Category: Book Review

Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett | Book Review

Posted March 14, 2019 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 4 Comments

Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett | Book ReviewSerious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett
Published by Simon Pulse on April 16, 2019
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 432
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher (Edelweiss)
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4 Stars
After an awkward first encounter, Birdie and Daniel are forced to work together in a Seattle hotel where a famous author leads a mysterious and secluded life in this romantic contemporary novel from the author of Alex, Approximately.

Mystery-book aficionado Birdie Lindberg has an overactive imagination. Raised in isolation and homeschooled by strict grandparents, she’s cultivated a whimsical fantasy life in which she plays the heroic detective and every stranger is a suspect. But her solitary world expands when she takes a job the summer before college, working the graveyard shift at a historic Seattle hotel.

In her new job, Birdie hopes to blossom from introverted dreamer to brave pioneer, and gregarious Daniel Aoki volunteers to be her guide. The hotel’s charismatic young van driver shares the same nocturnal shift and patronizes the waterfront Moonlight Diner where she waits for the early morning ferry after work. Daniel also shares her appetite for intrigue, and he’s stumbled upon a real-life mystery: a famous reclusive writer—never before seen in public—might be secretly meeting someone at the hotel.

To uncover the writer’s puzzling identity, Birdie must come out of her shell…discovering that most confounding mystery of all may be her growing feelings for the elusive riddle that is Daniel.

Jenn Bennett is one of my favorite authors. I’ve now read all four of her young adult books, and the two things I can always count on are that the story will be filled with unique characters that I can’t help but fall in love with and that the story will be unlike anything I’ve read before. I really, really enjoyed reading Serious Moonlight, but it will not knock Starry Eyes out of first place in my eyes. As always, my main points are bolded.

1. I love our little bookish Birdie. She loves mystery novels and endeavors to be a private investigator one day. She has a bit of a dark past, wears a flower in her hair everyday, loves her family, and deals with anxiety (and a couple other health issues that make her interesting). I actually really connected with her when she got anxious about various things because she worries the same way that I worry: a lot and about things that aren’t actually that big of a deal. At the same time, this anxiety drove me nuts sometimes when her inner dialogue just kept going and going as she thought things to death and analyzed everything. lol. She also suspects she has narcolepsy like her grandfather, but tries to leave that pushed under the rug. For an anxious person, I’m actually surprised she can do that! Anyway, she’s a unique and interesting character with a backbone and a confidence I wish I had had at her age.

2. Daniel is the epitome of swoony boy (except he wears man buns, which makes me struggle to like him more than I otherwise would have). He’s exactly the kind of boy you would expect Jenn Bennett to dream up for us. He and Birdie met at the Moonlight Diner, and had a one night stand in the back of his car before Birdie flipped out and ran away, never to be seen again. Well, not until she shows up working the graveyard shift with him at the Carlisle Hotel. You’d think a boy who had been so epically rejected wouldn’t give her a second glance, but he pursues her relentlessly with his smooth, flirtatious nature. He’s got some of the best one-liners, and is so witty. He’s got some baggage just like Birdie, and I liked the depth it brought to his character. He’s very loyal and loving, too.

3. Birdie’s Aunt Mona is a HOOT. Oh my goodness, I loved her so much. Can Jenn write an adult romance just for her, please? Aunt Mona is mid-thirties, is an artist, lives in an old theater that she has re-purposed as an art studio, speaks very flowery (does that even make sense?), and cosplays every day. Seriously, she sews intricate costumes inspired by people in history and pop culture and has a huge collection of wigs, not to mention an entire rainbow of make-up to select from to complete her looks. She is a very supportive and loving aunt to Birdie. I’d love to be friends with this woman. She gives such great advice, and sounds like such a fun person to be around.

4. The mystery aspect was a fun addition to the story. Daniel really wants to spend time with Birdie, so he brings a hotel-related mystery to her attention and they spend their time investigating, discussing, and breaking a few laws to try and solve it. I love that this is how they bonded!

5. Daniel knows Birdie’s heart and takes her on a date to alive-action Clue dinner party for couples, and I was very invested. How cute is that? I loved it.

6. I loved the setting of the book. Birdie lives on Bainbridge Island and takes the ferry into Seattle for work every day. Things felt very cozy to me. Birdie and Daniel walk around Seattle exploring and investigating, and I loved reading little tidbits about the drizzly weather and fun tourist spots they end up in.

7. Things get a little heavy as we learn more about Birdie’s mom, Daniel’s family, some health issues they both deal with, and even some of Mona’s past. I appreciated the depth, but felt kind of weighed down by it. I wanted things lighter and fluffier, but that was just me at the time I read it. Jenn likes to bring real life into all of her books, and I can appreciate that. Nobody has a perfect life, and letting these characters be flawed and discuss their problems makes them more realistic and relatable.

8. The romance is very, very sweet and follows a natural progression as Daniel and Birdie learn how to let each other in and trust each other. I’m rooting for their future.

9. There’s an octopus named Octavia!!!

All in all, Serious Moonlight was so much fun and has given me more characters to love! Jenn’s writing is amazing, and her storytelling abilities always warm my heart. The dialogue between all the characters is wonderful, and kept me tearing through the pages. Even though Starry Eyes is still my favorite Jenn Bennett book, I highly recommend this one as well.


Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch | Book Review

Posted January 31, 2019 by Jana in Book Review / 2 Comments

Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch | Book ReviewLove & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch
Published by Simon Pulse on May 8, 2018
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher (Edelweiss)
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3 Stars
Addie is visiting Ireland for her aunt’s over-the-top destination wedding, and hoping she can stop thinking about the one horrible thing she did that left her miserable and heartbroken—and threatens her future. But her brother, Ian, isn’t about to let her forget, and his constant needling leads to arguments and even a fistfight between the two once inseparable siblings. Miserable, Addie can’t wait to visit her friend in Italy and leave her brother—and her problems—behind.

So when Addie discovers an unusual guidebook, Ireland for the Heartbroken, hidden in the dusty shelves of the hotel library, she’s able to finally escape her anxious mind and Ian’s criticism.

And then their travel plans change. Suddenly Addie finds herself on a whirlwind tour of the Emerald Isle, trapped in the world’s smallest vehicle with Ian and his admittedly cute, Irish-accented friend Rowan. As the trio journeys over breathtaking green hills, past countless castles, and through a number of fairy-tale forests, Addie hopes her guidebook will heal not only her broken heart, but also her shattered relationship with her brother.

That is if they don’t get completely lost along the way.

I read and loved Love & Gelato, and immediately grabbed Jenna’s second book, Love & Luck, because I was so excited to jump back into another one of her stories. Contrary to what you might think, these two books have nothing to do with one another (except there’s a tiny cameo of the couple from Love & Gelato) and are 100% standalones. As always, my main points are bolded.

1. There’s not much emphasis placed on the “love” part of Love & Luck. There’s a bit of a romance there, but the book is mostly about Addie’s journey to mending her broken heart. She finds a guidebook on healing your heart in Ireland, and follows the tasks in the book that make her love herself more. The emphasis on self-care and healing was refreshing and sweet, but I did really miss the romance that I loved so much in Love & Gelato.

2. I love reading about sibling relationships in books, and there’s a lot of that in Love & Luck. Addie and Ian used to be incredibly close, but something happened to her that ripped them apart. This story is about the two of them mending their relationship as well, and I loved that. Even though there’s a lot of tension and hostility between the two of them, you can also see how much they still love and care for one another.

3. At the same time, though, this big huge secret about what happened to Addie kept being referenced but readers don’t find out what it was until well into the book. I couldn’t figure out why it was so important that the reader not know, and I got frustrated because it felt like something was being kept from me.

4. I had so much fun traveling through Ireland with these characters in their dilapidated car. They pass castles and historic sites and so much pretty scenery. Jenna’s scenery descriptions were wonderful, as I’ve come to expect from her.

4. I really liked Ian’s friend, Rowan. He cracked me up.

All in all, I enjoyed Love & Luck but not even close to as much as I loved Love & Gelato. I love Jenna’s writing and her characters, but I just didn’t feel that the plot sucked me in this time. I’d love to travel to more places through Jenna’s books, though, and I hope she writes more soon!


The Gem Thief by Sian Ann Bessey | Book Review

Posted January 21, 2019 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 1 Comment

The Gem Thief by Sian Ann Bessey | Book ReviewThe Gem Thief by Sian Ann Bessey
Published by Covenant Communications on November 1, 2018
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Mystery, Romance, Suspense
Pages: 267
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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4 Stars
Gracie Miller is a small-town girl who has landed her dream job in New York City. As jewelry designer for one of the most prestigious jewelers in the world, she completed a particularly stunning piece, a custom setting for a large pink diamond. But when her billionaire client Mrs. Katsaros comes to repair a minor issue with the setting, Gracie is horrified to realize it is not the ring she created. Someone has forged her design, and the priceless diamond is gone.

Mrs. Katsaros has no desire to bring media attention to the jewelry heist, so she recruits her nephew, Quinn, and his FBI agent friend, Steve, to do some sleuthing off the record. When they discover that the missing ring is just one of many forgeries in the widow's collection, they look to Gracie for help. They need her to act the part of Quinn's fiancée. From the lights of New York to the shimmering islands of the Mediterranean, Gracie is swept into a thrilling hunt. But amid the search for the elusive thief, she and Quinn find themselves increasingly distracted by their growing feelings for each other. What neither realizes is how close the danger lies and how serious the vendetta is—because, apparently, it is worth killing for.

The Gem Thief pretty much had my name written all over it! I knew I needed a change of pace from all the contemporary romance I’d been reading lately, so when I saw that this book was a combination some of my favorite things  (mystery, romance, intrigue, and travel) I knew it was going to be something I’d enjoy. As always, my main points are bolded.

1. I really, really love jewelry so I was excited to find out that Gracie is a jewelry designer for a big company in New York City. She designs settings for beautiful gems and precious stones, and when she arrives at work one day to learn that one of her pieces was replaced with a forgery, our mystery begins. I was so excited to see how it all played out.

2. Gracie is a very sweet, caring person. She’s polite, warm, calm under pressure, a little insecure, and down to earth even though she works for such a prestigious company and such wealthy customers. She loves her job and puts so much of herself into each piece of jewelry she designs for her clients. She felt so much empathy for and compassion towards Dorcas when she learned of the theft and immediately wanted to help in any way that she could. She’s just an all around good person, who I could easily picture myself being friends with.

3. Quinn is Dorcas’s nephew, and works for the insurance company that insures Dorcas’s expensive pieces of jewelry. As soon as the forgery is discovered, he is called in to help. I liked Quinn a lot, and thought his devotion to his aunt was very endearing and made him even more attractive in my eyes. He’s a great listener, and opens his heart to those he cares about.

4. Dorcas is so much fun! She lived a normal, mainstream life until she fell in love with and married the founder of the Greek Cruise Line (GCL). Then her life became glitzy and glamorous, filled with expensive jewelry, luxurious living arrangements, and extravagant vacations. She loves to wear bright colors, and has the sweetest, most caring personality.

5. I was eager for the traveling to begin once Gracie, Quinn, and Dorcas decided to solve this mystery themselves. I wasn’t disappointed at all. Their first stop is to the Venetian Jewelry Show (I LOVE VENICE), where Dorcas went with her husband each year to buy a new piece of jewelry. The descriptions of Venice were spot-on, and sent me right back to the Grand Canal and the winding passageways. Then they board a fancy luxury cruise ship and explore the Mediterranean. I just loved reading about their visits to Athens, Santorini, and Dubrovnik to name a few. The descriptions of the scenery, sunsets, and weather were wonderful.

6. I loved the slow burning romance. Quinn and Gracie get off to a very rocky start, but their fake engagement brings out real feelings very quickly. And I loved that their love story grew from mutual respect, to friendship, to more. It wasn’t founded on a one-night stand or lust. It felt real and organic to me. And the romance is totally clean. There’s some kisses, but no sex whatsoever. There’s not even a mention of sex as a want or an option on either side, and I really loved that about the book.

7. I would have liked more suspense, but that’s just me. I love suspense!

8. I was annoyed that the ship had “floors” instead of “decks”. Nobody calls them floors on a cruise ship! You don’t get in an elevator to go up one or two floors on a ship, you go up one or two decks. So that drove me nuts. I hope that was fixed in the final version of the book. DECKS.

9. Let me get picky about geography for a second. At one point in the story, Gracie and Dorcas were standing at the edge of the Grand Canal looking at the Mediterranean Sea beyond. That’s the Adriatic Sea. And yes, that’s part of the Mediterranean so I guess it works, but if you look at a map you’ll see that the Med is down at the tip of Italy. You can’t see the Med from Venice. Technically the author isn’t wrong, but if it were me I would have been more accurate about it.

Obviously, I have very few complaints. I really, really loved reading The Gem Thief. I’ve been in a book slump for quite some time, and I flew through this one. It was refreshing, and it allowed me to escape to one of my favorite places. I loved the characters and the romance and the mystery. It was just very fun for me. The writing is wonderful, and I’m planning to look into more books by Sian. I highly recommend this one!


Beauty and the Blacksmith by Tessa Dare | Book Review

Posted January 11, 2019 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 1 Comment

Beauty and the Blacksmith by Tessa Dare | Book ReviewBeauty and the Blacksmith by Tessa Dare
Series: Spindle Cove #3.5
Also in this series: Once Upon a Winter's Eve, A Night to Surrender
Published by Avon Impulse on April 30, 2013
Genres: Historical Romance, Romance
Pages: 148
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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5 Stars
At last, Diana gets a romance of her own! But with the last man anyone in Spindle Cove expects...

Beautiful and elegant, Miss Diana Highwood is destined to marry a wealthy, well-placed nobleman. At least, that's what her mother has loudly declared to everyone in Spindle Cove.

But Diana's not excited by dukes and lords. The only man who makes her heart pound is the village blacksmith, Aaron Dawes. By birth and fortune, they couldn't be more wrong for each other...but during stolen, steamy moments in his forge, his strong hands feel so right.

Is their love forged strong enough to last, or are they just playing with fire?

I always love returning to Spindle Cove, and I was so excited to see Diana get her own love story this time even though it was super short and left me wanting more. I’ve loved Diana from the other books in the series, and it was fun to lean more about her and watch her sand up for herself. Her mom wants her to marry a nobleman, but she’s got her eyes set on the village blacksmith, Aaron. And why would she NOT!? Why go for a wimpy, wiry nobleman with no strength or grit when she can have a muscly blacksmith!? Aaron is a swoony hunk of man, but so sweet and caring as well. He’s so concerned about making his relationship with Diana work because they’re from different social classes. I love forbidden romances, and this one is filled with sneaking around and tension. SO much fun and so cute! Tessa Dare never ever disappoints me. This novella is crammed full of so much heart and love, and while I wish there had been more it was perfectly satisfying just the way it was.


The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang | Mini Book Review

Posted January 10, 2019 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 9 Comments

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang | Mini Book ReviewThe Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
Published by Berkley on June 5, 2018
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 336
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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1.5 Stars
A heartwarming and refreshing debut novel that proves one thing: there's not enough data in the world to predict what will make your heart tick.

Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases — a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old.

It doesn't help that Stella has Asperger's and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice — with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can't afford to turn down Stella's offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan — from foreplay to more-than-missionary position...

Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but to crave all the other things he's making her feel. Soon, their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic...

I had been so SO excited to read this book when I’d heard people compare it to The Hating Game by Sally Thorne. I went into it very excited for a similar, swoony, romantic story and it just didn’t work for me at all. I’m leaving my very tiny review here to inform my readers of my overall thoughts, but I wasn’t in the mood to go into more detail than this.

Things started out great and I loved the characters (I still just adore Michael in particular), but things changed for me at about 50% when the story shifted to a very strong focus on sex. I did not enjoy the countless numbers of graphic scenes. I don’t mind sex scenes at all, but these went on and on and were described in way more detail than I was comfortable reading. I started skimming past them to try and find more actual story, but there wasn’t much else that I could find. By about 86% I got to see how everything ended for each of these characters, and I did love that. The ending was sweet and deeper than the bulk of the book. I’m glad I read the end, and wish that there had been more substance throughout the middle.


A Tale of Beauty and Beast by Melanie Cellier | Book Review

Posted January 4, 2019 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 2 Comments

A Tale of Beauty and Beast by Melanie Cellier | Book ReviewA Tale of Beauty and Beast by Melanie Cellier
on November 26, 2017
Genres: Fairy Tale, Fantasy, Retelling, Romance
Pages: 295
Format: Audiobook
Source: Gift
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5 Stars
Lily has managed to save the duchy of Marin, with the help of her twin, Sophie. But now Sophie faces an even greater threat. Can she save the cursed kingdom of Palinor from its beastly prince?

I love Beauty and the Beast retellings, and after really loving the first book in this series I was even more excited to get to this one because I knew it would be amazing. Be careful reading any further, as this review will spoil who won the Princess Tourney in A Dance of Silver and Shadow!

The Princess Tourney is over and, as its winner, Sophie sets off on a curious and magical journey to Palinor to meet her betrothed: the beast (aka Prince Dominic). Since she’s the narrator this time, readers get to finally know Sophie better. I really liked her, and I felt I identified more with her than I did with Lily in the first book. Sophie arrives at the castle after a long journey in a carriage driven by an invisible force through a wintry wilderness, and finds it to be empty of people even though it looks taken care of. After some exploring she begins hearing voices of people she cannot see. She calls out to them, startling a whole staff of people who work there. They were not expecting her to be able to hear them. Dominic is not invisible, but he cannot speak to her and communicates through abrasive notes. It’s pretty obvious the kingdom has been placed under a curse and, of course, Sophie is going to try to break it and save the people she’s begun to form strong bonds with. The romance also begins to blossom and thrive as time goes on and we learn more about our tortured beast.

There are numerous ties to the original tale of Beauty & the Beast, as well as the Disney version. Melanie Cellier does find unique ways to make the story her own, however. Lily is still a part of the story, although the kingdom is quite isolated. I loved the secondary characters (the wait staff), and their interactions with Sophie. They look out for their master even though he’s kind of a jerk, but they also validate Sophie’s concerns and sympathize with her plight. I loved the relationships she formed with them. I really loved Melanie’s writing, too. Really my only complaint is that the female narrator did a pretty awful job portraying Prince Dominic’s voice. I felt the same with her portrayal of the male characters in the first book, too.

All in all, this was a very nice retelling of Beauty & the Beast! I love the writing, and I enjoy listening to these books even though the narrator bugs me a bit at times. I’m excited to read more from Melanie.


The Unlikely Romance of Kate Bjorkman by Louise Plummer | Book Review

Posted December 22, 2018 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 2 Comments

The Unlikely Romance of Kate Bjorkman by Louise Plummer | Book ReviewThe Unlikely Romance of Kate Bjorkman by Louise Plummer
Published by Laurel Leaf on October 11, 2005
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Holiday - Christmas, Romance
Pages: 192
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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5 Stars
I’m Kate Bjorkman. I don’t like romance novels. They’re full of three-paragraph kisses describing people’s tongues and spittle. But what do you do if you’ve lived a real romance with a great-looking guy (Richard) and he loves you as much as you love him? I know what I did. I wrote this romance novel about myself, using the Romance Writer’s Phrase Book. I also used stuff my English teacher taught me about writing. He said a story must have conflict. No problem there. My life was one big conflict last Christmas. I didn’t make anything up. This is the honest truth and I want truth even in romance. I’m betting you’ll want the same.

This book review was originally posted here on 12/3/12, but the book is absolutely adorable and so underrated that I had to share my review again! It’s everything I look for in a cozy Christmas read. As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. Kate Bjorkman, aka Boo, is the author and narrator of this book, and she is hilarious. We’ve got a story within a story, as we read both about Kate’s experiences as well as her writing process. Kate’s a bit of an ugly duckling, with coke bottle glasses and boots with fruit on them and stubbly legs. Plus, she’s 6 feet tall and not the smoothest talker out there. It’s Christmastime, and her brother, sister-in-law, her brother’s best friend, and a girl named Fleur all come home from college to celebrate with the positively perfect Bjorkman family. Of course, she has had a crush on her brother’s best friend, Richard, and spends the bulk of the book hopelessly pining after him. Her inner dialogue and her antics had me giggling with delight. 

2. Every so often, we get to a point in the book where we can read Kate’s revision notes. In these notes, she either talks about how she hates what she just wrote, how she needs to add or take away experiences she talked about, or her frustrations as an author trying to come up with the right words and presentation. I really loved this portion of the book, because we get to learn a lot about Kate here.

3. I loved every character in this book, and that rarely happens. Richard is adorable. Fleur is the kind of person you want to hate because she’s absolutely perfect, but can’t hate because she’s absolutely perfect. You know what I mean? I love her bother and sister-in-law and their cute newlywed spats and romance. Her parents are awesome.

4. This book is so witty! I loved the funny things the characters said to each other, plus reading Kate make fun of romance novels was great. The Romance Writer’s Phrase Book, which she quotes a lot is just amazingly hilarious. I wish this book really existed! Rather than having real chapter headings (Chapter 1, Chapter 2, etc.), Kate wrote things like, “I really love those awesome 3-paragraph kisses in romance novels, and Chapter 4 is where mine happens.” That’s not a direct quote, but you get the idea.

5. I loved the wonderful word choices and love of language that the author exhibited in this book. It’s young adult, of course, but I had to pull out a dictionary to define some of the words! I loved that!

6. This book is dated. 90’s references are everywhere. Embrace them, because they are stupendous.

7. CHRISTMAS! This book is so sparkly and Christmasy, and perfect. Kate’s family has this huge traditional Swedish Christmas with lots of yummy food, decorations, great music playing all the time, a TON of snow, Christmas tree shopping and trimming, etc. I am so in the mood for Christmas right now.

Rather than continuing with my review, I thought I could explain my love of this book best just by giving you a taste of it for yourself. It’s wonderful, a new favorite, and I will be recommending this to everyone. I don’t re-read books, but this one deserves it. Anyway, read the quotes!

Richard Bradshaw filled the doorway.

Okay, a flourish of trumpets here. The hero has arrived. And because he was my hero long before I began writing this novel, ever since I can remember, in fact, my face grew hot.  He was four years older now, of course, and shorter than I remembered, but I wasn’t six feet tall four years ago either.  His eyes – I need the help of The Romance Writers Phrasebook Guide to describe those eyes:

–unfathomable in their murky depths? 
No!
–shades of amber and green?
 Maybe.
–dark gray-green-flecked eyes?
 I don’t know. Maybe.
–hooded like those of a hawk? Absolutely not! The hell with it. They were warm eyes. They were Richard’s eyes. I wouldn’t care if they were cone-shaped.

 

That was me, Kate Bjorkman, a potential Ph. D. candidate, and fairly rational young woman–that’s what my dad always said, even-tempered: “If I could only have one daughter, then Kate was the perfect one to have,” he’d say. And my mother agreed. The only bad thing about me was my eyes: blind as Milton without those glasses. But that morning, January 2, I was deranged. I knew it, I guess, but I couldn’t stop it. Didn’t want to. It wasn’t until I sat in a booth at Bridgeman’s that I realized I was wearing flannel pajamas and had no money.

See? Don’t you want to buy this one now? :)  

 


A Kiss In the Snow by Susan Mallery | Book Review

Posted December 15, 2018 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 3 Comments

A Kiss In the Snow by Susan Mallery | Book ReviewA Kiss In the Snow by Susan Mallery
Series: Fool's Gold #20.5
Published by HQN Books on October 1, 2016
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Holiday - Christmas, Romance
Pages: 57
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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3 Stars
A Christmas gift straight from the heart of Susan Mallery, one of today's most beloved writers—a brand new Fool's Gold romance!

Cupcake baker Nancee Smith is stunned when search-and-rescue pilot Jesse “Shep” Sheppard strides into her kitchen. The last time she saw the Ghost of Heartbreaks Past was the night before he left her at the altar. He said he loved her, then didn't even say goodbye.

Now Shep claims he's done dashing away at the first sign of forever. The romance of Fool's Gold at Christmas tempts her to have faith—snow glistening on rooftops like great swirls of frosting, twinkle lights in every window—but this time around,she's the one with cold feet. If promises alone aren't enough to sway her, Shep will have to show her the love in his heart.

I enjoy reading novellas when I’m considering a new-to-me author because it’s not much of a commitment, and I have time to judge the author’s style and character development to see if the full-length novels are worth my time. I see promise in Susan Mallery, even though this book was too short for me to really get a good idea about her style.

A Kiss In the Snow is not a second chance romance. It’s not a third chance romance. It’s actually a fourth chance romance. Yeah… pretty sure I’d never have the patience or trust to give a guy a fourth chance (especially after leaving me at the altar), but to each her own! Chances are I would have appreciated these characters more if I had read the 20 previous Fool’s Gold books, but I did like them! Shep has dealt with the demons of his past and is ready to commit to the only woman he’s ever truly loved. He didn’t take no for an answer, which I thought was sweet. He definitely owed it to Nancee to pursue her relentlessly! I love Christmas romances, and I loved how festive this one was. It was a nice little story without much substance but, at just under 60 pages, you can’t expect too much from it! It did whet my appetite, though, and I’m excited to read more of the Fool’s Gold series so I can get to know the town and the characters better.


Sleigh Bells in the Snow by Sarah Morgan | Book Review (+The Christmas Sisters Giveaway)

Posted December 12, 2018 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review, Giveaway / 10 Comments

Sleigh Bells in the Snow by Sarah Morgan | Book Review (+The Christmas Sisters Giveaway)Sleigh Bells in the Snow by Sarah Morgan
Series: O'Neil Brothers #1
Also in this series: Suddenly Last Summer, Maybe This Christmas
Published by Harlequin on October 29, 2013
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Holiday - Christmas, Romance
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Amazon Add to Goodreads
4 Stars
Once upon a time, Christmas was Kayla Green's favorite time of year. Now all the workaholic wants for Christmas is for it to be over—as fast as possible! So when duty calls her to snowy Vermont to close a deal with a new client, Kayla is grateful for an excuse to avoid the holidays for another year.

Jackson O'Neil left a thriving business behind to return home and salvage his family's resort—it's in his blood, and he can't let it fail. Now that he's got marketing whiz Kayla Green working with him to put Snow Crystal on the map, success is on the horizon. The fact they strike enough sparks off each other to power all the Christmas lights in Vermont is just an added bonus.

Kayla might be an expert at her job, but she's out of her depth with Jackson—he makes her crave the happy-ever-after she once dreamed of, and it's terrifying. As the snowflakes continue to swirl, will the woman who doesn't believe in the magic of Christmas finally fall under its spell?

I love Christmas romances, especially if they are set in a picturesque place and have wonderful characters. As soon as I read that Sleigh Bells in the Snow takes place in Vermont, I was very excited! As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. The Snow Crystal is a cozy ski resort nestled in the mountains of Vermont. The O’Neil family has run it for years, and it is a bit of a hidden gem with lots to offer. It has cabins with hot tubs on the porch, amazing views, and a homey lodge with a sitting room and kitchen that just screams holidays. I would LOVE to pack up and move there right now. If any guest wants a Christmas tree for their cabin, one of the O’Neil brothers goes out and chops one and delivers it at their front step. How fun is that?! I really want to visit. The setting was definitely my favorite part of the book.

2. I liked Kayla, but I felt she was a bit too cynical and cold at times. I just wanted to shake her! She has a sad past of abandonment, and does not like Christmas at all. Honestly, though, I’m pretty sure she does not like any kind of family holiday. She arrives at the resort in her designer pumps and pencil skirt, bent on being a complete stick in the mud as she hides in her cabin in the hopes of letting Christmas painlessly pass her by. The longer she stay there, though, the more comfortable she gets. I liked the transformation she went through as she got to know the O’Neil family. She bought some snow boots, let her hair down, and allowed herself to get close to them even though it scared her. I liked this side of her much more than the hardened, emotionless side we see at the beginning of the book.

3. I adore the O’Neil family, and how close they are. Jackson has come back to Snow Crystal after making it big in Europe. He wants to help get the resort on the map and show the world what it has to offer, before it goes under and the family loses it. That’s why he hires Kayla to come out. As he updates and elevates the resort, he is met with a lot of resistance from his family. They are not keen on change, and are scared that a snooty New Yorker will ruin their image. As they soften Kayla, though, she softens them. I loved the conversations between family members, as they all open up and grow closer together. This family ends up being extremely loving despite their high maintenance demands.

4. I really liked the non-family staff members at the Snow Crystal. I particularly liked the spitfire of a French chef and the ski instructor. Each character in this story is unique and loveable.

5. Jackson is so wonderful. He is tender and persistent, and boy can he chop wood. I love his devotion to his family, even though they are fighting him the whole way. I love that he gave up his big life to come home and save his family lodge. I love how sweet he is to Kayla.

6. The romance is slow burning. It begins as a simple professional relationship, with that initial attraction on both sides. It then slides into this love-hate friendship kind of thing before turning into something really special. I really liked that it was not just lust, which seems to happen a lot in the Christmas romances I’ve read before. There are real feelings at play.

Sleigh Bells in the Snow is a fun, cheery Christmas romance with a wonderful family dynamic, a cozy setting, and a swoonworthy male lead. I definitely recommend you read it it you’re in the mood for some Christmas cheer! I can’t wait to read about the other O’Neil brothers, which will happen as the series continues.

(This review was originally posted on 12/6/13 and was re-posted for some extra love.)

Sarah is sponsoring a giveaway for my readers this Christmas, with a signed copy of her newest Christmas release, The Christmas Sisters!

The Christmas Sisters by Sarah Morgan
Published by HQN Books on September 25, 2018
Genres: Adult Fiction — Contemporary, Holiday, Women’s Fiction
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In the snowy Highlands of Scotland, Suzanne McBride is dreaming of the perfect cozy Christmas. Her three adopted daughters are coming home for the holidays and she can’t wait to see them. But tensions are running high…

Workaholic Hannah knows she can’t avoid spending the holidays with her family two years in a row. But it’s not the weight of their expectations that’s panicking her—it’s the life-changing secret she’s hiding. Stay-at-home mom Beth is having a personal crisis. All she wants for Christmas is time to decide if she’s ready to return to work—seeing everyone was supposed to help her stress levels, not increase them! Posy isn’t sure she’s living her best life, but with her parents depending on her, making a change seems risky. But not as risky as falling for gorgeous new neighbor Luke…

As Suzanne’s dreams of the perfect McBride Christmas unravel, she must rely on the magic of the season to bring her daughters together. But will this new togetherness teach the sisters that their close-knit bond is strong enough to withstand anything—including a family Christmas?

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Reign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan | Book Review

Posted November 2, 2018 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 1 Comment

Reign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan | Book ReviewReign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan
Series: Reign of Shadows #1
Published by HarperTEEN on February 9, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Retelling, Romance
Pages: 304
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher (Edelweiss)
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5 Stars
Seventeen years ago, an eclipse cloaked the kingdom of Relhok in perpetual darkness. In the chaos, an evil chancellor murdered the king and queen and seized their throne. Luna, Relhok’s lost princess, has been hiding in a tower ever since. Luna’s survival depends on the world believing she is dead.

But that doesn’t stop Luna from wanting more. When she meets Fowler, a mysterious archer braving the woods outside her tower, Luna is drawn to him despite the risk. When the tower is attacked, Luna and Fowler escape together. But this world of darkness is more treacherous than Luna ever realized.

With every threat stacked against them, Luna and Fowler find solace in each other. But with secrets still unspoken between them, falling in love might be their most dangerous journey yet.

This is not your magical, light and fluffy Rapunzel retelling! Reign of Shadows is dark and creepy and intense and so unbelievably exciting. Luna, the lost princess of Relhok, has been sequestered in a tower with her guardians for her entire life to protect her from those who would do her harm. She’s the rightful heir to the throne, and the current king is making life miserable for the members of his kingdom. The land is also ruled by evil creatures (dwellers) who delight in killing anyone who crosses their path.

While exploring one day, Luna stumbles across three people and saves them from a pack of dwellers and brings them back to her tower. These are the first strangers Luna has ever met. One of these people is a handsome archer named Fowler, who captivates and excites Luna. Due to circumstances beyond their control, they set out on a journey together in search of a safer place to live. As they journey together across a barren, dark wasteland that has been ravaged by the dwellers, they learn to depend on one another. Together they have a unique set of skills that aide them in heir survival.

I liked both of these characters a lot. Luna is so sheltered and comes across as being very helpless, but she has spent her life developing and refining her ability to survive. She’s unassumingly strong and courageous despite her lack of exposure to the world. She’s able to trust in spite of the murder of her parents, and she’s able to love regardless of the fact that he family was ripped away from her as a baby. Fowler is damaged and has hardened himself in an effort to avoid more pain. Those he cared about are long gone, and it’s easier for him to be alone than to risk losing someone he cares about. He has no interest in being a part of Luna’s life, but he also has this deep sense of loyalty and honor even though he doesn’t really owe anyone anything. I liked that about him.

The romance is pretty swoony, and very slow building. I like romances that take a long time to develop, though, so I was totally on board with this one. I also like romances in life or death situations because there’s a lot of tenderness and need in addition to pure trust and dependency on one another.

I don’t want to say too much and spoil the book for anyone, so I think I’ll leave it here. Reign of Shadows is filled with little story elements that made it unique from the original tale of Rapunzel. I’ve always loved Sophie Jordan’s writing, so I had a feeling I’d enjoy this book. I listened to it on audio, which was very well done. All in all, I really loved the story.