Blog Tour Review: Spice Road by Maiya Ibrahim

Hello, friends! I’m back with a blog tour review for Spice Road by Maiya Ibrahim. Special thanks to the TBR & Beyond Tours team for organising the tour and including me in it!

Thanks to Delacorte Press for providing a digital ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Click here or on the banner above to check out the rest of the fantastic bloggers on tour!

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Book Review: Resting Witch Face by Juliette Cross

Resting Witch Face (Stay a Spell #5)
Publisher: Juliette Cross Publishing, LLC
Pub Date: 31 October 2022
Genre: Adult Paranormal Romance

Panda Rating:

(5 pandas)

📖 SYNOPSIS

Twelve years ago, Jules Savoie ended her relationship with the vampire overlord of New Orleans, Ruben Dubois. For good reasons. A woman in power must often make sacrifices to protect others. She knows the truth of it down to her aching heart.

When Ruben watches his best friend Devraj get married, a stinging realization hits him hard…he’s done waiting. They say time heals all wounds. In this case, it merely sharpened the pain and made one fact crystal clear. Jules Savoie is his soulmate, and nothing would keep him from her. Not anymore.

Forced to work side by side to fight for the werewolf cause, they campaign together at covens from New Orleans to London. The reignited spark burns hotter than ever before. But when a power-hungry vampire sets his predatory sights on Jules, will their love be strong enough against black magic? Or will he lose her again? And this time, maybe…for good.

⚠️ CONTENT/TRIGGER WARNINGS

Violence, on-page sex (including orgy scenes, MCs do not participate), drugging, kidnapping, torture, assault, sexist behaviour

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Book Review: Always Practice Safe Hex by Juliette Cross

Always Practice Safe Hex (Stay a Spell #4)
Pub Date: 24 May 2022
Genre: Adult Paranormal Romance

Panda Rating:

(5 pandas)

📖 SYNOPSIS

There’s a reason no one messes with a grim…

Livvy Savoie is a people person. Not only does she have the magical gift of persuasion, but her natural charisma charms everyone she meets. She hasn’t met a person she didn’t like. Until her annoyingly brilliant competitor walks through the door. No matter how hard she denies it, loathing isn’t the only emotion she feels for him.

Grim reaper Gareth Blackwater is rarely, if ever, moved beyond his broody, stoic state. But the witch he’s partnered with in the public relations contest is destroying his peace of mind. He’s convinced that the flesh-melting attraction he feels for her is merely her witchy magic at work.

But forced proximity proves there is more than magic sparking between them. Livvy learns this enigmatic grim’s abilities are beyond any supernatural she has ever known. And when Livvy becomes the obsessive target of a dangerous wizard, Gareth proves just how powerful he truly is. Because no one is going to hurt his Lavinia.

⚠️ CONTENT/TRIGGER WARNINGS

Sexual harrassment (on-page), sexual assault (on-page), child abuse, light BDSM

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ARC Review: Moonrise Over New Jessup by Jamila Minnicks

Special thanks to Algonquin Books for providing a digital ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!

Moonrise Over New Jessup
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Pub Date: 10 January 2023
Genre: Historical Fiction

Panda Rating:

(4 pandas)

📖 SYNOPSIS

Winner of the 2021 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction, a thought-provoking and enchanting debut about a Black woman doing whatever it takes to protect all she loves at the beginning of the civil rights movement in Alabama.

It’s 1957, and after leaving the only home she has ever known, Alice Young steps off the bus into the all-Black town of New Jessup, Alabama, where residents have largely rejected integration as the means for Black social advancement. Instead, they seek to maintain, and fortify, the community they cherish on their “side of the woods.” In this place, Alice falls in love with Raymond Campbell, whose clandestine organizing activities challenge New Jessup’s longstanding status quo and could lead to the young couple’s expulsion—or worse—from the home they both hold dear. But as Raymond continues to push alternatives for enhancing New Jessup’s political power, Alice must find a way to balance her undying support for his underground work with her desire to protect New Jessup from the rising pressure of upheaval from inside, and outside, their side of town.

Jamila Minnicks’s debut novel is both a celebration of Black joy and a timely examination of the opposing viewpoints that attended desegregation in America. Readers of Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half and Robert Jones, Jr.’s The Prophets will love Moonrise Over New Jessup.

⚠️ CONTENT/TRIGGER WARNINGS

Sexual assault (minor mention), racism, racial slurs, hate crimes (brief mention), death of parent (off-page, mentioned), police brutality (minor mention), physical violence, slavery (brief mention)

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Book Review: Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao

Iron Widow (Iron Widow #1)
Publisher: Penguin Teen
Pub Date (Original): 21 September 2021
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction/Fantasy

Panda Rating:

(3 pandas)

📖 SYNOPSIS

The boys of Huaxia dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots that can battle the mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall. It doesn’t matter that the girls often die from the mental strain.

When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, it’s to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister’s death. But she gets her vengeance in a way nobody expected—she kills him through the psychic link between pilots and emerges from the cockpit unscathed. She is labeled an Iron Widow, a much-feared and much-silenced kind of female pilot who can sacrifice boys to power up Chrysalises instead.​

To tame her unnerving yet invaluable mental strength, she is paired up with Li Shimin, the strongest and most controversial male pilot in Huaxia​. But now that Zetian has had a taste of power, she will not cower so easily. She will miss no opportunity to leverage their combined might and infamy to survive attempt after attempt on her life, until she can figure out exactly why the pilot system works in its misogynist way—and stop more girls from being sacrificed.

⚠️ CONTENT/TRIGGER WARNINGS

Misogyny & femicide, rape (mentioned), sexual assault, physical & emotional abuse, suicidal ideation, alcoholism, blood & gore depiction, murder, torture

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ARC Review: A Long Time Coming by Meghan Quinn

Special thanks to Meghan Quinn and her team for providing a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review!

A LONG TIME COMING, a brand new sexy, friends-to-lovers standalone romance from USA Today bestselling author Meghan Quinn, is Now Available in all formats, including the illustrated hardcover edition!

 Friends to Lovers
 Forbidden
 Billionaire Romance
 Quirky Heroine
 Steamy Scenes

Get ready to fall in love with this unassuming, smoking hot billionaire and his beautiful, quirky best friend he’s destined for! One-click your copy of this sexy, laugh-out-loud romance full of charm and heat today!

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Book Review: Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata

Convenience Store Woman
Publisher: Granta Books
Pub Date (Original): 27 July 2016
Genre: Translated Fiction, Contemporary Fiction

Panda Rating:

(3 pandas)

📖 SYNOPSIS

Meet Keiko.

Keiko is 36 years old. She’s never had a boyfriend, and she’s been working in the same supermarket for eighteen years.

Keiko’s family wishes she’d get a proper job. Her friends wonder why she won’t get married.

But Keiko knows what makes her happy, and she’s not going to let anyone come between her and her convenience store…

⚠️ CONTENT/TRIGGER WARNINGS

Ableism, misogyny

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Blog Tour Review: Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute by Talia Hibbert

Hello, friends! I’m back with my first blog tour of 2023 hosted by TBR & Beyond Tours and I’m so incredibly excited that it’s for a title that I absolutely adored: Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute by Talia Hibbert.

Thanks to Joy Revolution for providing a digital ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Click here or on the banner above to check out the rest of the fantastic bloggers on tour!

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Holiday Romance Mini-Reviews: Santa, Baby, Lovelight Farms, and The Geek Who Saved Christmas!

Santa, Baby by Eliza McLane

Santa, Baby (Holiday Nights #1)
Pub Date: 12 November 2022
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Panda Rating:

(3.5 pandas)

📖 SYNOPSIS

She’s the intriguing and utterly lust-worthy little sister of his best friend. He’s the adorably hot guy she’s crushed on for a decade. They’ve never crossed that line, but now they’re snowed in together on an adult film set–and the cameras are rolling.

Nick has always wanted to check playing Santa off his struggling actor bucket list. But when he arrives at the gig to find people, well, filling each other’s stockings, it’s obvious he missed the small print: the job is Christmas porn, and he’s the grand finale. And his director and co-star? The off-limits sister of his best friend.

Holly lives a double life: quiet and conservative at home, brassy and bossy at her secret work in adult films. When Nick shows up on set she expects disaster, but there’s a hunger in his eyes as he watches her take charge on set, and they’re both eager to let their attraction take fire–for the sake of work, of course.

When an approaching snowstorm sends the crew home, it’s up to Nick and Holly to save her movie, and they agree to indulge for just one night. But when dirty talk and a decade of longing lead to deeper conversations and cozy cuddling, they’ll start to wonder if the Christmas miracle they make together can last all year long.

Author’s note: Santa, Baby is a steamy and sweet novella (about half the length of a typical romance) full of big feelings and filthy, dirty-talking sex. In its pages you’ll find a brother’s-best-friend romance full of sex-positivity, a totally besotted hero, and lots of sparkling Christmas spirit–all with an empowering HEA.

⚠️ CONTENT/TRIGGER WARNINGS

Toxic family relationships (controlling and close-minded parents), parental abandonment recounted, parent with depression and addiction

This was a cute, sexy and sex-positive holiday romance with plenty of fun tropes including brother’s best friend romance, grumpy/sunshine, getting snowed-in and staying stuck together (oop, we love it)! 😉 It was a take on romance featuring the adult entertainment industry that I’ve never read before and I found that refreshing. If you’re looking for a steamy read to add to your holiday romance list, this should definitely get on there!

I thought the story was well-written and the characters were well-developed for a novella. Nick is the happy-go-lucky Christmas-loving guy spreading holiday cheer everywhere he goes and in contrast, Holly is a bit of a quiet grinch who dislikes the holiday because of her toxic relationship with her close-minded and controlling family. There has always been an attraction between them that they’ve never acted upon as her brother is Nick’s bestie, so it’s a major shock that the quiet girl he’s always been curious about is directing the adult film he’s been hired for. It’s clear that their perceptions of each other are so different to what they’re like IRL and I loved seeing Nick and Holly get to know each other away from the connection that ties them together, Holly’s douchenugget of a brother. He is so encouraging and supportive of Holly and I loved how he showed her that she deserves to be surrounded by people who appreciate her and make her happy. The way he gave her the kind of Christmas she’s always dreamed of was so swoony and their steamy scenes were fire—there was definitely no lack of chemistry between them! But mixed in with the dirty-talking sex scenes were plenty of heartfelt and intimate moments that were very sweet and balanced the romance nicely!

Lovelight Farms by B.K. Borison

Lovelight Farms (Lovelight #1)
Pub Date: 10 November 2021
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Panda Rating:

(3.5 pandas)

📖 SYNOPSIS

Where the lovelight gleams…

A pasture of dead trees. A hostile takeover of the Santa barn by a family of raccoons. And shipments that have mysteriously gone missing. Lovelight Farms is not the magical winter wonderland of Stella Bloom’s dreams.

In an effort to save the Christmas tree farm she’s loved since she was a kid, she enters a contest with instafamous influencer Evelyn St. James. With the added publicity and the $100,000 cash prize, she might just be able to save the farm from its financial woes. There’s just one problem. To make the farm seem like a romantic destination for the holidays, she lied on the application and said she owns Lovelight Farms with her boyfriend. Only… there is no boyfriend.

Enter best friend Luka Peters. He just came home for some hot chocolate, and somehow got a farm and a serious girlfriend in the process.

⚠️ CONTENT/TRIGGER WARNINGS

Parental abandonment, parental infidelity recounted, alcohol abuse mentioned, grief & loss depiction, death of a parent recounted

This would be a great addition to your holiday romance reading lists because it’s perfectly atmospheric and the romance is sweet with a little bit of steam. This is for those who enjoy soft friends-to-lovers romances with cute heart-fluttering fake-dating moments! Though I didn’t end up loving this as much as I thought I would, I still thought this was a solid debut from Borison and I get why it’s so well-loved. 😍

The small-town and Lovelight Farms setting was great and the atmosphere perfectly captured the transition from fall to Thanksgiving to full-blown winter! Borison also did a great job of capturing little bits of small-town life full of nosy but well-meaning neighbourhood friendlies and though I wanted a bit more of it, I still really enjoyed the interactions we got between them and our MCs! I adored the side characters and what they brought to the story, especially Beckett, Layla and Dane. I think the difficulty I had was that I didn’t fully connect with either Stella or Luka and I didn’t feel the stakes of their fake-dating romance. The story is told from one POV, which already isn’t my favourite, but I was also pretty on the fence about Stella. She’s hardworking and ambitious but she’s also incredibly stubborn, gets in her own way and made frustrating decisions. I understood her fears but she also kept putting herself back in toxic situations, and not to sound too harsh, but I thought a lot of the sadness she felt was of her own making. This was especially true when it came to Luka and the “conflict” really frustrated me! 🤦🏻‍♀️ Sadly, while I thought Luka was adorable, and I loved his gleeful geekiness and how he would do practically anything for Stella, he felt flat and it made me wish even more that we got his POV!

The Geek Who Saved Christmas by Annabeth Albert

The Geek Who Saved Christmas
Pub Date: 09 November 2021
Genre: Contemporary Romance/LGBTQIA+

Panda Rating:

(4 stars)

📖 SYNOPSIS

His grumpy neighbor needs some holiday sunshine…

Gideon Holiday is the perfect neighbor. Need a cup of sugar? Spare folding chair? Extra batteries? He’s always ready to help. And he’s waited years for his hot, grumpy, silver fox neighbor, Paul, to need him. For anything. But this December, Gideon would be happy if he could just get the Scrooge-like Paul on board with the neighborhood holiday lights fundraiser.

Paul Frost has no intention of decking his halls or blazing any Yule logs. Even if his spunky bowtie-clad neighbor does look perfect for unwrapping, Paul would prefer to hide away until December is done. But when his beloved younger brother announces an unexpected visit, Paul needs all the trimmings for a festive homecoming—and fast.

Luckily, Gideon is there with a color-coded plan to save Christmas. Soon Paul’s hanging lights, trimming trees, and rolling out cookies. And steaming up his new flannel sheets with Gideon. How did that happen?

It’ll take some winter magic to preserve their happiness and keep these rival neighbors together longer than one holiday season.

The Geek Who Saved Christmas is a low-angst m/m holiday romance with a guaranteed happy ending. This grumpy/sunshine, neighbors-to-lovers, found family tale features two heroes in their forties figuring out that maybe their sexily-ever-after was right next door the whole time. It stands alone and is not connected to any of the author’s other universes. However, it does contain a heaping helping of the same emotions and steamy moments readers have come to expect!

⚠️ CONTENT/TRIGGER WARNINGS

Death of parents recounted, off-page, childhood family trauma recounted, toxic family relationships

This was a cute, sweet and festive grumpy-sunshine MM romance and it was absolutely full of holiday activities and spirit! There’s so much shopping, sentimental talks about holiday memories, and of course, all the Christmas decorating! As much as I enjoyed this one though, I didn’t feel particularly strongly about much of it—it was well-written and enjoyable, and I liked our MCs but I also didn’t feel an abundance of chemistry and at times felt a bit bored, which made the book seem very long.

I loved that Gideon and Paul are in their 40s and that the story delves into the aspects that make it a tough time of year for both of them. I think it’s a good reminder that not everyone has good memories and experiences of the holiday season for various reasons, but it’s also a heartwarming story about finding happiness and showing appreciation for your loved ones. Despite their personality differences, Gideon is the sunshine to Paul’s grump they’re both lonely and don’t have big or caring families to spend the holidays with. Both of their stories broke my heart but it was put back together again by seeing them allow each other into their lives by being emotionally vulnerable. I think one of my main grips would be the communication aspect. They eventually get it together, and I appreciate that there was no major blowout (this is a low-angst romance after all!), but they were so open with everything else and I wished they’d been straight about their feelings too. This book was like a Hallmark romance but with steam (not overly explicit) and the HEA was sweet and satisfying!

Do you read holiday romances and have you read any of these or are they on your TBR? If you have any holiday romance reccos, please share!

Book Review: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Cloud Atlas
Publisher: Sceptre
Pub Date (Original): 17 August 2004
Genre: Literary Fiction

Panda Rating:

(4.5 pandas)

📖 SYNOPSIS

Six interlocking lives – one amazing adventure. In a narrative that circles the globe and reaches from the 19th century to a post-apocalyptic future, Cloud Atlas erases the boundaries of time, genre and language to offer an enthralling vision of humanity’s will to power, and where it will lead us.

⚠️ CONTENT/TRIGGER WARNINGS

Slavery, infidelity, drug use, crude humour, racism, attempted murder, violence, blood/gore, mutilation, suicide, rape (graphic on-page, off-page)

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