Book Review: Barely Breathing

review-cover-barely breathingTitle: Barely Breathing [Shattered Souls Trilogy 1]

Author: Katerina Bray

Genre: Romance

Rating: 1 Star (DNF)

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Description/Synopsis:

Take a Deep Breath
You can and will get through this.

Rock Bottom.

Is where I find myself, yet again.

I remember all the times I’ve stood alone, begging for help, praying for an answer, no longer knowing who I’d become and barely being able to breathe.

I. Will. Not. Let. Those. Memories. Stop. Me.

Knock me down, break my soul, and cause me pain, but I have always found the strength to pick myself up and stand tall again.

People assume I’m too fragile and incapable of functioning.

But surviving is part of my daily routine.

I, Ruby Bennett will start over as many times as it takes.

My past will not overpower my present.

It’s said the third time’s a charm.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I sadly only made it 3% into this book. I just couldn’t push myself to read any further. The narrative felt contrived; it was trying too hard to be poetic and mysterious and didn’t come across as genuine. The opening sequence was slow with lots of explanation thrown in, and it felt like it took forever to get through. As a Texan, I was irritated by the stereotypical trope of the realtor with the thick Texan drawl (btw, most people in Texas don’t have that accent). For all the words used, nothing seemed to be happening of any importance to the story itself in the first chapter, and when I got to the second chapter with Maeson’s gratuitous swearing, I was just done.

Maybe it’s just me, but I didn’t have the patience to sit through another chapter. I wasn’t drawn into the story. I wasn’t interested in where it was going or what was going to happen. I wasn’t sucked in by the characters. There may be someone out there that enjoys this book for more than I did, but it just wasn’t for me.

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Book Review: Hers, Untamed

review-cover-hers untamedTitle: Hers, Untamed

Author: Anna Adler

Genre: Science Fiction, Romance

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Alyssa Cressfield always wanted a pet—a big, sexy man who would look impressive on a leash. Now, she is finally ready to realize her dream. She visits a pet training center, intending to buy a trained pet. Instead she finds Jax, a fierce human-alien hybrid freshly caught from space, still untamed and unbroken. Alyssa has never encountered an untamed pet before. She can’t resist temptation; she must have him.

On Silenia, it is customary for humans to keep other intelligent species as pets and sex toys. Alyssa is kind at heart, but she is a product of her society and therefore sees nothing wrong with keeping a man in a cage against his will. Jax, on the other hand, is a space pirate who now finds himself wearing a collar and being treated like property. He has no intention of turning tame and obedient, and a battle of wills ensues. Jax and Alyssa quickly discover their undeniable chemistry, but is it enough to reconcile them? What happens when the pet breaks out of his cage?

Note to reader: This is a standalone novel featuring a romance between a human and a human-alien hybrid. While not dark, the story is set in a dystopian society and contains some raunchy sex scenes between the main characters. Recommended for mature readers.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I’m giving this story a rather tentative 3 stars. Here’s the thing: a lot of readers aren’t going to like this book. It’s firmly in the Erotic Fiction category—not romance as purported. There’s quite a bit of king, some taboo leanings, and there’s a lot of explicit sex. It’s going to be too much for some readers to handle, particularly if they go into the book expecting a romance. If those things don’t interest you, you’re going to want to move on.

That being said, I did have some gripes of my own. Although the level of kink and explicit sex in this book aren’t what I’m personally interested in, they don’t bother me. I read a lot of books, most of those falling squarely in the romance and erotica genres. What does bother me is the very clear association in this book with slavery and abuse. If this story took place in the real world, it wouldn’t be sexy—it’d be horrifying. There are many individuals in the book that are kidnapped, held against their will, mentally broken, and then forced to perform as pets for the wealthy. No matter how it’s justified in the book, it’s wrong. It’s hard for me to appreciate a book that relies on sex and romance to blind the reader to the fact that the main male lead has had his basic rights violated in this manner.

That being said, the book was well written. The romance was steamy, I adored the male lead as a character, and it had a happy ending. All of these are good things—but that doesn’t completely overshadow how intrinsically wrong the main premise of the story is. Even though I liked the book as a whole, I am very uncomfortable with the slavery aspect of its plotline. Because it’s fiction and everything worked out in the end, I’m willing to try to look past the less-than-savory aspects of the plot, but that doesn’t mean they don’t bother me. A lot of readers are not going to enjoy this book because of it.

Another thing I didn’t enjoy was the portrayal of the main female lead. Despite her purported intelligence and expertise, she came across as naïve, wanton, and rather airheaded. She was clever only when it served to thwart the main male lead, but refused to use her intellect to question her own society and their treatment of outside life forms. She questioned nothing that went against her own brainwashed utopian beliefs—and I find it hard to believe that someone so intelligent wouldn’t ask questions.

Overall, it was a fun read. There were definitely parts of the story I enjoyed and some I didn’t, but throughout, I was thoroughly entertained. This book isn’t for everyone. If you’re a sensitive reader, I’d recommend looking for something a bit more traditional, but if you enjoy a taste of the taboo, this is a safe way to be entertained for a few hours.

Book Review: Blessedly Bound

review-cover-blessedly boundTitle: Blessedly Bound [An Elemental Witch Trials Novel 1]

Author: Lucretia Stanhope

Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy

Rating: 1 Star (DNF)

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Description/Synopsis:

Gwen Hensley finds herself pulled into something life altering when she inherits a sprawling manor from a grandmother she never knew. As a witch, she uses her gift of sight to experience her grandmother die in a brutal execution by flames. The vision is only the catalyst that tosses her into a mystery involving a killer with psychopathic tendencies and a vitriol for witches.

Seeking aid in unraveling the mystery, she discovers her familiar, Lewis, is wrapped up in her family curse that involves voodoo and a sacrifice of the first-born witch in each generation. The neighbor, Sebastian, her grandmother’s best friend and a familiar with his own haunted past, tugs her in intimate and magical ways, which both puts her in danger and a position to be more powerful than she ever dreamed possible.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I wanted to like this book, unfortunately, the story started painfully slow. The author spent a lot of time “telling” the reader what was happening rather than showing it. The characters spent a lot of time simply doing inane tasks and participating in small talk. By the time the book hit 10%, I was bored.

I pushed on, and at 16% in I gave up. The narrative was slow, wordy, and methodical in its descriptions. The characters spent a lot of time in quiet contemplation and simple tasks and yet the story didn’t seem to progress. Although the premise was interesting and the characters unique, I didn’t feel drawn in by the narrative.

Overall, I would say that it could be an interesting book for the right reader, and those out there with a higher tolerance for slow starts might end up really enjoying it, but it just didn’t hold my attention. I prefer more tension and quicker paced fiction.

Book Review: A Road Paved In Copper

review-cover-a road paved in copperTitle: A Road Paved In Copper

Author: Angela Christina Archer

Genre: Historical, Western, Romance

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Armed with her six-shooter, Ava De La Vega dips the pen into the inkwell and etches her name on the Esmeralda County tax record book. A formidable force, that’s what her peers have called her. The woman in a man’s world, what did she know of mining ore, silver, and copper? Plenty. And it’s this knowledge that makes her of the richest miners in Nevada in 1903. Of course, it also makes her a target.

Traveling back and forth from Tonopah, Nevada and San Francisco, Ava blazes the trail from the dirt and grime of her mines to the fanciest hotel rooms, enjoying the finest wines, the most decadent meals, and the company of attractive young men.

Unfortunately, for Ava, she doesn’t see Craig Harrison coming.

A miner from the snowy Klondike, Craig has traveled from the harsh Canadian mountains down to city streets of San Francisco. Not looking for work, he’s happy with the comfortable life away from the deep mines, the dirt, and the ever sought-after gold.

Unfortunately, for Craig, he doesn’t see Ava coming.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I was a little on the fence with how to rate A Road Paved in Copper by Angela Christina Archer. As I first delved into the book, I was a bit thrown by the style in which the narrative was written. There was a lot of description—beautiful description—but it tended to come off as telling more often than showing. For all the words used to describe Ava De La Vega’s world, none of them had quite the impact I wanted to really sink into the world building.

As far as the characters are concerned, Ava was a very strong, very competent main female lead, and in contrast, Craig often came off as a bit of a beta male. He had a tendency to sit back and let Ava do whatever she wanted rather than striving to push her into facing her faults. Between the two, I definitely liked Ava a lot more.

As for the romance… I had a few problems with it. Ava had a lot of past lovers, which is absolutely fine and didn’t bother me in the slightest, but what did bother me is the fact that she had both a relationship with Billy Jack, one of the “villains” of the story, Craig—the main male lead, as well as her foreman. It felt weird and unneeded to have the foreman’s relationship with Ava pointed out at the same time that she’s dealing with her past with Billy Jack, and her new lover, Craig. It felt like a bit of overkill.

That being said, It also felt like Ava’s relationship with Craig went a little too fast to be convincing. I think a large part of this is due to the fact that despite seeing the chemistry between the two lovers right off the bat, the majority of their relationship was played out off-screen on the trail back home, which realistically would have taken days, maybe even weeks. It was skimmed over and then they were home, and the readers were supposed to accept their budding relationship and keep moving forward. It didn’t feel convincing to me. I wish we’d gotten more time to actually see their relationship develop ourselves.

All of that aside, I still liked the book. Despite its flaws, I’d still say it was pretty well written. I liked the characters, the plot, the world building… Tonopah felt real to me, and it was definitely a different twist on an old western trope where the roles of the story were reversed a bit. Ava was everything I’d expect from a  strong female lead. In the end, I gave the book 3 stars because it wasn’t a bad book, but it also wasn’t the greatest I’ve ever read. It had its flaws and it’s great points, overall, I liked it. If you’re looking for a historical western-themed romance with a  strong female lead, I’d recommend you check this out—that part of the book was very well done. If you prefer Alpha males and simpering ladies, you might want to pass this one up.

Book Review: Mann Cakes

review-cover-mann cakesTitle: Mann Cakes

Author: Mysti Parker

Genre: Contemporary Romance, Suspense

Rating: 2 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Twin brothers and Air Force vets, Tanner and Garrett Mann, return from deployment to find their thriving business burned to the ground. Time for Plan B: Move back to their hometown of Beach Pointe to start over.

But that means running into Paige and Morgan Baxter –gorgeous, curvy, and owners of Two Sisters Cupcakes.

There’s an old diner for sale across town, Garrett’s a great cook, and Tanner has an idea. They’ll make savory cupcakes that men would like. We’re talking bacon and Cheez Whiz. Even better? They’ll call it Mann Cakes. Problem is, they end up attracting an unexpected crowd.

Paige is furious. Every man in her life has left her behind, including Tanner. She’s sacrificed everything for her shop. She won’t lose it over some egotistical ex-boyfriend, even if he does have an Air Force-chiseled body. Her younger sister, Morgan, isn’t helping matters. She’s been gaga over Garrett since high school.

To hell with that. If it’s a fight Tanner wants, it’s a fight he’ll get. But how much is Paige willing to risk to win a cupcake war?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I almost gave this book 3 stars. Almost. I just couldn’t do it. I was bored. After the first few pages, I was ready to put the book down. I hung on, and I did finish the book, but I didn’t really enjoy it.

Very little time was spent on the suspense portion of this book. The murdered friend was mentioned less than a handful of times, and other than one or two incidents in the entire book, there really was no active danger or suspense built up for the characters and reader.

There was also very little of the supposed “cupcake war” this book was about. There was maybe an hour in-book time dedicated to the war between the brothers and sisters, and it was entirely one sided and basically, only one character was even involved. Everyone else was just fine. There was no animosity between them.

The romances themselves were paced pretty identically between the two couples—so it felt like we were just seeing the same romance in an echo. The romance moved along so quickly that I didn’t feel anything for the characters. It didn’t feel realistic. The entirety of the book felt like it passed in a handful of days, and before you knew it they were at their HEA’s.

Overall, it felt like the book lacked any tension or conflict. Everything was a little too easy for the characters, and nothing really happened to move the plot or relationships forward. In the end, the book just wasn’t for me.

Book Review: Outlining Your Novel

review-cover-outlining your novelTitle: Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success

Author: K.M. Weiland

Genre: Non-Fiction, Writing & Publishing, How-To

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Writers often look upon outlines with fear and trembling. But when properly understood and correctly wielded, the outline is one of the most powerful weapons in a writer’s arsenal. Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success will help you choose the right type of outline for you, guide you in brainstorming plot ideas, aid you in discovering your characters, show you how to structure your scenes, explain how to format your finished outline, instruct you in how to use your outline when writing the first draft, reveal the benefits of outlining, and dispel the misconceptions.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I have to be honest… this book wasn’t what I expected it to be. Based on the description, I went into this book thinking this was going to help me outline, figure out how to fill in said outline, structure my scenes and plot, etc.—but that isn’t exactly what this book is. 90% of this book was a switch between author interviews where basically every author had the same response (which is fine, they all talked about outlining and why it was useful), and the actual author of the book encouraging the reader to outline. That’s fine… but you aren’t really going to pick up this book unless you’re already planning to outline… so why are you trying so hard to convince the reader that outlining is the way to go?

I expected the book to be more helpful, to help me fill out an outline and spark questions about where to go next in my outline. I was hoping for page after page of outlining advice on how to actually figure out an outline and turn it into a workable story… but there was very little of that in this. Don’t get me wrong—it was in there… sort of, but it felt more like the book was one big advertisement pushing the reader to try outlining and feel really good about that decision… and like I said, no one’s going to pick up this book if they aren’t already going to be outlining.

In the end it felt like the small percentage of the book that was actually useful was so small that it could have easily been a single blog post. The rest was just filler to bolster pages and make the reader feel good about their decision to outline… rather than being of any actual help. I gave this book three stars because it was fine. I learned a few small tidbits that will be helpful, but I also feel like I wasted my money on something I could have just Googled, and probably would have gotten more out of in the process. I’m a bit disappointed.

Book Review: Taming Beauty

review-cover-taming beautyTitle: Taming Beauty [Dunaway’s Daughters 1]

Author: Lynne Barron

Genre: Historical, Romance

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

It’s best not to answer the door when the Earl of Dunaway come’s knocking.

After learning this lesson by trial and error, as any good lesson ought to be learned, Miss Lilith Aberdeen fashioned a life for herself on the fringes of London society. She is the last lady likely to risk her independence or her heart on anything as fickle and frivolous as love. Or the waxing and waning of familial affection, for that matter. So, how is it she winds up journeying to the wilds of Cornwall to deliver the earl’s pampered, petulant daughter into the hands of the reclusive Baron Malleville?

Blame it on the scandalous, unscrupulous and downright dissolute earl.

Jasper Grimley has spent more than a decade living in self-imposed exile, tending his lands and waiting for his chosen bride to come of age. When his betrothed is plucked from his grasp mere months before the wedding, he sets in motion a plan to turn the Earl of Dunaway’s plethora of debts and profusion of daughters to his advantage. Unfortunately, when dealing with the earl, even the best laid plans have a tendency to fall to ruin, and Jasper soon finds himself beguiled by the wrong woman. Lilith is not the sweet, innocent, biddable bride he bargained with the devil to possess, but she just might be…

The lady destined to lead him down the primrose path to happily-ever-after.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Taming Beauty by Lynne Barron was such a strange, charming little story. The best phrase I can think of to describe it is vibrant chaos.

The characters were complex in the best of ways—often a tad quirky and loud. Lilith and Jasper made a great couple-at-odds, their relationship a tug of war between seduction, flippant banter, and still, endearing moments—and I loved their odd relationship.

The writing was steadily paced and easy to sink into—but I’ll admit, it could be hard to follow the dialogue at times. The character’s voices were written in a genuine, humorous way, full of colorful language and emotion—truly a whirlwind to try and follow. Sometimes that was good, and at other times I had to pause to figure out what the characters were speaking about.

Overall, I thought it was a charming read. If you’re looking for a quick, funny historical romance to read, I’d suggest you give it a try. I don’t know that it was a style of romance I’d normally want to pick up, but it was nice to find something a little different in this story, and I had fun with it.