February 2024 Reading Wrap-Up: Part 1

Welcome, book friends!

If you’d prefer to listen to these reviews, you can check out the full episode on The Bookmarks ‘n Blankets Podcast on your favorite podcast platform or listen below. 

I’d love to know your thoughts on any of these books if you’ve read them. I invite you to hop over to my Instagram or X (aka Twitter), where you can comment.


Whew! What a doozy of a month! There were some really high highs and some really low lows. It started SO strong, and then just went downhill from there. But the month managed to redeem itself a bit with some books that I finished at the end. 

When I started the month, I had two reading themes in mind: romance because of Valentine’s Day and winter because it’s still wintertime. So, I planned to read some more winter-themed books, specifically popular mystery & thrillers, but then the weather changed. It got warmer and it felt more like spring. So my interests changed and I got out of the mood of reading anything set in winter. So I returned a few audiobooks that I had gotten from my library app and will have to try again when the weather gets cold again. 

So at that point, I was just mood reading, but most of the month went to various romance books. This genre and I don’t have the best relationship. It’s very tumultuous, to say the least. When it comes to clean romances, I tend to enjoy those, but the more popular books with some (or a lot) of spice, I tend to dislike them. Which was the case last month. There are some authors, unfortunately, that I have chosen not to read from any longer. That’s not to say they aren’t good writers, but their books are just not for me and my preferences. With that said, I will no longer read anything from Christina Lauren and Alix E. Harrow. I’m also on the fence with Ashley Poston. I have one of her older books that I want to give a shot, but she’s also on the chopping block. 

With all that said, I did read some fabulous books that I’m going to gush over, but I will say, book hangovers and book slumps are real. When I heard people on YouTube talk about these moods, I never believed they could really happen or at least not happen to me. Well, I was proven wrong in February. My favorite book of the month put me into a HUGE book hangover, and from there, I started to feel myself slip into a short book slump. BUT, I was able to pull myself out, and now I think I’m fine and past it.

Here are the stats from February: 

  • Total books read: 24 | 13 novels
  • NetGalley ARCs: 4
  • Genres:
    • 1 Cozy Mystery
    • 1 Contemporary Fiction
    • 2 Historical Fiction
    • 1 Fantasy
    • 3 Romantasy
    • 5 Contemporary Romance – 1 Christian
    • 6 short stories – contemporary romance
    • 5 children’s picture books
    • No graphic novels
  • Formats:
    • 2 Paperbacks
    • 6 audiobooks
    • 15 digital ebooks

February Reading Wrap-Up

Did Not Finish (DNF) Books

Remarkably Bright Creatures by Shelby Van Pelt

GR Description: After Tova Sullivan’s husband died, she began working the night shift at the Sowell Bay Aquarium, mopping floors and tidying up. Keeping busy has always helped her cope, which she’s been doing since her eighteen-year-old son, Erik, mysteriously vanished on a boat in Puget Sound over thirty years ago.

Tova becomes acquainted with curmudgeonly Marcellus, a giant Pacific octopus living at the aquarium. Marcellus knows more than anyone can imagine but wouldn’t dream of lifting one of his eight arms for his human captors–until he forms a remarkable friendship with Tova.

Ever the detective, Marcellus deduces what happened the night Tova’s son disappeared. And now Marcellus must use every trick his old invertebrate body can muster to unearth the truth for her before it’s too late.

Why I Stopped Reading: I stopped reading at 30%, listening to the audiobook. There were two narrators. I liked the male, but did not care for the female, so it was ruining the story for me. I also couldn’t get into it. The story wasn’t what I thought it was going to be. I wasn’t connecting with anyone or relating to anything. So for now, I decided to soft DNF it, and will try again at another time to just read the book without the audio.

A Splinter Spindle by Alix E. Harrow

GR Description: It’s Zinnia Gray’s twenty-first birthday, which is extra-special because it’s the last birthday she’ll ever have. When she was young, an industrial accident left Zinnia with a rare condition. Not much is known about her illness, just that no one has lived past twenty-one.

Her best friend Charm is intent on making Zinnia’s last birthday special with a full sleeping beauty experience, complete with a tower and a spinning wheel. But when Zinnia pricks her finger, something strange and unexpected happens, and she finds herself falling through worlds, with another sleeping beauty, just as desperate to escape her fate.

Why I Stopped Reading: I stopped reading just four minutes into this audiobook. It was extremely heavy on feminism and male-bashing right from the start. It went super woke real quick. I’ve decided this author is not for me and will not read any more of her books.

The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams

GR Description: The first rule of book club: You don’t talk about book club.

Nashville Legends second baseman Gavin Scott’s marriage is in major league trouble. He’s recently discovered a humiliating secret: his wife Thea has always faked the Big O. When he loses his cool at the revelation, it’s the final straw on their already strained relationship. Thea asks for a divorce, and Gavin realizes he’s let his pride and fear get the better of him.

Welcome to the Bromance Book Club.

Distraught and desperate, Gavin finds help from an unlikely source: a secret romance book club made up of Nashville’s top alpha men. With the help of their current read, a steamy Regency titled Courting the Countess, the guys coach Gavin on saving his marriage. But it’ll take a lot more than flowery words and grand gestures for this hapless Romeo to find his inner hero and win back the trust of his wife.

Why I Stopped Reading: I stopped reading at 3%, listening to just the first chapter. There was SO much cursing. I was curious about the story, but then it took a feminist angle from the wife (mansplaining, anti-patriarchy, etc.). I read more reviews that it’s heavily woke and feminist, which are not stories I like to read about. I’m not sure if I will read more by this author.

The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez

GR Description: Kristen Petersen doesn’t do drama, will fight to the death for her friends, and has no room in her life for guys who just don’t get her. She’s also keeping a big secret: facing a medically necessary procedure that will make it impossible for her to have children.

Planning her best friend’s wedding is bittersweet for Kristen—especially when she meets the best man, Josh Copeland. He’s funny, sexy, never offended by her mile-wide streak of sarcasm, and always one chicken enchilada ahead of her hangry. Even her dog, Stuntman Mike, adores him. The only catch: Josh wants a big family someday. Kristen knows he’d be better off with someone else, but as their attraction grows, it’s harder and harder to keep him at arm’s length.

Why I Stopped Reading: I stopped reading at 5%, listening to the first three chapters. I was completely turned off by this book. There was SO much cursing and crudeness. I didn’t like either of the main characters. I also didn’t like how the guy talked about the girl when they first met. I didn’t feel like this story was for me. However, I will try her other series. People say it’s a lot better than this trilogy. So I will give her one more shot.

Historical Fiction:

Once Upon a Wardrobe by Patti Callahan Henry

My GR Rating: 5
Format: Audiobook – Narrator: Fiona Hardingham
Read more on GoodReads

GR Description: Megs Devonshire is brilliant with numbers and equations, on a scholarship at Oxford, and dreams of solving the greatest mysteries of physics. She prefers the dependability of facts–except for the younger brother she loves with all her heart doesn’t have long to live. When George becomes captivated by a brand-new book called, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and begs her to find out where Narnia came from, there’s no way she can refuse. 

Despite her timidity about approaching the famous author, Megs soon finds herself taking tea with the Oxford don and his own brother, imploring them for answers. What she receives instead are more stories . . . stories of Jack Lewis’s life, which she takes home to George. Why won’t Mr. Lewis just tell her plainly what George wants to know? The answer will reveal to Meg many truths that science and math cannot, and the gift she thought she was giving to her brother–the story behind Narnia–turns out to be his gift to her, hope.

My Review:

This was such an amazing, heartfelt, and emotional book. It’s a beautiful look at love, loss, death, and grief. I listened to the audiobook and really enjoyed the narrator. She did a fabulous job with the various accents. She really immersed me further into this book with the delivery of her storytelling. 

This entire book felt like a love letter to C.S. Lewis and his most famous series, The Chronicles of Narnia. It’s not a fantasy story; it is a contemporary drama that is fictional, but if you’re a fan of the author or his works, then it’s a must-read. It’s incredibly thought-provoking. I loved the messages about the importance of books, reading, fictional worlds/stories, and using your imagination. It emphasizes how we need stories in our lives. They are means to truth. They stir emotions in the reader and make us feel. Fiction helps to develop compassion, empathy, open-mindedness, and so much more for the reader. We don’t want to constantly be stuck in our own thoughts and opinions. So many great takeaways and quotes. I want to buy a physical copy of this book so I can re-read it and annotate it. 

The author seamlessly weaves together fact and fiction to transport us to 1950s Oxford, England, where Megs finds solace in the company of the brilliant yet enigmatic C.S. Lewis. Through Megs’ eyes, we witness the origins of Lewis’s iconic tale and the profound impact it has on both their lives. This was such a unique fictional plot that felt real. It’s also a story within a story, which I usually don’t like this trope, but it worked well in this case. I didn’t mind it at all. To be honest, I really enjoyed that aspect of the book. 

I loved all of the characters in this book. First, we see the dynamics between Meg and her younger brother, George. It’s so sweet and tender. She would do anything for her sick sibling. Then, we see the dynamics between C.S. Lewis (aka Jack) and his brother, Warnie, and then Meg and the two older men once they develop a friendship together, and then finally, we get a romance between Meg and a classmate. There are so many layers to unwrap as we explore each relationship and learn more about the characters. I was fully invested in all of them. They were all relatable and easy to connect with. This is a story that is more character-driven and less about the plot. 

I was moved to tears by the end. It had me sobbing, with not only tears of sadness but also feelings of inspiration and joy. This story will absolutely stay with me for a very long time. It’s something special! 

This book is a testament to the power of storytelling and how it can evoke raw emotions and leave a profound impact on our lives. (Which couldn’t be truer and is exactly why I’m such a HUGE reader!) I wasn’t expecting much from this book but was pleasantly surprised by how much more this book turned out to be. It truly was a moving experience. 

This book also has great fall and winter vibes, so it would be perfect to read around that time of year. 

This was the first book I’ve read by this author, and now, I want to read more. I can’t wait to get my hands on another one of her stories. Highly recommend!!

Cozy Mystery:

Murder at the Beacon Bakeshop by Darci Hannah

Format: Audiobook: Narrator – Amy Melissa Bentley 
My GR Rating: 4
Read more on GoodReads

GR Description: More interested in kneading dough than adding it up, Lindsey’s breakup inspired her to set up the shop she always wanted in a place that always made her happy. She’d spent many childhood summers near this beach community and converting the old run-down lighthouse into a bakery café and home offers a perfect fresh start for Lindsey and her devoted Newfoundland dog, Wellington.

But not everyone in town has a sweet tooth. The preservation society won’t have the lighthouse’s history sugar-coated by lattes and cakes–and a protest group crashes Lindsey’s Memorial Day opening. Then her ex-fiancé Jeffrey Plank and his girlfriend Mia Wong arrive to trash the place. In the ensuing chaos, Mia chokes on a donut and dies.

An autopsy reveals cyanide in Mia’s bloodstream and Lindsey is the police’s prime suspect. To clear her name, she’s going to need to combine ingredients found in the town’s checkered past to uncover the identity of a desperate killer…

My Review:

I’ve been loving this cozy mystery series, so I was excited to finally read how it all started. (These books can be read as standalones. I’ve read books two and four already.) I enjoyed reading the beginning of Lindsay’s story, meeting Rory, her hunky man, and all of her local friends, and then starting her bakery at the haunted lighthouse. Of course, her dog, Wellie, was one of my favorite details. 

There was a lot more setup in this story before we got to the actual murder, which had Hallmark movie vibes in the beginning. I liked the slow-paced story because we were learning more about the characters and this new area she moved to. I also enjoyed the twist of learning about the ghost she shares her lighthouse with. Usually, I don’t think of a haunting aspect in a murder mystery story. 

As for the murder mystery, it was fun to follow along. There were clues dropped cleverly along the way, though I didn’t pick up on any of them. It kept me engaged and guessing the whole time. I couldn’t figure out who it was and was super surprised to learn who the killer was. 

I listened to the audiobook, which had the same narrator as the other books I had already listened to, so it was nice to hear the consistency through this series. I think she does a wonderful job. I love all of her voices, especially her British accent for Kennedy. 

This story, like the other two I’ve read, has those cozy feelings that I love. You see how tight-knit the community is, and I love the small town vibes. I also enjoyed the detailed food descriptions when Lindsay was in her bakery. This book takes place at the end of spring/beginning of summer, so it could be a great seasonal murder mystery for this time of year. 

Overall, I loved being back with this cast of characters and seeing how it all originated. Trying to solve the murder mystery was fun and entertaining. It’s not my favorite of the series, but it was thoroughly enjoyable. Highly recommend!

Contemporary Fiction:

The Expatriates by Janice Y.K. Lee

Format: Audiobook: Narrator – Ann Marie Lee
My GR Rating: 3
Read more on GoodReads

GR Description: Mercy, a young Korean American and recent Columbia graduate, is adrift, undone by a terrible incident in her recent past. Hilary, a wealthy housewife, is haunted by her struggle to have a child, something she believes could save her foundering marriage. Meanwhile, Margaret, once a happily married mother of three, questions her maternal identity in the wake of a shattering loss. As each woman struggles with her own demons, their lives collide in ways that have irreversible consequences for them all. Atmospheric, moving, and utterly compelling, The Expatriates confirms Lee as an exceptional talent and one of our keenest observers of women’s inner lives.

My Review:

I decided to read this book because I watched the trailer for the series, Expats, on Amazon Prime. When I saw that the show was based on a book, I wanted to read the book first before I watched the show. 

I saw a description that described this story as Sex and the City meets Lost in Translation. I could definitely get the Lost in Translation similarities, but I didn’t think it was like Sex and the City at all. There is language but no spice; it is a clean book. I listened to the audiobook, and the narrator did a great job. 

This is not a happy story. Honestly, I thought it was rather depressing, dull, and boring. There is barely a plot but had just enough to keep me interested. This is definitely more character-driven as we follow three American women who now live in Hong Kong. I thought it would lean more toward a mystery/thriller since a child goes missing, but it didn’t. This would be considered a drama or contemporary fiction. Overall, this story is about womanhood and motherhood. 

In this book, we follow Margaret, Hilary, and Mercy. Margaret is a mother who loses one of her children. She grieves for her son and must try to move on without him. We see her struggle with this new reality. Hilary has martial problems. Her husband cheats on her and both are unhappy in the marriage. She suffers from infertility issues and wants to adopt a boy she meets. More than anything, she wants a family but is uncertain about her future. Mercy is the youngest and still figuring out life and who she is. She’s aimless and acts irresponsibly. She hasn’t fully grown up yet. She has a unique personality, which some people have called strange. She ends up having an affair with a married man and getting pregnant by him. Soon, all of their lives interconnect in this foreign city.  

These are interesting and complex characters, but they all seem unhappy, depressed, and whiny at times. Their lives are privileged, especially Margaret and Hilary who have rich husbands and careers that took them to Hong Kong in the first place. They have help from servants and are spoiled. The other women in this expat community are also spoiled, as well as critical, judgemental, competitive, and bored. They all live in a sheltered bubble where they are trying to figure out their lives in a foreign country, which is their main connection. If some of the details about this lifestyle are true, then I learned a lot about life as an expat and communities of expats in a foreign country. That part was interesting. 

But in general, I’m not sure of the point of this story. It was well-written with detailed, immersive, and descriptive writing; however, for the majority of it, I was just bored. I wasn’t fully invested in any of the women’s lives. I couldn’t relate or connect to any of them. I really didn’t like Hilary’s character and felt like she could’ve just been omitted from the whole story. After the child goes missing, I kept waiting for something interesting or exciting to happen, but it didn’t. Everything just felt bland and tedious. I even sped up the audiobook to get through it. 

Then, I watched the Amazon Prime show. It was done well, but again, it was boring. The first two episodes were entertaining, but then the rest of the series was dull and flat. Again, I don’t know why this was created. I didn’t see the point of this story. 

Overall, the depiction of these women and mothers was interesting and beautifully told, but sadly, it was hard for me to connect to any of them and the story as a whole barely kept my attention. For most of the book and the series, I was just bored. Personally, I would not recommend it, but if it sounds interesting to you, then maybe give it a try. I would try this author again if another one of her stories sounds interesting to me.

Romance Fantasy/Magical Realism:

The Seven Year Slip by Ashley Poston

Format: Audiobook – Narrator: Brittany Pressley
Spice: R
My GR Rating: 3
Read more on GoodReads

GR Description: Sometimes, the worst day of your life happens, and you have to figure out how to live after it.

So Clementine forms a plan to keep her heart safe: work hard, find someone decent to love, and try to remember to chase the moon. The last one is silly and obviously metaphorical, but her aunt always told her that you needed at least one big dream to keep going. And for the last year, that plan has gone off without a hitch. Mostly. The love part is hard because she doesn’t want to get too close to anyone–she isn’t sure her heart can take it.

And then she finds a strange man standing in the kitchen of her late aunt’s apartment. A man with kind eyes and a Southern drawl and a taste for lemon pies. The kind of man that, before it all, she would’ve fallen head-over-heels for. And she might again.

Except, he exists in the past. Seven years ago, to be exact. And she, quite literally, lives seven years in his future.

Her aunt always said the apartment was a pinch in time, a place where moments blended together like watercolors. And Clementine knows that if she lets her heart fall, she’ll be doomed.

After all, love is never a matter of time–but a matter of timing.

My Review:

This book was quite a disappointment. It had been incredibly hyped up in the book community, but for me, it was underwhelming and fell flat. It was a good idea, but it needed better exploration and execution. I also agree with many other book reviewers that it would’ve been more interesting if it was dual-POV, swapping between Clementine and James.

Themes of loss, grief, suicide, and death were covered in this book. However, this story felt too fluffy for such heavy topics to be explored, and they weren’t explored enough to offer adequate substance. I felt that the time travel aspect fell flat and wasn’t executed well. It was a bit confusing. Plus, I wanted more from it, more interaction with it. It almost felt like an afterthought. It didn’t build enough tension and create conflict between Clementine and James. It was also highly predictable and didn’t offer any unique twist or perspective. 

As for the romance, there also wasn’t much conflict. Everything felt very low stakes so I was not convinced of this love story. They didn’t have to fight to be together. I did not feel the chemistry between the couple either and didn’t understand how they fell in love so fast. They didn’t know each other that well or for very long, so it didn’t make any sense. This felt like insta-love or more like insta-lust. 

There also was not much character development. We saw a little bit of self-discovery, but I wanted a lot more. I didn’t really like Clementine. She rubbed me the wrong way, and her lust for James felt juvenile, like a teenage girl crushing on a boy. There was also too much talk about his physical appearance and not much about his character. 

There was quite a bit of foul language and a couple of spicy scenes that were pretty graphic. I would rate them R. These are turnoffs for me. I prefer clean, closed-door romances. There were also obvious woke and liberal elements – bi-racial married lesbian couple – one of them is pregnant and referred to as a pregnant person, the aunt is also gay, anti-patriarchy, and feminist undertones.

What I appreciated the most was looking at grief in the many ways it surfaces. I enjoyed learning about Clementine and her aunt, who passed away, and then watching Clementine deal with her emotions. It was raw, tender, and realistic. This was very relatable. I wished it was explored further since we didn’t go deeper with the time travel plotline. 

Read if you enjoy:

  • Miscommunication
  • Insta-love/lust
  • Family secrets
  • Romance with magical realism 

Overall, I didn’t hate this book, but I also didn’t really care for it. Even though it was cute, it was slow-paced without not much happening. It felt boring, choppy, and repetitive, as well as a little generic. Personally, I would not recommend it. There are much better books out there with romance with magical realism. But if it sounds interesting to you, then maybe it’ll work better for you. I will try one more book by this author, but she just may not be for me.

The Kindred Spirits Supper Club by Amy E. Reichert

Format: Audiobook – Narrator: Tavia Gilbert
Spice: PG-13
My GR Rating: 3
Read more on GoodReads

GR Description: For Sabrina Monroe, moving back home to the Wisconsin Dells–the self-described Waterpark Capital of the World–means returning to the Monroe family curse: the women in her family can see spirits who come to them for help with unfinished business. But Sabrina’s always redirected the needy spirits to her mom, who’s much better suited for the job. The one exception has always been Molly, a bubbly rom-com-loving ghost, who stuck by Sabrina’s side all through her lonely childhood.

Her personal life starts looking up when Ray, the new local restaurateur, invites Sabrina to his supper club, where he flirts with her over his famous Brandy Old-Fashioneds. He’s charming and handsome, but Sabrina tells herself she doesn’t have time for romance–she needs to focus on finding a job. Except the longer she’s in the Dells, the harder it is to resist her feelings for Ray. Who can turn down a cute guy with a fondness for rescue dogs and an obsession with perfecting his fried cheese curds recipe?

When the Dells start to feel like home for the first time and with Ray in her corner, Sabrina begins to realize that she can make a difference and help others wherever she is.

My Review:

Unfortunately, this book was such a disappointment. After reading The Simplicity of Cider, I was excited to read another book by this author. However, this one fell really short and was mediocre at best. I thought the plot sounded interesting, but unfortunately, the execution was lacking. 

I listened to the audiobook. The narrator did well with the female voices, but I didn’t care for her male voices. 

From the beginning Ray, the MMC, was smitten with Sabrina, the MFC, and fell head over heels for her. But it didn’t feel realistic because he didn’t know anything about her, so his feelings had no basis and didn’t make any sense. It felt more like insta-love, which is a romance trope I hate. He also wasn’t a strong, admirable MMC. Yes, he was sweet and supportive, but I wanted a lot more from him. He felt like a pushover. 

Then, there’s Sabrina. She felt like a super weak character who played the victim really well, which annoyed me. First, we learn about her “special gift” of seeing dead people and helping them cross over, but I questioned the logic because she could only see them in Wisconsin, not anywhere else, which didn’t make sense. Then her anxiety disorder was overplayed to the point where it went from being relatable to just irritating. Her anxiety was brought up way too much, and she talked about going to therapy, being aware of it, and dealing with her issues, but did little to actually work on her problems. As someone who experiences anxiety, it was very irritating to read about. And then, finally, there is a bully plotline, which felt awkward to read about 30-year-old adults acting like middle grade bullies to each other. It wasn’t funny or entertaining. It just felt immature and juvenile. Overall, I wanted a lot more from Sabrina and wanted to see a major shift or change in her character. She felt too weak and timid. She constantly let people walk all over her. Her insecurities kept winning when she battled her internal demons. I wanted to see her grow more and overcome some of her adversity. The one trait that stood out the most was her kindness. Sabrina liked to pay it forward and left things in books, like money, notes, etc. She would also add coins to parking meters, laundromat machines, candy/gumball machines, etc. These were such sweet gestures. 

The supernatural aspect of the book is what initially drew me to this book, but it wasn’t developed very well and the execution fell flat. I wanted a lot more from this storyline, but it felt like we only touched the surface, which is a shame because it could’ve made the overall story more engaging and interesting. Molly the Ghost was also a bit irritating at times. 

However, I really enjoyed the Wisconsin (The Dells) setting and the small town vibes. This story takes place in the summer, so this would be a great beach reach or summertime book. When the couple went out, I enjoyed the date scenes and getting to know the area. I also liked all the food descriptions. There’s even a recipe at the end of the book for a cocktail drink. 

There is a good amount of crass language, which is a turnoff for me. There are also a few steamy spice scenes, but not overly explicitly. I’d rate them about PG-13. There are also a couple of gay side characters. 

Read if you enjoy:

  • Fake dating
  • Insta-love
  • Small town vibes
  • Family drama
  • Romance with paranormal elements

Overall, it’s a sweet, cute romance with a bit of supernatural elements. But it wasn’t what I was expecting. I couldn’t connect to the characters, the romance didn’t sell me, and the plot was a bit boring. The whole story was just mediocre for me. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend it; there are better stories out there, but if it sounds interesting to you, then give it a try. You may enjoy it more than I did.

Contemporary Romance:

If the Shoe Fits by Julie Murphy

Format: Audiobook – Narrator: Jen Ponton
Spice: G
My GR Rating: 2
Read more on GoodReads

GR Description: If the shoe doesn’t fit, maybe it’s time to design your own.

Cindy loves shoes. A well-placed bow or a chic stacked heel is her form of self-expression. As a fashion-obsessed plus-size woman, she can never find designer clothes that work on her body, but a special pair of shoes always fits just right.

With a shiny new design degree but no job in sight, Cindy moves back in with her stepmother, Erica Tremaine, the executive producer of the world’s biggest dating reality show. When a contestant on Before Midnight bows out at the last minute, Cindy is thrust into the spotlight. Showcasing her killer shoe collection on network TV seems like a great way to jump-start her career. And, while she’s at it, why not go on a few lavish dates with an eligible suitor?

But being the first and only fat contestant on Before Midnight turns her into a viral sensation – and a body-positivity icon – overnight. Even harder to believe? She can actually see herself falling for this Prince Charming. To make it to the end, despite the fans, the haters, and a house full of fellow contestants she’s not sure she can trust, Cindy will have to take a leap of faith and hope her heels – and her heart – don’t break in the process.

My Review:

I was skeptical about this book but decided to give it a try; however, it was very disappointing and extremely cringey and eye-rolling. The only saving grace for me was the narrator since I listened to the audiobook. She did an amazing job with the different voices. She was highly entertaining, and honestly, the only reason why I didn’t DNF it. I do not recommend this book, but if you do pick it up, I highly suggest the audiobook. 

There was some mild language but no spice. It is a clean, closed-door romance, which I appreciated. There are a few kissing scenes and then fade to black. 

It also went SUPER woke with messages of body positivity, feminism, and misogyny. There are also queer side characters and one is non-binary with they/them pronouns, which got really confusing listening to those parts because the grammar was wrong. It went really heavy pushing certain ideologies and political agendas. It felt like it was checking off all the boxes, which I can’t stand and don’t care to read in my entertainment. 

This story is a Cinderella retelling that meets The Bachelor. It’s a VERY light, fluffy romcom that is super, super cheesy with cringey dialogue, a boring plot, and a very predictable ending. It felt like I wasn’t the target audience because it read very young, like for millennials or younger. The writing felt very immature and juvenile. 

The main character, Cindy, was a plus-size girl and that seemed to be the only trait this story focused on was her size. Every chance it had, the story reminded us of her larger size. There is SOOO much more to a person than their weight and how they look. How much someone weighs is the LEAST interesting thing about them. So it was disappointing to see how much her body size was highlighted in this story instead of just writing a story about a bigger girl falling in love. She could’ve had a normal romance story instead of always talking about her weight. At first, I could relate to her, being a plus-size woman myself, but then it just started feeling preachy, almost like a PSA. 

I also didn’t really like Cindy. Aside from her whole personality being about her size, she wasn’t a likable character. She was whiny about things, and she felt hypocritical at times. She had one set of rules for how people should act or behave, but then for herself, she had another set of rules. For example, in one scene, during the dating show, she was talking to the bachelor and got upset when another contestant interrupted her time with him. She felt like it was a betrayal because they were friendly with each other in the mansion behind closed doors. But then later in the story, Cindy does the exact same thing to another contestant, but she feels triumphant and proud of herself for getting more time with the bachelor. Double standard. 

Also, Cindy came from a very privileged family and life, so she starts from a very high bar. Therefore, we don’t see much change in her throughout the book. We don’t get to see her overcome any deep trauma, issues, or other problems that she faces. Such a lost opportunity for some good character growth and change. 

As for the reality dating show that mimics The Bachelor, some parts were funny and entertaining, and it did feel like a behind-the-scenes look at a TV show. However, it felt unrealistic, most of the dates were boring, and the side characters were bland and one-dimensional. The other contestants on the show were like cardboard stereotypes without much personality and some were pretty cringey. Also, between Cindy and her two stepsisters, there was a lot of nepotism going on, which didn’t sit well with me. None of the sisters were there for the right reasons and took three spots from other women who could’ve been on the show. Also, how would no one find out that they were from the same family and daughters and stepdaughter of the executive producer? This story is set in modern times and people on social media would’ve sniffed this out and blasted it all over the internet. In fact, I wish it did go viral because it would’ve led to more conflict and drama on the show, which would’ve been more entertaining to read about. I will say though, I liked that twist on the Cinderella part where Cindy actually gets along with her stepmother and stepsisters. They have good relationships/friendships with each other, which was a unique take on this fairytale retelling. 

Another unrealistic aspect of the reality show was not experiencing ANY negative comments about a plus-size woman being on the show. One of the contestants made a negative comment about Cindy’s weight, but we never found out what that was. Then, Cindy is often pulled to the side by one of the producers who shares ONLY the positive comments people are leaving about her on social media. But we don’t see any of the nasty, negative comments. We all know in real life haters and trolls would have a field day with this TV show concept and a plus-size woman being on it. It would’ve been nice to see the harsh, judgemental comments and behavior to see how Cindy would overcome it, which would’ve led to better character development.

As for the romance, it felt weak. I didn’t feel the chemistry between Henry and Cindy. They had a chance meeting on the plane from NY to LA in the beginning where they met each other and started talking. But then, once they meet again on the show and realize that they had met before, they suddenly feel huge sparks between them. But they hardly knew each other. They had a conversation for a few hours but then they were falling for each other…?!?! It didn’t make sense and felt like insta-love, which is a romance trope that I hate. 

I could go on and on about the things I did not like about this book, but I won’t. It was so bad and such a waste of time. I do not recommend it. I will not read any more books by this author. She is definitely not for me.

Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren

Format: Audiobook – Narrator: Erin Mallon
Spice: R
My GR Rating: 3
Read more on GoodReads

GR Description: Macy Sorensen is settling into an ambitious if emotionally tepid routine: work hard as a new pediatrics resident, plan her wedding to an older, financially secure man, keep her head down and heart tucked away.

But when she runs into Elliot Petropoulos—the first and only love of her life—the careful bubble she’s constructed begins to dissolve. Once upon a time, Elliot was Macy’s entire world—growing from her gangly teen friend into the man who coaxed her heart open again after the loss of her mother…only to break it on the very night he declared his love for her.

Told in alternating timelines between Then and Now, teenage Elliot and Macy grow from friends to much more—spending weekends and lazy summers together in a house outside of San Francisco reading books, sharing favorite words, and talking through their growing pains and triumphs. As adults, they have become strangers to one another until their chance reunion. Although their memories are obscured by the agony of what happened that night so many years ago, Elliot will come to understand the truth behind Macy’s decade-long silence, and will have to overcome the past and himself to revive her faith in the possibility of an all-consuming love.

My Review:

I’ve had a tumultuous relationship with these authors. This is the third book of theirs that I’ve read, and unfortunately, I think it’s time to break up. They are just not my cup of tea when it comes to contemporary romances. Many of their characters felt too juvenile and emotionally immature. I don’t care for the crass, foul language. They lean too left/liberal for my liking. And I prefer clean, closed-door romances without all the graphic smut. 

However, I will say that of the three books I’ve read, this one was probably the best story if I had to choose one, but I still didn’t care for it that much. It was just okay for me. I read Every Summer After by Carley Fortune last year, which I actually really liked, so reading this book afterward feels like I read somewhat of the same plot. It felt very similar but not executed as well. Although, the big reveal in this book was better than in Fortune’s book. 

I listened to the audiobook. The narrator did a decent job, but she needed to work on her different voices for the characters. All of the guys sounded the same, and most of the girls sounded the same as well, so I became a little lost and confused at times because I couldn’t tell who was speaking or if she was reading dialogue or exposition. Also, the voice of young Elliott sounded way too old for a young teenage boy, so that was jarring to hear. 

This is a best friends-to-lovers romance told in past and present timelines. The back and forth in these types of stories can be hit or miss with me. It partially worked in this story. The past felt like a coming-of-age story, which was cute, but then it got very awkward. When teenage Macy and Elliott started talking about kissing, self-pleasure, and spice, it felt uncomfortable and icky. I don’t feel it’s necessary for adults to read/listen about teenagers having sex. I didn’t want to listen to these parts of the story. Then with the present timelines, it was just boring. Nothing really happened, and I wanted more – something to keep me entertained and engaged but it never really did. 

The romance was decent but not swoon-worthy. I didn’t feel much chemistry between them. There was a little but not a lot of passion. It felt like a romance of convenience. Their feelings for each other blossomed just because they had history and had grown up together. It felt a bit forced at times. It was also a little too angsty for my taste. 

I also didn’t really care for either main character. Again, they felt immature and emotionally stunted. They were annoying and irritating. They didn’t know how to just communicate and talk to each other, like adults, which is one of my biggest pet peeves in these types of books. I think romances written by millennials for millennials are books I need to stay away from because I’m not their target audience. I’m older (Gen X), and I have such a hard time with these young love stories. 

There is a lot of crass, foul language, which I think is lazy writing and unnecessary. There are also a couple of spicy scenes that get explicit. I would rate them R. I don’t need to be in the bedroom or bed with the couple to know what’s happening. 

Overall, I didn’t hate this story, but I didn’t really like it either. I was generous with my three-star rating. If you like friends-to-lovers, a bit of a love triangle, and second-chance romance, then you may enjoy this story more than I did. Personally, I would not recommend this book. There are much better love stories out there, but if it sounds interesting to you, then maybe give it a shot. Unfortunately, I will not pick up another book by these ladies. Best of luck to them!

Love and a Little White Lie by Tammy L. Gray

Format: Paperback
Spice: G
My GR Rating: 5
Read more on GoodReads

GR Description: January Sanders grew up believing karma was more reliable than an imaginary higher power, but after suffering her worst heartbreak in 29 years, she’s open to just about anything, including taking a temporary position at her aunt’s church. Keeping her lack of faith a secret, January is determined to use her photographic memory to help Grace Community’s overworked staff, all while scraping herself off rock bottom.

What she doesn’t count on is meeting the church’s handsome and charming guitarist, who not only is a strong believer, but has also dedicated his life to Christian music. It’s a match set for disaster, and yet January has no ability to stay away, even if it means pretending to have faith in a God she doesn’t believe in.

Only this time, keeping secrets isn’t as easy as she thought it would be. Especially when she’s constantly running into her aunt’s landscape architect, who seems to know everything about her past and present sins and makes no apologies about pushing her to deal with feelings she’d rather keep buried.

Torn between two worlds incapable of coexisting, can January find the healing that’s eluded her or will her resistance to the truth ruin any chance of happiness?

My Review:

I LOVED this book!! It only took me three days to read it. I was so invested in the characters, their backstories, their relationships, the faith elements, the small town vibes, and the romance…the ROMANCE! 

I didn’t know what to expect going into this book, so I was blown away by how easy of a read it was but also how deep and emotional it got. This is not a light, fluffy romcom. There is depth, strong emotions and issues, and heartfelt feelings in this story. It’s raw and honest, which felt like a breath of fresh air. There isn’t any language or spice, which I prefer clean, closed-door romances, so I was very happy about that aspect. Another author who proves you can write strong romances without the garbage, crassness, and spice. 

January is essentially starting over in this small town in Texas. She is a very relatable character in so many ways. I connected with her right from the start and continued to root for her the entire story. She was fun, quirky, and kind-hearted. The one thing I didn’t care for was how she kept her lack of faith, beliefs, and thoughts about God hidden from those she was getting close to, which I understand why she did, but I felt like it lasted a little too long. I felt like she should’ve spoken up a lot earlier, so it felt deceitful to me. But otherwise, I loved watching her go on a spiritual/faith journey as well as a personal growth journey. She had quite the character development, and I loved watching her transform. 

There are two love interests, so it felt like a love triangle for about three-fourths of the book. It also had romance tropes of: grumpy/sunshine, enemies-to-lovers, happily ever after. I enjoyed getting to know both Cameron and Dillon, who are so different. There was one guy that stuck out to me more that I kept rooting for to end up with January. The romance was sweet and charming. There was plenty of buildup and tension to keep things interesting. The romance with the guy she ends up with made me so happy and giddy! It’s exactly what I wanted into a modern romance story. 

I also loved all of the side characters and getting to know more about this small town and its residents. I enjoyed the setting and seeing what life was like here. It was a bit of a culture shock from how I grew up, but it was fun to feel out of my element for a while. There is also plenty of drama going on, outside of January’s story, so I was highly engaged and couldn’t put this book down. 

It is very heavy on the faith, which I didn’t mind. I’m new to Christian romance novels and worried that it would be too much for me, but it wasn’t. I liked watching the characters put God front and center in their lives and see how He worked through them. There are also great messages of forgiveness, of others and yourself. 

Overall, this was a heartwarming and emotional romance book that has definitely left an impression on me. Few of these types of books do that for me. The characters are flawed but so relatable, which makes for a more immersive and engaging story. This was my first book by this author, and I can’t wait to read the rest of this trilogy (and more books by her). Highly recommend!!

The Cheat Sheet by Sarah Adams

Format: Paperback
Spice: G
My GR Rating: 5
Read more on GoodReads

GR Description: Is it ever too late to leave the friend-zone?

Hi, my name is Bree Camden, and I’m hopelessly in love with my best friend and star quarterback Nathan Donelson (so is half of America, judging by the tabloids and how much the guy dates). The first step is admitting, right? Except, I can never admit it to him because he clearly doesn’t see me that way, and the last thing I want is for things to get weird between us.

Nothing but good old-fashioned, no-touching-the-sexiest-man-alive, platonic friendship for us! Everything is exactly how I like it! Yes. Good. (I’m not crying, I’m just peeling an onion.)

Our friendship is going swimmingly until I accidentally spill my beans to a reporter over too much tequila, and now the world seems to think me and Nathan belong together. Oh, and did I mention we have to date publicly for three weeks until after the Super Bowl because we signed a contract with…oops, forgot I can’t tell anyone about that!

Bottom line is, now my best friend is smudging all the lines and acting very un-platonic, and I’m just trying to keep my body from bursting into flames every time he touches me.

How am I going to make it through three weeks of fake dating Nathan without anything changing between us? Especially when it almost-sort-a-kinda seems like he’s fighting for a completely different outcome?

Send help.

XO Bree

My Review:

(Warning: Major gushing to follow!) I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this book!! This is my favorite romance book to date!! I was laughing, swooning, crying, and felt as giddy as a teenager in love. Sure, it was a bit cheesy and felt like a Hallmark romance movie, which I enjoy, but it also had depth, emotion, and character development. It was very well-written. I felt super cozy, like a warm hug to my heart. It was extremely bingeable. I couldn’t put it down 

I had always heard of “book hangovers” but never truly understood them until it happened to me after this book. I was obsessed with this story, and has been the only book to date where as soon as I finished it, I wanted to pick it up again and start all over. It was that good!! 

I think this book is a good book to get out of a reading slump if you’re in one. I think it would also be a good palette cleanser if you needed a lighter, swoony read if you’ve been reading heavier stories. It’s also great to read in the fall and winter seasons since it centers around football. 

The romance…the ROMANCE!!! I adored this couple!!! I loved how safe and trusting they were in their friendship. I also loved how they helped each other in their moments of struggle, pain, and vulnerability. There was so much pining and sexual tension buildup. It was so cute. They were extremely relatable. At times, I could see my husband and I in some of the scenes. Oh, and one of my favorite scenes: brownie batter!! (If you’ve read this, then you know!) The banter and inside jokes were perfection. I enjoyed the goofiness and silliness they had with each other.

As for the two main characters, they were very easy to love, connect to, and root for. Nathan was such a good guy. He always put Bree first and thought about her so much. He defended her, protected her, and watched out for her – a perfect book boyfriend. Then, Bree was so kind and caring, yet confident, strong, and independent. She was soft and tender with Nathan when he dealt with some mental health issues. I felt like Sarah Adams wrote about anxiety and panic attacks very well and handled them with care.

The side characters were also entertaining and charming. I liked getting to see the dynamics and relationship of Bree and her sister, and then Nathan with his football friends. The scene with Nathan and his guy group was hysterical when they were making the “cheat sheet.” One of the best scenes in the book. I loved how this group felt like found family and how much they care for and supported each other. 

Speaking of football, I’m a fan of the sport, so it was nice to actually have some football scenes weaved in the story, and the witnessing the big game at the end. There were also a few dancing scenes with Bree but wish we saw more highlighting her ballet studio, students, and classes she taught. I wanted a bit more. 

Read if you enjoy:

  • Best friends-to-lovers
  • Fake dating
  • Clean, closed-door romances
  • Happily ever after

This was my first Sarah Adams book. Now I’m dying to read more from her. She definitely has become an auto-buy author for me now In fact, I’ve already pre-ordered her next book, which comes out in early April and is a companion novel to this book. It follows one of Nathan’s friends who is still single. I was only a couple of chapters into this book when I decided to pre-order it because I was having such an amazing time with her book. 

I can’t gush enough about this cute, sweet romance story. Highly, highly recommend!!

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