Review: Knockemout Series (1 &2) by Lucy Score

I started reading the Knockemout series by Lucy Score and I’m obsessed! Below are reviews for Things We Never Got Over and Things We Hide From The Light! I can’t wait for the third book, Things We Left Behind, to release in September!

Things We Never Got Over (Knockemout #1)

Things We Never Got Over by Lucy Score
Publisher: Bloom Books
Pub Date: 1/12/2022

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

GoodReads Synopsis: Bearded, bad-boy barber Knox prefers to live his life the way he takes his coffee: Alone. Unless you count his basset hound, Waylon. Knox doesn’t tolerate drama, even when it comes in the form of a stranded runaway bride.

Naomi wasn’t just running away from her wedding. She was riding to the rescue of her estranged twin to Knockemout, Virginia, a rough-around-the-edges town where disputes are settled the old-fashioned way… with fists and beer. Usually in that order.

Too bad for Naomi her evil twin hasn’t changed at all. After helping herself to Naomi’s car and cash, Tina leaves her with something unexpected. The niece Naomi didn’t know she had. Now she’s stuck in town with no car, no job, no plan, and no home with an 11-year-old going on thirty to take care of.

There’s a reason Knox doesn’t do complications or high-maintenance women, especially not the romantic ones. But since Naomi’s life imploded right in front of him, the least he can do is help her out of her jam. And just as soon as she stops getting into new trouble he can leave her alone and get back to his peaceful, solitary life.

At least, that’s the plan until the trouble turns to real danger.

Review: After seeing Things We Never Got Over all over bookstagram and booktok, I decided to pick this one up. Things We Never Got Over is a steamy romance exploring themes of strained family relationships, grump vs. sunshine trope, small town life, and friendship. This romance novel features Naomi, a runaway bride who arrives in town to discover a stranded 11-year-old niece, and Knox, a grumpy lottery winner who owns several places in town. Although I found the book to be a bit long, I loved all the characters and subplots. I especially loved the depth and sass of the author wrote for Waylay’s character. Overall, I enjoyed the book and can’t wait for Things We Hide From The Light which will feature Nash (Knox’s brother)!

Things We Hide From The Light (Knockemout #2)

Things We Hide From The Light by Lucy Score
Publisher: That’s What She Said Publishing
Pub Date: 2/21/2023

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

GoodReads Synopsis: Nash Morgan was always known as the good Morgan brother, with a smile and a wink for everyone. But now, this chief of police is recovering from being shot and his Southern charm has been overshadowed by panic attacks and nightmares. He feels like a broody shell of the man he once was. Nash isn’t about to let anyone in his life know he’s struggling. But his new next-door neighbor, smart and sexy Lina, sees his shadows. As a rule, she’s not a fan of physical contact unless she initiates it, but for some reason Nash’s touch is different. He feels it too. The physical connection between them is incendiary, grounding him and making her wonder if exploring it is worth the risk.

Too bad Lina’s got secrets of her own, and if Nash finds out the real reason she’s in town, he’ll never forgive her. Besides, she doesn’t do relationships. Ever. A hot, short-term fling with a local cop? Absolutely. Sign her up. A relationship with a man who expects her to plant roots? No freaking way. Once she gets what she’s after, she has no intention of sticking around. But Knockemout has a way of getting under people’s skin. And once Nash decides to make Lina his, he’s not about to be dissuaded…even if it means facing the danger that nearly killed him.

Review: Things We Hide From The Light by Lucy Score is the second book in the Knockemout series which features Nash (Knox’s younger brother and Knockemout’s chief of police) and Lina (Knox’s best friend/college ex). This book is a true sequel to Things We Never Got Over. Nash Morgan, a police chief recovering from a gunshot wound, is struggling with panic attacks and nightmares. When his new neighbor, Lina, sees his struggles, they form a strong physical connection, but Lina has secrets that could end their relationship, and she’s not looking for anything long-term. However, Nash is determined to make Lina his, even if it means confronting danger. Things We Hide From The Light was one of my most anticipated February reads and it did not disappoint! I loved this book even more than Things We Never Got Over. I love the way that Lucy Score features main characters in their late 30s/early 40s instead of the typical mid to late 20s main characters. The character development for Nash was incredibly well done. Watching the kind-hearted heartthrob chief of police attempt to overcome recent events with the mysterious “bad girl” Lina was such a perfect match! I absolutely loved how badass Lina was and that she had this no BS attitude but underneath it all, she was such a sweet and caring individual. I loved that Nash’s recently found dog, Piper, was a fantastic addition to the book! Lucy Score’s incorporation of dogs into her stories is a lovely touch as they showcase a nurturing side of the main characters. I also appreciated the appearances of our favorites from the first book, including Knox, Naomi, Waylay, Sloane, and Lucian. I devoured this book and now I can’t wait for the final book, Things We Left Behind, which features Lucian and Sloane!

Review: The Love Wager by Lynn Painter

The Love Wager by Lynn Painter
Publisher: Berkley Romance
Pub Date: 3/14/2023

Thank you to Berkley Romance for the free copy and PRH Audio for the free audiobook in exchange for my honest review.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

GoodReads Synopsis: Hallie Piper is turning over a new leaf. After belly-crawling out of a hotel room (hello, rock bottom), she decides it’s time to become a full-on adult.

She gets a new apartment, a new haircut, and a new wardrobe, but when she logs into the dating app that she has determined will find her new love, she sees none other than Jack, the guy whose room she’d snuck out of.

Through the app, and after the joint agreement that they are absolutely not interested in each other, Jack and Hallie become partners in their respective searches for The One. They text each other about their dates, often scheduling them at the same restaurant so that if things don’t go well, the two of them can get tacos afterward.

Spoiler: they get a lot of tacos together.

Discouraged by the lack of prospects, Jack and Hallie make a wager to see who can find true love first, but when they agree to be fake dates for a weekend wedding, all bets are off.

As they pretend to be a couple, lines become blurred and they each struggle to remember why the other was a bad idea to begin with.

Review: The Love Wager is the second book in the Mr. Wrong Number series which can be read as a standalone. This book features Jack (Olivia’s older brother) and his love interest, Hallie (the wedding bartender). Hallie Piper tries to become an adult after leaving a hotel room, and while looking for love on a dating app, she finds Jack, the guy whose room she left. They agree not to pursue each other romantically but become partners in their quest to find true love, often meeting for tacos after their dates. However, things get complicated when they make a bet to find true love first and pretend to be a couple at a wedding. The Love Wager features friends-to-lovers and fake dating tropes. I love the way that Lynn Painter successfully develops the growing friendship between Jack and Hallie with delightful texting banter and sizzling chemistry. The narrators chosen for the audiobook were perfect and kept me engaged in the story. This book is an entertaining, lighthearted, and enjoyable read. I can’t wait to read more from Lynn Painter!

Review: What Have We Done

What Have We Done by Alex Findlay
Publisher: Minotaur
Pub Date: 3/7/2023

Thank you to Minotaur for the free advanced copy in exchange for my honest review. 

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

GoodReads Synopsis: A stay-at-home mom with a past. A has-been rock star with a habit. A reality TV producer with a debt.Three disparate lives. One deadly secret.

Twenty five years ago, Jenna, Donnie, and Nico were the best of friends, having forged a bond through the abuse and neglect they endured as residents of Savior House, a group home for parentless teens. When the home was shut down―after the disappearance of several kids―the three were split up.

Though the trauma of their childhood has never left them, each went on to live accomplished―if troubled―lives. They haven’t seen one another since they were teens but now are reunited for a single haunting reason: someone is trying to kill them.

To survive, the group will have to revisit the nightmares of their childhoods and confront their shared past―a past that holds the secret to why someone wants them dead.

It’s a reunion none of them asked for . . . or wanted. But it may be the only way to save all their lives.

Review: What Have We Done is the second book I’ve read from Alex Finlay. This thriller dives into troubled pasts, secrets, friendship, and revenge. Three former friends, who were once residents of a group home for parentless teens, are reunited after 25 years due to someone trying to kill them. Despite their accomplished but troubled lives, they must confront their shared past and revisit the trauma they endured in order to survive and uncover the secret behind the attempts on their lives. I enjoyed the multiple perspectives in this book! Jenna’s viewpoint stood out to me the most, but I also appreciated the humor and insights from Donnie and Nico’s perspectives. This is one of those thrillers that I found to be wildly entertaining and completely different from Alex Finlay’s last book, The Night Shift. However, I’d recommend going in know that the book may not be entirely realistic. The twists kept me guessing until around 70% of the way through the book and even then, the journey to discover who the culprit kept me second-guessing myself and I couldn’t guess any of the smaller mysteries to the subplot which made it an enjoyable read. The ending, particularly the epilogue, felt a bit too neatly resolved, but it didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment of the book. This was a solid four stars for me. I’d recommend picking this up if you’re looking for an action-packed and entertaining thriller!

Review: The Neighbor Favor

The Neighbor Favor by Kristina Forest
Publisher: Berkley Romance
Pub Date: 2/28/2023

Thank you to Berkley Romance for the free book and PRH Audio for the free audiobook copy in exchange for my honest review.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

GoodReads Synopsis: Shy, bookish, and admittedly awkward, Lily Greene has always felt inadequate compared to the rest of her accomplished family, who strive for Black excellence. She dreams of becoming an editor of children’s books but has been frustratingly stuck in the nonfiction division for years without a promotion in sight. Lily finds escapism in her correspondences with her favorite fantasy author, and what begins as two lonely people connecting over e-mail turns into a tentative friendship and possibly something else Lily won’t let herself entertain–until he ghosts her.

Months later, still crushed but determined to take charge of her life, Lily seeks a date to her sister’s wedding. And the perfect person to help her is Nick Brown, her charming, attractive new neighbor, whom she feels drawn to for unexplainable reasons. Little does she know that Nick is an author–her favorite fantasy author.

Nick, who has his reasons for using a pen name and for pushing people away, soon realizes that the beautiful, quiet woman from down the hall is the same Lily he fell in love with over e-mail months ago. Unwilling to complicate things even more between them, he agrees to set her up with someone else, though this simple favor between two neighbors is anything but–not when he can’t get her off his mind.

Review: The Neighbor Favor is Kristina Forest’s adult romance debut. Lily Greene feels inadequate compared to her accomplished family and dreams of becoming an editor of children’s books, but she finds solace in corresponding with her favorite fantasy author until he ghosts her. Months later, she has a bet with her sisters to find a date to her sister’s wedding and turns to her hot charming new neighbor, Nick, who is actually the same fantasy author she fell in love with over email. Their simple favor of setting her up with someone else becomes complicated when they can’t stop thinking about each other. This contemporary romance novel is set in New York and explores themes of family dynamics, career aspirations, and self-discovery. The author has done an excellent job of creating complex characters, each with their own subplot, and building the chemistry between the main characters, Lily and Nick. The audiobook narrators also did a phenomenal job of bringing the story to life and capturing the emotions of the characters. I particularly enjoyed the portrayal of Lily and her sisters’ tight-knit relationship as well as Nick’s contrasting family dynamic and how it affected him. Overall, I found this to be a well-written debut novel from Kristina Forest. I can’t wait for the next book in the series featuring Violet!

Review: Ruby Spencer’s Whiskey Year

Ruby Spencer’s Whiskey Year by Rochelle Bilow
Publisher: Berkley Romance
Pub Date: 2/14/2023

Thank you to Berkley Romance for the free copy and PRH Audio for the free audiobook in exchange for my honest review.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️

GoodReads Synopsis: Ruby Spencer is spending one year living in a small cottage in a tiny town in the Scottish Highlands for three reasons: to write a bestselling cookbook, to drink a barrelful of whisky, and to figure out what comes next. It’s hard to know what to expect after an impulse decision based on a map of Scotland in her Manhattan apartment–but she knows it’s high time she had an adventure.

The moment she sets foot in Thistlecross, the verdant scenery, cozy cottages, and struggling local pub steal her heart. Between designing pop-up suppers and conversing with the colorful locals, Ruby starts to see a future that stretches beyond her year of adventure. It doesn’t hurt that Brochan, the ruggedly handsome local handyman, keeps coming around to repair things at her cottage. Though Ruby swore off men, she can’t help fantasizing what a roll in the barley might be like with the bearded Scot.

As Ruby grows closer to Brochan and the tightly held traditions of the charming village, she discovers secret plans to turn her beloved pub into an American chain restaurant. Faced with an impossible choice, Ruby must decide between love, loyalty, and the Highlands way of life.

Review: Ruby Spencer’s Whiskey Year is a contemporary romance lover that explores self-discovery, friendship, small town life, and loyalty. Ruby Spencer moves to a small cottage in Scottish Highlands town for a year to write a cookbook, drink whisky, and discover what’s next in life. As she falls in love with the scenery, locals, and a handsome handyman named Brochan, she discovers a plan to replace the local pub with an American chain, forcing her to choose between her love for the Highlands and her relationships. The plot and original premise of the novel were captivating, but I found the writing style to be quite dull in comparison. I really liked how intriguing small small village community, but I wasn’t a fan of the main characters who seemed uninteresting and lacked depth. Ruby came across as immature and airheaded. This romance is definitely a slow burn. I found the pace of the book to be inconsistent which I didn’t like. Overall, this book didn’t work for me and I wouldn’t read the rest of the series.

Review: Georgie, All Along

Georgie, All Along by Kate Clayborn
Publisher: Kesington
Pub Date: 1/24/2023

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

GoodReads Synopsis: Longtime personal assistant Georgie Mulcahy has made a career out of putting others before herself. When an unexpected upheaval sends her away from her hectic job in L.A. and back to her hometown, Georgie must confront an uncomfortable truth: her own wants and needs have always been a disconcertingly blank page.

But then Georgie comes across a forgotten artifact—a “friendfic” diary she wrote as a teenager, filled with possibilities she once imagined. To an overwhelmed Georgie, the diary’s simple, small-scale ideas are a lifeline—a guidebook for getting started on a new path.

Georgie’s plans hit a snag when she comes face to face with an unexpected roommate—Levi Fanning, onetime town troublemaker and current town hermit. But this quiet, grouchy man is more than just his reputation, and he offers to help Georgie with her quest. As the two make their way through her wishlist, Georgie begins to realize that what she truly wants might not be in the pages of her diary after all, but right by her side—if only they can both find a way to let go of the pasts that hold them back.

Review: Georgie, All Along is the first book I’ve read from Kate Clayborn and was my main February BOTM pick! This contemporary romance novel explores family dynamics, small town life, self-discovery, and healing. Georgie Mulcahy, a personal assistant, returns to her hometown and finds a “friendfic” diary she wrote as a teenager filled with possibilities she once imagined. With the help of Levi Fanning, a former town troublemaker, she starts to realize that what she truly wants might not be in the diary but by her side, if only they can both let go of their pasts.i loved all the characters in this book and the author did an excellent job of creating each of them deeply complex. The author’s portrayal of Georgie’s inner turmoil and sense of being stuck at a turning point in life was especially well done. The exploration of Levi’s struggles with his past and efforts to reconcile with his family really had me rooting for him. I was invested in the building relationship between Georgie and Levi, as they both go through self growth throughout the novel. Overall, I adored Georgie, All Along and highly recommend!

Review: Someone Else’s Shoes

Someone Else’s Shoes by Jojo Moyes
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books
Pub Date: 2/7/2023

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

GoodReads Synopsis: Nisha Cantor lives the globetrotting life of the seriously wealthy, until her husband announces a divorce and cuts her off. Nisha is determined to hang onto her glamorous life. But in the meantime, she must scramble to cope–she doesn’t even have the shoes she was, until a moment ago, standing in.

That’s because Sam Kemp – in the bleakest point of her life – has accidentally taken Nisha’s gym bag. But Sam hardly has time to worry about a lost gym bag–she’s struggling to keep herself and her family afloat. When she tries on Nisha’s six-inch high Christian Louboutin red crocodile shoes, the resulting jolt of confidence that makes her realize something must change—and that thing is herself.

Review: Somebody Else’s Shoes is the first book I’ve read from Jojo Moyes and it was one of my February Book of the Month picks! This contemporary novel dives into marriage, friendship, parenting, and self-discovery. Nisha Cantor, a rich globetrotting housewife, is suddenly cut off by her husband and forced to scramble to maintain her lifestyle, while Sam Kemp is struggling to keep herself and her family afloat. When Sam and Nisha accidentally switch gym bags, Sam tries on Nisha’s Christian Louboutin shoes realizing that something must change, and that thing is herself. I loved all the different characters and their complexities in this novel. There was so much going on, so many subplots, and an element of mystery that actually worked well with this book. There are some heavy subjects discussed through out the book such as cancer, depression, and infidelity. Overall, I really liked this one and can’t wait to read the rest of her books!

Review: The Dream Builders

The Dream Builders by Oindrila Mukkherjee
Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
Pub Date: 1/10/2023

Thank you to LibroFM for the free advanced listening copy in exchange for my honest review. 

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

GoodReads Synopsis: After living in the US for years, Maneka Roy returns home to India to mourn the loss of her mother and finds herself in a new world. The booming city of Hrishipur where her father now lives is nothing like the part of the country where she grew up, and the more she sees of this new, sparkling city, the more she learns that nothing—and no one—here is as it appears. Ultimately, it will take an unexpected tragic event for Maneka and those around her to finally understand just how fragile life is in this city built on aspirations.

Written from the perspectives of ten different characters, Oindrila Mukherjee’s incisive debut novel explores class divisions, gender roles, and stories of survival within a society that is constantly changing and becoming increasingly Americanized. It’s a story about India today, and people impacted by globalization everywhere: a tale of ambition, longing, and bitter loss that asks what it really costs to try and build a dream.

Review: The Dream Builders is Oindrila’s debut. This contemporary fiction novel is told through the perspective of 10 different characters and takes place in Hrishipur, a fictional city in India. The novel tackles themes of social class, corruption, politics, and community. Overall, I had mixed feelings about this book. The plot sounded really intriguing. I liked that the different perspectives varied from the ultra rich to the help. However, the pacing seemed off. Some parts went by fast while other parts dragged out. Also I think there were too many characters to keep in order and it may have helped to have different narrators instead of just one or to condense the number of perspectives. I didn’t really like the American politics aspect of the book either, but I understood the purpose behind it. Overall, this was a solid 3 stars for me.

Review: The Bandit Queens

The Bandit Queens by Parini Shroff
Publisher: Random House
Pub Date: 1/3/203

Thank you to PRH Audio for the free audiobook copy in exchange for my honest review.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

GoodReads Synopsis: Geeta’s no-good husband disappeared five years ago. She didn’t kill him, but everyone thinks she did–no matter how much she protests.
But she soon discovers that being known as a “self-made” widow has some surprising perks. No one messes with her, no one threatens her, and no one tries to control (ahem, marry) her. It’s even been good for her business; no one wants to risk getting on her bad side by not buying her jewelry.

Freedom must look good on Geeta, because other women in the village have started asking for her help to get rid of their own no-good husbands…but not all of them are asking nicely.

Now that Geeta’s fearsome reputation has become a double-edged sword, she must decide how far to go to protect it, along with the life she’s built. Because even the best-laid plans of would-be widows tend to go awry.

Review: The Bandit Queens is Parini Shroff’s debut. This contemporary/mystery novel explores themes of women’s rights, revenge, toxic relationships, and social class. Unfortunately, this book didn’t work for me. The plot of this book sounded very intriguing but the execution was poorly done. I guess this book could be described as dark humor with extremely heavy subjects done in very poor taste. The author address heavy topics throughout the story: abuse (physical & emotional), alcoholism, rape, gaslighting, animal cruelty to name a few. The beginning of the book is super slow and barely anything happens. At first I was thinking of DNF’ing it but decided to power through it to see if it got better and it didn’t. The dialogue felt odd and didn’t really flow well with the story. I understand that India has its good and bad parts, but I think she should have showed a more balanced view of the country, didn’t bash on a particular religion, and didn’t heavily rely on the stereotypes then this could have been a powerful novel. Definitely pass on this novel as there are other great books out there from Indian authors.

Review: How to Sell a Haunted House

How to Sell a Haunted House by Grady Hendrix
Publisher: Berkley
Pub Date: 1/17/2023

Thank you to Berkley for the free advanced copy on NetGalley and PRH Audio for the free audiobook in exchange for my honest review.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

GoodReads Synopsis: Every childhood home is haunted, and each of us are possessed by our parents.

When their parents die at the tail end of the coronavirus pandemic, Louise and Mark Joyner are devastated but nothing can prepare them for how bad things are about to get. The two siblings are almost totally estranged, and couldn’t be more different. Now, however, they don’t have a choice but to get along. The virus has passed, and both of them are facing bank accounts ravaged by the economic meltdown. Their one asset? Their childhood home. They need to get it on the market as soon as possible because they need the money. Yet before her parents died they taped newspaper over the mirrors and nailed shut the attic door.

Sometimes we feel like puppets, controlled by our upbringing and our genes. Sometimes we feel like our parents treat us like toys, or playthings, or even dolls. The past can ground us, teach us, and keep us safe. It can also trap us, and bind us, and suffocate the life out of us. As disturbing events stack up in the house, Louise and Mark have to learn that sometimes the only way to break away from the past, sometimes the only way to sell a haunted house, is to burn it all down.

Review: How to Sell a Haunted House has been one of my most anticipated 2023 reads! This horror book explores themes of family secrets, strained relationships, puppetry, and troubled pasts. Overall, I enjoyed this one! All the characters are deeply flawed and it was interesting to learn more about each one. I’ve always thought that puppets were creepy, but Grady Hendrix definitely took the puppet creep factor to another level which blew my mind. I loved how complex the story was and how the subplots came together. I also couldn’t guess any of the twists in this one which made reading this fly by. Highly recommend picking this one up if you’re a Grady Hendrix fan or love horror books!