Evie and the Pack-Horse Librarians – Laurel Beckley

Rating: 4 out of 5.
I found this to be a really sweet novella. I don’t normally read fantasy books but had heard good things about this one so thought I would give it a try and I’m really glad I did. I thoroughly enjoyed the storyline and would have loved the story to have gone on for longer.

When we meet Evie she is experiencing her worst nightmare – the loss of her role as an assistant editor at a prestigious publisher due to underhanded tactics by her soon to be ex-girlfriend. Evie is banished to the mountains to join the librarians guild and become a member of the pack-horse librarians, with only her books and her cats to keep her company.

I found the world building to be done really well and found myself enjoying imagining the world Evie was experiencing, even though it is somewhat bleak. The romance in the book is meaningful and sweet, but very quick. It isn’t the focus of the book at all and that isn’t a bad thing. I loved how this book encounters many different types of characters and for the most part they all seem accepting of each other. I’ve read quite a few heavy books recently and this made for a really pleasant read for me because of this.

Evie is described as a “timid city mouse” and this is an accurate depiction of her at the start of the story. I liked her journey to a more confident character and would have enjoyed a little bit more of this to delay the ending of the book. I also thought it was a shame we didn’t get to experience more of Evie’s own magic on the page. I would have liked to have spent more time with the other librarians too.

The length of the book naturally means it’s a quick read and I would recommend to anyone looking for a sweet, inclusive book with some fantasy overtones. It’s also a great read if like myself you wouldn’t normally read fantasy.

I received an e-ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

On the Square – Brenda Murphy

Rating: 4 out of 5.
I’d never read Murphy before this book but I found myself unable to put this down – reading the whole thing in one sitting. Mai, a TV chef, moves back to small town life after losing her show and hires Dale as a contractor to renovate her restaurant. They try to deny their feelings for each other for the sake of their business arrangement, so the majority of the book is about the MCs getting to know each other.

I really appreciated the different ways Murphy explored all of the contrasting elements of both MCs characteristics, through their jobs, their gender presentations, their families and in bed. The sex scenes are steamy and include some light BDSM in places. I really liked both characters and rarely for me I couldn’t choose a favourite between the two.

I especially enjoyed the family dynamics in this story, with both characters being in their 40s and the sons being older, it gave a new dimension to things I’ve been reading recently. As a step-parent of older children Mai’s interactions with the boys felt familiar from the getting to know each other stage – adding an authenticity to the story I really welcomed. There is also a secondary story in the book regarding one of Dale’s sons that comes across as enjoyably authentic.

Overall this is a good romance with enough compelling aspects to keep things interesting and make it a worthwhile read.

It should be noted the book does include some incidences of racism and homophobia.

I received an e-ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Pride and Joy – M.L. Rice

Rating: 4 out of 5.
I don’t quite know how to describe a book that is both incredibly depressing and a page-turner. I felt so sad reading this but I couldn’t stop reading, despite the domino effect of each event playing out on the page.

Don’t get me wrong, this is a great book – I’ll even want to read it again, but the attempted rape, homophobia, conversion therapy and life-changing accident are hard hitting so make sure you’re in the right place to read this before you start.

The book is split into parts – spanning approximately 10 years of the main characters life, starting with senior year in high school. Bryce’s realisation that she’s gay came a little quickly for my liking but her comfort level with the realisation is a welcome change of pace. I really enjoyed the friendship group that features around Bryce, especially as they’re another great example of chosen family.

This is a quick read, which despite it’s heavy storyline has lots of redeeming features and is well worth the time to read.

Following Chance – Baxter Brown

Rating: 4 out of 5.
This was my first time reading Brown and I pleasantly surprised. Following Chance tells the story of Kate and Lauren and how they come together after 15 years apart. I found the story to be well written, with an interesting plot that made me want to continue reading even when I had other things to do. I’ll definitely be searching out Brown again in the future.

I didn’t enjoy the structure of the book at first – it’s written in alternating chapters between the past and the present for the majority of the book. However, this is very much a me thing – I found myself uncomfortable in the past chapters knowing that we were working towards the breakup of two people that in the present chapters are obviously meant to be together despite protestations. By the time we actually got to the breakup though I’d become much more comfortable with the structure and was actually beginning to enjoy it.

Kate in the present frustrated me for at least half of the book – her feelings for Lauren were clear and in typical me fashion I just wanted to shake this fictional character out of her own head. I did however love her sarcasm, her attitude towards parenting and her character in general. I loved the secondary characters of both daughters. Their sweet relationship and meddling in their mothers lives ended up making the story for me much more believable for me.

Whilst fairly predictable in its outcome, this is an enjoyable book that I would recommend reading when you’re looking for a well written, well paced romance with some attitude on the side.

I received an e-ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Sparks Like Ours (Seven Shores #3) – Melissa Brayden

Rating: 4 out of 5.
It was really nice to go back to reading something light-hearted and pretty fun for a change of pace. I enjoyed this one more than the second instalment in the series, even though this is pretty predictable in it’s direction. I enjoyed catching up with the Seven Shores characters and thought this did a good job of covering the other characters lives as well as the MCs.

I’ve always enjoyed Gia’s character throughout the series – so it was nice to get her part of the story. Whilst I felt the direction of the book was predictable – it was at least interesting that the love story takes place between two major rivals. You don’t need to know or understand surfing to read this – there is barely any surfing terminology and any surfing scenes are brief – it concentrates far more on the characters. Elle’s journey is also written really well.

All in all this is a nice edition to the series, with the usual minor angst in places.