Girl on the Ferris Wheel (2021)

by Julie Halpern & Len Vlahos
ISBN: 9781250169396
Publication: January 12, 2021


**I was provided a copy of the book by the publisher through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

Contemporary YA is not a genre I typically read unless bloggers I follow recommend it (see…bloggers are influential and contribute to the bookish world going round, woohoo!).  With a glowing review and an interesting synopsis, I may be persuaded to pick it up. I don’t know if I would have picked The Girl on the Ferris Wheel had I not had access to an ARC. I’m glad I did because Girl on the Ferris Wheel turned out to be really good.

Halper and Vlaho took me on an emotional ride while navigating first love with Dmitri and Emilia.  It reverted me to high school when insecurities were often at their pinnacle and love was thought to conquer everything.  They successfully captured the ins and outs of a relationship, from the butterflies and sparks to the tears that often accompany the anguish and confusion.  While the book focuses on first love and a first relationship, many of the messages that can be taken away from Dmitri and Emilia’s relationship is universal to all relationships: relationships are hard and communication is key.  And, oftentimes, to put our best foot forward in a relationship, we have to learn to love ourselves first.

Emilia’s battle with depression was an added layer to her character and subsequently the relationship. I thought it was depicted fairly well, providing both the perspective of the person suffering from depression as well as the person in love with someone suffering from depression.  Emilia already had a lot of self-doubts but the depression seemed to exacerbate those doubts while Dmitri kept trying to show her how much he loved her. Experience with depression allowed me to connect easily with Emilia but Dmitri provided me a glimpse of what it feels like to be the person on the other side. It can be difficult for all those involved.

(A fast list of gripes and likes.) I hated the way Emilia treated her dad, and I had to remind myself that at that age sometimes I could be a little sh*t too. Some of the things she said about her guidance counselor also annoyed me despite all the things he did for her. Yia Yia, Dmitri’s grandma, was one of my favorite characters.  Her wisdom at poignant moments in the book was greatly welcomed.  Janina exemplified what a best friend should often be, someone who is supportive and listens but willing to give a push when needed.  I was back and forth about the inclusion of Dmitri’s family, particularly his father, being racist and anti-black, because I’m not sure how much value, if any, that added to the narrative. It appeared like it was meant to add to the detail of his father being ultra conservative. There is also an abundance of Harry Potter references–not one or two but scattered in nearly every chapter.

Overall, I think Halper and Vlaho pretty much nailed it.  It’s written well and I greatly enjoyed it. There were moments that made me laugh, moments I could relate to, and moments that made me shake my head because I recalled those feelings so well. In terms of age level, it might fall at the lower end of YA but that doesn’t necessarily mean it can’t be enjoyed by those older—again, I enjoyed it a lot. 

Romance Interlude (vol. 2.2)

Along with Pippa Grant, Kayley Loring is quickly becoming one of my go-to romance authors. I discovered Kayley Loring last year and have been picking up her novels here and there. Fans of romance novels cannot go wrong with reading just about anything from Loring. Because the books below are not part of an official series (at least the last time I checked), I’m calling them standalone but the characters are connected to each other and make appearances. This is actually quite timely because Loring has a book coming out on January 14 for Valentine’s Day that I am really excited about, A Very Friendly Valentine’s Day (cover reveal and blurb here). I will be posting a review for that one as well. Until then, here are mini-reviews.


Sleeper (2019)
by Kayley Loring
ASIN/ISBN: B082H3TTBJ
Publication: December 12, 2019
Goodreads Summary
Series: Standalone

One liner: Willa has had a crush on her brother’s best friend Shane since she was a kid, and she’s just been hired to be the new nanny.

Willa is smart and has always known what she wants to do. She’s also a bit eccentric, which is part of the reason why I really liked her and also part of the reason why the kids adored her. When she and Shane meet again, there is bantering and there is a whole lot of chemistry. Shane is a great dad so I had heart eyes throughout most of the book for him. While I liked the characters, what sold me on this book is the writing. One of favorite quotes of 2020 comes from this book, and it’s beautiful. I’ll repeat it here because I really want to and I’ll be repeat this some more later too. How could I not fall more in love with Shane after this quote? (Sigh…)

“I already know that every time with her, it will be perfect, but I could do a million takes and never feel like I got it just right. Because I didn’t get to be her first. Because she wasn’t my first. But if I can be her best and last, I might come close to showing her that it’s the first time that anything I’ve ever done with a woman has felt this good and real.”


Charmer (2020)
by Kayley Loring
ASIN/ISBN: B086C9587P
Publication: March 25, 2020
Goodreads Summary
Series: Standalone

One liner: Nico has a crush on waitress Kat and asks her and her family to go on tour with him when he realizes he doesn’t want to be away from her that long.

Charmer didn’t appeal to me in the same way as Sleeper did. I liked it, but not nearly as much. While I liked both Nico and Kat, I felt like I knew him better as a character than I did Kat. I didn’t seem to connect with their romance as much either, maybe because I kept comparing him to Shane. I know it’s unfair to Nico’s character but Shane is a lot to live up to (please see quote above for reference…hahaha). Nico is still a sweetheart though. Grammie, who also makes an appearance in Sleeper, is awesome! I love her! My favorite aspect of Charmer is probably the video diaries. I like these a lot more than the journals being kept, even those in Sleeper.


Troublemaker (2020)
by Kayley Loring
ASIN/ISBN: B08CTHDLQ3
Publication: August 13, 2020
Goodreads Summary
Series: Standalone

One liner: Emilia finds out that the man she had a sparks with at a club and can’t stop thinking about is actually the father of one of her current students.

Before I begin, please see the quote above from Sleeper again. Please understand that this mini-review, like the one for Charmer, was also influenced by how much I enjoyed Sleeper (hehehe). I read them one after the other so that couldn’t be helped. I would rank Troublemaker to be on par with Charmer in terms of how much I enjoyed the story, but probably a little better. After reading the first two, this one was a bit of fresh air. Putting aside the whole famous director thing, I found this book to have the more realistic relationship, with adults trying to navigate an adult relationship rather than immediate sweeping off of feet. Alex’s son was pretty adorable as well. The best part is that Grammie and her awesomeness make an appearance.

Clues to the Universe (2021)

by Christina Li
ISBN: 9780063008885
Publication: January 12, 2021
Series: N/A


**I was provided a copy of the book by the author and publisher through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

(I apologize in advance for being longwinded in this review–it turned into something more like a book report…hehe)

Clues to the Universe is a slice of life novel about two seventh graders. While it deals with multiple aspects of growing up, including bullying and making new friends, it is grounded in dealing with loss. Ro and Benji are individually trying to come to terms with not having their dads around, neither realizing that maybe what they need is a peer for support along the way. A mix-up in class forces Ro and Benji to talk and become science partners, making a deal that Ro will help Benji find his dad while Benji agrees to help Ro with her rocket. Slowly, the relationship becomes more than something obligatory; it blossoms into a friendship.

Their specific situations are different–Benji’s father appears to have left of his own accord while Ro’s father died–but are also similar in many ways. Both Ro and Benji take after their fathers. Like her father, Ro has her head in the stars, and she’s trying to build a model rocket–a project they never had the chance to complete. Similar to his father, Benji loves art, and his hands can’t keep still because he’s always doodling away. They’re each trying to maintain a connection to their father in some way.

While they are somewhat opposites of each other, Ro and Benji fit together well. Benji is more likely to just go along with whatever is happening but is in many ways content in his environment. Ro is very precise, trying to maintain control over what she can while looking for that next step. It’s this latter element of being content with stability as opposed to moving forward that causes friction in their relationship. While differences may exist, sometimes it’s the differences that will foster positive growth, pushing us to be better versions of ourselves. It’s this aspect of the book that I enjoyed the most, seeing the changes in both Ro and Benji as they started spending more time together.

Another aspect of the book is Li’s ability to tease out Ro and Benji’s developing friendship through small things like who Ben thinks of when someone refers to his friend. I especially enjoyed how she anchored their individual perceptions of their friendship in the things they loved. Benji’s realization comes with his observations about characters drawn in comics but for Ro, it’s slightly different because of her personality. Being inclined toward science, observations offer her evidence to support her theories so it makes sense that the more they hang out, the more likely they can be considered friends. Other times, it has to really hit her in the face because she’s so goal-oriented, her mind on a single purpose, that she doesn’t pay attention to anything else. If the above doesn’t really do a good job of it, let me just sum it up: Li does a superb job with the characterization of her 7th grade leads. They’re both well-developed characters with Benji and Ro each experiencing growth through their new found friendship.

This is a story about two lonely individuals who didn’t realize how much they needed support and understanding from someone with similar experiences and unexpectedly found solace and strength in each other. Individuals who have experienced any kind of loss, not just that of a parent, will be able to relate to the heartbreak and yearning as well as to asking questions that don’t necessarily have answers.

{preorder blitz} Unraveled (2021)

What could possibly happen when the girl always full of sunshine meets the town’s grumpy new fireman?

Find out in Alexia Chase’s new novel Unraveled, set to be released on January 28.
Preorder your copy today.

Goodreads
Amazon: US | UK | CA | AU

Alexia Chase’s Unraveled is a fast-paced, emotionally charged, sexy, contemporary romance written in K. Bromberg’s Everyday Heroes Worlds project.

Can a man who’s been burned find love with a woman who’s full of sunshine and happily ever afters? 

Kameron Willoughby

His mom walked out the door when he was twelve and never looked back. That was Kameron’s first taste of a woman letting him down, but certainly not the last. 

Over the years, he’s caught his high school girlfriend with his best friend. And his last girlfriend used him to humiliate another woman. To say he’s bitter and looking to lick his wounds is an understatement. 

When his cousin offers him a place to stay in Sunnyville, he jumps at the chance. Little did he know, he’d meet Little Miss Sunshine herself. 

Layla Malone

She’s looking for Mr. Right, and he has some big shoes to fill. The men in her family have loyal hearts and a helping spirit. The biggest complaint people have about her is that she’s always rushing off to rescue someone. Why’s that such a bad thing? 

The first time she meets Kameron, she’s wrangling ducklings when one accidently falls into a rainwater drain. 

Kameron couldn’t be farther from what she’s looking for. He’s grumpy, doesn’t like animals, and thinks she’s a do-gooder. Every time they meet, she’s jumping headfirst into helping someone, and he’s lecturing her on taking unnecessary risks. 

What happens when two people, who have nothing in common, keep getting thrown together? 

One thing that’s soon apparent – they have an undeniable scorching chemistry that has them both unraveling. 

Will they stay enemies? Do they have more in common than they think? 

Can Layla show Kameron that there’s light after the darkness? Or will Kameron destroy Layla’s belief that life is sunshine and rainbows? 

This story is filled with breaking preconceived notions, resolving miscommunications, learning to appreciate your past, and healing old wounds. 

There’s also some duck wrangling, cat rescuing, sexy firefighting, and an eighty-year-old man’s rushed delivery to a nursing home before his erectile dysfunction medication wears off. 

Are you ready to enjoy the next Everyday Hero? Kameron’s one Grumpalicious fireman. 


EXCERPT

Layla

Between Gertrude and I, we manage to corral three of the baby ducks into the park as several customers file out of the café to cheer me on. 

I lean down and swoosh my arms in the air as another puffball waddles toward the yellow center line. “Oh, no, you don’t.” 

At my exaggerated movements, the duckling shots into the grass like a fox is hot on his tail feathers. “Good job, little one.”

By now, cars on both sides of the road have come to a complete stop. Mayor Winston steps out of his Cadillac. He leans against the door with his arm resting over the top edge. “Beautiful day, isn’t it?”

I swipe a strand of hair out of my eyes, but it continues to swirl. “Yes, it is.”

He chuckles as Gertrude darts to the side of the road and frantically quacks at a duckling that has wandered down the cement gutter. “She sure has her hands full with this batch. I don’t think they’re going to make it.”

“You and me both,” I sigh in utter frustration. There’s no time to make idle conversation. I jog to catch up with them before another unsuspecting driver ends up running over the little family. 

Not that there’s anywhere for vehicles to go. The road to the south is blocked by the Mayor and a couple other drivers who’ve stopped to chat with him. And from the north, a large 4×4 is angled sideways to block traffic. 

I squint. Who’s that? I don’t recognize the vehicle. Before I can catch a glimpse of the driver, the pipsqueak on the loose slips between the rails of the drain grate and disappears. 

“Oh, shit.” My heart skips a beat. I run to the covered trench and stare inside with my co-parent quacking and fluttering her head from side to side. How am I going to get you out of there? 

“What are you doing?” A deep voice booms from behind me.

My mouth drops, and I pivot on my heel. Holy hotness, Batman. The man, who has apparently emerged from a monster truck with dual tailpipes, strides across the pavement. 

The muscles in his shoulders and neck ripple with each movement. When did superheroes start wearing low-hung jeans and wifebeaters? I swallow over the dry ball of lust in my throat and straighten my back. “Gertrude’s baby duckling fell into the drain.”

He yanks the sunglasses off his face, and the darkest pair of brown eyes stare at me in utter disbelief. Then, he glances in all directions. “And that warrants this mess?”

I jerk backward. “What mess?”

“This.” As he waves his hand in a circle in front of him, his eyes flash with contempt. “You’re holding up traffic. All the lookie-loos are out gawking. And the Mayor’s over there holding an impromptu press conference.”

I spin around to see Mayor Winston grinning from ear to ear as he uses his hands to talk. Tracie Atherton and Max Parson have their cellphones up as they appear to be recording his conversation. Welcome to Sunnyville, California. 

“Then, move on.” I shrug. “It doesn’t have to be your business.”

The man purses his lips. “Yes, it does. We received a call at the fire department, and I’m the lucky one who got the assignment.” 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alexia ChaseMy name is Alexia Chase. 

I specialize in quick, dirty, and sweet short stories and novellas with some novels for your reading pleasure. I write for busy working mothers who admire and acquire books that provide the full escape of a novel but don’t have a lot of time. 

More importantly, I offer insta-love, smutty sex, and swoon-worthy moments that will leave you with a flushed face and a giddy smile. Quick – pray no one is watching and wondering what in the hell is wrong with you because no one else looks that happy. 

People who have read my books have the following to say: 

“This insta-love story is extremely funny, a quick read and just filled with so much good and filthy stuff. I cannot recommend this book enough to anyone that likes Alexia Chase or is just thinking about picking one of her books up for the first time. Just make sure you are reading this where you can laugh out loud and get a crimson face when you read the erotic sex scenes.” LF Books 

“I’ve read a lot of books written by Alexia Chase; she has done a great job at writing another good short story; she is one of my favorite authors. I can’t wait to read more of her books.” Jeanne Richardson

My writing gives busy women that sixty-minute escape they need when they can’t afford a trip to the Caribbean with their secret lover, Dimitri.  My Soul Sisters don’t even have time to get away from the kids to take a shower. 

Quick. Dirty. Sweet. Alexia Chase Logo

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The Hot Mess and the Heartthrob (2021)

by Pippa Grant
ASIN/ISBN: B08RY8WSY4
Publication: January 7, 2021
Series: Bro Code Series #4
(Review at the end)

Goodreads
Amazon: US | UK | CA | AU
Free in Kindle Unlimited

You don’t know me, but you do know me. I’m your neighborhood hot mess single mom, doing my best to keep my head above water while running my little slice of heaven and keeping my youngest from shoving marbles up his nose, which is exactly what he’s doing the first time Levi Wilson, pop star god, world’s sexiest man, and my all-time number one celebrity obsession, walks into my bookstore.
 
Related: I’m writing this from beyond the grave, because I’ve died of mortification and am now residing in an alternate universe.
 
I have to be.
 
Because Levi Wilson came back.
 
And we had a moment.
 
Like, a moment moment. The kind that makes me remember that adult pleasure isn’t all about hoping the lock holds in the bathroom so your kids don’t interrupt on the rare occasion you feel like taking an extra-long mommy-time shower.
 
So when he proposes a no-strings fling?
 
Count. Me. In.
 
Thrill of a lifetime, right?
 
Surely, nothing will go wrong…
 
The Hot Mess and the Heartthrob is a rockin’ fun, sexy romantic comedy featuring a celebrity panty-melter who doesn’t know what he’s been missing, a sassy single mom hanging on by a string, three adorable children who would never burst in on a woman when she’s on a toilet (ha!), and shameless ovary-busting moments between a guy who never thought he’d be a dad and a family who thought they got along just fine without him. It stands alone and comes complete with a happily-ever-after (though you’d never go wrong to read the other Bro Code series books first).


Bro Code Series
(click for Goodreads link)

Bro Code #1
Bro Code #2
Bro Code #3

EXCERPT from The Hot Mess and the Heartthrob

One day. I would like to go one single day without someone in my orbit making a poor life decision.

“Stop squirming,” I order my four-year-old son, who should be at preschool, but who’s been banished for the week because of lice.

Yep.

Lice.

Heaven forbid we have one issue at a time.

Adding to my list of issues? Being that mom who can’t get her shit together while Levi Flipping Wilson is watching. And not only watching, but actively engaging in trying to help. “Hey, bud, I bet I can hold still longer than you can. Wanna see?”

I know my agenda on any given day will include interruption for something my children do that I never would’ve expected in a million years, but that’s a lot easier to deal with when I don’t have an audience.

Especially an audience made up of one famous man whose songs get me through the day—and night—when I don’t have enough free focus to read or listen to an audiobook, and who keeps stealing glances at me like he’s trying to figure out what kind of rabid creature I am. Normally, customers aren’t allowed back in the stockroom with me, which is where I dragged Hudson when I realized what he’d done to his nose, but leaving Levi out there with the customers who’d figured out who he was seemed like a bad idea.

Especially when his date skewered me with a look that clearly said get him out of here or I’ll burn this place down.

It’s a bookstore.

Highly flammable.

Not taking chances.

Especially if there was a reason they were looking at maternity and early childhood development books. His date doesn’t look pregnant, but god knows that’s when pregnancy is hardest.

Hudson finally stills, and I manage to smear a little more Vaseline gently around his nostril. “How did you get a marble in your nose?”

“I pushed hard.” He beams. “I gots stars in there too.”

I squeeze my eyes shut and count to two, because I know if I get as high as three, he’ll find a way to suck the marbles deeper into his sinus cavities, and I don’t know how a doctor will get that out without having to cut his nose open, and oh my god, he’s four and he’s about to be disfigured for life because I thought he’d actually sit still and listen to Yasmin reading books for neighborhood storytime while I re-stocked a few shelves.

“How many stars?” I inquire through clenched teeth.

“Four. Or maybe seven. Or maybe one. I forgets.”

“You are so lucky you’re cute.”

“Do you have a vacuum?” Levi asks.

I twist my head to gape at him.

He shoots a help? look at his date, then shrugs at me. “If he won’t blow it out, maybe you can suck it out. Like with one of those sucky tools the dentist uses.”

“That’s…possibly not a terrible idea.”

“Happens on occasion.” He grins, which makes my heart basically stop because he’s stupidly gorgeous.

I could stare at him all day, but I have a preschooler with marbles up his nose to attend to.

“Mama,” Hudson says, “look.”

He scrunches his nose, which makes his nostrils swell, closes his mouth, and blows, and one shoots out and lands on Levi’s shoe.

My son has just snotted my favorite musician’s Italian leather loafers.

“I win! I holded still!” He breaks into his preschool dance routine, but the poor kid got his moves from me, which means to a casual observer, he probably looks like he’s having a seizure while choking on a piece of gum and tripping over barbed wire.

Levi Wilson, however, is not fazed. He squats down to Hudson’s level. “Rematch.”


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Pippa Grant is a USA Today Bestselling author who writes romantic comedies that will make tears run down your leg. When she’s not reading, writing or sleeping, she’s being crowned employee of the month as a stay-at-home mom and housewife trying to prepare her adorable demon spawn to be productive members of society, all the while fantasizing about long walks on the beach with hot chocolate chip cookies.

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REVIEW


**I was provided a copy of the book by Give Me Books as part of the promotional campaign. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

In prior posts, I’ve gushed about how much I enjoy Grant’s books. They’re hilariously absurd with a lot of heart, and there is more than one of her male leads I will gladly accept as my book boyfriend–Beck Ryder currently reigns supreme. The Hot Mess and the Heartthrob and Levi is not an exception to this. Surprisingly, it started off relatively tame. (I KNOW RIGHT?!) No burning fires, no jilted brides, and no kidnapping. (WHAT?!) It was sweet, saccharine even, and I found myself “teeheeing” within the first few pages of the book.

Grant sure knows how to capture the feelings of meeting an idol you adore…in the most mature, non fangirl way of course…of course. Okay, there is inner fangirling (just breathe) and also the horror when sh*t hits the fan at the same time. HA. She manages to get in some hilarious moments throughout the book, but I liked this book particularly for its heart. I don’t know how she does it. Just when I think I’ve read all there is, Grant concocts something that makes me laugh or something that turns me into a puddle of goo.

I enjoyed the chemistry between Levi and Ingrid. Ingrid’s kids are her world but they can be a handful. Levi is patient and adores her kids. Ingrid isn’t as confident in herself as she used to be, but Levi looks at her like she’s the best thing in the world. (Sigh…Can someone look at me like that?) It isn’t a passionate, off the charts whirlwind romance. It’s better. It’s the kind that seeps into your skin and crawls into the corners to fill the holes you didn’t know you had. Yup, I’m pretty sentimental so there were quite a few times that I had to dab my eyes.

If 2020 was a difficult year, and you’re looking for something to help you start 2021 on a happy note, pick up The Hot Mess and the Heartthrob. While #4 in the Bro Code Series, it can be read as a standalone but you’d be doing yourself a favor in reading all the books. (Book boyfriend Beck Ryder’s book is America’s Geekheart, Bro Code #2)

Romance Interlude (vol. 2.1)

Happy New Year!! Here is the first interlude of the year. I contemplated posting last Saturday but was unable to review appropriately until this week. First, it seemed like 2020 would never end and then all of a sudden it was already 2021.


RomeAntically Challenged (2020)
by Marina Adair
ISBN: 9781496727664
Publication: July 28, 2020
Goodreads Summary
Series: When in Rome #1

One liner: Annie takes a job in Rome and gets a surprise when the owner of her rental unexpectedly returns.

There are multiple layers to the book that I did not expect. Annie is adopted and struggles in this in-between place, wondering where she belongs. Her adoptive parents are white but she is Asian, specifically Vietnamese. While I also struggle with feelings of belonging, I balance a different in-between. As a child of the refugees, I struggle with being enough–Hmong/Asian enough and American enough. Annie’s struggle resonated with me. The book is also largely about a father who doesn’t feel like he quite belongs in his makeshift family. He shares the privilege of fatherhood with two other individuals, his best friend and his daughter’s stepfather. Here are two individuals with different struggles, both trying to figure out where they belong and finding love along the way. Despite so many different things going on, the book never feels like it takes too much on its shoulders and provides a good balance. I enjoyed it.


Love on the Ropes (2020)
by Aviva Vaughn
ISBN: 9781947420205
Publication: September 25, 2020
Goodreads Summary
Series: Love in Action #1

One liner: One-sided work crushes end up being not so one-sided during a work retreat.

I picked up the book because the beginning hooked me. I needed to know why Clint was sitting in his car spying on Erin, wondering if Erin had moved on, and why he thought it might be too late for them. It was a somewhat sweet romance between two coworkers who were attracted to each other but I struggled with how much I liked this book. Half of the book takes place during a work retreat involving a ropes course and building team work while the other half is back at their work place. Their relationship was a bit of a slow burn, which I didn’t mind but I disliked the lack of communication and secrets. I did like Vaughn’s writing and will definitely pick up her other books but the ending was just so-so. I liked that Clint wasn’t an alpha male and how he was a bit flustered to be around Erin. It was cute.


IOU: A Romantic Comedy (2020)
by Kristy Marie
ASIN: B087WJKCG3
Publication: April 29, 2020
Goodreads Summary
Series: Standalone but interconnected

One liner: After walking in on her cheating boyfriend and former friend/roommate, Ainsley James seeks out Maverick Lexington for a favor.

Sure, rumors are that Ainsley James is crazy but who wouldn’t be after coming home to find the two people you trust stabbing you in the back? I completely understood why she did what she did and loved that the book started with a bang…well, with flames (heh). I liked how feisty Ainsley was. Maverick grew on after I realized he wasn’t all that he seemed. My favorite part is when Ainsley goes back to her apartment to get her stuff and she takes the bread. She bought it so she’s taking it. Petty? Yeah. But I’d do the same thing if I was the one who bought the bread! I’m now sorry that I kept passing on this book when it constantly appeared as a recommended read.


Thrive (2020)
by Shain Rose
ISBN: 9780062672124
Publication: December 2, 2020
Goodreads Summary
Series: Stonewood Brothers #3

One liner: Close friends realize they may be more than friends but different hurdles need to be overcome before they can be together.

I was hooked as soon as I started reading it. Rose quickly establishes the relationship between Jay and Mikka, and the attraction they have for one another despite both clearly trying to maintain they are just friends. I try to stay away from certain content but it wasn’t clear until a bit later into the book that an abusive relationship is one of the obstacles Jay and Mikka’s friendship has to overcome. Rose portrays what happens in an abusive relationship very well. She compares it to having an addiction, and I think in many ways she’s right. There’s the belief that it’s just a one-time thing and wanting to stop and leave but being afraid or believing it won’t happen again. One of the highlights of the novel is side character Lorraine, the owner of the bed and breakfast Mikka and Jay stay at. She tells it like it is and, like Mikka, I loved her all the more for it. This was nearly a 5-star read for me but I didn’t like Mikka’s back and forth on the status of her relationship with Jay. Additionally, I wasn’t quite sold on the ending. Overall, I liked the book and look forward to reading more by Rose. (Content Warning: It’s not immediately clear from the synopsis but there is an abusive relationship that is central to the story as well as drug addiction.)

Year in Review: 2020

Heading_Reading

Year: 2020
Goal: 150 Books

Read: 236 Books (267 including rereads)

I exceeded my reading goal…twice! Originally set at 100 books, I increased it as I inched closer to it and decided to increase it to 150. I met that goal, and then just kept reading. I read over 200 books (novellas included), and it was completely unexpected. I didn’t realize how much I’d read until I made more of an effort to track what I was reading on Goodreads. I went from a very, very long reading slump to reading nearly anything that sounded interesting to me. I’m positive this was an unprecedented year for me in reading so I don’t know how much I’ll be able to read in 2021.

*2021 READING GOAL*
Read at least 125 BOOKS

 

Heading_Blogging

Year: 2020
Goal: 1
Posted: 51

One of the best things that could have happened to me this year was discovering the bookish community and subsequently the bookish blogging community, which helped me to start my own blog. When I started reading again, I did not expect to become active on Twitter and I did not expect to start a blog…until I did. I reached out to Leelynn at Sometimes Leelynn Reads and she was welcoming and super helpful. It’s the end of 2020 and I’m still navigating a lot of things including being more consistent in terms of posting and my voice. However, I recognize that my posts are dependent on my mood during or after I finish a book…so I’m a mood blogger as well as a mood reader. The most consistent I may be will be how inconsistent I am. Heh…

*2021 BLOGGING GOAL*
Cross my fingers and hope for 51 posts
Celebrate my one year milestone

These are my five star reads of the year.

ttt_cover-1The Crown Jewel of 2020
This was my top read of 2020. I planned a review for Today Tonight Tomorrow but I could never get it just right. Maybe one day, I’ll actually be able to post up how amazing this book was, how it made me nostalgic, and how I sat smiling after I finished it and just thought about how much I enjoyed high school…and then I remembered the one that got away. (hahaha)

ON LIFE

  • “We’re so in love with our past, we can’t trust that there are good things waiting for us in the future. And we have to move on. We have to make bold steps and believe in ourselves and in each other.” — In Case You Missed It (Lindsey Kelk)
  • “Braveness isn’t always loud. Sometimes it’s silent. There’s braveness in sacrifice and kindness. It’s in doing a thing that needs to be done, even though it’s hard, and even though it hurts.” — A Thousand Letters (Staci Hart)
  • “You can be strong and have moments of incredible despair. Those moments are not weaknesses. They are simply moments. And they are not you.” — Hate to Want You (Alisha Rai)

ON LOVE

  • “I already know that every time with her, it will be perfect, but I could do a million takes and never feel like I got it just right. Because I didn’t get to be her first. Because she wasn’t my first. But if I can be her best and last, I might come close to showing her that it’s the first time that anything I’ve ever done with a woman has felt this good and real.” — Sleeper (Kayley Loring)
  • “A thousand leagues and a thousand sands. For you, a thousand times I would defy the sun.”  — We Hunt the Flame (Hafsah Faizal)

ON LOSS

  • “People say time heals all wounds, but that’s just a lie. Grief is a chronic disease. The pain just keeps on coming.” Midnight Valentine (J.T. Geissinger)

Christmas Playlist 2020: The Christmas Song

Track 07: Nat King Cole – The Christmas Song

Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas to You)” creates the perfect atmosphere to celebrate the holiday. Here are some recommendations that might help make Christmas even cozier.

Recommendations for Christmas Day

CANDLES

I have a weakness for candles that smell good.  I love burning candles throughout the house.  My favorite FrostedCranberry_imagescents come from Bath and Body Works. (Yes, I look forward to candle day and mark it on my calendar.)  Tis the Season has the classic smell of Christmas and is on the spicier end of things. Frosted Cranberry has a sweeter, fruity scent (probably that of TistheSeason_imagecranberries…I know).  Also I could just be imagining it but there’s this distinct sort of bitter undertone to the White Barn Frosted Cranberry that I smell when I burn it.  Because of that, I prefer the one marketed under Bath and Body Works.  But, again, I could just be imagining the whole thing. 

BOOKS

Steamy. This is the book that led me to Loring and I never looked back.
(Mini-review)
Sweet (and steamy). One of half our couple wears her heart on her sleeve.
(Review)
Tearjerker. I got my heart hung out to dry. My favorite novel from Staci Hart.
(Mini-review)

Drink

If you’re looking for something warm, please go for the classic hot chocolate.  On the other hand, if OregonChai_imagesomething cold is preferred, I encourage you to drink a spiced chai tea.  Yup, that’s what I said.  The first time I tried it, all I could think was, “I’m drinking Christmas.”  My cousin was confused until she tried it, and she went, “Oh…” I drink this year round.  One day, I’ll learn to make my own.  But for now, I use Oregon Chai’s Spiced Chai Tea Latte Concentrate Mix (because that’s the one that’s easiest to for me to find) and mix it with half-and-half.  The directions say it should be mixed in equal parts but I just mix it to my liking–a bit more concentrated so there’s more Christmas in it. 

Now, grab a blanket and your favorite snack! Sit by the fireplace…or switch on the one from Netflix (I sometimes do this in my office). I won’t be posting on the 25th because I’ll likely be doing all the above.  While I am Christmas centric, I know different holidays are celebrated around this time as well…so happy holidays!

Have you tried or read any of these? I’d love to know your thoughts! What are you favorite things for the holidays? Is there a certain drink you recommend or a book? Please feel free to share below.

CHRISTMAS PLAYLIST 2020
01 Wham! – Last Christmas
02 Eartha Kitt – Santa Baby
03 Katy Perry – Cozy Little Christmas
04 Mariah Carey – All I Want for Christmas is You
05 Michael Buble – Blue Christmas
06 Goo Goo Dolls – This is Christmas
07 Nat King Cole – The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas to You)


Bonus:
Ambiance with music, with music here too, and now without music.

10 Rules for Faking It (2020)

by Sophie Sullivan
ISBN: 9781250624161
Publication: December 29, 2020
Series: N/A


**I was provided a copy of the book through NetGalley. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**

After Everly accidentally spills that her boyfriend cheated on her to thousands of listeners, she creates a list to help her win at life, or at least to help her fake it. At the same time, her boss Chris also comes up with a contest to help her find love…and to help keep her job, of course.

Grab the book for the romance and one of the sweetest, most understanding love interests readers will find (trust me when I say I can go on and on about him) but stay for Everly’s journey as she tests her boundaries and learns to accept herself for who she is. This is what will have readers connecting with and rooting for her as well as her courage to step out of her comfort zone, to stand up for herself, and ultimately recognizing she doesn’t need to be like everyone else.

It does get frustrating wondering if our leads will get together. There is quite a bit of internal dialogue from both of them about whether the other person could ever feel the same as well as denying their own feelings. Initially, it induced all these butterflies in my stomach but the butterflies started to disappear when the back and forth went on too long. However, there were still enough butterflies left over for me to enjoy the book. Overall, it’s a great read to start the new year with.

Christmas Playlist 2020: This is Christmas

Track 07: Goo Goo Dolls – This is Christmas

This was an unexpected surprise while I was making my playlist. The Goo Goo Dolls released a Christmas album in September, but it was only recently I was able to listen to it. The stand out songs on the album are “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” and this particular track on my playlist, “This is Christmas.” The song gives off this sense of longing and makes me feel nostalgic. What makes Christmas…Christmas? Why is Christmas or this particular season one of my favorite times of the year?

This is Christmas

“Wish on stars above
for the ones we love
this is Christmas”

Wreath_familyDuring this time of the year, it’s about taking a break from work and spending it with family. I miss my family a lot when the holidays get closer. We used to all live in California, but now we’re scattered throughout the country. Last year, my brother and his family were able to visit for a few days.  It was great to have kids around the house, despite their preoccupation with their electronics.  It was a reminder that there’s nothing quite like having family around.  I bought books for my niece and nephew, and my nephew was so disappointed.  He asked his mom why she didn’t tell me what he really wanted for Christmas.  It was funny, at least to my sister-in-law and me but he was so sad.  Maybe we’ll able to Zoom and still be able to spend some time together this year.

Wreath_friends

I have a close knit group of friends.  I can’t even say we’re really a group because there are only three of us–we’re a triangle.  We keep one another sane throughout the year despite hardly seeing each other since we live so many hours from each other. My friends and I joke that when we’re together, it’s easier to talk side-by-side because we’re used to not seeing one another’s face. Hehehe. This year, there was a decree that we do Secret Santa gift exchange.  Surprisingly, it was not my suggestion. With only three people, it isn’t really a secret so there’s just a long running joke now that “Santa” insisted on asking about someone’s bookish wishlist or where to send things.  “Santa” has never asked so many questions or made so many demands as he has this year.  Yes, this is how we keep one another sane. We’re geeky but my friends are the best. Christmas would not be the same without them.

Wreath_Giving

I love presents!  Not necessarily getting them but giving them.  If there’s going to be a gift exchange, I try to initiate it during the summer.  I’ve tried doing it sooner but then people think I am crazy when I do.  I’m just so excited to buy gifts!  Throughout the year, I try to pick up on little things friends and family mention and store it in the back of my mind.  I try to take care with wrapping gifts and adding little touches like sprays, tags, or ornaments. It’s the best sight to see when the recipient opens their gift, especially when it’s something they forgot about or they thought no one paid attention to when they were talking about needing or wanting something. Being able to put joy on someone’s face and knowing that I contributed to their day is fulfilling.

Share what makes this season special for you.
I’d love to hear your stories.