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Series Review: Juniper Falls by Julie Cross

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

Juniper Falls Series

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booksynopsis

Synopsis for Off the Ice (from Goodreads):

All is fair in love and hockey…

Claire O’Connor is back in Juniper Falls, but that doesn’t mean she wants to be. One semester off, that’s what she promised herself. Just long enough to take care of her father and keep the family business—a hockey bar beside the ice rink—afloat. After that, she’s getting the hell out. Again.

Enter Tate Tanley. What happened between them the night before she left town resurfaces the second they lay eyes on each other. But the guy she remembers has been replaced by a total hottie. When Tate is unexpectedly called in to take over for the hockey team’s star goalie, suddenly he’s in the spotlight and on his way to becoming just another egotistical varsity hockey player. And Claire’s sworn off Juniper Falls hockey players for good.

It’s the absolute worst time to fall in love.

For Tate and Claire, hockey isn’t just a game. And they both might not survive a body check to the heart.

breakdown

Series: Juniper Falls
Author: Julie Cross
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Sports, Small Town
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: February 2017 – February 2019
Source & Format: Netgalley–eARC

thoughts

**This post was originally posted as a Fresh Friday review of the first book of the series. It has now been updated to include the newest publications in the series.**

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Julie Cross is an author I’ve enjoyed in the past and really need to read more by. She just writes consistently great stories.

Having read her other YA sports romance, Whatever Life Throws at You, I knew what to expect with this series. I knew I would be getting a slow burn romance that would take a bit of a backseat to the character development…and I couldn’t wait to dive in!

What I Liked:

–It Focuses on Hockey–

It’s the Canadian in me who adores anything hockey. I’ve read a lot of adult and new adult series dealing with hockey players but not so many dealing with high schoolers. Which brings a different sort of pressure to the character’s lives as they are trying to reach that next plateau for the prospective careers.

We have a slightly different draft system here in Canada (not so much pressure on playing for a college team but more so in certain divisions) so I found that aspect to be interesting as well as this takes place in Minnesota, USA.

–Small Town Romance Vibes–

I’ve really gotten into adult small town romances in the last year or so and this one definitely gave me those vibes. I like the nature of small towns settings in stories. Everyone knows everyone and their business, but there are always these underlying secrets and feelings that always come to the surface. There are also certain expectations and almost stereotypes that people feel like they have to be boxed into. It provides a great stage for character growth to blossom on.

I also find that you get really invested in all the side characters as well. There are a few characters I would love to see full novels from going forward just from the little inklings we got here.

–The Character Growth–

Both Tate and Claire have very interesting character stories. They both have very complex situations to deal with and I liked that they each had their own things to work on. They are also such genuine characters that you really start to get behind them.

This story is more so a coming of age story than straight romance. It’s about these two finding that confidence in themselves, figuring out what they want in life and how they can break out of the molds the small town has put them in for all their lives.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Felt a Little Long in the Middle–

I knew going in that this book would take its time to reach the plot climax and that’s what happened.

It’s not that I didn’t enjoy all the moments leading up. I did. The scenes between Tate and Claire were great and I like that you get all the background info about the town and all the characters.

I guess I just wanted them to work on the issues a little earlier than they did. I felt like we reiterated the same things again and again–which is fine as it did contribute positively to the romance and character growth. It just made this book seem longer than it was. The ending isn’t rushed by any means but I think I would have taken away some of that exposition to have them tease out the various issues a little more.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

As I said above, I have a few characters I would love to see more from. I’m very excited for the next book though!

updates

–December 31, 2017– Book #2: Breaking the Ice

Again, this book just has the right balance to it. I loved the slow burn romance between these two. They have this fantastic chemistry together that makes their scenes together amazing. I also loved Fletcher–new book boyfriend alert! The character development here is perfect. My only complaint is that it took a little while for the plot line to establish itself. Once it does, it makes for a great read but the first half is a little slower.

>> Read my full review of Breaking the Ice as a part of my Blog Tour for its release here.

–February 27, 2019– Book #3: On Thin Ice

This was the Juniper Falls story I was waiting for the most and it did not disappoint!

I love how all the themes from the last two novels accumulated into this one and got brought to the forefront. The whole hazing plotline was fascinating and realistically on point with things happening in society right now. Sports are great for many reasons but they can become toxic when priorities shift for those with authority and I love that this book explores that.

I’m sad to say goodbye to this series but this book was the game-winning goal to this fabulous hat trick of a YA sports series.

(But I totally wouldn’t be upset if Rosie ever got her own book!)

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My Rating: 4/5

Off the Ice 4/5 | Breaking the Ice 4.5/5 | On Thin Ice 5/5

overall

This is perfect for fans of small town romance and sport romance fans. It has fantastic characters with great character growth and a sweet romance to balance it all off. Just a well-rounded series.

Read if You Like: sports romances, slow burn romance, more character focused
Avoid if You: want more romance focused stories

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Single Sundays: Whatever Life Throws at You by Julie Cross

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for Whatever Life Throws at You (from Goodreads):

Life loves a good curveball…

Seventeen-year-old Annie Lucas’s life is completely upended the moment her dad returns to the major leagues as the new pitching coach for the Kansas City Royals. Now she’s living in Missouri (too cold), attending an all-girls school (no boys), and navigating the strange world of professional sports. But Annie has dreams of her own—most of which involve placing first at every track meet…and one starring the Royals’ super-hot rookie pitcher.

But nineteen-year-old Jason Brody is completely, utterly, and totally off-limits. Besides, her dad would kill them both several times over. Not to mention Brody has something of a past, and his fan club is filled with C-cupped models, not smart-mouthed high school “brats” who can run the pants off every player on the team. Annie has enough on her plate without taking their friendship to the next level. The last thing she should be doing is falling in love.

But baseball isn’t just a game. It’s life. And sometimes, it can break your heart…

breakdown

Author: Julie Cross
Genre: Young Adult/New Adult, Contemporary, Sports, Romance
Heat Rating: warm *spicy YA*
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: October 2014
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

I was actually drawn to the cover of this book before I realized it was written by Julie Cross. Cross’ Third Degree was a novel that actually surprised me in how much I liked it and I’ve heard really awesome things about her Tempest Series (but I haven’t gotten around to reading it). So when I read the synopsis for this one, I immediately put it on hold at the library.

It took me a while to get into this book because the romance is slow to come to fruition. Of course there is some sexual tension before the “big moment” but it was more downplayed than it would be in a New Adult novel (where it would be there from the get-go). In the end I appreciated this because it was nice to get some good character development but at the same time I was slightly disappointed.

Another reason it took me a while to get into the book was Annie.

It was weird because I liked Annie enough as the narrator but some of the things she would post on Facebook (most chapters start with a status update from some of the characters) seemed rude to me and that really threw me off. I suppose it’s just for the fact that we probably wouldn’t be friends in real life so I just didn’t connect with her all that well. She’s a jaded character and I understand why, so that wasn’t really the issue (I didn’t mind the angst), I think it’s just more of a personal thing with her and me not having meshing personalities.

I did warm up to her though as the story progressed and her character developed. Despite the book being focused on the NBL, I found a lot of the story lines and situations to be realistic–it wasn’t over the top drama like some New Adult novels would have.

Is it YA or NA?

While this book straddles the line between New Adult and Young Adult, I would say it leans more towards the Young Adult. There are a few sexual situations that are more descriptive than your typical Young Adult novel but for the most part it’s a pretty clean YA read. It actually reminded me a lot of Miranda Kenneally’s Hundred Oak Series in how it is delivered. If you wanted something with more drama and heat, I would suggest The Perfect Game by J. Sterling instead.

My Rating: 4/5

overall

It took a while to get to the good stuff (ie the romance) but it was a cute story and I liked watching everything unfold as we approached that stage. Another great standalone by Julie Cross!

Read if You Like: sports romances, slow burn romance, more character focused
Avoid if You: want a true New Adult romance, want more steam
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Single Sundays: Third Degree by Julie Cross

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for Third Degree (from Goodreads):
I used to be “Isabel Jenkins, child prodigy.” As lame as that sounds, at least it was an identity. But now I’m not sure what I am. I just failed the most important exam of my life—the emotional readiness test required to get into a medical residency program—and it turns out my parents can’t stand each other. Now I’m trying to figure out how to pick up the pieces of my life, and that means re-enrolling as a college freshman, but this time I’m shutting the books and majoring in being eighteen.

But so far, my roommate hates me and I’m not into the party scene. The only good thing about school has been getting to know my insanely hot RA. Marshall Collins makes me wonder about everything I missed while I was growing up too fast. Pretty soon we’re hanging out constantly, but for the first time, I find myself wanting more than a no-strings-attached physical relationship. And the lesson I really need is one Marsh definitely can’t teach me: love. Because I’m going to be alone forever if I don’t learn fast.

Review:

I really wanted to read this book–I’m not sure why because I’ve never read anything by Julie Cross (though Tempest has been sitting on my eReader for quite a while now…). When I give it a good thought I think it’s because the heroine is actually an intelligent girl with an interest in science–not a liberal arts degree. I want to be clear that I have no issue with people pursuing liberal arts degrees (I myself have a minor in English Literature) but my first love is Science (specifically health care) and as a reader, it’s a rare opportunity for me to read about a heroine who is interested in the same subject I am within the New Adult genre 🙂

However, I was a little disappointed when I met Izzy; though I think that is the point. The best way I can describe her is as the female Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory: extremely book smart but socially awkward. And that is the whole reason why we get the plot we do–because she can’t relate to people (and therefore has an awful bedside manner) she can’t continue with her medical practice.

So it took me a while to get used to her character but she really did grow on me as I read. I loved seeing her grow as a person throughout the whole novel. This story was just as much a romance as it was a coming of age novel but the balance between the two is perfect.

I also loved the tone this book took regarding mental illness. There is so much stigma about it when there really shouldn’t be. (FYI: World Mental Health Day is this coming Friday, October 10th! Make sure you wear purple to support mental health!). I loved the respectful way Julie Cross handled it in her writing as well as the physical medical conditions discussed in this book.

Conclusion:

This book has a more serious tone to it, but it was a lot of fun to read. Very well done. If you enjoy coming of age stories with a dash of romance, this is a good one for you to get!

Rating: 4/5
Would I Recommend this Book to a Friend: Probably

Shorthand Stats:
Genre: New Adult, Romance, Contemporary, Coming of Age, Medical Conditions
Recommended for: 18+
Heat Rating: really warm
Point of View: First Person
Similar Reads: One & Only by Viv Daniels (Canton Series #1); Ruin by Rachel Van Dyken (Ruin Trilogy #1) and Just One Day by Gayle Forman (Just One Day Series #1)