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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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Fresh Fridays: Fable (#1) by Adrienne Young

Fresh Fridays: Fable (#1) by Adrienne Young

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:

Fable Series

Other books planned to be in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Fable (from Goodreads):

Welcome to a world made dangerous by the sea and by those who wish to profit from it. Where a young girl must find her place and her family while trying to survive in a world built for men.

As the daughter of the most powerful trader in the Narrows, the sea is the only home seventeen-year-old Fable has ever known. It’s been four years since the night she watched her mother drown during an unforgiving storm. The next day her father abandoned her on a legendary island filled with thieves and little food. To survive she must keep to herself, learn to trust no one and rely on the unique skills her mother taught her. The only thing that keeps her going is the goal of getting off the island, finding her father and demanding her rightful place beside him and his crew. To do so Fable enlists the help of a young trader named West to get her off the island and across the Narrows to her father.

But her father’s rivalries and the dangers of his trading enterprise have only multiplied since she last saw him and Fable soon finds that West isn’t who he seems. Together, they will have to survive more than the treacherous storms that haunt the Narrows if they’re going to stay alive.

breakdown

Series: Fable Duology
Author: Adrienne Young
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No, Namesake, will be published March 2021
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Coming of Age, Pirates, Adventure
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: September 1, 2020 – ongoing
Source & Format: Netgalley–eARC

thoughts

Disclaimer: I stopped reading Fable at 20% (start of Chapter 9) and have opted not to pick up the sequels. Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I was trolling Twitter one day and noticed a tweet by Wednesday Books that a vast majority of their Netgalley library was available as Read Now titles. Like any sane book reader, I immediately when to Netgalley and browsed for any titles that would grab my attention. Fable was one that was mentioned many times in the replies to the Tweet so I made sure to grab it. I love the idea of a female pirate ruling the sea so I was excited to dive in and check it out.

What I Liked:

–Pirates!–

I love the idea of a lady pirate novel. Pirate novels are great for a lot of reasons–action, adventure, scheming, curses–but when the lead is a lady, that presents a whole other set of challenges. Watching a lady take charge in a “man’s world” is what great books are made of.

What I Didn’t Like:

–World Building–

From the start, I found myself struggling to get invested in Fable’s story. Part of the reason is that I got lost in the lack of world building. It almost felt like I should already know who this cast of characters was and I was getting people mixed up constantly.

–Fable–

I also struggled with Fable herself. She is far too angsty for me. I think every chapter ended with some doom-and-gloom thought by her. I get why. Her character background is explained well enough to know that she has a massive chip on her shoulder. I just felt like she was trying to hard to be a badass?

Will I Finish It?

I think I wanted a badass, take no prisoner lead from the get-go but that isn’t Fable. This is her coming of age story as she literally navigates the messy waters of her life and reality. In time she will get there but that wasn’t the story I wanted to read and so I am ending my trip here.

My Rating: DNF

Fable DNF | Namesake N/A

overall

If you go by the other reviews on Goodreads, I’m in the majority for this one. If you don’t mind slower starts this would be worth your time.

Read if You Like: slower stories, coming of age, pirates
Avoid if You: dislike slow stories

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Series Review: Blood of Ra by M Sasinowski

Series Review: Blood of Ra by M Sasinowski

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 Heir of Ra (from Goodreads):

TEN THOUSAND YEARS BENEATH THE SAND. TWO MYTHS ON A COLLISION COURSE.

An excavation of the fabled Hall of Records beneath the Sphinx unleashes an ancient disease that leaves Alyssa’s father fighting for his life.

As Alyssa races to find a cure, she stumbles upon a haunting artifact–and trespasses into the mind of an Egyptian god.

ANCIENT HISTORY AND PRESENT TIME INTERTWINE.

A global epidemic looms. Alyssa relives memories of an advanced race and unravels clues hidden within the relic, as she evades ruthless adversaries set on exploiting the power of the ancient genes. Then she makes a staggering discovery…

The world is not quite what it seems.

WILL YOU QUESTION YOUR ORIGIN?

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Best Series Reads of 2020
Series: Blood of Ra
Author: M Sasinowski
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Mythology, Adventure
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Dates: August 2018 – December 2019
Source & Format: Author–eARC | Thank you M Sasinowski!

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

When I was a kid I loved learning about the Ancient Egyptian world. From the curses to the culture, it’s a fascinating history to explore. I also adored the movie The Mummy. It just had a great blend of action, comedy and history that captivated you as you watched.

The Mummy Run GIF by PeacockTV

So when M Sasinowski asked me to read his debut novel, Heir of Ra, I couldn’t wait to dive in. I don’t get to read a lot of fantasy adventures laced with the curses of Ancient Egypt so it seemed like a no brainer.

The Concept / The World:

I love Egyptian history: the idea of curses, rituals and royalty makes a lush backdrop for a novel. Which is why I find it odd that we don’t often get to explore this world in fiction. The blend of science and mythology is great. You’ve got all the classic elements of Ancient Egypt mixed with advanced (yet easy to follow) modern day science and it’s simply great.

The best way to describe this series’s feel overall is if you mixed “The Mummy” with “National Treasure” together. Everything just continuously builds as you uncover the next plot point.

The Plot:

Each book literally hits the ground running and the plot keeps moving at a great pace. Honestly, there isn’t a dull moment here thanks to the multiple POVs you get; helping to build a 360-degree view of everything that is happening plotwise. Yet I was never overwhelmed by following multiple characters. It just helped built up the tension and suspense of what will happen when everything inevitably crashes together.

The Characters:

I liked Alyssa as our lead a lot. She reminds me a little of Indiana Jones and how she doesn’t let anything stop her when it comes to obstacles and getting what she wants. She’s this great blend of thoughtfulness yet reckless all at the same time. She’s what you want in a strong female lead.

The rest of the cast is just as solid. I found even as Alyssa’s story becomes the focus as the series moves forward, the supporting cast evolves just as much. Getting those extra POV along the way, in addition to Alyssa’s, helps to shape the story.

The Romance:

It isn’t a huge focus of the series but there are little dashes along the way.

Series Rating: 4.5/5

Heir of Ra 5/5 | Daughter of Ra 4.5/5 | Legacy of Ra 4/5

overall

If you want a series you can sink your teeth into and binge read (honestly, I could read all of these books in one sitting, they were hard to put down!), this is it. A great blend of fantasy, science and myth unlike anything else I’ve read in a long time.

Read if You Like: Egyptian mythology, adventure
Avoid if You: want more romance, dislike multiple POVs

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Single Sundays: Trillion by Winter Renshaw

Single Sundays: Trillion by Winter Renshaw

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for Trillion (from Goodreads):
Trey Westcott—devastatingly gorgeous. Intimidatingly brilliant. Powerful beyond belief.

A man with all the money in the world—literally.

As the first trillionaire in existence, my boss lives a life most people can only dream of. Anything he wants—anything at all—is a snap-of-the-fingers away.

But when the coldhearted magnate snaps his fingers and requests me for a six month stint on his arm playing the role of his devoted fiancée, he makes an offer I can’t refuse.

And so I don’t.

But I make it clear that for the next 180 days, he’ll have my time, my body, my attention, my discreet professionalism—everything except my heart.

It’s not for sale.

Because all the money in the world can’t change the secret I’ve kept the last ten years. A secret that complicates the very business deal I’m to help him secure. A secret that makes the undeniable tension between us all the more forbidden.

Trey Westcott can have anything he wants … but he can never have me.

Even if he’s all I’ve ever wanted.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Author: Winter Renshaw
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: Warm
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: August 6, 2020
Source & Format: Author–eARC | Thank you Winter Renshaw!

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

If you are in the market for a different type of romance, Winter Renshaw is the author for you. She always manages to write these bittersweet romances with a flare of dramatics that are unlike anything you’ve read before. And I love a good fake relationship story so this was a no brainer for me.

The Plot:

I really like the idea and the last 30% was great; but the pacing was just a little off for me. I think because you get the flashbacks to Sophie’s history and her story early on, you lose some of the suspense of her secretive past. So I felt like we were just going through the motions during the first half and it reached a bit of a stale point.

The Characters:

The second half is much stronger. It’s a different type of contemporary romance (which is what I expect with Winter’s novels) so it really has a harder edge to it that fascinates me as a reader because it challenges the characters. Once they were pushed, I felt like their reactions helped to evolve them as characters.

The Romance:

I think I’m in the minority about this one but I also wasn’t entirely sold on the attraction between the leads. Their banter hadn’t won me over mostly because I felt like they didn’t have that much. It was a lot of longing but not a ton of substance to back it up besides a few brief encounters.

My Rating: 3.5/5

overall

I love a good fake fiance story and this one was definitely unlike one I’ve ever read before.

Read if You Like: fake relationships, billionaire romances
Avoid if You: want erotica
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ARC Review: Leo (Preston Brothers #3) by Jay McLean

ARC Review: Leo (Preston Brothers #3) by Jay McLean

ARC Review: I’m sharing my review of a sequel book I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy for!

The Preston Brothers Series is a spin-off of the More Than Series

Other books in the series:

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Series: Preston Brothers

This series is a spinoff of the More Than Series.

Author: Jay McLean
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order)
Book Order: Connected but Chronological Events
Complete?: Unsure
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Drama, Coming of Age
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: November 2016 – ongoing
Source & Format: Author–eARC

Add: Goodreads | Buy: Amazon

Read my review of the rest of the series HERE!

thoughts

My Expectations?

I’ve been (im)patiently waiting for the announcement of Leo’s book ever since this series was announced. He’s such an enigma of a character yet he has been so vital to all the other brothers’ stories that I couldn’t wait to get inside his head. I had no idea what to expect but I knew it was going to be one heck of an emotional roller coaster ride!

What I Liked:

–Focus on Family–

When it comes to drama, I find a lot of books focus on the negatives when it comes to families. It feels like 9 time out of 10, one (if not both) of the leads comes from a “broken” home and finds a new “family” with a group of friends. And I get why lots of stories have those elements. Families aren’t perfect; they’re complicated and messy. It also provides great drama and motivations for character actions.

And while we have those messy family situations in this book, I also appreciated the sentiment that you only get one family and it’s what you do with it that counts. Learning to move on from the past and forgive for the future is an idea that I don’t often see in this genre. The idea of second chances here–and following through by showing that people can change is a refreshing aspect to this story.

–Great Twists–

Jay McLean never fails to impress with her story twists. Just when you think you have everything figured out, you get a curveball thrown at you that you really should have known was coming.

–We Start From the Beginning–

I think to really understand who Leo is or why he acts the way he does, you have to go back to his childhood and see the role he played in those early years. It just helps to round out his character and his motivations for the decisions he makes later in the book.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Sometimes You Felt the Extensive Length of The Book–

I subscribe to Jay McLean’s reader newsletter (obviously) and when she announced the release of Leo, she had mentioned this book could have easily been split into two novels to make a duet but opted to keep it one book. It is a long one but so is the journey of Leo so in some ways I’m glad it was all together. I do think some parts could have been a little condensed to keep the story moving at a consistent pace.

But I think part of the reason I struggled with the length is that this is a very emotional story so breaking it up would have probably saved me some heartache! It’s very bittersweet but a worthwhile experience.

Rating for Leo: 4/5

Lucas 5/5 | Logan 4.5/5 | Leo 4/5

overall

Be prepared to feel all the feels! No one writes New Adult novels like Jay McLean!

Read if You Like: drama, emotional reads
Avoid if You: dislike high school based New Adult romances

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booksynopsis

Synopsis for Leo (from Goodreads):

One single summer changed them forever, and one moment of devastating silence destroyed it all.

Growing up with six siblings, Leo Preston has always struggled to find his voice.
While his brothers are loud, greedy, and somewhat obnoxious, Leo is forever the quiet one.
The thinker.
The listener.
He watches his life pass by as an outsider in his own world, absent and alone.
Lost.
Until he finds her.

For Leo, Mia Kovács is like a prize, a gift wrapped in passion and devotion.
And she’s his—his very own secret he doesn’t have to share.
Together, they can overcome anything…
heartache and destruction, guilt and regret.

Mia gives Leo everything he didn’t know he needed,
including her fragile heart.
The only thing she doesn’t give him…
are secrets of her own.

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Add: Goodreads | Buy: Amazon

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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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Spin-off Saturdays: Pretend We’re Over by Ella Miles

Spin-off Saturdays: Pretend We’re Over by Ella Miles

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:

Pretend We’re Over is a spin-off of Pretend I’m Yours

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Series: N/A

This is a spinoff of Pretend I’m Yours.

Author: Ella Miles
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Drama
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: July 21, 2020
Source & Format: Author–eARC

thoughts

My Expectations?

Well, they were pretty freaking high! Pretend I’m Yours is one of my favourite Ella Miles novels. I had always hoped for a story from our hero given how things go down in the inaugural novel but had never really thought we’d get one so soon!

How Does It Compare To The Original?

That great chemistry between our leads is there for sure. Their meet-cute was awkward yet steamy so I knew great things were in store and I couldn’t wait to explore their connections further.

Like the original, this story is always adding layer upon layer to itself and you really don’t know how it is all going to wrap up until the end. It makes it addicting to read.

Anything I Didn’t Like?

In the same breath, I thought some things in the plot didn’t add up completely upon the big reveal(s). I think part of my issue was that the characters seemed to be all over the place for me. I just couldn’t get a solid grasp on who they were as people since their thoughts and actions were a little all over the place. It just lacked some consistency and polish for me.

My Rating: 3/5

overall

My reading of this book was hot and cold. I really loved some aspects of it but didn’t really mesh well with others.

Read if You Like: fake marriage romances, fast paced, drama
Avoid if You: want more erotica

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booksynopsis

Synopsis for Pretend We’re Over (from Goodreads):

I’m not looking for a date. I’m definitely not looking for a husband—just one night of passion. I’m in Vegas, after all. And what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

So how did I end up with a giant rock on that finger, you ask? Your guess is as good as mine.

Now I’m stuck fake married to the biggest self-centered jerk I’ve ever met. We agree to keep the charade going for six months to protect our pride and dignity. We have six months to convince everyone we aren’t meant to be. Should be easy.

I’m sweet, kind, fun Millie.
He’s cynical, self-absorbed, loner Sebastian.

We don’t belong together. Convincing everyone we’re married is the easy part. Convincing everyone we’re over—that’s proving more difficult. Convincing myself that we’re over is proving hardest yet.

I just have to remember that it was all pretend from the start. We were never together. Pretending we’re over is just going back to my life before. But what if I don’t want to keep pretending?

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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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Blog Tour: Neighbors and Favors by Kate Davis

Blog Tour: Neighbors and Favors by Kate Davis

Synopsis for Neighbors and Favors (from Goodreads):
New apartments should come with a trial period…

I’ve just signed a two-year lease on an apartment I can barely afford.
My job hit a brick wall so I need the place to be perfect to help me get my life back on track. But the first night in, and I already know my neighbor isn’t going to make it easy on me.

Tall, sexy, irresistible (and did I mention the British accent?), Shane Logan likes his loud activities…a lot. I can hear everything through the paper-thin walls. I’m about to tell him that in not-so-friendly terms when I realize he isn’t just sexy, he’s also friendly and eager to be of help.
Maybe having a neighbor like him isn’t such a bad idea.
I’m a writer in desperate need of inspiration. Shane so happens to turn into mine. With a deadline approaching fast, his offer to do me a favor turns into two and three. Before I know it, he’s forced his way into my life with the tenacity of a whirlwind.

I can deal with the fact that he’s far too loud and far too sexy. But when my dog likes him more than me, I start to get a little suspicious. Soon it becomes clear Shane Logan has secrets.
Plunged into the suspicions surrounding my neighbor, suddenly the only thing I can be sure of is that Shane is fiercely determined to hide the truth about himself.

Remember when I said the lease should have come with a warning?
Well, mine should also have come with a big, red, flashing signal.

Author: Kate Davis
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Christian, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: June 9, 2020
Source & Format: Kate Davis–eARC

Add: Goodreads | Buy: Amazon

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Who doesn’t love the idea of a British hottie next door? When Kate pitched her novel to me, I was curious to see how this would play out. A mysterious but inspiring boy next door? I was more than intrigued.

The Plot:

Perhaps my mind went straight to the gutter on this one after I read the synopsis. I think I assumed our heroine was writing a romance novel and needed some help writing those sexy scenes…but that is far from the case here.

Instead, we get more of a platonic story about a very helpful–albeit mysterious–boy next door sprinkled with Sam’s views about faith and love. So clearly I had to curb my expectations in a lot of ways. It took me a few chapters to get into it, but once I understood what this novel was supposed to be, I enjoyed it.

I really liked the mystery aspect to Shane. I really couldn’t figure out what his deal was so I liked that it kept me on my toes!

The Characters:

I’ve never really gone out of my way to read a book that was rooted in Christianity because I fear they can be preachy about their faith. But this wasn’t like that at all! Clearly our heroine’s faith is important to her, but she wasn’t pushy about it at all. It’s just something that is ingrained in her character profile and drives her motivations.

I’d also describe Sam (our heroine) as quirky. I often struggle with humour in books because I can’t always grasp the tone, and that happened a little here for me. I missed a few of the jokes but there are some funny moments along the way.

The Romance:

So knowing how important her faith is, I quickly learned this wasn’t the romance I thought it was going to be. I thought the “favour” aspect of the story would be some hands-on sexy-time experience by Shane to give her material for her novel but obviously that isn’t the case. And the romance is more subtle than I thought it would be.

I almost wouldn’t classify this as a romance persay. It’s more like the adventures of an aspiring novelist who uses the mystery of the super cute and nice neighbour next door to write her novel.

My Rating: 3/5

overall
If you want a lighter story with a dash of romance, Christianity and mystery, I think this will be the perfect summer read for you!

Read if You Like: light romance, books involving faith
Avoid if You: want erotica

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Kate Davis
Kate Davis is a real-life coffee lover with her very own Pomeranian who was her biggest inspiration for this book. Yes, Sammy is real and her favorite command is “cheese.” In fact, it might just be the only command she obeys. Kate loves to play matchmaker, transporting readers to a place where her bold heroines have endearing flaws, the men are fierce and protective, the world isn’t always a safe place, and chivalry is alive and thriving! You can visit both Kate and Sammy online at katedavisauthor.blogspot.com or connect with her on Facebook.
Stay in touch. She loves to hear from her readers!

Sign up to Kate’s newsletter for more info on her next release here

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Single Sundays: The Cruelest Stranger by Winter Renshaw

Single Sundays: The Cruelest Stranger by Winter Renshaw

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for The Cruelest Stranger (from Goodreads):

The first time I saw him was at a bar called Ophelia’s on a misty Thursday night. I was there to drown my sorrows after a trying day, he was there to escape the storm. After a brief yet incredibly cruel exchange, the handsome stranger bolted before I had a chance to tell him off. Incensed and two cocktails deep, I followed him out the door, determined to give the audacious Adonis a piece of my mind—and the umbrella he left behind.

Tearing after him in heels and barely able to keep up in the freezing rain, I ended my chase when I realized where he was going.

They say never to judge someone unless you know their story.

I never could have anticipated his…

And I never could have anticipated the way our paths would cross again—or that I would one day find myself falling for a man with a hollow cavity where his heart should be, a man as callous as he was beautiful, as complicated as he was mesmeric.

They say never to judge someone unless you know their story.

This one’s ours.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Author: Winter Renshaw
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: Warm
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: January 20, 2020
Source & Format: Author–eARC | Thank you Winter Renshaw!

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I love Winter Renshaw’s novels. They always surprise me with their trajectory and I couldn’t wait to uncover who this “cruel stranger” was!

The Plot:

While I was able to put together the pieces fairly quickly, that didn’t stop me from becoming engrossed in this couple’s story. From their hostile first meeting to the crazy coincidences that happen afterwards, there was something captivating about these two.

The Romance:

The communication between our leads was great. Their ability to patiently react to situations and Astaire’s ability to opt and see the best in Bennett was great to read about. It isn’t always sunshine and roses in relationships and this book reminds us that things take work and time.

The Characters:

And I loved how that relationship added depth to their individual characters! As we peel back the layers, these characters evolve before your eyes and contribute even more to the story.

My Rating: 4.5/5

overall

If you are looking for a contemporary romance that is unique from its peers, check this out!

Read if You Like: contemporary romance with a twist
Avoid if You: want erotica

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