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Indecent Exposure by Tessa Bailey

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Edelweiss/ New Adult/ Reviews 27th November 2017
Indecent Exposure by Tessa BaileyIndecent Exposure by Tessa Bailey
Series: The Academy #2
Published by Avon on January 30th 2018
Pages: 384
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four-stars


Is there a problem, Officer?

Jack Garrett isn’t a police officer yet, but there’s already an emergency. His new firearms instructor—the one who just dropped every jaw in the academy gym—is the same sexy Irish stranger Jack locked lips with last night. The Olympic gold medalist and expert markswoman is now officially off-limits, but Jack’s never cared much for rules . . .

Katie McCoy’s been cooped up in a shooting range for too long. A wild love affair is just what she needs to let loose, though she never imagined it would be with her smokin’ hot trainee. She cannot get involved with Jack—but a quick fling? Perfect. Falling hard for a charismatic recruit with an equal amount of sex appeal and secrets? Bloody stupid.

Jack’s charmed the pants off plenty of women (literally), yet few have ever looked beyond his perfect surface. Until Katie. He’ll do anything to keep her in his life . . . except tell her about his past. But a tiny lie of omission never hurt anyone, right?

Tessa Bailey’s ‘The Academy’ series is shaping out to be quite a gem of all her books. ‘Indecent exposure’ is engaging, fun, appropriately angsty when the occasion calls for it and more emotionally resonant than the first book in the series.

A deadbeat loser was what I’d thought of Jack Garrett and I was nothing but sceptical when Bailey insisted on writing his HEA. But Bailey’s rather insightful articulation of Jack’s issues, emotions and personal demons deserve some applause here, as she makes him a sympathetic hero whose upbringing and past explains—though doesn’t necessarily excuse—the way he always behaves. Just as Jack is the drifter with no ambition in life, Katie McCoy’s upbringing has been the exact, regimented opposite with high after high and prize after prize.

In many ways, Jack and Katie are complete opposites and their coming together is probably nothing short of a miracle save for Katie’s honesty, openness and compassion which makes Jack need to level with her. I was in fact, surprised at the speed at which they shared so many things about each other when I’d barely gotten to a quarter of the book, but it does in fact, smooth the way for sizzling sexy times (which are frankly, over-the-top as usual) and a more intimate connection where there would be none.

Nonetheless, I did think however, that Jack really needed some time apart from Katie to work on himself and to fix his issues—time and the skin-flaying kind of therapy. Katie did hit the nail on the head when she said that she couldn’t be a crutch for him as he started his long recovery and I wished that Bailey had actually separated them, just so that Jack could meet her as a better man and in a better position from when they first started. I would have liked to see them together 6 months or a year down the road though, as a yardstick of how far they’d come together, but the epilogue—just a mere 48 hours after the climax—wasn’t sufficient for me to believe the rather rushed and abrupt HEA that Bailey wraps up for them both.

That said, I’m liking this series quite a lot and with a fiery recruit and a stodgy lieutenant next in line? Bring it on.

four-stars

Unloved by Katy Regnery

Posted in Contemporary Romance/ Mystery/Crime/ New Adult/ Reviews 13th November 2017
Unloved by Katy RegneryUnloved by Katy Regnery
Published by Katharine Gilliam Regnery on October 8th 2017
Pages: 325
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three-stars

My name is Cassidy Porter...

My father, Paul Isaac Porter, was executed twenty years ago for the brutal murder of twelve innocent girls.

Though I was only eight-years-old at the time, I am aware - every day of my life - that I am his child, his only son.

To protect the world from the poison in my veins, I live a quiet life, off the grid, away from humanity.

I promised myself, and my mother, not to infect innocent lives with the darkness that swirls within me, waiting to make itself known.

It's a promise I would have kept...if Brynn Cadogan hadn't stumbled into my life.

Now I exist between heaven and hell: falling for a woman who wants to love me, while all along reminding myself that I must remain...

Unloved.

Katy Regnery is a relatively new author to me, so picking up ‘Unloved’ seemed like a given, since I did like one of her modern-day fairytales quite a bit. The fact that ‘Unloved’ also deals with the disturbing suggestion that violence is hereditary—violence against women in particular stands out here—made this a more intriguing prospect that I couldn’t wait to pick up.

The book started off slow, as both Cass’s and Brynn’s paths converged after an unfortunate act of violence up in the mountains of Maine, though it did turn quite weepy before long. If Cass was determined to keep his distance because of his belief that he had the murderous/violent gene in him, the latter seemed too fragile and prone to numerous crying bouts in contrast (which was what I mostly remembered of her), where her need for Cass seemed more like transference termed as love. High-drama (sometimes overly so, with soap-operatic overtones) with too much self-loathing permeated the pages so much that I had to put the book down a few times; overall though, I felt for Cass and the torment he’d put himself through because of what he’d wrongly believed his whole life.

The twist that came towards the end however, made it a lot harder to swallow the story hook, line and sinker given my own reservations by that point in time. What was then, the whole point of setting up the opposing ideas of nature vs. nurture (very broadly speaking)? Because I wasn’t too sure by the end of it, whether the twist was it meant to give credence to the argument (in an ironic way) or render it completely moot, because I was actually looking forward to the idea that Regnery seemed to be pushing for most of the book, which was that nurture can win over nature.

In short, I’m left somewhat neutral even by the time Cass/Brynn got their HEA along with electricity and other modern amenities, but this probably has more to do with my own expectations than the story itself. It’s probably not quite a story that’ll appeal very broadly, but then again, which book really does?

three-stars

An Ex for Christmas by Lauren Layne

Posted in Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ New Adult/ Reviews 12th November 2017
An Ex for Christmas by Lauren LayneAn Ex for Christmas by Lauren Layne
Series: Love Unexpectedly #5
Published by Loveswept on November 7th 2017
Pages: 218
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two-stars

When a psychic tells spunky, superstitious Kelly Byrne that she’s already met her true love, she becomes obsessed with the idea of tracking him down before Christmas. Kelly immediately writes up an “Ex List” and starts contacting old boyfriends to figure out which one is the one. When her college sweetheart rolls into town, Kelly convinces herself that they’re meant to be. The trouble is, sparks are flying with someone she’s never given a chance: her best friend, Mark.

Mark Blakely has watched the guys on Kelly’s list break her heart, and he’s not looking forward to watching them do it all over again. Mark’s always been there for her, but the timing’s never worked out for their relationship to be something more. Now, just as Mark is ready to move on, the sexual tension between them is suddenly off the charts. With Christmas morning around the corner, he just hopes Kelly will wake up and realize that everything she wants has been right in front of her all along.

I’m starting to wonder if Lauren Layne and I should start to part ways. When I’ve loved her earlier works, these days, I’ve taken more and more issues of late with her characters whom I can’t seem to like at all—and my recent lowered ratings of her books might be an unfair attempt to recapture what I’ve felt about her previous books.

The friends-to-lovers (with an unrequited element) romance is one where I tread very, very carefully, because there’re just too many entanglements and questions that tend not to be satisfactorily answered before a typical, teary grovelling session happens just a page or 2 before both parties ride off into the sunset. Romantic-comedy or not, I do like my couples evenly-paired emotionally at the very least, which means that I do need to see, while reading the romance genre, that both are on the same page when it comes to their feelings for each other, rather than a protagonist hankering after another for an extended period of time, then having the other playing catch up only in the last few pages. Where’s the satisfaction in that?

“An Ex for Christmas” was just that for me, though I was under the impression that it was more of a timing-not-right sort of thing for them, instead of one where an obtuse woman stomps on a man’s heart unknowingly.

For want of a better way of putting things, Kelly seemed to bring out the latent violent tendencies in me as I found myself caught between wanting to smack her and throwing a chair at her for her steadfast refusal to see how much she’d put Mark in the friend zone. Kelly’s perky obliviousness and inability to recognise what was in front of her all along—while flaunting the plan to dates ALL of her ex-es in front of the guy who’s always loved her—was not just cringeworthy, but thoughtless and stupid, considering this came off some screwed-up, superstitious conclusion based on an old woman’s prediction.

In fact, I felt so bad for Mark and actually wished he found someone else other than a woman who’d never seemed to return his feelings beyond platonic friendship. I thought he deserved better instead of Kelly’s ‘sudden’ realisation that she ‘thought she loved’ him despite him going to bat for her—the obstinate search for her ex-es even though those tanked disastrously proved it sufficiently, and I couldn’t blame him at all for finally wanting to give up while the woman he wanted simply went off doing her own merry thing.

Obviously my sentiments lie in the minority here—unrequited love stories tend to do that for me, particularly with the one who pined for a long time—but exasperation and irritation just got the better of me for this one. So I skimmed, if only for poor Mark, feeling relieved when I got to the end, though not any happier about it still because their love affair all sat wrong with me. Like I said, maybe this is sort of the end of the road for me when it comes to Layne’s stories; never say never though, but I’m going to be taking a wide berth for now.

two-stars

Mountain Man by Sherilee Gray

Posted in Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Erotica/ New Adult/ Reviews 7th November 2017
Mountain Man by Sherilee GrayMountain Man by Sherilee Gray
Series: The Smith Brothers #1
Published by Amazon Digital Services, Amazon Publishing on November 7th 2017
Pages: 99
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three-stars

Hank Smith saved my life, carrying me through a blizzard to his mountain cabin. He doesn’t like strangers, and he doesn’t like leaving his sanctuary. Now I’m trapped here with him until the snow melts. 

I see him looking at me. He tries to hide behind a gruff exterior, but I see the longing and the heat burning in his eyes. I know he wants me, and I can’t resist him. I want to feel those big, rough hands all over my body.

But once he’s unleashed his raw, barely tried desire on me, will I be able to leave my mountain man behind, or will he make me his?

I really enjoyed Sherilee Gray’s ‘Breaking Him’ and this foray into erotica continues with ‘Mountain Man’ with a solitary, gruff and somewhat emotionally vulnerable hero who saves a woman and then doesn’t quite know what to do with the both of them.

It’s a straight up-and-out sort of read and very easy to go through within a hour or so, not to mention the scorching hot times between the sheets that made the short anticipation worth it. Hank Smith definitely made the book for me; I wished that Birdie – whose odd name really reminded me of an old woman’s – had a bit more courage for go after what (and who) she wanted instead of taking off in a way she’d known all her life. I felt more for the former than the latter, but was still gratified with the happy end that I thought Hank really deserved.

three-stars

Hooking Up by Helena Hunting

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ New Adult/ Reviews 7th November 2017
Hooking Up by Helena HuntingHooking Up by Helena Hunting
Published by Swerve on November 1st 2017
Pages: 259
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one-star

Amalie Whitfield is the picture of a blushing bride during her wedding reception–but for all the wrong reasons. Instead of proclaiming his undying love, her husband can be heard, by Amalie and their guests, getting off with someone else. She has every reason to freak out, and in a moment of insanity, she throws herself at the first hot-blooded male she sees. But he’s not interested in becoming her revenge screw.

Mortified and desperate to escape the post-wedding drama, Amalie decides to go on her honeymoon alone, only to find the man who rejected her also heading to the same tiny island for work. But this time he isn’t holding back. She should know better than to sleep with someone she knows, but she can’t seem to resist him.

They might agree that what happens on the island should stay on the island, but neither one can deny that their attraction is more than just physical.

Not having read the first book, I’m guessing that the implications of Amalie and her secret hook-up are much larger than I think, though ‘Hooking Up’ does clearly work as a standalone.

Having said that, I had the inkling that the book wasn’t for me at all—an inkling that grew like an ominous thundercloud by the time I got to the part where the shenanigans started a few minutes post-wedding.

Cheating and a tit-for-tat vibe in the story are what push the narrative along: out of spite, Armstrong swopped into get the girl (one which the mystery man sees first), then quite publicly cheated on her in a cringeworthy manner during the wedding reception. The brokenhearted Amalie in turn, went on her honeymoon alone, hooked up with the man who quite literally saw her first while her divorce hadn’t gone through (though it’s pretty much expected that the marriage is over by then). That personally is a trigger for me, so I was struggling with this early on, which clearly places me in the minority as I kept wondering if Amalie/mystery man’s actions were justified nonetheless, especially since this merely took place a few days after the disastrous wedding and not after the dust properly settled.

I also found it hard to sympathise with the jilted woman, whose choice in bad boyfriends (and husband) merely reinforced her lack of judgement and her inability to rein everything in. And unlike our mystery man who seemed stalwart in his desire for her, Amalie merely stayed a whiny, flaky protagonist who spent most of the story vacillating between her regrets and her own abysmal history in ‘love’ which she projected onto mystery man.

I couldn’t finish the story after all—it’s an issue I typically have with characters and issues like cheating. The ease of reading just didn’t surpass how much I disliked the characters in the book save for the mystery man of the story and was actually happy to put Amalie and her antics far behind me.

one-star

Butterfly by Cambria Hebert

Posted in Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ New Adult/ Reviews 4th November 2017
Butterfly by Cambria HebertButterfly (A Public Enemy Standalone) by Cambria Hebert
Published by Cambria Hebert on November 3rd 2017
Pages: 377
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three-stars

Drunken brawls. One-night stands.No-show interviews. Toilet-papering my hoity-toity neighbor’s house.Insulting my fans. Trashing hotel rooms.What’s it take to become public enemy number one?I just told you.I’ve done all that and more.My poor conduct got me on the Celebs Behaving Badly listand ultimately ruined my career.From the world’s number-one popstar to world’s most hated.That’s me. Ten Stark.Go underground, they said. Stay out of the spotlight.Most importantly, stay out of trouble.Everyone loves a good comeback story.For once, I listened.I met someone who didn’t know my name,my face, or the bad behavior that defined me.She taught me I wasn’t who everyone thought I was—everyone including me.Then someone whispered my name and things got messy, as they always do.Now I want her back.I’m not a caterpillar, but a butterfly.My wings are in full color, not just black and white.But first, I have to shed my cocoon and fly.

Have you ever liked a book because of its heroine more than its hero?

‘Butterfly’ is one such read for me, with a female protagonist who couldn’t be more real in my eyes – suffering the afflictions us mere mortals do while going through life the best she can, with the (literal) scars to show for it. ‘Butterfly’ was more Violet Meier for me more than the spoiled, self-absorbed and disgraced pop star who really should have known better but didn’t. And I loved her for it – for being far from the indestructible characters that we tend to associate with larger-than-life protagonists because she stays comfortable in her own skin.

Ten Stark made me a little too sceptical of the change he finally wanted to effect in his life and didn’t get too much of my sympathy – the shenanigans of celebrities these days don’t interest me at all – though Cambria Hebert does a good job in humbling the awful man who’d hit rock-bottom.

Despite my not being a big fan of deception that’s continued throughout most of the story because a protagonist couldn’t be bothered or is too scared to own his/her mistakes, ‘Butterfly’ is surprisingly still a low-angst, easy read, with the somewhat muted inevitable blow-up followed by the requisite grovelling and HEA.

three-stars

Wildfire by Ilona Andrews

Posted in Fantasy/ Magic/Paranormal/ New Adult/ Reviews/ Speculative Fiction/ Urban Fantasy 3rd November 2017
Wildfire by Ilona AndrewsWildfire by Ilona Andrews
Series: Hidden Legacy #3
Published by Avon on July 25th 2017
Pages: 391
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four-stars

Just when Nevada Baylor has finally come to accept the depths of her magical powers, she also realizes she’s fallen in love. Connor “Mad” Rogan is in many ways her equal when it comes to magic, but she’s completely out of her elements when it comes to her feelings for him. To make matters more complicated, an old flame comes back into Rogan’s life…

Rogan knows there’s nothing between him and his ex-fiance, Rynda Sherwood. But as Nevada begins to learn more about her past, her power, and her potential future, he knows she will be faced with choices she never dreamed of and the promise of a life spent without him.

As Nevada and Rogan race to discover the whereabouts of Rynda’s kidnapped husband and are forced to confront Nevada’s grandmother, who may or may not have evil motives, these two people must decide if they can trust in each other or allow everything to go up in smoke.

‘Wildfire’ is a return to the rollicky, zany fun that I had in the first book, complete with otherworldly creatures, deadpan, quip-filled humour and crazy feats of magic that, on an alternate earth, would send mortals running each time a window gets the slightest hairline crack. This mad magical universe is really what makes this series so irresistible: larger than life, yet still so steeped in a contemporary reality (or rather, downtown Houston) we can sort of relate to and understand.

A huge part of me still longed for the Nevada Baylor of the first book—the woman who kept her powers hidden as she relied on her wits and gun skills instead of playing with the big boys—rather than the newly-minted Prime taking her place in a complex and archaic House system full of backstabbing politics, where the constant game of keeping one’s head above water prevents everything from staying simple. I still cringed every time she used her powers—whether these occasions were justified were still up in the air for me—but this was merely a trade-off it seemed, for Nevada’s rise in magical society and the inevitable ‘revelation’ of her unique ‘gift’.

As much the story was still written in her POV here, Nevada and Connor were by now, an established couple, finding their way around this new relationship and how their magic abilities worked into it, so there wasn’t too much of the tension that we got in the first 2 books.

But I didn’t mind it too much, absorbed as I was in the story’s secondary characters, which were really the best I’ve ever read in a long, long time. For once, Andrews’s secondary characters—who were as multifaceted as the protagonists—kept me riveted, even sometimes taking focus away from the main couple despite the story being related in Nevada’s POV and I didn’t mind a whit.

The bottom-line is, it all went from loopy to loopier and although quite cookie-cutter in the way the authors handled its protagonists’ growth trajectories, ‘Wildfire’ is still a riotous fast-paced read that already hints at more to come.

four-stars
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