Reading Challenge: Rowena's 2019 GoodReads Challenge

Review: The Key to Happily Ever After by Tif Marcelo

Posted April 18, 2019 by Rowena in Reviews | 2 Comments

Review: The Key to Happily Ever After by Tif MarceloReviewer: Rowena
The Key to Happily Ever After by Tif Marcelo
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, Gallery Books
Publication Date: May 14, 2019
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Point-of-View: Third
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Women's Fiction
Pages: 320
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Reading Challenges: Rowena's 2019 GoodReads Challenge
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four-stars

A charming romantic comedy about three sisters who are struggling to keep the family wedding planning business afloat—all the while trying to write their own happily-ever-afters in the process.

All’s fair in love and business.

The de la Rosa family and their wedding planning business have been creating happily ever afters in the Washington, DC area for years, making even the most difficult bride’s day a fairytale. But when their parents announce their retirement, the sisters—Marisol, Janelyn, and Pearl—are determined to take over the business themselves.

But the sisters quickly discover that the wedding business isn’t all rings and roses. There are brides whose moods can change at the drop of a hat; grooms who want to control every part of the process; and couples who argue until their big day. As emotions run high, the de la Rosa sisters quickly realize one thing: even when disaster strikes—whether it’s a wardrobe malfunction or a snowmageddon in the middle of a spring wedding—they’ll always have each other.

Perfect for fans of the witty and engaging novels of Amy E. Reichert and Susan Mallery, The Key to Happily Ever After is a fresh romantic comedy that celebrates the crucial and profound power of sisterhood.

I’m a sucker for family drama’s and though I thought this book would be a lot lighter than the book actually was, it was still an enjoyable reading adventure. This book follows the de la Rosa sisters, Mari, Jane, and Pearl as they take on the running of the family wedding planning business. The story focuses on the dynamics between the sisters, and we also get a small love story for each of them. There’s a lot going on with this and I thought Marcelo did a nice job of weaving all of the little side stuff into the bigger story being told. Between the family business in crisis and the romances, there’s a lot of things to focus on without the book as a whole being crammed.

Mari is the oldest and she’s the controlling sister. The one that sets rules and bosses everyone around. Jane is the middle sister who is the peacemaker and then there’s the creative artist, Pearl. Pearl is the youngest sister who nobody trusts to get the job done. They’re all going through their own personal struggles and I was really invested in their lives. I wanted to know everything and fix everything for all of them. I thought Marcelo did a really great job of fleshing out each character because they were all super different but they were also flawed and just real, and raw. They each took turns getting on my nerves but I felt for each sister, how I feel for my own sisters. I loved each of them and wanted them to find their happy endings.

There’s loads of drama but there’s also humor and a whole lot of charm mixed in for good measure. I’m glad that I read this book and I will definitely be reading more from Tif Marcelo. I think I enjoyed this book a lot more than I enjoyed the contemporary romances that I read by her last year. She’s got great stuff and I’m adding the rest of her books to my TBR pile. I definitely recommend this book if you’re in the mood for family drama, bridezillas, and love. This one packs in all of that.

Grade: 4 out of 5

four-stars


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Review: Anatomy of a Player by Cindi Madsen

Posted April 17, 2019 by Rowena in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: Anatomy of a Player by Cindi MadsenReviewer: Rowena
Anatomy of a Player by Cindi Madsen
Narrator: Joe Arden, Kristin Watson Heintz
Series: Taking Shots #2
Also in this series: Getting Lucky Number Seven
Publisher: Entangled, Entangled Embrace
Publication Date: January 25, 2016
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible Romance Package
Point-of-View: Alternating First
Genres: New Adult
Length: 9 hours, 52 minutes
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Reading Challenges: Rowena's 2019 GoodReads Challenge
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three-half-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

A new adult romance from Entangled's Embrace imprint...

This bad boy is about to get played…

After getting her heart broken by a player again, Whitney Porter is done with men. She's focusing on her future career and her first assignment at the college newspaper: Posing as a sports writer for an exposé on the extra perks jocks receive. But Hudson Decker, the bad boy of the hockey team, is about to test her resolve. To keep herself from breaking her no-sex rule with the temptingly tattooed athlete, she decides to use him for a side project: Anatomy of a Player, to help Whitney—and women everywhere—spot a player, learn what makes him tick, and how to avoid falling for one.

With his life spiraling out of control, Hudson Decker's looking for a distraction. When his teammates bet him that he can't land the gorgeous but prickly new reporter, he accepts the challenge, boasting he'll have her in bed by the end of the semester. But Whitney is so much more than Hudson expected, and soon enough, he's in too deep. The last thing he needs is another complication, but staying away isn't an option. One thing's for certain: this girl totally throws him off his game.

Anatomy of a Player is the second book in Cindi Madsen’s Taking Shots series and it was another quick listen for me. I listened to the entire book in a day and let the drama between Hudson and Whitney take me away for a while. I will say right off the bat that I enjoyed the first book in this series more than I did this one. The best friends trope gets me every time but on top of that, both Hudson and Whitney got on my nerves quite a bit while listening to their story.

After Whitney gets dumped yet again, she swears off boys and promises herself that she’s going to focus on school and get her journalism degree poppin’ by joining the school paper but the only job at the paper that she can get is as the reporter covering the hockey team. She also pitches a story that will expose the athletes at the school, the hockey team in particular, of breezing through school while the rest of the non-athletes bust their asses to stay afloat. Her job is to get as close as she can to the team, develop friendships so that they’ll tell her all of their secrets and she can bust their trust in her wide open when she betrays them all…for the glory of a story. This was my least favorite part of the story. I’m not a fan of journalist heroines and I was prepared to be annoyed as shit over Whitney’s plan but it wasn’t Whitney’s plan that I hated most about her. It was how immature she was that annoyed the snot out of me.

Hudson had his own stuff that he was working through and he annoyed me with the immature way that he handled his problems (he didn’t, he just partied too hard to distract himself) but over the course of the book, you see him grow into his own and when he finally starts to deal with his issues and everything in his life, Whitney included, I really liked the person he became.

The romance between Hudson and Whitney was solid and I did root for them, at the same time that I wanted to strangle them both but I chalked up their immaturity to their age and was able to let a lot of things slide and enjoy the story, them as characters, and just everything. Cindi Madsen’s writing style is easy to follow along with and I appreciated that. Hudson and Whitney did grow on me and I was satisfied with the way that their romance came together in the end. It was believable and I’m definitely interested in continuing the story.

Grade: 3.5 out of 5

Taking Shots

three-half-stars


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Review: Repeat by Kylie Scott

Posted April 16, 2019 by Rowena in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: Repeat by Kylie ScottReviewer: Rowena
Repeat by Kylie Scott
Narrator: Andi Arndt
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: January 7, 2019
Format: Audiobook
Source: Audible Romance Package
Point-of-View: First
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Length: 6 hours, 47 minutes
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Reading Challenges: Rowena's 2019 GoodReads Challenge
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four-stars

From Audie Award winning, New York Times best-selling author Kylie Scott comes an irresistible new romance - available in audio first!

When a vicious attack leaves 25-year-old Clementine Johns with no memory, she's forced to start over. Now she has to figure out who she was and why she made the choices she did - which includes leaving the supposed love of her life, tattoo artist Ed Larsen, only a month before.

Ed can hardly believe it when his ex shows up at his tattoo parlor with no memory of their past, asking about the breakup that nearly destroyed him. The last thing he needs is more heartache, but he can't seem to let her go again.

Should they walk away for good, or does their love deserve a repeat performance?

Listening Length: 6 hours and 47 minutes

I’m not normally a fan of amnesia romances because I can’t stand the anxiety I get from the truth being revealed and the world exploding all around the characters but for some reason, I didn’t mind the amnesia in this book. This book came highly recommended by Holly so I knew that I was going to read it because if Holly is gushing about a book, the book is damn near perfect. And while I didn’t enjoy this book as much as she did, I still enjoyed it.

The amnesia thing didn’t bother me as much because so much of the story is about Clem’s journey to rediscovering who she was and who she wants to be. I really enjoyed that part of the story. For me, the romance took a backseat to Clem’s journey. I thought Kylie Scott did a really great job of showing us what Clem was feeling and how she was dealing with all of the changes in her life.

When we first meet Clem, she’s trying to figure some things out about herself. She’s finding out that people she once held near and dear, want nothing to do with her and from what she can gather, they have legit reasons for not wanting her to be a part of their lives anymore. Seeing her try to figure that out and repair the damage she doesn’t remember inflicting on these other people really amplified my enjoyment of the story. This wasn’t an easy book to read and there were times when I wanted to shake both Clem and Ed some but for the most part, I enjoyed seeing them reconnect and fall in love with the people they were today…and move on from their shady past.

I spotted the bad guy pretty early on so I would say that is the weakest part of this book but everything else was pretty solid. Clem really comes into her own and takes charge of the second chance she was given and I enjoyed seeing it all happen for her. The book is filled with a cast of charming characters that I came to love over the course of the book so yeah, if you’re looking for a second chance romance with an amnesia plot and a heroine surviving a pretty bad attack, blossoming into a kick-ass woman then you should definitely pick this one up.

Grade: 4 out of 5

four-stars


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Review: Extra Credit by Sarina Bowen

Posted April 15, 2019 by Rowena in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: Extra Credit by Sarina BowenReviewer: Rowena
Extra Credit by Sarina Bowen
Series: The Ivy Years #6
Also in this series: The Year We Hid Away , Blonde Date , The Year We Fell Down , The Understatement of the Year (The Ivy Years, #3), The Shameless Hour (The Ivy Years, #4), The Fifteenth Minute (The Ivy Years, #5), The Fifteenth Minute (The Ivy Years, #5), The Year We Hid Away (The Ivy Years, #2)
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: March 9th, 2019
Format: eBook
Source: Kindle Unlimited
Point-of-View: First
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Genres: New Adult
Pages: 234
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Reading Challenges: Rowena's 2019 A-Z Reading Challenge, Rowena's 2019 GoodReads Challenge
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four-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

Three novellas, including all new Ivy Years fun!

BLONDE DATE: A nervous sorority girl, a mean fraternity prank and an adorkable basketball player with a heart of gold. Blonde Date follows Katie and Andy’s first blind date…

STUDLY PERIOD: One hunky hockey player with a language barrier. Plus one awkward English tutor with a big crush. Equals hot, hilarious trouble! Study Period follows Pepe and his tutor Josie.

YESTERDAY: It’s been seven years since John Rikker left his childhood home in Michigan. Surely that’s long enough to scar over the wounds he received there. Or is it? Can Rikker survive a visit with his parents? And can Graham let him do it alone?

I’m a huge fan of Sarina Bowen’s Ivy Years series so when she announced that she was releasing Extra Credit, I couldn’t wait to read it. Extra Credit is a book that features three short stories featuring characters in the Ivy Years series. Two old stories and one brand spankin’ new one!

Blonde Date

Andy and Katie are set up on a blind date and while Katie has no clue who Andy is, Andy knows all too well who Katie is. They hit it off on their blind date and Katie learns that not all guys are assholes and she is worthy of being treated like a princess. I loved seeing these two get together all over again. I don’t think I’ll ever get over Andy being a Celtics fan but he was still a keeper. I think I’ve changed my mind over wanting Dash’s story. Eff that guy.

Katie was a fantastic heroine too. She was so normal and sweet. I loved seeing her have fun after what she went through with her ex-boyfriend Dash. I loved how strong and sure of herself she felt when she was with Andy, and I really loved how once she jumped in with Andy, she left all of the baggage from Dash in the past. It wasn’t worth her time and she showed it by not letting him ruin another day of her life. This was a sweet romance.

Grade: 4 out of 5

Studly Period

Studly Period is the novella that Sarina Bowen released as a weekly serial for her newsletter subscribers and I adored it when she released it week after week and I adored it all the more when I read it again. Pepe and Josie were too cute for words and I really enjoyed their story. I loved how shy and book nerdy Josie was and I loved how sweet and corny that Pepe was. Pepe was one of those characters that I didn’t think I needed to read about but I’m glad that Sarina wrote his story.

It was in this story that I realized how much I missed the characters from this series and it was while reading this story again for the second time that I decided to re-read this entire series. Seeing everyone again in this one made me happy and I got a little teary eyed when Josie thought Pepe ghosted her over vacation. Seeing them work their issues out was just too cute for words.

Grade: 4.25 out of 5

Yesterday

Ooh, we got a new short story for Rikker and Graham. Oh man, these two are the best! I loved seeing both of them in a good place, as a strong unit. They were solid in their relationship after all of the drama that they both went through and I was glad for it. Graham! My man Graham is really stepping into his new life and I just love him so much. He’s come such a long way from his book and seeing him stand up for both himself and for Rikker with his high school friends was something else.

Rikker’s part of this story made my heart hurt so much. He had such a harder time with his coming out then Graham did. He was never shown the kind of love and support from his family (outside of his grandmother) the way that Graham did but that didn’t stop him from loving with all that he was anyway. Seeing his parents up close and personal made me sorry for them because they couldn’t see past their worries to the amazing man their son grew up to be. I’m glad that when Rikker walked away, he walked away to somewhere that accepted and loved him just as he was. This might have been a short story, but it still packed the punch that I expect from Sarina Bowen. She didn’t disappoint. Graham and Rikker forever!

Grade: 4.5 out of 5

Final Grade

4.25 out of 5

The Ivy Years

four-stars


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Buddy Review: Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton

Posted April 11, 2019 by Rowena in Reviews | 1 Comment

Buddy Review: Next Year in Havana by Chanel CleetonReviewer: Ames & Rowena
Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton
Publisher: Penguin, Berkley
Publication Date: February 6, 2018
Format: eBook, Print
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: First
Genres: Historical Fiction, Women's Fiction
Pages: 394
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Rowena's 2019 A-Z Reading Challenge, Rowena's 2019 GoodReads Challenge
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four-stars

After the death of her beloved grandmother, a Cuban-American woman travels to Havana, where she discovers the roots of her identity--and unearths a family secret hidden since the revolution...

Havana, 1958. The daughter of a sugar baron, nineteen-year-old Elisa Perez is part of Cuba's high society, where she is largely sheltered from the country's growing political unrest--until she embarks on a clandestine affair with a passionate revolutionary...

Miami, 2017. Freelance writer Marisol Ferrera grew up hearing romantic stories of Cuba from her late grandmother Elisa, who was forced to flee with her family during the revolution. Elisa's last wish was for Marisol to scatter her ashes in the country of her birth.

Arriving in Havana, Marisol comes face-to-face with the contrast of Cuba's tropical, timeless beauty and its perilous political climate. When more family history comes to light and Marisol finds herself attracted to a man with secrets of his own, she'll need the lessons of her grandmother's past to help her understand the true meaning of courage.

Chanel Cleeton’s Next Year in Havana takes us on an emotional journey to Cuba, in both the past and the present as our main characters, Marisol Ferrera and Elisa Perez, battle through emotions, secrets and the hardships of war, all while falling in love with men that came with their own complications.

Rowena: This was really angsty and while I did end up enjoying it (I even cried), it was a bit slow to start. What did you think, Ames?

Ames: I have to agree. It took me a good while to get into it. Part of it was that in an odd switch I wanted to read this book in print, not in e-format. It’s usually the other way around. So I finally made my way to the bookstore and then I couldn’t finish this book fast enough!

And the angst wasn’t emotional angst. It was -oh my god we’re in the middle of a revolution and we could die- kind of angst. Which I was totally into. I can admit that I don’t know a heck of a lot about Cuba but this book did a really good job of making what happened, relevant and thought-provoking as well as providing a dangerous background for our main character’s grandmother.

Rowena: Yes, the romance took a back seat to all of the angst from everything else that was going on. Once I got the hang of both timelines, all of the characters, and what was going on, I zipped right through this book. My heart hurt and then it soared for both Elisa and what she lived through, how hard her life was even though on the surface, her life looked pretty fluffy, it was anything but and for Marisol, too. When she gets to Cuba, she’s expecting to hear stories of her beloved grandmother through people who once loved her and confided in her but she found so much more than that and I was so here for all of it.

I really liked the way that Cleeton wove this tale. She brought everything going on in Cuba to the front of a very compelling story and I really enjoyed it.

Who was your favorite character?

Ames: Elisa was definitely my favorite character. My heart definitely hurt for what she went through. But I liked how we learned about her story through Marisol’s eyes. I agree with you, I like the way Cleeton wove these two stories together. I liked Pablo more as an old man than when he was younger. His experience and his heartbreak was what made me cry. I really wonder how Elisa and his life would have worked out if Elisa knew the truth. This was a bittersweet book. And I promptly pre-ordered Beatriz book once I was done. LOL.

Rowena: Same. I connected with Elisa’s story and her struggles with every single thing that she went through. From her struggles with loving a man who was fighting on the opposite side of the side her father supported to the way that her family had to creep out of the country to survive and everything that she felt with toward her brother and not being able to know for sure that he was safe and all of that.

I felt the same way about older Pablo. He missed out on so much and my heart for him and just everything. His love for Elisa was true and it was strong and it lasted his entire life even though he moved on. It was so heartbreaking. I’m super glad that I read this one and will definitely be reading more from Cleeton, she’s got magic hands weaving the good stories. I need more of that in my life.

Are you going to read When We Left Cuba? I’m already reading it and so far, it’s just as fantastic as this one was. I give this one 4.25 out of 5 stars, what about you?

Ames: I am planning on reading When We Left Cuba. I needed to read something light and fluffy after Marisol and Elisa’s story though so I’m glad I have a bit of a wait until it’s released. I know I’m going to want to read it in paperback. LOL

I’m giving Next Year in Havana 4.25 out of 5 as well. Despite a bit of a slow beginning it’s definitely an engrossing story and it hits you in the feels. I highly recommend!

Final Grades

Ames: 4.25 out of 5
Rowena: 4.25 out of 5

Related Books

Next Year in Havana
When We Left Cuba

four-stars


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