The Romance Recipe

Title: The Romance Recipe

Author: Ruby Barrett

Series: N/A

Publication Date: July 12, 2022

Format: E-Book

Genre: Romance

Sub Genre(s): LGBTQIA+, Contemporary


Summary: Amy Chambers: restaurant owner, micromanager, control freak.

Amy will do anything to revive her ailing restaurant, including hiring a former reality-show finalist with good connections and a lot to prove. But her hopes that Sophie’s skills and celebrity status would bring her restaurant back from the brink of failure are beginning to wane…

Sophie Brunet: grump in the kitchen/sunshine in the streets, took thirty years to figure out she was queer.

Sophie just wants to cook. She doesn’t want to constantly post on social media for her dead-in-the-water reality TV career, she doesn’t want to deal with Amy’s take-charge personality and she doesn’t want to think about what her attraction to her boss might mean…

Then, an opportunity: a new foodie TV show might provide the exposure they need. An uneasy truce is fine for starters, but making their dreams come true means making some personal and painful sacrifices and soon, there’s more than just the restaurant at stake.—From Goodreads


What I Liked: With more and more LGBTQ romance books being published, it’s still rare to find one featuring a bisexual character, especially one who is just figuring out her sexuality.  In that regard, Sophie is an interesting character in that she finds herself questioning who she is personally as well as professionally. Barrett does a great job in exploring this new world for Sophie and the complications it can bring to her life. I also loved the spin on the work/power dynamic trope between Amy and Sophie. Neither is the boss of the other, but Amy doesn’t seem to understand that so seeing her loosen the grip she has on her restaurant and welcome Sophie into the fold was wonderful to read. Even without the romance between the two, them becoming partners in the business was heartwarming and a nice addition to the love story.

What I Didn’t Like: This book is described as being about an opportunity these women have to get their restaurant on a foodie tv show yet there is very little to do with the tv show throughout the story and it isn’t until the very end that the show even plays a significant role in the narrative. I was expecting much more of the book to be devoted to this plot line and was surprised when it was barely discussed. Additionally, while I believe Sophie was a fully realized character, I struggled with Amy, specifically the motivations behind her attitude towards Sophie in the beginning. I love a good enemies-to-lovers story but I need to know why they are enemies and I don’t think Barrett was able to show this fully. 

Who Should Read It: Fans of LGBTQ+ romances will find a lot to like about this one, especially Sophie’s story arc and the message of being true to yourself. I also think fans of foodie romances will enjoy this one.

Review Wrap Up: This was a fun, surprisingly emotional romance that I found entertaining and well-written. Despite a few minor issues, I think this a book worth picking up if you’re looking for a romance featuring characters not normally seen in this type of story. The romance was steamy and enjoyable, and I was rooting for Amy and Sophie the entire time.

Favorite Quote: “I don’t need to put our love on camera to know it’s real.”


@thespinsterlibrarian

I Kissed Shara Wheeler

Title: I Kissed Shara Wheeler

Author: Casey McQuiston

Series: N/A

Publication Date: May 3, 2022

Format: E-Book

Genre: Young Adult

Sub Genre(s): Romance, LGBTQ+, Mystery


Summary: Chloe Green is so close to winning. After her moms moved her from SoCal to Alabama for high school, she’s spent the past four years dodging gossipy classmates and a puritanical administration at Willowgrove Christian Academy. The thing that’s kept her going: winning valedictorian. Her only rival: prom queen Shara Wheeler, the principal’s perfect progeny.

But a month before graduation, Shara kisses Chloe and vanishes.

On a furious hunt for answers, Chloe discovers she’s not the only one Shara kissed. There’s also Smith, Shara’s longtime quarterback sweetheart, and Rory, Shara’s bad boy neighbor with a crush. The three have nothing in common except Shara and the annoyingly cryptic notes she left behind, but together they must untangle Shara’s trail of clues and find her. It’ll be worth it, if Chloe can drag Shara back before graduation to beat her fair-and-square.

Thrown into an unlikely alliance, chasing a ghost through parties, break-ins, puzzles, and secrets revealed on monogrammed stationery, Chloe starts to suspect there might be more to this small town than she thought. And maybe—probably not, but maybe—more to Shara, too.-From Goodreads


What I Liked: It appears Casey McQuiston can’t miss. This is her third release in as many years (although this is her first for young adults) and each one has been unique, complex, and entertaining. While I am not the intended audience for this book, the emotions in the story are universal and will appeal to anyone, especially those that are questioning their identity or their place in the world. I don’t know if this is a trend, or I happen to have picked up a few of these stores in a row but I am HERE for books featuring mean girls (or are they?) and showing different sides of their personalities. And showing that they deserve love too! Perfect protagonists are getting old, and McQuiston has created intriguing, realistic, imperfect characters. Like her previous books, one of the best aspects of this story is the theme of found family and the relationship between Chloe, Smith, and Rory is such a beautiful part of this book. Honestly, the main story could have been about anything and I would have read it as long as their relationship stayed the same.

What I Didn’t Like: All of McQuiston’s books seem to drop the reader right into the action, which can sometimes feel disorientating. It took me some time to familiarize myself with what was going on and who the characters were and who they were to each other. I also found the mystery itself to be a bit confusing and not in a good way. I didn’t see the point behind Shara’s letters because I didn’t understand the connections between the characters until further into the story.

Who Should Read It: Any teen or young adult will find something to like about this book, but adults will enjoy this one as well. Fans of McQuiston’s previous books will not be disappointed.

Review Wrap Up: I had high expectations for this one based on McQuiston’s previous books, and I was not let down. This story isn’t just about identity, it’s about ambition, internalized hate, and religious trauma. It’s a story about finding love in unexpected places and opening your heart to someone even though it can be scary. It’s a story about how people can let you down and how people can surprise you. It’s a story about being unapologetically yourself. This book filled my heart with joy and I love that these are the kinds of stories teens and young adults are reading and having access to.

Favorite Quote: “It’s not much—Chloe knows this. It’s just car windows rolled down, the blue-and-white glow of a Walmart in the distance, the smell of wet pavement under the tires, the hum of neon from a passing Dairy Queen, the same radio station as always blasting a rotation of the same fifteen songs. But she thinks she’s starting to understand what it means to be from here, because she could swear the bright red burn of artificial cherry is the best thing she’s ever tasted. She leans out into the wind and tips her head back, opening her eyes to the stars, and thinks maybe everything in the world really can fit inside False Beach city limits. Shara has that effect.”


thespinsterlibrarian

*Thank you to Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press for and ARC in exchange for an honest review*

The Unsinkable Greta James

Title:  The Unsinkable Greta James

Author: Jennifer E. Smith

Series: N/A

Publication Date: March 1, 2022

Format: E-book

Genre: Fiction

Sub Genre(s): Contemporary, Family


Summary: Greta James’s meteoric rise to indie stardom was hard-won. Before she graced magazine covers and sold out venues, she spent her girlhood strumming her guitar in the family garage. Her first fan was her mother, Helen, whose face shone bright in the dusty downtown bars where she got her start. But not everyone encouraged Greta to follow her dreams. While many daydream about a crowd chanting their name, her father, Conrad, sees only a precarious life ahead for his daughter.

Greta has spent her life trying to prove him wrong. But three months after Helen’s sudden death, and weeks before the launch of her high-stakes sophomore album, Greta has an onstage meltdown that goes viral. Attempting to outrun the humiliation and heartbreak, she reluctantly agrees to accompany her father on a week-long Alaskan cruise, the very one that her parents had booked to celebrate their fortieth anniversary.

This could be the James family’s last chance to heal old wounds, and will prove to be a voyage of discovery for them, as well as for Ben Wilder, a historian also struggling with a major upheaval in his life. Ben is on board to lecture about Jack London’s The Call of the Wild, the adventure story Greta’s mother adored, and he captures Greta’s attention after her streak of dating hanger-ons. As Greta works to build up her confidence and heal, and Ben confronts his uncertain future, they must rely on one another to make sense of life’s difficult choices. In the end, Greta must make the most challenging decision of all: to listen to the song within her or make peace with those who love her.


What I Liked: This was a lovely, realistic portrayal of grief and familial relationships that had me smiling one scene and tearing up the next. I found Greta to be a sympathetic character, even when she was making decisions that I didn’t agree with or found frustrating. One of the things I liked most about this book was the acknowledgement that everyone grieves differently and that we need to allow people the time and space they need to work through their emotions at their own pace. Greta sees her “meltdown” as weak and potentially career damaging, but it takes the time spent and discussions had with Ben and her dad for her to realize how needed that moment was for her to begin to heal.  The relationship Greta has with her dad was heartbreaking and I found myself wishing they could say to each other what they really wanted to without it turning into a fight.  But isn’t that how life is? Especially when the parent and child are both adults with their own lives and ways of seeing the world. They love each other but will they ever see eye to eye? I found it touching when Greta would have little moments of worry about her dad getting older even while she was angry with him or feeling like they would never have a good relationship. The relationship between Ben and Greta was cute and it was refreshing to see two adults that treated each other with respect and were open and honest with their feelings.  Yes, there were moments of miscommunication and angst but it never falls into unbelievable. I found the ending to be satisfying and even though I would have liked more, I appreciate an author knowing when and how to end a story.

What I Didn’t Like: I would have liked more interactions and conversations between Greta and her dad because the resolution to their storyline seemed a bit rushed. Their issues had been going on since Greta was a teenager so I would have liked to see them communicate more.

Who Should Read It: I think this would be a good book club pick that will lead to great discussions, especially about parent-child relationships. I would be hesitant to recommend this to anyone who has lost a parent without giving them a warning about the content.

Review Wrap Up: Smith has managed to write a beautiful story about the loss of a loved one without making the story overly sad or depressing. It was heartfelt and joyful and left me with hope. I believe this book will end up on a lot of people’s best of lists this year.

Favorite Quote: “Maybe the point isn’t always to make things last…maybe it’s just to make them count.”


thespinsterlibrarian

*Thank you to Netgalley and Ballatine Books for providing an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review*

All the Feels

One of the things I like most about Olivia Dade’s heroes, and especially the ones in her Spoiler Alert series, is how free they are expressing their emotions and how unafraid they are to enjoy the thing they love, even if those things would be deemed less than manly by most people in society. Alex, the hero in her latest book, All the Feels, is no different, and may be my favorite of hers so far. A lot of focus is spent on her heroines, and for good reason, but Alex captured my heart in a way a romance hero hasn’t in a long time. This book may not be for everyone but I enjoyed Dade’s latest look into the world of Hollywood, fanfiction, and all things nerdy.

Continue reading “All the Feels”

Hook, Line, and Sinker

I didn’t think it was possible to love this book more than the first in the series but somehow Tessa Bailey has written a book that surpassed my expectations.  When I finished “It Happened One Summer” and found out that Hannah and Fox were getting their own story, I screamed out loud.  And then, when a week later, I saw “Hook, Line, and Sinker” pop up on Edelweiss as an advanced reader copy, I screamed out loud…again.  I could have waited until next year when this book comes out to read it, but I have no self-control and read this in one day.  Friends to lovers is usually not my go to romance trope but this book may have changed my mind.  I adored Hannah and Fox’s story and hope you do too.

Continue reading “Hook, Line, and Sinker”

If The Shoe Fits

The premise of “If The Shoe Fits” is simple: take the basic Cinderella story but modernize it with a plus-size, shoe designer heroine looking for her happily ever after.  This is Julie Murphy’s first adult novel and the first from Disney’s new publishing house.  It is also the first in the Meant To Be series which will be “updated and contemporary takes on classic Disney princesses.”  I had high expectations for this book; unfortunately it didn’t quite meet them.  

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The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

Sometimes a book is talked about so much and with such grandiose praise that it can never live up to the hype.  Even if your friends, and readers you trust have told you that you’ll like it and that it’s wonderful, you worry it will be a letdown. It may have won awards and recognitions, but there’s still a chance that the writing won’t be your style, or you won’t like the characters or *gasp* you will just outright hate it.  Months before “The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue” was published, I heard incredible things about it.  It was written about in journals and blogs and the buzz kept growing until it was released.  Even today, 9 months after it was released, my library has multiple holds on it and the wait list is still long.  So, when I finally started to read this book, I was nervous that it wouldn’t live up to my high expectations.  As it turns out, I had nothing to be nervous about.  “The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue” is an enchanting, heartbreaking, poignant book that I will remember for a long time.

Continue reading “The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue”

The Inheritance Games

I first heard of this book from a book club friend whose tastes and recommendations I trust so I added it to my TBR pile where it was destined to sit for weeks and months like every other unfortunate book that winds up there.  But then I was looking for a quick, fun, read to get me out of a reading slump so I started scrolling through my Goodreads to see which book would help me.  This book was the perfect slump buster, a terrific blend of mystery, puzzles, and overall entertainment I was looking for and I cannot wait to read the second in the series.  Don’t let the young adult tag deter you, this is a delightful book that adults with imagination will enjoy.

Continue reading “The Inheritance Games”

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