A Very Friendly Valentine’s Day (2021)

by Kayley Loring
ASIN/ISBN: B08RCZ2NK1
Publication: January 14, 2021
Series: Standalone – connected to A Very Bossy Christmas (2020)

(Review at the end)

Get ready to spend Valentine’s Day with Eddie and Birdie!

A Very Friendly Valentine’s Day
is out today.

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EDDIE: Cancel your dinky little roomette on the train. I’m booking us two of the big bedroom suites. 

BIRDIE: I’ll cancel it AFTER you’ve booked the other sleeper rooms. And reimburse you.

EDDIE: Don’t worry about it. Just cancel your tickets. I got this. Round trip. I’m on the Amtrak website right now.

BIRDIE: You don’t have to leave NYC when I do! You’ll hardly be able to spend any time with your Instagram girlfriend that you’ve never met!

EDDIE: It’s fine. She’ll be fine with it. Cancel your tickets.

BIRDIE: You aren’t going to stop texting me until I’ve canceled them, are you?

EDDIE: Damn right I’m not. Just do it. You can thank me later.

***

EDDIE: Um. Did you cancel your tickets?

BIRDIE: Yes, Edward. I canceled them.

EDDIE: Okay, because it turns out they only had one Family Bedroom from LA to Chicago. But the good news is I booked it for us. It’s the biggest room they had. The bad news is I booked it for us. And it’s the only sleeper room they have left now.

EDDIE: In related news, there was also only one room left from Chicago to New York. 

EDDIE: Hands up if you’re excited! *man raising hand emoji*

BIRDIE: I am so mad at you right now.

***

BIRDIE: I’ve compiled a list of ground rules re shared train bedroom. Check your email, please read carefully, and refer to it again on the ninth of February. Thank you.

EDDIE: *nerd face emoji* Received. I have some notes. 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Before writing steamy romantic comedy novels, Kayley Loring got a BFA in creative writing from a Canadian university and had a fifteen-year career as a screenwriter in Los Angeles (under a different name). She mostly wrote PG-13 family comedies that studios would pay her lots of money for and then never make into movies. In 2017 she decided to move to the Pacific Northwest and write about all the fun stuff that she wasn’t allowed to write about in those PG-13 scripts. Now she’s breathing cleaner air and writing dirtier words. It’s an adjustment she’s happily getting used to.

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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.**

Best friends Birdie and Eddie straddle the line between friendship and possibly something more. While both are attracted to each other, Birdie doesn’t want to ruin a 6-year friendship and Eddie is trying really hard to stay faithful to his hot Instagram model girlfriend whom he has never met IRL. Separately, they make plans to head to New York for Valentine’s Day–Eddie to meet his girlfriend and Birdie to attend a Tedx talk–but decide to make the trip together.

A Very Friendly Valentine’s Day is short and sweet (short as in over 200 pages but under 300) Because it’s short, there isn’t a lot of room to digress from our leading couple. As a friends-to-lovers romance, this book hits all the good stuff from the angst of being in close quarters to the jealousy that occurs when someone tries to hit on your best friend…the one who you are very definitely not in love with. The chemistry and the angst start right away, making it easy to root for Birdie and Eddie. Missing was the endearing and very hilarious family bantering, although we hear from Eddie’s mom and his brother as well as get appearances from his cousins. However, as Eddie’s cousin Billy laments in the book, a lot of holidays like Christmas and New Year’s can be spent with family but Valentine’s Day is often about having a significant other so it makes sense that families only make brief appearances in this particular book. (Not that Valentine’s Day can’t be about friends and other relationships–I’m all for it. I’m just repeating what Billy said. Don’t shoot me.)

As a fan of rom coms, A Very Friendly Valentine’s Day is an example of why Loring has quickly become one of my favorite authors. I was reading this at 2AM because I couldn’t put it down. I had to self-ostracize to the living room because I kept laughing too much. If you’re a fan of friends-to-lovers and laughing (because laughing is one of life’s best cures!), this is the perfect novel to head into Valentine’s Day with.

Side note: As soon as I was done, I had to go reread A Very Bossy Christmas again (yup…you read that right, reread again as in I’ve already reread it a few times) because I needed some more laughs. Now that the single Cannavale brothers have had their stories, I very much need a story about Maddie’s niece Piper. I love her.

Gone to the Woods: Surviving a Lost Childhood (2021)

by Gary Paulsen
ISBN: 9780374314156
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.**

Hatchet was a book I read for class probably when I was around 10 or 11 years old. I remember enjoying it at the time, although I remember less of it now than those books I chose to read as opposed to those I had to. The draw of this particular book was that it is a middle grade nonfiction book, Paulsen’s memoirs. It’s supposed to be a glimpse into those moments that shaped him into who he is today. How does one write a memoir that will still maintain the interest of middle grade readers? You write it exactly like Paulsen does.

The memories are carefully selected, with the first half of the book focused on only a few months of life when he was five. It’s clear this is when his love for the wilderness began and likely when he was at his happiest. It moves forward through his childhood until we meet the librarian who made an impact on his life and, finally, we are thrust forward again until he enlists in the army. 

Paulsen allows readers to serve as observers in his life like they’re reading a novel rather than someone’s memoirs. Written in the third person, it reads more like fiction than not, which I liked, but just as I settled into it like I would any other novel, I would be reminded differently: these are moments he lived through; no, this is not fiction. It’s these moments in particular that struck a chord with me. It’s also these moments when the imagery in the book is at its best. 

Young or old, if you’re a fan of Gary Paulsen or his books made an impact on your life, this is a worthwhile read. Some of the content might be mature for those who are younger, but it doesn’t exactly fit into YA either. If you’re a librarian or an educator, or someone who just genuinely cares about kids, the section on the library and the role the librarian played in his life was especially meaningful. I hope the librarian knew how much she positively affected his life. It made me cry. However, I’m a pretty sentimental person and cry at a lot of things. The section reinforced why I chose to be an educator.

**1/12/2021 Update: I attended a Webinar on release day and Paulsen didn’t mention whether the librarian knew but he did reiterate her role. He said she was the difference between life and death in his life. Made me teary again.**

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)

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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)