Free Fiction Friday #88

Hello, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Free Fiction Friday #88! For those of you who are new to this blog, or who may have missed out on the previous Free Fiction Fridays—every Friday I post an article containing 10 fiction e-books that are 100% FREE on Amazon at the time of posting and an additional 5 that are roughly of the same genre, and on sale for less than $5.

I try my best to make sure they are all 4+ stars, have over 40+ reviews, and are 100 pages minimum—so you can have a hand-picked list of the best-of-the-best to choose from and enjoy over the long weekend (while I do more important things, like laundry). I try to switch up the genres every week, and this week our theme is: RANDOM!

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Free Fiction Friday #86

Hello, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to Free Fiction Friday #86! For those of you who are new to this blog, or who may have missed out on the previous Free Fiction Fridays—every Friday I post an article containing 10 fiction e-books that are 100% FREE on Amazon at the time of posting and an additional 5 that are roughly of the same genre, and on sale for less than $5.

I try my best to make sure they are all 4+ stars, have over 40+ reviews, and are 100 pages minimum—so you can have a hand-picked list of the best-of-the-best to choose from and enjoy over the long weekend (while I do more important things, like laundry). I try to switch up the genres every week, and this week our theme is: Science Fiction & Fantasy!

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Free Fiction Friday #76

Hello ladies and gentlemen and welcome to Free Fiction Friday #76! For those of you who are new to this blog, or may have missed out on the previous Free Fiction Fridays, every Friday I post an article containing 10 fiction e-books that are 100% FREE on Amazon at the time of posting, and an additional 5 that are roughly of the same genre and on sale for less than $5. I try my best to make sure they are all 4+ stars, have over 40+ reviews, and are 100 pages minimum-so that you can have a hand-picked list of the best-of-the-best to choose from and enjoy over the long weekend (while I do more important things, like laundry). I try to switch up the genres every week, and this week our them is: Historical Romance!

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Book Review: Blind Wolf Box Set [1-4]

 

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Title: Blind Wolf Box Set (Books 1-4)

Author: Aubrey Rose

Genre: Paranormal, Fantasy, Romance, Contemporary, Box Set (Anthology)

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Julia has never been on a date in her life. She’s a curvy girl with no money, no education, and no way out of the town she works in as a library assistant… until Damien shows up. He’s just like the prince charming Julia always imagined would sweep her off of her feet. There are just a few things standing in the way of true happiness: he’s blind, he’s dating someone, and he’s WAY out of her league.

Oh, and he’s a werewolf.

Damien lost his eyes two years ago in a wolf battle. Ever since then, the straggler pack of disabled wolves he leads has been searching for a place to call home. One house seems like the perfect choice, but Damien realizes too late that the person who lives there is the girl he met at the library. The human girl. Damien is torn between loyalty to his pack and raw lusting desire for the girl who haunts his dreams day and night.

She’s a human. How could she be his true mate?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I received a copy of this 4-book set on NetGalley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

It took me awhile to decide how I wanted to go about this review. My first inclination, as with all my reviews, was to split the box-set up into individual books and do separate reviews, as well as an all-encompassing review for the set itself. Unfortunately, after having read the series, I changed my mind. This set of books cannot be separated. They do not stand up on their own. It’s almost as if the author wrote all four books (and I use that term lightly because they’re closer to novellas) in one go as a single book, and then split it into four parts. Personally, I would categorize these books as Episodes of a greater whole. Literally from one book to the next the split between the stories occur sometimes in the middle of conversations that continue on as if there was never a break. If you happened to miss the previous book, any one of these books would be completely incomprehensible.

So let’s get down to the nitty gritty: Technically speaking, the writing in this series of books is well done. It’s clear, concise for the most part, and grammatically correct. There were no missing words, misspelled words, or incorrectly used phrases. The writing is strong and engaging, and that’s most of the reason why this set scored as high as it did. Regardless of what happened in the narrative, I was engaged by the writing, and that’s half the score of any book for me.

Plot-wise, I’ll admit, the books fell short. There were little incidences of conflict throughout the series—such as the introduction of  Trax’s pack, Mara’s possible betrayal, and the obscure leader that took over after Trax—but these bits of tension were just that, bits. There didn’t seem to be an overall arching plot to the series, or the individual books, and the points of tension seemed to be randomly thrown in to drive the stories without having any great outcome on the stories themselves. The conflicts were resolved quickly, and with little effort. There were no quests or motivations that seemed to drive the characters to develop any further than how we originally found them at the beginning of the first book (with the exception of Julia searching out her heritage). There were no great understandings reached about their morality or about other characters.

Now, if you look at Romance being the plot itself, then for the first book, I have no problem. It was your basic romance… boy meets girl, they struggle, and eventually sink into a favorable relationship. I’m okay with that, but for the next three book in the series, the romance seemed to be an ever-present point, but not strong enough to actually be considered a plot. Once the main characters sunk into their relationship, nothing really changed with the relationship. They bickered sometimes, but there was no real threat. So while I’d consider the romance theme an extension of the original book, I don’t think the books had a strong plot behind them once you removed that element.

As for the characters themselves, I had a few issues with them. When the main female lead, Julia, is first introduced, she is a weak, self-doubting character. She’s never had a real relationship, and she’s uncomfortable with her body, so going into a relationship with Damien seems like a pipe-dream to her. I liked this about her original character. However, as the books wore on, this didn’t seem to change much. Julia never seemed to get comfortable with her body image. She was continually doubting the validity of her relationship with Damien. As a character (and this is true of all the characters, not just Julia, but I’m making a point of her) she didn’t grow or gain any depth throughout the series. Julia in book 1 was remarkably like Julia in book 4 with the exception of finally learning her heritage. For all intents and purposes, she didn’t grow  as a character—and that’s something I think is necessary in any novel. As events and conversations happen to a character, they should change. These characters didn’t.

Damien in particular was a sore point for me as well. Like Julia, he didn’t change much throughout the series. Unfortunately, the person he was didn’t present a real clear picture. At times Damien was forceful and angry (even towards Julia), but for the most part, he was a rather weak character. He didn’t lead his pack of werewolves with any sense of real leadership. There was this vague notion that his pack members followed him out of loyalty, but it wasn’t loyalty earned through great deeds so much as circumstance. One wolf had a crush on him. One he’d happened upon as she was dying, another was acquired from another pack. None of them followed him because he seemed to have any real leadership quality, and throughout the books he continually steps away from pursuing the qualities that would make him a strong leader. He runs instead of fights. He doesn’t reprimand pack members when they need to be reprimanded. It’s no surprise to me that he had as much trouble leading them as he did. His control over his pack seemed almost lackadaisical.

Even when Damien got into fights with Julia, he didn’t stand up for himself. Most of the time he whined about the outcome or worried about his own inaction instead. I honestly had a hard time accepting him as an alpha male character because his character was presented for the most part, as being weak. Combine his overall presented character with the odd moments of forcefulness, and it seemed as if the author wasn’t really sure what kind of character she was trying to represent. I didn’t get a strong sense of his personality outside the fact that he reacted to each situation in the stories in a way that would bring the most drama—and this is true of almost any character within the book.

The other characters, mostly members of Damien’s pack, seemed rather 1-dimensional. The books never got far into their personalities, or even spent much time on them at all until Damien had a reason to order one of them to do something. Other than Jordan, Damien’s right hand wolf, I honestly came away from the series not knowing all that much about any of the characters. There was very little backstory given, and hardly any conversations that lead to a deeper understanding of the characters at all.

As for the sex…it was steamy. It was also a bit overblown. Julia was constantly shouting “Oh!” or “Ah!”, or talking about how big parts of Damien’s anatomy were, and there came a point where I just sat back and shook my head. Sex happened all the time in this series. Literally, and regardless of the actual storyline. It felt as if sex were being thrown into the book at regular intervals to fill space. It happened before arguments, after arguments, during arguments… even when certain individuals were injured and sex would have been ridiculously uncomfortable or inappropriate during the situation. These moments didn’t seem to serve to bring the characters together, and so it almost felt as if they were fan service in a way. With the exception of when sex actually served to cause pregnancy or cement their relationship in the first place, most of it could have been completely removed from the series with no impact on the story whatsoever.

I think out of the four books, the first was probably my favorite, and the fourth was probably the most irrelevant. Honestly, in the first several chapters of the fourth book, nothing happened. The characters sat around and discussed poetry, motherhood, and how much they didn’t enjoy college, but nothing actually happened. If I hadn’t already invested four hours into the series at that point, I’d probably have closed the book. In my opinion (and take that as you will) the main interest of the plot fell between book 1 and book 2. After that, it felt as if the series were dragging. Now, that’s not to say that all the points in the last two books weren’t good. I really enjoyed the mystery of the werewitch, the strengthening of the bond between Julia and Damien, and the pureblood werewolf subplot. I think those were excellent story points, and I really wish the author had spent more time developing them. Unfortunately, these incidences were barely explained. After four books, I still can’t explain to you who the werewitch was, why she was different than the other werewolves, or what her interest in Julia was.

I think this series had a lot of potential to be something bigger than it was, but for whatever reason, the way the overall story was split up and manipulated really hurt the series as a whole. I wish this had been one book, and that the tension points and plot points that were brought up had been delved into further. As it stands, it was a bit of a lack-luster read. Would I read it again? No, I probably wouldn’t. Would I recommend it? Honestly, probably not. It’s not that the series was horrible, but I walked away from it without any passionate feelings on it at all. It wasn’t bad enough for me to hate it, but it wasn’t good enough for me to want to continue either—and that’s why I gave this three stars (and that was rounding up). It fell right into the lower middle of the rating system for me with an “it was okay.” I think there are certainly people out there that will enjoy this series much more than I did, and I would like to take a moment to commend the author for having chosen to represent her characters the way she did. It’s not often you find a series where the main cast are as intrinsically flawed as these were. There was an overweight virgin, a blind werewolf, a gay werewolf, and some formerly-abused werewolves. I’m glad to see that not all, or even most, of the characters were perfect. It was a nice change.

Book Review: Plus One

 

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Title: Plus One

Author: Elizabeth Fama

Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopia, Romance, Young Adult, Alternate History

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Seventeen-year-old Soleil Le Coeur is a Smudge—a night dweller prohibited by law from going out during the day. When she fakes an injury in order to get access to and kidnap her newborn niece—a day dweller, or Ray—she sets in motion a fast-paced adventure that will bring her into conflict with the powerful lawmakers who order her world, and draw her together with the boy she was destined to fall in love with, but who is also a Ray.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Fantastic. That’s what I have to say about this book. I’m a  great lover of dystopian, so it was no surprise that I picked up Plus One at NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. It was a bit of a surprise how much I enjoyed this book. Unlike most YA dystopians, though the characters were young, I never felt like the narrative was dumbed down, or that the characters were overly dramatic and whiny as in a lot of books of this type. Technically speaking, the writing was clear, concise, fast-paced, and at times, heart-breakingly beautiful.

The core of this story followed Soleil, a young girl who scrapes by in the dregs of her society. Long ago the world was split into shifts… those that live in the day (The Rays), and those that live in the night (The Smudges). This was originally enacted during a great plague to even out the dwindling workforce and keep medical facilities open around the clock, but also to keep the population segregated in a way that would minimize contact during the outbreaks. It worked, and the world adopted this new way of life as the norm… and then never changed back—unfortunately, the new system wasn’t equal. The Smudges, like Soleil and her grandfather, Francois, work in menial factory jobs and see their world in shades of black and gray. Voices are rarely raised above a whisper, and they are fed meds throughout the day just so they can sleep. The streets are filled with thug groups like the psychotic Noma, and their every move is watched by Hour Guards that keep them from missing curfew under any circumstances. Her only comfort is her grandfather, who is on his deathbed, and a long lost friend who used to leave her artistic messages in school, to make life worth living. The world of the Smudges is a dark place, ruled by fear and brutality.

What follows is a heart-wrenching thrill-ride as Soleil fights with every bit of her being to make sure her grandfather sees his great-granddaughter before he dies. Unfortunately, his great-granddaughter is a Ray. In order to accomplish her goal, she will have to break every law, and throw her future away…but that’s who Soleil is. She doesn’t love half-way. She’s an all-in type of girl, and this story follows her every up and down as she battles to do what she thinks is right, and finds love and friendship along the way with people she never thought it possible to care about.

If I had to pick one word to sum up Plus One, it’d be: Beautiful. It is filled with thrills, action, adventure, deep friendships, heart-warming romance, and a good deal of tragedy. I fell into the world building effortlessly, and didn’t come up for air until the last word was spoken. I can’t imagine this story being written any better than it was, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s turned into a movie somewhere along the line (I’ll be there at opening, thank you). I adored this book and I will read it again and again.

Would I recommend it? Hell yes. This book comes out April 8th, 2014. Pick up a copy. No excuses. Books like this don’t come along every day, and it’d be a shame if anyone were to miss the beautiful message Soleil portrays throughout this story: That there are some things, like love, family, and human decency that you fight for without question. You fight until your last breath, even if you must sacrifice everything for them.

Book Review: Bite Me

 

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Title: Bite Me [Pride 9]

Author: Shelly Laurenston

Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance, Humor

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Livy Kowalski has no time for idiots. When you shapeshift into a honey badger, getting through life’s irritants is a finely honed skill. Until she gets stuck housing her nutso cousin and dealing with her dad’s untimely and unexplained demise.

That’s where Vic Barinov comes in—or his house does. Vic can’t step outside without coming back to find Livy devouring his honey stash and getting the TV remote sticky. It gets his animal instincts all riled up. But he’ll have to woo her at high speed: all hell is breaking loose, and Livy is leading the charge…

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I received this book directly from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I did not expect what I got out of this book. I love paranormal romances, so when I saw Bite Me by Shelly Laurenston floating around NetGalley, I immediately requested to give a review. I was expecting your typical shifter-romance with a brooding, animalistic hero, and a very overwhelmed heroine. that’s how these things normally go. I haven’t read any of the previous books of this series, or other books by this author, and I didn’t read the synopsis—and I’m glad I didn’t. Bite Me was not like the other paranormal romance books I’ve read, but it didn’t take me long to realize how much I was going to enjoy it.

The book was written in snarky tongue-in-cheek humor throughout, and I outright laughed more times than I didn’t. The Characters were vibrant and exaggerated personas of their animal counterparts, and it didn’t take me long to fall in love with all of them—especially the main characters, Livy and Vic. Honey Badgers are not a species of shifters you see in a lot of paranormal romances—in fact, this was my first time experiencing them—but they quickly became my favorite of all the shifters. Getting to know the outrageously strange Livy (who sleeps naked in other people’s cupboards and hoards honey) was like watching the most entertaining drama-filled reality show ever imagined. Her family was a train wreck of absurdity that made me grin from ear to ear. I adored these characters in a way I don’t think I have in almost any other book.

Livy may be the most entertaining female lead in a book I’ve ever read. She was rude, violent, uncaring, sometimes even downright blood-thirsty, but it was balanced out with a strange naiveté about polite society that almost gave her an edge of innocence (but please don’t tell her I said that, I like my eyeballs in my head, thank you). I adore Livy and all her strange quirks. Unlike most heroine’s, she was balanced in a way that didn’t make me question her intelligence or even her morals (and let’s be honest, she doesn’t have many of those). I believed her as a character without question.

Vic on the other hand, was a bit of a strange character for me. I’m used to strong, broody males in books like this, and that doesn’t quite describe the tiger/bear hybrid. He was essentially a very big teddy bear most of the time… if teddy bears had prehensile tails and could throw cars. He was strong when he needed to be, but the rest of the time he was laid back and soft—which may have been what made him a perfect match for Livy. Other times, he was just as violent and overbearing as his little Honey-Badger girlfriend, and at those times, she was downright giggly. Their dynamics were fantastic, and though I normally like my hero’s to be a little more broody and a little less cuddly, I think in this instance, I have to concede the point to Ms. Laurenston. I can’t imagine this couple any other way.

I will admit, there came a point when I stopped being able to remember character’s names and species. There were a lot of characters. For instance, I can’t name a single one of the Jackals, wolves, or various cats… but the Honey Badgers and Bears? Totally on my speed-dial. unfortunately, that’s a side effect of having a thrilling plot like this one where characters were running around all over the world in different groups. I don’t know that I’d say there was an abundance of unneeded characters, but there were certainly more than I’m used to dealing with.

The plot itself was an action-packed thrill ride complete with a shifter mafia, hockey teams, crime rings, art dealers, and poachers that didn’t let up until the end (and let’s not forget the steamy sex scenes!).  The writing was clean and engaging, and sucked me in from the very first paragraph until the last. If I had one complaint –at all- about this book, it’s that it ended too soon. I would have happily wiled away a few more hours with Livy and Vic (and the rest of Livy’s family, let’s be honest. I love those honey badgers!) But alas, every book must end.

I sincerely loved this book. I can’t think of a single scene that didn’t have me laughing or at least grinning (my favorite will always be when Vic found Livy in his cupboard the first time). Honestly, it’s one of the best reads I’ve had in a long time, and I’ll definitely be looking out for more from this author. Would I read this again? Hell yes. Would I recommend it to others? Any day of the week. Bite Me was a humorous romp, and I enjoyed every second of it.

Book Review: Found

 

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Title: Found [The Crescent Chronicles 3]

Author: Alyssa Rose Ivy

Genre: New Adult, Paranormal, Fantasy, Romance, Urban

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Levi might be hot, strong, and have a cool set of wings, but it’s not enough to make up for keeping Allie in the dark.

Allie’s tired of being left with more questions than answers. She’s tired of loving a guy who refuses to level with her. Most of all, she’s tired of her life spinning out of control.

Desperate to save Jess no matter the personal cost, Allie has to face the possibility that the only one she can trust is herself.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I think out of the three books in this series, Found is possibly my favorite, though it’s hard to explain why. Like the previous books, this one followed a very similar pattern to me of what did and did not work. The technical side of the writing was well-paced and well-written. I didn’t notice any grammatical, spelling, or punctuation mistakes, and the whole book kept a pretty even, jaunty pace throughout. I didn’t feel rushed, and I didn’t feel bogged down.

Like it’s predecessors, it did lack a bit of detail. The author has this somewhat frustrating penchant for never describing the atmosphere and visual aspects of any of the locals in these books. Instead, it seems the smallest, most irrelevant things (like the dresses that at this point we know are always going to be short and red) usually hog all the descriptive detail. I’ve gotten used to it over the course of the trilogy, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t express my displeasure.

As for the world building: we’re still talking bare bones. The world the author has painted for us in the Crescent Chronicles is one that I feel had a lot of potential. There’s this ominous court of supernaturals and an unfathomable hierarchy of creatures and royalty that is never truly explained. I would have loved to see the world filled out a little more, because I think given some more time, the author could have made it truly spectacular, but as it stands, the supernatural aspect of these books feels almost like a side-note to the true core of this story: the characterization.

The characters of this trilogy are truly the high-point of the author’s abilities. Regardless of the sometimes sickeningly sweet dialogue between the main couple, for the most part, the characters act with a great deal of depth and believability throughout this series. They aren’t always rational, pleasant, or smart people, but they act as I’d expect any true person to act. They are fallible and likeable—and that is a great indicator of the author’s writing ability.

I really enjoyed the dynamics of the character’s relationships this time around. Unlike the first two books, I didn’t feel quite as frustrated with Allie and Levi’s relationship—though I will admit that I was a bit creeped out by the fact he knew what she was and never said anything. Seriously, can the guy not act like an ass for once? Still, I was happy to see the couple going strong, and I really enjoyed getting the chance to get to know some of the other characters better in this installment to the series.

I will say: The sex scenes didn’t get any better—and believe me, there are a ton of them in this story. It’s odd to me that the author would include so many sex scenes and yet every single one of them feels incomplete and glossed over. They aren’t steamy in the slightest, in fact, for the most part, huge sections of the scenes are skipped over. It’s as if the author leads up with the urgency for the act, goes through the motions of stripping the characters down, and then POOF, it’s the end and they’re talking about how awesome it is. I want to see the awesome! I don’t know if the author is uncomfortable with the sex scenes (which seems silly considering how many scenes there are) or if she simply isn’t good at writing them. Regardless, they certainly left something to be desired, and didn’t improve even this far into the series.

That aside, I really enjoyed the book. There was a lot more action, mystery, and thrills involved in this installment that kept me enthralled right up until the very end, and I enjoyed nearly every moment of it. It was nice to see Allie finally stepping up and showing some of that kick-ass attitude I always suspected she had, and while the ending was a little overly mushy for my tastes, I was happy with how the issue of the throne resolved itself between the three contenders.

Would I read this again? Certainly. Though I didn’t expect to, I really enjoyed the series. Would I recommend it? Without a doubt. I know I’ll be watching out for more of the author’s work. I would like to say though: If you really want to enjoy this series, you can’t expect to go into these stories thinking of this like your typical paranormal romance. If you do, you’ll be disappointed. The strength in this series lies with the characterizations of the characters, not necessarily in the world building or the sexy bits like most novels in these genre’s. I think with an open mind, it could be very easy to enjoy this series…just leave your preconceptions at the door.