Review: Make Up Break Up by Lily Menon

Make Up Break UpMake Up Break Up by Lily Menon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Make Up Break Up is Sandhya Menon’s Adult Romance debut; here writing as Lily Menon.

Most people know Sandhya Menon from her cutesy YA Contemporary novels, When Dimple Met Rishi, From Twinkle, with Love and There’s Something About Sweetie.

In this novel, we follow Annika Dev, the creator of a relationship app, Make Up. Even though the app is floundering a bit at the moment, Annika believes she can make her ‘Google translate for failing relationships’ work.

When a rival app, Break Up, created by the admittedly charming, Hudson Craft, moves into the office space next to Make Up, Annika is rattled.

Since their short fling in Las Vegas the previous year, Annika has watched Hudson’s star rise using an idea she feels he stole from her.

He took her Make Up, flipped it on its head, and Break Up was born. Most infuriating of all, he seems to be having an easier time getting his app off the ground than she is.

Now that their offices are next door to one another, they bump into each other all the time. He clearly isn’t as offended by her presence, however, as she is by his.

In fact, he seems to be trying to charm her. Either that, or get under her skin. He’s devious, it’s tough to figure out his intentions, but Annika’s head is swimming because of it.

Making matters worse, the two companies are set to compete against one another at the prestigious EPIC investment pitch contest. Make Up needs to win in order to continue. Annika must put her head down and focus, but Hudson is making that really difficult.

I like stories set in the tech world, so this definitely checked that box. Plus, having women in tech is always nice to see.

The flow of the narrative was smooth and it did have some solid, dramatic moments, as well as some light humor.

With this being said, I was never sold on the romance. Annika and Hudson, I just didn’t buy it. I knew I was supposed to be rooting for them to get together, but I wasn’t. I didn’t feel anything for either of them.

I’m sort of ambivalent about the whole thing. It didn’t really impact me one way, or another.

It also seemed to end rather abruptly, after a long-slow build-up. We finally begin to get some resolution and the credits start to roll. That’s it.

Overall, I think this is a good story, it just wasn’t one that I personally connected with. I am sure a lot of people will, however, and I hope Menon continues expanding into this space.

Thank you so much to the publisher, St. Martin’s Griffin, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I appreciate it.

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Review: The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner

The Nature of Fragile ThingsThe Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

When Sophie Whalen, an Irish immigrant, comes across an ad in a NYC-newspaper of a rich widower in search of a new wife and mother for his young daughter, she doesn’t think twice about it.

She responds and puts herself forth for the position. She’s got nothing to lose.

The widower, Martin Hocking, lives in San Francisco and Sophie wants nothing more than to escape from New York.

After she arrived from Ireland, her circumstances didn’t end up as she expected. She’s been living in an overcrowded, unsanitary tenement building, barely making ends meet.

Upon arrival in San Francisco, Sophie marries Mr. Martin Hocking that very day at the city Courthouse. He then takes her home and introduces her to his 5-year old daughter, Kat.

Kat is a beautiful girl, bright, though quite serious. The young girl has been silent since the loss of her mother.

Sophie is taken with the child from the very start. She can tell sweet Kat is hurting and she vows to do whatever she can to make the child feel safe and loved.

For his part, Martin is very handsome, as well as a good provider, but he is rarely around, traveling frequently for work. Even when he is home, he isn’t affectionate with Sophie, or Kat.

It is on one of these occasions while he is away, that a stranger comes knocking on Sophie’s door and changes everything.

Shocking revelations regarding Martin are revealed immediately prior to the entire city erupting in chaos. The year is 1906, and one of the most powerful earthquakes in history has just hit San Francisco.

While the drama of this novel revolves around an earthquake, it felt like a roller coaster!

The highs, lows, drops and turns that Sophie goes through were intense and emotional. Just when you think it can’t get any worse, it does.

Meissner has such a gift with storytelling. I am always transported while reading her novels and it is hard not to become attached to her characters.

I do not read a lot of Historical Fiction, but I will continue to pick up anything Susan Meissner writes. I loved how she added a real mysterious tone to this novel. It’s intriguing from start to finish; there was never a lull in the pace.

This one didn’t bring me to tears as some of her other novels have, but it was definitely impactful nonetheless. Sophie’s story is one I will remember for a long time to come.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I really appreciate it and look forward to Meissner’s next release!

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Review: Ten Rules for Faking It by Sophie Sullivan

Ten Rules for Faking ItTen Rules for Faking It by Sophie Sullivan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**2.5-stars rounded up**

Everly Dean is a producer of a radio show, working alongside her best friend, Stacey, the DJ.

On Everly’s 30th-birthday, she catches her boyfriend, Simon, with another woman. Not a great way to start a day.

Arriving at work, she proceeds to rant to Stacey about it. Unfortunately, the microphone was on and now all of their listeners know of the problems with Everly’s love life.

Trying to spin a negative into a positive, Everly agrees to participate in a Bachelorette-style dating show hosted by the station. Their numbers have been struggling and it may boost their ratings just enough to keep them going.

This is a really tough sell for Everly. She suffers from severe social anxiety, so even the thought of going out on a series of random dates with a bunch of strangers causes her to hyperventilate.

Her cute boss, Chris, the one who doesn’t seem to like her at all, thinks it is a great idea though; as does Stacey. She’ll give it a shot. What’s the worst that could happen?

As it turns out, the dates aren’t too bad, but Everly can’t stop thinking about her boss.

Alternating between Chris and Everly’s perspective, the Reader gets a front row seat to all of their pinings, doubts and insecurities, as an adorable friendship develops.

The first half of this book, I was pretty into it. I liked the characters and although not super romance heavy, I enjoyed reading about their friendships and issues.

Everly’s anxieties were relatable and I thought she was doing a great job getting outside of her comfort zone and working at lowering her walls.

I really liked Chris as well. He was in a difficult position. His father owns the radio station, but he didn’t want any of the employees to know. He wanted to be judged on his own merit, not because of the fact that his father is super rich.

Chis has a huge crush on Everly, but doesn’t feel like he is in a position to make a move considering he is her boss. That makes sense. I get that.

Everything was going along nicely, but then somewhere around the 80% mark, it just went off the rails for me.

It got beyond frustrating. I actually started to get angry with the characters and the way things were going. I was yelling at them. Literally exclaiming things randomly while reading.

Everly ended up turning into one of my least favorite characters ever. She was so rigid. Holding everyone to these impossibly high standards. It was so freaking aggravating.

It was like she had never made a mistake before. She’s a 30-year old woman, judging people based upon decisions they made when they were 20-freaking years old.

I don’t know, something about that just rubbed me the wrong way. I couldn’t get over that distaste once it was in my head and the rest of the story suffered for it.

I rounded up to 3-stars, because I feel like this has the workings to be a good story, and if you don’t have the same issues with Everly that I did, this could work for you. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t a great fit for me.

I did adore Chris though. He deserves better, in my opinion, than the end of this book.

Also, although this didn’t have an impact on my rating, I know for a lot of Romance Readers it might, there is zero steam in this story. There is more steam in a Hallmark movie than in this book, so if that is what you are looking for, look elsewhere.

Thank you so much to the publisher, St. Martin’s Griffin, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I do appreciate the opportunity to provide my opinion.

While this didn’t knock it out of the park for me, I would definitely try more from Sophie Sullivan.

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Review: Later by Stephen King

LaterLater by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Stephen King’s writing is like coming home for me. I absolutely adored Jamie Conklin’s story.

Later is a coming of age tale with a supernatural twist, following a boy, Jamie, and his struggling single mother, Tia.

Jamie first discovered his ability when he was really young. He can see things others can’t and sometimes it can be really scary.

But it is an unchangeable part of himself and he learns the rules of it, as well as how best to live with it.

His mother knows what he can do, but she doesn’t like to talk about it. It scares her too and she urges Jamie to keep it a secret from everybody.

However, when she is backed against a wall, Tia asks Jamie to use his ability to help her. This event exposes Jamie’s gift to Tia’s police officer girlfriend, Liz.

After their relationship sours and the women call it quits, Liz continues to circle Jamie like a shark. She knows what he can do and eventually plans to use him for her own gain; legalities be damned!

Since this is Stephen King, it does go a lot darker than I am making out here, but it’s a short story; one best discovered for yourself.

I loved Jamie so much. The narrative is like you are sitting down with him, having a cup of coffee, or a whiskey, and he is telling you his story. It’s natural, heart-warming, occasionally frightening, funny and whip-smart.

I also really appreciated the depth of Jamie’s relationship with his mother. It was beautifully explored in my opinion. King excels at complicated familial relationships and this is no exception.

He also is a master at writing from the perspective of children and young adults. Great character work overall, but I always love his kid characters.

I absolutely recommend this to anyone who loves a Horror-based coming of age story.

Chef’s kiss for days!!!

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Review: The Unleashed (The Haunted #2) by Danielle Vega

The Unleashed (The Haunted, #2)The Unleashed by Danielle Vega
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

**Please note, as this is the second book in a series, some mild spoilers are contained in this review. Proceed with caution.**

After the devastating events of The Haunted, Hendricks and friends are trying to return to normal. Not an easy task with Eddie gone and Raven remaining in a coma.

Hendricks, Portia and Connor, received intense group therapy and in some ways, it did help. However, Hendricks is still having a really hard time letting go of Eddie.

In fact, she believes his spirit still remains in Drearfield and with the right method, perhaps she’ll be able to reach him.

She looks to Ileana for help. With Ileana’s guidance, they gather a circle of seven and perform a seance with the hopes of summoning forth Eddie’s spirit. The seance is of course performed on the grounds of Steele House.

Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t go as planned.

Soon thereafter, Hendricks begins to experience hauntings quite similar to before. However, they are no longer restricted to just being within her home. Now evil entities seem to be everywhere; no place is safe.

The high school itself seems to be a hotbed of activity, with ghost girls in the hall and phantom music being played.

With prom on the horizon, Hendricks has been spending extra time there, as she agreed to the join the planning committee with Portia.

When Portia becomes the victim of a supernatural attack, Hendricks knows they didn’t bring Eddie back. They brought back something else, and it’s angry.

They need to redo the ritual and hopefully send this malevolent spirit back from whence it came.

This was a strong continuation from the first book.

Personally, I was devastated by the ending of the first book and honestly, that pissy mood sort of carried over into this one. I missed my favorite character too much.

With that aside, I did enjoy this. The first half especially. I loved how the characters involved in the seance were willing to help Hendricks out, even though some of them thought she was bat shit crazy.

I also really enjoyed the horror imagery. Vega definitely excels at that.

It did start to lose my towards the end. There was a great scene, that as far as I am concerned, could have been the final scene, but it continued on.

After that point, I was sort of out of it. It went way over the top after that and took away a bit of the seriousness of the earlier parts of the story.

Overall, this is a solid Teen Scream duology and I am very happy that I read it.

I would definitely consider picking up future releases from this author!

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Review: The Lost Village by Camilla Sten

The Lost VillageThe Lost Village by Camilla Sten
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars**

In 1959, it was discovered that all the residents of the defunct mining town of, Silvertjarn, Sweden, had mysteriously disappeared.

Well, all but the woman found hanging, stoned to death in the town square, and an infant located in the local school.

For decades, the mystery has gone unsolved.

Aspiring documentary filmmaker, Alice Lindstedt, has become obsessed with The Lost Village, as her Grandmother’s entire family were among the disappeared. She decides to tackle the mystery as her first solo documentary project.

She plans to travel to the remote village, along with a small crew, to search for the truth of what happened to the residents. She does have some information on the town based on letters from her Grandmother’s little sister, Aina.

Together with her friend, Tone, who also has a connection to the village, her ex-best friend, Emmy, an experienced production manager, Emmy’s technician and significant other, Robert, and the financial backer of the film, Max, Alice is finally able to reach her destination: Silvertjarn.

The plan is to shoot on location for six days. That’s all the time they have with their rented equipment. The project is low budget to say the least, but could be life-changing for Alice if the documentary is received well.

They travel to the town with just enough supplies to last through the six days. The location is quite remote; they won’t be bothered by anyone and should be able to focus and hopefully get enough good footage to kick the project off.

From the very start, the town has an ominous feel. It’s creepy being in an abandoned town. The houses and buildings still hold all of the belongings in place like time capsules. It seems the residents got up one day, walked out and never returned.

What could have happened here? All of the crew feel uneasy about the location, but decide to put their heads down and just work through it.

Tension is running high and some bickering ensues. The team seems to be coming apart before they’ve even started, but Alice is willing to do anything to salvage what time they have left.

Everything begins to spiral though and soon some on the crew suspect they are not alone in the village after all.

Together with the present day timeline, we get a past timeline as well, told from the perspective of Alice’s Great-Grandmother, Elsa, in the days leading up to the mass disappearance.

This past timeline ultimately concludes with the truth about the town and its dark secrets being revealed.

The Lost Village is an interesting story. While it started out slow for me, it did pick up quite a bit after the halfway point.

I enjoyed the overall mystery of the village and the alternating timelines; although I actually enjoyed the past timeline more.

In the present timeline, the characters and some of their choices were aggravating to me. I found the petty bickering annoying and some of the relationships didn’t make sense to me.

With this being said, it didn’t overshadow the other content too much. I was still able to enjoy the journey to the conclusion.

The ending definitely toed the line of eyeroll territory for me. I was shaking my head a bit, if I’m being honest.

Overall, though, this story has a lot of strong points. The atmosphere and overarching mystery were both very good; as well as the idea of a documentary film crew trying to unravel the mystery on location. I loved that.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Minotaur Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity to provide my opinions!

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Review: The Drowning Kind by Jennifer McMahon

The Drowning KindThe Drowning Kind by Jennifer McMahon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sisters, Jax and Lexie, the x-girls, were fairly close when they were growing up. They spent every summer at their Grandmother’s property in Vermont and have a lot of great memories from that time.

Lexie, the older of the two, was different than Jax, however, in a lot of ways. Lexie was more like their father, flighty, free-spirited and at times, manic.

The older the girls got, the more apparent the differences in their personalities became. It was clear that Lexie’s mental health was not well. She struggled to remain rooted in reality. It became a real problem for her.

Jax was always the more grounded of the two. She followed the rules, excelled in school and became a social worker. Over the past year, she’s also been estranged from her sister.

When Jax receives nine calls from Lexie one night, none of which she answers, she assumes her sister is just having another one of her episodes.

The increasingly frantic messages Lexie leaves don’t even make sense. Jax isn’t dealing with it. Not her problem.

The following day Jax receives news that Lexie is dead; drowned in the pool on their Grandmother’s estate, Sparrow’s Crest, which Lexie had inherited.

Jax is shocked. Why didn’t she pick up the phone when Lexie called? Heart-broken and full of regret, Jax makes the journey to Vermont to bury her sister and settled up her affairs.

Once there, reunited with family, including her Aunt and Father, Jax discovers that Lexie had been researching the history of their family and the property.

It turns out Sparrow’s Crest has a dark past and it could possibly be linked to Lexie’s death. Jax dives into the research herself, mostly centering around the property’s infamous pool and the natural spring it is fed from.

As with Jennifer McMahon’s other stories, The Drowning Kind follows two timelines. The present, mentioned above, and then a historical perspective focusing on the history of the property.

The more the Reader learns from the historical perspective, the more the pieces of the puzzle begin to fall into place for Jax. It is such a spectacular format. The pace is excellent!

I have found that sometimes when an author tries this dual timeline format, one of the perspectives will be more interesting than the other. Because of that, you rush through one perspective in order to return to the other.

That is definitely not the case here. Both the present and past timelines are equally foreboding and intriguing. I was fully committed to both.

Another aspect of McMahon’s work that I always enjoy is her sense of place. Sparrow’s Crest is a character. It is so well developed, you can almost hear it talking to you.

The idea that places remember, that pieces of history live on through the land and the structures upon them. I love that whole concept and it is tangible within this story.

In short, this is a phenomenally constructed multi-generational ghost story that will stick with me for a long time.

The ending, chills. Exceptionally well done. I can certainly say I didn’t see it coming!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Simon & Schuster Audio, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review.

I highly recommend it and cannot wait to see what McMahon comes up with next!

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Review: Namesake (Fable #2) by Adrienne Young

Namesake (Fable, #2)Namesake by Adrienne Young
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Namesake is the conclusion to Adrienne Young’s, Fable duology; a Seafaring Fantasy story with action, adventure and heart.

After the cliffhanger ending of Fable, our protagonist finds herself once again, separated from the one’s she loves, as she is used as a pawn in a rival trader’s scheme for power.

Just as she was beginning to find the place she felt she belonged, more challenges are thrown in her face.

On her new ship, she runs into an old acquaintance. A close friend of her parents, who she thought was lost forever.

In her struggle to return to the Marigold, and the handsome Captain she left behind, Fable ends up learning a lot more about her Mother, particularly her earlier life; some of it surprising, to say the least.

This story takes the plotting and scheming to a whole new level, as the different trading organizations in this world vie for power and position.

I really enjoyed watching Fable’s evolution as a character over the course of these two books. Although she has always been a fighter, she was fairly helpless in the beginning in a lot of ways.

She was used so often as a pawn in other people’s games, but as she grew and discovered her own power, she became a force to be reckoned with. She became like the center of a whirlpool, sucking everyone in around her.

Overall, I am so satisfied with how this turned out. It was really a lot of fun. I enjoyed the complexity that Young brought to this one, which I felt was lacking a bit in the first novel.

In my opinion, Fable deserves the world! She discovered so much about herself, that she didn’t understand before. I feel like with that understanding, she was able to become who she was truly meant to be. My baby bird has left the nest.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Wednesday Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review.

I really enjoyed it!

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Review: Artificial Condition (The Murderbot Diaries #2) by Martha Wells

Artificial Condition (The Murderbot Diaries, #2)Artificial Condition by Martha Wells
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In Artificial Condition, the second installment of The Murderbot Diaries, we reunite with everyone’s favorite Sec Unit, Murderbot.

Murderbot is curious about its past, having been involved in an incident at a mining facility, which left a lot of humans dead. It has only vague recollections of that time and has a strong need to know more.

Recently setting out on its own, with no ties to any human, it now has the time to seek answers.

Making a new acquaintance, an AI, who it calls ART, the two, when not binging media shows together, set to work preparing Murderbot for the next steps.

It alters itself a bit, in order to pass as a human, and accepts an assignment as a security consultant. Its new clients are a group of computer scientists, who had their work stolen from a previous employer.

They want to negotiate to get it back. This assignment will take Murderbot exactly where it wants to go.

Yet again, it struggles with, dare I say, emotions where its human charges are concerned. It is the most soft-hearted Security Unit in all the galaxy; although it can definitely slay when it needs to.

There’s corruption, there’s evil entities, there’s action, there’s humor and whole lot of heart.

I adored the interactions between Murderbot and ART. Just the sweetest moments.

If I wasn’t so terribly frightened of the possibilities for AI, I would want one myself.

Overall, this was a highly entertaining novella and I cannot wait to carry on with this series.

Martha Wells has an incredible style and I highly recommend this to anyone looking for a fun, fast-paced Science Fiction series!!

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Review: The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race, Edited by Jesmyn Ward

The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about RaceThe Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race by Jesmyn Ward
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Powerful, powerful, powerful!!!

This is an incredibly moving collection of essays speaking to race, humanity, human rights, family, identity and the Black experience in America, both historical and present-day.

Easily, one of the best collections of this type that I have ever read; each author/artist/thinker wrote with such strength and grace. I could not put this down once I started.

Each of these essays/stories/poems are thought-provoking, heart-felt, captivating, well-written, distinct and incredibly important. I highly recommend picking this one up. The audiobook is fantastic as well!!

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