Book Review: Change For Me

 

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Title: Change For Me [Alpha’s Kiss 1]

Author: Lynn Red

Genre: New Adult, Paranormal, Fantasy, Romance

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

New faces were hard to come by in Fort Branch, Arizona. From the moment she saw Damon, Lily Kyle’s heart was stolen. He and Lily were inseparable, until he finally pushed her too far away.

Despite the distance Damon put between them, Lily never stopped loving him.

Motorcycle riding, rough-around-the-edges Damon King has a complicated life. He’s trying to juggle existence after high school, while attempting to get back the only girl he ever really loved. On top of all that? Damon has to figure out his new role as Alpha of a scattered pack of werewolves.

When Damon learns that Lily is more than just his high school sweetheart – she’s his fated soul mate – he also realizes he’s not the only Alpha in town. Will he be able to protect her, and drive his dangerous rival out of town before it’s too late? Or will his savage, feral werewolf rival tear Fort Branch apart and claim Lily first?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I read this book as part of the Fated Mates Box Set, so I am planning to give a review to each individual book in the set, and then the set as a whole at a later date. There are twelve books in the set, and it is currently for sale on Amazon for $0.99 at the time this review was written. This is book 3 of 12.

I really enjoyed this book. On the technical side of things, the story was fairly well written. There were a few misspellings and odd word order choices that threw me here and there, but they were few and far between. The narrative was engaging, and written in a voice (the voice of Lily) which was very personal and entertaining. It had a tendency to swim around in Lily’s head throughout the story, really showing off her thought processes and inner feelings – which I think helped to really draw me into the story.

The world building in this story was somewhat confusing to grasp—mostly because the main characters were kept in the dark for the majority of the story and didn’t know what was going on either. Subsequently, it was a little hard to grasp the intricacies of the two clans of werewolves, why they were fighting, and the rules of hierarchy and ascension into become a shifter. In the end, it really didn’t matter though. The core of this story was about Lily and how her world got turned upside down by the power struggle between Damon and Devin.

I will say, one of the few aspects of the story that I think really could have been improved, was the pace. It moved along quite slowly (though steadily). The romance and the plotline took what seemed like forever to develop, and so at times, I found myself skimming over some aspects of the story (as with the sex scenes which were easily 4-6 pages long) and the confusing discussions between Lily, Poko, and Damon. Though the pace was slow, for the most part, I still found the book engaging. I had a hard time peeling myself away from the story, and I was genuinely concerned for the characters.

I wish more time had been spent on the supernatural aspect of the story as far as the world building went, but I was happy to see that the author went into detail about the transformations of the shifters. I could imagine the sequences quite well, and it brought an aspect of believability to what was going on.

Overall, I really liked the story. I wish it had moved a little faster and more time had been spent on developing the world building, but I think the characterization and narrative were strong. I’d certainly read it again, and I’d recommend it to anyone who likes shifter-romances.

Book Review: Charming The Alpha

 

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Title: Charming The Alpha [The Crane Curse 1]

Author: Liliana Rhodes

Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance

Rating: 2 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Hannah Crane just graduated college, lives at home with her mom, and has no idea what to do with her life. One night while visiting her grandmother, she’s startled by a wolf and everything changes.

In the forest investigating a recent rash of murders and missing shifters, werewolf Alpha Caleb Overstreet doesn’t expect to run into a human, let alone a witch. Especially not one whose scent tells him she is his other half…or is she?

As the secrets of her ancestry are revealed, Caleb and Hannah are unable to stay away from each other and Hannah finds herself in danger. A rival pack believes her to be at the center of a curse that would enable them to control other shifters. But is Hannah the wolf charmer they believe her to be? Or is she really Caleb’s fated mate?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I read this book as part of the Fated Mates Box Set, so I am planning to give a review to each individual book in the set, and then the set as a whole at a later date. There are twelve books in the set, and it is currently for sale on Amazon for $0.99 at the time this review was written. This is Book 2 of 12.

Let me say right off the bat: I didn’t like this book. Within the first page, I realized that there were going to be a few quirks to this book that I’d have to get used to. Unfortunately, at the time I didn’t realize quite how many there would be. I mistakenly thought that once I got further into the book, I’d get some understanding of the author’s choices in the narrative. Alas, it was not to be.

First off, several characters had really odd names with no obvious explanation of why: Pea, Bubbles, Pinky. I have no idea why. I was expecting to have it explained that they were nicknames, but no such luck. I should add that Hannah, the main character, often referred to her mother by first name, but also called her “Mom”, again with no explanation.

The second odd quirk, was the wardrobe of the characters—they were constantly being explained in excruciating detail (and were oddly conservative with turtleneck shirts and pencil skirts), but given that the main female lead wore a dated navy/red cloak with her black skinny jeans, I had a hard time pinning down the time period from the very beginning of the book.

From there, the story was a jumbled mess of plot holes, bad dialogue, and utterly unbelievable characters. At first it was little things: like the fact that Hannah’s house was in pristine condition and livable even though it had reportedly been around since the days of the pilgrims. It stretched believability a bit, but the further I got into the story, the more absurd it got. Seemingly important pieces of information were left out entirely at times, and other times the characters ignored information they already knew, and then were surprised when it came back to bite them.

For instance, Hannah was in complete denial that any supernatural beings lived in her town (including werewolves) but then goes on to explain that she’s a witch, and her mother once told her that her father was a werewolf. God only knows how she reconciled those two bits of information with her distorted worldview.

As another example: Hannah spent her entire life being harassed by her grandmother about the length of her hair. It is even explained to her that her hair gives away a smell that alerts shifters to who she is, and yet when she decides she needs to hide from the shifters and mask her smell, she resorts to using a complicated potion instead of just cutting her hair off as she is constantly being asked to do. She even took a minute to say that her hair wasn’t important and she’d cut it if she had to….but still chose to use a potion.

For the most part, Hannah acted as if she were 15. She whined—a lot. She acted like a boy-crazy teen, and purposefully put herself in danger several times for the hell of it. I found it hard to believe that she was actually in her twenties—and actually went back and checked the narrative just to be sure. This seemed to be a running theme with most of the characters though. They were incredibly flakey—often going back on what they’d said in previous conversations, putting themselves and others in danger for no reason, and jumping to conclusions over the smallest things. The narrative was drama drama drama from beginning to end. *throws hands up in the air*

The dialogue was hard to follow, and unnatural. Sometimes characters would go off on odd tangents in the middle of dialogue, and other characters would respond back to them in ways that didn’t make sense… almost as if a part of the conversation had gone missing. I finally drew the conclusion that at some point the author had either edited the dialogue out, or had imagined it while she wrote, and skipped it entirely. The narrative itself was plagued with misplaced punctuation and oddly phrased sentences. Have some dialogue:

“Oh you’d know it,” she said as she stopped pacing. “Now tell me what Pea said.” “stop trying to change the subject, Mom. I’m allowed to be curious about the strange beings in our town.”

“What? No! You don’t know what you’re talking about? And what if it was? But it’s not,”

“I don’t have time for this. I should leave you here to learn your fate,” he said huskily as his gaze briefly softened. “Many wolves wouldn’t be as honorable towards a lost beautiful human such as yourself.”

I guess the best way to describe this book is: disjointed and unbelievable. The characters actions and the events within the book were so far off the deep end of reality, and with so little explanation, that I found it increasingly difficult to believe any part of the story. By the time it got around to the romance, I’d already washed my hands of it. It’s hard to invest yourself into a romance if you don’t like the characters and most of the time they’re being so stupid that you want to throw your book across the room. The sexy scenes ended up feeling dry and humorous because of this. I just couldn’t get into it.

Would I read this book again? No. Never. Would I recommend it to others? No. There may be someone out there that can sit through this ridiculous story and enjoy it, but it isn’t me. It is in desperate need of a good editor and some beta readers to clean up the plot holes and juvenile narrative. The only reason it got two stars instead of one, is because I finished reading it.

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: Flight

 

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Title: Flight [The Crescent Chronicles 1]

Author: Alyssa Rose Ivy

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

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

A summer in New Orleans is exactly what Allie needs before starting college. Accepting her dad’s invitation to work at his hotel offers an escape from her ex-boyfriend and the chance to spend the summer with her best friend. Meeting a guy is the last thing on her mind—until she sees Levi.

Unable to resist the infuriating yet alluring Levi, Allie finds herself at the center of a supernatural society and forced to decide between following the path she has always trusted or saving a city that might just save her.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I have some pretty mixed feelings about this novel. Going into this, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I didn’t know much about the series, and I hadn’t taken the time to read the synopsis. Right away, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was actually well written. The book was remarkably free of typos, missing words, or grammar mistakes that I’m used to seeing in many e-books these days, in fact, one of the first things I noticed about the book was the clear, fluid writing.

If there’s one thing I could peg on the author, it’s great characterization. I was immediately drawn to Allie and her best friend from the very start of the book. The two girls couldn’t be any more different, but it was easy to see why the girls were friends. The banter between the characters started out strong and really struck a cord as being believable—and that’s something I’ve found to be rare in a lot of fiction. Dialogue isn’t easy to write, and the author did a spectacular job of it.

Here’s where things got tricky. The story started off strong—as I said, the writing was clear, the characters had unique personalities, and the dialogue was well written. Unfortunately, I began to notice that the narrative lacked. The author didn’t spend a lot of time on descriptions of anything relevant. I could tell you, for instance, that Allie’s Range Rover was lavender—a color she didn’t particularly care for (Her favorite color is Blue by the way, and she apparently looks great in Red)—but I can’t tell you what Allie looks like. I know her best friend is blonde, but I can’t tell you if she’s short, skinny, or what color eyes she may have. The author had this strange way of glossing over all descriptions except for the most irrelevant details.

For instance: At one point an entire paragraph is spent on the wainscoting, chandelier, and travertine tiles of the hotel floor, but the very next paragraph when the main male lead was identified the entirety of his description fell to: “incredibly hot guy” with “muscular arms and chest”. It made no sense to me why certain aspects of the scene were elaborated upon, but others were left entirely by the wayside. This continued to be a theme throughout the book, and while it served to quicken the pace of the chapters, I couldn’t help but feel that I was missing out on important information from time to time.

As for the plot: I would label this as more of a romance than a fantasy/paranormal read. Yes, there are supernatural beings in the story; however, the majority of the book is spent on Allie’s relationship with Levi, and little else. That’s fine. I like romances, but don’t go into this thinking you’re going to get a plethora of world building and action scenes (which are typical in fantasy/paranormal novels) it’s mostly going to be about relationships.

Now, before I press any further, let me say: I really enjoyed this book. Despite the little flaws in the narrative and the lack of a full plot, I liked it. I loved the characters, I loved the dialogue, I loved the feel of the relationship that was at the heart of the story—but this isn’t what I’d call a true Romance. If you have an objection to spoilers, I suggest you skip this section, I’ll signal when the spoilers are over. Let me explain:

SPOILERS: From the very beginning of Allie and Levi’s relationship, he was pushy. The man wouldn’t take no for an answer, and basically followed her around, inserting himself into her life until she gave in and consented to go out with him. In real life, this would be incredibly creepy. In a book, I can usually let it slide as long as the Romance turns out to be a real heart-felt relationship. Novels are meant to be a form of escapism, and it’s okay to enjoy a bit of the dark pleasure that comes along with this kind of broody, pushy male. (By no means assume this is okay in real life though.) The guy thought he was being charming, and had already fallen head-over-heals for Allie, so while he may have crossed a few boundaries, I can live with it; I know he was being an ass because he didn’t know how else to win her heart… and believe me, Allie can be hard to persuade. However, as the story progressed, Levi became worse. He had obvious secrets he was keeping for Allie, and at times purposefully intimidated her. Eventually he basically forces her into an engagement by his society’s laws and doesn’t even tell her what’s going on. That’s not okay. The more he tried to apologize to her and weasel his way out of being in trouble (but still with every intention of making sure she followed through and married him) the more icky it felt to me. He stripped her of any choice in the matter, put her life in danger, and I’m not convinced he was actually sorry for it so much as sorry he got caught at it before he could make it sound like she was getting a good deal. END OF SPOILERS

The result of this (the spoilers), is that I wasn’t 100% behind their relationship by the end of the book. There were a few moments where I was ready to say “okay, he was an ass, but he really loves her, so maybe she should forgive him….” but the longer the whole sequence dragged on, the more I grew angry at Levi. By the end of the book, I wanted her to be nowhere near this guy—and to not forgive him at all. It’s almost tragic the way the book ended, and it left an unpleasant feeling in the pit of my stomach.

Does that mean I didn’t like the story? No. I loved it. I’m okay with the way it turned out, even if it didn’t turn out as romantic as I wanted it to. Knowing that there’s subsequent books, I’m more than willing to keep reading and see if the two characters ever iron out their relationship, but I won’t deny that I still feel uneasy about Levi. Maybe the author will clear it up for me in the next book (which I’m going to go read shortly). I hope so. I’d certainly recommend this book to others, but if you haven’t read the spoilers, I shall warn you: The romance side of this story isn’t as heart-felt and fuzzy as you’re expecting. It’s still a wonderful book (minus the few things I mentioned), but I think you have to look at it in a different way than your usual Romance in order to enjoy the way this book ends. This isn’t necessarily a story you’re going to giggle and squeal over. You’re more likely to want to punch the main male lead.

I will say this in closing: I sincerely loved the characters—even Levi—despite their flaws and actions. I think they were well written… they just weren’t written the way I expected.

Book Review: Insight

 

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Title: Insight [Insight 1]

Author: Jamie Magee

Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance, Young Adult

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Before that fateful summer night, Willow had balanced the insight of emotion, and the vivid images. That night, the figure in her nightmare marked her wrist with a star, giving her father no choice but to tell Willow a family secret that would abruptly change life, as she knew it, forever. Before Willow had time to absorb the shock of her father’s secret, her soul mate that had shared every stunning dream with her, found her, and darkness captured her closest friends. In order to save them, she must weave through broken myths and the undeniable power of the Zodiac. In the end, Willow discovers that at the moment of our birth we are all given a divine gift.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I have to admit, going into this book, I wasn’t impressed. Insight is the story of Willow, a teenage girl who’s always felt at odds with her world. She has a few unusual abilities, is plagued with nightmares, and is drawn towards a blue-eyed boy she’s never before met. It’s very confusing for the teen. What she discovers as the story wears on, is that her family knew more about her abilities than they were letting on, and as things become more dangerous around Willow, she is whisked away into a new world. She becomes linked to an ominous foretelling of a prophecy set into motion long ago—when she was a different person and she had a choice to make. The question is: will she make the same choice this time around, or will she give up everyone and everything she loves in order to save a world she abandoned so long ago?

Now let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. This novel is in serious need of a professional editor. Words were frequently misspelled or missing, and punctuation was misplaced. The narrative lacked action and dialogue for the first half the story, and provided very little visual detail. Even the tense was constantly being switched. As a bit of a perfectionist, it was difficult to slog through. By the time I ran across the sixth instance of “so” being used, I was pretty sure this was a first draft and was already preparing myself to give this 1 star and move on to the next book.

It was difficult to fall into the story. Though I liked the premise, and even the world building, the characters didn’t feel real to me. The dialogue was stiff and awkward, what little their was, and plagued with a disuse of contractions that sometimes had me scratching my head. The characters themselves, though pleasant, lacked depth. By the end of the book I could probably name 10 different characters, but I couldn’t tell you what any of them looked like, who they were related to, or which world they belonged to.

The second half of the book, thankfully, was much better than the first. Though there was still a multitude of technical errors, the action and dialogue finally fell into place, and I was able to sink into the story a little further. I enjoyed the dynamics between Willow and Landen, and being a romantic at heart, I felt at ease with the way the couples in the book began to sink into place. I’ll admit, I did have to suspend my disbelief a little; the utopian world in which these characters find themselves (Chara), is just that: perfect. Everyone has a soul mate they are inevitably drawn to, and everyone lives in a blissful field of flowers where cars and homes are run off green energy, and war is non existent. I’m sure it’s lovely, but it is a bit boring. I can’t imagine anyone living there for a long period of time and not going a little mad.

As if the world wasn’t a little hard to believe, Willow and Landen’s relationship compounds it. They are soul mates. I get it—but the fact that they are so impossibly in-love-at-first-sight makes it a little hard to believe. There’s no awkwardness between them, and their families (despite the age of the young couple), doesn’t seem to have a problem with the two falling into a blissful union after day one. I know, I know… it’s a utopian world, but as a reader, I crave tension. It’s hard to take perfection seriously.

That aside, I actually liked the book. Yes, it has a multitude of errors, and I frequently called it’s believability into question, but the story is good. I was drawn into it (after the first half), and I was genuinely interested in seeing how the story would pan out. I liked it so much, I almost gave it 4 stars despite my initial rating.

Overall? I liked it. I’d even read it again. Would I recommend it to others? Yes, but with the caveat that everyone is aware that there are going to be a multitude of errors. I wouldn’t hand this over to any of my more technically-inclined friends. The errors will drive you bonkers, but if you’re willing to push past that, it’s still a decent story. This is one of those books that you’re either going to love for it’s premise, or hate for the way it’s written.

Book Review: UnEnchanted

 

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Title: UnEnchanted [An Unfortunate Fairy Tale 1]

Author: Chanda Hahn

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Mina Grime is unlucky, unpopular and uncoordinated, that is until she saves her crush’s life on a field trip, changing her High School status from loser to hero overnight. But with her newfound fame brings misfortune as an old family curse come to light. For Mina is descended from the Brothers Grimm and has inherited all of their unfinished fairy tale business. Which includes trying to outwit a powerful Story from making her its next fairytale victim.

To break the fairy tale curse on her family and stop these deadly events, Mina must finish the tales until the very Grimm end.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I liked this book more than I expected to. I picked up UnEnchanted on Amazon some time ago because it sounded interesting, had a great cover, and was more importantly, FREE at the time I purchased it. Of course, being a frequent free-book-offender, I was well aware that a good portion of the time, when I pick up a book free on Amazon, I cannot expect it to be spectacular. Most of the time, the free books are indie books with questionable editors, and sometimes, questionable authors. I was therefore pleased to find out, UnEnchanted did not fit into that category.

Now don’t get me wrong, there were several issues I had with the book. Some of these issues include: Missing words, misspelled words (there are only a few, I promise), and a few incoherent moments where plot holes swallowed up bits of the narrative—but overall, I still genuinely liked the book.  It is a Young Adult book, so I may give it a bit of leeway for some issues. The characters were sometimes dramatic (though not overwhelmingly so in my opinion), and it was an incredibly fast read (216 pages). So, understandably, a lot of detail was left out at times, and the plot moved along very quickly over a short period of time. I will admit that this bothered me a bit. I would have preferred the author to have taken more time to develop the story—because I really think it could have been even better, but I’m still going to give the book an overall rating of 4 stars. If nothing else, than for effort.

This was a cute story. I genuinely liked the characters (who weren’t overly whiney as in most Teen novels), the changes to the classic fairytales were clever and certainly a new take on stories that have been re-hashed hundreds of times. The romance was sweet, and mystery permeated the pages as both I, and the main character, Mina, worked to unravel various aspects of the plot. I will admit that I wasn’t entirely pleased with the villains. It’s not so much that they were poorly written, or overly dastardly (as with many novels), but that I didn’t really feel that strongly about any of them. I’m sure they were supposed to be scary – and I had no trouble believing they were scary to Mina…but… eh, not so much to me.

Overall, I’d certainly recommend this book to anyone who likes whimsical urban tales of fairytales set askew, YA or otherwise. I’m going to be looking into other books from this author in the future.

Book Review: Clockwork Angel [Infernal Devices 1]

 

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Title: Clockwork Angel [The Infernal Devices 1]

Author: Cassandra Clare

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Steampunk, Paranormal, Romance, Historical

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray crosses the ocean to find her brother, her destination is England, the time is the reign of Queen Victoria, and something terrifying is waiting for her in London’s Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Only the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos.

Kidnapped by the mysterious Dark Sisters, members of a secret organization called The Pandemonium Club, Tessa soon learns that she herself is a Downworlder with a rare ability: the power to transform, at will, into another person. What’s more, the Magister, the shadowy figure who runs the Club, will stop at nothing to claim Tessa’s power for his own.

Friendless and hunted, Tessa takes refuge with the Shadowhunters of the London Institute, who swear to find her brother if she will use her power to help them. She soon finds herself fascinated by –and torn between–two best friends: James, whose fragile beauty hides a deadly secret, and blue-eyed Will, whose caustic wit and volatile moods keep everyone in his life at arm’s length . . . everyone, that is, but Tessa. As their search draws them deep into the heart of an arcane plot that threatens to destroy the Shadowhunters, Tessa realizes that she may need to choose between saving her brother and helping her new friends save the world. . . . and that love may be the most dangerous magic of all.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

As an avid fan of Ms. Clare’s series The Mortal Instruments, it will come as little surprise to my usual review readers that after having finished the 5th book the series, I set about obtaining the author’s other series–set in the same world I might add–The Infernal Devices. This series comes as a bit of a prequel to the other, setting it’s time period in the Victorian era of England, rather than present-day New York.

I wasn’t sure when I started this series if I was going to like it as much as the Mortal Instruments, but I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised. I’m also very glad that I picked up this series second, because if I hadn’t, I’d probably have ruined myself for the other series. Honestly, I liked Clockwork Angel almost more than half the books in the other series.

I found the characters in Clockwork Angel a lot more compelling, and a lot less annoying, than those of The Mortal Instruments. Yes, there were plenty of brooding teenagers and a couple of secondary characters that weren’t my favorite, but overall I found the characters in this book a lot less taxing.

Tessa, in my opinion, though perhaps a lot more demure than Clary, and certainly less forward-thinking, is in my opinion, a much stronger character. She doesn’t jump into the fray making rash and immature decisions. When she jumps in it’s to save others, even if it means sacrificing herself, but she always thinks before she leaps. Despite her lack of shadow hunter blood, I admire her tenacity given the situation she’s found herself in.

Unfortunately (and maybe not so much so), Will Herondale is broody in a very similar fashion to his descendant, Jace. Though less whiney (so far), he’s dark, mysterious and grumpy (with just a tinge of endearing humor)–their archetypes seem to be very similar, and that’s both a pleasant, and unpleasant surprise. Look, I get it. Broody can be sexy, but there comes a point where it’s just tiring. Will and Jace both very closely straddle that line. I will say though that I did appreciate Will’s penchant for literature and his softer side, which we occasionally got to see in this first book. I only wish he didn’t resort to being cruel and standoffish when he feels the need to push people away.

Jem, on the other hand, was a real gem. (haha see what I did there?) I really enjoyed his character. He was polite, friendly, and endearing in a way that Will wasn’t. He seemed to fully embrace Tessa as an addition to the institute and their ragtag family, even crossing over into that muddy area of romance in some small ways. I honestly don’t know who I’m rooting for the most. Brilliantly played Ms. Clare.

Jessamine was tragic. I wanted to dislike her at first–much like I first disliked Isabelle in the other series. But where Isabelle was simply standoffish, Jessamine had a complexity to her character that made my heart break. She was very well-written, and I can’t wait to see how her character progresses through the series.

There were other characters I truly enjoyed (Sophie, Charlotte… etc.) and some not so much (Agatha… who I barely remember, and Henry… weakest male character I’ve read in awhile), but overall, I really liked the cast of characters presented in Clockwork Angel.

As for the writing itself, the narrative was clean, error-free, and grammatically correct. The pace jumped along at a jaunty speed and I never felt rushed or bogged down with flowery prose. I quickly became absorbed in the world-building, narrative, and dialogue, and never found myself rolling my eyes. Though, I did burst into laughter for several minutes during a particularly hilarious quip from Tess. Bravo.

Overall I have to say that I really enjoyed this book. I’ll certainly read it again, and I’d love to recommend it to anyone who likes Fantasy, Paranormal, YA, or Steampunk. It was a great read and I will definitely be delving more into the series.

Book Review: Stranded, Stalked, and Finally Sated

 

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Title: Stranded, Stalked and Finally Sated [License To Love 1]

Author: Amelia Rose

Genre: Novella, Romance, Thriller

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Clara Roberts has found herself forced to flee across country, pursued by a madman who seems to have access to every aspect of her life. Consequently, she is off the grid and under the radar when her truck breaks down in a small corner of Southwestern, Oklahoma, and she finds herself at the mercy of a local cowboy. While she knows that she will eventually have to keep running to stay one step ahead of her stalker, she begins to find herself drawn to this man. With his support she decides that her life is something worth fighting for.

Shad Brandt wasn’t sure what to expect when he pulled over to help out the girl on the side of the road, but it isn’t long before he realizes that she was a lot more than he bargained for. He knows that she is running from something, but he can’t quite place his finger on what it is. However, he cannot turn his back on this woman in need and when he opens his home and his heart to her he finds something else entirely. So when danger comes to lay claim to Clara, he finds that he is willing to sacrifice everything to make sure she stays safe.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

This was an exceedingly quick read (15-20 minutes), which I’ll admit, I wasn’t prepared for. I won a copy of this book from a Goodreads giveaway back in April, and then picked up a free digital copy just a few days ago when it got discounted on Amazon. Not realizing this was a novella, I jumped in. By now, most of my review followers should be aware that I don’t particularly care for Novellas. I tend to prefer longer reads because as a whole, Novellas tend to feel rushed (understandably so—there’s a lot of information being packed into a spectacularly short word count).

As Novellas go, this was actually surprisingly well written. As far as the technical side is concerned: the grammar was spot-on. Word’s weren’t misspelled or redundant. Punctuation was correct, and the narrative moved at a quick jaunt. There was tension, and excellently written dialogue…overall, this was a well-written Novella.

Unfortunately, as with all Novellas, the story was a bit rushed—but even then, I must admit, the author managed to construct the story in such a way that the rushed bits didn’t feel disjointed or skipped over. I’ve found over the years that most Novella’s tend to have really rushed narrative. There’s a lot of “telling” as the characters skip through the story at light speed, sometimes forgoing scenes all together. In this story that isn’t the case. Scenes are played out naturally as if from a longer book. There are a fair share of time jumps; the story takes place over a period of about three days—but the important scenes are all present.

My biggest gripe is probably that the romance seems a bit fake. The characters are making out in the first 24 hours (okay it can happen) and having sex within the first 48 (again, it can happen, but we’re pushing it) by the end of the third day, they’re moving in together permanently (okay, you’d have to be insane to allow this…). It certainly stretches my ability to believe in the story, but considering the short length of the story, I feel I can suspend my disbelief a little.

Overall, the story is cute. It’s well written, and if you can get around the time frame, it’s a good story. There’s a steamy sex scene, and a (somewhat rushed) fight with a stalker—I will say that I wasn’t a huge fan of the stalker. He was creepy and adamant on pursuing the main female lead…but I’m not entirely sure why he was doing it.

Would I recommend this Novella? Yes. If you like steamy romances and have 20 minutes to pick up a book, this wouldn’t be a bad choice. Would I read it again? Sure. Why not? I’m not a huge fan of Novella’s, but this one was good.

Book Review: Separation [Like Kindred Spirits 1]

 

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Title: Separation [Like Kindred Spirits 1]

Author: Cassandra Lane

Genre: Historical, Romance

Rating: 1 Star

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Not yet available on Goodreads.

Description/Synopsis:

None available! Amazon provides only an excerpt from the beginning of the story.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Did Not Finish. It’s been awhile since I’ve done a partial review, and wow was this one a doozy. Reportedly, Separation is a story about a young mix-race woman who finds love with a white man in the newly post-emancipation from slavery era of New York. I wouldn’t know, because I didn’t get that far.

This book was dry. The narrative read like a text book written for grade-schoolers. I wish I were kidding. I honestly didn’t even make it past the first chapter. The text was one long exposition of backstory in endless paragraphs of completely irrelevant information.

The 100-acre Georges Planation was established in 1801 by the George family to produce tobacco leaves for the local business in Salisbury, North Carolina. The Farm was worked by thirty helpers under the direction of owner Frederick George, who was now in this thirties and had taken over after his dad passed away about a year ago. (His mother had died before then.)

That’s the first paragraph (available in the excerpt) it doesn’t get better from there.

Her serene personality and working ethics exceeded the George family’s expectations. She even considered herself a part of the family, loving Mr. George’s parents deeply and becoming very affected by their deaths, grieving them as if they had been her own parents.

The dialogue was just as dry, sporadic, and incorrectly punctuated. The characters seemed stiff and lifeless.

“Momma, we are free, don’t you get it,” said Missy for the umpteenth time to her stubborn mother. “Yes momma, I want to go to New York City. There are lots of things there. I can work like I do now, sewing.” But Bess refused to consider the notion.

And here’s some more:

“Darn it, Bess. Get those children to be quiet. I can’t stand all of that yelling at the same time,” said Mr. George..

“Don’t you know that I want to see my wife? You all took a long time in there,” he complained in a cranky voice.

“Yes, Master. Right away, Master. Hush, hush,” Bess kept hugging the newborns, one boy and one girl, in each arm. She put them in their cribs.

Yes, that second period at the end of the first bit of dialogue is a typo taken directly from the text, and no, the dialogue didn’t pick up again after that last bit. The story droned on in an endless prattle of information with very little action, and dialogue tags needlessly followed nearly every sentence of dialogue. It consisted almost entirely of facts, wordy backstory, and questionable world-building. I honestly tried to get past it, but when the story continued on like this past the 14% mark on my Kindle, I threw in the towel. There is only so much I can do.

I’d like to consider myself fairly knowledgeable when it comes to writing. I read books – more than 100 a year. I write. I review books and blog about them… so I feel comfortable saying that in my opinion, this book was terrible. What may have been a wonderful, heart-felt story of romance against the odds (something that should have been very intimate and character-driven) was instead, a dry exposition on an unfortunate era.

I would not recommend this book, and I certainly won’t be reading it again. I’m a firm believer that narrative should be fast-paced and effortless to read. A reader shouldn’t have to slog through a book in order to get to the point. It should be an adventure, not a homework assignment.

Book Review: Cheyenne

 

cover-CheyenneTitle: Cheyenne [Timeless Series 1]

Author: Lisa L. Wiedmeier

Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Paranormal, Fantasy

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis: Murder, romance, secrets and hidden pasts. Deception from every angle—who’s telling the truth?

Cheyenne Wilson’s life is thrown into turmoil after her adoptive parents are killed in an accident. With only her best friend Colt to comfort her, she scours through the family archives, hoping to quell her grief. Instead she begins to unravel the mystery behind her birth parents, and her secret heritage. She is a Timeless- a being that ages one year for every hundred human years when they reach their twenties- and of the royal line, destined to gain great power.

But Cheyenne has other problems. The ones who killed her parents want her too, and Colt is hiding something of his own. Surrounded by danger and with few she can trust, Cheyenne must face the dark truth of her past, and choose between a forbidden love that will forever hold her heart, or her destiny…

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I received this book some time ago from the author in exchange for a review after I read her short novella that precluded this story. I rated it a 3. Months later, here I am doing it again. This book was a little hard for me to qualify, and so after reading it, I waited a week to really stew over my rating and what I could say about Cheyenne. There are some things this book did really well, and others… not so much. It’s a story about a girl named Cheyenne who’s parents die, and only after their death does she start to learn that they held quite a few secrets, the biggest being that she is about to become one of the Timeless; a supernatural, nearly immortal being with amazing powers. Her world is thrown into chaos as she begins to learn that the people she’s trusted most in the world have lied to her and even her best friend was in on the secret. What follows is an action-packed adventure as Cheyenne is hunted by supernatural beings and factions unknown and she starts to fall in love with two men she really doesn’t know as well as she thought.

The writing for Cheyenne was clear, easy to follow, and engaging. Despite the negative points I’ll bring up in a minute, I enjoyed following along with the story. I read it through to the end, and never felt the need to pause or go back and re-read things. Believe me when I say that anytime that happens in a story, I’m usually pretty happy with it in the end. I almost rated this story a 4 because of that alone. I thought the plot was interesting: here’s this girl who’s slowly finding out that she’s going to be an immortal being, but also that she’s descended from royal bloodlines, and in the expanse of a few days, that she’s being hunted by a supernatural faction that wants her dead. It’s a thrilling plot, full of twists and turns as she slowly learns and absorbs all this new info relating to her life and tries to deal with it.

Now here’s the conundrum: if you’ve read the novella (Fated: A Timeless Series Novella by Lisa L. Wiedmeier) Most of the surprises of this book will be ruined for you. Before the first page starts you will understand the roles and secrets behind Colt, Callon, and Daniel–Cheyenne’s protectors. The novella is set from their perspective and explains how the characters begin to fall in love with her, what their motivations are, and reveals the marriage, timeless, evil faction, and protection sub-plots. The novella barely stands on it’s own without Cheyenne to accompany it, but with the novella, Cheyenne is a little predictable and frustrating. However, without the novella, you’ll be lost.

Cheyenne doesn’t go deeply into the world-building and back-story as it should have. For instance: it’s explained that there’s an evil faction that wants to kill Cheyenne and some supernatural beasts are used to accomplish this goal… but it’s not fully explained who they are or why they want to kill all Timeless. It’s not explained where the supernatural beasts come from either–or if there are more supernatural things out there that Cheyenne hasn’t learned about yet. So much information was withheld from the reader and not explained that without the novella to support it, I think it would have been difficult to follow along.

Another sticking point for me was the men (Colt, Callon, and Daniel) and the romance portion of this novel. No one ever gives Cheyenne a choice about her fate, and the men constantly withhold information from her. As a result, she is constantly putting herself into dangerous situations. There was absolutely no reason the men couldn’t have explained things to her and impressed upon her the danger, but instead they practically locked her up “to keep her safe” without giving her any avenue to try and understand the situation. Cheyenne was left frustrated and rebellious, and in retaliation, did stupid things. I was frustrated too. The men in this book were so ridiculously protective over Cheyenne that they practically smothered her. For the majority of the book it felt like she was a prisoner of war rather than a friend and love interest they were trying to protect. Their actions against Cheyenne made it very difficult to enjoy them as characters and believe the romance portion of the book.

For the most part, Daniel seemed somewhat of a pushover. He was the good-natured brother that tried to smooth things out, but in the grand scheme of things, wasn’t necessary to the plot. He only showed up as a supporting character most of the time.

Callon, I reluctantly liked, and even somewhat understood. Here was this girl he had a claim to that he actually loved, but in an attempt to give her some semblance of free-will, he bit his tongue and let another guy step in. I think he had good intentions considering his abrasive personality, but you could tell that in the end, he really wanted to just step in and say “tough crap. I’m your intended, and I’m sorry you fell in love with that other guy, but you’re mine, and you don’t have a choice.” As much as that thought almost makes me cringe (cause I just know I wouldn’t have liked it had he actually said that), I was almost hoping he would. I wanted Callon to win the love triangle. At least his actions fit his personality. There was even a bit of passion (or at least a hint of one) there that I was whole-heartedly cheering on.

Unfortunately, I didn’t like Colt. At all. He seemed impulsive and selfish. He started out the story with the knowledge already in hand that his brother, Callon, had the rights to Cheyenne. She was promised to him for ages. Even knowing that, he weaseled his way into her life under the pretense of being her “best friend”. He took her from his brother without a single thought about how that would make his brother feel, and I very nearly hated him for it. I didn’t feel like he really loved Cheyenne, but instead wanted to possess her under the pretense of being sweet and kind and loveable. I truly disliked him as a character and wanted slap Cheyenne upside the head every time she fell into his trap. There was no passion between them as a couple, and Colt always seemed to be trying to hard to push their relationship. It left me with an uncomfortable feeling whenever they were together.

Between the domineering over-protective trio of brothers, their scramble to try and win over Cheyenne, and the complete lack of information that was being given to her, I really wanted Cheyenne to just walk out the door and make a run for it. It just didn’t seem plausible to me that she wanted to spend any time with them at all. The imagery that comes to mind is a kitten trying to escape a box, but every time it gets it’s legs out, someone comes along to shove it back in. It left the main character and me frustrated up till the very end.

Overall, I liked the story, but there was a lot about it that made it difficult to enjoy sometimes. As much as I wanted to follow along the story, at every opportunity the author pushed the characters into doing things that only left me angry and frustrated. I had no choice to mark this down to a 3-star rating. I think a little more development with the characters and plot would have done the book some good, but in its absence, it came out as a mixed bag. Equal parts entertaining and frustrating at the same time. If you like YA Paranormal Romances with heavy undertones of thrill and mystery, you may really like this book. There’s a lot of action involved in the plot. If you’re looking for something more squishy-romance with some paranormal thrown in, this may be the wrong story for you; this isn’t a heart-felt romance.