Icon Tag: Must Read

Review: The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman

Posted May 17, 2017 by Lily B in Reviews / 21 Comments

Review:  The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi WaxmanThe Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman
Series: standalone
Published by Berkley Books on May 2nd 2017
Genres: Womens Fiction, Chick-Lit
Pages: 368
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Heat:one-flame

Lilian Girvan has been a single mother for three years—ever since her husband died in a car accident. One mental breakdown and some random suicidal thoughts later, she’s just starting to get the hang of this widow thing. She can now get her two girls to school, show up to work, and watch TV like a pro. The only problem is she’s becoming overwhelmed with being underwhelmed.
At least her textbook illustrating job has some perks—like actually being called upon to draw whale genitalia. Oh, and there’s that vegetable-gardening class her boss signed her up for. Apparently being the chosen illustrator for a series of boutique vegetable guides means getting your hands dirty, literally. Wallowing around in compost on a Saturday morning can’t be much worse than wallowing around in pajamas and self-pity.
After recruiting her kids and insanely supportive sister to join her, Lilian shows up at the Los Angeles Botanical Garden feeling out of her element. But what she’ll soon discover—with the help of a patient instructor and a quirky group of gardeners—is that into every life a little sun must shine, whether you want it to or not…

I really needed something different and fun in my reading life, so when dear Heidi over at Rainy Day Ramblings personally recommended this book, I jumped at the chance to read it.

Guys, I cannot express how much I adored this book. It did exactly what I need it to do. It pulled me out of my reading slump and offered me a book with so much fun, laughter and a lot of heart.

Lilian Girvan is a widow. Her husband died a couple of years ago in a car collision right outside of their house and left Lilian with two little girls. Lilian had a hard time recovering from his death at first and actually had to be admitted to a hospital. Her sister Rachel provided a huge support network not only helping Lilian get past her husband’s death, but also in taking care of the kids.

Now Lilian is working as an illustrator and her company is hired to illustrate a gardening book. They only have one request. Lilian must take a gardening class. So after recruiting her sister and her daughters to join her in the class on weekends, Lilian’s world opens up to the great group of gardeners that might be just what the doctor ordered.

This book was fantastic. The writing was super great, super fun and I adored Waxman’s humor, it was just my kind of cup of tea. I was super surprised that this was her debut novel and also a bit disappointed because I so want more of the author’s writing. I cannot wait for her next book to come out, it is definitely going on my auto buy list.

This book is just great for the spring and summer alike. As a gardener myself. I adored the gardening aspect of the story. I also love the quirky gardening guides between the chapter breaks, they had me rolling with laughter.

All the characters were wonderful and endearing. I adored’ Lilian and her daughters. I love the interactions between Lilian and the characters – especially her two little girls. I also loved the strong sister bond between Lilian and Rachel. Really, I just loved everything about this book. The supporting extra characters in this book also just really added both heart and depth to this story.

The only thing that made this a little frustrating was the open ending. I kind of wanted to know a little more and not just where Lilian’s character was going, but also Rachel’s. I guess I could almost understand why the author wrapped it up the way she did, but I still found that I really did want that closure.

Overall, I am looking forward to more of Waxman’s writing. If you are looking to add to your summer book read, I highly recommend this one.

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Review: Walk of Shame by Lauren Layne

Posted April 25, 2017 by Lily B in Reviews / 18 Comments

Review:  Walk of Shame by Lauren LayneWalk of Shame by Lauren Layne
Series: Love Unexpectedly #4
Published by Loveswept on April 18th 2017
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 218
Format: Kindle Edition
Source: Bought
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4 Stars
Heat:three-flames

Sparks fly between a misunderstood New York socialite and a cynical divorce lawyer in this lively standalone rom-com from the USA Today bestselling author of Blurred Lines and Love Story.
Pampered heiress Georgianna Watkins has a party-girl image to maintain, but all the shopping and clubbing is starting to feel a little bit hollow—and a whole lot lonely. Though Georgie would never admit it, the highlights of her week are the mornings when she comes home at the same time as her uptight, workaholic neighbor is leaving to hit the gym and put in a long day at the office. Teasing him is the most fun Georgie’s had in years—and the fuel for all her naughtiest daydreams.
Celebrity divorce attorney Andrew Mulroney doesn’t have much time for women, especially spoiled tabloid princesses who spend more time on Page Six than at an actual job. Although Georgie’s drop-dead gorgeous, she’s also everything Andrew resents: the type of girl who inherited her penthouse instead of earning it. But after Andrew caps one of their predawn sparring sessions with a surprise kiss—a kiss that’s caught on camera—all of Manhattan is gossiping about whether they’re a real couple. And nobody’s more surprised than Andrew to find that the answer just might be yes.

This was my very first Lauren Layne book and I am happy to say it will not be my last.

After seeing this show up on my goodreads feed over and over again, I decided to finally give it a shot. I was looking for a fun new romance and Walk of Shame delivered, boy did it deliver! It was fun, sassy, flirty and filled with banter, exactly what I was in the mood for.

Georgie is a socialite, who has never had to work for money in her life and spends most of her nights partying. Andrew is a cynical top of his crop, extremely smart divorce attorney her happens to live in her building. The two clash a lot, but it doesn’t stop Georgie from showing up at 5 am in the morning for a good banter fix that has been going on between her and Andrew.

This was just so much fun. I wasn’t sure if I would like Georgie. She has no direction in life, she spends most of her time partying and she is a bit too much at times. If I was to meet her in real life, there would be zero chances that her and I would connect. She does have a positive side and that is Andrew. His character seems to ground her as the book goes on and even changes the way she leads her life, even if just a little bit. She is also kind of sweet to the people around her. Georgie is a people person and everyone she meets just tends to gravitate towards her.

The tension and the back and forth relationship between the two was one of my favorite parts. I did love Andrew the most. He is a young attorney, and he is sort of a genius, having graduated from law school at an earlier age. He is also pretty terrible with emotions since he prefers to look at the logical side of things. Georgie kind of tilt’s his perfect world out of balance and in a way she is just what he needs to loosen up a bit.

I did really love Andrew. I thought he was so cute with his emotional awkwardness. At times I felt so bad with him I wanted to wrap him up and protect him.

If you are looking for fun, flirty, antagonistic romance that has great tension and build up before the sexy times – this one is definitely worth a try.

I did take a full star away only because I felt like Georgie’s character could have used more substance. She was just very flighty and had no real purpose in life I feel so at times it felt frustrating. Also, I did not particularly enjoy the scenes where she attempted to slap him, those kind of responses to anger are not my cup of tea. There might be a time and a place for that, but in no way in this case did I find it justifiable.

Overall though, I really, really enjoyed this book and super glad I read it.

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Blog Tour and Review: Prisoner of Ice and Snow by Ruth Lauren

Posted April 14, 2017 by Lily B in Blog Tour, Reviews / 11 Comments

Blog Tour and Review:  Prisoner of Ice and Snow by Ruth LaurenPrisoner of Ice and Snow by Ruth Lauren
Series: standalone
Published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens on April 4th 2017
Genres: Middle Grade, Fantasy
Pages: 288
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4 Stars

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

In a thrilling fantasy that’s equal parts Prison Break and Frozen, Valor attempts the impossible—breaking her sister out of prison.
When Valor is arrested, she couldn’t be happier. Demidova’s prison for criminal children is exactly where she wants to be. Valor’s sister Sasha is already serving a life sentence for stealing from the royal family and Valor is going to help her escape . . . from the inside.
Never mind that no one has escaped in three hundred years. Valor has a plan and resources most could only dream about. But she didn't count on having to outsmart both the guards and her fellow prisoners. If Valor’s plan is to succeed, she’ll need to make unlikely allies. And if the plan fails, she and Sasha could end up with fates worse than prison.
This fresh and exciting middle-grade debut effortlessly melds an unforgettable protagonist, a breathless plot, and stunning world-building—and is impossible to put down.

When Valor’s sister gets thrown into prison for stealing a music box that was suppose to bring a peace treaty to the land, Valor must do the impossible and try to break her sister out. Only problem is? No one has made it out of the prison in 300 years, but Valor is more than determined.

This was such a great novel. I love the world that Ruth Lauren has created. I could almost feel the cold from setting blanketed in a sheet of snow. The book itself is very character driven, which was awesome because I adored the characters.

Valor was brave and loyal. It was easy for me to like her, especially due to the strong bond she has with her sister Sasha and her determination to put her first and save her.

The book was fun and exciting to follow. Sometimes I forget the age of these kids as they try to find a way to escape the Prison and hopefully reveal the real thief. So as a reader, you have to keep in mind that this is a middle grade fantasy and suspend your disbelief by just jumping in and embracing the story for what it is.

I thought the writing itself was really wonderful and one of the best in Middle Grade books that I have come across. It was just so easy for me to lose myself in the story and it was just so well done. Like I have mentioned, sometimes I would even forget that this is a middle grade book largely due to the authors writing.

The pacing was really fast so I never had a moment where I was bored. I wanted it to last and was a little sad when it was over. It’s a great page turner and it kept me interested.

Overall, this book was a ton of fun and I think it be a great addition to Middle Grade reader’s bookshelf. Not only due to it’s interesting, different setting, but also due to the wonderful cast of characters and writing.

 

 

Guest Post

I am also excited to share Ruth Lauren’s stop on this blog and sharing with us how she built the fantasy world in her book.

How I built the book’s fantasy world

The idea for PRISONER OF ICE AND SNOW began when I was watching the TV show Prison Break with my son. The book was later pitched as FROZEN meets PRISON BREAK and although I wasn’t consciously thinking of Frozen when I wrote it, I’d seen Prison Break and I wondered what that sort of story would be like if it was about two young sisters instead.

The Russian inspired fantasy land part of the idea came soon after as I thought about where I could place the sisters to make their escape from prison even more challenging. I imagined a very cold and unforgiving climate and terrain and looked at images on Pinterest. I make boards for every idea that I have and I find it really helps me to visualize the world and individual scenes if can link them to a picture. I wanted a very cold, snowy, frozen world where the elements themselves could cause problems for the characters and bleed through into every part of the planning Valor has to do to try to break her sister out of prison.

Once the setting was fixed in my mind, the details had to reflect the landscape—the animals that inhabit it, the clothes the people need to wear, the food they might be able to access. My editor was brilliant at helping me think about other aspects that add to making the world feel real—like special celebration days in the city, the history of the prison and the geography involved with surrounding lands and how they might impact on the story.

I drew on elements of the Russian landscape and traditional clothing but I also wanted to create a matriarchal world where only women can rule and where they often have positions of power. This book is about girls and for girls (boys and everyone else welcome too!) and I wanted the sisters to

inhabit a world where it would never occur to them that positions of power weren’t open or available to them. They don’t have to struggle or overcome to gain those positions and they see women in every role in the book—from ruler to doctor to prison guard to hunter. Why did I plan that? Because it’s something every child should see reflected in books and in the real world.

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Review: Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Posted April 3, 2017 by Lily B in Reviews / 17 Comments

Review: Dark Matter by Blake CrouchDark Matter by Blake Crouch
Series: standalone
Published by Crown on July 26th 2016
Genres: Science Fiction, Thriller
Pages: 342
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Heat:one-half-flames

“Are you happy with your life?”
Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious.
Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits.
Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”
In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable. Something impossible.
Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.
From the author of the bestselling Wayward Pines trilogy, Dark Matter is a brilliantly plotted tale that is at once sweeping and intimate, mind-bendingly strange and profoundly human—a relentlessly surprising science-fiction thriller about choices, paths not taken, and how far we’ll go to claim the lives we dream of.

I can’t believe it took me this long to pick this book up. I actually bought this for my dad about a month ago and after he finished, he told me “Lily, you got to read this.” I was a bit busy, had a lot on my plate, and did not get a chance to. I went to the library and behold, they had a copy available and I snatched it up.

Guys! I could NOT, put this book down. It was…Wow.

What is so great about this? Uh… Everything. It’s a science fiction, but it doesn’t completely read like one. I admit, there had been parts that made my head swim a little, but who cares? Crouch is a fabulous writer. The man knows how to suck you in from the very first page and it just never really lets you go. I lost sleep because of this, for reals. But who needs sleep, right?

This book never had a dull moment for me, I was eating up the pages eager for the end, wanting to know how it all turns out. Quite the roller coaster ride.

Don’t ask me to explain what this is about, I might literally explode. Read the blurb, that is the gist of it, the rest you pretty much have to experience on your own.

This book grabbed me from page one and never really let me go. My eyes are burning me, I am tired, but I am so glad I got to finish this. Crouch is really such a great storyteller.

Does most of this book make sense? No, it’s a science fiction. But, it’s interesting, it’s different, it’s compelling and it’s the first book in over a month that has me so damn giddy. I wasn’t coming into this willing it to make sense. I just wanted fun, excitement, something different.

Different it was. I LOVED the concept, the idea of multiverse. How our lives branch out. How there is a possibility of like everything that we could do in a critical moment in our life. The characters were just so raw, so real, the main character especially. I couldn’t help but feel the connection, I felt his love, pain, his loss and the need to come back home.

It was just so good. Crouch to me is a master in storytelling, he succeeded in everything for me. I felt it. I enjoyed it.

I took away half a star because in the end, I felt the ending to be a little weak. A LITTLE BIT. After everything, I felt like maybe it could have used a few more pages. But I get it. The characters were tired.

It is a bit open ended, it is. BUT, but, you guys in this case, given the structure of the book – it does not annoy me. It felt almost perfect. I couldn’t have asked for anything better. It totally made sense following the events, so, go read it if you have not yet. The science fiction part of it is light, but it’s science fiction, don’t go into it thinking it has to make sense, just be open and enjoy every moment.

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Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, Siobhan Dowd (Conception), Jim Kay (Illustrator)

Posted April 1, 2017 by Lily B in Reviews / 21 Comments

Review:  A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, Siobhan Dowd (Conception), Jim Kay (Illustrator)A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, Siobhan Dowd, Jim Kay
Series: standalone
Published by Candlewick Press on March 12th 2013
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Magical Realism
Pages: 206
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4 Stars

An unflinching, darkly funny, and deeply moving story of a boy, his seriously ill mother, and an unexpected monstrous visitor.
At seven minutes past midnight, thirteen-year-old Conor wakes to find a monster outside his bedroom window. But it isn't the monster Conor's been expecting-- he's been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he's had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments. The monster in his backyard is different. It's ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth. From the final idea of award-winning author Siobhan Dowd-- whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself-- Patrick Ness has spun a haunting and darkly funny novel of mischief, loss, and monsters both real and imagined.

Guys, I am going to be honest here. I picked this book up because a ton of people asked me if I read it, with the movie out, I finally stumbled upon this book in the library and decided to give it a shot.

I went into this blindly. I never read the blurb or asked people what it was about and stayed away from detailed reviews. I was told when it comes to this book, that was the best way to go about it anyway. So I am having a hard time writing the review. I am going to keep it short and sweet and basically tell you that if you had not read it yet, read it. Don’t just pick up the ebook either. Go to your local library if you have to and get the physical book because the drawing in the book really add to the experience.

The actual idea of this book came from Siobhan Dowd, but it was Patrick Ness, who brought her vision to life after she was taken too soon by cancer. Patrick Ness did a beautiful job bringing her beloved characters to life, leaving us with a book that I will think span generations. When I read the book last night, I was rocked with emotion, but it wasn’t until the day after that I got to sit down, let it sink in and truly experience its effect.

The story is about a boy named Conor and his ill mother. It is haunting, it is beautiful, atmospheric and downright emotional. If you have dealt with loss, it’s grief and pain, I strongly suggest you read this. Even if you haven’t experienced loss yet, I strongly suggest you read this. But I think it’s safe to say most of us did at one point or another and this book just captures most of what we go through so well.

I expect this book will have a different experience and effect on everyone. Which is okay. I believe that’s the whole point anyway, as we each experience the monster and its interpretation differently in the moments of weakness and hopelessness.

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Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Posted March 14, 2017 by Lily B in Reviews / 21 Comments

Review:  A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. SchwabA Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab, Victoria Schwab
Series: Shades of Magic #1
Published by Tor Books on February 24th 2015
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 400
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4 Stars
Heat:one-flame

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Kell is one of the last travelers--magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes connected by one magical city.
There's Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, and with one mad King--George III. Red London, where life and magic are revered--and where Kell was raised alongside Rhy Maresh, the roguish heir to a flourishing empire. White London--a place where people fight to control magic and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. And once upon a time, there was Black London. But no one speaks of that now.
Officially, Kell is the Red traveler, ambassador of the Maresh empire, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they'll never see. It's a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.
Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.
Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they'll first need to stay alive.

Well guys, I finally did it. I finally read, A Darker Shade of Magic. It’s kind of embarrassing really. I had this book sitting on my shelf since 2015 and I have not picked it up due to the cover. It’s a terrible thing to judge a book by its cover, but this was one of those instances that I did. But, I was watching a ton of book wrap ups on youtube and this book kept appearing and it just had so many glowing reviews from booktubers, that I decided that I was going to go and give it a chance.

So this story follows Kell, who lives in Red London and is one of a very rare and dying breed of magic user (as far as he could tell). Kell can travel through doors into other Londons, or as he calls them, Gray, White and Red Londons. There is a mention of Black London, but due to its complicated history – no one travels there.

Kell likes to smuggle and collect objects from other Londons, so when he accidentally accepts a job and smuggles something he shouldn’t into Red London, he brings danger right into his back yard.

The story also follows Laila, a cross dressing girl who wants something more out of her life. She wants a ship and she wants an adventure. So when she stumbled into Kell and steals a black stone from him, she ends up attaching herself to him and the danger in hopes of finding something more to her purpose in life.

This book was actually pretty good. It was an interesting read. As far as fantasy books go this was was easy, cozy, page turning and not at all intimidating. If you are the type of person who wants to try fantasy, but find it a bit intimidating I feel like this book is for you. It really was just an easy read.

I liked Kell. I liked him even if he had that special factor to him, but he was just a really good character. He wasn’t perfect, which made me happy and his love for his brother – Rhys just go so deep, it’s fantastic.

I didn’t find myself as attached to it as I wanted to. I didn’t love it. I liked it well enough, but I didn’t love it. It was a good book for me to read, while reading some of the other things that I wasn’t necessarily into. I didn’t read it in one sitting, it did take me a couple of days to get through. I liked the fact that it mostly follows just two people, so your head isn’t swimming with too much information and the author gave us just enough for it to have great world building and great character building. The book was very creative, I really enjoyed the world a lot. There is obviously a lot more that we are still waiting to discover, but book one is solid, the writing was really good and I am looking forward to reading book two – hopefully soon.

I do totally recommend this book because I believe there are people that will love it and I do find it a must read if you like great writing, interesting characters and worlds.

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Review: P.S. I Like You by Kasie West

Posted February 21, 2017 by Lily B in Reviews / 35 Comments

Review:  P.S. I Like You by Kasie WestP.S. I Like You by Kasie West
Series: Standalone
Published by Point on July 26th 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 330
Format: Kindle Edition
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 5 Stars

Signed, sealed, delivered…
While spacing out in chemistry class, Lily scribbles some of her favorite song lyrics onto her desk. The next day, she finds that someone has continued the lyrics on the desk and added a message to her. Intrigue!
Soon, Lily and her anonymous pen pal are exchanging full-on letters—sharing secrets, recommending bands, and opening up to each other. Lily realizes she’s kind of falling for this letter writer. Only, who is he? As Lily attempts to unravel the mystery and juggle school, friends, crushes, and her crazy family, she discovers that matters of the heart can’t always be spelled out…

I really wanted another book that would engross me and force me to pull an all-nighter and I got just that with P.S. I Like You. West was a new to me author, but I have heard some really amazing things from blogger friends about her, so I wasn’t afraid to throw myself fully into the book from the start.

What I got was an adorable, fluffy, heart fluttering, young adult novel about two very unlikely teens who become pen pals through shared interest and the boredom and chemistry class.

It was super sweet. Lily was so awkward and her humor amused me throughout the book. I found her to be someone I could relate to from my days in high school.(and not just with that fact that she has my name ya’ll) When Lily writes the lyrics of her favorite song, in pencil, on her chemistry desk she never expected for someone to reply to her. Nor did she expect to start exchanging letters with this anonymous teen. I enjoyed reading the exchange and how to letters started about music and eventually, with words, the two hit much more meaningful subjects that hit close to home and expose different layers of themselves. I loved that they could use words on paper to express a different part of each other, especially since Lily feels like she is more awkward in person.

I don’t think it was meant to be a secret as to who the boy that she was writing to be. Even though Lily isn’t aware of who her pen pal is for a while, the readers catch up on what is happening fairly quickly. What we do witness is how writing, interesting and music peals away layers and builds a strong relationship at a deeper level.

This entire book had such a positive vibe to it. I loved that even though Lily has a big family that drive her crazy at times, that they provide such a great support network. I adored that the parents were so awesome and not evil like some Young adult books paint them to be. There was no absent parent, no tantrum over not understanding, just positive, healthy relationship that tugged on my heart strings. Lily’s relationship with her friend was also a joy to read, because I loved how it prevailed in the end and how close to two girls really are.

The one thing I did not understand was the need for the mean girl stereotype. I get it, they do exist, but I felt like West could have gone away with maybe a little less of it. It bothered me that she kept getting away with it, meanwhile in one scene Lily get’s in trouble for the other girls actions

I loved this book and its characters so much I found myself saying aww a lot, it has been just so stinking cute, I never wanted it to end. I also really wished we got the other POV. I would have loved the boy’s side of the story as well. I felt like he revealed a lot of layers of himself to Lily and it kind of made me want to know more about him. I don’t feel like we got that from just witnessing Lily’s POV. The story would have been even more compelling.

Overall, this book totally rocked my world and I am glad I picked it up. It was exactly what I was looking for and the storyline was fun and excited. I adored the dialogue and the characters and thankful for the humor thrown in

 

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Review: The Christmas Ranch by RaeAnne Thayne

Posted February 7, 2017 by Lily B in Reviews / 12 Comments

Review: The Christmas Ranch by RaeAnne ThayneThe Christmas Ranch by RaeAnne Thayne
Series: Cowboys of Cold Creek #13
Published by Harlequin on November 18th 2014
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Holiday
Pages: 224
Format: Kindle Edition
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Heat:one-flame

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS
Hope Nichols has never felt as if she belonged anywhere, except her hometown of Pine Gulch. So, when she hears that her family's property, Christmas Ranch, is set to be shut down forever, a determined Hope heads home. She refuses to let the Grinch steal her holiday—this will be the most memorable ranch Christmas ever! And, thanks to hunky former navy SEAL Rafe Santiago and his adorable nephew, she might just pull off that miracle.
Rafe is undeniably drawn to Hope and her passion for rebuilding her family home. But he knows more about Hope's tragic past than even she herself could imagine. And though she doesn't know it, she owes him her life. And all he wants in return is for her to spend it with him…

I think I might be a little obsessed. After finishing the last book in the Nichol’s sister trilogy, I came to a surprising realization that somewhere along the way, I did not read the first book. That was unacceptable, so I had to remedy that quickly. I was pleasantly surprised I already had the book on my kindle and dove right in it.

Guys, I cannot believe I somehow put off reading these books. I am totally kicking myself because I just love them so much. I fell in love with all the characters and I find that I truly am going to miss them. I am glad Thayne wrapped everything up on high note and even gave us a glimpse at what’s in store for the sisters.

The Christmas Ranch is actually the first book in this awesome, romantic and sweet series. It features Hope, the middle sister. Hope watched her father get shot at a rescue mission that went terribly wrong. Rafe Santiago was a rookie, who felt responsible for not being fast enough to save the young girl’s father. The last thing Rafe expected was to end up running into Hope Nichols, the girl he pulled away screaming into the helicopter and the guilt that came attached after. Hope doesn’t remember him, but after his nephew puts a nice hole in her car window with a rock, Hope finds a way into his life.

This was super cute. I loved Rafe in the other books and needed to know how it all began. Rafe is so much different than the other men in this series. He is an ex Navy Seal, he rescued Hope and her sisters from the people that held them hostage, and he carries a lot of guilt.

The romance was just what I expected from Thayne, it was sweet, clean, slow, and just what I needed in the past few gloomy and rainy days.  I just can’t seem to get enough of her writing.

I adored Hope and how she wanted to restore The Christmas Ranch despite the fact that her sister’s at first were so against it. The ranch was failing, there wasn’t much money made out of it and most of it was falling apart. Until Hope comes along, and tries to breath life back into the place that has been a staple in the community. With the help of Rafe and his nephew, it might just happen after all.

Rafe was amazing, and I loved watching him try to become a father figure to his nephew. He doesn’t tell Hope at first who he is and she doesn’t remember him. So it was interesting to see how it would all unfold.

I was confused by Faiths response to him when she sees him. She’s angry, but thankful to him at the same time? It was a bit confusing.

Overall, it’s a great beginning to a wonderful heart-touching, heart-melting, cozy romance series that will stay with me long after.

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Review: On Second Thought by Kristan Higgins

Posted January 29, 2017 by Lily B in Reviews / 29 Comments

Review:  On Second Thought by Kristan HigginsOn Second Thought by Kristan Higgins
Series: Standalone
Published by HQN Books on January 31st 2017
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Chick-Lit
Pages: 480
Format: Kindle Edition
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Heat:one-flame

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Following in the footsteps of her critically acclaimed novel
If You Only Knew
, multi-bestselling author Kristan Higgins returns with a pitch-perfect look at the affection—and the acrimony—that binds sisters together 
Ainsley O'Leary is so ready to get married—she's even found the engagement ring her boyfriend has stashed away. What she doesn't anticipate is for Eric to blindside her with a tactless breakup he chronicles in a blog…which (of course) goes viral. Devastated and humiliated, Ainsley turns to her half sister, Kate, who's already struggling after the sudden loss of her new husband. 
Kate has always been so poised, so self-assured, but Nathan's death shatters everything she thought she knew—including her husband—and sometimes the people who step up aren't the ones you expect. With seven years and a murky blended-family dynamic between them, Ainsley and Kate have never been overly close, but their shared sorrow dovetails their faltering worlds into one. 
Despite the lifetime of history between them, the sisters must learn to put their differences aside and open their hearts to the inevitable imperfection of family—and the possibility of one day finding love again.

It’s been a really long time since I have read a Higgins book, but when this was brought to my attention, I knew I had to get my hands on it.

On Second Thought was a book that not only surprised me, but blew my expectations out of the water. To date, I think this is the best book Higgins has ever written.

The story is told from the POV of two sisters, Kate and Ainsley. Kate is the older half sister from their father’s first and current marriage, and she is also a 39-year old widow. For twenty years Kate never thought she would have a chance to marry with her bad luck and a string of bad relationships, she gave up hope – until Nathan came over into her life.

I became Nathan’s wife. One hundred and two days later, I became his widow.

Nathan was sweet, talented, came from a wealthy family and wanted to have children. They dated for a few months before quickly getting married and not too soon after their marriage, Nathan dies, leaving Kate to pick up the pieces.

Ainsley is the younger half sister, who comes from a woman that the girl’s father was actually in love with. Kate’s mother took her in, and for the longest time Ainsley felt a little alienated. She was in a relationship with Eric for 11-years, up until after he recovered from his cancer, watched Nathan die at their life party and decided to cut ties with Ainsley with a very ugly public blog post to top of the hurt.

This book was everything, it had everything. I had my reservations at first, Nathan dies getting a glass of wine for Kate and it is mentioned several times as the guilt sits heavy on her chest. At first I was a little worried that this was going to be a very to shame anyone who drinks wine, but as the story went on, it was proven otherwise and I relaxed a little.
The story pulled on my heartstrings, squeezed my heart, broke my heart and cemented it back together with love and warmth.

It was frustrating, shocking, sad, heartbreaking, but at the same time it was wonderful, full of love and just downright realistic. There were moments that made me really feel for the two women, but Higgins hands the entire situation not only with wit and charm, but with humor cleverly woven in.

The story was about death, grief, moving on after, love, heartbreak, and family all the good, the bad and the ugly. I loved how the heartbreak and the events in both of the sister’s lives bought them together and formed a stronger bond. I liked learning  about their family, and how Candy (Kate’s mother, Ainsley’s step-mother) felt about having another woman’s child trusted upon her. For a long time, I didn’t know how to feel about her, but Candy redeemed herself tenfold by the end of the book.

Kate’s story was rough. I couldn’t even begin to understand how she felt being widowed so fast, but I also had to take into the account that Kate didn’t even know her husband for a year, so the experience must have felt different to other widows who knew them for years.

I loved the romance, especially between Ainsley and her boss Jonathan. When Jonathan appeared more and more in the story, he won me over quickly. He isn’t your typical love interest, which was so refreshing. He is awkward, he doesn’t wear his feelings on his sleeve, his interaction with Ainsley is amusing. She calls him Captain Flatline for a reason, he is hard to read and she often compares him to an alien. But I loved that, I loved that Jonathan wasn’t like the rest of the alpha males in the books, it made him so much more endearing and memorable.

Daniel the hot Fire Fighter was also an awesome addition to the book, and I loved the way he treated Kate and pulled her out of her funk.

The entire story was just great, but I think I already mentioned it. It was well over 400 pages and I was sad that it was over, I will definitely miss Jonathan. I liked both of the sister’s voice and their sarcastic witty humor, I never found a dull moment.

If you want to give Higgin’s a try, I strongly recommend this book.

“Are you crying?”

“Oh…I just…I’m a little, uh premenstrual.” Shit.

He gave me a long, unblinking look. Strange pale blue eyes, like an alien. “Will that be a problem during this interview?” he asked.

“Let’s hope not. But those first two days can be murder.” I smiled. He did not. I felt my uterus shriveling, as if his disapproving gaze was bringing on menopause.

Finally, he blinked. “I’m Jonathan Kent. This way.”

Inside the grocery store, it was as cold as a morgue. Poor choice of words.

I couldn’t remember what I’d come for, Vegetables? Why not? Whole Foods did have the prettiest produce in the entire world, even if it did cost a million trillion dollars.

I was dying to know what my stick-up-the-colon boss did in his spare time. Taxidermy seemed about right.

I pulled into Kate’s driveway, once again doing the walk of shame (though damn proud of it), went into the kitchen and screamed

A very large man was there.

“Hey,” he said. “How’s it going?”

“Who are you and why are you wearing my sister’s shirt?” I yelped..

He smiled. I smiled. The cat smiled.

He had a cat!

“You have a cat!” I said. Maybe shouldn’t have had that second glass of wine. Too late now.

I could seriously go on with snips and quotes forever. Go read the book!

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Review: A Cold Creek Christmas Story by RaeAnne Thayne

Posted January 14, 2017 by Lily B in Reviews / 13 Comments

Review:  A Cold Creek Christmas Story by RaeAnne ThayneA Cold Creek Christmas Story by RaeAnne Thayne
Series: Cowboys of Cold Creek, #14
Published by Harlequin on November 17th 2015
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Holiday
Pages: 233
Format: Kindle Edition
Source: Publisher
Buy on Amazon
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Heat:one-flame

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Sparkle In The Snow Leads To So Much More 
Celeste Nichols has always preferred to keep to herself in her hometown of Pine Gulch, Idaho…until she becomes an instant celebrity! When one of her children's stories becomes a major success, she's suddenly the talk of the town. Celeste should be gloriously happy…but something, someone, special is still missing from her life. Could the return of her childhood crush be the answer?  
Flynn Delaney has moved back home for his daughter's sake. Yet all the millionaire's resources can't help the little girl heal from the tragic loss of her mother. Shy librarian Celeste and her stories do hold some indefinable magic, though. Flynn came home looking for support—can he find that, and true love, in the one who got away?

I was so delighted when I found this book on my kindle while searching for something good to read and equally disappointed that I have not read it yet. Reading Thayne book now feels like coming home to me. It’s always filled with magic and warm fuzziness that stays with me long after I am done with the book and A Cold Creek Christmas Story was no exception.

The book follows Celeste, who lives in the comfort of Pine Gulch Idaho, with a very sad past, who writes children’s books for a living. Her recent hit is about a reindeer named Sparkle that seemed to have touched both children and parents alike across the country like a sweeping storm. She had a major crush on Flynn, a boy who would come to Pine Gulch every summer to visit his grandmother. The boy has grown up and is back in town in order to clean out his grandmother’s place after her passing, so he could put it up on the market. Flynn has a daughter, who doesn’t speak after she watched her celebrity mother get shot by her mother’s boyfriend in front of her and almost dying herself. Flynn is hoping that their stay in Pine Gulch would give his daughter a break from their fast paced life in California and away from the spotlight.

It was a story of perseverance, coping with loss, moving on and finding love in the most unexpected places. I absolutely loved Celeste and how passionate she was about her books and the character she created, so passionate that she had a hard time allowing Sparkle to go big with a movie. I loved Flynn’s sweet daughter and the bond she had formed with Celeste over Sparkle that not only got her to open up, but find a way to deal with her mother’s death and return the magic of Christmas back into her life. Despite me having a few issues with Flynn, I knew it stemmed from the fact that he was just trying to do his best as a father and was only trying to protect his daughter from the world his wife and parents had been sucked into.

Everything about this book besides my annoyance with Flynn at times, was just plain wonderful. The writing, the slow burn romance Thayne is so good at, the characters, the setting – all warm and sweet. I loved it, was unable to put down the book and devoured it over the holidays. It was just a perfect read for me and I am looking forward to more of her wonderful writing.

If you are a fan of slow burn romance that focuses on the development of attachment between the characters and the community, I think you should give this one a try. Thayne always is known for mostly clean romances, but it’s so worth it.

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