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.

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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

Estelle: In Your Dreams by Kristan Higgins (Blog Tour)

In Your Dreams by Kristan HigginsIn Your Dreams by Kristan Higgins ( web | tweet )
Part of the Blue Heron series.
Date: September 30, 2014
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Pages: 480
Target audience: Adults/romance fans
Keywords: old loves, new loves, small towns, California, cops, wine
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley. (Thanks!)

Summary: When Emmaline gets an invitation to her ex-fiancee’s wedding, she lands a “date” with the most eligible bachelor in Manningsport — Jack Holland. They play hockey together, see one each other at the town bar, but it’s never gone further than friendship. Jack is dealing with the aftermath of his efforts to save some teenage boys in a horrible accident, and needs a break from being treated like a hero when all he can think about is the one kid left in a coma. Can these two overcome their pasts and look toward the future together?

Kristan Higgins continues to weave her magic spell on me, folks. I’m totally hooked.

In Your Dreams brings us Emmaline and Jack — two people who live in the same town and are just passing friends. Over the course of the book, we learn that both characters are thrown into situations where they are forced to see the rawest part of the other. For Emmaline, she’s the cop on duty when Jack saves teenagers from an accident, when their car plunges into water. Later, Jack agrees to accompany Emmaline to the wedding of her ex-fiance and sees for himself the tension caused by her family and her insecurities sparked by her ex-fiance.

This is another area where Higgins excels. It’s not all about the chemistry or pushing her couples together but she really creates a backstory for each of her characters. Jack’s heroic gesture connects to his past, and is also affecting his present. He’s having nightmares, some shady things are going on, and he can’t confide in anyone. Not even his clingy ex-wife who is back in town and hoping to make amends. Jack is just SO nice. Too nice. Even Hadley’s reappearance doesn’t bother him (on the outside). He’s so polite, and helpful that it’s pretty much a curse because she is not one to get a hint.

For Emmaline, her parents are constantly on her case about her job as a cop and how they know she’s gay, and why doesn’t she come out already? They’re therapists and very judgmental and so frustrating. I was continually flabbergasted by how heartlessly they treated Emmaline, and how quick they were to disregard how she really felt. No wonder she had so many walls built up. Her parents paired with her ex-fiance (now that was a story)? It’s amazing she didn’t move to Fiji and change her name. (Okay, that’s dramatic but still. I felt bad for her.)

Somehow Higgins makes Jack and Emmaline’s pairing as unexpected and natural as possible. Emmaline knows that Jack is going through some rough stuff, and he has seen firsthand what kind of crap she is trying to dig herself out of. But it’s the resistance from Emmaline that makes this relationship so freaking sexy. Jack practically has to beg for her to go out on a date with him, and it’s pretty adorable and delectable. I loved how sarcastic and funny Emmaline was amongst the town, but also in her own head. That’s the thing about Higgins’ books. You have to be prepared to be swooning one minute to giggling the next. I can’t think of another romance author who succeeds at both so well. Jack and Emmaline made me fall in love with her work all over again.

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Goodreads | Buy on B&N | Buy on Amazon | Review of WAITING ON YOU by K. Higgins

⇒ ⇒ GIVEAWAY! ⇐⇐

Hi! Little Bird Publicity has one copy of In Your Dreams for me to provide as a giveaway! Please leave a comment below to be entered. I will pick a winner on October 10, 2014 11:59pm EST. You must be 13 years old to enter and live in the United States. Good luck!!

Big Kids’ Table: A 2013 Overview

big kids' table - adult fiction feature on rather be reading

The LAST Big Kids’ Table of the year? What?! Unfortunately I did miss last month but I hope you’ll forgive me with today’s post. It’s been so much fun to stretch the possibilites of this feature throughou the year: getting other bloggers involved (Rachel, Hannah, Ginger, Asheley, Cassie, and Elena), completely hacked by Daphne at Gone Pecan, and probably one of my favorite posts of the year: some of my top YA authors recommending their own big kid picks!

I can’t thank everyone who was game to help me out enough… especially Cassie, Hannah, and Asheley for always being enthusiastic about this feature and always refreshing my own affection for it! Yay!

So today TODAY is the day I make the final push for some great big kid books I devoured this year!

most surprising.

Lies You Wanted to Hear by James Whitfield Thomson + The Mourning Hours by Paula Treick DeBoard

Big Kids Table Most Surprising Reads 2013

These are two super different books (divorce/marriage and family/possible crime) but I became so unexpectedly obsessed with each that I read them both in close to a day. (Different days, of course.) Both are intense, heavier reads that are paced so cleverly and keep you interested until the very end.

a recommendation that was right on the money.

Nowhere But Home by Liza Palmer

book cover of Nowhere But Home by Liza Palmer

I’ve never given into Cassie‘s book pushing before like I did with this one. Well-developed characters, real feelings, and a ton of charm are all encompassed in this little book (that I think a lot of our moms and best friends who are not total YA people would enjoy too). Did I mention the southern setting, a sister named Merry, high school football, and the best sounding food ever? There’s just so much to enjoy here and I’m so glad I took the time to seek it out (it was sold out at my B&N) and read it ASAP.

holy moly five stars.

11/22/63 by Stephen King

Big Kids Table Five Star Read 2013

I didn’t review this one; I’m not sure why. It’s a really long book, a total commitment but so worth it. I wanted to read it because I’m pretty obsessed with anything Kennedy but King made this book so much more. Time travel, the butterfly affect, falling in love, and how figuring out what is right takes a lot of tries. I was so emotionally moved by this book, completely re-energized about the history surrounding Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald, and totally IN this world of time travel and its many many rules.

oh la la romance.

The Perfect Match by Kristan Higgins + Three Little Words by Susan Mallery + I Only Have Eyes for You by Bella Andre

Big Kids Table Top Romance Reads 2013

After reading a tremendous amount of romance this year, it was not easy to narrow down this list. Just a quick FYI: the last two options are super sexy, super racy. And just SO fun. I really liked both the stories. (They both have heroines who have had crushes for a long, long time.) And The Perfect Match? Great combo of comedy and romance. I can’t say enough positive things about it. A lot of the times the characters in romance novels aren’t super memorable, but I felt differently about those in The Perfect Match.

feels like the first time.

Forever Interrupted by Taylor Jenkins Reid + Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham

Big Kids Table Best Debuts 2013

Two debuts that made my TBR a very very happy place. Both main characters in each of these books are in their late 20s (strange coincidence) but one is dealing with the sudden death of her very new husband, and the other? Career aspirations, and wondering if she will ever make it in the big city. If anyone had either of these books under the Christmas tree, they would be very very lucky people. Beautiful writing, charming characters.

man and muppets

Jim Henson: The Biography by Brian Jay Jones

Jim Henson The Biography by Brian Jay Jones

One of the absolute best non-fiction books I’ve ever read. I know, I know. I’m a huge Muppet fan but I truly believe people interested in the arts, pop culture, Disney fans would sincerely be touched and get a kick out of what a workaholic Henson was, how his creative mind NEVER stopped working, and the origins of so many characters we hold near and dear.

here’s to the future and you.

Big Kids Table What I Want to Read Next 2013

Claudia Silver to the Rescue by Kathy Ebel + The Opposite of Love by Julie Buxbaum + Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

Ah the hefty reading list. A burden a lot of us bring on ourselves. But that’s why we are here. A support system and the inevitable list of more books I want to make sure I get to next year. (Am I already jinxing myself?) I own the first two and I’ve heard such fantastic things about the third… must make these happen ASAP.

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Thanks again for all of your support with this feature! I so appreciate it and
I’m looking forward to trying out some new things in 2014!

Now dish: what adult book fits in any of the above categories for YOU?

Blog Tour: The Perfect Match by Kristan Higgins

The Perfect Match by Kristan HigginsThe Perfect Match by Kristan Higgins ( web | tweet )
Part of the Blue Heron series.
Publication Date: October 29, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Pages: 448
Target audience: Adult/romance
Keywords: winery, marriage of convenience, family
Format read: ARC from Publisher via NetGalley. (Thanks!)
Other books by Kristan reviewed on RBR: Somebody to Love

Summary: On her 35th birthday, Honor decides she is ready to propose marriage to her best friend/friend with benefits. When he turns her down and her desire to have a family grows, Honor is ready for anything. Even marrying Tom, a cute British guy she just met who needs a visa to stay in the States and care for his unofficial stepson.

You know what’s great? Reading a romance novel and feeling just as excited for the funny times as the sexy ones.

Kristan Higgins is awesome at injecting humor into The Perfect Match, the story of Honor who feels jolted by her 35th birthday and the knowledge that her eggs are getting on the old side. She wants to get married! She wants to have kids! And she decides to ask her best friend from forever turned occasional lover to finally make their romance public and walk down the aisle with her. When he says no, she’s totally devastated and decides to appease her grandmother (what a cute lady) and meet a guy who needs to get married to stay in the country.

So she goes.

And the first meeting is pretty terrible. Like possibly one of the worst first meetings ever.

But you know how these stories go. A few things changes, and the key players end up together. Tom is a teacher. He has a British accent and tattoos. He likes to box. He also likes whiskey. He honestly has no idea what he did in his lifetime to have someone as nice and willing as Honor to sacrifice so much to agree to marry him. When they barely know each other. Just so he can stay. And why does he want to do that? His deceased ex-fiance’s son (that’s a mouthful) is the apple of his eye, and he wants to be around to stay in Charlie’s life because he has very little support.

Isn’t that terribly noble?

If only Tom wasn’t so hard to get to know. If only Honor felt like she could be honest with him about how she feels as this charade continues. A marriage of convenience affects so many more than just the two getting married, and Higgins does a great job of expressing the confusion that Honor’s family feels and the pressure that the two could be found out. It’s a lot! And the counterbalance provided by Honor’s family (they own a vineyard) is so welcoming.

While I loved Tom and Honor together and I couldn’t wait to find out just how they would make things work, it was really Tom’s devotion to Charlie that made me warm up to him. Charlie is this typical teenager, totally traumatized from his mother’s sudden death and the fact that he feels so out of place everywhere. Their relationship really grew throughout The Perfect Match and that journey was as touching to follow as Honor and Tom’s. (There’s also an adorable dog!)

Another top read from Kristan Higgins! I could not put it down.

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The lovely folks at Little Bird Publicity have a copy of THE PERFECT MATCH waiting for a lucky winner! Be sure to enter!

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Shelve It: September 15, 2013

weekly feature to share the books magan and estelle are adding to their bookshelves each week

Hi all! Hope you are having a great weekend so far. I think fall is finally happening in New York City. After a few days of crazy humidity, we’ve had our apartment windows open and it’s actually COLD at night and in the morning. Kind of insane. What’s also kind of insane is that James and I took an unplanned car trip out to the Hamptons yesterday.

I’ve been thinking about the Hamptons a lot lately. This fall marks 10 years since I started school out there, and while reading Fangirl last weekend, I pictured Cath’s campus just like my first one. You may not know but my school was in an incredible amount of debt and it closed after my sophomore year. We drove around the campus yesterday (which was bought over by a bigger university and that didn’t work out well) and it was sad to see it not brimming with students and life. Everything is basically falling apart.

Sigh. Anyway. We visited some of our old haunts (the spot of our first date, which according to a friend is closing in the fall for good?) and enjoyed all the picture taking opportunities. The clouds were amazing. Oh, and I tried the chocolate chai latte at Starbucks and it was pretty good.

Trip to Southampton

No v-log today but here is what is going on in my book world…

For review:

The Perfect Match by Kristan Higgins (Romance release for October 29!)
Something Real by Heather Demetrios (YA release for February 4, 2014 — no cover yet!)
Playing Dirty by Jennifer Echols (Romance release for October 29!)
Vintage Attraction by Charles Blackstone (Fiction release for October 22!)

Bought:

After a strong case from Cassie at Books with Cass, I went down to the Strand and bought Nowhere but Home by Liza Palmer. I can’t wait to read it! Some of my other favorite bloggers like Book Rock Betty and Hannah of So Obsessed With Blog loved it too!

During Labor Day weekend, I used a B&N coupon to buy Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets by Evan Roskos. I saw Evan read a part of this at a reading during the summer and I just loved the voice of the main character. I can’t wait to read it!

What I’m reading this week:

Jim Henson: The Biography by Brian Jay Jones — still working through this. Loving it so much. Nice to read some non-fic for a change.
The Boy on the Porch by Sharon Creech
Just Between Us by J.H. Trumble (release date: September 24, 2013)

Shelve It September 15 2013

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On the blog this week:

Magan’s thoughts on Jumped In by Patrick Flores Scott
Estelle’s review of Cherry Money Baby by John Cusick
Joint discussion of Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell! (No spoilers, we promise!)
Susan Mallery Cookbook review PLUS giveaway!
Estelle’s review of Jessica Darling’s IT List plus giveaway for TWO books!

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What’s up with you guys? Tell us!

Thanks again for stopping in this week. It’s always great to have ya!

Book Review of The Next Best Thing by Kristan Higgins

Magan: The Next Best Thing by Kristan Higgins

Book Review of The Next Best Thing by Kristan Higgins

The Next Best Thing by Kristan Higgins ( web | tweet )
Publication Date: August 27, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Pages: 400
Target Audience: Adult Fiction
Keywords: loss of a spouse, dating and remarrying, family curses
Format Read: ARC from Pub
Other Books Reviewed by KH: Somebody to Love

Summary: Five years after the death of her husband, Lucy decides she’s ready to begin dating again. She’s looking for someone safe, someone she won’t become too attached to should the Black Widow curse take her next husband too.

Five and a half years ago, Lucy’s husband, Jimmy, died in a car accident. Present day her sister is having a baby. This makes Lucy realize that the clock is ticking and if she wants to have a family, she needs to open up again and begin dating. But she doesn’t really want to date someone that she could love as much as Jimmy. She wants someone safe and predictable that she’ll have a good life with. She’s scared the Black Widow curse will strike again and take her second husband should she remarry. What is the Black Widow curse, you ask? Her mother and her aunts all lost their husbands at entirely too young an age. Lucy’s following in their footsteps with the loss of Jimmy.

There’s one catch to Lucy moving on with her life: she needs to cut ties with her “friend with benefits.” Oh, and surprise, surprise — guess who this person is? Jimmy’s younger brother, Ethan, who is completely and overwhelmingly in love with Lucy. She refuses to let herself fall for him though because he’s a daredevil and he could die easily from all of his shenanigans. Full disclosure: this was so difficult for me to wrap my head around, especially in the beginning. I wasn’t quite sure how Lucy and Ethan would have decided sleeping together was a good idea. I mean, I just couldn’t do that with Dustyn’s brothers because they’re like my brothers. Eww eww eww.

I was really excited to read about Lucy’s mishaps as she ventured back into the dating world, but I was a little underwhelmed by the sheer amount of backstory that was included in the first 40% of the book. There was little progression and the story felt much more sluggish than I would have liked because Lucy was so hung up on actually acting on her decision to begin dating. How could anyone replace Jimmy? It does make very logical sense why this would be so tough, but the actions and decisions that followed felt jerky and abrupt because the story, later, needed to propel forward. There could have also been some thinning out of details as some were overly repetitious — I knew a lot, lot, lot about Ethan’s beard, the psychic, and other descriptions that felt unnecessary.

I am a woman who is madly in love with my husband. I can’t imagine life without him, and in that regard, I completely connected with Lucy’s hesitancy to move forward with her life. However, she seemed so closed off and distant to me. That’s possibly because I could see the flaws in her plans and wanted her to so badly see what (or who) was right in front of her. Though Lucy wasn’t the most relatable I did love the secondary characters, particularly Nicky, her sweet, hug-worthy nephew, best friend, Parker, who always always said what I needed Lucy to hear, and Corrine, her sister who would have wrapped her husband in bubble wrap to protect him from the Black Widow curse should it be guaranteed to save his life.

The Next Best Thing was a really nice break from all of the heavy books I’ve found myself reading lately. Take it along to the beach and pair it with a nice umbrella-clad drink!

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