Review: The Millionaire Makeover by Naima Simone

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Naima Simone writes sweet and juicy love stories that calm me down after a hard Tuesday at work. Her Bachelor Auction idea isn’t new (Alexa Riley has a raunchier version of the auction where females got sold to ridiculously horny high rollers), but it remains an interesting theme, as the dynamics between the book hero and heroine start off in a pretty straightforward manner. By “straightforward” I mean “money makes the world go ’round.” Nonetheless, Ms. Simone’s auction books do not focus on the buy-and-sell aspect of 2 people’s love connection; rather, “The Millionaire Makeover” is a tale of second-chance love, orchestrated from beyond the grave.

Okay, okay… I made it sound creepier than it really is. Truth is – The Millionaire Makeover features a man who falls for his best friend’s younger sister (the beyond-the-grave part of the story comes later). He struggles against his own feelings and eventually hurts the object of his affection. Again, it’s a plot that’s been told over and over, but the way Ms. Simone writes it, the angst and stress that Niall Hunter feels every time he pushes and pulls himself away from Khloe Richardson is conveyed perfectly thru the pages. Personally, I read the book feeling like “Let’s Get It On” is a continuous theme throughout. It was difficult, stressful, yet romantic all at the same time.

4 starsHowever, if I were to put myself in Khloe’s shoes (which I always do whenever I read romance novels), frankly, I’d be off men. The way she was treated post-sleepover sessions was traumatic. Since she’s a better person than me (a.k.a., fictional), she got over it and got Niall begging to get back with her, by way of his playing an original song he composed for her on his fiddle, in public. Their HEA ending made the angst felt by this reader all worthwhile.

Review: Neighbor Dearest by Penelope Ward

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I reluctantly picked this book up even though my last two Penelope Ward books were severe disappointments. Sins of Sevin and RoomHate were books I wanted to like, but I just couldn’t stomach the heroes and heroines. Ms. Ward has a tendency to make her female main character so desperate, so clingy, so obvious, and so weak and needy that I often felt like hurling my e-reader during the course of reading (and, ultimately, not finishing) those 2 books.

Thank goodness, though, that Neighbor Dearest cured me of that violent and expensive inclination.

I loved Stepbrother Dearest, so when I read Neighbor Dearest’s synopsis, I thought, maybe there’s a saving grace here. Chelsea was Elec’s ex-girlfriend, the one he left so he can be with Greta. We don’t often get to read the stories of our favorite book-heroes’ exes, so Chelsea’s story was a fresh and welcomed one. Add to that the levity that the synopsis alluded to, I was pleasantly surprised that Ms. Ward didn’t stretch out the drama and the asshole-ishness she also tends to paint her heroes with. There were hidden twists in their love story – twists that I think were absolutely necessary, in order to keep jaded readers like myself interested.

Damien’s story, plus his journey to finding HEA with Chelsea, is believable, relate-able, sad, and wonderful all at the same time. Admittedly, I almost chose to DNF this book, because I couldn’t really understand why Chelsea came to like asshole Damien in the beginning, what it was about him, initially, that she was attracted to. He wasn’t nice at first. I also confess to almost not finishing Neighbor Dearest because Chelsea’s sister, Jade, was originally pushing Chelsea to hook up with him, just for the hell of it. With 5 starsinsensitive and sexually-needy sisters and friends like that, I typically want to hurl. Nevertheless, I rallied on – particularly because I didn’t want to waste my money – and because I wanted to see Chelsea’s empowerment.

It’s a great thing I didn’t pass this one up, despite my previous experiences with Ms. Ward’s solo books. A welcome change, indeed, was found right next door, inside this book.

Review: Hard to Fight by Bella Jewel

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This was one of those moments where I got pulled in by the book cover. I mean, just looking at it makes it hard to resist. Turns out that “Hard to Fight” by Bella Jewel was a highly unlikely story of a female bounty hunter and her fugitive falling in love. Full of me-man-you-woman cliches and an annoying portrayal of a supposed bad-ass woman who succumbs to her vaginal needs, Hard to Fight is hard to like.

1 starIf this were real life, bounty hunter Grace would get fired so fast from her job, especially since what she did was incredibly unprofessional and plain wrong. I’m not saying this because she’s a woman; any bounty hunter who would go on a paid leave from work to shack up with his or her fugitive is just stupid. And then she decides she can fix it, so she goes to her daddy’s best friend who happens to be a cop, gets herself wired, and makes herself a bait for the real baddie. After all this, she ends up getting tranquilized by the baddie, kidnapped, and kept in a storage facility with her fugitive. They then fight their way out of the makeshift prison, and kills the baddie’s henchmen.

All in all, this was a pretty predictable and boring book. Don’t think I’ll be reading the next two installments.

Review: The Fifteenth Minute by Sarina Bowen

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I’m sad that “The Ivy Years” series is over, and that I’ve finished reading all of them. Sarina Bowen’s books got me out of a desperate book schlump that was so bad, I contemplated reading business books instead for the rest of the year. Thankfully, however, Ms. Bowen and her Harkness College creations saved 2016 for me.

The Fifteenth Minute” features pint-sized Hollywood big-league young actress slash ultra serious video gamer and computer hacker, Lianne Challice. Her romantic interest is Daniel “DJ” Trevi, the younger and shorter, less popular but highly controversial Trevi brother who’s also studying in fictional Harkness. While Lianne’s life may sound ideal to some, the poor little rich girl faces some pretty large issues head-on on a daily basis. One, her mother, who needs a “boot up in the backside” type of reality-check (not a reality show) really badly. Two, her asshole of a manager/talent agent to whom Lianne was holding on to to retain memories of her long-dead actor father, who was, also sadly, a person who lacked admirable parenting qualities. Third, the ever dreaded paparazzo who made being famous in America a bad decision for anyone who’s ever wanted a share of the spotlight. With all of these going on, PLUS schoolwork to deal with, the pursuit of a coveted serious acting role, and listening to sexually raunchy and active friends who live next door to her, Lianne seemed to be juggling the world on her shoulders. I’m tired just from typing all the events revolving around her.

Meanwhile, DJ is going thru his own shit. Crap so thick, I wonder why anyone would still want to be part of organized religion after reading this. Also, I wonder why anyone would want to be parents. DJ’s Annie-gate scandal, to me, is sooooo huge that I wanted to reach out to Annie’s second love interest, a minor character a.k.a. a Harkness hockey player, and tell him to B-E-W-A-R-E. It’s shocking to me why women (any woman) would cry “rape” at a time when it’s a patently false and debilitating accusation. They’re why other legitimate rape cases fall through the social and moral cracks in our modern era. It’s sad, to say the least.

4 starsAnyway, my thoughts about the finale to “The Ivy Years”: “The Fifteenth Minute” is a befitting end to one of my favorite book series. I can’t ask for anything better. Except for the impending release of The Ivy Years’ spin-off books, which starts with Leo Trevi’s book on September 6th!

Review: Endless Summer Cookbook by Katie Lee

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Confession: Katie Lee is not my favorite “The Kitchen” co-host. If I had a choice of whose cookbook I’d buy, it’ll either be Sunny Anderson’s or Geoffrey Zakarian’s. But, then, I was gifted with a copy of Ms. Lee’s cookbook, and I thought, what the hell – maybe she’ll have 10,000 salad recipes, since that’s what she always proclaims to love eating on her Food Network show.

So, I read thru the “Introduction” pages. She briefly alludes to her marriage to Billy Joel, with whom she lived in the ultra-posh Hamptons, the place she waxes eloquent about, over and over again. The girl from West Virginia has, apparently, found a “symmetry” between her farm-to-table life in simple WV and in opulent NY. When I finished her introductory note, I thought, “okay, this sounds good.”

Then, I came to the first two recipes:

  1. Grilled doughnuts with melted Nutella: The ingredients in this opulent recipe are – brace yourself – cinnamon sugar doughnuts and, you guessed it, Nutella. Ms. Lee does not impart any recipe for the doughnuts. She wants us to buy them from our local bakeshop and doctor them with store-bought Nutella. Okay. Fine.
  2. Grilled doughnuts with ricotta and honey: The ingredients are yeast doughnuts, ricotta cheese, and honey. Hmmm… I’m starting to suspect the underwhelming formula to her recipes now.

After these two recipes, I stopped reading the cookbook. Then, I emailed my friend who gave me the e-book. I thanked her and asked her when she would like to drop by my house with doughnuts. I told her I got the Nutella and the honey. We’ll skip the expensive ricotta. She answered: “LOL! Pass. If you have Spam and eggs, though, I’ll be there!”

Great. I think I’ll go back to my bacon and toast.

P.S. WTH are Green Zebra tomatoes? I think Ms. Lee’s book is intended for her well-off Hamptonians, not Asian peasants.

Review: The Shameless Hour by Sarina Bowen

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I read the third book in “The Ivy Years” series last year and enjoyed it immensely. However, I read “Understatement of the Year” out of sequence. Confession: I just finished reading books 1 to 2.5 in the last week. Then, I totally got hooked.

So hooked that I had to (finally) re-charge my e-reader and write down my awesome-sauce type of thoughts, which are enumerated below:

  1. Sarina Bowen, where have you been all my life? The Ivy Years books are THE books to beat, in my estimation. You are, currently, rocking my brain out of its skeletal confinement. Said brain was so completely rocked out that it took me 3 days to dig myself out of my Harkness College obsession and write this ode soliloquy to you.
  2. The fourth book in the series, “The Shameless Hour,” is, thus far, my favorite. Author Tammara Webber described it as “a gift to anyone who’s ever been slut-shamed.” I, for one, while having never had the distinction of being a slut or a sexual person in general and in real life, can oddly relate. Behold: Me, a quirky book nerd slash blogger – and the result of traumatizing bullying and fat-shaming. I think anyone who’s ever been bullied in school, no matter if they were bullied in small/”funny” or in large/immoral/illegal/unethical ways, can relate to Bella. Thank you for making her your heroine. And, for making her a fighter. While some aspects of her life are ideal (i.e., great friends such as Rafe, Lianne, Graham, Rikker, and the rest of the Harkness men’s hockey team; wealthy family), she epitomizes a reality that is, sadly, still true today. Social and gender-based double standards are frustrating. Hopefully, through the stories you write and tell, Sarina Bowen, we all will, someday, understand that love is love is love.
  3. I’m in love with Rafael “Rafe” Santiago. I wish he was a real person. ‘Nuff said.

“The Shameless Hour” is a five friggin’ stars book – especially after all the shit I read prior to re-taking up The Ivy Years series. It’s the equivalent of a glassful of champagne after a long ass week. Now, please excuse me. I need a mofongo recipe.5 stars

Review: Under the Lights by Abbi Glines

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I’ve been waiting for this book for a year now, ever since I fell in love with Until Friday Night. Boy, was I ever disappointed.

Abbi Glines is the queen of teenage angst. I don’t mean that she’s a teenager stuck in a grown woman’s body (she acknowledged her 3 kids at the end of this book, so I’m presuming she’s a grown adult). I just meant that she captures heavy teenage drama (e.g., Dawson’s Creek multiplied by 1,000) typically well in her books, several of which I have loved. I already said I loved the first book in “The Field Party” series, but I also loved her first few Rosemary Beach and Sea Breeze books. Then, that reader-author love went awry in the last year, after reading Until Friday Night. To me, it just seemed like Abbi Glines is NOT the same Abbi Glines as before. I suppose authors change their writing styles, but this was quite a drastic change for me, to the point that where I was an uber fan from before – now I’m just ambivalent.

There were so many “ellipsis points” at the end of this story:

  1. If you read the synopsis, both Brady and Gunner were painted as Willa’s admirers. In the end, she chose one whom she loved more. The one who got friend-zoned? He had his own POV in the book, but it was never resolved. What happened to the loser after Willa and her chosen-one made their choice? What happened to Gunner’s family after the whole dramatic showdown?
  2. How is this even a romance novel? Even YA books have a little bit of action going on. This one? Purely platonic, A.K.A. boring – in my estimation.
  3. Warning: Heavy drama inside. Lousy parents to teenaged people have appeared in 10 million books already. Next plot, please.
  4. Why did all the high school football guys automatically get attracted to Willa? I was remiss in mentioning this point in my GR review: another boy, Asa, was interested in Willa. Was it because her compelling beauty and indescribable wit were irresistible? Was it because she was fresh meat, in a sea of overused teenaged vaginas and clingy insecure little girls, as portrayed by the characters, Kimmie, Serena, and Ivy?

2 starsI liked Willa’s dramatic back story, though. It was different from other YA heroine’s stories I’ve read before. There were bad substances, tragic deaths, and hard lessons learned. Despite my kinda-sorta fondness for Willa’s back-story, I can’t connect/understand the 3 main characters. West and Maggie’s story in Until Friday Night was hitting all the major feels. This one? Meh.