Happy March + A Book Chat

Oh, hey there!

Hello March, springtime, sunshine, and all of the best make-your-heart-happy books as you sunbathe. (Ideally, right?)

We hung out for a little while ‘in person’ to chat about THE HATING GAME by Sally Thorne – a book that should be high on your radar for reading as soon as possible. We discussed the love/hate relationship between Lucy and Josh, crazy work dynamics and ending up in a job you never intended to have, and naturally digressed into some girl chat about makeup and life.

We filmed this on a lazy Sunday afternoon and got cozy in our own homes with our computers – Estelle in her apartment in NY and Magan from the comfort of her living room! We lost track of time, rambled a lot at the end about some of our favorite things, but had so much fun getting in some friend time.

We hope that you’ll enjoy our first in-person book chat!

 

The Scoop:

 

Off-Topic Details:

 

Catch-Up:

  • Have you read THE HATING GAME? What did you think?
  • What are your favorite podcasts? We’re looking for more recommendations!
  • We’ve both adopted a ‘read and release’ policy with our books to pass them along to other book-lovers. Are you a re-reader or do you pass your books off to a friend?
  • Has anyone started a lending library? Any tips or advice for how Magan can start one?

Happy Release Day, Kristan Higgins!

[dropcap]I’ve[/dropcap] read four out of the five of the Blue Heron series by Kristan Higgins, and over the course of two years, I’ve always been curious about Connor O’Rourke. He was wise-talking, totally mysterious, and always teasing his twin sister, Colleen. She was even stumped by him. So I’ve been really excited to get Connor’s story, and Higgins did not disappoint with Anything For You (out today!). The highlight of this book was the timeline. We start with the present, a denied proposal, and then journey back to the very, very beginning of the “friendship” between Connor and Jess.

Anything for You by Kristan HigginsReaders can always depend on Higgins to create multi-layered character backstories and her development of Jess was on point. Right away, Jess reminded me of Laura Linney’s character in Love Actually; she has a disabled younger brother and is mainly responsible for him. Unlike Laura Linney’s, Jess’ parents are alcoholics and her childhood is filled with working more than one job, sacrificing her own school events and college to look out for her brother, and keeping them both safe from their parents and their unpredictable whims. The bright light in her life is always her brother, Davey, and then in an unexpected reunion: Connor.

Kind of. Jess understandably has trust issues. Davey is her number 1 priority, and even though she knows Connor is different than any of the other guys she has spent time with — that’s my one qualm about this book: readers are constantly and unnecessarily reminded of Jess and her promiscuity — the two can’t seem to make a full-fledged relationship work.

In romance novels, we know half the fun is getting to the happily ever after and I really enjoyed getting to know these two characters through their own personal challenges and the series of events that kept bringing them back to one another. Plus there was something so sweet about learning how a series landmark — O’Rourke’s — was born. Finding out these little details definitely made the Blue Heron series come full circle. Anything for You was the perfect respite after a busy few days, full of loyal supporting characters, forgiveness, acceptance, and a couple who deserved the chance to make each other happy.

rather be reading worth it icon

Anything for You (Blue Heron #5) by Kristan Higgins
will be published on December 29, 2015 by Harlequin HQN Books.
384 Pages | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Bring Along the Mistletoe | 2015 Romance Wish List

I’m giddy with excitement to present my first HOLIDAY POST OF 2015. Whew! I’ve been preparing for this for twelve months. Well, kind of. We have about a week to go before Thanksgiving so I thought it was safe to talk about holiday romances. (I swear on Santa’s sleigh I’ve only listened to two Christmas carols so far — one accidentally.) With the end of year getting super busy with presents, parties, and good cheer, there’s nothing like relaxing with a quick read that keeps you interested and relaxes you. (They are especially great when paired with sparkly wine or some hot cocoa.)

First, a glimpse at the two I’ve sampled so far:

Christmas in Mustang Creek by Linda Lael MillerChristmas in Mustang Creek by Linda Lael Miller (9/29 from HQN Books): Charlotte is back home in Mustang Creek for good, and she’s surprised to find her ex, Jaxon, there too. The surprises don’t stop coming with the mysterious Mrs. Klozz, who has been taking care of Charlotte’s ailing aunt. For a cute story about second chances and true holiday magic, Christmas in Mustang Creek is sweet and sure to get you in the mood for a beautiful home cooked meal with only the best sweets. (Seriously, the menu in this book is fit for royalty.)

Buy on Amazon | Buy on B&N  | Add to Goodreads

Evergreen SpringsEvergreen Springs by RaeAnne Thayne by RaeAnne Thayne (9/29 by HQN Books): A single dad with two kids; a doctor who is so used to taking care of everyone else that sometimes she forgets about herself. This is what holiday dreams are made of. Cole and Devin have that opposites attract vibe, and this story is so much about how the spirit of the holidays uplifts the most downtrodden. I love how the town of Haven Point bands together to help their own (even those least likely to be joiners), the holiday traditions (peppermint cotton candy!), and the all around kindness expressed in this book. It’s everything I’d want a holiday romance to be — complete with a hot spring and a tree from the middle of the woods.

Buy on Amazon | Buy on B&N | Add to Goodreads

And now, a few romance picks I’m curious about:

2015 Holiday Romance Picks

9/29: Marry Me at Christmas by Susan Mallery

10/20: Wrapped in Red two stories by Nana Malone & Sherelle Green

10/22: Christmas Ever After by Sarah Morgan

10/27: Bring Me Home For Christmas by Robyn Carr

11/1: A Copper Ridge Christmas a novella by Maisey Yates | Love, Lies, and Mistletoe by Jennifer Snow

11/11: A Cowboy Under the Mistletoe by Vicki Lewis Thompson

11/17: A Cold Creek Christmas by RaeAnne Thayne

12/1: A White Wedding Christmas by Andrea Laurence


Whew! Are we in the spirit? Just in case you might possibly need a few other suggestions, I had a blast throwing together a similar post last year. Happy reading, shopping, loving, and romancing! Until next time! – e

Give Me Your All & Nothing Else | Romance Short List

I borrowed the title of this post from a Selena Gomez song (Hands to Myself). I’ve been obsessed with new releases from her and Demi Lovato lately. They are both sexy and confident and strong, and both new albums reflect that. I’m not sure how natural of a segway this is into ROMANCE NOVELS but I’m going to pretend it was seamless. I finished a heavy-ish book the other night (I Crawl Through It by A.S. King) and I already felt my brain begging me to jump into a romance next. I’m still sorting through what’s next but before then I wanted to make sure I talked about a few of the others I’ve read recently. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a big fan of the romance roundups.

♥

Hold Me by Susan MalleryHold Me by Susan Mallery (Harlequin HQN/April 28, 2015): It’s always a comfort to head back to Fool’s Gold and the most memorable part of diving into Hold Me was the sister relationship forming between Destiny and her half-sister, Starr. Being that Destiny had an unstable upbringing, she doesn’t have much confidence in her “parenting” skills as her sister’s guardian for the summer and I liked watching them figure each other yet. It can’t be easy for someone like Destiny who is so used to jumping from one job to the next to help someone she barely knows feel settled. Despite the sister storyline, we have Destiny and and Kipling — a guy who is ready to settle in Fool’s Gold for good and even opens a bar for “the men”. (Um, this lead to some very, very funny scenes.) Their relationship was very unconventional as far as Mallery’s usually go and while I definitely enjoyed it, a little more growth and built would have made their pairing more solid for me. Always worth checking out what Mallery is up to. I can’t wait for the Christmas book!!

Add HOLD ME to Goodreads | Buy on Amazon or B&N

Taking the Heat by Veronica DahlTaking the Heat by Victoria Dahl (Harlequin HQN/July 28, 2015): In my eyes, Dahl can do no wrong. In Taking the Heat, she pairs a hunky male librarian and an advice columnist (confident on the outside and the opposite inside) together. I loved reading about Veronica answering notes from those who needed help, and how Gabe’s gig at the library was so much about improving the tech aspects of the place. From the tiniest details, Dahl concentrates so much on the backstories of her characters, making everything that much more enjoyable to read and even sexier when this couple starts to get closer. I always know to expect major sizzle in every single book she writes. Taking the Heat was no exception. And not only are the two characters trying to navigate their feelings for each other, both are in a position where they need to find the strength to stand up to their parents about where they want their life to go. So relatable, and so so great.

Add TAKING THE HEAT to Goodreads | Buy on B&N or Amazon

Willow Brook Road by Sherryl WoodsWillow Brook Road by Sherryl Woods (Harlequin MIRA/ September 29, 2015): My first book from Sherryl Woods, and while the romance aspect was great, I adored the family dynamics and main character Carrie’s motivation to find her life’s passion and go for it. Woods takes the small town gossip to a whole new level with the huge O’Brien family (who practically runs the town) and new guy Sam Winslow cannot escape their matchmaking or their friendly (really!) advice. The author also touches on pregnancy difficulties and adoption in another plotline. I liked having this parallel of a marriage facing difficulties and we read about Sam and Carrie getting closer. Willow Brook Road may favor sweet over sexy but it was certainly fun to read.

Add WILLOW BROOK ROAD to Goodreads | Buy on B&N or Amazon


Help! I’d love some romance recommendations for you guys. What should I add to my list next?

 

This Love Bug | Romance Short List

Did you know August was Romance Awareness Month? Me neither. (Just made it!) I found out when I was doing some research for work, but hey, it is and here we are. Three romance recommendations that eased me back into work after vacation, accompanied me on a beer crawl, and kept me company on a “me night” (along with this beer). I always will equate romance novels with relaxation and a whole lot of fun. Thanks to these for providing that! Hope you find something to add to your list today.

♥

Fighting for Keeps by Jennifer SnowFighting for Keeps by Jennifer Snow (Harlequin Heartwarming/ April 25, 2015): My first romance novel about a fighter, and I really liked it. Noah might fight for a living but he’s also focused on making sure young kids in his neighborhood have every opportunity to get a great education and support they might be missing. In the same town is Lindsay, a woman he’s been after forever. No amount of training has prepared him for her cold shoulder but when tragedy strikes and her life changes a ton, Noah is there for her. A sweet story about a woman who must finally realize she’s worth it and capable of everything, and a man who learns it’s okay to let his defenses down with the right person.

Add FIGHTING FOR KEEPS to Goodreads | Amazon or B&N

Thrill Me by Susan MalleryThrill Me by Susan Mallery (Harlequin HQN/July 28, 2015) I’ve read my fair share of Susan Mallery books, and I can say, hands down, this one is at the top of my list. Second chance love? Give me more of this. Maya is unexpectedly reunited with the only man she’s ever been in love with for a work project. Her and Del never exactly broke up either; she ran away from him and never looked back. On the surface, both seem at ease working on a marketing campaign for Fool’s Gold but, in reality, Maya’s wondering if she should bring up the past and Del is starting to remember how great everything felt when she was around. Not only was this book about bringing two people together again, but Maya is struggling with that next step in her life. Does she want to work in Fool’s Gold forever or is there more for her out there? I was utterly delighted by these two, happy to be back in the generous and sweet town of Fool’s Gold, and gobbled this book in less than a day.

Add THRILL ME to Goodreads | Amazon or B&N

One Wish by Robyn CarrA New Hope by Robyn Carr (Harlequin HQN/June 30, 2015): Every since I read ONE WISH, I was anxious to get to Ginger’s story. She’s a divorced young woman who lost her young child to SIDS and has now relocated to Thunder Point, working in an adorable flower shop. Robyn Carr overlaps Ginger’s story while continuing Grace’s from One Wish and I was glad for that. Grace’s story was far from over, and her friendship was so important to Ginger’s new lease on life. In this book, two people have to come to terms with their past and decide if they are ready to jump into a new adventure together. Matt makes a terrible first impression with Ginger but throughout A NEW HOPE, he certainly makes up for it. They grow to be close friends and take their next steps very slowly. I liked getting to know them a lot, enjoyed meeting a new character who will take centerstage in WILDEST DREAMS, and, once again, feeling charmed all over again by the Thunder Point citizens.

A nitpicky sidenote: I wish the ladies were featured on the covers of THUNDER POINT novels. I have no idea whose dog that is!

Add A NEW HOME to Goodreads | Amazon or B&N

♥

Nothing beats a romance novel during a stressful week, let me tell ya. Thanks for reading, and be sure to share any recommendations below!

Just Wanna Have Fun | Jesse’s Girl by Miranda Kenneally

Jesse's Girl by Miranda Kenneally

A country star + budding musician/high school student + one awesome day. Sourcebooks Fire; 7/7/15; 304 Pages.

What can I say about the Hundred Oaks series? When Catching Jordan first released, my love for YA was gradually building and it holds a special place in my heart. With six of her books tucked in my bookshelf, I’ve come to depend on Kenneally for a strong female leads, sweet and sexy romance, and standout friends and family. Despite these bright spots, she’s not afraid to explore the complexities of these relationships, have her characters question faith and sex and themselves, have them sometimes fail.

Jesse’s Girl is just more of what I love about these books. Maya, a genius musician with stage fright, meets Jesse Scott, a young, massive country music star. He’s supposed to be teaching her about the music industry but the original plan takes a Ferris Bueller-like turn. In the course of a day, they totally butt heads but Maya also offers him her friendship — something he could really use — but nothing goes according to plan. (I love this: “I decide to take Mom’s advice this time: if Jesse really wants me, he’ll let me know.”)

The extra special treat (for someone who wants to be an honorary resident of Franklin, TN) is each book comes with a Hundred Oaks reunion of some kind. Folding Jordan and Sam into the Jesse’s Girl mix added so many comedic elements to the book, and I loved seeing Sam as this big, scary protective big brother (even though he’s kind of a sap).

So pencil in a date night with Jesse’s Girl. Not only can you expect the whole Miranda Kenneally package (special shout out to Dave, Maya’s awesome BFF) but it’s an ode to everything fun in the 80s and a reminder to keep working for what you want.

♥

Why in 5 — country music style (Sorry, Maya!):

Live a Little” (Kenny Chesney): I need to live a little, have some fun / Take some time, waste it on number one / Find a girl that brings my whole world to a stop / Live a little

I don’t want to call Jesse a “poor little celebrity” but he’s been burned before and he’d rather hang out alone with his cat (Casper!) than actually talk to other people when he has time off. Plus — imagine working so hard all the time and barely being able to go in public on an off day. I always liked a boy who was a challenge so I like that Maya (who plays it so cool) wants him to confide in her — even if it’s a one time only thing.

New Strings” (Miranda Lambert): I’ve worried about life and / If it’s arriving right on time / I guess if you don’t jump / You’ll never know if you can fly

Maya is gutsy and she knows what she wants. That’s more than we can say about a lot of 17 year olds but, more than anything, I love how nothing has stopped her from getting closer to her passion. Lack of money, crappy band members, her age — none of these factors matter. When the going gets tough, Maya just grows to be tougher and I admired her for it.

I Don’t Want This Night to End” (Luke Bryan): I’m so glad you trusted me / To slide up on this dusty seat / And let your hair down / Get out of town / Got the stars coming out over my hood/ And all I know now is it’s going good

I’m obsessed with the concept of two people spending one magical, amazing day together. What happens next? Jesse can ditch his entourage for a day, and Maya’s parents have no idea what her Career Day (arranged by her principal, no less) has turned into. Our main characters reach a certain level of intimacy, hanging out in this bubble all day, and, as the reader, you want so badly for nothing to disturb that.

Tumble and Fall” (Little Big Town): “It’s a reach out, it’s a white flag, it’s a forfeit of the game / It’s a let go of the ego, and the whisper of your name / It’s a fight for, not a defend, it’s a stay out in the rain”

It’s not like Maya goes into Career Day thinking she’s going to nab the GREAT Jesse Scott. Spoilers aside: this is a Miranda Kenneally book so we know we have some high-charged chemistry to look forward to. But he’s a celebrity! She’s in high school! How would this even work if either of them were willing to admit they liked each other? It’s all about taking that risk.

Maps Out the Window” (Caitlyn Shadbolt): Woahhh feels good just letting go / Woahhh roll it down, let the wind blow

This song embodies the fun and fancy free feeling that Jesse’s Girl is all about. Just like you want to be listening to this song with the top down and sun shining on your face, there’s no way this book won’t boost your mood and make you smile.

Rather Be Reading Buy It Icon

Add JESSE’S GIRL to Goodreads | Buy on Amazon | Buy on B&N

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This book was provided by the publisher for review.