Tag: relationships

Book Review and Blog Tour: A Sweet Mess, by Jayci Lee

a sweet mess
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   A Sweet Mess
Author Jayci Lee
Genre:   Romantic comedy
Rating:   4 out of 5

Aubrey Choi loves living in her small town nestled in the foothills of California, running her highly successful bakery away from the watch of her strict Korean parents. When a cake mix-up and a harsh review threaten all of her hard work and her livelihood, she never thought the jaded food critic would turn out to be her one-night stand. And she sure as hell never thought she’d see the gorgeous Korean hunk again. But when Landon Kim waltzes into her bakery trying to clean up the mess he had a huge hand in making, Aubrey is torn between throwing and hearing him out.

When she hears his plan to help save her business, Aubrey knows that spending three weeks in California wine country working with Landon is a sure recipe for disaster. Her head is telling her to take the chance to save her bakery while her heart—and her hormones—are at war on whether to give him a second chance. And it just so happens that Landon’s meddling friends want them to spend those three weeks as close as possible…by sharing a villa.

 When things start heating up, both in and out of the kitchen, Aubrey will have to make a choice—to stick it out or risk her heart.

This book made me laugh. Because of course Aubrey’s one-night stand would also be the critic who almost destroyed her livelihood. It also made me hungry. I’m craving at least a cupcake right now just thinking about it.

The characters really made this novel a joy—all the characters. I related to Aubrey’s mishaps and I loved her relationship with her best friend. Her struggles with her attraction to Landon were totally relatable, and it was fun to see how both of them grew and changed throughout the novel.

Jayci Lee lives in California. A Sweet Mess is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: One to Watch, by Kate Stayman-London

 

one to watch
Image belongs to Random House/Dial Press.

Title:   One to Watch
Author:   Kate Stayman-London
Genre:   Fiction, romance
Rating:   4 out of 5

Bea Schumacher is a devastatingly stylish plus-size fashion blogger who has amazing friends, a devoted family, legions of Insta followers—and a massively broken heart. Like the rest of America, Bea indulges in her weekly obsession: the hit reality show Main Squeeze. The fantasy dates! The kiss-off rejections! The surprising amount of guys named Chad! But Bea is sick and tired of the lack of body diversity on the show. Since when is being a size zero a prerequisite for getting engaged on television?

Just when Bea has sworn off dating altogether, she gets an intriguing call: Main Squeeze wants her to be its next star, surrounded by men vying for her affections. Bea agrees, on one condition—under no circumstances will she actually fall in love. She’s in this to supercharge her career, subvert harmful beauty standards, inspire women across America, and get a free hot air balloon ride. That’s it.

But when the cameras start rolling, Bea realizes things are more complicated than she anticipated. She’s in a whirlwind of sumptuous couture, Internet culture wars, sexy suitors, and an opportunity (or two, or five) to find messy, real-life love in the midst of a made-for-TV fairy tale. In this joyful, wickedly observant debut, Bea has to decide whether it might just be worth trusting these men—and herself—for a chance to live happily ever after.

I don’t like reality TV—the very idea is mind-numbing to me—but I actually enjoyed this read quite a bit. The body positivity was fantastic to see, of course and I’m sure the reaction to a plus-size women being on a Bachelor-esque show was pretty true-to-life, sadly.

I was right there with Bea’s best friend, hating on Bea’s crush and hoping Bea did not keep pining after him the entire time. I was so firmly in Bea’s head that I was just as baffled/hurt/shocked at the guys’ behavior as she was. I did love how the story ended, and thought it was very appropriate.

Kate Stayman-London lives in Los Angeles. One to Watch is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Random House/Dial Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: How to Have a Better Relationship with Anybody, by James Hilt

how to have a better relationship with anybody
Image belongs to Moody Publishers.

Title:  How to Have a Better Relationship with Anybody
Author:  James Hilt
Genre:  Nonfiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

You can have a better relationship with anybody—God, your children, your spouse, or friends. The answers for how to do so are found in Scripture. Counselor James P. Hilt has helped hundreds of people who wanted healthier, happier relationships with his principles derived from the insights of Scripture. He will help you:

Identify and get rid of problems that separate you from others
Stop feeling bitter and resentful
Listen more effectively
Become more patient
Celebrate others more readily
Feel more satisfied in your relationships

Study what the Bible has to say about relationships, apply these healing truths to your life, and discover the remarkable difference it can make. Christ’s love can flow unhindered through your life. Don’t put up with disconnection and resentment any longer.

This was an insightful read that offered both insight and tips that were feasible and doable (Not far-fetched and almost laughable tips for those of us just trying to live our lives and keep all the balls in the air.). The voice was relatable, like talking to a friend, not preachy or condescending, and it incorporated biblical principle and scripture into anecdotes from the author, making it feel even more like sitting down for a chat with a friend that has a little more experience than you.

James Hilt is an author and a counselor. How to Have a Better Relationship with Anybody is his newest book.

(Galley courtesy of Moody Publishers in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Engineer’s Wife, by Tracey Enerson Wood

the engineer's wife
Image belongs to Sourcebooks Landmark.

Title:  The Engineer’s Wife
AuthorTracey Enerson Wood
Genre:  Historical fiction
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

Emily Warren Roebling refuses to live conventionally―she knows who she is and what she wants, and she’s determined to make change. But then her husband Wash asks the unthinkable: give up her dreams to make his possible.

Emily’s fight for women’s suffrage is put on hold, and her life transformed when Wash, the Chief Engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge, is injured on the job. Untrained for the task, but under his guidance, she assumes his role, despite stern resistance and overwhelming obstacles. Lines blur as Wash’s vision becomes her own, and when he is unable to return to the job, Emily is consumed by it. But as the project takes shape under Emily’s direction, she wonders whose legacy she is building―hers, or her husband’s. As the monument rises, Emily’s marriage, principles, and identity threaten to collapse. When the bridge finally stands finished, will she recognize the woman who built it?

Interestingly enough, the big subplot of this novel:  the love triangle between Emily, Wash, and PT Barnum isn’t even mentioned in the synopsis. Nor is the women’s suffrage movement, also a significant part of the story. Both of these things gave more depth to the storyline, and PT Barnum was arguably the most interesting character in the novel.

I found Emily herself likable enough, if a bit self-absorbed. She fought a hard battle and that came through clearly, although I felt her strength was overshadowed by her lack of awareness of how her actions affected others. Wash was also self-absorbed, but his willingness to put his own feeling aside in favor of Emily’s wishes was a nice touch of character.

Tracey Enerson Wood has always loved writing. The Engineer’s Wife is her new novel.

(Galley courtesy of Sourcebooks Landmark in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: What Kind of Girl, by Alyssa Heinmel

what kind of girl
Image belongs to Sourcebooks Fire.

Title:  What Kind of Girl
AuthorAlyssa Heinmel
Genre:  YA
Rating:  4 out of 5

North Bay Academy is rocked when Mike Parker’s girlfriend walks into the principal’s office and accuses him of hitting her. She has the black eye to prove it—but is she telling the truth? Mike’s the most popular guy around; would he really hit his girlfriend? And if he did, why didn’t she tell anyone the first time it happened?  Why did she go to the principal and not the police? Is it true…or is there more to the story?

This is an excellent book about a tough topic. It showcases what some girls experience:  like it’s not bad enough they go through dating violence. They also have to deal with people calling them liars, thinking they deserved it, and/or taking their abuser’s side. This is told in alternating viewpoints, but the story strands weave together seamlessly, creating a picture that has even more depth than what the reader first thinks.

Alyssa Heinmel was born in California and raised in New York. What Kind of Girl is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Sourcebooks Fire in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Little Bookshop on the Seine, by Rebecca Raisin

the little bookshop
Image belongs to harlequin/HQN.

Title:  The Little Bookshop on the Seine
AuthorRebecca Raisin
Genre:  Women’s fiction
Rating:  5 out of 5

Sarah Smith loves her little bookstore in tiny Ashford, Connecticut. She swears her books talk to her, and she’s happy with her life, her tight-knit group of friends—and their pastries—and her boyfriend, globe-trotting journalist Ridge. Except he’s gone so much, and Sarah is a little bit bored. So, when her Parisian friend Sophie offers a six-month bookshop exchange, Sarah finds herself flying to Paris to take care of Once Upon a Time, a famous, and popular, bookstore on the Seine.

But Sarah’s dreams of quiet time spent reading, forays to explore Paris, and getting to see Ridge as he travels the world fade quickly once she arrives in Paris. The staff at the bookshop are suspicious and uncooperative. The customers are rude. There’s barely time to breathe, much less read. And instead of spending time with Ridge, their relationship is reduced to occasional quick phone calls. But Sarah has had enough. Christmas is coming and she is determined to get things sorted out, no matter what.

I loved this book! I didn’t realize until I finished it that Rebecca Raisin also wrote Rosie’s Traveling Tea Shop, which was also a lovely read…but it all makes sense now. The Little Bookshop on the Seine made me want to visit Paris, which has never been on my Places to Go list, but I’d pack right up for a chance to work in Once Upon a Time, and Sarah, with her love of books and reading contrasting with her desire to experience life is so me that I related to every page. I highly recommend this!

Rebecca Raisin loves books. The Little Bookshop on the Seine is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/HQN in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Dating Charade, by Melissa Ferguson

the dating charade
Image belongs to Thomas Nelson.

Title:  The Dating Charade
AuthorMelissa Ferguson
Genre:  Romance
Rating:  4 out of 5

Cassie Everson has figured out the perfect way to escape from a bad date, and she’s not afraid to use it. After the latest in a string of horrible first dates, Cassie swears off dating and gives up on the idea of having a family of her own. Although an accident years ago left her unable to have biological children, as director of Girls Haven, she’s surrounded by girls every day and that will just have to be enough. That and admiring the cute firefighter across the street.

Jett Bentley is a firefighter recently back in his hometown when he catches a glimpse of Cassie Everson on a dating app. The Cassie Everson, whom he had a crush on back in high school when he was an awkward freshman and she was a popular senior. After a great first date where they both claim they don’t want children, they each return home to find themselves with three kids dropped on their doorstep.

Becoming an overnight parent to three kids was never in Jett’s plans, and while Cassie wanted kids, parenting is tougher than it looks. Add in their fledgling attraction to each other—not to mention their separate decisions to keep their three kids—each—a secret from each other—and things just got a whole lot more complicated.

The Dating Charade is a sweet, funny book. I loved both Cassie and Jett and watching their parenting fails was definitely full of laughs—especially Jett’s bathroom fiasco. I enjoyed this book from the start and read it straight through in one sitting. It’s nice to read something so positive and clean, with characters that you can relate to and that make you laugh.

Melissa Ferguson lives in Tennessee. The Dating Charade is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of Thomas Nelson via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: This Really Happened, by Annmarie McQueen

this really happened
Image belongs to the author.

Title:  This Really Happened
Author:    Annmarie McQueen
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

For Erin, university is her chance to stretch her wings. She’d like to make some friends, but she also must focus on her studies—economics, which her emotionally-distant parents approve of. Then she meets her five flatmates, including Allen, the quiet, creative boy who just seems to get her. Their friendship grows, as do Erin’s feelings for Allen, until one day Allen starts dating Charlotte, another of their flatmates.

Erin is devastated but struggles to be okay with it and be happy for her friends. Then one night leaving a crowded club, Charlotte is struck by a car, and everything changes.

This Really Happened is told in alternating timelines:  Erin’s experiences in the present day and her blog posts about Charlotte’s accident and its aftermath, the times slowly growing closer together as the reader gets closer to the truth. Erin only has one friend—her older sister—when she comes to university. She’s not close to her parents, so having a ready-made group of friends is a heady experience with her.

I enjoyed reading about how the friendships developed and I was fascinated by the alternating timelines. I found Allen a bit annoying, but I can see how he interested Erin. This is a solid read for anyone who likes to be intrigued with their reading choice.

Annmarie McQueen is a London-based writer and blogger who loves tea. This Really Happened is her new novel.

(Galley courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.)

The Best Books I Read in August (2019)

I read 24 books in August, bringing my total for the year to 143.

A handful of those were great reads, but three of the truly excellent reads included a book about three older women who changed their lives and found their dreams, a fantasy that started off with a girl who had never set foot on land, and a girl who has never really thought about her ethnicity and is forced to not just confront it but decide how it will shape her life.

women in sunlight

Women in Sunlight, by Frances Mayes (she also wrote Under the Tuscan Sun) is about three older, single American women who become friends and defy expectations to move to Italy. While there, they truly embrace themselves and who they are as they create their best lives yet.

crown of coral and pearl

Crown of Coral and Pearl, by Mara Rutherford. Nor and her twin sister are the most beautiful girls in Varenia, so they know one of them will be chosen to marry the prince of Ilara. Nor longs to see the mainland, but when her sister is chosen, she knows that will never happen. Until her sister is injured and she’s chosen to replace her—finding Ilara a land of treachery, murder, and darkness.

color me in

Color Me In, by Natasha Diaz. Nevaeh has never really thought about her ethnicity, but when her Jewish father and her black mother separate, she and her mother go to live with her family in Harlem. One of Nevaeh’s cousins is angry because Nevaeh can pass as white and is oblivious to struggles of those around her in Harlem. Then Nevaeh’s dad decides she needs to embrace her Jewish roots, leaving Nevaeh struggling between two identities.

Also worth mentioning:

beekeeper

The Beekeeper of Aleppo, by Christy Lefteri.

never have i ever

Never Have I Ever, by Joshilyn Jackson.

enchanted ever after

Enchanted Ever After, by Shanna Swendson.

Book Review: Blow: A Love Story, by Tracy Ewens

 

blow a love story
Image belongs to Tracy Ewens.

Title:   Blow: A Love Story
Author:  Tracy Ewens
Genre:   Romance
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

Millie Hart has spent her life writing happy endings, but now she’s decided to write a “serious” book:  one that will impress even her aloof, condescending father. So she rents a cottage in a small seaside town, betting the dark and gloomy oceanside town will inspire her new novel. Instead she finds a quaint community that comes with a loud—and annoying—soundtrack. Not to mention the new neighbor who’s big on crankiness, not understanding.

Drake Branch barely escaped the accident six years ago with his life. Now he’s got his life together, he’s moved on, and he loves his job at BP Glass Works. When he lets a struggling metalworks shop move in next door, he’s not prepared for the PTSD triggered by the screeching noises—so he compensates with loud music. Not ideal for the writer who just moved in next door.

I haven’t read any of the other books in this series—sadly—but I really enjoyed this one! Millie has her issues, but she’s such a great character, and her struggle with her feelings towards her father is so heartfelt and painful. Drake just thinks he’s a tough guy who’s recovered from his tragic accident, but when he meets Millie, he realizes he isn’t healed at all. I loved the characters, the setting, everything about this book!

Tracy Ewens lives and writes in Arizona. Blow:  A Love Story is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of the author via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)