2022 Book #31 – The Minotaur Sampler by Various authors

Title: The Minotaur Sampler
Author: Various authors (is the start of 8 books)
Date finished: 7/7/22
Genre: Thriller, suspense
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: March 8, 2022
Pages in book: 291
Stand alone or series: Stand alone sampler – some of the individual books within the sampler may be parts of series though. And I guess it is the 5th Minotaur sampler
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Looking for a new book that will make your heart race? The fifth edition of The Minotaur Sampler compiles the beginnings of eight can’t-miss novels–either standalone or first in series–publishing Spring/Summer 2022 for free for easy sampling.

Standalone: A gripping debut domestic suspense novel, Nora Murphy’s The Favor explores with compassion and depth what can happen when women pushed to the limit take matters into their own hands.

Standalone: Four friends head into the Icelandic highlands in the middle of winter. The first day they get caught in an unexpected snowstorm, and end up in an abandoned hunting lodge. Outside is a chilling new standalone thriller from Ragnar Jonasson.

First in Series: Katharine Schellman’s captivating Jazz age mystery series debut, Last Call at the Nightingale, beckons readers into a darkly glamorous speakeasy where music, liquor, and secrets flow.

First in Series: James Byrne’s The Gatekeeper introduces Dez Limerick – “a welcome blast of freshness”* and “the most exciting new character I’ve read in years”** — in the most anticipated new thriller in years.

First in Series: A Rip Through Time mixes romance, mystery, and fantasy with thrilling results. In this series debut from New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong, a modern-day homicide detective finds herself in Victorian Scotland—in an unfamiliar body—with a killer on the loose.

Standalone: The Things We Do in the Dark is the brilliant new thriller from Jennifer Hillier, the award-winning author of the breakout novels Little Secrets and Jar of Hearts – The secrets of the past come back around when a woman, long believed dead, turns up alive.

First in Series: Mark Pryor’s Die Around Sundown is the first entry in an exciting new mystery series set in World War II era Paris, where a detective is forced to solve a murder while protecting his own secrets.

Standalone: From Sandie Jones, the New York Times bestselling author of the Reese’s Book Club pick The Other Woman, comes a gripping new domestic suspense novel. In The Blame Game, a psychologist working with victims of domestic abuse suddenly finds she may be being targeted herself: She knows she’s telling the truth. But the evidence says she’s lying.

My rating:  4.25 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I really like getting to read samplers because you get to kind of “try on” a bunch of different books to see if you like them before you have to commit to reading and reviewing the whole book. Some of the books in this collection I wouldn’t have requested anyways because they weren’t appealing to me personally but it was still interesting to read the first few chapters of them – except for a couple of them I really just didn’t like. The ones I did really like though were the first two – The Favor by Nora Murphy and Outside by Ragnar Jonasson. I was thinking I might request one or both of those to read and review or maybe suggest one of them for my book club. There was another one too that I really thought was an interesting book – A Rip Through Time by Kelley Armstrong – I’m just not sure if it’ll resolve itself in a way that I will enjoy. Overall a lot of the books in this sampler were very interesting though and I liked the sampler overall!

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2022 Book #30 – Starry-Eyed Love by Helena Hunting

Title: Starry-Eyed Love
Author: Helena Hunting
Date finished: 7/1/22
Genre: Contemporary romance
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication Date: May 10, 2022
Pages in book: 344
Stand alone or series: #2 in the Spark House series
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Having just broken up with her boyfriend, London Spark is not in the mood to be hit on. Especially not when she’s out celebrating her single status with her sisters. So when a very attractive man pays for their drinks and then slips her his number, she passes it right back to him with a ‘thanks, but no thanks’. As the business administrator for their family’s event hotel, the Spark House, London has more important things to worry about, like bringing in new clientele.

As luck would have it, a multi-million-dollar company calls a few months later asking for a meeting to discuss a potential partnership, and London is eager to prove to her sisters, and herself, that she can land this deal. Just when she thinks she has nailed her presentation, the company’s CEO, Jackson Holt, walks in and inserts himself into the meeting. Not only that, but he also happens to be the same guy she turned down at the bar a few months ago.

As they begin to spend more time together, their working relationship blossoms into something more. It isn’t until their professional entanglements are finally over, that London and Jackson are finally ready to take the next step in their relationship. But between Jackson’s secretive past and London’s struggle with her sisters, London must question where she really stands – not just with Jackson, but with the Spark House, too.

My rating:  2.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I have really enjoyed some of Helena Hunting’s books in the past – specifically some of her books in the Pucked series I thought were really good. And I had read the first book in the Sparks House series so I thought I’d try this one too. I have to be honest though, this book just wasn’t for me. It was a perfectly lovely book and I’m sure many people would really enjoy it. But I found Jackson to be way way too much. I think the shut off point for me was when he arranges a surprise trip to New York (for a woman who doesn’t like surprises) and then doesn’t tell her that dinner is with a hugely successful hotel colleague because he didn’t want her to “overthink it” ahead of time. I’m sorry but no. If that were me I honestly would’ve walked away from him after that dinner, that would’ve been inexcusable for me. London felt like a bit of a doormat to me in parts of this book too – it was just hard for me to get through. It was very sweet and very rich man sweeps in and saves the poor overworked little lady so if that’s your deal then I’d definitely recommend this one.

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2022 Book #28 – Wicked Beauty by Katee Robert

Title: Wicked Beauty
Author: Katee Robert
Date finished: 6/19/22
Genre: Erotic romance
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Publication Date: June 7, 2022
Pages in book: 402
Stand alone or series: #3 in the Dark Olympus series
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

She was the face that launched a thousand ships, the fierce beauty at the heart of Olympus…and she was never ours to claim.

*A scorchingly hot modern retelling of Helen of Troy, Achilles, and Patroclus that’s as sinful as it is sweet.*

In Olympus, you either have the power to rule…or you are ruled. Achilles Kallis may have been born with nothing, but as a child he vowed he would claw his way into the poisonous city’s inner circle. Now that a coveted role has opened to anyone with the strength to claim it, he and his partner, Patroclus Fotos, plan to compete and double their odds of winning.

Neither expect infamous beauty Helen Kasios to be part of the prize…or for the complicated fire that burns the moment she looks their way.

Zeus may have decided Helen is his to give to away, but she has her own plans. She enters into the competition as a middle finger to the meddling Thirteen rulers, effectively vying for her own hand in marriage. Unfortunately, there are those who would rather see her dead than lead the city. The only people she can trust are the ones she can’t keep her hands off—Achilles and Patroclus. But can she really believe they have her best interests at heart when every stolen kiss is a battlefield?

My rating:  4.25 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I had read the other two books in this series so far, all were categorized as erotic romance but this one that I thought really fit the bill with that category. This book was definitely steamy – there were lots of classic romance tropes too that were really well executed (forced proximity, both enemies and friends to lovers, bodyguard romance, etc.). This book was also really interesting for me because I honestly couldn’t figure out as I was reading the book how the author would have everything work out in the end. It seemed impossible that we’d be able to find a happy ending but it did happen and it was great. This book was a masterfully well done romance novel and I really enjoyed reading it.

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2022 Status Update – March through June

Last time I posted a status update was for February. Work was pretty crazy after this and between that, my son having surgery in April, and just generally not getting as much reading done and not having as many updates – I decided to do these updates more on a quarterly basis than monthly. I have been getting more reading this past month but still not where I might normally be. My family and work have been taking a precedence over reading – plus I have been watching a couple new shows. For anyone that hasn’t watched Ted Lasso – I highly recommend it, it is so wholesome! Anyways, here is my reading progress for the last couple months.

Reading Stats:
# books read this update: 19
# pages read this update: 6,144
# books read year-to-date: 28
# pages read year-to-date: 9,251

Other Posts this post:

No other posts

Favorite books from this post:

Fix Her Up and Tools of Engagement – both by Tessa Bailey

Upcoming TBR List:

  • Catch up on books I missed in the last couple months
  • The Hookup Plan by Farrah Rochon (8/2)
  • Something in the Heir by Suzanna Enoch (9/20)
  • A Merry Little Meet Cute by Sierra Simone and Julie Murphy (9/20)

I have a vacation coming up next month (August) that will be very reading focused, which I’m looking forward to. Work will take up a lot of my time until then but I’m trying to find a balance! Hope everyone out there is enjoying the summer so far and has been finding something good to read. Happy reading!

2022 Monthly Status Update: February


February went by in a flash. Its been so busy at work and, with this being my first busy season with a baby at home, I’ve been struggling to get everything done. Suffice it to say I haven’t been reading as much as I might have at this time last year but I’m hoping to read more once busy season is over. But here is my reading progress for February:

Monthly Stats:
# books read this month: 3
# pages read this month: 1,361
# books read year-to-date: 9
# pages read year-to-date: 3,107

Other Posts this month:

No other posts this month

Favorite books from this month:

Nothing I’d call amazing from this month

Next Month TBR List:

  • Nothing on the March reading list – have to catch up on ones I missed in January and February and then I need to read the next Bridgerton book before the new series comes out!

I am hoping to still be able to find time for reading more this next month even as I continue to work a lot. Happy reading!

2022 Book #7 – How to Love Your Neighbor by Sophie Sullivan

Title: How to Love Your Neighbor
Author: Sophie Sullivan
Date finished: 2/4/22
Genre: Contemporary romance
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication Date: January 18, 2022
Pages in book: 345
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Enemies-to-lovers meets HGTV in this frothy, effervescent romantic comedy from Sophie Sullivan, author of Ten Rules for Faking It.

Interior Design School? Check. Cute house to fix up? Check.

Sexy, grumpy neighbor who is going to get in the way of your plans? Check. Unfortunately.

Grace Travis has it all figured out. In between finishing school and working a million odd jobs, she’ll get her degree and her dream job. Most importantly, she’ll have a place to belong, something her harsh mother could never make. When an opportunity to fix up—and live in—a little house on the beach comes along, Grace is all in. Until her biggest roadblock moves in next door.

Noah Jansen knows how to make a deal. As a real estate developer, he knows when he’s found something special. Something he could even call home. Provided he can expand by taking over the house next door–the house with the combative and beautiful woman living in it.

With the rules for being neighborly going out the window, Grace and Noah are in an all-out feud. But sometimes, your nemesis can show you that home is always where the heart is.

My rating:  2.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I was really interested in the description of this book – I’m a fan of the enemies to lovers trope so I was excited to give this one a read. This book ended up just not being for me though. I’m sure that many other people will (and do!) love this book I just can’t say I was one of them. The hero was an ass right from the start and I never really felt like he ever turned into a likeable character for me. And the heroine was just not someone I could connect with either – it’s hard for me to really pinpoint exactly why, but I never enjoyed her character. So while the concept was promising and there was a decent plot involved, this book just didn’t end up working for me. I would still recommend giving it a try – there are a lot of people who did enjoy the book so there’s something redeemable in there I’m sure!

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2022 Monthly Status Update: January


And so we begin another new year! 2022 is already a headache for me – January itself was busy as I try to get used to working a lot of hours with a baby at home. And to close out 2022 everyone in the house has come down with COVID. Being sick during busy season is always tough for me and I’m struggling to get my hours back up to where they need to be. All that to say – January wasn’t my most stellar of reading months! But here is my reading progress for January:

Monthly Stats:
# books read this month: 6
# pages read this month: 1,746
# books read year-to-date: 6
# pages read year-to-date: 1,746

Other Posts this month:

Love at First Spite BLOG TOUR!!

Favorite books from this month:

Nothing I’d call amazing from this month

Next Month TBR List:

  • The Best Kept Secret by Tawna Fenske
  • Hook, Line and Sinker by Tessa Bailey (VERY EXCITED)

I am hoping to still be able to find time for reading during the next couple months even though I’ll be in the trenches of busy season. Even if I only am able to eke out small amounts of time for reading I’m looking forward to some great reads this month! Happy reading!

2022 Book #5 – Electric Idol by Katee Robert

Title: Electric Idol
Author: Katee Robert
Date finished: 1/20/22
Genre: Contemporary romance, erotic romance
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Publication Date: January 18, 2022
Pages in book: 350
Stand alone or series: Dark Olympus series #2
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

He was the most beautiful man in Olympus.
And if I wasn’t careful, he was going to be my death.

*A scorchingly hot modern retelling of Psyche and Eros that’s as sinful as it is sweet.*

In the ultra-modern city of Olympus, there’s always a price to pay. Psyche Dimitriou knew she’d have to face Aphrodite’s jealous rage eventually, but she never expected her literal heart to be at stake…or for Aphrodite’s gorgeous son to be the one ordered to strike the killing blow.

Eros has no problem shedding blood. Raised to be his mother’s knife in the dark, he’s been conditioned to accept that he’s more monster than man. But when it comes time to take out his latest target…he can’t do it. Confused by his reaction to Psyche’s unexpected kindness, he does the only thing he can think of to keep her safe: he binds her to him, body and soul.

Psyche didn’t expect to find herself married to the glittering city’s most dangerous killer, but something about Eros wakens a fire inside her she’s never felt before. As lines blur and loyalties shift, Psyche realizes Eros might take her heart after all…and she’s not sure she can survive the loss.

My rating:  4.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I read the first book in the Dark Olympus series and enjoyed it so I decided to try the next book in the series too. This was an interesting read – it was definitely steamy but I wouldn’t say that I’d classify it in erotic romance. It just felt like a really steam contemporary romance to me. I love that the characters in this series are all based on characters from mythology and that it loosely follows along with some of the old stories while bringing a modern spin to it. The dichotomy between old and new is so engaging. This book was especially intriguing to me as there were echoes of traditional fairy tale stories as well – Aphrodite telling Eros to “bring me her heart” like in Snow White and also Beauty and the Beast is even referenced in the book. This book also spoke to a narrative around body positivity in a number of places and I loved it. I especially loved that when we’re getting Eros’ point of view he never had thoughts that were like “oh well she’s chubby but I like chubby” – his thoughts were just straight about how beautiful Psyche was with no qualifiers. I thought this was a great book and I’d definitely recommend it.

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2022 Book #3 – Made in Manhattan by Lauren Layne

Title: Made in Manhattan
Author: Lauren Layne
Date finished: 1/14/22
Genre: Contemporary romance
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: January 18, 2022
Pages in book: 297
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: Edelweiss
NOTE: I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

From the New York Times bestselling author of the Central Park Pact comes a reverse My Fair Lady for the modern era about a pampered and privileged Manhattan socialite who must teach an unpolished and denim-loving nobody from the Louisiana Bayou how to fit in with the upper crust of New York City. Perfect for fans of Christina Lauren and Sally Thorne.

Violet Townsend has always been a people pleaser. Raised in the privileged world of Upper East Side Manhattan, she always says the right things, wears the right clothes, and never rocks the boat. Violet would do anything for the people closest to her, especially her beloved grandmother. So when she asks Violet to teach the newly-discovered grandson of her friend how to fit in with New York City’s elite, Violet immediately agrees. Her goal? To get Cain Stone ready to take his place as heir to his family company…but to say he’s not exactly an eager student is an understatement.

Born and raised in rural Louisiana and now making his own way in New Orleans, Cain Stone is only playing along for the paycheck at the end. He has no use for the grandmother he didn’t know existed and no patience for the uppity Violet’s attempts to turn him into a suit-wearing, museum-attending gentleman.

But somewhere amidst antagonistic dinner parties and tortured tux fittings, Cain and Violet come to a begrudging understanding—and the uptight Violet realizes she’s not the only one doing the teaching. As she and Cain begin to find mutual respect for one another (and maybe even something more), Violet learns that blindly following society’s rules doesn’t lead to happiness…and that sometimes the best things in life come from the most unexpected places.

My rating: 2.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I have read other books by this author in the past and have enjoyed them. And I was interested by the premise of this story also. I can’t say that I ended up loving it though. It just didn’t end up working for me personally – though it was a good book and was well written. I personally didn’t care for Cain – he was too surly for my tastes and was downright mean to Violet at times. And we went through the whole thing of “well if he is mean to you it means he actually likes you” and I just can’t get on board with that anymore. And I know Violet’s personal journey was important but I didn’t like the personal “transformations” that either she or Cain went through. It was still a cute story and there was some pretty good banter. I just didn’t end up loving it. I think it’s still worth a read but this one just didn’t work for me personally.

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

Love at First Spite BLOG TOUR!!


Love at First Spite was released last week, January 4th, and to celebrate I am participating in a Blog Tour for the book! I recently read this novel and I enjoyed it! You can see my review of the book here. See below for more information about the book, a short author bio, and an excerpt: 


In this delightful, breezy romcom, interior designer Dani decides to get revenge on her cheating ex the only way she knows how: by building a spite house next door.

They say living well is the best revenge. But sometimes, spreading the misery seems a whole lot more satisfying. That’s interior designer Dani Porter’s justification for buying the vacant lot next to her ex-fiancé’s house…the house they were supposed to live in together, before he cheated on her with their realtor. Dani plans to build a vacation rental that will a) mess with his view and his peace of mind and b) prove that Dani is not someone to be stepped on. Welcome to project Spite House.

That plan quickly becomes complicated when Dani is forced to team up with Wyatt Montego, the handsome, haughty architect at her firm, and the only person available to draw up blueprints. Wyatt is terse and stern, the kind of man who eats his sandwich with a knife and fork. But as they spend time together on- and off-site, Dani glimpses something deeper beneath that hard veneer, something surprising, vulnerable, and real. And the closer she gets to her goal, the more she wonders if winning revenge could mean losing something infinitely sweeter…


Anna E. Collins by Lori BurkmanAnna E. Collins is a Seattle-area author who writes stories about the lives and loves of women. Once upon a time she was a teacher, and she has a master’s degree in educational psychology. LOVE AT FIRST SPITE is her first novel.



Love at First Spite coverChapter 1

My white dress trails me as we make our way across the small clearing to where the others are waiting. The heavy fabric rustles against the ground, a few leaves catching in the hem, but I ignore them, concentrating instead on what’s ahead. All eyes are on me.

“Are you sure?” my cousin Mia asks at my elbow. My partner in crime.

I glance her way. I’m nervous, but I don’t want to be, and the simmering excitement in her expression reassures me. This is the right choice.

“Hundred percent,” I say.

She smiles and squeezes my hand. “You’ll rock this, I know it.” She lets go and steps away to assume her position with a wink. “See you on the other side.”

Then it begins.

I take off at a sprint. The paintball arena is at least a football field in size and strewn with steel drums, crates, and sandbags. A few larger structures in the middle resemble a small-scale Old West town complete with porches and a saloon sign. The guys Mia and I’ve been teamed up with run that way, while she and I head for the trees along the sides. The large pines tower stoically above the fray, and I choose one of the largest trunks for my first cover.

“Did everyone else go the other way?” I call out to Mia but get no response. Wasn’t she behind me?

I peer around the trunk only to catch the whisp of her braid beneath her helmet as she dives for shelter by a tree trunk twenty yards in front of me.

“Don’t be a baby, Porter,” I chastise myself, before following her. It’s a thirty-minute game of most-hits-win, so she’s got the right idea: it’s go time.

As fast as my skirts allow, I jog in the direction of the rapid pops and ka-splats of active battle, paintball gun at the ready. The staff told me I’d be at a disadvantage playing in my wedding dress, and they had a good point. But then again, I didn’t come here expecting to leave in virginal white.

I barely get my finger on the trigger before two shots in succession hit me squarely in the chest, and a green stain blooms before me. It hurts less than I anticipated, but I still freeze too long and another round easily finds my shoulder. Blue paint drips off the white lace of my sleeve.

Oh yeah? That’s how it’s going to be?

Something akin to glee bubbles up my chest and I let out a loud cackle. All righty, then. Shouldering my gun, I aim at the culprit—some kid a full foot shorter than me— and one, two, three splotches of paint hit his belly.

“Yeah!” I shout, as he hightails off. Adrenaline pumps through my arms.

“Dani, over here!” Mia runs sideways behind me from the cover of a fake building to a stack of boxes. “I’ll shield you.”

Yeah right. She already looks like she’s wrestled with a rainbow.

I consider darting the opposite way, to a smattering of hay bales, but Mia sounds increasingly desperate. I hike up my skirts and do my best to make myself small before jumping to safety next to her.

Back up against the boxes, I peek around the corner. “Two of them,” I say, still breathing hard. “On my mark.” I count down with my fingers and, on three, we spring out, guns leveled at opponents who don’t see us coming. I’m a vengeful angel, gliding through the sky—at least that’s what I picture until my toe catches the hem of my dress and I stumble forward into a mouthful of dirty straw.

“Take that!” Mia shouts from a distance, accompanied by a fresh round of shots volleying through the air.

“What the fuck?” a deep voice yells out.

Another voice: “We’re on the same fucking team.”

I lift my face off the ground. Mia is backing up toward me, pursued by our imagined foe who’s indeed wearing the same beat-up Timberlands I spotted on our teammates earlier.

It’s fair to say they’re about as excited to be paired with us as my taste buds are about the straw. I spit out the horse fodder and push myself up.

“We should have never teamed up with them,” the first guy complains. “That one wants to get hit, and this one…” He gestures at Mia.

She exhales as if he’s punched her.

“What?” I say, moving to stand between him and my cousin. “This one, what?”

“Dude, come on,” the second guy says. “Let’s just play.”

“Well she’s not exactly agile, is she?” guy number one sneers.

“Ha, that’s funny.” I bob my head a few times and train my gun on him. “What do you think, Mia?”

She appears at my side. “I think someone’s about to get pummeled.”

His eyebrows jerk behind his protective goggles, but that’s all he manages before we shoot.

And shoot again.

Who needs a team? The sight of them running away is totally worth losing for.

Excerpted from Love at First Spite by Anna E. Collins, Copyright © 2022 by Anna E. Collins. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.