Review: Heart & Seoul (Jen Frederick)

Heart & Seoul
Author: Jen Frederick

Publication Date: May 25, 2021
Publisher: Berkley

Genre: Women’s Fiction, New Adult
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

From USA Today bestselling author Jen Frederick comes a heart-wrenching yet hopeful romance that shows that the price of belonging is often steeper than expected.

As a Korean adoptee, Hara Wilson doesn’t need anyone telling her she looks different from her white parents. She knows. Every time Hara looks in the mirror, she’s reminded that she doesn’t look like anyone else in her family—not her loving mother, Ellen; not her jerk of a father, Pat; and certainly not like Pat’s new wife and new “real” son.

At the age of twenty-five, she thought she had come to terms with it all, but when her father suddenly dies, an offhand comment at his funeral triggers an identity crisis that has her running off to Seoul in search of her roots.

What Hara finds there has all the makings of a classic K-drama: a tall, mysterious stranger who greets her at the airport, spontaneous adventures across the city, and a mess of familial ties, along with a red string of destiny that winds its way around her heart and soul. Hara goes to Korea looking for answers, but what she gets instead is love—a forbidden love that will either welcome Hara home…or destroy her chance of finding one.


If I had a relationship status with this book, it would say “It’s complicated.”

As an adoptee, I am always fascinated by books about adoptees. I’m always looking for something I can identify with in them. Heart & Seoul was a little different of an adoptee read for me since I’m not a Korean American adoptee. I connected with many thoughts Hara had, but obviously not all. I’ve read some information about what it means society wise to be a Korean adoptee a few times. In my early childhood, I spent a lot of time with two different families with white parents and Korean adopted children. I never really thought about how different their experience as adoptees would be compared with mine until I reconnected with one of them through social media. Their thoughts and feelings about their adoption are way different than mine. I knew how they grew up and wanted to better understand their feelings. That was one of the reasons I was excited to read Heart & Seoul, along with the fact that I am a fan of Jen Frederick’s previous book.

Heart & Seoul was an emotional read from the start with Hara losing her adopted father. Her desire to search for her birth parents, and the reasons why, were easy to relate to. The journey she went on to Seoul was fascinating. I loved learning about Seoul, the customs, and some of the history of adoption there. Hara’s emotional journey was fraught with ups and downs. Her losses and gains were tough and had me hoping for a happy ending for her.

Since I brought up happy ending, I want to point out that this NOT a romance novel. You’re not going to come away with an HEA or HFN with this book. I didn’t realize this going into this book. Honestly, the ending is why I didn’t give this book 5 stars. I needed more resolution. Things ended too abruptly for me. The entire time I was reading Heart & Seoul, I kept thinking how different this book was from anything else I’ve read from Frederick — until I got to the drama and climax. That was exactly what I would expect from a Jen Frederick book. It shouldn’t have been shocking to me, but it was. That being said, I still enjoyed this book and learned a lot from it.

Review: Candy Colored Sky (Ginger Scott)

Candy Colored Sky
Author: Ginger Scott

Publication Date: February 26, 2021
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Mature Young Adult
Note: This review is for an ARC I received from WordSmith Publicity and is my unbiased opinion.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

Jonah Wydner has been in love with his neighbor Eleanor Trombley for years. He has watched her life play out from the sidelines—homecoming dances, football parties, and first dates. Her life seemed easy…simple…perfect. The complete opposite of his own.

But when Eleanor’s younger sister goes missing and the national media sets up camp in the middle of their street, the girl with the seemingly perfect life shows up in Jonah’s garage in search of a place to hide from the hurt and chaos. What begins as one night becomes many filled with unexpected surprises and unveiling, healing truths about Jonah’s own messy past.

Soon, Jonah gets to know the real Eleanor, and discovers all the ways they’re the same. Friendship blossoms into more, plans turn into promises, and hopes and dreams become shared under the warm glow of the fading Midwestern sunsets. But how far can a kiss under a candy-colored sky take them? And what happens when the clouds close in?


I was a little nervous to start Candy Colored Sky. When I reach for a Ginger Scott novel I know it’s going to do two things: pull me in with her writing and hit me with emotion. That was especially true with this book.

Candy Colored Sky had this emotional vibe to it. It wasn’t a heavy vibe, but one that lingered beneath the surface. It took me a long time to figure it out. I kept trying to compare it to how a thriller has a creepy vibe. I couldn’t put my finger on it until almost the end of the book. Somehow Ginger Scott took classic new adult angst and somehow flipped it. Instead of being in the head of the person who is experiencing all the angst, we’re in the head of the person watching that person experience the angst. It gave the book that underlying feeling of angst that was something I don’t think I have experienced before. I liked being once removed from the angst. It was a different reading experience.

If you read the blurb, you can understand why this book would be emotional. Our main character, Jonah, is watching the girl he has secretly crushed on his entire life go through a traumatic experience. Eleanor’s younger sister has been abducted and Jonah is determined to do what he can to ease Eleanor’s pain. I loved Jonah’s approach to this. He took the time to look closely and see what others couldn’t or didn’t want to. He stood by her and lifted her up when needed. He was honest with her. The two of them formed a bond in the toughest times that could only get stronger.

I didn’t just love Jonah’s approach, though. I loved him. He was this slightly nerdy math wiz who hung on the edges of the popular crowd. There wasn’t a mean bone in his body. He came from a family that had been through its own trauma. I adored his relationship with both his mom and his grandfather. He had a fun friendship with his best friend and jock Jake. Jonah was one of those really good kids you want to see get the girl of his dreams.

Eleanor was more of a mystery because this book was told in Jonah’s POV. I don’t like admitting I was glad not to be in her head, but Jonah’s descriptions of her (and her family’s) pain was enough. I can say I loved her because of how she reacted to and treated Jonah.

Candy Colored Sky was one of those books that will stay with me for a long time. It left me feeling hopeful despite the overall sadness of the story. Only really great books can do that.

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𝗖𝗮𝗻𝗱𝘆 𝗖𝗼𝗹𝗼𝗿𝗲𝗱 𝗦𝗸𝘆 by Ginger Scott is LIVE! This is a coming of age love story, stand alone. One-click your copy and take a peek inside below! 

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Universal Link: https://books2read.com/CandyColoredSky 
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08VTTWXLP/
Apple: https://books.apple.com/…/candy-colored-sky/id1553932714 
BN: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w?ean=2940162507444
Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/candy-colored-sky 
Google: https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=aG0ZEAAAQBAJ 

Add it to your TBR: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/56553619-ccs 

Review: The Insiders (Tijan)

The Insiders
Author: Tijan

Publication Date: May 4, 2021
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary Romance
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½

Synopsis:

The Insiders is the first in a brand new, page-turning romance trilogy from New York Times bestseller, Tijan!

Bailey is as normal as could be, with a genius IQ and a photographic memory. But still, normal for her. Then, things happen—a guy breaks into her house in the middle of the night to take her hostage. She finds out her father is actually billionaire tech genius Peter Francis, the same guy she’s idolized all her life. She learns all this when she meets dark, mysterious, and electrifying Kashton Colello. He’s an associate of her father’s, and he gives Bailey two choices—go with him and meet her father or survive on her own because those kidnappers are going to try again. It’s a no-brainer.

After this, three things become clear for Bailey:

1. She’s living at her father’s sprawling estate, complete with bodyguards and the best security that money can buy.

2. She’s no longer an only child. She has three siblings and has no idea what to do with them and vice versa.

3. She is being guarded by Kash himself. Personally guarded. And there is a lot of guarding going on there and some of it is going to drive her crazy.

A complete outsider in a world of wealth and decadence, Bailey has to find her way within a family that has more secrets than she could have imagined. One of these secrets could be deadly…


Have you ever been addicted to a book and had no idea why you were addicted to it? That’s how I felt with The Insiders. It was kind of a mess in some ways, but brilliant in others.

Tijan has an obvious voice in her writing. There’s something about the way that she writes that pulls me in. There is a familiarity in the rambling, redundant train of thought her characters have. In some ways it’s like coming home, in others it makes all her female main characters feel a little too much alike. Luckily, each has at least one unique quality that prevents them from being carbon copies. Bailey was an incredibly intelligent young woman with a photographic memory. She was close to her mother. She was an introvert without athletic ability. She did have daddy issues like many other Tijan characters, and that was a major part of the plot. Bailey, like the rest of Tijan’s female characters, was an underdog I couldn’t help rooting for.

Bailey’s love interest in this book was Kash, her father’s right hand man. I have to admit I had a hard time buying into the instant love thing going on between Bailey and Kash. I totally got the physical attraction by the descriptions, but the mental connection was what was missing for me. That being said, I appreciate the way the men in Tijan’s books stand up for their women, support them, and love them. There’s always a jealous female or two, but they don’t break the emotional connection the MCs have. The Insiders was entirely in Bailey’s POV so Kash felt like a complete mystery throughout most of the book. It wasn’t until almost the end that I understood his reasonings and feelings a bit more. I’m hoping in future books he’s going to get a POV. Even though I still feel like I don’t know him well enough after this book, I could feel his dedication to Bailey.

As always, Tijan’s side characters were fantastic. Bailey’s other younger siblings were sweet in their own ways. I hated and loved Matthew, the poor messed up guy that he was. I can also tell there are some female friendships for Bailey that are going to turn out to be strong connections I’ll love in future books. Bailey’s parents played a big part in this book. I liked her mom, but the jury is still out on her dad for me. Heck, even the “bad guys” were great characters who snuck up on me. I won’t say who they are, but I liked them.

Now I’m going to get down to the messiest thing about The Insiders for me. The plot. I hate to say it, but the majority of the books felt like it was lacking a plot. Everything felt surface level. Bailey was on this almost redundant road to nowhere. Nights with her man, hanging out with Matthew, connecting with the little kids, all while worrying about her relationship with her father and her possible kidnappers. It kind of felt like things were going nowhere until BAM! everything came into focus towards the end. Once revelations starting coming, they didn’t stop. It was like fast forward had been pushed and everything started happening all at once. I finally got it then, the lead up. I understood and liked this book even more. It’s weird to admit, but I didn’t mind when the book felt like there wasn’t much of a plot. I was still addicted. And that addiction paid off in big ways. Some I saw coming, some I should have seen coming, and some that truly surprised me.

So, yeah. Sorry this review is a little rambling. I just wanted to make sure I got everything across about how I felt about The Insiders. It was a hard book to rate. I couldn’t decide if it deserved 3 or 4 stars from me. It wasn’t my favorite book by Tijan (How can anything beat the FCH series?), but it I enjoyed every minute of it. It left me wanting to know more about basically everything. I’m happy this will be a three book series, so that I can get to know Kash better and find out what happens in Bailey’s life.

I buddy read this book with Kayla from Books and Blends. If you’re curious about her thoughts, you can check out her review on her blog.

Review: Nate (Tijan)

Nate
Author: Tijan
Publication Date: February 9, 2021
Genre: Contemporary Romance, New Adult

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

Nate Monson was gorgeous, obnoxiously wealthy, and a player.
He was also the person who could destroy my world with a single decision.

I walked into that bar looking for him.
He saw me. I saw him.
The chemistry sizzled between us, but no.

I hated Nate Monson.
I hated him with everything in me, even though my body did not.
It didn’t matter.

Nothing I wanted mattered.
He thought I wanted to get laid.
What I wanted was for him to disappear.

But first, I had to tell him that he had a daughter.


If you’re a fan of the Fallen Crest High series, Nate is a book you have been waiting a long time for. Or at least I have been. I’ve always been curious about Mason and Logan’s best friend. He went through some STUFF with them and I was curious what went on in his mind. I also wanted him to find a love like Mason and Sam or Logan and Taylor. To say I was excited to get Nate would be an understatement. Did Nate live up to my expectations? That’s a harder question to answer than it should be.

Reading Nate was exciting. I loved where Tijan took the drama. It wasn’t what I expected. There was a family feud like in the other Fallen Crest High books, but it wasn’t with Nate’s family. It all revolved around his daughter and the mother’s side of the family. It wasn’t the same old drama and I appreciated that. Things were handled in a more grown up way, too. It was nice to see the maturity of Tijan’s original characters as they are now adults.

Tijan says in the back of the book that Nate took a long time to speak to her.  This comment resonated with me thinking back on this book. To be completely honest, Nate didn’t have the emotional pull of Mason, Logan, or any of the other guys from Fallen Crest High related books. I loved that he felt an instant love for his daughter and how his love for the person he falls for developed over time. I enjoyed (as always) the comradery between Nate, Mason, and Logan. The moments between Nate and his friends were where his character seemed to flesh out the most. There was something missing, though. I think part of that is that Nate drops us into his adult life. He’s grown up and we get some talk of his teenage years, but I think I needed a little something from that time to tie who he was into who he is now. I guess I’ve always just wondered what was going on with him inside his head and I didn’t get as much as I wanted with that. What I did get was a look into who Nate became. I liked adult Nate.

As for that love interest… I’m not telling. I know there will be some spoilers on who she is, so you can get them elsewhere. I liked her for the most part. She wasn’t what I was expecting. There were some weird vibes that I won’t explain and didn’t love, but her story combined with Nate’s worked for me. They had an instant chemistry and I enjoyed the build up of their relationship.

Nate’s daughter was super cute. For those who don’t like kids in books — she didn’t overwhelm the story. She fit right in at the right moments. I liked how her addition to Nate’s life changed his outlook.

I want to go back and comment on the whole friendship aspect of this book. There were a lot of moments with Mason and Logan and the others, but they didn’t take over Nate’s story. They added to it. We got the fun, the humor, the bada$$ery, and the SBC — basically everything you would want to see from them all together. Those moments were priceless and made me hope that we’ll get more novellas or books about these characters in the future. Heck, I’m still holding out hope for a Matteo/Grace book.

My overall thoughts on Nate are that I liked reading it a lot. I don’t know how other fans of the original series are going to feel about this book, but I thought it was fun and unique enough while staying within the FCH feel. I wouldn’t say I fell head over heels for it, but it was addictive. There a couple of cringe worthy things, but they didn’t break the book for me. Anyways. I liked it. I would rate it somewhere between 3.5 and 4 stars.

Series Review: Moo U (World of True North)

Good morning! I have something fun to share with you today. It’s a series review for the first series in Sarina Bowen’s World of True North. All three books are available TODAY! Get ready for some college hockey romance fun!

Blindsided
Series: Moo U, #1
Author: Victoria Denault
Publication Date: February 15, 2020
Publisher: Heart Eyes Press
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Sports Romance
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

My thoughts: 

 I already found a new favorite author for 2021! Blindsided was a great introduction to Victoria Denault’s writing. I loved absolutely every minute of this book. The enemies to more trope was on point. The tension between Maggie and Tate was off the charts. I loved the whole neighbors who hate each other thing that was going on with their entire families and how to trickled down to them.  Once all that hate ignited in chemistry, POOF! FIRE! Maggie and Tate were just as much fun in lust and love as in hate. Plus, there were so many laughs to be had. Blindsided was exactly the type of enemies to more romance that I love. It was also a strong debut of a new world and series created by Sarina Bowen. I was impressed how easily the writing matched with Bowen’s own. I can’t wait to read more from Denault and the rest of this series.

Add to Goodreads: https://bit.ly/3omh4Qh
Pre-Order: https://geni.us/AmazonBlindsided
Moo U Hockey: https://hearteyespress.com/wotn#/moo-u-hockey/

Slapshot
Series: Moo U, #2
Author: Rebecca Jenshak
Publication Date: February 15, 2020
Publisher: Heart Eyes Press
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Sports Romance
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

My thoughts:

Slapshot was the main reason I wanted to read the Moo U series. I love Rebecca Jenshak’s NA sports romances and this one was every bit as good as her others. Kaitlyn and Lex won my heart right very quickly. They initially seemed like an odd combination together. She was a couple of years older, (maybe) wiser, and trying to avoid everything hockey until she ends up as the team manager. Lex was new to Moo U, trying to find his place on the team, and all about hockey. Despite feeling like an unlikely couple to me at first, their chemistry couldn’t have been any stronger. Kaitlyn and Lex’s personalities became bigger, brighter when they were together. I loved the progression of their relationship, that fiery chemistry, and they way helped each other find their way. It was an adorably fun romance. I also loved seeing some other favorite characters from this series again. Slapshot was another hit for me in the Moo U series.

Add to Goodreads: https://bit.ly/2VFqM4b
Pre-Order: https://geni.us/AmazonSlapshot
Moo U Hockey: https://hearteyespress.com/wotn#/moo-u-hockey/

Holdout
Series: Moo U, #3
Author: Jaqueline Snowe
Publication Date: February 15, 2020
Publisher: Heart Eyes Press
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Sports Romance
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

My thoughts:

I have another new author to love! What was most impressive about Holdout was the insane chemistry Ryann and Daniel had. I could feel their sizzle coming off the page. It wasn’t just the physical chemistry I felt, but the emotional connection was well. These were two people who held everything close to them and found the one person who got them. I loved that. Not to mention the way they ended up as roommates and what that meant for both of them was so much fun! Holdout was a fantastic addition to this series.

Add to Goodreads: https://bit.ly/2JD9qSZ
Pre-Order: https://geni.us/AmazonHoldout
Share this page: https://hearteyespress.com/wotn#/moo-u-hockey/

Overall thoughts on the series:

WOOHOO! We’re 3 for 3 for 5 stars in this series. That’s so awesome! A lot of time these “worlds” authors create don’t work for me, but this one totally did. All of the books were standalones, but they easily tied together. Each author had their own writing style, but they all meshed so well that you felt like it was one author writing a series. That author very well could have been Sarina Bowen herself. That’s how well written they were. I hope there will be more books in this series coming. I would love it if they were written by these three authors.

Review: The Idea of You (Robinne Lee)

The Idea of You
Author/Narrator: Robinne Lee

Publication Date: June 13, 2017
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½

Synopsis:

Solène Marchand, the thirty-nine-year-old owner of an art gallery in Los Angeles, is reluctant to take her daughter, Isabelle, to meet her favorite boy band. But since her divorce, she’s more eager than ever to be close to Isabelle. The last thing Solène expects is to make a connection with one of the members of the world-famous August Moon. But Hayes Campbell is clever, winning, confident, and posh, and the attraction is immediate. That he is all of twenty years old further complicates things.

What begins as a series of clandestine trysts quickly evolves into a passionate and genuine relationship. It is a journey that spans continents as Solène and Hayes navigate each other’s worlds: from stadium tours to international art fairs to secluded hideaways in Paris and Miami. For Solène, it is a reclaiming of self, as well as a rediscovery of happiness and love. When Solène and Hayes’ romance becomes a viral sensation, and both she and her daughter become the target of rabid fans and an insatiable media, Solène must face how her romantic life has impacted the lives of those she cares about most. 


Robinne Lee is a talented author. Her words and sentences were beautiful without being flowery. There was this tone that carried throughout the entire book. I don’t know how to explain it other to say that it made me feel everything Solène was feeling. Lee is also a talented narrator. Her voice was Solène’s voice. She brought her character to life in the best way.

As for the story… Well, it’s about an almost 40 year old divorcee who meets a 20 year old boyband member when she takes her daughter backstage at his concert. Solène and Hayes embark on a clandestine affair that is somehow both sultry and sweet. Hiding things from her loved ones and the world isn’t easy, and Solène has to deal with what that means for herself and those closest to her. There are a lot of uncomfortable emotions and choices to be made. I couldn’t help but love Solène and Hayes despite their flaws. Solène’s POV is the only one in the book, and I kind of wanted Hayes’ too, but this book was more powerful with just Solène’s.

I want to say more about my thoughts and feelings, but I don’t want to give anything else about this book away. I guess I’ll wrap up with a couple of things. 1. That ending. If you have read this book, you know what I mean. Can I get a book from that point in Hayes’ POV? 2. In some ways, this is a romance. In other ways, it’s not. I wouldn’t want to slap the women’s fiction tag on it because that is not what it feels like to me. The Idea of You crosses over genre boundaries for me with its tone and subject matter.

Series Review: Bergman Brothers (Chloe Liese)

Here we are again with another series review. This time it’s for Chloe Liese’s Bergman Brothers series. I decided to read this series because everyone and their sister is gushing about it. I listened to the first two books and read the third because the audio isn’t out yet.

Only When It’s Us
Series: Berman Brothers, #1

Author: Chloe Liese
Narrators: Nelson Hobbs, C.J. Bloom
Publication Date: November 10, 2020
Publisher: Tantor Media, Inc.
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Sports Romance

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

My thoughts:

Only When It’s Us is a college sports romance. Willa Sutter is a star soccer player who is trying to get her team to the championship while doing well in school and spending time with her sick mom. Ryder Bergman is a college student dealing with the loss of his hearing. Willa has to ask Ryder for help in a class and she thinks he ignores her, but really he can’t hear her. This sets up an epic frenemies situation with humorous drama which leads to Willa Ryder becoming more than just classmates.

I adored this book, even though Willa wasn’t always easy to swallow. She had some only child syndrome going on a lot. Willa had a hard time seeing past herself and what was going on in her life (even if it was traumatic). I didn’t always love how she reacted to Ryder, but I got it. There was a major lack of communication on both of there parts. Despite that, I still enjoyed Only When It’s Us immensely. It brought me a wide range of emotions and a new couple and family to love. Add in the fabulous narration and it was winner — even if I wanted to throttle Willa for some of her choices.

Always Only You
Series: Berman Brothers, #2

Author: Chloe Liese
Narrators: Nelson Hobbs, C.J. Bloom
Publication Date: December 1, 2020
Publisher: Tantor Media, Inc.
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Sports Romance

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

My thoughts:

Always Only You was SO FREAKING GOOD! Seriously AMAZING. Ren and Frankie are going on my list of all time favorite couples. I couldn’t stop swooning over them together. Ren is this geeky but hot professional hockey player who is always smiling. Frankie does social media publicity for his team. She’s known to be super cranky, but is hiding her pain and autism underneath her frown. They have been secretly crushing on each other for like three years until something throws them closer together. He was such a sweetheart and she was such a badass. The way they got each other was the best thing! Ren and Frankie warmed my heart. The narrators only added to the fun of this book. It was such a delightful listening experience.

Ever After Always
Series: Berman Brothers, #3

Author: Chloe Liese
Publication Date: January 12, 2021
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

My thoughts:

Ever After Always was every bit as amazing as Always Only You, but in a completely different way. This book was less cute and more emotional for me. It’s about a couple going through a rough patch in their marriage. Freya feels abandoned in more ways than one. Aiden is consumed with anxiety of pretty  much everything and has been keeping it to himself. The communication in their relationship has all but disappeared. I felt sad for both Freya and Aiden for completely different reasons. I rooted for them to figure out and fix things. Despite being a heavier book, there were moments of sweetness and romance. There was a also a hilarious parrot and some Bergman brothers foolery. I was impressed with how Chloe Liese wrote Ever After Always. Despite the sadness, there was always hope.

Series Review: In the Company of Killers (J.A. Redmerski)

I have mini reviews for the In the Company of Killers series for you today. This series isn’t for everyone. It’s dark, violent, angsty, and suspenseful. I would say it’s rated R. I would caution potential readers that it is truly dark with many, many trigger warnings. It’s about a woman who breaks free from a Mexican drug and sex trafficking ring with help of an assassin, if that explains a bit. Every character in messed up in a deeply disturbing way.

Killing Sarai
Series: In the Company of Killers, #1
Author: J.A. Redmerski
Publication Date: June 8, 2013
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Dark, Romantic Suspense, Thriller

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

My thoughts:

I’ve had Killing Sarai on my Kindle for years because friends raved about it. I’ve put off reading it for two reasons: 1. The series is SEVEN books long and 2. It’s super dark. Sarai escapes a Mexican drug lord who has abused her for years and ends up in the hands of professional killer Victor. This isn’t a love story between Sarai and Victor (as much as I might have wanted it to be), but a thrilling ride of violence and death to those who deserve it most. Killing Sarai was intense and addictive. I didn’t want to put it down, but was also scared to find out what came next. I wouldn’t say I loved reading it because it was torture in some ways. I guess all I can say is that I’m committed to reading at least the second book. (Let’s be real — I’ll end up reading the entire series.)

Reviving Izabel
Series: In the Company of Killers, #2
Author: J.A. Redmerski
Publication Date: December 4, 2013
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Dark, Romantic Suspense, Thriller

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

My thoughts:

Not going to lie. I thought I might take a break in between Killing Sarai and this book, but I couldn’t. I HAD to know what was going to happen to Sarai and Victor after the ending of the first book. Reviving Izabel surprised me in ways only the Nine Minute Trilogy by Beth Flynn has. Twists and turns came out of nowhere. When Victor warned Sarai not to trust anyone, I think he was really speaking to the reader. Man! This book was intense and blew my mind. I’m scared to find out what comes next in the third book, which is bound to be even darker since it is about their friend(?) Fredrik.

The Swan & the Jackal
Series: In the Company of Killers, #3
Author: J.A. Redmerski
Publication Date: March 3, 2014
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Dark, Romantic Suspense, Thriller

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

My thoughts:

Once again, MIND BLOWN. I was warned The Swan & the Jackal was darker than the first two books, but I don’t know that I was prepared for Fredrik. I don’t think anyone could actually be prepared for him or what he was willing to do to find Seraphina. Dude was disturbed. Knowing the reasons behind his actions… Well, that was just heartbreaking with a side of nauseating. Fredrik is one of those characters I knew I shouldn’t love, but can’t help it because he’s more vulnerable than I expected. So, yeah. Shock and awe with this third installment. How will J.A. Redmerski ever be able to keep the surprises coming?

Seeds of Inequity
Series: In the Company of Killers, #4
Author: J.A. Redmerski
Publication Date: September 25, 2014
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Dark, Romantic Suspense, Thriller

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

My thoughts:

Seeds of Inequity is probably my favorite book in the series so far. It wasn’t quite as shocking as some of the other books — even if my mind was blown on more than one occasion while reading it. What I loved so much about it was the levity it brought to the series. Even while it was being dark and twisted, it managed to be humorous at times. The addition of Nora’s character was so smart. She really got in everyone’s heads and put the team through some stuff. I loved how that changed some dynamics. It’s going to be very interesting to find out where things go after this book. It was a game changer.

The Black Wolf
Series: In the Company of Killers, #5
Author: J.A. Redmerski
Publication Date: June 29, 2015
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Dark, Romantic Suspense, Thriller

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

My thoughts:

I took a break in between books 4 and 5 because I had to read an ARC, but I couldn’t wait to get back to this book. Unfortunately, it didn’t immediately pull me in. It wasn’t until about half way through when the story ramped up and I became more interested. Even then, I wondered what the point of everything was…right up until the very end. That ah-ha moment had me rethinking everything that happened in this installment of In the Company of Killers. In the end, my biggest complaints were I needed more Victor and Izabel time and more Fredrik.

Behind the Hands that Kill
Series: In the Company of Killers, #6
Author: J.A. Redmerski
Publication Date: May 7, 2016
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Dark, Romantic Suspense, Thriller

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

My thoughts:

After the end of the last book, I was a little nervous regarding Victor’s intentions and idea of taking Izabel on a vacation. I had no idea where things would go with that — and what happened wasn’t on my radar. This book was all about revealing some of Victor’s secrets. It was an education on the man in a stressful way. I’m not happy with where things left off between Victor and Izabel, but it sure is making for some interesting reading. I can’t wait to find out what happens next.

Spiders in the Grove
Series: In the Company of Killers, #7
Author: J.A. Redmerski
Publication Date: February 13, 2018
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Dark, Romantic Suspense, Thriller

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

My thoughts:

If I were to share my train of thought while reading Spiders in the Grove, it would go something like this:

Niklas is what?
Fredrik is what?
Victor is what?
Please tell me that’s a lie…
What is this? I don’t even…
IZABEL!
Ah, crap! Deal with the devil coming right up.
Ahhhh!!!!
That’s who…?
Woohoo!
I FREAKING KNEW IT!
I didn’t expect that.
I HATE IT!
That’s where it ends??? I need more now! Where is the next book?

Spiders in the Grove was non-stop revelations and crazy, crazy happenings. I was blindsided by so much! I wanted to say I loved every minute of it, but the subject matter would make that disgusting. The writing, though. It was pure genius and those twists and turns were perfection. I loved that we got real time POVs for all the characters. Also, the title is one of my favorites ever now. It matches the book so well.

I’m both happy and angry to be caught up with the series. I need that eighth book like NOW.

Overall thoughts on this series so far:

 This is one of the best dark romance/thriller series I’ve ever read. It is right up there with Beth Flynn’s Nine Minutes Trilogy for me. The twists and turns kept coming and I couldn’t stop reading.  I am on pins and needles waiting for the rest of the books.

Series Review: Dearest (Lex Martin)

One of my goals for 2021 is to read some of the books that have been hiding in the depths of my Kindle for years. I decided to start things off with Dearest Clementine. I had no idea at the time that it would turn into a series binge. Here are my mini reviews for the Dearest series.

Dearest Clementine
Series: Dearest, #1
Author: Lex Martin
Publication Date: April 17, 2014
Publisher: Lex Martin
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary Romance

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

My thoughts:

Dearest Clementine might have been written in 2014, but six years later it doesn’t feel dated. It was a classic new adult romance set in college. I was immediately addicted to the story. There was a little bit of angst, a sweet romance, and an air mystery. Clementine was a broken character, but not annoyingly so. She opened up and learned a lot in this book. Gavin as her love interest was perfection. The friendships and side characters added even more fun to the book. I’m mad at myself for waiting so long to read Dearest Clementine!

Finding Dandelion
Series: Dearest, #2
Author: Lex Martin
Publication Date: July 9, 2014
Publisher: Lex Martin
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Sports Romance

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½

My thoughts:

Finding Dandelion didn’t start out on the best foot with me. This book is Clementine’s twin brother Jax’s book. His love interest is her newest roommate, Dani. At the beginning, before they are together, Jax’s promiscuous ways are highlighted. Honestly, I would have preferred to keep things on a tell rather than show way with that. Jax also continued to be an idiot throughout most of the book for different reasons. That being said, I LOVED Dani. Her story was fun to read. When Jax wasn’t being a turd, I thought the two of them were adorable together.

Kissing Madeline
Series: Dearest, #3
Author: Lex Martin
Publication Date: April 26, 2015
Publisher: Lex Martin
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Sports Romance

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

My thoughts:

Never did I think I would want a redemption book for Clementine’s high school ex Daren, but I’m glad I got one. It was the most mature of the three romances, and I could see how Martin’s writing grew from her debut to this book. Daren had definitely grown up and matured. I loved that he could look back at his younger years, see his mistakes, and own them. Maddie was a young woman who knew her worth and fought hard for what she wanted. I adored Daren and Maddie together. How they fell into love felt like a natural transition. All of the drama that happened in this book kept it moving quickly, too. It was a fun read — especially with that epilogue!

Review: Roommate (Sarina Bowen)

Roommate
Author: Sarina Bowen
Publication Date: January 12, 2020
Publisher: Tuxbury Publishing LLC
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary Romance, LGBTQ+
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:
Wanted: One roommate to share a 3-bedroom house, split the rent, and ideally not be the guy I can’t stop thinking about.
I’m a man with too many secrets, so the last thing I need is a new roommate with a sexy smile and blue eyes that see right through me. Eight years ago, Roderick left town after high school. We’re not friends. I owe him nothing. But back then, I let one of my secrets slip, and he’s the only one who noticed.
Part of me knows I should run far, far away. But the other part wants him to come upstairs and spend the night. But if I let him in, I could lose everything.

Seeking: A room to rent in town. I’m tidy, have no pets, and I will feed you homemade bread.
I should probably add: Gay AF, and has no filter. It’s no wonder my new landlord is so wary of me.
A smarter man would ignore those hot glances from Kieran Shipley. The broody lumberjack wants more from me than another homemade pretzel, but if I push my luck, I’ll end up back on the street.
Too bad I’ve never been smart with my heart …


Being back in Vermont and on the Shipley farm was a pleasure. It’s a place where Sarina Bowen’s writing shines. (Although, it shines in all her settings.) In Roommate, we got to see another side to the Shipleys and farming. This time it was a Shipley cousin who gets a story.

Kieran Shipley was my favorite type of Sarina Bowen character: a little gruff, a lot quiet. Behind those qualities was a man who was loyal to his family despite their actions and a good friend. Kieran was someone who was searching for his place in the world, but tried to do it without ruffling anyone’s feathers. I immediately liked him and wanted him to end up happy.

The newcomer to this small Vermont town was Roderick. Roddy had once lived nearby, but had left to pursue his calling. Now he’s back, broke, and looking to start all over. Roddy’s character was a lot more upfront and comfortable with his sexual orientation than some of Bowen’s previous MM couples. I think he might be Bowen’s first openly gay character, and it took me a while to get used to that in terms of what I’ve been used to in the MM romances she’s told before. I liked that she went this direction. It made Kieran and Roddy’s story standout from her other MM romances. There were some of the same aspects in relation to Kieran’s story compared to her others, but Roddy’s was all his own.

Kieran and Roddy had a sweet romance. It was almost a slow burn. Their attraction and relationship built naturally. They took their time getting to know each other as roommates and co-workers before moving onto anything romantic. That worked well for both Kieran and Roddy’s histories.

One of the things that made Roommate fun was seeing those Shipleys and friends from past True North books. Kieran’s branch of the family was a new experience, but I loved how Griffin, Audrey, and Zara framed Kieran’s life. I loved their reactions to Kieran and Roddy. That being said, this book is a standalone and can be read without reading the True North series.

Kieran’s immediate family members weren’t my favorite. I had a feeling why and it was proven correct. I didn’t have much respect for them. That didn’t really change by the end, sadly. There were some things I appreciated about them, but they kind of just sucked.

I’m so glad Sarina Bowen took us back to the True North world with Roommate. It was a special story and it deserved this magical setting. I loved how it was inundated with old characters who surrounded the new characters with love and acceptance. It was a joy to read.

PURCHASE LINKS

All Links in one spot: https://shor.by/roommate
Audible: https://geni.us/Audible-RM
Amazon: https://geni.us/Amazon-roommate
Apple: https://geni.us/Apple-roommate
Kobo: https://geni.us/Kobo-roommate
Nook: https://geni.us/Nook-roommate