Review: On the Corner of Love and Hate (Nina Bocci)

On the Corner of Love and Hate
Series: Hopeless Romantics, #1
Author: Nina Bocci
Publication Date: August 20, 2019
Publisher: Gallery Books
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance, Contemporary
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½

Synopsis:

For fans of Christina Lauren and Lauren Layne comes a delightfully sassy and sexy romance about a campaign manager who reluctantly works with the local Lothario to help revamp his image for the upcoming mayoral elections, only to discover that he’s hiding something that can turn both their lives upside down.

What’s a campaign manager’s worst nightmare? A smooth-talking charmer who’s never met a scandal that he didn’t like.

When Emmanuelle Peroni’s father—and mayor of her town—asks her to help rehab Cooper Endicott’s image, she’s horrified. Cooper drives her crazy in every way possible. But he’s also her father’s protégé, and she can’t say no to him without him finding out the reason why: Cooper and her have a messy past. So Emmanuelle reluctantly launches her father’s grand plan to get this Casanova someone to settle down with and help him lose his lothario reputation.

Cooper Endicott wanted to run for Mayor, but he never wanted the drama that went with it. Now that he’s on the political hamster wheel, the other candidates are digging up everything from his past. Even though he’s doing all the right things, his colorful love life is the sticking point for many of the conservative voters. He wants to win, badly, and he knows that if he wants any chance of getting a vote from the female population, he needs to change his image. The only problem? He might just be falling in love with the one person he promised not to pursue: the Mayor’s off-limits daughter.

A perfect blend of humor and heart, On the Corner of Love and Hate is the first in a new series from USA TODAY bestselling author Nina Bocci.


Today, I have a book I’m excited to share with you for a couple of reasons. If you’re a romance blogger like me, you have probably communicated with Nina Bocci or at least heard of her in some way. It’s always exciting to see a name you’re familiar with publish a book. Or maybe you’re like me in another way and became a fan of Nina Bocci’s writing with her collaboration with Alice Clayton on Roman Crazy. Either way, I was excited for On the Corner of Love and Hate for both of those reasons. Here is what I thought of Nina Bocci’s solo début.

What I liked:

  • I knew I liked Nina Bocci’s writing based on what I read in Roman Crazy. I wasn’t sure how that would translate to a solo novel. I was very happy to find that her writing felt just as strong by itself.
  • Emma was a strong female character. She was successful in life. She didn’t need a man to hold her hand through life. I liked that when she finally had a man in her life, it was because she wanted one instead of needing one.
  • Emma’s family. Her relationship with her dad was sweet, but her relationship with her mom was sweet and funny. I loved the texts they shared.
  • Emma’s friends were adorable! I loved Nick and Henry! I can’t wait to see them again.

What I disliked:

  • There was too much going on. There were three big things going on all at once and it was a little overwhelming. I didn’t know where to focus my attention: the mayor’s race, Emma’s tense relationship with Cooper, or Whitney?
  • The lack of Cooper’s point of view. Honestly, I wasn’t a fan of Cooper because all I got to see through Emma were the bad things. Even when she moved from hate to love, it was hard to understand why. There wasn’t much to show their love for each other. It was so slow burn, the romance was almost non-existent.

Overall, On the Corner of Love and Hate was a strong solo début for Nina Bocci. It made me excited to find out what’s next in the Hopeless Romantics series.

GIVEAWAY

Review: My Crazy (Sick) Love (Drica Pinotti)

My Crazy (Sick) Love
Author: Drica Pinotti
Publication Date: March 14, 2019
Publisher: Adriana Da Silva Gomes
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

Rating: ★ ★ ½

Synopsis:

Amanda Loeb is a single, intelligent New York City attorney coming up on the eve of her thirtieth birthday. With a stable job, circle of supportive friends, and close relationships with her mother and sister one detail sets Amanda apart from others – she is a hypochondriac. Her medicine cabinet is home to a stock of medications sourced from an actively managed A-Z list of the best doctors in NYC. When Amanda meets Brian Marshall, a handsome and charismatic restaurant owner, her heart beats in undiagnosable somersaults. As their relationship develops Amanda learns the intricacies and complications love brings may be the cure-all ‘pill’ she needs to free herself from the affliction – for the rest of her life.


My Crazy (Sick) Love exhausted me. One of the reasons I read it was because I was curious about Amanda’s hypochondria. I know I have had moments where I was filled with anxiety and worried that something was wrong with me, so I thought it would be easy to relate to. I was also curious how this mental illness would work in a romance. Unfortunately, it didn’t work all that well for me in this case. Amanda’s suffering was completely overwhelming. Her thoughts took over the whole story and made it hard to focus on any other aspect of it. I didn’t find anything about it humorous.

That’s not to say that writing wasn’t good. I thought it was very good and felt like it was well researched. I also really liked Brian’s character. My Crazy (Sick) Love might just be one of those books that works better for others than it did for me.

Review: Things You Save in a Fire (Katherine Center)

Things You Save in a Fire
Author: Katherine Center
Publication Date: August 13, 2019
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Romance, Fiction, Women’s Fiction
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½

Synopsis:

From the New York Times bestselling author of How to Walk Away comes a stunning new novel about family, hope, and learning to love against all odds.

Cassie Hanwell was born for emergencies. As one of the only female firefighters in her Texas firehouse, she’s seen her fair share of them, and she’s excellent at dealing with other people’s tragedies. But when her estranged and ailing mother asks her to uproot her life and move to Boston, it’s an emergency of a kind Cassie never anticipated.

The tough, old-school Boston firehouse is as different from Cassie’s old job as it could possibly be. Hazing, a lack of funding, and poor facilities mean that the firemen aren’t exactly thrilled to have a “lady” on the crew, even one as competent and smart as Cassie. Except for the handsome rookie, who doesn’t seem to mind having Cassie around. But she can’t think about that. Because she doesn’t fall in love. And because of the advice her old captain gave her: don’t date firefighters. Cassie can feel her resolve slipping…but will she jeopardize her place in a career where she’s worked so hard to be taken seriously?

Katherine Center’s Things You Save in a Fire is a heartfelt, affecting novel about life, love, and the true meaning of courage.


How to Walk Away was one of my favorite books from 2018. When I heard Katherine Center was releasing another book, I knew I had to read it. Things You Save in a Fire was exactly what I was expecting. The writing was brilliant. the characters were fleshed out and lovable. The story and drama were entertaining and pulled me in. There wasn’t much about this book that I didn’t love.

Cassie was this tough as nail firefighter who didn’t want to stand out in the crowd of firefighters. She tried to blend in as much as could with her fellow male counterparts. While I was impressed with her ability to do so, I was sad that she had to do that in 2019. I know a lot of women do, though, in many jobs. It added a very interesting aspect to this love story. It made Cassie’s feelings for the rookie a tad bit stressful and emotional in a way I couldn’t have seen coming.

I loved everything about Cassie and Owen’s (non-)relationship. The way everything built between them was perfect. I felt their connection. I enjoyed how Cassie tried to avoid it. It was just really cute…and emotional. I won’t go into why it was so emotional because I don’t want to ruin anything, but Cassie had some healing to do where love was concerned. I enjoyed how she worked through her issues with love.

Part of those love issues for Cassie had to do with her mom. I adored her mother in this book. I get why Cassie had to work on forgiveness. Forgiveness was a huge part of this book, and I liked how it was done — with one exception.

One of the biggest villains was forgiven more quickly than I liked. The severity of the hurt they caused felt almost brushed over by the rate of forgiveness. I am glad this person was forgiven, but I wanted more legal retribution. This person didn’t have to deal with their actions in the way I thought they should have. I did like how they atoned and made a huge effort to apologize, though.

Other than that, this story was perfection in my eyes. It was a great inspirational story that has me eagerly anticipating Katherine Center’s next book.

Review: Sunset Beach (Mary Kay Andrews)

Sunset Beach
Author: Mary Kay Andrews
Narrator: Kathleen McInerney
Publication Date: May 7, 2019
Publisher: McMillan Audio
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Mystery

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

Drue Campbell’s life and career have recently been derailed. The only thing she has left is the house her mother left her: a ramshackle beach bungalow with a missing roof in the once-sleepy town of Sunset Beach, which is rapidly becoming a hot spot for the rich and well-heeled, who are none too pleased about the shabby eyesore in their perfect neighborhood.

When Drue’s larger-than-life father unexpectedly turns up at her mother’s funeral and offers her a job at his law firm, Drue doesn’t know whether to be grateful or resentful that he has suddenly reappeared. She grudgingly accepts the job sifting through cold callers and shysters looking to get rich quick. But when her attention is caught by a suspicious murder case, Drue finds herself entangled in a decades-old mystery – one that may have dire consequences for Drue and the people she loves.


It’s been years since I read a book by Mary Kay Andrews. I’m not exactly sure why. I guess her books haven’t been on my radar or something because when I saw Sunset Beach available to listen to from my library I jumped on downloading it. I’m thankful I did for many reasons.

Sunset Beach was a fantastic book to listen to. I usually enjoy Mary Kay Andrews’ writing, but there was something about the narrator’s voice that made it even more captivating. There were some points in the story where it might have lost me (so much going on), but Kathleen McInerney’s voice kept pulling me back in. I actually want to find more books she’s narrated to read. That’s how much I enjoyed her voice.

As for Sunset Beach‘s content, I was impressed with the mystery. There were actually two of them. One was an old missing person case Drue stumbled upon relating to her father. I liked how that one took me back in time and slowly revealed itself. The other mystery was a couple of years old regarding the death of a young mother. I liked that one because it added a more intense level of suspense than the first mystery. Drue also stumbles upon this one at her father’s law office and decides to do some detective work of her own. Meanwhile, she’s also working, meeting new co-workers, annoying police detectives, repairing her relationship with her father and his wife, and maybe dating. There was just so much going on.

Back to those mysteries… Usually I am able to predict what’s going to happen in a mystery or who the bad guy is. That was not the case with Sunset Beach. I had my suspicions about what was going on with both mysteries. I was COMPLETELY wrong. I never would have guessed any of it. I was super impressed with that. Kudos to Mary Kay Andrews for stumping me!

Overall, Sunset Beach was a great listening experience. I think its release is timely with the summer coming up. It would be the perfect beach read.

Review: 99 Percent Mine (Sally Thorne)

99 Percent Mine
Author: Sally Thorne
Publication Date: January 29, 2019
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Rating: ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

Crush: a strong and often short-lived infatuation, particularly for someone beyond your reach…

Darcy Barrett has undertaken a global survey of men. She’s travelled the world, and can categorically say that no one measures up to Tom Valeska, whose only flaw is that Darcy’s twin brother Jamie saw him first and claimed him forever as his best friend. Despite Darcy’s best efforts, Tom’s off limits and loyal to her brother, 99%. That’s the problem with finding her dream man at age eight and peaking in her photography career at age twenty—ever since, she’s had to learn to settle for good enough.

When Darcy and Jamie inherit a tumble-down cottage from their grandmother, they’re left with strict instructions to bring it back to its former glory and sell the property. Darcy plans to be in an aisle seat halfway across the ocean as soon as the renovations start, but before she can cut and run, she finds a familiar face on her porch: house-flipper extraordinaire Tom’s arrived, he’s bearing power tools, and he’s single for the first time in almost a decade.

Suddenly Darcy’s considering sticking around to make sure her twin doesn’t ruin the cottage’s inherent magic with his penchant for grey and chrome. She’s definitely not staying because of her new business partner’s tight t-shirts, or that perfect face that’s inspiring her to pick up her camera again. Soon sparks are flying—and it’s not the faulty wiring. It turns out one percent of Tom’s heart might not be enough for Darcy anymore. This time around, she’s switching things up. She’s going to make Tom Valeska 99 percent hers.


99 Percent Mine was one of my most anticipated releases of 2019. I read Sally Thorne’s The Hating Game last year and adored it. I was bummed when I started reading a lot of reviews saying this book didn’t even compare to The Hating Game. Despite the negative hype, I decided to read 99 Percent Mine anyways.

I have to admit that 99 Percent Mine didn’t start off in the best way. Darcy, the main character, rubbed me the wrong way immediately. The vibe she gave off was not a good one. Darcy’s very brash and bitter. It was hard to connect to her for a large part of the story because her motivations are completely unclear. Even when they are, they seem juvenile. She always seems to be punishing herself in negative ways.

When Tom, Darcy’s childhood friend, shows up things start to get even more confusing. I don’t understand the dynamic between them. There’s not really much to tell me what happened between them in the past. It takes a while to learn that information, and when I finally do, I have no clue why Tom is attracted to prickly Darcy. He is this nice, quiet guy. If Darcy is a jalapeno pepper, Tom is milk.

Another negative factor in 99 Percent Mine is Jamie. Jamie is Darcy’s twin brother. He’s a complete jerk. He is so horrible. Darcy acts like he’s the better person, but he’s not. Jamie makes Darcy look less bitter and I actually felt bad for her when it came to him.

The entire first half of this book was filled with negative emotions and characters. I wasn’t having a great time reading, but I was curious enough to find out what made these characters tick. I’m glad I kept reading because the second half of the book was much better than the first.

I was surprised to find Darcy growing on me. I think that can be attributed to the revelations about her life, her illness, and her friendships. Once I understood her, she became more palatable. I wish some of the information would have been revealed early on. I also found myself liking Tom and Darcy’s dynamic. I could finally see what drew them to each other. I loved Darcy’s friendship with Truly and would have liked seeing more than that. I even, at the very end, started to like Jamie.

99 Percent Mine started out rough, but it ended up winning me over in the end. It wasn’t my favorite book, but I didn’t hate it. It’s one that if you push through the awkward, uncomfortable beginning, you will find a sweet love story and a TON of character growth. My advice going into reading it would be to go in with lower expectations (if you have read The Hating Game) and not give up on it too soon.

Review: I Owe You One (Sophia Kinsella)

I Owe You One
Author: Sophia Kinsella
Publication Date: February 5, 2019
Publisher: Dial Press
Genre: Romance, Fiction, Contemporary, Chick Lit/Women’s Fiction
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Sophie Kinsella, an irresistible story of love and empowerment about a young woman with a complicated family, a handsome man who might be “the one,” and an IOU that changes everything

Fixie Farr has always lived by her father’s motto: “Family first.” But since her dad passed away, leaving his charming housewares store in the hands of his wife and children, Fixie spends all her time picking up the slack from her siblings instead of striking out on her own. The way Fixie sees it, if she doesn’t take care of her father’s legacy, who will? It’s simply not in her nature to say no to people.

So when a handsome stranger in a coffee shop asks her to watch his laptop for a moment, Fixie not only agrees—she ends up saving it from certain disaster. Turns out the computer’s owner is an investment manager. To thank Fixie for her quick thinking, Sebastian scribbles an IOU on a coffee sleeve and attaches his business card. But Fixie laughs it off—she’d never actually claim an IOU from a stranger. Would she?

Then Fixie’s childhood crush, Ryan, comes back into her life and his lack of a profession pushes all of Fixie’s buttons. She wants nothing for herself—but she’d love Seb to give Ryan a job. And Seb agrees, until the tables are turned once more and a new series of IOUs between Seb and Fixie—from small favors to life-changing moments—ensues. Soon Fixie, Ms. Fixit for everyone else, is torn between her family and the life she really wants. Does she have the courage to take a stand? Will she finally grab the life, and love, she really wants?


Sophie Kinsella has been writing books for years, but I Owe You One is the first I have picked up. My first impression wasn’t very positive. Fixie immediately had me feeling some emotions I didn’t enjoy. She was high sting and wound tight. The tension inside of her transferred to me. I thought, “Oh no.” I was worried I was going to struggle through the book feeling on edge and uncomfortable. That was just an initial reaction. As I continued to read past the first chapter, Fixie grew on me. Once I understood the reasons behind her disposition, I could relax and roll with her personality. I began to truly enjoy the story.

Fixie was a doormat. There was no one she stood up to. I wanted to smack her when it came to Ryan, Jake, and Nicole. Fixie gave and gave and gave. The happiness of those around her mattered more than her own. It was easy to identify with that. I think we have probably all been there at some point in our lives. I know I have. I Owe You One was really about Fixie coming into her own and learning how to say what needed to be said and do what needed to be done. I loved the evolution she went through. I am happy to say that I ended up loving her character way more than I expected to in the beginning.

The other characters in this story were perfect. Ryan was hideous and irredeemable. Jake was completely frustrating in his antics. Nicole…Oh my goodness. The way her sentences trailed off was hilarious. Her helplessness combined with her getting in touch with her personal happiness was over the top fun. I loved Fixie’s mom. She was so supportive and loving.

And then there was Seb. Seb was this great surprise. His IOU to Fixie added a cool layer to the story. It made all sorts of things happen. Seb helped Fixie grow in some of the best ways. I wish I would have gotten more of him.

I Owe You One was a delightful story. I ended up truly loving it. I am so happy that I didn’t give up reading it after my initial assessment of Fixie. She grew on me in the best of ways. Her story was so important and a good reminder to always be true to yourself.

Mini Reviews: A Bunch of Them!

I haven’t been in the mood to write lengthy reviews lately, but I wanted to be able to share some of the I’ve read lately. That means that  today you’re getting a bunch of mini reviews from me! The format is going to be a little different from my normal mini reviews because of the number of them. You can find more information by clicking on the title of each book which will link to the Goodreads page for that book.  Many of these books are off of my TBR. Here we go!


Hired
Author: Zoey Castile

Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.
Rating: ★ ★ ★

I don’t know…I feel like I should have liked this one more than I did. I was a big fan of the first book in the series, but Hired fell flat for me. It took me a really long time to become invested in the story. Aiden and Faith were both interesting characters enough on their own. I loved that they were an interracial couple and all of the different social issues the author delved into. I just didn’t love their relationship until like 75% into the book. They just didn’t have a big enough spark or something. I was bored too much with the majority of the book. Sad, but true. I’m still planning on reading the next book in the series because I do think the author is talented. This one just wasn’t for me.

Play to Win
Author: Kelly Jamieson

Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½

I love a Kelly Jamieson hockey romance, and I was so excited to get to read the first book in this new series. It had everything I love about Jamieson’s books: gripping writing, two amazing characters, a fun plot, and a love story to swoon over. The only thing that bothered me at times were the myriad of new characters. The Wynn dynasty is a large on and keeping everyone straight was tough. There was a helpful family tree at the beginning, but that’s kind of a pain to flip to on a Kindle version. I’m sure as the series goes on I’ll get to know everyone better. I also wasn’t sure by the end of the book who the next one was going to be about. There were kind of two options. I would be fine with either, though. Overall, I loved reading this book and I’m happy Jamieson is giving us more hockey romance.


For Emery
Author: J. Nathan

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

For Emery is the fourth book in the For You series. It can be read as a standalone novel, but some of Grady’s personality and character traits are woven throughout the series. That is important because Emery is from further back in Grady’s past and his previous behavior is a reflection of their relationship. Emery was a great match for Grady. Her story was actually more interesting to me than his. I actually didn’t fall quite in love with Grady’s character as I hoped. There were just some times that I didn’t like him and that made me question how much I liked Emery’s relationship with him. Overall, it was a good romance. I loved how it ended.

The Greatest Love Story Ever Told
Authors: Meghan Mullally, Nick Offerman

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

This is probably one of my favorite celebrity memoirs ever. If I had to describe it in one word it would be fun. That’s what the entire listening experience is. These two were candid, funny, and a good time to listen to. If you like either of these two actors, you will enjoy this book. I highly recommend the audio version so you can listen to them tell their stories — they even describe the pictures in the book for you so that you’re not missing out on anything.


Love the One You’re With
Author: Lauren Layne

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

I have so many reasons to be happy I finally read Love the One You’re With. It’s my last book in this series to read, my last LL book that I hadn’t read yet, and it’s the book that’s been on my Goodreads TBR the longest! Now those are all great reasons, but the biggest reason I’m happy I finally read this book was because I loved it. Grace and Jake were so much fun! They got up to some crazy antics and I loved how entertaining it all was. I also loved Grace and Jake together. They made a sweet couple.


Now That You Mention It
Author: Kristan Higgins

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

What I want to know is why did I wait so long to read this book? I have loved every single Kristan Higgins book I’ve ever read. I’m so mad that I put this one off because it was a great book about healing. Nora has been through several tough times in her life. The latest one sends her home to an island in Maine. There she not only confronts her present situation, but her past and her possible future. Kristan Higgins’s writing was amazing as always. I loved all of the quirky characters and things that happened to get Nora where she needed to be.

Review: How to Walk Away by Katherine Center

How to Walk Away
Author: Katherine Center
Narrator: Thérèse Plummer
Publication Date: May 15, 2018
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Women’s Fiction, Romance

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

From the author of Happiness for Beginners comes an unforgettable love story about finding joy even in the darkest of circumstances.

Margaret Jacobsen has a bright future ahead of her: a fiancé she adores, her dream job, and the promise of a picture-perfect life just around the corner. Then, suddenly, on what should have been one of the happiest days of her life, everything she worked for is taken away in one tumultuous moment .

In the hospital and forced to face the possibility that nothing will ever be the same again, Margaret must figure out how to move forward on her own terms while facing long-held family secrets, devastating heartbreak, and the idea that love might find her in the last place she would ever expect.

How to Walk Away is Katherine Center at her very best: an utterly charming, hopeful, and romantic novel that will capture reader’s hearts with every page.


How to Walk Away has been on my radar since it was released earlier this year. Pretty much everyone has been raving about it. I was slightly hesitant to read it because I thought it might make me very sad, and I wasn’t in the mood to feel that way. Despite my reservations, I went ahead and requested the audiobook from my library. I am so happy I did! I don’t think I’ve ever had 10+ hours of audio feel like it went so fast before. Between the writing and the narrator, this book was pure magic.

How to Walk Away is my new favorite book of 2018. It deserves all the awards it could possibly get. That’s high praise with all the amazing book releases this year. I was so impressed with Katherine Center’s writing. Her words made me feel. I was sad, happy, depressed, excited… She took me on a journey with Margaret that was emotional and special. I was surprised by how I felt inspired and happy even when I was sad and slightly depressed by what was going on in the story. There were moments that brought me to tears, but more often I was smiling. Margaret’s story wasn’t as good as the hype surrounding it. IT WAS BETTER.

With only one book read by Katherine Center, she has already become one of my new favorite authors. I will for sure be going back to read her earlier books. I highly recommend How to Walk Away. It’s perfect for readers who enjoy books like Me Before You, Bright Side, and really anyone who just loves beautifully written novels.

Review: The Sweet Gum Tree by Katherine Allred

The Sweet Gum Tree
Author: Katherine Allread
Publication Date: May 12, 2005
Publisher: Ellora’s Cave
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Women’s Fiction, New Adult, Fiction

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

Sweet tea, corn bread, and soup beans—everyday fare for eight-year-old Alix French, the precocious darling of a respected southern family. But nothing was ordinary about the day she met ten-year-old Nick Anderson, a boy from the wrong side of town. Armed with only a tin of bee balm and steely determination, Alix treats the raw evidence of a recent beating that mars his back, an act that changes both of their lives forever.

Through childhood disasters and teenage woes they cling together as friendship turns to love. The future looks rosy until the fateful night when Frank Anderson, Nick’s abusive father, is shot to death in his filthy trailer.

Suddenly, Nick is gone—leaving Alix alone, confused and pregnant. For the next fifteen years she wrestles with the pain of Nick’s abandonment, a bad marriage, her family and friends. But finally, she’s starting to get her life back together. Her divorce is almost final, her business is booming, and she’s content if not happy—until the day she looks up and sees Nick standing across the counter. He’s back…and he’s not alone.

Once again Alix is plunged into turmoil and pain as Nick tries to win her love, something she resists with all her strength. Only one thing might break the protective wall she’s built around her emotions—the truth about Frank Anderson’s death. But when that truth comes out and those walls crumble, neither Alix nor Nick is prepared for the emotional explosion that could destroy as well as heal.


The Sweet Gum Tree is not a book that I normally would have picked up. Honestly, the cover and title wouldn’t have appealed to me. Luckily, I read a review of it by Stephanie. Her review made The Sweet Gum Tree sound so interesting. I decided I wanted to read it and requested it from my local library. I’m so happy I did! I ended up really enjoying this book. I didn’t want to put it down. I read it one night, and stayed up super late to finish it.
When I first started reading The Sweet Gum Tree, I wondered what I was getting myself into. While the story was written in my favorite first person narration, it was told straight to me by the main character Alix rather than experiencing it with her. That felt really odd to me. I got used to it and kind of forgot about it. It didn’t ruin the book for me.

I loved the setting of The Sweet Gum Tree. I’m a big fan of books set in the southern United States. This one was even more special with it being set in a small town. I could easily imagine how closely tied together all of the characters were.

I really liked how the story started when Alix was a young girl and grew with her until adulthood. This was done in a great way. I got just enough of her story at important times in her life to understand how she ended up where she was an adult. I loved seeing how her relationship with Nick in all those years changed Alix. I adored Alex and Nick’s love for each other. It was so sweet and it grew from a very special friendship.

What drove me nuts about The Sweet Gum Tree was the lack of communication between the characters. That caused the majority of the problems, and showed just how immature the characters were — even into adulthood. Another thing that was a little frustrating was all the cheating involved in the story. It wasn’t described, so that wasn’t the problem. It was the way that the characters all reacted to it. It seemed like no big deal and was easily forgiven. That was just so odd.

Overall, The Sweet Gum Tree was a surprisingly addictive read. It wasn’t perfect in my eyes, but that didn’t matter. It drew me in, kept my attention, and left me satisfied in the end. If you’re a fan of women’s fiction, books set in the South, or books set in a small town, you might want to give The Sweet Gum Tree a try. It’s a special book.

Review: Stacking the Deck by C.L. Collier

Stacking the Deck
Series: Discovering Us, #1
Author: C.L. Collier
Publication Date: August 27, 2018
Publisher: C.L. Collier LLC
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Fiction
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

Brooke:
I’m convinced happily ever after is a myth. Discovering my husband’s secrets has given me no choice but to take my daughter and start over. Unfortunately, that means living with my parents again. Just when I think life has stacked the deck against me, I run into Ryan. It’s been over a decade, but old feelings quickly reignite. The chemistry between Ryan and me is undeniable, and I’m left wondering if this is the way things were always meant to be.

Ryan:
After being a Marine for fourteen years, I move home to start a business with my brother. The last person I expect to walk through the door is the woman I let go. She’s the one I’ve never forgotten, and thoughts of her kept me going all these years. Now I have the chance to prove my worth to her, but will the odds be stacked against us?


Stacking the Deck is the first book in C.L. Collier’s new Discovering Us series. It’s a second chance romance between high school sweethearts, Brooke and Ryan. They haven’t seen each other since they broke up ten years ago when Brooke went to college and Ryan went to the Marines. Each went their separate ways. Brooke ended up married and had a baby. Ryan spent all those years traveling with the Marine’s. After an unexpected betrayal, Brooke has divorced and moved home to live with her parents. Ryan has also recently returned home to open a gym with his brother. When Brooke and Ryan run into each other for the first time in years, neither of them can deny the spark is still there between them.

This the fourth book C.L. Collier has written and it’s the fourth book of hers I’ve read. With each book I have enjoyed seeing her writing grow and blossom. Each book has been better than the last. I really enjoyed Stacking the Deck. The story felt real, like one that could be happening to someone I know.

Brooke and Ryan were great characters. Brooke was a strong woman. I was surprised by how she wasn’t mopey. Her life had exploded, and while she was upset about it, she was determined to make the best of things. I liked how positive her character felt. She took things at her own pace and did what was right for herself and her daughter. Ryan was a winner. He was basically perfect. Ryan had a few flaws, but they weren’t anything that couldn’t be overlooked. I especially loved how Ryan bonded with Brooke’s daughter. I loved what a great support system he was for Brooke and how he wanted to do things right by her and Ellie.  Brooke and Ryan truly had something special together. I could feel the spark they shared.

This book wasn’t just a romance, though. It’s also the story of Brooke coming to terms with her ex-husbands unexpected betrayal and learning to move on. I liked the ups and downs she went through on her journey of reclaiming her life. I actually would have liked to see more of those moments. I am still curious about what went on between the prologue and the first chapter. I was interested in how she got through the tougher times. To go deeper into this, there were times Brooke was telling the reader about something going on or something she went through and it would have been higher impact for the reader if she was experiencing it in the story rather than telling about it. That is probably more a personal reading preferences than anything. I like to experience all the emotional stuff with a character while reading.

Overall, I truly enjoyed reading Stacking the Deck. It was a fun, sweet second chance romance involving high school sweethearts.