Friday, December 29, 2023

Holiday Quick Reviews

A Newport Christmess by Jess Heileman (2022)

Quinn, eager to become an influencer, feels she might have her chance when she is hired by a popular Instagram influencer to make gingerbread houses for her wedding.  When the bride attempts to set her up, Quinn starts a fake relationship with the woman's brother, until they realize they might actually be perfect for each other.  I thought this was a cute premise, and the Newport, Rhode Island setting is fantastic, but this wasn't as a great as I wanted it to be.  Quinn and Landon are both recently divorced, so I appreciate the aspect of them being able to relate to each other at that level.  But, Quinn was just a hard character for me - she's disorganized, absent-minded, scared of everything, and really down on herself.  It was just draining sometimes, and also hard for me to see what Landon saw in her.  His contributions to the relationship were mostly financial, which felt weird to me.  I just didn't feel any chemistry between them, the pacing wasn't great, and the side characters added little to the story.  3 stars

Emergency Contact by Lauren Layne and Anthony Ledonne (2023)

When Katherine is involved in a car accident and diagnosed with a concussion, the hospital calls her emergency contact, which happens to be her ex-husband Tom who was heading out of town to propose to his girlfriend.  He reluctantly agrees to take care of her but only if she'll come to Chicago with him for Christmas.  When their road trip hits every possible snag, it gives them plenty of time to think about what they really want.  Sigh, guys - I loved this book.  Normally I'm not a huge fan of second-chance romances, but there was something about Tom and Katherine that had me hooked from the start.  Their witty banter actually had me laughing out loud; even though they claim to hate each other, things like Tom's unconscious use of a special nickname for Katherine had me thinking otherwise.  It just seemed like they had a lot of unfinished business, and I loved that we got both Tom and Katherine's perspectives.  There was depth to the story without it feeling too heavy, and I especially enjoyed the way Katherine evolved over the story, from a tough, no-nonsense (maybe even a little cold) lawyer to something more.  4.5 stars

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Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Top Ten Tuesday: Recent Additions to Henry's Bookshelves


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl.  This week's topic is recent additions to our bookshelves, such as our holiday haul.  Between his birthday at the end of November, Black Friday sales for mom, and Christmas, Henry has added many new books to his collection!  Let's take a look at what we'll be reading in the coming months!






What have you added recently to your shelves?

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Friday, December 22, 2023

Holiday Quick Reviews

Faking Christmas by Cindy Steel (2022)

Olive and Miles are English teachers at the same school.  Olive can't stand Miles but somehow finds herself in a fake relationship with him while visiting his family's lodge during Christmas with her family.  As she spends time with him, she realizes he's actually not so bad.  Finally, the holiday romance I was looking for!  I loved the banter between Olive and Miles and the way she struggled with her feelings, while Miles was clearly smitten from the beginning.  The inclusion of Olive's family and her complicated relationship with her mom's new husband (after losing her father only the year before) added some depth to the story without feeling too heavy.  The lodge setting added so much holiday cheer, and while the story was predictable, I was still very much along for the ride!  4 stars

Through the Snow Globe by Annie Rains (2023)
Diana's fiance was involved in a car accident and his prognosis isn't looking good, until Diana shakes a magical snow globe and begins reliving the day of Linus' accident over and over again.  Will she be able to save him?  I'm a sucker for a time loop story, and the holidays always seem to be a good time for someone to go on a journey of self-discovery, but I just couldn't warm up to Diana.  She's prickly and closed off, always seeming to take offense at something.  The way she grows and changes by the end of the story felt out of character, knowing what we do about her.  The story didn't feel super heavy, but there was also no holiday lightness about it, either.  The writing wasn't great, but I did enjoy seeing how each iteration of the day would go.  3 stars

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Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Diva

Can't-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings and helps us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!
Daisy Goodwin
Expected publication date: January 23, 2024
The story of the scandalous love affair between the most celebrated opera singer of all time and one of the richest men in the world

In the glittering and ruthlessly competitive world of opera, Maria Callas was known simply as la divina: the divine one. With her glorious voice, instinctive flair for the dramatic, and striking beauty, she was the toast of the grandest opera houses in the world. But her fame was hard won: Raised in Nazi-occupied Greece by a mother who mercilessly exploited her golden voice, she learned early in life to protect herself from those who would use her for their own ends.

When she met the fabulously rich Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, for the first time in her life, she believed she’d found someone who saw the woman within the legendary soprano. She fell desperately in love. He introduced her to a life of unbelievable luxury, showering her with jewels and sojourns in the most fashionable international watering holes with celebrities like Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

And then suddenly, it was over. The international press announced that Aristotle Onassis would marry the most famous woman in the world, former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, leaving Maria to pick up the pieces.

In this remarkable novel, Daisy Goodwin brings to life a woman whose extraordinary talent, unremitting drive, and natural chic made her a legend. But it was only in confronting the heartbreak of losing the man she loved that Maria Callas found her true voice and went on to triumph. - from Goodreads


Monday, December 18, 2023

Michele's Monday Picks #36

Angela is so generous to let me pop in with my little series, Michele’s Monday Picks! I’m not a blogger or bookstagrammer, but I love getting excited about new releases with the rest of you. Here I’ll be sharing new books I’m really looking forward to!



Emily Wilde’s Map of the Otherlands

By Heather Fawcett

Expected Publication: January 16, 2024

From Goodreads:

When mysterious faeries from other realms appear at her university, curmudgeonly professor Emily Wilde must uncover their secrets before it’s too late in this heartwarming, enchanting second installment of the Emily Wilde series.
Emily Wilde is a genius scholar of faerie folklore—she just wrote the world’s first comprehensive of encylopaedia of faeries. She’s learned many of the secrets of the Hidden Folk on her adventures . . . and also from her fellow scholar and former rival, Wendell Bambleby.
Because Bambleby is more than infuriatingly charming. He’s an exiled faerie king on the run from his murderous mother, and in search of a door back to his realm. So despite Emily’s feelings for Bambleby, she’s not ready to accept his proposal of Loving one of the Fair Folk comes with secrets and danger.
And she also has a new project to focus a map of the realms of faerie. While she is preparing her research, Bambleby lands her in trouble yet again, when assassins sent by Bambleby’s mother invade Cambridge. Now Bambleby and Emily are on another adventure, this time to the picturesque Austrian Alps, where Emily believes they may find the door to Bambley’s realm, and the key to freeing him from his family’s dark plans.
But with new relationships for the prickly Emily to navigate and dangerous Folk lurking in every forest and hollow, Emily must unravel the mysterious workings of faerie doors, and of her own heart.

I really enjoyed the first book in this series - do you think you’ll be picking this one up?

Friday, December 15, 2023

How Did My 2023 Preorders Pan Out?

When my favorite authors announce a new book, I almost immediately run to submit my preorder.  I have quite a few auto-buy authors that I barely need to read blurbs for anymore before I hit that button.  This year, though, I also branched out and preordered some books by debut or new-to-me authors.  So, were these preorders worth the price?

Homecoming by Kate Morton - Morton is one of my favorite authors, and it's been a few years since she released a new book.  The minute she announced this one, I preordered it, and it was so worth the very long wait!  Kate Morton has such a way of writing Gothic mysteries - in this one, in the past, a mother and her children are found dead near a river on Christmas Eve, and in the present day, a struggling journalist takes up the story, finding she has a connection to it.  Morton's writing is lush and rich, and every time you think you've figured it out, Morton surprises you with another twist.  5 stars

The Spectacular by Fiona Davis - Davis is another one of my favorite authors, and I'm always excited to see which iconic NYC building she chooses to set her next story in.  In her newest novel, Radio City Music Hall takes center stage, with main character Marion earning the chance to become a Rockette, despite her father's misgivings.  While Marion is trying to adjust to her new life, the Big Apple bomber strikes Radio City, and Marion is drawn into the police investigation.  This is my favorite Davis book to date - the writing is incredible and the story is a good mix of mystery and women's fiction.  4.5 stars

Bear With Me Now by Katie Shepard - I was drawn in by the title and cover of this one (Shepard is a debut author).  On a wilderness therapy retreat, Teagan is saved from a bear by Darcy, who then returns with him to NYC to be his sober companion (although he's not an alcoholic).  Fun premise, but the execution didn't work for me.  The way Darcy pursued a relationship with Teagan felt immoral and unethical, and she's also completely unqualified to be a therapist in any form.  Just questionable on a lot of levels.  3 stars

The Boyfriend Candidate by Ashley Winstead - Another one where I was completely hooked by the cover, and also the blurb sounded really cute (new-to-me author).  What happens when a shy librarian decides to have a one-night stand with a handsome stranger?  Well, in this case, a freak lightning strike causes a fire at their hotel before any of the good stuff happens, and when they are photographed fleeing for safety, she finds out he's actually a gubernatorial candidate and they start a fake relationship to keep the press from gossiping.  This was so fun, so sweet, and I loved Alexis' journey through the story.  5 stars

The Last Lifeboat by Hazel Gaynor - Gaynor is an author I've read before but not extensively (although I've highly enjoyed her collaborations with Heather Webb!).  My sister preordered this for me, because the premise was hard to resist for me.  I love WWII historical fiction and this book introduced me to an aspect that I was unaware of - I knew British children were evacuated from London to the countryside, but I didn't know they were also sent to other countries.  The tragedy in this book (the torpedoing of a ship carrying British children to Canada) is based on a real life event, which Gaynor brings to life in the most heartwrenching of ways.  Reading about Alice, the children, and other passengers clinging to life in the Atlantic while Lily desperately tries to find out what happened to her children was riveting.  Definitely a must-read for WWII historical fiction fans.  4.5 stars

The Beach at Summerly by Beatriz Williams - Beatriz is an author I've loved for years and she is quite prolific.  If you want to get completely immersed in a setting and time period, you read Beatriz.  Her newest book is about Emilia, a young woman whose father works for a rich family summering on their island.  This summer, the first after WWII, brings a new, but mysterious, woman to the island, who ends up causing chaos in Emilia's life.  Emilia was a tough character for me to like, but it's hard to deny that she hasn't had the easiest of lives.  Although I enjoyed the story, I thought it took too long to get the main event that was hinted at throughout the book and then it rushed through it.  4 stars

The Good Part by Sophie Cousens - Sophie Cousens is an author I've been following for a couple years now, and I've enjoyed her novels so much that they've become auto-buy for me.  In her most recent novel, Lucy is tired of her mediocre life, and when she comes across a wishing machine, she takes a chance and wishes to be taken to "the good part," where she's gotten everything figured out.  The next day, she wakes up 16 years older, married with children and a great job.  But, she doesn't remember anything of how she got there.  Watching Lucy navigate a life she literally woke up in was fun - getting to know her husband and children and figure out how to do her job.  I think it got a little overly long and repetitive at times, but the premise is so captivating - who hasn't wished for something like that?  4 stars

A Winter in New York by Josie Silver - Josie Silver has become a go-to author for me since One Day in December.  I've really enjoyed her books, but this one was a bit of a miss for me.  In this book, a woman trying to reinvent herself in NYC finds herself connecting with an old memory of her mother's, in the form of a family-run gelato shop.  Iris, though, is keeping a lot of secrets.  It was so uncomfortable for me, especially watching Iris make one strange decision after another because of her secrets.  Silver's writing is beautiful, but the plot suffers, especially the ending.  So many things just glossed over, and because we only got small glimpses of her life before NYC, certain elements didn't have the impact they could have.  3.5 stars
Overall, I had great success with my preorders this year!  My auto-buy authors mostly delivered, and I took a chance on some new-to-me authors, which worked out, and many of these will end up on my best of 2023 list! 
How many books did you preorder this year?

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Top Ten Tuesday: My Winter TBR


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl.  This week's topic is our winter TBR.  I was going to try to pick a theme, but ultimately I just picked 6 books that looked good!

What will you be reading this winter?

Friday, December 8, 2023

Holiday Quick Reviews

The Christmas Dress by Courtney Cole (2021)

Meg returns home to Chicago after her father's passing to manage his apartment building.  Although at first she is reluctant, the tenants, a handsome handyman, and a magical dress might change her mind.  If you're looking for a Christmas book that's mostly wholesome and features some romance and magical realism, Courtney Cole's books are for you.  In this one, Meg must contend with an aging, but historic, apartment building and its many older tenants.  She needs money to complete needed repairs, but there's also her on-hold dream of working in the fashion industry.  I liked watching Meg figure out her new situation, and the cast of characters surrounding her are lovely.  There are so many feel-good moments and the spirit of Christmas is present on every page.  You'll definitely be rooting for Meg and her tenants.  4 stars 
One Christmas Morning by Rachel Greenlaw (2023)
Eva has thrown herself into work following a devastating Christmas a few years ago, but this year she's visited by the ghost of her grandmother, urging her to take stock of her life.  Eva then begins reliving Christmas morning over and over again, each time waking up as someone different at the party she's attending.  Oof, I have not been having good luck with holiday stories this year.  This was yet another overly heavy, disappointing read for me.  I did enjoy the time loop aspect, and the way Eva woke up as someone different each day was a great twist.  It helped her get to know the people around her and see herself in a new light.  But, Eva was a hard character to root for.  I didn't really understand why her store was so important that she spent three years ignoring her loved ones for home decor.  I understood she was grieving, but I don't think the author did a good job explaining the tragedies Eva had suffered - making the reader wait for a reveal that was fairly obvious.  The story was just too heavy, too sad, and what little hope we get at the end wasn't enough for me.  3 stars

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Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Guest Post - Indie Bookstore Spotlight: The Ripped Bodice

 Michele is back today to talk about an independent bookstore she recently visited!


My husband and I recently were in Brooklyn for a family wedding and of course I had to make a stop at the newest location of The Ripped Bodice. This famous romance-centric bookstore already has a California location, but just this summer opened a store in NYC. We were there on a Sunday morning so the neighborhood was very quiet, but I could see this being a popular destination and neighborhood at any other time.

The store is bright and fresh and so pretty. The different romance genres all have their own sections (historical, contemporary, paranormal, etc.). They even have a shelf of author signed books which I’m sure gets populated after one of their many author events. For a small store, it had a huge selection – there was even an area in the back for some non-romance picks.

My husband treated me to two of my most loved Ali Hazelwood books!

If you are ever in Brooklyn, I would highly recommend checking out The Ripped Bodice!

Do you have a favorite indie bookstore?

Monday, December 4, 2023

Michele's Monday Picks #35

Angela is so generous to let me pop in with my little series, Michele’s Monday Picks! I’m not a blogger or bookstagrammer, but I love getting excited about new releases with the rest of you. Here I’ll be sharing new books I’m really looking forward to!


The Heiress

By Rachel Hawkins

Expected Publication: January 9, 2024

From Goodreads:

When Ruby McTavish Callahan Woodward Miller Kenmore dies, she’s not only North Carolina’s richest woman, she’s also its most notorious. The victim of a famous kidnapping as a child and a widow four times over, Ruby ruled the tiny town of Tavistock from Ashby House, her family’s estate high in the Blue Ridge mountains. In the aftermath of her death, that estate—along with a nine-figure fortune and the complicated legacy of being a McTavish—pass to her adopted son, Camden.

But to everyone’s surprise, Cam wants little to do with the house or the money—and even less to do with the surviving McTavishes. Instead, he rejects his inheritance, settling into a normal life as an English teacher in Colorado and marrying Jules, a woman just as eager to escape her own messy past.

Ten years later, Camden is a McTavish in name only, but a summons in the wake of his uncle’s death brings him and Jules back into the family fold at Ashby House. Its views are just as stunning as ever, its rooms just as elegant, but coming home reminds Cam why he was so quick to leave in the first place.

Jules, however, has other ideas, and the more she learns about Cam’s estranged family—and the twisted secrets they keep—the more determined she is for her husband to claim everything Ruby once intended for him to have.

But Ruby’s plans were always more complicated than they appeared. As Ashby House tightens its grip on Jules and Camden, questions about the infamous heiress come to light. Was there any truth to the persistent rumors following her disappearance as a girl? What really happened to those four husbands, who all died under mysterious circumstances? And why did she adopt Cam in the first place? Soon, Jules and Cam realize that an inheritance can entail far more than what’s written in a will––and that the bonds of family stretch far beyond the grave.

Rachel Hawkins’ Gothic thrillers are so good and the cover is fantastic - do you think you’ll be picking this one up?

Friday, December 1, 2023

Month in Review: November 2023


November started off slowly, but by the end of the month, I was feeling crazed!  Henry got hand, foot, and mouth disease at school, and while he had to stay home for a few days, he wasn't feeling too badly.  I think Tom got it way worse than Henry did!  I let him watch some Youtube videos so I could get some work done during the day, and he's now obsessed with Ms. Rachel.  He keeps asking us to put his "show" on - ugh!  His daycare hosted a Thanksgiving dinner for all the families, and it was actually the first time we had been allowed inside since he started (which was during COVID).  We got to see the Toddler room where he spends his day and he enjoyed showing us around, ha!  Thanksgiving was pretty quiet - my in-laws decided late that they weren't going to come up this year, so we had already bought everything.  We ended up with a lot of leftovers!  And then, Henry turned two!!  I really can't believe he's already two, it's wild.  We had a small family party, and my mom was able to come up from Oklahoma for it, so that was really nice.  The weekend was so busy, though, and work has been crazy, so I'm trying to play a lot of catch-up right now.

The Books


The Posts and Reviews
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Thursday, November 30, 2023

Holiday Quick Reviews

 A Winter in New York by Josie Silver (2023)

Iris is looking for a fresh start in NYC, when she comes across a family-run gelateria and she realizes not only did her mom have a connection to the shop, but Iris has their secret family recipe.  She's reluctant to share that information, though, since she's not sure how the family will receive it.  However, she grows closer to the family, especially Gio, all the while knowing she's keeping big secrets from them.  I have loved Josie Silver's books, but unfortunately this one was a bit of a miss for me.  After her mother's death and the end of a toxic relationship, Iris has moved to NYC, and this part I enjoyed - seeing her learn about the city and forge a new start for herself.  Her blossoming relationship with Gio was romantic, but I couldn't see how Iris could keep such big secrets to herself.  It was so uncomfortable for me, especially watching Iris make one strange decision after another.  Silver's writing is beautiful, but the plot suffers, especially the ending.  So many things just glossed over, and because we only got small glimpses of her previous relationship, the return of her ex didn't have the impact it could have.  3.5 stars 
Wreck the Halls by Tessa Bailey (2023)
Melody and Beat are the children of two former rockstars.  They only met once, as teens, but the encounter made an impact on both of them.  Now, as adults, they are teaming up to convince their mothers to reunite for one Christmas concert - and there's so much more on the line.  My gosh, these characters!  I fell in love with Beat and Melody.  Although they seem so different, they are perfect together.  Their love is fast, intense, and overwhelming.  It's so romantic the way Beat is so protective of Melody.  The story felt a bit heavier than I normally get from Tessa Bailey, and it was actually Melody who provided some moments of humor and levity, which was unexpected and nice.  The subplot of Beat being blackmailed just fell flat to me, however.  But overall, a fun, swoony, spicy holiday read!  4 stars

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Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Henry's Shelves #5


It's been awhile since I shared books from Henry's shelves, but today is the perfect day because it's Henry's second birthday!  I can hardly believe this sweet, funny boy is already two!  I can't say too much because I get so emotional thinking about it; suffice to say, parenting has been a hard, strange journey, but these past two years with Henry have brought us more joy than we could have thought possible.  I'm happy to report, he still loves his books, although he definitely has more opinions than he used to, and we often end up reading the same book many, MANY times.  Here are some of the books we've been enjoying!


Five Little Pumpkins // The Animal Orchestra Plays Mozart

Little Blue Truck's Halloween // Families Belong

Bizzy Bear Pirate Adventure // Peek-a-Who?

I'll Build You a Bookcase // Count to Sleep Trains

Do you have any recommendations for Henry?

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