The Book Barrio

A Blog for Fantasy and Romance Readers

Review: Sebring by Kristen Ashley


Sebring by Kristen Ashley

Genre: Modern Romance


Nick Sebring has revenge issues. An evil gangster caused the death of his ex-girlfriend, and he wants to take that gangster down. So he woos the gangster’s daughter, Olivia Shade, with the hopes that he’ll get her to trust him and reveal the family secrets. But since this is a Kristen Ashley novel, he falls in love with his enemy’s daughter instead.

I must say that I have followed this author ever since I first discovered the Fantasyland series, and really liked it. You see, when you first experience reading a Kristen Ashley novel, it’s like being a dog from the mountains that suddenly gets its first city experience. Her writing style is light and fun. The heroines are full of nutty personality. And no matter how lengthy and stretched out the story is, you just can’t look away and keep asking for more. Her books are like never ending Happily Ever Afters that you binge read on all the time. That being said, it is unfortunate that this book is the book that makes me want to not read another Kristen Ashley book.

Instead of the usual can-i-please-have-more reaction, I just felt sick of it in the I-can’t-eat-my-favorite-food-anymore way. I’ve read all the other books by this author. And the writing is always superb. But I just did not find anything different or interesting in this book. It is like every other book that she has written. The plot seems like all the other plots she has written. The hero and heroine are just similar to her other characters, except with different names. Nothing makes these characters different. The book is good in the way that a novel by Kristen Ashley is good. It has her unique style and all. But it’s definitely not her best work, and it’s too similar to her past work that I should have just re-read her past work instead.

Rating: 2 Stars 😦



Review: The Score (Off Campus #3) by Elle Kennedy


The Score by Elle Kennedy

Genre: Romance, New Adult


The Score by Elle Kennedy is a College Romance. It is the 3rd book in the author’s Off Campus series. Having enjoyed the other books in the series, I immediately pushed this up on my to-read list. Allie is Hannah’s (Book 1 heroine) best friend. They’re roommies. When Allie decides to break up with her long time boyfriend, she needs a hiding place so she can avoid the stalker ex-boyfriend. Hannah’s boyfriend, Garrett, who just so happens to be on a weekend vaca with Hannah, offers to let Allie stay in his room for the weekend. He gives his housemate, playboy extraordinaire, Dean, instructions NOT to hit on Allie. But of course, Dean does definitely hit on Allie, while she’s drunk and feeling vulnerable from the break up. Hot rebound sex ensues.

What starts from a one night stand escalates into a lust fest between the two main characters. Dean is a manwhore, and Allie is the shy type who has the golden vagina that will change his ways. I swear this book has so much sex scenes that I could probably label it as an almost-erotica. I liked the chemistry between the main characters.

The story is expertly done. Its’s not just all about the sex. We see a couple that starts from being just in lust, into being in love. Nevertheless, this book isn’t as memorable as the first book in the series, The Deal, which remains my favorite. (If you haven’t this series yet, the first book, The Deal is $0.99 on Kindle today.) The Score, won’t get you re-reading anytime soon. But it’s a quick, enjoyable read for Romance lovers who need an HEA fix.

Rating: 3 Stars

8 Ways to Find Books to Read

Happy New Year everyone! Let’s start the year right by having a ton of books on our to-read shelves. Here are 8 ways to find your next good read.
1. Goodreads. This is the best social media website for book lovers. People all over the world write reviews about the books they’ve read. I find the reviews written on Goodreads often seem more sincere than the reviews written on Amazon. If you don’t have an account, then make one now and explore  friends’ bookshelves, listopia (for lists of best books in any category), groups (forums) and reader reviews.

2. Book Blogs. I get notified of new releases mostly through the book blogging community. Book bloggers usually give the most informative book reviews and updates on book deals.

3. Amazon. One of my favorite ways to find books is through Amazon’s “Customers who bought this item also bought” section. I just go to the amazon pages of my favorite books and look at what other books people are buying too.

4. Mobilism. Yes, I know it’s one the biggest websites for downloading ebooks illegally. But it’s also a good way to find out what’s hot. You can see which books have the most downloads for the day, week or month, and just find out what people are reading in general. Take note though, that most authors are not bazillionaires, and they would totally appreciate it if you buy their books.

5. Your local bookstore. Browsing bestseller lists from my local bookstore is usually a good way to find books too. Mostly, these lists can convince me to try books that I’ve heard of but am not too keen on reading. There’s something tempting about holding a hardback with a lush book cover.

6. Instagram. There’s a whole community of people who love sharing pictures of books that they love in an artsy fartsy way. Looking at bookstagrams make me positively envious of the hardbacks and book collections that others have. Not to mention the mad photography skills.

7. Buzzfeed books. They sometimes come up with lists like The 24 Best Literary Debuts of 2015

8. Twitter. Stalk your favorite authors. Randomly ask anyone for a rec. You’ll find that most people are usually eager to talk about books that they love. I’ve discovered a few books this way myself.

Wishing you a good year of reading this 2016!

Review: Well of Ascension (Mistborn 2) by Brandon Sanderson


Genre: Fantasy


The impossible has been accomplished. The Lord Ruler – the man who claimed to be god incarnate and brutally ruled the world for a thousand years – has been vanquished. But Kelsier, the hero who masterminded that triumph, is dead too, and now the awesome task of building a new world has been left to his young protégé, Vin, the former street urchin who is now the most powerful Mistborn in the land, and to the idealistic young nobleman she loves.

As Kelsier’s protégé and slayer of the Lord Ruler she is now venerated by a budding new religion, a distinction that makes her intensely uncomfortable. Even more worrying, the mists have begun behaving strangely since the Lord Ruler died, and seem to harbor a strange vaporous entity that haunts her.

Stopping assassins may keep Vin’s Mistborn skills sharp, but it’s the least of her problems. Luthadel, the largest city of the former empire, doesn’t run itself, and Vin and the other members of Kelsier’s crew, who lead the revolution, must learn a whole new set of practical and political skills to help. It certainly won’t get easier with three armies – one of them composed of ferocious giants – now vying to conquer the city, and no sign of the Lord Ruler’s hidden cache of atium, the rarest and most powerful allomantic metal.

As the siege of Luthadel tightens, an ancient legend seems to offer a glimmer of hope. But even if it really exists, no one knows where to find the Well of Ascension or what manner of power it bestows.


So I’ve been binge reading the Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson. After the events of the first book, The Final Empire, the characters are now facing the consequences of their actions. In short, they’re trying to keep things together amidst all the chaos they started.

I really like the fantastical elements of these books. Brandon Sanderson continues to expand the Empire. We learn more about the world and the magic. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this series is worth the read if only to witness the amazing world building that Brandon Sanderson is a master of. The world continues to grow, we learn about some of its history and the things to come. We also get to see Vin and Elend grow into themselves. They face up to the challenges and we see how their characters change and yet not change. I particularly like how Elend learns to take command and be a king, while still holding up his ideals.

My one complaint remains the same though, that the romance between Vin and Elend feels bland. There are some lovely Vin & Elend parts, but I need something more to make their love epic. Their love is more like a pleasant love rather than the soul destroying kind. It’s probably because they have so much to give to the people, and with everything that is happening, a lot of other things have to come first.

We see more of the side characters and learn about their lives, which is a definite plus. The action, politics and scheming will keep you turning pages until you reach the end. Not a moment of boredom in the Well of Asecnsion. And good news, the ending left me wanting to read the next book asap. So that’s what I did.

Rating: 4 Stars

Links: Goddreads | Amazon

Review: Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover


Genre: Romance, New Adult


At twenty-two years old, Sydney is enjoying a great life: She’s in college, working a steady job, in love with her wonderful boyfriend, Hunter, and rooming with her best friend, Tori. But everything changes when she discovers that Hunter is cheating on her—and she’s forced to decide what her next move should be.

Soon, Sydney finds herself captivated by her mysterious and attractive neighbor, Ridge. She can’t take her eyes off him or stop listening to the passionate way he plays his guitar every evening out on his balcony. And there’s something about Sydney that Ridge can’t ignore, either. They soon find themselves needing each other in more ways than one.

A passionate tale of friendship, betrayal, and romance, Maybe Someday will immerse readers in Sydney’s tumultuous world from the very first page.


Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover is quite the angsty read. After breaking up with her cheating boyfriend, Sydney finds herself attracted to Ridge, the guitar player whose music she loves. The problem is that Ridge has a girlfriend who he loves very much.

I can’t say much without giving the story away. This is the book you read when you trust Colleen Hoover. The story addresses so many things. Like how it is possible to fall in love with two different people, and how some actions have certain consequences. It’s very emotional, high drama, with some light humor sprinkled on top. I can see that it could make some other people cry, but not me. Angst junkies will love this book, plus it’s also one of the Top Romances of 2014.

Rating: 4 Stars

Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Review: Beautiful Player by Christina Lauren


Genre: Romance


A bombshell bookworm. A chronic Casanova. And a lesson in chemistry too scandalous for school.

When Hanna Bergstrom receives a lecture from her overprotective brother about neglecting her social life and burying herself in grad school, she’s determined to tackle his implied assignment: get out, make friends, start dating. And who better to turn her into the sultry siren every man wants than her brother’s gorgeous best friend, Will Sumner, venture capitalist and unapologetic playboy?

Will takes risks for a living, but he’s skeptical about this challenge of Hanna’s…until the wild night his innocently seductive pupil tempts him into bed- and teaches him a thing or two about being with a woman he can’t forget. Now that Hanna’s discovered the power of her own sex appeal, it’s up to Will to prove he’s the only man she’ll ever need.


I decided to read Beautiful Player by Christina Lauren because I saw it ranked high on the Top Romances of 2014 List on Goodreads. Given the many votes, I was ready to be swept away.

Hanna, is a total nerd. She’s been spending her days in the laboratory instead of having a social life. So her brother enlists the help of his Best friend Will, who is supposed to check in on Hanna and make sure that she has a social life. Yes, this is one of those fall-in-love-with-the-brother’s-best-friend tropes, which I normally don’t like that much. But at the same time, it’s also one of the friends-to-lovers plots, which I happen to really really like.

The friendship is genuine, and I like how they gradually develop feelings for each other, which eventually makes for really hot sex. I love the dialogue between Will and Hanna. There is some humor. Will is such a player and Hanna is also endearing. What I do not like is all the uncertainty about the status of their relationship, whether it’s casual or exclusive and how it’s hurting them both inside. I just feel that it dragged a bit too much.

Overall, I would recommend this to anyone looking for a nice romantic read.

Rating: 4 Stars

Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Review: The Final Empire (Mistborn 1) by Brandon Sanderson


Genre: Fantasy


In a world where ash falls from the sky, and mist dominates the night, an evil cloaks the land and stifles all life. The future of the empire rests on the shoulders of a troublemaker and his young apprentice. Together, can they fill the world with color once more?

In Brandon Sanderson’s intriguing tale of love, loss, despair and hope, a new kind of magic enters the stage – Allomancy, a magic of the metals.


I first discovered Brandon Sanderson from his Youtube Lectures on Creative Writing. I found his class very useful and practical for fantasy writers.

When I was browsing through my kindle, I saw the Mistborn series parked there and thought I’d give it a try.

The Final Empire is about an oppressive fantasy world, wherein the Skaa are treated as slaves. A band of thieves decide to take on the task of overthrowing the tyrannical rule of the Lord Ruler. Each of them has their own special ability that involves using metals to manipulate emotions, gather strength, push or pull on objects, etc.

About a third into the book, I began to realize that I’ve read it before. I recognized some scenes in the book, particularly the scenes involving a budding romance, which was maybe even less than 5% of the entire book. It wasn’t enough for me to recall the entire plot, magical laws, and politics. But something clicked and I just knew that it was something that I have already read before. The experience was both new and old.

I liked the premise of the book. I was fascinated with the character’s manipulation of different metals. I had to suspend my disbelief at some of the magical elements. My favorite parts are the plotting and scheming. I could not put the book down, the plot is fast paced and action packed.

My main criticism is that some of the characters lack depth in their relationships. (Here comes a slightly spoilery part.) I think that Vin and Elend’s relationship is too shallow. They need more time to develop a deeper bond to justify their declaration of love. Same goes for the band of thieves. They always talk about working together, being crazy and taking risks, but there isn’t much backstory to them. I never saw the reasons for the depth of their friendship, and what makes them loyal to each other.

I think this flaw is also what led me to forget about the story after I read it the first time. The Final Empire is not the kind of story that stays with the reader forever or leaves a big stamp in one’s mind. That’s how I felt after reading Harry Potter, and the Name of the Wind. And The Final Empire failed to do that for me. The characters in the Final Empire are not real enough to live beyond the pages of the book.

Nevertheless, it’s very fun and enjoyable. The world-building and magical laws alone make this book well worth the read.

Rating: 4 Stars

Link: Amazon

Book Review: The Glass Arrow by Kristen Simmons


Genre: Young Adult Dystopian


In a world where females are scarce and are hunted, then bought and sold at market for their breeding rights, 15-year old Aya has learned how to hide. With a ragtag bunch of other women and girls, she has successfully avoided capture and eked out a nomadic but free existence in the mountains. But when Aya’s luck runs out and she’s caught by a group of businessmen on a hunting expedition, fighting to survive takes on a whole new meaning.


The Glass Arrow is a YA dystopian story. As is usually the case with these kinds of books, the world is somewhat depressing. The society is exaggeratedly patriarchal to the point wherein women are treated as property. They are broodmares to be sold to the highest bidders.

I wouldn’t exactly describe this as an entertaining read. Given the nature of the society, the heroine is in danger for most of the novel, from the moment she gets captured and is being prepared for auction. Her main goal throughout the book is to escape from the city so that she reunite with her family and hide out in the wilderness. And even then there is always the chance that trackers may find her and enslave her again.

With that kind of society, one can only get certain level of freedom. I admire heroine’s fighting spirit. She never gives up. The romance is light, nothing swoon-worthy.

There is some violence here but it wasn’t too disturbing. Instead, I suggest bracing yourself for the harsh and depressing world. One usually has to be in a certain mood for these kinds of stories.

Rating: 3 stars


10 Book Gifts that will make you look Savvy

It is a truth not universally acknowledged that our book gifts are an accurate reflection of our intellect. Because we don’t want to gift the latest Romance Erotica novel, and then have that person think that our heads are just full of smut, even if they are. (I hate being judged that way, but it happens.) It really depends on who you are gifting to, but sometimes it’s also wise to play it safe.

Here are some less-risky book gift ideas, for the book people that you don’t really know well. These are for the people you want to impress because more than anything, you care about what they would think of you.

  1. This Game of Thrones Box Set that is not just any box set. Because this one’s in Hardcover and published with beautiful smooth white paper. It tells the recipient that you have taste, and that you are one of the cool guys. 51ewhymzlil-_sy440_bo1204203200_
  2. The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen, because strong female character with no love triangle = “feminism.” The respect is instantaneous. 18712886
  3. The Shadow and Bone (Grisha Trilogy) by Leigh Bardugo because these books are not as mainstream as the YA superstars, Twilight, Harry Potter, and Hunger Games. So it’s got that secret recommendation feel to it. Plus there’s nothing negative to say about these books.27280362
  4. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern because it’s a work of art in an excellently descriptive way. I didn’t even understand what happened in the end but I still ended up liking it. The words are entrancing.13611052
  5.  A  Hardcover Box set of Austen’s works, or Dickens’ works. Classic hardcover books printed on quality paper are gorgeous. You can never go wrong with the Classics.51iyqjgqhyl-_sx456_bo1204203200_51twyvhr2el-_sx413_bo1204203200_
  6. This nice new Lost Ocean Coloring Book by Johanna Basford. Because coloring books are the latest trend and you have to keep up. lost-ocean-johanna-basford
  7. Travel Book because it’s always nice (and free) to dream of visiting faraway places. Plus travelling gives you that worldly feel. IMG_9407
  8. This super funny non-fiction by Jenny Lawson, Furiously Happy. It’s weirdly smart and a guaranteed good laugh.23848559
  9. My forever auto-gift, The Princess Bride by William Goldman. This is  the first book that I gift to people all the time. It has never failed me.
  10. If all else fails, anything from this list will do. Because nothing beats “real and serious” literature that nobody would ever dare to judge you for. Your gift may not always be read with supreme intensity, but the respect shall live forever. High five!

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