This Train is Being Held by Ismée Amiel Williams

Publication Date: February 11, 2020
Publisher: Amulet Books
Rating: ★★★★★

When private school student Isabelle Warren first meets Dominican-American Alex Rosario on the downtown 1 train, she remembers his green eyes and his gentlemanly behavior. He remembers her untroubled happiness, something he feels all rich kids must possess. That, and her long dancer legs. Over the course of multiple subway encounters spanning the next three years, Isabelle learns of Alex’s struggle with his father, who is hell-bent on Alex being a contender for the major leagues, despite Alex’s desire to go to college and become a poet. Alex learns about Isabelle’s unstable mother, a woman with a prejudice against Latino men. But fate—and the 1 train—throw them together when Isabelle needs Alex most.

Review:

It’s been a really long time where I’ve enjoyed a young adult novel as much as I did with This Train is Being Held. This is a moving story about a young man named Alex and a young lady named Isabelle (Isa as she’s called in the book). It’s a love-trumps-all type of trope which overcomes a lot of unhappy topics surrounding today’s society. I’ve never read anything like this, where a train of all things brings two people together when they need it the most.

The best part of this book is the romance. Like I said, there is an important message surrounding their relationship, but Ismée Amiel Williams did such a phenomenal job with making sure that love is still a very prominent part of this book. The angst is so tough on your heart that you want to reach into the book and hug them both. You truly have no idea what’s going on in their heads at that moment, but it’s written so vividly right in front of us. The writing of the romance was spectacular and I commend Ismée Amiel Williams for making sure that it was still there where it was supposed to be in a book with a variety of things going on.

Alex is my favorite character that I’ve read in a book in a long time. You can’t help but feel everything he’s feeling. You feel so guilty and so upset for what he’s going through. He’s a Latino male that wants to write poetry instead of play baseball like his dad wants him to. It is such a terrible situation and you just want to be his friend. You want to reach out to him and say, “I’m here for you”. It’s been a long time where a book has made me feel like that about a character.

The location of This Train is Being Held is so wonderful. As someone who lives near a city, it’s so easy to picture the subway. You can close your eyes and picture what their train car would look like, the sounds that are going on around you and more.

Finally, I love that this book was dual language at some parts. I’m not someone who understands Spanish as a second language, but Ismée Amiel Williams made it easy for  me to understand. I was able to see what was going on between characters and it showed the Latino side of Alex’s family as well. It was interesting to see the two sides between Alex’s family and Isa’s family.

Overall, this is a perfect young adult novel. I’d recommend it to those in high school or I’d recommend it to any adult that likes a good, romantic novel that ties into today’s society. I cannot wait for Ismée Amiel Williams’ future novels.

Country Hearts by Cindi Madsen

Publication Date: December 26, 2019
Publisher: Hallmark Publishing

Rating: ★★★

She shouldn’t get involved with the cowboy next door…

After she’s laid off from her teaching job in the city, Jemma Monroe finds a position in a tiny town and rents a house on the outskirts. A visitor soon shows up at her door — a horse. His owner, a handsome neighbor in boots and a cowboy hat, comes by to collect him.

When single dad Wyatt Langford meets Jemma, it’s the first time he feels interest in a woman since his wife left. But she’s his daughter’s new teacher, so they both know they should keep their distance.

Nonetheless, Wyatt keeps finding excuses to be with Jemma, and Wyatt’s daughter becomes more and more attached to her. With them, Jemma discovers the good things about country living, from starry skies to s’mores cooked over a fire. But she still misses her past life in the city. Is there any reason for them to dream of a future together?

Review:

This was my first Hallmark Publishing novel that I read, and I was not disappointed. I am not someone who watches Hallmark movies normally, but after reading from their publishing company, I just might do so.

Jemma has a lot going on in her life. She’s laid off in the middle of the school  year and has to figure out what to do in order to pay her debt. This is unfortunately super realistic nowadays and I appreciated that it was so relatable.

Another thing that was relatable about this story was Wyatt’s character. He’s a single dad and Jemma and Wyatt meet when Jemma becomes Wyatt’s daughter’s substitute teacher. I completely expected this book to be a “city-girl having a lot of trouble and her country neighbor helping her adapt to the country life” type of book, but I didn’t really get that from this. I think that the story was very cute and had the perfect amount of romance.

Wyatt’s daughter Bailey was one of the best characters in this book. Cindi Madsen did a phenomenal job with her, showing what it’s like to have a single father, and what it’s like when that child realizes that there’s a new woman in his life. It was very interesting and really pulled at my heart strings a couple times.

The only reason why I gave this novel a three-star rating was because the writing was a little slow at points. I enjoyed the trope and the characters, but I wish it picked up more at points than what it did.

I love the recipes at the end of Hallmark books, and hopefully, after reading them all, you could make a whole dinner party worth of things! Overall, Country Hearts was a good one and I’m excited to see the rest of Hallmark Publishing’s books!

A Forgotten Murder by Jude Deveraux

Publication Date: March 10, 2020
Publisher: MIRA Books
Rating: ★★★

An English manor home, an unsolved mystery, too many suspects to count… It’s the perfect holiday for romance novelist Sara Medlar.

After solving two murder cases in their hometown of Lachlan, Florida, Sara Medlar, her niece Kate and their friend Jack need a change of scenery. Sara arranges for them to visit an old friend of hers in England. Upon arrival at Oxley Manor, a centuries-old estate that has been converted to a luxury hotel, Kate and Jack quickly realize that Sara is up to something. They learn that Sara has also invited a number of others to join them at Oxley.

When everyone assembles, Sara lets them know why they are there. Decades earlier, two people ran off together from Oxley and haven’t been heard from since—and Sara wants to solve the case. As the people who were there the night the two went missing, the guests find themselves cast in a live mystery-theater event.

In reenacting the events of that night, it becomes clear that everyone has something to hide and no one is safe, especially when the discovery of a body makes it clear that at least one of the people who disappeared was murdered.

Sara, Jack and Kate are once again at the heart of a mysterious case that only they are able to solve. But someone is willing to continue to kill to keep the truth about Oxley Manor buried, and none of the guests are safe.

Review:

Thank you to Jude Deveraux, MIRA Books & NetGalley for a copy of this novel in exchange for an  honest review.

The synopsis of this story is what drew me to this book right away. I thought that the idea of having a couple disappear never to be seen again sounded very real. There’s actually a story local to me about a couple that disappeared 15 years ago in Philadelphia and still have not been seen or found in that time. It hit a little close to home. I really liked that it was at a later time too that they were brought back to solve the case. There were a lot of questions surrounding the case, and it was cool to see after over twenty years, that there was still so much interest. There was a long list of suspects and they all had a motive so that made it exciting to see where this was going to end up.

I had a lot of interest in the story, but the details and the writing fell a little flat for me. I think this was a very good mystery for it’s genre, but the writing just wasn’t the main point of excitement here. I think if the details were a little more in depth and the writing was the bigger part of interest with dialogue, etc., this book would be a five-star rating from me.

The characters weren’t as big of a point for me in this book as they should have been. As this is a series, I wasn’t sure if I was missing a part of these characters due to the fact that I hadn’t read the previous two. I went to the Goodreads page to see if there were issues for anyone else regarding this and I found that you should be able to read this novel first as a standalone. I still don’t know if that’s true, I guess I’ll have to find out!

During this crazy time in the United states and around the world, I’d definitely recommend this book to someone who likes a cozy mystery. If you’re stuck in the house, definitely give this series a try! It was definitely fast-paced and will give you a treat for the next however many weeks!

 

 

Only Mostly Devastated by Sophie Gonzales

Publication Date: March 3, 2020
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Rating: ★★★★

Summer love…gone so fast.

Will Tavares is the dream summer fling―he’s fun, affectionate, kind―but just when Ollie thinks he’s found his Happily Ever After, summer vacation ends and Will stops texting Ollie back. Now Ollie is one prince short of his fairytale ending, and to complicate the fairytale further, a family emergency sees Ollie uprooted and enrolled at a new school across the country. Which he minds a little less when he realizes it’s the same school Will goes to…except Ollie finds that the sweet, comfortably queer guy he knew from summer isn’t the same one attending Collinswood High. This Will is a class clown, closeted―and, to be honest, a bit of a jerk.

Ollie has no intention of pining after a guy who clearly isn’t ready for a relationship, especially since this new, bro-y jock version of Will seems to go from hot to cold every other week. But then Will starts “coincidentally” popping up in every area of Ollie’s life, from music class to the lunch table, and Ollie finds his resolve weakening.
The last time he gave Will his heart, Will handed it back to him trampled and battered. Ollie would have to be an idiot to trust him with it again.

Right? Right.

Review:

Thank you Sophie Gonzales, Wednesday Books & NetGalley for a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA meets CLUELESS in this boy-meets-boy spin on Grease.

Right from this description alone, I was hooked. Simon, Clueless and Grease??? Three things I love? I knew that this book was going to be a good one.

I was so invested in the beginning that I could not stop reading. Every word was being permanently written into my brain because the description that I read was spot on. It was so diverse, so interesting and so entertaining that I didn’t want to put it down.

When I hit the halfway mark, I had no idea what happened. I was sitting there thinking..am I going to have to put this book down? It slowed down to the point of confusion. I was so hoping that the book was going to pick back up to the speed it was when I first picked it up.

After I hit that little patch of slow, it did (thank god) pick up and I was able to fly to the end with enjoyment. After finishing and reflecting, this book was a solid four star read for me. I was so thankful to give it a higher rating because it did pick back up after starting so strong.

I just loved the characters. Ollie and Will were such good characters that I wanted to really dive deep into their lives. This story is told in first person through Ollie and at some points, I wish that we had a duel narration in Will’s head as well. Maybe for another time or book!

I loved the romance in this book as well. For a young adult novel, sometimes it’s either too sweet or not sweet enough, but this one was really good in that sense. The angst and the romance were a perfect ratio throughout the novel, especially towards the end.

“It’ll get easier. That’s the beautiful thing about the universe. It puts you through trials, but it never gives you anything you can’t handle. We grow from these things.”

Sophie Gonzales did a wonderful job with this book and I’m excited to see her books in the future. If they’re anything like Only Mostly Devastated, which is EXACTLY how this book will leave you, then I’m very ready to drop every other book I’m reading in this moment to read hers.

You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks, Sarah Pekkanen

Publication Date: March 3, 2020
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Rating: ★★★

You probably know someone like Shay Miller.
She wants to find love, but it eludes her.
She wants to be fulfilled, but her job is a dead end.
She wants to belong, but her life is so isolated.

You probably don’t know anyone like the Moore sisters.
They have an unbreakable circle of friends.
They live the most glamorous life.
They always get what they desire.

Shay thinks she wants their life.
But what they really want is hers.

Review:

Thank you Greer Hendricks, Sarah Pekkanen, St. Martin’s Press & NetGalley for a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

These two authors are truly a dynamic duo to the book loving world. I’ve read their previous collaborations are thought they were pretty good. I don’t like to compare, but this one was my least favorite.

The characters were definitely interesting, but I felt like I had a hard time keeping track of them all. There were sisters, Cassandra and Jane, and Shay who were the main parts of this story, but I found myself wanting to know more about the background characters than the main. I could really keep the stories of Cassandra and Jane straight, while the other details and information got lost somewhere in the back of my brain.

I think that the thing about this novel is that it has a really good idea and story, but it took too long to get out there. By the time I reached half way through the book, I was still questioning some things and had to stop and think about whether or not if I should even bother going the next twenty-or-so percent if I didn’t get anything by then.

My favorite part of this novel was Shay’s data. Now, I’m not someone who is really interested in statistics or statistical data, but Shay made it really interesting. I really appreciated learning some cool things throughout this novel even though I didn’t get much out of the story. Like…what?!

The average person will walk past 16 killers in the person’s lifetime.”

Again, I love these two writers when the collaborate. I think they have amazing imaginations and I think that their books make for amazing movies if they are made in to them. This novel just didn’t have that WOW factor for me this time, but I won’t hesitate to pick up another one of their collabs in the future!

Ten Days Gone by Beverly Long

Publication Date: February 18, 2020
Publisher: MIRA Books

Rating: ★★★

They know exactly when he’ll strike… They just have to find him first.

In all their years working for the Baywood police department, detectives A.L. McKittridge and Rena Morgan have never seen anything like it. Four women dead in forty days, each killed ten days apart. With nothing connecting the victims and very little evidence, the clock is already counting down to when the next body drops. A.L. and Rena will have to act fast if they’re going to find the killer’s next victim before he does.

But identifying the killer’s next likely target is only half the battle. With pressure pushing in from all sides, a promising breakthrough leads the detectives to Tess Lyons, a woman whose past trauma has left her too damaged to appreciate the danger she’s in. Unwilling to let another woman die, A.L. and Rena will put everything on the line to keep Tess safe and end the killer’s deadly spree once and for all–before time runs out again.

Review:

Thank you to Beverly Long, MIRA Books & NetGalley for a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

This is the first installment of the A.L. McKittridge series by Beverly Long. The beginning of this story introduces the fact that there is a serial killer that has murdered four women in the last thirty days. They were all killed ten days apart. The premise is pretty interesting as someone who enjoys thrillers.

The characters were good enough. I liked A.L. and Rena, but the background characters in addition to the two main were a little confusing. There wasn’t much development and the romances were too much going on in my opinion. When starting this book, I did feel like I should’ve known them already which I was kind of confused about since this is the first in the series.

The story was just alright. I didn’t find it THAT boring, but I didn’t find it to be that intriguing either. The story did grab my attention, anything about murder and what happened is interesting, especially in the eyes of the police/detectives who are trying to figure out the case. The first half did drag a little, but it did pick up around halfway through.

I really wish the ending was a little more detailed and drug out. I feel like the ending was thrown in very quickly and it ended so abruptly. I understand that this is going to be a continuous series, but this story should’ve been a little bit longer in order to really wrap up this installment.

Overall, it wasn’t phenomenal, but it wasn’t bad either. I appreciate the A.L. McKittridge series so far, and I will definitely read the next installment. I do like the way that Beverly Long writes, and it makes me want to read her other books!

Love, Unscripted by Owen Nicholls

Publication Date: February 11, 2020
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Rating: ★★

A film-obsessed romantic rewrites the script to understand why his “picture-perfect” love story crashed and burned in this wonderfully clever debut.

Ellie had the quizzical eyebrows of Broadcast News-era Holly Hunter and the neon-red hair of Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. At least, that’s what caught Nick’s attention when he met her on the night of 2008’s historic election. A cinema devotee and lover of great love stories, Nick always fancied himself the Tom Hanks of his own romantic comedy, and when sparks flew with Ellie that night, he swiftly cast her as the Meg Ryan of his story. For four blissful years, Nick loved Ellie as much as he loved his job as a film projectionist: wholly, earnestly, cinematically.

But now Ellie has moved out, convinced “the fire’s gone,” and Nick is forced to sift through his memories to figure out where it all went wrong. The fallout from Ellie’s declaration that she “doesn’t love Nick the way she used to” throws him back into recollections of their first night together. Their shared jokes, her wry smile, the “hope” that filled the night air–his memories are as rose-colored as the Hollywood love stories he idealizes.

That night was a perfect meet-cute, yes, but was their romance as destined for a “happily ever after” as he’d thought? Is he really the rom-com hero he believes he’s been? Or did this Harry let his Sally down? Peppered with references to beloved movies, Love, Unscripted explores how even a hopeless romantic can learn that in real life, love isn’t, and shouldn’t be, like what we see in the movies.

Review:

Thank you to Owen Nicholls, Ballantine Books & NetGalley for a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

There are three timelines that Love, Unscripted feature. The first timeline is the presidential election night in 2008. This is where Nick and Ellie meet for the first time. Then, the second timeline is current time where Ellie and Nick are broken up and Nick is trying to figure out what went wrong. The third and final timeline is the in-between, like what happened during their relationship throughout the years.

This book had a lot of promising qualities, but I really struggled throughout.  The timelines really threw me off and I think I would’ve had a better time with it if there were only two. I understand the concept of having different timelines so we can grasp every detail and really learn their story. However, I found the three timelines to be confusing and it could’ve been done better.

The drag of this book is what made me give the rating I did. I’m not someone who usually has that hard of a time getting into a book, but this time was different. I think half of it has to do with the fact that I’m not interested in politics at all and the other half was that I could not get into the characters. It was very slow and the characters didn’t have that much of a development. There were moments of “maybe I can get into Nick” and then I was thrown back to the night of the election or somewhere in the past.

There were honest parts of this book where you see Nick’s down spiral, but I struggled a lot with his character. Like I said, there were quick, fleeting moments of possibly liking Nick’s character, but I had a hard time with him because he becomes very jerk-ish to everyone and it just makes him very unlikable.

Overall, as someone that loves movies and read the synopsis of this book, I thought that this book was going to be very different. I loved the idea of it and it had a lot of promising qualities, but it just was not for me. It was a good start for Owen Nicholls in fiction, I’ll definitely check his books in the future.

February 2020 Reads

Number of Books Read: 22
Avg. Rating of the 22 books: 3.72/5 stars
Five Star Ratings: 5/22
*five star ratings are bold

  • Playboy Pilot by Penelope Ward, Vi Keeland
  • Love, Sincerely, Yours by Sara Ney
  • Don’t Read the Comments by Eric Smith
  • The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa
  • Country Hearts by Cindi Madsen
  • The Billionaire Boss Next Door by Max Monroe
  • Witness Protection Widow by Debra Webb (Winchester, Tennessee #5)
  • A Girl’s Guide to the Outback  by Jessica Kate
  • The Secret Ingredient by Nancy Naigle
  • The Roommate Agreement by Emma Hart
  • I’m With Cupid by Dawn Blair
  • Love and Other Mistakes by Jessica Kate
  • Her Homecoming Wish by Jo McNally
  • Work in Progress by Staci Hart
  • The Story of Us by Teri Wilson
  • Temporary Wife Temptation by Jayci Lee (The Heirs of Hansol #1)
  • The Fall of Butterflies by Andrea Portes
  • Love, Unscripted by Owen Nicholls
  • The Game Changer by Jennifer Brown
  • This Train is Being Held by Ismée Amiel Williams
  • Love on Location by Cassidy Carter
  • Instacrush by Kate Meader (Rookie Rebels #2)

 

Wow, 22 books!! I was thoroughly happy with the amount of 5-star ratings I got! Here’s to another good month of reading! Happy March!

The Secret Ingredient by Nancy Naigle

Publication Date: December 26, 2019
Publisher: Hallmark Publishing
Rating: ★★★★★

Love is like a perfect recipe… You never want to lose it.

Years ago, Kelly McIntyre and Andrew York were engaged and dreaming of opening a restaurant together. Then he chose an opportunity to study in Paris over the small-town life they’d planned, and their romance came to a bittersweet end.

But Kelly’s doing fine. She’s not only the owner of a potbellied pig named Gray, but also of her own bakery. Business is good—so good that she’s invited to compete in a Valentine’s Day bake-off. As she prepares for the contest, she tries not to get distracted by Andrew’s visit to town.

When Andrew sees Kelly, it stirs up his old feelings. Little does he know that soon, in New York, he’ll compete against her in the bake-off…and they’ll both realize how much their past is a part of them still.

Review:

I’m obsessed. I’m obsessed. I’m obsessed. I’m obsessed.

Kelly and Andrew…Kelly. and. Andrew.

Honestly, two of my favorite characters that I’ve ever read about. Kelly is a woman that opened up her own bakery in her small town. Andrew and her were engaged, but when the opportunity arose for him to stay in Paris after training in cooking, it ends. When Andrew comes back to town and they see each other for the first time, you can just FEEL the electricity through every single page turn.

There were times in this novel where I thought I knew what was going to happen, but then I was thrown for a loop! Most slow burn, come back to small town, meet again after a long time usually have similar stories, but I’m so glad that this was different. It made me like it THAT much more.

Also, this story is something I’ve never really read before. I loved the fact that things were out there, but also secretive. Nancy Naigle did such a good job of keeping the reader on their toes.

This is my first Hallmark Publishing novel as well as my first Nancy Naigle novel. I am so happy that I loved it as much as I did. Nancy Naigle will definitely be put on my list to read ALL of her books.

Lastly, when reading this, you get sucked in to all of the wonderful recipes. Nancy Naigle did a wonderful job giving so much detail about the cakes and desserts that I could close my eyes and picture them being made right in front of me. I can’t wait to read more!