Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Christmas Fiction 2018 // Vol. I

H-h-happy fall! Because the world is crazy and delightful... Christmas books are publishing right about now! You all know that I looove a good fluffy holiday read... Here are a few that I've read so far this year! Check out my reviews so you don't pick up a dud! I will probably have a Volume II coming next month! :) (I know this is not everyone's genre, so I wanted to share it in a separate post from my normal monthly reads!)

Santa's On His Way by Various Authors* - publishes September 25th, 2018

Overall 3 Stars - I might recommend if you enjoy Christmas fiction and short stories.

What the Cowboy Wants for Christmas by Maisey Yates - 3 Stars - Foster siblings Meg, Noah, and Charlie have a complicated relationship. Meg has always loved Charlie, Charlie has always loved himself, and Noah has always loved Meg, but she doesn't know it. When Meg flies to meet Charlie for Christmas and finds him with another woman she runs back to her best friend, Noah. What once was platonic has shifted, and when she gets snowed in at his house, things are bound to change.

Overall I liked this story, it was a little bit angsty as only stories with characters who have tortured pasts can be. This was quite R-rated, which I wasn't expected and ended up being (by far) the most explicit story in the bunch. I overall enjoyed it, but it was very much a competition between the two men, everything was a comparison... which I didn't love. This story was also not overly Christmassy... which isn't my preference for a Christmas book. Also, he owns a ranch... but it's almost never mentioned. I feel like putting Cowboy in the title is just using a buzzword. I liked the epilogue in this one!

Snowed In by Staci Finz- 2.5 Stars - Rachel and Boden own restaurants in a ski resort town, they are both bidding on a large river-front property to expand their businesses, but only one can win. Rachel has been hurt by men before and steers clear of them, Boden has had a thing for her since the beginning... but they but heads at every turn. When they cater a wedding together and get snowed in at the location, all bets are off.

I didn't really love this story, because I didn't really like the characters very much. I felt like the characters didn't have a ton of witty banter that I've come to love from hate-to-love romances. The premise was cute, and it was alright to read, but definitely not my favorite in the bunch. I liked the ending and the epilogue as well.

A Cowboy Wedding for Christmas by Nicole Helm - 4 Stars - Lindsay and Cal were high school sweethearts. When Lindsay left for college and to find her own way in the world, Cal took it as another betrayal, just like each of his moms leaving him. When Lindsay's brother gets married at Cal's Christmas tree farm, he finds out she's back for good. But can he trust her not to leave again?

This was my favorite of the bunch. I liked that it was very Christamassy, I felt like there was a bit more depth to the characters, and I loved the family dynamics in this story. I liked this epilogue as well!

A Baby for Christmas by Lisa Jackson - 3 Stars - Annie always wanted a baby, but her infertility instead became the death of her marriage. Her sister is her opposite in every way, flitting from town to town, man to man, and job to job. When a baby is left on Annie's porch, and one of her sister's exes comes asking about his baby she knows she has to do whatever it takes to keep the baby.

This felt a little bit dated. It was set in the 1990s which could have added to that just a bit. I didn't particularly relate to the characters, and I felt like the instalove was a little bit extreme. In the end I enjoyed parts of it, and didn't enjoy other parts. It was alright. There was one unfortunate paragraph where they go immediately from talking about making love to cleaning out gutters that just sounded sooo wrong. LOL

Rescued by Christmas by Erika Marks* - publishes September 25th, 2018

4 Stars - I definitely recommend if you enjoy contemporary Christmas fiction.

When pop star Jackson Wilder crashes his Range Rover in the mountains on his way to a week of solitude, he limps through the storm to a lit up barn. In the morning he's discovered by a little boy, Ollie, who thinks that Jackson is Santa Claus... because he happens to be dressed up as Santa Claus. Miranda, the Ollie's mom, is terrified that there is a stranger in her barn, but quickly realizes that Jackson doesn't pose a threat to their family. As a vet, she takes care of his wounds and lets him camp out in their barn apartment. When the little boy asks Santa to heal their dying horse, Jackson has to stick around and keep up the charade.... and quickly realizes that he doesn't mind doing so.

This is quintessential Christmas fiction for me. It was cute, fluffy, and had a lot of Christmassy activities in it. I loved Jackson and Miranda, they were cautious but hopeful in a way that only fluffy books can pull off, and Ollie was the cutest. I loved all of Ollie's very kiddo questions, and the fun that he brought to the book. I loved that Miranda was a vet, and the horse rescue element of the book as well.  All of the cozy family meals, decorating the tree, sledding, etc. definitely put me in the holiday spirit. This had romance in it, but it wasn't overly romantic which worked out well with the family aspect. Definitely PG. :) Basically this is exactly the kind of book I am looking for when I pick up a Christmas novel. Definitely recommend if you enjoy Christmas fiction!

Christmas Sisters by Sarah Morgan* - publishes September 25th, 2018

4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy contemporary Christmas fiction and stories of family dynamics and drama.

When Posy, Hannah, and Beth's parents die in a tragic avalanche they are taken in by their mom's best friend Suzanne. Every Christmas they are haunted by the tragedy, so Suzanne tries to make it the best Christmas ever each year. This year Posy is wishing she didn't feel obligated to stay in Scotland with Suzanne and her husband, Beth is wanting to go back to work while her husband wants her to have another baby, and Hannah is pregnant and not happy about it. Will they be able to have a happy Christmas amidst the chaos?

Isn't this cover pretty?! Le swoon!

Due to the subject matter, at times this book was heavier than I wanted a Christmas book to be. There was a lot of PTSD for the characters, and a lot of insecurities due to their upbringing, etc. I had to take some breaks in between, but eventually it got more toward the current family drama and the holidays which was better. I could identify with each of the people in the book which was nice, and at times a little too close to home. Once they all got together for Christmas the warm fuzzy, and less isolating drama occurred and that was better for me. I loved the family dynamics and their struggles. About 3/4 the way through a little twist happened that stirred things up and I loved it. I also loved how the sisters opened up to one another and talked about their deep rooted fears and issues. It made me really emotional from time to time. While this had romance in it, it was much more of a family drama. I was surprised by how much I ended up liking it. It won't be my last Sarah Morgan book!

Alaskan Holiday by Debbie Macomber* - publishes October 2nd, 2018

3 Stars - I might recommend if you enjoy very fluffy contemporary Christmas fiction. This was not my favorite by Macomber by a long stretch.

Josie spends a summer working at a restaurant lodge in a remote Alaskan town. While she's there she falls in love with Palmer, a local blacksmith. He proposes, but her life and future are in Seattle as a chef. When she leaves she'll have to re-evaluate her life and her priorities. Can they make it work despite their very different worlds?

As with many Debbie Macomber books this one is fuzzy and a bit unrealistic, which is usually just what I'm looking for in a Christmas novel. While I enjoyed the story and the residents of the town of Ponder, AK this one felt a bit too stilted to me. I also didn't particularly care for the fact that the couple was already together when the story began, and it was more about how they would make it work. It made it seem like there wasn't any fun banter or chemistry, even though the characters were in love. I also felt like some of the characters were too over the top. I liked Jack a lot at first, but then he became so hysterical it wasn't really believable or that funny anymore. The epilogue was also pretty unbelievable.... even in a fantasy world the things that they all accomplished just went on and on. I won't spoil it, but it felt like too much. Not my favorite of Debbie Macomber's Christmas books, but I'll highly recommend Merry & Bright or Trading Christmas if you are looking for something a little more banter-y and slightly more realistic.

There you have it! Four 2018 Christmas releases that are on shelves now, or very soon! Volume II headed your way next month!

Do you like Christmas fiction?!

Let's be friends on Goodreads!



* 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!

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Keep It Together: A Planning & Memory Keeping Blog Hop - September 2018

I'm so excited for another edition of Keep It Together with Lauren from Shooting Stars Mag today! :) This linkup is all about planners, memory keeping, bullet journals, etc. So please feel free to linkup your posts on the Third Thursday of every month! Make sure to hop on over to Lauren's page and check out her post too! :)


I haven't been doing too much planning, all of my energy has been put into moving and settling into our new house! However, I did buy a 2019 planner. What do you guys think of it? Part of me is really missing my ECLP. I just feel so unorganized... I'm not sure BUJO as a planner works for me. Opinions?

via Crate Paper Blog :) 

I haven't unpacked my scrapbook things yet, but I am so excited to get to work on more of my 2018 album. I'm also looking forward to October-December Daily assuming I do those. I am definitely doing December Daily, and I'm losing my patience over the Crate Paper Merry Days going on sale... when oh, when?! I love the classic colors but the different elements. I'm dying over the swans. 

That's it for now. I hope to have something exciting to share next month!

What have you guys been planning or documenting?

    An InLinkz Link-up



Monday, September 10, 2018

August 2018 Reads // Assassin Nuns, Late Bloomers, and a Thriler

Build A Bowl: 77 Satisfying Nutritious Combos: Whole Grain + Vegetable + Protein + Sauce = Meal by Nicki Sizemore*

4 Stars - I recommend this mix and match cookbook if you are looking for some new and exciting recipes, and to try out the "bowl" trend in eating.

I loved this incredibly visual cookbook! The photos, fonts, and ways that the pages and recipes are displayed are so eye catching and make you WANT to try the recipes. I love that she gives exact measurements on each ingredient for the bowl, as well as tips on big batch prepping (on stove top AND rice cooker!), combining textures/colors, etc. I have been intrigued by the idea of "bowl" dinners for quite some time and really enjoyed reading this cookbook. I can't wait to try the recipes. The options within this book vary from breakfast to dinner, sweet to salty, and everywhere in between. There are sweet breakfast bowls, Mexican flavored bowls, Asian inspired ones, anything you can think of is in this book. Though I am not one to personally enjoy cooked grains for breakfast (oatmeal, etc.) there are tons of options in here for those of you who do enjoy those. From Italian to Moroccan, this book is packed full of flavorful and exciting bowl combinations. A few recipes that I specifically cannot wait to try: Huevos Rancheros, Green Beans and Grains, Grilled Pepper & Sweet Corn Salad, Greek Goodness Salad, Marinated Bean Salad, Buddha Bowls, Easiest-Ever White Bean Soup, Roasted Cauliflower and Squash with Black Beans and Avocado + Creamy Chipotle Sauce, Asian Meatballs with Sesame Broccoli + Sweet Spicy Glaze, Chipotle Marinated Hanger Steak, Lightened Up Chili Bowls, Roasted Shrimp with Snow Peas & Sweet Corn + Mint & Cilantro Sauce, Roasted Salmon and Asparagus, and so many more. I love the the recipes are very mix and match as well and that she gives ideas for alternate sauces, multiple ways to cook the eggs, etc. as you go. I think that this is an excellent resource for someone looking to try some exciting new recipes, and try out the concept of dinner bowls. I also loved her tip on serving the items in separate piles on a plate for picky kiddos. That way they can eat separately, or make their own bowls. I highly recommend this cookbook. I'll update once I have tried a few of the recipes!

Not So Nice Guy by R.S. Grey****

3.5 Stars? - I recommend if you enjoy contemporary romance, quirky characters, and the friends to lovers trope.

Sam and Ian have been best friends for three years. Sam has love Ian for three years, and Ian has loved Sam for three years. Ian starts a rumor at the school where they work that they are dating, so other single teachers won't hit on Sam. When she squashes his rumor, single male teachers come out of the woodwork to date her. Suddenly Ian has to put his hat into the ring as well. Is he ready to be more than just friends?

I love R.S. Grey's books, they are so darn cute and funny. This was no exception. It started out incredibly hilarious and I loved their initial chemistry. Friends to lovers is one of my favorite romance tropes, so I was loving how it was progressing. I was having a rough couple of days though, so I am not sure if it skewed my opinion... but it ended up being a little bit all over the place for me. I loved the beginning, I loooved how he threw his hat in the ring, and some of the steamy/tension-y scenes at that point. However, I felt like I didn't understand Ian's character after that. He was trying to seduce her and then he just kind of asked her to date and stopped communicating. Maybe I didn't quite "get" them. I like that he gave her space to figure out what she wanted, but other times she asked for what she wanted... and got turned away. I'm not really sure. During that time a lot of zany things happened, which wasn't quite what I expected from her book. Not completely sure how I feel about it yet, it was a fun read, it had some really good steamy parts, but it also wasn't my favorite I've read from R.S. Grey.

Sadie by Courtney Summers*

4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy contemporary thrillers and suspense.

When 13 year old Mattie is found murdered, her older sister Sadie will stop at nothing to avenge her sister's death. She must use the clues that she has to find the person responsible. In the meantime Sadie and Mattie's "grandmother figure" May Beth calls West McCray, a journalist to look into the case. As he explores, his podcast "The Girls" begins. Will they find her or will the secrets of Mattie's death die with her?

I don't read a lot of thrillers, because I find I often guess what will happen and I get bored. That was not the case with this book, and I was pleasantly surprised. I really enjoyed the format of this novel, the alternation between podcast style chapter and narrative chapter from Sadie's POV was really interesting, and kept me interested in the plot. I also feel like Summers did a great job of making the chapters end in suspenseful ways that had me continuing to flip pages. I thought that the story was gritty and felt real without being too sunny or too depressing. The podcast portion of the book reminded me very much of Serial, so if you enjoyed that you will likely enjoy this book quite a bit. I highly recommend this fast-paced thriller if you enjoy those sorts of books.

Sneak peak of Seafire by Natalie C. Parker - I enjoyed this sneak peek of Natalie C. Parker's new female pirate book! It was quite short, and I didn't completely understand the technology in the world, but I am excited to read the full novel. This author is actually from my city, I was bummed that I was not able to go to hear her speak at a local bookstore! : /

I also read two short prequels to Consumed by J.R. Ward. I enjoyed both of them. I found them pretty compelling and quite steamy. Thank you to Kristen for telling me that they exist before I read Consumed! :)

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy novels of political intrigue, court life, and a bit of magic.

Ismae was to be expelled from her mother's womb, but survived. She bears a deep red scar, and is said to be the god of death, Mortain's own child. When she is married to an abusive farmer, she is rescued by the herb witch and priest in her city and sent to a convent of Mortain's handmaidens. There she will learn the arts of death, and how to kill those Mortain wills it upon. However, when her assassinations get in the way of Lord Gavriel Duval's plans to cull information from his Duchess's court, Ismae must pose as his mistress and go to court herself. Will they be able to stop traitors to the crown before it is too late?

I really really enjoyed this book. The premise is so neat: nun assassins. I wasn't sure what sort of vibe this book would take: nun boarding school, super fantasy-based, mostly political intrigue, etc. It ended up being mostly political intrigue, which I loved. It would have been cool to have a few more chapters when they were young at the convent, but I loved the part at court, and as Ismae learns about her abilities on her way to court. I loved Gavriel and Beast as well. I think I read all but a few chapters of this in one day. I definitely recommend if it sounds like your kind of thing.

Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers

4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy novels of political intrigue, court life, and a bit of magic. You need to read the first book first. :)

This book picks up where the last one left of, but is from the POV of a different character. This one follows Sybella, another of Mortain's handmaidens of death. She has been assigned to return to her father's very dangerous court acting as a spy, and wait for the opportunity to kill him. Mortain does not mark her father and she grows impatient, questioning his very existence. When Sybella is assigned by the convent to free a prisoner and return him to the duchess, she agrees to do so and then plans to kill her father whether or not he has been marked by Mortain. When she is pulled into the escape with the prisoner she will find all of her plans have changed.

Overall I enjoyed this book more than the first. I appreciated that while it switched main characters and POV, it picked up immediately where the first book left off. I liked Sybella as a main character and was morbidly intrigued by her HORRIBLE family life. It made so much from the first book clearer. I loved, loved, loved Beast in the first book, so I liked that he was a big part of at least half of this book. I thought that this book had a bit more character development and I definitely prefer Sybella and Beast to Ismae and Duval. Lastly, this one was a bit more action packed which I preferred over tons of political intrigue. :) Excited to see where the last book in the trilogy goes.

Phoenix Unbound by Grace Draven*

4.25 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy fantasy with sweeping adventurous plots with a bit of romance.

Gilene has the ability to summon fire. When the empire culls girls and women as slaves for the Rites of Spring, they will be given to the gladiators for a bit of fun, and later burned as a sacrifice to the gods. Gilene attends each year out of duty and to save another from her fate. This year, she is recognized (despite her disguise) by the gladius prime, Azarion.When Azarion explains his goal to escape the arena, she must help him or risk her secret being exposed to the empire. Upon escape, however, Gilene is taken Azarion's prisoner and whisked across the world to his plainland home. He needs her help, and her gift of fire.

I loved the way this novel was set up, the world building was pretty cool. I specifically loved the Savatar section of the book. The culture was so interesting and unlike what I have read before in fantasy novels. It reminded me a wee bit of the Dothraki in GoT, but way less brutal, and way more culturally fleshed out (at least from the show). I became so attached to that whole world and all of those characters. I loved that while this book has romance, it's not really the center of the plot. The world building and character development are much more central. However, I did love the romance, and holy cow, Azarion is such a gentleman, lol! I thought the ending of the book was just a bit rushed, BUT I really like what the author did with it! I cried a little bit, and found the ending SO satisfying. I will 100% read the next books in this series!

The Late Bloomers' Club by Louise Miller***

4 Stars - I recommend if you are looking for a fairly fluffy read, but with quite a bit of depth. Especially if you love the small-town setting and quirky characters. Think, Stars Hollow!

When Peggy the cake lady passes away suddenly, the town of Nora is left with a big hole in it. Nora, the owner of the Miss Guthrie Diner is surprised to learn that Peggy left her house and all of her land to Nora and her sister Kit. When Kit comes to town, she and Nora must decide what to do with their inheritance. Should they sell it to a big box store, to farmers, to summer people, or keep it themselves? As the sisters try to make decisions and re-visit their past, the town must band together as the diner is struck by hard times.

I immediately was drawn to the writing style of this book, and the town of Guthrie. It sounded so cute and charming, and I felt like I could imagine it fully. I also immediately struggled because the chapters were SO LONG. However, at about 40% I think I became more invested in the characters and the plot and breezed through the rest of the book. I loved the details of the town: the places, the people, the town meetings, the online message board, the sculptures, etc. I absolutely ADORED the ending of this book. The way things came full circle made me teary in a happy way! I recommend if you're looking for a feel-good fluffy book with more substance than others. ;)

Anything You Can Do by R.S. Grey

4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy contemporary romantic comedies.

Daisy and Lucas have been rivals their entire lives. Born on the same day, always in the same class, they were fierce competition for one another until the parted ways for college. Over 10 years later they both go back to their hometown to work for an about-to-retire doctor. To their surprise, they aren't working toward the goal of having their own practices, but sharing one. Can they set aside their differences? If not, who will end up winning the 28 year long battle?

Another great book by R.S. Grey. This one wasn't quite as funny as some of the others, but it was just as cute and sexy. I loved the mix of the hate-to-love trope and "the one that got away" the doctor's office setting was also really fun and a nice change! I liked that I thought I could understand both Daisy and Lucas's motivations especially after Ian in Not So Nice Guy... I just did not get him at all. haha I think this one was a bit steamier than some of her other books, which I didn't mind. I could have gone for alternating perspectives though. I love that. Another solid read from R.S. Grey. :) Thank you Heather, for recommending this one!

Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers

3.5 Stars - I recommend if you have read the other books in the series.

Annith has been at the convent for the longest, but still not sent out on a mission. When the abbess tells her she will become the new Seeress and stay at the convent forever, Annith runs away to seek Mortain's guidance and her own path in life. Along the way Annith is taken hostage by Mortian's own army of hellions. How will she escape and confront the abbess about her fate?

This book started out a bit slower than the others, but I ended up enjoying it enough. I thought that the part with the hellions was pretty fascinating, and I liked learning more of the lore of the gods of the world. I felt like Annith's plot was pretty drawn out and a little unfocused though. Honestly, the romance of the story I wanted to love... but about midway through the book it really wasn't my favorite. I didn't get Balthazaar's character... there wasn't a ton of consistency with him. This book did, however, go where I wondered if the entire series would go. Which was kind of fun. Overall it was a little bit long for all of the things that were going on. I am intrigued by her next book (publishing in 2019) which will follow a similar plot but years later.

America's Sweethearts by Jessica Lemmon*

4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy contemporary romance, especially "the one that got away" trope.

This book follows Jax and Allie, high school sweethearts that break up when Allie moves to L.A. to pursue a career in acting. 10 years later Allie is back in Ohio, hiding out from the press after an A-list scandal. Jax is still there, and he's made a life for himself. When Allie's publicist suggests they pretend to date, they're quickly questioning why they broke up in the first place... and what the future holds.

I loved Rumor Has It also by this author, and I couldn't wait to get my hands on this one! It was equally as cute, sweet, and steamy. I am not one to love A-list plots... so that part didn't particularly appeal to me, but I ended up liking it quite a bit more than I thought I would! I loved Allie and Jax, they were such a cute couple and I identified with their long history together, as I married my high school sweetheart. ;) I like Jax's relationship with his sister and family as well. It was also fun to see Caterina and Fox a little bit from Rumor Has It. I would definitely recommend if you are looking for a fun contemporary romance novel! :) Publishes October 2nd!

There you have it, quite a few books! I need to make a fall reading list!

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!



* 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 Penguin First to Read 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 Penguin First to Read!

****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! 

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Roaring, Swinging, Fabulous, Groovy Blog Collaboration // 1980's

Well... I was supposed to post my 1980s picks on Tuesday... but... I was lost in the long weekend and having a chance to finally get a little settled in our new place! :(

Anyhow, let's get into the linkup! Today we're talking about the 1980's! Make sure to hop on over and check out Audrey's blog too! :)

On the first Tuesday of the month, February through November, we're highlighting books & films from/about specific eras that we recommend! (Television shows, too, sometimes!) There's no commitment or link-up during those months on your end, but in December we’ll host a recap/link-up for the entire year!

Fittingly.. I have very few recommendations for the 1980s... ahha

I don't think I've read any books set in the 1980s! Send me your recommendations! :) 

The Breakfast Club - one of my very very favorite movies in high school. I'm overdue for a re-watch. It was pretty pivotal for the time, and I still love it. So quoteable, so much empathy... I love it.

Stranger Things - I fought watching this so hard. I don't like the 1980's, I don't love sci-fi. I did love this show. A lot. It's very very well done and it didn't matter at all that it wasn't right up my alley. :) Who is your favorite character?! Mine is Lucas. :) 

The Goldbergs (TV) - I don't know why, but I've always wanted to watch this. I'm not sure if I will ever get around to it... but maybe. I've always been a fan of Aly and AJ Michalka, and AJ is in this show, so that's probably why I've always thought about watching it. 

Be sure to hope over to Audrey’s blog and check out her recommendations!
Obviously the 1990s is the greatest decade because we were born into this world ;) Just kidding! Next month we’ll dive into the 90s and explore some of the best books, movies, tv shows and more set in this decade! Dig out your scrunchies and overalls!

Have you seen any of these?!

Alright... send me your best 80's recs. Please note that I very very much dislike Footloose. It is what it is.