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Book Review: City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

5 out of 5 Stars

Okay I did it. I gave this one all the love. It takes A LOT for me to give a 5. It has to have a significant impact on thoughts and create a connection. This is everything I could want in a book.

This story takes you on quite a journey. Vivian is a well-to-do young girl in the 40s trying to sort out who she is and where she belongs. She is writing a letter to Angela who has asked Vivian how she came to know her father. (I’m purposefully not telling you who Angela is). This sets the scene for the retelling of her rollercoaster adult life. After dropping out of college, Vivian is sent to live with her zany Aunt Peg (I also have an Aunt Peg).  Viv takes her seamstress talent to work at her aunt’s off beat theater. She quickly finds herself swept up in the fast and tawdry lifestyle of the years before WWII. Men, cocktails, late nights (early mornings), fancy clubs, you get the idea. In what may be the apex of the story and the turning point, her need to “be a part of” and her naivety leads her to make a decision that turns her life upside down.  Along the way we all have the privilege of meeting many interesting characters, with interesting stories that are unique for the time period. She goes on to tell the story of her adult life, of which she does find fulfillment. Angela gets to learn (perhaps more than she wanted) about how Vivian knew her father. I won’t spoil it because you will be wondering, “who is Angela’s father” for the majority of the book. And it is SO GOOD! I didn’t see it coming. This book throws you curveballs when you aren’t expecting them. And at times, the writing was funny, making you smile.

There is also a serious tone to this book. Dark and serious. We also get to feel the impact, and societal shift, that happens when the U.S. joined World War II. NYC would never be the same. Women went to work in professions that perhaps they had not in the past. Men (and some women) went to war. Some rushed to marry. Some never came home. And after the war ended, NYC was a different world.

At one point during the first half, I was like, okay, I get it move on. I was becoming “done” with hearing that arrogant accent of fancy Golden Age “The-a-tah” actors have been portrayed to possess. But yet it was vivid, dense, and delicious. Goodness the second half of this book I could NOT put down. I was highlighting so many introspectful quotes (29 total). I would read some lines and sit there pondering them. City of Girls is full of surprises and full of depth. I can see this book becoming a movie, and I truly hope it does.

 

Quotes that I loved:

-“A person only gets to move to New York City for the first time in her life once, Angela, and it’s a pretty big deal.”

-“But this is a city that gets born anew in the fresh eyes of every young person who arrives here for the first time. So that city, that place—newly created for my eyes only—will never exist again. It is preserved forever in my memory like an orchid trapped in a paperweight. That city will always be my perfect New York.”

-“This is what flirtation is in its purest form—a conversation held without words. Flirtation is a series of silent questions that one person asks another person with their eyes. And the answer to those questions is always the same word: Maybe.”

-“You must learn in life to take things more lightly, my dear. The world is always changing. Learn how to allow for it. Someone makes a promise, and then they break it. A play gets good notices, and then it folds. A marriage looks strong, and then they divorce. For a while there’s no war, and then there’s another war. If you get too upset about it all, you become a stupid, unhappy person—and where’s the good in that?”

-“When we are young, Angela, we may fall victim to the misconception that time will heal all wounds and that eventually everything will shake itself out. But as we get older, we learn this sad truth: some things can never be fixed. Some mistakes can never be put right—not by the passage of time, and not by our most fervent wishes, either. In my experience, this is the hardest lesson of them all.”

-“After a certain age, we are all walking around this world in bodies made of secrets and shame and sorrow and old, unhealed injuries. Our hearts grow sore and misshapen around all this pain—yet somehow, still, we carry on.”

-“When something ends, let it end.”

-“This is what I’ve found about life, as I’ve gotten older: you start to lose people, Angela. It’s not that there is ever a shortage of people—oh, heavens no. It is merely that—as the years pass—there comes to be a terrible shortage of your people. The ones you loved. The ones who knew the people that you both loved. The ones who know your whole history.”

[I lost it reading this last one. The flow of the text into this conversation and the raw truth of it.]

 

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Book Review, Books, netgalley, New Release, Romance

Review of Dating by the Book by Mary Ann Marlowe

Four out of five delightful stars

I really liked this book, from its nerdy references (Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter) to the discussion of the more historical literary works (Jane Eyre, Little Women) as well as the peek behind the scenes of an author’s life, it was fun to read and very well written. There was also a bit of a mystery to solve, which I will not spoil, but it definitely kept me guessing and kept me reading!

That being said, this book should be considered less of a romance and more of a fantasy. Maddie, the heroine, had four men vying for her attention. Four! I can barely get one to show any interest, so I just had to chalk that up as a fantastical plot device. However, this was my first book by this author, and I requested it from Netgalley because I liked the summary, so I knew what I was getting into! I just had to suspend my disbelief a little bit.

I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that Maddie has a bit of an online flirtation going on with a reviewer she knows as Silver Fox, and I loved this aspect of the story! I think the “flirty exchanges with an online stranger” storylines are super sexy and fun. If only real life online dating went as well as what I read in books!

I also love books that make me say, out loud, “oh wow…” and this one did. I’m looking forward to reading this author’s other books and I’d encourage you to give this one a try! Thanks to Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review this book.

Buy Dating by the Book on Amazon here

Book Review, Romance

Book Review: Meet Cute by Helena Hunting

3.5/5 Stars

Don’t let this cutsie soda shop cover fool you! I was expecting a fluffy, predictable romance read. From the beginning, I quickly learned that this assumption was very wrong. I’m not sure why the publisher or marketing team went with this cover because it evokes a feeling that is very different from the content of the story. Any how! This story of law school rivals had me glued for 2 days. I read it while drying my hair, cooking dinner, and in place of tuning in to the Bachelorette! Ha.

Daxton is, IMO, fashioned after Zack Morris from Saved by the Bell. He was a childhood star who Kailyn had as her teenage crush. We’re talking posters in her room and t-shirts. When she stumbles over him, literally, in law school, the rivalry began. After we meet this young characters we are transported to 5 years later where they once again meet. A horrible, sudden tragedy brings them together. Hunting brings us along for a journey of interesting interpersonal dynamics and weaves their story beautifully.

This book made it to my summer anticipated list. I enjoyed the story and makes for a nice read. It doesn’t evoke “summer” to me necessarily, but was entertaining and worth one-clicking. 🙂

Quotes I loved:

“Heartache is the worst affliction. It robs a person of rationality, of logic, of forethought and patience. It makes everything good painfully bright and magnifies the bad with an intensity that’s difficult to tolerate.”

“Appearance is half the battle in this world. Appear poised and successful, and people will believe you are. Visualize success.”

“I like cups with handles.” (because, me too)

 

 

Book Review, Books, New Release, Romance, Uncategorized

Review of “Hold On Tight” (Returning Home, Book One) by Serena Bell

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5 out of 5 beautiful, sexy, heart-warming stars

I posted about this book a couple of days ago, to help get the word out about its release. Then I had a chance to actually read the book. YOU GUYS, this book is amazing! It is one of the best books I’ve read so far this year! I am lucky enough to be on Serena Bell’s ARC team, and was thrilled to be able to read this book so I could share it with you. The most exciting thing about this book, and the others in this series, is that it is a re-release, as Ms. Bell is now an INDIE author. I’m even more excited to be a part of her team now, because indie authors need even more support than the garden variety. 🙂

Now, I am a sucker for second chance romance. I also love a well-written story about a military hero, having grown up as an Army brat. I’m a big fan of the single parent, being one myself, and while I usually gravitate toward the hot single DAD books, I like to read about a single mom working hard to be all things to her kids, while also finding some time to take care of herself.  Lastly, I can occasionally be found reading a secret baby romance, although it’s not my favorite trope. Hold On Tight has all of these!

Here’s a quick synopsis by the author herself:

“Hold On Tight is the story of Jake—a guy who comes back from war, broken in body and spirit, to discover that he has a kid he never knew existed and a baby mama he’s been trying really hard to forget. It’s also the story of Mira, a single mom who has been working her butt off to hold all the pieces together, and does not need the complication of being attracted to a man who got her pregnant and disappeared off the face of the earth. Aaand, it’s the story of Sam, who—well, he’s seven, and just trying to figure out how all the pieces fit together, especially in light of the fact that his mom told him that his dad was a sperm donor.”

Jake and Mira had a very short, but passionate, relationship 8 years ago, and their paths are about to cross again. Jake is a war hero. Not only that, he’s a wounded war hero, who is back home after a devastating experience overseas. Mira is a single mom, who just moved across the country, and away from her parents, to prove that she can take care of herself and her 7-year-old son. What will happen when Jake finds out he has a son? How will Mira deal with Jake’s reemergence into her life? Will she tell her son, Sam, that Jake is his dad?

I adored Sam. This kid had a heart of gold, and he was not afraid to ask the tough questions. Have you heard the saying, “…and the little child shall lead them”? Sam is that child. I started reading one of the chapters, and when it started out, it made me think it was going to be from Sam’s POV.  It didn’t turn out to be, but I thought to myself, “How freaking great would that be, to get a chapter from a child’s own perspective???” It’s definitely something I have not seen before, and didn’t know I’d love until that moment.

I loved this book. LOVED. I’d read another military hero book recently, and it was pretty bad. It wasn’t realistic, and it was very light on the facts. I don’t know what experience Ms. Bell has with military life, but I found her descriptions to be very authentic. Jake had experienced some very harrowing things while he was deployed, and he had a very difficult time dealing with the challenges of life back home. It all felt very real and honest.

I’ve also come to realize over the past few years that sexy times must be REALLY difficult to write, because some authors just aren’t very good at it. Serena Bell, let it be known, is NOT one of those authors. Her sexy times are off-the-charts hot. It’s possible that I enjoy them so much because I’m really rooting for her characters and I want them to have good sexy times, but I don’t think so. She’s just really good at writing super sexy scenes, which at no point make the reader pause and say “wait…what?”

I’m very excited about book 2, Can’t Hold Back, because it’s not just another book in the series, it’s a continuation of sorts. We meet the main characters, Nate and Alia, at the end of Hold on Tight, and it appears we will also be able to follow Mira and Jake (and Sam!) on their continuing journey.

If you like military heroes, or second chance romance, or secret baby stories, or indie authors, or all of the above, PLEASE go buy this book. I will definitely be bringing you reviews of the other books in this series, as they are released. I hope you love Jake and Mira’s story as much as I did!

Buy Hold on Tight on Amazon

Pre-order Can’t Hold Back

Pre-order To Have and To Hold

Books, Free book, Historical Romance, Romance

Genealogy by Mae Wood, free this weekend only!

I was able to read this wonderful book as a part of the Release Launch for the blog back in October. I blogged about its release, and read the book, but it affected me so emotionally that I was unable to write a review without taking some time to think about and reflect on this heart-warming and moving story. A few months have gone by, so it’s definitely past time for me to post my review!

This book is a lovely mix of past and present. It is a love story, without being what my daughters call one of my “shirtless man books.” Mae Wood normally writes books with some excellent sexy times, so when she started to talk about Genealogy, she warned her readers that this would be a different sort of book.

It was different, but it wasn’t. It had all the heart of a “sexy times” book by Mae Wood, but since it takes place in the early 1900s, there were no sexy times. It was a beautiful throwback to when a man courted a woman, when they wrote long handwritten letters that took weeks or months to arrive in the hands of their loved one. These letters are the foundation of this story, and the best part for me is that the letters in this book were based on real, hundred-year-old love letters.

I can’t say enough about this beautiful story. I love historical fiction, and origin stories, and time travel. This book is a bit of all three, and I was honored to be a part of the promotional team.

Buy Genealogy on Amazon for FREE this weekend only!

Books, Romance

Review of The Dating Alternative by Jennifer Woodhull

4.5 of 5 fun, fast-paced stars

This is my first time reading a book by Jennifer Woodhull, and I am very interested in reading more of her work. I read it in about 24 hours, and enjoyed it a lot. The storyline was a new take on an old theme: Friends-with-Benefits, but with a fun twist. I liked “Cheese” and “Max” very much. I enjoyed their relationships with their friends and family, especially “Alexander’s” spunky grandma.

There were a few jaw-dropping “no way!” moments, and an expected twist. A couple of times, something happened that maybe crossed the line into unbelievability. For the most part, this was a fun, interesting, fast-paced story. This author writes “sexy times” really well, and I’ve found that not all authors do. Thanks to Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review this terrific book.

Buy The Dating Alternative on Amazon

Books, Romance

Review of “My Favorite Half-Night Stand” by Christina Lauren

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5 of 5 virtual stars

“I have never read anything like this.”

I say the same thing every time I finish a book by Christina Lauren.

I said it about Roomies. I said it about Beautiful Stranger. I said it about Love and Other Words.

It’s a pattern.

The premise of Half-Night Stand may be familiar to you: two people, who have been friends for years, realize that they’re in love with each other.

I have read some terrific Friends-to-Lovers books:

Head Over Heels by Serena Bell

Truth or Beard by Penny Reid

Some Sort of Crazy by Melanie Harlow

But I have never read a FtoL book like this.

The main characters are Millie and Reid. And Ed. And Alex. And Chris. A friend group that includes four guys and one girl. At first, I thought, oh no, I’ll never keep track of that many main characters. But I did!

Chris has it all together.

Alex is a player.

Ed is a 30-year-old kid who only has beer in his fridge, and answers the door in his bathrobe. (Ed is my spirit animal!)

Reid is loyal, and hard-working, and passionate.

And then there’s Millie. She’s quirky, and closed off, and not comfortable talking about her feelings. (Millie. Is. Me!)

These five friends are generally satisfied with their lives. They have jobs that they enjoy, they have a group of good friends, they have a comfortable routine. The shenanigans begin when one of them decides that they should bring a “plus-one” to an upcoming event, and figure the best way to find one is by using a dating app. This is very relevant to today’s environment, as it seems to be the only way to find a partner in this day and age. (I love that this book delves into this topic, as I’ve had some experience with online dating in the past few months, and I haven’t found many books that even bring it up as an option! People in books seem to meet other people “the old-fashioned way.”)

Each of the friends has a different experience with the dating app, called IRL. When Millie is matched with one of her best friends, she starts to look at her relationship with that friend in a different light.

I always see something new when I read Christina Lauren book. We see the group text conversations among the gang, each accompanied by an icon of each character. I’m a very visual person, so it helped my brain to have a picture to connect with each member of the friend group. This is unique, and fun, and very Christina Lauren.

With every CL book I read, I fall more in love with the style of this writing duo. They are clever, the sexy times are steamy, and they always make me cry at some point. If you haven’t read a Christina Lauren book yet, please pick one up and be sure to tell me what you think!!

Buy My Favorite Half-Night Stand on Amazon