Beach Read by Emily Henry

I had the HARDEST time rating this book.  Because there were things I really didn’t like about it.  But then I also loved parts of it and thought it should be five stars! Gah.  Okay I’m going to go with four stars for now, but I might revise it later.

4 out of 5

🔥🔥🔥 out of 5 steam level but level 🔥🔥 description used.

 

what i didn't like

Two authors are in a relationship. Only one reads the others books. Do you root for them? I mean you do…but do you really? Because you’re pretty sure one is more invested than the other.

There wasn’t a love triangle exactly but enough of one where I felt like…so are you in love with two people at the same time? I’m confused how you can make grand proclamations after it took multiple days to decide which person you want to have a future with.

I feel I should mention this even though I really don’t want to because it’s a dumb reason to not like something in a book..  But January cried a lot in the book, and at one point I thought…sheesh.  I think if I felt that she was facing her feelings and crying I wouldn’t have minded it on the page at all. But she is avidly avoiding resolution in her life so it made the tears more eye roll inducing for me.

There were multiple communication issues that drove the plot but would get resolved pretty quickly. I’m not a communication issues fan, and even though there were resolutions taking place, I eventually got tired of the couple’s poor communication.

what i liked

I loved the banter, it was quick witted and had me smile reading quite a lot.

Shout out to a book that points out all of the positives of reading and or writing romance!

13 chapters into this book and I was positive it was going to be five stars. I read it quickly and it easily could’ve been a one day read for me if I didn’t have a newborn and two toddlers.

I loved the best friendship between Shadi and January.

 

Lots of content warnings in this book. If you find content warnings (previously called trigger warnings) to be spoilers then skip the next sentence! Content warnings include: physical abuse, living in a cult, death of a loved one, cancer storyline, infidelity.

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In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren

in a holidaze

arc review

 

official blurb
It’s the most wonderful time of the year…but not for Maelyn Jones. She’s living with her parents, hates her going-nowhere job, and has just made a romantic error of epic proportions. But perhaps worst of all, this is the last Christmas Mae will be at her favorite place in the world—the snowy Utah cabin where she and her family have spent every holiday since she was born, along with two other beloved families. Mentally melting down as she drives away from the cabin for the final time, Mae throws out what she thinks is a simple plea to the universe: Please. Show me what will make me happy. The next thing she knows, tires screech and metal collides, everything goes black. But when Mae gasps awake…she’s on an airplane bound for Utah, where she begins the same holiday all over again. With one hilarious disaster after another sending her back to the plane, Mae must figure out how to break free of the strange time loop—and finally get her true love under the mistletoe.

2.75 out of 5🔥🔥 out of 5 steam level

Wow I am having the hardest time rating this book.  First of all, I need to describe how I felt when I was reading it.  In one word: stressed.  Like so stressed that the second night I started to read it, I decided to pick up an entirely different book because I didn’t want to fall asleep stressed.  Now, I feel I must confess to you that I find the movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles incredibly stressful – that’s the kind of stress I was feeling in this book.  You might be wondering from the description if I was feeling Groundhogs Day stressed… but like the main character, Mae, I have never seen that movie.  (Keep that gasp to yourself, not every classic is really a classic!) Shall we talk about the things that stressed me out?  As Lorelai Gilmore says, “Let’s shall!”  Mae made a lot of questionable choices in her communication or lack thereof.  That’s right, folks, this book features major communication issues (my least favorite trope in a book).  Remember my other least favorite plot device- the love triangle?  Yup, this book also featured a love triangle.  Did I mention I was stressed when I read this book?  I did? Okay…well, I was.  I even resorted to sending multiple texts to a friend demanding she tell me if this book was indeed a romance novel (did you know that for a book to be considered a romance novel it is required to feature a “happily ever after” or an HEA as we like to call it?)…. it was.  So are you wondering how this book got almost three stars for me after this stress?! I know, it’s hard to believe- especially for me, after I almost declared it a DNF (did not finish).  But there’s a point in the book when Mae decides to start communicating… and I fell in love.  I loved the whole section that moved forward from the communication! I was happy with the ending and finally felt all of the drama fall into its rightful place.  And for that, it almost got a full three stars from me! I also loved the family that was written in the book- I liked the traditions and the close knit crew.  They were well written and likable.  I think one of the reasons why the book is so stressful is because it’s written in a way that really pulls you into the world- the life with all of these families living together in a cabin over Christmastime.  And because you’re so into it, you find yourself grinding your teeth!

This is one of Christina Lauren’s low end steam books.  They really write very fluctuating steam level books and I love that about them!  (If you’re new to these authors, it is two women who write under the pen name Christina Lauren).

Thank you to netgalley and Gallery Books for the advanced readers copy of this book!

To see a holiday books that I recommend check out my reviews of Faking Under The Mistletoe and Christmas on Mistletoe Lane

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Christmas On Mistletoe Lane by Annie Rains

arc review

christmas on mistletoe lane

official blurb
Christmas is coming to the North Carolina mountains, and the air is fresh and crisp and filled with promise. After the devastating loss of her job in the big city, the small town of Sweetwater Springs feels like heaven to Kaitlyn Russo. She’s inherited her grandparents’ charming (if a little rundown) bed and breakfast, and it’s just the new lease on life she needs. Only “heaven” comes with a catch – and a handsome and completely infuriating one at that. After what he hopes will be a quick trip, Mitch Hargrove wants nothing more than to put his hometown in the rearview mirror. But his plans get derailed when he learns he’s now half-owner of the Sweetwater B&B. The fact that he’s given only two months to make the inn a success is a huge problem, but it’s his pretty – and incredibly headstrong – partner who’s the real challenge. With the holiday fast approaching and a grand re-opening looming, will Mitch keep running from the ghosts of Christmas past . . . or will he realize the true gift he’s been given?

3.5 stars

🔥🔥 Steam Level 

 

what i liked
This book had total hallmark vibes and I am here for it!  If you’re expecting a hallmark movie including a dog at some point then you’re in luck.  This book ties up things quickly and makes you want to visit a super cute Bed and Breakfast in a small town.  It even had me brainstorming about what couples in love I would name my hypothetical b&b rooms after!  (In case you were wondering I was thinking Joe Fox and Kathleen Kelly!)  This was the first Christmas book that I ever made it through and enjoyed.  I don’t know why those tend to fall short for me even though I LOVE Christmas.  This one was a hit in my book!

what i didn't like
At the height of drama in the book, I felt like our heroine let our hero off the hook really quickly. Also it should be noted that the epilogue was maximum cheese level.

trigger warnings: car accident, sexual harassment/ sexual assault (beginning of chapter 5)

while reading you should
Make: Chocolate chip cookies
Watch: The Hallmark Channel’s trilogy: All of my heart, All of my heart: The Wedding, All of my heart: Inn love.
Watch: I mean while you’re at it you might as well use that Netflix subscription you’re paying for and watch Falling Inn Love

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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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Baking Me Crazy (Donner Bakery #1) by Karla Sorensen

baking me crazy

official blurb
I’m Levi Buchanan, and until five years ago, I thought the legend of my family’s curse was a load of crazy, Southern nonsense. No curse can make you fall in love at first sight. No curse can force a true, deep, passionate, all-consuming love that will haunt you all the days of your life. Then I met Jocelyn Abernathy and I realized how completely wrong I was. The problem is, Jocelyn guards her feelings like well-armed soldier. She’s the most beautiful, stubborn, infuriating woman I’ve ever met. Every time she talks, I want to kiss the living daylights out of her. But I can’t. Because when we met, she didn’t need true love. She needed a best friend. And that’s what I’ve been to her… for five years. But when Jocelyn meets a handsome stranger her first day working at Donner Bakery and she lets him buy her a dill pickle cupcake, I realize with ominous regret that I may have missed my window with my best friend. If I can’t get her to see past our friendship, my new curse may be to watch the love of my life move on with someone else.

my blurb!
A story of a “frelationship” where one person is finally ready to change the rules.

 

arc review

3.5 stars
🔥🔥 out of 5 steam level

 

what i liked
Ah! My first book in the Penny-verse!  Don’t know what I mean? Well, Penny Reid (who you’ve read me ranting and raving about with her Knitting in the City series and her Winston Brothers series) has agreed to let other authors write books based in the world she created!  This is the first of the books to come out (I think they’re all classified as Smartypants Romances) and I was so excited to get my hands on it!
It was so fun to get little glimpses of characters I love – but the overlap was pretty minimal.  Nonetheless even the mention of places I have in my head from the other book is still exciting to me.
Levi, our main hero, also had chapters from his perspective and I loved those! He was really likable and made you root for him.  Seriously, I was team Levi from the first chapter I read from him.
Let’s talk about how romance books are the most inclusive books ever.  Want to find a genre that you can see yourself in? Well, look no further than romance! In this case our heroine, Jocelyn, is in a wheelchair.  I don’t think I’ve ever read a book where the entire book the main character is in a wheelchair.  Three cheers for inclusivity!
There were some characters mentioned that I can’t wait to see again, or find out what their stories are! I read this book within a week and enjoyed my time with it.  If you’re a fan of the Penny-verse you will enjoy this book!

what i didn't like
I had a hard time bonding with the heroine in this book. Everyone seemed to love her but she was prickly and not prickly lovable to me. Maybe more on the side of drama and bitchy.  I know that’s a strong word but it’s the word that came to mind multiple times while reading the chapters from Jocelyn’s perspective.
I mentioned loving the chapters from Levi’s perspective. And I did! But it should be noted…the way that he wooed her I thought could’ve been even better.  I didn’t have a moment while reading where I thought, “I wish could be wooed this way!”
I would’ve loved to have even more baking scenes in this book, especially based off of the title. It seemed like Levi’s mom (a side character) might have been the biggest baker in the book!

Again, I think that Penny fans will really enjoy this book, but I didn’t laugh out loud, or swoon greatly so it won’t make any must-read lists for me.

while reading you should
Do: Bake bread
Go: try a new flavor of cupcake at a local bakery (maybe not pickle though)
Listen to: My Best Friend by Tim Mcgraw

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On the Corner Between Love and Hate by Nina Bocci

on the corner of love and hate

official blurb
What’s a campaign manager’s worst nightmare? A smooth-talking charmer who’s never met a scandal that he didn’t like. When Emmanuelle Peroni’s father—and mayor of her town—asks her to help rehab Cooper Endicott’s image, she’s horrified. Cooper drives her crazy in every way possible. But he’s also her father’s protégé, and she can’t say no to him without him finding out the reason why: Cooper and her have a messy past. So Emmanuelle reluctantly launches her father’s grand plan to get this Casanova someone to settle down with and help him lose his lothario reputation.  Cooper Endicott wanted to run for Mayor, but he never wanted the drama that went with it. Now that he’s on the political hamster wheel, the other candidates are digging up everything from his past. Even though he’s doing all the right things, his colorful love life is the sticking point for many of the conservative voters. He wants to win, badly, and he knows that if he wants any chance of getting a vote from the female population, he needs to change his image. The only problem? He might just be falling in love with the one person he promised not to pursue: the Mayor’s off-limits daughter.

my blurb!
Two friends who were in a long term frelationship gone awry, now try to coexist as coworkers.

3.5 stars

                                                               🔥🔥 out of 5 steam level

 

what i liked
This book was really funny. It actually started out funnier than it ended, but I still laughed quite a few times throughout it. I wonder if there will be a companion book because there are so many characters described in the friendship group that seemed to have enough of a backstory to warrant other books!
I liked all the scenes at her apartment… does she need a hypothetical roommate?  Because I’m available.  The town she lived in was really cute, I could totally live there! Definitely Stars Hollow vibes.
Her parents were really enjoyable.  I loved the scenes featuring her mom.
For the amount of sexual innuendos that were present in this book – I was expecting the actual steam level to be a lot higher than it was. I think this will be a really good book for fans of the unHoneymooners who like a low steam novel!
I read this book really quickly!  It was honestly almost four stars, you’ll have to read on to find out why it wasn’t!
You know when two characters really dislike each other and you read the whole book and you’re like… wait what was the big deal? This book explained why she had hatred for Cooper really well.  It made a lot of sense and I appreciated that.
So, this also turned out to be a second chance romance…which I tend to really dislike. So overall this rated a lot higher than most second chance romances I read!

what i didn't like
It featured my least favorite thing in a book where the characters in love with somebody but once they can get together they’re not sure if they actually want to be with them… which is annoying to read about. It would have benefited from dual point of view chapters. Cooper’s POV could have explained the scenario with his “girlfriend” a lot better than the book did – so that left me wanting more.
So, I almost gave it four stars but I can’t get over the annoyance of a character who isn’t sure if she is in love with somebody or not, and then thinks she’s in love with them, but then isn’t sure if she should be with him because it’ll change the friendship. Kind of gave me Josh and Hazel vibes in that sense. I just find that plot point to be really annoying.  I root for someone who wants something and finally gets it. Not for someone who wants something and gets it and then turns it down because it’s now “too real.”

I would definitely pick up other books by this author I really enjoyed her writing style and if she does write companion books for the series, I would read them!

arc review

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The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

the unhoneymooners

Thank you Netgalley and Gallery Books for the copy of this book. Even though this book was free, it in no way affected my opinion of it!

official blurb
Olive is always unlucky: in her career, in love, in…well, everything. Her identical twin sister Amy, on the other hand, is probably the luckiest person in the world. Her meet-cute with her fiancé is something out of a romantic comedy (gag) and she’s managed to finance her entire wedding by winning a series of Internet contests (double gag). Worst of all, she’s forcing Olive to spend the day with her sworn enemy, Ethan, who just happens to be the best man.  Olive braces herself to get through 24 hours of wedding hell before she can return to her comfortable, unlucky life. But when the entire wedding party gets food poisoning from eating bad shellfish, the only people who aren’t affected are Olive and Ethan. And now there’s an all-expenses-paid honeymoon in Hawaii up for grabs.  Putting their mutual hatred aside for the sake of a free vacation, Olive and Ethan head for paradise, determined to avoid each other at all costs. But when Olive runs into her future boss, the little white lie she tells him is suddenly at risk to become a whole lot bigger. She and Ethan now have to pretend to be loving newlyweds, and her luck seems worse than ever. But the weird thing is that she doesn’t mind playing pretend. In fact, she feels kind of… lucky.

my blurb!
An unlucky twin is awarded a trip to paradise, the only catch being that she has to take the vacation with her least favorite person.

4.5 out of 5                                                                1.5  / 5 steam level

what i liked
Wow this book was so funny you guys! Because I read an Advanced Readers Copy (ARC), I can’t give you quotes until it comes out. But I loved this book and laughed out loud multiple times! I’ve read a few of Christina Lauren’s books now and they are great romcom writers!  I feel like if I’m in a book funk or wanting to be generally cheered up then I automatically reach for a Christina Lauren or an R.S. Grey book!
Now this book is a romcom, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it isn’t amazing and that it doesn’t tackle bigger topics.  (I see you, romcom hater!)  Believing the voice of women? Check. Perception changing your circumstances? Check. Honestly, the book was deeper than I was expecting it to be! And I loved that! Big tallies in the pro column for me.
Let’s go ahead and give a big holler for featuring one of my favorite tropes in a book! Enemies to lovers! *Holler!!!*  The only storyline I like more than enemies to lovers is fake relationship. Guess what…. this book featured both! *gasp!* I know, I’m telling you, run- don’t walk – and go buy this book!
The Unhoneymooners also featured a lower steam level then I am used to from CL.  This is a definite pro for me, because in general I tend to enjoy a book more if it’s not a 5 steam level. And this was nowhere near 5 flames of steaminess!
I have read quite a few stories featuring twins in the last year (99 Percent Mine, The Identicals).  This was the first book  which featured twins that were likable!! It was seriously a breath of fresh air. Finally twins I could get behind!!!  And truthfully don’t we all kind of root for twins? I blame the Parent Trap – it made me pro twin!

what i didn't like
You guys know that I love an epilogue. This book featured one! I know, you’re wondering why this is in the negative column for the book then.  Hold your horses little miss horsey holder! (Gilmore Girls reference anyone?).  The characters were together for like 2 weeks and their relationship progressed so quickly. It seemed as if they had been together for years.  Then there’s the epilogue which is like one year later. I was surprised at where the characters were. I expected them to be further along relationally. There was something about it that made me think they still didn’t know each other that well.  I don’t know, it just didn’t flow with who the characters were and where their relationship was for the whole book.  Which in turn made me like their relationship less because I felt like they were tiptoeing around each other.
Overall this negative aspect didn’t detract too much for me and I would still definitely recommend this book.

while reading you should
Do: get a firm grip on your stance about buffets. Pro or Con? I’m personally con.
Listen: To this playlist I created on Spotify
Eat: something made to order… because hopefully at this point you’ve realized you don’t like buffets.

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