[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] 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] WHEN MOTHS BURN by John Eidswick, 5⚝

James Strait, a former FBI agent, is starting a new life with his girlfriend, Jessie Brightwater. He had been falsely accused by jealous officemates and had lost his job because of that. Despite being ousted, Strait has kept his friendship with his best buddy, Graham Footer. He and Footer once tracked down a racist cult and saved several children in the process. This incident made him a hero in Pine River, attracting admirers and haters alike. One day, after his long walk, a bomb blows up his girlfriend’s church and kills her. He swears to find the criminals and punish them himself. But a girl named Edie suddenly turns up in his place saying that her life’s in danger and is asking for help. When Moths Burn by John Eidswick gave me a roller coaster of emotions and I’m not complaining. 

This book is definitely a winner. The plot was well-thought-of and was developed in great detail. I loved the idea of Jessie’s character – a liberal pastor. Today, we live in a world where religion clouds progressive thinking and Jessie is just what we need to believe that a person can have religious beliefs while keeping an open mind. The first chapter with Sandy Yarrow was a bit off for me because it gave the impression that Sandy was a primary character. I was looking for her in the next chapters but she was only brought back to the story when the ending was close. I liked that this book raised awareness for Meniere’s disease, and that plot twist in the end got me. John Eidswick’s When Moths Burn is worthy of recommendation to all the thriller lovers out there. Trigger warnings include racism, hate crimes, violence, drugs, abuse (sexual, child), graphic injuries, pornography, pedophilia, animal cruelty, murder, and bombing.

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