Tag Archives: romance

ARC: Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett

Thank you to NetGalley and Simon Pulse/Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing for sending me a free advanced reader copy of this book for an honest review. Serious Moonlight debuts April 16th.

You know when you see a perfect cover, and you think to yourself, well, the book can’t possibly live up to THAT, could it? They’re compensating for something, right? Well, banish those fears—Serious Moonlight is a cozy contemporary that pairs an adorable romance with memorable characters and a Pacific Northwest setting. In my opinion, this book is exactly what new adult should be: kids post-high school taking their first steps into “adulting,” with sex present, but not in an erotic way. It has a YA contemporary voice, but the MCs are just a tad bit older. I also truly appreciated how Bennett placed her characters in a non-school setting. I’ve heard so many calls from people in publishing asking for manuscripts featuring MCs navigating college, and I’m just… not really interested in that?

The pitch is that the MC, Birdie, hooked up with a cute guy in his car, then totally freaked out and literally ran away from him. She’s doing her best to forget all this… but then said cute guy, Daniel, happens to work at her new job. Gotta be fate, right? But both Birdie and Daniel are going to have to work through a lot of things before they can get their happily ever after. Oh, and there’s a “mystery” in the book as well… I use quotes here because the mystery aspect really isn’t that big of a focus; we’re all just here for the developing romance between Birdie and Daniel. It’s cute, they’re cute, the setting’s cute, everything’s cute, cute, cute! Love it.

All this isn’t to say that the book is perfect. Daniel is a bit too much of a “nice guy” for my taste; he treats Birdie like gold at every opportunity, giving her all possible outs from their relationship. That didn’t come across as caring to me so much as unsexy; I was hoping he’d grow a spine. But Daniel did grow on me in time, especially as he plans one awesome date after the next. The one with a Clue focus? (Trying not to give anything away.) I was Googling if anything like that existed in my area. (Unfortunately looks like I’d have to travel to Boston, so… meh.) There was also some cringey, wooden dialogue—I could have done without the “skedaddling” scene. But these are just small quibbles; the setting, the characters, the “found family” aspect, the pitch-perfect new adult feel all added up to a thoroughly enjoyable read, so I will definitely be checking out Bennett’s other books.

Tell Me Everything by Sarah Enni

I’ve been a loyal listener of Sarah Enni’s First Draft podcast since 2014, so I was psyched to pick up a copy of her debut novel. Tell Me Everything follows Ivy, a sophomore photography nerd who’s been struggling with growing distance between her and her BFF Harold. To take her mind off her absent, over-scheduled friend, Ivy becomes engrossed with the new app VEIL, which allows users to view Instagram-style anonymous pictures local to a five-mile radius. The book follows Ivy as she attempts to uncover the secrets of the students at her school posting on VEIL.

It’s a cute, short book that I read in less than twenty-four hours. I really enjoyed the local art scene focus, and I feel that there’s a missed opportunity here for the book to include some photographs and illustrations to color the narrative, like in a Ransom Riggs book. Yet the book isn’t without its flaws; it felt plotless for a good portion of the book, like we were being treated to individual scenes that made up some sort of abstract whole. The voice, too, is a bit younger than I usually read. (More a preference thing than an actual detractor.) You know how a lot of readers (rightly) complain that a good portion of YA isn’t really YA anymore, but really just New Adult, repackaged with “eighteen-year-olds” and pretty YA covers? This isn’t that; it reads young, and Enni was clearly purposeful in the decision to make Ivy and Harold sophomores instead of upperclassmen.

I’ll admit that the tone of the book was a bit off to me. There is a lot of quirk for quirk’s sake, almost reminiscent of Katy t3h PeNgU1n oF d00m. That combined with an especially cringy (cringey?) scene between Ivy and Harold that read like progressive buzzword mad libs had me not exactly racing for the end of the book, but still edging toward eager-to-be-done territory.

***SPOILER INCOMING***

I did also feel like some questions briefly raised throughout the book weren’t explored deeply enough. In this book, online anonymity and an unmoderated user base butt heads with “safe spaces” and helicopter parents. There is a kind of resolution to this conflict in terms of the VEIL app, but not a satisfying one in my opinion, and what resolution Enni offers us doesn’t do much to address the very real debates that society is currently having about social media platforms. VEIL is deleted in the end, but let’s face it, Mark Zuckerberg isn’t about to delete Facebook, nor Jack Dorsey Twitter, so what exact lesson are we supposed to take from Tell Me Everything into the real world?

So some good, some bad. Tell Me Everything was a pleasant, quick read for a Sunday afternoon, but I wouldn’t highly recommend it for older YA readers, though a younger, less picky crowd might have some fun here.


Just a real quick reminder that Chapter Four of The Gold in the Dark will be posting this Sunday at 11 AM EST! All right, that’s all, folks. ❤

My One and Only Duke by Grace Burrowes

I thought it wasn’t possible. I thought it was simply not meant to be.

But lo and behold, despite the fact that it’s February in Connecticut and we just suffered a snowstorm, in my heart doves are cooing, angels are singing, and double rainbows wreathe the sky.

Yes, as is only fitting for my Valentine’s Day post, I am happy to report that love is finally in the air—I have found a good romance novel. Let’s give credit where it’s due; Grace Burrowes was suggested to me by my mom and sister, and they have good taste. They knew exactly what I was talking about when I moaned that all the romance I’d ever tried was crap and that the writing quality got in the way of the falling-in-love bits.

And I promise, I will still read the stupid Phillips book, and I’ll even do my damnedest to do so with an open mind. But for now… in the present moment… let’s forget about that and focus on Grace Burrowes instead.

She can write! The dialogue is excellent, the characters interesting and natural-feeling. There was no jarring head-hopping, nor any stray details that vaulted me out of the nineteenth-century London setting. The narrative voice felt perfectly suited to the story; I frequently found myself looking up words in the dictionary, since hello, nineteenth-century London, but I didn’t have to do this to a ridiculous degree—and you know, I like looking up these older words that have fallen out of favor! Learning is cool, and so are immersive books in a historical setting that’s written just. perfect.

And the story was exciting. The basic premise is that Jane, widowed and pregnant, and Quinn, slated to die by hanging, find their fortunes turning on a dime when it’s discovered that Quinn is the long-lost heir to a ducal title. I don’t want to give anything else away, but the opening first act was like watching someone tie a ribbon into a perfect, beautiful bow. Everything came together as it should, Burrowes delaying the reader’s reward until the last possible moment. You can just tell that you’re in the hands of an author who won’t let you down.

So now I feel like I’ve at last kind of joined the romance community, like a chick hammering its first chunk of the eggshell away. I’ve added I don’t know how many romances to my TBR in the last few days, all of them tangentially related to Burrowes. (Thanks, Goodreads!) Who’s next? Eloisa James? Meredith Duran? Mary Balogh? I feel like a kid in a candy shop.

Love, at last! Hurrah! ❤

An Unexpected Romance: Recommendations for Genre Fiction Fans Who Don’t Read Romance

If you’ve been around KJG Incorporated for a while, you might know that I have some struggles with the romance genre. Full disclosure: my honest, perhaps controversial opinion is that romance is most satisfying as a book sub-plot, rather than as the primary focus.

But this doesn’t mean I hate the romance genre!!! In fact, I’m eager for my aforementioned opinion to be proven wrong, which is why I’ve made it my mission this year to dive deeper into the romance genre as a whole and do my best to discover some authors whom I really connect with. I want this, truly I do, and I’ll probably have a post going up this Thursday that may surprise you! (And me!)

So in honor of fast-approaching Valentine’s Day, I offer you my top suggestions for fans of genre fiction who don’t read romance. All of these are five-star books for me, and each one is completely different from the others.


Sirena by Donna Jo Napoli

This 210-page book is perfect for anyone looking for a quick, moving read with a Greek mythology focus. It’s YA, but YA from before Twilight exploded the scene. If you’re looking for a book with a small cast and intimate atmosphere, you should definitely pick up a copy.

Plus there are beautiful mermaids. Need I say more?


Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters

If you want a master class in character voice and slow burn, read this book. First published in 1975, Crocodile on the Sandbank sparked Peters’s cozy Egyptology mystery empire. It reads as an older book, but a hilarious older book. Amelia and Emerson are two of the greatest characters I have ever read, and, and, and… It’s just the best. Get it. Read it. The End.



Green Rider series by Kristen Britain

Is it too mean to include the Green Rider series in this post? It’s been a long while since I read the first book, but if memory serves correct, then heed this warning: I believe there’s hardly any hint of the true romantic pairing in the first book. If you want the slowest of burns (and I’m talking thousands of pages), then read this series.

But it’s worth it. I have never cared so much about two people ending up together so much as the MC Karigan and her beau. (Trying to avoid spoilers here.) Twilight got nothing on this. But again, it takes forever for any real pay-off, so… Yeah. You’ve been warned.

Sunshine by Robin McKinley

Consider this a last-minute addition to the list. Sunshine is not so much romantic as sexy, but I do think it deserves to be here.

First up, you gotta like vampires. If you are a fan of paranormal romance, urban fantasy, and hilarious stream-of-consciousness 1st POV, then this is one for you. Perfect atmosphere, excellent world-building… If any of this is calling you, buy this right stat now.




So those are my unconventional Valentine’s Day picks. I’d love to hear your own unexpected romance recommendations. Slow-burn Western? Sweet and tender sci-fi? Feel free to leave a comment down below with your own romance picks.

The Queen’s Wing by Jessica Thorne

You know when you read a fantastic first chapter and you get that sinking feeling? That the rest of the book can’t possibly keep this up type of feeling? The Queen’s Wing keeps the momentum going. By the last few chapters, I was stopping every couple of pages to shake my head at my husband and mutter, “How is she doing this? This is just so good.”

He called me jealous. I’m just happy to have discovered a new favorite author.

I’ve seen some comparisons online between The Queen’s Wing and Sarah J. Maas. I actually don’t think that comparison is apropos. I’d pitch this as science-fantasy à la Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series, with voice and pacing similarities to Uprooted by Naomi Novik. Don’t let the cover fool you; this book doesn’t read as over-the-top, fluffy YA. It is NOT The Selection. Sure, there’s a princess and a love triangle, but the MC has such a deep sense of duty and self-awareness that this really should be classed in that mystical “new adult” realm that never really materialized in the way we thought it would.

And the romance is perfect. If you want a love triangle done right, this is it. You won’t end up hating the MC for being a selfish asshole, and nothing feels forced.

Plus there are loads of crazy plot twists and surprises—surprises that actually surprise you. So many books like this are predictable; this one is not. Yet none of the plot twists broke my immersion.

Once again: it’s perfect. Read it. I’d be shocked if this isn’t a top book of the year for me. And by the way, Thorne is coming out with a sequel in a couple weeks, and she also writes under the names R. F. Long and Ruth Frances Long, so there’s a back list for fans of The Queen’s Wing to catch up on. Thanks to Lauregalie for turning me on to this book, and happy almost weekend, everybody!