3 Star Books · ARC Book Reviews · Book Reviews · Christmas · contemporary fiction · contemporary romance · Holidays

Magic Under the Mistletoe by Lucy Coleman | #Holiday #BookReview

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Magic Under the Mistletoe by Lucy Coleman

Rating: 3 stars

Published: September 5, 2019

Publisher: Aria

Pages: 300?

Genres: romance, contemporary, holiday, Christmas

Recommend to fans of: books by the same author, winter wonderland romances, holiday romances, difficult family times with happily ever afters
Synopsis:

Christmas and romance are in the air…
It’s December 23rd and while everyone else is rushing home for the holidays, workaholic Leesa Oliver is dreading switching on her out-of-office for the festive season. And it seems her equally driven boss, Cary Anderson, isn’t relishing spending Christmas at his family’s country estate either.
So together, they draft an unexpected Christmas contract: They’ll spend half of the holidays with each other’s families, pretending to be a couple. Leesa knows the insufferably good-looking Cary will make her Christmas more bearable, but what happens after the last of the mince pies have been eaten…?
Leesa signed off on a sensible business agreement, but somewhere, amongst the fairy lights and carols something seems to have changed… It seems there might just be some magic under the mistletoe this Christmas!
Review:

Thank you to NetGalley, Aria, and Lucy Coleman for an ARC ebook copy to review. As always, an honest review from me.

Like:
– fun, sweet wintertime romance
– Still realistic because there are some family and life struggles presented (allows the characters to be well created) but also still retains its romance novel quality
– The author writes consistently good winter holiday romances

Love:
– one of the main characters is a romance author
– Picturesque setting

Dislike:
– wasn’t as captivating for a holiday romance as I had hoped – simply put, it didn’t pull me into the story, wrap me up in the holiday feels and make me feel a part of the festive holiday season
– The family tension – there’s not a lot of it but any will always take away from the enjoyment of a book for me, due to personal triggers

Wish that:
– I wasn’t so busy so I could take time to truly enjoy this wonderful novel
– I related more to the main characters

Overall, a decent holiday romance novel but definitely not my favorite that I’ve read recently. I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed another book by this same author, so I have high hopes for her next book. To be fair, I was very busy and stressed while reading this book, so I couldn’t relax and become immersed in the world like I usually do.
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Where the Lies Hide by Renee Roman

Rating: 4 stars

Published: August 1, 2019

Publisher: Bold Strokes Books

Pages: 264

Genres: romance, contemporary, LBTQIA+, feminism

Recommend to fans of: other books by the same publisher, modern day diverse romance novels, kids with tough childhoods grow up to be strong adults
Synopsis:
Review:

Thank you to NetGalley, Bold Strokes Books and Renee Roman for an ARC ebook copy to review. As always, an honest review from me.

Like:
– the main characters: smart, intriguing, want to be friends with them (and yes, I know it’s a romance novel but to me the mark of a great romance novel and really any book is well written characters)
– Some sexy times but it doesn’t overshadow the rest of the storylines

Love:
– chronic pain (migraines) is shown realistically – as part of life, annoying, frustrating, doesn’t make you weak but also does truly impact your life
– The investigative mystery storyline of Cam trying to find Sarah’s family. An intense captivating story that allows for other storylines to authentically come into play.
– The personalities of both main characters (and love interests) Cam and Sarah. They’re super interesting to read about.

Wish that:
– Sarah’s biological dad was featured more. He seemed like a great guy that could add a lot to the book.

Dislike:
– the flirting with older women at the beginning. Am I missing something? I don’t really get it.
– The story wrapped up a bit too quickly. Another 20 pages would have allowed the final details to be explored more

Overall, a really great novel. Well written incredible characters, an interesting investigation storyline and the perfect amount of sexy times. I highly recommend giving Where the Lies Hide a read.
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3 Star Books · ARC Book Reviews · Book Reviews · mystery · non fiction · suspense · True Crime

Red River Girl: The Life and Death of Tina Fontaine by Joanna Jolly | ARC #BookReview, #FirstNations #Violence #MeToo

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Red River Girl: The Life and Death of Tina Fontaine by Joanna Jolly

Rating: 3 stars 

Published: August 27, 2019 

Publisher: Viking 

Pages: 304 

Genres: non fiction, true crime, mystery

Recommend to fans of: true crime books, learning about violence against Indigenous & First Nations women, constantly learning 

 

Synopsis:

A gripping account of the unsolved death of an Indigenous teenager, and the detective determined to find her killer, set against the backdrop of a troubled city.

On August 17, 2014, the body of fifteen-year old runaway Tina Fontaine was found in Winnipeg’s Red River. It was wrapped in material and weighted down with rocks. Red River Girl is a gripping account of that murder investigation and the unusual police detective who pursued the killer with every legal means at his disposal. The book, like the movie Spotlight, will chronicle the behind-the-scenes stages of a lengthy and meticulously planned investigation. It reveals characters and social tensions that bring vivid life to a story that made national headlines.
Award-winning BBC reporter and documentary maker Joanna Jolly delves into the troubled life of Tina Fontaine, the half-Ojibway, half-Cree murder victim, starting with her childhood on the Sagkeeng First Nation Reserve. Tina’s journey to the capital city is a harrowing one, culminating in drug abuse, sexual exploitation, and death.
Aware of the reality of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, Jolly has chronicled Tina Fontaine’s life as a reminder that she was more than a statistic. Raised by her father, and then by her great-aunt, Tina was a good student. But the violent death of her father hit Tina hard. She ran away, was found and put into the care of Child and Family Services, which she also sought to escape from. That choice left her in danger.
Red River Girl focuses not on the grisly event itself, but on the efforts to seek justice. In December 2015, the police charged Raymond Cormier, a drifter, with second-degree murder. Jolly’s book will cover the trial, which resulted in an acquittal. The verdict caused dismay across the country.
The book is not only a true crime story, but a portrait of a community where Indigenous women are disproportionately more likely to be hurt or killed. Jolly asks questions about how Indigenous women, sex workers, community leaders and activists are fighting back to protect themselves and change perceptions. Most importantly, the book will chronicle whether Tina’s family will find justice.

 

Review:

Thank you to NetGalley, Viking, and Joanna Jolly for an ARC ebook copy to review. As always, an honest review from me.

Like:
– the background and non judgmental explanation of the life circumstances that led Tina and her family to their current life situations
– The detective who was working to solve her murder.

Love:
– the book brings to light the important topic of violence against First Nations women

Dislike:
– A possible dislike for some people (not for me though) — the descriptions of the crime and her body when discovered. This is to be expected since it’s a true crime book.
– Nothing specific to dislike, but nothing was particularly amazing either.

Wish that:
– It held my attention more. The overall topic is interesting, but not phenomenal in the presentation.
– The story had lived up to its potential. It was such a complex, informative, must be discussed story, but overall it read as a little boring, especially for a true crime mystery book.

Overall, an okay book about an important but terrible event that occurred in real life. I’m so glad that Tina Fontaine’s murder is being discussed in the context of violence against First Nations women. An important topic, but unfortunately this book doesn’t do it justice in my opinion.

 

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The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger | ARC #BookReview that’s Super Late :-/

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The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger 

Rating: 4 stars 

Published: July 2, 2019 

Publisher: Riverhead 

Pages: 450 

Genres: contemporary fiction, women’s fiction, domestic fiction 

Recommend to fans of: families with unique/gifted kids, domestic fiction novels, drama!

 

Synopsis:

Smart and juicy, a compulsively readable novel about a previously happy group of friends and parents that is nearly destroyed by their own competitiveness when an exclusive school for gifted children opens in the community

This deliciously sharp novel captures the relentless ambitions and fears that animate parents and their children in modern America, exploring the conflicts between achievement and potential, talent and privilege.

Set in the fictional town of Crystal, Colorado, The Gifted School is a keenly entertaining novel that observes the drama within a community of friends and parents as good intentions and high ambitions collide in a pile-up with long-held secrets and lies. Seen through the lens of four families who’ve been a part of one another’s lives since their kids were born over a decade ago, the story reveals not only the lengths that some adults are willing to go to get ahead, but the effect on the group’s children, sibling relationships, marriages, and careers, as simmering resentments come to a boil and long-buried, explosive secrets surface and detonate. It’s a humorous, keenly observed, timely take on ambitious parents, willful kids, and the pursuit of prestige, no matter the cost.

 

Review:

I won this book for free through the Goodreads Giveaways. Thank you to Goodreads, Riverhead, and Bruce Holsinger for an ARC copy. As always, an honest review. Also, I’m so sorry that it took me so long to read and review this book. Life has been absolutely busy, stressful and overall ridiculous lately. This is honestly the longest it’s ever taken me to read a book due to life stresses. But I truly enjoyed the read!

Like:
– Centers around a group of 4 moms and their gifted kids (reads like a women’s fiction book in that it centers around 4 friends, but with a literary fiction aspect)
– The teenager daughter that you know is going to cause a lot of trouble (loving and hating it)
– the underhanded drama and sneakiness of some of the characters makes for a wonderfuly addictive read

Love:
– For some reason, it’s so interesting to read about the dynamics of families with gifted children. It’s also interesting to read about these families in general (lots of gossip … please spill the tea, but without the over the top dramatics)
– Love and also hate how witty, mean, and smart these 11 year old girls can be – mean girls starting young – it’s scary good

Dislike:
-the hot tub scene between the dad and the teenage girl – while nothing sexual actually happened, it still rubbed me the wrong way and most of the people were incredibly blase about it

Wish that: —

Overall, a wonderfully highly entertaining read. Due to the chaos of life it took me weeks to actually read the entire book, but it’s actually not a slow read. The writing held my attention even when I would put it down for a week or more. I highly recommend this captivating book set in the world of families with gifted children living in suburbia.

 

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2.5 Star Books · ARC Book Reviews · Book Reviews · contemporary fiction · contemporary romance · romance

What Happens in the Ruins by Kelsey McNight | Romance Novel

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What Happens in the Ruins by Kelsey McNight 

Rating: 2.5 stars 

Published: July 8, 2019 

Publisher: Tule Publishing 

Pages: 222

Genres: romance, contemporary romance 

Recommend to fans of: contemporary romance novels in Scotland

 

Synopsis:

Can she stop her past from ruining her future?

Sorcha Mackinnon isn’t your typical tortured artist. She is also a party girl, a vintage shopper, and the heiress to a whisky fortune. But when inspiration suddenly flies out the window, she’s left with an empty whisky glass and a blank canvas…until a childhood friend waltzes back into her life.

She’s known Danny Gordon since birth, but they lost touch as their careers took them in different directions. He offers to show her the parts of Scotland he swears will spark life back into her brushes. And as they tour the sights on the back of his motorcycle, Sorcha realizes that under the tattoos and smart mouth, Danny may inspire more in her than just a new painting.

But as a good time begins to morph into an ever after, Sorcha is reminded of old wounds that just won’t heal. Danny tries to open her heart, but her self-imposed isolation makes things harder than ever. Now she must decide what to do, because what happens in the ruins doesn’t always stay there.

Review:

Thank you to NetGalley, Tule Publishing, and Kelsey McNight for an ARC ebook copy to review. As always, an honest review from me. 

Like:

  • Builds the romance and most importantly the friendship between Danny? And Sorcha before jumping into the sexy times. There’s still enough flirting and mild physical contact to remind me reader that it’s a romance novel they’re reading. 
  • The sexy times start about 25% of the way through the book, which I think is the right time (enough pages to get to know the characters as people, but not so much that it becomes a contemporary fiction novel with only a tiny bit of romance)
  • The settings: a good mix of old and new places to create a perfect atmosphere for new romance to spark

Love: 

  • The setting – beautiful, romantic, interesting, and unique for a romance novel 
  • The cover = beautifully done!

Dislike: 

  • For a second, I thought there was going to be someone cheating on their best friend (still not sure), so that took away from the enjoyment of the book for a bit
  • A little more interpersonal tension that I would have lived in a romance novel 
  • The story/plotline aspect didn’t really capture my attention, which is vital to me in a romance novel … or really any novel 

Wish that: 

  • More unique – it’s cute but a generic romance novel. Nothing that particularly sets it apart 
  • The different moments within the story were more cohesive into the overall story 

Overall, fairly good in the romance aspect but a bit of a let down when it comes to the contemporary fiction story telling. A great read, but as someone who is very particular about her romance novels, I’m going to give this one a pass. Not a bad book, so I would still say to consider reading it if the synopsis interests you. 

 

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5 Star Books · ARC Book Reviews · Book Reviews · Books About Books · contemporary fiction · contemporary romance · romance

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman | ARC #BookReview

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The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman

Rating: 5 stars 

Published: July 9, 2019 

Publisher: Berkley Books 

Pages: 352

Genres: contemporary fiction, romance, books about books, mental health 

Recommend to fans of: books about the bookish world, quirky relatable anxious characters

 

Synopsis:

Meet Nina Hill: A young woman supremely confident in her own…shell.

The only child of a single mother, Nina has her life just as she wants it: a job in a bookstore, a kick-butt trivia team, a world-class planner and a cat named Phil. If she sometimes suspects there might be more to life than reading, she just shrugs and picks up a new book. 

When the father Nina never knew existed suddenly dies, leaving behind innumerable sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews, Nina is horrified. They all live close by! They’re all–or mostly all–excited to meet her! She’ll have to Speak. To. Strangers. It’s a disaster! And as if that wasn’t enough, Tom, her trivia nemesis, has turned out to be cute, funny, and deeply interested in getting to know her. Doesn’t he realize what a terrible idea that is?

Nina considers her options.

1. Completely change her name and appearance. (Too drastic, plus she likes her hair.) 

2. Flee to a deserted island. (Hard pass, see: coffee). 

3. Hide in a corner of her apartment and rock back and forth. (Already doing it.)

It’s time for Nina to come out of her comfortable shell, but she isn’t convinced real life could ever live up to fiction. It’s going to take a brand-new family, a persistent suitor, and the combined effects of ice cream and trivia to make her turn her own fresh page.

 

Review:

Thank you to NetGalley, Berkley Books, and Abbi Waxman for an ARC ebook copy to review. As always, an honest review from me. 

Like: 

  • Too cute but there’s definitely some adult content at times (not too much)
  • Lots of trivia games
  • Socially anxious, planner and overall funny person — sums up the main character, Nina Hill

Love: 

  • Relatable for all bookish nerds like me!
  • The colorful, fun cover
  • Such an enjoyable read … I cannot get enough of it (an actual note I wrote to myself while reading)
  • Sarcastic and witty
  • Shows that people like her can have a love life. There’s hope for people who don’t fit the typical extroverted, supermodel beauty, perfect life societal ideal.

Dislike: 

  • Some of Nina’s extended family — I don’t see the reason they need to be so rude to her. Luckily it doesn’t take up much of the book or create too much tension.

Wish that: 

  • Nina could better explain to people why she needs to be alone when dealing with a lot of anxiety, post panic attack, or a day that required too much socialization. I absolutely understand that this can be very difficult, but this perspective and explanation could also be very validating for others who struggle with anxiety and/or an introvert. It’s also a great way to educate others, who can’t relate to Nina, as to the frustrating life moments that Nina and so many others experience. 

Overall, this book is why I love reading. Thank you to the author for bringing me such joy while reading The Bookish Life of Nina Hill. The book has truly been the highlight of my week … well, besides all the cats I’ve also gotten to pet. I’m sure Nina Hill would agree with that one!

 

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4.5 Star Books · Book Reviews · contemporary fiction · contemporary romance · Young Adult

P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han | #BookReview #TATBILB #LaraJean

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P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han

Rating: 4.5 

Published: May 26, 2015

Publisher: Simon & Schuster for Young Readers

Pages: 337 

Genres: contemporary romance, contemporary fiction, young adult 

Recommend to fans of: the first book of the series, sweet fun young adult romance novels, baking cookies, the movie To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

 

Synopsis:

Lara Jean didn’t expect to really fall for Peter.

She and Peter were just pretending. Except suddenly they weren’t. Now Lara Jean is more confused than ever.

When another boy from her past returns to her life, Lara Jean’s feelings for him return too. Can a girl be in love with two boys at once?

In this charming and heartfelt sequel to the New York Times bestseller To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, we see first love through the eyes of the unforgettable Lara Jean. Love is never easy, but maybe that’s part of what makes it so amazing.

 

Review:

Like:

  • The romance that the other family members are experiencing 
  • Day to day life at the Covey household
  • Sweet, sappy but realistic romance that will remind you of high school

Love: 

  • Cute, fun sweet feel good book
  • Low intensity read that’s great to read during a stressful time in life – a great getaway in a book
  • The Song girl’s relationship – basically the best part of the book, in my opinion
  • All the delicious baking with the Song girls 
  • Lara Jean’s time spent volunteering in a nursing home – allows her to put her whimsical party planning skills to good use and Stormy (a resident) is a hoot!

Dislike: 

  • Some of the illness of the dating and jealous, but that’s typical of teenagers. To be fair, this book contained far less drama than most other young adult novels. 
  • the continual drama between Lara Jean and Genevieve 
  • Not as much of a fan of Chris in this book, because her pessimism gets old after awhile 

Wish that: 

  • The next movie was already made, so I could watch in immediately!
  • there was more of the Song girls together 
  • I wasn’t so confused between the Covey/Song girls – I don’t know why this confuses me … don’t be mad at me for not knowing this 

Overall, another great book in the series. I didn’t enjoy P.S. I Still Love You as much as the first book, but you can bet I’m going to read the next one in the series! In P.S. I Still Love You we get even more of Lara Jean’s iconic baking, optimistic innocent romance, Kitty’s sarcastic meddling and so much more drama. 

 

How many of you have read this book, or any of them in the series? 

And the real question is . . . are you a Margot, Lara Jean, or Kitty? 

 

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