Review: Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project

THP.jpg

The Happiness Project is one of my favorite non-fiction reads. I received a copy of this graciously as a Christmas gift (thank you, Sarah!) and I knew pretty much immediately that I was going to love it. I actually spread reading this out over a few months in order to really digest the content. I started reading in early January and after reading the first chapter or so I was inspired to create this blog. Here I am, three months later, and I’ve finished the book and I couldn’t have made a better decision to start Whimsical and Witty. So for that, I have to thank The Happiness Project.

So what is The Happiness Project? The Happiness Project chronicles a year in Gretchen Rubin’s life as she explores what it means to be truly happy. How does one become happier? Well, Rubin takes a methodical approach and spends one year working towards measurable goals with concrete steps. She takes aspects of her life that are important to her (family, marriage, work) and divides them up into measurable goals that she can do to improve these areas. Every step Rubin takes is (hopefully) one step towards “happier.”

spoiler free: I loved The Happiness Project. It was a feel-good, inspirational read that had me analyzing and examining my own life. I was asking myself from the very first page – Am I as happy as I could be? In January, that answer was definitely no.

After reading the first few chapters of The Happiness Project, I was inspired to change things up in my own life. That’s one of the best things about this book. Although, Gretchen Rubin provides advice, examples, and overarching themes – the book is still ultimately her journey towards happiness. My journey, your journey, anyone’s journey is going to look different. The book is intended to inspire you to think about what would make you happier. The Happiness Project succeeded in this for me. I realized that I didn’t have anything to channel my passion for reading and writing. I was afraid to share my thoughts online. Why? It was a risk and I was afraid. What if no one reads it? What if someone I know in real life thinks it’s stupid? After reading The Happiness Project I didn’t have a good answer for this. The Happiness Project squashed these fears, because what if it’s something that really will make me happy? Thus, the blog, Whimsical and Witty, was born. Three months later, I couldn’t be more proud or happy with my decision.

Overall, I really loved this book. The author’s methodological approach meshed so well with my personality type. If there is any goal that I want to achieve, I’m automatically attempting to break it down into measurable steps. It’s how my brain works. So, when faced with something abstract like “happiness” sometimes I don’t know where to start. Gretchen Rubin’s book is great for this. By reading her story and seeing the small and big steps she takes to improve her life, you can’t help but feel motivated to inject more happiness into your own.

A small disclaimer though: The Happiness Project does not attempt to cure depression or any other type of mental illness. Gretchen Rubin herself admits that before beginning the project she is a relatively happy person. While I think anyone can benefit from reading her book, I still think this disclaimer is worth mentioning.

Overall, this was a fun and positive non-fiction read for me. I gave it a 5/5.

Screen Shot 2019-02-01 at 5.36.40 PM.pngScreen Shot 2019-02-01 at 5.36.40 PM.pngScreen Shot 2019-02-01 at 5.36.40 PM.pngScreen Shot 2019-02-01 at 5.36.40 PM.pngScreen Shot 2019-02-01 at 5.36.40 PM.png

get more info: visit Gretchen Ruben’s website; connect with the author on Instagram; connect with the author on Twitter; explore the author’s podcast; find The Happiness Project on Amazon

Review: Carol Wyer’s The Dare

Alright y’all I have got to talk about one of my new favorites, Carol Wyer. I actually came randomly across Carol Wyer’s The Dare while browsing on Netgalley, and was immediately intrigued by the premise. I of course had a blonde moment and requested the book without realizing it was actually the third in its series. (Side note: thank you to Netgalley and Bookouture for allowing me early access to this ARC!) Luckily, I was able to read the story without feeling like I missed out on anything. Wyer does a great job of explaining any plot/character growth that may have occurred in the past that is relevant to know. I didn’t feel left out at all. Even so, I’m quickly going back and reading the first and second in the series, so hopefully I can eventually review the series as a whole.

Long intro aside, I loved Carol Wyer’s The Dare, the third book in the Detective Natalie Ward series.

spoiler free: There was so much that I loved in The Dare. First, I can’t praise Carol Wyer enough regarding the quality of writing. I genuinely felt as though I was a part of Ward’s investigation team. I actually felt as though I was in the midst of a serial killer. Wyer lets you (the reader) in on each stage in the investigation and it makes it feel hauntingly real. If you’re a fan of Law and Order, CSI, Criminal Minds or true crime/police investigations – you will love this book.

I also loved reading through the perspective of Natalie Ward. She was an amazing character to focus on. She felt so well rounded – like I could actually walk into a police station and find her sitting there. I also really enjoyed the contrast between the intense situation in her work life and the drama of her home life. Wyer shed light on just how difficult it is to have a demanding career and balancing the intricacies of being a parent (especially a parent to teenagers). Natalie Ward was complex, flawed, and fiercely dedicated. This made for a compelling main character.

Lastly, let us talk about, you know, the actual mystery here. I truly flew through his book – it had be hooked from the very first chapter. The plot is fairly complex, and I didn’t know the killer’s identity until the book revealed it (and then of course, I couldn’t believe I didn’t see it.)

During the middle of the book, the plot did feel a bit slow as the case felt somewhat hopeless as the team was left with so few clues. Yet, I felt this was intentional. It was slow and a bit frustrating as a reader, because it was slow and frustrating to the team. This just added to my connection with the story. I felt like I was in the thick of it with them.

Overall, I gave this one a 5/5. I recommend this fully, however if you’re new to Carol Wyer – I may suggest starting at the beginning of this series as I’m about to now!

Screen Shot 2019-02-01 at 5.36.40 PM.pngScreen Shot 2019-02-01 at 5.36.40 PM.pngScreen Shot 2019-02-01 at 5.36.40 PM.pngScreen Shot 2019-02-01 at 5.36.40 PM.pngScreen Shot 2019-02-01 at 5.36.40 PM.png

get more info: Visit Carol Wyer’s website; connect with the author on Instagram; connect with the author on Twitter; find The Dare on Amazon

The Dare is Carol Wyer’s third book in the Detective Natalie Ward series. It is classified as a thriller, and it releases on April 25, 2019. It is available for pre-order now.

This post is not sponsored. All opinions are my own. All links provided are for your convenience only – none are affiliate links. Netgalley and the publisher were kind enough to provide me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Review: Peter Swanson’s Before She Knew Him

BeforeSheKnewHim.jpg

Hi y’all! I am happy to announce I am a proud new member of the Book of the Month (BOTM) club, a book box subscription. Each month BOTM chooses five (hardcover) books and allows each subscriber to choose the one they are most interested in reading. The book choices vary in authors and genres so there really is something for everyone.  It’s $14.99/month and shipping is always free and you can skip any month you want. What I love most about BOTM is the sense of community it creates. Seriously, check out Bookstagram. It’s flooded with BOTM choices. But, I digress. The point of this long intro is that Peter Swanson’s Before She Knew Him was my March BOTM and I was very excited about it. (*not sponsored lol*)

Before She Knew Him follows Hen. Hen lives with her husband, Lloyd, and they have just moved to a quiet suburb outside of Boston. Hen is an illustrator and artist, and she finally feels her life is at a point of peace. Oh, and she also suspects her neighbor, Mathew, is a murderer.

spoiler free: Before She Knew Him was an unconventional thriller read for me. I remember thinking within the first thirty or so pages that I knew everything there was to know about the story. I felt like the author let me in at every angle, so I always felt like the other shoe was about to drop. Around the fifty page mark, I remember thinking ok so I know x, y, z…where is this story headed? For me, that was exciting. I felt like the author freed up the second half of the book to go anywhere. It felt like a very fresh take on a whodunnit.

In that same vein though, I felt like the beginning of the book was a bit slow. The suspense really picked up in the last third and it was great. However, I felt like the suspense was a little lacking at the beginning just because of how much I (thought) I was “in on” regarding the story. But this was my only complaint.

I was impressed by the ending and truly did not see it coming. I think I was so focused on the fact that I (thought) I *knew* everything, that I was constantly waiting for something to pop up out of nowhere. Due to this, I felt like I missed so many signs that were right in front of me. I didn’t know the reveal until the author showed me, and that’s an impressive feat. I enjoyed the last 1/3 of the book the most.

Overall, I this was a 4/5 for me. I really did enjoy it and I can’t wait to read more from Peter Swanson in the future. The only reason it isn’t a full 5/5 is because the beginning was a bit slow for me, but I still highly recommend this one!

Screen Shot 2019-02-01 at 5.36.40 PM.pngScreen Shot 2019-02-01 at 5.36.40 PM.pngScreen Shot 2019-02-01 at 5.36.40 PM.pngScreen Shot 2019-02-01 at 5.36.40 PM.png

Before She Knew Him is an adult thriller, and it was published in March of 2019.

get more info: visit Peter Swanson’s website; connect with the author on Instagram; connect with the author on Twitter; find Before She Knew Him on Amazon; visit Book of the Month

This post is not sponsored. All opinions are my own. All links provided are for your convenience only – none are affiliate links.

Review: Frances Vick’s Two Little Girls

I want to say thank you to Netgalley and Bookouture for providing me with an advanced reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!!

Two Little Girls tells the story of Lisa and Kirsty. They are Best Friends Forever. At least, they are until the day Lisa disappears. It’s 1985 and Kirsty, afraid for her friend and traumatized by her disappearance, helps provide evidence to put the killer behind bars. The killer even gives a confession. So why, ten years later, is Kirsty still haunted by the thought that she made a terrible mistake?

spoiler free: I really wanted to love this one, because I was so captivated by the premise of the novel and the first third of the book. The author wrote a compelling, chilling, and questionable friendship between two young girls. The first third of the book explored their warped friendship through a child’s POV and it was eerie.

I loved how from the very beginning we were introduced to the theme of real vs. fake. Lisa told so many lies that we were left, alongside Kirsty, to wonder what was real after all? I was excited to see how the author was going to play off this theme when exploring how time distorts memory and how the line between real and fake becomes blurrier as time marches on.

It was really the latter half of the book that fell flat for me. I just could not buy that Kirsty was so unconcerned that she potentially put away an innocent man on a murder charge. I kept wanting her to wake up with some drive or intensity to uncover the truth. That never really happened. Instead, Kirsty was pulled along throughout the book until the truth literately fell into her lap. This was unsatisfying.

Further, I felt like the author missed an opportunity to really play up the theme of memory distortion. There were some moments where Kirsty potentially misremembered aspects of her childhood, but she pretty much stood firm on what she saw as a child. I felt like the novel would have been so much stronger (and quite honestly Kirsty’s attitude more believable) if she were constantly questioning what she truly saw back then.

Instead, we were left with the (pretty much) absolute truth of her memory and this caused there to be so few characters to pick from when questioning who the murderer was. There was a minor red herring, but this was hardly strong enough to mislead the reader. Instead, the ending felt obvious and inevitable, which never bodes well for suspense/mystery.

Overall, this was a 2/5 for me. (I did not enjoy the book overall, but there was some aspects that were ok).

Screen Shot 2019-02-01 at 5.36.40 PM.pngScreen Shot 2019-02-01 at 5.36.40 PM.png

Two Little Girls is an adult suspense/mystery. It releases on April 17, 2019 and it is available for pre-order now.

get more info: visit Frances Vick’s website; connect with the author on Instagram; connect with the author on Twitter; find Two Little Girls on Amazon

Review: P. Dangelico’s Nothing But Trouble

Nothing But Trouble is my first read from P. Dangelico, and I found that I really like her writing style. Thank you to Netgalley and the author for allowing me to read an advance reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review.

Nothing But Trouble follows two leads – Alice and Reagan. Alice is an aspiring filmmaker and she’s busting her butt to make her experience at Malibu University a successful one. Unfortunately for Alice, her experience gets a bit more difficult after a near-collision with a car results in her having a severely sprained ankle (and that’s one emergency room visit she cannot afford). Did I mention Reagan, future med-student and water polo star, was driving? Desperate to make things right, Reagan is determined to make Alice’s life easier until her ankle heals. Will Reagan change his stance on being anti-relationship for his senior year? And will Alice let down her guard enough to see if this really is a case of opposites attract?

spoiler free: So this is a cute new adult romance. It has the recipe to make it successful. A compelling story that forces the two leads together, slow-burn romance, college sports, and a case of complicated, intense family dynamics. This definitely was not a surface level new adult contemporary for me. That is usually one of my biggest gripes – that I don’t feel connected to the characters because there is a lack of emotional depth. That was not the case here. Both characters, but especially Reagan, had a complicated backstory and damn the ending was very emotional. It’ll yank at anyone’s heartstrings.

Overall, this is a 3/5 for me. I liked the story and I loved the emotional depth that P. Dangelico poured into her characters. I love that this is a series, because I didn’t feel like the side characters really had a chance to shine – so it’ll be nice to get to know them more throughout the series. The reason why this isn’t rated higher is for two reasons. There were two instances in which the hero character, Reagan, behaved in a manner that I just could not get behind. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I just wasn’t pleased with some of his actions and especially not at the last 5% of the book. But, overall, if you’re looking for a new adult romance with some substance, I would check this one out. I will definitely be reading more P. Dangelico in the future.

Screen Shot 2019-02-01 at 5.36.40 PM.pngScreen Shot 2019-02-01 at 5.36.40 PM.pngScreen Shot 2019-02-01 at 5.36.40 PM.png

get more info: visit P. Dangelico’s website; connect with the author on Instagram; connect with the author on Twitter; find Nothing but Trouble on Amazon

Nothing but Trouble is the first book in P. Dangelico’s new series Malibu University. It is a new adult romance, and it publishes on March 26, 2019. It is available for pre-order now.

spoilers ahead: Ok so let’s talk about the vague events that I mentioned above that held me back from loving this one. One was the scene in which Regan kisses a rando purposefully, in front of Alice to make her jealous/to see if she cares(?) This just felt so silly to me. I think it was clear that she showed up to the party for him so the added kiss felt unnecessary. I know it technically wasn’t cheating…but I didn’t like it anyway.

However, the bigger issue I had here was the ending. *smacks head with palm* Yikes. The hero character disappears for four months. The only goodbye he gives the heroine is a note. Bigger yikes. Then he comes back and she forgives him after about thirty seconds. Biggest YIKES. I’m all for the downfall moment right before the characters get back together again and even I love some groveling from time to time. But here…it just felt so unnatural for your boyfriend to basically disappear for four months, and then you’re just like ok cool you’re back. Alice was so strong in the beginning of the book, and I felt she lost some of that in the end. Of course I wanted her to forgive him/for them to get back together. I just didn’t want it to happen so fast/easily.

Anyway – those are my two issues with this one! I still liked Nothing But Trouble overall and will be checking out more of this author in the future.

This post is not sponsored. All opinions are my own. All links provided are for your convenience only – none are affiliate links. Netgalley and the publisher were kind enough to provide me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Review: Daphne James Huff’s This Summer at the Lake

Daphne James Huff’s This Summer at the Lake is told in third-person POV as we follow our two main characters, Logan and Cassie. They are both spending their summer before college in a small Montana town. Logan’s only goal is for this summer to fly by so he can head off to college in New York. Cassie’s only goal for the summer is to have one last hurrah before she heads off to the college of her parents’ choosing. Yet, one eventful night pulls them both together and intertwines their lives in more ways than one.

spoiler free: I want to start off with what I liked about this book. For one, I really liked the author’s writing style. Personally, I have some difficulty with third-person POVs. It just feels more natural for me to read first-person as it allows me to feel as though I’m really connected to the character(s). However, Daphne James Huff wrote a very compelling third-person POV. I felt connected to the characters the entire time and genuinely invested in their development.

The author also weaved the mystery throughout the book quite nicely. There was foreshadowing from the very first chapter and this alone kept my interest throughout the story. It added an extra layer of interest to your typical YA contemporary love story.

With that being said, I do not recommend This Summer at the Lake for a multitude of reasons. My biggest qualm with this story is a plot-spoiler, so I’ll go in depth in the spoiler-section. Without spoiling it, there was an action taken by the main “hero” character, Logan, that was unforgivable (in my opinion). Honestly, it was unforgivable because the male love interest made this decision and he was supposed to love the female love interest, Cassie. I tend to have higher expectations for people to do the right thing when it potentially affects someone they love. Regardless, a normal human being shouldn’t have made the decision that Logan made. I know this is a very abstract critique, but it is hard to explain without spoiling it. Just know this plot point is a trigger warning and I did not like the way the author wrote it or the way the characters reacted to it.

Further, it was difficult for me to read through Logan’s character because he was so judgemental. This would have been ok if his character had developed throughout the story. Nope. He was judgmental in the beginning and judgemental at the end. He felt static, and this made his viewpoint less enjoyable to read.

Overall, I had to give this one 1/5. The issues I had with the book just made it impossible to enjoy on the whole and I can’t in good confidence recommend it to y’all. Even though there were elements there that I liked (it had the potential to be a very cute YA), it fell flat for me.

Screen Shot 2019-02-01 at 5.36.40 PM.png

This Summer at the Lake is a young adult contemporary, and it was published in January of 2019.

get more info: visit Daphne James Huff’s website; find the book on Amazon

spoilers ahead: So my main gripe with this book is the plot point surrounding the final party/climax of the novel when Spencer “slips something” into Cassie’s drink, which she doesn’t realize. Logan, instead of being a normal human being and a) stopping him b) telling Cassie c) preventing her from being harmed? drugged? d) all of the above… he instead thinks “let her deal with the consequences herself” (?????). Even though he eventually goes back to the party and confronts Spencer, he still ends up thinking he “Wanted to save her. Even when she had betrayed him. Why?” Perhaps because any decent human being would want to prevent someone from being drugged? Although, the worst line of all was “I was still so mad, and so drunk, I thought you deserved it.”

Yeah, sorry. No one – ever – deserves to be drugged and/or sexually assaulted. I almost couldn’t force myself to continue reading at this point, but followed through to see if the author could potentially fix this situation. Nope. This toxic victim blaming (even though Logan expressed regret/remorse/went back to try and save her) was horrible to read. Cassie pretty much instantly forgives him without a second thought. Like, she literately doesn’t care.

I can’t condone this type of behavior in anyone – and I certainly don’t want to see it in my romance novels.

To make matters worse, there was the entire situation regarding her father’s lawsuit/potential sexual assault on his female workers. This was not handled well. There was a lot of victim blaming and overall lack of responsibility on behalf of Cassie’s dad. I have no idea why the author thought it would be ok to bring up such a sensitive, important topic and then refuse to hold any of her characters accountable for this? It seemed like there was no resolution/finality on this issue either.

Overall, I think there are many, many other YA contemporaries out there that I would recommend instead. I think the author got it wrong here, and the actions of the characters were irredeemable.

Let me know if you all read this one or have any YA contemporaries that you’d like to recommend!

This post is not sponsored. All opinions are my own. All links provided are for your convenience only – none are affiliate links. Netgalley and the publisher were kind enough to provide me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Review: R.S. Grey’s Make Me Bad

MakeMeBad

I was so fortunate to receive R.S. Grey’s newest release as an ARC. I’ve been sitting on this review for a week and I’m so happy to announce it is finally out!

It’s Madison’s birthday, and her only birthday wish is for her life to have some excitement. Perhaps she shouldn’t have been so vague, because her life gets a whole lot more exciting after an introduction with the town’s wealthy, “bad boy,” Ben. Madison is tired of living her life by the safe harbor, so she asks Ben to help her break out of her shell – to make her bad.

spoiler free:  Make Me Bad had me hooked from the very first chapter, or more accurately, the very first sentence. R.S. Grey is one of my auto-buy authors. I know when I’m reading one of her books I’m getting a witty, laugh-out-loud, steamy book with great emotional depth. R.S. Grey is rom-com at its absolute best, and Make Me Bad was no exception. In fact, this is my favorite R.S. Grey book to date. Ben is so swoon-worthy.  Madison’s character growth was amazing! I was her biggest cheerleader. I saw so much of myself in her. Add in a slow-burn romance and a little bit of danger – I’m sold.

Overall, this is definitely a 5/5 read from me. But, don’t take my word for it. Go and read it yourself!

Screen Shot 2019-02-01 at 5.36.40 PM.pngScreen Shot 2019-02-01 at 5.36.40 PM.pngScreen Shot 2019-02-01 at 5.36.40 PM.pngScreen Shot 2019-02-01 at 5.36.40 PM.pngScreen Shot 2019-02-01 at 5.36.40 PM.png

R.S. Grey is the USA Today bestselling author of thirteen novels, including The Foxe and the Hound. She lives in Texas with her husband and two dogs, and can be found reading, binge-watching reality TV, or practicing yoga! Make Me Bad is R.S. Grey’s newest novel, and it released on March 7, 2019.

get more info: visit R.S. Grey’s website; sign up for the author’s newsletter; connect with the author’s Facebook group; connect with the author on Instagram; connect with the author on Twitter; find Make Me Bad on Amazon

If you want to hear more about why R.S. Grey is one of my favorite new adult authors, read here.

spoilers here: I can’t get over the beginning few chapters of this book. The fact that Madison being held up at gun point still managed to be funny to me says something about the quality of R.S. Grey’s writing. Plus, one of Madison’s first thoughts was to protect her new book, and I’ve never related to a character more.

I loved Maddie’s character arc. I love how she realized that she didn’t need anyone else to make her into the person she wants to be. She has that power within her all on her own. Very empowering message. Plus, the epilogue just filled my heart. It is seriously so sweet.

Overall, I can’t recommend Make Me Bad enough. A full 5/5 rom-com. If you’re looking for more R.S. Grey recs, start with Hotshot Doc, Arrogant Devil or The Foxe and the Hound – three of my favorites. Stay tuned for a future post where I blog a mashup post (quickly) reviewing all the R.S. Grey books!

What rom-coms are you reading? Did y’all enjoy Make Me Bad?

This post is not sponsored. All opinions are my own. All links provided are for your convenience only – none are affiliate links. The author was kind enough to provide me an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.