The Risk | Book Review

Title: The Risk
Series: Briar U #2
Authors: Elle Kennedy
Publisher: Elle Kennedy Inc.
Publish Date: February 18, 2019
Genre: New Adult, Fiction – Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 432
Format: Kindle eBook

A sexy standalone novel from New York Times and international bestselling author Elle Kennedy. THE RISK takes you back to the world of hot hockey players, feisty heroines, bro banter, and steamy scenes… 

Everyone says I’m a bad girl. They’re only partly right—I don’t let fear rule me, and I certainly don’t care what people think. But I draw the line at sleeping with the enemy. As the daughter of Briar’s head hockey coach, I’d be vilified if I hooked up with a player from a rival team.

And that’s who Jake Connelly is. Harvard’s star forward is arrogant, annoying, and too attractive for his own good. But fate is cruel—I require his help to secure a much-coveted internship, and the sexy jerk isn’t making it easy for me.

I need Connelly to be my fake boyfriend.

For every fake date…he wants a real one.

Which means this bad girl is in big trouble. Nothing good can come from sneaking around with Jake Connelly. My father would kill me, my friends will revolt, and my post-college career is on the line. But while it’s getting harder and harder to resist Jake’s oozing sex appeal and cocky grin, I refuse to fall for him.

That’s the one risk I’m not willing to take. 

I’ve gotta say, I definitely enjoyed this book much more than the first stand-alone in the Briar U arc. It was funny, heartfelt, steamy (as always), but also showed more sides to people than just those in the universities, and I think that really played a big role in my overall enjoyment of this book.

Brenna is, probably, my favorite person. She’s tough as nails, she wears red lipstick as her armor, she doesn’t give two shits if someone doesn’t like her, she’s sassy, intelligent. She’s a woman after my own heart. I also very much admire her self-control of her temper in certain parts of the book, because I don’t think I’d be a big enough person to be able to hold my tongue to the kinds of comments she received numerous times from some of the men in the novel.

Jake is… well, he’s a steamy man, I’ll give him that, and he’s alpha, which, if you don’t know what that means, it means he’s the kind of person who’s in charge, who takes the lead, doesn’t take “no” for an answer, is very loyal to his team. Well, Jake will take “no” for an answer, so he’s not the kind of stereotypical jerk alpha that I’ve read in stories before. But he definitely exudes a presence in the book. People just notice him, and not just because he’s handsome as heck.

We also got to see smatterings of Summer from the first book, The Chase, as well as Fitz, Hunter, Mike Hollis, and one new character whom I LOVE and am soooo glad she’s getting her own book: Rupi. I fell in love with her almost instantly. She’s very quirky and determined and very much won’t take “no” for an answer.

The plot centered a lot around the hockey tournaments that Jake’s team, Harvard, and Brenna’s dad’s team, Briar, are preparing for and to face each other to go onto nationals, but it also centers a lot around Brenna striving to get her dream internship. I appreciated seeing that side of the field and how, yes, even today there’s a lot of misogyny in the sports broadcasting field. It was believable the way some of the men talked about women, and like I said earlier: I applaud Brenna for holding her tongue, because I really don’t think I would have been able to.

There was also a smaller second element to the plot that played into it about Brenna’s past, and let me tell you: the story behind her past was a shock that I did not see coming and I literally did a double take reading it. Definitely a good plot twist.

The dynamic between Brenna and her father is also one I understand, even if my own dad isn’t quite like hers. I understand how hard it is to want to be close, but not understanding how to get close, or when that closeness faded away. And the ugly shame that comes with feeling you’re a huge disappointment to your parent. It was very much a real moment, and I almost cried as a result of it.

The sex scenes were quite steamy, as expected of these Briar University books, which I’m not complaining about. The scenarios were different almost each time, the romance aspect felt a little rushed, but also the chemistry between the two had already been established, so it was an overall great element to the story.

I only wish there had been a different ending. Not that the ending was bad, I was just hoping we would have seen slightly farther into the future, or that there had been just one more chapter.

But I definitely recommend the book if you’re reading the Briar U arc, and even if you’re not and want a steamy romance, then definitely pick this one up!

★★★★½☆

Red, White, & Royal Blue | Book Review

Title: Red, White, & Royal Blue
Author: Casey McQuiston
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publish Date: May 14, 2019
Genre: New Adult – Romance, Fiction
Pages: 425
Format: Kindle Books

A big-hearted romantic comedy in which the First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales after an incident of international proportions forces them to pretend to be best friends…

First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations.

The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. Alex is busy enough handling his mother’s bloodthirsty opponents and his own political ambitions without an uptight royal slowing him down. But beneath Henry’s Prince Charming veneer, there’s a soft-hearted eccentric with a dry sense of humor and more than one ghost haunting him.

As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. And Henry throws everything into question for Alex, an impulsive, charming guy who thought he knew everything: What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?

I’m going to say it: if you haven’t heard about this book by now, have you been living under a rock? Even if you have no interest in reading it, I feel like the name has at least made its rounds through the book community and as such, many people have read this book and highly enjoyed it.

I am also one of those people. Also, this is a long review, my apologies.

Going into it, I didn’t realize that this was, in fact, a new adult LGBT+ romance novel. I knew there was a boys’ love theme, of course, but I didn’t realize just how steamy it was going to be (which I’m fine with steamy). I expected this to be a more YA book, but nope! And I’m actually quite happy with this surprise because I feel like it made it that much more entertaining and relatable to myself as a person in their late twenties.

Alex and his older sister, June, whom he affectionately calls Bug, like a junebug, and I think that’s the sweetest thing ever, are the First Siblings of the United States, and their personalities are so different, but also very similar. They both have party sides, they both are trying to protect their family no matter what, but where Alex is much more high risk and willing to take big chances (a big theme throughout the book), June is much more reserved, but still willing to take chances and prove that she’s enough on her own to do what her heart is set out to do.

I personally enjoyed seeing the sibling dynamic in the book because I don’t often see siblings interacting with each other in books, and this relationship felt organic. They fought sometimes, they got along great, they’d call each other names, they’d do anything for their family, etc. Even though this wasn’t the main plot of the book, I was still very glad to see such a presence of it.

As for Henry, I think I related to him the most. He’d been through a traumatic time with his own family, and part of him had been almost hollowed out because of the experience. His family dynamic, though very different from Alex’s, was also fairly organic, with a distant sibling, one who believes in legacy and doing what needs to be done for the crown; and then another sibling who goes off the rails, but is always there for her family when she’s needed. Henry, himself, is very reserved. Reflecting on it, he’s kind of the opposite of Alex in many ways, which is probably why they work together so much.

Henry cares for his family deeply, cares for many people deeply, but he also knows that he has a huge responsibility on his shoulders, a duty to the crown that can seem overbearing much of the time, and that can wither him and bring him down a lot. He has dark shadows of his past, an absentee mother (even if she’s physically there, she’s not there mentally or emotionally), and he seems to try to deal with a lot on his own. He has a lot of walls that need to be broken down, and I enjoyed seeing those walls slowly come down throughout the novel.

Now, let’s talk about their relationship because, excuse me but it was the cutest thing I’ve read in a while and I needed more, thanks.

I’m also glad this wasn’t a case of insta-love, but rather a build up of feelings over years of time – at least on one of their parts. Even though Alex hates Henry because he doesn’t really know him in the beginning, when he does get to know him, he learns so much about him and begins to realize many things about himself and his past. He’s in denial for a lot of it, which is also reasonable and believable, and I was glad to see that.

As someone in the LGBT+ spectrum, seeing that internal struggle was good because I could relate to it a lot.

I did, however, feel like him coming to terms with it was kind of abrupt? I don’t know, maybe there was a timeline happening that I didn’t pick up on, but I thought he figured himself out kind of quickly and didn’t struggle as much as I was expecting. Is that weird to say?

Anyway, once their relationship got started, it was full of those hot, passionate, romantic sparks that fly when many people enter a new relationship, especially one that’s been building for a long, long time like theirs was. Can you say “sexual tension?” Because goddamn, there was a lot.

It was hot and steamy, and the way their relationship blossomed and grew felt as organic as it could get, given that they’re two very wealthy boys in very high positions and could more or less easily reach one another at the drop of a dime across the world. There was a lot of emotions and feelings and buildup throughout the whole book that I could feel growing to a climax (ha), and when the thing happened that I kind of saw coming once it was getting closer to it, I was like, “You’ll be fine, go chase after him!”

And Alex did. He didn’t give up, and the two of them are stubborn enough to chase after each other even though they’re afraid. I thought it was very poetic and romantic, and my hopeless romantic heart was bleeding happiness.

Also, there were A LOT of great quotes in this book, and though I didn’t highlight all of them, I wanted to share three of my favorites from some of the emails they shared with each other:

page 245
page 300
page 321

So, all in all in the relationship aspect, I highly enjoyed it. They kept it a secret as long as they could, and honestly, I was waiting for everything to go to shit at some point, and it did. But again: names in high places. I AM, however, glad to see a lot of rallying support in their ever growing and ever accepting world, even a fictional parallel universe version of ours.

Let’s briefly talk about the politics aspect, because this is where the half mark comes in my rating.

I… zoned out through a lot of the politics stuff, especially early on in the book. Like… I have no clue what the hell I read regarding the politics, kind of zoning out. It’s just not my thing. I’m not interested in them in real life, so reading about them in a book just wasn’t that exciting to me. Some bits were interesting, but a lot of it was just something I could easily zone out and skip over and come back to things I found more interesting for myself.

I did, however, cheer and smile at the end. If you’ve read it, you know why.

Overall, I highly enjoyed this book. It was sweet, romantic, funny, organic, raw, political, and wholly a good book. I highly recommend it.

★★★★½☆

Ruin and Rising Book Review

ruinandrisingTitle: Ruin and Rising
Series: The Grisha Trilogy #3
Authors: Leigh Bardugo
Publisher: Square Fish
Publish Date: April 18, 2016
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 427
Format: Paperback

The capital has fallen. The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.

Now the nation’s fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.

Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.

Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova’s amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling’s secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction–and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.

Okay, so, it’s been a hot minute since I last read the second book in this trilogy, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying this third installment – which I did enjoy it! I remember not really liking the first one as much as I had hoped, but the second one was much more enjoyable, and I think that this one was even better than that.

So, as a whole, this book did really well in delivering what was to come that the plot had been leading up to and telling us would happen from page one of the first. There was fighting, loss, exhaustion, hope, and I thought that the characters themselves were doing what they could to just survive, let alone plan and plot to overthrow the Darkling.

Let me say that Alina’s character still annoyed the crap out of me. Like… I don’t know, she was very ready to not trust her friends at the drop of a hat, and I just didn’t get it? This mostly happened at the very beginning of the book in the first few chapters where she had a page of inner monologue with herself about if she should trust them over the man from the white cathedral who was creepy af. I just… didn’t get it. But I was glad that she got over that and actually took initiative a few times and didn’t rely so heavily on others.

But, you know, good things don’t last forever. I mean, I thought she did well for the situations she was in, but sometimes I wanted to slap her upside the head.

Anyway, I really liked the ragtag team of people that they had going and how they worked together through it all. Though not everything went according to plan, everyone did their hardest to keep each other safe.

I was not, however, expecting the betrayal, but when I reflected back I could see signs that would lead up to the person turning them over to the Darkling.

I also was not expecting what happened to Nikolai to actually be happening. Like, when I was reading that whole sequence, I thought it was just a dream. But nope, it was actually happening, and I remember reading it and going, “Oh shit.” Just my mouth was hanging open in disbelief at what was happening.

And Baghra. The more I got to know about her character, the more I grew to like her, and I will say that I think she was one of the best parts of this story.

And then we have the search for the Firebird. I loved the descriptions used to show the reader what the forests looked like, how there was a tale behind why the trees looked the way they did, at why the waterfalls glowed gold, and then the bird itself – it was such a great scene and one of my favorites in the book. I thought the way it was described really captured what exactly the characters were seeing and painted the picture vividly for the reader.

I also was no expecting the reveal of the final amplifier and boy, let me tell you: I was shook. But also not completely surprised? Just… okay, I was surprised, but I think judging by the back story given by Baghra earlier in the book really helped to paint the whole picture. I actually liked this part of the book and I liked how everything from previous tellings were piecing together for the final moment.

Which, speaking of, this was my biggest gripe of this book: the fight scene – the final battle with the Darkling – was incredibly underwhelming at the end. I was super into it throughout the whole thing, at how it was going down, and then… it just ended so simply? Like… it almost felt like a cop-out. I wanted there to be more stress and for Alina to be more distraught, and I just felt like it fell kind of flat there in those moments.

The scenes after were like a nice wrap up and a way to lead the reader to form their own questions and to hope for more story – which we’ll be getting when King of Scars comes out, but still.

Overall, I really enjoyed the story. This book was highly enjoyable and I thought that the descriptions of the sceneries were some of the best elements.

And no, I’m not mad about the final pairing; I’m actually glad it happened because I thought they were good for each other.

If you’ve read the first books and liked them, definitely read this one. It provides a nice wrap up to an epic journey and I think you’d really enjoy it.

I rated this book 4.5 stars.

Leah On the Offbeat Review

leahontheoffbeatTitle: Leah On the Offbeat
Author: Becky Albertalli
Publisher: HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray
Genre: Young Adult – Contemporary
Pages: 343
Format: Hardcover

Leah Burke—girl-band drummer, master of deadpan, and Simon Spier’s best friend from the award-winning Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda—takes center stage in this novel of first love and senior-year angst.

When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic. An anomaly in her friend group, she’s the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.

So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high. It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting—especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended.

Well, let me tell you: this is the first actual novel I’ve read TO COMPLETION in… months. Many months. I still can’t believe it. It took me around probably six to eight hours to read the thing. And I really enjoyed it!

It was great jumping back into the world of Creekwood and it was great getting a story from Leah’s perspective, while also still seeing Simon and Blue (even though they weren’t the main focus). I loved her voice and how she really talks like a young adult – swearing, sarcasm, tumblr posts. She was such a fun character that really cared not only for her body as a plus sized young woman, but also as a bisexual person. Though she was only out to her mom (which is still awesome that her mom accepted her regardless), it only really start to make things difficult as time progressed in the story.

I found that the romance aspect of the book was done well, though sometimes it did feel like a little hiccup here and there with how it went. I overall thought that it was fairly realistic as to how it turned out, but I kind of wish I got a better feel for the love interest. I understand the strain on the friendship, but it still felt to me like I was missing some of the love interest’s personality.

I also didn’t really get a feel for just how tight knit the friendship between Leah, Anna, and Morgan were, despite it supposedly being so strong in the beginning. Although, if it were my friend, I would be very pissed about the comment that was made, too, but I don’t know if I would continue to be mad even after an apology. I don’t know, that felt rocky at best and I don’t really know how the friendships would have lasted after the end of the book.

Other than that, I felt like it was a fun, light hearted story, with dashes of drama inside. I like how Leah was both proud of her body, but also self conscious, because that really does show the two sides of the coin (as a plus sized woman, myself, I can speak to this very feeling). I think that the book overall was a great read, though I feel like I am missing out on a few threads that weren’t completely tied at the end (I don’t want to ask them here for fear of spoilers).

If you’re looking for a fast-paced, light-hearted story about a teen girl who’s trying to come to terms with her emotions as well as figure out who she is as a person, and the relationships she has around her, then definitely pick up this book! I hope that you’ll like Leah as much as I did.

I rated this book 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Radiance Book Review

radianceTitle: Radiance
Series: Wraith Kings #1
Author: Grace Draven
Publisher: Grace Draven
Publication Date: January 13, 2015
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 297
Format: Kindle eBook

THE PRINCE OF NO VALUE

Brishen Khaskem, prince of the Kai, has lived content as the nonessential spare heir to a throne secured many times over. A trade and political alliance between the human kingdom of Gaur and the Kai kingdom of Bast-Haradis requires that he marry a Gauri woman to seal the treaty. Always a dutiful son, Brishen agrees to the marriage and discovers his bride is as ugly as he expected and more beautiful than he could have imagined. 

THE NOBLEWOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE 

Ildiko, niece of the Gauri king, has always known her only worth to the royal family lay in a strategic marriage. Resigned to her fate, she is horrified to learn that her intended groom isn’t just a foreign aristocrat but the younger prince of a people neither familiar nor human. Bound to her new husband, Ildiko will leave behind all she’s known to embrace a man shrouded in darkness but with a soul forged by light. 

Two people brought together by the trappings of duty and politics will discover they are destined for each other, even as the powers of a hostile kingdom scheme to tear them apart.

I initially didn’t know what to expect when I picked up this book. I had seen the cover pop up on Amazon and I thought it was going to be another cheesy, trashy romance novel. I didn’t even bother reading the synopsis before jumping into reading a sample – and immediately being hooked to the story.

This story features two races: the Gauris, who are human, and the Kai, an ancient non-human race with gray skin, black claws, and lamplight yellow eyes. A Gauri girl – one raised in a noblewoman’s position but one of little importance – is married off to one of the Kai – the second born prince, one who is unimportant as his older brother has already secured his place for the throne and has several sons to rule after him. The two are repulsed that they have to marry the other as each race finds the other revolting in looks and customs alike, but when Ildiko and Brishen meet unsuspectingly that they were to later wed, the two have a connection of sorts that later comes into play in a great way.

Ildiko and Brishen have a very slow burn romance as they don’t expect anything from each other at first, and instead find good friends in each other at first, talking to one another, picking on each other as friends do, and I think that was so sweet to see at first. As time passed and the two faced different kinds of trials together (such as dinner with Brishen’s mother), their feelings for each other grew into more than just friends, and eventually those first opinions they had on one another’s appearance – of Ildiko think Brishen looked like an eel, and Brishen thinking Ildiko looked like a hag – changed and they saw the beauty in each other physically, yes, but mostly through their personalities and morals and I thought that was a breath of fresh air to read about. It felt natural and progressive and I highly appreciated it.

As for the rest of the story, there were politics, some action scenes, and little hints of what was to come in the next novel, and I felt that the story was fast-paced, but not so fast-paced that we missed out on anything. I do, however, wish there were more action scenes and that some scenes had been expanded, but then maybe it would have taken away from the magic of it all.

I felt that both Ildiko’s and Brishen’s characters were mature, but I kind of wished to see more of them develop and whatnot. Ildiko was proper, quick-witted, and kind. She always was above the expectations of the Kai, much to their surprise, and I liked that about her. She was stubborn enough to always try and not give up, but not so stubborn that she made poor decisions in the heat of the moment. Brishen was so unlike his parents, which was nice because his parents aren’t the greatest, and had a sense of humor, and a caring compassion for his fellow Kai and Ildiko. I found that they melded well together and that I craved to see more interactions between them.

Though this book was sort of a quick read, I found that I could really dive into the world and really feel for the characters. I’m already reading the second book and let me tell you: I’m getting the action I craved from the first.

If you haven’t picked up Radiance yet, I highly recommend you do if you’re looking for a slow-burn romance set in a fantasy world.

I rated this book 4.5/5 stars.