What I Read: Jan. 16-22

Off the Map (Beck Sisters #3) by Trish Doller: I was so excited for Eamon’s story and Off the Map didn’t disappoint! This was emotional and hilarious and sweet (it’s also the spiciest book of the series by far). Thank you St. Martin’s Press for the NetGalley ARC!

In Which Margo Halifax Earns Her Shocking Reputation (Halifax Hellions #1) by Alexandra Vasti: This was such a delightful historical novella! Henry is the sweetest male lead and Margo was a lot of fun. Some parts were a miss for me, but overall this is a worthwhile read. Matilda’s book is available as of today (!!) and the author has some full-length novels in the works for next year.

The Wolf Den (Wolf Den Trilogy #1) by Elodie Harper: This has been sitting on my shelf for a few months – I was excited to find a historical fiction read set in a completely different place (Pompeii!) and time period (the year is 74. For reference, Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79…) This was a really well-done story: the characters and setting were vivid, and although you don’t get to “explore” Pompeii much, it drives home the fact that our main character’s world is incredibly small. It started to lose me a bit in the middle, but the ending was INTENSE and included one of the most heartbreaking scenes I’ve ever read (which also convinced me to read book two).

What I Read: Jan. 9-15

The Light We Carry by Michelle Obama: I loved Becoming when I read it a few years ago, so Michelle’s new book was at the top of my Christmas list. This was good – it didn’t hit the same as Becoming, but it’s a worthwhile read. I would especially recommend this to people in college – a lot of Michelle’s advice and perspective would be more valuable and impactful for people a bit younger than I am.

How to Win a Wallflower (Rebels with a Cause #3) by Samara Parish: Love wrapping up (I think? Unless there’s another book coming!) a good historical romance series. This wasn’t my favorite of the three, but I still appreciated Charlotte and John’s story (although, the two major conflicts felt a bit repetitive). Thank you Forever for the finished copy!

Mixed Signals (Lovelight #3) by BK Borison: I am so sad that i’m finished with this series but I am SO ready to read whatever BK Borison writes next! Layla and Caleb’s book has some of the elements from the first book that I missed in book two. However, you really can’t go wrong with any book in this series (I would recommend reading them in order, though!)

Spare by Prince Harry: This had to be a tough book to write. Harry digs deep into trauma he faced as a child, and explains how he carried that trauma with him for more than a decade before even becoming close to starting to heal from it. Combine an unimaginable personal loss at a young age with being forced to grow up in front of the entire world (with all the trial and error that comes with being a young adult) – you can’t help but at least feel a LITTLE bad for him. (Prince Harry haters, see yourself out please.) Of course there’s an interesting look behind the scenes of some instances with the Royal Family (primarily his father and brother) but I didn’t think this was particularly damning given that the most upsetting information had already been covered in the Oprah interview and Netflix doc. Worth a read if you’re at all interested in the Royal Family. Would highly recommend watching The Crown first, and then picking this up.

The Marriage Auction (Season One, Volume One) by Audrey Carlan: This was a…journey. The premise is interesting (and obviously a bit taboo – consenting to being “auctioned” off to become someone’s spouse?) but the execution is…a different kind of interesting. If this were treated like a typical romance series, with each book focusing on one couple at a time, it might be a smidge better. However, in a single 300-page book, I read chapters from the POV of 10 different characters and, although I didn’t find it TOO difficult to keep track of each individual, it was just a LOT. Keep i mind, this is really just the first bit of a full story – Volume One just sets the foundation of the auction, the overall story and introduces us to each couple. However, the drastic tone shift is was really threw me off. Two of the couples have fairly lighthearted stories (at least so far) but the other two? We’re dealing with pretty severe abuse, a kidnapping, attempted murder, and so on. If soap opera drama is your thing, give this a go. Thank you Get Red PR for the finished copy!

What I Read: Holiday Break Edition

When a Scot Ties the Knot (Castles Ever After #3) by Tessa Dare: This was hilarious and emotional and reminded me exactly why I love historical romance so much.

Pandora’s Jar by Natalie Haynes: I’ve been reading a fair amount of mythology reimaginings lately, and this was the perfect nonfiction companion. It provided some details and backstory I was missing, and will undoubtedly make future mythology readings more enjoyable.

Honestly, I’m Totally Faking It by Amanda Gambill: This had a fun premise and was mostly an enjoyable read, but somethings just missed the mark for me.

Of Manners and Murder (Dear Miss Hermione #1) by Anastasia Hastings: I’ve realized a love for historical mysteries recently, and I really enjoyed this first entry in a new series! I was on the fence about picking up book two, but a character introduced toward the end of the book convinced me to give it a try once it’s available. Thank you Minotaur for the ARC!

It Happened One Season by Stephanie Laurens, Mary Balogh, Jacquie D’Alessandro and Candice Hern: The setup of book was really interesting: each author was given the same basic prompt and asked to write a story in their own style using the handful of plot/character details provided. I had only read from Mary Balogh in the past, so I was excited to get a small sample of writing from some new-to-me authors.

Drop Shot (Myron Bolitar #2) by Harlan Coben: One of my more immediate reading goals is to read the Myron Bolitar series (mostly) from start to finish (I have read a few of the later books out of order). Drop Shot wasn’t one of the better Harlan Coben book I’ve read, but it was still interesting enough for me to finish in the span of one evening.

The Lazy Genius Way by Kendra Adachi: I’ve been listening to Kendra’s podcast for about a year, so I decided to finally pick up her book. Podcast listeners: a lot of this will be repeated information/advice for you, but it’s nice to have it organized in a written format. I will admit I did skim some sections that directly related to parenting, but I would recommend this book to anyone looking to be a bit more organized and intentional with their space and time.

Wicked by Piper Lawson: This was surprise bookmail (which isn’t usually that exciting but I love any and everything Valentine PR sends me!) and i’m so glad to have given it a chance! I really enjoyed Jax and Haley’s story, and there were some plot twists that completely shocked me. My copy of Wicked contains the first three books in the series (Good Girl, Bad Girl and Wicked Girl) but it felt very much like a cohesive novel (which i’m guessing is why they combined them to begin with). This isn’t my typical romance read, but it was fun to step out of my comfort zone and try something a bit different. Thank you Valentine PR for the finished copy!

The Fine Print (Dreamland Billionaires #1) by Lauren Asher: Speaking of books outside of my comfort zone…billionaire romance isn’t usually my thing, but the premise of this was too interesting to pass up. Rowan is one of three brothers who are set to inherit the Kane fortune (it’s basically a fictional version of that giant media conglomerate that owns a handful of theme parks run by a…mouse. You know the one). This was a much lighter read than I expected and I loved it! I don’t love letting series just kind of sit on my Kindle, so I’ll be picking up book two sooner rather than later (likely by the end of January, which is when book three is due to come out!)

What I Read: Dec. 12-18

The Suite Spot (Beck Sisters #2) by Trish Doller: I absolutely loved Float Plan, so I was excited for this (especially since it’s set not too far from where I live). This was heartwarming and cozy, with a good plot that didn’t drag (and I LOVED Mason!) Looking forward to reading book three.

The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer: This has been on my want-to-read list for a while, and I had a lot of fun reading it! It’s Jane Austen-adjacent, minus the social commentary but with an extra dash of humor. I can’t wait to read more Georgette Heyer books in the new year.

Walking in a Witchy Wonderland (Stay a Spell #3.5) by Juliette Cross: This was fine. It’s a little lackluster compared to the full-length Stay a Spell books, and it didn’t feel aggressively Christmasy. It’s a quick read, but you don’t need to pick this up to enjoy the rest of the series.

Funny Feelings by Tarah Dewitt: Woof. What a disappointment. I keep seeing this book online, and it seems like people compare it to Lovelight Farms. Sure, it’s friend-to-lovers with a heavy dose of mutual pining, but where Lovelight Farms felt like sipping a warm mug of hot cocoa, this book felt more like someone sneaking an ice cube down the back of your shirt: uncomfortable and annoying (but not annoying enough to be angry about, you know?) The humor in Farley’s stand-up sets didn’t really translate to the page, and the overall tone just felt incredibly melancholy without giving a clear reason why.

What I Read: Dec. 5-11

Devil in Spring (The Ravenels #3) by Lisa Kleypas: My enjoyment of this book was incredibly lopsided. On one hand, I really loved Gabriel. On the other hand, I could not stand Pandora. She was just TOO quirky and TOO childlike and it ended up being a little icky.

The Worst Guy (Vital Signs #2) by Kate Canterbary: This takes home the Letdown of the Week trophy. Sebastian and Sara were just too darn mean to each other, and far too immature given their ages. Their reasons for hating each other seemed a bit flimsy and the chemistry felt forced.

Duke, Actually (Christmas in Eldovia #2) by Jenny Holiday: You definitely need to be in it for the long haul with this book, but it’s actually pretty cute and moderately funny. Max (the human) alone is worth the read. (Max the dog is lovely too.) I feel like there was some unfulfilled potential with this story, but it was a fun read for the holidays.

What I Read: Nov. 28-Dec. 4

A Pocket Full of Rye (Miss Marple #6) by Agatha Christie: A good mystery with interesting characters, basically the formula for a good Agatha Christie book. Looking forward to continuing the Miss Marple series in 2023 (and eventually getting back into the Poirot books!)

The Governess Game (Girls Meets Duke #2) by Tessa Dare: This might be the best Tessa Dare book I’ve read so far. Chase Reynaud is so delightfully written – a rake with heart. And the kids in the book are adorable and hilarious (which isn’t usually the case…) This made me laugh out loud multiple times and i’m very excited for book three.

Scandalized by Ivy Owens: This started off strong and then…fizzled out. The stakes of the underlying conflict were WAY too high and honestly a little too dark for what I prefer in my contemporary romance. The pacing seemed a bit off, too.

A Very Merry Bromance (Bromance Book Club #5) by Lyssa Kay Adams: I was very much looking forward to Colton’s book and he sure didn’t disappoint. This was incredibly heartwarming without being cheesy* and had cozy holiday vibes without feeling like Christmas threw up all over the place. *The cheesiest part is the Cheese Man cameo, and i’m pretty sure he might be getting his own book!? IYKYK

Dirty Deeds (Irresistible #3) by Stella Rhys: I enjoyed this because it was interesting enough to hold my attention and quick enough that I read it in one day. It’s not particularly remarkable or memorable, but I’ve heard book six is the best in the series, so I’ll be picking that up soon.

What I Read: Nov. 21-27

Witches Get Stitches (Stay a Spell #3) by Juliette Cross: I’ll be honest, this was my least favorite book of the series so far. There’s not one thing in particular (it’s well-written and fits perfectly with the series as a whole), but I think it was just a bit too long for me and I’ve learned that I don’t really care to read more than one werewolf-adjacent romance (the first book in the series has that covered!) However, I will definitely read the rest of the series – I’m excited for a grim as a male lead in the next book, and I cannot wait to finally get to Jules’ and Ruben’s story!

A Merry Little Meet Cute by Julie Murphy and Sierra Simone: This was a cute, funny holiday romance with a fun plot – a Hallmark-ish movie with some not-so-Hallmark-ish leads. However, there was a LOT of potential here and it missed the mark a bit (especially considering it’s more than 400 pages!)

Drinking Games by Sarah Levy: Absolutely loved this brave, open memoir from Sarah Levy. She uses her struggles with alcohol as a jumping-off point, but she also discusses the darker sides of other (seemingly innocent) aspects of life: social media usage, obsessions with clothing/image, skincare, the “wellness” industry, etc. I think most women (especially millennials) will find something relatable in this book. Thank you St. Martin’s Press for the ARC!

What I Read: Nov. 14-20

In the Event of Love (Fern Falls #1) by Courtney Kae: Please sign me up for all of the small-town romance books. Fern Falls is SO dreamy. If you’re ready for snowy, cozy holiday reads (this isn’t aggressively holiday themed, but it does take place between Thanksgiving and Christmas) you’ll want to add this to your tbr. Plus, there’s really good setup for book two. Thank you Kensington for the ARC!

The Wrong Mr. Right (The Queen’s Cove Series #2) by Stephanie Archer: This started off strong for me, but fizzled out a bit by the end. However, it’s a really sweet (and moderately spicy) book set in an adorable beach-side town, and it’s available on Kindle Unlimited which is always a plus.

Heartbreaker (Hell’s Belles #2) by Sarah MacLean: This might be one of my new favorite series. I enjoyed the first book, but I was most excited for Adelaide and Imogen’s stories (Adelaide is the lead in Heartbreaker and Imogen’s book is next!) This was so much fun, and had the right amount of seriousness without feeling weighed down. Henry is an adorable duke who has a few surprises up his sleeve, and you can’t help but root for and love Adelaide. Thank you Avon for the ARC!

Walk on the Wilder Side (Wilder Adventures #2) by Serena Bell: This was a quick read, but the pacing and tone felt a bit inconsistent. There’s a LOT of humor early on involving Rachel’s mom’s business, but that entire plot feels a bit shoved to the side by the middle of the book. Brody’s “bad boy” persona felt a bit more tell than show (however, I didn’t read the first book, so I may have missed some substantial setup for his character). There’s also a pretty major plot featuring a baby (this isn’t a spoiler, it’s revealed pretty early on) that I didn’t really care for (it was sweet, but just not my thing).

What I Read: Nov. 7-13

The Key to My Heart by Lia Louis: I absolutely loved Dear Emmie Blue (also by Lia Louis) so I was really excited to give this a read. The story is sweet and emotional, with flawed characters you’ll love to root for. This dragged a bit in the middle for me, but the ending is *chef’s kiss* PERFECTION. Thank you Atria for the ARC!

The Widow of Rose House by Diana Biller: This book took me by surprise and I absolutely LOVED it. I expected it to be a bit more gothic and a little less romantic (it’s also unexpectedly funny at times?) but it’s absolutely perfect. Alva puts on a brave face despite her internal struggles, and Sam is a top-tier book boyfriend (major golden retriever energy here, if that’s your thing). Highly HIGHLY recommend this to anyone, especially readers who find traditional historical romance to be a bit too stuffy.

Some Dukes Have All the Luck (Synneful Spinsters #1) by Christina Britton: This was SUCH a delight. Sure, Ash is a great male lead, but Bronwyn is really the shining star in this book. She just wants to study bugs and be appreciated and loved. I really enjoyed the Isle of Synne setting, so I’ll be adding Britton’s previous series to my tbr. Thank you Forever for the finished copy!

Going Rogue (Stephanie Plum #29) by Janet Evanovich: The Stephanie Plum series is delightfully formulaic (especially at almost 30 books), and it’s always hilarious. I can’t complain about a good, reliable read that makes me laugh out loud. Also, this book is solely responsible for making me buy a single Boston Cream donut on a Saturday morning and eating it in my car, so thanks Janet. (Disclaimer: This is not sarcasm, I really loved that donut.) Thank you Atria for the finished copy!

What I Read: Oct. 31-Nov. 6

Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier: This started off really promising and then it just kind of made me feel icky (also, I figured out the “twist” way too early for it to have any real impact once revealed). If you’re looking for a book with the same vibes as Rebecca, this ain’t it.

The Cheat Sheet by Sarah Adams: This book made me irrationally angry. It had SO MUCH promise and then it took a massive left turn into complete cheese territory (and not even good, charcuterie plate-worthy cheese. Like movie theater, liquid “cheese” that comes with a side of too-salty tortilla chips or questionably greasy pretzel bites). If the setup for this was a delicious, cozy plate of pasta with a large glass of red wine, the execution was more like off-brand Easy Mac with a flat can of RC Cola.

Single and Ready to Jingle by Piper Rayne: I may not be ready to put up my Christmas decorations quite yet, but I am more than ready for all the holiday romance reads! Single and Ready to Jingle DELIVERS. It’s adorable, it’s funny, it’s emotional. For the record, the holiday version of sunshine/grump is sugarplum/Grinch, and TRUST ME you will fall in love with Kenzie and Andrew. Thank you Valentine PR for the ARC!

To Catch a Raven (Women Who Dare #3) by Beverly Jenkins: Ms. Bev is a legend in romancelandia, and To Catch a Raven was a really lovely read. Raven and Braxton are mature adults who don’t play games – they’re open with their emotions (I mean, to a point, we do need a little bit of mutual pining to make the work!) and the main conflict in this story is purely external. This was probably one of the most historically accurate historical romances I’ve ever read, so I felt like I was actually learning something while also enjoying a well-crafted love story. Thank you Avon for the ARC!