Friday 31 March 2023

Gracie and The Grump by Mariana Zapata

Of all the things that could have landed in her yard… it had to be him.
For most people, finding a half-naked superbeing in their yard might be a dream come true.
Unfortunately for Gracie Castro, it’s the exact opposite.
Especially when he’s grouchy, rude, and shows no signs of leaving anytime soon.
But when a hero of mankind needs you, you do what you have to.
Even if it compromises everything you know.
And totally changes your life.

Mariana Zapata has been a favourite of mine for a long time but some of her books just fail to hit the mark. Gracie and The Grump is definitely a book that people are going to love or hate.
I personally enjoyed it but I'm not going to lie and say it wasn't a slog to get through the first half. 
OMG, it was so slow - even by MZ standards!!
It took forever for the story to go anywhere! Then it went somewhere I really wasn't expecting - or enjoying much - before swinging in a slightly different - but very much related - direction that I absolutely loved and could have read about forever... So yeah. A mixed bag for sure!

I liked the character of Gracie but found her a little too self-sacrificing which was annoying. 
I really liked Alex the more we got to know him but sweet baby J in the first half of the story he was even more uncommunicative and grunty than MZ's fellas usually are! Seriously, he was defensive, grumpy and almost mute for the entire first half of the book!

And that's the thing, this book really is a book of two halves. The first half is painful in so many ways but the second? Oh, I loved it. We got answers, we got communication, we got other characters and connections and all the good things that MZ can bring to a story.
The second half saved this book.
I ended up adoring Alex, liking Gracie and absolutely loving them together. 
I loved the superhero premise and I always enjoy grumpy x sunshine pairings so... Overall, it was a win for me. Although if I ever re-read I'll be skimming/skipping huge chunks at the beginning.


Wednesday 29 March 2023

Under One Roof, Stuck With You and Below Zero by Ali Hazelwood

Three Ali Hazelwood novellas = three lovely escapes from reality!
PS - Calling them the "STEMinst" novellas had me giggling for no reason at all beyond being a woman working in the world of STEM and permanently adding the word to my vocabulary. 

Confession time:
I first listened to these on audio (the narrators were excellent), and then I added them to kindle as they popped up on sale... Then I bought them when they were released in a paperback collection. 
I'd say that I think I'm crazy but that's more of a fact at this point!

Under One Roof

Mara, Sadie, and Hannah are friends first, scientists always. Though their fields of study might take them to different corners of the world, they can all agree on this universal truth: when it comes to love and science, opposites attract and rivals make you burn….

As an environmental engineer, Mara knows all about the delicate nature of ecosystems. They require balance. And leaving the thermostat alone. And not stealing someone else’s food. And other rules Liam, her detestable big-oil lawyer of a roommate, knows nothing about. Okay, sure, technically she’s the interloper. Liam was already entrenched in his aunt’s house like some glowering grumpy giant when Mara moved in, with his big muscles and kissable mouth just sitting there on the couch tempting respectable scientists to the dark side…but Helena was her mentor and Mara’s not about to move out and give up her inheritance without a fight.

The problem is, living with someone means getting to know them. And the more Mara finds out about Liam, the harder it is to loathe him…and the easier it is to love him.

The first of the novellas to release and my favorite of the three! I absolutely loved it. 
Two people forced to share a house together on account of each inheriting half of the property.
The initial friction and brattiness was delightfully infuriating and evil. The big freeze and the slow thaw... beautifully done. The cluelessness. The clumsy, oblivious denial of where their relationship had evolved to... The ending. Happy sigh.
I smiled, I laughed and I wanted to start it over the second I finished it.
Ali Hazelwood's humour just hits the spot for me. Her characters are likeable and relatable. 
I can't get enough!

Stuck With You

Mara, Sadie, and Hannah are friends first, scientists always. Though their fields of study might take them to different corners of the world, they can all agree on this universal truth: when it comes to love and science, opposites attract and rivals make you burn…

Logically, Sadie knows that civil engineers are supposed to build bridges. However, as a woman of STEM she also understands that variables can change, and when you are stuck for hours in a tiny New York elevator with the man who broke your heart, you earn the right to burn that brawny, blond bridge to the ground. Erik can apologize all he wants, but to quote her rebel leader—she’d just as soon kiss a Wookiee.

Not even the most sophisticated of Sadie’s superstitious rituals could have predicted such a disastrous reunion. But while she refuses to acknowledge the siren call of Erik’s steely forearms or the way his voice softens when he offers her his sweater, Sadie can’t help but wonder if there might be more layers to her cold-hearted nemesis than meet the eye. Maybe, possibly, even burned bridges can still be crossed….

A second chance romance all thanks to little bit of forced proximity courtesy of a busted elevator = win!
I really enjoyed Stuck With You. Not as much as I enjoyed Under One Roof but I enjoyed it. 
I enjoyed how Sadie was pricklier than the others. Fierce and loving towards her friends. A hard worker... But that she had a soft centre. I was rabidly curious as to what happened between her and her Scandinavian hunk. And I adored Erik! I was smitten with how obviously taken with Sadie he was from the first... But what happened between them?!! It all plays out - past and present interwoven- and is delicious... But what left me frustrated with this story was that it all could have been resolved back in the beginning without Sadie ghosting Erik if she's just yelled/talked to him about his "betrayal." 
Yes, I understood why she felt betrayed and believed the worst - I would have too! - but come on! Conversation people!
That said, I'll be reading it again. 
In fact, I've listened to it several times and now my paperback is here so I'll be reading it again soon!

Below Zero

It will take the frosty terrain of the Arctic to show these rival scientists that their chemistry burns hot.

Mara, Sadie, and Hannah are friends first, scientists always. Though their fields of study might take them to different corners of the world, they can all agree on this universal truth: when it comes to love and science, opposites attract and rivals make you burn…

Hannah’s got a bad feeling about this. Not only has the NASA aerospace engineer found herself injured and stranded at a remote Arctic research station—but the one person willing to undertake the hazardous rescue mission is her longtime rival.

Ian has been many things to Hannah: the villain who tried to veto her expedition and ruin her career, the man who stars in her most deliciously lurid dreams…but he’s never played the hero. So why is he risking everything to be here? And why does his presence seem just as dangerous to her heart as the coming snowstorm?

I enjoyed this novella but I think it was my least favourite of the three... Despite my rating it the same as Stuck With You. 
It's hard to put my finger on why but I think it's probably because I found Hannah harder for me to "click" with than Sadie and Mara... But I loved Ian! Oh, the big grumpy bear of a man... He was yummy.
I loved how Hannah and Ian's first encounter unfolded. I hated how Hannah's shitty attitude regarding relationships got in the way of them. I wasn't fond of the cold and snow and general Norway expedition setting... And despite Ian being a big protective rescue bear, I was nervous for him. Part of me just didn't trust Hannah with this adorable man... But it worked out okay in the end. She pulled her head out her ass and the Sadie and Mara appearance - along with their men - made me happy. 

Paperback Bonus Chapter!!

Ah... This put all my nerves to bed! I love epilogues but I especially love epilogues set years in the future. I love they're all still friends. I loved seeing how their lives were unfolding and I was happy that Hannah and Ian were all good.

Monday 27 March 2023

Fated Blades & Magic Tides by Ilona Andrews


Fated Blades = Audiobook = 4hrs 52min
Narrated by: Aaron Shedlock

Fated Blades by Ilona Andrews

An uneasy alliance between warring families gets heated in this otherworldly novella from bestselling author Ilona Andrews.

At first glance, the planet Rada seems like a lush paradise. But the ruling families, all boasting genetically enhanced abilities, are in constant competition for power―and none more so than the Adlers and the Baenas. For generations, the powerful families have pushed and pulled each other in a dance for dominance.

Until a catastrophic betrayal from within changes everything.

Now, deadly, disciplined, and solitary leaders Ramona Adler and Matias Baena must put aside their enmity and work together in secret to prevent sinister forces from exploiting universe-altering technology. Expecting to suffer through their uneasy alliance, Ramona and Matias instead discover that they understand each other as no one in their families can―and that their combined skills may eclipse the risks of their forbidden alliance.

As the two warriors risk their lives to save their families, they must decide whether to resist or embrace the passion simmering between them. For now, the dance between their families continues―but just one misstep could spell the end of them both.

The Kinsmen series is the only Ilona Andrews series that I'd never read and based on this one I've been missing out! 
Fated Blades has everything I've come to expect from an Ilona Andrews novel... Humour, amazing chemistry, world building, relationship building and a fast-paced adventure full of action!
This world is sci-fi/fantasy with enhanced humans, space colonisation and space battles. 
A devious, murderous, plot that needs to be unravelled and a couple who were perfect for each other despite being from warring families. 

It was novella length, addictive and perfectly satisfying.

Magic Tides by Ilona Andrews

Ilona Andrews invites you back to the #1 New York Times bestselling Kate Daniels series in this exciting new long novella featuring Kate, Curran and Conlan, some familiar faces, some new friends, and all the special brand of chaos they create!

Kate, Curran and their son, Conlan have left Atlanta, vowing to keep a low profile, and are settling into a new city and new house…but some things never change! Magical mayhem is about to erupt when Kate undertakes the rescue of a kidnapped youth, while Curran guards the homefront.

It should be a simple retrieval, but with monsters on land and sea, Kate’s got her work cut out for her. Still, she's never let her blade dull or her purpose falter. And that low profile? It’s about to wash away with the raging tides!

How I squealed and danced when I found out that Ilona Andrews was returning to Kate and Curran! 
The Kate Daniels series is, and probably always will be, one of my favourite series and I was gutted when it ended. Yes, the authors have revisited the world with spin-off series but it's not Kate and Curran, you know? But now... Now it IS! 

Magic Tides is the first story in a new Kate and Curran series. Novella length and detailing their lives as they make a fresh start away from Atlanta. 
It had everything that I fell in love with in the original KD series... Someone in need of rescue, a mythological beastie needing put down, Kate and Curran's banter, a crew of badass side kicks (new ones!) plus the joy of seeing their 10 yo son kick ass alongside his parents... Little Conlan really is going to be something insanely special seeing as he has the combined ability of his parents.

It was awesome and made me very happy.

Obviously, this is not the place for new readers to begin but for fans of the original series? I'd definitely jump up and down telling them to read it.


Thursday 23 March 2023

Love At First Psych by Cara Bastone


Audiobook - 4hrs 35min
Narrated by: 
Santino Fontana, Stephanie Einstein, Mary Ann Jacobs, William Merryn Hill, Emily Bauer, Matt Boren, Piper Goodeve, Gabra Zackman, Mia Jenness, Elliott Fullam, Petrea Burchard, Ralph Lister, Jack de Golia

This Psych 312 assignment just might send me off the deep end. Determining whether love at first sight really exists with Robbie Moravian as my project partner of all people?

He’s the sappiest man alive, so upbeat I could scream, and clearly rooting for happy endings at every turn. How does he not learn from experience considering our own meet-cute last semester almost got us expelled?

But we both need to pass this course to graduate. So we’re interviewing five random couples about their meet-cutes and relationships and spending all this time together. Which is certainly...educational.

Because it turns out Robbie isn’t just the charming golden boy I thought I knew. There’s some actual depth beneath all those lame dad jokes and the ‘70s-inspired thrift wardrobe (even if he does look ridiculously great in a flared collar). Next thing I know he’s walking me back to my office on the regular and finishing all my sentences and protecting me from freak storms, and...

Wait. Could Robbie be right? Can happy endings really come from unhappy beginnings? Is he about to change my entire world view?

Group projects are the worst.

This book was a nice, quick and easy listen that I found utterly adorable... After a little while, anyway for it definitely wasn't love at first "sight" for me with this book. 
Chapter one, I found Marigold a little too cynical and grumpy while simultaneously finding Robbie too enthusiastic and cheerful... He was like an over-excited puppy that vomits sunshine and rainbows and I wanted to tie him up and gag him.
However, the stories of the relationships that unfolded throughout their interviews were enchanting, sad and interesting and the more time Robbie and Marigold spent together - and the longer I listened - the less annoying Robbie became, the less grumpy Marigold became and I found myself completely charmed. I enjoyed their back-and-forth banter, the humour, and their obvious attraction and I was so excited for them to realise that they belonged together. 
The moment of truth, however, was oddly unsatisfying. Their story - the first time they met and how they ended up where they were - had me smiling but they jumped from not even having held hands to I love yous! The I love yous are tied up in their past, so I understand it but... It was so PG and anti-climatic. An oatmeal and raisin cookie when you really wanted a double chocolate s'more. 
Not bad just... not ooey gooey sugary goodness.


Wednesday 22 March 2023

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig and Signal Moon by Kate Quinn!


The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

Between life and death there is a library, and within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices . . . Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets? A novel about all the choices that go into a life well lived.

Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of your life as it is, along with another book for the other life you could have lived if you had made a different choice at any point in your life. While we all wonder how our lives might have been, what if you had the chance to go to the library and see for yourself? Would any of these other lives truly be better?

Nora Seed finds herself faced with this decision. Faced with the possibility of changing her life for a new one, following a different career, undoing old breakups, realizing her dreams of becoming a glaciologist; she must search within herself as she travels through the Midnight Library to decide what is truly fulfilling in life, and what makes it worth living in the first place.

This book was an interesting read for me... Not because it's outside of my normal reading - which it is - but because I listened to it whilst struggling to keep my head above the proverbial water whilst battling through a particularly vicious depressive episode. Reading a book where the character's life is really a bit shit so she decides to unalive herself could have been a step too far for many in my position but, for me, it was beautifully eye-opening. 

It is obvious that the author knows depression. He's been there... He's stared into the abyss and, one way or another, he's come out the other side of it. It's right there in how he writes Nora. Writes the librarian. In how he tells Nora's story... And it's so compelling. 

I loved the concept of a library in between life and death. Of being able to experience the lives you could have lived if you changed just one thing... The ultimate game of what if... Of facing down all those regrets and seeing what would have happened if you had just done/not done something... And then having to make a choice. To stay. To go. To try again. 

The book is sad but also hopeful. A thoughtful, thought-provoking, story that makes you examine things through a different lens and gently, empathically, urges you to never give up. 

It was definitely one of the most beautifully written and unique books I've read in a very, very, long time. 

My only complaint is that we didn't get to see how life ended up for Nora! Yes, we know what her choice was but... Was she happy in the end?

The audiobook version is narrated by Carey Mulligan and she was spectacular. She really brought the story to life. She poured so much heart into Nora... I really recommend the audio.

Signal Moon by Kate Quinn

A short story about an impossible connection across two centuries that could make the difference between peace or war.

Yorkshire, 1943. Lily Baines, a bright young debutante increasingly ground down by an endless war, has traded in her white gloves for a set of headphones. It’s her job to intercept enemy naval communications and send them to Bletchley Park for decryption.

One night, she picks up a transmission that isn’t code at all—it’s a cry for help.

An American ship is taking heavy fire in the North Atlantic—but no one else has reported an attack, and the information relayed by the young US officer, Matt Jackson, seems all wrong. The contact that Lily has made on the other end of the radio channel says it’s… 2023.

Across an eighty-year gap, Lily and Matt must find a way to help each other: Matt to convince her that the war she’s fighting can still be won, and Lily to help him stave off the war to come. As their connection grows stronger, they both know there’s no telling when time will run out on their inexplicable link.

Another book that isn't my usual fare but I absolutely loved it! My husband loved it and my son loved it... We listened to the audio while on a car journey and it covered off the "to and from" trip perfectly as it was under 2hrs long.

The story is a little bit of historical fiction mixed with... I have no idea! Speculative fiction? Science fiction? It really doesn't matter as whatever it is is blended perfectly together.

A signal anomaly leads to Lily, a WWII communications officer at Bletchley, intercepting signals from what she thinks is an American ship getting destroyed by the Nazis. She listens as the signals officer - Matt - keeps transmitting to the end. It's horrifying, emotional and utterly gripping.
When Lily puts the impossible facts together and realises that this is something happening in the future she hatches a plan to help that signal operator save his ship... A plan that will take 80 years to come to fruition.

Lily and Matt's connection is fantastic. You really feel the bond between them stretching across time. 
Kate Quinn is insanely talented. She pulls you into this story, hijacks your emotions, and makes you feel like you know these characters - really know them. In a short story, that's almost impossible to achieve but she has a way with words that is magical. 

The story left me feeling so many things... So many illogical things. I genuinely felt like I'd lost something! An overwhelming sadness that Matt never got to meet Lily. Relief that, when all was said and done, they got to speak one last time before the signal anomaly closed.
There were tears when he visited Bletchley... 
It was bonkers. 

This is a story that will stay with me forever. I've been recommending it to everyone. 
It's just perfect.

PS - The audiobook was very well done! The narrators were spot on and conveyed all the emotion, built the tension, and put the cherry on top of the story cake!


Wednesday 15 March 2023

Love on The Brain and The Hating Game


Love On The Brain by Ali Hazelwood

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Love Hypothesis comes a new STEMinist rom-com in which a scientist is forced to work on a project with her nemesis—with explosive results.

Bee Königswasser lives by a simple code: What would Marie Curie do? If NASA offered her the lead on a neuroengineering project - a literal dream come true - Marie would accept without hesitation. Duh. But the mother of modern physics never had to co-lead with Levi Ward.

Sure, Levi is attractive in a tall, dark, and piercing-eyes kind of way. But Levi made his feelings toward Bee very clear in grad school - archenemies work best employed in their own galaxies far, far away.

But when her equipment starts to go missing and the staff ignore her, Bee could swear she sees Levi softening into an ally, backing her plays, seconding her ideas... devouring her with those eyes. The possibilities have all her neurons firing.

But when it comes time to actually make a move and put her heart on the line, there's only one question that matters: What will Bee Königswasser do?

I had been desperate to get my hands on this since I read the preview chapter at the end of The Love Hypothesis... The book is set at NASA but you didn't need to be a rocket scientist to work out who the second personality behind the twitter personas (featured in chapter one) was going to be and I couldn't wait to see how Bee and Levi's story unfolded... I was not disappointed.

I adored Levi and Bee! 
Yes, Bee could be a little bit over the top sometimes but Levi was just adorable! A pining, brilliant, sexy, adorable dude who was perfect for all that was Bee.
I loved them together! 
I loved the ridiculous situations they got into. I enjoyed the secondary characters, the cats and even the "bad guy twist" at the end. 
Basically, it's a slightly over-the-top rom-com, with two characters who were made for each other, set in a STEM environment, that made me laugh a lot, and as soon as I'd finished I wanted to read it again.

I recommend it to anyone who loves a swoony, funny, story with a perfect sprinkling of steam.
Ali Hazelwood is 5 stories in and she's yet to disappoint! 

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

Nemesis (n.)
1) An opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome;
2) A person’s undoing;
3) Joshua Templeman.

Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman hate each other. Not dislike. Not begrudgingly tolerate. Hate. And they have no problem displaying their feelings through a series of ritualistic passive aggressive maneuvers as they sit across from each other, executive assistants to co-CEOs of a publishing company. Lucy can’t understand Joshua’s joyless, uptight, meticulous approach to his job. Joshua is clearly baffled by Lucy’s overly bright clothes, quirkiness, and Pollyanna attitude.

Now up for the same promotion, their battle of wills has come to a head and Lucy refuses to back down when their latest game could cost her her dream job…But the tension between Lucy and Joshua has also reached its boiling point, and Lucy is discovering that maybe she doesn’t hate Joshua. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game.

Okay, I am incredibly late to the party when it comes to this book but I don't care. I am so glad I picked it up for I freaking adored it! It amused me from beginning to end!
The petty behaviour, on-point banter, and obvious chemistry between Lucy and Joshua was just awesome!
Lucy is so clueless about Josh and it was so funny... He was such a sweetie pie surprise! Slightly damaged and completely adorable.
It was just... Rom-com perfection. 
I inhaled it. I recommend it. I will 100% be reading it again. 


Monday 13 March 2023

Of Love and Forge by Carly Spade

The god of the forge…

Life was good in the Neosphere District. I’d made a name for myself as a renowned supernatural bounty hunter, holding the record for most harpies slayed. But the best part about living in the future? Avoiding the other Olympian gods. Banishing a guy from Olympus because he was “imperfect” tends to make one hold a grudge. Go figure. And no other god possessed the means to time travel. But I did. Thanks to the portal hopping device I forged.

Yup. Life. Was. Grand.

Until a bounty popped up on a certain love goddess. Aphrodite and I had been friends since we were wee gods. I’d be lying to myself if I never thought our “innocent” flirting banter were real on occasion—kidding myself if I said I never wanted things to go beyond platonic. Hence, why I recently kept my distance. For my own sanity. So, of course, I made the grave mistake of taking the godsdamned bounty.

The goddess of love…

Since reconciling with my son Eros, after centuries of bad mojo, I’d decided it was time to clean up my act. Ride the straight and narrow. My companion service, Sans Solo, became just the ticket I needed. And it allowed me to use my powers in disguise in modern California under the name Vena Milo.

With the aid of my best friends, and fellow goddesses, the Graces, we ran a legitimate business. All was right in the world.

Until the volcano god showed up. Hephaistos. Heph—a lifelong friend who never failed to confuse me mind, body, and soul. Especially when he showed up with a magical pair of handcuffs. His audacity pissed me off, but the mere sight of him, the smell of him, made my stomach flutter. That…I couldn’t deny. And when Heph's plan goes to Tartarus things got even dicier and we became...the hunted.

Cyberpunk mashed up with Greek Mythology... What could go wrong?!
The concept worked so well and I loved the author's spin on the gods and the reimagining of their myths.

Heph was hilarious. Aphrodite was likeable, and not annoying, which makes a nice change from how she is usually portrayed. The romance was sweet - mythological friends to lovers - and the sex was hot.
The plot was simple enough but it's obviously building to something bigger in future books.

I enjoyed the futuristic setting, the interactions with other Gods and mythological characters, as well as the banter that flowed throughout the book. 
However, I'm not going to lie, the pacing of the book felt off and the plot dragged on way too long. 
If the book had been tighter I would have rated it higher as the concept really is like catnip to a cat for me.
I'll definitely read other books from the author featuring other Gods and I'll continue reading this series as I think it's worth reading if mythology, humour and romance, interspersed with action, is your bag (and it definitely is mine!)

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