One Paw Up for Nick and Noel’s Christmas Playlist by Codi Hall 

Let me begin by saying this book is atrocious. However, it was everything I needed to stay sane while my cat was dying and after we had to put her to rest. Lil Bootz, my editorial assistant, was quickly taken away from us by this horrible monster called congenital kidney failure, and I’m not processing any of this well. That is why I can’t listen to anything but brainless fluff until my world uprights itself again. Thankfully, Codi Hall helped stop the downward spiral by giving me 10-plus hours (soooooo many hours) of excessive push-and-pull romantic shenanigans with mean-girl antics and frat-daddy bro-banter. Like I said, it’s atrocious, yet oddly cathartic. 

Here’s what I liked: The brainless storyline that took zero brain cells to follow. While my mind kept torturing itself with the things I should’ve done differently to save my Lil Bootz—or the things I wish I did on her very last day—I missed out on some of the story unfolding between the hapless young lovers. Yet that’s totally OK because most of it was filler and repetitive dialogue that totally should’ve been edited out. Winning! Also, I have to admit that some of the dialogue—even the bro humor—made me chuckle just a bit. The best part of this book, or I should say audiobook, are the multiple narrators—absolutely stellar work! Brooke Bloomingdale sounds so much like Brittany Pressley (my all-time favorite narrator), and her narration really saved the whole audiobook. 

Here are my questions: 

Why is Gabbie supposed to be likeable? 

How is Gabbie, the best friend who plays “Switzerland” between Noel and Amber considered to be a good person in this book? I get that she’s getting married, and the bride should get her way, but isn’t it just plain cruel to ask your very bestest friend in the world to “play nice” and coordinate excessive bridesmaid activities with her high school bully??? Amber is nothing more than the cliched sadistic mean girl who will stop at nothing to sabotage and humiliate Noel. Everyone is aware of this, but yet Gabbie does the whole “can’t you just play nice for little old me and my wedding” thing, putting Noel in a position of failure. Ugh. I can’t. 

Where is the music? 

Given the title and cover depicting a playlist theme, you would think this book would be steeped in symbolic musical references and musings about artists and lyrics. Nope! The whole playlist theme is just a gimmick to catch readers’ eyeballs, and it worked for me because I’m a sucker. I mean, yeah, there were a few scenes where Nick or Noel would interrupt something by dropping each other a Spotify song, but that’s kind of it. The author summed up the plot-points at the very end (not a spoiler, I promise!) by reading off the songs on their Christmas playlist as a way of saying “Oh yeah, don’t forget that this is a ‘playlist’ music-themed book.’” Big eye-roller, I know. 

What’s with the anti “girly girl” vibe? 

Apparently, we are all supposed to like Noel because she’s sooooo not into girly things. She’s a tomboy who just likes to hang with the guys, which makes her so very special and unique from the rest. All the other girls with their painted nails and accessorized outfits are just a dime-a-dozen, but not our rough-and-tumble, Noel! Y’all, this trope needs to end. There’s nothing wrong or unlikable about enjoying makeup, spa days, shopping and all the fun, frilly things we like to do to spoil ourselves. Noel is just so very special because she doesn’t care about diamonds or eyeshadow, but she’s also a big drag who sets impossible standards for herself and others. It’s tragic that she lost both of her parents at a young age, but is it really logical to avoid getting hurt again by swearing off marriage or any romantic relationship ever? If you’re nodding, I’m just going put it out there that talk therapy is a good thing. If you’re actively setting up barriers that keep you from living your best life, get some professional help! 

What’s with the false advertising? 

First off, if you’re looking for a festive, Christmassy setting, find another book. There really isn’t a hint of Christmas in this thing until the very end. Also, PLEASE NOTE that this is not a G-rated Hallmark romance with fade-to-black love scenes. I’m totally fine with all the swear words, but the pornographic scenes were not my cup of tea. I’m in grieving right now, so this is NOT what I want…now or ever. I’m just not into X-rated books unless if it involves the Black Dagger Botherhood, so no thanks. 

Will I read a book by this author again? 

I’m going to say no for now. I do love the mindless entertainment that keeps my brain and heart from shattering. However, I’m not really a fan of gimmicks and descriptive sex scenes that don’t involve vampires or werewolves. That said, my Audible Plus account gives me these things for free, so maybe I’ll give this author one more shot down the road. I mean, you can’t argue with free, right? 

My Book Boyfriend: Rafe Bowman from A Wallflower Christmas

Meow! What could be more fun than pairing a literary hottie with a swoon-worthy celebrity? When I saw this meme, hosted by the Unread Reader,I couldn’t resist joining in on the fun! And it just so happens I just polished off A Wallflower Christmas, a historical romance featuring a dashing rogue named Rafe Bowman. I’ve got to hand it to Lisa Kleypas – that’s a great name for a hot male lead. While reading this book, I kept picturing Julian McMahon (also a hottie name!) from Nip Tuck. You might also remember him as that yummy district attorney boyfriend in Charmed.

About Rafe:

Tall, dark and ill-mannered, this sexy rake is known for his wild American ways. With his chiseled good looks and imposing physique, he shouldn’t have any trouble in the love department. Yet when he arrives in London to court his high society bride, his plans get derailed when he meets the sweet and strong-willed Hannah Appleton.

Accustomed to getting everything he wants, Rafe is intrigued by Hannah’s constant rejections. Hannah is determined to resist his persistent flirtations…at least at first. Soon sparks fly, witty banter ensues, a stolen kiss happens and Rafe’s cold, cynical heart melts into butter!

Drool-Worthy Quotes:

“Then I will have to show you what happens to women who stand in my way.” Before she could comprehend what was happening, one powerful arm had brought her against his hard masculine body. With his other hand, he grasped the nape of her neck, and tilted her head backward. And his mouth took hers.”

 “If only I could visit you as a foreigner goes into a new country, learn the language of you, wander past all borders into every private and secret place, I would stay forever. I would become a citizen of you.”

 “You would say it’s too soon to feel this way. You would ask how I could be so certain. But some things can’t be measured by time. Ask me an hour from now. Ask me a month from now. A year, ten years, a lifetime. The way I love you will outlast every calendar, clock, and every toll of every bell that will ever be cast.”
This is how we court girls in America. We grab them and kiss them. And if they don’t like it, we do it again, harder and longer, until they surrender. It saves us hours of witty repartee.

What do you think? Is this how you pictured Rafe Bowman? Who’s your favorite literary hottie? For more details about My Book Boyfriend, visit the Unread Reader.

“Christmas Letters” by Debbie Macomber

 I have a confession to make: I am a sucker for Christmas romance books and Lifetime movies that ooze with sentimentality. Come on ladies, you have to admit those movies of the week are so bad, they’re good! I don’t know if it’s the scent of balsam pine that fills the air, or the twinkling fairy lights that transform my normally drab living room into a winter wonderland, but Christmastime always brings out the sap in me.

That’s why I couldn’t resist picking up “Christmas Letters,” a paint-by-the-numbers holiday romance about an aspiring book publicist named K.O. who ghostwrites other people’s Christmas letters. Who knew people actually needed to hire someone to write Christmas letters? I usually scribble something generic like “Have a merry Christmas y’all” and call it a day. But I digress.

 K.O. utterly loathes Dr. Wynn Jeffries,  best-selling author of a child-rearing book that advocates no boundaries for kids. Sounds like a recipe for disaster to me! So K.O.’s sister, a Dr. Jeffries groupie, follows the book religiously and allows her twins to turn into tyrannical terrors. Upset by the harm the book has caused, K.O. makes it her mission to hunt down the good doctor and expose him for the childless, psycho-babbling quack that he is.

 But things get complicated when she discovers he lives in her building and her loopy, tea leaf-reading neighbor attempts to play matchmaker. After getting suckered into having dinner with the strapping eligible bachelor, K.O.’s deep-seated anger is soon taken over by lust.

 As many of these love-hate romances go, the storyline is predictable and wrapped up with a cute little bow. Although you’ll most likely predict the outcome after reading the first couple chapters, this book is sure to give you the warm fuzzies. So grab your Snuggie (I know you have one!) and a steaming cup of cocoa and curl up with this cozy little romance!