that summer review

“Does that mean you’ll come with me?” “That means I’ll go anywhere with you, Dani.”

Devaney (Dani) Diamond is totally not thrilled about spending her summer with her family in the Ozarks. This trip could’t have come at a worse time. Her longtime crush, Hunter, is finally interested and their relationship is just getting started when the Diamond-Mackenzie Summer Camp vacation is announced. On the bright side, she can work on her tan and hang with her BFF, Chase. Chase Mackenzie has been Dani’s best friend her whole life. He is the sweetest, most thoughtful boy she has ever known. Hello! Chase has grown up. He’s gone from cute boy Dani knows and loves- to something else. He’s levelheaded, and he acts older than his age, and he’s cool under pressure. So far, Hunter is not exactly batting a thousand. More like he keeps striking out. Will this be that summer that changed everything between Dani and Chase?

Jillian Dodd! WOW! The feels! 🥺I. 🥺Am. 🥺Emotional! First, there is an ✨abundance of love ✨ in That Summer. The Diamond-Mackenzie families truly care about each other, no strings attached. “Time spent with family is time well spent”. Jillian provides readers with back-story, in case bookworms have not read the That Boy series. 👏🏼 You’ll be caught up! Next, can we talk about the food?😋


Homemade caramel rolls. Charcuterie boards. Crab cakes. Maple roasted bacon with truffle infused grits (say, what). Cupcakes and cookies. 🤤Nom nom nom. Chase Mackenzie. Also, nom nom nom 🤣. Swoon 🥰. He may be young but he is the ultimate cinnamon roll! If you know and love Jillian’s books (🙋🏼‍♀️me), then you KNOW she is Queen of the Cliff. I’m still crying! I believe in the fairy-tale kind of love, HEA! I have proof that it exists: Jadyn and Phillip Mackenzie. Double crossing my fingers for my OTP! If you like friends-to-lovers, boy-next-door, small town romances, then That Summer is your next read! Fans of Jenny Han’s, The Summer I Turned Pretty will devour this charming story! Just grab like 3 boxes of tissues for that cliff! My heart. I heard it crack! …And then quickly preorder That Promise!

Thank you Jillian Dodd for an advanced copy. Thank you, thank you!

🎶 song: Burning Down the House by Dave Matthews Band 🎶

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1-900-9099-CRY.@ Me. Jillian and her cliff hangers! BRB.

A princess for Christmas review

The princess of Eldovia and the cabdriver from the Bronx. Meet-cute…Girl jumping up and down, waving her hands in the air like a runway worker at La Guardia trying to signal a plane gone rogue, looking all wedding cake topper.  Leo Ricci, knight in a yellow taxi, the working-class guy from the Bronx, picks up Miss Cake Topper, otherwise known as, Her Royal Highness Marie Josephine Annagret Elena, Princess of Eldovia. Damsels in distress got to Leo every time. The pair strike up a friendship and Princess Marie proposes a deal with Leo. She offers him five grand a day to be her chauffeur. Leo could be such a grump but he practically oozes love for his little sister, Gabby. He is Gabby’s de facto parent with a 14-year age gap and she happens to have a princess obsession. Therefore, this deal was a no brainer. Frog turned into footman. Marie is formal in her speech but so earnest. She is in America to follow up with department stores and their sticker shock luxury watches. For Christmas, the siblings transplant themselves to Hallmark-land AKA Eldovia, the fake Hallmark country with their evening cocoa ball and cocoa fest. Let me give you a visual of the palace: “gorgeous, glittering winter wonderland. A forty-foot tree decorated to the hilt. Holly and pine garlands hung on the walls and from the crystal chandeliers that studded the space.” As a princess, she has to be strategic in her relationships. However, will Leo be able to rewrite the ending?

A Princess for Christmas is on par with the Jenny Holiday brand (women’s fiction/romance/chick lit) vs the wholesome Hallmark brand. Think romance and sassy banter dialed up to level “holiday who-be what-ee”. (Trav’s like, what does that even mean? …😏 obvi, to the max. Duh.). If you like cable-channel Christmas romances, then you’ll adore this 🥰 sweet and 🔥 spicy story!

🎵Song: The Christmas Waltz by Frank Sinatra 🎵

The brightest night

“I am fully aware of the fact I have a vicious protective streak when it comes to you.”

Speechless. I don’t usually start with cliffhangers BUT that cliffhanger! Dead. Me. Go ahead and call an ambulance, because I am going to have a heart attack, right now. Goodbye. 🚑👋🏼

Evie and Luc are on the run! Evie’s entire life has been flipped upside down and shaken. A train wreck of emotions. But, together. They’re in this mess together. And you DO NOT get between a Luxen and who they love, no matter what. Evie is in a constant state of evolution and sometimes she goes all Thanos in certain situations. Like banana pants crazy. WHAT is the endgame? Betrayal, thrills, drama, intrigue, and revelations! Luc and his cheesy, horrible pickup lines and silly gifts that really weren’t gifts at all. I fell in love with him all over again. I enjoyed getting more of Grayson, his snark, and 🍭 Blow Pop obsession (probably a Luxen talent conjuring up his endless supply). He’s not a bad guy despite his less-than-stellar personality. JLA writes love stories that could level entire civilizations and definitely leave your heart imploding into goo. Melting like chocolate on a hot summer day. Fighting to survive and I NEED the next book. HALP!

🎶 Song: Saturn by Sleeping At Last 🎶

Love & Olives review

An adventure book! 👏 Greek myths and the lost city of Atlantis. 26 Things My Dad Left Behind, by Indiana Olive. Except she isn’t Olive anymore. She goes by Liv. Liv Varanakis and she doesn’t ever, ever talk about her absentee Atlantis hunter father, Nico- he fled to Greece when she was eight. Liv finds out…from a postcard😱!…that National Geographic is supporting a documentary about Nico’s theories on the golden city. Her mom encourages (read: coerces) her to go to Santorini to reconcile with her dad. Put things to rest. But when she arrives things are….awkward. Emotional earthquake level. Confusing. Clouds of sadness. Liv def doesn’t want her dads “crew”- party of one- to witness the uncomfortable vibes. The crew? That’s a Greek boy. Theo. 😍 He’s next-level attractive and smug just seemed to add to his charm. He’s such a sweet little baklava (see what I did there 😂). His nickname for Liv, Kalamata, is completely endearing. So the trio galivant all over the island capturing the beautiful sunsets and turquoise water while searching for proof of Atlantis. However, Liv realizes that maybe she isn’t in Santorini seeking a lost paradise, but possibly for something much more meaningful. The characters were amiable! Bapou is massively likeable and doesn’t speak a lick of English. “Beautiful! Welcome to Santorini!” Ok, four words. He’s precious. I NEED that recipe for Sunshine Cake 🍰! My mouth was watering at the mentions of thick chunks feta cheese🧀 and juicy tomatoes🍅. Yum! Love & Olives is the third girl aboard, coming-of-age story about grief, betrayal, abandonment, forgiveness, mental illness, and love.

Thank you Simon Teen for an advanced copy. I adore JEW and her girl abroad stories. 👏🏼🤟🏼

🎶 song: Mykonos by Fleet Foxes 🎶

matched deluxe ed.- Happy TEN

“Our time together feels like a storm, like a wild wind and rain, like something too big to handle but too powerful to escape.” 

#WhenIReadMatched, it was July 2019. This series sparked my desire to get back into the YA fantasy realm! I binged this series! 💚

In the Society, officials decide. Who you love. Where you work. When you die. Cassia has always trusted their choices. It’s hardly any price to pay for a long life, the perfect job, the ideal mate. So when her best friend appears on the Matching screen, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is the one…until she sees another face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black. Now Cassia is faced with impossible choices: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she’s known and a path no one else has ever dared follow. If you’re like me and dig dystopia novels like the Hunger Games and Divergent, then Matched is right up your alley! 👏🏼

It’s been ten years since the publication of Matched, one of the most successful young adult novels of all time! Celebrating a decade 🥳! The Deluxe Edition includes exclusive content: never-before-seen official map of the Society and Outlying Areas (gorgeous cartography), bonus story “Green Girl in a Green Dress”, Ally Condie in conversation with best selling author Soman Chainani, and a discussion guide. AND extra! Extra! The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe paperback is also on shelves today! A twofer! ✌🏼👏🏼

Thank you Penguin Teen and Ally Condie! Happy 10th birthday to Matched! Pleased and honored to celebrate TEN years with you! Cheers to the next generation of readers who will fall in love with Cassia’s story. #PenguinTeenPartner

🎶 song: We Come Alive by Ruelle 🎶

divine blood review

“You were also unexpected. I did not know saving your life would bring me here. By all rights, we never should have met, but I see now that you are the key to everything. The key to this entire journey. The key to the map. And…the key that changed my life.”

Okay. 🥺 That quote 😍. Do you like reading quest stories? I sure do! Do you like a superb promising romance? Yup, me! Do you like a solid BROmance? 100%! Love friendship stories. Follow Dynalya (Dyna), her cousin Zev, and Celestrial Prince, Cassiel (I call him Cas-hello, bat boy), as they trek (long and treacherous) across the world fighting for the people they love while risking their lives. The trio must defend the map. Death follows. “Great peril in the venture thou art pursuing. Be not swayed by love, lest it be thy undoing.”

Divine Blood is a tremendous debut from Beck Michaels. The character development is fantastic! Written in multiple POVs, you really get to know the characters of the Guardians of the Maiden series. I can relate to Dyna…she’s a people pleaser with a kind heart. She finds happiness within her tragic life. Cas ADORES her! Enemies-to-lovers. I appreciated the way the author addressed acceptance with the half breeds. The world building is super, uber entertaining! Werewolves! Elves! Sorcerers! Celestials! Destiny! Prophecy! Enmity! Like the werewolves, you’ll feel everything deeply: joy, anger, pain, grief. Don’t worry there are some total LOL moments (e.g. page 334) and SWOON worthy scenes (e.g. page 344). And then there is the epilogue! GASP! Gimme Bonded Fate ASAP! If you’re a fantasy fanatic follower (say that three times fast) of Holly Black, Laura Thalassa, and SJM then you’ll be pleased as punch over the merciless Kingdom of Azure!

🎶 song: My Blood by Twenty One Pilots 🎶

the very hungry caterpillar mangatiles

“Reading out loud is probably the least expensive and most effective intervention we can make for the good of our families, and for the wider culture.” -Megan Cox Gurdon, The Enchanted Hour.

We’re huge Eric Carle fans over here! As a speech language pathologist, I am a BIG advocate for reading aloud and reading to build language. Research shows that brains of well read to preschoolers seemed more agile and receptive to narrative, suggesting that they had a greater capacity to process more of what they are hearing (The Enchanted Hour).

The Very Hungry Caterpillar Magna-Tiles meets the wonder of the World of Eric Carle. Lots of learning and fun for very hungry young minds: retell the story using the tiles, place the pictures in the order they appear in the story, place the number tiles in order, trace each number with your finger, count the number of fruit on each of the tiles, learn the color of each fruit, and put together the 3D version of the caterpillar. What a perfect Christmas gift to help children gain understanding of vocabulary (receptive language) and build important connections in the brain. Mom approved!

CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE YOUR OWN SET

mistletoe in paradise review

“Babe, I’ve loved you for all these years. That’s not going to change now. Or ever.”

A Wildstone 🎄 Christmas novella! GASP! 😱👏🏼

Hannah and James were childhood friends. Their mom’s were BFFs. And in their youth, the pair had a mutual secret crush. There was a time when they’d known everything about each other. Now, when it came to James, Hannah’s feelings were…complicated. And that blast from her past shows up on her dads boat. Well, guess what. They get stuck. Together. Caribbean vacay! Better make the best of it!

James is no longer drowning in grief but the age-old argument… Hannah works too hard. There are regrets and moments of longing and fear of getting hurt (again). Hannah and James come to some hard realizations. Will the duo understand that sometimes the best things in life can’t be planned and fall in love (again)?

Jill Shalvis is 😘 chefs kiss 😘👍🏼 at writing fun and adventure and humor. I adore ALL her books! 👏🏼 Her characters are likable and relatable. Jill’s heroes make your heart roll over in your chest-they feel a fierce sense of protectiveness. 🥰 Major swoon! I found myself thinking there’s no way I’ll get weepy over 13 chapters. Wrong. 🥺 I totally got misty eyed! Jill’s epilogues are my fave. I appreciate seeing the couple live out their HEA. 👏🏼 EEE! Mistletoe in Paradise is a delightful second-chance-romance, perfect for fans of This Is Us.

Thank you x 100, Jill Shalvis and team, for an advanced reader copy. Grateful! Thankful! 🤟🏼🎄

🎶 song: Mistletoe and Holly by Frank Sinatra 🎶

the burning shadow review

“You,” he spoke, “It’s only ever been you. Before. Now. Later. There’s been no one else. There….just can’t be.”

Don’t knock on sci-fi! I’m here to tell you that alien DNA does a body good. New threats in The Burning Shadow: a flu-like, fatal virus that is rumored to be spread by Luxen. With a gap in Evie’s memory, Luc and Evie’s gang seek the truth and every answer brings more questions.

Luc is beautiful in a way that a panther in the wild is and in his words “he’s way hotter than E.T.” Which isn’t saying much because ET is like this lumpy thing made of play-doh. (joke). Luc is special and I stan him. He would do anything to protect the people he cares about. FIERCE protectiveness. I melted over one of his random surprises. Peep Diesel. He likes to be cuddled and held. Luc and his really dumb one-liners made me snort. Like Evie, I love Luc’s annoying arrogance. And his absurd graphic tee obsession. My faves: camouflage you can’t see me and we’re here for the dogs because the humans are gross. Cannot wait for the next installment in the Origin trilogy!

“No, you’re the Burning Shadow and he’s the Darkest Star, and together, you will bring about the brightest night.”

🎶 song: Stand By Me by Pennywise 🎶

kingdom of the wicked review

“Love is the most powerful magic. Above all else, remember that. It will always guide you where you need to go.”

Sister story! 👯‍♀️ Twins! It’s dark. Vittoria and Emilia are streghe- one of 12 witch families secretly living in Palmero. Vittoria is impossibly blasphemous, bold, and brazen. And D-E-A-D, dead. Emilia is…not any of those things. But you betcha, she will avenger her sisters death, since she was the one to find her mutilated body. Cringe! Dark magic has been long prohibited but Emilia is desperate and willing to do anything. Then she meets the Prince of Wrath, general of war, and one of the feared Seven. Buonasera, Wrath 🔥. Beautiful. Rare. Lethal. Death and rage and fire. Undeniably pleasant 😍 to look at. Realizing Wrath could be useful to her quest for justice, the pair align themselves, set aside their less than appealing qualities, and work together to stop a murderer from slaughtering more witches. However, the Malvagi are selfish creatives and should be feared, never trusted🙈. Emilia’s current desires centered on two things: finding out WHO murdered her twin, and WHY? Trapped in a terrible nightmare and left with simmering rage, will Emilia come out a victim or a victor? Benediximus- good luck! 🤞🏼

Kingdom of the Wicked IS FANTASTICO! Kerri Maniscalco FTW! First, I would like to take a trip to Sea & Vine. You had me at loaf of crusty bread and a platter of antipasto.

Salivating 🤤. Seriously craving Italian food right now. Wrath’s love for some sweetened ricotta…ADORE that Kerri’s LI’s have a fondness for confections. And the romance. Chef’s kiss!
Intoxicating and forbidden. I was rooting for my guy! Can you see that hungry gleam in my eyes? I’m ravenous for more of what Kerri is serving us! 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼 Revenge! Justice! Vengeance! Betrayal! EEK! If you are devoted to the SJTR series 🙋🏼‍♀️ then you have to read Kingdom of the Wicked! I cannot wait to see where Wrath and Emilia end up in the sequel! All the praise to Kerri Maniscalco! 👏🏼 phenomenal! 👏🏼🖤

Grazie to Jimmy Patterson Books and Kerri Maniscalco for allowing me to DESTROY an advance reader copy. 🤟🏼👏🏼

🎶 song: Which Witch by Florence + The Machine 🎶


Nonna Maria’s Scampi

Ingredients:

2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil

4 TBSP salted butter

4 large garlic cloves, minced

2 TBSP lemon juice (or half a fresh lemon, squeezed

1 LB. large shrimp, shelled and deveined

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/3 cup chopped parslet

Salt, black pepper, and pecorino to tase*

Instructions:

  1. Heat olive oil and butter in a large skillet. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute, or until fragrant. Next, add shrimp and sauté until they start turning pink on each side. Remove shrimp and set aside.
  2. Add salt, pepper, and wine (or broth if you prefer) and simmer for 2-4 minutes. Tip: you’ll know it’s getting close when the wine is reduced by almost half.
  3. Add the shrimp back in, then the lemon juice and parsley. Toss together and simmer for another minute before removing from heat.
  4. Sprinkle pecorino to taste (like Nonna). Serve with your choice of pasta or crusty bread. *Pecorino isn’t traditional, but the Maniscalco family loves the flavor of it with the garlicky butter sauce.