Tag «Contemporary»

romances set in today’s time

Series Review: Game for It by Karen Erickson

Series Review: Game for It by Karen Erickson

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 Game for Marriage (from Goodreads):

He’s going in deep to make her his…

Struggling artist Sheridan Harper never imagined she’d spend a sizzling night with Jared Quinn, the smoking-hot star quarterback of her local professional football team, the San Jose Hawks. And she’s even more shocked when Jared’s publicist offers her a proposition: a fake marriage to keep Jared out of the gossip mags. Being that close to Jared would be too tempting, so to protect her heart, she insists on secretly including a clause forbidding sex between them.

Jared just wants to keep his starting QB job and keep it in San Jose. His reputation as a ladies’ man has landed him in the headlines one too many times, but there’s something about his kind, passionate new wife that tempts him beyond reason. Any sort of intimacy between them is completely forbidden, but as their bodies fall in deep, will their hearts follow suit?

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Series: Game for It
Author: Karen Erickson (aka Monica Murphy)
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Sports
Heat Rating: Hot
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: January 2013 – November 2014
Source & Format: Own–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I think I found out about this series after I finished Erickson’s Worth It Series but I’m not sure. All I know is that in the time since I picked up Game for Marriage as a freebie, I’ve read many of Erickson’s works as Monica Murphy so I was excited to dive back into her world of adult romance.

The Plot:

If you love the fake relationship trope, this is the series for you! Honestly, all three of these books focus on some form of a “arranged relationship” so I really liked that.

But these books just skim the surface of everything. They focus on the sexy times and don’t delve too deep into the characters’ pasts anymore than they need to. And you’ve got your classic little white lies that blow up into something huge simply for the sake of drama. All of that just left me feeling like I was missing that little je-ne-sais-quoi to take these books to that next level.

The Characters:

They’re all likeable albeit somewhat bland. Again, it comes back to not really developing them all that much for the sake of sex scenes. They do their job at delivering the story.

The Romance:

While I love sexy times as much as the next reader, I also like conversations between my romantic leads. So while they had tangible sexual chemistry, that deeper connection was missing for me a little–especially when everything plotwise seems to happen within a month or less.

Series Rating: 3/5

Game for Marriage 3.5/5 | Game for Trouble 3/5 | Game for Tonight 3/5

overall

If you want quick, flirty romance reads this is a great series to pick up!

Read if You Like: quick romance reads
Avoid if You: want deeper plots and characters

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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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Series Review: Virtue by Mia Asher

Series Review: Virtue by Mia Asher

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 Easy Virtue (from Goodreads):

Love is selfish…

My name is Blaire.
I’m the bad girl.
The other woman.
The one who never gets the guy in the end.

I’m the gold digger.
The bitch.
The one no one roots for.
The one you love to hate.

I hate myself too…

Everyone has a story. Are you ready for mine?

breakdown

Series: Virtue
Author: Mia Asher
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Erotica, Romance
Heat Rating: Smokin’
Point of View: First Person, Single (#1); Alternating (#2)
Publication Dates: December 2014 – April 2016
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’m pretty sure Kobo recommended Easy Virtue to me based on my purchases. And it worked because I ended up buying the first book after I read the synopsis.

I like books that focus on unorthodox leads. There’s something refreshing about a somewhat villainous lead and I’m always intrigued to get their stories.

The Concept:

If you don’t like a lot of sex scenes don’t read this. You start the first chapter in the middle of a sex scene and there are copious amounts of sexy times throughout the series.

Also, if you struggle with the idea of “using” someone and/or uber messy relationships, maybe look elsewhere.

The Plot:

This is a very character driven story. If you look past the sexy times, the heart of this story is a coming of age story. The Blair at the start of the series isn’t the Blair we end the series with and the journey to get there was one that always surprised me. I thought I had a good idea of what the twists were going to be but I was definitely wrong–which was nice.

The Characters:

I wasn’t a Blair fan in the sense that she isn’t someone I would be friends with in real life. (And if we were, I would smack some sense into her). But I think it shows the talent of a writer that instead of getting annoyed by Blair and her questionable decisions, I understood her reasoning and motivations. She’s a girl who lacks self-esteem and that’s what drives her need to seek security using her looks in the wrong places.

It was nice to get some more POVs in the second book. It helped to develop some of the key players and their motivations for some of their decisions as well.

The Romance:

There is plenty of steam and chemistry thanks to the sexy times we get. But I wasn’t entirely convinced that the stable foundation for an all consuming romance was there–especially after we get the additional POVs in the sequel. The relationships Blair have all seem toxic to me in one way or another. But in some ways, things improved in the last bit of the second novel which redeemed some stuff for me.

My Audiobook Experience:

I’ll admit, it’s a little uncomfortable to listen to full blown erotica as an audiobook sometimes. So if you can’t get past that, go for it. It is a different narrator for Blair in Easy Virtue and Sweetest Venom but once I was a few chapters into Sweetest Venom, I didn’t really notice it so much.

Series Rating: 4/5

Easy Virtue 4/5 | Sweetest Venom 4/5

overall

I think if you are someone who doesn’t mind erotica and grasp the motivations for the characters, you will enjoy this unique story.

Read if You Like: “bad girl” leads
Avoid if You: dislike erotica, dislike love triangles

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Spin-Off Saturdays: Dirty Sweet Duet by Laurelin Paige

Spin-Off Saturdays: Dirty Sweet Duet by Laurelin Paige

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

TheDirty Sweet Duet is a spin-off of the Dirty Duet

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite Author
Series: Dirty Games, Dirty Universe

This is a spinoff of the Dirty Duet Series.

Author: Laurelin Paige
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: Hot (Kink: mild)
Point of View: First Person, Alternating (#1) & Single (#2)
Publication Date: February 2019 – March 2019
Source & Format: Own–eBook

warning
WARNING: If you have not finished the original series, this review may have spoilers!

thoughts

My Expectations?

We get the tiniest taste of what could be between these two in Dirty Filthy Rich Love but it was enough to have me craving more. I love a good forbidden romance and Laurelin Paige is a master at the trope (see First Touch or Rivalry for examples) so I was excited to see what would happen next with these two!

How Does It Compare To The Original?

This is perhaps the lightest duet of the Dirty Universe. What I mean by that is the kink (which is so tame that I feel bad almost calling it a ‘kink’) is so minuscule and really doesn’t impact the story all that much. I look back at Dirty Filthy Rich Men and everything is so dark and twisted compared to the romance here.

This story is about Dylan learning to love again and willing to take a risk on something he thinks society won’t accept. And for Audrey, it’s about finding herself and asserting her wants and desires for life. They share an incredible passion together but is there anything more to the relationship? It was fun trying to watch them figure it out.

Anything I Didn’t Like?

Their time together in Sweet Liar felt extremely rushed–probably because it literally takes place within a week or two. And because of that, I didn’t see these deeper connection besides incredible sex together. There were little inklings of it for sure but not enough to convince me that Dylan would be pining for her in the months to come.

That connection is fostered more in the sequel but some of it happens behind the scenes or is summed up with “she was at my place for the next two weeks, talking and watching tv, etc”. I just needed a little more.

Reading Order for the Dirty Universe:

There is a full reading order on Paige’s website to guide you but you can definitely read each series on its own and in any order if one is not to your tastes.

If you want to read the books though in chronological order of events though, I would almost suggest:

  1. Dirty Filthy Rich Boys
  2. Dirty Sexy Bastard
  3. Dirty Filthy Rich Men & Dirty Sexy Player nearly simultaneously
  4. Dirty Filthy Rich Love
  5. Sweet Liar (once Audrey is introduced in Rich Love, you could start this one)
  6. Dirty Sexy Games
  7. Sweet Fate

Series Rating: 4/5

Sweet Liar 4/5 | Sweet Fate 4/5

overall

Both a super quick reads if you enjoy solid writing and a romance that oozes sexual chemistry from the start!

Read if You Like: forbidden love, older guys/younger girls
Avoid if You: dislike lots of  sexy times

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booksynopsis

Synopsis for Sweet Liar (from Goodreads):

British ad exec Dylan Locke isn’t looking for love. He isn’t looking for fate. He’s definitely not looking for Audrey Lind. She’s pretty, far too young, and overly romantic–in short, exhausting.

But when the girl, young enough to be his daughter, literally lands in his lap and asks for his expertise, he’d be lying if he said he wasn’t interested. In her body, in her innocence, in her philosophy.

In the kind of kismet that starts with kisses.

But Audrey isn’t looking for love either–she’s looking for lessons, and she’s certain Dylan knows everything she needs to learn.

If he agrees to play the teacher can he keep his heart?

Of course he can.

Then again, he might be lying.

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Spin-Off Saturdays: Dirty Games Duet by Laurelin Paige

Spin-Off Saturdays: Dirty Games Duet by Laurelin Paige

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

Dirty Games Duet is a spin-off of the Dirty Duet

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite Author
Series: Dirty Games, Dirty Universe

This is a spinoff of the Dirty Duet Series.

Author: Laurelin Paige
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here) (Dirty Universe Reading Order)

There is a free prequel novella called Dirty Sexy Bastard

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: Hot
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: July 2018 – November 2018
Source & Format: Own–eBook

warning
WARNING: If you have not finished the original series, this review may have spoilers!

thoughts

My Expectations?

Ever since we were introduced to Weston and his arranged marriage predicament in Dirty Filthy Rich Men I was intrigued. All the little inklings about his relationship with Elizabeth had me super eager to get his story. So immediately after finishing that inaugural series, I dove into this one.

How Does It Compare To The Original?

Dirty Filthy Rich Men is a unique read. It’s a very dark contemporary romance and one that some people will struggle to get into if that isn’t their tastes. The Dirty Games Duet is much lighter in that regard.

Yes, these two have their baggage and burdens but their relationship isn’t as…twisted…as the previous one was. It’s much lighter and follows more of your typical “fake marriage to acheive something but oops, we fall in love” story.

Though if you know anything about Laurelin Paige, her books are never just anything books. There are a lot of layers to these characters and I found the situations they endure together to be refreshing as a frequent reader of contemporary romances.

Anything I Didn’t Like?

That I read them too fast? Seriously.

Reading Order for the Dirty Universe:

There is a full reading order on Paige’s website to guide you but you can definitely read each series on its own and in any order if one is not to your tastes.

If you want to read the books though in chronological order of events though, I would almost suggest:

  1. Dirty Filthy Rich Boys
  2. Dirty Sexy Bastard
  3. Dirty Filthy Rich Men & Dirty Sexy Player nearly simultaneously
  4. Dirty Filthy Rich Love
  5. Dirty Sexy Games

Series Rating: 5/5

[Dirty Sexy Bastard 5/5 ] | Dirty Sexy Player 5/5 | Dirty Sexy Games 5/5

overall

Fantastic chemistry with a refreshing contemporary plotline for a “fake” relationship trope story!

Read if You Like: fake marriages, strong heroines
Avoid if You: want erotica
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booksynopsis

Synopsis for TITLE (from Goodreads):

 

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Series Review: Dirty by Laurelin Paige

Series Review: Dirty by Laurelin Paige

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 Dirty Filthy Rich Men (from Goodreads):

When I met Donovan Kincaid, I knew he was rich. I didn’t know he was filthy. Truth be told, I was only trying to get his best friend to notice me.

I knew poor scholarship girls like me didn’t stand a chance against guys like Weston King and Donovan Kincaid, but I was in love with his world, their world, of parties and sex and power. I knew what I wanted—I knew who I wanted—until one night, their world tried to bite me back and Donovan saved me. He saved me, and then Weston finally noticed me, and I finally learned what it was to be in their world.

And then what it was like to lose it.

Ten years later, I’ve found my way back. Back to their world. Back to him.

This time, I’m ready. I’ve been down this road before, and I know all the dirty, filthy ways Donovan will try and wreck me.

But it’s hard to resist. Especially when I know how much I’ll like it.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite Author
Series: Dirty Duet, Dirty Universe

There are a spin-off Series: Dirty Games Duet, Dirty Sweet Duet

Author: Laurelin Paige
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here) (Dirty Universe Reading Order)

There is a free prequel novella: #0.5 Dirty Filthy Rich Boys

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Retelling, Dark
Heat Rating: Smokin’ (Kink: Major | BDSM: High)
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: March 2017 – September 2017
Source & Format: Own–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I read anything by Laurelin Paige without much thought because I just love everything that she writes. But this series in particular was one of my more highly anticipated reads by her. I’ve been craving a new darker contemporary romance and this seemed like it would fit the bill.

The Concept:

I’m not at all familiar with the movie Sabrina (1954 version or the 1995) so the basis for this story was a little lost on me. (I read the synopsis of the movie on Wikipedia so I was able to draw the allusions after the fact). But if you are, I’m sure you’ll love this take on the story. And if you aren’t, there is this anticipation from not knowing that will hook you in!

The Plot:

This is a story that is driven by the relationship of the major characters and there was just something so freaking addicting about their lives that had me completely invested.

I found sometimes things seemed to be a little repetitive in the narrative. I really noticed it in Book #2 Dirty Filthy Rich Love where we seemed to watch Sabrina rehash the same sentiments again and again. But perhaps I was just being picky about it.

The Characters:

Sabrina was a great lead to follow; she has everything I like in a strong heroine for a romance novel like this. Her independence was great.

Donovan is such an enigma–and the mystery around his character was so addicting to read! In the same breath, I wanted more from him in Dirty Filthy Rich Men. I found we seemed to rehash the same stuff with him again and again when I wanted a new layer to add to his evolution. His character evolves in the sequel though.

The Romance:

I was worried that there would be a love triangle given the synopsis but you’ll find out early on that isn’t really the case (and if you read the novella you’ll already know that).

I really loved the chemistry and the tension between these two. It’s thick and twisted (and that will definitely turn people off and away from this story; especially if you are triggered by/references to sexual assault) but I couldn’t get enough of it! And they actually,y took time to communicate with each other which I always appreciate!

When to Read #0.5 Dirty Filthy Boys:

Definitely read it before you start Dirty Filthy Men! While it gives away the slight mystery about why Sabrina hasn’t seen these guys in 10 years, it provides a lot more context about the relationship (and Sabrina’s character) than I thought the first few chapters of the novel did.

The Dirty Universe:

This duet is the start of what Laurelin Paige refers to as her Dirty Universe. Basically, each duet follows one of the guys that work/own the company. You see little inklings of each of the spin-offs here and parts of the Dirty Games Duet take place during these novels. There is a full reading order on Paige’s website to guide you but you can definitely read each series on its own and in any order if one is not to your tastes.

Series Rating: 4/5

[Dirty Filthy Rich Boys 4/5]| Dirty Filthy Rich Men 4/5| Dirty Filthy Rich Love 3/5

overall

I think some people will struggle with the darker nature of the romance but for those who like darker romances, this is great!

Read if You Like: dark romances, loosely based on other stories
Avoid if You: dislike dark romances, are triggered by rape/sexual assaults

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Fresh Fridays: Shine (#1) by Jessica Jung

Fresh Fridays: Shine (#1) by Jessica Jung

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:

Shine Series

Other books planned to be in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Shine (from Goodreads):

Crazy Rich Asians meets Gossip Girl by way of Jenny Han in this knock-out debut about a Korean American teen who is thrust into the competitive, technicolor world of K-pop, from Jessica Jung, K-pop legend and former lead singer of one of the most influential K-pop girl groups of all time, Girls Generation.

What would you give for a chance to live your dreams?

For seventeen-year-old Korean American Rachel Kim, the answer is almost everything. Six years ago, she was recruited by DB Entertainment—one of Seoul’s largest K-pop labels, known for churning out some of the world’s most popular stars. The rules are simple: Train 24/7. Be perfect. Don’t date. Easy right?

Not so much. As the dark scandals of an industry bent on controlling and commodifying beautiful girls begin to bubble up, Rachel wonders if she’s strong enough to be a winner, or if she’ll end up crushed… Especially when she begins to develop feelings for K-pop star and DB golden boy Jason Lee. It’s not just that he’s charming, sexy, and ridiculously talented. He’s also the first person who really understands how badly she wants her star to rise.

Get ready as Jessica Jung, K-pop legend and former lead singer of Korea’s most famous girl group, Girls Generation, takes us inside the luxe, hyper-color world of K-pop, where the stakes are high, but for one girl, the cost of success—and love—might be even higher. It’s time for the world to see: this is what it takes to SHINE.

breakdown

Series: Shine
Author: Jessica Jung
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Bright, to be published October 2021
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Romance, Music
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: September 29, 2020 – ongoing
Source & Format: Netgalley–eARC

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’m not a regular listener of K-pop by any means but the entire world fascinates me. If you want to get a crash course on the world, I highly recommend the Netflix Series Explained and the 20 minute episode they do on the world of K-pop. If you think Disney manufactures stars, it really has nothing on the industry in South Korea!

I don’t really remember how I learned about the book but I Wishlisted it on Netgalley and was super excited when my wish to read an ARC of Shine was granted!

What I Liked:

–Cutthroat World of K-Pop–

The tagline that this book is like “Crazy Rich Asians meets Gossip Girl by way of Jenny Han” is very accurate. You’ve got all the drama, cultural clashes and joys of first love that all those books explore here in many ways.

While I hope that some of the ordeals Rachel has to endure are embellished for theatrics, I’m not entirely convinced they are. If you’ve read any of the headlines about K-pop stars and their struggles with the pressure and their mental health, you know that some of the scenarios Rachel experiences were likely inspired by real events and tactics. The author, Jessica Jung is a former K-pop star herself so I feel like she puts in some of her own experiences into this book to give it that authentic look behind the scenes.

–Rachel’s Struggle With Her Identity–

Added to the drama is Rachel’s coming of age story as an individual person. While she is a trainee in the world of K-pop in Korea, her identity as an American Korean girl creates this barrier that stops her from being fully embraced by her peers despite how hard she tries. Her struggle helps to shape her character and her reactions to the various things thrown her way. It’s quite the character evolution and I really enjoyed that aspect to the story because it helped to ground the sometimes melodramatics of the K-pop world.

–Treatment of Women vs Men in the Industry–

While I thought the introduction of the idea of a double-standard in the music industry came out of nowhere, I really liked the themes it explored once it became a little more ingrained in the story. It’s crazy that I have to write this in 2020 but there is still a major difference in how men and women are treated in many environments but I think it’s even more of a concern in the entertainment industry. So I liked that we get to see that at play here.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Slightly Choppy Start with a Lag in the Middle–

I struggled at the start to keep Rachel’s worlds straight and everything that is happening in it. And I felt like the middle lagged just a touch. But I still really enjoyed reading it as a whole.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I loved how everything came together in the end and can’t wait to see what happens next!

My Rating: 4/5

Shine 4/5 | Bright TBP

overall

This was an entertaining read from start to finish. Perfect for K-pop fans or those who love stories about people trying to reach their dreams!

Read if You Like: K-pop, coming of age stories
Avoid if You: dislike YA, dislike books with drama

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Single Sundays: Top Secret by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy

Single Sundays: Top Secret by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy

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 Top Secret (from Goodreads):

LobsterShorts, 21. Jock. Secretly a science geek. Hot AF.

LobsterShorts: So. Here goes. For her birthday, my girlfriend wants…a threesome.

SinnerThree: Then you’ve come to the right hookup app.

LobsterShorts: Have you done this sort of thing before? With another guy?

SinnerThree: All the time. I’m an equal opportunity player. You?

LobsterShorts: [crickets!]

SinnerThree, 21. Finance major. Secretly a male dancer. Hot AF.

SinnerThree: Well, I’m down if you are. My life is kind of a mess right now. School, work, family stress. Oh, and I live next door to the most annoying dude in the world. I need the distraction. Are you sure you want this?

LobsterShorts: I might want it a little more than I’m willing to admit.

SinnerThree: Hey, nothing wrong with pushing your boundaries…

LobsterShorts: Tell that to my control-freak father. Anyway. What if this threesome is awkward?

SinnerThree: Then it’s awkward. It’s not like we’ll ever have to see each other again. Right? Just promise you won’t fall in love with me.

LobsterShorts: Now wouldn’t that be life-changing…

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Author: Elle Kennedy and Sarina Bowen
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, MM Romance
Heat Rating: Hot (Kink: mild)
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: May 7, 2019
Source & Format: Kindle Unlimited–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’m a huge fan of any works these authors write individually or co-write together. But if you haven’t read Him and you want to dive into the male-male romance genre DO IT! So needless to say, I was super stoked to see these two had finally written another MM romance nearly 3 years later!

The Concept:

I think the Q&A included in the Goodreads synopsis gives you a good idea of the main focus of this book.

Q: Is this story MM? Or is it a MMF / MFM / menage?
A: This book is MM.

Q: Is this a love triangle story?
A: Not really. You’ll see.

I know I was a little apprehensive because I tend to not enjoy menage romances and that’s what the synopsis had me thinking this was; but the Q&A put me a little at ease

The Plot:

From the start, I was immediately hooked into the story. Part of it was the suspense of knowing that once these two figure things out: it’s going to be explosive. But it was also the building up of the tension as these two explore their budding relationship. Plenty of steam mixed in between some dramatic moments.

However, I did think that this book started a little too slowly. It almost felt redundant because there reaches a point where you as the reader know what’s going on and you’ve got good enough feel for the situation but the writing keeps building it up. It does make the latter half of the novel though pretty explosive.

The Characters:

I really loved all the characters we got throughout the novel. Everyone comes across as genuine which gave this story a realistic feel to it–which in turn made the romance even sweeter.

The Romance:

While there was plenty of steam, there was also plenty of substance. Like I said before, the buildup was great as it kept you interested in a reader. But it also provided this great foundation for when the “real-world” comes swooping in.

concSLOW

My Rating: 4/5

overall

If you love romances with plenty of swoon and steam and a dash of drama, this is a great book for you to read!

Read if You Like: MM romance, new adult
Avoid if You: dislike contemporary romance
similarreads

  • Him by Elle Kennedy and Sarina Bowen (Him Series #1)
  • Leveled by Jay Crownover (Saints of Denver Series #1)

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Series Review: The Royals by Erin Watt

Series Review: The Royals by Erin Watt

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 Paper Princess (from Goodreads):

From strip clubs and truck stops to southern coast mansions and prep schools, one girl tries to stay true to herself.

These Royals will ruin you…

Ella Harper is a survivor—a pragmatic optimist. She’s spent her whole life moving from town to town with her flighty mother, struggling to make ends meet and believing that someday she’ll climb out of the gutter. After her mother’s death, Ella is truly alone.

Until Callum Royal appears, plucking Ella out of poverty and tossing her into his posh mansion among his five sons who all hate her. Each Royal boy is more magnetic than the last, but none as captivating as Reed Royal, the boy who is determined to send her back to the slums she came from.

Reed doesn’t want her. He says she doesn’t belong with the Royals.

He might be right.

Wealth. Excess. Deception. It’s like nothing Ella has ever experienced, and if she’s going to survive her time in the Royal palace, she’ll need to learn to issue her own Royal decrees.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Series: The Royals
Author: Erin Watt (aka Jen Frederick and Elle Kennedy)
# of Books: 5 (Full Reading Order)

There is a novella: #3.5 Tarnished Crown

Book Order: Chronological (#1-3) and Connected Sequels (#4-5)
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult / New Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Drama
Heat Rating: Warm **spicy YA**
Point of View: First Person, Single; First Person, Alternating (#2 onwards)
Publication Dates: April 2016 – March 2018
Source & Format: Own–eBook (Kobo)

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I had Paper Princess on my radar for a long time but the potential soapy-ness of it all scared me a little. But after I read (and adored) Erin Watt’s When It’s Real, I immediately made plans to bump this up on my TBR. And once I discovered that this was an author duo whose individuals works I’ve enjoyed in the past, it seemed like a no-brainer to pick it up. That’s why it was a 2019 5 Year 5 Book Reading Challenge pick for the year 2016.

The Concept / Genre Classification:

While this does take place in high school (which I classify as YA), it definitely has more New Adult undertones to it; especially when it comes to the sexual content.

The first 3 books focus on Reed and Ella but the 4th and 5th books focus on Easton. However, they all follow a chronological order of events so it is best to read them in the order they are listed as on Goodreads.

The Plot:

These books definitely read like your favourite teenage soap opera drama. You’ve got mean girls; hook-ups; backstabbing; angst; sexual tension and secrets–and not just from the teenagers, the parents are just as bad 😉

But that makes for an addicting read in many ways. Yes, some of the moments were a little too overdramatic for my tastes (the antics that Ella finds herself in especially) but it worked within the context of the story. Or at least I thought that was the case with the first three books; not so much with the last two novels.

I think some people would classify it as a “guilty pleasure” read if they don’t read many contemporaries novels.

The Characters:

Ella is a fighter and I appreciated her blunt honesty at times; she’s not ashamed of herself or her past and that was refreshing. At times, she is perhaps a little melodramatic but I understood her actions.

As for the Royals, they are all as captivating and intriguing as you want them to be. Each brother is unique and has their own air of mystery around them. It was fun to watch their antics as well as see that deeper side to their characters.

The Romance:

In Paper Princess (#1), I wasn’t totally sold on the romance between Ella and Reed. I could definitely feel the lust but I thought the “deeper” connection they kept feeling wasn’t really elaborated on. That changed in Broken Prince (#2) though; it became more apparent to me why they were drawn together and how great they could be together.

However, that wasn’t the case with Easton’s two novels. I was really disappointed in the romance there. I just didn’t see it at all.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

There are no further books planned featuring the brothers–BUT, I wouldn’t be opposed to the twins getting their own novel(s) one day 😉

Series Rating: 4/5

Paper Princess 4/5 | Broken Prince 4/5 | Twisted Palace 3/5 | [Tarnished Crown 4/5] | Fallen Heir 3/5 | Cracked Kingdom 3/5

overall

If you love drama and teenaged angst in your reads, this is the series for you!

Read if You Like: angst, drama, older YA reads
Avoid if You: dislike contemporaries

similarreads

  • The Heir by M J Prince (Dynasty Series #1)
  • Bully by Penelope Douglas (Fall Away Series #1)
  • Last to Know by Micalea Smeltzer (Willow Creek Series #1)

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