Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Review: The Ex-Max Holidays by Zoe Allison


The Ex-Mas Holidays by Zoe Allison
Publication Date: September 26th 2023 by Berkley & Penguin Audio
Pages: 400
Audio Book Length: 10hrs 58min
Narrator: Nikki Massoud
Source: Publisher & library audiobook
Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo Audible | Goodreads

My Thoughts:
The Ex-Mas Holidays was a sweet second chance romance!  Despite having miscommunication as the original source of conflict and the fact that Sam has a girlfriend for two-thirds of the book, I whole-heartedly enjoyed it! The author weaved a compelling story, and it was easy to like and relate to Sam and Maya.  Their interactions were as reluctant friends, both wary because of what they thought happened in the past. As they get to know each other again, the events from the past don’t seem to fit, and so they start to question what really happened. I was invested in seeing Sam and Maya sort out the past and work their way back to each other.  

I loved the support they provided for each other, and the awesome friends that also helped guide them! Both needed it as they faced their own separate issues. Sam with a toxic girlfriend, gaslighting him and undermining his confidence. Maya’s parents loved her, but her father had very set ideas about the career path Maya should take. He considered the job that brought her joy beneath her, and Maya had a hard time disappointing him.

I alternately read and listened to an audio copy, and I recommend either version. Nikki Massoud’s wonderful performance enhanced my enjoyment.  I loved her Scottish accent! I listened at my usual 1.5x normal speed.  

4 Stars

Book Description:

It’s hard to escape your ex when you’re working together over Christmas in the Scottish Highlands, but being stuck together might be the best possible present in this sparkling new contemporary romance.
Maya Bashir is dreading her drive home for Christmas and having to explain that she's just left her high-paying job and a long-term relationship, so a brief detour to her friend’s festive party doesn’t seem like such a bad idea. Until Maya walks in to find the last person she wants to see. Sam, the boy who broke her heart eight years ago. And he’s serving drinks. Naked.
Sam Holland is working an extra job on the sly to help his friend get by. But little did he expect Maya Bashir to come barrelling back into his life, learning about his secret side-hustle and taking back her old job alongside him at his daytime role as a ski instructor on the slopes of the Scottish Highlands.
As both Sam and Maya realize that their reason for heartbreak so many years ago wasn’t entirely as it seemed, they must learn to stand up for what they want the most…or else miss their second chance at love.

Monday, November 27, 2023

Audiobook Review: The Inheritance by Nora Roberts


Inheritance (The Lost Bride Trilogy #1) by Nora Roberts
Publication Date: November 21st 2023 by Macmillan Audio
Pages: 419
Audio Book Length: 13hrs 51min
Narrator: Brittany Pressley & Nora Roberts (intro)
Source: Publisher
Rating: ½
Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Audible | Goodreads

My Thoughts:
Loved Inheritance! Sonya’s story grabbed me from the start, with her ruined engagement, to how she came to inherit the historic mansion on the coast of Maine. It sounded so gorgeous, with its grand library, breathtaking views of the ocean and a widow’s walk! It’d be hard to refuse even with the ghosts that seem to inhabit the place. Sonya finds out there’s a tragic history, the brides in her family have died soon after marrying. A dark presence laid a curse down long ago that needs to be broken.

 Nora Roberts weaved a captivating tale complete with characters to love and hate. Parts were spooky with unexplained happenings in the mansion, but Sonya had backup and support with her best friend, Cleo, her mother, and the hunky lawyer, Trey. They all are on board with investigating the past and eliminating any threat to the future.

The story stopped at an interesting part, and I was surprised. At first thought that maybe my copy was cut short, but then figured out it was a to-be-continued/cliffhanger sort of ending. I eagerly await the next installment!

Brittany Pressley, one of my favorite narrators, performed each character with a distinct voice, some with accents, and delivered with emotion that brought the characters to life! I completely recommend the audio version! I listened at my usual 1.5x normal speed.

4.5 Stars

Book Description:

Inheritance is the first in The Lost Bride Trilogy by #1 New York Times bestselling author Nora Roberts―a tale of tragedies, loves found and lost, and a family haunted for generations.

1806: Astrid Poole sits in her bridal clothes, overwhelmed with happiness. But before her marriage can be consummated, she is murdered, and the circle of gold torn from her finger. Her last words are a promise to Collin never to leave him…

Graphic designer Sonya MacTavish is stunned to learn that her late father had a twin he never knew about―and that her newly discovered uncle, Collin Poole, has left her almost everything he owned, including a majestic Victorian house on the Maine coast, which the will stipulates she must live in it for at least three years. Her engagement recently broken, she sets off to find out why the boys were separated at birth―and why it was all kept secret until a genealogy website brought it to light.

Trey, the young lawyer who greets her at the sprawling clifftop manor, notes Sonya’s unease―and acknowledges that yes, the place is haunted…but just a little. Sure enough, Sonya finds objects moved and music playing out of nowhere. She sees a painting by her father inexplicably hanging in her deceased uncle’s office, and a portrait of a woman named Astrid, whom the lawyer refers to as “the first lost bride.” It’s becoming clear that Sonya has inherited far more than a house. She has inherited a centuries-old curse, and a puzzle to be solved if there is any hope of breaking it…

Connect with Nora Roberts:

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Sunday Post #231


The Sunday Post is hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated reviewer book blog, and is a post to recap my bookish and non-bookish things from the last week. I'm also linking up to The Sunday Salon hosted by Deb Nance @Readerbuzz.

It's been a busy week with family coming up north here for a visit. My sister's son and his girlfriend came for a visit and so we had Thanksgiving day dinner at my sister's house, met up on Friday for lunch and shopping downtown, and then dinner at our house tonight (Saturday). I need to stop eating for like a week! We had a great time! It was a lot of work preparing. Lots of cooking and cleaning, but it's nice to have a push to get some deep cleaning done. 

It's been cold, but sunny. We've been in the 50s for highs and 30s for lows. We're getting closer to winter! The leaves have been falling and falling! I did a fun puzzle last week called Raking Leaves. Appropriate since we keep raking leaves!

"Raking Leaves" This was a fun puzzle!

Last of the fall colors on our property

(Click on cover for Goodreads link)

The Ex-Mas Holidays- 4 Stars
Inheritance- 4.5 Stars

Received/Purchased/Library Lend:

The Christmas Guest was a library audio novella. How the White Trash Zombie Got Her Groove Back was a giveaway win from Anne @Books of My Heart. Thank you, Anne! Every Time I go on Vacation Someone Dies was a "Read Now" for 48 hours from Netgalley. Thank you to St. Martin's Press! 


Took this before the leaves were gone. 

How was your week?

Friday, November 24, 2023

Review: There Should've Been Eight by Nalini Singh


There Should Have Been Eight by Nalini Singh
Publication Date: November 21st 2023 by Berkley 
Pages: 384
Source: Publisher & purchased audiobook

My Thoughts:
Luna and her friends are reuniting at a remote estate, getting together after years apart, but one of them isn’t part of the group. Bea Shepherd, Darcie’s younger sister, died eight years earlier and it still doesn’t make any sense to Luna. Bea was a bright star in the group, with her magnetic personality, everyone loved her. Luna can’t forgive the way Darcie handled her death, brushing it and the details under the rug.

Luna has struggled with the loss, but now has an added reason to finally get answers about Bea’s death. She’s going blind and wants to be able to look her friends in the face, see their reactions to her questions. She wants the truth, even if her questions stir up anger and bitterness.

Their meet-up turns dangerous as a winter storm cuts them off from civilization, trapping them at the estate while things start going wrong. Tensions grow while they struggle to survive long enough to escape.

Oh, this was a twisty, atmospheric mystery! It took a little to get into it, getting to know the characters and history, but as soon as strange things started happening, I was hooked! The characters stuck together at a gothic-like, creepy estate upped the tension! There were a couple of surprises as all is revealed! I’m still thinking about the story!

4 Stars

Book Description:

In this chilling thriller from New York Times bestselling author Nalini Singh, a remote estate in New Zealand’s Southern Alps hosts a reunion no one will ever forget.

Seven friends.

One last weekend.

A mansion half in ruins.

No room for lies.

Someone is going to confess.

Because there should have been eight. . . .

They met when they were teenagers. Now they’re adults, and time has been kind to some and unkind to others—none more so than to Bea, the one they lost nine long years ago.

They’ve gathered to reminisce at Bea’s family’s estate, a once-glorious mansion straight out of a gothic novel. Best friends, old flames, secret enemies, and new lovers are all under one roof. But when the weather turns and they’re snowed in at the edge of eternity, there’s nowhere left to hide from their shared history.

As the walls close in, the pretense of normality gives way to long-buried grief, bitterness, and rage. Underneath it all, there’s the nagging feeling that Bea’s shocking death wasn’t what it was claimed to be. And before the weekend is through, the truth will be unleashed—no matter the cost. . . .

Connect with Nalini Singh:

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Review: Better Hate than Never by Chloe Liese


Better Hate than Never (Wilmot Sisters #2) by Chloe Liese
Publication Date: October 10th 2023 by Berkley
Pages: 360
Source: Publisher 
Rating: ½

My Thoughts:
Enemies-to-lovers can be a tricky romance trope. It’s hard to wipe out the negative if the characters are super hateful to each other, but I didn’t think Christopher or Kate crossed over the line. They were more in the habit of being contrary to each other, each for different reasons. Kate lashed out, because she felt hurt and rejected by Christopher over and over, and Christopher wanted to keep her at arm’s length, to counteract his attraction to her. He had no idea that his words and actions truly hurt Kate’s feelings.

I can’t write this without mentioning the absolutely yummy sounding doughnuts in the story! Sentences like this: “tart apples and cinnamon, pumpkin and pungent nutmeg, warm vanilla and rich maple syrup” made me crave a doughnut or five, and that wasn’t the only batch mentioned!

Better Hate than Never was a fun reimagining of Taming the Shrew. Ten Things I Hate About You is one of my all-time favorite movies and there’s a few nods to the film in the story. I liked that there was no over-the-top, last-minute drama once Kate and Christopher sorted out their adversarial relationship and acknowledged their sizzling chemistry. Chloe Liese built the tension between these two which resulted in some hot stuff! I loved the family connections and support as well.

 4 Stars

Book Description:

Childhood enemies discover the fine line between love and loathing in this heartfelt reimagining of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew.

Katerina Wilmot and Christopher Petruchio shared backyards as kids, but as adults they won't even share the same hemisphere. That is, until Kate makes a rare visit home, and their fiery animosity rekindles into a raging inferno.

Despite their friends' and families' pleas for peace, Christopher is unconvinced Kate would willingly douse the flames of their enmity. But when a drunken Kate confesses she's only been hostile because she thought he hated her, Christopher vows to make peace with Kate once and for all. Tempting as it is to be swept away by her nemesis-turned-gentleman, Kate isn't sure she can trust his charming good-guy act.

When Christopher's persistence and Kate’s curiosity lead to an impassioned kiss, they realize "peace" is the last thing that will ever be possible between them. As desire gives way to deeper feelings, Kate and Christopher must decide if it’s truly better to hate than to never risk their hearts—or if they already gave them away long ago.

Saturday, November 18, 2023

Sunday Post #230


The Sunday Post is hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated reviewer book blog, and is a post to recap my bookish and non-bookish things from the last week. I'm also linking up to The Sunday Salon hosted by Deb Nance @Readerbuzz.

Worked an extra day again this week. Worked, ran, read and worked my puzzle. Didn't do anything out of the ordinary, but this next week my nephew comes up with his girlfriend and my sister (his mother) and I have dinner planned at her house Thanksgiving Day and at my house on Saturday. We'll probably do the usual when friends/family come to visit. Check out three of the historic towns here, do some shopping, sightseeing. 

It's been pouring all day and I like to stay home when it rains so much, but I had a hair appointment. Came back, fixed dinner, and have been reading. 

I noticed the Goodreads Choice Awards are up. I find their selection lacking and you can no longer write in a title, which is disappointing. I wonder if titles get picked just because they happen to be the one read, not because they were an outstanding read. I was happy with the romance, mystery, and horror selection.

(Click on cover for Goodreads link)

Better Hate Than Never- 3.5 Stars
The Christmas Appeal- 4 Stars

Received/Purchased/Library Lend:

Thank you to HTP books, Dutton, Bethany House, Dreamscape Media and my library! 

Also, won a copy of Magic Bites from Anne @Books of My Heart:

Thank you, Anne!


Such a gorgeous book cover! The story was lovely, too. 
The background to this photo was the view from my bedroom window this last February. Not sure I'm ready for that much snow again, lol!

How was your week?

Review: Check & Mate by Ali Hazelwood


Check & Mate by Ali Hazelwood
Publication Date: November 7th 2023 by G.P. Putnam & Sons for Young Readers & 
Penguin Audio
Pages: 368
Audio Book Length: 9hrs 31min
Narrator: Karissa Vacker
Source: Publisher
Rating: 3-3.5 Stars
Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo Librofm | Audible | Goodreads

My Thoughts:
I have loved most of Ali Hazelwood’s stories, so even though I don’t read much YA anymore I was excited to pick this one up. It ended up being a mixed bag for me. I enjoyed parts, but some not so much, mostly because of Mallory. She was such a frustrating character. The way she treated her friends and Nolan rubbed me the wrong way. Also, I think Mallory’s approach to sex (in the beginning) was supposed to come off as sex positive, but I don’t count <Highlight for spoiler>frequent random hookups on apps like Tinder a positive for anyone<End of spoiler> much less the YA crowd this is being marketed to. Lots of pop culture references, and things in the story that felt they were there to check a box.

Things that worked for me: Nolan! He was so amazing to Mallory and her family. He didn’t get riled up even we he had just cause. Loved Mallory’s friends: Easton, Defne and Oz. Loved how Oz served up some much-needed brutal honesty to Mallory! I enjoyed all the bits about chess. I don’t know much about the game or competitions, but it was fun and it stirred my curiosity for sure.

I alternated between an audio and e-copy of Check & Mate. Karissa Vacker is one of my favorite narrators and I think she made the story more enjoyable. She does such a wonderful job with both male and female voices. She breathed life into these characters for me! I listened at my usual 1.5x normal speed.

I’m one of the few who didn’t love Check & Mate, so I’d check out other reviews, like Kiersten’s on We Live and Breathe Books or Carole's Random Life.

3-3.5 Stars

Book Description:

In this clever and swoonworthy YA debut from the New York Times bestselling author of The Love Hypothesis, life's moving pieces bring rival chess players together in a match for the heart.

Mallory Greenleaf is done with chess. Every move counts nowadays; after the sport led to the destruction of her family four years earlier, Mallory's focus is on her mom, her sisters, and the dead-end job that keeps the lights on. That is, until she begrudgingly agrees to play in one last charity tournament and inadvertently wipes the board with notorious "Kingkiller" Nolan Sawyer: current world champion and reigning Bad Boy of chess.

Nolan's loss to an unknown rook-ie shocks everyone. What's even more confusing? His desire to cross pawns again. What kind of gambit is Nolan playing? The smart move would be to walk away. Resign. Game over. But Mallory's victory opens the door to sorely needed cash-prizes and despite everything, she can't help feeling drawn to the enigmatic strategist....

As she rockets up the ranks, Mallory struggles to keep her family safely separated from the game that wrecked it in the first place. And as her love for the sport she so desperately wanted to hate begins to rekindle, Mallory quickly realizes that the games aren't only on the board, the spotlight is brighter than she imagined, and the competition can be fierce (-ly attractive. And intelligent...and infuriating...)

Friday, November 17, 2023

Review: The Whole Time by Catherine Bybee


The Whole Time (The D'Angelos #4)  by Catherine Bybee
Publication Date: November 14th 2023 by Montlake
Pages: 363
Source: Publisher 

My Thoughts:
Selena Barone has lived with her parents and worked for the D’Angelo’s family restaurant in Little Italy, San Diego, which was fine since she just wanted to have fun, but at 26 she needs independence. Her parents feel she shouldn’t move out unless she’s marrying. Unfortunately, as Selena discovers, being an adult on her own is expensive, and while she loves at the D’Angelo’s since they’re like family, it doesn’t quite cover the bills. Selena gets an unexpected break doing something she loves, yet she’s apprehensive about telling others, worried about how her parents and friends will react. She knows her parents would completely disapprove and judge.

Falling for Ryan Rutledge isn’t part of her plan, but their instant attraction takes hold. Their romance is a slow dance, since Selena isn’t keen on jumping in after she’s been hounded by her parents over and over to find a man and become a wife. Like that should be the only appropriate goal for a woman.

The D’Angelo’s were a large, loving Italian family, a bit nosy, but it all came from a place of love. The mother made me laugh. Selena’s parents, not so much. They were overbearing and too much. Thankfully Selena handled them well.

The Whole Time was an easy-going romance, with Selena finding her path as an adult, managing family expectations, and finding happiness. I enjoyed Selena’s journey growing up and falling in love. The romance was a slow burn, full of chemistry!

4 Stars

Book Description:

From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Catherine Bybee comes a tale of a strong-willed dancer exercising her independence and the rich biker she can’t let go.

Salena Barone has broken free of her family and moved into an apartment above the D’Angelos' restaurant, where she works as a manager—without a husband, thank you very much. But even on a restaurant salary, she soon finds herself strapped for cash. Salena’s never been afraid of living on the wild side, though, so she takes on a side hustle that’ll raise big bucks…and eyebrows, if anyone finds out.

Tattooed biker Ryan is the youngest of the wealthy Rutledge wine family and has never dreamed of rings, forever, or continuing the family business. He’s perfectly happy living his own life and helping out hardworking folks in his own way.

When these two independent singles spot each other at a Rutledge-D’Angelo wedding, the attraction is instant. But as their friendship with benefits evolves into something more, the secrets Salena’s keeping—from family, friends, and Ryan—threaten the happily ever after she never knew she wanted.


About the author:
Catherine is a #1 Wall Street Journal, Amazon, and Indie Reader bestselling author. In addition, her books have also graced The New York Times and USA Today bestsellers lists. In total, she has written thirty-nine beloved books that have collectively sold more than 10 million copies and have been translated into more than twenty languages.

Raised in Washington State, Bybee moved to Southern California in the hope of becoming a movie star. After growing bored with waiting tables, she returned to school and became a registered nurse, spending most of her career in urban emergency rooms. She now writes full time and has penned The Not Quite seriesThe Weekday Brides seriesThe Most Likely To series, and The First Wives series.


Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Review: Christmas at the Shelter Inn by RaeAnne Thayne


Christmas at the Shelter Inn by RaeAnne Thayne
Publication Date: October 3rd 2023 by Canary Street Press
Pages: 304
Source: Publisher 
Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Goodreads

My Thoughts:
Natalie has come back to her hometown of Shelter Springs, Idaho after her sister, McKenna, sent out an SOS when she's ordered on bedrest having a high-risk pregnancy. McKenna needs help with her two young daughters and the Shelter Springs Inn, the Inn her parents ran. Natalie has stayed away from Shelter Springs most of her adult life since it holds memories of grief and abandonment. Her mother died when she was just sixteen and her father took off soon after, just when she needed him most leaving her in the care of an aunt.

As soon as Natalie graduated, she took on jobs all over the world as a house sitter, feeding a drive to travel after growing up at the Shelter Springs Inn, watching others enjoy their vacations staying at the inn and while their family couldn't leave. Yet now coming back she realizes all she’s been missing. Family, friends, a sense of community.  Also, there’s Griffin Taylor, her best friend’s older, handsome brother who seems to be there every time she needs a helping hand. Her feelings for him grow the more time they spend together.

I related so much to Natalie, especially regarding her relationship with her father. Yes, he was grieving, but he really hurt Natalie with his abandonment. Still, I couldn’t help but feel for him, too, because he lost his wife. I loved how Natalie couldn't help but become attached to all these wonderful people, her sister and nieces and of course, Griffin! 

Christmas at the Shelter Inn was more than a romance, it was a story about healing, forgiveness, family, and community. I adored this uplifting story!

4 Stars

Book Description:

Come home to Shelter Springs this Christmas, where hearts are warm and hopes are bright…

Growing up at the Shelter Inn hotel, Natalie Shepherd envied guests who could come and go as they pleased. So when it was time to finally leave for college and put the lush green mountains around Shelter Springs—along with the cloud of loss that seemed to follow her family—behind her, she swore she’d never come back. But now her sister McKenna needs a favor. On pregnancy bed rest at doctor’s orders, McKenna needs a helping hand with her two young daughters and someone to take over the inn during the hectic holiday season, and Nat can’t refuse. And just when things can’t get worse, she runs into her late brother’s best friend, Griffin Taylor…

Griff has mixed feelings about Natalie’s return. She’s just as beautiful and full of life as he remembered, but there’s a secret he’s carried for years about her brother—and the guilt is eating away at him. Still, Christmas in this small town is filled with treasured traditions and new adventures that hold the promise of something sweet and lasting. From matchmaking seniors to rambunctious nieces, it seems everyone is hoping Nat and Griff will put loss behind them and find a happy new beginning…

Monday, November 13, 2023

Top Ten Tuesday: Mainstream Popular Authors that I Still Have Not Read


Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Artsy Reader where each week they post a new top ten list and ask fellow bookish folk to share their lists on that topic. 

This week: Mainstream Popular Authors that I Still Have Not Read:

J.K. Rowling:
Yep, never read the Harry Potter series. I've watched the movies, though.

Stephen King:
Technically I've read one book, but it was a novella a while back. Would love to start his Holly series.

John Grisham:
I've watched plenty of movies based on his books, but never read him.

George R.R. Martin:
Never read his books and haven't watched the series. I probably won't either. From what I've heard it's too intense for me.

Anne Rice: 
Watched Interview with the Vampire about a million years ago, but never had the desire to read the books. 

Diana Gabaldon:
I started Outlander a long while back, before Goodreads, but lost interest. I haven't watched the TV series either.

Jane Austen!
Can you believe this?! I really need to read Pride & Prejudice. I've watched so many film adaptations of her books. Never get tired of seeing them. 

James Patterson:
This is another one where I've technically read him, but it was a co-written with Bill Clinton. Not sure if that counts. He co-authors a lot of books and I wonder how much he is writing. 

Charlaine Harris:
Never read any of her Sookie Stackhouse books and I only watched a couple of the episodes of the TV series. 

Elin Hilderbrand:
I've seen her books all over the place. I'm just never all that motivated to pick one up. She does sound like an author I'd probably like. 

Have you read any authors on this list?