13 November 2018

Bite Sized Books // Let’s Get Festive

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I am not a person who gets excited about the festive season early (I’m grouchy about the fact I have to do my Christmas shopping in November to avoid the crowds) and I most definitely frown and grumble at those folks putting their Christmas decorations up in November! Like, it’s ridiculous, just stop. Right now. It’s excessive and you will be fed up of them before Christmas hits.

That being said… I have read two festive reads so far and I am judging myself here. But Christmas in book land starts early, ok? The festive releases come out well before Christmas so folks have time to review and you can learn what to arm yourself with for the festive season. We’re starting early so you don’t have to.

Published: 1st October 2018

Source: Netgalley

Genre: Contemporary, Romance

My Rating:
A Christmas story that packs a punch...

It's Shelby Yule's job to make sure the office Christmas party was a success. That means no dodgy Kris Kringle presents, no one gets too sloshed, and there are definitely no dance floor injuries. Never did she think she'd have to worry about the shy new guy, her inappropriate crush, starting a fight.

Adam Tide can't help it if his job as the lead coder means he has a better relationship with his project management software than his human colleagues, but that doesn't mean he's unaware of Felix, head of HR, and the way he treats Shelby. Adam has suffered a whole twelve months of Felix being a dick and after one over–warm beer he just can't take it anymore.

Decking Felix lands Adam in the Emergency Room, and likely the unemployment line, but since Shelby's New Year's resolution is to go after what she wants most, there's still a chance this season will be jolly.

This was an adorable novella. How was it so short yet felt like it will packed so much in there? I knew I would adore this simply because it was Ainslie Paton writing it and everything she writes seems to tick my reading boxes. But normally a novella can feel lacking in some way. I normally find there isn’t enough story or the characters feel a bit flat because they’ve not had a chance to fully develop sure to the word limit. It was not so with this one. In fact, if anything my biggest complaint was it was too short!

Shelby works in HR at a tech company and Adam is a more recent hire (he’s only been there like a year) and she’d hoped for a chill calm Christmas party with the usual antics of someone getting too drunk and a few folks regretting their dance moves the next day. Instead, she ends up sitting in the emergency room with Adam who got into a fist fight and she wants to figure out what on earth happened considering he punched her boss.

Let me tell you, I was impressed we not only gradually got the story of what happened with the party but also the past several months between this pair and from two perspectives! I was impressed and wow, did I want to hug the pair of them for being so damn cute. I mean, Adam was adorable (if a little reckless) and Shelby was the sweetest. I could relate to a woman wanting to do her job but having an asshat of a boss she had to manage and allow to think was more important and better at his job than he was. I was so there for her boss being punched in the face as he most definitely deserved it. Dude was a menace.

I don’t want to spoil things but seriously, if you’re feeling lacking on Christmas cheer read this and then you’ll want to give it a big old hug when you finish. It’s that kind of book.

Published: 16th October 2018
Source: Netgalley
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
My Rating:
From USA Today bestselling author Nancy Naigle, Dear Santa is a heartwarming Christmas story about finding your passion for life and love.

Angela Carson wants nothing more than to be the third-generation to run her family’s holiday store, Heart of Christmas, successfully. They’ve weathered over sixty tourist seasons, major hurricanes, and urban sprawl, in their old decommissioned lighthouse. But the national chain that set up shop in their small North Carolina town of Pleasant Sands may be more than Heart of Christmas can survive.

Encouraged by her niece to ask Santa for help through the Dear Santa app, Angela gives in and lets the words fly in a way that, if Santa were real, would no doubt land her on the naughty list. What’s the harm when it’s just a computer-generated response?

Geoff Paisley has been at his mother’s side running the mega-chain Christmas Galore for the last ten years. When his mother falls ill, Geoff promises to answer the Dear Santa letters in her stead. Soon he realizes the woman he’s been corresponding with on Dear Santa is Angela. How could the woman that grates his every last nerve in person have intrigued him so deeply through those letters?

When Geoff reveals that he’s her Dear Santa, will Angela be able to set aside their very public feud to embrace the magic of the holiday and possibly find true love?

This was essentially a Christmas retelling of You've Got Mail. From the rival businesses (and the bigger one putting the smaller more friendly and people-oriented one out of business) to the guy arriving at the girl's house when she's sick. Whilst I did enjoy such a Christmas themed retelling... I'm not totally certain it improved upon the original tale seen in that film. I suppose the only major difference is there were far fewer exchanges between the pair in the book. They end up interacting on an app, Dear Santa, and then exchange a couple of emails and so that part of it was not as significant, instead they have far more face to face time. It was a cute read and I did enjoy it, though, but yeah, all it really did was make me want to rewatch the film.

The book wasn't terrible. In fact, despite reading it in early November (when it most definitely is not Christmas yet and far too early for folks to be getting excited!) I did still find myself enjoying this bit of festive fun. I felt all excited for the Christmas baked treats and decorating the tree and even the dreaded prospect of Christmas shopping (which I most definitely need to start). The book definitely had the festive season captured within its pages, something which not all festive reads easily achieve.

I think it was just all the similarities between it and You've Got Mail which bothered me. I recently saw a blogger explain how they categorise retellings and for me this is one which was easy to spot due to the similarities and, for me, was a little too close to the original so when familiar events occurred it jarred me out of the story as my brain went back and compared it to a scene in the film. I adore You've Got Mail, a Christmas themed version set in a small town in South Carolina is not a bad thing and I did enjoy Angela and Geoff's tale of going from enemies (on Angela's side) to friends to something more. The gradual shift from the antagonistic to the friendly was lovely. And I was just as heartbroken as Angela as she slowly had to accept the end of her Christmas store because she loved that place but it was lovely seeing her move on to the next part of her life. It did bother me one major part in her new direction though but it’s a spoiler, but let’s say she didn’t have total control over her future choices, instead they almost got decided for her and it frustrated the hell out of me. I would have preferred it if she had been approached and made her own choices without external influences.

There were parts which bothered me outside of the retelling similarities too, like the fact that I felt like some side characters never got to have their chance to shine, and that I definitely felt like there were story elements were not explored enough (both of them had family stuff I would have liked to explore more) but I will not grumble because a book which can give me a festive buzz in November is nothing to be sniffed at. I am a notorious grump about Christmas, I love it, but I do wish people would stick to December being it, I hate those folks counting down in July.

And these are my Christmas reads. I loved the novella far more and maybe I’m just a person who doesn’t want a full-fledged Christmas book, who knows? What are your favourite festive reads?

06 November 2018

Bite Sized Books // A Mish Mash of ARCs I’ve Read During My Blogging Slump

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I figured a return to blogging should include a little catch up (and an attempt to get my Netgalley shelf back under control). As such, we have a few actual bite sized reviews (because I acknowledge I have a habit of rambling in even my shorter reviews). There is no theme, literally a mish-mash of books I should have reviewed for the past 2 months. I have a couple more to come and then I might talk about my bookish highlights from the past couple of months because I’ve read some awesome books lately (although these ARC reviews might make it seem like I haven’t).
From Duke Till Dawn
From Duke Till Dawn (The London Underground #1) – Eva Leigh
Published: 26th July 2018

Source: Netgalley

Genre: Historical Romance

My Rating: DNF 20%
Eva Leigh launches a seductive new series that sizzles with the dark secrets of London’s underworld…
‘It’s not my habit to seduce impoverished widows…’
The Duke of Greyland lost his heart – and a princely sum – to a charming, beautiful and destitute widow who, after one passionate night, vanished without a trace. Cassandra Blair grew up on the city streets, picking pockets to survive. Greyland was a rich mark – to be fleeced and forgotten – only she’d never forgotten him.
Years later, chance brings them together again, in a London gaming hell. Grayland is desperate to have her… never suspecting everything about his lover was a lie. But finding herself in dire financial straits, at risk of losing everything, Cassandra has no choice but to beg the man she betrayed for help.
The proud Duke will assist her under one condition: she doesn’t leave his sight until her debts are paid! But can the real Cassandra – the smart, streetwise survivor – steal his heart all over again?
Book one in the Scandalous Ladies of London series

Let’s begin with a DNF (or two). I thought this would be a fun read of a Duke meeting with the woman who scammed him and forcing her to stay with him until her debts are paid. I obviously should have read the summary much more closely as it does say he never suspects his lover of a single night scammed him. Well, his naivete and how utterly gullible he was pissed me right off. He was annoying and a wet blanket to be honest. I didn’t like him one jot. He was boring. So I began reading this book of a woman who scammed a man over one night and then left him with no intention of seeing him again and whilst I probably would have grown to like her (have to respect a woman who is making it on her own scamming the rich) I didn’t ever get to know her because boring mc-boringpants The Duke of Greyland was the one whose perspective you had at the start and he just gradually pissed me off by being an utter idiot so I DNF-ed before the book actually made me angry.

Does it count that I liked the idea at least?

The Proposal
Published: 30th October 2018
Source: Netgalley
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
My Rating: DNF 20%
When Nik Paterson went to the Dodgers game with her C-list actor boyfriend, Ford, for his birthday, she expected nothing more than a few boring hours with him and his bros. She certainly didn't expect a Jumbotron proposal. Or her name to be misspelled. Or to go viral in minutes...
Carlos Ibarra wants to hang out with his sister, catch a Dodgers game, and relax for once. But when a camera crew descends on Nik after the disastrous proposal, he has to rescue her. After they flee the stadium, he delivers her into the arms of her supportive girlfriends, and they both think they'll never see each other again.
Fate has other plans. Nik and Carlos keep crossing paths, accidentally and on purpose. When they finally give in to their attraction to each other, they are on the same page: sex and nothing more. But the proposed friends-with-benefits relationship is turning into something more, and the pair have to decide if they have room in their lives for love.

DNF number 2 was an upsetting one for me. I’d seen other bloggers review and although I hadn’t seen any 5-star reviews I had seen positive ones. Sure, people’s small criticisms did raise a few red flags for me, but just to go in wary. Sadly, I think my opinions may have been coloured by those other bloggers… or I am just less willing to put up with books I’m not behind 100%. Whatever happened I ended up not clicking with this book.

Carlos, we met in The Wedding Date and I was interested to see his story and so when we’re introduced to Nik I was excited. Nik seemed like she would be sassy and fun… but I just didn’t feel a spark between the two when I was reading. The chemistry wasn’t there for me so I didn’t feel invested in the path of them getting together. I mean, this is a term normally reserved for several YA books I've read, but it felt a little insta-lovey. I in no way believed the spark that apparently existed. I know in romance characters go on about how good looking the other is and about how they've kept thinking about them but although Carlos's rescue was kind I could not see Nik pursuing more from that alone. Both of them were apparently interested but I didn’t get why when reading. And when you were in Carlos’s head and he was thinking things like ‘is that a hint’ or ‘is she giving me signals’ and all that crap just made me like him. Yeah, folks probably do have those thoughts but it was so jarring to read them!
There were characters I was interested to learn more about (I loved Nik’s friends) but that was not enough to keep me reading.

Published: 30th October 2018

Source: Netgalley

Genre: Historical Romance

My Rating:
An heiress with a daring proposal. An earl who’s determined to resist her. And a love that just might be written in the stars…

Recently jilted by his fiancĂ©e, David Gray, Earl of Ravenport is not in the market for a wife. Even if Gray didn’t have his hands full renovating his crumbling country house, it would take more than a bold marriage proposal from a headstrong young beauty to thaw his frozen heart. Gray is confident that spending a week at his ramshackle estate will change her mind about marriage, but every passionate moment he spends with her tempts him to change his…

A talented artist, Miss Fiona Hartley desperately needs her dowry money to pay off a blackmailer set on ruining her sister. The handsome earl seems a sensible choice for a husband…if only she can convince him that romance will play no part. But marrying in name only may prove difficult for Fiona. Gray can’t help but be dazzled by her genuine warmth. Yet as their feelings deepen, Fiona’s deadline looms. Will her secrets destroy them, or is true love their final destiny?
This one I finished (yay) and it was a more middling read for me. I certainly enjoyed myself from time to time but it’s been a month and looking back on this one I have to flick back to my comments I wrote whilst reading because it’s not stood the books amnesia test well. That’s not to say that’s a point against this book, I forget many a book, but if I hadn’t have reread the summary and had a couple of notes to hand I definitely wouldn’t have remembered anything of this book.

There was something which stopped me fully invested in reading this. I did enjoy it and both the characters appealed to me, the Earl was interesting and I liked him, and Fiona’s quest to receive her dowry to pay a blackmailer was pretty exciting (although a touch farfetched). I liked how Fiona was not daunted by anything, she made the most of things and went with it and who can’t respect that in a woman. I did like the interaction between our romantic couple but I just didn’t fully wholeheartedly invested. I did roll my eyes a little as the mystery of the blackmailer was revealed too, because really? I don’t know. It was enjoyable enough and I’d read more from Anna Bennett because hopefully, it would click next time.

Published: 1st March 2018
Source: Netgalley
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
My Rating:
Welcome to Gold Valley, Oregon, where a rough-and-tumble rancher and the girl next door are about to learn that opposites attract

Olivia Logan has a plan: win back her ex by making him see what he’s missing. But first she needs to find a man who’s willing to play along. With his laid-back cowboy charm and knack for getting under her skin, Luke Hollister is an unlikely hero—but he wants her help convincing her father to sell him land, which means he needs her as much as she needs him.

Luke likes his life—and his women—uncomplicated. So why does good girl Olivia heat his blood like no one else? She’s always been off-limits, but the more time they spend as Gold Valley’s hottest new “couple,” the more real it’s starting to feel. Luke was supposed to help her win back another man…not keep her in his arms. But now that he has her there, he’s not sure he’ll ever let go.
This one I honestly don’t remember why I requested this on Netgalley because apart from the fake relationship aspect (which is my bread and butter) there is nothing about this which would usually appeal. Cowboys are not my jam in romance (and why are they so popular, there a whole heap of cowboy romances out there in the world!). That being said I did enjoy this but it was another middling read as a whole and that was mostly because the fake relationship didn’t last all that long. The very beginning had Olivia and Luke faking their relationship but it very swiftly turned to a genuine one and this pare who were convinced they weren’t going to be together realised that they had a serious case of denial because there were sparks flying and they definitely were meant to be. I mean, I think that aspect would have worked for me but the part that really annoyed me was Olivia had broken up with her ex to try and push him to ‘put a ring on it’. That kind of game playing rubs me the wrong way so that and her uppity attitude you get from her at the start put me off. You do get to see another side of her but I think as a whole she was never destined to be a heroine I loved because I prefer them a bit more stubborn and with a bit more attitude. In the end, it was ok and I enjoyed it… but I wouldn’t go back for more.

Published: 9th October 2018

Source: Netgalley

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

My Rating:
In the city of Eldra, people are ruled by ancient prophecies. For centuries, the high council has stayed in power by virtue of the prophecies of the elder seers. After the last infallible prophecy came to pass, growing unrest led to murders and an eventual rebellion that raged for more than a decade.

In the present day, Cassa, the orphaned daughter of rebels, is determined to fight back against the high council, which governs Eldra from behind the walls of the citadel. Her only allies are no-nonsense Alys, easygoing Evander, and perpetually underestimated Newt, and Cassa struggles to come to terms with the legacy of rebellion her dead parents have left her — and the fear that she may be inadequate to shoulder the burden. But by the time Cassa and her friends uncover the mystery of the final infallible prophecy, it may be too late to save the city — or themselves.
This is one I had been excited for, I loved Destiny Soria’s debut, Iron Cast, and so when I saw she had a new fantasy novel coming out I most definitely wanted to read. think my expectations had been a touch high because although I enjoyed it, it didn’t compare to that debut for me. That being said, I don’t really think a novel set in alternate history Boston in 1919 can really be compared to a full fantasy novel set in its own world where there is a city controlled by a government who uses prophecies to stay in power. They're not really comparable so if you loved Iron Cast then be prepared for a different kind of book in this one (which I thought I was but I still something didn’t work for me).

I will say, though, I wasn’t in a fantasy mood when I started this so even I knew it would be a struggle for it to click into place and work for me so the poor book started on the backfoot. It also had multiple POV, not loads, but more than I like in my books and that put me off it a little too. The characters were all interesting and I loved seeing the dynamics between each of them, from Cassa and her back and forth with Evander, to Evander interacting with his sister, Alys. Each character has a distinct personality so even if it hadn’t said at the start of a chapter, you knew whose POV you were reading from. Sadly, I think the multiple POV meant I didn’t connect quick enough with the characters. For the first quarter of the book at least I couldn’t figure why I should care about these characters and even them investigating the corruption of the government did nothing for me.

Maybe if I’d begin this book at another time I’d be raving about. I will say no one can complain about a book which has so much diversity within its pages, from racial diversity to sexual with gay and bi characters. I do appreciate when fantasy novels make the effort because there has been too little diversity in them for too long. I just wish I’d been in a fantasy reading mood for this one as my rating is very much influenced by that.

And this is my first mish-mash of reviews for a little while. I had another one or two I could have included but 5 should be enough for now. Have you read any of these, what did you think?