The Real

The Real by Kate Stewart

4 stars! 

“You never really know someone unless they want you to.” 

One of my favorite things about being a fan of an author is seeing them grow as a writer as the years go by. My first ever book by Kate Stewart was Loving the White Liar, then Room 212 and with those I knew this was an author I enjoyed. Then The Fall released and the fangirl in me was activated. Since then, Kate has only continued to deliver wonderful and beautiful stories. None of them are the same, everything she writes is unique and original. And I always find myself wanting more of her words.

The Real is further proof that Kate only gets better, her intricate plot and the alluring characters reminds me of why I love her stories. At its heart, this book is about believing in love even when you’ve given up on it.

This is a book I truly believe you need to GO IN BLIND. Did you read that? GO IN BLIND! Seriously, just stop reading this review, buy the book, read it, then read reviews. I knew a little something going in and while it didn’t in any way affect my feelings on the book, I wish I hadn’t known. Again, this doesn’t affect my feelings or my rating, that is on the overall of the book, but I think the book has more punch if you don’t know anything.

So without revealing any spoilers, I loved the characters, I loved the beautiful words and I enjoyed the story. If I could, I would give Kate a giant hug for this book and all the books she wrote before it. Someday hopefully I can be weird and hug her in person. She just needs to get her butt closer to the west coast again haha.

“You and me, we are absolute.” 

ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review 

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Sky in the Deep

Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young

4 stars! 

“Honor above life.” 

Sky in the Deep is about Eelyn, a young Aska girl who while in battle sees her dead brother. Taking off after him, she discovers he’s been alive all this time and has joined the Riki people, her enemy. For her protection, she’s taken by her brother and hidden as a slave so no one will suspect they are related. But new danger is near and the two tribes need to see if they can work together to face the oncoming threat.

“The moon rose up over my broken home and I broke with it.” 

I think this is a really amazing debut novel from Young, it’s very compelling and I didn’t want to put it down. I found the romance to be a bit weak, which was disappointing because it could have been really great. I liked the story a lot, seeing Eelyn’s struggles which who she is and what she’s always known. Being thrown into a new environment isn’t easy and she had a lot to deal with.

I think lots of readers will love this book and with a debut like this, I am excited to see what this author will bring to us in the future!

“I was the same but I was different.” 

ARC provided by the publisher via netgalley. All/any quotes in this review came from an advance unedited copy and may be subject to change in the final product. 

Still

Still by Kennedy Ryan

4.5 stars! 

If Grip was angsty and intense, Still is emotional and heartbreaking. 

I should have known going into this book based on the person who recommended it to me *ahem* CHRISTY *ahem* how utterly tender and heartbreaking this book would be. Christy is the Queen of the ugly cry books and I don’t know why I didn’t remember that.

Anyways, this book was beautiful. I thought Bristol and Grip’s story had wrapped up pretty well in the book before, but this one was a look into the happily ever after and them working on keeping their love intact. If Grip was about getting to the love, this book was about what you do with love once you’ve found it.

Kennedy Ryan has such beautiful words! Nothing is half done in this book, you can tell the author poured her heart and soul into this story and these characters. Ryan has found a forever fan in me, and she doesn’t even realized the level of fangirl she has activated in me.

Top recommendation and this series is one of my favorite I’ve read this year. I’m going to be pushing Bristol and Grip’s story onto anyone and everyone who will listen!

Grip

Grip by Kennedy Ryan

5 stars! 

“I fell for her before the beat dropped.” 

First things first, before you read Grip you need to read the book Flow, which is FREE. So go and download that first. I’ll wait……….. You’re done now? Okay keep reading then.

This is the story of Bristol and Grip, two people who met and fell for each other years ago. Now Grip is one of the top rising musicians in the world and Bristol is his manager, but they aren’t together. Grip wants to be with Bristol, and she wants to be with him, but she still holds back for reasons she keeps to herself. But Grip may be done waiting, and Bristol needs to figure herself out.

“He’s dictating my heartbeat, governing my pulse, holding my next breath cupped in his hands.” 

I loved this story! Kennedy Ryan is a new favorite author of mine and I cannot wait to read the next book Still. Grip is an angsty and emotional rollercoaster ride (or should I say ferris wheel ride?) with ups and downs, twists and turns I didn’t see coming. I loved both of the characters equally, Grip with his determination and Bristol with her inner struggle. I loved that both characters knew themselves well, that they are driven and kind people.

I cannot say enough good things about this book! This needs to be put on your tbr, or bumped up ASAP! You don’t want to miss out on this beautiful story.

“If I break your heart, I break mine.” 

Flow

Flow by Kennedy Ryan

4 stars! 

“I like the color of smart, the shade of funny, and sexy is my favorite hue.” 

Kennedy Ryan is a new to me author who has been recommended countless times by many friends, so I finally got my shit together and read one of her books. Flow is a prequel to the book Grip, and it has a very promising start.

Bristol is traveling to LA to visit her estranged brother during her spring break. When he’s unable to pick her up from the airport, he sends his friend and colleague Grip. There’s an attraction between Bristol and Grip right away, but she’s the sister of the best friend and he’s the player. But the connection between them is more than just romantic, from the beginning they just GET each other.

“She’s something rare—smart, classy, gorgeous, funny, opinionated, and under it all, where she tries to hide it, kind. And burrowed beneath all of that, vulnerable. She isn’t the kind of girl you mess over. 

This book was one I was able to dive into from the first page. I loved reading from both Grip and Bristol’s perspectives and seeing how they felt about one another. As an interracial potential couple, I liked that Ryan addressed a lot of the social issues and prejudices that come between two people of a different culture and economic background.

Another thing is reading this book made me excited to read the next one, because it seems I’m in for my favorite treat…… ANGST! Oh how I love it, and I am looking forward to seeing how things play out between these two in the future.

“We both gave each other space to be misunderstood, because we really wanted to understand.” 

The Last Black Unicorn

The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish

5 stars 

This book gets 5 stars because it made me LAUGH! Not just chuckle laugh while reading, I mean tears down my face I was dying kind of laugh. Tiffany Haddish is someone I only found out about because one of my Facebook friends shared a video of her. I haven’t seen Girls Trip yet (despite one of my good friends loaning it to me on DVD. I’m sorry! I’ll watch it asap!). You bet your ass I am going to be looking up her backlist and watching everything this woman is in!

First off, this book isn’t super PC and I am convinced Tiffany is all kinds of crazy. But you can feel her genuine self in this book, her struggles and her comedy. This woman has lived quite the life and I am sure she’s going to keep living on even better throughout the years.

This book is a memoir/series of essays, some about funny points in her life and others, much less funny parts. But everything in this book shows how Tiffany came to be herself and what an amazing woman she is. I have so much respect for her and I admire her hard work.

If you want a book that will make you laugh your ass off and pull at your heart at the same time, you need to read this book. Plus people have told me the audio is amazing, so you can also listen to it!

Love and Other Words

Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren

4 stars 

It’s been about two weeks since I finished reading this book and I am still having trouble wrapping my mind about how I feel about it. First off I wanted to address the genre label it’s been given of “women’s fiction”. No. Just no. This was a romance through and through. Maybe those in charge want to market CL to a new audience and that’s fine, but I’ve had friends who’ve told me they love these authors but don’t want to read this book because it’s women’s fiction. Ladies, you have nothing to fear! Ignore the label and read on!

From the moment I opened up this book, I was in love with it. This was a stay up until 4 am (yes, you read that right. FOUR FRIGGIN AM) and sob your guts out kind of book. It’s so beyond compelling, I couldn’t put the damn kindle down! Second chance romance is my trope, I’ll read anything with that label. Christina Lauren did a wonderful job with it, I fell in love with Macy and Elliott and felt the ups and downs of their relationship, from the past when they fell in love as teens to the present day when they reconnect.

This was a 5 star read for me…… up until the very end. I cannot say exactly what happened as it gives away spoilers, and I do not give away spoilers. I will just say something happened that felt so completely out of character for one of the characters, and it really didn’t settle right. So much so that two weeks later I still have massive issues with it, even though it didn’t bother other people (and I would know, I have been PMing friends who read this like crazy). That being said, my issue with what happened did take away my overall enjoyment of the story and almost kind of marred what I had already read and loved and somewhat ruined it for me. But since this was a 4am-er and made me cry, I am settling with a four star rating. I do think many readers will not have the same issues I had with the book and will love it, so I encourage you if you’re curious to go ahead and read it.

This is the angsty, emotional book from Christina Lauren that will break your heart into a million pieces. If that intrigues you even a little bit, I recommend you read this book.

ARC provided by the publisher via netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Daughter of the Siren Queen

Daughter of the Siren Queen by Tricia Levenseller

4.5 stars! 

It’s been so difficult lately for me to find enjoyable reads, so I put off reading this book until I was out of my book funk because I didn’t want to read it in a bad mood. So after a few good reads, this pretty thing was calling to me from my bedside table…. And I got the guts to pick it up.

Daughter of the Siren Queen picks up quickly after the end of the last book. I had no trouble falling back into this world even though it’s been a little less than a year since reading it. Levenseller is a very compelling and talented writer, I fall effortlessly into her words and her world. I also really love Alosa as a main character. I know a lot of people find her annoying, but I enjoy her confidence and cunning. It’s refreshing to see a strong female character in literature since so many heroines tend to be doormats.

I also really liked the pirate and siren aspect of the story. I’m not a huge fan of the movie franchise this is often compared to, in fact I think these books stand on their own as a pirate story. I’ve always loved siren lore, so it was fascinating for me to see Alosa explore the siren side of herself and her powers. That and I love Riden. *sigh* What an amazing love interest for Alosa. Not perfect, maybe not even perfect for her at first, but the two of them work on themselves to be ready for each other.

A very fun, exciting and adventurous duet, I highly recommend for all my YA reading friends out there.

What He Always Knew

What He Always Knew by Kandi Steiner

5 stars! 

Oh Kandi. My hat is off to you. Girl, you had me ugly crying by the end of this book. Granted I was happy because MY GUY WON! But the end still killed me and broke my heart. This is everything I look for in a book!

In this book we got what I had wanted to see in the first one, the other side of the story. I don’t want to give anything away, but the other side is just as heartbreaking as the one we saw in the first book. Like I said, I had my guy I was rooting for already. What’s funny is, I didn’t mind the other guy in the first book, but in this book I thought he was scum. Like, he made me ragey with his entitlement and he was a jerkface. I was literally skimming some of his chapters in this because I really didn’t like him.

I loved this book because it broke me and put me back together again. Kandi has a wonderful way with words and she delivers some of the best angst around. This is the book that you message your friends because you are dying to chat about it, and it’s the one you throw at your friends to make them read because they need to suffer right along with you.

Kandi Steiner is an author who three times in a row has not failed me, and I need to get my butt in gear and read her backlist asap.

This duet was amazing and I highly recommend it! This book is going in my top reads of the year!

What He Doesn’t Know

What He Doesn’t Know by Kandi Steiner

4 stars! 

Many of you who follow my reviews should know by now my reading tastes fall under ANGST. Anything angst, I gobble it up!

So when Kandi Steiner, an amazing author known for ANGST, releases a duet that revolves around a love triangle, you bet your ass I was ALL OVER THAT SHIT.

I bought the book right away, there was only one problem: the second book wasn’t out yet. So, I sat on my ass and waited to start the first book until the second one was out. And I made it… almost. I made sure to preorder the second book so it would hit my kindle at 9pm (thank you PST) and I wouldn’t have to wait.

Well now it’s 11:30 pm, I have work tomorrow and I am DYING to start the second book! Clearly I didn’t think this through.

What He Doesn’t Know is about Charlie, a woman in a broken marriage who has lost herself. When a childhood friend and love Reese, returns to town and begins teaching at the same school she does, feelings are bound to blossom. But Charlie is torn, because despite everything, she loves her husband. But Reese may be the only one to turn Charlie back into the woman she was.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, Kandi Steiner is an author I am always meaning to read more of. This book hit the spot perfectly in terms of reading mood and angst. I have my favorite guy, but I don’t want to say anything because I am worried he will not be picked. I desperately want to peek at the end of book 2 but also don’t want to cheat, so we will see how long I’ll last, shall we?

Anyways, both books are out now, so if you are intrigued go ahead and one click. There’s nothing to be scared of as they are both available and no waiting!

Pestilence

Pestilence by Laura Thalassa

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH 

ALL THE STARS! 

In a totally random and weird review, I will be using gifs from the movie Elf to express ALL THE FEELINGS!

So me about Laura Thalassa all the time:

Which will probably lead to this:

Anyways… from the moment I saw the cover reveal for Pestilence, I was DYING (get it?) to get my grubby hands on a copy of this book. I preordered and everything, which I rarely ever do. Then once it hit my kindle I couldn’t put it down (except for sleep. Stupid stupid sleep).

Here’s what I was like reading the book:

And I loved it so much! My first 5 star book in over a month!

This is about Sara, a young firefighter who attempts to kill Pestilence when he comes to her town. BUT, he cannot be killed. So Pestilence takes Sara captive in order to make her suffer. Over time Sara finds herself conflicted because of the horrible things he does, but she cannot help but see another side to the horseman. The question is, can he ever change and go against his nature?

Laura writes the best new adult fantasy/dystopia novels. I get completely sucked into her world building, her characters and her stories. I demand more of my book friends read her books!!! Seriously, you won’t regret it.

And now, to wait for the next book….. le sigh.

Also, here’s one more gif just cause:

High Voltage

High Voltage by Karen Marie Moning

WARNING! GIF HEAVY REVIEW!

4.25 stars 

First off, all you Dani haters….

That being said, I am still supremely PISSED that because of all the Dani backlash after Iced we never got the story that KMM meant to tell. I won’t even rehash that terrible BOOK thing that happened in Feversong with Mac.

We could have had SO. MUCH. MORE.

Anyways, enough of me being crazy. Dani is probably my favorite of the female characters that KMM has written. I mean a strong, confident woman who fears a guy that could rip her heart to shreds? Let’s just condemn her as annoying why don’t we? Okay, I’ll stop now I promise.

This story revolves around Dani being practically left alone for a few years after the events of the last book. New threats come along and pretty soon no one can help Dani, not even Ryodan. This book gets all the stars just for those angst filled moments between him and Dani, and all of the verbal sparring moments between them as well. KMM has a very unique and creepy imagination and I can honestly say I would never want to live in her head. I do hope we get more of Dani and Ryodan in the future. I am even wildly hoping for a Lor book. Can that be a thing please????

Anyways, if you don’t hate Dani (and are basically awesome) you will enjoy this book. It’s like KMM threw us Dani/Ryodan lovers a bone and it’s one I’ll gladly accept.

Under Locke

Under Locke by Mariana Zapata

3.5 stars 

“You’ve gotta be the best thing I never knew I wanted.” 

This is the story of Iris, broke and living with her brother, she takes a job at a tattoo parlor. Unfortunately her new boss is a total jerk. She just has to work there long enough to get another job elsewhere….

“Babe, I’ve handpicked everythin’ and everyone in here. I know what I want and I get what I want,” he breathed. “And I keep what’s mine.” 

The first half of this book I really enjoyed, the second half got a little bit boring for me and could have been edited down in my opinion. I love Zapata’s books but this is probably my least favorite of the ones I’ve read by her. It’s like pizza though, even if it’s not great it’s still good.

On Hart’s Boardwalk

On Hart’s Boardwalk by Samantha Young

4 stars! 

“By the end of this vacation you’ll never doubt my love for you again.” 

This is a novella that depicts the couple from Before Jamaica Lane about fourteen years later. Nate and Liv have a happy life with two beautiful kids, but while they love each other, Liv feels disconnected from Nate. When he discovers this, he whisks Liv away to the small seaside town in Hartwell, Delaware hoping time for the two of them will bring them back together.

“I can’t lose you, babe. You’d take my soul with you.” 

Nate and Liv are my favorite couple from this series, in fact Before Jamaica Lane is one of my all time favorite books EVER so I jumped on the chance to revisit this couple. I really enjoyed this sweet (with a hint of angsty) story between a couple who loves each other, but seems to have lost their way.

Young did a really good job combining her series, I’ve read the Hart’s Boardwalk books but I feel someone who hasn’t could easily fall into this book, nothing is confusing and the writing style makes reading it effortless. I did get really confused on the timelines, because if this is 14 years later (2013+14=2027) and yet it takes place at the same time as the other series (2017) it doesn’t make any sense. I know I should let it go, but it is something that bothered me a bit when I was reading it. I can’t help it lol.

If you read this, you will fall in love with Nate and Liv all over again. Seriously, look up relationship goals and you’ll just see their names in the dictionary.

Also, can we PLEASE get Emery’s book? I’ve been dying for it ever since The One Real Thing and the wait is killing meh!

“I don’t need to walk this boardwalk with my hand in yours to know we’ll last forever, Liv. I know we’ll last forever because I’m never letting you go.” 

ARC provided by the publisher via netgalley. All/any quotes in this review came from an advance unedited copy and may be subject to change in the final product. 

Diversity in the Romance Publishing Market: What YOU can do to help it grow

Hey all!

This is an opinion piece. I normally don’t publish more than reviews on my blog, but I felt this needed to be said. In the last few years I’ve seen a large push for more diverse books and authors in the market and yet, we still don’t have a lot. In this post, I will be addressing the romance genre, but know what I say here I feel can be applied to all genres.

First off, check out this report from the women who run The Ripped Bodice, a bookstore in LA, compiled and wrote. Link to their report here.  If you don’t feel like reading the entire report, I’ll paraphrase. Romance publishers are barely publishing titles with diverse characters or books written by people of color, in fact some of them published even less in 2017 than the year before.

Here are two infographics from their report (photo credit to The Ripped Bodice).

It is astonishing to me that we are still in such low numbers!!!

What I want to address now is what YOU as a consumer can do to change this.

1) Publishers are a business, they publish what they think will SELL. It is our responsibility as the customer and the consumer to purchase books with diverse characters or written by people of color in order to show that yes, this is a profitable endeavor. BUY THE DANG BOOK! In my opinion, this is the BEST strategy to show those in charge that these are the stories we want to hear and the ones that matter to us! Create a demand for this product!

2) If you’ve read and loved a book with diverse characters or written by a person of color, LEAVE A REVIEW. The book world in general always talks about the importance of reviews for book sales (but more in context of authors making sales). So why not take advantage and make it public that you enjoyed what you read and you want more of the same? This creates even more proof on top of sales that there is a demand for these books and these stories.

3) If you don’t have a lot of spare change to buy these books or are on a budget, go to your public library and suggest a purchase! Many public libraries have this option already available on their website. If they know that you, the patron, wants to read these materials, they will most likely purchase them, leading back to my first point!

4) The power of social media: share on the social media pages of publishers and authors you want these books! Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, Instagram, and more! In fact, email the publisher yourself and tell them what you want to see more of. This way they know directly from the source what readers want.

I’m not saying that this is the one true answer or solution to getting books with more diverse characters or more authors of color published in the future. In fact, I personally need to buy more of these books and broaden what I’m reading. I’m just offering up a suggestion of what you can do to contribute if you really want to see change. I also believe that it is our responsibility as readers and customers to buy and share these books and stories with others.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, unless we demand these stories, I fear they will not just be given to us by the publishing gods. We need to ask for them, purchase them, and share them with the world. That’s the only way I can see change happening in the publishing world, and not just with romance publishers.

Thanks for reading my opinion! And thanks to The Ripped Bodice for their research and report that influenced this post.