#BookReview: On The Plus Side by Jenny L. Howe

Lots Of Grand Ideas. No Technical Errors. Plenty Readers May Not Like. This is one of those books that is filled with GRANDIOSE IDEAS it wants to communicate and build an interesting story around. And it does that. There are no glaring technical errors with anything about this book. The plot works within world, the characters are serviceable enough for the genre generally, and the GRANDIOSE IDEAS are all given at least some “screen time”.

All of this noted, there are *several* issues here that individual readers may have problems with, depending on their own experiences.

The book opens with an author’s note about why she doesn’t have a problem with “fat” in the context of this tale + trigger warnings. Ok, there is a lot of discussion on trigger warnings at the front of books in Booklandia, with different people coming down on different sides there. Clearly, Howe has staked her position. Fair enough, but again, some readers may not like this.

Then we get into the various GRANDIOSE IDEAS as we go throughout the actual tale.

Self Acceptance. Noble idea, some may not like the execution of how it is explored.
Family Drama. While a certain family member is written almost as an antagonist… this is going to be one of those “antagonists” that at least some readers are likely going to agree with more than the main character.
“Reality” TV (and the lack of actual reality therein). This is a main driver of the plot, and for the most part works well enough. But there is a lot of social commentary here that I suspect won’t hit as hard for many as perhaps Howe had hoped.

Others get more into spoiler territory, so I’ll not discuss them here. But you get the idea. For at least some readers, this will absolutely be OHMYGODAMAZEBALLSAWESOMESAUCETHANKYOUFORWRITINGTHISMOSTIMPORTANTBOOKEVAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! level. I suspect that for most readers, this book will more likely fall into the “ok” – “good, but a few problems” range. And I do think that its 4.06 average across just over 500 reviews just days before publication (yes, I too read this as an ARC) is both evidence that I am right and, to my mind, roughly where its rating average is likely to pan out over time.


This review of On The Plus Side by Jenny L. Howe was originally written on December 22, 2023.

#BlogTour: Five Gold Rings by Kristen Bailey

For this blog tour, we’re looking at one of the funniest Christmas romcoms I’ve ever encountered. For this blog tour, we’re looking at Five Gold Rings by Kristen Bailey.

Here’s what I had to say about it on the review sites (Hardcover.app, TheStoryGraph.com, BookHype.com, Goodreads):

Solidly Silly Yet Hallmarkie Christmas RomCom. The opening of this tale is actually somewhat reminiscent of the opening of Luke Young’s Seriously Messed Up – another great romcom from several years ago now – though reversed (there it was the male main character, here it is the female main character). Which admittedly set the bar quite high for me, as that particular book is one I routinely list as among the funniest I’ve ever read.

But y’all…. Bailey delivers here. Seriously, this is comedy gold in some of the best possible ways, while still having enough serious aspects to ground the tale and give it at least a touch of gravitas. All centered around Christmas and in particular a very specific Christmas carol, but with a unique spin on it I’d never encountered before.

If you need some laughs this holiday season, for any reason, and you don’t mind staring maybe uncomfortably long at a naked dude going full frontal in the opening scene… you’re probably going to like this one. Even if you *don’t* like staring at naked dudes uncomfortably long… you’ll probably still like this one… once the opening scene moves on from that particular moment. ๐Ÿ™‚ Told with a great amount of comedy but also enough heart to make Captain Planet proud, this really is one of those feel good Christmas tales with lots of holiday cheer and maybe a few holiday tears. Very much recommended.

Continue reading “#BlogTour: Five Gold Rings by Kristen Bailey”

#BookReview: Sex Ed by Kristen Bailey

Fun With Sex. My god this review is going to get me on so many porn bot radars, isn’t it? But the title here really fits – starting with the very title of the book, “Sex Ed”…. which then features a 28yo virgin named Ed being taught about sex by his wildchild best friend. The friends to lovers trope is in perfect display here, the friendship and trust there deeply established… until we get into Hallmarkie level drama at the exact point in the story you expect Hallmarkie level drama in a romcom. We even have the “interesting grandparent” trope hitting and hitting well, as well as some sisterly bonding. And yes, there is a lot of sex, pretty much all of it “on screen”. So if you’re not a fan of that… maybe the title here (of the book and/ or review) clued you in that this isn’t the best book for you? Speaking of the sex, while not necessarily the “oh my God this is nuclear hot” type found in some other works, this was more of the playful variety that to my mind is just as important in a relationship and doesn’t always get the attention it deserves in romcom books in particular. So kudos to Ms. Bailey for going that direction with it, it was clearly an inspired choice. Overall a fun tale that will offend few other than those actively looking to be offended, great for both fans of romcoms and for those looking for some level of a “palate cleanser” from darker tales. Very much recommended.

This review of Sex Ed by Kristen Bailey was originally written on June 30, 2023.

#BookReview: Forever Hold Your Peace by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke

New Spin On Wedding Wars. Fenton and Steinke manage to craft a new, much more dramatic yet still hilarious, spin on the Wedding Wars trope, this time by introducing quite a bit of explosive drama between three of the four parents involved. Yes, the drama itself takes up more of the pages than those who prefer a less dramatic romcom will probably like, but overall it works here to elevate the trope and provide a good bit of “meat” for those who are looking for something a bit sturdier than yet another vapid romcom whose details will be forgotten seconds after finishing it. Instead, this one will challenge you without putting *too* much pressure and will show you things you might not have otherwise considered – particularly if you’re one of the not-small population that can readily identify with much of the drama herein. And yet, ultimately this is more Lifetime meets Hallmark than anything *truly* dark and foreboding – it *is*, still, at its heart, a romantic comedy. Just one with a bit more bite than usual, which helps elevate it over so many of its genre siblings. Very much recommended.

This review of Forever Hold Your Peace by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke was originally written on December 23, 2022.

#BookReview: Marlowe Banks, Redesigned by Jacqueline Firkins

Fish Out Of Water Romance That Shows That Not Everything Is As It Seems. This is a fish out of water romance between a barely-has-a-job clothing designer assistant for a TV show… and one of said show’s stars. It is very much a slow burn, enemies to lovers type and yet still meets every RWA requirement. This noted, it does get a touch preachy about the differences between the characters actors portray and the actor themselves, though it *does* manage to keep much of this preachiness within the context of the story being told here – so that is good at least. ๐Ÿ™‚ Yet another romance where honest communication from the get-go could probably have saved about 80%+ of the overall friction/ drama between the couple, this one is still fairly light and funny despite its at-times heavy handedness noted above. Overall a fun look at a side of Hollywood not often seen, and written by someone with seemingly at least some knowledge of that particular setting. Very much recommended.

This review of Marlowe Banks, Redesigned by Jacqueline Firkins was originally written on October 23, 2022.

#BookReview: Built To Last by Erin Hahn

Hallmarkie Romcom Within HGTV model. This is a Hallmark type romantic comedy where 90 min+ of movie (or, in this case, 300+ pages) could probably be condensed to about 15 (min or pages) if the characters would just *be honest with each other*. So if that kind of thing irritates the Hades out of you… know up front that this is the kind of story you’re getting into here.

For everyone else, this is actually a smart and fun (and yes, steamy – again, if you don’t like being in the room with characters having sex… not the book for you either) tale that name drops quite a bit from real-world Hollywood, including National Geographic, Chip and JoAnna Gaines, and several other HGTV home reno type couples. If you enjoy those types of shows and wish you could see more “behind the scenes”, particularly as the couple first got together… this is going to be pretty much your ideal romance tale.

Overall this really was quite an enjoyable read, and seemed to read faster than its 300+ page count would generally indicate. Very much recommended.

This review of Built To Last by Erin Hahn was originally written on October 15, 2022.

#BookReview: Lizzie Blake’s Best Mistake by Mazey Eddings

Sex-Positive Neurodivergent Rom-Com. Straight up: If you don’t like damn near erotica level sex scenes… this book probably isn’t your thing. If you’re one of the “THERE CAN BE NO SEX AND IF THERE MUST BE SEX IT MUST BE STRICTLY BEHIND CLOSED DOORS AND THE MAIN COUPLE CAN BARELY KISS OR HOLD HANDS ON SCREEN” types… yeah, just skip this one. You’re not going to like it, and you one-starring a book over your own hangups does no one any favors.

For the at least 80% of us who *aren’t* like that… this is a fun book. Lizzie, and the author herself, has ADHD. (Serious question – for Autistics we have “Autistic” rather than “has Autism”, and the community tends to prefer the first one. Is there a similar name for people who have ADHD?) And this book shows the struggles that can come from that – but also shows how it can be managed and even worked into a strength, with proper preparation and training. (Which is similar for Autistics as well.) This is also a very neurodiverse-positive tale, showing that not everyone has to be a doctor or lawyer or engineer or anything else to have a fulfilling and meaningful life and be able to support and take care of themselves independently. Indeed, even with Lizzie’s titular “mistake”, there is quite a bit about her life and actions here that are to be readily commended, and it is refreshing to see authors willing to do just this in this era and with these types of characters.

Even though this is listed as “Book 2” (and wasn’t when it was presented to me), there are really only a couple of sentences in the entire 300+ page tale where this is even obviously hinted at inside the tale itself, so it actually works pretty well as a standalone, which is how I read it.

Overall this was truly a fun book with a lot of upside, and it is very much recommended.

This review of Lizzie Blake’s Best Mistake by Mazey Eddings was originally written on September 5, 2022.

#BookReview: With Love From Wish & Co by Minnie Darke

Light And Fluffy But Tackles Serious Issues As Well. This is one of those books that is centered as a romantic comedy – and never really strays from that, despite tackling serious issues of trust in various forms: infidelity, love languages, being the black sheep of a family, etc. Some bits are truly laugh out loud funny (yet of the cringing variety), including the scenes where the central plotline is first revealed. Other scenes are romance of the level Nicholas Sparks even often fails to pull off. (Including the one in the garden, all I’m saying there.) Ultimately this is a story of a woman discovering just what she wants and being in a position to make it happen, and that is the ultimate feel-good here, even above the pair of romance stories embedded within. Very much recommended.

This review of With Love From Wish & Co by Minnie Darke was originally written on August 22, 2022.

#BlogTour: Would You Rather by Allison Ashley

For this blog tour we’re looking at a book that could have gone far darker and more serious than it did and instead chose to have fun even while dealing with serious subject matters. For this blog tour we’re looking at Would You Rather by Allison Ashley.

Here’s what I had to say on Goodreads:

Solid Friends To Lovers Romance. This is one of those books that takes a legitimately serious issue – insurance, insurance fraud, and organ transplants – and spins a charming and fun romance around it. Ashley manages to weave the ultra-serious in with the frivolous to great effect, enhancing both the seriousness and the fun while leaning more into the fun and romance. Overall a truly fun book, and a solid one for its end-of-summer release time frame. Very much recommended.

After the jump, the “publisher details” – including an excerpt, book description, author bio, and social media and buy links.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: Would You Rather by Allison Ashley”

#BookReview: The Bodyguard by Katherine Center

Ninja Cows! I picked up this book on July 4th because I was reading a book set in the UK at the time, and that just would NOT do on that particular day. ๐Ÿ˜€ And I’m glad I got to have some fun with this book, because it takes Center out of her more usual tale and brings her into a bit of a less serious while still dealing with serious things kind of tale, which allows both her as the author and us as the readers to have more fun and still enjoy the work of a great storyteller. There is enough drama here to be compelling without overwhelming, enough comedy to keep things light and fresh without being distracting, and ultimately a solid love tale of an unconventional couple in a fake relationship. And yes, ninja cows. Seriously, the only negative of this book is that the ninja cows should have had more screen time. ๐Ÿ™‚ Very much recommended.

This review of The Bodyguard by Katherine Center was originally written on July 5, 2022.