Format: eARC

The Tourist Attraction by Sarah Morgenthaler | Book Review

Posted February 27, 2020 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 3 Comments

The Tourist Attraction by Sarah Morgenthaler | Book ReviewThe Tourist Attraction by Sarah Morgenthaler
Series: Moose Springs Alaska #1
Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca on May 5, 2020
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 352
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher (Edelweiss)
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5 Stars

When Graham Barnett named his diner The Tourist Trap, he meant it as a joke. Now he's stuck slinging reindeer dogs to an endless string of resort visitors who couldn't interest him less. Not even the sweet, enthusiastic tourist in the corner who blushes every time he looks her way…

Two weeks in Alaska isn't just the top item on Zoey Caldwell's bucket list. It's the whole bucket. One look at the mountain town of Moose Springs and she's smitten. But when an act of kindness brings Zoey into Graham's world, she may just find there's more to the man than meets the eye…and more to love in Moose Springs than just the Alaskan wilderness.

ALERT! ALERT! New favorite book! I love Alaska, and was so excited when I saw that this rom-com with the cutest cover ever takes place there! I’ve really been gobbling up rom-com books lately. They’re so much fun and allow me to escape with sweet characters. The Tourist Attraction did just that for me. As always, my main points are bolded.

1. Moose Springs is the quaintest, cutest little town. I love that Sarah Morgenthaler was able to keep those cute town vibes while also allowing us to spend time at an exclusive resort that the locals (aka Graham) refer to as “the big house”. Yeah… the locals don’t like the resort at all. They feel it’s ruining their small town and driving business away, not to mention bringing in tons of unwanted tourists and destroying the natural beauty of Moose Springs. I tend to agree with them. I’d be much happier of the resort was a bunch of cute little bare bones cabins (Alaska has my heart and I want it to stay as wild and untouched by consumerism as possible), but we never would have met Zoey and Lana if they were!

2. Zoey, our heroine, has been saving up for YEARS to visit Alaska. When the opportunity arises in the form of crashing on her rich friend Lana’s couch in her luxury suite while she’s there on business, Zoey can not pass it up. She lives a very simple life and doesn’t get around much, which I loved. It makes her all the more excited when she arrives and sees what Alaska has to offer. She’s got everything planned out to the dollar, and carries all of those dollars around in her sparkly green frog coin purse. She’s kind of awkward, glasses slipping down her nose a million times a day, and quirky in a very endearing way. Adorkable, really. I loved her. She’s so relatable and down-to-earth. She is easily excited and wears her heart on her sleeve. She’s also got a good head on her shoulders and a spunky personality that really shines through when she’s pushing back against someone who has done her wrong. She won’t take crap from anyone, but is also emotional and feels a lot of things. I really saw a lot of myself in her.

3. Graham opens a greasy spoon diner called “The Tourist Trap” as a joke, but this place has become a right of passage for anyone who visits. It’s even in the guide books. People line up before the place opens, and insist on experiencing it even though it’s notorious for having the worst service ever. Graham is known for kicking everyone out at a moment’s notice because he’s just tired of the noise or the people or wants to go home. He’s known for not opening on time (or at all) because he’s got better things to do. But the people still come! It was so fun to read about how things at the diner work, and what Graham thinks about it all.

4. Zoey and Graham get off to a bit of a rocky start. I’m not even kidding. I won’t spoil it for you, but I will say that it lands the both of them in jail. Hysterical. Graham is a rugged, sarcastic, grumpy, surly, blunt artist who just so happens to own a diner and is in a pretty serious relationship with a moose that likes to lick windows and loves the smell of fresh baked bread. When he’s not at the diner, he’s carving wood pieces with a chainsaw in his shipping container out back. If I didn’t know this book took place in Alaska, I’d think Graham was a cowboy. He’s got that smooth cowboy swag and calls Zoey “Darlin'”. He’s got a very laid back attitude, but will turn into a grizzly bear if you hurt him or anyone he cares about. He’s kind of the town troublemaker, but not even close to a bad boy even though I think he secretly hopes that’s what people see him as. He loves his moose and his sweet blind dog named Jack, and he hates tourists. Well, except Zoey. He will do anything for Zoey, including making a fool of himself and bringing her the biggest cinnamon rolls known to man.

5. I love all the banter between Graham and Zoey. They flirt and joke, but they also talk about deeper things that mean a lot to them. They’ve shared pain over what they’ve gone through. They’re there for each other, and I felt like their relationship was very sweet and meaningful for the short amount of time they’ve known each other.

6. I loved the locals, and had so much fun getting to know them. If you’ve ever seen Northern Exposure, I got those kinds of vibes from some of the people. Easton in particular is amazing.

7. There are narwhals in this book. NARWHALS. And whales. WHALES.

8. The Tourist Attraction is so funny! I loved everything, from the locals vs. the big house shenanigans, to the run-in with a whale, to the moose that’s left footprints on Graham’s heart and dents in his truck, to the silly touristy things Graham does with Zoey because he’ll do anything for her, to the hangovers and the jail debacle. There’s so much to love here.

Sarah Morgenthaler has done a wonderful job writing a rom-com that has so much depth and heart. I was swooning and laughing my way through it. A charming, sparkling debut. I’ve been forcing everyone I know to either read or pre-order this book, and I’ve already pre-ordered the paperback of the next book in this series! It’s a Christmas book called Mistletoe and Mr. Right, and it comes out in October 2020. This time Lana, Zoey’s best friend, will have her shot at romance. From the sounds of it, it’s going to be just as a wonderful as The Tourist Attraction. I can’t wait!

 

5 Stars

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren | Book Review

Posted January 23, 2020 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 4 Comments

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren | Book ReviewThe Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren
Published by Gallery Books on May 14, 2019
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 400
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher (Edelweiss)
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5 Stars

Olive is always unlucky: in her career, in love, in…well, everything. Her identical twin sister Ami, on the other hand, is probably the luckiest person in the world. Her meet-cute with her fiancé is something out of a romantic comedy (gag) and she’s managed to finance her entire wedding by winning a series of Internet contests (double gag). Worst of all, she’s forcing Olive to spend the day with her sworn enemy, Ethan, who just happens to be the best man.

Olive braces herself to get through 24 hours of wedding hell before she can return to her comfortable, unlucky life. But when the entire wedding party gets food poisoning from eating bad shellfish, the only people who aren’t affected are Olive and Ethan. And now there’s an all-expenses-paid honeymoon in Hawaii up for grabs.

Putting their mutual hatred aside for the sake of a free vacation, Olive and Ethan head for paradise, determined to avoid each other at all costs. But when Olive runs into her future boss, the little white lie she tells him is suddenly at risk to become a whole lot bigger. She and Ethan now have to pretend to be loving newlyweds, and her luck seems worse than ever. But the weird thing is that she doesn’t mind playing pretend. In fact, she feels kind of... lucky.

I read The Unhoneymooners almost a year ago, and I loved it so much that I didn’t want to review it because it’s hard to review a book that you love EVERYTHING about and hate NOTHING. I didn’t even dislike anything. I instantly added this book to my favorites list and put it on my wishlist to own a physical copy for my bookshelves. It was just so perfect. BUT I’m reviewing it because it deserves to be reviewed. And I’ve talked about it so much on Twitter and here on the blog, so it’s time to explain my love of it (or at least list out the reasons why I love it). As always, my main points are bolded. :)

1. Right off the bat, that synopsis sold me. I know this author duo well enough to know that they would do this story so well. I mean, the entire wedding party gets food poisoning from a bad seafood buffet at the reception and the ONLY two people who came out of it unscathed (because of an allergy and an aversion to buffets) go on the bride and groom’s honeymoon because why let it go to waste? So, even though they hate each other (or so they think) they dash off to Hawaii together. And hilarity ensues.

2. Why does hilarity ensue? Because they have to PRETEND they’re the bride and groom because the trip was non-transferable. Enter the fauxmance, which is my favorite trope as I’m sure you know. So these two people who hate each other have to be all mushy and lovey dovey and do all these coupley things (like a couples massage) in order to not get in trouble. It’s so perfect and hilarious, because there’s definitely tension there and a mutual attraction but they avoid it all costs because they hate each other.

3. Olive is amazing. She’s spunky and smart and capable. She’s also totally comfortable with herself and has so much confidence. She also has the worst luck ever. I want to be her friend and I want her to teach me how to not care about what anyone thinks.

4. Ethan is pretty swoony. Where Olive is high-strung and emotional Ethan is level-headed and soothing. He’s also pretty snarky and never calls Olive by the right name. They’re such a great match!

5. Their chemistry is explosive, and they can argue like nobody else. There is so much snark and contempt between the two of them, but as they spend more time together they realize there’s something more there.

6. Olive’s family is wonderful. I love her twin sister, Ami (the bride), and their bond. They are so devoted to each other. The entire family is awesome.

7. The writing *Italian chef finger kiss*. I hope these two never quit writing, Their rom-coms give me life.

All in all, read this. Read. This. Book. It’s the perfect romantic comedy with all the tropes I love. Christina Lauren can do no wrong.

5 Stars

Roman Crazy by Alice Clayton & Nina Bocci | Book Review

Posted January 8, 2020 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 1 Comment

Roman Crazy by Alice Clayton & Nina Bocci | Book ReviewRoman Crazy by Alice Clayton, Nina Bocci
Published by Gallery Books on November 13, 2016
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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4 Stars

Avery Bardot steps off the plane in Rome, looking for a fresh start. She’s left behind a soon-to-be ex-husband in Boston and plans to spend the summer with her best friend Daisy, licking her wounds—and perhaps a gelato or two. But when her American-expat friend throws her a welcome party on her first night, Avery’s thrown for a loop when she sees a man she never thought she’d see again: Italian architect Marcello Bianchi.

Marcello was the man—the one who got away. And now her past is colliding with her present, a present where she should be mourning the loss of her marriage and—hey, that fettuccine is delicious! And so is Marcello…

Slipping easily into the good life of summertime in Rome, Avery spends her days exploring a city that makes art historians swoon, and her nights swooning over her unexpected what was old is new again romance. It’s heady, it’s fevered, it’s wanton, and it’s crazy. But could this really be her new life? Or is it just a temporary reprieve before returning to the land of twin-set cardigans and crustless sandwiches?

Anytime I find a book that’s set in Italy, I get excited. I hear bells and I light up because Italy is my favorite place on this earth and I love returning there through books. I’d heard good things about these authors individually, so I was also excited to read a book written by the two of them. I really liked all the characters, but I particularly liked the friendship between Avery and Daisy. It would be seriously so nice to have a best friend like Daisy, who is always there and will support you no matter what. Marcello was also super swoony and quintessentially Italian, so I was falling for him pretty quickly! I love second chance romances, and I love that Marcello and Avery fall right back into old feelings nine years after having a summer fling. It brought so much validity and depth to their love story.

Eve though the book can be called a romance, there’s more going on. This story was largely about Avery finding herself after finding her husband cheating on her with his secretary. She flew to Italy heal and to fall in love with art (again) and herself, and it was so much fun getting to see her come to terms with her life, learn from it, and move on to better things. If only we all had the chance to heal from a breakup in Italy! I loved the descriptions of the food and the scenery. I also loved the mix of funny and deep moments, not to mention super romantic moments. This book was the whole package for me, and I’m excited to read more from these authors.

4 Stars

Dating by the Book by Mary Ann Marlowe | Book Review

Posted August 14, 2019 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 4 Comments

Dating by the Book by Mary Ann Marlowe | Book ReviewDating by the Book by Mary Ann Marlowe
Published by Kensington Publishing on June 25, 2019
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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5 Stars

Is love just something you find in books?

Six months ago, writer and bookstore owner Maddie Hanson was left at the altar. Since then, she’s had zero interest in romance—despite the fact that she runs a book club full of sexy eligible bachelors. But when her latest novel is panned by an anonymous blogger who goes by the name Silver Fox—and who accuses her of knowing nothing about passion—she decides to prove her nemesis wrong by seeking a romance hero in real life . . .

There’s the smoldering rock musician, the bookish college professor, and her competitive childhood friend who may want to steal her bookstore more than her heart. Even Silver Fox is getting in on the action, sending Maddie alarmingly—and intoxicatingly—flirtatious emails. And that’s not all. Her ex wants her back.

Now Maddie is about to discover that like any good story, life has twists and turns, and love can happen when you least expect it—with the person you least expect . . .

I love books about bookish people, so when I discovered that Dating by the Book is about a woman who is an author and owns a quaint little bookshop I was immediately excited to dive in. The fact that she hosts a book club was icing on the cake for me. As always, my main points are bolded.

1. This is just a happy book. It’s so light and happy and sweet. It reads like a Hallmark movie, and we all know how much I love those. It also reminds me of the movie, You’ve Got Mail, with the cute bookshop and the mysterious emailer and the big competitor wanting to buy out the little guy. It all felt very familiar in a comfortable way.

2. Maddie is super relatable. She was left at the altar, and is anti-romance right now. She did one of those bad things authors aren’t supposed to do, and read online reviews for one of her books. I don’t know why she got so bent out of shape over a 3-star review, but she did and she let it fester and fester until she wrote to the author of the review and let him have it. A big no-no! But since this is a happy, fluffy, sweet book the two form a bit of a friendship. Luckily he doesn’t go and subtweet about her on Twitter! He claims her book wasn’t good because she doesn’t know real romance, real passion, and she sets out to prove him wrong. She’s human. She makes really dumb mistakes and has a bunch of men after her. I loved her and hated her.

3. I loved the mystery of the Silver Fox, and his emails back and forth with Maddie. Their flirtations and deeper conversations were really fun to read. I was dying to figure out who he was!

4. I found the book club discussions to be rather boring and drawn out, but not enough to detract from the book. Maddie’s book club reads and discusses the classics, and since I’ve read very few of them I kind of felt like one of those kids who sits at the dinner table with their chin in their hand, bored to death by the grown-ups having grown-up conversations that they have nothing to add to. It’s just no fun listening to people talk about something you have no knowledge/interest in, and that’s how I felt skimming through their book chats. Luckily they didn’t last too long!

5. Mary Ann Marlowe is a great writer! Everything flowed nicely, and I was very comfortable while reading. I didn’t get tripped up by details, and I followed everything. I loved the humor and the way she wrote her characters.

All in all, this was a win for me! I loved everything about this book, and would love to go and visit these characters (particularly a few of the minor ones) to get their stories. There’s a bookish professor who I’d love to see get his own love story. Highly recommended!

5 Stars

The Governess Game by Tessa Dare | Book Review

Posted August 8, 2019 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 1 Comment

The Governess Game by Tessa Dare | Book ReviewThe Governess Game by Tessa Dare
Series: Girl Meets Duke #2
Published by Avon on August 28, 2018
Genres: Historical Romance, Romance
Pages: 373
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher (Edelweiss)
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3 Stars

He’s been a bad, bad rake—and it takes a governess to teach him a lesson.

The accidental governess.

After her livelihood slips through her fingers, Alexandra Mountbatten takes on an impossible post: transforming a pair of wild orphans into proper young ladies. However, the girls don’t need discipline. They need a loving home. Try telling that to their guardian, Chase Reynaud: duke’s heir in the streets and devil in the sheets. The ladies of London have tried—and failed—to make him settle down. Somehow, Alexandra must reach his heart... without risking her own.

The infamous rake.

Like any self-respecting libertine, Chase lives by one rule: no attachments. When a stubborn little governess tries to reform him, he decides to give her an education—in pleasure. That should prove he can’t be tamed. But Alexandra is more than he bargained for: clever, perceptive, passionate. She refuses to see him as a lost cause. Soon the walls around Chase’s heart are crumbling... and he’s in danger of falling, hard.

I love Tessa Dare. Her witty banter, strong heroines, and swoony heroes are unparalleled. Unfortunately, her new Girl Meets Duke series doesn’t seem to be as magical for me as her Spindle Cove and Castles Ever After series were but that doesn’t mean I didn’t thoroughly enjoy this book! I had so much fun reading it, and really liked all the characters. I think The Governess Game is Tessa’s first book (that I’ve read, anyway, which is a lot) that includes children as main characters. I nearly always shy away from books that include kids, which I suppose is kind of weird… but I don’t see children as romantic. lol. But it’s Tessa Dare! So I read it. Anyway… As always, my main points are bolded.

1. Alexandra is a strong, bookish lover of astronomy. She was raised by her dad alone, on the decks of a ship. This makes her unique in my book. Women during this time period were not into the sciences, nor were they typically brought up in such a rough and unrefined way. She’s spunky and stands up for herself. She takes no crap, and has no problems calling Chase on his idiocy. She shows up to Chase’s home to do one job, and accidentally becomes the governess for these two wild girls. She has no idea what she’s doing, but at least she’s got better ideas than Chase! I really liked her! Her unconventional teaching methods were refreshing.

2. Chase is nothing extremely special in the beginning. I suppose it’s honorable for an unattached, playboy of a bachelor to bring in two little orphaned girls because nobody else in his family would take them, but I felt bad about how he treated them. He had no interest in showing them any love or compassion. He wanted Alexandra to come in and train them so they would be accepted into society and become someone else’s problem. I love kids, so this made me sad. He spent his days furnishing and decorating his man cave for optimal sexytimes with a revolving door of women, rather than making sure the girls were happy. I struggle a lot with heroes in books that are notorious playboys. I don’t find those kind of men attractive. He was pushy with Alexandra, and really left a lot to be desired. But he does melt and become a better person as Alexandra works her magic on him along with the girls, and I grew to understand what she saw in him.

3. Daisy and Rosamund are sweet, odd girls. I can’t remember which girl this is, but one of them has a very morbid curiosity with death. She has a doll named Millicent, and every morning this doll dies of something new like consumption or internal bleeding or a bowel obstruction and the girls drag Alexandra and Chase in for a very formal funeral. Chase has to perform a different eulogy every morning while holding hands with the girls and mourning Millicent’s death. It’s actually quite sweet and was one of the reasons I grew to like him so much. I actually really liked these girls and their antics, which surprised me since I’m not usually a fan of children in romance novels like I mentioned above.

4. I loved all the astronomy talk and the telescope.

5. The romantic chemistry between Alexandra and Chase wasn’t as swoony as I would have liked. It felt more like lust and less like love, which is not what I’m used to from Tessa Dare. Maybe this is less the author’s fault and more back to the fact that I don’t like playboy heroes. Alexandra just seemed like another notch on Chase’s bedpost at first. He had a hard time convincing me that he thought of her as different than all the others. They do have some great banter, though!

All in all, this was another fun Tessa Dare book! I always like reaching for one of her titles when I need a pick-me-up and some light fun. While it’s not a favorite, I still enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys unique, strong heroines.

3 Stars

One Summer in Santorini by Sandy Barker | Book Review

Posted July 12, 2019 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 5 Comments

One Summer in Santorini by Sandy Barker | Book ReviewOne Summer In Santorini by Sandy Barker
Published by Maze on June 24, 2019
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 400
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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1 Stars

Sarah has had enough of men. It's time to rekindle her first true love – travel – so she books a sailing trip around the Greek islands with a group of strangers.

The very last thing Sarah wants is to meet someone new… But then a gorgeous American man boards her yacht and she knows she's in trouble. And when she also encounters a handsome silver fox who promises her the world, she realises that trouble really does come in twos.

Will Sarah dive into a holiday fling, embark on a relationship, or stick to her plan – steer clear of men, continue her love affair with feta, and find her own way after all?

UGHHHHHH. I love books set on vessels. I love books that involve travel–ESPECIALLY to other countries. Greece!! I love when all these things come with a huge side of romance. I expected to LOVE this. I did not expect to find the kind of disappointment I did in this book. As always, my main points are bolded.

1. Where do I even begin? I really disliked Sarah. She went on this trip hoping to avoid men at all costs. Did she? No. And instead of owning it and just being with men anyway (nobody would blame her), she just used her I-don’t-want-men-right-now mindset to justify her leading on one guy while leading on another guy and not really caring about the feelings of either one of them. She’s also very dull and boring and lacks personality. I kept forgetting her name.

2. The love interest is an American boy named Josh (I legit just had to check Goodreads to make sure that’s his name, so score one for me), but simply calling him an American doesn’t make him an American. He needs to sound like an American. Josh said things that sounded so non-American. For example, he said “Don’t poke your tongue out at me.” We don’t say that here! We say “Don’t stick your tongue out at me.” There were more non-American things he said, but you get the picture. He was also a snoozefest. I don’t have any clue what he does or who he is. And I’m pretty sure we are never told what he looks like. So I pictured a Ken doll because what else was I going to do?

3. The dialogue was pretty awful and made me want to scratch my eyes out. I like dialogue, but only if it’s interesting. I was beyond bored. Josh and Sarah in particular didn’t talk about anything interesting. I read this on my Kindle with the default font size, and these two doorknobs talked about how much they liked a movie for roughly 5 pages. FIVE PAGES. I did so much skimming to try and slog my through what felt like a very fly-on-the-wall kind of experience throughout the entire book. I felt like I was trapped in a room with two of the dullest people.

4. Every single day was the same. There was so much repetition. The characters wake up, they make toast, they eat breakfast as a group, they say “wow, nice view”, they disembark the boat and go explore various towns. Or they stay on the boat to talk because that’s all they do and who needs cute Greek towns when you can be boring instead? But these towns were all the same. Every town looked the same. I don’t even know why they got off the boat! It seemed like they just kept visiting the same place over and over again because nothing noteworthy was ever said about any of them. They shopped. They looked at the view. They ate food in some cafe or restaurant. But it was all the same food. I kept seeing the same Greek foods mentioned over and over again. Everything they ate was SO GOOD. There was so much horiatiki and it was all SO GOOD. It’s just salad, people! Talk about something else! Oh, and they would not shut up about the AMAZING tomatoes. They’re tomatoes. Move on.

5. The characters also had the same conversations over and over again. “Are you and Josh a thing? Did you sleep together? Did you sleep well? Are you ok? Are you drunk? This travel group is like family!” On and on and on.

6. This is seriously the most boring group of people. Some of them were very sweet and most were completely unremarkable. I’ve already forgotten all of them. They did nothing. They sat around the boat talking about boring stuff. Or they read. They didn’t go swimming off the boat or play games or do anything. They just sat. And talked. About boring things. At one point some dolphins swam in the boat’s wake, and it was seriously the most exciting part of the book for me.

7. The romance just bugged me. I’m fine with the age different between Josh and Sarah (I believe she’s 8-10 years older than he is), but it was brought up so much that I felt like I was supposed to be uncomfortable. And they kept saying they were just friends because neither one wanted to be in a relationship, but then they kept doing very relationshippy things like kissing and cuddling and getting jealous when the other noticed another member of the opposite sex. And it was all so insta-something. How do you look at a guy and decide he’s going to be your best friend by the end of the trip before you’ve even talked to him? And then it happened. It was all so formulaic and easy. And I really hate these two, whether what they have is a relationship or friendship. I just don’t like them. To go from “we’re just the best friends ever” to planning out their sexcapades and never shutting up about all the sex they want to have just… it just didn’t work for me! They felt too brother/sister to me at that point. I cringed a lot.

8. So what kept me reading? Well, there’s this older guy, James, that Sarah meets before the trip who is very drawn to her in a creepy “I’m going to kidnap you and hide you in a secret room in my fancy mansion” kind of way. He puts a little pep in her step because he’s a sexy and serious older man who strokes her ego and makes her feel alive, but she blows him off. But then they cross paths again and he was too smooth for comfort. I wanted to see if she picked our non-American American or our probable “import/export, a little of this, a little of that” creepily mysterious silver fox, so I kept going. I’m all about the drama.

9. Worst ending ever. We are left with all the loose, frayed ends just flapping around in the breeze. The book just ended. There was no climax, no resolution, no information. Just done. There’s no sequel, and I honestly don’t care enough to read one if there is one someday. But to put me through 400 pages of boredom only to leave me hanging just makes me mad. This book wasn’t worth my time.

10. There were some pretty scenery descriptions in the beginning that I liked (and they gave me high hopes for a wonderful trip to Greece), but they were used so many times that by the end I was begging to get off that boat.

Bottom line, I’m mad. lol. Maybe Josh’s non-American speak was fixed by an editor in the finished copy, but I highly doubt any of the rest of this was fixed because it’d have to be a completely different book. I’m so disappointed! One Summer In Santorini had all the makings of a very Jana book, but nope. Unfortunately, I can’t recommend it.

1 Stars

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.

4 Stars

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!

3 Stars

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!

4 Stars

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
Published by Harlequin on October 29, 2013
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Holiday - Christmas, Romance
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
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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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4 Stars