Review: Santa Cruise

This was a combination of themes that I love – girls trip, singles cruise, holiday cheer. But unfortunately, it fell a little short for me.

However, the first 30 percent of this book follows the four main characters between Thanksgiving and their high school reunion and New Years. I feel like the character development in this section was important, it was a long build up to the meat of the story. The author could have included the important character background into the main story.

That said, once the girls were on the cruise the book was really cute. The four of them were fun and sassy and definitely people I would want to be friends with.

And while this is a holiday cruise, over New Years, it is mentioned a few times but I wanted a little more holiday cheer and New Year celebrations.

Review: Grave Tidings

Ho Ho Ho! Krampus is coming to town!

Noelle is down on her holiday spirit, and people who bad mouth Santa and the holidays get punished by Krampus. In Noelle’s case, Krampus’s punishment is very, very naughty.

Okay, that’s about the whole plot. But this is the perfect short and spicy read, especially by the tree or the fireplace on Christmas Eve.

Book Feature: Siciliana

Synopsis:

A family torn apart by conflict. 
An uprising of deadly magnitude. 
A nation altered forever.

Inspired by actual events, “Siciliana” is the harrowing tale of a young woman’s courage in the face of unthinkable turmoil.

In 1282 AD, the Kingdom of Sicily is under the rule of a tyrannical French king and subject to his brutal Angevin army. Daily acts of violence and persecution are commonplace in a once-prosperous realm.

For twenty-year-old Aetna Vespiri, daughter of a revered Sicilian knight, survival has become second nature. As a child, she witnessed the destruction of her family’s vineyard by Angevin soldiers and spent the next decade learning the tenets of stiletto blade combat.

Years later in Palermo, as the evening bells toll for Vespers, Aetna fends off a nefarious sergeant and sparks an uprising against the Angevin occupation. Now, standing at the forefront of an accelerating people’s rebellion, Aetna finds herself fighting not only for a nation she believes in but also for the meaning of family. In her darkest hour, this dauntless Sicilian woman steps out of obscurity and into the pages of history.

The legend of “Siciliana” is born.

Set amid bustling Arab markets and brooding Norman fortresses, “Siciliana” will envelop readers in the sights, sounds, and dangers lurking around every corner of medieval Sicily.

Review: I Choose Darkness

I love Jenny Lawson, so when I saw she had released a holiday essay, I knew I had to have it and read it during the holidays. Imagine my surprise when this was a really fun Halloween essay!

This was a lovely short read. Definitely a throw back to Halloween when I was growing up – even though she was writing about growing up in the 70s and I’m a 90s kid. I mean, who doesn’t love to hear and share embarrassing stories from our childhoods?

Review: Bride For a Day

I had high hopes for Bride for a Day, and while this was a cute read, it wasn’t everything I was expecting.

Cassie was quiet and meek around Ted and his family, which frustrated me for her as a character. Ted’s family on the other hand was warm and comforting, and a family that anyone would love to be a part of.

I did feel like the main conflict was too easily resolved, and the relationship between Cassie and Ted felt very contrived and the marriage of convenience – well, seemed too convenient.

While this is cute, it definitely fell flat for me.

Thank you to Sourcebooks Casablanca and NetGalley for the review copy.

Review: Once Upon a Royal Christmas

Once Upon a Royal Christmas was the perfect was to kick off the holidays and my marathon of holiday romcoms.

Gracie is a children’s party princess who wins a contest to bring her Princess Snowflake to the country of San Glacera during their Christmas festivities.

The grumpy-sunshine relationship between Gracie and Prince Nikolas of San Glacera was everything I wanted in a romcom. I especially loved reading as Nikolas slowly melts from the abominable snow prince as he gets to know Gracie.

The scene in the Christmas Tree Maze was by far my favorite in this book, and for once I didn’t mind that the author included and epilogue because I definitely wanted to know what happened to these two after the final chapter.

I listened to Once Upon a Royal Christmas as an audiobook, and the narrator, Brittany Pressley, did a fantastic job keeping my attention throughout the book.

Thank you to Dreamscape Media, Hallmark Publishing and NetGalley for the advanced audiobook copy of this book.

Review: Snowy Montana Nights

Winter in Montana. Hot cowboys. Small towns.

If I haven’t sold you already, then the 🔥🔥🔥 Santa scene is definitely a reason for you to pick up Snowy Montana Nights.

I picked this up because of the setting – Gardiner, MT, a town on the Northside of Yellowstone National Park. I loved visiting Montana and this small town definitely brought me right back to Big Sky Country.

I really liked the tension between Wendy and Zane, as well as the building relationship between them. The side characters in this really made the story come alive!

This is book three in the Dallas Debutantes series, but can be read as a standalone.

Review: The Wicked City

I picked up The Wicked City based on the author Beatriz Williams. The description on NetGalley (see below) had me expecting a dual timeline POV with a little mystery connected to the historical fiction.

While I enjoyed reading this book, and absolutely enjoyed following Ginger as a character, I wished there had been more flipping back and forth between timelines.

Ginger (“Gin”) was a unique character to be the main character. She is an independent woman and very strong willed. I would get so sucked into the Jazz Age, Prohibition era with Ginger that I would have that hangover when I was back int the real world. However, when the POV would change to the current time line, it felt shocking. Especially since such a long time spent in the 20s with Ginger, then by the time the timeline switched, I had forgotten what had happened.

I really appreciated the  author’s note at the end, that she tried to replicate an Appalachian accent when writing Ginger and her family. And, although the dialect has evolved and changed since the 1920s, she tried to capture the basic ways of speaking.

While this book left me wanting more, I really did enjoy spending in the Jazz Era with Ginger, and thought that storyline could have stood alone.

Thank you to William Morrow and NetGalley for the digital copy in exchange for my review.

Synopsis:

Two generations of women are brought together inside a Greenwich Village apartment —a flapper hiding an extraordinary past, and a modern-day Manattanite forced to start her life anew.

When she discovers her banker husband has been harboring a secret life, Ella Gilbert escapes her SoHo loft for a studio in Greenwich Village. Her charismatic musician neighbor, Hector, warns her to stay out of the basement after midnight, when a symphony of mysterious noise strikes up—laughter, clinking glasses, jazz piano, the occasional bloodcurdling scream—even though the space has been empty for decades. Back in the Roaring Twenties, the basement was home to one of the city’s most notorious speakeasies.

In 1924, Geneva “Gin” Kelly, a quick-witted flapper from the hills of western Maryland, is a regular at this Village hideaway. Caught up in a raid, Gin lands in the office of Prohibition enforcement agent Oliver Anson, who persuades her to help him catch her stepfather, Duke Kelly, one of the biggest bootleggers in Appalachia.

But Gin is nobody’s fool. She strikes a risky bargain with the taciturn, straight-arrow Revenue agent, and their alliance rattles Manhattan society to its foundations, exposing secrets that shock even this free-spirited redhead.

As Ella unravels the strange history of her new building—and the family thread that connects her to Geneva Kelly—she senses the Jazz Age spirit of her exuberant predecessor invading her own shy nature, in ways that will transform her existence in the wicked city.

Review: The Kiss Curse

The Kiss Curse was a cute, fast read, perfect for spooky season – especially for those of us who like our spooky season on the sweeter side. I absolutely loved The Ex Hex last fall, and was looking forward to joining the crew in Graves Glen again.

The Kiss Curse was Gwyn and Wells story, and this was definitely followed the enemies-to-lovers trope. (Which is one of my favorites, so I absolutely loved the witty banter and the journey in their relationship.)

Speaking of favorite things, Sur Purrcival – I absolutely that cat. He seriously steals the show every time he is in the scene.

I did really enjoy the inclusiveness in this book – Gwyn is bi and one of the side characters uses they/them pronouns. It’s subtle, but so seamlessly written into the story.

There is a little mystery in this, and there was a good red herring to keep the reader guessing. Although, in the end I did find the conclusion to be taken care of too quickly and easily.

Audiobook Review: Did Not Finish

I have been listening to audiobooks on my commute to and from work, because I cannot handle anymore of the election coverage on NPR (my usual radio station) or political commercials (on my alternative music channel).

Did Not Finish was cute, but definitely had a predictable plot and ending. Which is okay with me – sometimes I want and enjoy the predictability of the romcom storyline.

While there was some steam, the smuttiest scenes were “fade to black.”

I loved the descriptions of Axel’s home are so cozy – I would love to find an actual resort or Airbnb like this to stay in, curl up by the fireplace.

As for the audio, the narrators weren’t my favorite. The book was narrated by Kendra Murray and Connor Brown. I found Murray to be slightly robotic in the beginning, but smoothed out (or maybe I got used to her voice?) by the middle of the book. Brown, on the other hand, was very difficult for me to understand, and sometimes I would miss entire words or phrases because I couldn’t make out what he said.

Thank you to Dreamscape Media and NetGalley for the advanced audio copy of Did Not Finish.