eARC Review – The Kissing Game

Title: The Kissing Game

Author: Marie Harte

Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca

Publication date: February 4th, 2020

320 pages

3/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

“I bet you a kiss you can’t resist me.”

Game on
.

Rena Jackson is ready. She’s worked her tail off to open up her own hair salon, and she’s almost ready to quit her job at the dive bar. Rena’s also a diehard romantic, and she’s had her eye on bar regular Axel Heller for a while. He’s got that tall-dark-and-handsome thing going big time. Problem is, he’s got that buttoned-up Germanic ice man thing going as well. With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, Rena’s about ready to give up on Axel and find her own Mr. Right.

At six foot six, Axel knows he intimidates most people. He’s been crushing on the gorgeous waitress for months. But the muscled mechanic is no romantic, and his heart is buried so deep, he has no idea how to show Rena what he feels. He knows he’s way out of his depth and she’s slipping away. So, he makes one crazy, desperate play…

Review

**Thank you to Netgalley, Sourcebooks Casablanca, and Marie Harte for a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

I was underwhelmed with this romance, contemporary novel. It was an easy read, but it just didn’t do much for me. I felt there were several main issues with the novel. Rena and Axel like each other, but neither has made the first move. Axel has some deep-seeded daddy issues and doesn’t think he could be good enough for Rena – he gets into a lot of fights and can be violet. Real macho stuff here. Rena is your cliched “wants a Valentine and husband” girl and makes no secret of that. She worries Axel just wants a fun night and not to love her forever so they make a bet, Axel will win her over by Valentine’s day (about a month away).

Okay. There is a lot happening in this book. Rena is described as being a WOC, but the representation left much to be desired. There were a lot of racist acts towards her in the book – but it wasn’t addressed super well and wasn’t cleared up. Also, Axel is described as tall, dark, and handsome – yet in fact he is a German, white, guy with “romance novel cover good looks”. It just didn’t add up.

The dialogue between Rena and Axel felt very forced and stiff. It never seemed like something someone would actually say during a real life conversation to each other. None of it made sense, and frankly they were both terrible with communicating with each other – but Rena wouldn’t accept that and placed all blame on Axel. It got under my skin because she is not a great character, even though she is sold as “sweet and innocent”.

Lastly, the romance was weird and the plot line happened so randomly and disjointed that it made no sense. They got from point A to point B in a bass ackwards way and none of it seemed realistic, like real people would have a romance in this fashion. The sex scenes were pretty good, but honestly no one woman almost orgasms from words and simple touches alone, I don’t care who you are.

Overall, I think there were problematic things with this book, which was disappointing because I was really looking forward to it based on the synopsis.02

January Wrap-Up!

Happy end of January folks! It’s always the month that will never end, and I swear today is January 57th instead of the 31st. However, I still did not manage to read my entire planned TBR, but I got pretty darn close!

I ended up switching up some of the Netgalley books because I got approved for a few in early February at the last minute, so I had to switch some titles over to February’s TBR (check back tomorrow for that post!). I was a little stressed over this because I had 3 books due February 4th that I hadn’t read yet and only 9 days to read them all. BUT I managed it and my last second approval ended up being one of my favorite reads this month!

So without further ado, see below for my 16 finished books this month! I had a nice even split of physical books and ebooks, which was one thing I wanted to be more conscious of this year!

PHYSICAL BOOKS

  1. City of Fallen Angels (The Mortal Instruments #4), Cassandra Clare – 4.5/5 stars
  2. City of Lost Souls (The Mortal Instruments #5), Cassandra Clare – 3.75/5 stars
  3. City of Heavenly Fire (The Mortal Instruments #6), Cassandra Clare – 4.25/5 stars
  4. Lady Midnight (The Dark Artifices #1), Cassandra Clare – 4.25/5 stars
  5. Lord of Shadows (The Dark Artifices #2), Cassandra Clare – 4/5 stars
  6. Queen of Air and Darkness (The Dark Artifices #3), Cassandra Clare – 4.25/5 stars
  7. My Favorite Half-Night Stand, Christina Lauren – 3.75/5 stars
  8. Love Her or Lose Her (Hot & Hammered #2), Tessa Bailey – 4.5/5 stars

NETGALLEY ARC’S

  1. The Silvered Serpent (The Gilded Wolves #2), Roshani Chokshi – 4.25/5 stars
  2. The Shrike & the Shadows, Chantal Gadoury & A.M. Wright – 3/5 stars
  3. Unravel the Dusk (Blood of Stars #2), Elizabeth Lim – 4.5/5 stars
  4. Heart of Flames (Crown of Feathers #2), Nicki Pau Preto – 3.75/5 stars
  5. Break in Case of Emergency, Brian Francis – 3/5 stars
  6. The Kissing Game, Marie Harte – 3/5 stars
  7. The Gravity of Us, Phil Stamper – 4.5/5 stars
  8. When We Were Magic, Sarah Gailey – 5/5 stars

BOOKS I DID NOT GET TO AS PLANNED

All of these books have been bumped to February’s TBR, with some additions of course!

  1. The Women’s War (Women’s War #1), Jenna Glass – I’m actually about 170 pages into this right now, just couldn’t get super into it so moved onto something else!
  2. Queen of the Unwanted (Women’s War #2), Jenna Glass – couldn’t read it without read the first!
  3. The Wicked Fox (Gumiho #1), Kat Cho
  4. The Beckoning Shadow (The Beckoning Shadow #1), Katharyn Blair
  5. The Electric Heir (Feverwake #2), Victoria Lee
  6. Havenfall (Havenfall #1), Sara Holland

Overall, I don’t think I did too bad! I planned to read 19 books, and managed to read 16. Let me know in the comments how many books you accomplished, and if we read any of the same!

Happy reading, folks! And happy almost February!

January Haul!

JANUARY IS FINALLY ALMOST OVER!

I swear this month has felt like the longest month every. I always feel like the month of January goes so slow every year – and then the next 11 months fly by. This month I acquired a good amount of books, mostly using Christmas gift cards, but still including the usual subscription box book. I still have some gift card money left, which I plan to put into pre-orders that I’m really excited about. Outside of that, I’m really planning on cutting down my spending on books!

BARNES AND NOBLE

Christmas gift cards!! Shoutout to my future mother-in-law, parents, and my maid of honor!

  1. The Assassin’s Blade (Throne of Glass #0.5), Sarah J. Maas
  2. Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass #1), Sarah J. Maas
  3. Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass #2), Sarah J. Maas
  4. Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass #3), Sarah J. Maas
  5. Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass #4), Sarah J. Maas
  6. Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass #5), Sarah J. Maas
  7. Tower of Dawn (Throne of Glass #6), Sarah J. Maas
  8. Kingdom of Ash (Throne of Glass #7), Sarah J. Maas
  9. Serpent & Dove (Serpent & Dove #1), Shelby Mahurin
  10. Muse of Nightmares (Strange the Dreamer #2), Laini Taylor
  11. The Heart Forger (The Bone Witch #2), Rin Chupeco
  12. My Favorite Half-Night Stand, Christina Lauren
  13. Love Her or Lose Her (Hot & Hammered #2), Tessa Bailey

SUBSCRIPTION BOX

I skipped BOTM this month because I wasn’t a fan of the options. I still got my Owlcrate box.

  1. Scavenge the Stars (Scavenge the Stars #1), Tara Sim

AMAZON

So, this book was 5 bucks on Amazon, so I had to get it… right???

  1. Roar (Stormheart #1), Cora Carmack

And that’s all folks! Check back tomorrow for a post on my January Wrap Up! Let me know in the comments if you’ve read any of these books, or got any of them same this month too!

eARC Review – The Gravity of Us

Title: The Gravity of Us

Author: Phil Stamper

Publisher: Bloomsbury YA

Publication date: February 4th, 2020

320 pages

4.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

As a successful social media journalist with half a million followers, seventeen-year-old Cal is used to sharing his life online. But when his pilot father is selected for a highly publicized NASA mission to Mars, Cal and his family relocate from Brooklyn to Houston and are thrust into a media circus.

Amidst the chaos, Cal meets sensitive and mysterious Leon, another “Astrokid,” and finds himself falling head over heels—fast. As the frenzy around the mission grows, so does their connection. But when secrets about the program are uncovered, Cal must find a way to reveal the truth without hurting the people who have become most important to him.

Expertly capturing the thrill of first love and the self-doubt all teens feel, debut author Phil Stamper is a new talent to watch.

Review

**Thank you to Netgalley, Bloomsbury YA, and Phil Stamper for a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review**

Oh. My. Goodness. This is the cutest book I have read all year. The Gravity of Us has amazing characters, a complex and wholly intriguing plot, and LGBTQIA representation with a m/m relationship. I found myself rooting for Cal every step of the way and wanting him to succeed. I hurt for him, cheered for him, and supported him throughout this storyline of growing up, learning about life, and fighting for what is right.

Cal wants nothing to do with his dad applying to be an astronaut in Texas for NASA. He loves his Brooklyn life and he has some serious social media success with his journalism efforts, that he doesn’t want to give up. What he doesn’t realize is that his life is just waiting to begin in Texas. He meets friends and is able to stand up for what he believes is right and important, and use his platform on social media to do so.

Cal is my lil cinnamon roll and I will protect him with everything I have. His character is just so darn endearing! I loved the social media and science blend in the plot, it’s unique and like nothing I have read before – and I couldn’t put it down. I started reading and I looked down what felt like 5 minutes later, and I was 30% into the book. I love books where kids look to take down an oppressive regime – which you normally find in fantasy novels not contemporary BUT IT WORKS.

Go put this book on your TBR, pronto mucho.

Happy reading, folks! 🙂

Book Review – Lord of Shadows

“Sometimes the most ruthless heart speaks the most truth”

Title: Lord of Shadows (The Dark Artifices #2)

Author: Cassandra Clare

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry

Publication date: May 23rd, 2017

701 pages

4/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

A Shadowhunter’s life is bound by duty. Constrained by honor. The word of a Shadowhunter is a solemn pledge, and no vow is more sacred than the vow that binds parabatai, warrior partners—sworn to fight together, die together, but never to fall in love.

Emma Carstairs has learned that the love she shares with her parabatai, Julian Blackthorn, isn’t just forbidden—it could destroy them both. She knows she should run from Julian. But how can she when the Blackthorns are threatened by enemies on all sides?

Their only hope is the Black Volume of the Dead, a spell book of terrible power. Everyone wants it. Only the Blackthorns can find it. Spurred on by a dark bargain with the Seelie Queen, Emma; her best friend, Cristina; and Mark and Julian Blackthorn journey into the Courts of Faerie, where glittering revels hide bloody danger and no promise can be trusted. Meanwhile, rising tension between Shadowhunters and Downworlders has produced the Cohort, an extremist group of Shadowhunters dedicated to registering Downworlders and “unsuitable” Nephilim. They’ll do anything in their power to expose Julian’s secrets and take the Los Angeles Institute for their own.

When Downworlders turn against the Clave, a new threat rises in the form of the Lord of Shadows—the Unseelie King, who sends his greatest warriors to slaughter those with Blackthorn blood and seize the Black Volume. As dangers close in, Julian devises a risky scheme that depends on the cooperation of an unpredictable enemy. But success may come with a price he and Emma cannot even imagine, one that will bring with it a reckoning of blood that could have repercussions for everyone and everything they hold dear.

Review

The bad things can’t matter more than the good things

CASSANDRA CLARE, LORD OF SHADOWS

Your girl is back and almost done her Cassie Clare binge of January!! Lord of Shadows was a decent middle book, where it continued the action without being too boring. I have no idea what to expect from Queen of Air and Darkness, and I totally expect to be shocked like I have been with the other finales. This is also making me so excited for Chain of Gold in March!!

Lord of Shadows picks up with our intrepid Shadowhunters in London where they have escaped to. I’m not going to be super spoilery, so I’m not going to do my normal recap. Julian and Emma are fighting to keep their parabatai relationship alive and they are really going through a hard time together. I feel badly for them, but I also feel like this subplot is just… meh. Like, I was excited for the “parabatais who fall in love” twist but so far I’m just disappointed with it. I still don’t really feel a connection with them as characters or a pair. I miss Tessa and Will.

The plot is okay. More intrigue is being introduced, and the ending was WOWZA. I can’t even explain my feelings towards the ending, especially not without spoiling something. I just finished the book today and I totally plan on picking up Queen of Air and Darkness after I finish writing this review. The one thing I will say about our Queen Cassie, she sure knows her way around cliffhangers and ending books on an edge.

I have a feeling this trilogy will not be my favorite, and that’s okay. I’m looking forward to seeing what QoAaD will bring, and I wouldn’t regret reading all of them. I love how this world can be gone back to so many time without it being stale – although I do wonder how extensive the Shadowhunter history lessons are (because they never seem to know about the events of the past, i.e. no one knows of Will Herondale, who is one of the heroes in the Infernal Devices??) and also how the family trees works. I’m convinced there’s some sort of inbreeding happening because most of the main characters all marry each other and then the next set of books have main characters with the same last names.

Just random questions I have as reading. Happy reading, folks!

Book Review – Love Her or Lose Her

Title: Love Her or Lose Her (Hot & Hammered #2)

Author: Tessa Bailey

Publisher: Avon Books

Publication date: January 14, 2020

352 pages

4.5/5 pages

Goodreads Synopsis

New York Times bestselling author Tessa Bailey returns with a unique, sexy romantic comedy about a young married couple whose rocky relationship needs a serious renovation. 

Rosie and Dominic Vega are the perfect couple: high school sweethearts, best friends, madly in love. Well, they used to be anyway. Now Rosie’s lucky to get a caveman grunt from the ex-soldier every time she walks in the door. Dom is faithful and a great provider, but the man she fell in love with ten years ago is nowhere to be found. When her girlfriends encourage Rosie to demand more out of life and pursue her dream of opening a restaurant, she decides to demand more out of love, too. Three words: marriage boot camp.

Never in a million years did Rosie believe her stoic, too-manly-to-emote husband would actually agree to relationship rehab with a weed-smoking hippy. Dom talking about feelings? Sitting on pillows? Communing with nature? Learning love languages? Nope. But to her surprise, he’s all in, and it forces her to admit her own role in their cracked foundation. As they complete one ridiculous—yet surprisingly helpful—assignment after another, their remodeled relationship gets stronger than ever. Except just as they’re getting back on track, Rosie discovers Dom has a secret… and it could demolish everything.

Review

We follow up with our characters with Rosie leaving Dominic because their marriage has been empty. The story follows them trying to save their marriage and learn how to communicate with each other better. I loved the use of love languages to explain the problems they were having. I fully ascribe to that relationship theory because it has always explained so much to me in my relationships. Rosie and Dominic try counseling, but Dominic has a secret that could change everything.

I pre-ordered Love Her or Lose Her after reading Fix Her Up and loving it. I loved the family and group of friends that Tessa Bailey has created, and I figured there would be one or two companion novels with it. As much as I loved Fix Her Up, Love Her or Lose Her was not quite as good.

Fix Her Up got a lot of critiques for the gratuitous use of ‘baby girl’ and the weird sex scenes. I didn’t agree with those and felt like the sex scenes were well done and I’ve never minded the term baby girl. HOWEVER, Bailey is back in this one with a new pet name and *gag* nope wasn’t for me. Used far too frequently. Also, the sex scenes seemed off to me, there was a level of ‘force’ to them that left me uncomfortable at times. Dominic seemed to be trying too hard to seduce and convince Rosie to do more than she wanted to.

I missed Georgie and Travis. Of course they are in the book, but barely. I think it says something that I’m reading about other characters and wishing for the story to be about someone else. I just didn’t connect as much with Rosie and Dominic’s relationship as I did with Georgie and Travis.

At the very end we find out that we are getting a Bethany book in the Fall!! I’m super excited! Even though Love Her or Lose Her wasn’t as great in my eyes, I still love Tessa Bailey’s writing and it is so easy to get through. I want to finish the stories of these characters so you know I’ll be back with that review quickly after it is released!

Happy reading, folks!

Book Review – Lady Midnight

“These pictures are my heart. And if my heart was a canvas, every square inch of it would be painted over with you.”

Title: Lady Midnight (The Dark Artifices #1)

Author: Cassandra Clare

Publisher: Margarat K. McElderry Books

Publication date: March 8th, 2016

698 pages

4.5/5 stars

Goodreads Synopsis

The Shadowhunters of Los Angeles star in the first novel in Cassandra Clare’s newest series, The Dark Artifices, a sequel to the internationally bestselling Mortal Instruments series. Lady Midnight is a Shadowhunters novel.

It’s been five years since the events of City of Heavenly Fire that brought the Shadowhunters to the brink of oblivion. Emma Carstairs is no longer a child in mourning, but a young woman bent on discovering what killed her parents and avenging her losses.

Together with her parabatai Julian Blackthorn, Emma must learn to trust her head and her heart as she investigates a demonic plot that stretches across Los Angeles, from the Sunset Strip to the enchanted sea that pounds the beaches of Santa Monica. If only her heart didn’t lead her in treacherous directions…

Making things even more complicated, Julian’s brother Mark—who was captured by the faeries five years ago—has been returned as a bargaining chip. The faeries are desperate to find out who is murdering their kind—and they need the Shadowhunters’ help to do it. But time works differently in faerie, so Mark has barely aged and doesn’t recognize his family. Can he ever truly return to them? Will the faeries really allow it?

Glitz, glamours, and Shadowhunters abound in this heartrending opening to Cassandra Clare’s Dark Artifices series.

Review

Being told that love is forbidden does not kill love. It strengthens it.

CASSANDRA CLARE, LADY MIDNIGHT

Here I am, over halfway done my Cassandra Clare binge and almost being done all her main works! I will eventually read her short story collections, but probably not for a little while. I already have my books for February planned so maybe after that, or whenever I can get them from the library!

The Dark Artifices starts with Lady Midnight and it picks up about 5 years after City of Heavenly Fire ended. It follows Julian Blackthorn and Emma Carstairs, 2 young heroes during the Dark War. They are now parabatai, bonded by lifelong runes to fight along side and protect each other no matter what. They live at the Los Angeles Institute and everything has been quiet… until now. A string of murders are plaguing the city, humans and Downworlders alike. Emma believes it is connected to her parent’s murders 5 years ago, and she won’t stop until she finds out who killed them. The answer comes with unexpected consequences…

Okay, so Julian and Emma are adorable. So far, I have to rank them 4th in my Shadowhunter relationship guide (out of 4) but there’s still 2 books left to change that! (For those wondering, my top 4 are: Tessa and Will, Tessa and Jem, Jace and Clary, Julian and Emma) Their big problem is that they are in love with each other, which is forbidden for parabatais for a reason no one seems to know. I had a hard time with this, because I kept being weirded out by their love, confusing ‘parabatai’ with ‘sibling’. I had to keep reminding myself that there isn’t anything morally wrong with them being in love, it’s just against the law. That took their relationship down in my mind.

I do love that Cassie switched up the ‘model’ of her relationships. Whereas Tessa and Clary are strong, it’s in a soft-girlish way that allowed the big, masculine love interests shine. The roles are flipped with Julian and Emma. One critique I’ve had of her books is that TMI and TID are basically the same plot… just with different characters 200 years apart. This gives some “different” vibes to it. AND Cassie added a Shadowhunter character with autism which is nice, as well as one with mental illness. The representation is… okay… as in it is looked down upon in Shadowhunter society because they don’t fit the mold. I sincerely hope the rep evolves over this trilogy and ends well for those characters.

Our villian is super unexpected, and that’s all I will say about it. I loved the Poe references (all the chapter titles are taken from the Annabel Lee poem, which factors into the story). AND THAT EPILOGUE. Ugh omg I could die. I am really excited to jump into Lord of Shadows to see where this story goes, because without the epilogue the book is fairly wrapped up. Then WHAM plot twist. I’m here for it.

Unexpected side character love: Mark and Christina. Mark and Christina forever, deuces Perfect Diego. Mark Blackthorn comes back from The Wild Hunt and is so endearingly different, it’s amazing to watch his transformation. Christina is a great character, and again different than the female side characters from TMI and TID (ahem, Isabelle and Jessamine). I want more of her, and less of Perfect Diego (can you say uppity? gross). Love when side characters hold their own.

Okay, I’m going to go read Lord of Shadows now that I got all those feelings out!

Happy reading, folks!