2019 Book #15 – Just Friends: Friends to Lovers series box set by Camilla Isley

5160JaNqjuLI’ve read a few books by Camilla in the past and really enjoyed them, so I was excited when she gave me the opportunity to read this boxed set of her Friends to Lovers Series. I decided to read the whole thing in one full sweep so I wouldn’t lose track of which character was which. I decided to rate the series as a whole but I also discussed each of the separate books below. I’d probably recommend reading them as a series since they’re fairly connected (mostly the last 3 in the set) and might end up being confusing when read as a stand alone, though I’m sure you’d still enjoy it.

Series Title: Just Friends: A Friends to Lovers Series
Author: Camilla Isley
Date finished: 2/25/19
Genre: Contemporary romance, romantic comedy
Publisher: Pink Bloom Press
Publication Date: June 28, 2018
Pages in book: 694
Stand alone or series: Full Just Friends series
Where I got the book from: Author/publisher NOTE: I received this book for free from the author/publisher 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:

Love and friendship mix in the Just Friends series… the books follow the misadventures and exploits of a group of college students in Boston.

For Rose being in love with her best friend has never been easy, but now that she’s moved in with Tyler her feelings have become impossible to ignore.

Tyler has bitten more than he can chew, torn between two girls he must decide where his heart stands.

Georgiana is determined to do everything in her power to keep Tyler and Rose apart. After all, all is fair in love and war.

Alice fell in love with Jack the day she moved into her freshman dorm. Problem is, she’s been stuck in the friend zone ever since. After another meaningless breakup, she’s ready to confess her feelings to Jack.

Jack has mistaken friendship for love once before and has vowed never to do it again. A varsity sports player, he’s determined to enjoy college with no strings attached.

Peter is Jack’s best wingman. He enjoys his popularity as team captain and when he meets Alice, he’s ready to steal her heart.

David and Scott Williams are in love with the same girl, again.

Haley has never been happier than in her relationship with Scott. But she can no longer deny bad-boy David has gotten under her skin.

Madison has always been insecure in love. The only satisfying romances in her life come from the many books she reads. Book-boyfriends are easy to fall for, but the real world seems short of swoon-worthy heroes. And just when she thought she might’ve found one, he fell in love with her best friend…

My rating: 3.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of these books in exchange for an honest and fair review. I read this book as part of the Bookish Romance Novel Bookish Bingo Reading Challenge. This book will be checking off my “Indie Publisher” box, since it was published by a smaller publishing company!

I enjoyed this series, though there were some of the books that I liked more than others. I think my favorite story of the couples was Jack and Alice’s. Madison’s story was a little too quick for me, and Haley’s was a little too sad. And honestly Georgianna and Tyler’s story was just heart-breaking for me and made me so angry. Georgianna was a horrible person and I really hoped that she would get more of a “lesson learned” than what she did. Rose’s story was definitely not what I expected it to be! I kept expecting it to take a hard left and turn around and it never happened. And then I got to the end and was just surprised that was where it ended! There were a lot of characters in this story and many of them were interesting, though I was a little put off by the obsession with “boys” in the story lines. I can certainly understand it but I think being so far removed from that period of my life has made me forget what it feels like to be “boy-crazy.” It reminded me a lot of my youth though, and I didn’t want to put it down. The story line was interesting and I felt involved enough with the characters that I felt engaged in their stories. I’d recommend the series! Thought maybe space it out a little, I think if I had even a tiny bit of room between the books I would’ve been more patient with some of the characters.

Link to author website

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2018 Book #83 – Trouble Brewing by Suzanne Baltsar

51Yd9xWAcPLTitle: Trouble Brewing
Author: Suzanne Baltsar
Date finished: 10/11/18
Genre: Contemporary romance
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: September 25, 2018
Pages in book: 320
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:

Piper Williams is used to being the only woman in a room full of men, but she isn’t used to being instantly drawn to someone she’s in business with.

After working long hours brewing in her garage, Piper is determined to prove herself—and to ignore the chemistry she has with Blake Reed, owner of Minnesota’s newest gastropub who is going to stock four of her brews. She wants her craft beer to stand on its own merits and knows that the tight-knit male-dominated brewer community will assume the worst if she starts anything with one of her vendors. No way she’ll risk everything she’s invested in her budding business on a guy who might not stick—no matter how charmingly handsome and funny he is, right?

And Blake has a conflict of his own—his haughty family wants him to ditch the gastropub and support his father’s political campaign. Well, that, and the fact that he knows Piper’s snark and sass is the perfect blend of crisp and refreshing for him. So Blake and Piper make a pact: she’ll go out with him if, and only if, two additional pubs start carrying her beer. Sticking to the pact proves harder than either of them expected—especially since the attraction is off the charts between quirky, independent Piper and smart, charming Blake.

Then Piper gets a once-in-a-lifetime offer that could launch her company to the next level—and take her away from Blake. Are she and Blake just drunk in love, or do they have something real that’s worth risking her dreams for?

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.

My husband is a home brewer and is pretty passionate about craft beer, so when I saw this book that tied together both of our interests together I was pretty excited. There was a couple interesting things I learned about beer from reading this book – I read about the Grisette style of beer, and then the next day we went to a brewery that had the grisette beer! I was super excited, so I tried it and I Loved it! While I loved some of the knowledge I gained from this book, overall the rest of the plot and book were (I would say) just ok for me. I didn’t necessary love Piper’s character, she was a little self-centered for me. I still liked the plot though and the overall story line. I’d be interested to see if this turns into a series (I didn’t see any other books so I listed it as a stand alone, but Blake’s two guy friends seem to be interested in these two girls so we’ll see) and I’d be interested to read the other stories if it does turn into a series. I’d recommend this one, especially for anyone who’s interested in beer and brewing.

Link to author website

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2018 Book #80 – Intercepted by Alexa Martin

51oN1Oz4ZyLTitle: Intercepted
Author: Alexa Martin
Date finished: 9/9/18
Genre: Fiction, women’s fiction, romance
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: September 11, 2018
Pages in book: 320
Stand alone or series: #1 in The Playbook 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:

Marlee thought she scored the man of her dreams only to be scorched by a bad breakup. But there’s a new player on the horizon, and he’s in a league of his own…

Marlee Harper is the perfect girlfriend. She’s definitely had enough practice by dating her NFL-star boyfriend for the last ten years. But when she discovers he has been tackling other women on the sly, she vows to never date an athlete again. There’s just one problem: Gavin Pope, the new hotshot quarterback and a fling from the past, has Marlee in his sights.

Gavin fights to show Marlee he’s nothing like her ex. Unfortunately, not everyone is ready to let her escape her past. The team’s wives, who never led the welcome wagon, are not happy with Marlee’s return. They have only one thing on their minds: taking her down. But when the gossip makes Marlee public enemy number one, she worries about more than just her reputation.

Between their own fumbles and the wicked wives, it will take a Hail Mary for Marlee and Gavin’s relationship to survive the season.

My rating:  4.5 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 read a sample of the first couple chapters in this book as it was included in the BuzzBooks Romance sampler I read last month. I thought that the excerpt was pretty entertaining so I requested it. And oh wow was this book funny. Some parts were so drama-filled I was holding my breath and couldn’t look away, and other parts were just plain darn laugh out loud funny. Overall this book was extremely entertaining – the antics that Marlee manages to find herself in were astounding. There was a good amount of drama, and some pigheaded asshole-ish men, I was definitely high on the adrenaline roller coaster while reading this one. The story line was ok, although I thought it was weird that Gavin was so outstandingly perfect in the beginning and then he turns out to be such a hard headed dunce towards the end. I still really liked it though, I liked reading about the different hierarchy and struggles and drama of being a football player’s wife. And I ended up having really good timing for reading this since I was able to read it during our first football game viewing of the season (my in-laws and husband are avid Pats fans). I’d recommend this one, it was an interesting and funny read!

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Link to author website

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2018 Book #79 – Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren

51R44pJdXnLTitle: Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating
Author: Christina Lauren
Date finished: 9/7/18
Genre: Fiction, women’s fiction, romance
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: September 4, 2018
Pages in book: 320
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:

The story of the heart can never be unwritten.

Most men can’t handle Hazel. With the energy of a toddler and the mouth of a sailor, they’re often too timid to recognize her heart of gold. New York Times and #1 international bestselling author Christina Lauren (RoomiesBeautiful Bastard) tells the story of two people who are definitely notdating, no matter how often they end up in bed together.

Hazel Camille Bradford knows she’s a lot to take—and frankly, most men aren’t up to the challenge. If her army of pets and thrill for the absurd don’t send them running, her lack of filter means she’ll say exactly the wrong thing in a delicate moment. Their loss. She’s a good soul in search of honest fun.

Josh Im has known Hazel since college, where her zany playfulness proved completely incompatible with his mellow restraint. From the first night they met—when she gracelessly threw up on his shoes—to when she sent him an unintelligible email while in a post-surgical haze, Josh has always thought of Hazel more as a spectacle than a peer. But now, ten years later, after a cheating girlfriend has turned his life upside down, going out with Hazel is a breath of fresh air.

Not that Josh and Hazel date. At least, not each other. Because setting each other up on progressively terrible double blind dates means there’s nothing between them…right?

My rating:  4.75 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 just recently read my first book with this author in July and LOVED it so I was excited when this book became available for review. And I’m so glad that I got to read it, I ended up loving this book too. Hazel as a character was hilariously funny. She was sweet and precocious and just utterly charming. I was infatuated with her from the start and she really drew me in through the rest of the book. I really liked Josh too, but my favorite thing about him was how much he loved and accepted Hazel just for being who she was. The plot was somewhat predictable, friends turn to lovers and fall in love, but the authors imprint such emotion into the story that its astounding. And the characters were all wonderfully developed and like-able – Hazel is probably one of my favorite characters of all time. I didn’t want to put this book down, and while the last book I read by this author duo was poignant and touching, this one was lighthearted and fun. Reading this book just made me feel so happy and light and I wish I could read 100 more like it. I’d highly recommend this one.

Link to author website

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2018 Book #67 – At the Heart of It by Tawna Fenske

51ZxBkN1V4LTitle: At the Heart of It
Author: Tawna Fenske
Date finished: 8/7/18
Genre: Fiction, women’s fiction, romance, romantic comedy
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Publication Date: October 3, 2017
Pages in book: 336
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:

TV producer Kate Geary is in unscripted heaven. She’s piloting a reality series featuring her favorite self-help guru, Dr. Vivienne Brandt. The Dr. Viv—whose nuggets of wisdom helped Kate get through some of her toughest times. Thanks to Dr. Viv, Kate is almost on the verge of figuring everything out. That is, until Jonah Porter, the superhot book nerd Kate just spent an amazing date with, appears at the show’s first meeting.

Jonah did not want to get reeled into a world filled with invasive crews, pushy network execs, and over-the-top drama, but a connection to the story leaves him no choice. Fortunately, Kate—hot, smart, and funny—helps make it bearable. Now they’re both on the verge of violating their contracts as they find themselves sneaking around off set. But the cameras have a way of finding out everyone’s secrets…especially the ones that can break hearts.

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 finished this book for ARC August 2018! Love this reading challenge. And this year I’m especially excited because as part of the challenge they added one of my favorite things, reading Bingo! This book will be checking off my “Finish a 2017 ARC” box. PLUS! The fun never ends, since this is from my 2017 Backlog list, I am also completing this book as part of the 2018 Bookish Reading Challenge,  for the “a book you picked up based on the title” category.

I had read another of Fenske’s books, Now That It’s You, a couple years ago and really enjoyed it. I have to say I wasn’t as thrilled about this one’s plot but overall I still did enjoy it. This was a solid romance novel for me but wasn’t anything that really grabbed me. I liked all of the characters, Kate especially seemed like a very strong woman and I really admired her. The insight into reality television was also interesting and learning about how the show featured in the book was produced. The show itself was an unusual idea that made me curious how that would turn out in real life. Other than that I would say it was pretty standard but still a good book. I would recommend it!

Link to author website

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2018 Book #66 – Good Luck With That by Kristan Higgins

51Yf6XUZJZL._SX333_BO1,204,203,200_Title: Good Luck With That
Author: Kristan Higgins
Date finished: 8/5/18
Genre: Fiction, women’s fiction
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: August 7 2018
Pages in book: 480
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
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:

New York Times bestselling author Kristan Higgins is beloved for her heartfelt novels filled with humor and wisdom. Now, she tackles an issue every woman deals with: body image and self-acceptance.

Emerson, Georgia, and Marley have been best friends ever since they met at a weight-loss camp as teens. When Emerson tragically passes away, she leaves one final wish for her best friends: to conquer the fears they still carry as adults.

For each of them, that means something different. For Marley, it’s coming to terms with the survivor’s guilt she’s carried around since her twin sister’s death, which has left her blind to the real chance for romance in her life. For Georgia, it’s about learning to stop trying to live up to her mother’s and brother’s ridiculous standards, and learning to accept the love her ex-husband has tried to give her.

But as Marley and Georgia grow stronger, the real meaning of Emerson’s dying wish becomes truly clear: more than anything, she wanted her friends to love themselves.

A novel of compassion and insight, Good Luck With That tells the story of two women who learn to embrace themselves just the way they are.

My rating:  5.0 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 read this book for ARC August 2018! Love this reading challenge. And this year I’m especially excited because as part of the challenge they added one of my favorite things, reading Bingo! This book will be checking off my “Author you’ve read before” box. I have read Kristan Higgins in the past, she’s actually one of my favorite authors so I was very excited to be able to review this book.

Kristan Higgins has always done an amazing job of connecting the readers to the characters and the story, and this book was certainly no exception. The reader is drawn into the lives of these three women – Georgia, Marley and Emerson – and thrust into an immediate friendship with them. The emotions this book created in me were nothing new for reading a Higgins novel, but there was something different about this one – it was hitting a little too close to home this time. I have struggled with body image and weight issues, and to be 100% honest with an addiction to food, most of my life. In fact I just started a new diet this past week, one of countless many times that I’ve tried to turn things around. I connected with the content of this book so deeply, it was like someone was taking my thoughts of the past 10 years and put them down on paper for me. At times it was even hard to read this book, because it made me face some issues with myself that I haven’t wanted to think about in a long time. My issues with my body, my issues with feeling loved, my thoughts on ordering fattening foods in front of people and wondering if they were judging me for not ordering a salad. I luckily have not had as serious an issue as the girls in the book, but never the less these thoughts and feelings resonated with me so much. Women are obsessed with weight – the next fad diet, the next fad exercise. Waiting for their lives to begin – constantly promising that they’d go on that date or plan their next trip after “they lose a few pounds.” This book was a beautiful journey of women looking for acceptance, and really a journey about learning to love themselves despite their flaws. I think that everyone should read this book, but especially any woman who has ever questioned their worth because of their weight. This book is a wonderful story with a wonderful message and i encourage everyone to read it and really just accept themselves as they are and love that person.

Favorite Quotes

“I didn’t want to be one of those people who couldn’t enjoy food because she was obsessed with being thin.”

“I could waste time wishing to be small. I could get surgery. I could starve myself and never eat the foods I loved again. That wasn’t was I called living…”

“Every fat girl starves herself at one point or another…The point was control… and grief.. and self-loathing;”

“It’s willpower that’s the issue. All those fat-haters talk about how weak we are, us super-fatties. They leave out the fact that we might also be lonely, scared, isolated, poor, in pain, sexually abused as kids or any number of things. To much of the world, we’re just weak.”

“I didn’t want looks to matter. I didn’t want size to matter. But they did. Size had killed Emerson. Size had me in this store not quite recognizing myself.”

“It would have to become my life’s work, all that measuring and weighing and passing on all the good stuff. You trade one side of the addiction for the other.”

“I know it’s an addition. I know it’s a sickness. I know, and I don’t want to be like this, but the power of food, of wanting, of trying to be full is too great for me to resist.”

Link to author website

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2018 Book #56 – Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren

51voySJEiTLTitle: Love and Other Words
Author: Christina Lauren
Date finished: 7/3/18
Genre: Fiction, women’s fiction, romance
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: April 10, 2018
Pages in book: 433
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:

The story of the heart can never be unwritten.

Macy Sorensen is settling into an ambitious if emotionally tepid routine: work hard as a new pediatrics resident, plan her wedding to an older, financially secure man, keep her head down and heart tucked away.

But when she runs into Elliot Petropoulos—the first and only love of her life—the careful bubble she’s constructed begins to dissolve. Once upon a time, Elliot was Macy’s entire world—growing from her gangly bookish friend into the man who coaxed her heart open again after the loss of her mother…only to break it on the very night he declared his love for her.

Told in alternating timelines between Then and Now, teenage Elliot and Macy grow from friends to much more—spending weekends and lazy summers together in a house outside of San Francisco devouring books, sharing favorite words, and talking through their growing pains and triumphs. As adults, they have become strangers to one another until their chance reunion. Although their memories are obscured by the agony of what happened that night so many years ago, Elliot will come to understand the truth behind Macy’s decade-long silence, and will have to overcome the past and himself to revive her faith in the possibility of an all-consuming love.

My rating:  5.0 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 haven’t read anything by Lauren in the past, but I’ve heard a lot of good things from various other readers so I was excited to give this one a try. This is going to be a hard one for me to write down though, not because I didn’t like it but because there honestly just aren’t enough words to describe how this book made me feel. The emotions and reactions this book invoked from me were powerful and raw. The plot was perfectly captivating, it has been a long time since I’ve read a book that so perfectly captures what that first love feels like. There is joy, but hand in hand with the joy there is also pain, and the situation in this book in particular led to intense heartbreak. Reading the development and intensity of Elliot and Macy’s relationship though was like a testament to true romance. I just couldn’t put it down, I stayed up until one in the morning last night reading it. This book was a roller coaster of emotion that I didn’t want to end. I just can’t say enough, I loved this book and everyone should read it!

Link to author website

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