J.A. Belfield

Author of the Holloway Pack Stories and other tales ...

Wish Me Tomorrow

Wish Me Tomorrow (Mills & Boon Heartwarming) - Karen Rock

Diclaimer: I received an ARC of this title from the publicist in exchange for an honest review. This has in no way affected my opinion.

 

I’d been dying to read Wish Me Tomorrow after being introduced to Karen Rock’s writing in Camp Rockshe and Joanne Rock co-authored, so I was very excited when the opportunity arose. Before I go on, let me just stipulate that Camp Rock is YA contemporary romance, whilst Wish Me Tomorrow is adult romance. However, fear not if you like your romance clean, as that’s exactly what this latest release by Karen Rock is.

Now, I’d seen comments dotted about the internet prior to heading in that Wish Me Tomorrow deals with cancer. To be honest, having gone through skin cancer just last year, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about reading a book that revolved quite heavily around it, but I trusted Karen to do it justice and so took a deep breath and then took a chance.

As expected, every issue within the pages relevant to this killer was handled with care and respect. From the difference in attitudes amongst those affected by the illness, to the expanse of just how many corners cancer—and its victims—reaches to. Because cancer doesn’t just stop at the patient and doctor. There are support groups (handled), terminal patients (handled), children with cancer who often show more bravery than the adults (handled), the health team who not only try their best to fix you up first time it strikes but who also continue taking care of you to try and assure it doesn’t return, and actually care about the patients they’re treating (handled—and I can testify that these teams of great health/medical/surgical/car providers do give a helluva damn about what they do), and of course the family who are watching and mentally fighting on their behalf when a loved one is inflicted with this cruel disease.

However, even with ALL of these corners included into the book, it didn’t once feel busy, didn’t once feel overloaded or contrived. It also didn’t once feel as though they were distracting from the romance of the story, which (let’s face is) was what I was most interested in.

Because I loved the relationship the reader gets to watch brewing between Christie and Eli. They are both great, believable, and relatable characters, who each have their own reasons for shying away from what their hearts, minds and bodies are trying to tell them. It was lovely to ‘watch’ as Christie, without even realising it, worked her way into Eli’s life in a way he couldn’t ignore or refuse, and how one stepping stone led to another until they were no longer standing on opposing banks but had somehow reached that middle ground where both were happy to be. For a little while, at least—because all good romances like to throw spanners into the works to mess up those little ounces of bliss the characters have been handed, right? And boy, this wasn’t just a spanner, but a bloody great wrench. I’m not going to go into details, because I believe you should just go read this one and discover what I’m speaking about for yourself, but such leaps forward are rapidly diminished by the huge issue Christie and Eli are made to face—not just as a couple but also as individuals, and for Eli, also as a family man with responsibilities he has no idea how to handle.

Also, I must commend Ms Rock on the brave move she made in leaving the reader slightly uncertain at the end. Because yes, one could argue that there is a kind of HEA—or least a HFN—but it’s not guaranteed, and life around us which is so expertly mirrored within the pages of Wish Me Tomorrow has proven as such many times over. However, I believe the absolute right decision was made to end the book as it was, because to have done otherwise would have lost some of the credibility all of the preceding pages had done such an ace job of creating.

To conclude, this is a very romantic romance about great characters with flaws and major life issues standing in their way that proves some battles really are worth the fight. I would recommend it, for sure, for anyone and all, even with the cancer side of the story. Whilst it did make me cry at a couple of points, especially toward the end, I simply came out the other side with a lot of respect for the author and glad that I plucked up the courage to give this one a try.

Eye of the Soul

Eye of the Soul (Pool of Souls) - Terri Rochenski

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this title from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This has in no way affected my opinion of the book.

I’m not a fan of *most* fantasy books, so I headed into Terri Rochenski’s Eye of the Soul with some reservation and a slight hesitation. To begin, I kind of thought my reservations might be justified, but the more I read on, the more I changed my mind.

In this first book in Rochenski’s Pool of Souls trilogy, we are taken on Hyla’s journey. Hyla is part of a race of people, ones with abilities that set them apart to others, and as the only one of her village to escape capture by the more monetarily powerful people who take them, Hyla finds herself on a journey she hopes will save them. Luckily for her, she doesn’t end up having to do so alone. Because a chance meeting with the King’s fierce warrior, Jaden, lands her a companion, and possibly a protector, and meeting Jaden leads to her inadvertently meeting his best friend Conlin. And the reader automatically goes from hoping something romantic will happen between Hyla and Jadon, to watching with intrigue the subtle shift in her behaviour toward Conlin. This development has left me hoping they will finally get to meet in the next book (though, I guess the author might keep us waiting until the third), because the romance is so subtly and sweetly done, I can imagine it will be exactly that, intermingled with even more of their personalities, once we’re actually given the goods. These three are definitely the driving force of this story—or they were for me, at least—and they were a pleasure to spend time alongside.

Now, as for those reservations I mentioned in my opening, let me just try to explain, and then to nullify. You see, whilst the opening draws you in, and does a great job of ensuring you connect with Hyla enough to want to spend more time with her, there are moments within the book where you might feel it’s getting repetitive. All I can say is: hang in there, and open those eyes of yours a little wider, because there’s so much more going on beneath the surface; so much more that isn’t said; you’ve just got to be receptive enough to figure it out for yourself. Because Hyla does a LOT of travelling in order to reach the Pool of Souls. At first glance, it appears that not much is occurring during those travelling chapters. However, the development isn’t about kick-butt action scenes and epic battle after epic battle; it’s about the journey of Hyla’s growth as a character. And that is, I have to say, extremely well done.

And then, when Hyla reaches the Pool? Man, that was when it hit me—just how spiritual this book truly is. The depths to which the reader can connect within this scene is amazing, if they just allow themselves to. Me? I cried like a baby. And, oddly enough, felt refreshed for having sheds those tears. That is how deeply this book, in its entirety, affected me. So, really, give it a go. I can see myself wanting this trilogy in its entirety, just so I can sit down and read these back to back—because that, I imagine, will be an experience in and of itself. Even those of you who love the action and sexual tension, and convoluted characters with shadows on their souls—shove down those barriers and let this book into your heart. Because in the readers heart is where Eye of the Soul truly belongs.

One

One - LeighAnn Kopans

I’m a sucker for a good cover, it’s true. So, when I saw the cover reveal for the second in LeighAnn Kopan’s One Universe series: Two, I just had to race on over to Goodreads and check out what this series was all about. From there on, I was pretty much sold, and even more so when One went on special offer.

Needless to say, I nabbed it up, and finally got around to reading it just last week.

So, the big question now is: does the inside match the outside for awesome?

Well, yes … and no.

You see, I have some slightly mixed feelings on One. Because there were some things I really liked about it, and others not so much.

Let’s take a look at the good stuff.

Merrin. I REALLY liked Merrin as an MC. I found her believable. Relatable. Likeable. And a good lead.

Elias. Another great main player. He’s cute and persistent, and I really liked his gentle approach of trying to persuade Merrin to give him the time of day (even if his intentions aren’t exactly cut and dry). I like how he’s geeky hot, veering away from the stereotypical muscled ToughGuy-come-AttitudeKing. And I … well, I just basically liked him very much.

Their friends. Elias’s friends become Merrin’s friends, and I really enjoyed watching that relationship grow, even if Merrin was a little judgemental toward them before she’d even had chance to say hello. But, in all fairness, this just adds a little credibility, because at that age, girls pretty much run a psyche analysis on every single person they see let alone meet, right?

The concept. One has a very cool concept, and for the most part the world building was pretty clear, even if some of it became fairly predictable. However, I did wonder for a while if the captured and saviour roles might have been the other way around for a little while. It was refreshing to see them portrayed the way they were.

Okay, now onto what has me questioning why I wasn’t clapping my hands in glee as I hit the last page, because in all honesty, I kind of felt a bit deflated and somewhat relieved to have reached the end. And this is confusing to me because I was okay about keep picking the book up to reach the end, and I didn’t at any point want to quit, but for some reason, I didn’t feel wowed about it all. Here are a few thoughts on what I think may have caused my lacklustre-ness.

The voice. Yes, Merrin is a 16 year old girl, and her voice needs to stay true to that. But I think there were occasions when this spilled over a little too much, which resulted in the story and narrated thoughts being overwritten, and also somewhat repetitive at some point.

The pacing. The opening of the book, possibly up until around the 40% mark, had great pacing. I flew through it no trouble. But then, for reasons I can’t quite pinpoint, the pacing seemed to slow quite drastically down. I don’t know how much of the overwritten parts issue contributed to that, or how much was to do with it taking too long to get to the good stuff. But definitely in the second half of the book, there was something slightly off with the pace—which may be what contributed to my being glad to reach the end.

The mastermind behind the evil. He was a little predictable. He was also almost stereotypical. I don’t know how much of this was intentional. After all, Ones are pretty much like superheroes to the human world, and in every superhero movie/comic out there, the baddies are often stereotypical, right? However, part of me wanted this to have broken from the mould to give me something fresh.

However, that being said, I still did enjoy One on a level that has left me curious by the ending. And that curiosity, combined with a willingness to spend more time with Elias and his totally beautiful cover, might just spur me into reading Two.

Extracted by Sherry D. Ficklin & Tyler Jolley

ExtractedDisclaimer: I received a copy of this title from the publisher/UKArcShare in exchange for an honest review. This has in no way affected my opinion of the book.

To be honest, I wasn’t 100% sure what expect from Extracted by Sherry D. Ficklin & Tyler Jolley, as I could clearly see from the cover that it contains elements of steampunk, and the most experience I’d had with steampunk was from reading Something Strange and Deadly, so I headed into it pretty blind. And reluctantly so.

I say reluctantly, because it also had vibes of sci-fi and fantasy, with its promise of time-travel, and if you know me, then you know sci-fi is something I run away from (fast). However, the time-travel element won me over, so I opened the first page and just hoped they didn’t bamboozle me with too much tech-talk.

And, they didn’t. Mostly, anyway. That isn’t to say this book isn’t filled with imaginative genius, because it pretty much is (in my opinion). More that the genius is there at just the right level and description that it didn’t bog down my reading pace or stall my brain. And that pacing in here? Man, it’s just quite awesome. Usually, with sci-fi, fantasy, anything that requires too much brain power on my behalf, can take me DAYS!!!!! to read. Extracted took me only 2.somethingsmall, thanks to the great action after action after action that is this book. Seriously.

The opening chapter boots us from one end to the other with its kicka$$ speed and content, and every following chapter did exactly the same. I’d expected the pace and action to slow once we’d been suckered in, which is what usually happens, but with Extracted, the reader barely has time to breathe.

To be honest, for the first 40%-ish of the book, I did wonder where it was all going. Because we have two POVs, Lex and Ember, who are on opposing ‘sides’, and for a while, it seems as though we’re spending a little time with each of them in random scenes, with random mini-adventures, with no apparent connection. It didn’t bother or frustrate me, though, as I trusted in the authors to be giving me something relevant rather than Lala-Land waffle, and trying to figure out how it would all weave together was a truly enjoyable challenge. But I didn’t figure it all out—which isn’t a bad thing, because that just made the AHA! moment all the greater. I mean, dude! I really, really, really didn’t see it coming. And I love when a book pulls that off.

Okay, so I realise like it probably seems like I’m waffling mindlessly, but this is a very hard review to write without giving any spoilers away, so maybe I should just natter about the characters and whatnot instead.

Lex. I loved Lex. From the off. He’s cool, he’s hawt, he’s tough, and he gives a damn. Great, great, GREAT believable MC, who makes that insta-connection I love in characters pretty darn easy.

Ember. So … imagine Lex … but a female version. Yeah, I think that sums her up. So, win number 2 on the character front, then.

Ethan. Le sigh. Okay, so I loved Lex. BUT I fancied the freaking pants off Ethan (which probably makes me kind of a lech considering my age, but we won’t discuss that *cough*). He’s as headstrong as Lex but with slightly (and only slightly) less attitude.

Stein. She’s hot and kicka$$ in an arrogant yet almost sexy kind of way. She certainly seems to be perceived as sexy to other characters—whatever their gender. I’d love to see more of that oozing from the page in the following books so I can feel it slightly more, too. And I want some of that pizzazz back that I felt between her and Lex that was there before … um … ‘something’ happened. *shifty eyes*

Around those, we have Kara (yeah, um, I had her number), and Nobel (loved this dude—so cool), and all of the lesser mentioned part of the team but no less colourful. Plus, we had the bigwigs who kind of preside over them all—each side as seemingly control-freaky as the other, in their own way, so it was difficult for a while to figure out whose team, exactly, the reader should be batting for. And I loved how everything in here ties in to actual history. I’ll admit, AS I read the book, I had no idea who Tesla was ‘based’ on (I failed history at school—no joke), but I’d read the author blurb on the front cover that mentioned about the book rewriting history (or words to that effect) and so wondered over it, and then in the back of the book amongst the authors notes, the history references are explained. It’s also pretty easy to Google the history behind the premise of this book. I didn’t need that to make the story credible to me, but it certainly made it a whole lot cooler.

So, what about the plot? Well, as I already mentioned above that there didn’t seem to be a solid plot for a while, even though there is just something about the expert way in which its written that reassures you it’s coming, you just have to be patient. And I loved the plot. I love the ‘hinted at’ possibility of a certain someone that could (translate: most probably will) spill over into the next book and make a reappearance like a dodgy Terminator. And I loved all the twists and turns, the actions, the reveals … yeah, it’s a cool story, for sure.

The only gripes I have are in the consistency of the writing. There were times when the writing was really quite brilliant, times when the writing was okay, and times when the writing stumbled my reading flow slightly. But when it was brilliant, it was very brilliant, and I wanted to see more of that brilliance and a little less of the stumbling—especially during the very high action scenes. Because there were a good few scenes in there that I couldn’t follow. Now, admittedly, that might have been in part due to me and my personal struggles with sci-fi and whatnot, but an action scene is an action scene, and I had more than one occasion when I couldn’t place characters’ positions, or how far away certain things/people were, or … well, you get the picture. And I’m a clarity girl—I need it if I’m going to read with complete ease. Also, there were a few occasions where actions were duplicated. I don’t mean, the same action verb was used repetitively. I mean, I counted at least 3/4 occasions where a character would hand something to another character (for example), and then a few paragraphs later, they would hand over, again, the very thing they’d already handed over. However, this was an uncorrected proof that I read, so those errors may well have been caught before this goes to print, but it did trip my flow. So, these couple of bugbears of mine are responsible for the lack of star, because if I’d gone the entire read without confusion, I’d have coloured myself wowed (considering the genre/s), and this would have been an easy 5 stars.

So to sum up: historically fun, imaginatively brilliant, with action and action and more action, with great characterisation, Extracted is a mightily woven tale that should earn itself a spot on many a time-travel lovers bookcase, and I, for one, am very much looking forward to book 2.

And to sum it up in one word: Cool!

Earthbound

Earthbound - Aprilynne Pike

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this title from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This has in no way affected my opinion of the book.

Aprilynne Pryke’s new series is a race across the clock romance that spans across the ages, andEarthbound is a great start to the tale.

From the off, mystery and intrigue surround MC Tavia—from her survival of a major accident, her dreams, her visions of a boy she’s never met but feels is familiar, to her family and the underlying secrets that might be a part of her life. I liked Tavia as MC a lot. She’s a great character, one who’s easy to connect with, and her frustrations and indecisions are totally believable, as are her portrayed emotions and confusions over what to do, who to turn to.

Discovering that her family history might not be quite what she thought, after chasing trails started by a hauntingly creepy yet cute and alluring boy and a shadowing guy who pops up all over the place, leaves Tavia up in arms about who and what she really is. Even as she runs off to find out the truth, aided by swoony Benson, unravelling the mystery surrounding her is hard. As a reader, it became almost frustrating, thanks to this being told in first ppov, trying to solve the clues (or, sometimes, lack of), yet the frustration was never at the book but more frustrations shared with Tavia as one lead after another seemed to lead nowhere and left both her and the reader still confused.

Benson is a great male counterpart in this title. He’s cute, he’s attentive, he gives a damn … and there’s something not quite right about him. Because I had my suspicions about this dude from pretty early on. And I mean, early on. Yet, not once did my overactive mind deflect my growing affection for him. Man, I wanted my suspicions to be unwarranted, wanted myself to be wrong. I wanted for everything to be okay between him and Tavia (because I truly believe his developed feelings toward her were genuine and honest), despite knowing, deep down, that there was this other guy who might not even really exist throwing that proverbial spanner in the works. Though, I imagine the reader is possibly meant to be somewhat confused over which is the ‘right guy’, as was Tavia for a good while (and probably still will be). And I felt a little sad when it all came to light, and Benson got the cold shoulder as Tavia set about the rest of her journey alone. Thankfully, even though I doubt he’ll ever win back Tavia’s heart, I doubt we’ve seen the last of him.

As for the plot? Imagine the beginning of time reimagined. Everything, which anyone who believes in God and the bible has instilled in them, reinvented—rewritten—into something new. Then imagine a constant loop of reincarnation driven by survival needs of Earth and love, soul mate connections and opposing forces, gods and goddesses (but not as we know them), and secret organisations as powerful as the Illuminati. Add to that a strong, credible MC, with just the right voice and believability to carry us forth, and you have Earthbound. And then, at the end? Enter Logan? Man, I’m really looking forward to see him go through what Tavia went through. In short: I can’t wait to see what happens next. Bring on the Earthquake.

Finding It

Finding It  - Cora Carmack

I headed into Cora Carmack’s Finding It expecting to love it, and I came out the other end of Cora Carmack’s Finding It with my expectations met.

I’m a big fan of this author and her quirky, contemporary world she’s created. We started out with Bliss meets Garrick in Losing It, which had me laughing at out at Bliss’s hilarious character, and we spend more time with them in Keeping Her. Following that was Cade’s story, Faking It, where he meets the somewhat troubled Max, and the fresh tone keeps the series fresh, and man, I fell in love with Cade. And now, in Finding It, we spend time with Bliss’s bestie Kelsey on her worldly travels as she heads in search of, well, herself.

Those travels of hers puts her in the path of one hot and hunky ex-soldier Hunt. Excuse me a moment whilst I pause to say ‘Yum’.

From the off, there is chemistry between this pair. In the slightest of eye contact, the attitudes they show one another, the small touches they share. And I loved that the one with the history of whore-hood was the female for a change—though, don’t condemn her yet; there is all too often a reason for why people (male and female) behave this way.

Despite Kelsey’s behaviour being the kind I despise having to witness in others, I still managed to connect with her from the off. In real life, I’d have probably been pretty appalled by her carryings-on, yet in the book I just found myself concerned for her, wanting to understand why she was behaving this way, wanting to figure out a way for her to not behave this way, and wanting her to find the happiness she was so obviously seeking.

When Hunt steps onto the scene, and almost successively steps up to the task of helping her in her hunt (<<see what I did there?), whilst portraying one chivalrous task after another, I see that first glimmer of hope for her—as does Kelsey herself once she admits what her subconscious is trying to tell her. And henceforth, we are taken on a journey in a new direction, one where we get to watch the developing relationship between Kelsey and Hunt.

About here, the story starts to get really interesting. Because that chemistry between them fights even harder for its place at the forefront—which is a place it deserves.

I guess I could complain about how long Ms Carmack keeps the reader waiting for what we know is surely to come, but I don’t think the book would have worked as well as it does had it been played a different way. Especially with the spanner thrown into the works that every romance author out there likes to toss at their characters once they’ve led them into a false sense of security.

Now, admittedly, I’d figured out the exact spanner size before we reached that point. Yes, I had suspicions—the reader is obviously supposed to—but I’d also worked out the smack-bang-up-yer-face of it, too. However, that didn’t mar my enjoyment one iota. This was still a totally rocking read—made even more rocking by the imaginative redemption of said spanner that drew this book to a sigh-worthy conclusion.

Yeah, yeah, I get I’m being obscure—but why would you want to know the entire plot from me when you’ll get so much more pleasure out of discovering it for yourself? Finding It is an awesomely sad yet witty book, filled with hope and self-condemnation, personal development and self-discovery, growing up, stepping up, and love lost and found, all wrapped up in a colourful and vibrant journey of places I’ve never visited but now would love to dearly. It’s now available to buy. I recommend you do so.

Soul Resurrected

Soul Resurrected

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this title from the author in exchange for an honest review. This has in no way affected my opinion of the book.

If you know me at all, then you’ll have noticed I’m a bit of a cheerleader for Keri Lake’s writing. I cheered for Soul Avenged when that released. And I’ve been doing a little cheering for Soul Resurrected, too—even more so since I always get to read her stuff early (coz, you know, I got connections, ahem). Anyhoo, I was VERY intrigued as to how Soul Resurrected would play out. Sure, we get to meet all of the Wrath demon brothers in Soul Avenged, but the MC for the first title is a female Alexi who just happened to have booked the Wrath Brother’s vengeance services and so was staying at their mansion. This time? Dude, we get a good dose of the brothers on a whole other level of ‘looking from the inside out’.

Yep, Soul Resurrected is written mostly from the dual POV’s of Calla (timid Alexi soldier from SA), and Logan (somewhat dark and twisted and intolerant demon brother with a shadier-than-the-rest past).

Now, I know some of Ms Lake’s readers might be wondering just how she’ll pull off giving us one of the demons at the frontline, and I happen to know Ms Lake is a little nervous about how this book is going to be received. Well, I’m here to stem the concerns—in short, I’m here to set the record straight. So let’s try:

I thought Soul Avenged was pretty awesome. Soul Resurrected was all of that awesome with a dash of warm and intoxicating ambrosia and a slice of lemon to boot.

I LOVED Logan as MC. He is such a freakin’ convoluted character, with some pretty serious shizazzle swimming around in that head of his, that I couldn’t help but want to scoop him up and kiss all of those virtual wounds of his better.

Enter Calla. Because it appears she kind of had the same thoughts on Logan as I did, even if she didn’t seem too keen to act on them at first.

You see, no matter how easy I make it sound above, the relationship and development of such is nowhere near cut and dry.

Because Logan’s body wants Calla’s like nothing else on earth, except he doesn’t want to want her and fights it all the way. And Calla’s body wants Logan’s like nothing else on earth, except she reeeeeaaally doesn’t want to want him (despite how curious he makes her) and so fights it (though, admittedly, not quite as heartedly as Logan does, *snicker*) …. Anyway, I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this.

Yep, the end result is an explosion of heat and unexpected tenderness, as well as a connection of souls on a MAJOR level of like-minded understanding, which delivers us a GREAT relationship the reader will want to devour.

But don’t be fooled into thinking that the heat and snoggery of these two is the bee all and end all ofSoul Resurrected (though it certainly kept me on my curling toes)—because this book truly is so much more than that.

The plot. Man, it’s twisted and twisting, and has so many tight threads tying it into Soul Avenged that were not even HINTED at in Soul Avenged so the reader won’t see them coming. I mean, the book is FULL of unexpected turns, kidnappings (yes, plural), violence, sick and downright scary minds, new supernatural creatures that expose just how deep into the darkness Keri Lake’s imagination is willing to tread, betrayal, LOVE, the testing of relationships, revelations, HOTNESS, reveals, GREAT character development, and … well, Logan—ha!

For any readers out there (familiar with Soul Avenged) who’re worried about Calla being strong enough as supporting MC? Dudes, you can kick those worries to the kerb. Her growth in this book this so awesome, you’d have to be pretty blind not to notice it. I loved her as female counterpart—I’ve so far read Soul Resurrected TWICE and would willingly do so all over again. Now … for goodness sake, WHERE’S BOOK THREE!?

The Better to See You

The Better to See You - Kate SeRine

Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This has in no way affected my opinion.

 

I’m very sad to say that The Better to See You was a DNF for me at 38%.

The Better to See You was the first book I’ve read by Kate SeRine. I also haven’t read many fairytale spinoffs. To be honest, I think I may have benefitted from having read the first, in order for me to get a better and earlier connection with the characters and created world. However, the world building isn’t exactly what made me decide to stop. There were actually a few contributing factors behind my decision.

Firstly, I just could connect with the characters. As I already mentioned above, not having read the first book might be one of the causes of this. But it wasn’t just the main female character, Lavender. It was also Mr Wolf, and everyone else that helped make up this tale. Even the build up of sexual tension didn’t quite cut it for me. It’s like I couldn’t quite find the spark between them, or what about the other—besides physical appearance maybe—they found attractive about each other. Because I just couldn’t gel with it, the whole relationship between the two of them lacked believability for me.

As far as the world building goes, I’ll admit—from I read, Ms SeReine seems to have created a decent world, that is well thought through and has fairly solid foundations. Even the mystery side of it has some credence, because Lavender has valid reasons for ending up where she does, and for needing to try solving the puzzle surrounding the deaths. My biggest complaint here would be how easily she’s accepted by some of the ‘townsfolk’ considering her history.

But that aside, it’s clear from the off that the romance is supposed to be the driving force of this story, and that the mystery is merely the vessel to get the two character to their destination. However, I read on, driven by pure curiosity, hoping that once we got to the pinnacle (read saucy and naked) scene regarding the romance, it would all become clear and I’d finally ‘get’ it. Unfortunately, I still didn’t get it. After all of the lead up to it, and the heat created between the two characters, when we finally get to the scene, it reads almost as rushed, cut somewhat shorter than it should have been to blow the readers minds, and left me feeling pretty sad that it hadn’t succeeded in finally convincing me. That was the point I decided to stop reading. I hate DNFing a book, but this one really just wasn’t for me.

However, that doesn’t mean it won’t suit others—proven by many of the decent reviews it’s received. Mine is but one opinion, so if you’re a fan of fairytale spinoffs, and wolfy romances, then maybe this one will suit you, too.

Getting Rowdy

Getting Rowdy - Lori Foster

Diclaimer: I received an ARC of this title from the publicist in exchange for an honest review. This has in no way affected my opinion.

 

Getting Rowdy by Lori Foster was a new and surprising read to me. It was the first title by this particular author I’d read, so aside from the suspicion that there be heat between these ‘ere pages, I didn’t actually know what to expect.

So, did I enjoy my first foray into a Love Undercover title? Oooh, you betcha.

Rowdy Yates is, at first glance, your typical hotness personified statement of a guy, who’s alpha to the core and enjoys women without apology.

Avery is, at first glance, your typical not-as-strong heroine, who pines after the seemingly unattainable hotness personified statement of a guy.

However, first impressions can often be wrong, and I’m glad to say there was much more to this duo than meets the eye.

A shrewd businessman, as well as a dude willing to READ BOOKS to self-learn, Rowdy is about as protective of those he loves as is humanly possible, and will pretty much tear down the world to keep those important to him safe. That includes his chief of bar staff, Avery. To begin, it appears that most of the back story affecting the progression—or lack of—of their relationship might all fall on Rowdy’s side, but the more the reader heads in, the more they come to realise that Avery has plenty of luggage of her own, too. Now, I really don’t want to say much more than that, because I hate spoilers. Just know that this tale is a mystery full of intrigue, characters you’ll want to unravel, and a relationship that just might set your fingertips aflame.

Sure, I’ll admit, I found the whole mastermind of the pinnacle problem Avery faces (and Rowdy alongside her) somewhat farfetched and would’ve preferred if the one we’d been led to believe was behind it all had turned out to be the baddest guy after all, because that held a whole lot of believability for me throughout the read …. However, I think the sheer presence of those intimate scenes kinda more than makes up for this small area in which the book is lacking. Because when Rowdy and Avery finally get it together? Dude, these pair are HOT!

To conclude: Getting Rowdy holds mystery, intrigue, loveable characters, hateable characters, thrillerish pacing, and will certainly, certainly keep you warm (in more ways than one) on a cold winter’s night. I shall definitely read more from this lady, and from this series. You should, too.

Unnatural Cover Reveal

 

Here's the blurb:

 

Unnatural. One word to sum up werewolf Kyle Larsen—his mood swings, abnormal body, and choice of female.

The first two, he blames on the vampire venom.

The third, though? No, feline shifter Brook Nicholls was all his doing—a female of whom the pack will never approve.

As part of the Coalition, an organisation with even stricter rules than the pack and a rigidly warped sense of responsibility, Brook comes with a whole lot of opposition of her own.

No wonder the two of them keep their relationship secret for as long as they can.

Now, distanced from his family by his own indiscretions, Kyle’s left to fight battles he’s unsure how to win—some of them even against his own pack.

Is one woman really so important that he’s willing to defy his Alpha for her?

If his heart has any say in the matter, the answer will be yes.

 

~~~~~

Unnatural is the fourth novel in the Holloway Pack series, and is set for release April 7th 2014.

SPOILER ALERT!

Origin

Origin - Jennifer L. Armentrout

I’ve been a big fan of Jennifer L. Armentout’s Lux series (okay, everything), since Kay of K-Books first introduced me to Daemon Black, so I’ve been eagerly awaiting the chance to read Origin (even more so since seeing its cover) and discover which duet of paths Ms Armentrout would lead Daemon and Katy down next.

If you’ve followed the series, then you will be aware that Katy’s end situation in Opal was a pretty hairy one to find herself. And if you’ve read all the other books and followed the slow relationship development between her and DB, as well as Daemon’s character development (especially where Katy is involved), then you’ll also be aware that Daemon is going to tear through all obstacles in his way in order to get his little hybrid back. So, an ‘inside’ look at Daedalus, PLUS a lot of Daemon Black and the tension his conflict offers, promises one healthy dose of awesome—in a book. And I have to say that Origin does a decent job of delivering on that promise.

Admittedly, the beginning of the book was a little slow-paced, though really, I don’t see how it could have been written any other way. And I kind of suspect my eagerness for Daemon to start smashing up the place and tearing out trees and stuff might have contributed to my opinion of the pacing. However, once we do hit that point of Daemon going epic, the book does start to show signs of bringing its best dishes to the table. Because, yes, Daemon and Katy end up reunited—BUT … it’s not as clear cut and dried as that. Let’s not forget that Daedalus pretty much always has an agenda of its own, and that reunion of D&K is no exception to that rule. For a little while again, one could argue the pacing slows down, but in all fairness it was again necessary for the reader to learn everything they needed to learn, and it was saved by the fact that the tension was beginning to build and the surety that we’d soon be getting hit with a massive bunch of awesome. And that awesome? Yeah, oonce that awesome hit, it didn’t seem to want to stop. It was a freakin’ tsunami of awesome when the reader is spoonfed one epic action scene after another. And those reveals and twists and turns? Man, I ended up in twist and turn heaven. Not to mention the MASSIVE storm before the calm before the storm. Because the MASSIVE fight scene we’re given is EPIC. Sorry for the epic overuse but there’s not really any other word. And then, following that, to wrap up is that ending. And this is where the epicness intensifies. Not necessarily because I liked that ending. The ending was HORRIBLE. Nope, my kudos to the author for that ending is 100% because I couldn’t have seen it coming in a million years. No matter my theories and speculation, I wouldn’t have called it. and being surprised on that level after already being so thoroughly entertained is seriously The! Icing! On the cake!

My only gripe would be that I wasn’t too sure about some of Daemon’s decisions being … well ‘in character’ enough for my liking—believable enough—but the surrounding story kind of carried me on through my incredulity. But if you’re wondering on the loss of a star in my rating, and you’ve read Origin to understand which particular area of the story I might be referring to (sorry, no spoilers on that), then you know what’s responsible.

To conclude, I wanted Origin to win me back over on the level that Opal failed to, and it pretty much did.

Made of Stars

Made of Stars - Kelley York

Diclaimer: I received an ARC of this title from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This has in no way affected my opinion.

 

I was first introduced to Kelley York’s writing when I recently read Hushed and fell in love with the music of her words and her ability to weave a high-quality tale, so I was super excited for the opportunity to review Made of Stars.

In this latest title by Ms York, we’re introduced to a tri of characters: Hunter, Ashlyn and Chase. Half-siblings, Hunter and Ashlyn have spent every summer at their shared father’s place, where they met their ‘summer friend’ Chase at young ages. By the time this story is told, they have a spent a LOT of summers together as a trio, and are all old enough to be finding their paths in life, and their independent decisions begin showing their faces from the very first page. From the off, all three of these characters are so vibrant, they practically leap off the page—even Chase, who we don’t get to meet in person quite as early as the siblings, but that’s likely to do with the complexity of his character and the god-worthy pedestal both Hunter and Ashlyn have placed him on.

I don’t want to go into the plot too much, because with stories like Kelley’s, doing so can too easily give the entire plot away. But this one contains an entwined duet of love triangles (which are so subtle they don’t even read as love triangles), characters who will break your heart, and a storyline that somehow manages to appear innocent whilst carrying an undercurrent of doom. This is a great talent of Ms York’s I also picked up on when I read Hushed—that no matter how swimmingly the characters make it look like everything is going, the reader can’t help but pick up those vibes that something somewhere is about to go horribly wrong. And Made of Starshas an abundance of these vibes. Because yes, we have what appears to be the main plot path, which pretty much revolves around the duet of love triangles, but reading between the lines and picking up on all the well-placed and woven-in hints you can easily see the bigger plot point of the story. The one that has the reader gripping their Kindle (or book) and unwilling to let go of the damn thing until she/he freakin’ well knows! And man, as if the unveil near the end (which I suspected but ignored my suspicions on because I didn’t want it to be true) isn’t enough, the author then goes and smacks us with that horribly heartbreaking ending.

I apologise for my vagueness in here, I really do. But this is definitely a story you should allow to unfold on its own. Because guaranteed, with the heartbreaking content, the AWESOME, top-class characterisations of the people you will meet between the pages, and the mystery that just begs to be unravelled, Made in Stars is definitely a book every reader out there should experience for themselves. Love, love, love this lady’s writing. Love every character of hers that I’ve read, love how she makes me fall in love with them all despite their enormous flaws, and the mystery and darkness and top notch handling of delicate subjects. Ms York has totally earned a spot with the top players on my ‘must read asap’ list.

Taming Cross

Taming Cross  - Ella James

Taming Cross is the much-anticipated second in the Love Inc series by Ella James. Although the covers appear pretty erotic, I prefer to refer to the series as saucy romance, but it’s less on the sauce in this tale about Cross Carlson than we witnessed in the first book Selling Scarlett.

To be honest, I wasn’t really sure how I felt about that to begin. SS was full of sexual tension and HOT moments that had the reader biting at the bullet for something to freakin’ happen already between the two MC’s. Well, for a long time, I couldn’t quite get past that the build up was a lot slower in Taming Cross, as well as a lot different, and the sexual tension, whilst still there in parts and eventually, was very much more subtle.

However, once I’d stepped back from trying to compare it plot-wise to its preceding title, I realised thatTaming Cross was, in actual fact, every bit as good. It was just … different. And, as much as the next person, I have to respect when each new book in a series brings something fresh to the table.

Anyhoo, that out of the way, Cross Carlson, recovering ‘victim’ of a motorcycle accident that left him in a coma, which led to a stroke, and resulted in him partially disabled, gets worn down by his guilt of having known about the overly-unfortunate circumstances forced on his father’s ex-mistress and just HAS to roar off to Mexico to save her.

Unexpected to him—but not so much to the reader—is the instant attraction/connection he feels toward one Missy King, and that alongside his obsession to save this woman he’s convinced he abandoned becomes one of the driving forces of his actions.

Of course, it’s not quite as clear cut as that. Because Missy King happens to have some pretty shady people out for her pretty hide, and so the rescue mission ends up becoming a race for, and then a fight for, their lives. All which results in them being secluded in an underground hidey-hole, where we get to see the first hints of sexual attraction, as well as the first hints of ‘something about to happen’, as well as learn a whole lot more about our two characters. And even once they manage to find their way out of the frying pan, they’re not necessarily missing the flames. On top of all that is Missy’s battles with why she’s not good enough for Cross, and Cross’s revelations that he’s fallen in love with this woman, and the tug-o-war of emotions that lead to that much-awaited Ah! moment.

In short, Taming Cross is a great addition to the Love Inc series, with appearances from the great characters we met and loved (or hated) in Selling Scarlett, well-rounded and believable bad-guys, a GREAT insight into dysfunctional families and the results of failing expectations, high-speed chases, awesome character development, a more than decent plot and an explosive finale. And I LOVED Cross’s character to pieces. The only thing missing for me was it didn’t quite have the same level of character chemistry as Selling Scarlett did, but that doesn’t mean I won’t read on knowing which characters’ book is to come next.

Keeping Her

Keeping Her (Losing It, #1.5) - Cora Carmack

I was VERY excited for the opportunity to review Cora Carmack’s Keeping Her, as I am a HUGE fan of her Losing It series.

Keeping Her is a novella told from both Garrick’s and Bliss’s POVs from Losing It—though slightly more Garrick’s—and revolves around that ever-dreaded moment of MEET THE PARENTS! ARGH! For Garrick and Bliss, the whole ‘dreading it’ is no different when Garrick takes Bliss off to London to meet his socialite parents.

Both of them have their own reasons for the trepidation, though. Bliss because she’s worried they won’t like her. And Garrick, because he’s … okay, he’s worried they won’t like her, too—but his concern is on a whole other level as he knows the depth of his parents’ snobbery, and Bliss is … well, let’s face it, Bliss is Bliss and comes with a whole heap of ‘Blissisms’ that not every person out there—especially disapproving parents—is going to appreciate.

Keeping Her was just as much fun as I expected it to be, and catching up with this GREAT duo was awesome. It reminded me why I fell in love with Garrick, and reminded me why I had SO MUCH FUN chasing Bliss alongside her awesome sense of humour and ridiculous behaviour. There are just as many ‘hot’ moments in Keeping Her as we’ve come to expect from Ms Carmack’s books, and the story arrived with so many ‘incidents’ and twists and turns, and GREAT side characters—especially Garrick’s British friends—as well as a couple of ‘oooh’ moments and surprises, that this one barely read as a novella at all.

From the off, we’re thrown into their issue, followed by Garrick’s jealousies and insecurities, which we don’t get to witness so much in Losing It, when Bliss meets his friends. I loved this duo, even though Ms Cormack didn’t quite get all of her Britishisms right or a couple of minor points about our behaviours (those mostly only added to my amusement), because they were evidently a pair of rascally rogues, who as a young girl you’d want to meet, and as a parent you’d want your daughters going nowhere near. I also loved how meeting this duo, and the first introduction to Garrick’s family, gave a whole lot of insight into the person he used to be with so little back story required.

And those surprises I mentioned above? Yeah, there’s a lot more to Garrick’s parents than meet the eye. Especially his mother. Because her character development was so awesome, and because Bliss was involved, with those ‘Blissisms’ of hers, it was also totally believable. Add that to the twists and turns, and Keeping Her will have you guessing as to how the heck it could possibly end right up until … well, the very end.

What more can I say other than: if you’re already a fan of Ms Cormack, READ IT! And if you’re not? Where on earth have you been?

Gimme more stories, CC. Please.

Sacrificed in Shadow

Sacrificed in Shadow (Ascension #1) - S.M. Reine

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this title from the author in exchange for an honest review. This has in no way affected my opinion of the book.

When Ms Reine contacted me and asked if I’d like to read Sacrificed in Shadow, I thought Sure. I mean, I read Six Moon Summer a little while ago, and have the following books in that series of S.M.’s to check out (if I ever get five minutes to do so), and I enjoyed what I sampled of her writing, so I figured I’d be safe. What I hadn’t banked on was the massive part played in SiS by certain characters from SMS (I don’t read blurbs—so, shoot me), and the fact I suddenly realised just how much of their development I’ve missed by not having read those already.

That being said, this didn’t hinder my enjoyment of Ms Reine’s latest read. It merely made me want to get my finger out and read those books of hers even more. There also seems to be a crossover (though smaller) from her other—Death’s Hand—books, but other than to mention what I have already, I’m not going to delve into that because I think you should find out how they all intertwine for yourself.

Now, onto the story. We have a few of POV’s in this title—what I’m going to consider as the two MC’s—as well as very small amounts from another POV (I *think* I recall there being only one other).

Elise seems to be the biggest player through the book, despite it not being her POV that opens the story, and in truth, I wasn’t so sure I’d like her at first. I mean, those female MC’s with an attitude that seems borne of just their knowledge that they’re faster and tougher than most usually makes me annoyed with them, and means they have to work harder for my approval. Well, Elise most certainly managed to pull me over to her dark side, and trust me when I say it wasn’t long before I totally TeamE and egging her toward working everything out.

Alongside her, we have Lincoln—the seemingly straight-laced, law-abiding, small-town, good Christian (did I miss anything?) cop. Now, don’t be fooled by my description, as this guy is not all that he appears, and he certainly has plenty of demons (heh) of his own to battle, as well as inner turmoil, and boy, oh boy, did I want him to be strong—because, man, I LOVED Lincoln’s character. He’s so … FULL! And HOT, but without even seeming hot. Hot, in an understated, unassuming, unaware, kind of way—if that even makes sense?

And around both of those, we have everyone else. And there are a LOT of them. However, the only place I found myself slightly confused and straining to keep up was the second time we get to meet the brothers, Seth and Able, as well as everyone else who comes with them, and I had to try and keep track of who all of these good folk were. Not to mention the ‘baddies’, and the sturdy sidekicks working for Elise from the sidelines, and the ex-lover, who I simply could not get a handle on because he was just THAT good at manipulation he easily had my mind yanking in all directions. I guess what I’m trying to say here is, YES, there’s a big cast. But Ms Reine does such a fab job of making each and every one of them so individual, hence making them easily recognisable, that getting to know them was a cinch. This is certainly one full-bodied bunch of peeps.

And then we have the plot. This plot will keep you guessing. EVERYTHING about this book will keep you guessing. Any time I thought I had it all figured out, I turned out to be wrong. Any time I thought I had a character’s number, turned out I had them all wrong. Even characters who were on the ‘good guy’ team kept me on my toes and trying to figure them out—because this is so craftfully weaved, it appears so many times that pretty much any one of them could be on the ‘dark side’, and absolutely not a one of them is safe from manipulation and betrayal—NONE of them are as safe as they think.

To wrap up: this book has mystery and intrigue and sex appeal from the off, and each of those combined with a great body of characters will keep you turning the pages for more. From werewolves, to demons, to angel, and filled with magic, it pretty much covers all bases, and I’m really looking forward to finding out where S.M. takes this tale next. Hopefully, I’ll have read the preceding books by then and caught up.

Vampire Academy

Vampire Academy  - Richelle Mead

Okay, so I stepped away from writing my review of VA for a week, so I could be sure of my opinion. And now, I think I might be.

When I started reading VA, I WANTED to fall in love with it from the off. Wanted to fully understand the lure of these characters. Wanted to grasp the obsession of this Dimitri fellow who seems to have the hearts of readers and fights great battles during #YACushTourney. In short, loads of folk I know have already fallen in love with this entire series, and I wanted to be a part of that.

So, did it live up to my expectations?

Actually, no.

And yes.

Okay, maybe I’m still not totally sure of my opinion.

Because there were a good few things about this title that made its pedestal a little lower than the one I imagined it sitting on.

First up, there was Rose. I didn’t think she was as strong a lead as she could have been. I don’t mean she could have been a more kick-butt character, but more that she just didn’t completely add up for me. One second she was sure of herself and confident and considered herself a bad-a$$ with a rep, and the next she was being b****-slapped by someone else’s words and feeling sorry for herself in a very subtle way that it almost went unnoticeable. Not to mention her over-confidence in her own prowess and sexual appeal to the opposite sex, yet she seemed unconvinced that Dimitri could like her for a fair bit of the book despite her self-assurances that her boobs are better than anyone else’s there, and he’d surely notice those … And those boobs probably could’ve had a role of their own—they were like a whole separate character they got mentioned so much.

On the topic of Dimitri? I, um … just didn’t get it. *ducks for cover* Now don’t hate on me. I’m not saying he didn’t seem like an attractive and decent fellow. I’m just saying that I don’t get the infatuation that Rose has for him. Obviously, she thinks he’s hot, but she believes her ‘feelings’ run a lot deeper than that, and the reader is certainly led to believe that what they feel for each other is deeper than physical attraction. However, with everything else that is happening in this book, and the fact that the Dimitri-Rose relationship doesn’t appear to be the main plot point/driving force of this book … well, to me, they just didn’t get enough alone time—or heck, even enough ANY time together—for me to be happy with where their thoughts/feelings ended up—in short: there wasn’t enough relationship development between them to add the validity ‘they’ needed. And I *think* that issue also bled over into my view of Dimitri, seeing as we only get to spend the time with him that Rose does. I mean, I felt as though I had a better handle on Christian than Dimitri—and I liked him a lot better, too. Lissa and his relationship certainly felt more real, in my opinion.

And now, seeing as I’ve brought Lissa up, I have to say, THIS relationship—the bond between her and Rose—DID work. It was strong. It was believable. The connection—and the mind-sharing—was well written and easy to follow and understand. This, along with the main plot of the book was good. I spent the entire novel trying to figure out the who, what & and why, and whilst I didn’t have to last out right until the reveal to figure out the ‘evil baddie’, the ‘other one’ involved in it all DID come as a surprise. And I do love my surprises and twists and turns that I don’t see coming.

Okay, so pretty much everything in that final paragraph above, I believe, is what kept me turning the pages. I might not have liked Rose—or ‘believed’ her—very much, and I might not have been particularly enthralled by Dimitri or understood his appeal, but for some reason, I still WANTED to continue reading. Even despite all the erros/typos I was somewhat surprised to find in a trad-published title like this, I am, for some reason, intrigued enough that I shall likely pick up the next book in the series when I have a break in my tbr (and once I own a copy) to see where this heads next—especially as I’m reassured that it gets better the further in your read. So, as VA obviously DOES have ‘something’ about it, I’ve rated it 3 stars.

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Fuse by Julianna Baggott