stayed in France to look for Adele. To say that life in America had been tough for Lily is an understatement. She was forced to adapt and grow-up quickly, instead of enjoying her teenage years. Ninon, on the other hand, is a dancer in a French cabaret. For some reason, she has been recruited by a patron to be a special agent. After months of rigorous training, she becomes an adept sniper and begins to work on secret missions. With the setting of the Second World War, Sketches of Life by A. Gavazzoni will make you cry, fall in love, and never give up on life.

This is a story of love and survival, and an emotionally heavy one at that. The book alternates between Lily and Ninon’s points of view. We can all agree that multiple POVs can be tricky to write and as I progressed, I found it hard to follow the story. Looking back, it was a great plot nonetheless and the revelation in the end was jaw-dropping. The romance was not forced, although some scenes were a bit exaggerated. This is such a feminist book and I love how A. Gavazonni created the characters of Lily and Ninon. They were both strong and versatile women amidst adversities. Trigger warnings include cancer, dementia, violence, mental health stigma, cheating, and suicide.

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[Review] REVERIE by Ryan La Sala, 4/5

Kane Montgomery got himself into an accident and is being held accountable for arson and possible death of an old woman. He is currently being questioned by the authorities, but the thing is, he can’t remember what and how everything happened. There are a lot of things that just don’t seem to fit. Was he being framed or did he really commit these crimes? He feels terribly lost and finds no one to turn to – not even his dear sister.

Then out of the blue, a drag queen-slash-witch, Dr. Poesy, appears. He suddenly feels hopeful because finally, there is someone who seems to understand his situation. He also learns about “The Others” – a group who knows the truth about what really happened to him. Reverie by Ryan La Sala is a thrilling YA book about made-up realities that will both comfort and haunt you.

This book is such a good package. There is mystery, there’s humor, and then there’s romance too. The best part about the romance was that it showed love in all forms. There’s a boy loving another boy, a girl loving another girl, a boy loving a girl, and a brother loving his sister. The book is feminist and LGBT-friendly. I loved the fact that as soon as it was clear in the book that Poesy identifies herself as female, all the pronouns changed from ‘he’ to ‘she’ and ‘him’/’his’ to ‘her’. There is so much power and respect in a way you address a person based on his/her choice, even when society might find it unacceptable.

I would also like to commend the author for writing a wonderful debut novel and for the fresh concept this novel has introduced. There were some parts that got me confused and that’s the reason why I’m giving this a 4 instead of a 5. Trigger warnings include memory loss, bullying, guilt, and graphic injuries.

Thank you very much to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for an e-copy in exchange for an honest review.

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[Review] THE LADY’S DECEPTION by Susanna Craig, 4/5

English countess Rosamund Gorse runs away from Kilready castle when she finds out her brother, Charles, has sold her to marry Lord Dashfort. While there’s nothing strikingly wrong with Dashfort, aside from the rumors about his illegitimate child and the recent death of his wife, Rosamund doesn’t love him and has no intentions of marrying this man who’s way older than her.

In her plight, she meets Paris Burke, an Irish barrister, who is looking for a governess for his two youngest sisters. Taking advantage of his situation, Rosamund pretends to be a governess to earn while she hides. He takes her right away to Merrion Square and the next thing they know, they have developed affections for each other. But will this work, especially in the times when the Irish are rebelling against the English? Can love hopefully blossom out of lies and deception?

This book had a slow start and I almost did not want to finish it, but I’m glad I did. The build-up and excitement did not start until I was in the middle and it followed through ’til the end. The first thing that I loved in this book was the hidden desires and therefore tension between Paris and Rosamund. It was a slow-burn romance that was worth the wait. I adored the couple’s character developments and how they eventually chose to be brave as individuals so they can live better lives.

I also loved that the book was feminist (and LGBT-friendly). It portrayed how men and women can be equal even in the earlier times when men were the only ones expected to rule and succeed. It also talked about forgiveness not only of others, but more importantly, of yourself. If you have a big family, you will definitely enjoy this one as it shows how noisy yet happy a big family can be.

I found a few typo errors, mostly missing punctuation marks. I highly recommend this book to lovers of historical fiction and romance. Trigger warnings include death and sex. Special thanks to NetGalley, Kensington Books, and Lyrical Press for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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