Review: Only a Monster by Vanessa Len


Title: Only a Monster
Author: Vanessa Len
Date of publication: 17 Feb 2022
Genre: Urban fantasy

Author's links:

My rating: 5 stars


In every story there is a hero and a monster.

It should have been the perfect summer. Sent to stay with her late mother's eccentric family in London, sixteen-year-old Joan is determined to enjoy herself. She loves her nerdy job at the historic Holland House, and when her super cute co-worker Nick asks her on a date, it feels like everything is falling into place.

Then a Good Samaritan attempt gone wrong sends Joan spinning through time, and her life quickly begins to unravel.
Her family aren't just eccentric: they're monsters, with terrifying, hidden powers.And Nick isn't just a cute boy: he's a legendary monster slayer, who will do anything to bring them down.

As she battles Nick, Joan is forced to work with the beautiful and ruthless Aaron Oliver, heir to a monster family that hates her own. She'll have to embrace her own monstrousness if she is to save herself, and her family. Because in this story . . .

. . . she is not the hero.


What an absolutely gorgeous book!

On the surface the story is similar to most YA (a girl discovers magical/monster world, goes on a quest, is thorn between two boys, finds her true self) but the author took the familiar tropes and twisted on its head making a truly original work.

This is dark, not bloody or gory but really dark and I was hesitant to pick it because of that (all the red and black on the US cover made think it might not be the book for me) but now I am so glad I trusted my friends who praised it highly and decided to read it.

It's a mesmerizing tale, not so much suspenseful as full of unexpectedness. I could neve predict what will happen next, yet when it did, it all felt natural, fitting to the story and the characters. Masterful writing and plotting, even more impressive considering it is a debut.

I loved the writing and the rich world building, London, where I have never been - modern and old, 90s fashion that I am all too familiar with.

Beside the great plot development, it is the characters that really stood out to me. Morally grey, complex, changing and growing. The story is effortlessly diverse, queer (so happy we got happy gays, and not bury the guys side plot).

Joan is amazing. The story is told from her POV and we really got to experience it all - her confusion, pain and hope and determination. What I loved most about her was her innocence, her naivete of sorts that made her never give up and always look for solutions, helped her see things outside the rules of the monster world.

Aaron and Nick were fantastic characters as well. So were all the side characters. It's one of those stories where readers feel the need to pick teams and I am team Aaron all the way. I understand Nick might be her soulmate and I have all the sympathy for him but Aaron completely won me over. We know less about him, we got only bits from his past and the trauma but he was someone who knew what the consequences would be and still did what he did for Joan. That is jus the ultimate love for me (in books at least).

It's a story about the nature of memories, the process of remembering and forgetting and this led to some powerful scenes that brought tears to my eyes. It's a fast paced adventure, there was no time to feel melancholic or contemplative while reading, I was in a hurry to see what would happen next. After I finished it though, I had all the time to think about my own memories. I love it when a book stays with me like that after I finish it

The story opens with a gentle start and then boom! magic and it's go, go, go from there till the very end. The rare moments of calms were so achingly tender, intimate, I will cherish them forever.

The story is self contained, yet full of possibilities. I have been discussing it with friends and enjoy seeing the different interpretation, details I missed and others saw and vice versa, theories of what might happen next.

In short, this book has been a glorious reading adventure and I highly recommend it to fans of YA Urban fantasy.

CW: murder, violence, blood, imprisonment, torture, brainwashing, death of parents of MCs (in the past)

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Beth O'Leary

Review: The No-Show by Beth O'Leary


Title: The No-Show
Author: Beth O'Leary 
Date of publication: 12 April 2022
Genre: Women's Fiction, UK setting 

Author's links:

My rating: 3 stars


Three women. Three dates. One missing man...

8.52. Siobhan's been looking forward to her breakfast date with Joseph. She was surprised when he suggested it - she normally sees him late at night in her hotel room. Breakfast with Joseph on Valentine's Day surely means something ... so where is he?

14.43. Miranda's hoping that a Valentine's Day lunch with Carter will be the perfect way to celebrate her new job. It's a fresh start and a sign that her grown-up life is finally falling into place: she's been dating Carter for five months now and things are getting serious. But why hasn't he shown up?

18.30. Joseph Carter agreed to be Jane's fake boyfriend at a colleague's engagement party. They've not known each other long but their friendship is fast becoming the brightest part of her new life in Winchester. Joseph promised to save Jane tonight. But he's not here...

Meet Joseph Carter. That is, if you can find him.

The No-Show is the brilliantly funny, heart-breaking and joyful new novel from Beth O'Leary about dating, and waiting, and the ways love can find us. An utterly extraordinary tearjerker of a book, this is O'Leary's most ambitious novel yet.


Prefacing this review to say that I read an eARC of the UK edition, so I went in expecting women's fiction and this is pretty much what I got. I will into more details about this towards the end of my review.

I will keep my review vague to avoid spoilers because this story relies on the unexpected and the reader needs to figure things for themselves as the story develops,.

This was a first for me by this author and I found it very readable with strong mystery/suspense element. It is masterfully written with an interesting choice of story-telling, keeping the reader questioning, guessing, trying to figure out what is happening. I liked the disjointed timeline, the unreliability of all the narrators kept me guessing and I was completely engrossed in the story.

I found all the characters to be very well drawn, with strong, distinctive voice, each of them on its own unique journey. Joseph, on the other hand, remained elusive till the final section of the book. It was done on purpose to keep the mystery but it also made it harder for me to relate to him.

I really, really liked the women's stories, different but also similar in their focus on love/family/professional success. They were touching stories about wanting, and loving, the curveballs life throws at us and the way we dodge or take them head on.

At the center of it all were the lies we tell - to others and to ourselves, the time we stay silent for our own sake or for others and ultimately gaining the strength to speak up.

After this praise, I have come to the point near the end that completely threw me off and I couldn't quite accept it. Spoilers ahead:

A main characters dies tragically and then the timelines come together to focus on the hero. I didn't see it coming and I wish the author made a different choice regarding this character. It was framed as necessary for the overall story to happen but deep down it felt wrong to me to kill a main character struggling with mental illness just when they were on the mend and seeing a path forward towards the future they wanted. I felt cheated, this death tainted the HEA for the other characters.

I still want to read more from this author, it is just that I had different expectations of this book based on the blurb.

Now, I want to discuss the marketing of this book. The US blurb describes it as "cute romcom" and I feel this disingenuous and misleading, even harmful to the romance readers. I didn't find the story funny beside a couple of jokes here and there but humour is subjective and I don't want to debate the comedy aspect. My issue is that this story despite being very emotional and moving, exploring different romantic relationships, is not a romance because there is no HEA for all MCs.

CW: mental breakdown, sexual predator, manipulation, side character with dementia, death of an MC

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Contemporary Romance

Review: Two Nights to Forever


Title: Two Nights to Forever (Orchard Hill #2)
Author: Rebecca Crowley
Date of publication: 11 April 2022 
Genre: Contemporary romance, Jewish romance

Author's links:

My rating: 4 stars


Time doesn’t heal all wounds, but love just might…

Eve Klein almost has it all: a thriving career, great friends, and adoptive parents who’ve supported her in everything—including her quest to find her birth mother. She’s hired a private investigator, and while she waits for the last piece of her history to make her whole, she focuses on the most exciting deal of her career—a controlling share in Keller and Sons, a luxury watchmaker.

To most people Keller watches are status symbols, but to Saul Keller they’re handcuffs. He thought his brother had everything under control, until a distress call from an employee forced him to leave Wall Street and move home to Orchard Hill, Missouri. A year on, he’s shifted from trying to save the family business to selling it—and finally setting himself free.

Eve is Saul’s most exciting—and alluring—professional adversary, and he’s exactly the type of high-flyer she’s sworn to stop falling for. But when she needs his help to prepare for a Passover seder with her birth mother, the lines between business and pleasure become perpetually blurred.


This is another cozy romance by an author whose books I generally enjoy and this one was very soothing for me to read in rough times.

This is contemporary romance with two Jewish MCs who are not very strict in practicing their religion but still observe the Jewish holidays and traditions in one form or another.

Eve is someone who longs to belong and to be loved (carrying the trauma of being given up for adoption at birth); Saul is struggling to find his place in the family business, feeling left out/unwanted. I loved seeing both MCs finding their footing, discovering who they are and what they want in life.

The focus in the story was very much on the internal struggle of fitting in, of being confident in your choices and I found it all very relatable. Both Eve and Saul were successful in their profession, had great loving families but still a sense of lack and loss and something missing.

There was strong chemistry between them right from the start but their professional relationship and current life goals made it nearly impossible to be together. The romance was passionate and tender with underlying strong friendship, understanding, admiration for the achievements of the other.

The story came off as a bit heteronormative and traditional with a focus on family. I wished we saw Eve's adoptive parents on page, not only hearing her praise for them. Focusing only on her relationship seeing her birth mother and her new family felt odd to me.

It's a happy making story, low conflict, offering an overly optimistic world view but I didn't mind it. I was happy with the accents in the business aspect - support of local community, women-led business, ethical business practices.

CW: adoption, difficult relationship with birth mother, bullying in school (in the past)

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Kate Spencer; New York; Romcom

Review: In a New York Minute by Kate Spencer


Title: In a New York Minute
Author: Kate Spencer
Date of publication: 15 March 2022
Genre / Themes: Romcom / New York setting / side f/f romance

Author's links: Website / Twitter / InstagramGoodreads

My rating: 5 Stars


Franny Doyle is having the worst day. She’s been laid off from her (admittedly mediocre) job, the subway doors ripped her favorite silk dress to ruins, and now she’s flashed her unmentionables to half of lower Manhattan. On the plus side, a dashing stranger came to her rescue with his (Gucci!) suit jacket. On the not-so-plus side, he can’t get away from her fast enough.

Worse yet? Someone posted their (entirely not) meet-cute online. Suddenly Franny and her knight-in-couture, Hayes Montgomery III, are the newest social media sensation, and all of New York is shipping #SubwayQTs.

Only Franny and Hayes couldn’t be a more disastrous match. She’s fanciful, talkative, and creative. He’s serious, shy, and all about numbers. Luckily, in a city of eight million people, they never have to meet again. Yet somehow, Hayes and Franny keep running into each other—and much to their surprise, they enjoy each other’s company. A lot. But when Franny’s whole world is turned upside down (again!), can she find the courage to trust in herself and finally have the life—and love—she’s always wanted?


This is such a delightful debut, a romcom that made me lough out loud from the start. This is a contemporary romance is set in New York, which I have never been to, the US in general, but it gave a very vivid sense of place which I love in romance. I absolutely loved the great female friendship we see in the book, all the messy characters, doing their best and making mistakes along the way. There is a also a lovely f/f side romance and no homophobia or any conflict along those lines.

The romance is a kind of grumpy / sunshine, my personal catnip when it comes to romance tropes. Hayes was an interesting character, not so much grumpy, rather buttoned up and closed off when it comes to expressing his feelings, somewhat bad with words. He appears cold on the surface but in fact he is quite emotional - introspective, carrying a lot of guilt over his divorce. He is not a charmer but he is also loyal and caring for his friends/family. He struggles with his attraction to heroine feeling he is not right for her, not wanting to take advantage of the circumstances of their meet-cute (Side note, their meet cute is totally ridiculous but I remember a vaguely similar story hitting the social media a year or two ago, speaking a heating debated over privacy, personal space, etc.).

There is a portion of the book where he tries dating another woman before admitting to himself it's heroine he wants. felt natural and real, there was nothing forced.

I loved Franny. She is determined but also insecure, she is fun and colourful. There are no easy choices for her both personally and professionally. She is not perfect, she makes some wrong decisions but open to changing and growing and making amends. Very much like Hayes I was drawn to her resilience, her sunshine nature, this light and kindness she carried in her.

I liked how it took Franny and Hayes a while to try a relationship, both being busy with professional stuff. She had even more on her plate with a complicated family and work situation. There was no magical getting together, everything else be damned and it felt very fitting to the story and the character.

There is a third-act break up which I was not a fan of but was OK with it in the end. It felt like an over-reaction on her part but then the time apart was good for both of them. It helped them settle some loose ends in their lives. Her apology was everything, I loved every bit of it. His love confession, on the other hand, was over-the-top and I am not sure it was exactly right for her. I think it could have been handled better.

This is a very vivid, dynamic story, with lots of love and laughter and some tears. I loved the friendship support, the families being messy and annoying but also being there, having your back always.

CW: deceased parent (missing, unknown), going viral on SM, heart attack, hospital stay

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Cathy Yardley

Review: Gouda Friends by Cathy Yardley


Title: Gouda Friends
(Ponto Beach Reunion #2)
Author: Cathy Yardley
Genre: Contemporary romance, friends to lover
Release date: 22 March 2022

Author Links: Website / Twitter / Facebook / Instagram


Tam Doan dumped her boyfriend after he threw away her gourmet cheese. Sure, it’s a little more complicated than that, but the point is, he had it coming. Newly single and unemployed, Tam calls up her best friend from high school and utters the emergency code word—goldfish. Next thing she knows, she’s on a plane back home.

Josh O’Malley was a troubled, unconfident teenager. Now he’s the successful owner of a multimillion-dollar ghost kitchen. Tam, his high school BFF and fellow member of the Nerd Herd friend group, was instrumental in building his self-esteem. When she calls him out of the blue, he jumps at the chance to return the favor.

Josh and Tam immediately get to work fixing her life—but again, it’s complicated. Their close friendship was always a lifeline between them; a blooming romance might confuse things. Still, at least one thing is for certain: their chemistry is un-brie-lievable.


I loved the first book in this series, Love, Comment, Subscribe, and I was excited to continue with the series set around a group of high school friends, 10 years after graduation.

This is such a lovely, comfy read. An enemies to lovers, starting from 'We shouldn't do this. It will mess up our friendship." going through "Ok, we do it only once to get it out our systems and then never talk about it again." to finally "You are the love of my life and want to be with you forever."

It was no smooth sailing for Josh and Tam but it was fun, with a touch of angst, and very satisfying in the end. We get to see more of their friends and I love all their interactions - the support, the casual joking, the serious talks about life goals and dreams, it was all amazing.

As usual, we meet a diverse cast and it feels natural and organic to the world of the MCs. Both Tam and Josh come from messed up families and the found family they build around themselves as adults is a thing of beauty.

My complaint has to do with the portrayal of the villains in the story. They were too stereotypical, cardboard figures of what the bad girl/guy should look like and act like. It was unnecessary, it didn't bring much to the story, it just felt like lazy, careless writing to me. Same goes for the constant negative talk about both Tam's and Josh' exes. There is no need to make them all sound like terrible people just to show how perfect Tam and Josh are for each other.

It is a minor thing in the overall story but it kept cropping up here and there and found it annoying and distracting.

On the plus side, like the previous book, here the MCs and the side characters felt really modern, involved in new professions - influencer, youtubers, social media managers, setting up ghost kitchen/delivery service. It was interesting to read, entertaining and I am definitely adding this series to my list of romances with uncommon/unusual professions. .

I would summarize this series as modern small town romance - a bit stereotypical, yet diverse, cosy and funny with awesome found family and friends.

CW: alcoholism (off page), messed up families, cheating, online smear campaign

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Review: A Match Made in Lipa


Title: A Match Made in Lipa 
Author: Carla de Guzman
Genre/Themes: Contemporary romance
Release Date: 8 March 2022

Author's links: Website / Twitter / Instagram

My rating: 4 Stars


What’s written in the stars isn’t always the whole story…

Chocolate maker and shop owner Kira Luz isn’t looking for love, but if fate leads her that way, so be it. When she randomly runs into her childhood crush, Santi, on vacation, it feels like the stars are trying to tell her something. Memories of their time growing up in Lipa—not to mention the steamy kiss they share when they reconnect—get her heart pounding. But she has to go back to Lipa while he’s headed for Manila, and long distance is kind of an issue.

Until he moves back home…and distance becomes the least of their problems.

Estranged hotel heir Anton "Santi" Santillan is left adrift when his grandfather abruptly cuts him out of the family business. But he finds his footing again running a small niche hotel back in Lipa. The downside of living in his old hometown: it’s no Manila, that’s for sure. The upside: seeing Kira again. Kira, who loves food as much as he does. Kira, who loves kissing as much as he does.

Kira, whose family owns the property—including her shop—his grandfather wants him to buy out from underneath them.

Mixing love and chocolate and family just might get messy. And sometimes messy is exactly what fate had in mind.


I am a long-time fan of the #romanceclass books and Carla de Guzman is one the authors whose work I consistently enjoy. This is the second book in the series, Sweet on You, was a true delight and this one, while standing on its own, brings on the same sense of joy and content for me.

This is a lovely childhood friends to lovers romance, a bit of grumpy / sunshine dynamic thrown in.

I loved both MCs, Kira with her explosiveness, matchmaking and obsession with astrology and Santi, all closed off and efficient problem-solver hiding so much hurt. I really, really liked his arc. Dealing with a difficult family, coming to accept that they can never love him and he has to sever ties with them. We knew it in his heart and Kira's family with all their messiness and meddling but at the same time with their unconditional love and support, helped him realise that a different life is possible for him.

Still, it was not easy decision to make, we see his hurt, sense of loss, the tentative attempts to maintain some relationship with his brother at least. Here I have to say something about the villains and how much I appreciate they felt real and not caricatures. Their motivations are clear, their actions make sense in their world. The author does not make excuses for them, Santi does not cave to their blackmail in any way or form=.

The romance was brilliant, some dark moments, but no unnecessary thrid-act break up. Instead they talked things through. Kira's love for Santi was a thing of beauty - tender and nurturing. And it made her heart full to be able to give that to him.

A central element in the story was also the sense of community (a connect element with book 1), building a sustainable business, supporting the local economy. It was all there, not in any preachy way but just natural, it all made sense.

So much care and kindness! And joy and delicious food. Making food and feeding other people is truly the love language in the story.

CW: parental neglect, family abuse/extortion

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Contemporary Romance

Review: Kamila Knows Best by Farah Heron


Title: Kamila Knows Best 
Author: Farah Heron
Date of publication: 8 March 2022
Genre / Themes: Contemporary Romance / Muslim MCs / Emma retelling 

Author's links: Website / Twitter / Goodreads

My rating: 3 Stars


Kamila Hussain’s life might not be perfect, but, whew, it’s close. She lives a life of comfort, filled with her elaborate Bollywood movie parties, a dog with more Instagram followers than most reality stars, a job she loves, and an endless array of friends who clearly need her help finding love. In fact, Kamila is so busy with her friends’ love lives, she’s hardly given any thought to her own . . .

Fortunately, Kamila has Rohan Nasser. A longtime friend of the family, he’s hugely successful, with the deliciously lean, firm body of a rock climber. Only lately, Kamila’s “harmless flirting” with Rohan is making her insides do a little bhangra dance.

But between planning the local shelter’s puppy prom, throwing a huge work event, and proving to everyone that she’s got it all figured out, Kamila isn’t letting herself get distracted—until her secret nemesis returns to town with an eye for Rohan. Suddenly, it seems like the more Kamila tries to plan, the more things are starting to unravel—and her perfectly ordered life is about to be turned upside down.


I love Farah Heron's writing voice and I have greatly enjoyed her previous books. This one did not work that well for and it's partly my fault for not paying attention that this is a contemporary Emma retelling. As I am not a fan of Emma (nor the book, neither the heroine), and this was very close to the original Emma story, I did not like it as much as I wanted to.

That said, if you are an Emma fan and love the Legally Blond movies, I am fairly certain you will enjoy this book much more than me.

On the plus side, this story had a lot of things I liked - great friendships, complicated families, Indian movies and food. I really liked that we get an older character (Kamila's dad) who deals with depression and anxiety. Mental illness is treated as the serious issue it is, no miracle cure, just persistence and constant effort to be better.

Kamila's friends were all awesome, the support and care that they had for each other was great to see,. At the same time, I felt Kamila went over the top, bending herself out of shape to please everyone around her. Her match-making was the thing I found most annoying. I liked how dedicated she was to her work, but also hated how she constantly played a role and hid her true self in order to make others happy. She was easy going and fun but also so certain of her being right all the time in everything she did, I hated it. The way she was so sure that she knew best how to care for her dad, how to treat Rohan, how to react to her nemesis, how to bring two people together. There was never a moment she questioned herself, never allowed the possibility that other people around her might be right and she might be wrong. She cared deeply for the people in her life but in a sort of controlling, tiring way.

I didn't get to know Rohan as well as Kamila. Her remained distant, a bit enigmatic. The focus was so much on her that he felt not so well developed as a character. The third act break up was all his fault but he was in a difficult situation and then he did his best to make up for it. In a way, I feel Kamila was hiding so much of herself from everyone that they just made the wrong assumptions about her.

The story started slow and then the ending was really busy. I enjoyed the final third though there was still a moment there where I wanted to slap Kamila, she acted so irrationally, I couldn't believe it. It seemed she hadn't changed or learned anything from her mistakes.

Overall, this contemporary Emma retelling is too close to the original and as such not my favourite. Sill, the writing is solid, the cast is fantastic, I am just not the right reader for this.

CW: child abuse (in the past), mental health issues, hospital stay (side character)

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