Source: Publisher (Netgalley)

A Curse so Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer | Book Review

Posted February 25, 2021 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 4 Comments

A Curse so Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer | Book ReviewA Curse so Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer
Series: Cursebreakers #1
Published by Bloomsbury YA on January 29, 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 484
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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5 Stars

Fall in love, break the curse.

Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year, Prince Rhen, the heir of Emberfall, thought he could be saved easily if a girl fell for him. But that was before he turned into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. Before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.

Nothing has ever been easy for Harper. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, Harper learned to be tough enough to survive. When she tries to save a stranger on the streets of Washington, DC, she's pulled into a magical world.

Break the curse, save the kingdom.

Harper doesn't know where she is or what to believe. A prince? A curse? A monster? As she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what's at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.

You thought I’d quit YA, huh? Me too. lol. I’ve struggled to identify with YA characters as I’ve gotten older and have kind of made the shift to adult romance, but then a group of friends pushed this on me and we read the series together and OH MY GOSH. I had always loved YA fantasy, but hadn’t found one in a very long time that held my attention long enough to even finish it, much less binge a series back to back to back. I’m about a third of the way through the second book, A Heart So Fierce and Broken, right now and it’s amazing. I’m #89 in line for A Vow so Bold and Deadly at my library so hopefully things hurry along. Anyway, I loved the world and the characters and the writing, and I’m so excited to continue my journey reading through these books! As always, my main points are bolded.

1. Harper had me worried at first. Well, the whole book did because it started off very sassy teen and I wasn’t sure I was in the mood for it, but then I grew to really love her! And I loved the disability rep. Harper has Cerebral Palsy and walks with a limp. The people in the magical alternate dimension don’t understand this kind of disability and find her to be weak or injured, but she has no problems sticking up for herself and proving that she can do anything. She’s sweet, caring, empathetic, and really turns the castle upside down. This girl definitely isn’t like all the other girls who have been kidnapped by the prince’s guard commander to try and break the curse.

2. Grey is my favorite character in this book. He’s the guard commander, and I LOVE him. He’s honorable and protective and such a great guy. He’s the romantic of the two male main characters, and he coaches the prince on how to not be a cold, unfeeling jerk. If we’re likening the characters to Beauty and the Beast, which this book is a retelling of, then Harper is Belle, Rhen is the Beast, and Grey is Lumiere. Also, was he named after the grey stuff? As in “try the grey stuff, it’s delicious!” I’m convinced of this. I need to write to the author. Ok, I just did. Anyway, he’s also pretty swoony sounding.

3. Prince Rhen? He’s fine. I actually really liked him, but he was a bit broody and intense and… pouty? for my liking. He’s the typical royal personality you find in fantasy, and I guess he’s a really good Beast because he’s got that “I hate everyone, now love me so I can be human again” attitude down. I hope I get to see more of his personality in the second book, because right now he’s pretty flat.

4. The supporting characters are great. Harper, Grey, and Rhen end up at a little inn and I love the characters they meet. And as they find people to join their army against a rival queen, they encounter some really interesting people with stories that I loved.

5. The romance is pretty minimal, but I didn’t even care. 

6. Oh my gosh, this is a very overwhelming book to try and review. 

7. I love the world! And I loved the spin Brigid put on Beauty and the Beast. Curse has the bones of Beauty and the Beast, but Brigid has added so many interesting and amazing details that make it so different. The enchantress is a recurring character in the story, there’s another kingdom threatening invasion, there’s… traveling between dimensions, the beast (or monster, as they refer to it in the book) surfaces every season and Rhen can’t control it (think of a werewolf and a full moon). It’s all so good and fresh and unique.

8. The writing! I love Brigid’s use of words and descriptions of scenery and feelings.

9. I finished and immediately needed more. This doesn’t happen to me often. Usually I need a break, but I am plowing on through and can’t read fast enough.

I’ve read a LOT of Beauty and the Beast retellings, and I thought for sure nothing would ever satisfy me to the point that Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses did. I still love ACOTAR more than anything, but I also really, really loved Curse. Like, I can’t pick just one and that makes me really happy. Maybe there is room in my life for more B&B retellings and maybe I do still love YA fantasy (it was heartbreaking to decide I didn’t anymore). Anyway, I’m not sure I’m making sense. Bottom line, A Curse so Dark and Lonely has made me realize that perhaps I gave up on a genre I once loved too soon because I thought there was nothing left for me there. So, now I’ll venture back and see what else there is for me. I highly recommend this book, and cannot wait to see what happens next!

5 Stars

One Christmas Eve by Shannon Stacey | Book Review

Posted December 24, 2020 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review, Bookish Little Christmas / 2 Comments

One Christmas Eve by Shannon Stacey | Book ReviewOne Christmas Eve by Shannon Stacey
Series: Cedar Street #2
Published by Carina Press on November 11, 2019
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Holiday - Christmas, Romance
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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5 Stars

They couldn’t be more different. Or more perfect for each other.

New York Times bestselling author Shannon Stacey returns with a warm and cozy opposites-attract Christmas story.

Zoe Randall is busy living her life as she damn well pleases. She’s back in her favorite town, her divorce in her rearview mirror, and living out her childhood dream of running a bookstore with her cousin. She has no interest in the uptight nerd who opened his boring-ass business next to her shop…until he complains about one of her sexy window displays.

Then it’s game on.

Preston Wheeler knows he takes life a little too seriously. But when the saucy bookseller next door starts pushing his buttons, he can feel that changing. Beautiful, vivacious Zoe challenges him in all the best ways, and soon he’s pushing her buttons right back: teasing and flirting all the way through the holiday season.

As Preston loosens up and Zoe is treated to the man behind the suit (particularly his forearms), she realizes she’s more interested than she cares to admit. And Preston comes to see the beauty—the absolute delight—in adding Zoe’s bright splashes of color to his once very black-and-white existence.

What better day of the year than Christmas Eve to review this darling Shannon Stacey novel, One Christmas Eve? This one was described an opposites attract love story, and I love this trope so much in romance novels. We’ve also got a fun, outgoing, bookish heroine named Zoe that I really loved. She has the best job ever. She runs a bookstore with her cousin, and spends her days recommending books and designing elaborate window displays. Sounds perfect to me! Nerdy, uptight Preston Wheeler moves in to the office next door. He’s an estate planner, and gets offended by one of her displays because he thinks it’s tasteless. He doesn’t want his clients having to walk past the, so he pops into the store to complain. What follows is a bit of a cat and mouse game, where Zoe does everything she can to push his buttons. She knows he’s secretly following the store’s Instagram page, so she posts about how they’ve got books on estate planning and even though they’re boring people might want to come check them out. She also gets even more obnoxious with his window displays. The banter back and forth is so much fun, and the tension is top notch! I loved the small town and the cute little streets. The people are all great, and I loved this festive love story so much! Highly recommended.

 

5 Stars

An Alaskan Christmas by Jennifer Snow | Book Review

Posted December 3, 2020 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review, Bookish Little Christmas / 1 Comment

An Alaskan Christmas by Jennifer Snow | Book ReviewAn Alaskan Christmas by Jennifer Snow
Series: Wild River #1
Published by Harlequin on September 24, 2019
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Holiday - Christmas, Romance
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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3 Stars

In Alaska, it’s always a white Christmas—but the sparks flying between two reunited friends could turn it red-hot…

If there’s one gift Erika Sheraton does not want for Christmas, it’s a vacation. Ordered to take time off, the workaholic surgeon reluctantly trades in her scrubs for a ski suit and heads to Wild River, Alaska. Her friend Cassie owns a tour company that offers adventures to fit every visitor. But nothing compares to the adrenaline rush Erika feels on being reunited with Cassie’s brother, Reed Reynolds.

Gone is the buttoned-up girl Reed remembers. His sister’s best friend has blossomed into a strong, skilled, confident woman. She’s exactly what his search-and-rescue team needs—and everything he didn’t know he craved. The gulf between his life in Wild River and her big-city career is wide. But it’s no match for a desire powerful enough to melt two stubborn hearts…

I really, really love Alaska, so I was excited when I found this Christmas romance set in Wild River! This was very fun book, but I would have been happier if it had been more festive and Christmassy.

The synopsis has done a really good job explaining what the book is about. You’ve got workaholic Erika, who has to take a forced vacation by the order of her boss (aka her dad). She heads to Alaska to stay with her old best friend, Cassie, who owns a tour company. And then you’ve got Cassie’s brother, Reed, who Erika has always had the hots for. He works for a search and rescue crew. Cassie and Erika haven’t been close in years, so things are a bit awkward at first as they figure each other out again. Obviously, they have both changed. And Reed definitely notices the changes in Erika.

I always enjoy friends to lovers and dating the best friend’s sibling tropes, and this book gives us a bit of both. Cassie goes off on a tour with a group for a few days, leaving Erika at home to go stir crazy. She gets out and starts hanging with Reed… goes on a few rescues… gets to know the locals. It’s fun. I like the town of Wild River and the people that live there. This book was a strong set-up for the series, and I know I would have liked it more if I hadn’t gone into it expecting an explosion of Christmas decorations and festive merriment. You could really read this at any time during the year, which isn’t a bad thing by any means, but was a bit of a disappointment for me. An Alaskan Christmas was actually a lot deeper and more heavy than I was expecting when I looked and the beautiful cover. I was picturing steamy Hallmark, but this was more of a drama than a romance for me. Everyone is working through a lot of stuff, and Erika is reanalyzing her life. I honestly can’t remember much Christmas or even many swoons. I really liked Erika and Reed together, but I didn’t have any strong feelings for them as individuals. They were not very memorable, personality-wise. I enjoyed the search and rescue tidbits, which were exciting and interesting.

All in all, this was fun! I was expecting something different, but it doesn’t mean that what I got was bad. I’m interested in continuing on with the series to see who gets their own romance next. Maybe Cassie? Or one of the search and rescue team? Both would be fun. :)

3 Stars

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James | Book Review

Posted October 30, 2020 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Blog Tour, Book Review / 3 Comments

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James | Book ReviewThe Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James
Published by Berkley on February 18, 2020
Genres: Mystery, Paranormal, Suspense, Thriller
Pages: 327
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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4 Stars

The secrets lurking in a rundown roadside motel ensnare a young woman, just as they did her aunt thirty-five years before, in this new atmospheric suspense novel from the national bestselling and award-winning author of The Broken Girls.

Upstate NY, 1982. Every small town like Fell, New York, has a place like the Sun Down Motel. Some customers are from out of town, passing through on their way to someplace better. Some are locals, trying to hide their secrets. Viv Delaney works as the night clerk to pay for her move to New York City. But something isn't right at the Sun Down, and before long she's determined to uncover all of the secrets hidden…

I love a good creepy thriller this time of year, and am always on the hunt for the elusive atmospheric writing, so I when I was approached by Berkley to join the blog tour for The Sun Down Motel I was definitely excited about it. The Sun Down Motel is full of strong women, creepy ghosts, and a mystery that spans decades. As always, my main points are bolded.

1. The atmosphere was definitely my favorite part of the story. It was just so creepy (sometimes too creepy), and I enjoyed that uncomfortable feeling it gave me. Viv (1982) and Carly (2017) both worked at The Sun Down, each for their own reasons. Viv was there as a means to an end, and Carly was there to find out what happened to her Aunt Viv. This motel is the epitome of everything repulsive. Nobody would ever actually want to say there, and that made it way creepier. It’s run-down, outdated, and full of noises, mysterious smells, and questionable guests. And both women worked the night shift. Alone. Both women go to the point where they knew the ghosts and talked to them. Well, except the man with the noisy shoes who smoked outside every night. He kept quiet. Doors would open and closed by themselves, the lights would flicker or go completely out, there were voices and footsteps… It’s just a very scary place. These were strong women to put up with working there.

2. Strong women is a huge theme in this story. You’ve got Viv, who left home to go into show business in NYC but actually just wanted to get away from her family. She’s a Nancy Drew type who paid a lot of attention, started connecting dots, and made it her quest to stop a serial killer who was preying on women. Nobody believed that there was anything that needed solving, so she jumped in. Then you’ve got Carly, who left home to find out what happened to her Aunt Viv, who disappeared from the Sun Down one night without a trace. Again, nobody really paid any attention to her. Viv and Carly both had cool roommates who helped them solve their various mysteries. There was also a female police officer named Alma, who was given the night shift because nobody else wanted it, and a freelance photographer who I can’t remember the name of that was also involved. All of these characters were strong, persistent, brave, women who stuck up for themselves and looked out for each other. All of them did things they were not comfortable with because they thought it was their only option.

3. The detective work was so exciting to me. I loved reading about the stakeouts and the research and following people around, hoping to not be seen. Carly/Viv were impersonating people on the phone to get info and sending anonymous tips. It felt like Veronica Mars a little bit in this regard.

4. I really could have done without the ghosts. Actually, I could have done with less activity from the ghosts. It’s fine that they were there, and they really added to that creepy feeling I liked. Sometimes it just got to be too scary for me, though. Some of these ghosts were… mad. Very mad. But they ended up being there for very a important reason in the end, so I understood the need for them.

5. I did struggle sometimes with keeping Carly and Viv straight across the dual timelines. They had the same jobs, were about the same age, each had a roommate, both worked with Alma and the photographer… Sometimes I just got lost on who was who. Even thinking back now on my reading experience, I can’t exactly remember which girl did which important thing. I don’t think it matters, though. Maybe the point was to have these girls live parallel lives so there was barely a seam between them.

6. The plot itself was not very complex, but I was still riveted and had to know what happened. 

7. The book starts out pretty slow, so hang in there!

All in all, I ended up enjoying The Sun Down Motel way more than I thought I would. There were a couple spoilery twists that I called… and one was just a little too twisty to seem reasonable to me, but I still enjoyed the story overall. It’s a great book to read during spooky season, and I’m definitely interested in getting more atmospheric reads from Simone St. James in the future!

4 Stars

Paradise Cove by Jenny Holiday | Book Review

Posted October 15, 2020 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 2 Comments

Paradise Cove by Jenny Holiday | Book ReviewParadise Cove by Jenny Holiday
Series: Matchmaker Bay #2
Published by Forever on July 28, 2020
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 368
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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3 Stars

Dr. Nora Walsh has just been dumped in spectacular fashion, making it the perfect time for a major life change. She figures taking over the medical practice in tiny Matchmaker Bay for a couple of years will help her get over her broken heart, and then she can head back to the big city. But when the first man she sees looks like a superhero god, she wonders if maybe there's something to small-town living after all.

Jake Ramsey also has a broken heart -- one he never expects to heal. He doesn't need people anyway and is content hiding out in his secluded cottage on the beach. But after helping Nora with a medical emergency, he finds himself opening up to the witty, warmhearted doctor. Soon the local matchmakers are working overtime to pair them off, and Jake begins to wonder if his campaign to get Nora to stay is for the town or because he can't bear the thought of her leaving.

I’ve struggled with books by this author in the past, so I was a bit worried about trying again. But my friend, Estelle at Forever, pitched this to me so hard while we were talking on the phone one day that I decided to give Jenny Holiday another try! I’m glad I did, because I really enjoyed this for the most part! I do have a few tiny complaints, but I’m definitely interested in reading the other books in this series. As always, my main points are bolded.

1. We’ve got Nora, the city girl who moves to a small town to take over the medical practice there. I love stories like this, because I really enjoy anything medicine (even though it plays a tiny part in the story). She’s also running from a bad relationship and wants a new start. She’s a very energetic, bright personality and I enjoyed the contrast between her and Jake, the hero of this story.

2. Jake is a very quiet Mr. Fix-it that everyone loves even though nobody knows him very well. Well, they know his story but they don’t know him. He’s a man of very few words, but when he does speak it’s important. He lives off in a secluded part of town and goes around quietly fixing things that need fixing. He randomly shows up at Nora’s house to re-build her deck, and she stumbles upon him while he’s out there working. That’s just what he does! He’s the fix-it fairy, and I loved him for that. He’s got major heartbreak in his past, and watching him go through the grieving process and learning to open up again was very sweet. Oh, and Nora refers to him as Aquaman, if that does anything for you. I’m not a fan of the long-haired, man-buned man but I know many are!

3. Nora’s and Jake’s relationship is very organic. They start out as friends with benefits, which I actually hate. lol. But then things get deeper as he opens up to her. She expects absolutely nothing from him, and lets him open up slowly and quietly and on his own terms. When he tells her his story, she responds in a very comforting way without exhausted cliches. She reacts to him in a way nobody else has. She asks him tough, but meaningful, questions about his son instead of glazing over him as if he never existed. It’s hard on Jake, but also helps him realize that he can look to the good times and remember than fondly, rather than feeling guilty for the bad times.

4. The sex scenes were a bit too much and too frequent for me. I enjoy steam in my books, and I like it when it adds to the story. But when these scenes just keep happening and happening I start to skim over them because I need more than that in my books. I begin to disconnect from the characters because I’m not seeing them grown and learn and love. I’m just seeing how much stamina they have in the bedroom and that gets old. lol.

5. That being said, I really had fun getting to know these two characters and seeing their love story unfold. I loved Jake’s dog and his house, which was in a cute little cove. I loved that Jake bought Nora some rain boots that stayed at his house so he could put them out for her when he knew she was coming over. That way, when the tide rolled in she could traverse the wet rocks and wade through the water to get around the bend and make it to his house without getting wet. How sweet is that?

6. I loved the supporting characters and all the friendships that were developed in this story between the townspeople and Nora. I’d like to go back and read the first book in this series so I can get more info about some of these characters.

All in all, I enjoyed the story and am excited to read more books in the Matchmaker Bay series! Jenny’s writing is great and her characters are loveable. I could do with a little less heat and steam and more actual story, but it’s not enough of a drawback for me to keep me from reading more of her books!

3 Stars

The Marriage Game by Sara Desai | Book Review

Posted June 26, 2020 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 0 Comments

The Marriage Game by Sara Desai | Book ReviewThe Marriage Game by Sara Desai
Published by Berkley on June 9, 2020
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 304
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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3 Stars

A high stakes wager pits an aspiring entrepreneur against a ruthless CEO in this sexy romantic comedy.

After her life falls apart, recruitment consultant Layla Patel returns home to her family in San Francisco. But in the eyes of her father, who runs a Michelin starred restaurant, she can do no wrong. He would do anything to see her smile again. With the best intentions in mind, he offers her the office upstairs to start her new business and creates a profile on an online dating site to find her a man. She doesn’t know he’s arranged a series of blind dates until the first one comes knocking on her door…

As CEO of a corporate downsizing company Sam Mehta is more used to conflict than calm. In search of a quiet new office, he finds the perfect space above a cozy Indian restaurant that smells like home. But when communication goes awry, he's forced to share his space with the owner's beautiful yet infuriating daughter Layla, her crazy family, and a parade of hopeful suitors, all of whom threaten to disrupt his carefully ordered life.

As they face off in close quarters, the sarcasm and sparks fly. But when the battle for the office becomes a battle of the heart, Sam and Layla have to decide if this is love or just a game.

Today I’m posting my book review of The Marriage Game by Sara Desai as part of the official blog tour hosted by Berkley! The synopsis sold me early on, and I was even more eager to jump in and read this diverse, sexy, romantic comedy as soon as I laid my eyes on that beautiful cover! As always, my main points are bolded.

1. First off, I loved the pieces of Indian culture throughout the story. There was so much talk of food, especially, which is always a plus for me. I also found the practice of arranged marriages fascinating. It’s not like I’d never heard of this concept before, but Sara Desai explained it and outlined it in a way that made sense to me in a way it hadn’t before.

2. The humor was spot on, and the banter between Layla and Sam as they duke it out for ownership of their shared office was my favorite part of the book. 

3. Layla was a very fun character to read about! She’s confident and really loves herself. She’s also got big dreams and isn’t afraid to try hard things, even when she’s just been knocked down a peg or two.

4. I loved Layla’s family, but especially her dad. He’s adorable. In an effort to heal her heart, he sets up a secret online dating profile for her and then spends who knows how long surfing through hundreds of profiles and curating a list of 10 men for her that he approves of. He even set up all the meetings with them. What a sweet, caring dad! I mean… I suppose it was a total overstep, but I could see how much he cared and that warmed my heart.

5. Sam’s great, too. He’s got quite a back story that involves some darker issues and a lot of guilt on his part. I loved reading as he worked through these past experiences and it gave me a better understanding of why he was the way he was. His master plan was to get Layla married off so he would win the office by default, so he accompanies her on all these dates to try and make things happen. But he hates all of the guys and his conscience can’t handle talking her into dating any of them. lol.

6. And seriously. Some of these dates and the men on them were hilarious. 

7. The romance was sweet and slow-burning, just like I like them to be. I’ve always been a fan of enemies to lovers romances as well, and this one is a fiery one for sure!

All in all, this was lovely! I really enjoyed reading about a culture I’m not at all familia with, and such memorable and fun characters. I’ll be keeping my eye on Sara Desai!

3 Stars

Beach Read by Emily Henry | Book Review

Posted May 13, 2020 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 12 Comments

Beach Read by Emily Henry | Book ReviewBeach Read by Emily Henry
Published by Berkley on May 19, 2020
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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2 Stars

A romance writer who no longer believes in love and a literary writer stuck in a rut engage in a summer-long challenge that may just upend everything they believe about happily ever afters.

Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast.

They're polar opposites.

In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they're living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer's block.

Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She'll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he'll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really.

Who doesn’t love a good beach read? This cute summery cover, the fun title, and the unique synopsis had me reaching for some fun, swoony romantic comedy in the sun. While this was a fun book, unfortunately it wasn’t as fun and swoony as I had hoped. As always, my main points are bolded.

1. The first thing I think of when I think about Beach Read is that it’s a lot heavier than I expected. I was expecting a light, fluffy storyline with two authors throwing their witty banter back and forth, all while the summer sun blazes down on them as the waves crash against the shore outside their beach houses. This was not that. We learn immediately that January is reeling from the death of her secret-keeping father. The beach house is the house he owned with his mistress. January finds out about this mistress (whom he was spending time with while his wife, and January’s mom, was at home going through chemotherapy) at her father’s funeral, when said mistress hands her a key, a note, and a teary smile. Holy heavy. That’s a lot to grapple with. While struggling with the worst case of writer’s block ever (because what even is love anymore?), she’s living in his home cleaning out his and his mistress’s things and preparing to sell it. Gus is also carrying a lot of his own baggage. Both characters go through a lot of emotional ups and downs. This book also didn’t feel summery to me. Yes, it’s hot and sticky during the day but no beach stuff really happens. The rom-com field trips that January takes Gus on are highly overshadowed by Gus’s death cult excursions and their own personal demons. The evenings and mornings are cold and damp. I just didn’t get the warm fuzzy feelings I had hoped for with this title.

2. On the flip side, when Beach Read chooses to be a rom-com, it does such a good job! January and Gus have this awesome chemistry. They pick at each other and push each other’s buttons, and the sexual tension is totally there. They spend their days sitting in their own kitchens, which are mirror images of each other, working on their books. If they look up from their laptops they can see each other, through the windows, sitting at their kitchen tables. Even though they both have phones, they choose to communicate by writing notes to each other with sharpies on their notebooks and then holding them up and waiting for the other person to look up and read them. Some of these notes are funny, some are flirty, and some are motivational. This was my favorite part of their relationship, and the book. I thought it was really cute.

3. I didn’t love the execution of January (the romance writer) writing literary fiction and Gus (the literary fiction writer) writing romance. Maybe I didn’t like this because I hate it when my favorite authors make a disappointing genre jump, thereby writing a book that holds absolutely no interest for me. The tidbits of both January’s and Gus’s novels sounded kind of crummy to me. lol. Her literary fiction novel ends up being about a circus, and his romance novels ends up being about a death cult (don’t worry, this is not a spoiler). I would have ZERO interest in both of these books, and I have a hard time believing that this was a good career move for either of them. All for a silly bet. Honestly, I wish this part had been left out. It would have been fine if they’d both just had writer’s block and tagged along on each other’s research trips just for fun.

4. I liked the supporting characters better than the main characters. January’s best friend, Shadi, was my favorite character in the book. She seems like such a sweet, supportive, loving best friend. Throughout the story, a romance is budding in her life, and I loved reading about it. There’s also Gus’s aunt Pete who owns the book store and the coffee shop. Pete is hilarious. January’s publicist, Anya, is a treat and I’d love to read a book about her. Her emails checking in on January’s writing progress were so much fun. She’s got quite a personality.

5. Unfortunately, I never really connected with January or Gus. I liked them, and I felt bad for their heartaches and personal struggles, but I never felt connected to or invested in them. I think that’s why I struggled to get through this book. I’m a very character-driven reader, so not being able to connect with either main character was very hard for me.

6. I did like all the writer stuff. The advance reader copies, the writing process, the writer’s block, professional and reader reviews. That was fun.

7. The death cult stuff honestly made me uncomfortable. It was just too creepy and kind of upsetting in places. If this were in a mystery or thriller I would have been fine because I would have been expecting to feel uncomfortable and creeped out. That’s not what I wanted to feel when I picked up Beach Read, though. I would have preferred more of January’s rom-com 101 field trips. 

8. This didn’t feel at all romantic to me. Gus says some GREAT things that are very swoony on their own, but they didn’t feel swoony when mixed in with everything else. There wasn’t any wooing. I didn’t feel like there were any grand gestures. The cover and synopsis actually seem a little deceiving. The romance is there, and there’s sexytimes… it just didn’t feel romantic.

9. I came away feeling kind of dark about the entire reading experience. The ending wasn’t even satisfying. 

All in all, I’m kind of all over the place with Beach Read. I liked some parts, I was meh about many parts, and I really didn’t like some parts. There was SO much going on. The book was kind of all over the place, now that I think about it. I think my biggest issue, though, is that I couldn’t connect with the characters I was really supposed to love and feel for. I really think that’s where it all went wrong for me. Not being able to connect with them made their story feel very flat and not the least bit romantic. I’m disappointed.

2 Stars

Well Met by Jen DeLuca | Book Review

Posted March 25, 2020 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 4 Comments

Well Met by Jen DeLuca | Book ReviewWell Met by Jen DeLuca
Series: Well Met #1
Published by Berkley on September 3, 2019
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 336
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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4 Stars

All's faire in love and war for two sworn enemies who indulge in a harmless flirtation in a laugh-out-loud rom-com from debut author, Jen DeLuca.

Emily knew there would be strings attached when she relocated to the small town of Willow Creek, Maryland, for the summer to help her sister recover from an accident, but who could anticipate getting roped into volunteering for the local Renaissance Faire alongside her teenaged niece? Or that the irritating and inscrutable schoolteacher in charge of the volunteers would be so annoying that she finds it impossible to stop thinking about him?

The faire is Simon's family legacy and from the start he makes clear he doesn't have time for Emily's lighthearted approach to life, her oddball Shakespeare conspiracy theories, or her endless suggestions for new acts to shake things up. Yet on the faire grounds he becomes a different person, flirting freely with Emily when she's in her revealing wench's costume. But is this attraction real, or just part of the characters they're portraying?

This summer was only ever supposed to be a pit stop on the way to somewhere else for Emily, but soon she can't seem to shake the fantasy of establishing something more with Simon, or a permanent home of her own in Willow Creek.

I’ve always thought going to a Renaissance Faire sounded like a lot of fun, so I was immediately drawn to this title that predominately takes place at one. The story is just as adorable as the cover! As always, my main points are bolded.

1. I will admit that it took me a little while to get into this one. Things moved slowly as Emily settles in to take care of her sister, April, and her niece, Caitlin, after they were in a car accident. Emily tries to find her footing in a new town, recover from a bad relationship, and find new direction in her life. She ends up being roped in to Renn Faire and the first part of the book is mostly practicing for Faire, hating on Simon, and slowly making friends. It wasn’t heavy (or even semi-heavy) on the romance at all until about halfway through, but hang in there because you’ll love it once it starts. 

2. Simon and Emily each have baggage they’re carrying around, so it makes complete sense that they don’t like each other so much in the beginning. Simon is living in the shadow of his older brother, the founder of the town’s Renn Faire, since he died of cancer. He’s bitten off way more than he can chew, and is living a rather unfulfilling life. He plays a pirate at Faire, and I love that part of his personality. He’s able to let go of everything and have fun when he pulls on his black leather costume, and Emily and I both fell for him as we saw more of that side and less of his grumpy, frazzled side. He can also be incredibly romantic. Emily has come out of a really toxic relationship recently, and doesn’t know where her life is heading once summer is over. I really liked how authentic and down-to-earth she was. I also love the devotion she feels to her sister, and the bond she shares with her niece.

3. There are actually a lot of really fun platonic relationships in this book. Emily’s family relationships are so sweet. She’s also got Chris, the queen of Renn Faire as well as the owner of the bookstore Emily is working at. Then there’s her Faire friends, Mitch and Stacey, that she meets up with for pizza on Sunday nights after Faire is over for the week. I loved all of these secondary characters so much. Mitch in particular is so funny. He wears a kilt without a shirt during Faire and has the cockiest personality. But he’s also mushy and sweet to his friends. And Stacey is the sweetest best friend type.

4. I loved Renn Faire. The descriptions of what it looked and sounded like were so amazing that I felt transported to the woods and felt like I was the one watching the jousts and hearing the characters speak in their period language. The costumes, food, music, and set-up all sounded like so much fun.

5. The romance is so sweet. At one point, Simon decides he’s going to give Emily her first proper wooing and it’s so wonderful that I was giddy from it. These two have such great chemistry, and they also have this special bond that goes deeper and allows them to help each other through their issues.

All in all, I loved Well Met! It was the perfect mash-up of fantasy and reality, friendships and romance, and light-hearted fun that punches you in the feels. I can’t wait to read the rest of the books in the series!

4 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

Mine Under the Mistletoe by Kat Latham | Mini Book Review

Posted December 13, 2019 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 5 Comments

Mine Under the Mistletoe by Kat Latham | Mini Book ReviewMine Under the Mistletoe by Kat Latham
Published by Carina Press on December 5, 2013
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Holiday - Christmas, Romance
Pages: 77
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher (Netgalley)
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3 Stars

Thanks to a transatlantic house swap, California girl Ashley Turner is finally going to fulfill her lifelong dream of a proper English Christmas. Her holiday plans did not include a sexy stranger climbing into her borrowed bed in the middle of the night. But in the light of day, Ashley can't help but wonder if Santa has delivered early...

Game designer Oliver Stansfeld can't wait to leave dreary London—and all its difficult holiday memories—for sunny San Diego. But a freak ice storm and a grounded plane have forced him back to his already-occupied flat. To make up for the mix-up, the least he can do is show his pretty houseguest where to get the perfect Christmas tree before he leaves.

The more time they spend together, the more their attraction grows, and soon Ashley is tempting Oliver to give in to the spirit of the season and snuggle up for the rest of the winter. As the ice melts and flights start taking off again, he must choose between giving in to the past or risking his heart on a chance at love.

Doesn’t this book sound a little like The Holiday? That is one glorious movie and my favorite movie ever, so I was super excited when I found out that this book is about a transatlantic house swap! Even better, a man and a woman are swapping. And even BETTER, the airport gets shut down and she makes it to his London home… but he does not make it to her California home. SO… they have to both stay at his house. I mean, come on. How could you not want to read about this? It sounds super romantic, not to mention an accident waiting to happen! House swapping sounds like one of the coolest adventures ever, but I think I’d be a nervous wreck having a stranger living in my house. Anyways…

Ashley and Oliver are both looking for something. Growing up in poverty, Ashley has never had a real Christmas. And Oliver is looking for a way to survive the pain Christmas brings him. Neither of them were entirely happy to discover they would be sharing a home until Oliver could fly out to California, but they decide to make the best of it after an awkward encounter when Oliver enters his dark room and falls into bed… right on top of Ashley. Oops! She smacks him in his happy place, and he falls to the ground, naked and in pain. And that’s how their love story begins.

Oliver feels for Ashley and her strong desire for a beautiful Christmas, so he takes her shopping for a tree, takes care of her when she slips and falls on the ice, watches her decorate her tree, and enjoys her peppermint hot chocolate. I love the tension and the romance that grows from the bud of friendship. They confide in one another and share their stories, bonding over their sad memories and hope for a better future. I don’t like sad books at all, so I was happy to discover that the book did not feel sad for me. I just felt hope for them and excitement over the possibilities of their love story.

I really enjoyed this sweet, quick Christmas read and would recommend it to people who love The Holiday! While I think that movie is better, this book will make you smile and remind you that the most important part of Christmas is having someone special to share it with.

 

3 Stars