Your Next Great Read: Tess and Amy's Book Reviews

Published Monday, April 27, 2020
Again, but Better
by Christine Riccio

3.5 out of 5 stars

My latest book read is Again, but Better by Christine Riccio and I must say that this is may be one of my favorites. This book is the perfect one to relax and read on the beach while on spring break! I absolutely loved everything about it, mostly because it was unlike any book I have read before. I have been able to relate with the character a lot throughout the story. I feel like sometimes when reading books the main characters lives almost seem unattainable and it can be hard to relate to them, but not with this book.

Again, but Better is about a young college girl who is looking for a second chance with a semester abroad in London. Shane is looking for the opportunity to come out of her shell, make friends and life experiences that she was never able to at home. Of course, it helps to be abroad with the handsome Pilot that Shane meets and grows close to throughout her trip. I really enjoy how the novel sheds light on kids having to live up to the expectations that their parents have for them. In the novel, Shane wants to be a writer, but her parents have plans for her to be a doctor. I find it inspiring how she is able to fight for what it is that she loves to do, rather than pleasing her family.

I think the most exciting part of the book is that halfway through it takes an entirely different turn than I thought it would. After leaving London the way she never wanted to, with her writing prospects in shambles and her feelings for Pilot never acted on, she and Pilot get a second chance. With what I thought was just going to be a time jump to the future lives of Pilot and Shane, turned into something very fascinating. Riccio took a different approach to her novel; she gave Shane and Pilot a second chance to fix their futures. Both of them are transported five years into the past, to when they first met abroad. They get the chance to fix everything and to pursue their feelings for each other in order to create a better future for themselves. I give this book a 7/10, I absolutely loved it and I am sad to be done with it.
- Tess

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A Madness of Sunshine
by Nalini Singh

4 out of 5 stars

After her husband's unexpected death and the shocking betrayal discovered shortly thereafter, Anahera returns home to Golden Cove, a small town almost hidden on the West Coast of New Zealand.

Upon returning to the home she couldn't wait to leave, Ana discovers that things haven't changed all that much from when she left.

Years previously the disappearance of three hikers shook the small community and drove an unseen wedge between Ana and her group of friends. It was that moment that they all left childhood behind and had to grow up with some, like Ana, leaving the town behind.

When a bright, young woman, beloved by the community, goes missing, the secrets of the past are brought forward once again and this time, Ana and everyone of Golden Cove will have to reckon with the evil among them.

This is Nalini Singh's first foray into Thriller / Romantic Suspense. I don't read many Thrillers or Suspense, but the ones I have read had the ability to keep me on the edge of my seat. Almost forcing me to compulsively read the book while also fretting about what's going to happen to the hero/heroine next! I'd say that A Madness of Sunshine is more of a slow burn thriller. More mystery. And the romance itself is a secondary element to the story not irrelevant, but also not the main focus.

The characters, including Ana and police Chief Will of whom we get each of the points of view throughout the book, are so complicated. And not just the characters, but the social structure of Golden Cove. The tight-knit community that is not quick to welcome outsiders but also has a clear divide between those who are well off and those who are barely scraping by. With that economic divide you can clearly see there's a sense of entitlement that runs through many of the characters and throughout the story. Within this entitlement is the idea of possession. Of having and keeping, almost owning whether it's material items or a person.

It's at times twisted and uncomfortable and makes it a little difficult to warm up to any of the characters except, of course, the enigmatic, joyful, gorgeous Miriama who is like a light of sunshine for so many in the community, who's disappearance is deftly felt throughout the book as Ana and Will try to piece together what happened to her, and begin to look to those in the community as possible suspects. I think the idea that no one comes across as exactly trustworthy goes a long way in making the mystery aspect of the story pop. I mean I felt like any one person could have a motivation for wanting Miri gone. But the story moves along, and quickly narrows down the list a bit. I kind of wish the ending and revelations were a little more unexpected once all is said and done, but overall I think this is a very promising start in a new genre for Nalini Singh to bring her dynamic and always entertaining writing. If it has Nalini Singh's name on it, I'm guaranteed to read it, and I'm very interested to see what she does with another thriller/suspense story.
- Amy

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Would Like to Meet
by Rachel Winters

5 out of 5 stars

For the past several years, Evie Summer has worked as an assistant to an agent who represents script writers. She's worked really hard (usually going above and waayyy beyond) and eagerly awaits the moment when she'll be promoted to an agent herself. With the promise of a promotion in sight, Evie has been tasked to watch over award-wining client Ezra Chester to ensure that he's working diligently on the rom-com script he's been hired to produce. The problem: Ezra hasn't written a thing.

With her promotion, and job itself, on the line, Evie agrees to help him. The solution: show Ezra that you most certainly can fall in love like they do in the movies. They agree that Evie will set up meet-cutes utilizing various rom-com methods and document these meetings to Ezra who will then turn the ideas into a script. Evie's boss gets the script, and Evie gets the promotion, easy.

With the help of her three best friends, along with a coffee-shop-frequenting father-daughter duo, Evie sets out to prove that rom-com love is possible. As she goes through one humiliating situation after another, she realizes that her own romantic past has soured her perception of love, but she'll soon learn that you can't stage a meet-cute that they happen in the most unexpected moments.

I really loved this debut novel by Rachel Winters. I thought that, despite being a hodgepodge of scenarios many people are all too familiar with, it felt amazingly fresh. I think because it takes a tongue-in-cheek attitude toward the whole meet-cute phenomena, but it's also very reverential. In other words, the story knows that rom-com movies can be kinda cheesy at times (this is being said by someone who loves rom-coms absolutely), and that meet-cutes aren't really the norm, but they don't make you feel bad for enjoying them anyway.

I read a lot of romances, so I always appreciate when an author shakes things up a bit, and Rachel Winters certainly does that. You kind of think you know, or you assume to know, where the story will go, but then Rachel Winters changes the game and I just couldn't help but be drawn even more into the story. I'd say more, but I'm not going to get too spoilery.

It is safe to talk about the fact that Evie's life is kind of a mess. She doesn't love her job by any means, but she loves the idea of it. She misses the writing that she used to do but stopped after the death of her father. Subsequently, her last relationship ended on a sour note that has impacted Evie from really putting herself out there again. But through all of this she has a wonderful support system in her friends. The friendship representation is hands down my favorite part of the book. Jeremy, Maria, and Sarah all have their own things going on, but it doesn't stop them from being there for Evie (since she's the main character and all). And through this meet-cute journey, and everything going on with her job, it's fair to say that Evie is a little off her game. She makes quite a few mistakes during the course of the book, but instead of admonishing her for them, her friends offer nothing but support and, mostly, understanding. I think it's the idea that Evie knows she's lacking in the friend area at the moment, her friends know that she knows this, so there's no use beating a dead horse (so to speak). Instead they offer her support and encouragement. It's one of the best friend circles I've read in a long time. I'm definitely here for it.

I honestly cannot wait to see what Rachel Winters has up her sleeve next. If you're a fan of the classic rom-coms, you'll recognize many of the situations that Evie finds herself in, some planned, and some not. It'll certainly have you laughing a lot and maybe tearing up, just a little.
- Amy

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Aurora Blazing
by Jesse Mihalik

4.5 out of 5 stars

For years Bianca von Hasenberg has played the dutiful daughter, up to and including marrying the man of her father’s choosing, a man whose cruelty knew no bounds. Now, after the untimely—though certainly freeing—death of her husband, Bianca has vowed to never be in that situation again and helps others who find themselves in similar circumstances. That is just one of the ways Bianca has built up one of the most reliable information networks in the Consortium. Which is extra convenient now that House von Hasenberg is officially at war with House Rockhurst.

After an attack, Bianca’s oldest brother, and heir to the House, goes missing. Bianca immediately begins the search to find him regardless of her own safety. She doesn’t get very far before she’s pursued by the House’s head of security, Ian Bishop, who is determined to see Bianca safely back home.

Once they decide to start working together, the sparks fly, but Bianca’s hesitant to put her heart on the line again, and her brother’s safe return is top priority. As their investigation takes them back and forth across the galaxy, they risk endangering themselves in a war that’s only just begun.

The scenes in Polaris Rising when we finally get to meet the other von Hasenberg siblings were some of my favorite. So I was looking forward to older sister Bianca being front and center despite not feeling finished yet with Ada and Loch. Plus, the very powerful chemistry that was already so present between Bianca and Ian in that first book just begged to be explored.

I really liked getting a better look at the Houses, their structure and the politics of everything. Bianca is such a different character than Ada. The interesting way in which Bianca moves within society all while having this alternate life gathering secrets and information. She certainly knows how to play the game. I loved that Bianca is such a force, especially after everything she went through in her marriage. You still see the scars that have been left behind, but more so you see a woman who will fight with everything she’s got to survive. I equally loved that there was no belittling on Ian’s part in regards to Bianca’s capabilities. Despite wanting to protect her, he also concedes that she is very good at what she does and is more asset than liability. I loved that Bianca asserting herself and her strength was not based in recklessness. There’s a thoughtfulness and shrewdness to all of her actions that I appreciated.

For me, Aurora Blazing was more of a slow-burn read in everything from to Bianca’s information gathering on her brother—and the subsequent searches that ensued—to the romance between Bianca and Ian. There were definitely quite a few edge-of-your-seat moments, but I feel like these came after being built up over the course of the book. I loved how drawn out the romance was. It made every interaction between Bianca and Ian so delicious.

Jessie Mihalik caught my attention first with the release of Polaris Rising in early 2019. With Aurora Blazing she’s moved into auto-buy territory. If you haven’t started this series yet, you’re missing out. It hits the mark on blending sci-fi, romance, and adventure perfectly.
- Amy

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