Book Review, Favorite, Recommendations

[REVIEW] The Royal Treatment by MJ Summers

The Royal Treatment
By MJ Summers
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Age Category: Adult
Rating: 4/5
Release Date: Summer 2017
Blurb:

Enough laughs to satisfy fans of Bridget Jones. Enough sparkly shoes and breathtaking ball gowns for fans of Cinderella…

Twenty-eight-year-old Tessa Sharpe, a.k.a. The Royal Watchdog, hates everything about Prince Arthur. As far as she’s concerned, he’s an arrogant, lazy leech on the kingdom of Avonia. When he shocks the nation by giving her the keys to the castle in an attempt to boost his family’s dismal public approval ratings, Tessa has no choice but to accept and move in for two months. It’s lust at first sight, but there’s no way she can give in to her feelings—not if she wants to have a career or a shred of pride left when her time at the palace ends.

Ultra-private, ultra-hot Crown Prince Arthur has always gotten by on his charm. But that won’t be enough now that the Royal Family is about to be ousted from power once and for all. When Prince Arthur has to rely on the one woman in the kingdom who hates him most, he must learn that earning the love of a nation means first risking his heart…

Can two natural enemies find their forever in each other’s arms, or will they ruin each other to save themselves?

[PLEASE NOTE: The Crown Jewels Series is not a typical MJ Summers book. It’s a light romantic comedy, very heavy on the laughs with a low steam level (but lots of delicious sexual tension and some swearing).]

Review

I absolutely loved every second I spent reading this book! I can’t believe I haven’t read any of MJ Summers book yet. The Royal Treatment was a breath of fresh air in the contemporary royal romance trope. It has that perfect blend of romantic fantasy and contemporary reality that pitch the readers into a rollercoaster of emotions and adventure.

I wasn’t too keen on the royalty thing, to be honest. There are lots of royalty romance books floating around that disappoints more than they satisfy the readers so I developed a tread-carefully perspective before reading one. I am so delightfully surprised with MJ Summer’s writing style and world building! She has a very engaging tone that easily lures in the readers into the wonderfully rich world, or kingdom to be more precise, of Tessa Sharpe and Prince Arthur.

I particularly love the fact that the story did not pander to any possibly predictable outcome. (I hate to spoil so you have to read to know what happens!) From the beginning to the very end, Tessa holds on to her principles strongly. While she and Prince Arthur did come to realize their faults, neither one changed into something their characters are not. They grew into their characters beautifully, even when the journey to get there was painful and full of sacrifices.

There is also the always-present reminder that at the end of Tessa’s stay, her commoner problems, problems we all have, are still waiting for her. Ultimately, she finds a way to resolve everything through her own courage and talents and I absolutely loved that above everything else. The Royal Treatment doesn’t set you up to any unrealistic expectation that falling in love with a prince will magically solve all your problems. (Well, there are problems they can handily solve but) There are more problems that come with the responsibility that tests the mettle of anyone stepping up to the plate. Tessa did not let anyone down.

A large part of the reason why I absolutely enjoyed this book also happens to be the comedic timings it has in delivering punchlines. They give a nice break for the really complex and serious crisis the story has.

Will I read the next book MJ Summers has? Absolutely! I wish it’s the next book already. Meanwhile, I’ll try to read some of her past works and know I’ll be shelving on a trusty author I know I’ll always re-read.

Dive into this goodness by getting a copy from Amazon here.

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Book Review

[REVIEW] How We Fall by Melissa Toppen

I have been given an advanced reader copy (ARC) by Buoni Amici Press in exchange for an honest review.

How We Fall 
By Melissa Toppen
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Age Category: New Adult
Rating: 3.5/5

Blurb:

It’s not always about how we fall- it’s about where we end up once we land.

I remember the very first time I laid eyes on Cole Lincoln. It still feels like yesterday when he stumbled into my life with his messy brown hair and dark eyes. Even though I was only ten years old at the time, I knew right then and there that he was going to change everything.

From that point on Cole and I were always together—inseparable—and I naively believed we’d be best friends forever. But forever didn’t last nearly as long as I expected.

We grew up and grew apart, life driving the distance between us, but my love for Cole never faltered. Even long after he moved away, leaving me and our little town behind, I still carried a piece of him with me every single day. Because Cole wasn’t just my childhood best friend- the boy who knew me better than anyone else in the whole world. He was also my first love- a part of my very core.

When a tragic death brings us face to face again after six years, every single memory comes rushing to the surface. Only this is not the boy I fell in love with all those years ago. The man before me is hardened, intimidating, and so damn sexy I practically melt when those dark eyes meet mine for the first time in six years.

And like the first time he walked into my life, I know with complete certainty that everything is about to change.

Review

Often, we read about reviews of romance books as ‘cheesy’ stories that make us cringe and irate. I always hate it when romance falls into that branding because it’s not always ‘cheesy’. Emotions, in general, are scoffed at because we live in a patriarchal world where they are treated as weakness. And when romance novels are rounded down to being cheesy, it really sparks the Anger inside me.

How We Fall by Melissa Toppen, sadly, falls into the cheesy category. I hate to say this but here’s why:

Toppen’s How We Fall starts off promising. Childhood friends Cole and Mel always teetered between friends and Something More. They never crossed the line when they were teens because of course, they don’t. Only after the death of their close friend, many years after, did they reconnect and found the courage to tip over the Something More field.

Before I launch into the plot analysis, I’d like to point out that when they did reconnect, Mel was in a relationship with another guy. I feel like it is too convenient that her relationship with Nate, the boyfriend, was ‘unhappy’, she’s always the second choice from his job, that ultimately made their breakup and her reconnecting with Cole conveniently easy.

In fact, the crises in the story, while many and good, conveniently solve themselves for the couple without any agency from them. The story reads like a huge Deus ex machina-propelled narrative. I am really sad about the wasted potential of this book.

I understand how Toppen might have loved Mel and Cole. After all, it shows how much the characters love each other so much. (By how they declare their love for one another every single time. It’s too much! There is a thing called too much.) This is the love conquers all story that might read well technically (in terms of grammar and syntax) but the plot really needs more work.

We don’t just need a couple in love with each other. We need crises and ritual deaths and reconciliations that will mean significantly for the characters, both as individuals and as a couple. Romance is not just for feelings. Romance can deliver the edge most good stories have so please don’t do it this kind of disservice.

Book Review

REVIEW: Never Never by Colleen Hoover and Tarryn Fisher

I don’t know why I thought there would be answers to my questions at the beginning of this book at the end of it. I REALLY, REALLY DON’T KNOW WHY I TRUSTED TARRYN FISHER and Colleen Hoover, but I’m not really much of a fan of Colleen Hoover, so. (Also, I know, unpopular opinion.)

nevernever

So Never Never is a story about two 18-year olds who literally wake up in their bodies without any memory of anything in their lives in medias res (in the middle of things). The story opens with a girl, who jars into her existence in the middle of a crowded school room, with another girl tripped on the floor beside her. Our girl later on learns her name, Charlie Wynwood, from basically context clues around her.

And then she meets her supposed boyfriend at lunch, discovering that he too is suffering from a memory loss the same as hers. They both know nothing about their lives, but they do know the basics of living – like motor skills, trivial things, basically the little things that don’t really say much about a person as a person.

Most of the time in the book, Silas and Charlie were the only characters in perspective. But as they get to know their world, the readers are also introduced to the characters along the side lines that should have been important to them, but they really don’t know them either. The readers are only given enough to create a guess or actually, a skin-deep knowledge of everyone around them, but also a feel that there are a lot underneath that knowledge that will later come into major play.

The book doesn’t really give you answers as to what are they suffering from, how did they get to that point of their lives, but it did give you everything that answers your questions on the periphery of the answers. If anything, that makes the story even more attractive – the mystery that nothing ever really answers, but you do get a lot of clues you don’t know how to fit together. You know they do not answer you right now, but you also get the feeling that it’s going to bite you in the ass sooner rather than later, and that makes me really, really stoked for the next installments!

Fisher and Hoover did a really flawless work with this one. As I writer, I do not really work well in collaborative projects, because I always end up sacrificing my inputs and ideas. I just don’t know how to work well in group in the writing scene. So for me, it’s really admirable to read such a collab work between two amazing authors. It’s seamless and really engaging, and while reading it, I almost forgot that this is a work by two powerful minds. I am really humbled whenever I remember that fact.

Also, there is something to be said about combining the creative prowess of  Colleen Hoover and Tarryn Fisher. I mean, I love, LOVE Tarryn Fisher because she writes so beautifully, and her stories are really captivating and emotionally fueled. But also is Colleen Hoover. Plus, remember Colleen Hoover is also the author of Slammed, which is a book about Slam Poetry. And in order to write about a book about Slam Poetry, of course, you’re gonna be forced to write poems, and dear lord, if that doesn’t establish Colleen Hoover’s talent with words!

There are so many lines in the book that just jump out to me because of how beautifully they were written. But I’m not going to cite any in here because I really did not have the time to copy them, or even highlight them. I just stare at these lines, sighing at the beauty of the English language. And then proceed to kill myself with the mystery of the book.

The mystery of the book! So let’s talk about that. At this point, after reading the first book, what we basically know, and this is not a spoiler, is that Silas and Charlie both lost their memory at the same time, know just same amount of trivial things, and it only happens to them (as far as the book infers). The book doesn’t allude to anything, whether the cause is biological or anything, but the characters, or at least Charlie, lean towards the supernatural. And in that count, we were given at least one proof that there is something freaky going on.

Like I’ve said, we were only given enough things to paint the whole picture. Maybe like 15%. TBH. We do know that they are in a relationship, their families are tied together – in good terms and later in bad terms, but we really do not know exactly how in both accounts, and that they are (almost) star-crossed lovers.

SPOILER

kind of

just to be safe

I am going to speculate here, but what I am reminded of by Silas and Charlie is actually the greatest tragic couple of the literary world – Romeo and Juliet. They both have this epic love (which I am going to elaborate on in a few), and the feuding families. Granted, in the book, their families were partners first, but who’s to say that they were really in good terms just because they were business partners. If anything, that makes it even more suspicious.

They were both obviously in love with each other, and this love, for them, almost feels like larger than them. As I’ve said, they were both from powerful and influential families. That in itself contributes to the feeling of self-importance to their relationship. It immediately puts them on a higher pedestal, but not level, than any other couple.

They are both teenagers, and they are both misguided. It is revealed that they really do not have the pretty trappings of love that most teenagers liked to believe they have. They both have difficult family situations on their own, and together an even messier one. They both have affairs, they cheat on one another. Basically, everyone around them don’t believe on them as a couple. They are destructive with one another, but don’t all powerful and encompassing epic love?

I feel like, in the perspective of these two teenagers in the midst of something that is definitely beyond them, everything is too real and too raw. There is also that extra layer of teenage mentality that everyone is out to get you, and I feel like it always factors into their relationship that I am kind of questioning whether if their problems before they lost their memories really hold enough water to be counted as significant in the grand scheme of things. There is an allusion of a big conspiracy in the book, but remove that, and focus on them as two people in one relationship.

(Idk. I still don’t have enough things to actually talk about them as a couple from before. But I am really, really interested in knowing more about the them before their memory loss happened! They are certainly a great Flawed Character study.)

I guess what I’m really pointing out is, will their love be enough to be about them and not just because of their circumstances. Although, of course circumstances do really factor into anyone’s relationship. But. At the very core, it should be just about them as human beings. About Silas the boy and Charlie the girl, and how they survive because they have this big, big thing inside them that just couldn’t be contained. And without the trappings of their fancy lives, they are two people in a love that has been sung and written about since the beginning of history.

I don’t know if my reading though stems from the book itself, or because I already know what I’m going into with these authors. Maybe the experience from reading them before adds bias and ~foreshadowing~ to my reading, but I’d say yeah. The previous experiences from them kind of make me wary of anything they write. It’s not a bad thing. But I cannot say for sure how the book would read for anyone who doesn’t know or haven’t read the author before, either. It certainly would be an adventure to read both of them, in one powerful book, for the first time. 😀 Bless your soul, though.

Book Review

REVIEW: Kaleidoscope Hearts

This isn’t the type of book you read when you’re trying to get over your One Great Love. Just sayin’

Idk guys, but I think we should have more books written for this trope. Seriously. I had a lot of fun reading this book!

kaleidoscope hearts

(Inside Joke: My friend and I joked around that the author was our lovechild, and how we’re proud of her ‘coz she’s now a published author while we, her parents, are still struggling in college. Hahahaha)

So, Oliver and Elle has that once-in-a-lifetime kind of love. Theirs are the stuff that gets songs and books written for. Their love is an altogether different character here in this book, and I think, that is what we’ve been missing out on for most books.

Oliver is Elle’s brother’s bestfriend. For years in their adolescence, growing up years, they had this illicit affair that went out when Oliver decided to move, leaving Elle and their love in Santa Barbara. A year later, Oliver learns that Elle has become engaged to an artsy person, Wyatt. The story when Wyatt has met an untimely death, leaving Elle, once again, with a broken heart.

To be honest, I did not like Elle as a character. Of course, this includes her job as the narrator. More often, I picture her as a bland character. She doesn’t really have much personality aside from her guilt and loneliness, and those are really not enough to be a character’s… well, character. It feels like she’s trapped by these things into this shell of a 2D character, and I just really can’t picture her out as alive. I almost put down the book because of her.

But, while Elle is not a really great character, her love for Oliver and their chemistry really made up for this flaw. Really, this love they have for one another is just another character entirely for this book. I really mean what I said on the second paragraph. It really is a big thing, big enough for the readers to feel it grow and take the shape of an elephant in a small room. You just cannot keep it contained.

Some might argue that, well, that is how love stories are supposed to be, right? Well, not all romance books can pull that off. Most romance books invest so much on things that compromises the chemistry of their characters. It takes a really good, well-thought out plot to pull this off. It’s difficult to create a girl and a boy, and it’s even more difficult to convince readers they love each other. Imagine how difficult it is to write a love that will never die, a love that consumes two people – to their advantage or not, an immortal kind of love.

Oliver is a great character. He’s just this shiny, really attractive, really alive and colorful character since the start of the novel, and wow. He’s the reason why I could stick it out ’till the end. Actually, everyone else is colorful and interesting. Like, really interesting and alive. I know I’d love a book about Jenson and Mia because, damn. That kind of chemistry and past, you cannot not write a book about it.

Another thing that I was kind of disappointed in this book was idk I expected it to be a lot more angsty than it was. It could have been better with a few more obstacles. But it’s a good read, all in all.

Book Review, Recommendations

REVIEW: The Deal by Elle Kennedy

Okay. So to be honest, I had been in a slump for the past five months – partly because school got (surprisingly!) really busy, and partly ‘coz I somewhat fell out of love with contemporaries and, I really, really don’t want to say that I fell out of love with reading (because those five months of slump were slumped over a shit ton of books and readings for school) because that is just so sad.

the deal
I’ve been picking up from my slump one book at a time. And I feel like this book just, really, made me fall in love with stories again. I fell in love with this book, no shame.

The Deal’s story should have been cliche and over-used and tired due to so many renditions of these Deal Tropes, but the one thing that Elle Kennedy did in this book that sets it apart from all these permutations of cliche is the palpable and intense chemistry of Garrett and Hannah from the very start until the last period of this book.

Most authors make the mistake of focusing on how to tweak the plot, to set them apart by the way of how their story would flow, not realizing that they are forgetting to taste the mix of characters – personality, the people, their circumstances, how would they fit with each other, what they bring into the story, and how the story would run with these characters in the tub. But a really good story doesn’t need a main character to die, or the point of ritual death be really complex and tragic; every element of the story should mix well and great and fit perfectly with each other. That’s the recipe for a really good story. And you’ll know you have one golden story in your hands when you managed to pull off a trope into something that makes people who fell out of love with the genre fall in love with it again.

Book Review

The Will by Kristen Ashley

In the same fashion as the usual Kristen Ashley, this book felt like she pushed the boundary of creative writing too far in a bad way.

I think I’m not the only one who have given KA a large leeway regarding her writing. Because let’s be honest, while her stories are really fascinating, her writing makes you want to rewrite the whole thing. I know I did. But with the Rock Chicks and Fantasyland series, I really held myself back.
Image
I think The Will is really promising, really good. But, come on. I just don’t get why she doesn’t write appropriately with her characters. Josie is an ice-cold bitch, that’s what her character is. She is ice-cold but she’s a real sunshine with unicorns inside. However I want to love her character, I just can’t bring myself to actually do so because she sounds so pretentious and fake. Like, no human alive will ever sound like that unless you are in the 1800s.

Another KA bad thing we’ve all turned a blind eye on is that her male characters are RINSE AND REPEAT. Every single one of them. At the beginning of the book, it felt like Jake would deviate from the KA-brand of dominant, alpha male. But a third-way of the book and he’s exactly like Lee,Eddie, Hector, Hank, Luke, Vance, and every alpha male KA has ever written. It’s kind of disappointing, but since I’ve already expected this, it only hurts a little.

And I’ve finally figured out why her writing sounds so awkward! KA has a habit of pointing out the obvious. She inserts unnecessary sentences that make the story-telling awkward and jars the momentum. Her sentences are, most of the time, in active voice and it loses its conviction, its power, and so it comes off grating to the mind. Her poor word choices and blatant disregard of using a word she just used (you writers know what I’m talking about) deliver the same feel as her repetitive active voice.

Usually, I forgive KAs disappointing writing style in favor of the story. With this book, I think she wanted to “revolutionize” with Josie’s character, but that ended up to be her downfall. It could have been good, but it was too unrealistic. She’s not a real human being, tbh. Just no.

Book Review

Carpe Diem by Autumn Cornwell

carpe diem

Aside from the really pretty cover, Carpe Diem boasts a really enticing story of journey through the forests of Southeast Asia. The story starts a little slow and ugh, rather really formal and bland, but it does paint the character of Vassar really well. I love how as the reader go on to through the story, the pace picks up and everything slowly bursts into colors, like a true Southeast Asian sunset.

It’s also really fun. There are a lot of moments where I’ve suffered second-hand embarrassment because of Vassar’s antics. It was so fun! And her escapades were really thrilling. The book really captured my attention with its ups and downs. Although The Big Secret was predictable, it’s kind of anti-climactic how Vassar accepted the truth as easily. Although if you think about it, after all the events that happened in between the reveal and the explanation, The Big Secret comparatively loses it BANG. :))

The book made me want to travel to Cambodia and Malaysia and avoid going to the foresty places of Laos. It’s a good material to promote cultural awareness. (Although as a person from the region, it feels kind of weird to read this in a way that idk it’s like looking at SEA in the perspective of a Westerner and I guess it just wouldn’t feel as authentic as it could be for an Asian? Just. It feels weird for me, personally.)

(But at the end notes, Cornwell said that most of the experiences written on the book happened in real life, so I guess there’s that. But idk. Still felt weird to me.)

Maybe that’s just me, but go ahead and read this book! It’s a wonderful read, especially if you love the adventure type of books.