Adult Romance & Contemporary Love: March 2020 Mini Reviews

I’ve actually done a pretty good job of writing full reviews for most of the books I’ve read so far in 2020. I’ll have more reviews coming in the next few weeks as more spring releases coming out, but today I’ll be sharing reviews that fall into slightly different adult fiction categories and are both well-read and much-loved: Christina Lauren’s Roomies and Chanel Cleeton’s Next Year in Havana.

Roomies by Christina Lauren

81Knrobp2wLMy Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

I’ve made it my recent mission to eat up as many Christina Lauren books as possible, which led me to Roomies. I feel like anyone and everyone was reading Roomies back when it came out in 2017, and I felt like it was finally time for me to pick it up! Plus, how could I not further delay a contemporary romance with an Irish male protagonist??

Roomies follows Holland Baker, an aspiring writer who makes too many excuses to stop at the subway station near her apartment to listen to her street-musician crush, Calvin. When Holland’s musical director of an uncle is in desperate need of a lead musician for his hit Broadway show, Holland gets Calvin an audition. The problem? Calvin is in the US illegally, since his student visa expired years ago. The solution? Holland marries the Irishman.

Roomies was such a light-hearted, rom-com journey for Holland and Calvin. While Holland is absolutely head-over-heels for Calvin from the get-go, this book is really about them finding their passion and love for one another. You better believe that the Irish girl that I am absolutely squealed out loud when Calvin gives Holland a gold claddaugh ring. The symbol- love, loyalty, and friendship- sums up their relationship! I also loved the little reminders that Calvin is Irish and has an accent,like  pronouncing “things” like “tings.” The book does take a while to really set the stage (no musical-puns intended) and get the plot going, but I really liked getting to know Holland her life. Yes, the marriage and romance (and yes, the romance scenes towards the end were so good!) are at its heart, but I loved Holland’s uncles and how they act as her support system. Many contemporary romance and Broadway lovers will especially enjoy Roomies’ settings, as it takes place in the NYC theater world. Holland, Calvin, and her uncle, Robert, have such a genuine love for music, and I loved seeing Holland embrace its place in her life even though she isn’t a musician. After finishing Roomies, I basically added all the Christina Lauren books I haven’t yet read to my TBR!Read More »

A NEW SJM FAVE: House of Earth & Blood Review

Whenever Sarah J. Maas comes out with a new book, it gets immediate priority on my to-read pile. According to my Goodreads, I had Crescent City on my TBR since May 2018, so I had plenty of time to plan my reading around its release. House of Earth and Blood, the first book in the Crescent City series, is SJM’s latest release since Kingdom of Ash came out in October 2018, so it was such an exciting experience going to the bookstore on release day and pick up her first adult fantasy book.

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I highly recommend checking out SJM’s Crescent City Q&A on the World of Sarah J. Maas YouTube channel. Since she cancelled the Crescent City tour due to the health climate, SJM and her husband, Josh aka Papa Maas, hosted a live show answering readers’ questions about the new series and basically anything SJM related. With no spoilers, they shared a lot of fun details about the book and Sarah’s writing process. I loved when SJM talked about the cover design and revealed the hidden details within. She also talked about her life outside of being an author, from how she met her husband to what it’s been like being a mom and her struggle and journey with anxiety and depression. Although she warned that things could change, it looks like we’ll be getting the first book in the Nesta ACOTAR spin-off series and Crescent City #2 in 2021. Like Crescent City, the Nesta spin-off will also be considered adult fantasy. SJM revealed that the new ACOTAR covers coming in June are meant to grab more adult readers.

As one of my go-to authors, I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t even need to read the full synopsis of her books anymore to know if I’ll pick them up or not- the answer is always yes! Of course, having loved SJM’s young adult books about Fae, I was even more excited for Crescent City when it was announced that this urban fantasy series would follow a young half-Fae woman on a mission to find the demon that murdered her closest friends two years prior.

Summary (from the publisher): Bryce Quinlan had the perfect life—working hard downloadall day and partying all night—until a demon murdered her closest friends, leaving her bereft, wounded, and alone. When the accused is behind bars but the crimes start up again, Bryce finds herself at the heart of the investigation. She’ll do whatever it takes to avenge their deaths.

Hunt Athalar is a notorious Fallen angel, now enslaved to the Archangels he once attempted to overthrow. His brutal skills and incredible strength have been set to one purpose—to assassinate his boss’s enemies, no questions asked. But with a demon wreaking havoc in the city, he’s offered an irresistible deal: help Bryce find the murderer, and his freedom will be within reach.

As Bryce and Hunt dig deep into Crescent City’s underbelly, they discover a dark power that threatens everything and everyone they hold dear, and they find, in each other, a blazing passion—one that could set them both free, if they’d only let it. 

 

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

It’s no surprise to anyone that I absolutely loved House of Earth and Blood. I am already crying over the fact that I finished it and need the sequel. While SJM’s books tend to be on the lengthy side normally, I read this 799 beast over the course of the week. I did have some other things in life going on at the time aka homework, dealing with a very much altered school schedule, and watching Star Wars, but I found that I couldn’t really fly through House of Earth and Blood because there are so many details. I also didn’t want to necessarily fly through me because I wanted to catch all the details and really enjoy being back in SJM’s writing.Read More »

ANTICIPATED SEQUEL: Girls with Razor Hearts Review

Summary (from the publisher):

46404346Make me a girl with a razor heart…

It’s been weeks since Mena and the other girls of Innovations Academy escaped their elite boarding school. Although traumatized by the violence and experimentations that occurred there, Mena quickly discovers that the outside world can be just as unwelcoming and cruel. With no one else to turn to, the girls only have each other—and the revenge-fueled desire to shut down the corporation that imprisoned them.

The girls enroll in Stoneridge Prep, a private school with suspect connections to Innovations, to identify the son of an investor and take down the corporation from the inside. But with pressure from Leandra, who revealed herself to be a double-agent, and Winston Weeks, an academy investor gone rogue, Mena wonders if she and her friends are simply trading one form of control for another. Not to mention the woman who is quite literally invading Mena’s thoughts—a woman with extreme ideas that both frighten and intrigue Mena.

And as the girls fight for freedom from their past—and freedom for the girls still at Innovations—they must also face new questions about their existence…and what it means to be girls with razor hearts.

 

My Rating: 3.75/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

After really enjoying Suzanne Young’s Girls with Sharp Sticks last year, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the sequel, Girls with Razor Hearts. Girls with Sharp Sticks is set an elite private school, Innovations Academy, where girls are trained to be basically be the perfect companions for men. When Mena begins to suspect that things aren’t what they seem to be, her and the girls begin to rebel against their instructors and investigate what their school’s true agenda.

Girls with Razor Hearts was a solid follow-up novel to Girls with Sharp Sticks. Based on its sequence of events and ending, I suspect that there is going to be at least one more book in this series. That being said, Girls with Razor Hearts did fall into middle book syndrome. In the sequel, Mena and her friends must adjust to life outside of Innovations Academy, which includes facing their past trauma and stress. The girls are also on a mission to find the son of one of Innovations Academy’s prime investors at theor new and almost equally-sexist-as-Innovations school.

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favorite poetry collection: break your glass slippers review

Summary (from the publisher):

amanda lovelace, the bestselling & award-winning author of the “women are some kind of magic” poetry series, presents a new companion series, “you are your own fairy tale” the first installment, break your glass slippers, is about overcoming those who don’t see your worth, even if that person is sometimes yourself. in the epic tale of your life, you are the most important character while everyone is but a forgotten footnote. even the prince.

 

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My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

My Thoughts:

I am a firm believer that everyone needs to read a poetry collection now & then (or more often than that, if that’s your reading jam). One of my go-to authors for when I’m in a poetry mood is amanda lovelace.  I really enjoyed the princess saves herself in this one and the witch doesn’t burn in this one, the first two books in the women are some kind of magic series. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to review her upcoming collection, break your glass slippers. break your glass slippers is the first book in amanda’s latest series, you are your own fairytale, and this first collection puts a spin on Cinderella.

I’m so happy I read break your glass slippers when I did. As soon I finished reading it, I found myself going back to the beginning and rereading so many of the poems. amanda lovelace covers a wide range of sensitive topics, including abuse, toxic relationships and friendships, sexual harassment, eating disorders, trauma, fatphobia, and suicide. All of these topics are forewarned in the very beginning, with reminders to practice self-care and self-love while reading.

The collection is split into three sections. The first section spoke as the most Cinderella retelling-like to me, as about half of the poems take the form of wisdom from the fairy godmother. I especially loved the poems from the fairy godmother. This section is especially focused on the protagonist’s very toxic relationship, something I could not necessarily realte to but still appreciate obviously that amanda lovelace writes about this hard, but very real topic.Yet, there are many universal themes that all types of readers may be able to relate within this section. Although the toxic relationship does take focus, there were so many poems I particularly loved about self-care, self-love, and female friendship.

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MUST-READ SPORTS ROMANCE: Playbook Series Review

Sports romance is one of the many ways you could describe my reading life in 2019 and 2020. From Elle Kennedy’s Off-Campus and Briar U series to Lyssa Kay Adams’ The Bromance Book Club, I have been especially craving new adult and adult romance series that involve protagonists who are in relationships with professional athletes. I find myself rating almost all of these books 5 out of 5 stars because I genuinely enjoy them so, so much!

Enter Alexa Martin’s football romance series, Playbook, which includes Intercepted, Fumbled, and Blitzed. The wife of an ex-NFL football player, I love how Alexa Martin brings some personal experience to this series. As a football fan myself, I really appreciated how this series incorporates football alongside romance, family, friendship, and the plot overall.

Intercepted 

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

41V+0iO3ZkL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Intercepted was easily one of my favorite binge-reads of 2019. I read this book in two sittings, between the first one hundred pages and then the remainder of the book. Intercepted follows Marlee, a website designer and long-time girlfriend of Denver Mustangs football player, Chris. Marlee struggles fitting in with the Denver Mustangs WAGS (wives and girlfriends) club, the Lady Mustangs. Things get way more complicated when a football-playing, one night hook-up from her past, Gavin Pope, joins the Mustangs. When Chris cheats on Marlee one last time, Marlee finds herself once again falling for Gavin.

Intercepted was such a fun and entertaining read. A few reviews I’ve read have had problems with Marlee’s use of hashtags, but I didn’t really mind them and found myself relating to a few. “#SaintLukeBryan” is a personal favorite of mine! Much of the plot revolves Marlee’s combatting of the Lady Mustangs with her best friend, Naomi,  and the pressure and gossip surrounding her relationship with Gavin. However, one of the other major plot lines that I really enjoyed was Marlee’s balancing her career and personal apsirations with dating a NFL star like Gavin. Marleee does not at all want to give up her career and personal goals to become Gavin’s personal cheerleader- not that Gavin expected her to. Marlee is such a strong character and Gavin gives her space while yes, helping her fight some battles.

When it comes to the romance, Alexa Martin certainly delivers on the steam. There aren’t too many romance chapters, but the five to six scenes were very well-written. Outside of the romance, I really liked this installment’s balance of plot with football Marlee certainly knows her football, and I loved how realistic the story became when it came to contracts and free agents.

Fumbled 

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

fumbMy final read of 2019, Fumbled was another great binge-read. I didn’t loveeeee it as much as I loved Intercepted, but it was a really solid installment in this companion series. I wasn’t into the premise as much as I had been with Intercepted, but the relationship development, plot, and characters were still really well done. Fumbled follows single mother Poppy Patterson, who feels like she’s finally found a new normal while raising her nine year-old son in Denver. When she unexpectedly runs into her ex-boyfriend and starting wide receiver for the Denver Mustangs, TK Moore, at the club she works at, their suppressed feelings for one another suddenly rush back in. There’s some pretty big secrets between the two that make their relationship anything but easy.Read More »

A 2020 FAVORITE: Harley in the Sky Review

harley-in-the-sky-9781534437128_hrSummary (from the publisher): Harley Milano has dreamed of becoming a trapeze artist for as long as she can remember. With parents who run a famous circus in Las Vegas, she spends almost every night in the big top watching their lead aerialist perform, wishing with all her heart and soul that she would be up there herself one day.

After a huge fight with her parents, who continue to insist she go to school instead, Harley leaves home, betrays her family, and joins the rival traveling circus Maison du Mystère. There, she is thrust into a world that is both brutal and beautiful, where she learns the value of hard work, passion, and collaboration. At the same time, Harley must come to terms with the truth of her family and her past—and reckon with the sacrifices she made and the people she hurt in order to follow her dreams.

 

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

My Thoughts: 

I never thought I would prep for writing a review by watching trapeze videos, but here we are!

Akemi Dawn Bowman’s Harley in the Sky follows Harley’s dream of becoming a trapeze artist. After watching aerialists perform all her life in her parents’ famous Las Vegas circus, Harley is ready for her turn to be up there in the big top. After her parents refuse to let Harley to train with the lead artist and insist on Harley going to college instead, she feels that she has no other choice but to join the rival circus, Maison du Mystère. While training and trying to prove her worth, Harley must also face how her decisions affect her family, friends, and the past that she cannot let herself repeat.

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When I picked up Harley in the Sky in early February, I had read only one 5 star read so far in 2020. That quickly changed as soon as I started reading it, soon becoming one of my favorite books of the year! I devoured Harley in the Sky over the course of three sittings, instantly falling in love with Akemi Dawn Bowman’s writing style and atmosphere. Harley in the Sky originally had me intrigued for its circus setting and The Greatest Showman meets Sarah Dessen premise. I am here to confirm that the book absolutely delivered on both fronts, while delviving into such important storylines revolving around family, friendship, mental health, identity, and yes, romance.

Although Harley in the Sky is certainly more than a ‘circus book,’ I can’t help but talk about this setting first. This is the first book I’ve ever read that takes place in the circus realm, and Akemi Dawn Bowman does such a fantastic job of setting the reader in this world. From the performers to the circus tents themselves, she does such as great job describing life at both Teatro dell Notte and Maison du Mystère.

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Renegades Series Review

As a fan of  Marissa Meyer’s The Lunar Chronicles and Heartless, I knew that I had to pick up her supherohero-inspired series, Renegades. Between the fact that I’m not the biggest superhero or action fan and the mixed reviews about the trilogy (at least compared to readers’ absolute adoration of The Lunar Chronicles), I admit that I put off picking up Renegades longer than I should have. However, Renegades really reminded me why I love Marissa Meyer’s writing so much! Her stories are just so unique and different from other books, and her writing style always sucks me right in. I think it’s the balance of her unique worlds with common tropes that she executes so well.

I really think the only superhero series I’ve read outside Renegades is the DC Icons series. Renegades’ superhero system is really unique, following two rival superhero groups, the Renegades and the Anarchists. Aside from the action and relationship development between rivals, Adrian and Nova, there’s so much about politics and morals to explore within the two organizations.

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Today I’ll be sharing my three mini reviews for each book in the series: Renegades, Archenemies, and Supernova. I’ve provided the official summary for Renegades, and there are labeled spoiler sections for Renegades and Supernova.

511b2omc9-l._sx340_bo1,204,203,200_Renegades Summary (from the publisher):

The Renegades are a syndicate of prodigies — humans with extraordinary abilities — who emerged from the ruins of a crumbled society and established peace and order where chaos reigned. As champions of justice, they remain a symbol of hope and courage to everyone… except the villains they once overthrew.

Nova has a reason to hate the Renegades, and she is on a mission for vengeance. As she gets closer to her target, she meets Adrian, a Renegade boy who believes in justice — and in Nova. But Nova’s allegiance is to a villain who has the power to end them both.

Renegades 

 My Rating: 5/5 Stars

I liked Renegades from the get-go, but it took me the first one hundred and fifty pages or so to get fully invested in the story. Things really picked up once Nova decides to enter the Renegades trials. I had been reading on a Friday night the week intending to read until the 200 page mark, but found myself staying up way past my bedtime and reading until the 400 page mark instead! Nova’s entrance into the trials really gets the action going. While I loved the world-building- something I love in a lot of my favorite fantasy and action reads- I was ready for the plot to really get going.

I loved the tension between Nova’s placement as an Anarchist and as a Renegade. I wouldn’t say she really transforms as a character, but there is so much to be explored about Nova. There’s definitely more chapters from Nova’s third-person perspective than Adrian’s, but I really liked both of their perspectives. Adrian’s power was my favorite. I also really liked Nova and Adrian’s relationship. Romance is not at the book’s forefront, but I loved the growth of their (very much complicated) feelings.Read More »