Reviews, Scottish Reads, Vlogs

The Witch and the Tsar and Raising the Alarm

My festive Vlog with full reviews

I’ve made a start on my Christmas film bingo board and checked off my first prompt. I’m feeling very accomplished! I finished the prompt for White Christmas which was a book featuring snow on the cover. For this prompt I chose The Witch and The Tsar by Olesya Salknikova Gilmore.

I also managed to squeeze in a wee novella and picked up Raising the Alarm by Nicki Bell which was short and sweet. I have preordered the second book in this series and I’m so excited about it!

So far, my plan to read at least 9 books by Christmas is going well. I hope these aren’t m famous last words!

Reviews, Scottish Reads

Vicky Romeo Plus Joolz

Enter Vicky Romeo: lover, actor, bullshitter. Romeo is a slick, serial heartbreaker who is determined to land the lead in an all-women rendition of The Importance of Being Earnest. She thinks she has life figured out, but then she falls in love…

Enter Julie Turner aka Joolz: sexy, sarcastic, femme fatale and a cheerleader to boot. Stamping on hearts and traditional stereotypes she plays girls like Vicky Romeo at their own game.

Set in Glasgow in 2001, our heroines and their cohorts take on the world one incredibly gay step at a time.

I picked this book up when I was in Category Is Books, in Glasgow, at the start of the month. I’m still basking in the pride of reading a book in the month that I bought it. This has very much been the month for it but I have no faith in my ability to keep that up. I absolutely adored this book, I gave it 4 stars on Goodreads but it would have been 4.5 if Goodreads allowed halves.

This book was prefaced by a statement from the author who said that the book was written in 2001 which is the year that it was set. The attitudes and terminology used are that of the scene at the time and the book would have been totally different were it written today. I appreciated this because otherwise I’d have probably been a bit put off by some of the attitudes. As this book was about a community that I wasn’t part of in 2001, I’m taking the author’s word.

I absolutely loved that this was a story about a romance between Vicky Romeo and Julia Turner as I loved the nod towards Romeo and Juliet. While there is drama in this book, it’s very much not a rewrite of Romeo and Juliet. It was very much it’s own romance. It was a quite sweet romance which I really enjoyed.

At first I didn’t really like either of the main characters. I thought that Vicky Romeo was arrogant and reminded me so much of an old flatmate who used to boast about never being turned down by a romantic partner…and then one time they were and they were a wreck as they’d never faced rejection. However as the book went on, I could see through their shell and she was a sweetheart who just wanted to love and be loved and really wasn’t as confident as they appeared. Joolz annoyed me at first as they seemed to be playing games with Vicky despite saying they weren’t their type. There was a great deal of her being hot one moment and blanking her the next. Although I had to remind myself that these characters were 20/21 .

I really liked the strong parental role models in this book. I loved Mama Romeo and Sam! There were a lot of side characters that I did get a bit confused with. I enjoyed Kat but I didn’t like the other flatmate.

There were a few twists and turns in this book that I just did not see coming. They were very well done and really helped to make the characters feel real. I feel like I could have been friends with these people, I’d have gone to see their play!

I absolutely loved the setting of 2001 Glasgow. I loved the references to Nokia phones and a whole bunch of scenes in an Internet cafe. It was very nostalgic in places.

This was my second book by Ely Percy and it won’t be my last. I’m adding them to my autobuy author list! I’m so glad that I didn’t wait too long to read this book because I really did enjoy it.

Reviews, Scottish Reads

A Glasgow Kiss

There’s nothing romantic about dating…

A Glasgow Kiss [n.]
A headbutt or a strike with the head to someone’s sensitive area

Meet Zara Smith: 29, single and muddling her way through life as a trainee nurse in Glasgow. With 30 fast approaching, she’s determined to do whatever it takes to find love – or at least someone to sext! Cheered on by best friends Ashley and Raj, Zara embarks on a string of dating escapades that are as hilarious as they are disastrous. From online dating to blind dates, hometown hook-ups to flirty bartenders, nothing is off limits.

But when Dr Tom Adams, aka Sugar Daddy, shows interest, it’s a game-changing moment. Zara has had a crush on Tom since her very first day at the aesthetics clinic she works at part-time. As things heat up between them, Zara can’t help but wonder: is this it? Or is it another disaster waiting to happen?

I bought this book a few months ago and put it aside for February. My thought process was that it was a romance/erotic novel and that seemed like a February thing. I am so sad that I put this book aside as opposed to reading it straight away because this was definitely a 5 star read! I laughed, I cried, I laughed some more.

I genuinely cackled while reading this book, it was absolutely hilarious! I kept disturbing my boyfriend as I felt compelled to give him a dramatic reading of some of my favourite passages- The bit with Zara’s mother and the vampire bit each received quite the round of applause. I think that this book included a lot of concerns with modern dating. Some of the interactions were so funny that I found myself crying with laughter but in spite of that, I found this book to be very realistic!

At the start of the book I actually saw a lot of early 20 something me in Zara. Desperate to be loved and ending up with a wrongun (I found my lobster in my late 20s). Zara gave her heart quickly and often ended up getting hurt. I quickly stopped relating to Zara as otherwise we were pretty different but so many of her actions reminded me of stories that my friends told me about their dating lives! I loved her friendship with her childhood best friend and her boss who was pretty much Boss Goals.

If you’re offended by swearing, especially by the c-word (which is also a term of endearment in Scotland) then be aware that there’s a fair bitty of swearing in this book which I found to be very authentic. There were times in this book where the only realistic reaction was to swear. I’m looking at you, Mark. The interactions with him set the tone for the rest of the book and I loved it!

My old uni got a mention and so did my old gym! Little thing like this are the reason I love Scottish fiction so very much! I don’t know if I’d have loved it quite as much if it wasn’t set somewhere that I’d previously lived because the familiarity of the setting really gave me fun nostalgic vibes. It would definitely have been at least a 4 star read if the setting were different but the setting is what pushed this book into the 5 star category for me.

While this was a hilarious wee read, it also had some pretty strong themes of finding what makes you happy, believing in yourself, and the power of friendship. This book gave me way more than it promised! Yes, I managed to overthink a fun erotic novel! I loved this book and will be keeping an eye out for any more books by this author because I am always happy to read some hilarious erotica/romance!

Reviews

Mall You Need is Love

Jaded-by-love Amara Hart owns a retro-style gaming arcade in the local shopping mall that is bustling full of people who’d rather play Pac-Man than have a candlelit dinner with the charming Casanova store owner next door. Despite her cynicism toward anything roses, Amara finds herself agreeing to help Valentino Rossi when his store is robbed a few days shy of Valentine’s Day—his biggest annual moneymaker.

Valentino believes in endless love and has made it his mission in life to help others express that love through romance and custom-made jewelry. Silly little love songs are what make him get out of bed in the morning, and meeting the anti-Valentine Amara has thrown him for a loop. Determined to prove love me tender is more than a retro ballad, Valentino sets out to give Amara a Valentine’s Day she’ll never forget.

As Amara feels her rough edges begin to soften, she begins to wonder what would happen if she asked the man next door to…be mine, Valentino.

What a super fun read! I was really in the mood for lovely sweet romance and this gave me exactly what I was looking for. I gave this book 4 stars because I just really enjoyed it and can see me reading more books by this author as this was so delightful and quite an innocent little romance.

I honestly think that grumpy sunshine romances may be my new favourite trope and this book gave me that. Val was a Casanova who had been linked to various women within the shopping mall, he was almost arrogant and definitely standoffish. Mara was whimsical, friendly, and chirpy. They seemed like such an unusual pairing but they really brought out the best in each other. Despite this being a novella, the main characters of Mara and Val were full of layers. I was rooting for them from the beginning.

I really enjoyed the two main characters having to work together which let them get to know each other. They were thrown together as they had to work overnight security at the mall…I only know of the shopping centres we have in Scotland but they tend to have security staff. Especially the big ones but I didn’t mind that this was perhaps a little unrealistic because the setting of the mall was very enjoyable. I love the shop names – Barber Streisand, Tequila Mockingbird, Son of a Bun Bakery. Plus the mall had an arcade and a cheese based food truck…it sounded dreamy!

The epilogue me happy cry because that’s what I hoped would happen. I thought this was a nice addition to the story as it still would have worked without the epilogue but it made me so very happy. I am such a sucker for a happy ending and with romance stories, I expect them and this really did leave me feeling warm and fuzzy. It wasn’t realistic at all but that’s ok!

This book just made me so happy! I smiled throughout the whole book and am very glad that I read it. For full disclosure, I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I’m now almost up to date with my ARCs, like a lot of people I’ve spoken to, I requested way more than I had budgeted time for and now I feel really behind. This book comes out on 11 February 2022 so I’m super pleased with myself for finishing this gem before it comes out.

Reviews, Scottish Reads

Snow-Kissed Proposals

In The Christmas Runaway by Jenni Fletcher, willful, independent heiress Fiona MacKay impulsively runs away to a remote Scottish tower, where she’s trapped in the snow with equally headstrong, deliciously disheveled Angus Drummond.

In Their Snowbound Reunion by Elisabeth Hobbes, Amy Munroe and Anthony Matthews were cruelly parted fifteen years ago, and each blames the other. When Amy becomes Anthony’s new housekeeper, their passion is reawakened!

I pre-ordered this book as Jenni Fletcher, the author of the first story, is Scottish and I thought that this could be a fun addition to my “Reading Scottish” challenge. This was a Mills & Boon Historical Romance and while I have read a decent amount of both Romance and Historical novels, I had never read a Mills & Boon.

I must admit that prior to reading this book, my only knowledge of Mills & Boon came from my experience working in a shop where very elderly women would pick the shelves clean every time a new selection was added. So I thought that as a 35 year old lady (95 at heart sometimes!) these books weren’t for me. How wrong I was because I really enjoyed each of the stories in this book.

The Christmas Runaway was a fun romance set reasonably close to where I live which gave me an extra level of enjoyment. I always enjoy reading books set in places that are familiar to me. This book was very short so I got my bearings very quickly.

Of the two books, I actually preferred Their Snowbound Reunion as the book was less predictable. I saw the twist coming from the start but the responsible party was one of two people. So I got an extra little something out of this book because of that.

The characters in each of these books were very classic-the grumpy rich guy, the outspoken yet childish rich woman, the proud man, the cold woman…there was nothing new in the characters but they were enjoyable to read about.

The sorties were completely predictable from start to finish. I suppose in historical fiction, there is always going to be a certain type of ending which coincidentally is my least favourite kind of ending. However, based on conversations that I’ve had regarding Mills & Boon books, this seems to be the traditional ending of this collection of books. I do sometimes wonder if I’m too free with my ratings in December, I gave this book 4 stars as I enjoyed it more than the books that I’d rated 3 stars…I don’t know whether I’d have rated so highly had this been read in any other month.

While these books didn’t give me anything new, they did give me cute romances that developed over the length of the story with each character denying their feelings. I wanted to read an easy romance with low stakes and preferably no nasty meddling characters. If you want a quick and easy romance, I’d recommend giving these stories a whirl! If you want some spice from your romance, these books will not deliver.

I actually really did enjoy reading this book! I didn’t know what to expect from a Mills & Boon but I was pleasantly surprised and may pick up another from this collection one day.

Reviews

The Proposal

When freelance writer Nikole Paterson goes to a Dodgers game with her actor boyfriend, his man bun, and his bros, the last thing she expects is a scoreboard proposal. Saying no isn’t the hard part–they’ve only been dating for five months, and he can’t even spell her name correctly. The hard part is having to face a stadium full of disappointed fans…

At the game with his sister, Carlos Ibarra comes to Nik’s rescue and rushes her away from a camera crew. He’s even there for her when the video goes viral and Nik’s social media blows up–in a bad way. Nik knows that in the wilds of LA, a handsome doctor like Carlos can’t be looking for anything serious, so she embarks on an epic rebound with him, filled with food, fun, and fantastic sex. But when their glorified hookups start breaking the rules, one of them has to be smart enough to put on the brakes…

This was the second book in the Wedding Date series. I really enjoyed the first book in this series so was really looking forward to continuing with the series. This book did not disappoint and I gave it a solid 4 stars.

Despite this book being part of a series, the characters were all new. I believe that each of the books revolves around a new cast of characters which confused me a bit but it means that these books work well as standalone novels.

The book started with a surprise, very unwanted proposal which gave me a strong feeling of second hand embarrassment. It was also so funny and a really lighthearted start to the book. Carlos and his sister swooped in to rescue Nik from the unwanted camera attention. It made me so happy that these strangers would came to help someone so clearly in distress. Carlos was introduced as a knight in shining armour…if that armour were a baseball cap.

I really enjoyed all of the characters in this book. Nik was pretty relatable as a person who had been heartbroken once before and that clouded their views on relationships. I think many people have known somebody like that. Fiercely independent and reluctant to let any serious romance in. Carlos was a nice guy who was attractive, smart, and an excellent cook. He was also not open to relationships so seemed like a perfect match for Nik. Something light and fun…as predicted, feelings happened and I was there cheering at my book. I absolutely loved this pairing. Each of these main characters benefitted highly from having friends who were smart and outspoken enough to call their friends out when they needed it.

I absolutely loved the little jokes about LA and how weird it was that Carlos had ‘a real job’ as a doctor. I found it fun as LA is one of those places that doesn’t seem real. I base this entirely on TV although I’m fairly certain that The Hills and The Real Housewives aren’t reliable sources of information.

Carlos’ interactions with his family were truly beautiful. I really enjoy books with strong and positive family relationships, whether biological or found family.

This book made me hungry. I googled so many recipes while reading this book. I really enjoyed the inclusion of so many tasty sounding foods. I love when books include tasty sounding food. The chapter with the cooking was hilarious and I may always laugh when I see sour cream.

This book was a light and fun romance but also included some very serious topics like racism, grieving, emotional abuse. This is the second book that I’ve read from this author and she’s so skilled at including real life issues within a light setting.

If you are looking for a good romance with spicy scenes and realistic characters, I highly recommend this book. I am so ready to read the third book in this series, I really enjoy Jasmine Guillory’s writing and am thoroughly enjoying this series!

Reviews

The Love Hypothesis

As a third-year Ph.D. candidate, Olive Smith doesn’t believe in lasting romantic relationships–but her best friend does, and that’s what got her into this situation. Convincing Anh that Olive is dating and well on her way to a happily ever after was always going to take more than hand-wavy Jedi mind tricks: Scientists require proof. So, like any self-respecting biologist, Olive panics and kisses the first man she sees.

That man is none other than Adam Carlsen, a young hotshot professor–and well-known ass. Which is why Olive is positively floored when Stanford’s reigning lab tyrant agrees to keep her charade a secret and be her fake boyfriend. But when a big science conference goes haywire, putting Olive’s career on the Bunsen burner, Adam surprises her again with his unyielding support and even more unyielding…six-pack abs.


Suddenly their little experiment feels dangerously close to combustion. And Olive discovers that the only thing more complicated than a hypothesis on love is putting her own heart under the microscope.

This book was just ridiculous and fun! This was exactly what I was hoping it would be. I both loved and hated this book but ultimately, love won. I gave this book 4 stars. This is not a sincere love story. If you enjoy romantic comedies filled with plot holes, then this book is for you!

Part way through this book I learned that this book started life as Star Wars fan fiction, I have only seen the original trilogy so that didn’t really impact my enjoyment of the story.

The two man in characters in this book were absolutely ridiculous. They were intelligent professionals who acted like they were teenagers. The whole story starts with Olive kissing a random man at work…I’ve never worked in a university lab but I’m fairly certain that smooching on company time is frowned upon in most institutes. As soon at that happened I realised that this was going to be a silly romance and I was really in the mood for that.

The entire book could have been 3 pages long if only these super smart adults would use their words and actually tell each other how they felt. This makes for an entertaining story but absolutely infuriating in real life.

I really loved Olive’s friends, they were so supportive and fun. A lot of the time they really did feel like they were teenagers though. When Ahn goadied Olive into putting sun cream on her Adam at a picnic, the friends reacted as if she were giving him a lap dance in front of his grandmother, as if it was something so raunchy. I kept forgetting that Olive and her friends were in their mid-20s and Adam was in his mid-30s as their reaction to any sort of romance was very juvenile- ‘I can’t believe you sat on his lap’…it was a busy event and there weren’t enough chairs, a pretty innocent move.

If you want a book with a graphic romantic scene, this book will fit that bill. Specifically, chapter 16. The sex scene was both graphic, hot and steamy, yet factually impossible at points. I listened to this book on audiobook and was out on a walk when this chapter started and I was walking around the park laughing my head off! I genuinely laughed until I cried

This book was predictable from beginning to end. I wanted a sweet and silly romance and this book provided me with that.

This book provided an unnecessary amount of shade towards pumpkin spice. Pumpkin spice is delightful

If you want a cute romance with only mild peril, I recommend this book. It was so silly and i just loved it