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Fall (VIP #3) by Kristen Callihan {review}


Genre: Contemporary Romance, Rock Star Romance


My Review - 5 Stars

CW: depression, past attempted suicide

I adore this series to pieces! I love that we get to experience a rock band from a few vantage points: the lead singer and guitarist in book 1, the band’s manager in book 2, and now we get front man Jax’s story.

This novel deals with Jax’s depression and past suicide attempt with so much grace and compassion. The depression representation is truly top notch. I’ve dealt with depression and suicidal ideation and reading this made me feel so seen. The author has experienced depression herself and it’s not that authors need to have experience with everything they write about but it does mean this is a more nuanced portrayal.

Stella, on the other hand, lives a lonely life. She’s a Professional Friend but she doesn’t have any real life friends until John. Her loneliness and aloneness were palpable and kept making me cry. She’s such a beautiful force of nature and it hurt to see how she has to handle everything on her own and how she’s still dealing with her dad’s abandonment once she turned 18. I loved watching her open up to John and the rest of the band by extension. She really brought light and life with her wherever she went and she deserved to receive some of that back.

Jax and Stella’s meet-cute in the grocery store was so memorable. I never have that kind of luck while grocery shopping! Jax tells her his name is John and it was interesting to see the dichotomy of who he thinks he is as Jax vs. John and what he wants Stella to think of him when he’s presenting as John. They have a slow burn relationship and it’s so worth the wait. Their banter brought me so much joy and I also loved their friendship. It made for some extra steamy scenes once they finally happen!

Found family is a big part of this series. The band members have their own relationships with one another—John and Killian have a scene toward the end that is so touching—and now the found family keeps expanding as they pair off. It was so fun to see the women embrace Stella and take care of her, regardless of her relationship with John.

Gabriel is still my favorite hero of the three books but John sure gave him a run for his money. This book made me laugh and it also made me cry so much. Just a whole tangled ball of emotion over here. I’m super looking forward to Whip and Rye’s respective books next!

Additional CW: parental abandonment, grief



The first time I met Jax Blackwood things went a little sideways. 

In my defense, I didn’t know he was Jax Blackwood—who expects a legendary rock star to be shopping for groceries? More importantly, a blizzard was coming and he was about to grab the last carton of mint-chocolate chip. 

Still, I might have walked away, but then he smugly dared me to try and take the coveted ice cream. So I kissed him. And distracted that mint-chip right out of his hands. 

Okay, it was a dirty move, but desperate times and all that. Besides, I never expected he’d be my new neighbor. 

An annoying neighbor who takes great pleasure in reminding me that I owe him ice cream but would happily accept more kisses as payment. An irresistible neighbor who keeps me up while playing guitar naked–spectacularly naked–in his living room. 

Clearly, avoidance is key. Except nothing about Jax is easy to ignore—not the way he makes me laugh, or that his particular brand of darkness matches mine, or how one look from him melts me faster than butter under a hot sun. 

Neither of us believes in love or forever. Yet we’re quickly becoming each other’s addiction. But we could be more. We could be everything. 

All we have to do is trust enough to fall. 


Buy the book:

Amazon (affiliate link) | Barnes & Noble

Burnout by Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski {review}


Genre: Nonfiction, Psychology


My Review - 5 Stars

Someday I will look back on this time in my life and point to this book as when it all changed. Yes. It’s that good. I'm a huge fan of Emily Nagoski's Come As You Are. In it, she briefly explored unlocking the stress cycle and it gave me so much to think about. A whole book co-written with her sister dedicated to the topic? Music to my ears and boy, did it deliver.

The introduction and first chapter blew my mind, right from the get-go and it only got better from there. There are so many takeaways that I don’t even know where to start. The beauty of this book is the way the Nagoskis lay out their insights. The chapters build on each other in a way that allows you to digest the information but also figure out how to incorporate it in to your life.

I wish this book had existed 15 years ago! I don’t know if I’d still be a social worker but I would have managed my career differently. This book helped me see how it didn’t matter how airtight my self-care practices were and why burnout happened anyway. It also showed me why I’ve been exhausted the last few years, even though I have more margin than ever—I did not know to label my current experience as burnout but it makes so much sense. I have not done a good job of completing the stress cycle and now I have more ideas and tools on how to do that.

I also appreciate the way they name and call out the patriarchy. It’s a huge layer of what women experience and I hadn’t thought about the specific and pernicious ways it impacts burnout and my sense of well-being. Yes, I can point to the ways the patriarchy has negatively impacted my life and the complicated emotions I carry or are dragged up by the news. But since this is how it’s always been, even if the #metoo movement is starting to bring about some changes, I never thought about the year after year toll. It was so helpful and validating to read those sections and be reminded that it’s not okay.

One chapter I want to mention is The Bikini Industrial Complex, which taught me that the Body Mass Index (BMI) is complete junk. It was created by a panel of nine people, seven of whom were employed by weight loss clinics. WEIGHT LOSS CLINICS. This was infuriating to read about. I haven’t stopped railing against the lobbyists who sold us out and and every doctor who took junk science at face value and used it against their patients. Screw them all.

Clearly the book made me angry in places—stupid patriarchy. But it was also extremely moving and engaging. I laughed and I cried. Burnout was not just a game-changer. It was life-altering. Every person who identifies as a woman would benefit from reading it. I’m so grateful to Emily and Amelia for writing it.



This groundbreaking book explains why women experience burnout differently than men—and provides a simple, science-based plan to help women minimize stress, manage emotions, and live a more joyful life.

Burnout. Many women in America have experienced it. What’s expected of women and what it’s really like to be a woman in today’s world are two very different things—and women exhaust themselves trying to close the gap between them. How can you “love your body” when every magazine cover has ten diet tips for becoming “your best self”? How do you “lean in” at work when you’re already operating at 110 percent and aren’t recognized for it? How can you live happily and healthily in a sexist world that is constantly telling you you’re too fat, too needy, too noisy, and too selfish?

Sisters Emily Nagoski, PhD, and Amelia Nagoski, DMA, are here to help end the cycle of feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. Instead of asking us to ignore the very real obstacles and societal pressures that stand between women and well-being, they explain with compassion and optimism what we’re up against—and show us how to fight back. In these pages you’ll learn

• what you can do to complete the biological stress cycle—and return your body to a state of relaxation
• how to manage the “monitor” in your brain that regulates the emotion of frustration
• how the Bikini Industrial Complex makes it difficult for women to love their bodies—and how to defend yourself against it
• why rest, human connection, and befriending your inner critic are keys to recovering and preventing burnout

With the help of eye-opening science, prescriptive advice, and helpful worksheets and exercises, all women will find something transformative in these pages—and will be empowered to create positive change. Emily and Amelia aren’t here to preach the broad platitudes of expensive self-care or insist that we strive for the impossible goal of “having it all.” Instead, they tell us that we are enough, just as we are—and that wellness, true wellness, is within our reach.


Buy the book:

Amazon (affiliate link) | Barnes & Noble

A Prince On Paper (Reluctant Royals #3) by Alyssa Cole {review}

A Prince On Paper

Genre: Contemporary Romance


My Review - 5 Stars

This is your regular reminder that everything Alyssa Cole writes is amazing. This is my favorite book in the Reluctant Royals series, which is saying something because each book is astoundingly good. Nya and Johan’s arcs resonated with me in some particular ways.

Not only that, Nya is my favorite heroine of this series. I could relate to much of what she was figuring out, even though our circumstances are entirely different. She decided to live as though her dreams were attainable and that meant so much to me. I loved watching her slowly fall for Johan, even as she navigated whether she could trust what he says to her. Nya’s dad lied to her in some grievous ways so trying to trust a playboy when you’ve always been a good girl causes a fair amount of angst. And yet Nya and Johan can really see one another and be themselves and this was so tender and sweet. They were so good together!

Johan is the dreamiest. And yet he had so many layers! There’s the playboy front he presents to the world and then there’s the man who feels too much, who’s always trying to help the people around him. Gah, he gave me so many feels! He kept trying to protect himself from falling for Nya because he believes everyone will ultimately leave him. He’s been through some hard times and while he’ll benefit from therapy, I was really gratified by the progress he made and how he was able to open himself up to being loved.

There were so many good lines. Cole offered insightful commentary on colonialism, particularly in regard to Johan’s country, and there’s just a wonderful feminist stance throughout. Nya was so limited by her father’s control but now she gets the chance to fly and see what she really wants out of life. I couldn’t help but cheer her on! I also appreciated how Cole handled Nya’s dad and how Nya was empowered to figure out how to respond to him. He was such an awful man and I’m glad she’s no longer under his thumb.

In terms of sexuality representation, Johan is bisexual and it’s both a well-known fact and not a big deal. There’s also the flawless development of a nonbinary character and switch to using their preferred pronouns. This cishet lady was impressed! But of course, I defer to nonbinary reviewers.

This story was satisfying on every level. I’ve been gushing about it all week! I can’t wait to see what Alyssa writes next.

CW: references to past parental abuse, death of a parent, grief, bullying



The Reluctant Royals series returns with a good girl searching for the life that’s not too big, and not too small, and the bad boy prince who might be just right for her…

Nya Jerami fled Thesolo for the glitz and glamour of NYC but discovered that her Prince Charming only exists in her virtual dating games. When Nya returns home for a royal wedding, she accidentally finds herself up close and personal—in bed—with the real-life celebrity prince who she loves to hate.

For Johan von Braustein, the red-headed step-prince of Liechtienbourg, acting as paparazzi bait is a ruse that protects his brother—the heir to the throne—and his own heart. When a royal referendum threatens his brother’s future, a fake engagement is the perfect way to keep the cameras on him.

Nya and Johan both have good reasons to avoid love, but as desires are laid bare behind palace doors, they must decide if their fake romance will lead to a happily-ever-after.


Buy The Book (includes affiliate links):

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice

Add To Goodreads


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The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin {review}

The Last Romantics

Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Literary Fiction


My Review - 5 Stars

An exploration of grief and family dynamics, The Last Romantics follows Fiona Skinner and her siblings across decades as they deal with their father’s death and what they refer to as The Pause, when their mother lost herself in her grief. The story is told as a retrospective from the future; renowned poet Fiona is asked to share about the origin of her most famous poem and she takes us back in time to her childhood. Gorgeous writing and an incredibly engaging story.

It’s one of my favorite novels of the year, made more memorable in part because I was facing a loss in my own family at the time. It helped to see how the Skinners handled their grief (or didn’t) and think through my own grief patterns.

CW: grief, death of a parent, drug use, addiction, death of a loved one



The New York Times bestselling author of The House Girl explores the lives of four siblings in this ambitious and absorbing novel in the vein of Commonwealth and The Interestings.

“The greatest works of poetry, what makes each of us a poet, are the stories we tell about ourselves. We create them out of family and blood and friends and love and hate and what we’ve read and watched and witnessed. Longing and regret, illness, broken bones, broken hearts, achievements, money won and lost, palm readings and visions. We tell these stories until we believe them.”

When the renowned poet Fiona Skinner is asked about the inspiration behind her iconic work, The Love Poem, she tells her audience a story about her family and a betrayal that reverberates through time.

It begins in a big yellow house with a funeral, an iron poker, and a brief variation forever known as the Pause: a free and feral summer in a middle-class Connecticut town. Caught between the predictable life they once led and an uncertain future that stretches before them, the Skinner siblings—fierce Renee, sensitive Caroline, golden boy Joe and watchful Fiona—emerge from the Pause staunchly loyal and deeply connected. Two decades later, the siblings find themselves once again confronted with a family crisis that tests the strength of these bonds and forces them to question the life choices they’ve made and ask what, exactly, they will do for love. 

A sweeping yet intimate epic about one American family, The Last Romantics is an unforgettable exploration of the ties that bind us together, the responsibilities we embrace and the duties we resent, and how we can lose—and sometimes rescue—the ones we love. A novel that pierces the heart and lingers in the mind, it is also a beautiful meditation on the power of stories—how they navigate us through difficult times, help us understand the past, and point the way toward our future.


Buy The Book:

Amazon (affiliate link) | Barnes & Noble

The Austen Playbook by Lucy Parker {Review}

The Austen Playbook

Genre: Contemporary Romance


My Review - 5 Stars

Another winner from Lucy Parker! This series just gets better and better. Her books are like being wrapped up in a warm hug. I adore Lucy’s brand of contemporary romance: London theatre scene + grumpy hero + plucky heroine + lovely sense of humor.

This one had some lovely meta elements in that Freddy is cast in The Austen Playbook, a live action Jane Austen-inspired TV event where viewers choose the outcome of each scene. The book itself is not an homage to Jane Austen but there are some great nods. The rehearsals take place on the estate belonging to theater critic Griff, who does not think much of Freddy’s recent roles. Freddy’s grandmother and Griff’s grandfather had an affair back in the day but what they don’t know is a major secret that could be their undoing. (Thankfully it’s clear from the start that there’s no way Freddy and Griff could be related. That is not the secret! I won’t spoil what it is but it is a big revelation that has huge implications for their families.)

Freddy and Griff should not be drawn to each other and yet they are. Add a little forced proximity and of course they give in and it’s so delightful watching them fall for each other, in spite of the reasons not to. Griff is such an uptight grump, a great foil to Freddy’s vivaciousness and spontaneity. They’re able to push each other; Freddy showing Griff how to be a better, more encouraging brother, Griff encouraging Freddy to stand up to her manager father and go after the acting roles she really wants. I adored them together and was fully caught up in their relationship.

Parker’s books have the best sense of humor. But they also have a fair number of moving moments. Whether it’s Griff and Freddy’s fight after discovering Griff hid the secret about their respective families or the two of them individually making sense of what they want out of life, especially how Freddy’s decisions could negatively impact her relationship with her dad, I had some major feels. I could have done without the villainess character or at least I could have done with her if she’d had more nuance and a comeuppance. But that was a minor issue and really did not dampen my enjoyment of the story.

I was sad when it ended and I eagerly await the next installment of this series. I need Sabrina and Nick’s story in my life!

CW: infidelity, sabotaging cast member, reference to death of a loved one, reference to past car crash



Freddy Carlton knows she should be focusing on her lines for The Austen Playbook, a live-action TV event where viewers choose the outcome of each scene, but her concentration’s been blown. The palatial estate housing the endeavor is now run by the rude (brilliant) critic who’s consistently slammed her performances of late. James “Griff” Ford-Griffin has a penchant for sarcasm, a majestic nose and all the sensitivity of a sledgehammer.

She can’t take her eyes off him.

Griff can hardly focus with a contagious joy fairy flitting about near him, especially when Freddy looks at him like that. His only concern right now should be on shutting down his younger brother’s well-intentioned (disastrous) schemes—or at the very least on the production (not this one) that might save his family home from the banks.

Instead all he can think of is soft skin and vibrant curls.

As he’s reluctantly dragged into her quest to rediscover her passion for the stage and Freddy is drawn into his research on a legendary theater star, the adage about appearances being deceiving proves abundantly true. It’s the unlikely start of something enormous…but a single revelation about the past could derail it all.


Buy The Book (contains affiliate links):

Amazon | Barnes & Noble


Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy from Harlequin Publicity Team.