Sam's Reading: A Work in Progress

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The Mistake - Elle Kennedy

This definitely does not pack the punch of The Deal, but is told in the same breezy, quick, engaging and frankly realistic style (speaking of the banter/conversation here). I also don't think it has the humor. I don't love comparing within series, I don't think it's fair. I just did it though, and I'll stand by that.


Frankly, I like these two characters backstories and conflicts far better than I like the predecessors because it felt more fresh, and in a lot of ways they weren't fixated like the way the characters in the prior novel. It features another sweet and open hero who basically just wants love.


So, why deduct a star-ish you ask? Grace. I thought she was realistic in a college freshman, kind of insecure way, but she flipped so quickly in her assertiveness,  it was annoying. And in the final conflict at the tail end of the book, I cannot be convinced that her behavior was sensitive or in any regard in character for her. I didn't get a great sense of her. She was shy and wasn't, she was sensitive but wasn't. 


That said, I enjoy this series more than nearly any NA, and it is tops for hockey. In some respects, I liked the pacing of this book better-and it shows another college couple getting to their happy ending in a very different way with a very different start. (And my eyes do get wet at one point, man, what the hell is happening to me)

The Stone Sky

The Stone Sky - N.K. Jemisin And I will tell you everything of how, later, as the quiet of death descended, I whispered:
Right now.
Right now.
And the earth whispered back:

So look. I buddy read this with Joanna, and I'm glad. I sucked at it, we mostly touched base about where we were at...because if you read the above passage what I can tell you is how that feels-how that seems to hit a little too close to home right now-it's what I felt when I read nearly every word of this work. It was a stunning, aching conclusion to this trilogy that started off in its usual way. NKJ somehow creates engagement with a strange sense of detachment. I caught myself wondering if I was catching it all (probably not, it's rich as hell) I feel like an observer in the world. I don't know how this happens, but then it reaches out and crushes you.

And then somehow, she brings you back to life. In the final ten pages of this book, it hurt so deeply and a few pages later, she gave me hope.

In reading her author's note, I burst into tears. I can't explain how difficult this book was for me to read (yet enjoyable) and how timely it feels. I think you're going to have to just go ahead an take my 5 stars-for the entire series and figure it out yourself if you read it.

Unmasked by the Marquess

Unmasked by the Marquess - Cat Sebastian Not my favorite CS, perhaps my least favorite (which is likely still shelving it in my top 75 romances). It wasn’t the threads and complication for me, but I felt like it took a good 20-35% to sink my teeth into. In the end, it was lovely and sweet, though Charity’s decision irked me at the end (not how the come back together, rather that she basically doesn’t accept his proposal without conditions?) , I indeed understood it, but felt something missing. All in all, another delightful story from Cat Sebastian.

Summer Skin

Summer Skin - Kirsty Eagar The path to happiness and togetherness is not always that clear cut build-up, neat conflict, and ultimate outcome. Nowhere is that more clear in the most new adult to ever new adult than in this straightforward book. I loved the central friendships in this, and that these two were respectably, age appropriately, struggling with who they were and who they wanted to be. And a bit immature at that.

The style of writing supported these rapidly-changing new adults, leaving aside sentiment and overdone descriptions in favor of immersing readers in the world in an accessible, if almost distant and observational way. Almost like an in-depth journalist would chronicle a relationship: A year in college.

None of this is bad, though reading a Romance in this style may not be for everyone. It's not really tugging at your heart strings as these two take a baby step forward just to get in their own ways (again in a way that feels so familiar to that time) and drag themselves back by great distances. It's not taking any cheap shots to make your compassion activate, more like dropping you in without a parachute and saying, "hey, remember shit like this, can you relate?" It's not fancy or beautiful (at times it is in its simplicity all these, including funny) but it's effective.

Damaged Goods

Damaged Goods - Talia Hibbert Remember in my prior review (yeah, I doubt it, but I do) when I said that I had that I was feeling awfully grumpy at contemporary and this unknown to me author named Talia Hibbert crumpled up that feeling, threw it in my face then lit it on fire?

That.She is, without a doubt, a fresh (to me) voice in contemporary romance. There's something so true and stripped, yet beautiful about her style. Elegant with a flare of humor, minimalist with a touch of whimsy. As I've read her books I've felt more than with other authors who are low angst that the arc is a little different. It's not the why or despite-all-odds getting together love stories. It's a romance about how two people find each other, stripped bare, and become each other's. It's simple, it deals with the essentially mundane of a couple falling in love and deciding to be together, yet both books I've read of hers feel unique and like nothing I've ever read before. (And great humor!)

In Damaged Goods, we have Laura-wife of Daniel-becoming herself after surviving her marriage to Daniel. Her backstory is intricately woven in the story, but it doesn't detract or consume or add dependency to Samir and Laura's relationship (second chance type), it just is. It's painful, it's real, but it's something the couple deals with as a couple and moves on. Samir is lovely too, and like Evan comes off a bit too perfect. I'm left feeling I know the heroines a touch better than the heroes thus far in her books (we did have his back story it didn't seem to be integral, if that makes sense)...but for me that isn't really a bad thing. That said, though Samir was a bit infallible, you can't help loving him or his smitten, torch-carrying self. Laura and her friendship with Ruth are highlighted, and so is a delicate balance of coming off one relationship into another. This 'rebound' wouldn't always play well with this backstory, but again, here it just is. We also get a glimpse of Hassan, Samir's brother and I have to say I would've loved to meet him and his husband in the story. I loved that interaction, and it added to Samir's character.

Honestly, two more perfect and idealized heroes have never existed in my mind (Ravenswood are her only books I've read), so I guess a kudos for that. I do have a strong desire to see one of her heroes with a really rough edge though, I believe Hibbert is the kind of author who could write me into love with anyone.

Parts of it are quite *ahem* hot, so you won't be disappointed there.

All this said, though Hibbert's Ravenswood series have become a beacon in the sludge of CR I feel like I've been wading through, I'm giving this a 4. It's a novella, though a hefty one, and I can always use a bit more depth. The 4 is also for the perfection of the characters-or at least the heroes. I love the snappy humor and writing style and can't wait to read the backlist & more from this talented author.

Dreaming of You

Dreaming of You - Lisa Kleypas Lovely, why we read Kleypas still, right? I just thought the pacing was weird or it coulda been 5.

Jock Row

Jock Row - Sara Ney An NA free of drama, but filled with tension. Two sweet, funny, sex-obsessed college students...such a delight. I loved the setting of the porch with the party raging inside, cause that’s where you’d find me, plus that put a novel spin on the development of the relationship. I also had an easy time believing that, a very genuine, very college, very cute romance with a ridiculously smitten hero and heroine I loved.

My one hesitation is just that there wasn’t much to it. It was fluff, though it was fluff at its finest.

The Difference Between Us

The Difference Between Us - Rachel Higginson For fans of:
Insecure heroines (I don't always think that's a terrible thing)
Weird reading audience breaks for humor (I just read this in another book and was ok after I got over it)
Strikethrough as a mechanism for conveying hyperbole and sarcasm-talk about pulling me out of the book.
Some good humor and a peppy, though unpolished writing style.

So, the heroine doesn't have her shit together and the hero does. Cool. The heroine is being sexually harassed at work and side note here-I can't tell if there's some shallow feminist stuff going on or what, but basically explains she is a feminist, but you know the reasonable kind...and I really felt like it was a weird jab at women in corporate America....and women...and feminists.

I did enjoy the hero's method of wooing. His game was pretty strong and subtle enough. What I hated? That the heroine didn't use the hero to challenge her to make her better, but to tell her she's better. Including validation for her work-cause he'd hire her above all others. ugh, c'mon. Bore. Speaking of boring, the declarations? It read like a laundry list and is certainly no "Wednesday by Wednesday, week by week, I have loved you." Or insert your favorite here.

I'm waiting on that romance where the person isn't talented or ambitious and the person who loves them doesn't give a fuck.

I got off on a bit of a ramble. I think it is cause in the end, I found this book to be a bit of a vapid waste of time. It had potential, she can write snappy humor and sweet nothings. The attempt for social commentary on sexual harassment was a bit too heavy-handed (though well done in the beginning for its evolution) BTW DOCUMENT DOCUMENT TAPE RECORD. Anyway, so it all seems a bit of a shame chore waste. (See what I did there, so clever)

Somewhere I'll Find You

Somewhere I'll Find You - Lisa Kleypas Hollis tells me to avoid based on my reaction to #1 in Gamblers.

Funny, I think I started this about 20 times 3-4 years ago.

One Summer Night

One Summer Night - Caridad Piñeiro Something felt flat. Move on quickly, that’s my motto?

Then Came You

Then Came You - Lisa Kleypas This book was a bit of a mixed bag. I enjoyed both characters in their own right, but they also both did inexcusable things to one another. By the end they were quite charming, but this book was actually fairly horrifying at times.

Mists of the Serengeti

Mists of the Serengeti - Leylah Attar There's a lot of reasons I read romance. So far, I wasn't seeing any of them in this book. It was incredibly engaging, but once I put it down, I was basically doing anything else to avoid going back to read it.

The beginning was far too traumatic. And though this could take some turn that I'd be able to rally behind character growth and relationship growth, I don't like what I see coming, so I don't feel like reading it anymore.

No rating because there's nothing wrong with it, I just don't want to read it. Not for me.

Love the One You're With

Love the One You're With - Lauren Layne Well, this is always interesting. I seriously loved this hero. The heroine was decent too, though nothing particularly stood out about her, thus the 3 instead of 4. The story was a pretty stupid set-up, but hey I liked that too. Fun, sexy, quick read.
Sweet couple but novellas are so tough...


Uprising - Ivie Brooks Look, I don’t want to read this book. Nor do I want to purchase....shudder.

I guess we can’t attack authors here...i will just say this general thing:

I do want to review this book. Because I think a narrow perspective and lack of empathy and lots of righteousness make for a terrible novel. I also trend to think great authors are quite deliciously clever...not usually illogical or basically illiterate. So I want to, ya know, sample it. Kind of like eating those gross jelly beans just to confirm vomit isn’t a good flavor. But this is no way reflects anything about the author. I’m just noting it....for reading science. If you find it strikes too close , well...not that’s not my deal.

Acting on Impulse (Love on Cue)

Acting on Impulse (Love on Cue) - Mia Sosa Goodreads is so dangerous. I finish a to review!! Then after a solid time scrolling through updates remember what I was really here for... expectations were pretty low for this. I couldn't tell ya why. They were though. So when this novel cleverly starts off with an actor (must be said in Tobias voice from arrested development, ty) on an airplane, getting away...I still wasn't expecting much. Until I was. Something about Carter's voice hit that Lauren Blakely feel for me-I like her male POVs-but this was kind of really cute. It was insta-lust, but with Carter imagining his future in a not-sappy but totally has the hots for the woman in 12D (or whatever). Sometimes we see people and I make up an entire future or backstory. I have, in fact, seen men that I've been attracted to and thought "hmm, in a parallel universe here's what happens." What saved this book from a case of insta-lust/insta-attraction/insta-insanity was that though Carter was quite interested, it was all kind of a lark too. And basically precisely fit the title "Acting on impulse." Sure, he was totally into her, and really wanted her--but it was a connection and he didn't over sap-ify or romanticize or alpha-male his way in there. He didn't even really pursue her aggressively. He was just charming, they had fun....she calls him on mansplaining, and basically things do not unfold in a predictable way.
Maybe coming here wasn't a terrible idea after all. The woman I like is meeting my parents under circumstances that won't induce stress. Years from now, Tori will thank me for being forward-thinking. This future-invested hero was done so cheekily, it really saved it from that shallow insta feeling that would normally plague a novel of this kind.

My comparisons to Lauren Blakely, my trusted palate cleanser, ends there. This is a higher caliber romance with more development than that if you ask me. A Puerto Rican heroine who is a personal trainer and shows plenty of all of that. An actor who loves his craft, his friends, and his family. Their families are in this book. The finesse in this book was building two characters who are good at showing their respect and admiration for each other honestly, and through gestures. (Tori telling him he has value as a rom-com actor because of how romance novels were her only escape when her father had a stroke because he felt like he had to be "more" than that. Carter checking out her community exercise class.)
"What part of 'don't call attention to yourself' did you not understand?"
I shrug. "Most of it."

Totally weird, some of the humor relied on a second person narrative style. Thankfully, it was just glimmers, and I felt the whole book was so charming I kind of loved it. Other than some gimmicks at the end I wish weren't employed cause this book didn't need them, I was super happy and surprised by the whole thing.

Currently reading

The Mistake (Off-Campus) (Volume 2)
Elle Kennedy
Lady Isabella's Scandalous Marriage
Jennifer Ashley
Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
Robin Sloan
Wild Beauty
Anna-Marie McLemore
Judith McNaught
Flowers from the Storm
Laura Kinsale, Nicholas Boulton
After the Kiss: The Stiletto Series
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The Score (Off-Campus) (Volume 3)
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