Bookish Memes Top 10 Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: 2021 Releases I Was Excited to Read But Didn’t Get

Top Ten Tuesday blog post

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme originally created by The Broke and the Bookish, but is now run by That Artsy Reader Girl.

Which 2021 releases were you so excited to read but still haven’t gotten to yet?

Last year I read more new releases than any other year of blogging about books. And with a constantly changing mood-based tbr, it’s not surprising that there were an ample amount that I didn’t get to even though I was eager to read.

My Top 10 includes:

1. Steelstriker by Marie Lu

2. Maya and the Return of the Godlings by Rena Barron

3. One Jar of Magic by Corey Ann Haydu

4. Fairytales from Verania by TJ Klune

5. Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim

6. Rise Up from the Embers by Sara Raasch & Kristin Simmons

7. A Pack of Storms and Stars by Olivia Wildenstein

8. Ten Thousand Tries by Amy Makechnie

9. The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon

10. The Alpha Protocol by Duncan M. Hamilton

I’m trying to rectify this bookish travesty and have some of these on my current Winter TBR, which is basically made up of books I didn’t get to last year. I am determined to see this through, especially since I own much of these titles.

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ARCs Book Reviews

ARC Review: You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao

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Thank you to Wednesday Books and NetGalley for the eARC to read and review! You’ve Reached Sam is out now!

Image via NetGalley

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary Romance, Magical Realism
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: If I Stay meets Your Name in Dustin Thao’s You’ve Reached Sam, a heartfelt novel about love and loss and what it means to say goodbye.

How do you move forward when everything you love in on the line?

Seventeen-year-old Julie has her future all planned out—move out of her small town with her boyfriend Sam, attend college in the city, spend a summer in Japan. But then Sam dies. And everything changes. Desperate to hear his voice one more time, Julie calls Sam’s cellphone just to listen to his voicemail. And Sam picks up the phone.

What would you do if you had a second chance at goodbye?

Filled with a diverse cast of characters, the heartache of first love and loss, and the kind of friends that can get you through anything, plus a touch of magic, You’ve Reached Sam will make an instant connection with anyone looking for a big emotional romance of a read.


My Review: An astonishing story! I really enjoyed You’ve Reached Sam.

Julie is having a difficult time coping with the recent death of her boyfriend, Sam. Miraculously, when she calls Sam’s phone number, he answers. They have an envious second chance to reconnect and say goodbye, but now Julie struggles even more to let go and live.

Readers will easily be able to connect with this story and empathize with what the characters are experiencing. Not only are characters grieving over Sam but also dealing with the stress of their last year of high school.

There are a myriad of reactions to Sam’s death. Angry, guilty, sad, lost, barely staying afloat. Grief brings some together and tears others apart, as seen between Julie and Sam’s cousin, Mika, and his best friend, Oliver.

I like the fantasy element of the story, of Julie being able to talk to Sam through their phones. It’s what initially piqued my interest in this story. There’s lots of questions about how this is possible, and I like how that’s kept open ended. It also makes sense for them to reconnect by phone based on events prior to the story’s beginning. Julie has to keep this a secret because there are certain (sometimes vague) rules involved and telling someone else could end their connection for good.

I love Sam’s character and appreciated him more and more as the story progressed. In life, Sam was friendly, compassionate and outgoing. He and Julie had a really strong bond. How they met was so adorable; Sam is such a romantic. In death, Sam is still that same kind, caring, loving person, looking out for the ones he left behind but also trying to grapple with being dead. Knowing his hopes and dreams, it’s especially tragic Sam died so young.

The goodbye when it finally came was bittersweet, but really well done by the author. Thao built the story up to a satisfying climatic moment.

You’ve Reached Sam is beautiful, heartbreaking, and feelings. The title and cover art are perfect! Julie and Sam’s relationship was great. I’m glad there were chapters that took place in the past so we could really see the depth of their love.

I highly recommend You’ve Reached Sam. It’s an all around lovely and emotional read.

ARCs Blog Tours Book Reviews

[BLOG TOUR] ARC Review: You Can Go Your Own Way by Eric Smith

Fall 2021 Inkyard Press YA Blog Tours banner

Thank you to Inkyard Press and NetGalley for the eARC to read and review! You Can Go Your Own Way is out now.

Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐☆
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: No one ever said love would be easy…but did they mention it would be freezing?

Adam Stillwater is in over his head. At least, that’s what his best friend would say. And his mom. And the guy who runs the hardware store down the street. But this pinball arcade is the only piece of his dad that Adam has left, and he’s determined to protect it from Philadelphia’s newest tech mogul, who wants to turn it into another one of his cold, lifeless gaming cafés.

Whitney Mitchell doesn’t know how she got here. Her parents split up. Her boyfriend dumped her. Her friends seem to have changed overnight. And now she’s spending her senior year running social media for her dad’s chain of super successful gaming cafés—which mostly consists of trading insults with that decrepit old pinball arcade across town.

But when a huge snowstorm hits, Adam and Whitney suddenly find themselves trapped inside the arcade. Cut off from their families, their worlds, and their responsibilities, the tension between them seems to melt away, leaving something else in its place. But what happens when the storm stops?


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You Can Go Your Own Way is a heartwarming story about growing up, moving on, community, and family.

Adam and Whitney used to be close friends until Adam’s father passed away, causing a rift forming in their relationship. Now, Adam struggles to hold on to his father’s memory by keeping Old City Pinball financially afloat and out of the hands of big tech business. Whitney is busy running the social media for her father’s chain of eSports cafes in the hopes of getting her father’s attention (to no avail). Now they’re sworn enemies.

I liked that the story alternates between Adam and Whitney’s pov, though this seemed more like Whitney’s story than Adam’s. Her journey seemed fuller and hectic, more in depth. Adam’s journey was good, kind of deep but in a smaller, quieter way. You really feel for both characters because it seems like they’re fighting a losing battle.

Their constant bickering over social media doesn’t help either of them. I didn’t like those exchanges because they were using business accounts to argue or talk about personal stuff. Their petty, immature, and unprofessional behavior was (for me) hard to get past. It wasn’t all bickering. There were some funny exchanges with other accounts.

I liked that the story takes place in Philadelphia and the strong sense of community between all the small businesses. It gave the story a homey, cozy atmosphere.

I also liked the excerpts from The Art and Zen of Pinball Repair by James Watts (fictional book) that Adam studies because of how it juxtaposes pinball machines and real life situations. Those quotes enhanced the community and family values depicted within the story.

You Can Go Your Own Way was so wholesome and I enjoyed how much Adam and Whitney grew together and along their personal journeys.

Photo of Eric Smith taken by Hannah Siddiqui
© Hannah Siddiqui


ERIC SMTIH is an author and literary agent from Elizabeth, New Jersey. When he isn’t working on other people’s books, sometimes he tries to write his own. He enjoys pop punk, video games, and crying during every movie. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife and best friend, Nena, and their son, Langston.

Author website:
Twitter: @ericsmithrocks
Instagram: @ericsmithrocks


ISBN: 978-1335405685
Inkyard Press
Teen & Young Adult; Romance
$18.99 / $23.99 CAN
336 Pages

BUY LINKS: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books a Million | IndieBound | | AppleBooks | Google Play

More by Eric Smith

Don’t Read the Comments

ARCs Blog Tours Book Reviews

[BLOG TOUR] ARC Review: Trashlands by Alison Stine

Trashlands by Alison Stine MIRA blog tour banner.

Thank you to MIRA and NetGalley for the eARC to read and review! Trashlands is out now!

The cover of Trashlands in blue and purple showing a school bus on a road.

Genre: Speculative Cli-fi
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: A resonant, visionary novel about the power of art and the sacrifices we are willing to make for the ones we love.

A few generations from now, the coastlines of the continent have been redrawn by floods and tides. Global powers have agreed to not produce any new plastics, and what is left has become valuable: garbage is currency.

In the region-wide junkyard that Appalachia has become, Coral is a “plucker,” pulling plastic from the rivers and woods. She’s stuck in Trashlands, a dump named for the strip club at its edge, where the local women dance for an endless loop of strangers and the club’s violent owner rules as unofficial mayor.

Amid the polluted landscape, Coral works desperately to save up enough to rescue her child from the recycling factories, where he is forced to work. In her stolen free hours, she does something that seems impossible in this place: Coral makes art.

When a reporter from a struggling city on the coast arrives in Trashlands, Coral is presented with an opportunity to change her life. But is it possible to choose a future for herself?

Told in shifting perspectives, Trashlands is a beautifully drawn and wildly imaginative tale of a parent’s journey, a story of community and humanity in a changed world.


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Trashlands is an engaging novel reflecting a likely future of our world through haunting and lush details.

Through multiple POVs comes a story of love and sacrifice, estrangement and community, living and surviving, art and purpose. And plastic has become the currency that rules all.

I read this book in quiet fascination, riveted. Existing alongside the complex, deeply scarred residents of Trashlands as they worked and scavenged day in and day out in order to survive.

The setting has its own dismal magnetism. Trashlands is the name of the strip club and the surrounding area. It’s located in Scrappalachia (the Appalachians in North America), specifically the Ohio region for most of the story. Some cities (The Els) survived the floods, fire, storms and pollution. City life is a tenuous illusion of normalcy, vastly different from that of Trashlands where homes are made with garbage, bugs are a cuisine, and women and children are the most vulnerable. The proverb, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” rings true in this forever-changed world. People have had to get creative in how to use and reuse plastic, clothing, medicine, and more.

As I got to know the characters, I grew to care deeply about them. For Coral, doing all she can (giving all she can) to one day buy back the son she lost. For Foxglove, a dance at the club, trying to exist (to cope) in a body not fully her own. For Trillium, distancing himself from the pain of the past through his work as a tattoo artist. To name a few. The author has constructed a cast of dynamic and likable characters with heartrending stories. I liked that we got a range of memories/perspectives of those who remember life before the floods and those born into this new life.

I have never read speculative fiction or climate fiction before, so I wasn’t sure if I would like the story. But I was pleasantly surprised by how invested I was with what was going on. Trashlands was a really good read. There’s a lot to say and think about. The falling action was particularly touching after going through so much with the characters, experiencing the struggles of their world, and reliving their darkest memories. I highly recommend this story!

Alison Stine's author photo.ABOUT THE AUTHOR

ALISON STINE is an award-winning poet and author. Recipient of an Individual Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and an Ohio Arts Council grant, she was a Wallace Stegner Fellow and received the Studs Terkel Award for Media and Journalism. She works as a freelance reporter with The New York Times, writes for The Washington Post, The Atlantic, The Guardian, 100 Days in Appalachia, ELLE, The Kenyon Review, and others, and has been a storyteller on The Moth. After living in Appalachian Ohio for many years, she now lives and writes in Colorado with her partner, her son, and a small orange cat.

Author Website:
Twitter: @AlisonStine
Instagram: @alistinewrites


ISBN: 9780778311270
Publication Date: October 26, 2021
Publisher: MIRA Books

BUY LINKS: BookShop.orgHarlequin | Barnes & Noble | Amazon | Books-A-Million | Powell’s

A picture of the cover of Trashlands with a quote from Good Housekeeping.

ARCs Book Reviews

ARC Review: Home for a Cowboy Christmas by Donna Grant

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Thank you to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for the eARC to read and review! Home for a Cowboy Christmas is set to be published October 26, 2021.

Image via NetGalley

Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐☆
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: Tis the season—for everyone except Emmy Garrett. She’s on the run after witnessing a crime. But when it becomes clear that trouble will continue following her, the US Marshal in charge takes her somewhere no one will think to look–Montana. Not only is Emmy in a new place for her protection, but now, she’s stuck with a handsome cowboy as her bodyguard…and she wants to do more than kiss him under the mistletoe.

Dwight Reynolds left behind his old career, but it’s still in his blood. When an old friend calls in a favor, Dwight opens his home to a woman on the run. He tries to keep his distance, but there’s something about Emmy he can’t resist. She stokes his passion and turns his cold nights into warm ones. When danger shows up looking for Emmy, Dwight risks everything to keep her safe.


My Review: Home for a Cowboy Christmas was an enjoyable, fast-paced, sugary-sweet, suspenseful, and thrilling contemporary romance.

After witnessing a murder and nearly being killed while in the witness protection program, Emmy Garrett now finds herself hiding and in the care of ranch owner Dwight Reynolds. On the one hand, someone wants her dead so she can’t testify. She isn’t trying to get her hopes up that she’ll live long enough to do so. Meanwhile, she’s also dealing with PTSD symptoms. On the other hand, both Emmy and Dwight find themselves unexpectedly drawn to each other.

It’s brave of Emmy to want to testify at all despite how turbulent her experience has been so far in the witness protection program. She tries her best to keep calm and carry on, but every once in a while feels intense fear and anxiety. That is strength to admire. Luckily, Emmy is able to find safety and comfort in Dwight and his adorable and intelligent dog, Sam.

Having served in the military, the FBI, and Homeland Security, Dwight knows what he’s up against, is very capable of handling whoever after Emmy, and can empathize with the mental trauma she is going through. He’s so protective of and smitten with her from the start that I’m surprised with how long it took them to share their first kiss. Although Emmy too struggles not to get too close or attached since staying with Dwight is temporary, his kindness and patience allowed her to process things at her own pace, which was very helpful. I also like how close Dwight is with his sister, Victoria, and his ranch employees.

The story progressed quickly but not much so that it felt like something was missing or incomplete. Every moment counted and connected. There was an abundance of action, humor, and tenderness. The climax was absorbing, oh my goodness! I had no idea what to expect. Things tied up nicely in the end, but I was sad that the story was over.

Home for a Cowboy Christmas was a great romance read and just another reason why I love Donna Grant’s books.

More by Donna Grant

Heart of Texas
A Cowboy Like You (#4)
Looking For A Cowboy (#5)
A Cowboy Kind of Love (#6)

Dark Alpha’s Awakening (#7)
Dark Alpha’s Redemption (#8)
Dark Alpha’s Temptation (#9)

A Dark Kings Novel
Fever (#16)
Flame (#17)

Book Reviews

Book Review: Blade of Secrets by Tricia Levenseller

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Image via Goodreads

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy, Mental Health
Series: Bladesmith #1
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐☆
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: Eighteen-year-old Ziva prefers metal to people. She spends her days tucked away in her forge, safe from society and the anxiety it causes her, using her magical gift to craft unique weapons imbued with power.

Then Ziva receives a commission from a powerful warlord, and the result is a sword capable of stealing its victims’ secrets. A sword that can cut far deeper than the length of its blade. A sword with the strength to topple kingdoms. When Ziva learns of the warlord’s intentions to use the weapon to enslave all the world under her rule, she takes her sister and flees.

Joined by a distractingly handsome mercenary and a young scholar with extensive knowledge of the world’s known magics, Ziva and her sister set out on a quest to keep the sword safe until they can find a worthy wielder or a way to destroy it entirely.


My Review: I liked Blade of Secrets, but not as much as I thought I would. The cover is gorgeous, I felt connected to its main character, and the plot was original. I liked the amusing banter, the beautiful sisterly love, cute-as-can-be romance, and the loads of action.

Ziva I could empathize with her social anxiety, which was authentically portrayed. People-ing is hard for some, easier for others. Ziva’s awkwardness, her inability to converse, and that her sister, Temra, often has to do the talking for her, tends to be misunderstood.

I liked Ziva’s magical abilities, how she imbues anything she makes with magic. Ziva stands out as unique among other overpowered MCs I know of. However, I’m unable to suspend my disbelief towards some of her naivety about the weapons she makes. She understands the impact the commissioned sword would have on the world in the wrong hands, but she still seems…surprised? I don’t know. I can’t help questioning her hopes/goal for past weapons made.

Fortunately, this does make for a suspenseful conflict with a seemingly low success rate. The threat level was significantly high throughout the book. The warlord, Kymora Avedin, is rich, powerful, well-known, and a superior fighter. How will Ziva and company succeed in keeping the sword from the warlord’s clutches? It’s a conundrum that’ll leave you on the edge of your seat.

Ziva and Temra’s sisterly bond is so strong. They have each other’s back and love deeply. Ziva is extremely protective of her little sister who is all she has left in the world. Everything Ziva does is for Temra. Their close bond was my favorite part of the book.

I am all for Ziva’s budding romance with Kellyn. There were just too many setbacks on Ziva’s end. I get why but I just wanted them to move forward. They belong together, I just know it!

Kellyn gets Ziva and her anxiety when no one else but her sister ever did. He’s kind, patient, but real. His backstory was really nice and I like what his presence does to the plot. His quips with Petrik, another charming member of the group, livened things up during super tense situations. Kellyn is very underrated by the other characters that I don’t blame him one bit for feeling annoyed and angry when all he’s been is fair and generous, keeping up his end of the deal as a hired sword.

I have mixed feelings about the ending. After a tough, hard-fought battle, I didn’t expect things to take another drastic turn. I guess it’s fine and leaves things on an emotional and uncertain high.

Blade of Secrets is full of surprises, secrets, betrayals, and revelations. Despite my misgivings, Ziva, Temra, Kellyn, and Petrik are an interesting squad whose story-line I want to see through. I want to read more of whatever Levenseller writes next.

More by Tricia Levenseller

Warrior of the Wild

ARCs Book Reviews

ARC Review: Oddball by Sarah Andersen

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Thank you to Andrews McMeel Publishing and NetGalley for the eARC to read and review! Oddball is set to be released November 30, 2021.

Image via NetGalley

Genre: Graphic Novel, Humor
Series: Sarah’s Scribbles #4
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐☆☆
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: The fourth book in the enormously popular graphic novel series, the latest collection of Sarah’s Scribbles comics explores the evils of procrastination, the trials of the creative process, the cuteness of kittens, and the beauty of not caring about your appearance as much as you did when you were younger. When it comes to humorous illustrations of the awkwardness and hilarity of millennial life, Sarah’s Scribbles is without peer.


My Review: This was another fun and relatable graphic novel by Sara Andersen. As always, the illustrations were creative, expressive, and delightful in Andersen’s signature art style. Oddball is full of many brief relatable moments to enjoy and think further on. I do wish those had been longer or that there was something to bridge each mini story so that it didn’t feel random at times. My favorite comics were all the ones that involved cats. Oddball was a good read that I read quickly in one sitting.

More by Sarah Andersen

Sarah’s Scribbles
Adulthood Is A Myth (#1)
Big Mushy Happy Lump (#2)
Herding Cats (#3)

ARCs Book Reviews

ARC Review: Carefree Black Girls: A Celebration of Black Women in Popular Culture by Zeba Blay

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Thank you St. Martin’s Griffin and NetGalley for the eARC to read and review! Carefree Black Girls is set to be released October 19, 2021.

Image via NetGalley

Genre: Nonfiction, Essays
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐☆
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: An empowering and celebratory portrait of Black women—from Josephine Baker to Aunt Viv to Cardi B.

In 2013, film and culture critic Zeba Blay was one of the first people to coin the viral term #carefreeblackgirls on Twitter. As she says, it was “a way to carve out a space of celebration and freedom for Black women online.”

In this collection of essays, Carefree Black Girls, Blay expands on this initial idea by delving into the work and lasting achievements of influential Black women in American culture–writers, artists, actresses, dancers, hip-hop stars–whose contributions often come in the face of bigotry, misogyny, and stereotypes. Blay celebrates the strength and fortitude of these Black women, while also examining the many stereotypes and rigid identities that have clung to them. In writing that is both luminous and sharp, expansive and intimate, Blay seeks a path forward to a culture and society in which Black women and their art are appreciated and celebrated.


My Review: Nonfiction is a genre way outside my comfort zone. Essays I am familiar with, but pop culture…uh, not so much.

I’ve never reviewed a collection of essays before so bear with me while I try to compile my thoughts into something organized and coherent.

Carefree Black Girls is comprised of an introduction and 8 essays:

  • Body: The historical perception and misuse of Black women’s bodies and its negative, harmful impact.
  • She’s A Freak: The regulation of Black women’s bodies and their sexuality. The backlash over any agency exerted that goes against those regulations.
    Man, This Shit Is Draining: Black women don’t have the freedom to express their anger with repercussions compared to others who do the same or worse.
  • Extra Black: Colorism and its correlation to beauty, desirability, and marketability of lighter skin tones versus darker skin tones, such as in Hollywood castings.
  • #Cardibissoproblematic: The author’s feelings about Cardi B, her fame, her place in pop culture, her words and actions, and her feud with Nicki Minaj.
  • Girlhood: The images of Black women that left an impression on the author growing up versus what she knows now of the realities those images represented. The author’s feelings of recognition towards Mel B and how Mel B navigated spaces not meant for people like her.
  • Strong Black Lead: Black women and mental health as well as the author’s struggles with her own mental health. (CW: anxiety, depression, suicide – 24/7 resources below)
  • Free of Cares: What does it mean for Black women to be carefree? and the concept of freedom.

These were very well-written essays with enviable poise, details, structure, clarity, and sureness that I wish I’d had even a speck of whenever I had to write essays in school. Each essay focused on an idea that was heavily reinforced by a ton of source material – interviews, books, essays, artwork, movies, songs lyrics, tweets, Instagram stories, speeches, and so much more. Even when I didn’t know what the author was referencing – like with some Twitter happenings or much of the Cardi B essay – I could still more or less grasp the point she was trying to make. She makes a lot of compelling arguments and states the sad but real truths that tend to be ignored, glossed over or outright dismissed.

Carefree Black Girls is raw and thought-provoking. It discussed truths about the struggles and hardships Black women are still subjected. I liked how the author wove in her own experiences – as hard as some of those still are to talk about – to illustrate her points. Not always as the 100% proof but as personal examples and perspective of how she came to certain conclusions.

The book is very engaging. I felt various emotions while reading it. For me, there were several moments of retrospection and introspection. Parts of others I saw myself in. But there also were a few parts I wasn’t too sure about or disagreed with to varying degrees.

Carefree Black Girls had a solid structure, was vividly detailed, and had a strong voice. The topics were relevant to the past, present, and future of our world and who we are as people. Overall, a good read.

24/7 Support That’s Here For You

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Crisis Text Line
US and Canada – Text HOME to 741741
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National Alliance On Mental Illness
NAMI Helpline – Call 800-950-NAMI
Or in a crisis, text “NAMI” to 741741

Bookish Memes Six for Sunday

Six for Sunday: 2021 Books I Will Reread (someday!)

Six for Sunday is a weekly blog post by Steph @ A Little But A Lot where you share 6 books that to share to go with that Sunday’s prompt. To learn more, click here.

Happy Sunday!

Which 2021 book releases do you want to reread?

Today’s Six for Sunday prompt is 2021 Books You Could/Will Reread.

I have a long list of books I want to reread, but it’s hard to find time for them (why I included “someday” in the title!). I enjoy a good reread and tend to choose books that hold a special meaning for me.

Of all the 2021 releases I’ve read so far, these six 5-star rereads I would want to reread (someday):

Amari and the Night Brothers by B. B. Alston

Be Dazzled by Ryan La Sala


Float Plan by Trish Doller

The Right Side of Reckless by Whitney D. Grandison


Set to Music by Negeen Papehn

Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune


Honorable Mentions!: Unplugged by Gordon Korman & Thanks A Lot, Universe by Chad Lucas

If interested, here are links to my reviews for each book mentioned:

Amari and the Night Brothers
Be Dazzled
Float Plan
The Right Side of Reckless
Set to Music
Thanks A Lot, Universe
Under the Whispering Door

As Always, Happy Reading!!!

CONNECT WITH ME | Goodreads | Instagram

ARCs Book Reviews

ARC Review: All Night Long with a Cowboy by Caitlin Crews

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for the eARC to read and review! All Night Long with a Cowboy releases August 24, 2021.

Image via NetGalley

Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance
Series: Kittredge Ranch #2
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Recommend to Others?: Yes

ABOUT: If you play with fire…

One of the most notorious cowboys in Cold River, Jensen Kittredge always has willing women with sweet smiles vying for a place in his bed. So when the prissy high school librarian sidles up to him in the most disreputable bar in town with a scowl on her face, he has no idea what to make of it. Much less the attraction he feels toward the bespectacled creature who wants something from him… but not that. Yet.

Someone gets burned…

Harriett Barnett doesn’t care for dens of iniquity— or the insolent cowboy she certainly shouldn’t find attractive. But one of her students needs her help, and if she needs to corral the infamous Jensen to save him, she will. Trouble is, the town’s favorite Kittredge brother is a lot more than she bargained for. Harriett’s happy little life is orderly and neat, just how she likes it—until Jensen blows it all apart with his particular brand of addictive passion. Can a modern-day schoolmarm really tame the wildest cowboy in town? Or is Harriet headed for a terrible fall?


My Review: All Night Long with a Cowboy was an amazing story of perception versus reality, self-worth, and letting go of the past.

Harriet is a breath of fresh air who loves reading, learning and cats. Deemed odd by societal standards of “normal,” Harriet has struggled all her life with being on par with her peers until one day she decided that it wasn’t worth it (or practical). For instance, her choice of attire is often scrutinized as geriatric for someone her age, but Harriet dresses for comfort, not appearances. She’s a practical woman who grew up having a lot of freedom and independence (as long as she could make a sound argument to her academia parents).

And then there’s Jensen, the second eldest Kittredge son who is known for being popular, fun-loving, and easy-going. He loves horses, ranching and the company of women (kept strictly at arms length!). But there’s more to Jensen than he publicly allows to be seen. He’s spent years crafting and perfecting a persona until it’s become second nature. Low expectations, high reward. The actual reason for his persona was very surprising.

In the small town of Cold River, Colorado, people have assumptions about certain characters that don’t come close to the depth of who they are as a person. Harriet is seen as undesirable or someone to feel sorry for because of the way she thinks, speaks and dresses. Jensen is a clown and kind of a heartbreaker who’s been with a lot of women and isn’t serious. A secondary character, Aidan Hall, is a teenager genetically destined to be a delinquent because of the disreputable family he was born into. I understood but disliked the town’s blanket assumptions about members of the Hall family because it traps kids like Aidan in a vicious cycle of expected bad behavior.

Harriet and Jensen are my new favorite fictional couple. I loved their unexpected attraction and the progression of their relationship. It was sweet and slow building blocks, a connection on a far deeper level than just sexual intimacy. Harriet’s frankness breaks through his carefully constructed persona. Right away, she sees him for him and not what he’s typically perceived as. Likewise, Jensen makes Harriet consider things she thought she’d long ago set aside as unnecessary or not for her. They both had to reexamine their own self-worth and decide if what they truly want is worth the risk of getting hurt or even if they’re deserving of a happily ever after at all.

How Harriet and Jensen come to be together made this book a 5-star read for me. The growth of their relationship and as individuals was enthralling. The story wrapped up nicely with a big beautiful bow. Loved it!

More by Caitlin Crews

Kittredge Ranch
Secret Nights with a Cowboy (#1)