The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle by Jennifer Ryan

I loved Ryan’s other books so much, so I was really excited to see she had a new one. And many thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy!
Although this wasn’t my favorite one of her books so far, it was still good. In fact, really good. I found all the information about clothing designing, the fashion industry during the war, and the wedding dress exchanges so interesting. It’s an aspect of WWII that I really hadn’t encountered in any of the historical fiction I’ve read. As for the stories of each of the main characters, they were romantic and feel good. This was really a story of transformation as each of the three main characters really undergoes a personal crisis (brought on by the war) that helps her find her true self, what she wants out of life, and how to reconcile that with her past. In all of Ryan’s books she truly shows how the ordinary British citizen found the extraordinary in themselves as they did their part for the war.
The one thing I didn’t love about this, compared to her others, was that I found the historical details and information a bit clunky. Too much information delivered through dialogue in a way that seemed very unnatural and only existed to educate the reader.

The Holiday Swap by Maggie Knox

It’s well past Christmas but this only just came in for me at the library and I had nothing else to read, so… And you know what? It was still delightful to read about Christmassy things and it’s still winter and snowy, so that’s nice. This book was completely ridiculous and predictable and I loved it.

Identical twin sisters, both incredible bakers, one on a tv show when in their hometown at their family’s much loved bakery. The town, Starlight Peak, might as well be Stars Hollow. I mean, town square with gazebo and twinkly lights and everyone knows each other and it’s so small that their bakery just gives every family a free loaf of their special holiday bread on Christmas Eve? Unrealistically charming. After a head injury the twins swap places and of course both find a wake up call to the life she wants, as well as love.

Perfect light holiday fare. And added bonus if you enjoy food or baking or food tv shows, because there are many details of the delicious foods they all bake. Very enjoyable.

Blame It On the Mistletoe by Beth Garrod

Things I loved about this book:

it opens with Holly reading a letter she wrote to herself at the end of Christmas the previous year. As an avid 5 year diary keeper and writer of letters to my future self (end of school year, to beginning of next year) I think this is a SPLENDID idea and can’t believe I don’t already do this. I love this idea of starting the holiday season by reading a letter from the previous year. (I have occasionally left myself notes in the decorations.)

the descriptions of adorable British Christmas

Things I didn’t love about this book:

Sometimes it was actually hard to keep track of the characters. The point of view switches back and forth between the Brit in America and the American in England. It really shouldn’t have been that complicated to keep them straight, but somehow it was. Does that mean the characters weren’t different enough?

The American brother’s “secret” was not very believable. Basically all the family stuff seemed dumb.

OK, I suppose there were a lot in this book that was fairly silly, or just too shallow in terms of its place in the story. So, not the best. BUT I did really enjoy the holiday spirit and it’s not like it was a taxing read. I also found the idea of a teenager trying to have thousands of followers on IG and have her account be a thing just kind of nauseating. But the jolly holiday spirit triumphs and the playlist at the back is fun.

In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren

This was totally delightful-like a Hallmark Christmas movie. In fact, I’d bet it’s already being turned into a movie. If you like snowy cabins and Christmas traditions and a little romance this book is for you. Best of all, it has a time loop (Groundhog Day) premise. I found out about this from an IG friend who said she liked it a lot, but wished there were more of the repeated days and I agree with that.

Maelyn’s family has spent every Christmas at an idyllic cabin in Utah with her parents’ college friends. This tight group has grown up together and though they are family Maelyn has long had a crush on one of the sons. Now they are in their 20s. This Christmas ends terribly-she hooks up with the brother of the guy she really likes and she finds out the cabin is being sold. She desperately wishes for things to change and poof! she wakes up at the start of the trip.

Pour yourself some hot chocolate and stir it up with a candy cane and get cozy on the couch with this nice easy holiday read.

Very Sincerely Yours by Kerry Winfrey

Read: Late September 2021

Absolutely Charming. Vintage toy store + woman who is single after a hilariously terrible relationship + a really quirky smart kid + an absolutely kind man who all he wants to do is make puppets that help children like a 2020 Mr. Rogers. (“To invite the comparison would be disrespectful” he says of someone suggesting he dress like Fred for Halloween.) It sounds silly, but I just really loved that the main characters were just genuinely NICE people. Drama/conflict really came from outside sources and even that was mild. A delightful romance as comforting as Mr. Fred Rogers himself.

Eight Perfect Hours by Lia Louis

I wish I liked this more. It has a lot of things I really like in general-a super meet cute [Trapped in a snowstorm on a motorway, Noella spends the hours in a guy’s car and the two really hit it off. Only problem is he’s American and headed to the airport to go home], and the idea that people fated together may have encountered each other multiple times in their lives before connecting. In fact, I love that idea so much that I’m still giving this a solid 3 stars because I really did like seeing how that played out.

However, I was so frustrated by Noelle, the main character. I found myself siding with the “bad guy” in the story in terms of his own frustration with Noelle’s inability to live her own life. [Her mom is “delicate” and Noelle is the appointed caregiver to the extent that she never goes out or does anything for herself.] Rather than having sympathy for her I was just completely annoyed.

*After this I read Dear Emmie Blue, which was great, and written before this one. Having read both I’d say that Eight Perfect Hours reads like a second book that was written because there was a contract but the author had an idea and rushed to get it out.

The Seat Filler by Sariah Wilson

This was an interesting story just because it has people living in LA and rubbing elbows with the rich and famous. Juliet is a seat filler at a big awards show and gets seated next to a hugely famous handsome movie star (maybe like a Brad Pitt type? he’s very heartthrobby). She pretends she doesn’t know who he is, sparks fly, and he calls her for a date. Their romance is very sizzly and it’s fun seeing what it would be like to date an A list celebrity. BUT the main plot point (the impediment to their romance) I just found so silly.  I don’t want to spoil it so I won’t say. I will say that I was willing to say “ok, well different things happen to different people, be accepting” but then it was compounded with a frankly ridiculous and unbelievable line of action. But I kept reading and pushed aside my disbelief at that silly plotline and just thoroughly enjoyed this fairy tale for what it was. (It was also refreshing to read a romance that didn’t have explicit sex in it.)

The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang

I really enjoyed Hoang’s previous books and was super excited to be able to read this on my Kindle via NetGalley (thank you, Net Galley!) I wasn’t sure what to expect because the author’s note and promo specifically said it was NOT the same as her previous two. Well, there were certainly were differences, but also similarities. Again, a protagonist who has an Autism Spectrum Disorder, some familiar characters from the previous two novels, a steamy romance with some pretty matter of fact explicit sex scenes, and a strong cultural emphasis. Since those were all things I liked in the first two, I’m glad they still existed in this one.
This was terrific, I’d say a big difference is that when I think about this I think it was really sad. (spoilers ahead, so if you don’t want to know what happens you can stop here and safely know-this was really good and I really enjoyed it, but don’t expect a sexy fun romance.)

OK, here we go. Her family’s treatment of her and reaction to her diagnosis (which was enlightening and liberating to her) was just tragic, I thought. They treated her like garbage and it’s no wonder her mental health suffered. Her father’s demise was so sad. I just can’t believe anyone thought that was a good way to keep him alive and again, to treat Anna the way they did. It quickly turned into an all out family tragedy, I thought. Pacing wise it was a little strange how the final third (maybe less) of the book was sort of quickly racing through time (suddenly at the end it’s two years later? It almost felt more like a thorough outline of the plot.) More like a very long epilogue. And then you read the author’s note and it all makes sense. Just a lot of sadness here and I wanted to offer Hoang a hug.

Very good.

The Last Letter from Your Lover by Jojo Moyes

My friend had a copy of this and I pounced on it, only to find out it’s actually a pretty old book. Not only that, but I just looked at Goodreads and I have had this book on my to-read list for literally ten years. Since 2011. I guess that tells me just how much I am actually looking at and using my to read list (currently at 600+ titles.)
Anyway, I loved this. Part of it is historical, set in the 60s, when a well to do woman awakes from an accident that has left her with amnesia. Everyone wants her to return to her fancy socialite life and she doesn’t remember or feel any connection to her husband. Little things come back to her and certain things just seem off. She starts to think that something was going on with her before this accident (that she can’t remember at all.) And then she finds a hidden letter and really sees that she had some kind of secret going on and sets out to discover what it was. In the future part of the story, someone finds those letters and sets out to discover what they meant.
This was a good story of missed connections and true loves. Plus that amnesia stuff was fascinating.

There’s Something About Sweetie by Sandhya Menon

I really enjoyed When Dimple Met Rishi so was eager to pick up another book by the author, set in the same circles as Dimple–this one is about Rishi’s younger brother Ashish and Sweetie. The story is told from both of their points of view and is somewhat of a classic YA romance-an ex to provide angst, jumping to conclusions, swoon worthy dates, and some extravagant head over heels falling in love. Are there 17 year old who really express themselves so eloquently and deeply and reflectively to other 17 year olds??  Like Dimple and Rishi though, this story is steeped in Indian culture and traditions. I really enjoyed all those details. And I thought both Sweetie and Ashish were nice characters-I’d want to be friends with them. Of course, like every teen I read about, they are both star talents, she a runner and he a basketball player. What’s different about all this, and what I really liked, was that Sweetie is fat. Unapologetically fat, and yes she uses that word, making it clear that it’s other people who make it a bad word. Unfortunately, Sweetie’s mom doesn’t have the same confidence that Sweetie does and constantly makes comments about her weight and flat out says she isn’t thin enough to date Ashish-that she’s not of the same level as he is. Honestly I don’t know where Sweetie finds the confidence in the face of that to live her life so confidently (probably from her super talent and beauty.) 
This was a charming romance, and I really loved Sweetie straight up talking about why shouldn’t she be desirable and part of a romance? In real life, and also in a book. Everyone should read all of these!