Sunday, December 3, 2023



“Honestly, Mr. Owen, they’re books. How dangerous can they be?”

Me reading this line:

Saturday, December 2, 2023

Reading Update: Page 1


Saturday afternoon eats and story, we're going Gothic! 

Ruby runs a rare bookstore and is trying to move past the pain of surviving The Great War. 

Hard to do when she's forced to deliver a box of books to Penryth Hall, home to her once bestfriend and the place she swore to never return. 

Once there, Ruby is eager to leave but when her former bestfriend's husband meets a gruesome end in the orchad, whispers of a curse return. 

Ruby was delivering books to the man the locals now think can break the curse and while Ruby doesn't believe in curses, she's scared to leave her friend. 

A Gothic murder mystery in a foreboding fortress! 
*shivers* 😍 

I accidently used smoked paprika, so the flavoring was a little off but still good lol

Review: The Cowboy Whisperer

The Cowboy Whisperer The Cowboy Whisperer by Sabrina Sol
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I received this book for free, this does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review 

The ranch had been in their family for four generations. 

The Cowboy Whisperer is second in the Rancho Lindo series, it's about a family run ranch with five brothers who are trying to keep it going in the face of financial troubles. You could start here, the first book introduces everybody, but this does a good job of not overwhelming but relaying the foundation for the family dynamics and setting. There is a continued storyline dealing with the father and his cancer diagnosis and treatment. This book spotlights Tomás, the ranch's stable master and the one everyone is worried about since his fiancee broke off their engagement eight years ago and he hasn't dated since. When his brother Cruz, who's the main one in charge, tells him they're going to have a guest on the ranch for three months, an equestrian jumper training for the Olympics, Tomás is less than thrilled. 

Maybe Rancho Lindo wasn’t up to her standards. But Veronica del Valle was going to find out soon that not everything in this world was about her. 

Veronica's mother was an equestrian jumper and when she died from cancer when Veronica was sixteen, she made a promise that she would compete in the Olympics in her mother's memory someday. Three years ago, Veronica fell during a jump, the physical and mental recovery had her isolating at her family's home in Guadalajara and had rumors spreading about her as the video of her fall went viral. Now, with some pressure from her father, she is ready to try again. Rancho Lindo isn't up to her standards but the stable master is giving her better advice than her trainer. She's also starting to see that she may not always know better and the initial dislike she had with Tomás is turning into something much different.

In that moment, Tomás wasn’t sure exactly what it was. But his gut told him that he was starting to see the real Veronica. And he liked her. 

I thought the beginning of this started off with great possibility but the first half's pace, kept the story slow enough that I started to itch for something to happen. Around thirty percent Veronica and Tomás start to thaw to each other, as they talk and learn about one another. Veronica's not just the rich princess Tomás thought she was and he's not just the rude and grumpy stable master she thought him to be. There's some strain with Veronica and her new trainer, she has over the phone conversations with her sister that she seems to be close too and Tomás has the family drama to deal with, the stress of the ranch needing more money and then his ex-fiancée coming to town to celebrate her parents' anniversary. Tomás says, and it feels like, he's over his ex but when she calls him and tells him she's engaged and bringing the fiancé to the party, he finds himself lying that he has a girlfriend to stop any pity she might have towards him. 

They might be on a pretend date tonight, but Veronica was starting to have real feelings. 

A little over midway, the fake dating kind of happens, I say kind of because while the trope appears in the story, it didn't really feel a big part of it. Veronica sort of steam rolls in and introduces herself as Tomás' girlfriend, even when they had a previous conversation where Tomás said he didn't really feel comfortable lying to his ex and subsequently his parents and abuelita. Tomás then feels he's obligated to help Veronica with her training, even when he turned it down before because he didn't like that she wanted to keep it a secret that he was helping her. They spend a little more time together, go on a date with his ex, her fiancé, and his brother with his girlfriend (book one) and dance, which was just about the only time I felt these two had a romance connection. There's a picnic scene where we get a kiss (this was very closed door) and around eighty percent, Tomás is saying he wants this fake dating relationship to be for real because he loves her. 

Then she remembered that she was Veronica del Valle and she never gave up without a fight. 

I can't really say I bought into or felt the romance between these two and the slower first half and then the latter second half that had a rush of things happening with dealing with issues, Veronica's equestrian career and Tomás' fear of how it could ruin anything between them as it echoes how his ex left and he needs to stay on the ranch, made the story feel so uneven. Tomás' character also felt a little uneven to me, he seemed more stoic grumpy in the first half and then really disappeared in the second half with more of a paper doll getting moved from here to there. The romance wasn't as developed as I like and overall, the story fell off to feeling uninspired. I do really enjoy the setting of a family ranch, so I'm hoping the next brother's romance delivers on some sparks.

Monday, November 27, 2023

Reading Update: Page 1

Cold and blustery day, so I'm warming up with corn bread and cowboys! 

We're headed back to Rancho Lindo! 

A champion equestrian, Veronica has spent the last three years healing and hiding after a disastrous competition went viral. Ready to get back in the saddle, she begins training at the Ortega's family ranch. 

Tómas is the family's stable manager and while he's busy caring for the horses and trying to keep the ranch afloat, he can't help offering advice to Veronica. 

They're a bit oil and water but when Veronica offers to be his pretend girlfriend when his ex comes back into town, he can't help but accept. 

Tómas soon realizes that Veronica isn't who he thought she was but with her dream of the Olympics and him needed at the ranch, their future seems uncertain, even as they grow closer. 

Giddy up, this sounds like it's going to have some delicious tension 

Tasty one and comfort food feeling on a cold day. I added diced jalapenos to the cornbread for some kick

Review: Christmas at the Shelter Inn

Christmas at the Shelter Inn Christmas at the Shelter Inn by RaeAnne Thayne
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I received this book for free, this does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review 

She disliked the holidays anyway and she especially disliked being here, filled with memories and ghosts and regret. 

After she receives a text that just says “Help” from her younger sister, Natalie knows she needs to go back home. McKenna has been put on bed rest for the rest of her pregnancy and with an aunt that is recovering from a leg injury, Natalie is needed to help McKenna with her two little girls and the family's business, the Shelter Inn. Ever since Natalie's mom and older brother died and their father abandoned them, Natalie has been a nomad traveling the world, finding it too painful to be at home with all the memories. Now, this Christmas season, she's going to have to confront those painful feelings and the growing ones for her brother's bestfriend who keeps finding ways to rescue her. 

If she wasn’t careful, she might find herself falling head over heels for Griffin. 

Christmas at Shelter Inn was a story that definitely delivered the festive atmosphere but it also definitely dropped trauma after trauma; I'm talking the old tv show Party of Five trauma levels. Any and all content and trigger warnings for what felt more like book club fiction (if your book club is full of holiday masochists) than romance. Natalie left home because of a painful childhood of having her mother die of breast cancer when she was sixteen, having her father take off to Alaska because of his grief and basically abandoning his three kids to their mother's aunt, and an older brother that became an alcoholic because of his grief and ultimately died in an avalanche. If you're not satisfied with that barrel of laughs, the love interest for Natalie, Griffin, is semi-shunned in town because his alcoholic father killed not only himself but four teens in a drunk driver incident and is divorced after he and his ex-wife went through the death of their baby being stillborn. 

She laughed and he thought how lovely she was, there in the wintry moonlight. 

So, yes, these two have a lot of baggage and emotional trauma to work through but Natalie gets the load of page time with Griffin's side not really coming in until the latter half of the story. Weaved around all these trauma issues are elements of that festive atmosphere I mentioned, shopping at a Christmas Market, watching a choir sing carols, snowy walks, the joy of putting up inflatable decorations, and hot chocolate and cookies. It was cozy atmosphere with holy god that's traumatic, especially when you add in the fear of miscarriage because her sister experienced two prior ones, Natalie thinking her sister's husband is wanting to abandon his family, Natalie's friendship issues with Griffin's younger sister who also dated her deceased older brother, and then Natalie's father showing back up to spend Christmas with them. 

He looked down at her, his blue eyes suddenly warm. For one glittery, breathless moment, he looked as if he wanted to kiss her. He might have even leaned down slightly before he seemed to check the movement and step away. 

I found the romance to be fairly weak without much depth, as the focus was more on Natalie's issues. Around the midway point, they kiss (only a few kisses for steam here) but Natalie doesn't see a reason to invest in the relationship because she can't wait to leave home and the pain it causes her to be here. Griffin does have povs but they're mostly him thinking about how to put a stop to his grandma trying to set him up with Natalie but also thinking he's attracted to Natalie. The second half becomes Natalie coming to terms with the past (catching her father kiss someone that threw her and me into a tailspin) and accepting that she has feelings for Griffin. The last fifteen percent has both saying they love each other but I can't say I bought into it, there was no real building blocks for their relationship. 

People did change, she thought as they returned to the party. Maybe she had changed. Maybe the perfect life she had created for herself no longer met her needs as it once had. Maybe, just maybe, she was ready for something else—if she could find the courage to reach for it. 

Along with the ending I love you, there's a snowstorm that creates some havoc, a situation that leads to our doctor Griffin being able to finally work through his pain of losing his child, and an epilogue that shows a future happily ever after. The romance felt a distance second place to the issues Natalie had to work through and there wasn't enough depth to the main couple's relationship for me. However, if you're looking for the combo of festive atmosphere and trauma (they could be out there!) consider this the snow globe of trauma you'd want to be in.

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Reading Update: Page 1


Survived the Thanksgiving break and ready to move onto full holiday fever! 

Natalie's back home to help her older sister out with their family's Inn while she's on bed rest with her third child. 

Home is where the memories hit the hardest, missing her mother and brother. And the first night back has her wrecking her rental car but also brings an expected surprise, her brother's bestfriend Griffin is also back in town. 

Griffin is seeing Natalie in a whole new light, but things he's held back about the last time he saw her brother alive, have both scared to trust. 

Snuggling in this Sunday with what sounds like an emotional and festive read! 

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Review: A Fragile Enchantment

A Fragile Enchantment A Fragile Enchantment by Allison Saft
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I received this book for free, this does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review 

“She is common, but she is divine-blooded.” 

 A Fragile Enchantment was a fantasy re-imagining of the historical way the United Kingdom treated Ireland that lead to the Great Famine in the 1800s. Niamh Ó Conchobhair is an eighteen year old Machlish (Irish) girl who was born with the magical ability to infuse the clothes she sews with emotions. When a dress she sews for a common girl is seen to help her capture a member of the nobility for her to marry, Niamh's designs become popular. So popular, the Prince Regent of Avaland (England) invites her to come and sew the wedding clothes for his younger brother's wedding. Niamh sees herself responsible for her grandmother and mother's well-being and knows this to be the opportunity to make enough money to secure their futures. However, the more Niamh uses her magic, the more life force drains from her but Niamh is a martyr and thinks it's her duty to sacrifice herself for her family, the way her ancestors fought against Avaland's rule. 

She had grown up on horror stories of the Avlish royal family’s power. How it had caused the Blight by depleting the soil. How during the War of Machlish Independence, briars had torn from the earth and skewered men like living bayonets. Niamh had always suspected those legends were exaggerated. Now, she wasn’t so certain what the Carmines were capable of. 

When Niamh gets to Avaland, she's amazed at the opulence (it's a very Regency England setting) but realizes quickly that something itsn't quite right. The castle seems to be running on a skeleton crew and there's obvious unrest with the working class protesting and demanding reparations for how the Avlish have treated the Machlish. There's also the obvious arranged marriage feeling with the Prince Christopher (Kit) sullen and angry that he is being forced to marry the Princess Rosa. The Prince Regent, Jack, seems to constantly be harried and keeps refusing to meet with Helen, the leader of the protesters. It's a tense situation and it gets complicated more when Niamh and Kit start to notice each other more. 

He had chosen her not for her skill or her craft, but to make himself look enlightened. To slither out of any accountability. She was nothing more than a novelty to point out to her fellow countrymen and say, Look, not all of you suffer here. 

Since the world-building borrows and relies heavily on Irish and English historical relations, it's kind of already built in, as long as you the reader are knowledgeable about such things. The magical components also borrows some from Irish mythology, which was a fun additive but Niamh's personal plot of her magic draining her life force didn't feel quite filled out right. Without scenes with her grandmother and mother, we have to go on her word that she's forced to do this and the reasoning never had me truly buying into it. Since she's a seamstress, I thought there would more scenes of her sewing and fabric descriptions but they were fairly few, even though the story has Kit constantly telling her not to overwork herself. I just felt it needed to be a bigger discussion that while she sews, she's taking years off her life?? 

A girl like her wanting Kit Carmine would not—could not—end well. 

This is all told from Niamh's point-of-view and I thought it took until closer to the midway point for her and Kit to show anything of their relationship. They share a kiss in the second half and get a closed door scene but I'm not sure I really felt or understood the claim that they have a burning romance, the emotions just weren't there for me. This does read Young Adult, with the occasional curse word and even though it's historical fantasy, the vernacular reads modern (leading to an uneven feeling with the supposed to be Regency England). The angst comes from Jack making Kit marry, for political reasons, but Kit and Niamh starting to want to be together. There's some secondary character friends on the side, helping and hurting the cause, a quick jaunt to a country house of the royal's that felt added in for the requisite country house scenes, and a little political intrigue. 

“I am so afraid, Kit. I am afraid that I will fail, despite all the pains I have taken. I am afraid I will let everyone down. And deep down, I am afraid that I am horribly, irredeemably selfish because I am so afraid that I will die without having let myself live at all.” 

I read an early ARC copy and I hate to say it, but it read more like a beta, Niamh's magical story thread needed more shoring up as it only seems to get weaker and weaker as the story goes on. The ending gave a last thirty percent third act breakup, and again, not fully constructed right with the stopping a wedding, a duel that felt madcap thrown in, and revelations that were a bit obvious regarding the political aspects. It all wraps up with a HEA and relations between the countries hopefully taking a right step toward working together. The elements were there but lack of refinement had this more of a struggle to get through than enjoyable.

Monday, November 20, 2023

Reading Update: Page 1


How could I not start the week off with this pretty little cover?! 

The same magic that lets Niamh stitch emotions and memories into fabric, is the same magic that may eventually lead to her downfall. Thinking her time is limited, she jumps at the chance to design a wardrobe for a royal wedding. 

There she finds a town simmering with unrest from the working class and a groom who resents being used as a political pawn. 

When an anonymous columnist starts writing about Niamh and the groom Kit's chemistry, Niamh finds herself getting blackmailed to uncover the royal family's secrets or remain in the gossip columns. 

Niamh will have to decide if the risk of exposing a nation and her heart are worth it. 

Can't wait to get swept away into this fantasy romance! 

Cajun and pasta?! Of course a tasty winner :)

Review: The Girl Who Was Too Much And Not Enough: Book 1 of 3, Kiera Rieman Series

The Girl Who Was Too Much And Not Enough: Book 1 of 3, Kiera Rieman Series The Girl Who Was Too Much And Not Enough: Book 1 of 3, Kiera Rieman Series by Lelina Durrette
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

2.5 stars 

I received this book for free, this does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review 

And yet, part of me still wondered what was really so fundamentally wrong about just being myself. 

Set in the year 2125, The Girl Who Was Too Much and Not Enough takes a look at a society that has given full governmental control to what and how much food people can consume, along with other personal choices. Told all through seventeen year old Kiera's eyes, she's one of the “not-quite-perfects”, which is what her friend group calls themselves because they're deemed unattractive for not meeting the society's rigid standards. It's rough for Kiera because in this society, how good you look equals power and most teens, before adulthood, enter The Center and do the Sleep-a-Weigh program. This program is basically where they are put in a comatose state to lose weight and get plastic surgery to look “perfect”. Losing some from her friend group to this program, Kiera feels even more lonely, especially when her mother and younger sister constantly berate her and only her father seems to love her for her, until she has a chance encounter with an eighteen year old boy.

I had never really fit in my world. It was like I had been waiting my whole life to make this change. 

When Kiera meets Asa, her whole world changes. He introduces her to the Underground, a market and makeshift city where people who don't want to follow the restrictive rules of the government live. There she tries real fresh fruit, meat, and see that people can be, what is deemed overweight, and with their “imperfections” like crooked teeth, happy and be loved. The beginning of the story was a little shaky with it's constant talk and comparisons of GMO and non-GMO food, to the point I was thinking this was going to be fully an indoctrinate book but that eventually, for the most part, faded away and the plot of teens and outcasts fighting the evil government started to progress (I fully realize this is a different kind of propaganda but was less forced in face and more flowed written message in). 

I really wanted to believe that Asa and I had our whole future stretching before us, but why did it feel like this was only the beginning of our struggles? 

This was in the vein of a Hunger Games or Maze Runner, with Kiera joining Asa and his friends and family as they first buck the system with the Underground Black Market, the government capturing some of them and sending them to The Center for “rehabilitation”, rescue mission, and eventual plan for the future. There's a romance between Kiera and Asa (it was definitely rushed with how quickly he trusts her) with kissing and a faint love triangle that tries to appear with a classmate of Kiera's named Ian, along with some action and light battle scenes with the rescue mission and them being on the run. 

I drew a shaky breath and turned back to Asa. He smiled and held out his hand to me. I took it and we set off together into the unknown. 

The ending had a slight cliffhanger with the cast of characters having to leave their district for another one to try and avoid all the heat from being found out in theirs. There's an obvious villain, Captain Kulig who tortured people in The Center, in the wings, a maybe maybe not traitor Ian going along with them, the question of what happened to Kiera's family, and of course the continuing romance between Kiera and Asa. The second half with all it's action felt a little disjointed with the slower, introducing beginning but if you like dystopian young adult, this could be another series to add to your reading.

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Reading Update: Page 1


Early afternoon reading with this futuristic YA! 

Kiera lives in a society where looks equal power. She's about to turn 18 and thinking about checking herself into The Center, a place where they make you "better". 

But she meets Asa, a boy who likes her just the way she is. He's also a smuggler and introduces her to an underground world she never knew existed. 

Now Kiera's loyalties are being tested and she has to decide if she wants to conform or blaze her own path. 

This one was pretty easy and tasty, recommend!