Tag «#weneeddiversebooks»

Fresh Fridays: Last of the Talons (Talon #1) by Sophie Kim

Fresh Fridays: Last of the Talons (Talon #1) by Sophie Kim

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:

Talon Series

Other books planned to be in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Last of the Talons (from Goodreads):

After the destruction of her entire Talon gang, eighteen-year-old Shin Lina—the Reaper of Sunpo—is forced to become a living, breathing weapon for the kingdom’s most-feared crime lord. All that keeps her from turning on her ruthless master is the life of her beloved little sister hanging in the balance. But the order to steal a priceless tapestry from a Dokkaebi temple incites not only the wrath of a legendary immortal, but the beginning of an unwinnable game…

Suddenly Lina finds herself in the dreamlike realm of the Dokkaebi, her fate in the hands of its cruel and captivating emperor. But she can win her life—if she kills him first.

Now a terrible game of life and death has begun, and even Lina’s swift, precise blade is no match for the magnetic Haneul Rui. Lina will have to use every weapon in her arsenal if she wants to outplay this cunning king and save her sister…all before the final grain of sand leaks out of the hourglass.

Because one way or another, she’ll take Rui’s heart.

Even if it means giving up her own.

breakdown

Author: Sophie Kim
Series: Talon
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No
Genre: Young Adult, Mythology, Retellings, Fantasy, Romance, Action
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: September 27, 2022
Source & Format: Netgalley–eARC

thoughts

Disclaimer: I stopped reading Last of the Talons at 51% (start of Chapter 25) and have opted not to pick up the sequels. Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I was so excited to read it when I got my copy! I wanted something a la Iron Widow but maybe not as dark, but certainly just as thrilling. Perhaps something a little more like The Wrath and the Dawn with a slow burn romance.

What I Liked:

–The Basics–

This has the right foundations but it just didn’t spark that excitement to keep reading for me. I really thought the world was cool and easy enough to understand.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Unintriguing Heroine–

Shin is exactly what I imagined her to be: an angsty “me against the world” heroine. However, I didn’t find her to be very exciting to listen to (her inner monologue often felt repetitive) and she didn’t impress me with some of her choices. I wanted her to be sneaking around more, not doing the dishes in the kitchen.

–Underwhelming Romance–

I think the potential romance between her and Rui was the aspect I was looking forward to the most. Which is probably why it was the deciding factor in me DNFing this book. I didn’t see any chemistry or tension between them at all. I felt like it took them a long time to even interact in the first place. Rui would just pop up here and there so he felt rather absent than as an integral factor of this plot.

Will I Finish It?

No. While I can appreciate that this novel took the time to lay down the basics of the world and introduce the various (if almost too many) characters, it wasn’t enough to keep me pushing through to the end.

My Rating: DNF

Last of the Talons DNF | Wrath of the Talon TBP

overall

Overall, this book was just a lot of me waiting for something big to happen next. It’s a slow build and I could see the potential for future novels to be more thrilling once the reader is familiar with the world. But for me, it took too long to get there which was ultimately why I stopped reading.

Read if You Like: slower stories, world-building, mythology
Avoid if You: dislike slow stories, want more romance

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Series Review: Legacy of Orïsha by Tomi Adeyemi

Series Review: Legacy of Orïsha by Tomi Adeyemi

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 Children of Blood and Bone (from Goodreads):

They killed my mother.
They took our magic.
They tried to bury us.

Now we rise.

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers and her growing feelings for an enemy.

breakdown

Series: Legacy of Orïsha
Author: Tomi Adeyemi
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: No
Genre: Young Adult, High Fantasy, Adventure, Magic, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Multiple
Publication Dates: March 2018 – ongoing
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I feel like you couldn’t escape Children of Blood and Bone (#1) in 2018. It seemed to be everywhere and talked about by everyone. I’m not sure why I didn’t pick it up right away. I think it was the mention of magic — books with magic (particularly witch and wizard books) can be a little hit or miss for me.

When I was looking for a new audiobook series to start, I happened to see that both Children of Blood and Bone (#1) AND Children of Virtue and Vengeance (#2) were available for instant download at my library so I thought was a great time to start this series (I thought it was a duology, I didn’t realize the 3rd book was still in the works).

The Concept / The World:

At the end of Children of Blood and Bone (#1), Tomi has left an author’s note detailing how the deaths of young black people at the hands of police motivated her to publish this series. You can definitely see the parallels between the maji of the novels being persecuted for their perceived differences (physical and ability) and the events of our current world when it comes to racial prejudices. The English minor in me would love to explore those parallels in an essay because it is very well done throughout the series.

This world is also heavily inspired by various African cultures, particularly Nigeria, with the language used for casting spells to character names and so forth. It was a refreshing approach for me because I find a lot of high fantasy novels I’ve read lately are Asian or Northern European inspired.

The Plot:

I struggled with the pacing of Children of Blood and Bone (#1). The first half of this book was very adventure based–a genre I don’t tend to enjoy for its slower pace. So I had a hard time keeping focused for the first little while. Things really picked up by the middle when all the players start setting up for the finale but then it tapered off until the last quarter. I loved the last quarter of the book though. Lots of action and plot twists! Overall, it was very up and down for me and my interest.

I felt like Children of Virtue and Vengeance (#2) suffers heavily from middle book syndrome. It’s very character driven as our leads try to navigate the world they find themselves in. I can appreciate the struggle they are going through but I needed a little more excitement to keep my interest.

The Characters:

Zélie falls into the common heroine category of high fantasy worlds where they are thrust into the position to be the savior of the world, much to their chagrin. She also very emotionally driven in her actions, which is understandable given everything that happens. I just have a personal preference for heroines who are more logical than emotional when it comes to actions in my fantasy novels (like Kestrel from The Winner’s Trilogy or Helena from An Ember in the Ashes). But I find her storylines to be boring and her romance forced.

Which is maybe why I leaned more towards Amari. Again, her character arc of rebellion isn’t anything new but I appreciated how her eyes were opened to the real world. If you go back to the metaphor of what this novel stands for (violence based on race), Amari is that person who doesn’t think it’s their “problem” until they are directly impacted by the situation. However, do I think she could have had some more character development? Absolutely.

My favourite POV was Inan. I appreciated reading his struggles. Yes, he is all over the place with his feelings and actions, but who wouldn’t be when you become the thing you’ve been taught to hate? I just thought his whole character arc was fascinating and I found myself looking forward to his POV chapters.

The Romance:

So, I adore forbidden romances and the synopsis made me think we were going to get a good one with the line:

Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers and her growing feelings for an enemy.”

I guess it isn’t a good sign when you start shipping a relationship that isn’t really isn’t there. I can appreciate that the romance was subtle but I’d almost argue that it is insta-love at its worst because it appears out of nowhere. Growing attraction or lust? Sure, I’d see that but I struggled to see why these two characters fall for each other in Children of Blood and Bone (#1).

So the romantic in me was disappointed by the somewhat forced romances that appear throughout the series.

My Audiobook Experience:

Bahni Turpin narrates the audiobooks and if you haven’t read an audiobook by Bahni Turpin, you’ve been living under a rock and are seriously missing out. She is a fantastic narrator (read the audio version of The Hate U Give and you’ll understand) and she does do a great job here as well. I could have used a little more distinction between Zélie and Amari’s chapters but she did a great job overall.

There are a lot of terms to know in this book because of the magic elements (like the different skills maji have) and all of those are thrown out at the start of the audiobook. Reading an audiobook isn’t like a physical book where you can turn back to the glossary to refresh yourself on the terms. So, I did struggle with that a bit and perhaps that was why it took me a long time to get into it.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

Much like the inaugural book, Children of Virtue and Vengeance (#2) ends with a bang and I’m really curious to see where it will go! I’m not counting down the days by any means but I am interested in finding out how this ends.

Series Rating: 3/5

Children of Blood and Bone 3/5 | Children of Virtue and Vengeance 3/5 | Book 3 TBP

overall

I can see why people adore these books. The world and its focus on Nigerian culture is great as is the metaphor of racial injustice in current society. However, for me, I find I lose interest in the middle of the books due to their long page length (I feel like you could cut some stuff out but still get the same idea) and I start to get bored repeating the same sentiments with the characters. I’m curious to see where the third book will go.

Read if You Like: high fantasy, magic
Avoid if You: dislike long novels, dislike magic

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Single Sundays: Cupcake by Cookie O’Gorman

Single Sundays: Cupcake by Cookie O’Gorman

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 Cupcake (from Goodreads):
I know what you’re thinking.

You’re thinking this will be just one more story of the ignored, “big-boned ” girl, who sheds her glasses and a few extra pounds and finally attracts the notice of the most popular guy in school.

Except it isn’t. Because I’m not unpopular. Not all that ignored. And I love the way I look―just as I am.

Then someone puts my name in for Homecoming Court.

The bigger surprise?

People actually vote for me!

Now, I’m a “princess”―whether I like it or not―but the guy I’m paired with isn’t exactly Prince Charming.

Rhys Castle is the strong, silent type who always wears a frown―he’s certainly never smiled at me. I’m 99.9% sure he hates being on Court and being my partner, but surprisingly…he doesn’t switch when he gets the chance.

Turns out Rhys has a secret―something that makes him run hot and cold throughout the entire three weeks of Homecoming festivities. Whether he’s stepping on my feet during dance lessons or gallantly escorting me through the Homecoming parade, I can’t get a read on this guy, and for the first time, I find my confidence wavering.

But there’s more to Rhys than meets the eye. And the more the spotlight shines on me, I realize there’s more to me, too

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Author: Cookie O’Gorman
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Coming of Age
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: November 2, 20221
Source & Format: Author–eARC

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’ve always enjoyed Cookie’s books; I’ve been a fan since she published her first book, Adorkable, years ago. She simply writes enjoyable, genuine and swoon-worthy YA contemporaries that never fail to make me smile. I don’t usually go out of my way to read YA contemporaries but I always pick up Cookie’s books when I get the chance.

The Concept:

I haven’t really read any Young Adult books that have a plus sized girl as the lead and I think that’s such a shame because everyone’s body is different and beautiful. The need for diverse books where people can see themselves in characters is something that is long overdue and this book is a step in that direction.

The Plot:

I smiled a lot during this book. It was the perfect blend between a coming of age story and all the feels of your favourite romantic comedy movies.

The Characters:

I loved Ariel’s personal story. Despite her confidence in herself, we see her vulnerability at times and that makes her such a relatable lead. She feels like she could be a regular person you’d meet in real life and I think all readers can find a piece of themselves in her.

This is Cupcake’s story but Rhys shines when he is in the scene. I would have loved a little more of him at the start because he too has a great backstory and vulnerability to him–something we don’t often see in our YA contemporary heroes. He’s a total sweetheart and definitely charmed his way into my heart.

The Romance:

The romance is definitely a slow burn one, taking it’s time to unfold. Which more than worked for me. There’s this great tension simmering between the two of them. Rhys is a bit of an enigma at the start too so I loved the mysterious air he had around him and how we slowly peel back the layers (and his possible feelings) the more he interacts with Ariel.

My Rating: 4/5

overall

Cookie’s books never fail to make me smile and warm my heart and this book is no exception! Fans of YA contemporary need to add her to their TBRs ASAP!

Read if You Like: YA contemporary, diverse books
Avoid if You: dislike YA contemporary

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Series Review: Cyclone by Courtney Milan

Series Review: Cyclone by Courtney Milan

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

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Trade Me (from Goodreads):

Tina Chen just wants a degree and a job, so her parents never have to worry about making rent again. She has no time for Blake Reynolds, the sexy billionaire who stands to inherit Cyclone Technology. But when he makes an off-hand comment about what it means to be poor, she loses her cool and tells him he couldn’t last a month living her life.

To her shock, Blake offers her a trade: She’ll get his income, his house, his car. In exchange, he’ll work her hours and send money home to her family. No expectations; no future obligations.

But before long, they’re trading not just lives, but secrets, kisses, and heated nights together. No expectations might break Tina’s heart…but Blake’s secrets could ruin her life.

breakdown

Series: Cyclone
Author: Courtney Milan
# of Books: 2+ (Full Reading Order Here)

There are multiple novellas — see Reading Order.

Book Order: Direct Sequels & Connected
Complete?: No, Find Me is to be released
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: January 2015 – ongoing
Source & Format: Owned & Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I found Trade Me from a NA Recommendation Post by Sil at Dani Reviews Things. I was drawn to it for its premise of a fake romance but also because our heroine was Chinese and the emphasis on family.

I didn’t get around to it for years–which turned out to be an ok thing since Courtney Milan is notoriously known as a slow writer so the rest of the series has yet to be published–but I made it an addition to my Tackling the TBR Challenge for 2020.

The Reading Order:

Everything follows a chronological order of events so it is important to follow the publication order of the series even if some books focus on different people. Books #1, #2.5 and #3 focus on Tina and Blake with the other novels focusing on other characters we meet along the way.

What I Like:

–Character Diversity–

In December of 2019, there was a big uproar with the Romance Writers of America (RWA) and Courtney Milan was at the centre of it. There is a great article about the controversy here by the New York Times for those who missed it. The gist is, Milan called out another author on Twitter for her “racist mess” of a novel and how it personally offended her as a woman of Chinese descent.

One of the things I loved the most about this series is its inclusivity. You’ve got a lead of Chinese decent in Trade Me and a trans woman lead in Hold Me. And the best part is, she makes it all seem so natural—BECAUSE IT IS! I never once felt like she was putting these character traits in for shock and awe. Everything about these stories felt so organic.

–Very Character Focused Stories–

Yes, there is a romance in these novels but I think the larger focus is on the characters and navigating their lives. All the characters we meet go through some drastic growing pains in these novels and who we start the novel with isn’t who we end up with. So if you love character-focused stories, this is a great series for you!

What I Didn’t Like:

Hold Me (Book #2)–

I was really excited to read Maria’s story in Hold Me but I ended up DNFing it at 30%. There was just too much “hate” in the hate-to-love you aspect that I didn’t see how these two would ever rectify their differences. And even as someone with a BSc, their science banter was way too hard to follow for me.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I’m actually super invested in Blake’s dad’s story (you’ll understand once you read the books–I promise!) and that’s the one I’m going to be keeping my eyes out for!

Series Rating: 3/5

Trade Me 3.5/5 | Hold Me DNF | [Year of the Crocodile 3/5] | Find Me TBR |[What Lies Between You and Me TBR] | Keep Me TBR | Show Me TBR

overall

If you like stories that take their time to evolve and you enjoy books featuring a diverse cast of characters, this is a great NA romance series for you to try!

Read if You Like: diverse characters
Avoid if You: more erotica based romance

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Series Reviews: Rainbows by J J McAvoy

Series Reviews: Rainbows by J J McAvoy

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

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Black Rainbows (from Goodreads):

After an erotic one-week fling with a musician she meets in a bar, Thea Cunning never expects to see Levi Black again. Then Monday morning comes around, and she discovers that her former lover is not only her professor, but he’s also one of the top criminal lawyers in the state of Massachusetts.

With everyone in class vying to be one of the twelve disciples—a group of twelve students that Professor Black takes under his wing—tensions run high. Thea considers dropping his class, given their passionate week together and their undeniable chemistry. After all, there are other (less infuriatingly sexy) law professors on campus.

But to accomplish her goal and get her father out of prison, Thea knows she needs to learn under the best of the best—and that’s Levi Black.

But can she learn under the best, without being under the best?

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Canadian Author
Series: Rainbows
Author: J J Mcavoy
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: Hot
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: May 2015 – February 2017
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

This book was on a list of my “Recommended for You” reads by Kobo. I love New Adult romances and at the time I was buying a ton of them from Kobo because my library just didn’t have them. But I never did bring myself to buy the book. Eventually, my library did get a copy of it so I finally got around to reading it!

The Plot:

This series was refreshing in a lot of ways for me. The first few chapters alternate between the past (their one week together) and the present and that amplified their chemistry together. It just brought this tension to the chapters in the present because you could see how into each other they were.

I thought at times we got a little too sidetracked by the legal cases. I didn’t need as much detail as we got. To some degree I understand the idea that it helps develop the characters but I’m not one for legal procedures or lawyers so my interest waned sometimes.

Just a note that Rainbows Ever After is a novella epilogue. It’s a full novella (~90 pages) so it is quite extensive. Again, the legal focus was something I wasn’t into but it does highlight some of the insecurities Thea has.

The Characters:

I loved the diversity of the cast! Thea is black, Levi is white but that doesn’t stop them (as it shouldn’t) from falling in love. In some ways, I was glad that their difference in races wasn’t a focal point because it really shouldn’t matter or be an obstacle to their love. But in the same breath, there are prejudices that they may have to face so I would have liked it to be a little more prominent here. To be fair, it is highlighted a more in Rainbows Ever After so that rounded it out for me in the end.

The Romance:

This doesn’t follow the usual routine of your forbidden professor/student relationship and the consequence that could occur; rather, it focused on them trying to see if they could be in any relationship. That approach has positives and negatives for me because I love the tension the forbidden brings and I missed that a bit but you couldn’t deny their connection either.

Series Rating: 3.5/5

Black Rainbow 4/5 | [Rainbows Ever After 3/5]

overall

If you are looking for a refreshing take on the “forbidden romance” this is a great one for you to grab!

Read if You Like: lawyers/legal procedures, forbidden romance
Avoid if You: want the “forbidden” aspect to be more angsty

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Series Review: Primas of Power by Alexis Daria

Fresh Fridays: You Had Me At Hola by Alexis Daria

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 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: Primas of Power
Author: Alexis Daria
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: No
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:

**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.**

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!

updates

–September 17, 2021– Book #2: A Lot Like Adiós

I felt more chemistry with these two after one chapter than I have in some entire romance novels!

There are a lot of tropes at play here (friends to lovers, second chances, fake dating) but the story always feels organic. I always worry with second chance romances that I won’t see the connection between the two leads; sometimes authors think it’s enough to mention the shared past to establish that connection — not the case here! There’s a great mix of past and present experiences to help cement that romance but also provide some solid character growth.

Just like the first book in the series, I loved how these two talked about their intimate moments and needs with each other throughout. There’s also an incredible amount of diversity throughout this book when it comes to race and sexual orientation. Whereas the first book focused a little more on racial prejudices, I felt like this one focused more on the family core and how that can be strained over time; which is universal for all cultures.

My Rating: 4.5/5

You Had Me At Hola 4.5/5 | A Lot Like Adios 4/5

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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Series Review: If Love 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
Author: Ana Huang
# of Books: 4 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: Toasty
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Date: June 30, 2020 — December 2020
Source & Format: Author–eARC | Thank you Ana Huang!

Copies Provided for Books #1-3

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 (*copy provided*)

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 (*copy provided*)

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.

–July 9, 2021– Book #4: If Love We Were Perfect

I’ve wanted this book since the first one in the series…and I couldn’t imagine a better way to wrap up this great series.

I loved how these two talked to each other. Yes, they were reactive but they always took a breath and looked at it rationally. It helped stop some of the useless drama other contemporary romances seem to thrive on.

But it was a second chance romance where you knew how they felt and why. I fell in love with their story all over again.

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 5/5

overall

This was a great read! As I read more and more about their story, I was super invested and addicted to finding out what happens next. I’m definitely keeping an eye out for future releases by Ana.

Read if You Like: love stories, set aboard, New Adult Romance
Avoid if You: want erotica, dislike romance

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Fresh Fridays: Pretending Not to Love You (Hazel Pathway #1) by M S Larson

Fresh Fridays: Pretending Not to Love You (Hazel Pathway #1) by M S Larson

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:

Hazel Pathway Series

Other books planned to be in the series:
book3

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Pretending Not to Love You (from Goodreads):

Raine
It’s my first day at a new high school and I inadvertently become one of the most popular girls at Glass Hill High. The girls want to be my best friend, and the guys want to date me. The only guy I have eyes for is Alex Williams, but he’s determined to set me up with his best friend and star wide receiver, Chase.

Alex
I’ve been spurned by my ex-girlfriend. She dated me to get to my best friend, Chase, who most of the girls are in love with at Glass Hill High. Now I’m gun shy about dating any girl because I’m afraid they’d just want me to get to Chase. Raine is no exception. When she claps eyes on him on the first day of school, she’s going to fall madly in love, so it’s better that I protect my heart. I’m going to hook Raine up with Chase and pretend that I’m happy for the both of them. Only the more time I spend with her, I can’t help but fall deeply in love with her. And the situation is affecting my relationship with everyone around me, including Raine and Chase.

Will Alex let go of his past and pursue Raine?

breakdown

Series: Hazel Pathway
Author: M S Larson
# of Books: 4 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: No, more books are planned
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: April 2020 – ongoing
Source & Format: Author–eARC | Thank you M S Larson!

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

When I was asked if I wanted to read and review Pretending Not to Love You I thought the premise was super charming. I’m a sucker for “forbidden” love in whatever form it comes in so the idea of falling for your BFF’s (maybe) girlfriend had me intrigued.

What I Liked:

–Instant Chemistry–

I enjoyed the tension between Raine and Alex because it was so obvious they had instant chemistry from the moment they met but neither was sure what to do about it. I could really see why these two would fall for each other.

–Positive Parental Relationships–

I find we don’t see a lot of positive parental influences in YA so it always notable for me when I came across that.

Both Alex and Raine talked to their parents about their problems and feelings. And their parents were in positive, healthy relationships as well.

–Girls Supporting Girls–

While Raine does have a rival of sorts in Mary I liked that they were never overly petty about it. And Raine was great about helping out other girls to find their inner confidence in themselves.

What I Didn’t Like:

–A Little Too Much Dialogue–

The flow seemed to be dampened for me because there seemed to be an excess amount of dialogue. Don’t get me wrong: it was great to see these two talk things out, but most of the chapters were dialogue. More inner monologues or summary paragraphs would help keep things moving smoothly I think.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I am really excited for the next book! I liked the little hints we got here about what could happen next.

My Rating: 3.5/5

Pretending Not to Love You 3.5/5 | Want You to Love Me TBP | Book 3 TBP | Book 4 TBP

overall

I think with a little more polish (which will come with writing more books) this would be a fantastic read. I’m excited to see what will happen next in this series!

Read if You Like: sweet romances, first loves
Avoid if You: want a darker story, want more angst

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Series Review: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Series Review: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

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 Crazy Rich Asians (from Goodreads):

Crazy Rich Asians is the outrageously funny debut novel about three super-rich, pedigreed Chinese families and the gossip, backbiting, and scheming that occurs when the heir to one of the most massive fortunes in Asia brings home his ABC (American-born Chinese) girlfriend to the wedding of the season.

When Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home, long drives to explore the island, and quality time with the man she might one day marry. What she doesn’t know is that Nick’s family home happens to look like a palace, that she’ll ride in more private planes than cars, and that with one of Asia’s most eligible bachelors on her arm, Rachel might as well have a target on her back. Initiated into a world of dynastic splendor beyond imagination, Rachel meets Astrid, the It Girl of Singapore society; Eddie, whose family practically lives in the pages of the Hong Kong socialite magazines; and Eleanor, Nick’s formidable mother, a woman who has very strong feelings about who her son should–and should not–marry. Uproarious, addictive, and filled with jaw-dropping opulence, Crazy Rich Asians is an insider’s look at the Asian JetSet; a perfect depiction of the clash between old money and new money; between Overseas Chinese and Mainland Chinese; and a fabulous novel about what it means to be young, in love, and gloriously, crazily rich.

breakdown

Series: Crazy Rich Asians
Author: Kevin Kwan
# of Books: 3 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Drama, Family, Romance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Multiple
Publication Dates: June 2013 – May 2017
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I remember when Crazy Rich Asians (the novel) came out; it was around the same time I got my very first eReader. But it didn’t sound like something I would enjoy so I passed on it despite the buzz. Fast forward to 2018 when it was the movie of the summer and I decided to give the novel a shot based on the recommendation of a family friend after watching.

The Concept / The World:

I think we all have an idea of what the filthy rich do with their money…but it’s nothing like what is described here. These characters take money, privilege and family to a whole other level! So everything comes across as over the top and that just amplifies every aspect of the story throughout the series.

I’ll admit, I know the basics of high end couture and the like so I wasn’t totally lost. However, I did get a little bored with all the descriptions of it all at times. But I loved the insights into culture and the like.

The Plot:

There’s just something about the drama of rich people’s everyday lives that is so fascinating to uncover. I found for the first half of the series, we get lost in the flow of everyday life. Yes, there are some dramatic twists along the way but they are few and far between the pages. (I mean there is certainly drama–and it’s over the top–but no reveal is truly revolutionary with the exception of Book #2).

Think of these books as tomes of local gossip…only the local gossip is from groups of elite around the world with a lot of money.

The Characters:

There are a lot of characters to follow but for the most part, it’s easy to keep track of them all. I think it helps that I watched the movie first so that I can put names to faces as I read.

Some characters get more airtime than others depending on the novels. The character development is there but it’s much slower because it takes place across all three of the books.

The Romance:

While it isn’t as big as a deal as the movie has you believe, we get enough of a taste of various relationships to satisfy the romantic in me.

My Audiobook Experience:

I highly recommend the audiobooks because they do a great job bringing all the characters to life. I also think it makes it easier to keep track of everyone because they all have their own distinct voice.

Series Rating: 3/5

Crazy Rich Asians 3/5 | China Rich Girlfriend 3/5| Rich People Problems  3/5

overall

I think those expecting more of a romance novel (like the rom-com movie) might be disappointed in the lack of romance here. I also think that not everyone will enjoy the theatrics of the characters and the somewhat mundane plot. However, it is definitely entertaining in its own way if you know what to expect.

Read if You Like: gossip, lives of the rich and famous
Avoid if You: want more romance

similarreads

  • Queen of Babble by Meg Cabot (Queen of Babble Series #1)
  • Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella (Shopaholic 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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