Tag «#weneeddiversebooks»

Series Review: Cyclone by Courtney Milan

Series Review: Cyclone by Courtney Milan

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

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Trade Me (from Goodreads):

Tina Chen just wants a degree and a job, so her parents never have to worry about making rent again. She has no time for Blake Reynolds, the sexy billionaire who stands to inherit Cyclone Technology. But when he makes an off-hand comment about what it means to be poor, she loses her cool and tells him he couldn’t last a month living her life.

To her shock, Blake offers her a trade: She’ll get his income, his house, his car. In exchange, he’ll work her hours and send money home to her family. No expectations; no future obligations.

But before long, they’re trading not just lives, but secrets, kisses, and heated nights together. No expectations might break Tina’s heart…but Blake’s secrets could ruin her life.

breakdown

Series: Cyclone
Author: Courtney Milan
# of Books: 2+ (Full Reading Order Here)

There are multiple novellas — see Reading Order.

Book Order: Direct Sequels & Connected
Complete?: No, Find Me is to be released
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: January 2015 – ongoing
Source & Format: Owned & Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I found Trade Me from a NA Recommendation Post by Sil at Dani Reviews Things. I was drawn to it for its premise of a fake romance but also because our heroine was Chinese and the emphasis on family.

I didn’t get around to it for years–which turned out to be an ok thing since Courtney Milan is notoriously known as a slow writer so the rest of the series has yet to be published–but I made it an addition to my Tackling the TBR Challenge for 2020.

The Reading Order:

Everything follows a chronological order of events so it is important to follow the publication order of the series even if some books focus on different people. Books #1, #2.5 and #3 focus on Tina and Blake with the other novels focusing on other characters we meet along the way.

What I Like:

–Character Diversity–

In December of 2019, there was a big uproar with the Romance Writers of America (RWA) and Courtney Milan was at the centre of it. There is a great article about the controversy here by the New York Times for those who missed it. The gist is, Milan called out another author on Twitter for her “racist mess” of a novel and how it personally offended her as a woman of Chinese descent.

One of the things I loved the most about this series is its inclusivity. You’ve got a lead of Chinese decent in Trade Me and a trans woman lead in Hold Me. And the best part is, she makes it all seem so natural—BECAUSE IT IS! I never once felt like she was putting these character traits in for shock and awe. Everything about these stories felt so organic.

–Very Character Focused Stories–

Yes, there is a romance in these novels but I think the larger focus is on the characters and navigating their lives. All the characters we meet go through some drastic growing pains in these novels and who we start the novel with isn’t who we end up with. So if you love character-focused stories, this is a great series for you!

What I Didn’t Like:

Hold Me (Book #2)–

I was really excited to read Maria’s story in Hold Me but I ended up DNFing it at 30%. There was just too much “hate” in the hate-to-love you aspect that I didn’t see how these two would ever rectify their differences. And even as someone with a BSc, their science banter was way too hard to follow for me.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I’m actually super invested in Blake’s dad’s story (you’ll understand once you read the books–I promise!) and that’s the one I’m going to be keeping my eyes out for!

Series Rating: 3/5

Trade Me 3.5/5 | Hold Me DNF | [Year of the Crocodile 3/5] | Find Me TBR |[What Lies Between You and Me TBR] | Keep Me TBR | Show Me TBR

overall

If you like stories that take their time to evolve and you enjoy books featuring a diverse cast of characters, this is a great NA romance series for you to try!

Read if You Like: diverse characters
Avoid if You: more erotica based romance

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Series Reviews: Rainbows by J J McAvoy

Series Reviews: Rainbows by J J McAvoy

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

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Black Rainbows (from Goodreads):

After an erotic one-week fling with a musician she meets in a bar, Thea Cunning never expects to see Levi Black again. Then Monday morning comes around, and she discovers that her former lover is not only her professor, but he’s also one of the top criminal lawyers in the state of Massachusetts.

With everyone in class vying to be one of the twelve disciples—a group of twelve students that Professor Black takes under his wing—tensions run high. Thea considers dropping his class, given their passionate week together and their undeniable chemistry. After all, there are other (less infuriatingly sexy) law professors on campus.

But to accomplish her goal and get her father out of prison, Thea knows she needs to learn under the best of the best—and that’s Levi Black.

But can she learn under the best, without being under the best?

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Canadian Author
Series: Rainbows
Author: J J Mcavoy
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: Hot
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: May 2015 – February 2017
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

This book was on a list of my “Recommended for You” reads by Kobo. I love New Adult romances and at the time I was buying a ton of them from Kobo because my library just didn’t have them. But I never did bring myself to buy the book. Eventually, my library did get a copy of it so I finally got around to reading it!

The Plot:

This series was refreshing in a lot of ways for me. The first few chapters alternate between the past (their one week together) and the present and that amplified their chemistry together. It just brought this tension to the chapters in the present because you could see how into each other they were.

I thought at times we got a little too sidetracked by the legal cases. I didn’t need as much detail as we got. To some degree I understand the idea that it helps develop the characters but I’m not one for legal procedures or lawyers so my interest waned sometimes.

Just a note that Rainbows Ever After is a novella epilogue. It’s a full novella (~90 pages) so it is quite extensive. Again, the legal focus was something I wasn’t into but it does highlight some of the insecurities Thea has.

The Characters:

I loved the diversity of the cast! Thea is black, Levi is white but that doesn’t stop them (as it shouldn’t) from falling in love. In some ways, I was glad that their difference in races wasn’t a focal point because it really shouldn’t matter or be an obstacle to their love. But in the same breath, there are prejudices that they may have to face so I would have liked it to be a little more prominent here. To be fair, it is highlighted a more in Rainbows Ever After so that rounded it out for me in the end.

The Romance:

This doesn’t follow the usual routine of your forbidden professor/student relationship and the consequence that could occur; rather, it focused on them trying to see if they could be in any relationship. That approach has positives and negatives for me because I love the tension the forbidden brings and I missed that a bit but you couldn’t deny their connection either.

Series Rating: 3.5/5

Black Rainbow 4/5 | [Rainbows Ever After 3/5]

overall

If you are looking for a refreshing take on the “forbidden romance” this is a great one for you to grab!

Read if You Like: lawyers/legal procedures, forbidden romance
Avoid if You: want the “forbidden” aspect to be more angsty

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Fresh Fridays: You Had Me At Hola by Alexis Daria

Fresh Fridays: You Had Me At Hola by Alexis Daria

Fresh Fridays: On Friday, I review a brand new series (ie. only has one book released so far) to see if the series is worth keeping up with. Here is this week’s offering:

TBA Series

Other books planned to be in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for You Had Me At Hola (from Goodreads):

RITA® Award Winning author Alexis Daria brings readers an unforgettable, hilarious rom-com set in the drama-filled world of telenovelas—perfect for fans of Jane the Virgin and The Kiss Quotient.

Leading Ladies do not end up on tabloid covers.

After a messy public breakup, soap opera darling Jasmine Lin Rodriguez finds her face splashed across the tabloids. When she returns to her hometown of New York City to film the starring role in a bilingual romantic comedy for the number one streaming service in the country, Jasmine figures her new “Leading Lady Plan” should be easy enough to follow—until a casting shake-up pairs her with telenovela hunk Ashton Suárez.

Leading Ladies don’t need a man to be happy.

After his last telenovela character was killed off, Ashton is worried his career is dead as well. Joining this new cast as a last-minute addition will give him the chance to show off his acting chops to American audiences and ping the radar of Hollywood casting agents. To make it work, he’ll need to generate smoking-hot on-screen chemistry with Jasmine. Easier said than done, especially when a disastrous first impression smothers the embers of whatever sexual heat they might have had.

Leading Ladies do not rebound with their new costars.

With their careers on the line, Jasmine and Ashton agree to rehearse in private. But rehearsal leads to kissing, and kissing leads to a behind-the-scenes romance worthy of a soap opera. While their on-screen performance improves, the media spotlight on Jasmine soon threatens to destroy her new image and expose Ashton’s most closely guarded secret.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Series: TBA
Author: Alexis Daria
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: No, more book(s) are planned
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Drama
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Date: August 4, 2020 – ongoing
Source & Format: Netgalley–eARC | Thank you Harper Collins!

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Ever since I read (and loved) Alexis’ Dance Off Series, I’ve been keeping an eye out for her other releases. When she announced this title on her eNewsletter I was SO EXCITED! I LOVE the TV shows Jane the Virgin and Ugly Betty so anything that is recommended to fans of them, that’s me!

What I Liked:

–It Reads Like a TV Show–

It felt like I was binge-watching a TV show–which is exactly what I wanted out of this.

It is easy to see how this series is inspired by telenovelas and shows like Jane the Virgin. You’ve got the focus on family roots; highlighting the prejudices Latin Americans face; and those highly entertaining moments of comedy laced throughout a story about love and all the drama it brings about.

–Slow Burn Romance–

The steady slow burn romance between Ashton and Jasmine that sucked me in. They take their time to get comfortable with each other. And I really thought their love scenes together were refreshing in the sense that they communicate about what they need intimately from a partner by talking and seeking consent. It isn’t just hot and heavy immediately; rather it is sensual and romantic.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Slightly Off-Pace for the Romance–

I think Ashton was maybe a little too aloof at the start? I wish that they had a few more interactions to really cement that deeper bond at the start by simply talking to each other.  While the attraction is slow burn, those deeper feelings just seemed to happen pretty quickly once these two give into the attraction and I wasn’t entirely sure the intensity was warranted.

–The Episode Scenes As Chapters–

I wouldn’t say that I disliked this approach–I thought it was neat and did add to the story overall. I just think some formatting needed to be done to distinguish the characters’ feelings from the actors’. It was a little hard to separate the inner monologue. I’m hoping that is just a formatting issue in the ARCs.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I’m really excited to explore this cast of characters a little more. I know from Alexis’ newsletter who the next book will be about so I’m curious to see what will happen next!

My Rating: 4.5/5

You Had Me At Hola 4.5/5 | Book 2 TBP

overall

This reads like a great rom-com movie and it’s perfect for fans of contemporary romance looking for diverse, well written reads.

Read if You Like: telenovelas, diverse reads, rom-coms
Avoid if You: want erotica, dislike rom-coms

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Series Review: If Love Duet by Ana Huang

Fresh Fridays: If We Ever Meet Again (If Love Duet #1) by Ana Huang

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

If Love Duet

booksynopsis

Synopsis for If We Ever Meet Again (from Goodreads):

One year, two opposites, and a love that will blindside and, ultimately, shatter them.

She’s an aspiring interior designer who dreams of falling in love.
He’s an ex-football star who thinks love is a con.

She’s a virgin, and he doesn’t do virgins.
He’s cocky, infuriating, and not her type.

She wants the fairytale.
He wants freedom.

Blake and Farrah shouldn’t have fallen for each other the way they did: totally, completely, and irrevocably.

Because they’re studying abroad in Shanghai, and they only have one year.

Because forces at home threaten to rip them apart, even if they don’t know it yet.

And because, eventually, they must face the most heartbreaking lesson they’ll ever learn: sometimes, even the greatest love can’t conquer all.

breakdown

Series: If Love Duet
Author: Ana Huang
# of Books: 4 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, If We Were Perfect is to be published
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Date: June 30, 2020 — ongoing
Source & Format: Author–eARC | Thank you Ana Huang!

thoughts

**This post was originally published 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:

When Ana asked me to review her newest novel, I easily accepted for a few reasons. First, I loved the premise of a year abroad in Shanghai. Second, I liked that this is a duet of books about the same couple. I find we rarely get those series about the same couple anymore. We tend to get a single book and then the next book is about a different couple. But this one has somewhat doomed start so I was eager to see what she had in store for us!

What I Liked:

–The Setting of Shanghai–

A lot of novels that have the year abroad or the expat premise to it tend to take place in European countries (or at least the ones I’ve come across are). So I was excited to explore this new setting. I’ve always wanted to go to Shanghai but this has me really dying to explore it!

–The Bittersweet Tone of the Romance–

The story starts with a bang by showing the relationship’s eventual demise. Knowing that things aren’t going to end well for these two gives this story a bittersweet tone when we start to see their relationship from the start. But the “sweet” outweighs the “bitter” if you ask me and I was totally in love with these two.

–The Struggle With Intimacy–

I just loved how real their romance was. They struggle a little with their intimacy and I really appreciated how that was all handled. I thought that was a real approach for a character like Farah who really hasn’t had that stronger physical intimacy before. I find a lot of romances portray the virginal heroine as some one who is immediately great in bed in all aspects so it was refreshing to watch these two explore that deeper connection together and talk about it.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Almost Too “Hot and Cold” At the Start–

The first few chapters were a little bumpy for me. I thought their hot and cold attraction was a little too cold on Farah’s end; I didn’t really see how she would be attracted to Blake besides his physical appearance. But once those deeper feelings started to come to the surface as they spend more time together, I was really onboard with their romance. It kinda went from 0 to 100 though and I would have liked another chapter of them hanging out as friends to really cement their connection.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I will admit, I shed a tear or two near the end even knowing how it would end early on still didn’t prepare me for how much I would feel for their inevitable breakup. I can’t wait to see their second chance!

updates

–July 14, 2020– Book #2: If the Sun Never Sets

This was SO good! The chemistry these two have–even when they try not to–is so palpable. I really loved the character growth here and how they not only evolved in the 5 years since they broke up, but how they grew once they reunited. Yes, there were a few frustrating moments but I think that’s because as the reader, you see how obvious it is that these two belong together. It’s a solid sequel and conclusion to this second chance duet.

I really hope we get to see some of these characters again!

–October 26, 2020– Book #3: If Love Had a Price

This was great and unexpected in a lot of ways. Ana has managed to blend genuine characters and drama together in a way that seems like this could happen to anyone, anywhere. And this is a book packed with a lot of aspects to it in terms of the characters and their drama.
I really loved Kris when we first met her in the series, so it was nice to uncover her character a little more.

My Rating: 4/5

If We Ever Meet Again 4/5 | If the Sun Never Sets 4.5/5 | If Love Had a Price 4/5 | If We Were Perfect TBA

overall

This was a great read! As I read more and more about their story, I was super invested and addicted to finding out what happens next. I’m definitely keeping an eye out for future releases by Ana.

Read if You Like: love stories, set aboard, New Adult Romance
Avoid if You: want erotica, dislike romance

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Fresh Fridays: Pretending Not to Love You (Hazel Pathway #1) by M S Larson

Fresh Fridays: Pretending Not to Love You (Hazel Pathway #1) by M S Larson

Fresh Fridays: On Friday, I review a brand new series (ie. only has one book released so far) to see if the series is worth keeping up with. Here is this week’s offering:

Hazel Pathway Series

Other books planned to be in the series:
book3

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Pretending Not to Love You (from Goodreads):

Raine
It’s my first day at a new high school and I inadvertently become one of the most popular girls at Glass Hill High. The girls want to be my best friend, and the guys want to date me. The only guy I have eyes for is Alex Williams, but he’s determined to set me up with his best friend and star wide receiver, Chase.

Alex
I’ve been spurned by my ex-girlfriend. She dated me to get to my best friend, Chase, who most of the girls are in love with at Glass Hill High. Now I’m gun shy about dating any girl because I’m afraid they’d just want me to get to Chase. Raine is no exception. When she claps eyes on him on the first day of school, she’s going to fall madly in love, so it’s better that I protect my heart. I’m going to hook Raine up with Chase and pretend that I’m happy for the both of them. Only the more time I spend with her, I can’t help but fall deeply in love with her. And the situation is affecting my relationship with everyone around me, including Raine and Chase.

Will Alex let go of his past and pursue Raine?

breakdown

Series: Hazel Pathway
Author: M S Larson
# of Books: 4 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: No, more books are planned
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: April 2020 – ongoing
Source & Format: Author–eARC | Thank you M S Larson!

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

When I was asked if I wanted to read and review Pretending Not to Love You I thought the premise was super charming. I’m a sucker for “forbidden” love in whatever form it comes in so the idea of falling for your BFF’s (maybe) girlfriend had me intrigued.

What I Liked:

–Instant Chemistry–

I enjoyed the tension between Raine and Alex because it was so obvious they had instant chemistry from the moment they met but neither was sure what to do about it. I could really see why these two would fall for each other.

–Positive Parental Relationships–

I find we don’t see a lot of positive parental influences in YA so it always notable for me when I came across that.

Both Alex and Raine talked to their parents about their problems and feelings. And their parents were in positive, healthy relationships as well.

–Girls Supporting Girls–

While Raine does have a rival of sorts in Mary I liked that they were never overly petty about it. And Raine was great about helping out other girls to find their inner confidence in themselves.

What I Didn’t Like:

–A Little Too Much Dialogue–

The flow seemed to be dampened for me because there seemed to be an excess amount of dialogue. Don’t get me wrong: it was great to see these two talk things out, but most of the chapters were dialogue. More inner monologues or summary paragraphs would help keep things moving smoothly I think.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I am really excited for the next book! I liked the little hints we got here about what could happen next.

My Rating: 3.5/5

Pretending Not to Love You 3.5/5 | Want You to Love Me TBP | Book 3 TBP | Book 4 TBP

overall

I think with a little more polish (which will come with writing more books) this would be a fantastic read. I’m excited to see what will happen next in this series!

Read if You Like: sweet romances, first loves
Avoid if You: want a darker story, want more angst

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Series Review: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Series Review: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

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

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Crazy Rich Asians (from Goodreads):

Crazy Rich Asians is the outrageously funny debut novel about three super-rich, pedigreed Chinese families and the gossip, backbiting, and scheming that occurs when the heir to one of the most massive fortunes in Asia brings home his ABC (American-born Chinese) girlfriend to the wedding of the season.

When Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home, long drives to explore the island, and quality time with the man she might one day marry. What she doesn’t know is that Nick’s family home happens to look like a palace, that she’ll ride in more private planes than cars, and that with one of Asia’s most eligible bachelors on her arm, Rachel might as well have a target on her back. Initiated into a world of dynastic splendor beyond imagination, Rachel meets Astrid, the It Girl of Singapore society; Eddie, whose family practically lives in the pages of the Hong Kong socialite magazines; and Eleanor, Nick’s formidable mother, a woman who has very strong feelings about who her son should–and should not–marry. Uproarious, addictive, and filled with jaw-dropping opulence, Crazy Rich Asians is an insider’s look at the Asian JetSet; a perfect depiction of the clash between old money and new money; between Overseas Chinese and Mainland Chinese; and a fabulous novel about what it means to be young, in love, and gloriously, crazily rich.

breakdown

Series: Crazy Rich Asians
Author: Kevin Kwan
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Drama, Family, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Dates: June 2013 – May 2017
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I remember when Crazy Rich Asians (the novel) came out; it was around the same time I got my very first eReader. But it didn’t sound like something I would enjoy so I passed on it despite the buzz. Fast forward to 2018 when it was the movie of the summer and I decided to give the novel a shot based on the recommendation of a family friend after watching.

The Concept / The World:

I think we all have an idea of what the filthy rich do with their money…but it’s nothing like what is described here. These characters take money, privilege and family to a whole other level! So everything comes across as over the top and that just amplifies every aspect of the story throughout the series.

I’ll admit, I know the basics of high end couture and the like so I wasn’t totally lost. However, I did get a little bored with all the descriptions of it all at times. But I loved the insights into culture and the like.

The Plot:

There’s just something about the drama of rich people’s everyday lives that is so fascinating to uncover. I found for the first half of the series, we get lost in the flow of everyday life. Yes, there are some dramatic twists along the way but they are few and far between the pages. (I mean there is certainly drama–and it’s over the top–but no reveal is truly revolutionary with the exception of Book #2).

Think of these books as tomes of local gossip…only the local gossip is from groups of elite around the world with a lot of money.

The Characters:

There are a lot of characters to follow but for the most part, it’s easy to keep track of them all. I think it helps that I watched the movie first so that I can put names to faces as I read.

Some characters get more airtime than others depending on the novels. The character development is there but it’s much slower because it takes place across all three of the books.

The Romance:

While it isn’t as big as a deal as the movie has you believe, we get enough of a taste of various relationships to satisfy the romantic in me.

My Audiobook Experience:

I highly recommend the audiobooks because they do a great job bringing all the characters to life. I also think it makes it easier to keep track of everyone because they all have their own distinct voice.

Series Rating: 3/5

Crazy Rich Asians 3/5 | China Rich Girlfriend 3/5| Rich People Problems  3/5

overall

I think those expecting more of a romance novel (like the rom-com movie) might be disappointed in the lack of romance here. I also think that not everyone will enjoy the theatrics of the characters and the somewhat mundane plot. However, it is definitely entertaining in its own way if you know what to expect.

Read if You Like: gossip, lives of the rich and famous
Avoid if You: want more romance

similarreads

  • Queen of Babble by Meg Cabot (Queen of Babble Series #1)
  • Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella (Shopaholic Series #1)

 

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Series Review: Blocked by Jennifer Lane

Series Review: Blocked by Jennifer Lane

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

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Blocked (from Goodreads):

College freshman Lucia Ramirez has a secret crush on Dane Monroe. He’s a tall drink of water — blond, brash, and one hell of a volleyball player. ¡Híjole! Lucia hopes her volleyball scholarship to his school will make him notice her.

Too bad what’s noticeable is Dane’s obvious hatred for Lucia. Her family’s politics contradict everything he stands for. And politics are front and center in both their families. Dane’s mother is about to face Lucia’s father in the race for US President.

When Secret Service throws them together, Dane can’t deny his frustrating attraction to Lucia’s athletic curves and sweet faith in the world. Amid the intense pressure of college athletics and presidential politics, can opposites not just attract, but overcome overwhelming odds to be together? Or do their differences block their match from the start?

breakdown

Series: Blocked
Author: Jennifer Lane
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Sports, Politics
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: October 2014 – October 2016
Source & Format: Own–Kindle (Blocked); Kindle Unlimited

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’ll be honest, I think I got this series mixed up for another when I was selecting my 2019 5 Year 5 Book Challenge Titles. I blame the very similar covers. (The book I’m thinking of is Love Garage by Liz Crowe). Regardless, I thought  the premise for Blocked was very interesting; especially in the politically charged environment we find ourselves in today.

The Concept:

While the political system is quite different where I live in Canada, I know enough about the American system to understand why the “hate to love you trope” is quite the obstacle for our leads to overcome. I’ve read books in the past where modern politics are a theme but never to the levels that are displayed here. By no means are the characters preachy to the reader; but various views are expressed throughout the novels and they are used well as plot devices.

Another major theme in these novels is sports and how athletes balance sports and their everyday lives. There is a big emphasis on therapy and counselling–which I loved. Mental health is often something shied away from in novels and I liked how these books broke down the stereotypes and included the sessions in the scenes.

The Plot:

For me, all of these books had a weird pacing to them. We spend so much of these novels focusing on the individual characters and their stories that the romance gets a little lost in the shuffle. It all felt a little repetitive to me at times; and more often than not, it felt like we were trapped in the mundane of everyday life. I’m not sure how else to describe it other than it could have used a little polish to fine-tune everything.

The Characters:

First, hats off for diverse characters! It was awesome to read about Latino and Black leads and get that layer to our characters.

What I didn’t like about the leads was the maturity level…or the lack of a higher one. I get that they are freshman in college but I don’t think anyone talks like that as freshmen (or maybe I’m just getting old). I wasn’t a fan of how we would go from serious conversation about therapy to wanting to “bonk” the girl. Nope. It was almost like a parent was trying to be “hip” with the kids but used all the wrong slang…

The Romance:

While I could see the draw to all the romantic pairings (they had a lot of common interests with the exception of politics), I wasn’t entirely sold on them either. They all seemed to be based on lust and some unspoken connection that never gets built upon. For the majority of the story we get their individual stories and then in one instance they are a couple and declaring everlasting love. And perhaps the romance is just a small piece of the story the author wants to tell but I went into this series thinking it was the main one…thus my disappointment.

Series Rating: 3/5

Blocked 3/5 | Aced 3/5 | Spiked 3/5

overall

I think I had the wrong set of expectations for this series. The premise is refreshing and if you want more politics in your contemporary reads, pick this up! But I think it needed a little polish to get the pacing just right.

Read if You Like: modern politics, sports
Avoid if You: like more romance
similarreads

  • Dirty English by Isla Madden Mills (English Series #1)
  • Unbreakable by Rebecca Shea (Unbreakable Series #1)
  • Pretty Smart Girls by Shea Ross (Pretty Smart Girls Series #1)

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Series Review: Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra & Dhonielle Clayton

Series Review: Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra

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

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Tiny Pretty Things (from Goodreads):

Black Swan meets Pretty Little Liars in this soapy, drama-packed novel featuring diverse characters who will do anything to be the prima at their elite ballet school.

Gigi, Bette, and June, three top students at an exclusive Manhattan ballet school, have seen their fair share of drama. Free-spirited new girl Gigi just wants to dance—but the very act might kill her. Privileged New Yorker Bette’s desire to escape the shadow of her ballet-star sister brings out a dangerous edge in her. And perfectionist June needs to land a lead role this year or her controlling mother will put an end to her dancing dreams forever.

When every dancer is both friend and foe, the girls will sacrifice, manipulate, and backstab to be the best of the best.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Fav Audiobook Read 2018, Cover Love
Series: Tiny Pretty Things
Author: Sona Charaipotra & Dhonielle Clayton
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Thriller, Drama, Romance
Heat Rating: warm **suggestive content**
Point of View: First Person, Multiple
Publication Dates: May 2016 – July 2016
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

While the cover captured my attention when it was first released, it was actually a review by Cristina @ Girl in the Pages that convinced me to read this. Like many items on my TBR, I didn’t get to it until two years later but that worked out in my favour because I could binge the entire series as an audio one 😉

The Concept / The World:

When I think about ballet, my mind immediately goes to the movie The Black Swan and to Fame (more so the movie than the show). Fame highlights some of the stresses performing artists highlight but keeps its tone pretty light and basic. The Black Swan shows the grittier side of ballet but more so the psychological side? I’m not sure since I only watched the movie shortly after its theatre release…

Thanks to Cristina’s review, I knew that this series is much darker and not as petty as the YA label would have you fear. Yes, some of their issues are petty (they are in high school after all) but some of the pranks and thought processes aren’t. These girls and guys take it to that darker, intense level I wanted. The sabotage and intrigue in this series had me hooked from the start! It was so addicting!

The Plot:

I really loved the delivery of this series. Part of it is character driven–I’ll explain more about the cast below–as we watch these ballerinas carve their way in the company. But there is also this aura of mystery as well because there are many acts of sabotage. Sometimes we know the culprit; sometimes we don’t find out for a long time. But I’ll just say I had many theories about what was happening and I was proven wrong quite a few times. I loved that suspense and the drive to find out exactly who and what was happening.

The Characters:

This cast of characters is quite diverse and not just because of race or ethnicity (though there is that). Each of our three leads also has their personal struggles–and some that we don’t often see in books. At a glance, I wondered if these characters had too much going on; if they were perhaps too layered given the drama of this novel. You know, the idea that less is sometimes more. But I think all their “issues” really highlighted the setting and tone of the novel. What happens when characters are pushed to their breaking points? What happens to characters who’ve been kept inside this one bubble their whole lives and the real world comes crashing in? It was fascinating to watch.

The Romance:

There is a little dash of romance thrown in but I’d classify it as a small factor that contributes to the overall story. You aren’t getting chapters dedicated to romance unless it relates back to the characters.

Series Rating: 5/5

Tiny Pretty Things 5/5 | Shiny Broken Pieces 5/5

overall

This series had me hooked from start to end! I loved the diverse cast; I loved the intrigue and I loved the setting! It was every dark, addicting thing I wanted it to be.

Read if You Like: ballet, diverse casts, suspense
Avoid if You: dislike multiple POV, dislike darker YA
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Fresh Fridays: Rule by Ellen Goodlett

Fresh Fridays: Rule by Ellen Goodlett

Fresh Fridays: On Friday, I review a brand new series (ie. only has one book released so far) to see if the series is worth keeping up with. Here is this week’s offering:

Rule Series

Other books planned to be in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Rule (from Goodreads):

Three Dark Crowns meets Pretty Little Liars in this sensational and striking new fantasy from debut author Ellen Goodlett.

Three girls. Three deadly secrets. Only one can wear the crown.

The king is dying, his heir has just been murdered, and rebellion brews in the east. But the kingdom of Kolonya and the outer Reaches has one last option before it descends into leaderless chaos.

Or rather, three unexpected options.

Zofi has spent her entire life trekking through the outer Reaches with her band of Travelers. She would do anything to protect the band, her family. But no one can ever find out how far she’s already gone.

Akeylah was raised in the Eastern Reach, surrounded by whispers of rebellion and abused by her father. Desperate to escape, she makes a decision that threatens the whole kingdom.

Ren grew up in Kolonya, serving as a lady’s maid and scheming her way out of the servants’ chambers. But one such plot could get her hung for treason if anyone ever discovers what she’s done.

When the king summons the girls, they arrive expecting arrest or even execution. Instead they learn the truth: they are his illegitimate daughters, and one must become his new heir. But someone in Kolonya knows their secrets, and that someone will stop at nothing to keep the sisters from their destiny… to rule.

Magic, mystery, and blackmail abound in the first book of this sensational and striking fantasy duology.

breakdown

Series: Rule
Author: Ellen Goodlet
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Rise, to be released June 2019
Genre: Young Adult, High Fantasy, Magic, Politics
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Date: September 2018 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I won’t lie, it was the cover that drew me into this read. I was browsing my library’s new additions when I scrolled across this one. I actually checked out the hardcover from my library but never got around to it. But the premise was promising. I love the drama and secrets of Pretty Little Liars (well, the TV show at least; I never read the books) and Three Dark Crowns won me over with its sequel so I was optomistic I would enjoy this one.

What I Liked:

–Multiple POVs–

I love books that follow multiple characters. I find it gives the novel a 360-degree view of everything that is happening and keeps the story moving. Even if you don’t enjoy one POV, at least you have some others to look forward to.

–Diverse Cast–

When books mimic real life (especially by highlighting prejudices and the like) I’m always invested. This book has quite the group of characters. All the girls come from different family styles, races and castes (travelers, maids, etc). You’ve also got characters that are LGBTQ (in a very normalised, not token kind of way). So in that respect, I truly found this book to deliever on diversity without it feeling like it was simply checking all the marks off.

–The Magic–

I liked how straight-forward the tithe system seemed to be. Not only is everything magic-wise easily explained but it also has limitations. One of my biggest peeves about magic is the almost unlimited power it can have but the magic here makes sense.

–The Blackmail–

I think this is where the Pretty Little Liars comparisons come in because there is someone taunting these girls with their secrets. And the secrets are pretty juicy–and contribute to the plot in a rather strong way. These aren’t petty “I know about your secret relationship” type of secrets; they run much deeper (and more complex) than that.

What I Didn’t Like:

–It Seems Needlessly Drawn Out–

Perhaps starting this book the week I was working nights wasn’t the best idea–my concentration is pretty crappy. However, I found the chapters used a lot of words to deliver very little in the grand scheme of things. I would get lost in text at times. But I will say that each chapter ended in a way that had me eager for the next one so I was a fan of that.

–Blending of the Characters–

While I praised this book for its diversity earlier on, sometimes I couldn’t tell Zofi apart from Ren from Akeylah. The “problem” is the third person narration. It isn’t very personal as it lacks the depths a first person POV can provide (ie the inner character monologue). As a result, I often had to reread the synopsis just to remember that Zofi was from “A” and her secret was “B” so I wouldn’t get the girls mixed up.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I really started to enjoy how the various plots were starting to weave together so I am very curious to see how everything with wrap up (or unravel) in the finale.

My Rating: 3.5/5

Rule 3.5/5 | Rise TBP

overall

While nothing immediately stands out about this fantasy novel, fans of the genre will enjoy this solid and diverse story.

Read if You Like: multiple POV, wordy stories
Avoid if You: dislike slow stories, want more romance

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Single Sundays: From Twinkle, With Love by Sandhya Menon

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 From Twinkle, With Love (from Goodreads):

Aspiring filmmaker and wallflower Twinkle Mehra has stories she wants to tell and universes she wants to explore, if only the world would listen. So when fellow film geek Sahil Roy approaches her to direct a movie for the upcoming Summer Festival, Twinkle is all over it. The chance to publicly showcase her voice as a director? Dream come true. The fact that it gets her closer to her longtime crush, Neil Roy—a.k.a. Sahil’s twin brother? Dream come true x 2.

When mystery man “N” begins emailing her, Twinkle is sure it’s Neil, finally ready to begin their happily-ever-after. The only slightly inconvenient problem is that, in the course of movie-making, she’s fallen madly in love with the irresistibly adorkable Sahil.

Twinkle soon realizes that resistance is futile: The romance she’s got is not the one she’s scripted. But will it be enough?

Told through the letters Twinkle writes to her favorite female filmmakers, From Twinkle, with Love navigates big truths about friendship, family, and the unexpected places love can find you.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite Standalone 2018
Author: Sandhya Menon
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary, Coming of Age
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: May 22, 2018
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I had an absolute blast listening to the audio version of When Dimple Met Rishi so I knew that for Menon’s next book, I wanted to listen to the audiobook instead of picking up the regular book.

The Concept:

This story is told through journal entries Twinkle writes to her favourite female film makers which is really neat. In a time where female representation in the entertainment industry is a huge focus, this book seemed timely in that regard. But it’s a great way to tell this story because you get to see the vulnerable side of Twinkle she only feels comfortable to write about in a secret diary.

The Plot:

It’s hard not to compare this story to When Dimple Met Rishi (WDMR) but they do share a lot of common elements. Cue the cute romance, fantastic character development and entertaining plot. To me, WDMR seemed to integrate the Indian culture more into its narrative than FTWL does. The cultural expectations Twinkle feels are definitely present but not to the extent that it was in WDMR.

I also thought the pacing was much better in this novel than in WDMR. I never felt like the plot was lagging or repetitive. It just moved at a solid pace and I honestly couldn’t get enough of it.

The Characters:

One thing that really impressed me about this story though was the realism. I thought Twinkle’s journey and coming of age was realistic and humbling. Yes, she makes some frustrating mistakes along the way but you always knew it was part of her development. She’s an easy heroine to root for because I think we’ve all felt like her at one point in our lives.

The Romance:

I absolutely, positively adored Sahil. Gah, he won me over very quickly. He’s just adorable and the perfect match for Twinkle in every way. I loved watching them fall for each other.

My Audiobook Experience:

You might think that this would be weird to listen to as an audiobook since it is told through letters/journal entries but there were no issues here. Actually, it was a really cool way to listen to the audiobook because you feel (in a weird way) that you are the journal Twinkle is writing to. But the audiobook is fabulous and I would highly recommend it to anyone!

My Rating: 5/5

overall

The perfect feel-good coming of age story that will keep you entertained from start to finish!

Read if You Like: coming of age, diverse reads
Avoid if You: dislike YA contemporary

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