The Sunday Post #88

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer.
It's a chance to share news - a post to recap the past week on your blog, 
showcase books and things we have received, and share news about what is
coming up on your blog in the week ahead. You can find the info here:

  • Happy New Year's Eve! How will you spend the evening? Out with friends? Curled up with a book at home? The Husband and I have a tradition of staying in on New Year's Eve. Maybe watch a movie, maybe just read... I'd much rather be at home than out with the crowds.

  • I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. My favorite part is always the same - Christmas Eve at my parent's house with the whole family. That's my real Christmas. Christmas Day is much quieter, more low-key... Christmas Eve is the real highlight.

My sisters and me (center).
I love how we posed, without thinking, in age order. LOL

  • It seems as though the entire U.S. is getting a blast of (severe) winter weather. We're getting our own version of winter here in Florida. Temps were in the 40's-50's yesterday. Feel free to go ahead and laugh, my Northern friends. :) Everyone here bundled up and bemoaned the frigid weather as if it was -50. LOL

  • Freeform has been marathoning the Harry Potter movies all weekend and I can't seem to stop watching despite having seen them all 100 times and having other things to do. Anyone else? :)

Tuesday, December 26
Review: Breaking the Ice by Julie Cross

Friday, December 29
Top 10 Books of 2017

Saturday, December 30
2017 Reading Challenges Wrap-Up

I read a book! I read a book! 😂

 What Happened (Audio) - Hillary Rodham Clinton
I Never - Laura Hopper


Happy New Year!

How was your week? Any new books? Any news to share? 
I'd love to hear about it!

2017 Reading Challenges Wrap-Up

I participated in three reading challenges this year (other than the usual GoodReads challenge) and while I barely squeaked by on one of them, I totally dropped ball on the other two. #ReaderShame

I blame this on two factors: 1) I got myself completely bogged down with ARC's, therefore June through September was spent reading and reviewing those and 2) an epic reading slump hit in October (probably brought on by reading/reviewing all those ARC's even when they weren't necessarily what I wanted to be reading at that time) and is still in full effect. *sobs loudly over reading slump*

So here's a quick look at how I failed two challenges and succeeded at the third by the barest of margins. 

In 2016 I slam-dunked the #ShelfLove Challenge so I was gung-ho to do it again. I set the same goal for myself: to read 31-40 books that I already owned (physical or Kindle). Nope, didn't happen. Instead that number is a paltry 18. The others consisted of new releases, ARC's, library books and new purchases. *sigh*

Then came the Reading Assignment Challenge. Where I pre-assigned myself twelve books to read throughout the year, one per month. I started off strong but then fizzled out. (Again, ARC's... reading slump... blahblahblah.) I actually got back on track in the fall and managed to end the year with 7 of my 12 books read. Not bad, but again, a challenge fail. *double sigh*

That brings us to the Contemporary Romance Challenge. This one seemed like a no-brainer since contemporary is my jam. It's what I read so why not make life easy and join a challenge I'm sure to ace? To be honest, up until this morning I thought I had failed this one, too. I signed up for the Grand Slam level which meant 21+ contemporary romance books read/reviewed/linked up. You get credit for this one by linking up your reviews each month and somehow that proved to be too challenging after the first few months. By summer I wasn't reviewing a book immediately after reading it (I blame those #$@&%*! ARC's) so either I was too late to make it into that month's link-up or I forgot about it completely. But... this morning when I went back and checked the link-up for every month, I saw that I actually managed to get 25 reviews linked up! Thank goodness for a strong start in January and February: 11 contemporary romances read and reviewed in just those two months helped me meet this goal.

Based on these less than stellar results I'm still contemplating what challenges, if any, I'll join for 2018. It's not that I'm bothered by failing two of my challenges (it's all for fun, after all), but maybe I'm better off just reading what I want to read, when I want to read it and leave it at that. What a concept! :)

How about you? How did you do with your 2017 challenges? 
What challenges are you joining in 2018? Let me know!

TOP 10 BOOKS OF 2017

I love all the Top 10/Best-Of lists that come with the end of each year. Whether it’s done in categories or just best overall, reading posts with everyone’s favorites makes me positively giddy. But when it comes to choosing my own favorites… gah! I actually love going through everything I read in the past year (thank you, GoodReads, for making that so easy to do!), but narrowing it down to the Top 10, the cream of the crop… it’s tough. There are so many in the “you almost made it” category. And for that reason I’ll be starting with a few (okay, nine) Honorable Mentions. And it’s not cheating because it’s my list and I can make the rules. :)
A List of Cages – Robin Roe
Tell Me Three Things – Julie Buxbaum
Goodnight, Nic – Marley Jacobs
The Sea of Tranquility – Katja Millay
Letters to the Lost – Brigid Kemmerer
Making Faces – Amy Harmon
Bossman – Vi Keeland
Unraveling Oliver – Liz Nugent

And now to my Top 10 of 2017. To be honest, 2017 was not the most stellar reading year for me. I started off strong – January alone had two books that made it into my Top 10 – but a most unwelcome reading slump hit in October and decided to make itself at home and stay a while. (To give you an idea, I read only four books in October, just three in November, and have managed only one this month.) Here’s hoping for a much better 2018!
Note: These aren’t necessarily 2017 releases (only six were released in 2017), just my top picks from what I read in 2017.

This beautiful romance with a slight paranormal twist captured my heart. I fell in love with Nikolai and Fiona from the very beginning and wished and hoped for their happy ending. Emma Scott delivered some twists I never saw coming, managed to elicit both smiles and tears, and had me not wanting to put the book down. I’ll definitely be reading more from this author.

I downloaded the audio version of Written in Red on a whim and was instantly transported into another world, where The Others – shapeshifters, vampires and more – rule. I was hooked from the very start and proceeded to enjoy all five books in the series. Bishop created characters that managed to feel real, despite this being urban fantasy, and I am completely invested in their story. A perfect example that taking a chance of something outside your reading comfort zone can deliver a new favorite.

Having never read any of Kylie Scott’s adult/new adult novels, I had no idea what to expect when I picked up an ARC of her young adult release. I was totally onboard with Trust from the explosive beginning. With Edie as a main character that was 100% realistic and John as an anti-hero turned hero, a gripping storyline, and truly positive portrayal of a mother-daughter relationship, Trust seemed to contain everything I love in a YA contemporary and delivered it with a cherry on top.

Jennifer Weiner delivered a story that spanned 30 years and still managed to have me wanting more. This was so much more than a second chance romance, but more a tale of two people who overcome their own pasts and oh-so-relatable flaws. Who Do You Love showed in heartbreaking detail what happens when love isn’t always enough. Rachel and Andy’s story was absolutely precious and pulled at every heartstring.

After the sheer epic-ness of Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, I admit I was nervous about what Becky Albertalli would serve up next. I shouldn't have worried because in Molly Peskin-Suso Alberrtalli created a protagonist so relatable that I felt like I was seventeen all over again. Add in a precious little cupcake of a love interest ( I ♥ Reid) and it was obvious that Albertalli had struck gold again.

K.A. Tucker took a foray into straight-up romance this year and all I can say is: I want more. Filled with a strong but vulnerable heroine, a swoony and sweet hockey star, an adorable five year old little girl (who wasn't overly precocious and actually sounded like a five year old), and a rich cast of secondary characters, I let myself drown in the feel-good romance and loved every minute.

For someone who isn't a fantasy reader, I fell hard and fast for the ACOTAR series and have anxiously waited for each new release. And A Court of Wings and Ruin did not disappoint. Maybe it didn't quite reach the perfection of ACOMAF, but it still delivered the characters I love, the villains I love to hate, the action and adventure, the surprises, the laughs, the emotion. It was an incredible ride and I loved it.

I should have kept track of how many times I was moved to tears while reading Far from the Tree (hint: it was a lot) because Robin Benway probably owes me a box of Kleenex. This story of three teenagers who discover they are biological siblings and the relationships that follow grabbed me by the heart and didn't let go. Grace and Maya and Joaquin came alive for me and I finished their story feeling so happy I'd met them.

Equal parts fascinating, disturbing, thought-provoking and heartbreaking, this novel delved into the hearts and minds of characters unlike any I'd read about before. Following Wavy Quinn, the daughter of a meth dealer father and an unstable addict mother, All the Ugly and Wonderful things tells the story of a lonely girl and a lonely man. It tells a story of creating family where there is none. And it tells a story of love, of human agency, and of ultimate acceptance. Truly unforgettable.

My first read of 2017 is my favorite read of 2017. I was already a fan of Amy Harmon when I picked this one up but she outdid herself with this novel set in WW II-era Italy. Her writing was so immersive that I felt as if I was living the story. Eva (an Italian Jew) and Angelo (an American Catholic) were lifelong friends whose differences, which seemed not to matter as children, suddenly meant everything now that war was on their doorstep. From Sand and Ash was often difficult to read, showcasing a cruelty that was beyond belief, but it was also a beautiful depiction of love, faith, endurance and hope. This book is the perfect example of why I read.

Have you read any of these?
What's your favorite book of 2017?

Review: Breaking the Ice by Julie Cross

Breaking the Ice by Julie Cross

Series: Juniper Falls #2

Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Release Date: December 26, 2017

Format: eARC

Source: Entangled Publishing

Find it here: GoodReads | Amazon

Haley Stevenson seems like she’s got it all together: cheer captain, “Princess” of Juniper Falls, and voted Most Likely to Get Things Done. But below the surface, she’s struggling with a less-than-stellar GPA and still reeling from the loss of her first love. Repeating her Civics class during summer school is her chance to Get Things Done, not angst over boys. In fact, she’s sworn them off completely until college.

Fletcher Scott is happy to keep a low profile around Juniper Falls. He’s always been the invisible guy, warming the bench on the hockey team and moonlighting at a job that would make his grandma blush. Suddenly, though, he’s finding he wants more: more time on the ice, and more time with his infuriatingly perfect summer-school study partner. 

But leave it to a girl who requires perfection to shake up a boy who’s ready to break all the rules.

Having read (and totally enjoyed) Cross's Off the Ice earlier this year, I was excited to return to Juniper Falls. And Haley and Fletcher's story did not disappoint.

Fletcher keeps a low profile and does his best to steer clear of his small town's gossip mill. So when popular girl Haley, head cheerleader and Juniper Fall's Princess, asks him to be her partner for a summer school class project he's wary of any involvement. But Haley is persistent and before he knows it they're meeting for study sessions and maybe she isn't the snobby mean girl he assumed she was. Even so, Fletch has plenty of reasons to keep his distance - he and his family have been burned by gossip before and he can't afford to take any chances. He's better off keeping most people at arm's length and not getting too close... right?

Haley was forced to face some hard truths about herself after a break-up. Now she's determined to ace her summer school class and get into a college with a top notch cheerleading squad. Fletcher Scott seems like the perfect class partner but he's stand-offish and secretive. The more time they spend together the more she appreciates the glimpses she sees of another side of Fletch, but Fletch makes no secret of the fact that while he has no problem hooking up, he has no interest in dating. And now the girl who'd sworn off boys until college is falling for the guy who is determined to keep his secrets.

I really loved Haley and Fletcher - separately and together. They were both complicated, flawed characters that felt so realistic. Haley defied the mean girl/cheerleader stereotype and was refreshingly self-aware. Fletcher was dealing with issues that were literally life and death and was, understandably, unwilling to take chances. I loved watching as these two slowly got to know one another and overcame their preconceived ideas about each other. The evolution of their relationship felt so genuine and was filled with flirty banter, hurt feelings, honesty, and some seriously swoony moments. 

One of my favorite aspects of Breaking the Ice was the cast of secondary characters. From Haley's friends Jamie and Leo, to Fletcher's dad and grandpa, this was a group that was equal parts supportive, understanding and willing to give a dose of hard truth when needed. Getting to revisit favorite characters from Off the Ice was a total bonus.

While Breaking the Ice is the second entry in the Juniper Falls series, it can easily be read as a stand-alone. Readers who enjoy realistic YA romance will surely enjoy Haley and Fletcher's story as much as I did. 


Note: An advance reader copy was provided by Entangled Publishing. This in no way changes my opinion of the book or the content of this review.

The Sunday Post #87

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Caffeinated Book Reviewer.
It's a chance to share news - a post to recap the past week on your blog, 
showcase books and things we have received, and share news about what is
coming up on your blog in the week ahead. You can find the info here:

  • Happy Christmas Eve! Hopefully by now everyone has done all they needed to do and is able to slow down, relax, and enjoy time with family and friends.

  • What a difference a week makes! With all the madness at the office finally wrapped up, the past week has been back to normal and I've loved it. I've been able to finish up Christmas errands, wrap gifts, and (are you ready for this?) even read a bit!

  • Speaking of reading... you may recall that I've been in a wicked reading slump the past two months or so. I've just let it slide and haven't tried to force myself to read. However, I am part of a blog tour next week and kinda need to read the book so I can write a review. The Husband, angel that he is, offered to buddy read the book with me in hopes that it would motivate me to get the book read in time. Never mind that it's a YA contemporary... he's totally on-board and is actually several chapters ahead of me! LOL He's been sharing his thoughts, discussing the characters, and it's totally working because I'm more than halfway through and going strong. The fact that he is reading a sweet YA contemporary just makes me giggle every day, but I'm not a bit surprised. He's kind of awesome like that. (Robert, you are the absolute best! ♥)

Tuesday, December 19
New (To Me) Authors in 2017

Tuesday, December 19
Audio Book Review: Always by Sarah Jio


Still nothing... 😢  

Lovers Like Us (Like Us #2) - Krista & Becca Ritchie  
I won a giveaway on Krista & Becca's Facebook group and received a signed and personalized copy of their latest release. What an awesome gift this was!

Until Harry - L.A. Casey
My December Bookworm Box arrived and not only did it contain a book that was already on my Amazon wishlist, but it also included an adorable Book Beau that I know I'll use again and again. Isn't it cute? :)

And last but not least, my pre-order of Brave arrived. Yay!

When I Was Yours - Samantha Towle

A very Merry Christmas to those who celebrate!

How was your week? Any new books? Any news to share? 
I'd love to hear about it!

Review: Always by Sarah Jio

Always by Sarah Jio

Series: No

Genres: Women's Fiction

Release Date: February 7, 2017

Format: Audio

Narrator: Brittant Pressley

Source: OverDrive

Find it here: GoodReads | Amazon

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 the Herald 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’m a sucker for a second-chance romance so Always seemed like one that would be right up my alley. I really enjoyed the dual timeline that portrayed Kailey’s present but also shared, in bits and pieces, her past. In 1996 Kailey met Cade, a music executive with a talent for finding the next big thing in Seattle’s indie music scene. They clicked immediately, their romance was passionate, and they planned a future together. So why, a decade later, is Kailey planning her wedding to another man?

I was so drawn in by Kailey and Cade’s story, wanting to know what happened to them – what happened to Cade. I appreciated the way their story was told in snippets from the past and I found myself waiting anxiously for each “past” chapter. Kailey was a mostly likable character, loyal and determined, but it was Cade who captured my heart and had me wanting to take him by the hand and help him myself. Kailey’s fiancé’s reactions to her seeing Cade and her insistence in helping him rang true and I couldn’t help but empathize with him. This second-chance romance with a touch of mystery was an entertaining and sometimes emotional read.


While I was invested in Kailey and Cade’s story, Jio’s heavy handed narrative covering the homeless issue became preachy and off-putting. The tone throughout the sections where homelessness was addressed made the pacing feel clunky. Additionally, some pretty significant plot holes that were never resolved or revisited also tampered my overall enjoyment a bit.

3.5/5 STARS


New (To Me) Authors In 2017

I didn’t set out to read new authors in 2017, but looking back over my reading this year I can see that I definitely did just that. Some were hits, some were misses, some were pretty forgettable (sad but true), and some became new favorites. So let’s take a look.

I read a total of 35 (yes, THIRTY-FIVE!) new-to-me authors in 2017. I was pretty astounded by that number! I would have guessed less than half that.  Here’s a rundown of all 35:

Vi Keeland, Bryn Greenwood, Kiera Cass, Jeff Zentner, Robin Roe*, Julie Buxbaum, Juilana Keyes, Marley Jacobs*, Anne Bishop, Sarah Jio, Katja Millay, Joanna Wylde, Brigid Kemmerer, S. Jae-Jones*, Sandhya Menon*, Jill Santopolo, Cath Crowley, Sasha Clinton, Emma Scott, Kylie Scott, Emma Chase, Tiffany Pitcock*, London Hale, Katy Upperman*, Sarah White*, L.P. Dover, Tracy Wolff, Martin Wilson, Sara Jade Alan*, Robin Covington, Liz Nugent, Leigh Bardugo, Mary Lindsey, Monica Murphy, Dianne Duvall
*Denotes debut author

Among the books from these 35 authors there were some real stand-outs, so here are the ones that truly made an impression.

In March I downloaded the audio version of Bishop’s Written in Red on a whim. It was unlike anything I typically read and I had no expectations. And I loved it! I was instantly hooked on the story of blood prophet Meg Corbyn and the characters/creatures who dwelled within the Lakeside Courtyard. I quickly made my through all five books in the series and am now anxiously awaiting the next book.

The oh-so-pretty cover of Sugar & Gold caught my eye and the synopsis caught my imagination. I ended up flying through this romance with a slight paranormal twist. Scott managed to surprise me with characters I loved, a plot that I couldn’t predict, and an emotional impact that I didn’t expect. I know I’ll be reading more from Emma Scott… soon.

Truth be told, I only picked up The Serpent King because Shannon (It Starts at Midnight) sang its praises for a solid year. I chose to go the audio route and, while I didn’t love it quite as much as Shannon (who could? LOL), my heart still ached for the characters and their struggles with poverty, abuse, faith, and friendship. And even though it’s been 10 months since reading it, there is one particular scene that has stayed with me and continues to hurt my heart – and probably always will. It’s not often I encounter a specific scene that is so utterly unforgettable, but Zentner managed to create just that, so kudos to him.

When it came to YA contemporary, these authors were new voices that caught my attention. Tell Me Three Things, Letters to the Lost, Trust, and Kissing Max Holden – all four novels had that certain something that just clicked with me and had me ready to read more from each author.