Friday, July 30, 2021

Romance Quick Reviews

To Love a Prince by Rachel Hauck (2020)

When they were children, Daffodil spent a lot of time with the royal family, particularly Prince Augustus, but when she inadvertently stumbles across a royal secret of epic proportions, the Queen banished her.  Now 18 years later, she runs into Gus and they pick up right where they left off, and maybe a bit more.  This was actually a contemporary novel, which I perhaps wasn't expecting at first.  I loved learning about Daffodil's career as an art curator, but the relationship between her and Gus was the heart of the book.  Neither has had great luck in love, and when they meet again, both quickly realize that it's what they've been searching for all along; now they just have to convince the Queen that it's a good match.  This was a sweet and well-written story.  I wanted to know what the big royal secret was, and it was pretty surprising, although not totally dealt with well, in my opinion.  The book is Christian fiction, which didn't really come up often until the end of the book and helped explain some things.  3.5 stars

Squeeze Play by Aven Ellis (2017)
Recent college graduate Hayley has found her dream job at a Washington, D.C. nonprofit.  She has no plans to start dating, until she meets professional baseball player, Brody, who challenges her in the best ways.  I didn't love this book, but I did think it was a cute read.  Hayley was a bit of a mixed bag for me - I feel like she tried to portray this really mature demeanor, but she still seemed immature in a lot of ways.  I appreciated that she wanted to better herself and her career, and she seemed to have a pretty solid plan of doing that.  The relationship between Hayley and Brody was sweet with just a little bit of heat.  I loved their banter and the way they challenged each other on what they wanted out of life.  The support and honesty they showed each other was really inspiring.  That said, the writing was a bit simplistic and repetitive.  Their conversations often felt a bit unrealistic and too sugary sweet.  What little drama there was was solved way too quickly and easily.  3 stars

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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Can't-Wait Wednesday: A Spindle Splintered

Can't-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings and helps us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!
Alix E. Harrow
Expected publication date: October 5, 2021
USA Today bestselling author Alix E. Harrow's A Spindle Splintered brings her patented charm to a new version of a classic story.

"A vivid, subversive and feminist reimagining of Sleeping Beauty, where implacable destiny is no match for courage, sisterhood, stubbornness and a good working knowledge of fairy tales." ―Katherine Arden

It's Zinnia Gray's twenty-first birthday, which is extra-special because it's the last birthday she'll ever have. When she was young, an industrial accident left Zinnia with a rare condition. Not much is known about her illness, just that no one has lived past twenty-one.

Her best friend Charm is intent on making Zinnia's last birthday special with a full sleeping beauty experience, complete with a tower and a spinning wheel. But when Zinnia pricks her finger, something strange and unexpected happens, and she finds herself falling through worlds, with another sleeping beauty, just as desperate to escape her fate.
  - from Goodreads

I love a good retelling, and this sounds like a fun one!

Friday, July 23, 2021

Quick Reviews

Meet Me in Bombay by Jenny Ashcroft (2021)

In 1913, on the eve of World War I, Maddy and Luke meet in Bombay, India.  Their whirlwind romance and marriage are interrupted when Luke is called to serve in the war.  An injury causes him to lose his memory of his wife and child; will Maddy ever find out what happened to her husband?  I really enjoyed this book because it had a little bit of everything - romance, family secrets, amnesia, mistaken identity.  I liked the interspersed chapters of Luke in the hospital, desperately trying to remember who he is, with Maddy clinging to his memory while almost everyone around her encourages her to move on.  The writing was beautiful, elegant, and so atmospheric - I could really feel the heat and humidity of the Bombay days and nights.  Although I thought the ending was a little abrupt, I really enjoyed this story of family and love.  4 stars

Santa Monica by Cassidy Lucas (2020)
Secrets abound after a handsome physical trainer is found dead.  The blurb for this book compares it to Liane Moriarty, and I found that to be a pretty accurate assessment.  This is definitely a domestic drama, with a splash of murder mystery thrown in.  The novel starts with Zack's half-sister, Lettie, finding his body, and then it flashes back to the months before his murder.  Lettie, an illegal immigrant who relies on Zack to keep her and her son in the United States, is just one of the women in Zack's life.  There's also Regina, who is in debt and trying to start a business with him, while also doing some shady things, and Mel, who is new to the Santa Monica area, doesn't quite fit in, and finds herself very attracted to Zack despite her marriage.  I loved watching how all the characters are intertwined with each other.  Each has secrets that would be very harmful if they got out.  I thought Mel was a little too over-the-top and there was too much political talk, but the story moved quickly and held my interest.  4 stars

* This post contains affiliate links; I earn a small commission on qualifying purchases, at no cost to you.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Can't-Wait Wednesday: What Once Was Mine

Can't-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings and helps us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!
Liz Braswell
Expected publication date: September 7, 2021
The 12th installment in the New York Times best-selling series asks: What if Rapunzel's mother drank a potion from the wrong flower?

Desperate to save the life of their queen and her unborn child, the good people of Corona search for the all-healing Sundrop flower to cure her—but mistakenly acquire the shimmering Moondrop flower instead. Nonetheless it heals the queen, and she delivers a healthy baby girl with hair as silver and gray as the moon. With it comes dangerous magical powers: the power to hurt, not heal. For her safety and the safety of the kingdom, Rapunzel is locked in a tower and put under the care of powerful goodwife, Mother Gothel.

For eighteen years Rapunzel stays locked away, knowing she must protect others from her magical hair. But when she leaves the only home she's ever known, wanting only to see the floating lights that appear on her birthday, she gets caught up in an adventure across the kingdom with two thieves—a young woman named Gina, and Flynn Rider, a rogue on the run. Before she can reach her happy ending, Rapunzel learns that there may be more to her story, and her magical tresses, than she ever knew. - from Goodreads

I have been loving the Twisted Tales series, and now it's Rapunzel's turn!


Monday, July 19, 2021

Mid-Year Check-In: 2021 Resolutions

How is this year already more than half over??  Seriously, though, it's a good time to check in on the bookish and blogging resolutions I made at the beginning of the year!

  1. Bring back my Try It series.  I actually did one of these back in February, where I tried out the genre Nordic Noir (and really enjoyed it!).  I have at least one more on my list that I want to try this year, too.
  2. Read one book from my shelf of unread physical books per month.  Pass so far!  There was even a month where I read three books from that shelf.  Unfortunately, I keep borrowing books from my sister, so it looks like I'm not making a lot of progress!
  3. Keep growing my Instagram account.  My Instagram account has grown at least 20% since the beginning of the year!  I'm enjoying participating in photo challenges and sharing what I'm reading on a more current basis than my monthly recaps here allow.
  4. Host a giveaway. Pass!  I hosted a giveaway for my 5th blogoversary in April.  Thank you to everyone who participated!
  5. Attend at least 2 bookish events.  I attended a virtual book event hosted by the Morristown Festival of Books with VE Schwab back in February, which was really fun, but I've been slacking ever since.  I feel like I don't keep up enough with finding virtual events.  I'm really hoping, though, to attend an in-person event later this year.
  6. Do more to promote books/authors I love.  This was kind of an amorphous goal, but basically what it boiled down to was that I wanted to be more involved in the bookish community.  I've participated in a couple blog tours this year, and I've also signed up to be a part of the blogging communities for Smartypants Romance and author Staci Hart.  Staci Hart is an author I love, so it's been fun helping promote her 2021 releases.  My sister introduced me to Smartypants Romance and through them I've found some amazing new authors and books.
I'm actually pretty surprised at how well I've done at my resolutions so far!  My reading really slowed down for a couple months, but I feel like I'm getting back into the groove and I'm excited to see what the rest of the year brings!

How are you doing on your reading/blogging goals?

Friday, July 16, 2021

Fiction/Nonfiction Mini-Reviews: The Mr. Darcy Edition

Dating Mr. Darcy by Kate O'Keeffe (2020)

In order to promote her activewear line, Emma joins a reality TV dating show where the women compete to win the heart of their own "Mr. Darcy," in this case an English aristocrat named Sebastian.  Only intent to stay on for a short time, she unwittingly begins to fall for him.  
I love Pride & Prejudice retellings, so I was eager to try this one out.  Unfortunately, I had some issues with the story.  Emma often comes across as obnoxious and immature (seriously, how many times can one person say "dude"?).  She's so obviously not on the show for the right reasons (although, to be fair, how many dating reality show participants are?) that I'm surprised they didn't kick her off immediately.  She tries to be the comedian of the group, but she's so sorely unfunny.  The plot is rather predictable, as well.  I did, however, enjoy the reality TV show aspect and getting to know the other participants (they range from totally crazy to totally sweet).  I also liked watching Emma and Sebastian learn about each other and their completely different worlds.  So, overall, a bit cheesy and predictable, but for those who enjoy clean, low-angst romances, it might be worth a try!  3 stars

There's Something About Darcy by Gabrielle Malcolm (2020)
Mr. Darcy, introduced in Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice, is probably one of the most popular and enduring characters in literature.  In There's Something About Darcy, Gabrielle Malcolm explores different aspects of the character, how he may have inspired other classic characters, and his impact on modern novels.

I feel like I was expecting something different from this nonfiction book.  I think I expected more analysis and while it was obvious the author had done her research on Darcy and the myriad of ways he shows up in pop culture, the book often just felt like a laundry list of books and movies.  Malcolm recounted the plots of many books and it just felt extraneous at times.  I think she's also put a lot of stock in the Colin Firth version of Mr. Darcy; I've never seen that adaptation and it clearly hasn't impacted my enjoyment of the original book and the many retellings I've read.  I liked her analysis of the original Darcy character and how he was been influenced by the time period Austen lived in, but I suppose I wanted more about how the character's (and original story's) universal traits have an almost timeless appeal that still translates today, especially considering the many modern retellings that have been published just in the last couple decades alone.  3 stars

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Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Velvet Was The Night

Can't-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings and helps us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!
Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Expected publication date: August 17, 2021
From the New York Times bestselling author of Mexican Gothic comes a “delicious, twisted treat for lovers of noir” about a daydreaming secretary, a lonesome enforcer, and the mystery of a missing woman they’re both desperate to find.

1970s, Mexico City. Maite is a secretary who lives for one thing: the latest issue of Secret Romance. While student protests and political unrest consume the city, Maite escapes into stories of passion and danger.

Her next-door neighbor, Leonora, a beautiful art student, seems to live a life of intrigue and romance that Maite envies. When Leonora disappears under suspicious circumstances, Maite finds herself searching for the missing woman—and journeying deeper into Leonora’s secret life of student radicals and dissidents.

Meanwhile, someone else is also looking for Leonora at the behest of his boss, a shadowy figure who commands goon squads dedicated to squashing political activists. Elvis is an eccentric criminal who longs to escape his own life: He loathes violence and loves old movies and rock ’n’ roll. But as Elvis searches for the missing woman, he comes to observe Maite from a distance—and grows more and more obsessed with this woman who shares his love of music and the unspoken loneliness of his heart.

Now as Maite and Elvis come closer to discovering the truth behind Leonora’s disappearance, they can no longer escape the danger that threatens to consume their lives, with hitmen, government agents, and Russian spies all aiming to protect Leonora’s secrets—at gunpoint.

Velvet Was the Night is an edgy, simmering historical novel for lovers of smoky noirs and anti-heroes. - from Goodreads

I'm really interested by the noir feeling of this book!

Monday, July 12, 2021

Guest Blogger: Musings on Preorders

Today I'm welcoming to the blog my sister, Michele!  Many of our conversations revolve around books and we recently had a discussion about preorders - personally, I'm sometimes intimidated by them because if a book was so highly anticipated for me that I took the time to preorder it, I have really high expectations that I'm worried won't be met, so I usually end up putting them off.  Keep reading for Michele's thoughts!


As I have gotten back into reading the last few years and started following many authors on social media, I have learned how important preorders are to those authors. When a reader preorders an author’s next release, it helps them earn spots on bestseller lists, allows their publisher to extrapolate early demand, and assists book stores in properly stocking their shelves. Showing early excitement and enthusiasm is one of the best things we can do for the authors we enjoy.


I have a number of auto-buy authors and I always eagerly anticipate their latest release. Sometimes I will even preorder it a number of months in advance. However, I typically don’t actually end up reading it anywhere near release day. Even though it’s something I have been looking forward to, I feel like putting off reading it right away helps me savor it just a little bit more.

I recently noticed that my book hauls for 2021 have contained a number of preordered books and I decided to designate the month of June to finally catch up on those titles. I am glad I did because there were so many good reads!

We Can’t Keep Meeting Like This – Rachel Lynn Solomon

The Soulmate Equation – Christina Lauren

The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba – Chanel Cleeton

Take Me Home Tonight – Morgan Matson

To Love and To Loathe – Martha Waters

Life’s Too Short – Abby Jimenez

Do you dive into your preorders as soon as they release? What authors do you preorder books from?
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Friday, July 9, 2021

Quick Reviews: The Camille Pagán Edition

Libby, feeling uncharacteristically dissatisfied with her life, decides to take her family to Puerto Rico, where she and her husband met and fell in love.  However, an incoming storm puts her family in danger.  I think a lot of people will be able to relate to Libby.  On paper, it seems like she has it all - a great marriage, two amazing kids, a fulfilling career, and her cancer has been in remission for a decade.  But, that doesn't tell the whole story about how her husband has been distant, her daughter is dealing with a diabetes diagnosis, and she feels stagnated in her job.  Even though Libby is normally the eternal optimist, lately she can't muster her typical happiness.  She thinks a trip to Puerto Rico will help, but a big storm will threaten everything.  I expected a bit more humor from Pagan, and this story definitely had a more pessimistic tone, but I still enjoyed it.  It was a quick read that had me turning the pages to see how the family would fare.  4 stars
Annie is having a rough time - she was forced to resign from her job due to something that was totally not her fault, and her fiance Jon has decided to jet off to Paris by himself for a month.  She decides she needs space from people in general, but a new neighbor and a private investigator might change her mind.  I didn't love this one as much as I thought I would.  I love that Annie is a chemist, but unfortunately, we never really get to see her in practice.  She has a very clinical, analytical personality that I couldn't always relate to or enjoy.  I sometimes felt like the story was going nowhere, and the ending was way too abrupt. I wasn't sure if I was meant to hate or like her fiance Jon.  However, I did enjoy the format of the story, told in emails and journal entries.  I liked Annie's growth throughout the story and the story arc of her new neighbor, Harper, which was kind of surprising.  3.5 stars

* This post contains affiliate links.  I earn a small commission on qualifying purchases, at no cost to you.

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Can't-Wait Wednesday: My Cone and Only

Can't-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings and helps us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!
Susannah Nix
Expected publication date: July 20, 2021
Wyatt King isn’t looking for love…because he’s already found it.

Too bad she’s off-limits. He’s not going to be the jerk who messes around with his best friend’s little sister, so he keeps his feelings bottled up and settles for acting as her protector instead.

Andie Lockhart’s dreamed of kissing Wyatt for as long as she’s known what kissing is. But since he’s dated nearly every woman in town but her, she’s long since accepted he’ll never see her as anything more than his best friend’s tomboy little sister.

When a real estate developer threatens the beloved old house Andie inherited from her grandmother, her white knight Wyatt swoops in with his handyman skills to save the day. But the more time they spend working on the house together, the harder it becomes to ignore their irresistible attraction.

Until the night an accidental kiss blows the lid off those feelings they’ve both kept buried.

After that, things between them get a lot hotter—and a lot more complicated. Forbidden love, broken promises, family secrets, and jealousy all threaten to tear them apart. If he intends to hold on to the woman he loves, Wyatt will have to put everything on the line. - from Goodreads

I love a good romance for summer!

Friday, July 2, 2021

Month in Review: June 2021

Just a little housekeeping note - as I'm sure you've all heard, Google's FeedBurner is going into maintenance mode at some point this month.  That means the email subscription service my blog uses will no longer function.  As I'm too lazy to research another option, I would encourage my lovely email subscribers to follow another way, either by Bloglovin' or Facebook, and links to both of those can be found to the right!
So, onto June!  This was actually a really quiet month.  Tom and I have been working on cleaning/organizing/purging some areas of our house - we have way too much stuff and it's getting overwhelming!  I spent a Saturday shopping with my mom and sister (I know, seems counterproductive to what I just said, but it was for clothes, so I feel like it's ok!).  It's nice to just be able to go places and not have to think about it too much!  Work has been pretty busy.  The woman I've been training with/working under for the past year retired this month (it was well-deserved, she stayed on for way longer than she had planned to), so suddenly I feel a lot more pressure!  I actually had to go into the office for the first time since November to help train some new staff members, and it was nice to be around other people for a few hours!  We are mainly still working from home, although the company is working on a reopening plan for the fall, so we'll see what happens.

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