Holly Banks Full of Angst (Village of Primm #1) by Julie Valerie

Lake Union Publishing – Review: 5 Stars

All opinions are entirely my own. All of my reviews can also be found on Instagram @Tackling_TBR and on Goodreads.

This was such a fun, fast, and sometimes borderline silly read! This had been on my TBR list since it first came out, but for any number of reasons it kept getting pushed to the bottom of the list, and kept getting put off to the next month, and then the next month, and then the next. But I finally read it in August for a book club discussion, and I am so glad that I did! There were so many parts that I fully laughed out loud as I was reading, and I can’t wait to dive in to the sequel and get more Holly Banks in my life!

Holly Banks is such a funny character to me. She was equal parts a relatable, realistic and caricature. Which, I know, is a crazy way to describe someone, and it sounds like those two things would cancel each other out. But if you’ve read it, I think you’ll know what I’m talking about. And if you haven’t, I guess you have to trust me. But either way, she was so much fun, and I really enjoyed reading her story and getting to peak into her mind.

I will also say that at moments the story itself did tip-toe the line between realistic and silly. One moment she could be sitting and talking to another PTA mom in a security office, and the next she’s chasing that other mom around the school yard and spitting pieces of cookies at her. But those moments were very fun to me, and felt like the author was letting herself and the book have fun, and maybe not taking themselves too seriously, which I really enjoyed. It felt like in a movie or TV show when it jumps into a dream sequence and we get to see that character finally give another character a piece of their mind, or they punch someone in the face and then it turns out it was all in their mind. While these weren’t dream sequences in the same way, because these slightly wild things were actually happening in the case of Holly Banks, but it had that same feeling to it. And I found those scenes just so funny!

All in all, I would definitely recommend this book to friends and other readers. It was a fairly light (with a few exceptions) and fun read, and it is a really quick read as well. I flew through this book! I would say that the perfect way to read this book is with a very, very large glass of wine, and with no My Little Ponies in sight!


Say You Still Love Me by K. A. Tucker

Atria Books – Review: 5 Stars

All opinions are entirely my own. All of my reviews can also be found on Instagram @Tackling_TBR and on Goodreads.

TW : handicap resulting from injury

If you follow my Instagram or my blog, or look through my read/reviewed books on goodreads, then y’all already know that I love me some K. A. Tucker. And so I was really excited to read this book as soon as it came out. Somehow it got pushed farther and farther down my ever growing TBR list, and I didn’t end up reading it until just over a year after it was published. So I had plenty of time to build this one way up in my head prior to reading it. But even with all of the build up, in my opinion, this one lived up to the hype.

This second chance romance alternates each chapter between two times in the female lead’s life – between a sassy and carefree 16 year old Piper at camp Wawa, and present day Piper Calloway, the badass 29 year old VP at her dad’s multibillion-dollar real estate development firm. And in both of these timelines, we get to watch her fall in love with the handsome and passionate guy-from-the-other-side-of-the-tracks, Kyle Miller.

I loved getting to read both of these timelines! A lot of the time for second chance romance stories that is all you get – stories. You hear about the past through the lead’s memories, or through them telling another character about it, but you don’t get to actually see it happen. And while the past was still told from Piper’s perspective, I found that I was more engaged with hers and Kyle’s story because I was able to actually read about their first summer together as it happened, and as if it was happening in the present tense, rather than just getting a passing “Kyle and I dated in Summer of 2006 and then he ghosted me,” you know? So while I will say that overall I found the present day chapters with adult Piper more enjoyable to read, I think I enjoyed them more because the Wawa chapters were there. If that makes sense.

Now let’s talk about characters. Obviously our leads here are Piper and Kyle, and I really loved getting to read about both of them! This was the kind of book that when it was over I truly missed the characters and wanted to know more about them and what happened after it was over. But I will say that Piper’s two best friends that she is living with in present day, and that also went to Camp Wawa with she and Kyle, completely stole the show for me! Honestly, I loved them so much and I wanted to be friends with them too. A secondary character-best friend to the lead that takes constant advice from and often references her psychic? Yes please. Sign me up for about three more books about these friends.

Overall I would definitely recommend this book to friends and readers! I thought it was so much fun to read, it was a great mix of steamy and sweet, and it had the dose of heart that I love in my stories. I stayed up past my bedtime reading this one because by the time I was a few chapters from the ending, I needed to know what was going to happen next! I think that the best way to read this book is in the middle of the summer when you’re looking for a fun and slightly light summer read. Maybe in the afternoon under a tree with an iced tea, or maybe a bit later in the evening next to a bonfire with a glass of wine.

My Reviews for more Books by K. A. Tucker

The Simple Wild (Wild #1)

Wild at Heart (Wild #2)

The Player Next Door

He Started It by Samantha Downing

Berkley – Review: 4 Stars

All opinions are entirely my own. All of my reviews can also by found on Instagram @Tackling_TBR and on Goodreads.

TW : murder, kidnapping, runaway children, drowning, gun violence, being followed, manipulation

Y’all. This book was wild. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book where I have spent more time turned to my husband trying to talk through what was happening in the story. Seriously, I kept turning to him and saying things like “I think this is happening?” and “I’m so confused,” or “OH MY GOSH THIS JUST HAPPENED.”

It even took me talking through it with other readers as a part of a book club to really figure out how I felt about it after the ending, because I knew that I either loved it or hated it but really couldn’t figure it out. I would say if you are going to read this one, read it with some friends so that if you are going to need help unraveling it like I did, then you’ll have some other folks to pick each other’s brains.

Now let’s talk about the characters. None of the characters were really all that likeable. I mean it, none of them. There weren’t even really any of them that I wanted to root for. You knew from the beginning that they were all just basically manipulating each other to try and get what they want. And it wasn’t even like “I’m going to do this bad thing but I have good intentions, or a good reason to be doing it,” it was just kind of that they were all every man for himself and were just being terrible for the fun of it. And normally that would really take away from a book for me, because I’m such a character driven reader. And maybe it’s just because the story was so crazy that those types of terrible people made sense being in it, but it honestly didn’t really bother me this time.

And honestly, there isn’t really much else that I can say without going into some major spoiler territory. This book jumps right into the action almost from the very beginning, so the spoilers and the twists start really early in this book. And since I try to avoid spoilers in my general reviews, I will be stopping here so that I don’t have to try and tip-toe around them.

But hey, if you have read this one already and you want to discuss more in depth with me, send me a DM on Instagram, and we can talk each others ear off all day about the other 96% of the book that I’m not covering here!

Overall I would recommend this book to my friends and other readers, who may be looking for a crazy, sort of creepy read! I mean, hey, it’s still #SpookySeason, right? But you can see at the top of this review that there are a TON of really serious trigger warnings, so please keep that in mind if you are thinking about reading it. I really enjoyed it as a read, but there were a ton of scenes and moments that could potentially be very triggering or problematic for some folks. But all of that aside, if those things won’t bug you too much or if doing a bit of self-care after or during reading will help, then I say this was a really interesting thriller for fall! I think that the best way to read this book would be next to the fireplace or in a bubble bath with a large, LARGE glass of wine. Like I said, lots of self-care!

One To Watch by Kate Stayman-London

Dial Press – Review: 5 Stars

All opinions are entirely my own. All of my reviews can also be found on Instagram @Tackling_TBR and on Goodreads.

TW : very fat-phobic comments and situations, mention of sexual assault

You guys. I love watching The Bachelor and all of the spin-offs in the franchise. I do. I am not afraid to admit it. But that being said, I really wish that the franchise was so much more inclusive than it is currently. So this book is everything that I ever could have hoped for and more.

First, let’s talk about the way that this book tells this story. We do get a good portion of the story told from our female lead Bea’s perspective. Her thoughts and emotions, her conversations, her experiences, all of that. But we also get so many other types of story telling. We get some of Bea’s blog posts, conversations in a fantasy-football-type-group for the reality show that she is on, we get text and email conversations, we get online news articles, we get everything! I loved it so much. And it made this such a quick and easy read!

Now let’s talk about Bea. I loved her. She was such a strong a sassy woman, who you know has been through some real crap and come out the other side stronger and wiser, and by the time the story starts she is a boss-ass woman who doesn’t take other people’s shit. Mostly. Obviously she isn’t perfect as a character or as a feminist or whatever. She still gets caught up and lets people make her feel small sometimes. Sadly, who doesn’t? But I think watching her struggle through those moments when she couldn’t be strong, and still finding her way through them, made her all the more real and lovable. No one can be strong all of the time. And I loved getting to be a part of this journey with her. I would seriously read so many books about her and her blog and her life.

Overall I really, really loved this book. I can already tell that this is going to be a contender for my favorite read of 2020. It has moments that I was laughing out loud, it had moments that I was tearing up reading it, it had everything that I could have been looking for out of this read. It had some serious moments, some not so serious moments, and a really cool and bad-ass plus sized female lead. Honestly, I would recommend this book to just about everyone. Hey you, go read this book! I think that the perfect way to read this book is with a glass of wine, a group of girlfriends (maybe a book club?) and some really fun and trashy TV playing in the background.

Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall

Dreamscape Media – Audiobook Review: 5 Stars

Thanks so much to the author, Libro.fm, and Dreamscape Media for the complimentary advanced audio copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are entirely my own. { partner } All of my reviews can also be found on Instagram @Tackling_TBR and on my blog at tacklingtbr.home.blog

TW : estranged parent, discussion of cancer

This book was so much fun! As far as tropes go, fake-dating to real-romance isn’t one that I typically go out of my way to reach for, but I tend to read a good amount of them anyway. And this was a really fun example of it! This book made me laugh out loud in more than one place, and it gave me feels in a few other places as well.

The characters are far from perfect, but that is what I loved so much about them. Luc is a deeply flawed and troubled character, but it made him so much for fun to read than someone that you can only aspire to relate to. As for Oliver, he is the type of character that on the surface seems perfect but slowly becomes less perfect as the book goes on, which was also really fun. I thought that the chemistry was pretty believable, even if the arrangement that began the relationship seemed less than realistic. But as less-than-realistic as it could be, there were enough moments that felt really, truly raw and human that it made the relationship so much more believable, and that made it something that as I listened I needed to learn more about and see what happened next for them.

Let’s talk secondary characters. Luc’s mom (and his mom’s curry, equally a character in my eyes) almost stole the whole show for me. The scenes at her house were just so funny! It really felt like I remember feeling when I would bring boys home for dinner with my family – it was embarrassing, it was silly, and sometimes it was even difficult to get through. These scenes read just those same ways, and made them some of my favorite parts of the whole book!

Luc’s friends are also very big parts of the story, but they weren’t always quite as much fun as his mom was, at least in my opinion. You could tell that Luc had pushed his friends to the side a bit in recent years, and maybe hadn’t fostered those relationships in a healthy way, and so his friends seemed a bit “over it” with everything until the end of the story. I think we’ve all had at least one friendship where that has happened – maybe you or your friend got really drawn in to a relationship, and by the time that relationship ended the friendship had suffered because of it. That made the friendships feel fairly realistic, but it just wasn’t as much fun to read as the mom scenes. And that’s nothing against the writing, only saying that until the relationships with his friends thawed a bit (I would say about 3/4 of the way through the book) they just weren’t the characters whose scenes I looked forward to. Except for Alex, Luc’s innocent and incredibly gullible co-worker. He was hilarious and I want to know everything there is to know about him.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this story! I would recommend reading it, but I might specifically recommend the audiobook – the narrator’s voice was so soothing and nice to listen to, and his different voices to make each of the characters distinctly different were really great. Also, bonus point, if you listen to the audio you get to listen to the British accents. Which is always a good thing in my book! I think that the perfect setting to listen to this book in would be on an afternoon that you decide to take a long drive through somewhere beautiful just for the fun of it.

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

Flatiron Books – Review: 5 Stars

TW: Emotional abuse, stalking, abusive relationships, hospice, end of life hospice treatment, imprisonment of an innocent.

This book was on my TBR list for a long time, ever since it was published last year. I thought it would be a light, sweet read, and it absolutely still was that. But it was also so much more than that, and I loved it all the more for that. It was still the sweet read that I was looking for, but at the same time it had so much heart and showed so much growth in its characters.

So let’s start there, with the characters. The secondary characters (I’m including Richie, Mo, and Gerty in this category) were all so great in the context of their characters and the overall story. They were developed just enough to not feel like you were greatly missing parts of their characters and personalities that you would have liked to have, and to perfectly fit them into the different roles in the lives of the leads, but not so much that they took over the main plot line of the story. I thoroughly enjoyed each of them, and if there was a spin off on any of them (though specifically the brother, Richie) then I would read them in a heartbeat. I will make one quick note here, to say that I won’t be touching on Justin as a character. He is also one of the secondary leads, but I’m not going to discuss him in depth, outside of talking about his relationship with Tiffy.

Now on to our two leads, Leon and Tiffy. We get chapters from each of their perspectives, and they have very different writing styles, and it was really interesting getting to go back and forth. If you know me then you already know that I love multiple points of view in a story. I’m going to start with Leon – I loved his character, and I felt like I know a lot of people that if they read this story would really relate to Leon. He is a very caring and empathetic person, who may be a little bit lost at the beginning of the story, and who has become so comfortable in his life the way that it is that he doesn’t notice when maybe it isn’t working for him anymore. And as I said, I know a lot of people that would relate to that, either in part or in full. I will say that in the beginning I wasn’t sold on the writing style of his chapters – he is a very analytical type, and he doesn’t use unnecessary words. Things like pronouns get completely left out. As I said, I didn’t love these chapters immediately upon starting, but they definitely grew on me as the book went on. It really added to, and supported, his character, in my opinion, and it really drew on the differences in character between he and Tiffy.

Now to my favorite character, Tiffy. (Note that this paragraph is where I will be talking about the emotional abuse TW, so if you don’t want to read a discussion on that topic, skip to the next paragraph!) Tiffy is a slightly wacky and larger-than-life character, who mixes bright colors and drinks tea on a bean bag chair and fast talks/fan girls about crochet. I adore her. And in this book, for those reasons and others, she is a character that I really relate to on multiple levels. Tiffy is also the character that shows the most growth from the beginning to the end of the story. At the beginning of the story she is recently out of a fairly long term on-again-off-again relationship with someone that she was always trying to impress, and her friends never liked.
As the story goes on she starts having flash back style memories about this man and about their relationship, and she starts coming to terms with the emotional abuse that she had been living through at that time. I have seen people and reviews who wished that this had been more transparent from the beginning, but I personally really loved how this part of her story developed. As someone who has been through that type of relationship as well, I can say that I had no idea that that is what I was experiencing until long after I was out of the relationship. And as her chapters are through her eyes and point of view, we didn’t know any of that about her relationship until she knew it. And I personally loved watching it unfold and seeing it become clear with her, and then watching her not only come to terms with it but find the strength to escape and move past it.

Alright. Even if you’ve never read one of my reviews before, now you know that the characters are the main thing that will make or kill a book for me. So that got a bit ramble-y. But now that we are finished with that, I will just say that the setting of the flat was almost a character in itself. When Tiffy moves in and she and Leon are just starting to get used to sharing a space we get to hear about how she changes the flat as well to make it more homey for herself, and then throughout the story we see the flat coming to a happy medium between their two styles at the same time that the two characters are getting used to each other and finding a way to coexist with each other as well. I just found the blending of their styles to be really charming.

Over all, I really loved this book, even more than I expected to. I am so glad that I finally got the chance to read it (and as a virtual book club pick, so that I could discuss it with lovely friends!) and am sad that I waited so long to read it. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys romances, although I would make sure everyone is aware of the trigger warnings before beginning. I will also say that the steam level of this book is really relatively low – there are implied acts, and a few things are lightly touched on, but it is very low-key and the language is very non-graphic. So this is an easy read, even for those that don’t enjoy the super steamy reads. This will definitely be on my list of books to reread in the future, maybe as a nice summer read!