Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Review: Marriage on Madison Avenue by Lauren Layne

Marriage on Madison Avenue by Lauren Layne
Series: Central Park Pact, Book 3
Publisher: Gallery Books
Genre: Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 9781501191633
Release Date: January 28, 2020
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Can guys and girls ever be just friends? According to Audrey Tate and Clarke West, absolutely. After all, they’ve been best friends since childhood without a single romantic entanglement. Clarke is the charming playboy Audrey can always count on, and he knows that the ever-loyal Audrey will never not play along with his strategy for dodging his matchmaking mother—announcing he’s already engaged…to Audrey.

But what starts out as a playful game between two best friends turns into something infinitely more complicated, as just-for-show kisses begin to stir up forbidden feelings. As the faux wedding date looms closer, Audrey and Clarke realize that they can never go back to the way things were, but deep down, do they really want to?

Marriage on Madison Avenue is a sweet confection of a book. I’ve been excited to read Audrey and Clarke’s story ever since I first saw them together in Passion on Park Avenue and Lauren Layne did not disappoint. Marriage on Madison Avenue is the literary equivalent of sunshine and rainbows – it made me incredibly happy while I was reading it and I hated having to look away from the book for even a minute.

Audrey is simply one of the most loveable heroines you’ll ever meet. She may have grown up a pampered Upper East Side princess and her job as an Instagram influencer is not one many take seriously, but she works hard at her job and is so genuinely sweet and charming that you cannot help but love her. Her best friend since childhood, Clarke, has always been there for her and they seriously have the best friendship. I’ve adored their interactions all throughout the Central Park Pact series and I love how they’re always there for each other, no matter what. Clarke may look like a hunk and have a playboy image, but he also works hard at his father’s company and there’s far more to him than others see.

Clarke and Audrey have faked an engagement before to get out of a situation, but this time something’s different. This time the two of them are starting to see what is crystal clear to everyone they know: that Clarke and Audrey are made for each other. They know they love each other and that is never in question throughout the book (another thing I loved), but what they can’t see is that they’re also in love with one another. Both of them are wary of risking their hearts. For Audrey having found out that her boyfriend was married shook her to the core and Clarke has a past of his own that makes him want to guard his heart. A fake relationship with their best friend is easy for both of them. Until new and uncomfortable feelings start to arise. Feelings that make their fake engagement feel all-too-real. How things play out, I won’t reveal. Suffice it to say Ms. Layne takes readers on a wonderful journey in one of the best friends-to-lovers stories I’ve ever read. Everything about Audrey and Clarke’s journey worked for me and I think it’s in part because Ms. Layne make the core love and friendship at the base of the relationship so strong and that strength shines. It’s the little moments Ms. Layne includes throughout the story that just bring everything in Audrey and Clarke’s relationship together. Their slide into love feels fated and though it’s not a smooth path to happily ever after, I was cheering them on every step of the way.

Audrey and Clarke are the heart of Marriage on Madison Avenue but the friendship between Audrey, Claire, and Naomi is vital to the tale as well. Their friendship had had an unusual beginning, but these three strong, independent, very different women are a treat to read about. Their support, rapport, and genuine caring are what makes me love the Central Park Pact series. Though you don’t have to have read Passion on Park Avenue or Love on Lexington Avenue in order to enjoy this book, you’d be missing out on two charming stories of love and friendship. Marriage on Madison Avenue was the perfect ending to a wonderfully entertaining trilogy. It’s bright, endearing, and hits all the right notes.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Review: Her Scandalous Pursuit by Candace Camp

Her Scandalous Pursuit by Candace Camp
Series: The Mad Morelands, Prequel
Publisher: HQN
Genre: Historical Romance with Paranormal Elements
ISBN: 9781335041449
Release Date: January 28, 2020
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Thisbe Moreland is used to men not taking her seriously. As a scientist, she’s accustomed to being the only woman at lectures and meetings, her presence met with scorn and derision. So it comes as a pleasant surprise when she sits next to a handsome young man who is actually interested in having a conversation about science.

Desmond Harrison cannot believe his good fortune when he sits next to Thisbe—she’s intelligent and incredibly beautiful. He longs to see her again—but he’s ashamed of his low birth. Not to mention his employment with the infamous Professor Gordon, a formerly respected scientist who turned to spiritualism and is now deeply scorned.

When Professor Gordon demands that Desmond recover an artifact for him—an ancient object reputed to have terrible power, known as the Eye of Annie Blue—Desmond realizes that only Thisbe holds the key. Desmond must choose between his love for Thisbe and his loyalty to his mentor…but humanity’s very future will depend on his choice.

Two scientists from very different worlds come together in the delightful Her Scandalous Pursuit. Candace Camp returns to her Mad Morelands series with a prequel featuring the eldest Moreland, Thisbe.

Thisbe is a scientist who has the support of her family and the freedom provided by her station to attend lectures and meetings, even if the men there don’t take her seriously. I enjoyed her fearless nature and the way she wouldn’t let sexism stop her from pursuing her studies. When she meets Desmond at a lecture, she’s delighted to find a man who is willing to talk with her as an equal. Desmond was a total sweetheart. He’s patient, kind, and protective, though that last quality tends to get in his way at times. Desmond is very conscious of his “low birth” – especially when he finds out Thisbe is a duke’s daughter – but he cannot deny the pull between them. Thisbe comes from a very unconventional family and is unconcerned with their difference in stations. While some suspension of disbelief is required for how casual the Morelands are and how much freedom Thisbe has to be alone with Desmond, I was happy to go along for the ride. Thisbe and Desmond fit extremely well and were so easy to root for, even when misunderstandings or misplaced honor get in their way.

The romance between Desmond and Thisbe might have been better suited to a novella if it weren’t for the subplot filling out a good portion of the book. Desmond is working for a disgraced scientist who is obsessed with finding Annie Blue’s Eye, an ancient artifact rumored to possess supernatural powers. At the same time Thisbe begins to have nightmares connected to the Eye’s creator. When Desmond learns Thisbe has a connection to the Eye, it sets off a chain of events that lead the two of them on a dangerous pursuit. I can’t say much about this plotline for fear of spoiling the story. For me, this storyline slowed down the book at times and wasn’t as interesting as the romance, but that could just be personal preference.

Her Scandalous Pursuit is a prequel to the Mad Morelands series and having not read the other six books I can safely say it stands alone. Fans of the series will undoubtedly be thrilled to see their favorite characters before their happily ever afters. And I enjoyed this welcoming, loving, intellectual family so much that I cannot wait to read the rest of the series (Thisbe’s youngest brothers, the Greats, were especially charming). All in all, Her Scandalous Pursuit is a thoroughly entertaining read.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Wife After Wife by Olivia Hayfield

Wife After Wife by Olivia Hayfield
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Fiction
ISBN: 9780593101834
Release Date: January 21, 2020
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Divorced. Murdered. Died. Divorced. Departed. Survived.

A modern take on the life and marriages of Henry VIII, if he were a 21st century womanizing media mogul rather than the king of England.

Master of the universe Harry Rose is head of the Rose Corporation, number eighteen on the Forbes rich list, and recently married to wife number six. But in 2018, his perfect world is about to come crashing to the ground. His business is in the spotlight--and not in a good way--and his love life is under scrutiny. Because behind a glittering curtain of lavish parties, gorgeous homes, and a media empire is a tale worthy of any tabloid.

And Harry has a lot to account for.

Wife After Wife is a fresh and imaginative retelling of the story of Henry VIII and his wives. I wasn’t sure how such an expansive story would work when whittled down to one book, but Olivia Hayfield manages it wonderfully, getting the spirit of the real life inspiration and events right while modernizing the story. Spanning from the 1980s to 2018, Wife After Wife is by turns entertaining and tragic.

Whether you know Tudor history or not, this book stands on its own, which is a mark of a good reimagining. Harry Rose’s journey from wealthy playboy to aging mogul facing the music in the modern area is as breezy and frustrating as the man himself. Harry has charm and self-esteem to spare, but he also has this irritating ability to absolve himself of any wrongdoing. Whether it’s cheating on a wife or something even worse, Harry always manages to make himself the victim or the hero, depending on the situation. He’s not a likeable character, but he’s a compelling one and you can see why each of his wives are drawn to him. Ms. Hayfield does a fantastic job with Katie (Catherine of Aragon), Harry’s first wife. She’s an honest-to-goodness kind and generous woman. She’s not saintly, nor is she perfect, and her battles with loss and depression broke my heart. She’s a well-drawn, complex character who is easy to adore and she has a core of strength and kindness which make her shine. Equally well-drawn is Ana (Anne Boleyn). She’s talented, whip-smart, and ambitious. I have a huge soft spot for Anne Boleyn, so it was incredibly easy for me to love Ana. As with her real-life counterpart, I loved and hated her trajectory, watching Harry pursue her and know she was going to give in. I pretty much hated Harry than during Ana’s time in the spotlight, but I did enjoy their tumultuous relationship until its tragic end.

Wife After Wife loses some steam after Ana is out of the picture, which is a pity. But I did love how Ms. Hayfield brought to life the rest of Harry’s wives, with the notable exception of Janette (Jane Seymour), who I found unbearably obnoxious. Anki was a fun and creative spin on Anne of Cleves and Clare (Catherine Parr) rounded out the wives perfectly. The most compelling of the latter four wives was Caitlyn (Catherine Howard). She was the most interestingly crafted alongside Katie and Ana; everything about her storyline broke my heart and once again I found myself loathing Harry. To say he’s an imperfect character would be an understatement, but Ms. Hayfield does an incredible job of blending the loathsome with the charming, creative, and sometimes loving man.

Wife After Wife is a delightfully creative retelling of history. The life and times of each decade really blend well with the story – more so than I ever could have imagined. All in all, the larger-than-life characters made this an entertaining read and I definitely would love to read more about Harry and Ana’s daughter, Eliza.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Review: Almost Just Friends by Jill Shalvis

Almost Just Friends by Jill Shalvis
Series: Wildstone, Book 4
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre: Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 9780062897800
Release Date: January 21, 2020
Source: Author
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible
Jill Shalvis Reading Order

Piper Manning’s about as tough as they come, she’s had to be. She raised her siblings and they’ve thankfully flown the coop. All she has to do is finish fixing up the lake house her grandparents left her, sell it, and then she’s free.

When a massive storm hits, she runs into a tall, dark and brooding stranger, Camden Reid. There’s a spark there, one that shocks her. Surprising her further, her sister and brother return, each of them holding their own secrets. The smart move would be for Piper to ignore them all but Cam unleashes emotions deep inside of her that she can’t deny, making her yearn for something she doesn’t understand. And her siblings…well, they need each other.

Only when the secrets come out, it changes everything Piper thinks she knows about her family, herself…and Cam. Can she find a way to outrun the demons? The answer is closer than she thinks—just as the new life she craves may have already begun.

After the death of her parents Piper Manning was charged with raising her siblings when she was still a child herself. Now her siblings are grown and Piper is an EMT. She has struggled and works herself nearly to the ground, but there’s finally a light at the end of the tunnel. If she can fix up the lake house and the cabins her grandparents left Piper and her siblings, she’ll finally be able to sell and go to school to become a physician’s assistant. Then her siblings return to Wildstone, each carrying secrets that will knock Piper off her stride. If she wasn’t already reeling, the arrival of Camden Reid would do so. After meeting on a dark and stormy night, the super sexy DEA agent and Coast Guard reservist becomes the first person Piper has been able to lean on in forever and that scares the heck out of her. Piper can’t afford to lose her heart, not when she’s finally going to leave Wildstone. But sometimes fate – and family – have other plans…

Love, loss, and finding your way home are at the heart of Almost Just Friends. Jill Shalvis is a master at blending the light and the dark, at finding humor in the everyday even as her characters struggle to heal and find their place in the town they call home.

Piper is the kind of heroine who is easy to root for. She has spent her whole life taking care of others and the weight of the responsibility she carries is nearly crushing her. I loved her strength, her resilience, and the fact that she wasn’t perfect, even though she sacrifices so much for others. She can be cranky, she can sometimes try to put her siblings on the path she thinks they should be on rather than listen to what they want, but given what she’s been through it’s absolutely understandable. She’s carried a heavy load her whole life and I loved watching others step up to help her, especially Cam. He’s hot, protective, caring, and is dealing with the grief of losing his brother when he meets Piper. Cam also knew responsibility from far too young an age, so he gets Piper. He doesn’t critique or try to change her eccentricities, but appreciates her for all that she is and steps up to the plate to help, which I loved.

While Piper and Cam are the heart of Almost Just Friends, Piper’s siblings are every bit as important to the story. Winnie, Piper’s youngest sibling, has always been kind of a wild child. But life has lately thrown her a curveball and she’s determined to grow up and become the person she’s meant to be. Her path isn’t what her sister would have chosen for her, but I enjoyed seeing Winnie step up and work to shape her own destiny. And Gavin, Piper’s troubled brother, probably had my favorite storyline of the whole book. Gavin is a recovering addict who has come home to make amends and forge a new life. A life that – if he has his way – will include the first and only man he’s ever loved. Gavin owns his mistakes, faces his demons head-on, and is determined to prove he has matured and is in control of his life. I loved watching Gavin come into his own and his story made me melt at times.

Almost Just Friends is the fourth book in the Wildstone series but it can easily be read as a standalone. Family is front and center in every book in the series and is as important as the romance. I loved watching the Manning siblings come together, was invested in Cam and his father healing from their losses and becoming a unit with Piper, Winnie, and Gavin. No relationship in this story is perfect, but that’s what makes this book a perfectly entertaining read. It’s a messy, heartwarming, engaging story of growing up, moving on, and love in all its forms and I couldn’t have been more entertained.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Review: Scot Under the Covers by Suzanne Enoch

Scot Under the Covers by Suzanne Enoch
Series: The Wild Wicked Highlanders, Book 2
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
Genre: Historical Romance
ISBN: 9781250296405
Release Date: January 28, 2020
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

When a resourceful English lady and a hot-blooded Highlander join forces to trick a scoundrel, every rule will be broken!

Miranda Harris is known for her charm, wit, and ability to solve any problem she encounters. But when her brother lands neck-deep in gambling debt to a crafty villain and Miranda is subsequently blackmailed into marrying him, she must enlist the help of the devil himself to save the family honor―and herself.

Devilishly handsome Highlander Aden MacTaggert knows next to nothing about the ways of the ton, but he most certainly knows his way around gaming halls and womens’ hearts. Still, Aden is not sure how he’ll manage to find a Sassenach bride in time to save his family’s inheritance. When his almost sister-in-law Miranda comes to him for assistance, he proposes a partnership: She will help him navigate London society and he’ll teach her everything about wagering…and winning back her freedom. The beautiful, clever lass intrigues Aden―but is she playing her own game, or are the sparks between them real? He is accustomed to risking his pocket. But betting on Miranda’s love is a game he can’t afford to lose…

Scot Under the Covers is a true delight! It’s fast-paced and fun with characters who are easy to adore and a romance that will leave you smiling.

Aden is known as the “elusive MacTaggert brother.” He’s got a quick mind and skilled fingers that serve him well both in the cardroom and the bedroom, and he’s not unwilling to let the English’s dim views of Scotsmen work to his advantage. His mother’s decree that he marry an Englishwoman suddenly becomes a very appealing prospect when he meets Miranda Harris. Miranda’s brother is engaged to Aden’s sister, but that’s not why the beautiful lass seeks him out. Her brother has gotten into a massive debt he cannot repay and the villain is demanding Miranda’s hand in marriage as payment. To outwit a gambler Miranda needs the help of one. It’s not just her plight but her fiery spirit that captures Aden’s interest. When the two join forces the banter flies and the pages of Scot Under the Covers fairly crackle with energy.

Aden and Miranda are both incredibly easy to like. They’ve got good hearts, quick wits, and spines of steel. They’re a perfect match in every way, but with the proverbial noose quickly tightening around Miranda’s neck, the two of them have to work fast to free her. Miranda enjoys maneuvering through society and knows how to play the game, but it’s fun to watch her start to break the rules with Aden. I’ve said it before but it bears repeating that Aden and Miranda are simply a lot of fun together. Though Aden knows she’s the one for him pretty quickly, Miranda’s unwilling attraction develops into love as she learns Aden is a man she can trust and rely on. I’ve read the book twice now and both times I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every step of their journey.

Romance, passion, and a very crafty villain make the pages of Scot Under the Covers fly by. Aden and Miranda are at the heart of the story, but their families play strong supporting roles and bring warmth and humor to the tale. Aden’s mother is particularly fascinating as she continues to try to regain her sons’ trust and affection. And surprisingly (because I didn’t like him very much in the first Wild Wicked Highlanders book), I’m very much looking forward to Coll MacTaggert’s book. I cannot wait to see what Suzanne Enoch has in store for the brash and bold MacTaggert brother. Until then, I’m happy to revisit both It’s Getting Scot in Here and Scot Under the Covers. Both are vibrant, charming romantic romps full of heart.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Review: The Little Library by Kim Fielding

The Little Library by Kim Fielding
Publisher: Kim Fielding
Genre: Male/Male Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 9781980589358
Source: Previous Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

Elliott Thompson was once a historian with a promising academic future, but his involvement in a scandal meant a lost job, public shame, and a ruined love life. He took shelter in his rural California hometown, where he teaches online classes, hoards books, and despairs of his future.

Simon Odisho has lost a job as well—to a bullet that sidelined his career in law enforcement. While his shattered knee recovers, he rethinks his job prospects and searches for the courage to come out to his close-knit but conservative extended family.

In an attempt to manage his overflowing book collection, Elliott builds a miniature neighborhood library in his front yard. The project puts him in touch with his neighbors—for better and worse—and introduces him to handsome, charming Simon. While romance blooms quickly between them, Elliott’s not willing to live in the closet, and his best career prospects might take him far away. His books have plenty to tell him about history, but they give him no clues about a future with Simon.

The Little Library is a slow burn romance charms me every time I read it. Simon and Elliott are interesting, refreshingly imperfect characters and I loved watching them go from strangers to friends to lovers to something much more.

Elliott is a college professor whose fast track to tenure was derailed when he was embroiled in his boyfriend’s scandal. Wounded professionally and personally, he has moved back to his California hometown where he teaches online classes and is mostly a hermit. When his brother points out that his love of books has turned into a borderline hoarding problem, Elliott builds a small neighborhood library in his front yard. I absolutely loved watching Elliott come out of his shell and start to interact with people again. The library is a wonderful way to do it and I adored seeing how it brought people together. It’s the kind of thing that would make any bibliophile’s heart happy (although Elliott’s book buying addiction was totally relatable).

The most important person Elliott meets in his neighborhood is Simon Odisho. The former cop is recovering from a shattered knee and is in the process of reevaluating what he wants to do with his life. Both men are at a crossroads when they meet and they start to come out of their shells together. Attraction simmers between them, but Simon is in the closet and Elliott has no desire to be anyone’s secret ever again. Still, there’s no denying how perfectly they fit and I absolutely loved watching their relationship develop. Simon has hidden vulnerabilities and Elliott has been hurt badly, so it’s not easy for them to take the risk of opening their hearts. Their story isn’t perfect, but flaws and all I was rooting for the two men every step of the way.

The Little Library moves at a somewhat leisurely pace but it never feels slow. I live in California and I’m familiar with a lot of the places Simon and Elliott go in this book, so it was an extra bit of fun for me to see where they went as they slowly fell in love. Author Kim Fielding balances romance, personal growth, and community perfectly in this story and it couldn’t have made me happier. I’ve read this book twice and I honestly can’t wait to re-read it again.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the previous publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Review: Mismatched in Mayhem by L.E. Rico

Mismatched in Mayhem by L.E. Rico
Series: Whiskey Sisters, Book 4
Publisher: Entangled: Bliss
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 9781640638594
Release Date: January 13, 2020
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Entangled

Welcome to Mayhem, Minnesota, with its sweater-wearing cats and ultra-competitive trivia nights. Where love really does conquer all...if you’ll let it.

Walker O’Halloran is finally ready to shed her “wild child” persona. Bartending at her family’s pub, babysitting her adorable niece and nephews, and getting her degree during the day. What she doesn’t do is date--or even think about dating. Ever. Until he walks into her bar, looking like a former Mr. Quarterback of the Football Team and Student Council President all rolled into one. No, thank you.

Mason Stevens has a secret—and it prevents him from knowing if someone is truly interested in him, or just what he can do for them. Until he meets Walker. She’s the first person in ages who doesn’t recognize him, and her grouchy attitude feels like the greatest challenge of his life. And he’s ready for it.

But the more time they spend together, the more he’s desperate to come clean—it’s just never the right time. Until the paparazzi do it for him…

Mismatched in Mayhem is a sweet romance with just enough quirk to keep fans of small town romances entertained without going over the top. Mayhem, Minnesota is a charming town with a semi-famous cat sweater store and a psychic who makes delicious pie, so for me it was impossible not to be drawn into the world L.E. Rico has created immediately – it was just too cute.

At the heart of Mismatched in Mayhem is the romance between bartender and pub manager Johnny Walker Black O’Halloran and grad student Mason Stevens. Mason grabbed my heart from the first and didn’t let go. He’s a total sweetheart and all-around good guy, so it was insanely easy to fall for him. The budding mineralogist has a huge heart, does his best to take care of the people he loves, and just wants someone who loves him for him. It’s not easy for him to find that because his mother is an incredibly famous actress. That’s why he’s immediately taken with Walker when she has no idea who he is. For me, Walker was the weak point in the book. She was once a wild child who now has gone to a totally different extreme since her father’s death. She has closed off a lot of her world, which I understood to an extent. It feels like I might be missing some information because I haven’t read the previous Whiskey Sisters books, so I didn’t totally understand why Walker tries so hard to push Mason away. I did like Walker’s relationship with her family and her friendship with Mason’s brother. It’s just her romance with Mason that didn’t always work for me. Mason is prom king level of perfect in looks and attitude, which is so not her type. But his charm and persistence make her want to give the guy a chance. There’s a lot of push-pull and I didn’t wholly understand why Mason was so determined to win over Walker, aside from the fact that she didn’t know his famous parents and the more important fact that the plot calls for it.

The romance between Walker and Mason has some fun and sweet moments, but the push-pull and manufactured drama you could see coming from a mile away wore on me at times. The dreaded “big misunderstanding” comes into play in this story and I freely admit that’s something I tend to loathe in stories unless it’s exceptionally well done, so those who aren’t so bothered by it may not be as turned off by this twist. I had an overall feeling best conveyed as “meh” toward the romance. It was fine, but there was just something missing that made me feel like Walker and Mason didn’t “click” as a couple. Opposites attracting is fun in theory, but the author really has to sell it for it to work and for me it didn’t in this case. Still, I enjoyed Walker’s personal journey and Mason was such a sweetheart that I still liked the book well enough. And Mayhem itself was so charming that I would definitely read another Whiskey Sisters book.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Plant-Based Meal Prep by Stephanie Tornatore and Adam Bannon

Plant-Based Meal Prep: Simple, Make-Ahead Recipes for Vegan, Gluten-Free, Comfort Food by Stephanie Tornatore and Adam Bannon
Publisher: Alpha
Genre: Cookbook
ISBN: 9781465483843
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo

Go plant-based with Steph and Adam, YouTube's most popular meal preppers.

Eating a plant-based diet--one that embraces veggies and ditches the meat, eggs, and dairy--is one of the easiest ways to improve your health. Whether you're ready to go entirely vegan or just want to incorporate more plant-based meals into your diet, Steph and Adam will show you how to plan and prep ahead, so your meals are ready to go when you're ready to eat. Flexible meal plans include all your favorite foods and flavors, from mac and cheese to mashed potatoes, all made with plant-based, whole-food ingredients.

* Over 60 plant-based recipes for breakfasts, mains, snacks, and desserts
* Get-started guide walks you through the basics of plant-based eating
* Soy-free, grain-free, and paleo-friendly tags make it easy to find recipes that fit your diet
* Flexible build-a-meal strategies let you choose your favorite flavors
* Easy-to-follow meal plans take the guesswork out of what to make
* Nutritional information for every recipe to help manage macros and achieve diet goals.

Plant-Based Meal Prep is a simple, easy to use cookbook with good tips and information for people new to eating vegan and/or plant-based meals. The tags were great and they make it easy for people to find stuff that fits their diet. As someone who is admittedly terrible at meal prepping, I really enjoyed Stephanie Tornatore and Adam Bannon’s tips on how to make meal prepping quicker and easier. The recipes I’ve tried so far (flexible fried tofu, sautéed broccoli with garlic, veggie stir fry, and mango salsa) have turned out well and all of the ingredients are easy to find. For me personally, the biggest downside is the book is heavier on grains, potatoes, and pasta than I would like (though I do appreciate that everything was gluten-free). Even taking that into consideration, I think this is a helpful, practical book that is useful to have on-hand.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Review: Walk Me Home by Liza Kendall

Walk Me Home by Liza Kendall
Series: Silverlake Ranch, Book 1
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary Romance
ISBN: 9780593098004
Release Date: January 7, 2020
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

A feel-good, funny second chance romance proves it's never too late for love in the small Texas ranch town of Silverlake.

Firefighter Jake Braddock is used to fixing things, and he's never met a problem he couldn't solve—except for his sweet ex-girlfriend Charlotte Nash.

Charlie Nash has been a big-city girl ever since her family made a clean break from their small town, after the tragedy that drove a wedge between Jake and her wealthy parents. She's never gotten over abandoning Jake—and he hasn't, either.

Then Charlie returns to Silverlake to stand as a bridesmaid opposite Jake in her cousin's wedding. The event sparks awkwardness, laughter, and heartbreak as they dance to the tune of the craziest bride in the west...and repair broken family bonds.

Can their long-lost love find a second chance?

Walk Me Home is a heartwarming story that will delight fans of second chance and small town romances. Author duo Liza Kendall made me fall in love with the Braddock family and the town of Silverlake, so much so that when I finished this book I was disappointed I have to wait to read the next one.

Charlie Nash and Jake Braddock fell in love as teenagers, but after a fire claimed the life of Charlie’s grandmother and her family home, the Nash family left town and cut almost all ties with Silverlake. Now Charlie’s back and she and Jake have both been conscripted into the wedding party from hell. Old wounds and even older attraction don’t stand a chance of staying buried when Charlie and Jake are thrown together. It’s easy to fall into their romance as Jake and Charlie just simply click. They’re both good, kind people and you could feel the pull between them. It’s not easy for them to deal with the past, especially when there are people like Charlie’s grandfather who won’t let it go. Both Jake and Charlie have lessons to learn in order for them to get their happily ever after and I enjoyed every step of their journeys.

Walk Me Home is funny, romantic, and sweet. The only thing that took this from a five star read to a four star is the drama that felt slightly forced at the end. Jake is a firefighter and I will admit that I am completely baffled and more than a bit irritated by how Jake and his fellow firefighters are treated. Perhaps it’s because I’m a Californian and fires are a near-constant threat where I live, but I was aghast reading about the campaign Charlie’s grandfather goes on against the fire department. I won’t spoil anything, but I will say that I found this storyline to be unsatisfying from beginning to end. That one issue aside, I really enjoyed Walk Me Home and I cannot wait to read about the rest of the Braddock siblings, especially the eldest, Declan, whose hard work and loneliness grabbed at my heart and didn’t let go.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Vanishing by Jayne Ann Krentz

The Vanishing by Jayne Ann Krentz
Series: Fogg Lake, Book 1
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Romantic Suspense with Paranormal Elements
ISBN: 9781984806437
Release Date: January 7, 2020
Source: Publisher
Buy it here: Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

Decades ago in the small town of Fogg Lake, The Incident occurred: an explosion in the cave system that released unknown gases. The residents slept for two days. When they woke up they discovered that things had changed—they had changed. Some started having visions. Others heard ominous voices. And then, scientists from a mysterious government agency arrived. Determined not to become research subjects of strange experiments, the residents of Fogg Lake blamed their “hallucinations” on food poisoning, and the story worked. But now it has become apparent that the eerie effects of The Incident are showing up in the descendants of Fogg Lake…

Catalina Lark and Olivia LeClair, best friends and co-owners of an investigation firm in Seattle, use what they call their “other sight” to help solve cases. When Olivia suddenly vanishes one night, Cat frantically begins the search for her friend. No one takes the disappearance seriously except Slater Arganbright, an agent from a shadowy organization known only as the Foundation, who shows up at her firm with a cryptic warning.

A ruthless killer is hunting the only witnesses to a murder that occurred in the Fogg Lake caves fifteen years ago—Catalina and Olivia. And someone intends to make both women vanish.

Murder, mystery, psychics, auras, and a hint of romance make for a great combination in The Vanishing. Jayne Ann Krentz has kicked off her Fogg Lake series with a fast-paced, engaging story.

Decades ago, “The Incident” happened in Fogg Lake; an explosion in the caves that released gases and gave the residents and their decedents certain paranormal abilities. Catalina Lark grew up in Fogg Lake, but she and her best friend, Olivia, make their living as investigators in Seattle. When Olivia goes missing, Catalina learns that it’s due to a murder both witnessed in Fogg Lake when they were teenagers. The only person Catalina can trust to help her find her friend is Slater Arganbright, an agent from the secretive Foundation. Catalina and Slater have an instant connection and it doesn’t just come from them both having supernatural skills. They clicked perfectly, making it easy to fall into the rhythm of the story as they hunt kidnappers, killers, and unraveled a mystery that began before they were born.

The Vanishing moves at a quick clip and because it’s the first book in the series, Ms. Krentz throws out a lot of information. I won’t spoil the story by revealing anything, but there are mysterious organizations, multiple players with competing agendas, and quite a few point of view shifts, some of which will likely be important down the line in the series. Because of this, there’s a lot of exposition and I wish there had been more show than tell, especially near the end so the developments felt more organic. The world building and mystery are enough to keep the story going strong and Catalina and Slater are great central characters, so it also would have been nice to see their relationship develop over the course of the series. Instead the romance felt almost shoehorned in and was so rushed that it wasn’t quite believable at the end. This isn’t to say I didn’t like the book – I actually really enjoyed reading it and am looking forward to what happens next – but it was missing much-needed depth in some areas that would have made the story shine.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Best Books of 2019

2020 is here and I cannot wait to see what the next decade brings! Before I dive into the new year and all the books it has to offer, it’s time to take a look back at my favorite books of 2019. I read 127 books last year, including a few re-reads that I fell in love with all over again. I tried 32 new (to me) authors and discovered some wonderful authors whose backlists I cannot wait to dive into. And finally, I participated in my tenth A to Z Reading Challenge, a fun challenge that usually leads me to at least a couple of books I might not have moved to the top of my TBR pile otherwise.

I read a number of excellent books last year, but below are my top ten reads of 2019. All of the books on this list were first time reads because re-reads are generally books that are already favorites of mine. I decided not to include my top re-reads of this year because it was a lot of the same (it’s safe to assume re-reads of at least two Nora Roberts/J.D. Robb titles would make the list every year).

My Top Ten Books of 2019

Note: My picks weren’t all published in 2019, but all were new-to-me reads for the year.
Also note: The books are alphabetized by author as I love them all equally.

1. Diamond Fire (Hidden Legacy, Book 3.5) by Ilona Andrews
Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

2. Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett
My Review

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3. The Engagement Gift (The Gift, Book 1) by Lauren Blakely
Amazon | B&N | Audible

4. Getting Schooled (Getting Some, Book 1) by Emma Chase
Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

5. Say No to the Duke (The Wildes of Lindow Castle, Book 4) by Eloisa James
My Review

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6. The Harp of Kings (Warrior Bards, Book 1) by Juliet Marillier
My Review

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7. Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
My Review

Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Audible

8. The Right Swipe (Modern Love, Book 1) by Alisha Rai
My Review

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9. The Last Wish (The Witcher, Book 0.5) by Andrzej Sapkowski
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10. Three For All (Comes in Threes, Book 3) by Elia Winters
My Review

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Wednesday, January 1, 2020

2020 A to Z Reading Challenge

I've had a blast doing this challenge for the past few years and I can't resist another go 'round. I've discovered a few now-favorite books I might not have otherwise noticed because of this challenge :)

Challenge details:
- Duration: January 1, 2020 - December 31, 2020
- Read 26 books which titles begin with the letters of the alphabet.
- You may ignore articles like A, An and The at the beginning of the title.
- For the letter X, any book title with the letter X in it is acceptable if you can't find one that begins with X.
- You can sign up anytime.
- Please only list books you have read. You can read them in any order.
- A book only counts once, so you can include a re-read the first time you read it.

My List:
Almost Just Friends by Jill Shalvis – 1/21/2020
Batter Up by Robyn Neeley – 1/18/2020
Christmas Pact, The by Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward – 2/8/2020
Demigod Complex, The by Abigail Owen – 2/16/2020
Finding Chris Evans: The Fortune Teller Edition by Elizabeth Bemis – 1/12/2020
Golden in Death by J.D. Robb – 2/27/2020
Her Scandalous Pursuit by Candace Camp – 1/26/2020
Immortal in Death by J.D. Robb – 2/10/2020
Just a Bit Twisted by Alessandra Hazard – 5/10/2020
Kiss and Make Up by Robyn Neeley – 5/23/2020
Love Around the Corner by Amanda Weaver – 3/8/2020
Mismatched in Mayhem by L.E. Rico – 1/7/2020
Omega’s Unexpected Alpha, The by Bonnar King – 3/21/2020
Perfect Kiss by A.G. Meiers – 3/29/2020
Rebel, The by Joanne Rock – 4/12/2020
Scot Under the Covers by Suzanne Enoch – 1/15/2020
Taste of Sage, A by Yaffa S. Santos – 2/15/2020
Vanishing, The by Jayne Ann Krentz – 1/2/2020
Wife After Wife by Olivia Hayfield – 1/23/2020
Love on LeXington Avenue by Lauren Layne – 1/11/2020

2020 New (to me) Author Challenge

I've done this challenge for the past tenyears and discovered some great new-to-me authors along the way (not hard to believe since I've read 595 new (to me) authors in that time). It's fun for me to look back on these lists, especially when I see authors who are now auto-buys for me.

The Challenge: Read 20 or more books this year by authors you’ve never read before.
Dates: January 1, 2020 - December 31, 2020

My list:

1. Author: L.E. Rico
Title: Mismatched in Mayhem (Whiskey Sisters, Book 4)

2. Author: Elizabeth Bemis
Title: Finding Chris Evans: The Fortune Teller Edition (Finding Chris Evans, Book 0.5)

3. Author: Robyn Neeley
Title: Batter Up (Bachelors of Buttermilk Falls, Book 1)

4. Author: Olivia Hayfield
Title: Wife After Wife

5. Author: Mia Sosa
Title: The Worst Best Man

6. Author: Penelope Ward
Title: The Christmas Pact

7. Author: Katherine Garbera
Title: Wild Nights (Jokers Wild, Book 2)

8. Author: Yaffa S. Santos
Title: A Taste of Sage

9. Author: Abigail Owen
Title: The Demigod Complex (Brimstone Inc., Book 1)

10. Author: Adam D' Alessandro
Title: How You Can Run Faster Effortlessly

11. Author: Caitlin Doughty
Title: Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?: Big Questions from Tiny Mortals About Death

12. Author: Rick Riordan
Title: The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1)

13. Author: Laura Brown
Title: Matzah Ball Surprise

14. Author: Erica Layne
Title: The Minimalist Way: Minimalism Strategies to Declutter Your Life and Make Room for Joy

15. Author: Bonnar King
Title: The Omega’s Unexpected Alpha (Omega’s Surprise Baby, Book 4)

16. Author: A.G. Meiers
Title: Perfect Kiss

17. Author: Grace Burrowes
Title: My One and Only Duke (Rogues to Riches, Book 1)

18. Author: Joanne Rock
Title: The Rebel (Dynasties: Mesa Falls, Book 1)

19. Author: Dianne Wenz
Title: Eating Vegan: A Plant-Based Cookbook for Beginners

20. Author: Sophie Jordan
Title: The Virgin and the Rogue (The Rogue Files, Book 6)

21. Author: Sajni Patel
Title: The Trouble with Hating You

22. Author: Kwana Jackson
Title: Real Men Knit

23. Author: Ruth J. Hartman
Title: Romance at the Royal Menagerie

24. Author: Meryl Wilsner
Title: Something to Talk About

25. Author: Cat Sebastian
Title: Two Rogues Make a Right (Seducing the Sedgwicks, Book 3)

Books I've Read in 2020

For the past ten years I've kept track of the books I read and it's been a surprisingly fun endeavor. I read so much that everything tends to blend together in my mental library and it's fun to look back and see what I've I've read, loved, and want to re-read (and - on the rare occasion - want to avoid). Plus, it's great to share and compare lists with other book bloggers.

This list is only of books and novellas I've read and finished (though if I read an entire anthology, I list only the anthology title). The books are listed in the order I read them and last year I started going back and adding my review links to the books I also reviewed.

There are sure to be many wonderful stories on the list, but the ones with a ** by them are ones I highly recommend.

1. The Vanishing (Fogg Lake, Book 1) by Jayne Ann Krentz
2. Classic Love Poems by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, William Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, George Eliot, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Christopher Marlowe, E.E. Cummings , Lord Byron, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Anonymous, Andrew Marvell, John Keats, Alfred Tennyson, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Robert Browning
3. Plant-Based Meal Prep: Simple, Make-Ahead Recipes for Vegan, Gluten-Free, Comfort Food by Stephanie Tornatore and Adam Bannon
4. Mismatched in Mayhem (Whiskey Sisters, Book 4) by L.E. Rico
5. Love on Lexington Avenue (Central Park Pact, Book 2) by Lauren Layne
6. Finding Chris Evans: The Fortune Teller Edition (Finding Chris Evans, Book 0.5) by Elizabeth Bemis
7. Scot Under the Covers (The Wild Wicked Highlanders, Book 2) by Suzanne Enoch (re-read)
8. Batter Up (Bachelors of Buttermilk Falls, Book 1) by Robyn Neeley
9. Almost Just Friends (Wildstone, Book 4) by Jill Shalvis
10. Wife After Wife by Olivia Hayfield
11. Her Scandalous Pursuit by Candace Camp (The Mad Morelands, Prequel) by Candace Camp
12. Marriage on Madison Avenue (Central Park Pact, Book 3) by Lauren Layne **
13. The Story of Us by Teri Wilson
14. The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa
15. The Art of War by Sun Tzu
16. The Christmas Pact by Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward
17. Immortal in Death (In Death, Book 3) by J.D. Robb (re-read) **
18. Wild Nights (Jokers Wild, Book 2) by Katherine Garbera
19. A Taste of Sage by Yaffa S. Santos
20. The Demigod Complex (Brimstone Inc., Book 1) by Abigail Owen
21. The Bachelor (Duke Dynasty, Book 2) by Sabrina Jeffries
22. How You Can Run Faster Effortlessly by Adam D' Alessandro
23. I Dared the Duke (Wayward Wallflowers, Book 2) by Anna Bennett
24. Golden in Death (In Death, Book 50) by J.D. Robb
25. Bad Bachelor (Bad Bachelors, Book 1) by Stefanie London
26. Murder at Pirate’s Cove (Secrets and Scrabble, Book 1) by Josh Lanyon **
27. Tangled Up (Bachelors of Buttermilk Falls, Book 2) by Robyn Neeley
28. Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs?: Big Questions from Tiny Mortals About Death by Caitlin Doughty
29. Badger to the Bone (Honey Badger Chronicles, Book 3) by Shelly Laurenston
30. Love Around the Corner (The Romano Sisters, Book 3) by Amanda Weaver
31. From The Mixed-Up Files Of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg (re-read)
32. An American Werewolf in Hoboken (Wolf Mates, Book 1) by Dakota Cassidy
33. The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1) by Rick Riordan **
34. The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 2) by Rick Riordan
35. Matzah Ball Surprise by Laura Brown
36. Girl Gone Viral (Modern Love, Book 2) by Alisa Rai
37. The Minimalist Way: Minimalism Strategies to Declutter Your Life and Make Room for Joy by Erica Layne
38. Home with You (Silverlake Ranch, Book 2) by Liza Kendall
39. The Omega’s Unexpected Alpha (Omega’s Surprise Baby, Book 4) by Bonnar King
40. Clean Sweep (Innkeeper Chronicles, Book 1) by Ilona Andrews
41. Come Unto These Yellow Sands by Josh Lanyon (re-read) **
42. Lucky Suit (Sexy Suits, Book 1) by Lauren Blakely
43. Highland Conquest (Sons of Sinclair, Book 1) by Heather McCollum
44. Perfect Kiss by A.G. Meiers
45. My One and Only Duke (Rogues to Riches, Book 1) by Grace Burrowes
46. Shift Out of Luck (Brimstone Inc., Book 2) by Abigail Owen
47. The Rebel (Dynasties: Mesa Falls, Book 1) by Joanne Rock
48. #VERYFAT #VERYBRAVE: The Fat Girl's Guide to Being #Brave and Not a Dejected, Melancholy, Down-in-the-Dumps Weeping Fat Girl in a Bikini by Nicole Byer
49. Eating Vegan: A Plant-Based Cookbook for Beginners by Dianne Wenz
50. Close Up (Burning Cove, Book 4) by Amanda Quick
51. Find Your Path: Honor Your Body, Fuel Your Soul, and Get Strong with the Fit52 Life by Carrie Underwood
52. The Virgin and the Rogue (The Rogue Files, Book 6) by Sophie Jordan
53. When a Duchess Says I Do (Rogues to Riches, Book 2) by Grace Burrowes
54. Heiress for Hire (A Duke’s Heiress, Book 1) by Madeline Hunter
55. A Duke by Any Other Name (Rogues to Riches, Book 4) by Grace Burrowes
56. Secret at Skull House (Secrets and Scrabble, Book 2) by Josh Lanyon
57. Hot Holiday Rancher ((Texas Cattleman’s Club: Houston, Book 9) by Catherine Mann
58. The Trouble with Hating You by Sajni Patel
59. The Boy Next Door by Josh Lanyon
60. Scrooged by Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward
61. Just a Bit Twisted (Straight Guys, Book 1) by Alessandra Hazard **
62. Real Men Knit by Kwana Jackson
63. Romance at the Royal Menagerie by Ruth J. Hartman
64. The Mermaid Murders (The Art of Murder, Book 1) by Josh Lanyon (re-read)
65. Kiss and Make Up (Bachelors of Buttermilk Falls, Book 3) by Robyn Neeley
66. When You Wish Upon a Rogue (Debutante Diaries, Book 3) by Anna Bennett
67. Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner
68. The Summer Deal (Wildstone, Book 5) by Jill Shalvis
69. Bait N' Witch (Brimstone Inc., Book 3) by Abigail Owen
70. The Return (The Original Sinners) by Tiffany Reisz **
71. Alpha Night (Psy-Changeling Trinity, Book 4) by Nalini Singh
72. Wrong Bed, Right Brother (Accidental Love, Book 4) by Rebecca Brooks
73. Purity in Death (In Death, Book 3) by J.D. Robb (re-read) **
74. The Last Train to Key West by Chanel Cleeton**
75. Party of Two (The Wedding Date, Book 5) by Jasmine Guillory
77. About a Rogue (Desperately Seeking Duke, Book 1) by Caroline Linden
78. Hometown Hero (Silverlake Ranch, Book 3) by Liza Kendall
79. Interlude in Death (In Death, Book 12.5) by J.D. Robb (re-read)