Source: Publisher (Edelweiss)

The Tourist Attraction by Sarah Morgenthaler | Book Review

Posted February 27, 2020 by Jana in Adult Fiction, Book Review / 4 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

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

Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett | Book Review

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

Reign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan | Book Review

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

Reign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan | Book ReviewReign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan
Series: Reign of Shadows #1
Published by HarperTEEN on February 9, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Retelling, Romance
Pages: 304
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher (Edelweiss)
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5 Stars

Seventeen years ago, an eclipse cloaked the kingdom of Relhok in perpetual darkness. In the chaos, an evil chancellor murdered the king and queen and seized their throne. Luna, Relhok’s lost princess, has been hiding in a tower ever since. Luna’s survival depends on the world believing she is dead.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Stars

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: Publisher (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.

4 Stars

Roomies by Christina Lauren | Book Review

Posted April 12, 2018 by Jana in Book Review, New Adult / 3 Comments

Roomies by Christina Lauren | Book ReviewRoomies by Christina Lauren
Published by Gallery Books on December 5, 2017
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 368
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher (Edelweiss)
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3.5 Stars

Marriages of convenience are so…inconvenient.

Rescued by Calvin McLoughlin from a would-be subway attacker, Holland Bakker pays the brilliant musician back by pulling some of her errand-girl strings and getting him an audition with a big-time musical director. When the tryout goes better than even Holland could have imagined, Calvin is set for a great entry into Broadway—until he admits his student visa has expired and he’s in the country illegally.

Holland impulsively offers to wed the Irishman to keep him in New York, her growing infatuation a secret only to him. As their relationship evolves from awkward roommates to besotted lovers, Calvin becomes the darling of Broadway. In the middle of the theatrics and the acting-not-acting, what will it take for Holland and Calvin to realise that they both stopped pretending a long time ago?

I love marriages of convenience and fake/sham romances, so I was excited to find another one from an author (or author partnership) I’ve been hearing really good things about. I also love books set in New York and/or surrounding the theme of music. And… it kind of goes without saying that I love Irish men, so the synopsis checked all my boxes. I eagerly jumped in, and had a lot of fun with this one! As always, my main points are bolded.

1. I really loved Holland Baker. She’s so relatable, and I think we can all see at least a small part of ourselves in her. She’s a 25-year-old plain Jane living in New York City (with the help of her two uncles who pay most of her rent), working a dead-end job (that her uncle go her) that is way below her qualifications as she tries to achieve her dream of becoming a published author. Who has been in this position before? *raises hand* Her morning subway runs to work become bearable when she stumbles across a musical genius busking in the station one morning. She gives him a name and makes up his life story in her mind, going out of her way to hear him play as often as she can. This mysterious musician has her completely entranced even though she’s never seen his face or heard his voice. If you haven’t ever had a crush on someone you don’t know, then you’re either crazy or lucky.

2. Calvin is a swoony Irishman who is also working below his qualifications while trying to achieve his dream of becoming a Broadway musician. While busking in the subway station one evening, he saves Holland from an attack and then pretty much disappears. We learn a lot about Holland’s mystery musician, and the two of them end up in a marriage of convenience–both for very different reasons. Calvin is pretty cute (his accent comes through the pages), but not my favorite male love interest. I had a really hard time trusting his intentions with Holland, and questioned his feelings pretty consistently throughout the story. He’s not incredibly thoughtful or romantic, either. I did change my mind about him, and by the end I was in love with him. I was sad I didn’t get more pages with him like he was in the end.

3. I did really like the banter between Holland and Calvin. They’re pretty funny and flirtatious, and I ate it all up.

4. I could not help but picture scenes from the movie, The Proposal, while I read about Holland and Calvin at their interview to prove the validity of their marriage. And their cramming sessions where they tried to learn as much about each other as possible were great.

5. I LOVED Holland’s two uncles, Robert and Jeff. They took care of her like they were her parents, and I loved how tender and concerned they were for her. They call her “Hollsy”, which is so cute! Robert is the mastermind behind a hit Broadway show, but he’s still super down-to-earth and even a little silly.

6. I loved the walks through New York in the freezing cold because it took me back to when I was there at Christmastime freezing my butt off.

7. I love the author’s descriptions of music and what it does to a person. There were some beautiful, sweeping passages that perfectly described the impact music has on people.

8. A fair amount of the book takes place at the theater, and I enjoyed all the tidbits of life behind Broadway. 

9. I think things went slightly sour for me when Holland and Calvin left the getting-to-know-you phase and jumped into the lustier side of their relationship. I loved the sincerity that they brought to the scene as they got to know one another and were intoxicated by Calvin’s new job and Holland’s secret infatuation with him had her checking herself to see if she was dreaming. That was all very sweet and exciting. When they started lying to each other and sleeping together for no meaningful reason, it cheapened everything for me.

10. There was a lot of needless drama, in my opinion. I’ve never read a book where the main couple argued with one another so much, or had so many disagreements. 

11. I loved watching Holland find herself. 

12. The ending was very sweet, if not a little convenient and quick. It all seemed to wrap up too fast for me.

13. I could have done with fewer f-words. 

So, there you have it! My slightly all over the place review. There were parts I loved, and parts I didn’t love. Overall, however, I am so glad I read this book. It was fun and fresh and different from all the other contemporary romances I’ve read.

3.5 Stars

Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch | Book Review

Posted April 5, 2018 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 9 Comments

Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch | Book ReviewLove & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch
Published by Simon Pulse on May 3, 2016
Pages: 389
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher (Edelweiss)
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5 Stars

“I made the wrong choice.”

Lina is spending the summer in Tuscany, but she isn’t in the mood for Italy’s famous sunshine and fairy-tale landscape. She’s only there because it was her mother’s dying wish that she get to know her father. But what kind of father isn’t around for sixteen years? All Lina wants to do is get back home.

But then she is given a journal that her mom had kept when she lived in Italy. Suddenly Lina’s uncovering a magical world of secret romances, art, and hidden bakeries. A world that inspires Lina, along with the ever-so-charming Ren, to follow in her mother’s footsteps and unearth a secret that has been kept for far too long. It’s a secret that will change everything she knew about her mother, her father—and even herself.

People come to Italy for love and gelato, someone tells her, but sometimes they discover much more.

I love books set in other countries, especially countries I’ve visited myself. It makes for a very fun reading experience, and I usually gobble them up quickly. Love & Gelato is another book I can add to my stack of favorites, and it’s not just because it takes place in one of my favorite cities in the world.

1. Love & Gelato was everything I hoped for and more. I loved it so much, not only because the story and writing were pure and utter perfection, but because my love of YA contemporary romance was renewed. I’ve been having a hard time with this genre for the last couple of years, and I chalked it up to the fact that I’m not a young adult anymore. I figured I was identifying less and less with the characters, so I needed to move on and read books with characters my age in order to connect. I was pretty heartbroken about this. I thought back to all my favorite YA contemporaries: Wanderlove, Just One Day, Anna and the French Kiss, Unbreak My Heart, The Summer I Became a Nerd, and Wish You Were Italian and was super sad that, if I were to re-read them, maybe I wouldn’t love them anymore. Love & Gelato was a bit of a gamble for me, but since I love Italy so much I figured I would at least love that about it. But I loved EVERYTHING. I loved the characters, the story, the romance, the issues, the scenery, the mystery, and all the coming of age moments. It reminded me that I will always be able to relate to teens because I was there. I went through it, and no matter how old you get you never forget what it was like to be a teenager. I’m so relieved that I’d just found a bunch of bad egg books, rather than discovered that the genre that once brought me so much joy was not for me anymore.

2. This book takes place on the outskirts of Florence, Italy… one of my favorite places in Italy. Lina’s mother dies of cancer and has spent her last months talking with Lina about her time in Italy. She wants so badly for Lina to move there and live with a man named Howard. So she goes there and lives with him in a WWII cemetery where he is the groundskeeper. Lina is given the journal that her mom wrote in while she was living in Italy, and she learns so much about her mom and herself. Pretty much the entire story is Lina walking in her mother’s footsteps, while also falling in love and experiencing Italy. I loved every page.

3. Howard is the kind of guy every girl wishes was her dad. He clumsily navigates his relationship in a way that only a man who has no idea what a teenage girl is could. But he is so full of love and only wants what’s best for her. If that’s an overflowing plate of lasagne or a shoulder to cry on, he’ll give you both.

4. Lina is strong in the wake of her biggest personal tragedy to date, and I admired her. She flies all the way to Italy and into the unknown while mourning the loss of her mom. She pouts and mopes and comes up with a million reasons to go home, but she also searches for answers and discovers why she’s there. Ren is very sweet and goofy, and I loved his personality. The supporting characters are all great, too. Ren’s mom is so much fun. Ren’s friends are great.

5. So much Italy! And so much gelato! It was like I was there again.

6. The writing was lovely. I can’t say much more about it, other than the fact that I remember the story and the people more than the writing. I think an author does their job when that happens.

All in all, I will be forever grateful to Jenna Evans Welch for reminding me why I love YA so much. I’ve read two more YA contemporary romances since I read this book, and I loved them both. I think I’m out of my slump! I loved going back to Italy and watching Lina figure out who she was and where she came from. I highly recommend Love & Gelato.

5 Stars

Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett | Book Review

Posted March 28, 2018 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 9 Comments

Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett | Book ReviewStarry Eyes by Jenn Bennett
Published by Simon Pulse on April 3, 2018
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance
Pages: 432
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher (Edelweiss)
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5 Stars

Ever since last year’s homecoming dance, best friends-turned-best enemies Zorie and Lennon have made an art of avoiding each other. It doesn’t hurt that their families are the modern day, Californian version of the Montagues and Capulets.

But when a group camping trip goes south, Zorie and Lennon find themselves stranded in the wilderness. Alone. Together.

What could go wrong?

With no one but each other for company, Zorie and Lennon have no choice but to hash out their issues via witty jabs and insults as they try to make their way to safety. But fighting each other while also fighting off the forces of nature makes getting out of the woods in one piece less and less likely.

And as the two travel deeper into Northern California’s rugged backcountry, secrets and hidden feelings surface. But can Zorie and Lennon’s rekindled connection survive out in the real world? Or was it just a result of the fresh forest air and the magic of the twinkling stars?

Jenn Bennett is a wonderful storyteller, and is quickly becoming a YA author that I trust to provide some really sweet, swoony contemporary romances. After really enjoying Alex, Approximately, I was excited to spot this next book of hers on Edelweiss. I’m happy to report that I loved this one even more. As always, my main points are bolded.

1. I was immediately drawn to the unique plot elements that were mentioned in the synopsis. Former best friends go camping and end up stranded in the wilderness, having to fend for themselves. I love survival stories, and stories that take place outdoors so I really loved this idea. It was done SO WELL.

2. I loved the little tidbits about how to survive outdoors, as well as the beautiful descriptions of scenery. There’s a pretty intense thunderstorm that happens in this book, and I was captivated by the way the author portrayed it.

3. The characters are sweet and quirky. I know I will never forget Lennon, son of a sex shop owning lesbian couple and a punk rocker has-been. He loves reptiles and graphic novels, wears all black, and has spiky hair and a dry sense of humor. He’s also very loving, loyal, kind of broken, and very mysterious. I loved him! Zorie is a wannabe astronomer, who gazes at life through the eyepiece of her telescope. Her birth mother died when she was young, and she’s fallen in love with her dad’s Korean wife, Joy, and adopted her as her real mom. This family, like all families, has some issues. As Zorie and Lennon work to survive the wilderness and the elements, they talk and work through how to survive their lives as well. They both grow so much individually as well as together, and I loved watching them process real emotions together.

4. Things got really good for me once the glamping trip ended and Lennon and Zorie were left to fend for themselves. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the parts leading up to that, but I got super invested at this point in the story and had a really hard time putting my book down to go to bed.

5. There was a strong focus on friendship and relationships that I loved.

6. I don’t want to spoil it, but there’s some major girl power moments towards the end of the book that had me cheering. I love strong women in books because they inspire me to be more assertive and not take crap from anyone.

All in all, I loved Starry Eyes. It’s swoony and deep and angsty and full of so much reality, set against the love-hate relationship between two best-friends-turned-enemies as they traverse the elements and depend on one another to survive the literal wilderness, as well as their own wild, untamed lives.

5 Stars