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Standalone: a novel with no sequels

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Single Sundays: Dirty Headlines by L J Shen

Single Sundays: Dirty Headlines by L J Shen

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 Dirty Headlines (from Goodreads):

Célian Laurent.
Manhattan royalty.
Notorious playboy.
Heir to a media empire.
…And my new boss.

I could have impressed him, if not for last month’s unforgettable one-night stand.
I left it with more than orgasms and a pleasant memory–namely, his wallet.
Now he’s staring me down like I’m the dirt under his Italian loafers, and I’m supposed to take it.
But the thing about being Judith “Jude” Humphry is I have nothing to lose.
Brooklyn girl.
Infamously quirky.
Heir to a stack of medical bills and a tattered couch.
When he looks at me from across the room, I see the glint in his eyes, and that makes us rivals.
He knows it.
So do I.
Every day in the newsroom is a battle.
Every night in his bed, war.
But it’s my heart at stake, and I fear I’ll be raising the white flag.

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Author: L J Shen
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Office Romance
Heat Rating: Steamy (Kink: mild)
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: September 4, 2018
Source & Format: Hidden Gem Books–eARC

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I have a few books marked on my TBR by L J Shen but when the opportunity to review this one came up, I figured it was the best one to start with. Why? It checked off a lot of my favourite romance tropes in the synopsis alone. Workplace romance after an awkward first encounter. Hate to Love You/Enemies to Lovers. Playboy lead. So I was ready to dive in.

The Plot:

To be fair to this book, I probably started reading it at a bad time in my life. I had a lot of things going on when I started this so I wasn’t able to read it as much as I wanted. But I also think the fact that it took me nearly 2 months to read (when I usually finish a book in 3 days) shows how not into this book I was. (Usually, when I’m in stressful times I read a book in one go but not the case here).

As for the plot, there’s a lot going on but it wasn’t the drama that killed it for me. If anything, it’s what propelled me to keep going when I wanted to DNF it numerous times. It’s angsty and almost soap opera-esque because it is a little over the top but that’s exactly what I want from a story set in a News Room.

The Characters:

Despite all of Celian’s playboy, asshole-ish characteristics, he failed to charm me. I think because I didn’t find his falling for Jude to be realistic (more on the romance below). Sure, he can talk dirty (perhaps one of the best dirty-talkers I’ve ever encountered in a book), but I just didn’t get won over by his antics.

And Jude…well she was a huge disappointment as well. Talk about wish-washy in terms of her convictions. The poor girl is all over the place. One minute claiming she’s unlovable but in the next sentence uttering that she wants a relationship with the guy. Why? She’s also extremely quirky and that doesn’t usually work for me. I guess it was a sign when she kept talking about her Chucks (the shoe I loath most in this world) that we just weren’t going to be friends.

The Romance:

This is by far the biggest factor in my lower rating: I just did NOT see the chemistry between these two. Yes, they seem to have fantastic sex together but besides lust and a good romp, what was keeping them together? I really don’t know. Their quirky tendencies? I think this goes hand in hand with their character profiles and how I failed to get a solid read on who they were as people. Because if I don’t understand them as individuals, how can I appreciate them as a pair together?

My Rating: 2/5

overall

Lots of other people seem to love this book but besides the drama, there wasn’t a whole lot I enjoyed.

Read if You Like: quirky characters, office romances, enemies to lovers
Avoid if You: dislike soap opera drama

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DNF Review: Heartless by Marissa Meyer

DNF Review: Heartless by Marissa Meyer

DNF December Review Blitz — Day 14: I’m sharing my thoughts on some book series that I have marked as incomplete as I have never finished the first novel in the series. Find out why these weren’t for me:

Synopsis for Heartless (from Goodreads):

Long before she was the terror of Wonderland—the infamous Queen of Hearts—she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next queen.

Then Cath meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the king and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship. Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

In her first stand-alone teen novel, the New York Times-bestselling author dazzles us with a prequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

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Author: Marissa Meyer
Genre: Young Adult, Fairy Tale Retelling, Origin Story, Fantasy
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Single
Publication Date: November 2016
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Disclaimer: I stopped reading Heartless at 39%. Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

After I fell in love with Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles, I was eager to see what else she could write. While I’m not the biggest Alice in Wonderland fan, I’ve always been intrigued by the Queen of Hearts so I was more than curious to learn about her origins.

What I Liked:

–It Made Me Hungry–

Cath just wants to be a baker and I could see why: she comes up with some wonderful pastries. I have never felt so hungry reading a book before! Normally I wouldn’t want to eat anything in Wonderland but I’d make an exception for Cath’s baked goods!

–A Flawless Recreation of Wonderland–

Like I said above, Alice in Wonderland doesn’t do much for me as a story–it’s a little too weird for me. However, Meyer easily transports you back there as a reader. All those key elements (and I’m sure a few little details only true Wonderland fans could pick up) are there and it’s like having the story brought to life around you once again.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Wonderland World-Building It’s Elaborated On–

However, in the same breath I want a little more explanation for why things are like they are in Wonderland. I know that this is an origin story about the Queen of Hearts so that’s what the focus will be on but why do lemon trees grow out of dreams? Why do certain foods shrink you? I’d have liked some logically background on the very illogical world of Wonderland.

–Aimless Plot–

One of the greatest weaknesses of an origin story (for me as a reader at least), is that they are rather mundane in the narration. You kinda go through the motions of the lead character’s everyday life and slowly you start to see how they transform into their iconic persona. But compared to their legend, the backstory can be a little undramatic and not as exciting as you want it to be.

I think about the story Blackhearts–the origin story of Blackbeard. Now I found that there wasn’t much to the plot there when it came to dramatics but I really loved the characters and their development so I didn’t mind as much. Here, I just found Cath to be a very boring character and the Queen of Hearts should be anything but.

My Audiobook Experience:

The audiobook is a great production. I never got lost in the narration and I loved how everyone had a unique voice. It is a fabulous listen.

Will I Finish It?:

Nope. The only thing that could have kept me reading was the romance and it wasn’t really working for me either.

My Rating: DNF

overall

This was a miss for me. But I think if you enjoy the world of Wonderland and like origin stories, you’ll probably enjoy this!

Read if You Like: origin stories, longer stories, retellings
Avoid if You: dislike Alice in Wonderland

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DNF Review: Top Choice by Sophie McAloon

DNF Review: Top Choice by Sophie McAloon

DNF December Review Blitz — Day 8: I’m sharing my thoughts on some book series that I have marked as incomplete as I have never finished the first novel in the series. Find out why these weren’t for me:

Synopsis for Top Choice (from Goodreads):

“…THE HANDMAID’S TALE MEETS MAGIC MIKE”

As a future leader of the female-led regime her ancestors fought hard to establish, Alice Kearns is no stranger to pressure. Being the best in a society where women are expected to be high-achieving is the only option her powerful mother has ever accepted for her. But fortunately, as of her eighteenth birthday, Ali has a place to blow off steam: she’s finally allowed into the Choice Clubs.

Filled with an enticing mix of music, drinks and gorgeous guys, the Choice Clubs were founded to ensure that smart girls wouldn’t get distracted in their real lives by anything as trivial as a shallow crush or a pretty face. Choice guys are fun, flirty, and the perfect eye candy, but Ali would never dream of actually falling for one—until she meets Tag.

Tag McPhail is Top Choice. With his mischievous grin and a body to die for, he is exactly the kind of boy that Ali’s mother believes needs to be kept contained. But after he kisses Ali at the Choice Club, she suddenly sees him everywhere—and she’s surprised to learn that there’s more to him than his perfect looks. Tag is sweeter, funnier, and smarter than Ali ever expected… and, she soon discovers, he’s also dangerous. Because Tag leads a double life: when he’s not working at the clubs, he’s part of a rebel group trying to overturn the girl power society that the women in Ali’s family worked so hard to put in place.

Getting closer to Tag upends everything Ali thought she knew. But will she betray everything she was raised to protect for a guy she’s not even sure she can trust?

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Author: Sophie McAloon
Genre: Young Adult/New Adult, Dystopia, Romance
Heat Rating:  unsure
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: April 16, 2018
Source & Format: Hidden Gem Books–eARC

Copy provided: Hothead (Book #4)

thoughts

Disclaimer: I stopped reading Top Choice at 23% (Start of Chapter 7). Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

How can you not read a book with the tagline “Handmaiden’s Tale meets Magic Mike”? I was so intrigued when the review opportunity for this crossed my inbox that I had to break my request rules and attempt to secure myself a copy.

What I Liked:

–The Matriarchal Society–

I love books that challenge our everyday ideals and dystopian novels are a great way to do that as they often exploit an aspect of our society. Here, we get a world ruled by women and only the educated can vote in elections. It’s an interesting concept as we currently live in a world where women are constantly fighting for equality in all aspects of life around the world.

Which is why I wish it was elaborated on more…

What I Didn’t Like:

–The Lack of World Building–

With a premise like this, you need solid world building and this one lacked it for me. I didn’t get why everyone had “Cards” or what “Top Choice” was or why society had even evolved in this direction in the first place. So I struggled to understand what the setting was and why the characters were acting a certain way because of it.

It was one of those situations that the more I read, the less I understood and the more questions I had.

–The Romance–

Again, I struggled with this because I didn’t understand where these lovey feelings came from. I understand Alice’s interest in Tag given their first few encounters as he is rather mysterious but they didn’t interact enough for me to understand where her love-driven feelings were coming from.

Will I Finish It?

I don’t think so. While I’m curious about the world and the like, the other reviews I read gave me the impression I wouldn’t enjoy the rest of the novel.

My Rating: DNF

overall

This one had a very cool concept but the execution just wasn’t at the level I wanted (or expected) it to be.

Read if You Like: like romance focused dystopian novels
Avoid if You: need strong world-building

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DNF Review: Book Boyfriend by DC Renee

DNF Review: Book Boyfriend by DC Renee

DNF December Review Blitz — Day 7: I’m sharing my thoughts on some book series that I have marked as incomplete as I have never finished the first novel in the series. Find out why these weren’t for me:

Synopsis for Book Boyfriend (from Goodreads):

What would you do if you ran into a real life book boyfriend?
You might scream or maybe giggle.
You might play coy or maybe stare.
You might ask for a picture or maybe an autograph.
You might call your girlfriends or maybe post about it.
What did I do? I ran. Literally.

Kim was a typical college student with a splash of dorky, a dash of funny, and a pinch of clumsy…well, maybe more than a pinch. After making a fool of herself in front of her classmate Brent, and his friend, Travis, a dead-ringer for one her book boyfriends, she tried to stay away. But after a few hilarious chance encounters, they became fast friends.

And then came the bet. It was Travis versus Brent, but somehow Kim got roped in to help team Travis. He was supposed to find and woo his real life book girlfriend. What could go wrong with a couple of college kids and an innocent bet? Let the shenanigans and laughter ensue! And maybe add in a bit of friendship, fun and most definitely, love.

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Author: DC Renee
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Drama
Heat Rating: Unsure
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: November 19, 2015
Source & Format: Own–eBook

thoughts

Disclaimer: I stopped reading Book Boyfriend at 12% (Start of Chapter 5). Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Without a doubt, we’ve all had our share of book boyfriends (or girlfriends) over the years. I even keep a tag of them all so I can remember them when the time comes. So of course, I couldn’t wait to read a book about a girl who seems to have her book boyfriend come to life. That’s why I added it to my 5 Year 5 Book Challenge 2018 for the year 2015.

What I Liked:

Ummmmmmm…..

What I Didn’t Like:

–The Immaturity–

Have you ever read the first paragraph of a first person POV and immediately know that this isn’t going to work for you? That the idea of spending 3+ hours in this person’s head is going to be slightly torturous? That was my situation here with Kim.

In the attempt to make Kim “relateable” and “funny” with her “dorky” and “clumsy” personality she comes across as a bit of a naive oddball. Her inner monologue was next level quirky and just didn’t work for me. In fact, it annoyed me pretty quickly. She just rambles on and on and I found myself not caring in the slightest or understanding why the guys liked her so much.

And don’t even get me started on the stupid bet. That whole chapter should have been titled “Immaturity”.

Will I Finish It?

Nope. I thought about just pressing through since it is a shorter read but I could only see myself getting more frustrated with the whole thing…

My Rating: DNF

overall

After seeing all the positive reviews on Goodreads, I wonder if I even read the same book as everyone else? This one just wasn’t for me and I wouldn’t go out of my way to recommend it to anyone else either.

Read if You Like: shorter stories, overly quirky heroines, love triangles
Avoid if You: want more polish to your books

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  • Unintentional Virgin by A J Bennett

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Single Sundays: To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

Single Sundays: To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

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 To Kill a Kingdom (from Goodreads):

Princess Lira is siren royalty and the most lethal of them all. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is revered across the sea. Until a twist of fate forces her to kill one of her own. To punish her daughter, the Sea Queen transforms Lira into the one thing they loathe most—a human. Robbed of her song, Lira has until the winter solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart to the Sea Queen or remain a human forever.

The ocean is the only place Prince Elian calls home, even though he is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world. Hunting sirens is more than an unsavory hobby—it’s his calling. When he rescues a drowning woman in the ocean, she’s more than what she appears. She promises to help him find the key to destroying all of sirenkind for good—But can he trust her? And just how many deals will Elian have to barter to eliminate mankind’s greatest enemy?

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Author: Alexandra Christo
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Pirates, Mermaids, Fairy Tale Retelling
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: March 6, 2018
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I saw this book everywhere prior to its release but it was a review I read by Alyssa @ The Eater of Books that convinced me to give this book a try. I love pirate/mermaid/siren stories; especially ones with promises of forbidden love so I was eager to read this and so I quickly added it as a 2018 pick for my 2019 5 Year 5 Book Challenge.

The Concept / The World:

I really loved the hierarchy of the sea world. It was nice to have the distinction between sirens, merman and mermaids. And the pirate crew is everything you want them to be.

I suppose you could say that this is a loose adaption of The Little Mermaid since there are a lot of parallels. But it really isn’t the light-hearted tale you expect if you only know the Disney version. I think this story manages to carve out its own distinct voice.

The Plot:

I found the plot to be terribly slow. Truthfully, I would have DNF’d it but I was enraptured by Elian’s crew and the promise of a good pirate heist. And the book does pick up in the last third, but I was also a little over it by then. It takes a long time to get things in motion and I felt like, at times, there was more describing and travelling than doing (if that makes any sense).

The Characters:

Lira’s character development is great. I think part of the reason for that is that we spend so much time watching her in her own kingdom fighting with her mother’s rule over her. She definitely isn’t the same character at the end of the story.

Elian is the charming pirate through and through. But I didn’t find anything new to his character that I haven’t seen before. Truthfully, I enjoyed the scenes with his crew a lot more than his scenes with Lira. There was just better chemistry there.

The Romance:

The romance was probably the most disappointing aspect for me. Perhaps I read too much into it in the synopsis but it just fell flat to me. A forbidden romance between enemies (even if one person doesn’t know that’s what it is) should be charged and brimming with tension. Not so much here. I didn’t get many romantic vibes from them at all. It’s a shame because they did have some moments of good banter between them but it just didn’t get built upon enough.

My Rating: 3/5

overall

I think those who enjoy adventure novels with a larger focus on character redemption stories will enjoy this. But if you’re looking for an action packed pirate romance (a la Daughter of the Pirate King), you might want to look elsewhere.

Read if You Like: loose adaptions of fairy tales, adventure, pirates
Avoid if You: want more action, dislike darker stories

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Single Sundays: The Marriage Pact by Winter Renshaw

Single Sundays: The Marriage Pact 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 Marriage Pact (from Goodreads):

I was sixteen when I vowed I would never marry him.

We shook on it. Pinky swore. Even put it in writing and all but signed our names in blood.

It was the one and only thing we ever agreed on.

To the world, he’s Prince Julian, Duke of Montcroix, second in line to the Chamont throne. Panty-melting accent. Royal charm. Hypnotic presence. Blindingly gorgeous. Laundry list of women all over the world who would give their first born for the chance to marry him. Most eligible bachelor in the free world …

But to me, he’s nothing more than the son of my father’s best friend—the pesky blue-eyed boy who made it his mission to annoy the ever-loving hell out of me summer after summer as our families vacationed together, our parents oblivious to our mutual disdain as they joked about our “betrothal.”

He was also my first kiss.

And my first taste of heartbreak so cataclysmic it almost broke me.

I meant it with every fiber of my soul when I swore I’d never marry him.

But on the eve of my 24th birthday, His Royal Highness has the audacity to show up at my door after years of silence and make a demand will forever change the trajectory of our lives: “We have to break our pact.”

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Author: Winter Renshaw
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Second Chance
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: June 23, 2019
Source & Format: Hidden Gems–eARC

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Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I was in a bit of a reading slump (3 2-star reads in a row) when I picked up this book. I can always count on Winter Renshaw to write a story that I will devour in one sitting; one that will get me into the excitement of reading again.

Despite a “no-ARC” sign up policy, I had to sign up for this one. I’m obsessed with anything Royal (and I’ve had great success with other modern royal contemporary romances lately) so that immediately had my attention. Then add to the fact that there might be an arranged marriage or something along those lines? So there!

The Concept:

While Julian is from a fictitious kingdom, there are enough allusions to current monarchies that you understand his motivations and such. Some people may not like current popular culture references in their novels but I thought it was really fitting here. 

The Plot:

If you are looking for a lighter, quick read that isn’t plagued by copious sex scenes this is a great book for you to pick up. If you get a little hung up on logistics or want something deeper character-wise? Maybe don’t pick this up (or go in with different expectations).

One of the things that really hooked me in was the allusion to their shared past and some “event” that transpired to stop their budding romance. I liked the suspense of the mystery–I was eager to figure out what caused these two to not speak for years. And while the actual reason was something I didn’t expect at all, I’m not really sure if it is feasible. That’s why I say you should go in and leave some logic behind because it’s one of those things that the more you think about it, the less likely it seems. 

The Characters:

I liked both of our leads a lot. The depth with go to with them works for the story and keeps things light. I always appreciate dual POV in romances and that’s what we get here. I liked Julian’s POV were a little shorter and more abrupt (in some ways). It added some mystery to his character and motivations but still gave you a taste of what he was thinking/feelings.

The Romance:

I thought these two were super cute together. I loved their “hate to love you” past but I wish we got to see more of it. Some flashbacks to show those moments when things changed when they were teenagers would have gone a long way in making their relationship stronger. Things move very quickly in their second chance romance and I think seeing that past would help satisfy the somewhat skeptic in me.

My Rating: 3.5/5

overall

If you want a lighter book that you can devour in one sitting that is entertaining and charming, this is a great read.

Read if You Like: royals, lighter romances
Avoid if You: get caught up in logistics/realistic plots
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Spin-off Saturdays: Rush by Shae Ross

Single Sundays: Rush by Shae Ross

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:

Rush is a spin-off of the Pretty Smart Girls Series

Synopsis for Rush (from Goodreads):

Priscilla Winslow has a mouth that spits fiery sarcasm faster than I can throw a touchdown. But I’ve wanted her ever since I saw her in that Bo Peep outfit on Halloween. Yep, I’m a sheep who will follow that little hottie anywhere. There’s one problem…she hates me. Just because we ended up in jail and quite possibly ruined both our futures…

They’re changing the rules…

College Quarterback, Preston Rush is living the dream. He’s leading his team to the National Championship and days away from earning a ‘first round draft pick’ label. When he meets Little Bo Peep at a Halloween party, he thinks he’s scored big. Instead, he wakes up in a jail cell with the corseted beauty. Because of him, she’s in trouble and when he discovers her true identity, he realizes, his nightmare is just beginning.

The always shooting for perfection Priscilla Winslow can’t believe her good deed has cost her soccer career. Even though she knows it isn’t Preston’s fault, she can’t forgive him for the disaster that is her life. She just wishes her damn body would get the message. Every time she sees him, it’s all she can do not to kiss him.

When everything crashes down around him, Preston will have to decide if doing the right thing is worth losing it all.;

breakdown

Author: Shae Ross
Series: This is a spin-off of the Pretty Smart Girls Series
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Sports
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: May 9, 2016
Source & Format: Own–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Well, I’ll be honest and admit that the cover is what grabbed my attention. But then, when I saw the other I was really intrigued. I really enjoyed the first book in Shae Ross’ Pretty Smart Girls series so I knew that I would find this sport romance entertaining and snagged myself a copy. Little did I know that this was a spin-off of sorts–Priscilla is the sister of the lead of Book #2 in that series, Fearless.

The Concept:

Priscilla and Preston’s paths cross unexpectedly at a Halloween party off-campus in one of the more unique meet-cutes I’ve encountered.

But what I really liked about this book was that it tackled the gender inequality in sports teams at a college level. Priscilla is  soccer star in her own right but outside forces deem that as the quarterback for a number one ranked team, Preston’s resolution is more important than her own. And I liked how those external forces impacted their relationship and tested them.

The Plot:

I liked that there were quite a few layers to this plot. You’ve got the sexual tension between Preston and Priscilla that they are both fighting because they want to concentrate on their sporting careers. You’ve got the legal ramifications of their meet-cute. You’ve got the secretive reason why that event even happened in the first place. Basically: there is more to this story than two sports stars falling in love.

I will say though that the start was a little slower for me. I dunno if it was the writing style or just the way the characters interact for the first few chapters, but I was little off at the start of this book. But once I got into it a little more and saw the bigger picture, it was more enjoyable.

The Characters:

I really liked all the characters we meet, including our leads. Everyone has their own unique personality to them so that made it fun to read about.

The Romance:

Personally, I wanted  a little more “get to know you” from these two. While I saw why there were a good match on paper given their individual monologues, I didn’t see them interact that much besides unexpected kisses. I wanted to watch them get to know each other on a slightly deeper level because they are two interesting characters but I don’t know if they knew that…

concSLOW

My Rating: 4/5

overall

Perfect for fans of unique meet-cutes and sports romances!

Read if You Like: college sports, romances, original plot lines
Avoid if You: want more erotica, dislike New Adult
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Single Sundays: The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough

Single Sundays: The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough

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 Game of Love and Death (from Goodreads):

Antony and Cleopatra. Helen of Troy and Paris. Romeo and Juliet. And now . . . Henry and Flora.

For centuries Love and Death have chosen their players. They have set the rules, rolled the dice, and kept close, ready to influence, angling for supremacy. And Death has always won. Always.

Could there ever be one time, one place, one pair whose love would truly tip the balance?

Meet Flora Saudade, an African-American girl who dreams of becoming the next Amelia Earhart by day and sings in the smoky jazz clubs of Seattle by night. Meet Henry Bishop, born a few blocks and a million worlds away, a white boy with his future assured — a wealthy adoptive family in the midst of the Great Depression, a college scholarship, and all the opportunities in the world seemingly available to him.

The players have been chosen. The dice have been rolled. But when human beings make moves of their own, what happens next is anyone’s guess.

Achingly romantic and brilliantly imagined, The Game of Love and Death is a love story you will never forget.

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Author: Martha Brockenbrough
Genre: Young Adult, Magical Realism, Historical Fiction
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Date: April 28, 2015
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook (via Hoopla)

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

When I was browsing audiobook selections at my local library, the cover of this title immediately drew my attention in. I had never heard of the book before, but I liked the premise a lot when I read it. So, I added it to my TBR and actually added it to my 5 Year 5 Book Challenge for 2019 as a pick for the year 2015.

The Concept / The World:

I love the idea of fate or some greater beings controlling our everyday lives. It’s a cool premise to explore in a story and one that is done flawlessly here. Death and Love are compelling characters and their motives reflect that.

I love historical fiction set in this era; it’s so culturally rich and the issues people face are so basic and genuine. It adds this layer to the story that would be lost if it didn’t take place in this time-frame.

The Plot:

I think what I liked best about this story is that despite the larger premise (a game controlled by Love and Death), it’s a human story without all the over the top theatrics. It’s achingly real and heartfelt. The essence is a timeless story, though it is enhanced by the setting.

I’ll admit that the resolution of the game was a little lost on me. Well, one aspect was at least. The flashbacks (not that there are too many) also had me a little lost because I was listening to the audio and am not the best at remembering dates when they are said aloud.

The Characters:

I really enjoyed all the characters stories–Love, Death, Flora, Henry, Ethan–just intriguing characters and stories. They truly are the heart and soul of this story. I loved getting all the different POVs and I was never overwhelmed by them either.

The Romance:

You aren’t getting copious scenes of stolen moments or kisses but it’s a romance at its core. It’s like a slow burn romance with an edge of suspense with the “will they or won’t they” vibes the story entices.

My Audiobook Experience:

The audiobook production is beautiful. The choice to actually sing the songs just brings everything to life and perfectly captures the emotion of the songs.

My Rating: 4/5

overall

It’s not your everyday story or romance but there is something compelling about this story. I highly recommend the audiobook version!

Read if You Like: thought provoking novels, classic romances
Avoid if You: dislike historical fiction, want a contemporary romance

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Single Sundays: Touching Down by Nicole Williams

Single Sundays: Touching Down by Nicole Williams

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 Touching Down (from Goodreads):

The whole world might be in love with him. But all he’s ever loved is her.

Grant Turner’s name is synonymous with football. The fans and media can’t get enough of the player known as The Invincible Man, a nickname he earned while growing up in one of the toughest neighborhoods in the country and the nickname he’s kept by being one of the best players in professional football today. No one can take him down. He’s unstoppable.

But even a suit of armor has its weak point, and Grant’s has always been Ryan Hale.

They were a couple of kids when they fell in love, and just when it looked like the happy ending neither expected was within reach, Ryan disappeared. No explanations. No good-byes.

Grant coped by throwing himself into the game for seven years, and he’s finally moved on. Or so he thinks.

When she walks back into his life, all of those feelings come crashing back, despite the warnings in his head that tell him she’ll leave him again. Grant can withstand the league’s toughest defensive line, but he’s always been weak where she’s concerned.

No man can take Grant Turner down.

But one woman certainly can.

One woman will.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Author: Nicole Williams
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Second Chance, Sports
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: October 8, 2016
Source & Format: Own–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Nicole Williams is the author who first introduced me to the world of New Adult romance and I’ve repaid the favour by picking up any book I can of hers…with mixed results. But I was hoping her Adult romance in Touching Down would break the funk I’d been having with her titles when I randomly picked it up to read for my Tackling the TBR 2019 Challenge.

The Concept:

The heart of this story is a second chance romance which is usually fine and dandy with me. But this one just had too many logistical pot-holes to have me fully on board. The reasons for the separation; the choices Ryan has made over the years and some other things had me going “really, that’s how this all plays out?”. Everything seemed like it was played out to an extreme and it just made it all seem unnecessary.

The Plot:

I think I was two chapters in when I figured out all the major twists that were going to happen. Nothing surprised me about the drama except the reason for the separation.

There are some extenuating circumstances that come to light and instead of enhancing the story, I actually think they dampened it. Nothing really gets elaborated on and we just gloss over those opportunities for character growth or plot developments.

The Characters:

I thought Ryan was an idiot–I didn’t understand a single choice she made in the last 7 years with the exception of one. Grant was so stereotypical and boring I forgot he was there half the time.

The Romance:

I always say this in second chance romances that I review but you have to show my why these two people should reunite after all this time. And this novel did not do that. I’m not sure why these two even loved each other besides proximity and shared tough experiences.

My Rating: 2/5

overall

I really wanted to like this but I just wasn’t overly impressed with this story.

Read if You Like: second chance romances, football stars
Avoid if You: want a strong romance novel

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Single Sundays: The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury

Single Sundays: The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury

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 Forbidden Wish (from Goodreads):

She is the most powerful Jinni of all. He is a boy from the streets. Their love will shake the world…

When Aladdin discovers Zahra’s jinni lamp, Zahra is thrust back into a world she hasn’t seen in hundreds of years—a world where magic is forbidden and Zahra’s very existence is illegal. She must disguise herself to stay alive, using ancient shape-shifting magic, until her new master has selected his three wishes.

But when the King of the Jinn offers Zahra a chance to be free of her lamp forever, she seizes the opportunity—only to discover she is falling in love with Aladdin. When saving herself means betraying him, Zahra must decide once and for all: is winning her freedom worth losing her heart?

As time unravels and her enemies close in, Zahra finds herself suspended between danger and desire in this dazzling retelling of Aladdin from acclaimed author Jessica Khoury.

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Author: Jessica Khoury

There is a prequel novella on Wattpad: #0.5 The Jinni

Genre: Young Adult, Retelling, Romance, Magic
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: February 2013
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

My all time favourite Disney movie is Aladdin. The music is great, the animation is superb, the Genie is one of a kind, Jasmine is kickass and Aladdin is a street rat who grows up along the way. So I was very excited for a retellling where things were a little different than that.

The Concept / The World:

So before I start any retelling of a story that has been done by Disney I try my best to clear all my preconceived notions. It’s easy to forget that the Disney version isn’t always the “true” version because it usually the most well known. Disney has taken some artistic licence to great a story to appeal to its audience and that’s what authors do too.

I liked this world we get here a lot. It’s rich in politics and turmoil. You’ve got some villains and magic so that gives a bit of a darker edge to the story. Jessica Khoury’s writing prose is lush and has a great flow (honestly, if you like Renee Ahdied’s writing you’ll love hers!) so it’s a pleasure to read (or in my case, listen to).

I really enjoyed the rich history of the Jinni and the everyday people. And Zahra’s backstory was also great.

The Plot:

I’ll admit I probably wasn’t in the best headspace when I started this book so I might have just missed some key sentences while listening to the audiobook. BUT, some of the logic for the dramatic events escaped me so I had a hard time fully understanding what was happening and why.

I will say that all of the events that I thought would be “big deals” didn’t have as large of an impact as I expected but perhaps my focus was on the wrong devices.

The Characters:

While I enjoyed Zahra’s lush history as a Jinni, I found her to be kinda bland as a character. I know why–she’s been trapped in her lamp for centuries, lamenting over past mistakes–but I still wanted a larger than life character.

Aladdin was about as thrilling as a wet blanket and had the personality of one too. I found him to be super underdeveloped and shallow. Not the charming clever street rat I wanted him to be.

Caspida really stole the show for me. I could have easily read a whole book about her, she was fascinating!

The Romance:

People (other readers) rave about this but I was seriously underwhelmed. Besides a physical attraction and being within a certain radius of each other (seriously, while Aladdin had her lamp, Zahra couldn’t be a specific distance away from him) I didn’t get the love between these two at all! Not even the forbidden nature of a jinni and a human could get me interested.

When to Read The Novella?

I didn’t read the novella but it is noted that there are some minor spoilers in it if you do decide to read it first. So perhaps, read it second.

My Rating: 2/5

overall

Leave your ideas at the door and go in with a fresh mind.

Read if You Like: retellings, magic
Avoid if You: want a stronger romance
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