Thursday, September 17, 2020

Keep It Together // September 2020

Hello All! It's time for Keep It Together! :) Woohoo!

I am excited to post today with Lauren at Shooting Stars Mag and Rebecca Jo from Knit by God's Hand for our Keep It Together linkup!

If you're new here, this is our linkup for all things planners, memory keeping, and journalling. Please feel free to join us on the third Thursday of the month with any posts that fall into those categories! :)




Planning:

I am not up to much planning-wise. We'll see how it's going next month.

Water Color Technique:

Today I am sharing a water color technique called the packaging technique. All you need is paper, water color, and some plastic packaging.




1) Start by painting water color(s) onto a piece of plastic packaging.



2) Flip the packaging over onto the piece of paper and smush around with your finger. Yes, smush is the technical term. :P


3) Remove the packaging and you've got a pretty water color background! You can add more colors on top of it, or play around with how much water vs. paint you use.

Finished Result - inner title page for garden journal




Documenting:

I'm still not sure how I want to document this year, or catch up on last year... if I want to at all... but I do know that I want to continue to document our garden. I started my garden journal when we planned out our space, and since then I have drawn, painted, journalled, listed, and decorated it.

Added a few lists from my planner to the journal. 
Going to add some photos to the blank sides of my garden bed drawings.
Added lists and vision to pollinator garden drawing from months ago.
Printed some photos on my instax printer to test out how it will look. Can't wait to decorate it.
A list of ideas as I go forward.

I am still working, but I like what I have so far! :) 

Up Next:

I am hoping to make some cards for my pen pal group, and to get back into documenting more. I am hankering to work on it! Which is the exact time to make it happen. :) 

What are you guys up to?

XO,

Alexandra

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Keep It Together // June 2020

Hello All! It's time for Keep It Together! :) Woohoo!

I am excited to post today with Lauren at Shooting Stars Mag and Rebecca Jo from Knit by God's Hand for our Keep It Together linkup!

If you're new here, this is our linkup for all things planners, memory keeping, and journalling. Please feel free to join us on the third Thursday of the month with any posts that fall into those categories! :)










Planning:



Right now my planning is just little sketches of fairy houses, and lists of projects I want to start soon. I've been learning about planning by phases of the moon, so I've been making notes on those topics, and my intentions, etc. 

Documenting:








I started working more in our garden journal, so we can keep track of what we plant, how it goes, etc. I decided it would be fun to do little sketches and paint them in the book so I have a visual to go with the notes. I like how it turned out, just a bit of fun to add to all of the facts that will eventually go there. :) I just used water color and black felt tipped pen!

That's pretty much it! 

What's Next?!

I've been trying out some new crafts, and the last few months reading a ton. I'm excited to dig a bit more into my goals and add more to my wonder manifesto later this month and as the summer goes on! :) Right now, going with the flow is really important for my self care!

Do you garden? If so, do you keep a garden journal?

Please feel free to linkup with us below! We'd love to see what you are up to!


XO,

Alexandra

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!
Click here to enter

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

May Reads 2020 // Quarantine Reading... ii

YAY! It's BOOK DAY!

Quick note: I don't post a lot here anymore. Mostly books and planning linkups once a month. On Instagram I am posting quite a lot, and there is where you will find most of my commentary on all of the civil rights work going on right now. I am working out all of my thoughts, all of my goals, and what I am learning, and how I can be a better ally. :) I believe that Black lives matter. I believe that systematic changes need to be made in our country. So now, I'll talk about books. But I didn't want to let this post go on without this info. :)

I have been reading a lot.. but have been very behind on writing my reviews... I got some of them written, so I can link up for SUYB today! :)



Mum's the Word by Staci Hart (Bennet Brothers #3)  - own, ebook

5 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy contemporary romance. Read Coming Up Roses First.

When Maisie Bower is called home to work for her family, her controlling mother and her desire to sink small business Longbourne Flower Shop will quickly become too much. Maisie's goal has always been to work on her outreach program, but now she must take her place as the heiress of Bower. When a chance encounter puts her in the path of Marcus Bennet, the eldest of the Longbourne Flower Shop family, she knows he's off limits, but she can't keep her distance. Can the two have love without risking the fate of their family businesses?

Would call this a modern day re-imagining of the Bennet family from Pride and Prejudice. This is a re-imagining of Mary's story. Which is to say... not much of a story originally.

I should have written my full review ASAP after reading this, and I didn't. But what I can tell you is... I really really loved this book. I thought that Marcus and Maisie were so sweet, and their story was adorable. I loved the beginning, such a meet cute. It all felt very dramatic, and their "forbidden" romance was super fun to read. I loved Maisie's work creating a community outreach program, what an amazing idea. The romance was swoony, there was so much intensity and certainty. I loved that. It wasn't one of those romances that is just mis-communication start to finish. Which is always a breath of fresh air! As usual, I loved the meddling Bennet brood and all of the good natured ribbing and shenanigans. Though I loved the romance, I think the Bennet family as a whole is always my favorite part of these books.

Hold Your Breath by Katie Ruggle (Search and Rescue #1) library, ebook

4.5-5 Stars - I highly recommend if you enjoy action/suspense with some romance. This ends on a cliff hanger, and is part of a 4 part series.

Lou has escaped her controlling ex-boyfriend and moved to a remote part of the Rockies to join a volunteer dive rescue team. She's determined to make it on her own, and learn mountain life. When a dive team ice training unearths a body, a mystery unfolds to identify the victim, and find the killer. As things get more dangerous, Lou's dive team captain, Callum, has her questioning her need to "go it alone". Will they find the killer, before the killer kills them?

I haven't really read a lot of romantic suspense, it read mostly like suspense, but with a little bit of romance. I didn't quite know what to expect but I loved this book! It was so action-packed and fun to read. The dive team in the mountains of Colorado was a great start for this series, and it made for really interesting plot points. I was compelled by the mystery and the suspense, and I was excited to see what would happen. I kept thinking things would calm down, and then there was just SO MUCH ACTION. So many more things kept happening. I often get bored when I read mysteries, but that didn't happen with this one for me! If you like to read action/suspense, I'd recommend this one!

Fan the Flames by Katie Ruggle (Search and Rescue #2) library, ebook

4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy action/suspense with a little bit of romance. You need to read Hold Your Breath first. This ends on a cliff hanger, and is part of a 4 part series.

Rory Sorensen owns a gun shop in town and is known for her no-nonsense attitude and peacefully staying in the middle of the good guys and the bad ones. The latter being the ones who buy her not-so-legal stock of guns. When she defends her shop from a robbery, killing a gang member, she'll find herself on the wrong side of the battle for the first time. Ian Walsh, a fire fighter and a gang member is used to being in the middle, but he'll find himself choosing sides to protect Rory.

I really enjoyed this book, though not quite as much as the first one. It took me a little bit of time, but I ended up really liking Rory and appreciating her character and what she had to go through with an extreme childhood. I liked Ian, and I thought that their relationship was tentative and sweet. I enjoyed the action and how it tied into the first book, though it wasn't quite as compelling as the first book for me. I'm excited to see where the series goes!

The Beast of Beswick by Amalie Howard - own, physical book

4.5-5 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy historical romance, especially the grumpy one falls for the sunshine one trope.

Lord Nathaniel Hart has been wounded in battle, and left by those he loves. He's grumpy, angry, and disagreeable. Thus his new name, The Beast of Beswick. When Lady Astrid Everleigh finds herself in desperation to keep her younger sister out of the clutches of an evil man, she'll offer herself to Beswick in exchange for protection. He's incredibly tempted, but also very reluctant. Can they save each other?

I should have written my full review ASAP after reading this, and I didn't. THIS WAS SO CUTE! I looooove a wounded hero who is super bristly. I love a marriage of convenience plot. I'm very unused to men refusing that offer in these books, so that was a fun change. I can't remember all the details of this right now. But I know I loved it. It was really swoony, really steamy, and really feminist. If you love those things in a historical, I think you'll love this. I can't wait to read more books by Amalie Howard!

Floral Embroidery: Create 10 Beautiful Modern Embroidery Projects Inspired by Nature by Teagan Olivia SturmerARC, ebook

5 Stars - I really enjoyed this how-to book for beautiful floral embroidery.

I love this gorgeous embroidery book. The author's introduction and dedication to her craft at the inspiration of her grandmothers is so heartening. It gives the reader inspiration that we can learn from our elders, and take their advice into our own lives as we grow. I appreciate the simple guide to needed supplies, and basic stitches provided by the author. I've never done proper embroidery, and found her directions very easy to follow. I appreciate that she also provides exact floss colors to use for each pattern, as well as the patterns themselves. I think that the gorgeous photos of the embroidery projects make the craft even  more enticing to learn. The only thing I would have loved to see was a photo or two of the author with her grandmothers either in the introduction or at the end of the book. I can't wait to try out these embroidery patterns using this book!

A Secret for a Secret by Helena Hunting (All In #3) ARC, ebook

3.5-4 Stars - I recommend if you have read the rest of the series.

When "Boy Scout" Ryan Kingston gets some life-changing news, he decides to do what he never does, get drunk. When a beautiful woman sits next to him at the bar, also wallowing, they decide to get drunk, and consequently spend an amazing night together. Weeks later, at the starting meeting for the NHL season, King recognizes the manager's new assistant, it's the woman he had a one night stand with... and the manager's daughter. Queenie is running away from one bad decision after another, but spending the night with King wasn't one of them. When her father gives her the rule not to date men on the team, her and King try to keep it platonic.

I love this series so much, it was super fun to see the characters from the other books again! I love the bromance between King, Rook, and Bishop. (woah I just caught that... chess pieces...!). I thought that the differences between King and Queenie were adorable and made them a great couple. There was a lot of chemistry and tension to swoon over. They balanced each other out really well, and it was so fun to read about their relationship. I liked her aspiring career as an art therapist and a look at Alex and Violet's kids. I felt like there were a few too many conflicts in this story for me, but that overall I enjoyed the book. Looking forward to seeing what comes next... and I hope it's what I think it is!

Beltane: Rituals, Recipes & Lore for May Day by Melanie Marquis - own, physical book

4 Stars - I recommend if you are interested in learning about the sabbats of the year, specifically May Day.

One of my goals this year was to learn more and to read more non-fiction. I found myself learning about the wheel of the year, and interested to learn more about each sabbat. This book focuses on Beltane or May Day. I love mythology, symbology, and holidays, so it was really fun and informative to read about this ancient festival and how it evolved over the years. I also enjoyed learning about symbols for this part of the year, and activities to do, recipes to make, etc. I wasn't personally interested in the ritual/spell portion, but I found this book really useful all the same. I'm excited to learn more about the sabbats as the wheel of the year goes on. :)

Dreamer's Pool by Juliet Marillier (Blackthorn & Grim #1) - own, physical book

CW - mentions of sexual assault. Not vividly described on the page.


4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy historical fantasy with a bit of mystery.

When Blackthorn makes a deal with a mysterious other folk, she is sprung from her prison, along with her silent prison mate, Grim, but has to set aside her goal of vengeance for seven years, agreeing to assist anyone who asks for her help. The two travel to Dalraida and begin helping the people of the city. When the prince, Oran, comes to them with a curious issue, they must solve the mystery of his changed fiancee, before he must wed her.

I made it a goal to read more of Juliet Marillier's work this year, and so far that has been really enjoyable. I read Harp of Kings last year and fell in love with her writing. Earlier this year I read her unfinished Wildwood series and thought it was very fun. I started this series next, because it was shorter than some of her others. :) I was a little bit surprised to find that this novel contained very few fantasy elements, but did have a mystery. I enjoyed the quick start to the novel and the intrigue related to Blackthorn's new purpose in Dalraida. I liked that both Blackthorn and Grim were both very complicated characters. They both have a lot of hurt and baggage, and that plays a big part in their stories. I liked them as a team, and that they balance each other out. Oran was also an interesting character, but I admit I found him a little bit helpless, and thought that his disagreement with his friend was pretty silly. However, I overall liked all of the characters and the setting, and am excited to continue with the next two books in the series. I am interested to see if they will be situational mysteries? We shall see. Still out of Marillier's books nothing has topped Harp of Kings, but that's ok. I am enjoying the ride. Her writing is always great, and her worlds are always very interesting. This is definitely a very "Me Too" era book, written back in 2013.

The Deep by Rivers SolomonARC, ebook

CW - self harm, attempted suicide. Alluded to.

3-3.5 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy unique fantasy, with vivid world building. This is a novella, but it felt more like a short full length novel to me.

Yetu is the historian of the underwater people descended from slaves thrown overboard from their captor's ships. She bears the weight of their entire history, and it is taking it's toll on her. She is emaciated and has forgotten about the yearly remembering ceremony, where she gives the people of her world the history, and is free of its burden for a short time. She makes the incomprehensible choice to flee to freedom, but can she leave her people to her former suffering? What will happen if they cannot contain the history and end their society as the world knows it?

Wow, first of all, what a unique concept for a fantasy novel. It pulled me in immediately, and the history gives a second meaning to the story that follows. I was very interested in the world that was created and the magic of their history as well. I connected to Yetu's anxiety and overwhelm, but did have a hard time relating to her journey within the novel. While it was very interesting, and short, I didn't find myself having trouble putting it down. It had sort of a slow pace, that I was having trouble connecting with at this time. The way everything came together in the end was very satisfying and and felt relatively powerful. I will say, even with as much as a romance lover as I am... I don't think this story needed the romance. The connections that were made could have been achieved in other ways. I'm not against it, but it felt like a little bit of an afterthought, or an extra. Overall this this book is a really interesting new piece of fantasy. I recommend it if you are looking for something different and engaging.

Marshmallow by Megan Wade (Sweet Curves #1) borrowed KU, ebook

1 Star - I can't really recommend this one.

I don't know how to rate this one. I was so excited to find this adorable looking set of romance novellas featuring plus sized women! The beginning of this book was so cute: a plus sized instagrammer gets asked to do a cover shoot with a male model that she's had a crush on for a long time. She was very body positive and fun, and I was so excited for the rest of the story. However, the love story was so questionable. :( HIGHLIGHT FOR SPOILERS: There is an 11 year age gap, she's nearly a virgin, and never had a boyfriend. He knows she's his soulmate, and decides (WITHOUT ANY CONVO) not to use birth control, and to intentionally get her pregnant because they are meant to be. WHAT?! Then she immediately starts feeling not good enough for him, because he's hot and she's plus sized... and I know that everyone has insecurities, and that's fine to share and be realistic about... but she was only body positive in this story when he was appreciating her body. That's not really body positivity. I know these novellas are labelled as instalove, over the top, alpha male, etc. etc. but there is a difference between those things and how I felt reading this. Because I WANT to like this series a lot, and there were redeeming parts to it.... and they only take an hour to read, I WANT to at least read the next one... but I don't think it is going to get better. So I guess I'll stop here. :(

The Delicate Deception by Cat Sebastian*** ARC, ebook

4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy historical romance. This one has LGBTQ+ characters.

Amelia Allenby has embarrassed herself and her family in the ballroom, and has removed herself to the country for some solitude. She can't stand pretending to be something she's not, small talk, etc. She avoids everyone at all costs, taking very early walks to make it so. One day, she finds her walks interrupted by an intriguing, but infuriating stranger. Sydney Goddard is back in the country at the estate he inherited due to his brother's death. This is the last place that he wants to be, until he interrupts Amelia's morning walks. He doesn't tell her that she is technically a tenant on his estate, and she doesn't tell him her history either. They quickly become more than friends, but can their unnamed relationship survive so much deception?

This was a fun and quick historical romance. I liked the writing style and the characters quite a bit. I thought that Amelia was refreshingly herself, and Sydney's grumpiness and dislike of the upper classes made them an interesting pair to read about. Amelia tended to get so up in arms with Sydney that there were just some very funny sections of the book. Amelia suffers from some kind of social or generalized anxiety, and as a fellow anxiety sufferer I felt it was portrayed in a realistic and thoughtful way. I loved that Sydney was so understanding and helpful related to her anxiety. That was very sweet and something you don't find in historical romance to this extent. It was also nice to see some representation for bisexual characters in historical romance. It wasn't a huge element of the story, but approached in a matter of fact way, which I rather liked. I really enjoyed Amelia's relationship with her friend Georgiana, and Sydney's friendship with Lex. They were all very off the wall, and really funny as a group. There were some very hilarious conversations and bromances happening. It makes me want to read more of the series just to laugh at conversations between more fun characters. I appreciate the Cat Sebastian is diversifying the romance genre!

Pumpkin by Megan Wade (Sweet Curves #2) borrowed KU, ebook

2 Stars - I can't really recommend this one. :(

Yet again, I don't know how to rate this one. On the plus side (har), this book was better and less problematic than Marshmallow (I think). Because the characters already know each other, it seems less strange when they get together and everything is so intense. I thought that the Thanksgiving plot was cute, and that there was a lot less in the way of body issues in this one. (they were not non-existent, but it was better). There wasn't a ton of insecurity, she wasn't only thinking about herself in terms of what he thought, etc. HOWEVER, HIGHLIGHT FOR SPOILERS: there were still some problems here for me. There is a thirteen year age gap between them and she is NINETEEN. He noticed he had feelings for her when she was SEVENTEEN, and moved away to keep his distance. He tried to never be around when she was to avoid what he felt was inappropriate feelings. Is this good or bad? He tried not to act on it, and didn't until she was 19... but it still feels a little creepy. It does feel a lot less creepy than the other book though. Like with Marshmallow, she doesn't have any sexual or dating experience, which makes it a little bit creepier. But I do understand that she liked him the whole time... which is something that wasn't surprising to me. Preteen girls often have crushes on friends' older brothers. Again, the "I must get you pregnant immediately" thing is so confusing and weird to me. Why? Is this a kink? At least they had a tiny convo about it this time. The epilogue was cute, and overall this one was less problematic than the last. I don't have issues with age gaps, more just the combo of all of these things made it feel kinda weird. Yet again, I am thinking I might read the next book because they are so short and I want them to be good... I don't know.

Mermaid Inn by Jenny HolidayARC, ebook

4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy contemporary romance, this is a bit Hallmark-y but steamier.

When Eve Abbott's great aunt passes away and leaves her her famous "Mermaid Inn", Eve must go back to Moonflower Bay and try to sell it. She's avoided the town, and its inhabitants for the last ten years, and has no desire to go back. Her first act of laying low? Getting stuck on the roof of the inn, and having the sheriff (her ex and high school sweetheart), Sawyer called to rescue her. When she finds out that she is not allowed to sell the inn for a year, she wrestles with her past and where her future will take her.

You know that Taylor Swift song It's Nice to Have a Friend? I love it, it's just so cute. Evie and Sawyer remind me of the people in the song. They grew up together, they did everything together, and they grew into more. The second chance romance isn't usually my favorite, but the familiar trope of a woman moving back to a small town she doesn't want to be in, and getting sucked in is one that I really enjoy. So the pairing of the two worked well for me. I loved the town of Moonflower Bay. I loved the quirkiness, the characters, the traditions, the lake, etc. I liked that the older residents of the town were conspiring to match make the younger folks. That was really cute, and honestly it would have been fun to see a little bit more of it! I thought that this book had a nice mix of serious and funny, and was overall pretty darn fun. I would have liked some more flashbacks to when they were kids, just to round out more of their history. I loved the family aspect with Sawyer's sister Clara and their found family with their friends. It will be fun to read more books in this series and see what happens with Jake, Law, Maya and the matchmakers. I loved the bromance between the guys so much. So many little things about this book appeal to me as well, I LOVE mermaids and moon flowers, so all of the symbolism and traditions related to those were so much fun to me. If you enjoy Hallmark-y small town plots with a bit more steam, and some quirkiness along the way I think you'll enjoy this fun summer read.

Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker, Illustrated by Wendy Xu library, ebook

3 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy ya graphic novels.

Nova works in her grandmother's bookshop, and is a witch. When she sees a white wolf in the woods one night she realizes it is her childhood crush Tam. Tam is battling a horse demon, and soon Nova, Tam, and the nanas will find themselves trying to save the town from the horse demon.

I had seen people reading this and decided to give this a shot in between books. The illustrations were so cute (especially the cats and forest creatures), and I enjoyed the story, though it ultimately felt a bit too teenagery for me. It was a cute, witchy graphic novel with lots of representation from ability to sexuality. I loved the nanas and the family dynamic. The family dynamic with her parents, etc. wasn't explained at all which was kind of confusing... I wish there would have been more there. I loved the holiday aspect, the whole story was very cozy. There was not a lot of back story on their Nova and Tam's relationship, I wish that there would have been more flashbacks. Without them it felt a bit instant. I enjoyed the puns thrown in. The magic system wasn't particularly explained and I don't think I really "got" the spell that they did for connection or why it continued the way it did as the story went on. Lastly, as a foodie and someone who loves food in books, I wish that we would have heard more about the actual mooncakes. They are mentioned in passing once, and that was all we got. Overall this was cute, with great representation, but ultimately too teenagery I think, for me.

Gone Too Deep by Katie Ruggle (Search and Rescue #3) library, ebook

5 Stars - I highly recommend if you enjoy action/suspense with a bit of romance. You need to read Hold Your Breath first. This ends on a cliff hanger, and is part of a 4 part series.

When Ellie's mentally ill father calls her and tells her he's being followed and he is going to their family cabin in the remote Rockies she is terrified. She flies to Colorado and aims to hire a guide to take her to the cabin, hoping that her father hasn't perished in the snow, or at the hands of possible killers before they find him. George Holloway, is search and rescue's best nature guide, and reluctantly agrees to help Ellie find her father. Along the way it becomes clear that Ellie has no wilderness experience, and George is in way over his head. When the journey becomes dangerous, he'll find himself protecting Ellie with everything he has.

THIS BOOK WAS SO GOOD. I enjoyed this one just as much as the first book, and enjoyed the survival and outdoor elements of the story. I loved George, he's just the sweetest hulking man ever. I loved Ellie too, and their contrasts were super endearing. I liked that this one was just as action packed as the others. The natural elements mixed with being stalked by a killer made for a very compelling read. A few spoilers (highlight to read): I wish this was Dual POV so bad. Oh it is, but very rarely! BECAUSE HE'S QUIET! His first kiss. GASP. Him missing her and holding her hat. I totally saw the ending coming. BUT I DIDN'T CARE BECAUSE I AM SO COMPELLED. I CAN'T WAIT TO READ THE LAST BOOK!

Sweatpants Season by Danielle Allen - own, physical book

4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy contemporary romance. Also a good diversity pick! Written by a Black author with POC characters.

When Akila meets Carlos in a photography workshop there is immediate chemistry. She is drawn to the quiet, passionate man and his work ethic. When she finds out he's a part of a despicable podcast, she's torn between her feelings for him, and her strong beliefs. When their relationship progresses, she'll have to have hard conversations, and decide what is most important to her.

This isn’t normally a book I’d pick up on my own. BUT The Ripped Bodice sent it to me in a care package, so I obviously had to read it. I’m so glad that they did send it because I really liked this book! I liked both Akila and Carlos, they were both driven and passionate. I enjoyed their enemies to lovers romance. It was very slow burn, and there was a lot of tension. I found this book super sexy, but also very feminist. That's a really good combo in my book. I also appreciated that there were tons of positive female friendships. Yas! This won’t be my last Danielle Allen book!!

Just One of the Groomsmen by Cindi Madsen - own, physical book

3 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy contemporary romance.

Addie has always been "one of the guys". She plays football, joins eating contests, and plays poker every week. When one of her best friends, Tucker, moves back to town, things have shifted to something less platonic. With their buddy's wedding coming up, they can't risk causing drama or heartbreak within the group. But they also can't seem to keep their hands off each other. When Addie gets a job offer in another city, everything changes once again. -- work on this...

I don't know that I've read a "one of the guys" or "tom boy" romance before. It was a fun change of pace. I loved the group of guys and Addie. They were so funny and wiley. I liked the small town Southern setting, and with all of the quirky characters too. Especially because Tucker was a lawyer that moved back home, and also a bit of a "Golden Boy" this story often reminded me of Hart of Dixie. No complaints here. I thought that their relationship was really swoony, and the chemistry was great. The conflict fell a bit flat for me. I thought that Tucker was being pretty idiotic... but that happens. LOL Friends to lovers isn't my favorite romance trope, but I did enjoy this book. I think if the series goes on, I might enjoy the other books even more for that reason. Overall I enjoyed this one!

Girl Gone Viral by Alisha Rai*/*** ARC, ebook

4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy contemporary romance.

Katrina King, is a shy ex-model dealing with panic, living in seclusion. When she unexpectedly meets a man at a coffee shop, and bystanders take it upon themselves to create a fake relationship for them, she'll worry about her anonymity and what this means for her life. The man that she really wants is her long-time bodyguard Jas Singh. He's never made any interest in her known, but she wishes he would. When things get out of control with the viral tweet about her meet cute, Jas will drive her to his family farm to give her the seclusion she needs.

I love a good bodyguard romance. Especially a grumpy sort of silent body guard in a romance. I loved Jas and his calm desire to take care of Katrina. I love that he pined for her for so long. I loved Katrina and her sunny outlook and desire to be happy and care for others. The first book in this series was a little too "modern" (modern love series, I know...) for my personal tastes, but this one was just right. I loved the plot, and how they got away to his family's cabin together. As someone who personally deals with anxiety and panic attacks, I thought that Rai's representation of that in Katrina's character was really accurate and sensitively done. I hope that it helps get some awareness out there  to readers. It actually choked me up a few times, because I've been there, and was lucky to have someone by my side to help me too. I really enjoyed all of the animals, and also Jas's family. I thought that they were all so colorful and funny. I loved the history of his family and the diversity in that area of California. The "I Love You" stole my heart. Swoon, this was such a cute book. Can't wait, as always, for more of Rai's books!

Monthly totals:

Read - 18
Owned - 6
Ebook - 13
Physical book - 4

Audiobook - 1
ARC - 6
Library/Borrowed - 6

Re-read - 0
Bought - 87 (13 physical books, 74 ebooks) - 57 books were freeee!++ :) -- also please note that the bulk were free because/I've bought so much because there so many free/discounted ebooks during quarantine!
To Let Go - 2

Yearly Totals:

Read - 52
Owned - 28
Ebook - 25
Physical book - 24

Audiobook - 3
ARC - 12
Library/Borrowed - 13

Re-read - 2
Bought - 480 (93 physical books, 387 ebooks) - 328 books were freeee! :)
To Let Go - 15

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!

++ pro-tip: use your Amazon shipping at a slower rate to get e-book credits. I do it whenever I don't need something ASAP and it's resulted in a lot of free ebooks. I usually get them when they are $1.99, etc. Just make sure to use them before they expire!

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Keep It Together // May 2020

Hello All! It's time for Keep It Together! :) Woohoo!

I am excited to post today with Lauren at Shooting Stars Mag and Rebecca Jo from Knit by God's Hand for our Keep It Together linkup!

If you're new here, this is our linkup for all things planners, memory keeping, and journalling. Please feel free to join us on the third Thursday of the month with any posts that fall into those categories! :)








Planning & Goals:

I'm starting on a garden planner/journal. I'll share that next month! This month I wanted to show a cool art journalling technique with you guys!

Documenting:





I haven't felt much like documenting or journalling. Back in February, I think, I decided to learn a bit about the wheel of the year, and some of the traditions behind each section, or sabbat. I wanted to live this year very seasonally, so I sketched and watercolored the wheel of the year into my "wonder manifesto" / goal / journal / scrapbook for the year. It's not perfect. One or two sections are oriented the wrong way, and I figured out too late that my pen smudges... BUT I like it! :)




I GOT NEW BRUSHES! I HAVE BEEN USING THE SAME ONES SINCE HIGH SCHOOL (I WILL KEEP USING THEM!) BUT I BOUGHT MYSELF A BIG SET FROM TARGET AND I AM VERY EXCITED IF YOU COULD NOT TELL! - these were $20 from Target. This is not an affiliate link.

Scalawag is impressed. He also tried to eat one... so... take that with a grain of salt.


Watercolor Technique

Last night I played around with some more watercolor techniques that I want to carry into this book at some point. It's super super simple, I had not done it since HIGH SCHOOL.... So I wanted to test it out with good water colors. You can do it!

Water Color Salt Technique


Materials Needed: 

paper
water colors
brushes
salt

1) water color something - A dark sky is an easy one!



2) sprinkle salt on your water color painting before it dries - you can play around with different sizes of salt if you want. Table salt, kosher salt, etc. etc. TIP - more or bigger salt works better for darker colors.



3) let dry - it will look like this before it dries!



4) gently scrape off the salt granules

this is obviously a different painting, but it was the best example of how it looks!


5) admire

Here are some finished products.






I'm excited to use chunkier salts and brainstorm what I want to put in my journal!

What's Next?!

Just trying to figure out my "new normal" like everyone else. 

Have you ever tried watercolors? If so, have you tried the salt technique?

Please feel free to linkup with us below! We'd love to see what you are up to!

XO,

Alexandra

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!
Click here to enter

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

March & April 2020 Reads // Quarantine Reading (aka LONG POST)

YAY! It's BOOK DAY!

I have been reading a lot.. but have been very behind on writing my reviews... I got some of them written, so I can link up for SUYB today! :)



Here we go!

Get A Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert own, physical book

3 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy contemporary romance.

Chloe Brown is chronically ill, living with her family, and doesn't feel like she has "a life". She decides to make a list to do all of the things she thinks she should have done by now. She starts by getting her own apartment, and then finds herself a bit stuck accomplishing the rest of the list. Luckily, her building maintenance guy, Red, seems like just the right person to teach her.

Everyone has raved about this book, but it just wasn't my favorite. I very very much loved the representation in this book. How often do you find a chronically ill MC? Not very often, I also appreciate how realistically that part of her life was portrayed. Beyond that, I had trouble connecting with the characters. I had a hard time with their instalove, and their chemistry. I also felt like since it was dual POV, Red's issues he was working through should have come out sooner. I think waiting kept me from feeling like I "got" his character. Overall, it was cute and fun with really good representation... I just didn't love it.

Jane Doe by Victoria Helen Stone own, ebook

4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy thrillers.

Jane is new to working for an insurance company. She has a low-level job, and pretty dresses. She's pretty, but not remarkable. Just perfect for manager Steven Hepsworth to prey on. And that's her plan. To wiggle into his life, and ruin it.

I had a sneer on my face reading nearly this entire book. I don't read a lot of thrillers, but lately I've been wanting to read quickly paced and thrilling books more often than usual. I was a bit surprised by the simplistic writing style, but soon enough I acclimated and it was a very quick read. I'm not sure if thrillers and revenge novels are different genres... but if so, I'd classify this as the latter. I was intrigued by the story line, and was rooting for Jane start to finish. Steven was absolutely awful, and everything about him made me cringe. I do feel, as I often do with thrillers, that nothing particularly shocked me. It was face paced, entertaining, and satisfying.. but there weren't any "oh wow" moments for me. People I know that really like thrillers seemed to enjoy this one, so I would think it's a pretty solid read. :)

Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews (Kate Daniels #1) own, physical book

4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy urban fantasy.

In post-apocalypse Atlanta magic comes in waves. One minute the magic is up, and technology doesn't work, and the next, the tech is up and magic doesn't work. This can make living in a dangerous world, even more dangerous. Kate Daniels has a target on her back because of the magic in her blood. She has spent her life in plain sight, trying to remain relatively out of sight. She is an investigator of magical crimes, and she's always got plenty to do. When she's approached by the Beast Lord, Curran, she'll work with the shifters to solve a common mystery.

Whew. First, I will say that it took me a while to get into this book. The world building is explained slowly, and I honestly don't felt like I understood the world until the second book. Note: there is an edition of this book with supporting materials in the back... which help you understand the world, I would recommend reading those first. You don't have to, but I bet it helps. Anyhow, once I got the world and magic a little more under my belt I started to enjoy the book more. I like Kate, she's surly and badass. I also liked all of the various other characters and her many connections in magical post-apocalyptic Atlanta. I am interested to learn more about world and the pack as I go. I also liked Curran, also a grump, so that's sure to be interesting, as I assume they will get together.

The Perfect Escape by Suzanne ParkARC, ebook

3 Stars - I might recommend if you enjoy quirky YA.

Nate is a super smart, super active, very quirky teenager who wishes he could be as affluent as his school mates. Kate lives in a smart house, with a tech giant dad, who is never home. When the two meet working at a zombie escape room, Kate suggests they team up for a weekend survivalist competition (complete with zombies) and split the cash prize.

This was such a fun debut novel with a quirky premise. I loved how Nate and Kate meet working in a zombie escape room and how they bond over their love of zombies. I would have liked to see more of the actual escape room throughout the book! I enjoyed the peek into their home and school lives too, though I admit that the middle portion of the book was a little bit long for me. The competition was fun and different to read. I enjoyed the action and survival elements.  The ending was really really sweet and left me feeling fuzzy. My biggest let down was the girl on girl hate. It happens so often in many genres, but I’m over it. I want to see more women supporting each other. Fewer women fighting against each other for men. All that aside this was a very sweet and quirky debut novel and I’d recommend it if it sounds like your thing. Excited to read more from Suzanne Park in the future!

Magic Burns by Illona Andrews (Katie Daniels #2) library, ebook

4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy urban fantasy, or fantasy in general. Start with book one Magic Bites.

The biggest magic wave in seven years is hitting Atlanta, and it's causing a battle between some ancient gods. Kate Daniels will be once again investigating magical crimes, and trying to keep the peace.

The first book in this series was intriguing and quickly paced, but I wasn't sure if I'd love the series. After reading the second installment I can tell you that I'm fully invested. I enjoyed this one much more. The pace was quicker, there was more action and mystery, and you get to know the characters better. I enjoyed the imaginative takes on mythology from various cultures, and the interesting settings and creatures. I'm also loving the developments to Kate and Curran's relationship. That ending really hit me with the warm fuzzies. I stayed up really late finishing this one, and am excited to see where the series and the characters go from here!

Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews (Katie Daniels #3) library, ebook

5 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy urban fantasy, or fantasy in general. Start with book one Magic Bites.

When Kate's shifter friend, Derek is found nearly dead, she'll investigate with the pack what happened. Her information will lead her to the infamous and dangerous Midnight Games undercover. When they find out about a very serious plot they will end up in the fighting arena.

I REALLY ENJOYED THIS BOOK! The further I get into this series, the more I enjoy it. The world is better explained and really interesting, and the relationships deepen. I really enjoyed the Midnight Games and the intrigue along with that. I liked the group teaming up to compete and learning more about the various characters. I really love Andrea, and her friendship with Kate. I hope she continues to be in the series more. I particularly appreciated a very meta section of this book where they talk about alpha males in romance novels. It definitely gave me a chuckle. I loved all of the banter in this book, and am glad that the SUPER SLOW BURN romance is continuing. :)

QUARANTINE READING STARTS HERE:

Hello Stranger by Lisa Kleypas (Ravenels #4) own, physical book

4.5 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy historical romance. Since characters in this book start in the other books,  I would recommend starting with Cold Hearted Rake.

Dr. Garret Gibson, the first and only female doctor in England has never found herself wanting a romantic relationship. She is satisfied with her career and her life that accompanies it. However, when she continually runs into Ethan Ransom, a mysterious former detective (and possible assassin), she'll want more. Ethan is involved in some dangerous political plots, and knows it is best to keep Garret at bay, but he has trouble resisting. Will one night be enough?

This book was so much fun! I loved it so much, and it has now taken the second spot in the series for me. I loved Garret, she's so independent and tough. I also loved Ethan, he's very gruff but charming. I really loved how he helped her to learn self defense, and their sort of "forbidden" attraction and relationship. I thought that it was all very sweet and swoony. I enjoyed that this book was fast paced, and the particularly emotional ending. I also like that West's character gets featured more toward the end. I'm excited to continue with the series.

The Most Eligible Lord in London by Ella QuinnARC, ebook

2 Stars - I wouldn't particularly recommend this one. :(

Lord Littleton is back in London for another try at The Season. Last Season he made a fool of himself and caused a scandal with a woman, and then ran away. This year, he's unfortunately interested in one of her friends Lady Adeline. How can he convince her that he's not going to hurt her? Adeline is spending her first Season in London, and doesn't know a rake from a shovel. When the handsome Lord Littleton is called out by her friend, she believes him to be a rake. The more time she spends with him, the more she questions that assessment, but also feels guilty for betraying her friend. Can she make heads or tales of the Marriage Mart?

I was ultimately drawn to this book because of it's gorgeous cover, so pretty! This was my first book by Ella Quinn, and the first book in a new series. It had the common first book in a series set up for the rest of the books, which is ultimately helpful, but always a bit jarring at first. You're learning a lot of characters without specific information related to them. I thought that the chemistry between Adeline and Frits was good, and I definitely wanted them to become more invested in each other. I liked that Frits wanted to be at his estates and out in the country rather than in Town, and that Adeline also wanted that. I struggled with Adeline's naivete, she just didn't seem to know anything. I think that is a product of her parents and siblings leaving her to her own devices... but it made her a bit annoying to read. I also found this book to be repetitive. Adeline goes driving with one man, then with another. She waltzes with one man, then with another. I realize drives and balls were common activity during The Season, but it just felt a bit cyclical when I was reading it. I also felt like Eugenie's anti slavery plot, while very interesting, was both too much and too little to add to this story. Overall this just didn't work for me. I enjoyed the ending more than the beginning, but it just wasn't my favorite.

The Widow of Rose House by Diana BillerARC, ebook

4.5 Stars - I highly recommend if you enjoy historical fiction, historical romance, and anything with a bit of a spooky feel to it.

When the infamous Mrs. Webster buys a dilapidated mansion in New York, a eccentric scientist asks to study it's ghosts. Alva Webster isn't interested in people who want to hear about her supposed scandals, or really anyone who will get in her way of starting her new life. She turns down Professor Samuel Moore's persistent attempts to study her home. When her contractor and working crews up and leave her home, with their tools inside, saying they will not finish the work, she decides to work with Sam to remove the ghost, and hopefully resume work on the renovation. Despite her tumultuous romantic past, Alva finds herself drawn to the professor, despite her best attempts. Will they discover who or what is haunting her home? Or will the ghost drive them to their ruin?

Wow! This was such a fun book to read. I didn't really know what to expect with this one, and I found it to be a fun mix of historical fiction, horror, mystery, and romance. It had a very Gothic feel to it overall, much like du Maurier novels, or Jane Eyre. I enjoyed the Gilded Age setting in New York and the moves from the city to the country. It was nice to be out of regency England for a bit... I also enjoyed that while the character were wealthy, they had fairly normal professions and that made it feel different from all of the Dukes and Lairds common in historical novels. I really loved the spooky atmosphere that a lot of the book has, but also the contrast of the funny characters and clever dialogue. I enjoyed the "grumpy + sunshine" trope with the unusual slant that the male MC is the sunshine one. I thought Sam was really adorable and quirky, and he brought a lot of light to the story. I also like Alva and how she had overcome so many of her demons, and tried to change her life. Sam's relationship with his family and Henry were so wholesome and charming. I hope I get to read more books set in this world. While I'm not 100% sure I would classify this as solely a romance... it did have some really good chemistry, a fairly large romantic plot, and some steamy scenes. Le Swoon, I loved it! Overall I liked where the story went, and found the conclusion to be really satisfying. I think this was an incredible debut novel, and I cannot wait to read what else Diana Biller writes.

Devil's Daughter by Lisa Kleypas (Ravenels #5) own, physical book

3.5 - 4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy historical romance. Since characters in this book start in the other books,  I would recommend starting with Cold Hearted Rake.

Lady Phoebe is a young widow with two young sons, after the early death of her husband she believes she will never love again. She had heard from her husband what a bully West Ravenel was to him while he was in school, and Phoebe hates him for it. When she attends a family wedding, and meets the man of the estate, she is shocked to find that he is the one and only West Ravenel. However, Phoebe finds it hard to continue hating him. West has lived a regrettable life, but can only move forward. Since working on his brother's inherited estate, he has found his purpose, and his fulfillment. When he meets Lady Phoebe, he knows she is much too good for him, but he struggles to stay away. 

I thought that this book was really cute. I loved Phoebe and have long loved West's character. I especially loved all of the sweet family scenes with her children spending time with her and West. Because I loved West's character so much I was really looking forward to this book, but I did find this one a little bit disappointing. I was hoping for more. Maybe it's because he is older and she is a widow with children, but it all felt a little bit business like. I don't know. It definitely was harder to enjoy for me because there was so much about Phoebe's parents, which feature in a book in another Kleypas series. I haven't read it, but enough of it was about them that it felt hard to enjoy those parts. I still enjoyed the book overall, but felt I didn't have all the connections I needed from the other series to love it as much as some of the others. Excited for the next book!

Outlander by Diana Gabladon (Outlander #1) own, audiobook - re-read

5 Stars - I highly recommend if you enjoy historical fiction and romance.

When WWII nurse Claire is on a second honeymoon with her husband Frank, she is sent back into the past by some standing stones. She reappears in the 1700s, is assaulted by a British officer, and taken captive by some Scottish cattle rustlers. How can she escape and get back home?

Ahh I love this book. Listening to it was such a different experience, but a good way to get myself back up to speed so I can continue reading the rest of the series. I absolutely love Gabaldon's writing style and and the entire world that she created. Everything is so descriptive and vivid whether reading or listening. I of course, adore Jamie and Claire's story. It is so swoony, romantic, and action packed. I forgot how combative they can both be, but it feels natural during such a weird situation. I can't imagine being hurled back in time 200 years. I caught more things on the second pass through and really enjoyed the characters and scenes even more. I found myself more and less emotional at different times during this listen, but I will say that it made my menial work tasks go much faster, and it felt some comfortable and compelling to listen to. I don't have a lot of experience with audiobooks, but it seems worth the money because it is 32 hours long! Also, I liked the narration, but don't have a lot of experience with that yet either.


Matzah Ball Surprise by Laura BrownARC, ebook

3 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy contemporary romance.

When Gaby's family won't get off her back about her ex and her dating life, she desperately asks the cute guy at the gym to be her Passover date. Levi doesn't know what the cute woman talking to him wants, but he's curious and eager to avoid his ex-fiance. Gaby is surprised to find out that her long time gym crush is deaf, but more surprised to find out that he is willing to be her Passover date. Will they be able to fool her meddling family, even when they can't communicate in the same language?

Ah, this book was so cute! I've been wondering for the longest time where all of the holiday books about non-Christian holidays are. Here we go. I love love love the diversity in religion as well as in ability. I also love, that this is an own voices novel for both categories. Overall I thought this book was super cute, and I loved the story, Gaby's family, and her chemistry with Levi. I thought it was great to learn more about Passover and daily issues facing Deaf or Hard of Hearing people. I thought that the holiday plot was very fun, the family aspects were delightful, and the tension between the MCs was fantastic. I wasn't crazy about the conflict and how it played out, there were a lot of people involved, and it seemed a bit unlikely, but it didn't diminish my enjoyment of the characters. I'm so excited that this book exists, and am excited to read more books by Laura Brown soon!

Beautiful by Juliet Marillier own, audiobook

3.5 Stars - I might recommend if you enjoy audiobooks and YA fantasy novels.

This re-imagining of East of the Sun, West of the Moon makes the troll queen the main character of the tale. This is the story of a young girl who grew up with a controlling mother, sheltered and locked away from the world. A young girl who wants to be brave, learn, and have adventures. When her story ends as we know it to in the original tale, she must go out into the world to learn what she needs to know for her future.

This is an interesting book, as it is only available on audio in it's full form. You can access the short story version in an anthology. I am a big fan of Juliet Marillier, her writing style is still gorgeous in audio. Her love of learning and exploring is so evident in her writing, which I love. This would be a great book for younger readers and YA audiences as well. Hulde was a great character from the beginning, she was so sweet and wanted to learn. She was brave despite living in a bad environment, and followed after her dreams. Even when the inevitable happens (if you know East of the Sun, West of the Moon), she doesn't let it break her. I loved how she grew up on the page, and how Roon taught her so many things especially with her life so limited. While the story itself was a bit predictable, I enjoyed the change to read a fantasy novel about trolls, and commentary on what it means to be "beautiful". I was interested in the troll clans, and would have liked to know more about their world. The narration wasn't my favorite on this book, and I admit I found it distracting from time to time. However, I still enjoyed the story overall. While parts of it were simple and a little bit cheesy, it still had the signature Marillier depth. One quote that really stuck out to me was: "take hold of your story, shape it the way that you want, don't be afraid." I loved that Hulde made this her mantra. I also enjoyed the particular truth of, "Stories help folk make sense of things, don't you think?"

Coming Up Roses by Staci Hart (Bennet Brothers #1) own, ebook

5 Stars - I highly recommend if you enjoy contemporary romance.

Would call this a modern day re-imagining of the Bennet family from Pride and Prejudice. This is a re-imagining of Lydia's story, post Wickham.

All readers have an author or two that they've been meaning to read for ages, but you just *know* that you will love their books. Maybe you follow them on social media, and just think "yes, this person has the best vibe." etc. And maybe you wait wayyyyy too long to actually tuck into one of their books... and you start to get anxious. "OH GOD WHAT IF I DON'T LIKE IT?!" Staci Hart has been that author for me, for YEARS. While I was so nervous to start this (or any of her) book(s), I very happily was *in love* with it. I would start by saying that this is a modern day re-imagining of the Bennet family from Pride and Prejudice. It re-imagines Lydia's story post Wickham. It doesn't really follow the story of Pride and Prejudice. I adored the flower shop setting, the premise of a family banding together to save it, the dreamy descriptions, and all of the sweet characters. I am not always the biggest fan of second chance romances, but this one really worked for me. This story was just the right amount of humor, fluff, angst, and quirk. Like a the comfort of a Hallmark movie, but so much deeper, and definitely sexier. And everything-ier. Random things I adored: Tess's dad calls her Pigeon! I die. Luke's LONG rant on Poldark. YAS! We were all thinking it! WE WERE ALL THINKING IT!!! Though this isn't a direct P&P re-telling, the Mrs. Bennet was spot. on. I really enjoyed this book so so so much, and cannot wait to continue the series and then read every other Staci Hart book. EVER.

Gather At Home by Monika HibbsARC, ebook

5 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy lifestyle books that follow the seasons and include recipes, DIY projects, and floral arrangement inspiration.

This lifestyle book is filled to the brim with recipes, DIY projects, and inspiration for every season. Lifestyle blogger Monika Hobbs shares her tips and tricks for making every season and occasion special in an approachable and simple way.

This book was a delight to read. Everything from the gorgeous pictures, to strong element of tradition was so beautifully put on each page. I love the focus on family and tradition, and that Hobbs talks about passing down her mother's traditions to her own children. I also loved that she broke her book up by seasons, that is my favorite way to read a lifestyle book, and had me looking forward to the rest of 2020. I found myself so excited to reach each new season and soak up the recipes, photos, and projects. I love that she includes florals and greens that are in season as well! Her approaches are simple and accessible, and she includes patterns for the reader to use along the way. There was not a project in this collection that I wouldn't try making. Some of the recipes are not up my alley, as I'm not much for starting the year with "clean eating" (ex. clean cupcakes - I'll just go for normal ones.) but the bulk of them I would love to try. Some particular recipes I cannot wait to test are: Turkey Quinoa Burgers with Pineapple, On-the-Go Breakfast Muffins, Polish Chicken Noodle Soup, Light Cherry and Heirloom Tomato Pasta, White Wine Sangria, Individual Strawberry and Cream Pavlovas, Maple, Lemon, and Garlic Glazed Salmon, and Crunchy Honey, Cinnamon, and Almond Granola. Some particular projects I cannot wait to try are: Peony Bloom Place Cards, Kissing Felt Mistletoe, Wooden Hoop Winter Wreaths, Country Floral Arrangement, Pressed Floral and Citrus Bottle Chiller, and Potted Spring Bulbs.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik own, physical book

3 Stars - I might recommend if you enjoy fantasy novels.

Every ten years the Dragon, a wizard, takes a young girl from the village to live with him as payment for his protection from the invasive wood bordering the valley. No one knows what happens to the girls, but once they leave his tower they rarely stay in their home village. When Agniezka is unexpectly chosen, she finds that the tower, and the dragon are not what she expected. As the threat of the wood grows stronger, Agniezka will discover there is more to herself, and the world than she  imagined.

This is the type of book I was hoping for when I picked up The Hazel Wood at the beginning of the year. I started out feeling very compelled by the world and the story, I liked the classic fantasy setting, and somewhat familiar story formula. I thought that the magic system was interesting, if not vague, and that the dual magic had a subtle sexiness to it. The first part of the book was compelling, but once Agniezka went to see the king it wasn't very interesting for me. Overall, that part dragged, and in the end the book felt much longer than it needed to. Once things synced back up it was more intriguing, and the ending was satisfying as well. I like where it ended up, and how it all came together. It does feel a bit like other stories in the end, but I'm not sure which ones... I didn't love it as much as I expected to, but that's ok.

Gilded Lily by Staci Hart (Bennet Brothers #2)  own, ebook

3.5 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy contemporary romance. Read Coming Up Roses First.

Lila Parker has the perfect life: perfect job, perfect boyfriend, perfect apartment, and in line for more everywhere she turns. When she finds her boyfriend cheating on her with her client's sister, she moves out, and her world turns upside down. Kash Bennet, the gardener at Loungbourne cannot stand Lila. She's mean, moody, prissy, and grumpy. But he also can't stop thinking about her. When Lila needs his help, he'll find she's a much different woman than he thinks she is. Opposites attract, but can the relationship last?

Would call this a modern day re-imagining of the Bennet family from Pride and Prejudice. This is a re-imagining of Kitty's story. Which is to say... not much of a story.

I once again loved the writing, vivid descriptions, characters, and Bennet family so much. I really liked Kash, a bit more than Luke, and so it was fun to read his book. I do however, think that Sliding Doors is one of the worst movies ever. LOL so I have to say that Luke has better opinions on TV/movies with his hatred of Ross Poldark. LOL I didn't love the Felix Femmes or the plot related to them... which took up a lot of the book. I'm not one for reality tv, or drama, or rich and famous plots (for the most part) so I just struggled with that. And I struggled with how mean they were, and how mean her co-workers were. I think also because Lila wore such a guarded front with a lot of the characters and so much of the book it did take a while to get the feel for who she really was. Once we got there, I really liked her. In the end that made the rest of the book more satisfying and the ending so charming, but getting there wasn't as enjoyable as Coming Up Roses. I'm really excited for Mum's The Word, though! Highlight for Spoiler: I did think that Kash's actions toward the end were disappointing. That he let himself get caught up in the drama seemed out of character for him... but then Ivy got to tell him off...so I guess that's fine.

The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O'Neill own, physical book

5 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy cute graphic novels.

A girl named Greta finds a lost tea dragon, and returns it to the tea shop. While there she meets the owners and learns about the mysterious world of tea dragons.

This book is just very cute. The art is adorable. The dragons are adorable. The characters are diverse and interesting. If you just want to read something happy and cute, I recommend this one. Perfectly appropriate for all ages.

Miss Pinkerton by Mary Roberts Rinehart own, physical book

4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy classic mysteries.

Night nurse Hilda Adams is often called to help observe crime scenes and help solve mysteries. When someone is found dead at the Mitchell Manor, she is called to look after Miss Juliet, matron of the house. The death looks like a suicide, but is it that cut and dry?

I have only read one classic mystery, but the cover and background of this book drew me in. I immediately liked the writing style, it's very accessible, and fairly quick to read. The short chapters and endings of each chapter really keep you reading as well, even though older mysteries tend to be slower in nature. I often find myself bored with mysteries, or working it all out too quickly. Neither was the case with this one. I am excited to read more of the series now, and maybe even watch the movie version. If you like classic mysteries, I think you'll like this one.

Eagle and Crane by Suzanne Rindell** own, physical book

4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy historical fiction.

The Thorn family and the Yamada family have always had a feud. When their sons Louis and Haruto (Harry) find themselves swept up in the splendor of Earl Shaw's Flying Circus, they will find themselves becoming friends, and questioning the generations' long family feud. As the barnstormer travels around California Earl's step daughter Ava will make friends with the two daredevils, as the group comes into their fame. When the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor, Harry and his family are sent to an Internment camp. When the Yamadas escape from their camp, and one of the planes from the flying circus crashes with two bodies inside, the FBI comes to investigate the crime and deaths.

It's been a while since I've read historical fiction, but I really enjoyed this book. The back and forth between the post-war mystery, and the Depression barnstorming act wove a really interesting story. I really enjoyed the complicated friendship between Louis, Harry, and Ava. I like how all of the details unfolded slowly, and intensified the emotions and kept you guessing about the mystery. There are so many WWII novels in the world, but I feel like there aren't that many that I've heard about focusing more specifically on Internment. What a horrible period in America's history, unfortunately much like the current period, and this made for a very thought provoking and moving book.

I did read a few more books in April, but this post was so long... I'll add them to May, and make extra posts if necessary.

Monthly totals:

Read - 20
Owned - 13
Ebook - 10
Physical book - 8

Audiobook - 2
ARC - 4
Library/Borrowed - 3

Re-read - 1
Bought - 318 (34 physical books, 284 ebooks) - 245 books were freeee!++ :) -- also please note that the bulk were free because/I've bought so much because 1) so many free/discounted ebooks during quarantine and 2) supporting local/small bookstores. :)
To Let Go - 3 (at least)

Yearly Totals:

Read - 34
Owned - 22
Ebook - 12
Physical book - 20

Audiobook - 2
ARC - 6
Library/Borrowed - 7

Re-read - 2
Bought - 393 (80 physical books, 313 ebooks) - 271 books were freeee! :)
To Let Go - 13

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!

++ pro-tip: use your Amazon shipping at a slower rate to get e-book credits. I do it whenever I don't need something ASAP and it's resulted in a lot of free ebooks. I usually get them when they are $1.99, etc. Just make sure to use them before they expire!