Tuesday, November 5, 2019

October Reads // #arctober

It's book day!



October is known as #arctober to many readers online. I have a huge backlog of ARCs so I joined in to try to finish some of them up in a binge session. Here's how it went.

#ARCtober Goals:

Read 10 books!

Result: 6/10! - Not too bad for a busy and super anxious month! I'll take it!

25 Days 'Til Christmas by Poppy Alexander*** ARC, ebook

#1 for #arctober

4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy contemporary Christmas fiction. This one while still light, is a bit more serious than most.

Daniel's sister Zoe died in January, this is his first Christmas without her. He remembers the "Christmas Tree Girl" working at the lot, who was always so kind to him and Zoe when they bought their tree. He remembers her sad eyes, and now recognizes that she must have lost someone too. He wants to have the courage to tell her his story, but is painfully awkward in practice. Kate is a widow and mom to Jack, her six year old son. Her job at the Christmas tree lot is in peril, her son is being diagnosed with special needs, her "mother in law" is in a nursing home and her funding is about to be cut, and she barely has money to keep porridge on the table, let alone a tree and gifts for Jack. Kate and Daniel will meet again and again in different circumstances, getting to know one another better. Can they move past their grief and hurdles to be happy again?

This is the Christmas novel for you if you are looking for a story with a bit more intensity. I really loved both Kate and Daniel, and thought that they were strong characters dealing with a lot of issues. Kate was a very passionate mother, put in a tough situation, just trying to make ends meet on her own. Daniel was dealing with the loss of his sister, and going through the motions of his day to day life. I admired their strength, and how they eventually came together to have a memorable Christmas. I enjoyed the charitable elements of the story related to raising money for the Apple Cafe run by young adults with special needs. I thought that the Bake Off element was a fun addition. While it did feel like the problems were piling on Kate one after the other, I like how things tied up. It felt sort of serendipitous but also very satisfying. I would recommend this novel if you are looking for a Christmassy read with a little bit more meat.

A Lie for a Lie by Helena Hunting*ARC, ebook

#2 for #arctober

4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy contemporary romance, especially of the second-chance variety.

RJ is an NHL captain from Chicago, who spends part of his summer in Alaska with his brother to relax. It's the only time  when he can be a normal guy. When he meets anxious, and refreshing Lainey on the flight there, he doesn't tell her who he really is. They're both headed to Kodiak Island, and she's not quite prepared or outfitted for the trip. When he drops her off at her ramshackle cabin, he doesn't feel right about not checking in with her as the trip goes on. They're both alone, and quickly take to spending all of their time together. After a month, RJ has to leave due to a family emergency, and he never gets to tell Lainey who he really is, that he loves her, or how to get into touch with him. Months later, they meet by chance in Chicago, and RJ quickly finds out that he wasn't the only one keeping secrets.

I thought based on the title and cover that this would be sort of a romantic suspense story, LOL... so I was a little off base, but ended up enjoying this one quite a bit! I ADORED both RJ and Lainey, and their time in Alaska. It was very swoony and sweet, and their chemistry and different personalities were so fun. I honestly was dreading that part of the book coming to an end. However, I quickly found myself invested in the present day plot as well. I loved the way they uncovered secrets about their lives and lies, and how they tried so hard to make it work again. There is very little of the dreaded "JUST TALK TO EACH OTHER ALREADY!" sort of feeling, which I very much appreciated! I thought that their relationship both past and present was so sweet, and I liked the little bits of hockey life mixed in too. This book reminded me a little bit of Wait for It by Mariana Zapata and The Simple Wild by K.A. Tucker, both books that I really enjoyed! I see that there is already a synopsis for book 2 in this series... and I am here. for. it. Definitely going to continue on.

The Absinthe Earl by Sharon Lynn Fisher*** ARC, ebook

#3 for #arctober

DNF @ 60% - I can't particularly recommend this one.

Ada, an orphan and student is on a holiday in Ireland studying the relationship between absinthe and fairy sightings. She meets an Irish earl at an absinthe house, and he is quickly compelled to both protect her, and take her to his family's estate where they have unearthed ancient ruins. Along the way they are swept up in a struggle between earth and the faery realm, and their inexplicable attraction to one another.

There were many really fun elements to this story. I liked the historical romance aspect, and some of the fantasy was really interesting. There were some parts that I was struggling to figure out what on earth was going on. Part way through, I just wasn't compelled anymore. I didn't feel like I had enough background information on the characters, and I wasn't very invested in their plight against the threat coming to earth. I thought the idea of an alternate history based around Irish mythology was interesting, but it didn't work out for me this time around. You can't win them all.

A Convenient Fiction by Mimi Matthews*ARC, ebook

#4 for #arctober

3.5 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy historical proper romance.

When Laura Hays's father died, he left them without much money. Laura has had to take up the finances, and the plans to re-open their floral farms and fragrance distilleries.When she meets with her solicitor, she finds out that he plans to deny her brother's inheritance as he comes of age as he is an invalid. Her only choice is to find another solicitor and fight for the inheritance, or to marry. However, she's never imagined herself married at all. Alex Archer has been running from his troubled past as an orphan, and swindling people out of money through gambling debts. He ends up in Surrey, collecting on one such debt, as he meets lady Henrietta ?? and intends to marry her. However, after a chance meeting in a pond with Laura, he cannot keep his mind on the task at hand.

It was so fun to tuck into another Mimi Matthews book! I really loved Laura as a character, and her drive to thrive and work hard to reach her dreams. I thought that the meeting of the two characters was very cute, and that they had very good tension. I think that Alex was a bit shut off due to his past, so it took me a while to feel that he really liked Laura... or that he was really invested in their relationship or his feelings toward her in the beginning. I think that made it a bit less swoony for me, but as the book went on it definitely made sense how he felt, and why. I think my favorite part continues to be the brotherhood of the four orphans as they reconnect, that made me quite teary. I'm so excited to see how Neville's book goes.

A Favor for a Favor by Helena Hunting- Publishes January 2020 ARC, ebook

#5 for #arctober

4.5 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy hate-to-love contemporary romances.

When Stevie moves to Seattle to find her boyfriend sleeping with someone else, in their new apartment, on her birthday, she's hit rock bottom. When her NHL captain brother offers her his pent house apartment, she jumps at the chance to be away from her cheating ex. When she meets the jerk across the hall, she thinks things can't get worse. Bishop was cheated out of captain for their new team by RJ Bowman, and now there's a hot mess woman living in his apartment.When he finds out that this woman is not his mistress, but his sister everything changes. When Bishop is in a bad accident on the ice, his chances of meshing with his new team are low. Luckily, Stevie is a physical therapist, and she's willing to help him work on his injury to get back on the ice sooner. Can they keep it platonic despite their teasing and close proximity?

I really loved A Lie for A Lie and was so excited when I got a copy of this one! This book started off super super super funny. I immediately loved both Stevie and Bishop. He's SO annoying. Such a jerk, and she doesn't take any of it, so their hate-to-love chemistry is amazing. The sick and needing nursed back to health trope is one that I really enjoy, so this was a fun but very painful twist on that. I loved all of the PT stuff after his injury. It was equal party steamy and hysterically funny. I loved that this was such a slowburn love story and seeing how the characters grew and opened up to each other over time. I continue to love the team and family dynamics in this series, and am excited to see where it goes! I hope that the next book in the series is about King. He's adorable.

Twice In A Blue Moon by Christina Lauren*ARC, ebook

#6 for #arctober

3.5 - 4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy contemporary romance that falls more on the emotional end of the spectrum.

When 18 year old Tate and 21 year old Sam meet by chance on vacation in London they fall fast and hard. With their grandparents they spend nearly two weeks together and become inseparable. Tate tells Sam her deepest darkest secret, that she's the child of famous actor Ian Butler. When Sam disappears and the press swarm their hotel, her secret is out and she knows she's been betrayed by the only boy she's ever let in. Years later, as a famous actress, Tate is going to star in a film with her father. Despite what they want the media to think, they're not close, and before the press found her, he wasn't in her life. Filming is going to be tense, and that is before she realizes that Sam wrote the screen play for the movie she's starring in. How can she put on the performance of her life, while he's watching her every move?

I meant to read Love and Other Words before I got to this one, but I ran out of time. I didn't quite know what to expect from a more emotional Christina Lauren book. One thing I love about their writing is the comedy. I found myself enamored with young Tate and Sam, and their whirlwind romance in London. I didn't want the betrayal to happen, even though I knew that it would. I also liked Tate and Sam in the present. I thought that their conflict and romance was very slow burn, which I liked, but there wasn't as much tension as I expected. I'm not overly into plots about famous people, so while I liked the parts where they were filming the movie, all of the PR and high profile stuff wasn't my favorite. I thought that Sam was really swoony, and that his movie sounded incredible. I liked the ending, but felt like it could have possibly used an epilogue. Overall I enjoyed this one, but I was hoping for a bit more tension, romance, and drama. All that being said, it took me about a day to read, so it is definitely captivating, just not my favorite CL book to date.

When Dreams Begin by Lisa Kleypas own, physical book

5 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy historical romance, especially something on the more emotional end of the spectrum.

When a chance encounter with a roguish stranger at her first ball since her husband's death catches Lady Holland Taylor off guard, she re-examines her future. When Zachary Bronson gets a taste of the most irresistible woman he's ever kissed by surprise, he must know who she is. When he finds out that Lady Holly is a widow and one of the most proper women in the 'ton he hires her to teach him and his family proper etiquette. He made his fortune, and though successful in business, he is not quite accepted in the elite circles and he needs a high standing wife to help solidify his place within the 'ton. As Lady Holly helps him prepare to woo a bride, she finds herself fighting attraction that has been growing ever since the ball. Not only is she attracted to Zachary Bronson, but to the life she lives with more freedom for her and her young daughter. When the truth comes out about a promise she made to her dying husband, she must make a choice between duty and her happiness.

This book hit me right in all of the feelings. To start, this woman is a widow and lost her husband to Typhoid. She had a hard time figuring out who she was without him. I loved that she decided to go with her gut and try to change her life even to the dismay of her family. I thought that Zachary was a straight up scoundrel, but then I saw how he was with his family and her daughter Rose and I really fell for him. There was so much tension in this book, which makes the whole story so much fun to read. It also had so many of my favorite tropes: forced proximity, taking care of the other person while they are sick, funny children, etc. I adored how much they fought over propriety, especially when he bought her a wardrobe of clothing without her permission. Oh gosh, I laughed so hard. The end of this book is quite emotional, which I didn't expect, but I found myself really loving it. I love how much they changed throughout the book. There was one line in the book that caught me off guard. I've been thinking about it for days and I'm pretty sure it was either 1) completely random and meaningless or 2) that there was going to be another plot line woven in that was removed... but there was a homophobic comment that was disappointing made by Zachary. The more I think about it the more I'm pretty sure it was either meant to show his silly pride, or to go with a story where he was abused by a man, but it ended up just kind of being there... and there wasn't any follow up. It almost felt too causal to even have any meaning. Of course I'd prefer not to have these lines, but I am going to go with it was a throwaway line in an otherwise great book.

Baking Me Crazy by Karla Sorensen library, physical book

3 Stars - I might recommend if you enjoy contemporary romance.

The men in Levi Buchanan's family are cursed to fall in love quickly, hard, and with one woman for the rest of their lives. Levi thinks this is a bunch of nonsense until he meets Joss, a player on the wheelchair basketball team he helps to coach. He immediately asks her out, and she turns him down. 5 years later they're best friends, and he hasn't brought up dating since. When Joss starts having feelings for her new PT, the first time she's ever had feelings for anyone, Levi decides to throw his hat in the ring or risk losing Joss to another man. Can she get past her insecurities related to her disability and her inexperience with romance to get to know Levi in a new way?

For starters, I haven't read the Winston Brothers series by Penny Reid. This book is set within that world, though written by a different author. I loved the town and the bakery, and I adored all of the side characters. I loved seeing a romance with diversity in ability, this is the first of it's kind for me. I enjoyed getting a glimpse into Joss's life with her wheelchair, but I did find her hard to relate to. It's hard to say how much of that is me not quite getting into her shoes vs. just not quite clicking with her personality. Levi was a sweetie, and I liked seeing him pine for her and later try to woo her. It was very cute, and I loved his family too. I thought that the chemistry between the characters was really good, and that they were really funny and cute together. I struggled with the conflicts because I just couldn't quite get into Joss's mindset. She kept getting so upset and pushing him away, and that was just hard for me to identify with. Overall this was a cute book and I would consider reading more in the series. I really loved Joy, so I hope a future book might be about her. :)

Monthly totals:

Read - 8
Owned - 1
Ebook - 7
Physical book - 7
ARC - 7
Library/Borrowed - 1
Bought - 36 (34 physical books, 2 ebooks) - 2 books were freeee! :)
To Let Go - 0


Yearly Totals:


Read - 82
Owned - 22
Ebook - 49
Physical book - 40
ARC - 38
Library/Borrowed - 20
Bought - 174 (136 physical books, 44 ebooks) - 28 books were freeee! :)
To Let Go - 55


Linking up with Jana and Steph for Show Us Your Books today. :) 


What have you been reading? What do you hope to read this month?! 

Let's be friends on Goodreads!

XO,

Alexandra

* Asterisks denote titles that I was given advance access to by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. These reviews are my own opinion, and based on the edition of the book I was given at the time. Thank you Netgalley

**Double asterisks denote books won via a goodreads giveaway! 

***Triple asterisks denote titles that I was given advance access to by Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. These reviews are my own opinion, and based on the edition of the book I was given at the time. Thank you Edelweiss!

****Quadruple asterisks denote titles that I was given advance access to by the author of the book in exchange for an honest review. These reviews are my own opinion and based on the edition of the book I was given at the time!