Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center

happiness for beginners

official blurb
A year after getting divorced, Helen Carpenter, thirty-two, lets her annoying, ten years younger brother talk her into signing up for a wilderness survival course. It’s supposed to be a chance for her to pull herself together again, but when she discovers that her brother’s even-more-annoying best friend is also coming on the trip, she can’t imagine how it will be anything other than a disaster. Thus begins the strangest adventure of Helen’s well-behaved life: three weeks in the remotest wilderness of a mountain range in Wyoming where she will survive mosquito infestations, a surprise summer blizzard, and a group of sorority girls.Yet, despite everything, the vast wilderness has a way of making Helen’s own little life seem bigger, too. And, somehow the people who annoy her the most start teaching her the very things she needs to learn. Like how to stand up for herself. And how being scared can make you brave. And how sometimes you just have to get really, really lost before you can even have a hope of being found.

my blurb!
A girl who deserves better out of life decides to go on a trip where she hopes to leave with the gumption to demand better.  Also there’s a cute guy involved.

 

Okay remember how I was slightly (read: entirely) obsessed with How To Walk Away by Katherine Center?  I had so many people talking to me about this other book by her that I needed to read (I’m looking at you Kate and Joee)!  But for some reason I just never read it.  Maybe because it reminded me of Wild which I couldn’t get through?  But I finally read an ebook copy when it came in for me at the library.  Truth be told this was at least the third time I secured the ebook from the library, but I finally read it this time!  And woah… two words – freaking amazing. (I already ordered myself a copy and started annotating it).

5 out of 5

🔥 out of 5 steam level

REQUIRED READING FOR FICTION LOVERS

 

what i liked
Omg, what didn’t I like would be an easier question!!!  I’m slightly obsessed with Jake.  I was hooked on this book at the end of the first chapter.  Like couldn’t put it down, couldn’t stop thinking about it, knew I would buy it – kind of hooked.  At 60% of the way through I messaged my best friend and said “You really don’t have a choice with this question- but do you want to read this book?”  (She is going to read it of course… because she has amazing taste.  In books and in friends. hah!)
It’s so hard for me to review this without spoilers- but I will say that the message of the book is really on brand with The Gratitude Diaries (are you tired of me talking about that book yet? Too bad! I’ll never stop!!!)
There were approximately 7000 quotes in this book that I highlighted on my kindle. I’m obsessed with Katherine Center’s writing!  I’ve touted it in multiple reviews of her books but honestly- this is her calling. She is such an amazing writer!!!
I heard that Katherine Center’s next book is all about Duncan and I cannot freaking wait!!!! I’m so here for all of her writing but this book spoke to me.  It was a fictional practice of changing your mindset towards positivity. Read it!!!! Drop everything and read it!!!!
Lastly, I think it should be mentioned that I have two toddlers and a two week old newborn.  I should have been sleeping when I was reading this book. Instead I was up two nights in a row reading this. I have zero regrets. That’s how good it was!

while reading you should
Read: The Gratitude Diaries by Janice Kaplan
Do: break out some old dance moves to The Cha Cha Slide
Eat: A fish dinner
Do: unfriend exes on social media!
Do: I mean while you’re at it, you might as well go for a walk!

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The Gratitude Diaries by Janice Kaplan

gratitude diaries

5 out of 5

official blurb
On New Year’s Eve, journalist and former Parade Editor-in-Chief Janice Kaplan makes a promise to be grateful and look on the bright side of whatever happens. She realizes that how she feels over the next months will have less to do with the events that occur than her own attitude and perspective. Getting advice at every turn from psychologists, academics, doctors, and philosophers, she brings readers on a smart and witty journey to discover the value of appreciating what you have. Relying on both amusing personal experiences and extensive research, Kaplan explores how gratitude can transform every aspect of life including marriage and friendship, money and ambition, and health and fitness. She learns how appreciating your spouse changes the neurons of your brain and why saying thanks helps CEOs succeed. Through extensive interviews with experts and lively conversations with real people including celebrities like Matt Damon, Daniel Craig, and Jerry Seinfeld, Kaplan discovers the role of gratitude in everything from our sense of fulfillment to our children’s happiness.

what i liked
Wow, let’s talk about how life changing this book can be if you let it!  But I know we need to get something out of the way first – Janice Kaplan lives a charmed life that most of us will not relate to.  This doesn’t mean that she doesn’t need to practice gratitude and can’t be an expert on it though!

 

I have recommended this book to practically everyone I know.  Because, no joke, this book has made my day to day life so much better!  There are daily practices you can do to practice gratitude.  There are steps to help with you marriage, with your job, with depression.  And let me tell you, it works! 

I love the quotes from philosophers, I love the stats about mental health and how much gratitude can help with mental health.  Most of all I love the actual payoff of reading this book and putting it into practice.  If gratitude is a muscle that you exercise, I am determined to be a ripped body builder.

Add this to your must read list, you won’t regret it!

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Faking it Under the Mistletoe by Ashley Shepherd

faking it under the mistletoe

official blurb
Olivia Langley is the human embodiment of Christmas cheer, and she has absolutely no problem spreading it around for all to hear. Christmas sweaters? She has twenty. Christmas cookies? She’ll take three dozen. Christmas movies? Yeah, she’s seen them all. So it’s no surprise when she’s put in charge of Loveridge & McGowan’s holiday festivities. Secret Santas? Yep. Ice skating? Of course. Holiday trivia? Duh. Christmas-themed bar crawl? That’s one big jingle bell hell yes. Kissing her boss at a Christmas tree lighting in front of his ex-girlfriend? Well… it is the season of giving. And Olivia does not come with a gift receipt. No exchanges. No returns. No refunds. All sales are final. In an effort to ungrinch the grinchiest man she’s ever met, Olivia enlists herself, Santa’s Executive Helper, to scheme up a plan that includes sleigh rides, snow days, and one too many mistletoe kisses, which certainly gets Asher’s tinsel in a tangle. She’s pretty sure that she sleighed this whole fake relationship thing. Well… until she realizes there’s nothing fake about her feelings for Asher, and suddenly tangled tinsel, unsolicited Christmas trees, and celebrity heartthrobs are the least of her worries.

my blurb!
A Hallmark loving intern pretends to be dating her boss when she sees how upset he is at a company event after his breakup.

5 out of 5

🔥🔥.5 out of 5 steam level

This book is REQUIRED READING FOR ROMANCE LOVERS!

I’d seen this book around Instagram and people seemed to almost entirely love it! So when I snagged a Kindle unlimited deal for a few months I knew this one needed to be at the top of my list!

Now it opens the book with a trigger warning and I’ll open my review with that as well- this book has a trigger warning involving a sexual predator storyline and sexual harassment. It is not descriptive or suspenseful in this storyline.

what i liked
I read this book in one sitting and loved it! There are Hallmark movie references and even a reference to Lifetime making Christmas movies! (If you follow me on Instagram… And you should!… You know I’ve been watching and reviewing ALL of the Christmas movies this year! Check out my Instagram highlights!)
There was even a reference to my FAVORITE bakery in all of New York City, Le Vain Bakery. (Sidenote I make these knock off cookies and they’re amazing. You’re welcome.) Olivia, our heroine, is struggling to make ends meet. She is sassy and confident in personality and in her body (this is rare for me to mention in a heroine because it’s honestly rare to read about!) Her personality flaw would be that she doesn’t like disappointing people and will help anyone to the point of meddling.
The plot is funny and moves quickly, I was surprised how many drama points fit into it without it bothering me remotely.
Asher, our main man, was really overly grumpy in the beginning. It almost turned me off of him but I’m so glad I stuck with him because I ended up loving him!

what i didn't like
My biggest wish list is that I wish there was a chapter from his perspective from what he thought of her in the beginning or when he started to fall for her… Maybe a reminiscing chapter where he tells her! Fingers crossed there will be a newsletter with a novella or something!!!

 

This book features an enemies to lovers trope, a Grinch trope, fake relationship and coworkers trope!

when to read
This book is best read between Thanksgiving and Christmas. BUT, full disclosure, I read it the day after Christmas. So I think in general it should be a winter read!

while reading you should
Listen to some of my favorite Christmas music!
-Johnnyswim’s Christmas Album
-Ben Rector’s Christmas Album
-The Christmas Song by Lauren Daigle
-Amy Grant’s Christmas Album
-The Pentatonix Christmas Album
(okay, you got me. I love Christmas music! What can I say?!)

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

20190718_CS01_Code of Conduct_White_KDP_FINAL

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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The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez

the friend zone

official blurb
Kristen Petersen doesn’t do drama, will fight to the death for her friends, and has no room in her life for guys who just don’t get her. She’s also keeping a big secret: facing a medically necessary procedure that will make it impossible for her to have children. Planning her best friend’s wedding is bittersweet for Kristen—especially when she meets the best man, Josh Copeland. He’s funny, sexy, never offended by her mile-wide streak of sarcasm, and always one chicken enchilada ahead of her hangry. Even her dog, Stuntman Mike, adores him. The only catch: Josh wants a big family someday. Kristen knows he’d be better off with someone else, but as their attraction grows, it’s harder and harder to keep him at arm’s length.

my blurb!
The story of a blunt and fun woman, struggling with painful periods, trying to navigate her dating life when she knows her future isn’t going to be filled with children.

So I actually got this book from the publisher at least a month ago. I never wait that long to read books from a publisher because I get so excited when I get them. But around that point everyone was putting out five star reviews of this book and I just got too nervous that I would not agree with the rating! Does that ever happen to you? An overhyped book? Well let me tell you this book was not overhyped I really really enjoyed it!

5 out of 5

 

🔥🔥🔥 out of 5 steam level

 

what i liked
Spoiler alert: (not really) I have endometriosis which can create huge fertility issues and non-stop debilitating pain. It’s basically living with a chronic condition where your pain level is heightened all the time. It forces you to cancel plans, rearrange your calendar, miss events that you were looking forward to and completely change your lifestyle… and there’s nothing you can do about it. This book features a heroine who has awful menstrual cycles. As I write this I’m thinking about that scene in the movie 20th Century WomenSay the word menstruation.  I have never read a fiction book that tackles period issues before! It was speaking to me!  Fun fact- the author based the main character’s fertility issues off of her irl best friend! For the amazing depiction of the suffering that we go through with periods from hell – this book made my REQUIRED READING LIST FOR PEOPLE WITH ENDOMETRIOSIS.

There are things in this book I didn’t think I would like. A love triangle? Since when do I like love triangles?! I know there’s a few exceptions to the rule – but I swear the last couple of books with love triangles I’ve somehow liked! What is happening to me?! There was also a communication issue in the book – which is my least favorite plot topic.  And somehow it just didn’t bother me enough to take away the 5 star rating!

A couple of fun facts about this book… The author owns the bakery Nadia Cakes which I’ve heard has been featured on the food Network! Nadia Cakes makes a cameo in the book so that was kind of fun. Also the heroines dog in the book, Stuntman Mike, is the author’s real life dog! I thought these were fun facts that made me enjoy the novel even more!

Okay last rants of appreciation, I promise.  The love story and friendship stories were both so strong. I loved how close her and her best friend, Sloan, were. At times this book gave me vibes of My Oxford Year, sometimes Christina Lauren vibes.  This book was so enjoyable to read- it was quick, I flew through it in less than a day! Ready for the kicker? It also made the list of my REQUIRED READING FOR ROMANCE LOVERS.

while reading you should
Eat: cupcakes, you deserve it!
Wear: your “boyfriend” t-shirt? Actual boyfriend not required – all you need is a quick trip to goodwill and an oversized men’s shirt!  Goodwill to the rescue!
Listen to: Don’t Stop Believing by Journey

arc review

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Twice in a Blue Moon by Christina Lauren

twice in a blue moon

 

official blurb
Sam Brandis was Tate Jones’s first: Her first love. Her first everything. Including her first heartbreak. During a whirlwind two-week vacation abroad, Sam and Tate fell for each other in only the way that first loves do: sharing all of their hopes, dreams, and deepest secrets along the way. Sam was the first, and only, person that Tate—the long-lost daughter of one of the world’s biggest film stars—ever revealed her identity to. So when it became clear her trust was misplaced, her world shattered for good. Fourteen years later, Tate, now an up-and-coming actress, only thinks about her first love every once in a blue moon. When she steps onto the set of her first big break, he’s the last person she expects to see. Yet here Sam is, the same charming, confident man she knew, but even more alluring than she remembered. Forced to confront the man who betrayed her, Tate must ask herself if it’s possible to do the wrong thing for the right reason… and whether “once in a lifetime” can come around twice.

my blurb!
Two people who fell in love when things were a little less complicated, run into each other again – feeling the brunt of all kinds of complications.

5 out of 5

 🔥🔥🔥 out of 5 steam level

what i liked
Wow! I cannot believe I actually read a second chance romance that I liked! If I could describe the look of absolute shock on my face while I’m writing this I would try to… but I can’t so you’ll just have to believe me.  Not sure what a second chance romance is? Well, it is the trope where you fall in love once with someone and there’s some sort of miscommunication or backstabbing that occurs… then years later you fall in love again. I always hate it! One day in DecemberLove and other words… It’s just not my thing! Yet here I am reading this book and loving it!
This book was funny, but the storyline was really strong. I very much enjoyed both of the main characters and would even be interested in reading a novella with some of the side characters. Tate’s mother, for instance, would be really interesting to read about!
This did have some steam but I would still recommend it to people who like a really low steam romance novel. There were multiple sex scenes in it that weren’t close door, but they were not very descriptive either. (I almost tried to rate this a 2 steam level but consulted my friendly steam rating in my sidebar here and decided it HAD to be a three).  Definitely on the lower end of seam levels for a Christina Lauren novel! [If you haven’t read my review of the unhoneymooners, check that out too because it has a very low steam level and is great for newbie romance readers!]
This book took place in Northern California.  My old stomping grounds!!! I wish that they would have mentioned specifically where in northern California this book took place, because I love to picture a specific place. I was imagining something kind of like Big Sur, but I would have loved to have a point of reference for that! Regardless the book does get points for even mentioning northern California!

what i didn't like
Literally the only thing I did not like about this book was that it needed an epilogue very badly. Very badly. Not even necessarily an epilogue but maybe just one last chapter. I actually thought that maybe they forgot a chapter in my advanced readers copy…that’s how much it needed it! I know it’s hard to believe I would still rate this at 5 starts but I’m hopeful that they will put an epilogue into the finished book. There is some major vengeance/sass/wit needed in the final chapter, that specifically has to be channeled toward the character who deserves it! Without that chapter the book is missing something… I still loved it, I read it over 48 hours and enjoyed every minute of it! But Christina and Lauren – if you’re reading this, please add a final chapter!

while reading you should
Do: reminisce about your dreams when you were in high school/ college.  (I’m personally not a fan of longing for the road not traveled- but who says you can’t try to get back into an old passion! …I’m talking about a hobby here not a person! haha)
Eat:  Strawberries… make a crepe, put them on a pancake, eat them on their own!
Listen to: playlist I created for this book on Spotify!

arc review

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Hope and Other Punch Lines by Julie Buxbaum

hope and other punch lines

official blurb

Sometimes looking to the past helps you find your future. Abbi Hope Goldstein is like every other teenager, with a few smallish exceptions: her famous alter ego, Baby Hope, is the subject of internet memes, she has asthma, and sometimes people spontaneously burst into tears when they recognize her. Abbi has lived almost her entire life in the shadow of the terrorist attacks of September 11. On that fateful day, she was captured in what became an iconic photograph: in the picture, Abbi (aka “Baby Hope”) wears a birthday crown and grasps a red balloon; just behind her, the South Tower of the World Trade Center is collapsing. Now, fifteen years later, Abbi is desperate for anonymity and decides to spend the summer before her seventeenth birthday incognito as a counselor at Knights Day Camp two towns away. She’s psyched for eight weeks in the company of four-year-olds, none of whom have ever heard of Baby Hope. Too bad Noah Stern, whose own world was irrevocably shattered on that terrible day, has a similar summer plan. Noah believes his meeting Baby Hope is fate. Abbi is sure it’s a disaster. Soon, though, the two team up to ask difficult questions about the history behind the Baby Hope photo. But is either of them ready to hear the answers?

my blurb!

Two teens dealing with the aftermath of 9/11 find that different coping mechanisms can still lead to healing.

5 out of 5

what i liked

Wow, two chapters into this book and I knew I would be hooked. It is what I think a good YA book is, it’s cute yet heavy, it’s hopeful yet real. The book is alternating chapters between our two main characters – Noah and Abbi. Abbi who has, for better or worse, become the face of the survivors of 9/11. Noah who is determined to joke his way through tragedy. Both characters were both relatable and likable. I cruised through this book but also wanted to savor it. I think you will too!
Ready for me to call out some specific moments in this book that I fell in love with? How about on page 181 where Noah references Julie Buxbaum’s previous book Tell Me Three Things?! I love love love little easter eggs from an authors previous books. Sarah Dessen is a master at doing this and it will never get old!
I tried to think of the quote in this book that I think captured the entire sentiment of it. Here’s something that Noah says that I feel like really sums up Love and Other Punch Lines:

“But you can be serious and funny at the same time. We need the serious to recognize the funny, and the funny to give us even a shot in hell at surviving the serious. It’s a really simple theory if your think about it. They’re mutually dependent, not mutually exclusive.”

This book focuses a lot on 9/11, and as I was reading it was so curious what was made up, and what was real. It was almost like reading a historical fiction book and you think you’re learning a lot and then you think… well is this even real? Well at the end of this book the author reveals what was true and what was not true. Much of what I was genuinely intrigued about and had never heard of, was indeed true. This really solidified the 5 star ranking for me. I love that I learned something from this book, and that teens who maybe weren’t old enough to comprehend 9/11 will read this book and get a bigger understanding of a moment in time that turned everything else into after.

while reading you should

Do: name your car
Eat: gummy bears
Drink: a slushy

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