Review: All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin

Genre: Fiction

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

How far would you go to protect your child? Would you lie for them or cover up their mistakes? To what end? These questions and many more are still bouncing around in my head days after finishing this book. As if the “what-ifs” & the “my-child-would-nevers” that are already on a constant loop in my head aren’t enough, All We Ever Wanted ramps up the mom fears big time, but also tells a heartbreaking and eye opening story of the lengths parents will go to protect their children.

Since her acceptance into Nashville’s prestigious Windsor Academy, middle class Lyla, raised by her single father, has struggled to fit in with her far more affluent classmates. Just when she feels like she’s starting to find her place, a photo of her in a drunken and vulnerable state is snapped and shared with the entire community. Nina would never in a million years believe that her reserved and mild-mannered son who was just accepted to Princeton would be the one behind the photo. As Nina comes to terms with the fact that her son is not the boy she though he was, but a man following in his misogynistic father’s footsteps, she has ask herself some tough questions about the way she and her husband are raising their son and take responsibility for her complacency.

There is no way to read this book as a mother and not put yourself in Nina’s shoes. How in the hell would I handle a situation like this? I pray I never have to, but the fact is, I am raising a son in a country where toxic masculinity starts at the very top with the man who holds the highest office in the land. It is always our responsibility as parents of boys to teach them not only with words, but by example how to treat women. But what does it say when men of power in this country are not held to a higher standard and get away with treating women so terribly? I am so thankful that my son gets to see his father treat his mother with respect on a daily basis. But it goes further than that. Even at only 5, my son knows right from wrong. He sees when people are sad and hurting and he understands that his words and actions can harm others. But we have to be comfortable with having tough conversations and making it a point to let him know that he will not get away with being an entitled little shit.

I honestly can’t imagine knowing that your child did something as abhorrent as taking a photo of a half naked girl and attaching a racial caption. But what I can’t even begin to fathom is being so blatantly flippant as to use the nauseating phrase “boys will be boys” or even just turning a blind eye.

I could go on and on about this book. It was so well written and thoughtfully constructed. I cried with Lyla and Nina, cursed Finch and his dumbass father, and wanted to help coach Tom through trying to parent and love his child through such a horrific experience. I highly recommend this one, but take a deep breath before reading and know that even though the future seems bleak at times, there are good parents out there who are doing their best just like you are, and hopefully together we can raise men who respect women and women who won’t take their shit if and when they don’t.

First BOTM pick & 2020 Reading Goals

So excited about my first BOTM book, The Sun Down Motel by Simone St James! I’ve heard some really great things about it and can’t wait to dive in. My parents got me a BOTM subscription for Christmas and feels great to finally be a part of the gang!

In other news, I’ve been thinking a lot about my reading goals and intentions this year. As I’ve said before, I don’t make monthly TBR’s because I’m such a major mood reader and like to read wherever and whatever my heart tells me. With that being said, I also don’t want to become complacent in my reading. It’s pretty clear romance is my jam and that’s where I’m most comfortable, but I still want to challenge myself to read different tropes and more diverse characters. 2019 taught me that I’m going to have to slow my role on the arcs. I love promoting new books and indie authors and will continue to do so, but can’t allow myself to get overwhelmed. Book blogging is so fun and Bookstagram is a blast, but at the end of the day, I read for myself and because I love sharing the books I love with others.

Do you have any reading goals or intentions for 2020? Do you set monthly TBRs or like to fly by the seat of your pants like me?

Review: Well Met by Jen DeLuca

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Star rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Steam rating: 🔥🔥

Emily moves to Maryland to help take care of her older sister, April and teenage niece, Caitlin after a freak car accident has left April immobile and unable to drive. When Caitlin needs Emily to take her to Renaissance faire rehearsals she fails to mention that she is required to have an adult volunteer participate with her. Emily is thrust into the Ren faire world filled with turkey legs, tight corsets, and a prickly English teacher on a power trip. But when Emily takes on her role as bar wench and is wooed by the English teacher, turned sexy pirate, Ren faire takes up space in her heart that she didn’t realize was empty. And turns out, that prickly English teacher knows how to charm that corset right off of her.

This one had been on my TBR for far too long and I’m so glad I finally took the time to read it because it was a delight! At first, it was just an adorably funny book that takes place in a unique setting. But as feelings developed between Emily & Simon, it became much more. I loved the slow burn and the pay off was a really steamy and really beautiful love scene that took me by surprise and had me fanning myself a bit. I also loved how the relationship developed and blossomed between Emily and her sister. No matter the age difference, the bond between sisters is undeniable and the fierce way they loved each other really hit me in the feels.

This is a super cute, super fun, and beautifully written RomCom you won’t want to pass up!

Queen Bee's Top Reads of 2019

In case you missed it, I asked some of my favorite bookworms to share their top reads of the year. But now it’s my turn! This was hard, y’all. I read more than I ever have in a year so narrowing it down to just a few was difficult. But here are my top ten reads, plus a few honorable mentions.

1. Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

There’s a reason why this book has gotten so much hype and attention. It’s about as close to perfect as you can get. Poignant, profound, honest, and hilarious, this DEBUT (yes, you read that right–DEBUT) novel by Casey McQuiston is my top read of 2019.

2. Josh & Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren

If your first read of the year sticks with you the entire year as one you can’t stop thinking about and laughing at, then you know it belongs in your top reads. Hazel is probably one of my all-time favorite heroine’s because she is just flat out goddamn hilarious and Josh is the ultimate book boyfriend.

3. A Stranger on the Beach by Michelle Campbell

Throwing a curveball at you guys with–what? A mystery/thriller? Crazy! But guys, this one was too good not to include! One of the twistiest, craziest, and messed up stories I’ve read in awhile. I would recommend this one to any reader because it is a wild ride!

4. Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Daisy Jones is a total badass. Feminist quote of the year:

“I had absolutely no interest in being somebody else’s muse. I am not a muse. I am the somebody. End of fucking story.”

5. The Idea of You by Robinne Lee

LISTEN. This book is the definition of a page-turner. I FLEW through it because I fell in love with Hayes and Solene and their “unconventional” relationship. What is unconventional? What is normal? Who the hell cares! Love is love and I LOVED this book.

6. The Unbreakables by Lisa Barr

This one was hard to read at times because right off the bat, we’re hit with the fact that our heroine’s husband is a piece of shit who cheated. A lot. But the journey that comes after and the relationship between mother and daughter is truly a delight to read.

7. Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert

Still fanning myself from the steaminess of this one! Own Voices, interracial couple, chronic illness, beautiful love story. The audiobook is fantastic. Can’t recommend it enough!

8. His Royal Highness by R.S. Grey

R.S. Grey is funny as hell. The Queen of RomCom knocked it out of the park with this one. Bit of an age gap, lost of laugh out loud moments, and takes place in a theme park. Need I say more?

9. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series by Jenny Han

Throwing in a YA series here because it is just freaking adorable and if you haven’t read the books that’s one thing, but the first movie on Netflix (others to come) is perfection! Lara Jean & Peter 5ever! My only complaint with this series, was the ending. I just wanted MORE okay??

10. The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

This book hit me in the feels and it hit me HARD. The heart and should with with Hoang writes is unmatched. Loved the steam, loved the story, loved everything about this one!

Honorable Mentions

Because I couldn’t just give you a top ten. I mean, when you read over 100 books how is that even possible. Here are ten more that I really loved as well…

  1. Autoboyography by Christina Lauren
  2. The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez
  3. The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman
  4. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
  5. Down Too Deep by J. Daniels
  6. Faking Under the Mistletoe by Ashley Shepherd
  7. The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams
  8. Pucked by Helena Hunting
  9. Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes
  10. Hooking Up by Helena Hunting

And there you have it! If a book didn’t make one of these lists it in no way means I didn’t love it or I wouldn’t recommend it. These are just the ones that stuck with me the most. Can’t wait to see what kind of reading adventures I go on in 2020!

Bookstagram's Top Reads of 2019: Part 3

The third and final installment of Bookstagram’s Top Reads of 2019 is finally here! You’ll see some repeats here, but also some great reads we haven’t heard about yet. Thanks so much to all of my trusted advisors for taking the time to share their faves with me so I could share them with you!

Anna: Instagram

If you don’t know Anna, I’m really sorry. She is the kind of book bestie everyone should have. She is kind and thoughtful and really adorable yet relatable. A newlywed, she recently relocated and is looking for a job as a librarian but is still dropping all the library knowledge on us on the daily!

  1. The Bride Test by Helen Hoang: I already loved The Kiss Quotient and knew I wanted to pick this one up and I ended up loving it even more than TKQ! It’s so steamy and romantic, which I love in romance books, but it also showcases a romance lead with autism and his thought patterns. This was eye-opening to me as someone who was ignorant about the subject matter. I love Hoang because she makes amazing romance books where I learn so much! 
  2. Sadie by Courtney Summers: Totally not a book in my comfort zone, but amazing! Chilling and mysterious, you never know what’s going to happen next! FYI: Listening to this as an audiobook on my commute home on my late nights through twisty, dark roads gave me goosebumps!
  3. On the Come Up by Angie Thomas: Angie Thomas is phenomenal. She’s an author I’d encourage anyone to read. This book is about a teenage girl who wants to make it as a rapper and stumbles along the way. It is SO dang important. 
  4. Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston: everyone and their mother loves this book and for good reason. Son of the POTUS–WHO IS A WOMAN! I mean swoon, right?! 
  5. Well Met by Jen DeLuca: Love at a Renaissance Faire. Absolutely freaking delightful! 

Mollie: Instagram/Blog

Mollie is one of my best book friends, not only because we have such similar tastes in books, but because she’s so fun to talk to. I love watching her stories featuring fall foliage watches and some of the cutest pups around!

  1. Hooking Up by Helena Hunting: Super sexy and hilarious, this book was amazing! Top read of the year. Excellent on audio.
  2. The Idea of You by Robinne Lee: This book CRUSHED me. I am obsessed with Hayes and Solene. I loved the fire and passion in this one. 
  3. Pucked Off by Helena Hunting: The entire Pucked series are some of my favorite books, but this one topped them all. Lance & Poppy forever! 
  4. Kulti by Mariana Zapata: Women’s soccer is straight badass. I love Sal. This was one of the slowest burns with one of the best payoffs I’ve ever read. 
  5. Beard Science by Penny Reid: Cleatus is slightly maniacal but he was so so funny. My favorite Winston and the audio was superb!

Molli: Instagram

In a bit of a plot twist, the last two people you’ll meet are IRL friends! First up is my sister, Molli. She’s younger and wiser and one of the smartest people I know. Best sister, best friend, and the OG book bestie, Molli reads for fun but also to learn and challenge herself.

  1. Out East by John Glynn: Somehow, John Glynn (not the astronaut) made weekends on Montauk in his twenties filled with pretty much only drinking seem compelling and worth way more pages than the book actually is.
  2. Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes: I need more public radio personalities to write cozy novels with strong female protagonists. Didn’t even mind the sports!
  3. Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow: Probably the most page-turning account of the crafting of a single news story that I’ve read in quite some time. Ronan’s work on the Harvey Weinstein case was so important and the glimpse into all he went through to make it happen is totally fascinating. 

Rachel: Instagram/Blog

Rachel is my best friend in the entire world. She moms hard, loves hard, and lives for a good book! She runs an insanely good lifestyle blog, loves Jesus, and is constantly trying to better her already perfect self. I truly can’t say enough great things about her.

  1. Josh & Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren: There is no way you could read this book and not fall in love with Josh & Hazel! They are two of the most adorable, lovable characters I have ever had the pleasure to read. Their story of “not dating” will have you rolling with laughter and your heart melting. 
  2. Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston: This one could have very easily been in my number one spot, it was SO GOOD. Totally lives up the hype. Royal reads are always some of my faves and this one does not disappoint. The ups and downs of Alex and Henry’s relationship will suck you in completely. 
  3. Rich People Problems (Crazy Rich Asians #3) by Kevin Kwan: Do not sleep on this series! The ridiculousness of most of the characters in these books is next level and could not be more entertaining. There is just the right amount of heart, too. It’s so fun to be submerged in this crazy lifestyle so completely. 
  4. Christmas Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella: I’m a HUGE shopaholic fan but can admit that the last few books in the series haven’t been great. This release feels like exactly what I loved all those years ago. The main character, Becky, has grown up just enough to not be annoying, but is still getting herself into all sorts of hilarious situations. This book had me LOLing the whole way through!
  5. City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert: I always think I don’t like historical fiction, and then I do when I actually give it a chance. I love the way the author told this story. The narrator is writing a letter to someone explaining her life and all the antics she got up to working as a costume designer in NYC in the 1940’s. She’s young and makes a ton of mistakes and reflects back on them through the letters. So good! 

Well, there you have it, friends. These are all the books your need to add to your TBR immediately. Stay tuned by MY faves of the year coming soon!

Bookstagram's Top Reads of 2019: Part 2

Here we go! Part two of that thing of when I ask some of my top advisors to share their favorite reads of 2019. If you haven’t checked out Part 1, make sure you do!

Kate: Instagram/Goodreads

Kate is the best! We love a lot of the same books, but she’s also one of my go-to’s for when I need something new and refreshing. She’s adorable and so fun to talk to!

  1. Regretting You by Colleen Hoover: So, this one just came out earlier this month, but do yourself a favor and order it as a late Christmas present to yourself. You won’t regret it! This latest romance by Colleen Hoover will send you on an emotional rollercoaster. 
  2. The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez: If you’re looking for a heartfelt romance with loads of sass and wittiness, this novel is for you.
  3. Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston: There is nothing I can say about this novel other than the fact it is utterly delightful. Read it. 
  4. The Hating Game by Sally Thorne: For those seeking a delicious enemies-to-lovers romance. Make sure you read the book before the movie comes out!
  5. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas: I know this whole series came out awhile back, but I only recently took a dive into this world–and what a dream it’s been. I highly recommend this series, even if you are new to the fantasy genre. 

Cayla: Instagram/Blog

Cayla is probably one of the sweetest friends I’ve made since joining the bookstagram family. She is loyal, reliable, and I love chatting with her and watching her stories that feature her adorable little boy and lots of fur babies. 

  1. Regretting You by Colleen Hoover: First off, Colleen Hoover is my favorite Author and two, just this whole story was amazing and I loved the relationship between the mother and daughter and how having both points of view from both characters made the story come together very well.
  2. Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren:  I love Christina Lauren and this is actually one of my first ones I ever read by her and I instantly fell in love with their writing. I also like that its told between two different timelines.
  3. The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez: All thanks to Bookstagram, I came across this one and I wish I would have read it sooner. The story was so good and I could not put it down. It had so many different emotions throughout the entire story. Happiness, Sadness, everything.
  4. American Royals by Katharine McGee: I love everything about royalty and love stories and this had both! Can’t wait for the second book!
  5. Night Road by Kristin Hannah: This book was wonderful yet so heartbreaking at the same time. Kristin Hannah knows how to write thats for sure and this one was beyond amazing. I cant even explain it in words thats just how good it was.

Aimee: Instagram

Full disclosure: Aimee and I couldn’t be more different. She’s an enneagram Type 1 and I’m…so not. She’s a huge Stephen King fan and I’m a scaredy cat who can barely make it through the film, The Shining. We have a few of the same faves, but our reading tastes are pretty different. But she’s cool as hell, so thoughtful and intentional in her reviews, and a really wonderful person.

  1. Pet Sematary by Stephen King: Here’s the thing about this book – many people seem to think it’s scary because it’s about “zombie pets.” Let me tell you, the reason this book is so terrifying goes far beyond a basic horror movie trope. (But still, think twice before reading it at night!)
  2. IT by Stephen King: Yet another misunderstood King novel – people think IT and they think killer clown. Sure, Pennywise is creepy and murder-y…but it’s an incredible book about friendship and growing up. Great for fans of Stranger Things!
  3. The Only Plane in the Sky: An Oral History of 9/11 by Garrett M. Graff: One of the best non-fiction titles of the year. For those of us who vividly remember 9/11, it brings back a lot of memories but weaves in very personal stories of people who were in New York, D.C. and Pennsylvania that day. Heartbreaking, but so important.
  4. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery: I finally read Anne of Green Gables this year and immediately fell in love! Even though it’s a book for younger audiences, it’s not overly simplistic (much like Harry Potter). It’s a book that will give you the warm fuzzies, make you laugh and have you dreaming of Prince Edward Island.
  5.  Chase Darkness With Me by Billy Jensen: An absolute must-read for true crime fans! Jensen is an incredible writer, and he puts so much of himself into this book. A great companion to I’ll Be Gone in the Dark (which Jensen helped finish after Michelle McNamara’s passing).

Lyndsey: Instagram/Goodreads

Lyndsey works at Trader Joes-check her IG highlights for all the TJ gems! She is so sweet, a real and true animal lover (all the heart eyes for this photo), and the only bookstagram bestie I’ve actually met in real life. We had a blast drinking margs and book shopping and I can’t wait to do it again!

  1. Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate: I never would have even picked it up had it not been for my book club. It was so heart-wrenching and interesting and amazing. It absolutely blew my mind that I had no prior knowledge of Georgia Tanna or the Tennessee Children’s Home Society scandal. I encourage everyone to read it and educate themselves! 
  2. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid: I realize I’m late to the TJR train, but better late than never! It was such a change of pace from anything I’ve ever read. I loved the glitz and glamor of it. News articles were scattered throughout the chapters and made it all that more fun to read. I was also pleasantly surprised by the hint of mystery behind it. It was one of the greatest twists I’ve ever read!
  3. No Exit by Taylor Adams: This was such a wild ride! I truly felt like I was on a roller coaster of emotions and towards the end of the book I was legit SWEATING in anticipation of what would happen next. It was so fast paced and thrilling and will remain one of my favorite thrillers for quite some time. 

Tej: Instagram/Goodreads

Tej is the best! She’s as kind as she is gorgeous and we have bonded over the highs and lows of motherhood and our love for super steamy romances. I can always count on her for a great rec and kind word of encouragement when I need it the most!

  1. Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey: When I initially requested this book from NetGalley I was anticipating a cute/sweet romance based on the cover and the description of the book. When I actually started reading it I was like Whoa! OMG this book is so hot! I loved dirty talking Travis and sweet Georgie.
  2. The Hating Game by Sally Thorne: I loved the way Joshua and Lucy and had this intense hate going on between them. You couldn’t help but love the animosity and sexual tension between the two. One of my favorites that I’ve already re-read (and listened on audio).
  3. The Deal by Elle Kennedy: I don’t really read a lot of New Adult and wasn’t really even sure why I decided to read this book. But this book surprised me and I loved the witty banter between Hannah and Garrett. The book was sweet, sexy and everything you look for in a sports romance.
  4. Hooking Up by Helena Hunting: I read a lot of Helena Hunting this year, but this book is a favorite because it is so sexy and I love Lexington and Amalie. I loved the heat (so much smoking heat), but also the heart in this book!
  5. The Simple Wild by KA Tucker: I just finished this book a few days ago and literally can’t stop re-reading my favorite parts. The enemies-to-lovers relationship between Jonah and Calla was EVERYTHING! I lived for their pages together. But I also loved Calla’s relationship with her father and her growth as a character. 

And that concludes another round of really great reads and recommendations from some of the best bookworms around. Stay tuned for my third and final installment in the next couple days!

Review: The Simple Wild by K.A. Tucker

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Steam Level: 🔥

I really enjoyed this one. It had character depth and growth and a really lovely love story between an unlikely pair. The banter between Calla & Jonah was fantastic and I rooted for them from the beginning. I’m not sure if I just played it up in my head too much, but it just didn’t move me as much as it seemed to move everyone else. I think I just wanted more (romance & steam mostly) and I guess that’s good considering the sequel comes out next year! I would still highly recommend this to romance readers and even just general fiction lovers. It’s light on the steam but heavy on the feels. Definitely worth your time.