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DNF Standalone Review: Kens by Raziel Reid

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 Kens (from Goodreads):

Heterosexuality is so last season: Kens is the gay Heathers meets Mean Girls, a shocking parody for a whole new generation.

Every high school has the archetypical Queen B and her minions. In Kens, the high school hierarchy has been reimagined. Willows High is led by Ken Hilton, and he makes Regina George from Mean Girls look like a saint. Ken Hilton rules Willows High with his carbon-copies, Ken Roberts and Ken Carson, standing next to his throne. It can be hard to tell the Kens apart. There are minor differences in each edition, but all Kens are created from the same mold, straight out of Satan’s doll factory. Soul sold separately.

Tommy Rawlins can’t help but compare himself to these shimmering images of perfection that glide through the halls. He’s desperate to fit in, but in a school where the Kens are queens who are treated like Queens, Tommy is the uncool gay kid. A once-in-a-lifetime chance at becoming a Ken changes everything for Tommy, just as his eye is caught by the tall, dark, handsome new boy, Blaine. Has Blaine arrived in time to save him from the Kens? Tommy has high hopes for their future together, but when their shared desire to overthrow Ken Hilton takes a shocking turn, Tommy must decide how willing he is to reinvent himself — inside and out. Is this new version of Tommy everything he’s always wanted to be, or has he become an unknowing and submissive puppet in a sadistic plan?

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Canadian Author, Worst Read 2018
Author: Raziel Reid
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Parody, Humour, LGBTQ
Heat Rating: unsure
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Date: September 18, 2018
Source & Format: Early Reviewers–Hardcover | Thank you Penguin Teen!

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Disclaimer: I stopped reading Kens at 13% (Page 35 of 272). Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

When you pitch a book as the “Mean Girls” for a whole other generation you set up some very high expectations. I was really excited to read this book for that reason and because of the gender swap aspect. It was a very intriguing concept.

Image result for october 3 mean girls pink
Fun Fact: I wrote this review on October 3rd!

What I Liked:

Not much. I guess you can say that I liked the idea of what this novel could be than anything it actually was. I only got two chapters in before I realized this was not going to be the book I wanted it to be.

What I Didn’t Like:

–The Setting–

Ok, this takes place in Wisconsin. I don’t know much about Wisconsin (other than the fact that it’s close to Canada) but it wouldn’t be where I would set this novel. Perhaps that is the point or the parody? These characters are so very stereotypical Hollywood that it just made this whole thing seem outrageous…and not in the smart parody way.

–Goes for Shocking, Not Witty–

After reading this book, I’ve discovered book parodies just don’t work for me. I think this is the third one I’ve attempted and things are just lost on me. What is is about parodies that make them come across as so far-fetched and just plain not funny?

Definition of parody 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1a literary or musical work in which the style of an author or work is closely imitated for comic effect or in ridicule

–wrote a hilarious parody of a popular song

2a feeble or ridiculous imitation

–a cheesy parody of a classic western

~Merriam-Webster

Yes, I get that parodies are supposed to be ridiculous–you are making fun of something–but this one just takes it to a whole other level that comes across as dim-witted and sometimes just plain rude. I like to think I’m an intelligent person and can see the bigger picture, but this (bigger picture) was just lost on me here.

I got the sense that this book was written with the intent of pure shock-factor for the readers. To be so out-there that it gets people talking about its wacky cast. However, everything is taken to an extreme that sucks out the realm of probability.

But the problem is when you bill something to be like Mean Girls–which I hold in very high esteem in terms of writing, humour and message–you have to deliver. There is a reason why people still talk about that movie years later and they’ve made a Broadway show about it!

Sure, Regina George is an extreme character. She is literally the mix of every mean girl you will ever encounter in your life in one person but that’s the point. But you can still appreciate what she is as a character at the end of the day and what she does for the story, even if you don’t like her as a person.

Here, in Kens, not so much. There’s nothing redeemable about these characters at all and the hero you are supposed to root for is so “blah” you understand why he has never resurfaced onto Ken Hilton’s radar.

Will I Finish It?

Not a chance.

My Rating: DNF

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Others who have read the novel have critiqued it for how it represents LGBTQ characters but I didn’t get far enough to get a firm grasp on that aspect. So I encourage you to read other reviews if that is something you look for in a novel. Otherwise, if you enjoy reading hot messes or need a guilty pleasure read, this might be for you. But if you are looking for the next Mean Girls, this is far from it.

Read if You Like: parodies, melodramatics
Avoid if You: want a smartly written parody

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Single Sundays: The Wrong Prince by C K Brooke

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 The Wrong Prince (from Goodreads):

Two princes. One bride. A dire misunderstanding…

Geo and Dmitri are the princes of Tybiria. Though Geo is the obvious athlete, it’s bookish Dmitri that yields the credit – and consequences – for slaying a foreign prince. But whose arrow really struck the boy?

Luccia Camerlane is the Baron of Backshore’s enigmatic daughter…as well as Prince Geo’s secret mistress…until she learns of her disastrous betrothal to none other than his brother, Prince Dmitri.

When Dmitri is abducted by the deranged King of Llewes, star-crossed lovers Geo and Lucie must set aside their woes and differences to rescue the Crown Prince from the formidable Wintersea fortress. A precocious castle ward, a fascinating love-quadrangle, and a hit-woman harlot complete this action packed rom com in another wickedly fast-paced fantasy adventure from C.K. Brooke, author of The Red Pearl and the Books of Jordinia.

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Author: C K Brooke
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Adventure, Romance
Heat Rating: warm **spicy YA**
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Date: June 17, 2016
Source & Format: Author–eARC | Thank You C K Brooke!

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Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Adventure stories are not my favourite reads. I find them boring and drawn out but there is just something about C K Brooke’s adventure stories that keep me coming back. I’m always entertained when I read her books thanks to their twisting, never dull plots and the eclectic cast of characters. So even though this story’s synopsis boasted of a love triangle (ugh, my least favourite trope ever), I knew that there was likely more to this story than mooning teenagers…

The Concept / The World:

I always love the worlds C K Brooke’s creates. They just have so much to them and you can tell she is one creative writer who plans out exactly how things are going to work in her worlds.

I will say though that there was a slight disconnect for me in terms of the sexual content. While there aren’t any straight up sex scenes, it’s alluded to quite frequently. Now, I like a “grittier” side to my stories but for the most part this story was pretty light and airy–almost wholesome to a degree–and the visits to brothels and the like just seemed slightly out of place with the rest of the story in terms of maturity. I hope what I’m trying to say is coming across… I guess, while this book feels very young in its audience there are some aspects that people who enjoy “clean” reads will not like (though nothing is full out described).

As for the concept, like I speculated before I started this book, there is more to this book than a love triangle gone awry. Yes, it’s an important factor in the story but there are other plot lines happening.

The Plot:

The synopsis gets it right: “Action packed rom-com” is the perfect way to describe this plot. This story was the perfect mix of fun, serious and heartwarming all at once. I just loved the way the story kept building and moving. Yes, it helps that we get multiple character POVs so we are constantly getting new layers to the story. Like the Jordinia Series, reading this book had me thinking about The Princess Bride and how they have similar vibes and styles when it comes to plot development and interesting characters.

The Characters:

I really liked all these characters, but Dmitri and Pavi take the cake for me. I just really loved their storyline. But the rest of the cast is unique and entertaining and you really can’t ask for much more. All the female characters are strong and independent so that was great to see. I thought the character development was good for the shorter length of the story. Everyone is complex and we get enough backstory to get a solid read on their characters so that was great.

The Romance:

While the love-quadrangle is definitely at play, I think you know where everyone’s hearts lie so there isn’t anything overly frustration about the love triangle. It doesn’t become the main focus of the novel though it does play a role in the overall story. Part of the reason this isn’t a 5 star read is because I did get frustrated though with the lack of communication between 2 characters because it came across as immature even though they were having an affair which seems pretty mature to me…

My Rating: 4/5

overall

Perfect for fans of fast-paced adventures with a dash of romance!

Read if You Like: rom-com adventures, fast stories, multiple POVs
Avoid if You: dislike YA fantasy

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Spin-Off Saturdays: Rush by Nyrae Dawn

Spin-off Saturdays: On Saturdays, I will review a series/novel that is a spin-off series/novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Rush is a spin-off of Four Summers

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author, Fav Couples

This book features characters from Four Summers.

Author: Nyrae Dawn
Genre: New Adult, MM Romance, Contemporary, Sports, Realistic Fiction, Second Chances
Heat Rating: really warm
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: May 16, 2014
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

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My Expectations?

When I first got into the new adult genre, I read quite a few of Nyrae Dawn’s novels. I just love her writing style and her ability to bring amazing characters to life. Her books always make me cry (in a good way) and laugh and swoon–basically all the feels.

I had every intention of reading Rush shortly after its release. I had never read a MM romance before and I figured Nyrae Dawn is the perfect author to start with. But I wasn’t able to get a copy right away and I ended up reading Leveled by Jay Crownover as my first MM romance–and absolutely loved it. Coincidentally, Leveled is inspired by Rush so I was curious to see how/why…

The Plot:

This isn’t really a novel about these two falling in love. They’ve already fallen but circumstances have kept them apart. It’s the “circumstances” that provide the plot for this story and that’s what the main focus is. That isn’t to say you don’t get those romantic moments (because you do) but this is a story about being comfortable and confident with who you are and living your true life.

And in that respect, it’s a very realistic story. I think the pressures Alec and Brandon feel from their families/friends/teammates/strangers is something we can all relate to. I might not identify with the sexuality aspect but the range of emotions they go through as a result is extremely relateable.

I would have very easily powered through this book in a day but I found I had to read it in small doses. These two go through so much that this book had a heavier feel to it. Their story felt so real to me and I was so invested in it. It broke my heart to see these two (who clearly belong together) feel like they can’t be their true selves or share that love with the world. I definitely shed a few tears while reading.

The Characters:

I really loved these two. To me, they were just so real and genuine. They have these layers to them that make them fascinating to watch as characters. Seeing them evolve and grow confident in themselves (and their love for each other) was such a treat.

The Romance:

Swoon! Usually, I prefer to see my characters fall in love right before my eyes because I love watching that connection establish and grow. But I didn’t need that here to know that these two belonged together.

Wow. Talk about the perfect pair. I loved how these two challenged each other to grow as people. I loved how they communicated and shared their feelings and fears. This book made me believe in soul mates because if these two aren’t, then I don’t know how to describe their relationship adequately.

How it Connects to Four Summers:

You don’t need to read one to enjoy the other. I read Rush without ever reading Four Summers. But i feel like if you read one, you’ll want to read the other.

 

Rating: 5/5

overall

Do yourself a favour and pick up this book! It’s a great love story about fighting for your love and your self when it feels like the world is against you.

Read if You Like: romance, new adult, sports, mm romance
Avoid if You: want erotica, dislike second chances
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Synopsis for Rush (from Goodreads):

This new adult, male/male romance will capture the audience who fell in love with Nyrae Dawn’s Games Trilogy.

For the love of the game.

Brandon Chase has always defined himself by one thing: football. Tough and athletic, he is a great college player who enjoys the hard hits and the sweaty grind of the gridiron. But when Brandon is injured, only one person can help him get back on track-a forbidden love he’s desperately tried to put behind him.

Alec Andrews has never quite forgiven Brandon for walking away when their friendship turned into something more. But he can’t deny help to one of his closest friends. As the two spend the long, hot summer working together, their old attraction comes flooding back.

Now as Alec thinks about coming out to his conservative family and Brandon considers revealing he’s a gay football player, the two men must be strong to fight for a love that could be the greatest rush of their lives.

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Single Sundays: War and Love by Winter Renshaw

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 War and Love (from Goodreads):

My lies? Impeccable.

My heart? Cold as ice.

My only job? To convince her what we had was as real as the diamond I was hired to place on her finger.

The battle was someone else’s.

I was merely a soldier, recruited by a wealthy stranger who made it unapologetically clear that my future—and everything I’ve ever worked for—depended on the successful completion of this mission.

I was prepared for war.

I wasn’t prepared for Love Aldridge.

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Author: Winter Renshaw
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: toasty
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: July 30, 2018
Source & Format: Hidden Gem Reviews–eARC

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Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’ve read enough Winter Renshaw books to know that she writes solid, heartfelt romances every time. And this one definitely met my expectations in that regard. She simply writes great romances. So obviously, I was going to pick this up!

The Concept:

What drew me in about this story is the mystery behind Jude’s role as it is described in the synopsis. Why has he been hired to make Love marry him and by who? I love secrets like that and the tension they bring to the story. So I was disappointed that we had all the answers by the end of Chapter 4. It sucked that anticipation out of the story because you know everything right away. But it was the characters that kept me invested moving forward.

The Plot:

How the characters deal with these events is what truly surprised me. There were some interesting twists in that regard so that kept me on my toes. It provides some great character growth as a result and turned this novel into a more character driven narrative rather than a drama/mystery filled one.

The Characters:

The characters are really what makes this story. Love is a great heroine to follow. She’s finding her individuality and I loved watching her come into herself throughout the story. Jude is also an intriguing character and it was interesting to see him struggle with his role and his feelings for Love. I dare you not to fall in love with him!

The Romance:

I really liked the chemistry between these two. It was fairly obvious to me why they would be drawn to each other. And Jude is a sweetheart so it definitely had its swoon-worthy moments!

My Rating: 4/5

overall

Overall, this is a great story for new and returning fans of Winter Renshaw! The perfect romance binge read!

Read if You Like: character driven stories, contemporary romances
Avoid if You: want more secrets/mystery
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Blog Tour: The Right Fit by Daphne Dubois

Synopsis for The Right Fit (from Goodreads):

When Maxine Nicholls discovers her fiancé is cheating, she turns to fast food and nighttime soap operas, but her sister has a plan—unbridled rebound sex with a stranger.

As one of Toronto’s hottest players, Antony Laurent tallies scores on and off the ice, but when the chiseled defense man hits a slump, rumors of a trade to the minor league send him to ambush a managers meeting at a posh club.

That night a chance encounter ends up as an unforgettable evening of passion. But Maxine and Antony are about to discover a game of casual hook ups can lead to something neither one of them thought they deserved—the right fit.

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Canadian Author
Author: Daphne Dubois
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Sports
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Date: April 12, 2017
Source & Format: Xpresso Book Tours–eARC

Add: Goodreads | Buy: Amazon / iBooks / Kobo / B & N

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Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’m a sucker for a sports romance and when I saw that this one took place in Toronto, Canada, I was immediately on board! I didn’t know what else to expect given the synopsis but I was ready to explore this romance more.

The Plot:

I’ll admit that I struggled a bit with the first two chapters or so trying to figure out where this book was going to go. But once I started to learn more about the characters and see how dimensional they were, I truly became invested and had a hard time putting this down!

There was just the right amount of drama throughout this book. Nothing is over the top, it’s very grounded and it genuinely contributes in a positive way to the story and the characters’ development.

The Characters:

I was really surprised by how character driven this story was. Maxine and Antony have many layers to their characters so there is quite a bit to unpack with each of them. Maxine is coming of a bad breakup that has completely decimated her self-esteem and I loved watching her regain that confidence in herself though her relationship with Antony as well as her friends and family. Antony has a bit more of a mystery to him but I found that only drove me to read faster so I could figure out his character (and eventually become a fan).

The Romance:

These two have strong connection from the start! It’s cheesy to say but these two were the “right fit” for each other. They don’t know it at first though, just that they have this undeniable passion between them, so watching that grow into something more was such a treat as a reader.

concSLOW

My Rating: 4/5

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This is definitely one of those books where you need to give it a couple chapters to set up the stage for your enjoyment. Once you learn more about the characters, you’ll become completely invested in seeing where their stories will go and if happily ever after is in the cards.

Read if You Like: character driven stories, sports
Avoid if You: want more erotica

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Daphne Dubois

Daphne Dubois writes contemporary romance and believes the right book at the right time can make all the difference.

When she’s not putting her characters in compromising positions (ahem), she works as a registered nurse. She lives in Eastern Canada, the most romantic place in the world.

You can also find her writing for teens as B.R. Myers.

Author Links: Goodreads | Website | Facebook | Twitter

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Single Sundays: Hotel Ruby by Suzanne Young

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 Hotel Ruby (from Goodreads):

Stay tonight. Stay forever.

When Audrey Casella arrives for an unplanned stay at the grand Hotel Ruby, she’s grateful for the detour. Just months after their mother’s death, Audrey and her brother, Daniel, are on their way to live with their grandmother, dumped on the doorstep of a DNA-matched stranger because their father is drowning in his grief.

Audrey and her family only plan to stay the night, but life in the Ruby can be intoxicating, extending their stay as it provides endless distractions—including handsome guest Elias Lange, who sends Audrey’s pulse racing. However, the hotel proves to be as strange as it is beautiful. Nightly fancy affairs in the ballroom are invitation only, and Audrey seems to be the one guest who doesn’t have an invite. Instead, she joins the hotel staff on the rooftop, catching whispers about the hotel’s dark past.

The more Audrey learns about the new people she’s met, the more her curiosity grows. She’s torn in different directions—the pull of her past with its overwhelming loss, the promise of a future that holds little joy, and an in-between life in a place that is so much more than it seems…

Welcome to the Ruby.

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Author: Suzanne Young
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mystery, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: November 3, 2015
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

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Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I marked this book on my TBR after seeing a “Waiting on Wednesday” post by Marie @ Drizzle and Hurricane Books  all the way back in September 2015! At that point, I had read Young’s first two novels in The Program Series and didn’t totally enjoy them. However, I loved the concept of the Hotel Ruby and quickly marked it on Goodreads.

Like many TBR books, I didn’t get to read it until years later and I saw my library had an audiobook copy. By this point, I had seen quite a few mixed reviews so I went in with somewhat lower expectations but an eagerness to uncover just what exactly is happening at the mysterious Hotel Ruby.

The Concept:

I always enjoy the idea of a “mysterious building”. (Like The Hollywood Tower of Terror anyone?). I really became enthralled by the Hotel Ruby and its mystery. I enjoyed the opulence of it all and the intriguing cast of characters. You definitely got the vibe that there was something creepy about this place.

The Plot:

I figured out the plot pretty early into the book–just before the 20% mark–though I wonder if that was its intention with the little eggs planted along the way? Regardless, there were a few links I was missing so I was interested in seeing how it all played out. I think I had bigger expectations than what I got in the end but I still really loved the whole concept of this novel even if the execution was lacking for me.

The Characters:

Audrey was a complete diva in my mind. Both her inner monologues and outer dialogues are very “ME ME ME” and it just irritated me. I mean, I get her frustration with the lack of an invitation but she was far too dramatic than I like my heroines to be.

The rest of the cast does their job well. The hotel staff and guests were particularly mysterious and that captured my attention throughout.

The Romance:

Elias is a pretty one dimensional character. He came across as such a cliché to me; simply saying all the right things at the right time. I get the allure of a mysterious rich boy but I did not get what was so swoon-worthy about him. I think the two talk a handful of times (I think they might dance more than they talk) before Audrey finds herself in love and wanting to change everything about her life–even while knowing (and saying) the whole thing is ridiculous. Ugh.

It’s a shame too that this becomes one of the main focuses of the novel and distracts from the larger story. I also think it stifles some of Audrey’s character development because she becomes to enamored with this romance and not much else.

My Audiobook Experience:

Well, I’ll just say I wasn’t overly impressed with the audiobook. I’m glad this wasn’t a book I started my audiobook experience with. I absolutely hated the way the narrator portrayed the male voices–in particular, Elias’ voice. I know it’s hard for a female to change their range to voice a male character and have multiple unique sounding ones for a single production. I totally get that. But it just threw off the entire tone of the novel for me and made me instantly dislike Elias’ character.

My Rating: 2/5

overall

For me this was a classic case of “great idea, not the best execution”. I struggled to connect to the main characters and their romance, while craving more from the plot but I enjoyed the overall vibe of this novel. I think Suzanne Young fans will like this well enough but I think others might want a little more from it.

Read if You Like: basic mysteries, more romance focused novels
Avoid if You: get annoyed by heroines easily
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Single Sundays: To Love Jason Thorn by Ella Maise

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 To Love Jason Thorn (from Goodreads):

Jason Thorn… My brother’s childhood friend.

Oh, how stupidly in love with that boy I was. He was the first boy that made me blush, my first official crush. Sounds beautiful so far, right? That excitement that bubbles up inside you, those famous butterflies you feel for the very first time—he was the reason for them all. But, you only get to live in that fairytale world until they crush your hopes and dreams and then stomp on your heart for good measure. And boy did he crush my little heart into pieces.

After the stomping part he became the boy I did my best to stay away from—and let me tell you, it was pretty hard to do when he slept in the room right across from mine.

When tragedy struck his family and they moved away, I was ready to forget he ever existed.

Now he is a movie star, the one who makes women of all ages go into a screaming frenzy, the one who makes everyone swoon with that dimpled smile of his. Do you think that’s dreamy? I certainly don’t think so. How about me coming face to face with him? Nope still not dreamy. Not when I can’t even manage to look him in the eye.

Me? I’m Olive, a new writer. Actually, I’m THE writer of the book that inspired the movie he is about to star in on the big screen. As of late, I am also referred to as the oh-so-very-lucky girl who is about to become the wife of Jason Thorn.

Maybe you’re thinking yet again that this is all so dreamy? Nope, nothing dreamy going on here. Not even close.

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Author: Ella Maise
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance

There is a spin-off novel: To Hate Adam Conner

Heat Rating: hot
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: November 1, 2015
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

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Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’ll be honest, I only picked this book up because I saw the cover 😛 When I was browsing audiobook titles to take out, this one caught my eye and I couldn’t resist learning more. After I read the synopsis, I realized that it had some of my favourite tropes in contemporary romance (fake marriage, in love with a celebrity, childhood friends) and so I just had to read it!

The Plot:

For me, there was just something about the pacing that stopped me from loving this story. I don’t know if there were too many tropes thrown in to work through or if the somewhat over the top drama got to me–but something just stopped me from totally loving the plot.

I will say that I did love how we get to see the history between these two at the start of the book. It provides some great context for their relationship moving forward.

The Characters:

Unfortunately, I did not love Jason Thorn. Simply put, the guy’s an asshole but I was ready to give him the benefit of the doubt and watch him get some great character growth…but he really doesn’t. He wasn’t making me swoon (his perpetual use of the nickname “Little One” for Olive gave me the hebejebes and turned me off of his charm to say the least) and he didn’t convince me that he was worthy of Olive in the end.

As for Olive, I liked her enough but I wasn’t totally loving her character either.

The Romance:

This was a very big let down. One of my biggest problems with Jason is that I never felt like he fell in love with Olive. I definitely think he felt lust for her but I don’t know what he loved about her. Sure she’s a nice person and she worships the ground he walks on for some reason but I don’t know what he sees in her that would make him give up his manwhore ways. He never convinced me that he loved her and more than he liked what she provided for his career and image.

As for Olive, I too don’t know what she really loved about Jason. Sure, it’s cute she had a crush on him as a kid and he gave her that irritating nickname while they were growing up but what else was there? I think she was so blinded by the idea of him (and his cute face) that her inner monologue didn’t provide much substance to the relationship.

My Audiobook Experience:

I do wonder if I would have enjoyed this more if I read the printed version. Audiobooks are longer to get through than a physical book so perhaps that’s the reason the story seemed excessively long (though to be fair, I was listening to it at a faster speed so it didn’t take me that much longer). I didn’t totally love the voice for Jason–it was too deep or something–either. But the production is great overall so no complaints in that respect.

My Rating: 3/5

overall

This one just didn’t live up to the expectations I had in place. I wanted a swoonworthy romance but I ended up wondering why these two even liked each other by the end.

Read if You Like: in love with actor stories, second chances involving childhood friends
Avoid if You: don’t enjoy asshole heroes

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Single Sundays: Velvet Undercover by Teri Brown

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 Velvet Undercover (from Goodreads):

Samantha Donaldson’s family has always done its duty for the British Crown. In the midst of World War I, seventeen-year-old Sam follows in their footsteps, serving her country from the homefront as a Girl Guide and messenger for the intelligence organization MI5. After her father disappears on a diplomatic mission, she continues their studies of languages, high-level mathematics, and complex puzzles and codes, hoping to make him proud.

When Sam is asked to join the famed women’s spy group La Dame Blanche she’s torn—this could be the adventure she’s dreamed of, but how can she abandon her mother, who has already lost a husband to the war? But when her handlers reveal shocking news, Sam realizes there’s no way she can refuse the exciting and dangerous opportunity.

Her acceptance leads her straight into the heart of enemy territory on a mission to extract the most valuable British spy embedded in Germany, known to the members of LDB only as Velvet. Deep undercover within the court of Kaiser Wilhelm II, Samantha must navigate the labyrinthine palace and its many glamorous—and secretive—residents to complete her assignment. To make matters worse she finds herself forming a forbidden attraction to the enemy-a dangerously handsome German guard. In a place where personal politics are treacherously entangled in wartime policy, can Samantha discover the truth and find Velvet before it’s too late…for them both?

breakdown

Author: Teri Brown
Genre: Young Adult, Historical, Thriller, Espionage, WWI
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: October 2015
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I love a good espionage story and I’ve read some great ones set in WWI. I’m not sure how this one crossed my radar (I’ve noted it was from another blog but this was before I noted the blogs–doh!) but I was excited to see how this would unfold.

The Concept / The World:

I loved how each chapter started by defining an espionage term. Quite a few I knew but others I hadn’t so that was a great way to get into the story. Sam isn’t just playing spy here. The stakes are high and it is a matter of life and death for her.
It doesn’t dwell too much on the history of the time, just enough to give you the importance of the situation and help you identify the point of time. However, I wasn’t reading this for the history necessarily. I was more interested in the spy elements so it wasn’t a major issue for me.

The Plot:

I enjoyed the suspense of Sam’s mission. There were so many unknowns that it kept me hooked. The story just gets more convoluted as you go. However, we never dwell too long on anything. Which has its advantages and disadvantages. It isn’t an overly complicated spy story but it also just scratches the surface of the potential story it could have. So while it kept my attention, I craved more.
I also thought that identity of her target was super predictable. I had guessed it pretty early on and while I did waver slightly as the story evolves, I was proven right. That being said, there were a few twists that I didn’t expect so that impressed me.

The Characters:

I liked Sam as a lead. She’s smart yet flawed and it was interesting to see how she evolved as a spy and character.
I also liked how everyone has their own mystery to them that only gets uncovered as you read more about them. It added a little suspense to the story because you weren’t sure who you could and couldn’t trust.

The Romance:

Definitely the weakest part of the story due to its superficial nature. Given the “forbidden” nature  of it, it could have had more tension. It isn’t a huge aspect to the story but it plays enough of a role to interfere with the plot at times.

My Rating: 3.5/5

overall

Despite some of its flaws, this story is definitely enjoyable! It’s fast and always evolving so readers will no doubt be entertained though they might crave a little more.

Read if You Like: espionage novels, women in WWI
Avoid if You: a true espionage thriller
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Single Sundays: Watching You by Shannon Greenland

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 Watching You (from Goodreads):

Viola’s always been that girl from that family, so a scholarship to a prestigious private school in Florida was supposed to be her ticket out of poverty and into a brand-new life. But Viola’s secrets have followed her. Her relationship with the intelligent and gorgeous Riel should have been the salvation she needed—he understands her troubled past better than anyone. But then weird things start to happen.

Frightening messages.

Missing personal items.

The unsettling feeling that she’s being watched.

Viola’s never been one to give her trust easily, but she’ll need to trust in Riel if she’s going to survive her stalker. Because she’s not fighting for a new life anymore—she’s fighting to stay alive.

breakdown

Author: Shannon Greenland
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Suspense
Heat Rating: cool *spicy YA*
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: July 2, 2018
Source & Format: Netgalley–eARC | Thank you Entangled Publishing!

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’ve been keeping an eye out for Shannon Greenland’s other works since I read (and loved) Shadow of a Girl last year. That story was so refreshing and I enjoyed her writing style. I’m always on the lookout for a solid suspense thriller so this seemed like a no brainer for me to try.

The Concept:

I think the synopsis is slightly misleading. It makes it sound as if Viola is actively trying to resolve her stalker issue (with the help of Riel) and that is far from the case. Instead, we go through the motions of Viola’s everyday life with the occasional interference from her stalker. So I would classify this as a contemporary romance with a minor suspense aspect to it.

The Plot:

I thought the stalker aspect was well done in terms of their mysterious identity. There are enough red herrings to keep you guessing so I enjoyed that unpredictable aspect.

I also enjoyed the brief chapters we get from the stalker as well; it added to the atmosphere and raised the stakes.

The Characters:

I liked Viola’s drive to succeed. She goes for what she wants and I liked that. I also appreciated the fact that she grew as a character when her own secrets get the better of her. It gives this story the “coming-of-age” aspect which is always nice to see in a YA romance.

I also really liked Riel. He was an interesting character to learn more about and I really liked what we saw as the story progressed.

The Romance:

I think this was definitely the main focus of the book–which is totally OK because it was super cute! These two have a great slow burn romance to their relationship and I loved watching them get to know each other. My favourite romances are the ones that are unexpected for the characters. When they find themselves with someone they never anticipated and that’s what happens here a bit.

My Rating: 2.5/5

overall

This one resulted in some mixed reactions for me though thanks to the expectations I had going into it and not getting exactly what I anticipated. Those looking for a contemporary romance with a dash of suspense (a la Sara Shepard) will enjoy this but those who want an outright thriller will want to look elsewhere.

Read if You Like: YA romances, contemporary
Avoid if You: wanted a true thriller
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Single Sundays: Company Ink by Kat Colburn

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 Company Ink (from Goodreads):

The Company has a rule about falling in love on the job.

I’ve never been one for rules. But I need this one. I need this rule to remind me why I can’t be with Dani Wallace.

I need this smart little foul-mouthed fighter by my side more than I need her in my bed. I need her to close this massive deal. She thinks it holds the key to her escape from cubicle hell and another shot at the life she always wanted.

But there is more riding on our success than she can possibly ever know. So I’ll keep my hands to myself and my secrets safe for one more day.

But now I can’t stop wondering what my best friend has on beneath her conservative suit. I can’t stop imagining the things that sharp mouth of hers could do to me if I leaned back in my chair and unzipped my pants. And I can’t stop pushing our flirting too far.

I’m trying to remember the rule. But some rules are made to be broken.

breakdown

Author: Kat Colburn
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Suspense
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: December 2017
Source & Format: Author–eARC | Thank you Kat Colburn!

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

When Kat asked me to read her debut office romance novel I was excited to see what it was all about. I love a good office romance novel thanks to the delicious sexual tension that often accompanies them. And this one was billed as a “slow burn” which has been one of my favourite tropes of late.

The Concept:

I have to say that the synopsis is slightly misleading. For one thing, it made me think that we were going to get Dan’s POV for a majority of the book since the synopsis is told in his voice. And while Dan does have a POV, it is a while before we actually get to it.

It’s also billed as a “friends-to-lovers” romance but it should be “strangers-to-friends-to-lovers” romance as these two don’t know each other at the start. I went in thinking these two had been friends for a while and only know the tension was becoming too much for them to handle but that isn’t the case. And the slow burn (ie watching them become friends and then into more) romance we get is nice to see but not necessarily what I was expecting when I picked up the book.

The Plot:

This story suffers a bit from its pacing. It takes a long time for these two to become friends and during that time we get more details about the business than I would have preferred. Points of it felt repetitive too. It made the first half of the book seem terribly slow and I was starting to lose interest. You could have easily cut out some scenes and still delivered the story successfully.

The second half picks up though when the two start to almost cross the line romantically and the suspense aspect of the plot picks up. The drama that comes from the suspense plot was a nice touch and gave this story a refreshing spin to it.

The Characters:

I had a weird relationship with Dani as a lead. Sometimes I appreciated her almost cynical views on life but other times she came across as rude and that irked me. I did understand her character’s background though as she is rather open in that respect. But then I would be confused about some of her thoughts and actions because of things she would say earlier but do/think the opposite of later. (Like with respect to her career).

Dan was an interesting lead as well. He’s got an aura of mystery around him which is always fun to read about in a lead. Of course, keeping those secrets got a little irritating but it did add to the suspense of the novel.

The Romance:

I found that this was a lot more telling than showing. You get told that they spend all this time together yet you rarely see them interact in those moments. So the chemistry was something that took awhile to be readily apparent to me.

I will say, I did enjoy the slow burn aspect. It was perhaps slower than I anticipated but in the second half of the novel I felt like the romance really benefited from that approach. I always like to see the emotional connections between characters and there was no doubt in my mind what great partners these two were for each other in all aspects.

My Rating: 2.5/5

overall

I think those looking for a heated office romance will not find that here. But those looking for a story that takes its time building up will enjoy this debut.

Read if You Like: slow burn, office romance
Avoid if You: want erotica
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