Contemporary

Spoiler Alert (Spoiler Alert #1)

Spoiler Alert (Spoiler Alert #1)

By: Olivia Dade

Blurb:

Marcus Caster-Rupp has a secret. While the world knows him as Aeneas, the star of the biggest show on TV, Gods of the Gates, he’s known to fanfiction readers as Book!AeneasWouldNever, an anonymous and popular poster.  Marcus is able to get out his own frustrations with his character through his stories, especially the ones that feature the internet’s favorite couple to ship, Aeneas and Lavinia. But if anyone ever found out about his online persona, he’d be fired. Immediately.

April Whittier has secrets of her own. A hardcore Lavinia fan, she’s hidden her fanfiction and cosplay hobby from her “real life” for years—but not anymore. When she decides to post her latest Lavinia creation on Twitter, her photo goes viral. Trolls and supporters alike are commenting on her plus-size take, but when Marcus, one half of her OTP, sees her pic and asks her out on a date to spite her critics, she realizes life is really stranger than fanfiction.

Even though their first date is a disaster, Marcus quickly realizes that he wants much more from April than a one-time publicity stunt. And when he discovers she’s actually Unapologetic Lavinia Stan, his closest fandom friend, he has one more huge secret to hide from her.

With love and Marcus’s career on the line, can the two of them stop hiding once and for all, or will a match made in fandom end up prematurely cancelled?

Review:

I started reading Spoiler Alert in the early afternoon. At the first thinly veiled Game of Thrones shade, I couldn’t put it down. I’ve never seen a single episode of Game of Thrones, but I heard about so much of the behind the scenes stuff that I was almost as mad as the rest of the world when the show ended the way it did. Reading as Dade completely lambasted the showrunners was food for my soul.

Marcus is the star of Gods of the Gates, the popular TV show adaption of the book series of the same name. After years playing the character Aeneas the showrunners are ruining his character, along with everyone else’s. His way of venting is to create fanfiction. It’s adorable.

Marcus has crafted a public persona as being the loveable, vain, golden retriever. While in real life, he’s incredibly smart and shy. Combine that with his dyslexia, and he’s found it easier to create that persona than show the world how intelligent he is. He focuses on his exercise routine in interviews and not his character’s emotional journey. Unfortunately, the role he’s created for himself is chaffing, and he’s ready for change. He’s just not sure how to go about doing it. When he meets April, he’ll do anything to be with her, and she does not waste her time on people who hide who they are from her.

April is a geologist. She’s smart and driven and has spent years hiding a part of herself to avoid harming her professional career. She is also ready for a change and has taken that plunge before the book has even started. Next on her list, meet up with her fanfiction friend that she’s pretty sure she’s fallen in love with, though she’s unwilling to admit it.

Both of these characters are fleshed out considerably. You see their friendships and professional lives. Plus, all they’ve created on the fanfiction website. They both have issues with their parents. The problems stem from their parents not accepting them for who they are and preferring to force them to be what their parents want. It’s incredibly sad on both sides.

Moving away from the serious stuff, Spoiler Alert is freaking hilarious. I took a couple of pictures of pages and sent them to my friends because they were so funny I had to share them. In between each chapter is either a text conversation, excerpt from a script, or snippets of fanfiction. So often, they had me laughing out loud and running to find my husband so that I could read them to him.

There was a ton to love about Spoiler Alert, and I’m eagerly awaiting the next book in the series. I also plan on looking into Oliva Dade’s backlog because I need more books like this in my life.

5/5

Simmer Down

Simmer Down

By: Sarah Smith

Blurb:

In this finger-licking good rom-com, two is the perfect number of cooks in the kitchen.

Nikki DiMarco knew life wouldn’t be all sunshine and coconuts when she quit her dream job to help her mom serve up mouthwatering Filipino dishes to hungry beach goers, but she didn’t expect the Maui food truck scene to be so eat-or-be-eaten—or the competition to be so smoking hot.

But Tiva’s Filipina Kusina has faced bigger road bumps than the arrival of Callum James. Nikki doesn’t care how delectable the British food truck owner is—he rudely set up shop next to her coveted beach parking spot. He’s stealing her customers and fanning the flames of a public feud that makes her see sparks.

The solution? Let the upcoming Maui Food Festival decide their fate. Winner keeps the spot. Loser pounds sand. But the longer their rivalry simmers, the more Nikki starts to see a different side of Callum…a sweet, protective side. Is she brave enough to call a truce? Or will trusting Callum with her heart mean jumping from the frying pan into the fire?

Review:

At least in this book, the dad was dead instead of the mom. I point this out because I’ve been feeling a bit expendable in media lately.

I enjoy books that feature food. I’ve never tried Filipino food, but it sounded incredibly yummy. Sadly, for me, that was the only part I enjoyed of Simmer Down.

Nikki, the heroine, was not a very enjoyable character to follow. Since the book was only written from her point of view, you never got a break either. She’d experienced a considerable loss but wasn’t trying to work through it. She kept pushing people away, except for her mom, which she smothered. It was exhausting to see someone keep making the same mistakes while everyone around her was pointing it out.

Callum, the love interest, came off as incredibly hostile in the beginning. Apparently, this was how he showed his interest. Once he and Nikki talked, he did almost a complete one-eighty. He was sexy, a finance whiz, an excellent cook, an animal lover, and the best big brother you could ask for. It was a bit much.

Together they were boring. There was passion between them; it just leaned too hard into cliché for me. There was lots of misunderstanding and lack of communication. Sex scenes were a bit awkward also.

Simmer Down dragged for me. It felt like tropes were just thrown in for the hell of up. Seriously, what was going on with that pub scene?? I wasn’t a fan, and I found it challenging to get through the middle to the point where I was skimming pages for a while. The ending was even worse. Callum had the worst timing to declare his feelings and intentions toward Nikki. Nikki chose the worst medium for her grand gesture to Callum. It all felt so contrived.

2/5

How to Catch a Queen (Runaway Royals #1)

How to Catch a Queen (Runaway Royals #1)

By: Alyssa Cole

Blurb:

When Shanti Mohapi weds the king of Njaza, her dream of becoming a queen finally comes true. But it’s nothing like she imagined. Shanti and her husband may share an immediate and powerful attraction, but her subjects see her as an outsider, and everything she was taught about being the perfect wife goes disastrously wrong.

A king must rule with an iron fist, and newly crowned King Sanyu was born perfectly fitted for the gauntlet, even if he wishes he weren’t. He agrees to take a wife as is required of him, though he doesn’t expect to actually fall in love. Even more vexing? His beguiling new queen seems to have the answers to his country’s problems—except no one will listen to her.

By day, they lead separate lives. By night, she wears the crown, and he bows to her demands in matters of politics and passion. When turmoil erupts in their kingdom and their marriage, Shanti goes on the run, and Sanyu must learn whether he has what it takes both to lead his people and to catch his queen.

Review:

 I have mentioned, many times, that I’m an Alyssa Cole fan. I love her Reluctant Royals series. I’ve re-read each book at least twice. How to Catch a Queen came out on December 1st, and I set aside my stack of library books so that I could read it, and I devoured it.

How to Catch a Queen is set in the same universe as the Reluctant Royals series, and we get to read several mentions of characters from those books as well as some texts. The heroine, Shanti, was actually in Princess in Theory.

Since the age of seven, Shanti’s life goal was to be a queen like her hero, the queen of Thesolo. Everything she’s done in her life is toward that goal. She’s driven and incredibly smart and has made herself the perfect queen. Unfortunately, she had issues finding her king. Until the kingdom of Njaza became in need of one.

Sanyu, the new king, does not want to be king. He doesn’t even want to be in his country. After a pretty harsh upbringing, he’s got some understandable anxiety. He’s also grieving for his recently deceased father. He’s a very sympathetic hero and never does anything genuinely horrible. He does have his chauvinistic tendencies, but Shanti doesn’t let him get away with anything.

The couple is married at the beginning of the book. The story is about them working together to help the country of Njaza and falling in love along the way. It’s an interesting backdrop for a romance, and I enjoyed it.

I am, of course, very excited for the future books in this series and world. I can’t wait to see what comes next.

5/5

Tweet Cute

Tweet Cute

By: Emma Lord

Blurb:

Meet Pepper, swim team captain, chronic overachiever, and all-around perfectionist. Her family may be falling apart, but their massive fast-food chain is booming ― mainly thanks to Pepper, who is barely managing to juggle real life while secretly running Big League Burger’s massive Twitter account.

Enter Jack, class clown and constant thorn in Pepper’s side. When he isn’t trying to duck out of his obscenely popular twin’s shadow, he’s busy working in his family’s deli. His relationship with the business that holds his future might be love/hate, but when Big League Burger steals his grandma’s iconic grilled cheese recipe, he’ll do whatever it takes to take them down, one tweet at a time.

All’s fair in love and cheese ― that is, until Pepper and Jack’s spat turns into a viral Twitter war. Little do they know, while they’re publicly duking it out with snarky memes and retweet battles, they’re also falling for each other in real life ― on an anonymous chat app Jack built.

As their relationship deepens and their online shenanigans escalate ― people on the internet are shipping them?? ― their battle gets more and more personal, until even these two rivals can’t ignore they were destined for the most unexpected, awkward, all-the-feels romance that neither of them expected.

Review:

Tweet Cute is a young adult novel about two high school seniors dealing with issues regarding their respective family businesses. As well as all the typical high school stuff that comes with going to a prestigious private school.

Pepper spent the first fourteen years of her life in Nashville. Then her parents divorced, amicably, and her mother moved to New York City to expand their family fast food business. Pepper moved with her and molded herself into the perfect prep school student, but she never felt like she belonged.

Jack has always lived in New York, working at the deli his family owns. He attends the same private school as Pepper. He has a bit of an inferiority complex when it comes to his twin brother. Jack also feels like he’s being forced into taking over the family business.

For whatever reason, Pepper’s mom has decided not to hire a social media manager for her multi-million dollar company, who can handle snarky tweets. Instead, she relies on her teenage daughter to go after a small mom and pop deli when they have issues with Pepper’s mom stealing a family grilled cheese recipe. Her mom is not sympathetic in this story at all. After everything her mom does and says, Pepper keeps trying to stay in her good graces, even though she knows her mom is in the wrong. Even with the reveal at the end, her mother comes off as a bad parent.

Meanwhile, Jack’s parents have regular parenting conflicts with him. Pepper and Jack (way too on the nose with those names) both need to sit down and talk to some people. Pepper does at least try several times with her mom, but her mom steamrolls over her.

Pepper and Jack’s romance is super sweet, and what makes the book for me. I’m not an angsty teenage fan, and I was not too fond of Pepper’s mother, but the romance made me enjoy Tweet Cute. They were engaged in a Twitter feud that spawned fanfic, they started talking a lot at school, and they were anonymously chatting to each other. I love the anonymous letter-writing trope.

There were never any super embarrassing moments. Watching their friendship develop, and then their romance was entertaining. I liked Pepper and Jack as characters as well. Plus, there were lots of yummy food references.

3.75/5

Tools of Engagement (Hot and Hammered #3)

Tools of Engagement (Hot and Hammered #3)

By: Tessa Bailey

Blurb:

Hair, makeup, clothing, decor… everything in Bethany Castle’s world is organized, planned, and styled to perfection. Which is why the homes she designs for her family’s real estate business are the most coveted in town. The only thing not perfect? Her track record with men. She’s on a dating hiatus and after helping her friends achieve their dreams, Bethany finally has time to focus on her own: flip a house, from framework to furnishings, all by herself. Except her older brother runs the company and refuses to take her seriously.

When a television producer gets wind of the Castle sibling rivalry, they’re invited on Flip Off, a competition to see who can do the best renovation. Bethany wants bragging rights, but she needs a crew and the only member of her brother’s construction team willing to jump ship is Wes Daniels, the new guy in town. His Texas drawl and handsome face got under Bethany’s skin on day one, but the last thing she needs is some cocky young cowboy in her way.

As the race to renovate heats up, Wes and Bethany are forced into close quarters, trading barbs and biting banter as they remodel the ugliest house on the block. It’s a labor of love, hate, and everything in between, and soon sparks are flying. But Bethany’s perfectly structured life is one kiss away from going up in smoke and she knows falling for a guy like Wes would be a flipping disaster.

Review:

I felt a lot of emotion while reading Tools of Engagement. I’m not a type-A personality, but I think just about everyone can relate to the anxieties and pressure that Bethany put on herself. Especially with the prevalence of social media, that desire to present a perfect façade is ever-present. It doesn’t bother me most of the time, but Tools of Engagement perfectly hit the feelings when it does.

As we’ve seen in the previous two books, Bethany always seems to have things together. Her appearance is perfect, her home is continuously ready for a photo shoot, and she knows exactly what she wants to do with her life. Only, it turns out she’s a constant ball of nerves and anxiety. Bethany over analyzes everything and second-guesses herself at every opportunity. It’s exhausting to read, let alone live.

Wes is a former bronco rider who has found himself in New Jersey taking care of his niece. He’s younger than Bethany, and it borders on the age difference I’m uncomfortable with, especially since he’s in his early twenties. His life has given him experience that others of his age don’t have, though. He doesn’t plan to stay, but it’s clear, even before he and Bethany get together, that he’s not going anywhere.

You saw their reaction to each other in the previous book, and it was obvious that they were attracted to each other, even as they traded verbal barbs. When Bethany finally gains the courage to strike out on her own, away from her brother’s company, Wes joins her immediately. There’s a lot of chemistry here, and they brought out the best in each other.

Tools of Engagement, like the other books in the Hot and Hammered series, was very emotional. The main characters were fleshed out and well written. There weren’t many supporting characters, so I’m not sure if there’s going to be a book after this one, and if that’s the case, this is a high note to end a series on.

4/5