Review: Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

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Genre: Young-Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 391
Series: None
Release Date: April 4, 2017
Publisher: Simon Pulse

4 Stars

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I wanted something adorable and I got it.

Alex, Approximately follows Bailey “Mink” Rydell, a classic movie buff who’s spent months crushing on a fellow film geek she only knows online, who goes by Alex. They both live on opposite coasts until Bailey moves into Alex’s town to live with her father. But she doesn’t tell Alex about it, or about Porter Roth, her new archnemesis-turned-maybe-something-more. What she doesn’t know is that Porter is Alex.

And while you might think that finding Alex’s identity would be a huge plot point, it’s really not. In the beginning, Bailey is very eager to find him but then their online communications start to dwindle as they both get busy in their offline lives and the book starts to focus more on the Bailey-Porter relationship, which is adorable.

The two of them are so great together. They didn’t get along at the very beginning; Porter can be quite outspoken and likes to tease and stuff, while Bailey is reserved and a self-proclaimed evader. (Tangent: I wasn’t sure if I would like Bailey because people who run from their problems get on my last nerve. But Bailey simply prefers not to be in awkward situations, and when things really matter, she doesn’t falter.) Despite the initial clashing of personalities though, as Bailey and Porter get to know each other, they start to get along. Their romantic journey is very well done.

The writing was good, though a bit heavy on the mundane details sometimes. I had a slight issue with the pace in the beginning but it was perfectly fine afterwards. And while some might not be happy about the Porter-Alex revelation being right in the synopsis, I think the author made the right choice. It would have been quite easy to guess, and this way, we got to observe the similarities between Alex and Porter.

I do wish that Bailey would have figured it out about Porter being Alex because at one point, she had all the facts. But I guess she wasn’t looking for him in Porter. Makes sense.

The ending was beautifully done and I loved it. There was like a 30-40 page section near the ending which has a misunderstanding that I found to be a little silly, but even that made a lot of sense when explained. Overall, I really enjoyed this novel and I highly recommend checking it out.

Review: Till Death by Jennifer L. Armentrout

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Genre: Adult, Romance, Mystery, Contemporary
Pages: 400
Series: None
Release Date: February 28, 2017
Publisher: William Morrow

4 Stars

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Till Death is a mystery and a romance. Sasha Keaton, who left her home town ten years ago after a close escape from a serial killer called ‘The Groom’, is now coming back to help her mom with the family business. She left many people behind when she left town, and one them was her then-boyfriend, Cole Landis, who is now an FBI agent and wants to give things another shot with her.

But while they’re trying to see where their relationship could go, women start to go missing again, and even though they thought the Groom’s reign of terror died with him, that my not be entirely true.

Sasha is understandably scared about what’s going on, but she wants to deal with it head on. She wants to live her life. At first, it seems as if that could be possible. That maybe everything that’s happening doesn’t have anything to do with her. But the book has occasional excerpts from the perspective of the serial killer which tell us that it all has everything to do with her. And it soon becomes evident to Sasha and Cole as well.

Speaking of Sasha and Cole, I liked their relationship. They had a past and a lot of chemistry. I loved reading their scenes and interactions, and their romance was really sweet. There were times when I felt that things were maybe moving a bit too fast, and they were, but it didn’t bother me too much.

Cole and Sasha had a healthy relationship and they were very supportive of each other. Cole was her rock in everything she was going through and Sasha herself handled things really well. There were times when Sasha tried to push him away but he stuck by. The best thing about Cole was that he was very straight-forward. He said what he felt and didn’t let any misunderstandings come between them. He was very pro talking-things-out, which saved us from a lot of angst. We need more people like him.

The story was really good and interesting. Jennifer L. Armentrout has a writing style that’s flows so well that you don’t even realize when you’ve already read a hundred pages. I read the novel in two sittings (sleep came in the way).

The only things that disappointed me was that most of the events were… predictable. I saw many revelations coming, even the one about who the serial killer was. There weren’t any ‘holy shit!’ moments and that’s a bummer because I love those, and they’re quite necessary for an effective mystery novel. Though the tone was set very well. Definitely one that could make you a tiny bit paranoid, especially if you’re reading in the middle of the night.

I really enjoyed reading this book. I loved the characters and the balance between the romance and mystery. It’s worth checking out; even more so if you’re only just venturing into the mystery genre.

Review: Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith

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Genre: Young-Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 418
Series: None
Release Date: May 2, 2017
Publisher: Delacorte Press

3 Stars

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Alice is in love with her best friend, Teddy. For his birthday, she buys him a lottery ticket even though she doesn’t have any hope of him actually winning. She’s doesn’t believe in good luck, not after losing both her parents, one soon after the other, ten years ago. Then Teddy does win the lottery and he’s ecstatic. But as much as Alice should be happy for him, she wonders if winning the lottery may be some kind of curse instead of a gift.

Why does she think that? Because she’s a bit of a douchebag.

You see, Alice doesn’t like change (understandable). So even though winning the lottery will help Teddy and his mom out of their severe financial problems, all she’s think is, what if Teddy grows apart from me? That’s why she regrets buying the ticket. Which is such a douchy thing to think. If she loves him, she should be happy for him.

Except there’s one thing she loves more tha Teddy, and that is feeling sorry for herself. Seriously, it’s a constant thing where she absolutely refuses to be happy. I get that she lost her parents, but she still lives with her aunt, uncle and cousin, who treat her like family. She has no other problems in her life and she appreciates none of that. She also gets very judgemental of other people and has a superiority complex because she’s has such a hard life and she’s better than everyone else because she volunteers for charity work.

I’m sorry, but since when is the purpose of charity lording it over other people? Oh wait, it’s not!

Ugh, it was beyond annoying to have to read from her, very dull, perspective and see her give Teddy shit over how he was spending the cash. I will admit that Teddy let it get to his head for a while but honestly, give the kid a break, Alice! For someone who’s in love with the guy, you sure do think very little of him. Stop getting so fucking judgemental over what he’s doing, especially since the guy offered you half the money and you refused!

Alice wouldn’t to take the money because she wasn’t sure she could handle it well, but when Teddy spent it, she got all superior and I’m-a-better-person-than-you-are, constantly telling him what to do with it. She (supposedly) loved him but didn’t think he was good enough for her. Man, I hated her.

I didn’t much care for Teddy either. He made stupid decisions, about the money, and romantically. The only character I liked was Alice’s cousin Leo, who didn’t have a very big role. Most of the book was boring and I just wanted it to fucking end!

That is, until, the last 100 (or less) pages. That was when shit finally started to move on. Alice became a lot more bearable (though her superiority complex was never addressed), Teddy got his head out of his ass. He actually turned out to be a really good guy who just need time to get the hand of things. I started to like him a lot more. Both of them discovered some things about themselves, figured out what they wanted. There was many cute moments, Leo got a small arc, and the ending was really great. Had I reviews the novel immediately after reading, this would have been a lot happier, three-star review, because I was still in the moment at the time. It was really good.

Overall, a slow, kinda predictable, and kinda boring book which has a great ending. I can’t really say if it’s worth reading the un-fun chunk to get to the good part. That’s up to you.

Review: Beautiful Mistake by Vi Keeland

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To be fair, the guy is only semi shirtless and there is a tie involved, giving it some context, but it’s not enough.

Genre: Contemporary Romance, Adult
Pages: 297
Series: None
Release Date: July 17, 2017
Publisher: EverAfter Romance

3 Stars

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Story’s about a girl who meets a guy in a bar. Girl gives guy a tongue lashing for seducing her friend without telling her he’s married. Turns out, she’s got the wrong guy. Skip to the next day, he’s a professor and she’s his teaching assistant. Dun dun DUN!

Really, that’s some pretty bad luck. Though honestly, why would you yell at a random guy in a bar without being a hundred percent sure that he’s the right guy? And after finding out you screwed up, why would you not apologise right away? And then when you meet him the next day, why would you get pissy with him for no reason, even knowing that you’ve already screwed up and he’s your boss? For the answers to these question, you’d have to ask our wonderful protagonist, Rachel.

And while you’re at it, yell at her for me please because she pissed me the fuck off.

Now, it’s not unusual for me to not get along with a female protagonist, especially in romance novels (they just seem to do so many stupid things) and that’s the case once again. Though in this case, I’m blaming, not the character, but the author.

Rachel has a short fuse. Anger is her instinctive reaction to everything. Lets say she likes (and is attracted to) a guy who’s not interested in a relationship. If he’s not attacted to her, he’s an asshole; if he is but doesn’t make a move since, you know, he doesn’t want a relationship and doesn’t want to lead her on, he’s an asshole. If he does make a move, great! But after making said move, if he doesn’t want a relationship, he’s an asshole, despite having said that he wasn’t look for a relationship. So basically, the only way a guy she likes is a good guy is if he wants to live happily ever after with her. Then he could tell her that he ran over and killed a guy with his car while he was sloshed, and she’d be like, ‘It’s not your fault. You were just really drunk.

In what fucking world is that okay?! What the fucking hell is wrong with you woman?! How would you feel if a guy called you a bitch just because you didn’t return his feelings for him?! But just because Rachel is a female character written by a female author (and since we’ve already seen so much shit like this), she’s just called “feisty” instead of a total dick.

*deep breath*

Moving on…. everything else was fine. I’m not even kidding; other than wanting to find Rachel a good therapist for her fucked-up-ness, this wasn’t a bad book.

The writing was good, the story was good (albeit quite predictable), the pace was good, the sex was very hot, I liked some of the side characters, and the male protagonist, Caine, the guy who was always being called an asshole either by Rachel or himself, was surprising not an asshole at all. He was actually a really nice and considerate guy. He was smart, mature (while Rachel maturity was that of a thirteen-year-old), and just… a good guy. Even Rachel has some good moments, believe it or not.

That’s the reason for giving three starts despite the horrific blunder with Rachel, and also the reason I’m going to be reading more by Vi Keeland. This was only the first book I’ve read by her and I’m hoping others will be better.

Review: The Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller

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Genre: Young-Adult, Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 320
Series: Daughter of the Pirate King #1 (Duology)
Release Date: February 28, 2017
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

3 Stars

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Alosa is the daughter of the pirate king (hence, the name) and she’s on a mission for her father to locate a third of a map that, when complete, will lead to an island of untold riches stolen by sirens. To get the map, she has to pretend to be a captive on an ship so that she has time to search it. Only, her captor is the annoyingly perceptive, clever and quite good-looking first mate of the ship.

But fear not! Alosa won’t let him stop her. She is, after all, the daughter of the pirate king, trained by the king himself and adept at everything. She clever and skilled and can do anything. She’s one of the best pirates to ever exist. Except that she’s not. She’s skilled, I’ll give her that, and she has her smart moments, but her “awesomeness’ is blown up. I can’t help but think that the author had Celaena Sardothian in mind when she wrote Alosa. And for most people, that wouldn’t be a problem. But that fact that I fucking hate Sardothian, a feeling made worse because everyone (Sarah J. Maas most of all) is fucking obsessed with her, puts a damper on things.

Thankfully, the author takes a more humourous approach with Alosa and I actually like her. It’s not her fault that things just keep conveniently happening to her liking.

Besides, and I’m about to give some very important advice here, this is not a novel to be taken too seriously. It has a simple prose, it’s fairly short and well-paced. Both Alosa and Riden are likable character (Riden more than Alosa). It’s written to be an entertaining read with some silliness. I wish someone had given me this advice and maybe I wouldn’t have spent the first half of the novel royally pissed off at how ridiculous some things were.

The romance was initially a problem because it started right in the first chapter with her meeting the attractive first mate who’s a good shot. It made me roll my eyes at the obviousness. But it got quite good after that. Alosa and Riden have chemistry and I loved their banter.

Still, up to the 75% point, I was iffy about how much I liked it and whether I would read the sequel. But the last quarter was quite good and I liked the direction the story took. I liked how the book ended as well, and I’m interested to see where it will go. Also, since I now know not to take it too seriously, I’ll enjoy it more. And, it’s a duology! I love duologies!

Overall, this is a fun book that can be tiny bit annoying and silly, but is still a fun read and the addition of pirates is great. The sirens aren’t well-explained and I think the fantasy and world building could use some work, but it’s still worth checking out.

Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

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Genre: Young-Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 444
Series: None
Release Date: February 28, 2017
Publisher: Balzer & Bray/Harperteen

5 Stars

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The Hate U Give is arguably the most well received novel that has come out this year so far. It tells the story of a young girl whose childhood best friend is shot and killed by a cop right in front of her for no other reasons than that he’s black.

Seeing this happen, the balance between the life Starr has in her poor black neighbourhood and the one she has in her suburban prep school, is disturbed. The reality of prejudice against her race, her colour, becomes more glaring than ever and Starr struggles to understand what the right thing to do is. Soon, Khalid’s death is headline news and people accuse him of being a drug dealer and a gangbanger, as if that justifies a sixteen-year-old, unarmed boy being murdered for no reason.

The efficiency with which Khalid’s death is justified and covered up is astounding. Saying that the cop was afraid for his life as if it’s okay for a man in his late thirties to kill a child because he was spooked; a child who gave no reason for the cop to even suspect that he might have any ill intentions. But just because he’s black and lives in a poor neighbourhood, he obviously couldn’t be up to any good.

I won’t lie, in the beginning I didn’t want to believe that a police officer would just shoot someone like that. I hoped that maybe there was another reason for why it happened because no one wants to think that the people who are supposed to keep us safe could also be a danger to us. Honestly, will Starr ever be able to trust the police after that? She knows that not all officers are bad because her uncle is one of the good ones, but still. Her world has been shaken completely.

This was a very heartbreaking novel about the hate that society gives those that are deemed inferior, and how that hate never has good consequences. It’s an endless, vicious cycle and the book takes us into the midst of that reality in the best way possible.

Things could have easily turned into hate for all white people and you can see how carefully Angie Thomas balanced the novel to avoid that. She gave us good and bad characters, irrespective of their race. Some characters to be redeemed and others not. Starr’s family dynamic was beautiful. I freaking LOVE Starr’s mom but I liked her dad, her uncle and her brothers as well. She had an interesting dynamic with her friends, ones from her neighbourhood and ones from school. Her boyfriend, Chris, was a great addition and we got some really sweet moments. There were sweet and funny moments with everyone that stopped the book from becoming too heavy.

Overall, this was a beautiful and wonderful book that I think is a must read, especially if you live in the US because that’s where its set, but its significant for everyone. I also have a little video that I think you should watch. It’s titled ‘Racism in the United States: By the Numbers‘. It’s by the vlogbrothers (John and Hank Green) and less than 4 minutes long. Check it out.

Review: The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

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Genre: Historical, LGBT, Young-Adult (and one more genre that I’ve decided not to mention because it’s better this way)
Pages: 513
Series: Standalone, but a sequel/spin-off will follow a different MC
Release Date: June 17, 2017
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

Star

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I was mislead about this book. All the reviews I read talked about how much fun the book is and while that’s true, it is fun, the reviews made it seem as if it was just a light, good-time kind of read. But there is some serious shit that takes place and because that wasn’t what I was anticipating, it took away a little of my enjoyment of the novel. Only a little, though.

It’s set in the 18th century and told from the perspective of Henry “Monty” Montague, who was raised to be a gentleman, but between his drinking, partying and sexual shenanigans with both men and woman, that has yet to happen. He has an agreement with his father: a tour across Europe with his best friend (and the unrequited love of his life) Percy and after, he’ll curb his ways for good. So off we go with Monty, Percy and Felicity, Monty’s sister and unwanted guest, to explore. Except everything goes haywire when a reckless decision on Monty’s part causes them to have to run for their lives, across Europe.

That’s when the tone of the book changes. Before that, it was a lot of lighthearted fun but after they land themselves in trouble, things change a little. It doesn’t become too serious or anything, just a move into the character development and serious life problems. This is not a dark book, and thanks to Monty’s wonderful narrative, it’s always entertaining and basically un-put-down-able.

Speaking of Monty, I love the guy, but holy shit can he be annoying. He suffers from the chronic inability to ever say the right thing. He misunderstands situations, or doesn’t get them at all; he makes bad decisions, and even when he’s thinking the right thing, he never manages to say it. But the book is about him changing for the better, realizing that he isn’t the useless man his father has led him believe all his life. He also has a good heart and every time he thinks of his feelings for Percy, it’s the cutest thing. There’s a scene when Monty is thinking about his and Percy friendship and some of its strains and we get this:

I ruined it by losing my bleeding mind every time he does that thing where he tips his head to the side when he smiles.

Monty is stumbling through his feelings and this whole ‘growing up’ thing. He’s a mess. Percy is quite well-organized. I love Percy too. He’s funny and sweet and caring, but he’s more aware of the bad in the world, being biracial and an orphan, growing up with people refusing to associate with him or treat him well, because of his colour. I love his and Monty’s relationship.

My favourite character in the book though, definitely Felicity. She’s smart, clever, sassy, snarky, badass, wise, caring, funny and just perfect. I had the best time with her, not to mention that her relationship with her brother, with their arguments and comebacks, is endlessly entertaining.

Overall , this is a great book with an engaging story and a very good pace. I was so much more into it that I usually expect from a Historical novel. There was a misunderstanding between Monty and Percy that I felt was stretched too long but other than that, I loved the book and feel that it’s deserving of the hype surrounding it. I highly recommend reading the book and can’t wait for what Mackenzi Lee will give us next. In the meantime, she has a book I haven’t yet read. I’ll be on that.