The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa

Publication Date: February 4, 2020
Publisher: Avon Books
Rating: ★★★★★

A wedding planner left at the altar. Yeah, the irony isn’t lost on Carolina Santos, either. But despite that embarrassing blip from her past, Lina’s managed to make other people’s dreams come true as a top-tier wedding coordinator in DC. After impressing an influential guest, she’s offered an opportunity that could change her life. There’s just one hitch… she has to collaborate with the best (make that worst) man from her own failed nuptials.

Tired of living in his older brother’s shadow, marketing expert Max Hartley is determined to make his mark with a coveted hotel client looking to expand its brand. Then he learns he’ll be working with his brother’s whip-smart, stunning—absolutely off-limits—ex-fiancée. And she loathes him.

If they can survive the next few weeks and nail their presentation without killing each other, they’ll both come out ahead. Except Max has been public enemy number one ever since he encouraged his brother to jilt the bride, and Lina’s ready to dish out a little payback of her own.

But even the best laid plans can go awry, and soon Lina and Max discover animosity may not be the only emotion creating sparks between them. Still, this star-crossed couple can never be more than temporary playmates because Lina isn’t interested in falling in love and Max refuses to play runner-up to his brother ever again…

Review:

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

This will be one of my favorite reads of 2020. I just know it. The story, the characters, the romance, the drama, everything about this book had me swooning. This is my first Mia Sosa novel, but after reading this beauty, I definitely want to give more of her books a try.

Enemies-to-lovers is one of my favorite tropes. I love the angst and animosity, but when they figure it out? Phewwww. One of the best feelings as a reader. This story was different. Lina is a wedding planner and was left at the altar. She had to move on and silence all of her issues when it came to the romance of weddings. It was starting to affect her performance as a wedding planner. When she has an opportunity to get a higher paying job that could change her struggle-filled life. When she finds out that she has to work with a top marketing expert, it all goes south from there. It turns out to be the brother-of-the-groom who left her at the altar. On the day of the wedding, Max, the brother’s groom, received a text basically thanking him for stopping him from marrying Lina. Max doesn’t remember the night before at all after a wild party. What. A. Story.

Mia Sosa wrote the characters so well, I wanted to be friends with them. I wanted to insert myself into their lives and help them figure out what was going on. I feel almost honored that I got to watch this story unfold. I loved the development of Lina and who she was in the beginning to end of this book. She truly went through her stages and it proved to be one of the best characters I’ve read about. I loved her attitude and knowing what she was thinking throughout each word.

Max. Max. Max. What a guy. I really loved his character through every attempt of romance that he gave. He was such a refreshing character to read about because there’s usually a bad guy at some point, but he didn’t give me that vibe once. His brother is the one that gives you that vibe from the very beginning and it shows.

Overall, Mia Sosa really caught my attention with this one. Lina and Max are two of my favorite characters in the 300+ books I’ve read in my lifetime (so far). I am curious about her other books now as this one really gave me a fantastic feeling. If you’re a romance lover, put this one on your list for 2020.

No, We Can’t Be Friends by Sophie Ranald

Publication Date: January 10, 2020
Publisher: Bookouture
Rating: ★★

Everyone knows a girl like Sloane. She was always The Single One. She never brought a plus-one to weddings. She was the woman you’d set up with your single cousin. She joined ballroom dancing classes to meet men and was the queen of online dating.

But then she met Myles. Perfect Myles, with denim-blue eyes and a dazzling smile that melted her insides. She’d finally found The One.

Except she didn’t imagine that Myles’s idea of Happy Ever After would include Sloane battling an overflowing laundry basket, buying birthday cards for his family, and ironing his Calvin Klein underpants.

Then Sloane finds out that Myles has a secret.

The fairy tale is well and truly over. Her heart is blown to smithereens. Eating her weight in Ben & Jerry’s and large Meat Feast pizzas can only get Sloane so far before she has to make a decision… Can she learn to love herself more than she loved the love of her life?

Review:

Thank you to Sophie Ranald, Bookouture & NetGalley for a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

I read the synopsis of this novel and was immediately interested. It was described as laugh-out-loud and I felt like the blurb given was very misleading. I think that the very end has some moments that were amusing, but I’m not sure that I laughed out loud once.

This book ended up being more somber than funny. I wouldn’t mind that in the slightest bit if I wasn’t expecting funny. If it was advertised as a secretive, sad novel, then I’d be all for it.

Sloane was a kind of likable character to the point where by the end, I could almost see me her being friends with her in a real life scenario. Throughout the novel, I had a hard time with the characters overall. There were some side characters (especially Vivienne) that I thought had better progression than the main characters and that made me have a negative reaction to this book.

There were a good amount of realistic points made and that’s the reason why this book got a two-star rating from me. I could resonate and think of real life scenarios that would really happen and I thought that Sophie Ranald did a good job with that.

Overall, if this book was described differently, I would’ve known what I was getting into. Having this book described as “laugh-out-loud” was simply misleading and it was a pretty heavy book to get into. I would definitely give Sophie Ranald another try as this was my first read by her.

 

We Used to Be Friends by Amy Spalding

Publication Date: January 7, 2020
Publisher: Amulet Books
Rating: ★★★

Told in dual timelines—half of the chapters moving forward in time and half moving backward—We Used to Be Friends explores the most traumatic breakup of all: that of childhood besties. At the start of their senior year in high school, James (a girl with a boy’s name) and Kat are inseparable, but by graduation, they’re no longer friends. James prepares to head off to college as she reflects on the dissolution of her friendship with Kat while, in alternating chapters, Kat thinks about being newly in love with her first girlfriend and having a future that feels wide open. Over the course of senior year, Kat wants nothing more than James to continue to be her steady rock, as James worries that everything she believes about love and her future is a lie when her high-school sweetheart parents announce they’re getting a divorce. Funny, honest, and full of heart, We Used to Be Friends tells of the pains of growing up and growing apart.

Review:

Thank you to Amy Spalding, Amulet Books & NetGalley for a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

I’ll be completely honest and say that the cover was the exact reason I picked this book. I like LGBT and best friend battles in young adult novels, but the cover is what really got me. The curiosity of what makes these two best friends separate is what pulled me in through the beauty of the front of the book.

I thought We Used to Be Friends was very realistic. I think that Amy Spalding did a great job taking the reader into the background to watch everything unfold right along the characters. The plot was very refreshing as it was something I haven’t really read before. I really do believe that this was an honest story and you really got to see the truth behind friends growing apart, no matter how long they’ve been friends for. It’s a very real thing.

The only reason why I had a little trouble with this book was the timeline and the characters. The timeline is shown at the beginning of each chapter. Make sure to pay attention to this, very closely, or you will be confused. I had to go back a few times to remind myself if I was before or after “senior year” and how long it had been month-wise. James’ story is told from the end and Kat’s is told from the beginning. It was kind of hard to follow along.

With the characters, I feel like it was a little complicated because I became frustrated with some of them. I really enjoyed the dads in this book, but the main characters were tough on me. I had a really hard time with Kat and James. They were pretty interested in making sure each other knew that they had issues with the friendships but never really took the blame on themselves. I understand that they’re young and that’s how life works when you’re young, but I feel as though I couldn’t see the growth behind them because of that.

Lastly, I think that the ending was a little too much… left for interpretation? The ending definitely is up to the reader. When reading, I wish it had more of a direct ending instead of an ambiguous one where we have to think and decide what it is.

Overall, I think that if I were a couple years younger, I would’ve liked this book more. It’s definitely a high school (or fresh-out of) story. It’s definitely a book that I would read again and recommend to those with children in high school or high school students.

 

Little Bookshop On the Seine by Rebecca Raisin

I received this book as a part of the Harlequin Book Tour for Romance & Women’s Fiction! Thank you to Rebecca Raisin, Harlequin Books, & NetGalley for a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

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Publication Date: January 7, 2020
Publisher: Harlequin Books
Rating: ★★★

When bookshop owner Sarah Smith is offered the opportunity for a job exchange with her Parisian friend Sophie, saying yes is a no-brainer—after all, what kind of romantic would turn down six months in Paris? Sarah is sure she’s in for the experience of a lifetime—days spent surrounded by literature in a gorgeous bookshop, and the chance to watch the snow fall on the Eiffel Tower. Plus, now she can meet up with her journalist boyfriend, Ridge, when his job takes him around the globe.

But her expectations cool faster than her café au lait soon after she lands in the City of Light—she’s a fish out of water in Paris. The customers are rude, her new coworkers suspicious and her relationship with Ridge has been reduced to a long-distance game of phone tag, leaving Sarah to wonder if he’ll ever put her first over his busy career. As Christmas approaches, Sarah is determined to get the shop—and her life—back in order…and make her dreams of a Parisian happily-ever-after come true.

Review:

This was as typical as it could’ve been. A tooth-rottingly sweet bookstore romance. I really like Christmas based romance stories especially during that time of year. However, this one fell a little flat for me.

What I didn’t know when I requested this book was that it was the second in a series. I looked it up to see if this could be read as a standalone and it said that it could. However, from personal experience, I’d read the first book in the series, The Bookshop on the Corner. Since I didn’t read the first one, I felt like there was a good amount missing about a backstory. I was curious on why Sophie chose Paris, etc. You might not need to read the first one and enjoy it, but in my opinion, I think that it would be better if you did.

I wasn’t a huge fan of Sarah’s character. Her development wasn’t shown and it appears that she is a doormat for most of the book. People walk all over her throughout this novel and at some point, it does get old. I felt like skipping and scanning to just get through that part multiple times. I felt like I was reading the same thing over and over again with some breaks of Sarah going out in Paris.

The flow of this book was very up and down. I felt like it was definitely repetitive, but I also feel like there were times where I was confused about the time periods. It seemed as though the time was flying and all of a sudden, Christmas was upon them and the story was pretty much over. I thought maybe it would’ve been better like that to make up for the repetitiveness of the story, but it just made me feel more confused about it.

There was plenty about this book that could be considered lovable, but it was a little tough to get through it. The enjoyable moments were as the heroine walks around Paris and gives me a complete visual of what I would see if I were in her shoes. On the other hand, I wish I read the first book before this one. There’s a good amount of backstory that happens off the pages that probably could be found in the first book of this series. This was enjoyable, but the writing could have definitely been tighter.

 

Full Support by Natalee Woods

Publication Date: December 3, 2019
Publisher: Amberjack Publicaitons
Rating: ★★★

Lingerie is the foundation for every woman’s wardrobe, but it’s also where we feel the most pressure to be beautiful—and feel the most shame at falling short of impossible standards. Concerns about our age, body type, family expectations, jobs, and romantic partners crowd into the dressing room with us. The result is a bra that fits other people’s standards instead of our own bodies.

As a bra-fitter at a high-end department store for more than a decade, Natalee Woods watched women bravely facing down their fears and embracing what worked for them. Full Support shares their stories alongside judgment-free secrets for a good fit.

Review:

Thank you to Natalee Woods, Amberjack Publications & NetGalley for a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

The first thing I noticed about is how easy of a read this was. I read it within a day because the language was easy to read and comprehend.

Natalee’s story was very interesting. You learn the life of a bra-fitter and what they go through every day. I would’ve never really even thought about it if I wasn’t interested by Natalee’s synopsis. It was very intriguing to see her stories and the daily duties from a high-end department store.

Unfortunately, after reading her stories, I felt as though this dragged a little bit for me. Sometimes, I caught myself skimming because I almost didn’t feel like reading through the next story. Natalee’s words were funny, but sometimes were pretty dry.

I loved the name of the chapters and some of the words that she wrote were laugh-out-loud funny. I think that Natalee is very funny in real life and not just on paper. It’s interesting to see how she was going through the things she was and still had me cracking up at some of her words.

Overall, I didn’t love this book and I didn’t hate it either. I think that there was a lot of interesting and funny moments in the words, but I had a hard time sometimes getting through the chapters. I’m someone who enjoys nonfiction here and there, and if you are a nonfiction lover, I’d recommend this book.

Would Like to Meet by Rachel Winters

Publication Date: December 3, 2019
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Rating: ★★

After seven years as an assistant, 29-year-old Evie Summers is ready to finally get the promotion she deserves. But now the TV and film agency she’s been running behind the scenes is in trouble, and Evie will lose her job unless she can convince the agency’s biggest and most arrogant client, Ezra Chester, to finish writing the script for a Hollywood romantic comedy.

The catch? Ezra is suffering from writer’s block–and he’ll only put pen to paper if singleton Evie can prove to him that you can fall in love like they do in the movies. With the future of the agency in jeopardy, Evie embarks on a mission to meet a man the way Sally met Harry or Hugh Grant met Julia Roberts.

But in the course of testing out the meet-cute scenes from classic romantic comedies IRL, not only will Evie encounter one humiliating situation after another, but she’ll have to confront the romantic past that soured her on love. In a novel as hilarious as it is heartwarming, debut author Rachel Winters proves that sometimes real life is better than the movies–and that the best kind of meet-cutes happen when you least expect them.

Review:

Thank you to NetGalley, Rachel Winters & G.P. Putnam’s Sons for a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

When I read the synopsis of Would Like to Meet, I was super interested right away. It sounded like something I’ve never read before and I am an absolute sucker for contemporary romance stories. When I started, I thought it was pretty good. I kept reading and reading and at this point, I was just begging for something to happen. Ultimately, there were good parts of this story, but I feel like most of it fell flat for me.

I will say that Rachel Winters had a particular style of writing. I don’t think it was bad necessarily, but I could absolutely see this being more of a play/screenplay type of story instead of a book. The characters, the premise, everything had so much promise, but as a book, I’m not sure that was the right path.

I am someone who is painfully particular about the characters in a book. I really tried, but I had a really hard time with the main characters, Evie and Ezra. I feel as though Ezra was so unlikable after 60% or so, but I will give props that Rachel Winters was able to make me feel those feelings for him. Evie was kind of self-centered and as I was reading, I kept thinking, “she does not deserve her friends…like at all”. Anette and Ben were the only reasons why I got through. There were some moments that I laughed-out-loud, because of Anette specifically.

Would Like to Meet had a ton of potential, but I feel as though the story was just cliche for me. The characters were unlikable and just not able to be related to. I really liked the idea and I think that if there were more likable moments in this novel that it would easily be a good book.

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!

Day Zero by Kelly deVos

I received this book as a part of the Winter 2020 Harlequin Trade Publishing Blog Tour for Inkyard Press! Thank you to Kelly deVos, Harlequin Books, Inkyard Press & NetGalley for a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

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Publication Date: November 12, 2019
Publisher: Inkyard Publishing

Rating: ★★★

If you’re going through hell…keep going.

Seventeen-year-old coder Jinx Marshall grew up spending weekends drilling with her paranoid dad for a doomsday she’s sure will never come. She’s an expert on self-heating meal rations, Krav Maga and extracting water from a barrel cactus. Now that her parents are divorced, she’s ready to relax. Her big plans include making it to level 99 in her favorite MMORPG and spending the weekend with her new hunky stepbrother, Toby.

But all that disaster training comes in handy when an explosion traps her in a burning building. Stuck leading her headstrong stepsister, MacKenna, and her precocious little brother, Charles, to safety, Jinx gets them out alive only to discover the explosion is part of a pattern of violence erupting all over the country. Even worse, Jinx’s dad stands accused of triggering the chaos.

In a desperate attempt to evade paramilitary forces and vigilantes, Jinx and her siblings find Toby and make a break for Mexico. With seemingly the whole world working against them, they’ve got to get along and search for the truth about the attacks—and about each other. But if they can survive, will there be anything left worth surviving for?

Review:

Susan aka “Jinx” had a father who was called Mr. Doomsday. Jinx’s dad wrote the book The Doomsday Guide to Ultimate Survival and they spent a lot of time, tirelessly working at the drills that her father wrote in this book. Just when Susan’s mother divorces her father and she’s ready to calm down with her little brother Charles, the worst happens. Doomsday approaches and the government thinks it was Jinx’s father who triggered all of these events. It’s apparent that it’s a choice of “remember your training” or “throw everything out the window” type scenario.

This book had such a fantastic start, it had me on the edge of my seat. I read through the first 30% within an hour I believe. It wasn’t something that I had read before. A doomsday prepper turned possible doomsday …starter?! It was so intriguing to see the steps play out in Jinx’s head after years and years of having them drilled into her mind with her little brother.

After I got to a certain spot, this novel began to drag for me. It was almost like I got through some of the best parts in that first 30% and then …poof, it stopped. I kept reading because I was very curious on how this book was going to end and what was going to happen. There were points that had you wondering if this was just in her local town or was it worldwide and other doomsday thoughts that a person might have.

One of my biggest issues that I had with this novel were the characters. They seemed almost unlikable as I got further and further into it. I loved Charlie and I wanted to take him home with me. He was hilarious and had his own little spin. If book two was in Charlie’s point-of-view, I would read it in a heartbeat.

Overall, this was a good young adult novel. I would read this again and I would recommend it. Keep an open mind when reading after hitting that little wall because it might be a better of a rating for you!

Twenty-one Truths About Love by Matthew Dicks

Publication Date: November 19, 2019
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Rating: ★★★

1. Daniel Mayrock loves his wife Jill…more than anything.
2. Dan quit his job and opened a bookshop.
3. Jill is ready to have a baby.
4. Dan is scared; the bookshop isn’t doing well. Financial crisis is imminent.
5. Dan hasn’t told Jill about their financial trouble. He’s ashamed.
6. Then Jill gets pregnant.

This heartfelt story is about the lengths one man will go to and the risks he will take to save his family. But Dan doesn’t just want to save his failing bookstore and his family’s finances—he wants to become someone.

1. Dan wants to do something special.
2. He’s a man who is tired of feeling ordinary.
3. He’s sick of feeling like a failure.
4. Of living in the shadow of his wife’s deceased first husband.

Dan is also an obsessive list maker, and his story unfolds entirely in his lists, which are brimming with Dan’s hilarious sense of humor, unique world-view, and deeply personal thoughts. When read in full, his lists paint a picture of a man struggling to be a man, a man who has reached a point where he’s willing to anything for the love (and soon-to-be new love) of his life.

Review:

Thank you to NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press & Matthew Dicks for a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Twenty-one Truths About Love is about a man named Daniel who quit his teaching career to open a bookstore. He’s going through a lot with his marriage, losing money and more when he finds out that his wife is pregnant. To help him cope with his life, he makes lists in a diary that displays all different types of areas in life. He figures out what he needs to do and his finances and how he will make it all work. Things are rough for Daniel, but you see just how his mind is working through the lists he creates.

There was a lot to love about this book. Daniel, as a character, was hilarious and had a lot of funny moments in his lists. With this character, you could see the changes in him. He tried to be funny when his life was “falling apart” and it was easy to see that. It reminded me of how we really are as humans. We put on this show of how we are alright on the outside when we are struggling on the inside. I think this is an important reminder for the author to point out, and I’m appreciative of Matthew Dicks doing so.

The book itself got a little tiring in the list format. It’s unique and I was definitely interested in the list aspect of it, but after a while, I got a little bored of it. It was a lot of numbers and titles and it was kind of hard to get through by the end.

The other issue that I had with this book was that I began reading this book because of the synopsis that Daniel was the owner of a bookstore. I feel as though the author only referenced books a couple of times and barely talked about Daniel’s bookish side of life a handful of times.

I think that this novel would be very promising if there were some paragraphs thrown into the mix with the lists. As someone who worked in a library for 10 years, I would’ve liked to see more of Daniel’s bookstore life. However, I understand that this was about Daniel and the journey he had on becoming a father, etc. If you are a lover of general fiction, I’d pick this one up!