Book Review

ARC Book Review: Begin Again by Emma Lord

Rating: ★★★★★
Audience: YA Contemporary Romance
Length: 352 pages
Author: Emma Lord
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Release Date: January 24th, 2023
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

As usual, Andie Rose has a plan: Transfer from community college to the hyper competitive Blue Ridge State, major in psychology, and maintain her lifelong goal of becoming an iconic self-help figure despite the nerves that have recently thrown her for a loop. All it will take is ruthless organization, hard work, and her trademark unrelenting enthusiasm to pull it all together.

But the moment Andie arrives, the rest of her plans go off the rails. Her rocky relationship with her boyfriend Connor only gets more complicated when she discovers he transferred out of Blue Ridge to her community college. Her roommate Shay needs a major, and despite Andie’s impressive track record of being The Fixer, she’s stumped on how to help. And Milo, her coffee-guzzling grump of an R.A. with seafoam green eyes, is somehow disrupting all her ideas about love and relationships one sleep-deprived wisecrack at a time.

But sometimes, when all your plans are in rubble at your feet, you find out what you’re made of. And when Andie starts to find the power of her voice as the anonymous Squire on the school’s legendary pirate radio station–the same one her mom founded, years before she passed away–Andie learns that not all the best laid plans are necessarily the right ones.

Filled with a friend group that feels like family, an empowering journey of finding your own way, and a Just Kiss Already! romance, Begin Again is an unforgettable novel of love and starting again.

Thank you Wednesday Books for the eARC!

LOVED, AS ALWAYS.

Emma Lord books just hit different. They are everything I wish I could have read at the young adult age. Filled with promising outlooks, taking on new challenges and letting go of things holding you back, Begin Again was yet another beautifully crafted read.

I adored Andie. Yes, she definitely was making some poor decisions, but character arcs are my jam and I LOVED her self revelations and discoveries about how she had been handling many facets of her life. I found myself teary every time these books come to a close because they’re just so GOOD. I love the parent discussions, the formation of life length friendships, and falling in love (with the right guy).

College plots need more books. I thought it was a lot of fun with the broadcasting segments, finding ribbons, work/study jobs and more. There were all of these little aspects of the setting that I know contributed to my love of this book.

And the romance was so sweet!! It was a slowwww burn. But the development from friendship to relationship was wonderful. Filled with the tender moments and then (when the time was right) realizing that those feelings had become more. Milo was an absolute gruff sweetheart and I LOVED IT.

I’ll just be sitting here waiting for the next book from one of my favorite auto-read authors.

Overall audience notes:

  • YA Contemporary Romance
  • Language: a little strong
  • Romance: kisses
  • Trigger/Content Warnings: loss of a mother from cancer (off page, mentioned), cheating, loss of a father from a car wreck (off page, mentioned)

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Book Review

Book Review: Daughter of the Deep (The Children of Lyr #1) by Lina C. Amarego

Rating: ★★★
Audience: NA Fantasy Romance
Length: 364 pages
Author: Lina C. Amarego
Publisher: Silver Wheel Press
Release Date: August 15th, 2020
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

A wedding to end a war.

It’s been four years since the blood feud between the Branwens and Mathonwys started. Four years of sunken ships and loved ones lost, four years of wounds both seen and unseen. Keira Branwen is no stranger to duty. As the first mate of a legendary pirate ship, blessed by the sea-god Lyr, and heir apparent to her clan, she would sail to the Otherworld and back to keep her family safe.

But when the Council threatens banishment for her people, Keira is faced with a choice; she must either marry her father’s alleged killer, the sea-snake Ronan Mathowny, or curse her family to the deep.

But in the Seven Isles of the Deyrnas, secrets sleep just beneath the surface of the water. Her father’s death is still shrouded in mystery, and Ronan–her childhood friend, the man she once loved — is hell-bent on proving his innocence. As enemies become friends and friends become suspects, Keira must wade through the waters of doubt to expose the truth, save her family, and restore her father’s legacy.

But Keira soon learns that there are ties thicker than blood, and there is more than one way to sacrifice a life.

STAR FOR POTENTIAL.

I probably could have rated this somewhere in the 2 star zone, buuuut I think for those who really prefer ROMANCE over FANTASY there’s a lot of potential here. I love fantasy romances, but within a fantasy book I expect and hope for world building. I crave and need it to enjoy the story. There was very little of that here.

There doesn’t seem to be a rhyme or reason as to why the main character has some kind of magic ability involving the ocean but nobody else does? And there’s shifters too? But why? Where did they come from? Why does the ocean speak sometimes? PLEASE SOMEONE TELL ME. I spent so much of my time frustrated without these answers that I could barely see the aspects I did like.

One of the things I did like was the romance. Got off on a rough foot (because yet again, needed back ground world building), but once I kind of figured out what was happening, things moved at a sweet pace. I liked Ronan and Keira together. A bit of a second chance, enemies to lovers dynamic that played well for these two. I liked that they both fought for each other and found some common ground to build a new foundation between them.

I won’t be continuing this series (I think there’s one more book?). Didn’t mesh with enough of it to be worth figuring out what happens next.

Overall audience notes:

  • NA Fantasy Romance
  • Language: little
  • Romance: closed door
  • Violence: mild
  • Trigger/Content Warnings: weapons violence, shipwrecks, death of a parent, near death experiences

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Book Review

Book Review: Under Locke by Mariana Zapata

Rating: ★★★☆ (3.5)
Audience: Contemporary Romance
Length: 497 pages
Author: Mariana Zapata
Publisher: Self Published
Release Date: January 19th, 2014
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

He was my boss, my brother’s friend, a Widower, an ex-felon, and a man I’d seen casually with a handful of women. But he was everything that gripped me, both the good and the bad. Worst case scenario if things turned awkward between us, I could go somewhere else. I’d gotten over epic heartbreak before, one more wouldn’t kill me.

After moving to Austin following six months of unemployment back home, Iris Taylor knows she should be glad to have landed a job so quickly… even if the business is owned by a member of the same motorcycle club her estranged father used to belong to. Except Dex Locke might just be the biggest jerk she’s ever met. He’s rude, impatient and doesn’t know how to tell time.

And the last thing they ever expected was each other.

But it was either the strip club or the tattoo shop.

… she should have chosen the strip club. 

WELL.

I knew there might come a day when a Zapata book wasn’t my favorite. Unfortunately today is that day. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed this book a lot, but it was more on and off then a consistent lover for one of my favorite contemporary romance authors. The setting and theme were some of the best aspects.

The love interest, Dex, flirting with the a-hole/grump line waayyy too often for me. Maybe this is also showing that that type of hero isn’t my jam (which is fine!), but I kept waffling back and forth with how he treated Iris. There were some truly kind moments and a few great, don’t touch her moments too. A mixed bag for him though.

Iris was a great heroine…most of the time. I think she had a lot of spunk and was trying to make the best decision she could when obstacles kept being thrown her way. There were some truly frustrating moments where I could in no way, get behind what she was thinking. I don’t love dumb decision making.

Something that I don’t generally take off star rating for (and didn’t for this book), though I do like to mention, is that this is MUUUUUUCH steamier than I expected. I skipped many long scenes that were on the super graphic side. If you love this kind of steam, then I would recommend this backlist MZ read. If not, I’d go ahead and skip this and read some of her newer books.

The audio narration as always was stellar and it felt like a quick read even at 16 hours. I’m looking forward to continuing my backlist MZ books!

Overall audience notes:

  • Contemporary romance
  • Language: heavy and strong
  • Romance: multiple very explicit open door
  • Violence: mild
  • Trigger/Content Warnings: abandonment, cancer, death of a parent, gun violence, physical violence, infidelity (not with the main couple!), sexual assault

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Book Review

Book Review: The Party (London Prep #5) by Jillian Dodd

Rating: ★★
Audience: NA Contemporary Romance
Length: 332 pages
Author: Jillian Dodd
Publisher: Self-published
Release Date: October 19th, 2021
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

It’s my first week as an official student at Kensington School, and things couldn’t be more chaotic. I’m living in a hotel, trying to recover from the news of my parents’ move to London, and working to make things right with Harry, Noah, and Mohammad.

Mohammad says I’m back in the boys’ club.

Harry tells me that he wants me back in his life.

And Noah, well, he’s always been complicated.

But after a too-generous gift from Harry and a heated moment with Noah on my birthday, things seem to change. Noah is flirting with me again and Harry shows me he’s serious about us being friends when he asks me to be his date to his parents’ party.

Everything feels like it’s back to normal—until the party.

Because Mohammad somehow ends up with two dates.

Harry asks me to pretend to be his girlfriend for the night.

And Noah tells me he likes me. A lot.

In the midst of meeting Harry’s parents and helping Mohammad navigate a potential disaster with Naomi, Noah says that I need to show him how I feel. But what he’s really asking for is for me to make a choice.

OVER IT.

Five books.

That’s how long I made it through this love triangle.

I’m not typically a fan, but I really was into all of the drama. The push and pull, will they won’t they kind of nonsense. The first two books were great. Third, eh. Fourth, pulled me back, and now I can say I’m okay with putting this series down. Maybe I’ll read a spoiler of the last book (whenever that is) to know who the main character ends up with.

There’s some great friendship scenes and being there for those you love. I like all of the nuances of that and working together and enjoying each other’s company. This group is a mix of all different personalities and quirks and make for a good time.

Noah was even a big flirt this time (FINALLY). And I loved all of those moments too. I guess I was hoping for a bit more? The plot/layout of this book is unique so it reads somehow slow and fast all at the same time.

Anyways. I’m moving on!

Overall audience notes:

  • NA Contemporary Romance
  • Language: some strong
  • Romance: heated make-outs
  • Trigger/Content Warnings: underage drinking, mentions of abusive parenting

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