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Ashlords (Ashlords #1) – Scott Reintgen

Ashlords (Ashlords #1) – Scott ReintgenTitle: Ashlords (Ashlords #1) by Scott Reintgen
Publishing Info: January 21, 2020 by Penguin
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Science Fiction
Date Completed: February 17, 2020
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

Red Rising meets The Scorpio Races in this epic fantasy following three phoenix horse riders--skilled at alchemy--who must compete at The Races--the modern spectacle that has replaced warfare within their empire.

Every year since the Ashlords were gifted phoenix horses by their gods, they've raced them. First into battle, then on great hunts, and finally for the pure sport of seeing who rode the fastest. Centuries of blood and fire carved their competition into a more modern spectacle: The Races.

Over the course of a multi-day event, elite riders from clashing cultures vie to be crowned champion. But the modern version of the sport requires more than good riding. Competitors must be skilled at creating and controlling phoenix horses made of ash and alchemy, which are summoned back to life each sunrise with uniquely crafted powers to cover impossible distances and challenges before bursting into flames at sunset. But good alchemy only matters if a rider knows how to defend their phoenix horse at night. Murder is outlawed, but breaking bones and poisoning ashes? That's all legal and encouraged.

In this year's Races, eleven riders will compete, but three of them have more to lose than the rest--a champion's daughter, a scholarship entrant, and a revolutionary's son. Who will attain their own dream of glory? Or will they all flame out in defeat?

bookreview1

So far, most of my Goodreads friend reviews are mostly five-star ratings for this book and some four-star. How did we know I was going to be the black sheep here…? If you’d like to read a cynical/critical review, this is it!

First of all, the comparison to “Red Rising meets The Scorpio Races”… just no. I usually hate comparisons and this one is one terrible. They’re two of my favorite books EVER with incredible character development, world-building, and plotting, and this book did not have it for me. The only Scorpio Races connection is the fact that it’s a horse race and it’s nothing else like TSR and Red Rising’s plotting and character connections are far superior than this book. It was far more of a Hunger Games feel than RR or TSR.

I listened to this book on audio and all of the narrators are ones I’ve listened to before and really enjoyed, so I know it wasn’t an issue of narrator. (Rebecca Soler, Lauren Fortgang, and Andrew Eiden, in case you were wondering!) When it comes to my fantasy preferences nowadays, I. Need. World-Building. The first paragraph of this book was the most interesting. There was a mention about nebulas in the sky and … hey, that was it as far as the actual WORLD part of the world-building. Is this a fantasy world? Are we in space? Is this related to our galaxy? I immediately wanted to know more about the galaxies in the sky and where this book took place and we never really get to know. Not just that, but there’s no real history about this fantasy world at all. There are plenty of mentions about “the gods” and how they’re the gods of the Ashlords but there’s not really much of anything else. We know that sacrifices happen, gods live in the underworld, and the Ashlords are connected to the gods above the others, but I don’t even know anything about the country or town or divisions of any sort.
There are a lot of things that don’t come up in the book until they’re needed so it just seems like a total afterthought. There are random leaders of each … community? Town? See, I don’t even know how this country (or whatever) is divided and why there are random leaders. Of course, the leader is oppressive and creepy and he shows up just to be awful and has no other significance whatsoever. Then there’s this police force which doesn’t show up until the end when all of a sudden they’re necessary. Even with the races and the horses/phoenixes, there were things we didn’t get to know until it was happening and everything was just told to us instead of actually learning about things in a more natural fashion.
I also don’t even know anything about the phoenixes at ALL…??? The synopsis said they were gifted to the Ashlords by the gods but we don’t really get to learn about that at all, anywhere in the book. There are tiiiiny pieces but I barely know anything about them. The characters create/influence them with alchemy but we don’t get to learn much about the alchemy other than being told what ingredients are used and we don’t really get to know why or how it works. Where did they come from? Are they otherworldly beings? How do their rebirths work and why do they HAVE to do that? What’s the magic system with what makes them different and how the riders use them? Why do riders have to happen and what do they gain from the races? Why are the races necessary? And so many more questions about gods and Ashlords and I COULD GO ON.
I really can talk a LOT more about this but let’s just say that there’s really no history or world-building, or at least not nearly enough for my taste. I could have been incredibly invested if I even know what this world was about.

Most of this book is action. There’s a lot of time spent spent talking about the races, which is fine! But everything else took a backseat, and for me, it really felt like EVERYTHING else.

I also really did not feel connected to the characters at all. There are three main characters but we barely get to know their personalities at all. Everything is basically about the race and we hardly get to see the characters interact with anyone of importance. We get some glimpses of Imelda and her friendships and her home life, but they’re just glimpses. No real time is spent there and it’s mainly just to set up other random parts of the story. The characters are very basic and don’t really tell us much about their histories either.

There’s one character POV that’s in second person instead of the other two in first person and there’s seemingly no reason why. I would hope there’s an actual reason but it wasn’t revealed in the first book and I won’t be reading on so maybe I’ll look it up later. It could have been interesting but it really didn’t seem to serve a purpose here.

I’m sure there’s more bubbling up inside my fountain of feelings here, but really, this one just did not do it for me. I don’t know how I feel SO far off from everyone so far but it was interesting going into it with an open mind AND expecting like it and seeing what my true feelings were without any hype or any other expectations.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Fantasy/sci-fi blend. This really was an interesting mix of fantasy and science-fiction. I really wanted to know more about everything!
Left Me Wanting More: World-building. The world-building in this book was just not up to par for me. I had a LOT of questions and there were so many things that weren’t touched upon that it made me really question everything. There were too many missed opportunities here.

Addiction Rating
Get a second opinion

So lots of other people really enjoyed this book, maybe people who have not read THE SCORPIO RACES nor RED RISING or who at least weren’t making those comparisons because it didn’t have that feel at all for me. You just can’t compare the character development in THE SCORPIO RACES and the insane plotting and world-building in RED RISING. Anyway… a lot of other people loved this one but it angered me, really, haha. So check out other reviews, I’d say!

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BOOKS LIKE ASHLORDS

             

The Kiss Quotient (The Kiss Quotient #1) – Helen Hoang

The Kiss Quotient (The Kiss Quotient #1) – Helen HoangTitle: The Kiss Quotient (The Kiss Quotient #1) Publishing Info: June 5, 2018 by Penguin, Berkley
Source: Borrowed from Hoopla
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Date Completed: February 28, 2019
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases — a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old.

It doesn't help that Stella has Asperger's and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice — with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can't afford to turn down Stella's offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan — from foreplay to more-than-missionary position...

Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but to crave all the other things he's making her feel. Soon, their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic...

bookreview1

I really enjoyed this book! The writing was so enjoyable and it was so easy to just fall into this story and be welcomed in by the characters. It was a cute, quick, fun, and meaningful read.

I really liked the inclusion and representation of Stella’s autism/Asperger’s and from what I know of it, I thought it was brought into the story and represented really well. It’s noted in the author’s bio that she is also on the autism spectrum so we can see her accurate representation of this in Stella’s character and I just really loved how it not only includes this character but also educates readers and shows what life can be like on a day to day basis as shown through Stella’s relationships, interactions, routines, and just daily situations.

The romance was SO cute I loved seeing Michael and Stella immediately fall for each other even though they weren’t “supposed to”. Michael treated Stella so well and I loved seeing a male protagonist stand up for a woman and treat women respectfully. There was just something so refreshing about the interactions between Michael and Stella that just made me so happy!

I kept waiting for the inevitable conflict and fight to pop up but things were going so well that I couldn’t tell where it was going to come from! Once it started to appear, I caught on and it was reassuring that even though the characters almost always make up, this one I knew they’d make up from! It was a really great romance and such a fun read. I really look forward to reading more from Helen Hoang!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Adult romances. This was one of the first adult romances/rom-coms that I read on my kick to start reading romances and I was so happy that I enjoyed it!
Left Me Wanting More: I can’t think of anything it was missing! I just really enjoyed this book and I can’t think of anything I would have changed.

Addiction Rating
Read it

This was a lovely romance full of representation, cute moments, class, and steamy scenes. I definitely recommend it!

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE THE KISS QUOTIENT

             

Darling Rose Gold – Stephanie Wrobel

Darling Rose Gold – Stephanie WrobelTitle: Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel
Publishing Info: March 17, 2020 by Penguin, Berkley
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Adult, Mystery/Thriller
Date Completed: March 6, 2020
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

For the first eighteen years of her life, Rose Gold Watts believed she was seriously ill. She was allergic to everything, used a wheelchair and practically lived at the hospital. Neighbors did all they could, holding fundraisers and offering shoulders to cry on, but no matter how many doctors, tests, or surgeries, no one could figure out what was wrong with Rose Gold.

Turns out her mom, Patty Watts, was just a really good liar.

After serving five years in prison, Patty gets out with nowhere to go and begs her daughter to take her in. The entire community is shocked when Rose Gold says yes.

Patty insists all she wants is to reconcile their differences. She says she's forgiven Rose Gold for turning her in and testifying against her. But Rose Gold knows her mother. Patty Watts always settles a score.

Unfortunately for Patty, Rose Gold is no longer her weak little darling...

And she's waited such a long time for her mother to come home.

bookreview1

This was just a middle-of-the-road book for me. It’s being branded as a thriller but it’s kind of not that thrilling? There are some psychological aspects to it but it was more just a story about generations of abuse passing down the abuse but in different ways. I can see how it’s more “thriller” being that it could fit under the umbrella of psychological thrillers but it’s much more slow-moving than that.

The book alternates between the POV of Rose Gold and her mother, Patty. Rose Gold’s perspective takes place almost entirely in the past throughout the past five years while Patty has been in prison for child abuse, convicted of poisoning her daughter to keep her sick until she reached the age of 18 and caught on to what her mother was doing to her. Some of the Patty side was more interesting, displaying a different sort of delusion than we normally see in psychological thrillers, showing how her need to control Rose Gold and her need to feel needed as a mother led her to keep her daughter sick, so she could constantly be dependent on her mother. I wish that the author had pushed just a little further into this since we do get Patty’s POV. We see it later on when Patty is taking care of Rose Gold’s baby but I feel like we didn’t get a real reason why she was actually resulting to poisoning. I guess it’s more of an implied thing where Patty is too delusional herself to even admitting to using something to intentionally make her daughter sick…. except she does admit it to herself later. It’s a bit fuzzy and confusing so I’m not quite sure if that was intentional or if we just didn’t quite get one piece of the puzzle to really complete that picture.

The beginning and middle of the book were sort of just blah for me. Most of the book details Rose Gold’s life with her mother, what she went through, and how people treat Patty once she’s released from prison. It just felt like a lot of setting the scene before we got to the breaking points of these characters and I guess the truly horrific stuff started happening (on-page anyway, since we already know what happened to Rose Gold as a child) but to me, it didn’t really read as a thriller all the way through and it just sort of felt like regular fiction, telling a disturbing story but not really bringing the fast-paced thrills that I enjoy and prefer when I’m reading books of this genre. I guess my criticism of the book is more to do with how it’s marketed/presented/reviewed since it wasn’t really what I was expecting.

There were also a few things in the book that didn’t really get explored enough for me so it felt like they were there for shock value or as an “excuse” for behavior. Patty was physically abused (beaten) by her father when she was young and her brother committed suicide in their childhood home so Rose Gold buys Patty’s childhood home, knowing that when Patty gets out of jail, she’ll have to stay with her in the childhood home which held so many bad memories. Like… okay? Yes, that’s a big step to go out of your way to mentally abuse your mother who abused you but the whole point was that it made Patty uncomfortable and she pushed past it. It just seemed like a very big gesture not to be used in some other way in the book. It did add to the list of long thought-out plans to harm her mother but it just seemed kind of weird.

The ending was interesting but we spent so long watching it coming that it didn’t really pack a punch for me and I just felt like I read a book about some kind of unlikable characters. The abuse that they experienced led them to perpetuate the abuse cycle on and on and at a certain point, I was just uncomfortable with and annoyed at both of them.

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Kept Me Hooked On: A different kind of thriller? It didn’t really feel like the thrillers I’m used to but I guess it’s just a bit of a different pace! It was interesting to read something outside of my usual pattern.
Left Me Wanting More: Development on some of the things mentioned along the way. There were a few things that were dropped and they just kind of felt like they were there for shock value since they didn’t really get brought up again or developed more in the moment. I wanted a few of the things that happened to mean just a bit more.

Addiction Rating
Get a second opinion

This wasn’t my normal kind of thriller so I just really was expecting something different and yes, something more. Other reviewers seemed to really like it so it seems like it might depend on what your preferences are!

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE DARLING ROSE GOLD

             

The Kingdom of Back – Marie Lu

The Kingdom of Back – Marie LuTitle: The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu
Publishing Info: March 3, 2020 by Penguin
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Date Completed: February 18, 2020
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Related Posts: Legend (Legend #1), Warcross (Warcross #1), Batman: Nightwalker (DC Icons #2)

Two siblings. Two brilliant talents. But only one Mozart.

Born with a gift for music, Nannerl Mozart has just one wish—to be remembered forever. But even as she delights audiences with her masterful playing, she has little hope she'll ever become the acclaimed composer she longs to be. She is a young woman in 18th century Europe, and that means composing is forbidden to her. She will perform only until she reaches a marriageable age—her tyrannical father has made that much clear.

And as Nannerl's hope grows dimmer with each passing year, the talents of her beloved younger brother, Wolfgang, only seem to shine brighter. His brilliance begins to eclipse her own, until one day a mysterious stranger from a magical land appears with an irresistible offer. He has the power to make her wish come true—but his help may cost her everything.

In her first work of historical fiction, #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu spins a lush, lyrically-told story of music, magic, and the unbreakable bond between a brother and sister.

bookreview1

I was really excited to try THE KINGDOM OF BACK, something totally different from Marie Lu’s previous books! I’ve read the Legend trilogy and the Warcross duet, so I was interested to see what THE KINGDOM OF BACK would have in store, knowing how a good portal-world book can capture my curiosity. This one ended up being just a bit too different in too many ways for me and it just ended up not being a “me” book.

This was definitely a case of “It’s not you, it’s me.” The writing in this book was just lovely and and it was a lot more prosaic and lyrical (which is fitting since the book is about music — ha!) but I usually don’t get along with these types of writing styles with very few exceptions. If that’s a writing style that you enjoy, I think this could be an instant hit for you, but I just know it’s something that I don’t particularly care for and I feel like things end up being too drawn out.

I also just had a complicated relationship with the book overall. I really, really did not like the fantasy aspect of the book. There is a portal world/alternate universe type-thing happening here but it really wasn’t what I was expecting. It largely revolved around faeries which I have zero interest in and some of the faerie magic was just a bit too fanciful for me. My magical preferences are more about systems and structures than whimsy so I just really didn’t care for it at all and I hated the parts that glanced back over at the faerie world. It wasn’t that it was bad, but again, tooootally not my thing.

The children are young for most of the book and it takes a very long time for them to even been teenagers, so I would barely even call this YA. It’s more so a book that maybe doesn’t need an age categorization since it’s not a specifically teen coming-of-age story but really just a story about these two children and their lives. I also didn’t understand for the beginning of the book why it was important for this story to be about the Mozart children and it was kind of annoying that it could have been anyone. This does make a little more sense and ties into the story more as the book goes on, so I eventually did end up liking how it tied in (even if I didn’t like the fantasy world still). By the time the book was ending, I actually found that I would have liked the Mozart story by itself all together and a fun YA historical fiction book about the Mozart children that didn’t have fantastical elements would have been cool too.

I think fans of The Hazel Wood and Uprooted will enjoy this. 

There is an author’s note at the end of the book where Marie Lu explains the origins of the book. She had discovered that Mozart had a sister that was barely ever heard of so she investigated her story, and The Kingdom of Back was a real (well, “real”) place that the Mozart children invented and they used it to pass the time in their carriage rides (which does happen in the book, as well as further development of the world). If I had known that beforehand, it would have been much more interesting knowing that The Kingdom of Back actually had historical origins and that was why/how the book came about. I still wouldn’t have cared about the fairy world but it would have made me a little more interested to understand actual historical significance of the fantasy world and that’s why it was included. That author’s note to allow me the hindsight to make this connection is the only reason I felt in the middle about this book instead of disappointed.

It’s actually weird looking back because I really enjoyed the end of the book and it left on a good note. The book wasn’t bad at all but between the writing and the faerie world, it really just wasn’t my style and if I had known that, I might have not read the book or at least waited to hear from someone else if I might like it. I’m actually still kind of glad I read it because I did enjoy the historical aspect of the book but I wish I could have enjoyed it more!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Historical Fiction. I really don’t usually enjoy historical fiction, but I really enjoyed knowing that this stemmed from something real in history. That’s really what held my interest!
Left Me Wanting More: Reality. I just really didn’t care for the fantasy aspect in this book, weirdly enough. It was too whimsical for me and I just don’t love fairy type fantasy.

Addiction Rating
Check the reviews

I think you’ll either love it or end up feeling like I do. If this is your style, you’ll probably love it! If you think we share some opinions, I would say check out some more reviews.

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE THE KINGDOM OF BACK

             

Twisted Twenty-Six (Stephanie Plum #26) – Janet Evanovich

Twisted Twenty-Six (Stephanie Plum #26) – Janet EvanovichTitle: Twisted Twenty-Six (Stephanie Plum #26) by Janet Evanovich
Publishing Info: November 12, 2019 by Penguin
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Adult, Mystery/Thriller, Cozy Mystery
Date Completed: November 18, 2019
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Related Posts: Lean Mean Thirteen (Stephanie Plum #13), Plum Lucky (Stephanie Plum #13.5), Fearless Fourteen (Stephanie Plum #14), , Finger Lickin' Fifteen (Stephanie Plum #15), Mini-Reviews: The Audition, Plum Spooky | DNF Report: Tether, Plum Spooky (Stephanie Plum #14.5), Mini-Reviews: Sizzling Sixteen (Stephanie Plum #16) & Smokin' Seventeen (Stephanie Plum #17), Sizzling Sixteen (Stephanie Plum #16), Smokin' Seventeen (Stephanie Plum #17), Explosive Eighteen (Stephanie Plum #18), Sizzling Sixteen (Stephanie Plum #16), Mini-Reviews: Notorious Nineteen (Stephanie Plum #19), Takedown Twenty (Stephanie Plum #20), Top Secret Twenty-One (Stephanie Plum #21), Notorious Nineteen (Stephanie Plum #19), Takedown Twenty (Stephanie Plum #20), Top-Secret Twenty-One (Stephanie Plum #21), , Tricky Twenty-Two (Stephanie Plum #22), Curious Minds (Knight & Moon #1), Turbo Twenty-Three (Stephanie Plum #23), Sizzling Sixteen (Stephanie Plum #16), Dangerous Minds (Knight & Moon #2), Wicked Appetite (Lizzy & Diesel #1), Hardcore Twenty-Four (Stephanie Plum #24), The Heist (Fox & O'Hare #1), Look Alive Twenty-Five (Stephanie Plum #25)

Stephanie Plum's career has taken more wrong turns than a student driver on the Jersey Turnpike, and her love life is a hopeless tangle. In order to save someone dear to her, she'll have to straighten things out in Twisted Twenty-Six the latest, novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Janet Evanovich.

Grandma Mazur is a widow...again. This time her marriage lasted a whole 45 minutes. The unlucky groom was one Jimmy Rosolli, local gangster, lothario (senior division) and heart attack waiting to happen...well, the waiting's over.

It's a sad day, but if she can't have Jimmy at least Grandma can have all the attention she wants as the dutiful widow. But some kinds of attention are not welcomed, particularly when Jimmy's former "business partners" are convinced that his widow is keeping the keys to their financial success for herself.

As someone who has spent an entire career finding bad guys, a set of missing keys should be no challenge for Stephanie Plum. Problem is, the facts are as twisted as a boardwalk pretzel with mustard.

bookreview1

Wow, it’s kind of crazy that I’ve read twenty-six Stephanie Plum books! There have been the good, the bad, and the ugly, but I’m really happy that we’re finally circling back around to “the good” again. For a long while there, the books were just getting too silly and over-the-top and they became really not enjoyable. TWISTED TWENTY-SIX went back to some Stephanie Plum roots, focusing more on the family with grandma hijinks and good old-fashioned Jersey mobster threats. (What weird thing to say but if you know the series, it all makes sense.)

One thing I really enjoyed about TWISTED TWENTY-SIX is that we got back to a little character development, which was great! For comedic/cozy mysteries, that’s not always a focus, especially is comedy is more of the goal, but after spending 26 books with Stephanie, it was really nice to see her trying to decide what she wants to do with her life. We’ve watched as she met Ranger, starting seeing Joe, and started working for Vinnie with the bail bonds office, all of which were pretty much supposed to be temporary. I liked that Stephanie questioned what she really wanted to do as a career because it’s been mentioned throughout the series that she doesn’t want to do bail bonds enforcement forever but she never really seriously put that question out there.

I also liked the question of what she wanted out of a romantic aspect in her life as well. We finally address the Morelli/Ranger situation a little bit more, acknowledging that Stephanie doesn’t want to get married (which is cool) but that she does kind of want to settle down and be monogamous and have a nice, happy life. I thought it was great to see a little bit more of Stephanie’s inner monologue when it comes to being an adult and making the big decisions because that really helps push the character side of the books forward, which was been stagnant and kind of boring for so long.

Plot-wise, I think I could have used a little bit more suspense or mystery. These audiobooks go quickly so the story kind of sweeps by but I wanted to be just a bit more engaged and maybe have had the mystery go a little deeper. There were a couple nice reveals at the end which I enjoyed.

These books are easy and fun and I’m so happy they’re starting to get back to their roots. I know I’d keep reading them but this one made me more excited to keep on trucking with the series as it continues!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Character development. This book really got me back into the characters! I’m so glad that we got to see a bit more personality from Stephanie again in this book and it makes me want to keep up my interest in these characters’ journeys.
Left Me Wanting More: Mystery. I could have done with just a tad more mystery to really keep me interested and engaged in this one.

Addiction Rating
Try it

If you haven’t read the series and are looking for something fun and easy, they’re really light and fun! The middle of the series gets kind of wacky so bonus if you enjoy that kind of stuff and if you’re not into silly, then avoid it all together.

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE TWISTED TWENTY-SIX

             

The Bromance Book Club (Bromance Book Club #1) – Lyssa Kay Adams

The Bromance Book Club (Bromance Book Club #1) – Lyssa Kay AdamsTitle: The Bromance Book Club (Bromance Book Club #1) by Lyssa Kay Adams
Publishing Info: November 5, 2019 by Penguin, Berkley
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Date Completed: November 22, 2019
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

The first rule of book club:
You don't talk about book club.

Nashville Legends second baseman Gavin Scott's marriage is in major league trouble. He’s recently discovered a humiliating secret: his wife Thea has always faked the Big O. When he loses his cool at the revelation, it’s the final straw on their already strained relationship. Thea asks for a divorce, and Gavin realizes he’s let his pride and fear get the better of him.

Welcome to the Bromance Book Club.

Distraught and desperate, Gavin finds help from an unlikely source: a secret romance book club made up of Nashville's top alpha men. With the help of their current read, a steamy Regency titled Courting the Countess, the guys coach Gavin on saving his marriage. But it'll take a lot more than flowery words and grand gestures for this hapless Romeo to find his inner hero and win back the trust of his wife.

bookreview1

I thought this was going to be a super cute and funny read and heard so many people raving about it but I had some significant problems with this book.

I had a little trouble with the overall tone of the book, going from rom-com to a more serious feel. I get that rom-coms can’t be all funny, all the time, but there were points of hilarity with the men reading and getting council from romance novels, including their banter about all of that stuff, to super serious things like divorce. Just the tone of the conversations and relationships seemed to ebb a little too far one way and then the other for me, mostly because I was hoping for more rom-com since that’s what I tend to gravitate to when I’m reading adult contemporary. That’s a total personal opinion and not really where my issues lie.

I had a huuuuge problem with Gavin and Thea’s relationship and to be honest, I really didn’t like Thea. Their marriage begins to visibly fall apart when Gavin finds out that he hasn’t been satisfying Thea in bed, basically since the start of their marriage, and I’m sorry, they’ve been married for three years and she’s been FAKING IT for THREE YEARS? Oh hell no. Sorry, girl. That’s totally your problem and your fault. Speak up! That’s what a relationship is. You tell your partner what you want or what to do and then surprise surprise, things can actually get fixed. That problem was as simple as communicating with Gavin and she didn’t do that for three years. The book kind of made it seem like a lot of these issues were Gavin’s fault and I totally agree, he had work to do to open up lines of communication too, but for that to be the straw that broke the camel’s back and the main point of the book, I just hated it. Does this happen in real life? I’m sure it does. But it reeeeally bothered me that this was something that she could have spoken up about years ago and it wouldn’t have been an issue, so I don’t know how that fact is put on Gavin.

I also really didn’t like Liv and how protective she was of Thea. I can’t remember if she knew the whole story (I don’t think she did) but Thea is an adult and Liv should be there to support her, not to constantly throw insults and jabs at Gavin, whether he deserved them or not. It’s hard enough to go through relationship problems or a divorce, but Thea needs to figure things out on her own. Sisters should be able to talk it out and Liv can offer advice or her opinions but she was just so mean. It was super immature and I think she needed more insight or perspective on the situation. I really would have liked to see Thea tell her to cool it on the bashing but she only cared about it when it was in front of the kids.

I also really hated how much Thea changed to become a baseball wife. There was a mention of her wearing old band t-shirts and Chucks and then she changed to become all pastel and soft for the baseball wife image. Ummm dude, isn’t this 2019? I don’t think you have to conform to a stereotype to be a baseball wife. I think people prefer to see people being themselves versus a stereotype nowadays and *gasp* band t-shirts and shoes that are so common that many 30-year-olds still wear!?! How WILD. I’m sure tooooons of sig others of athletes rock the alt-life or just dress however they feel. Just because you’re not pink and pastel doesn’t mean you can’t be put-together for public appearances, and that’s what drove me nuts.

Okay, now the nice stuff. I thought the concept of the Bromance Book Club was super cute and funny. They made some nice jokes about guys reading romance and I loved how some of the guys actually ended up liking the books and appreciating the stories. I also really liked how Gavin’s stutter was brought into the story. It showed a lot of different aspects of what he deals with, from bullying when he was younger to bullying still when he’s an adult, how people treat him or think he was thinking slowly just because he couldn’t get the words out, how much people understood it and appreciated him for who he was. It was just really great to see that incorporated into the story and how much it shaped Gavin’s character and even his relationship with Thea.

Despite all of my gripes about why they were separating, I also liked the “getting back together” story. Sometimes relationships aren’t meant to be and divorce may be the best thing. I liked that this showed that there are also times when you can communicate and work on a relationship to see if you do love each other and want to save it. I liked seeing the reality of going to the uncomfortable places to see if a relationship is something worth repairing and a couple who really does love each other but didn’t know how to grow together as the relationship grew.

I didn’t realize this was a series, so finding out now, will I continue? Probably. I’m interested to see what the author does with the next book (I’m assuming maybe Mack? Another character’s relationship?) and I’d like to see if I get along with a different relationship a little better.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Romances with established couples. Usually I go for the falling-in-love books. Give me a good rom-com, meet cute, all that good stuff! I don’t love reading about relationships falling apart but it was a nice structure for this second-chance romance!
Left Me Wanting More: Communication. The lack of communication drove me nuts. This couple would have been a lot better off if either of them shared even a little bit.

Addiction Rating
Try it

Lots of my friends straight-up five-star loved this book. It didn’t quite work for me in some aspects but I also did enjoy it and I look forward to reading the next one!

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BOOKS LIKE THE BROMANCE BOOK CLUB

             

A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy #1) – Deborah Harkness

A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy #1) – Deborah HarknessTitle: A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy #1) by Deborah Harkness
Publishing Info: February 8, 2011 by Penguin
Source: Audible
Genres: Adult, Paranormal, Fantasy, Vampires
Date Completed: September 21, 2018
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

Deep in the stacks of Oxford's Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell.

bookreview1

A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES was not what I thought it would be. Diana, the main character, is a witch but she’s a badass historian and is determined to earn her achievements in life her own way and not just by using magic for everything. For that reason (and of course, other reasons that we learn later), she avoids using any magic whenever possible. Things get complicated (naturally) in part because the urban fantasy world of A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES also includes vampires and demons and the three different supernatural species don’t really play nicely together. Diana meets vampire Matthew Clairmont on the day that all hell starts breaking loose (of course, the two are connected in many ways) and there we have our love interest as well.

So why didn’t A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES work for me? I basically felt like I was reading the entire Twilight Saga wrapped up in one book and made for adults. Granted, I haven’t read a lot of vampire books so any parallel reminds me of Twilight but there was sooooo much stuff and constant reminders that I just couldn’t shake it. I don’t know if this is one of those things where I don’t read a lot of vampire books and this is just common vampire lore but I first read about these plot lines in Twilight or what, but either way, I just felt like they really mirrored each other in a lot of ways. Just the fact that there was such a prominent vampire story line at all really bothered me. I was hoping this would be a lot witchier in terms of magic and plot, but bother were more focused on the vampire/non-vampire interactions and we spend way more time learning about vampire history and behavior than we do about the witch culture and coven history.

I also just felt like this book should have been WAY shorter. There were several long passages about things that could have been included in some world-building moments (like a scene about vampires going hunting where Diana is watching and Matthew isn’t even there) and many conclusions could have been brought about sooner. There were also a lot of secrets in this book (fair) but so many were brought up in a way where it was presented to Diana and people just flat out refused to tell her anything for no good reason. Matthew was way too overprotective for my tastes and it started to bother me. Diana was such a strong personality before she met Matthew, determined to earn everything herself and not skate by on magic, and then once Matthew is in the picture, there are a lot of inconsistencies where she wants him to do all the protecting for her and won’t try to start using her magic while still maintaining that she’s a strong personality who won’t take no for an answer. I had a hard time with the ways she fell apart and the instalove (and INSTA MARRIAGE ew) that just didn’t feel natural in this book. Things just really didn’t feel like they unfolded naturally and I was missing those good world-building chunks to explore this world and felt like there was far too much romance too quickly when we’ve two more books ahead of us.

I just really didn’t like the pacing at all and that beautiful mystery and tension from the first few chapters quickly dissipated, leaving a romance that I just wasn’t feeling in its intended intensity. I’m not sure if I’ll continue the series because of how it ended, adding in yet another supernatural concept when it could have been so beautifully focused on the witchcraft side of things. Pushing that to the side made it feel like it should have been Matthew’s story instead of Diana’s, and I get why it is Diana’s but I wanted to see much more of HER history start to unfold. It was there but there was just far too much vampire in this novel for me.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Witchy books. I love witchy novels and it was fun to see another witchy concept.
Left Me Wanting More: Consistency. I just hated how Diana didn’t feel like the same character that she was in the beginning. I hated that she became weak and needed saving once a man came into the picture.

Addiction Rating
Get a second opinion

This one didn’t really work for me, but SO many people do love it. I would say maybe check with some other trusted reviewers, or just take the plunge and give it a try! I thought for sure this would be a hit and things just felt apart.

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES

             

Wildcard (Warcross #2) – Marie Lu

Wildcard (Warcross #2) – Marie LuTitle: Wildcard (Warcross #2) by Marie Lu
Publishing Info: September 18, 2018 by Penguin
Source: ALAAC18, BEA 2018
Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Date Completed: August 12, 2018
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Related Posts: Legend (Legend #1), Warcross (Warcross #1), Batman: Nightwalker (DC Icons #2), The Kingdom of Back

Emika Chen barely made it out of the Warcross Championships alive. Now that she knows the truth behind Hideo's new NeuroLink algorithm, she can no longer trust the one person she's always looked up to, who she once thought was on her side.

Determined to put a stop to Hideo's grim plans, Emika and the Phoenix Riders band together, only to find a new threat lurking on the neon-lit streets of Tokyo. Someone's put a bounty on Emika's head, and her sole chance for survival lies with Zero and the Blackcoats, his ruthless crew. But Emika soon learns that Zero isn't all that he seems--and his protection comes at a price.

Caught in a web of betrayal, with the future of free will at risk, just how far will Emika go to take down the man she loves?

bookreview1

WILDCARD was perfection. Marie Lu did such an amazing job with this series, from characters to plot to twists to structure. I love that it was only two books, making it the perfect length to fit in exactly the right amount of action and not drag things on while still expanding into a second book to continue a story that couldn’t be wrapped up in one.

I absolutely loved the constant change for the feel of the villain. Each character is so carefully crafted that they all have good and bad sides so there’s a constant shift in motive and feel. You can’t hate the person who betrays the heroes because they’re just not evil, and complex characters are so much more interesting than outright evil villains. It makes for a much more interesting story than that black-and-white good vs evil feeling in so many other books, and I really feel like it more accurately portrays real human emotions. We’re all so much more than just plain good and evil, so it added another realistic side to a largely sci-fi world.

The squad goals in this book were also great. Emika isn’t without help and relies upon her friends in many ways. I really loved each character and the attachments they formed, and it was really interesting to see how each relationship grew and changed throughout the series. It was an amazing team and each one really felt like a real person.

And of course, the world itself felt so incredibly real. I could picture myself in each setting and every action sequence was carefully detailed. These books are so visually stunning and I love being able to picture things like this by just reading words on a page (versus watching a movie/TV show…. although I wouldn’t say no to a WARCROSS movie…) This is such a stunning series in every way and WILDCARD was easily a 2018 favorite.

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Kept Me Hooked On: Virtual Reality concepts. I don’t do a lot of video game/virtual reality things in real life but apparently they’re a heck of a lot of fun in books! Marie Lu just really makes these concepts come to life and they’re accessible and enjoyable for those who aren’t even gamers.
Left Me Wanting More: Romance development. I didn’t think it needed more romance development but there were a couple moments where I felt like the feelings between Emika and Hideo could have used just a little bit more to feeling that draw and chemistry.

Addiction Rating
Read it!

I really, really enjoyed this series and this sequel was one of my favorite books of 2018! I just easily fell into this world and had a great feeling while reading it, making it an easy favorite.

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE WILDCARD

             

The Big Kahuna (Fox and O’Hare #6) – Janet Evanovich & Peter Evanovich

The Big Kahuna (Fox and O’Hare #6) – Janet Evanovich & Peter EvanovichTitle: The Big Kahuna (Fox & O'Hare #6) by Janet Evanovich, Peter Evanovich
Publishing Info: May 7, 2019 by Penguin
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Adult, Mystery/Thriller
Date Completed: May 9, 2019
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Related Posts: Lean Mean Thirteen (Stephanie Plum #13), Plum Lucky (Stephanie Plum #13.5), Fearless Fourteen (Stephanie Plum #14), , Finger Lickin' Fifteen (Stephanie Plum #15), Mini-Reviews: The Audition, Plum Spooky | DNF Report: Tether, Plum Spooky (Stephanie Plum #14.5), Mini-Reviews: Sizzling Sixteen (Stephanie Plum #16) & Smokin' Seventeen (Stephanie Plum #17), Sizzling Sixteen (Stephanie Plum #16), Smokin' Seventeen (Stephanie Plum #17), Explosive Eighteen (Stephanie Plum #18), Sizzling Sixteen (Stephanie Plum #16), Mini-Reviews: Notorious Nineteen (Stephanie Plum #19), Takedown Twenty (Stephanie Plum #20), Top Secret Twenty-One (Stephanie Plum #21), Notorious Nineteen (Stephanie Plum #19), Takedown Twenty (Stephanie Plum #20), Top-Secret Twenty-One (Stephanie Plum #21), , Tricky Twenty-Two (Stephanie Plum #22), Curious Minds (Knight & Moon #1), Turbo Twenty-Three (Stephanie Plum #23), Sizzling Sixteen (Stephanie Plum #16), Dangerous Minds (Knight & Moon #2), Wicked Appetite (Lizzy & Diesel #1), Hardcore Twenty-Four (Stephanie Plum #24), The Heist (Fox & O'Hare #1), Look Alive Twenty-Five (Stephanie Plum #25), Twisted Twenty-Six (Stephanie Plum #26)

A stoner, an Instagram model, a Czech oligarch, and a missing unicorn. Nick Fox and Kate O'Hare have their work cut out for them in their weirdest, wildest adventure yet in this latest entry in the New York Times bestselling series by Janet and Peter Evanovich.

Straight arrow FBI Agent Kate O'Hare always plays by the rules. Charming Con Man Nicholas Fox makes them up as he goes along. She thinks he's nothing but a scoundrel. He thinks she just needs to lighten up. They're working together to tackle the out-of-bounds cases ordinary FBI agents can't touch. And, their relationship? Well, there hasn't been so much explosive chemistry since Nitro was introduced to Glycerin.
Next on the docket: The mysterious disappearance of the Silicon Valley billionaire, known as the Big Kahuna. Kate's been assigned to find him but no one seems particularly keen on helping. His twenty-six year old adult actress wife-turned Instagram model wife and his shady Czech business partner are more interested in gaining control of his company. For that they need a dead body not a living Kahuna.
The only lead they have is the Kahuna's drop-out son, who's living the dream in Hawaii - if your dream is starting your day with the perfect wave and ending it with a big bowl of weed. To get close to the Kahuna's son, Kate and Nick go undercover as a married couple in the big wave, bohemian, surfer community of Paia, Maui. Living a laid back, hippy-dippy lifestyle isn't exactly in Kate's wheelhouse, but the only thing more horrifying is setting up house with Nick Fox, even if he does look pretty gnarly on a longboard. If they don't catch a break soon, waves aren't the only thing she's going to be shredding (or bedding).

bookreview1

This was a really disappointing installment in this series. I felt like it totally reverted to Stephanie Plum-type humor and lost of of the clever heist elements. While I enjoy Stephanie Plum for what it is, I enjoyed the Fox & O’Hare books so much more.

This was the first book without Lee Goldberg (instead substituting Peter Evanovich) and while I haven’t read any Lee Goldberg books, it really did seem to affect the whole tone of this book. I don’t know if that’s the actual factor of the change but it really does seem like it. Everything turned so incredibly goofy with the new characters and adventure. It was not clever and it was not intriguing.

I also didn’t realize what else it was missing until I read other reviews but I realized that we were missing the fun crew that we’ve seen in the other books! Willie and Boyd were nowhere to be seen and the lack of crew really takes away from the concept of a heist/con book. Also, what in the heck happened to the cliffhanger at the end of book five!? At first I thought maybe I just missed something but that was confirmed by reading other reviews as well. It seemed to just move on and also somehow take a step back with Kate and Nick’s relationship. It was all just very messy.

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Kept Me Hooked On: This series, I guess. I loved the first five books. I’m hoping this was just a fluke and there will be something better on the horizon.
Left Me Wanting More: Heists! Crew! Everything! This was so disappointing. I still enjoyed the book enough but it just felt like a totally different author writing this book.

Addiction Rating
Read it, I guess

This was such a blah installment but if it leads us to the next book where it gets better, then it’s worth it.

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE THE BIG KAHUNA

             

These Witches Don’t Burn (These Witches Don’t Burn #1) – Isabel Sterling

These Witches Don’t Burn (These Witches Don’t Burn #1) – Isabel SterlingTitle: These Witches Don't Burn (These Witches Don't Burn #1) by Isabel Sterling
Publishing Info: May 28, 2019 by Penguin
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal
Date Completed: May 20, 2019
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads

Hannah's a witch, but not the kind you're thinking of. She's the real deal, an Elemental with the power to control fire, earth, water, and air. But even though she lives in Salem, Massachusetts, her magic is a secret she has to keep to herself. If she's ever caught using it in front of a Reg (read: non-witch), she could lose it. For good. So, Hannah spends most of her time avoiding her ex-girlfriend (and fellow Elemental Witch) Veronica, hanging out with her best friend, and working at the Fly By Night Cauldron selling candles and crystals to tourists, goths, and local Wiccans.

But dealing with her ex is the least of Hannah's concerns when a terrifying blood ritual interrupts the end-of-school-year bonfire. Evidence of dark magic begins to appear all over Salem, and Hannah's sure it's the work of a deadly Blood Witch. The issue is, her coven is less than convinced, forcing Hannah to team up with the last person she wants to see: Veronica.

While the pair attempt to smoke out the Blood Witch at a house party, Hannah meets Morgan, a cute new ballerina in town. But trying to date amid a supernatural crisis is easier said than done, and Hannah will have to test the limits of her power if she's going to save her coven and get the girl, especially when the attacks on Salem's witches become deadlier by the day.

Isabel Sterling's delightful, suspenseful debut is equal parts sweet romance and thrilling mystery. With everything she loves on the line, Hannah must confront this murderous villain before her coven--and any chance she has with the new girl--is destroyed.

bookreview1

This was such a fun, witchy read with a great diverse cast! I loved the Salem setting, the involvement of witch history, and the book’s own witchy story. Perfect for fans of books like UNDEAD GIRL GANG and HOW TO HANG A WITCH.

Author Isabel Sterling also did a great job of weaving in a mystery that kept me guessing! When a bad force enters town, first the main characters have to figure out what it is and then they have to figure out who it is, so there were many times where I had suspicions that were totally wrong (and one time I half-guessed correctly).

This was a quick, fun read with a cute romance to boot! With family and coven secrets involved, things get complicated and an ex who was a former best friend-turned-girlfriend who still wants Hannah back, there’s plenty of relationship story to keep readers of romantic plot lines involved too!

With the way things wrapped up here, I’m super curious to see what happens in book two! I wonder if it will follow further into this adventure or start a new concept with a new villain. There are many possibilities and I look forward to spending more time with these characters too!

addiction_factor1

Kept Me Hooked On: Witchy Vibes & relationships! I really loved the magic involved and the coven/group vibes! There was a great realistic representation of romantic relationships, family relationships, and awesome friendships with so many layers amongst all of them!
Left Me Wanting More: Magic use. Don’t get me wrong, the magic use was pretty represented given that most of the main characters were essentially underage witches (is that my TGIF Sabrina talk showing?) but I’m greedy and I want all the magic!

Addiction Rating
Read it!

This was a fun, witchy story with some great characters and an exciting mystery! I definitely recommend it!

book_recommendations1

BOOKS LIKE THESE WITCHES DON’T BURN