Tag Archives: romance

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
Published in October 2015 by St. Martin's Griffin.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased (paperback).

Genre: YA fantasy.

My rating:

Simon Snow is the worst chosen one who’s ever been chosen. That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.

Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he sets something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here—it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.

Carry On is a ghost story, a love story, a mystery and a melodrama. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story—but far, far more monsters.

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This review should really have been written a year and a half ago when I first read Carry On, chewing through the entire book in one day. But I never got around to actually writing down my (very enthusiastic) thoughts, so I put Carry On on my “to be re-read soon” pile and now I finally took the time to do it! My re-read was the result of a pretty big reading slump – I just needed to re-read a favorite and fall in love with books again. There are spoilers in here (because that’s how I roll these days), so you probably shouldn’t be reading this if you haven’t read the book yet. But it’s been a while since its publication, and you’ve been warned. So.

Carry On has received mixed reviews – and I can absolutely see why. It’s a big mess of a book, the setting and topic and everything so reminiscent of Harry Potter, some people couldn’t get past it. I guess it’s possible to read it as a sort of parody. Rowell picked a ridiculous number of fantasy tropes and mashed them all together and yes, the resulting story is overwhelming at times.

But I loved it. I loved it the first time when I barely grasped what I was reading because I was so eager to see what happens and I loved it now that I took my time to savor Rowell’s writing.

I think it’s mostly the characters who make this story great. Rowell’s characters always have this fascinatingly real feel to them (see my reviews of Eleanor & Park and Attachments and Fangirl if you want to read more gushing praise), even if they’re vampires, ha. Something about them just speaks to me and they get under my skin and I can’t help but root for them. It’s good to know that I can trust an author to create likeable characters every time.

Simon Snow and Basilton Pitch are among my favorite YA couples of all time, and that’s saying something. I liked that they were more preoccupied with the fact that they were supposed to be mortal enemies than by being “hopelessly queer”. Coming out stories are important and powerful but I enjoyed reading a book where the fact that they weren’t even both human was more important than their sexual orientation. (Not that there was no mention of it. There were confusion and questions and people judging. But none of that mattered in the end. Because <3.)

I also enjoyed the side characters, Penelope in particular. I want to read her story. I even liked Agatha – the first time I read the book she sort of seemed pale and unimportant, but she’s a really intriguing young woman if you pay attention to her. I’d read her story, too.

And can I say that I wanted to clap when I read the ending? Flipping the Chosen One trope on its head was the best thing ever. I didn’t know what to expect with all this talk about Simon being the Greatest Mage that ever lived and his power being amazing, and then he sort of just fizzled out instead of being a big hero. Well, he did sort of save the day in the end – unintentionally. He didn’t want this burden, he didn’t enjoy his role, and for once, he wasn’t made to accept it and “grow a pair”, but was left to live the rest of his life in peace. I really liked that.

I now have only Landline to read (and a couple of novellas). I have a copy on my shelf, but I’m afraid to read it because it might not be as good as I want it to be and then I’ll have to wait for her next book to be released, which is just horrible. I’ll auto-buy all her books from now on, and I hope you’ll give them a try if you haven’t already.

Have you read Carry On? What did you think?

Who are your auto-buy authors?

I’d love to hear from you! :) 

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Agnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer

Agnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer
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Links:

Source: purchased for Kindle.

Genre: contemporary romance/mystery.

My rating:

Agnes and the Hitman is the third Jennifer Crusie novel I read (though it’s co-written with Bob Mayer), after I loved Bet Me and enjoyed Charlie All Night. Agnes and the Hitman was the best of three, even if it was completely different.

Agnes is a chef, hot-headed and fed up with being treated like a fool by the men she knows. She’s angry and violent (she’s handy with her cast iron skillet) and in no way your typical romantic heroine. I loved her, she was everything that I wanted in a romance heroine but didn’t know how to express. It’s rare for me to fall so completely for a female character, especially in romance, I always have some complaints about gender issues and whatnot. If I had to make a comparison, Agnes is like an angrier, Southern version of Stephanie Plum (who is one of my all-time favorite fictional people in case you didn’t know).

Shane (no surname), her love interest, is a hitman (the body count of AatH is unusually high for a romance, that’s true). He’s the guy who takes care of things for you, and he’s on a mission. So why he ends up living with Agnes, saving her life, and repairing her house, is a mystery. I was afraid he’d end up being one of those one-dimensional macho-types, and while he was certainly macho (look, it’s not really something I like, either, but stay with me), he was a complex love interest with separate motives and experience, so I really liked him, too.

I mentioned Stephanie Plum – and I think Janet Evanovich’s entire series is a great comparative title for Agnes and the Hitman. The supporting characters are over the top, hilarious, and ridiculous, there’s a flamingo wedding, a secret basement, and a mob war. So be prepared for some seriously high-level twists and turns. It was one of those reads that I couldn’t put down because the plot just pulled me in and refused to let go. I also snort-laughed a lot and debated making my husband read it (I didn’t, in the end, he’s not much of a romance reader).

I’ll be re-reading this one for sure, it’s a fabulous pick-me-up when a fluffy romance just doesn’t cut it and you need something with a bit of a bite.

Have you read Agnes and the Hitman? What did you think?

Do you have any other romance recs with unconventional heroines for me?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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Three Romances I Wanted To Love But Didn’t

Sometimes, books just don’t work out for me. It’s not even that these books are bad, because they aren’t. They just each pushed some buttons and I didn’t enjoy them as much as I hoped I would. I decided to do shorter reviews for books that didn’t work for me from now on, since my posting schedule is different and I’d rather spend my time and effort talking at length about books that I actually loved.

Love Story (Love Unexpectedly #3) by Lauren Layne
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Links:

Source: Publisher via NetGalley. Thank you for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: contemporary NA romance.

My rating:

Love Story…Ahh, I wanted to love it so much. I read it at the end of a serious Lauren Layne binge (I discovered her last year and was then lucky enough to read this as an ARC, so I’m super late posting my review, oops), and maybe that’s why I wasn’t entirely impressed by it.

I mostly just couldn’t connect with the characters. Lucy was too “spoiled princess” for my taste, I didn’t really see what her conflict was here, and Reece was an asshole one too many times. I mean, the plot itself (a road trip across the US and a second chance romance) should have been enough for me to completely fall for it because those are some awesome tropes right there. And I did enjoy it, it was a quick read, I just wished to empathize more with Lucy and Reece.

It’s a standalone, even though it’s listed as a part of a series, which is kind of nice in the world of romance. If you’re already a Layne fan, go for it, you might connect better with the main characters. But if not, try another LL book first and fall in love with those (they’re great and she’s one of my favorite contemporary romance authors).

zmaj-desno

Rescued by the Space Pirate (Ruby Robins Sexy Space Odyssey #1) by Nina Croft
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Links: Goodreads.

Source: Publisher via NetGalley. Thank you for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: space opera erotica.

My rating:

(Trigger warning for rape and dubious consent) Uhhh this book. I wanted this book to be campy and ridiculous and maybe sexy. I mean, when you pick up a book with such a title, you don’t expect to find serious literature of Nobel-prize-winning kind. But I expected some sort of space opera, with kissing. (Somebody find me that, please, I really want it now!)

What I got instead was alien porn with questionable consent and some uncool views on rape. *sad trombone* No but seriously, a hero who takes one look at a woman who was repeatedly gang-raped by weird tentacly aliens and says “she’ll get over it, people can adapt to anything” is not a hero I want to read about. Our heroine also gets bullied (aka fired from her job) into accepting the position of a spy which gets her into a situation where she gets touched by an alien against her will (she gets an orgasm out of it but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s non-consensual), so I wasn’t too impressed.

Look, I kind of wanted to continue reading the series because a three-way with a hot blue-skinned alien and a man who’s half-droid sounds like great fun (in writing, lol) but there were just too many issues for me to ignore. Now please, give me your space romance recs (aliens and tentacles are…fine, just as long as everyone’s there of their own free will).

zmaj-levo

Royally Screwed (Royally #1) by Emma Chase
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Links:

Source: purchased for Kindle.

Genre: contemporary romance.

My rating:

Whyyyyy are allllll the heroes such assholesssss? Don’t get me wrong, I like a good bad boy now and then, but not if he’s a straight-up jackass. I’ve seen a lot of positive reviews for Emma Chase’s Royally series, and this was a fast read (what contemporary romance isn’t?), but I didn’t get the appeal of Prince Charming, so the whole thing fell short for me.

He behaved atrociously towards Olivia, insulted her and treated her like crap, AND YET she went with him and they somehow fell in love. Being fantastic in bed doesn’t make a hero a good person, and at the end of the day, I want my romance heroes to be good guys the heroine can trust to stand beside her no matter what. Prince Nicholas just didn’t deliver on that. Meh.

zmaj-desno

Give me all your romance recs, especially the sci-fi kind if you have any. 

Any new contemporary romance authors I should try? I’ve been on a real contemporary kick lately.

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert
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Links:

Source: purchased for Kindle.

Genre: contemporary romance.

My rating:

Ohh, this is another one of those books. It has a great premise, some fantastic elements, I loved the heroine so much, and it made me hungry because the food descriptions are marvelous, but the whole just didn’t do it for me. This will contain spoilers because I want to talk about it some more, so if you want to read it, please stop reading now. You’ve been warned.

Lou is a small restaurant owner who gets a horrible review after she has a really bad day in life/her kitchen. The person responsible for the bad review – Al – is a nasty food critic who enjoys skewering restaurants and chefs, and takes perverse pleasure in seeing the effect of his words.

Now, Lou is fantastic. She’s warm and hardworking and trusting and a great friend. She’s also a fantastic chef, and I enjoyed her parts of the story so much. But Al…He was just such an asshole. He vents his own frustrations on unsuspecting people, and when he finds out he’s the reason for Lou’s misfortune, he hides behind his pseudonym like the coward that he is. When he didn’t come clean to Lou, I lost all interest in the story. The moment when he stated calculating how he could save his stupid ass and still stay with the woman whose life he ruined, I just sort of skim-read his parts because he annoyed me so much.

And the fact that she forgave him? Nope, sorry. He was so self-assured, so convinced that he was doing the world a favor by being nasty, I couldn’t empathize with him at all. Which is a pity, because I loved so many other things about this story.

The setting, the details of Lou’s life in the restaurant, Lou’s relationships with virtually everyone else…were great, really well-done. This reads more like chick-lit than romance, that’s worth mentioning. The story also dragged a little – I read it on my Kindle, so I don’t have a good sense of how long it was, but it definitely could have been shorter. So yeah. I might look up Reichert’s other books (are there any?) because I liked so much about this one, but I can’t whole-heartedly recommend The Coincidence of Coconut Cake because of the issues I mentioned.

Have you read The Coincidence? What did you think?

Would you forgive the person who ruined your life and lied about it?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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How Not To Fall by Emily Foster (Series Review)

How Not To Fall and How Not To Let Go by Emily Foster
Published in 2016 by Kensington.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: purchased for Kindle / ARC via NetGalley. Thank you Kensington for providing me with an e-copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Genre: contemporary romance.

My rating:

Data, research, scientific formulae–Annabelle Coffey is completely at ease with all of them. Men, not so much. But that’s all going to change after she asks Dr. Charles Douglas, the postdoctoral fellow in her lab, to have sex with her. Charles is not only beautiful, he is also adorably awkward, British, brilliant, and nice. What are the odds he’d turn her down?

Very high, as it happens. Something to do with that whole student/teacher/ethics thing. But in a few weeks, Annie will graduate. As soon as she does, the unlikely friendship that’s developing between them can turn physical–just until Annie leaves for graduate school. Yet nothing could have prepared either Annie or Charles for chemistry like this, or for what happens when a simple exercise in mutual pleasure turns into something as exhilarating and infernally complicated as love.

PEOPLE, listen up. I’ve found a romance so good, I gave it five stars! And the sequel is great, too, so sit back and let me gush, okay?

I saw How Not To Fall on the Smart Bitches newsletter (it’s funny, really, how many of my romance reviews should start this way), checked Goodreads, and saw Becky gave it a very good rating. I proceeded to one-click buy it and emerged several hours later, teary-eyed and heartbroken, to DM Becky about how good it was and how I wanted to read the sequel immediately. As luck would have it, the sequel, How Not To Let Go, was available on NetGalley, and I immediately plunged back in, with very satisfying results. I rated the first book with 5 stars and the second with 4, which is why we have that 4.5 rating up there.

It’s difficult to review just the first book, How Not To Fall, because it doesn’t have an HEA  and ends on a cliffhanger. I’m putting this out there even though I dislike spoilers, because when reading contemporary romances, happy endings are expected and you might feel hoodwinked if you get to the end of book one and the couple aren’t where you wanted them to be. So if you want to get the whole beautiful story of Annie and Charles, you’ll have to commit to both books (like that’s a bad thing).

Let’s start with the characters, though, shall we? Both Annie and Charles are scientists. They’re both very smart (like genius-smart), which makes for some really interesting conversations. However, I never felt like the scientific parts were too much, I liked how the subject of Annie’s studies pertains to the story itself.

The first thing I noticed about this book (reading the preview on Amazon), was how strong Annie’s voice was – the story is narrated by her and she’s funny and honest and awkward. I wish I could write voice like that. It also made me root for her from the beginning. Annie is wonderful because she’s got this great self-esteem, she knows she’s smart and young and pretty, and there’s very little hesitation on her part. (The second book has both characters’ POVs, which was a nice addition.)

Charles is a very interesting romance hero. His traumatic past makes him sound like another Christian Grey, and while there certainly are similarities between that stupid series and this one, Charles’ troubles are addressed in a much more sensitive, realistic manner. The first book focuses more on Annie, while the second explores Charles’ past in more detail. He’s got some serious commitment issues, so their involvement begins with an expiration date: Annie is leaving for grad school and they only have a month to enjoy each other’s company. Naturally, things don’t go as planned.

If you’re thinking that you’ve read this kind of story a hundred times before, just trust me: you haven’t. It’s a smart romance and I liked it, even if it’s not perfect (*spoiler in white* Like the fact that Annie is a virgin at 23 and Christian needs to, erm, show her the ropes. *snort-laugh* *end spoiler*). The author is a sex educator by profession, so you can bet that sex is medically accurate and also very hot. No “fade to black” scenes here.

If you’ve read the entire review and I haven’t convinced you to read these two books, I’m sorry. I also hope I didn’t create too much hype and that you’ll give them a try, be amazed, and report back to me. I’ll just be sitting here, waiting for Foster to write another book.

Have you read How Not to Let Go? How can I convince you to give it a try?

Do you like angsty books when they’re good?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black
Published in 2013 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.

Links: Goodreads.

Source: won in a giveaway (paperback).

Genre: YA paranormal/horror.

My rating:

Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave.

One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.

Coldest Girl in Coldtown has been on my TBR list for two years, I think. I won it in a Halloween giveaway during my first year of blogging, and I’ve been putting off reading it because I was scared it would be too scary for me (you know I’m a chicken when it comes to horror, right?). But then I put it on my winter tbr list – and managed to read it because I love crossing items off lists. Whatever works, right?

I really liked this book, which… is both a surprise and pretty predictable, depending on how you look at it. It’s a horror story alright, nothing light about it, but it’s also a book about vampires and it has a romance in it.

Tana is a great, smart heroine who kicks some ass but isn’t perfect at the same time. Her gut reaction to vampires is horror, which is good, but there’s also attraction, which is understandable. She’s not one of those swoony heroines who fall for the vampire boys – okay, so she does fall for the vampire boy, but her feelings are lust mixed with curiosity and a hefty amount of shame. Her childhood was really colourful (her mom bit her when she was infected) and she still carries the consequences of that. Her love for her sister, Pearl, is also great, she’d do anything for her. I liked her a lot because she was such a complex character.

The romance was slow enough for me to really get behind it. First of all, it’s not love at first sight at all – we don’t know what the guy is thinking, anyway, because he’s half crazy, and Tana is afraid of him as much as she wants to kiss him. I liked how they shared their history with each other and how Tana began to trust him, even if he’s a predator who’s likely to drink all her blood. It’s a twisted attraction – and I was glad it was presented as such, not overly romanticised, as is often the case with vampire romances.

I also liked the fact that there are no vegetarian vampires in this story. By this I mean to say that vampires are, for once, crazy, blood-thirsty monsters. Are they insanely beautiful? Sure. Do they have luscious hair and gorgeous lips? Yep. But there’s no sugar-coating the fact that they need to drink blood to survive and that they often kill while feeding because biting a human makes him or her go Cold, which is the stage before vampirism, and making more vampires will mean more strain on the blood supply.

My only real complaint would be the amount of backstory – the switching chapters made me feel like the story wasn’t as tense as it could have been. I mean, yeah, the “past” segments add color and information (mostly on Tana’s character), but they were sometimes too long and I felt like skipping them to get to the good parts again.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a good story, made even better by the fact that it’s a standalone and not a part of a stretched-out series. It’s a horror story but mild enough even for me (so all you fellow chickens out there can be sure it isn’t very horrible after all). I’m really glad I gave it a try, not only because it was collecting dust on my bookshelf, but because I’m starting to really like Holly Black (I’d previously read and reviewed her novel White Cat, which IS part of a series I really need to continue). I’ll be reading more of her work for sure.

Have you read The Coldest Girl in Coldtown? What did you think?

Have you read any more of Black’s novels? How about other vampire stories? 

I’d love to hear from you! :)

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