Genre: Picture Book Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐☆ Recommend to Others?: Yes
ABOUT:I Am Perfectly Designed is an exuberant celebration of loving who you are, exactly as you are. A boy and his father take a walk through the city, sharing memories, and discovering all the ways in which they are perfectly designed for each other and to be themselves.
REVIEW: “An ode to loving who you are, exactly as you are,” I Am Perfectly Designed an adorably heartwarming story inspired by the life lessons the author’s father taught him. This story had a beautiful, positive father-son relationship.
I love the cover art for this story. It features a diverse group of people on a lovely fall day at the part. There’s a nice contrast between the foreground – the father and son – and the background – the other park goers.
The illustrations were so well done, visually appealing, and inviting. The happy expressions on the characters’ faces were infectious.
I liked how this story was a conversation between a son and his dad. The boy is reminiscing with his dad while they hang out and go about their day. The boy is unafraid to be happy and himself because his dad has been such a good role model. He takes pride in knowing they were perfectly designed or destined to be family.
I Am Perfectly Designedis a good story to have in one’s personal library.
Dillon Young is proud that she inherited her aunt’s ranch. The problem: someone is trying to run her off and is willing to do whatever it takes. Strange, dangerous things keep happening. Dillion suspects her no-good neighbor and fellow wealthy rancher Hank Stephens. Never a man to get his hands dirty, he sends others to get the job done. So, when the irresistible Cal Bennett is found passed out drunk on her property, Dillion is on high alert. Until someone takes a shot at her and Cal springs to her rescue. When the hard-bodied, no-nonsense-talking cowboy points out that she may need some help, Dillion is inclined to reluctantly agree.
Or a lover?
Waking up on a stranger’s property with a shotgun in his face is not Cal Bennett’s idea of a good time. Never mind that the person on the other end of the barrel is one of the most fiercely beautiful women he has ever seen. Things get more interesting when he finds himself shielding her from flying bullets. It’s clear that this smart, savvy woman could use a hand and Cal is all too happy to lend any part of his body she requires. His proposal: pose as lovers until they find out who is after her ranch. As the danger rises and secrets are revealed, the passion explodes between them and there is no turning back.
REVIEW: Donna Grant outdid herself creating such a captivating mystery with a nice spicy layer of romance on top. The suspense was real! Who to trust was the big question that plagued the entire novel in all the right ways.
Dillion never expected to find home on her late aunt’s ranch nor did she expect to inherit the ranch. Ranching may be considered a man’s world but Dillion is determined to not let “accidents” or a greedy neighbor stop her from keeping the ranch afloat forever. Her determination makes you sit up and take notice. Her loyalty to home and family is endearing. I wanted so much for her to succeed (and maybe find love in the arms of a kind-hearted cowboy).
Love at first gunpoint? Odd but it adds to the overall conundrum since even Cal has no clue how he ended up blacked out drunk on the ranch.
Beforehand, Cal was still feeling down about not qualifying at the rodeo. He begins to find a new purpose in protecting Dillion from unknown dangers and possibly exploring the attraction between them. Cal is a sincere and honorable man. His protective instincts kick in after someone tries to kill Dillion. BUT since even he doesn’t know how he ended up on the farm and considering his surprise connection to Dillion’s situation, it’s understandably difficult for Dillion to trust Cal.
I like that we get Dillion’s, Cal’s, and the bad guy(s) pov! I loved the way Grant wove the plot and built up the tension between all of the characters and the romance between Cal and Dillion. The scene at the town dance? So many feelings! And the twists later on? Did not see coming (though I should have)!
I really enjoyed That Cowboy of Mine from the start to its thrilling conclusion.
Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐☆ Recommend to Others?: Yes
ABOUT:Britta didn’t plan on falling for her personal trainer, and Wes didn’t plan on Britta. Plans change and it’s unclear if love, career, or both will meet them at the finish line.
Britta Colby works for a lifestyle website, and when tasked to write about her experience with a hot new body-positive fitness app that includes personal coaching, she knows it’s a major opportunity to prove she should write for the site full-time.
As CEO of the FitMe app, Wes Lawson finally has the financial security he grew up without, but despite his success, his floundering love life and complicated family situation leaves him feeling isolated and unfulfilled. He decides to get back to what he loves—coaching. Britta’s his first new client and they click immediately.
As weeks pass, she’s surprised at how much she enjoys experimenting with her exercise routine. He’s surprised at how much he looks forward to talking to her every day. They convince themselves their attraction is harmless, but when they start working out in person, Wes and Britta find it increasingly challenging to deny their chemistry and maintain a professional distance.
Wes isn’t supposed to be training clients, much less meeting with them, and Britta’s credibility will be sunk if the lifestyle site finds out she’s practically dating the fitness coach she’s reviewing. Walking away from each other is the smartest thing to do, but running side by side feels like the start of something big.
REVIEW:The Fastest Way to Fall was a heartfelt, adorable, and inspiring read.
Britta is an editorial assistant who wants to be promoted to writer for Best Life. I loved Britta and could relate to her so much. She’s likable, hardworking, and a talented (enviable) writer. Britta isn’t focused on weight loss when she signs up for the FitMe app. Instead, she merely wants to look and feel good naked. Her journey is incredible and inspiring. Again and again, she pushes herself beyond her limits to achieve her goals. Britta is a wonderful character and I would love to be her friend.
Wes is a great coach and I love his dedication to his job. But his mother’s addictions and the unknown whereabouts of his runaway sister have been taking a toll for a long time now. He feels compelled to carry this burden without taking care of his own health. But towards the end I didn’t like him as much.
Britta and Wes had a smooth, easy, natural connection. I like how they built a relationship and fell in love before even meeting.
I loved the body positivity in this story. Britta is comfortable in her own skin and loves her curves, butt, and boobs, but isn’t immune to hurtful words. I liked that the author showed what negative body image looks, feels, and sounds like. How the way we view ourselves can affect our nutrition and physical health. I loved that FitMe is about making healthy choices/changes and setting realistic goals/expectations.
I was really into the story in the beginning, but then the pace slowed to a point where I was getting bored and restless for something to happen. The building of the romance was very slow-going. It felt like a full story but I’m wondering if maybe some scenes could have been shortened or cut.
I have mixed feelings about the last 80 or so pages, particularly with what happened when Wes and Britta’s secret came out. Wes is the CEO of FitMe and Britta was his client. Both took personal responsibility when things went south. Both were equally at fault for crossing boundaries. However, to me it felt like most (if not all) the blame was placed on Britta. I didn’t like the way Wes treated Britta when they realized each other’s position, as if it was more her fault than his. Britta gracefully accepted the criticism and bias she received from everyone. It pained me to see her basically suffer in silence.
This was an enjoyable story for the most part. I like that the author uses mixed media – email, blog posts, prose, text messaging – to tell the story. I enjoyed seeing Jake and Naya again (from How to Fail at Flirting). The conflicts and all of the characters were realistic. There were a lot of adorable moments between Britta and Wes. But towards the end it was tough reading. The epilogue was fantastic!
intentional changes in exercise and nutrition habits by a main character (that do not include dieting) including on-page reflections on exercise and eating habits
off-page Alcohol and drug abuse of a side character; the heroine participates in brief and off-page over-exercise
reference to the eating disorder of a side character
(p.60) “Libby had always hated gym class – she’d complain, and I never got it. Eventually, she confessed she hated that she felt judged and forced to focus on her body, when she didn’t want to in this very public way. I’d never thought about it like that.”
(p.100) “I share it because that night, I felt desirable, attractive, and wanted for the first time in my life. So, the next day, when he said it was a mistake, I was certain feeling wanted was a mistake, too…It took me years to fully shake that and realize his assessment didn’t have to shape how I felt about myself.”
Traveling nurse Janie Atwood has come to Cold River to uncover old family secrets and maybe, if she’s lucky, find a new home. That the gorgeous, glowering sheriff next door thinks her caring for his elderly neighbor is a nefarious scheme is a bonus. Having never been anything but a good girl, Janie finds Zack Kittredge’s simmering suspicion an excellent reason to try being a little dangerous instead…
She doesn’t believe in squandering it…
Sheriff Zack Kittredge is okay with being… intense. He takes his loner status as seriously as he takes his responsibilities to protect Cold River. And he thinks cheerful Janie might be a threat to the town. But the more he gets to know her, the more he faces the truth—she’s brighter than sunshine and he’s like a moth to her flame. When Janie suggests he could use a few charm school lessons, he surprises them both by accepting. He doesn’t need help. But it’s clear he might need her…
Because the only thing hotter than the summer sun in the Rockies is the forbidden passion that burns between them…
REVIEW: Families are complicated. I loved how the author juxtaposed different family dynamics and relationships within in all its messy, beautiful, loving and sometimes painful ways.
Zack lives a carefully built life as a loner after leaving his family’s ranch to get away from his father. While he may seem content with his life in the town and with the family he loves, it’s clear the burdens of the past and a deeply guarded secret still weigh heavily upon him. Janie moving next door disrupts Zack’s world. He’s immediately suspicious of her and her peculiar interest in Cold River’s history, suspicions that surely explain his unusual feelings for her. I loved seeing Zack slowly loosen up and relax some and see things from a different point of view.
Janie is a complete opposite to the gruff cowboy sheriff. She’s delightful, funny, but adorably clumsy when it comes to Zack. Accidentally tripping and spilling her coffee on Zack is the best worst thing to ever happen to her. I liked how the story basically starts off with this rather cute moment as Janie laments lustfully about Zack in her head. And I love how she plays into Zack’s belief that she’s up to no good. I was pleasantly surprised as we learned what brought Janie to Cold River because it contrasted so well with Zack’s story.
All the family histories uncovered were interesting, heartbreaking, and exquisitely interwoven. Love is a profound, complicated matter in this story/series. Understanding it all and how individuals expressed their love made for a captivating read.
Crews really outdid herself with Summer Nights with a Cowboy. I really enjoyed Janie and Zack’s passionate story.
Genre: Picture Book Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐☆ Recommend to Others?: Yes
ABOUT: In Pete the Cat’s Supercool Science Fair from New York Times bestselling author-illustrator team Kimberly and James Dean, Pete the Cat and his friends are excited to build the coolest volcano ever for their school’s science fair.
After a few unexpected mishaps, the team is finally ready. Yet after seeing their other classmates’creations, they can’t help but wonder: is their volcano good enough to win first place?
Thankfully, Pete has a sparkly surprise up his sleeve!
REVIEW: This was a simple and pleasant read! Pete is excited for the science fair on Friday and getting the chance to be a scientist. His group – Pete, Gus, Squirrel, and Callie – decides to build a volcano.
Pete and his friends do a good job demonstrating teamwork and how good scientists conduct an experiment. The story also inspires creative thinking and makes you want to do a science experiment too. Readers are bound to enjoy this supercool story as well.
ABOUT: In this second title in the early chapter book series about everyone’s favorite young entrepreneur, Wednesday Wilson is only trying to help her brother when her latest business idea strikes! Sometimes the best business ideas pop up when you least expect them. Or that’s what happens to Wednesday Wilson, anyway, the morning her brother, Mister, locks himself in the bathroom because he’s nervous about a school presentation. When classmate Emmet convinces Mister that a worry stone will calm his nerves, Wednesday offers Mister her marble — with the promise that a Worry Marble will fix all his problems! But then Wednesday starts thinking about just how many things kids get nervous about. And, hmm, she does happen to have a whole collection of marbles. Has Wednesday just hit entrepreneurial gold?
This is the second title in the early chapter book series by Bree Galbraith that follows the ever-evolving, but always entertaining, antics of girl entrepreneur Wednesday Wilson. The highly engaging series encourages ingenuity, creative thinking and resourcefulness. It’s also loads of fun! Wednesday’s enthusiasm and energy and her one-of-a-kind take on the world will delight and inspire. Short chapters enhanced by Morgan Goble’s illustrations along with lists and clever business-themed definitions help bridge the gap for emerging readers. Wednesday has two moms, one is Black and one white, and the story features an expanding diverse cast of BIPOC and disabled characters. It also contains character education lessons on initiative and perseverance.
REVIEW: Another delightful business adventure with Wednesday Wilson, future entrepreneur!
Wednesday Wilson usually has a lot of big business ideas to try. But lately she’s been in a funk. As she tries to help her little brother, Mister, overcome his nerves about giving a presentation in front of the whole school, Wednesday is suddenly struck with a new business idea: the Worry Marble, guaranteed to fix all your problems..or get Wednesday into trouble once again.
I love Wednesday’s perseverance to see an idea through. She’s earnest, organized, and very persuasive. She has a vibrant personality that draws others in.
Kids can learn important skills from these books, such as basic business terminology, problem-solving, creativity, and teamwork. I like how Wednesday, her friends, and brother work together to make a genuine product that will help others.
The illustrations are expressive and bring the story to life in all the best ways. The cast of characters is wonderfully diverse. And I like how the story talks about and celebrates different types of families.
I hope there will be more books forthcoming because this is a really enjoyable series. I love that it’s equal parts entertaining and educational with great lessons to learn. Wednesday Wilson is such a fun character with a lot to offer the world.
Genre: Paranormal Romance Series: Shifters for Christmas #1 Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐☆ Recommend to Others?: Yes
ABOUT:A curvy animal rescue worker who hates the holiday season… A hot shifter cop who never takes a day off… Together, can they overcome the danger that threatens their merry Christmas?
Emilia Lopez has hated the holiday season ever since she got her heart broken on Christmas Eve. Now, she relies only on herself as she cares for the rescue dogs she’s taken in. There’s no room in her busy life for anyone else – until the hottest guy she’s ever seen crashes through her shed roof in the middle of a snowstorm.
As an agent of the elite Shifter Patrol Corps, griffin shifter Rowan Stanton doesn’t take days off. How can he, when there are shifter criminals to bring to justice? But in hot pursuit of his latest foe, a raging snowstorm and an unfortunate encounter with a roof send him tumbling into the arms of the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen… who just happens to be his fated mate.
Sizzling attraction flares into white-hot romance – but with a dangerous criminal closing in, how can Rowan protect the stubbornly independent Emilia? He might have destroyed her shed, but can he break down the walls she’s built around her heart?
REVIEW: This was a fun, shifter romance read! Right away, I liked the unexpected circumstances that brought Rowan and Emilia together at just the right time. Though both are dedicated to their jobs, the instant attraction can’t be dissuaded and soon the two find themselves conflicted.
Rowan is adamant about recapturing an escaped criminal. As much as he rejoices in finding his fated mate he doesn’t know how to tell her about himself and his world or if his life would put her in danger. Emilia is not feeling the Christmas spirit and wants nothing to do with love so she can focus on finding animals a loving forever home. But she can’t deny how much Rowan seemingly fits in her life.
These were not the best criminals as I’m pretty sure a few Criminal 101 rules were broken in a ridiculous but amusing way. But I liked how level-headed and helpful Emilia was when danger came calling and the suspense still made the story enjoyable.
I loved that Emilia rescues all kinds of animals and that her home is filled with them (goals!). It was so cute how taken with Rowan her fur babies were. I loved Rowan’s backstory of what led him to become a Shifter Patrol Corps member. It rounded out his character and made me love him even more. And I really loved the scenes where Rowan and Emilia were getting to know each other, especially since Rowan doesn’t know much about human customs like Christmas.
Short and enjoyable, A Griffin for Christmas left me wanting more (in a good way), so I can’t wait to read the rest of this series and more of Zoe Chant’s backlisted titles.
Genre: New Adult, Sports Romance Series: CU Hockey #4 Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Recommend to Others?: Yes
Hockey, studying, and school runs. That’s my life now.
After a tragic accident that took our parents’ lives, it’s up to me and my big brother to take care of our five younger siblings.
In between burning their meals and keeping them from killing each other, I’m supposed to get a college degree. It’s hard when I don’t have time to breathe let alone study, and if I don’t get my grades up, I’m in danger of losing the one thing that makes me happy: my spot on the hockey team.
Which is why when the new equipment manager offers to tutor me, I really can’t afford to say no. Even though I should.
He’s Coach’s son and way too tempting.
As this year’s equipment manager for Dad’s hockey team, I’m expected to deal with sweaty jock straps and herding hockey players to their rooms at away games.
The job is easy, but babysitting Asher Dalton is not supposed to be a part of it.
So why, when his brother asks me to keep an eye on him, do I agree?
Why, when he’s struggling in classes, do I offer to help?
And why, when we’re studying, do I suggest a reward system that lands us squarely in bed?
Asher’s trouble, I know he is. But there’s something about him that makes it impossible to stay away.
REVIEW: My heart loved this story! Asher and Kole are a beautiful and sweet couple – so loyal, compassionate, and loving.
Asher had to put his NHL dreams on hold to help his older brother take care of their five younger siblings after the death of their father and stepmom. Asher is angry and bitter, engaging in self-destructive behaviors as a coping mechanism. But you can tell how deeply he cares about his siblings. He struggles to form genuine connections with others and is in danger of being kicked off the hockey team for poor grades. Until he meets Kole.
Kole is the coach’s son and the new, temporary manager for the hockey team. A skilled hockey player himself, Kole quit years ago when the line between father and coach began to blur. Now his focus is on studying medicine so he can help others. Until Asher becomes an irresistible distraction who is more than the gruff asshole he appears outwardly.
Asher and Kole’s physical attraction towards each other was scorching! I did not expect such a high level of heat. There were some steamy pages throughout.
They form a sincere bond that is utterly beautiful. Kole sees Asher for who he is. Asher finds the love, care, and attention in Kole that he’d been missing since taking on the monumental responsibility of co-caring for his siblings. Within each other they find someone special who is worthy of unconditional love and perfect in all the ways that count. Their relationship is captivating, charming, and hilarious. Through the good times and bad and the threat of what they might lose if they’re caught, I was enthralled by every moment. Asher and Kole were made for each other.
This book can get messy (in a good way). From grief over the death of loved ones to dashed dreams. To have to grow up too fast to feel like you’re a disappointment. And so much more. These conflicts played a huge role in who the characters have become and what they could be/have in the future. It’s heartbreaking and I felt like crying at times. But the end results were truly satisfying.
I like how teamwork develops for the hockey team. It’s a prime example of no “I” in “team.” That you have to set aside your differences and work together towards the common goal: making the Frozen Four and winning the whole thing. It’s a life-long lesson that I enjoyed seeing mixed with the plot, forcing certain characters to be better and think of others.
This story had plenty of light-hearted moments. I loved the banter between Kole and Asher. It showed how well they clicked and brought out the softer side of Asher. My favorite scene was definitely Christmas lunch. I was nervous but excited for it because it could have gone so horribly wrong. Instead, it was amusing fun for the reader and awkward stressfulness for the characters involved.
Line Mates & Study Dates was a joy to read and a well devised story that hooked me from the get-go. Asher and Kole stole my heart and made the story something special. If you like new adult, forbidden romance, and/or sports fiction, this is the story for you!
Genre: Picture Book Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Recommend to Others?: Yes
ABOUT:You’re not going to find a more heartwarming dynamic duo than Pig and Mouse! Join Pig as he learns how to turn his “what if” worries from anxiety to optimism, all with the help of his loving friend Mouse.
Mouse has never had a friend quite like Pig. Pig is so incredibly kind, fabulously fun, but he also has a big secret—he’s a tremendous worrier!
When Pig gets the brilliant idea to throw a party for Mouse and their friends, he can’t help but think of everything that could possibly go wrong. After all, what if a lion eats all the invitations? What if nobody comes? Or worse, what if everyone comes and has an awful time? In this adorable story, Linzie Hunter’s charming, bright illustrations pair perfectly with her sweet and funny story about friendship and the endless wonder of “what if” that readers of all ages can relate to. This picture book is a great conversation starter in the home or classroom.
REVIEW:What If, Pig? was absolutely magnificent! I loved this story and could relate to Pig so much.
I love how effortlessly the book demonstrates and emphasizes the idea that everyone is fighting some silent battle you know nothing about. For Pig, this is true. On the outside, Pig is kind, fun, generous, and well-liked by others. But on the inside, he worries a lot. “What ifs” plague his mind in an endless spiral.
I like how the book encourages readers to open up about whatever’s bothering them. That they’re not alone and that it’s okay to not be okay. That they are not less than because of their feelings. And I love how Pig’s friend, Mouse, helps Pig turn negative “what ifs” into positive ones to see the bigger, brighter picture.
I adore the illustrations! They’re so cute and precious and colorful. I love how the author transforms the text and expresses the story’s main idea through thoughtful images and precise word choice with each “what if” question posed.
This book felt like a warm hug. It’s the perfect addition to any personal or classroom library and a great conversation starter. Such a lovable, empathetic read!
Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy Series: Maya and the Rising Dark Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐☆ Recommend to Others?: Yes
ABOUT: The threat from The Dark is far from over. Twelve-year-old Maya knows this. After crossing the veil between the two worlds, saving her father, and narrowly escaping the sinister clutches of the Lord of Shadows, tensions between the human world and The Dark are higher than ever. And even worse, Maya’s orisha powers as a godling are out of control.
Now a guardian in training, Maya spends her days patching up veils with her father and cleaning up near-disasters like baby wormholes that her erratic powers create. But when Maya and her friends discover that something went terribly wrong during their journey to bring her father back to the human world, they are forced to return to The Dark and restore what they left behind, the one thing keeping the veil from falling: her father’s soul.
The Lord of Shadows is mobilizing his forces for an all-out war against the human world. And this time, Maya and her friends will need all the help they can get. Even if that means teaming up with their greatest enemies, the darkbringers.
REVIEW: In Maya and the Return of the Godlings, the stakes are higher, but that doesn’t stop Maya and her friends from braving The Dark once more to find her father’s soul and prevent the Lord of Shadows from entering the human world in order to destroy it. There are a lot of problems to deal with all at once.
Maya proves once more how brave she is, but I felt in this sequel she was more reckless in a not so appealing way. I was on board with Maya wanting to go back to The Dark instead of waiting three months for backup to arrive. And I also get her wanting to prove how capable of a guardian she could be so that her father doesn’t have to work alone repairing veils anymore. But I thought she could have made better choices in how she would accomplish that. For example, there was one scene that – while not entirely her fault – resulted in (probably) million of dollars in damages and someone could have gotten seriously injured or killed.
I do like that Frankie and Eli get a chance to really shine and demonstrate how much they’ve improved with using their godling powers. I liked that we’re introduced to a few new characters with the potential to really shake up the story.
And I liked that we get more backstory of what happened before Maya’s dad created the veil and the opinions about human-darkbringer-orisha associations from all sides. Having these POVs, especially with the possibility of another war brewing – increased my investment in the story. All of the revelations throughout really brought home what could be lost if the Lord of Shadows and his army isn’t stopped.
The pacing of the story threw me off at times because something would begin and then stop, seemingly unfinished, in random places and then sometimes never fully addressed again. But I do like the potential these new storylines had/will have. Just wish certain things had a fuller end-for-now, like about Frankie and her biological mom.
The story is heading in a great direction. The author built up the story and got it to a good place for a showdown to happen in book 3, Maya and the Lord of Shadows. I can’t wait for its release!
Lastly, I am loving the cover art for this series. All three are stunning and colorful and pretty! Strength exudes from them that you can’t help but be drawn in by. This book’s jacket illustration was done by Geneva Bowers and the jacket design was done by Andrea Miller.