Saturday, January 15, 2022

Review: Weather Girl by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Weather Girl Rachel Lynn Solomon
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary Romance 
Weather Girl cover
ISBN: 9780593200148
Release Date: January 11, 2022
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Ari Abrams has always been fascinated by the weather, and she loves almost everything about her job as a TV meteorologist. Her boss, legendary Seattle weatherwoman Torrance Hale, is too distracted by her tempestuous relationship with her ex-husband, the station’s news director, to give Ari the mentorship she wants. Ari, who runs on sunshine and optimism, is at her wits’ end. The only person who seems to understand how she feels is sweet but reserved sports reporter Russell Barringer.

In the aftermath of a disastrous holiday party, Ari and Russell decide to team up to solve their bosses’ relationship issues. Between secret gifts and double dates, they start nudging their bosses back together. But their well-meaning meddling backfires when the real chemistry builds between Ari and Russell.

Working closely with Russell means allowing him to get to know parts of herself that Ari keeps hidden from everyone. Will he be able to embrace her dark clouds as well as her clear skies?

What happens when two reporters team up to Parent Trap their bosses? Antics, friendship, and an unexpected romance. Weather Girl has an entertaining premise and its characters’ easy, low-key chemistry makes it enjoyable, but what really makes it stand out is how author Rachel Lynn Solomon addresses mental health in this romance.

Ari Abrams is a meteorologist for KSEA news and though she loves her job, her office is miserable thanks to the constant battles between her boss and KSEA’s station manager. The exes are constantly at each other’s throats, but there’s chemistry there that makes Ari think that all the love between them may not be gone. At an office Christmas party, she and sports reporter Russell Barringer decide to nudge their bosses back together. Their plotting leads to an easy friendship springing up between Ari and Russell, and it’s not long before that friendship turns into something more. Ari and Russell never quite grabbed me as a couple, but I still liked them enough to just roll with it. I particularly liked that Russell had insecurities about his looks (it’s a refreshing change of pace) and that Ari thought he was totally hot.

The romance was OK in this book but what really made Weather Girl shine for me was Ari’s mental health struggles and the sensitivity Solomon showed in addressing this topic. Ari has depression and the way Solomon writes it is so realistic and relatable that it grabbed my heart. Even though Ari has been successfully managing her depression for years, it’s not something that goes away no matter how adept you are at handling it. She feels like she always has to show a smiling face to the world, that no one could love all of her. I wanted to see her realize that she could be loved on good days and bad and I loved that Solomon gave that to her.

Weather Girl is a lovely, sometimes messy romance with endearing characters. I loved the Jewish representation in this book as well as the way different families are shown. Solomon isn’t afraid to make her characters imperfect and give them love, which I really liked. All in all, Ari and Russell’s story is an entertaining read to curl up with in sunshine or storm.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Review: The Family You Make by Jill Shalvis

The Family You Make by Jill Shalvis
Series: Sunrise Cove, Book 1
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Romance 
The Family You Make cover
ISBN: 9780063025486
Release Date: January 11, 2022
Source: Author
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible
Jill Shalvis Reading Order

During the snowstorm of the century Levi Cutler is stranded on a ski lift with a beautiful stranger named Jane. After strong winds hurl the gondola in front of them into the ground, Levi calls his parents to prepare them for the worst…but can’t bring himself to say goodbye. Instead, wanting to fulfill his mother’s lifelong wish, he impulsively tells her he’s happily settled and Jane is his girlfriend—right before his phone dies.

But Levi and Jane do not.

Now Levi’s family is desperate to meet “The One.” Though Jane agrees to be his pretend girlfriend for just one dinner, she’s nervous. After a traumatic childhood, Jane isn’t sure she knows how to be around a tight-knit family that cherishes one another. She’s terrified, and a little jealous. But an unexpected series of events and a host of new friends soon show Jane that perhaps this is the life she was always meant to have.

As Jane and Levi spend more time together, pretend feelings quickly turn into real ones. Now all Jane has to do is admit to herself she can’t live without the man she’s fallen in love with and the family she has always dreamed of.

The Family You Make is a sweet story with a healthy splash of romance. Jill Shalvis kicks off her Sunrise Cove series with a story of opening yourself of to love and connections, even though it’s frightening.

Jane has been a loner as long as she can remember. She was passed around like the family burden and now is a travelling nurse, never wanting to stay in one place and wear out her welcome. Levi is a square peg in a round hole in his family and he left Sunrise Cove to break away from that feeling. Both are in the Tahoe area for the season and when they’re trapped in a gondola in the middle of a massive snowstorm, Levi finds he can’t call his family to say goodbye when he thinks he’s going to die. Instead, he tells his mother (who has long wanted him to settle down) that Jane is his girlfriend. After they survive, Levi convinces Jane to agree to the ruse for a few weeks. What happens next is a story of letting down your walls and letting love – romantic and familial – in. There’s a lot of push-pull in Levi and Jane’s romance, mostly because she’s determined to leave and protect her heart. Nevertheless, Levi’s kindness and determination and Jane’s yearning heart and caring nature mean the two of them don’t stand a chance against falling in love.

The Family You Make also features a secondary romance between Jane’s best friend, Charlotte, and Levi’s best friend, Mateo. Despite the significantly fewer number of cupcakes in this storyline, Charlotte and Mateo were my favorite of the two romances and I wish they had been given just a bit more depth. Charlotte is a survivor who doesn’t want a relationship and is always masking her attraction to her neighbor and fellow doctor by bickering with him. The two are both natural caretakers and I loved seeing them give into what has clearly been between them for some time.

As you could likely glean from the title, romance isn’t the only important type of relationship in The Family You Make. Family by blood and by choice are both important to this story. I loved Charlotte and Jane’s relationship and how much attention Shalvis gave them; so much so that I wish Levi and Mateo had been given the same space (especially given their history). Levi’s family is a complicated mess even though they love one another, and they did have tendency to take over the page a bit. Whether or not this bothers you is really reader preference. There’s also Jane’s history which broke my heart and the resolution of which is equally complicated and tugs on the heartstrings. While each of these plot lines has merit, there were a few too many extra things thrown in during the last quarter of the book for everything to feel it got its due attention. Still, The Family You Make is an enjoyable read overall. It’s got a lot of heart and the characters are impossible not to root for and adore.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Review: Electric Idol by Katee Robert

Electric Idol by Katee Robert
Series: Dark Olympus, Book 2
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Genre: Erotic Contemporary Romance 
Electric Idol cover
ISBN: 9781728231761
Release Date: January 18, 2022
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

In the ultra-modern city of Olympus, there's always a price to pay. Psyche Dimitriou knew she'd have to face Aphrodite's jealous rage eventually, but she never expected her literal heart to be at stake...or for Aphrodite's gorgeous son to be the one ordered to strike the killing blow.

Eros has no problem shedding blood. Raised to be his mother's knife in the dark, he's been conditioned to accept that he's more monster than man. But when it comes time to take out his latest target...he can't do it. Confused by his reaction to Psyche's unexpected kindness, he does the only thing he can think of to keep her safe: he binds her to him, body and soul.

Psyche didn't expect to find herself married to the glittering city's most dangerous killer, but something about Eros wakens a fire inside her she's never felt before. As lines blur and loyalties shift, Psyche realizes Eros might take her heart after all...and she's not sure she can survive the loss.

In the city of Olympus, you play the game well or you’re crushed. And if you cross one of the Thirteen, well, may the gods have mercy on you. Psyche Dimitriou, daughter of the current Demeter, knows how to play a role and navigate the politics and society of Olympus. The beautiful influencer has never made a misstep…until one act of kindness makes her Aphrodite’s target. And Aphrodite’s weapon is the devastatingly handsome Eros.

Eros is, by his own admission, a monster. His mother raised him from childhood to be her blade in the night, the man who does her dirty work. He feels like his soul has been crushed; then he meets Psyche. Aphrodite wants Psyche killed, but rather than comply, Eros marries her, setting off a chain of events neither could have expected.

The Eros and Psyche myth is reimagined in the fast-paced, compelling Electric Idol. Katee Robert captivated me from the first with this sexy and imaginative take on the classic tale.

All of Olympus knows Psyche to be kind and sweet; the kind of woman who would never put a toe out of line. But Psyche is so much more than what people see. She’s smart, clever, skilled at image-craft, and wields social media with incredible skill. She’s also fiercely protective of those she loves and is a bit lonely, knowing that there is no one she can trust outside her family. Eros sees himself as the darkness to her light. He’s been raised to be a monster and has blood on his hands. He’s cold and ruthless because that’s what Aphrodite raised him to be. But she hasn’t killed his soul completely. Psyche brings out the man within, letting him be his true self around her. They have an unconventional beginning, to say the least, but I was rooting for these two every step of the way. Their chemistry is electric and the two of them burn up the sheets (and make great use of mirrors), but there’s no lack of heart to match the heat.

The threat of Aphrodite’s revenge adds danger to Electric Idol and allows a deeper look into the politics of Olympus. It’s an interesting world, one I look forward to learning more about as the series goes on. It’s also a deeply poisonous world, especially the closer you get to the Thirteen. I was captivated by Psyche and Eros’s romance and definitely kept turning the pages because I wanted to see them carve out their own slice of happiness.

For all the fun to be had with mirrors in this story, Eros and Psyche have a romance that you can believe in because they each see beyond the image the other presents. I loved how gone over Psyche Eros was and how she saw past the monster and fell for the man. Electric Idol is entertaining from start to finish and I cannot wait to see where Robert takes the Dark Olympus series next.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Monday, January 3, 2022

Best Books of 2021

2021 was…a year… and I can’t say I’m not glad to leave it behind. But 2021 did bring with it some wonderful reads and it’s pure pleasure to look back on them before I dive into an exciting new year of books. In 2021 I read 121 books, including a few re-reads that I fell in love with all over again. I tried 35 debut/new-to-me authors and discovered some wonderful authors whose backlists I cannot wait to dive into. And finally, I participated in my twelfth A to Z Reading Challenge, a fun challenge that usually leads me to at least a couple of books I might not have moved to the top of my TBR pile otherwise.

I read a number of excellent books last year, but below are my top five reads of 2021. All of the books on this list were first-time reads (and not necessarily published in 2021) because re-reads are generally books that are already favorites of mine.

Best Books of 2021

My Top Five Books of 2021

Note: The books are alphabetized by author as I love them all equally.

It Happened One Summer cover
1. It Happened One Summer (Bellinger Sisters, Book 1) by Tessa Bailey
My Review

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The Intimacy Experiment
2. The Intimacy Experiment (The Shameless Series, Book 2) by Rosie Danan
My Review

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The House in the Cerulean Sea cover
3. The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Hollywood Heroine cover

4. Hollywood Heroine (Heroine Complex, Book 5) by Sarah Kuhn
My Review

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Archangel's Light cover
5. Archangel’s Light (Guild Hunter, Book 14) by Nalini Singh
My Review

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Saturday, January 1, 2022

2022 A to Z Reading Challenge

I've had a blast doing this challenge for the past few years and I can't resist doing it again. I've discovered a few now-favorite books I might not have otherwise noticed because of this challenge :)

Challenge details:
- Duration: January 1, 2022 - December 31, 2022
- Read 26 books which titles begin with the letters of the alphabet.
- You may ignore articles like A, An and The at the beginning of the title.
- For the letter X, any book title with the letter X in it is acceptable if you can't find one that begins with X.
- Please only list books you have read. You can read them in any order.
- A book only counts once, so you can include a re-read the first time you read it.

My List:
Duke in Search of a Duchess by Jennifer Ashley – 1/3/22
Electric Idol by Katee Robert – 1/2/22
Family You Make, The by Jill Shalvis – 1/8/22
In a Dark Wood by Josh Lanyon – 1/1/22
Super Hot Wingman by Sarina Bowen and Lauren Blakely – 1/16/22
Weather Girl Rachel Lynn Solomon – 1/13/22

2022 New (to me) Author Challenge

I've done this challenge for the past twelve years and discovered some amazing authors along the way (not hard to believe since I've read 686 debut/new-to-me authors in that time). It's fun for me to look back on these lists, especially when I see authors who are now auto-buys for me.

The Challenge: Read 20 or more books this year by authors you’ve never read before.
Dates: January 1, 2022 - December 31, 2022

My list:

1. Author: Sarina Bowen
Title: Super Hot Wingman (The Best Men, Book 0.5)

Books I've Read in 2022

For the past twelve years I've kept track of the books I read and it's been quite a fun project. I read so much that everything tends to blend together in my mental library and it's fun to look back and see what I've I've read, loved, and want to re-read (and - on the rare occasion - want to avoid). Plus, it's great to share and compare lists with other book bloggers.

This list is only of books and novellas I've read and finished (though if I read an entire anthology, I list only the anthology title). The books are listed in the order I read them and if I write a review for a book I link it here as well.

There are sure to be many wonderful stories on the list, but the ones with a ** by them are ones I highly recommend.

1. In a Dark Wood (In a Dark Wood, Book 1) by Josh Lanyon
2. Electric Idol (Dark Olympus, Book 2) by Katee Robert
3. Duke in Search of a Duchess (Regency Bon Bons, Book 1) by Jennifer Ashley
4. The Family You Make (Sunrise Cove, Book 1) by Jill Shalvis
5. Weather Girl Rachel Lynn Solomon
6. Super Hot Wingman (The Best Men, Book 0.5) by Sarina Bowen and Lauren Blakely