Monday, April 4, 2016

SEP Review: Dream a Little Dream by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Hi all!

It's been a while again...



Title: Dream a Little Dream
Release date: 13th of October 2009
Series: Chicago Stars #4
Reading level: FICTION – ADULT: Romance, Contemporary
Published by: HarperCollins e-books
Pages: 404 in Kindle e-book format
Source: Bought from Amazon.com for Kindle

Summary:

A Desperate Young Mother

Rachel Stone's bad luck has taken a turn for the worse. With an empty wallet, a car's that's spilling smoke, and a five-year-old son to support, she's come home to a town that hates her. But this determined young widow with a scandalous past has learned how to be a fighter. And she'll do anything to keep her child safe—even take on. . .

A man With No Heart

Gabe Bonner wants to be left alone, especially by the beautiful outcast who's invaded his property. She has a ton of attitude, a talent for trouble, and a child who brings back bad memories. Yet Rachel's feisty spirit might just be heaven-sent to save a tough, stubborn man.

Dare To Dream

Welcome to Salvation, North Carolina—where a man who's forgotten what tenderness means meets a woman with nothing to lose. here two endearing lovers will set off on a funny, touching journey of the heart. . .to a place where dreams just might come true.

Review:

It’s no secret that SEP has figured out a magic formula for her stories that coincides precisely with what I look for in a highly satisfying romance: top-class humour, off-the charts banter and sexual tension, quirky yet tough down-on-her-luck heroine, a great redeeming act of love with a topping of angst, and a reluctantly in love hero. This is also everything the current book offered, in loads. This time the emphasis, however, was on the angst (less so on the humour), which I don’t mind at all, but there was an aspect of unnecessary cruelty there as well, that I kind of did have an issue with.

I cannot stress enough how much I adored, respected and admires Rachel. She had been through hell and her path of pain and humiliation did not end with meeting the hero. She was constantly mocked, bullied, offended, discriminated against… the whole package. And, while I somewhat understand the motivation of the townspeople, knowing the truth, that she was not the big bad, instead she was the most direct and unfortunate victim of her conman husband, I was very protective of her and took her troubles to heart. And, wanted to beat up and give a piece of my mind to all the ignorant morons. This included the brothers of Gabe, however charming they allegedly were supposed to be, and however much I sympathized with Cal in his own book. Despite this constant bullying, Rachel was hardworking, determined, upbeat and, most of all, she was an incredible sacrifice-herself-in-a-heartbeat mother to her adorable son Edward aka Chip.

Chip was simply delightful. I just wanted to take him and put him in my pocket to protect forever. I did feel, however, that the fearful, somewhat borderline abusing relationship between him and Gabe went a bit too far. I can try to understand Gabe’s pain and the cause for his behaviour, but Chip was such a sweetheart that even a slight wrong look towards him made me jump with my fist up, ready to bounce.

The romance between Rachel and Gabe was somewhat bittersweet, a lot more emotional and mature than other SEP books. Both of them hid tons of pain inside, but while Rachel forced the sun to shine over her head against all odds, Gabe revelled in the constant dark cloud over him. They were the couple you just cannot see working out, due to, among everything else, the mountain of baggage, but that surprise you in the end with outlasting everyone. The slow burn was also welcome and I appreciated that it took some time for them to have their relationship even slightly functional. A steady and constant development is key to an enjoyable romance that makes you cheer for the main couple and become invested. The epilogue was like balm on a wound and I thought it was a perfect bright sunny day in the end of years of rain. It did come across as too good to be true though, due to that drastic change, but enough angst and agony is enough.

The typical side romance, which SEP always ads as a side dish, didn’t do it for me this time. The coming together of Gabe’s younger brother Ethan and his overlooked secretary Kristy, was too superficial, short and cliché. It had potential though, so maybe a more detailed approach would have guaranteed better results. Maybe they should have had their own book? I think so. It would have also provided time to have a more positive image painted of Ethan, who was smeared with quite a bit of mud due to his treatment of Rachel. Also, being part of the Chicago Stars series, the story doesn't have much to do with football or it's hunky athletes, only Cal makes an appearance.

4 stars!

LIIS

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Review: Misconduct by Penelope Douglas

Hi all!

It's been a while again...




Title: Misconduct
Release date: 1st of December 2015
Reading level: FICTION – ADULT: Romance, Contemporary
Published by: NAL
Pages: 401 in Kindle e-book format
Source: Bought from Amazon.com for Kindle

Summary:

Former tennis player Easton Bradbury is trying to be the best teacher she can be, trying to reach her bored students, trying to forget her past. What brought her to this stage in her life isn’t important. She can’t let it be. But now one parent-teacher meeting may be her undoing…

Meeting Tyler Marek for the first time makes it easy for Easton to see why his son is having trouble in school. The man knows how to manage businesses and wealth, not a living, breathing teenage boy. Or a young teacher, for that matter, though he tries to. And yet…there is something about him that draws Easton in—a hint of vulnerability, a flash of attraction, a spark that might burn.

Wanting him is taboo. Needing him is undeniable. And his long-awaited touch will weaken Easton’s resolve—and reveal what should stay hidden…

Review:

I’ve really enjoyed the author’s previous New Adult books (the Fall Away series) and was pleasantly surprised to know, that she had penned something revolving around hot-blooded adults this time. And while the transition from teenagers to grown-ups was smooth and all-around successful, I do have some bones to pick with this, initially more than promising, story.

First of all, I have worked as a teacher, so I quite welcomed the fact that the heroine was also one. I appreciated that she didn’t succumb to stereotype and wasn’t a wilting flower eg. a shy solitary girl with glassed, who perceives herself as plain, actually being drop-dead gorgeous, but being mentally impaired in seeing herself anywhere near objectively. Easton was confident, outspoken, knew she was sexy and held her head high. Yes, she did have some baggage from her painful past, but nowadays it’s a must in smutty romance, because characters are mostly defined based on them being oh-so-wounded. This already provides steady characteristic without much effort, and lessens the task of actually providing an even slightly unique non-cardboard personality. Be it as it may, I respected Easton and, an especially huge bonus from me, she gets for her work as an innovative, open-minded, intelligent and kick-butt teacher. Her methods, her stance on her choices and passion for her job, where more than commendable.

I also know how excruciating it is to battle, yes battle, with parents, those who think they obviously know better and are, on their own account, self-proclaimed experts on anything education related. I cheered for Easton, when she took on Tyler and I was desperate for her to put him in his place. She didn’t disappoint, even when she supposedly messed up, which to my mind, she didn’t as a whole. He was an über douche and low for using his powerful name and influence to put her down. While she didn’t claim total victory, she did end up leaving the battlefield with her head held high. Bravo for that!

Tyler, generally, was a decent hero, a definite alpha, but there was a lot of vulnerability there as well, thanks to his relationship with his estranged teenage son. I liked that we also got his point of view, since the story follows a dual voice, alternating chapters between Easton and Tyler. He was a macho man, but he wasn’t as cold, distant and too unreal, as many such romance heroes might at times come across as.

Now to the romance, which started with a big bang! It had several intriguing forbidden love elements: the age difference, her being his son’s teacher, his delicate political career and ambitions, etc. I have to admit, the encounters between Easton and Tyler were explosive, exciting to observe, sizzling with sexual tension, full of awesome banter, promising a delicious slow burn, till… they did the deed. And from there on, the relationship lost 60% of the spark and the levels of all the aspects, that made it spectacular in my eyes, plummeted. Also, the horizontal tango took place too early, too abruptly and it ruined the epicness of the chemistry. Yes, they had a decent romance afterwards as well, but it wasn’t the same, not by a long shot. It lost the electricity and added on the melodrama.

I was also very disappointed and annoyed with Easton, when she told Tyler to try that with the other girl and then got so insecure and upset, because he did as she pushed him to – not cool! Also why was the stalker subplot and totally out of the blue revelation in the end necessary? It all just made Easton’s baggage load bigger, but didn’t really contribute much, except for empty drama.

I did, however quite enjoy the development of the relationships between Tyler and his son and the latter with Easton. It was somewhat refreshing, that the couple didn’t only think of their needs, but also discussed, how their affair could affect the boy. Also, this story is a standalone, which is always something to celebrate. I’m getting so tired of trilogies that stretch a meagre story even thinner and stuff it full of excess drama!


3 stars!

LIIS

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Oldie Review: You Belong to Me by Johanna Lindsey

Hi all!

And here's an oldie!




Title: You Belong to Me
Release date: 2nd of August 2011 (first published 1987)
Series: Cardinia’s Royal Family #2
Reading level: FICTION – ADULT: Romance, Historical
Published by: Avon
Pages: 436 in Kindle e-book format
Source: Bought from Amazon.com for Kindle

Summary:

In all the world, no man exists who can tame Alexandra Rubilov. A fiery and beautiful free-thinker, Alex's steadfast refusal to marry has frustrated her hapless father. And so he creates a "long-forgotten" agreement and sends his rebellious daughter away, maintaining that Alexandra has been promised since childhood to the handsome, insufferable libertine whom she must now accompany to his homeland to wed.

Dismayed to find himself suddenly engaged, Count Vasili Petroff plans to repulse his unwanted fiancee by acting the perfect cad, unaware that wily Alexandra plans to follow a similar path. But the road to deception is a rocky one and its many unexpected turns can lead two reluctant companions to a most unanticipated destination: that place called passionate love. 

Review: 

I’ve never been a huge historical romance reader. I enjoy them, but I don’t gravitate towards them that much. Except in cases, where the synopsis offers the promise of that specific type of uniquely sweet flavour I would devour, or if it’s a Johanna Lindsay novel. For some reason she has written pretty good historical romance coinciding with my preferred taste. While I have read the first book in the Cardinia royals series, that this story is also part of, and quite liked it, this current one, on the outside, looks humongously promising. BUT, it manages to deceive me with one of the aspects it actually lured me in with: an independent, opinionated and headstrong heroine. It sounds good, but there are always black sheep in the bunch, and Alexandra is it for me. 

So what did Alexandra mange to annoy me (and her initially very reluctant intended, the hero of the story, Vasili) with? Well, almost everything, as she turned on the heat for all aspects, that in moderation, would have made me cheer for her. While I applaud her tactics to scare away an unwanted betrothed by presenting herself off as a mannerless wild child without anything resembling feminine behaviour of that time and age, she went overboard. Especially with her acting all loco savage and violent with all women who caught Vasili’s eye. Yes, claiming and protecting her “territory” is absolutely fine and expected, but to physically attack, offend and threaten those women, who hadn’t really, in most cases, even done anything yet, was beyond irritating and off-putting to me.

Her dragging her babies, her horses, with the travelling party, through dangerous conditions, was incredibly irresponsible. She claimed that she was taking care of them with having them come along, but it had the exact opposite effect. Also, by her too stubborn, too selfish, too woe-is-me behaviour during the trip, she endangered every person and animal accompanying her. I did, however, appreciate that she didn’t turn to goo for Vasili and maintained her backbone and uncontrollable character (somewhat), but overall, it was very difficult for me to grow fond of and root for her.

I did, in general, like the hate to love storyline, because, it’s exactly the trope I enjoy reading about, because this actually enables the couple time to get to know each other and develop genuine feelings, instead of BOOM! insta-love! In that sense, I quite loved the story, because the hate part was believable, all the logical reasoning was present. The gradual developing of feelings was a welcome slow burn. I particularly liked their first meeting, with attraction and sparks flying galore, without either of them knowing who the other was. Due to that high quality chemistry, the lack of a satisfying steamy scene was disappointing. I’ve come to expect a lot more from the author, than the underwhelming, out of place (considering the situation), awkward and another compulsory romance element receiving a tick feeling I received from that only one scene in this story.

Compared to Alex, toward whom I had high expectations, Vasili, from whom I wasn’t expecting much, except for being hot and alpha, really surprised me with his maturity, considering the situation. Yes, he was still the arrogant and a mega ultra womanizer I remembered from the first book in the series, but he acted almost decently for a man during that time and with a hurry to get rid of his unwanted fiancé. He put up with Alex’s antics with almost the patience of a parent with an unruly child, to a certain degree of course, and behaved much more reasonably than his intended, trying to maintain some sort of control over the situation. She just lashed out and trashed around on the floor like a baby, not considering who she was inconveniencing or hurting. I was, however, annoyed with his hypocrisy (he could dally around, but if she was promiscuous, then it was an issue – but I’m not surprised considering the time and age of the story, and when it was written) and obsession with her breasts, also, rape threats are never acceptable.

The adventure part is always something I look forward to in historical fiction, if included. There was a bunch of it in this story as well with the travels and perils during it. While caused by unforgivable irresponsibility, I most certainly enjoyed the rescue, the bad guys and one-on-one battles. It was also quite lovely to meet up with the main couple form the previous book again and have a glimpse of how wonderfully things are still progressing.

3 stars!

LIIS

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Review: Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins

Hi all!

I'm slowly getting back on track with my reviews!




Title: Rebel Belle
Release date: 3rd of March 2015
Series: Rebel Belle #1
Reading level: FICTION – JUVENILE: Fantasy, Romance, Contemporary
Published by: Speak
Pages: 368 in paperback format
Source: Bought from a local bookstore

Summary:

Harper Price, peerless Southern belle, was born ready for a Homecoming tiara. But after a strange run-in at the dance imbues her with incredible abilities, Harper's destiny takes a turn for the seriously weird. She becomes a Paladin, one of an ancient line of guardians with agility, super strength and lethal fighting instincts. Just when life can't get any more disastrously crazy, Harper finds out who she's charged to protect: David Stark, school reporter, subject of a mysterious prophecy and possibly Harper's least favorite person. But things get complicated when Harper starts falling for him--and discovers that David's own fate could very well be to destroy Earth.

With snappy banter, cotillion dresses, non-stop action and a touch of magic, this new young adult series from bestseller Rachel Hawkins is going to make y'all beg for more.

Review:

Finally, a special snowflake hero, even though, the heroine by sheer proximity gets the title as well, more or less. Okay, he’s not really a special snowflake in the traditional sense, but for a change, instead of the girl being the saviour, the messiah, the big kahuna, the really really awesomely powerful grandmaster of all things grand, blah blah blah, it’s actually the guy this time. Yay for change! What’s more, the girl takes on the role as protector and butt kicker – empowering women and subverting gender roles is always welcome!

I despise to seven hells all love triangles, but while this nasty piece of bane of my existence trope was part of this story, it didn’t feel as irritating, because I kind of sensed that it wouldn’t last and it wasn’t as significant in the grand scheme of things. I also found Ryan to be too annoyingly perfect. He understood, was patient, acted a gentleman, forgave – blah. I do feel very guilty and quite ashamed to whine about his niceness and for preferring the douche (but who means well inside) over the more decent guy, but this is fiction and Ryan was just dull. I need spark, passion or at least some bantery dialogue to be able to root for a couple. Sugary sweet pairs, “I love you pumpkin” – “I love you too honey,” bore me to death. I do have to admit, though, that the final state of the trio was beyond intriguing and hilariously ironic. BAM! Ryan wasn’t so bothersome anymore, but only thanks to his newfound position.

I live for hate to love romances, because it usually guarantees a delicious slow burn and can make the budding relationship much more satisfying, sweeter and hotter than its lifeless and too convenient insta counterpart. I do, however, have to point out that when the source of dislike between the main characters is not realistically or at least believably explained, and they hate each other just because or due to something insignificant, then there I draw the line for enjoyable hate to love romance. Harper and David were on the borderline, I did understand the origin, but it wasn’t as convincing as I would have preferred. Nevertheless, I loved reading about their "battles" with each other. And I especially loved how Harper couldn’t hurt him, due to her being his protector. Her trying to slap him and being unable to was hilarious. All other instances, where she unexpectedly, due to instinct, dashed to defend him were quite amusing as well. Talk about irony.

Overachievers don’t really draw me in or evict sympathy and rooting for them. Harper was just that, she was like Figaro, here, there, everywhere. She had her finger in every pie, managed everything, was part of everything, made it everywhere and, in addition, was popular, got good grades, had a wonderful boyfriend, a great best friend, etc – she had a good life going for her. Till she forgets her lip gloss… So here’s a lesson to all girls, don’t forget your lip gloss, otherwise, you may unexpectedly become a kickbutt karate queen in stilettos, in addition to being the how-does-she-do-it envy evicting girl. On second hand, sounds exciting to me! Anyway, I wasn’t inclined to like her, but I did end up doing just that. And the scene that changed my mind was, when she was confronted with her new sacred duties and asked to accept them, her blunt reply: “No, thank you!” I loved her attitude, she wasn’t a doormat nor did she shy away from responsibility.

Regarding the plot, I was very excited for how things would unfold and all the potential mystery and mythical background elements for the Oracle and his Paladin story. The premise was a total hit with me. There was a lot of talk and build-up, but I was left hanging, because the fantasy topic was handled too lightly or superficially. I wanted more and, I guess, there will be more in the following books, but there was too much teasing and too little satisfaction in the first one. Also, nothing really happened plot-wise. I mean, something obviously happened, but it came across stretched thin. I’m still anxious for what will be going on and love the fascinating fantasy set-up, but the first book was somewhat stingy in that regard. It did, however, give me some interesting insight into the Southern way, like cotillion, etc, which is a really foreign area to me and which I appreciated.


3 stars!

LIIS

Monday, February 8, 2016

Review: Magnus Chase and The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan

Hi all!

A new series from Rick Riordan!




Author: Rick Riordan
Title: Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer
Release date: 6th of October 2015
Series: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1
Reading level: FICTION – JUVENILE: Fantasy, Adventure, Contemporary
Published by: Puffin
Pages: 505 in Kindle e-book format
Source: Bought from Amazon.com for Kindle

Summary:

Magnus Chase has always been a troubled kid. Since his mother’s mysterious death, he’s lived alone on the streets of Boston, surviving by his wits, keeping one step ahead of the police and the truant officers.

One day, he’s tracked down by an uncle he barely knows—a man his mother claimed was dangerous. Uncle Randolph tells him an impossible secret: Magnus is the son of a Norse god.

The Viking myths are true. The gods of Asgard are preparing for war. Trolls, giants and worse monsters are stirring for doomsday. To prevent Ragnarok, Magnus must search the Nine Worlds for a weapon that has been lost for thousands of years.

When an attack by fire giants forces him to choose between his own safety and the lives of hundreds of innocents, Magnus makes a fatal decision.

Sometimes, the only way to start a new life is to die ...

Review:

The Percy Jackson and the Heroes of Olympus (which I still haven’t managed to finish, shame on me!) series are one of my favourite newer children’s fiction. They’re imaginative, full of magnificent methodology lessons, there’s adventure, peril and action to the extreme, the characters are distinct, likeable, grab your attention and stay with you, and the humour, oh the humour, it’s simply wonderful in the exact right dose for a semi-serious semi-fun series. Extra focus on the fun, though.

When I heard that Rick Riordan was starting a new mega adventure ride with Norse mythology at its centre, I was on board before you can say Yggdrasil (the world tree – how do I pronounce it?). On the successful wave of Marvel’s Thor movies and the ultra popularity of Loki, this seemed to be a gold mine, because while the named characters are known, Norse mythology itself isn’t that widespread in all its glorious details. There’s more to it than Thor, Loki and Asgard. And that is exactly what I was most looking forwards to reading about in the new series.

Having read books from Rick Riordan before, then I knew what to expect and I got precisely that. In that sense, there is nothing really original or slightly fresh within this series – same old, same old. The story in all it’s devices, eg. pace, tone, pattern, character outlines, basic structure, it's distinctly similar to his previous books. Nevertheless, I’m not whining, because this formula works, and it works like a well-oiled machine – I wouldn’t want to have these stories anyway else. Except, when he finds another formula that is as successful, then I’m all open for that.

Basically, Magnus, a homeless kid, is suddenly confronted with his family and their secrets and, well, he dies… And here is where the joyride begins. He is transported to Valhalla, finds out who he really is, makes some friends, makes some enemies, fights, a prophesy turns up about him, he takes his ragtag team of wacky friends to solve the prophesy and, along the way, meets all sorts of weird, creepy and fun mythical beings. There is nothing remotely new in this journey outline, but it’s okay, because there was simply heaps of hilarity, fun and excitingly tense moments throughout the quest to make up for that.

I loved the insight into Norse mythology, all the big and small details, the nine worlds, famous and less known figures, legends, connections, diverse beings, magic, the dividing of the gods to nature and war gods, the two so called “afterlives”, etc, etc, and especially Ragnarok. The latter I’ve always found fascinating, because it’s predetermined and cannot be bypassed, everything from how it beings to who dies and how, is set in stone. Most mayor gods will die, Thor, Odin, Heimdall – all goners. Norse mythology is a lot more grimmer and fatalistic that it’s Greek counterpart, but it’s none the less fascinating and rich with imaginative stories.

From the important mythological characters, Loki was confusing -- is he evil or just misunderstood? Thor was somewhat of a moron, big, loud and all the time ready for some clobbering – I liked his goats. Freya was too much of a typical vain goddess, but Frey was someone I really liked and found intriguing, based on the short amount of time he was in the story. Apparently, he’s the most similar to Chris Hemsworth, so obviously, I was drawn to him… I, overall, found it funny how Magnus compared everyone to the images we are used to from Thor movies. I assume I would do just the same in his shoes.

Rick Riordan is the ultimate master at writing sarcastic, smart mouth, humorous heroes, and dialogue and general text in the same calibre. It’s light, funny and very effortless to read. There were a multitude of hilarious laugh-out-loud moments, where I actually did genuinely laugh out loud – a rarity with me when reading books. Alone Magnus’ inner thoughts were priceless. In addition, the situations the main characters found themselves in and the weird creatures they encountered were, safe to say, quite comical, eg. pigeon giant, going fishing for world-serpent, talking sword, Thor’s goats, the dwarf stuff creating competition (Blitz’s creations were absolutely supreme) and the sabotage going on there, squirrels, etc.

Despite this awesome humor, I have to spoil the fun somewhat. I was more or less bothered by Magnus’ voice being almost identical to Percy. Both were great protagonists and funny heroes, but I would have preferred them to have more distinct voices. At times, I felt as Magnus was actually Percy and I had to check the cover to see if I was mistaken. Also, as a con, I didn’t really feel a connection to Samirah. From the pro side, Magnus’ other sidekicks, the dwarf Blitz and a deaf elf Hearth, were lovely. The latter leading to a lot of comical situations with his sign language (I loved how Thor misinterpreted everything Hearth said).

The connection to the Heroes of Olympus series was also quite intriguing due to Annabeth being the cousin of Magnus. I’m curious to know if there will be some confrontation between the Norse and Greek/Roman mythology worlds. I did, however, notice that compared to the latter books, the new series story had a lot of info-dumping, which I didn't feel to the extent in the previous series. I guess it is due to Norse mythology being less out there, there being more to introduce to the reader and the information coming across brand new, so there is more intensive attention needed to take in everything.

Further recommendations: The anime (based on the manga of the same name) Mythical Detective Loki Ragnarok (2003) was one of my favourites some years back and it focuses on a cursed, but cute as a button and physically little boy, Loki, a quirky wannabe detective girl student and Loki’s children – Fenrir the adorable doggy was soooo squichy (I loved how he said “daddy” to Loki all the time). Nothing really amazingly interesting happens; it’s more a monster of the week or mystery of the week anime, with a cringeworthy magical staff transformation sequence a la Sailor Moon, but it was unexpectedly fun with idiot Frey with his pig, short-tempered Heimdall and other shenanigans.

www.animenewsnetwork.com

4 stars!

LIIS

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Review: Archangel's Enigma by Nalini Singh

Hi all!

Another one!



Author: Nalini Singh
Title: Archangel’s Enigma
Release date: 1st of September 2015
Series: Guild Hunter #8
Reading level: FICTION – ADULT: Romance, Paranormal
Published by: Jove
Pages: 372 in Kindle e-book format
Source: Bought from Amazon.com for Kindle

Summary:

Naasir is the most feral of the powerful group of vampires and angels known as the Seven, his loyalty pledged to the Archangel Raphael. When rumors surface of a plot to murder the former Archangel of Persia, now lost in the Sleep of the Ancients, Naasir is dispatched to find him. For only he possesses the tracking skills required - those more common to predatory animals than to man.

Enlisted to accompany Naasir, Andromeda, a young angelic scholar with dangerous secrets is fascinated by his nature - at once playful and brilliant, sensual and brutal. As they race to find the Sleeping archangel before it's too late, Naasir will force her to question all she knows...and tempt her to walk into the magnificent, feral darkness of his world. But first they must survive an enemy vicious enough to shatter the greatest taboo of the angelic race and plunge the world into a screaming nightmare...

Review:

It’s no secret that I adore the Guild-Hunter series and, luckily, it’s still going strong. I’m dreading the day that it might fall into the same tiresome, repetitive and sparkles pit of beating a dead horse, as many similar urban paranormal and fantasy novels tend to slip into after a long-running successful steak. There were some itty bitty hints (I may be paranoid) in this book for such alarming future developments, but this disaster is still a million miles away and the series is solid, continuing to be action-paced, unpredictable and sexy as hell.

This instalment centres on Naasir, the mysterious one form Raphael’s Seven, who we’ve been teased about in previous books, but not shown anything of real substance yet. Well, the curtains get drawn down big time and we are presented all the answers to questions about this sensual and animal-like human predator. What the heck he exactly is, has been a burning issue also for Elena, whose scene with him in the last book playing twenty questions regarding this topic was hilarious. Anyway, the veil is lifted and, while definitely a unique concept, I was already expecting something to that end, and the revelation didn’t shock or wow me as much. Despite this, I found Naasir intriguing, and there is certainly something alluring about a guy who’s feral and wild, but naughty and charming as a puppy with his loved ones. He came across boyish, basic in his understanding of human affairs, simplistic and taking everything at face value, eg. emotions, behaviours and personality. This was to me at least quite endearing and understanding, taking account his unique dispositions, but even more adorable were his attempts to accommodate and act according to human/angel norms and rules, despite his thought process being nothing like they have it. Still, even though, at first glance being quite naïve and clueless, you can in no way claim that, due to his black and white view of the world, he wasn’t highly intelligent, capable or dangerous.

So, Naasir, motivated by others in the Seven finding partners, is ready to find his mate, who apparently is hiding from him. Luckily, this angel, Andromeda, smells like his mate would smell, but she doesn’t act accordingly nor does she feel the same way. Their first meeting was awkward yet cute and sexy. But the most appalling barrier to them getting it on, is Adromeda’s celibacy vow, toward which Naasir reacted quite comically. From the plot point of view, this was, however, an acceptable and believable hindrance stopping the couple from giving in and hopping into bed too fast. To Naasir, it’s all instinct and he wouldn’t hold relationship development beforehand in high regard, but me as a reader, I do, so it worked out well for everyone except him. The reader got bonding, progress and growth in their relationship before sex was added into it, Andromeda got an excuse and Naasir got… frustrated. Everyone’s happy! Not.

Despite this aspect of their connection being well crafted, I’m sad to say, I wasn’t as wild about their romance as I was previously with Elena and Raphael and even Dimitri and Honor. I didn’t feel the same sky-high swoonyness and anticipation. They were, to my mind, maybe too different from each other and a teeny bit dull. The latter totally sounds unbelievable, considering the nature of Naasir, but I guess it comes down to the other side of the couple – Andromeda. I didn’t fully understand why her, why specifically she was the mate, she was too perfectly perfect. I mean, she was a nice person, had her strengths and admirable qualities, and some not so visible qualities lying dormant, and as Naasir said, they both wore a different skin, eg they were hiding or suppressing a part of themselves from the world, but still. They did overall work, so I can’t complain too much, I guess it comes down to preference.

One thing I was annoyed at in regarding to Andromeda was her not telling Naasir the truth about her imminent future and duties. It simply created cheap and bothersome tension not only for me, but also for him, because of her hot and cold attitude. The solving of that issues and another one, which came about within the story between them, was also somewhat too convenient, but oh well.

While our lovebirds were globetrotting, saving people and dancing around each other teasingly, things were running out of control in the overall angel community with powers surging and the situation getting unpredictable with the Cascade approaching. Things were progressing in Raphael’s domain in New York as well, especially with everyone’s favourite blue winged angel. That, I wasn’t expecting, and it was interesting how the event unfolded and worked out. Talk about an intense scene! I’m still, however, anxiously looking forward to seeing that storyline develop in the future.

Illium and Aodhan’s deep friendship was of course adorable as well, I’d ship them, but I really want a nice quirky and fun human girl for Illium, and if that doesn’t work out, then Aodhan can have him, he’s my second choice for the blue beauty. The new addition to the archangels was also quite an impressive number, but despite the balance towards great characters, Lijuan needs to die already! It’s getting irritating, I mean, how many times can she be neutralised, pushed back and almost destroyed and she still be crawls back? She’ll be among the roaches after a nuclear war as well I presume.


4 stars!

LIIS

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Review: The Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett

Hi all!

Another review, after a long while!




Author: Jenn Bennett
Title: The Anatomical Shape of a Heart
Release date: 3rd of November 2015
Reading level: FICTION – JUVENILE: Contemporary, Romance, YA
Published by: Feiwel & Friends
Pages: 302 in Kindle e-book format
Source: Bought from Amazon.com for Kindle

Summary:

Artist Beatrix Adams knows exactly how she's spending the summer before her senior year. Determined to follow in Da Vinci's footsteps, she's ready to tackle the one thing that will give her an advantage in a museum-sponsored scholarship contest: drawing actual cadavers. But when she tries to sneak her way into the hospital's Willed Body program and misses the last metro train home, she meets a boy who turns her summer plans upside down.

Jack is charming, wildly attractive . . . and possibly one of San Francisco's most notorious graffiti artists. On midnight buses and city rooftops, Beatrix begins to see who Jack really is-and tries to uncover what he's hiding that leaves him so wounded. But will these secrets come back to haunt him? Or will the skeletons in Beatrix's own family's closet tear them apart?

Review:

I read a review in Goodreads from a reviewer who absolutely destroyed the story and I got really curious if it really is that awful, because the synopsis had my interest piqued. To my mind, the book was nowhere as disastrous as it was made out to be by the review, then again, she tends to overall be extremely picky with giving books above two or one star ratings. To each their own, I guess. Anyway, the story had its fair share of issues, but was generally quite enjoyable with some elements that were quite original or seldom applied in YA fiction and some that were somewhat cringe worthy and/or annoying to no end.

First, the aspects I thought were well crafted and stood out: The heroine Bex was someone who was passionate about her art, she had a specific goal and was determination to reach it. She knew what she wanted to do in the future and took active steps to ensure it. This is quite rare in the YA world, since the girls usually live only for their romance with the swoony guy. Ok, so maybe I’m unfair, and some do have some interests outside of their hot boyfriends, but being so eager, hard-working and concentrated on her target was out of the ordinary. Moreover, this topic took up quite a big chunk of the plot and was in a way the driving force. The romance was a major part of the story, but as equally significant was Bex’s artistic pursuits. In regards to this, I also found it refreshing that her passion was something very specific, unique and something I myself didn’t really know much about. Plus, she had an ordinary part-time job, which was a great addition as well, enabling her to be more similar to a realistic character.

Next to Bex, her artistic and Buddhist, rebel on the outside, gentleman on the inside, love interest, Jack also stood out due to his hobby, which was creating graffiti on important landmarks and other significant places. I wasn’t really wild about this concept, because while he was apparently talented in the field, it was also vandalism and someone had to clean it up. I really dislike people creating unnecessary work and trouble for those that have to eat up all the unpleasant soup later on, in this case, the cleaning staff. Still, his interests made him more original than your typical ripped, hot and handsome wannabe badboy Ken-doll YA boyfriend. He was very handsome though. This book also includes a very sex positive attitude, which is always, when dared to include in YA fiction, something I applaud.

The families of the couple were very much involved in the plot. Both had in a way quite unusual family situations and several potential sources for conflict there. I did like the so-called secret of Jack’s family, which was also the motivation for him to vandalise as he did. Despite it being for a more or less worthy cause, it still came across as questionable in my mind, I mean, wasn’t there anything else to be done except mess up other people’s property? Being the child of divorced parents is nothing spectacular, but the situation within Bex’s family was slightly different and, thus, not as worn-out as you’d expect. What I really appreciated, and which was at first gasp-worthy, was the fact that despite Jack’s rich family, they couldn’t fix everything and Bex didn’t want them to.

Now for the major issues within the book. I know many explode with annoyance with the popular and overused poor-solitary-girl/rich-misunderstood-and-full-of-baggage-guy trope, but I don’t mind it at all. In this story, however, it sort of pinched my butt from time to time, I cannot explain why, but I guess, because Jack was in a way too good to be true and there was no reason for him to be from a prominent family. I would have enjoyed the story more, if he would have been a guy with a regular background and still incredibly talented with his graffiti art. Also, Jack’s Buddhism and spirituality choices were unexpected and unique in a quirky way, but they felt forced at times. Please, keep over-controlling borderline psycho mothers away from me! I thought Bex’s mom, while having some moments of clarity, had issues, issues I didn’t want to read about. She did manage to redeem herself in the end… somewhat, I’ll give her that. While Bex was someone to admire due to her determination and passion for her original hobby, besides that, she showed little interest in anything else (excluding Jack), had no notable friends (not only named and stated as friend) or social life and it was a slight let-down for the potential. Her life was dull at times and I was hoping for more. Though, I did love her humor and banter with Jack.

3 stars!

LIIS
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