Chachic's Book Nook


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Anything But Broken by Joelle Knox

Well, this was a nice surprise. I’ve been breezing through romance novels lately because I’ve been in mood for them. I found out about Anything But Broken when the writing duo (Donna Herren and Bree Bridges) behind the pen name Joelle Knox was a guest at The Locker Room Facebook group. I saw some snippets that they posted and was intrigued. Tried a few chapters of the book and I was hooked.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Anything But BrokenAfter five years, tragedy brings Hannah Casey back to Hurricane Creek to bury what’s left of her family. She’s flunking out of college, haunted by scandal, and the only person who cares is Sean Whitlow, an irresistible bad boy with a soft spot for her. The problem? He’s her dead sister’s ex.

Sean doesn’t bleed red, he bleeds motor oil. During the week, he struggles to turn his auto repair shop into a profitable business. But when Saturday night rolls around, he’s the reigning stock-car king of the local race track. He doesn’t know how to lose – or how to walk away and leave Hannah alone with her grief.

Between her grades and her wealthy family’s dark secrets, Hannah’s barely holding her life together. And the last thing Sean needs is to get tangled up with another Casey girl. As the attraction between them spins out of control, they’ll either find a love with no limits – or go up in flames.

At first I was wary of the premise because I thought it would be more than a little awkward that Sean used to date Hannah’s sister Cait. But I didn’t have to worry because it actually worked in their favor. It’s been years since Cait suddenly passes away but she’s still mourned and remembered by her sister and her ex-boyfriend. Hannah has always had a bit of crush on Sean even though she recognized that he was with Cait. While Sean feels responsible for Hannah because she’s Cait’s younger sister. That’s initially how they see each other but of course, that changed pretty quickly. Sparks fly the moment they reconnect. They both know it’s a bad idea for them to get involved, but they also recognize the chemistry between them. So they start slow. Hannah’s family is pretty messed up and she has a lot to deal with. Sean is the calm within the storm of her life. He keeps her steady and lets her lean on him. He may seem like a bad boy on the surface because he races cars and works in a garage. But then again, he owns that garage and he’s such a good driver that he’s always in control whenever he races. I really enjoyed Hannah and Sean’s interactions and while I wouldn’t exactly call their romance slow burn, I wouldn’t call it instalove either. Here’s a non-spoilery snippet:

“I reach up, letting my hand hover for a second before I give in and brush my fingertip across the crooked bridge of his nose. He races cars and gets in fights and takes girls on romantic dates when he knows better.

And when I’m touching him, my life isn’t spinning out of control. When I’m touching him, the world might be spinning, but I’m here, in the moment, in my own skin, and that’s what I need more than anything.”

And it’s descriptions like this that convinced me that it makes sense for Hannah and Sean to be together. When Hannah comes back home, she really doesn’t have anyone to help her. Aside from Sean, she also rekindles an old friendship with her middle grade best friend Evie. I really liked that Evie and Sean’s best friend Gibb are both a big part of the story. It was nice that Hannah found a good friend in Evie because she really deserves to have every little bit of happiness that she can find. Sean and Gibb have had each other’s back for years, and I really enjoyed seeing their strong friendship all throughout the story. I also really enjoyed the scenes that had Sean’s loving family in them. His warm and affectionate relationship with them provided a nice contrast to Hannah’s dysfunctional family. The small town setting also worked well for the story. As you can see from the premise, I wouldn’t really describe Anything But Broken as a light and fun read. There is definitely drama in there, because of what Hannah is going through and also because of certain events that happened in the past. But to me, it never felt like there was unnecessary angst. The writing is the kind that makes you feel and ache for the characters. I really just wanted things to work out for both Hannah and Sean. Anything But Broken kept me absorbed until the end. I stayed up late to finish reading it. I will definitely watch out for the next Hurricane Creek novel, which will be featuring Evie and Gibb. Recommended for new adult fans, like readers who have enjoyed Sarina Bowen’s Ivy Years series or Elle Kennedy’s Off-Campus series.

Other reviews:
Smexy Books
The Book Hammock
Booklovers for Life


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A Wish Upon Jasmine by Laura Florand

Laura Florand is one of my favorite romance authors and I’ve been a fan of her books ever since I discovered them in 2013. Her La vie en Roses series features the fictional Rosiers, one of the most prominent families in the perfume industry. I was charmed by the Christmas novella A Rose in Winter and was delighted by the first full-length novel, Once Upon a Rose. I was thrilled when I found out that the second book, A Wish Upon Jasmine, will also be released this year! I’m seriously amazed at how prolific a writer Laura Florand is. I didn’t think we’d get another book in the series until next year, and I thought it would be about Tristan. Looks like Damien shouldered his way in and stole the limelight.

Here’s the book summary:
A Wish Upon JasmineRuthless.
That was what they said about Damien Rosier. Handsome. Wealthy. Powerful. Merciless. No one messed with his family, because to do so they would have to get through him. No one thought he had a heart. Not even the woman he gave his to.

Cynical.
That was what they said about Jasmin Bianchi. A top perfumer of her generation, Jess had achieved commercial success by growing a protective shell over a tender heart. The one time she cracked it open to let Damien in, he crushed it—after a night of unbelievable passion.

Lovers.
That one magical night couldn’t survive the harsh light of dawn. When Jess woke up to discover the man in bed beside her had stolen her company, she fled.

Enemies.
Now she’s come to the south of France with a threat to his family heritage. If he wants to reclaim both it and the woman who walked away from him, he’s going to have to fight as dirty as only Damien can.

But Jess knows how to fight dirty, too. And these days, she has nothing left to lose.

Certainly not her heart.

As much as I loved Laura Florand’s Amour et Florand series, I think I’m starting to love her Provence series just a little bit more. The South of France setting is such a delight to read. I also love the dynamics of the Rosier family, and how difficult it is to grow up with highly competitive and assertive cousins. I think the Rosier men coped by finding a role for themselves within the family structure, and then deciding to stick with those roles. They do their damnedest to live up to what they believe is expected of them. It’s not that they don’t love the roles that they play, it’s just that each role comes with its own set of problems. In Damien’s case, he’s the one who grants people’s wishes. He’s the business guy, in charge of making money for the company so the rest of the family can pursue their dreams. So his cousin Matt can run the Rosier valley, so Tristan can make perfumes, and Raoul and Lucien can travel the world. In order to work in the business world, Damien had to toughen up and be ruthless. But anyone who has such deep roots and family values can never be truly heartless. No one outside his family really sees his vulnerable side, but he lets his guard down the night he and Jess meet.

Jess is a top perfumer known for her commercially successful Spoiled Brat creation. Which is funny because she made that popular perfume as a joke, she never expected it to rise to fame. And now she couldn’t shake the image that she has in the perfume world and everyone expects her to make perfumes that go against what she wants to do. Damien and Jess didn’t even know each other’s last names when they meet so they also had no inkling of the other person’s reputation. That allowed them to be a truer version of themselves than what the rest of the world usually sees. Things go downhill once Jess realizes who Damien really is, and that he’s acquired the fledgling artisan perfume company that she wanted to pour her heart into. Add to that the terrible fact that her father is seriously ill and is about to pass away. It’s understandable that she wasn’t willing to listen to reason when Damien wanted to give an explanation. A passage that resonated with me:

“It would have been like believing in magic, to believe in you,” she said suddenly.

“Yes.” His breath released roughly. “I know exactly what you mean.”

“In the morning. At night, it’s easier to believe in dreams.”

Six months after Damien and Jess spend the night together, they find themselves in Grasse, in a historical perfume shop that has been in Damien’s family for generations and was, surprisingly, inherited by Jess. Can I just say that I love how the Rosier boys’ great aunt Colette meddles in their affairs? I really think she’s pretending to have a less than friendly relationship with the Rosier patriarch but they’re secretly working together to get the guys to settle down. Matchmaking grandparents! Damien is supposed to get the perfume shop back for the family and he also aims to work things out with Jess. As expected, there’s a lot of tension between these two especially since their attraction for each other has been well-established by their one night together. Both of them are flawed characters and it takes a while for them to truly understand the other person but I think it was a beautiful journey. They kept butting heads but I wasn’t worried because I knew they never really mean to hurt the other person.

I loved Damien’s character, how he layers a protective shell over his vulnerability in order to accomplish the things that he has to do for the family. I really liked that Jess is a perfumer because this series is about the perfume industry. I’m glad that we got to see her point of view, ahead of what Tristan’s will be. I could also relate to Jess and her insecurities and doubts, how it’s so difficult for her to accept the possibility of a relationship with Damien because she thinks he’s way out of her league. It highlights how loving and believing in someone takes an enormous leap of faith and a whole lot of trust. Not just that, but also that she had to believe in herself first before she can even be ready to believe in someone else. Jess was the kind of character I wanted to hug and say, “everything will be all right.” So it’s really a good thing that Damien is more than willing to do that, and that he’s backed by a chaotic and wonderful family. I’ve noticed that these Rosier men tend to find women who don’t have big and supportive families like they do, and it’s just lovely to see how they react to being welcomed into the fold.

I was also tickled by the fairy tale theme than ran throughout the story, it was so much fun to pick up the references that peppered the story. A Wish Upon Jasmine is a beautiful read that stayed with me days, even weeks, after I finished reading it. It has a more bittersweet feel to it compared to Once Upon a Rose, which was kind of cute and cuddly, but I enjoyed it just as much. I’m itching to reread Matt and Raoul’s stories now. As always, I can’t wait for the next book.

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Other reviews:
Girl Meets Books
Ivy Book Bindings

Instagram shot of my copies: Once Upon a Rose and A Wish Upon Jasmine.

Other books in the La vie en Roses series (click on the thumbnails for my reviews):
The Chocolate Rose - new cover No Place Like Home Once Upon a Rose

Books in the Amour et Chocolat series (click on the thumbnails for my reviews):
Kiss the Bride The Chocolate Thief The Chocolate Kiss The Chocolate Touch The Chocolate Heart The Chocolate Temptation


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Choco Chip Hips by Agay Llanera

Choco Chip HipsI found out about Choco Chip Hips by Agay Llanera when I saw friends posting about it on Goodreads. I was immediately curious because of the title. I read the premise and it also looked intriguing. I haven’t read anything else by the author and I thought this title would be a good one to start with. It’s Filipino YA and that’s something that I’ll always be interested to try.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Sixteen-year-old Jessie, a baking aficionado, is shy, overweight, and worries too much about what people think. But one summer, a family emergency makes her realize that life is too short to live it on autopilot. Taking her life by the reins, she embarks on a journey that involves ditching the apron for her tank top, as she hip-hop dances her way to new friendships, stronger family ties, and into her school’s most elite club.

I enjoyed reading Choco Chip Hips and I know that I would have fallen in love with this book if I read it as a teen. I’m so glad readers are getting more Filipino fiction nowadays. I liked Jessie’s character and could relate to a lot of things in her life. Like Jessie, I also LOVE desserts (I think that’s obvious if you follow my Instagram account, which is basically bookstagrams and foodstagrams). I thought it was cute that Jessie’s dad runs a local dessert and cake shop. If it was a real place, I would have dropped by their store! Baking is also what brought Jessie and her best friend Kim together. The downside of eating too much sweets and not exercising is that Jessie is overweight. I can just imagine how difficult that is for a teenage girl to deal with. I also struggle with trying to lose weight and living a healthy lifestyle. So that’s another thing that made me empathize with Jessie. I could totally understand the beating that her self-esteem gets because of her weight issues. I thought that aspect of the book was handled very realistically, even with how crude Filipinos can get when it comes to weight-related topics. People here in Singapore are always surprised when I tell them that the first thing Filipino relatives notice when they see you is how your weight has changed. The last time I was home, an uncle said he couldn’t take my picture because he doesn’t have a wide angle lens (I actually thought it was funny but hey, I’m not a sensitive teenager). A non-spoilery snippet that I really liked:

I looked at the mug of thick, hot chocolate, like I was seeing it for the first time. The sides of the cup were smudged with dark brown liquid, dotted with grains. To get this thick consistency, you had to melt the tablea in water with milk, stirring the pot tirelessly with a wooden molonillo. You whisked and whisked until your arms protested, until the ingredients melded in a rich and silky brown. It was a labor of love.

I pulled the mug closer, bowed my head, closed my eyes, and inhaled. It smelled – what was it, exactly? – full. It smelled so many things: dark, earthy, and fruity. I held the rim to my lips and took a long, thoughtful sip.

“It’s not as sweet as you’re used to,” Dad said apologetically.

It tasted a hint of the sweet, a hint of the bitter – the way life always had been.

Argh, where can I get a nice cup of tablea hot chocolate in Singapore? Another thing that I could relate to was how Jessie enjoyed dancing. I’m a frustrated hip-hop dancer and it’s always made me sad that I don’t have the talent when it comes to singing and dancing. I even enrolled in a hip-hop class during one of my summer breaks in high school. The main thing I learned was that I don’t have what it takes to be dancer. Inspired by stories of how great a dancer her mom was back in the day, Jessie tries hip-hop dancing and discovers how much she enjoys it. I thought it was pretty awesome how she decides to break out of her shell and do something different. In the process, she gains some of her confidence back and learns more about herself. I loved how supportive Jessie’s dad is in everything that she does, the two of them were really a team. I also though both Kim and Dave were good friends to Jessie, in their own ways. I enjoyed seeing their interactions. One minor quibble that I have is that I felt like the romance in this book was half-baked. On one hand, it was refreshing that Jessie’s growth as a person was centered on herself and not on another person. But on the other hand, I felt that the story could have been stronger if there weren’t any hints of romance. I would have been satisfied with a blossoming friendship instead. That was a minor issue for me and it didn’t affect my overall enjoyment of Choco Chip Hips. Honestly, I believe this is a well-written piece of Filipino fiction. It felt like the author knew what she was talking about when it came to baking and dancing, two of the major themes of the book. I will be adding this title to my list of recommendations written by Filipino authors. I’m just not sure how well the story will work for non-Filipino readers because some Filipino words are in there but no definitions were included.

Choco Chip Hips - with cookies

I couldn’t resist getting some cookies while I was in the middle of this book. They’re from Cookies For Sid: chocolate chip, earl grey and chocolate mint.

Other reviews:
Will Read For Feels
Le Bibliophile


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Him by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy

In my cover reveal post for Him by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy, I quoted a Twitter conversation where I mentioned that I would be thrilled if these two hockey romance authors worked on a collab title. Given how much I enjoyed both the Ivy Years and the Off-Campus series by these authors, I was pretty sure that I’d enjoy Him. I was lucky enough to receive an early review copy of this title and I was so glad it was sent out just as the weekend started. That gave me enough time to read it without worrying about real life getting in the way. As is the usual case lately, it took me a while to write a review so Him has been released since then so feel free to grab a copy of it!

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

HimThey don’t play for the same team. Or do they?

Jamie Canning has never been able to figure out how he lost his closest friend. Four years ago, his tattooed, wise-cracking, rule-breaking roommate cut him off without an explanation. So what if things got a little weird on the last night of hockey camp the summer they were eighteen? It was just a little drunken foolishness. Nobody died.

Ryan Wesley’s biggest regret is coaxing his very straight friend into a bet that pushed the boundaries of their relationship. Now, with their college teams set to face off at the national championship, he’ll finally get a chance to apologize. But all it takes is one look at his longtime crush, and the ache is stronger than ever.

Jamie has waited a long time for answers, but walks away with only more questions — can one night of sex ruin a friendship? If not, how about six more weeks of it? When Wesley turns up to coach alongside Jamie for one more hot summer at camp, Jamie has a few things to discover about his old friend… and a big one to learn about himself.

Warning: contains sexual situations, skinnydipping, shenanigans in an SUV and proof that coming out to your family on social media is a dicey proposition.

I had so much fun reading Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy’s Him. So much so that the next day, my flatmate asked me what I was reading in the middle of the night because she said she could hear laughter from my room. Yep, some of the scenes in this book really made me laugh and smile along with the characters. It’s hard not to when Wes and Jamie tease the hell out of each other. I really liked that they have a solid friendship that was formed through years of spending summers together in hockey camp. They come from different family backgrounds but they’ve always had hockey to bond over. That friendship get a break after Wes walks away because he mistakenly thinks that he ruined what they had with a careless bet. On the other hand, Jamie didn’t think that incident was a big deal and was more hurt by the silence from Wes more than anything else. After reconnecting at a championship game, Wes decides to join Jamie as a coach in their old hockey camp. Surprisingly, there wasn’t that much angst in their story as these two guys change the status of their relationship from friends into something more. It felt like a natural and realistic transition of friends to lovers, with a nice summery vibe while they’re both having fun coaching a sport they’re both passionate about.

I thought it was nice that Jamie and Wes had such distinct personalities, that were contrasting to a certain extent. Jamie is an easygoing, California surfer type of guy while Wes is more serious and prickly. I think their personalities are reflective of their upbringing. Jamie comes from a big family who supports him in basically everything, which is saying something considering how he makes some pretty big decisions during the duration of this book. Wes comes from a wealthy but cold and uptight family. He makes a point of keeping people at a distance because of this. I felt so bad that Wes doesn’t have a warm and welcoming family but at least he has Jamie in his life. I wish there were more scenes that had Wes interacting with Jamie’s family because they’re awesome. I also really liked Jamie’s friendship with Holly and how understanding she is of his predicament. Even with their career decisions, these two guys were in different places. Wes was totally committed to being the best professional hockey player that he can be, while Jamie was indecisive about playing pro. I really don’t know much about hockey but I liked that these aspects of their stories were fleshed out because it’s something that guys their age think about. Also, these career decisions affected their relationship as well.

Him was an engaging read that had me rooting for Wes and Jamie right from the start. Sexy, funny, sweet and swoon-worthy! To be perfectly honest, M/M sports romance wasn’t something that was at the top of my list of books to read. I tried it because Sarina Bowen wrote The Understatement of the Year in the middle of a series that had earlier M/F books. That was the first M/M book that I read and thus has a special place in my heart given how much I cared for the characters. So yay Sarina for that strategy! Him is only the second M/M romance that I’ve read and it solidified my resolve to read more books like it. If M/M isn’t really your thing, I still recommend giving Him a try. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Elle and Sarina will work on another collab title because I would love to read more from them!

Other reviews:
SmexyBooks
Me and My Books

Him2


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Uprooted by Naomi Novik

I have been curious about Naomi Novik’s standalone fantasy, Uprooted, ever since I first heard about it. I read the first few Temeraire books and thought they were well-written. I just didn’t feel like continuing with the rest of the series. Closer to Uprooted’s release date, I saw glowing reviews pop up in the blogosphere and that just made me want to read the book even more. I picked it up when I was in the mood for a good fantasy novel – Uprooted delivered and even went beyond my expectations. It’s one of my favorite reads this year.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:
UprootedAgnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows — everyone knows — that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

I love how Uprooted’s first line just drew me in. Right away, I wanted to know more about Agnieszka and her village’s arrangement with the Dragon (who is a wizard and not a mythical beast). I really liked Agnieszka’s character. She had a lot of freedom because she was a Dragon girl and was able to run wild as a young girl. She used to think that one of her greatest skills was that she could always be counted on to mess up her appearance, getting her clothes torn and having mud stick to her skirts. But I think what’s great about her is that she cares deeply about people, especially her family and her best friend Kasia. I knew this was a significant trait that would shape her actions for the rest of the novel. At the start of the book, she has no idea why the Dragon chooses her and was as surprised as anyone else to discover that she is actually capable of doing magic. It was interesting to see her grow and develop her skills as a witch, more so because she has a different way of doing magic. I found her interactions with the Dragon entertaining! Some of the scenes were surprisingly funny for me. The Dragon was so ill-tempered, arrogant and a little vain. He was very reluctant to be a teacher to Agnieszka, he only did it because he felt it was his duty to train anyone who has magical abilities. He was snooty and kept looking down at Agnieszka when she couldn’t manage the simplest forms of magic. He thought she was a hopeless case. He strongly reminded me of Diana Wynne Jones’ Howl from Howl’s Moving Castle, which is not a bad thing because I loved that book. I just wish there was more about the Dragon, I wanted to know more about his backstory and I also wanted him to have more scenes in the latter half of the book. I was also pleasantly surprised by how much I liked Kasia. I thought she would have a small role to play in the story but she has an inner strength that’s very different from Agnieszka’s. I loved how solid their friendship was because I always enjoy reading about strong friendships in fiction.

Uprooted - first line

I loved the fairytale feel of the writing. It reminded me of some of my favorite authors like Robin McKinley, Juliet Marillier and Diana Wynne Jones (because of the Howl-like character). I thought the first half of the book had great pacing. I was very absorbed and wanted to ignore everything else so I can keep reading. The pace slowed down a bit after reaching the halfway mark, but it picked up again for the last few chapters. I enjoyed reading about the world that Naomi Novik created, from the mysterious and horrifying Wood to how magic works in different ways. Agnieszka’s magic is more instinctive and closely tied to nature and her environment. While the kind of magic that the Dragon wields is a more traditional (in their world), more scientific, with specific steps that need to be followed in order for a spell to be executed well. I also liked the experimental feel of the two kinds of magic being combined, I thought that was described beautifully. It felt like the combined magic worked specifically because it was Agnieszka and the Dragon doing them. Even though I wanted to read more about this world, I’m very satisfied that Uprooted is a standalone novel. Nowadays when so many series books are being released, it’s refreshing to read a book that is complete on its own. Beautifully written, Uprooted has everything that I love in a good fantasy novel: solid worldbuilding, political intrigue, strong heroine, friendships and family ties, and a romance that has a bit of a love-hate flavor. Highly recommended for fantasy fans. I felt like I was reading an old favorite when I picked this up. I’m pretty sure it’s a book that I will be rereading in the future. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Naomi Novik will write a companion novel set in this world with cameos from Agnieszka and the Dragon! I’ve also heard the news that the rights for an Uprooted movie adaptation have been bought and I’m really hoping they’d do a good job with that.

Other reviews:
Random Musings of a Bibliophile
By Singing Light
Angieville
Fantasy Cafe
The Book Smugglers
Me and My Books


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Off-Campus Series: The Deal and The Mistake by Elle Kennedy

I’ve read a few of Elle Kennedy’s super steamy romances before so I was really looking forward to her new adult series. One of my favorite discoveries last year was Sarina Bowen’s Ivy Years books, which had hockey players as MCs and an Ivy League college setting. I was hoping that the Off-Campus series would be just as good as that. And it was! Both The Deal and The Mistake were so much fun to read. Elle Kennedy writes so fast (or I’m just really behind on reviews) because the sequel has been out for a while now and it’s taken me this long to write a review for The Deal. I have been recommending these books to friends both online and in real life though. Several of them have gotten back to me to say that they thoroughly enjoyed these books.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

The DealShe’s about to make a deal with the college bad boy…

Hannah Wells has finally found someone who turns her on. But while she might be confident in every other area of her life, she’s carting around a full set of baggage when it comes to sex and seduction. If she wants to get her crush’s attention, she’ll have to step out of her comfort zone and make him take notice… even if it means tutoring the annoying, childish, cocky captain of the hockey team in exchange for a pretend date.

…and it’s going to be oh so good.

All Garrett Graham has ever wanted is to play professional hockey after graduation, but his plummeting GPA is threatening everything he’s worked so hard for. If helping a sarcastic brunette make another guy jealous will help him secure his position on the team, he’s all for it. But when one unexpected kiss leads to the wildest sex of both their lives, it doesn’t take long for Garrett to realize that pretend isn’t going to cut it. Now he just has to convince Hannah that the man she wants looks a lot like him.

The Deal is a lighthearted and fun novel to read which also manages to tackle a number of serious issues for the characters. Even though they’re young, both Hannah and Garrett have gone through horrible experiences but what I liked about them was they didn’t let those experiences define them. I liked how thoughtful Elle Kennedy was in handling the traumatic experiences of her characters, balancing all of those with humor. The book was funny because of the banter between the characters, not just the romantic development between the hero and heroine but also how they interacted with their friends. With how different their college interests are, Hannah and Garrett don’t even make sense as friends, let alone a couple, but the process of their getting to know each other felt very natural. Hannah wouldn’t have attended hockey games if she didn’t know Garrett, in the same way that Garrett wouldn’t have been interested in his school’s musical production if Hannah wasn’t involved in it. Hannah didn’t even want anything to do with Garrett, at the start of the book. It was hilarious how he tried to convince her to help him out. He was cocky and arrogant but not in an annoying way. As they spend more time together, they realize that there’s more to the other person than the usual stereotypes. Their transition from (reluctant) tutor and tutee to friends to more than friends felt realistic. And I thought it was nice how their circles of friends also started overlapping because of them. The Deal is really my kind of new adult romance. I wanted to read the sequel as soon as I finished it and I’m glad I didn’t have to wait too long for it to be released.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:
The Mistake by Elle KennedyHe’s a player in more ways than one…

College junior John Logan can get any girl he wants. For this hockey star, life is a parade of parties and hook-ups, but behind his killer grins and easygoing charm, he hides growing despair about the dead-end road he’ll be forced to walk after graduation. A sexy encounter with freshman Grace Ivers is just the distraction he needs, but when a thoughtless mistake pushes her away, Logan plans to spend his final year proving to her that he’s worth a second chance.

Now he’s going to need to up his game…

After a less than stellar freshman year, Grace is back at Briar University, older, wiser, and so over the arrogant hockey player she nearly handed her V-card to. She’s not a charity case, and she’s not the quiet butterfly she was when they first hooked up. If Logan expects her to roll over and beg like all his other puck bunnies, he can think again. He wants her back? He’ll have to work for it. This time around, she’ll be the one in the driver’s seat…and she plans on driving him wild.

I read The Mistake as soon as I got my grubby hands on it, meaning when I was very generously given a review copy. I feel like I need to apologize that it took me so long to review this title but most of the time, real life gets in the way of reading and blogging. In The Deal, Logan seemed like a typical playboy jock. But he has his own reasons for enjoying his college years as much as he can. He has a lot to deal with because of his family. I liked how intensely loyal Logan is to those he loves but it was also frustrating how that got in the way of pursuing his dreams. He has never been in a serious relationship, nor has he wanted one, until he sees how things are between Hannah with Garrett. I was wondering why he was acting so weird in the first book and his situation becomes much clearer in this sequel. I really liked Logan as a character and I think he’s a great guy. However, I didn’t like Grace as much. I don’t know why but I just got the feeling that she didn’t have that much personality. In spite of not liking Grace as much as I wanted, I still enjoyed reading The Mistake as a whole because Elle Kennedy writes great romance. I liked how the relationship developed in this one and that there wasn’t any unnecessary drama. Some new adult titles lay the drama on thick but that wasn’t the case in this one. The Mistake was an enjoyable read but I think The Deal is a stronger installment in the series. One thing that The Mistake had which The Deal didn’t was more explanations regarding drafts for pro hockey players. For someone like me who knows next to nothing about hockey, it was interesting to read more about the process.

Looking forward to the next book in this series! I’ve seen Elle Kennedy mention that it will be about Dean.


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Pure Magic by Rachel Neumeier

Urban fantasy YA novel Black Dog by Rachel Neumeier was one of my favorite reads last year. I have been eagerly anticipating the sequel right after I finished reading that book. So when Rachel offered to send me a review copy of Pure Magic in ebook format, I enthusiastically said yes. I didn’t waste any time and jumped right in. Thankfully, I still remembered most of the story from the first book and didn’t have to do a reread prior to picking up Pure Magic. The books need to be read in order so read Black Dog first before venturing into Pure Magic. There’s also a set of short stories that occurs between the first and second book. I won’t mention spoilers but feel free to skip this review if you haven’t read the earlier books yet.

Pure Magic Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

After Natividad, Alejandro, and Miguel’s victory against their family’s rival, even more dangerous threats emerge, from an increase in stray black dogs to far worse opponents who would tear down the fragile Dimiloc alliance and re-make it in their own image.

I liked being back in the world that Rachel Neumeier created in her urban fantasy series. Where some men and women can shift into these ferocious and aggressive creatures called black dogs, similar to wolves. And where there are also people like Natividad, who are Pure and can create a defensive form of magic mostly used for peace and protection against evil. I think the first book did a good job of laying out the foundation for the worldbuilding and this sequel builds upon that. I liked seeing more of Natividad’s magic and how creative she can get within the limitations of what she can do. Because of the nature of her magic, Natividad has a quiet strength that shines through when the people she cares about are in danger. I think it’s impressive how a normally unobtrusive kind of magic becomes crucial in certain situations. I really liked that the Pure have their own kind of power and the focus of the story shifts between the Pure and black dogs. That is not to say that humans don’t play an important role in this world because they do, as illustrated by Natividad’s twin, Miguel. Even without special powers, Miguel significantly contributes to helping Dimilioc in its efforts to rebuild the clan. A big part of why I enjoy this series is the characters. Aside from Natividad and her brothers, I also liked the various members of the Dimilioc clan, not the least of which is their executioner, Ezekiel. I found the early chapters of the book a bit slow because of the introduction of a new main character and narrator, Justin, but it was soon revealed how he was important to the story so I didn’t mind. Like with the rest of the characters, I just wanted to find out more about him.

While I did feel that Pure Magic had a bit of a slow start, the climax builds really nicely until you reach a point where the characters are in situations where the odds are seemingly impossible. The stakes are high and there’s only so much that the Dimilioc black dogs and Pure can do. It makes for an absorbing read. I was glad I picked this up on a weekend and I didn’t have to worry about work getting in the way of my reading time. I was worried about the characters and I wanted everyone to find a way out of the difficulties they found themselves in. The book doesn’t end on a cliffhanger but keep in mind that there will be more installments in the series and some of the future plot arcs have been nicely set up in Pure Magic. There’s a more global view of the black dog world in this book as compared to the first one, where we mostly saw the focus in the Americas – North America where the Dimilioc strength lies and also Mexico because that’s where Natividad and her brothers grew up. My review of Pure Magic will not be complete if I didn’t mention the slow burn romance. There was just a hint of it in the first book and I immediately wanted A LOT MORE. More scenes with these two potential lovebirds, more dialogue and conversation, and a better idea of what they thought of each other. Pure Magic does not disappoint! I really savored this aspect of the story, although I certainly wouldn’t have minded if these two had more page time in the book. There were too many things happening for them to have a quiet time together. I can always hope for that in the next novel, which I already can’t wait to read even if it hasn’t even been written yet! Similar to Black Dog, Pure Magic was a very satisfying read and I recommend it to fans of YA urban fantasy.

Other reviews:
Random Musings of a Bibliophile
By Singing Light

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