Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Cover Reveal: Man Crush Monday by Kirsty Moseley

Title: Man Crush Monday
Author: Kirsty Moseley
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Release Date: February 3, 2020
Cover Design: Outlined With Love Designs
Perma-single Amy Clarke prides herself on three things: her pink hair, her Converse collection, and her ability to drink copious amounts of margarita without puking. She isn’t looking for love. She’s perfectly content with her simultaneous love affairs with Netflix and both Ben and Jerry. The trouble is, sometimes, love finds you.
Five months ago, he climbed aboard her train, and nothing has been the same since. Fast-forward to now, she still doesn’t know his name, but she knows she wants his babies.
Her crush—this tall, dark, and handsome dork who gets on her train every other Monday—has no idea he brightens her day with his panty-wetting smile and laugh that makes her pulse quicken.
When a chance encounter outside of workforces them to have their first proper conversation, things quickly go from loving him from afar to up close and very personal. With a string of disastrous exes in her past, has Amy finally found her Mr. Perfect? Or does fate have other plans?
A new stand-alone romcom from Kirsty Moseley, best-selling author of The Boy Who Sneaks in My Bedroom Window and Nothing Left to Lose.

Kirsty Moseley has always been a passionate reader since she was a little girl, devouring books overnight, barely sleeping and paying for it at school the next day. Writing has come similarly to her and once she discovered Wattpad, she finally plucked up the courage to post one of her stories. Seven million reads later, she self-published her debut novel THE BOY WHO SNEAKS IN MY BEDROOM WINDOW, which later became one of 10 Finalists for the 2012 Goodreads' Choice Awards, Best YA Fiction. Shocked and overwhelmed by the response, she published her second novel ALWAYS YOU a few months later and hasn’t looked back. 
If she had to sum herself up in one word, it would probably be 'daydreamer' - but unlike most of her school teachers, she doesn't necessarily view that as a bad thing. After all, she read somewhere once that books are like waking dreams...
She lives in Norfolk, England with her husband and son.


Monday, January 6, 2020

Books I Read in November & December

Turtles All The Way Down by John Green
I first heard the "turtles all the way down" belief in a philosophy class during my sophomore year of college. The idea that the world is held up by turtle, which is on top of another turtle that is on top of another turtle, and so on, never touching anything. The idea can drive anyone crazy because the bottom turtle must be on something. But where is the bottom turtle? I think the idea of space can lead to very similar feelings. Thinking deeply into just how small we are in the grand scheme can be a little scary. It's interesting to me that John Green would combine the idea of space with the topic of mental illness. Aza's mental illness makes her very nervous and often scared about what's going on inside of her body.  She is constantly concerned about contracting C.diff and dying from it. However, talking to Davis about space seems to calm her down, rather than freak her out.
Reading this book from Aza's point of view and getting inside the arguments she has with herself showed me how frustrating mental illness can be. I constantly found myself shaking my book as if I could shake the voice inside her head that was forcing her to do things she didn't really want to do. There were moments I wished that character was a physical one that could be killed off by the end and let Aza be victorious. And then I got sad because the truth is that people suffering from this (and other) type of mental illness can't just kill it or kick it out of their lives. It's part of who they are, and they have to learn to live with it in some way or another. The past few years have seen a huge surge in mental health awareness, which is fantastic, and I also think books like this can further help awareness. This book lets you see what it might be like inside someone's head and understand why they can't just ignore their own thoughts.
The plot of the novel, I found a little funny because it's so secondary that there's no huge AHA moment. Aza figures out what happened to Davis' dad, and Davis anonymously tips off the police. The biggest aspect of the novel's climax is that they both learn to keep moving forward with the lives they have.

At His Mercy by S.S. Richards*
The mafia isn't to be messed with in this novel. The novel starts with Elena's uncle selling her to another mafia boss. This part threw me by surprise at first because, in my general (stereotypical) knowledge of mafia families, blood relatives are often held at the highest regard. However, as the novel continues, you learn that her uncle never really liked her and had an affair with her mom, so his idea of family is a little less moral than others. During the car ride to her new mafia boss, she gets taken by a third mafia family. The novel then follows her as she and Maksim start to fall in love with each other while she is also technically his slave. The biggest thing I found as an issue with this novel was that Maksim allows Elena to get revenge on one of her uncle's men who raped her multiple times. Maksim hates him for what he did to Elena, but Maksim did the same thing to her, which threw me off a little bit. Elena seemed more okay with Maksim than she did with the other guy, which at that point in the book, I thought was a little weird. As the book goes on, the two of them, get closer, and Maksim sees her more as an equal, which I liked better. By the end, he is actually very selfless and lets her leave so she can be safe from her uncle. It was interesting to watch the two of them grapple with what they want versus what they think is right, instead of considering a compromise. But then there's a bit of a twist, and now I'm excited for the second novel to see how it all comes together in the second book, which will be released in January.
Beautiful Distraction by J.C. Reed
This was a fun read about a girl and a boy who initially hate each other and then fall in love. It's not very far off from some other books I have read in the past, and I did enjoy it. In the end, a secret Kellan had been keeping is revealed that throws Ava for a loop, but she is quick to rebound from it and make the decision about whether or not she can stay with him. The one person I did not like was Ava's friend, Mandy. I just didn't think she was a good friend. For one thing, who takes a short cut on a road trip (the road trip itself was also weird to me - why would you drive from NYC to Montana when you only have a few days off?), and then she tries to flirt with Kellan even though he and Ava clearly have a weird thing going on, and then she just leaves Ava with him. Mandy was not a very good friend, and she was a bit of a brat the entire time too. I think I would have enjoyed the book more if she wasn't in it. But other than that, it was a cute, maybe a bit predictable, read.

Stuck-Up Suit by Vi Keeland & Penelope Ward
This one had a similar set-up to Beautiful Distraction. Boy and girl don't like each other, they fall in love, a big secret is revealed, they don't think they can move past it, they eventually move past it. Obviously, the actual details of the book are different, but that's the general outline. This one follows Soraya, a girl who is constantly changing the dip-dye color in her hair to match her mood, and Graham, who is known in his office as a very scary boss. Soraya finds Graham's phone on the train, and when he refuses to come out of his office when she drops it off, she leaves a few photos and her phone number with a few text messages to tell him how much she dislikes him. The two of them start texting and eventually meet up and fall for each other. However, just as the two of them are contemplating their next steps together, a huge secret is revealed to Graham, and he is forced to reevaluate his life. Soraya, not wanting to make things more difficult for him, thinks the best thing she can do is take herself out of the equation. However, the way she goes about it isn't great, and Graham then has to decide if their love for each other is stronger than the mistakes they've made. This novel was a quick, cute read that I enjoyed.
The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
I have wanted to read this book since I was in High School, but just never got around to it. Then, a Professor gifted it to me, and now I've finally had the time to get through it. This book is fiction, but I don't believe that's fully accurate. I think the names might be changed, and some details are added/changed to make it a better story, but I would not be surprised if this was a true story. There's no afterward or anything at the end where O'Brien notes all the changes he makes, so there's no way to know for sure, but the book is described as a semi-autobiography by many people.
This novel, in my opinion, is closer to a collection of short stories rather than one cohesive story following a group of soldiers who fought in Vietnam. One of the first things this novel does when introducing the characters is to explain what things from home they carry with them in their bags, hence the title. And while they each carry a physical item from home, they also carry a lot of emotional baggage by the time the war ends. They have to deal with going to war, whether they were drafted or they volunteered; growing friendships with one another; death, both watching members of their unit die, and killing people; and the struggles of returning to civilian life after their time at war. I think this book is important to read because it gets you inside the head of someone who was there and witnessed it all, even if the fiction genre allows for some of it to be a little inaccurate.

Making a Play by Abbi Glines
As the fifth installment of the Field Party series, I pretty much knew what I was getting into with this novel. That being said, I still loved it and read it in one sitting. This one was similar to the first one, where the two main characters have to figure out how to communicate with one another. However, unlike the first book where Maggie is mute, Aurora is deaf. Although she can speak, she doesn't do it often because she doesn't know what her voice sounds like. Again, like the first book, she is related to the football team's quarterback, so when Ryker becomes attracted to her, he has to be sure to not mess with the dynamic of the team. What I really liked about Aurora was that she based her opinion of Ryker on her own experiences with him versus what other people told her. She wasn't ignoring the warnings people gave her that said he was a player, but she realized that he acted different with her and chose to judge him based on that instead. This book also delved into racism a little bit. However, Aurora is very strong-willed and did her very best to keep her dad's prejudice out of her love life. In a perfect world, he would have seen his daughter's happiness, and that would have been enough, but that wasn't the case. In the end, Aurora had to agree to get a cochlear implant as a compromise. Again, a dangerous surgery shouldn't have been necessary, but whatever the first step was for Aurora to get her dad to try to get to know Ryker, she was willing to do it. The ending of this novel was a little rushed for me. They break up (which was expected), but then it flashforwards past their time apart to a month later when they see each other again. The month gets summarized and they agree to get back together. I didn't mind that the time apart was summarized, but I wanted a little more into the future to see how their relationship developed and how Aurora's dad got to know Ryker. My guess is that in the next novel, they'll be friends with whoever it stars and talked about through those people, but I'm curious to know more about their story.
*This book was gifted to me by the author, but the opinions are my own


Friday, January 3, 2020

Home for Christmas

As many of you know, I am currently in Scotland studying for my master's degree in Creative Writing. I moved out here in September, and before I left I didn't expect to be coming home for Christmas. I thought it would be too expensive. I also thought that I would be graduating in June. However, one of the first things I figured out when I arrived was that undergrads graduate in June and Postgrads don't graduate until November. Soon after learning that my cousin decided she wanted to go home for Christmas, and I wasn't going to stay behind.
So we booked tickets home, but I didn't tell my parents. Some of my siblings knew and all of my friends did, but my parents had no idea, so surprising them was the first thing to do. My parents, sister, and more were on a trolley seeing Christmas lights around Boston so my brother brought me to the bar they were dropped off at. I hid behind a corner while they filed in and then came around the corner to tap my dad on the shoulder. It was great being able to watch the recognition on their faces as they realized I was standing in front of them.
I loved being home and being able to catch up with friends about everything. We text all the time, but there are certain, little things that we only share when we're together. Plus, whenever we're together we end up new memories and inside jokes. It was also nice to just drive around my hometown and surrounding towns to see things like this lighthouse.
An activity that I did was go to a Bruins game with Liz, Katie, and Patti. Unfortunately, they lost in overtime, but we had a blast. If you're ever in Boston you have to attend a sporting event. Sports are so important to the culture of the city, so you'd being doing yourself a disservice if you came to Boston and didn't at least watch a game in a bar or something.  
We're currently in the middle of a kitchen renovation, so we've been forced to spend most of our time in the basement. Without our normal kitchen, my mom didn't want to make the pizzelle cookies that she usually does for Christmas, but I told her that if she made the batter I would make the cookies. I sat on our basement couch for four hours making these cookies. My dog joined me for a while and I had to keep her nose out of the batter. 
It was definitely worth going home for Christmas. Yes, it was a little expensive, but not terrible in my opinion, especially because we bought tickets in September. And the two weeks went by very fast, but I was glad to see my family and friends. And sleep with my weighted blanket! I miss that thing so much!!


Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Plans for 2020

HAPPY NEW YEAR! I didn't think much could top 2018, but 2019 really came out swinging. I traveled to 12 different states (Florida, New Hampshire, California, Rhode Island, New York, Tennessee, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Philadelphia, Maine, Massachusetts) and to Scotland. My sister tried to plan a trip to Toronto, but it never happened. I didn't reach my reading goal, only getting to 35 out of the 50 I strived for. I graduated Summa Cum Laude from Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire and started Graduate School in Scotland. I got to live with four amazing girls during my senior year of college, my friends and I made so many memories that all included laughing and inside jokes, and I surprised my parents by coming home for Christmas. It was a great year, and I can't wait to see what 2020 has for me...
I am once again setting my Goodreads Reading Challenge Goal to 50 books this year. I've only accomplished that once, but I am hopeful I can do it again. I've been in more and more contact with authors and publishers, so this year I hope to continue making those connections and being a trusted reviewer by these different people.
I'm living in Europe for most of 2020, so I'm hoping to make my way to a few new countries while I am here. My bucket list includes St. Petersburg and the Faroe Islands. My family is coming out to visit me in May, and I have at least three different groups of friends coming to see me. Although I may have to repeat a few things, I'm sure each visitor will leave a unique impact on me.
If all goes according to plan, I will have my MSc in Creative Writing in November 2020, which will be a huge accomplishment. After that, I intend on moving back to the states, unless something drastic happens that requires me to stay in Europe. Hopefully, it won't take me too long to find a job once I'm home. However, before all that happens at the end of the year, I hope to continue growing the friendships I started during my first semester. And maybe even meet a few new people. There is also a publishing course that takes place in September that I might apply for. It's highly selective, and even if I get in, I don't know if I'll be able to afford it, but part of me still wants to try so that I never have to wonder what if.
I always set blog related goals for the new year. In 2019, I got a logo made, which I think is gorgeous. As usual, I'm just trying to grow the audience and interactions on this site and my social media. If you're not following me on everything, please consider doing so. I'm intending on sticking with a new posting schedule for Instagram, so bets can begin for how long I can stick to it.


Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Edinburgh Christmas Market

I'm in Edinburgh for Grad School and I haven't done a whole bunch of 'touristy' things yet, because I'm waiting for when family and friends come to visit. However, it would be impossible to ignore the Christmas Market that has taken over Princes Street Gardens. It's full of food, drinks, games, and rides. I've already been multiple times. I've sat in the pop-up bars and walked through the rows and rows of stalls. I've purchased a few Christmas gifts, but I can't share those until after the holiday passes for fear of ruining the surprise. If you ever get the chance to visit Scotland during the holiday season I say jump on it.
I'm curious as to how you guys feel about temporary carnival rides? The market has a Ferris wheel, this crazy swing thing that goes like 60 feet into the air (total guess on that height), a mini roller coaster for little kids, carousels, and a wave blaster type ride. Would you go on any of these? I know people who would never go on some of those rides because of how often they're put up and taken down. How could a screw or two not get lost? The market also has games like basketball, ring toss, throw a ball to knock down the cans (What is that called?), etc. Winners get a plush toy.   
One thing about the market is that it is a lot of food. There are plenty of stalls to buy gifts, but I would guess that the majority are for food and drinks. I'm not saying that's a bad thing - everything looks and smells amazing. However, it did take a few people by surprise when they first walked through.
For myself, I've purchased a few different snacks. From the Fudge Shop stall, I bought three pieces: salted caramel, nugget, and mint chocolate. And OH MY GOSH they were all amazing. I also had a delicious soft pretzel. It's the perfect place to walk around and grab a snack.


Friday, November 1, 2019

Books I Read in September and October

There aren't many pictures this month because most of these were ebooks

Escaping from Houdini by Kerri Maniscalco
I finished Dracula the day before I left for Scotland and immediately went onto the Barnes and Noble website to order this book for in-store pick-up. I was the second person in the store the next day to pick it up. I just knew this book was going to be amazing, and I was absolutely correct.
This novel follows Audrey Rose and Thomas on a cruise to America. While on the cruise, they attend a carnival show, led my Ring Leader Mephistopheles. The act includes acrobats, knife throwers, the amazing Harry Houdini, and more. What no one was expecting was attendants being murdered. Audrey Rose and Thomas, having just figured out the Dracula murders, once again begin to collect clues and suspicions about who could be killing the cruise-goers. However, when Audrey Rose makes a deal with Mephistopheles, she starts to distance herself from her partner. As you can imagine, I did not like the idea of Audrey Rose getting closer to Mephistopheles and possibly choosing him over Thomas. Thomas didn't like it either. The love triangle did add a very interesting aspect to the story because Audrey Rose did struggle with her new feelings for Mephistopheles while continuing to love Thomas. It was hard to know what was genuine and what was part of the deal. But the boys aren't the only thing on AR's mind. Her cousin makes a surprise appearance on the boat, claiming to be running away to America with the carnival group because she has fallen in love with Houdini. And of course, the dead bodies that keep appearing on the ship.
There is a lot of personal conflict for AR in this novel as her loyalties are testes, probably the most so far in the series. Her loyalty to her cousin. AR didn't think Liza should ruin her reputation by running away with the carnival, but her cousin had always been supportive of her interest in forensics, which was also far from proper. Her loyalty to Thomas. The two of them were always a team, but when she makes a deal with Mephistopheles, he makes her keep things from Thomas. She goes along with it allows her to gain backstage access to the carnival, but Thomas realizes she's keeping things from him. Her loyalty to herself. AR has always been a strong-willed character who doesn't need anyone else. But at the same time, as she's worked her way through all of the murder mysteries, Thomas has been right beside her. For the first time, there is another love interest in her life, which is different and exciting. She finds herself being pulled in different directions. She has to remind herself that she doesn't need a man, but that doesn't mean she doesn't want one. And once she makes her decision on which one, will he want her too?
The one thing I didn't really understand about this novel was the title. Houdini isn't a huge part of the story, and he isn't a suspect any more than the other carnival members. Thomas views Mephistopheles as a major suspect, so I was surprised that his name wasn't in the title instead. But I guess more people recognize the name Houdini as opposed to Mephistopheles.

Becoming the Dark Prince by Kerri Maniscalco
This novella is the end of Escaping from Houdini, but from Thomas's point of view and if you've been reading my blog, you know how much I love getting multiple viewpoints, so I thought this was amazing.
This allows you to learn about Thomas's jealousy of Audrey Rose's relationship with Mephistopheles, a feeling he's never faced before. He constantly has to stop himself from acting on his jealousy for two reasons. 1) He refuses to make his father's prediction of his Vlad the Impaler bloodline taking over, and 2) he always told Audrey Rose she has the choice whether or not to choose him, and he would never pressure her into a decision.
Also, something happens at the end of Houdini that results in Audrey Rose getting hurt while defending Thomas. He struggles to see himself as worthy of Audrey Rose's choice and considers staying in New York without her at the end of the story. But he's still in love with her, so there is a very tense scene between the two of them that decides their future together. I don't want to give too many spoilers, but it was worth reading it from both points of view. This book is only available in e-format.

Ice Hard by Tracy Goodwin*
Publication Date: October 8, 2019
Camille doesn't date hockey players. Anymore. Because the last one she was with involved an unplanned pregnancy, marriage, miscarriage, surgery that led to infertility, divorce: in that order. It was hard to come back from, but when Nick comes into her life, Camille needs to rethink her rule. Because Nick isn't the stereotypical hockey player, Camille was used to and divorced from. He was smart, enjoyed documentaries, and down to earth, so she agrees to give it a chance. But when her family life is rocked by a surprise marriage announcement, and her dad fires her from the family business, Camille has to make a choice: stay with the hockey player she's falling for, or go after a great, out of state job opportunity. On the other hand, when Nick fell for Camille, he fell hard, and he wasn't going to give her up easily, he just had to find a way to make her see that she could have everything she wanted for herself and also be with him.
I enjoyed this story. It was a romance with a lot of family drama mixed in. It contained viewpoints from both Camille and Nick, so you were able to know what they were both thinking throughout. The multiple viewpoints allowed you to see Nick fall hard and fast, and Camille allows herself to admit her feelings for the new hockey player in her life.
There was one thing that did confuse me, but I was reading an ARC copy, so it might be different in the final print. At one point, Camille is set to move to Florida but then doesn't. The confusing part was that the change in the decision was never discussed. And time passes, but it's unclear how much time goes by. I wasn't sure if she moved and quickly moved back because she hated it, or she never left at all.
Ice Hot by Tracy Goodwin
This is the first book in the New York Nighthawks Series, but I read it after I read Ice Hard. This one has a similar structure as Ice Hard and most romance novels that I read: they meet, they date, they break up, they end up together in the end. I don't mind this structure at all, but I do like to point it out in case you're over it. This book also alternates viewpoints between Christian and Serena.
This story follows Christian, captain of the Nighthawks, and Serena, a fashion designer. Christian is constantly in the spotlight for being a professional athlete and a captain of a new team that is putting a lot of pressure on him to bring home the Stanley Cup in their first season. Serena is a designer for women who are bigger than a size two. She quickly learns that being seen with Christian gives her publicity - good and bad. Good when their relationship is good, and people appreciate her body positivity message, but bad when she's accused of causing animosity amongst the team. And when Christian decides that breaking up with Serena is the only way to protect her business, she becomes an even bigger target for breaking the captain's heart. Mix in a teammate who's out to sabotage Christian and Serena's strained relationship with her parents, and this book gives a good balance between romance and drama.

The Furies by Katie Lowe*
This book is hard for me to like because I didn't like the main character, but I don't think I was supposed to. I've been learning a lot about writing unlikeable characters and the craft it takes to create someone your readers won't like, but will still follow to the end of the story. Lowe's ability to do this is impressive.
While reading, you get to watch Violet and her friends become more and more evil. They're influenced by one of their teachers who shares stories about The Furies, vengeance seekers from ancient greek mythology. They start partaking in satanic rituals to eliminate anyone who has done them wrong. These events could be argued as coincidental to the girls' rituals, but it happens more than once. Violet and Robin start to enjoy the power and pain they can inflict on others. The other two girls take a little longer to persuade, but eventually, they do. They're basically a group of serial killers. And as you read, you keep hoping they come up with another way to solve their problems, but they just keep killing. However, the spooky concept of the book makes it perfect for Halloween.
Violet's character gets sucked because she's the new girl who wants to belong. She also resembles Emma Frost, the girls' friend who died right before Violet's arrival. She is constantly jealous of Emma and Robin's relationship.
This book left me with a few questions as well. They were partially explained, but I was hoping for some more details on them. These probably won't make any sense to you if you haven't read it yet, but if you have and know the answers please comment below! What was the Dean trying to get Emma to do? Also, Emma's death is described a little bit, but I felt like it needed more. 

Pour Judgement by Heather M. Orgeron
Instagram made me buy it! Yes, this book was brought to my attention by my targeted ads on Instagram. It's a romance staring Rhett, country singer, and Korie, a female trying to break into the world of skateboarding and X Games. They meet through a band member who is also Korie's cousin, but they don't like at each other at first. Then they spend a week together at a couple's retreat and when a photoshopped image of Rhett proposing to Korie goes viral, they decide to play along. Of course, fake dating leads to real dating and when a celebrity is involved so is paparazzi.  Korie calls it quits when a photo of Rhett and another girl get released to the press, but he's not willing to give up on her that quickly.

*I was lucky enough to receive ARC versions of these novels. All opinions are my own.

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