Book review: Alex & Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz

Goodreads   Amazon

Unlike the rest of the world, I have not yet jumped on the Hamilton bandwagon.  I mean, sure, I’m interested.  And Broadway’s only a quick train ride away.  But every time I’ve looked into getting tickets, they’re sold out and I get discouraged.  What I’m getting at here is that I went into Alex and Eliza with pretty much zero expectations.  And although it had a pretty slow start, by the time we hit about 25%, I could hardly put it down.

This is, of course, a YA retelling of the romance between Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler. De la Cruz herself mentions that there is little documentation of their relationship, but it has been documented that they fell hard and fast for each other, and of course, were married.  This means that de la Cruz had to take some creative liberties with her characters, and since I know little about Hamilton aside from what I learned in history class, this didn’t bother me at all.  I’m not sure which of the events in this book were real and which were made up, but it doesn’t really matter.  This isn’t a history book.  It’s a YA love story, and a really cute one, at that.

Throughout the book, we get to hear what’s going on from both Alex and Eliza’s POV.  I loved both characters, but Alex, in particular, really grew on me.  I’m not sure if he was this precious cinnamon roll in real life, but I just wanted to scoop him up and protect him.  Yes, yes, I know, he was a powerful aide to George Washington.  Whatever.  Book Alex needs to be protected at all costs.

This is my first book by Melissa de la Cruz, and I was not disappointed.  While I don’t think I’m going to run out and purchase her entire backlist, I’ll definitely keep an eye out for more of her books.

Final rating: ★★★★☆

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ARC review: Kissing Max Holden by Katy Upperman

Goodreads ⭐ Amazon ⭐

Neighbors and former best friends Jillian and Max haven’t really talked since Max’s dad suffered a major stroke.  Rather than dealing with his changed family dynamic, Max buried himself in an unhealthy relationship and the high school party scene. Now, instead of hanging out with Jillian, he spends his weekends getting drunk and making bad decisions.

Jillian knows that something’s up when Max knocks on her window late at night.  She also knows that no good will come from letting him in.  But there’s something in his sad, defeated expression that forces her to unlock the window, and it’s not long before they’re making out on her bedroom floor. It’s also not long before her dad walks in on them and forbids her from seeing Max anymore.

Though she swears that she’ll never kiss Max Holden again, her heart might not let her walk away so easily.

Minor spoilers below –

First things first, this is not some kind of cute, friends-to-lovers book about kissing neighbors.  This is a book about infidelity in not just one, but multiple relationships.  Infidelity is a tricky thing to write about.  I’d venture a guess that most people are anti-cheating – I know I am.  I just don’t see a point to it.  So for me to enjoy a book that has a cheating component, it better be pretty well done.  It can’t just be someone stringing along their partner for the sake of the plot.

Unfortunately, I felt like the cheating plot line was never really resolved here.  Both characters acknowledge that what they’re doing is wrong but spend the majority of the book excusing it.  The cheating is fine because Max’s girlfriend is a bad person. The cheating is fine because Max’s dad had a stroke.  The cheating is fine because Jill has a lot going on right now.  The cheating is not fine.  These characters are old enough to drive.  Old enough to get drunk at parties.  They are old enough to know the difference between right and wrong.

There’s a lot of misogyny in this book.  Max’s girlfriend, Becky, is painted as the crazy, over-the-top, sexually promiscuous villain. Now, Becky can be problematic at times.  She’s quick to anger.  She’s physically aggressive.  She tries to control Max’s behavior.  But does that justify Max cheating on her?  No, it doesn’t.  Max never seems to particularly like Becky.  Why not just break up with her?  Their continued (strained) relationship feels like just another hurdle for him and Jill to overcome.  Becky’s bad behavior feels like just another way to prove how much better of a person Jill is.

But is Jill really a better person?  I’m not convinced.  Jillian is so selfish.  She knows that what she’s doing is wrong, but she doesn’t care.  Not really.  She gets mad at Max for not breaking up with Becky, but she continues to hook up with him. She gets mad at her father for keeping secrets from his wife, but she takes a bribe from him in exchange for her silence.  She makes excuse after excuse for why she can’t tell her father that she and Max are together, and Max is the unreasonable one for expecting her to be honest.  Any time there’s a conflict, Jillian has to get her way because her life is just so complicated. Because her father would be so stressed out if she were to air her teenage melodrama.

Over the course of the book, I thought that Max really grew as a person.  He became less reckless and more responsible.  (I also admittedly have a soft spot for bad boys who are trying to be better.)  Jillian, unfortunately, did not. When I first finished this book, I thought I’d enjoyed it.  Looking back, I realize how many issues I had with the plot and the characters.  I’m actually surprised at the number of glowing reviews I’ve seen for this book.  All I can figure is that I’m no longer the target demographic.

Final rating: ★★☆☆☆

I received a free ARC of Kissing Max Holden from Macmillan/Swoon Reads via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

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Book review: The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

Goodreads   Amazon

When Molly Peskin-Suso crushes, she crushes hard, and she never ever makes the first move.  It doesn’t matter how many times her twin sister Cassie tells her to put herself out there, Molly keeps her crushes firmly under wraps.  It doesn’t matter that she’s had twenty-six official crushes.  That’s twenty-six chances at rejection, and Molly’s not up for that.

When Cassie starts dating a cute new girl named Mina, Molly’s world changes.  She’s no longer the most important person in Cassie’s life.  Maybe if she starts hanging out with Mina’s cute, hipster friend Will, she’ll be able to see Cassie more often.  Even though Will is the perfect boy to crush on, Molly finds herself thinking more about her awkward, nerdy co-worker, Reid.  But Reid doesn’t get her closer to Cassie, and would her friends approve?

I was a little nervous going into The Upside of Unrequited, mostly because I just really, really loved Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. And when I really, really love an author’s first book, sometimes I set my hopes too high for the second one. But I needn’t have worried because this book was great.  It was so relatable and took me right back to my teenage years when I was something of a Molly Peskin-Suso.

This is also how you do representation.  There are no token characters.  Every character has their place and their plotline and their own personality.  They just so happen to very diverse.  Molly has two moms, her sister Cassie is gay, and Cassie’s love interest, Mina, is self-described as pansexual. Molly and Reid are both Jewish. One of Molly’s moms is black and Mina is Korean. Molly also has anxiety, is on Zoloft, and talks about how going to parties can be difficult since she can’t mix alcohol with her meds. Oh, and Molly is also overweight and struggles with self-esteem, and actually talks about how the concept of dating is different for her than it is for Cassie, who is thin and confident.

Now, it’s not like this book is perfect.  I had my fair share of issues with it, mostly in the form of characters who refused to communicate.  Let’s all just passive-aggressively text each other with strategically placed periods and not have an actual conversation! Let’s go hang out with other people to make our crushes jealous!  I may not have liked it, but it’s sure realistic.  Anybody who says they’ve never sent a passive aggressive text is lying.

I wish I could have read a book like this when I was Cassie’s age.  YA has come so far in the last decade and I am so happy that the next generation gets to see characters that look familiar and sound familiar and have familiar struggles.  I’ve seen reviews bashing this book for its anti-feminist message, but I think those people are ignoring an important point: that even if you’re a feminist, you can still feel like the last single person alive when all of your friends have paired off and you’re just sitting in the corner with your cookie dough and your Pinterest.  There is nothing anti-feminist about wanting to feel loved and appreciated and attractive, and when your friends are going around having sex and you’ve yet to be kissed, it’s very hard to feel those things. This book is honest, and the honest truth is that we can’t all be perfect all the time.  Sometimes, we wallow in the fact that we’re single, and that’s okay.  It doesn’t mean that we need a man to complete us, it just means that we’re feeling lonely.

I would highly recommend The Upside of Unrequited to anybody who has struggled with their weight or their self-esteem or anxiety.  This is an amazing book that I’m so happy to have had the chance to read.

Final rating: ★★★★☆

Blog tour: Glamour anthology by various authors

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Glamour

Contemporary Fairytale Retellings by Skye Warren, AL Jackson, Sophie Jordan, Aleatha Romig, Lili St. Germain, Nora Flite, Sierra Simone and Nicola Rendell

Publication Date: July 18, 2017

Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

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Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iBooks

Once upon a time… Remember the fairy tales your parents read to you when you were little? These are NOT those fairy tales. From modern day royalty to metaphorical dragons, contemporary castles to sexy heroes, these bestselling authors twist tales as old as time into something new. GLAMOUR contains eight exclusive never-before-seen novellas that each have an HEA… because they all lived happily ever after.

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Every single reader who one-clicks the new book for the low limited-time release price ALSO gets 6 FREE bonus books from the bestselling all-star author lineup. These are SIX five-star full-length books that the authors are giving away exclusively here to show their immense gratitude for your support.

GET YOUR BONUS BOOKS ➤ https://goo.gl/forms/F7ve5ycwvRaH6srr1

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Read on for my review….

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Glamour is a collection of eight modern, sexy fairy tale retellings.  This book is chock full of sexytimes and kink, and it is not for the faint of heart!  Whatever you’re into, you’re likely to find it here.

Anthologies are hard for me to rate – I think I’ve found a compromise at four stars – and even harder for me to review.  Read on for eight mini reviews of these eight novellas.

Music Box Girl: A Twelve Dancing Princesses Story by Sierra Simone

In Music Box Girl, an overprotective father hires a private investigator to find out where his nineteen-year-old daughter and eleven of her ballerina friends sneak off to every night.  (Suffice it to say it’s nowhere a father would like to think of his daughter going.)

I don’t read a lot of orgies.  In fact, I don’t even read a lot of threesomes.  I’m more of a one-on-one person, but this was better than I expected. A little over-the-top, for sure, but in a very, very hot way.  It’s not my kind of relationship, but more power to Cal and Tamsin for making this arrangement work.

Bedtime Story: A Sleeping Beauty Story by Skye Warren

In Bedtime Story, Jessica and her son are on the run from Jessica’s abusive partner.  Trying to escape town without running into any crooked cops, they stumble upon Sheriff Finn, who immediately feels a need to protect them.

Immediately I felt for Jessica, who only wanted to keep her kid safe.  She was in a terrible position, and I was so happy for her when she found Finn.  I’m sure that they’d be good together, but wow, they moved quickly.  I wasn’t surprised to learn that this was part of a larger work since I definitely felt like I was missing something.

Ripples: A Prince and the Pauper Story by Aleatha Romig

In Ripples, Natalie is kidnapped by the wealthy and powerful Dexter, who has fantasized about her for years.  She comes to love and desire Dexter and only hopes that her family can accept their unconventional relationship.

I was so excited to read Ripples because it’s been getting amazing reviews on Goodreads, but

  1. I definitely felt like I was missing something,
  2. I don’t find Stockholm Syndrome romantic,
  3. and I’m glad that Natalie found some enjoyment in her terrible situation, but what did I just read?

I guess this just wasn’t my kind of story.

Royal Mattress: A Princess and the Pea Story by Nicola Rendell

In Royal Mattress, Lisa finds herself stranded in a blizzard and is saved by the kind and attentive Dave.  Nearly dead from hypothermia, Dave nurses Lisa back to health while his sassy grandma cracks jokes in the background.

This was my first experience with Nicola Rendell, and it will not be my last.  This was my favorite story of the book.  It’s the perfect combination of sweet, sexy, and funny.  I liked both Lisa and Dave and loved that Rendell poked fun at east coast meteorologists, who often blow storms out of proportion:

And yes, of course, I knew there was a storm, but I also knew that the weathermen in the Northeast sometimes got a little… excited about storms, which then fizzled out with all the glory of a soggy taco collapsing on a plate.

In a Stranger’s Bed: A Goldilocks Story by Sophie Jordan

In this Goldilocks retelling, an American tourist finds herself stranded in middle-of-nowhere Scotland after her tour bus leaves without her. Stumbling upon a cute cottage in the middle of nowhere, she knocks and knocks, but nobody answers.  Stepping inside, she finds warm clothes, delicious food, and a comfy bed.  She might have expected some anger or confusion when the owner returned, but she never expected this drop dead gorgeous man.

I’d never read anything by Sophie Jordan before, but I’ll need to fix that soon. This was a good, solid, sexy story that left me fanning myself.  It’s a little too heavy on the sex in the middle, but I genuinely felt the connection between Thea and Niall and I never doubted their relationship.

Broken Harp: A Jack and the Beanstalk Retelling by Nora Flite

In Broken Harp, Jack is a young man whose life was changed for the worse by the villainous Mister Big.  Harper is Mister Big’s stepdaughter, and he’s blackmailing her into working as a stripper at his club.  Jack swears revenge on this villain and his family, but what happens when he finds out that Harper once saved his life?

I was, honestly, kind of indifferent to this story.  I didn’t feel any connection to either of the characters and thought that the whole retelling thing felt pretty forced.  Trying to imagine a necklace made of kidney bean-shaped emeralds was kind of hard.  Still, the plot was twisty and I rooted for Mister Big’s demise.

Red Hot Pursuit: A Little Red Riding Hood Story by A.L. Jackson

In Red Hot Pursuit, lawyer Lillith Redd takes on businessman Broderick Wolfe as he attempts to bulldoze a beloved landmark in favor of a swanky hotel. Their heated exchanges often turn sexual, leaving both of them wondering what exactly they’re fighting for.  What will win – their desire or their responsibilities?

Objectively, this was well-written, well-paced, and just hot enough.  Subjectively, I just don’t think I was in the right mood for it.  I enjoyed it, but in the right mood, I would have loved it.  This is definitely a case of “it’s not you, it’s me,” so I’m not going to let my mood affect my rating.

Knot: A Rapunzel Story by Lili St. Germain

Seraphina has been kept in a tower for eighteen years by a man who masquerades as her father – except when he’s abusing her. Xavier is a surgeon who remains on call for criminals, turning a blind eye to the less desirable elements of his job.  When Xavier gets a call about a young woman with probable appendicitis, he can’t ignore the evidence of her mistreatment.

It’s no secret that I’m not a big fan of dark romances.  I like the fluffy stuff.  The friends-to-lovers.  The romcoms. The roommates who realize they’re in love.  Stuff like drugs, rape, and murder?  Keep that as far away from me as possible.

This story falls firmly into the dark romance genre, and it is absolutely not something that I would have picked on my own.  I was immensely uncomfortable through the first half, but the second half more or less made up for it.  I didn’t 100% buy the HEA, but this is setting up a full-length work, so it only makes sense that it would leave some things open-ended.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

In the end, I enjoyed this collection of short stories and added two new authors to my must-read list.  If you’re looking for something quick to read to take your mind off your daily life, you could do far worse than Glamour.

Recommended for any fan of erotica, or anybody who is looking into the genre but isn’t quite sure what floats their boat.

I received a free ARC of Glamour from Indie Sage PR in exchange for my participation in this blog tour.

#mmdreading: a book about a topic or subject you already love (fairy tale retellings)

ARC review: Eye Candy by Jessica Lemmon

Goodreads   Amazon

Jackie and Vince are co-VP’s of marketing at their firm and best friends outside of work.  Both are divorced, both have more or less given up on dating, and both have truckloads of emotional baggage.

When Jackie notices an incredibly attractive man running shirtless outside of her office, Vince offers to coach her in how to get back out there and approach him.  Before she knows it, she’s on a date with JT and things are going great… except for her developing feelings for Vince. Meanwhile, Vince is feeling more than friendly toward Jackie, so things are bound to get a little awkward.

First things first: This book was good!  I don’t want any of the comments I’m about to make to overshadow the fact that this book was really enjoyable and entertaining.  It’s not my first Jessica Lemmon book, and I doubt it will be my last.  It was well-written with great characters and a new twist on the friends-to-lovers trope (which is, by the way, my favorite trope of all time).

What happens is that Jackie dates JT while Vince coaches her on how to date in the modern world – which basically consists of him taking her out quite a bit.  Vince has feelings for her, she has feelings for him, but Jackie is dating JT for real and neither Jackie nor Vince wants to discuss their feelings with each other.  Also, JT doesn’t know about Vince.  He just thinks that Vince is just Jackie’s best friend.

So, basically, we’ve got a mess.  Some more things happen, most of which are pretty hypocritical, but I’m not going to get into specifics for fear of delving into spoilers.

As I was reading this book, I found myself wondering, “Wow, is THIS what modern dating is like?!”  I’m not particularly old, but I’ve been in a relationship for more than eight years.  This whole book just illustrates my fears if I would ever have to get back out there.  The dating landscape has changed so much that I’m not sure I could handle it anymore!

Overall, I enjoyed this book, but it wasn’t my favorite.  I think with a bit less purposeful miscommunication and unnecessary angst, I would have enjoyed this book a lot more.  I do have to mention how I loved all of the side characters, though.  I sincerely hope that Davis (in all his broody glory) has his own book. I would read the heck out of it.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the ARC!

Final rating: ★★★☆☆

Top Ten Tuesday: Popular authors I’ve never read

Welcome back to Top Ten Tuesday!  This week, I’m going back in time to discuss ten popular authors that I’ve never read.  While I do read a lot of books, it’s actually pretty rare for me to read books by ubiquitous authors like those below.  I think my brain rebels when it hears that millions of people have enjoyed a book because I’m almost certain to hate it.

All of these authors have more than two million reviews on Goodreads, but for various reasons, I’ve never read any of their books. (And I even own books by Sarah J. Maas and Brandon Sanderson!)  Whose books do you think I should get started on first?

  • Diana Gabaldon, author of Outlander
  • John Grisham, author of A Time To Kill
  • Stephen King, author of The Shining
  • Dean Koontz, author of the Odd Thomas series
  • Sarah J. Maas, author of the Throne of Glass series
  • James Patterson, author of Along Came a Spider
  • Jodi Picoult, author of My Sister’s Keeper
  • Rick Riordan, author of the Percy Jackson series
  • Nora Roberts, author of Playing the Odds
  • Brandon Sanderson, author of the Mistborn series

Which popular authors have you never read?