Here goes the first of my new series, books of the month! Once a month, I will review all the books I’ve read over the course of the month. Not only is it a fabulous way to keep my mind reading in my downtime but also a GREAT way to support up and coming authors as well as the Indies I’ve come to love.
I’m always looking for recommendations so feel free to drop a comment on any of these posts or send me a message with any books you think I should read and review next. I’m not picky, in fact, I find all sorts of genres interesting – from a good mystery to a sappy love story. I write fantasy and urban fiction so those are great too!
My January read goals were Sarah Sutton’s Christmas as We Know It and Falling for Grace by JL Reed. I’ve read all of Sutton’s books thus far and I technically started the Christmas one in December but due to all the holiday craziness I didn’t get a chance to get very far which is alarming because Sutton’s books are typically a one, two day read at max!
J.L. Reed is a new author to me and one of things I really enjoy about Kindle Unlimited is the exposure to all the books and authors you wouldn’t normally see browsing the book store, and believe me, I love a trip to Barnes and Noble as much as the next person.
Without further ado, let’s jump right into it.
First up, Christmas as We Know it by Sarah Sutton.
I actually came across Sarah on Instagram shortly after she released her debut novel, What are Friends For?. She writes clean romance with characters in high school but it’s not at all childish. Out of My League is probably my favorite by her so far. Maybe I’m a cliche but young love is a great read when my own love life is not so great…HA!
This Christmas story follows Mimi, a senior who has waited her entire high school career to be able to volunteer and be a part of the Winter Festival that she attends every year with her friends. Among them is her best friend, Jason, who acts as her real life Grinch. Their friendship is quirky and fun and I think we all need a Jason in our life to keep things real.
In true romance fashion, enter in Bentley and Claire. Mimi’s longtime crush and Jason’s ex and the four of them are grouped in the same volunteer group for the Festival. Because, what can possibly go wrong? It’s the perfect chance for Mimi to spend time with Bentley, right? Except someone isn’t too keen on exes hanging out to give Mimi the opportunity she was hoping for.
Overall, the plot is well written. There is enough of a slow burn to keep you wanting more but at the same time, not overly drawn out. Tension is relatable for high school age kids and as I mentioned before, Sarah writes clean romance so appropriate given the age of the characters. Romances tend to be predictable, I think it’s just one of those things because they follow the same basic plots; second chances, friends to lovers, and so on. What makes each one unique is how the author makes it their own. There were some pleasant surprises with the secondary plots and character backgrounds in Sutton’s as she does in each of her novels. I like how she takes a light hearted story but gives it the depth that leaves you craving more. Everything seemed to flow, the story wasn’t choppy and at the end there wasn’t any lingering questions that I needed answered.
I love Sutton’s characters. Mainly, this story naturally centers around Mimi, Jason and their close circle of friends, lovingly referred to throughout the book as the Crew. They include Matteo, Taylor and honorary member, Claire, who was a member by association when she dated Jason. Bentley is Mimi’s longtime crush and Lexie is her sister who also happens to be best friends with Claire. The way that Sutton is able to weave these characters together but not have it feel forced or chopped is a gift that I don’t find in many books with similar layouts.
One thing I wish had been fleshed out a little more was the dynamic between Mimi and her sister. While the tension that is evident at the beginning is rectified by the end, I feel it could have been dived into a little more. I also would’ve enjoyed a little more into Jason’s relationship with his father which is clearly not your typical relationship though it clearly centers around grief and I think it could have been valuable to explaining some of Jason’s quirks.
Overall, Sarah Sutton has found a niche with her writing and it shows. If you enjoy this one, I throughly recommend checking out her Fenton County series. They are each standalone novels all based within the same county and I haven’t found one I didn’t like yet and like I’ve said earlier, they are quick reads!
Next up, let’s dive into Falling for Grace.
J.L. Reed is a new author for me and was in my recommended on Kindle Unlimited so I decided, why not? And boy, I was NOT disappointed!
First of all, I started this one night and the following night I couldn’t stop reading. I ended up jumping from 10% to 74% and finished on my lunch hour at work the third day. Emotional damage. That is what I have to say about this book.
This story follows Grace and her childhood neighbors (and brothers), Danny and Brandon. Three amigos who grew up together and became inseparable. Grace and Danny are best friends and Brandon is the man she can’t forget, no matter how hard she tries. After a brief relationship, Brandon leaves the UK for LA to make it big in the acting business and leaves Grace in shambles. But after deciding enough is enough, she says goodbye with the intention of not repeating old patterns and finally being able to move on with her life.
But one mistake leads to a life of secrets and regret for Grace and she ultimately runs away to the states, making a life for herself working for NASA. But her past comes rushing back in when she receives a call saying Danny committed suicide. Suddenly she is forced to face Brandon and she’ll need to tell him the number one secret she’s never shared.
Old feelings come rushing back, no doubt, and the tension and story just make the pages fly by. The plot is well conceived and executed. Reed tackles the the hard triggers within the pages (including suicide) delicately and yet, realistically. I loved the family dynamic that pulled through between Grace and Brandon’s family. You can tell it’s that secondary family kind of feel and it’s not at all forced. I do think the ending was fairly rushed and could’ve been explored more once she came clean with the secrets and Brandon was ready to listen but I was still impressed.
The characters are deeply rooted and felt genuine and relatable. Everyone has secrets and some of them harbor regret which is normal. The weight that Grace carried carries through in her behaviors and refusing to let anyone too close to her and while I did feel some of it was a little over the top, I can understand her reasoning. Even though she is talked about and is in a few scenes, I wish we could’ve had more of a mum/Grace backstory and relationship. It seems like the two of them are close but that was one thing that didn’t carry through very well for me because she almost seemed absent.
I’m excited for the books I read in February. My goal is a minimum of two a month but my hopes is to read about thirty books this year in total. As I get a schedule down with my blog relaunches and book stuff I’m hoping I will have more commitment to the reading fun!
As always, with love,