Mixed Up Review Blitz

April 20, 2017 Blog Tours, Reviews 1

 

MIXEDUP-availnow2

 

 

 

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00022]Hiring my brother’s best friend was not on my to-do list.

Neither was he.

 

Expanding my dirty cocktail bar into food was supposed to be easy, except finding a chef in my little town of Whiskey Key is anything but.

Until Parker Hamilton comes home—bringing his Michelin starred chef’s hat with him.

He has no work. I need someone like him in my new kitchen.

There’s just one problem: I hate his cocky, filthy-mouthed, sexy-as-hell guts.

Even if I might want him. Just a little…

 

 

Working for my best friend’s sister? Not on my to-do list.

She’s another story.

 

Whiskey Key was supposed to be a relaxing vacation, except I haven’t reached the heights I have by lying in a hammock drinking cocktails. So when Raven Archer is desperate for a chef, I offer up my skills.

I’m bored. She needs what I can give her.

Except there’s a problem: I’ve always hated her.

Her and her big, blue eyes, sassy mouth, and killer curves.

If only I didn’t want her.

 

 

AMAZON US | AMAZON UK | AMAZON AU | AMAZON CA | B&N | iBooks

Review:

Mixed Up was a truly unique take on two of my favorite tropes: brother’s best friend and hate to love. Most books that I’ve read that involve a character fall in love with her older brother’s best friend have her pining after him for years. In this case, they’ve hated each other their whole lives, which was definitely something different. This was a funny and compelling read. Emma Hart never fails to provide laugh out loud stories that are pretty light on angst, and also have the perfect amount of steam. Raven and Parker are both solid and believable characters. It wasn’t a perfect novel by any means and I did have some issues with it, but it was entertaining and enjoyable for the most part. I recommend it if you want something that you can quickly devour in just a few hours. It also features food and drinks, so what more could you possibly ask for?

Raven was seriously awesome. I haven’t read a ton of books about a mixologist. I thought the “dirty” (pun intended since her business is also called this) names she came up with for her drinks were extremely witty and hilarious. My favorite part about her was easily her personality though. She’s fierce, like most Emma Hart characters are. She’s not afraid to speak her mind and stand up for what she believes is right. She is super witty and I liked that about her as well. However, I felt like she was even sassier than most of her previous characters. All in all, she was a cool character who I enjoyed reading.

On the other hand, we have Parker, who was a solid character as well. To be completely honest, he doesn’t stand out all that much to me. I would have liked to see even more growth from his character. It feels like we don’t know that much about his personality besides the fact that he banters like crazy with Raven and is best friends with her brother. I thought it was weird that most of the book revolves around his friendship with her brother, but we don’t see much actual interaction between them. I did like that he was a cook because we don’t have enough of heroes who are in romance novels.

As mentioned already, the romance is unique and I enjoyed that. I’m always a sucker for a brother’s best friend romance and this was a whole new twist. Though I did have some issues with the hate to love thing. I wanted more of an explanation to why they hated each other. I feel like there wasn’t enough development and getting to know each other, which I would have liked to see. All that aside, I still liked the romance. I thought they made a good team in Dirty and outside of the business. It was steamy at times, and the sex scenes were pretty well written.

I’m definitely glad that I read Emma Hart’s latest novel. She’s always hilarious and writes such unique and memorable characters. They always feel very realistic, and that’s another reason why I find myself continually picking up her books. I hope that Cami and Ryan get a book (either as a couple or separately) because I don’t want these stories to end! This was just what I needed since I was looking for a book that had limited angst and was just lighthearted in general. Thanks again for coming through for another solid book, Emma Hart!

three-half-stars

MIXEDUP-sq9 MUp1

Excerpt:

I knew I was making a mistake. After what Raven said last night at dinner, I had the strongest urge to find out what her cocktail menu was. With names like Dirty Screw and The Slutwhisperer, what other gems did she have hidden on there?
Shit, what gems were hidden inside her apparently filthy mind?
I had no place to be thinking that. She was Ryan’s sister and the bane of my goddamn existence. I didn’t give a shit what was inside her head or how she came up with a filthy cocktail menu.
I was going to believe that she’d spent stupid amounts of time on the Internet coming up with those kinds of names. Seeing her in that damn short dress yesterday had already affected me enough—not to mention the fact that she’d changed since I last saw her.
I didn’t know people could change so much in only three years, but Raven Archer had. She was no longer post-grad, trying to seriously figure out what she wanted to do with her life, uncertain and serving burgers to people to make money.
She was grown-up, in more ways than just her age. She was even hotter-headed that she was back then. She seemed stronger and more stubborn, and her tongue was so sharp I probably have scars from how quickly she cut me with her words.
She was taller and fucking curvier, too.
Her lips were fuller. Her eyes were brighter. And the general air that hung about her, that hint of sass and sexiness, the very same thing that made me insult her whenever I opened my mouth almost made me want her, too.
And that was exactly why I couldn’t sit and think about what went on in her mind—filthy or otherwise.
No matter what she looked like or how fucking hot she was, she was my best friend’s sister. Nobody was more off-limits than she was. That wasn’t a new development. It had always been that way.
Thank fucking god I was only here for the summer, and only because my mother had guilted me into it.
As soon as the summer was over, I’d go for my next challenge.
I could get through a few weeks of being in the same town or two as Raven—because after today, avoidance was at the top of my life.
Otherwise, I’d go fucking insane.
Dirty was right on the seafront, only meters away from a small, sandy bay. It’d only taken me a few minutes to walk here from where I’d parked downtown, and despite the music coming from inside the bar, I could still hear the gentle crashing of the waves as they crawled up the sand. The water was right out, and I stared out at the water as I headed up the hill to the bar.
Fairy lights twinkled along the underside of the roof that jutted out over the sidewalk. It was like a goddamn princess castle from the outside, but the beachy vibe was evident. Different sized and colored shells covered the pillars that held up the balcony that jutted out over the front doors.
I pushed open the door. Cold air blasted into me, and so did the heavy bass beat of the music that blared out from the speakers just above my head. There were more fairy lights inside, but they were strung all beneath the bar, across the beams on the ceiling, and over the back wall where the spirits were on the wall. There wasn’t much else in the way of lighting, but what there was was effective enough in holding the entire space into a balance between bright and dusky.
The inside of Raven’s bar was like being outside at the moment the sun set.
I cast my gaze over the rest of the bar. The solid, wood tables and stools that lines the walls and filled the space to my left all had tiny vases of fresh flowers in. Even those were surrounded by fairy lights.
Fucking hell, did she let a class of little girls in here to decorate?
No matter what I felt about the fairy lights, it looked good. Damn good.
I stepped up to the bar and leaned forward on it. Raven was at the other end of the bar, wearing jeans and a tight tank top that tucked beneath the waistband. Strappy, silver heels on her feet glinted off the under-bar lighting, and it was all too easy for me to drop my eyes there then slowly drag my gaze up the length of her entire body.
Light bounced off the chrome cocktail shaker in her hand as she shook it. She popped off the top with one slick of her thumb, and without spilling a drop, poured the pink-red liquid into two martini-style glasses. With her other hand, she reached back to the register and jabbed at it.
Seconds later, she was handing them back their change. It all happened in a flash.
How did such she go from lost to…this…so quick?
“Raven!” A dark-haired woman sitting a few stools away from me with her friend yelled. “There’s a hot guy staring at you!”
I laughed loudly as Raven jerked around. Her gaze landed on me with what felt like a snap, and I swore she mouthed, “Motherfucker,” before she stalked to this end of the bar.
Her hands slapped on the bar in front of me. “What are you doing here?”
“I told you I was coming to check out your menu.”
“He was checking out more than the menu,” the woman’s friend giggled.
Raven held her finger up to them, and with her other hand, slapped a smooth, laminated menu in front of me. “Did you drive?”
“No, I walked all the way from Key West.” I picked up the menu. “Of course I drove.”
“Pick one,” she said, moving away. “I’m not serving you anymore than that. Make it a good choice. What can I get for you?” she asked someone else, cutting me off before I could say a word.
I raised my eyebrows.
“She runs a tight ship,” the first woman said. “Three days ago, there was a guy in here spiking drinks. She caught him and bashed him in the balls with her cocktail shaker so he couldn’t run from the security guard.”
Could my eyebrows go up any higher? “That doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. I’ve seen her do worse.”
The second woman’s eyes narrowed. “You have? You know her?”
The first woman rolled her eyes. “Of course he does, Cam. When have you seen her react to a customer like that? He obviously pissed her off in a past life or something.”
“I should be so lucky.” I smirked. “More like all in this life.”
“Her brother’s friend, right?” She tilted her head to the side. “Yeah, she mentioned she hated you.”
She’d talked about me?
“She didn’t say you were hot, though,” the second woman said.
“Camille!”
Ahhh.
The best friends.
“What?” Camille said. “I’m just saying.”
“No more Slutwhisperers for you,” the other woman—the one I presumed to be Lani—said, reaching for her glass.
Camille leaned over and slurped the last of the drink through the straw.
That explained the name of the cocktail.
“What are you doing?” Raven asked, stopping in front of them. “Cam? Your glass is empty. Let me refill that for you.” She winked to the other girl as she turned around.
What was she doing?
She put her back to her friends and grabbed the tequila bottle. She tipped it over a cocktail shaker without actually pouring anything into it. My lips quirked up as she put together what was some pink juice or something and blended it with raspberries.
She poured the mixture into a glass with some vigor in front of Camille.
She’d made her a placebo.
“Made your choice?” Raven turned to me, holding onto the shaker.
“No.” I spun the menu to face her. “What do you think I should have?”
Completely straight-faced, she said, “The Blue Balls.”

 

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emma-hart

By day, New York Times and USA Today bestselling New Adult author Emma Hart dons a cape and calls herself Super Mum to two beautiful little monsters. By night, she drops the cape, pours a glass of whatever she fancies—usually wine—and writes books.

Emma is working on Top Secret projects she will share with her followers and fans at every available opportunity. Naturally, all Top Secret projects involve a dashingly hot guy who likes to forget to wear a shirt, a sprinkling (or several) of hold-onto-your-panties hot scenes, and a whole lotta love.

She likes to be busy—unless busy involves doing the dishes, but that seems to be when all the ideas come to life.

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ARC Review: The Hot Shot

April 19, 2017 Reviews 0 ★★★★

ARC Review: The Hot ShotThe Hot Shot (Game On, #4) by Kristen Callihan
on April 18th 2017
Pages: 223
Source: InkSlinger PR
Also by this author: The Hook Up (Game On, #1), The Friend Zone (Game On, #2), The Game Plan (Game On, #3), Idol (VIP, #1), Managed (VIP, #2)
Buy on AmazonBarnes & NobleThe Book Depository
Goodreads
four-stars

I received this book for free from InkSlinger PR in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

First we were friends. Then we were roommates. Now I want more…What can I say about Chess Copper? The woman is capable of bringing me to my knees. I know this about five minutes after getting naked for her.No one is more surprised than me. The prickly photographer my team hired to shoot our annual charity calendar isn’t my usual type. She’s defense to my offense, a challenge at every turn. But when I’m with her, all the regrets and darkness goes away. She makes life fun.
I want to know Chess, be close to her. Which is a bad idea.
Chess is looking for a relationship. I’ve never given a woman more than one night. But when fate leaves Chess without a home, I step up and offer her mine. We’re roommates now. Friends without benefits. But it’s getting harder to keep our hands off each other. And the longer we live together the more I realize she’s becoming my everything.
Trick is… Now that I’ve made her believe I’m a bad bet, how do I convince her to give this player a true shot at forever?

Wow, this was really awesome! Then again, I’ve come to expect nothing less than absolutely amazing from Kristen Callihan. She’s just one of those authors for me that never fails to write beautiful romances that sweep me off my feet. She also writes some of the most memorable characters that I’ve ever came across. Finn and Chess were both such lovable characters, and I loved the relationship that they slowly but surely built as the book progressed. I highly recommend this one if you’re looking for a sports romance or just a fast paced romance in general. If you’ve never read anything from this author before, what are you waiting for? I promise that you’ll probably adore her works if you’re a fan of fun and realistic romances that have some steam thrown in there for good measure. I can’t wait to see what she writes next.

Chess was a wonderful heroine. She has such a strong personality that you can’t help but adore. She’s a unique woman who isn’t afraid to be herself. Honestly, I can’t think of all that much about her that I didn’t absolutely love. She’s just a naturally likable person from the very first page. I loved how she wasn’t afraid to say what she thought, and she didn’t let anyone walk all over her. Chess shared some similarities with some of Callihan’s past heroines, but at the same time she was so different from them in all the right ways. She’s her own person, and she’ll stick with you long after you finish reading this.

Finn was such a sweetheart. I wasn’t sure if I’d like him at first, but there was any need for me to doubt. I quickly fell in love with Finn. He wasn’t a douchebag by any means, instead he was an extremely loving and caring guy all around. I’m always going to have a thing for football players, so the QB of an NFL football team definitely didn’t disappoint. He was a true leader, who was also an amazing teammate and I loved seeing some of the same guys that we saw from the last couple of books. I don’t know if I liked him more than Drew, Grey, or Dex, but he was still an excellent guy who I loved getting to know more.

The romance between Finn and Chess is easily my favorite part of the book. I love that they have this instant banter from the first time that they meet, though they didn’t seem to like each other much at the time. Anyway, they slowly become close friends which obviously develops into more. This is certainly a book that has a slow burn to it, and I thought that was a fitting choice from Callihan. Once they finally had sex, it was totally electric. They most certainly have some serious chemistry, that’s for sure.

This fourth book in the Game On series is just as lovely as I was hoping it would be. While I’d still say that the last one is probably my favorite, this one is still just as amazing and memorable as I hoped it would be. Callihan is an author who never ever disappoints. I’m so happy that she introduced us to Finn and Chess, they were both such unique characters. This was a fast paced read that I managed to finish in just a few sittings. I’m happy that I read this one and I hope that you give it a shot as well!

four-stars

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Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Things That Make Me Instantly Want to Read a Book

April 18, 2017 Features 10

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This is a place where you can share all of your lists with other list lovers out there. There’s a new theme every week to center your list around. This week, the theme is all about certain things that make you instantly want to read a book. Like you see in a review or a book synopsis that this book is about a certain thing or set at a certain place, and you pick up the book right away based on that alone. This was an interesting topic with a lot of possibilities to talk about. I hope you guys enjoy my list and I look forward to seeing what you come up with!

1. No love triangle

Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether or not it has one based on the synopsis alone, but typically other reviews help me discover if it has one or not. A lack of a love triangle is definitely an automatic plus for me right off the bat.

2. Female friendship

I love all types of friendship, but I’m instantly drawn towards books that have positive female friendships. There’s a lot of books out there that have girls fighting or hating other girls, so it’s always so nice to see ones that have wonderful relationships that aren’t like that.

3. Summer/beach

I always think a book is great if it takes place on a beach during the summer. To me, it just screams that it’s probably going to be a light and cute book. Sometimes the books turn out to be a lot deeper, but I still enjoy the majority of them. I’m mostly thinking of Sarah Dessen books with this one, but I like others as well!

4. Brother’s best friend

I’ve found that this trope pretty much always work for me. I’ve found it more in NA or adult romances, but there are a few decent YA books that touch on it as well, I just can’t think of any at the moment. This just always works out extremely well for me.

5. Coming of age/contemporary

This is very very broad and not all of these books typically work for me, but I’m more likely to read a book if it’s about growing up or just contemporary in general. I think these books are much easier to relate to on a personal level. Some of my all time favorite books fit in this category. I feel like I’m always going to be reading these types of books.

6. Friends to lovers

I’m a fan of platonic friendships for sure, but I’m also a major sucker for friends to lovers. I think there’s something special about a couple having a history together before they ultimately get together. It seems as if all the decent relationships out there are initially built on friendship, which is probably why I love these books so much. The books aren’t always perfect and there are a few that I haven’t been able to finish, but they are still mostly fun and interesting.

7. Sports

I love sports, specifically baseball, basketball, and football, but I love reading about any of them. I think it’s always great when the heroine does some sport, but I’m also a sucker for a love interest who plays a sport as well. As long as it includes somebody doing a sport, I’ll probably pick it up. Miranda Kenneally books are the first ones that come to mind with this one.

8. Music

Though I recently read a book about a band that didn’t work for me, a lot of these do. I’ll always enjoy books that have teens in a band or all over the world touring or something along those lines. I feel like the ones that I’ve enjoy recently have been more NA or Adult though, like Idol and Managed by Kristen Callihan.

9. Hate to love

I thought that The Hating Game was absolutely awesome. Another one that I really enjoyed was Act Like It by Lucy Parker. Sometimes these don’t always work, but when it’s done right, I find that I truly enjoy it. It does seem like it works better for me with NA and Adult romance instead of YA for whatever reason.

10. College

I can be picky with these at times, but there are a lot of these that I like since this is where I am in life right now. Of course I love YA, but books that take place at colleges are fitting to me right now. Though some of them rightfully get criticized for awful behavior like slut shaming or general douchebag behavior from the love interests, there’s also plenty of decent stories out there.

So there’s my list. I hope you enjoyed discovering what some of my favorite things are when I’m deciding what books to read next. This was a fun list to make and I enjoyed doing it. I can’t wait to see what everyone else came up with since it’s a pretty broad category. I hope you guys have a great rest of the week.

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Ghost Review

April 15, 2017 Reviews 1 ★★★★

Ghost ReviewGhost (Track, #1) by Jason Reynolds
on August 30th, 2016
Pages: 192
Source: Library
Buy on AmazonBarnes & NobleThe Book Depository
Goodreads
four-stars
Running. That's all that Ghost (real name Castle Cranshaw) has ever known. But never for a track team. Nope, his game has always been ball. But when Ghost impulsively challenges an elite sprinter to a race -- and wins -- the Olympic medalist track coach sees he has something: crazy natural talent. Thing is, Ghost has something else: a lot of anger, and a past that he is trying to outrun. Can Ghost harness his raw talent for speed and meld with the team, or will his past finally catch up to him?

I haven’t read a middle grade book in what feels like forever. Jason Reynolds is an author that I’ve been dying to read for quite awhile now, so I figured I would give this book a try. It was just as awesome and good as I was expecting it to be! Reynolds is an author that I will certainly be reading more from in the future. He’s done an excellent job at creating a flawed but extremely likable main character. I smiled and cried so much while reading this book. I recommend this one if you’re looking for something short but very meaningful and heartwarming.

Ghost or Castle is a character who I loved from the start. He’s such a hilarious kid and I wanted to give him a huge hug throughout the entire novel. From the first page, you could tell how spirited and funny he was, but then you discover that there’s also a lot more to him than just that. He’s been through quite a lot in his reasonably short life, and his story will absolutely break your heart. We figure this out pretty early on so I feel like it’s not too big of a spoiler. Ghost began running because of the time he and his mom had to run from his drunk dad, who was shooting at them. In addition to all of this sadness, Ghost is such a beautifully well developed character. Some of the things that he said were just so random and fitting. I can easily see a seventh grader actually saying all of this crazy and unpredictable stuff that he says. Look, I don’t know what else to say besides the fact that he is a real and honest kid who will simultaneously break and heal your heart at the same exact time.

I never know exactly how to review middle grade books. This one was even shorter than some of the other ones that I’ve read. But it still managed to have many memorable characters and plots. I loved that track was a focus here. I’ve never read another MG book (or YA) that included the sport. It was also so appropriate and real how Ghost struggled with whether or not this was a sport at all since it wasn’t nearly as popular as basketball. He makes a fair point that you don’t know all that many famous track runners out there, besides maybe Usain Bolt. Anyway, I felt like the execution of the plot was masterfully executed. I hope to read more books in the future that focus on characters who run track. Please point me towards some if you know any YA or MG that do focus on this.

I’m happy that I read this one. It was unique and extremely well written. I loved that Ghost made such great friends on the track team and that they got along so well. There wasn’t any petty drama between them, they had just pure friendship and support for one another. And this is something that I’ve always appreciated and admired about Middle Grade books. So I see where this is planned to be apart of a series, so I look forward to seeing who or what the second book will be about! I’m hoping it will focus on one of his teammates and close friends.

four-stars

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Pop Culture Recommendations

April 13, 2017 Features 4

I haven’t been reading all that much because I’ve been distracted by so many other pop culture related things here recently. I wanted to share with you guys the podcasts and TV shows that I’ve been obsessed with. I highly recommend all of these, and want to talk in more detail about them.

Podcasts:
S-Town

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So this is a podcast that is already receiving tremendous hype and it hasn’t really been out that long yet. I’m not going to lie, I have conflicted feelings about it, but I can’t deny the fact that it’s seriously addicting. I started listening to it and then wasn’t able to stop. Seven hours later and I was finished. It wasn’t the best podcast I’ve ever listened to. Since it’s labeled as being a true crime podcast, I was expecting something completely different. It was obviously pretty good since I spent the majority of my day listening to it. You definitely get wrapped up into these people and their lives. You just need to go into it knowing that it isn’t anything like Serial.

This American Life

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This podcast has been around for forever. I started listening to it probably about two or three years ago. I used to just casually listen to episodes every now and then. I’ve started loving it more and more as I listen to it on a regular basis. With every episode, I feel like I’m learning so much about humans and unique stories. A lot of these stories should be adapted into a movie or a book. I highly recommend listening to this if you just love stories.

TV Shows:
13 Reasons Why

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This is a show that basically everyone has been talking about for the last couple of weeks now. I really enjoyed reading the book back in middle school, so I was happy that someone finally adapted it. It was ridiculous hard to watch at times, but it was pretty good as a whole. Not going to lie, I think the kid who played Clay wasn’t a very good actor. But Katherine, who played Hannah, is absolutely amazing. Anyway, this is one of those extremely emotional heavy shows that you need to mentally prepare yourself for. I wasn’t able to binge it just because I could only take so many episodes of it at once before I needed to switch to something happier. I recommend it especially if you were a fan of the book or just want to see what all the current hype is about!

Riverdale

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This is a fabulous show! It took me a little while to start watching it, but I’m happy that I did and that I’m all caught up now. I’ve always been a fan of teen dramas and this one doesn’t disappoint. It has pretty much everything that I want in a show: friendship, relationships, diversity, and it also just so happens to have a mystery on top of all that other stuff. I recommend it if you’re looking for a show that’s kind of like Gossip Girl or One Tree Hill, but with an added murder mystery twist.

The Missing

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I’d never heard of this show before. I just randomly came across it last week. Xfinity has this thing for a whole week every year where you can watch premium shows on demand for free. This is on Starz, so I figured I’d better take advantage of it while I can. Wow, this show was INTENSE. Clearly I’m not a huge fan of uplifting shows. It revolves around a little boy who went missing eight years ago. His dad has dedicated his entire life to finding him and has just now found a big clue that might be enough to open the case back up. With help from a retired detective, he gets closer to finding out the truth about his son. This is a great show and I recommend that more people watch it, but it’s definitely depressing as hell.

Big Little Lies

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I finished this book then immediately began watching the show. I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t totally blown away by the book. It was okay, but not my favorite by any means. I found the twist to be pretty disappointing. Anyway, the show is actually rather awesome. I thought the casting couldn’t have been more perfect. Nicole Kidman absolutely blows me away with her performance of Celeste. All eight episodes of the show are beautifully well done. I also loved the music so much. I don’t think that there should be a second season of the show, but I still really enjoyed watching it.

Life in Pieces

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Now that I’ve gotten all of these depressing shows out of the way, here’s the only one on my list that is a full blown comedy. This show is so freaking funny. They recently put the entire first season on Netflix and it’s been fun catching up on a lot of the episodes that I missed. I didn’t think I’d like it when it first aired, so then I started watching sporadic reruns once the first season was over. I love how unique the format is. Each episode has four different stories that follow various family members throughout. It’s a clever show that never fails to put me in a good mood.

There’s some other shows that I’ve been randomly watching since I finished all of these other shows, but I think these recommendations are enough for now. I’m always up for TV show or podcast recommendations if you have any!

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ARC Review: Fireworks

April 11, 2017 Reviews, Young Adult 0 ★★

ARC Review: FireworksFireworks by Katie Cotugno
Published by HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray on April 18th 2017
Pages: 336
Source: Edelweiss
Also by this author: 99 Days
Buy on AmazonBarnes & NobleThe Book Depository
Goodreads
two-stars

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

From Katie Cotugno, bestselling author of 99 Days, comes Fireworks—about a girl who is competing with her best friend to become the new pop star of the moment—and all the drama and romance that comes with it—set in Orlando during the late-'90s boy-and-girl-band craze.
It was always meant to be Olivia. She was the talented one, the one who had been training to be a star her whole life. Her best friend, Dana, was the level-headed one, always on the sidelines, cheering her best friend along.
But everything changes when Dana tags along with Olivia to Orlando for the weekend, where superproducer Guy Monroe is holding auditions for a new singing group, and Dana is discovered too. Dana, who’s never sung more than Olivia’s backup. Dana, who wasn’t even looking for fame. Next thing she knows, she and Olivia are training to be pop stars, and Dana is falling for Alex, the earnest, endlessly talented boy who’s destined to be the next big thing.
It should be a dream come true, but as the days of grueling practice and constant competition take their toll, things between Olivia and Dana start to shift . . . and there’s only room at the top for one girl. For Olivia, it’s her chance at her dream. For Dana, it’s a chance to escape a future that seems to be closing in on her. And for these lifelong best friends, it’s the adventure of a lifetime—if they can make it through.
Set in evocative 1990s Orlando, New York Times bestselling author Katie Cotugno’s Fireworks brings to life the complexity of friendship, the excitement of first love, and the feeling of being on the verge of greatness.

This was yet another book that I really wanted to like. I’ve heard a lot of positive things about this author, but I feel like I’m missing something. I strongly disliked 99 Days and I couldn’t even make it through How to Love. Sadly, none of her books have been for me. I thought this one would definitely be my cup of tea since it takes place in the 90’s and also involves boy and girl bands. I’m sure many contemporary fans will like this one, but not me. Fireworks had a lot of potential that it sadly didn’t live up to. The writer is good, but the plot and characters didn’t work at all. I doubt I’ll be reading any other books from this author in the future.

If you’re a fan of realistic contemporary stories, you’ll probably have some issues right off the bat with this one. The story revolves around Dana going to this audition to support her best friend Olivia. Somehow though, Dana gets roped into auditioning. She’s NEVER had any type of vocal lessons or any musical theater experience in her life, yet we’re supposed to believe that the man in charge picks her over all the more experienced girls? Nope, I don’t buy that this would happen to her just because she’s pretty.

It also takes place in the 90’s, which I originally thought was awesome. Truthfully, I found myself forgetting the time period most of the time. It didn’t seem like it took place back then besides a few TLC and Spice Girl references. The love interest of the story happens to be in a boy band, yet there’s no references to any other boy bands that were around in that time period. Maybe she was just trying to be creative, but I felt like that would have made the book just a little better. I hope that more people write stories that take place in the 90’s in the future, but only if they actually make it seem like it’s that decade.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the romance. I liked how sex positive it was all around. I just didn’t think Alex was a great character. He didn’t have much development, his whole purpose was basically to continually tell Dana how wonderful and perfect she is. Aside from that, we truly don’t know much else about him besides the fact that he comes from a decent family and has money. Did anyone else think it was creepy as hell how he would just randomly pop up literally everywhere that Dana would go by herself? For example, she goes down to the pool in the middle of the night, and he just randomly pops out of nowhere. It was a little weird in my opinion.

I think it’s misleading that people consider this to be a friendship novel. Going into this, I was expecting a really positive and strong female friendship but that’s not what I got. Without saying too much, the friendship is not what I was expecting it to be. Olivia is an unlikable character. I did sympathize with the fact that she had an eating disorder. Maybe it’s because one of my best friends struggles with an eating disorder, but I felt like it wasn’t treated with respect. It felt more like a plot device than something that was truly explored and developed. It bothered me that not only Dana but especially the adults didn’t take her eating disorder more seriously. This is an issue that so many teens deal with, and I felt like it could have been more carefully written as a whole.

Even though this book just released, it already seems as if I’m in the minority with my opinion. I don’t think that this author is bad by any means, but it seems like her style and plots just don’t match up with the books that I enjoy reading. If you’re able to get past all of the cliches and unrealistic things, you might like this book. Don’t get me wrong, this book wasn’t absolutely terrible. I didn’t have to force myself to read it, I was pretty sucked into it. I just wasn’t able to get past all of the other key elements of the story.

two-stars

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Save the Date Review

April 6, 2017 Reviews 0 ★★★½

Save the Date ReviewSave the Date by Annabeth Albert, Wendy Qualls
on March 28th 2017
Pages: 153
Source: Purchased
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three-half-stars
Randall Young has one duty as his sister’s “man of honor”: to ensure she has the best wedding ever. That includes an epic bachelorette pub crawl, leading him to Portland’s most popular gay bar… and into Hunter Mitchell’s well-muscled arms. A one-night stand with a sexy soldier is the perfect way to ditch that pesky V-card and get himself in the mood for a weekend of flowers, cake, and nuptials.
Hunter wants to blow off some steam before he stands up as his best friend’s best man. He's already married to his military career, not looking to settle down. He certainly doesn’t intend for the one guy he met (and, okay, got off with) in Oregon to be his counterpart in the wedding party. Or a virgin. Definitely wasn’t intending that. Luckily, they have the rest of the weekend for Hunter to show Randall what he's been missing.
The more they’re thrown together by the wedding, the more Randall and Hunter grow together outside the bedroom… which is dangerous because there’s a lot more than 2500 miles standing between them and a happily-ever-after. If they want a future beyond their wedding weekend hookup, both must find the courage to take a chance on love.
Length: approx. 38,000 words

Save the Date was a short and sweet M/M romance novella. I quickly purchased it once I realized that it was free. I’ve never read either one of these authors before, but I’ll certainly be checking out more from them in the future. It was a pretty light read, and just what I needed right now in between all of my heavy reads here lately. I’m happy that I was able to get lost in the plot and characters for at least a little while. Randall and Hunter were both charming and funny characters, and I thought they were incredible as a couple. I’d recommend it if you’re looking for something steamy that you can read in just a couple of hours.

Randall was the guy who was nerdy and an introvert. He’s also a virgin, and wanted to lose it while at a gay bar for his sister’s bachelorette party. I thought that he such a sweet and adorable guy. He’s obviously extremely smart as well. I thought that he was a fun character. I’m always a sucker for a well written nerd and that’s definitely what Randall is. Sometimes I didn’t always agree with his choices, like when he got into an argument with Hunter towards the end of the story. However, he was still a decent character at the end of it all. Novellas are always tricky since you don’t have enough space for a lot of character development, and I think Randall could have really used some of it.

Hunter is a military man who is the best man at his best friend’s wedding. I thought his character was also charming, but in a different way. He couldn’t be more different from Randall. He’s a smooth talker, and not at all awkward in the way that Randall is. I liked how secure in his own skin that he was. He’s a good character as well and I really enjoyed reading about him. I also thought it was nice how great of a friend he was towards his best friend, who is marrying Randall’s sister. Like Randall, I feel like Hunter could have used some more character development than what he had. Unfortunately, I understand that there simply wasn’t enough room for all of that but I think it would have made me connect with the characters a little bit better than what I did.

As mentioned, Randall and Hunter made a strong couple. Yes, it started on a complete physical attraction. They both met in the bar strictly looking for a one night stand. I’m not always a fan of those kinds of romance since there isn’t a ton of emotion involved until much later in the story. Fortunately, it didn’t bother me all that much here. I think the connection between them felt genuine from the start. I liked seeing them (especially Hunter) struggle with the fact that it all felt like much more than just a one time hookup right from the start. So they definitely take quite awhile to actually become a couple. I wasn’t a huge fan of the fight that went down. I felt like Randall was too harsh towards Hunter about his past. The relationship was VERY steamy, which was pretty great. You have to prepare yourself for all the serious steam that goes down here.

This was a steamy and fascinating novella. It wasn’t my favorite, but I still enjoyed reading it. I think that it would have worked well as a full length novel and it would have also allowed readers to connect even more with the characters. Randall and Hunter were lovely characters that shared such a beautiful romance, and I wanted to read even more and more of them. It felt like it was missing something, but I’m not totally sure what exactly it was. I’m still glad that I was able to read this one. Besides some of the drama towards the end, this was a lighthearted and fun novella.

three-half-stars

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We Are Okay Review

April 5, 2017 Reviews, Young Adult 0 ★★

We Are Okay ReviewWe Are Okay by Nina LaCour
Published by Dutton Books for Young Readers on February 14th 2017
Pages: 234
Source: Library
Also by this author: Summer Days & Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories, You Know Me Well
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two-stars
You go through life thinking there’s so much you need…
Until you leave with only your phone, your wallet, and a picture of your mother.

Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her best friend, Mabel. But even thousands of miles away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she’s tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit, and Marin will be forced to face everything that’s been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart.

Not going to lie to you guys, I desperately wanted to like We Are Okay. I liked Nina’s book Everything Leads to You. Though I wasn’t a fan of her recent book You Know Me Well with David Levithan, I thought I’d try this one anyway. Sadly, this didn’t work for me to say the least. I don’t know, I was just ridiculously bored. It was a short book, and I felt like nothing really happened. There was barely any character development, which made me sad. Nina LaCour is a great author, and her sentences are extremely pretty. I just wasn’t able to connect with this story on any level. I’m sure there are plenty of readers who will like it, I’m not one of them.

Marin is an okay character. I totally feel for her as she struggles with grief over the loss of her grandpa. Her mom died when she was little and her dad was never in the picture, so her grandpa was her family. So yeah, I sympathized with her. Look, this might sound insensitive, but I didn’t really understand why she felt so betrayed by her grandpa. It felt like she was being a little selfish about what her grandpa went through. Like Cait said, maybe I just missed something, but it seemed like a weird thing to be so upset about. I also didn’t get why it was so hard to be in the town again. Like what did EVERYONE in the town do to you? Maybe it was the memories that she associated it with, but I still didn’t fully understand that. I was confused by the whole thing.

Another disappointment was the romance. I guess you could say the love interest was her best friend Mabel, but not really since nothing happens between them in the present. It all happened back before Marin’s grandpa died and she shut Mabel out completely. So she comes to Marin’s dorm over Christmas break because she hasn’t talked to her since she left and doesn’t know the full story. I guess she’s a good friend to Marin for the most part but I just didn’t care enough about it. I was really bothered by the fact that they’d been together in the past, but it was barely mentioned at all by the girls in the present. It would be okay if it was just a one time thing, but they seemed to really love each other, or at least Marin loved her. I’m fine with Mabel being bisexual and having a boyfriend now. I wasn’t alright with how she actually said that she wouldn’t have been with her boyfriend in Marin would have just texted her back. Realistically, it seems like it would have been difficult for them to be in a long distance relationship, she might have fallen for him even if they were still together. It just bugged me that she claimed to understand why Marin shut her out, but still basically blamed her for leading her to Jacob. I wasn’t a fan of how Mabel was pushing her at the end of the book to find a girlfriend. It felt like she was only doing that to ease her own guilt since she knows that Marin still has strong feelings for her. Mabel had very little character development as well.

I’ve seen pretty much all positive reviews about this book. For whatever reason, it didn’t click for me. I didn’t have a strong emotional connection to the characters or the plot at all. I think it could have been a bit longer and faster paced. I found myself very bored and just ready for it to end, which is never a good sign for me. Maybe I’ll eventually end up giving this author another chance, but this didn’t end up leaving a good impression on me personally. I see where people are coming from with all the nice things being said, but I simply don’t feel the same. If you like emotional contemporary reads, maybe this will be your cup of tea. I usually like emotional books, but I wasn’t able to connect with the characters or the romance.

two-stars

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ARC Review: Geekerella

April 4, 2017 Reviews, Young Adult 0 ★★★★

ARC Review: GeekerellaGeekerella: A Fangirl Fairy Tale by Ashley Poston
Published by Quirk Books on April 4th 2017
Pages: 320
Source: Netgalley
Also by this author: We Own the Night
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four-stars

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Cinderella goes to the con in this fandom-fueled twist on the classic fairy tale.
Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic sci-fi series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball, and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck (and her dad's old costume), Elle's determined to win unless her stepsisters get there first.
Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons before he was famous. Now they re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he's ever wanted, but the Starfieldfandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise.
Part romance, part love letter to nerd culture, and all totally adorbs, Geekerella is a fairy tale for anyone who believes in the magic of fandom."

Wow, this was a great book! I didn’t really like this author’s book We Own the Night, but decided to give this a shot because of the summary. I’m also a sucker for sweet contemporary reads and anything about geek culture. This wasn’t my absolute favorite, but it was still a book that I really enjoyed. It was also extremely fast paced. I was able to read it in just a few sittings. I look forward to reading whatever Ashley Poston decides to write next. I’m glad that I was given the opportunity to pick this one up. You should read it if you’re a fan of fairytale retellings, geeky things, and just cute and light contemporary stories.

Elle was a strong character all in all. She was sassy and I just adored so much about her personality. I definitely related to her geeky side. I also understand her taking refuge in the internet instead of in the outside world. She was just an entirely relatable character. However, I desperately wanted her to stand up for herself. I get that the author was staying close to the original Cinderella story in this respect, but it was still frustrating, especially towards the end. I didn’t understand why she continually allowed her stepmother to treat her like trash when she had basically no reason to live with her. Maybe I’m making too much out of this, but it bothered me quite a bit.

Darian was a decent character. He might have been a big star who just landed a huge role, but he certainly didn’t always act like it. Though he comes off as a jerk to Elle, we learn that there’s a lot more to him. He actually turns out to be a complicated character. Becoming famous has caused him to lose all of his friends and he doesn’t know who to trust. His dad is also his manager, and isn’t much of a dad to him since he’s too concerned with his career. His problems might not be as rough as Elle’s, but he’s still got them for sure. Anyway, I thought he was sweet and swoony. He was a total geek fanboy before he became famous. He’s just as obsessed with Starfield as Elle is, and it was his dream role to play Carmindor. I thought that he was a great book boyfriend. He wasn’t perfect, but I still liked him a lot!

Darian and Elle made a sweet couple. Some people might be bothered that the majority of their interactions take place through text messages. They don’t meet each at the convention until the end of the book. When they do meet, they don’t know they’ve been talking and they don’t get along right away. That being said, I still found the relationship that they built over text to be adorable. It felt very real and sweet, there’s really no better words to describe it. We don’t get a lot of kissing scenes obviously, but I still thought the relationship was well written for the most part. It might not work for some people, but I thought it was great!

Geekerella was a refreshing and unique modern take on the classic tale. I thought that the fangirl angle was so relevant. Elle was a fabulous main character. The supporting characters were memorable as well, specifically her fairy godmother Sage. She was so hilarious and charming all around. Do you guys think I’ve used the word sweet enough in my review? That’s truly the best word I can think of to describe this book. It’s not perfect, but it’s still really great. I think readers are going to find it to be a compelling and charming read! I hope that you guys give it a chance.

four-stars

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Gemina Review

April 3, 2017 Reviews, Young Adult 1 ★★★★

Gemina ReviewGemina (The Illuminae Files, #2) by Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff, Marie Lu
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on October 18th 2016
Pages: 608
Source: Library
Also by this author: Illuminae (The Illuminae Files, #1), Illuminae (The Illuminae Files, #1)
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four-stars
Listening time 12 hours 34 minutes
The highly anticipated sequel to the instant New York Times bestseller that critics are calling “out-of-this-world awesome.”
Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed.
The sci-fi saga that began with the breakout bestseller Illuminae continues on board the Jump Station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of the BeiTech assault.
Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter; Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.
When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands.
But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope.
Once again told through a compelling dossier of emails, IMs, classified files, transcripts, and schematics, Gemina raises the stakes of the Illuminae Files, hurling readers into an enthralling new story that will leave them breathless.

Gemina was a decent book, but not nearly as great as the first book. I’m not going to lie, I didn’t even realize that this wasn’t directly following the characters from the first book until I started it. Illuminae was such a whirlwind of a novel and so different from what I typically read. Stepping out of my comfort zone to read it a year ago was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made reading wise. So obviously, I couldn’t wait to read this one as well. I thought that this also had a unique plot and definitely kept you in suspense the whole time. However, some of the plot twists just gave me whiplash. Sometimes I wasn’t sure what to make of the direction that the book was going in. If you like that kind of unpredictable novel though, you’ll likely go for this book. I’m happy that I finally got the chance to read it months after it was released!

Hanna is our main character in Gemina. Her character really comes out through her beautiful drawings and her IM’s. We also see more and more of her badass ways as the book progresses. Seriously though, this girl is the shit. I loved how witty and smart she was. She might have been a bit spoiled, but she still had such a strong and wonderful personality. These authors are seriously the best at creating imperfect but hardcore teenage girls who aren’t afraid to kick some ass when the situation calls for it. I instantly loved this girl and am jealous that I can’t be her.

Nik is our other main character in this one. Oh man, he’s another character that I basically instantly love. I’m not always a fan of the bad boy types, and that’s definitely who he is. He comes from a family of gang members and has been to jail himself. Oh, he’s also Hanna’s drug dealer. But there’s more to him than what meets the eye. So what won me over was really his heart and wit. He and Hanna have the absolute best banter. He might not be the perfect guy, but he’s still a genuine and straightforward one. He’s a pretty great guy underneath it all. He made me laugh out loud so many times. I wanted more and more of him!

The romance isn’t really a huge factor in this one. Hanna has a boyfriend at the beginning, which is something that I usually hate seeing. It actually worked here because of reasons that I won’t say in case you haven’t read it yet. Anyway, the authors made it work in an impressive and convincing way and I’ll leave it at that. Nik and Hanna made a cute couple. I’m always a fan of hate to love and they had this to a degree. They didn’t have many cute scenes since they were busy trying to save themselves, but I still happy with what we did see. Like I mentioned earlier, I adored all of the banter that they shared from the beginning of the novel. Seeing their relationship grow was pretty awesome.

So one of the best and most notable things about this story is the unique format. I’m sure I mentioned this repeatedly in my review of Illuminae, but the format of this book was extremely unique. This book is LONG, it’s over 600 pages. It moves super fast due to all the IM’s, surveillance footage summaries, and drawings. This is a book that you can devour very quickly, and I loved that about it. The format is something that is probably discussed a lot, but I feel as if it’s well deserved.

This wasn’t nearly as good as Illuminae in my opinion. Gemina had A LOT happening in it, and sometimes I wasn’t really sure what was going on. I think that I sometimes got that feeling with Illuminae, but the plot twists seemed even more frequent in this one. I can see why people loved this. It was beautiful and well written. I think that as a whole, I was more impressed and swept away by the previous book. That being said, I still can’t wait to see where this story is going to go next. I’m hoping that the next book will join all four main characters from both books together. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see!

four-stars

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