The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams – 5 Star Book Review

Title: The Bromance Book Club (Bromance Book Club #1)
Author: Lyssa Kay Adams
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publication Date: March 2020

The first rule of book club: You don’t talk about book club.

Nashville Legends second baseman Gavin Scott’s marriage is in major league trouble. He’s recently discovered a humiliating secret: his wife Thea has always faked the Big O. When he loses his cool at the revelation, it’s the final straw on their already strained relationship. Thea asks for a divorce, and Gavin realizes he’s let his pride and fear get the better of him.

Welcome to the Bromance Book Club.

Distraught and desperate, Gavin finds help from an unlikely source: a secret romance book club made up of Nashville’s top alpha men. With the help of their current read, a steamy Regency titled Courting the Countess, the guys coach Gavin on saving his marriage. But it’ll take a lot more than flowery words and grand gestures for this hapless Romeo to find his inner hero and win back the trust of his wife.

The hype for this book was HIGH last year. As with all hyped books, I tend to have a healthy dose of skepticism surrounding their supposed ‘amazingness’. Is that a word? You know what I mean! Where this book is concerned though, the hype was valid.

In my current rom-com mood The Bromance Book Club had (almost) everything I was after. Cute storyline (honestly, an all-male romance book club is progressive and so fun to read about), admirable male MC (Gavin was all I could have really asked for) and strong side characters (seriously, my squeals of joy in hearing Mack would be the male MC in the sequel…) and a strong female MC with Thea.

To be honest, the only issue I had with this book was that it felt too short. Maybe that’s because I wanted MORE. Oh, and Thea’s sister Liv. She annoyed the pants off me. Luckily she disappeared (mostly) by half way through (YAY!). Unluckily, she’s the female MC in the sequel… which made me INCREDIBLY FRUSTRATED. More on that in the sequel’s review though…

It wasn’t even the unique all-male romance book club that won me over in this read (although that was SO FUN to read about). It was a whole host of things. Gavin’s improvement in communication skills (from reading regency romance) and his heart-warming pursuit of Thea. Their adorable twin girls! Barney the Goldie. But ultimately, this book won me over with a turn-about near the end.

Relationships take two people to break (unless there’s cheating, which wasn’t the case here) and I liked that this book explored Thea’s short-comings in the relationship toward the end of the book. While I adored Gavin’s concerted effort to win Thea back, I could understand the reasons and HURT behind his initial (admittedly childish) behaviour. Thea had some communication battles to face as well and I’m glad that this was addressed.

I loved the fast-paced nature of this book and honestly would LOVE to see a screen adaptation of this. Can you even imagine it??

5 STARS

Away With the Penguins by Hazel Prior – eARC Book Review

Title: Away With the Penguins
Author: Hazel Prior
GenreContemporary Fiction
Publication Date: March 2020

Veronica McCreedy is about to have the journey of a lifetime . . .

Veronica McCreedy lives in a mansion by the sea. She loves a nice cup of Darjeeling tea whilst watching a good wildlife documentary. And she’s never seen without her ruby-red lipstick.

Although these days Veronica is rarely seen by anyone because, at 85, her days are spent mostly at home, alone.

She can be found either collecting litter from the beach (‘people who litter the countryside should be shot’), trying to locate her glasses (‘someone must have moved them’) or shouting
instructions to her assistant, Eileen (‘Eileen, door!’).

Veronica doesn’t have family or friends nearby. Not that she knows about, anyway . . . And she has no idea where she’s going to leave her considerable wealth when she dies.

But today . . . today Veronica is going to make a decision that will change all of this. (Goodreads)

I wasn’t entirely sure that I would enjoy this story. Cantankerous old ladies aren’t usually the characters I connect with but I requested this as I had previously loved Hazel Prior’s debut novel Ellie and the Harp Maker and hoped that this story would have the same hopeful, character-driven plot. I was not disappointed.

Veronica McCreedy was a hard character to crack. From the beginning she was utterly unlikeable, unnecessarily feisty and inconsiderate. That said, she wore me down. Like sandpaper on a stone. This book is not what I’d consider a breezy, comfortable reading experience that could blissfully fill up a lazy Sunday afternoon. Not at all. Instead, I spent my time chipping away at this book over a month. In the beginning I could only get through a few chapters at a time before Veronica got on my nerves and drove me away.

But after I reached the middle of the book…. something magical happened. Although Veronica didn’t quite change and was as unrelentingly grumpy and pushy as ever, she started to make more sense. Gifted with a view of her younger years, read through the POV of her estranged grandson, Veronica’s reluctance to make connections with others, compromise or apologise for her strength of personality were no longer annoying. Rather they were a badge of honour signifying her inner strength and growth. After surviving a difficult past, her strength and conviction to be her own person (screw anybody else) became a trait that I no longer disliked but rather… admired. What a difference some perspective can make!

Despite all of this, Prior’s writing was strong, sure and beautifully done. The Antarctic wilderness and penguin colonies came to life and made me wish I was the adventurous sort. If a stubborn octogenarian can survive a holiday there – why can’t I?

The aspect that brought my rating down from a 4-Star to a 3.5-Star was the clumsiness in the change between POVs. Often the POV would change with little-to-no warning and I was caught off-guard. It made the reading experience more cumbersome than needed and this story would have benefitted from clear headings outlining the changes in POV. That said, I received an ARC copy so the formatting could change.

3.5 Stars.

*ARC provided by publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.*

First Star I See Tonight by Susan Elizabeth Phillips – Book Review

✰ ✰

Genre: Contemporary Romance

A star quarterback and a feisty detective play for keeps in this sporty, sexy, sassy novel.

Piper Dove is a woman with a dream—to become the best detective in the city of Chicago. First job? Trail former Chicago Stars quarterback, Cooper Graham. Problem? Graham’s spotted her, and he’s not happy.

Which is why a good detective needs to think on her feet. “The fact is…I’m your stalker. Not full-out barmy. Just…mildly unhinged.”

Piper soon finds herself working for Graham himself, although not as the bodyguard he refuses to admit he so desperately needs. Instead, he’s hired her to keep an eye on the employees at his exclusive new nightclub. But Coop’s life might be in danger, and Piper’s determined to protect him, whether he wants it or not.

And then there’s Cooper Graham himself, a legendary sports hero who always gets what he wants—even if what he wants is a feisty detective hell bent on proving she’s as tough as he is.

I’ve been a fan of Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ books for YEARS. The Chicago Stars was my first intro in to sports romances and will forever be the Holy Grail series by which I judge all other sports romances. This is a BIG DEAL as sports romances to me are the equivalent of my happy place!

This story was exactly as I was expecting it to be… in the beginning at least. Piper was stubborn, feisty and loyal with a kind streak that easily won me over. Cooper Graham was also what I expected – arrogant, stubborn, reluctantly nice and a tad bit rude. Their meet cute was a delight to read as Piper’s ability to spin a preposterous lie had me laughing out loud. Who would openly admit to being a stalker as a way to GET OUT of a situation??

Besides for the start and meet cute though, things started to go downhill for me. All of the features were there but the overall reading experience was just a bit lacking. This is my fav sports romance series though, so bear that in mind. The expectations were HIGH.

Piper’s character development kept me interested and invested throughout the story as she grew in confidence and skill but I found that Cooper’s appeal waned very quickly. Near the middle to end of the book he didn’t come across as charmingly arrogant but rather, obnoxiously arrogant. This didn’t seem to change much toward the end of the book. The only redeeming traits he showed were during the epilogue which was set months later… this doesn’t count as ‘development’ in my opinion as we’re not privy to it as readers. I wasn’t interested in a HEA perfect future that was displayed. I would rather have read than simply been told about his change.

Overall, this book was a bit lacking for me on the chemistry and development front. The connections to other Chicago Stars characters was minimal and besides for the saving grace that was Piper as an MC, I wasn’t happy with this read. It’s a sad two stars from me!

Jen

A Thousand Perfect Notes by C.G Drews – Book Review

✰ ✰ 1/2

I was surprised by how dark and gritty this YA contemporary read was. I mean, the synopsis had hinted toward a darker tone and yet I still felt like it was going to be (mostly) a happy tale of young love, music and the pursuit of dreams.

These elements were present however, a much darker tone was placed upon the book with the frequent (and quite graphically written) domestic violence that was occurring in young Beck’s life. This is a story for those seeking a darker YA contemporary that bares all and ultimately inspires hope for a better future. Despite this, I had a lot of difficulty figuring out my overall feelings on this book. Unfortunately, the ending really altered my rating of this book from a 4 star to a 2 star.

Synopsis:

Beck hates his life. He hates his violent mother. He hates his home. Most of all, he hates the piano that his mother forces him to play hour after hour, day after day. He will never play as she did before illness ended her career and left her bitter and broken. But Beck is too scared to stand up to his mother, and tell her his true passion, which is composing his own music – because the least suggestion of rebellion on his part ends in violence.

When Beck meets August, a girl full of life, energy and laughter, love begins to awaken within him and he glimpses a way to escape his painful existence. But dare he reach for it?

Characters:

BECK – was a character that I found very hard to dislike. He had a rough exterior, hardened from years of abuse, that had formed to preserve his softer core that was intrinsically good and kind and wonderful. I adored him to bits. The suffering we had to endure, and it felt like we as the reader had to endure it too, was brutal and uncalled for.

JOEY – Beck’s younger sister, was a fire cracker that reminded me of a younger cousin. Full of energy, spirit and a will to overcome any obstacle. Beck’s suffering in a vain attempt to protect Joey broke my heart. He was a child that had been forced in to an adult role too early in life. The support between the siblings was the most heart-warming aspect of this book. Together they could survive.

AUGUST – Beck’s ‘saviour’ and love interest was a good intentioned, whimsical character that was hard not to like. Her endless support of Beck gained my respect. However, she felt like the least developed character. Even toward the end, there wasn’t much to her two dimensional character other than stereotype. It seemed almost naive to assume that a young woman with an inclination for saving wounded animals was the answer to fixing Beck’s years of abuse. When she was given pure evidence of Beck’s abuse at the hands of his mother, she did nothing. I know this is what he wanted but it still didn’t sit right with me. Their relationship felt a bit stale and stretched for my liking.

Why I only gave it 2 stars:

By just analysing the bare grit and bones of this book, it’s hands down a 3 star. The pace, characters and setting were done (mostly) well. The writing was beautifully descriptive, flowed well and kept me intrigued until the end. Unfortunately my emotional connection to Beck meant that I was deeply unsatisfied with the ending. This had all the hallmarks of what should have been a great YA contemporary. Unfortunately, I was left deeply disappointed and almost angry with the negligent ending that assumed everything was going to be okay if things appeared so, when the whole book had been preaching the opposite.

The brutal nature of the abuse in this book was quite harrowing to read about. It wasn’t always the detailed description of physical violence that got me emotional. Rather, it was the obvious neglect these kids carried around like neon signs that I found hard to read. Nobody seemed to care. They weren’t unaware, they just didn’t care. It’s frightening how similar this can be to the real events that take place so often in the world.

I also felt, in connection to the abuse Beck and Joey suffered, that an exploration of how their mother deteriorated into such a violent, abusive individual should have been further explored. At the very least, Beck and Joey’s future without their mother should have been explored further. Rather, the ending felt more like the beginning of a new story. There was so much that wasn’t quite answered or resolved. I would have liked more peace of mind in this regard considering the extensive emotional abuse we had just read. How can we be expected, as a reader, to take an outside appearance of normality as a sign of good will or intention? The book had taught us that appearances could be deceiving. After all, Beck’s mother was a ‘perfectly fine’ woman in the public eye. It felt as if the author had told us to just have blind faith that Beck and Joey’s new home situation would be a better scenario. I’m all for hoping for the best, but I would have liked some more clarity in this area considering what we had just read.

Overall, it was a good book with an ending that should have been extended and a lot of naive assumptions on the author’s part. I’ll be reading Drews’ other book, The Boy Who Steals Houses because I enjoyed the writing style.

// have you read this book? what were your thoughts on it? //

Jen