Book of the Week, books, LGTBQIA+, new releases, Young Adult

Book of the Week: Fake Dates and Mooncakes

It was a bit of a week of rhyming titles last week – one in YA and one in cozy crime, so it’s probably fitting that I chose one of them for the Book of the Week today. And in the end I’ve gone for the Young Adult romance – partly because the cozy crime isn’t out until next month and also because the cozy is the tenth in a series and I can’t break those rules two weeks in a row. But mostly because Sher Lee’s novel came out last week, it was a lot of fun and it made me really hungry!

Cover of Fake Dates and Mooncakes by Sher Lee

To the plot: Dylan spends his spare time helping in his aunt’s Singaporean Chinese takeout, Theo lives in a mansion and drives a Ferrari. Their first meeting is less than optimal but when Theo turns up at the restaurant sparks fly. And soon Dylan is pretending to be Theo’s boyfriend at a family wedding. But Theo’s family is nothing like Dylan’s and neither is the life he leads. Dylan isn’t sure whether he can fit in in Theo’s wealthy, gala-attending life – or if it’s even worth trying.

This is a sweet YA romance with two heroes with completely different lives. The blurb describes it as Heartstopper meets Crazy Rich Asians and I think that’s not a bad one as far as it goes but it’s not quite as exact as that might sound. Yes Theo is Rich and Dylan is not – so that’s Crazy Rich Asians-esque, but you actually spend a lot of the time in Dylan’s world rather than Theo’s – which is not very CRA. As far as Heartsopper goes, yes it has got two young queer protagonists, but it isn’t mostly set in or around school and there’s not really any story line around coming out here the way that there is in Heartstopper. So basically, stop smashing vaguely similar books together as comparators please publishing.

We all know that I love a fake dating story – so that was great and I loved Dylan’s tight knit family too. It’s got some Insta Love going on here – and your mileage may vary with that. I’m not entirely sure that Theo ever really stands up for himself against his family properly and the solutions to the problems the duo face are a little easy in the end – but then it’s a YA and that’s how it goes. But the romance is lovely and all the food that is written about sounds delicious and it all made me hungry. It’s a really nice way to spend a few hours, and if you’re anything like me, it’ll have you off googling the various bits of the food you’ve never tried before.

My copy of Fake Dates and Mooncakes came from NetGalley, but it’s out now in Kindle and Kobo, and Amazon say they have the paperback in stock too, but I’m not sure how much I believe them given my recent late arriving pre-orders. I’ll take a look for it in a big bookstore YA department next time I go into one – which may or may not be this week!

Happy Reading everyone.

Book previews, books, new releases

Out this week: Poppy Harmon and the Shooting Star

A bonus review today – that’s breaking some of my rules because this is the fifth in a series. But it doesn’t actually matree because this is the first in Lee Hollis’s Desert Flowers Mystery series that I’ve read. Interestingly I’ve read a couple of novellas by this author and one novel in a different series previously and wasn’t keen, but this really worked for me.

The set up is this: Poppy Harmon is a former actress who has been forced out of retired life to become a private investigator and runs a detective agency with two friends. In this instalment, one of Poppy’s former acting rivals has reappeared in her life. Serena has asked the agency to do an urgent background check on her husband to be. It seems easily done – but then Serena is found standing over a dead body holding a smoking gun and the team find themselves caught up in the investigation.

This has plenty of action, lots of twists and is really easy and fun to read. I thought I had the solution figured out – but I wasn’t entirely right and I liked that too. My copy came from NetGalley – and I even managed to read it in a timely manner! Even better, some of the earlier books in the series are in Kindle Unlimited at the moment (although not the first one) so I can go and read some more. I love it when that happens.


Book previews

Out this week: New Summer Romances

I wanted to mention two books that are out this week – firstly the new Jenn McKinley is out on Kindle, no not new entry in her cozy crime series, but her latest romance which is set on Martha’s Vineyard. As you can see from the picture, it’s blurbed by Annabel Monaghan who wrote Nora Goes Off Script, which is still one of my favourite reads so far this year, and I have high hopes. I’m about halfway through it at the moment – so you may yet hear more about it. Fair warning: if you’re in the UK and want a physical copy, that doesn’t arrive here until July.

Also out this week is the latest Christina Lauren and as I mentioned in my Book of the Week post for The Soulmate Equation, it’s the story of Fizzy who is the heroine’s best friend in that. Fizzy is a romance writer who has never been in love and who finds herself starring in a reality TV show and the hero is a single dad who is one of the people making the show. I am very excited to see how this one works – I loved The Soulmate Equation and when Christina Lauren did TV show adjacent in The Honey Don’t List I also enjoyed it. So basically I really want to read this, stat!

Book of the Week, books, cozy crime, new releases

Book of the Week: Grave Expectations

Another murder mystery pick this week – but after a forgotten classic last week, this week it’s a new release – and a debut at that.

Grave Expectations’s “detective” is Claire Hendricks – thirty something, a true crime fan and a medium. Yes really, a medium. She can see ghosts and one ghost in particular who follows her around – her best friend Sophie who has been haunting her since she was murdered when they were teenagers. Claire’s been booked as the entertainment at a family birthday party for one of her uni friends’ grandmothers. Except that at the party they find an unquiet ghost and set out to discover what happened with the two least unbearable members of the family to help them (neither of them are Claire’s uni mate) despite some scepticism.

I have written before about how I can never quite put my finger on what makes something with paranormal or supernatural elements work for for me and what doesn’t, but from the fact that I’ve picked this you’ve probably worked out that this one worked! I had a couple of issues with it, but they were minor ones. But basically this is a fun and funny cozy crime novel with a clever set up and a heroine with issues, and who I wished was a little bit less messy. But if this is the start of a series (and I hope it is) they’re minor quibbles that can be ironed out in the sequel.

This is Alice Bell’s debut and it’s already been picked by the Radio 2 book club, so hopefully it’ll be easy to get hold of – it’s a bargainous 99p on on Kindle as I write this, although it’s a bit more expensive on Kobo. My copy came from NetGalley – and I finished it just ahead of its release last week so I’ll be looking for it in the shops in the coming weeks.

Happy Reading!


Recommendsday: April Quick reviews

Another month, and another set of quick reviews that are all new releases that I got from NetGalley. Check me out with reading things in a timely manner again. I’m surprised at myself. Anyway, it’s a variety pack too – with short stories, historical mystery and contemporary romance. Let’s get to it.

Games and Rituals by Katherine Heiny*

I mentioned this on release day, but I’ve finished reading it now and can say that if you want a thought provoking collection of short stories about love and the different forms that it takes, then this is for you. Some are a bit melancholy, many are funny, others will make you wish for more time with the characters. There are eleven stories here and I read it one a day to spread it out and that worked rather nicely.

The White Lady by Jacqueline Winspear*

This standalone novel from Winspear is darker in some ways than her Maisie Dobbs series, and in others more straightforward. If you like the War Time bits of Maisie (whether the flashback bits or the 2nd World War era ones) then this may well be your Jam. Our lead character is Elinor who is trying to live quietly in the country but is haunted by the things she did as a special operative in both world wars. When a new family moves to her village she finds herself drawn back into violence as she tries to protect them. There are two strands to the narrative – the 1947 one and then a second one looking back at Elinor’s life and how she came to be the woman she is. I very much enjoyed it and although I had worked some of the bits and bobs out, it was a very satisfying read. I hope it’s the first in a series, although I’m not quite sure how you can create more plots around Elinor at this point. I’d definitely read them though!

If Only You by Chloe Liese*

My first book in this series – and I’ve been hearing a lot about them so I was excited to read it. Firstly – I really enjoyed the playlist that came with it, although as I’m not a Spotify premium subscriber I got it in a random order rather than in order with the chapters! So, to the actual book: I have slightly mixed opinions – I liked the idea of the plot and the family set up, but I found the writing style a little hard going. There is a lot of American style-therapy speak going on in the dialogue and that always winds me up the wrong way but also doesn’t sound like how any one I know talks! It also definitely feels more towards the new adult side of the contemporary romance genre than I was expecting – but maybe that’s because most of the sports romances that I have read recently are things like the Bromance Book club series which are definitely aimed at an older audience. I think this is more of a not my thing end of books rather than anything else – I suspect other people are going to eat this up with a spoon!

I know that last one is a little more negative than I normally am – but I wanted to throw it in because it’s been a weird month or so in romance reading. I’ve read some really, really good stuff but goodness me there’s been some that I’ve disliked. And actually the Chloe Liese falls somewhere in the middle of that spectrum – I like it more in retrospect compared to some of the stuff that’s been worse!

Anyway, the Books of the Week in April included three really good feel good romance or romance adjacent novels – Happy Place, Romantic Comedy and The Roughest Draft – and one really good rich people problems book – Pineapple Street – so I’ve really got nothing to complain about.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week, books, new releases

Book of the Week: Happy Place

It’s the last week of April and I’m bang on time with a review for once – because Happy Place is actually out today. Astonishing work from me for once!

Emily Henry’s new novel is about Harriet and Wyn, who are on a weeklong summer holiday with their group of friends who don’t know that they broke up five months earlier. They’ve all been going to Sabrina’s dad’s cottage in Maine since they were students but now he’s decided to sell it they’re there for a last hurrah and neither Harry or Wyn can bring themselves to spoil it by telling everyone that they’ve broken up – especially as the others all call them the perfect couple. But as the days pass it’s clearer and clearer that they’re not over each other and pretending they’re still a couple is not helping any of it at all…

This is definitely at the women’s fiction end of the romance genre – yes, it follows the rules but it’s actually a lot about Harriet herself and her own personal growth as well as about her relationship with Wyn. It also made me cry more than once, so there’s that – Him Indoors got quite worried about me sniffling away at the end of the sofa – but by the end of the book it was worth it, even if I had a couple of minor quibbles along the way that mean I didn’t like it quite as much as I liked Book Lovers, but that was a high bar to reach!

You’re going to be able to get this everywhere – and it’s even got a nice coordinating/matching cover to the other three Emily Henry Romances. You can get it on Kindle or Kobo here and I’m expected the physical copy to be on the tables in all the bookshops, the airports and probably the supermarket too.

Happy Reading!

new releases, Recommendsday

Book of the Week: Pineapple Street

Well as I mentioned yesterday, picking a book for today was a bit of a problem of my own making. I mean I try not to do release day posts and then make them my books of the week, but I did it with Romantic Comedy and I’m doing it again today. Romantic Comedy perhaps not a surprise because: Curtis Sittenfeld, but this – well, I had other stuff on the go last week that I thought was going to be an option for today, but it turns out, nope. So here we are. Anyway, I really enjoyed reading Pineapple Street and it deserves not to just a mention in Quick Reviews at the end of the month.

The Pineapple Street of the title is the road in Brooklyn Heights where the Stockton family own a house. It’s not their only house, but it is the house where Cord, Darley and Georgiana grew up. Their parents have just moved out to allow Cord and his new wife Sasha to move in and the sisters have added this to the list of black marks against their new sister-in-law, which also includes being middle class, being from New England (but not in a good way) and basically not being The Right Sort. To Sasha the family seem weirdly close, full of rituals and traditions designed to exclude her and make her feel like she’ll never understand them. The sisters have other problems too – Darley is struggling to figure out who she is now she’s a stay at home mum with two kids instead of a high powered worker at an investment bank and Georgiana has fallen in love for the first time – but it’s with the wrong person.

As I said last week – sound the Rich People Problems klaxon! I love a novel about people with the sort of lives most of us can’t even conceive and this is a really good one. I read this in 24 hours – and if I hadn’t had to go to work it would have been less. As well as making you want to just keep turning the pages to find out what happens next, it’ll make you laugh, it’ll make you roll your eyes and by the end you’ll have a lot more sympathy than you were expecting for both Georgiana and Darley – and of course you’re rooting for Sasha from the start. I could happily have spent even longer with them all – but actually the epilogue is a glorious touch and a great way to send them all off. We’re starting to reach the time of year where people start to go on beachy (or at least hot weather) holidays and this would make perfect sun lounger reading.

My copy came from NetGalley, but it’s looking fairly easy to get hold of – as I mentioned last week I saw it in a store before it was even released, but I saw it in both Foyles and Waterstones in Gower Street last week and so I suspect the physical copies will be easy to get hold of – hopefully even in airport edition. And of course it’s in Kindle and Kobo too.

Happy Reading!

Book previews, books

Out Today: Pineapple Street

I mean I say out today – but I did find a copy of Pineapple Street in Waterstones on Saturday when I was looking for Susanna Hoffs’ novel. Anyway: NetGalley tells me it’s out today, and as Amazon was still only offering preorders on Kindle I’m going to assume that someone got a bit over excited and got it out early. This is Jenny Jackson’s debut and our first candidate of the year for a Rich People Problems book – and you know how much I love them.

Helpfully I also got sent this nice graphic which gives you some authors who have liked it – in case that’s a thing you use to help you chose books (I know I do). But this is a novel following the women of the Stockton family – the two daughters Darley and Georgiana and their brother’s wife Sasha. I started this on Tuesday and I’m really enjoying it so far and I’m hoping that continues. You may yet hear more about it…

Book of the Week, books, new releases

Book of the Week: Romantic Comedy

Yup, I’m going there. I can’t help it. I was trying to pace myself, but I had it finished before the end of release day so it had to be my pick this week.

So as previously mentioned the plot of this is: Sally is a long time writer at a late night comedy sketch show called The Night Owls – known as TNO and definitely not SNL. She’s single but has watched the show’s actors fall in and out of love with guest stars on the show, but when her friend Danny starts dating a glamorous actress who was a guest host on the show she writes a sketch about average looking – or dorky – guys who get involved with beautiful women and how you never see the reverse and calls it the Danny Horst Rule. That week’s guest host is Noah Brewster – a music star whose romantic history (according to the gossip magazines) includes a lot of models. Noah and Sally hit it off as they work on sketches together but would someone like him ever date someone like her?

The first part of the book covers the production week of the show and then we jump ahead two years to Covid times when Sally is staying with her stepdad in Kansas City and Noah is in LA and they reconnect. It’s playing with the ideas of romantic comedy movies whilst also being a romantic comedy and following a lot of the rules that you would expect but in subtle (well sort of) ways. What I always enjoy about Curtis Sittenfeld’s books are the heroines – they’re always smart often a little (or a lot) neurotic and have interesting and not perfect lives and back stories. It’s fun just to spend time with them – but even more so when Sittenfeld is playing with something that you love – which I think is why I loved her Eligible (modern day retelling of Pride and Prejudice) so much. And this is a good one. If you follow celeb gossip in anyway you can probably work out who inspired the Danny Horst rule, but actually that’s just a device to set up everything else. I’ve read a bunch of books recently where one half of the couple is famous and the other isn’t and while a lot of them give their celebrities similar issues not all the books are good at it. And yes I realise that I’ve now recommended three of them in a very short time – but I’ve read more of them than that and haven’t told you about the rest!

I guess the main difference with this is that because it’s Curtis Sittenfeld it gets a hardback release and a photo cover (in the UK at least) rather than coming out in paperback with a cartoon/drawn cover like Nora Goes Off Script or Funny You Should Ask. But it’s actually much more similar to those in style and tone than it is to a lot of the other stuff that gets hardback releases. And that’s a good thing not a criticism. And it’s also a Reese Witherspoon pick. So that’s fun too.

Anyway, I have a physical copy of Romantic Comedy that is still on its way to me (it was a special edition for indie booksellers which has got held up in the bank holiday weekend post) but I also requested it from NetGalley before the preorder – not expecting to be approved but I was! Hence how I’ve managed to read it before my actual copy has arrived. It’s out now and available in all the stores – I saw it in Waterstones and Foyles at the weekend and it’s also in ebook on Kindle and Kobo and I’m audiobook. I suspect it’s the sort of thing that will also get an airport edition if you’re heading off on holiday and it would make a great sun lounger read.

Happy Reading!

Book previews, books

Out Today: New Curtis Sittenfeld

Honestly I think I’m allowed to squeal about this one – you all know how much I love Sittenfeld at this point. I’ve reviewed a bunch of them here, and I got excited about this arriving only a few weeks ago. I’ve got a hard copy ordered and I’ve got an advance via NetGalley – which of course I’ve started – and it’s so good I’m trying to ration myself…

Anyway as the title suggests this is a romantic comedy where a writer of a comedy show that is Definitely Not Saturday Night Live falls for one of the guest hosts. It’s only a week since I wrote about Funny You Should Ask and a few weeks since Nora Goes Off Script and I’m hoping this follows them in the famous people and normal people romance stakes, rather than another couple I’ve read hunting for the magic but which haven’t worked as well.