Genre: Contemporary Romance

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: From the publisher through 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. I was actually on the blog tour for Love & Luck last year, and created a post filled with pictures of things I’d love to see on my own Irish excursion. Check it out here.

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: From the publisher through 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!


Roman Crazy by Alice Clayton & Nina Bocci | Book Review

Posted January 17, 2019 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 0 Comments

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: From the publisher through 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.


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: Bought from Amazon
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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.


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: Bought on Amazon Marketplace
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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 / 2 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: Bought from Amazon
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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
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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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The Trouble with Mistletoe by Jill Shalvis | Book Review

Posted December 9, 2018 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 0 Comments

The Trouble with Mistletoe by Jill Shalvis | Book ReviewThe Trouble with Mistletoe by Jill Shalvis
Series: Heartbreaker Bay #2
Also in this series: One Snowy Night, Chasing Christmas Eve
Published by Avon on September 27, 2016
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Holiday - Christmas, Romance
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: From the publisher through Edelweiss
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2 Stars
If she has her way ...

Willa Davis is wrangling puppies when Keane Winters stalks into her pet shop with frustration in his chocolate-brown eyes and a pink bedazzled cat carrier in his hand. He needs a kitty sitter, stat. But the last thing Willa needs is to rescue a guy who doesn’t even remember her ...

He’ll get nothing but coal in his stocking.

Saddled with his great-aunt’s Feline from Hell, Keane is desperate to leave her in someone else’s capable hands. But in spite of the fact that he’s sure he’s never seen the drop-dead-gorgeous pet shop owner before, she seems to be mad at him ...

Unless he tempers “naughty” with a special kind of nice ...

Willa can’t deny that Keane’s changed since high school: he’s less arrogant, for one thing—but can she trust him not to break her heart again? It’s time to throw a coin in the fountain, make a Christmas wish—and let the mistletoe do its work ...

Congratulate me on my first full-length Jill Shalvis! I read a Christmas novella or two of Jill’s every December, and have enjoyed them but never really connected on a deep level with any of her characters. This year I decided to carve out some time to read one of her full-length novels to see how I felt. While I enjoyed The Trouble with Mistletoe, it didn’t grab me like I had hoped it would. I’ve read some reviews since I finished, and multiple people say this isn’t their favorite of hers and that she has many stronger novels in her repertoire, so perhaps I picked the wrong book to read first! In any case, it was a fun, festive read! I did have some issues with it, though. As always, my main points are bolded.

1. I really appreciated Willa and her love of animals and Christmas. We’re kindred spirits in this regard. She loves to decorate anything and everything, and she loves to dress like it’s Christmas everyday. She hasn’t met an animal that she doesn’t love, and that doesn’t love her. She owns a dog grooming business and hosts doggy weddings for some extra money. She loves her friends, and her past has caused her to it upon herself to scoop up lost or troubled souls and take them under her wing. One of her employees ran into some trouble as a young teen and Willa came to her rescue, gave her a job, and looks after her. She takes care of the homeless man in the alley outside her shop and brings him food. She even decorated the alley with Christmas lights so he could have some holiday cheer. She’s pretty likable, and a good friend to have in your corner.

2. Keane was very meh for me. He was a jerk to Willa in high school and has no idea who she is now. That’s surprising. I’d remember a person I went to high school with even if I didn’t know them well, so this kind of indicates what a crappy teen he was. I have a hard time with people like that. 16-17 years old is not young enough to get away with being an awful person, in my book. I never was able to convince myself hat he isn’t a crappy person anymore.

3. I don’t like animals as characters, and Petunia the cat (nicknamed PITA by Keane because he hates her and considers her to be a pain in the a**) bothered me. I LOVE cats. I’m a crazy cat lady. But when an author starts choosing what a cat is thinking and feeling and using it as a plot point, I start to drift off. It’s just too hokey.

4. I did not feel any chemistry between Keane and Willa. Willa was in love with him in high school, so she’s got this little girl infatuation with him now. I don’t understand harboring a crush for THAT long. Especially when it’s on a really jerky guy who broke your heart and doesn’t even remember. Keane only begins to like her because she looks good in her jeans and her wet clothes after a day of dog washing. There was just no depth to them at all.

5. I loved the Christmas scenes. The entire city is decked out in lights, garlands, wreaths, and trees. I loved the descriptions of those scenes, and they were the only thing keeping me going with this book.

6. There was a lot of needless drama and repetitive conversations and inner monologues about why they shouldn’t be together (all the while they have no problems continuing to sleep together). Things moved so slowly, and I just wanted the story to get to the point. This book should have been a novella! Not much happened at all.

7. The supporting characters were cookie cutters and I don’t remember the names of any of them. 

8. The writing… it just wasn’t good. There were come continuity issues and some of the author’s phrasing bothered me. For example, a character frequently “went eyebrows up” or “went hands on hips”. That’s a really annoying way to write it!

All in all, I’m disappointed. I liked Willa and all the Christmas, which made the book fun to read at times, but for the most part The Trouble with Mistletoe really didn’t do anything for me. I’m not giving up on Jill Shalvis yet, though, so don’t worry!


The Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett | Book Review

Posted October 11, 2018 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult / 8 Comments

The Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett | Book ReviewThe Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett
Published by Feiwel and Friends on November 3, 2015
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 304
Format: eARC
Source: From the publisher through Netgalley
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Beatrix Adams knows exactly how she’s spending the summer before her senior year. Determined to follow in Da Vinci’s footsteps, she’s ready to tackle the one thing that will give her an advantage in a museum-sponsored scholarship contest: drawing actual cadavers. But when she tries to sneak her way into the hospital’s Willed Body program and misses the last metro train home, she meets a boy who turns her summer plans upside down.

Jack is charming, wildly attractive, and possibly one of San Francisco’s most notorious graffiti artists. On midnight buses and city rooftops, Beatrix begins to see who Jack really is—and tries to uncover what he’s hiding that leaves him so wounded. But will these secrets come back to haunt him? Or will the skeletons in her family’s closet tear them apart?

I’ve become quite the Jenn Bennett fangirl this year (starting with Starry Eyes), so I’d been eager to read her oldest YA title, The Anatomical Shape of a Heart, to see where it all began. One thing I really love about Jenn is that she comes up with unique story lines that don’t include the typical cookie cutter characters and the typical tropes and themes. She really thinks outside the box, and I appreciate that so much because I’ve been feeling lately that I’m losing interest in YA contemporary romance. It’s all so similar, and the stories have all been told over and over again. This one is different, though, and in a very wonderful way. As always, my main points are bolded.

1. Beatrix (Bex) is a medical artist. Basically, her dream is to draw extremely accurate drawings of bodies for medical publications. Interesting, right? Many teens sneak away at night to go to parties or movies, but Bex sneaks away to the hospital to draw cadavers. She’s doing this in the hopes of winning an art scholarship. I love slightly nerdy, unique heroines because they are so accepting and easy to relate to. Bex was so much fun to read about. She’s determined to get what she wants, and pushes back in the face of opposition.

2. Jack is the absolute cutest. He’s immediately interested in Bex, even though she’s not even interested in giving him the time of day. Puking in the bushes after drawing her first cadaver didn’t even chase him away. This is the kind of guy a girl needs. He’s one of San Francisco’s most wanted criminals, and he’s also the mayor’s son. Interesting, right!? He’s a very talented graffiti artist, and when you find out his motivation behind his art you’ll pretty much melt. He admires Bex’s creativity, and they bond over art, family troubles, and the excitement of being rebellious together. They are just way too cute.

3. There’s a lot of heavy themes in this story, that are nicely balanced by the silliness of two teens falling in love. Bex’s dad walked out on his family for another one. Now she and her mom and older brother live in a small place together. Bex’s room is in the dining room and her brother lives in the cement covered basement. They love each other, but have heir problems. Jack’s family has covered up mental illness to protect his dad’s image, and I love the sensitivity and realness of how mental illness is portrayed. Bex and Jack both struggle with life, and have both had to grow up quicker than many other teens. This made their relationship feel deeper to me. They have some of the best banter!

4. The romance is so sweet. In the very beginning neither of them knew much of anything about the other. Jack didn’t even know Bex’s name at first, and got to know her through her online portfolio. Then he stalked her on social media (in a cute, non-creepy way of course), and started strategically bumping into her. Things simmered for a while and built up to something really great. Their feelings felt so real and genuine to me. I love how relentlessly he pursued her.

All in all, The Anatomical Shape of a Heart is a swoony little package of happy. I love this bookish couple, the family dynamics, the unique subject matter, and the feelings. I highly recommend this sweet story to anyone who is looking for a little something different from their contemporary YA.


Josh & Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren | Book Review

Posted August 2, 2018 by Jana in Book Review, New Adult / 3 Comments

Josh & Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren | Book ReviewJosh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren
Published by Gallery Books on September 4, 2018
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
Source: From the publisher through Edelweiss
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4 Stars
Hazel Camille Bradford knows she’s a lot to take—and frankly, most men aren’t up to the challenge. If her army of pets and thrill for the absurd don’t send them running, her lack of filter means she’ll say exactly the wrong thing in a delicate moment. Their loss. She’s a good soul in search of honest fun.

Josh Im has known Hazel since college, where her zany playfulness proved completely incompatible with his mellow restraint. From the first night they met—when she gracelessly threw up on his shoes—to when she sent him an unintelligible email while in a post-surgical haze, Josh has always thought of Hazel more as a spectacle than a peer. But now, ten years later, after a cheating girlfriend has turned his life upside down, going out with Hazel is a breath of fresh air.

Not that Josh and Hazel date. At least, not each other. Because setting each other up on progressively terrible double blind dates means there’s nothing between them...right?

After reading and enjoying Roomies earlier this year, I was excited to jump into another Christina Lauren book! I loved the characters that this author duo created in that story, and I hoped that they would deliver another wonderful group for me to fall in love with. I wasn’t disappointed in the least! As always, my main points are bolded.

1. I’m just going to jump right in here and say that I LOVE Hazel. She’s hilarious and bubbly and eccentric and full of life. She’s exactly the kind of wild, uninhibited, self-confident person I wish I was. She dances through life and if you can’t handle her, she doesn’t even care. She doesn’t even notice. She reminded me so much of Jessica Day from New Girl that I was actually picturing Jess the entire time. She loves animals, she’s a school teacher, she has so much energy, and she makes everyone who knows her happy. I SO need a friend like her in my life.

2. I loved Josh as well. He is the sweetest, most caring best friend a girl could ask for. He tolerates Hazel until she worms her way into his very soul, and then he’s 100% the devoted and loving best friend. Can I have a Josh in my life as well? He’s seriously the cutest. He’s all order and organized. I loved how warm and open and accepting he was of Hazel’s eccentricities. He makes her feel perfect, and every girl should feel that way.

3. These two are so perfect together. She decides she wants to be his best friend, so she makes it happen whether he wants it or not. They end up with this very flirty, witty, tender friendship that is just so unique and special. Their whole “not dating” thing works for a while as they set each other up on blind dates for their double date nights, but then they end up having more fun with each other than they do with their actual dates. Josh lets Hazel live with him when her apartment floods and internally gripes over her messiness, but secretly loves it at the same time. Her dog ADORES him. They have inside jokes and cute pet names (Josh is Korean and his real name is Jimin, so she calls him Jiminy and other silly things. He calls her Haze, which is adorable.). It’s just such a perfect combination of two completely different people.

4. I really love the best-friends-turned-lovers trope, and this romance was particularly swoony and sweet, with some interesting twists and turns. Neither wants to ruin their friendship with possible unrequited feelings, so that underlying tension creates so much depth and interest.

All in all, I loved this story! I loved the characters and the sweet romance. There’s so many other gems in this story as well, including a few crazy awkward college moments between Josh and Hazel before their reunion years later at a party, and some yummy-sounding Korean food. I highly recommend this Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating to anyone looking for a cute rom-com with a lot of depth and feeling below the surface.

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