Sunday, March 22, 2015

Review: Batter Up

When I first saw the title of Robyn Neeley's novel, I was intrigued. Batter Up...was it a baseball novel? It turns out it's not but what it is is a sweet, entertaining romance that has magic and, best of all, cake. What's not to love?

Here's the synopsis:
She mixes more than flour and sugar into her cake batter, and he’s about to find out if a little bit of magic is to his taste...
Bakeshop owner Emma Stevens has a secret — a delicious, slightly unorthodox secret. Each Monday, she mixes up a premonition to share with the bachelors of Buttermilk Falls, and sets one lucky man on the path to true love.
When reporter Jason Levine finds himself mixed up in a Las Vegas bachelorette party, he hears the strangest rumour: the marriage is happening thanks to magic cake batter. Seriously sceptical, and sick of frauds, Jason journeys to the backwater town of Buttermilk Falls to expose the baker and release the townspeople from her evil clutches.
But when Jason meets Emma, tempers flare and sparks fly. Will Jason cling to his logic at the expense of a future, or will he let himself fall under Emma’s spell?
I was telling someone about this book as I was reading it and as I was explaining it I realized it sounds completely hokey. Magic cake batter? But the beauty of this story is that it totally works. I liked that the magic added a fresh element to an otherwise simple (but in the best way) romance story. I also liked that the magic was a bit of a mystery, even to Emma.

I've said it before and I'll say it again...I love novels, romances especially, that take place in a small town. I like the quirky characters you get to meet and that everyone is in everyone else's business. How else would anyone get together if it weren't for meddlesome neighbours? They also seem to have the most fun events, like a bachelor auction for a good cause!

The romance is, as you may expect, quite predictable in that you know Emma and Jason are going to get together. That's the way of the genre! They have their ups and downs and miscommunications and sparks fly, and all get a happily ever after. But, to me, the formulaic romance doesn't matter because Neeley manages to keep things fresh and interesting. I didn't know exactly what was going to happen and she kept me rooting for the couple all the way through. In my mind, that makes a great romance novel.

If you like your romance with a dash of magic, Batter Up is definitely a book for you to read. It won't take you long, it's a novella, so it's an absolute perfect read for a rainy weekend afternoon. Or any time, really! I really enjoyed Robyn Neeley's book and can't wait to see what she writes next.

*A copy of this book was provided by the publisher, Escape Publishing, via NetGalley in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Friday, March 13, 2015

Review: New Uses for Old Boyfriends

I love Beth Kendrick and I'm always so excited when she publishes a new book. It should be no surprise then that I jumped at the chance to read her latest novel, New Uses For Old Boyfriends. The book was good and I enjoyed reading it...but...I found it a little lacking.

Here's the synopsis:
After growing up in privilege and marrying into money, Lila Alders has gotten used to the good life. But when her happily-ever-after implodes, Lila must return to Black Dog Bay, the tiny seaside town where she grew up. She’s desperate for a safe haven, but everything has changed over the past ten years. Her family’s fortune is gone—and her mother is in total denial. It’s up to Lila to take care of everything...but she can barely take care of herself.
The former golden girl of Black Dog Bay struggles to reinvent herself by opening a vintage clothing boutique. But even as Lila finds new purpose for outdated dresses and tries to reunite with her ex, she realizes that sometimes it’s too late for old dreams. She’s lost everything she thought she needed but found something—someone—she desperately wants. A boy she hardly noticed has grown up into a man she can’t forget...and a second chance has never felt so much like first love.
I think one of my issues is that I found the characters to be somewhat two dimensional. Or maybe I just didn't get the connection I wanted with them. For example, Daphne, Lila's mom, drove me up the wall. I completely understand that she's been dealt a really hard hand in life but she wouldn't listen to her own daughter, who she seems quite close with. To be fair, this made Daphne's eventually transformation even more awesome. Not to give too much away, but she really shines once she finds her new path in life and gets her spark back.

This isn't the first time Kendrick has set a book in Black Dog Bay. A lot of the characters from Cure for the Common Breakup (my review is here) pop up in this story too. To carry on the previous character discussion, I felt like too many previous characters showed up and that took away from really getting to know Lila and Malcolm. Sure, I loved finding out what Summer and Ingrid were up to but, for example, Ingrid was such a secondary character and she shone far more than Malcolm, one of the love interests, did. 

All that being said...I did like the book. I liked that the romance wasn't totally obvious and I really enjoyed seeing how Lila and Daphne grew as women. They had a lot of really tough stuff to deal with and they did it with class - not everyone would be able to do that. It was also fun to get a bit of a crash course in couture fashion history. Kendrick did a good job of sharing information without overloading the reader with unnecessary facts. 

Maybe my expectations were too high for New Uses for Old Boyfriends. I do expect "ohmygod, I love this book to infinity and beyond" feelings when I dive into a new Beth Kendrick novel. Do I wish I had loved it more? Absolutely. Do I still think you should read it? Yep! This is a sweet novel, with depth!, that takes place in a small town everyone will want to visit. While it can stand on its own, I would recommend reading Cure for the Common Breakup first so you can get to know the characters and the town from the beginning.

*A copy of this book was provided by BookSparks via NetGalley in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*

Friday, January 16, 2015

Spotlight: The Curvy Girls Club

Author Michele Gorman released her latest novel in the UK yesterday. Congrats, Michele! The Curvy Girls Club is "a hilarious and heart-warming story about learning to love yourself." Sounds perfect for the New Year!

Here's the synopsis of this new book:
Pixie, Ellie, Katie and Jane have been best friends since meeting at Slimming Zone. Tired of being judged by the number of calories they consume, they decide to form a different kind of club. The fun evenings they spend together, not worrying about their size, make them happier than they’ve been for years.
But the club doesn’t stop real life from getting in the way and together the girls have to address some much bigger issues than just their weight…
I haven't had the chance to read this book yet but I cannot wait. It's definitely on my January TBR list!

Check out the lovely trailer on YouTube.

Plus, Sophie Kinsella says it's "engaging and witty"...what more encouragement do you need?

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: 2015 Goals

Top Ten Tuesday is weekly meme created by the lovely folks at The Broke and the Bookish. They created it because they're "particularly fond of lists" and since I also enjoy lists, I've decided to participate in this fun feature.

It's almost 2015 which means many people are setting a lot of goals and making resolutions for the new year. I'm not usually one to make a ton of resolutions. I made a big ol' list of them last year but was so focused on getting the first one right that everything else took a back seat.

I was lucky and did get a job in 2014 but not until late in the year. So a lot of those other goals I had for 2014 didn't get accomplished. May as well try again for 2015!

Finish (re)reading Jane Austen's novels
I started off well...then I tried to read Middlemarch because I received My Life in Middlemarch to review and had never read the novel. I still haven't finished it nor have I made it through any of Austen's novels other than Sense and Sensibility.

Work with more publishers
I have a pretty good relationship with a few publishers but I'd like to foster those relationships and create new ones with other publishers that I haven't worked with much in the past.

Be more selective
I want to have more options and I want to read books I want to review. Too often I say yes to a review knowing full well I won't have time to get to it for ages. I don't want to be that blogger who says yes and never gives a review and is seen as lazy or just wanting freebies.

Write more non-review posts
I like writing. I always have. (But no, still no plans to write a novel.) I like the posts I write that are about my bookish life or something in the book world. I haven't been able to do many of those lately (or even reviews lately) because of this new job and the ridiculous commute but I hope to get back into it soon.

Cut back on the promos
Because of the aforementioned new job and ridiculous commute, I don't have nearly enough time to dedicate to the blog (which sucks) and I've been finding I'm filling the space with too many promos or even Top Ten Tuesdays. I love doing them but they're not what I want my blog to be full of. They're supposed to be supplements, at least in my mind.

Come up with a new quickie post that's my own (or at least sort of my own)
This seems a little contradictory to the above point but I think if I come up with something that's my own sort of promo, I'll feel better about not having as many reviews up. My friend Natalie runs the blog Browsing Bookshelves and every once and awhile she'll do lovely tea and book posts (like this one). Her cousin, another friend, suggested I do the same. What do you say, Nat? :)

Keep reading more of my own books
Like most book lovers, I have approximately five bazillion books on my shelves. It's ridiculous. And because I'm a blogger, I keep getting new books to review. And because I have no self control, I'll buy new books too. I really have to start reading my own books. At the very least, I will know which one I can donate or give away and which I'd like to keep.

Read a few graphic novels
I've never had anything against graphic novels, I just haven't read many. I'd like to change that this year because I know there are so many awesome ones out there. Any recommendations?

Create a YouTube channel
Well, if all the cool kids are doing it... :) But seriously, it could be fun and I'd like to see if I even like it. Maybe this would be a way to supplement the blog when I don't have time for reviews. Who knows! I just want to give it a go and see what it's like. Tips are welcome!

Go to more bookish events
I was able to attend quite a few last year, which is surprising since I tried my hardest to cut back on expenses due to not working for so much of 2014. But there are always awesome things to see and authors to meet and I'm hopeful I'll be able to do a whole lot more next year.

Bonus goal: stay organized
I think I did pretty well for most of 2014 with this one but I have to relearn what it's like to work and blog at the same time. I need to stay on top of reviews and make sure I get them written soon after (if not immediately after) finishing the book.

Friday, December 26, 2014

CLP Blog Tours: Petit Four

A month or ago I had the pleasure of taking part in a spotlight tour for Petit Four: Four Stories, Frosted with Love. I was so excited to read this short story collection that I happily signed on to interview the authors and, eventually, review the anthology for CLP Blog Tours.

Here's the description of the anthology:
Cake is often a major part of life’s celebrations, both big and small. From birthdays to wedding days, cake, in all its delectable concoctions, marks joyous occasions with a sweetness that can’t be beat. But even better is the love that is shared when two people connect over a sweet confection. Maybe it’s a cute new guy wreaking havoc on a broken heart, or a beautiful woman testing the limits of love, or an old beau stirring up long lost desires. Whatever the circumstances, cake can always be relied upon to save the day when it comes to affairs of the heart. In this collection of short stories, cake is the delicious center around which each tale unfolds and romance blooms.
When single mom and journalist, Olivia, sets out to find romance in Cindy Arora’s “Cake Therapy,” she gets a little help from her friends and more than a few slices of cake to coax her off the couch and into the arms of a truly great love. Lucie Simone’s “Aprez Vous” finds success-driven Tara in Paris reminiscing of her long lost love, Jean Marc, and her niece bound and determined to reunite them. In “The Heart-Shaped Secret of Raspberry Jam” by Sue Watson, cake enthusiast, Milly, meets her match in the kitchen, and other places, when new owners take over the tea rooms where she works and her talents and her heart are put to the test. And Scott, mayor of a small seaside community, flirts with political suicide in Joel Zlotnik’s “Her Charms” when he falls for new-in-town Nicole, an entrepreneur with a passion for cupcakes, and whose latest venture proves a little too sexy for the sleepy beach town.
From San Francisco to Paris, from small towns to tea rooms, this anthology tempts readers with humor, style, romance, and the powerful aphrodisiac that is cake. Petit Four is four stories, frosted with love.
The cake theme really came through with the four stories, which I loved. Hey, who doesn't love cake? :) I think the idea was a fabulous one and I'm so glad these four authors came together to create this delicious collection.

The book starts with editor Lucie Simone's "Aprez Vous". The story takes place in Paris and, while I've never been there myself, the city almost becomes another character. I loved the relationship between Tara and her niece, Marissa. Actually, I'd really like to see a full novel about Marissa!

I can never read an anthology without picking a favourite and Cindy Arora's "Cake Therapy" was my favourite from Petit Four. There was something about Olivia's story that really grabbed me and I love the way Arora writes. 

"The Heart-Shaped Secret of Raspberry Jam" by Sue Watson was a lot of fun. I loved reading about the transformation of the tea room Milly works in. I found this story to be a bit...clunky. There were some weird repetitions at the start and I just felt really confused. The overall story was really sweet though (no pun intended!).

The collection concludes with Joel Zlotnik's "Her Charms", which takes place in a small town. I really appreciated the male perspective in a chick lit story (something there isn't enough of) and Scott and Nicole's love story was great to read about. I look forward to seeing what else Zlotnik writes.

Publisher Simon & Fig has another great short story collection because Petit Four is a winner. I really enjoyed every single story in this collection and think everyone should pick up this anthology. 

*A copy of this novel was provided by the publisher, Simon & Fig, for the purpose of this blog tour and in exchange for an honest review.*

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Dear Santa

Top Ten Tuesday is weekly meme created by the lovely folks at The Broke and the Bookish. They created it because they're "particularly fond of lists" and since I also enjoy lists, I've decided to participate in this fun feature.

'Tis the season for wishlists and this week's Top Ten Tuesday has us telling Santa (or our family or friends) what books we'd like to find under the tree. Even though I have approximately five bazillion books on my TBR list, this was surprisingly difficult. Here are ten books that I'd really like to own. Links lead to Amazon, you know, in case anyone has to do some last minute shopping for me ;)

Anna and the French Kiss/Lola and the Boy Next Door/Isla and the Happily Ever After - Stephanie Perkins
I want to reread them and they're so pretty. 'Nuff said.

Anne of Green Gables - L.M. Montgomery
Specifically the new editions. Because they're beautiful.

Outlander - Diana Gabaldon
Maybe if I have a copy in my possession I'll actually read it?

The Look of Love - Sarah Jio
I only just read my first Jio book this year and I loved it. Her new one sounds fabulous.

I Heart Hollywood/London/Christmas - Lindsey Kelk
I own three of the I Heart books and I'd like to have a complete collection. Even though all of the covers would be different... *shudders*

After I Do - Taylor Jenkins Reid
Confession: I haven't read Forever, Interrupted yet but I've only heard awesome things about both of these books so I want it!

Catching Air - Sarah Pekkanen
Of all of Sarah's books (I already own the other four), this one sounds like it'd be my favourite.

Your Perfect Life - Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke
I loved the other book I read by these ladies and think this one sounds delightful!

The Dare Valley Series - Ava Miles
Nora Roberts Land is the first book so I'm intrigued by the title alone. I've read something else by Miles and liked it so I'd love to have the series.

#GIRLBOSS - Sophia Amoruso
I've heard good things about this one and I'm in need of a career kick in the butt...or something.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Review: Blame It on the Mistletoe

I say it every year (and multiple times at that), but I am a sucker for Christmas romances. Blame It on the Mistletoe by Nicole Michaels was the first holiday themed book I read this year and it was a good one! It was sweet and took place in a small town so it's no surprise that I really liked it!

Here's the synopsis:
’Tis the season for small-town Missouri boutique owner Brooke Abbott to get crafty. Much as she adores making art for art’s sake—decorating windows, designing ornaments, crafting the perfect present for under the tree—this Christmas she needs the gift of good customers. Lots of them. Sweet Opal Studios will go under if she can’t do some serious business before the New Year…and she has no time to lose. What Brooke needs is an honest-to-goodness miracle. Instead, she finds a burglar lurking in the back room of her shop. And here she thought the holidays couldn’t get any worse! Or maybe things just got a lot better. Turns out the burglar is none other than Alex Coleman—local bad boy slash legendary heartthrob, childhood best friend to Brooke’s older brother, and…future landlord? That is the question. He’s come home for the holidays to see his grandmother, make peace with his distant mother, and settle his grandfather’s estate, an estate that includes the building that houses Sweet Opal. What he never expected was to bump into a grown-up Brooke, whose spirit, charm, and irresistible good looks give him pause. Should he go back to Oregon as planned, or give small-town life a chance? The only thing Alex knows for sure is that before he walks out that door, he’s going to get Brooke beneath the mistletoe, where anything can happen…
I really liked the setting of this novel. Not only the small town but Brooke's shop as well. I loved that she was an artsy type. There seems to be an abundance of bakery or sweets shop owners (which I love too, don't get me wrong) in romances and chick lit so it was nice to see a little something different. Plus, I loved the concept of Sweet Opal Studios and wish I could find something like that in my area. There were unique pieces from Brooke as well as other local artisans and Brooke taught classes as well. Sounds awesome to me!

I found that it took too long to reveal Brooke's background. Plus, I didn't feel like I truly understood what had happened to her and why her brother was so against her dating Alex. He was a really great guy and the "bad boy" personality he apparently had in high school really wasn't all that bad. I think it was a case of judging someone too much on the past and not enough on the present and the man Alex had become. And he had become a great guy and I loved watching his and Brooke's love story unfold.

I liked reading about Alex's relationship with his grandmother and I felt like this was another part of the story that kept things from being too similar to other Christmas romances. There was an interesting backstory there and it was so sweet to see how much his grandmother really cared about him.

Blame It on the Mistletoe is a light and heartwarming read that many romance lovers will enjoy. Nicole Michaels has written a sweet holiday story that I really liked. I look forward to reading her next book!

*A copy of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*