Book review: His Ex’s Little Sister by Bella Love-Wins

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Reid never would have intentionally pursued his high school girlfriend’s little sister, but he had no idea that the sassy redhead singing her heart out was the same Robin from all those years ago.  Now, the attraction is too much to bear.  Even as he and Robin fight it, the pull they feel toward each other might be too much to resist.

I’m not entirely sure how I got subscribed to Bella Love-Wins’ mailing list on two different email accounts, but after being inundated with emails for weeks, I finally decided to bite the bullet and download one of her freebies.  I was expecting a quick, sexy romance, and that’s exactly what I got in His Ex’s Little Sister.

The book is actually very well-written and while there is enough conflict to keep it interesting, it never veers into “excessively angsty” or “completely over the top” territory.  This seems to be in the tradition of quick romances (almost erotica) where the characters aren’t planning to get together, but something dramatic (even traumatic) happens that pushes them together.  This is actually one of my favorite types of book to unwind with before bed.  I’ve read enough of this genre that nothing really surprises me anymore, but I know exactly what I’m getting myself into and that it’s going to be a fun ride to the end.

I recently downloaded another freebie from Bella, Her Dirty Mechanic, and I am excited to read that one when I get a minute.  I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for more of Bella’s books in the future.

Final rating: ★★★★☆

His Ex’s Little Sister is currently free for Kindle.

Let’s talk about: Spoilers

I’ve been blogging about books for years.  I started this particular blog in 2013, but I was probably about thirteen years old when I started my first book review blog.  (That’s 2003 if you’re keeping track.  I think it was on LiveJournal.)  Before that, I wrote book reviews in spiral notebooks and shared them with my friends.

Personally, I have a complicated relationship with spoilers.  Generally, I try to avoid them.  But sometimes, when I see a really controversial book, I want to know what I’m getting into before reading it.  In that case, I’ll seek out the most spoilerific reviews possible so that I can find out, in two minutes or less, whether I should even consider reading it.  When it seemed that everybody on my Goodreads feed was giving The Wild either five stars or one star, I read two or three spoiler-filled reviews before determining that nope, I should probably stay far, far away from that one.

But regardless of how I personally feel about spoilers, I always try to be cognizant of them when I’m writing my reviews.  Sometimes I’ll delete a 200-word chunk of my review because I think that it’s too spoilery.  Sometimes I’ll rewrite the whole thing.  It’s never my intention to ruin the book for anybody.  And if, for some reason, there’s a book that I can’t review without spoilers, I’ll put the whole review under spoiler tags with a big warning up at the top.

That said, I will never forget the time that I was accused of spoiling an entire book by including in my review something that was literally in the blurb.  Book blogging can be a dangerous hobby.  The review in question and the girl who started hysterically screaming at me will both remain nameless, but honestly, it was such an overreaction.  I had to take a step back that day and think about whether I wanted to keep doing this.  Clearly, I do.

So let’s move on.  What exactly constitutes a spoiler?

Urban Dictionary says that a spoiler is “when someone reveals a previously unknown aspect of something which you likely would have rather learned on your own.”
Dictionary.com defines a spoiler as “information about a plot or event in a movie, book, or show that may spoil the suspense or surprise.”
Wikipedia says that a spoiler is “a comment which discloses plot details of a book, play, video game, film, or other narrative content.”

All of those sound like fair definitions, but none of them really get to the root of what a spoiler actually is.  Is it a spoiler to mention who gets chosen in a love triangle?  (I think so.)  Is providing a brief plot summary a spoiler?  (Not to me.)  What about getting into problems with world building?  (A gray area, maybe.)

For me, anything in the blurb is fair game.  (And if the publisher chooses to reveal the entire plot in the blurb, well, take that up with them.)  I also think that some small details are okay to mention.  I don’t mention plot twists.  I don’t give any details about how a book ends.  I usually don’t talk about anything major that happens in the second half of the book.  My deciding factor, though, is whether I would have enjoyed the book as much had I known beforehand that this thing happened.  If yes, then I’ll talk about it.  If no, then it’s off limits.

How do you feel about spoilers?  Do you avoid them at all costs or do you actively seek them out?  Do you like to use spoilers in your reviews or are you mostly spoiler-free?

ARC review: Never Apart by Romily Bernard

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Grace and her boyfriend, Ander, are being hunted.  The worst part of it?  They’re used to it.  This is their 42nd time in this situation and it never gets easier.  Every time Grace Falls, she wakes up in a new life.  In every new life, she runs.  And whenever she runs, she Falls.  The cycle repeats itself time and time again.  Can Grace find her way out of this terrible loop?

This is one of those books that you really need to go into blind.  When I first started reading it, I was a little put off by the similarity to Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall, but Romily Bernard takes this book in an entirely different direction.  And that’s all I’m going to say about the plot.  I wish that I could gush over the twists and turns and the connections between the characters, but that would ruin the story for you and I don’t want to do that.

I’ll just say that this book was really good.  Even better than I expected.  And I enjoyed it even more than I thought I would.  I actually hardly slept for two nights because these characters had burrowed their way into my mind and I needed to know what happened next.  I needed everything to be explained: why they Fall, why they act the way they do, what happened to all of their friendships.

Final rating: ★★★★☆

I received a free ARC of Never Apart from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books that feature neurodivergent characters

Happy Top Ten Tuesday!  Today’s theme is ten books that feature ___ characters, and I thought I’d deviate away from my norm for once.  I know that I usually write about really great romances or my favorite tropes or upcoming debuts that I’m really looking forward to.  Instead of the fluffy stuff, I thought that today I’d go for the heavy-hitting ten books that feature neurodivergent characters.

Representation is so important in literature, and I think it’s great that authors are making a conscious effort be more inclusive.  The ten books below include characters with depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, eating disorders, PTSD, and more.

If you’re interested in seeing my reviews for these books, navigate over to my review organization page!

⭐ Made You Up by Francesca Zappia
⭐ Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde
⭐ The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

⭐ Some Sort of Happy by Melanie Harlow
⭐ A List of Cages by Robin Roe
⭐ More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
⭐ All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

⭐ We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
⭐ The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland by Rebekah Crane
⭐ Long Way Down by Krista & Becca Ritchie

If you had to make a list of ten books featuring characters with a certain characteristic, what would it be?

ARC review: Completely by Ruthie Knox

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For years, Rosemary Chamberlain saw herself as “wallpaper.”  Throughout her marriage, she existed to look pretty. To make a good impression. To serve her husband and daughter.  And then, one day, she couldn’t do it anymore, so she left.  Newly free of her confines, Rosemary decides to do what she’s always wanted – prepare to climb Mount Everest and the rest of the Seven Summits.

As the book begins, Rosemary, tired, sore, and freezing, has nearly reached the summit of Everest.  Her two years of preparations are finally coming to a head as she and her team rest up before making their final ascent. Then the unthinkable happens – an avalanche rips through the mountain.  Helicopters come to evacuate the climbers, but not before several are killed in the disaster.

Rosemary’s plan has been thwarted and the idea of climbing another mountain doesn’t hold as much allure as it used to.  Sherpa Kal Beckett is there to pick up the pieces as Rosemary struggles to go back to her normal life after such a frightening and tragic experience. The two share a steamy night – fueled by emotions and gratitude at simply being alive – but is their connection real, or just a product of their environment?

Completely was one of my most anticipated reads of 2017.  I loved Knox’s Truly and Madly, and though I thought this would be called Deeply (as a child of the 90s, I am very pro-Savage Garden references), I was very excited to read the conclusion of the series.  Unfortunately, while Completely can certainly hold its own in the romance genre, it lacks the spark that made me fall in love with Truly and Madly.

The book is fine.  That’s really the best word I can think of to describe it. It’s fine.  Not great or mind-blowing, but fine. In comparison with the other two books in the trilogy, it felt rushed and underdeveloped.  The connection to Wisconsin was tenuous at best and while I liked that we caught up with Allie and May, their inclusion felt a little… out of place.

The thing is, Rosemary has no connection to Wisconsin. She has no connection to the Fredericks family.  Seeing May in Allie’s story made sense – she’s Allie’s sister, after all.  Seeing Allie in Rosemary’s story is different.  Allie is dating Rosemary’s ex.  And while, yes, Winston is the father of Rosemary’s daughter, it seemed odd that Rosemary would still be so connected to him and his family.  Although they’ve been divorced for years, Rosemary’s life was still so interwoven with his, to the point that she visited his girlfriend’s mother (in another state!), telephoned her ex-mother-in-law for advice, and stayed in an apartment that he owned.  I appreciate that Knox showed exes being civil to each other, but given the fact that their daughter was barely in this book, their constant contact felt weird.

Knox clearly did a lot of research here.  I know next to nothing about Mount Everest or even mountain climbing in general, but Rosemary comes across as very well-informed and intelligent.  Knox is careful to avoid stereotypes and to portray the Sherpas respectfully while still drawing attention to the risks inherent in their jobs.  It really hit me hard when Kal mentioned that the death counts after an avalanche only include the tourists, never the Sherpas.

Another thing I liked was Knox’s focus on strong women.  Now, Allie and May were definitely strong women.  So is Rosemary, no doubt.  Rosemary, along with a group of other women, has decided to climb the Seven Summits – the tallest mountain on each continent. Kal’s mother, Yangchen Beckett, is a famous climber who has reached the summit of Everest seven times.  In the background of the story, Rosemary’s daughter Bea is in the midst of filming a documentary about May and Allie’s mom, Nancy Fredericks, the brains behind Banksy-style artist Justice.

So, the research was great and the focus on strong women was great, but it’s almost like so much effort was put into those two pieces of this book that there wasn’t time left for the actual plot.  So much time and energy are put into developing the main conflict of the book – the politics of Everest – that the actual story suffered.

The story itself is very repetitive – Rosemary and Kal have some good sex, then drift apart, then have some more good sex, and repeat.  Similarly, Rosemary and Bea fight, go back to being civil, fight some more, and repeat.  Though this book isn’t very long, it could have been condensed to half the length had the repetitive scenes been taken out.

In the end, I’m not really sure what to think.  Completely has the charming writing style that I’ve come to expect from Knox, but it’s just missing that spark.  While it’s still good (and certainly better than many romances I’ve read), it’s definitely the weakest of the trilogy.  I finished the book not entirely convinced that Rosemary and Kal would stay together – sure, there was an attraction, but a deep, lasting love?  Hard to say.

Also, a quick note regarding the cover: Kal is Nepalese.  He describes himself as brown.  The cover model is undeniably white, which really bothers me.  I’m not sure who designs the covers, but they clearly could have gotten a more accurate model to portray Kal.

Final rating: ★★★☆☆

I received a free ARC of Completely from Loveswept (via Netgalley) in exchange for my honest review.

ARC review: 27 Hours by Tristina Wright

27 Hours by Tristina Wright
Series: The Nightside Saga #1
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: AmazonTBDGoodreads
Publication Date: October 3, 2017
Source: ARC via Netgalley

Rumor Mora fears two things: hellhounds too strong for him to kill, and failure. Jude Welton has two dreams: for humans to stop killing monsters, and for his strange abilities to vanish.

But in no reality should a boy raised to love monsters fall for a boy raised to kill them.

Nyx Llorca keeps two secrets: the moon speaks to her, and she’s in love with Dahlia, her best friend. Braeden Tennant wants two things: to get out from his mother’s shadow, and to unlearn Epsilon’s darkest secret.

They’ll both have to commit treason to find the truth.

During one twenty-seven-hour night, if they can’t stop the war between the colonies and the monsters from becoming a war of extinction, the things they wish for will never come true, and the things they fear will be all that’s left.

27 Hours is a sweeping, thrilling story featuring a stellar cast of queer teenagers battling to save their homes and possibly every human on Sahara as the clock ticks down to zero.

Centuries in the future, the colonization of a distant moon has led to war with the chimera, an indigenous species.  The chimera see the humans as parasitic invaders while the colonists believe that the chimera are a violent, bloodthirsty, savage race of monsters.  A small group of teenagers may be the only ones who have what it takes to bring the war to an end.

Enough people have gone over the plot and the writing style, so I don’t really feel like I need to do that in my review.  I’ve also seen a ton of conflicting reviews of this book, so how about an interview-style review?

Was this the best book of 2017?
No.

Was this the worst book of 2017, like OMG how did it get published?
Also no.

Is this basically Tumblr: The Novel?
Yes, most definitely.

Is there a really diverse cast of characters?
In some ways, yes.  In other ways, not really.  All of the major characters are LGBT.  There are also a number of POC, but the various cultures from Earth have kind of blended together in this futuristic society, so race doesn’t play a big role in the book.

Was it sometimes a struggle to keep reading this book?
Yes, but I think that’s mostly related to other things going on in my life.  It’s no fault of the book.

Did I consider DNFing?
No, I was too invested in Rumor/Jude.

Would I read the sequel?
Maybe?  I’m honestly not sure that a sequel is really necessary.

Was there sometimes too much going on?
Yes, for sure.  Sometimes I’d get distracted while reading and have no idea what was going on.  After going back and re-reading, I’d find that approximately eighteen things had happened over the last two pages.  The pacing could be off sometimes, but it wasn’t a bad book.

Why did I give this book four stars?
Because three wasn’t enough and five was too many.  I’m not even being sassy – that’s my subjective opinion.  I appreciate what Wright tried to do here and while I don’t think that she’s written the next Hunger Games or Harry Potter, I think she’s written a book that will resonate with a lot of kids and may be some much-needed representation for teenagers who identify as gay, bisexual, transgender, or asexual.

I received a free ARC of 27 Hours from the publisher (via Netgalley) in exchange for my honest review.

ARC review: Break of Day by Andie J. Christopher

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After being dumped by her fiance, a stodgy accountant who accused her of not being “not exciting,” Carla Hernandez needed to get away.  Her great aunt’s house in Havana, Cuba was the obvious destination.  Once there, Carla would be able to sort herself out and help out Tia Lola, a woman who’s always understood Carla even when the rest of her family didn’t.

Carla didn’t count on big, burly Jonah Kane’s presence.  The heat level between Carla and her ex-fiance was negligible at best and Carla doesn’t expect to be quite so affected by Jonah.  Too bad Jonah thinks that Carla’s nothing more than a spoiled little princess…

I first heard about Break of Day upon learning that I’d somehow subscribed to Andie J. Christopher’s mailing list. This isn’t particularly unusual for me.  In any given day, I probably get twenty to thirty emails from various authors, some that I know, some that I don’t.  I always read them, though, and this one from Andie included the first chapter of this book. I read it as I was getting ready for work, and I was hooked.  I was still thinking about tiny spitfire Carla and Jonah, the gruff photojournalist who towered over her when I got home from work and logged onto Netgalley.  The book was hours away from being archived, but I requested it anyway.  Miraculously, I got an email the next morning that I’d been approved.

Break of Day is exactly what I expected from that preview.  It’s hot.  It’s sexy.  It’s fast-paced.  I loved both characters just as much as I thought I would.  There’s some angst here, but nothing too crazy.  I never wanted to rip my hair out, which is a definite plus for me.  I was a little apprehensive about the accidental baby aspect of the book (not a spoiler – it’s in the blurb!) but I think that it was handled really well.

Break of Day is the third book in Andie J. Christopher’s One Night in South Beach series.  I haven’t read the first two, and it’s not necessary to understand the plot or the characters, but I definitely plan on going back and seeing what I missed.

Final rating: ★★★★☆

I received a free ARC of Break of Day from the publisher (via Netgalley) in exchange for my honest review.