Party Favors by Erin Mclellan

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Four out of Five Stars

Summary

Three…

Amanda Ellis knows three things: she’s tired of doing what’s expected of her, she hates her job at her family’s business, and the last thing she wants to do is attend her parents’ boring New Year’s Eve ball with a date her mother picked. A few days of fun with her online best friend is exactly what she needs to ring in the New Year on her own terms.

Two…

Wren Rebello is impulsive and always ready for fun. A last-minute girls’ getaway sounds like the perfect way to spend New Year’s. But even Wren isn’t prepared for the spark of attraction she feels when she meets Amanda in person for the first time. Good thing Wren loves popping Amanda’s cork.

One…

After days spent sharing end-of-year resolutions and the one bed in their cottage, the clock strikes midnight and the ball drops on their time together. As Amanda and Wren go their separate ways, they leave new resolutions unfulfilled. Is there enough New Year’s magic left to turn their online friendship into real-life love?

Review

Amanda Ellis, heir to a disco ball empire, if finally meeting one of her best friends, Wren Rebello, in person. Amanda has always done what her parents expected of her. Date this person, do this job, and act this way. For the first time she is able to be herself with Wren.

As they spend the New Years together, Amanda finds herself inexplicably attracted to everything about Wren. They were a little awkward at first, and it took talking via text to break the ice between them, but once that ice broke? *fans self* … ya’ll .. they were scorching together. A large portion of this book focuses on their sexual relationship and exploration of that relationship. It made my heart beat quickly and my cheeks flush red. These two women together were intense!

Mixed in with all of the sex, was a relationship that grew leaps and bounds. Wren encouraged Amanda to be herself and to leave the disco ball heir title behind her. Amanda had a whole life outside of her family that she wanted, but she never had the courage to pursue it until she had friends who saw her vision and pushed her to follow her dreams.

This was a great New Years themed read that had quite a bit of spice!

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The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics by Olivia Waite

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Four out of Five Stars

Summary

As Lucy Muchelney watches her ex-lover’s sham of a wedding, she wishes herself anywhere else. It isn’t until she finds a letter from the Countess of Moth, looking for someone to translate a groundbreaking French astronomy text, that she knows where to go. Showing up at the Countess’ London home, she hoped to find a challenge, not a woman who takes her breath away.

Catherine St Day looks forward to a quiet widowhood once her late husband’s scientific legacy is fulfilled. She expected to hand off the translation and wash her hands of the project—instead, she is intrigued by the young woman who turns up at her door, begging to be allowed to do the work, and she agrees to let Lucy stay. But as Catherine finds herself longing for Lucy, everything she believes about herself and her life is tested.

While Lucy spends her days interpreting the complicated French text, she spends her nights falling in love with the alluring Catherine. But sabotage and old wounds threaten to sever the threads that bind them. Can Lucy and Catherine find the strength to stay together or are they doomed to be star-crossed lovers?

Review

Lucy Muchelney isn’t your average lady. She’s worked side-by-side with her father as an astronomer. She picked up most of the work during his declining years, but never signed her name to it when she sent it to the Polite Science Society. Once she arrives in London hoping to translate a French astronomy text for the society, but as a woman, they see her of little value.

Catherine St. Day, Lady Moth, irritated with the good ole boys of the regency era, decides she will fund the project and have Lucy translate the text as she wishes. In the process, the women end up falling for each other. It’s hard not to when you find someone as supportive and encouraging as they are.

While the cover is indicative of the romance aspect of this novel, it was much more than a regency romance. It showed the difficulties of being a woman in the world of academia during this time. It still is to this day, but to have it so forcefully shoved in your face over and over as Lucy and Lady Moth had, it would be discouraging to continue the work they loved.

Lucy was an incredibly bright character that I thoroughly enjoyed. She fought for what she wanted professionally and personally. Even when her brother doubted her and used her success to benefit himself, she was the better person. She was a true academic because she could handle legitimate criticisms and was willing to learn from any mistakes she may have made in her work. That’s was academia is meant to be. Hypothesis and experiment lead to theory.  

Catherine St. Day learned who she could be when Lucy entered her life. Her husband and many of the men in her life put little value in the work she wanted to pursue. She was able to travel and explore different cultures, but her observations only translated into a lady’s art, needlepoint. She was truly talented and as Lucy pointed out, an artist. The detail in her work was so rich I could see her work in my mind while I was reading.

This was an easy read to get lost in. I could hear Lucy and Catherine’s voices in my head during dialogue. I could picture Catherine’s home, their clothing, and London at that time. I would hope to still meet women like Lucy Mulchelney and Catherine St. Day. Women who were willing to challenge the status quo and to live life as they choose.

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Hunting Astrid by Thea Landen

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Four out of Five Stars

Summary

Astrid Carlisle enjoys her job at Satera Industries, the massive interplanetary organization whose enigmatic leader is concerned with profits first and legalities second. Stationed at company headquarters, she can stay out of harm’s way while making good use of her programming skills and keen eye for talent acquisition. Unfortunately, both the busy nature of her work and her office’s remote location leave her feeling dissatisfied with her personal life.

Fresh out of the Central United Space Marines, Tabitha Knox is ready for change, hoping the next stage in her career can take place in the private sector. Employment with Satera Industries would offer her the exciting, fast-paced work she craves, with generous financial compensation to match. All she has to do is get through the rigorous screening process and prove her worth.

The two women meet during the early stages of Tabitha’s application, and their mutual attraction is instant. However, Astrid has been hurt in the past and is cautious about moving too quickly, leading her to devise a plan. She suggests the pair enter the simulations used to test applicants and fight their way through the various environments. If Tabitha can successfully track her down in each phase, she’ll win the ultimate prize: a lucrative job, plus Astrid’s trust and submission. Everything she wants is within reach, but will she be able to achieve her dreams while hunting Astrid?

Hunting Astrid is a futuristic sci fi slow-burn FF romance from the talented author Thea Landen.

Review

This is a super-quick, satisfying science-fiction read. My only complaint? I needed more!

We’re thrust right into the action of Astrid’s job at Satera Industries as we follow candidates as they work their way through a virtual reality that Astrid helped create and rank the candidates. One catches her eye, even without knowing what they look like. Red is skilled, cautious, but has the potential to be a leader.

If all that wasn’t attractive enough, once Astrid learns who Red is after a training exercise, and seeing her on the subway on their way home, Astrid is physically attracted to Tabitha. No matter how intense Astrid’s initial feelings for Tabitha, she’s still scared because of past relationships.

Oh my goodness, I felt Astrid’s conflicting feelings in my soul. She wanted to become close to Tabitha, but she was terrified of getting hurt again. Eventually, they find a way to get closer, hunting missions through virtual reality. The prize? Tabitha would get Astrid anyway she wanted her.

Landen had a way of putting you in each of the virtual realities these characters found themselves in. I enjoyed being put right into the tropic rain forest, in a city under attack. It was rich and seamless. This is what you want in a science-fiction story, no matter how short, it was a well-developed world that I wouldn’t mind visiting again.

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Callisto 2.0 by Susan English

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Three out of Five Stars

Summary: 

She had to travel beyond the planet to discover her true self. Will she find the courage to walk through the doorway to a new future?

Shambhala Space Station, 2097. Solitary physicist Callisto (physics, after all, is a jealous mistress) never accepted conventional wisdom. So when she’s recruited to work on faster-than-light technology by a beautiful and mysterious older woman, she eagerly accepts the career opportunity at the women-only research station orbiting Earth’s moon. But her enthusiasm suffers when her first discovery is unexpected heartbreak.

Throwing herself into work on a problematic warp drive prototype, Calli blossoms in the utopian female community that shows her love and acceptance for the first time in her life. But when a twisted conspiracy, a disingenuous affair, and a disastrous betrayal test her place in this unique environment, the brilliant scientist must dig deep to find her moment of truth.
Will Calli embrace her destiny in an unexplored cosmos?

Callisto 2.0 is the transformative first book in the Shambhala Saga feminist science fiction series. If you like compassionate characters, deep-space intrigue, and hopeful visions of the future, then you’ll adore Susan English’s cosmic adventure.

The Review

Callisto, a physicist, is recruited to live and work on the Shambhala Space Station. Her area of study isn’t common and finding a position that encourages her to research warp technology is like a dream come true. Working with an all-woman crew, that hypes each other up and pushes each scientist on board to do their best work, is a eutopia of sorts. While there is competition to do your best work, there isn’t any undercutting nastiness or discrepancy is pay or standing. All women have equal footing and the cattiness you would expect to find is nonexistent.

In this first book, the reader is adjusting to the Shambhala Space Station. Each character we learn about has an essential function to keeping the station going. The majority of this novel, we follow Calli through her first weeks working and the excitement of finding a career she loves. It’s a slice of life all the way until the last fifty or so pages. This is where you get to see the little seeds of dissent from citizens outside of the space station. I wanted there to be more conflict that what was presented. Calli made a disastrous mistake, but there seemed to be little consequence. The end pages, we finally get a clear idea of what this series is going to be about and I wish there would have been a little more direction earlier in the novel.

The science in this novel was easy to follow, but there were a few moments that had me bogged down in all the terminology used. It was essential in understanding Calli and all of her colleagues and because of that, it didn’t bother me.

If you are looking for romance, there are brief moments off it, but it is not the driving force behind this book. The science and discovery are the stars here.

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Open: A Tale of Love, Mermaids, Bassists, & Creepy Dudes by Emilie Nantel

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Four out of Five Stars

The Summary:

Amy Evans. Bisexual. Millenial. Montrealer.

Amy and David are in an open relationship and it’s going great. She navigates the ups – dating gorgeous people – and downs – trying to avoid creeps – of the dating scene, when she meets a hot bassist and falls in love.

This was not part of the plan.

Amy must figure out how to deal with these unexpected feelings without neglecting her primary relationship, even as she keeps meeting new potential hook-ups.

Surrounded by her quirky group of queer friends and the support of her boyfriend, she might find there’s a simple answer: polyamory.

Well, not so simple. But y’know

The Review

Amy Evans is bisexual and in an open relationship with her long-time boyfriend, David. They have rules and as time progresses, their relationship must evolve to keep up with each of their wants and needs.  Amy is sexually empowered and pursues adventures with whoever strikes her fancy. I loved that she doesn’t care what anyone else thinks about it. Like, fist bumps to her, because she was herself one hundred percent.

What I enjoyed was the diversity featured with the characters, main and secondary. Ethnicities and orientation wise. There was a character for every reader to relate to. I felt like I was able to learn a lot about the community that I didn’t know. I also like how polyamory and open relationships were represented throughout this book. It was honest and fresh. Anyone Amy approached, she informed them of her relationship status and moved forward or didn’t from there. There was no trickery, which I was so glad to see, but as a con there were so many relationships both long and short term for Amy. It got difficult to keep track of.

When I really enjoyed Amy’s story, was when Emma walked into her and David’s life. I was so excited for their relationship. Sure, it was the biggest coincidence ever, but I was ALL about it! They balanced each other out in a way only a triad relationship could have. I liked getting to see them navigate wedding invites, meeting the parents and deciding on their home life. It was sweet.

While there was a lot going on, I did enjoy reading this novel. It was fun, at times funny, and honest. Give this one a try, you might like it more than you thought you originally thought.

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Don’t Cry for Me by Rachel Lacey

Don't Cry for Me (Midnight in Manhattan Book 1)

Four out of Five Stars

Summary

Eve Marlow has her eyes on the prize: a third season of her popular business makeover show, Do Over. But when her ratings take an unexpected dive, Eve needs a blockbuster new client, or she can kiss season three goodbye. She has her work cut out for her, and that’s before she discovers a litter of newborn kittens in a trash can. Now she’s desperate to find someone to take them so she can concentrate on reviving her career.

Josie Swanson had to put her kitten rescue on the back burner when she inherited her father’s bar two years ago. Since then, she’s invested all her time and energy into keeping it afloat, but despite her best efforts, Swanson’s is going under. When she gets a phone call from Eve Marlow, host of the television show Josie applied to earlier that year, the woman she’s convinced can save her bar, Josie hopes her luck has finally turned.

Eve knows what she needs to succeed, and it isn’t Josie–or her bar. There’s no denying the chemistry sizzling between them, though. Josie’s personality is as vibrant as her turquoise-tipped hair. She stirs things in Eve that haven’t been stirred in a long time, but there’s a reason she keeps her heart under lock and key. Eve stands to lose a lot more than her TV show if she lets her guard down, no matter how tempted she is to see if Josie’s love would be worth the risk.

Review

Eve is doing her best to ensure her business makeover show makes it past season two. Josie is struggling to keep her father’s bar afloat and she put her career hopes, rescuing cats, on hold. A horrible instance of Eve finding abandoned newborn kittens draws these two women together. Eve reaches out in desperation hoping Josie would take the kittens off her hands. Josie teaches her the basics. Eve ends up working with Josie to rebrand the bar and ensure its success. The more time they spend with each other, the deeper their connection grows.

            What I really enjoyed about Don’t Cry for Me was how genuine both Eve and Josie appeared to be. They were themselves from the moment we met them on page. Eve is still grieving a loss, but Josie is the first person that she connects with. Eve fights the attraction in the beginning. She has a sense of professionalism that she holds herself to. But it’s hard to resist the whirlwind of Josie.

            I’ve always wanted to read a romance where the reality show hosts falls for a ‘contestant’ on their show. There were flirty moments and stolen kisses between the two women and it was just so good. I wish we would have gotten steamier scenes between them. Their chemistry was intense, and I wanted to see more.

            The writing was fluid, I could picture Eve, Josie, and the bar perfectly in my mind as I read. Josie’s friends were exactly like a couple of my friends and I loved seeing secondary characters like Adam and Kaia. I had fun reading their story and I was able to read it quickly. It was an escape from everything happening around me with work and class. I’m definitely going to give Lacey’s other works a read!

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Out on the Ice by Kelly Farmer

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Three out of Five Stars

Summary:

Caro Cassidy used to be a legend.

During her career, Caro was one of the best defense players in women’s hockey. These days, she keeps to herself. Her all-girls hockey camp is her life, and she hopes it’ll be her legacy. Sure, her new summer hire is charming and magnetic, but Caro keeps her work and personal life strictly separate.

Amy Schwarzbach lives life out loud.

Amy’s as bright and cheerful as her lavender hair, and she uses her high-profile position in women’s hockey to advocate for the things she believes in. Ten weeks in Chicago coaching a girls’ training camp is the perfect opportunity to mentor the next generation before she goes back to Boston.

Letting love in means putting yourself out there.

When the reticent head coach offers to help Amy get in shape for next season, her starstruck crush on Caro quickly blossoms into real chemistry. As summer comes to an end, neither of them can quite let go of this fling—but Amy can’t afford a distraction, and Caro can’t risk her relationship becoming public and jeopardizing the one thing that’s really hers.

The Review

This was a low-angst, quick-to-read, romance.

Caro Cassidy runs a hockey school for girls. She keeps her personal life close to the vest and doesn’t advertise her sexuality. She adheres to a strict professional policy. In comes Amy Schwarzbach, lives her life out loud and doesn’t let anyone tell her how she should live her life. She does her best to encourage girls to be true to themselves while playing hockey in a safe space provided by Girls and Goals.

What I liked about Out on the Ice was the fact Caro and Amy were polar opposites, but they still fit together. Caro had gotten stuck in a repetitive cycle, but Amy makes her consider what how she could change for the better.

Amy was a bisexual character and If eel like there aren’t enough books with bisexual characters, and they talk about their previous partners. It was a genuine representation.

A lot of the romance was off screen, so if you’re looking for that you aren’t going to find that here. It was very sweet.

I was left wanting, but this was a good debut for Kelly Farmer .

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Hairpin Curves by Elia Winters

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Four out of Fives Stars

Summary

Megan Harris had hopes of seeing the world, but at twenty-five she’s never even left Florida. Now a wedding invitation lures her to Quebec…in February. When her ex-friend Scarlett offers to be her plus-one (yeah, that’s a whole story) and suggests they turn the journey into an epic road trip, Megan reluctantly agrees to the biggest adventure of her life.

A week together in a car is a surefire way to kill a crush, and Scarlett Andrews has had a big one on Megan for years. The important thing is fixing their friendship.

As the miles roll away, what starts as harmless road-trip games and rest-stop dares escalates into something like intimacy. And when a surprise snowstorm forces Megan and Scarlett to hunker down without the open road as distraction, they’ve got a bigger challenge than making it to the church on time: facing the true nature of their feelings for each other.

Review

Megan and Scarlett used to be great friends, now? Not so much. Megan felt left behind as Scarlett moved from Florida for college and life. When Juliet invites them to her wedding in Quebec, they reluctantly agree to road trip their way from Florida to Quebec.

Megan packs her scrap book and polaroid camera, hesitantly ready to see what she’s been missing out on. Even with ground rules, Scarlett manages to surprise Megan with her thoughtfulness in planning stops that Megan might enjoy.

I liked that we eventually got to find out what split Megan and Scarlett apart and upon learning those reasons, they were able to address it and move forward in their budding relationship. They both complimented, and challenged each other. Their chemistry and attraction to each other grew with each stop they made and I loved it.

Their romance was a slow burn that grew in intensity. There were a few moments that had me fanning myself lol. I was a little surprised by the boldness of Scarlett at first, but then I can’t see Scarlett being any other way but bold, even in the bedroom.

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The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows by Olivia Waite

The Care and Feeding of Waspish Widows (Feminine Pursuits, #2)

Four out of Five Stars

Summary

When Agatha Griffin finds a colony of bees in her warehouse, it’s the not-so-perfect ending to a not-so-perfect week. Busy trying to keep her printing business afloat amidst rising taxes and the suppression of radical printers like her son, the last thing the widow wants is to be the victim of a thousand bees. But when a beautiful beekeeper arrives to take care of the pests, Agatha may be in danger of being stung by something far more dangerous…

Penelope Flood exists between two worlds in her small seaside town, the society of rich landowners and the tradesfolk. Soon, tensions boil over when the formerly exiled Queen arrives on England’s shores—and when Penelope’s long-absent husband returns to Melliton, she once again finds herself torn, between her burgeoning love for Agatha and her loyalty to the man who once gave her refuge.

As Penelope finally discovers her true place, Agatha must learn to accept the changing world in front of her. But will these longing hearts settle for a safe but stale existence or will they learn to fight for the future they most desire?

The Review

I wasn’t expecting to like this book as much as I did. I expected it to be overly floral and reminiscent of the boddice rippers that you may have found your mother hiding away from prying eyes. Despite the cover, this was an elegant historical romance that made me want to go back and find the first novel in the series.

Agatha Griffin never expected to find a colony of bees in her warehouse, but the woman who would come to her rescue was just as surprising of a discovery. Penelope Flood, bee-keeper extraordinaire spends most of her time taking care of the beehives around town. She floats between the wealthy and the tradesmen.

Through beekeeping, Agatha and Penelope form a bond. Penelope’s letters originally intended to keep Agatha updated on her relocated bees, shifted into companionship. I love when authors include letters between characters. You get a clear picture of their voice, their sarcasm and sense of humor. It feels intimate and genuine.

I melted once they finally gave in to their feelings. I’ll say this, I was not expecting the romance scenes to be written how they were. They weren’t cheesy or unbelievable. These women together were passionate, insatiable, and exciting.

While they were finding themselves as a couple, they found themselves as individual women. Agatha had to be strong, business-minded, and needed to take care of everything around her, found her match with Penelope. Penelope, who had grown used to loneliness found a true companionship with Agatha.

*insert wistful sigh here*

This was a great read, despite the cover, and I hope to read more from Olivia Waite.

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Breaking the Surface by Rebecca Langham

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Four out of Five Stars

Summary

Alessia is an Outsider—a member of the not-quite-human community that has recently been released from their underground prison. Shortly after their liberation, Alessia is given an ultimatum: obey all the United Earth Alliance’s demands, or her mother will forever remain a hostage—a mother she’d believed dead for fifteen years. Reluctantly, she agrees, though she has no idea what those demands may be, or how she will balance her obligations to the UEA with her responsibilities to her people and her family.

As the UEA tightens its grip on humans and Outsiders alike, it becomes clear that meaningful social change will not be possible without a revolution. Alessia and her peers embark on a mission to discover just how far the government is willing to go to maintain their monopoly on power.

What Alessia and her comrades discover, however, goes much deeper than they’d ever anticipated. Who are the Outsiders, really? What secrets of their destiny lay hidden within a top-secret space station? And why are the Outsiders linked to an emerging disease the UEA seems desperate to keep secret? As they delve deeper, it isn’t only Alessia’s identity that will be called into question, but the fate of the entire planet.

Review

Breaking the Surface is the second in Rebecca Langham’s Outsider Project series. One thing I would recommend is reading this series close together. If you don’t, you may find yourself a little lost with everything happening in this book.

With that said, this was a great sequel. Not only was I glad to find out what was in store for Alessia and Lydia, but we were allowed to see all the characters that I fell in love with in the first novel. Each character grew and adapted to the life they had been thrust into.

The romance between Alessia and Lydia took a back seat to the main plot. I liked the moments between Lydia and Alessia, but we got to see them develop as characters distanced from each other.

I zipped through the last 40% of this book. I was completely engulfed in learning the history of the Celestials. It was startling, but it was very much possible in this universe. Hell, I could even say something like be possible in our world.

If you are a sci-fi fan, then this series is a definite must read.

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