Her Homecoming Wish by Jo McNally

I received this novel as a part of the Harlequin Special Edition Blog Tour! Thank you to Jo McNally, Harlequin Special Edition, Harlequin Books & NetGalley for a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

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Publication Date: January 21, 2020
Publisher: Harlequin Special Edition
Rating: ★★★★

She’s ready to shed her good-girl ways…

“You’re all about following the rules now?

“Pity.”

Mackenzie Wallace hopes there’s still some bad boy lurking beneath single father Danny Adams’s upright exterior. Being the proverbial good girl left her brokenhearted and alone in the past. Now she’s back in town and wants excitement with her high school crush—not love. Dan knows their connection runs deep, despite Mackenzie’s protests. But will their new personas work together—especially when Dan’s secret is exposed?

Review:

Good girl turned bad. Bad boy turned good. This trope was awesome. I loved the fact that they had a role reversal thing going on after Mackenzie, or Mack, returned home after having a really nasty divorce. Coming home to find out that the bad boy growing up was now a Sheriff of their small town? Priceless.

The slow burn was one of my favorite parts about this book. I think that Jo McNally did a phenomenal job creating that curiosity of what was going to happen and when. The romance was extremely realistic and I appreciated that. It could’ve gone the other route where I was rolling my eyes over the way Mack comes back to town, etc. I really didn’t find any flaws with that writing.

As someone who lives in an area where drugs are potent, this book hit too close to home. The small town vibes really showed me that maybe Jo McNally really understands what it’s currently like in today’s society when it comes to drugs and overdoses. On the other hand, the small town vibe did include the closeness and love within it as well. That was definitely something I could appreciate.

Overall, I think that the biggest takeaway that I got from this book was the fact that you can plan your life all you want, but it might not ever come out that way. Jo McNally really wrote an amazing book and if you are a homecoming romance lover, this is definitely a book you should read.

A Girl’s Guide to the Outback by Jessica Kate

Publication Date: January 28, 2020
Publisher: Thomas Nelson Books
Rating: ★★★★

Samuel Payton is a passionate youth pastor in Virginia, but beneath the surface, Sam’s still recovering from a failed business. His coworker—start-up expert Kimberly Foster—is brilliant, fearless, and capable, but her mother’s rejection from a young age till now has left her defensive and longing for a family. Two people have never been more at odds—or more attracted to one another. And every day at work, the sparks are flying.

When Kimberly’s ambitious plans for Sam’s ministry butt up against his risk-averse nature, Sam decides that obligations to family trump his work for the church. He quits the ministry and flies home to Australia to help his family save their struggling farm—much to Kimberly’s chagrin. As Kimberly’s grand plans flounder, she is forced to face the truth: that no one can replace Sam. To what lengths will she go to get him back?

Review:

Thank you to Jessica Kate, Thomas Nelson Books & NetGalley for a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

When I received this novel, I didn’t know that it was a sequel. It isn’t listed as so, therefore, I had no clue. I read this book really with no problem, but after reading the first book, Love and Other Mistakes, I really understand the characters more than I did before and can give a true review on A Girl’s Guide to the Outback.

The first thing I really enjoyed about this novel was the humor. Even through this is classified as a “Christian romance”, I thought there were a lot of good moments that I didn’t expect. There are some parts that are genuinely funny, but others that are so awkward that you can’t help but giggle at the weirdness of it.

The characters were straight up damaged. I loved learning about Sam and Kimberly. I read their stories and I found it really interesting. They developed so well through this novel that by the end, I was really rooting for whatever outcome I was bound to get.

Learning about Australia was such an amazing part of this story. I’ve never traveled outside of the United States and I feel like I had been to Australia after reading this book. It was very detailed and I got to really see how Australians act and talk. I didn’t think it was too over-the-top like some books with a foreign setting.

Overall, I think that Jessica Kate did a fantastic job with this one. I loved learning about the characters and how they work, by themselves and together. I am definitely giving her other novels a try!

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!