The StoryGraph’s Onboarding Reading Challenge 2023 (Read a book in your least read format or genre)—Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
Scavenger Hunt TBR Book Challenge (Go to page 34, line 6 of the book you just read. How many words are there in that line? Divide that number by 3. That’s the amount of words the title of your next book should be): Modern Girl’s Guide to Vacation Flings by Gina Drayer
Beat the Backlist 2023 (meant to read it last year): Prepared by Courtney Konstantin
*Normally, there won’t be a lot of books on here. But I am going through my Goodreads shelves and downloading any free books I am coming across from books already shelved (as well as adding books that are in the same series). This is an ongoing project, and I should be done by September (yes, I have that many books).
Margo Anderson is sworn off commitment. Alongside her best friend, Jo, she runs a viral podcast featuring rules for hooking up without catching feelings. So when Jo surprises her by deciding to get married and taking up a sponsor’s offer to host an all-expenses-paid wedding trip on Catalina Island, they have the whole internet to answer to.
In a scramble for content to appease their disappointed listeners, Margo cooks up a social experiment: Break all her own dating rules, just to prove that it’s a bad idea. And she’s found the best man for the job in the groom’s best friend and her old high school nemesis, Declan Walsh. He may be easier on the eyes than Margo remembered, but he’s sure to be as smug and annoying as he was before—there is no chance Margo will ever catch feelings for him . . . until she does.
The more time they spend together through cake tastings and wedding party activities, the more Margo can’t ignore their obvious spark, and she may actually be enjoying getting to know Declan. But can she let go of the rules to let him in?
The Blue Room was teeming with amateur influencers. The clubs in Studio City weren’t known for a cozy local vibe on the best of nights, but it was especially bad tonight.
Seven Rules for Breaking Hearts by Kristyn J. Miller
Margo and her best friend, Jo, are co-hosts of a viral podcast that they made famous for seven rules for hooking up without getting feelings involved. So, the internet freaked out when Jo announced she was getting married and using a sponsor’s offer for an all-expenses paid wedding trip to Catalina Island. Also upset was Margo. She was left dealing with the fallout from Jo’s announcement. So, she devised a plan. She’s going to break her own dating rules to prove that it is a bad idea. Her victim: Declan Walsh, the groom’s best man and Margo’s arch nemesis from high school. But, as Margo spends time with Declan, he isn’t who she remembered, and she does something that she vowed never to do: She caught feelings for him. But, when a vengeful fan reveals her plan, Margo might just have lost the best thing that has happened to her. Will Margo prove to Declan that what she feels is real? Or has she blown it?
Seven Rules for Breaking Hearts was a medium to fast-paced book that made me laugh in places and want to cry in others. It is mainly set on Catalina Island, centering on the resort and the town of Avalon. Having always wanted to go to Catalina Island, I enjoyed the brief forays into the water and one memorable hike to see bison. On a side note, I was surprised when that came up in this book and did a Google search of it. Seeing that it is real, I want to go there even more.
The main storyline of Seven Rules for Breaking Hearts centers around Margo, Declan, Margo’s plans to do damage control, Jo’s wedding, and the various trips the wedding party takes. I wasn’t a massive fan of Margo’s plan and felt it would end badly. I did think that the author did a great job of weaving all of these details together to make a great story. Because I feel that if she had just based this book on Margo and Declan, it would have fallen flat.
I didn’t like Margo at first. She seemed immature and needy. Even though high school was ten years behind them, she was still focused on how Declan treated her. There were points when she talked crap about Declan to Jo, and that’s when I wanted to stuff a gag in her mouth and tell her to get over it. Her plan to use him for her damage control plan was pretty low. But then something happened that usually doesn’t happen if I had made up my mind about a character. I started to like her. She was acting the way she was because she wasn’t sure what her future held, which scared her. And when her phone was stolen, and everything leaked, I felt awful for her. I wish that storyline had been closure because I was heated. But the author left it as that person did it and got caught, but nothing happened. Margo, of course, got the short end of the stick there. I won’t say how, but it made me very teary-eyed.
I loved Declan. He was the complete package: gorgeous, intelligent, and built. His confession to Margo about why he acted the way to her in high school was sweet. He also dealt with everything that Jo and Margo did (forthe podcast and their sponsors) in stride. There were points in the book where I thought he was a little too laid back, but that didn’t last long. But, when everything was leaked, he jetted. I didn’t blame him; it was just too much. Plus, his feelings were shattered. So, no, I didn’t blame him for what he said to Margo and how he took off.
For a romance, there weren’t a ton of sex scenes. Margo and Declan fooled around a ton, but sex was only a few times. The author did include Margo getting serviced by Declan in a dressing room and Margo returning the favor to Declan in the shower. The sex wasn’t graphic either, and honestly, I could have cared less. For me, it was the chemistry that they had and the build-up. Other people might disagree, but I stand my ground in this case. Declan and Margo had great sexual chemistry.
As for trigger warnings in this book, I can only think of two. They are:
Drinking: The drinks flowed freely in this book. Margo and the rest of the wedding party were drunk up to the wedding.
Drugs: One of the bridesmaids owns a high-profile cannabis store. During the bachelorette party, she brings cannabis-laced brownies and gummies to help celebrate.
The end of Seven Rules for Breaking Hearts was super sad. I hated seeing Margo acting the way that she was. She was depressed and knew she had mucked it up between her and Declan. Of course, this is a romance, and you know they end up together. That scene stole my breath. And the epilogue was fantastic!!!!
I would recommend Seven Rules for Breaking Hearts to anyone over 21. There is language, mild violence, and sexual situations. Also, see my trigger warning list.
Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press, St. Martin’s Griffin, NetGalley, and Kristyn J. Miller for allowing me to read and review Seven Rules for Breaking Hearts. All opinions stated in this review are mine.
If you enjoyed reading this review of Seven Rules for Breaking Hearts, then you will enjoy reading these books:
The Hating Game meets Beach Read in Katy Birchall’s enemies-to-lovers romcom The Last Word , about a young journalist who puts her career (and her heart) on the line when her former work nemesis is hired in her newsroom.
Harper Jenkins is at the top of her game. A brilliant, determined journalist with a well-known knack for getting tight-lipped Hollywood stars to open up to her, Harper loves her job as Celebrity Editor at a newspaper’s glossy weekend magazine and has the best contacts in the business.
But when her awful boss hires talented reporter Ryan to be the new Features Editor, Harper is furious. Because the two have met a decade ago, they were interns at the same publication, where they fell into a whirlwind romance…until Ryan betrayed Harper, and they never spoke again.
Thrown together in a busy newsroom, their dynamic is a disaster from the start. They can’t agree on anything and bicker constantly―Ryan can’t bear how chaotic and messy Harper is; Harper finds Ryan’s condescending nature infuriating. They clash over who’s writing what article, and fight over who’s going to which event.
Yet as they’re forced to spend more and more time together, Harper realizes she may have misjudged Ryan and can’t help but feel a spark growing between them. Long buried feelings start to resurface and, when they’re thrown together on a romantic press trip abroad, their chemistry comes to a head.
But all is fair in love and magazines, and with the news that layoffs across the department are imminent, Harper is left to who will get the last word?
The question is posed toward the end of the night, as a large box of chocolates is passed around the table and Mimi, the host, fills up wine glasses so her fridge isn’t left with bottles that are two-thirds drunk.
The Last Word by Katy Birchall
Harper is killing it at her newspaper. A top-rated celebrity journalist, she is known for getting Hollywood stars and starlets to open up to her. She is also known for her business contacts, which she worked hard to get. But things start going sideways for her when Ryan is hired as the new Features Editor. Harper and Ryan were a thing over ten years ago, and that ended in disaster when Ryan betrayed Harper. She has never forgiven him or gotten over the betrayal. But, the more time they are forced to spend together, the more Harper realizes that she might have overreacted and that her feelings for Ryan might be more profound than she admits. How will Harper and Ryan’s romance end? Will it be a happily ever after? Or will it be over before it gets a chance to take off?
I was not expecting to dislike The Last Word. Usually, these chick-lit romances are a fun, quick read for me. A light bit of fluff is a palate cleanser for my brain (I read many books with heavier content). I went into reading The Last Word expecting it to be a mildly pleasant book. It was not. Unfortunately, the main female character ruined the book for me. To say I disliked her is putting it mildly.
The storyline for The Last Word was easy to follow. Taking place mainly in London, the book follows Harper as she navigates her career and relationships. I did like the storyline. It was well written and kept my attention on the book (even with my intense dislike of Harper).
I couldn’t stand Harper. While I admired that she had worked hard to prove her parents wrong, I felt she came across as a spoiled brat for almost the entire book. I didn’t understand why she disliked poor Ryan for so long. The author kept that a secret until nearly halfway through the book. Meanwhile, Harper acted like a fool in her office (screaming at Ryan, accusing him of stealing her stuff, mocking his cookies, and freaking out about other things). I might have sympathy for her if the author had disclosed what he did (and honestly, it wasn’t a big deal). But then she did it again (when the layoffs happened), and her behavior made me sick. I did have a small amount of sympathy for her because of how her parents were. I felt that the author threw that in just for that reason.
As much as I liked and felt bad for Ryan, I wish he had stood up for himself. He let Harper walk all over him at the magazine. Listen, I get that he didn’t want to rock the boat with her at work (she did have seniority), but he turned into a freaking doormat. When the author finally divulged why Harper hated him, I got it. What he did wasn’t right, but telling Harper she didn’t get the job wasn’t his place. I also got why he didn’t tell her about the layoffs at the magazine. It wasn’t his place (it was that idiot, Cosmo). But he still let Harper blame him for everything. It got old after a while, and honestly, he should have moved on after the layoff.
There are sex scenes in The Last Word. They were non-graphic. Because of how I felt about Harper, I was a little disgusted by reading them.
The end of The Last Word was interesting. I liked how Harper took her layoff and turned it around. She could keep doing what she loved but on her own time. That was awesome. I also liked how Harper told her parents and sister off. It was long overdue. Harper and Ryan got their HEA, but it left a bad taste in my mouth. She was awful and didn’t deserve him (there, I said it). And while I liked the epilogue, it didn’t evoke the happy feelings they usually do. Instead, I felt nothing but pity for Ryan.
I recommend this book to anyone over 21. There is language, mild violence, and language.
Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press, St. Martin’s Griffin, NetGalley, and Katy Birchall for allowing me to read and review The Last Word. All opinions stated in this review are mine.
If you enjoyed reading this review of The Last Word, then you will enjoy these books:
The StoryGraph’s Onboarding Reading Challenge (read a book from your StoryGraph recommendations)—Beautiful Demons—Finished 3-10-2023
The StoryGraph Reads the World (Cuba)—Of Women and Salt—Finished 3-12-2023
The StoryGraph’s Genre Challenge (a sapphic romance)—She Who Became the Sun—Finished 3-22-2023
Beat the Backlist 2023 (about dragons or robots)—The Glow of the Dragon’s Heart—Finished 3-22-2023
Scavenger Hunt TBR Book Challenge (what is the most common letter in the title of the last book you read for this challenge. Find a book with a title that starts with that letter)—Even the Moon has Scars—Finished 3-23-2023
Scavenger Hunt (the prettiest book in your TBR)—The Watchmaker’s Daughter—Finished 3-23-2023
Popsugar Reading Challenge 2023 (A book about a vacation)—The Swap—Finished 3-24-2023
2023 TBR Toppler (the first book in a series)—The Last Artifact—Finished 3-26-23
2023 Monthly Themes (March of the Memoirs)—In the Dream House—Finished 3-1-23
2023 Reading Challenge (A book in a series you already started)—Catching Fire—Finished 3-27-23
During ball season, anything can happen, even love.
It’s ball season in Vienna, and Maria Wallner only wants one thing: to restore her family’s hotel, the Hotel Wallner, to its former glory. She’s not going to let anything get in her way – not her parents’ three-decade-long affair; not seemingly-random attacks by masked assassins; and especially not the broad-shouldered American foreign agent who’s saved her life two times already. No matter how luscious his mouth is.
Eli Whittaker also only wants one thing: to find out who is selling American secret codes across Europe, arrest them, and go home to his sensible life in Washington, DC. He has one lead – a letter the culprit sent from a Viennese hotel. But when he arrives in Vienna, he is immediately swept up into a chaotic whirlwind of balls, spies, waltzes, and beautiful hotelkeepers who seem to constantly find themselves in danger. He disapproves of all of it! But his disapproval is tested as he slowly falls deeper into the chaos – and as his attraction to said hotelkeeper grows.
There were twenty-eight mintues left in 1877, and as if the year had not seen enough trouble, Maria Wallner’s father led Maria Wallner’s mother onto the dance floor, clasped her amorously to his chest, and, with the first langud, delicate notes of Strauss’s Vienna Blood Waltz providing a suitbale romantic background, began to dance.
Hotel of Secrets by Diana Biller
Maria Wallner has been working towards restoring her family’s hotel, the Hotel Wallner, to its former glory. So, when an offer to host Vienna’s giant ball of the ball season is extended to her, she jumps on it. Nothing is going to stand in her way. Not her parent’s thirty-year affair, her hotel needs expensive repairs, or the American spy who has saved her life twice. Eli Whittaker has been sent to Vienna to find out who is selling American secret codes, arrest them, and return to Washington, D.C. His one clue is the hotel that Maria is trying to bring back. What Eli wasn’t expecting was his sudden attraction to Maria. He wasn’t expecting to be swept up into intrigue that could reach as far as the Royal Family. When Maria is attacked twice, Eli makes it his job to investigate. Can Eli find out who is behind Maria’s attacks? Can he also find out who is selling America’s secrets? Can Maria bring her hotel back to its former glory? And will Eli and Maria both leave the 1878 Vienna ball season with their hearts intact?
I didn’t know what I was getting into when I started reading this book. I thought I was going to read a romance about a spy. That was it (the blurb didn’t give anything away). I was aware that this book was set in Vienna (andI will discuss that later) and that I was mindful of the period. I wasn’t expecting the hijinks in Hotel of Secrets or that the people in Vienna seemed a little progressive for that era. Those quibbles aside, I enjoyed reading this book and the giggles it gave me.
Let me get the basics out of the way before I start going off on tangents. Hotel of Secrets is a fast-paced, 3rdperson, dual POVs book (what a freaking mouthful there). I enjoyed reading the book from Eli and Maria’s perspectives. Some things didn’t make sense when seen from one that made sense when seen from the other. The fast pace suited Hotel of Secrets ideally, and the author did know when to slow down so everything could sink in. Plus, I loved the diary enteries from Maria’s great-grandmother, grandmother, mother, and Maria herself at the beginning of each chapter.
So, now that is over, let’s jump into the review!!!
I loved that this book was set in Vienna during their ball season. Vienna is on my bucket list of places to go, and I loved seeing it described so beautifully in the book. I liked that the author gave a behind-the-scenes look into hotel renovations in 1878 (nothing like today) and how much preparation went into hosting a ball. I didn’t know that there were themes to balls. Honestly, I just thought people dressed up fancy, danced, and drank a lot of champagne. It shows how much I know.
I liked Maria. I liked how open she was with Eli about things and how in touch with herself she was. I also liked how she wanted to buck the “dark-haired man” fate and do things her way. She didn’t have time for that. She had a hotel to renovate and an essential ball to hold. Her impatience (and later disdain) for her mother and father’s affair was amusing and sad. I loved how she interacted with Eli. Her sassiness and not wanting him around amused me, as did her sexual overtures once she decided she wanted him.
Eli was not what I expected in a main character. He had a past that was tragic and shaped him into who he is in the book. But the more important thing is that he was a virgin. I couldn’t quite wrap my head around that when it was revealed. It was something that I rarely had (maybe never) read in a romance novel. The male main character was a virgin!! I also liked that he wasn’t as sneaky as a spy as he thought. Everyone, including Maria, had him pegged from day one, and his surprise when she told him was priceless.
The main storyline was an interesting one. It focused on Eli, Maria, the hotel, the diaries that Maria’s family kept (and they feature heavily towards the end of the book), Maria’s family, and Eli’s reason for being in Vienna. It was a twisty plotline that could potentially lose the reader, but it didn’t. The author did a great job of keeping everything on point and the attention where it needed to be. Of course, there are two considerable twists in that plotline. One that I guessed at, and the other took me by surprise.
Let’s talk about romance, mainly Eli and Maria’s. I wouldn’t quite call it Instalove. Instead, I would say that they were both sexually attracted to each other, and it evolved into love. Maria did fight her feelings for Eli for about half of the book. In the book’s second half, she realizes that Eli is hers. As for Eli, it was the same way.
There is a lot of sex, sexual hijinks, and sexual encounters in Hotel of Secrets. I was a little surprised because of the era (1878). But this wasn’t England, and I figured the Austrian society was a little more lenient with that stuff. I loved that Maria knew what she wanted and how she wanted it. Her hijinks with Eli (before defloweringhim) were sensual and amusing. Take the linen closets. Maria made it known early on that she wanted to be taken in one and was contemplating adding amenities (those linen closets in that hotel got a workout). Eli was more than happy to indulge her once they were at that point in their relationship. I also loved (and thought it was hilarious) that Eli went and bought a pornographic book to study before they did the deed. I was dying, and when he started citing references, I couldn’t stop laughing.
I loved the end of Hotel of Secrets. Talk about ending the book with a bang!! The author revealed a couple of twists. I figured one out, but the other one took me by surprise. I also couldn’t have been more disgusted with Maria’s father. What he did was unforgivable. I wondered where Eli and Maria’s relationship would go since Eli technically did what he was sent to Austria to do. I am hoping that there is another book set in this universe that answers that question.
I would recommend Hotel of Secrets to anyone over 21. There is violence, mild language, and sexual situations.
Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press, St. Martin’s Griffin, NetGalley, and Diana Biller for allowing me to read and review Hotel of Secrets. All opinions stated in this review are mine.
If you enjoyed reading this review of Hotel of Secrets, then you will enjoy reading these books: