Review

My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan

My Oxford Year
by Julia Whelan

Published April 24, 2018

Source: Purchased

 

Set amidst the breathtaking beauty of Oxford, this sparkling debut novel tells the unforgettable story about a determined young woman eager to make her mark in the world and the handsome man who introduces her to an incredible love that will irrevocably alter her future—perfect for fans of JoJo Moyes and Nicholas Sparks.

American Ella Durran has had the same plan for her life since she was thirteen: Study at Oxford. At 24, she’s finally made it to England on a Rhodes Scholarship when she’s offered an unbelievable position in a rising political star’s presidential campaign. With the promise that she’ll work remotely and return to DC at the end of her Oxford year, she’s free to enjoy her Once in a Lifetime Experience. That is, until a smart-mouthed local who is too quick with his tongue and his car ruins her shirt and her first day.

When Ella discovers that her English literature course will be taught by none other than that same local, Jamie Davenport, she thinks for the first time that Oxford might not be all she’s envisioned. But a late-night drink reveals a connection she wasn’t anticipating finding and what begins as a casual fling soon develops into something much more when Ella learns Jamie has a life-changing secret.

Immediately, Ella is faced with a seemingly impossible decision: turn her back on the man she’s falling in love with to follow her political dreams or be there for him during a trial neither are truly prepared for. As the end of her year in Oxford rapidly approaches, Ella must decide if the dreams she’s always wanted are the same ones she’s now yearning for. [goodreads]

 

To start, this book had everything I look for in a summer read: romance, adventure, an and a hot guy with a sexy accent.

For the first half of the book, I was all in: quirky American girl arrives in England and has an awkward meet-cute in a fish & chips shop. She is torn between pursuing her degree in England (on a Rhodes Scholarship, of course) and the job offer of her dreams back in the US working on a presidential campaign.

I enjoyed Ella’s ambition and humor but felt that her passion for the political campaign job never shone through the pages. She would tell us that she wanted to work on the campaign, but I never really felt it. The only times that plot was really mentioned were when Ella’s boss would randomly call, presumably to remind us that the plot line even existed. If not for random little reminders, I would have completely forgotten about it.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as I was much more interested in the developing romance between Ella and Jamie, but at times it felt unnecessary to the overall story.

About halfway through the book, something is revealed that changes the entire course of the novel. I won’t even hint at what it is because it would be a major spoiler, but I guarantee you will never see it coming. It was so out of the blue that it felt less like a plot twist and more like I suddenly started reading a brand new novel.

As the second half of the novel continued on, I honestly lost interest. The book felt like it had taken such a complete turn that I was no longer interested in the story. This was quite unfortunate as I really enjoyed the first half and would have liked to see a different ending.

It wans’t terrible by any means, but it was just not what I signed up for when I began the book. I think I would have really enjoyed the book more if I had an idea of what would happen in the second half, so that I could decide in advance if that was something I wanted to read about.

All in all, I enjoyed the writing style and the Oxford University setting. I do recommend looking up spoilers before you decide to read this one, as I think the benefit of knowing what you’re getting into outweighs the spoiler aspect in this case.

Have you read MY OXFORD YEAR? If so, what did you think about the total plot twist?

 

MY OXFORD YEAR is available now! Please support Julia Whelan by purchasing a copy at your local book store. 

 

Review

Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett


SStarry Eyestarry Eyes
by Jenn Bennett

Published April 3, 2018

Source: I received an Advance Readers’ Copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion. This in no way affected my review.


Ever since last year’s homecoming dance, best friends-turned-best enemies Zorie and Lennon have made an art of avoiding each other. It doesn’t hurt that their families are the modern day, Californian version of the Montagues and Capulets.

But when a group camping trip goes south, Zorie and Lennon find themselves stranded in the wilderness. Alone. Together.

What could go wrong?

With no one but each other for company, Zorie and Lennon have no choice but to hash out their issues via witty jabs and insults as they try to make their way to safety. But fighting each other while also fighting off the forces of nature makes getting out of the woods in one piece less and less likely.

And as the two travel deeper into Northern California’s rugged backcountry, secrets and hidden feelings surface. But can Zorie and Lennon’s rekindled connection survive out in the real world? Or was it just a result of the fresh forest air and the magic of the twinkling stars? [goodreads]


Can I give this book ALL THE STARS?

I loved Jenn Bennett’s 2017 novel, ALEX APPROXIMATELY, but after STARRY EYES she has officially cemented her place in my list of favorite authors.

This is a unique take on the ‘survival story’ trope. After being straight up abandoned in the mountains by their (terrible) friends, they have to spend the next several days together hiking through the wilderness to get back to civilization. This is further complicated by the fact that Zorie is still hurt that Lennon ditched her for seemingly no reason when they were starting to get together the year before. Lennon, however, happens to be an expert camper and hiker, and comes up with a plan to get them to where they need to be.

Lennon and Zorie were honestly not my favorite characters at the beginning of the book, but they really grew on me! And not just in a “you’re not so bad, after all” kind of way. They grew on me in a “I LOVE YOU AND I LOVE YOU TOGETHER. NOW KISS!” kind of way.

I love when a book’s setting is so real and perfect that it makes you want to go there. The Northern California Sierra Nevadas are described beautifully throughout the book. As I was reading, I could practically smell that mountain air and hear the pinecones crunching underfoot. 

There are also a few sub-plots surrounding Lennon and Zorie’s families. Jenn Bennett has SUCH a way of melding several fantastic plot lines and expertly tying them together by the end.

I don’t want to say too much because I think it is best to read it without expectations. The family drama was really well-done and added a fantastic layer to the story that will leave you rooting for Lennon and Zorie even more. This book also has quite a bit of diversity, which is always a plus!

I want to read this book over and over again. I want to jump into it and tag along on Zorie’s adventure through the mountains…but maybe at a distance. I certainly wouldn’t want to be the one getting in the way of the romance!

STARRY EYES was easily my most anticipated book of 2018, and I’m so pleased to say that it was everything I wanted and more. I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys romance with some added depth.

It certainly left me starry eyed.

STARRY EYES is out today! Please support Jenn Bennett by purchasing a copy at your local book store. 

Review

The Fortunate Ones by R.S. Grey

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The Fortunate Ones
by R.S. Grey

Published November 1, 2017

Source: I received an ARC of this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinion. This in no way affected my review. 


 

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At Twin Oaks Country Club, there are the fortunate ones, and then there are the rest of us: the waiters, the caddies, the valets, and in my case, the cabana girls. Most days, I’m poolside in a pleated skirt, dishing out margaritas to tycoons and titans. It’s not exactly my dream job, but it does come with one perk… James Ashwood. He’s my silver lining in a custom black suit.

Besides being a legacy member at the club, he’s a tech mogul and Austin’s most eligible bachelor. Oh, and those dimples? Yeah, they make my stomach dip too.

On good days, I catch his sleek Porsche winding down the tree-lined drive. On better days, I steal a glimpse of his handsome profile as we pass in the hall. And on the absolute best day, I find him alone at the bar, looking for company.

“Come have a seat.”

Those four little words set me down a path I never could have imagined. Private planes, penthouse suites, and temptations around every corner make it impossible to keep my distance. His world feels decadent and wild—but overindulgence comes with a cost. Every kiss comes with strings. Every erotic encounter is a promise I’m not ready to keep.

When I pump the brakes, he hits the gas. James doesn’t want to go slow—he wants a commitment.

And the thing about the fortunate ones?

They’re used to getting what they want.


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R.S. Grey has become my go-to author when I’m looking for a light and fun romantic comedy. I’ve read several of her books and there hasn’t been one that I wasn’t thrilled with! I loved her last novel, THE FOXE AND THE HOUND, which I wrote about here. That one was my favorite novel of hers to date, so I was definitely anxious to read THE FORTUNATE ONES and see if it lived up to expectations.

There was so much I really loved about THE FORTUNATE ONES. I really identified with Brooke’s aspirations to travel the world and work as an au pair overseas. As someone who is straight up obsessed with travel and foreign languages, I loved that Brooke was too! I absolutely adored the Austin setting (obviously) and thought that the author did a really great job of incorporating local tidbits in a way that didn’t seem like she just tried to insert famous Austin places via a Google search.

I was into the country club setting, although I never really figured out why two girls who come from A LOT of wealth themselves were working there. The country club definitely seemed like the kind of place Brooke’s dad and stepmom would belong to, seeing as they live in a huge mansion and host actual galas. It seemed like they would not approve of their twenty-something daughters essentially doing nothing with their lives and working as cocktail waitresses? (Not that there is anything wrong with waitressing….AT ALL….it just seemed unrealistic for two super rich girls to be doing, especially with the older one living at home even.)

James Ashwood was….an interesting character. He was definitely my least favorite of all of R.S. Grey’s love interests to date, but I can see how some people would find him appealing. He was super rich and supposedly insanely hot, but I was very turned off by his borderline-abusive tendencies. There were a few scenes that involved him being super rude to Brooke for no reason, ignoring her and playing games, or even grabbing her way to harshly, etc. But then he was supposedly just ‘really sensitive’ and ‘needed to be handled with care’. That’s not hot to me, it’s psycho. BUT HE WAS REALLY RICH AND LIVED IN A MANSION AND WANTED TO GET MARRIED ASAP, so Brooke was all about him for some reason.

I was very disappointed that Brooke considered giving up her DREAMS for this dude, too. I won’t spoil the outcome by saying what her decision works out to be, but when she is offered to move to Spain to work as an au pair, she isn’t sure if she should go or stay in Austin to get ignored by this dude some more. I will say that IN THE END (like….the very end), I was okay with Brooke’s overall outcome but still never felt connected to this romance at all due to the aforementioned issues.

Even though I found myself very frustrated with the characters at times, I was always interested in reading and am still glad I read the book. While not my favorite of R.S. Grey’s work, I give this 3 stars. Definitely check out her books if you are looking for a fun rom-com to read!

Her next book is supposed to be set in New Orleans, my favorite city ever, and I can’t wait to read it!

 

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Review

The Names They Gave Us

The Names They Gave Us

The Names They Gave Us
by Emery Lord

Published May 16, 2017 by Bloomsbury

Source: Purchased


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Everything is going right for Lucy Hansson, until her mom’s cancer reappears. Just like that, Lucy breaks with all the constants in her life: her do-good boyfriend, her steady faith, even her longtime summer church camp job.

Instead, Lucy lands at a camp for kids who have been through tough times. As a counselor, Lucy is in over her head and longs to be with her parents across the lake. But that’s before she gets to know her coworkers, who are as loving and unafraid as she so desperately wants to be.

It’s not just new friends that Lucy discovers at camp—more than one old secret is revealed along the way. In fact, maybe there’s much more to her family and her faith than Lucy ever realized. [summary from Goodreads]

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Emery Lord has been one of my favorite authors for a while now, but this book really just cemented her into YA royalty. This is one of those rare books that is so perfect in every way that you just…don’t really know what to say about it other than it will make you feel. so. much. 

Lucy finds herself starting off the summer freshly dumped and questioning her faith after learning that her mom’s cancer has come back. Religion and cancer can be topics that immediately turn people off to a book, but I assure that this book is neither a “cancer book” nor a religious book. Lucy’s faith is explored in an honest and complex way as she tries to navigate believing and trusting in God (in a totally progressive way) alongside wrestling with questions like how God could allow her mom to get sick again. I found the doubt she experienced totally realistic and a great aspect of the story.

The setting and characters of this book were all so absolutely perfect. I am obsessed with Camp Daybreak and wish I could spend a summer there myself. I loved the family of camp counselors that Lucy found herself a part of. Every character added something really special to the story and I just fell absolutely in love with everyone.

If you haven’t jumped onto the Emery Lord fan-wagon yet, then you have no idea what you’re missing out on. And if you have read her, well, then you know! She’s writes with a phenomenal voice that pulls you deeply into the story. Seriously…by the last page, I am so not ready to leave! To anyone and everyone who is reading this post: read this book. You will be glad you did.

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Like I said above, this is my absolute favorite new Emery Lord novel. It is the perfect mix of summery contemporary feels with a story that will make you laugh, cry, and wish you were spending your days with Lucy at camp. Must read!

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Blog Tour

Holiday in the Hamptons Blog Tour

HOLIDAY IN THE HAMPTONS

HOLIDAY IN THE HAMPTONS

Author: Sarah Morgan
Pub. Date: August 29, 2017 | Publisher: Harlequin Books | Pages: 384 Formats: Paperback, eBook, audiobook
Find it: AmazonAudibleBarnes&NobleiBooksTBDGoodreads



The perfect summer escape? 

Professional dog-walker Felicity Knight loves everything about New York…until her ex-husband starts working at her local vet clinic. She hasn’t seen Seth Carlyle in ten years, but one glimpse of him–too gorgeous, and still too good for her–and Fliss’s heart hurts like their whirlwind marriage ended yesterday. So when her grandmother in the Hamptons needs help for the summer, it seems the ideal way to escape her past.
Their relationship might have lasted only a few scorching months, but vet Seth knows Fliss–if she’s run away to the Hamptons, it’s because she still feels their connection and it terrifies her. He let her go once before, when he didn’t know any better, but not this summer! With the help of his adorable dog, Lulu, and a sprinkling of beachside magic, Seth is determined to make Fliss see that he’s never stopped loving her…
Sarah Morgan delights with more love and laughter in her acclaimed series From Manhattan with Love, which Publishers Weekly calls “engaging…a classic sweep-you-off-your-feet romantic experience.”

 

 

About Sarah:

USA Today bestselling author Sarah Morgan writes hot, happy contemporary romance and her trademark humour and sensuality have gained her fans across the globe. Described as ‘a magician with words’ by RT Book Reviews, she has sold over 15 million copies of her books. She has been nominated five times for the prestigious RITA© Award from the Romance Writers of America and won the award three times; in 2012 for her book ‘Doukakis’s Apprentice’, 2013 for ‘A Night of No Return’, and 2017 for ‘Miracle on 5th Avenue’. She also won the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award in 2012 and has made numerous appearances in their ‘Top Pick’ slot.

As a child Sarah dreamed of being a writer and although she took a few interesting detours along the way, she is now living that dream.

Sarah lives near London with her husband and children, and when she isn’t reading or writing she loves being outdoors, preferably on vacation so she can forget the house needs tidying.

 

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | Goodreads

 

Giveaway Details:

1 winner will receive a Kate Spade Beach Themed Prize Pack, US/Canada Only.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/82ae250c72/?

 

 

Tour Schedule:

 

Week One:

8/7/2017- YA Book Nerd– Review

8/8/2017- Romantic Reviews– Excerpt

8/9/2017- Kati’s Bookaholic Rambling Reviews– Review

8/10/2017- Becky on Books– Review

8/11/2017- Bookish in Texas– Review

 

Week Two:

8/14/2017– Books and Readers– Review

8/15/2017- A Dream Within A Dream– Excerpt

8/16/2017- Vox Libris– Review

8/17/2017- Savings in Seconds– Review

8/18/2017- ChickLit Club– Review

 

Week Three:

 

8/21/2017- Lattes & Paperbacks– Review

8/22/2017- Fire and Ice– Review

8/23/2017- Celluloid Diaries– Excerpt

8/24/2017- Bibliobakes– Review

8/25/2017- Eli to the nth– Review

 

 

 

Review

Let’s Talk: The Secret of a Heart Note

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The Secret of a Heart Note


The Secret of a Heart Note
by Stacey Lee
Published December 27, 2016 by Katherine Tegen Books
384 pages
Amazon | B&N
Source: Purchased


1

As one of only two aromateurs left on the planet, fifteen-year-old Mimosa knows what her future holds: a lifetime of using her extraordinary sense of smell to mix base notes, top notes, and heart notes into elixirs that help others fall in love. All while remaining incurably alone.

For Mim, the rules are clear—falling in love would render her nose useless, taking away her one great talent. Still, Mimosa doesn’t want to spend her life elbow-deep in soil and begonias. She dreams of a normal high school existence—taking up a sport and limping away flush from victory, joining the debate club and saying things like “That’s a logical fallacy!” Having a boyfriend.

When she accidentally gives an elixir to the wrong woman and has to rely on the school soccer star to help fix the situation, Mim quickly begins to realize that when it comes to falling in love, the choice isn’t always hers to make.[Goodreads]

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The Secret of a Heart Note is about Mimosa (Mim) and her mom (Dahlia), the last two aromateurs in the world, as they create custom love elixirs for people who want to fall in love. Mim lives a very strict and sheltered life so that she can preserve her nose and learn everything there is to know about plants and their properties so that she can create the perfect love potion for each client. The most important rule, however, is not to fall in love herself, as her powers would be sure to vanish instantly.

Of course, this presents quite the dilemma because there is a basketball player at school, Court (dumb name, cute boy), who she thinks is cute, and she thinks he might like her back. It’s a fun twist on the forbidden love trope.

Although there is an overarching theme of love in the story, it doesn’t focus solely on the romance between Mim and Court. There is a struggle between Mim, who wants to go to school and have a normal teenage life, and her mother, who only wants the best for her daughter –as long as it is a future in the aromateur business. Plus, there is the long-lost sister of Mim’s mother, Bryony, who disappeared after a rift in the family.

Side Note: I LOVED how all the aromateurs’ names were types of flowers. It was lovely. Plus, there were cute and fitting “quotes” from aromateurs of the past at the start of each chapter, which made it all feel very real.

Court was more than a pretty face, too. He had his own family problems going on but it wasn’t overly dramatic. It all felt very real. I liked how Mim had multiple problems come up during the story, but instead of angsting over them, she actually went out and did something about them!

I thought it was interesting that everyone at school knew that Mim was a “love witch” and it wasn’t ever anything for her to be ashamed about. There are also bonus points for diversity! Mim’s best friend, Kali, is Samoan and LGBT!

Overall, The Secret of a Heart Note was a fun contemporary romance without too much romance and just the right touch of magical realism. It lived up to its unique premise and the whole book had such a pretty atmosphere. I definitely enjoyed reading it and will be checking out Stacey Lee’s two other books as well!

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Are you planning to read this one? If you already have, did you love it too?

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