No Faves in 2019

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Okay, let’s get the preliminaries out of the way before I start this post: About 98% of the reason I don’t have a worst or favorites list posted, is honestly out of procrastination and poor planning on my part. Lesson learned for 2020: do better at tracking favorites throughout the year. I have plans in mind to help me with better tracking because for real, when I sat down to start making a list of ‘favorites,’ I became extremely overwhelmed.  As I roamed through my 2019 reads on Goodreads, I realized that books I was positive I’d read in reading years prior, were actually read this year, I saw many titles I’d honestly forgotten about and there was a plethora of titles that I remember reading but couldn’t tell you a single thing about.

My reading goal for 2019 was to read 75 books and I’ve read over 150. As of today, I am less than 10 books away from reading 200 books actually. That is the bomb, and I am so proud of myself. (You know there is a ‘but’ coming) The issue for me is, as I browsed through my reads for 2019, I became aware that at some point during the year my reading became more quantity focused, instead of quality focused.

It is so motivating and inspiring being a part of the online book community and seeing how many books a week some of my friends read. It definitely pushes me and motivates me to step my game up and read more. This is cool. I like seeing how I can incorporate reading into my day to day. What I found myself doing was binging quick reads. Totally fine, but in the end this caused me to neglect so many books that have been sitting unread on my shelves.  Books that at some point sounded interesting enough for me to haul, but also may require a bit more attention and time.

I’ve come to rely heavily on audiobooks. I love audiobooks. Listening to so many though, when I pick up a book that doesn’t have an audiobook available, I cringe a bit inside at the thought of having to actually read the book myself. This is crazy to me, because once upon a time that is the only way I consumed a book. I have seen how many more books I am capable of reading with audiobooks available and how quickly, so thinking of how slowly I read without an audiobook messes with my mojo. It really became about picking up books I could make my way through fast so I could move onto the next book and make my way through it fast!

I remember reaching my reading goal earlier than I tend to. In years past, I typically hit my reading goal mid-June. This year, by the time June came, I’d already surpassed it and as much as I wanted to just chill, it became this rat race..can I hit 120? 120 turned into 150. I think challenging myself is fine, but I would get on audible escape and look for books less than 6 hours, or so many pages and go with that rather than something longer.

Did I read books this year that standout? Absolutely. Do I have favorites? Yes. I am not going to stress myself out though with curating a list this year. Most of the books I loved, have been mentioned either here on the blog, or numerous times over on my Youtube channel. I want 2020 to be the year of dedicating time to the books that blow my mind. Showing love to those slow but steadies. Making dents in those chunkers. I have so many titles that have been calling my name and I’m constantly putting them off, choosing instead, something I can read quicker. I want 2020 to be the year of quantity. I know, I know.. we don’t know what we’re in for when we go into a book. I get it, but I have so many neglected gems sitting on my shelves and I want 2020 to be the year I rectify that.

At the end of 2020, when asked for favorites I want to be able to rattle off titles without having to revert back to Goodreads. I want to just know off the top of my head, whereas with 2019, it really took some though and a few glances back to my Read Shelf.

I would love to hear what your 2019 reading favorites were. Was it an easy list to make?

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#Blogmas Low Country Christmas by Lee Tobin McClain

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Low Country Christmas by Lee Tobin McClain. Holly Gibson has found herself with custody of her young niece Penny. She travels to the town Safe Have, Georgia where according to documents left behind by her sister, is where she would have raised her and is the town baby Penny’s father, Cash O’Dwyer is from.

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Hello, not so surprise baby! This book is essentially the romance between two people who never would have thought of themselves as parents. Holly, because of how she grew up with a negligent mother and the armor she wears around herself for protection. Cash, because he’s just very business minded and while he loves his nieces and nephews, he just never had any interest in being a father himself. The two take the appropriate steps to prove Cash’s fatherhood of baby Penny and this romance is everything you’d expect in a romance after that proof of paternity with a twist of suspense included.

Both Holly and Cash have Mommy issues they are still grappling with. Holly’s Mom was one of those ‘she’s there but not really there’ types, so Holly trusts no one and prefers to be a loner. Cash’s Mom was beat to near death and lost a lot of her memory.

I was a bit frustrated with Holly because even after paternity is proven, and she is in this small town surrounded by Cash’s family which is baby Penny’s family, she is so hesitant to allow them to help her. She tries to do everything by herself. Understandable given what she’s been through, but I thought it a bit selfish. This is baby Penny’s family!

What you get when you pick up Low Country Christmas is a romance between two people whose lives have been completely shaken up by a baby. There are secrets discovered throughout the book that add a spin which lead to the big twist in the book. Does this book in with the addition that has been irking me whilst I make my way through holiday romances? Absolutely, it does. In this one it was totally hard to believe because seriously, the whole read there wasn’t really anything remotely romantic that happened. I felt Cash wanted to budge with Holly but she kept shooting him down and friend zoning him/I’m just here for support zoning him, so he’d retreat back into his shell. Then the twist happens, then it’s the end of the book. So the ending felt off for me. There could have been chemistry but that’s just not how the story was written. Spark! I would have loved more spark between Cash and Holly, and seriously, after having finished this book, it felt like the lack of spark was because of Holly. Well written, guarded character, but it just threw me off when the ending came and all of a sudden there all these feels! It was a bit unbelievable and felt rushed.

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#Blogmas The Giving Heart by Toni Blake

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The Giving Heart by Toni Blake. Lila Sloan travels to remote Summer Island to house sit for her sister Meg. All is well, until she hears this bull dozer on the property with a driver intended on knocking down the trees on it. Enter in, Beck Grainger and the immediate thoughts Sloan has, that Meg will never forgive her if she allows the trees to be knocked down. Were the plans to cut down the trees a secret? Nope, been in the works for months. Beck however, doesn’t like being at odds with his friend Meg’s sister-especially since he finds her so appealing.

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The Giving Heart was on its way to being a five star read for me. Sure, the premise of the book is a little ridiculous as you’re reading it. I had to remind myself a few times that the beef that Lila really tries to perpetuate with Beck is all over some trees. I for one, completely get sad when I see a bunch of trees knocked down-but I don’t think I could stand in front of a crew of construction workers and they’d just halt their work! That part aside though, there was something about this book that had me sucked in. It had been a while since I’d read something that had me hanging on every word, and I found that experience with this book. This is the second book in the Summer Island trilogy so I am assuming the side characters in this book were in the previous book, but I think a lot of my interest in the story lay with the side characters, Dahlia and Suzanne. Dahlia is an older character who epitomized confidence and comfort in her own skin. Suzanne went through a tough divorce and has guarded herself against relationships since. Apparently, Beck has had a thing for her and she’s constantly turned him down..until now. Perfect timing right, with Meg in the picture?

This book becomes this weird love triangle involving two people who are also attempting to be friends. At the same time though, it is also obvious that Suzanne has had plenty of space and opportunity to have made Beck hers. Lila is only in town for a while though, so we see Beck have to make that decision-he could totally play it safe and choose Suzanne who is there, will be there, and is finally willing to give him a chance, or he can follow his heart and go after Lila.

The book strangely felt like a mixture of enemies to lovers and friends to lovers; the enemies part felt one sided. Lila really tries to hate Beck due to the tree cutting situation and I think as a way of denying her attraction to him. He is never a jerk to her though so it’s hard to maintain that front.

This book gave me the wintry feels I was looking for, which I appreciated. I feel like a lot of the 2019 *Christmas Romances* have suffered a bit of false advertisement, but this one definitely delivered. What kept this from being a five star read was the random addition at the end of the book I wasn’t expecting and just didn’t work for me. It is a personal preference. It may work for some readers, but for me, when the characters have only known each other for 300ish pages, it just doesn’t jazz well with me. You guessed it, the proposal. 

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#Blogmas Cowboy Christmas Homecoming

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Cowboy Christmas Homecoming follows Zach Garrett; a war veteran who recently separated from active duty and is back home in Texas, taking it day by day, haunted by his PTSD. Stephanie Gayle is a local fire fighter who has her life completely under control, until the day she locks eyes with Zach. Stephanie has already been in a bit of danger, but whoa..the danger she finds herself in, now that she can’t get Zach from her mind.

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Cowboy Christmas Homecoming is the fourth book in the Dark Horse series, which I tend to take a leap of faith when jumping into a series out of order; that leap being me, hoping  each book can be read as a standalone. I will say, I do think I should have read the previous three books prior to this one-so if interested in this story for yourself, keep that in mind.

Things do feel a bit rushed between Zach and Stephanie. They meetthere is this instant attraction-and then things are getting steamy (a lot steamier than I’d expected, honestly) followed by them basically moving in together. There is a suspense twist in this story, and the way the author weaves the story together, it is the obvious decision that needed to be made, but it was still a little weirdly fast.

This book also has an addition to the story at the end, that through my holiday romance reading, I noticed is this common *thing* authors like to do, and I honestly can’t wrap my head around why..I get it, it’s a romance and we want our happy ever after, but I just don’t think it always has to end in a certain way. Again, in this story it is kind of the obvious decision with one of the specific story arcs within the pages, but it is also another element that just felt and looks really rushed..*spoils* It’s a proposal. There is a wedding. I am not one to hate on someone’s I-do’s, but I want it to feel right and I think with this story, the author attempts to make it feel right because of other elements to the story, which while you’re reading-this is the thing that needs to happen but relationship between Zach and Stephanie wise-I didn’t feel to my core that these two people were ready for that step. Smitten with each other? Check! Head over heels? Check. I wasn’t sold though, on these two being at that level however.

With all of that aside though, this book does do something really wonderful. I tend to avoid military romances. It is a goal of mine to do better, especially now that I am no longer in the military. What June Faver does in this book with Zach and his PTSD is wonderful. More than that however, she really captures what it’s like to be a veteran or a military member who is home. I don’t think people understand the feeling of out place, we feel when we return home. Family is family, and they are happy to have you home, but it is this sad, weird realization for us, that life has continued on while we were gone and no matter the amount of phone calls, you have missed out on so much. While you’re still part of something, at the same time, you feel so out of touch. The author did an amazing job of depicting this with Zach.

What you’ll get with Cowboy Christmas Homecoming is a bit of a fish out of water, war hero who is getting acclimated to civilian life and trying to figure out where in the picture he fits in. A heroine who rescued two kids from a terrible situation and is being hunted by those who are ticked off about it all and the love story between the two. Don’t be fooled by the cute cowboy on the cover with the snow scene in the back; this book is steamier than you’d expect and while I’m not the biggest suspense fan, the suspense element had me on the edge of my seat.

I rated it 4/5 stars on Goodreads.

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Weekly Wrap Up

Weekly Wrap Up

This past week went by in such a haze. Over on my Youtube channel, I have been going so hard with trying to stay on top of #Vlogmas, that it has consumed so much of my life. It has been fun, I’m proud of myself; up to yesterday I had filmed and uploaded everyday. It feels like though, that I haven’t really consumed much. December is almost over and it feels like all I have to show for it is a video everyday. *the struggle* the weird thoughts I tend to have.

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I had two really stand out reads from this past week. Most recently, was Romancing The Beat: Story Structure for Romance Novels. I was in the mood for nonfiction but romance at the same time and decided what a perfect time to remove this gem from the to be read cart. Whether wanting to create a romance novel of your own, or in my case, to step your review game up, I think this gem is a read that’s definitely worth it if you love the genre and want a bit more clarification on the mechanics which make it work.

I also read and loved (of course) Insatiable by Melanie Harlow. This is such an emotional and sexy as hell friends to lovers romance between Noah and Meg that to my core, hit all the right spots.

I chat about it in a recent video on my channel where I break down and chat a bit about a few of my favorite romance tropes..

 

Weekly Wrap Up (1)

On audiobook I have been listening to Fluffy by Julia Kent which I really recommend if you are subscribed to Audible Escape. I highly recommend reading the novella prior to this book, Little Miss Perfect, but this one is hilarious. It is a friends to lovers’ish romance between Will and Mallory. All I’ll say is “my high school crush thinks I’m a porn star.” If anything, read it for the hilarious scene the leads to this quote!

It is safe to say, I am addicted to the Fated Mates podcast. I recently listened to Season 2, Episode 15 which is a recommendations episode. Click here for more info and to check them out.

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At 1 AM this morning, I watched Christmas On my Mind on Hallmark which starred, Alice from Twilight! She did a really good job. She was always my favorite side character in those movies and I’ve missed seeing her. It is so nice to see her in the starring role and in a Hallmark movie.

Of course I am trying my best to keep up with fellow creators vlogmas videos. One I have been loving is my girl Donna Tsundoku. I love her channel, her videos are so creative and I really look forward to seeing what she is reading next.

I hope your week was amazing and your December has been one you’ll definitely remember. I will chat with you soon friends. take care of yourselves. xx.

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#Blogmas This Christmas by Sarah Spade

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This Christmas by Sarah Spade. Let’s set the scene: a guy and a girl meet in a bar, Hi, I’m Nick, Hi, I’m Mary..they’re both lying about who they are, and although they spend a hot, sizzling night together, one of them wakes up alone. Fast forward about a year, Zach has flown out to Salem, Massachusetts to visit his sister Dani, and in walks her friend, Allison. This, my friends, is how Nick and Mary learn they  lied to each other and it’s their first time seeing each other since one of them walked out on the other as they slept.

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This Christmas was a lot of fun. It is book 2 in Sarah Spade’s Holiday Hunk series and I feel like the entire series is going to be a lot of fun. So far, both Halloween Boo and This Christmas have been novellas, so I’m assuming that is what we can expect from the next books in the series.

I feel like with This Christmas, Spade tried to do a bit too much. Don’t get me wrong, it was still fun and very sexy, but she attempted to weave a few things into a short amount of time. It can be done. There are authors who accomplish, a lot in novellas, but in This Christmas, it didn’t work for me. We have the story line of Zach and Allison having met and lied to each other. Then we have second chance with them meeting on the other side of the country. Allison’s parents are also in town and they are those annoying parents who bug her about not being married, so enter in fake boyfriend trope. We have my best friend’s brother, because Allison and Dani are besties, oh and let me not forget the fact that Max and his buddy own the company Dani and Allison work at..so Max is essentially her boss. It is a lot and not very many pages. I feel like with what Sarah Spade wanted to do with this book, it could have totally been a full length novel. This is a personal preference. I felt like with Halloween Boo, we got so much development and back story in such a short amount of pages and with This Christmas it felt like a bunch of things happening but not many things being 100% fleshed out.

Still though, if in need of a quick read to help you reach that Goodreads goal, I think it’s worth a read. Like I stated before, I feel like my issues are more of a personal preference, these things may 100% work for you.

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#Blogmas Christmas In Vermont by Anita Hughes

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Christmas In Vermont by Anita Hughes. I spotted this out of the corner of my eye on a evening trip to Barnes and Noble. Mom trip, just wanted to get out of the house. The cover is stunning and although I knew I didn’t need anymore holiday romances, I couldn’t leave the store without it.

Emma is our heroine in Christmas in Vermont. It is just days before Christmas, and she surprisingly finds a jewelry store open in Manhattan. She goes in, wanting to get some cash for a bracelet her now ex boyfriend gave her. Once in the store though, she sees a watch that she gave to her boyfriend from college, Fletcher. She trades the bracelet for the watch and goes straight to her best friend Brownyn.  Brownyn believes in synchronicity, does some digging and learns that Fletcher is visiting a bed and breakfast in Vermont. She handles all the logistics for Emma and off she goes for Vermont!

signature5da8e3b9ed56dOkay, I didn’t hate this book, but I had more issues with it than I expected. Is it cozy? Yes. It is a good read to cozy up with, warm drink in hand and your favorite winter blanket? Yes. One of the biggest issues I had with this book, is one that I have had with a few other books I’ve read during this holiday romance binge I’m on. The issue is this: I don’t mind a romance where the hero is engaged to another person when the story initially kicks off, but I feel like this can be a tough story line to deliver well on. This is the second book I read, where our hero, Fletcher, is engaged and he’s engaged more than halfway through the book. Obviously, the author has to create some issue that arises that ends the engagement and now creates the part of the story where he and our heroine, Emma, can now pursue their relationship. In their case though, this is a second chance romance because the two dated in college, and I feel the author tried to make it work by giving us flashbacks between then and now. In my opinion though, it just didn’t work.

Was Fletcher’s fiancé just the worst person ever? Not really. She is a young actress trying to make a come up and Fletcher is a Broadway producer. It is obvious she has motives behind being with him, but the reasons why the two parted ways felt she obvious, like obviously this is where the story would go. It was so obvious, it didn’t feel believable.

So, now Fletcher is without a fiancé and realizes what he wants is Emma. By this time, the story feels rushed because there are like 50ish pages left in it. Maybe the author felt like, by giving us the time hopping, it would be enough, but for me it wasn’t.

Another issue I had with the book was in regards to Fletcher’s daughter. When Emma arrives in Vermont, she learns that Fletcher is not only engaged but he has a 9 year old daughter. Emma and his daughter grow very close, because Fletcher and his fiancé are constantly leaving her at the bed and breakfast. As a parent, I was just a tad uncomfortable with this. It felt irresponsible and regardless of your relationship status, the welfare of your 9 year old daughter should be number 1, and I’d think any woman who isn’t on board with that, shouldn’t be your fiancé. Personal opinion, but it just rubbed me the wrong way.

If you can get past all of that however, it is a nice look at the belief that things happen for a reason. A series of events can be happening because they are leading up to something big. It was really interesting.

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