book review

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

Young adult isn’t historically my thing, save for the “classics” like Twilight and The Hunger Games. But To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before on Netflix caught my attention. I watched and found it cute, funny, and the kind of predictable that made it a lovely way to spend an afternoon. Then, after spotting all three books in the series by Jenny Han, I saw it as a sign and bought all three. Now, I’d like to chat about To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

  • Genre: Ya Romance
  • Heat Level: ❤️
  • Overall Rating: 6/6 Glass Slippers

Lara Jean Song Covey is a high school junior with her head in the clouds. Her older sister Margot is off to Scotland for college while her younger sister Kitty is driving her crazy. Lara Jean is quiet and romantic, someone who cries at sad movies and pours her feelings into baking…and letters. Every time she had a crush on a boy and wanted to get over them, she’d write them a love letter and tuck each one in a hat box to never see the light of day. All is well until the letters are sent, and the boys come looking for answers.

Of all the letters that got sent, two are the most problematic. One went to her childhood friend Peter Kavinsky, who is dating her former BFF Gen, and her sister Margot’s ex boyfriend Josh Sanderson. When Josh asks Lara Jean about the letter, she panics and says she’s not into him anymore because she has a boyfriend…Peter. Before she can get her story strait, she and Peter enter into a literal contract to be in a fake relationship. She’ll date him to make Gen jealous and he’ll keep Josh off her back.

As time goes on and Lara Jean and Peter play #relationshipgoals to their peers, the line between reality and pretend becomes blurred. Holding hands in the hallway becomes comforting rather than a way to show off. His notes in class become less about making Gen jealous and more about getting to know Lara Jean. But the contract and real life looms overhead, leaving little room for anything more.

You guys, this book was cute. I know not every character was perfect, but neither are people. Peter was a total jerk at times, but was also more sensitive and thoughtful than you would think. Lara Jean could never verbalize what she wanted, but she was fiercely loyal to her family and had the sort of kindness we look for in others. The growth of their relationship was adorable, the kind of slow burn that was easy to feel as you read. It reminded me of old high school relationships and the bumpy roads they’d take.

Another interesting thing Jenny Han did with To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before was inserting the sorts of problems only faced by Asian Americans. For example, Lara Jean had a rule where she would only dress up as an Asian character on Halloween so no one would guess if she was a Manga character. It was small moments like those that were really poignant to me. Lara Jean wasn’t just a high school girl, she was a biracial high school girl with sets of problems not seen in other YA books with caucasian leads.

Overall, I loved the book and honestly devoured the others in rapid succession. It’s really fun for all ages and was a charming, light read. PS. If you’ve already watched the movie, don’t worry, you’ll still enjoy the book.

book review, New Book

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

The Hunger Games is a comfort read/watch for me. I really loved the apocalyptic setup author Suzanne Collins created. So when The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes came out, I snagged my copy right away.

Overall Rating: 4/6 Glass Slippers

Coriolanus Snow was born in the Capital of Panem to an old Capital family. He had the name and the prestigious penthouse to ensure all doors were open for him. But his parents are dead, leaving him and his elder cousin Tigress to care for their ailing grandmother and make sure no one knows how impoverished the once noble Snows have become.

As the 10th annual Hunger Games draw bear Coriolanus and his classmates are giving the chance to mentor a tribute. He’s given the girl from District 12, a slight against him, as it’s the poorest and weakest district. But his tribute Lucy Gray Baird is a born performer, and soon captures the heart of the capital.

While preparing for the games, Coriolanus and Lucy Gray find they have more in common than they knew, and soon they’re falling fast. From snake bites to escape plans, Coriolanus must decide if he should take of the mantle of the Capital or throw it all away in the search for love.

When I first heard about this book, I was skeptical. We know Coriolanus Snow as a villain, a sickly, evil poison or without a good bone in his body. Collins promised us a new look at the president, one that would make us think differently. I found myself reading, looking for fault in the unsure, charismatic boy who worked day and night to keep the snow family in line with the rest of the capitals elite. I was even rooting for him to come out on top, some thing I didn’t think I would do.

I was completely ready to adore this book, even though some parts were slower than I would’ve liked. But the ending made it difficult for me to love it. It was sharp and sudden, leaving so many unanswered questions that made me close the book with frustration. I know not every book is tied up in a neat bow at the end, but I have to say that I was truly disappointed.

One thing that didn’t disappoint, was the look at the formation of the capital, the way the districts interacted, and the lives of every day citizens. Before, we only knew what Katniss, an uneducated girl from District 12 knew. But Coriolanus was the son of a war hero, a scholar, someone who had an idea of how the larger world worked. Getting the extra locks into peace keepers and what led to the formation of the Hunger Games and beyond was really exciting.

Overall, I liked the book, but didn’t completely love it. Although, if Collins comes out with a new story set in Panam, I will be the first one in line to buy it.

New Book

A Good Man

I read author Rosanna Leo’s romance novel A Good Man, Handyman Book 1, when it first came out, but it’s been rereleased with some sizzling changes and a fabulous new cover.

He tears down walls for a living. She’ll tear down the ones around his heart.

Contractor Michael Zorn is one of the leading men on the successful home improvement show Handymen. He is also revered for an act of bravery he’d rather forget. The press may hound him, but all he really wants is to help couples realize their home renovation dreams.

One of these couples is Emily Daniels and her fiancé, Trent. When Emily inherits an old home in Toronto’s Little Italy, she sees it as the perfect location for her small business. The house needs a lot of work, but her appearance on the Handymen show means Michael and his contractor brothers will help her renovate at a reasonable cost.

When Michael and Emily meet, their chemistry is intense. Emily wants to stay true to Trent, but her fiancé has done nothing but disappoint her. Michael recognizes Trent for what he is—a cheater. And it isn’t long before he breaks Emily’s heart.

At first, Michael only intends to comfort Emily, but their friendship soon flares into passion. Unfortunately, Michael has secrets and wounds of his own, ones he has never trusted to another. Emily is determined to break down his walls, but can she trust her heart to a man who can’t trust himself?

Order your copy now HERE and see how one good man can make all the difference.

Book Lists

Kids, Race, and Reading

This year has been one of upheaval. There have been jobs lost, businesses closed, and kids confused about what’s happening. But there’s also been change. It’s been messy and painful, and it’s still ongoing, but the topic of racism is being discussed within the United States, and the world.

Kids understand more than we give them credit for sometimes. They often won’t recognize the names of murdered Black men and women that flash across the screens, but they feel the tension. They might not get why people walk down city streets with signs, but they understand that they haven’t seen something like that before. For Black families, race and racial injustices are a part of their daily conversations because they feel first hand the pain of racism and the fear of losing another friend, another family member, another community leader. But for white families, like mine, the conversation is just as vital.

My husband and daughter are part of the indigenous community, but I’m white and the color of their skin is considered “safe.” I never fear something happening to my daughter, but I don’t want her growing up blind to the world around her. Books are a helpful way to introduce topics to kids and start conversations they can more easily understand.

I have a short list of some books you may wish to add to your bookshelf to help begin or further the dialogue of what’s wrong, who is hurting, and how we can come together to make things right.

Something Happened in Our Town

Good for preschoolers up, this book was written by a team of psychologists who include helpful conversation starters for parents to help explore the topics of race and racism. It follows a Black and white family as they each discuss a Black man’s death at the hands of the police.

Peaceful Fights for Equal Rights

This one explains ways to protest peacefully and raise awareness like donating money or time and making signs for protests. It’s a simple way to explain how small acts can help to make a big difference.

We’re Different, We’re the same

Using characters kids already know can be helpful in beginning a gentle dialogue at a young age. This book shows how we’re all born different, but that doesn’t mean we should be treated differently.

A is for Activist

This rhyming book is a different spin on the usual ABCs. Important topics replace the fluffy animals and the message is gentle enough for basically all ages.

Momma, Did You Hear the News?

This one follows a young, Black boy as his parents explain police brutality to him. It’s educational and lays out how some communities have a rightful mistrust of the police. It’s a good basis for explaining how something like a simple traffic stop isn’t simple to everyone.

A Kids Book About Racism

A simple title for simple facts. This book isn’t a colorful story using animals instead of people to get a message across, but clearly lays out what racism is and how to confront it.


Brief list, I know, but falling through the book rabbit hope to discover books that are right for your families and your kids is part of the conversation. Have you incorporated books like these into your personal library? Let me know, and please comment is you have any you found particularly helpful.

Stay safe, stay healthy, and best wishes to you and yours.

book review, history, New Book

The House on the Hill

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Irina Shapiro. From the first page, I know there will be heartbreak, betrayal, and a story that will twist through time. So today, I’d like to introduce you to The House on the Hill.

  • Genre: Historical Fiction and Contemporary and Historical Romance
  • Heat Level: ❤️❤️
  • Overall Rating: 6/6 Glass Slippers

In the modern day, Laura has recently been widowed, having lost her husband in Iraq. She leaves their apartment in the heart of Boston for a summer of healing in an old house on the shores of Cape Cod. She’s hoping to leave her ghosts behind and perhaps find new inspiration for a book. But a ghostly visitor shows her there’s something different about the Holland House.

In the 1700s, Sophie is on the cusp of adulthood, counting the days until she can marry Teddy, a boy she’s loved for years. Her book maker father has his sights set on a man with a title or some money, and forbids his only daughter from following her heart. When her hand is forced and she must make a decision to save herself, her life begins to unravel.

While Laura works to learn more about her ghostly visitor and sort out her feelings about the handsome vet she met in town, Sophie’s charmed world shatters. Both women are trapped in webs of lies and grief woven hundreds of years apart, but inexplicably tied.

Every time I read something by Shapiro, I’m instantly on edge. I know terrible things will happen, but I savor the slight feeling of apprehension. Wondering who will be the one to stab the man character in the back is something I’ve come to expect and thoroughly enjoy.

My historical specialty is European-based, so having American history tidbits was very welcome. I live on the East Coast and admittedly don’t know a lot about colonial life other than what’s taught in basic classes. I always like how Shapiro brings in facts to give her books a level of realism that inspires me to explore the themes more on my own.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and recommend it to all lovers of historical fiction and romantic suspense.

book review

After Anna

I love horror and thrillers. Something about zombies and midnight murders really pull me into stories. But nothing gets to me quite like books with realistic bases. Nothing’s scarier to me than what people can to do to each other. I recently read After Anna by Alex Lake and I have a lot to say.

  • Genre: Thriller
  • Overall Rating 6/6 Glass slippers

Julia’s life isn’t perfect. She and her husband are separating, her mother-in-law hates her, and her meetings at work often run late. The one shining spot is her five year old daughter Anna. But one day, another meeting runs late and she doesn’t get to the school in time to pick Anna up. When she arrives, the school is empty and Anna is gone.

A week later, Anna returns. Julia thinks the nightmare is over, but maybe it’s only just begun.

What follows is the harrowing reality for Julia that she has become part of an international news story, the kind she used to read with her morning coffee and think, that would never happen to me. I wouldn’t be so negligent. I wouldn’t make the same mistake as those parents. I would find my daughter.

I have a five year old daughter, so this book hit particularly close to home for me. It mirrored some of my own fears about raising a child in a world so large, it’s scarily easy to disappear. The author did a fantastic job of bringing those feelings to the page in an uncomfortable, winding way that made my skin crawl.

Another element that was particularly jarring was the glimpses into the kidnapper. They had a plan, they were too smart for police, they would never get caught. They were so sure that everything would go just as they hoped, failure was not an option. This little peeks into their thoughts were just enough to drive home how deranged this person was, and how meticulous they were.

Overall, I really enjoyed the chilling tale, even if it had predictable moments. They really caught the terror one small mistake can ultimately bring.

book review, New Book

Try Easy

Escapism is on the top of my reading list, making a Hawaiian vacation themed romance the prefect read. I’d like to chat a bit about Try Easy by Jill Brashear, book one in the Aloha Series.

  • Heat Level: 4/6 Hearts
  • Genre: Sports/Vacation Romance
  • Overall Rating: 5/6 Glass Slippers

In the late 1960’s, fledgling photographer Mary Lou Hunter has always followed the rules to get the life she wants. She plans to marry her picture perfect boyfriend, live in a picture perfect house, and have a picture perfect life. When her best friend invites her on a Hawaiian vacation, Lou and her camera get a shot at something new. But when she steps off the plane and is greeting by a man with a busted lip and the broadest shoulder’s she’d ever seen, Lou realized things aren’t always perfect.

Keoni Makai is a surfing legend on his home island of Oahu. If he could, he’d make surfing his life and reclaim the sport his ancestors created, but the born and bred Hawaiians are still treated as second class citizens in their own homes. Between working at a pineapple cannery by night and surfing by day, he’s been trying to escape his demons, the ones he comes to face with nearly every day on the water. Keoni also has a rule about never getting involved with tourists, even ones who look like Lou.

As the time to Lou’s departure flight draws near, the siren song of the Hawaiian sea entangles her and Keoni in a way neither thought possible.

Try Easy was a good read and a solid travel romance that wasn’t just a cut and dry tale of holiday lust. I curled up on my back deck over several warm afternoons and drifted along the story Brashear wove happily, really never able to guess what would happen next. Every time I thought I had the ending figured out, something else came to pass that was so wonderfully human in that messy way. There was no straight shot to the last page, which was a nice change to some books where you can guess where the story’s heading.

Keoni’s experience as a native Hawaiian was also one I found particularly interesting, from a historian’s standpoint. Hawaii’s entrance into the United States wasn’t some simple signing of papers, but an overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy started by white plantation owners. The racial issues and prejudices began years before Queen Lili’uokalani was forced off her throne and continue to this day. I liked how Brashear touched upon these ongoing issues though Keoni being barred from participating in a local surfing competition, although his white friend, who wasn’t as talented as him, was formally invited.

My only issue with this book is that there wasn’t more! The time jump during Lou’s trip to Hawaii killed me. I’m a huge deal person and thrive on really being in the moment. I would have liked to see the moments between her and Kione really fleshed out, mostly since whenever they did have a scene together, I could really feel the tension between them, which I adored.

Overall, I recommend this book to anyone who misses the feeling of sand between their toes as they’re staying safe at home.

book review, New Book

The Fae King’s Curse

I’m back to chat about The Fae King’s Curse, the second book in the Between Dawn and Dusk series. If you remember, I actually read and reviewed Between Dawn and Dusk already and it got my fantasy romance seal of approval!

  • Genre: Fantasy Romance
  • Heat Level: ❤️❤️❤️❤️
  • Overall Rating: 6/6 Glass Slippers

The firstborn children of all Fae king are blind and can only regain their sight when they meets their fated mate, or soul mate. If they do much as kiss someone else, they will remain blind forever. Kirian, the prince of the Night Realm is no exception. Though he wishes he were as soon as he meets Quinn, a human girl who saves his life when he’s just a child.

Quinn is twelve when she meets Kirian, an odd boy she fishes out of the water. He promises to come back through the timed portal and see her the next day, but a day in the human world is a year for a Fae and she nearly doesn’t recognize him. This continues for years of daily meetings for her and centuries of yearly meetings for him until Quinn is eighteen.

Quinn’s loved him since childhood and fears one day he won’t appear in the woods near her house and he’ll be off with his true fated mate. Before she’s set to leave for college, she tells him she can’t meet him anymore. Loving him and knowing he will one day leave her forever kills her. Then, Kirian does the worst thing possible…he kisses her.

With one kiss, the pair is woven into a tapestry of curses, stardust, and fate.

This is what I was missing in Between Dawn and Dusk. I adore first meetings and Schlosser gave me a good one when a lavender eyed Fae prince and a small town girl in overalls met beside the river and felt sparks. The slow burn was perfect.

I love, love, loved this book and I’m not a huge fantasy romance fan, usually steering more towards the JRR Tolkien vein of elves and dwarves. But the way Quinn and Kirian’s relationship developed and the small quirks they each have had me swooning. I literally read it it one siting with a single break to make whipped coffee and turn on a light. It was funny and heartwarming, but steamy and dark all at the same time.

Congrats, Jamie Schlosser, you just created a fantasy romance fan.

book review

Between Dawn and Dusk

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a fantasy romance with true magical elements. But when I saw the gorgeous cover for Between Dawn and Dusk by Jamie Schlosser, I knew I had to take a chance.

  • Genre: Paranormal Romance
  • Heat Level: ❤️❤️❤️❤️
  • Overall Rating: 5/6 Glass Slippers

In a far off world, fated mates are vital to survival, and if a pair is separated, they’ll slowly go mad until both are dead. Zella, the princess of the Day Realm, fears this may happen to her, as while she’s already met her fated mate, her father has sworn him to be their enemy. He wants Zella to marry someone in their kingdom, but she refuses to accept anything less than true love with the man she’s adored for years.

King Keryth of the Night Realm has been waiting for Zella for ages. He knew it was a fated match when he first saw her, and has been patient for the king of the Day Realm to allow them to marry. But when a wedding is planned between Zella and a man who certainly isn’t him, Keryth knows the time for waiting is long gone.

The Day Realm is dark with kidnappings and ruled with an iron fist, something Zella can no longer live with. The Night Realm promises peace and a chance at happiness. But first, Zella and Keryth will have to survive the wedding.

I enjoyed the book and look forward to reading the second, The Fae King’s Curse. But I do feel like I was missing a lot of delicious details that would have made the book all the better. I wish I could have seen the couple meet, read more about the mysterious illness that killed the women, really get a sense of the world they live in before being thrust into the heart of action. The premise is fantastic and the characters have such deep feelings, I just wish there was more!

Overall, this brief and easy read was a cute story that I truly hope will be further delved into in The Fae King’s Curse!

book review, history

The Tattooist of Auschwitz

Since beginning social distancing, I’ve been diving into my massive TBR list containing books that I’ve had waiting for months upon months. First up, The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris. It’s the memoir of Ludwig “Lali” Sokolov nee Eisenberg, called Lale in the book, and he was once the tattooer of Auschwitz.

  • Genre: Memoir
  • Overall Rating 5/6 Glass Slippers

In April of 1942, Lale arrived in Auschwitz-Berkinau. Due to his wit and talent for languages, he was soon made the tattooist’s apprentice, then the tattooist himself. He was put in the dangerous and prestigious position of tattooing the numbers on the arm of everyone who entered the camp. He had to be a cog in the Nazi machine, but was also able to help save a few lives.

His tattooing bag is a free pass through the camp, a sign of his status as an essential worker. He’s able to speak with guards, meet the workers from the nearby village who are building the crematoriums, and barter for food with goods slipped from the warehouse used to store and sort the stolen possessions of the prisoners. But Lale uses the most of his influence to keep someone special alive.

He first notices Gita’s dark eyes, and soon he’s smitten with the young woman in a way he can’t explain. He begs and steals, cutting deals to get her a job in the administration office where at least she’ll be warm in the long winter months. He trades hidden gems for chocolate with the village workers for her, and does everything in his power to make sure that when they’re free, they’ll have a future together. But first, they have to survive.

In college, I studied the Holocaust in depth, reading memoirs, taking classes, and taking advantage of my school’s Holocaust Resource Center where survivors would often come to speak. Overall, I found the memoir to be both heart wrenching, and a good lesson in humanizing what happened and how it changed the world. It’s easy to look at numbers in a text book and skim over the labels of Jew and Gypsy without really internalizing what those numbers truly mean. Lali wasn’t a number, nor were any of the other victims.

I wrote many papers on that part of history in my genocidal studies program, Auschwitz-Birkenau and Dr. Mengele in particular. I found some inconsistencies in how Morris portrayed Mengele and his experiments, fabricating some parts perhaps for shock value, although what he did was so terrible without the additional attractions, I didn’t see the reason for them. There were other inconsistencies highlighted by the Auschwitz Memorial Research Center, but I won’t go into because after all is said and done, this isn’t a history book, it’s a memoir based on the extraordinary life of one man.

Overall, I enjoyed the book and the story it told, even with the inaccuracies and simple phrasings. Memories, like memoirs, are tricky things, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget the story of Lali Sokolov.