Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe by Heather Webber

🔥 out of 5 steam level

Did you miss me and my posts? I know, but absence makes the heart grow fonder. It’s not because I haven’t been reading books. But I don’t like the new wordpress block format to make my posts and last time it made me really mad. But alas, I decided I’m in charge of my own blog so if the formatting isn’t the same for a while, then so be it! (But really, that legit drives me crazy).

Anyways, shall we talk about the actual book I read? Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe. I think it’s potentially my first book in the magical realism genre! I really liked it and it was close to five stars for me.

I listened to it on audio and did have to speed up the narrator quite a bit. I would suggest reading this one if you’re able, rather than audio- but I’m kind of a narrator snob.

I really liked Natalie, I felt like she was a grown up version of a lot of teenagers I read about in Sarah Dessen novels.
I loved Gideon and Cam. I was sooooo into the chapters that featured these two guys.
I liked the town so much, I could picture it and I wanted to visit.
The town characters added to the story and didn’t distract from it. I was rooting for little plot points in the side characters storylines the whole time.
I loved all of the tea and food references!
This would be a great book club book (in fact, it was selected for our book club to read!) Perhaps I’ll eventually make it into a books & baking post!

I had an issue with Anna Kate being attached to the idea of never breaking a promise at the demise of her own happiness.
I had a very difficult time believing that Mrs Lyndon evolved as a character so quickly the way that she did.
I don’t like in a plot when people aren’t upfront about their past. I know people like it to drive you to keep reading but I find it to be unrealistic. I wouldn’t hang out with someone who is cagey when I ask them a question.
Lastly, I felt like the romance section of this book built so beautifully and then I didn’t get to experience the actual pay off of that but more of an epilogue.
I know my list seems long of dislikes, but that’s because I was really into the book and I thought it was so close to being perfect if it would’ve made a few tweaks!

Overall I would suggest this book to a fellow foodie, a bird nerd, someone who likes plotlines involving complicated family dynamics, and someone who likes reading books from multiple POVs!

Drink: loose leaf tea for the health benefits
Do: ask a relative a question you’ve always wondered about
Eat: blackberry pie
Watch: The Big Year

The Bookshop on The Corner by Jenny Colgan


🔥 or 🔥🔥 out of 5 steam level

Nina Redmond is a literary matchmaker. Pairing a reader with that perfect book is her passion… and also her job. Or at least it was. Until yesterday, she was a librarian in the hectic city. But now the job she loved is no more. Determined to make a new life for herself, Nina moves to a sleepy village many miles away. There she buys a van and transforms it into a bookmobile—a mobile bookshop that she drives from neighborhood to neighborhood, changing one life after another with the power of storytelling. From helping her grumpy landlord deliver a lamb, to sharing picnics with a charming train conductor who serenades her with poetry, Nina discovers there’s plenty of adventure, magic, and soul in a place that’s beginning to feel like home… a place where she just might be able to write her own happy ending.

OMG, can you believe it? I listened to my first straight up fiction audiobook! I have listened to fantasy audiobooks (i.e. Harry Potter and The Books of Beginning) and loads of non-fiction books (I tend to like presidential memoirs, and celebrity memoirs), but never just straight up fiction. I posted to my instagram stories asking for suggestions of audiobooks that will make me want to drink tea. You read that correctly, I wanted tea drinking audiobooks. What can I say, when I go into a new hobby, I really commit. Anyways, this was the audiobook suggested to me.

Considering how slowly I get through an audiobook these days (constantly surrounded my kids and rarely alone), I felt like I flew through this one! It was somewhere around 9 ish hours long. And I only had to check it out twice from hoopla. I know, someone get me an award for the fastest anyone has ever listened to an audiobook! What…? That’s not actually fast? Hmm.. okay. I guess I shouldn’t mention that it took me a year and a half to finally finish Becoming by Michelle Obama on audio then….

The narrator was amazing. She does voices, and accents. I had her sped up to 1.25 and I got everything she was saying. Overall I greatly enjoyed the vibe of this book. The note from that author in the beginning was pure joy. The way the main character, Nina, loved books felt very authentic to my deep love of books and inspiring others to read. I was very sure this was going to be a high ranking book for me. And in a way, it will be, I think I’ll recommend it a lot. But in other ways I’m not sure I would’ve liked the book if I read it vs. listening to it. Nina and I definitely would not get along in real life. I found myself yelling at her a lot in my car. “Nina, for the love of God- stop making bad decisions!” I didn’t like the communication issues at the heart of both of her beau’s in the book. I hate a love triangle…and in this there were two. I felt like the climax wasn’t totally necessary, and the book could’ve ended earlier without further drama from ex-wives. Saying all of that might give you the impression that I didn’t like this book, though. And that’s totally untrue. I liked how deeply Nina felt things, she would say things like “utter loss of joy” or something that made you realize how deep in her bones she was feeling her feelings. She was so passionate about books and the journey’s they can take you on. She helped others even when it was awkward for her. She was a good friend to her BFF. So I don’t want you to give up on Nina. You may like her more than I did- I require a lot from my fictional heroines but most of all I require gumption.

Overall it was really relaxing to listen to, and I’ll see if hoopla has the next one!

The Cul-de-Sac War by Melissa Ferguson

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for the ARC of this book.

This is my first book by this author, I was really into it for a solid 60% of the way through. I think that’s when it dawned on me that some of the sadder/content warning ish contents of the book weren’t really necessary for the plot. I didn’t like that aspect about the book at all. But I did enjoy the writing style. I would classify this as a closed- door low steam romance. Some might even say Christian Fiction…it didn’t feel overtly Christian Fiction to me, but it would appeal to a reader who does read within that genre, for sure. The last negative for me was how long the two main characters hung onto their respective partners…. I wish there would have been earlier-in-the-book breakups.

Content warnings: death of a loved one, pediatric cancer.

Christmas at Holiday House by RaeAnne Thayne

christmas at holiday house

 

official blurb
This New Year will bring widowed nurse Abigail Powell a fresh start in a different city. Excited about the chance to create an unforgettable Christmas for her young son in picturesque Silver Bells, Colorado, Abby has been hired to take care of her dear friend’s recuperating grandmother. But sprightly senior Winnie insists she doesn’t need looking after. What she does need is help decorating her historic mansion, Holiday House, for a seasonal town fundraiser. Abby warms to the festive task, but she’ll have to contend with her own personal Grinch: Winnie’s prickly grandson, Ethan Lancaster. Ethan Lancaster is good at a lot of things. Relationships surely aren’t one of them. His ex-fiancée convinced Ethan he was incapable of love, and he believes her…up until the moment he impulsively kisses Abby. What is it about this vibrant woman and her sweet son that knocks his world off-kilter? He knows they’re leaving town after Christmas. He just didn’t expect they’d be taking a little of his heart with them. But as he and Abby work together on the magical Holiday House through the record cold weather, visions of a different future dance in his head…one filled with warmth, love and a new beginning for them both.

 

arc review

 

3 out of 5
🔥  out of 5 steam level

This was my first book by this author. I am all about Hallmark and Christmas and this book delivered with those vibes. Instead of having a dual point of view, I was surprised to find this featured three POVs. The main two POVs you read are between Abigail and Ethan. I liked Ethan overall but found Abigail to be less appealing. There was a specific scene regarding sledding and her fear of heights. Personally, I have a huge fear of heights and don’t even like standing on a chair – but am easily able to go sledding. For this reason, that scene felt unrealistic and a tad eye rolly.
The third POV was from Ethan’s sister, Lucy. I actually found I liked her story the best even though it was featured the least.
I liked that the book featured diverse characters, from a latinx family, to a character with down syndrome.
Overall this book fell a bit flat for me, but if you’re looking for a sweet holiday read with low steam levels then this one’s for you!

Content warnings: loss of a loved one, violence (very little described on the page)

Dating Makes Perfect by Pintip Dunn

dating makes perfect

arc review

 

official blurb
The Tech sisters don’t date in high school. Not because they’re not asked. Not because they’re not interested. Not even because no one can pronounce their long, Thai last name—hence the shortened, awkward moniker. But simply because they’re not allowed. Until now. In a move that other Asian American girls know all too well, six months after the older Tech twins got to college, their parents asked, “Why aren’t you engaged yet?” The sisters retaliated by vowing that they won’t marry for ten (maybe even twenty!) years, not until they’ve had lots of the dating practice that they didn’t get in high school. In a shocking war on the status quo, her parents now insist that their youngest daughter, Orrawin (aka “Winnie”), must practice fake dating in high school. Under their watchful eyes, of course—and organized based on their favorite rom-coms. ’Cause that won’t end in disaster. The first candidate? The son of their longtime friends, Mat Songsomboon—arrogant, infuriating, and way too good-looking. Winnie’s known him since they were toddlers throwing sticky rice balls at each other. And her parents love him. If only he weren’t her sworn enemy.

5 out of 5

REQUIRED READING FOR YA FANS!

what i liked
I finished this book over a week ago and I’m still so dang excited about it.  This book was so good! You are going to smile read through it, you’re going to read through your hands cringing during embarrassing moments and you are going to be so glad you watched all of those romcoms throughout the years because those warm and fuzzies have prepared you to fall in love with the Tech family!
If you loved the Song Sisters from To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, then you are going to adore the Tech sisters.  The Thai culture weaved throughout this book is refreshing to read.  The traditions and food are delightful in every way.  But that’s nothing compared to the actual family!  I mean, I could just grab this family- they were so real for me!  I was in this book the whole time and didn’t even want to pick it up the last night to read it because I didn’t want my journey with Winnie to be over.
If you don’t believe me that I loved this book- let me tell you this, I wrote in the margins of this book the whole time! I know, this is nuts!  I never do that unless it’s a five star read!
I don’t want to give too much away from this but it does include so many amazing references to cute romcom moments in your favorite movies.  And it does make you smile.  It does make you want to hang out with your family.  And it does make you want to eat.  Can you ask for anything more?!  I don’t think so either!

Good news, this book is out 8/18/20!  Preorder your copy now!

while reading you should
Eat: Authentic Thai food!
Watch: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before
Listen to: Catching Feelings by Justin Beiber

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The Switch by Beth O’Leary

THE SWITCH_COVER

arc review

official blurb
Eileen is sick of being 79. Leena’s tired of life in her twenties. Maybe it’s time they swapped places… When overachiever Leena Cotton is ordered to take a two-month sabbatical after blowing a big presentation at work, she escapes to her grandmother Eileen’s house for some overdue rest. Eileen is newly single and about to turn eighty. She’d like a second chance at love, but her tiny Yorkshire village doesn’t offer many eligible gentlemen. Once Leena learns of Eileen’s romantic predicament, she proposes a solution: a two-month swap. Eileen can live in London and look for love. Meanwhile Leena will look after everything in rural Yorkshire. But with gossiping neighbours and difficult family dynamics to navigate up north, and trendy London flatmates and online dating to contend with in the city, stepping into one another’s shoes proves more difficult than either of them expected. Leena learns that a long-distance relationship isn’t as romantic as she hoped it would be, and then there is the annoyingly perfect – and distractingly handsome – school teacher, who keeps showing up to outdo her efforts to impress the local villagers. Back in London, Eileen is a huge hit with her new neighbours, but is her perfect match nearer home than she first thought?

my blurb!
The Holiday meets Gilmore Girls meets The Golden Girls…. in Britain.

5 out of 5

🔥  out of 5 steam level
REQUIRED READING FOR FICTION LOVERS.

 

what i liked
Well that was just perfectly lovely.  You know when you finish watching the Kiera Knightley version of Pride & Prejudice and you just want to go around drinking tea, taking long walks and speaking in an English accent? No? Just me?  Well this book left me with similar vibes.
There were so many quotes I loved throughout the book but since it was an advanced readers copy I can’t share them all with you. But trust me, you’re going to love it.
The characters were so likable. I loved them! It took me a while to get everyone’s names down because there are strong friendship groups for both Leena and Eileen, but it’s worth the effort.  And honestly as you continue reading you catch on to who is who even if you can’t remember initially.  I’m personally very much hoping that Fitz and a girl with a car get a book of their own!
You know I love Gilmore Girls, which features two (well, three if you’re paying attention) Lorelai Gilmore’s.  This book features two Eileen Cotton’s and I was so here for it!
It was so well written that I could picture every scene. I can’t always do that with neighborhoods or cities, but I really could in this book!
What else did I love? You know when you’re watching a Hallmark movie and you’re rooting for some characters to get together and you just have a feeling that the guy you don’t like is really a schmuck but you just haven’t seen that yet?  …oh come on… that’s just me too?!  Well anyways, that happened in this book and I was so here for it.
This has romance in the novel, but it’s not the driving force. You should know that going in if you’re looking for a romance read.  It is a fiction novel with romance elements.
Overall I found this book to be like a hot cup of tea on a rainy day.  And just the coziness I needed during this insane time in the world. Highly recommend!

what i didn't like
I pretty much loved this book.  Leena had a personal climactic moment that I didn’t love her response to, but it didn’t make me subtract from the star level.

Content warnings: family member with cancer, death of a family member, infidelity, depression, panic attack, verbal abuse (secondary character).

Looking for a book featuring LGBTQ characters? This book features a secondary character who you’ll like.

while reading you should
Listen to: Thinking Out Loud by Ed Sheeran (mentioned 98% of the way into the book)
Do: Call your grandma and your mom.
Drink: tea of course!

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Famous in a Small Town by Emma Mills

famous in a small town

So I’ve been stumbling upon old reviews that I drafted somewhat but never finished.  I thought about scrapping them entirely but then I thought, mmm…better not.  That was a very niche Pitch Perfect joke.

pitch perfect gif

official blurb
For Sophie, small town life has never felt small. With her four best friends—loving, infuriating, and all she could ever ask for—she can weather any storm. But when Sophie’s beloved Acadia High School marching band is selected to march in the upcoming Rose Parade, it’s her job to get them all the way to LA. Her plan? To persuade country singer Megan Pleasant, their Midwestern town’s only claim to fame, to come back to Acadia to headline a fundraising festival. The only problem is that Megan has very publicly sworn never to return. What ensues is a journey filled with long-kept secrets, hidden heartbreaks, and revelations that could change everything—along with a possible fifth best friend: a new guy with a magnetic smile and secrets of his own.

3.5 stars

The story in this book gave me a couple of twists, one of which I didn’t see coming (which is rare for me! …okay it would probably be less rare if I read things such as thrillers but since I don’t I can say I like the twists in the YA novel).  As always, I loved Emma Mills writing because she produces realistic characters.  It didn’t rate higher because the story wasn’t one that had me pulled in and non stop reading.  While I wouldn’t consider this a reread, overall I laughed out loud a few times while reading and enjoyed the ride.

Here are some quotes that I loved!

“Nice to meet you,” August said.
“That’s what I’ve heard, I replied.”

“Were you eating cold lasagna?” I asked, scooping pasta remains into the Tupperware while he wiped up the trail of sauce.
“Yeah.”
“But the microwave is right there.  Love yourself!”

“She knows everything,” Flora said. “She’s like the internet.”
She was possibly better than the internet sometimes.  I’d volunteered there since freshman year, and Mel had never once redirected to an ad for male enhancement.

“Sammy.”  He snapped his fingers.  “Patty. Patty Weaver. Oh yeah.  She makes a great lemon tart.”
“I heard she also makes responsible children.”

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