Review: A California Christmas (Brenda Novak)

A California Christmas
Series: Silver Springs, #7
Author: Brenda Novak
Publication Date: October 13, 2020
Publisher: MIRA
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Romantic Suspense, Holiday
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

Rating: ★ ★ ★


Up-and-coming TV anchor Emery Bliss can’t imagine anything more humiliating than the sex tape her ex revenge-posted online. That is, until it causes her to lose her job on top of her self-esteem. Seeking solace—and anonymity—in Silver Springs, Emery isn’t looking to get involved with another man anytime soon. But when she’s thrown back into contact with Dallas Turner, she sees something that his many detractors have missed.

Being home for the holidays and his adoptive mother’s wedding isn’t where mountain climber Dallas feels most comfortable. Thanks to his troubled childhood, he’d rather be on a rock face alone than trying to connect with people. Emery, however, makes him want to overcome his past…somehow.

Both Emery and Dallas had been planning on a quiet, solitary Christmas, but the sparks between them are lighting a fire strong enough to last—possibly forever.

It’s been a long time since I picked up a book by Brenda Novak. I adored her Whiskey Creek series, but had yet to try out this Silver Springs one. I couldn’t resist A California Christmas’ blurb and the fact that it was a holiday novel — those are some of my favorites from Novak.

A California Christmas ended up being a good read for me, but not great. Dallas and Emery’s love story was sweet, but there wasn’t as much depth to them as I wanted. That made it harder to connect to them. I wish I had gotten more of their teenage backstory. I also probably shouldn’t have jumped into this series so far into it. I just didn’t have enough of background information on the many of the characters to make this a completely smooth reading experience for me.

Another thing that was hard for me was that I was expecting a cute holiday romance. This book cover, title, and blurb screams holiday novel, but it wasn’t really a true contemporary holiday romance. It had a big romantic suspense element going on. There were some cute holiday moments peppered in, but I wanted more.

Even though this book wasn’t quite what I was expecting, it was an entertaining read. I have a feeling fans who have read the entire series will enjoy it much more than I did.

Review: Best Friends Don’t Kiss (Max Monroe)

Best Friends Don’t Kiss
Author: Max Monroe
Publication Date: November 28, 2020
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Goal: Find a boyfriend, get married, buy a house in the suburbs with a white picket fence, and pop out 2.5 kids.

Deadline: Sixty days.

That’s possible, right?

HAHAHA. *Faints*

I’m kidding. Well, kind of. I mean, I’m not going to attempt a shotgun wedding or try to get knocked up by some guy I met on the internet, but there is no doubt that, this year, home for the holidays takes on a whole new, terrifying meaning.

I have to travel from New York City—my home and safe haven for the last fifteen years—to my tiny hometown in Vermont for Christmas, my baby sister’s wedding, and my high school reunion.

Talk about a trifecta of single-doom.

Throw in Callie Camden—aka my high school class’s version of Regina George—and it’s a recipe for certified disaster.

Especially since my mouth ran away from me when she asked me if I’d be bringing someone to our reunion, and I told her to put me down for two.
Gah. Now I can’t go alone.

But the online dating world is a cesspool of bad manners, speedy hookups, and outright weirdos.

Handsome, single, successful—that’s what I’m looking for.
And it just so happens that my best friend Luke London fits all of the criteria.

The only problem is best friends don’t kiss

But maybe it doesn’t count if it’s pretend? 

Banking the Billionaire will probably always be my favorite Max Monroe book, but Best Friends Don’t Kiss comes close. Best Friends Don’t Kiss was one of those magical romance novels that I couldn’t help fall in love with. Everything about it was so swoony! Not only was it a best friends to more/fake dating romance, it was a holiday romance filled with charming Christmas moments.

Ava and Luke Ava and Luke were just so dang cute together. Everyone (and I do mean everyone) knew they should be together, and it was easy to understand why. Those two had chemistry galore. Their friendship made it even stronger. I couldn’t get enough of how cute they were together. I loved how supportive they were of each other — Luke especially. The things that guy did to show Ava he was on her team was pretty cool. THEY WERE JUST SO FREAKING ADORABLE TOGETHER.

I absolutely loved all the characters that came out to support Ava and Luke. Ava’s family was so much fun. The relationship she had with her dad was so sweet. Her mom and aunts had me cracking up. The character who tried to steal the show was Thatch. That guy never goes away, and I can’t say I’m mad about that. I loved what he and his billionaire buddies brought to this story. It was all so entertaining.

Best Friends Don’t Kiss was yet another stellar release from Max Monroe. It made the 2020 holiday season even brighter. I had so much fun reading it that I was sad when it was over. If you’re looking for a holiday romance that’s going to make you laugh as much as swoon, you’re going to want to read this book.

Audiobook Review: Anxious People (Fredrik Backman)

Anxious People
Author: Fedrik Backman
Narrator: Marin Ireland
Publication Date: September 8, 2020
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Contemporary, Humor

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Trapped in an apartment open house with six neurotic strangers, a would-be bank robber gets much more than he bargained for in this clever, rollicking, and heartfelt novel that is one-part locked-room mystery and one-part insightful character study from the beloved, bestselling author of A Man Called Ove and Beartown.

This is a story about a hostage drama. But more than that, it’s a story about idiots. That’s why, from the very outset, I need to say that it is always very easy to declare people idiots, but only if you forget that it is also almost always idiotically difficult to be human.

When a failed bank robber escapes into an apartment filled with people during an open house, a group of six strangers are suddenly forced to get to know one another quickly and under extreme circumstances. But what will be the result?

In captivity we meet Roger and Anna-Lena, a recently retired couple who are on a manic hunt for fixer-uppers because they don’t know how to fix their own marriage. They have the distinction of shopping at every Ikea in Sweden—and those are some of the most romantic moments they ever shared. Then there is Zara, a wealthy director of a bank who has never cared for poor people or their problems (and isn’t shy about saying so). But when tragedy strikes in her life, she becomes addicted to visiting real-estate open houses to see how the middle-classes live—and possibly to find a suitable place to commit suicide. Julia and Danijela are a young lesbian couple with a newborn baby who can’t agree on anything. Their opposite and idiosyncratic home preferences are making them increasingly anxious about their chances of spending a lifetime together. And Estelle, an eighty-year-old woman who has lived long enough to be unimpressed by some bank robber waving a gun in her face. Despite the story she tells them all, Estelle hasn’t really come to the apartment to view it for her daughter, and her husband really isn’t outside parking the car.

As police surround the premises and television channels are broadcasting live, the pressure of an increasingly tense situation mounts, causing each person to reveal more and more about themselves to each other. Before long, the robber must decide which is the more terrifying prospect: going out to face the police, or staying in the apartment with this group of impossible people.

A riotous comedy, Anxious People is about a crime that never took place, a would-be bank robber who disappears into thin air, and a group of very anxious people who experience exactly the same events in wildly different ways.

I’m a fairly new Fredrik Backman reader. I read and ended up loving Beartown, but to be honest it took me a long time to get into it. It started so slow for me. That was not the case with Anxious People. Where Beartown was dreary and took a lot of time to build up to action, Anxious People took off at an addicting pace. I loved the way the story was set up. I couldn’t wait to find out how everything unraveled. Learning about the characters along the way was like a cherry on top of a sundae.  I loved how their personal stories wove into the bigger picture. I appreciated how this book managed to be incredibly funny while delivering some very strong punches. So many things hit me right in the heart. I loved every minute of it. Anxious People will be going on my list of favorite books I’ve read this year.

Since I listened to this book, I want to comment on the narration as well. It was spectacular. I got both the audiobook and e-book from my library at the same time. I thought about switching from the audiobook to the e-book just so I could read the book faster than listen, but I liked the narrator too much. Marin Ireland brought the story to life in the best way.  Her narration was so good that I had to listen and sent the e-book back for someone else to read.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Lifted My Spirit This Year (AKA: Rom-Coms)

Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday!

Top Ten Tuesday is an original weekly feature created by The Broke and the Bookish and is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is:

Thanksgiving Freebie

My freebie topic is going to be:

Books That Lifted My Spirit This Year (AKA: Rom-Coms)

Besides being thankful for family, friends, and pretty good health this year, I have also been thankful for some great books that have helped me get through COVID-19 social and physical distancing. Some of the ones I’m most thankful for are romantic comedies because they make me laugh. Here are some of my favorites I have read this year.

1. The Match
Author: Sarah Adams

This was my first book by Adams, but it won’t be my last. It brightened my day.

2. Hate the Player
Author: Max Monroe

Every book Max Monroe released this year could make this list This is my favorite.

3. Cheesy on the Eyes
Author: Teagan Hunter

Teagan Hunter always knows how to make me laugh.

4. The Change Up
Author: Meghan Quinn

Every book Quinn writes has me in giggles.

5. Jock Blocked
Author: Pippa Grant

I feel like I should just say “ditto”. Grant knows how to make me laugh like Meghan Quinn does.

Author: Avery Flynn

The awkward-weird combination was a winner.

7. Frenemies
Author: Emma Hart

Emma Hart has some seriously fun books. I love her characters — especially if the books contains grandmas.

8. See Me After Class
Author: Meghan Quinn

And I’m back to Meghan Quinn because she’s the queen of rom-coms. This one had me laughing out loud.

9. The Roommate
Author: Rosie Danan

I don’t know that this one is marketed as a rom-com, but it made me laugh.

10. Not My Romeo
Author: Ilsa Madden-Mills

Same as #9. Probably more a contemporary, but I appreciated the humor in this one.

Audiobook Review: The Five Stages of Falling in Love (Rachel Higginson)

The Five Stages of Falling in Love
Author: Rachel Higginson
Narrator: Christine Marshall
Publication Date: October 11, 2016
Publisher: Audible Studios
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


The Five Stages of Falling in Love is a Contemporary Romance.
Elizabeth Carlson is living in the pits of hell- also known as grief.

Her husband of eight years, the father of her four children and the love of her life, died from cancer. Grady’s prognosis was grim, even from the start, but Liz never gave up hope he would survive. How could she, when he was everything to her?

Six months later, she is trying to pick up the pieces of her shattered life and get the kids to school on time. Both seem impossible. Everything seems impossible these days.

When Ben Tyler moves in next door, she is drowning in sorrow and pain, her children are acting out, and the house is falling apart. She has no time for curious new friends or unwanted help, but Ben gives her both. And he doesn’t just want to help her with yard work or cleaning the gutters. Ben wants more from Liz. More than she’s capable of ever giving again.

As Liz mourns her dead husband and works her way through the five stages of grief, she finds there’s more of her heart to give than she thought possible. And as new love takes hold, she peels away the guilt and heartache, and discovers there’s more to life than death.

The Five Stages of Love has been on my TBR since it was released. I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to get to it. I’m seriously regretting that now. This book was heartbreakingly good.

Liz is has lost her husband and the father of her four young children. She’s simply trying to make it through the day when Ben moves in next door. As Liz moves through the stages of grief of Grady, she begins to develop a friendship with Ben. As their friendship morphs into more, Liz has to navigate her feelings over losing Grady and what it means to fall for Ben.

Like I said before, this book was heartbreakingly good. Liz’s grief was overwhelming at times, as it should have been. Listening to her navigate her understandable feelings was hard, but it was also rewarding. The way she worked through things and picked up the pieces of her life was inspiring. It might have taken time, but also felt natural. I loved how her feelings grew organically for Ben. I adored how Ben accepted Liz for who she was at any given moment, and also how he bonded with her children. The only thing I could have wanted from this book that wasn’t included was Ben’s point of view. I don’t blame Higginson for not including it, though. It might have distracted from the growth of Liz’s character.

The Five Stages of Falling in Love was a very beautiful story of grief and love. It broke my heart several times, but also put it back together. It touched me in ways I wasn’t expecting. I would highly recommend it. It is now my favorite Higginson book.

The Sunshine Blogger Award

Hi, friends. It’s been AGES since I’ve done one of these award tag things. The lovely Corina of The Brown Eyed Bookworm nominated me for The Sunshine Blogger Award. I thought it would be a fun change of pace, so here we go! Thanks, Corina!

What is The Sunshine Blogger Award?

The Sunshine Blogger Award is given to those who are creative, positive and inspiring while spreading sunshine to the blogging community.


  • Thank the blogger who nominated you and link back to their blog. (See above!)
  • Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you.
  • Nominate 11 3 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.
  • List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award in your post/or on your blog.
  1. What was your best book of 2020?
    Oh, boy. This is a REALLY hard one to answer. I’ve read some great books this year, so how do I narrow it down to one? I’m going to go with The Reality of Everything by Rebecca Yarros.
  2. Who was your favorite author of 2020?
    Hm… Again, tough. I think I’m going to go with Rebecca Yarros again because I not only adored The Reality of Everything, but also Muses & Melodies. Add in her backlist books I read this year, and she was probably on top.
  3. Holidays are coming up, what books would you want to find under the tree?
    This might seem weird because I read mostly romance, but I usually ask for celebrity memoirs for Christmas. They’re books I’m not likely to buy myself.
  4. How do you feel about DNFing books?
    If you hate a book, you shouldn’t keep reading it. Too many books, too little time and all that.
  5. How do you feel about hyped books?
    I actually like hype. Without hype, there are many books I wouldn’t have read — especially some great YA fantasy because I am not a fantasy fan. Seeing everyone’s hype for those books pushed me to read them and others. I think it’s a good thing. I don’t let the hype dictate how I feel about a book, though.
  6. Do you have a reading buddy?
    I’ve buddy read with a couple of blogger friends before (Kayla and Debby). I scream a lot to Ari on Twitter about what I’m reading or she’s reading or what I want her to read. On a daily basis, it’s probably my Havanese Winnie.
  7. How many hours do you usually read a day? And what time of day do you tend to read the most?
    Total probably depends on the day. I usually read at night, after dinner until I go to bed. Maybe two or three hours? It depends on what’s going on or whether I’m interested in what my husband or daughter is watching on TV.
  8. How do you feel about tbrs?
    They can be daunting. I try to limit mine. My Goodreads TBR contains between 65 and 80 books at any given time. Most of these are books that haven’t released yet or are upcoming releases I want to read. There are some books that have already released that I want to read, but not many. I take off and add books without feeling stress.
  9. Do you track your books, or fly by the seat of your pants?
    I track them on Goodreads. I like to be able to look back at reviews and remind myself of my thoughts on them. Or look back and see if I’ve read a book. It’s too easy to forget if I have sometimes. Horrible, I know.
  10. How many books do you usually read a year, and do you feel pressure to read more?
    OH GOODNESS. PLEASE DON’T MAKE ME ADMIT HOW MANY BOOKS I READ A YEAR. This year is especially bad because we are all stuck at home since March. I’ve read WAY TOO MANY books this year. Can I just say that I surpassed my goal of 200 books on my Goodreads Challenge and call it good? Obviously, no I don’t feel pressure to read more. I would actually would like to read LESS. This year was just so boring. There wasn’t much else to do at times.
  11. What other social media platforms are you active on?
    Twitter:  @anovelglimpse
    Goodreads: Deanna (A Novel Glimpse)
  1. What is your favorite romance trope?
  2. Who is the most memorable character that you have ever read and why?
  3. Which author do you think has the best overall writing style?
  4. What is your favorite book to gift people?
  5. What book, without giving away it away, gave you the most surprising twist?
  6. Do you like it when authors include playlists with books? Do you actually listen to the songs before, after, or while reading the books?
  7. What one book would you want turned into a TV series or movie?
  8. If you had to pick one author to write a story based on your life, who would it be?
  9. Do you like to binge read book series? Which ones is the last one you binged?
  10. Favorite new-to-you author you have read in 2020?
  11. If you had to convince me to read one book, which book would it be and why should I read it?

I nominate: Carla | Andie | Raven 

Review: Little Lies (H. Hunting)

Little Lies
Author: H. Hunting (Helena Hunting)
Publication Date: November 16, 2020
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Sports Romance
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½


I don’t want you.
You mean nothing to me.
I never loved you.

I turned my words into swords.
And I cut her down. Shoved the blade in and watched her fall.

I said I’d never hurt her, and I did.

Years later, I’m faced with all the little lies, the untruths, the false realities, the damage I inflicted, when all I wanted was to indulge my obsession.

Lavender Waters is the princess in the tower. Even her name is the thing fairy tales are made of.

I used to be the one who saved her.
Over and over again.

But I don’t want to save her anymore.
I just want to pretend the lies are still the truth.

A standalone angsty new adult romance.


Heroine: Lavender Waters (Alex and Violet Waters’ youngest daughter, PUCKED and FOREVER PUCKED couple origin, Pucked Series )

Hero: Kodiak (Kody) Bowman (Rook and Lainey Bowman’s son, A LIE FOR A LIE couple origin, All In Series )

Pucked/All In crossover romance? I know fans of Helena Hunting’s hockey romance series are going to be lining up for this book. I was super excited to read it myself. I’m happy to report that Little Lies didn’t disappoint.

Little Lies wasn’t a romantic comedy like those previous series. It was edgier. There was more angst and a darker vibe. I guess that’s why Hunting felt the need to go with “H. Hunting” instead of “Helena Hunting”. (I’m not sold on this being a great move since this book is combining two of Helena Hunting’s series, but whatever.) It still brought forth a few chuckles, though.  I loved both the writing, the story, and all the children of the couples I have loved over the years.

Lavender Waters was a character I was excited to learn more about. I really liked her character in this book. I could remember a few details from her childhood from the previous books, but I liked getting further into her backstory. It wasn’t exactly a troubled one, but it kind of was. Anxiety was a huge factor in this book, and I liked how it was dealt with.

Kodiak Bowman started out not being my favorite guy, but the more I got to learn about him, the more I understood him. Finding out how intertwined Lavender and Kodiak were as kids helped a lot. I have to admit loving the flashbacks of their childhood and trying to figure out how they got to being enemies the way they were currently. Plus, it made things even sweeter when enemies turned to more. I ended up finding the two of them perfect together and very adorable. I do have to admit that the physical aspect of their relationship sort of shocked me, but considering there’s a relation to both Alex & Violet Waters and Rook & Lainey Bowman maybe I shouldn’t have been?

One of my favorite things about this book were all the sibling/cousin/friend relationships. The Pucked and All In series created a bunch of children to throw into the mix. Seeing how those kids’ relationships morphed throughout the years was so much fun! I loved Lavender and River’s relationships. They all just added an extra layer to the drama that went down between Lavender and Kodiak. Plus, the parents make some cool cameos.

I’m really, really hoping Little Lies is a start to a new series by Hunting. I would LOVE for each and every one of the kids to get a book. There’s great potential for some great romances. I have a feeling I would enjoy them just as much as I enjoyed Lavender and Kodiak’s romance.

Little Lies, an all-new, angsty and emotional new adult romance from New York Times bestselling author Helena Hunting writing as H. Hunting is out now!


Download your copy today or read FREE in Kindle Unlimited!
Amazon Worldwide:
Amazon Paperback:

Add LITTLE LIES to Goodreads:

About Helena Hunting

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of PUCKED, Helena Hunting lives on the outskirts of Toronto with her incredibly tolerant family and two moderately intolerant cats. She writes contemporary romance ranging from new adult angst to romantic sports comedy.

Connect with Helena
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H. Hunting


Mini Review: Blue Christmas (Ginger Scott)

Blue Christmas
Falling, Mistletoe Kisses Anthology
Author: Ginger Scott
Publication Date: November 17, 2020
Genre: Contemporary Romance, New Adult
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased review.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Are you ready to fall in love under the mistletoe?

Join fourteen bestselling authors as they take you back to some of their favorite worlds, with this collection of all-new young and new adult short stories.

‘Tis the season for friendship, family, first love, and FEELS.

Pre-order this upcoming charity anthology and help raise funds for One October, a non-profit helping the lives of children in foster care.

Participating Authors:
Ali Dean
Alley Ciz
Amie Knight
Anna B. Doe
Cambria Hebert
Ginger Scott
L A Cotton
Len Webster
Mackenzie Lane
Micalea Smeltzer
Monica Murphy
Piper Lawson
S.B. Alexander
Tracy Lorraine

I was so excited to hear that Ginger Scott was giving us a little more of the Preeter family! I couldn’t wait to read this short holiday story and it was so much fun. I loved briefly catching up with Nate & Rowe and Tyson & Cassie. If you have read the Falling series this little look at their lives now is going to make you so happy. The only thing that could have made me happier was if it had been another full length novel. I can dream, can’t I? 😉

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters I’d Name a Pet After

Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday!

Top Ten Tuesday is an original weekly feature created by The Broke and the Bookish and is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is:

Characters I Would Name a Pet After

This was harder than it sounds, people! A lot of these are for males, but the dogs we have had are all female.

1. Frank Sanger, This Adventure Ends

2. Graham Cracker (Garret Graham), The Deal

3. Lucy, More Than Forever

4. Daisy, Hothouse Flower

5. Blake Riley, Good Boy

6. Otis, Must Love Dogs…and Hockey

7. Walter, Tapping the Billionaire

8. Clive, Wallbanger

9. Logan Kade, Fallen Crest High

10. Britney Spears, Britney Spears’ Heart to Heart (I’ve always wanted to name a dog Britney Spears, so I had find a book about her.)

Review: You Had Me at Hockey (Kelly Jamieson)

You Had Me at Hockey
Series: Bears Hockey, #2
Author: Kelly Jamieson
Publication Date: December 8, 2020
Publisher: Random House LLC
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Sports Romance
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


Can a spirited, down-to-earth influencer get an uptight hockey player out of his shell?

I am a warrior. That’s been my motto since I recovered from a near-death accident when I was younger. Now I enjoy my nice, settled life in Dallas playing pro hockey—a boring life is better than being dead. I’m not a party guy or an adventurer; I like my routine and peace and quiet. So being traded to New York is the worst possible change that could happen. And meeting unfiltered and fascinating Sara Carrington throws my life into even more chaos.

I’ve been considered weird my whole life, which is why I’m still a virgin, but I’ve turned it into a career with my YouTube videos. Who knew people would love watching me talk about my zits, taste test meatless burgers, and try to learn TikTok dances! Now I’m launching a podcast. Getting hockey star Josh Heller as a guest will help gain listeners for sure. I expect a bearded jock with no teeth and nothing to say, but I get a hot as H-E-double-hockey-sticks grouch with a surprisingly dirty mind. My mission to make him laugh is successful, but I want to know why he’s so uptight underneath that panty-dropping smile. Maybe I can teach Josh to have some fun . . . and maybe he can teach me a thing or two along the way. . . .

I loved You Had Me at Hockey. The entire thing was adorable. Sara was this funny, impulsive, down to Earth chick that made me laugh so hard. She brought out the best in Josh. Josh (of the Heller family for those who have read that series) was this slightly grumpy, uptight hockey player. He lived by his plans and it was fun to see him unravel with Sara by his side. These two  had serious chemistry and their banter was hilarious. They played so well off each other. I also liked the realities the two faced pertaining to their pasts. It was easy to identify with both of them.

You Had Me at Hockey was truly a great, heartfelt romance. Most of all, it made me laugh and smile. It’s going down as one of my favorite sports romances from Kelly Jamieson. I want more like it.