Sunday, February 28, 2016

Review: "Reserved" by Tracy Ewens (Romantic Comedy, New Adult)

Reserved (Love Story #4)
by Tracy Ewens

Publisher: Tracy Ewens
Series: Love Story
Books in Series: Premiere (#1), Candidate (#2), Taste (#3) (affil.)
My Other Reviews: Taste (#3)
Genre: Romantic Comedy, New Adult
My Content Rating: PG-13

Publication Date: February 9, 2016

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Description from Publisher: Makenna Rye Conroy was living the dream—amazing husband, beautiful new baby daughter—when one night changed everything.

Almost six years after Adam’s death, Makenna and her daughter Paige have built a solid, happy life together. Makenna manages her brother’s trendy restaurant, The Yard, and helps out at Ryeland Farms, the family business, all while trying to navigate the world of private school parenting. Sure, being a single mom has its challenges, but she hardly has time to pack her daughter’s lunch in the morning, let alone think about dating.

Travis McNulty, the middle child and the biggest disappointment of the McNulty clan, is a chef at his best friend’s new restaurant. He gave up apologizing for not being the football hero his family wanted a long time ago. In fact, Travis apologizes for very little these days. He loves creating great food, it’s more of a passion than any job, and he lives life on his own terms with as little complication as possible.

For the past couple years, Makenna and Travis have worked alongside each other at The Yard, bickering, teasing, and never taking each other very seriously. Until Makenna has her usual reoccurring dream, but this time instead of her late husband as the featured man, Travis stands in his place. Travis may be attracted to his best friend’s sister, but she’s a widow and a mother, which tops the charts for complicated in his book.

As the game changes, Makenna and Travis, with a little help from Paige, have to figure out what they are willing to risk to reserve a table for three.

My Rating:
Sexiness Rating:
Tracy Ewens knocks another one out of the park! I haven't yet read the first two books in the Love Story series, but I received an ARC for her 3rd book, Taste, a few months ago and loved it. In fact, I loved it so much that I hesitated a bit to read "Reserved" (Makenna's story). I sort of felt that the story of Makenna and Travis couldn't match Logan and Kara's.

And, let me tell you, I was so very wrong. I actually liked "Reserved" even more than "Taste"! There is just so much heart in Ewens' writing and it all feels so real that you fall in love with her characters, which are that much more endearing this time around. Perhaps I loved this one more because Makenna is a mother and Travis is a bit of a underdog.

The romance in this story is almost secondary to the solid friendship that is built between Makenna & Travis and Paige & Travis. There is definitely sexual tension there, but it really feels more like an emotional connection rather than just lust.

Makenna's daughter, Paige, is also so stinkin' cute. She's written well and is a very believable 5-almost-6-year-old little girl, though a bit precocious. This story alternated views, Travis and Kenna, but Paige almost felt like a third view at times. So often stories of mothers only use the kid as a convenient plot device, with the kid almost disappearing otherwise, but not here. Nope. Here, you get awesomeness like this:
"She was explaining that the stork was going to bring her family a baby sister. The class was overjoyed and clapping, until little Paige told her that wasn't true, that the baby would need to travel through the birth canal and come out of her mother's vagina."
"No, he's My Travis. Sierra at schools says, 'My daddy makes my lunch every morning.' So I told her that My Travis makes my lunch. See, Mamma? He's My Travis."

I felt that Kenna's grief and Travis's insecurities were both well fleshed-out and the way they handled everything (eventually) was refreshing. The humor, and there is a lot of it, is laugh-out-loud funny at times. The sadness or frustration is palpable. The wrench tossed into their relationship isn't melodramatic; It's very REAL.

Overall, I highly recommend this and, at this point, anything Tracy Ewens writes to anyone who is a fan of Romantic Comedies with heart.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Review: "Draw Me Close" by Nicole Michaels (Romantic Comedy, Contemporary Romance)

Draw Me Close (Hearts & Crafts #3)
by Nicole Michaels

Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Series: Win Me Over (#1), Start Me Up (#2) (affil.)
Genre: Romantic Comedy, Contemporary Romance
Publication Date: March 1, 2016

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Description from Publisher:
Lindsey Morales is a decorating genius with a natural flair for design and an eye for a bargain. As a contributor to a popular lifestyle blog, she can take anything from trash to treasure—except for her own life. Burned once, and badly, she's more than twice shy, especially when it comes to the breathtaking builder who broke her heart…

Architect Derek Walsh has made a name for himself designing sleekly modern buildings, but when renovating a hundred-year-old farmhouse gives him the chance to see Lindsey again, he jumps at it. Still dreaming about her after eight long years apart, he'll do anything to prove that he's serious about spending the future with her. Can he convince sassy, stubborn Lindsey that they can DIY their own happy ending?

My Rating:
Sexiness Rating:
I received a digital ARC from the publisher through for an honest, unbiased review. This in no way affected my review.

This was the first book in the Hearts and Crafts series that I read, so I wasn't already familiar with Anne or Callie, but that wasn't necessary. The bits about their relationships, especially Anne & Mike's, did peak my interest and I will definitely be tracking down "Start Me Up."

From the beginning, we are teased with the reactions to situations without knowing exactly how justified those reactions are. Slowly, over the course of the first half of the book, those details are fleshed out alongside the build-up of the relationship between Lindsey and Derek, as well as the secondary characters.

And let me tell you, I really enjoyed that. There were peeks into their past, some of them sexy, some of them touching. You know where it's all leading, but the lead-up is so very well done that you love Derek, you love Lindsey, and you love Derek & Lindsey. The fact that they don't just start things up again as though 8 years has never passed is honestly great. There were moments that had me laughing out loud, or smirking, or just smiling. The "post-it note" thing in the very beginning is funny and sets a good tone for the book.

I appreciated that there wasn't a big throw-down as the climax - it felt much more realistic than so many others I have read. I did, however, expect a bit more fireworks at the wedding and was a bit disappointed, though there were so many earlier scenes where hearts were bared that it did make sense.

The final interaction we see between Derek and his ex-wife, Lisa, is wonderful, in my opinion. It was refreshing and real. I wouldn't be opposed to a story featuring Lisa, though this seems to be the last book in this series.

I also wanted to remark on the kids and parenting done in this book. As a mom, I really enjoyed how cute and normal the kids were, and the interactions between the parents and their kids. As a nursing mom, I really liked how natural the subject of breastfeeding and pumped bottles was brought up (very subtle references, like "switching sides").

The last things I'll comment on are the crafting and small business angle. Pinterest, Etsy, First Friday, food trucks... Nicole Michaels did a fantastic job of weaving it all into the story without being over-the-top or like a tutorial. It added a fair amount of charm and depth to the characters and story, which I liked.

This was a fun, quick read that I thoroughly enjoyed. I definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys romantic comedies with heart and a satisfying amount of steaminess.

­čîčREVIEW: "LMNO" Peas by Keith Baker (Childrens Fiction, Alphabet book)

by Keith Baker

Publisher:Beach Lane Books
Series: 123 Peas, Little Green Peas, Hap-Pea All Year (affil.)
Genre: Childrens Fiction, Alphabet
Publication Date: April 6th 2010

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Description from Publisher: Get ready to roll through the alphabet with a jaunty cast of busy little peas. Featuring a range of zippy characters from Acrobat Peas to Zoologist Peas, this picture book highlights a variety of interests, hobbies, and careers; each one themed to a letter of the alphabet and gives a wonderful sense of the colorful world we live in.

This page was one of my son's favorite pages from the time he was about 18 months old. He still loves pointing out the different cars, trucks, and buses. And, of course, the biker under the road. ;)

My Rating:
Ah, LMNO Peas. This was one of the first books I picked up on a whim for my son, mostly drawn in by the art style and the fact that it appeared quirky and whimsical with little pea people. 3 years later, it is easily one of my favorite childrens books. So much so, I have considered contacting the publisher to purchase them in bulk to give as gifts!

Why do I love this book? Well, it does have a great style and the "pea-ple" are as quirky and whimsical as I initially thought. It also has some very unique "alphabet" choices, like "Best Friends in a Band," "Parachutists," and "Yogis in a pose." And the re-readability is fantastic! Every page has a good amount of things going on that will entertain your kiddo. Enough that it will take several reads before everything has been taken in. Don't forget to find the ladybug that hangs around with the peas! (There is one on every spread of illustration.)

The rhythm is also really fun, with great rhymes (make sure you read the word bubbles or you'll miss part of the rhyme!). Fantastically written!

This book is available in board book, hardcover, and paperback. Personally, I would recommend the board book. It's a good size (8" x 8") and is especially perfect for little hands.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Review: "Until It's Right" by Jamie Howard (New Adult, Contemporary Romance, Nerd Romance)

Until It's Right
by Jamie Howard

Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary Romance (Nerd Romance)
Publication Date: March 1, 2016

Standalone: Yes
Other Books by Jamie Howard:
Until We Break GoodReads Amazon

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Description from Publisher:
Haley Mitchell is tired of moping. With her broken heart repaired with a thick layer of duct tape, she’s ready to put her ex behind her and move on. After a chance encounter in a club, she’s convinced she’s met Mr. Perfect. But when he accidentally gives her the wrong number, the stranger on the other end of her texts becomes her confidant.

Kyle Lawson has always had more luck with computers than women. So when the new temp, Haley, arrives, he has the misfortune of falling for her, only to land firmly in the friend zone. But when he learns the mysterious woman he’s been texting is actually Haley, he keeps the entire thing a secret.

As things move straight from platonic to decidedly hot, Kyle must come clean about his secret texting identity and risk losing the woman he’s fallen in love with.

My Rating:
Heat Rating:

My Musings:
This book was such a wonderful read!! I absolutely loved Kyle! He was adorable and sexy and sweet... And he was a nerd.

I suppose I may have some bias here as he is exactly my "type" and there were more than a few similarities between him and my husband. ;) But I so very much enjoyed his character and his perspective that I am a bit sad the book is over.

From the first few pages, I fell into this book, even before Kyle is introduced. Haley was also a very real and believable character and I liked her from the beginning. I was even disappointed when she got Bryce's number wrong, until we see "Clark's" adorable snarkiness.

I got so very sucked into their romance that I stayed up way too late and finished this in one sitting. It was funny, touching, and well-written. The struggles Haley and Kyle experienced both individually and together were realistic and I couldn't not root for them throughout.

The side characters were also very likable and I am excited to read more (I hadn't realized until after I read this that there was already a book about Sloane and Luke). Though I will miss Kyle.
My Source: I received a digital ARC from St. Martin's Press through for an honest, unbiased review. This in no way affected my review. (This one would be worth every penny - go get it!)

About the Author
Jamie Howard is a legal and compliance specialist by day, author by night, and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Art. When she’s not tapping away at the keyboard or capturing the world through her trusty Canon, you can find her binge-watching TV shows, devouring books, and perfecting her gaming skills. She lives with her husband, son, and three dogs in New Jersey, and is almost always awake early enough to see the sun rise, even on the weekends.
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