Honor by Jay Crownover

So I’m left unsupervised in a bookstore, but it’s okay because I have a gift card. (Not that it would stop me from using the big guns [i.e. the credit card]) And I’m trying to find a book to buy, normally this isn’t a problem but I’m trying a new thing where I go into a bookstore and buy a book that I don’t already know about and that I haven’t read a review for. I’m trying to go in blind.

I stumbled upon Honor by Jay Crownover in the smaller than usual romance section (since when is romance only two aisles?!?) and I’m kind of cheating because I LOVED Jay Crownover’s Marked Men series, and once I cheated by picking a book by an author I knew, I continued the downward spiral by looking up reviews to verify my choice. The gushing and fangirling on Goodreads had me feeling pretty confident, and the combination of the reviews and the author’s note in the beginning had me excited for this super dark and gritty read.

26072600Don’t be fooled.

Don’t make excuses for me.

I am not a good man.

I’ve seen things no one should, done things no one should talk about. Honor and conscience have no place in my life. But I’ve fought and I’ve survived. I’ve had to.

The first time I saw her dancing on that seedy stage in that second rate club, I felt my heart pulse for the first time. Keelyn Foster was too young, too vibrant for this place, and I knew in an instant that I would make her mine. But first I had to climb my way to the top. I had to have something more to offer her.

I’m here now, money is no object and I have no equal. Except for her. She’s disappeared. But don’t worry, I will find her and claim her. She will be mine.

Like I said, don’t be fooled. I am not the devil in disguise… I’m the one front and center.

I finished this book in pretty much one day. I liked it but I think I went in with too high of expectations because it wasn’t nearly dark and gritty enough for me to consider it as dark as everyone thought it was. At no point while reading did I feel uncomfortable at the violence or the fact that the main character runs a sex club. Overall, I thought the book was pretty tame, and when the main character is literally described as the “devil,” I was expecting a damaged and dangerous dude.

Now, did I like the characters? Yes. BUT, they weren’t the kind of dark characters I expected. That disappointment bled into the rest of my reading experience and left me feeling pretty meh about the book. Don’t get me wrong, the writing was fantastic, but there were points the plot felt too forced, or the action felt too much like a plot device to get the story moving as opposed to naturally occurring plot progression.

I went in with high expectations and came out a little disappointed. However, that may speak to my reading past – the dark AF books I’ve apparently been reading to leave me jaded enough to think this is tame – and the fact that I think Jay Crownover writes good guys better than bad guys.

STARS: 3 out of 5

Sanguine Moon by Jennifer Foxcroft

I freaking LOVED Sanguine Moon by Jennifer Foxcroft. I devoured it in one sitting.

When Connie Phillips began keeping secrets from her adoptive parents, she was unaware of the darkness she would bring into her world. Discovering she is the daughter of a crime lord had consequences even she could never have predicted. Consequences that put her first real love—Rocks—and her adorable baby sister in mortal danger.

With many lives balanced in her hands, Connie must find a way to save Rocks’ life, while keeping his identity a secret. Navigating the antiquated ways of the Camazotz culture, while trying not to offend the colony’s leaders with her modern technology, is harder than Connie ever imagined.

When Rocks defies certain death using present-day medicine, the Camazotz are torn. If they consider modernizing, they risk discovery and subsequent extermination by the aeronaughts. But hiding away in their mountain roost has left them vulnerable to an unidentified enemy slowly picking them off one bat at a time.

I met this author at a writing conference a few years ago and I’m so glad I did, because I might not have known to pick up this wonderful story. I loved book one in the Camazotz Trilogy, Sanguine Mountain. I was ecstatic to read book two when it finally arrived because these characters have been in my head, and I want more of them.

Bottom line: I love me some Rocks! Rocks is the best kind of love interest. He’s bad boy on the outside, good guy on the inside. Since he’s been isolated from civilization, he’s slightly naive, and with Rocks’ supernatural background as a shape-shifting bat, it’s totally believable. I loved the scenes where Connie had to explain modern technology or common turns of phrase. Rocks and his band of friends were so sweet and endearing. I wanted to squeeze all of them in a big hug, bat-form or no.

Sanguine Moon is the sweetest form of YA lit. The romance between Connie and Rocks was so pure. I loved the slow development of their relationship. It had that sweet high school crush, blush when you see each other feel.

I loved how this book expanded on the bat way of life. The leader of the Camazotz is a bit of a hard ass and I loved peeking into their sacred customs and secret lairs. The danger and tension of protecting the bat colony combined with the forbidden aspect of Connie and Rocks’ relationship was so compelling and had me turning pages as quickly as possible.

I was thoroughly impressed with this book. The writing was excellent and held my interest the entire time. There were only a couple times that I felt the plot slowed a bit, but it always picked right back up until the very end. Just like book one left me reeling, book two left me wanting more — more Connie, more drama, and most definitely more Rocks!

Read this. You won’t regret it.

STARS: 5 out of 5

By Your Side by Kasie West

Trapped in a library…all weekend…with a hot boy? Count me in. By Your Side by Kasie West is every book nerd’s dream come true.

30256248In this irresistible story, Kasie West explores the timeless question of what to do when you fall for the person you least expect. Witty and romantic, this paperback original from a fan favorite is perfect for fans of Stephanie Perkins and Morgan Matson.

When Autumn Collins finds herself accidentally locked in the library for an entire weekend, she doesn’t think things could get any worse. But that’s before she realizes that Dax Miller is locked in with her. Autumn doesn’t know much about Dax except that he’s trouble. Between the rumors about the fight he was in (and that brief stint in juvie that followed it) and his reputation as a loner, he’s not exactly the ideal person to be stuck with. Still, she just keeps reminding herself that it is only a matter of time before Jeff, her almost-boyfriend, realizes he left her in the library and comes to rescue her.

Only he doesn’t come. No one does.

Instead it becomes clear that Autumn is going to have to spend the next couple of days living off vending-machine food and making conversation with a boy who clearly wants nothing to do with her. Except there is more to Dax than meets the eye. As he and Autumn first grudgingly, and then not so grudgingly, open up to each other, Autumn is struck by their surprising connection. But can their feelings for each other survive once the weekend is over and Autumn’s old life, and old love interest, threaten to pull her from Dax’s side?

It’s difficult to review Kasie West’s books because they are all so sweet and fun, and they take place over a short period of time so there is only so much you can say without giving anything away. Plus, I think going into Kasie’s books blind is the best way to read.

Bottom line, I enjoyed it very much. It hit all my YA contemporary romance buttons in true Kasie West style. I smiled, I laughed, I swooned. Her characters appear simple, but they have such complexity built underneath that makes them pop up from the page like real people.

I don’t want to give anything away, but a couple heavy topics are discussed in this book, and I loved the somewhat awkward conversations and interactions surrounding them. It is difficult and awkward to talk about serious things in real life and West played true to exactly how most teenagers would react. I wish I could have heard more of Dax’s story by getting his perspective. I felt his painful past was more intriguing than Autumn’s.

If I’m completely honest, this is my least favorite of all West’s books, and I wish she would have played with the library piece more, but it was still good enough to read in one sitting.

STARS: 4 out of 5

Royally Matched by Emma Chase

I very much anticipated the release of Royally Matched by Emma Chase. First, because I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in the series Royally Screwed, and second, because it consisted of a reality dating show premise. As a proud member of Bachelor nation, I’m always looking for a book equivalent of a #bachelorfix.

29991718Some men are born responsible, some men have responsibility thrust upon them. Henry John Edgar Thomas Pembrook, Prince of Wessco, just got the motherlode of all responsibility dumped in his regal lap.

He’s not handling it well.

Hoping to help her grandson to rise to the occasion, Queen Lenora agrees to give him “space”—but while the Queen’s away, the Prince will play. After a chance meeting with an American television producer, Henry finally makes a decision all on his own:

Welcome to Matched: Royal Edition.

A reality TV dating game show featuring twenty of the world’s most beautiful blue bloods gathered in the same castle. Only one will win the diamond tiara, only one will capture the handsome prince’s heart.

While Henry revels in the sexy, raunchy antics of the contestants as they fight, literally, for his affection, it’s the quiet, bespectacled girl in the corner—with the voice of an angel and a body that would tempt a saint—who catches his eye.

The more Henry gets to know Sarah Mirabelle Zinnia Von Titebottum, the more enamored he becomes of her simple beauty, her strength, her kind spirit… and her naughty sense of humor.

But Rome wasn’t built in a day—and irresponsible royals aren’t reformed overnight.

As he endeavors to right his wrongs, old words take on whole new meanings for the dashing Prince. Words like, Duty, Honor and most of all—Love.

I have mixed feelings about Royally Matched. I really enjoyed it. It was a sweet romance with witty banter and funny inner dialogue, which is what I’ve come to expect from Emma. I LOVED the name-dropping and literature talk throughout the novel. Anyone who loves Jane Austen will love the literary tie-ins throughout the book.

However, it was the reality dating show premise that fell incredibly flat for me. It was almost an afterthought, in the background, instead of adding tension to the plot. Granted, it may have been more important to me since I was excited about that particular element in the synopsis, but I couldn’t help but wish that Emma could have changed it up. Why not throw Sarah in the running? Why did she have to be in the background skulking about? It was almost unjust that the shy, introverted book nerd was forced to look on instead of participating.

The ending confused me as well. It was abrupt and a bit absurd. The main obstacle of the entire novel was washed away with one conversation and suddenly Henry wanted to do something that wasn’t mentioned at any other point in the book. In fact, what he did at the end was a little cruel and unusual if you ask me.

Regardless of my criticisms, I read the book in one sitting and I plan to read the next book in the series Royally Endowed, which will be released in June 2017 (sooner than I thought!). After reading book two, Royally Screwed is still my favorite by far.

STARS: 3 out of 5

Fake Fiancée by Isla Madden-Mills

Fake Fiancée is such a fun, cute read! I was glued to the pages and read it in two days.

33095590A new standalone romance from Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author Ilsa Madden-Mills…

They say nothing compares to your first kiss,
But our first kiss was orchestrated for an audience.
Our second kiss…that one was REAL.
He cradled my face like he was terrified he’d f*ck it up.
He stared into my eyes until the air buzzed.
Soft and slow, full of sighs and little laughs,
He inhaled me like I was the finest Belgian chocolate,
And he’d never get another piece.
A nip of his teeth, his hand at my waist…
And I was lost.
I forgot he was paying me to be his fake fiancée.
I forgot we weren’t REAL.
Our kiss was pure magic, and before you laugh and say those kinds of kisses don’t exist…
Then you’ve never touched lips with Max Kent, the hottest quarterback in college history.

Get ready for breathtaking kisses, dreamy football players, a heroine who yearns for the guy she can’t have, and a hero who will do anything for the girl he loves…

Even though it’s highly unrealistic, I’m a sucker for the fake relationship trope. I enjoy the dynamic tension between two people who try to unravel their emotions and identify what’s real and what’s fake. This was a slow-moving romance, which I appreciated given they are basically strangers when they meet, and the jealous ex situation for each of them was a nice touch. The rivalry between  Max and the second string quarterback was a little overdone, and I wish it didn’t take up as much of the story.

I loved Sunny’s Mimi! She was a hoot! And I particularly enjoyed being in Max’s head. He was by far my favorite character.

Although I enjoyed this story immensely, there were a lot of extraneous details that never really got resolved. For example, in one particular scene, the star quarterback hurts his ankle. In the moment, it seemed like a career-ending event but it was brushed off later in the chapter as no big deal. One or two of those is fine but there were many details added for dramatic effect (i.e. both their fathers, the coach, the new guy…) but were never followed through. It was like the author was trying to “fake out” the reader and toward the end, I didn’t appreciate it as much.

Overall, such a fun, fast read that will hit the New Adult spot.

STARS: 4 out of 5

Rule by Jay Crownover

Over the years, I’ve had Jay Crownover’s Marked Men series pop up as a recommended series based on my read list on GoodReads. Whatever algorithm Goodreads uses to recommend things works, because it was absolutely right. Rule, the first novel in the New Adult series, was wildly entertaining.

17200687Opposites in every way . . . except the one that matters

Shaw Landon loved Rule Archer from the moment she laid eyes on him. Rule is everything a straight-A pre-med student like Shaw shouldn’t want—and the only person she’s never tried to please. She isn’t afraid of his scary piercings and tattoos or his wild attitude. Though she knows that Rule is wrong for her, her heart just won’t listen.

To a rebel like Rule Archer, Shaw Landon is a stuck-up, perfect princess-and his dead twin brother’s girl. She lives by other people’s rules; he makes his own. He doesn’t have time for a good girl like Shaw-even if she’s the only one who can see the person he truly is.

But a short skirt, too many birthday cocktails, and spilled secrets lead to a night neither can forget. Now, Shaw and Rule have to figure out how a girl like her and a guy like him are supposed to be together without destroying their love . . . or each other.

I’m always down for a good girl falling for the bad boy. No matter how unrealistic it seems at times. Granted, I know from experience that every good girl has a wild side waiting to come out. For a New Adult novel, this book had some heavy subject matter – dealing with the death of a friend/brother, the fracturing of a family, disowning parents, and unfulfilled longing for love and acceptance. It added some tangible substance between the tension-filled bickering and scorching moments of surrender.

I particularly enjoyed Rule as a damaged bad boy with tattoos and piercings – LOTS of piercings. There were a few eyebrow raising moments, but that’s what made this story so fun to read. I loved that Shaw was the complete opposite of Rule, clean-cut, rich and well-mannered. It made their relationship like the joining of fire and ice; it could get explosive.

My one complaint is I think Rule is a dumb name. Who would name their kid Rule? However, I loved the variety of secondary characters. I’m excited to read the rest of the series knowing I’ll get to hear the stories of some of my favorites like Rome and Jet.

STARS: 4 out of 5

The Mighty Storm by Samantha Towle

The Mighty Storm by Samantha Towle has been on my radar for years. It was the New Adult book that everyone was talking about and I wanted in. Sadly, this book fell flat for me.

15724654It’s been twelve years since Tru Bennett last saw Jake Wethers, her former best friend and boy she once loved.

Jake Wethers, sexy, tattooed and deliciously bad lead singer, and brains behind The Mighty Storm, one of the biggest bands in the world, left Tru with a broken heart when he moved from England to America with his family when they were both fourteen.

Sent to interview Jake for her music column by the magazine she works for, they are both unprepared for the sparks that fly the instant they reconnect. Only, there’s a complication to their instant feelings for one another—Will, Tru’s boyfriend of two years.

Then Jake makes Tru a job offer she can’t refuse—travelling the world with him and his band. But taking the job means leaving Will behind, and being on the road with the band means spending an inordinate amount of time with Jake.

Is Tru strong enough to resist the delectable bad boy who once held her heart so completely, or will she willingly risk it all for one night with the world’s most notorious womanizer?

The Mighty Storm is the epitome of a new adult romance. It has the self-conscious heroine that doesn’t realize she’s beautiful and the arrogant, rich bad boy (in this case rock star) that demands her heart. Most of the time I’m okay with the stereotype, and even if there are moments that I cringe at the over-the-top, need-you-now, I’m-a-caveman dialogue, I can still fall into the story. However, I couldn’t get there with this book.

The first half of this novel was wildly entertaining. I enjoyed all the “Briticisms,” like saying boot instead of trunk or vest instead of a tank top. The story and characters were stereotypical, sure, but I enjoyed the first meeting, anticipated the first kiss and even endured the heart-wrenching love triangle. The first half felt like it was its own little story with a beginning, middle and end. About the half-way point is where I got lost. The story changes…it morphs into this obstacle-rich battle ground with dealbreakers coming in out of nowhere. Between one page and the next, the whole tone of the story flips from an authentic connection to a pessimistic interrogation.

Where The Mighty Storm fell flat the most was the character’s contradictory decision-making, specifically Tru. It’s impossible to describe without spoilers but she basically considers an act, that she had done herself, as unforgivable. It was such a hypocritical moment that I couldn’t side with either character. I was just done with the BS and didn’t want to read anymore. I skimmed through to the end to see how it all ended up, but it didn’t redeem this book for me.

The Mighty Storm was a letdown. It left me feeling like I wasted time.

STARS: 2 out of 5