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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: Ransom by Rachel Schurig

Series Review: Ransom by Rachel Schurig

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 Ransom (from Goodreads):

Daisy Harris has no reason to suspect that her day will be any different than usual. She’ll go to class, alone. She won’t speak or make eye contact. She’ll spend her entire day doing her best to go completely unnoticed. That’s what life is like for Daisy now—an endless cycle of loneliness and fear. A life lived hiding behind the walls she so faithfully maintains.

Then she sees it. A magazine, left behind in class. A simple picture—just his face. And it changes everything.

It’s been a year since she’s seen Daltrey Ransome. A year since he and his brothers left town to pursue their dreams of rock and roll superstardom. A year since he left Daisy behind—left her to watch as everything she knew crumbled around her. She’s been running from Daltrey ever since, desperate to keep her secret.

But she can’t run anymore. And now that Daltrey has found her—the girl he’s loved his entire life, the girl he’d give up everything for—he’s determined never to let her go again.

breakdown

Series: Ransom
Author: Rachel Schurig
# of Books: 6 (Full Reading List Here)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: New Adult, Romance, Contemporary, Rock Star
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: April 2014 – June 2018
Source & Format: Own–eBook; Kindle Unlimited

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I got Ransom as a freebie for my Kobo and I think if you’ve read any of my reviews before, you know why I snatched it up. I love romances involving rock stars and secrets so this was a perfect fit!

The Plot:

Ransom (book 1) was definitely a little cheesy and I didn’t totally love the leads. So watching them do these somewhat immature things without thinking about the consequences irked me a little. This book just lacked that polish to it. HOWEVER, I really liked the rest of the cast and the potential I saw there for the sequels.

I’m really glad I gave the rest of the series a shot because I truly enjoyed them. Familiarity with the characters and watching everyone grow as the band navigates success was such a treat. And watching the guys meet their match was awesome. The rest of the series has this great balance between character development and romance. It was nice to see characters connect on a deeper level than just physical attraction and not focus solely on the sexy times.

The Characters:

Truthfully, Daltrey and Daisy are the weakest links in this series for me. So once I got past their novel I really enjoyed everyone else we get to meet.

The character growth of everyone else in the series is fabulous! All the leads are flawed in one way or another but they have their own strengths as well. Watching these characters work on themselves as individuals before committing to a romance is exactly what I love to see in a romance novel and I loved those moments.

What I also enjoyed was the fact that everyone had their own unique story. A lot of rockstar romance series follow a similar pattern but each installment here always surprised me with the plot and tropes used.

The Romance:

If you want a romance series that is more sweet than sexy, this is it. That doesn’t mean you don’t have great sexual tension or heated moments though. I just mean you aren’t going to get page upon page of sexual content written out; rather you get deep conversations between the characters. So it just rounds out the romantic connection and helps you see why they match beside attraction.

Series Rating: 4/5

Ransom 3.5/5 | Release 4/5 | Redeem 4/5 | Relent 3.5/5 | Rescue 4/5 | The Ransome Brothers 4/5

overall

Perfect for fans of rockstar romance who want all the sweet moments but not necessarily all the spicy moments. If you enjoy books with great character development and lots of tension between leads, this is worth a read!

Read if You Like: rockstar romances, new adult, sweet heat level
Avoid if You: want erotica

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Series Review: Boys of Oak Park Prep by Callie Rose

Series Review: Boys of Oak Park Prep by Callie Rose

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 Savage Royals (from Goodreads):

A long time ago, I was one of them. Now I’m back, and they hate me for it.

Plucked out of the harsh life I was living and thrust into a world of unimaginable wealth, power, and privilege, all I want to do is keep my head down and survive until graduation.

But they have other plans—Mason, Finn, Elias, and Cole.

Everyone at my new school calls them the Princes, and that’s exactly what they act like. They always get what they want… and who they want.

And they want me.

I’m not sure why, since they all seem to hate me.

The Princes are gorgeous, flawless, and cruel. They own this town, and they’re determined to own me too.

To break me.

What they don’t know is that I’ve already been broken once.

I won’t let it happen again.

breakdown

Series: Boys of Oak Park Prep
Author: Callie Rose
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult / New Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Bully, Dark
Heat Rating: Warm *spicy YA*
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: May 2019 – July 2019
Source & Format: Kindle Unlimited–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

So I actually found out about this series from one of my favourite authors: Piper Lawson. She recommended this series as a binge-worthy KU read in her January 2020 Newsletter and I was intrigued.

High School Bully Romances seem to be all the rage again (remember Bully by Penelope Douglas years ago?) and I’ve tried out a few because I love enemies-to-lovers romances–but have had mixed results. But I love Piper’s writing style and we have similar reading tastes so I took her recommendation to heart and put them on my KU reading list.

The Concept:

If you don’t enjoy darker contemporary reads, I wouldn’t recommend you read this. I’ve definitely read more disturbing YA bully romances (like A Hurt so Sweet for example) than this is but it lives up to the title of “savage” to say the least.

The Plot:

This is definitely one of the better “high school bully” romances I’ve read. It wasn’t filled to the brim with overt shock factor moments but the events were dramatic enough to keep the stakes raised. I would have liked more of an overarching plot (maybe more hints about Talia’s mom’s past or even Talia’s childhood) but we get enough to drive the plot forward.

The third book lagged a bit for me, but the ending earned some bonus points from me.

The Characters:

Are layered! I really liked Taila as a lead. She’s a fighter and it takes a lot to bring her down. Unlike other heroines in the genre I’ve encountered, she actively seeks out her bullies and has a plan to stand her ground. She doesn’t cave in at the first sign of affection.

As for the “Princes”, they were quite the group. They kinda reminded me of The Raven Boys in how they interact with each other sometimes. I liked them and it was interesting to watch them evolve as the series progressed.

The Romance:

I always get a little scared when I see the words “reverse harem”. I immediately think about Zoey from The House of Night Series and how irritating her harem romances were. So I was pretty cautious about this when I started.

And I’m still a little on the fence about it. One positive is that it added an intriguing layer to the plotline that I haven’t encountered in this genre before. (Most of the time there is only one love interest, maybe one other rival). It put an interesting spin on it and I liked that it wasn’t the sole focus of the books either. But in the same breath, I wasn’t entirely convinced that she had romantic feelings for all of them either.

Series Rating: 3.5/5

Savage Royals 4/5 | Defiant Princess 4/5 | Broken Empire
3/5

overall

I think a few aspects will turn off some readers like the sexual content around high schoolers and the reverse harem. But if you enjoy darker readers or are an avid fan of the high-school-bully-romance trope, then this is a quick series to binge.

Read if You Like: high-school-bully-romance trope
Avoid if You: dislike sex scenes in YA

similarreads

  • A Hurt So Sweet by Bettie Rosewood (Elite of Eden Falls Prep Series #1)
  • Paper Princess by Erin Watt (The Royals Series #1)
  • Secret Heir by M J Prince (Dynasty Series #1)

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Series Reviews: The Callahans by Monica Murphy

Fresh Fridays: Close to Me (The Callahans #1) by Monica Murphy

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

The Callahans Series

book book

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Close to Me (from Goodreads):

Asher Davis. My first crush.

My first kiss.

The boy who ripped my heart out of my chest again and again. Over and over. I let him have it every single time.

Willingly.

We are that toxic high school couple you hear about, the one you witness in the hallway avoiding each other. You laugh at them in class when they’re forced to work together, their gazes full of hatred. We are the couple you gossip about when they win homecoming prince and princess their sophomore year…

The back and forth is what kills me the most. I’m not his princess, I’m the girl he toys with when he’s bored. And he’s definitely not my prince, no matter how badly I want him to be.

Our senior year and we’re months away from never having to see each other again when disaster strikes—and brings us closer together. All it takes is one touch, and I’m burning for Ash. Hotter than I ever have.

But will that burn turn into a devastating fire? Or can we actually make it work this time?

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite Author
Series: The Callahans

This is a spinoff of the One Week Girlfriend Series.

Author: Monica Murphy
# of Books: 4 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: February 2020 – October 2020
Source & Format: Kindle Unlimited–eBook; Author–ARC (#3 only)

thoughts

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

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Drew and Fable (One Week Girlfriend) hold a special place in my heart. Their novel was one of the first New Adult Romances I ever read and therefore helped set a standard for what I look for in a NA read. I love their relationship and their story.

So getting to watch their kids fall in love? YES PLEASE!

How Does It Compare To The Original?

Just like the original series, I was sucked right in by these two. The back and forth moments from their past had me hooked to see what would happen next. Monica Murphy can write great tension between her leads, making the slow burn all that sweeter.

Another thing I really loved–that we don’t often see in YA–is great supportive parents. Part of Drew and Fable’s issues in their respective stories is their shitty parents so it was great to see them break from that cycle and be great, supportive parents. It was amazing to see what an impact parental relationships can have on a YA story.

Anything I Didn’t Like?

I do think I could have done without the few chapters from Ash’s perspective. Because most of the book is told by Autumn, I had built up this idea of Ash and his feelings so sometimes his POV chapters seemed to contradict what I have perceived earlier.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

Very excited to see who will fall in love next!

updates

–October 26, 2020– Book #2: Falling for Her

While I thought his novel was super cute, I struggled a lot with the pacing. In some ways, it felt longer than it needed to be but it also allowed for the romance to have a slow burn to it that I rather enjoyed when all is said an done. Developing their friendship and having Jake work on himself a bit allowed the romance to be deeper than I initially thought it would be presented as.

–October 26, 2020– Book #3: Addicted to Him

Disclaimer: I stopped reading Addicted to Him at 13% (Start of Chapter 14).

So when I discovered who Ava would fall in love with, I was very excited. We got little tidbits in the previous novel and that just stoked the flames a little higher for me so I couldn’t wait.

OH BOY, this was a mess from the start for me. It’s such a shame too! But our hero turned me off by the end of Chapter 1 with his behaviour and I had a hard time seeing how the Ava I had come to know in the other books would fall for his shit.

I did give it a few more chapters to work itself out. After all, I love a good redemption story. But alas, he did not redeem himself and I found their romance to be problematic as a result. My Goodreads review explains it better here. And knowing that their story continues in another book, I bowed out.

My Series Rating: DNF

Close to Me 4/5 | Falling for Her 3/5 | Addicted to Him DNF | Meant to Be N/A

overall

While it was angsty and the drama does get a little over the top at times, this is an addicting romance for new and returning fans!

Read if You Like: angsty YA romance, supportive parents
Avoid if You: dislike YA contemporary romance

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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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Series Review: Arrogant by Winter Renshaw

Series Review: Arrogant 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 Arrogant Bastard (from Goodreads):

The last time my father beat me to a bloody pulp was the night he walked in on me with his woman in his bed.

To be fair, she seduced me. And to be honest, I liked it. But to CPS, I was a victim.

They shipped me to Utah where my estranged mother lived with her husband and two sister-wives. And that’s when I met her. My innocent, wholesome, perfect step-sister. Well, one of many. But Waverly stood out because just like me, we’d been fighting a losing battle our entire lives.

Falling for her was a mistake, but shit, it’s not like I ever made good decisions.

F**k being “family.” I must have Waverly Miller, and I won’t stop until she’s mine.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is a full-length, standalone, HEA romance. Contains forbidden themes as well as religious undertones not meant to offend. Please be 18+.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite Author
Series: Arrogant
Author: Winter Renshaw
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Companion
Complete?: Yes
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Taboo, Dark
Heat Rating: Hot (BDSM: mild [Master]; Kink: mild [Master])
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: July 2015 – November 2015
Source & Format: Own–Kindle; Kindle Unlimited

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

When I picked up Arrogant Bastard, it was a test of sorts to see if I would enjoy Winter Renshaw’s other works. I had read (and enjoyed) her Rixton Falls Series but I wanted to see if she follows a formula when it comes to her other titles (she certainly doesn’t). I was a little skeptical given the author’s note but I’m always up for a different type of novel. And after reading Arrogant Bastard, I knew that Renshaw was a must read author for me…

The Concept:

I know that the religious note will be off-putting for some people but this isn’t a novel that preaches a certain belief to its readers. Instead, it an aspect of the story that helps drive the plot forward but it isn’t the main focus.

As for the companion aspect, all these stories overlap with each other throughout giving you little insights into what is happening with the other leads. But where Winter Renshaw really succeeds is giving you just enjoy to drive your curiosity yet still withholding enough that the twists are still shocking when you read the actual novel.

The Plot:

Each novel has its own unique plot–with some great twists along the way. They share the “forbidden love” aspect but they also have different tropes at play. Every story felt fresh and even though I had inklings about what would happen in the sequels, I never failed to be surprised. And there is also this air of suspense with these stories as well and I found that to be really addicting.

The Characters:

I was really impressed with the character development in all the novels. Both leads get ample time to grow before your eyes and I think it really helps that we get alternate POVs to help get that inner monologue.

The Romance:

I loved how the romance highlighted every aspect of the novels. It brought out the best in the characters; never once did they lose themselves as individuals because they were a couple (and they easily could have given the circumstances). Each pair is a fantastic match and we really get to see that great connection grow as the story progresses. There was just a perfect balance between the romance and the plot.

Series Rating: 4/5

Arrogant Bastard  4/5  | Arrogant Master 5/5 | Arrogant Playboy  4/5

overall

If you want a fresh take on a romance novel or you are a fan of forbidden romances, this is a series you have to check out!

Read if You Like: forbidden romance, companion series
Avoid if You: dislike novels with religious overtones

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Series Review: Fenbrook Academy by Helena Newbury

Series Review: Fenbrook Academy by Helena Newbury

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 Dance for Me (from Goodreads):

Natasha is one of the most promising ballet dancers at the prestigious Fenbrook Academy of Performing Arts and she’s just landed a life-changing audition. But no one knows the guilt she carries…or the damage it makes her inflict on herself when she’s alone.

Darrell is a multi-millionaire designer at 25. But past traumas have pushed him into isolation and the intense pressure of his work has brought him to the edge of burnout. Seeking inspiration, he sees Natasha dance and hires her as his muse.

As she dances for him, the two become entwined in a passionate but troubled relationship. He starts to see the pain inside her and helps her gradually lower her defenses…but Darrell has demons of his own. Can two broken people save each other? Or will the darkness they’re hiding consume them both?

This New Adult Romance is recommended for 17+ due to mature themes, sexual situations and language.

breakdown

Series: Fenbrook Academy
Author: Helena Newbury
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order)

There is a novella: #1.5 Losing My Balance

Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: Toasty (Kink: mild in Losing my Balance)
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: June 2013 – January 2015
Source & Format: Own–eBook; Kindle Unlimited (Acting Brave)

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’m not entirely certain how this series crossed my radar; probably when I browsing NA reads that were a little darker. I know that I liked the idea of the series taking place at an academy for performing arts. It’s very Fame-esque (the old TV show that they rebooted in a so-so movie a few years ago).

The Concept / The World:

Each novel focuses on a girl who attends the school but for a different art. One’s a dancer, one’s a musician and the other is an actress. They also have different familiar situations and pasts so I found each story had its own unique spin and plot. There isn’t a linear overall plot but you get a taste of what is going to happen in the sequels in the previous novel; and you still see the previous leads in the sequel novels as well. However, you could read each one as a standalone if you desired.

The Plot:

Because our three heroines differ, the plots for their respective novels are also very different.

Dance for Me (#1) definitely has a darker, twisted edge to it; one I wasn’t entirely expecting so in that respect it was refreshing. But because of those vibes, everything seemed rushed to me and I wasn’t a huge fan of that.

Whereas In Harmony (#2) was lighter and more of a coming of age type of story. Unfortunately, it suffered from some logic holes with the plot near the end but I really enjoyed it! It was definitely my favorite of the series.

And the final novel, Acting Brave had its own feel to it. There was a dash of suspense but it seemed to focus more on a slow burn romance. Or maybe it only felt slow because it is such a long novel! The pacing was a little off for me on this one and while it was my most anticipated of the stories, I ended up a touch disappointed.

The Characters:

There are many layers to these characters and I liked how this book explored them. A good new adult romance novel should have a fantastic romance but it should also have strong character growth and I felt like these books had that latter aspect. Of course, not every reader can relate to all the situations the characters face but I think we can all identity with the need to find your own identity and fight the possible demons from our past.

The Romance:

With the exception of In Harmony (#2), I thought all of the romances happened really fast. What I mean by that, it that they get very intense really quickly (like “I love you” is thrown out pretty early within the couples even meeting each other). I’m ok with that but a lot of the times, I felt like the characters were more in love with the idea of their partner than the partner themselves. My opinion did change further into the stories when we learn more about the characters but it was a little off-putting how quickly these people were falling in love with each other.

When to Read the Novella, #1.5 Losing My Balance:

I read this after I had finished the novels in the series but you can safely read this following book #1. And I would actually recommend that you do read this right after Book #1 when you still remember the tension and how the scenes from it are integrated in the first novel.

Series Rating: 3/5

Dance for Me 3/5 | [Losing my Balance 3/5] | In Harmony 4/5 | Acting Brave 3/5

overall

If you are looking for a different type of New Adult Series–and don’t mind a copious amount of pages–this will be a great series for you to pick up.

Read if You Like: darker new adult stories; long novels
Avoid if You: want better pacing; dislike long novels

similarreads

  • The Mad Tatter by J M Darhower
  • Chasing River by K A Tucker (Burying Water #3)
  • She Laughs in Pink by Jessica Calla (Sheridan Hall Series #1)

 

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Series Review: Blocked by Jennifer Lane

Series Review: Blocked by Jennifer Lane

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

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Blocked (from Goodreads):

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

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

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

breakdown

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

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

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

The Concept:

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

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

The Plot:

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

The Characters:

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

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

The Romance:

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

Series Rating: 3/5

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

overall

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

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

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

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Single Sundays: The Wall of Winnipeg and Me by Mariana Zapata

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 Wall of Winnipeg and Me (from Goodreads):
Vanessa Mazur knows she’s doing the right thing. She shouldn’t feel bad for quitting. Being an assistant/housekeeper/fairy godmother to the top defensive end in the National Football Organization was always supposed to be temporary. She has plans and none of them include washing extra-large underwear longer than necessary.

But when Aiden Graves shows up at her door wanting her to come back, she’s beyond shocked.

For two years, the man known as The Wall of Winnipeg couldn’t find it in him to tell her good morning or congratulate her on her birthday. Now? He’s asking for the unthinkable.

What do you say to the man who is used to getting everything he wants?

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite Adult Contemporary 2016
Author: Mariana Zapata
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Sports
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: February 29, 2016
Source & Format: Kindle Unlimited–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I first came across this book when reading Sils’ guest post @ Dani Review Things in August 2016 when she was discussing her favourite NA Romance Tropes. Like me, Sil shares a love of fake marriages/relationships in her NA reads and The Wall of Winnipeg and Me was her pick for this trope.

I had never heard of this book before despite the fact that it has the Canadian city of Winnipeg in the title (not many things do) and it would have probably never crossed my radar otherwise. I mean, the synopsis doesn’t tell you that they create a fake relationship–and telling you that isn’t a spoiler because it is the main plot point in this very long novel–so I would never have known.

Regardless, this one peaked my interest and when I accidentally resubscribed to Kindle Unlimited, I needed to make my mistake worth it and decided to use this novel to get my money’s worth. And I sure am glad I did!

Is it Adult Contemporary or New Adult Contemporary?

Ok, Sil listed this as a New Adult read and I can see why. It reads very much like a New Adult read in terms of the character conflicts and stories (both have some darker backstories).

But for me, this is an adult read with some NA qualities. My primary characteristic for Adult/New Adult/Young Adult classification is the age of the characters; my secondary “requirement” for NA classification is whether or not it takes place in or shortly after college. In the case of The Wall of Winnipeg and Me, Vanessa is 26 and has been out of school for a couple of years. I usually classify anything with the youngest lead above the age of 25 as adult and because she is out of school, that just reaffirms that for me.

Nevertheless, this book with appeal to fans of both adult contemporary and NA contemporary.

The Plot:

I think this is one of the longest romance novels I have ever read! The Kindle edition is just a little more than 600 pages–that’s crazy! Most Kindle reads average 200-300 pages; especially in the romance genre.

But surprisingly, this book didn’t really feel that long! It has such a constant pacing that it makes it really easy to read and get involved in the story. New plot points or events are added along the way that keeps everything fresh and the plot moving.

The Characters:

The characters really make this story I think. I really got addicted to seeing how these two interacted with each other. Vanessa was strong and determined; Aiden you just instantly love and want to see succeed.

But what I truly enjoyed about these characters was their growth. These two are flawed in their own ways but what was fantastic was watching these flaws transform. Vanessa and Aiden both evolve so much from the start to the end of the novel. But at the same time, they still remain the same characters underneath. Meaning they don’t become these unrecognizable characters; they just become better versions of themselves thanks to each other.

The Romance:

If you want an example of a slow burn romance, this novel is the very definition of that trope!

As someone who complains a lot about romances being underdeveloped in stories (more tell than show nowadays it seems), this book was uber refreshing. It was great watching these two slowly develop their relationship. It wasn’t focused on the sex or the passion; it focused on the partnership and friendship which is always important in establishing a believable relationship.

These two learn to love and support each other; and I just love when people finally see what has been in front of them the entire time.

My Rating: 4.5/5

overall

This is the perfect read for adult contemporary enthusiasts who want a taste of a New Adult romance. And if you want to experience a true slow burn romance–look no further!

Read if You Like: slow burn romance, sports, New Adult romance
Avoid if You: want a quick read

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Series Review: Wingmen Inc by Rachel Van Dyken

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 Matchmaker’s Playbook (from Goodreads):

Wingman rule number one: don’t fall for a client.

After a career-ending accident, former NFL recruit Ian Hunter is back on campus—and he’s ready to get his new game on. As one of the masterminds behind Wingmen, Inc., a successful and secretive word-of-mouth dating service, he’s putting his extensive skills with women to work for the lovelorn. But when Blake Olson requests the services of Wingmen, Inc., Ian may have landed his most hopeless client yet.

From her frumpy athletic gear to her unfortunate choice of footwear, Blake is going to need a miracle if she wants to land her crush. At least with a professional matchmaker by her side she has a fighting chance. Ian knows that his advice and a makeover can turn Blake into another successful match. But as Blake begins the transformation from hot mess to smokin’ hot, Ian realizes he’s in danger of breaking his cardinal rule.…

breakdown

Series: Wingmen Inc
Author: Rachel Van Dyken
# of Books: 2 (The Matchmaker’s Playbook, The Matchmaker’s Replacement)
Book Order: Connected but Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: New Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Single (Playbook); Alternating (Replacement)
Publication Dates: April – August 2016
Source & Format: Kindle Unlimited–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’m a huge fan of Rachel Van Dyken’s Ruin Trilogy. She writes some great New Adult series that don’t follow the typical plot-line pathways. Meaning, I’m always surprised at the stories we get in her books. They make you feel a little bit of everything; you laugh, you swoon, you may even shed a tear. She just writes consistently great stories and I have quite a few novels by her on my TBR.

When I accidentally resubscribed to Kindle Unlimited, I made sure to fit this series in. The concept of The Matchmaker’s Playbook sounded like a lot of fun. I love when people unexpectedly fall in love with someone they shouldn’t. The plot also reminded me of the 90s movie “She’s All That”, where the “it” boy falls for the frumpy girl he is to transform. It’s a premise you don’t often see and so I couldn’t wait to see what she did with it.

Image result for she's all that gif

The Concept:

I just want to briefly touch on the “dating service” Ian is running. I don’t want people to focus too much on the “makeover” aspect of the synopsis. It makes it sound like he makes these girls into a set mold that guys find attractive and in turn, the girl becomes someone she isn’t. Rather, Ian works on building her self-confidence by making her see her self-worth. He’s not telling them to only act a particular way all the time in order to land the guy. Of course, new clothes do come into play but I think what you wear influences your confidence so it goes hand in hand.

I hope that makes sense! I just don’t want people to get the wrong idea from the get-go!

The Plot:

I thought these books were a lot of fun but at the same time, very heart-warming. While you have these matchmaking schemes happening you get to watch these two guys come to terms with what they want out of a relationship. It’s a little cheesy, but it reminds the reader that you just need to find that one person who can change your perspective on things.

What I also liked is that these novels weren’t needless dramatic. All the drama worked for evolving the story and that made for an enjoyable read.

The Characters:

If you don’t enjoy stories with a jackass for the male lead, I think you will want to stay away from this series!

Not that I thought the guys were particularly crude, but they do make some somewhat rude comments on occasion. They are also players to the extreme so I know that can be a bit of a turn off. I myself have a particular soft-spot for jerk male leads who get shown their place so it was a highlight for me, but I know that some people will not see it that way.

As for the girls, I really liked them. Despite not having the alternating POV in Matchmaker’s Playbook, I thought Blake’s character development was solid from start to finish. The heroine in The Matchmaker’s Replacement was fantastic.

The Romance:

The sexual tension in this series was great! What I really liked is that sex isn’t the main focus because of the slow burn approach to the romance. Everything just builds and builds until that big reveal. It was just nice not to read a story littered with sex scene upon sex scene.

I did want a little more out of the romance in The Matchmaker’s Playbook. I just wanted their relationship to evolve a little more. It seemed a little to “insta-love” to me even though no one is spewing “I love you” super early. I just wanted their connection to be teased out a bit. The Matchmaker’s Replacement does a better job developing the romance I think thanks to the alternating POV and the flashbacks.

Movie!:

Apparently these books have been optioned for film! Which is great because they do remind me of those great 90s rom-coms that we don’t really get nowadays.

Series Rating: 4.5/5

The Matchmaker’s Playbook 4/5 | The Matchmaker’s Replacement 5/5

overall

If you can handle charming jackasses, this is the perfect series for you! It’s light on the sex but has a great dramatic story that will have you laughing and eagerly reading to see what happens next!

Read if You Like: jackass playboy heroes, 90s rom coms, sexual tension
Avoid if You: want more sexy times
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