Words Unsaid – K.G. MacGregor

Rating: 5 out of 5.
A different but at the same time familiar new entry to the Shaken series from MacGregor. It’s hard to say you enjoy a book when it contains such difficult subject matter, but it had lots of great features that I really liked.

I read all five books in this series one after the other, so it’s possible I’ll have a slightly different opinion than someone else who read this with some time between book four and five.

This review isn’t going to be as detailed as I normally would – as the storyline is too important, and the surprise too much a part of how you feel about the storyline.

The biggest difference between this and the other books in the series is that we get an additional point of view in the narrative, that of Lily and Anna’s oldest son – Andy. It’s an important difference. The reason Andy goes missing is unfortunately all too familiar in the news nowadays, but it’s an important story to tell. I enjoy books where I learn new things, even though it’s fiction, so this was right in my wheelhouse.

Despite the subject matter and the changes in viewpoint, I found lots of similarities in the book that definitely make it a great addition to a series I’ve come to really enjoy. The openness and communication between Anna and Lily is still paramount. I love their relationship, their relationship with their kids and their families.

The book is packed with lots of things going on, and is set approx. 10 years after book number four. It would make for a good final part of the series if this is to be it, but I wouldn’t mind one more either.

If you haven’t read this series I’d definitely recommend it, but start at the beginning. I think this could be read as a standalone, but you’d miss so much about how Lily and Anna got here, and a big part of the enjoyment for me in this book, was the continuation of their journey together.

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

Zero Chill – Carolyn Elizabeth

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
I read both Dirt Nap and Zero Chill one after the other, and I have to say it was great to immerse myself in the world of Corey and Thayer for a while.

They’re are now living together in Thayer’s lake house, trying to live a more peaceful life than their first six months together has given them so far. I liked that Elizabeth didn’t choose to move the time forward significantly, that we get to experience them healing and moving on from previous events.

As with all Elizabeth books, the characters are really well written, and the plot moves along at a nice pace. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Thayer’s Nana, but this is true for all three books. The new character additions add humour and richness to the storyline, adding a slightly different but nonetheless interesting focus.

Zero Chill comes with lots of intrigue and mystery, but not as much peril as Dirt Nap – something which works really well for this narrative. Elizabeth mentions that this is her pandemic book in the acknowledgements and I felt like this was deliberately less intense than previous instalments.

It gives lots more time to explore the relationship between Corey and Thayer, and for the quiet moments where they get to really explore what it means to them to still be together after the events of Gallows Humor and Dirt Nap. Reading this made me realise why I love it when we’re gifted with a series about a great couple – it isn’t just about the meet cute and the whirlwind romance, it’s about how they stick with it and grow together.

This wasn’t my favourite of the three books, but I’m genuinely hoping this isn’t it for the series. I want more Corey and Thayer, but I also want to see where things go for Rachel and Nora.

I would highly recommend this, but make sure you read the other two books in the series first.

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

Across the Hall – Kat Jackson

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
This was a nice easy read that I enjoyed a lot.

Caitlin is recently divorced, moved into a new condo next door to her best friend, and about to begin a new job as a substitute English teacher. The only thing she’s interested in right now is work.

Mallory is a history teacher with a reputation for being difficult and unapproachable to the rest of the faculty, but there’s something about her that draws Caitlin to her.

I’ll read a blurb to pick the books I want to review – but after that I don’t revisit them before I start the book, so for the first chapter or so I thought this book was going to go very differently than it did. I’m glad. The book I thought it was going to be would probably have been very good – but I like this narrative more!

I liked the slow burn direction the narrative takes. Whilst Mallory is depicted as cold, and oftentimes pulls away from Caitlin, prolonging the slow burn aspect, I liked that it never felt like either Caitlin or Mallory actually broke from their characters. The relationship progression felt quite natural to me – but perhaps it’s because I’m a bit of an armadillo myself!

One thing for me that I did struggle with was some of the character names. A couple of the secondary characters have names that are very similar to Mallory, and in some of the school scenes I had to slow down my reading in order to ensure I fully kept track of what was going on.

Caitlin’s ex plays a part in the storyline, and I thought Jackson did a good job of keeping this interesting, causing tensions on both sides of the relationship, and providing closure in a way that didn’t set up for any further dramatic conflict.

I also really liked Catilin’s best friend Lina. Their friendship is great and ensures you get to know Caitlin further, plus the way Jackson depicts her experiences, both in the romantic sense, and the military, added to the storyline for me. I wish we’d had a bit more closure on her storyline though.

I’ll definitely be going back to check out Jackson’s first book, and I’m looking forward to what might come next.

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

Cure for Insomnia – Laina Villeneuve

Rating: 4 out of 5.
I found this to be surprisingly enjoyable. It’s my first Villeneuve book and reading the blurb I wasn’t sure if this would be too science heavy for me. Instead I found that the science was one of the things I really liked about the book.

Karla is a research scientist, spending the majority of her time working on a research project to cure blindness in those with diabetes. Her family are convinced that she works too much, and when she is volunteered to help her niece with a sleep study for her science fair, the conclusion is that she needs a girlfriend.

Remi is a judge at the science fair. She’s not sure a relationship is the right thing for her, but she’s just as intrigued by Karla as Karla is by her.

The background characters in this really helped make the narrative for me. I loved how they made the story not just about the romance and kept things really interesting. The use of these characters, especially Karla’s niece and the student she is mentoring, not to mention her amusing best friend, kept the narrative moving at a decent pace and kept me interested.

The science discussions that Karla has are depicted in a way that is not so bogged down in terminology that a lay-person can’t understand the meaning behind the scenes. I also especially liked how Villeneuve used Karla’s science and research background to allow her to communicate effectively with Remi’s brother.

Whilst I found some of the communication breakdowns between the MCs frustrating, I could understand why they happened the way they did and Remi’s reactions to the things that took place.

I wanted more from the ending. I’m not a fan of the conflict, everyone get back together, we don’t see the happy for now fully taking place, and to me that’s how this ended. I wanted more of them starting to learn to be a family, how they fully integrated properly into each others lives, that kind of thing.

I’ll definitely want to read more of Villeneuve in the future and would recommend this to romance fans.

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

Leaving’s Not the Only Way to Go – Kay Acker

Rating: 4 out of 5.
This is an impressive debut for Acker.

Lauren came home to her small town when her Dad’s health took a turn for the worse. Now he’s gone she’s looking at what her next steps should be, including deciding if she wants to stay in her demanding yet unsatisfying job. When demonstrating her company’s latest piece of discouraging software to an architectural firm, she meets Georgia.

Georgia works at the architecture firm designing homes. She has a lot to think about herself. She’s reeling from the unexpected death of her daughter’s father, Georgia’s best friend and work colleague, trying to navigate life as a bisexual autistic woman without his help and the last thing she needs is Lauren and her dreadful software in her life.

I found all three of the main characters (I’m counting Georgia’s daughter Hannah in this because her part in the book is so important) are written really well. You get to know who they are and why they are the way they are, and I thought Acker did a great job of portraying how their pasts impact their decision making and feelings about themselves. I don’t have much experience with autism, but from my limited knowledge I felt the portrayal of Georgia and Hannah was done well and I’m happy to see other reviewers with more experience feel this way. I also found most of the secondary characters to be interesting and well thought out too.

A book full of communication almost feels like a rarity nowadays, but this one has it, until it doesn’t. The gaps in communication do however fit with what we know about the characters, and I felt that this played really well. So whilst I was disappointed to find the 90% angst blow-up, it did at least make sense within the narrative.

As I often say when that 90% blow-up happens – I wanted more of them together. I wanted to see how they all worked together as a family, how Lauren integrated further into Georgia and Hannah’s lives and how Lauren began to feel about herself when she realised she could do anything she wanted with her life.

I’m definitely hoping the success of this one means that another book will be forthcoming for Acker and I’ll be looking out for it.

To be fair, I’m not sure this review does this book justice, but I would highly recommend this to anyone looking for an unusual romance with interesting characters.

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