The Final Gambit Review

58658940Summary (from the publisher): To inherit billions, all Avery Kylie Grambs has to do is survive a few more weeks living in Hawthorne House. The paparazzi are dogging her every step. Financial pressures are building. Danger is a fact of life. And the only thing getting Avery through it all is the Hawthorne brothers. Her life is intertwined with theirs. She knows their secrets, and they know her.

But as the clock ticks down to the moment when Avery will become the richest teenager on the planet, trouble arrives in the form of a visitor who needs her help—and whose presence in Hawthorne House could change everything. It soon becomes clear that there is one last puzzle to solve, and Avery and the Hawthorne brothers are drawn into a dangerous game against an unknown and powerful player.

Secrets upon secrets. Riddles upon riddles. In this game, there are hearts and lives at stake—and there is nothing more Hawthorne than winning

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

My Thoughts: 

One of the most popular YA series of the past three years, The Inheritance Games, recently wrapped up with its third novel, The Final Gambit. I read books #1 and 2, The Inheritance Games and The Hawthorne Legacy, last fall and since finishing the sequel, I couldn’t wait for the third book to come out late this summer. The Final Gambit was also so hard to get me hands on an actual copy – it was sold out it so many bookstores and took a few weeks for it to come off my library holds list.

As the third book in a series, I’m going to do my best to avoid spoilers, but The Final Gambit begins shortly before Avery is set to finally inherit the billions left to her by Tobias Hawthorne. Of course, a person connected to the Hawthorne family’s past – and misdoing – arrives, throwing another complication and another game in the way of Avery getting to finally start her new life. The book of course includes the classic trademarks of the series, including but not limited to the four Hawthorne brothers’ antics & competitiveness, Avery’s feelings for Jameson and complicated relationship with Grayson, and new secrets and games revealed throughout. 

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2022 MUST READ: Thank You for Listening Review

81uefPNGYYLSummary (from the publisher): For Sewanee Chester, being an audiobook narrator is a long way from her old dreams, but the days of being a star on film sets are long behind her. She’s found success and satisfaction from the inside of a sound booth and it allows her to care for her beloved, ailing grandmother. When she arrives in Las Vegas last-minute for a book convention, Sewanee unexpectedly spends a whirlwind night with a charming stranger.

 

On her return home, Sewanee discovers one of the world’s most beloved romance novelists wanted her to perform her last book—with Brock McNight, the industry’s hottest, most secretive voice. Sewanee doesn’t buy what romance novels are selling—not after her own dreams were tragically cut short—and she stopped narrating them years ago. But her admiration of the late author, and the opportunity to get her grandmother more help, makes her decision for her.

As Sewanee begins work on the book, resurrecting her old romance pseudonym, she and Brock forge a real connection, hidden behind the comfort of anonymity. Soon, she is dreaming again, but secrets are revealed, and the realities of life come crashing down around her once more.

If she can learn to risk everything for desires she has long buried, she will discover a world of intimacy and acceptance she never believed would be hers.

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

I’m just going to start off this review by sharing exactly what you need to know: Julia Whelan’s sophomore contemporary romance, Thank You for Listening, is an absolute must read book for 2022 and beyond!! 

I read Julia Whelan’s debut, My Oxford Year, last year, loosely inspired on her own experience at Oxford. I liked that the book had contemporary romance tropes and an ending that didn’t exactly follow those tropes. I’m happy that Thank You for Listening takes a similar route, taking so many tropes from a contemporary romance and spinning them on their heads, also in part to the book’s synopsis. 

Sewanee is a very successful audiobook narrator, having had her start in romance books…even though she doesn’t really believe in happily-ever-afters, as she shares at a Las Vegas book convention & with the one-night stand she meets there. When she returns home from the trip,  after a beloved romance author passes away, one of the author’s final requests was that Sewanee partner with a male audiobook narrator to narrate one of her final works. Sewanne goes back to her pseudonym and works with one of the leading  male romance narrators in the audiobook game, Brock McKnight, and as the two collaborate with each other via email and text messages, they soon discover they have a lot more in common than they might’ve thought…. 

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FIVE STAR READ: Killers of a Certain Age Review

60149532._SY475_Summary (from the publisher): Billie, Mary Alice, Helen, and Natalie have worked for the Museum, an elite network of assassins, for forty years. Now their talents are considered old-school and no one appreciates what they have to offer in an age that relies more on technology than people skills.

When the foursome is sent on an all-expenses paid vacation to mark their retirement, they are targeted by one of their own. Only the Board, the top-level members of the Museum, can order the termination of field agents, and the women realize they’ve been marked for death.

Now to get out alive they have to turn against their own organization, relying on experience and each other to get the job done, knowing that working together is the secret to their survival. They’re about to teach the Board what it really means to be a woman–and a killer–of a certain age.

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

Deanna Raybourn’s Killers of a Certain Age was one of my most anticipated books for fall 2022. It’s been getting so much (well-deserved) attention in my reading recommendations sphere, especially since it was chosen as the Bad on Paper Podcast Book Club pick for September and I try to participate every month. 

I DEVOURED Killers of a Certain Age this weekend and I hope SO many readers keep picking up this mystery meets comedy (think Finlay Donovan is Killing It) about four retired assassins who discover on a cruise commemorating their retirement that someone on the ship is out to get them. Billie, Mary Alice, Helen, and Natalie were trained together as an all female assassin group, led by one of the founders of an assassin network, the Museum. After successful careers, the book begins on their vacation as the four figure out someone from the Museum is out to get them. Led by Billie, the four must use their expertise as they get the job done: find out who set them as targets, why, and get them. 

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Drunk on Love Review

51SIbaX9OALSummary (from the publisher): Margot Noble needs some relief from the stress of running the family winery with her brother. Enter Luke: sexy, charming, and best of all in the too-small world of Napa, a stranger. The chemistry between them is undeniable, and Margot is delighted that she lucked into the perfect one-night stand she’ll never have to see again. That is, until the winery’s newest hire, Luke, walks in the next morning. Margot is determined to keep things purely professional, but when their every interaction reminds her of the attraction still bubbling between them, it proves to be much more challenging than she expects.

Luke Williams had it all, but when he quits his high-salary tech job in Silicon Valley in a blaze of burnout and moves back to Napa to help a friend, he realizes he doesn’t want to tell the world–or his mom–why he’s now working at a winery. His mom loves bragging about her successful son–how can he admit that the job she’s so proud of broke him? Luke has no idea what is next for him, but one thing is certain: he wants more from the incredibly smart and sexy woman he hooked up with–even after he learns she’s his new boss. But even if they can find a way to be together that wouldn’t be an ethical nightmare, would such a successful woman really want a tech-world dropout?

Set against a lush backdrop of Napa Valley wine country, nothing goes to your head as fast as a taste of love–even if it means changing all your plans.

My Rating: 4/5 Stars 

My Thoughts:

Jasmine Guillory is a contemporary romance staple. Her debut novel, The Wedding Date, is on so many ‘new-to-romance’ reading lists and I’ve personally loved the companion novels in the series, Party of Two and While We Were Dating. I also really enjoyed her installment in the Meant to Be series, By the Book, based on Beauty and the Beast. That being said, I was excited for her to venture into a new storytelling, as Drunk on Love is its own standalone novel (although I could foresee spin-offs featuring Margot’s brother, Elliot, and her best friend, Sydney??).

Drunk on Love is set in the Napa Valley and is told from the perspectives of Margot, a co-owner of a winery, and Luke, an ex-software engineer who has a one night stand with Margot…and then realizes that Margot is his boss when he starts working at the winery the next day, much to Margot’s shock. Margot is set on convincing her brother that she is as serious about the winery as he is and is trying to convince him to have a huge party to draw in new customers, so Luke doesn’t exactly help her cause. The two decide to hide their prior meeting from everyone, but their chemistry just can’t seem to keep the two away from one another. 

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My Favorite Summer Reads 2022

I am that person who, although I do really enjoy the fall, counts September as part of summer. I am still relishing as many pool days as possible and then being able to at least sit outside and read until it gets way too cold outside (I’ve been known to sit outside in December on sunny days).

However, today I’m going to be sharing my favorite books that I read this June, July, & August. And because this list is just as long as expected, I’ll be share my absolute FAVORITES at the end. 

June 2022

I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston

Rivals (American Royals #3)by Katharine McGee 

The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston

Fake by Erica Katz

One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle & narrated by Lauren Graham (reread) 

The Hotel Nantucket by Elin Hilderbrand 

Every Summer After by Carley Fortune 

July 2022

Flying Solo by Linda Holmes

Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin 

Vacationland by Meg Mitchell Moore

The Counselors by Jessica Goodman

Marrying the Ketchups by Jennifer Close

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin 

The Island by Elin Hilderbrand 

The Beach Trap by Ali Brady

August 2022

See You Yesterday by Rachel Lynn Solomon

I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy 

The Wedding Season by Katy Birchall

Just Another Love Song by Kerry Winfrey 

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

A Summer Affair by Elin Hilderbrand 

My Top Favorites 

What were your favorite books of the summer? Have you read any of the books that I mentioned? Share in the comments! 

FAVORITE TJR BOOK: Carrie Soto is Back Review

UnknownSummary (from the publisher): Carrie Soto is fierce, and her determination to win at any cost has not made her popular. But by the time she retires from tennis, she is the best player the world has ever seen. She has shattered every record and claimed twenty Grand Slam titles. And if you ask Carrie, she is entitled to every one. She sacrificed nearly everything to become the best, with her father, Javier, as her coach. A former champion himself, Javier has trained her since the age of two.

But six years after her retirement, Carrie finds herself sitting in the stands of the 1994 US Open, watching her record be taken from her by a brutal, stunning player named Nicki Chan.

At thirty-seven years old, Carrie makes the monumental decision to come out of retirement and be coached by her father for one last year in an attempt to reclaim her record. Even if the sports media says that they never liked “the Battle-Axe” anyway. Even if her body doesn’t move as fast as it did. And even if it means swallowing her pride to train with a man she once almost opened her heart to: Bowe Huntley. Like her, he has something to prove before he gives up the game forever.

In spite of it all, Carrie Soto is back, for one epic final season.

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

I love Taylor Jenkins Reid’s books, but as I’ve shared in my reviews and in my TJR book ranking, I have controversially felt medium on Daisy Jones and the Six (I do have a library hold on the audiobook) and although I flew through and really enjoyed Malibu Rising, I wasn’t screaming my love off the rooftops (or on the blog). However, I had seen such rave reviews for Carrie Soto is back over its first two weeks. With a free weekend ahead and some impatience for it to come in from the library , I bought my own copy. Reader, is it surprised that I finished the book in less than 24 hours?

Carrie Soto is Back follows the title character as she comes out of retirement when the current #1 player, Nicki Chan, threatens to break her record for the most amount of Slam titles. The book begins with Carrie’s decision to come out of retirement, with her father once again as her coach, but then goes from her days as a child to her early career to her most successful stages and then transitions back to the present day and quest to keep her title as the greatest of all time.

I know the title makes it easy to use the following pun, but my love for TJR’s books is back because Carrie Soto is Back is for sure one of my favorite reads of the year! 

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Current Library Holds: September 2022 Edition 

I still have some books on hold from my August 2022 Library Holds posts – I’ve shared this before but my county library system hasn’t been getting new books in as fast as they used to since pre-pandemic days – but I of course have added a few since being the reader that I am.

The Last Housewife by Ashley Winstead – Ashley Winstead has been one of my new-to-me authors of 2022. I really enjoyed her thriller, In My Dreams I Hold a Knife, and her contemporary romance, Fool Me Once, and I’ve heard rave reviews for her latest thriller, The Last Housewife. I’ve recently listened to her on Bad on Paper Podcast and Get Lit with Lianna, so even more looking forward to reading this one. 

Killers of a Certain Age by Deanna Raybourn – Killers of a Certain Age is the Bad on Paper Podcast Book Club pick for September and was recently chosen as a September Book of the Month pick. I’ve heard it’s a comedy meets thrillers, as four recently retired assassins begin to think that someone is out to get them while on a cruise. 

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Fall 2022 Anticipated Releases

It’s time to share my most anticipated releases for September, October, & November. As always, new books not mentioned on this list will of course end up in my to-be-read pile, but here’s the list of upcoming books currently on my TBR. 

Killers of a Certain Age by Deanna Raybourn – Killers of a Certain Age, following four recently retired hired assassins who start to figure out that someone is after them on their retirement cruise, has gotten so much early praise. I’ve heard this is one is also a comedy, similar to the style of Finlay Donovan is Killing It. Release Date: September 6

Drunk on Love by Jasmine Guillory – I was fortunate enough to join a blog tour (my review will be coming soon) for Jasmine Guillory’s upcoming, Drunk on Love, a standalone romance set a Napa Valley winery. If you’re a fan of Jasmine Guillory’s previous work, then this is a must-read for sure. RD: September 20

Endless Summer: Stories by Elin Hilderbrand – I’m not the biggest short story fan…but I am a HUGE Elin Hilderbrand fan! If her name is on a book, I’m already there. This collection contains short stories connected to some of her books and I’m just so looking forward to getting more from her this fall, instead of having to wait until summer. RD: October 4

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August 2022 Wrap Up 

As TSwift says, “August slipped away into a moment in time” (can we also take a minute to a acknowledge Taylor Swift’s tenth album announcement!?? I genuinely can’t believe my favorite season is beginning to come to a close – no worries though, I plan on having some more pool and beach days on the weekends this month. 

My favorites See You Yesterday by Rachel Lynn Solomon,  The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin, A Summer Affair by Elin Hilderbrand, The Wedding Season by Katy Birchall, and I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy. I also really enjoyed Just Another Love Song by Kerry Winfrey, Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood, and You Made Me a Fool of Death with Your Beauty by Awaeke Emezi. 

How to Fake It in Hollywood by Ava Wilder | 4/5 Stars

See You Yesterday by Rachel Lynn Solomon | 5/5

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin | 5/5 

Just Another Love Song by Kerry Winfrey | 4/5

The Displacements by Bruce Holsinger | 3.5/5 

A Summer Affair by Elin Hilderbrand | 4/5

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VERY ANTICIPATED READ: Love on the Brain Review

59571699._SY475_Summary (from the publisher): Like an avenging, purple-haired Jedi bringing balance to the mansplained universe, Bee Königswasser lives by a simple code: What would Marie Curie do? If NASA offered her the lead on a neuroengineering project–a literal dream come true after years scraping by on the crumbs of academia–Marie would accept without hesitation. Duh. But the mother of modern physics never had to co-lead with Levi Ward.

 

Sure, Levi is attractive in a tall, dark, and piercing-eyes kind of way. And sure, he caught her in his powerfully corded arms like a romance novel hero when she accidentally damseled in distress on her first day in the lab. But Levi made his feelings toward Bee very clear in grad school–archenemies work best employed in their own galaxies far, far away.

Now, her equipment is missing, the staff is ignoring her, and Bee finds her floundering career in somewhat of a pickle. Perhaps it’s her occipital cortex playing tricks on her, but Bee could swear she can see Levi softening into an ally, backing her plays, seconding her ideas…devouring her with those eyes. And the possibilities have all her neurons firing. But when it comes time to actually make a move and put her heart on the line, there’s only one question that matters: What will Bee Königswasser do?

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

Ali Hazelwood’s The Love Hypothesis was one of my top two books of 2021, right alongside Emily Henry’s People We Meet on Vacation, and like nearly every contemporary romance reader, I’ve been anticipating her second full length book ever since finishing her debut! 

Love on the Brain follows Marie Curie superfan, popular women in STEM Twitter account runner, & neuroscientist, Bee, who takes her research assistant and heads off to NASA to work on a neuroengineering project. While Bee is ecstatic about this project, she is not looking forward to working with her enemy from grad school, Levi, who is the head engineer on the project. Bee could never figure out why Levi was so standoffish towards her, even once refusing to work on a research project with their advisor together, and still seems to feel that Levi is trying to sabotage her work at NASA. 

Love on the Brain reminded me why I love Ali Hazelwood’s writing style so much. I love the humor and sarcasm from all of the characters, and especially the side characters, like The Love Hypothesis. Bee is a very unique character based on her personality and interests whom I think will become very memorable to readers. I was very mixed on her novella series this year, so this book was a reassurance in my enjoyment for her writing. I 100% admit that I didn’t always understand the science part of Levi and Bee’s project, but it had some twists that I did not see coming. 

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