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New Adult

Elusive by L.A. Fiore

Posted in Action/Adventure/ Contemporary Romance/ New Adult/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 26th July 2017
Elusive by L.A. FioreElusive by L.A. Fiore
Series: Shipwreck #1
Published by Createspace Independent Publishing Platform on July 21st 2017
Pages: 253
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two-stars

I didn’t set out to be a pirate.Life for me was about surviving the ugliness that people knew existed but didn’t talk about. I lived in hell. Then I saw her. I knew I couldn’t keep her, but for just a little while I had found heaven. Eight years later, I can’t get her out of my head. It is a mistake sailing to her island. It is a mistake reaching out to her. She doesn’t recognize me. Or maybe she does. Closure, it is all I’m after. Then my past comes back to haunt me. She’s thrust into my ruthless world. An angel. A romantic who has a journal that leads to a shipwreck and a lost treasure. She’s wants to find the ending to a love story that is over two hundred years in the making. I want to help her find it. I didn’t set out to be a pirate.I didn’t set out to fall in love with an angel. I did both anyway.

A modern-day pirate story is as rare as the treasures found deep on the sea floor these days. ‘Elusive’’s blurb doesn’t reveal that much, but it was enough to draw me into a book that I honestly thought I would have liked better. It’s my first L.A. Fiore book in any case, and I hadn’t a clue what to expect.

Much of the first half traces separate lives and timelines of the 2 protagonists and it was done well and believably enough for me to get into the brutal world that Noah/Kace had grown up in as opposed to the relatively sheltered life that Willow led. The journey after their meeting however, meandered through several other scenes which I assume continued to chart their separate development as individuals, right up to the point where they met again.

I wondered where the initial lack of focus on them as a couple was going to lead, and found it equally difficult to buy into their story when they finally met and came together for the second time. There was of course, the obvious parallel of an 18th century man’s love for his young wife that was drawn here, though I wasn’t as enthusiastic about Noach’s and Willow’s love story than I was with the action and the suspense that naturally come with treasure hunting and adventure diving.

That latter part, I enjoyed a lot more, and it was more the characterisation than the action, that I struggled with. Noah and Willow were, for the lack of a better word, hard to pin down, blowing hot and cold, rational and sometimes irrational as far as the crow flew.

Based only on an impulsive night 8 years ago—memories do fade and rose-tinting does come into play—Willow’s infatuation somehow grew into love as she had added naive romanticism as a layer on top of it. In the present, Willow acknowledged herself that she’d built up a ‘pirate ideal’ in her head, then superimposed it onto the hardened man she saw later—a man who frankly, treated her callously in ways he only knew how to.

In fact, Noah’s affection for Willow seemed to have extended only to lust, and that selfish tinge of him putting money and his ragtag crew first didn’t convince me that he actually loved her as much as she’d loved him. But Willow—for all her naïveté—did have to grow up somehow, the hard way and I’m glad that Fiore charted her transformation more carefully than Noah.

In all, it’s a story of characters who definitely live unapologetically on the wrong side of the law—don’t read this if you want your men upright and full of integrity—and where amoral decisions rule. Most of all though, I had a hard time suspending my disbelief throughout and that pretty much summed the whole experience up for me.

two-stars

Drift by Amy Murray

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Magic/Paranormal/ Netgalley/ New Adult/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense/ Speculative Fiction 24th July 2017
Drift by Amy MurrayDrift by Amy Murray
Published by Entangled Publishing (Embrace) on August 28th 2017
Pages: 331
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one-star

I’m not crazy. My mother may have died with everyone believing she was insane, but I refuse to accept that as my fate. Even if I am recalling memories about a life I never lived. A life that includes the mysterious James—a guy I’ve only just met, but feel as if I’ve known all my life. The memories are coming hard and fast, and I’m falling down a rabbit hole with consequences that far exceed anything I could have ever imagined. And now, someone is trying to kill me.

Someone from my past who knows about my visions and is looking for something he believes I took from him. All I have to do is figure out how these memories relate to the present and maybe I’ll survive to live another day.

Maybe…

The blurb intrigued me from the start and I thought I was going to be pulled into a New Adult book that crosses several genres into suspense the paranormal. And ‘Drift’ does in fact, defy categorisation in a sense and its uniqueness stood out from the start when there is the eerie sense that there’s nothing right with the world as Abigail knows it when her supernatural abilities to ‘drift’ into her past lives start to show up.

But the more I read on, the harder a time I had getting into this, not least because the frequent jumps between the present and an unknown time when Abigail and James were fleeing something or someone weren’t exactly demarcated properly, either by paragraphs or by italics. Admittedly this might be a formatting issue, but it left me confused nonetheless.

For the longest time, I couldn’t really figure out what was going on and my own state of disorientation only grew when things happened without sufficient explanation of the paranormal happenings for both James and Abigail. The characters themselves were confused and flailing to understand what was going on with themselves, save for the ominous confirmation that it will end in tragedy and regret. What isn’t clear is the time periods in which Abigail’s and James’s ‘past lives’ take place and while some partial revelations come through another character, it’s clear that the pieces wouldn’t fall into place right up until the end.

I couldn’t finish ‘Drift’ in the end, just as it was shaping out to be a complicated love triangle with past lives affecting the present. I’d struggled through it for several days, unable to get fully into it, despite the initial excitement that I had about this…and finally decided that this just wasn’t a book for me.

one-star

Kiss My Boots by Harper Sloan

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ New Adult/ Reviews 23rd July 2017
Kiss My Boots by Harper SloanKiss My Boots by Harper Sloan
Series: Coming Home #2
Published by Pocket Books on July 18th 2017
Pages: 368
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three-stars

Quinn Davis prefers to live her life quietly. She’s the stereotypical tomboy with two overprotective big brothers who have always been there to protect her, especially from devilishly handsome cowboys with silver tongues. That is, until Tate Montgomery comes riding into town. Their first meeting, however, is far from something out of a fairy tale and only further convinces Quinn that men aren’t worth her time.

The only place Tate Montgomery ever truly felt at home growing up was during the long, sweltering summer months he spent at his Gram and Paw’s farm in Pine Oak, Texas. Now, Tate has returned to his childhood sanctuary seeking a fresh start—but if he’s being entirely honest, he’s not just back for the wranglers and Stetsons. During those summers, Quinn was a friend-turned-young-love who Tate lost when life threw him a curveball and he cut all ties to his past; but all it takes is one glance at the raven-haired beauty he did his best to forget for him to realize just how much he’s been missing….

What drew me to this series was the very unusual cowboy-dialogue and speech that Harper Sloan manages to sustain throughout—it’s charming in a way that I so seldom come across in contemporary Westerns even and I must say I’ve had a fun enough time just trying to tease out the figures of speech that the crazy characters seem to lob around. Not forgetting the general hysterical hell-raising, loads of over-the-top-type shenanigans which actually make for a bonafide western soap that’s leaves you incredulous and laughing.

But while Mav/Leigh’s book swept me into the world of New Adult-ish high drama, Quinn’s and Tate’s story in ‘Kiss My Boots’ did feel like a rinse and repeat of Mav/Leigh of the first book: a second-chance romance when one party has run off and stayed away for a long time, albeit for different reasons. And it’s inevitable that comparisons do come in and this fell a little short for me as Tate returned and things continued on without the friction and the obstacles I’d thought Quinn would throw his way.

Quinn, despite being a hell-raiser, seemed to accept the reasons that Tate provided early on for his disappearance—and she’s definitely more accepting than I could have been—and I’d expected a bigger fight as he grovelled his way back into her graces. There is none of that however and only an ex-hookup of Tate’s arrives blow this newfound happiness out of the water, though that’s also taken care of easily. In other words, I missed that electric fights and the heavy-breathing and bodice-ripping tension that Mav/Leigh had which didn’t quite happen here.

That said though, I loved catching up with Mav and Leigh, and there’s Clay’s story in the works, which will most likely leave me glued to this series.

three-stars

Beautiful Beast by Aubrey Irons

Posted in Contemporary Romance/ New Adult/ Reviews 21st July 2017
Beautiful Beast by Aubrey IronsBeautiful Beast by Aubrey Irons
Published by Amazon Digital Services, Amazon Publishing on July 17th 2017
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two-stars

Anastasia:

Here’s the first thing you should know: this is not a fairytale. Happily-ever-afters are fables, and Prince Charming is a sweet little lie.I know all this because he taught me.Once upon a lifetime ago, the rich, arrogant, sinfully gorgeous, and tragically broken dark prince of the Hamptons was my tormentor. My darkness, my shameful attraction, my all-consuming, forbidden temptation.I hate Sebastian Crown because nine years ago, for one night, I was stupid enough to think I loved him. And I’ve been paying for it ever since.Except now, he needs me to help him save his empire.…And he’s not taking no for answer.

Bastian:

She’s my nemesis. My addiction. My weakness.My obsession.I used to tell myself I hated Anastasia Bell - for being poor, for not worshipping the ground I walked on, for looking at me like she pitied me for being me.When the rest of my world always told me yes, she was the ever-provoking no.She thinks I’m a monster - a tragic, fucked-up, broken beast.She doesn’t know the half of it.Because she can’t begin to know the crimes of my past, or imagine the things I’ve done to her behind the scenes since she left this place.Years ago, I thought breaking her would fix me.I was wrong.Now I’ve got her in my sights again, and this time, I won’t be letting her go. Even if it means we both go down in flames...

The warning does say it all: this isn’t a fairytale of a prince and an impoverished princess. Instead, be prepared to read about one of the most obsessive-compulsive, manipulative and biggest bastards of them all, which is safe to say is what slid me straight into objective, neutral territory as I read this twisted fairytale where the briar-covered HEA is lined with thorns and spikes.

To be fair, I had those trigger-warnings and I went straight into this knowing that I was going to read about characters and their so-called love story from a protracted distance that I don’t normally take with romance books. With this mindset, or this particular disconnect, rather, locked in place, it was easy to read on and on, which was also in part due to Aubrey Irons’s compelling writing that kept me glued to the story.

Because the characters sure as hell didn’t.

Sebastian Crown isn’t someone I could like at all, but what I couldn’t understand as well was Ana’s little resistance that crumbles so easily at his advances when all he’d done was to shatter her spirit and break her heart, even behind her back. She flops happily at his masterful puppeteering somehow, never gets her strings cut and generally goes too easy on him where I would have wielded a scythe and sent Bastian straight to the lowest levels of hell for eternity.

I finished the story, which, on its own, is easy to get lost in as it doesn’t go down without several twists and turns. But did I like it? Not exactly. Yet neither did I exactly dislike it, because I knew from the start how I was going to approach the book—with critical eyes and indifferent shrugs at 2 protagonists who can’t see beyond each other though they’re probably better off without each other, with no strings attached. It did come down to whether I could get invested in the characters and whether they were likeable enough for me to form any connection with them.

The answer is: no.

I found nothing redeemable about Sebastian , who seemed more like the antagonist rather than the protagonist throughout and I actually felt bloodthirsty, grim satisfaction and hard-won poetic justice when he hit rock bottom for all the fucking he did with Ana’s life.

The point here is that Irons simply provides an alternative definition of obsessive ‘love’ that has nothing self-sacrificial about it and how it’s in fact, given other names such as ‘addiction’ or ‘obsession’, with several generous servings of masochism and uncontainable lust.

Ultimately though, Ana/Bastian’s flimsy representation of love is not quite the romantic ideal I subscribe to. It’s a version of romance that I can’t exactly calibrate with the kind of escapist fantasy that I want to get lost in, nor with the sort of characters I want to read about, so it’s most likely back to the straight and narrow for me.

two-stars

Mr. Rook by Mimi Jean Pamfiloff

Posted in Contemporary Romance/ New Adult/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 12th July 2017
Mr. Rook by Mimi Jean PamfiloffMr. Rook by Mimi Jean Pamfiloff
Series: Mr. Rook's Island #1
Published by P&S, Inc - Mimi Boutique on June 13 2017
Pages: 157
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three-stars

The women who vacation on Mr. Rook's exclusive island are looking for one thing and one thing only: to have their wildest romantic fantasies come to life. Pirates, cowboys, billionaires--there's nothing Rook's staff can't deliver.

But when Stephanie Fitzgerald's sister doesn't return after her week in paradise, Stephanie will have to pose as a guest in order to dig for answers. Unfortunately, this means she'll need to get close to the one thing on the island that's not on the menu: the devastatingly handsome and intimidating Mr. Rook. And he's not about to give the island's secrets away.

There are times when I’m stuck between ratings, particularly if it’s a 3-ish but not a 4-star read. But never quite have I found myself in a situation where I could give a book any amount of stars and that would have worked out as well.

“Mr. Rook” takes that kind of prize (it’s *that* batty!), even though it isn’t so much of a dubious honour as it is a book that I can’t quite let go of as much as I hate several parts of it. Still, this has to be one of the more bizarre reads I’ve ever gone into. Being taken for a wild ride doesn’t even begin to cover it and the cliffhanger ending makes is both dissatisfying and intriguing because well, nothing really quite makes sense and you know you are still 2 books—and what’s probably a good year to go—away from getting to the bottom of it all.

On Mr. Rook’s famous island that promises to fulfil all fantasies, the owner himself is this strange beacon of untouchable sexual magnetism when all is permitted and the odd way Stephanie inserts herself into this well-run hedonistic playground is nothing short of sliding down the rabbit’s hole into a sexually-deviant version of Alice in Wonderland, complete with half-truths, bizarre circumstances and partial revelations.

The truth is, I still don’t really know what’s going on. ‘Mr. Rook’ is a story full of extremes and loose threads, and at times it reads like a thriller or a paranormal ghost story (which it isn’t) but that right there, is the problem of the unreliable narrator coming to the fore with only Stephanie’s POV in place when suspense mixes with weird erotica and some odd gothic moments.

Let’s not even talk about a book hangover, because frankly, this has thrown me so far for a loop. With a sequel somewhere far on the horizon, it’s best I forget this for now…if only I could.

three-stars

Tied by Carian Cole

Posted in Contemporary Romance/ New Adult/ Reviews 29th June 2017
Tied by Carian ColeTied by Carian Cole
Series: Devils Wolves #2
Published by Amazon Digital Services, Amazon Publishing on June 26th 2017
Pages: 280
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four-stars

He was the myth and the legend of our small town. But no one knew the truth... except me.

Me My childhood was stolen by a monster. I've forgotten what love feels like. What happiness feels like. What hope feels like. I am numb.

Him He's possibly as damaged as I am. Maybe even more. Scarred just as much on the inside as the outside. Just like me. He doesn't speak. He doesn't smile. He hides in the woods like an animal. I should be scared of him. But I'm not. He's the only one that has ever made me feel. And I want to make him feel, too. Everything...

Carian Cole’s ‘Tied’ is so different from its predecessor that I don’t quite know how to rate and review this.

If Tor and Kenzi were a couple with deliciously forbidden ties, Tyler and Holly are a different breed altogether: scarred, damaged and so screwed up in the head that I thought it would take a mountain of trying just to get them together. In fact, both Tyler and Holly have issues upon issues, years of festering guilt and self-doubt and put together, their combined baggage weight would break an elephant’s back.

But like an oncoming train wreck, I couldn’t look away. The pages kept turning and the slow burn kept burning, especially when it took that long a time to get trust (and by extension, touch and intimacy) to build between 2 scarred people. Cole is quite painstakingly thorough with this process, which I could definitely appreciate and the hiccups they faced along the way seemed sufficiently realistic for me to believe. Tyler/Holly is a pairing that had me sceptical at first, but Cole does convince, to an extent, that healing can come in many forms and sometimes, that comes from another person who is as equally damaged as you.

It’s in short, a completely unexpected read, intensely emotional and bordering on the dramatic at times, but different enough that I’ll probably look at what else Cole has in store for this series.

four-stars

True Hearts by Jeannine Allison

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ New Adult/ Reviews 26th June 2017
True Hearts by Jeannine AllisonPure Hearts by Jeannine Allison
Published by Amazon Digital Services on June 22nd 2017
Pages: 391
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two-stars

She gave me her kidney. I gave her my heart...

Nicholas Blake learned a long time ago that nobody does anything for free. He’s felt the pain of lies and manipulations enough times to know that people only look out for themselves, and that all good deeds come with a price. So when he wakes up from a near deadly car accident and finds out a stranger is offering to donate her kidney, he’s immediately suspicious of her intentions.

What he doesn’t expect is Iris Chamberlain, a beautiful woman with a big smile and an even bigger heart, claiming she just wants to help. The more time Nick spends with Iris, the more he starts to believe in what he always thought was impossible: a pure heart.

But betrayal leaves a bitter mark. Will Nick be able to let go of his past and let Iris in? And will Iris be able to show him what it truly means to have a pure heart?

’True Hearts’ is a very much a feel good type of read, with a kind of New Adult-ish introspective vibe about the cynic who is inclined call everyone’s action out as self-serving until proven otherwise who goes up against a someone who wholly (or at least habitually) believes in human goodness and sincerity.

And that was where my reservations slid in.

Call that my own cynical self talking here, especially when it begins with the donation of a kidney after what appears like a paranormal ‘sign’ that fates are intertwined—with no expectations thrown into the mix. I found it difficult to accept the very selfless and positive Iris Chamberlain when it was way easier to sympathise with Nick and his understandable behaviour traits knowing what he’d gone through. Iris was, well, surreal in her giving selflessness, when the way she chose to see nothing but good made her more like a saint about to be canonised than a flawed character. But Jeannine Allison makes Iris out to be the exact kind of person that Nick actually needs—at least, a person who is determined to wear down his cynicism—though she stumbled where it really mattered most, or at least where I needed her not to.

Throughout the book, I felt mostly caught between Iris and Nick, never quite able to step out of Nick’s more ‘realistic’ way of perceiving the world as opposed to Iris’s steadfast one-woman stand against Nick’s fatalistic pessimism. In fact, I found myself repetitively questioning Iris’s naïveté, the appalling behaviour of her relatives, and how the characters did nothing but try to turn Nick into a happier version of himself without acknowledging too much that his own perception of the world had merit. That they’d tried to defend their own behaviour, implicitly putting the fault mostly on Nick’s door was quite the last straw for me.

I think the long and short of it is that ‘True Hearts’ is a rose-tinted affirmation of the goodness left in humanity, though it’s a simplistic ideal here that I can’t quite buy into.

two-stars
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