Review: Match Made in Manhattan by Amanda Stauffer

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

After two intense, dead-end relationships, serial monogamist Alison finds herself confused, lonely, and drastically out of touch with the world of modern dating. Refusing to wallow, she signs up for a popular dating app and resolves to remain open-minded and optimistic as she explores the New York City singles’ scene. With the click of a button, her adventures begin: On one date, she’s dumped before the first kiss; on another, she dons full HAZMAT gear; she meets a tattooed folk singer turned investment banker, an undercover agent who tracks illegal exotic animals, and dozens of other colorful, captivating personalities.

Giving them each her signature “pants speech”–her pants aren’t coming off unless she has a real connection with someone–she desperately wants to push past the awkward small-talk phase to find true love, but finding “the one” is starting to feel impossible. That is, until she meets Luke, who is sophisticated, funny, and not to mention, hot. Alison finds herself falling for Luke harder than any guy she’s dated and finally letting her walls down, but will he stick around or move on to his next match?

Match Made in Manhattan is a fast-paced, contemporary story about the struggles of dating in the digital age. Replete with online profiles, witty dialogue, and a super-supportive group of female friends, this all-too-real and relatable debut novel will have readers laughing, crying, and rooting for Alison all the way to the end.

I received a copy of this title via the author/publisher. This does not impact my review.

Match Made in Manhattan will be available January 23, 2018. 

A fun and quirky story full of the ups and downs of online dating. Match Made in Manhattan was an entertaining and often addicting read.

The story follows Allison, a newly single twenty-something New Yorker, over the course of a year as she gives online dating a try. Though I thought she sometimes came across a little shallow, I did find her to be a likable character. She was really open to new things and treated everyone kindly. I also liked her “pants speech.” The plot of the book could have easily transitioned into erotica, but Allison’s belief that physical intimacy should be saved for committed relationships was one I appreciated, even though it was a deal breaker for some of the guys she met on Match.

The book almost read as an anthology. The chapters were divided by who Allison’s date was. Depending on the length of the relationship some chapters were very short and some were very long (and some of the men got more than one chapter). I did have a bit of trouble keeping some of the guys straight if Allison referenced them later, but for the most part I thought this format worked.

There are a few reasons why I can’t quite give this book 4 stars, though. As I mentioned above, it often read more of an anthology than a standard Contemporary and I felt there was just something missing to tie everything together. But Stephanie, THE DATING ties everything together! Well, yes, but other than an on-going storyline with Allison’s job that lasted the length of the novel, almost everything else in the chapters felt pretty self-contained. It felt just a little bit choppy to me at times and I would’ve liked to have seen another side plot or two to run throughout the story. Also, one of my pet peeves is when things mentioned in the synopsis are not included in the book (though I know this is not the author’s fault) and I do not recall there every being a date in a HAZMAT suit.

Overall, I did really enjoy reading Match Made in Manhattan. The writing was humorous and I found myself laughing often. I also found the writing to often be addictive and there were many parts where I did not want to put it down. Though I’ve never online dated myself, I think this is definitely a must read for anyone who has. I’m looking forward to reading more from Stauffer in the future.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

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Review: The Isaac Project by Sarah Monzon

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Becky Sawyer’s life unravels in a single day. Not only does she catch her boyfriend, the man she hoped to marry, lip-locked with another woman, she also receives the gut-wrenching news that her grandfather, the man who raised her, is dying. His last wish? To see her happily married. Heartbroken, Becky seeks inspiration in the pages of the Holy Scriptures. And finds it in the story of Isaac and Rebekah.

If love couldn’t keep his parents together, Luke Masterson wonders what will make a marriage last. He decides to steer clear of all women—especially crazy ones like Becky Sawyer, who employs a friend to find her a husband. But when he feels the dogged promptings of the Holy Spirit to move across the country and marry a complete stranger, it seems love has little to do with it anyway.

With commitment their only foundation, and love constantly thwarted, can an arranged marriage find happiness in the twenty-first century?

I saw a really glowing review on The Isaac Project a few years back and have been wanting to read it ever since. It recently was offered for free on a Kindle deal and I snatched it up. Unfortunately, it fell far short of my expectations.

I loved the concept of the book. Based on the story of Isaac and Rebekah in the Bible (Genesis 24, for those interested), Becky asks her best friend to arrange a marriage for her so her dying grandfather can see her settled before he passes away. If you’re a reader that says “religion ruins a book” for you, then this is definitely not for you. The characters’ Christian faith is prevalent throughout the book. While I did like that aspect, it was a little heavy handed at times. I also found Becky to be really unlikable for the most part. She’s the one who asked for the arranged marriage and then she treated Luke terribly the majority of the time. Her refusal to communicate with him despite his multiple attempts to engage her drove me crazy

I wasn’t super impressed with the writing style. Monzon is apparently a big fan of similes and used them to describe pretty much everything. I should have made better notes of them, but one that stands out was as a whole paragraphs of a voice being compared to a “river in autumn” that was kind of ridiculous.

Overall, The Isaac Project had a great concept, but did not live up to it’s potential. The side plot dealing with Becky’s business felt thrown in and not very well developed, the imagery of the writing was way too forced, and the main character was pretty unlikable. I did enjoy Luke and his faith and the passage of cheesy Christian pick up lines (“You know why Solomon had so many wives? Because he never met you. Is your name Faith? Because you are the substance of things I’ve hoped for. Last night I was reading in the book of Numbers and I realized I didn’t have yours.”). You might enjoy this if you’re a fan of arranged marriages and Christian Fiction, but I would suggest waiting for it to go on sale again.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 2.5 Stars

Review: The Wall of Winnipeg and Me by Marianna Zapata

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Vanessa Mazur knows she’s doing the right thing. She shouldn’t feel bad for quitting. Being an assistant/housekeeper/fairy godmother to the top defensive end in the National Football Organization was always supposed to be temporary. She has plans and none of them include washing extra-large underwear longer than necessary.

But when Aiden Graves shows up at her door wanting her to come back, she’s beyond shocked.

For two years, the man known as The Wall of Winnipeg couldn’t find it in him to tell her good morning or congratulate her on her birthday. Now? He’s asking for the unthinkable.

What do you say to the man who is used to getting everything he wants?

The hype was strong with this one. So strong that I finally broke down and spent some money (well, gift card credit, let’s not get crazy) to buy it. While I did end up enjoying it, it didn’t quite live up to the hype for me.

I’m a fan of a good slow burn romance and that’s what The Wall of Winnipeg and Me seems to be known for. However, I was not quite prepared for how sloooooow paced the whole story was. The chapters were pretty long, as well. I thought that it was really over-written for the most part. I think a little more editing could have cut the length of the book and the repetitiveness, as well as improved the pace. Despite those issues, though, the writing did drag me into the story pretty quickly and I felt like I really got to know the characters.

I went back and forth on how I felt about Vanessa. Sometimes I just didn’t understand how she reacted to things and she frustrated me. She was a little overdramatic at times, but she was pretty likable overall. Aiden also frustrated me for a big portion of the book. I am not a talkative or well-spoken person by any means, but he barely had any dialogue for about the first 20% of the story and I had no idea how I would end up getting to know him at all, let alone like him. Thankfully, he opens up as the story goes on and I did end up really liking him.

Overall, I enjoyed The Wall of Winnipeg and Me, though the long chapters and very slow pace were a struggle for me at times. I liked the fake relationship/marriage of convenience angle, even if it was missing a lot of the elements I expect to see with those. I ended up loving it once it got to about the last third or so of the book (minus the graphic scene it saved for the end) and that is why I’m bumping my rating up from what I was originally going to give it. While I wasn’t completely blown away by this like so many others were, I think it’s one that I will probably read again in the future.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Love, Life, and the List by Kasie West

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Everyone knows Abby Turner is in love with her best friend, Cooper Wells. Including Cooper Wells. But despite what people tell her, it doesn’t affect their friendship. And she’s practically over it, anyway. What she really can’t get over is when her boss at the local museum tells her that her paintings lack heart.

Art is Abby’s passion and she hopes her future as well. She is determined to change his mind and earn her way into the upcoming exhibit at the gallery. So along with her family’s help, she compiles “The Heart List,” a series of soulstretching experiences that are sure to make her a deeper person and better artist in six weeks or less. When Cooper decides to complete the list along with her, she realizes this list is expanding her heart in more ways than one. Maybe she needs to start another project.

Love, Life, and the List is about a girl who, in an effort to bring more emotional depth to her art, compiles a list of soul-stretching experiences to complete with her best friend—a boy she also happens to be in love with.

This is the first in a set of three standalone books with crossover characters.

I’m very stingy when it comes to spending my money on books, but if there’s one author I don’t hesitate to buy a book from it’s Kasie West. I know her books will always be super cute and make me happy and Love, Life, and the List did not let me down.

I loved how sarcastic Abby was. I loved the banter she had with pretty much every character in the book, but especially her equally sarcastic grandfather. I also found her mother to be a pretty empathetic character. She’s overly anxious and has some agoraphobic tendencies that I relate to all too well. I liked that the book didn’t just include Abby’s growth, but her family’s as well.

I loved the friendship between Abby and Cooper. There was a little while there when I was actually rooting for them to just stay friends and for no romance to really be involved. But, I don’t feel like it’s a spoiler to say there is a romantic Happily Ever After involved and that it was cute and a little bit cheesy and I loved it. I also liked how Abby made a few more friends in the book with Elliot and Lacey.

I wasn’t really sure what I would think of the list plotline. To be honest, it didn’t seem real interesting to me when I read the synopsis, but I ended up liking it. When she gets turned down for an art show because her paintings lack heart, her boss tells her that some more life experience will get her there eventually. She decides to try and speed up the life experience process by making the list. She also includes tasks inspired by people who have qualities she admires. I actually thought this was a really productive way to try and enrich one’s life. I think a lot of us say we want to try to be a better person, but don’t actually come up with ways to do that. I felt like this was a perfect book to read at the end of the year when we all try to come up with resolutions to do better in the future.

Overall, I really enjoyed Love, Life, and the List. It was so cute and I loved the friendship and the banter. It was everything I expect out of a Kasie West book and I definitely recommend it to fans of hers and Contemporary YA.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills

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Synopsis from  Good Reads:

A contemporary novel about a girl whose high school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream leads her to new friends—and maybe even new love.

The day of the last party of the summer, Claudia overhears a conversation she wasn’t supposed to. Now on the wrong side of one of the meanest girls in school, Claudia doesn’t know what to expect when the two are paired up to write a paper—let alone when they’re both forced to try out for the school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

But mandatory participation has its upsides—namely, an unexpected friendship, a boy band obsession, and a guy with the best dimpled smile Claudia’s ever seen. As Claudia’s world starts to expand, she finds that maybe there are some things worth sticking her neck out for.

Few things make me sadder than finishing an Emma Mills books. I always get so invested in the characters that I feel like I could just keep reading about them forever.

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t really think this book sounded that good based on the synopsis. If it was by any other author, I may not have even picked it up. But Mills is one of my favorite YA authors and I have absolutely adored her last two books, so I knew that I would read this book before it even had a title. And just as I expected, I loved this one, too. While there were still a couple things with the plot I didn’t really care for (like the extremely overboard description of the online video game, Battle Quest, which I could not have cared less about), it is very character driven and I loved many of the characters.

Claudia was sarcastic and relatable and I really enjoyed her. I liked her relationship with her family (though they did play a smaller part in the overall story than I was expecting, as compared with Mills’ previous books). I loved her growing friendship with Iris. Iris was a bit of a tough nut to crack and I didn’t care for her for awhile, but she definitely grew on me and was one of my favorite characters by the end. I also did not love Gideon, Claudia’s new love interest, in the beginning. He seemed like the male version of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl (which is not my cup of tea), but I didn’t keep that opinion for long. There was much more to him and I ended up really liking him and his growing relationship with Claudia. I also loved his friendship with his best friend, Noah.

One of my favorite things about this book was the humor. Mills writes with such a subtle, sarcastic sense of humor that is exactly my kind of humor (though I suppose it might not be for everybody). I loved how bantery and fun the dialogue was at times, as well.

Overall, I really enjoyed Foolish Hearts. I loved the humor and the characters and the relationships and the boy band obsession and the romance. This has been one of my most anticipated books of the year and it did not disappoint. I definitely recommend this one to YA fans and can’t wait to read whatever Emma Mills writes next.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Bargaining with the Boss (It Happened One Night #1) by Jennifer Shirk

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Kinsley just wanted to have some fun for a change. Then she wakes up in a stranger’s bed, with her bridesmaid dress on backward and a hazy memory of what happened at her friend’s wedding. With a quick escape, she can get back to her predictable life. But then she meets her new boss—the same guy she’d woken up next to—and seeing him with a clear head doesn’t make him any less attractive.

Mixing business with pleasure has never been Damon’s style, and easily avoided, but the hotel he just bought comes with an unexpected perk—its manager. “Sensible” Kinsley today is as alluring as “impulsive” Kinsley was the night before, and she talks him into a deal. If she can turn around the hotel by the end of summer, he won’t tear it down to put up more profitable condominiums.

Their plan is simple…until falling for each other becomes more than they bargained for.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

Bargaining with the Boss will be available 1/15/18. 

Whenever I’m in the mood for a sweet romance I know that Jennifer Shirk will deliver. I’ve enjoyed several of her books and Bargaining with the Boss is no exception.

I was a little nervous about this one at first based on the synopsis. If you are familiar with my reviews at all, you know that I don’t like the graphic stuff in my romance books and I was a little afraid this one would have more content than Shirk’s previous books. Thankfully, not everything is what it seems. Romance fans who prefer sweet and swoony to hot and heavy will definitely appreciate this one.

I liked both Kinsley and Damon. I liked how their working relationship was highlighted, along with the romance. I thought they worked really well together and I liked to see them become friends first instead of jumping straight into a relationship. I also liked Kinsley’s brother, Wade, and wish we would’ve got a little more of him.

Overall, I enjoyed Bargaining with the Boss. I liked how sweet the romance was, the characters, and the humor. The only thing I didn’t really like was that I thought the pace was a little on the slower side. It took me a little while to get into the story because I didn’t feel like there was much happening. I’m looking forward to reading more from Shirk.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars

Review: Shoot the Moon (Seeking Mansfield #2) by Kate Watson

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Despite what his brother—and sponsor—thinks, nineteen year-old Tate Bertram isn’t an addict. He has the 30-day chip to prove it. But when his father learns Tate’s been running an illegal card room out of a friend’s dorm to pay off old gambling debts, Tate is cut off. With his family no longer talking to him, his aunt Nora offers him a chance to intern for her political campaign. Juggling school with the intense internship, Tate finds himself buying scratch-off lottery tickets to take the edge off.

Tate is surprised to find the beautiful and calculating Alex Wolf—his first crush and the girl who taught him how to gamble—volunteering with Nora’s campaign, too. Soon, Tate is more drawn to Alex than ever. Her mind games stick in his head, but her vulnerable, softer side gets into his heart. But as tensions rise along the campaign trail, Tate is forced to question whether he’s really addiction-free, after all.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS meets ROUNDERS in this high stakes tale of the cost of winning and the price of redemption.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review. 

Shoot the Moon will be available February 6, 2018. 

Last year I read and loved the first book in this series, Seeking Mansfield, and I was so excited to find out there was a sequel. While Shoot the Moon was not quite the light and fluffy read I was expecting, I still really enjoyed it.

This books focuses on Tate, Oliver’s older brother. I loved how witty and sarcastic he was. He could also be kind of awful, but in a fun way. I loved watching his journey throughout the book. He had many ups and downs and by the end I felt like he was really heading in the right direction. I initially was excited in seeing Oliver and Finley again, but I felt disappointed in what we got from them. I don’t consider this a spoiler because we find out in the very first chapter (but skip ahead if you don’t want to be spoiled at all!) that Oliver and Finley have broken up! And then there’s a brief thing with Tate and Finley that had been hinted at in the previous book, but actually goes further. There’s a little more back and forth with Oliver and Finley, but they didn’t really play a big part in the overall story of this one.

One character I really didn’t care for at all was Tate’s new love interest, Alex. Though we know how insecure she really is, it still really frustrated me when she lashed out at Tate. She came across as very unkind and manipulative and I just couldn’t like her at all, though she did get a little better by the end of the book. Still, I do not think that she and Tate were a good match. I felt like if they wanted to be together they still had so much growing up to do and they weren’t there by the end of the book. For awhile I thought it was looking like Tate would end the book single and I was actually pretty excited about that, but I don’t think it’s a surprise to say that that didn’t happen.

There were a lot of poker terms included in this. There is a glossary of terms in the back of the book which I perused before I started reading, but I find it too difficult to go back and forth with e-books so I was often lost when there were passages with lots of poker terms. While I appreciate the authenticity Watson was going for in including them, I felt like it could have been edited down a lot. It’s one of those instances where it felt more like the author wanted to show how much research she had done, then it being really relevant to the progression of the story. There is also a lot of politics in the story. I thought it was a little heavy handed at times. Depending on your particular political bent you will either really enjoy it or be kind of annoyed by it.

Overall, while Shoot the Moon was not the follow-up to Seeking Mansfield I expected, I still enjoyed it. I really loved Tate. Even when the story lost my interest occasionally, Tate still made me want to keep reading. Though this isn’t the light read that the first book was, I would still definitely recommend it to fans of Seeking Mansfield. I am looking forward to reading more from Kate Watson.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3.5 Stars