2020 Book #4 – Hunting for a Highlander by Lynsay Sands

51Oio45BkYLTitle: Hunting for a Highlander
Author: Lynsay Sands
Date finished: 1/17/20
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: January 28, 2020
Pages in book: 384
Stand alone or series: #8 in the Highland Brides series
Where I got the book from: Edelweiss
NOTE: I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Four Buchanan brothers have found their brides…only three more to go in this scintillating romance from New York Times bestselling author Lynsay Sands…

Lady Dwyn Innes feels utterly out of place among the eligible women who’ve descended on Buchanan Keep, vying for the attention of the last unmarried brothers. She isn’t long-legged and slender like her sisters, or flirtatious and wily like other lasses. Since her betrothed died, Dwyn has resigned herself to becoming an old maid. Yet a chance encounter with a stranger in the orchard awakens her to a new world of sensation and possibility…

After weeks away, Geordie Buchanan returns to find his home swarming with potential brides, thanks to his loving but interfering family. But one lass in particular draws his attention from the moment he spies her climbing a tree. Lady Dwyn is not nearly as plain as she thinks. Her lush figure and eager kisses delight him, as does her honesty. But the real test lies ahead: eliminating a hidden enemy, so that he and Dwyn can seal their Highland passion with a vow.

My rating:  4.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I have read others in the series and always enjoy reading Lynsay Sands and was glad to have the opportunity to read her upcoming release. This was a pretty good book, I enjoyed it. I struggled a little because I never was able to read it during a time when I could really concentrate on it, I was reading it in spurts here and there so it was a little harder to get into the plot line. Overall though the plot line was good. There were some good plot twists, most were predictable but they were good just the same. And I loved how honest the conversation was amongst the main characters, especially Geordie and Dwyn. Their frank conversation was refreshing while also being pretty hilarious at times. Some of the characters seemed a little ridiculous, only because they seemed to be overly exaggerated – some to the point of being caricature-like. And there was a lot of mention of other characters who seemed to have had their own books. Most of those characters I didn’t know since I didn’t read their books but that didn’t take any enjoyment out of the book for me. Overall I thought it was a really enjoyable, entertaining, and exciting read. I’d definitely recommend it!

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2020 Book #2 – Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

image001Title: Phantom of the Opera
Author: Gaston Leroux
Date finished: 1/12/20
Genre: Horror, mystery
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication Date:January 7, 2020
Pages in book: 266
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Deep beneath the Paris Opera House, a masked man lives in silence…

Every night at the Palais Garnier, hundreds of guests sit on the edge of velvet-covered seats, waiting for prima donna La Carlotta to take the stage. But when her voice fails her, La Carlotta is replaced with unknown understudy Christine Daaé, a young soprano whose vibrant singing fills every corner of the house and wins her a slew of admirers, including an old childhood friend who soon professes his love for her. But unknown to Christine is another man, who lurks out of sight behind the heavy curtains of the opera, who can move about the building undetected, who will do anything to make sure Christine will keep singing just for him…

This curated edition of The Phantom of the Opera, based on the original 1911 English translation by Alexander Teixeira de Mattos, brings an iconic story of love and obsession to today’s readers and illuminates the timeless appeal of Leroux’s masterpiece.

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I absolutely love this musical and the movie they produced of it also, so I thought I’d give the book a try. I’m not usually a huge fan of “the classics” and this was no exception. I struggled through this book. Christine in this novel is a simpering mess and just was way too helpless and damsel in distress for me. And Raoul didn’t seem brave or heroic like he does in the musical to me, he seemed more immature and childish. And the Phantom in the musical seems brooding and mysterious and a little dark but in the book he’s a big whiny crybaby and honestly super abusive and crazy. The author isn’t alive anymore so I’m not really worried about hurting anyone’s feelings with this but I didn’t care for this book. I think the re-print of it is fine and the cover is actually very well done but the writing and story line itself I didn’t care for.

Link to author website

 

Podcasts Galore! Romance Novel edition

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I have pretty much an hour long drive to and from work each day and I’ve always heard about podcasts being a good way to pass the time. So when I got an iPhone this year (for work) I decided to try them. And I quickly became obsessed! There is such a wealth of podcasts out there, there’s something for everyone really. And I found so many that are about reading, and many specifically about romance novels. I’ve tried a variety of them and there are a few that I’ve really come to love!

  1. Fated Mates Podcast – I was going to try and summarize this podcast but really I don’t think I can summarize it any better than what’s listed on their website: “Fated Mates is a romance novel podcast co-hosted by author Sarah MacLean and romance critic Jen Prokop. Weekly episodes include romance novel read-alongs and discussions of the work of the genre, highlighting the romance novel as a powerful tool in fighting patriarchy…with absolutely no kink shaming.” This is a great podcast and I’ve gotten so many good book recommendations from the interstitial episodes. And its hilarious!!
  2. Learning the Tropes Podcast – Erin (romance novel veteran) and Clayton (romance novel virgin) read a variety of novels and discuss them. My gosh this blog post is FUNNY. I love Clayton’s take on these books – it’s so refreshing to hear a man’s view on books I’ve loved forever. And I think this podcast also “fights the patriarchy” in a similar way.
  3. Not Your Mom’s Romance Book Club – Ellen and her Mom are very entertaining and sweet. Their interactions remind me a lot of how my Mom and I talk to each other. They seem to read a lot of the books that I’m either interested in or are signed up to review for new publications.
  4. Wicked Wallflowers Podcast – This book is a little different from the other three as it doesn’t necessarily go in depth to discuss a certain book per episode. This podcast features popular romance authors, and while they do talk about books the podcast overall is more about discussion of different tropes and issues surrounding the romance genre. Listed on their About page on their website: “this podcast about romance fiction takes the guilt out of “guilty pleasure” with author interviews and deep dives into new releases. It’s a compelling reminder of why the oft-dismissed genre is a real force in cultural conversations about consent and desire.” It’s super funny!!

All four of these make me laugh out loud on a regular basis and really keep the drive to work much more entertaining. There are a number of other romance novel specific podcasts out there – and really a wealth of non-romance book podcasts also. I’m listening to a few new ones now to see if I like them before I delve into the backlist episodes. But the four listed above are super and I would definitely recommend them!

What about all of you out there? Any podcasts you love?

2019 Recap and 2020 Goals!

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I can’t believe 2019 is over already! This year absolutely flew by, I feel like I looked up and all of a sudden it was December. This year I spent some time trying to find balance – between my work and home life and my reading and time spent with my husband / family. There’s always room for more improvement but I did the best I could this year. As the year draws to a close there is more than ever developing at work and I’m hoping I’ll be able to overcome the challenges I face there. I’m also hoping to spend time where I can continuing to read – and not only read some great books published in 2020 but also read more off my backlog and from my personal library.

So anyways! On to the meat of this post – to recap on the goals list that I had set for 2019:

  1. Participate in certain reading challenges:
    1. ARC August Check! I participated in ARC August 2019 and got a lot of ARC’s read – see my posts on this challenge here  
    2. Bout of Books Challenges (2)
      1. BOB 24 January 2019 Check! I participated in this one, though I didn’t find it as productive as the May one so I’m cutting it from the list in 2020. See my posts on this challenge here
      2. BOB 25 May 2019 Check! I participated in this one, see my posts on this challenge here
    3. Bookish Bingo challenges! I’d like to participate in bingo challenges for certain months for fun: February, June, September and October Half check – I ended up participating for February and October but couldn’t fit it into the other months 
    4. Bookish 2019 Reading Challenge – 52 Ways to Kill Your TBR! Check! Read a few on the list, though not as many as I wanted. See my posts on this challenge here
  2. Keep reading my backlog list! Check! I used the 52 Ways to Kill Your TBR reading challenge to start tackling some of my backlog lists – hoping to continue hacking at these lists over the next year!
  3. Also read some of the books I own (there are too many) Check! I read probably a handful of books that I own, though I bought a lot more – oh well!
  4. And some personal goals! Lose weight, focus on healthier eating, exercise more often, more time at home, more time with Kris, and finish some house projects! Mostly check – I wasn’t really great with most of these but, again, did the best I could. Hoping to make more progress in 2020.

As I mentioned with finding balance, I think I was able to mete out a good amount of time for myself to read this year. I also discovered PODCASTS this year, which are fantastic and they’ve really helped me develop my knowledge (and my TBR list) within the romance genre. I’m hoping to have a post up within the next week or so on what podcasts I’ve been listening to and what I’ve enjoyed so far. Any readers who have a favorite podcast definitely let me know, I’m always interested in checking out a new one! I also attended a couple book related events this year (including KissCon New England), all of which I enjoyed immensely. I just love being able to talk about books and listen to people talk about books and everything related to that. I’m hoping to make it to an RWA  or other romance writers conference sometime soon.

In looking back on my year of reading this year, I was able to read a comparable amount related to previous years. Below is a chart of the books I read by month this year vs previous years:

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I also really like the functionality of the Goodreads Year in Books summary for giving an overview of what happened during my year for reading. I don’t record 100% of the books I read on here so it doesn’t always match up with my own figures but I love having all the covers in one place, it makes for a neat graphic.

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And just for fun! Here are a few of my favorites from 2019:

Favorite Reads from 2019

The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden – 5.0 stars
The Bride Test by Helen Hoang – 4.75 stars
Wicked Deeds on a Winter’s Night (OMG IAD IS THE BEST!) by Kresley Cole – 5.0 stars
The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell – 4.75 stars

Favorite New Series

Pretty obviously this is the Immortals After Dark series. I have mentioned this series in a number of posts, it is bananas (to coin Sarah MacLean’s term) and amazing and a roller coaster of awesome. I would definitely recommend it if you haven’t read it already!

Favorite Podcasts

(Obviously) Fated Mates is great. I love the IAD discussions but also love the interstitial episodes where Sarah and Jen talk about recommended reads. I’ve also really been enjoying Learning the Tropes (Erin and Clayton are hilarious!) and Not Your Mom’s Romance Book Club (I love their back and forths and Ellen and her Mom remind me so much of me and my mom!).

Best New Author I Read in 2019

Has to be Helen Hoang – I should have read The Kiss Quotient last year but didn’t get to it til this year after I read The Bride Test. Both are amazing books and I’m so impressed by her writing and her as a person! I can’t wait for the next book!

Here we close out the 2019 year and we look ahead to the New Year!!

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Looking ahead to 2020 I can not help but be less hopeful than I was last year. I have found it hard to find enough time to devote myself to both blogging and reading while also doing everything else I need to do. So I’m hoping to change that this year. Slow down with my tasks and actually enjoy them and expand on them. I’m hoping to rediscover my hope in some areas and create happiness where I’m able. Overall I’m looking to be a little more creative and do a little more writing outside of my comfortable review box I’ve narrowed myself to. I used to really enjoy the “Top Ten Tuesday” posts and the “Waiting on Wednesday” posts I did in the past. My schedule has been squeezed so tight in recent years that I haven’t made time to do them but I’d like to dabble a little more in these again this year. There are so many different fun activities within the land of book bloggers and I’m hoping to find some of that fun again this year!

Looking ahead to 2020, here are some of the goals I plan to achieve:

  1. Participate in certain reading challenges:
    1. ARC August
    2. Bout of Books Challenge – BOB 25 (May 2020)
    3. Bookish Bingo challenges! I’d like to participate in bingo challenges for certain months for fun: February and October. I don’t think that the Bookish site is doing Book Bingo sheets anymore but I’m hoping I can find another site that has one for these two months.
  2. Keep reading my backlog list! At least one book per month
  3. Keep reading from my personal library! At least one book per month
  4. Write at least one non-review and non-blog tour post a month – can be one of the structured posts like Top Ten Tuesday or it can be informative or whatever I feel like!

 

I wish everyone strength and happiness in 2020, Happy Reading!

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Immortals After Dark series

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So this year I caught on to the Immortals After Dark series by Kresley Cole. I heard about this series because I started listening to the Fated Mates podcast (see my other post on how I fell onto the podcast – up later this week). I had no idea it was a read-a-long with a romance series but I decided to give the first book a try and see how things went.

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So the first book in the series is A Hunger Like No Other, featuring Emmaline and Lachlain. Amazon says it’s actually the second in the series but on Fated Mates this is the first one we read. The one Amazon considers first is really a novella that we read later in the podcasts. Anyways, this book was BANANAS. I was hooked on the series right from the start and I DEVOURED it once I started it. At first I tried to use it as a reward, like read 2 of my scheduled books and I get to read an IAD book. But then I gave up on that and just read IAD books because I couldn’t WAIT to get to the next person’s story. I read the whole series as it stands now (18 books) in less than 3 months.

Obviously there were some books within the series that I liked more than others. I mean the whole series is amazing, I think the lowest rating I gave any of the books in the series was like a 3.5, which means I still liked it. Most of the books in the series I rated a 4 or above. Some of my favorites are the ones below:

I didn’t post individual reviews of the books since the series was one that I was just reading for fun and not for my reading schedule. I did post individual reviews on my Goodreads page though. I wanted to do an overall post on the series though since I’ve loved it so much. It was especially enjoyable to read the books along with the Fated Mates podcast. The next book in the series, Munro, is coming out in the summer I think and I can’t wait. I would definitely recommend the whole series – it is so interesting and complicated and amazing. Go read it now!

2019 Monthly Status Update: December

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December was BUSY. Work was a struggle for me this month but luckily I had some time off at the end of the month and I was able to catch up with my reading. I wish I could have more vacations like this, where I get to read a book a day and get some things done around the house and not do much else. So anyways, here are some highlights from December for me:

Monthly Stats:
# books read this month: 10
# pages read this month: 3,437
# books read year-to-date: 102
# pages read year-to-date: 36,251

Favorite Books I Read this Month:

Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison – 4.5 stars
Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn – 4.0 stars

Other Posts this month:

Nothing else for this month!

Next Month TBR List:

  • The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
  • Love Her or Lose Her by Tessa Bailey
  • Hunting for a Highlander by Lynsay Sands
  • Marriage on Madison Avenue by Lauren Layne
  • Scot Under the Covers by Suzanne Enoch

2019 Book #102 – Forever My Duke by Olivia Drake

51200dkZwOLTitle: Forever My Duke
Author: Olivia Drake
Date finished: 12/31/19
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Publication Date: December 31, 2019
Pages in book: 384
Stand alone or series: #2 in the Unlikely Duchesses series
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Hadrian Ames, the Duke of Clayton, needs a bride. He even has the perfect one picked out. That is, until he meets the lovely, free-spirited Natalie Fanshawe. She’s the opposite of what a man of his high rank should desire in a wife—an outspoken American who has never even set foot in a London ballroom.

But Natalie doesn’t have time to be swept off her feet by a handsome duke who must be a spoiled scoundrel like every other British lord. And she couldn’t care less about Hadrian’s title. After all, it’s not as if he actually worked to attain his wealth and status. He surely can’t understand what it’s like to be a busy woman, planning to open a school while trying to reunite a six-year-old orphan with his English relatives. Nevertheless, Hadrian launches his campaign to win her heart. Can the utterly delightful American beauty ever find a way to love him…despite his being a duke?

My rating:  3.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I had also read the first book in this series, The Duke I Once Knew, and I wanted to read the next one in the series. I liked this book ok – it was a good romance read but it wasn’t my favorite. I got pretty frustrated with Natalie and how much stock she was putting in Hadrian saying he loved her. The words can be important but she was going to go all the way back to America just because he didn’t say the words, while it was pretty obvious from his actions that he did love her. Some of the conversations / interactions I thought were a little stilted / awkward. It was a sweet story though. I loved Leo’s character and his connection to Hadrian and his childhood. I really enjoyed the side characters in this novel too, they were especially entertaining. I’d still say that I’d recommend this one, though it wasn’t my favorite.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page