Icebreaker by Hannah Grace Review

My feelings towards Icebreaker are a little cold.

Icebreaker by Hannah Grace follows Anastasia Allen, an aspiring Olympic ice skater, after an incident at college forces her to share an ice rink with the hockey team. When Anastasia’s partner is injured, she must team up with Nathan Hawkins, the annoying hockey team captain in order to train for a competition. Despite Anastasia’s aversions to hockey players, she develops feelings for Nathan.

I first heard of Icebreaker through BookTok and was drawn in by the cute, illustrated cover. After reading the description, it appeared that Icebreaker would be a cute, sports romance similar to The Cutting Edge, a popular 90s movie where an ice skater must rely on a hockey player to compete in the Olympics. While IceBreaker had an interesting premise, I found the execution to be lacking.

One aspect that hindered Icebreaker’s success was the editing. Icebreaker is slightly over 400 pages, which is not a typical length for a book in the romance genre. While books do not necessarily have to fit the mold of their genres, I find that most romance books which push over the 400 mark suffer from issues plot and pacing. Unfortunately, these were two major issues which interfered with my reading experience.

While I was reading Icebreaker, the description of the plot in the synopsis did not match the contents inside the novel. From the book’s description, I assumed that Icebreaker would primarily focus on Anastasia and Nathan working together in order to prepare for Anastasia’s competition. Following traditional novel structure, this inciting incident should occur early in the book. However, this did not occur until halfway through the novel. Once this situation occurred, only a small portion of the book focused on Anastasia and Nathan working together. I believe if these events occurred sooner and the middle of the novel focused on Anastasia and Nathan’s iceskating and romantic relationship, then the book would have been more successful and more accurate to the synopsis provided by publishers.

Since the plot didn’t adhered to typical story structure for the romance genre, it did not seem to have a coherent structure. When I read a romance book, I like to see the scenes build upon each other. Each scene should show the love interests challenging each other’s false belief about love, and as a result, the characters develop a deeper relationship. I did not find this to occur in Icebreaker. Instead, Icebreaker seemed to have scenes that either centered around popular tropes or situations that you would find in a romance novel, but the scenes weren’t necessarily connected to each other. Additionally, the two love interests start a relationship fairly early in the novel, which decreased tension throughout the story. The scenes in Icebreaker didn’t offer anything new or unique to the book compared to other books in the same genre, so I never felt incredibly close to the characters in those scenes. To me, it felt like I was supposed to believe in the relationship between Anastasia and Nathan purely based on cute moments which they shared as opposed to them developing an authentic romantic relationship.

These issues with the plot resulted in issues with the book’s pacing. Since the main action occurred late in the story, I felt unmotivated to continue reading this book. Many of the scenes at the beginning of the novel were also repetitive, which made the beginning of the story drag on for too long. I think this book would have benefitted from more edition to take out scenes that weren’t purposeful to the story and to make the beginning of the novel tighter. That being said, I did enjoy the last 15% of the book. The events at the end of the story happen quicker and are more tightly written, which made the story easier to read.

Apart from my issues with the plot, I also had several issues with the characters of the novel as one. One, there were just too many! Looking on Goodreads, it appears that the Icebreaker will be the first book in a contemporary romance series surrounding the characters at this college. It is fairly common now for contemporary romances to be turned into series following characters previously mentioned in the original book. That being said, it was fairly obvious in Icebreaker that this was the case. There were so many characters introduced that it was hard to keep track of the characters and their backstories. Additionally, this led to many subplots that weren’t necessarily important to the story. Since Icebreaker already suffered from an inconsistent plot and long length, some of these characters and plots could have been introduced later on in the series rather than all dumped within the first novel.

As for the two main characters, Anastasia and Nathan, I needed more depth. Anastasia and Nathan remind me a lot of other characters from similar novels. As a result, they read as cardboard cutout characters from the genre. Anastasia is a Type A, sarcastic heroine who “isn’t like other girls” because of her casual relationships. Nathan is a player with a heart of gold who will drop anything for Anastasia. Also, the relationship between these two characters was very plot-based as opposed to character-based. For example, Anastasia and Nathan do not reveal their true feelings towards each other after a life-threatening situation that occurs randomly in the book. Personally, I prefer relationships in a romance novel to be a mix where a situation drives the characters together, but choices that they make as a character deepen their relationship. Since Anastasia and Nathan’s relationship was so plot based and I had so many issues with the plot, this hindered my investment in their relationship.

Overall, Icebreaker missed the mark on many areas that I look for in a romance novel. To be honest, if I hadn’t purchased this book, I probably wouldn’t have finished it. While I did enjoy the last part of the novel, the rest of the novel did not meet my expectations. I give Icebreaker 2 out of 5 stars.

Advertisement

A Court of Thorns and Roses Series Review (Spoiler Free!): Updated 2022

Back in 2018, I wrote my first spoiler-free review of the entire Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas (you can read my initial review here). However, since posting that review, Sarah J. Maas released the novella, A Court of Frost and Starlight, and another book in the series, A Court of Silver Flames, with two more novels planned. After rereading some of the books in the series, and reading the newest additions, I thought it was time to update my initial review. If you would like to see individual reviews on books in this series, I will include them at the bottom of this post.

A Court of Thorns and Roses, often referred to as ACOTAR, was a popular series on the Booktube community and is now a popular series within the BookTok community. ACOTAR seems to be a polarizing series: people either absolutely love it or hate it. Personally, ACOTAR is one of my favorite series and one that I find myself rereading time and time again. While it is a series that I enjoy, taking a step back, I can see stand-out aspects of the series compared to aspects which needs to be improved. Here are my spoiler-free thoughts on the series as a whole:

The Synopsis

A Court of Thorns and Roses follows Feyre Archeron, a poor hunter, who kills a faerie disguised as a wolf in the woods. To pay for her actions, Feyre is taken back to the fae lands where she must live with her cursed captor. The original A Court of Thorns and roses (ACOTAR) series is comprised of three books, told primarily from the perspective of Feyre with a couple chapters in the final book told from another perspective. The novella in the series, A Court of Frost and Starlight, follows several characters from the original series around Winter Solstice. A Court of Silver Flames follows Nesta Archeron, Feyre’s sister, after she overcomes trauma which occurs in the previous novels and trains to find three valuable objects.

The Characters

One aspect of where Sarah J. Maas always excels is the characters. Maas consistently creates interesting, likeable, and complex characters which stick with readers long after reading. A common trope present in novels by Maas is the found family trope and the ACOTAR series is no exception. By the end of the novels, readers truly feel like they are part of the family which she has created.

Since the series is so lengthy, readers get to learn a lot about many characters within the novel, not just the narrators. Some of the characters in these books are hundreds of years old and Maas gives enough of their backstories to make their personalities and complex relationships understandable. That being said, there are a lot of characters and backstories involved throughout the series, which can be overwhelming and difficult to remember. There are some characters and relationship which I’ve looked up videos on in order to understand better.

That being said, there is definitely some debate surrounding characters, particularly in the novella and the final book published so far, A Court of Silver Flames. Nesta, the main character, is a very polarizing character: people seem to either love her or hate her, so if you are in the latter camp, you may not love reading an entire book about her. Personally, A Court of Silver Flames was one of my favorite books in the series due to Nesta’s character development, so this wasn’t a hinderance to me. Additionally, some well-loved characters seem to make choices that are very inconsistent with their behavior in previous books, which really infuriates some readers.

The World Building

Similar to feeling like you a part of the family after reading ACOTAR, you also feel fully immersed in the world in which the story takes place. If you think of other popular series where people divided themselves into “factions” or “houses,” ACOTAR has a similar feel. Instead of factions or houses, the faerie world is divided into courts which are defined by different times of day (such as the Night Court) or seasons of the year (such as the Spring Court). This makes it a little bit easier for readers to keep track of how different courts operate, the powers often associated with a specific court, and the people associated with that court. Like with characters, there are many intricate details of courts and their histories sprinkled throughout the series, so it helps to have a way to categorize the information.

That being said, Maas is also known for a lot of info dumping at the beginning of the series and ACOTAR is no exception. While it is easier to keep track of information on the places in the world as the series goes on, it is definitely a lot to work through in the first book of the series. In my original review, I mentioned how I actually DNF’ed the first book in the series at around 40% of the book before I picked it up again because I felt like there wasn’t much action which occurred in the story. The world-building in novels by Maas can be difficult to push through at first, but the payoff for me is worth it to continue.

The Writing

When it comes to writing, people love or hate Sarah J. Maas. If you are on BookTok, you have probably seen the jokes about a character picking lint off of his clothes or characters detailing their bathroom issues. There are always comments about territorial male fae, and in this book, many discussions about their wing spans. I would love to see the word count for how many ties mate is used throughout ACOTAR. Sarah J. Maas has some phrases which appear frequently throughout her books, some of which are cringe-y. When I see discussions around her writing, people tend to either love or hate her writing. Personally, the repeated phrases in this series aren’t make it or break it for loving the series. However, if if this is something that annoys you, then you might not personally enjoy the writing style used within this series.

The Plot

My interest in the plots of the ACOTAR books varies depending on the books, but is more consistent than other series by the author. While I love the Throne of Glass series, it looks and feels like a completely different series by the end of the book. There are so many plots, so many POVs, and so much information to take in, it can definitely be overwhelming. ACOTAR is the first series by Maas that I read completely, and I would definitely recommend reading it first out of all of her series because it is the easiest to follow plot-wise.

While Throne of Glass has romance, it definitely focuses more on the fantasy elements plot-wise. ACOTAR definitely has a stronger focus on romance than Throne of Glass, with more explicit romantic scenes since the target audience is no longer YA (although ACOTAR was initially categorized as YA). Additionally, because of this change in target audience, there is more graphic violence and language on page than in the Throne of Glass series.

Starting with book one, the plot of ACOTAR is a good set-up for the rest of the series. ACOTAR was initially pitched as a Beauty and the Beast retelling and some of those plot elements are evident within the first book. This book does have a lot of world building in the first half, so action-wise the plot didn’t really pick up until after that point.

A Court of Mist and Fury (ACOMAF) is definitely one of the best plotted books in the series. Sarah J. Maas is like the Taylor Swift of fantasy. She takes small details from past works and builds on them in later works. Readers definitely see a lot of this in the romance plot within this book. Additionally, this book perfectly balances all of the plots: the action, the romance, and the character development. As a result, you want to keep reading to see how the plot will continue to unfold. This book also contains one of the most well-done endings I have seen in a sequel.

A Court of Wings and Ruin (ACOWAR) was one of my least favorite books plot-wise in the series. Whereas ACOMAF balanced many of the different plots, this heavily focused on the magic and war elements. Additionally, ACOWAR recycles some previously used plot points. These makes scenes including those elements to be less dramatic from when they were used the first time around.

A Court of Frost and Starlight was definitely my least favorite overall in the series. Plot-wise it does what it was intended to: it brings some more light-hearted stories after a very dark and heavy final novel. Also, it sets up the beginning of the next book in the series. However, there are some things in this book which are just ridiculous and are very cringeworthy.

Finally, A Court of Silver Flames is one of my favorites in the series. At the same time, it is definitely more character-driven that plot-driven. So if you do prefer more plot-driven books, then you may not enjoy this one. Another complaint readers often make for this book that the villain isn’t the most remarkable or involved compared to other books. In my original review of Silver Flames (read it here), I explained how I believe the villain is supposed to be more symbolic in nature, but I can see how people would be expecting a greater villain after reading the original series.

The Pacing

Overall, the pacing of the series is a little inconsistent and can very based on the book. The two books which I moved through the quickest were A Court of Mist and Fury and A Court of Silver Flames. I felt like these books balanced action, romance, and character development so I wanted to keep reading. A Court of War and Ruin, the third book in the series was the worst paced in my opinion out of the full length novels in the series.

Let’s start off with book one: A Court of Thorns and Roses had a slow start to me, due to the large amount of world building which occurs in the first half of the novel. However, the eventful second half of the novel and the rest of the series is worth the work. The second book in the series, ACOMAF is one of the best paced novels in the series. ACOMAF has a perfect balance of action, romance, and character development which makes it hard to put the book down. The third book, A Court of Wings and Ruin, was my least favorite of the full-length novels. ACOWAR felt like it moved a lot slower, possibly because it leaned more heavily on the magic and war plot lines than the characters and romance for me.

Moving onto the novella, A Court of Frost and Starlight. One part of this novella which differs from the previous three books is that readers get more perspectives from different characters. That being said, this overall is the weakest installment of this series, and it just seems to drag on compared to ACOMAF and Silver Flames, which are much longer but more interesting. However, this book does provide what it needs: the set-up for the next full-length novels in the series and more lighthearted stories following the previous novel, which was very dark.

Final Thoughts

Like I mentioned previously, ACOTAR is series that I love and I find myself picking up again and again. This is a series that whenever a new book is announced, I automatically pre-order the next installment, which isn’t something that I usually do. I recommend the ACOTAR series is you are a fan of fantasy romance books with an interesting cast of characters.

What are some of your must-read series?

Individual Book Reviews:

The Brittany Awards 2022: Favorite Book Covers

Welcome to the 2022 Brittany Awards! The Brittany Awards are my end-of-year awards where I talk about my favorite (and sometimes least favorite!) books of the year as well as other bookish topics. The 2022 awards will use the following categories: favorite book covers, least favorite books, favorite books, and my favorite book reviews that I wrote during this year.

This week, I will be discussing some of my favorite book covers. These books were not necessarily published in 2022, but they are from books that I read during the 2022 year.

  • House of Sky and Breath by Sarah J. Maas

This year, Sarah J. Maas announced a cover redesign for the Throne of Glass series. A couple of years ago, the covers of A Court of Thorns and Roses was changed. While, I understand the marketing aspect behind changing these covers, I definitely like the originals more than the redesigns. I loved the art on the covers and the details on them. I think that is why I am a huge fan of the Crescent City book covers. The Crescent City covers are reminiscent of the original covers of Throne of Glass and A Court of Thorns and Roses: they feature a main character and also follow a specific color scheme. I do not have the edition with the sprayed edges, but I thought that edition was beautiful as well!

  • Birds of California by Katie Cotugno

Birds of California is about a former child star who left the industry after a series of scandals, but is being asked to join a reboot of her childhood television series. While the cover is a little bright compared to some aspects of the book, I think it is a visually appealing cover which will draw readers in. The bird on the cover references the television show which the main character starred in and the neon letters gives California hotel vibes. For me, the cover is what drew me in to reading this book, which plot-wise isn’t something that I would normally pick up, so this cover did what it was designed to do.

  • The Marriage Game series by Sara Desai

Cartoon covers are the trend right now for adult romance books. However, I feel like this sometimes leads to very generic or minimalist covers that don’t really stand out from the crowd. I find Sara Desai’s cover to be the exception to that rule. All of the book covers in the Marriage Game series have very intricately designed covers with visually appealing color schemes. These are very pretty books, and if I wasn’t out of shelf space, they would definitely be ones that I would display on my bookshelf.

  • King of Battle and Blood by Scarlett St. Clair

While I do enjoy fantasy books, I wouldn’t say that it is the genre that I typically gravitate towards. That being said, when I saw this cover on my library’s online system, I immediately requested this book. I love the deep red and black with a little bit of gold. I think the two swords crossing each other is a great representation of the relationship trope within this book. Additionally, while not completely symmetrical, it does have a very balanced look which is also very visually appealing.

What were some of your favorite book covers from books that you read this year?

Love on the Brain Review

Love on the Brain is the second full-length novel by Ali Hazelwood, an author who quickly gained popularity for her “STEMinist rom-com,” The Love Hypothesis, last year. This novel follows Bee K√∂nigswasser, a neuroengineer, who receives the opportunity to co-lead a project for NASA. Unfortunately for Bee, her co-lead is none other than Levi, an enemy engineer from her past. However, as the project progresses, Bee realizes that her initial impression of Levi and his feelings towards her may have been wrong.

I read The Love Hypothesis when it was initially released and was surprised when it blew up on social media. Personally, I found the story difficult to get through (I had to check it out of the library three times to finish it!) and found some of the scenes cringeworthy. To me, it seemed more like a YA novel with aged up characters in order to include more mature content.

Although I didn’t enjoy Hazelwood’s first novel, I read her next project, which is a series of novellas that also focus on women in STEM careers. Like The Love Hypothesis, I found some of the scenes were a little cringeworthy with characters and situations so similar that the stories started to blend together. However, I found the novellas much more enjoyable because the pacing matched the short length of the story.

Going into Love on the Brain, her latest book, I worried that the pacing would be off like in The Love Hypothesis or the characters would seem copied and pasted like with the novellas. While some of these concerns were confirmed, I overall enjoyed Love on the Brain and think that it will please fans of Ali Hazelwood’s other works.

Some aspects of Ali Hazelwood’s novels that readers may find repetitive are the premise and certain tropes. Many of Hazelwood’s works share a common premise: the main character perceives that the male love interest did not like her in the past, then years later, the two are forced to share a common space or project. If you are a huge fan of this type of plot as well of the miscommunication trope, then you will probably enjoy this novel. However, if you are looking for a new or different plot from an author that you’ve enjoyed in the past, then you will not find it in this book.

While the plot of this book echoes many of the other books written by Hazelwood, I was more happy with the pacing in this book than The Love Hypothesis. While it took me months of picking up and putting down Hazelwood’s first full-length novella, I finished Love on the Brain over the span of two days. Love on the Brain is about 20 pages longer than The Love Hypothesis, however, to me it seemed like many of the scenes were more meaningfully included. While Hazelwood’s books are tropey (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing!), I found the first book to be riddled with too many unnecessary scenes that felt like checking off boxes. That being said, there were some parts of the book, like the Marie Curie Twitter, that seemed to be rushed at the end.

I also enjoyed the main characters in this book. Bee seemed to be more fleshed out than other characters that I have read in Hazelwood’s other works. I found a lot of Bee’s reactions believable because of the backstory which Hazelwood provided for her throughout the book. While Bee was quirky, she didn’t have the aged-up, YA feel as Olive did to me. I did enjoy Levi as Bee’s love interest, while he did come across as a little “too perfect” to me. I think this is because most of his growth occurs in the years between when he first met Bee and when they meet again, so we don’t really get to see him grow throughout the novel.

Overall, I think if you have enjoyed Hazelwood’s other works, then you will probably enjoy this one too. If you are looking for something new or different writing style or plot-wise from this author, then you will probably be disappointed with this book.