Book Review: Bittersweet by Sabrina Bowen

Bittersweet by Sabrina Bowen

Series: True North #1

Published: June 14, 2016

Rating: 3/5

Romanceopoly 2020: Farmers Market

Goodreads

If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the orchard.

The last person Griffin Shipley expects to find stuck in a ditch on his Vermont country road is his ex-hookup. Five years ago they’d shared a couple of steamy nights together. But that was a lifetime ago.

At twenty-seven, Griff is now the accidental patriarch of his family farm. Even his enormous shoulders feel the strain of supporting his mother, three siblings and a dotty grandfather. He doesn’t have time for the sorority girl who’s shown up expecting to buy his harvest at half price.

Vermont was never in Audrey Kidder’s travel plans. Neither was Griff Shipley. But she needs a second chance with the restaurant conglomerate employing her. Okay—a fifth chance. And no self-righteous lumbersexual farmer will stand in her way.

They’re adversaries. They want entirely different things from life. Too bad their sexual chemistry is as hot as Audrey’s top secret enchilada sauce, and then some.

I first came upon Sabrina Bowen last year when I fell in love with the Him series she cowrote with Elle Kennedy. Because Farmer romances aren’t my normal reading fare and I needed to meet the requirement for my romanceopoly pick, I felt that Bittersweet was the perfect introduction into her other works.

While there were aspects about this book that I really liked, the main character wasn’t one of them. Audrey seemed very out there – who goes to a farm dressed in heels and a mini skirt? Multiple times before trying to get more suited clothing?!?! I appreciated that she was driven and wanted to achieve her goals of one day being a chef/owner of her own restaurant, but we never even get to see those goals come to fruition in this installment (it is a series, so perhaps there are glimpses later on when exploring the other characters). While Griff seemed very willing to support her and compromise on traveling etc. to see her, she didn’t seem as willing to compromise for him – but maybe I’m reading too far into it, because Griff isn’t a perfect decision maker either.

Griffin is definitely a hotty though, and one that is willing to do anything to put his family first, even put his own happiness on the line. He was the one that I felt the most for emotionally throughout the whole book, and was one hot farmer hero.

When reading the synopsis of the book, it can be assumed that a large part of the tension going into this relationship is a “love lost” kind of story, with the characters previously knowing each other from college. I felt that this was kind of underdeveloped as its only mentioned a handful of times, plus how can there be loads of tension when you only know a person biblically?

While most of the conflict was resolved by the end of the book, I still felt there was something lacking from giving me a satisfying ending. I’m not sure if I would like to continue the series, but I suppose that time will tell if I pick up the next one, following a side character in this novel.

Halfway to the Grave by Jeanine Frost

Halfway to the Grave by Jeanine Frost

Series: Night Huntress #1

Published: October 30, 2007

Rating: 3/5

Romanceopoly: Burger Joint

Goodreads

Half-vampire Catherine Crawfield is going after the undead with a vengeance, hoping that one of these deadbeats is her father – the one responsible for ruining her mother’s life. Then she’s captured by Bones, a vampire bounty hunter, and is forced into an unlikely partnership.

In exchange for help finding her father, Cat agrees to train with the sexy night stalker until her battle reflexes are as sharp as his fangs. She’s amazed she doesn’t end up as his dinner – are there actually good vampires? Pretty soon Bones will have her convinced that being half-dead doesn’t have to be all bad. But before she can enjoy her status as kick-ass demon hunter, Cat and Bones are pursued by a group of killers. Now Cat will have to choose a side … and Bones is turning out to be as tempting as any man with a heartbeat

In my search for a new PNR series to gobble down, I came across the work of Jeanine Frost (who came highly recommended by Ilona Andrews) and decided to give her first series a try.

This book was first published in the mid 2000’s, and it did show its age a little. Published in the midst of the Twilight vampire phase, the heroine seems to be a “Mary Sue” – a hard-headed and sometimes foolish girl who ultimately ends up winning out in the end. Admittedly, Cat is relatively young in this book and has a lot to explore in the world outside the sphere of her overbearing and vengeance-driven mother.

Bones (the vampire hero) was the best part of this book. Who doesn’t love a sexy, snarky, vampire boyfriend? For someone who was a few hundred years old, he was very much with the times with platinum died hair and lingo to keep up with all the college-aged kids. While I can understand his initial attraction to the heroine (she is, after all, a bad ass vampire hunter), the continuation of their relationship got a little stale throughout the book because she continues to act in childish ways. I find it hard to believe a vampire of multiple centuries would find such silly actions attractive – but I guess I’m not really in Bones’ head so I can’t say what his motivations are.

While the main focus (for me at least) is the romance, there is plenty of action and a decent plot to carry on the clear air between the steamy scenes. Having a vampire that is also a vampire bounty hunter is a somewhat unique trope to me which makes up for the vampire/vampire hunter relationship which has become a bit more common.

The book ends on a bit of a cliffhanger, so I did immediately have to pick up the next one in the series and that review will be coming soon! Overall this was an interesting start to a series, one that I am interested in continuing. However, I think that I will have to take this one book at a time because the heroine is one that could get on my nerves quite easily.

Reading Goals for the New Year

A new year, a new set of goals (its largely the same me though). Last year, I tried to focus my TBR for the 2019 Beat the Backlist challenge. Of the books that I put on my “official” TBR, I finished a resounding one – the second book in the Fallen Kingdoms series to be exact. However, I’m not sure I would count that one as a win considering I had the entire series on my TBR. In 2018, I tried to read a classic a month which was a challenge that I truly enjoyed. So the question is, what should I focus on in 2020?

I’ve thought up some goals for myself and some challenges that I’m interested in trying (although I’m not sure how many I will stick to throughout the year) and wanted to share my findings here! Those that are external challenges contain links back to the page. By the way I have no official affiliation other than as an eager participant!

1. Mountain Reads of 2020 (personal goal) – I have a lot of super long books resting on my TBR that just seem too intimidating to start. One of the goals I want to work towards is knocking some of these books off my list. I’m aiming for 6 for the year, which will give me about 2 months to finish each of them. Some of these picks might include: War and Peace, The Priory of the Orange Tree, and The Count of Monte Cristo.

2. Beat the Backlist 2020NovelKnight does such a wonderful job providing resources and a fun challenge for the year. I’ll be participating in this one again because I feel that it helped me attempt to focus on some of the hundreds (unfortunately not an exaggeration) of books sitting on my shelves unread. There are also some #bookstagram prompts each month!

3. #Romanceopoly – This is a challenge that I haven’t participated in before, but I found out about it from instagram posts and it sounds super fun. Romanceopoly is hosted by Under the Covers Book Blog and Peace Love Books and has lots of events and ways to keep romance readers interested. Who wouldn’t want to combine your TBR with a boardgame?! There are readathons, mystery challenges, and more! The 2020 info is now out so check out the link for awesome printables and other fun things!

4. 2020 Classics Challenge (personal goal) – I really enjoyed focusing on reading classics two years ago, so I figure I will bring this mini challenge back for 2020 while making it a bit more lax. I’m hoping to read 6 “classic” books this year on top of all the romance, and mountain reads, and backlist books! Some of these may overlap with my mountain reads, and some may not. Some I’m hoping to get to are: The Count of Monte Christo, Crime and Punishment and 1984.

5. Goodreads Challenge – The ever present challenge that is just a number of books to read in a year. Because I’m hoping to tackle so many big books and I don’t want to put any undue stress on myself, I’m bumping my yearly total down to 50 books. Two years ago I was able to read 100 because of all my free time while wrapping up college, but times a change and unfortunately my reading has decreased along with my free time.

What challenges are you setting for yourself and/or participating in the new year?

Book Review: On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves

On the Island by Tracey Garvis Graves

Published: June 7, 2012

Rating: 4/5

Anna Emerson is a thirty-year-old English teacher desperately in need of adventure. Worn down by the cold Chicago winters and a relationship that’s going nowhere, she jumps at the chance to spend the summer on a tropical island tutoring sixteen-year-old T.J.

T.J. Callahan has no desire to go anywhere. His cancer is in remission and he wants to get back to his normal life. But his parents are insisting he spend the summer in the Maldives catching up on all the school he missed last year.

Anna and T.J. board a private plane headed to the Callahan’s summer home, and as they fly over the Maldives’ twelve hundred islands, the unthinkable happens. Their plane crashes in shark-infested waters. They make it to shore, but soon discover that they’re stranded on an uninhabited island.

At first, their only thought is survival. But as the days turn to weeks, and then months, the castaways encounter plenty of other obstacles, including violent tropical storms, the many dangers lurking in the sea, and the possibility that T.J.’s cancer could return. As T.J. celebrates yet another birthday on the island, Anna begins to wonder if the biggest challenge of all might be living with a boy who is gradually becoming a man.

This book first came on my radar because of a post on bookstagram. Admittedly, its not one that I would typically pick up for myself as I’m not a huge fan of reading age gap romances, but I am glad I did. I felt that this romance was very well done, with a lot of the emphasis on survival at first and a romance that develops naturally.

I believed the development of both characters was believable, and that both of them were likeable and made understandable decisions. This may sound like I’m setting the bar pretty low, but I’ve had some…interesting last couple of reads.

The romance is sweet and takes time to develop, and the sex scenes aren’t overwhelming or over-the-top. The only thing that really had me raising my eyebrows in this book was the fact that they were able to survive so long on a tiny island with limited resources. The protagonists were a little more than lucky more than a few times, so if you’re looking for realistic survival tips mixed in with your romance look elsewhere.

This book was actually going to be my first read for #Romanceopoly 2020 (and still is going to be, I guess I just started a bit early lol). I picked it up to read the first few pages and see if its something I would actually enjoy, and ended up finishing it in one afternoon. So I would say it is definitely un-putdownable and would recommend it to anyone looking for a quick read!