Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade

April is a talented geologist, but her true passion is writing fanfiction for Gods of the Gates, a series of books based on the Aeneid, which turned into a popular fantasy series on television. April’s favorite ship is Lavinia/Aeneas.

Little does she know that her best online fanfic buddy is secretly Marcus, one of the stars of the show.

Meanwhile, when Marcus sees April’s Lavinia cosplay photo on Twitter, he feels compelled to ask her out. She tells him about her fanfic, but he can’t bring himself to confess *his* fanfic identity.

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Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner

Jo Jones is a former child star who played the adopted Chinese daughter of a white family on a popular television show. As an adult, she is the showrunner for a successful television drama.

Emma Kaplan is her assistant, who hopes to become a director one day.

Jo asks Emma to accompany her to the SAG Awards—as her assistant—but they are photographed together on the red carpet and the whole world assumes that they’re dating.

A different book might handle this with a set of (convoluted) circumstances in which Jo and Emma are obligated to pretend to be dating and end up falling in love during the course of their fake romance.  

There’s nothing wrong with the conventional fake dating trope, but that’s not what happens in Something to Talk About. Instead, Wilsner has taken a romcom staple and given us a thoughtful and nuanced story.

To begin with, there are reasons for hesitation on Jo’s part: there’s a bit of an age difference- Emma is in her late twenties and Jo is forty-one years old. There’s also a power differential: Jo is Emma’s boss, and the #MeToo movement has shown us how people can be exploited by someone who has the power to advance or destroy someone’s career.

So Jo is reluctant to risk doing anything to put Emma in that position; even though she doesn’t have any intention of doing anything exploitative, the implication could be damaging enough. Likewise, Emma suppresses her feelings for Jo because she respects her boundaries and keeping things professional is a priority.     

But that doesn’t stop the rumor mill from thinking that Jo and Emma are dating.

The book takes place over the course of a year and Jo and Emma spend most of it being awkward and stilted around each other as they try to remain professional, despite a handful of “almost” moments between them. But honestly, there’s not that much time for pining because there’s a television show to run, and Jo has the additional responsibility of writing the script for the next Agent Silver movie, a popular superhero franchise.

There’s a nice balance in this book between lighter material like bonding over youth sports and cupcakes, and heavier material, like the aforementioned power dynamic (with a minor character). Even though they spend most of the year avoiding their growing mutual attraction, Emma and Jo’s bond deepens. This makes their eventual romance even more satisfying, as it becomes clear that they are perfect for each other.  

I would absolutely recommend Something to Talk About. I loved the way that Jo and Emma worried about each other; they both demonstrated their concern in a unique way. I also appreciated the way in which toxic people were handled. This was such a good book, and I am looking forward to reading more from Wilsner in the future.   

I received an ARC of this book from Berkley/Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Date Me, Bryson Keller by Kevin van Whye

 

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Kai Sheridan is a senior at Fairvale Academy. He’s also gay, but he’s not out to anyone.

Bryson Keller is one of the most popular boys at Fairvale. He’s also involved in a bet/dare: he becomes the boyfriend of the first person who asks him out at the beginning of the week. At the end of the week, they break up and the process starts over.

It’s all about the futility of commitment when it comes to high school relationships.

To be clear, the definition of dating is more akin to the “olden days” than contemporary times: dating involves rides to school and carrying books and there’s no physical stuff—not even kissing.

So, as the story begins during a hectic Monday morning, Kai asks Bryson to date him and Bryson becomes the first person Kai comes out to. Bryson is totally cool with the arrangement; he even points out that the dare involves the first “person” to ask him out, not the first “girl”. Bryson is also fine with not telling people that he’s Kai’s boyfriend for the week since Kai isn’t ready to come out to everyone yet. Read more

Lucky Break by A.M. Arthur

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Lucky Break is the fourth book in A.M. Arthur’s Clean Slate Ranch series of mlm contemporary romance novels. I was very excited about the opportunity to read this book because I loved all of the previous books in the series, and I wanted to know what was going to happen next on the ranch.

I usually avoid revealing plot points, but in the interest of content warnings, readers should know that Shawn was sexually molested and then outed as a teen.

Shawn Matthews appeared in a supporting role in Saddle Up, the third book in the series. He has been working as the pastry chef at the ghost town’s restaurant. Shawn has not had an easy life; the restaurant job has been a huge help, but he’s been living in his car to save on expenses. Read more

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

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The Kiss Quotient was written by Helen Hoang. I’d heard a lot of buzz about this book, so I was very excited when I found it on the new release shelf at my town library. To make a long story short, I enjoyed this book so much that I purchased my own copy- and I added the Audible edition as well.

Stella Lane is a young woman on the autism spectrum. She has a long list of academic and professional accomplishments, but she has not had very much success with romance. Stella decides that she needs to change this by hiring an escort to teach her to be better at the physical aspects of a relationship- from kissing to intercourse, and everything in between. Stella’s first encounter with Michael Phan is fairly benign, and Michael agrees to work with her exclusively- eschewing all other clients. Instead of being irritated by her eccentricities, Michael is patient, and willing to work with her. He finds himself feeling genuine attraction instead of faking it like he usually does with clients. But is there any possibility of a future together with such different backgrounds? Read more

Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert

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Little & Lion was written by Brandy Colbert. I read this book a while ago, but I’m woefully behind with my book reviewing. I found this book on the new release shelf of the young adult section of my town library. I’d seen this book on a few lists of Hot YA books, so I happily added it to my pile.

Suzette returns home to Los Angeles from boarding school, and tries to settle into life with her blended family. Her stepbrother Lionel has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and she wants to be there for him. Rejoining her family serves as a pleasant distraction from having to think about what happened at school. Read more

Borrowing Blue by Lucy Lennox

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Borrowing Blue was written by Lucy Lennox. It’s the first book in her Made Marian series of contemporary m/m romance novels. I picked up the Audible edition of this book as part of a sale, and I don’t and I actually listened to it a while ago, but I am way behind with my reviews, so I am just getting around to it now.

Blue is at a vineyard for his sister’s wedding when he sees his ex-boyfriend walk into the room with his new boyfriend- but wait- the boyfriend is wearing a ring. Given that Blue and his ex broke up only about six months ago after dating for several years, this is utterly mortifying for Blue. Luckily, the guy sitting next to him is more than happy to share a kiss so that the dreadful ex won’t realize how sad and alone Blue really is. Read more

The Charming Life of Izzy Malone by Jenny Lundquist

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I received a copy of this book from Netgalley/the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I have a nine-year-old daughter who loves reading, and I am always looking for new books for her. Jenny Lundquist’s The Charming Life of Izzy Malone sounded like something that my daughter would like, so I was looking forward to reading this book.

Izzy Malone is a sixth grade girl who just doesn’t fit in. To make matters worse, her mother is running for mayor of their small Napa Valley town, and Izzy is expected to be on her best behavior all the time. Izzy’s mother also signs her up for charm school, but instead of going to lessons each week, Izzy receives her assignments in the mail. If she can complete an assignment, she will receive a charm for her bracelet. Izzy tries to follow Ms. Whippie’s directions, but things don’t always go according to plan. But on the bright side, some of Izzy’s classmates are curious about what Izzy has been doing, and they want to help out.         Read more

Under the Ashes by Cindy Rankin

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I received a copy of this book from Netgalley/the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Under The Ashes is a middle grade novel written by Cindy Rankin. Littlebeth is a lively and spirited girl whose spirited ways get her into trouble with her family one time too many. She is sent away to San Francisco to live with her Aunt Sally.

Almost immediately, Littlebeth notices that their kind neighbor Mr. Steinberg appears interested in Aunt Sally. But before Littlebeth can come up with a plan to bring her aunt and Mr. Steinberg together, she wakes up to a massive earthquake. Suddenly, Littlebeth must fight for survival. Between the fires that engulf the buildings that weren’t reduced to rubble, and the pandemonium amongst the survivors, this is going to be Littlebeth’s biggest challenge yet. Read more

Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee

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I found Outrun the Moon on a Goodreads list a couple of months before it came out. My interest was piqued, and I added it to my queue. I found it in the New YA Books section at my town library.

Outrun the Moon is a YA novel by Stacy Lee. It takes place around the time of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. There have been a couple of recent books across various genres set during the same milieu; this is not surprising- it is the 100th anniversary of the great tragedy.

Mercy Wong is a hard working young woman living in Chinatown. She does not have any opportunities for school beyond the 8th grade in her community, and she wants nothing but the best for herself. That includes a position for herself at St. Clare’s, an exclusive girls’ school. This school is not open to Chinese girls, but Mercy finagles a position for herself. Read more