Monday, January 22, 2018

Book Review: Match Made in Manhattan, by Amanda Stauffer

So now, in the last third of my twenties—most people's dating prime—I've had two three-plus-year relationships, two or three mini-relationships, and not one blind date, setup, or genuine first date. And I haven't the foggiest clue as to what a typical date looks like. But of paramount importance, it's high time I figure out how to find people to date—assuming I want to branch out beyond the alumni population of my college. The world is big and I am small. Where do I begin?

This book sounded interesting when I received an email about it—from the author herself, actuallybecause I am very familiar with online dating. I met my boyfriend on Tinder, and in the past I have used a good portion of the dating apps available. It was definitely a fun read because it's so relatable.

Official synopsis:
Book Review: Match Made in Manhattan, by Amanda Stauffer
After two intense, dead-end relationships, serial monogamist Alison finds herself confused, lonely, and drastically out of touch with the world of modern dating. Refusing to wallow, she signs up for a popular dating app and resolves to remain open-minded and optimistic as she explores the New York City singles' scene. With the click of a button, her adventures begin: On one date, she's dumped before the first kiss; on another, she dons full HAZMAT gear; she meets a tattooed folk singer turned investment banker, an undercover agent who tracks illegal exotic animals, and dozens of other colorful, captivating personalities.

Giving them each her signature "pants speech"—her pants aren't coming off unless she has a real connection with someone—she desperately wants to push past the awkward small-talk phase to find true love, but finding "the one" is starting to feel impossible. That is, until she meets Luke, who is sophisticated, funny, and not to mention, hot. Alison finds herself falling for Luke harder than any guy she's dated and finally letting her walls down, but will he stick around or move on to his next match?

Match Made in Manhattan is a fast-paced, contemporary story about the struggles of dating in the digital age. Replete with online profiles, witty dialogue, and a super-supportive group of female friends, this all-too-real and relatable debut novel will have readers laughing, crying, and rooting for Alison all the way to the end.

Alison is kind of different than others her age—this is her first time trying online dating, and she's had a few 3+ year relationships in the past. Once one of those relationships ends, she hops on the online dating bandwagon, and her adventures in dating are fun to read about.

I was told that this book was actually first shopped as a memoir, and then details were changed and it was rebranded as fiction. I loved that the author separated each online date by chapters and also included the messages between Alison and her suitors—books that have emails or texts in them are always interesting.

I will say I wanted more of a "HEA" (Happily Ever After) ending, but the one that the author chose is probably more realistic. Overall, though, I enjoyed this book, and anyone that's ever done online dating will most likely enjoy it as well.

3.5 stars out of 5.
{click here to purchase}

*Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for reviewing purposes. However, the opinions expressed here are my own.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Quick Pick book review: Surprise Me, by Sophie Kinsella

  • Opening lines: I have this secret little vocabulary for my husband. Words I've invented, just to describe him. I've never even told him about them: They just pop into my head now and then.
  • Reason I picked up the book: I'm a huge Sophie Kinsella fan (especially the Shopaholic series) and her books are usually witty and funny.
  • And what's this book about?
  • After being together for ten years, Sylvie and Dan have all the trimmings of a happy life and marriage; they have a comfortable home, fulfilling jobs, beautiful twin girls, and communicate so seamlessly, they finish each other's sentences. However, a trip to the doctor projects they will live another 68 years together and panic sets in. They never expected "until death do us part" to mean seven decades.

    In the name of marriage survival, they quickly concoct a plan to keep their relationship fresh and exciting: they will create little surprises for each other so that their (extended) years together will never become boring. But in their pursuit to execute Project Surprise Me, mishaps arise and secrets are uncovered that start to threaten the very foundation of their unshakable bond. When a scandal from the past is revealed that question some important untold truths, they begin to wonder if they ever really knew each other after all.
  • Recommended for: Anyone who likes "chick lit" or a fun read. 
  • Favorite paragraph: There he is in the mirror. My handsome, youthful husband. But what's he going to look like in sixty-eight years' time? I have a sudden dismaying image of Dan all elderly and wizened, batting at me with a stick and yelling, "Humbug, woman, humbug!" 

    Which is ridiculous. He'll be old. Not Ebenezer Scrooge. 
  • Something to know: Kinsella writes other books (standalone ones, like this one) besides the Shopaholic series - I reviewed My Not So Perfect Life recently, too.
  • What I would have changed: It's a little strange how Sylvie calls her father "Daddy" (more of what a little girl would do), since she's a grown woman. Otherwise, wouldn't have changed anything.
  • Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
  • Where can I find this book? Click here to order on Amazon - it will be online and in stores on February 13, 2018.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

GIVEAWAY: Match Made in Manhattan, by Amanda Stauffer {ends 1/9}

Match Made in Manhattan will be in stores and online on January 25th, but one of my lucky readers can win a signed copy this week.

Official synopsis:
GIVEAWAY: Match Made in Manhattan, by Amanda Stauffer
After two intense, dead-end relationships, serial monogamist Alison finds herself confused, lonely, and drastically out of touch with the world of modern dating. Refusing to wallow, she signs up for a popular dating app and resolves to remain open-minded and optimistic as she explores the New York City singles' scene. With the click of a button, her adventures begin: On one date, she's dumped before the first kiss; on another, she dons full HAZMAT gear; she meets a tattooed folk singer turned investment banker, an undercover agent who tracks illegal exotic animals, and dozens of other colorful, captivating personalities.

Giving them each her signature "pants speech"—her pants aren't coming off unless she has a real connection with someone—she desperately wants to push past the awkward small-talk phase to find true love, but finding "the one" is starting to feel impossible. That is, until she meets Luke, who is sophisticated, funny, and not to mention, hot. Alison finds herself falling for Luke harder than any guy she's dated and finally letting her walls down, but will he stick around or move on to his next match?

Match Made in Manhattan is a fast-paced, contemporary story about the struggles of dating in the digital age. Replete with online profiles, witty dialogue, and a super-supportive group of female friends, this all-too-real and relatable debut novel will have readers laughing, crying, and rooting for Alison all the way to the end.

GIVEAWAY:

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Tuesday, January 9th, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be emailed the next day and have 24 hours to respond, or another winner will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

Signed copy of Match Made in Manhattan

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: This Love Story Will Self-Destruct, by Leslie Cohen {ends 1/5/18}

I still pass them by sometimes: the streets, apartment buildings, bars, and restaurants, all a part of this story.
...
A part of this story will always remain in those places, as if stranded in time. I like to revisit some of them and enjoy the nostalgia. The memories are still so vivid. Others are best left alone, to fade over time. Looking back, I can see how those places were leading us somewhere. We were drawing lines from a series of scattered dots, hoping to see a picture emerge. It took time to put it together. The dots existed all over the city—and not in a way that made any sense or always felt good. But we should have known. And whenever I find myself passing one of these places, I can't help but think, What took us so long?

This book is being compared to When Harry Met Sally, and overall it was an enjoyable read.

Official synopsis:
Book Review and GIVEAWAY: This Love Story Will Self-Destruct, by Leslie Cohen
This is the classic tale of boy meets girl: Girl…goes home with someone else.

Meet Eve. She’s a dreamer, a feeler, a careening well of sensitivities who can’t quite keep her feet on the ground, or steer clear of trouble. She’s a laugher, a crier, a quirky and quick-witted bleeding-heart-worrier.

Meet Ben. He’s an engineer, an expert at leveling floors who likes order, structure, and straight lines. He doesn’t opine, he doesn’t ruminate, he doesn’t simmer until he boils over.

So naturally, when the two first cross paths, sparks don’t exactly fly. But then they meet again. And again. And then, finally, they find themselves with a deep yet fragile connection that will change the course of their relationship—possibly forever.

Follow Eve and Ben as they navigate their twenties on a winding journey through first jobs, first dates, and first breakups; through first reunions, first betrayals and, maybe, first love. This is
When Harry Met Sally reimagined; a charming tale told from two unapologetically original points of view. With an acerbic edge and heartwarming humor, debut novelist Leslie Cohen takes us on a tour of what life looks like when it doesn’t go according to plan, and explores the complexity, chaos, and comedy in finding a relationship built to last.

Eve and Ben technically first meet in college, but he's a friend of a friend, or something like that. They don't "properly" meet until a few years post-college, and then they find themselves falling for each other. They have an even deeper past connection than that, too, which Ben knows about but doesn't tell Eve until later on in the book.

I was surprised that this was the author's first book, as it was very good. I love YA books, and although this isn't entirely YA, it has elements of it (young romance, etc.). It also takes place in the NYC area, which is almost a character in itself, and I've visited NYC so I liked that aspect as well.

I'd recommend this book for anyone that likes a good love story or even a good coming-of-age story.

4 stars out of 5.
This book will be available in stores and online on January 23, 2018.
{click here to purchase}

*Disclosure: I was provided with an e-copy of this book to facilitate this review. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of this book!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Friday, January 5, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be emailed the next day and must respond within 24 hours, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

This Love Story Will Self-Destruct book

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Book Review: The Ridge, by John Rector

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Megan ran out of Rachel’s garage and up the street toward her house. There were tears on her face, and a sharp, glowing pain in the center of her head. She tried to block it, but it grew brighter with each step, and by the time she’d reached her house, the pain was blinding.

She stopped at the bottom of the porch steps and closed her eyes. She tried pressing her fingertips against the sides of her head, but the pain didn’t fade.

When she opened her eyes, she saw the corked wine bottle on the step where she’d left it. She grabbed it on her way up, then stopped outside the front door.

She heard voices coming from up the street.


In all honestly, I was not looking forward to reading The Ridge based on the blurb on the back: "Lovely Houses. Smiling Neighbors. Pretty Lies." Blah, blah, blah. But it went so much deeper than that! This book threw me for a few loops before I was done. Definitely a WOW on my top-ten books for the year.

Official synopsis:
Book Review: The Ridge, by John Rector
With its manicured lawns, pastel houses, and quiet, tree-lined streets, Willow Ridge seems to be the perfect place for Megan and Tyler Stokes to start a new chapter in their lives together. But soon after settling in, Megan begins to notice cracks in the neighborhood’s bright suburban facade—cracks that reveal a darker secret hidden just beneath the surface.

After an angry encounter with a neighbor takes a horrifying turn, Megan’s waking nightmare truly begins—growing ever more chilling and bizarre with each shocking twist. Suddenly forced to question everything around her, Megan finds herself trapped between the specter of madness and the shadow of something far worse. Her only hope is to expose the community’s pretty lies and discover the truth about what is really going on in Willow Ridge—a truth so devastating that her life will never be the same.


The Ridge was an unexpected psychological thriller. We have no real background, and just meet Megan and Tyler Stokes after they’ve moved to Willow Ridge. Tyler has a job at the Institute, and Megan isn’t really finding her groove staying at home without the friends and neighbors who were familiar to her in Chicago. She feels like people are watching her, and is especially perturbed at the way her neighbor across the street now talks to her husband. But she’s determined to try and play nice for Tyler’s sake—to at least give Willow Ridge a chance.

When weird things start happening, the real answer is certainly not where my mind went first. My jaw dropped more than a few times as the truth about things was revealed. Overall, this book really kept me on my toes, and I want to read it again to see if I catch more clues and oddities. Wanting to re-read it gives it 5 starts out of 5 from me!

{click here to purchase}

Becki Bayley likes holiday music, but that's about it. She'll be celebrating life without extra celebrations once it's January. Becki’s been blogging around SE Michigan at SweetlyBSquared.com for more than 15 years.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Second Chance Season, by Liora Blake {ends 12/19}

Guest review by: Becki Bayley

Cara idly starts to chew on one of her thumbnails as she peruses the menu, and a glint of something sparkly around her eyes captures my attention. I take a better look, to be sure I’m seeing what I think I am.

That Cara is wearing make-up.

Look, I’m not a Mary Kay rep – but my mom was. I endured one too many weekend afternoons as a kid watching her slap a million things of junk on women’s faces at our kitchen table. So I can’t ignore how the goldish-bronzy shadow on Cara’s eyelids is more than what she wears on a routine day and the way it catches the light in this not-fancy barbeque restaurant where she’s about to eat dinner from a Styrofoam container using a plastic fork.


Second Chance Season is the second book in the Grand Valley Novel trilogy by Liora Blake. I haven’t read the first one, but this stood alone very well. Each book in the trilogy is about a different couple, but they all connect in the small town of Hotchkiss, Colorado.

Official synopsis:
Book Review: Second Chance Season, by Liora Blake
Garrett Strickland is unapologetically country, fiercely loyal, and perfectly happy with his job at the Hotchkiss Co-op. Garrett is all about living in the present and not dwelling in the past—even if he was once on his way to a lofty agricultural sciences degree that would guarantee the brightest of futures, only to end up back home when his old man died, leaving behind a debt-ridden family farm that was impossible to keep afloat. After that, it was easy to see why dreaming big wasn’t worth the heartache. And until he crosses paths with a city girl who’s hell-bent on kick-starting her own future, he’s sure that good enough is just that.

Cara Cavanaugh is ready for more from life, even if that means changing everything; including dumping her boyfriend of ten years, turning down a lucrative job at a major newspaper, and leaving behind the upscale suburbs of Chicago where she grew up. Now, she just has to pray that temporarily relocating to the middle of nowhere in Colorado will be the first step in building a career as a freelance journalist—all she has to do is prove she’s got what it takes to make a name for herself. Unfortunately, her tony country day school is as close to “country” as she’s ever been. But when a goodhearted guy who looks like he just stumbled out of a country music video offers to help, she ends up falling hard…and discovering that the perfect story is a love story. And it’s theirs.


While there are three books in the Grand Valley Novel trilogy, I only know of the first one from reading its Amazon review. It’s about another couple in the area where Garrett Strickland lives. They’re friends, but the other couple are certainly not major characters in this second book. I really enjoy series like these, where you just feel like you’re getting to know the whole community. Characters are my favorite part of many books, and having several books enjoying different groups of connected characters is fun.

Cara and Garrett are as different as two people could be, but sometimes the heart doesn’t stop to consider this. She’s in town for a freelance writing job, and he’s just the guy to show her around his much-loved community. They agree that they’ll just hang out and, well, whatever for as long as she’s in town. But parting as they had planned wouldn’t make for a very happy ending.

Second Chance Season
was a fun read. It was a little smuttier than I’m used to (not super graphic, just not like my usual pop-fiction reads), and I may have blushed a few times while reading it in public, usually waiting for my kids to finish one of their activities. I’m looking forward to catching the other books in the trilogy and learning more about the characters in Hotchkiss.

4 stars out of 5.

Grand Valley Novel trilogy:
1. First Step Forward
2. Second Chance Season
3. Ready for Wild

Becki Bayley liked zombies and sloths before they were cool. She’s been blogging around SE Michigan at SweetlyBSquared.com for more than 15 years.

GIVEAWAY:

One of my lucky readers will win a copy of Second Chance Season!

Enter via the widget below. Giveaway will end on Tuesday, December 19th, at 11:59pm EST, and winner will be notified via email the next day and have 24 hours to respond, or an alternate winner will be chosen.

U.S. residents only, please.

Good luck!

Second Chance Season, by Liora Blake

Book Review: Saving Abby, by Steena Holmes

Guest review by: Erin Krajenke


"Claire, your headaches are a result of a grade-three tumor that is putting pressure on your skull at the base. I wish I could tell you they were due to pregnancy hormones, but I can't." The doctor sat back down but leaned forward, resting his elbows on the desk, and watched Claire intently. 

"What does stage three mean?" she asked. 

"Some cancers disappear after treatments - whether it’s through surgery or radiation or even chemotherapy. Some may grow back. Stage three means that regardless of treatment, chances are strong that it will grow back."

..."I'm going to be honest with you." Dr. Shuman cleared his throat. "If you weren't pregnant, I'd recommend immediate surgery followed by radiation."
...
For a moment, Josh was speechless. "So you're saying she should have an abortion?" Dr. Shuman shook his head. "No, I'm not saying that. If that is what you both decide, then we can discuss what that looks like. But I think the active surveillance is our best option right now". He clasped Josh on the shoulder. "It's a lot to take in. If you need me, call me anytime. We'll get through this, Josh, and both Claire and your baby with be fine." 

The memory of his mother, the way she wasted away, of what her life was like those last few months hit him hard. "But you can't promise. I know. I've lived through it. I know what brain cancer is like. Claire..." his throat thickened, and it was hard to get the words out. "She's my life. She can't die. Do you understand? I don't care what that looks like, but she cannot die." He was over the moon to be a father, to know that their dream of being parents was finally coming true, but he loves his wife more. He prayed he didn't have to make that choice that he could have the best of both worlds. But if he had to, if it meant Claire's life or their baby? There was no choice, not for him.

Initially, I was enjoying this book. The two main characters are sweet and loving, and so is their town and all of their friends and family. But then it just got to be too much. Not that I wanted anything bad to happen to them, just that EVERYTHING was so perfect that it made me want to roll my eyes. Especially when Claire would complain about the simplest, mundane things.

Book Review: Saving Abby, by Steena Holmes
Official synopsis:
All children’s book illustrator Claire Turner ever wanted was to be a mother. After six years of trying to conceive, she and her husband, Josh, have finally accepted that she will never be pregnant with a child of their own.

Yet once they give up hope, the couple gets the miracle they’ve been waiting for. For the first few months of her pregnancy, Claire and Josh are living on cloud nine. But when she begins to experience debilitating headaches, blurred vision, and even fainting spells, the soon-to-be mother goes to the doctor and receives a terrifying diagnosis. Since any treatment could put their unborn baby’s life at risk, the Turners must carefully weigh their limited options. And as her symptoms worsen, Claire will have to make an impossible decision: Save her own life, or save her child’s?


This book is told in multiple first-person format, which I like since it gives the reader insight on more than one character in the story. It especially helps in the case where you might not care for one character since you get to spend ‘more time’ with multiple characters. It also had chapters that were flashbacks to a trip Josh and Claire took before she got pregnant which I really enjoyed since it discussed their fun travels, traditions, and they were all very fun, happy chapters.

I know I was supposed to care about Claire and empathize with her, but I just couldn’t. The more I read the book, the more spoiled and entitled she seemed to be. She claimed all she wanted in life was to be a mother, but once she was pregnant, she did nothing to take care of herself or her child. She slept all day, had debilitating headaches (causing her to take more medicine than safe), refused vitamins and protein shakes since they didn’t taste good or made her sick, and also refused to see a doctor since she doesn’t like getting poked. It was obvious that there was something wrong, so her not taking action, to me, contradicted her claim that she wanted to be a mother, since she wasn’t willing to even do the bare minimum during her pregnancy. 

There were many other parts of the story as well where I found her behavior to be laborious. That being said, I was rooting for her since her husband, Josh, was such a wonderful character and I wanted him to be happy. 

I am not one who tries to guess what will happen next in a book, but this book seemed very obvious as to which direction it was heading right from the beginning which made the journey a little tedious at some points. Even though I did not like the main character, I did enjoy every secondary character, the town, all of the stories, and the flashbacks that were told throughout to a time before the pregnancy. So in the end, overall, I would say it was an enjoyable read.

3 stars out of 5.
{Click here to purchase}
*This book is currently (Dec. 2017) available for free with Kindle Unlimited.

Erin Krajenke is a chatty Virgo who likes Peter Pan, will never grow-up, and just recently hurt herself on a jungle gym playing tag with her dog.

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