Well Traveled by Jen DeLuca Review

Well Traveled isn’t my most well loved book in the Well Met companion series.

Well Traveled is the fourth book in the Well Met contemporary romance companion series by Jen DeLuca. The Well Met series follows four different women as they fall in love at a renaissance faire. The fourth book, Well Traveled, follows Louisa “Lulu” Malone, the cousin of a character from the last installment in the series, after she quits her job. As a break, her cousin suggests that she follows the Dueling Kilts, a band who plays at renaissance faires, on the road during the summer. At first, Lulu can’t imagine herself taking a break, let alone a break traveling to renaissance faires, but she soon finds some unexpected love for the faires and Dex, a member of the band.


Before I go into my review, I would like to include a disclaimer. Usually in contemporary romance companion series, it isn’t necessary to read the previous books because each installment can stand on its own. Well Traveled, however, contains major spoilers for the second book of the series, Well Played. I would definitely recommend at least reading Well Played in this series if you are interested in reading Well Traveled, as some of the plot in that book is heavily referenced in this book. As a result, in my review, there may be spoilers for the Well Played. I include a SPOILER notice before I include them in my review.


Overall, Well Traveled isn’t my least favorite book in the series, but it isn’t my favorite book in the series either. There are some aspects of this book that I think fans of the series will enjoy, but other aspects which I feel missed the mark. When I first saw the synopsis of this book, I was excited. I wasn’t expecting another installment in the series, but I was interested in the direction that this book would take. I did enjoy Lulu’s character in the previous book of this series and I was interested in learning more about Dex, who has appeared in multiple books in the series. That being said, I didn’t get the depth that I wanted in either of their characters. Consequently, their relationship felt flat and unmemorable for me.

One of my biggest issues with this book is that it barely scratches the surface on Lulu and Dex as characters. DeLuca did try to give each character an interesting backstory. Lulu, like Mitch in the previous book, comes from a very judgmental and critical family. Lulu constantly pushes herself to succeed, and as a result, lost who she really is in the process. On the other hand, Dex is never taken seriously by his family and his contributions are often overlooked. But… that’s all we get as readers, repeated over and over again. Even though the characters make changes in their lives by the end of the novel, I felt like I didn’t see a lot of progression, especially concerning Dex’s character in this book. This is one book where I really wished that I could have more than one point of view.

I had similar feelings towards the romance in this book. Lulu and Dex say they like each other, but I don’t see a deep emotional connection like I have with other contemporary romances. Since I didn’t really know them as characters, I didn’t feel as invested in their relationship and I didn’t fully buy into their love story. I didn’t really get why they were so interested in the other person. Like with their backstories, a lot of information is repeated over and over: they know their relationship can’t go beyond the summer, but they like each other so much. Even though there is a resolution to these issues, I didn’t find it to be very realistic.

I have discussed repetitiveness quite a few times in this review and I have found this to seep into other parts of the novel as well. As I mentioned, this book heavily references the second book in the series. Well Played was definitely my least favorite book in the series, so I really didn’t like having to see it rehashed multiple times in this book. There were also several lines in this book repeated over and over again so many times that they lost their humor. The plot itself lended to these issues as well since the characters are packing up and going to a new renaissance faire every week. As a result, it didn’t seem like the plot was moving forward to me.

Another aspect which I think contributed to these issues was that this book was the most far removed from the original series. This book does not primarily take place at the renaissance faire featured in the earlier books. While this book does feature some previous characters, Stacey and Daniel (from Well Played) as well as the Dueling Kilts, they are not the favorites among the series. Additionally, Lulu’s family is a large component of her backstory, but they aren’t really present throughout the novel which takes away from the tension surrounding that part of her story.

My biggest problem with this book, however, were the references to Well Played, the second book in the series.


At the end of Well Played, I could not believe that Stacey and Daniel were together after everything he did in that novel. He is a huge red flag for me, which was even more apparent in Well Traveled. Despite everything Daniel did, he continues to blame Dex for his actions. Even more alarming, Stacey started to blame Dex for all these actions too. Additionally, Daniel is a major reason for all the drama at the end surrounding Lulu and Dex because of inaccurate statements that he makes.

On one hand, I really did like that Lulu called Stacey and Daniel out on what they said. I feel like Stacey and Daniel’s romance wasn’t really challenged that much in their original story. At the same time, this made me dislike Stacey and Daniel even more as a couple. After you read a romance book, you want to love them as a couple and see them together forever as a couple, especially if you see them in later installments as a series. While I understand Stacey and Daniel would be a part of this story due to their connection to the Dueling Kilts, I wish this aspect of the story was handled differently.


Overall, I just wanted more from this book. For me, the characters and the plot fell flat because they weren’t given thee depth that they needed. While it isn’t my least favorite in the series, it isn’t my favorite either. I give Well Traveled 2.5 out of 5 stars.


Most Read Authors in 2022

As 2022 comes to close, I like to reflect on some of my reading stats. One of my favorite reading stats to look at is my most read authors of the year. It is always interesting to see which authors I picked up again and again. This year, my list wasn’t too surprising. I read some series, both contemporary and fantasy, so I expected to see the authors of those series on the list. Here are my most read authors of 2022 from least to most book read:

5. Julia Quinn (2 books)

After the first couple of months of the year, I got into a reading slump. I needed a quick and easy read to get me back into reading. The second season of Bridgerton came out around this time, so I decided to read one of the books in the series. As a result, I reread the third book in the Bridgerton series, An Offer from a Gentleman. I did get into a reading slump a little later in the year and I decided to read this again. An Offer From a Gentleman isn’t my favorite romance book and I think the Benedict in the show is a better character than the one in the books, but it did help me get out of two reading slumps this year.

Books Read: An Offer from a Gentleman (read 2x)

4. Sara Desai (3 books)

I saw Sara Desai’s book on my virtual library and I was instantly drawn to the beautiful covers. These books were easy-to-read and enjoyable contemporary books. I really liked Sara Desai’s writing style and I can definitely see myself picking up more books by her in the future.

Books Read: The Singles Table, The Dating Plan, The Marriage Game

3. Ali Hazelwood (1 book, 3 novellas)

I wasn’t a huge fan of The Love Hypothesis last year, but I decided to pick up Ali Hazelwood’s novellas to see if I would like her other works. After reading three novellas and one novel by Hazelwood this year, she does have a very formulaic writing style with similar plots and characters. That being said, I did enjoy the novellas and her novel released this year, Love on the Brain, more than the first book I read by her because I thought they were a little more quickly paced.

Books Read: Under One Roof, Stuck With You, Below Zero, Love on the Brain

2. Elle Kennedy (5 books)

The Off-Campus and Briar U series are ones that I see recommended a lot for sports romances. Unfortunately for me, this series was hit-or-miss with a lot more misses. Especially as the series went on, the plots were not very strong and they became very repetitive. I tried to read the next book in the second series after The Chase, but no matter how many times I checked it out of the library, I just couldn’t get through it.

Books Read: The Deal, The Goal, The Score, The Mistake, The Chase

1. Sarah J. Maas (11 books)

It definitely didn’t surprise me to see Sarah J. Maas at the top of my list. I read all of the books in the Throne of Glass series this year except for the first one as well as both books in the Crescent City series. Additionally, I did start rereading the ACOTAR series this year. As a result, I read many of her books during the 2023 year. At first, I wasn’t really interested in reading Throne of Glass or Crescent City. I read the first book of Throne of Glass and I wasn’t that motivated to continue in the series and Crescent City didn’t really seem up my alley. However, I am really glad that I gave both series a chance because I did end up liking both of them.

Books Read: House of Earth and Blood, House of Sky and Breath, A Court of Thorns and Roses, A Court of Mist and Fury, Crown of Midnight, Heir of Fire, Assassin’s Blade, Queen of Shadows, Empire of Storms, Tower of Dawn, Kingdom of Ash

Who were some of your most read authors in 2022?

Part of Your World by Abby Jimenez Review

I wish I could be part of this book’s world!

Part of Your World by Abby Jimenez follows doctor Alexis Montgomery when she travels to a small town after leaving her abusive ex. There, she meets carpenter Daniel Grant who also runs a small bed and breakfast in town. While Alexis grows closer to Daniel, she also suffers enormous pressure from her parents, who want her to follow in their famous surgeon footsteps and reunite with her ex.

Part of Your World is Abby Jimenez’s first book outside of The Friend Zone companion series. I have only read one book in that series, Life’s Too Short, which is a third and final book. In Life’s Too Short, I enjoyed the depth that Jimenez gave her characters and found myself invested in their relationship. That being said, I did find the book to drag in some places throughout the story. Similar to Life’s Too Short, I enjoyed the main two love interests in the novel. Unlike Life’s Too Short, I did not have issues with pacing.

Typically, I am not a huge from of the “from two different worlds” trope. I find often in this trope that one of the love interests must compromise more than the other.. Additionally, there may be other factors which lead to a power imbalance between the couple, such as wealth. While the characters were from “different worlds,” I found them to be evenly balanced. At the end of the story, each characters ends up where they want and need to be. Additionally, both love interests help the other love interest to grow. While Alexis comes from a wealthy family, she lacks skills to be independent and fully separate from her ex. On the other hand, Daniel is self-sufficient and thoughtful, but doesn’t realize his full potential. Alexis helps Daniel with his business and Daniel helps Alexis develop more practical skills. As a result, Alexis and Daniel work as a couple, even though they are from “different words.”

Another aspect of this book that I enjoyed was the realistic story. Sometimes, I find the obstacles that stop a couple in a book to be unrealistic or just thrown in to cause drama. However, all of the obstacles which Alexis and Daniel face are reasonable for their storyline and characters. Recently, I have enjoyed romances where every scene builds on the previous scene and the interactions between the main characters challenge the other’s idea of love as opposed to a collection of cute scenes or situations where the main characters interact. All of the scenes between Alexis and Daniel were cute, but also purposeful, which kept me invested in the book and helped the book move at a good pace.

Overall, Part of Your World was an enjoyable read for me. Since I have read two books by Abby Jimenez that I have loved, I definitely look forward to her next release in 2023, which is a companion novel to this book. I give Part of Your World five out of five stars.

Book Lovers by Emily Henry

When it comes to this book, I am a book lover.

Book Lovers by Emily Henry follows ruthless literary agent Nora Stephens when she agrees to spend time in a small North Carolina town with her sister. During her trip, Nora runs into Charlie Lastra, a book editor whom she despises from New York City. However, as Nora and Charlie continue to cross paths, they begin to question their initial dislike of each other. Book Lovers is Emily Henry’s third book and recently won the Goodreads’ Choice Award for Romance 2022.

My experiences with Emily Henry’s book have been mostly positive. Overall, she has a solid writing style, perfect length, excellent pasting. That being said, I do think her books can be divided into two different sets. Beach Read, her first book, has a much different vibe than her second book, The People We Meet on Vacation. Beach Read has some darker themes. The book itself questions the difference between women’s fiction and romance, so it doesn’t truly fit into either of those genres. The People We Meet on Vacation is a much lighter read which is firmly in the romance genre.

As a result, I have seen readers split over Emily Henry’s most recent release. Book Lovers has a more similar feel To The People We Meet on Vacation as it fits more firmly in the romance genre. As someone who preferred The People We Meet on Vacation to Beach Read, I really enjoyed Book Lovers. However, if you are looking for a story more similar to Beach Read, or if you didn’t enjoy The People We Meet on Vacation, then Book Lovers may not be your favorite by this author.

One aspect of Book Lovers that I really enjoyed was the main character, Nora. I knew Book Lovers was going to be one of my favorite characters just by the first chapter. Nora’s voice comes through clearly in the first chapter of the book. Usually, a first chapter talking about who a character is rather than dropping the reader into the middle of the action can be boring. However, I found this not to be the case with Nora. The first chapter gave me a good sense of who Nora is, and how this will impact her potential romance later on, which made me invested in her story.

Another aspect of this book that I enjoyed was the romance. Out of the love interests that I’ve read in books by Emily Henry, Charlie would have to be my favorite. I loved the banter that occurred between Nora and Charlie throughout the novel. I enjoyed seeing how their personalities complimented each other. Also, I liked how the ending in the book brought a full circle moment for Nora to make the novel feel complete. When I was reading this book, I kept thinking about how well Nora and Charlie suited each other. In a romance book, I like to see how the love interests’ actions challenge each other’s ideas about love and prove them wrong. These aspects of the book made me feel like Nora and Charlie would last long off the page, so I was invested in their relationship and its success.

Overall, Book Lovers was a well-paced book with strong writing, interesting characters, and a fun romance. Book Lovers contains a lot of depth, so you become attached to the characters and their relationship. As a result, Book Lovers is in my top five favorite books of 2022. I give it five out of five stars.

Crescent City Series Review

The Crescent City series by Sarah J. Maas follows Bryce Quinlan, a party girl who investigates the murder of her best friend. However, Bryce quickly learns that murder is more dark and twisted than she could have imagined. Currently, there are two books released in the series, A House of Earth and Blood and A House of Sky and Breath. A third book in the series is currently planned, but there is currently no release date.

The Crescent City series by Sarah J. Maas marked a new “era” by the author for me. Crescent City is the first series by the author to initially be labeled as adult (A Court of Thorns and Roses was originally placed in the YA category). Additionally, it is her first fantasy that leans more towards urban fantasy, as the world also contains a more modern city-like setting with technology. While The Court of Thorns and Roses series was considerably more sexually explicit and contained more graphic violence than Throne of Glass, despite still being labeled as YA. However, the first book in the series wasn’t as graphic as the later novels. Compared to the other series by Maas, Crescent City literally starts right off with these elements. That being said, I think the Crescent City series is a natural next read for people who enjoyed the A Court of Thorns and Roses series or readers new to Maas who are looking for an adult fantasy romance book.

Both A House of Earth and Blood as well as A House of Sky and Breath contain many elements that are typically found in novels by Maas, although the setting is different than her previous works. The pacing, the characters, and some of the fantasy elements/tropes/plots used within this series were similar to those in other works by the author. As a result, if you like Maas as an author, then you will probably enjoy this series as well. However, if you are not a fan as Maas as an author, then you probably wouldn’t enjoy this series either.

Like her other previous works, Maas contains a lot of world building at the beginning of the novel, which can be overwhelming. While this world building is always necessary, as it usually comes back around at the end of the story, it can be tedious for readers who want the plot to pick up quickly. The books in the Crescent City are also much longer than the first books in the other series by Maas. For comparison, these books are similar in page length to A Kingdom of Ash, the final book in the Throne of Glass series. As a result, there are a lot of people, places, and structures to keep track of as you are reading. Similarly, at the end of the books, it is exciting to see all of the plots come together. At the same time, there is so much action packed into the last 200 pages that it can be hard to keep straight.

One element of this book that made me wary was the setting since it was so different than other books by Maas. However, I really do enjoy the setting of the Crescent City and I think it really suits the characters who occupy the world in which it takes place. I think it also helped differentiate Crescent City from Throne of Glass and A Court of Thorns and Roses which have settings that are more similar to each other.

Similar to the other works by Maas, there is an interesting and likable cast of characters. That being said, there are some characters that don’t stick out to me in the Crescent City and so I am not as attached to them as other side characters in other novels by Maas. For example, at the end of the second book in the ACOTAR series, I was fully invested in all members of the Inner Circle and Feyre’s sisters. At the end of the second book in the Crescent City series, there are some side characters, like some of Ruhn’s roommates or some of Bryce’s “inner circle” where there history is not as revealed, as I feel like I don’t know them as well. That being said, I do really like Bryce as a main character and I feel like she is different enough than Feyre or Aelin to stand out as her own main character.

Like Throne of Glass, the cast of characters is used to show many different points of views. However, I feel like this was done a little more effectively in Throne of Glass and it wasn’t even perfect in Throne of Glass. As I mentioned previously, I feel like I’m not fully invested in all of the characters in this series yet, so I kept wishing for the story to go back to Bryce’s point of view. In Throne of Glass I felt motivated to keep reading because every chapter ended in a cliffhanger and I couldn’t wait to get back to that person’s point of view. However, that wasn’t the case when I was reading this series, especially in A House of Sky and Breath.

Another aspect of this book that I’m not completely sold on is the romance. I like Bryce and Hunt, the main love interest, well enough. I didn’t dislike them as a couple by any means and I think they suit each other well. That being said, Hunt isn’t my favorite love interest that Maas has written. I think many of his character traits are picked from other love interests that have appeared throughout novels by Maas, so he doesn’t stand out as much to me. I actually found myself a little more invested in another male character in the book, Ruhn, and his potential love interests. As a result, the romance in this book isn’t necessarily a drawback for me, but I have liked other couples more in books that I have read by Maas.

Overall, I enjoyed both books in the Crescent City series, even though I wouldn’t consider them my favorite books by the author. That being said, I will definitely be picking up the next book in this series to see how it continues. I give the first two books in this series an average of 4 stars.

Midnights (Taylor Swift) Book Tag

Maroon – King of Battle and Blood

As we get closer to the most important midnight of the year, I thought it would be a great time to complete the Midnights (Taylor Swift) Book Tag! The original creator of this tag is Star is All Booked Up.

  • Lavender Haze – A book you will always love and defend

One book that I will always love is The Hunger Games. I have seen many TikToks recently showing clips of the series and it reminds me of how much I loved that series when I first read it. I recently saw some pictures of the movie for A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes and I can’t wait to see another story set in the Hunger Games world.

  • Maroon – A spicy book

Scarlett St. Clair is known to be an author who heaving leans into the romance aspect of fantasy romance. I hadn’t read a book by her before this year, but I wasn’t surprised at the level of romance when I read King of Battle and Blood.

  • Anti Hero – An undesirable narrator

Mr. Wrong Number by Lynn Painter was one of my least favorite books of the year, mostly due to the narrator, Olivia. The main character was one of my pet peeves with some adult romances: “main characters who are extremely immature, selfish, and awful but their actions as passed off as quirky or laughable. As a result, I did not find Olivia to be a likable or even tolerable narrator.

  • Snow on the Beach – An unexpected surprise
You’re Own Your Own Kid – Birds of California

For me, Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood (see my review here) was an unexpected surprise. I wasn’t a huge fan of her first novel, The Love Hypothesis, and I was iffy on the novellas that she realized earlier this year. However, Love on the Brain was an easy and fun book to read and it makes me want to read what Ali Hazelwood releases next.

  • You’re On Your Own Kid- A narrator who really needs a hug

Birds of California follows Fiona, a former child star with a rocky past in the tabloids, who the network wants to convince to join a revival of her past successful television show. Fiona’s past has made her closed off to other people and to despise something that she once loved. For that, I think she just needs someone else in her corner.

  • Midnight Rain – Star-crossed lovers

I am going to go with the second book in the Crescent City series for this one. I’m not going to give away any spoilers, but one of the prophecies given in this novel is that the love interest of one character will result in terrible consequences for the other.

  • Question – Grumpy x sunshine
Snow on the Beach – Love on the Brain

My most recent grumpy.sunshine read was A Very Merry Bromance by Lyssa Kay Adams. It evens refers to the trope in the book! Usually in books, the male character is the grump character. However, this wasn’t the case for A Very Merry Bromance, so it was nice to see the roles reversed. This book has everything I wanted a from a grumpy x sunshine book: fun banter between the two main characters and main characters who challenge each other.

  • Vigilante Sh** – Favorite character out for revenge

I finished the Throne of Glass series this year, so Aelin definitely has to be my favorite character out for revenge. Aelin never forgets when someone hurts her or a friend and she always fights for the people who she loves. I saw someone say on TikTok that Midnights is basically an album written for Aelin, so many of these songs could describe her!

  • Bejeweled -Strong character development

In the first book of the Bellinger sisters series, Fox is a flirt who doesn’t take much seriously. In the second book in the series titled Hook, Line, and Sinker, Fox still maintains his charm, but strives to be taken more seriously in his profession and as a romantic partner. This helped him because a strong romantic lead in Hook, Line and Sinker, and it was nice to see a character in a contemporary novel grow from one book to the next.

  • Labyrinth – Second chance romance
Midnight Rain – House of Sky and Breath.

This isn’t necessarily a “second chance romance,” but the two main characters do get a second chance to interact after bad first impressions. Book Lovers by Emily Henry was one of my favorite books of the year, largely due to the two main characters. Nora and Charlie were the perfect fit for each other and I loved reading their banter back and forth.

  • Karma – Favorite full circle moment or parallel

Crescent City is full of full circle moments and parallels. There are so many clues dropped throughout the book that come together for an epic ending to the first book. I can’t wait to reread this book to see all of the clues that I missed the first time around.

  • Sweet Nothing – Favorite cozy/fluffy read

This isn’t my favorite cozy/fluffy read, but I’m currently reading Icebreaker by Hannah Grace. I was initially interested in this book because it was recommended as a fun, cute read. I’m hoping that I enjoy it!

  • Mastermind – Perfect world building and storytelling

For perfect world building, I have to go with Sarah J. Maas. When she revealed all of the worlds in her book were slightly connected, I went down the rabbit hole of theories which could connect them together. Even on their own, each series has so many layers, characters, and plots that create worlds which feel so real!

What book do you think pairs well with a Taylor Swift song?

The STEMinist Novellas by Ali Hazelwood Review

The STEMinist novellas by Ali Hazelwood include Under One Roof, Stuck on You, and Below Zero. These novellas follow three college friends post-grad as they continue their fields in STEM and fall in love. Under One Roof focuses on environmental engineer Mara who is forced to share a house with a lawyer who is part of the oil business. Stuck on You follows civil engineer Sadie who gets stuck in an elevator with Erik, with whom she shares a history. Finally, Below Zero focuses on aerospace engineer Hannah who completes a dangerous mission to Antarctica with her rival, Ian.

Ali Hazelwood gained popularity with her first novel, The Love Hypothesis. That novel was originally written as fan fiction, which isn’t surprising, since it contains many popular tropes and situations found in fan fiction. Personally, I wasn’t a fan of The Love Hypothesis because I found the main character and the story to be very YA, but aged up to include more intimate scenes, and I found the book to drag on for too long. After reading the STEMinist novellas, it seems that Ali Hazelwood has a very formulaic writing style, which will delight fans of her work, but may turn away other readers.

One aspect of the STEMinist novellas that I found to work was the length. One of my issues with The Love Hypothesis was that it went on for too long, which led to a lot of repetitive conversations or unnecessary scenes. Since novellas are much shorter than full length novels, I found that the stories were edited down in a way that made them move faster so they came across as better paced. With The Love Hypothesis I found myself picking up and putting down the book many times because I was completely engaged. However, with the novellas, I usually finished them within one sitting.

An aspect of Ali Hazelwood’s works as a whole, as well as throughout the novellas, is the repetitiveness of characters that she uses throughout her works. In addition to The Love Hypothesis and the novellas, I have also read Hazelwood’s most recent full length novel, Love on the Brain. Every female main character in Hazelwood’s novels are quirky female scientists. All of the love interests are males who seem cold or harsh on the outside, but are really super sweet and totally in love with the main character on the inside. As a result, when I try to remember specific characters from Hazelwood’s novels, they all start to blend together. That being said, Hazelwood does have a background in STEM, so I can see why she would be passionate about writing female characters and issues surrounding them in her books.

Another aspect which tends to be repetitive throughout Hazelwood’s works are the tropes present in the books. In every book that I have read by Hazelwood, there are two prominent tropes: the miscommunication tropes and enemies/rivals-to-lovers. Just as having similar characters can make her works blend together, so can utilizing the same trope in every story. As someone who isn’t the biggest fan of the miscommunication trope, especially when it can be so easily solved as it often is in Hazelwood’s work, this can be frustrating to read over and over again. That being said, if you are a reader who is a fan of these tropes, then you may enjoy works by this author.

Aside from the characters and tropes, there is one other aspect of these novellas which was off-putting. Many of the romantic scenes within these novels were extremely cringeworthy. These scenes also get progressively worse as you read the novellas. Thinking back to The Love Hypothesis, there were some lines and actions in these scenes that make you think What? in your head. I found myself saying this a lot throughout these novellas, particularly with Stuck on You and Below Zero.

The STEMinist novellas were what I expected as they are very similar to the first book which I read from this author. While I didn’t hate this series, it wasn’t particularly memorable either. I give the STEMinist novellas three out of four stars.

The Roughest Draft Review

The Roughest Draft was a rough read for me.

The Roughest Draft by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka is an adult contemporary romance novel which follows author duo Katrina Freeling and Nathan Van Huysen as they write the final book in their contract. Since the two did not end on good terms when they finished their last novel, so they must overcome their differences in order to finish their piece.

Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka has written several young adult contemporary romances. I have read a couple of their books, Always Never Yours and If I’m Being Honest, and did enjoy them, rating them 5 and 3.5 stars respectively. One aspect of If I’m Being Honest that I really enjoyed was the complex relationships between the characters, so I was expecting to see a similar dynamic play out in The Roughest Draft based on the synopsis. As a result, I was excited to pick up their first venture into the adult category, as it seemed like it would include many aspects that I liked from their previous works.

To start positively, I feel like Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka work really well together as writers. Technically, their writing is easy to read. With two authors, it can be extremely noticeable when one writer stops and the other writer begins. However, in all of the books that I read, I cannot tell if there is a shift in who was writing the story. That being said, I was particularly thrilled by the story or writing either, as I found it difficult for this book to keep my attention.

Unfortunately, there was one large aspect which really overshadowed any enjoyment that I could have towards this book. One criticism I had of Always Never Yours is that I do feel like their is some cheating which occurs before the couple actually gets together. In The Roughest Draft, one of the big reasons that Katrina and Nathan do not talk to each other is all the rumors surrounding their relationship and if there is cheating involved since they spend so much time together holed up in a house to write their novels. Readers get told time and time again that this is just a rumor and that Katrina and Nathan was always respected personal and professional boundaries.

The opposite, however, is shown quite frequently in the text. The Roughest Draft is told in the present day was well as in flashbacks. In both the present day and past flashbacks, readers see multiple examples of emotional and physical cheating. One large part of a romance book is liking the love interests and rooting for them to finally get together. However, it is hard to root for a couple who engages in this type of behavior. It is also frustrating as a reader to be told they aren’t cheating when they clearly are in the text. Additionally, it makes me disappointed that this trope has appeared in the first book published by this author duo as well as their most recent release.

Overall, I wasn’t a huge fan of The Roughest Draft because it didn’t hold my attention and it contained plot points which were a major turn-off for me. I give this book 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Most Anticipated Books of 2023

This past year, I noticed that I was waiting for releases to appear in my online library rather than picking up new releases. While I do enjoy saving some money and utilizing my public library, I have found that I sometimes put off books that I really want to read and force myself to read books that I’m not in the mood for, leading to some DNFs. As a result, I want to try and buy a few new releases for my Kindle to enjoy during the 2023 year. Here are some of my picks:

  • Secretly Yours (February 27, 2023) and Unfortunately Yours (June 6, 2023) by Tessa Bailey

Secretly Yours and Unfortunately Yours by Tessa Bailey appear to be a new set of related stories from Tessa Bailey which occur at a vineyard. This reminds me to her recent successful duo, It Happened One Summer and Hook, Line, and Sinker which followed to different sisters in the same crab fishing town. Secretly Yours appears to be a second-chance romance where the main female character drunkenly writes a love letter to her childhood crush as she revamps the garden’s at his family vineyard. Meanwhile, Unfortunately Yours follows the sister of the male interest from the first book as she marries a man who owns a vineyard to gain access to her trust fund.

Out of the two, I am most excited for the first book. From the description, it gives me “the girl falls first, but the boy falls harder” and the grumpy x sunshine trope which I really enjoy in books. The second book isn’t exactly like It Happened One Summer, but it gives me a similar feeling. That wasn’t my favorite book in the Bellinger Sister duology, but I still hope that I will enjoy it as a fun, easy book to kick off the summer.

  • Yours Truly by Abby Jimenez (April 11, 2023)

I read Part of Your World, my second book by Abby Jimenez, in 2023 and it enjoyed it as much as the first book that I read by her. As a result, I definitely plan on reading her 2023 release, Yours Truly. Her next book is about a doctor who ends up exchanging another doctor who she initially did not like. Yours Truly follows a side character from Part of Your World.

I really like how much depth Abby Jimenez gives her character, so I’m hoping to the same depth in Yours Truly. Also, I’m excited that I may see the characters that I loved from Part of Your World again in this book.

  • Happy Place by Emily Henry (April 25, 2023)

I wasn’t a huge fan of Beach Red, but I really loved The People We Meet on Vacation and Book Lovers. As a result, Emily Henry is an auto-buy author for me. That being said, I am excited, but also slightly nervous about Happy Place as it appears to contain tropes that I typically do not enjoy. Happy Place is about a couple that broke up awhile go, but they never told their friend group. now, on their annual summer trip with friends, they have to pretend like they are a couple.

Usually, I like the fake dating trope, but I don’t know how much I will like it when it is a couple that has already broken up. I feel like there will probably be flashbacks in this book because the main characters have so much history and I prefer to see a relationship develop throughout a book rather than seeing pivotal moments be told in flashbacks. This book also takes place across a week, so I’m afraid that the story could be a little rushed. However, I am a huge fan of Emily Henry’s writing style and I really love the depth that she gives to her characters, so she will definitely have a lot to pull from when the main characters are a couple with a lot of history.

  • Love, Theoretically (June 13, 2023) and Check & Mate (November 2023) by Ali Hazelwood

Love on the Brain was the perfect fun and easy read for me. As a result, I am excited to check of Ali Hazelwood’s next books. Love, Theoretically is about rival physicists, one of which is a professional fake dater. So far, there hasn’t been a synopsis released for Check & Mate.

Many of Hazelwood’s books are very similar, so I’m going into this book with an expectation of the miscommunication trope paired with a rival scientist who has always been secretly in love with the main female character. That being said, I’m hoping Love, Theoretically can be a fun book that I read by the pool over my summer vacation.

  • Any announcement for Sarah J. Maas (TBR)

After the last Crescent City book ended on a major cliff hanger with unlimited possibilities in the next book, I’ve been eagerly waiting for an announcement on anything in the worlds of Sarah J. Maas. However, there hasn’t been any buzz since the announcement of the updated Throne of Glass covers. I believe the third Crescent City is slated for the next release, so I’m crossing my fingers that we will hear an update soon, even if it isn’t a 2023 release!

Final Thoughts:

In my most anticipated books, I notice several trends. All of my anticipated reads are from previously read authors. Many of the books contain female protagonists employed in medical or science related fields. The majority of the books fall into the contemporary romance category. While all of the books are from authors that I enjoy, some contain tropes/scenarios that I do not typically enjoy. Regardless, I cannot wait until I start my 2023 reading journey!

What are your most anticipated books of 2023?

Birds of California by Katie Cotugno Review

Unfortunately, Birds of California never quite took flight for me.

Birds of California by Katie Cotugno is an adult contemporary novel which follows Fiona St. James, a former child actor turned party girl, who left the spotlight several years ago. When the network of her popular television show wants to do a reboot, they send one of her old co-stars, struggling actor Sam Fox, to convince Fiona to revitalize her role.

I have read a couple of Katie Cotugno’s YA novels, including: 99 Days, How to Love, and Fireworks. Overall, I found these books average. They weren’t necessarily books that I disliked, but they weren’t particularly memorable either. Specifically in my 99 Days review, I mentioned how I thought Katie Cotugno was trying to convey a take on an issue through her book, but it was only mildly successful in doing so. Birds of California gave me similar feelings. For me, it was an average read and gave a nod to stories we see time and time again in the media, but it lacked the depth to make me completely invested in the story.

Based on the cover of this book, readers may be expecting a more upbeat story inside, but this is not the case. Birds of California is a very somber story which explores how early stardom and the media led a woman into isolation and discouraged her from continuing her passion. Based on other writing that I have read by Cotugno, I wasn’t surprised by the overall mood and tone of this book. However, I think based on the books cover and description, some readers may be expecting more of a light-hearted romance, so they may be disappointed when that is not the case.

As for the romance, I have mixed feelings. I didn’t really buy Fiona and Sam’s relationship. They had some good banter and cute moments, but they seem to be on complete different trajectories in life. As a result, I couldn’t see them sticking together long after the story ends, which made me a little less invested in their romance.

Like I mentioned earlier, I feel like Katie Cotugno makes nods to different issues. For example, 99 Days brings up how there is a double standard in relationships between men and women. Meanwhile, Birds in California focuses on the vicious cycle of child celebrities, who become famous at a young age, act out, and are demonized by the press, but become more understood as they get older. Similar to her other works, I see what the author is trying to do, but it’s done either in a very obvious or surface level way that it just falls flat to me.

Overall, Birds of California was an okay read for me. I was somewhat interested in the story and its premise, but I felt like the execution could have been stronger. I also think this book suffers from the wrong advertising, as the synopsis and cover do not match what is inside the book. I give Birds of California 2.5 stars.

What was a book for you where the advertising does not match the content?