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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Hands down By Mariana Zapata

hands down

 

official blurb

Before he was Big Texas, he was Zac the Snack Pack. Bianca Brannen knows time—mostly—heals all wounds. Including those your once loved ones might have unintentionally given you. (Those just take longer.) She thinks she’s ready when a call has her walking back into her old friend’s life. Or at least as prepared as possible to see the starting quarterback in the National Football Organization. Before the lights, the fans, and the millions, he’d been a skinny kid with a heart of gold. Waltzing out of Zac Travis’s life should be easy. Just as easy as he walked out of hers.

1.5 out of 5

🔥🔥🔥  out of 5 steam.

There’s one sex scene at the very end of the book that can be easily skipped. There is cursing in the book.

Let’s get into what I didn’t like about the book. Okay… It’s fairly obvious I liked almost nothing. But I read the WHOLE thing. Well I say that but like most MZ books, I skimmed a lot of inner dialogue. Bc her books desperately need editing.

Shall we talk nicknames yet? Bibi, little Texas, big Texas, snack pack, kiddo. That’s right…I ended on kiddo. Because Zac calls Bianca that the WHOLE book. I hated it. There was a bit of an age gap. But…no, I am not rooting for a couple who uses kiddo as a term of endearment.

I think she tried so hard to convince the reader of a friend’s to lovers romance that she went too far. They were literally throwing farts in each other’s faces. I wish I was joking about that.

Shall we touch base on inner monologue yet? I cannot….CANNOT… Get behind one person talking and then multiple pages of inner dialogue before the main character responds!!!! That is weird! Who would wait that long to respond in a conversation?! It doesn’t make any sense.

This isn’t going to win me any awards for bashing her dedication in the book. I know that. But seriously… I went into this book thinking her husband died while she was writing it. I actually almost DNFed it early on (I always go through this debate for MZ books bc….editing) but I felt a sense of loyalty to her to read it bc she wrote it during a time when her husband died. Why did I think that? Well, because the dedication is as follows: “To my greatest friend and teacher. The absolute love of my life. Dorian, this book and my whole life is dedicated to your memory.” Upon further research…Dorian is her dog. A great dane to be specific. Do I care that she dedicated the book to her dog? No, not really actually. Do I care that she phrased it in a way that made me think it was her husband? Yes!!! It bothered me the WHOLE time I was reading it!!

Last but not least- my least favorite plot device was used… communication issues. Bianca kept everything to herself. Zac would have to drag the smallest of answers out of her. For like 50% of the book. Finally somewhere around 67%ish they clear up the issues. And if you’re waiting for the couple from The Wall Of Winnipeg to show up (which is awesome!) you’ll have to wait until about 80% into the book. (And if you made it there, then you even saw a Lukov cameo around 64%!). What’s the premise of the communication issues, you ask? Basically Bianca was childhood friends with Zac and is upset with Zac about not keeping in touch with her. But she doesn’t tell him that… How hard is it to say that?! For a book that is literally 529 pages, I just did not like that being the driving plot point.

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Wall of Winnipeg by Maria Zapata

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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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His Royal Highness by R.S. Grey

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arc review

3.5 stars

🔥🔥🔥 out of 5 steam level

official blurb
I’ve spent eight years wishing I’d fall out of love with Derek Knightley. Blowing out birthday candles, chasing after shooting stars, making it rain spare change into mall fountains—every time it’s the same wish: forget about DerekBut the day he walks back into my life, I realize there are two things time has yet to soften: my feelings for him and his chiseled jawline. It’s infuriating that my heart still races when he walks into a room. I refuse to fall prey to old unrequited love, so I decide the less I’m around him, the better. Avoidance is key. Unfortunately, Derek isn’t going to make it easy. As a teenager, I would have crawled on my hands and knees to attract his attention. Now I can’t seem to escape it. I’m not sure why he’s bothering. He’s not just out of my league—he’s out of my tax bracket. As the sole heir to the Knightley Company, he’s as close to American royalty as you can get. As for me, I’m just a part-time princess at Knightley’s flagship magical theme park. I spend my days playing make-believe, but Derek has no use for fairytales. His unwavering confidence makes it clear he thinks I’ll surrender in the end. He’s just biding his time. Making me sweat.  His Royal Highness always gets what he wants. And he wants me.

what i liked
This book featured a slow burn, which I am a big fan of! I love a slow burn! I think the first steamy scene was well into the 60%.
I think going into this book it’s helpful to know it’s a romdrom.  Well in my estimate it is anyways.
I read this book really quickly, as I do with all of R.S. Grey’s books! I was finished in less than 24 hours with two toddlers and a baby on the way.  So that is in the pro list for me, for sure!
Probably my favorite part about the book was that it really put you into the world of amusement park princess.   (Similar to how you felt like a you really were immersed in Well Met!)  Have you ever thought about how the actors move around the amusement park? Or how much goes into those parades?!  I loved the whole experience!

what i didn't like
I really didn’t laugh much in this book and a few times thought… Wow I’m only that percent in, huh?  Again, if I would’ve gone into this book as a romdrom I would’ve been better off I think.
I didn’t exactly bond with our heroine of the novel.  She’s pretty stuck in her life and everyone can see that, but it takes the whole book to see some changes.  That was hard for me to read about.  You know how I feel about my characters having a lot of gumption!
There is a 10 year age gap trope in this book!  Age gaps are perhaps my least favorite trope.  But if you love an age gap trope, this one was done really well and this book will be for you!

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Crime and Periodicals (Green Valley Library #2 ) by Nora Everly

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arc review

official blurb
In Green Valley, Tennessee everybody knows everybody, but nobody knows Sabrina Logan. Sabrina has been hiding in plain sight for years. Living her life inside of books, dutifully helping her family, and hoping no one will notice her. So far? Mission accomplished! Yet when sexy—and distrustful—sheriff, Wyatt Monroe returns to town with his daughters, he definitely notices the quiet librarian everyone else overlooks. The single dad can’t seem to shake thoughts of shy Sabrina. Without quite understanding the impulse, Wyatt makes his mission finding her again, so he can . . . well, he’ll just have to reckon with that later. What Wyatt discovers is a woman who trusts too easily, but who’s afraid to live. Trust doesn’t come easily to Wyatt. But living? That’s never been a problem. And he’d sure like to show her how.

2 out of 5🔥🔥🔥  out of 5 steam level

Well I made it to 43% on this book before I finally decided to DNF (did not finish) it. I just could not get into this one.
I couldn’t identify with either main character at all. They were definitely supposed to be likable but won’t be making my list of fictional friends.  Sabrina I would read about and sigh or think… this is stressful.  And Wyatt…he was written to be a swoonworthy single dad – but I’ll reserve my swoons in that category for the next Hallmark movie I watch. (We all know there’s like a 1 in 3 chance that a Hallmark movie will feature a sweet and caring single dad).

Truth be told, I never made it to a steamy sex scene in this book so my steam level may not be accurate. From a pure jargon assessment I would consider this a three steam.

The truth is that I could’ve kept reading this book- in fact I’m the past I would’ve! But I’ve recently made a new rule that if the book I’m reading makes me only want to pick up the book on occasion- then I can DNF it. Life is too short to push through books you’re not loving!

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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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