Friday, December 9, 2016

Review: Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper by Debbie Johnson

Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper by Debbie Johnson
Series: Standalone
Published: November 5th, 2015
Publisher: HarperImpulse
210 pages (ebook)
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Acquired this book: Bought
Warning: May contain spoilers
{GoodReads || Buy this book: Amazon || Kobo}

You’ve seen Mark Darcy in the reindeer jumper his mother gave him, now meet Marco Cavelli in this season’s Christmas knit!

For single mum Maggie, Christmas has always been a family occasion – her daughter Ellen filling the house with her bubbly warmth and mistletoe, her dad Paddy having one too many festive tipples, and the traditional family Christmas tree looking like a drunken elf vomited a rainbow all over it.

But this year, with both Ellen and Paddy away for the holidays, Maggie’s facing a truly blue Christmas – alone with nothing but a bottle of Baileys and an M&S turkey dinner.

Until walking the snowy streets of Oxford, Marco Cavelli quite literally crashes into her life – and, complete with broken leg, becomes her unexpected houseguest. All dreamy brown eyes and 6’5” of gorgeousness, the man is hotter and more delicious than a freshly baked mince pie.

Though Maggie always thought it’s a truth universally acknowledged that you never kiss a man in a Christmas jumper?

I love Christmas novels and novellas, even though they tend to be hit or miss for me. I download as many freebies and 99 cent stories as I can find in November and December, and hope for the best. I was intrigued by Never Kiss a Man in Christmas Jumper because a) the cover is adorable, and b) it instantly brought to mind Mark Darcy in Bridget Jones Diary, which is one of my favourite movies. Within a few pages, I was pretty sure this story would fall into the ‘hit’ category for me, and I was right. I loved this book from beginning to end, whether I was giggling, swooning, frustrated with the characters, or tearing up.

Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper is a sweet romance that fills you with warm, fuzzy feelings. It’s the perfect mix of light and funny, with serious real-life issues that I think a lot of people will be able to relate to. Maggie is a young woman, but because she had her daughter in her teens, she’s become old before her time in a way. She’s settled into a comfortable life, and while she’s content and has everything she needs, she’s shut herself away and prevented herself from having a full life without even truly realizing it...until Marco comes along.

I loved Maggie and Marco, individually and together. Maggie was a really relatable character - smart, funny, and the type of woman I’d love to be friends with. The secondary characters were great too, and added so much to the story. I loved how each character had a purpose and helped to move the story along. The plot was fun and had some unique elements that I appreciated, and that made it different from other holiday-theme stories. Plus talk about a unique and hilarious meet-cute! 

Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper has earned a high spot on my list of favourite holiday books. It had everything I love about Christmas stories - heart, humour, great characters, swoony moments, and a happily ever after. It’s the perfect book to curl up with on a cold afternoon or evening, and allow yourself to get swept away to a beautiful town in England where a hot guy in a silly sweater will keep you warm. 

Have you read Never Kiss a Man in a Christmas Jumper? What did you think? If you haven't read it, do you plan to? Do you have any favourite Christmas/holiday/winter books?

Monday, December 5, 2016

Review: Snowbound at Christmas by Jennifer Ryan, Lia Riley, Maisey Yates

Snowbound at Christmas by Jennifer Ryan, Lia Riley, Maisey Yates
Published: November 15th, 2016
Publisher: Avon Impulse
384 pages (ebook)
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Acquired this book: Via Edelweiss in exchange for honest consideration
Warning: May contain spoilers
{GoodReads || Buy this book: Amazon || Chapters/Indigo}

When a snowstorm pummels the western half of the country, three couples find once off-limits love just in time for Christmas. An unforgettable holiday anthology from bestselling authors Jennifer Ryan, Maisey Yates, and Lia Riley.

Close to Perfect: A Montana Men Novella by Jennifer Ryan

At sixteen, Abigail gave Dex the gift of a lifetime, but the cost of it was more than he ever knew. Now she’s back in town with a secret that has been ten years in the making and this time it’s Dex’s turn to make the ultimate sacrifice or risk losing her forever.

Snowed in at Copper Ridge: A Copper Ridge Novella by Maisey Yates

Mia Landry has always had it bad for brooding cowboy Devlin Grayson. Too bad he’s her best friend’s older brother. But when they find themselves snowed in at Copper Ridge Lodge, Mia finally has the chance to tell the man of her dreams exactly what she wants him.

Hot Winter’s Night: A Brightwater Novella by Lia Riley

While Brightwater is being covered in snow, Goldie Flint is stuck in her flower shop. She never expected her hero to be Kit Kane, the former love of her life. Kit knows that what he had with Goldie isn’t just in the past and with the help of a little bet, an ornery grandmother, and a lot of snow, he’s ready to show her that what he really wants for Christmas is a second chance.

Close to Perfect: A Montana Men Novella by Jennifer Ryan ~ 2 stars
This was my least favourite story in the Snowbound at Christmas anthology. I know a lot of readers dislike novellas because the characters are often flat, the plot is rushed, and/or there’s no development - character-wise or story-wise. I had all of those problems with this story. It was overly dramatic, unbelievable, and repetitive. It was basically the same couple of thoughts/sentiments over and over and over. I ended up skimming a lot of it because I couldn’t find anything enjoyable about it.

Snowed in at Copper Ridge: A Copper Ridge Novella by Maisey Yates ~ 2.5 stars
This story had a lot of the same problems as the first, especially the fact the characters had no depth. I know that Christmasy novellas are often cheesy and things happen too quickly romantically, but if it’s done right you can overlook that and find it sweet and romantic. That wasn’t the case with this story. Despite the fact the characters had known each other for a long time, the romance felt like insta-love - the unbelievable kind.

Hot Winter’s Night: A Brightwater Novella by Lia Riley ~ 5 stars
Hot Winter’s Night had none of the problems of the other two stories. It could be because I’ve been a fan of Riley’s for a few years now and because I’ve read two of the three Brightwater books, but I honestly think it was more than that. This story had characters with actual depth, purpose, and a believable story. It evoked real emotion, plus it was funny, sweet, sexy, and romantic. This story is the type of Christmasy novella I love - the kind that makes me laugh, makes me teary, gets me invested in the characters, and leaves me with a warm and fuzzy feeling. Riley never ceases to amaze me.

Have you read Snowbound at Christmas? What did you think? If you haven't read it, do you plan to? Do you have any favourite Christmas/holiday/winter books?

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Review: If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo
Series: Standalone
Published: May 3rd, 2016
Publisher: Flatiron Books
280 pages (hardcover)
Genre: Contemporary Young Adult/LGBTQ
Acquired this book: Library
Warning: May contain spoilers
{GoodReads || Buy this book: Amazon || Chapters/Indigo}

Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school in Lambertville, Tennessee. Like any other girl, all she wants is to make friends and fit in. But Amanda is keeping a secret. There’s a reason why she transferred schools for her senior year, and why she’s determined not to get too close to anyone.

And then she meets Grant Everett. Grant is unlike anyone she’s ever met—open, honest, kind—and Amanda can’t help but start to let him into her life. As they spend more time together, she finds herself yearning to share with Grant everything about herself…including her past. But she’s terrified that once she tells Grant the truth, he won't be able to see past it.

Because the secret that Amanda’s been keeping? It’s that she used to be Andrew.

I’m going to be perfectly honest: I read If I Was Your Girl because I knew it was an important book’. I’ll read just about any LGBTQ+ book, and since a) I hadn’t read any books with a main character who’s trans, and b) this is an own voices book, it felt like something I should read so I’d be able to recommend a book with a trans MC if anyone asked.

What I’m basically trying to get at is something Dahlia Adler said better than I seem to be able to: “You know books people say are great just because they're so necessary in concept and premise, but then the execution and/or style kinda suck but no one wants to admit it?

This is not that.”

I’ve read those books. Those books that fill a gaping hole in publishing, that some people truly do need, but that end up falling flat on a personal level for whatever reason. If I Was Your Girl was truly not that. I went into it expecting I would probably like it and knowing I’d learn a few things, but I didn’t expect it to resonate so deeply and on so many levels.

Amanda is a fantastic, layered character. She’s smart, she’s funny, and she wants what most girls want: to be safe, to be loved, and to have healthy relationships with family and friends. There was so much more to her than just being a trans girl. I’ve read my share of books where the main character’s sexuality or ID was the main focus of the book and there was little plot or character development, but I felt like I got to know who Amanda was and I was proud of her strength and growth throughout the story. The flashback chapters were a nice added touch. It was interesting and insightful to see Amanda as a child - as Andrew - wanting to be a girl when she grew up, certain there had somehow been a mistake somewhere along the way, and then bits of her transition and what led her to moving in with her dad.

There were great secondary characters in this book, from Amanda’s parents to her new friends to Grant, the love interest. I appreciated how we got to see Amanda’s parents before, during, and after her transition. It was raw, it was painful, and it was honest. It wasn’t easy for any of them, and I was glad we got to see their struggle, but also that they were trying. There were some beautiful, real, emotionally-charged moments with her parents that I loved. Amanda’s group of new friends were the exact type I like to see - very different personality wise, but they love each other unconditionally even if there are certain things about each other they don’t understand.

Before reading this book, I was aware of some of the obstacles trans people face, but this book really opened my eyes. I learned so much, and while Russo mentions in the author’s note that her goal wasn’t to educate but to tell a story, I really did feel like my eyes were opened to a lot of things. Amanda’s story could have easily been filled with even more heartache and pain, abuse, and worse, but I appreciated so much that we got to see a trans character forming relationships, finding love, and being happy. There are enough tragedies for LGBTQ+ people in real life - abuse, suicides, murders, mental health issues - that it was refreshing to see a girl like Amanda get the happy ending (or more aptly, the happy beginning) she deserved.

If I Was Your Girl made me run the gamut of emotions - sadness, anger, happiness, hopefulness. It’s a story I think so many people will connect with, whether they’re cisgender, trans, gay, straight, or anything in between. At the heart of it, Amanda is just a regular girl, and this is a beautiful story about friendship, first love, family, and self-discovery. A definite must-read for teens, and for anyone else who enjoys well-written, heartfelt, emotional contemporary YA.

Have you read If I Was Your Girl? What did you think? If you haven't read it, do you plan to? Do you have any recommendations for books with trans characters?

Friday, November 11, 2016

Bookstagram Weekly Digest #14

Bookstagram Weekly Digest ~ Every Friday or Saturday I'll share the pictures I posted on Bookstagram the week before. If you'd like to follow me on Instagram and see my daily bookish pictures, I'm SweetMarie_83!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Review: Semi-Scripted by Amanda Heger

Semi-Scripted by Amanda Heger
Series: Wanderlove #2
Published: November 8th, 2016
Publisher: Diversion Publishing
224 pages (ARC)
Genre: Contemporary New Adult
Acquired this book: From the author in exchange for honest consideration
Warning: May contain spoilers
{GoodReads || Buy this book: Amazon || Chapters/Indigo}

Marisol Gutierrez has come to Los Angeles with a single goal: win the prestigious grant that will save her family's struggling medical clinic back in Nicaragua. But, when a cute guy invites her to sit in the audience of a hip-but-failing comedy program, Marisol figures she'll get a little entertainment out of her otherwise stress-filled trip.

Evan Abramson thought an internship at "The So Late It's Early Show" would be the start of a long television-writing career, but their ratings are sinking. With every show, his plans seem one step closer to collapse. When a backstage crisis throws him into an onstage encounter with a gorgeous and charming audience member, Evan and Marisol become overnight sensations. And soon their made-for-television romance is the only thing keeping "So Late" from cancellation.

As things heat up onscreen and off, Marisol and Evan are caught between their careers and their growing feelings for one another. Being together in front of the cameras puts Marisol's grant at risk, but keeping their romance offscreen means Evan's show is sure to fail. Together they have to decide whether to stick with the script and save their careers or improvise their way toward a happily ever after.

I loved Amanda Heger’s debut, Without Borders. It was funny, touching, and compelling, and it featured memorable characters. One of those characters was Marisol, who gets her own turn in the spotlight in Semi-Scripted.

Marisol goes to LA from Nicaragua to attend conferences and interviews in the hopes of winning a grant for her family’s clinic, which provides medical brigades into isolated parts of Nicaragua. Evan moved across the country with dreams of becoming a TV writer, but his internship at a late-night talk show involves little more than rounding up game-show rejects to fill the audience of a show whose ratings are so low, they're kept on air on a week-to-week basis. Seemingly as different as can be, Marisol and Evan have a few things in common: neither of them wants to disappoint their families, and they both have big dreams that they’re willing to work hard for. Thrown together by chance and kept together by strange circumstances, the pair form a bond that slowly builds from friendship to something more.

Semi-Scripted is such a fun, different book. It had me giggling from the beginning, and it was easy to root for Marisol and Evan, both separately and as a couple. Their interactions were hilarious and adorable, and at times really touching. I loved how Evan reignited a spark in Marisol - a lust for life that she’d tucked away in her drive to help keep her family’s clinic afloat. Through adventures, strange situations, and Evan’s openness, Marisol remembers what it’s like to laugh and have fun. I loved how strong and driven both these characters were, and that they each had their own unique side stories that gave the book extra depth.

Semi-Scripted, like Without Borders, is different from anything I’ve read. This book is fun and funny, a mixture of wild scenarios and real-life emotions. Amanda Heger is definitely an author to watch. I can’t wait for more from her!

{My review of Without Borders}

Have you read Semi-Scripted or Without Borders? What did you think? If you haven't read them, do you plan to? Have you ever dreamed of being on a game show? Which one? What's the last book that made you laugh out loud?

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Bookstagram Weekly Digest #13

Bookstagram Weekly Digest ~ Every Friday or Saturday I'll share the pictures I posted on Bookstagram the week before. If you'd like to follow me on Instagram and see my daily bookish pictures, I'm SweetMarie_83!


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