Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

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Okay, I know you’ve seen this book everywhere because I have too.  And guess what? I finally actually read it!  I will tell you that this makes my list for REQUIRED READING FOR EVERY AMERICAN.  

Shall we get into the review? Okay let’s do it!  This book is a tough read.  There are a few reasons why it’s so tough.  I’ll start with the obvious- the subject matter is heavy.  There are a LOT of trigger warnings in this book. Abuse, neglect, rape, mental illness, child endangerment, bomb threats.  A lot.  Another reason why this book is tough to read is… well quite frankly, it’s poorly written.  I know, you weren’t expecting that. And how did it make the list for required reading if it’s poorly written?!  Well, that’s because the content is so incredibly important to read!  It just simply must be read.  BUT honestly- some parts were repetitive, the sentences were long and confusing. I would often have to reread a long sentence that had multiple commas and a parenthetical statement included.  I think it’s quite clear that this book was written for the common reader- so I personally think the author and editor did a disservice to the audience by publishing it the way it was written.  Overall though- what everyone says about this book is true.  It’s subject matter is eye opening and shocking.  The stats in it were mind blowing.  I have exactly 97 highlights I made while reading this book! So I’ll end this review with some quotes from the book.  But pick up a copy yourself it will open up your mind to how comfortable we’ve all become to living a life with bias!  It’s REQUIRED!

“For years, we’ve been the only country in the world that condemns children to life imprisonment without parole; nearly three thousand juveniles have been sentenced to die in prison.”


“The State of Idaho banned interracial marriage and sex between white and black people in 1921 even though the state’s population was 99.8 percent nonblack.”


“Even though the restriction couldn’t be enforced under federal law, the state ban on interracial marriage in Alabama continued into the twenty-first century. In 2000, reformers finally had enough votes to get the issue on the statewide ballot, where a majority of voters chose to eliminate the ban, although 41 percent voted to keep it. A 2011 poll of Mississippi Republicans found that 46 percent support a legal ban on interracial marriage, 40 percent oppose such a ban, and 14 percent are undecided.”

“Only a handful of countries permitted the death penalty for children—and the United States was one of them.”

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Tweet Cute by Emma Lord

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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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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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No Whisk, No Reward (Donner Bakery #3) by Ellie Kay

no whisk no reward

 

official blurb
How do you know if a risk is worth taking? If you knew, there wouldn’t be any risk. Following a disastrous appearance on a televised baking show, Sophie Copeland is certain things can’t get any worse. Several calamities later, Sophie finds herself in Green Valley, Tennessee with no plan, no place to stay, and no prospects. But at least she has a temporary seasonal arrangement with the famed Donner Bakery. And that’s something, right? It’s not permanent, and it’s not a home, but it’s still something. Enter Joel Barnes, a Green Valley mystery, wrapped in rumors, and a whispered connection to the local notorious biker gang. Joel’s got a name for being bad news, but he also has an apartment for rent. Intrigued by the dichotomy of Joel’s reputation and sexy southern pull, Sophie can’t help but be tempted, even though she knows—given her (bad) luck—she should stay far, far away. . . Yet as everyone knows, without risk, there’s no reward.

arc review

4 out of 5

🔥🔥🔥🔥 out of 5 steam level
The steam level is a four. There are *I think* two sex scenes and both take place after he 75% mark. They can be easily skipped if the steam level is too high for you!

Okay this Penny-verse book was a lot of fun to read. It had what I was looking for: a quirky and sassy heroine, strong female friendships, LOTS of overlapping scenes with the Winston brothers (specifically Cletus and Jen but also Beau). It also featured overlap of other main/side characters from the previous Donner Bakery series! (Tempest and Joy!)
There was a lot of baking in this, which I am all here for! After just finishing the most recent series of The Great British Bakeoff, I needed to get my fix in still and this did it! Where are my GBB fans?!
Now remember how I haven’t loved the whole biker gang being a main plot point in a lot of these spin off books- it was featured in this book but done really well!
I think this might’ve been the longest smartypants romance I’ve read yet- in fact I’ve read some Goodreads reviews mentioning the length. I wasn’t bothered by it! I was enjoying the ride even if it slowed down my books read for the month!
The humor in this book was so enjoyable to me… I mean, wanting to start a bakery called Yeast Affection?! Haha!
This is a debut book for this author and I will definitely read more in the future!

Where does this take place in the Pennyverse? I think it takes place after the last Winston Brothers book- but perhaps it is after Dr. Strange Beard.

when to read
This book would be great to read over the fall and winter!

while reading you should
There are a LOT of songs mentioned in this book so here are a few that you can add to your playlist while reading this book:
-Wake me Up Before You Go Go by Wham
-Africa by Toto
-Take Me Home Country Roads by John Denver
– Rumours by Fleetwood Mac
-Motownphilly by Boyz 2 Men
Watch: a Paul Newman movie… specifically Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
If that movie isn’t your style you always have the option of watching 2 Fast 2 Furious (which, let’s be honest, is my choice out of the two for sure)
Eat: pie!

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Code of Conduct (Cipher Security #1) by April White

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arc review

official blurb
There are three things you need to know about Shane P.I.
1) P.I. is not her last name, it’s her job title, 2) Her specialty is catching cheaters, and 3) She’s a superhuman – kind of. Gabriel is a security expert for Cipher Security, and a former UN Peacekeeper with a fierce protective streak that finds its focus on the beautiful P.I. Their attraction is like an elephant in a room full of breakable things, and figuring out how to trust each other with their hearts, and maybe their lives, is the most fragile thing of all.

4 out of 5(If you’re reading this book you’re PROBABLY a fan of Smartpants Romances and in that case within this specific world, I think that could up this book to 5/5 stars!  As a stand alone romance it is 4/5 stars)
🔥🔥🔥 out of  5 Steam Level

 

what i liked
The dedication is a quote from love hacked by Penny Reid. That just made me feel like this author was really appreciative of being able to write in her universe and it started me off on the right foot for the book!
I loved EVERY quote that started out the chapter sections in this book! I swear I highlighted every single one.  You had SO much character overlap with this one! (From the Knitting in the City series) It was amazing!
It also had a lower steam level than the other books in this SmartyPants Romance series so far! I love being able to recommend a romance with a low steam level!
There were big topics being talked about- being black in America, being black and being found with a gun, moving on from past ghosts, having a physical disability, being underestimated. I mean it was everything and it was well done.
Lots of superhero talk for the Marvel and DC fans. A mystery to solve and a slow burn. It was such a fun read, I loved every minute of it!
This was everything I was hoping for in the SmartyPants Romance series!  I can’t wait to pick up some more books from this author!

while reading you should
Read- Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama
Listen to- The Hamilton Soundtrack
Watch- A Marvel Movie… Might as well start with Iron Man!

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Happy Trail (Park Ranger #1) by Daisy Prescott

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arc review

official blurb
A man of few words, Ranger Jay Daniels values the calm, quiet solitude of the Great Smoky Mountains. Never quite fitting in with either side of his family, he prefers the company of birds and trees to people.Yeah, he’d most definitely prefer a bird–any bird, any bird at all, take a vulture for instance–to the human-tornado hybrid that just blew onto his peaceful stretch of the Appalachian Trail. The path of true love never has run smooth for Olive Perry. After getting dumped and promptly abandoned in the middle of her multi-month hike, Olive swears off men. Determined to finish the long trek by herself, she doesn’t need a prince–or broody and taciturn ranger–to save her. Yet, when an early snowstorm threatens the mountains, and Ranger Daniels is charged with getting hikers to safety, that includes hot-tempered Olive Perry. Snowed in and forced to share an abandoned cabin, can Olive’s heated intensity melt Jay’s cool reserve And if so, will this happy trail lead to true love? Or will their time together be just another bump in the road?

4 out of 5(I will clarify that I think this book would be in the 3 star range if you weren’t reading them as a fan of the SmartyPants Romances and simply reading it alone)
🔥🔥🔥 out of 5 steam level

 

what i liked
Wow what a slow burn! This book features some amazing tropes. In addition to the slow burn, we have a snowed in / confined space romance!  These are some of my favorite tropes!  It also features an opposites attract trope.
I know I said the steam level is 3/5 and it is, but overall because it’s a slow burn book- the sex scene (that’s right- just one) is easily skippable making this book have a wider audience appeal!
You know the book/movie Wild that everyone loved (okay I didn’t like it at all, don’t judge me!) This is like a romance take on that book. The heroine is walking *mostly* alone on this insanely long hike across multiple states. I love how admired this is in the book- but I can honestly say I don’t get the appeal. Who can leave their lives for 6 weeks for a hike? I don’t know who… I wouldn’t do it but I’m not outdoorsy so that’s just me. So if I said this book made me wanna walk the trail, I would be lying to you. But I will say I enjoyed reading about Olive’s walk on the trail!
Jay was so likable and complex. He is have Japanese and half white. We get to learn a lot about what it’s like to grow up with that identity. He had a lot of Drew vibes from Beauty and the Mustache- so if you loved that book (like I did!) this book will be right up your alley. In fact Drew makes an appearance!!! No spoilers but it might have been my favorite scene in the book!

I wasn’t exactly sure where in the timeline of smarty-pants romances that this book took place, but I can tell you it’s after Beard Science.

At the beginning of the book I had some nerves that I would dislike Olive. She seemed to have poor communication skills and I was apprehensive that I would be able to handle that as the book progressed. I am happy to report that I did end up liking Olive and you will too!  But if I was going to mention a con in this book it would be Olive and her avoidance version of communication.

when to read
Go read this book! It was so fun to read and perfect for the fall/winter months!

while reading you should
-Go for a walk (around your neighborhood…let’s not get crazy here) and see what birds you can spot!
– Eat: pop-tarts and pie (not at the same time bc wow, sugar overload)
-Plan a trip to the Smokey Mountains (I’ve been and it was awesome! Unlike the book we saw plenty of bears up close and personal… Like real close.) Or if bears aren’t your thing… Plan a trip to Japan!
-watch (I know you’re thinking I’m gonna say Wild but I didn’t finish the movie so no.) I smell snow episode of Gilmore girls, officially known as Love and War and Snow (Season 1 Episode 8)

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Well Met by Jen DeLuca

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official blurb
Emily knew there would be strings attached when she relocated to the small town of Willow Creek, Maryland, for the summer to help her sister recover from an accident, but who could anticipate getting roped into volunteering for the local Renaissance Faire alongside her teenaged niece? Or that the irritating and inscrutable schoolteacher in charge of the volunteers would be so annoying that she finds it impossible to stop thinking about him? The faire is Simon’s family legacy and from the start he makes clear he doesn’t have time for Emily’s lighthearted approach to life, her oddball Shakespeare conspiracy theories, or her endless suggestions for new acts to shake things up. Yet on the faire grounds he becomes a different person, flirting freely with Emily when she’s in her revealing wench’s costume. But is this attraction real, or just part of the characters they’re portraying? This summer was only ever supposed to be a pit stop on the way to somewhere else for Emily, but soon she can’t seem to shake the fantasy of establishing something more with Simon, or a permanent home of her own in Willow Creek.

my blurb!
A girl with a penchant for helping people, decides to join a renaissance faire to help out her niece.  Little does she know that getting into character can help her as much as the audience.

4.5 out of 5

 🔥🔥🔥 out of 5 steam level

 

what i liked
I read this book in less than 24 hours.  It was so cute! I laughed a lot and found myself in love with the faire…I’ve never been to one but now I wanna go. Okay so maybe I don’t wanna run there and go, but I would totally go if it was free and before I wouldn’t have gone at all… so that’s something right? I loved all of the wench jokes and will definitely be adding those to my vernacular.
Okay back to even more things I liked… I really enjoyed the sister relationship, and the aunt/niece relationship.  I love a strong family in a book- so often in adult books the family relationships are strained and stressful, and I didn’t really feel like that at all reading this book.
Shall we get to the main main of the novel? In the words of Lorelai Gilmore, “Let’s shall!”  I loved loved loved Simon! Did I mention I loved him? I did. He was adorable and complex.  I was picturing the love interest in Austenland… which was not at all how he was described in the book, but I have a mind of my own and you can’t stop me!  Towards the end I tried to picture him as Captain Hook from Once Upon A Time and I think that’s more what he’s supposed to look like.

what i didn't like
My biggest issue in the whole thing were the communication issues in the book…  I loathe communication issues.  I get it completely, it adds to the angst but at one point the main character says that she and Simon are really good at talking to each other.  My reaction was literally “No you’re not. Lies!”  (It was, just check my kindle notes section!)  However, as I’m writing this review I’m currently having a hard time deciding if that should subtract from my rating or not bc I really liked this book!

While this was a 3 steam, the description levels were on the low end. I recently had someone mention they appreciate a “swear beware” (I think I just made that phrase up but I love it)- there are f-bombs in this book. Overall vulgar language was at a minimum for romantic encounters but the overall vernacular did include some bombs in the F variety.

while reading you should
Do: Look up a renaissance faire near you!
AND: Plan a night out with your girl-friends!
Watch- Austenland or A Knight’s Tale … Okay it should be Shakespeare related based off of this book but I’m not a fall of good ole Bill so…Austen and/or renaissance it is!

 

arc review

This book releases September 3, 2019!

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