Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together. Top Ten Tuesday has been one of my favorite memes ever since I started blogging, so huge thanks to Jana for taking over the hosting duties!
This week’s TTT topic is actually supposed to be Favorite “Aww” Moments In Books (Share those sweet/cute moments in books that give you warm fuzzies). I am unfortunately the kind of person who, when reading a topic like this, promptly forgets every moment, aww or not, from every book I’ve ever read. So of course, I completely blanked out and ended up going rogue this week. I’m way behind on reviews since I took some time off from blogging the last couple of weeks to be with my mom because she was having surgery. I really need to get caught up so I’m using this week’s TTT to share my thoughts on ten recent reads that I haven’t talked about here yet. These were meant to be mini reviews but I got a little carried away on a few of them. Oops!
10 Recent Reads I Haven’t Reviewed On My Blog
I normally love Alexis Hall’s writing and was an especially big fan of Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake, the first book in the Winner Bakes All series, but I have to admit that I struggled with Paris Daillencourt is About to Crumble. The reality TV baking contest was just as entertaining as in the first book. I loved the behind the scenes moments as we get to watch the show come together and hear the baker’s thoughts on their creations, etc., and I was a huge fan of the hilariously snarky banter between the show’s cohosts and the producers. I also thought the mental health representation was so well done. Paris, the title character, has an undiagnosed anxiety disorder that is clearly impacting many aspects of his life. Hall does a wonderful job of realistically showing those impacts as well as Paris’ journey to finally seeking the help he needs. What actually didn’t work very well for me, unfortunately, was Paris himself and his romantic interest, Tariq, another contestant on the show. It’s probably just a me thing, but I found Paris to be quite obnoxious, constantly alternating between blurting out offensive elitist comments and then incessantly apologizing for his very existence. It was kind of cute and quirky at first, but then it got old fast. Then, there was Tariq, who felt the need to point out to Paris every time he said something offensive, which as I said, is pretty often. At first I felt bad for Tariq because being with Paris just seemed so exhausting but then that got old too and I was just sitting here like “OMG, it’s not your job to police every stupid thing Paris says. And why do you offended so easily?” For me, these irritating traits just overshadowed what was otherwise nice chemistry between them and I ultimately found myself indifferent as to whether or not they got a HEA. 3 STARS
If you enjoy a good second chance romance or enemies to lovers romance, you’re going to want to check out The Rewind by Allison Winn Scotch. I loved this one! It follows two exes, Frankie and Ezra, who have basically avoided each other for the last ten years after their nasty breakup. They are forced to see each other again, and to return to their old college campus, when two of their best friends announce they’re getting married there and ask Frankie and Ezra to be in their wedding party. Frankie hates Ezra so much that she almost tells the bride no, but finally agrees, only to awkwardly bump into Ezra almost as soon as the gets into town. The entire wedding party engages in some pre-wedding shenanigans at some of their favorite campus haunts, and flash forward a few hours later, and Frankie and Ezra wake up nearly naked, both wearing wedding bands, in a bed in Ezra’s old dorm room, and both with absolutely no memory of what happened to lead to this awkward situation. The story wonderfully unfolds in a dual timeline, where one timeline takes us back 10 years to see young Ezra and Frankie as they are college students in love, while the other timeline focuses on present-day as Ezra and Frankie try to retrace the events of the previous night, sparks flying between them the entire time. I really loved the mix of angsty drama and humorous moments, as well as the mystery element of trying to find out what happened. The Rewind is one of those great reads that has a little something for everyone. 4 STARS
I really enjoyed being back in the Donut Fall in Love world. This time the story focuses on Lindsay’s best friend Vivian Liao, and Ryan’s best friend, Melvin Lee. Like Ryan, Melvin is a celebrity – an actor and stand up comedian, while Vivian works in finance. Vivian is a fan of Melvin’s comedy until they meet one night and he insults her, basically calling her a corporate finance drone and a sell-out. Vivian vows never to speak to him again, but that plan goes off the rails when Lindsay and Ryan set a wedding date and both Vivian and Melvin are asked to be in the wedding party.
I loved the characters in this story. They were definitely the highlight for me, especially the deep dive into Melvin’s character. On the surface, particularly because of his stand up comedy persona, he comes across as loud, brash and sometimes rude. But once you peel off that outer layer, he’s actually a really sensitive guy who is going through a lot. Vivian is also a character that I loved getting to know. She’s dealing with a very complicated family history and dynamic. She has put up a lot of walls to protect herself and all she has worked for, and so to Mel and to a lot of other people, she comes across as a bit of an “ice princess.” I loved getting a more in-depth look at what made Vivian the way she is and getting to see that so much of what comes across as icy and aloof is really just shyness and vulnerability.
It was a lot of fun watching Vivian and Melvin move through the awkward stages of enemies to friends to more than friends as they decide to call a truce so as not to ruin Ryan and Lindsay’s special day. The more they interact, the more it’s clear how good they are for each other and I was definitely rooting for a happily ever after for them. The only drawback for me was that I felt the pacing was a little show at times, particularly when Melvin is on stage doing his comedy routines. That part dragged a bit for me and since the romance was also slow burn, I found myself occasionally wanting to just skip ahead and get to the good stuff. Still a very enjoyable read overall and one I recommend to anyone who’s a fan of the opposites attract trope and of slow burn romances. 3 STARS
This was my first time reading something from Rebecca Yarros and man, did she blow me away with this beautifully crafted dual timeline story. The present day follows Georgia Stanton, who has returned to the town where she was raised by her great-grandmother, famous romance novelist Scarlett Stanton. While there, Georgia encounters her mother, whom she is estranged from, and she is shocked to hear that her mother has been trying to broker a deal to have someone complete Scarlett’s last unfinished manuscript. Georgia’s mother clearly has dollar signs in her eyes and has already contracted another famous author, Noah Harrison, to do the job. Georgia and Noah immediately butt heads, although there’s major chemistry there simmering beneath the surface, and the present day timeline follows the evolution of their relationship as Noah sets out the write this book in a way that honors Scarlett’s memory. The second timeline, which is set in England in 1940, follows the subject matter from Scarlett’s manuscript, which actually turns out to be about Scarlett herself and Jameson, the handsome American fighter pilot who was the love of her life. It details the trials and tribulations of being in love with someone in the middle of a warzone, where tragedy can strike at any moment. Every aspect of this story was beautifully told and I was all in for the couples in both timelines. I also loved the unexpected twist at the end that, for me, just took this book to a whole new level. 5 STARS
I don’t have too much to say about this one except that it’s one you really have to experience yourself to appreciate what a special, heartwarming, feel good gem of a book it is. It far exceeded my expectations. There’s lots of humor in this book too, but my heart just melted watching Patrick, or Gay Uncle Patrick (GUP, as the kids call him), learn how to parent and care for his niece and nephew after tragedy strikes and leaves them orphaned. Patrick has a lot to learn and there are many ups and downs, but his love for these kids shines through every step of the way. 5 STARS
I’ve been working my way through V.E. Schwab’s backlist and finally devoured this witchy read Halloween week. Although it’s not my favorite from Schwab, it was still a solid read and definitely a good one for spooky season. I loved the unique premise, that it felt like it was equal parts fairytale, horror story, and even a bit of romance. The Near Witch is also just such an atmospheric and creepy read. It includes an intense hunt for children who have suddenly and mysteriously started disappearing from their beds, haunting tales of witches and curses, and even a nameless boy who seems to appear and disappear like smoke. 4 STARS
Alexis Hall makes my list twice this week and I had slightly better luck with Husband Material. It was fun being back in this world and seeing how the relationship between Luc and Oliver has evolved. I was a little torn on this one because I went in expecting the endless laughs like we got in the first book in the series, but this one, while there’s definitely still some humor, takes a much more dramatic and emotional turn overall. At first I was a little put off by it just because I came in looking for the laughs, but by the end, I ended up really enjoying and appreciating the realistic portrayals of the ups and downs of a relationship. 3.5 STARS
Wow, this one was a roller coaster ride! It follows journalist Cecily Wong, who is on an expedition to climb Manaslu, the eighth highest peak in the world. She’s attempting it because if she makes it to the summit, Charles McVeigh, a world famous mountaineer, has agreed to let her interview him. He typically never grants interviews so Cecily is determined to make the most of this opportunity. She’s in way over her head though as she doesn’t have the experience to make such a dangerous climb. Following Cecily as she attempts this is exhilarating and suspenseful in its own right, but add into the mix that her fellow climbers suddenly start dying off one by one in freak accidents that are starting to seem more and more suspicious the higher they climb. Are these truly accidents or is there a killer among them? If you’re in the mood for a twisty, atmospheric thriller that will leave you breathless (see what I did there, haha!), you’ll definitely want to check this one out! 4 STARS
Katherine Center is another author whose backlist I’ve slowly been working my way through and The Lost Husband is another absolutely lovely read from her. It’s a heartwarming, poignant story about the challenges of moving on after the loss of a loved one. It follows Libby Moran, whose husband suddenly and unexpectedly died, leaving her alone to raise her precocious young daughter. When we meet Libby, she is living with her overbearing and overly critical mother and is looking for an escape. That escape comes in the form of a letter from her quirky Aunt Jean who invites Libby and her daughter to come live on her goat farm. Libby accepts, and thus begins a life changing adventure for her as she starts to find her path forward after loss. I adored everything about this book – the characters, the farm/small town setting, the handsome loner who may just be the one to open Libby’s heart to love again, and the story’s overall message. There’s even a Netflix adaptation of this one and I can’t wait to watch it! 4.5 STARS
Set right after the Mexican War of Independence, The Hacienda is described as Mexican Gothic meets Rebecca. The story follows Beatriz, whose father is executed in the aftermath of the war. When Don Rodolfo Solórzano proposes to Beatriz, she chooses to ignore the rumors surrounding his first wife’s demise, desperate to seize the security his country estate offers. Rodolfo’s home unfortunately is not the sanctuary she was hoping for, and when he heads back to the capital to work, visions and voices invade Beatriz’s sleep. Rodolfo’s sister, Juana, scoffs at Beatriz’s fears, but Beatriz knows two things for certain: Something is wrong with the hacienda. And no one there will help her. Desperate for help, Beatriz turns to a young priest, Padre Andrés. No ordinary priest, Andrés will have to rely on his skills as a witch to battle the presence haunting the hacienda and protect Beatriz for whom he feels a powerful, forbidden attraction. But even he might not be enough to battle the darkness. It took me a few chapters to really get into this story, but once it grabbed me, I couldn’t put it down. It’s gripping and suspenseful, with a creepy Gothic vibe. The perfect read for spooky season! 4 STARS
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