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Pub Date: 11-7-23
YA - Contemporary

Check & Mate- Ali Hazelwood: Mallory Greenleaf used to love chess. She would spend hours learning moves that she would use to beat her tournament opponents. But then the sport she dedicated so much time and effort to led to the destruction of her family, and Mallory decided she was done. When Mallory reluctantly agrees to play in a charity tournament, she expects to go up against another no-name player, not Nolan Sawyer, the current world champion. She also never expected to wipe the floor with him. Mallory's win shocks the world of chess, and Mallory can't help but fall back in love with the game she swore she'd never play again. She also can't resist the infuriatingly handsome Nolan. With her ranking soaring ever upward, Mallory learns that when it comes to chess, games aren't only played on the board, but she's never shied away from a competition.

Leave it to Hazelwood to get me invested in chess. I didn't know what to expect, given that this was her first foray into YA, but I thought it was cute. The plot gave me slight Stick It vibes, and I love that movie, so I was all about it. I don't know anything about chess, so most of the dialogue went over my head, but I still found it interesting. My favorite part of this was Nolan. He's so gone for Mallory, and it's adorable. They had fun banter, and the chemistry between them was sweet. I loved how supportive he was of Mallory even though they were competing against each other. Mallory, though? Not a fan. She was so stubborn, and it made me so frustrated. I just wanted to shake some sense into her. While this isn't my favorite of Hazelwood's books, I still liked it and think it'd be a perfect choice if you're looking for a fluffy read.

Rating: 3/5

*Big thanks to the publisher for the copy!

Pub Date: 11-7-23
Adult - Historical Romance

Never Wager with a Wallflower- Virginia Heath: Venus Merriwell has dreamt of her perfect match since she was a teenager. She wants a husband who is kind, intelligent, loves books as much as her, and doesn't have the same vices as her father. After a slew of unlucky suitors, Venus begins to think that maybe her true love is the orphanage she spends all her time at. Galahad Sinclair grew up learning the gambling trade at his grandfather's knee. When fate dealt him a bad hand, Galahad finds himself setting up shop across the pond in England. He's spent years building a respectable gaming hell and looks to expand his empire. The only problem? His perfect real estate is right next to Venus's orphanage. The pair have always butted heads, but this new development pushes them to their limits, and it's only a matter of time before one folds under the pressure.

I adore this series, but this final installment wasn't it. I didn't love Venus in the previous books, so I was hoping this would endear me to her, but that wasn't the case. She came across as high and mighty and a bit unfair in her treatment of Galahad. As for him, I liked him enough. He had some cute moments, and I liked how he interacted with the mischievous set of orphans, but aside from that, I could take or leave him. Sadly, nothing about the plot or characters gripped me, but I still recommend the series as a whole.

Rating: 2/5

*Big thanks to the publisher for the copy!

Pub Date: 4-25-23
Adult - Sci-Fi

In the Lives of Puppets- T.J. Klune: Vic Lawson may be a human, but he's spent his life surrounded and cared for by robots. Vic has grown to love his makeshift little family comprised of his father figure, Giovanni, Nurse Ratched, a sadistic nurse machine, and Rambo, a neurotic vacuum, and the cozy home they've created in the woods. One day, Vic, Nurse Ratched, and Rambo visit a scrapyard full of decommissioned robots and stumble upon one that still seems functional. Vic brings this new robot, dubbed "HAP," back home and learns that it and Giovanni share a dark past-- hunting humans. When HAP accidentally alerts robots from Giovanni's past of his whereabouts, Vic's life gets turned upside down. Giovanni gets captured and brought back to the City of Electric Dreams, leaving Vic and the rest to undergo a perilous journey to rescue him before it's too late.

You can always count on Klune's books to be brimming with whimsy and charm, and this one was no exception. It felt like being wrapped up in a warm blanket. It's loosely based on Pinocchio, and I liked how Klune kept some of the same themes from the original but made it his own. One of the themes throughout was family, which was my favorite part of the whole thing. The relationship between them all was so tender and sweet. Despite most of them being robots, they still felt love and cared for one another. I also appreciated the humor in this. Nurse Ratched and Rambo were hilarious, and I loved every minute of them. I did have some issues with the pacing, and the romance didn't move me, but overall, I enjoyed it.

Rating: 3/5


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