Wall of Winnipeg by Maria Zapata

wall of winnipeg

official blurb
Vanessa Mazur knows she’s doing the right thing. She shouldn’t feel bad for quitting. Being an assistant/housekeeper/fairy godmother to the top defensive end in the National Football Organization was always supposed to be temporary. She has plans and none of them include washing extra-large underwear longer than necessary. But when Aiden Graves shows up at her door wanting her to come back, she’s beyond shocked. For two years, the man known as The Wall of Winnipeg couldn’t find it in him to tell her good morning or congratulate her on her birthday. Now? He’s asking for the unthinkable. What do you say to the man who is used to getting everything he wants?

4.25 out of 5
🔥🔥🔥 out of 5 steam level

Wow I cannot believe how long it took me to get into this book and also how much I ended up loving it for how long it took me to get into it!

There are a LOT of trigger warnings in this hefty book. That’s right… It’s hefty. Her books are SO long and this one was 673 pages! Alcoholism, physical abuse, drug addiction (side character), foster care. There were maybe more than that if I really broke it all down but those were the majors.

It was my first Zapata book and she was described to me as the master of a slow burn. Totally agree after reading and I am here for it! But let me tell you, I was well over 100 pages into this book… maybe 175-ish and I was so close to DNFing this book.  The only reason I didn’t is because I’ve had so many friends rave about it.  I totally get the hype now.  As I’ve been away from this book I almost upped my rating to 5 stars because I’ve thought about this book so frequently, but it is (in my opinion) too long.  Like, way too long.  But dang, was it good!!

There was one sex scene in the book. It was probably around a three steam level- and this scene could easily be skipped. There’s also cursing in it, in case that bothers you!

Aiden gave me major Joshua Templeman vibes from The Hating Game and I loved that! I do wish some of the chapters were written in his perspective.

I also stalled out a LITTLE bit in the end. I usually love an epilogue but this book was so long that I honestly didn’t enjoy the epilogue much at all. After finally getting into this book though, I cruised through the middle/end of it! So a solid four stars for me!

while reading you should
Watch: Love on the Sidelines
Eat: a vegan meal
Do: go for a run

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What You Wish For by Katherine Center

what you wish for

arc review

official blurb
Samantha Casey loves everything about her job as an elementary school librarian on the sunny, historic island of Galveston, Texas—the goofy kids, the stately Victorian building, the butterfly garden. But when the school suddenly loses its beloved principal, it turns out his replacement will be none other than Duncan Carpenter—a former, unrequited crush of Sam’s from many years before. When Duncan shows up as her new boss, though, he’s nothing like the sweet teacher she once swooned over. He’s become stiff, and humorless, and obsessed with school safety. Now, with Duncan determined to destroy everything Sam loves about her school in the name of security—and turn it into nothing short of a prison—Sam has to stand up for everyone she cares about before the school that’s become her home is gone for good.

5 out of 5


 

REQUIRED READING FOR FICTION LOVERS

Ah! Let’s start with the fact that I loved this book! I was so nervous yet excited to read it because I adored Happiness For Beginners.  (If you didn’t know, this book is a stand alone book but it is a companion to HFB with some crossover characters).  I love love loved this book! It was a warm cup of coffee, a cozy sweater and the perfect playlist wrapped up in the impeccable writing of Katherine Center.

There were SO many quotes throughout this book that I made a note of.  I read an advanced readers copy so I can’t quote it for you. But you’re going to have to trust me that the writing you expect from Katherine Center does not let down in this book!  In fact it lets you up …okay so that’s not a thing, but it should be.

Remember in HFB, that I raved about it being a fiction book to support my gratitude lifestyle?  What You Wish For also keeps up with the theme of gratitude.  (If you want a reprisal of my love for all things gratitude then read my review for The Gratitude Diaries).  Seriously I love this theme so much – the characters in Katherine Center’s books do not  have perfect lives, but they search to see the best in their circumstances.  It was a very compelling theme to read in this time of coronavirus.  It left me feeling hopeful.  What a gift!

Did I mention that I was smile reading throughout most of this book?  By chapter ten or eleven I knew that I did not want to put the book down without finishing it.  There were a couple of roller coasters on the way to the ending. (You know, that feeling that an event in the book must be the climax, only to continue reading and think that the following events must be the stories climax).  I was happily along for the ride the entire way.

If I could change one thing about this book, it would be that I want a bonus chapter from Duncan’s perspective.  Specifically when he has to assume the caretaker role.  That’s all I’ll say.

Here comes my content warnings (previously called trigger warnings) if you find these to be spoilers then don’t read the next line:
Content warnings include: gun violence, school shootings, loss of a loved one.

while reading you should
Dress: In your favorite outfit featuring bright colors and/or fun patterns
Do: Go to a carnival.  Well… this is kind of a lie from me because I hate carnival rides. But if you’re into them then you should totally go while reading this book.
Eat: chocolate chip cookies.  This has nothing to do with the book but they make me happy.

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Crave by Tracy Wolff

crave

official blurb
My whole world changed when I stepped inside the academy. Nothing is right about this place or the other students in it. Here I am, a mere mortal among gods…or monsters. I still can’t decide which of these warring factions I belong to, if I belong at all. I only know the one thing that unites them is their hatred of me. Then there’s Jaxon Vega. A vampire with deadly secrets who hasn’t felt anything for a hundred years. But there’s something about him that calls to me, something broken in him that somehow fits with what’s broken in me. Which could spell death for us all. Because Jaxon walled himself off for a reason. And now someone wants to wake a sleeping monster, and I’m wondering if I was brought here intentionally—as the bait.

arc review

5 out of 5

Okay I know you might think it’s insane that I’m giving a vampire book five stars but, listen – this book was 572 pages of awesomeness. Okay so it’s not on my list of required reading for fiction lovers, but it IS on my list of required reading : guilty pleasures. (If you’re keeping track, so far this list includes a book about a fallen angel and now a book about a vampire).

what i liked
-I found the characters super likable! I wanted even more scenes about Macy (is it weird that we really barely see her interact with her boyfriend? I mean, it’s not like there wasn’t time… 570+ pages!).
-I zoomed through reading this, I was always looking forward to picking it up and I never wanted to put it down.  If I read this on an ebook on my kindle I would’ve read it through the night for sure.
-Jaxon. Jaxon. Jaxon. That is all. I could go on, but Grace will for me in the book so I won’t.
-Grace… okay I wasn’t obsessed with her but generally I tend to get annoyed with main characters in books like these. I couldn’t make my way through The Mortal Instruments series completely because of Clary.  So Grace was a welcome change.  While I’ve never read twilight (I know, I need to rectify that STAT!) I have seen the movies.  And Kristen Stewart in those movies (picture as many eye roll emojis as humanly possible right here, okay?).  Anyways, I was expecting Grace to be reminiscent of Bella in twilight.
-All of the fantastical creatures! (no spoilers from me!)
-The library featured in the book.  I know that’s random but this is my review, what are you going to do about it?!

what i didn't like
The cheese level in this book is REAL.  The insta-love is there…. it is strong…the smell of it is wafting.  (Okay, I think you get it).
The first interaction between Jaxon and Grace was so incredibly bizarre.  I could not get over it.  Who physically touches someone when they first interact…prior to even exchanging names?!  Who, I ask you?!
I couldn’t get a good grip on what Jaxon actually looked like because all Grace kept observing was something along the lines of… (and i’m paraphrasing here) “Jaxon’s eyes…looking into my soul. Knowing me somehow. Showing me the despair that only he could detect deep within my own bones.”  So yeah… I couldn’t figure out what he looked like.
Listen… I realize the “do not like” list is long for a five star book. I rarely even write anything under this header when a book ranks 5 stars.  But that’s why it’s in my guilty pleasures list. Because… yes there were some flaws, but omg it was so good!

while reading you should
Watch: Legacies (you can binge it on Netflix!)
Listen to: Autumn Leaves by Miles Davis
Do: hydrate… you can never drink too much water!

Okay, last but not least, I’m gonna include one of my favorite scenes in the book (there were a lot to choose from but I feel like I need to sell you on this book because I loved it.  Some would even go so far as to say, I devoured it.   … see what I did there? Also, lets go ahead and be annoyed together that Grace doesn’t use punctuation when she texts)  :

Jaxon: It’s supposed to be a warning
Jaxon: Winky kiss emoji

Me: Of what?
Jaxon: Things that go bump in the night
Jaxon: You never can be too careful
Me: I like scary stories
Jaxon: But do you like the monsters in them?
Me: I guess it depends on the monster
Jaxon: I guess we’ll see, then, won’t we?
Me: I don’t know what that means

You’re hooked right?! Go read this book and then tell me all about your feelings because you will have them all when you read them! Oh… I guess I should also mention that this is book one and book two does not come out for a year.  Oopsies.  But still… go read it!

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Yours Truly, Cammie by SJ Sylvis

yours truly cammie

5 out of 5🔥🔥🔥🔥 out of 5 steam level

REQUIRED READING FOR ROMANCE LOVERS

official blurb
I follow one rule in life: Don’t get involved with a Marine. After this past year of heart-wrenching misery, and an entire childhood as daughter of one of the highest ranked officers in the Marine Corps, I’ve had enough of saying goodbye. I’ve had enough heartbreak to last me a lifetime. But in an attempt to avoid an awkward run-in with a previous blind date, whom I may or may not have abandoned mid-dinner, I found myself standing in an exam room with Lucas Wells. He was exceptionally handsome on the outside, but the second he started to run that egotistical mouth of his, I wanted to do one of two things: smack him or kiss him. Lucas Wells, the United States Marine, has me bending my rule in more ways than one. But the real question is, will I succumb to breaking my rule altogether, or will he break me before I even get the chance? This was a reread of this book for me. I loved it the first time and I still devoured it the second time.  (That’s such a weird sentence to write about a book that it almost makes me uncomfortable but it also made me laugh, so I kept it.)

what i liked
I love Luke.  Did SJ Sylvis choose his name because she’s a Gilmore Girls fan? I don’t know but I will pretend the answer is yes. (Even though we all know that I’m team Christopher).
Speaking of Gilmore Girls there is room full of sunflowers scene in this book that is VERY reminiscent to a room filled with daisies.  If you know, you know.
I liked Cammie’s BFF named Jojo. I like it when the characters have a good crew around them.
I recently started watching Hart of Dixie (which the author also watches)  and there’s a very lovable character in the show named Wade. He refers to the main character in the show as “Doc” the whole time.  And Luke in the book always refers to Cammie as “Doc” (even though she’s a nurse).  I personally liked this nickname! I know, I’ve complained a lot in the past about cutesie nicknames in romance novels. But I liked this one, what can I say?
This book is hilarious.  I laughed out loud a lot at how ridiculous Cammie’s train of thought was because I was so here for it!  Here are some examples:

“He was what you’d call a nice, tall glass of water. Actually, I almost felt as if I needed some water to moisten my now drying mouth. Jesus, take me now.”

“Whenever I’d acted bitchy (read as: beautifully sarcastic and witty) toward someone, it was only ever because I either: (1) knew the person really well, so they knew I was kidding, or (2) knew that I would never see them again.”

Trigger Warnings:
If you do not like reading a book with cussing, then this book is not for you.
If you do not like a book with a high steam level, this book is not for you. (4 out of 5 steam level according to my steam meter)
This book features the loss of a loved on, specifically a military loss.

I read this book quickly both times I read it. It even features multiple epilogues- You know I’m a sucker for an epilogue!

what i didn't like
I really love this book- hence the required reading on my romance novel list status.  I would say if there’s something that readers won’t like about this book it is maybe how little we actually know about Luke. Or maybe the way that Cammie deals with conflict.  I wasn’t bothered by either of these very much.  But I would TOTALLY be down with a novella from Luke’s perspective.  Maybe a second book featuring Luke’s brother featured in the epilogue and then Luke can be in it too?!  I know, I’m an idea girl- and I only require 2% of the commission from these ideas! (Just kidding, SJ Sylvis, write more about these two!!!! )

when to read
Because this is required reading- you can read it anytime. BUT I recommend it during warmer weather, or during a crazy rain storm.

while reading you should
Watch: Gilmore Girls and Hart of Dixie
Eat: chocolate chips
Do: prank someone
Listen to: Nothing But You by Bob Moses

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Tweet Cute by Emma Lord

tweet cute 1

official blurb
Meet Pepper, swim team captain, chronic overachiever, and all-around perfectionist. Her family may be falling apart, but their massive fast-food chain is booming ― mainly thanks to Pepper, who is barely managing to juggle real life while secretly running Big League Burger’s massive Twitter account. Enter Jack, class clown and constant thorn in Pepper’s side. When he isn’t trying to duck out of his obscenely popular twin’s shadow, he’s busy working in his family’s deli. His relationship with the business that holds his future might be love/hate, but when Big League Burger steals his grandma’s iconic grilled cheese recipe, he’ll do whatever it takes to take them down, one tweet at a time. All’s fair in love and cheese ― that is, until Pepper and Jack’s spat turns into a viral Twitter war. Little do they know, while they’re publicly duking it out with snarky memes and retweet battles, they’re also falling for each other in real life ― on an anonymous chat app Jack built.  As their relationship deepens and their online shenanigans escalate ― people on the internet are shipping them?? ― their battle gets more and more personal, until even these two rivals can’t ignore they were destined for the most unexpected, awkward, all-the-feels romance that neither of them expected.

Full disclosure while I was reading this book I was sure it was either written by Emma Mills or Emory Lord… only later did I realize that it was an entirely new to me author!

what i didn't like
Tweet Cute was a really adorable YA read.  It could easily have been five stars but I got stressed out a couple of times while I was reading it.  The relationship between the main character and her mom was pretty realistic as far as strained relationships but the “don’t rock the boat” mentality of a teen I just can’t get behind.  That could be because I’m not a huge people pleaser.

what i liked
What this book did have going for it was a teeny tiny mystery/ twist.  A really cute high school couple that didn’t have huge communication issues!  A You’ve Got Mail vibe.  Overall it was a quick read that almost everyone will enjoy!  There were multiple times reading this book that I got real Chilton vibes from the school (Gilmore Girls reference) so that was fun!  Also, remember Prof Umbridge from Harry Potter?  There’s some total Umbridge parts as well!

Looking for LGBTQ books?  This book has a supporting character that you’ll like!

while reading you should
do: bake!
watch: you’ve got mail
eat/drink: a milkshake!

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Doctor Dearest by R.S. Grey

arc review

2.5 out of 5
🔥🔥🔥🔥 out of 5 steam level 

It’s no secret that I love R.S. Grey’s steamy romcoms. In fact a few of her books have made their way on MY required reading list for romance lovers!  This book features the signature wit of Grey that I always love and tropes that I can’t help but get behind.  (Tropes in this book include: confined space, in love with brothers best friend, coworker romance, age gap).  Unfortunately this book didn’t capture me like Grey’s others.  I had some issues with the overall romance in it.  The couple’s relationship seemed a bit unhealthy with passionate scenes occuring after huge fights and poor communication.  Sex scenes featuring tears and anger and avoidance.  I had a hard time moving past that and it made me overall not root for them as a couple.  In the background of this book are two characters that I hope will have a book next because I was really into them! (I’m purposefully not using their names… no spoilers from me!)  So it’s a bummer that I wasn’t the ideal reader for this particular book, but that won’t stop me from picking up all of Grey’s books in the future!

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The Happy Ever After Playlist by Abby Jimenez

Remember me screaming about my love for The Friend Zone?  Well this book takes place after that one… it can definitely be read as a standalone book but honestly… why would you ever skip The Friend Zone?

arc review

happy ever after playlist

official blurb
Two years after losing her fiancé, Sloan Monroe still can’t seem to get her life back on track. But one trouble-making pup with a “take me home” look in his eyes is about to change everything. With her new pet by her side, Sloan finally starts to feel more like herself. Then, after weeks of unanswered texts, Tucker’s owner reaches out. He’s a musician on tour in Australia. And bottom line: He wants Tucker back. Well, Sloan’s not about to give up her dog without a fight. But what if this Jason guy really loves Tucker? As their flirty texts turn into long calls, Sloan can’t deny a connection. Jason is hot and nice and funny. There’s no telling what could happen when they meet in person. The question is: With his music career on the rise, how long will Jason really stick around? And is it possible for Sloan to survive another heartbreak?

my blurb!
An amazing grieving girl falls for a famous world traveling boy…before she realizes she would have to travel all of the time too.

4.5 out of 5

 

🔥🔥🔥🔥 out of 5 steam level

what i liked
I loved this story! I read it really quickly… like in two sittings.  It had me hooked! I loved the love story and meet cute!  Revisiting Josh and Kristen from The Friend Zone added so much to the story!  The best part of this book was easily how in love Sloan and Jason were.  I kept thinking that the whole time I was reading it!  I think a lot of people who may not have bonded with Kristen as much in TFZ will love Sloan.  Jimenez wrote both characters really well and their personalities are so different from one another – I could just see a lot of people being #teamsloan.  I loved the closeness of Jason and his family in this book- that was a big highlight for me.  I hope to even see more glimpses of the family in future books!  (Hey, it’s a three book deal! Maybe book three will be about his family!)

what i didn't like
I think one takeaway from this book could be that the main couple was codependent.  It might be a turn off for some readers.  This was easily my favorite rockstar romance that I’ve ever read- in general that trope really doesn’t hit home for me.  With that being said- there were still moments in this book that I wanted to hurry the rockstar drama along.
There was a bit of mystery (strong word here… more like a plot point that is revealed later on in the story) regarding a character named Lola and I solved that really easily and early on.  It didn’t take away from the storyline per say – but I felt it should be noted.  Overall this book had high drama.  I didn’t love this aspect of it, but I adored the love story so much that it was able to drive the story home for me and still had me adoring this book.

while reading you should
Do: Go through a car wash
Do: Make a new playlist!
Listen to: …well the entire playlist that the author includes at the back of the book. but if you’re too lazy to flip there I’ll include one song… Keep Your Head Up by Ben Howard
Eat: A cupcake. And if you’re close to Nadia’s cupcakes – go there! (The author owns that bakery!)

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