Bite Sized Books // Where I Declare My Love For Mariana Zapata’s Books

23 October 2017

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I have been intending to write a review for Mariana Zapata’s books for a good long while. A month, even! I read them when I was on holiday and adored them in every way. At least, the first ones I read (the two I read when I got home weren’t quite as good but they showed great potential). I knew I wanted to tell you guys how brilliant they were but I really couldn’t find the words to say why other than to flail and say read them! I still knew I had to feature them, though. There are just some books you have to talk about even when you’re utterly inelegant about them. I mean, even Zapata’s worst books were enjoyable they just weren’t up to scratch to my favourites from her.

The Ones I Adored

The Wall of Winnipeg and Me
Published: 28th February 2016
Source: Bought
Genre: Sports romance, Contemporary, Adult
My Rating:
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?
This was the first book from Zapata I heard about. I am a girl who loves romance, and more specifically sports romance, and I also adore fake relationships so when I heard there was a book which included all three of them you can bet I was interested in reading. Only problem? It was over 600 pages long. The average romance is like 300 pages, you can imagine I was intimidated by a book which was twice that. It’s why I didn’t bother buying until I knew I had all the time in the world to read it, when I was on holiday. I almost didn’t pick it up even then, luckily I avoided that mistake and found my first of my favourites from Zapata.

I adored Vanessa, she puts up with no crap and she didn’t swoon for Aiden just because he was some hot shot NFL player. She didn’t care. He had been a means to an end so could pursue her career. She handed in her notice and didn’t look back and I didn’t blame her as Aiden was annoying as hell, he was an island, and he didn’t stand up for her. She would have stayed focused an independent from Aiden if he hadn’t offered something she wanted, money to truly give her the independence she craved, she just had to marry him to help him stay in the US. Easy, right?

Well, it’s safe to say from there I fell in love as Aiden stayed being gruff and focused, but a little less of an island under Vanessa's influence. And I adored it. I didn’t even notice the length of the book because I was so invested in these characters. I swooned and sighed and grinned like and idiot and fell head over heels. I truly did, this was the best. Don’t be put off by the length but strap yourself in for a slow… very slow ride. This is the ultimate of slowburn. The romance moves at a glacial pace and it might frustrate the hell out of some. I was on the edge of my seat and loved every minute, though.

Dear Aaron
Published: 10th June 2017
Source: Bought
Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Adult/New Adult
My Rating:
Ruby Santos knew exactly what she was getting herself into when she signed up to write a soldier overseas.

The guidelines were simple: one letter or email a week for the length of his or her deployment. Care packages were optional.

Been there, done that. She thought she knew what to expect.

What she didn’t count on was falling in love with the guy.
Then onto the second of Zapata’s books which I read. I hadn’t got this one on my radar until Nick reviewed it (funny how Nick often is the person who puts romance on my radar). I wasn’t quite as eager to get a hold of this one because Nick had said the pacing was a bit off with some of the romance and that it could have been shorter, the concern I had when it came to buying Wall of Winnipeg. I went ahead, though, because I loved the idea of a couple writing to one another and falling love. The concept slayed me and the reality was even better than expected.

Ruby and Aaron were so cute together. Ruby was brilliant and I loved that she lived with her parents still but was pursuing her career because I live at home too and it isn’t great but it’s a good means to and end. And Aaron was great building this friendship with Ruby as one of his few contacts back home so he could cope throughout his deployment.

I adored it and was totally sucked in from the start. I was gone for Aaron and adored Ruby from the very beginning. She was way geekier than me but I totally got her and her fandom ways and her quirkiness and how utterly why she is. I just connected with her straight away as I saw a lot of myself in her.

I loved how the format of the book demonstrated the progression in the relationship. We begin with emails being sent with them being a bit awkward as hey got to know one another and slowly connect. It then changes to IMs as the pair get closer and talk more often and it develops as they grow closer. It totally worked and I loved it.

This was such a cute book and I was expecting it to be angstier because Aaron was in the army but it actually was way more cute and fun and I loved it for that. It was nothing like I thought and everything which I wanted in a romance. I had a silly grin going on while I was reading and I'm not ashamed of that fact.
Published: 20th March 2015
Source: Bought
Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Sports Romance, Adult
My Rating:
“Trust me, I’ve wanted to punch you in the face a time or five.”

When the man you worshipped as a kid becomes your coach, it’s supposed to be the greatest thing in the world. Keywords: supposed to.

It didn’t take a week for twenty-seven-year-old Sal Casillas to wonder what she’d seen in the international soccer icon—why she’d ever had his posters on her wall, or ever envisioned marrying him and having super-playing soccer babies.

Sal had long ago gotten over the worst non-break-up in the history of imaginary relationships with a man that hadn’t known she’d existed. So she isn’t prepared for this version of Reiner Kulti who shows up to her team’s season: a quiet, reclusive, shadow of the explosive, passionate man he’d once been.

Nothing could have prepared her for the man she got to know.

Or the murderous urges he brought out in her.

“Sal, please don’t make me visit you in jail. Orange isn’t your color.”

This was going to be the longest season of her life.
And then the third, and in some ways my favourite. I actually had to figure out how to connect my Kindle to my phones internet to read this one while I was away because I brought it halfway through reading Dear Aaron because I knew I needed to read more Zapata and especially this one. It was another that had come onto my radar when I heard of Wall of Winnipeg because sports romance! I was put off by the fact it was a football (soccer) romance because I am not a huge fan of football, I see it enough on TV at home, do I really need to read a romance about it too. Also, the last sports romance which involved football I tried to read was Scoring Wilder and I hated it so I thought I might not like Kulti I was convinced by the fact Zapata wrote it and I am so glad I was.

I think this one clicked for me because I adored the fact it was a romance with an age gap. I was full on in love with Kulti too. Also, it was so similar to Pitch and my favourite ship in that (Mike/Ginny 4eva) that I was fully in love from the beginning.

This one was an enemies to lover romance and it was spot on. Even better, Sal wasn’t the usual girl in her early twenties falling in love but instead 27 and had several years playing on the football team who was focused on her career. She was determined to be the best she could be (with a few exceptions) and she was determined to do her best. And Reiner Kulti was a grumpy guy who had passed the peak in his career and who really didn’t want to be coaching when he was a world famous player. And he had been a dick to Sal’s brother and was basically horrible to anyone he spoke to and so Sal wasn’t willing to put up with crap from him at all.

I loved the dynamic between the two whenever they spoke and how throughout the book they grew closer. First, they became friends before any hope of romance happened. And then there was Sal’s family! I adored her parents and would have happily had them feature far more in the book. I would return to read more about Kulti and Sal’s life given half a chance.

This was the best kind of sports romance for me. It was about a female athlete for once and was absolutely brilliant. It even had a really good age difference romance for me to love. I will read all the books!

The Ones I Liked Less

Under Locke
Published: 19th January 2014
Source: Bought
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
My Rating:
He was my boss, my brother’s friend, a Widower, an ex-felon, and a man I’d seen casually with a handful of women. But he was everything that gripped me, both the good and the bad. Worst case scenario if things turned awkward between us, I could go somewhere else. I’d gotten over epic heartbreak before, one more wouldn’t kill me.

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.
It just makes me sad when you read a book which doesn't work for you from an author you love. I mean, I still haven’t read all of Zapata’s books so there is still a chance there are more from her I don’t like but it made me sad as this was the first book by her I didn’t adore. It was partially a me thing for me to dislike it. I wasn’t a fan of the whole motorcycle gang aspect of the book. I may have enjoyed Sons of Anarchy but it’s a bit iffy when it comes to gang things. Also, when I began reading it was the last day on my holiday and my brain wasn’t totally focused on the book. That lack of focus when it came to reading this meant I didn’t become fully absorbed either.

It had all the usual marks of a Mariana Zapata book but it just missed the mark for me. I think it was the fact it was a biker gang book and Dex was just not what I wanted. He came across as a dick (hence the nickname in the book) and whilst he revealed a softer side his dickish tendencies were too much for me.

It was a good read for some, I’m sure, but not for me. It makes me sad but there always has to be one, right?
Published: 7th August 2015
Source: Bought
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
My Rating:
Most people would describe Katherine Berger as a responsible girl with a big heart, a loyal friend who takes care of those close to her, and the possessor of a wicked sense of humor. There was something about her that most people didn't know. "My name is Kat Berger, and I love porn."

When twenty-five-year-old Kat is dragged to a porn convention by her best friend, she's both embarrassed and nervous. The last thing she ever expected was to meet someone who makes her laugh like no other. This is a story about acceptance and friendship, and a love born out of the most unexpected of places.
This was a really good friends to lovers story and I enjoyed it. I didn't fall head over heels for it like Zapata's later books but you can see the essence of the great stories she writes and I did enjoy it. This only ended up on the bad list because I wasn’t head over heels and totally absorbed like I expected to be.

The book starts at a porn convention so it was safe to say I was a little hesitant going in to see whether I'd like it. Turns out it was hilarious and I enjoyed it. Sure, occasionally Kat and her friends seemed a bit OTT, almost like caricatures of who they really were because they were too much. But I did enjoy it and I loved Kat's close-knit group of friends and how they were all so close.

I thought some stuff went too fast in this book and some things too slow but the pacing wasn't a major issue. It was the first time I felt like a Zapata book was a touch too long though. I actually noticed a bit of a drag in the story towards the end.

As a whole it's a funny romance that I enjoyed as a weekend read. It may not have ticked all my boxes but it did tick a lot of them.

Now I have declared my undying love for Mariana Zapata I feel a strong need to go read those last two books by her. Who was the last author whose entire backlist you went and bought after one book? And any awesome romance authors you feel the need to recommend?
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