(Review) Sweet Tea and Sympathy

Dress Codes for Small Towns by Molly Harper
Publication Date: November 21st, 2017
Pages: 320 (paperback)
Genre: Contemporary Romance
My Goodreads Rating: 5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis:
Beloved author Molly Harper launches a brand-new contemporary romance series, Southern Eclectic, with this story of a big-city party planner who finds true love in a small Georgia town.

Nestled on the shore of Lake Sackett, Georgia is the McCready Family Funeral Home and Bait Shop. (What, you have a problem with one-stop shopping?) Two McCready brothers started two separate businesses in the same building back in 1928, and now it’s become one big family affair. And true to form in small Southern towns, family business becomes everybody’s business.

Margot Cary has spent her life immersed in everything Lake Sackett is not. As an elite event planner, Margot’s rubbed elbows with the cream of Chicago society, and made elegance and glamour her business. She’s riding high until one event goes tragically, spectacularly wrong. Now she’s blackballed by the gala set and in dire need of a fresh start—and apparently the McCreadys are in need of an event planner with a tarnished reputation.

As Margot finds her footing in a town where everybody knows not only your name, but what you had for dinner last Saturday night and what you’ll wear to church on Sunday morning, she grudgingly has to admit that there are some things Lake Sackett does better than Chicago—including the dating prospects. Elementary school principal Kyle Archer is a fellow fish-out-of-water who volunteers to show Margot the picture-postcard side of Southern living. The two of them hit it off, but not everybody is happy to see an outsider snapping up one of the town's most eligible gentleman. Will Margot reel in her handsome fish, or will she have to release her latest catch?

My Review:
I've never read any of Molly's books and I kind of requested this one on a whim as I was looking for something sweet to read. I'd just had a bad experience with a book and was a little frustrated and wary going into this one. (See previous review of romance novel gone wrong if you want to know how that worked out.) 

But, as you can see from my Goodreads Rating, I loved all parts of this book. As someone from a small southern town (some of us consider Florida the south) I completely fell in love with this town and pretty much every single one of these characters. 

The book's opening scene is hilarious and enough to catch your attention. At first you sense that Margot is a little uptight. She's a big city girl with a big city job so you know right off that she's going to clash with her small-town family. 

This does happen, but not in the sense that she thinks she's better than any of them. I don't recall any instances of Margot feeling superior to the residents of the town and I loved that about her. If anything she worried about what they thought about her. 

This, to me, is not your typical "love at first sight" romance. Sure, there's definitely chemistry between Margot and Kyle, but it isn't thrown in your face and sexualized throughout the pages. Kyle is a complex character, but in the best way. I love that he puts his family first, doesn't try to control Margot, and is always honest with her. Kyle had me swooning many times with just his words. 

What I loved most about this is how Margot comes to know and love the family she's never met. From her father to her aunts and uncles and cousins. So many of these moments made me smile, almost as much as reading about Margot and Kyle. 

So, five stars from me for making a romance also about family and not making me hate any of the main characters. I'm impressed. 

(Review) Dress Codes for Small Towns

Dress Codes for Small Towns by Courtney Stevens
Publication Date: August 22nd, 2017
Pages: 352 (kindle)
Genre: Young Adult
My Goodreads Rating: 4 stars

Goodreads Synopsis:
As the tomboy daughter of the town’s preacher, Billie McCaffrey has always struggled with fitting the mold of what everyone says she should be. She’d rather wear sweats, build furniture, and get into trouble with her solid group of friends: Woods, Mash, Davey, Fifty, and Janie Lee.
But when Janie Lee confesses to Billie that she’s in love with Woods, Billie’s filled with a nagging sadness as she realizes that she is also in love with Woods…and maybe with Janie Lee, too.

Always considered “one of the guys,” Billie doesn’t want anyone slapping a label on her sexuality before she can understand it herself. So she keeps her conflicting feelings to herself, for fear of ruining the group dynamic. Except it’s not just about keeping the peace, it’s about understanding love on her terms—this thing that has always been defined as a boy and a girl falling in love and living happily ever after. For Billie—a box-defying dynamo—it’s not that simple.

Readers will be drawn to Billie as she comes to terms with the gray areas of love, gender, and friendship, in this John Hughes-esque exploration of sexual fluidity.

My Review:
This book was precious and pure and I loved it.

I could stop my review there and be done with it, but I won't.

Billie and her friends are very cool characters. They are young and troubled, but you can tell that they truly love each other a lot a lot. (I put two a lots on purpose.) They have been through so much together and, even though they give each other hell, you can tell how much these characters truly feel about each other. 

I loved Billie for her boldness, but also for the parts that she hid from others. Billie wants to be the good daughter that her pastor father needs her to be, but it's hard when it's not who she really is. 

When Janie Lee tells Billie that she's in love with Woods, things change a little. Billie is drawn a little more to Davey and, with Davey, she gets to be herself a little bit. Davey is from the city and Billie has her own thoughts about him, but all he really does it let her be who she wants to be with no questions. 

Honestly, I fell a little in love with Davey's character. I started the book expecting it to be Woods as the one, but it was definitely Davey. The way he cares about Billie and listens to her is so sweet that you can't help but fall for him. 

I truly enjoyed this book and the way that most of the supporting characters were exactly that. They supported Billie no matter what she looked like or who she loved. Mostly this book was about Billie figuring out who she was, but also figure out that she doesn't really need to know just yet. 

(Review) My Image of You

My Image of You by Melanie Moreland
Publication Date: September 19th, 2017
Genre: Romance
My Goodreads Rating: 1 star

Goodreads Synopsis:
She was the first good thing that ever happened to me. The only person who made me want to stay put. Until she disappeared. My name is Adam Kincaid, and I’m the most daring freelance photographer in the world. Or, at least, I used to be. After losing my parents way too young, I hid behind a camera lens—and discovered a talent that took me all over the planet. No assignment was too dangerous, no location too remote, no subject too painful.

Then came the accident, and the hospital, where I met her: Alexandra Robbins. My nurse. My savior. With her fiery red hair and crystal-clear blue eyes, the most striking woman I could’ve imagined—and the kindest too. How could such a big personality fit into such a petite package? But she was running from something too, something I never had: her family. She thought she’d escaped their control. But she was wrong. And now they’ve taken her away from me.

Today is her engagement party. I may not get an explanation, but I’ll be damned if I don’t get a photograph. A picture really is worth a thousand words. And just like love, it never fades away. . . .

My Review:
I jokingly took to Twitter and called this book The Book That Couldn't Keep Me Entertained During Hurricane Irma. Only it wasn't really a joke and I was really in the middle of Hurricane Irma here in Southwest Florida. 

I was looking for a light and fluffy romance to keep my mind off hurricane force winds and possible destruction and quickly discovered this wasn't it. 

The main character and narrator, Adam Kincaid, starts out as a cool and collected photographer. In the first few pages you think he's an okay kind of guy. But when Adam is injured and taken to the hospital, you find out he's kind of a tool. 

First off, Adam knows he's good looking. He uses it to his advantage with Alex as he tries to charm her into believing he isn't really that injured. While this whole thing was meant to be cute and flirty, to me it was just a little ridiculous...and this is within the first few chapters. 

Alex is an okay character, but she absolutely lets Adam just take over her. I didn't feel that it was done in any sort of romantic way. The first thing that bothered me about it was that he insisted calling her Ally, even though she told him repeatedly it wasn't her name. Eventually you learn that her "mother didn't like nicknames", but that just didn't sit well with me. 

Adam, as a character, is significantly older than Alex and is clearly a dominate male. While he spends most of the book telling Alex how brave and strong she is, he spends the rest of it fighting her battles, literally and figuratively. 

I didn't come to care about either of these characters. It felt like it was fight after fight with too many big dramatic events thrown in. (Amnesia? C'mon.) 

Maybe it was Irma, maybe it was me. But this book just didn't cut it for me.

Thanks to Loveswept and NetGalley for the ARC. 

(Review) Ringer

Ringer by Lauren Oliver
Publication Date: October 3rd, 2017
Pages: 528 (kindle)
Genre: Young Adult/Science Fiction
My Goodreads Rating: 4 stars
Goodreads Synopsis: 
Like its ambitious companion novel, Replica, this far-reaching novel by powerhouse bestselling author Lauren Oliver digs deep into questions of how to be a human being in a world where humanity cannot be taken for granted.

In the world outside the Haven Institute, Lyra and Caelum are finding it hard to be human—and neither of them knows where they belong or who they can trust. When Caelum leaves without warning to pursue the dream of a place he belongs, Lyra follows him, convinced that together they will hunt down a cure for the illness that’s slowly consuming her mind. But what they uncover is a shocking connection to their past—even as their future seems in danger of collapsing.

After discovering the uncomfortable truth about her connection to the Haven Institute, Gemma struggles to return to her normal life. But when she learns that her controlling and powerful father has new plans for Lyra and Caelum, Gemma and her boyfriend, Pete, leave in the middle of the night to warn them of the danger they face.When an untimely accident derails them, they are mistaken for the escaped replicas and seized by strangers hired to capture them. The Haven Institute wasn’t destroyed after all, and now Gemma is the one behind the walls.

Lyra’s and Gemma’s stories can be read separately—with either story first—or in alternating chapters, but no matter which way you turn the book, the two distinct stories combine into one breathtaking experience for both heroines and readers alike.

My Review: 
Getting a copy of Ringer was pretty exciting for me. I've been a fan of Lauren's for a million years so I was thrilled to get approved for this book.

Replica was just a little taste of the world of these girls and I loved diving deeper into their lives. When we left Gemma and Lyra they had both discovered some pretty harsh truths about themselves after the destruction of the Haven Institute.

Now, things are starting to unravel again. Gemma knows that Lyra isn't safe, even though Lyra isn't technically even a replica. She and Pete travel to find Lyra and Caelum to warn them...but things get all messed up after that.

It's interesting to read both girls' stories and know that they were going through trying times, while not together, but at the same time. It shows how the characters relate to each other and how they are both still trying to find themselves in the world.

Ringer, to me, was definitely more suspenseful than Replica. While in the first installment we were still getting to know the characters, here we were learning to love them and want them to be safe.

It's like Gemma and Lyra's lives are switched in the installment, with Gemma locked away with other replicas and Lyra trying to find out the truth. One thing that also stuck with me was their strength and the strengths of Caelum and Pete. I loved how supportive they were to these main characters and how they stuck with them.

This installment is definitely a little darker and delves into what it really means to be human. Kudos, again, Lauren Oliver. You've got me for life.

Thanks to HarperCollins and Edelweiss for the ARC.

(Review) Nyxia

Nyxia by Scott Reintgen
Publication Date: September 12th, 2017
Pages: 384 (kindle)
Genre: Young Adult
My Goodreads Rating: 3 Stars

Goodreads Synopsis:
Emmett Atwater isn't just leaving Detroit; he's leaving Earth. Why the Babel Corporation recruited him is a mystery, but the number of zeroes on their contract has him boarding their lightship and hoping to return to Earth with enough money to take care of his family.


Before long, Emmett discovers that he is one of ten recruits, all of whom have troubled pasts and are a long way from home. Now each recruit must earn the right to travel down to the planet of Eden--a planet that Babel has kept hidden--where they will mine a substance called Nyxia that has quietly become the most valuable material in the universe.

But Babel's ship is full of secrets. And Emmett will face the ultimate choice: win the fortune at any cost, or find a way to fight that won't forever compromise what it means to be human.

My Review: 
Nyxia is pretty much like every other YA space travel, science fiction novel you've read. Trust me, I've read all of them. Not to say that this book was bad because it definitely wasn't. This book was a good book. It's got a good story and an interesting MC. It doesn't hurt that the cast of other characters are all as diverse as the main character. He's a good kid from detroit who is just looking out for his family. 

What makes Nyxia the book special is the substance, nyxia, that it revolves around. It's a substance from Eden, a planet that will be inhabitable by humans. Only now it already has other things living on it. Babel wants to harvest nyxia and the only way to do that is with children, hence the teenagers vying for a spot on Eden. 

This story is very much like The Hunger Games with a twist of Red Rising without all the murder. (Okay, most of the murder.) 

It's good and fast-paced. You learn a lot about Emmett as a main character and you do come to love him in the end. You root for him and some of the others, while wishing a few of them would be sucked out into space. I was a little disappointed at the end, though I realize that there will be two more books to read. I'd love to see what happens with these kids on Eden. 

Kudos for bringing diversity to space, too.

Thanks to First to Read and the publisher for the ARC.

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