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Single Sundays: Pretend I’m Yours by Ella Miles

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 Pretend I’m Yours (from Goodreads):

I’m a twenty-two-year-old virgin. Tonight that changes.

I thought my first time had to be magical. The perfect date. The perfect place. The perfect guy. I thought I wanted to be in love.
But now, I’m desperate.
I’ll take any guy as long as he’s decent looking and treats me well, at least for the night.
Turns out Mr. Perfect isn’t so hard to find. He’s hot, dreamy, and filthy rich. And he wants me.
Sex with him is going to be better than I ever imagined. He’s going to ruin me for all other guys. I know that it is just for one night, but it doesn’t matter. I’m happy to get my perfect night.
One night isn’t enough, for either of us.
Because Mr. Perfect just fake proposed to me. And he wants this proposal to last a lot longer than one night.

Will you pretend to be my wife?

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Author: Ella Miles
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Drama
Heat Rating: Hot
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: May 29, 2018
Source & Format: Author–eARC | Thank you Ella Miles!

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

It’s no secret that I love Ella Miles’ books. If I want a steamy contemporary romance (sometimes with a darker edge to it) that will surprise me in its plot, she’s the author I turn to.

I would say fake relationships are my favourite book trope of all time. I devour anything with that in the synopsis so I was SUPER DUPER excited when Ella announced she was writing a contemporary romance with that as a feature. Of course, I knew there would be more to this story than that and so I was eager to dive in!

The Plot:

I’ll admit that the synopsis is slightly misleading, especially once you get two chapters into the novel. But like all of Ella’s books, things often go in a direction you don’t expect. This book kept me on my toes. It’s full of angst and steam and I just got sucked into it all as soon as these two lay eyes on each other. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in their story.

The Characters:

I really liked Larykn. I wasn’t sure what she would be like considering the synopsis (I worried she was going to be driven by sex and lust) but I really grew to like her spunk and independence. She doesn’t really play any games and is pretty open to voicing her opinion which I like.

I’m not going to name “Mr Perfect” because that is part of the suspense of the first part of the novel, but I also loved him as a lead. He’s a bit of a bad boy but has a good heart two so it was easy to fall for him.

The Romance:

Talk about palpable chemistry! Wowza, you could really feel it between these two! I loved all their scenes together. They are such a good match for each other so watching them inevitably falling in love was such a treat!

My Rating: 5/5

overall

This is probably my favourite Ella Miles book to date! I just loved the chemistry and the pacing of the story. I was sucked in from the start!

Read if You Like: fake romances, drama, quicker reads
Avoid if You: don’t like slightly over the top drama
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Spin-off Saturdays: The Fix Up by Kendall Ryan

Spin-off Saturdays: On the occasional Saturday, I will review a series/standalone that is a spin-off series. It is often recommended that you read the original series first in order to get the most out of the spin-off series. Here is this week’s offering:

The Fix Up is a spin-off of the Hitched Series

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Series: N/A

This is a spinoff of the Hitched Series. Can be read as a Standalone.

Author: Kendall Ryan
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: October 2016
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook (I also own an eBook)

thoughts

My Expectations?

I really liked Sterling’s character in Hitched. He was charming and funny; a nice compliment to Noah’s character. So I really hoped he would get a book of his own in the future. We get a little inkling of what’s to come with Sterling and Camryn at the end of Hitched so I was curious to know what their story would be.

How Does It Compare To The Original?

I found Hitched had a quirkiness to it that was slightly off-putting at times. It’s also melodramatic at times with its soap-opera-esque plotline (and that’s to be expected seeing as it was published as a 3 part serialized series).

But I found The Fix Up to be slightly more grounded in its approach. The focus is more on the characters fighting their feelings for each other than external obstacles in their way (though there are those as well). It has this slow burn vibe to it that I found Hitched was lacking given the premise and subsequent execution.

Anything I Didn’t Like?

It has your classic “communication-assumption” moment that irked me because it was so obvious what was happening but other than that, I really enjoyed this.

My Audiobook Experience:

I really enjoyed the audio version. The male narrator for Sterling had a British accent like Sterling is supposed to have which is always great. His voice was perhaps deeper or more serious in tone than I anticipated but I warmed up to it as I listened.

 

Rating: 4/5

overall

A cute and quick read about fighting the undeniable connection between a matchmaker and their client.

Read if You Like: quick reads, contemporary romance, slow burn
Avoid if You: want erotica
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booksynopsis

Synopsis for The Fix Up (from Goodreads):

My tempting, and very alpha friend Sterling Quinn is someone I consider off-limits.

It’s not just that we’re friends, he’s also a cocky, confident, and British, which means he’s a walking aphrodisiac.

But lately he’s been giving me the look. You know the one. When he thinks I’m not paying attention, and his gaze lingers for too long.

And then we start working together, and that’s when the sexual tension between us gets so thick, I want to hack through it with a machete. I want to make all these deep feelings I’ve harbored for him disappear, because there’s no way this can end well.

The lines between business and pleasure become irrevocably blurred, and I’m stuck between a rock, and Sterling’s very, very hard place.

Rather than keep a level head about our growing attraction, Sterling wants to go all in, showing me just how explosive we can be together.

But I’ve been around long enough to know that this British bad boy is more than my heart can handle. I’m not about to be cast aside like yesterday’s underwear when he’s done having fun.

Sterling’s never been told no, and he’s not about to put his ego aside and play by my rules. But I never thought he’d fight so dirty.

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Single Sundays: The Lies We Tell by Brittany Butler

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 Lies We Tell (from Goodreads):

Natalie Conner is a self-proclaimed liar who is used to doing what she wants. There’s only one problem: the truth always comes to light.

When issues arise in her new life, she finds herself back at square one and the web of lies she clings to are unveiling before her. With her life now revolving around the past, she has a choice to make. However, for Natalie, when her life starts to spiral out of control, a new life and a new web of lies have never sounded so good.

Natalie Conner might be a liar, but her story isn’t one she can make up.

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Author: Brittany Butler
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Realistic Fiction
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: December 30, 2018
Source & Format: Author–eARC

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

What I liked about the Brittany Butler’s work is that it has different take on the contemporary romance novel. It isn’t always sunshine and rainbows; rather, you get the grittiness of everyday life and the complications of genuine people.

The Plot:

For me, this is one of those novels that I didn’t really get until the end. What I mean by that is that I didn’t understand the bigger picture/the purpose of this story until I read that epilogue.

I don’t think it helped that I had completely different expectations for this novel. I went in thinking it was going to be a story laced with deception and callous motives but that was far from the truth. Instead, this story focuses on the little lies we tell ourselves to get through life and how telling them (or by omitting them) we create bigger problems for ourselves in the end.

The Characters:

I struggled with Natalie’s character at the start of the novel (she is one jaded girl and it can be hard to read such a negative headspace). She’s a little wish-washy and hard to read at times but these are the characters that have the best opportunities for growth and she certainly did. I was pleased with her evolution by the end of the story.

The Romance:

I don’t want to give much away by getting into details. The romance plays a big role in the story in the sense that it is the starting point that everything builds off of. I’ll just finish off by saying that this novel really explores that not so pretty side of love; the more realistic side that is often overlooked in other contemporary romance novels and I enjoyed divining into that aspect a lot.

concSLOW

My Rating: 3/5

overall

This novel would be perfect for fans of Emily Giffin because it has that same realistic, everyday grittiness to it as you explore the not always happy side of relationships and life.

Read if You Like: realistic fiction, adult contemporary
Avoid if You: dislike jaded heroines
similarreads

  • Love the One You’re With by Emily Giffin
  • Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares (Sisterhood Series #4)

 

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Single Sundays: Without Merit by Colleen Hoover

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 Without Merit (from Goodreads):

Not every mistake deserves a consequence. Sometimes the only thing it deserves is forgiveness.

The Voss family is anything but normal. They live in a repurposed church, newly baptized Dollar Voss. The once cancer-stricken mother lives in the basement, the father is married to the mother’s former nurse, the little half-brother isn’t allowed to do or eat anything fun, and the eldest siblings are irritatingly perfect. Then, there’s Merit.

Merit Voss collects trophies she hasn’t earned and secrets her family forces her to keep. While browsing the local antiques shop for her next trophy, she finds Sagan. His wit and unapologetic idealism disarm and spark renewed life into her—until she discovers that he’s completely unavailable. Merit retreats deeper into herself, watching her family from the sidelines when she learns a secret that no trophy in the world can fix.

Fed up with the lies, Merit decides to shatter the happy family illusion that she’s never been a part of before leaving them behind for good. When her escape plan fails, Merit is forced to deal with the staggering consequences of telling the truth and losing the one boy she loves.

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite Author
Author: Colleen Hoover
Genre: Young Adult / New Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Romance
Heat Rating: cool **suggestive content**
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: October 3, 2017
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I adore Colleen Hoover’s works. She writes really unique and emotionally captivating novels. Novels that make me think and make me swoon. I’m definitely a die-hard fan when it comes to her works.

But I had no idea what to expect when I read the synopsis for Without Merit. What I did know was that I needed to be in an emotionally ready state to read the novel (for anyone who has read It Ends With Us you know what I am talking about) and so I mentally prepared myself and dove in.

The Concept / The Plot:

Like most Hoover novels, there is an overarching theme or message that she wants to convey. The message for this one wasn’t completely obvious to me until the last few chapters when everything started to come together.

I had a hard time deciding on my feelings after finishing this book. On one hand, I loved the message and what Hoover is trying to convey. But on the other, it all felt a little messy to me. I almost think too many things were at play and it took me a long time to figure out what was happening.

I’m going to do a little bit of a rant with spoilers below because it’s hard to articulate what I mean without referencing certain things.

My Spoiler Explanation

This book is all about perspectives and Merit assuming things to only be a certain way. There’s a lot she doesn’t know because there is so much going on with the character’s in this book. Just look at the letter she writes with her family’s many secrets. I think that there were almost too many problems to handle. Sagan’s story in particular just seemed to add to an already full glass.

Why I’m torn is due to the fact that life isn’t straight-forward and linear. It’s complicated and messy like it is for the Voss family–even if most families don’t have the same problems that they do. So in one respect, I appreciate that they are a complicated family but in the other, I think it almost overwhelms the story and its message.

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There isn’t much to the plot besides Merit living her everyday life, burdened by her secrets. It sounds a little boring but that’s where the characters come in. I know I found Merit’s narration intriguing because she has such a unique outlook on life. So I was drawn into Merit’s experience and the need to uncover what was happening in this family.

The Characters:

I enjoyed Merit as the lead. She’s intriguing and unlike any character I’ve ever encountered. She had me chuckling at some of her observations. I’m not sure if everyone would enjoy her but I know I did.

The rest of the cast is equally as interesting. Everyone has their little quirks and secrets so I found myself drawn in to know more.

The Romance:

Definitely not my favourite of Hoover’s that I’ve encountered. It doesn’t play a huge role in this story but it is a key factor of Merit’s story. I almost wonder if the story would have been stronger without it and things remained platonic…

My Rating: 3.5/5

overall

While I appreciate and understand what Hoover was trying to showcase in this story, I think some readers will get lost in the eccentrics of the characters and the fact that there is a little too much happening along the way to get that message across.

Read if You Like: quirky characters, contemporary
Avoid if You: realistic fiction of a darker nature, eccentric characters

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Single Sundays: Exmas 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 Exmas (from Goodreads):

This Christmas, I’ll be getting a visit from a man in a suit, only it won’t be Santa.

Let me first say: Reed York was never my boyfriend. He was the pen. I was the company ink. Though if you want to get technical, we were more like colleagues-who-hated-each-other … with benefits.

Everything was fine until the charming jerk went behind my back, stole my promotion, and became my boss—literally overnight.

Refusing to work beneath him (professionally speaking and otherwise), I transferred 2,014 miles away to our Chicago division, and I’ve spent the past year trying to remember how much I hated his panty-melting smirk so I can forget how much I secretly loved the way his ocean eyes lit every time I walked into the room.

But he’s just announced a last-minute site visit the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, and on top of that, he’s audaciously designated me as his ‘right hand gal’ during his visit. If he thinks he has a snowball’s chance in this hell at getting back in my good graces, he’s got another thing coming.

Reed York might be a man used to getting everything he’s ever wanted, but Joa Jolivet is a woman that never forgets.

He can put me on his Christmas list all he wants, but everyone knows naughty boys only get coal.

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Author: Winter Renshaw
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Second Chance
Heat Rating: Warm
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: November 6, 2018
Source & Format: Hidden Gem Reviews–eARC

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I love Winter Renshaw’s work and she’s a must read author for me. I’m not usually one for “holiday” reads but I liked the premise of this second chance romance. I always enjoy books with a bit of a “mystery” to the break-up and I couldn’t wait to figure out why Reed stole Joa’s dream job.

The Concept:

Sometimes, flashbacks to the past can be distracting but here I think it truly cemented their relationship and shaped them as characters. Otherwise, I would have wanted more from the present day plot because they don’t interact that much romantically. The flashbacks sold me on the second chance romance aspect; through them I was able to see how these two worked as a couple and why they are still hung up on each other a year later.

It’s a little light on the Christmas aspect but that’s ok. You could read it any time of the year but if you are reading it around the holidays, it’ll bring out the best in the season through Joa’s family.

The Plot:

My reason for the lower rating is that I wanted a little more from the drama. While I liked the mystery behind why Reed got the job, it was kinda predictable so that blew some of the wind out of the anticipation. Getting his POV gives his motives away even if I understand the reason behind his actions. I think that’s why I enjoyed the flashback scenes so much; in a way, it gave me something to look forward to.

In a way, you kinda get two stories in one thanks to the flashbacks. Each “present day” chapter is followed by a snapshot of the past and I liked the anticipation that built up to the story because you are getting the pieces one at a time to the full picture.

The Characters:

I really liked these two as individuals. Reed was my favourite; I thought he had the best development. He was sweet and Joa slowly melts his heart and opens up his views on what he wants in life and love. Joa was great too–I just got frustrated with her anger towards Reed because it was a bit of a communication assumption for why he took the job and her stubbornness (avoiding talking to him) caused their issues. I also think her character growth wasn’t as strong.

The Romance:

I loved these two and their hate-to-love-you romance. They had such great chemistry together so it was a treat to watch their story unfold. Again, the flashbacks really sold me on the romance.

My Rating: 4.5/5

overall

It’s an addicting, quick read that fans of second chance romances will enjoy.

Read if You Like: second chances, workplace romances, flashbacks
Avoid if You: want a more suspenseful read

similarreads

  • Sweet Spot by Stella Rhys (Irresistible Series #1)
  • Charlotte Chronicles by Jen Frederick (Jackson Boys Series #1)

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Single Sundays: When It’s Real by Erin Watt

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 When It’s Real (from Goodreads):

Meet Oakley Ford-teen celebrity, renowned pop star, child of famous movie stars, hottie with millions of fangirls… and restless troublemaker. On the surface he has it all, but with his home life disintegrating, his music well suddenly running dry, and the tabloids having a field day over his outrageous exploits, Oakley’s team decides it’s time for an intervention. The result: an image overhaul, complete with a fake girlfriend meant to show the world he’s settled down.

Enter seventeen-year-old Vaughn Bennett-devoted sister, part-time waitress, the definition of “normal.” Under ordinary circumstances she’d never have taken this gig, but with her family strapped for cash, she doesn’t have much of a choice. And for the money Oakley’s team is paying her, she figures she can put up with outlandish Hollywood parties and a team of publicists watching her every move. So what if she thinks Oakley’s a shallow, self-centered jerk? It’s not like they’re going to fall for each other in real life…right?

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Fave Read of 2018, Canadian Author
Author: Erin Watt (pen name of Elle Kennedy & Jen Frederick)
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: May 30, 2017
Source & Format: Public Library (Hoopla)–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

This novel was one of my most anticipated reads of 2017. Not only is it written by a duo of authors I adore but it also has some of my favourite romance tropes. Fake relationship; in love with a celebrity; hate to love you; in love with a musician. In fact, I was so scared that I would pick up this book and end up disappointed that I kept putting it off. Which is why I made it a selection for my 5 Year 5 Book Reading Challenge for 2018. I needed to read this book and I was going to read it sooner than later.

The Plot:

Have you ever wanted a book not to end? Seriously, I could have followed these two until they day they die. The story just flowed so effortlessly from start to finish and I found myself getting caught up in it all.

I think the best part of this novel is that nothing seems rushed. The romance has a slow burn vibe to it so that continues to build and rope you in. But in the meantime, you get to focus on Vaughn and Oakley growing as characters, tackling their everyday (and as a result of their arrangement) problems. Everything just had a great balance for me.

The Characters:

These two easily became new favourite characters! They are written extremely well; I never felt like they were wish-washy in their convictions or actions. And I think that is the result of some great character development. The characters we get at the start of the book are not who we end the book with–only they are because you have watched these two evolve before your eyes.

And the rest of the cast is superb! They truly support Oakley and Vaughn and add to this story in a great way.

The Romance:

SWOON! Seriously, it’s a wonder I didn’t hurt anyone while listening (and swooning) to this audiobook as I drove. Oakley stole my heart and I loved watching Vaughn unravel his character. Their banter at the start of the book immediately sold me on their relationship and I couldn’t get enough of them as the story progressed.

I do have one issue with the romance and I put it in the spoiler box (even though one aspect is something revealed in the first three chapters) but I don’t like to do spoilers without warning.

My Little Complaint

One thing that really bothered me in the middle of the book was Oakley’s attitude that “he could get any girl he wanted” and that Vaughn should be “honoured” that he was even thinking about her. This attitude really got on my nerves because I felt like Vaughn was trading her toxic relationship with W (who kept reminding her that should be grateful he wasn’t pressuring her for sex when he could get it from anyone) for another one with Oakley. Thankfully, I felt like Oakley matured out of this attitude within the next few chapters.

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My Audiobook Experience:

I am SO SO SO happy I (found and) listened to this as an audiobook! The narrators (Caitlin Kelly and Teddy Hamilton) were so amazing! I seriously found two new favourite narrators. They truly brought these characters to life for me. I felt every range of emotion in this book and I think it was amplified thanks to their stellar performance.

My Rating: 5/5

overall

I don’t say this very often (especially with contemporary romances) but I definitely plan on rereading this book in the years to come. I just loved the characters, the romance and the story!

Read if You Like: fake relationships, swoon-worthy heroes, jaded celebrity hero
Avoid if You: dislike YA contemporary romances

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Single Sundays: American Panda by Gloria Chao

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 American Panda (from Goodreads):

An incisive, laugh-out-loud contemporary debut about a Taiwanese-American teen whose parents want her to be a doctor and marry a Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer despite her squeamishness with germs and crush on a Japanese classmate.

At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents’ master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies.

With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can’t bring herself to tell them the truth–that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese.

But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite YA Contemporary 2018
Author: Gloria Chao
Genre: Young Adult / New Adult, Contemporary, Coming of Age, Romance, Family
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: February 6, 2018
Source & Format: Own–Audiobook via Kobo

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

A lot of the blogs I follow reviewed this book around its release date and had nothing but praise for it.

I will admit I was a little scared to read because of said hype but also because I wasn’t sure if I would be able to relate to our lead, Mei. I’m not of Asian decent (though I’m familiar with some of the cultural aspects thanks to close friends) and we don’t have a similar family background, so I was worried some of the humour and situations might be a little lost on me.

But I’ve been proven wrong before and I’ve had a great track-record with listening to the audiobooks of similar stories so I decided to use one of my Kobo Audiobook credits to get the audio version.

Review Spoiler Alert: One of the best decisions I made all year 😉

The Concept:

As I said above, I wasn’t sure how well I would understand Mei’s various situations. I’m not Asian and my parents aren’t immigrants to my country either; I’m a smorgasbord of cultures so I just identify as Canadian. I’ve never felt torn between two cultures like Mei does. And my parents never were nothing but supportive of my educational and professional goals.

But that being said, I still related to Mei on many levels once I started to listen to her story; in particular with her views on family. Regardless of culture, age and the like, I feel like there is a universal feeling that you never want to disappoint your parents or your family. I know I felt that way when I decided in my final year of university that I didn’t want to pursue my original professional school. And I’ve also found myself in situations where it feels like it’s me and my brother vs our parents. So while I might not have a similar situation to Mei and its extremes, I do understand the heart of her inner conflict and that’s what drew me to her story.

The Plot:

Simply put, this is a coming of age story about a girl deciding what she wants out of life. But I never got bored. So many things happen along the way and there’s this great balance between everything. You get a dash of romance, a dash of friendship and a dash of family—everything that makes up great story.

The Characters:

Mei’s a fabulous lead. I loved watching her transform as the story progressed. She has some great character development and you can’t help but root for her as she finds her way. She’s also hilarious with her somewhat awkward ways and personality quirks. Frankly, she’s nothing but adorable and the type of lead who makes a novel amazing.

Also, special shoutout to Mei’s mom. She was a fantastic character and her voicemails to Mei left me in stitches!

The Romance:

Darren made me want to go back to university just to see if I could find someone like him for myself 😛

In all seriousness, the romance was really cute but also an important aspect to the story. Like a romance should in a great coming of age story, it should enhance the story and never distract from it. And I feel like that was what was done here. Her relationship with Darren is key in highlighting Mei’s struggles but I never felt like it became the main focus of her story and I greatly appreciated that.

My Audiobook Experience:

I’m SO SO SO glad I listened to this as an audiobook! Emily Zoo Weller did a great job bringing Mei to life. Her accents were great, all the characters sounded different, and her expressions were awesome. I always consider it a plus when an audiobook can make me cry when a character does and this did that quite a few times. I also laughed hysterically throughout–people driving by probably thought I was crazy as I drove to work.

My Rating: 5/5

overall

One of the best coming of age stories I have read in a long time. I also highly recommend the audiobook!

Read if You Like: coming of age, stories about culture, diverse leads
Avoid if You: want more romance, dislike coming of age

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Blog Tour: Illusions by Madeline J Reynolds

Synopsis for Illusions (from Entangled Teen):

Dear Thomas,

I know you’re angry. It’s true, I was sent to expose your mentor as a fraud illusionist, and instead I have put your secret in jeopardy. I fear I have even put your life in jeopardy. For that I can only beg your forgiveness. I’ve fallen for you. You know I have. And I never wanted to create a rift between us, but if it means protecting you from those who wish you dead—I’ll do it. I’ll do anything to keep you safe, whatever the sacrifice. Please forgive me for all I’ve done and what I’m about to do next. I promise, it’s one magic trick no one will ever see coming.

Love,
Saverio

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Author: Madeline J Reynolds
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Romance, Fantasy, LGBT, Magic
Heat Rating: cool **suggestive content**
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: November 6, 2018
Source & Format: YA Bound Book Tours–eARC via Netgalley

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thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I was drawn to this title for a number of reasons. The first is its historical setting–I love a good Victorian Era YA novel. The second is the gay romance between the leads–I haven’t read too many books set in this era with that romance. And the third is the premise itself–who doesn’t love some good magician sabotage?

The Plot:

This book took me awhile to get into probably because it is told through (primarily) journal entries and that delivers the story in a different way. You focus more on the characters, their feelings and daily events more so than the setting or interactions with other characters. In a sense, you are getting the story secondhand story because they are describing what has happened without you experiencing it first hand. But once I got into the groove of the POV format, the story was easy to read.

I, personally, would have enjoyed a more amped up rivalry between the two master magicians; with more sabotage. Instead, the focus remains on the two apprentices creating a very character driven story that is still very enjoyable to read because there is some great character growth (in addition to the very sweet romance).

The Characters:

It was amazing to watch these two transform before my eyes as the story progressed. The Thomas and Saverio we get at the start of the novel definitely aren’t the same boys we end the story with. I just loved the personal growth we see in these characters. I think the journal entries provided that touch of intimacy into these characters’ emotions and inner thoughts that really adds to the characters’ many layers.

The Romance:

These two were simply adorable together! I always enjoy romances that don’t start out with the nicest intentions, yet twist into something real and strong. When the plot isn’t focusing on them as individuals, I like how it concentrated on how they navigate their relationship given the various circumstances (their rivalry, the nature of their relationship in society, etc.). I also appreciated how it took the time to tackle them realistically; nothing ever felt rushed in that sense (and that isn’t always the case).

My Rating: 3/5

overall
Despite a slower start, this is a great read for fans of character driven historical YA reads!

Read if You Like: historical, stories told through journal entries
Avoid if You: want more than romance

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Madeline J Reynolds

Madeline J. Reynolds is a YA fantasy author living in Chicago. Originally from Minneapolis, she has a background in journalism and has always loved storytelling in its various forms. When not writing, she can be found exploring the city, eating Thai food, or lost in an epic Lord of the Rings marathon.

Author Links: Website | Twitter | Goodreads

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Single Sundays: Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke

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 Wink Poppy Midnight (from Goodreads):

Every story needs a hero.
Every story needs a villain.
Every story needs a secret.

Wink is the odd, mysterious neighbor girl, wild red hair and freckles. Poppy is the blond bully and the beautiful, manipulative high school queen bee. Midnight is the sweet, uncertain boy caught between them. Wink. Poppy. Midnight. Two girls. One boy. Three voices that burst onto the page in short, sharp, bewitching chapters, and spiral swiftly and inexorably toward something terrible or tricky or tremendous.

What really happened?
Someone knows.
Someone is lying.

breakdown

Author: April Genevieve Tucholke
Genre: Young Adult, Magical Realism, Suspense, Romance
Heat Rating: warm **suggestive content**
Point of View: First Person, Multiple
Publication Date: March 22, 2016
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

This book seemed to be on a ton of lists in 2016 because I remember seeing it a lot. I’ll be the first to admit: I was drawn to the cover mostly–I love it so much!

I’ll also admit that I totally forgot about this book until I was browsing audiobooks to listen to last year.  I’m always up for a good mind-bending novel. You know, the ones that have this underlying mystery that changes your entire reading experience once it is revealed? I was eager to see what this one had in store.

The Concept / The World:

I’m going to quote the little blurb that is a part of the synopsis for the audiobook to give my thoughts on the concept/world of this novel.

The intrigue of The Raven Boys and the “supernatural or not” question of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer coalesce in this young adult mystery, where nothing is quite as it seems, no one is quite who you think, and everything can change on a dime.

I definitely did see the parallels to The Raven Boys Cycle with the setting. Wink’s connection to tarot cards and mysticism is very similar to Blue’s in The Raven Boys. (Only Wink is a lot odder than Blue). Add the aspects of school and I felt like I had returned to Blue’s world.

I’ve never read The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer (it’s another TBR item) but you do find yourself questioning if what is happening is supernatural or something else at play. It makes the story suspenseful in an intriguing sort of way.

The “no one is quite who you think” — yeah, that’s not really the case. Maybe because I read this line I knew that there was more to these characters than meets the eye. When you read something like that you try to put the pieces together. So while I wouldn’t say this is predictable, it is perhaps a touch cliche in its character twists.

The Plot:

I really struggled with the plot for this novel because I really don’t think there was one. Or at least, there wasn’t one that is apparent from the start. The whole idea of this book is to figure out how these characters’ stories are intertwined by listening to them tell their side of events. Which is fine, I just wanted a little more focus.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that this story seemed a little aimless in its delivery to me. It reminded me a lot of The Raven Boys where there is something happening in terms of plot but you kinda just go through the motions of everyday life for 80% of the novel. That just bores me.

The Characters:

I didn’t particularly like any of these characters. You aren’t really supposed to like Poppy so job well done there. Wink I had a hard time figuring out–literally and figuratively–so I didn’t particularly love her character. And I just felt so bad for Midnight because he is so easy to manipulate and he doesn’t seem to have a backbone.

And going back to what I said above: they all seemed a little cliche to me. That is part of the point though and its how they contribute to the story but I think I just wanted a little more substance to them.

The Romance:

I think you can assume that there is a love triangle of sorts between Wink, Poppy and Midnight just by reading the synopsis. It contributes to the story but because I didn’t love any of the characters, I wasn’t really feeling the romance.

Audiobook Experience:

One of the main reasons I picked the audiobook version of this novel was the narrators. When I picked this one up, I was fairly new to the world of fiction audiobooks. See, I was curious if I would be thrown off by a novel that had narrators I had already listened to. Kinda like the phenomenon where you see an actor from one role in another and you can only see them as that first role (no matter what they do after).

In this novel, Midnight’s voice is done by Michael Crouch who was Simon in Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda and Poppy is Caitlin Davies who was Kristen in None of the Above. Both were novels I read a few weeks before this one.

The good news is that it only took me a few chapters to get accustomed to the narration here and associating the voices with the characters. The audiobook is fantastic; truthfully, it is one of the reasons why I gave this book a 3 instead of a 2. All the narrators do a great job bringing these characters to life.

And Michael Crouch has easily become one of my favourite voice actors to listen too. He does a fabulous job and I’ll be looking for more novels by him in the future.

My Rating: 2.5/5

overall

I spent 80% of this book trying to figure out what this novel was trying to achieve and I’m not sure the big “twist” was worth the time. The book is definitely unique in terms of its writing style and the audiobook is very well done but there isn’t enough here to really impress me.

Read if You Like: magical realism, intrigue
Avoid if You: want a stronger plot
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Single Sundays: Finding Perfect by Ella Miles

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 Finding Perfect (from Goodreads):

I want the perfect man, and Ace Knight isn’t him.

He’s a foul-mouthed, pothead, tattooed bastard.
He may have saved my life, but he also cost me my nursing career with one smug kiss.
Now I’m broke, homeless, and jobless.

I wanted a man in a suit.
Tall, dark, and handsome.
Not broken, cursing, and cynical.

Knight thinks I’m the perfect woman for him.
Perfect to help him keep his ex-wife from inheriting his millions.
I can’t refuse his offer. I need the money.

But what if he expects me to…sleep with him.
I can’t…I won’t…until he smirks and then I’m toast.
I think I need a new plan.

Bad boy + flawed girl does not equal perfect.

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Author: Ella Miles
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Drama
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: September 24, 2018
Source & Format: Author–eARC | Thank you Ella Miles!

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’ll be honest and say I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect with this novel because the synopsis doesn’t give much away. But I always anticipate that something is up Ella Miles’ sleeve so I was eager to get started.

The Plot:

This whole story felt disjointed. At first, I thought it was just the first few chapters but it continued throughout. I liked the various parts but I didn’t think they worked well together. The chemistry between the two was lacking; the timelines were a little off; and some plot points just didn’t seem logical.

Of course, you have that classic Ella Miles twist in there (where the story takes a turn you’ve never anticipate) but even that felt underdeveloped. It didn’t save this unfortunately.

The Characters:

On the surface, I like both characters. Mila has drive and strives for independence so I enjoy that in my heroines. Ace has that bad boy exterior but sweetheart interior that is irresistible. However, I wasn’t impressed by them when it was all said and done; and I think the quick, chemistry-less romance was the reason for that.

The Romance:

I just didn’t see the draw between these two besides contention and proximity. It started so promising too because they really had some conflict at the start and I love a good “hate to love you” romance. But the shift from hate to love just didn’t work for me.

My Rating: 2/5

overall

This isn’t my favourite Ella Miles novel and that’s a shame because I think all the right ingredients were there.

Read if You Like: fake romances, drama, quicker reads
Avoid if You: don’t like slightly over the top drama
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