Review: The Stand-In

I am not sure how I feel about The Stand-In – I enjoyed the over arching story but getting from point to point sometimes felt slow.

Gracie is approached by a mysterious SUV, and the Chinese film stars Wei Fangli and Sam Yao are inside and turn Gracie’s life upside down. Fangli needs a break from her social obligations, and Gracie and Fangli look suspiciously similar. A little makeup and a wig and not even Sam’s mother can tell the difference.

I didn’t love Gracie as a character – she didn’t have a lot of self esteem and second guessed everything she did. That said, by about 70 percent into the book, my feelings on Gracie changed slightly. I did, however, like Gracie’s friend Anjali. She showed growth as a character and brought some sharp wit to the scenes she was written in.

I also guessed the twist at the end pretty early on while reading this one, but I still really loved the ending. This was a clean YA romance, with just a little kissing and some serious hand holding. 

Thank you to Sourcebooks Casablanca and Netgalley for the digital review copy!

(photo taken at Canyonlands National Park – Islands in the Sky.)

Review: The National Parks Scavenger Hunt

I love visiting National Parks, and I will definitely be taking The National Parks Scavenger Hunt with us on our trips this year!

This book is perfect for families and people of all ages. The 63 National Parks are included and each Park has four to six items to find while exploring, and there are points to earn for each item found.

There is also information about the Park and about each animal, plant or place that you are finding – a lot of learning in a fun way! And definitely a good way to keep kids entertained on the long drives to and from the hotel or camp site!

This book reminded me a little of the National Parks’s Junior Ranger Program, which is a free program that each National Park unit offers for kids of all ages (adults too!). The activities usually include taking a hike, or learning about the Park. 

The National Park Scavenger Hunt publishes in May, just in time for family vacation season!

Thank you to NetGalley and Timber Press for the review copy of this book!

(Photo taken at Delicate Arch in Arches National Park.)

Review: The Court of the Vampire Queen

I’m definitely here for the smut.

The Court of the Vampire Queen was…just…wow. So smutty. So smexy. And even at almost 500 pages, this was a very fast read, and would make the perfect beach read!.

I honestly loved the epilogue and hope the author writes a book in this same world but following Grace in the demon realm.

Thank you to Sourcebooks Casablanca for my gifted copy!

Review: Toilet Bound Hanako-Kun

I went into this manga pretty blind to the plot. I was doing research on popular and appropriate mangas for my 15 year old niece and Toilet Bound Hanako-Kun kept popping up on blogs and top ten lists. I try to read some of the same manga and they do so we can we can talk about books when we’re together.

I was totally shocked by how cute and ridiculous this was. I’m glad I have book two in the Toilet Bound Hanako-Kun series already on my TBR pile to read!

Review: The Lost Ticket

It has been a while since a book made me cry, and The Lost Ticket was the book broke that streak.

I absolutely loved Frank. I would love to randomly meet such a sweet man like him. Especially as I continued to read the story and Libby and Dylan encounter more and more people whose life has been changed for the good by Frank over the years.

The neighborhood around the 88 Bus became such a part of the story and as much a character of the story as any of the main characters.

I absolutely adored this book. Thank you to Once Upon a Book Club for sending this book as part of a VIP box for the ir“Love at the Last Stop” box.

Audiobook Review: Inclusion Uncomplicated

In 2022, I made it a point to read more books by BIPOC authors, so what better way to start 2023 than reading a book about diversity, equity and inclusion.

I am part of a DEI learning community where I work, so Inclusion Uncomplicated was a wonderful way to expand the learning community beyond the monthly sessions.

Author Dr. Nika White really breaks down DEI into actionable tools and steps. She  also takes DEI talks about how diversity and inclusion go beyond race and includes women, the LGBT community and the differently-abled community as well.

I honestly feel like more people need to be Brough to the DEI landscape in Nika White’s style. I think too many people are brought to a DEI session that is race focused, and that can turn them off. But if you open DEI up beyond just focusing on equity and inclusion of the different races, and realize that there are inequalities that go beyond race (but also include race) more people can approach DEI tools and take the steps to make meaningful change.

I listened to Inclusion Uncomplicated on audiobook, which was narrated by the author. I honestly want a physical copy of this book to read through and reference again and again.

Thank you to NetGalley and Forbes Audio for the review copy in exchange for a review.

2022 in Review: Favorite RomComs by Diverse Authors

In the beginning of 2022, I made a resolution to read more authors of diversity. At the close of the year, I finished with 20 books read by BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) authors. Read all about my year of Reading in Full Color here. While I read variety of genres, romance will always be my favorite, so I wanted to take a moment to look back at my favorites in this top five list.

#1 Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto

Meddling aunties, a wedding, and a dead body…and a second-chance romance. After reading Dial A for Aunties, Jesse Q. Sutanto is on my auto-buy list for authors and I cannot wait to read Four Aunties and a Wedding to see what trouble this family can get into!

#2 Vanessa Jared’s Got a Man by LaQuette

Strong and independent female main characters are the reason I reach for books by LaQuette, not to mention the steam she brings to the table. Vanessa Jared Got a Man was such a fun read, and the author flips the traditional romances script – the woman has the money and power rather than the man.

#3 A Lot Like Adios by Alexis Daria

A Lot Like Adios is the second book in the Primas of Power series, and the steamiest book on this list. There’s so of the miscommunication trope in this one, but the main characters have so much chemistry that I adored them and this book!

#4 Mistletoe in Juneau by Dahlia Rose

This holiday romcom set in Alaska is what initially drew me to this audiobook, but the town of Auke Bay, the characters, and the narrators are what kept me and made me fall in love with this book.

#5 Fake it Till You Bake It by Jamie Wesley

You can’t really go wrong with cupcakes and a fake dating trope, in my opinion. Author Jamie Wesley mixes up a perfect batch of romance with some comedic twists in Fake it Till You Bake It.

If you want more recommendations of books by diverse authors, click here.

Review: Just Like Magic

Just Like Magic was my final festive book of holiday season, and, unfortunately, it wasn’t my favorite. 

I did not like the female main character, Bettie, throughout the majority of the book; however, for how much I disliked Bettie, I liked Hall as much. While he wanted to make Bettie happy, what I liked about him is was that he anted to make everyone happy – he spread holiday cheer like glitter.

On the other hand, the Hughes-Watson family is quite a piece of work themselves. Although grandma Bettie (the main character’s namesake) is the perfect comic relief throughout the book.

I wanted there to be an HEA (and there is in this one), I didn’t love the way the story got there.

Thank you to Putnam and Netgalley for the review copy in exchange for my honest review.

Review: Kissed by a Scottish Rogue

How stinking cute of a short read! Kissed by a Scottish Rogue was the perfect holiday romance that made me feel like I was back at Downton. 

Caretaker for the young Gracie, Edith Gallagher, is in Scotland with her employer’s family for the holidays, and has met the land steward Mr. Fergus McTaggart. McTaggart has met his match with Edith, but the two have called a temporary truce over the holidays.

In a short 115 pages, I became attached to Edith and her background and what lies ahead for her, and adored Fergus and the McTaggart clan. Set over Christmas is Scotland, all I want is to join this family for the holidays!

I will say, I wanted more from the Lavinia and St. Ambrose storyline in this, but I am happy with their ending overall.

Kissed by a Scottish Rogue is book 2.5 in the Rival Rogues series by Samantha Grace, but I was able to read it as a standalone without issue.

Review: If We Ever Meet Again

If We Ever Meet Again is definitely a story of opposites attracting. Blake is a former football star from Texas looking to start fresh. Farrah is an aspiring interior designer from LA who is looking to spread her wings. Both decide to spend a year studying abroad in Shanghai.

I absolutely loved the setting, and I wish it had played more of a role in the story. I did find that some of the activities the study abroad student engaged in felt very against typical Chinese culture – especially the amount of drinking the students do.

I was a little surprised that Blake and Farrah get together, I would not have expected those two in a relationship. That said, as their relationship progresses, and they run into relationship hiccups, the non-communication between the two drove me UP. THE. WALL. Seriously, people. Just freaking talk to each other.

I was also totally blindsided by this ending. When I started listening to If We Ever Meet Again as an audiobook, I did not realize it was part of a series. And thank goodness it is, because YOU CANNOT JUST LEAVE THE ENDING LIKE THAT!

Thank you to NetGalley and Tanto Audio for the gifted audio review copy of this book.