February 2022 Reads and Reviews

If last month was the month of light reading, this month was definitely the month of binging Kelly Oram’s books. After I finished reading the Shadow and Bone trilogy by Leigh Bardugo, I turned back to my newest favorite author. Yeah, I think it’s safe to say that Kelly Oram is becoming one of my favorites. Time will only tell if she has staying power. I’ll give you a run down of the books I read by her and two others that were not written by her.

Btw, did you know that Amethyst is the February birthstone? No? Well now you do.

V is for Virgin by Kelly Oram

When Val Jensen gets dumped for her decision to stay a virgin until marriage, the nasty breakup goes viral on YouTube, making her the latest internet sensation. Inspired by support she finds online, Val starts a campaign that goes national. As if becoming nationally recognized as “Virgin Val” isn’t enough, Val’s life starts to spin wildly out of control when Kyle Hamilton, lead singer for the hit rock band Tralse, decides to take her abstinence as a personal challenge.

I’m sure you will not be surprised to know that I loved this book. As someone who took her virginity as seriously as Val does, I really appreciated her stance. It was interesting to me, too, because Val doesn’t keep her vow of virginity due to a religion, but because of a promise to herself. Religion has no part of her personal vow, though it is shown as part of other’s decisions.

Kyle Hamilton, on the other hand, has no such vow and refuses to make that kind of vow. He also has a massive crush on, as he calls her, his favorite virgin. The first time these two meet, there’s sparks and I don’t mean the lovey-dovey kind. This back and forth goes on through the entire book, and I think it’s a testament to Oram’s writing that we don’t end up hating them. Beneath their bickering, Val and Kyle respect each other even if they don’t want to openly admit it.

I wouldn’t consider this an enemies-to-lovers read, in the end they’re barely friends, but maybe a meeting of two differing opinions. Val stays true to herself and I think that’s something very important. Kyle might want a chance with Val, but he respects her enough to take the time to see her side of things even if he doesn’t agree.

A is for Abstinence by Kelly Oram

Four years after Kyle Hamilton makes the most regretful decision of his life, he realizes that sex isn’t everything. Kyle decides he wants a do-over, a chance to reconnect with his favorite virgin. Val Jensen got under his skin like no one else ever has. He might not have been ready for her four years ago, but things are different now and he’s willing to do–or not do–whatever it takes to win her back.
Val is still holding on to her vow of virginity, but she’s taken more of a background roll in her thriving virginity and abstinence campaign. These days she’s focused more on connecting families looking to adopt. When she agrees to a “Where are They Now” television interview, she never suspects that Kyle Hamilton is waiting in the wings, or that he’s not the only surprise coming her way.

Since V is for Virgin is told by Val, it’s only fitting that A is for Abstinence is told by Kyle.

Kyle isn’t just willing to do whatever it takes to win back his dream girl, he does it publicly. The thing is, he’s not just doing it to get the girl. Kyle has actually had a change of heart and his old ways are not satisfying any more. He’s had a lot of heartache (that I won’t go into for spoiler purposes) in the last four years and the most recent (*ahem* thanks, Brian Oliver) makes him reevaluate where he is and what he really wants.

Of course it’s not complete smooth sailing for the couple. That’s not reality. There is a continuation of the respect they had for each other in the first book. I dare say that respect is the foundation on which their relationship builds, making it a healthy one. The biggest show of this, to me, is when Val and Kyle communicate. They don’t try to cover up or brush things under the rug. They have the hard conversations even at the most inconvenient of times. There’s no more dancing around the subject that they sometimes did in the first book.

I say that A is for Abstinence is a worthy successor and finale to V is for Virgin.

I also love it when an author connects their books, so if you want to know the deal about Brian Oliver, you can read my review of his book in January’s RaR post.

Serial Hottie by Kelly Oram

Hockey-obsessed tomboy, Eleanor Westly, has never been the object of a guy’s affection before. So when the hottest boy she’s ever seen moves across the street and starts treating her like she’s the center of his universe, naturally she’s going to be a little skeptical. Then girls who look just like Ellie start dying all around the city. Ellie’s convinced Seth is the Saturday Night Slasher. The more Ellie gets to know Seth, the more she’s convinced he’s a psychopathic killer. Except, if he’s a psychopathic killer then he’s the sweetest one alive. Soon Ellie’s not sure what to think, and her sister isn’t helping. Either Ellie has found true love, or this will be her last summer alive.

This is one of those books that I thought I knew where this was going. I was wrong. I was SO wrong. Which makes me happy. Did I think Seth was the killer? No. Is Seth the killer? You’ll have to read it to find out.

I will say that I wish Oram would write a full-length retelling of this from Seth’s point of view. Like, I really want to know what was going on in his head. She gives us a prequel and a retelling of the first chapter in his POV, which of course only makes me want more.

Sadly, this is a book where I don’t really feel like I can say too much for fear of giving anything away. So I will simply leave it at this: I recommend reading this book. It’s good. It’s also funny, which might be good for a book about a (maybe) psychopathic murderer.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg, a second class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother, and blamed for her stepsister catching the deadly plague that is ravaging the population. When Cinder’s life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, Cinder must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

I’ve read Marissa Meyer’s Heartless and loved it. Why it took me so long to read Cinder, I really don’t know. However, when I saw it on Kindle Unlimited, I figured I would give it a shot. My biggest regret is not realizing that the whole series is not on Kindle Unlimited like I originally thought. Boo!

Cinder is kind of infamous as the best mechanic in New Beijing, so of course when the palace mechanics can’t fix his droid, Prince Kaito seeks her out. This leads to a friendship of sorts between the two. I really thought Cinder being a cyborg would’ve been revealed a lot earlier than it was. I would also like to have read about Kai’s reaction beyond the initial shock of discovery. Do we get that in the second book? I hope so.

One thing that I love about Cinderella retellings is when there’s one kind stepsister. Thankfully we find that trait in Peony. Which probably makes her getting the plague so sad. If it had been Pearl, readers would probably think it justice. As I think about it, though, I wonder how much of Pearl’s cruelty stems from grief. A short time after Cinder arrives, Pearl’s father contracts the plague and dies, then when her younger sister helps Cinder, she also contracts the plague. We don’t see much of Pearl in this book, so it’s kind of hard to determine.

Do I think Cinder is who they say she is? Mmm…honestly I’m not convinced. It’d be too easy, but maybe? It is plausible but I also have my doubts. I am curious to see how everything plays out.

This is definitely a first book in a series, so if you don’t have access to the whole series, you might want to wait. Thankfully all four books are available for purchase, so there’s no waiting for books to come out.

Bon Bons to Yoga Pants by Katie Cross

Lexie Green has always had such a pretty face. Unfortunately, that’s where it seems to stop. She’s grown up hearing her mother constantly remind her that she needs to lose weight. And twenty-three year old Lexie knows she’s overweight. With her younger sister’s wedding on the horizon and a date with her crush, Lexie’s had enough. She gives up her constant daydreams about food and joins a dieting group. As the pounds melt away at the gym, she finds that life on the other side of junk food isn’t what she thought.

I just want to say that this book is so much more than the description. It has served to inspire me to be healthy since I first picked it up. If you need inspiration, pick this up.

Straight up, Lexie’s relationship with food is toxic, but she doesn’t know that. While the blurb says she joins a dieting group, it’s more like she was coerced into joining. She does choose to stay, but her reasons are questionable at best.

You see, one of the main points that Cross makes in this book is that it’s not about the diet or the boy or the dress, it’s about being healthy and happy. However, it’s a journey to get there. Sometimes you need superficial motivations to get you going, but they won’t sustain you, a fact Lexie realizes throughout her journey.

In order to be truly healthy and happy, Lexie also has to face some hard truths about her relationship with food and her dad. Along the way, she has others to help motivate, support, and teach her about what it means to be healthy and why she should want to be.

I cheered with Lexie’s every win. I freaked out with her when the boy of her daydreams (and facebook chats) unexpectedly appears. Every time I read about visiting the Healthy Tiki Hut, I wish I had one right around the corner so that I, too, could grab a clean blueberry smoothie.

Something else I like is that Lexie avoids mirrors, so we’re not constantly being given a run-down of her physical reflection. Instead we see her healing and changing mentally as well. Yeah, we see her clothes becoming looser, but I don’t think it’s shoved in our faces. We only get a good look in the mirror after her mentality of being perfect changes, and I think that’s important.

This is one of those books that I could go on and on about, so I’ll save you and stop here. But seriously, if you need inspiration or motivation to be healthy and happy, whether you’re overweight or not, I highly encourage this book. I guarantee you that Lexie Green will inspire you, too.

What are some books you read this last month? Are any of these books on your TBR?

Let me know in the comments!

Happy Monday!

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