I’ll admit this; I didn’t read the blurb when I accepted the invite from St. Martin’s Press. I saw the title and the cover (in the widget email they sent) and made my decision from that. To be clear, I rarely accept books based on the title and/or cover. So, I was a little hesitant when I saw it next on my reading schedule. But, once I realized what series this book was a part of, I was excited to read it.
A Guide to Being Just Friends is the 3rd (and final) book in the Jansen Brothers series. While readers can read this as a standalone, I recommend reading the first two books before picking this one up. I recommend this so you, as a reader, can understand some of the relationships discussed in this book.
There are some trigger warnings that I want to warn you about in this book. Hailey (the main character) is fresh out of an emotionally and verbally abusive relationship. In one scene, her ex tries (and stress tries) to verbally abuse and manhandle her, but Wes stops it. Wes’s parents are divorced, and Hailey’s family is dysfunctional (her parents love each other and ignore her). If any of these triggers you, I recommend not reading this book.
A Guide to Being Just Friends is a medium to fast-paced book that takes place entirely in San Verde, California. The pacing of the book fluctuates during it.
As mentioned above, A Guide to Being Just Friends is Wes and Hailey’s love story. Hailey has just opened a restaurant that only serves salad (By the Cup) and is focused only on getting it off the ground and making money. She has no room for a relationship or wants one after what her ex-boyfriend has done to her. Wes couldn’t agree more with her. He is still dealing with the wounds of his parent’s divorce and has been on several not-so-great first dates. All he wants is companionship. So meeting Hailey and developing feelings for her was not part of his master plan (the same goes for Hailey). While being in a relationship is not in the cards for either of them, they will settle for being just friends. But their feelings grow, and being just friends is starting to sound not so great. Will Hailey and Wes wake up and see that the person they want the most is standing in front of them? Or will they forever be just friends?
I like going into a book and knowing at least one of the characters. For me (and I don’t know about you), it made connecting with the other main characters easier. I also liked seeing a different side of that character than what was portrayed in other books.
- Hailey: I liked her. She was super focused on getting her business off the ground and wouldn’t let anything or anyone distract her. She was also one of the sweetest people in the book and didn’t deserve the treatment she got from her parents, ex-boyfriend, and Ana. I also liked that she overcame all the self-doubt and self-esteem issues that her ex gave her. Of course, since this is a romance, I wanted to shake her when it came to Wes. But I understood why she was holding herself back.
- Wes—I was talking about him in the above paragraph. I liked seeing little glimpses of him in the previous two books. I did have a view of him from what I read. So it was nice for that view to be expanded and for how he acted explained. Wes had a lot on his plate, a lot of pressure from his father and Ana (the CEO of a company he’s trying to buy). Plus, he had awful luck on the relationship front. The blind dates the author showed were horrible. I did like his character growth, though. By the end of the book, he wasn’t afraid to do what was right for him (and yes, that involved Ana and her meddling ways!!)
The secondary characters were interesting. They should be since they were all previous characters in the other two books. A couple of new characters were introduced (Hailey’s cousin and her group of friends), and I hope the author decides to create another series in this world. I would love to see some of those people get their HEAs!!
A Guide to Being Just Friends fits perfectly into the romance genre. I liked that this romance took months to ignite and just as long to get off the ground. I love those types of romances. They seem more genuine, and (because I am a weirdo) I can picture them lasting in real life.
There is sex in A Guide to Being Just Friends. But it isn’t graphic. The author sets the mood, starts the sexual encounter, and ends the chapter. The next chapter is the following day with a satisfied hero and heroine. I am a fan of smut and graphic sex scenes, but sometimes it is nice to let my imagination do what it does best. And it did its best in this book. Also, there were only a couple of sex scenes.
The main storyline is Wes and Hailey’s romance. As I said, the author made this into a slow-burn romance, and I liked it. She also made it as realistic as possible. Hailey and Wes went through what I considered the usual ebb and flow until everything exploded. There was only one thing that I disagreed with: Ana. She was a vindictive, nasty person. What she did to Hailey (and let’s not forget what she tried to do) was pretty low.
Several secondary storylines enriched the main storyline. The secondary storyline that stands out to me the most was the landlord raising the rent on the apartments and shops where Hailey had her business. I loved how the author kept me wondering what would happen there and then melded it into the main storyline. It was perfect!!
The end of A Guide to Being Just Friends made me an emotional mess. I cried during the big reveal scene. I was mad because of what Hailey assumed was happening between Ana and Wes. I was happy because that assumption wasn’t true. And the epilogue. It was freaking perfect!!! I couldn’t have asked for a better epilogue than that.
I would recommend A Guide to Being Just Friends to anyone over 21. There is language, mild violence, and very mild sex scenes. Also, see my content warning above.
I want to thank St. Martin’s Press, St. Martin’s Griffin, NetGalley, and Sophie Sullivan for allowing me to read and review A Guide to Being Just Friends. All opinions stated in this review are mine.
This isn’t easy to admit, but I am a giant baby in reading or watching anything horror. Take, for instance, the new series on HBO Max, The Last of Us. I was sitting with my husband and oldest daughter, and whenever something scary would come on, I would cover my face with a blanket and tell them to tell me when it was over. That is how I felt reading All Hallows. I wanted to cover my face and wait until it was all over, but I couldn’t. This book scared the living out of me!!
I am going to be upfront with the trigger warnings in this book. I wasn’t expecting a couple of them, and they left a bad taste in my mouth when I realized what was happening. The triggers are child sexual abuse (not graphic, but a couple of scenes that describe a victim’s emotions), racism (overt and subtle), domestic violence, cheating, bigotry, and homophobia. If any of these triggers you, I recommend not reading this book.
The plotline for All Hallows was exciting but all over the place at first. Halloween has come to a Massachusetts town, Coventry. While kids are out trick or treating, the individual families are fracturing. Add to this, there are kids in the neighborhood who don’t belong. They are dressed in old-fashioned costumes and are begging people to let them in their houses. Why? They have escaped from a being called The Cunning Man and are running from it. But not all is what it seems, as the hours count to midnight and long-held secrets are uncovered. Who are these children? What do they want? Will The Cunning Man get them? Or is everything they told a lie? What horrors are in store for the families that took them in?
All Hallows has multiple main characters; writing a short blurb on each is impossible. So, I am not in this review. It would make this review go on forever; we all know people don’t like it.
The main characters in All Hallows were well-written and fleshed out. Each character brought a fresh perspective to what was happening in that neighborhood that night. I loved seeing the same events from different eyes.
As for the secondary characters, some of them felt a little flat. While they did provide some needed filler in the storylines, I couldn’t connect to some of them. And that made it impossible for me to care when certain things happened in the book (like Donny Sweeney’s semi-redemption arc).
All Hallows fit perfectly in the horror genre. The author did a great job of making me want to cover my eyes during parts of the book. This would have been a great book to release around Halloween because, well, the book is set on Halloween afternoon/night.
The storyline with The Cunning Man and the displaced kids was unique. The author did take me for a ride with that one. I was expecting one thing to happen, but a neat twist in the storyline had me shaking my head and saying, “No way.”
The storyline with the neighborhood relationships fracturing was, again, well written. The author didn’t do a massive deep dive into the people he featured during that night, but it was deep enough to know that this was beyond what neighbors act like, especially in 1984, when neighborhoods were tight. I was seven in 1984, and I remember my neighbors being like second parents. If we (my brothers and I) were outside playing, someone was always out with us. Like in the book, the neighbors treated Halloween like a party for the adults, and we kids would go around the neighborhood trick or treating, barely supervised. You can’t do that these days, which is sad.
The end of All Hallows was interesting. While the author resolved things, only some were, if you understand. There were a few storylines that I had questions on that were left up in the air. Also, there were no happy endings. People died and were hurt; the end was maybe three days later. Everyone involved was still processing what had happened. There might be a book two because of the last couple of scenes. I would love to see Vanessa, Chloe, and possibly Julia get revenge!!
I recommend All Hallows to anyone over 21. There is language, violence, and no sex (some light kissing). Also, see my trigger warnings.
I want to thank St. Martin’s Press, NetGalley, and Christopher Golden for allowing me to read and review All Hallows. All opinions stated in this review are mine.
The premise of The Adirondack Witch captured my interest immediately. That, and the fact that I grew up in the foothills of the Adirondacks, which meant I also heard my fair share of stories about what may be within the depths of the forest and mountains. So a story about a man who goes off to hike one of the peaks with his two best friends and then has encounters with the dark things that lurk in the shadows? Right up my alley!
It started out well with the protagonist, Hank, who had clearly been through some things recently. Readers are taken into the depths of his pain, and it’s easy to feel for him. The flashbacks into his past helped create a sympathetic characters. From the way it began, I expected a book with a slow burn, twists and turns, horror and fear, and a surprising ending.
But it didn’t play out that way. The story spent most of the time with Hank and his struggles than increasing the fear elements, so much that one of the “twists” was an easy and early guess for me. The bulk of it felt rather repetitive, similar scenes/conversations reframed in different ways. It wasn’t until roughly 200 pages into the novel that anything truly disturbing happened, and even then it was quite disjointed and confusing. To classify it as a horror novel feels a bit misleading, more of a psychological thriller.
Nor did the ending have the kind of payoff one expects in a horror novel. Little was explained, making it incredibly abrupt. There was a note from the author at the end, an explanation of the ending. It felt odd, that why’s of the ending needed to be laid out that way.
by Alyson Brown
Originally posted on my blog Nonstop Reader.
The Flower-Infused Cocktail is a bar book with recipes by Alyson Brown. Due out 1st Feb 2023 from Rowman & Littlefield on their Globe Pequot imprint, it's 188 pages and will be available in hardcover and ebook formats.
This is a beautifully illustrated and aesthetically appealing book of cocktail recipes all featuring edible flowers. The author is an experienced and knowledgeable herbalist and it's clear from her writing that she's genuinely enthusiastic about helping readers enjoy a "flower infused life".
The book is arranged logically and proceeds from basic info (necessary equipment and glassware), base infusions to build drinks around (including some adventurous choices such as artichoke and pineapple weed), bitters & tinctures, salt & sugar, cordials liqueurs shrubs & syrups, floral water & tea, garnishes, and mocktails (alcohol free).
Recipes are given with recipe ingredients in a bullet list, followed by step by step mixing instructions. Recipe ingredients are listed with imperial (American) measurements only. The book is beautifully illustrated with vibrant color photos and finished drinks which are well styled and appealing.
Five stars. Cocktails and special party drinks can be refined and so appealing. Adding flowers is an intriguing and appealing twist on traditional cocktails. This would be a good choice for public library acquisition and home use.
Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.
How was this book that good!?! Honestly, One Dark Window was exactly the kind of lighthearted girly romance fantasy I crave. It was full of magic, wonder, and utterly brilliant world-building.
While One Dark Window is marketed as adult fantasy, it reads very much like YA, but with some adult spicy romance and violence thrown in. It was the perfect blend of what I love about YA, and what I crave from my fantasy novels.
The cast of characters were all unique and quite well-developed, and the magic system was well thought-out and logical. While Elspeth, the protagonist, is a bit beige, and she makes some questionable choices, it didn't detract from the overall story.
The plot is nothing new, and it's pretty clear where the story will go in the next book (I'm calling it now: Elspeth will need to absorb all the cards to complete the deck, and the only thing that can save her is the fact that Ravyn's powers counteract the magic of the cards - but not before there's the obligatory love triangle with Elm), but it doesn't detract, because it's just fun to go along for the ride.
If you want a well-written YA fantasy romance with deep lore, and a compelling plot, then you can't do much better than One Dark Window. I'm counting down the days until I can get my hands on the next book in the series!