Mr. Right Across the Street by Kathryn Freeman

Mr. Right Across the Street by Kathryn Freeman was a perfect romance to kick off 2021. I also participated in a read along with One More Chapter. The photo featured was a challenge from the read along . We were prompted to use inspiration from the book to create something fun. I created a mocktail like the one Luke created in his bar.

First and foremost you must read this with a British accent, unless of course you already have a British accent then well, just read it. I am a sucker for a British rom-com, there’s something about the banter between lover’s in British rom-com that reminds me of my beloved southern culture.

Mia is a young techy type living away from home in a small apartment in a new place, escaping a horrible ex when she notices her across the street neighbor who happens to flex his muscles at the same time everyday in perfect line of vision from her at home office. At the insistence of her family Mia decides to venture out and finds her self at a bar that’s tended by none other than Mr. Right Across the Street, Luke. Over time, mistakes, secrets and a unique way of communicating, Mia and Luke find they have more in common than their apartment complex. When Luke first showed interest in Mia she was coy and stand offish, going as far as not giving her number so Luke had to get creative and started leaving messages taped to his window as way to get her attention. Mia reciprocated and they quickly fell into a romance spawned from post it notes.

I loved the romance between Luke and Mia. I found it fun and refreshing, new and not rushed. I loved the way Kathryn drew out the build up for both the reader and the characters. The ending was great including the proposal which was perfect and tied the whole plot up in a perfect bow at the perfect moment. There was so much growth in all the characters, including my favorite character, Stan and the relationship he had with Mia was perfect.

Final takeaway: We can let our past define our future or we can rewrite with new experiences. If we are patient with each other as we learn to trust again the experiences and relationships we gain will be so worth it and satisfying.

Thank you One More Chapter, NetGalley and Kathryn Freeman for the advanced reader copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid

I read Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid for my neighborhood book club but it had been on my TBR for awhile. I felt like it was an easy read in that I read it fast and it held my attention throughout, but it was not an easy read as far as content. I wasn’t sure how I would feel about this book at first. We are in a time in our life when it’s uncomfortable to talk about race and how people of different colors interact with each other, the division we are facing and how we got here. This book made me take a look at my interactions with people and how I see the world and how the world sees me. In the book, all of the white people were searching for a way to connect with POC and not always in a genuine way. I felt like the POC just wanted to be left alone of seen as just people.

As for the book itself I thought the plot line was great and interesting. The reader wasn’t given all the information at first but instead little bits at a time as the story unravels. I loved all the characters and hated all the characters. I found Alix repulsive throughout, she was crazy, but at the same time boy was she interesting. The worst part of Alix is how she knew she wrong, in more than one incident yet never admitted to her faults and played the victim that was better than her circumstances. In the end I think every person was wrong at some point whether it was self deprecation or hate or manipulation. My least favorite partnership or character pair was Kelley and Emira. They were never going to work and Kelley was an ass and I didn’t like him at all.

My ultimate takeaway is that Emira was treated poorly by everyone including herself. She was a pawn in everyone’s agenda and Briar, the little girl, was the only person that saw Emira for who she really was. This proves that adults are unable to see the truth in people because of life experiences and prejudice.

I gave Such a Fun Age 5 stars. The courage of Kiley Reid and the beautiful way she shared this story are worthy of this rating.

Live in Love by Laura Akins

Live in Love was a book I found on NetGalley and instantly wanted to read because I love Thomas Rhett, the country singer for those that are not familiar. Several of his songs are like soundtracks to my life and I love that. I wasn’t expecting to fall in love with this whole family. After reading this I truly feel like I could head to Nashville and have dinner with the Akins family like we’ve been friends forever. I borrowed the audio version from my local library and OMG that made the book. I borrowed the audio so I could catch up on NetGalley reads while getting some stuff done, you know accomplishing those new year goals. I didn’t realize that Laura read the book herself and I was so shocked when Thomas Rhett started telling his side of the story. I really think that’s what made reading this book a whole experience, like a few friends sitting around telling our life stories.

I was so inspired by their love and love for others and how much they embraced everyone around them. There was a part of me, the military wife part, that felt some of Laura’s struggles. When she talked about Thomas Rhett being on the road while she was back with kids and the resentment that came with that or when Laura wanted to follow her dream of nursing in a foreign country which meant living apart for awhile, they supported each other and knew sometimes following dreams takes the biggest sacrifices.

I found the format of the book easy to follow, even the part where Thomas Rhett told his part. I LOVED that Laura included pictures of the stories she told and the people in her life, just another way the reader felt brought into “family”.

Thank you Laura and Thomas Rhett for sharing your story and inspiring me to Live in Love. Thank you NetGalley and Random House Publishing for the advanced reader copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

The Perfect Guest by Emma Rous

The Perfect Guest by Emma Rous was my first blog tour and NetGalley read of 2021 and also my first Emma Rous book. I want to start with a thank you to Penguin Random House and the publicity team there for letting me join.

Within the first chapter I had major Companion vibes…the orphan coming to live with a family that has a little girl in need of a friend. But then oh man did it take a different turn. Readers are bounced between 1988 and 2019, between Beth Soames and Sadie Langton and told the story of a teenager and women that are both not sure where they belong in the world and what to do next when things don’t work out the way they imagined. They are both brought to Raven Hall and both discovered they had a story to tell about the mansion, but what do these two ladies have in common other than a visit to Raven Hall?

I did struggle with keeping the characters straight, especially in Beth’s point of view because the characters were involved in a murder mystery through the length of the book so I got lost on what “character” in the mystery lined up with the real characters. Although 75% of the book was a back story which bugged me while reading it, the way the author brought it all together in the end was so beautifully written. I LOVE when there is a big aha moment in book and I have to think “oh now it all makes since.”

I rated this a 3 on Goodreads but that was mostly because of the confusion and maybe another reader would not have that issue at all. However, I really enjoyed The Perfect Guest and will definitely read The Au Pair also by Emma Rous.

Thank you again to NetGalley and Penguin Random House for the advanced reader copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

The Life She Wants by Robyn Carr

My first book of 2021! I had to start it with Robyn Carr. I discovered her thanks to the Netflix adaptation of Virgin River actually but it turned out I already owned a few of her books from the free section at the library, I’ve since collected over 20!! Anyway, to kick off what is going to be a fantastic year in reading I started with The Life She Wants. I really love the multiple series from Robyn Carr but The Life She Wants is a stand alone so sadly the story ends on the last page…unless maybe it doesn’t?

Robyn Carr is one of my favorite authors and one of the reasons for this is the undertone of the romance novel but with substance, by that I mean the other themes that course through her books are well researched and become a vital piece of the story line. Each novel always weaves family with romance and a minor theme of redemption.

In The Life She Wants we follow the story of Emma Shay Compton as she rebuilds her life after a nasty and public divorce from her thief of a husband. Emma returns to her home town after leaving to pursue college and a new life. While Emma was finding herself away from her less than great home life she is betrayed by her lifelong best friend and her boyfriend, Riley and Jock, when Riley becomes pregnant with Jock’s baby. Emma wasn’t excite to return to her childhood area and face the people of her past with the mess of a life she now carried. Finding a job, a place to live, and out run a reputation was hard to do with very few people on her side and very little money. While working a job fit for a teenager she runs into Riley’s brother who becomes an ally and the person that helps Emma rebuild her life.

Emma is always a victim, from being the step child and shunned child in her pieced together family, in her past life with Riley and Jock but also with her husband and the life that turned out to be but despite that she manages to hold her head up and continue forward and that perseverance is what allows her to let people in, drop walls and eventually find the life she desired. Sometimes we have to jump through some really crappy hoops to get to the perfect finish line.

The one character I really struggled with is Riley. I truly wanted to reach through the pages and strangle her!! She was holding a grudge that wasn’t hers to hold and consistently stood in her own way. Yes she got pregnant by her short term boyfriend that she didn’t love but then she shut him out and played the martyr card when she could have had a beautiful co-parenting relationship with Jock. Once she got over that ridiculous grudge she found and accepted love that was always there ..waiting for her to open her heart

While it was a little obvious who would end up with who in the end the story was a still fun to read and engaging. I would have liked to see a little more of Riley and Emma rebuilding their friendship but just knowing there was resolve will have to do.

I gave The Life She Wanted 4 stars, but honestly Robyn Carr could write the phone book and I would give it a 4, her words are just my favorite!

The Christmas Swap by Sandy Barker

I was so excited to take part in the The Christmas Swap read-along with One More Chapter, a division of HarperCollins Publishers. This was my first read-along with OMC and it was so fun and interactive. Having so many people posting and reading along with me, including Sandy Barker! OMC encouraged us with book discussion question, photo prompts, and trivia but my favorite part was the live with Sandy.

Think about the movie “The Holiday” but on steroids. Other reviewers have said this was a “hug of a book”, “like a cup of Christmas tea by a cozy fire” and I couldn’t agree more. Readers are taken to Melborne, Australia, Oxfordshire, England and Denver, Colorado when 3 friends that met when their families were on vacation in Maui when the friends were children, swap where they spend their holiday.

Chloe, from Melbourne, is bummed that her parents decided to travel for holiday so she travels to Oxfordshire, England and spends time with Jules’ parents. She also ends up meeting the boy next door that happens to be someone she already knew existed.

Jules who desired a white Christmas decides to travel to Denver, Colorado where she learns a lot about herself and builds self confidence by navigating Lucy’s loud and opinionated family.

Lucy who wants to spend some time in a warm, exotic location sets off to spend Orphan’s Christmas with Chloe’s friends, including a wine maker that changes the path Lucy is headed.

All three girls discover so much about themselves when they were out of their normal element and able to look at what they really want out of life and learn to understand their friends in a deeper way. I fell so in love with these girls and their stories but maybe even more with those beautiful locales. I was able to picture myself in each place by the beautiful writing as Sandy spilled her heart onto the pages for us to enjoy. The Christmas Swap was a delightful story and everything I look for in a Christmas story.

I gave this 5 stars and would have given more if I could.

Thank you One More Chapter, Sandy Barker and Netgalley for the opportunity to review this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

It’s a Wonderful Wife by Camille Pagen

I found this gem after listening to a Christmas interview series with Uplit Reads on Instagram. I’ve had an Audible account for a while but I’ve just really discovered the Audible Orginals that are included in the membership.

It’s A Wonderful Wife was a modern take on the classic It’s A wonderful Life. Bailey the center of a family and town wide business finds her self at the brink of a metal breakdown when she discovers several things in her life are going horribly wrong. After a few drinks at the local bar she finds herself in the apartment of a friend from the past to sleep it off. As she drifts off to sleep Bailey says she wishes she’d never been born. Bailey wakes up the next morning to a world that doesn’t know her, to a life in which she’d never been born. She realizes through while navigating this alternate universe that her priorities may not be in line with the life she wanted and desired to live. When it’s time for Bailey to wake up in her real life she has a new outlook and a will to change her priorities and focus on what is truly important to her.

This was my first read by Camille Pagan but I look forward to reading more! I gave this 4 stars as it was the perfect story for a 2020 Christmas.

One Day in December by Josie Silver

Do you believe in love at first sight? Have you ever made eye contact with someone and knew they would be important in your life? What if you fell in love at first sight, lost sight and looked for a year only to see that person walk into your apartment as your best friends new boyfriend? This is what happened to Laurie on a double decker bus one December day, then one year later. Laurie takes the road she thinks is safest for everyone and keeps the fact that Sarah’s boyfriend Jack is her long last “bus boy” to herself, even after Jack and Laurie become very close friends. One Day in December follows this unique three way friendship over several years where they each have to face choices and come to cross roads that could let out the truth and destroy the life Laurie has built around this secret.

A few chapters in I was so angry that fate would lead Laurie and Jack back together in such a complicated way, but Josie Silver develops a beautiful story out of that crazy start. Friendship is important and is a definite theme through the book, but can friendship outweigh love and should it? What I really loved when it was all over is how realistic yet comforting and light this read was. Jack and Laurie could have ended up together from the beginning and that would have been a great story but the meat of a relationship comes in the trouble of finding out who you really love, who that person is when choices need to be made, when other people’s feelings are at play. Well done Josie!

Thank you to Netgalley, Josie Silver, Crown Publishing and Ballentine Books for the Advanced Reader Copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by VE Schwab

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by VE Schwab was November’s Read Rover book club pick and at first I was a little like…guys what is this, but I ended up giving it 4 stars. The beginning was a little slow and I was afraid this might be my first DNF of 2020 but I’m not a quitter and I can’t be the one at book club that hasn’t finished, thus I finished. I kind of love it. I kind of didn’t love the ending though.

What would you give up to not have the life chosen for you? Would you trade a life time of misery for an eternal life of being forgotten? When you can finally make yourself a memory for someone would you make a trade to secure that memory? These are all questions Addie had to face and she seemed to make them without thinking through the actual terms of the agreements. She let the darkness control her desires by giving her what she couldn’t obtain herself, but at great cost.

When at the alter faced with a marriage that felt like eternal hell Addie makes a Faustian pact with the darkness to trade her soul and live forever to escape the life in front of her. The terms of the agreement meant that no one would remember her and no memories of her could be written, spoken or brought back, not even her name. Fast forward 300 years to a book store in New York city where Addie meets a young man and meets him again the next day and he remembers her. What is different about this guy from literally everyone else she’s encountered in 300 years. Is there a hole in the pact or does love break it? Is he also cursed in some way that counteracts her curse? Regardless of why he can remember her, he does and Addie can fall in love, think about a future until the darkness comes to call…again.

This is my first read by V.E. Schwab as it’s not my typical genre, which is why I love book clubs so much! The plot was a little overwhelming and easy to get lost in but the writing was beautiful. I didn’t love the scenes with Luc, the darkness but I feel like they were necessary to explain Addie’s relationship with him and the control he had over her. This was one where my dislikes easily out weighed my likes.

Our book club discussion was fire! There were so many opinions and take aways. I’m so grateful I was forced from my comfort zone to find this gem. I gave this book 4 stars.

Peace by Becky Thompson

Becky Thompson has been a staple in my growth and Bible study in the last few years. I found Becky on Instagram and learned she had written a few books and had a ministry that spoke right to my heart at all the right times. Becky’s most recent book Peace was my favorite so far. I have suffered from an anxiety disorder most of my life and found myself feeling so alone as a Christian woman that I could not overcome this weakness. Through Peace I learned that I am not alone and that I am broken by our fallen world, not by my actions or lack of faith in God. Through the analogy of the woman lost in the forest looking to be saved Becky walks the reader through the steps of leaning into God, obedience and those willing to help to walk out of the forest. Each chapter ends with a prayer and a journal prompt.

I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone. Whether you are someone that has anxiety or knows someone that does this book with be a guiding light. 5 stars

Thank you to Becky Thompson, NetGalley, and WaterBrookMultomoh for the advanced reader copy.