ARC review: Bossed by Sloane Howell

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All Jenny Jackson wants is a better job. Her father is terminally ill and his bills are piling up, so when she gets an interview for a position offering twice as much as her current salary, she jumps all over it. Too bad she runs into the biggest jerk of her life as she’s lost and rushing, trying not to be late. They exchange some choice words and Jenny tries to brush off the encounter, but lo and behold, the guy is there to interview her.

Turns out that the cocky jerk, Ethan Mason, is the owner of the agency. Jenny’s interview is awful. Ethan fires question after question at her, not giving her a chance to show her knowledge since he’s obviously already formed a negative opinion of her. Convinced that she’ll never get the position anyway, Jenny corrects Ethan’s mistaken baseball stats and gets ready to storm out. Ethan, against his better judgment, hires her.

–SOME MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD–

I actually feel really conflicted about this book.  On the one hand, I enjoyed both characters at the beginning of the book. Jenny was spunky, sassy, and didn’t put up with any crap from Ethan. Ethan seems like your typical cocky young millionaire (you’ll find his type in almost any new adult book these days), but he’s sharp-tongued and quick on his feet.

On the other hand, the characters were not consistent.

As the book goes on, Jenny loses her spunkiness. She’s no longer sassy. Demanding, maybe, but not spunky and sassy. And even though she’s demanding, she (in my opinion) puts up with a whole lot of nonsense from Ethan. She continually gives him chances that he does not deserve and then acts surprised when he does something that hurts her.

Also as the book goes on, Ethan turns into a very weak character. Given the way he’s presented at the beginning of the book, I would never expect him to con Jenny into a date, but that’s exactly what he does. He pretends that they have a client meeting and then expects her to be okay when he basically says, “Just kidding, but I figured you’d say no if I asked you out for real!”

And Jenny, with all her spunkiness and sassiness, is like “Heck no! I don’t have time for this!” and she runs away, but then ends up hooking up with him in a car like a teenager?  And why?  Because he’s cute?  Lots of boys are cute, Jenny. This particular boy has some growing up to do.

I had no sympathy for their relationship. Although the sex was hot, that’s not enough to sustain a relationship – or even a romance novel plot. To be honest, the plot and the characters left a lot to be desired. I think this type of book would be enjoyed more by someone who has not worked in a corporate environment. As I was reading, I just kept seeing red flags flying.

I mean, there are the blatant things, like Ethan’s constant harassment of Jenny at work. At one point, he literally calls her into an empty conference room and rubs his dick against her. Like, they’re not even dating. Not even having any kind of thing yet. He claims that he acts like a tyrannical ass at work because he’s paranoid about losing his company, but then he goes and rubs his dick on a cute new employee, all because he gets some kind of ~vibe~ that she likes him? That’s a good way to go to jail.

And even setting that aside, there’s this weird offhand comment by one of Jenny’s co-workers that basically amounts to fraud. She buys Jenny lunch one day while Ethan is out of the office, and pretty much says “I’m going to hide this meal in my expense reports! Hahaha! Perks of being an accountant lol!” I mean, as someone whose office has had problems with shady accountants, that really rubbed me the wrong way. Again, for Ethan being so paranoid about something happening to his company, I cannot believe that his accountants can just hide stuff in their expense reports!

And finally, we have Ethan’s whole “I expect the world from my employees and they have to always be here and always do their best work! Nobody can take a sick day!” attitude, but Jenny is allowed to stay home for weeks at a time? Sometimes for no reason other than she and Ethan had a fight? I mean, I thought that Jenny needed money? And I thought that Ethan was supposed to be really heartless about any exceptions to the rules?

So, anyway, you’re probably wondering, if you made it this far into the novel I’ve written about my opinions on Bossed, why did I give it three stars if I had eight paragraphs of complaints about it?  Well, here are four reasons:

  1. The writing was good. I might not have been a huge fan of the characters or the plot, but there’s no denying that Sloane Howell knows how to write a book. Even in my advanced copy, there were no noticeable errors.
  2. The banter between Jenny and Ethan at the beginning was great. I loved that she gave it back to him just as much as he gave it to her.
  3. I liked that Jenny was intelligent and didn’t just claim to be a baseball fan to get the job. She actually knew her stuff and wasn’t afraid to correct Ethan if he messed up a statistic.
  4. OF COURSE, the sex scenes were hot. They weren’t terribly repetitive and I didn’t cringe even once.

So, in some ways, this book was good. In other ways, I was disappointed. Bossed might not have been exactly my cup of tea, but I would absolutely be willing to try out another of Sloane Howell’s books.

Final rating: ★★★☆☆

Thanks to Netgalley and Loveswept for the ARC!

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ARC review: Operation Prom Date by Cindi Madsen

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Kate has had a crush on her school’s star football player, Mick, for years. Her big goal for her senior year is to go to prom with him. The problem? Kate has never so much as had a conversation with Mick because she turns into a pile of goo whenever he comes too close. After she decides that she’s really going to make this happen, she enlists the help of her former friend, Cooper, thinking that a male perspective could never hurt. All Cooper asks for in return is her help as a temporary rowing partner while his normal partner recovers from a broken wrist. But the more time that Kate and Cooper spend together, the more confusing things get. What if Kate’s been after the wrong guy this whole time?

I absolutely loved this book. It was so cute and fluffy and I loved both Kate and Cooper. Kate and her fandoms and ships reminded me a lot of myself in high school (only I was a lot less athletic). I loved that even though Cooper was so focused on his goals, he still had time to help Kate with whatever she needed. To be honest, I started shipping them at their first conversation. (Mick who?)

Mick was, like many boys that impressionable teenage girls crush on, a total jerk. Now, in my mid-twenties, I have no idea what Kate saw in him. I can’t really blame Kate for her infatuation, though, because I certainly crushed on more than one of his type during my high school years. Of course, the right guy for Kate was blindingly obvious to me. It just takes Kate a little longer to catch on.

I can’t remember the last time I read a young adult novel with quite this much chemistry. These two are friends, mind you, but their connection and the sexual tension between them was practically jumping off the page, smacking me in the face, and screaming “NOTICE ME!” while flashing a neon sign. It’s rare that even a new adult or adult romance will have characters that are this well-suited to each other, so just give all the awards to Cindi Madsen right now, because she deserves them.

Honestly, the only issue I had with the book is that there were too many miscommunications and misinterpretations and unnecessary arguments between Kate and Cooper. I’m not really an angst-lover, so I have that complaint with a lot of books I read. The thing is, though, that it’s super realistic for a book set in high school, so I still have to give this book 4.5 stars.

Excuse me while I go read everything that this author has ever written.

Final rating: ★★★★★

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the ARC!

Book review: Based by B.B. Hamel

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When Aubrie comes home from college for the summer, she doesn’t expect to find her sexy, famous stepbrother, Lincoln, drenched in sweat as he films a documentary in their living room.  Involved in a tragic accident that left his legs shattered, Lincoln’s road to recovery is major news.  And as much as Lincoln wants his beautiful stepsister, both of them know that nothing can happen, especially with all of those cameras around.

So, here’s the thing: I read BB Hamel when I’m in a book slump.  I read her books when I’m tired and don’t want to think.  I read her books when I want to know exactly what I’m getting into.  And what you’re getting into when you read one of her books is some very hot sexytimes and a very basic plot.  Her books are fun, readable, and quick.  I don’t review her books the same way that I might review a book with heavy subject matter.  Her books are meant to be taken lightly.

That said, I was pretty disappointed with this one.  By this point, I’ve come to the realization that her books are basically all the same story with slightly different characters and slightly different locales.  I’m okay with it.  But for some reason, this book felt really underdeveloped and just didn’t do it for me.

I was thrown off from the beginning by the names of the characters. I know, I know, it’s such a petty and shallow thing to be upset about. But the heroine is Aubrie, and my cat is Aubrey, so I kept feeling like I was reading about my cat.  And the hero is Lincoln.  That’s a nice name.  It’s a sexy name.  For some god awful reason, he goes by “Based.”  Why is his nickname past tense? It doesn’t make any sense.  He’s a BASE jumper, I get it, but then go by Base!  Based is just such a stupid nickname. I couldn’t stand it.  And yes, I fully acknowledge that this is a stupid complaint.

Aside from their names, I could really take or leave these characters. There was nothing particularly special or unique about them. It’s been a few weeks since I finished this book, and they’ve already blended in with the dozens of other romance characters I’ve recently met. I can’t remember any really identifying characteristics other than I think Lincoln played the piano and both of them are supposedly really hot.

Both characters were actually pretty stupid, although I guess Aubrie is supposed to be brilliant or something.  But, I mean, come on. If you’re going to be having sex in your parents’ house while someone’s filming a documentary, you could at least lock the door!  I kept expecting that someone would walk in on them or find out or that something dramatic would happen, but nothing really happened in the entire book. Aside from sex. Which happened a lot.

And as always, the sex scenes are hot.  I would honestly expect nothing less from BB.  If there’s one thing she’s good at, it’s writing a hot sex scene, and somehow she’s always able to make each scene unique.  Even though there might be like six or ten or fifteen graphic scenes in this book (I don’t even know, I didn’t count) it’s not like she just copied and pasted.

I appreciated that BB didn’t fall into her usual stepbrother plotline of the heroine being kidnapped or tortured or nearly killed as she waits for the hero to save her.  That’s happened in several of her books so far, and I’m glad that she was able to do something a little different here, even though “a little different” ended up meaning “pretty boring.”

In the end, I didn’t really have any faith that these two would stay together. Their “connection” is really more just mutual attraction and horniness. I don’t think they really got along that well when they weren’t having sex, so it seemed like more of a “happy for now” than a “happily ever after.”

I had originally given this book three stars, but now that I’ve really sorted out my thoughts, I think that I have to take it down.  It’s just not fair to those three-star books that I enjoyed much more than this.

Final rating: ★★☆☆☆

A note: I actually feel terrible saying this since I am very much pro-buying books, but after seeing a lot of comments on Goodreads from people who have been disappointed, I feel like I have to put this out there. If you just watch BB’s titles, they’re often free. If you have a Bookbub account, follow her. If you have Kindle Unlimited, most (if not all) of her books are free. If you don’t have Kindle Unlimited but have a Prime membership, most (if not all) of her books are available as your one free book per month.  This is an author that is not for everyone, and while some of her books are really good, some aren’t.  I personally don’t mind so much because I know what I’m getting into, but if this is your first time, I would definitely suggest that you try before you buy.

ARC review: The Romance Reader’s Guide to Life by Sharon Pywell

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World War II has just ended, and Neave and Lilly Terhune find themselves suddenly unemployed as their positions are given to newly returned soldiers. With Lilly’s charisma and sales experience and Neave’s business sense, the two sisters build their own cosmetics business from the ground up. Just as their business really starts to boom, Lilly disappears and Neave is left to figure out what happened to her. Meanwhile, Neave’s life begins to parallel the pirate romance she loved as a young girl, passages of which are included in this book.

I was so pleasantly surprised by this book! I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but the story was wonderful – unique, beautifully written, and full of mystery and intrigue. We follow Lilly and Neave (as well as their other siblings, Snyder and Jane) from childhood through adulthood and all of the ups and downs along the way. By the end of the book, I felt that I really knew all of the characters, almost as if they were real people.

Pywell does a great job of not only writing this historical fiction novel but also writing the steamy pirate romance that Neave stole from her childhood employer. I was intrigued by the story of Electra and Basil from the start, but as Neave’s life began to mirror Electra’s more and more, I couldn’t wait until the next excerpt! Although nothing too shocking happens throughout the course of either story, it was written in such a way that I wanted to stay up all night to find out what would happen next.

I really enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it to any romance fan, as well as anybody who likes a good mystery! I’ve already followed Sharon Pywell on social media, and I cannot wait to see what she comes up with next.

Final rating: ★★★★☆

Thanks to Netgalley and Flatiron Books for the ARC!

Book review: Prick by Sabrina Paige

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Katherine Harrison is your typical good girl.  She keeps a 4.0 GPA.  She’s the class president.  She never parties or lets loose.  But one day, she decides that there’s no way she’s going to college a virgin, so she asks Caulter Sterling, her school’s biggest bad boy, for help.  The two have one very, very hot night together, and then she runs away, wishing and hoping that she never has to see him again.  Next thing she knows, she’s learning that her father’s been secretly dating someone, and they’re about to announce their engagement. The lucky lady just so happens to be Caulter’s mother.

It seems like a lot of these stepbrother books are about high school sweethearts whose parents start dating.  Katherine and Caulter are far from sweethearts.  In fact, aside from their one night of passion, they absolutely despise each other.  Another interesting twist on the genre is that Katherine and Caulter aren’t actually stepsiblings.  Sure, their parents are engaged with the intent to marry, but they are not yet stepsiblings.

I actually really liked both of the main characters.  Like many books in this genre, we do have the prissy princess and the bad boy, but neither character felt like a stereotype here.  Katherine and Caulter had such amazing chemistry and I loved how Caulter could be such an asshole to everybody (including Katherine sometimes) but he would still step up and be the good guy when she needed him.

This was just such a fun book, and for me, it was one of those books that I never wanted to put down.  Instead of “Ugh, I guess I’ll read another few chapters to get it over with,” this book had me more like, “How much coffee will I need to drink tomorrow if I stay up all night to finish this?” I love it when that happens.  That’s what a book should make you feel like.  This is one of those books that could easily pull you out of a reading slump since it’s just so fun, entertaining, and easy to read.

I’m so glad that I didn’t give up on Sabrina Paige after I felt so let down by Double Team because I loved Prince Albert and I loved this book. I’m definitely adding her to my must-read authors and following her on social media.

Final rating: ★★★★☆

#mmdreading: three books by the same author (I also read Double Team and Prince Albert.)

Book review: Stroked by Meghan Quinn

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Sound tech Paisley is thrilled when her best friend and roommate Jonathan gets her a job in the industry. Sure, it’s just assisting on a reality show, but it’s better than nothing. The star Paisley ends up working for is the delusional, over-the-top drama queen Bellini – a girl famous for her family’s wealth and nothing more. As if the job isn’t hard enough, Bellini’s boyfriend is gorgeous Olympic swimmer Reese. Paisley is immediately attracted to Reese but knows that nothing can ever happen with her boss’s boyfriend.

Until it does.

So let me just start off by saying that I love Meghan Quinn. I’ve read a few of her other books, I follow her on Instagram, I think she’s a generally great person. I was really excited to read this book. Unfortunately, I took issue with it from the beginning.

Let’s start with Bellini. A lot of readers had a problem with her character, and I can totally understand that. It’s revealed very quickly that the relationship between Bellini and Reese is entirely fake. It’s only for publicity, and there are absolutely no romantic feelings involved. Bellini is awful. She doesn’t have a single redeeming quality. Personally, I understood why her character was there and didn’t really have a problem with it, but I did think it was a little odd that Reese had to maintain this fake relationship with her and that neither Reese nor Paisley felt bad about getting together behind her back. Their insistence that their relationship had to be a complete secret really freaked me out. That is not healthy behavior.

Then there’s the best friend/roommate, Jonathan. Starting about 10% in, Paisley begins to reassure us that there’s nothing going on between her and Jonathan. Some quotes:

Is Jonathan a ruggedly handsome man? Of course. And does he call me sweetheart and make me dinner? Naturally. And have I seen his penis almost every single day? Yes, but not by demand. But is there any kind of romantic vibe between us? None whatsoever. Not even the slightest inkling.

“What?” He holds up his hands and smirks at me. “You may be my best friend, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to see your boobs. It’s a natural wonderment. I bet if I didn’t walk around naked you would be curious too. I’ve seen your ass plenty of times, what’s a little T to go with that A?”

“But I made you coffee … with love. You should be alive and ready for the day.”
“With love? What is with love?”
“You know, stirring in your cream while naked,” Jonathan says with laughter.

Mhmm. Totally platonic. Am I seriously supposed to believe that this guy doesn’t have romantic feelings for her?

Anyway, on to the relationship between Paisley and Reese. Red flags and warning bells were going off willy nilly throughout this book. Reese is hot. I get that. But that does not excuse his behavior. In the book, he’s described as “insanely jealous” and “animalistic” when Paisley spends time with another man. He also becomes “obsessive” if she doesn’t immediately return a text. Is that supposed to be sexy? Personally, I like my freedom, and any guy who’s going to turn into an animal because I’m spending time with a friend or not dropping everything to answer his text is not a guy that I want to be with. But I guess Paisley likes it?

Our relationship might not be conventional, and we might have to hide it, but all the worry is worth it for moments like this.

(aka: this relationship is super unhealthy, but the sex is good)

The two are also very clear on the fact that they can’t get caught because then Paisley would lose her job. Reese is evidently allowed to tell his friends, but Paisley can’t even tell Jonathan. But despite their secrecy, they are

constantly

sexting. They don’t even try to hide their texts. They never clear out their history. Paisley has Reese in her phone with his first and last name followed by a swimming emoji! What happens when your phone is out on set and Bellini sees one of Reese’s sexts pop up on your screen? What then?!

I’m going to avoid getting into spoilers here, although nothing that happens is particularly shocking. The plot moves along basically exactly how I would expect it to, although the characters seem shocked at every turn. I guess I just expected more from Meghan Quinn. Not only were the characters and the entirety of the plot disappointing, but the book was filled with typos. The whole thing just felt rushed and poorly developed and was just not what I had hoped for.

I had initially given this book three stars, but that’s just not right. It didn’t quite hit one-star territory, so I guess I’ll go with two.

Final rating: ★★☆☆☆

Book review: Mates, Dates, and Inflatable Bras by Cathy Hopkins

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Sometimes a book ages well, and sometimes it doesn’t.  In the case of Mates, Dates, and Inflatable Bras, I am very disappointed to say that it was not nearly as good as I remembered.  I was obsessed with this series when I was a freshman in high school  I read all of the books.  I even had their Guide to Life, Love, and Looking Luscious.  Cathy Hopkins was my girl.  But rereading this book as a full-grown woman well into her twenties, I couldn’t help but look at it with a critical eye.

I can see what Hopkins was trying to do.  There was a whole wave of this kind of book – the lighthearted, funny, YA taking place in England.  Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging is probably the most famous of the set.  (I loved that series, but I’m terrified of what I’d think of it now.)  Katie Maxwell’s Emily series – the first book being The Year My Life Went Down the Loo – is another great example.  These books are hilarious, but they teach important life lessons.  Figuring out what you want to do with the rest of your life.  Dealing with being separated from what you know and having to make new friends.  What to do when boys start spreading rumors about you.  These books were really special to me in my formative years, and I’m glad that I had them.

But, unfortunately, Mates, Dates, and Inflatable Bras just doesn’t hold up as well as I might have expected. In it, Lucy Loverling is a fourteen-year-old girl who looks like a twelve-year-old boy. She’s all of four-foot-eight with a flat chest and a baby face.  Her most treasured friendship is threatened by a new girl in town, and her crush on a mystery boy completely overtakes her thoughts.

Lucy is, for a fourteen-year-old, surprisingly in tune with her emotions. At fourteen (and still sometimes now), I would treat an incoming emotion as something to be battled away, not something to be analyzed and remedied.  Lucy sits down, thinks about it, discusses it with her friends or her psychotherapist mother, or grabs an “Angel Card” (like a box of fortune cookie fortunes) as she comes up with a plan for how to fix it.

But for all of her emotional depth, Lucy is kind of dumb.  Take the best friend theft as an example.  Lucy and Izzie have been best friends forever.  But when new girl Nesta starts hanging out with Izzie, Lucy wants nothing to do with her.  She thinks Nesta is out to ruin her life, maliciously stealing her BFF without a second thought to Lucy.  To the reader, it’s pretty clear that Nesta means no harm. In fact, she invites Lucy to her house, often hangs out with Izzie and Lucy together, and asks Lucy if she can come over.  But Lucy spins everything out of proportion until Nesta is the worst thing that could ever happen to her.

Actually, Lucy spins just about everything out of proportion.  A bad haircut, seeing her crush with another girl, her parents being embarrassing, an essay about what she wants to do with her life – it’s all equally upsetting to Lucy.  I know that this series was written by a grown woman, but it’s almost like what a child thinks it’s like to be a teenager rather than what it actually is.

Or maybe I’m just getting old.  I don’t know.

Another thing that kind of surprised me was Lucy’s quasi-relationship.  Of course, I like to keep my reviews as spoiler-free as possible, so I’m going to try to tread lightly here.  When I first read this book, I thought Lucy’s guy was the cat’s pajamas. The bee’s knees.  Really out of this world.  Oh, if only I could find myself a boy like that, I thought.  But here’s the thing – the whole relationship is a little creepy.  I mean, the guy is three years older than her. He’s considerably more mature.  And not only that, but he’s described as a player who always wants what he can’t have, and the two of them have about five pages of interaction throughout the entire book.  As a former teenage girl, I can understand Lucy’s attraction to him.  He’s cool and cute and mysterious and, hey, I developed crushes on less than that.  But I don’t see why Hopkins put them together.  I’m sorry, but as an adult, it’s weird.  Their relationship develops out of nothing.  When I was younger, I thought it was cool. Now I’m just confused.

This is a really quick read.  It took me a grand total of about two hours to read the entire book, so I can hardly call it a waste of my time.  But I have no desire to re-read the rest of the series, and I’m very sad to find that a book I have such fond memories of hasn’t held up over the years.

For my 2016 reading challenge, I crossed off #4: a book you haven’t read since high school.

(Question: What do people in high school do for this prompt?)

Anyway, final rating: ★★☆☆☆