Short Take Reviews: The Newlyweds, Rogue Wave, Hunker Down with the McKallisters (Cake series #4 - #5.5) by J. Bengtsson



J. Bengtsson
Series: Cake #4
Published: February 25, 2018
Source: Audible
4.5 stars

Fate doesn’t own Jake McKallister. At least, that’s what he tells himself. Life is better than ever. He’s at the top of his game, performing to sold-out crowds the world over. He has his health and a solid, fun-loving family to keep him grounded.

And he got the girl - the beautiful, quirky girl he’s just made his wife.

Yes, life is good. If only fate would stop screaming in his ear.

Lucky is the best word for Casey McKallister. She has an awesome support system, a nerd’s dream job at a prestigious accounting firm, and best of all, she’s married to the hottest rock star to ever roam the earth.

Yes, life is perfect… until it all comes crashing down around her.

They say love conquers all. That’s what Jake and Casey are counting on. 

Getting to revisit a favorite fictional couple is like a gift direct to me from the author. Sure, there’s always the chance that things will go terribly wrong, you no longer recognize these people that you once loved so dearly, but I trusted Bengtsson to do right by Casey and Jake. And that trust was rewarded with this little fantastic follow-up.

I wasn’t too far into The Newlyweds when I felt like I had a good idea of the direction it was going to take. (And, confession time, I wasn’t overly jazzed about it.) But I should have known Bengtsson wouldn't go the typical, expected route, because I wasn't surprised when the story veered left and delivered a plot twist that I never saw coming. Jake and Casey found themselves in an unexpected position and dealt with their new situation the same way they’d dealt with other challenges: together. I adore this couple and the entire McKallister clan. And the audio version, again narrated by Andi Arndt and Joe Arden, was perfection. 
J. Bengtsson
Series: Cake #5
Published: March 19, 2019
Source: Audible
4 stars

A love story that survives the test of time.

Keith McKallister is the king of the stoners. You know the type. Every school has one – the hot, fun, dopey guy beloved by the student body but despised by, well, just about everyone else. He spends his early mornings in the ocean and his days trying to get to class on time. Life is as easy as it gets until one poor choice too many catches up with him and he’s forced to reevaluate his path.

Samantha Anderson sits in the front row. You know the type. Every school has one – the quiet, faceless, studious girl who fears the taunts of her peers and fades into the background. Life has never been simple for Samantha, and it’s about to get a little more complicated when Keith slides into the seat beside her with a partnership plan designed for his benefit only. But what Keith brings to the table is more than either of them could imagine.

Sometimes the person you least expect to make a difference will change your life forever. Sometimes the person you love the most might be better off without you.


As much as I enjoyed more of the McKallister family’s stories, I had a couple issues with this entry that kept me from loving it quite as much as the others. For one, a big chunk of it took place during Sam and Keith’s high school years and, while I understood that was necessary to show the beginning of Keith’s issues with addition, I found myself wishing for more adult Keith + Sam instead of school-age Keith + Sam. There were times I wanted to shake Keith senseless – more like shake some sense into him – for consistently checking out on his family when they needed him most, and turning to the escape of drugs.

That being said, there was a lot more that I loved about Rogue Wave than the few things that left me wanting. We see Jake’s abduction from yet another point of view and gain even more understanding of how it shook the entire family. The special relationships between all the siblings continues to be a real highlight for me. The dialogue and the humor are always spot-on (Bengtsson is so gifted with both!) and make these characters really come to life.

J. Bengtsson
Series: Cake #5.5
Published: October 14,2020
Source: Audible
4.25 stars

For fans of the Cake series by J. Bengtsson comes a funny, heartwarming companion novella featuring the Cake characters in lockdown.

Just like the rest of the world, the McKallisters find themselves struggling to conform to a new way of life after the virus confines them to their homes. These connected short stories give fans a chance to catch up on all of their favorite Cake characters as well as enjoy a bonus epilogue and interviews with the characters.

Find out how Jake and Kyle cope with isolation—and each other—after they enter quarantine following exposure to the virus. Follow Finn and Emma as they desperately try to prevent a super spreader event at Perryland—while attempting to ration the toilet paper. And go on a humorous journey with Quinn as he searches for a place to stay after initially refusing to lock down with the others. 


This companion novella to the Cake series was such a little gem. At only 124 pages (just over 2 hours on audio) it went by in a flash, but I loved the glimpse into how the (growing!) McKallister clan was handling lockdown. Bengtsson did an amazing job capturing the fears and uncertainties of life during a pandemic, but also injected it with her signature humor and heart. There were some laugh out loud moments – like Casey trying to wrangle three small children at home, with the youngest ending up in the litter box – and some that hit me right in the feels. The bonus content at the end included interviews with all the characters and was the perfect cherry on top.


Release Blitz / Review: Could Have Been Us by Corinne Michaels

Could Have Been Us by Corinne Michaels is now live!

New York Times Bestselling author Corinne Michaels returns to the Willow Creek Valley Series in this stunning small town, brother's best friend romance.

Fifteen years ago, I fell for Jack O'Donnell.

I was just a girl, but I knew my brother's best friend was the only man I'd ever love.

On my eighteenth birthday, when I asked him to kiss me, I never imagined it would change my life so completely.

I gave Jack everything that night.

In order to move on, we had to go our separate ways and pretend like nothing happened... as though it wasn't the greatest moment of my life.

But even that wasn't as heartbreaking as the secret we were forced to keep.

I've tried not to think about how much I still love him. How I long to be back in his strong arms or the way his hazel eyes make my heart race.

Until he kisses me again. And this time there's no turning back. This time I know what it means.

We belong together and there's no use denying it any longer.

But our feelings aren't the only thing that won't stay buried, our past resurfaces and threatens to destroy our second chance at happiness.

When our love is tested once again, will we be strong enough to stand together?


Download today on Amazon, Apple Books, Audible, Google Play, Kobo, Barnes & Noble!


Apple Books:



Google Play:


Narrated by: Ava Erickson & Jason Clarke


Add to Goodreads:

“I’ll do whatever you want, Stella. I told you that. 
I’ll go against your father, your brother, the whole world if that’s what you need.”

Truth: I got choked up in the very first chapter and shed a few tears. The. Very. First. Chapter. Leave it to Corinne Michaels to bring on the feels in the first dozen pages.

In Could Have Been Us we get Stella and Jack’s story and I was all-in from the very start. These two had a past, which was revealed from the very start, and that past broke them both. While outwardly they moved on with their lives, inside they were consumed with guilt and loss. Even though they both suffered in silence, they handled it very differently, and that meant they were unable to turn to one another for comfort and understanding.

Fast forward twelve years and very little had changed. Stella and Jack were still in each other’s lives, since Jack was the best friend of Stella’s brother, but they kept their distance. Until they didn’t. Their connection, their chemistry was stronger than ever. But just as they took steps to be together and move forward, their past came back in a big way. And suddenly they were faced with decisions they never imagined and telling truths that they always meant to stay hidden.

I loved returning to Willow Creek Valley and all the characters there. Stella and Jack’s backstory broke my heart. What I loved most was how their feelings for one another never wavered. I loved where Michaels took this story and the bumpy, curvy road to the HEA. If you’ve already discovered Corinne Michaels, you know that any new release from her is a must-read. And if you haven’t, what are you waiting for? 4.5 stars

Meet Corinne

Corinne Michaels is a New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of romance novels. Her stories are chock full of emotion, humor, and unrelenting love, and she enjoys putting her characters through intense heartbreak before finding a way to heal them through their struggles.

Corinne is a former Navy wife and happily married to the man of her dreams. She began her writing career after spending months away from her husband while he was deployed--reading and writing were her escapes from the loneliness. Corinne now lives in Virginia with her husband and is the emotional, witty, sarcastic, and fun-loving mom of two beautiful children.

Connect with Corinne





Facebook Group:







The Sunday Post #246 | April 25, 2021


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 share what's coming up on your blog in the week ahead. 
No idea why, but it seemed like a looong week. I was so happy to see the weekend roll around. How was your week?

On Wednesday I met my bosses for lunch at 4Rivers and it was a great outing. It was the first time the four of us have been together at the same time in months (since last fall, I think). It was casual without too much work talk and a good time. It was also a bit tricky to stay on track given the menu options but I chose as best I could: smoked turkey, collard greens, a side salad with vinaigrette. When what I really wanted was brisket, mac and cheese and sweet potato casserole. LOL

Speaking of food, I made a breakfast casserole that was a big hit: Sausage & Bacon Maple Biscuit Breakfast Bake. Yum, right? It made six servings so The Husband and I had it three mornings in a row and it reheated just as well as when it was hot out of the oven. This is a "lighter version" (and I made it even lighter by using turkey sausage and almond milk) but you could certainly make it more decadent by using pork sausage and regular milk and syrup. 

Photo credit: Drizzle Me Skinny

Yesterday was my younger sister's (Terri's) birthday so me, my mom and my sisters met up for lunch at a local spot that offers outdoor seating. It was the first time the four of us have been together since Christmas and it was the best! I miss being with them so much. Now that all four of us are vaccinated (Terri still has her second dose to go) I can see more get-together's in our future. 

Terri is a big Stevie Nicks fan so in honor of her birthday, this week's 80's music fix is Stand Back (1983). Enjoy it, Terri! 

Tuesday, April 20

Wednesday, April 21

Friday, April 23





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