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.

book review

A Criminal Magic by Lee Kelly

Hello Everyone! I’m here with my most recent read, A Criminal Magic.

Blurb: Magic is powerful, dangerous and addictive – and after passage of the 18th Amendment, it is finally illegal.

It’s 1926 in Washington, DC, and while Anti-Sorcery activists have achieved
the Prohibition of sorcery, the city’s magic underworld is booming.
Sorcerers cast illusions to aid mobsters’ crime sprees. Smugglers
funnel magic contraband in from overseas. Gangs have established secret
performance venues where patrons can lose themselves in magic, and take
a mind-bending, intoxicating elixir known as the sorcerer’s shine.

Joan Kendrick, a young sorcerer from Norfolk County, Virginia accepts an
offer to work for DC’s most notorious crime syndicate, the Shaw Gang,
when her family’s home is repossessed. Alex Danfrey, a first-year
Federal Prohibition Unit trainee with a complicated past and talents of
his own, becomes tapped to go undercover and infiltrate the Shaws.

Through different paths, Joan and Alex tread deep into the violent, dangerous
world of criminal magic – and when their paths cross at the Shaws’
performance venue, despite their orders, and despite themselves, Joan
and Alex become enchanted with one another. But when gang alliances
begin to shift, the two sorcerers are forced to question their ultimate
allegiances and motivations. And soon, Joan and Alex find themselves
pitted against each other in a treacherous, heady game of cat-and-mouse.

I have always been a fan of mob related books. In a past life, I fully believe I was a mob boss. On top of that, I love fantasy. This book was perfect for me. Well, it was until the last four or five pages. Those let me down. If it had ended a little differently, I would have given this 6 glass slippers easily. However, because of the ending, I dropped it down to 4. But, let’s focus on the things that I liked.

Kelly does a great job describing the magic. In the book, Joan and her fellow sorcerers do these amazing illusions. They can make a stunning sunset appear before your eyes in a dark basement. Joan makes a dove appear out of swirling feathers. There are other tricks and I found each one more interesting than the next.

Also, Joan and Alex have an extremely dynamic relationship. They fit together perfectly and truly do bring out the best in the other. I enjoyed watching the relationship grow. I would recommend taking a look at this book- Sarah

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 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, 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.

free book, sale

What Happens in the Highlands – FREE

For today and tomorrow the first book in The What Happens Series, What Happens in the Highlands, is free on iBooks and Kindle!

  • Start reading on your Kindle HERE
  • Start reading in iBooks HERE

Match made in heaven or maid of dishonor?

Tight-laced Rose Hensel arrives in Scotland for her best friend’s wedding with a plan—to be the greatest maid of honor ever, let loose for the first time in years, and find out what Scottish guys really wear under their kilts. After meeting the best man, she thinks she found the man who checks all the boxes for a no-strings-attached romp among the heather.

Lachlan Calder-Mackinnon knows how to show a girl a good time. Gourmet dinners in castle ruins, picnics among rolling hills, and a seaside escape create some unforgettable dates. But as the fling begins to morph into something more, an unexpected wedding guest threatens to ruin Rose and Lachlan’s new romance.

With a plane ticket in one hand and her broken heart in the other, Rose prepares to head home to reality. However, she’s about to learn that what happens in the Highlands doesn’t always stay there.

If you’ve already read What Happens in the Highlands, the rest of The What Happens Series is now available. Continue your journey through Scotland with What Happens in the Ruins and What Happens in the Castle.

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.

kids, New Book

The Princess and the Dragon

Now that my daughter’s reading, I’m constantly looking for new books to add to her already massive library. Today I want to show you a new release by author Mary Settle, The Princess and the Dragon!

We all know the story of Cinderella but what if she encounters a dragon? Come along on an adventure of a classic story with a modern twist, but be warned. Things are not always what they appear!

You can order you copy of The Princess and the Dragon on Amazon HERE!