Part of Your World by Abby Jimenez

Part of Your World by Abby Jimenez

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Other Possible Prompts: 23. Author with an X, Y, or Z in their name, 25. A wealthy character, 36. Recommended by a favorite author, 37. Set in a rural area, 45. A book with illustrated people on the cover, 52. Published in 2022

This may also meet prompt 34: an author’s photo on the back cover based on my other copies of her books, but I had the ebook of this and I can’t be certain!

I actually received the ARC of this book after I hit the request button so fast I strained a finger, but once I actually read the description of it, I wasn’t really sold. I like Jimenez’ books a lot, and absolutely adore The Friend Zone most of all, but this one didn’t sound up my alley. And honestly it really wasn’t. Where I would give both of her other books five stars, easily, this only got three and a half out of me.

After getting stranded in a ditch in a random town, ER doctor Alexis is pulled out by handsome stranger Daniel and pulled into the wonderful little town he lives in. Fresh out of an abusive relationship and feeling the pressure of her job and family expectations, Alexis is looking for nothing serious, and can’t believe Daniel wants her in his life at all. But she’s glad for the reprieve in the little town of Wakan, with charming Daniel, a baby goat, and his B&B.

When things begin to look too serious, Alexis has to make a decision: does she continue the family legacy, even when it doesn’t bring her happiness, or does she throw away everything for a guy ten years her junior?

The ten year age gap thing really kept coming up and definitely was not crucial to the story…I think in the beginning, Alexis (who primarily goes by Ali, though I do not understand that jump) is worried about looking less than perfect in front of Daniel, but it’s more related to her past abuse than to being older. This was like a weird, forced part of the storyline that I didn’t care to be reminded of.

I really liked Bri, Ali’s best friend and one of the supporting characters…I’m really glad her story is coming next spring. I can’t wait to read that one because it sounds like she has a good sense of humor, which is what I think was really missing from Ali. She just *wasn’t* genuinely funny. Both her and Daniel had these very dumb inside jokes that just did not charm me. I don’t understand why this is, because Jimenez is clearly very capable of writing humor? All of her other books have had a natural warmth to them that this one just didn’t, in my opinion.

I loved the town of Wakan, and the description of the bed and breakfast. I could see both of those settings very easily in my mind. Ali’s natural surroundings, like her home and the hospital, were much harder to visualize. I’m guessing this is done purposefully; they are cold environments she doesn’t connect to or experience her life through, but it makes the story kind of jarring at times.

While this book does switch perspectives, I find that most of my criticism is with Ali and not Daniel. Daniel was likeable and warm; he fits well into his surroundings and comes off in the story as caring but not obsessed with Ali. I think this narrative is more about her, even if he does have issues of his own. She’s the one coming to terms with all of the change in her life. And the two of them, in turn, have some sparks and connection, but it’s not totally visible to the reader. I’m not watching it unfold but more reading about the after-effects. Daniel provides Ali with warmth and consistency after her abusive relationship, and Ali wakes Daniel up to all the possibilities available to him in life. Other than that, I’m only being informed that they somehow fit perfectly.

This book wasn’t bad, it just didn’t really do it for me. The subject matter, the lack of humor, and the *meh* romance don’t rate it high on my list, but I will definitely continue to read Jimenez’ books. The talent is still there, but I’d pass on this plot for a better one.

A copy of Part of Your World was provided to me by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. It was published April 19, 2022.

Well Matched by Jen DeLuca

Well Matched by Jen DeLuca

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 2. Featuring a library or bookstore

Other Possible Prompts: 45. A Book with illustrated people on the cover

I am just FLYING through this year’s challenge! I read Well Matched in literally, a day. I have honestly been most excited to see the April and Mitch story from the town of Willow Creek, so I picked this one up on a snow day with the intent of finishing it in one sitting. And what a good decision that was (even though it fit like, no prompts and I had to swap one read for another to make it fit).

Single mom April is finally nearing the end of her eighteen year sentence: while she adores her daughter, Caitlin, she’s never loved the small town of Willow Creek that she settled them in eighteen years ago. Caitlin’s graduation means she can finally chase her own dreams, starting with selling the house. So she enlists the help of Mitch Malone, Willow Creek gym teacher, coach, and kilted-Ren-Faire-organizer to help her fix it up. In exchange, he asks her to pretend to be his girlfriend in front of his family so they get off his back about settling down.

But much to their surprise, Mitch’s family keeps showing up and forcing their charade, and the more time they spend together fixing up the house, the closer they grow together. April knows it’s all part of the fake girlfriend scheme…but she just might be catching feelings for the sweet and caring Mitch – and that’s not something she’s ready to confront just yet.

This brought me back to what I really enjoyed about Well Met. I didn’t like Well Played as much because neither character was very assertive, and the story was not terribly humorous. But I liked Well Matched a lot better! It was just the right touch of Ren Faire, the added dose of humor, and the perfect friends-to-lovers romance. Not to mention, April and Mitch have been some of my favorite characters from the beginning of Willow Creek’s story. Their dynamic was fun and cute, and their story arc was much improved over Well Played.

And speaking of the story arc: I really liked the “problem” or the climax of Well Matched much better. April has been on her own so long, so closed off from everyone, that it takes Mitch for her to realize this is a choice she’s making and not one she needs to commit to as part of her personality. The pair face struggles of miscommunication and a slow-growing relationship because April is struggling to express those feelings. I thought it was heartfelt and honest, and likely very relatable for readers who have gone through what April did as a young and single mom, giving up her dreams for her kid’s safety and stability.

The only thing that struck me a little odd is that it seems the fault lies almost entirely with April, when it comes to the climax of the romance…and again, not entirely her fault, we all have our things. She was definitely still likeable in spite of her reservations that made her appear cold. Her panic issues, in particular, were so relatable for me and made me like her more, reevaluating her previous appearances in a new light. But you’ll notice throughout the story that there isn’t much blame to lay on Mitch for their “falling apart” (I don’t think this really counts a spoiler…any regular reader of romance knows where it’s going!). He’s a supportive, lighthearted, and funny protagonist with a warmth about him. April felt much more real, but I really liked both of them, and liked diving deeper into their characters, since they’ve been such a big part of the series so far.

Literally every time I read a Jen DeLuca book I want to go to a Renaissance Faire. I have got to try it one of these days, and I’m going all in if I do. Outfits, flower crowns, the whole nine yards. It’s time to get the gals together and do this.

I can’t wait to read Well Traveled! I looked for it on NetGalley and no luck yet…but you’d better believe my eyes are peeled. This renewed my faith in DeLuca’s writing and my interest in the series. I think Caitlin needs a story too! Now that she’s an adult, I think bringing Caitlin back into the folds as a romantic interest, centered around the Faire, would make such an awesome story. I hope that makes book five!

Highly recommend, especially if you loved Well Met! Have an awesome week, peeps!

The Holiday Swap by Maggie Knox

The Holiday Swap by Maggie Knox

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 45. A Book with Illustrated People on the Cover

Other Possible Prompts: 15. A Five-Syllable Title, 23. Author with An X, Y, or Z in Their Name

FRIENDS!! Happy 2022!!! I had no idea the relief I would feel at the new year would be so palpable. I’m so grateful to be here and to be sharing with you my first read of the new year: Maggie Knox’s The Holiday Swap.

Truthfully, I actually didn’t love this one. And I kind of didn’t expect to? I thought I would like it, and it would get me in the Christmas spirit, but I really am not a huge Christmas book person. Tessa Bailey’s Window Shopping is the closest I’ve come to loving one. That being said, The Holiday Swap was super cute and a great book to pick up periodically throughout the season.

Cass and Charlie are twin sisters, born and raised in the small town of Starlight Peak, but leading very different lives as bakers. Cass remained in Starlight Peak to run the family bakery, while Charlie went off to LA to be a baker on a television show, Sweet & Salty. After a head injury leaves Charlie unable to smell or taste (a rather important skill for a baker!), and a bad breakup leaves Cass wanting out of her small town, the twins swap lives, like they did as children, to get through the holiday season unscathed.

They soon find out it’s not as easy to last a week as an adult as it was to swap for hours as kids. And only complicating matters are two men…who are falling for a different twin than they think they are.

This book took me way too long to finish, especially considering it was a read I grabbed for Christmas, not the new year. I think this book, under the right circumstances, would be a breeze to get through: I read half of it in just two hours this evening to finish it up. However, the plot is somewhat slow, didn’t grab or hold my attention, and I frequently found myself putting it down after just a few pages. And that’s my main reason for only giving three stars, as the rest of the book is rather charming.

Starlight Peak is a town you can really see in your mind. I thought that setting was beautifully crafted and well constructed. Charlie, then Cass’ side of things in LA, however, was far harder to get into, and felt a little colder. I think you come to expect that of a book that takes place primarily in a city, but when you go from this charming small town setting, with its little bakeries and sweet neighbors where everyone knows your name, to the city of LA where everyone treats the twins like garbage…it’s not as enjoyable, to go back and forth. But I think that gets melded into the story well, and into its conclusion…without giving away too much!

The men folk were fun but forgettable. This book is improperly categorized as a romance, truthfully. I felt this story to be more about coming of age, sisters, and the theme of family – which is equally fitting to the Christmas season. That is to say, it wasn’t what I was expecting, but I liked it better than what I would have expected. Had The Holiday Swap lacked love or connection between Cass and Charlie, it would’ve been a much more dull book. The romance isn’t there, but familial connection? They’re all over it.

Would I recommend this book? Probably not. I can’t think of an instance where I would instantly gravitate toward telling someone to read this. I didn’t hate it, but I really didn’t love it. I don’t think I’ll be picking up anything else by Maggie Knox (which is apparently a pen name for a writing duo).

Happiest of new years to you all, friends! Let this first review of the year be an exciting start to this reading challenge, a full year of 52 books. Happy reading!

The Shadows by Alex North

The Shadows by Alex North

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Good lord, why did I put this one off?!? I have had this book sitting in my to-read pile for easily, a whole year, maybe longer! And YET! I think I completely forgot just how much I had loved The Whisper Man, how much it sucked me in and gave me the creeps, and The Shadows did the very same. The Shadows is a disturbing and eerie read that’ll have you shocked at the twists and turns, as well as checking over your shoulder every few minutes with the feeling of being watched.

Paul Adams experienced tragedy as a teen. Wrapped up in a toxic friendship with other boys, he remembers a year of lucid dreaming, manipulation, dark woods, and a murder he was very nearly implicated in. He returns now to the village he grew up in to care for his mother as she lays dying, and gets wrapped up in a very similar mystery happening miles away in another small town: Detective Amanda Beck is looking into the story that started it all in attempt to solve the murder that’s just rocked Featherbank.

But something is still lingering in this town. Someone is lurking in the woods, delivering memories of a time Paul would rather put behind him. And something needs to be done about Charlie Crabtree…

This is one of those books I just know I’m going to do a horrible job describing, because there are so, so many pieces to put together and you also don’t want to spoil anything for the reader. I encourage you to read the full description of the novel, which does a far better job explaining than I can.

This book is complicated in the very best way. I love how intricate the details of this story are. There’s so much substance to it, which I guess made me realize there hasn’t been tons of substance to what I’ve been reading lately. I picture North writing this book with a huge wall in front of him, connecting characters and plots by strings and pushpins. If you’re in the mood to go “Whaaaat…” and “Oh my god noooo”, boy do I have the book for you. Around three-quarters of the way through the book, I was laying in bed listening to the story trying to figure out where the hell the curveball I’d just been thrown had even COME from (loudly), and my boyfriend leaned over and asked, “Crazy book stuff?”. Yeah, crazy book stuff.

The characters make this book. They are so well rounded – so very real to the reader, which makes it even crazier the farther you read (gosh, I am really walking the line of spoilers today, aren’t I??). There’s so many of them but they all play a really important role in this story. It’s an incredible small town tale, and everything is important: don’t write off any little detail.

My only complaint, and it’s not even really a complaint, was that some of the language is very repetitive. I think North does it on purpose to draw attention to the importance of certain statements and their bearing on the story, but after a while I felt like saying “Yeah, man, you just said that”. Other than that: the language is beautiful. Incredible. Sophisticated, even, for a horror novel, in a way that brings it up a notch in my book.

Soooo, I actually received a copy of The Shadows in exchange for an honest review by the publisher through NetGalley…approximately a year ago. Whoops. I finally got to it! At least I have great things to say! Naturally, The Shadows is already available for purchase…and I highly recommend reading it. Grab a copy if you’re looking for something to blow your mind. 🙂

Have a great week friends!