Friday, December 1, 2023

Five Star Friday - November 2023

Five Star Friday is my version of the monthly wrap-up. On the first Friday of each month, I will share my five-star reads from the previous month. Fingers crossed, I have lots of books to tell you about.

This month, I was able to read 27 books, and I had  3 five-star reads. 

This Spells Love
 by Kate Robb
Published by The Dial Press on December 5, 2023
Age/Genres: Adult, Fiction, Romance

A spell for you to forget your ex, but what else might you lose?

Reeling from a recent breakup, a young woman tries to heal heartbreak with a spell—only to wake up in an alternate reality where she’s lost more than she wished for—in this witty, whimsical friends-to-lovers debut rom-com.

“Once lovers, now enemies, soon to be strangers with some memories, this love cleanse will rid you of your woes.”

When Gemma Wilde gets dumped by her long-term boyfriend, she reacts the way any reasonable twenty-eight-year-old would: by getting drunk with her sister, kooky aunt, and best friend, Dax, and performing a love cleansing spell to forget all about her ex. Sure, it sounds a little crazy, but nothing else has worked, so why not try it? They follow the instructions, complete with an absolutely platonic kiss from Dax to seal the deal, and Gemma falls asleep in a margarita haze, thinking nothing of it.

But when she wakes up, she realizes that this silly spell has worked. Not only has she never dated her ex; her life looks completely different —and spoiler alert, the grass is not greener in the alternate reality. The worst part of all: Dax has no idea who she is.

To get back to her old life, Gemma must reverse the spell before the next full moon. That means she has one month to convince a now near-stranger, Dax, to become friends with her in order to get his kiss. But as Gemma carries out her plans, she finds herself falling for him, and begins to wonder whether she even wants to go back to the way things were…

I loved every second of this book! We have all read books like this before where a character ends up in an alternate timeline, but I have to commend Robb on how well she utilized this plot device. Seeing her alternate life had Gemma reexamining her past life choices she made in the past and how she allowed her ex to have so much influence. Not only did she see many of her decisions with a fresh pair of eyes, but she also reflected on her relationship with her ex, how her need for stability limited her, and her friendship with Dax.This Spells Love was a wonderful and heartwarming rom-com. It was a reminder that taking chances can result in great things, and that we can learn from our mistakes. The fantastic friends-to-lovers romance was the cherry on top of a story that had me captivated from beginning to end.

Even If It Breaks Your Heart
 by Erin Hahn
Published by Wednesday Books on February 6, 2023
Age/Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

A heart-buckling ride of a romance by beloved author Erin Hahn, Even If It Breaks Your Heart is about two teens finding out that sometimes, the hardest part of discovering what you want is getting the courage to pursue it.

The only thing keeping nineteen-year-old Case Michaels together after the death of his best friend, Walker, is a list Walker left behind of things he wants Case to accomplish in his absence. So far, though, Case hasn’t even been able to continue riding bulls in the rodeo circuit, something he’s done his entire life, balking at the thought of competing without Walker by his side. But the list? Case is determined to follow it to the letter– and he follows it all the way to Winnie Sutton.

Eighteen-year-old Winnie Sutton just wants to keep her family together. She graduated high school early to work long shifts at the Michaels family ranch so she can support her younger siblings and a father who’s more than happy to let Winnie fill the responsible parent role. If she sometimes sneaks out to ride the horses herself and forget about life for a while– well, that’s no one else’s business– until the day she crashes headfirst into Case Michaels. Case sees her riding skills and immediately ropes her into competing for the ranch and becoming his friend.

Winnie and Case couldn’t be more different, but Case can’t help but be inspired by Winnie’s badly-hidden passion for riding and competition. And there’s something about Case that makes Winnie want to try grasping onto a dream for herself, whether that’s a shot at a rodeo trophy, the annoyingly handsome rancher’s son who won’t leave her alone, or maybe both.

I have been a longtime fan of Hahn's work, and this book is a prime example of why I adore her books. Hahn has crafted a beautiful story of grief and love and dreams which was elevated by its amazing characters and rodeo highlights.This was a story of healing and chasing your dreams, about friendship and love, and I had an incredible time taking this personal journey with Case and Winnie. I ached for them, hoped for them, and reveled in their successes.

Last Call at the Local
 by Sarah Grunder Ruiz
Published by Berkley on January 2, 2023
Age/Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Opposites attract when a free-spirited American singer-songwriter with ADHD teams up with a charming Irishman to revitalize his family's pub in the next heartfelt romance from the author of Luck and Last Resorts.

Raine Hart is used to the challenges of living with ADHD. It’s why she ditched her life in Boston to busk around Europe as a traveling musician. No boss. No schedule. No one to disappoint but herself. But when a careless mistake in Ireland leaves her unable to perform, she sees no other option but to give up her nomadic life.

Since inheriting the Local, Jack Dunne has wanted to make the pub his own. But the baggage of running a family business and the intrusive thoughts that stem from his OCD make changing things a challenge.

Over a pint with handsome, tattooed Jack, Raine accidentally insults him and the pub. Instead of taking offense, Jack, impressed by her vision of what the pub could be, offers her a job bringing it to life.

But when Raine and Jack develop feelings for one another their opposite lifestyles won’t accommodate, it becomes clear the pub isn’t the only thing that needs reinventing. As the end of their business collaboration draws near, they’ll have to find a way past the limits they’ve placed on themselves or let go of a love that could last a lifetime.

Ruiz is three for three! I love that the Love, Lists, & Fancy Ships world expanded, and it was wonderful getting to know both Jack and Raine. These two had an instant connection, or like Jack said, "One beetle recognizes another. " Both Jack and Raine are ADHD while Jack also has OCD. Their disorders and how they affect their lives and their relationships was a big part of the story, and I felt Ruiz did a lovely job with it, but really, I simply adored these two together. Their banter and chemistry was top notch, and well, this book just made me happy. I think fans of the series will be pleased that Ollie and Nina make multiple appearances in this book. I know I was. 

Honorable Mention

November was packed with great reading. Here are my honorable mention books. All earned 4.5 stars.

What were the best books you read last month?
Let us know in the comments!


  1. Damn I need If It Breaks your Heart now Sam! Thank you for putting that one on my radar!

    1. I think every one of Hahn's young adult books have been hits for me. This was just continuing the streak.

  2. Love seeing Hahn's book in your favorites. It's up there with You'd Be Mine for me. I loved it. Same for Rifts and Refrains. I loved that book. Happy to see it get a mention.

    1. When you look at my ratings for Hahn's books, they are always high. Just the blip. Rifts and Refrains was great, for so many reasons. I think this was a solid series.

  3. I'm looking forward to Last Call at the Local, so I'm happy to see you loved it so! I also want to read Raiders of the Lost Heart.

    1. Last Call was a bit different from the last two book with a good bit of focus on the ADHD/OCD elements, but it still had all the charm, great banter, and fun of the other two books. I hope you enjoy it!

  4. You had a great month of reading, Sam. I am interested in all three of your 5 star reads. Here's hoping my library or KU has them.

    1. Fingers crossed! I hope you get a chance to read them

  5. I haven't read any of these, but they all sound really good! Hooray for another great month of reading!