A Brit on the Side by Brenda St. John Brown

A Brit on the Side (Calder Castle #1)A Brit on the Side by Brenda St. John Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Brenda St. John Brown is my FAVORITE. I know I’m going to love anything she writes so I’m always super excited when I see she has a new novel coming out. She never disappoints me and this time wasn’t any different.

A Brit on the Side is a lighter read than what I’m used to from Brenda, but it’s SO incredibly well done. I was totally sucked into Bea’s story from the first page. Bea’s recently broken off an engagement to Theo. Theo’s a great guy, but kind of like vanilla ice cream- delicious, but doesn’t make your heart race. So she’s taken her roommate, Scarlett up on her offer to come work at her family’s castle for the summer. All’s well until she finds out Scarlett’s brother, Jasper, will also be at the castle for the summer. Bea and Jasper shared a steamy weekend, but nothing ever came of it, and Bea regretfully neglected to mention it to Scarlett. Uh oh… The story takes off from there.

What I think Brenda does so well is realistic relationships. She has this amazing ability to write people that you feel like could actually exist. Her characters have realistic conversations and reactions to the events that transpire in her novels. It’s so refreshing. I get so sick of the grand gestures and sappy conversations in a lot of new adult novels. When I open one of Brenda’s novels I know I’m going to get sucked into a world I feel like I could really live in. A world populated by people I think I could tolerate and be friends with in real life. ABotS is no different in this respect.

The author did a great job of giving the characters’ distinct personalities. Obviously Jasper is super swoony, but some of the minor character’s really stood out to me. Scarlett was so well written in the sense that she seemed very difficult and self-centered, but was still likable. I think the early twenties are a tough time for female friendships. Most women are figuring out who they are and what they want during this time in their lives. A lot of the time their relationships with other women become more difficult because everyone is in the middle of being the most selfish they’ll ever be. I think the way Scarlett and Bea were written really walked the line of them being realistically self-centered and also truly caring about each other and the other’s needs and feelings. This relationship was really well done. I also really loved Bea’s relationship with her mother. Bea’s mother is full of cliches and southern advice that I found so realistic that I wonder if Brenda has a southern mother. I do have a southern mother and Mrs. Gillespie was so spot on. She means well and you can tell she loves Bea, but can sometimes really miss the mark with her advice and what she thinks is best for her daughter. I loved this.

The character building here is just really complex. I loved how every character was super nuanced and authentic. Brenda doesn’t use these lazy throw away characters as plot devices like you see in a lot of NA novels. You don’t have “the villain” who is just around to stir up trouble and create conflict. The story is well plotted and well paced and moves along because the author has actually put effort into moving the story forward- not because there’s a character that exists solely to create a conflict arch for our hero and heroine to work through. Additionally, this story is as much a love story between Bea and Jasper as it is a story of growth for Bea. She’s peeled back super slowly over the course of the novel and truly comes into herself. It was really rewarding to read her story and see her not only fall in love with Jasper, but she seems to start to love herself as well.

And finally, I’m going to say what I say at the end of every one of my reviews for this author, the way she resolves conflict just realllllly realllly does it for me. Her characters behave like actual humans to solve their problems and I LOVE it. The main conflict arch isn’t resolved because of some crazy deus ex machina or anything else weird, it’s resolved as if it takes place on Earth. Thank you for this, Brenda. THANK YOU.

In closing, I highly recommend this. It just screams summer read. It’s a perfect beach or vacation book. It isn’t heavy on the angst, but is a super cute love story with a lot of depth. If you’re looking for something to curl up on a beach chair with or sit on your back porch and read with a Coke in your hand, this is your book. I will 100% be pre-ordering this in paperback as soon as its available.

Chasing Spring by R.S. Grey

Chasing SpringChasing Spring by R.S. Grey
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The problem with this book was that it failed to show me the why. Why were Chase and Lilah in love? I realize they were childhood friends and that we were supposed to infer that they’d just known each other so long that love with inevitable, but that’s not how it works. I’ve known my friend, Brice, since I was 3 or 4. He may have literally been my very first friend. We have never ever even been in like with each other, much less love. He’s a great guy, but knowing someone for most of your life does not a soulmate make. I needed to see more interaction between these two characters to make me convinced that they were somehow even friends- flashbacks, present day, something. But the other never provides that. We only get present day, surly Lilah and hero Chase who haven’t been friends for 2 years. Which by the way, I didn’t feel like that conflict was adequately explained either. It was explained, but I didn’t feel connected to the tragedy.

Overall, this was an ok idea that was executed sort of poorly. I failed to connect with any of it, really.

So would I recommend this book? No. Go read With This Heart.

Split Second (Pivot Point, #2) by Kasie West

Split Second (Pivot Point, #2)Split Second by Kasie West
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really, really liked this series. I liked the characters, I liked the story, and I liked the twists. Honestly, I wish I could write a super specific review and tell you all the things I loved about it, but I don’t think I can. I definitely can’t put my finger on why it deserves 5 stars. It probably doesn’t, but I loved it 5 stars worth so that’s what it gets.

The new character additions were pretty cool. I loved Connor and wish he would have been included in the first book as well so I could have gotten to know him better.

The switch from only Addie’s POV in the first book to Addie and Laila’s POV in the second book was a little weird and I felt like there were a lot of sub plots swirling around at one time, but none of that was enough to put me off at all.

I think I really liked how sweet this series was. The overall tone of it was such that I knew I was going to be totally satisfied at the end. I could tell Kasie West was building up to a sweet, happy ending and I didn’t need to have any anxiety about whether or not everything would work out for the characters- I just knew it would.

Pivot Point (Pivot Point, #1) by Kasie West

Pivot Point (Pivot Point, #1)Pivot Point by Kasie West
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Does this book deserve the 5 stars I gave it? Mehhhh. Probably not. There’s a lot wrong with it. Let’s be real, if I was writing a review for an english class the first thing I would point out is the total and complete lack of world building. I mean none. None at all. It sucks. Buttttttt (I feel like I say this all the time) I’m the boss of reviews and I enjoyed the hell out of this so it gets 5 stars.

So yeah, something about this really appealed to me. I’m not sure why I liked it so much. It had a unique premise> I surprisingly didn’t have a hard time keeping the parallel possible paths straight. I found the main character, Addie, super likable. The supporting characters were engaging. And at the end, when Addie had to make her choice, I felt so horrible for her and wanted to reach out and hug her.

So yeah, I liked this 5 stars worth for probably superficial reasons that I can’t totally quantify, but that’s the way it is sometimes.

View all my reviews

Loud is How I Love You (Hub City, #1) by Mercy Brown

Loud is How I Love You (Hub City, #1)Loud is How I Love You by Mercy Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I originally only gave this book 3 stars, but after some reflection I’m changing it to 4. This author took some risks that I think paid off. I have never read a book written quite like this and I enjoyed the change of pace.

I have a friend named Haily who is a really good story teller. When she’s telling a story she’s yelling, waving her hands around, and so invested in telling the story that you can see exactly what she was feeling when whatever she’s recalling happened to her. Emmylou’s voice was just like that. For the entire book I felt like Emmylou was screaming-telling the story to me as fast as she possible could. The book read fast! For example, there’s a scene in the book where Emmy gets drunk and goes upstairs with a soccer player and Travis intervenes. Spoiler tags in case you don’t want to read the except because this takes place about 65% into the book.
(view spoiler)

I hope that’s a good enough example, but I think you can kind of see that the narrator rambles really quickly like she’s telling the story as it happened. This got kind of abrasive at times, but I did think it helped build a really strong character. Emmy was SUPER fleshed out and real to me. I felt like I knew her. I love how her voice was so consistent and really helped drive home what she was all about.

I do wish that the author had continued with the story for a bit. It takes up until the very last couple of pages for the main conflict to be resolved so we never really get a taste of how Emmy and Travis would be as a real couple.

I think a lot of readers may really hate Emmy. She’s abrasive and obsessed with her band and indecisive and impulsive and kind of psychotic when it comes to Travis, but I liked her. She acted exactly how I would have at 18-22. If I was worried the guy I liked was with another girl, I wouldn’t have been able to just let it go either. I definitely would have concocted some stupid plan to “casually” find out what was going on.

I also liked all of the shop talk. I used to tour with a band in high school as their merch girl so I knew what most of the terms were, but the book uses a lot of industry terms that would likely leave someone uninitiated doing a lot of googling. They talk about headstocks and different kind of amps and heads and pedals like you’re supposed to know what those are. The author is either a musician or did a lot of really thorough research. I liked this about the book. I’ve read a lot of books about musicians and rockstars, but they all just touched the surface of what the industry is like. This went into a lot of detail and I appreciated it.

Overall, I really liked this story. It’s a new adult novel that takes itself and its characters pretty seriously. It wasn’t cheesy- I didn’t roll my eyes once. It was pretty realistic. So if you can stomach an abrasive main character who tells the story just like that- abrasively- you should check this out. It’s a unique take on an old troupe.

Before We Were Strangers by Renee Carlino

Before We Were StrangersBefore We Were Strangers by Renee Carlino
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m not quite sure what to say about this book. I put off reading it for so long because I thought Renee Carlino had lost her mojo. Her last novel, After the Rain, was total garbage. TOTAL. GARBAGE. I loved Sweet Thing, but after the train wreck that was After The Rain, I was convinced that I would be wasting my time with Before We Were Strangers.

I don’t know that I can put into words how much I loved this novel. It’s so far my favorite read of 2016. It was a super gut-wrenching story of two college lovers who lose track of each other and are brought back together by a chance encounter.

The book reminded me a lot of True Love Story by Willow Aster, but almost a “light” version. It didn’t hurt my heart as much to read Before We Were Strangers. True Love Story tore up my insides and then did a shoddy job of stitching me back together. Before We Were Strangers is much more satisfying. It still touches your soul and makes you ache for its characters, but it doesn’t torture you with angst, uncertainty, and lack of resolution.

This book is magical. It felt magical while I was reading it. You should read it too.

Stroked (Stroked, #1) by Meghan Quinn

Stroked (Stroked, #1)Stroked by Meghan Quinn
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

ARC received via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I gave this my best go, but I’m going to have to DNF at 51%. Since I made it more than halfway, I’m going to let myself rate it too.

The first couple of chapters of this from Bellini and Paisley’s POVs were super funny. Bellini is out of her mind and Paisley is super sassy. I loved them. They were very entertaining. I also enjoyed the relationship between Paisley and Jonathan. I always enjoy a good M/F platonic friendship.

This went careening downhill when Paisley and Reese met. Literally all Reese has done since he was introduced is wax poetic about how great and hot Paisley is and how he wants to stick his P in her V. It’s revolting. I can’t count how many times I’ve rolled my eyes.

This book doesn’t seem to have much of a plot, well it does, but no time is spent on its development. 87% of the book from when Paisley and Reese met is them having sappy conversations, texting each other like 7th graders in puppy love, or doing “it.” I am so bored and over them that I can’t even put it into words.

I absolutely loved The Mother Road, but I don’t think I’ll be reading another of Meghan Quinn’s novels.

Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson

Since You've Been GoneSince You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Morgan Matson’s books are a weird kind of quandary to me. I’m never particularly entertained by their plot or their romance. I’m never on the edge of my seat wanting to know what happens next. However, something pulls me forward. Something about Matson’s writing style or subject matter compels me to finish the book and feel satisfied when I do.

This book isn’t any different that the other Matson novels I’ve read. I was a little bored reading it, but now that I’m done a strange sort of satisfaction has come over me- like I’ve completed some right of passage.

I think it’s that her characters appeal to the 17 year old girl stuck inside of me. Their experiences and motives and solutions hit me somewhere deep inside and I know that if I were reading this book 12 years ago, I’d be deeply affected by it. I’d relate to it on some other level that adult Allison can’t grasp.

So that’s why this book gets 4 stars. Because something about it touched who I was as a teenager. When I was uncertain and insecure and hopeful. When my best friend was the most important person in my life, but I worried she didn’t like me as much as I liked her. When I had the biggest crush on a boy who I didn’t think could possibly like me back. Until he did!

So even though I felt like this book dragged on a little, I was rooting for Emily to be better the whole time. I was hopeful that things would work out for her. Reading this book was a little like being a teenager that way. I desperately wanted it to end, but now that it has I’m more than a little nostalgic for it.

A Brit on the Side COVER REVEAL!!!!

Hello, faithful readers!

I don’t do cover reveals or release day blitzes very often on this blog because I won’t promote anything I don’t love here. You all know that Brenda St. John Brown is one of my favorite (top 3, at least!!!) authors so I was glad to participate in her cover reveal today! Without further ado:

A Brit on the Side_final cover_AMZCover Design: Sarah Hansen/Okay Creations

Release Date: August 15, 2016



Bea’s English escape plan:
• Work in a real British castle
• Quality time with bestie
• Figure out what spotted dick really is
• Fall for bestie’s older brother. Hard.

Bea Gillespie would rather do anything than teach summer school math two classrooms down from her ex-fiancé. So when her best friend, Scarlett, invites her to England for the summer to work in her family’s castle-turned-hotel, she jumps at the chance.

Now Bea’s an ocean away from her problems at home, but she’s got a bigger one. A British one. Scarlett’s older brother, Jasper, is at Castle Calder for the summer, too. And he’s as sexy and smart as Bea remembers. Two years ago Jasper came stateside, and he and Bea shared a hot weekend. But that’s all it was — a weekend. One she purposely didn’t tell Scarlett about.

It didn’t feel like much of a secret until now. As Bea falls for Jasper, what started off as a fling begins feeling more and more like the kind of thing you’d gush about to your best friend. If you hadn’t been lying to her all along.







One of Five ARC’s for A Brit on the Side


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About the Author

I’m a displaced New Yorker living in the UK. I lived in London for nearly six years, but now I’m living in The North, in a tiny English village. There are sheep everywhere! Sheep!! (This is so strange to me I always have to say it twice. With multiple exclamation points.)

My novels are about teens and twenty-somethings kissing. I especially love writing sweet moments that end with a sizzle. For more info on all of my books (including one you can read for FREE), visit my website at http://brendastjohnbrown.com.

I like running and Doritos, not necessarily in that order. I also like libraries, old churches and Paris. One day I’m going to write a novel set in Paris, which will necessitate lots of trips for “research.”


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