Monday, October 1, 2018


So, apparently, when I find something I like, I tend to overindulge. I did it when I discovered reverse harem fantasies a few months ago -- though I haven't had much luck with that genre since -- and I did it again when I realized I like what is generally referred to as chick lit. Last month, I binged some Jennifer Crusie and Sophie Kinsella, and this month, it was apparently chick lit from Meg Cabot, Amy E. Reichert, and Christina Lauren and fantasy from the likes of Robin McKinley and Juliet Marillier. Hey, I know what I like, but at least I'm branching out some, right? Right? ;0)

And without further ado, here's what I've been reading lately...

(More on why I've gone to this format here in lieu of traditional reviews for each.)





Y O U N G   A D U L T


Pants on Fire - Sort of a friends-to-more/second chance romance story and it made me giddy. Except that Katie is kind of a cheater -- just kissing but still, I don't condone that. But then Tommy (Tom, now) comes back into her life and rocks her world with a kiss to make you forget all other kisses and an ultimatum to boot, and she decides to come clean...about everything. And she's told a lot of lies -- even if by omission. Witty, refreshing, and fun, I definitely enjoy Meg Cabot's young adult novels just as much as her adult stories. 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Dance of Thieves* - Wow. I re-read The Remnant Chronicles books so I'd be prepared for this, but I still wasn't. Maybe because I didn't get to it right away and then I put it off some more because I was sure it couldn't be as good. But it was! Definitely different but set in the same world as TRC, just maybe a decade few years or so later. Familiar faces and familiar places but also new characters you'll care for just as much. I hope to review this in full soon, but suffice it to say, my expectations were surpassed. 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

The Wrong Bachelor - Even though I pretty much despise all things The Bachelor, this was kinda cute? And I love the hate-to-love trope, but I've definitely seen it done better. Especially since this was more boy-next-door-to-more since the main characters didn't actually hate each other. Just a misunderstanding of sorts that led them to act like they hated each other. But under the guise of a reality dating show for charity -- yeah, I can totally see a school district being down for that...NOT! -- they find their way back to each other. Parts were definitely cringe-worthy and the stereotyping definitely made me want to pull my hair out at times, but I guess I can see the appeal if you're already a fan of shows like this. 🌟🌟

The Waking Land - Re-read to decide if I want to spend a credit on the sequel. I'm still debating. I still enjoyed it, but maybe a little less this time around. I think I wasn't in the right head-space either, though. For a rich fantasy, you need to pay attention and my attention is all over the place right now. :( So, I'll definitely be waiting to read the sequel until I'm more ready for it. 🌟🌟🌟🌟


*ARC received from publisher for review purposes. This does not affect my review in any way.




A D U L T


The Boy is Back - Such a cute story AND it's an epistolary novel. I loved the use of text messages, emails, newspaper articles, online reviews, and even the transcript of an interview to show the characters actually having a conversation. This way, you got so many perspectives and you got to really know all of the characters. Plus, it was just plain funny. And really, really perfect for my first Meg Cabot book. All of the books in this series -- this was the fourth and naturally I started with it because I'm awful -- are epistolary in style and I can't wait to read the rest. I hope they're just as candid and hilarious. 🌟🌟🌟🌟

The Queen of Babble - I thought I would dislike the protagonist because she shoots her mouth off at every opportunity, based on the title, but in actuality, she just has a tendency to open mouth and insert foot. I'm guilty of that myself at times, so I could identify with her plight. I did think what was essentially her trans-Atlantic booty call was a bit ridiculous, but it worked out in the end. There was a lot of room for character growth and Lizzie really shined as she worked to figure out what she wanted to do with her life. I ended up kinda spoiling myself for the second book because I thought that's the one I had already downloaded from the library, but it turns out it was the third book. Oops. Oh, well...it does seem like things get even more interesting, though. =)  🌟🌟🌟🌟

The Ruthless Charmer - Eh. My first Julia London book and although I've read similar somewhat estranged marriage stories before, this one was by far the longest and most drawn out. I did appreciate that in this case, the rogue is the one who keeps everything above board. However, if he'd have been a bit more forthcoming and the heroine had been a tad less impulsive and impetuous, their story could have had a happy ending much sooner and I wouldn't have been so bored. 🌟🌟

Tangled - I've seen many a Goodreads friend rave over this book -- and the series -- and since I'm still on hold for the next in the Queen of Babble series by Meg Cabot at the library, I thought I'd give this one a shot. I actually almost DNF'd this bad boy because the narrator -- Drew, the main character, not Sebastian York...he can narrate my books any day -- was just such a giant douchebag in the beginning. And it didn't appear he was going to be mending his ways anytime soon, setting his sights on poor Kate as a conquest, another notch on his bed post. But despite my best efforts, Drew's character grew on me. No, he never turned into Prince Charming, and yes, he remained an arrogant asshole until the very last page. But he went from a man in control to a man in fear of losing the love of his life, the only woman to bring him to his knees. So to speak. I liked this story well enough, but I think I'd prefer to leave it here rather than continuing on to the next installment, which appears to be told from Kate's POV two years in the future. Which probably means lots of drama and miscommunication and I'm just not in the mood for that. 🌟🌟🌟


Shards of a Broken Sword - I only read the first novella of three in this book, and it was interesting but not enough to make me want to read the other two. I knew I was probably being optimistic, purchasing the set without having ready anything by this author, and now I just want my $7 back. :( 🌟🌟

Wraith - This was an Audible Daily Deal -- love those! -- and I was in the mood for fantasy so I forked over the $4. This was actually more like urban fantasy, though for the most part, it didn't feel too urban. Only when the old bowling alley or Rihanna was mentioned. ;0) It wasn't the best fantasy novel I've read, nor was it the best one I've read featuring goblins and elves; however, the wraith concept of separating yourself from your shadow self was unique enough. At any rate, it was $4 well spent to avoid thinking about work and the plethora of things stressing me out at the moment and worry instead about a Scotland where a nefarious goblin was threatening to name himself king. 🌟🌟🌟

Dreamer's Pool & Tower of Thorns - You'll probably find this hard to believe, but Dreamer's Pool was my first Juliet Marillier novel. And despite how many reviews I read that said this series was boring and not as wonderful as her other books, I still wanted to give it a chance. Blackthorn's plight intrigued me when I read the summary, and it was even more captivating once I began listening to the audiobook. How she often fought with herself and her thirst for vengeance. How she learned to care and be brave again after her ordeal. But most of all, I appreciated just how clever and calculating Blackthorn was, especially in the face of betrayal and loss. I haven't picked up the third book in the series yet, but I fully intend to. And then I want to read all of Marillier's backlist to see what all the fuss is about, especially considering how much I enjoyed her lesser liked works. 🌟🌟🌟🌟


Queen of Babble in the Big City - So, basically, what I'm taking away from these books is that Lizzie is entirely too impulsive and dives into every relationship as if it's happily ever after forever and ever. She needs to take time to figure out herself. Lizzie already knows what she wants to do with her life, but now she needs to figure out how to make that happen. There was a lot of change in this book, and I was really enjoying where things were headed. Until I started reading the third book (in the right order this time!) and things were all crazy again. 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Queen of Babble Gets Hitched - This series was just really fun, full of the ups and downs and trials and tribulations of being out in the world for the first time. I definitely, definitely, love how the series was resolved and how much personal growth and friendship and love it took to get Lizzie there. I'm not sure I liked the change wrought in Luke's character, but if I'm being honest, he and Lizzie were a strange pairing to begin with, so it works for me in the end. I've really enjoyed these characters -- even the crazy side characters and their antics -- and I'm glad I stumbled upon this series. 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Heart of the Fae & Veins of Magic - Heart of the Fae was a re-listen so that I could jump into Veins of Magic when it was released on audio. Books like this are the reason I'm so glad to be on Goodreads and a part of the blogging community. I never would have given these books the time of day if not for a review on GR that captivated my interest and forced me to satisfy my curiosity. Rife with Irish mythology and faerie lore, this series is exactly what I've been in the mood for, and I think the conclusion was every bit as good as the first book, if not better. It continued the BatB theme but made it more vicious and cruel and just plain heart-breaking. But it was also just so lovely and I'll definitely be revisiting. 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟


The Undomestic Goddess - Still trying to read all the Sophie Kinsella novels I can get my hands on, obviously. I kind of knew this wouldn't be my favorite going into it, but it surprised me. I mean, I hated cringing every time the protagonist would get herself into a scrape, but I loved seeing her get herself out of them, too. The snowballing of the lie bothered me quite a bit, especially when it came to the love interest, but ultimately I appreciated that although the MC didn't want to go back to that life, she had every intention of righting a wrong, no matter the consequences for herself. 🌟🌟🌟

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake - Now that I'm reading more "chick lit," I'm discovering all these adorable books and authors, but I'm also over here like, "Why did no one tell me how cute this story was?!?" I love foodie stories. I love cake. I love a guy with an English accent. But most of all, I love a slow burn, even when it goes up in flames. Because I adored this book so much, I immediately downloaded three or four others by this author and so far, I have zero regrets. 🌟🌟🌟🌟

The Simplicity of Cider - Okay, so I didn't love this one quite as much as The Coincidence of Coconut Cake, but it was still pretty sweet and absolutely perfect for this time of year as we prepare for all things fall. I, personally, love cider and have since I can remember. (I loveloveloved plain ole apple cider as a kid, so it makes sense that I'd prefer alcoholic cider to beer as an adult.) I enjoyed reading the descriptions of the process but also the hint of magic that went into it, as well as the rest of the story. It was just so heartwarming as too-tall Sanna fell in love with not only the bearded Isaac but also his inquisitive son Sebastian, while they were simultaneously falling for her and her beautiful orchard. I don't know which of Reichert's novels I'll read next, but I have a good feeling about whichever I decide on. 🌟🌟🌟

The MacKinnon's Bride - I think I tried to listen to this one earlier this year via the ARP, but I gave up because it was slow-going and male-narrated. Not that I mind a male-narrated audiobook, but it didn't sound all that Scottish, at least not the part I had listened to, and I was highly doubtful that he could pull off the female voices. However, upon giving the book a second chance, I find myself chagrined to admit that the narrator was actually pretty brilliant. At all parts and at making every voice seem singular. The tale was rather heartbreaking on the behalf of both main characters, but maybe equally for everyone else involved because they've seen each other suffer so much over the years because of others' poor choices. I expected a lot of banter and a sexy brogue and the author and narrator alike delivered. It's not my favorite novel set in the Highlands, but it was entertaining enough. 🌟🌟🌟


Luck, Love & Lemon Pie - This one...this one hit a little close to home: wife and mother who feels unappreciated and unloved...takes matters into her own hands, at the poker table no less. We've all had days like that, myself included. This novel doesn't have the fluffiness of Coconut or the hint of possibility of Cider. It's gritty in it's portrayal of a marriage on the rocks, and I'm not gonna lie, it hurt my heart. It takes two to make a marriage work, and I felt heartened to see some of my own struggles reflected in MJ. Yes, she makes a mistake, but if it hadn't been for her husband's lack of interest, she never would have found herself in that position. I wanted to loathe Chris for the way he acted, how he made it out to be all MJ's fault that they were having problems. Like I said, it takes two to make a marriage work. I did enjoy how everything played out, even if it felt a little longer than necessary, and I loved getting a glimpse of characters from other books. Cameos are like the icing on the cake, especially in these foodie stories. ;) But my biggest take-away from this novel is that I need to take my husband and family less for granted...to show them every day in little ways how much I care for them. Not sure how long these warm, fuzzy feelings will last before I'm frustrated with them all over again, but it's a start. :D 🌟🌟🌟🌟

The Optimist's Guide to Letting Go - After reading some more or less happy-go-lucky novels from Amy E. Reichert, I was surprised at the level of emotion and grief I felt while reading this book. Not as surprised as I'd likely have been if I hadn't read Lemon Pie first, but still. This story was pain personified. I've not known grief to the extent that these characters have, and my family isn't keeping any deep dark secrets from me -- as far as I'm aware, anyway -- but this story still resonated. It portrayed so many different facets of grief, making it achingly beautiful and poignant...while also making me cry, which is a feat, in and of itself. This isn't my normal type of read, but I'm left with a new appreciation for "grief" books. This was a slight departure from Reichert's usual: while still including something for foodies and remaining uplifting, it did so with a much more serious tone than I've already become accustomed to in my brief foray into her works. I enjoyed it, despite the tears, but I'm still hoping for the magic of Coconut with her next novel. 🌟🌟🌟

The Real Deal - So, apparently I get Lauren Blakely and Lauren Layne mixed up in my head. But the premise of this sounded cute, so whatever. And parts of it were sweet, but the story was pretty standard fare. I usually enjoy the fake romance plot -- or at least try to -- but there was nothing spectacular or stand-out about this one. Moreover, it was pretty underwhelming in its execution. I do admit that I *might* have liked it more had I read it instead of listening because I really dislike Erin Mallon as a narrator, nor am I that big of a fan of Zachary Webber. Needless to say, some of my disappointment in this novel obviously stems from the audio version. But I also just think that Lauren Blakely's work may not be for me. 🌟🌟


Sunshine - I thought it was just a tad too early for my annual re-read of The Coldest Girl in Coldtown and somehow not too early for this odd, odd vampire story. Previously, I've only read one other Robin McKinley novel, and that was Rose Daughter, which is a rather different retelling of BatB. I think it prepared me for how unique this book was going to be...while also doing little to prepare me for it. Sunshine is urban fantasy, not a retelling like so many of McKinley's novels. It focuses on Sunshine, nicknamed so for her affinity for sunlight, and while it is a vampire story, it felt like one in the most roundabout of ways because this is Sunshine's story and she just wants to bake and feed people and live in the sun and forget that anything happened to her. I liked her. But I also liked the bond she and her vampire companion shared, having both been captured by the same vampire gang. I can't say this will be on my Halloween re-reads list every year, but I definitely enjoyed the weirdness of the story and will continue my foray into the rest of McKinley's backlist. 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Deerskin - Weird and awful and heartbreaking but also hopeful. Those aren't nearly enough adjectives to describe this story, but it's a start. I mean, WOW. It was a powerful story but one that left me with a lot of questions, as well. Dead queen. Mad king. Runaway princess. Faithful canine companion. Eccentric Moonwoman. Kind prince. So many characters and motivations to make sense of. But in essence, this was a story of grief and healing and doing what's right, even in the face of your own failings. I still don't entirely know how I feel about it, except that it won't deter me from reading McKinley's other novels. 🌟🌟🌟

The Devil Takes a Bride - Meh. I think I've only tried one other Julia London novel and felt rather the same about it. I appreciate that the author attempts a fair bit of uniqueness when it comes to her characters, but it just doesn't come off as entirely genuine...for the character or the time period. I think I've come to conclude that this author is also not for me. 🌟🌟


Playing With Matches - I picked up this novel because it was suggested in a letter from the editor at the beginning of my ARC of My Favorite Half-Night Stand that said book "is perfect for fans of The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang, I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella, and Playing with Matches by Hannah Orenstein. Well, I've read and adored two of the three, so obviously I had to give this newest recommendation -- of sorts -- a try. And I adored it, as well, but in a totally different way. Because I kind of also hated it. That ending, anyway. It was just so...real. And heartbreaking. And devastating. But oddly hopeful? Because it was so genuine and the voice was so authentic, I really connected with the main character. Also, because I weirdly feel like I was her at 22. I mean, not the matchmaking part, obviously, but everything else felt so relatable. Even now. Finally admitting that a relationship wasn't working. Jumping immediately into another one. Still trying to figure out your own stuff along the way. All that was great. And I have to admit, after having a couple of days to write and rewrite this review in my head -- thank god, without it being diary-like but only because I wrote it and then deleted it -- I get it. I get why it needed to end the way it did. It made the story more focused on the character and her hopes and dreams, like the rest of it was trivial. And it was. And so, even though I was really hoping for a different outcome -- and I'm still hoping for a sequel or something -- I'm giving this all the stars because it made me so happy and then soooo fucking angry and then just...content. 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Roomies - I still remember when I was determined to hate everything this author duo wrote because I had just read Sublime and it was, well, the exact opposite of sublime. But then my The Hating Game fever hit, and I wanted to read everything even remotely similar and stumbled upon Dating You/Hating You. And it was really fun. So, I thought I'd give the author another try, first with My Favorite Half-Night Stand, and then with this one. Except I finished the audio for Roomies and stalled on the other because I just haven't been able to focus on an actual book. That being said, I quite enjoyed Roomies. It took the fake romance trope and made it more funny and awkward than I've read in awhile. Both of the main characters were adorable, if a little out of their element, and the side characters, most notably the uncles, really shined...even if they were being awful gobshites. Oh, yeah, did I forget to mention that the love interest is Irish? And he plays classical guitar? ;0) It was really cute. And made me eager again to read their newest plus anxious for my hold of Josh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating to come in at the library. 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Getting Schooled - Funny, sweet, and charming, this book was better than I expected after not having loved Tangled. It had its laugh-out-loud moments but it was also filled with just enough romantic tension so as not to be dramatic but to be realistic and heartfelt. Other aspects I enjoyed: second-chance romance, the high school teacher angle, going home to a small town, and crazy, kooky parents who need looking after. 🌟🌟🌟🌟




Have you read any of these? What did you think? Find any new titles to check out? ;0)

Until next time! Happy reading!



1 comment:

  1. Wow, you've been reading a lot. I need to read more of Meg Cabot's adult books. I've read a few and enjoyed them. I need to read Christina Lauren too. :)

    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

    ReplyDelete

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