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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Monday, November 27, 2023

Michele's Monday Picks #34

 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!


By Jo Segura
Expected Publication: December 5, 2023

From Goodreads:
Rival archaeologists must team up on a secret Aztec expedition, or it could leave their careers—and hearts—in ruins.

Archaeologist Dr. Socorro “Corrie” Mejía has a bone to pick. Literally. 

It’s been Corrie’s life goal to lead an expedition deep into the Mexican jungle in search of the long-lost remains of her ancestor, Chimalli, an ancient warrior of the Aztec empire. But when she is invited to join an all-expenses-paid dig to do just that, Corrie is sure it’s too good to be true...and she’s right.

As the world-renowned expert on Chimalli, by rights Corrie should be leading the expedition, not sharing the glory with her disgustingly handsome nemesis. But Dr. Ford Matthews has been finding new ways to best her since they were in grad school. Ford certainly isn’t thrilled either—with his life in shambles, the last thing he needs is a reminder of their rocky past.

But as the dig begins, it becomes clear they’ll need to work together when they realize a thief is lurking around their campsite, forcing the pair to keep their discoveries—and lingering attraction—under wraps. With money-hungry artifact smugglers, the Mexican authorities, and the lies between them closing in, there’s only one way this all ends—explosively.

This sounds so fun and the cover is fantastic - do you think you’ll be picking this one up?

Friday, November 24, 2023

Guest Blogger: Bookish Podcasts #2

 Michele is back today to share more of her favorite podcasts!


When I’m not listening to an audiobook, I catch the next best thing – bookish podcasts!  I’ve found a lot over the past few years.  Some are run by authors, others by book lovers.  Some focus on author interviews and others trend toward book reviews and other bookish topics.  Here are a few more that I follow:

Follow Romance authors Falon Ballard and Courtney Kae as they meet the writers behind their favorite words!

Rejection! Impostor Syndrome! Writer’s Block! Writing can be a tricky business. In this podcast, Marissa Meyer interviews authors on how we can overcome various obstacles and bring more joy to our writing process.

A podcast where we, Maggie Dickinson and Julia Steudle, delve into our favorite books, your favorite books, or a novel find!

Niece and aunt duo, Jessen Judice and (author) Juliette Cross, bond over their shared love of romance novels, and want to include fellow romance enthusiasts in on the conversation. We started this podcast as a big middle finger to the stigma associated with reading and loving romance novels. We love to fangirl about our favorite books, authors, and characters and are challenging people to think of romance novels as more than just "mommy porn" - though there's nothing wrong with a copious amount of sexy times. Bring that *ish on!

Honorable mentions for when you want something a little different:
Listen to real moms and long time friends Abby and Vanessa recap your favorite Bravo shows every week in 30ish minutes or less. They’ll dive into all their favorite shows including Housewives, Vanderpump Rules, Southern Charm and if you ask nicely they’ll add listeners requested shows too. These moms know that balancing kids, work, and Bravo can be tough so they’re here to help you out!


Betches Media presents Mention It All, a podcast dedicated to breaking down all things Bravo. Your host, certified Bravoholic Dylan Hafer, is covering everything Real Housewives and more, including weekly episode recaps and analysis, the latest social media drama, and interviews with your favorite Bravolebrities.

Football’s funniest family duo — Jason Kelce from the Philadelphia Eagles and Travis Kelce from the Kansas City Chiefs — team up to provide next-level access to life in the league as it unfolds.

Do you listen to podcasts?  Share your favorites!

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Time Travel Quick Reviews

This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub (2023)

Alice is content with her life, except for the fact that her beloved father is ill and doesn't seem to be getting any better.  On her 40th birthday, after a night of drinking, Alice finds herself waking in her childhood bedroom, the day of her 16th birthday.  Here, her dad is young and vibrant - is there a way she can change their future?  I love time travel stories and this was a slightly different take on it - Alice spends one day in the past and then returns to the present, which can change depending on what happened back then.  The relationship between Alice and her dad is quite amazing - without a mother figure for her, Leonard has found a way to be both parent and friend to his daughter.  The lengths Alice will go to, to save her father in the future, was touching.  I did think the story was a bit overwritten and the pacing was off - very slow to start, then sped up way too fast - but this look at the love between a father and daughter was very special.  4 stars

Come Back To Me by Leslie Hachtel (2023)

When Skye spies a centuries-old painting of a Scottish laird at an estate sale, she feels an immediate connection with him, so much so that she decides to find a way to him, no matter how impossible that may be.  I love a good time travel romance, so even though the blurb for this book was rather vague, I was intrigued.  Unfortunately, it missed the mark a bit for me.  I thought the way Skye discovered a way to the past was way too convenient and trite, although I did like the way she researched her trip and tried to prepare as much as possible for living in the past.  The connection between Skye and Ian is palpable, but the writing is lackluster at times and there were some typos that I wish had been caught in editing.  The author does a good job of creating some tension in what might have been too predictable of a story, with the addition of a rival for Skye, but at the same time, I wanted more.  I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  3 stars
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Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Blog Tour: Force of Nature by Joan M. Griffin

Today I'm partnering with WOW! Women on Writing to share some excerpts from Force of Nature, by Joan M. Griffin!

Force of Nature: Three Women Tackle the John Muir Trail
Joan M. Griffin
Published September 28, 2023
Force of Nature is equal parts gripping adventure tale, personal memoir, and vivid nature writing.

Three friends, women in their fifties, set out to hike “the most beautiful long-distance trail in the world,” the John Muir Trail. From the outset, their adventure is complicated by self-inflicted accidents and ferocious weather, then enriched when they “adopt” a young hiker abandoned by her partner along the trail.

The women experience the terror of lightning at eleven-thousand feet, the thrill of walking through a towering waterfall, and the joy of dancing among midnight moonshadows. For a month, they live immersed in vast natural beauty, tackle the trail’s physical demands, and find camaraderie among an ensemble cast of eccentric trail characters. Together, they are pulled forward toward the trail’s end atop the highest peak in the High Sierra, Mt. Whitney, and the culmination of their transformative journey. - from Goodreads
And now, for some excerpts!

We were hiking uphill as fast as our fifty-year-old legs would carry us. Behind us, the sky was a bright California summer blue. But ahead, above the granite mountain ridge we were climbing, it grew gray, then grayer. Still early, it was barely two in the afternoon. Our plan was to be over the pass and setting up camp down in the valley on the other side long before the Sierra’s typical evening rains began.

Cresting eleven-thousand-foot Donohue Pass, however, we were shocked to find ourselves face to face with a monster storm lurking behind the ridge. Angry black clouds now rose like towers, filling the sky.

Shoulder to shoulder, we froze. Not only did this army of lightning-laced thunderheads block our forward motion, but it was charging directly at us, riding on an icy wind. There was no time for the three of us to retreat to lower, safer ground.


The late afternoon sky, periwinkle blue polka-dotted with white clouds, was reflected in the perfect mirror of the small pond—and in each of the cups and pools arranged across the granite bowl. Like holograms, each pool, cup, puddle, and pond held the entire sky and surrounding mountain peaks—the mirrored surfaces broken only by the little marble islets.


I plunged forward, head and shoulders down. My feet found solid footing. The torrent flew over my head and past my right shoulder. The back spray of frigid water engulfed me—more airy foam than water. I gasped. I shrieked in shock—then in delight!

It was not difficult, after all—like wading through thick bubbles. It was exhilarating, thrilling, wonderful! I slowed down to savor the last steps of my stroll through a waterfall.


Our little camping room was bathed in an alpenglow spotlight. We were immersed in pink and orange. The pond reflected it, and the room’s vertical walls and boulders glowed as though illuminated from within. It was like being inside a magical snow globe filled, not with white snow, but with glowing photons of fiery light that swirled all around us. We stopped our work to watch the colors and shadows shift and change around us like colorful fluids spreading and mixing and flowing away.

Alpenglow is always fleeting. After too short a time, we stood witness as the darkness chased the last of the vivid colors across the space to leave us behind in the dullness of night’s full shadow.

I blinked my eyes. “I didn’t even know that was a thing you could experience.”


Friday, November 17, 2023

Quick Reviews

 Jackie and Maria by Gill Paul (2020)

Jackie and Maria tells the story of Jackie Kennedy and Maria Callas, a famed opera singer, and how the two women's lives intersected because of one man, Aristotle Onassis.  When we first meet Jackie, she is married to JFK, who has not yet even become President.  Maria is in a somewhat loveless marriage, but when she meets Onassis, she comes to love him deeply.  Their long love affair, though, never results in marriage, and after JFK is assassinated, Jackie eventually marries the Greek businessman, much to most people's surprise and dismay.  The Kennedys, particularly Jackie, are a subject I enjoy reading about, both in fiction and nonfiction, and it was interesting to dive into more of her life after JFK, although there is a lot of book to get through before then.  Because it's been done so many times before, I kind of wish Paul had spent less time on the Jackie/JFK years.  Maria's chapters were very interesting, and it was riveting to see how this one man was able to attract so many women.  Although he had undeniable charm, he was also unfaithful and temperamental.  4 stars

Business or Pleasure by Rachel Lynn Solomon (2023)

Chandler is a ghostwriter who is having complicated feelings about her most recent project when she meets a cute guy at a bar.  When their one-night stand turns out terribly for her, she's willing to write it off - until she learns that her lover is the subject of her newest ghostwriting project, forcing them to spend a lot of time together.  It eventually comes out that Chandler was supremely unsatisfied with their night together, leading her to jokingly suggest she give Finn some pointers - which he immediately takes her up on.  But will their personal relationship mess up their professional one?  I wanted to love this so badly - possible ethical issues aside, I thought the premise was really cute, that these two people working together also have a no-strings attached relationship where she's the one teaching him.  However, it all felt a bit off.  Chandler was not super likable to me, for some reason I can't put my finger on.  Also, it was a little weird that because she minored in human sexuality (?) in college, that makes her an expert in the bedroom?  Her "lessons" were too clinical and yet also too personal - things that work for her might not work for the next person.  Although, let's be real, there won't be a next person for Finn because he's obviously in love with her from the start.  I did, however, enjoy getting to know Finn and get an insider look at the life of a minor celebrity/actor.  3.5 stars

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

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Top Ten Tuesday: Popular Authors I've Never Read


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl.  This week's topic is popular authors we haven't read.  Even with as much as I read, there are still authors I haven't tried.  There are always authors I plan on reading but just haven't yet, but there are also others I don't have a big interest in reading, for various reasons (they write in a genre I'm not really interested in, for example).  But of course, never say never!  Here is a list of popular authors I haven't read:

  1. Sarah J. Maas
  2. Ali Hazelwood
  3. Lucy Score
  4. Jenny Colgan
  5. Jenny Han
  6. Jill Shalvis
  7. TJ Klune
  8. Sarah Adams
  9. Carley Fortune
  10. Rebecca Yarros

Who are some popular authors you haven't read yet?

Monday, November 13, 2023

Michele's Monday Picks #33

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!


By Lynn Painter
Expected Publication: November 28, 2023

From Goodreads:
From the New York Times bestselling author of Better than the Movies, this swoon-worthy rom-com in the vein of She’s All That and 10 Things I Hate About You follows a teen girl who unwittingly finds herself at the center of a bet while working at a waterpark.

When seventeen-year-old Bailey starts a new job at a hotel waterpark, she is less than thrilled to see an old acquaintance is one of her coworkers. Bailey met Charlie a year ago on the long flight to Omaha, where she moved after her parents’ divorce. Charlie’s cynicism didn’t mix well with Bailey’s carefully well-behaved temperament, and his endless commentary was the irritating cherry on top of an already emotionally fraught trip.

Now, Bailey and Charlie are still polar opposites, but instead of everything about him rubbing Bailey the wrong way, she starts to look forward to hanging out and gossiping about the waterpark guests and their coworkers—particularly two who keep flirting with each other. Bailey and Charlie make a bet on whether or not the cozy pair will actually get together. Charlie insists that members of the opposite sex can’t just be friends, and Bailey is determined to prove him wrong. 

Bailey and Charlie keep close track of the romantic progress of others while Charlie works to deflect the growing feelings he’s developed for Bailey. Terrified to lose her if his crush becomes known, what doesn’t help his agenda is Bailey and Charlie “fake dating” in order to disrupt the annoying pleasantries between Bailey’s mom and her mom’s new boyfriend. Soon, what Charlie was hoping to avoid becomes a reality as Bailey starts to see him as not only a friend she can rely on in the midst of family drama—but someone who makes her hands shake and heart race. But Charlie has a secret—a secret that involves Bailey and another bet Charlie may have made. Can the two make a real go of things…or has Charlie’s secret doomed them before they could start?

I love Lynn Painter’s YA novels - do you think you’ll be picking this one up?

Friday, November 10, 2023

Thriller Quick Reviews

The Drowning Woman by Robyn Harding (2023)

Lee is homeless and living out of her car when she sees a woman throw herself into the ocean.  When Lee saves her, the woman is not as appreciative as Lee would have expected, instead telling her that she was trying to escape her terrible marriage.  Lee and Hazel begin a friendship that quickly turns into something more sinister.  I felt for Lee in this book - she's a chef who lost her restaurant, and everything else, during the pandemic.  On the run from a man she owes money to, she ends up in Washington, living out of her car and waiting tables in a diner.  When she meets Hazel, she thinks that by helping her she might finally find a way out of her situation.  The pacing of the story was good, and I enjoyed how the story went back and forth between Lee and Hazel's POVs, so we could see the same situations from both sides. I think some might find it repetitive, but it demonstrated very well how the characters were not quite who you thought they were.  The twists were good but not groundbreaking - nothing surprised me very much, but it did have a very "Dateline" feel to it.  4 stars

The Hike by Susi Holliday (2022)

Four hikers go for a day trip in the Swiss Alps, but only two of them will make it back - was there an accident or is something more sinister at play?  Sisters Cat and Ginny and their husbands are traveling together, seemingly with the hope of repairing some strained relationships, but we quickly learn that not all is as it appears.  The story is told in a dual timeline, the first as the group hikes their trail and the second as two of the four make their way to a police station, refusing to speak until their embassy rep shows up.  For awhile, we're not even sure who the two are, just that it's a man and woman.  I thought this was a clever format for the story, because it really kept me guessing.  The story is paced really well, as well, but other elements just didn't work.  None of the four are particularly great people, and it's hard to root for unlikable people.  As the story progressed and the twists kept coming, I found myself wanting to roll my eyes a bit as it became harder to believe.  Overall, though, a quick read with a unique setting and, if you can suspend your disbelief for awhile, an enjoyable one.  3.5 stars

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

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Lord

Can't-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings and helps us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!

Celeste Connally
Expected publication date: November 14, 2023
Bridgerton meets Agatha Christie in Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Lord, a dazzling first entry in a terrific new Regency-era mystery series with a feminist spin.

When Lady Petra Forsyth’s fiancé and soulmate dies just weeks ahead of their wedding, she makes the shocking proclamation—in front of London’s loosest lips—that she will never remarry. A woman of independent means, Petra sees no reason to cede her wealth and freedom to any man now that the love of her life has passed, nor does she intend to become confined to her country home. Instead, she uses her title to gain access to elite spaces and enjoy the best of society without expectations.

But when ballroom gossip suggests that a longtime friend has died of “melancholia” while in the care of a questionable physician, Petra vows to use her status to dig deeper — uncovering a private asylum where men pay to have their wives and daughters locked away, or worse. Just as Lady Petra has reason to believe her friend is not dead, but a prisoner, her own headstrong actions and thirst for independence are used to put her own freedom in jeopardy. - from Goodreads

Monday, November 6, 2023

Michele's Monday Picks #32

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!

By Isable Ibanez
Published: October 31, 2023

From Goodreads:
Bolivian-Argentinian Inez Olivera belongs to the glittering upper society of nineteenth century Buenos Aires, and like the rest of the world, the town is steeped in old world magic that’s been largely left behind or forgotten. Inez has everything a girl might want, except for the one thing she yearns the most: her globetrotting parents—who frequently leave her behind.

When she receives word of their tragic deaths, Inez inherits their massive fortune and a mysterious guardian, an archeologist in partnership with his Egyptian brother-in-law. Yearning for answers, Inez sails to Cairo, bringing her sketch pads and an ancient golden ring her father sent to her for safekeeping before he died. But upon her arrival, the old world magic tethered to the ring pulls her down a path where she soon discovers there’s more to her parent’s disappearance than what her guardian led her to believe.

With her guardian’s infuriatingly handsome assistant thwarting her at every turn, Inez must rely on ancient magic to uncover the truth about her parent’s disappearance—or risk becoming a pawn in a larger game that will kill her.

The Mummy meets Death on the Nile in this lush, immersive historical fantasy set in Egypt filled with adventure, a rivals-to-lovers romance, and a dangerous race.

This sounds so unique - do you think you’ll be picking this one up?

Friday, November 3, 2023

Retellings Quick Reviews

 Jane & Edward by Melodie Edwards (2023)

A modern-day retelling of Jane Eyre, taking place in a Canadian law firm.  Jane has had a rough life, but sees a legal assistant career as a good way to finally become financially independent.  Her first job out of school is at a prestigious law firm, working for one of the partners.  Although he has a poor reputation, Jane sees another side to him, and Edward also falls for Jane - but will his secrets keep them apart?  Jane Eyre is one of my favorite books, and I think, with the updates the author made, it lends itself well to a modern setting.  Jane is practical, no-nonsense, and gets things done.  Even when she has moments of weakness, she allows herself only a short time to fall apart before getting back on with it.  I loved the way she handled Edward when no other assistant could.  I think he could have hid his feelings for longer - it seemed like he came around too quickly.  For a debut author, the pacing and writing were nice, although it could have done with more editing.  There were some cringey uses of modern slang, yet at certain points, the writing reminded me of the classic book and I was confused as to what era the book was taking place in.  Not sure if that was intentional or not!  Overall, though, I enjoyed the way the author used elements of the original story to create this new one.  4 stars
Angelika Frankenstein is an assistant to her brother, scientist Victor Frankenstein, and while he works on his projects, she is running a simultaneous experiment to reanimate a man of her own, to create her perfect match.  When the experiment works, she has to deal with the fact that he may not want to be who she wants him to be.  Ok, this is going to get a little ranty - what did I just read?  I appreciate a good retelling, and the idea of creating your own man, because you can't find one worthy enough of you, is clever - although a little creepy because this man used to be dead.  I was a little confused right from the beginning - Angelika goes from searching the morgue for body parts to reanimating "Will" to declaring her true love so quickly, I felt like I missed something - how did she get this idea?  What were her previous attempts like?  How does she decide what makes up her perfect man?  And considering she's using random body parts, what does she know about him other than what he looks like?  Did she never consider that when he "woke up," he might have memories of his old life, a life he might need or want to return to?  What if he was married?  What if he had kids?  Just so many questions!!  And Angelika was not really a great person - if you've completely run out of suitors, maybe the problem is you?  The way she kept mentioning how rich she was and could just buy Will anything he wanted was off-putting, too, like that's what would make him fall in love with her.  I guess she does grow a bit over the course of the book, but this one was just a "meh" read for me.  3 stars

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

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Month in Review: October 2023


October is usually a pretty busy month for us, and although we had a lot of rainy weekends, we still had a lot to do!  Tom and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary (also celebrating 20 years together, which blows my mind!).  Tom's employer held a large Family Day event, so we took Henry for the first time.  He had a lot of fun and was very well-behaved, considering how busy and loud it was!  My stepmom and dad hosted their annual Halloween party for their grandkids.  Although he couldn't do all the activities, Henry loved running around after his cousins.

Unfortunately, my stepgrandfather (my stepmom's father) passed away this month.  Even though it was somewhat expected, it's still very sad.  John was the strong, silent type, but could also be very funny.  When we were younger, he used to take all of us kids out on his boat, going crabbing and taking rides in the bay and ocean (even though I got horribly seasick).  He was in my life for longer than most of my own grandparents.  Next month there will be a memorial/celebration of life for him.

To end things on a happier note, I hope everyone had a happy Halloween!  Here is a picture of our little Staypuft Marshmallow Man!  (Quick funny story - the store we visited to get Henry's costume had like nothing in his size, and then we randomly came across this one, which ended up working out perfectly because Ghostbusters is one of my favorite movies!)

The Books

The Posts and Reviews

How are you doing?

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