Review: Pretty Reckless (L.J. Shen)

Pretty Reckless
Series: All Saints High, #1
Author: L.J. Shen
Publication Date: April 21, 2019

Publisher: L.J. Shen
Genre: Young Adult, New Adult, Sports, Contemporary Romance

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

From USA Today and Washington Post bestselling author L.J. Shen comes an intense, high school enemies-to-lovers romance with a twist.

Penn

They say revenge is a dish best served cold.
I’d had four years to stew on what Daria Followhill did to me, and now my heart was completely iced.
I took her first kiss.
She took the only thing I loved.
I was poor.
She was rich.
The good thing about circumstances? They can change. Fast.
Now, I’m her parents’ latest shiny project.
Her housemate. Her tormentor. The captain of the rival football team she hates so much.
Yeah, baby girl, say it—I’m your foster brother.
There’s a price to pay for ruining the only good thing in my life, and she’s about to shell out some serious tears.
Daria Followhill thinks she is THE queen. I’m about to prove to her that she’s nothing but a spoiled princess.

Daria

Everyone loves a good old unapologetic punk.
But being a bitch? Oh, you get slammed for every snarky comment, cynical eye roll, and foot you put in your adversaries’ way.
The thing about stiletto heels is that they make a hell of a dent when you walk all over the people who try to hurt you.
In Penn Scully’s case, I pierced his heart until he bled out, then left it in a trash can on a bright summer day.
Four years ago, he asked me to save all my firsts for him.
Now he lives across the hall, and I want nothing more than to be his last everything.
His parting words when he gave me his heart were that nothing in this world is free.
Now? Now he is making me pay.


Pretty Reckless is the first book in the All Saints High series. This series is a spin-off of the Sinners of Saint series. You don’t have to read that series to read this one, but since Daria is the daughter of Melody and Jamie from Deny, it doesn’t hurt to know their back story.

The connection between All Saints High and Sinners of Saint is actually the reason I chose to read Pretty Reckless. I was a little on the fence because of the reviews I read. They were either completely gushing or completely negative. There wasn’t really an in between and worried me for some reason. I loved those Sinners of Saint books, so I didn’t want to hate Pretty Reckless. Weird rationalizing, I know. As you can tell, I decided to give it a go. Here are my feelings about it.

What I liked:

  • Daria’s relationship with her mother, Melody. To be honest, it was a horrible relationship. What I liked about it was that it was a real relationship. Both had made mistakes over time with each other, and it was interesting to see how they maneuvered through the tension.
  • Daria’s relationship with her father, Jamie. This was actually really sweet. I liked the support system he was for her.
  • Via. That girl was the perfect girl to keep Daria on her toes. I loved hating her.
  • Daria was another girl I loved to hate. This MC was HORRIBLE. I mean, wicked. I thought I was going to hate her, but I grew to understand her. Her backstory really set her up well. I ended up feeling sorry for her, which is saying something considering the terrible things that came out of her mouth.
  • Penn. His situation was messed up, which made him messed up. I loved his truths, though.
  • The enemies to lovers thing Daria and Penn had going on. The story behind it all and their current situation fascinated me.
  • The ending. I liked the trajectory of the story, and everything it took to get to the ending.
  • Seeing all of the Saints’ kids. I am looking forward to reading all of their books.

What I didn’t like:

  • Daria is the child of one of the toughest, most ruthless men in town. I knew her book was going to be dark like his. What I wasn’t expecting was there to be so much shock value. It was like L.J. Shen threw in every twisted scenario she could think of. There was almost too much. I think what threw me over that edge was this secrets thing. I won’t go into it, but it brought this cheesy feel to something that was super dark… Maybe that’s what gave this book the YA feel it needed.
  • YA. Yeah, this categorization is pushing it. Pretty Reckless was set at All Saints High, but with all the nasty things going on it felt more like one of Shen’s NA novels. The reader would have to be a VERY mature YA reader to read this one, in my opinion. (Re: Sex, partying, emotional/physical abuse, etc.)

Overall, I enjoyed being back in the world of the Saints. Pretty Reckless was a dark but surprisingly uplifting teenage romance. It has me excited for what’s to come. This new generation at All Saints High is going to be about an interesting bunch of teenagers.

Review: Boyfriend Bargain (Ilsa Madden-Mills)

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Boyfriend Bargain
Author: Ilsa Madden-Mills
Publication Date: May 5, 2019
Genre: New Adult, Sports, Contemporary Romance
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

Wall Street Journal bestselling author Ilsa Madden-Mills returns with an all-new swoon-fest of a novel about what happens when you take a chance on love.

Wanted: one hot guy with rock-hard abs and a big stick.

Broke and desperate, Sugar Ryan has no use for arrogant, bad boy athletes . . . until she’s forced to bargain with the cockiest of them all.

If only he knew she was alive.

Her mission? Get on this hockey player’s radar any way possible.

Zack Morgan is the king of the ice and the bedroom—but nothing prepares him for the mystery girl who shows up everywhere he does—frat parties, his favorite bar, and finally his front door with an offer he can’t refuse. The only rule in her boyfriend bargain: no falling in love.

But after one (um, two) smoking-hot hookups, he’s done with pretending and vows to make their fake relationship real. Too bad she can’t trust a player with a reputation for breaking hearts.

Will this hockey star score his forever girl or will their Boyfriend Bargain end in heartbreak?


Boyfriend Bargain is easily a book I could gush on and on about, so I’m going to keep things contained by giving you lists of what I loved about this book and what I had some questions about. Here we go!

What I loved:

  • Zack’s mental health issues. So many people are going to be able to identify with his feelings and his worries about how he would be perceived because of it.
  • Sugar’s feelings regarding her ex and how that affected things with Zack.
  • Sugar’s family relationships. There was some drama and a lot of feelings about her father. This storyline really interested me.
  • The whole Willow part of the story. I would have felt the same way as Sugar. It was a little freaky on Zack’s end.
  • Mean girl Veronica. She was perfectly mean!
  • Zack’s relationship with his brother.
  • Both Zack and Sugar’s friends. They were both funny and supportive. I loved the moments with them.
  • Zack and Sugar’s entire relationship. I loved the ups and the downs. Their connection was perfect.
  • Pretty much the entire book. It was an addictive read. As always, I loved Ilsa Madden-Mills’ writing style.

What I thought was missing:

  • The title of this book is Boyfriend Bargain. While the book starts off with one, it quickly goes the wayside. It’s not that I was bothered by that fact. I just found it a little weird because it wasn’t as big part of the plot as I thought it would be. I expected more drama around it.

Overall, I just really enjoyed reading Boyfriend Bargain. I am hoping Ms. Madden-Mills turns this into a series because I would love books about the other characters.

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Excerpt:

“We should kiss, just get it out of the way and move on,” I say, sure of the crazy idea as each second passes. There’s a hitch in Z’s breath, and his eyes go straight to my lips. “Works for me.” “But just one. None of that fancy tongue work.” “Afraid of falling in love with me?” He grins. Well. My eyes take in the broad shoulders and the dragon tattoo on his muscled chest. He’s definitely my type: pure, grade A male hotness—exactly what I don’t need. “I won’t fall in love.” Another grin. “Liar.”

About Ilsa Madden-Mills

Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and USA Today best-selling author Ilsa Madden-Mills is best known for her contemporary romances ranging from new adult angst to romantic sports comedy. Seven of her ten novels have placed in the Amazon US Store Top Six Best-seller List: Dirty English hit #1; Fake Fiancée and I Dare You hit #2; I Bet You, Filthy English, and Very Bad Things all placed #6 in the Amazon US Store. The Last Guy, her collaboration with Tia Louise, hit #4. A former high school English teacher, she adores all things Pride and Prejudice, and of course, Mr. Darcy is her ultimate hero. She’s addicted to frothy coffee beverages, cheesy magnets, and any book featuring unicorns and sword-wielding females. Feel free to stalk her online. Ilsa head shot-2

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Review: Top Secret (Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy)

Top Secret
Authors: Sarina Bowen, Elle Kennedy
Publication Date: May 5, 2019
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary Romance, LGBTQ+
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½

Synopsis:

LobsterShorts, 21
Jock. Secretly a science geek. Hot AF.

LobsterShorts: So. Here goes. For her birthday, my girlfriend wants…a threesome.

SinnerThree: Then you’ve come to the right hookup app.

LobsterShorts: Have you done this sort of thing before? With another guy?

SinnerThree: All the time. I’m an equal opportunity player. You?

LobsterShorts: [crickets!]

SinnerThree, 21
Finance major. Secretly a male dancer. Hot AF.

SinnerThree: Well, I’m down if you are. My life is kind of a mess right now. School, work, family stress. Oh, and I live next door to the most annoying dude in the world. I need the distraction. Are you sure you want this?

LobsterShorts: I might want it a little more than I’m willing to admit.

SinnerThree: Hey, nothing wrong with pushing your boundaries…

LobsterShorts: Tell that to my control-freak father. Anyway. What if this threesome is awkward?

SinnerThree: Then it’s awkward. It’s not like we’ll ever have to see each other again. Right? Just promise you won’t fall in love with me.

LobsterShorts: Now wouldn’t that be life-changing…

Q&A about Top Secret:

Q: Have we met these characters before in another book?
A: No! These guys are brand new, and we can’t wait for you to meet them.

Q: Is this story MM? Or is it a MMF / MFM / menage?
A: This book is MM.

Q: Is this a love triangle story?
A: Not really. You’ll see.


Top Secret his to be the BEST secret release of the year! I mean, who names a secret release Top Secret? That’s so incredibly smart! Everyone has been begging Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy to give us another book together and I’m shocked they delivered! (Only because they kept saying they weren’t going to be writing together.) WOOHOO!!!

I hate to admit it, but I did not read the blurb before starting Top Secret. I knew it was a M/M romance, but that was about it. I had no idea there was this whole threesome plot going on. When I got to that part in the beginning, I have to say it made me stop, cringe, and wonder how messy things were going to get. I’m not really a fan of love triangles, so… I just had to put my faith in my favorite collaborators’ hands. I’m so happy I did because Top Secret was an incredibly fun read.

As you can tell by the blurb, LobsterShorts and SinnerThree meet in a chat room where LobsterShorts is trying to set up a threesome at his girlfriend’s request. I absolutely loved the banter that went on in the messages they exchanged. The messages were witty, but they also had depth to them. These two guys got to know each other in an emotionally intimate way prior to meeting, so that the emotional connection was there first. This was really important to the characters and the story…

And that’s all you are getting about the plot. I refuse to give anything away! What I will say is that if you’re a fan of Him and Us, you are going to be a fan of this book. The combination of Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy’s writing is magic. They know how to combine humor with emotion in the best way. There are a ton of great surprises and characters you’re going to love in Top Secret. I didn’t want this book to end. I adored LobsterShorts and ThreeSinners. I’m so happy Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy graced us with a new book. (Is it too early to beg for another?)

Series Review: Broken Hill High (Sheridan Anne)

Lately, I’ve been searching for series that have a similar feel to Tijan’s Fallen Crest High. I miss the emotion and drama of that series. One of the series that popped up when I went looking was Broken Hill High. Since it was available on KU, I decided to give it a try.

Book 1:

Broken Hill High is the first book in the series. It starts when Tora is a senior in high school. Her parents have left the country to take care of her ill grandmother, and while they’re gone Tora is forced to stay with her parents’ friends. Tora is not excited to stay with these friends because they have two sons who hate her. Nate, another senior, is particularly mean to her. You know what they say about boys who bully girls, though. It turns out there’s a very fine line between love and hate for Nate. Soon Tora’s dating the bad boy of Broken Hill High, and life starts to get even crazier. All of the attention has the people who would like to take Nate down gunning for Tora.

I thought this series started out pretty strongly. I liked Tora. I even liked Nate. The beginning of relationship was actually pretty sweet. That sweetness combined with all the over the top drama was a lot of fun.

Book 2:

Broken Hill Halo is really just more of Broken Hill High. Tora loves being Nate’s girlfriend despite all of the drama that brings. Instead of being meek like she was when Nate tormented her, Tora’s learning to stand up for herself. Being with Nate has given her courage. Instead of standing by and watching, she’s dealing out her own wrath. Tora’s changing in little ways in this book. Some of them I liked, others I didn’t.

Book 3:

Things begin to take a turn for Tora in Broken Hill Hurt. The ramifications of her actions have started piling up. Her parents aren’t so sure Nate is the best influence. Tora’s determined to prove to them that he is. The problem is that Nate agrees with them. Now, Tora has to learn how to deal with everything crashing down around her.

Things have turned toxic pretty quickly for Tora. I felt badly for her, but I actually agreed with her parents. I had respect for Nate. I got what everyone was trying to do and point out to her.

Book 4:

In Broken Hill Hearts, Tora is still learning to live without Nate. He’s there, but he’s not. Tora is determined to make Nate see the errors of his ways. It’s hard when she can’t stay out of trouble or drama, but she’s going to do it. I still felt bad for Tora, but I liked the direction she was headed with this one. I felt like she really grew a spine and figured out what she needed to do for everything in her life to work itself out.

Book 5:

Broken Hill Havoc begins a new chapter in Tora’s life. She’s left Broken Hill High behind and is now at Broken Hill University. The setting may be different, but the drama is still abundant. Tora and Nate have settled into their relationship. It’s not so up and down. That’s okay because Tora’s relationship with Brooke is. Honestly, I couldn’t stand that girl and how she didn’t believe Tora. That was the most frustrating part of this book. I did like how all of the storylines wrapped up. It was also interesting to get a chapter in Nate’s POV. It makes me excited for Broken Hill Honor.

Book 5.5:

Broken Hill Honor was a novella in mostly Nate’s POV. It was cute and sweet. It wrapped up this series in a great way.

Overall thoughts:

Broken Hill High is a dramatic series filled with over the top teenage drama. There is fighting, love, sex, partying, violence, and relationship troubles. I would classify it as NA romance or very mature YA romance based on the amount of sex and partying involved. Many of the scenes require maturity to read and process.

I liked that the main character, Tora, who start off as quieter, weaker girl and blossomed into a strong young women. Sometimes I wanted to roll my eyes at her actions and reactions, but I did feel like she reacted like a 17-year-old would react. Her relationship with Nate throughout the books progressed well. I liked the ups and downs of it.

Nate was the classic bad boy who ruled the school. He had nasty habits and was a jerk, but he also had redeeming qualities. He was extremely loyal. Once Tora was his, he was incredibly sweet to her. Nate would have done anything to ensure Tora’s safety. I didn’t always love his choices, but I wasn’t supposed it.

Honestly, I wasn’t a big fan of Tora’s friends. They were just kind of there and added a little to the drama. I did really love Nate’s brother Jesse, though. He was a ton of fun. I liked his friendship with Tora. Puck was also another fun friend of Nate’s.

What this book was missing from this series, in my opinion, was emotion. There was emotion written in the book, but I didn’t always feel it myself. I wasn’t consumed by Tora’s feelings. I felt for her not with her. I wanted to feel with her. That’s the only way I can think of explaining it.

Broken Hill High was a fun series to read, but I wasn’t in love with it. I did appreciate how addictive it was, and I think readers who like books with a lot of drama will enjoy it.

Series Rating: ★ ★ ★

Mini Reviews: Unbroken & Becoming

Unbroken
Series: Loveless, Texas, #0.5
Author: Jay Crownover
Publication Date: May 14, 2019

Publisher: Forever Yours
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

From the New York Times bestselling author of the Marked Men series comes a captivating novella about a rugged rodeo star who will do anything to protect the people he loves.

When rodeo star Crew Lawton loses everything in a bad bet, he has no choice but to take a new job to pay off his debts – even if it means becoming the face of an expensive male skincare line. Crew is used to getting sweaty and rustling in the dirt, not posing for photo shoots. And he’s certainly not used to being bossed around by a woman who doesn’t even know the difference between bulls and broncs. But Crew owes money to dangerous criminals, and he’ll do anything Della says in order to pay them back and keep them far away from his family in Loveless, Texas…

The launch of her new men’s line for her family’s company means everything to Della Deveaux, and she’s not willing to let some rugged, arrogant cowboy ruin her campaign. Crew Lawton is the last man she would have chosen to represent her chic, sophisticated brand. Unfortunately, her father already invested millions in Crew’s stupidly handsome face. Yet the more time they spend together, Della and Crew realize that opposites do attract. But when the time comes for Crew to face his past mistakes, will he be able to protect his family…and the woman he’s come to love?

My thoughts:

Unbroken was a really fun way to begin a new series. Crew and Della were complete opposites and I liked what that effect that had on the story and their relationship. There were so many great little moments between them. I’m a little sad this was just a novella because I could have read an entire book about Crew and Della. Unbroken made me excited for what’s to come in Loveless, Texas.

Becoming
Author: Michelle Obama
Narrator: Michelle Obama
Publication Date: November 13, 2018
Publisher: Random House Audio
Genre: Memoir

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

An intimate, powerful, and inspiring memoir by the former First Lady of the United States.

In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America—the first African-American to serve in that role—she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments. Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare.

In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same.

My thoughts:

At first, I was intimidated by the almost 20 hours of listening Becoming is. I shouldn’t have been. Listening to Michelle Obama tell her life story was so interesting. I loved hearing about her youth, her relationship with President Obama, and everything she went through in the White House. I am even more impressed with her now. This book is definitely worth a listen or read. Michelle Obama is very inspiring.

Review: Time (Penny Reid)

Time
Series: Laws of Physics, #3
Author: Penny Reid
Publication Date: April 15, 2019
Publisher: EverAfter Romance
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary Romance

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

A (brokenhearted) physicist.
Now an infamous (who is LITERALLY EVERYWHERE!! UGH!) musician.
The worst has already happened.

Mona has learned that she has nothing figured out and plans are meaningless. After leaving her in Aspen, Abram is now breaking sales-records, rising to rock star fame almost overnight. Mona can’t seem to escape him. He is literally everywhere, or at least images of him are.

Just when she thinks things can’t get any more confusing, Abram returns . . . What happens next? Only TIME will tell.


Aw! Time was such a fun way to end the Laws of Physics series. It really brought things full circle for Mona and Abram. I already knew I loved Mona and Abram, but they blossomed even more in this book. I especially grew to love Abram’s character even more. He was such a romantic at heart. His support of Mona was so special. I loved how he stood up for her and championed for her. Their connection was too sweet. Time is going to make fans of this series very happy. It definitely made me happy.

Review: Space (Penny Reid)

SPACE_BT.jpg

Space
Series: Laws of Physics, #2
Author: Penny Reid
Publication Date: March 11, 2019
Publisher: EverAfter Romance
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary Romance
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

One week.
Private cabin.
Famous physicist.
Still an unrepentant slacker.
What’s the worst that could happen?

Mona’s meticulously planned allotment of relaxation is thrown into chaos by the unscheduled appearance of her older brother’s band of friends, including the one person she’d hoped to never face again. Abram still makes her feel entirely too much, which is one of the reasons she disappeared after their one week together. But now, trapped on a mountain of snow and things unspoken, Mona will have to find a way to coexist with Abram, chaos and all.


If you aren’t familiar with the Laws of Physics series, it starts with Motion. In Motion, we meet Mona and Abram. Genius Mona is pretending to be her twin sister, Lisa. “Lisa” is under her brother’s best friend’s watchful eye for her wild ways. Abram and “Lisa” connect in a way neither of them planned. Some stuff goes down and there’s a major cliffhanger. (If this sounds at all interesting, hurry up and pick up Motion)

Why I did I just tell you all that? Well, Space is the continuation of Mona and Abram’s story. It’s been a couple of years since Mona and Abram saw each other. Both have regrets from their time together. They have to work through a bunch of stuff. It’s uncomfortable and note easy for either of them to do, especially around so many people.

PENNY REID!!! You’re so amazing, so how can you be so cruel? I loved Space so much. It was so freaking sweet and funny and good. It was also stressful in the best way possible. The cliffhanger wasn’t exactly shocking, but it did leave me needing MORE.I need Time like NOW! I couldn’t get enough of Mona and Abram. Fans of Penny Reid’s books are going to love this smart romance series.

Laws of Physics is the second trilogy in the Hypothesis series; Laws of Physics parts 1 (MOTION) & 2 (SPACE) end with a cliffhanger.

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Motion

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Time

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Meet Penny Reid:

Penny Reid is the Best Selling Author of the Winston Brothers, Knitting in the City, Rugby, and Hypothesis series. She used to spend her days writing federal grant proposals as a biomedical researcher, but now she just writes books. She’s also a full time mom to three diminutive adults, wife, daughter, knitter, crocheter, sewer, general crafter, and thought ninja.

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Review: Fumbled Hearts (Meagan Brandy)

Fumbled Hearts
Series: Tender Hearts, #1
Author: Meagan Brandy
Narrators: CJ Bloom, Alexander Cendese
Publication Date: September 21, 2017
Genre: New Adult, Young Adult, Contemporary Romance, Sports

Rating: ★ ★ ½

Synopsis:

He’s the persistent playboy who refuses to walk away. I’m the impassive new girl with nothing left to give.
Things are about to get complicated…

After months of refusing, I finally agreed to make the move to Alrick Falls. My family thought it was best – that a new scene would be good for me—and I was sick of having the same conversation.
So here I am, and the plan is simple. Smile through each day and avoid her at all costs.
It’s perfect.

Until the cocksure quarterback comes into play.

The last thing I want is his crooked grin and dark brown eyes focused on me.
Yet here he is, constantly in my space, pushing me, daring me to care. Telling me what I think and feel, as if he knows.
He doesn’t know anything. And  I plan to keep it that way.


Yeah. I’m not where to start with this review, but I’m going to apologize ahead of time if it ends up being a complete rant.

I have to give Meagan Brandy props for her ability to write completely messed up characters. I have read a couple of her books now, and both of them had characters who had been through some rough times. Kalani’s flippant, hard-shelled personality was exactly what I would expect of someone trying to shield herself from the world. I loved how Nate broke down Kalani’s walls and how sweet their relationship was.

Everything else drove me absolutely positively nuts. Despite understanding Kalani’s attitude, I hated it. I hated the way she acted. She had a superiority complex that was insane. She complained others were judgemental, but she was just as judgemental. The way she treated people — Nate included — was not good. Kalani hid things from Nate when she didn’t have a reason to. She kept him at arm’s length even when she swore she loved him. She was a mess and I don’t think she truly got the smack in the face she needed.

I loved Nate. He didn’t hide who he was or what he did. He treated Kalani in a way I didn’t think she deserved. Nate did have a time of stupidity, but I wasn’t shocked by it and he had legit reason to be upset. He could have solved his problems before they started, but I didn’t blame him for his conclusions.

The rest of the characters were crazy, over the top high school students. I never really got a good read on Kalani’s cousin and her boyfriend. Parker was a sweetheart, but I couldn’t figure him out for a while. Things didn’t go where I thought they would with him, so I have to admit that despite not loving this book I will be reading the second. I loved Nate’s parents. Everyone else sucked in that snotty, mean girl/guy way.

Now for one of my biggest complaints about Fumbled Hearts. It was set in high school. HIGH SCHOOL, people! These characters and their actions were more suited for COLLEGE. Kalani had been emancipated for like FOUR YEARS before this book. She was 18. Who gets emancipated at 14? Maybe some kids do, but it seemed crazy when it could have easily have been only a year or two with the storyline. Then, there was all of the drinking and sex. I know this stuff happens in high school, but with the attitudes of the characters it made the whole feel of the book that much older. I kept waiting for someone to show up pregnant with all the talk about sex without a condom at times and pulling out. Seriously, why is this included? Nate’s parents seemed more than happy to let their son have sex under their roof AND didn’t say much when he admitted to not using a condom all of the time. If you’re going to write sex into a YA book, PLEASE advocate safe sex or show the consequences. Finally, there was the ending. It was cheesy and I honestly expected more from it.

I found Fumbling Hearts to be an addictive listen. The narrator did a great job, and I wanted to know what was going to happen to these messed up characters. I just didn’t really enjoy where things went. It was all too problematic for me. 🙁 I’m hoping book 2 is better.

Review: The Girl in the Painting

The Girl in the Painting
Author: Max Monroe
Publication Date: February 28, 2019
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary Romance
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

Ansel Bray, an artist known around the world for his tragic hiatus from the canvas.
Ansel Bray, a broody, handsome man not known by me, at all.

Long dark hair, blue eyes, and dimpled cheeks. I’ve never met her, but her image is imprinted in my mind. An angel muse who inspires me to paint again.

There is something about him. Something that spurs a need to be as close to him as possible. A need to find out why.
There is something about her. Something that draws me in. Something that urges me to find out what her presence means.

Why does the girl in his painting look so much like me?
Who is this girl, and why can I see her so vividly?

I shouldn’t fall in love with him.
I shouldn’t fall in love at all.

But fate plays her hand.
But fate has other plans.

The lines of my life will blur.
The needs of my heart will change.

What a beautiful mess we’ve made.


Just when I think I know Max Monroe’s writing, they go and change things up again. I have always been a fan of their contemporary romances. When they released the Stone Cold Fox trilogy I was shocked at how versatile their writing was. It blew my mind how well they did both romantic comedy and romantic suspense. With The Girl in the Painting they have gone in another direction that has me marveling at their writing talent. This book was more emotional that anything I have read of theirs before. I loved that. Is there anything they can’t write? I doubt it.

The Girl in the Painting is one of those books you have to experience for yourself. There was a touching and addictive plot. I guessed some of the things that happened, but other parts were a shock. Everything was so well executed. The characters were so colorful. Ansel came across loud and clear as the tortured artist. His story was both heartbreaking and inspiring. Indy was a woman who thought she was living until she met Ansel. Their connection to each other was palpable. I got lost in their story and the emotion of it.

I was so impressed by A Girl in the Painting. It wasn’t what I have come to expect from Max Monroe, but I loved it as much as I have loved some of my favorite books of theirs. I hope we get more emotional tales from this duo. I wouldn’t mind a book about some of the side characters from this story.

Review: Bennett Mafia (Tijan)

Bennett Mafia
Author: Tijan
Publication Date: March 4, 2019
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

There were always whispers about my roommate at Hillcrest Academy.

The wealthiest of the wealthy sent their kids to our boarding school, and Brooke Bennett had been at the top, though I never quite knew why. She was fun and outgoing, but she kept quiet about her family. The only things she showed me were photographs of her brothers.

I became fascinated with her second-oldest brother. Kai Bennett.

He was the most of them all. Smoldering. Hypnotic. Alluring.
Kai had eyes that pulled me in and a face that haunted my dreams.

Then I met him.

He came to our school with their father, and that’s when I learned what kind of family Brooke came from. They were mafia, and Brooke’s oldest brother was dead. Her father said accident, but Brooke said murder.

Three months later, her father died, and Kai became the head of the Bennett Family. Brooke left Hillcrest for good, and that was the last time I saw her.

Fourteen years later, I’m staring at her face on the television. Brooke is missing.

Two days later, Kai Bennett kidnaps me.


I cannot get Bennett Mafia out of my head! Every time I read a book by Tijan, I’m stuck thinking about it for days. Her words and worlds are so addicting and emotionally impactful. It doesn’t matter if I like or dislike one of her books, I’m always left with something to work out in my mind. It happened again with this book. I can’t say that I fell head over heals in love with it, but I did really enjoy it. There were just a couple of things that I had a hard time digesting.

I was impressed with the tale Tijan told in Bennett Mafia. This book was more than just a dark romance. It had all the angst and emotional turmoil of one, but it also had some twists that reminded me of a thriller. Bennett Mafia took me on a ride. I loved that. So many things happened that I didn’t expect. It was great!

Kai and Riley were interesting characters. Riley was a tortured soul who tried to do good. She didn’t let many people in, and I found myself having a hard time getting close to her in the beginning. Once I got into her head and felt the frustration and indecision she was going through, it was easier to connect with her — which was important since she was our only narrator. Kai wasn’t really the book boyfriend type, but he was the perfect mafia king. He was demanding and intense. I would have loved to have had his point of view to know what he was thinking. Both Kai and Riley were methodical. Everything they did had a purpose. They were both very good at hiding emotions and doing what needed to be done. I think that’s why it took me a while to love both of them. I had to get past the walls they had erected just like the people in the book did.

Kai and Riley’s relationship wasn’t one made in heaven. It would be more accurate to say it was made in hell with the mafia thing and all. Their relationship made me uncomfortable at times. Not for the reasons I would have originally expected. I had a hard time buying into it. They had an immediate and intense physical attraction to each other. Their sexual tension and chemistry was strong. That’s where things kind of stopped for me, though. I didn’t feel the emotional connection between them for much of the book. I felt like the building blocks of that love or the moments they could have forged that bond weren’t really there or strong enough for me until the end. That made some of the choices they made not feel as true to me. I don’t want it to sound like I didn’t like Kai and Riley together. I did. I just wanted more from them, I guess. I wanted to feel for their relationship what I did for Samantha and Mason or Ryan and Mackenzie or Jesse and Alex.

Another thing that was uncomfortable for me was some of the brutality to the story — which I expected from a book about the mafia. I cringed through those parts as they propelled the plot forward. That kind of stuff isn’t my favorite to read, but I can handle it when I appreciate a story line. Those heinous acts were important to and perfect for Bennett Mafia.

Despite these things, I found myself addicted to the story. I always wanted to know what was going to happen next. I loved how things unraveled and became known. I also really loved the side characters. The Bennett family was so interesting and surprisingly lovable. Bennett Mafia may not have been my favorite Tijan romance, but it was my favorite Tijan suspense story.