New Adult, New Adult Romance, YA Contemporary Fiction, YA romance

My Review: Fangirl: by Rainbow Rowell

Publish Date: September 10th, 2013
Number of Pages: 438 Pages
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre(s): YA Fiction, YA Romance, New Adult, New Adult Romance

Total Star Rating: 3.5 Stars

Real life was something happening in her peripheral vision.”

– Rainbow Rowell, “Fangirl”

It may sound ironic, but this has to be one of the most popular books that I’ve come across that doesn’t have an actual fandom for it. Those who’ve read it all have said it’s a great story to enjoy and that they really enjoyed it, so why isn’t it referred to by many more avid book readers? Why don’t I see it showcased more on the many #Bookstagram accounts I follow? There’s also the later released book Carry On by this author too but everyone who’s read both said that this book comes first, so here we are!

I will say that besides other’s recommendations with that reading order, I had my own curiosity with this title for personal reasons. For those not aware, I’ve been on-and-off working on a coming-of-age college story of my own over the last two years, and this title popped out at me to what to check out to gather intel, see how the story works, what worked well and what didn’t, what I would change, help make some of my own college memories resurface, etc. For anyone interested, go check out my story’s progress on its page titled “When In Doubt (WIP Fiction Series)” on the main menu bar. It’s had its ups and downs and with a lot going on in my personal life at the time I’m typing this review, I haven’t worked on it as much as I’d liked to, but enough self-promotion, back to this review!…

You’re never going to find a guy who’s exactly like you—first of all, because that guy never leaves his dorm room.”

– Rainbow Rowell, “Fangirl”

I liked but didn’t love this book, even as I found it to be one of the more unique stories I’ve read in the YA reading level. the main character, Cath, who is a lot like most of us who have our heads in a book: she’s awkward, weird, complex, anti-social, and full of her own inner stories based off her favorite franchise, which is called Simon Snow and is basically a Harry Potter knockoff. Being a total Potterhead myself, even if the books no longer have an author (Shame!), I could totally relate because the Harry Potter franchise is what started it all for me! They’re the books that really got me truly passionate about books, about film, about storytelling in general, and is the catalyst that truly made me think “I want to do that” for the first time in my younger years.

As for why I didn’t love this book, it just felt like there could’ve been more that happened in terms of the plot? I think it just had too many slower moments that made it somewhat harder to keep my attention from wandering, and even the conclusion I felt like could’ve been bigger. It just felt like not as much as I’d thought would happen by the end had actually done so. I did love the growth that the main character went through as the story in all aspects: her family, finding her first love, and of course friendship, and felt like she was definitely a different person once we got from point A to point B, but I was hoping maybe there would be a bigger, and grander ending of some sort? Maybe the story works the way it is, but part of me felt like there was some buildup with Cath’s writing that got a conclusion that just fell a little flat for me.

Now despite all that, there is plenty to praise the author as well! Rainbow Rowell’s characters and her work on them are a major highlight; I think just about everyone can read this story and have most if not all the characters remind them of someone they know in real life because of how real they feel. She even has the ability to make them all so complex, even as they stand on opposite ends of the social spectrum. What I mean by that actually is by comparing Cath to her twin sister, Wren, and how they interact as the story moves forward. Cath is a totally anti-social introvert who stays in her dorm to write fanfiction, but Wren has totally embraced the college party scene and wants to drift apart from her sister, but they meet up several times and while obviously Cath has a lot of inner depth to her, you even see it in her sister in little moments and as their family is put through the emotional wringer. It was the little moments like these that made me believe that the author truly knew her characters in and out.

I was also a fan of the romance—of course—that develops in Fangirl as well! What I liked about it the most was how realistic it felt. Sometimes, the romance genre can go so over the top and make it feel like we have to bend hand-over-knee or whatever that phrase is for our significant others, and those grand gestures are the one answer it takes to show them our true feelings. Well, life ain’t like that nor is it some spanish telenovela, and what we need to remember is that even the simplest of things can get the message across just as effectively. The little things do matter!

She smiled, and her eyes started to drift downward.

‘Cather…’

Back up to his eyes.

‘You know that I’m falling in love with you, right?'”

– Rainbow Rowell, “Fangirl”

Besides the characters, it’s the nostalgia that was the most powerful thing for me to come out of reading this book. It was the nostalgia of my own freshman year of college—perhaps the greatest year of my life—and of course all the fandoms that I’ve been a part of over the years. Whether we admit it or not, we’ve all been obsessed at one point or another with something much like Cath is with Simon Snow. We’ve read the books, we bought the (sometimes) overpriced merch, the action figures, we went to the midnight premieres in costume, we had those heated debates with friends, we shipped those couples that never become canon, we joined the fanclubs, etc. Some of them we can openly admit to and maybe can even still say we belong to it, but I can agree that there are probably some that we blush and stay mum about and keep it a total guilty pleasure. I’ve been like that, but as a way to end this section of this review, I’ll put myself out there and list off all the fandoms that I can remember that I’ve been a part of:

Disney’s Little Mermaid, Spongebob Squarepants, Winnie the Pooh, Power Rangers, Pokémon, Digimon, Sailor Moon, Bratz Dolls, Kids Next Door, WWE, Yu-Gi-Oh, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, Throne of Glass (or any book by Sarah J. Maas honestly), From Blood and Ash series, Dexter’s Laboratory, Scooby Doo, Pirates of the Caribbean, Lord of the Rings, Batman and Batman Beyond, Dragon Ball Z, Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Legend of Korra, Superman, Ariana Grande, Britney Spears, The Pussycat Dolls, Star Wars films, Teen Titans, Fairly Odd Parents, Danny Phantom, Choices, Schitt’s Creek, Samurai Jack, Finding Nemo, Stranger Things, MCU, Tomb Raider, Greek Mythology, The Powerpuff Girls, Shonen Jump manga, Grey’s Anatomy, One Tree Hill, An Ember in the Ashes series, The Vampire Diaries, MTV’s The Hills, The Folk of the Air series, Rocket Power, Rihanna, Ed Edd ‘n’ Eddy, Courage the Cowardly Dog, Looney Tunes, N*Sync, The Backstreet Boys, Kim Possible, That 70’s Show, Hannah Montana, Mean Girls, That’s So Raven, Phil of the Future, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, Spy High, The Falling Kingdoms series, The Cheetah Girls, The Sims, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, The Nanny, Full House, Friends, New Girl, The Emperor’s New Groove, The Proud Family, Jesse McCartney, Lizzie Mcguire, Goosebumps, Totally Spies, Family Guy, The Land Before Time, Hocus Pocus, Boy Meets World, Duck Tales, Monster’s Inc, The Rugrats, Zoey 101, Drake and Josh, Zoobooks, The Black Cauldron, Roller Coaster Tycoon, The Lion King, The Fever Series, Queer Eye, Riverdale, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Pretty Little Liars, Once Upon a Time, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Pizza, American Horror Story, 13 Reasons Why, The Hunger Games, Divergent, Twilight, and I’m sure plenty more that I can’t even remember! Here’s a crazy thought to leave you with: think of how the very person you are, your beliefs and personality and maybe even your soul is influenced by all the things like these that you grew up with, with the messages they sent you, the lessons you learned, and all that makes up who you are!

What It’s About:

The official blurb:

A coming-of-age tale of fan fiction, family and first love.

Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan..

But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving. Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words… And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

What I Liked:

  1. The College Nostalgia! Oh man, did this book bring me back to my own college days! I actually started my freshman year the fall of 2012, which is actually the school year after the timeline that this book takes place in, so I found a lot of the pop culture references, clothing choices, etc. to be really relatable. Even the time at the bowling alley reminded me of the many Thursday nights I went to the UW-Stout Alehouse for 50 cent bowling nights. My freshman year of college is what I consider the best year of my life so far, so the fact that this book made me think back to some really fond memories gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling right in the chest.
  2. The Themes! Family, isolation, love & sex, writing, drugs & alcohol, and of course coming of age are the themes I got while reading, and I thought they all commingled rather nicely into a realistic and touching story. Cath is so dedicated to her family even when she feels like everything is moving on without her which leads into the isolation. She’s not a partier like her twin sister and is totally content to stay in every night and just write more fanfiction because of social anxiety and the uncertainty of it all, I get it. Cath noticing boys in a new way, plus her growing relationship with Levi focuses on the love and sex aspects, add in a side note with Reagan as being involved with Levi in that regards too, but not in the way you might expect right off the bat. Creative Writing is a huge part of Cath’s life, plus the story follows her struggles with her writing course with Professor Piper and Nick. College and drinking go hand in hand—my two underage tickets can attest to that—and Wren really seems to embrace the party culture on campus with her blonde roommate, Courtney. Cath worries about her, but Wren continues to blow her off and downplay how far she goes whenever she goes out on the weekends.
  3. The Romance Between Levi and Cath! The budding relationship between these two was a little insta-love on Levi’s part, which actually wasn’t too bad since he wasn’t the protagonist, but it was actually kind of sweet how it was so obvious he was totally smitten for Cath since day one. Reagan, Cath’s roommate, plays an interesting role as the thing that initially keeps them apart in the beginning. What I really loved about their relationship and all that happened within it was just how realistic it felt. He never judged her for her quirks, he broke through her walls and pushed her in a non-manipulative and genuine way, and always offered his support no matter what. Usually with romance novels, it can go a little over the top with grand gestures to win someone over and heart wrenching confessions of love with gorgeous prose, and it wasn’t like that this time and it was actually rather refreshing. Sometimes the sweetest thing a guy can do is bring their girl a specialty starbucks drink when they meet up after his shift, he offers to drive you home to see your sick dad in the hospital even though it’s hours away, or he’s a total gentleman who admits he’s in love first and says he won’t do anything sexually that she doesn’t initiate first. This romance just simple, and that should be enough!
  4. The Author’s Character Work! Rainbow Rowell is really good at writing those quirky, oddball characters with plenty of complexity and a method to their madness. Each of them have their own distinctness to them, and you’ll never get confused with any of them or get their names mixed up. there’s an honesty about them in the sense that I feel like just about everyone in real life has met people who remind them of each and every one of these characters. There’s definitely a line straight down the middle and you either like a character or you don’t, there’s not a whole lot of in between, at least that’s the impression I got!

Sometimes writing is running downhill, your fingers jerking behind you on the keyboard the way your legs do when they can’t quite keep up with gravity.”

– Rainbow Rowell, “Fangirl”

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Her Sister Wren Abandoning Her…Wren was a real piece of work throughout this book, and I was so frustrated with her most of the time! How could she so easily ditch her sister without a second thought, especially when she knew the anxiety issues Cath has and all that they’ve gone through together growing up, then just replaced her with Courtney, which no offense to her, wasn’t really an upgrade. I get her behavior to a certain degree: with college and new beginnings, it is a normal reaction to want to strike out and try new things, to test the waters and experiment, but know where you come from and don’t take the people who actually care about you for granted!
  2. Their Mother…What a bitch-a-rooney-dooney she was! I was totally on Cath’s side with this whole situation, even if a small chunk of me understood Wren’s need to have her come back into her life. But seriously… who ditches their family on 9/11? Like, the actual 9/11?!
  3. Too Much Fanfiction…So it sucks to say this about the book considering a huge them about it was about writing fanfiction, but I was not a fan of the passages of Cath’s story that we got. I know it would’ve been worse to not have any of them at all in the story, especially since there’s such an emphasis on it, but I thought there was just too much of it. I liked the parts when Cath read it to Levi for the most part, but I also never really got a gay vibe from Simon and Baz that everyone was totally gushing about. Not that I’m not for a gay relationship between a fictional wizard and vampire, but I wasn’t sold on the execution of what we were given.
  4. The Plot Felt Too Slow In Parts…This story did feel like it dragged in quite a few places, which can be a side effect of a character-driven story such as this one. Maybe it could’ve been a shorter story in general, or something totally shocking could’ve been added?
  5. The Ending Could’ve Been More Grand…For some reason I was totally picturing a much bigger way to end the story, like the author of the Simon Snow franchise found Cath’s fanfiction on the internet and offered her a publishing collaboration deal or something like that. It felt like not as much actually happened by the time the actual ending took place, and it’d been a whole ten months of the school year!

Conclusion:

‘No,’ Cath said, ‘Seriously. Look at you. You’ve got your shit together, you’re not scared of anything. I’m scared of everything. And I’m crazy. Like maybe you think I’m a little crazy, but I only ever let people see the tip of my crazy iceberg. Underneath this veneer of slightly crazy and socially inept, I’m a complete disaster.’”

– Rainbow Rowell, “Fangirl”

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell is a cute, genuine, and real take on growing up during an eventful moment in a young girl’s life: starting her freshman year of college and having to deal with major change from what she’s grown up used to. It’s a coming-of-age story filled with distinct characters, humor, angst, fanfiction, and first love that I really enjoyed for the most part, but still felt like something was still just missing that keeps it from becoming a hit classic that would have a lot more people refer back to it. It’s character-driven, and maybe it just had too many slower moments to keep it from really picking up, plotwise. However, It invokes feelings of nostalgia from either your own college days or from the fandoms you grew up being a part of; the memories this book helps invoke certainly does feel like a little gift from the past to warm your heart, which I think is the main reason that a lot of readers really enjoy this title.

One addition I would to make is that the author has teamed up with Gabi Nam, and almost paying homage to her fandom roots and themes with this book, they’ve transformed this story into a manga! Check it out in the link HERE and I can say I’d definitely be interested to check out this version of the book myself! Maybe it’ll translate better into this format, who knows!

Another addition is that now that Fangirl is under my belt is how I now get to read Carry On, which stars Simon Snow, the author’s knockoff version of Harry Potter, and how it reads like the work that Cath was working on in this book! Someone told me it’s basically a gay version of HP and I was sold! I have a copy on my shelf to read, and once I have a few other titles read under my belt first, I can’t wait to see what Rainbow Rowell did with this idea.

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

New Adult, New Adult Romance, Romance

My Review: The Goal (Off-Campus #4): by Elle Kennedy

Publication Date: September 26th, 2016
Number of Pages: 334 Pages
Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing
Genre(s): New Adult Romance

***Warning!!! This review contains spoilers for this book plus the previous books in the series, continue reading at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!!!***

To see my full review of book #1 – The Deal – Click HERE

To see my full review of book #2 – The Mistake – Click HERE

To see my full review of book #3 – The Score – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 2.25 Stars

Footsteps approach the kitchen. Garrett wanders in, wiping sweat off his brow. When he notices Sabrina, he brightens. ‘Oh good. You’re here. Hold on—gotta grab something.’

She turns to me as if to say, Is he talking to me?

He’s already gone, though, his footsteps thumping up the stairs.

At the table, Hannah runs a hand through her hair and gives me a pleading look. ‘Just remember he’s your best friend, okay?’

That doesn’t sound ominous.

When Garrett returns, he’s holding a notepad and a ballpoint pen, which he sets on the table as he sits across from Sabrina. ‘Tuck,’ he says. ‘Sit. This is important.’

I’m so baffled right now. Hannah’s resigned expression doesn’t help in lessening the confusion.

Once I’m seated next to Sabrina, Garrett flips open the notepad, all business. ‘Okay. So let’s go over the names.’

Sabrina raises an eyebrow at me.

I shrug, because I legitimately don’t know what the fuck he’s talking about.

‘I’ve put together a solid list. I really think you’re going to like these.” But when he glances down at the page, his face falls. ‘Ah crap. We can’t use any of the boy names.’

‘Wait.’ Sabrina holds up a hand, her brow furrowed. ‘You’re picking names for our baby?’

He nods, busy flipping the page.

My baby mama gapes at me.

I shrug again.

‘Just out of curiosity, what were the boy names?’ Grace hedges, clearly fighting a smile.

He cheers up again. ‘Well, the top contender was Garrett.’

I snicker loud enough to rattle Sabrina’s water glass. ‘Uh-huh,’ I say, playing along. ‘And what was the runner-up?’

‘Graham.’

Hannah sighs.

‘But it’s okay. I have some kickass girl names too.’ He taps his pen on the pad, meets our eyes, and utters two syllables. ‘Gigi.’

My jaw drops. ‘Are you kidding me? I’m not naming my daughter Gigi.’

Sabrina is mystified. ‘Why Gigi?’ she asks slowly.

Hannah sighs again.

The name suddenly clicks in my head. Oh for fuck’s sake.

‘G.G.,’ I mutter to Sabrina. ‘As in Garrett Graham.’

She’s silent for a beat. Then she bursts out laughing, triggering giggles from Grace and eventually Hannah, who keeps shaking her head at her boyfriend.

‘What?’ Garrett says defensively. ‘The godfather should have a say in the name. It’s in the rule book.’

‘What rule book?’ Hannah bursts out. ‘You make up the rules as you go along!’

‘So?'”

– Elle Kennedy, “The Goal”

This is merely a taste of the humor that is Elle Kennedy whenever you read a new adult romance by this amazing author! As I’ve said before in plenty of my past reviews of her work, It’s just so incredibly hilarious, heartfelt, steamy, and genuine; I wonder if she literally just sits down in her home and thinks up these scenes so full of banter? Maybe that’s what I need to start doing as a writer in order to even get close to her level and quality of craft.

Here we are at the fourth and final book of this college hockey romance series, and I’m sad to say that despite all the praise I usually give these books and the author in general, The Goal has to be my least favorite book of them all. It’s a damn shame because it’s the end and a book series should never have the final book be the weakest, it leaves such a sour taste in the mouth of the reader.

It’s not that I don’t think the two main characters, Tuck and Sabrina, go through their own growth and change throughout this book, it’s more just that I didn’t feel as connected to them compared to the others like Graham, Hannah, Dean, Allie, and Logan. I just found I wasn’t as interested in them; I like Tuck just fine, but that’s about it, I literally have nothing to add to him as a character…Sabrina was a hard-headed, strong willed female protagonist who is fiercely ambitious and determined to go where she wants to end up, but there just wasn’t really anything to make me care about her as much. This is all of course my opinion, but feel free to take all this criticism with a grain of salt.

While the two main characters are rather subpar for my taste, at least all the others whom I mentioned earlier still make their appearances! It’s always good to see them continue to make wise-cracks and give each other a hard time like an actual group of friends, although Garrett Graham seems much more like a typical airheaded hockey bro when the story doesn’t focus so much on him. Nonetheless, him and all the others are always welcome to make appearances and live inside my head rent free.

What It’s About:

The Official Blurb:

She’s good at achieving her goals…

College senior Sabrina James has her whole future planned out: graduate from college, kick butt in law school, and land a high-paying job at a cutthroat firm. Her path to escaping her shameful past certainly doesn’t include a gorgeous hockey player who believes in love at first sight. One night of sizzling heat and surprising tenderness is all she’s willing to give John Tucker, but sometimes, one night is all it takes for your entire life to change.

But the game just got a whole lot more complicated…

Tucker believes being a team player is as important as being the star. On the ice, he’s fine staying out of the spotlight, but when it comes to becoming a daddy at the age of twenty-two, he refuses to be a bench warmer. It doesn’t hurt that the soon-to-be mother of his child is beautiful, whip-smart, and keeps him on his toes. The problem is, Sabrina’s heart is locked up tight, and the fiery brunette is too stubborn to accept his help. If he wants a life with the woman of his dreams, he’ll have to convince her that some goals can only be made with an assist.

What I Liked:

  1. The Humor! This never disappoints whenever I read an Elle Kennedy novel, I can always count on her to make me laugh out loud at least once every time I open a book of hers, whether she’s written it by herself or if it’s with Sarina Bowen!
  2. The Return of All the Other Characters! It’s always a warm welcome to see characters like Garrett, Hannah, Grace, Logan, Dean, and Allie all make reappearances once again, even as their perspectives are no longer being centralized. It’s also adorable to see them as couples now that they’ve all had their little “happily ever afters” with their previous books.
  3. Plenty of New Characters! There’s a certain amount of new characters introduced by now that are worth being mentioned, most of them are underclassmen teammates like Hunter, Fitzy, and even Dean’s little sister. I guess I can kind of spoil this, but pay attention to these characters because they’ll be getting their own spin-off set of books!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. I Just Didn’t Connect With the Two Main Characters…Like I said earlier in this review, I just didn’t care as much for Tuck and Sabrina in this book. It’s not that I don’t like them, I just wasn’t as interested in them when compared to the others.
  2. How Was it Tucker Who Got Someone Pregnant?…For some reason, I always considered Tuck to be the smartest of the bunch, so I just find it ironic that he ended up being the one to get a girl pregnant first out of the four guys in that house! I would’ve pegged Logan for sure, or maybe even Dean, but I thought Tuck being the guy to get a bun in the oven first was a little unrealistic to say the least!
  3. Not As Memorable…To be honest, I’m not a big fan of these kinds of stories where, whoops!…someone ends up pregnant, and now the two must quickly learn to readjust everything in each other’s lives to revolve around that notion, plus navigated their now much more complicated relationship. I think babies are absolutely adorable, at least when they’re not crying, but I’m just not as interested in reading stories so heavily involving them so much.

Conclusion:

My goal, once upon a time, was to succeed. I didn’t realize that success wasn’t grades or scholarships or achievements, but the people I was lucky enough to have in my life.”

– Elle Kennedy, “The Goal”

I was disappointed with how much I didn’t care about the two main characters in this final installment of the Off-Campus series by Elle Kennedy, and I say that while literally everything she includes in her stories that I love are all included within this book: the banter, the humor, the friendships, the scorching romance, and I still wasn’t entirely sold on this!

Luckily, the story is actually NOT over entirely, and there’s going to be a spinoff series named the Briar U series that I know will star some of the newer side characters like Hunter, Fitzy, Dean’s younger sister, Summer, and plenty of others! While the original gang’s time is up and they’re all set to graduate, I’m so glad the fun at Briar University is not quite over yet!

I recommend these books to anyone who’s looking for a sweet, humorous, and sexy romance novel that’s light and easy to read through. Anyone who’s a fan of hot college jocks and the sassy female protagonists who put them in their place like the characters in these books will fall in love just like I did.

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

LGBT, New Adult, New Adult Romance

My Review: Damaged Like Us (Like Us #1): by Krista Ritchie and Becca Ritchie

Publish Date: June 27th, 2017
Number of Pages: 347 Pages
Publisher: Everafter Romance
Genre(s): New Adult Romance, LGBT

Total Star Rating: 4 Stars

Another book to check out for those who love M/M romance novels, Damaged Like Us was a fun addition to the genre. The relationship that grows between a hollywood heir and his roguish bodyguard is one that can be absolutely addicting to other readers to binge-read.

That relationship is, of course, the main driving force for most of those who’d want to read this book; it was also my favorite aspect of the book as a whole. The two main characters complimented each other very well, and helped each other grow as the story developed. The banter was funny, playful, sexy, and also just so spectacularly done. As you can probably tell by now in this review, It’s hard to say anything bad about the romance of this book.

The theme of family was also something important to take out of this book as Maximoff goes to extraordinary lengths for those he truly cares about. It may not seem like it to some who know me outside of this website and in real life, but the idea of a warm, close knit family is so incredibly important to me, and I always love to see it shown in even fictional families like the one in this book, who are also really popular reality TV stars. The main character even alters his appearance and carefully chooses what color clothes he wears in order to show his pride and loyalty to his father!

There are some parts of the story that I was less than enthused about as well. The writing was questionable in one aspect with the author’s going into 2nd person when describing a character’s path to fame and how you (the reader) should feel about them as a character. It’s a very minor critique from me, but this happened more often than I’d hoped in the story, so I wanted to point it out. The conflict of fame and the downsides to it seemed way too dramatic and over the top at some points as well, and the fact that this new series is actually a spin-off of not one, but TWO other series that are written by the authors. Some readers would love that, but as someone who hasn’t read the others, I also thought this was worth pointing out. I go into more detail on these matters below!

Overall, this was a fun book to read, and a great M/M romance for anyone to check out if they like those kinds of stories. Fans of Him by Elle Kennedy and Sarina Bowen and Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston will probably really like this book too!

What It’s About:

This story revolves around Maximoff Hale, the oldest son of what appears to be American royalty with his family being well known reality TV stars, and all his life he’s had to deal with having absolutely no privacy from the public. Paparazzi constantly follow him and his family around; even going to the gas station to fill up a car would have him end up all over the tabloids as “Stars: They’re Just Like Us!” (Basically, picture his life as being like the Kardashians mixed with the actual British royal family).

Because of this, him and his family have always had bodyguards to keep them safe and protected, but Maximoff’s longtime bodyguard is retiring after the many years they’ve been together. Anxious, he learns he’s getting a new one almost immediately after. Enter Farrow Keene, who’s Maximoff’s crush from his teenage years, and of course is now his new personal bodyguard whom he’s going to be spending countless hours a week with.

Almost immediately, they bash heads together about basically EVERYTHING…but beneath the snarky and cynical remarks, there’s definitely something building between the two. Romantic feelings soon resurface, and sexual tension boils to the surface, but are they willing to cross a line, break a integral code to end up together?

What I Liked:

  1. The Romance Brewing Between Maximoff and Keene! It’s hard to believe this is the writer duo’s first M/M romance title! It was an obvious highlight of this book, the romance that develops between these two characters was one of my favorite parts of the whole story. They start off as reluctant partners as Farrow is assigned to be Maximoff’s new personal bodyguard, they get on each other’s nerves, sure…but as they spend more and more time together, they start to see sides of each other that no one else sees, and they understand each other a lot better. The attraction only becomes more intense from there, and soon they find themselves in a sexy, secret romance that they must hide from not only the public, but also they’re colleagues and Moffy’s family. Is it worth it? What if someone finds out?
  2. The Theme of The Importance of Family! Besides the secret, forbidden romance, family is another huge theme to take away from this book, and probably the rest of the series as well. Even with fame, Maximoff is extremely close to his family and will do just about everything he can to help them, protect them, and make them proud. For every 10,000 fans, there’s probably another 1,000 that hate them, and some people will go out of their way to bring them down, and Maximoff will literally break his back in order for that to not happen. From his many siblings, to his best friend and cousin, and his father with a spotty past, Maximoff is so proud of his family, and I found it to be incredibly noble of him and is so obviously a huge part of his character. Very admirable how far he goes for those he loves.

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. This Series Branches Off from Others…So I first notice there’s A LOT of side characters in this book, like, way too many even to keep track of at some points. It turns out, this series is a continuation off both the author’s two other book series: The Addicted Series and the Calloway Sisters. The parents, the uncles, and basically all the other older adults are actually stars of previous works, and that’s why they’re so prominent in this book because it’s going off the fans who’ve read their previous books and are familiar with all of them. Unfortunately, I am not one of those readers…the book is still enjoyable and is able to be read despite this, but you definitely feel like there’s quite a bit that goes over your head in reference to this fact. It’s also annoying because all the books in total equate to, like, 13 books to read, which is commitment I’m honestly not feeling up to doing at this moment.
  2. The Instances of 2nd Person Narrating…This is a small tidbit that kind of bugged me because it happened more often than it probably should’ve, at least in my own opinion. It was lines that felt like: “You know this person because of….You feel this way about them because…” It just felt like lazy storytelling and could’ve been shown to me and not told to me, you know?
  3. The Fame Seemed Over The Top…It feels bad to be criticizing this aspect of the story since it’s the cause of the whole story taking place, but it simply felt like it was overly dramaticized at times. Maximoff is like an American version of Prince Harry, but it seems like even an actual royal prince is able to live a somewhat low-key life. The paparazzi are constantly following Maximoff around, always chasing him in cars on the freeway, and sometimes even going out of their way to offend him and get a rise out of him. Sure, this stuff may actually happen in real life—I don’t truly know since I’m not famous—but the amount of it all that Max has to deal with felt over the top and highly exaggerated.

Conclusion:

A great M/M romance for anyone looking for that kind of story to read, I think readers will love how Farrow and Maximoff’s relationship forms and deepens as the story develops. It’s got the perfect amount of steam and heart that any great romance needs, and that any reader absolutely eats up. It’s not the perfect book; parts of it are way over the top and overly dramatic, but I do believe this book is incredibly enjoyable as long as you can’t take it too seriously. It’s just fun, sexy romance.

I can definitely say that even though there’s a HEA-style ending, I plan to read on in this series to see what happens next. There’s a few things that are left up in the air that will be answered in later books, and I’m interested enough to keep going to find out some of those answers that I specifically seek. Plus, I do really like both the main characters and see where their relationship will go next!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

New Adult, New Adult Romance, Romance

My Review: The Roommate: by Rosie Danan

Publish Date: September 15th, 2020
Number of Pages: 336 pages
Publisher: Berkeley
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance, New Adult Romance, Romance

Total Star Rating: 4.25 Stars

Once I read the blurb for this contemporary romance title, I was immediately into the idea of a story of an uptight upper east sider inadvertently becoming roommates with a laid back, Californian porn star; think of the sitcom-like humor you’d get when two people who are two total opposites are forced to live under one roof! You can’t write this stuff…. oh wait.

While reading, this book was definitely a fun debut that I had a fun time reading; I liked both main characters more and more as the story developed, and really saw them grow throughout, especially the female main character: Clara Wheaton. She really learned to let a lot of things go and to not put so much on her shoulders, especially things that she couldn’t control. She definitely had a lot more growth than the other main character and her love interest: Josh Darling (porn name). It’s not that he didn’t have some growth of his own, but it felt like it didn’t really come until much later in the story and the rest of it was all about him trying to figure out his attraction to her in the first place while also figuring out his tricky job situation.

The sitcom-like setup was a definite part of the whole book that I liked; the more the two characters interacted and flirted, bantered, and had hot little scenes between the two of them, I truly did believe the growing chemistry more and more. I really thought they were cute together! I was also a huge fan of how one of the themes of this book was about being so sex positive, and how the author totally flipped what may seem like pretty cliché side characters. I go into more details about these further down in my review!

Some things I wasn’t a big fan of was how this story is set up just like any other rom com kind of story that you’ve probably read before. Not that this made me dislike the book in a big way, but part of me does wish more romance titles tried to veer away from the stereotypical setup we see in literally every book that falls within the genre and be more original. I also wasn’t the biggest fan of how the book ended…I mean, it was fine and all but it could’ve been a whole lot better too. Once again, I go into more detail about these further along in this review.

What It’s About:

The Official Blurb:

House Rules:
Do your own dishes
Knock before entering the bathroom
Never look up your roommate online


The Wheatons are infamous among the east coast elite for their lack of impulse control, except for their daughter Clara. She’s the consummate socialite: over-achieving, well-mannered, predictable. But every Wheaton has their weakness. When Clara’s childhood crush invites her to move cross-country, the offer is too much to resist. Unfortunately, it’s also too good to be true.

After a bait-and-switch, Clara finds herself sharing a lease with a charming stranger. Josh might be a bit too perceptive—not to mention handsome—for comfort, but there’s a good chance he and Clara could have survived sharing a summer sublet if she hadn’t looked him up on the Internet…

Once she learns how Josh has made a name for himself, Clara realizes living with him might make her the Wheaton’s most scandalous story yet. His professional prowess inspires her to take tackling the stigma against female desire into her own hands. They may not agree on much, but Josh and Clara both believe women deserve better sex. What they decide to do about it will change both of their lives, and if they’re lucky, they’ll help everyone else get lucky too. 

What I Liked:

  1. Opposites Attract! It’s a sitcom-y rom com with two totally opposite people forced under one roof together! Clara is the uptight, proper, and kinda prudish Upper East Side WASP who’s never done something like moving across the country before, and Josh is the charismatic, charming, and brow raising porn star who Clara inadvertently becomes roommates with in a small house in LA. You can’t write this kind of stuff! Oh wait……….Anyways, despite coming from different backgrounds, these two were a joy to read about, and their relationship was so enjoyable to see develop as they go from just roommates, to friends, and to lovers. There was definitely some chemistry there I thought, and the buildup of sexual tension was also fun. It was obvious that Josh’s feelings for her were way stronger than hers off the bat, and I love stories where the guy gets smitten first, but they were both feeling the urge as they lived in such a small space together for a hot LA summer.
  2. Sex Positivity! This book sheds some light on sex workers and the topic of sex in general. I’m never one to slut shame anyone or judge someone as “beneath me” because they work in adult entertainment, and I like that one of the themes of this book is that there’s not “one pleasure to fit them all,” That couples need to be willing to open up to another, trust each other, listen to each other, and be willing to try new things that work specifically for them. It’s also a good message that no one should feel ashamed about pursuing their own pleasure out of something because of societal expectations and judgements; it sounds a little hedonistic, but there is some valuable life lessons that I think everyone should consider! So long as you’re not hurting yourself or others, I say go for whatever your heart desires.
  3. Trope Flipping! One small thing I really enjoyed was how the author totally flipped two types of characters we’ve seen so many times before: the boy next door and the ex. Clara has had a crush on Garrett Bloom ever since he moved next door way back when they were kids, but as you meet him and learn more about him, he’s not really as much of a golden boy as the role usually has been in the past. Then there’s Naomi Grant, who’s Josh’s ex, but instead of being a woman scorned, she actually becomes friends with Josh and Clara and even works together with them on a business venture. It was refreshing to see these tropey character arcs get a new direction given to each of them.

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. The Same Old Setup…I suppose this is a minor thing, but the storyline is set up like any other rom com storyline, so there’s nothing new there with how it develops. There’s nothing too original about it in this sense, but then again, it’s not like most readers are really looking for something like that in this genre to begin with.
  2. Once Again, A Rushed Ending…I don’t know what it is about romance novels, but lately almost every single one of them feels so cramped and shoved together when it could’ve totally benefited to include another 25-50 pages, or maybe another chapter or two. It’s become a consistent thing with romance novels, and man oh man do I wish it’d stop!

Conclusion:

Overall, another pretty good contemporary romance to enjoy for anyone who’s looking for something cute and lighthearted to read! It’s nothing groundbreaking or extraordinary, but it definitely fulfills the expectations you have upon starting reading it. Sure, you’d think it’d be a little steamier since the male character is a porn star—and a pretty good one at that—but there’s other books out there if you’re looking for a much steamier read. Some readers would even go as far to say this book would be so much better if it went further in either the humor or the steam. I can believe that and support that, but I still say this book is an enjoyable addition to the genre. I know I really liked this story, and it’s a keeper on my shelf for sure!

I definitely recommend this title to those who love the rom com stories with familiar tropes that are given new and thoughtful changes to them to switch things up and make them feel fresh. I’d also say fans of books by authors like Christina Lauren, Elle Kennedy, and Sarina Bowen will probably also like this book.

It’s a pretty impressive debut novel, and if this is where the author is starting at, I’d say I’m definitely going to be on the lookout for whatever she comes up with next, she has another title already hyped to release in 2021, The Intimacy Experiment, which will star one of the side characters of this book, so I will for sure check it out upon its release!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

New Adult, New Adult Romance, YA Fantasy

My Review: A Court of Frost and Starlight (A Court of Thorns and Roses #3.5): by Sarah J. Maas

Publish Date: May 1st, 2018

Number of Pages: 229 Pages

Publisher: Bloomsbury YA

Genre(s): YA Fantasy, New Adult Romance

***Warning!!! This review contains spoilers from the previous books in the series, so continue reading at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!!!***

To see my review for book #1 – A Court of Thorns and Roses – Click HERE

To see my review for book #2 – A Court of Mist and Fury – Click HERE

To see my review for book #3 – A Court of Wings and Ruin – Click HERE

To see my Fancast/Dreamcast for the series so far – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 3 Stars

I am so torn on this novella (a shorter version of a regular, full length novel); part of me loved to once again read about this amazing cast of characters and see that their stories are not actually over and are still going on, but not nearly enough happens in this story to make it feel all that satisfying of a read.

It’s Prythian’s winter solstice after the war against the King of Hybern and this story is all about the after effects of war: the PTSD, the grief over losing loved ones, and just the struggle some have more than others to go back to having a “normal” life in Velaris…well, as normal as someone’s life can actually be in a Sarah J. Maas novel. Like before, some characters get more attention that others, but this novella does one thing in particular for the first time in the series: having someone other than Feyre’s perspective. Sure it’s Rhysand, but with this small gateway, it provides us the the opportunity to see the story begin to focus on other characters…

…but I just wish this book went further with it, so it would’ve been beneficial to make it a full length novel. However, there are several more books being added to this series, so maybe us SJM fans just need to be patient and savor what we are given at the time!

Stars flickered around us, sweet darkness sweeping in. As if we were the only souls in a galaxy.”

– Sarah J. Maas, “A Court of Frost and Starlight”

What It’s About:

The Official Blurb:

Hope warms the coldest night.

Feyre, Rhys, and their close-knit circle of friends are still busy rebuilding the Night Court and the vastly-changed world beyond. But Winter Solstice is finally near, and with it, a hard-earned reprieve.

Yet even the festive atmosphere can’t keep the shadows of the past from looming. As Feyre navigates her first Winter Solstice as High Lady, she finds that those dearest to her have more wounds than she anticipated–scars that will have far-reaching impact on the future of their Court.

What I Liked:

  1. The Themes of Dealing with Grief and Recovery! While this novella isn’t the most exciting or action packed out of SJM’s books, it does address these complex emotions with how her characters are dealing with the fallout from all that happened with the war against the King of Hybern. Everyone deals with grief in different ways, and I think SJM does a great job of showing different ways in which her characters are dealing with everything; it’s not an easy path to go down, but it felt so real to look into their heads and see the different methods of recovery they chose, plus it helps lead me into my next point!
  2. The Potential for More! With the themes of what I just pointed out, also in this short story is that there are some potential easter eggs discovered to bridge the trilogy to the next phase of these books! While the King of Hybern is defeated and there’s no big threat like him (at the moment at least), there’s still a lot that has to be addressed within the cast of characters!
  3. Rhysand and Feyre’s Romance! These two and their relationship are still the forefront of these books, and this book is the first where the storyline doesn’t focus solely on Feyre’s POV; Rhysand takes center stage for a few chapters too! While some readers are sick of it by now, I personally didn’t mind at how these two seem to only have sex on the mind whenever they’re around each other! I mean think about it, they’re still kind of newlyweds who don’t have war or the safety of their world to worry about finally; they can just be a normal couple and slow down and breathe a little easier with their everyday lives. I think it still made sense, but I do agree that the word “mate” could’ve been said a lot less! We get it….they’re mated, but husband and wife can still refer to each other by their actual names and not have them simply be referred to as “my mate.” they’re too big of characters to be reduced to that! There’s lots of fluff between them for the hopeless romantics out there!
  4. Nesta’s Development! Nesta is an incredibly complex character, and the fandom is really torn on her character. Some despise and call her the “stone-cold bitch,” others think she’s a total badass who’s going to unleash a whirlwind of hell with her fae abilities. I’m not the biggest fan of her, but I can get where she comes from, especially with her reluctance to remain close to the “inner circle” that she’s obviously not a part of. She gets a really interested exploration of her character because she’s not handling the death of her father a well as she’d like the others to believe. She’s going down a dark path, and making some questionable choices, plus there’s the whole thing with Cassian too! She may piss off a lot of you when you read this story, but I can appreciate how SJM sheds so much light on a minor character and reveals so many complex things going on beneath the surface!
  5. “The Wall Scene!” Small victory for those who enjoy the smuttier side of this series, but we finally get the scene that Rhysand brought to our attention all the way back in Mist and Fury! Hey, I say take a victory like that whenever you can!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. It’s Only a Novella…With how the “trilogy” ended with us having so many more questions, plus leaving certain story aspects up in the air, this book hardly gives us any answers, and that’s simply because it’s a shortened version of a novel: a novella. It was simply supposed to be a bridge/teaser into the next phase of the whole Court of Thorns and Roses series, and while it certainly gives us easter eggs for some conflicts to come later on, it wasn’t really enough to fully consider it a satisfying read. Maybe if it was longer and just had more going on, it would be much more successful, but even with it being two years later as this review is being published in 2020, with this long of a gap between the books, it would’ve been nice to get more! Not trying to knock SJM for that, because I know she’s had a lot going on in her personal life since this book released, so I don’t want to sound whiny/bratty about all of this!
  2. Mor’s Situation Isn’t Explored…I guess you could say this kind of continues off the last point made, but Mor gave us a big confession of being queer in Wings and Ruin! She confessed that she doesn’t know how to break it to Azriel, who’s been following her around like a broody, lovestruck puppy for 500+ years, and I was really hoping this whole storyline would’ve been addressed, and it was…but it didn’t develop any further than Mor admitting she’s waiting for the right time to tell others….okay, I’m already not exactly thrilled at how this is how to break in a queer character, but Mor holding off like this is making me like her less and less, and I can say I’m justified in this reasoning considering I’m queer myself…I know it’s hard to come out and that everyone should have the freedom to do it when they choose, but c’mon….he’s one of your best friends who you’ve been stringing along for 500+ years and you still can’t just break it to him? It just doesn’t sit right with me…
  3. Redemption Arc for Tamlin?…So the scene with Rhysand and Tamlin was probably the most interesting scene in the whole book for me! I got the impression that Tamlin is going to potentially get a redemption arc of some sort, and to be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about that. Some redemption arcs are absolutely amazing–Prince Zuko, anyone?–but the thing about them is all about how it develops! If it’s done the right way, it can be amazing, but that also means it depends on the character themselves too. While Tamlin showed he’s not completely on the dark side with how he helped Feyre escape the King’s camp in Wings and Ruin, I’m still skeptical if he can truly redeem himself at this point unless he makes some major life sacrifice, which is usually the way these storylines end. I don’t know, I guess we’ll have to see how this is addressed in the future books!

Conclusion:

Overall, this novella is merely a tease that hits at more, but doesn’t really give enough to make it fully satisfying. There are some good things to come out of it: mainly at the hints of what’s to come later on in the later books and how well SJM deals with grief and characters with poor mental health and the choices they make to either save themselves or further dig themselves deeper down the dark hole of depression and further alienation.

It’s just such a brief bridge from the original trilogy and into the next phase of this series, which all I can for sure say is A Court of Silver Flames, coming out February 16th, 2021 and it will star Cassian and Nesta, who had the most development within this novella and had the most potential for an interesting story moving forward based off Frost and Starlight alone! I seriously can’t wait for the next installment; SJM has confirmed it will be her smuttiest book yet and my body is READY for it!!

I want you out of Velaris,’ Feyre breathed, her voice shaking.

Nesta tried—tried and failed—not to feel the blow, the sting of the words. Though she didn’t know why she was surprised by it. There were no paintings of her in this house, they did not invite her to parties or dinners anymore, they certainly didn’t visit—

‘And where,’ Nesta asked, her voice mercifully icy, ‘am I supposed to go?’

Feyre only looked to Cassian. And for once, the Illyrian warrior wasn’t grinning as he said, ‘You’re coming with me to the Illyrian Mountains.‘”

– Sarah J. Maas, “A Court of Frost and Starlight”

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell