5 star, adult

Review: Stuck With You by Ali Hazelwood

Series: The STEMinist novellas #2

Nothing like a little rivalry between scientists to take love to the next level.

Mara, Sadie, and Hannah are friends first, scientists always. Though their fields of study might take them to different corners of the world, they can all agree on this universal truth: when it comes to love and science, opposites attract and rivals make you burn…

Logically, Sadie knows that civil engineers are supposed to build bridges. However, as a woman of STEM she also understands that variables can change, and when you are stuck for hours in a tiny New York elevator with the man who broke your heart, you earn the right to burn that brawny, blond bridge to the ground. Erik can apologize all he wants, but to quote her rebel leader—she’d just as soon kiss a Wookiee.

Not even the most sophisticated of Sadie’s superstitious rituals could have predicted such a disastrous reunion. But while she refuses to acknowledge the siren call of Erik’s steely forearms or the way his voice softens when he offers her his sweater, Sadie can’t help but wonder if there might be more layers to her cold-hearted nemesis than meet the eye. Maybe, possibly, even burned bridges can still be crossed….



For the fact that this is a novella, Stuck With You packs on the chemistry and heat right from the start, once again showing that it isn’t about the length of a novel but the talent of the author to draw us into a story and the lives of its characters.

As always, I’m super invested in these women in STEM stories. Definitely would love to see more romance books featuring such smart and independent protagonists.

Sadie was a firecracker with her oddly specific superstitious rituals for good luck before interviews and her love for engineering in a workforce still dominated by men. I adored her voice, and the narrator on the audiobook did a superb job creating that excitement I vividly picture at Sadie’s passion for what she does. Which brings us to her love-hate relationship with Erik. She brings the passion so that also transfers to things (or PEOPLE) she passionately dislikes.

I liked the format of the story going back and forth between present day wherein she’s trapped in the elevator with the last person she wants to see, and the past explaining how she and Erik met. It keeps us guessing what went down between them when it seemed they really clicked initially. This made the pace go really well and never drag the story too long – if novellas can feel long.

Erik epitomized the kind of male love interests that people love. Stoic, strong, a bit brooding (or maybe because he didn’t speak all that much), and clearly misunderstood. Something clearly wasn’t adding up the more we learned of the past between Erik and Sadie.

And while it’s great to love characters individually, I will have to say that Erik and Sadie together just had sparks flying. Whew, how was that elevator not starting to move again when it could be fueled by their tension and electricity?? Their dynamic rivaled Ali Hazelwood’s debut duo from The Love Hypothesis. Perhaps it’s the grumpy-sunshine character combo but anyhow, this made the story. The angst is real, the miscommunication is probably in there somewhere and not too difficult to figure out near the end, and you just know how they make up for such communication breakdown is gonna be awesome.

And by awesome I mean chemically reactive!

If you haven’t hopped onto the Ali Hazelwood train, I would recommend you do. You can start anywhere with this novella series without ruining the other stories, but I definitely liked Sadie’s story the most so far.

Overall Recommendation:

Stuck With You is the classic forced proximity story that draws together two people with an extreme love-hate relationship. What do you get when you put 2 engineers together in an unmoving elevator late on a Friday evening? A combustive story detailing the mishaps of their initial meeting/attempts at romance and perhaps some steamy ways of making up for what happened. Sadie and Erik’s story may contain those common romance tropes but they’re what make the story so attractive. What makes the rest of it so good is the compelling storytelling all credited to Ali’s amazing writing. Definitely worth the pick up for such a short book.

5 star, adult

ARC Review: Breathless by Amy McCulloch

A high-altitude thriller that will take your breath away–Cecily Wong is on her most dangerous climb yet, miles above sea level. But the elements are nothing compared to one chilling truth: There’s a killer on the mountain.

Journalist Cecily Wong is in over her head. She’s come to Manaslu, the eighth-highest peak in the world, to interview internationally famous mountaineer Charles McVeigh on the last leg of a record-breaking series of summits. She’s given up everything for this story–her boyfriend, her life savings, the peace she’s made with her climbing failures in the past–but it’s a career-making opportunity. It could finally put her life back on track.

But when one climber dies in what everyone else assumes is a freak accident, she fears their expedition is in danger. And by the time a second climber dies, it’s too late to turn back. Stranded on a mountain in one of the most remote regions of the world, she’ll have to battle more than the elements in a harrowing fight for survival against a killer who is picking them off one by one.



**Breathless comes out May 3, 2022**

Thank you Netgalley and the publisher for this copy in exchange for an honest review.

‘There’s a murderer on the mountain. Run.’

Breathless quite literally lives up to its name in this spellbinding story that had me gripped from the moment. Equal parts exhilarating and knowledge seeking, I was thrilled with the tension and mystery as the author intended, but I also learned so much about mountain climbing that I lived these experiences almost vicariously through these characters.

Cecily Wong is part of an exclusive team assembled to climb the last of the 14 mountains greater than eight-thousand-metres above sea level, Manaslu, alongside the legendary mountaineer Charles McVeigh. Unfortunately, she feels she has so much to prove to him (and the rest of the very experienced team) because she’s known as the girl who could NOT summit even a smaller mountain. But getting to exclusively interview Charles on the condition she summits is the chance of a lifetime and everyone plus their mother knows that.

I love Cecily’s perspective throughout this whole book. She’s a rather newbie climber so the logistics and extensive training that comes with mountain climbing is explained in the book for us who have no idea what this world is like. However, I don’t feel it’s too technical and boring at these parts because it’s so ingrained into what is happening in the story. The team requires acclimatization at higher altitudes before they can climb so high so of course, we follow that journey with them. It’s never an overload of information and everything is potentially relevant.

Besides the newbie perspective, Cecily is an empathetic protagonist because she sees people with a less detached attitude. Perhaps it’s because she’s yet to really experience the life and death moments in a place literally called “the death zone” like her fellow experienced climbers. But in this way, her heart and journalistic instinct leads her down a path that may be hold more secrets than she’s prepared to find.

Most importantly, the pacing was fantastic! I never felt bored as the team moved their way up the mountain. The first death occurs not too far into the book so it really sets the tone – is there something more to this death or is it her paranoia? In low oxygen atmospheres, it’s even a possibility hallucinations run rampant so we’re left questioning Cecily’s (and our) judgment of what’s really happening.

I will say this book balanced thriller and mystery very well. There’s the whodunnit if these deaths really were attributed to homicides instead of accidents, but also that tense feeling that something’s not right in the most remote landscape on Earth.

To end off this review, I can’t emphasize enough how much I loved the experience of reading this book. It’s like McCulloch took us on this journey to Manaslu’s summit with the amount of details and descriptions.

The peak stood out, its enormous bulk an ominous black mass against the sparkling night sky. It dominated the horizon, stretching up into the heavens, and the summit wore the stars like a crown.

It’s truly an adventure in a book but also a reminder to sometimes take a breath and admire this world and our tiny place in it. When faced against the elements found at such high altitudes, we may appreciate more what life entails when death may be just a breath away.

Note: all quotes are subject to change upon final publication

Overall Recommendation:

Breathless takes you on the most amazing journey that mankind can partake in – climbing one of the tallest mountains in the world. The prose is so immersive I truly felt like I was there with our protagonist, Cecily, facing the unknowns and her fears. Unfortunately, there’s also something else afoot on the mountain but we may not be able to trust our judgment when the high altitude sickness comes in. This is the best kind of thriller/mystery and Amy McCulloch did it so well. I promise you, you won’t be disappointed if you pick this up.

5 star, adult

Review: The Maid by Nita Prose

Molly Gray is not like everyone else. She struggles with social skills and misreads the intentions of others. Her gran used to interpret the world for her, codifying it into simple rules that Molly could live by.

Since Gran died a few months ago, twenty-five-year-old Molly has been navigating life’s complexities all by herself. No matter—she throws herself with gusto into her work as a hotel maid. Her unique character, along with her obsessive love of cleaning and proper etiquette, make her an ideal fit for the job. She delights in donning her crisp uniform each morning, stocking her cart with miniature soaps and bottles, and returning guest rooms at the Regency Grand Hotel to a state of perfection.

But Molly’s orderly life is upended the day she enters the suite of the infamous and wealthy Charles Black, only to find it in a state of disarray and Mr. Black himself dead in his bed. Before she knows what’s happening, Molly’s unusual demeanor has the police targeting her as their lead suspect. She quickly finds herself caught in a web of deception, one she has no idea how to untangle. Fortunately for Molly, friends she never knew she had unite with her in a search for clues to what really happened to Mr. Black—but will they be able to find the real killer before it’s too late?

Clue-like, locked-room mystery and a heartwarming journey of the spirit, The Maid explores what it means to be the same as everyone else and yet entirely different—and reveals that all mysteries can be solved through connection to the human heart.



People are a mystery that can never be solved.

When it comes to cozy mysteries, there’s nothing more interesting than a good protagonist to follow on their journey. The Maid is very different from the regular thrillers and mysteries I usually partake in, but it excelled at bringing to life the world of Molly Gray through her eyes. It’s really a discovery of who she is while wrapped up in a murder mystery.

Molly isn’t like the usual characters I read. I get it, she’s not necessarily unique when it comes to neurodivergent individuals in fiction, or perhaps not even the most well-done. But I rather enjoyed my time looking through her eyes. Yes, she misses cues and cannot read between the lines that are said. However, I enjoyed how that integrated well with the story and her personal growth through the ordeal at her work place, the Regency Grand. I know there are people who want to definitively know if Molly is on the autistic spectrum. It’s never made explicit possibly because she was never diagnosed in her life. I’m not here to say whether it should’ve been made clear or not. I also cannot say whether her perspective was accurate to people on the spectrum. You’ll have to read those reviews elsewhere. What I’m here to talk about is what I got from Molly’s story.

Right away, I knew the writing style and protagonist perspective worked for me. Molly loves order, and what is more orderly than cleaning? She’s made for this work, minus the fact that reading people she has to interact with (coworkers, guests, etc.) makes things a bit tricky. But that’s where her Gran’s lessons come in. I loved her relationship with Gran. Even though she had passed away prior to the events of the story, her presence is very much there through Molly’s memories and thoughts.

The story flow progresses well as we move through what would’ve been a typical work week for Molly that becomes very quickly anything but. The focus is less on the murder, though of course it impacts Molly’s life, and more on the minute changes and details she observes in the aftermath that may come useful in finding out the truth.

There are a slew of characters around Molly. It quickly becomes evident (to us at least) who is friendly and who’s taking advantage of her inability to read between the lines. It made me reflect on all these things that seem obvious to me but perhaps isn’t to everyone. Is a smile always good or do we use them negatively? Does someone saying they’ll “take care of your family” always mean something helpful or good, or can it come across as a threat? It’s just fascinating seeing such an interaction through Molly’s lens. Sometimes Very often I found myself wanting to help her figure out friend or foe before it’s too late!

The one minor disappointment here is that there’s definitely no big part that Molly plays in the mystery solving component. Sure, she’s suspected as the killer but I had hopes she would play a bigger role in untangling everything. It’s no locked room mystery if that’s what you’re looking for.

However, what I came here for (the mystery) was easily outweighed by the marvellous journey it was to see Molly grow and make new relationships after losing her strongest and only ally. It was heartwarming and delightful as we witness the woman she was becoming through this ordeal. The mystery is present and mildly predictable (well, with maybe a twist I didn’t see coming), but the star of the show is truly Molly. Who can’t help loving a book when the protagonist charmed me so very much?

If that’s what you’re looking for, then you’re in for a cozy treat.

Overall Recommendation:

The Maid delivers a riveting story following Molly Gray, a woman who sees the world differently than most of us. Her keen perception of her surroundings make her a great maid, but also a valuable asset when figuring out a murder. I loved reading through her perspective. It made the world a brighter place even when things were not going so well for her. The mystery is definitely second tier in this book, but I find myself hardly caring because Molly is the book and her journey figuring out more of the world and her place in it made my heart grow another size. It’s well worth the read!