Serious Moonlight by Jenn Bennett

serious moonlight

official blurb
After an awkward first encounter, Birdie and Daniel are forced to work together in a Seattle hotel where a famous author leads a mysterious and secluded life in this romantic contemporary novel from the author of Alex, Approximately. Mystery-book aficionado Birdie Lindberg has an overactive imagination. Raised in isolation and homeschooled by strict grandparents, she’s cultivated a whimsical fantasy life in which she plays the heroic detective and every stranger is a suspect. But her solitary world expands when she takes a job the summer before college, working the graveyard shift at a historic Seattle hotel. In her new job, Birdie hopes to blossom from introverted dreamer to brave pioneer, and gregarious Daniel Aoki volunteers to be her guide. The hotel’s charismatic young van driver shares the same nocturnal shift and patronizes the waterfront Moonlight Diner where she waits for the early morning ferry after work. Daniel also shares her appetite for intrigue, and he’s stumbled upon a real-life mystery: a famous reclusive writer—never before seen in public—might be secretly meeting someone at the hotel. To uncover the writer’s puzzling identity, Birdie must come out of her shell…discovering that the most confounding mystery of all may be her growing feelings for the elusive riddle that is Daniel.

my blurb!
A semi naive aspiring sleuth teams up with a former fling to uncover the identity of a mysterious author using a pen name.

 

Want to read my other reviews of Jenn Bennett books?  Click here for Starry Eyes.  Click here for Alex, Approximately.

4 out of 5

what i didn't like
I was ready for it to end a little sooner.  Otherwise this book MIGHT have been 5 stars for me.
I also didn’t always love Birdie.  But I did for the most part.  Her indecisiveness got old.  To be fair, that was addressed by the end of the book.
There is also storyline with Aunt Mona that was 100% predictable to me.

what i liked
A main character obsessed with mysteries? Sign me up!  I love BBC masterpiece mysteries and consider myself to be an amateur sleuth of sorts.  Okay, I don’t really consider myself to be one, more like I think I’d be good at it if I ever tried it.  (Oh, come on. Like you didn’t watch the Bourne movies and think you’d make an awesome Bourne!  I’m basically the same except more like Veronica Mars).
Jenn Bennett writes some really funny dialogue, but also some hard hitting dialogue.  Here’s a couple snippets from the book to wet your appetite.

“Come on, Nick.  Are we solving a GD mystery, or aren’t we?”
A slow grin split his face.  “Nora, my dear, you know I can’t resist it when you use profanity.”

“We didn’t come out here to help you seek vengeance.”
“No one plans vengeance,” she argued.
“Yes! They do!” I said, exasperated.  “It’s a planned act of revenge.”
“For you maybe.  For me vengeance just happens.”

“When you pin impossible ideals on someone, nobody wins… Judging other people unfairly doesn’t define them; it defines you.  And in the end everyone will be disappointed… Most of us are just living our lives, trying the best we can.  Accepting people for who they are is hard, but in the long run, it’s easier than sitting around, wishing they were something they’re not.”

I mean… I know you’re wanting to run out and get this book right now. And you should.  But just wait a minute because I’m almost done with my review.
If you don’t follow me on instagram (you should), then you don’t know that I’m obsessed with berets.  In fact you can often see me sporting the hashtag of #beretoftheday.  Picture this, I’m just sitting and reading…minding my own business and adjusting my beret when necessary, when all of the sudden I stumble upon this gem of dialogue:

“Don’t bother being polite to Old Man Jessen.  If an asshole could were a beret, that’s what it would look like.”

A line featuring a beret?! YES!! Okay, so it wasn’t totally favorable.  But still.  I’m throwing a party for a beret mention!
If it wasn’t totally clear with the above line, this book features some profanity.  It also starts out recalling a (sort of) one night stand.  Yes, this book is YA.  It’s not “open door” descriptive in the romance scenes but mentionable nonetheless.  There is also trigger warnings for suicide in this book.
I can’t believe I went this long in the book without  talking about my main man Daniel!  Daniel is our male protagonist and he is amazing!  I dare you not to develop a crush on him and his grand gestures.  Go ahead and try… you will not be successful.  Shout out to diverse reads here because Daniel Aoki is in fact Asian.  There’s nothing I’m more of a sucker for in a book than an interracial couple!  Bring them all to me!!! I will read those books os fast!

while reading you should
Watch: Veronica Mars
Read: Agatha Christie books
Listen to: David Bowie

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The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

the flateshare

official blurb
Tiffy and Leon share a flat
Tiffy and Leon share a bed
Tiffy and Leon have never met…

Tiffy Moore needs a cheap flat, and fast. Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash. Their friends think they’re crazy, but it’s the perfect solution: Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy’s at work in the day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time.  But with obsessive ex-boyfriends, demanding clients at work, wrongly imprisoned brothers and, of course, the fact that they still haven’t met yet, they’re about to discover that if you want the perfect home you need to throw the rulebook out the window…

my blurb!
Two people share a living space (bed and all).  One person lives there during the day, and the other at night.  They never plan to meet.

5 out of 5

 

1 / 5 steam level

For all of you looking for LGBT character in books- this book did feature a supporting character subplot with an LGBT romance.
Trigger Warning: Emotional Abuse.

what i liked
Have you noticed yet that I don’t love “women’s fiction” books yet?  (I don’t know why they’re usually called that and not just fiction, btw).  I get kind of depressed when I read them, because the adults lives are so humdrum.  But guess what? I read a fiction book that I loved!!!  Oh… you knew that?  You already saw the part where I rated it 5 stars? Fair enough.
While this book wasn’t all sunshine and roses (trigger warnings in this book for emotional abuse), I did find myself smile-reading quite a bit throughout it.
This book was for sure British but while that can be a hindrance in understanding the flow or tone in some books (I’m looking at you When Polly Met Olly) , it was great in this book! (More like Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine). 
So many words came to mind when I was thinking of this book… funny, stressful, cute.  It was all of these things!
There were some amazing pop culture references in this.  I LOVE a good pop culture reference so everytime I read one I would get a little giddy.
Guess what else this book had? An Epilogue!!! I can’t help it, I am a sucker for a good epilogue! I love the wrap up in a book!
I adored the main couple in this book.  Tiffy and Leon.  First of all, let me shout out to them being an interracial couple.  Secondly they were so freaking likable!  I am totally fictional friends with them.
Here’s a little snippet from my main man Leon:
Tiffy: You’re an introvert.
Make a face.  I’m not a fan of those Myers Briggs – type things that tell you your personality type, like horoscopes for business people.
Me: Guess so.
If you didn’t know this about me- I HATE personality tests.  I know, you want to tell me my enneagram number.  I’m happy for you and your number, and I don’t want to take the test!  (Did that just giveaway my number? Crap.)
Need a little pallet teaser for Tiffy?  I didn’t leave you hanging!
Leon looks at me with amusement.
“What a hat,” he says.

“What a day,” I counter, spreading my arms out wide.  “No other headwear would do it justice.”
Need I say more? Tiffy and I are soul sisters?!  If you don’t follow me on instagram (you should be ashamed of yourself!) then you don’t know about my hat obsession. In fact I regularly post to my Instagram story with #beretoftheday.  That’s right, berets are awesome and there’s nothing you can do to talk me out of it!  Do you see why Tiffy and I are besties?
Also, if it wasn’t clear from those excerpts, the chapters are told from alternating POVs.  So you hear from Tiffy and you hear from Leon’s perspective and they’re both perfect!
I loved this book- if you’re looking for your next great fiction read then look no further than The Flatshare!

while reading you should
Do: bake something to share with your neighbors!
Listen to:  Manhattan by Sara Bareilles and Sun-Drenched World by Joshua Radin

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MY Required Reading : Memoirs & Biographies

Here in no particular order are books that you will love if you love a good memoir, biography, or autobiography.  It should be noted that I almost always listen to these books (read by the author) as audiobooks.

  • Born A Crime by Trevor Noah
  • Duty by Robert Gates
  • Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama
  • The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama
  • Decision Points by George Bush
  • Becoming by Michelle Obama
  • Love Life by Rob Lowe
  • Stories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe
  • Bossypants by Tina Fey
  • Dispatches From The Edge by Anderson Cooper

Meet Cute by Helena Hunting

meet cute

official blurb
Talk about an embarrassing introduction. On her first day of law school, Kailyn ran – quite literally – into the actor she crushed on as a teenager, ending with him sprawled on top of her. Mortified to discover the Daxton Hughes was also a student in her class, her embarrassment over their meet-cute quickly turned into a friendship she never expected. Of course, she never saw his betrayal coming either… Now, eight years later, Dax is in her office asking for legal advice. Despite her anger, Kailyn can’t help feeling sorry for the devastated man who just became sole guardian to his thirteen-year-old sister. But when her boss gets wind of Kailyn’s new celebrity client, there’s even more at stake than Dax’s custody issues: if she gets Dax to work at their firm, she’ll be promoted to partner. The more time Kailyn spends with Dax and his sister, the more she starts to feel like a family, and the more she realizes the chemistry they had all those years ago is as fresh as ever. But will they be able to forgive the mistakes of the past, or will one betrayal lead to another?

my blurb!
After a law school experience, steeped in sexual tension, ends with being backstabbed.  Two people are forced to coexist while trying to do what’s best in a custody agreement.

3.5 stars                                                             4 out of 5 steam level

 

what i liked
This book starts off laugh out loud funny.  I was laughing, cringe reading (lots of embarrassment) and smile reading throughout the first few chapters of this book.  Here’s a little snippet of funny exchanges:

“I don’t have time to shave regularly these days, let alone time for hot dates.” She sighs.  “I hate this whole online generation crap.  Why can’t I just meet a nice guy in a coffee shop, or the library or something?”
“I think you’d have to frequent coffee shops and library for that to happen, wouldn’t you?” I ask.

But don’t let the humor fool you.  This book isn’t entirely funny.  In fact, in the first 4 chapters- it starts to get pretty serious.  The overall plot of this book revolves around a custody dispute.  The writing, even when it wasn’t funny, still packed a good punch.  I included a snippet of this too (you’re welcome):

“Heartache is the worst affliction.  It robs a person of rationality, or logic, of forethought and patience.  It makes everything good painfully bright and magnifies the bad with an intensity that’s difficult to tolerate.”

Another thing in the pro column for me is their jobs.  The two main characters were both lawyers.  You got to see them in law school and then see them practicing different types of law.  I really enjoyed that whole aspect of the book.
The last chapter of the book was great so it definitely ended on a high note for me.  It felt a little disjointed from being laugh out loud funny to being heavy and not very funny at all.  But overall I enjoyed reading this and read it quickly!

what i didn't like
Okay, you know how I feel about names.  The main characters name was Daxton.  You read that correctly.  DAXTON.  The whole book, I kept thinking… how does that name even dawn on you to use? I’ve never even heard of that name before!  It did have a saving grace though because towards the latter end of the book we get to experience this funny exchange:

“Oh my God, Emme, look, Liam is waiting for you! Who’s with him? Oh! Oh! That’s Clark and Jackson and River.”
“Who the hell named these kids?”  I mutter.
“Your name is Daxton,” Emme points out.

Another thing I didn’t love was how predictable this book was.  I knew exactly what was going on in all of the plotlines- and in fact, ended up being a little annoyed that it took the characters so long to catch on.  It got to be a little bit stressful at times!
Speaking of stressful- when these characters get together it seems ethically unsound.  So I was pretty stressed throughout the book waiting for the shoe to drop on that part of the plot.
I think my biggest gripe was that this was titled Meet Cute and it’s not a cutesy book- but more of a heavy hitter.

while reading you should
Watch: Legally Blonde (because… lawyers)
Watch:  What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (Siblings raising siblings storyline!)
Eat: Shepherd’s Pie

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Love and Homemade Ice Cream Sandwiches

So I was really trying to think about what my next Books & Baking should be.  I had a few ideas but in the end it was the weather that made me choose this one.  I’m so ready for this warm weather- and here in KC it’s already been in the 80s! Dream summer weather for me!  So without further ado, this months post is all about Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch.

books and baking

What are we making? You’d think it would be gelato… but I actually have no idea how to make that, and I’m fairly certain it doesn’t actually include any baking.  So we are making homemade ice cream sandwiches! Let’s take a look, shall we?

l&g

I know, you’re wondering- how will I ever make these super professional looking ice cream sandwiches?!  Fret not, dear friend, I will make you the hit of your book club this Spring/Summer!

for the review of this book
Click HERE.

Here’s what you’ll need…
INGREDIENTS:

Cookies & Cream Ice Cream (or the ice cream flavor of your choice- you can even get fancy and use a few different flavors for a neapolitan spin!)

Cookie ingredients:
1 stick of butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg – room temperature (hold it in your hands to speed the process up!)
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract if that’s what you have!)
1 1/2 cups flour (if you have cake flour, use that!)
1/4 cup dark cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt (don’t eliminate this, salt haters!  This makes a difference in baking!)
1 heaping cup of dark chocolate chips

 

I know that’s a lot of ingredients but it will go quickly I promise.  Ready to get started?  Good, I love a lady (or gentleman!) that’s prepared.

  1. Scoop your ice cream into a small pan.  Mine actually a Pyrex container but you can use an 8×8 glass dish.  (The purpose of this step is to get the ice cream to be an even thickness when you put it into the middle of the cookies).
    l&g step 1
  2. Use a knife or an offset spatula and smooth over the top of the ice cream so it’s all even on top. Cover with plastic wrap, then place the whole dish in the freezer for it to freeze back up again.
    l&g step 2
  3. Preheat your oven to convection 325 or regular baking 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  4. Cut your (freshly removed from the refrigerator) butter into roughly 3/4 inch pieces and put it in your mixing bowl.
  5. Add both sugars to the bowl and start mixing.  (My rule of thumb for creaming butters is 4-5 minutes.  I stick it all into my KitchenAid, turn it on, set a timer and then start working on my next steps!)
    lg-step-3.jpg
  6. While your butter/sugar mix is creaming, get out a separate bowl for your dry ingredients.  I know, how annoying that you need to use two bowls. I promise it’s worth it! Mix up all of the following in your second bowl: cocoa, flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda.
    lg-step-real-4.jpg
  7. By now your mixing timer should have gone off.  Add in your (room temperature) egg, and your vanilla paste.
  8. Then grab your dry ingredients bowl and mix those suckers all together!
  9. Last step for the cookies! Add in your chocolate chips!
  10. Next place them onto your parchment paper-lined cookie sheet.  You’re gonna wanna smush them down and make sure they’re a uniform size.  I used my cookie scooper but then just smashed them all down. (Trust me, I tried NOT smashing them and they were fluffy little delicious clouds but didn’t work well for these sandwiches).
    l&g step 8
  11. Bake the cookies for about 10 minutes.  Remove and place onto a cooling rack.  (Didn’t believe me before about smashing the cookies? Here’s my compare and contrast proof)
    l&g step 10
  12. Once the cookies are cool (feel free to put them into your freezer to speed up the process), you’re ready to make your sandwiches!  Take your Pyrex container of ice cream out of the freezer and take the plastic wrap off. Put a cookie on the top of the ice cream and take your offset spatula (or knife) and cut out the ice cream around the shape of your cookie.  Sandwich it with another. Voila! You’ve made a sandwich!
    l&g step 11
  13. Store these by sticking them all in a big Tupperware container, or wrapping them up individually in your freezer!
    l&g step 12

Need a reminder about how awesome these are going to be?  Look no further, I’ll remind you!

 

l&g me

book club questions
– Lorenzo went by the nickname Ren, not Enzo.  If you had to choose a nickname based off of your name, what would it be?
– Pick your dream cast for this book to be turned into a movie!  (A girl can dream right?)
– Describe yourself as a flavor of gelato and explain why!
– Who was your favorite supporting character in the book?
– What was your favorite scene in the whole book?
happy eating

Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey

arc review

fix her up.PNG

official blurb
Georgette Castle’s family runs the best home renovation business in town, but she picked balloons instead of blueprints and they haven’t taken her seriously since. Frankly, she’s over it. Georgie loves planning children’s birthday parties and making people laugh, just not at her own expense. She’s determined to fix herself up into a Woman of the World… whatever that means. Phase one: new framework for her business (a website from this decade, perhaps?) Phase two: a gut-reno on her wardrobe (fyi, leggings are pants.) Phase three: updates to her exterior (do people still wax?) Phase four: put herself on the market (and stop crushing on Travis Ford!) Living her best life means facing the truth: Georgie hasn’t been on a date since, well, ever. Nobody’s asking the town clown out for a night of hot sex, that’s for sure. Maybe if people think she’s having a steamy love affair, they’ll acknowledge she’s not just the “little sister” who paints faces for a living. And who better to help demolish that image than the resident sports star and tabloid favorite? Travis Ford was major league baseball’s hottest rookie when an injury ended his career. Now he’s flipping houses to keep busy and trying to forget his glory days. But he can’t even cross the street without someone recapping his greatest hits. Or making a joke about his… bat. And then there’s Georgie, his best friend’s sister, who is not a kid anymore. When she proposes a wild scheme—that they pretend to date, to shock her family and help him land a new job—he agrees. What’s the harm? It’s not like it’s real. But the girl Travis used to tease is now a funny, full-of-life woman and there’s nothing fake about how much he wants her…

my blurb!
A literal birthday clown decides that dating her high school crush and the towns bad boy will help her be taken more seriously.

2.75 out of 5

5 out of 5 steam level

what i liked
This book was a cute and funny romcom.  I chuckled to myself a few times while reading it.  The family dynamics were written really well. As the youngest child in my family, I liked reading about the siblings and their struggles to all be taken seriously.  My favorite part of the book was the girl gang.  The Just Us League was a crew of women supporting women and I can get behind that all day every day! I could tell as I was reading that there were going to be some other companion books in this series and when I finished the story, that was confirmed!  As I was scrolling through my kindle notes for the novel, I found quite a few funny lines highlighted.  This was a true romcom (and a steamy one)!  The amount of clown jokes in this, was perfect in every way.  I laughed a lot at Georgie’s humor. Also, her sister Bethany was awesome.  She definitely has to have her own book because she was amazing in every way.  I loved the scenes she was in.  Here’s a little snippet of humor to wet your pallet:

“You look like a live childbirth just went by in your Facebook feed.”

Funny right? Haha! I definitely busted out laughing when I read that line.

what i didn't like
There was a flaw with the whole plot.  It didn’t make any sense why Georgie would be taken more seriously as an adult by dating Travis.  He was a playboy… who dates a playboy and then is suddenly taken seriously?
There is a big scene regarding professing a relationship status.  That scene just wasn’t for me.  It perhaps has to do with my personal taste public displays of proposals. But oh my gosh I was cringing while I was reading it!
There was a sentiment in this book that was repetitive.  The reader was reminded that Georgie was attempting to show Travis that he was worthy of commitment.  Did I tell you he was worthy of commitment?  Travis, you are worthy of commitment!  Oh did you get it already? I did too.
Holy steam room steam level!  This book was STEAMY!!! I think a lot of romance readers are really gonna like that about it.  However, for my personal preferences, this was too steamy.
I couldn’t get a read on whether or not Travis was supposed to have an accent in the book.  That doesn’t really matter but he gave Georgie a nickname that they used THE WHOLE BOOK (in fairness I do not like cutesy nicknames in books. It rarely seems genuine to me) and that seemed like it was kind of more a southern style of talking.  I’m not sure.
Travis. Travis, Travis, Travis.  I just didn’t like him. Isn’t that the WORST in a romance read?  It’s not the writing of him, I just didn’t like his character.  I would NEVER have dated him.  He was super domineering and gave insane mixed signals. He was possessive and had a dirty bedroom mouth.  He was just kind of a douche.  I know, strong words but really how else do you describe someone like that?!

This book was not for me but honestly, I do think a lot of readers will really like it.  I would probably recommend it to a few friends who’s reading style I’m familiar with.

while reading you should
Do: write down your ultimate goals and dreams.  Find your support group that will encourage you to get there.
Eat: a big waffle breakfast!
Listen: God Only Knows by Brandi Carlile

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The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

the bride test.PNG

official blurb
Khai Diep has no feelings. Well, he feels irritation when people move his things or contentment when ledgers balance down to the penny, but not big, important emotions—like grief. And love. He thinks he’s defective. His family knows better—that his autism means he just processes emotions differently. When he steadfastly avoids relationships, his mother takes matters into her own hands and returns to Vietnam to find him the perfect bride. As a mixed-race girl living in the slums of Ho Chi Minh City, Esme Tran has always felt out of place. When the opportunity arises to come to America and meet a potential husband, she can’t turn it down, thinking this could be the break her family needs. Seducing Khai, however, doesn’t go as planned. Esme’s lessons in love seem to be working…but only on herself. She’s hopelessly smitten with a man who’s convinced he can never return her affection. With Esme’s time in the United States dwindling, Khai is forced to understand he’s been wrong all along. And there’s more than one way to love.

my blurb!
A guy on the Autism spectrum, who hasn’t dated, is convinced to house a potential mail order wife that his mom set him up with.

4 out of 5

4 out of 5 steam level

what i liked
So if you didn’t know, this book is a companion novel (in the same world and kind of a second book but also a stand alone book) as The Kiss Quotient.  The Kiss Quotient, I wasn’t in love with, but also it was one of the very first steamy romance novels I’d ever read.  So I am kind of convinced it would rank higher now that I’ve immersed myself into the romance reads culture.
I really liked this book!  I love love loved the main characters! This is told from two perspectives (dual POVs) and it made the book that much more enjoyable.  I loved both main characters and felt like I knew both of them and their thought processes well!
My/Esme, our female protagonist, was independent and determined.  She was, dare I say, scrappy and sexy.  She was kind and vulnerable.  Khai, our male protagonist, was so realistic.  He was kind, and sensitive.  He was considerate and funny.  Hoang wrote the dual perspectives very well and each chapter was so specifically different from the POVs- they never blended together.
At its core- this was the story of a female immigrant and a boy on the Autism spectrum.  I’ve said it multiple times but that won’t stop me from saying it now, romance novels are THE most diverse novels published right now.  (Try to change my mind!)
Lastly, this books acknowledgment section was epic.  I mentioned that in Sky in the Deep as well. I’m clearly a fan of a well written acknowledgment section.  (Come to think of it, I also love that part of Children of Blood and Bone).  The author explains how Esme/My ended up as the main character and… I mean, you just have to read it. It was amazing and made me love the book even more!

what i didn't like
This next part will be hard to explain without giving away any spoilers but I’m going to do my darndest!  This book ended with an Epilogue… which you know I love!  So why is it in the “didn’t like” section?  The epilogue took place FOUR years after the main portion of the book.  Let that sink in. We spend a lot of time with these characters and then we’re catapulted four years forward.  I wasn’t thrilled with the overall relationship status of Khai and Esme at this point.  I won’t go more into that, but if you’ve read it you know!

Overall I would easily recommend this book to romance readers.  It is on the higher end of steam level that I’m comfortable reading.  If you liked the first book in the set, The Kiss Quotient, I think you’ll like this book even better!

while reading you should
Listen: Slipped Away by Avril Lavigne
Eat: Authentic Vietnamese food!
Do:  Learn something new that you’ve always wanted to learn!

arc review

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