Review: Helen Hoang’s The Bride Test

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“How did you change your life when you were trapped like this?
Her history didn’t define her. Her origins didn’t define her.
At least, they shouldn’t. She could be more, if she had a chance.”

Synopsis
Khai Diep is a total catch. He excels at his job, and is a devoted friend, brother, and son. Hence the reason why his mom can’t wait to marry him off. Khai, however, has a different view on love and marriage. Because Khai processes his emotions differently, he worries he can’t feel emotions like grief or love “correctly.” But his mom is tired of waiting, so she takes matters into her own hands. She returns from a visit to Vietnam with Esme Tran who she believes to be Khai’s perfect bride. Esme knows a trip to America could help herself and her family in more ways than one. But seducing Khai proves harder than she initially thought. As she starts to fall for Khai for real, she’s determined to show him that there are many different ways to love.


The Kiss Quotient is for fans of:

  • You enjoy the mail-order bride trope/arranged marriage trope
  • You love slow-burn romance
  • You appreciate books that have inclusive characters with diverse backgrounds
  • You want to read an OWN Voices author’s work

Spoiler Free Review
What I liked:
I want to start with what I loved. I love that Helen Hoang writes inclusive characters with diverse backgrounds. Kai is on the autism spectrum (ASD), and Esme is a Vietnamese citizen who travels to the United States. These characters have vastly different backgrounds, and I appreciated learning more about their perspectives and experiences. I can’t begin to describe how amazing it is to have more representation in books and especially in romance (my favorite genre). Knowing people can find themselves and see themselves in characters is so crucial.

Also, autism spectrum disorder has a special place in my heart. My family (and myself) are all huge advocates for autism spectrum disorder awareness in honor of my cousin, Tucker, who is amazing, intelligent, caring and also happens to be on the autism spectrum. He is the youngest child to be diagnosed in the state of West Virginia (where I’m originally from). If you want to learn more about autism spectrum disorder – I suggest starting here.

Another aspect I loved was Esme’s characterization. She is a strong, independent woman and you can’t help but root for her from the very beginning. She has such a genuine heart, and her motives are so pure as she only has the best interest for her family in mind.

I also enjoyed the slow-burn build up and the sexy scenes. I think it is very clear that the author is an extremely talented writer. Slow-burn is my absolute favorite, so it didn’t bother me that it took awhile before the characters’ romance started to build. I feel like for me this makes the romance more realistic. I feel like slow-burn happens much more often than insta-love in real life.

The last thing I want to talk about is the writing. This book is full of the most beautiful, eloquent writing. I could fill this entire post with quotes that I love from this book. I really just can’t stress the pure talent seen in The Bride Test.

What I didn’t like:
Now onto what I didn’t love. I did not love that Esme didn’t seem to take a huge interest in learning or asking questions about autism spectrum disorder. After learning that Kai was on the autism spectrum, she kind of just went “ok.” Even though she was sensitive to this and had great communication on what Kai’s comfort level was, I wish she would have explicitly inquired about it further. For me this just fell a little flat. I think this also would have been a great opportunity to educate readers even more about autism spectrum disorder through Esme’s learning experience.

However, my biggest issue with the story was the “secret,” and that it wasn’t revealed until the very, very end of the book. I’m talking like the last 5-10%. This was revealed too late for me. As a result, I felt like Kai and Esme were considering a commitment with one another without even knowing each other. The secret was such a huge part of Esme’s life, and I didn’t like that it played virtually no role in Kai and Esme’s relationship until the very, very end. Perhaps I would feel differently if the reveal came earlier or more came after the reveal. It just did not cut it for me.

As a result, the romance just fell flat. I didn’t feel like there was a particularly strong friendship foundation between the two. I didn’t feel like they really knew who each other were as people because there were so many secrets or things left unsaid between them for long periods of time. I don’t want to say more because this is spoiler-free!

Overall, I’m still so happy I read The Bride Test. It’s a cute new adult contemporary with some sexy scenes for sure. There is amazing representation and diversity here, and that’s definitely something to celebrate. I thought the characters were well written, and the writing was strong. The romance just lacked a bit for me, and that’s ultimately why it fell a bit flat. I’m giving this one a 3.5/5.

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Ratings:
My overall: 3.5/5
Steam: 3.5/5
Romance: 3.5/5
Friendship: 2.5/5
Representation: 5/5

Goodreads: 4.17/5


Get More Information:
The Bride Test is Helen Hoang’s newest release and is a companion novel to The Kiss Quotient. It’s available to purchase now.

Links: visit Helen Hoang’s website; connect with the author on Facebook; connect with the author on Instagram; find The Bride Test on Amazon; find The Kiss Quotient on Amazon


About the Author: Helen Hoang is that shy person who never talks. Until she does. And the worst things fly out of her mouth. She read her first romance novel in eighth grade and has been addicted ever since. In 2016, she was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in line with what was previously known as Asperger’s Syndrome. Her journey inspired THE KISS QUOTIENT. She currently lives in San Diego, California with her husband, two kids, and pet fish.


This post is not sponsored. All opinions are my own. All links provided are for your convenience only – none are affiliate links.

Review: Penelope Ward & Vi Keeland’s Park Avenue Player

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“It’s okay to smile in the midst of darkness.”

Synopsis
To say Elodie and Hollis got off on the wrong foot is an understatement. After the two get into a fender bender, they realize Elodie was on her way to interview for a caretaker position for Hollis’ young niece. Although initially rejected, Elodie ends up with the job and her relationship with young, Hailey quickly builds. Of course, the sexual tension between Hollis and Elodie quickly builds as well. But, the two soon realize that life has a way of complicating things and their pasts are a lot more complicated than they think.


Park Avenue Player is for fans of:

  • slow burn romance and the nanny/caretaker trope
  • romances with emotional plotlines
  • dual-POVs

Spoiler Free Review
What I liked:
I truly didn’t know what to expect going into this book, but I loved it. I connected instantly with Elodie and rooted for her from beginning to end. I love how strong willed, dedicated, and loyal she was. She served as a patient, empathetic role model for Hailey, and it made me love her even more.

Hollis was also a great lead to read about. He was dynamic, and I loved how he grew into a great father figure for Hailey.

Of course, I also loved the couple themselves. They didn’t have the typical miscommunication-driven plot issues, which was so refreshing. Instead the couple felt real and their struggles and their conflicts were understandable. Their relationship was also slow-build which y’all know is my favorite. There was also some seriously sexy buildup between Elodie and Hollis that had me yelling at them in my head to just get together already.

Fair warning, though, this book was emotional and heart wrenching. For me, it wasn’t as emotional as Hate Notes (another book by this author-duo), but it definitely still pulled at all my heart strings. Ultimately, this book was about hope. It’s a beautiful story and it’s definitely recommended by me.

What I didn’t like:
The only thing I didn’t love about this book was the alternating time lines. There are some sections that take place in the past to explain a character’s backstory. While it was 100% necessary to understand the story and connect with the character, I just have a personal preference for linear stories. I’m always rushing back to the present sections to see what happens next. Again, this is a personal preference and not really an issue with the story.

Overall, I really loved this one and it gets a 4.5/5 from me.

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Ratings:
My overall: 5/5
Steam: 4/5
Romance: 4/5
Friendship: 5/5

Goodreads: 4.54/5


Get More Information:
Park Avenue Player is new adult contemporary, and it was published on September 23, 2019. It’s available to purchase here. As of 9/23/19 it is available on Kindle Unlimited.

Links: connect with Penelope Ward on Instagram; connect with Vi Keeland on Instagram; visit Penelope Ward’s website; visit Vi Keeland’s website


About Penelope Ward: Penelope Ward is a New York Times, USA Today and #1 Wall Street Journal bestselling author of contemporary romance.

She grew up in Boston with five older brothers and spent most of her twenties as a television news anchor. Penelope resides in Rhode Island with her husband, son, and beautiful daughter with autism.

About Vi Keeland: Vi Keeland is a #1 New York Times, #1 Wall Street Journal, and USA Today Bestselling author.  With millions of books sold, her titles have appeared in over one hundred Bestseller lists and are currently translated in twenty-six languages. She resides in New York with her husband and their three children where she is living out her own happily ever after with the boy she met at age six.


This post is not sponsored. All opinions are my own. All links provided are for your convenience only – none are affiliate links.

Review: Chloe Liese’s They’re a Match

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Happy publication day to Chloe Liese’s They’re a Match, the third and final installment of the Tough Love series. They’re a Match brings the story of Zed and Nairne to a close (at least in this capacity – there will be spinoffs focusing on the other characters, so I’m sure we’ll see them again!).

Happily Ever After is more easily said than done, but no one is more deserving than Zed and Nairne who have overcome both obstacles and odds to be together. They’re a Match shows us just what “happily ever after” can look like for our favorite couple…assuming they both live long enough to see it.

You might like this book if:

  • you enjoy steamy romance novels
  • you need a little thrill/suspense in your romance
  • you love well rounded, inclusive, strong female characters
  • you enjoy dual-POV

You might not like this book if:

  • you dislike suspense/danger in your romance
  • you prefer to read standalones as opposed to series
  • you prefer single POV

Alright so to get us all up to speed – you can read my review on the first book in the series here and you can read my review on the second book here.

Now that we’re all on the same page… They’re a Match carried over all of my favorite aspects from He’s a Brute and She’s a Spitfire. Nairne, as always, packs a punch on the page. She’s the type of heroine you fall in love with. She’s a role model for all, but especially women as we navigate a modern world. Nairne lets you know it’s ok to live life on your terms, to be ambitious, to be unconventional, and to laugh in the face of stereotypes.

Zed is also a powerful character to read. He’s the embodiment of what it means to love fiercely, to be nonjudgmental, and to be selfless. Zed is truly a character who puts his love and his family above all else. He is a great alpha hero, and while he isn’t perfect, he really is the perfect match for Nairne.

They’re a Match had Liese’s signature suspense running through, but in an entirely new way. I loved the fresh story line and my stomach dropped at multiple points throughout this book. It’s a great mix of romance and suspense that kept me turning pages until the very end.

The ending was *chefs kiss.* I thought They’re a Match did an amazing job of deepening the connection between Zed and Nairne. Exploring the changes in their relationship as they prepare for parenthood. Unveiling a vulnerability in Nairne as she grappled with what motherhood looks like as a parent who has a disability. The care and fragility that Chloe Liese used when writing these scenes is beautiful. I dare you to not cry a little.

Also, Chloe Liese publishes playlists for her books. They add such dimension to a story, whether you listen while reading or queue up the playlist afterward. Am even more convinced than ever after listening to the playlist that these would make great movie adaptations. You can listen to the playlists here.

Overall, I loved the Tough Love series. If y’all check it out, please let me know what you think! They’re a Match gets a 5/5 from me.

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Ratings
Goodreads Rating: 4.6
My Overall Rating: 5/5
Steam: 5/5
Romance: 5/5
Friendship: 5/5
Suspense: 4/5

Get More Info: visit Chloe Liese’s website; connect with the author on Instagram; find He’s a Brute on Amazon; find She’s a Spitfire on Amazon; find They’re a Match, now

They’re a Match is new adult romance, and it was published on August 12, 2019. It’s available to purchase here.

About the Author: Chloe writes stories that, like people, resist categories. Her contemporary romances are hot, witty, full of heart and keep you on the edge of your seat. She’s an avid reader, Harry Potter lover, and eats more peanut butter cups than she probably should.

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This post is not sponsored. All opinions are my own. All links provided are for your convenience only – none are affiliate links. The author was kind enough to provide me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Review: Laura Pavlov’s Beautifully Damaged

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Beautifully Damaged
tells the story of Peyton Kroft and Jackson Vance. Peyton and Jackson were soulmates. In love, the two vowed to stay together through it all. They were unbreakable, until an unthinkable tragedy occurs. Jackson walks out of Peyton’s life, seemingly for good. Nine years later, Jackson reappears and he’s ready to mend fences (and also Peyton’s broken heart). They both are forced to decide whether they will let the past continue to haunt them, or love each other through all their damage. 

You might like this book if:

  • you love second chance romance
  • you enjoy the friends to lovers trope or the childhood friends to lovers trope
  • you like reading dynamic characters with complex, emotional backstories

You might not like this book if:

  • you dislike reading flashback scenes
  • you don’t enjoy second chance romance
  • you don’t enjoy reading third person POV

There was a lot I enjoyed about Beautifully Damaged. I received it as an ARC from the author, who is so sweet and lovely. I was very excited to read this one as it was highly anticipated in my reader friend group. I don’t read many second chance romances, so I was excited to dive into this book all around.

My favorite thing about Beautifully Damaged was reading about our two main characters, Peyton and Jackson. Reading their friendship was amazing and you could truly feel as a reader the strong, emotional bond they had. You could feel the desperation, the angst, the longing, and the heartbreak. I thought the author did a beautiful job of not just telling us what the characters were feeling, but actually showing us. This, for me, is the marking of a talented author.

I also enjoyed the bit of danger/suspense element thrown in surrounding a situation that Peyton had to deal with. I don’t want to give anything away, but I’m a sucker for a danger element in a romance.

I also loved the complex backstories for both our main leads. I love reading about strained, complicated family dynamics, because it mimics reality. I thought the author did a great job of introducing these dynamics without making them cookie cutter. These relationships aren’t magically solved or perfect by the end of the book. (Which is good, because in real life, relationships are hard and take work. There is no easy fix). I enjoyed how these strained relationships turned into a source of strength and familiarity between our two leads.

In terms of romance, it was really very sweet. You can tell that Peyton and Jackson are destined to be together from the very beginning. I myself am still with my childhood sweetheart (10 years later!!) so I could really relate to their childhood love morphing into a true, deep and emotional one.

As you all may know, I typically am not a fan of 1) flashback scenes and 2) third person POVs. This book has both. However, I honestly felt like it worked here. I almost think that flashback scenes are necessary for a second chance romance to help set the scene and explain the past. For me, I just like a linear storyline and this is a personal choice. However, I did not mind the flashback scenes here. Additionally, I just prefer to read first person POV, because it helps me connect better with the characters and what they are thinking. However, I found that I still was able to connect and bond with these characters even in a POV that isn’t my favorite, which I think is a testament to the strength of the author’s storytelling. These aren’t criticisms as much as they are my personal preferences.

All in all, I gave this one a 4.5/5. I enjoyed this sweet, second chance romance, and I’m excited to see what else this author has in store for the rest of the series.

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Ratings
Goodreads Rating: 4.23/5
My Overall Rating: 4.5/5
Steam: 2/5
Romance: 5/5
Friendship: 5/5
Suspense: 3/5

Get More Info: visit Laura Pavlov’s website; connect with the author on Instagram; connect with the author on Facebook; find Beautifully Damaged on Amazon

Beautifully Damaged is new adult contemporary, and it published on July 24, 2017. It is the first book in the Shine Design series. It is available to purchase here.

About the Author: Laura Pavlov writes sweet and sexy contemporary romance that will make you both laugh and cry. She is happily married to her college sweetheart, mom to two awesome almost-grown kids, and dog-whisperer to a couple crazy yorkies. Laura resides in Las Vegas where she is living her own happily ever after. Be sure to sign up for updates on new releases. Laura loves to hear from readers!

This post is not sponsored. All opinions are my own. All links provided are for your convenience only – none are affiliate links. The author was kind enough to provide me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Review: Riley Sager’s Final Girls

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As soon as I read the synopsis for this book, I went to the store to purchase it. I love thriller/suspense (my favorite genre next to romance), and I love scary movies. Seriously, horror is my favorite movie genre. I love it. This book sounded like it merged the thriller/suspense genre and the “final girl” concept seen in horror genre. Yes, please.

Final Girls tells the story Quincy Carpenter, a final girl. In college, Quincy went on a vacation with a group of friends, but just like the horror movie massacres, she was the only one who made it out alive. She unofficially joins the final girls club alongside Lisa and Sam. Yet, as the years have passed Quincy finds herself settling into normalcy thanks to her prescription medication, loving fiance, and popular baking blog. Everything is normal…until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead. Quincy is forced to relive and remember her past as she fights for her life in the present.

You might like this book if:

  • you enjoy horror movies/the final girl concept
  • you enjoy murder mysteries
  • you like reading dynamic characters that are unreliable/untrustworthy

You might not like this book if:

  • you dislike reading flashback scenes
  • you don’t enjoy suspense books that have a slower build up

Ok y’all I actually really loved this one. It had me hooked from the very first chapter. I actually enjoyed that Quincy could not remember much from the night of the massacre. While I understand why some readers don’t enjoy the repressed memory device in stories, I thought it worked here. Just imagine going through something that traumatic and seeing all of your friends be killed…I can definitely see how this would be something a person would block out. So, I enjoyed this plot device!

Usually I’m not a fan of flashbacks in stories (I like the story line to be linear), but again I really enjoyed it here. I loved how I was unraveling the story of the past while trying to get to the bottom of what was happening in the future. It kept my attention all the way through.

While I thought the suspense was good (there was somewhat of a slower build up), the ending is really what made this book for me. The last 20% of the book had me reading like crazy to get to the end. Truly, I didn’t know what was going to happen until the very end. I had my theories and suspicions, but they were way off! Then, looking back once you know the ending…it all makes sense. These are my favorite and most fulfilling suspense/thriller endings as a reader.

Overall, I give this a 5/5. I really enjoyed it and flew through this one. I couldn’t stop reading. I had to know what happened. The ending was totally worth it for me that I didn’t mind the slower beginning. Please let me know if you’ve read this one and what you thought!

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Ratings
Goodreads Rating: 3.8/5
My Overall Rating: 5/5
Suspense: 3.5/5
Ending: 5/5
Characterization: 4.5/5

Get More Info: visit Riley Sager’s website; connect with the author on Instagram; connect with the author on Twitter; find Final Girls on Amazon

Final Girls is adult thriller/suspense, and it published on July 11, 2017. It is available to purchase here.

About the Author: Riley Sager is the pseudonym of a former journalist, editor and graphic designer. Now a full-time writer, Riley is the author of FINAL GIRLS, an international bestseller that has been published in 25 languages, and the New York Times bestseller THE LAST TIME I LIED. His latest book, LOCK EVERY DOOR, will be published in July. A native of Pennsylvania, Riley now lives in Princeton, New Jersey.

This post is not sponsored. All opinions are my own. All links provided are for your convenience only – none are affiliate links.

Review: Chloe Liese’s She’s a Spitfire

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Happy publication day to Chloe Liese’s She’s a Spitfire, the sequel to her debut novel, He’s a Brute. I am so very fortunate to have been sent an ARC by the author in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Chloe Liese!

She’s a Spitfire is the second book in the Tough Love series. She’s a Spitfire continues the story of Zed and Nairne. Zed and Nairne’s love for one another is strong, and they are both ready and willing to fight for their future – together. But their future together is getting more distant by the day with a present life Zed can’t escape from and a past life Nairne keeps running from.

You might like this book if:

  • you enjoy steamy romance novels (18+ sexual content – dom/sub)
  • you need a little thrill/suspense in your romance i.e., the mafia
  • you love well rounded, inclusive, strong female characters

You might not like this book if:

  • you dislike suspense/danger in your romance
  • you dislike mafia romance
  • you prefer to read standalones as opposed to series

Alright so to get us all up to speed – you can read my review on the first book in the series here. Now that we’re all on the same page…everything I loved about He’s a Brute stays true for this sequel. I still loved the romance and the steam between our main characters. Chloe Liese definitely knows how to deliver a strong romance.

While I loved the characterization of Nairne in He’s a Brute, it was even better in She’s a Spitfire. Nairne is the definition of a strong, independent woman. She literately is “a spitfire.” There is no damsel in distress here. Nairne doesn’t back down from any challenge that’s thrown her way. She’s intelligent and she’s not waiting for a man to save her. She’s willing to save herself and those around her. I just love this strong, female character.

So if you go back and read my review for He’s a Brute, my one complaint was that I wanted to see more mafia romance. Well She’s a Spitfire met this demand and then some. From the very first chapter, I was completely drawn in. This series is my first time reading a mafia romance, and I found that I loved it. Any time my romance has a bit of suspense/danger, I am totally sold.

I loved being able to read and see more from our secondary characters. I love reading about Elodie and Lucas, and I think I detected a slight flirtation between them? I’m kind of hoping the next book explores this.

Also, Chloe Liese publishes playlists for her books. I love listening to them and reading along with the story. It literately makes it feel like a movie is playing in my head. If you enjoy music while you read, I definitely recommend this. Or even if you listen to the playlist after reading, I think it’s a really fun experience to hear the different vibes of the books. You can find both playlists here.

Lastly, I need to talk about the ending…let’s just say I was holding my breath for the last 10% of the book. This book delivered serious steam and was very suspenseful. Then, just when I thought I was in the clear, I read the last chapter. I am so happy that I don’t have to wait long to read book three, because I can’t wait to read the rest of Zed and Nairne’s story.

Overall, I really enjoyed this new adult romance. If y’all check it out, please let me know what you think! She’s a Spitfire gets a 5/5 from me.

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Ratings
Goodreads Rating: 4.9
My Overall Rating: 5/5
Steam: 5/5
Romance: 5/5
Friendship: 4/5
Suspense: 4/5

Get More Info: visit Chloe Liese’s website; connect with the author on Instagram; find He’s a Brute on Amazon; find She’s a Spitfire, now

She’s a Spitfire is new adult romance, and it was published on June 24, 2019. It’s available to purchase here.

About the Author: Chloe writes stories that, like people, resist categories. Her contemporary romances are hot, witty, full of heart and keep you on the edge of your seat. She’s an avid reader, Harry Potter lover, and eats more peanut butter cups than she probably should.

Cover Reveal: Staci Hart’s Coming Up Roses

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Y’all, the cover reveal for Staci Hart’s upcoming release is here! I have to say that the cover for Coming Up Roses is beautiful. I can’t wait to have this sitting on my shelf upon release day!

Coming Up Roses is a romantic comedy, and the synopsis sounds amazing. I love a workplace romance, and this sounds like it’ll be a tension filled enemies-to-lovers story. I’m here for it, and I’m really excited. Coming Up Roses publishes August 1, 2019. See the Goodreads’ blurb below! If you’re interested in reading more from this author, check out my review on Well Suited here.

Everyone hates parts of their job.

Maybe it’s the paperwork. Maybe it’s the day-to-day grind. Maybe it’s that client who never knows what they want, or the guy who always cooks fish in the microwave.

But not me. I love every corner of the Longbourne Flower Shop, every flower, every petal, every stem. I love the greenhouse, and I love Mrs. Bennet, my boss. I love creating, and I love being a florist. I don’t hate anything at all.
Except for Luke Bennet.

The Bennet brothers have come home to help their mom save the flower shop, and Luke is at the helm. His smile tells a tale of lust, loose and easy. He moves with the grace of a predator, feral and wild. A thing unbridled, without rules or constraint.

When he comes home to save Longbourne, I almost can’t be mad at him.
Almost.

He doesn’t remember that night I’ll never forget. That kiss, touched with whiskey and fire. It branded me like a red-hot iron. But it meant nothing to him.

Everyone hates part of their job, and I hate Luke Bennet.

Because if I don’t, I’ll fall in love with him.

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Get More Info: visit Staci Hart’s website; connect with the author on Instagram; connect with the author on Facebook; add Coming Up Roses to your Goodreads

This post is not sponsored. All opinions are my own. All links provided are for your convenience only – none are affiliate links. The author was kind enough to provide me with the cover reveal before release day.