Book Review: Rising Inferno

review-cover-rising infernoTitle: Rising Inferno [Dark Alpha Dragon Series 1]

Author: Lucile Wild

Genre: Urban Fantasy, Romance, Novella

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Skye Louise left her safe but predictable home in Texas, her overbearing parents, and moved to Manhattan to study at the Art Institute. Even though she doesn’t quite fit in with her hip, sophisticated New York classmates, she is determined to learn everything she can and turn her passion into a real career.

On her first night in the city, she is horrified to see a mugging outside of her window. A masked vigilante rescues the would-be victim and then burns the mugger’s face with his bare hands.

Later, she discovers that the masked vigilante is the grandson of a kind restaurant owner in her neighbourhood, and the last of a long line of dragon shapeshifters. Now, Skye must prove that she can be trusted with his family’s secrets. She must also find a way to fight her growing attraction to him.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I honestly don’t know what I was thinking when I picked this novella up. I was asked to give it a review, and I thought “why not, I’ve never read a dragon romance before!” What ensued, was a very strange 15-30 minutes where my face was continually stuck in “WTF” mode. Even now, I’m still kind of laughing at the absurdity.

Here’s the thing… the description, the tags on GoodReads, and the very title on both GoodReads and amazon (BBW Ménage) are a lie. This is not a ménage. There is no evidence of anything BBW. The cover shows a disproportionate Asian guy with feathery wings—but let’s be clear, the man in the novella actually has bat wings—and in no way does the main character, Skye, ever try to fight her growing attraction for Raiku.

What this book is, is a very short 33 page encounter between a naïve country bumpkin from Texas (who couldn’t be more stereotypical. I live in Texas, and no one talks like her or dresses like her here.) and  a very quiet and somewhat shy ‘shifter’ whose only claim to being remotely dragon-like is his ability to produce fire with his hands and a set of bat wings. He does not actually turn into a dragon. The novella is incredibly short and very sweet, but to be honest, it has its problems.

There were a few typos—too many for something this short, and a lot of stereotypes were used. The characters were pretty one dimensional and sweet as cotton candy in a dumb-blonde sort of way. The “romance” between the two main characters was kind of endearing… but wasn’t very substantial.  The events in the novella span about three days, so the characters barely know each other, and while drawn to one another, I don’t know if I’d call it a true “romance”. Unfortunately, it wasn’t really an “erotica” either. The story ends in the shortest dry-hump “sex” scene I’ve ever read. I don’t even really consider what the characters did sex. They were like two virgin teens playing at sex and failing miserably.

That isn’t to say the story was all bad, though. Despite its many flaws, I actually kind of liked it. Though the characters had all the depth of a puddle, they were adorable together in a shy “let’s hold hands and smile” sort of way. I liked them. Also, despite the time jumps and location switches (as has to happen in all shorter fiction) I didn’t feel like the story was rushed. It felt like a complete encounter from beginning to end. The writing wasn’t bad… it just wasn’t great.

Overall, I liked the story, but at the same time, it had a lot of flaws. More importantly, it is not what it is advertised to be. I give this one three stars. It was okay. It made 15-20 minutes of my life more interesting, and I’m glad to have gotten a taste of the author’s writing style. Were this a longer, more fleshed out book, I think I probably would have liked it a lot more… there’s just only so much you can do in 33 pages. If you’re looking for a kind of a fun read to pick up while you’re waiting in a doctor’s office somewhere, and you aren’t particularly looking for something steamy, give this a try. If you’re looking for a steamy erotica or in-depth romance, you may want to keep looking.

Book Review: The Unforgettable Billionaire Brothers–Chase

review-cover-chase billionaire brothersTitle: The Unforgettable Billionaire Brothers: Chase

Author: Violet Walker

Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Novella

Rating: 2 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

The heirs to the billion dollar empire Silver Enterprises are single playboys who work as hard as they play. But when their father gives them each an ultimatum—settle down or lose your inheritance—they each must decide if the family business is worth giving up the single life, while figuring out who is stalking them.

Reluctant to Love…

Chase is reluctant to settle down, especially at his father’s insistence. But a weekend with his sexy assistant may turn out to be just the thing he needs.

Jackson, the middle brother and peacemaker is too young for a wife and kids. But that doesn’t stop him from lusting after the pretty blond cook working for his father.

Ethan doesn’t trust women and he doesn’t trust love. He might have to give up his role as CEO of Silver Enterprises if he can’t get past his dark past.
This is the story of three handsome billionaire brothers and the women special enough to capture their reluctant hearts.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Anyone who’s read my reviews before knows that I am not a huge fan of novellas, particularly those in the romance genre. They’re often too short to convincingly portray romance competently, and nearly always feel rushed. That statement applies to this book as well. To be honest, I picked  this book up because it was free, the cover was put together well, and I saw an open plea for reviews. I needed a quick book to fill a review spot on my blog, and so I thought, “why not?”

As far as the actual writing goes, it was okay. I did run across a handful of errors (missing words, a lack of commas when they were warranted, etc), but nothing that was too distracting from the text. In a longer book, this would have been great… but at only 32 pages… that’s quite a bit of errors in a short period of time. 

The plot itself was pretty standard: rich father declares that his sons will lose their right to inherit the family company if they don’t get married within a set period of time. Luckily, there’s a hot secretary that is conveniently and inappropriately in love with her boss, so it’s all good. It’s a pretty common trope in formulaic romance. No surprises there.

The problem for me, lie with the believability of the characters and their dialogue/actions. Despite being advertised as a romance, this was really more of an erotica. The sex scenes were a bit crass in their descriptions, and pretty straight forward. It was obvious from the very beginning of the story that the characters were lusting pretty heavily over one another, and despite the heroine’s reassurance that she’d been crushing on Chase for the past five years, I saw the bare minimum of material to back it up. Instead, Brooke came across as a naïve secretary lusting after her boss, and Chase came across as a horn-dog playboy. I didn’t see the romance.

The dialogue, particularly concerning the “romance” was predictable, and dramatically overblown to the point of almost being laughable.

“You taste so good.” (…)

“So damn good.” (…)

“Okay you feel good too baby.”

It was a bit like a badly scripted porno. I did get all the way through the story, which I guess is something, but honestly, I can’t recommend it. It wasn’t terrible… but I didn’t enjoy it. It’s not something I’d read again, and it hasn’t sparked any interest to read the following books in the series. If you’re looking for a quick erotic read about the relationship between a secretary and her playboy boss… you may enjoy this novella. If you’re looking for an actual romance.. keep walking.

Book Review: End Dayz

review-cover-end dayzTitle: End Dayz [The Hitchhiker Strain 0.5]

Author: Kellie Sheridan

Genre: Horror (Zombies), Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dystopian, Post Apocalyptic, Short Story

Rating: 4 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

It’s month after the dead first began to walk. The miracle vaccine that was supposed to save us all has failed.

Now, four teens fight to stay alive as a stronger, smarter breed of zombie begins to appear, threatening to end humanity for good.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about End Dayz by Kellie Sheridan. I came upon this book as part of a larger series on NetGalley—in fact, the Hitchhiker Strain series in its entirety. Going into it, all I knew was that it was a three-book set. It wasn’t until I started reading End Dayz that I discovered that it wasn’t so much the first book in the series, as a prequel set of letters and diary entries. I wasn’t aware that it was a set of four short stories to begin with, so take that into context as you read this review. I kept waiting for the actual story to begin, and instead I was reading abandoned letters and diary entries from a bunch of kids trying to survive the apocalypse. The narrative I was expecting never came, and the longer the letters went on, the more I was starting to think that this “prologue” was going on way too long.

That’s okay though. To be honest, the letters were really interesting. It was entertaining to see how the different teens dealt with the horrors of a zombie apocalypse and how they conveyed those horrors to the reader. It managed to keep my interest despite being about something entirely different than I expected, and I would have given it five stars… except, the letters and diary entries weren’t written like letters and diary entries. The entire time I was reading I kept thinking to myself, “No one writes letters like this.” The amount of detail and blow-by-blow accounts of zombie battles that the author put in weren’t true to the format of letters. I can’t think of a single person who would write their dad a letter that gives a blow-by-blow account of what a person was thinking, feeling, and what actions they took while some survivor tries to kidnap her. It just isn’t going to happen. That doesn’t make it any less interesting… but it didn’t stick to the format in which it was meant to be written. It was a problem for me.

Does that mean I didn’t like it? No. I liked it tremendously—even more so once I started reading the actual first book Mortality and realized that the letters tied into the greater story. Had this series of four short stories been about separate, random survivors, I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much. Overall, I gave this four stars. The stories are good, but it’s hard for me to give them full credit when they didn’t stick to the format in which they were presented. Had they actually sounded like letters and diary entries I probably would have liked them more. Still, it was a good read, and if you plan on reading further into the series, I’d recommend you have a go at End Dayz first. It helps to bring some context to what’s going on as Mortality starts.

Book Review: The Legend of Drizzt: The Collected Stories (Audio Book)

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Title: The Legend of Drizzt: The Collected Stories

Author: R.A. Salvatore

Genre: Audio Book, Fantasy, Anthology, Adventure

Rating: 5 Stars

Narrators: Felicia Day, Dan Harmon, Greg Grunberg, Tom Felton, Danny Pudi, Sean Astin, Melissa Rauch, Ice-T, Wil Wheaton, Al Yankovic, Michael Chicklis, & David Duchovny

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Description/Synopsis:

The Legend of Drizzt: The Collected Stories expands upon the epic legend of the dark elf with 12 tales performed by the all-star cast of Felicia Day, Dan Harmon, Greg Grunberg, Tom Felton, Danny Pudi, Sean Astin, Melissa Rauch, Ice-T, Wil Wheaton, Al Yankovic, Michael Chiklis, and David Duchovny!

For years, the Legend of Drizzt has included short stories published in Forgotten Realms anthologies and Dragon magazine. Available here for the first time in audio are all the classic stories by the New York Times best-selling author R. A. Salvatore!

From the startling origin of Drizzt’s panther companion, to the tale of Jarlaxle and Entreri’s first encounter with the dragon sisters, the tales in The Collected Stories enrich this vividly-imagined series by building the world around Drizzt through exploring the backstories of side characters and magical locations.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I’ve never been a fan of Dungeons and Dragons books. In fact, before now, I’d never read anything by R.A. Salvatore either. Sure, I’ve played D&D, but playing and reading about it are vastly different things. However, when I heard that Audible was giving away The Legend of Drizzt: The Collected Stories by R.A. Salvatore for free for a short period of time, I leapt at the chance to download it. I’ll admit, it was mostly because of the star-studded cast of narrators the book boasted; I make no qualms about being a huge Felicia Day, Wil Wheaton, and Sean Astin fan girl.

Oddly enough, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I actually really enjoyed this anthology of short stories revolving around D&D and one of it’s most beloved characters—a dark elf named Drizzt. The stories were short, but well-written. They were full of humor, wit, and colorful characters with ridiculous names that I couldn’t help but fall in love with. The narration was superb and well-voiced by an array of actors…. honestly, I was a bit blown away by how much I enjoyed the anthology. I never thought I’d see the day where I physically wanted to hug a little goblin… but that day has certainly come. So adorable, I tell you!

There are so many great stories in this set that it’s hard to pinpoint any single one as my favorite (although the first story was probably my honest-to-goodness favorite), but I would recommend that anyone who loves Dungeons & Dragons or fantasy give this audio book a try. You won’t regret it.

Book Review: Swallows and Ice Cream

review-cover-swallows and ice cream

Title: Swallows and Ice Cream

Author: Robert Fowler

Genre: Short Story, Contemporary, Mystery, Romance

Rating: 1 Star

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Description/Synopsis:

Steve, a nineteen-year-old English boy, lives and works in one of the small Tuscan villages that surround Florence. He is a lost soul, haunted by the memory of his beloved Katherine, whom he has left behind in England. He lives in a cluttered single room high up in Fausto Pacelli’s three-story house; the exorbitant rent as always in arrears.

Steve works for Tino Fabiano, owner of an ice cream shop. His handsome good looks are good for business, women of all ages seem attracted to the boy. Steve is befriended by Luca, who runs his uncle’s café, and is responsible for most of the food Steve eats, and Maria; a stunning beauty who has attached herself to the English boy.

Steve is a boy lost in confusion, riddled with guilt that he cannot undo. Katherine comes to him more and more in nightmares; unable to escape her, she now haunts his days as well as his nights. Everything is catching up with Steve; sooner or later, he will have to confront his bitter past.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I put off this review for a long time. Swallows and Ice Cream was one of those stories that I occasionally get handed directly from the author or publisher, where on paper, it sounds good. As I started reading, however,  I quickly lost interest. I tried. I really did. I read, I set it aside, I’d go back and read some more, I’d set it aside again… but eventually I had to admit after months of waffling over a review that sometimes you just have to set a book down. It’s not an egregiously long book either, only 81 pages… a short story, but I couldn’t finish it.

Now, I didn’t get far into the story—not even half way—so attempting to discuss the plot or the characters is nearly impossible. I didn’t get far enough in to dissect those aspects of the book. What I can tell you is that I got the impression that the story itself wasn’t bad, just a bit depressing. The book opens with Steve, a teen who spends the first few pages of the book lamenting over a lost love and trying to avoid a bottle of brandy. He hasn’t paid his rent in awhile, and my general impression of him was that he was a pretty sad sop. The opening of the story was slow and depressing, and to be honest, didn’t drag me in. Had that been the only problem, I probably would have kept reading.

Unfortunately, the narrative style wasn’t to my taste, and the editing was sadly lacking. In the first five pages of the story alone I spotted numerous punctuation errors and awkwardly worded sentences. The sentence structure was repetitive and clipped—stiff. It was by far not the worst editing I’ve seen in an independently published book, but it should have been cleaned up by an editor before publishing. Between the poor editing, the sloppy sentence structure, and the depressing, slow beginning… I just couldn’t bring myself to read any more.

Do I think others would like it? Probably. I’m not huge on the short story genre as a whole, and I’m not a fan of mopey depressing stories. Understand that I’m at heart, a romance reader (which is what I was told this story was). I work to help copyedit stories like this for authors… so getting past technical errors can sometimes be hard. I think someone with a mind less trained to pick up errors, and someone who enjoys more literary work may appreciate this story more than I did. Unfortunately, I just wasn’t the right audience for it.

Book Review: Impulse Control [Talent Chronicles 0.5]

 

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Title: Impulse Control [Talent Chronicles 0.5]

Author: Susan Bischoff

Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal, Young Adult, Short Story

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

In the world of the Talent Chronicles, kids born with supernatural powers are taken from their families and forced into government research facilities called State Schools. At one such school, a dangerous experiment has killed two young inmates and threatens others. Ethan, a shape-shifter, is reluctantly recruited by his best friend Karen, a telepath, and Elle, the unique Talent he has a crush on, to thwart the faculty’s plans. If they’re caught they face Detention, and Detention at a State School has a whole different meaning.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I was extremely hesitant jumping into this novella. For those of you who regularly read my reviews, you’ll know that I greatly dislike short fiction. I like to sink myself into a story for several hours at a time and not come up for air, so shorter novellas often leave me frustrated. I find them to be rushed most of the time. This was no exception.

Being a YA fiction short story, Impulse Control was written in a very straight-forward, plain narrative that made it easy to sink into. Unfortunately, it also read a little below my usual grade level. To be honest, it felt like I was reading a middle-grade story that just happened to have YA characters. The elements of the story were a little too dramatic to be believable and the characters seemed to skim through outrageously dangerous situations with little consequence. It was hard to believe that the constant danger I was being forewarned about was as dangerous as the author kept telling me when no one seemed to get hurt or even came close to being caught.

The story was riddled with what I like to consider storytelling potholes. The children in the story were being held in a facility where their every daily tasks were monitored and the penalty for acting out was a quick ticket to a lab where the kids knew they would be experimented on and possibly even killed. However, when the children decided to sneak around the facility it was conspicuously void of guards, CCTV’s, or any sort of alarm system. The few obstacles they had to get through (like keypads) were easy to circumnavigate (despite the fact that the security in this place should have been prepared for supernatural teens)… it just wasn’t believable.

At one point, the kids are even attacked, and then joined by another teen who had shown previously that he was at least somewhat evil, but as soon as he joined the team in trying to shut the facility down, he became friendly and no one seemed to have a problem with him. It was frustrating to see the author present information (like the kid being evil, or the facility being dangerous) only to have the narrative then tell us that it wasn’t true.

The one big thumbs up for this story was the plot itself. It was intriguing. Here are these supernatural power-wielding kids stuck in a secret government facility being trained to become operatives (against their will), paired up with a darker, more sinister side where the kids lives are very much in danger. It should have been a very compelling read, and it would have been had the author stuck to their guns and made the narrative consistent.

Overall it was an okay read. It wasn’t spectacular, but it wasn’t awful either. I’d really like to see this written out into a full length story, or at the very least cleaned up and made consistent, but it was interesting, and I’m glad I read it. If you like middle-grade or YA fiction, you might like this. Adults may have a hard time getting through it because of the narrative potholes, but it’d make a cute afternoon read.

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.