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BOOK REVIEW: Under Locke by Mariana Zapata

BOOK REVIEW: Under Locke by Mariana ZapataUnder Locke by Mariana Zapata
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Synopsis:

After moving to Austin following six months of unemployment back home, Iris Taylor knows she should be glad to have landed a job so quickly... even if the business is owned by a member of the same motorcycle club her estranged father used to belong to. Except Dex Locke might just be the biggest jerk she’s ever met. He’s rude, impatient and doesn’t know how to tell time.

And the last thing they ever expected was each other.

But it was either the strip club or the tattoo shop.

… she should have chosen the strip club.

He squeezed me to him, tight. “But you don’t gotta worry about anything. There’s only a few things I’ve ever given a shit about. Everything else… is seasonal, as Ma would say.” He pressed his mouth to my temple, whispering, “Then there’s you.”

That moment when you know an author has changed your life forever….it’s this one. This moment. Yes-I have posted only two other reviews previously for said author, but like with your love life-if you know, you know. And here? It’s unmistakable to me that Mariana Zapata was someone I was destined to find right when I needed a push for happiness in my life.

When exactly I’d started looking forward to spending time with him, I had no idea. When I started eating up those little smiles at Pins and those little secrets we shared… I have no idea either. But I had. I’d grown to accept the fact that I had a massive attraction to someone who might not be capable of liking me in return.

We can’t choose who/what we love (I mean… we can, but c’mon) or why we love it-sometimes something or someone just falls into your lap and it’s meant to be. And the emotions that are invoked when I pick up a Zapata book can’t be faked nor embellished. Nothing about these books are perfect-in fact, I’d even venture to say that my stuck up ass would have lifted my nose in the air not even two years ago and refused to finish this story because of some of the editing errors-few though as there are. But they’re perfect for ME, right now, here and in this moment. And I refuse to believe these characters wouldn’t have stolen my heart, anyway.

“Babe, I’ve handpicked everythin’ and everyone in here. I know what I want and I get what I want,” he breathed. “And I keep what’s mine.”

I won’t make this as long as my other Zapata reviews because, well, if you’ve heard me gush about one of her men, you’ve heard me gush about all of them, really. Her books tend to have the same formulas, the same macho-ness, the same heroine psycho-babble inside their minds….but, somehow, they always seem to touch me in different ways. How in the world do you explain that? But, I will say this: This is by far the most different MZ to date.

“What do you think?”
“Jaywalking?” I laughed.
“No.” I turned my head to look at him over my shoulder. “Indecent exposure?”
All he did was stare at me for the longest moment in history in response. When I snickered, he blinked, one side of his mouth tipping up just barely.
“I don’t think I’ve ever let anybody gimme as much grief as you do.”

The guy was a bit grittier, the story not a sports romance, and the end result a little different. Yes, there were a LOT of similarities-wonderful friends, hilarious banter, devoted man, amazing storyline, hate-to-love, but that’s, for me, where the similarities ended. For one, the guy in this book was a lot, hmm, gruffer. He wasn’t frills and flowers-he was a tattoo shop owner and a member of a motorcycle club. He didn’t conform to what I’m accustomed to, and I dug it-I dug it hard. And, MZ is the QUEEN of slow-burn, yes? Well, the MC’s get together MUCH earlier in this story so we have a lot more couple time-which I just plain adored. And this story-line, while not completely dastardly, had a more menacing undertone. So, ya know, just a smidgen (and I do mean SMIDGEN) of peril to dash on an already beautifully concocted sundae of feels.

His laugh was hard. “Honey, you and me, we’re more than just friends.”
And… I was dead. I had to be.
Dex scrubbed his fingers over his lips again, his glare violent. “Look at you. I never stood a fuckin’ chance.”

And, as always, my favorite parts included both jealousy of the MC (yaaassss Zapata), the slow burn, and the NEED to protect the heroine at all costs. So, naturally, what I always love in most any book-it just is always done so well, here. Now….like with any book, I’ll be candid-There was more here I could see people having a problem with than her other works. And it’s hard for me to say what those things are because they just plain don’t bother me. The only tic that lightly bothered me was Dex’s southern lilt. It was an adjustment for me, because I’m super picky with speech in stories. But, other than that, what might bother people include, but are not limited to, the virgin heroine storyline, the motorcycle=bad boy trope, the more ‘aggressive’ nature of Dex (fists first, questions later (SOMETIMES)), the possessive feel he has for Iris even when they aren’t together-NONE of this bothers me, and, frankly, tons of books have guys that get jelly and are possessive of the girl they adore, but I suppose, on top of everything else, this might be harder for others to swallow. Just my honest opinion, there. See? I can be rational and unbiased for the sake of others.

I finally had it though. Only one of us could be a moody shit, and that would be me.

And, finally, I just plain adored the sex scenes in this one. Yeah, I know, weird of me to say-but in every MZ you know there is at least ONE explosive scene we all wait for at the end….but I felt these sex scenes were, by far, the most well-written and the most addicting. Perhaps it has to do with the timing in the other stories where we wait so long that we are extremely picky, but I just know that this one was my favorite, so far, of the three. And, I’ll be honest, I just LOVE the bad boy/virgin trope. SORRY NOT SORRY.

I was swallowed whole by emotion. By this terrifying thing that had to be love because it hurt as much as it soothed.

Once again I have gushed myself into oblivion, but I did it with no frills and I think this is what this book needed and deserved. It wasn’t a cutesy sports romance like the others (they were far from cutesy but what else could I explain them as?), and it needed more subtle reviewing. I adored this book, like all the others, and I cannot wait to order my signed copy. I hope everyone continues to give this amazingly raw and honest author rave reviews-because she deserves all the hype. All of it.

*****

When you’re having a bad week and nothing else makes you happy-You’ll always have Zapata…

Nothing makes me happier or relaxes me more. Or, at least, that’s how I feel :)))

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BOOK REVIEW: From Lukov with Love by Mariana Zapata

BOOK REVIEW: From Lukov with Love by Mariana ZapataFrom Lukov with Love by Mariana Zapata
Purchase on: Amazon
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

If someone were to ask Jasmine Santos to describe the last few years of her life with a single word, it would definitely be a four-letter one.

After seventeen years—and countless broken bones and broken promises—she knows her window to compete in figure skating is coming to a close.

But when the offer of a lifetime comes in from an arrogant idiot she’s spent the last decade dreaming about pushing in the way of a moving bus, Jasmine might have to reconsider everything.

Including Ivan Lukov.

 

The most I’d ever seen out of him was a smile or two around his family, specifically Karina.
But that was it.
I hadn’t even known he knew how to laugh….
Unless he was doing something shitty, like taking people’s souls and stuff.

There are very few things in life I love as much as I love the books my favorite authors write. Even fewer still are the moments where I can’t even finish a page because I can’t seem to find the breath to support the amount of air in my lungs it takes to supply hosting a mass amount of butterflies inhabiting my stomach, throat, and chest cavities. I don’t do the dance where I can’t move on to another book very often…but this author, in the span of two months, has managed to do just that-make it impossible to read anything for a week or more after-with two novels I think I’ll take with me to my grave.

Me and Ivan?
Partnering? There was no way. No chance.
They had to be full of shit.
…right?

That’s right, bury me with my preciouses, because I can’t live without them now! Okay, sorry to get creepy, but, again, I’m very creepy. You should know this. How do you not know this? And, upon further inspection with a friend, it’s come to my attention that I am one picky starts with a ‘b’ and ends with an ‘itch’. See? My girl Zapata taught me that little trick. She has become my new favorite terrible influence.

You are who you are in life, and you either live that time trying to bend yourself to make other people happy, or… you don’t.
And I sure as hell had better things to do with my time.

I find it so hard, at the moment, to just zero in on one thing to talk about, because my brain is just flooded with all the epicness that was this novel (and I even have gone so far as to flood some Winnipeg moments in at the same time-Brain=FRIED). How do you compartmentalize what you love so deeply that it all makes you happy at the same time? How can I possibly communicate the cuteness that comes with this novel? I can’t. I really and truly can’t. So, I guess I won’t. I suppose I’ll just get on with what makes these books so special.

Figure skating had always made me feel invincible. But more than anything, back then, it had made me feel amazing. I hadn’t known it was possible to feel like you could fly.

The characters. Without the characters, I don’t think I’d give a darn about these books. And that’s the beauty of Mariana Zapata-her books are 100% character driven, and you care so deeply for Ivan and Jasmine, Aiden and Vanessa, that every little thing that happens to them rips and tears at your soul, makes you a puppet to their emotions, twisting and pulling at each and every hardship, failure, or triumph. These characters aren’t just characters, they’re YOU. They’re your BEST FRIENDS and soul mates and whatever you want them to be. You care THAT much about them. Or, at least, I did.

Ivan Lukov and Jasmine Santos have been enemies for years. From the moment they crossed paths (close enough, anyway) they’ve hated one another. And, come on, we all know it’s not as simple as that. But each and every interaction between the two had me cracking up silently (I lie-I guffawed long into the night, causing many looks from my husband wondering as to why I looked like a deranged loon) all night long. I’m not kidding-every time I picked this up, there wasn’t a scene that wasn’t hilarious.

Neither one of us said a word, but our eyes met.
And I mouthed you suck.
And he whispered back with his pale pink mouth, you suck more.
There was another sigh, but it sounded even more resigned. “My eyes work. I can read your lips. Both of them.”

And, if you’ve ever read a book by Zapata, you know that there is a hell of a lot of internal monologue (dialogue?). I JUST LOVE THIS. I don’t always in other books, but I do when it’s this author. She just knows how to tug on my heartstrings, how to reach my inner self-whether it’s for failures, triumphs, encouragement, or any little thing, she touches me in ways I can’t explain. Is it perfect? No. Far from it-but it should say something that I am not sitting here dissecting every little mistake, oversight, or overall imperfection, and instead singing the praises of this woman’s hard work. ‘Cuz writing books THIS LONG…and making me care?? That’s HARD to do. And she has THOUSANDS of fans who tend to agree with me-so yeah. Think on that.

Was I dying?
Was this what having you heart broken felt like? Because if it was, I was sure fucking glad I’d never fallen in love before because goddamn. My God.
It felt like my organs were rotting away.

Talent. Raw talent. And heart. You can’t fake this-it’s authentic and real and it reaches you in ways fancy words can’t. And with each new admission these two characters share, I became more and more enraptured, bound, and obsessed. It’s like crack. Truly, this is the definition of book crack.

Not because his last name was the same last name as one of my favorite people in the world, but because his first name reminded me of Satan. I was pretty sure his parents had adopted him straight out of Hell.

Alas, I keep repeating myself, so I will wrap this up with some fangirling (wait, isn’t that what I’ve been doing, you ask? YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE LEAST I CAN DO (hehe Cruel Prince shoutout WOOT WOOT).

Jealousy I had no right to feel, but couldn’t exactly ignore, pierced right through my sternum, and I hated it. I fucking hated it.

Ivan is the most decorated figure skater of all time, and Jasmine is…not. She skates at his family’s complex and has worked her ass off for years-all for nothing. These two are at each other’s throats every time they pass. And….I JUST LOVE IT. The things they say are absolutely horrible, but they give it as good as they get. He crosses lines that tear your heart out, and she misunderstands sooo many different things, guarding her heart against the guy that has been nothing but nasty to her since they met.

“You really want to wait around here for someone to come get you?” he asked, raising his eyebrows again.
He had me there.
But I also didn’t want to get into the car with him, so….
“Get in, loser.”
And that had me blinking. “Did you just quote—”

But when we start to see the change in Ivan, when he begins to defend her, when he starts to help her out, when the barbs get less sting and more affection…you just cannot-I repeat, CANNOT-defend your heart. You want Jasmine to open up, to see that he’s trying to be her friend-but how can she? After everything he’s done and said, she can’t give in that easily. And, she can’t forget, their contract is just for a year, just until his other partner comes back. She can’t let her heart get invested. But she’ll give it her all, her everything.

But I wanted to win. I wanted this. I’d always wanted it. I’d bled for it, cried for it, bruised for it, had broken bones, had concussions, pulled just about every muscle in my body, never made friends, never went to a single school anything, never loved anyone, ignored my family, all for this.

The obsession is real, yet, I don’t want to start gushing about Ivan like I thought I would-is that weird? I find I just want to bottle him up, keep his best moments to myself-maybe this is a more mature me but…I feel like I want y’all to find out for yourself, almost. It’s the oddest feeling. I mean, because, there’s really no way to express how I truly feel through just words (I’m not an author, after all), and I don’t want to hype it up [more than I already have] and ruin it for others. So, yeah. I’ll leave it, I guess.

Sometimes it’s easy to take something so essential to your existence for granted.

Or maybe I’m just tired. Who the HELL knows? Either way, I’ll leave you with my positive thoughts. Zapata’s men never want their girl to play the damsel in distress– they always want them to be more, to take care of themselves and to not let their weaknesses show-because they know how strong their girls are….it’s precious. But then, always always, always…they are the first to save them. To catch them before they fall. They are their biggest supporters, fans, friends, and teammates-they are their not-so-white-knights in shining armor. They don’t want them to lose themselves in their doubts or weaknesses, but they only want what’s best for them-it’s the most precious thing. They are their princesses in distress…and I can’t even.

And I love everything animal this woman creates…just lol. That’s all. So. Hope I didn’t ruin too much, say too much (or too little?). When I read books I love more than words can express, I find the reviews are 50 times harder to write. I really don’t know what else to say except…I love this author. I’ve now officially stalked all the things and have ordered two signed copies of her books, and I still have my unsigned Winnipeg copy I’d never part with, so I have three books [or I will]-with one that I already owned ha. If that’s not obsession…I really don’t know what is.

**SPOILER Quotes** MY FAVS EVER but do NOT read if you want don’t want moments ruined (and believe me-you wait far too long in these books to let this stuff be spoiled!

View Spoiler »

**********
Me, after these two Zapata books:

Sad…but true. I’m the equivalent of a shaking chihuahua with all the feels I can’t begin to handle.

This author. This author slays me. No book-NOT ONE BOOK-has made me want to stay up so late it’s almost morning in years…yet, between this book and TWOW, I have stayed up until 4 in the morning countless times to immerse myself in everything Ivan, Aiden, and Mariana Zapata. I love you, Mariana-I LOVE YOU. There is no way to come back from this obsession-no way. And I don’t want to. Not at all. This woman is my spirit animal….and these two books (Winnipeg and Lukov) are in a serious death match with one another over who will be my #1 2018 read….because it’s all them, baby. ALLL THEM. ALLLL THE FEELS. ALL OF THEM.

And two new amazing book boyfriends I would stand in front of and take a bullet for so early in the year?? COME ON NOW. I. Can’t. EVEN.

Review to Come.

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BOOK REVIEW: The Wall of Winnipeg and Me by Mariana Zapata

BOOK REVIEW: The Wall of Winnipeg and Me by Mariana ZapataThe Wall of Winnipeg and Me by Mariana Zapata
Purchase on: Amazon
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

Vanessa Mazur knows she's doing the right thing. She shouldn't feel bad for quitting. Being an assistant/housekeeper/fairy godmother to the top defensive end in the National Football Organization was always supposed to be temporary. She has plans and none of them include washing extra-large underwear longer than necessary.

But when Aiden Graves shows up at her door wanting her to come back, she's beyond shocked.

For two years, the man known as The Wall of Winnipeg couldn't find it in him to tell her good morning or congratulate her on her birthday. Now? He's asking for the unthinkable.

What do you say to the man who is used to getting everything he wants?

 

 With the covers pulled up to his chin, he looked too damn cute.
I hated it.
Why? Why him?
Of all the people in the world I could have chosen to think the world of, it had to be this one.

It’s been a long time since a book has made me look forward to bedtime-every night. It’s been an even longer time since I’ve had a book that consumes my every waking thought throughout the day. It’s been so long since I’ve woken up with a smile on my face, even after I’ve read long into the night. And I can’t REMEMBER the last time I’ve read a book so slow…only because I wanted to drag it out as long as I could. And frankly…this book was LONG.

I was going to murder his ass.
One day.
One day long after I quit, so no one would suspect me.

Staying up until 3 in the morning, prolonging each and every scene just to maintain that intense and high level of giddiness not found often anymore in books I love…this book was an anomaly. This book owned my heart. This book touched my soul. This book possessed me so wholly that I walked around everywhere with a smile on my face and a skip in my step-literally-just because I was so excited I got to read more of it.

I’d barely unplugged the vacuum and turned around to put everything back when I sucked in a breath and let out the girliest, most pathetic squeak in the universe. It wasn’t “ahh” or “eep”. It just sounded, well, I’m not sure what it sounded like, but I would never take credit for it.
Aiden stood there, not even two feet away, literally cloaked in the darkness of the hallway like a damn serial killer.

I truly can’t remember the last time I’ve genuinely thought about a book when every moment of my life is so busy. I’d be working out, and then I’d think OH! Winnipeg tonight, YES! I’d be typing something at work and then I’d be all-I CANNOT WAIT UNTIL BED TONIGHT-Aiden! Eeps! I’d pick up my phone randomly and text my friends (I think I picked on about 4 ish people as my fangirl victims) emojis, bitmojis, explanations as to why I loved this book so much in all caps…and, honestly, people really should know this about me. It’s a hazard that comes with my friendship. I’m a pusher -I PUSH PEOPLE.

Like a drug pusher??

HELL YES IM A BOOK DRUG PUSHER, OKAY?! Leave me alone!!!! (I really think it’s worth noting that I literally had that typed, those Mean Girl quotes, before I even looked up the exact wording…that’s skillz people. Or, you know, delusion). I just want to swim around with this floaty sensation I feel, this weightlessness of finding a book that makes me feel alive again (See GIF in pre-review-I STILL feel like that).

“What the hell, Aid? I’ve tried calling you a dozen times,” Trevor’s slightly higher tone started.
What did our household smart-ass respond with? “I know. I have caller ID.”

I have loved so many books already this year. I really have. I’ve already claimed some top favs. But none have even slightly compared to how I felt when reading this:

Answer? I don’t even know why. This became an absolute top favorite INSTANTLY. What book could possibly follow this one? Yes, Magnus is my love child and he has been my favorite finale this year… but it’s been so long since a book has made me laugh and giggle and swoon and just, I don’t know, forget. Nothing else mattered this past week while I was reading this. It made me so happy that I literally, and I do mean literally, drug it out so it would last longer so I wouldn’t have to face the reality that my favorite book this year is over already-and now nothing will compare for the rest of the year-or at least, most likely, months (okay, I’m likely being dramatic here).

Best quote ever-

“You’ve got this,” he repeated with more conviction. “You can do this.”
Now or never right? “I’ve got this.”
He made a light noise, a tender one. View Spoiler »

If I had read this years ago I’d have probably not liked it half as much as I did now. I don’t know what it was, if I’m being honest. Was it the time of my life? Was it because it was just something that fell into my lap? Or was it because I needed something so desperately to grab onto, to buoy me, to help me realize that real life can be addicting, too?

He was lucky I had a tiny, itty, bitty crush on him; otherwise, he would have gotten the shank years ago.

Fantasy is my favorite. ABSOLUTELY. But who doesn’t love a contemporary every now and again?? Who? If it’s done well, isn’t it just so fun and refreshing? Well. I love contemporary-but they are so hard to find. At least the addicting kinds are. And this book-it was so ordinary. Like-I kid you not-days and days go by where they hang out in his nook? His kitchen? I mean not all at once but…you get it: Life is life, and, well, they’re living it.

The problem with some people was that they didn’t understand the principle of things. The other thing with people was that some guys didn’t understand when to let shit go, so they kept pushing and pushing and pushing until you just said “fuck it.” That was exactly what Aiden did to me then.

And I loved the CRAP out of it. The simple touches we take for granted were electrifying. The moments they shared were catalysts to one of the most dramatic breathing escapades, for the last 30% of the book, I’ve fallen victim to. I kid you not, the last chunk of this book took me 2-3 days because I read it so slow and had such trouble computing the butterflies that choked my air passageways.

lmao. Austin Powers FTW.

And, if I’m being honest, that was probably an astute observation of what I truly looked like. My mind? Blown. But that doesn’t mean this story didn’t have its flaws. It did-a lot actually.

I bent down to unzip my suitcase and took all the clothing out to wash later when The Wall of Asswipe wasn’t hanging around.

There was repetitive phrasing (hate it), a trope I’ve never liked (can’t stand it), some human actions that happen on a cycle, and, shockingly, quite a few grammatical errors (ooohhhhh it gratessss) I couldn’t miss. Yes, I’m a nazi. Yes, I have tons of rules. But I have rules in place because I CARE. I care about ME. Team. Of. ME. I’m my biggest supporter-I love to read, but my time is limited. So If I start a new book, I better be sure it’s one I want to put time into. Case in point-I adored Everless and Cruel prince…but it took me a month to do those reviews. I JUST finished Winnipeg….and WTH am I laying here doing already??? Writing a review. ON MY PHONE, no less??? (It is approximately 2 am on a work night).

“Are you shaking?” he asked in a strange tone.
“Only a little bit.” I scooted an inch closer, soaking in the heat his body was throwing off.
Aiden sighed like I was torturing him while all I’d done was mind my own business in bed. “You’re fine.”

Aiden is the Wall of Winnipeg, the best defensive player in the NFO, and Vanessa is his assistant (And BOY is she over it). You can read the synopsis, I don’t need to break it down for you. All you need to know is this: Aiden begs her to come back (not how you’d think)…but with a new arrangement. The relationship these two share is just…SO CUTE. And I just loved how he didn’t care what ANYONE thought…except those he holds dear in his quiet, brooding heart.

What Aiden was saying didn’t add up with the man across from me. The one who rarely raised his voice in anger, hardly ever cursed, rarely fought with any of his opponents much less his teammates. Aiden was a low-level charge—determined, focused, disciplined.
And I knew way too well what it was like to be unimportant.
I wasn’t going to cry.

And the way she was always on his side, always there for him, even when he didn’t deserve it-ugh. So much love. I loved how he made things right, how he defended her to a fault. How he became the one person she could rely on, even when she never thought he’d ever give her the time of day. He slowly crept into my heart, making it swell larger (hmmm. Questionable word choice, unfortunately) with each moment that he opened his heart a little more and more. And I also just adore that he always cared for Vanessa in his weird way-even though he never showed it.

But Aiden wasn’t smiles and coyness. He didn’t know or care that he was unforgettable. He had a confidence that went deeper than that of a man who liked what he saw in the mirror; Aiden valued the skills he’d developed through hard work. He believed in every inch of himself. He cared about what he could do and pushed himself to be better than he was the day before, not any of the external crap so many other people valued so much.

And, not to mention, when he found his voice (Wow, it took a while) their banter just cracked me up. When he flirted with her? My heart literally stopped. I kid you not. And, I’ve thought about it over and over and over again…and I *THINK* my favorite part might just be the basketball game….but I have 100 different parts I keep going over in my head (Christmas morning, the elevator, Canada, the marathon, etc. etc. etc.). And her and Zac’s relationship-lmao. Wow. So so cute and so funny. I can’t even.

There was only so much cranky little bitch you can handle in a day, even if it was called for.

That’s right. I am fangirling. I am rejoicing. I am praising the beauties that be (Zapata-oh Zapata, you slay me. You have a forever fan) for the existence of this novel. No, there’s nothing new…but the feelings? Those are new. And really…what else do I need? Even after listing all the flaws I saw, I just can’t find it in my heart to continue with the negatives. I know it’s not perfect. OBVIOUSLY. Everyone that will pick this up can find flaws-even all of us who love it. It’s inevitable. But I just don’t care. I DO. NOT. CARE. And why should I? It helped me to escape the harsh reality that is life sometimes, and it even FELT realistic and close to real life to boot. So, again, I ask: What else do you need?

Oh, I’d heard him. Loud and clear. That was why I wanted to kill him.
Which basically showed how amazing the human mind was; how you could care about someone but want to slit his or her throat at the same time.

The answer is nothing…in case you were wondering 😉.

***************

This book was everything I never knew I wanted. IT. IS. MY. LIFE.

How I feel-

And THAT’s not even enough to show how I feel.

I literally wrote the review last night at TWO AM after I finished because I just could NOT wait to put my feels down onto a review, the likes of which hasn’t happened in YEARS.

Coincidentally, however, I won’t be posting it until tomorrow or Monday. Or Tuesday. Who knows.

Either way. I LOVE THIS DAMN BOOK.

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BOOK REVIEW – From Lukov with Love by Mariana Zapata

BOOK REVIEW – From Lukov with Love by Mariana ZapataFrom Lukov with Love by Mariana Zapata
Purchase on: Amazon
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

If someone were to ask Jasmine Santos to describe the last few years of her life with a single word, it would definitely be a four-letter one.

After seventeen years—and countless broken bones and broken promises—she knows her window to compete in figure skating is coming to a close.

But when the offer of a lifetime comes in from an arrogant idiot she’s spent the last decade dreaming about pushing in the way of a moving bus, Jasmine might have to reconsider everything.

Including Ivan Lukov.

Review:

My mom had always warned me that some people would always be eager to believe the worst. That was the unfortunate and shit truth. But I knew who I was and what I did. I couldn’t find it in me to regret it. At least most of the time. Maybe life would have been a lot easier if I’d had my sister’s sweetness or my mom’s personality, but I didn’t and I never would. You are who you are in life, and you either live that time trying to bend yourself to make other people happy, or… you don’t.

THIS BOOK. *incoherent mumbling* INSTANT TOP FIVE FAVORITE ROMANCE OF ALL TIME YOU GUYS, NO JOKE. I feel like I should apologize in advance for the number of lengthy quotes that will be in this review but if we’re being honest, I had WAY more highlighted and these were the ones I felt like I couldn’t live without. If you don’t end up wanting to read this book solely based on the quotes themselves…..then you must not have a heart, lol. But really.

But I wanted to win. I wanted this. I’d always wanted it. I’d bled for it, cried for it, bruised for it, had broken bones, had concussions, pulled just about every muscle in my body, never made friends, never went to a single school anything, never loved anyone, ignored my family, all for this. For this love that was greater than just about everything and anything I had ever known. For this sport that had given me the confidence to know I could get up after every fall I’d ever take.

I don’t even know where to begin here. I feel like this entire review is just going to be word vomit and fangirling and I am entirely alright with that so without further ado, I’ll dive right in. 

This book is about Jasmine Santos. Jasmine is a figure skater with hardcore determination. When we first start the book she’s in a bit of a slump. Her partner of three years ditched her without saying anything and because of her smartass/hardass mouth, she’s inherited the stigma of being hard to work with. Enter Ivan Lukov. Long-time enemy of Jasmine, total babe, world-champion pairs skater, and brother of Jasmine’s only friend (other than her family). It turns out that this tool of a guy (lol he’s really not tho) and his trainer want Jasmine to be the new half of his pair’s team and she’s just desperate enough for a win to agree.

Was I dying? Was this what having you heart broken felt like? Because if it was, I was sure fucking glad I’d never fallen in love before because goddamn. My God.

This was my first book written by Zapata so I really didn’t know what to expect going in other than seeing that it had a good rating already. What I did not expect was to fall so deep in love with these characters and their story that I would be fully immersed for a solid two days.

I’ll start with Jasmine since this book is about her. Right off the bat I loved her. She is so tough and BA and her inner monologues seemed to be pretty similar to my own sometimes (I’m a bit of a potty mouth so if you don’t like strong language, parts of this book might not be fun). You can tell she is SO passionate about figure skating and about her family and all of the sacrifices that she has made/ they have made for her throughout the years. Sometimes she can almost be too stubborn but I never got sick of it. For me, she was too real, too honest to ever dislike. Watching her go through the transformation that she did from cover to cover was incredible. I was so happy for her by the end when she realized that if she was going to win, it was going to be because she finally, truly believed in herself. Ugh what great character development.

“Is that a French bulldog?” We were already on the road and heading toward the nearest major freeway when Ivan nodded, his eyes on the rearview mirror. 
“Yes. The diva in the back is Lacey. She’s in time-out. I should’ve left her at home, but she can’t be in the car with anyone else other than Russ, and today’s his day for a ride.”

WHICH BRINGS ME TO IVAN LUKOV. Guys. He is….so good. The verbal sparring that went on between him and Jasmine was HILARIOUS. Oh man I was dying so many times laughing because of the horrible crap they said to each other..and his nickname for her. Lol, sigh. Really though, I also loved watching his journey, or at least the journey of Jasmine (and us as readers through her perspective) actually discovering who Ivan was as a person. He seems like such a stuck up, pretty boy at first until more of Jasmine’s walls get broken down and we see glimpse of this other Ivan. One that takes care of people when they’re sick and has five rescue pets that he treats like children (omg that part made die it was so cute). He is basically everything and to top it all off, is also the reason that Jasmine is able to have faith in herself—because he has an unwavering faith in her. It’s beautiful.

And after a beat, then five, I said, “We’ll win.” 
His gaze went even more intense as he said, with no hesitation, “You’re goddamn right we will.” He pressed his mouth, so quick, so hard against me, I didn’t have a chance to react until he pulled back an inch and said, hoarsely, his fingers threading through the damp hair right above the nape of my neck, “I’ll drag you back on the ice if I have to, Jasmine. I swear on my life.” Something about his words made me shake on the inside. Maybe it was the conviction. Maybe it was the anger. The passion. The reality that he wasn’t leaving me any room to not do what he said. Mostly though, it was something else completely. I loved him. I loved this man so much that losing him was going to break my cold, dead heart into so many pieces I was just going to have to stick them in the same box I kept my dreams and carry it around with me forever.

My other favorite part of this book was the Santos family. I come from a really close family myself and always love to read about other families that have close and hilarious dynamics such as this one. They all loved each other so much and meant so much to one another. I just about sobbed when Jasmine and Ivan were talking about how every family member has a specific favorite white Jasmine love them all equally, the good and the bad parts. I’m having a daughter (my first baby) mid-April and while the thought of being a mom is kind of scary, I know as long as I do my best to make sure that she knows that she is always loved and supported like Jasmine’s mom did with all of her children, then I know that I’ll be doing something right.

This was my partner. This was more than my partner. He was my other half. And the only thing I could do to thank him for this gift he’d given me, this knowledge that he thought I was invincible, was to make sure we won. I’d give him the thing he had wanted me for in the first place. I’d give him my fucking all.

So here it is. I honestly could probably go on to fangirl about this for another few thousand words but I hope you don’t need more to convince you. ESPECIALLY SINCE THE OLYMPICS ARE COMING UP. It’s relevant and just a damn good book. I honestly can’t wait to reread it again someday.

 
 

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