|Let’s see. . .I’m still not ready to set new goals. If you read last month’s post I was in a wreck and I still do not have my car so there is a lot going on right now but I’m stuck at home more so my reading is increasing dramatically for the time being. As of right now due to part shortages I won’t get it back till at least June so I’m curious how my May reading will be. |
In A New York Minute by Kate Spencer – This almost made the March wrap up but I finished the last 30 pages or so on April 1st. This read fairly quickly and was a lovely rom com. No huge drama to get through, though there were moments of misunderstanding and fear. I’m still waiting for my own meet cute. A must read for all romance readers. 4/5
A Crown of Swords by Robert Jordan (audio) – Book seven in the Wheel of Time series. What is up with these massive prologues? On top of that I don’t understand fully. The prologue picked up directly from the end of the last book but then 7-9 chapters in we are still at events that took place before the battle with other characters. It feels very much out of order but the action was there from page one. I didn’t find the start slow like I have for this series in the past but it is the same issue as always – the women think the men are stupid and know nothing and the men know more than the women but don’t say anything. These are still obviously women written by a man. 3/5
The Night Shift by Alex Finlay (audio) – This isn’t something I probably would have discovered on my own, I saw it listed on a blogger’s upcoming books to watch for (I’m sorry fellow blogger! I don’t remember where I read it.) While this would be a thriller – something I wish I read more of – it gave off a slight true crime vibe to me based on the cases as I listened to a podcast about something vaguely similar. I did find out halfway through the book there is a character from this book that was in the author’s last book so I’m going to have to go back and read that one. This one kept me engaged and it honestly surprised me more than once but I did get the BIG reveal correct. But the ending? A bit of a let down. 3/5
Miss Lattimore’s Letter by Suzanne Allain (audio) – Overall a very cute, clean regency but I think I can safely say I need to read these moving forward. I don’t know if it was the narrator or the language but I fold myself backing up to relisten to pieces frequently. I liked this one enough that I will pick up her book that is being made into a movie, Mr. Malcolm’s List. 3/5
Desperate Measures by Katee Robert (audio) – Book one in the Wicked Villains series in which you have Jasmine hooking up with Jafar – Ali (Aladdin) is the OTHER bad guy (since Jafar is also one IMO). Wow. This was much more descriptive than the Dark Olympus series. It’s a bit hard to wrap my head around the villains getting the leads and slightly weird to listen to, I think I’ll have to go back to reading with the next book. I think I like this more than the DO books – I can’t describe the feeling it gave off. Sexy Nostalgia? IDK. 4/5
Meg’s Apology: A Desperate Measures Bonus Short by Katee Robert: You wouldn’t think something so short would have anything too NSFW would you? Katee Robert is the equivalent of hold my beer, LOL. Quick and very fun for the characters. 3/5
Jasmine’s Winter Solstice: A Desperate Measures Bonus Short by Katee Robert: These bonus stories didn’t come to play! Or I guess they did? HAHA. I see a character from another series was mentioned here, Abel from the Sabine Valley series. Another series I can’t wait to read as it’s Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and boy did I love that old movie. I think this version might not be as innocent though? LOL 3/5
Learn My Lesson by Katee Robert – Book two in the Wicked Villains series, this follows Hades (not the Hades of Neon Gods but read Hades and Hades and you will understand) Meg and Hercules. I’m definitely liking this series more than the other still. I read this in a day and I’m definitely looking forward to more of these stories. There isn’t a huge plot in them but I’m not looking for a murder mystery when reading these. 4/5
Going Public Part 1-2 by Katee Robert: Seriously. These shorts are crazy. This is listed as Going Public in the shorts but this is Meg’s Punishment and Hercules Cross. 3/5
A Worthy Opponent by Katee Robert – Book three in the Wicked Villains series. This one follows Tink/Hook/Peter. Peter is the “bad” guy in this story – Tink made a deal with Hades to escape but now the deal is up and there is a new plan. I enjoyed the book but I guess I’d say my only issue is believing that these characters are falling in love so quickly when they barely talk as they are otherwise occupied quite a bit. I mean there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that but these books would have to be double the size to give a backstory worth investing in. Will I continue with the series? Absolutely. 3/5
Tink’s Punishment: A Worthy Opponent Short by Katee Robert: Drinks with the girls turns into a free show. 3/5
A Night to Surrender by Tessa Dare – Books one in the Spindle Cove series. This is my first book by Ms Dare, I saw a book mentioned on Tiktok from her series Castles Ever After that I wanted to read but found out it was book three in that series and that it had a crossover book with this one so hello 11 story (?) commitment. This book reads very quickly and I think the idea of a regency town for women that don’t quite fit society’s mold is a great series idea. If book one is an indication I’m very much looking forward to the rest of the series. I’d call this a steamy book but not a spicy book. 3/5
Once Upon a Winter’s Eve by Tessa Dare – Technically book 1.5 of the Spindle Cove series. This is a novella (a little over 100 pages) so it reads quickly. Cute, amazing how much was fit into a novella. 3/5
Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare – Book one in the Castles Ever After series. While I enjoyed this book it didn’t quite live up to the first in the Spindle Cove series. I think the issue was resolved too quickly and mainly off book so it left me wanting a bit more at the end. Another steamy, not spicy book. 3/5
A Week to Be Wicked by Tess Dare – Book two in the Spindle Cove series. This follows the hero from book one’s cousin, Colin aka Lord Payne and of course one of the lovely Spindle Cove ladies. I loved that the town rake goes for the “spinster” nerd of the town. I love that we see what they each wrote about each other, but not the town scenes. I understand going back to her family and how they reacted but the couple from the next book started having scenes and I’d have liked Colin and Min to have their own book completely. My favorite so far. 4/5
The Wicked + The Divine Vol 6: Imperial Phase Part II – I pushed through the last four of this series to knock it off my TBR. I didn’t remember everything from where I left off previously but the ending was decent. I like the author’s adding themselves in for the ending of it all. 3/5
The Wicked + The Divine Vol 7: Mothering Invention – 3/5
The Wicked + The Divine Vol 8: Old is the New New – 3/5
The Wicked + The Divine Vol 9: Okay – 3/5
The Book of Cold Cases by Simone St. James – I definitely like her writing style – her books read quickly and deliver on the story. There is mystery but also follow through – you get answers. Give me anything with a true crime podcast/blog plot and I’m in. In this story I’d have liked a bit more on the possible romance and maybe a flashback to the MC’s trauma to help with understanding her more. 3/5
Daughters of a Dead Empire by Carolyn Tara O’Neil – I got about 100 pages in and DNFed. I loved the idea around this book but it just read too young to me to continue. -/5
A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis (audio) – I’ve read so many books on grief since my mother’s death. Now this book was written as a husband grieving his wife but I think the basis of grief is the same for all losses. It was interesting but not quite what I thought it would be. Anyone that has suffered a loss will find something to connect to thought. 3/5
Because of Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn – Man I missed the Bridgertons! Now, this series is about the Rokesbys BUT they are good friends with the Bridgertons (Edmund, our brood’s dad is a sibling at school, age 14-15?) and several are married into the family from the blurbs I’ve read. I flew through over half in one evening after work so I know I could have read in one sitting if it would have been the weekend. I don’t think I love these as much as the sibling series but it was nice to see a familiar name pop up. The story wasn’t overly complicated and generally fun – book one follows the eldest Rokesby sibling George and Edmund’s older sister Billie. I like that Billie was a bit of a rebel and that her family was for the most part accepting of her more independent nature. 3/5
The Girl with the Make-Believe Husband by Julie Quinn – Book two of the Rokesby sibling series. This one was definitely more “action packed” so to speak. Edward Rokesby was a soldier in America that had gone missing and at the end of the first book you find out that he is alive. Again this read very quickly 3/5
The Other Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn – Book three of the Rokesby sibling series. Back to Bridgertons! I wonder if they might incorporate this series somehow into the prequel show that Netflix announced? This is a cousin – her uncle is the Viscount. I must say I do love Andrew. He definitely gives rake vibes and I loved the banter between the characters. In all of these books so far I feel like the endings are rushed. It feels like we get 1-2 chapters and an epilogue for the end to resolve. I wish it would have been a bit longer in that respect. Still love these families though! 3/5
First Comes Scandal by Julia Quinn – Book four (and final) of the Rokesby sibling series. What’s that? Another Bridgerton? I think this might have been my favorite out of the bunch. I liked that they grew up together but man their parents were a bit ridiculous at the beginning. I loved that Nicholas is studying to be a doctor and never discourages Georgiana. Though they had their hiccups he never talked down to her or didn’t trust her. 3/5
Heartstopper Vol 1 by Alice Oseman – With the upcoming netflix series I wanted to get started on this series ASAP. I flew through the three volumes that my library currently has and I look forward to the remainder (4 & 5) as soon as they are in. I can tell this is going to be a great show from the trailer and I look forward to meeting all of the characters on screen. 4/5
Heartstopper Vol 2 by Alice Oseman – 3/5
Heartstopper Vol 3 by Alice Oseman – 4/5
Giant Days Vol 14 by John Allison and Max Sarin – This volume is the end of the series. While I enjoyed it for the most part I really wish we’d have seen just a bit more of the girls adulting but overall it was a good ending. 3/5
Queen of Nothing by Holly Black – I flew through this book! This book is the one that makes me wish we had a spin off or at least 1-2 more books left in the series. If you are on the fence for this series or haven’t finished it yet believe me – it is worth it. It’s put me in a fairy book mood and now I’m looking at TBR books that are fae related for a possible read. 4/5
How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories by Holly Black – A book of short stories throughout Cardan’s life including ones that take place after QoN. A great addition to the series! 4/5
Not a bad month! I’m less than 10 books from my YEAR goal on goodreads. It’s so nice when you can stay out of slumps and keep flying through books, I’d love to actually make a dent on the TBR and get below, let’s say 700 books by the end of the year. I’m hovering around 750 right now – it seems that for every one book I read I add two more. LOL. How was your month? Happy reading!!
This was going to be a harder month to keep up my pace because for the first week I was on vacation. Since I missed some goals last month I’m didn’t set any for this one; hopefully that will let me get back in a groove.
Possession by J.R. Ward – This is the book that if there weren’t just one left I’d quit the series. 75% in on the book and Jim hadn’t even interacted with the presumed soul to be saved. His obsession with Sissy was frankly disturbing. For five books we’ve known her as a 19 year old child that was killed but in this book at least 3-4 times it’s said that she wasn’t really a girl anymore, she was a woman. PLEASE. That is grooming, I don’t care what you say. While everyone isn’t technically alive he is roughly double her age and I just can’t with that. Based on the blurb I have a feeling the last book won’t be much better. As for the soul? If we had 10-15 pages with him? The narrative of this series has gone off the rails and I can see why it isn’t as popular as the Black Dagger Brotherhood (which I’m still reading and enjoying). I’ll push through one more (or at least attempt to) to complete the series but this was a huge miss in my opinion. 2/5
The King by J.R. Ward – Though this is supposed to be about Beth and Wrath most of the BDB books are just 3-5 couples and their issues now. In this one we see Beth & Wrath, Sola & Assail, Trez & Sabrina, and Layla & Xcor. I’m vaguely ok where things are now minus Layla. She takes risks but they do not involve just her and that is horrible. Actions have consequences so I hope things can work out but so disappointing. 3/5
The Nineties by Chuck Klosterman (audio) – God. Just the cover alone made me feel ancient, we had one of those phones. This book wasn’t quite what I thought it was but it was very informative still. I’d definitely check out more books by this author and I think anyone that is Gen X, Xennial, or Millennial will enjoy this one. 3/5
Stone Heart by Katee Robert (novella) – A novella featuring Medusa & Calypso set before the first book of the Dark Olympus series, Neon Gods. It was a quick read but just ok story wise. Extremely rushed IMO. 3/5
Hades and Hades by Katee Robert (novella) – This is a short story that shows how this series connects to the Wicked Villains series. I haven’t started that one yet but I do have the first few books on my kindle ready to go. This was even shorter than Stone Heart so there wasn’t much plot. Maybe this will have more meaning after I read the Wicked Villains books but still better than StoneHeart IMO. 3/5
Mr. Wrong Number by Lynn Painter – I’m a sucker for books in which people communicate via text or email so this sounded right up my alley. It read quickly – I finished it in one day, but man the MC was dumber than a bag of rocks. I THINK the brother might be getting a book? I’ll have to check back later but if you love romance I think you will enjoy it. 3/5
Meet Me in the Margins by Melissa Ferguson – Let me start this off with a quick disclaimer – this is a CLEAN romance. I know some people are strictly one way or the other but it was still extremely cute. I started it at night and finished by mid day the next day. It was quick, fun, no heavy drama, and just overall enjoyable. 4/5
Emotional Inheritance by Galit Atlas – One of the books I brought to read on vacation but didn’t open. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t a great read. This book shows how both hiding and showing past traumas in families affects the dynamics and influences all other relationships in one’s life. There was one patient’s story that ended on such a cliffhanger I was blown away. I need to know the name (fake is fine) to see if what happened is what I think. Regardless if names were changed I find it hard to believe that the patient wouldn’t know about that reveal if she read it. The other details were too specific. 4/5
Where the Drowned Girls Go by Seanan McGuire – I didn’t like this one quite as much as some of the others but it was one of the best installments so far either way. I liked that we went to another school for wayward children though I missed our normal cast of characters. 4/5
Ghosts by Dolly Alderton (audio) – I think this one started off a little slow but I loved the story. It shows what it is like to be one of or the last single friend in a group and how dating pressures are so different now. It felt very real and relatable and I look forward to reading more from this author in the future. One gripe and it’s not with the book itself but the blurb on goodreads. This is NOT a romcom so I’m not sure who wrote that up but there were no hijinks, true meet cutes, or a traditional happy ever after. 4/5
The Witch’s Heart by Genevieve Gornichec (audio) – You know if a book involving Loki pops up I’m immediately intrigued. I’ve always had an interest in all mythology but the older I get the more I see how horrible the Gods truly were. This was an interesting read but didn’t excite me. The best I could explain is that it’s like reading a non-fiction book, I’ve learned something but wasn’t blown away. 3/5
Riley Thorn & the Corpse in the Closet by Lucy Score – I loved the first book in this series so I was excited that the library borrowed this one for me to continue. It was more of the same from book one, hijinks and criminals everywhere. I said it before and I’ll say it again – this is what Stephanie Plum should have been. It was just so much fun. 4/5
How to Be Perfect by Michael Schur (audio) – I did buy a copy (if you can you should, all profits are donated) but I needed to listen to the audio as it was both the author and the cast of The Good Place which I just loved. It’s Schur’s take on what he learned in creating The Good Place so if you loved the show or frankly Parks & Rec and/or The Office I think you’ll love it. If you can, I 100% recommend the audio. 5/5
Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan (audio) – Book six in the Wheel of Time series. SIGH. It took almost 4 hours to just get out of the prologue. THE PROLOGUE. I’m so happy to see Perrin again but THESE WOMEN. All of them are just horrible. It’s like no one is learning anything but all think they know all. I really hope the show shows them in a more flattering light. Also? Too many POVs in my opinion. There was never a name given to tell when you moved to someone else, you just had to listen to figure it out. To me there was so much story but it didn’t advance enough for the amount of information given. I’d say the first half – if not more – of the book was just random filler and wasn’t even necessary. The ending though? The reason for the rating. I can see that battle on the show and know it has the potential to be a great episode. 4/5
One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serles (audio) – I DNFed. The MC Katy was horrible. I realize everyone processes grief differently but the way she treated her husband was beyond unacceptable. Now that she’s on the trip? I know where this is going and frankly there is no coming back from that. She’s a horrible person doing horrible things to people in the name of her “grief”. BLAH. -/5
Well. This was a rough month reading. Not only did I have a vacation but I was also in a wreck so my time dwindled down fast. I still think I did pretty well though. What about you? What did you read this month?
SADIE ON A PLATE (Berkley Trade Paperback Original; on sale March 15, 2021) follows Sadie Rosen, an up-and-coming Seattle chef gaining attention for her unique and modern takes on traditional Jewish cuisine. After a messy—and very public—breakup with her chef boss, she becomes the laughingstock of the Seattle restaurant scene. Now jobless and blacklisted from every reputable restaurant in the city, Sadie is sure her career is over. That is, until she gains a coveted spot on her favorite TV show, Chef Supreme.
On the plane to New York, Sadie has undeniable chemistry with her seatmate and fellow chef, Luke. Though she makes it clear that she and Luke won’t be able to meet for the next six weeks, she joins him for an unforgettable dinner before beginning her journey on Chef Supreme. They bond over their mutual love of cooking and their dreams of opening restaurants that honor their roots, and Sadie wants nothing more than to see him again after filming ends. But, to her shock, she turns up to set the next day realizes she’ll be seeing a lot more of Luke than she thought.
In order to save her career, Sadie will have to use all the skills at her disposal to prove that she has what it takes to compete with some of the best chefs in the country while ignoring her growing feelings for Luke. With the stakes so high, will Sadie be able to keep her heart out of the kitchen long enough to secure her future?
Featuring a young Jewish protagonist, mouthwateringly described cuisine, and a sizzling forbidden romance, Amanda Elliot delivers a delicious romantic comedy, perfect for fans of Rachel Lynn Solomon, Christina Lauren, and binge-worthy cooking competitions like Chopped and Master Chef.
Amanda Elliot is the author of several young adult and middle grade books as Amanda Panitch. Sadie on a Plate is her first adult novel. She lives in New York City, where she owns way too many cookbooks for her tiny kitchen. Learn more online at amandapanitch.com
Sadie On A Plate by Amanda Elliot is out today!
I liked setting goals for January, though all weren’t met it wasn’t a hard list so I didn’t feel confined. Now February is a shorter month and I will be on vacation at the end so I’m not sure how this month will go overall. I’m going to keep the same goals from January and then add on to it a little.
- read at least 20 books/novellas
- read at least six books from my own physical shelf
- finish the reread portion of Black Dagger Brotherhood series AND start new books
- listen to at least six audiobooks
- read at least one book on vacation (highest probability is the car ride)
- complete a series – can be something already started or a complete series within the month
Weather Girl by Rachel Lynn Solomon (audio) – This was a cute read and a more realistic romance than most books out there. Our MCs dealt with having kids too young, depression, broken homes, and body issues. I flew through this audiobook, this is a definite read for any romance lover. 4/5
The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling (audio) – I started this one but I just wasn’t drawn in, I DNF’ed.
The Magicians by Lev Grossman (audio) – An audio from the library to try and clear a book from my physical shelf. I’d watched around half of the first season of the show when it premiered but stopped, wanting to read the books. Billed as the adult Harry Potter meets Narnia I had high hopes but it wasn’t even close story wise. It felt like so much of the story was pointless. Hopefully the next book will pick up. 3/5
Never Fall for Your Fiancee by Virginia Heath – The first in a regency rom-com series. This one started out strong, I was even thinking it could be a five star read for the first 25 % but once the story shifted to no one being able to see their own faults and Minerva being so smug thinking she was correct in everything it immediately dropped to a possible three star. By the end of Chapter 11? I knew I wouldn’t like Minerva no matter what happened by the end of the book. To be so vindictive to do what she did I don’t know how someone would fall in love with that. The issues in the book seem legitimate but are brushed off so easily I feel like the book would have been better with none and just a cute romance alone. Now with all that being said? I know I’ll read the next book. 3/5
Riley Thorn and the Dead Guy Next Door by Lucy Score – I saw a friend one Goodreads give this one a high rating so I was curious to check it out. It has strong Stephanie Plum vibes (though more of the early books – I gave up on this series because it never changed) and I can tell you it was worth the high rating. It was so much fun! The chaotic family was everything and her neighbors gave me so many laugh out loud moments. I’m looking forward to book two!! 5/5
Covet by J.R. Ward – I remember absolutely nothing about the books in this series so I’m not sure why there are only 6 books since book one says “Seven Deadly Sins, seven souls to save.” but we will find out somehow! My only vague memory of these is that they had crossover characters and I didn’t like them as much. Overall the story wasn’t bad, more building in this one to set up the storyline. I’m thankful there are only six to get through.
Lover Mine by J.R. Ward – John Matthew! I don’t remember this story at all but he’s probably my favorite after Zsadist. I’m getting so close to finishing the reread and can’t wait to see where everyone went.
The Lido by Libby Page (audio) – This book was absolutely wonderful. I saw a comment that if you loved A Man Called Ove you would love this and I couldn’t agree more. It’s just a great example that things can change drastically if you just look at things from a different view. 4/5
Crave by J.R. Ward – I don’t know why but these books are so much harder for me to read than the BDB books. You’d think with some crossover and the same author I’d be more on board but alas. . . maybe it’s the good versus evil? I have real issues with neither side is supposed to be able to intervene but the evil side sure seems to find loopholes. . . I can see why I stopped these last time but I’m hoping to push through. Only four more to go! (Yikes)
Lover Unleashed by J.R. Ward – We’ve already established I don’t remember most of the books, though I remember the characters. When I started this one I was completely shocked with the prologue – I truly think I must only remember names past this point because nothing is familiar. I do have a vague feeling that I never cared for Manny, the male MC in this one. Payne? She was ok but I really didn’t like sparring with the King. After the reread? I know why I didn’t care as much for them. Though the story itself was great, I didn’t like the choice they made at the end. (If you’ve read the series you know what I mean.)
Envy by J.R. Ward – This was the last of the Fallen Angels series I read so I’m moving along in this reread. What worried me the most about rereading this one is that I’d rated it a 2/5 originally, this must be why I didn’t continue with the series at the time. After my reread I know why I rated it so low – I just can’t get over that police officers go on with no evidence and just word of mouth. Is evil truly this powerful? While I know this is a fantasy this wasn’t believable to me at all. The rating stands.
Lover Reborn by J.R. Ward – Tohr’s book, it was eye opening. I don’t remember Tohr being this cruel the first time but I know grief can change someone dramatically.
Rapture by J.R. Ward – I’ve made it to “new to me” in this series!!! Now there are only two more books after this one so I guess that isn’t as big of an accomplishment as I think but I’m taking the win! I enjoyed it overall but it was very different from the rest of the series so far. Devina was almost completely missing from the book, it is like the writing style completely changed here. 3/5
Lover At Last by J.R. Ward – This is officially the last of the already read of the series. I really love these two guys so it was great to see them again. I know they have a novella later in the series so I’m excited to see where their story goes.
The Wedding Ringer by Kerry Rea – Rec’ed by several friends this was a very cute, light on drama romance book. It was very light; it showcased several great friendships, mainly female but male as well and worth the read. This was the author’s debut book and I can tell you I’ve marked her second as TBR already. 4/5
Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell (audio) – A book from my shelf but audio so I could clear it out faster. The descriptions of America by British people were hilarious. It’s Rainbow so I went in knowing I’d love it. The only fault I really found would be the way the chapters end. Every ending felt so abrupt. Can’t wait to continue with the next book! 4/5
Giant Days Volume 13 by John Allison – Another great graphic novel that I don’t think can go wrong. 3/5
The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman – This is another reread. It’s a three book series that I stopped at one. I have book two so this helps me get towards two goals, get a book off my shelf and complete a series. I didn’t remember much but I did remember really liking it. I can say it didn’t hold up overall for me but to be fair I also read this over 10 years ago. I still love the story but this time around I saw just how many questions the MC asked and frankly I wanted to punch her.
The Wells Bequest by Polly Shuman – Finally, another book I own to clear out! This is book two in the Grimm Legacy series. It read extremely fast and was a cute story. Though at times a little silly (it is YA and I’d lean on the younger YA side at that) I like the idea of the plot and wished there was a real library like the one they work at. 3/5
New Spring by Robert Jordan (audio) – The prequel to the Wheel of Time series, it follows Moiraine and Lan as they meet and come together to start their journey. How strange for such a small book in this series, LOL. It was more of the same. The men were written as stoic and the women as raging bitches. God I like the overall story but I wish these characters would grow emotionally. 3/5
How far did I get for my February goals? Let’s see!
- read at least 20 books/novellas – Done!
- read at least six books from my own physical shelf – I only got to four this month.
- finish the reread portion of Black Dagger Brotherhood series AND start new books – Done!! I’m so excited!! Next month is all new to me,
- listen to at least six audiobooks – Done if you count the DNF, if not I only hit five.
- read at least one book on vacation (highest probability is the car ride) – I didn’t make it. I brought three books and my ipad and didn’t read a single page.
- complete a series – can be something already started or a complete series within the month – Nope. I’m one book off on several series though so the chances for this to happen in March are higher.
Considering I went on vacation and this was a shorter month the fact that I got as far as I did was an accomplishment. What did you guys read this month?
I’m going to try something new this month. I’m going to list what my goals for the month were and then at the end we will see how many I hit. I promise the goals were made at the beginning of each month. If at the end of the month I decide I put too much pressure on myself then I’ll scrap them for February.
* read at least 20 books/novellas* read at least six books from my own physical shelf
* finish the reread portion of Black Dagger Brotherhood series to start new books
* listen to at least six audiobooks
I think the hardest task on the above to accomplish will be the BDB series catch up as I stopped on book 11 and there is another series that interweaves with it as well. In addition, I might have to wait on a library holds so while I will try the likelihood isn’t high. The rest overlap in more ways so I can meet more than one task with some books.
The Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan (audio) – Book four in the series. Note while I’m not going into details some things moving forward in all Wheel of Time mini reviews might be spoilery for past books in the series. I really feel like the story is really picking up but I am disappointed in parts of it. World building? They have that for days. But what of the magic? I hate that we get absolutely zero details on what’s going on. How did the magic come about? How is it used? Also, more background on the different cultures spoken of. Just saying things like “this is our way” etc bothers me. I want to learn. Next, relationships. This is probably the most frustrating part still. The men are portrayed as fumbling generally romance wise which is somewhat on point but the women? I feel like all of the women were supposed to be independent and strong, capable of handling their own, and they are BUT when interacting with men they always seem to talk down to them (the women to men) and are always angry. Women can be strong and not come off as a controlling bitch so to speak and that bothers me. I appreciate the effort but the execution didn’t or hasn’t worked so far IMO. If I rated this strictly on the story and how it was progressing I’d rate it 5/5 but the relationships drag it down (I’d rate those 3/5) so I’m going to stick with the middle ground here and stay with 4/5
The Fires of Heaven by Robert Jordan (audio) – Book five in the series. I’m over all of the women. I like them in theory still but for the love of God they are just horrible to the guys and so bossy. Robert Jordan did not know how to write women and it shows. I wish they’d work together with the men more and not talk down to them so much. The women have been too trusting and been caught multiple times yet the men are the issue? They tell the men to do what they say and when they don’t and can actually save them the first thing they say is that they didn’t listen. And don’t even get me started on the “you belong to so and so”. Man or woman no one belongs to anyone just because one of the two has declared they love them. I just can’t. I don’t think the book advanced the story at all and was longer than it needed to be. On top of that? No Perrin at all. I can see where people say the middle of the series is a bit of a waste. 3/5
Lover Revealed by J.R. Ward – I forgot some of the details on this, I don’t like that Butch hooked up with someone that is the lead in another book, I like my romance to not have crossing lovers (I know it wasn’t cheating as neither person was in the “couple” they will be a part of) but I just don’t like Butch all that much in general so I may hold a grudge here. Still a good book, this reread has helped so much and I’m becoming more motivated to try and get through the reread portion of the series faster.
Lover Unbound by J.R. Ward – Still in the reread portion, these are the few I didn’t care for as much now that I’m remembering more so I know why I might want to drag my feet a bit. This is the part of the series where it started being less about one couple and a more collective story that makes me feel like a little something of the first few books was lost.
Lover Enshrined by J.R. Ward – Probably my least favorite of the brothers but man did I forget some details! I’m really trying to meet my catch up timeline goal to where I stopped for the month but I’m not sure I’ll make it just based on this book alone. I’m starting to slow down story wise, Though I love the series, jumping around to so many people each book makes me lose interest faster and the storylines aren’t exactly light so I try to read another book between each. It might take me longer to continue but I’m going to keep mixing them in the TBR. I will not stop fully again!
Father Mine by J.R. Ward – novella set after Lover Enshrined about the window of time after Bella and Zsadist’s baby is born. As he’s my favorite brother I enjoyed the revisit.
Lover Avenged by J.R. Ward – We are moving back to more of the books I vaguely remember liking again but man I barely remembered what this book was about! The only thing I remembered was the main cast from other books, who was the hero in this one, and that’s about it. Wow, I’m really glad I’m working on this reread!
The Black Dagger Brotherhood: An Insider’s Guide by J.R. Ward – Just a quick refresher about the brothers.
The Lost Village by Camilla Sten (audio) – A very interesting read though the reveals were predictable to me. This could be that I’ve just watched too many criminal shows so that is open to debate. The MC was horribly selfish and I feel like overall the view of mental illness was weak and feel more could have been done there. I’d definitely like to try another book by the author, I think she nailed (this is my opinion) that organized religion is really just a sanctioned cult. 3/5
Zodiac Academy: Origins of an Academy Bully by Caroline Pechkam & Susanne Valenti – This is one of the series going around booktok right now, though I can tell you I bought it awhile back when one of the author’s tiktoks popped up and she billed this as spicy Harry Potter. SOLD. I wanted to finally get this one started because there is a special edition coming out next month and I want to know if it’s something I’d like to own because that edition will be pricey. If the rest of the series if like this novella I’m going to love it. To compare to HP – it’s like reading from the Mafoy’s POV and I don’t hate it at all. 5/5
Just Haven’t Met You Yet by Sophie Cousens – A very cute book. It’s basically a Hallmark movie and a quick, fun, light read. Though not mentioned by name if you read her last book, This Time Next Year they are mentioned in a blink and you’ll miss it but I like that we are in the same “world” as the other couple. 3/5
My Dear Friend Janet by Keke Palmer & Jasmine Guillory – This one and the four listed below are all novellas following one character who tried multiple magic wigs that transform her into a new person that gets what she wants through various means. When I first heard about these they sounded cute and while it was a fun read overall they were just ok. I’m sure I’m in the minority on this one but I just didn’t care for the voices Keke gave for each wig. There was a lot of extra emphasis that I didn’t like, it felt like she was yelling at me. 3/5
From the Desk of Lady Miss by Keke Palmer & Jasmine Guillory – 3/5
Chelsea’s Werk Week by Keke Palmer & Jasmine Guillory – 3/5
Keri on the Loose by Keke Palmer & Jasmine Guillory – 3/5
Sophie Dreams Big by Keke Palmer & Jasmine Guillory – 3/5
The Lighthouse Witches by C.J. Cooke – I’d been interested in this one for awhile and was a bit disheartened when I saw a couple of other bloggers mark it low but I still picked it up to give it a shot and I’m glad because I really enjoyed it. Though I didn’t read in one sitting I did read in one day and I was surprised by at least part of the storyline. I’d compare this as almost Simone Sts James level, I’ve already read several of her books and loved them so and I will definitely look into reading any backlist titles. 3/5
The One Hundred Years of Lenni & Margot by Marianne Cronin (audio) – Though I listened to the audio from the library this is a book I own as well. The blurb sounded fantastic, a good cathartic crying type of book but that wasn’t what I read. Don’t get me wrong, I still cried a bit but It was supposed to be about Lenni and Margot but I’d say roughly 90% of the book was about Margot’s life (I know she is older and has more stories) but the glimpses were so brief. We didn’t even get the entire story from each memory. I loved the idea of this book but the execution wasn’t great. 3/5
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid (audio) – I got to about 25% in and quit. This is the second book by this author that others love but there is just something about them I don’t like. Maybe one day I’ll try again. DNF/5
Lore Olympus: Volume One by Rachel Smythe – I’ll admit it, I requested this without knowing anything other than it was super popular. It was ok, nothing blew me out of the water. I appreciate the trigger warnings but I still didn’t want to read that even though I knew it was coming. I’ll at least pick up Volume 2 when it comes out. Overall a quick read. 3/5
Twice Shy by Sarah Hogle (audio) – Adorable. This was just adorable. Just an unproblematic story about two wonderful and quirky people finding someone that gets them. 3/5
The Body is Not An Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor (audio) – I’m here for anything promoting people to accept themselves and others to live as they are, something I know so many of us can relate to. I found myself smiling at more than one point while listening, there are many inspiring messages throughout that brought sparks of happiness and hope. 3/5
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander (J.K. Rowling) (audio) – I bought a set of these stories YEARS ago and they popped up at the library on overdrive so I figured they could be quick reads to clear out the backlog. Read by Newt himself (Eddie Redmayne), I was excited to listen to it. It was a cute read, nothing deep. 3/5
Quidditch Through the Ages by Kennilworthy Whisp (J.K. Rowling) (audio) – Read by Andrew Lincoln (Rick from The Walking Dead), another great narrator. Give me all the British accents. A quick fun read. 3/5
he Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling (audio) – Read by various actors in the Harry Potter world. I think this one might be my favorite of the three books. A fun return to the world. 3/5
Electric Idol by Katee Robert (audio) – I wasn’t in love with the first book in this series but I did like it enough to continue. There is something about making the Greek gods modern that I don’t care for. . .that some are elected? How one Greek can be “promoted” to another higher position just seems weird. I think overall I liked this story more than Neon Gods. I liked having a monogamous couple with a plus sized heroine over the exhibitionist habits of book one. 3/5
Lumberjanes Vol 20: End of Summer – I mean I’m 20 volumes in, it’s safe to say I like the series. Cute as always. 3/5
Opening to Grief by Claire B. Willis & Marnie Crawford Smuelson – Got about 1/3 through but I couldn’t. They basically say there is no correct way to grieve (agreed) but push a lot of meditation and reflecting. Not for me. DNF/5
Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection & the Language of Human Experience by Brene Brown – I adore Brene and her books are required reading for me. Something about the way she approaches how things are processed makes so much sense, I just can’t commit mentally to the follow through for them right now. Bonus: If you love her she has two podcasts out. I’m a bit behind on all my podcasts but I look forward to listening to her again soon. She makes me feel like I’m a friend getting advice and not being lectured. 5/5
What points did I hit this month? Let’s check.
* read at least 20 books/novellas – DONE!
* read at least six books from my own physical shelf – Done, sort of? I cleared six but only read five. One was a DNF.
* finish the reread portion of Black Dagger Brotherhood series to start new books – I only made it through book seven this month (though I’ve started the next book which is the first in the FIRST interweaving series) but I did have to wait for a few of them so I think this is still a win. I already have the next two books ready to go and the two after that requested so I’m hopeful February will be the month I can finish the catch up unless there is some rush at my local library I haven’t seen yet. Once I can get a little bit further they have both physical and audio copies so that would help me move faster.
* listen to at least six audiobooks – DONE!
3/4 goals fully met! Not bad I think!
What did you guys read this month?
There were several people tweeting about a 12 for 12 challenge back in January 2021 (though I believe Gail’s tweets were the one I riffed off of ) where you had twelve friends recommend a book/series to read – regardless of genre – that they loved. Now I did this request on twitter so I’m going to use their twitter handles, not all are still blogging but all are still active online and in the book community. I highly suggest following these lovely people, they are all kind and more than willing to talk books with everyone! Rules are simple, try to read one book recommended by a friend each month. I’m here to admit I failed. I did read most but I didn’t complete the challenge as is the life of a mood reader. I will not be too hard on myself though as my goal for 2021 was to read 100 books and I read 181!
I ended up with 13 recommendations since a few people tweeted at me at the same time. Let’s see what I read:
Sandie @sandieachen – Fable by Adrienne Young 4/5 (same for the sequel and the additional stand alone!)
Not only did I read Fable, I read the sequel this year as well. I READ THEM BOTH WITHIN A FEW MONTHS. This is a huge achievement for me, I have so many issues with letting go of series so reading both and leaving the world was a new thing. Both were entertaining and fun reads, I highly recommend these if you want a sea adventure. In addition I also read The Last Legacy which is the same world and highly enjoyed it as well but I can tell you I’d love to read more about that story line. Definitely worth the read!
Gail @irisheyz77 – The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune 5/5
This one was already on my TBR, so double the score on reading something I had already and a suggestion from a friend that it was excellent! Not only did I read it (from the library) I went hunt down a hardcover to keep because I know I’ll be re-reading this one in the future. What a delight. This is my first book by the author but it will absolutely not be my last, in fact I’m pre ordering his next. **I’ve read his next book (Under the Whispering Door) in the time I’ve been holding this post to finish all of the books and I loved it even more than this one.**
Kathleen @kcmmp13 – Conventionally Yours by Annabeth Albert 3/5
I listened to the audio for this one and both narrators read so slowly I found myself constantly speeding it up. Contemporary books aren’t my go to and though this was cute the first 60-70% or so felt like one big first date so there were a lot of awkward moments for me. Overall a cute book but I don’t think I will read the sequel.
Alyssa @withthebanned – Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogeron 3/5
I enjoyed it but it felt extremely weird that a fantasy book was a standalone. It was almost like I had too much info in the book and I know sometimes we say things could be condensed to one or two books but I think this one has potential to be a great series. It was over 400 pages already so I think fleshing out a bit of the issues could have made it into at least a great duology.
Wendy @bookScents – Tweet Cute by Emma Lord 3/5 When I picked this one up at the library the librarian helping said though she hadn’t read this one yet she’d read another book by the author and it was adorable. She wasn’t wrong. It was a quick, fun read that fit today’s teens with a twitter war and the age of social media. I’ll definitely have to check out another book!
Ginger @GReadsBooks – Wicked and the Wallflower by Sarah Maclean 3/5
I went ahead and picked up the entire series, there are three books and I believe that is it for this story. This is yet another new to me author, so kudos to my friends for making me reach out of the normal reading circle. I wasn’t a fan of finding out this series is connected to her other series’ so I’d have to go back and read books and that bothers me, reading out of order. I liked the story line but the heroine didn’t work for me. What I think was supposed to be her coming off as this independent person, an equal, came off as pure ignorance and privilege to me. Update: I quit the series on book three, I just can’t see me falling in love with the villain of the first two books.
Stef @StefaniSloma – The Night Library by Matt Haig 5/5Another book that I had already but I’m so glad that Stef rec’d it because that made me bump it up on the reading list. This book was wonderful, something I think anyone who is struggling with life in general should read. There is a lesson in the story, one we all should learn. Now let’s see if I can remember it.
Lauren @laurayjames Today, Tonight, Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon 4/5
An adorable enemies to lovers story that I’m sure all would love. I was a little worried about this one because I didn’t care too much for her adult novel but this one read quickly and was overall too cute to not read.
. . . and what I didn’t read or gave up on:
Stacee @eleventhirteenp- Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas – I tried the audio and didn’t care for the narrator so I picked up the book but then I hated the font, LOL. After that I stalled and by the time the end of the year came around I just didn’t have time to circle back because of my mood reading. This isn’t a full no, just a not right now.
Daphne @dmtrumps – What You Wish For by Katherine Center (audio) – I was about halfway through the a when I realized the hero was from another book by the author. I stopped to read that book, which I loved but when I tried to come back I just couldn’t finish it. I hated the heroine and didn’t care what happened to her or why she did anything.
The below were already on my TBR before the recs and still are (I actually own all of them), I just haven’t gotten to them and I’m still committed to reading them. I promise I will do my best to get to them in 2022!
Ame @trippingbooks – The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E Harrow
Jamie @brokeandbookish – The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue
Andi @andiABCs -There Will Come a Darkness by Katy Rose Pool
Not horrible I think? How was your 2021 reading wise? Did you meet all the goals you set for yourself? If you didn’t set any goals that’s ok too!
I think December was the month of me DNFing books. I’m getting to the point where I don’t want to waste my good reading time on things that do not bring me joy so I’m thinking that is a win for me.
Gilded by Marissa Meyer (audio) – Sigh. I don’t know what’s happening. . . whether my reading tastes or changing or I’m just not having luck with books but the MC was just insufferable. She lies and spins tales and just expects it to be ok. That everyone will just accept them as stories. She was punished – with almost certain death and she still was trying to have others ask her nicely for help? I’d have slapped her. I don’t feel like she grew at all through the book, though the storyline itself was really good. I do plan on reading the sequel though so I’m hoping for a redemption in that one. 3/5
The Princess Trap by Talia Hibbert – I carried this one around at least a week before even trying to start it. Once I started I knew why. . .it just wasn’t the same. You can tell her writing has improved dramatically. I quit.
Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon – This one was a slow start but eventually it picked up and I flew through half of the book before I knew it. It was absolutely adorable and worth the read. 4/5
Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center – A companion of What You Wish For that came before it and I didn’t know till I started the second book, lol. Overall I loved the story but the ending felt like it left details out that would have made this story feel a bit more real. Also, I can’t get behind a hero kissing everything that moves but still loving someone? I feel like if we could have gotten his POV or more details that I might have felt better about everything else. 4/5
What You Wish For by Katherine Center (audio) – This one was Daph’s rec for 2021 for me and I’ve put it off till the last month (like half of the recs, don’t judge!). I didn’t like the lead. I stopped halfway to read the book that is a companion too and then when I tried to go back I still hated the heroine so much I just didn’t care what happened to her. I quit this one as well.
The Fastest Way to Fall by Denise Williams (audio) – Started it and almost immediately quit. Body shaming is extremely triggering for me so it wasn’t the books fault, just something I can’t read or rarely can.
The Book of Magic by Alice Hoffman (audio) – The sequel to Practical Magic, something I would definitely want movie wise but i wasn’t sure about book wise and i was correct. Hated almost everything that happened. How can a family that is steeped in magic leave so much pertinent info out when it comes to their family? I quit halfway and I won’t be going back or reading the prequels.
Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Roberson – A friend rec for the year, I enjoyed it but it felt extremely weird that a fantasy book was a standalone. 3/5
But You’re Still So Young: How Thirtysomethings are Redefining Adulthood by Kayleen Schaefer – A look at being a 30-something in today’s society. It definitely made me feel better at my life decisions so far as sparse as they are. You might feel a little less alone after reading. 4/5
The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan (audio) – Book two in the Wheel of Time series. I’m still loving the story but there are a few things that are starting to bother me. One, the sayings “light burn me” and “blood and ashes”. They say this too much and I find myself rolling my eyes at it. Also? Rand and Nynaeve really need serious attitude adjustments. There is a greater purpose and they cannot get past their own selfish wants and needs to see that and I just wanted to shake them both. I find so far that the books start a bit slow for me, move on to me being annoyed at their responses to everything, and then ending on a high note. Things are really starting to pick up and this is a truly great story. I’m also watching the show at the same time and I’m very angry at the amount of information the show is leaving out. I feel like they are assuming you’ve read the books and that isn’t fair to everyone. While I would love it if more people would read they shouldn’t have to just to follow the storyline. Book wise? 5/5
The Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan (audio) – Book three in the Wheel of Time series. Almost the entire book was Perrin’s and Egwene’s POVs so it was a shift for me that kept me from not loving this one quite as much. I think this series could have been half the size it was if they’d just cut out the “curse words” blood and ashes & the light anything. Even smaller if just two people out of the ENTIRE book would talk to each other. If they can’t even trust each other what is the point? If you are having weird dreams, talk to someone. As the saying goes, see something say something. 4/5
The Marvellous Light by Freya Marske (audio) – This audio for this one was hard to find pacing on. I never listen to books at normal (1x) speed but even though the narrator didn’t change I found myself constantly switching between 1.5-2.0x. Overall I liked the story, this has been on my TBR since the moment I saw it pop up but fell a little to the point where I think this could have been a standalone and not a series. Being as this is book one I would think you’d spend more time building the world up and little on the romance, that would pick up in two, but it’s the complete opposite. I don’t know how this will play out over three books but I will definitely pick up book two when it comes out to see. 3/5
The Book of Magic by Alice Hoffman (audio) – The sequel I didn’t want, God this story is so different from the movie. How can a family know each other so well but not talk about the important things? Everyone with the secrets, it drives me insane. Sally is just horrible. In fact, the entire family is horrible. They all think they are owed everything and should have to give nothing in return. I hated everything so much I quit about halfway through. I won’t be continuing with this series.
Dark Lover by J.R. Ward – This is a reread, I stopped the series at book 12 or 13(?) and I just don’t remember enough to pick it back up so I’m starting back at the beginning. There is nothing new to add, I binged all the ones that were out when I was given these and until I stopped I would read upon the release. Some things are a bit cheesier the second time around but I still love them. Ratings stay the same IMO.
Lover Eternal by J.R. Ward – Second verse, same as the first.
Lover Awakened by J.R. Ward – I think my favorite of the series that I’ve read so far, though I know I’m really behind but definitely the one to beat. I love a broken man, I’m basic like that. I’m reading these quickly so I’m hopeful to get to books I haven’t read yet fairly soon which will help clear my TBR up nicely.
Wolfpack: How to Come Together , Unleash Out Power, and Change the Game by Abby Wamach (audio) – An extremely quick audio that was the same as most self-help or motivational books. A nice read but no new info. I didn’t feel any different once I read it. 3/5
Out of 17 books started I quit 5 so I officially read 12. Now bad for the end of the year with so many holidays and things going on. I’m hoping to keep up my reading quantity each month into 2022 and my big project for 2022 is to clear books at my actual house and get my goodreads TBR down by a minimum of 100. Let’s see how far I get!
Featuring J. Courtney Sullivan, Rainbow Rowell, Chandler Baker, & Suzanne Redfern
Ring in the Holidays with Excerpts from Festive Reads by Bestselling Authors Rainbow Rowell, Suzanne Redfearn, J. Courtney Sullivan, and Chandler Baker
This winter, rejoice in a festival of entertaining new tales from Amazon Original Stories. Unwrap unique short reads by bestselling authors to keep your holiday season merry and bright. Visit www.amazon.com/holidaystories to browse a curated selection of stories—free for Prime Members and Kindle Unlimited Subscribers—and read on for excerpts from the titles by Rainbow Rowell, Suzanne Redfearn, J. Courtney Sullivan, and Chandler Baker.
After a long, lonely year, two people stumble toward each other in If the Fates Allow a holiday short story by Rainbow Rowell the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Eleanor & Park and Fangirl.
Reagan crept to the side to get a closer look. It looked like the deer had managed to snag its foot between two crossbars and a small tree that was growing right next to the fence.
“What are you doing?” Reagan asked again.
“I’m going to help it get free.”
“It’ll get itself free.”
“I don’t think it will. It’s wedged pretty good.”
The deer broke into frantic movement, struggling against the fence. “It’s going to injure itself,” Mason said.
“It’s going to injure you.”
This wasn’t a fawn or a hungry little doe; the deer was as long as Reagan was tall—it must have weighed two hundred pounds.
“Shhhh,” Mason was saying. Maybe to the deer, maybe to Reagan. He was crouching behind it, which seemed like the dumbest decision in the world.
“Mason,” Reagan whispered.
“It’s all right,” he said, reaching for the trapped hoof. “Her other legs are on the other side of the fence.”
“I think that’s a buck.”
“She’s not a buck, look at her head.”
The deer struggled again. Mason froze. Reagan took another anxious step toward them.
When the deer stilled, Mason shot forward. He bent the tree back and grabbed the trapped hoof, lifting it free.
The deer pulled the leg forward—and in the same motion, kicked its other hind leg through the fence, catching Mason in the chest.
“Oof,” he said, falling backward.
The deer ran away, and Reagan ran to Mason. “Jesus Christ!” she shouted. “I told you!”
Mason was lying on his back in the snow. Reagan went down on her knees beside him. “Are you okay?” she asked, touching his arm.
His eyes were wide. “I’m fine,” he said. “Just surprised. Is she okay?”
“She’s fine,” Reagan said. “She’ll live to spread ticks and disease, and destroy crops. Where’d she get you?”
He pointed to his shoulder.
“Can you move it?”
He rotated his shoulder. He was broader than he looked from a distance. Broad even under his coat. His neck was thick, and one of his ears was partly inverted, probably from an old injury. He had snow in his ears and his hair. His hair was much darker than Reagan’s, almost black.
“Did you hit your head?” she asked.
“No. I think I’m okay.”
“That was so stupid, Mason—that could have been your face.”
“I think I’m okay,” he repeated. He lifted his head up out of the snow and pushed up onto his elbows.
Reagan moved away from him.
He stood up, so she stood up, too.
“That could have been your neck,” she said. “That was so stupid.”
“Okay,” he said, nodding. “You’re right. I’m sorry.”
Reagan’s heart was still pounding. Mason looked worried. There was snow on his glasses, and his mask had fallen below his nose. He was holding her arm. “I’m sorry, okay? Are you hurt?”
“No,” Reagan said. “I’m just . . .”
Mason was holding her arm. He was standing right next to her.
Reagan made a fist in the suede collar of his coat and pulled herself closer to him.
His head dipped forward, more fiercely than she was expecting, to kiss her.
From Suzanne Redfearn, the bestselling author of In an Instant, comes a heartfelt short story about one couple’s journey to discover if there really is a secret ingredient to happily ever after before their upcoming holiday wedding in The Marriage Test.
The server appears. “Something to drink with dinner?”
“Do you have a white burgundy?” I ask, feeling like something bright to match my mood.
The server points to the French section of the wine list.
“Oh,” I say, as the list is limited and pricey. “I only want a glass. I’ll just take a—”
“A bottle of the finest white burgundy you have,” Justin interrupts.
He waves me off.
The server leaves, and I lean in to kiss him. “I love you.”
“For ordering a bottle of wine?”
“For ordering a bottle of wine to make me happy.”
I sit back again, and he returns his hand to my knee. “Good evening.”
I look up, and my breath catches. Standing a foot from our table is Annabelle Winters, my chef idol since college. She’s five feet tall with narrow shoulders and wide hips. Curls of wild black hair escape her white cap, flour dusts her black chef coat, and in her hands is a cutting board with a round loaf of bread.
“I understand tonight is a special occasion,” she says, a Mediterranean accent rounding the words. I tilt my head as Justin nods. “In my home country, we have a tradition: remarkable moments are celebrated by the breaking of bread. So, I made this loaf specially for you.” She sets the board on the table, wisps of steam spiraling from the golden, flaky crust. “This is pogača, the bread of my childhood and a symbol of love.”
With a small bow, she pivots away.
“That . . .that was . . .I can’t believe it . . .that was Annabelle Winters.”
Justin smiles wide, a proud grin that crinkles his cheeks. “You told her it was a special occasion?”
“It is,” he says. “We are together.”
I look at the loaf. “Wow. Pogača. My grandmother told me about this bread. It doesn’t use eggs or milk, and it’s cooked on a hearth over an open fire.”
“It’s still warm,” he says. “It must have just come out of the oven.”
I lift it to my face and inhale deeply, warm yeast and flour filling my nose. “Mmmm.” I hold it toward him.
He takes a breath, then leans back and nods. “Well, go on . . . break bread.”
Grinning like a kid at Christmas, I grip the edges and start to twist.
“Wait!” Justin yelps, stopping me, the loaf suspended.
He falls from his chair to the deck, my leg flopping from his lap along with his napkin.
I giggle. “What are you doing?”
“Okay,” he says, now kneeling on one knee. “Keep going.”
The people at the table behind us have stopped what they were doing and are now looking at us, and I notice Annabelle Winters beside the entrance watching as well. I look at the bread, then at Justin, then back again, and blood rushes to my face as I realize what is happening.
“Really?” I say.
He nods toward the bread.
Cheeks spread wide, I tear it in two, sending gold crumbs raining onto the tablecloth.
Poking from the steaming center is the corner of a stainless-steel cylinder.
I dig my fingers in to pry it loose and set it on the palm of my hand. An inch and a half tall and two inches in diameter, it’s engraved on top with two doves surrounded by a ring of leaves.
The woman behind us shifts for a better view.
Heart pounding, I prize off the lid. Sitting on a bed of white satin is a stunning sapphire ring, the center stone blue as the deepest ocean, a single diamond baguette on either side.
“Ava Nicole Barnes,” Justin says, his voice elevated for the audience, “keeper of my heart, guardian of my soul, and woman of my dreams, will you make me the happiest man on this earth and do me the great honor of becoming my wife?”
Not happy? No problem. Fake it. From New York Times bestselling author J. Courtney Sullivan comes the sharp witted short story, Model Home, about the reality of reality TV.
On the ninth take, things get heated between the husband, Todd, and his wife, Noreen.
He complains that this house only has three bedrooms, leaving no possibility for the man cave he was promised he’d get if they gave up their downtown Milwaukee loft for the suburbs. She seems flabbergasted that he can’t see the advantage of sacrificing that space for what is by far the biggest backyard of the three houses they’ve looked at.
Todd says in a tone that manages to sound both jokey and hostile, “If we buy this house, you can’t complain when I play my electric guitar in the living room. Have you thought of that?”
Noreen replies, “I’m only ever thinking of Colby and Mason.”
If you ask me, they both deserve an Oscar. The tension is palpable, even though everyone present knows they already bought this house seven months ago.
House Number One belongs to Todd’s cousin. It isn’t for sale. House Number Two is soon to be listed. The owner was happy to provide access, since being featured on our show, even as a reject, will sell the place in a minute.
I, the wise referee/realtor/designer, smile and say for what feels like the one trillionth time in my life, “Sounds like you two have a lot to discuss. Babe, let’s leave them to it.”
I wonder briefly if I’ll ever get to say these words again on camera, but I have to put the thought from my head.
I never call Damian babe in real life. Especially not now, but even back when I could stand him.
He doesn’t meet my eye. He’s staring into space, going out of his way to look disinterested. No one notices but me. Lately I think of my husband as a disappointment turducken: a lack of ambition wrapped in a beer gut wrapped in a statement tee designed for a much fitter man.
Everyone is home for the holidays, clamoring for all the Christmas cheer only their mother can whip up. They can already smell the chestnuts roasting—or is that Mom’s hair on fire? From New York Times bestselling author Chandler Baker comes the laugh-out-loud short story, Oh. What. Fun.
During normal times, Mom loves to spend most of her day on the phone with one of us or the other. As soon as she hangs up with Channing, she’ll call Sammy; as soon as she’s done with Sammy, Tyler will call; and then she starts the whole process again. Not that we’d ever say this out loud, but we’re in the thick of our lives, so we’re busy with dating and kids and friends getting married and pregnant and such, and, well, Mom’s stories are kind of dull. Though obviously, in retrospect, this is an instance when we should have paid better attention.
Unlike Mom, Channing never complains about anything and so she didn’t make a big deal of it when Mom, again, forty-five minutes after the agreed-upon time, took over the kids, leading them on a special explorer hunt to find Canelo the Elf.
Mom is wild about that Elf on the Shelf. Canelo joined us three Christmases ago. The twins are in a Spanish- immersion program, hence the name, and Channing and Doug explained to us that if Canelo started the month of December at their house, he’d need to travel for the time spent at Grandpa and Grandma’s. It only made sense. Sothe trick is there are actually two Canelos. Mom bought a body double so Channing could leave hers safely at home. Canelo’s antics are one of those things we all tease her about: Somebody has too much time on her hands. But the truth is, we do kind of get a kick out of him.
Mom keeps the Elf ’s next move top secret from everyone, even Dad. Last year, Canelo relaxed in a Crockpot Jacuzzi filled with marshmallows; then he stole all of our toilet paper to build snowmen and rode a zip line down the stairs. This year was off to an impressive start as the twins took binoculars and donned safari hats to track down Canelo, who was wearing camouflage in one of the old oak trees. But we guess we’ll never know what else Canelo had in store, because Canelo hasn’t moved in two days. His painted, unblinking eyes stare at us from his perch, and none of us have been able to work out yet how it is we should explain this to the twins.
We think at some point during the Canelo expedition Sammy pulled up and plopped down on the couch, probably with his shoes still on, and started messing around on his phone. Every group of siblings has a “one,” and Sammy, for us, is the Boring One, mainly because he’s twenty-five and always on his phone. Also he just broke up with his girlfriend (see: always on phone), and yet when we tasked him with one very simple to-do—break into Mom’s phone—well all the sudden he apparently “didn’t know anything about phones.”
Sammy didn’t see anything or hear anything or smell anything unusual, but as we’ve already pointed out, this can’t be taken as gospel since he was preoccupied texting back and forth with his ex.
do you know what kind of laundry detergent you used to use on our clothes? Bc mine smell all weird now.
It’s the fabric softener. Downy infusions. Scent: Romantic.
Later, we passed around the conversation to weigh in by committee on whether she meant anything by it. We even consulted the Downy website while Mom handed out homemade eggnog because none of us care for the store bought, and there we learned that the Romantic scent carries “sensual aromas of delicate floral, white tea, and peony,” and at least half of us found it difficult to overlook a smoking gun like “sensual” right there as the subtext.
After dinner, Mom asked Channing if she’d mind watching the twins for a few minutes while she cleaned the kitchen, and we all took bets on whether Sammy and Mae-Bell would be back together by spring. The holidays can be hard on people, you know. Everyone except for Mom anyway, who just loves an excuse to corral us all together under one roof. Nothing makes her more upset than a year when she has to share Channing and the twins with Doug’s family. This year, Doug’s family was indisposed because they were up in Vermont visiting Doug’s aunt, but they probably could have been in the ICU and Mom would have been just as happy as long asthe result was having Channing and the girls all to herself. Not to be alarmist, but of all the years to up and vanish, you just wouldn’t expect it to be one where Channing was set to be home the whole time.
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Thanks for stopping by, guys! Have a great holiday season!
Once Upon a Broken Heart by Stephanie Garber – I think I’m going to like this series more than Caraval. I love the amount of magical elements that are in this new land. 4/5
Eight Perfect Hours by Lia Louis (audio) – A wonderful story that gives you hope that everything does happen for a reason. 4/5
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller – I liked the story but did not fall in love with this book like so many others. I have always found mythology interesting but the way people treated others in these stories and how the innocents were treated like criminals never sat right with me. Greek tragedies at their finest. 3/5
Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrick Backman (audio) – This is my third novel by this author and though i enjoyed it I think it isn’t my favorite. If you love his other books it is worth a read. 3/5
The Last Chance Library by Freya Sampson – An adorable book that any book lover would enjoy. I honestly don’t know what else I could say about it. 4/5
Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman (audio) – Whew boy, this is NOT like the movie we all know and love. I cannot stress how different this story is and though it was ok, I’m afraid I’m going to say it: THE MOVIE WAS BETTER. 3/5
The Wicked King by Holly Black (audio/book) – I’ve been dragging my feet on continuing this series. While I’ve started to find more fairy stories that I enjoy, I hate the way everything is political in these books. Where is the romance? I feel like a bait and switch was pulled on me. I’ll finish the series out but unless the next book really cranks up the romance this isn’t a series I’d ever reread. I think I will need a break before reading the next book regardless. 3/5
The Eye of the World (The Wheel of Time) by Robert Jordan (audio/book) – I’ve slowly been collecting this series to try and binge and the more I collected the more I realized I would never be able to binge it. These are hefty books but I wanted to get at least the first one done before the show premiered, which I’ve done by the skin of my teeth. I can tell you I’m not sure what would be better, audio/versus physical but the amount of world building and names being thrown at you is rough. I struggled for quite awhile to even separate everyone in my head. I think because of the magnitude of the world if you haven’t started these books yet, start with the show so you can picture the actors as their characters. Overall the story was great, a true adventure, and if the show is half as good as the book it will be a hit for years to come. 4/5
The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood – There was a ton of hype on this one and I think it was justified. I’ve only recently started back reading more books classified as romance (haven’t read much in this genre since high school). I’m 100% on board with the grumpy/sunshine trope and I’d love more recs for it! My only issue here is I know this was a Kelo Ren/Rey thing so I immediately saw Adam Driver as the lead and while he is an attractive man I’m not so gung ho about him as others so that threw off a bit for me. Otherwise a great read, I read it over 2 days but only because I started it so late in the day. I will definitely check out any books by this author in the future. 4/5
The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling – Anything with Gothic vibes is sure to intrigue me enough to investigate but this one fell flat. Some of the decisions made were beyond ridiculous and the plot was so convoluted that I just couldn’t care about the characters. It’s hard to root for someone or even care when they were only in a few chapters. 2/5
The Broken Girls by Simone St James (audio) – This is my second book by this author and I can tell you I will be reading her entire backlog. She perfectly balances ghost stories with thrillers. 4/5
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (audio) – An extremely quick audio that was very entertaining. Don’s growth was believable and this was one of the most realistic books I’ve ever read. I can’t wait to see the movie version. 3/5
Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey (audio) – After finding Tessa with It Happened One Summer I knew I’d have to go and read some of her older titles. If you loved that one you will definitely like this one as well. Book one in a three book series, it was very spicy as tiktok would say (think about IHOS on steroids) and a super fast read. I have book two ready to go! 4/5
Love Her or Lose Her by Tessa Bailey – Another series I had to pick up a physical copy of the second book. So here’s my issue. I don’t like romance books in which the couple is already married and they are working on issues after the fact. It’s depressing and if I’m reading romance it’s not what I’m looking for. With that being said I still read this in a day and Tessa Bailey can write some spicy scenes. 3/5
Tools of Engagement by Tess Bailey (audio) – Probably my least favorite of the series but I’m not sure I can explain why? Something didn’t sit right for me and I’m going to have to think about it for a while. 3/5
The Holiday Swap by Maggie Knox – I’m embracing the holiday season book wise. This was billed as comparable to The Holiday, Gilmore Girls, The Parent Trap, and the GBBO, none of which are a bad choice. This has a Hallmark story vibe as well, in fact I’m fairly certain there was a holiday swap with Candace Cameron Bure?? It was a cute read but hard to believe that identical twins who swapped places all the time when they were younger would struggle so much though. 3/5
If the Fates Allow: A Short Story by Rainbow Rowell – a COVID check-in novella with our favorite sarcastic friend Reagan. Cute. I wish it was longer. Can we get a full book on adult Reagan? 3/5
Wicked and the Wallflower by Sarah Maclean – One of my 12(but really 13) friends recs for the year. Overall I liked the story, I wish I knew before starting that it connects (vaguely) to her other books. I’m also very interested in seeing how I’m going to like the third book in this run as he is currently not a good guy. 3/5
Brazen and the Beast by Sarah Maclean – In continuing on with the Bareknuckle Bastard series I can tell you I do like the storylines but I do not like either of the heroines so far and i have absolutely no idea how the villain of both will be redeemed enough in book three for me to like him. I don’t hold much hope at this point. Hattie just thought she could pay back a debt of that size? Would that be fair? People died and that was never brought up. Again, another woman that as written as someone that is supposed to be independent and it just comes off as ignorant to me. 3/5
Daring and the Duke by Sarah Maclean – I quit. I couldn’t read it. I only got 4-5 chapters in and I was still so mad at the villain getting a book so I can’t rate this one. I don’t think I’ll be able to finish this series but I might try to come back to it at a later date to check.
Divergent Mind: Thriving in a World That Wasn’t Designed for You by Jenara Nerenberg – A very interesting read about women and how they process things while potentially dealing with some mental health concerns and how they are generally misdiagnosed or their diagnose is overlooked. Very informative. 3/5
Not a bad run for one month in which there was a holiday! How about you? What did you read this month?
Don’t Judge a Book by Its Author…
Welcome to Little Bridge Island , one of the smallest, most beautiful island in the Florida Keys.
Jo Wright always swore she’d never set foot on Little Bridge Island, not as long as her nemesis, bestselling author Will Price, is living there.
Then Jo’s given an offer she can’t refuse: an all-expense–paid trip to speak and sign at the island’s first-ever book festival.
Even though arrogant Will is the last person Jo wants to see, she really could use the festival’s more-than-generous speaking fee. She’s suffering from a crippling case of writer’s block on the next installment of her bestselling children’s series, and her father needs financial help as well.
Then Jo hears that Will is off-island, on the set of the film of his next book. Hallelujah.
But when she arrive on Little Bridge, Jo is in for a shock. Will is not only at the book festival, but he seems genuinely sorry for his past actions — and more than willing to not only make amends, but prove to Jo that he’s a changed man.
Things seem to be looking up—until disaster strikes, causing Jo to wonder: Do any of us ever really know anyone?
I loved this book. It’s an enemies to lovers trope, two successful authors with history and bad feelings, thrown together at a small town book festival. Meg Cabot is a master of romance and No Words was just a fun book. The setting is quirky and really makes me long to live there. I recommend this book if you’re into enemies to lovers, small town romance, a funny and endearing cast of characters and a sweet, easy read guaranteed to make you smile as you’re reading. Meg Cabot’s signature wit and humor fills every page.