The Brides of Bliss County series is so fun because it centers around the lifelong friendship of three girls living in Mustang Creek. They all made aThe Brides of Bliss County series is so fun because it centers around the lifelong friendship of three girls living in Mustang Creek. They all made a pact to find their happily ever afters, and now it’s Bex’s turn. Here’s 5 reasons you should toss this book into your beach bag:
1. True friendship: Bex might be fiercely independent but she knows when she needs her girls. She also knows to be prepared for hang out time with snacks (can you imagine the darling bakery they probably came from). That’s what I call a friend. These girls know each other so well, and especially know when to call each other out on their crap. 2. Two people just about/almost kinda ready to move on: Bex’s love, Will, died Afghanistan and Tate is a widow, raising two young boys on their own. There’s more to both of their stories (I love where Miller went with Tate’s) but as the reader, you know from the start these two can help fill the void in each of them — even they were both already established as people who embraced the detours they’ve hit, and lived satisfying lives. 3. There’s no right way to fall in love. Miller’s a classic romance writer, and I love that familiarity but she also pushed and pulled our characters together in a way that didn’t fulfill some of the more traditional timelines in romance novels. I loved that. Definitely an emphasis on maturity, and less on drama — which fit Bex and Tate’s characters perfectly. 4. Kids! I never realized quite how much I love having kids a part of a story like this one. You get to watch a character fall in love with more than her partner. She has to click with the kids too. Loved having these rascals (including Bex’s nephew, Josh) involved in the story too. 5. A log cabin. Normally a log cabin would bring to mind images of Abe Lincoln, but this place was so important to this couple’s story… even if there were a little hiccups along the way. You know you really enjoyed a trio of characters when you get choked up at the final chapter. I hope you’ll take some time to know this loyal threesome soon!
3.5 books. This series is so addicting. (Is there going to be a third?!) I'm always speculating about the love lives of my favorite celebs so Paige an3.5 books. This series is so addicting. (Is there going to be a third?!) I'm always speculating about the love lives of my favorite celebs so Paige and her dilemma was so addicting to read about. Interesting to see how the "machine" works with her picking new roles, paparazzi and fun stuff like that. All in all, a lot of fun to read while out and about doing summer-y thing....more
At first, I was so happy to be reading a romance novel with an Asian American character. Definitely a first for me, but as the story went on, Lin Su fAt first, I was so happy to be reading a romance novel with an Asian American character. Definitely a first for me, but as the story went on, Lin Su felt cringingly stereotypical and was missing the nuance I need in my characters. Unfortunately, this issue really affected my reading and I felt unable to connect on a whole....more
I may not be a huge science fiction reader but I am a big fan of eclectic reading palettes and debut wrireview originally posted on Rather Be Reading:
I may not be a huge science fiction reader but I am a big fan of eclectic reading palettes and debut writers — especially when those debut writers wrote their book secretly during their senior year in high school. It’s so darn impressive!
I felt a strong Mulan vibe from the moment I started Dove Arising. Main character Phaet (“fate”) and Mulan have a lot in common — both are willing to go to great lengths for the ones they love, even if it means putting themselves in danger. Phaet is only 15 years old but when her mother is arrested she steps up to the plate in a big way — willing to leave her siblings and her best friend to join the Militia and earn money to pay her mother’s bail and support the household.
It’s bold, it’s crazy, and, with a ton of training, it just might work.
Author Karen Bao isn’t presenting the Moon as a must-see destination by any means. It’s dismal, heavily monitored by the government, and sounds like the kind of place where life is all about going through the motions. Very few of the Moon citizens shake things up, and when/if they do, they become a target. Even Phaet’s tone is filled with defeat through most of the book. She is a product of her environment: extremely quiet and shy but full of observations and emotions she’s never comfortable expressing. Later, I liked how this trait morphed into one of her strengths.
Not only is Phaet making a huge decision about her future, but she struggling to gain her mother’s acceptance, mourning her deceased father, and coming to terms with feelings she has for the most unexpected person. She’s forced to grow up so fast, and I trust the repercussions from that sacrifice are only just beginning. Will it all be worth it? Does she have the power to help change her world?
In series, I find many of the first books focus a ton on world-building and providing readers with a foundation. There were so many great details here (particularly, Phaet’s hair) and the more action packed scenes felt like I was in the middle of a simulator ride. (Even if the urgency wasn’t turned up where it needed to be.) It’s my hope with the next two books, Bao dives deeper into Phaet’s character development and her emotions. In Dove Arising, I admired Phaet for her loyalty but I wished I had connected with her on other levels too.
I did discover something about myself while reading this. I’m really fascinated about the details that lead to Earth’s demise in books like these. Does this make me a sadist? Or maybe a secret sci-fi geek?
One final thing: I can’t tell you much about the ending. I mean, I won’t tell you anything about the ending, but I got a little giddy when I realized just how Bao was challenging Phaet next. It’s going to make for a very interesting second book, that’s for sure. ...more
I’m a huge fan of the Thunder Point series because, unlike a lot of the other romances I read, Robyn Carr builds her stories beyond the couple, trickling in more personalities from the community and making it feel like you are truly a fly on the wall of the gorgeous (I really want to visit) Pacific Northwest town of Thunder Point. Here are five reasons to check out her latest, ONE WISH, and where I, again, remind you it’s okay to read these out of order:
1. A flower shop. As much as chemistry and love is important in a romance novel, I love great background stories and I thought it was so adorable that Grace owned her own flower shop. She took pride in her work and her business, and was so so great with her customers.
2. Non-drama relationship. It was refreshing that a majority of the “drama” in ONE WISH came from places other than Grace and Troy’s relationship. Sure, the whole thing started as nothing more of a friendship (from Troy’s perspective anyway) but it escalated in this sweet, natural, no hassle way. Sure there were some kinks but for the most part the “push and pull” was never a huge, melodramatic issue.
3. Ginger. Someone new is always moving to Thunder Point, and I’m praying that Ginger is a bigger character in one of the upcoming books. She’s dealing with depressing, and moves to TP to live with her grandmother and hopefully move out of her funk once and for all. I love how TP is such a healing place for so many and Ginger’s story (her husband leaving her; her young son dying) is one that I want to hear more about. (Great news: we get more hangout time with Ginger in A New Hope!)
4. A true community. I touched on this a little bit in #3 but something about TP always makes me miss living in the suburbs. These neighbors are always around to catch the other, and help out in someway and it’s so so so heartwarming and wonderful. I love these strangers find new connections and find themselves bonding for life with people they never thought they would. (Plus, the views. I want to hear the ocean.)
5. A Valentine’s Day dance. Did your school have one of these? I am pretty sure we didn’t but Troy teaches at the high school and he’s chaperoning one. I couldn’t help but laugh at how his students are in love with him, and just how popular Grace was with the young kids. This was such a fun detail!...more
What can I say about the Hundred Oaks series? When Catching Jordan first released, my love for YA was gradually building and it holds a special placeWhat can I say about the Hundred Oaks series? When Catching Jordan first released, my love for YA was gradually building and it holds a special place in my heart. With six of her books tucked in my bookshelf, I’ve come to depend on Kenneally for a strong female leads, sweet and sexy romance, and standout friends and family. Despite these bright spots, she’s not afraid to explore the complexities of these relationships, have her characters question faith and sex and themselves, have them sometimes fail.
Jesse’s Girl is just more of what I love about these books. Maya, a genius musician with stage fright, meets Jesse Scott, a young, massive country music star. He’s supposed to be teaching her about the music industry but the original plan takes a Ferris Bueller-like turn. In the course of a day, they totally butt heads but Maya also offers him her friendship — something he could really use — but nothing goes according to plan. (I love this: “I decide to take Mom’s advice this time: if Jesse really wants me, he’ll let me know.”)
The extra special treat (for someone who wants to be an honorary resident of Franklin, TN) is each book comes with a Hundred Oaks reunion of some kind. Folding Jordan and Sam into the Jesse’s Girl mix added so many comedic elements to the book, and I loved seeing Sam as this big, scary protective big brother (even though he’s kind of a sap).
So pencil in a date night with Jesse’s Girl. Not only can you expect the whole Miranda Kenneally package (special shout out to Dave, Maya’s awesome BFF) but it’s an ode to everything fun in the 80s and a reminder to keep working for what you want.
I had a really good time reading New Money last fall, but this time around, I bonded with Savannah iReview originally posted on Rather Be Reading Blog
I had a really good time reading New Money last fall, but this time around, I bonded with Savannah in a way I hadn’t before. She’s more settled in the city, working hard at her job (even though, let’s face it: with her allowance, she doesn’t need to), balancing a boyfriend and getting to know her newly acquired family better.
The drama from the first book has mostly disappeared and I say mostly because while the craziness in New Money seemed to creep up on her out of nowhere, this girl goes after it herself in this book — chasing down the answers of what really killed her media tycoon father. While we spend a majority of our time cabbing around Manhattan (the book opens with the Christmas season — so fitting and Rosenthal captures it so perfectly), Savannah also spends time in DC, worming herself into many uncomfortable situations to find out more and eventually returning to NYC with more than she bargained for.
This is the thing: even though Savannah handles her wealth and new lifestyle with such grace, she’s not above acting impulsively either. And maybe not always in the way you would think. Rosenthal has made a good habit of writing about strong, complicated women from the little sister in Queens (Other Words for Love) to this southern belle granted a fairy tale life with a few inconsistencies. The struggle to be independent, successful, and express love to the people in your life is what makes Savannah such an authentic character. We may not be wearing Gucci or living in an apartment that overlooks Central Park, but we worry about our hearts. We want to be good and do good by the people we care about.
Independently Wealthy mixes some ballsy detective work and delicious distractions with finding your place in relationships, your family, and a bustling city. As I inched to the last pages of the book, I already missed Savannah and wondered what she would be up to next. You know I want you to check out this series from the beginning, but I won’t tell if you cheat and skip to this one....more
Kristan Higgins continues to weave her magic spell on me, folks. I’m totally hooked.
In Your Dreams brings us Emmaline and Jack — two people who live in the same town and are just passing friends. Over the course of the book, we learn that both characters are thrown into situations where they are forced to see the rawest part of the other. For Emmaline, she’s the cop on duty when Jack saves teenagers from an accident, when their car plunges into water. Later, Jack agrees to accompany Emmaline to the wedding of her ex-fiance and sees for himself the tension caused by her family and her insecurities sparked by her ex-fiance.
This is another area where Higgins excels. It’s not all about the chemistry or pushing her couples together but she really creates a backstory for each of her characters. Jack’s heroic gesture connects to his past, and is also affecting his present. He’s having nightmares, some shady things are going on, and he can’t confide in anyone. Not even his clingy ex-wife who is back in town and hoping to make amends. Jack is just SO nice. Too nice. Even Hadley’s reappearance doesn’t bother him (on the outside). He’s so polite, and helpful that it’s pretty much a curse because she is not one to get a hint.
For Emmaline, her parents are constantly on her case about her job as a cop and how they know she’s gay, and why doesn’t she come out already? They’re therapists and very judgmental and so frustrating. I was continually flabbergasted by how heartlessly they treated Emmaline, and how quick they were to disregard how she really felt. No wonder she had so many walls built up. Her parents paired with her ex-fiance (now that was a story)? It’s amazing she didn’t move to Fiji and change her name. (Okay, that’s dramatic but still. I felt bad for her.)
Somehow Higgins makes Jack and Emmaline’s pairing as unexpected and natural as possible. Emmaline knows that Jack is going through some rough stuff, and he has seen firsthand what kind of crap she is trying to dig herself out of. But it’s the resistance from Emmaline that makes this relationship so freaking sexy. Jack practically has to beg for her to go out on a date with him, and it’s pretty adorable and delectable. I loved how sarcastic and funny Emmaline was amongst the town, but also in her own head. That’s the thing about Higgins’ books. You have to be prepared to be swooning one minute to giggling the next. I can’t think of another romance author who succeeds at both so well. Jack and Emmaline made me fall in love with her work all over again....more
There’s always that defining moment (or a few of them) when you realize you have to break away from what your parents want and do your own thing — eveThere’s always that defining moment (or a few of them) when you realize you have to break away from what your parents want and do your own thing — even if this isn’t in their best interest. I’m reading a parenting guide for work right now, and the author talks about how parents need to know when to let go, and let their kids make their own choices. How else will they learn to deal with everything the real world throws at them? They need to be able to stand on their own two feet, and coddling (or controlling them) doesn’t make that happen.
Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler is no parenting guide (although the parents could use one) but is so much about that defining moment when you know you are about to go over the edge and start your life. (Plus fun, sweet, deep, and sexy.) In alternating POVs, we have Josh — a celebrity playboy known for his lavish parties — and Van — an Asian American actress who just lost her best friend to college and is feeling a bit off kilter. Josh is feeling similarly but he would never admit it. His best friend (also an actor) is basically the Zac Efron type — everyone loves him, he’s nabbing all the best roles, and he’s head over heels for Van’s best friend (the feeling is mutual). Josh and Van are unlikely friends but are thrown together in so many scenarios due to their absent best friends and working on the same set. In typical fashion, a reader might think this means these two are going to fall for each other but (and this is not a spoiler) no such luck. Instead, Dahlia gives us the makings of a solid friendship — even if our two main characters don’t know it yet.
This is why life is so great, right? It surprises us all the time.
And Van’s about to face a pretty big surprise herself. When she meets her publicist’s daughter/intern, she’s shocked to admit she’s attracted to her. After being locked in a superficial relationship with another celebrity and projecting the image of a “polite, squeaky-clean” Van — Brianna jolts her awake. Is she gay? This inner turmoil that Van is suddenly consumed with is so pitch perfect. It never felt dramatic. Her concerns are legit. She’s already worried about finding more roles as an Asian-American actress, her parents have lost patience with this “hobby” of hers and pretty much demand she start college or else, and now she might be gay? It’s not only a matter of how she feels about it but how will this LOOK to everyone else. (We may not be in Hollywood but aren’t we dealing with something similar every day with social media?) Van needs to get to a place where the real her takes precedence and everything else falls into place afterward. (And bravo to Brianna who is so refreshingly upfront with Van from the get-go about her own limits and experiences. No games, people.)
Van and Josh are both pushed to their breaking points in Under the Lights. How much longer can they do someone else’s bidding and ignore their own? What is the right next step? There are so many delectable layers to this story; Dahlia writes with such ease and thoughtfulness, and the chemistry between all the characters kept me hooked and reading mostly in one sitting. (I also have a soft spot for dancing scenes, and I am nuts for Light‘s dance scene.) While I highly recommend giving all of Dahlia’s books a whirl, this one, for me, definitely tops her work so far.
While reading Jessica Darling’s IT List Part 2, I was reminded of how much Jessica marches to her oReview originally posted on: Rather Be Reading Blog
While reading Jessica Darling’s IT List Part 2, I was reminded of how much Jessica marches to her own drum. Even though she gets comments on the old band t-shirts she loves to wear and how she wants to dress up like the Periodical Table of Elements for Halloween, she doesn’t change.
The fact that those things stay put when she is literally (I used it right!) questioning everything about her life? Totally admirable.
In the second book of this middle grade series, Jessica is navigating friendships like whoa. Her best friend Bridget seems to be relying more and more on the popular crowd and putting a lot of effort into her boyfriend. Then there’s Hope, who is someone Jess really clicks with but can be so hot and cold. And what about the girls on the track team? How does she know what’s real and what’s not when it seems like her longest and most important friendship is crumbling?
One of the the biggest highlights of this book for me was Jessica’s relationship with her grandma. With her parents so occupied, her grandmother is staying with them for a few weeks and I loved the sounding board she provided when Jessica was feeling a little lost. Not going to lie — made me tear up in some spots because of my own close relationship with my grandma at that age. It was a nice touch to have her a part of the story.
Once again, reading this brought me back to so many of the titles I loved at this age and also made me want to dust off my copy of Sloppy Firsts and get addicted to this heroine from the beginning I know best. I love that these books serve two purposes: entertaining young readers with realistic story lines and a pinch of humor and reminding us Jessica veterans why she is so important to us....more