I shared a What I’ve Been Reading Recently wrap-up last week, but I am back with another wrap-up semi-based off on what I read during the Thanksgiving Break (and by semi, I mean yes I will be sharing a contemporary romance review here soon!). This mini review round-up features a memoir based on a super popular Netflix Mini series, a contemporary fiction read that was SO addicting, and a recently released poetry collection.
Since I’ve been busy with work and life things this fall, I’ve really made an effort to read books that make me excited to read in my free time. Palm Beach had been on my TBR for a while, and then Becca Freeman from Bad on Paper Podcast posted it on her Instagram story raving about it and I immediately put the book on hold from my library. Palm Beach is an adult contemporary fiction read, following married couple Mickey and Rebecca. Rebecca is a freelance writer whose works focuses on economic inequality and exposing the lives of the wealthy, while Mickey is a Broadway actor and caters in between show jobs. When Mickey loses his ability to sing and is offered to work as a house manger for a multimillionaire, Rebecca, Mickey, and their young son relocate to Palm Beach and soon find themselves involved in the lives of the rich & elite.
Something about Palm Beach made it the type of book that I just did not want to put down – I managed to read it in less than 4 hours. I loved the character development, following the third person perspectives of Rebecca & Mickey, and much like Rebecca, I loved learning about the couple Mickey works for. In a way, the book reminded me of Laura Hankin’s Happy & You Know It, being that both books should different perspectives of wealth and service jobs like nannying and house managers. I have to admit that the semi-twist/direction of the story involving Rebecca and Mickey’s family felt unexpected in the second half of the story, but overall I thought this was such a thought-provoking and well-written contemporary! Definitely pick this one up if you like slice of life type books that you can’t put down.
When chef Charlie Goodwin gets hit on the head on the L.A. set of her reality baking show, she loses a lot more than consciousness; she also loses her ability to taste and smell–both critical to her success as show judge. Meanwhile, Charlie’s identical twin, Cass, is frantically trying to hold her own life together back in their quaint mountain hometown while running the family’s bustling bakery and dealing with her ex, who won’t get the memo that they’re over.
With only days until Christmas, a desperate Charlie asks Cass to do something they haven’t done since they were kids: switch places. Looking for her own escape from reality, Cass agrees. But temporarily trading lives proves more complicated than they imagined, especially when rugged firefighter Jake Greenman and gorgeous physician’s assistant Miguel Rodriguez are thrown into the mix. Will the twins’ identity swap be a recipe for disaster, or does it have all the right ingredients for getting their lives back on track?
My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
If you are craving a holiday baking completion meets a book with a setting like Gilmore Girls meets The Parent Trap/sister-switching-places shenanigans, look no further than Maggie Knox’s The Holiday Swap.
The Holiday Swap follows identical twin sisters, Cass and Charlie, who both need a break from their careers and decide to switch places for the two weeks leading up to Christmas. After Charlie, a co-host of a popular Christmas baking completion show, has an accident at work that leads her to lose her sense of taste & smell, she convinces Cass, who is running their small-town, family-owned bakery during the busiest time of year, to switch places. As the twins step into each other’s shoes (& baking aprons), Cass and Charlie make some big realizations about their sister’s life…and yes, might develop some feelings for a local fireman and physical’s assistant along the way.
It’s been another month where I read so MANY books, but don’t write MANY book reviews, oops. Instead of sharing multiple mini reviews or full length reviews about the books I’ve read in November, I’m instead going to be sharing some thoughts of each of them here (similar to wrap-up posts from June & July this summer). While I’ve definitely enjoyed the books below (yes, some more than others) I’ve definitely have been in a mini reading slump/trying to find books that will give me the same feels as two of my FAVORITE recent reads, Ghosts by Dolly Alderton (my first book in November and the Bad on Paper Podcast pick this month) and The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood (I am so looking forward to Ali Hazelwood’s novellas coming out next year! – I think I’m going to wait for the print bind-up).
As we’re now fully in the last two months of 2021 (!!), it’s time to slowly but surely begin wrap-up season. December is always filled with posts about my favorite books of the year and my anticipated books for the new year, but I’ve kicked off the reflective season with the End of Year Book Tag for the past few years. This book tag is always a great way for me to think back on what I read this year (and yes, start forming my favorites posts) and do a little goal-setting for the rest of the year.
Are there any books you started this year that you need to finish?
Since I’m publishing this post on a Monday morning, I thought it’d be fun to share the books I’m currently in the middle of and that I will finish by the end of this week (which means this year, haha) – I’m currently reading My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan – this contemporary romance had been on my TBR radar for a while since it’s written by audiobook narrator star Julia Whelan and it was recently mentioned twice in two of my favorite bookish podcasts, Bad On Paper and Friends to Lovers. I also have Dolly Alderton’s memoir, Everything I Know About Love, on my nightstand because I immediately needed more of her writing after finishing Ghosts two weeks ago. I’m sure this question will be a bit more pressuring during the week in between Christmas and New Years, as I hope to do a lot of reading since I’m off from work then. As always, I *try* to finish any book I’m currently reading by New Years’ Eve so I can start the new year with a fresh read, but sometimes that plan doesn’t work out depending on my NYE plans and my desire to always being currently reading something!
I can’t believe I’m already sharing my holiday book TBR, but does anyone actually think I wouldn’t take the opportunity to talk about them?? I’m not someone to rush into the holiday season as soon as Halloween ends (okay fine, I have listened to my Christmas Spotify playlist already), but I also wanted to share the holiday books on my TBR in case you are looking to plan your festive season reading between November and December. I actually decided to share my list earlier because I myself had to put a few of the books below on hold from my library already! For the most part, I keep my holiday book TBRs short because I don’t want all of my reading in November & December to be holiday-themed and I try to stay away from over-the-top cheesy holiday books (and there may or may not be books of holidays past that I still haven’t read, like The After Life of Holly Chase, oops).
Always, in December by Emily Stone – I totally admit that the cover alone of Emily Stone’s Always, in December drew me in. I heard this one is on the heavier side of a holiday story, as the main protagonist, Josie, lost her parents on Christmas years ago and writes them a letter each year. On the way to the mailbox, she runs into Max, who has his own reasons for avoiding the Christmas season, and the book follows them on their chance encounters over the next year – it kind’ve sounds like a deeper cross between Josie Silver’s One Day in December and Sophie Cousens’ This Time Next Year.
The Matzah Ball by Jean Meltzer – I feel like The Matzah Ball is THE holiday romance of 2021 – it’s also the Matzah Book Soup Book Club pick for November. The Matzah Ball is a Hanukkah inspired holiday romance, following a Jewish Christmas romance novelist, Rachel, whose publisher wants her to write a Hanukkah inspired romance.
I told myself that I was going to create this Taylor Jenkins Reid book ranking post right after I read Malibu Rising and Maybe in Another Life back in June….but here we are 5 months later! Today, I am going to be sharing a much-anticipated (on my end at least!) by ranking Taylor Jenkins Reid’s books. I started reading TJR’s books back in 2017 and have read at least one book of her’s every year since. I do still have to read her short story published through Amazon, Evidence of the Affair. I’ve made my rankings from favorite to least favorite, & I’ve included my star ratings & when I read the book.
1. One True Loves – I know many readers love TJR’s more recent historical fiction/big cast of characters type books more than her early contemporary books, but I’ve always held One True Loves as my favorite TJR book. TJR’s contemporary books tend to have what-if type storylines where the main protagonist has to make a choice in a partner or lifestyle that will lead to a totally different life. In One True Loves, the main protagonist is led to believe that her husband was lost at sea and returns to her hometown to heal and develops feelings for an old friend…only to find out that her husband didn’t die after all. The book definitely got bonus points in my book for partially taking place at a family-owned bookstore. My Rating:4.25/5 Stars Read In: 2017
2. Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo –The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is the book that really put TJR on readers’ radar (it’s also her highest rated book on Goodreads) and was her first venture into the historical-fiction type writing she is now known for. The book follows unknown magazine reporter Monique, who is selected to learn about the glamorous and scandalous life of movie icon Evelyn Hugo. I remember absolutely loving the writing style throughout & how the story connected all together in the end.My Rating: 4/5 Read In: 2018
Summary (from the publisher): Nina Dean is not especially bothered that she’s single. She owns her own apartment, she’s about to publish her second book, she has a great relationship with her ex-boyfriend, and enough friends to keep her social calendar full and her hangovers plentiful. And when she downloads a dating app, she does the seemingly impossible: She meets a great guy on her first date. Max is handsome and built like a lumberjack; he has floppy blond hair and a stable job. But more surprising than anything else, Nina and Max have chemistry. Their conversations are witty and ironic, they both hate sports, they dance together like fools, they happily dig deep into the nuances of crappy music, and they create an entire universe of private jokes and chemical bliss.
But when Max ghosts her, Nina is forced to deal with everything she’s been trying so hard to ignore: her father’s Alzheimer’s is getting worse, and so is her mother’s denial of it; her editor hates her new book idea; and her best friend from childhood is icing her out. Funny, tender, and eminently, movingly relatable, Ghosts is a whip-smart tale of relationships and modern life.
My Rating: 5/5 Stars
I always have some favorite books unexpectedly sneak up on me during the last two months of the year, and this year it includes Dolly Alderton’s Ghosts. Ghosts is the Bad on Paper Podcast November book club pick. I liked the sound of its synopsis, following a thirty two year old woman named Nina who hasn’t the best of luck when it comes to dating, but I swore I kept seeing rave & rave reviews everywhere as soon as it was announced as a BOP pick and it made me need to pick it up ASAP. I was actually in the middle of another book when Ghosts came in from the library & put that book aside to gobble up Ghosts in less than 2 days.
Ghosts is set in 2018 London (yes, it’s a British contemporary but not a chick lit/contemporary romance type of British contemporary), following writer & chef Nina as she decides to finally go on a popular dating app called Linx. Nearly all of Nina’s friends, including her childhood best friend Katherine and even her ex-boyfriend but still friend Joe, have all moved on and are in the engaged/married/married-with-kids part of life, while Nina feels like she is constantly reminded of her singledom alongside her best friend, Lola. Nina’s family life also feels like it is slowly crumbling apart, as her father has been recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and her mother struggles to accept his condition. Nina starts to feel like her life might just be coming together when she meets a man named Max through Linx, only to be ghosted by him weeks later..
Summary (from the publisher): Nine years ago, Vivienne Jones nursed her broken heart like any young witch would: vodka, weepy music, bubble baths…and a curse on the horrible boyfriend. Sure, Vivi knows she shouldn’t use her magic this way, but with only an “orchard hayride” scented candle on hand, she isn’t worried it will cause him anything more than a bad hair day or two.
That is until Rhys Penhallow, descendent of the town’s ancestors, breaker of hearts, and annoyingly just as gorgeous as he always was, returns to Graves Glen, Georgia. What should be a quick trip to recharge the town’s ley lines and make an appearance at the annual fall festival turns disastrously wrong. With one calamity after another striking Rhys, Vivi realizes her silly little Ex Hex may not have been so harmless after all.
Suddenly, Graves Glen is under attack from murderous wind-up toys, a pissed off ghost, and a talking cat with some interesting things to say. Vivi and Rhys have to ignore their off the charts chemistry to work together to save the town and find a way to break the break-up curse before it’s too late.
My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars
I know Halloween just wrapped up yesterday (& yes, I was totally playing “All I Want for Christmas is You” in my kitchen last night), but I just had to share my thoughts on the hottest spooky read in the contemporary romance world right now, Erin Sterling’s The Ex Hex! I’ve read Rachel Hawkins’ YA Royals series (her pen name for romance is Erin Sterling), so I was even more interested to read her first contemporary romance.
I’ll be totally honest, I’m not the biggest spooky season/Halloween person – I’ve dressed up over the years for friends’ parties & nights out (I of course dressed up as Olivia Rodrigo via sour album cover this year) and I’m quite minimal on the fall/Halloween decor – but the fact that The Ex Hex is a contemporary romance definitely caught my attention and it didn’t seem too supernatural/horror for my reading tases, which was ultimately so true! The Ex Hex follows twenty-something which & history professor Vivienne Jones, who experienced the biggest heartbreak of her life when legendary Rhys Penhallow ended their relationship nine years prior….and during that heartbreak, Vivi and her cousin Gwyn may or may not have cursed Rhys and her entire town. With Rhys back to recharge the ley lines and the curse proven to be very much in effect, Vivi and Rhys must work together to break their break-up curse.