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!

The Wives by Tarryn Fisher

Publication Date: December 30, 2019
Publisher: Graydon House
Rating: ★★★★

Thursday’s husband, Seth, has two other wives. She’s never met them, and she doesn’t know anything about them. She agreed to this unusual arrangement because she’s so crazy about him.

But one day, she finds something. Something that tells a very different—and horrifying—story about the man she married.

What follows is one of the most twisted, shocking thrillers you’ll ever read.

You’ll have to grab a copy to find out why.

Review:

Tarryn Fisher wrote a truly impeccable thriller with The Wives. There were twists and turns and everything really did not seem to be as it was. I like a good thriller, but this was super dark and I enjoyed it so much.

The synopsis was enough for me to pick up this book. Seth is married to two other woman other than Thursday. Her name is Thursday because that’s the day of the week she gets with Seth. It was a concept that was so interesting and nothing I had heard of before.

Tarryn Fisher’s writing was what got a high rating from me. It was a little slow to start, but once I hit a certain point, I was so engrossed that I could not stop reading until I found out what happened. The writing was so back-and-forth and I wanted to love the main character even though I was unsure of who she was actually. I wanted to be on her side even if things were going so out of control that I didn’t know how they would end up.

The ending was a little too crazy in my opinion but I don’t think it took away from the story. I think it was getting a little into uncharted territory where it became almost unrealistic, but I think it was wrapped up really well.

Overall, I loved learning about Thursday and what was going on in her head. Tarryn Fisher’s imagination truly shined in this novel. This was my first novel by her, but definitely not my last.

Hot & Hammered Series by Tessa Bailey

 

39854434Book #1: Fix Her Up

Publication Date: June 14, 2019
Publisher: Avon Books
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Georgette Castle’s family runs the best home renovation business in town, but she picked balloons instead of blueprints and they haven’t taken her seriously since. Frankly, she’s over it. Georgie loves planning children’s birthday parties and making people laugh, just not at her own expense. She’s determined to fix herself up into a Woman of the World… whatever that means.

Phase one: new framework for her business (a website from this decade, perhaps?)

Phase two: a gut-reno on her wardrobe (fyi, leggings are pants.)

Phase three: updates to her exterior (do people still wax?)

Phase four: put herself on the market (and stop crushing on Travis Ford!)

Living her best life means facing the truth: Georgie hasn’t been on a date since, well, ever. Nobody’s asking the town clown out for a night of hot sex, that’s for sure. Maybe if people think she’s having a steamy love affair, they’ll acknowledge she’s not just the “little sister” who paints faces for a living. And who better to help demolish that image than the resident sports star and tabloid favorite?

Travis Ford was major league baseball’s hottest rookie when an injury ended his career. Now he’s flipping houses to keep busy and trying to forget his glory days. But he can’t even cross the street without someone recapping his greatest hits. Or making a joke about his… bat. And then there’s Georgie, his best friend’s sister, who is not a kid anymore. When she proposes a wild scheme—that they pretend to date, to shock her family and help him land a new job—he agrees. What’s the harm? It’s not like it’s real. But the girl Travis used to tease is now a funny, full-of-life woman and there’s nothing fake about how much he wants her…

Review:

Let me just say, this is one of the filthiest books I’ve ever read. Tessa Bailey literally has you feel the chemistry between Georgie and Travis. If you are not someone that likes smutty romance novels, I’d recommend not reading this one. On the other hand, if you are someone that likes steam in a book, this might just be one of the best romances of 2019 because of it.

Everything about Fix Her Up was perfect in my eyes. The characters, the development, the love, the romance, the steam, everything. Georgie & Travis were two of my favorite characters that I’ve read in a romance novel. She was just so sweet and had her unexpected moments where I was like “woah, what?!”. I never read a book with a story like this either. Georgie was such a family girl and her dream was to keep kids happy at birthday parties, which I’ve never really heard of as a career in a book like this before.

Travis was an absolute dream. You really feel for him after an injury ends his baseball career (sports romances are so great already, hello), but you find yourself rooting for him from the very beginning. I wanted him to figure out his life and was cheering him on at some points.

The angst in this book was *kisses fingertips*, one of the best I’ve read. My heart hurt multiple times throughout this book to the point where I wanted to jump through and fix everything myself.

Overall, I’d read this book again and again. I think it was one of the best romances of 2019. Tessa Bailey really got a good one here. Having a series called Hot & Hammered, I’m curious to see where this is going to go.

______________________________________________________________________

 

44148563Book #2: Love Her or Lose Her 

Publication Date: January 14, 2020
Publisher: Avon Books
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ 

Rosie and Dominic Vega are the perfect couple: high school sweethearts, best friends, madly in love. Well, they used to be anyway. Now Rosie’s lucky to get a caveman grunt from the ex-soldier every time she walks in the door. Dom is faithful and a great provider, but the man she fell in love with ten years ago is nowhere to be found. When her girlfriends encourage Rosie to demand more out of life and pursue her dream of opening a restaurant, she decides to demand more out of love, too. Three words: marriage boot camp.

Never in a million years did Rosie believe her stoic, too-manly-to-emote husband would actually agree to relationship rehab with a weed-smoking hippy. Dom talking about feelings? Sitting on pillows? Communing with nature? Learning love languages? Nope. But to her surprise, he’s all in, and it forces her to admit her own role in their cracked foundation. As they complete one ridiculous—yet surprisingly helpful—assignment after another, their remodeled relationship gets stronger than ever. Except just as they’re getting back on track, Rosie discovers Dom has a secret… and it could demolish everything.

Review:

Thank you to Tessa Bailey, Avon Books & NetGalley for a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

I wanted to love this book as much as I loved Fix Her Up, but there was something just different in this book. It was not bad in the slightest bit, but something just felt off in this one.

I wholeheartedly believe that the ending had a pretty big influence on my review. I loved this whole book. I loved Dom and Rosie. I loved Dom’s secrets, I loved Rosie’s angst, I loved it all. However, I felt like the end seemed a little rushed and that’s why I gave this a four-star rating instead of five. I waited the whole novel and rooted for these two and the ending just seemed like…BAM.

Tessa Bailey knows how to write angst. It really makes me feel for the characters and I can appreciate the writing when that happens. The pain between Dom and Rosie was truly, truly felt throughout the entire book. I could see the story-line as realistic with what they were going through.

The connection and steam between Rosie and Dom was felt for sure. You could see that they loved each other, but this story was very different from what I’ve read before. The story of “we don’t love each other, but our bodies need each other” was very interesting and I think Tessa Bailey wrote it beautifully.

Overall, I can’t wait for more Tessa Bailey books. She’s a fantastic writer that knows how to include all aspects of a perfect romance (love, angst, trust, etc.). She’s definitely becoming one of my favorite authors.

Books Read in 2019

In 2019, I read 168 books! My goal was 75 books this year, and it’s safe to say that I crushed that goal. Below is a list of books that I read in 2019 with their ratings!

We Met in December by Rosie Curtis

Publication Date: November 5, 2019
Publisher: William Morrow
Rating: ★★

Two people. One house. A year that changes everything. 

Twenty-nine-year-old Jess is following her dream and moving to London. It’s December, and she’s taking a room in a crumbling, but grand, Notting Hill house-share with four virtual strangers. On her first night, Jess meets Alex, the guy sharing her floor, at a Christmas dinner hosted by her landlord. They don’t kiss, but as far as Jess is concerned the connection is clear. She starts planning how they will knock down the wall between them to spend more time together.

But when Jess returns from a two-week Christmas holiday, she finds Alex has started dating someone else—beautiful Emma, who lives on the floor above them. Now Jess faces a year of bumping into (hell, sharing a bathroom with) the man of her dreams…and the woman of his.

Review:

I feel gypped.

I picked this book up because I wanted a book to put me in the holiday mood. I had been seeing this one all over my Instagram and was hoping that it would be the one to put me in the spirit. Well, like I said, I feel gypped. This wasn’t really a Christmas read, at all.

There was a lot about this that could’ve had potential, but fell so flat for me. First things first, I wish that this was even a little bit wintery or Christmasy because that’s what the cover shows me. The synopsis advertises “December”, “Christmas vacation” and “Notting Hill” so I thought that I was picking up a Christmas book. However, it’s barely mentioned at all.

Next, the characters seemed almost unlikable to me to the point where I wanted to skip through and get to the end. I felt like their romance did not show any chemistry and I had a hard time looking at them together. The mutual pining was too much and I wish something was done sooner. I am all for a slow burn, but this was almost ridiculous. I wanted to grab them and shake them and just get it over with already (since we all know how these books end anyway!).

I feel like there was too much going on, almost like there were different stories thrown into one book with one premise. There were a lot of different characters and a lot of different things going on to the point where I was confused at some parts.

Finally, I am someone who is obsessive over roommate novels. I love them so much to the point where I’ve started a Goodreads shelf devoted just to that specific genre. But when the roommates are intimate with other people for nearly the entire book, it’s just overkill at that point.

The only thing that I really enjoyed out of this novel was the details of Notting Hill and London. Being from the United States and never having been “across the Pond”, it was nice to read and feel like it would be an enjoyable experience to go visit there one day.

Overall, I would skip this one if you’re looking for a book to get you in the holiday mood.

Disney’s Land by Richard Snow

Publication Date: December 3, 2019
Publisher: Scribner
Rating: ★★★★

A propulsive history chronicling the conception and creation of Disneyland, the masterpiece California theme park, as told like never before by popular historian Richard Snow.

One day in the early 1950s, Walt Disney stood looking over 240 acres of farmland in Anaheim, California, and imagined building a park where people “could live among Mickey Mouse and Snow White in a world still powered by steam and fire for a day or a week or (if the visitor is slightly mad) forever.” Despite his wealth and fame, exactly no one wanted Disney to build such a park. Not his brother Roy, who ran the company’s finances; not the bankers; and not his wife, Lillian. Amusement parks at that time, such as Coney Island, were a generally despised business, sagging and sordid remnants of bygone days. Disney was told that he would only be heading toward financial ruin.

But Walt persevered, initially financing the park against his own life insurance policy and later with sponsorship from ABC and the sale of thousands and thousands of Davy Crockett coonskin caps. Disney assembled a talented team of engineers, architects, artists, animators, landscapers, and even a retired admiral to transform his ideas into a soaring yet soothing wonderland of a park. The catch was that they had only a year and a day in which to build it.

On July 17, 1955, Disneyland opened its gates…and the first day was a disaster. Disney was nearly suicidal with grief that he had failed on a grand scale. But the curious masses kept coming, and the rest is entertainment history. Eight hundred million visitors have flocked to the park since then. In Disney’s Land, Richard Snow brilliantly presents the entire spectacular story, a wild ride from vision to realization, and an epic of innovation and error that reflects the uniqueness of the man determined to build “the happiest place on earth” with a watchmaker’s precision, an artist’s conviction, and the desperate, high-hearted recklessness of a riverboat gambler.

Review:

Thank you to Richard Snow, Scribner & NetGalley for a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

“The Main Street lights coming on at dusk looked just as good to me in 2019 as they had in 1959, easing my gloomy wonder that sixty years had disappeared since Uncle Win and I had together watched them shine.” 

I had fun with this novel. I am a huge Disney fan and it was easy to see that I would enjoy this. Richard Snow really went in depth about the stories and information about Disney & Walt himself.

I am someone who has never to been to California, only to Florida. It was very interesting to learn about the history of Disneyland itself, not just Disneyworld. Every word was thought out and informational.

The only reason why I didn’t give this a five-star rating is because it could be a little dry at times. However, when giving off that much information and knowledge about a specific topic like Disney, it’s bound to happen at some point.

I’d recommend this to anyone who loves Disney and anyone who loves history. Learning about everything that happened with Walt and how certain characters came to light, etc., was very intriguing and I’m glad I picked this one up!

The Seduction Expert by Saya Lopez Ortega

Publication Date: July 26, 2019
Publisher: VSP Publishing
Rating: ★

She’s the seduction expert.

Women contact her to take over their love lives. She steps in when they’re lost, she’s supposed to succeed where they failed. She handles their single status, their relationships, their breakups, and very often their partners’ affairs. Her job is a life priority, she spends most of her time at the office or between two flights in business class and the fact of having a sports car that can reach one hundred kilometers in less than six seconds often make her feel like a superheroine in service to women.

Anyway, take her card.

You’ll see, it’s much better than spending holidays in St Barts.

Review:

Thank you to NetGalley, VSP Publishing, and Saya Lopez Ortega for a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

I requested this book because it immediately gave me The Devil Wears Prada vibes. The genre was listed as Contemporary Romance and Iknew I just had to read it. I went on Goodreads and saw that it had a lot of great ratings (I’ll get to this later in the review), so I was very excited. I began reading and… well I don’t even know what to say. This was not a romance at all. I’m not even sure what it could be classified as. I actually read the whole thing because it was short, and I understand that it’s a series, but what the heck was that ending?!

Let’s just start here – the main character is supposed to be a woman that helps other women with their love lives. What I found was a woman that was just a straight up bully. She was rude and just overall was unlikable. I couldn’t stand her, especially towards the end. She was extremely manipulative and not a symbol of feminism, which is what I think the author tried to portray her as.

The chapters were short and choppy which had me questioning if this was a novella or not. The writing felt forced and very terse. I was able to read it within an hour/two because it was really short and each page was a new chapter. There was no depth to anything in these chapters. I read them as what they were – just words on a page. Like I said before, I have no idea what to classify this book as. She has a boyfriend but then there’s drama and then there’s more drama and it just is a weird circle of something new each page. I couldn’t get into it at all.

Now, as for the reviews that were 5 stars and how this book is so highly rated on Goodreads:

I believe that VSP Publishing did something shady and had private accounts on Goodreads go on and rate this book 5 stars. All of the accounts that I clicked on were private or had little to no Goodreads activity. Every reader, that I’m friends with or has actual Goodreads activity, all rated this book 1-2 stars. When I googled this book, other blogs had this book also at 1-2 stars.

Next, I saw in other reviews of actual readers that VSP Publishing sent emails separate from NetGalley with a request of not putting low ratings on the Goodreads page and on their blogs. I personally didn’t receive this email, but that’s still really low of a publisher to do something like that to avid readers and to people who really care about books.

Here is a review from a blog that I follow dating back to May. Her review starts as: Let me start off by saying The Seduction Expert has over 500 reviews on Goodreads and most reviewers give it a gushing 5-stars. So keep that in mind when I say that I absolutely hated this book. 

There is something wrong here and I think it’s because something happened on Goodreads that shouldn’t be allowed. If you see this book or this publisher, run. It’s unfair for authors that really put the work in and accept negative reviews as motivation to learn and do better for the next one. Criticism is needed, whether a person likes it or not. It’s to help, not to hurt. Overall, this book and this situation is a mess. Stay away.