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Rebel by Rebecca Yarros

Posted in Action/Adventure/ Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ New Adult/ Reviews/ Sports 21st August 2017
Rebel by Rebecca YarrosRebel by Rebecca Yarros
Series: The Renegades #3
Published by Entangled: Embrace on August 28th 2017
Pages: 265
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four-stars

She'll defy his every expectation.

She’s Penna Carstairs. The Renegade they call Rebel. FMX-treme Magazine’s sexiest female athlete of the year.There’s no rule in extreme sports she hasn’t broken,No gender barrier she hasn’t demolished.

She’s the woman I met in a bar in Vegas.The woman I illegally BASE jumped for.The woman I spent one insane, incredible night with.But now I’m screwed.Or rather…not screwed.

Because the woman I can’t get out of my head is the one woman I can never touch again.I’m Dr. Cruz Delgado—the youngest professor on this campus. And Penelope Carstairs just walked into my class.

‘Rebel’ is Rebecca Yarros’s last book in her ‘Renegades’ series and it is quite a send-off for this group of daredevils accountable to no one…until Cruz Delgado comes onto the scene and messes it up, taking Penna Carstairs down with a bang while he’s at it.

For which I’m glad, to be honest.

Extreme sports aren’t exactly my thing and I’ll be the first to admit the Renegades hadn’t quite won me over with their deeds, which they do without caring too much about the consequences. But with Penna’s story, there’s some kind of redemption when the characters finally start to realise that there can be consequences too difficult to face with every action. Aside from the forbidden teacher-student relationship that Cruz and Penna had going, ‘Rebel’ has been by far, the best read of all in the series because Yarros also moves slightly away from the Renegades’ documentary making to writing about a daring rescue in Havana which ups the thrills and spills.

Penna—the only female extreme athlete among the thorns—shines so brightly it can get painful just to look at her. On paper, there’s everything going for her as she matches the boys step for step, ride for ride. But I liked the human side of her that emerges when she starts doubting herself after an accident caused by her sister and the loss of confidence that made her reckless in wanting to get back her mojo.

It’s only Cruz—the hot, older professor and Army vet—who gets Penna, matches her and outshines even the Renegades; in fact, I felt Cruz helped shape ‘Rebel’ for me and made it unforgettable. His grounding presence changes the entire dynamics of the story, bringing the sense of accountability that I appreciated, as well as a balanced voice of reason amongst the frat-boy, belligerent and petulant behaviour driven mostly by egos which left me sorely frustrated in the first 2 books. I loved how he looked these boys in the eye and held their actions up to scrutiny, essentially, taking care of the immature moments that frustrated me. He is the first to behave like the mature adult, making Pax and Landon seem like boys who didn’t really grow up in comparison, seeing through to Penna straightaway as she uses adrenaline highs in stunt after stunt to dull her mental state of mind.

My adulation of Cruz aside, the storyline does get gripping towards the end—the politics that Cruz got himself involved in gripped me more than the actual Renegades stunts—and I did ride the whole wave rather anxiously without stopping until I hit the deliriously happy epilogue though it came bittersweet. The epic adventures aside, seeing Penna/Cruz fight for each other simply made me one happy camper.

four-stars

Nova by Rebecca Yarros

Posted in Reviews 1st February 2017
Nova by Rebecca YarrosNova by Rebecca Yarros
Series: The Renegades #2
Published by Entangled: Embrace on February 20th 2017
Pages: 300
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three-stars

He’s Landon Rhodes. The Renegade they call Nova. Twenty-two years old, sinfully gorgeous, broody, tatted-up, adrenaline junkie. Four-time X Games medalist —Full-time heartbreaker.
They say a girl broke him once—That’s why he’s so reckless, so driven, so careless with his conquests. But I’m that girl. They can call me his curse all they want. He and I both know the truth—He’s the one who destroyed me, And I’m not the sucker who will let that happen again.

It’s hard to rate a book when the male protagonist has everything stacked against him and everything else skewed in the favour of the heroine whom he’d treated so badly a long time ago. (Casa)Nova, aka Landon, is hard not to despise for his actions which I found abhorrent in every way: ditching the girl he loved, then self-medicating the hurt away by becoming a manwhore and then only rushing to make reparations when they meet again— while keeping hair-raising secrets along the way.

There’s a ton that I can probably write about when it comes to Nova’s failings and there are that many to start with. By cowardly not going after the girl he wanted when he regretted his actions yet sleeping with so many others to get over her, then only deciding to do something about it when their paths cross is one. His inability to do anything but “self-medicate” with sex and not righting his wrongs before she came back into his life is another. That he took money and put his dream above her was even more unforgivable. As with my issues with second-chances stories, clichés can and do run the river dry, with lines such as “I thought about you everyday (even while sleeping with others who didn’t mean a thing to me, or whom I used to get over you” made it difficult to take Landon seriously at all. But clearly, this is my own bias in operation as well but I can safely say that the story is truly an exercise in grovelling, an uphill battle of lesson after lesson in winning trust back after the deepest kind of betrayal.

There is some convoluted history that muddies the waters however, and Rebecca Yarros does try to make Landon grovel as best as he can—the punishment befitting the crime, so to speak. I felt sorry for Rachel, who, though not initially blameless, was made too much of a pawn in some high stakes game of sponsorship and ambition: that she was collateral damage in the midst of people who played her over and out.

That said, Yarros does write emotion quite well and it was gratifying to read that Rachel’s hurt wasn’t glossed over too easily and how it (rightfully) took a lot for Landon to make things up to her. Even if I thought that the concept of the Renegades cruise/study tour was a little far-fetched, the exotic locales and the death-defying activities do provide a different setting for this particular story and a different kind of heart-pounding action that’s not just limited to the bedroom. It’s clear this series is still finding its stride and I’m more than a bit curious whether the rest of the characters would get their own books.

three-stars

Wilder by Rebecca Yarros

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ New Adult/ Reviews/ Sports 30th September 2016
Wilder by Rebecca YarrosWilder by Rebecca Yarros
Series: The Renegades, #1
Published by Entangled: Embrace on September 19th 2016
Pages: 296
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two-stars

Twenty-two-year-old, five-time X Games medalist.
I have more tattoos than scars.
I've never seen a stunt I couldn't pull off...
Or a girl I can't get off.
Until she walks in.
My new tutor is sexy, smart, more stubborn than I am, and one hundred percent off limits.
That's right--the only rule this semester is “don't touch the tutor.”
For the first time in my life, I want someone I can't have.
She's the girl who obeys every rule.
I'm the guy who breaks them.
Our biggest risk is falling for each other, and I live for risk...

‘Wilder’, the first of the extreme sports series has so much crazy in it and I’m still wondering if that’s a good thing.

I struggled immediately with the entire setting which was just…way too batty to swallow without a vat of salt—a cruise ship with a work/study option sounded like a huge excuse for a frat party with equally trashy people around vying for bed-warming spots with every opportunity to film an extreme act after another.

Well, if anything, it’s a glimpse into the problems of the rich and privileged, aka, The Renegades, a group of extreme athletes who live hard and fast with everything.

But it simply seems that beneath the hot glow of the camera lights and the adrenaline thrill, we’re back to several tired tropes that seem stereotypical of this genre: extreme sports that engender extreme acts of behaviour, the apparent license to be a manwhore(s) given the privileged background of the romantic and the potential romantic leads, the sudden, inexplicable instant love and the constant mooning over why the heroine is different from other women and the ultimate twist that seemingly decides the fate of a relationship that seems to be based on arousal and heavy attraction.

The writing is good though; Yarros handles YA and the first person POV with a kind of deftness that helps flesh out the irksome and daft thinking of the self-indulgent characters who have their own issues to deal with in the stupidest of ways, which ironically, failed to endear me to any of them at all. I understood and even empathised with Leah’s fear of heights and her traumatic past, but couldn’t get past Wilder’s and Landon’s self-destructive, reckless behaviours and incredibly selfish ways of dealing with them. In fact, the latter felt like immature juveniles who needed to be managed by everyone around them because they couldn’t handle themselves at all, which made it increasingly difficult to see Leah and Wilder as equals in a relationship of respect and trust. I couldn’t see Wilder’s personal growth matching Leah’s own tentative steps into taking chances since her accident and that lack of sacrifice or compromise that he didn’t make for her (along with the instant lust) made both of them an unconvincing pairing.

My ranting skepticism here however, stems from my own personal hang-ups of overused tropes and clichéd characters that significantly lower the enjoyment of a book for me. ‘Wilder’ would generally be—and has already been—a hit for those who adore YA writing (and possibly over the top characters), so clearly it’s just me here.

two-stars

Blog Tour: Avenged by Marnee Blake

Posted in Blog Tour/ Features 5th July 2016

Blog Tour: Avenged by Marnee Blake

Blog Tour: Avenged by Marnee BlakeAvenged (Altered, #2) by Marnee Blake
Published by Entangled: Embrace on June 27th 2016
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four-stars

Three terrifying months.
That’s how long Kitty Laughton has been at the mercy of the scientist who experimented on her town, killing over a dozen people and giving the rest of them unique powers. But Kitty doesn’t feel powerful, especially when she learns the crazy man plans to test his research on more unsuspecting people. She refuses to let anyone else die, but trapped with no one to help her she’s out of options…that is until sexy and exasperating Nick Degrassi arrives.
Special-ops soldier Nick blames himself for Kitty’s capture, and he’ll do whatever he can to free the quiet beauty, but close quarters and a shared secret bring an attraction that neither of them expected. With the organization that started it all making mercenaries for hire, Nick and Kitty must save themselves and stop a madman…before it’s too late.
The Altered series is best enjoyed in order.Reading Order:Book #1 AlteredBook #2 Avenged

Avenged

Three terrifying months.

That’s how long Kitty Laughton has been at the mercy of the scientist who experimented on her town, killing over a dozen people and giving the rest of them unique powers. But Kitty doesn’t feel powerful, especially when she learns the crazy man plans to test his research on more unsuspecting people. She refuses to let anyone else die, but trapped with no one to help her she’s out of options…that is until sexy and exasperating Nick Degrassi arrives.

Special-ops soldier Nick blames himself for Kitty’s capture, and he’ll do whatever he can to free the quiet beauty, but close quarters and a shared secret bring an attraction that neither of them expected. With the organization that started it all making mercenaries for hire, Nick and Kitty must save themselves and stop a madman…before it’s too late.

Links
Amazon
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About the Author
Award-winning author and RITA® finalist Marnee Blake used to teach high school students but these days she only has to wrangle her own children. Originally from a small town in Western Pennsylvania, she now battles traffic in southern New Jersey where she lives with her hero husband and their happily-ever-after: two very energetic boys. When she isn’t writing, she can be found refereeing disputes between her children, cooking up something sweet, or hiding from encroaching dust bunnies with a book.

Find Marnee on the web at www.marneeblake.com, on Twitter @marneeblake, or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AuthorMarneeBlake/.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest | Goodreads

Excerpt

“You don’t know that. You need to be prepared for anything.”

That had become the mantra over the past three days. Be prepared. Like she’d joined the Boy Scouts without anyone telling her about it.

Prepare for any event. Have an attack ready. Strike as fast and as hard as she could. Fast because speed was her best asset, and hard because she could only count on one opportunity.

She’d asked for his help. He’d reminded her of that over and over. After they’d had their conversation the first day, when he’d explained his reservations about teaching her, he’d thrown himself into her training like a man obsessed.

But not obsessed with her. In fact, since that conversation—after telling her that he wanted more than friends, that he wanted her—he’d been true to his word. He’d been a complete gentleman. He’d been respectful of her personal space, and he’d never spoken of it again, as he’d promised. He’d even reined in his thoughts, for the most part.

His touch had stayed completely platonic, as if they were related or really good buddies. And they’d touched a lot. In fact, they’d spent the last three days wrestling with each other. The more they touched, the more she craved his arms around her.

It was maddening. She’d been the one to draw the line in the sand. Yet, she was the one who wanted to stay in his arms. She was the one who inhaled too deeply when she was pressed against his chest. She was the one who couldn’t stop staring at him.

In that time, she’d only caught something different in him one time. It had been two days ago, the second full day of training. She closed her mind to him when they weren’t practicing, but she needed to hear his thoughts when they were working out so she could learn how to use her power to her advantage.

They’d fallen. He’d gone down on his butt then rolled onto his back, and she’d landed on top of him. His hands had been on her waist. Their faces had been so close she could feel his breath on her forehead. His brain had buzzed with wanting.

It had been an echo of what was coursing through her…the heat, the need to touch him.

They’d frozen like that until he gently but firmly moved her off of him and scrambled to his feet. As he’d moved away from her, she’d see it.

Something like longing.

His jaw tightened, and his brows lowered. Then, it was gone from his mind, replaced by his determination. Always his determination. He drove her on and on, teaching with more patience than she’d ever seen in anyone, forcing whatever was happening between them to the recesses of himself.

But in that moment, she’d wanted to reach for him. She’d had to stop herself from crawling to him. She wanted to wrap her arms around him and place her lips on his perfect mouth.

Review

‘Avenged’ might not make a whole lot of sense if Blake’s first novella ‘Altered’ isn’t read first. Even if it feels as though I’ve been waiting for this book for a very long time, I found my memories about what really happened in ‘Altered’ fuzzy when the ARC of ‘Avenged’ finally dropped into my lap a year later. Thrust straight into the action from the first chapter, we’re told in bursts about what had happened in the previous months or weeks – not quite enough to put the whole picture together – but the full story isn’t quite ever revealed, as though it has been assumed that anyone who begins ‘Avenged’ has already read its prequel. I found myself having to go back and get to know the motley crew once again, which hindered my enjoyment of the story simply because of the prerequisite knowledge I needed to have to fully enjoy this one.

But relished it I did, nonetheless.

The subject matter here itself isn’t given a too much of a spin on the super-soldier and illegitimate enhanced drug testing bit that I find myself completely floored by it. But ‘Avenged’ made me a happy camper for pretty much the same reasons ‘Altered’ did: the sharp clarity of Blake’s prose, the romantic tension amidst the unrelenting action and the all-round decent main characters who aren’t afraid to say what they wanted without the slew of emotional trickery simply because there is really something bigger to fight against in an ongoing arc of a story that grows curvier and longer by the minute.

Kitty and Nick made a believable pair despite what might look like instant love, I appreciated the author’s effort to develop a connection that went beyond the physical, bound as they were by their circumstances. In short, there isn’t a dull moment, even if things sometimes skim the sharp but slippery slopes of believability at times especially when it ends in some way that echoes the shenanigans of any X-men movie over this past decade and more. More than a ‘kids trying to control their new powers’ story, ‘Avenged’ makes me hopeful for what might come after already.

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four-stars

Obsession by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Posted in Contemporary Romance/ Fantasy/ New Adult/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense/ Speculative Fiction/ Urban Fantasy 31st May 2016
Obsession by Jennifer L. ArmentroutObsession by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Published by Entangled: Embrace on May 31st 2013
Pages: 254
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three-stars

This is a stand alone novel that is an adult spin-off of the Lux Series You do not need to read a Lux book to read Obsession and vice versa.
He’s arrogant, domineering, and... To. Die. For.
Hunter is a ruthless killer. And the Department of Defense has him firmly in their grasp, which usually doesn’t chafe too badly because he gets to kill bad guys. Most of the time he enjoys his job. That is, until he’s saddled with something he’s never had to do before: protect a human from his mortal enemy.
Serena Cross didn’t believe her best friend when she claimed to have seen the son of a powerful senator turn into something... unnatural. Who would? But then she witnesses her friend’s murder at the hands of what can only be an alien, thrusting her into a world that will kill to protect their secret.
Hunter stirs Serena’s temper and her lust despite their differences. Soon he’s doing the unthinkable—breaking the rules he’s lived by, going against the government to keep Serena safe. But are the aliens and the government the biggest threats to Serena’s life… or is it Hunter?

The bizarre, violent death of a friend sends Serena Cross reeling. What she first believes to be a hallucination or a trick of the mind is in fact, a confirmation that aliens – at least in the world that Jennifer L. Armentrout has constructed in the Lux series – do exist and have always been among mankind. Her reluctant, love-deprived protector is an arrogant, not-quite human smirky male, appropriately named Hunter, who simply does what his name actually suggests, except that he hunts, kills and feeds on another alien species that has for eons, threatened life in the galaxy. Hunter is in fact an Arum, a shadowy species slated to continue the tradition of blasting their enemies back into cosmic oblivion. In the bigger picture, Earth is merely another stop for them and now stands at the brink of being overrun by the evil beings known as the Luxen.

Touted as a standalone, ‘Obsession’ seemed like a sensible start to a wildly popular series that I wanted to jump into immediately without having to read the past few installments. I did find myself lost at times, hungry for the world-building and the mythology of the Luxens and the Arum, but somehow fell short of being satisfied each time Hunter made several piecemeal revelations. The idea of vampiric beings caught up in some epic battle with another race intent on galaxy-domination is an enthralling one and I lapped it all up even if it started to read very much like a cagey version of Men in Black, done slightly off-pitch with characters (both alien and human) who somehow fall within the ‘hot’ and ‘beautiful’ categories too easily.

In many ways, ‘Obsession’ falls both within and without the syfy-fantasy genre but not living up to its potential is perhaps the most disappointing takeaway I’ve had in a while. If I loved the set-up and the richness of the backdrop, I was equally let down by how it never seemed to reach its potential. The world-building never seemed incomplete and took a back seat to the overwhelming, uncontrollable lust that plagues both characters, overshadowing even the conflict at the end which faded off in a whimper than the almighty bang I thought it would be.

three-stars

Rush by Shae Ross

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ New Adult/ Reviews/ Sports/ Young Adult 11th April 2016
Rush by Shae RossRush by Shae Ross
Published by Entangled: Embrace on May 9th 2016
Pages: 240
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three-stars

Priscilla Winslow has a mouth that spits fiery sarcasm faster than I can throw a touchdown. But I’ve wanted her ever since I saw her in that Bo Peep outfit on Halloween. Yep, I’m a sheep who will follow that little hottie anywhere. There’s one problem...she hates me. Just because we ended up in jail and quite possibly ruined both our futures...
They’re changing the rules...
College Quarterback Preston Rush is living the dream. He’s leading his team to the National Championship and days away from earning a ‘first round draft pick’ label. When he meets Little Bo Peep at a Halloween party, he thinks he’s scored big. Instead, he wakes up in a jail cell with the corseted beauty. Because of him, she’s in trouble and when he discovers her true identity, he realizes, his nightmare is just beginning.
The always shooting-for-perfection Priscilla Winslow can’t believe her good deed has cost her a soccer career. Even though she knows it isn’t Preston’s fault, she can’t forgive him for the disaster that is her life. She just wishes her damn body would get the message. Every time she sees him, it’s all she can do not to kiss him.
When everything crashes down around him, Preston will have to decide if doing the right thing is worth losing it all.

Dressing up as Little Bo Peep no Halloween Night brings consequences that Priscilla Winslow isn’t able to deal with, or understand, especially after having done the selfless deed of rescuing the college’s star quarterback – and spending the night in jail for it. Preston Rush on the other hand, understands full well just what he has gotten her into but to fix this issue will require every bit of moral fibre and courage to do so, while risking everything he wants and at the expense of his family that’s falling apart.

‘Rush’ isn’t the typical NA, college-age, sport-related book and for that reason, it has already gotten me cheering. As memorable as the last unforgettable book I’ve come across (the first in a long while), Shae Ross provides an insight into the booster-player relationship I know nothing about and a slow-burn, realistic romance that springs up from a crisis that has been years in the making. I liked Preston’s surprising steadiness – he’s a fixer by nature – more than I could tolerate Priscilla’s tendency to jump to conclusions and distrust so easily and was more than regretful when he didn’t exactly get what he wanted or needed at the end. There isn’t quite a HEA or any guarantee of success beyond winning a sports game and we’re left contending with a Happy-For-Now situation that did leave me wanting.

Yet so far removed from the glitzy, hook-up lifestyle into which so many sport-romances tend to go, ‘Rush’ stands out because of its strongly-carved, not-quite-stereotypical protagonists, its supporting characters and the uncertain future that’s charted out – as well as the high stakes – of an athlete on the verge of going pro.

three-stars

Altered by Marnee Blake

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Magic/Paranormal/ Military/Paramilitary/ Netgalley/ New Adult/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense/ Speculative Fiction/ Urban Fantasy/ Young Adult 5th November 2015
Altered by Marnee BlakeAltered by Marnee Blake
Published by Entangled: Embrace on December 28th 2015
Pages: 221
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four-stars

The sickness came on suddenly and violently. When it was done, waitress Blue Michaels was different in a really strange way. And the entire town of Glory was dead...except for her.
Only that's not exactly true. A handful of people made it, including U.S. Army Specialist Seth Campbell, who was caught in the wrong town at the worst time. He's fierce and protective, and way too good-looking. As much as they need a leader—as much as Blue wants to trust him—there are too many questions and not enough time for answers. Now they are hunted. But what their pursuers don't know is each of them has strange new powers. And they'll use their "gifts" to survive...no matter who stands in their way.

“I was on my way to pick up Specialist Degrassi before heading to training at Fort Bragg. I stopped in Glory, Colorado, for the night and woke up as strong as an ox and as fast as a train.” – Seth Campbell

When a small town gets poisoned because of a rogue scientist’s actions, whose who didn’t succumb to the life-altering changes of the drug find themselves irrevocably changed – with powers that they don’t understand – and targeted by a private security company desperate to erase all evidence of this screw-up. Like a cross between X-men and Heroes, the story is a fast-paced, cinematic adventure of a group of people – whose personal allegiances are yet unclear – on the run while dealing with their own superhuman abilities that seem to have ominous consequences on their physical selves.

Marnee Blake’s skilful, assured writing has a mesmeric quality to it and turns what would be a tried-and-tested plot into an engaging read that is hard to put down. All too often, we’re thrust straight into the thick of a dystopic/post-apocalyptic world as the details slowly flesh out, but this story takes a different and brave path straddling the ‘normal’ world and the world for the ‘altered’ ones, consequently maintaining that connection to the reality as we know it. It all ends abruptly on a cliffhanger without a clear resolution however, but at least it leaves me fairly convinced that Ms. Blake still has a story worth telling.

four-stars
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