Happy Monday all!  I hope everyone who was celebrating Thanksgiving this past week had a lovely holiday.  We kept our celebration small but I did get to spend some time with my mom and sister so that was really nice.  I worked off and on the rest of the weekend and painted a room in my house yesterday, which is why I was mostly offline.  I’ll be catching up on blog visits over the next few days.  Today I’m sharing reviews for two excellent books I’ve read recently, one from a favorite author, Tracey Garvis Graves, and one from a new-to-me author, Sarah Grunder Ruiz, who is sure to become a favorite if this first book is any indication.  And apparently my accidental theme this week, which I didn’t notice until I made the above graphic, is sunglasses with images reflected in them, lol.


Reviews:  HEARD IT IN A LOVE SONG & LOVE, LISTS AND FANCY SHIPSHeard It in a Love Song Goodreads

Author:  Tracey Garvis Graves

Publication Date: November 9, 2021

Publisher:  St. Martin’s Press

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

Heard It in a Love Song by Tracey Garvis Graves is a beautiful story about finding love again after having your heart broken. What I loved about this story is that although it focuses on two characters who are coming out of toxic relationships and trying to start over, there isn’t a lot of heavy drama filling the pages.  Instead, the story focuses more on each character’s inner journey to find themselves again.  There’s a lot of looking back and reflecting on what went wrong with their previous relationships, but it’s looking back so as to be able to move forward and I really enjoyed that angle.

Heard It in a Love Song follows Layla Hilding, a 35-year old elementary school music teacher.  Layla is recently divorced after her 10-year marriage to Liam ended.  When we first meet Layla, we learn that although she has a passion for music, her dream was not to become a music teacher.  Instead, her dream was actually to be a professional musician and, prior to getting married, she was actually the lead singer in a band.  Although Liam was initially enamored by watching Layla perform, once they were in a relationship, he became quite toxic, often belittling her performances and her musical skills.  He basically sucked the life right out of her dream.  One of the first things Layla purchases once she is on her own again is a guitar, and it’s with that guitar that her journey to self-rediscovery begins.

Although being a music teacher wasn’t her first choice, it is at her elementary school that Layla first meets Josh Summers, a 35 year old electrician with a 5 year old daughter who is in Layla’s class.  Josh is coming out of a failed relationship.  He had married his high school sweetheart, but after 20 years together, it was like living with a stranger and so they had separated.  Like Layla, Josh is trying to move forward and figure out what’s next for him.  When Layla and Josh meet, it’s obvious that they have major chemistry, but they’re both still reeling from their previous relationships and hesitant to start a new one.

I had tremendous sympathy for both Layla and Josh, who are both very likable and vulnerable characters.  It was easy to understand why they were both so cautious about getting involved with someone new, but at the same time, it was also obvious that they would be so great together so I was definitely rooting for them to open their hearts to each other.

I also loved how Graves chose to present Layla and Josh’s journey. Although the story mostly stays focused on their paths forward, Graves gives her readers several flashbacks as Layla and Josh reflect on the highs and lows of their previous relationships.  Seeing some of the more painful moments from their pasts had me rooting for these two all the more because they both deserve so much better than what they had.

Heard It in a Love Song is a poignant story about love, second chances, and about finding yourself.  4 STARS


Reviews:  HEARD IT IN A LOVE SONG & LOVE, LISTS AND FANCY SHIPSLove, Lists, and Fancy Ships Goodreads

Author: Sarah Grunder Ruiz

Publication Date: November 23, 2021

Publisher:  Berkley Books

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

Love, Lists, and Fancy Ships by Sarah Grunder Ruiz is a contemporary romance that follows Jo Walker, a soon-to-be 30 year old yacht stewardess.  As a way to commemorate the last year of her 20s, Jo decides to come up with a bucket list of 30 things she wants to do by the time she turns 30.  It’s a list that really focuses on stepping out of her comfort zone – get a tattoo, go skinny dipping, run a marathon, visit ten foreign countries, etc.  For the past year, Jo has been completing her list and humorously documenting her efforts on her blog.

It is when Jo works up the nerve to complete item number 5 on her list – kissing a stranger – that Jo’s life takes an unexpected turn.  After she kisses a handsome stranger at the local bar, she’s mortified to learn that said stranger, whose name is Alex, is actually her new neighbor, which she learns when he accidentally comes across her late one night in the community pool, checking off another item on her bucket list, skinny dipping.  As if that wasn’t embarrassing enough, it turns out Alex is also the new chef on the yacht where she works so, as much as Jo would like to forget about their previous encounters, there’s just no avoiding him, which leads to some awkward but entertaining moments.  Even though Jo swears she isn’t interested in starting a relationship with anyone, Alex is pretty irresistible to her so the temptation is definitely there.  I loved their scenes together, both the fun, flirty ones and then later, the more serious ones when they discuss their families, etc.  I really enjoyed the romantic aspect of this story because Jo and Alex have amazing chemistry and could be so good together if Jo would just let herself take another big step out of that comfort zone of hers.

While Jo’s blog and her adventures with Alex as they got to know each other provided lots of fun moments, what really made this a special read for me was the more emotional and personal journey that Jo faces.  Because while there is definitely a potential romance, this is also a story about grief and loss.  In Jo’s case, it’s the loss of her beloved nephew, who was killed when he was hit by a car while riding his bike.  Jo has been repressing her grief by trying to stay busy and not think about it, but when her two nieces come to spend the summer with her and she realizes they are struggling with the loss of their little brother too, it brings all of Jo’s grief to a head.  I found this part of the story so incredibly moving and well written and my heart just ached for Jo and the girls as they try to process such a devastating loss.

As much as I enjoy a good rom-com, a contemporary romance that makes me feel all the feels is what I’m really a sucker for and Love, Lists, and Fancy Ships by Sarah Grunder Ruiz really delivers in that department.  4 STARS


19 replies
    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      Love, Likes and Fancy Ships was a really nice surprise for me. I went in expecting all laughs so loved the unexpected depth I got.

  1. Greg
    Greg says:

    Glad you had a nice Thanksgiving! And nice job on the sunglasses with images thing. 🙂

    Heard It In A Love Song sounds nice, and that title immediately put me in mind of an old song! Listening to it now! And Love, Lists sounds great too. Fun set up with her and her blog and sounds like it has some well done deeper moments as well.

    Great review!

    • Suzanne
      Suzanne says:

      Yes, same! I think I’d consider it slightly more along the lines of Women’s Fic than romance. The romance is definitely there but for me, the main appeal was watching Kayla reflect on her past as she grows into a much stronger version of herself.

  2. verushka
    verushka says:

    These are both so different but no less heartwarming romances. I think thouh the humour in Love, Lists and other ships might just put it over the top for me <3

  3. Tanya @ Girl Plus Books
    Tanya @ Girl Plus Books says:

    I really enjoyed your review of Heard it in a Love Song and agree with so many of your thoughts. Like you, I appreciated the low-drama and the quieter, slower tone of the story. Layla and Josh were both likable and I really found myself rooting for then both individually and as a couple.

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