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Damn weird

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

Deceiver by Robin Lovett

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Erotica/ Netgalley/ New Adult/ Reviews 23rd June 2017
Deceiver by Robin LovettDeceiver: A Dark Revenge Romance by Robin Lovett
Series: Dark Stalker #2
Published by Swerve on July 11th 2017
Pages: 215
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two-stars

The plan was to ruin a man’s life. Not seduce the man’s daughter. But sometimes, the unlikeliest of people becomes the target. And sometimes revenge can make a man vulnerable in ways he didn’t know existed…

I’m bored. Tired of my meaningless life. The garden parties, the white sundresses, and politely saying “no” to the sliver of cake—it’s the life my mother and father wanted for me, worked tirelessly for me to have. And the monotony makes me reckless.

But when I go to Blake Vandershall’s party, his dark, menacing eyes and his hard, unyielding stare make me want things that have never been offered to me before. He’s the type who would ravish you in your father’s law office. The kind who would lie without blinking an eye in order to get what he wants.

And the repressed bad girl in me wants to give him what he needs.

**

Daisy Nowell is nothing to me.

I don’t care that underneath that blue-blood lifestyle, she’s burning to be unleashed. My victim is her father—the one man who had the chance to save my mother from a brutal fate. The coward did nothing, and it’s my turn to make his life a living hell.

He’s about to lose his precious daughter to me, a man whose sole mission is to destroy him. I’ll do anything, say anything, in order to tear this woman from her safe life as I hurtle down my path towards destruction. But I didn’t count on her seeing through me. I didn’t count on her tapping into my weaknesses, pushing my dark heart in ways I don’t want. Ways I hate.

I need to find a way to exact my vengeance and leave this all behind. Before this woman ruins me for good.

A revenge plot—of enemies to lovers—turns one of my reading screws, always.

But after the somewhat abrupt ending of the previous book—with a pairing that was difficult to buy into—I was rather hesitant about this one when the opening of ‘Deceiver’ was just as awkward and abrupt and seemingly without context: Blake Vandershall hosts a party to lure Daisy Novell in through seduction as part of his scheme to bring her father down. Like the first book, there’s a close stalker element to this as well, as Blake mows down the Lovells’ carefully-constructed lives and exults in it.

What I couldn’t really understand was how Daisy couldn’t quite see through his scheme or remain stubbornly oblivious to it, as Blake wasn’t at all subtle about it—that much she needed to cut herself free of the stifling lifestyle she lived that any ol’ distraction would do? In fact, I wondered why she wasn’t too suspicious, and was astounded even, when she dallied, played the game and flirted without quite having any 6th sense that something was off with Blake when he’d pretty much revealed he knew all about her and her family. Yet all it takes is an orgasm very early on to have Blake remorseful about his own behaviour while the simmering anger that he seems to carry around is enough to turn Daisy on.

Daisy in essence, is attracted to an arse of a man (which might be a trigger for some) but as the blurb unapologetically goes, don’t expect any ‘normal’ romance character traits here. As with a story like this, the turn from enemies to lovers can’t simply be an uneasy truce with sex thrown in for me; it’s made all the more difficult because I need more than the usual convincing that such a pairing—while not all sunshine and roses—is a viable one and it’s what I’ll be looking out for. To some extent they are the perfect pair in a twisted manner of speaking, as one uses the other for their own selfish motives consciously: Daisy as a means to break out of her caged life and Blake who uses her as an outlet.

Seen in this light, ‘Deceiver’ probably succeeds and for that reason, I’m not sure how to rate this read. But take a chance on this if you like hate (and taunting-type) sex, ambiguous and deviant relationships that defy every trope you like in romance.

two-stars

Some Kind of Hero by Suzanne Brockmann

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Military/Paramilitary/ Netgalley/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 17th June 2017
Some Kind of Hero by Suzanne BrockmannSome Kind of Hero by Suzanne Brockmann
Series: Troubleshooters #17
Published by Ballantine Books on July 11th 2017
Pages: 368
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two-stars

Navy men don’t come tougher than Lieutenant Peter Greene. Every day he whips hotshot SEAL wannabes into elite fighters. So why can’t he handle one fifteen-year-old girl? His ex’s death left him a single dad overnight, and very unprepared. Though he can’t relate to an angsty teen, he can at least keep Maddie safe—until the day she disappears. Though Pete’s lacking in fatherly intuition, his instinct for detecting danger is razor sharp. Maddie’s in trouble. Now he needs the Troubleshooters team at his back, along with an unconventional ally.

Romance writer Shayla Whitman never expected to be drawn into a real-world thriller—or to meet a hero who makes her pulse pound. Action on the page is one thing. Actually living it is another story. Shay’s not as bold as her heroines, but she’s a mother. She sees the panic in her new neighbor’s usually fearless blue eyes—and knows there’s no greater terror for a parent than having a child at risk. It’s an ordeal Shay won’t let Pete face alone. She’s no highly trained operative, but she’s smart, resourceful, and knows what makes teenagers tick.

Still, working alongside Pete has its own perils—like letting the heat between them rise out of control. Intimate emotions could mean dangerous, even deadly, consequences for their mission. No matter what, they must be on top of their game, and playing for keeps . . . or else Pete’s daughter may be gone for good.

Where do I even begin with Suzanne Brockmann’s Troubleshooters series? There’s so much diversity in the pairings, so much differing action (you never quite know what you’re going to get) with just so many things going on… to the extent where some of her books have had the power to bore me limp, while others have brought me to my knees with a swoon-worthy type fairytale ending.

With ’Some Kind of Hero’, I was left disappointing unmoved and a more than a tad bit incredulous. But what’s clear however, is that it isn’t quite a standalone.

The initial meeting between Peter Green and Shayla is an out-of-nowhere jump into a car on the street to search for a missing teenager. And during the search, Peter finds himself telling his life story to Shayla while the latter finds herself using her skills as a writer to figure out just what Peter’s teenager could have gotten herself into. Their (coincidental) joint-effort simply eschews Brockmann’s very slow burn between characters that spans books and the quickness with which Peter and Shayla jumped into bed took out any sense of anticipation that I’ve come to expect. Instant-love or lust aside, the shenanigans with the teenagers just felt like an elaborate plot to bring 2 very opposing characters—whose lives otherwise wouldn’t ever intersect—together and it was difficult to buy into this forced connection when it simply felt more like bad parenting going out of control over a teenager who might or might not have done unsavoury things.

In many ways, this story left me in a bind, which on a whole, pretty much describes my entire Brockmann reading experience. There were parts that I couldn’t stop turning the pages, just as there were parts that had me skimming, despite the some amusing meta-details of what is means to be a romance author, fictional voices in head and scatterbrained-moments notwithstanding. On the other hand, Brockmann’s heroes never quite do what you think they do and here, there’s hardly enough SEAl action involved that could make me think of Peter as a SEAL instructor or his friend Izzy as a fellow brother-in-arms when the way they speak or act just lacked that intensity and the ‘je ne sais quoi’ that have pretty much defined the RS ‘alpha’ hero.

Maybe it’s because I’ve not read the entire series that ‘Some Kind of Hero’ made little sense to me overall, but this read (judging from the books that made my favourites list at least) unfortunately fell short by a long way.

two-stars

Revenge by Lexi Blake

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Mystery/Crime/ Netgalley/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 10th April 2017
Revenge by Lexi BlakeRevenge by Lexi Blake
Series: Lawless #3
Published by Berkley Books on June 20th 2017
Pages: 352
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three-stars

When Drew Lawless discovers a fatal flaw in his plan to avenge his parents' deaths, he turns to the one woman he promised he wouldn't touch. He offers her a deal, one that will bring her into his investigation, his life, and his bed. Investigative reporter Shelby Gates never dreamed how twisted the case would become--or how fascinated she would be with Drew. Every day they spend together binds them. And every night brings her closer to realizing he might be the man for her. As Drew's feelings for Shelby grow, so does the danger. From the streets of Dallas to Austin's high-tech business world, Drew and Shelby play a game begun twenty years before--a game they will win, or die trying.

‘Revenge’ isn’t meant to be a standalone—that much becomes evident after the first few paragraphs into chapter 1. Too much has happened to the Lawless siblings and the murder mystery surrounding their parents and while Drew’s plot for revenge is detailed in the beginning, it involves manipulation and a rehash of so many details that a reader who hasn’t yet gone through the rest of the previous books would have difficulty assimilating all of them. But it’s also a setup of Drew/Shelby’s story, starting with his trying to convince her of taking up a contract and a non-disclosure agreement to work with him with several dangling carrots for her at the end of it all, only to take it all away.

I liked Shelby at first; she seemed sharp and capable as a reporter, lured as she is by Drew’s false promise that she would get a story of a lifetime while helping the family find justice. It was also difficult not to feel sorry for her, knowing she was also just a pawn to be moved about if Drew really had his way. Yet there’s a core of softness and naïveté that seemed out of place for an investigative reporter that had her being taken advantage of too easily. Drew, on the other hand, is as large a bundle of contradictions as Shelby: cold, manipulative, yet childlike in his need for touch and comfort. There are however, discrete parts of Drew and Shelby’s personalities that don’t fit and perhaps that’s what really threw me off, as did the idea that a family could be so rotten to the core—affairs all around, with psychopathic tendencies thrown in—where money and ambition instead of love fuel every action.

But the plot wasn’t quite what I expected as it took some strange turns along the way that made the storyline a little odd with characters turning on each other and muddying up the black and white lines drawn within the Lawless family. It’s also dialogue-heavy and much like a chess-game, with many threads that you can be expected to untangle right up until the climax of the story where a psychopathic mother finally faces off her own children.

‘Revenge’ straddles the line between intrigue, mystery and romantic suspense, and while actual action is lacking, the corporate espionage and the many bedroom games can keep you entertained…if this is the sort of thing that thrills you.

three-stars

Why I Loathe Sterling Lane by Ingrid Paulson

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ New Adult/ Reviews/ Young Adult 24th March 2017
Why I Loathe Sterling Lane by Ingrid PaulsonWhy I Loathe Sterling Lane by Ingrid Paulson
Published by Entangled: Teen on June 6th 2017
Pages: 287
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three-stars

Per her 537 rules, Harper Campbell keeps her life tidy—academically and socially. But the moment Sterling Lane transfers into her tiny boarding school, her twin brother gets swept up in Sterling’s pranks and schemes and nearly gets expelled. Harper knows it’s Sterling’s fault, and to protect her brother, she vows to take him down. As she exposes his endless school violations, he keeps striking back, framing her for his own infractions. Worst of all, he’s charmed the administration into thinking he’s harmless, and only Harper sees him for the troublemaker he absolutely is.
As she breaks rule after precious rule in her battle of wits against Sterling and tension between them hits a boiling point, she’s horrified to discover that perhaps the two of them aren’t so different. And maybe she doesn't entirely hate him after all. Teaming up with Sterling to save her brother might be the only way to keep from breaking the most important rule—protecting Cole.

This is one of the oddest, most entertaining and weird books I’ve read in a long, long while. There’s the stilted speech of English boarding schools (the kids sound like uptight lawyers-in-training with sticks up their arses) and good ol’ teenage pranks wrapped up in the scheming of Cruel Intentions, the cold malice of mafia movies and the calculative manoeuvrings of some spy shows.

But you know what they say about hate being the other side of the coin of love. At least I think it is, because I couldn’t quite be sure by the time I finished the book when denial and doublespeak hadn’t quite let down yet. Written wholly in Harper’s POV, I couldn’t decide where she was the judgemental, self-righteous, rule-following shrew or whether Sterling was truly the devil’s spawn wrapped up in sheep clothing. And without Sterling’s POV, he never quite appeared more than a shady character whose personality way surpassed his rich-kid stereotype who sort of decided that he could be more serious about his future post-boarding school.

The book really begins with a ‘mortal enemies’ type of situation, where rule-follower (and breaker) Harper is determined to take down the rich, spoiled lazy kid whose schemes actually match hers for deviousness. Attraction only creeps in way, way later and their ‘relationship’ is barely formed when the book finally ends. I had a few good laughs though (the pranks *were* hilarious), despite my bewilderment at the tone, the setup and the characterisation and perhaps, the story’s prominence simply lies in how much it differs from the typical NA/YA books that have sailed by as ships passing in the night.

three-stars

Saving Mercy by Abbie Roads

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Magic/Paranormal/ Mystery/Crime/ Netgalley/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense/ Speculative Fiction 9th February 2017
Saving Mercy by Abbie RoadsSaving Mercy by Abbie Roads
Series: Fatal Truth #1
Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca on April 4th 2017
Pages: 320
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three-stars

Cain Killion knows himself to be a damaged man, his only saving grace the extrasensory connection to blood that he uses to catch murderers. His latest case takes a macabre turn when he discovers a familiar and haunting symbol linking the crime to his own horrific past-and only one woman could know what it means.
Mercy Ledger is brave, resilient, beautiful-and in terrible danger. The moment he sees Mercy, Cain knows he's the one who can save her. He also knows he's beyond redemption. But the lines between good and evil blur and the only thing clear to Cain and Mercy is that they belong together. Love is the antidote for blood-but is their bond strong enough to overcome the evil that stalks them?

A unrelenting undertone of horror accompanies every Abbie Roads’s story especially in the beginning—no one is spared their nightmares, no saviour that comes in the nick of time before someone is brutalised or irretrievably lost—after which the slow climb upwards from rock-bottom begins…and back into the metaphorical light. Much of the plot is more concerned with the journey towards redemption and healing, rather than the search for a killer; throw in the paranormal elements and ‘Saving Mercy’ gives a twist to paranormal suspense that takes it into thriller territory. But after the very exciting first quarter, I thought the story lost its steady pacing for a while as it focused on building character and atmosphere. The break was disorienting to say the least, when I was actually expecting the action to ramp up and not slow down.

But the long and short of it is, I’m not entirely sure how to rate a story that goes past what I’ve encountered so far on my paranormal reading jaunts.

Both Cain and Mercy are very badly damaged characters in some way or other, but their connection is (perhaps unbelievably) instant, bound by tragedy and horror—in the worst possible way. But because the paranormal realm does permit logic to be defied to some extent and Roads tries convince on more than one occasion, that it’s a pairing of soulmates or at least star-crossed lovers, not just of compatible individuals because of their shared history. Yet the tragic element seems overplayed at times and their being drawn to each other did seem at times, far-fetched.

The lean towards the occult, the blend of psychology and para-psychology—it’s all very well done here. Though Roads does skirt several taboo topics, and that definitely adds to the dark allure of the story: Cain’s paranormal ability to tell a story from spilled blood, Mercy’s the perception of intentions as well as her ability to foresee a few seconds of a future action and the strange sense that all this are possible in this realm that goes beyond quantitative means of writing. But ultimately, it becomes a huge mind fuck that made me think the end was quite a batty one when the twist finally arrived and a prominent thread was left hanging loose.

three-stars

Shelter by Rhyll Biest

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Mystery/Crime/ Netgalley/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 30th January 2017
Shelter by Rhyll BiestShelter by Rhyll Biest
Published by Escape Publishing on February 15th 2017
Pages: 210
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one-star

Kat Daily is excited to trade her Sydney airport quarantine uniform for an RSPCA inspector’s uniform and a job in the rural town of Walgarra. A fresh start in a new place, where she can make a real difference in the lives of the animals that she loves.
But Walgarra doesn’t offer a peaceful, bucolic existence. Like many small towns, the distance from urban settings — and urban law enforcement — has allowed a criminal element to set in. Kat may only be looking after animals, but that doesn’t mean she will be immune to people with sinister agendas.
The previous RSCPCA inspector was murdered, and Officer Luka Belovuk is determined to keep the new inspector from the same fate. He may have very broad shoulders, but carrying the safety of the law-abiding community just trying to live their lives has weighed him down, and one more death might be more than he can take.
Not all small towns are quaint and quiet, but they all have one thing in common: a community of people willing to protect their population with everything they have.

Devirginised from my first Rhyll Biest’s read, “Shelter” quite frankly, raced past the quirky and slid straight into the bizarre for me, even though it was an interesting setup that showcased the menacing, broken down part of rural Australia with equally broken characters littering the pages. But my struggle with this book lay mostly with the characters and the writing style, which do run contrary to my personal tastes.

On their own, Kat and Luka are characters that at best, could function as single protagonists but not together. I found their chemistry non-existent, built only on a frustrating one-sided chase where Kat pushes Luka away because of her complete fear of relationships, then turns that energy instead into taking on reckless tasks in her work to punish/atone.

But Kat wasn’t the most likeable character to begin with: deceptive, defensive and immaturely prickly, whose own issues somehow made her go around petulantly with a chip on her shoulder in a small-minded and emotionally vindictive way, especially with Luka. The constant insistence that she wasn’t made for relationships and the constant running away simply wore thin as the story wore on, escalating my own frustration level until I was ready to give up on the pairing. Throw in the alter-ego of an imaginary fairy called Galenka (or some strange voice that dictates what her subconscious really wants) that dictated her mental thoughts made me want to go mental myself sooner rather than later.

The snarky commentary—part Galenka and part Kat—felt overdone, as though every single thought needed to be catalogue and revealed, even during sex which sort of broke those hot moments somewhat. The caveat here is that the writing isn’t bad—Rhyll Biest can write up a storm—but her hyperbolic, anthropomorphising style (“her car, lurking by the kerb, gave her a sympathetic look”, “his hand, big as a frisbee”, “arms outstretched like a zombie hungry for brains”) is distracting enough to make me do several sentence re-reads just to try to get the metaphors or similes the right way up.

Or maybe I’m just slow. Or call it my inability to appreciate this sort of quirk enough.

Whatever it may be, “Shelter” isn’t quite my brand of humour nor my cup of tea, sadly.

one-star
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