A Curse of Roses – Book Review

Title: A Curse of Roses
Author: Diana Pinguicha
Published: December 2020
Genres: Young Adult, Historical Fantasy, LGBTQ
Goodreads

Rating: 2 stars
Cover: Like it

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Synopsis:

With just one touch, bread turns into roses. With just one bite, cheese turns into lilies.

There’s a famine plaguing the land, and Princess Yzabel is wasting food simply by trying to eat. Before she can even swallow, her magic–her curse–has turned her meal into a bouquet. She’s on the verge of starving, which only reminds her that the people of Portugal have been enduring the same pain.

If only it were possible to reverse her magic. Then she could turn flowers…into food.

Fatyan, a beautiful Enchanted Moura, is the only one who can help. But she is trapped by magical binds. She can teach Yzabel how to control her curse–if Yzabel sets her free with a kiss.

As the Kind of Portugal’s betrothed, Yzabel would be committing treason, but what good is a king if his country has starved to death?

With just one kiss, Fatyan is set free. And with just one kiss, Yzabel is yearning for more.

She’d sought out Fatyan to help her save the people. Now, loving her could mean Yzabel’s destruction.

Based on Portuguese legend, this #ownvoices historical fantasy is an epic tale of mystery, magic, and making the impossible choice between love and duty…

Happy book birthday to Diana Pinguicha’s A Curse of Roses! Thank you to Entangled Teen and Pinguicha for a free eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Pinguicha writes a fantasy loosely inspired by Portuguese folklore with an own voices spin. Yzabel not only struggles with a magical curse that’s slowly killing her, she struggles with her faith, her role as future queen, and her sexuality in a time where people are rejected for anything apart from the norm. In her self-discovery journey to understand the blessings in her life, including her magic, she learns she has more people who are willing to support her than she ever could’ve imagined.

I was bothered by the pacing of the story, finding much of the middle dry. I also struggled to connect with the characters because anytime they started to show a flaw, someone swooped in and dismissed it as a flaw but a strength. Flawless characters aren’t very exciting. The most redeeming part of the plot was seeing Yzabel work through her frustrating self-hatred and religion-based self-harm, but it did seem to turn around very suddenly. Everything was fixed in the end because all you need is love. I found myself wishing for more depth to the characters and less of an obvious good guy vs bad guy type of story.

Book Review – The Bookworm Crush

Title: The Bookworm Crush
Author: Lisa Brown Roberts
Published: October 2019
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Rating: 2 stars
Cover: Like it

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Synopsis:

Shy bookworm Amy McIntyre is about to compete for the chance to interview her favorite author, who hasn’t spoken to the press in years. The only way to win into step out of the shadows and into the spotlight, but that level of confidence has never come easy.

The solution? A competition coach. The problem? The best person for the job is the guy she’s secretly crushing on…local surfer celebrity Toff Nichols.

He’s a player. He’s a heartthrob. He makes her forget basic things, like how to breathe. How can she feel any confidence around him?

To her surprise, Toff agrees to help. And he’s an excellent teacher. Amy feels braver–maybe even brave enough to admit her feelings for him. When their late night practices become less about coaching and more about making out, Amy’s newfound confidence wavers.

But does Toff really like her or is this just another lesson?

Thank you Entangled Publishing and Lisa Brown Roberts for an eARC of The Bookworm Crush in exchange for an honest review. I’ve had this sitting on my kindle for a few months now because it was forgotten in the midst of wedding planning, but I actually picked it up as motivation to go to the gym (haha). I think this made me like it a little bit more than I would’ve otherwise because it helped distract me from the fact that I was sitting on a stationary bicycle, sweating my guts out.

I love that there is another book about book lovers for book lovers, and this one with an unconventional match: the surfer god. Amy and Toff’s friendship-to-lovers relationship is cute and flirty and fun. Unfortunately, we don’t go much beyond that. The characters had little glimpses of depth, but we never camped out there, it was mostly just mentioned in passing. The plot was a bit dry in parts, as well, making me wish for more meat to it. I’m still a little confused about why Amy asked Toff to help her with a book contest, but reading about them working together was enjoyable.

One thing I really struggled with is the overuse of pop culture and book references. Obviously some book references would be expected of a girl who spends her life between pages, especially books that are helpful for the plot or character development, but the titles were thrown about willy nilly, making me feel like the author just wanted to see how many book references she could cram in. I’m also really not a fan of frequent name dropping in pop culture references because I feel like it has the potential to age the book badly.

The writing was chunky and a little juvenile for a book with older teens with an active sex life. I have several sentences that I highlighted because they were awkward or just didn’t make sense (the editor in me–oops), but I eventually gave up. Since I was reading the eARC, I really hope more edits were made before the final print, but I was not able to connect enough to this book to have any desire to find out myself. Amy and Toff were a fun, surface level glance, but not engaging enough to think about them after the book is over.

Book Review – Irish Magic

Title: Irish Magic
Author: Susan B. James
Published: August 2019
Genres: Adult, Comedy, Contemporary, Romance

Rating: 2 stars
Cover: It’s okay

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Synopsis:

She needs a hero. He needs a break.
A four-leaf clover, a leprechaun with a mission, and a matchmaker may have other plans for them.

What do you do when everything goes wrong?
Make a wish to a four-leaf clover, right?
There’s no other logical way out of it!

A bitter end to her engagement turned novelist Kate Carnahan’s hero into a snarky disaster. With a deadline looming, Kate’s willing to try anything to find a new hero even wishing on a four-leaf clover.

But a clover wish is a heart wish. Everyone knows that! When part leprechaun, Bradley Flynn, is charged with finding Kate’s true love for her, he calls on Essie O’Callaghan, the Hereditary Matchmaker of Cluhalaugh who happens to have a mission of her own.

Dr. Michael Walshe had a ring in his pocket when he walked in on his girlfriend sleeping with her costar. He wants no part of Essie’s plan to find him a wife.

Fate – or something more leprechaun shaped – has Kate and the doctor bumping into each other wherever they go in Ireland. Will Kate realize that Michael could be far more to her than the cure to her writer’s block?

Thank you to Susan B. James, Soul Mate Publishing, and Xpresso Book Tours for a free eARC in exchange for an honest review.

I love stories that take place in the beautiful island of Ireland, and I was excited for a magical element through some leprechaun lore. Two people who are down in their luck somehow end up running into each other every turn they make on their individual vacations. Both have experienced a series of hurtful experiences that make them both lackluster toward the idea of new love, but with the help of a very friendly leprechaun who isn’t allowed to use his magic, they might just learn to embrace the wonderful unknowns of a new relationship.

While there was so much potential for a truly magical story, it just needed a ton of work. Much of the dialogue was awkward, transitions were missing, and changes in emotions weren’t followed well. I wish there had been more fact checking–one part in particular that stuck with me was the fact that the characters said Nintendo doesn’t exist anymore and they played Mario Kart on an Xbox. I texted my fiancé immediately when I read this, and he started laughing. I’m guessing James is hoping her audience doesn’t play video games?

For being a predominantly romance-driven book, I found the scenes where the sexual tensions build to be lacking. The sex was extremely fast and there is even a part where one character believes the only reason she could be so sexually attracted to the other character is because she’s been possessed by a random ghost that made an appearance a page or so ago.

I found myself wanting to read more about what’s at stake for each of the characters, or even understand more of the half-baked side romance stories. Kate is the character who gets the most background in this area, but I wanted more from the others instead of reading Kate go through the same exact internal struggle every few hours. I think the reason I am being so critical is because I see so much potential for this story, I just wish it could’ve gone through several more edits before it arrived here.

Book Review – Rebound Boyfriend

Title: Rebound Boyfriend (Varsity Girlfriends #3)
Author: Daphne James Huff
Published: April 2019
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Goodreads

Rating: 2 Stars
Cover: It’s okay

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Synopsis:

I am 100%, completely, totally over Jeremiah.

After all, he’s the one who dumped me.
For my best friend.
Via text message.
Two days before Christmas.

So I did what any self-respecting head cheerleader would do: I started dating his teammate. Who’s great. Really.

But now Jeremiah keeps looking at me like he misses holding me just as much as I miss being in his arms. And we’ve been paired up for the most important history project of my entire life.

Can my heart survive this? Or should I hope for another shot with the only boy I’ve ever loved?

Rebound Boyfriend is a sweet second chance sports romance you’ll swoon over instantly. It’s the third book in the Varsity Girlfriends series.

“Everyone who knew how to make things better had left me. This was all on me to figure out” (chapter 26)

Thank you Kayla Tirrell and the Varsity Girlfriends team for a free copy in return for an honest review.

This story left a bitter taste in my mouth. I didn’t find any of the characters to be engaging or redeeming, except for possibly parts with Jeremiah. I tried not to go into this story with any time of YA cheerleader stereotypes, but this story stuck pretty close to the script. All of the girls were whiny and superficial. Sammi just wasn’t very likable, which made it hard to empathize with her while she’s dealing with heartache.

Things that made me frustrated: Sammi’s best friend was extremely manipulative. There’s a line between trying to help your friend get over their ex and forcing them to do things to make that happen, and Staci for sure crosses that line completely. I also didn’t like Sammi’s relationship with Ryan–or really Ryan at all. He was annoying and I couldn’t make sense of anything he did. Sammi’s decision to train him to be a good boyfriend was a really half-assed plot device and wasn’t fleshed out well at all. And finally, the reveal of why Jeremiah broke up with Sammi, even though he was clearly not over her, was extremely anti-climatic and pretty silly.

I did very much enjoy some of the scenes between Sammi and Jeremiah, specifically when they were working on their history project. The chemistry between them was fun to read.