Catch Up Reviews: Finishing Out 2016

Catching up on all the books I haven’t made time to review recently. I’ve decided to only focus on books I enjoyed and feel are worth mentioning.


29087466Keepsake by Sarina Bowen

There’s a first time for everything.

Lark Wainwright used to be fearless. Her life was a series of adventures, each one more exhilarating than the last. But her recent overseas adventure was one too many. Now she’s home and in one piece. Mostly. But her nights are filled with terror.

When her best friend offers her a stay at the orchard in exchange for help at the farmers’ markets, Lark jumps at the chance to spend fall in Vermont. But her nightmares don’t stop. Desperate to keep her fragile state a secret, she relies on the most soft-spoken resident of the Shipley Farm to soothe her when her dreams prove too much.

Zachariah is a survivor, too. It’s been four years since he was tossed aside by the polygamist cult where he grew up. He’s found a peaceful existence on the Shipley’s farm, picking apples and fixing machinery. But getting thrown away by your own people at nineteen leaves a mark on a guy. He doesn’t always know what to make of a world where movie quotes are the primary means of communication. Before hitchhiking to Vermont, he’d never watched TV or spoken on the phone.

Actually, there are a lot of things he’s never done.

Zach and Lark slowly grow to trust one another. One night they become even closer than they’d planned. But Lark may still be too broken to trust anyone. When she pushes Zach away, he will have to prove to himself that he’s good for much more than farm labor.

I really hope this isn’t the final book in the series. I absolutely LOVE this series, and every book is just as good (or better) than the one before it. I’m so glad I finally picked up a Sarina Bowen book this year and that it was this series.

5 STARS

 

30063292 Miracle on 5th Avenue by Sarah Morgan

Hopeless romantic Eva Jordan loves everything about Christmas. She might be spending the holidays alone this year, but when she’s given an opportunity to house-sit a spectacular penthouse on Fifth Avenue, she leaps at the chance. What better place to celebrate than in snow-kissed Manhattan? What she didn’t expect was to find the penthouse still occupied by its gorgeous—and mysterious—owner.

Bestselling crime writer Lucas Blade is having the nightmare before Christmas. With a deadline and the anniversary of his wife’s death looming, he’s isolated himself in his penthouse with only his grief for company. He wants no interruptions, no decorations and he certainly doesn’t appreciate being distracted by his beautiful, bubbly new housekeeper. But when the blizzard of the century leaves Eva snowbound in his apartment, Lucas starts to open up to the magic she brings…This Christmas, is Lucas finally ready to trust that happily-ever-afters do exist?

Sarah Morgan has become my go-to for a perfect Christmas read. So perfectly romantic, it was my favorite holiday book of the season. And now I want to go back and read more of the books in this series soon. 

5 STARS

 

29472542 All in Pieces by Suzanne Young

“Anger-management issues.”

That’s how they classified Savannah Sutton after she stuck a pencil in her ex-boyfriend’s hand because he mocked her little brother, Evan, for being disabled. That’s why they sent her to Brooks Academy—an alternative high school that’s used as a temporary detention center.

The days at Brooks are miserable, but at home, life is far more bleak. Savvy’s struggling to take care of her brother since her mom left years ago, and her alcoholic dad can’t be bothered. Life with Evan is a constant challenge, but he’s also the most important person in the world to Savvy.

Then there’s Cameron, a new student at Brooks with issues of his own; a guy from a perfect family that Savvy thought only existed on TV. Cameron seems determined to break through every one of the walls Savvy’s built around herself, except if she lets herself trust him, it could make everything she’s worked so hard for fall apart in an instant.

And with her aunt seeking custody of her brother and her ex-boyfriend seeking revenge, Savvy’s fighting to hold all the pieces together. But she’s not sure how much tighter she can be pulled before she breaks completely.

I don’t read enough YA novels, even though I do enjoy them. This book was getting a lot of praise from fellow bloggers, so I decided to try it. I’m so glad I did! It was fantastic and definitely one the best YA novels I have read. I’ll be keeping my eye out for future books by this author.

4 STARS

 

29432729 Beautiful by Christina Lauren

A FREE-SPIRITED GIRL IN NEED OF A BREAK.
A MAN WEIGHED DOWN BY RESPONSIBILITY.
A ROAD TRIP VACATION WHERE ALL BETS ARE OFF.
OH, AND A LOT OF WINE.

After walking in on her boyfriend shagging another girl in their place, Pippa Bay Cox ditches London for the States to go on a drunken road trip with Ruby Miller and some of her Beautiful friends.

Scaling the career ladder is the default way to deal with heartbreak—and to just deal—for Jensen Bergstrom. Absolutely buried by his drive and workload, he rarely takes time for himself. But when his sister Hanna convinces him to join the gang on a two-week wine tour, he has a rare moment of cutting loose. Of course, it’s only once he’s committed that he realizes the strange girl he met briefly on the plane is coming along, too. She might be too much for him…or he might realize his life has become too small and needs her to make it bigger, crazier.

With this circle of friends there’s always something going on: from Chloe and Sara’s unexpected personality swaps to Will’s new domestic side to Bennett’s text message barrage and George’s own happily-ever-after. In short, their adventures in love, friendship, and hilarity are nothing short of Beautiful.

But I don’t want this series to end! It’s one of my absolute favorites. I have loved every one of these characters and am sad to say goodbye to them. I loved that this book took a group of the friends on a wine tour. WINE, people!!! And they vacationed in a secluded cabin (MY DREAM!). I laughed out loud many times while reading this book. And oh how I loved Jensen (swoon) and Pippa (hilarious and bad ass). Not to mention cameos by everyone else in this awesome group of friends. And those epilogues were perfect. Although I’m sad it’s over – it was the perfect way to end the series.

4.5 STARS

 

30213116 Always by Sarah Jio

While enjoying a romantic candlelit dinner with her fiance, Ryan, at one of Seattle’s chicest restaurants, Kailey Crane can’t believe her good fortune: She has a great job as a writer for theHerald and is now engaged to a guy who is perfect in nearly every way. As they leave the restaurant, Kailey spies a thin, bearded homeless man on the sidewalk. She approaches him to offer up her bag of leftovers, and is stunned when their eyes meet, then stricken to her very core: The man is the love of her life, Cade McAllister.

When Kailey met Cade ten years ago, their attraction was immediate and intense everything connected and felt “right.” But it all ended suddenly, leaving Kailey devastated. Now the poor soul on the street is a faded version of her former beloved: His weathered and weary face is as handsome as Kailey remembers, but his mind has suffered in the intervening years. Over the next few weeks, Kailey helps Cade begin to piece his life together, something she initially keeps from Ryan. As she revisits her long-ago relationship, Kailey realizes that she must decide exactly what and whom she wants.

Alternating between the past and the present, Always is a beautifully unfolding exploration of a woman faced with an impossible choice, a woman who discovers what she’s willing to save and what she will sacrifice for true love.

I love Sarah Jio’s books and look forward to her book releases every year. This wasn’t my favorite of her books, but I still enjoyed it. I believe timing is everything, and I think I just picked this one up and forced myself to read it at the wrong time. The story is good, and I do recommend it along with any of her other books.

3.5 STARS

Catch Up Reviews: New to my Favorites List

After taking a blog break, I have gotten ridiculously behind on reviews. To be honest, I was behind on them before my little break.

This post includes all of the books I’ve read recently that are now on my absolute favorites list. They are must reads – go add them to your list now!


27237358Making Faces by Amy Harmon

Ambrose Young was beautiful. He was tall and muscular, with hair that touched his shoulders and eyes that burned right through you. The kind of beautiful that graced the covers of romance novels, and Fern Taylor would know. She’d been reading them since she was thirteen. But maybe because he was so beautiful he was never someone Fern thought she could have…until he wasn’t beautiful anymore.

Making Faces is the story of a small town where five young men go off to war, and only one comes back. It is the story of loss. Collective loss, individual loss, loss of beauty, loss of life, loss of identity. It is the tale of one girl’s love for a broken boy, and a wounded warrior’s love for an unremarkable girl. This is a story of friendship that overcomes heartache, heroism that defies the common definitions, and a modern tale of Beauty and the Beastwhere we discover that there is little beauty and a little beast in all of us.

This book left such a lasting impression on me. It was so fantastic that I immediately ordered a paperback copy for my bookshelf. I’ve had reader friends tell me for years that I needed to try Amy Harmon’s books, and I regret ignoring their advice for so long. This book is perfection. I really couldn’t say enough to do it justice. Just go read it now, I swear you won’t regret it.

5 STARS

29247999Undecided by Julianna Keyes

Nora Kincaid has one goal for her second year of college: be invisible. Last year’s all-party-no-study strategy resulted in three failed classes and two criminal charges, and if she messes up again she’ll lose her scholarship. But there’s one problem with her plan for invisibility, and his name is Crosbie Lucas: infamous party king, general hellraiser…and her new roommate’s best friend.

Crosbie’s reckless reputation and well-known sexcapades aren’t part of Nora’s studious new strategy, but as she’s quickly learning, her new plan is also really boring. When Crosbie’s unexpected gestures of friendship pull her head out of her books long enough to see past his cocky veneer, she’s surprised to find a flawed and funny guy beneath it all. The muscles don’t hurt, either.

But as Nora starts to fall for Crosbie, the weight of one of last year’s bad decisions grows even heavier. Because three failing grades and two misdemeanors are nothing compared to the one big secret she’s hiding…

I have been a fan of New Adult for several years, but lately I find they aren’t living up to my expectations. My tastes have evolved where I’m enjoying a wider variety of genres, and my go-to is no longer NA. In fact I had been steering clear of NA for a long time, until this book was recommended to me by several readers. It blew me away! I absolutely loved every minute – it reminded me of why I used to love NA so much. Definitely a must read for all New Adult fans!

5 STARS

30171592The Bird and the Sword by Amy Harmon

Swallow, daughter, pull them in, those words that sit upon your lips. Lock them deep inside your soul, hide them ‘til they’ve time to grow. Close your mouth upon the power, curse not, cure not, ‘til the hour. You won’t speak and you won’t tell, you won’t call on heaven or hell. You will learn and you will thrive. Silence, daughter. Stay alive.

The day my mother was killed, she told my father I wouldn’t speak again, and she told him if I died, he would die too. Then she predicted the king would sell his soul and lose his son to the sky.
My father has a claim to the throne, and he is waiting in the shadows for all of my mother’s words to come to pass. He wants desperately to be king, and I just want to be free.
But freedom will require escape, and I’m a prisoner of my mother’s curse and my father’s greed. I can’t speak or make a sound, and I can’t wield a sword or beguile a king. In a land purged of enchantment, love might be the only magic left, and who could ever love . . . a bird?

This was actually the first book by Amy Harmon that I read. I’m not one to pick up fantasy very often, but so much buzz was surrounding this book that I wanted to try it. It started my Amy Harmon love fest, and I can’t recommend this book enough. If you enjoy fantasy with the added bonus of romance (but not overly done), you must try this book! I’ve been on the hunt for another book like it, so if you have any recommendations please share!

5 STARS

29698573A Different Blue by Amy Harmon

Blue Echohawk doesn’t know who she is. She doesn’t know her real name or when she was born. Abandoned at two and raised by a drifter, she didn’t attend school until she was ten years old. At nineteen, when most kids her age are attending college or moving on with life, she is just a senior in high school. With no mother, no father, no faith, and no future, Blue Echohawk is a difficult student, to say the least. Tough, hard and overtly sexy, she is the complete opposite of the young British teacher who decides he is up for the challenge, and takes the troublemaker under his wing.

This is the story of a nobody who becomes somebody. It is the story of an unlikely friendship, where hope fosters healing and redemption becomes love. But falling in love can be hard when you don’t know who you are. Falling in love with someone who knows exactly who they are and exactly why they can’t love you back might be impossible.

When I said I was on an Amy Harmon binge, I wasn’t kidding. Now, this one took me a little longer to get in to – I initially had a hard time liking and sympathizing with Blue. But once I got into the story that all changed. I can see why this book is so popular, and I would definitely recommend it!

4.5 STARS

28161530Bittersweet by Sarina Bowen

If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the orchard.

The last person Griffin Shipley expects to find stuck in a ditch on his Vermont country road is his ex-hookup. Five years ago they’d shared a couple of steamy nights together. But that was a lifetime ago.

At twenty-seven, Griff is now the accidental patriarch of his family farm. Even his enormous shoulders feel the strain of supporting his mother, three siblings and a dotty grandfather. He doesn’t have time for the sorority girl who’s shown up expecting to buy his harvest at half price.

Vermont was never in Audrey Kidder’s travel plans. Neither was Griff Shipley. But she needs a second chance with the restaurant conglomerate employing her. Okay—a fifth chance. And no self-righteous lumbersexual farmer will stand in her way.

They’re adversaries. They want entirely different things from life. Too bad their sexual chemistry is as hot as Audrey’s top secret enchilada sauce, and then some.

This book was such a fantastic surprise. I had never read anything by this author, but was intrigued by the synopsis for this one. It was my version of a perfect romance, one that kept me glued to the pages and sad when it ended. I love stories that include amazing side characters, and to my delight, the author made this a series (of stand alones). I was so impressed with this book that I immediately preordered the next book in the series.

5 Stars

29087455Steadfast by Sarina Bowen

She’s the only one who ever loved him—and the only one he can never have.

Jude lost everything one spring day when he crashed his car into an apple tree on the side of the road. A man is dead, and there’s no way he can ever right that wrong. He’d steer clear of Colebury, Vermont forever if he could. But an ex-con in recovery for his drug addiction can’t find a job just anywhere.

For Sophie Haines, coming face to face with the man who broke her heart is gut-wrenching. Suddenly, he’s everywhere she turns. It’s hard not to stare at how much he’s changed. The bad boy who used to love her didn’t have big biceps and sun-kissed hair. And he’d never turn up volunteer in the church kitchen.

She knows it’s foolish to yearn for the man who returned all the heartsick letters she wrote him in prison. But the looks he sends her now speak volumes.

No one wants to see Sophie and Jude back together, least of all Sophie’s police chief father. But it’s a small town. And forbidden love is a law unto itself.

Book two was even better than the first, if it’s even possible. I loved Jude – he was fighting to get his life back on track, and was so determined not to fall back into old habits. It was admirable and my heart hurt for him the entire book. I loved how noble he was. He definitely stole my heart. Now I can’t wait for the third book to be released!

5 Stars

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Bossman by VI Keeland

The first time I met Chase Parker, I didn’t exactly make a good impression.

I was hiding in the bathroom hallway of a restaurant, leaving a message for my best friend to save me from my awful date.

He overheard and told me I was a bitch, then proceeded to offer me some dating advice.

So I told him to mind his own damn business―his own tall, gorgeous, full-of-himself damn business―and went back to my miserable date.

When he walked by my table, he smirked, and I watched his arrogant, sexy ass walk back to his date.

I couldn’t help but sneak hidden glances at the condescending jerk on the other side of the room. Of course, he caught me on more than one occasion, and winked.

When the gorgeous stranger and his equally hot date suddenly appeared at our table, I thought he was going to rat me out.

But instead, he pretended we knew each other and joined us―telling elaborate, embarrassing stories about our fake childhood.

My date suddenly went from boring to bizarrely exciting.

When it was over and we parted ways, I thought about him more than I would ever admit, even though I knew I’d never see him again.

I mean, what were the chances I’d run into him again in a city with eight million people?Then again…

What were the chances a month later he’d wind up being my new sexy boss?

I don’t know what I expected when I picked up this book, but once I started it, I couldn’t put it down. I loved everything about it – the banter, the romance, the sexy times, even the heartbreaking moments because they felt real and made this book so much more than a cheesy sex-filled romance. This book had heart and real emotion – I’m definitely going to read more by this author in the future!

5 Stars

{Review} Once Upon a Wine

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About the book

Cammie Breyer needs a big glass of cabernet—her restaurant failed and her chef boyfriend left for a hotter kitchen. Just when she thinks she’s hit rock bottom, her Aunt Ginger calls with a surprise. She’s bought a vineyard—in Delaware. At Ginger’s command, Cammie returns to Black Dog Bay, the seaside town where she spent her childhood summers with her aunt and her cousin, Kat.

The three women reunite, determined to succeed. There’s only one little problem: None of them knows the first thing about wine making. And it turns out, owning a vineyard isn’t all wine and roses. It’s dirt, sweat, and desperation. Every day brings financial pitfalls, unruly tourists, romantic dilemmas, and second thoughts.  But even as they struggle, they cultivate hidden talents and new passions. While the grapes ripen under the summer sun, Cammie discovers that love, like wine, is layered, complex, delicious, and worth waiting for…

My Thoughts

This book was exactly what I needed this week. I loved everything about it – the setting, the relationships between the characters, the humor. It wasn’t just a romance, it was a story about the importance of family and of self discovery. The family bond that Cammie, Kat, and Ginger had was so solid and heartwarming. I adored Ian and the zero angst romance between him and Cammie. I loved the witty banter, and although it’s a predictable story, it was such a delight to read. Plus, it’s about wine, so how could I not love it?!

Bottom Line

A heart-warming story sure to make you smile.

5 Stars

Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance

Standalone

Expected publication: July 26th 2016 by NAL

Length: 336 Pages

ARC kindly provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

Waiting on Wednesday: First Comes Love

“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.

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Amazon Preorder

Expected publication: June 28, 2016

In this dazzling new novel, Emily Giffin, the #1 New York Timesbestselling author of Something Borrowed, Where We Belong, andThe One & Only introduces a pair of sisters who find themselves at a crossroads.

Growing up, Josie and Meredith Garland shared a loving, if sometimes contentious relationship. Josie was impulsive, spirited, and outgoing; Meredith hardworking, thoughtful, and reserved. When tragedy strikes their family, their different responses to the event splinter their delicate bond.

Fifteen years later, Josie and Meredith are in their late thirties, following very different paths. Josie, a first grade teacher, is single—and this close to swearing off dating for good. What she wants more than the right guy, however, is to become a mother—a feeling that is heightened when her ex-boyfriend’s daughter ends up in her class. Determined to have the future she’s always wanted, Josie decides to take matters into her own hands.

On the outside, Meredith is the model daughter with the perfect life. A successful attorney, she’s married to a wonderful man, and together they’re raising a beautiful four-year-old daughter. Yet lately, Meredith feels dissatisfied and restless, secretly wondering if she chose the life that was expected of her rather than the one she truly desired.

As the anniversary of their tragedy looms and painful secrets from the past begin to surface, Josie and Meredith must not only confront the issues that divide them, but also come to terms with their own choices. In their journey toward understanding and forgiveness, both sisters discover they need each other more than they knew . . . and that in the recipe for true happiness, love always comes first.

Emotionally honest and utterly enthralling, First Comes Love is a story about family, friendship, and the courage to follow your own heart—wherever that may lead.

I’ve been a fan of this author for years and always look forward to her new releases. This one sounds really good!

Books I’m Thankful For – Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. Today’s theme is a Thanksgiving Freebie to do with whatever we choose.

It goes without saying how much I love reading, books, the authors that bring us so many amazing books, the escape it gives me, Goodreads for keeping me organized, my Kindle, and this wonderful book blogging community and all the friendships I’ve made. I’m extremely grateful for being a part of such a wonderful community that allows me to be me.

 

For today’s TTT, I decided to list all of the books that have opened my eyes to new genres and authors over the years. These books top my favorites list, and I’m so thankful to have read them. They’ve connected me with other readers and bloggers over the years, as well. Without so many awesome books in my life, I wouldn’t have that much needed escape that I love, and for that I’m extremely thankful!

 

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Surrounded by controversy, and maybe not the most well-written series in the world (and I hate love triangles, so how did I see past all of that?!), but this series means a lot to me. It introduced me to a new genre, as I had never read anything paranormal or fantasy before. It gave me a common bond with a lot of my close friends, where we discussed the books and movies regularly. It was an obsession of mine for many years, the books and the movies. I enjoyed reading before this series, but Stephenie Meyer lit a fire in me and helped me rediscover just how much I loved to read.

 

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This book not only gave me my favorite author, but it introduced me to a love of New Adult romance and indie books. I just happened to be browsing Amazon looking for something new to read the day I one-clicked this baby. And to say it changed reading for me is a major understatement.

 

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My first major author love goes to Nicholas Sparks. Before CoHo, his books were the ones I ALWAYS had to own (in hardback no less), and I got so excited for a new release. I may have outgrown my Sparks phase, but my love of romance novels is all thanks to him.

 

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Only the cutest YA book EVER. I wasn’t a big fan of YA at all until I picked up this book. What a big wonderful world it opened my eyes to. I have read some really fantastic YA contemporary novels over the years, and I thank Stephanie Perkins for giving me my favorite YA book still to date.

 

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I used to read a lot of Chick Lit and found many favorite authors along the way. Even though I may be out of that phase at the moment, I feel like these books shaped my love of reading. I’m still a loyal Emily Giffin fan, and look forward to her new releases.

 

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Haters gonna hate, but it’s all thanks to E L James that I discovered a genre that I love, and then two of my absolute favorite series. I remember finishing the 50 Shades books and immediately going to Amazon to try to find more books similar to it. Amazon recommended Gabriel’s Inferno and Bared to You, which are two of my favorite series. So, thank you E L James, for introducing me to a new genre and in turn giving me some of my favorite books of all time.

 

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Although Sarah Jio‘s books have been out for years, I never had the desire to pick one up until I read this one. Which led me to a new author obsession. I believe I have Netgalley to thank for this by approving an ARC and in turn introducing me to an author I’ve come to adore.

 

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Exceptional books like this one are the reason why I LOVE suspense novels. I have loved a lot of suspense novels and authors over the years, but this is my most recent favorite.

 

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I only recently in the past year discovered a new type of adult contemporary novel most call marriage-in-crisis. I admit that I would have never picked up a book described as that in the past, but Landline and Rainbow Rowell helped me to be more open-minded, and because of this book, I have discovered Taylor Jenkins Reid, another favorite author. These books were emotional reads that I needed in my life at that moment in time. Books that make you think and appreciate what you have in life. Both of them have a special place in my heart and are books I recommend to everyone.

 

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Last but not least, Kristin Hannah has been impressing me with her fantastic writing for years. Some of my all time favorite books are her books, and there’s no doubt they all pack an emotional punch. It was most recently The Nightingale that left a lasting impression on my heart. I not only found a new love for historical fiction, thanks to this book, but I was blown away by the powerful and incredible story. It’s one I think every single bookworm should read at some point in their life. Even non-historical fiction readers like myself will appreciate the message Hannah so perfectly conveys in this stunning novel.

 

So, there you have it. The books and authors that have shaped my love of reading over the years. I’m thankful they have given me so many wonderful books to love that have left a lasting impression on my heart.