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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: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Date: June 30, 2020 — July 30, 2020
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!

My Rating: 4/5

If We Ever Meet Again 4/5 | If the Sun Never Sets 4.5/5

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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Series Review: Seven Black Diamonds by Melissa Marr

Series Review: Seven Black Diamonds by Melissa Marr

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 Seven Black Diamonds (from Goodreads):

Lilywhite Abernathy is a criminal. Her father’s “unconventional” business has meant a life of tightly held secrets, concealed weaponry, and a strict code. But Lily’s crime isn’t being the daughter of a powerful mob boss. Her guilt lies in the other half of her DNA—the part that can coax ancient rumors from stones and summon fire with a thought. Lily is part fae, which is a crime in her world.

From the time before she was born, a war has been raging between humanity and fae. The Queen of Blood and Rage, ruler of both the Seelie and Unseelie courts, wants to avenge the tragic death of her heir—a death that was the fault of reckless humans.

Lily’s father has shielded her from the repercussions of her ancestry…until she is sent to the prestigious St. Columba’s school, straight into the arms of the Black Diamonds.

Mysterious, glamorous, and bound together in their mission but constantly at odds, Zephyr, Creed, Will, Roan, Violet, and Alkamy are a Sleeper cell of fae, planted in the human world to help destroy it from within. With covers as rock stars and celebrity children, the Black Diamonds carry out the queen’s war against humanity. And unbeknownst to Lilywhite, she’s been chosen to join them.

Now more than ever, Lily’s heritage puts her in peril, and even the romantic attention of the fae singer Creed Morrison isn’t enough to keep Lily from wanting to run back to the safer world of organized crime.

Melissa Marr returns to faery in a dramatic story of the precarious space between two worlds and the people who must thrive there.

breakdown

Series: Seven Black Diamonds
Author: Melissa Marr
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Faeries, Romance
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Dates: March 2016 – February 2017
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Melissa Marr is the one I credit with introducing me to the wonderful world of Faeries. Wicked Lovely is a series that has stuck with me over the years and in some ways, it has become my gold standard for Faerie novels. I had marked this series on my library wishlist but never found the time to read it. So when I needed a new audiobook and this popped up, I figured this was the perfect time to dive in!

The Concept / The World:

I loved the mix of dystopian and fantasy. This isn’t the world we know today and thanks to the interference of Fae, it’s quite the place. I loved the mixing of fantasy and reality.

One thing I love about Melissa Marr is her ability to create these layered worlds yet have them be totally accessible and understandable to the reader. She weaves quite the tale!

The Plot:

This plot moves very fast thanks to the multiple POVs we get. You get that 360 view of all these plots happening at once and the anticipation for how they will all cross over is addicting.

I think Seven Black Diamonds (#1) has a faster paced dramatic plot whereas One Blood Ruby (#2) is more character driven. Both have their strengths and weaknesses as a result. I think Book #2 feels a little rushed at the end because the drama is so concentrated in the last few chapters. And I also felt like some things were left too open-ended because there are so many characters to resolve with.

The Characters:

There are a lot of them but it was crazy how quickly I became invested in all their stories. Even if we only spent a few moments with them, I thought they were quite layered. Which is why I would have liked a fuller ending with more closure because we do meet so many great characters that you become attached to.

The Romance:

This is weaved so seamlessly throughout. I loved all the romantic interests.

My Audiobook Experience:

The narration is beautiful to listen to. Where I struggled was with the multiple POVs in third person. If I was listening for an extended period it was good because I would get the character name we were focusing on at the start of the chapter. But if I stopped in the middle of a chapter, it took me a while to reacquaint myself with who I was following at that moment. And there are a lot of characters to remember and not having the true ability to flip back and forth to doublecheck things provided a learning curve.

Series Rating: 4/5

Seven Black Diamonds 4/5  |  One Blood Ruby 4/5

overall

Perfect for readers who love multiple POV and fast paced stories!

Read if You Like: multiple POVs, Faeries
Avoid if You: dislike third person POVs

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Series Review: Retrieval by Aly Martinez

Series Review: Retrieval by Aly Martinez

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 Retrieval (from Goodreads):

One story. Two couples.

I proposed on our first date.
She laughed and told me I was insane. Less than a day later, she said yes.
It was a whirlwind, but we were happy…
Until we got greedy and wanted a family.

It was a life I couldn’t give her, not for lack of trying. Fertility just wasn’t on our side. We sought out doctors and treatments. Spent money we didn’t have. Lied to our families. Smiled for our friends. Put on a brave face for a world that didn’t understand.
Finally, we were successful…
Until we were forced to bury our son.

We were left broken, battered, and destroyed.
They say love is in the details, but it was the details that ruined us.

This is the story of how I took back what had always been mine.
The retrieval of my wife and our family.

breakdown

Series: Retrieval Duet
Author: Aly Martinez
# of Books: 2 (Series Reading Order)
Book Order: Chronological Events
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Romance, Second Chance, Contemporary
Heat Rating: Hot
Point of View: First Person, Multiple
Publication Dates: September 2016
Source & Format: Own–eBook (#1); Kindle Unlimited (#2)

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I found Retrieval as a freebie from one of the book deal emails I subscribe to. What drew me into it was the fact that this couple struggled with fertility–a topic that isn’t always covered in romances (or at least the ones I read). It didn’t sound like your everyday second chance romance and I was excited to read it.

The Concept:

The following line from the synopsis is key:

One story. Two couples.

You’re not just getting Elisabeth and Roman’s story and it’s important to remember that. Everything gets clearer the further into the story you are.

The Plot:

The plot completely surprised me. It went in a direction I didn’t expect–and I loved the suspense that brought out! I’ll admit, it is a little confusing as the start, trying to figure out how it all connects; but like I said above, the further you read, the more it makes sense.

However, the dramatic moments are broken up by the romance and sometimes I felt like it stifled the movement of the plot. This was particularly the case in book #2 Transfer. The pacing was off a bit for me there and I got a little bored of the repetitive scenes.

The Characters:

All the characters are well developed and likeable. I was immediately drawn into their stories and histories. Because we hop around between the characters I was impressed by how fleshed out they were.

But, I do have a little rant for something Roman did in Retrieval:

Spoiler for Retrieval about Roman

When Roman goes to convince Clare that he is there to help her (knowing full well that she is likely abused by her husband), he forcefully grabs her. Why would you do that to a woman you know is abused? Do you think frightening her will bend her to your will? Why should she trust someone who does exactly what her husband does? This irked me to no end when it happened. He is a little too brash for my tastes.

[collapse]

The Romance:

Surprisingly, this isn’t as important as I expected it to be. The romances are great don’t get me wrong and they do their job to enhance the story when needed.

Series Rating: 3.5/5

Retrieval 4/5 | Transfer 3/5

overall

This isn’t your everyday second chance romance. It has a suspense edge to it with some great twists that will suck you in!

Read if You Like: second chance romances, romantic suspense
Avoid if You: dislike suspense

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Series Review: Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Series Review: Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

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 Dread Nation (from Goodreads):

Jane McKeene was born two days before the dead began to walk the battlefields of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania—derailing the War Between the States and changing the nation forever.

In this new America, safety for all depends on the work of a few, and laws like the Native and Negro Education Act require certain children attend combat schools to learn to put down the dead.

But there are also opportunities—and Jane is studying to become an Attendant, trained in both weaponry and etiquette to protect the well-to-do. It’s a chance for a better life for Negro girls like Jane. After all, not even being the daughter of a wealthy white Southern woman could save her from society’s expectations.

But that’s not a life Jane wants. Almost finished with her education at Miss Preston’s School of Combat in Baltimore, Jane is set on returning to her Kentucky home and doesn’t pay much mind to the politics of the eastern cities, with their talk of returning America to the glory of its days before the dead rose.

But when families around Baltimore County begin to go missing, Jane is caught in the middle of a conspiracy, one that finds her in a desperate fight for her life against some powerful enemies.

And the restless dead, it would seem, are the least of her problems.

breakdown

Series: Dread Nation
Author: Justina Ireland
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Alternative History, Zombies, Fantasy
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: April 2018 – February 2019
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Disclaimer: I only read the first book of the series, Dread Nation, and have opted not to pick up the sequels. Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I can’t remember if I learned about this series via other blogs or simply from browsing my library catelogue. I’m going to go with the latter because I didn’t mark it down as a blog find.

Anyways, I love horror/fantasy spins on historical events and this sounded like it would be a kick butt novel!

What I Liked:

–The Concept–

Like I said, any twist on a historical event automatically gets bonus points in my eyes. I loved the idea of zombies in the Civil War era. But what I loved even more was how it was used to highlight racial tensions throughout the novel. It just emphasized even more the ideals that brought about the war and why it was so divisive to the United States.

–Girl Power–

I always love it when girls can fend for themselves and Jane is a strong heroine to get behind. She doesn’t need anyone to save her yet she isn’t afraid to get help along the way.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Very Slow Start–

I think I wanted to jump right into the action and get to slaying the zombies sooner than later. I found the first third of the novel to be very slow. But once the plot went in a direction I wasn’t anticipating, my attention was piqued once again…until I felt like it mellowed out. There just didn’t seem to be a lot happening all the time and I could feel my attention waning.

–Some of the Twists Felt Like An Afterthought–

I don’t like when plot twists are purposely misleading. There are some great mysteries to uncover about Jane’s past and the like, and slowly we get to learn them. Until you get to the end and realize everything you’ve been told has been a flat out lie. I don’t like it when a narrator you believed to be reliable suddenly isn’t. I would have much preferred that Jane had played the oblivious card and just not have said anything about the situation in her inner monologue until it was the right time to spring the truth.

It just made certain twists seem like an afterthought. Like an editor reading the book went “hey, you know what would be great?” and instead of reworking the little bits earlier in the novel, it’s just thrown out there near the end and you just have to take it as a reader.

Spoiler

I’m talking about Jane killing her father. That whole twist just didn’t seem cohesive to me when she had told us earlier in the book one version of the story.

[collapse]

My Audiobook Experience:

I love Bahni Turpin as a narrator for any novel. Her narration of The Hate U Give is award worthy. But having only really listened to her for modern/contemporary novels, her narration of Jane almost seemed too modern for my tastes. To be fair: that could simply be the actual writing of the novel and not necessarily her performance. But if I didn’t necessarily know the setting, I’d think it was a contemporary novel.

Will I Finish It?

While I’m curious to know what happens next, I also just don’t care. I felt like things ended in a way that I’m ok with stopping here and never knowing how this series wraps up.

Series Rating: DNF

Dread Nation 3/5 | Deathless Divide N/A | Book 3

overall

I think different readers will find different things to like about this series. I know that the concept itself will draw people in but I wonder if it acts as a bit of a blinder in the sense that you get so into the idea of what this novel means that you don’t realize it isn’t the strongest when it comes to actual plot since not much truly happens.

Read if You Like: fantasy spins on historic events
Avoid if You: want more action

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Series Review: Dark by Winter Renshaw

Series Review: Dark by Winter Renshaw

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 Dark Paradise (from Goodreads):

There’s a name for girls like me: Sugar Baby. I’m used to being passed around the sexually depraved, middle-aged senators of Washington D.C. like candy, but when I meet him – the mysterious man who buys my exclusivity for three months for price that should frighten me more than his demands – everything changes.

He’s younger than the others. His touch is softer. His lips sweeter. His need fiercer. He has only one requirement…

A blindfold to protect his identity… and to protect me from the danger I’d face if our affair leaked to the world.

No phones. No light. No real names. He says I’m his dark paradise, and we have to keep it that way. He promises I’ll thank him someday.

But what is he really hiding? And what happens if I find out?

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Series: Dark , Montgomery Duet
Author: Winter Renshaw
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Dark
Heat Rating: Hot
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: December 2015 – October 2017
Source & Format: Own–eBook (Paradise); Hidden Gem Reviews–eARC (Promises)

Note: Only Dark Promises (#2) was a review copy

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

So I did things a little backwards with this series. I actually got a review copy of Dark Promises (#2) first without realizing that it was a “sequel” to Dark Paradise. Thankfully, you can read either book in any order since they focus on different leads; but it definitely got me excited to read the first book, even though I had an idea of what vaguely happens.

The Concept / The World:

If you are looking for a political thriller, look elsewhere. While these stories take place in Washington DC with a family in politics, there is very little politics in these stories. The idea of public image is probably the only thing that is “political” in it and what people are willing to do to maintain it.

The Plot:

Like I said in my review of Dark Promises:

This story easily could have been over dramatic but it straddles that perfect line between drama and theatrics. You get enough conflict to provide depth but not so much that it ruins the story.

And that’s true for both novels. There are subplots happening behind the romance and it adds this depth that just makes these books exciting to read.

The Characters:

All these characters are unapologetically themselves and I love that. They aren’t flawless but they know their strengths and how to flaunt them. And in some ways, their stories are redemption stories where they grow and become better people.

The Romance:

Plenty of steam but also solid connections. I really loved all the pairings and watching them navigate their romances despite all the obstacles.

Series Rating: 4/5

Dark Paradise 4/5 | Dark Promises 4/5

overall

If you like unconventional romances (as in they boarder on the darker side of things but nothing too extreme), this is a great series to get your feet wet with!

Read if You Like: redemption stories
Avoid if You: want a true political thriller

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Series Review: Monsters of Verity by Victoria Schwab

Series Review: Monsters of Verity by Victoria Schwab

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 This Savage Song (from Goodreads):

There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwab, a young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. The first of two books.

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.

breakdown

Series: Monsters of Verity
Author: Victoria Schwab
# of Books: 2 (This Savage Song, Our Dark Duet)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
Heat Rating: cold
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: July 2016 – June 2017
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Disclaimer: I opted not to pick up the finale, Our Dark Duet. Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I felt like you couldn’t escape this series when it first came out in 2016. Schwab is one of those highly toted authors in the blogging community and after reading A Darker Shade of Magic, I understand why. She creates really cool worlds and intriguing stories. But I didn’t have a stellar experience with A Gathering of Shadows (I found it to be dreadfully slow until the last half of the book) so I wasn’t sure about this series.

When I saw my library had the audiobook copies of both books, I decided to make it the next series I read via audio. I was looking forward to it but I was also hesitant after reading some mediocre reviews from some trusted bloggers I follow. But I went in with an open mind and hoped the outcome would be positive.

The Concept / The World:

Alright, the concept here is super duper cool. The idea that these actual monsters have come to life because of people’s actions is really neat. It’s such a unique world and gives this series an interesting spin.

But I felt a little lost in it as well. I mean, I got the politics of the world. That was easy to figure out. What I struggled with was the various monster types. Now this might have been a result of listening to it via audio–I often struggle with remembering terms when I don’t physically see them–but it’s hard to say.

The Plot:

Given my experience with 2 other Schwab novels, I knew that this story was going to take a while to build up. I’ve always noted how slow it takes to get to whatever has been listed in the synopsis with her novels.

In this case, I was at the 56% (approximately) mark when the “failed assassination attempt” occurs. Now, perhaps I just read the synopsis wrong, emphasizing the wrong aspect. But for me, when something is listed in the synopsis, I expect it to happen well before the 50%–usually closer to the 20% because that’s what I expect the novel to be about. So to say I was a little disappointed in the plot for this story is a bit of an understatement.

As a result, the pacing for this just seemed off to me. When I was a quarter of the way through, I contemplated DNFing it because it wasn’t holding my attention. I felt like nothing was happening. But I stuck with it, figuring my crappy mood was to blame. And things did pick up a bit after that but never to the levels I was expecting.

Once the plot got to its climax, I did find everything to be interesting. However, I thought the twist was terribly predictable. I had figured out what was going to happen before we even reached the assassination attempt that sets everything into motion. It just seemed so obvious to me. So in that respect, I found it to be very disappointing.

The Characters:

I think the hype people give these two dampened my potential to love August and Kate. To me, they were almost cliche in their delivery. I get why they are presented as they are: it’s the whole dynamic of the story that’s listed in the first two lines of the synopsis. So it works for the story.

It’s just that I never fell in love with them. They never become real to me in the way that I expected them to after reading how people just adored everything they did. And it surprised me because I find when I listen to audiobooks, I find it much easier to empathize and connect with characters because I am hearing their voices and emotion aloud.

The Romance:

I did find it nice that the romance isn’t the focus of this story. It’s hard to find an urban fantasy or a YA paranormal story that doesn’t become consumed by the romance between the leads.

Why I Won’t Be Picking Up Our Dark Duet:

Because I wasn’t overly impressed with the first novel, I didn’t want to read the second. Things wrap-up enough here that I am satisfied with leaving the story as is and moving on to other novels.

My Audiobook Experience:

As I said above, perhaps the audiobook dampened my world-building experience. It’s hard to say. But I did enjoy the audiobook production. For only having one narrator and a female one at that for a dual POV, it’s great. I think it worked well that I listened to this instead of reading it because I probably would have lost interest in the text a lot earlier.

Series Rating: DNF

This Savage Song 2/5 | Our Dark Duet N/A

overall

Get a second opinion on this one. I think fans of Schwab’s writing style (slowly building, often wordy prose) will love this. But if you’re looking for a quick YA urban fantasy that doesn’t focus on romance, look elsewhere because it takes a while to reach its peak.

Read if You Like: long books, slow building
Avoid if You: dislike urban fantasy, want lots of action

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Series Review: Ballers and Babes by Lauren Blakely

Series Review: Ballers and Babes by Lauren Blakely

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 Most Valuable Playboy (from Goodreads):

Hands down, my favorite thing in the world is to score. Touchdowns.

Don’t let the fact that I’m the leading pick in the Most Valuable Playboy charity auction fool you. These days, I’m only a player on the field. I’ve kept my pants zipped all season long — and it has been long — because nothing’s more important than leading my team to victory every week. Except maybe escaping from the team owner’s recently-widowed and handsy-as-hell sister who’s dead set on winning more than a date with me.

Enter Violet and a well-placed Hail Mary.

She’s my best friend’s sister with a smile as sweet as cherry pie and a mind that runs quicker than the 40-yard-dash. After Violet saves the day with the highest bid, I don’t even give her a two-minute warning before I kiss her in front of the whole crowd and then announce that she’s my girlfriend. Which would be fine except my agent tells me we’ve got to keep up the act while he’s negotiating my contract.

What happens next when faking it starts to feel all too real?

breakdown

Series: Ballers and Babes
Author: Lauren Blakely
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)

There is a prequel novella: #0.5 Most Irresistible Guy

Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Sports, Romance
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: First Person, Single (#0.5-#1); Alternating (#2)
Publication Dates: September 2017 – January 2018
Source & Format: Own–eBook (Kobo)

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’ve really enjoyed Lauren Blakely‘s other adult contemporary series. They’re on the lighter side of things but they never fail to entertain me. And I love sports romances (they usually employ my fave tropes like fake relationships, etc) so I was super excited to start this series—hence the reason it was on my 2019 5 Year 5 Book Challenge as a 2017 TBR item.

When to Read the Novella, #0.5 Most Irresistible Guy:

I read this before I read the first book in the series and that is the way to do it. Because we don’t get Violet’s POV in the full novel, this is where you get her insight instead. And chronologically, where the novella ends is where the novel picks up. Of course, you could read it after but I think reading it first will set the stage.

Why Most Valuable Playboy (#1) Was a Disappointment:

I LOVED the novella! It got me super excited for Violet and Cooper’s story because you could feel the underlying tension between them. It finished on such a high note for me.

But I almost DNF’d MVP within the first two chapters because Cooper’s POV was definitely not what I perceived it to be after reading the novella. He came across as this immature tool and not the sweet guy Violet had painted a picture of in her POV. And it definitely didn’t help that we only got his POV in the novel. His head wasn’t an enjoyable place for me to read from and irked me to no end.

As I got further into the novel, things improved or maybe I just got used to his POV. But the plot didn’t impress me and I really thought the romance scenes were severely lacking. Not what you want in a romance novel for those who like a little more substance.

Why Most Likely to Score was also a Disappointment:

When I was drafting this review, I was so confident that I would love Book #2 that I actually had titled this section “Why Most Likely to Score was a Homerun”…only it wasn’t.

I love slow burn romances but this was just a little too slow for me. These two have great chemistry, yet I felt like most of it had been established before the book. It just made things seem anti-climatic and especially rushed near the end. I also thought the “drama” keeping them apart was a bit of a stretch in one (Jones’) respect.

Series Rating: 2/5

Most Valuable Playboy 2/5 | Most Likely to Score 2/5

overall

There are a lot of aspects to like about this series but the execution left me wanting more. But if you want quick reads that aren’t overly complicated, this is a short series to dive into.

Read if You Like: light romance, sport romances, male only POV
Avoid if You: want more romance scenes

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Series Review: Little Black Book by Tabatha Vargo & Melissa Andrea

Series Review: Little Black Book by Tabatha Vargo & Melissa Andrea

DNF December Review Blitz — Day 1: I’m sharing my thoughts on some book series that I have marked as incomplete since I have never finished the first novel in the series or have decided not to read the sequels. Find out why these weren’t for me:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Little Black Book (from Goodreads):

My name’s Sebastian Black, and I want to buy you. I could have any woman I want, but I choose you.
NO RELATIONSHIP, JUST SEX.

Here’s my offer…
I’ll put your name in my LITTLE BLACK BOOK, and when I want you, I’ll call you. When I call, you’re going to come, in more ways than one. It will be mutually pleasurable for both of us.

There are only two rules:
DON’T EVER DENY ME.
DON’T FALL IN LOVE.

If you do either, I’ll remove you from my book and payment stops.

Do we have an understanding?

breakdown

Series: Little Black Book
Author: Tabatha Vargo & Melissa Andrea
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)

There is a prequel novella: #0.5 Little Black Beginning

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: Hot (Kink: mild)
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: June 2014 – March 2016
Source & Format: Own–eBook

thoughts

Disclaimer: I only read the first book of the series, Little Black Book, and have opted not to pick up the sequels. Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I can’t recall how this series crossed my radar. I think I was in my adult contemporary phase of reading back in 2014 and this was a bestseller that I saw on Amazon. I love when asshole heroes expectantly meet their perfect match and Sebastian seemed like he need to be taken down a peg or two.

Like many TBR items, I never got to this book immediately after I purchased it but I my high anticipation for the title kept it on my TBR list and that’s why I made it a 5 Year 5 Book Challenge 2018 pick for the year 2014.

What I Liked:

–The Idea of a Little Black Book–

This is one of those concepts you always hear about but never see done in practice…at least in novels. Sure, you’ve got the booty-call and the endless contact list in the bad-boy hero’s phone but there is just something about Sebastian’s little book that made him refreshing.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Love At First Sight–

I was enjoying the first few chapters of this novel until this little diddy came into play. Ugh. I hate when there is the “unspoken” or “innate” connection between the two leads. Besides her appearance, what else called to him?

–What was Sebastian’s Ideal Jessica?–

So I could have looked past the love at first sight thing if I had any clue why Roz was Sebastian’s “Jessica” aka his dream girl. Nowhere does he describe what would make a girl be “the one”. And besides Roz’s hair colour (red like Jessica Rabbit’s), I had no idea why she caused such a stir in him.

–Everything was a Cliche–

The heroine who is a bombshell and doesn’t know it? Check. Who is also a virgin but is a sexual goddess her first time in bed? Check. Needs a rich man to solve all her problems? Check. The hero who is incapable of love but falls nonetheless? Check. A good plot twist at the end? Check.

Now, I will give props to that twist. It was good and the only thing I didn’t predict while reading.

Will I Finish It?

Nope. Considering I skimmed that last 50% of the first book, I have no desire to pick up the sequel.

My Rating: DNF

[Little Black Beginning N/A] | Little Black Book 2/5 | Little Black Break N/A

overall

If you’ve read any contemporary romance with a similar theme, you’ve probably already read this. I would pass.

Read if You Like: shorter romances, cliches
Avoid if You: want a deeper, darker romance

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Have you read this? Should I return to this series? Leave a comment!

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Series Review: Pretty Smart Girls by Shae Ross

Series Review: Pretty Smart Girls by Shae Ross

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 Lace Up (from Goodreads):

Team Ryan
Ryan Rose and her fellow Spartans are finalists in a high-profile entrepreneurial competition. They’re competing for life-changing money and for their futures. They have a solid plan to win. All they need to do is trounce the competition: rich frat boys from an archrival university. Easy, right?

Team Jett
Jett Trebuchet’s first mistake was not realizing that Ryan and her friends were the competition. His second was expressing his unabashed confidence in his team’s ability to win. After all, everyone knows the only thing MSU does better than U of M is produce beautiful, easy women…oh, and he almost forgot to say “dumb.” And boy, does his team pay for that one.

Game On
As each side tries to game the other, something else seems to be getting in the way—attraction. Now Ryan and Jett must keep their teams from getting distracted by the opposite sex…and each other. All is not fair in love and war when it comes to winning this game.

breakdown

Series: Pretty Smart Girls

There is a standalone spin-off: Rush

Author: Shae Ross
# of Books: 2 (Lace Up, Fearless)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes? I’m not sure if there will be a book 3
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Drama, Humour
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: January 2015 – August 2015
Source & Format: Author–eBook (Read It Review It); Own–Kobo (Fearless)

disclaimer
I only received a review copy of Book #1 Lace Up

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Shae Ross offered my New Adult Group on Goodreads the opportunity to read her debut novel Lace Up around Christmas time in 2015. Way after I finished the book, I remembered seeing its sequel Fearless on NetGalley…boy, do I regret not grabbing that one when I had the chance!

The Concept:

The premise of Lace Up is what really grabbed my attention. I loved the idea that these these two teams would be competing against each other and the sparks would be flying in more than one way. And it definitely lived up to that.

I thought their attempts to sabotage were a lot of fun and funny. It made the book light-hearted yet it didn’t shy away from the more serious aspects of the characters and their lives. It was a great balance and made the book very enjoyable to read.

Fearless has a completed different vibe to it (though the playful tension between the two groups is still there). It’s more of your typical New Adult romance read though it does bring up some new themes often shied away from.

The Plot:

I thought the plot balanced very well between the competition in Lace Up (#1), the romance and the character development. It was serious when it needed to be yet it had its fun moments. I liked that there were multiple things happening. Of course you have the competition but there are other dramatic elements at play. From past relationships to family drama to current relationships: there are a lot of things to keep you interested.

Fearless was very different. It’s more of your coming of age story with a romance between two people who have an undeniable connection but can’t seem to make it work because life gets in the way. I loved some of the challenges the couple faces but I feel like they weren’t as developed as I wanted them to be and they often got overshadowed by dramatic antics that dampened the realistic, genuine vibes the story was otherwise broadcasting.

The Characters:

Everyone has great development throughout the story but Ryan and Jett especially in Lace Up. I liked how Ryan presented herself and didn’t hold back. She didn’t need a man to complete her and while I suppose she was a little “man-hating” at the start, I think given the circumstances I can cut her some slack. Jett had even better character growth I think and I really enjoyed that. While Lace Up mostly focuses on Ryan and Jett, you get enough of the other characters to make you eager to read the sequel book.

All the characters are layered here and that’s even more true in the sequel.

The Romance:

The romance happens fast in Lace Up given that the competition takes place in a week. However, I thought Jett and Ryan were a great match. They complimented each other beautifully; as do the other characters. It makes the romance all the more sweeter.

Series Rating: 4/5

Lace Up 4/5 | Fearless 3.5/5

overall

If you enjoy high antics and perfect romantic matches, this is a great series! Also, who doesn’t love pretty smart girls? They rule the world!

Read if You Like: new adult romance, dramatics
Avoid if You: don’t like over dramatics, fast romances

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Series Review: The Jackson Boys by Jen Frederick

Series Review: The Jackson Boys by Jen Frederick

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 The Charlotte Chronicles (from Goodreads):

Charlotte Randolph was only fifteen when she fell in love with her best friend’s gorgeous older brother—but she wasn’t foolish enough to hope he could ever love her back. Nate Jackson always viewed her as a pesky kid…until the day she got sick. The one bright spot during her illness? He realized she was all grown up. But just when she allows herself to believe that dreams can come true, Nate disappears from her life, taking her heart with him.

Nate knows he lost more than his best friend when he deserted Charlotte to enlist in the Navy. He thought he was doing the right thing, sparing the girl he loves from the shame and humiliation of his actions. Nine years later, it’s time to right his wrongs. He returns home determined to win back his first love…only to find that Charlotte’s moved on without him.

But if there’s one thing that being a Navy SEAL has taught Nate? Never give up, even when all hope seems lost. And Nate’s never going to give up on Charlotte. Ever.

breakdown

Series: The Jackson Boys

A Spin-off of the Woodlands Series

Author: Jen Frederick
# of Books: 2 (Full Series Reading Order)
Book Order: Companion
Complete?: Yes
Genre: New Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Heat Rating: Hot
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: December 2014 – October 2018
Source & Format: Kindle Unlimited–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I have a few Jen Frederick books on my TBR and on my eReaders thanks to freebies and great deals, but The Charlotte Chronicles was the novel I really wanted to read. So when I saw I could read it as a part of Kindle Unlimited, I jumped at the chance.

It sounded like a super cute story and I was really intrigued by premise. Character illness isn’t something I come across too often but I have really enjoyed them when I do find them.

The Concept:

Each novel actually started as a “weekly episode” type of story where Frederick would post an episode one week at a time on her website/newsletter. She then compiled it into one full novel.

The Plot:

At times, I think it shows that this series was written as one little bit at a time. The pacing was a little weird for me: it focused longer on some things and shorter on others.

For example, in The Charlotte Chronicles (#1), I didn’t expect to get so much of their past. I thought this would be more of a second chance novel were we would learn about their past through memories or just have a chapter or two at the start. Instead, we get solid percentage of the book dedicated to seeing these two in the early days of their relationship. Which is great because you really fall in love with these two and it brings major heartbreak when you know they break up sometime in the near future.

The first book made me super excited for Be Mine because of all the inklings we get along the way. This book was a solid 4/5 (I was flying through it!) but I didn’t particularly like how the drama came to the forefront near the end.

The Characters:

I really liked all our leads and the cast of characters we meet in these two stories. I love the power of friendship that gets exhibited in all of them. Yes, each story focuses on the romance but the friendships are equally as important.

The Romance:

In The Charlotte Chronicles, the thing that irked me the most was that I didn’t understand why they were separated for as long as they did. Like, I understood the foundation for the separation but it seemed like everything was blown out of proportions–especially when you see how they were as kids.

As for Be Mine, I liked the slow burn of their relationship and the tension it brought to the story. I’ll be honest and say that I wanted a little more substance to their romance. It seemed like some innate connection that wasn’t overly elaborated on. Like the two of them spend a lot of time together and I think a lot of their bonding happens side stage to the rest of the story.

Series Rating: 3/5

The Charlotte Chronicles 3/5 | Be Mine 3/5

overall

There’s a lot to like about these novels and the writing is addictive. But the pacing is slightly off and I wasn’t a fan of how some of the drama unfolded.

Read if You Like: contemporary reads, second chance romances
Avoid if You: dislike drama

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