Author: Dísir

The Kissing Game by Marie Harte

The Kissing Game by Marie HarteThe Kissing Game by Marie Harte
Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca on 4th February 2020
Pages: 320
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
one-star

"I bet you a kiss you can't resist me."
Game on
.

Rena Jackson is ready. She's worked her tail off to open up her own hair salon, and she's almost ready to quit her job at the dive bar. Rena's also a diehard romantic, and she's had her eye on bar regular Axel Heller for a while. He's got that tall-dark-and-handsome thing going big time. Problem is, he's got that buttoned-up

Germanic ice man thing going as well. With Valentine's Day just around the corner, Rena's about ready to give up on Axel and find her own Mr. Right.

At six foot six, Axel knows he intimidates most people. He's been crushing on the gorgeous waitress for months. But the muscled mechanic is no romantic, and his heart is buried so deep, he has no idea how to show Rena what he feels. He knows he's way out of his depth and she's slipping away. So, he makes one crazy, desperate play...

‘The Kissing Game’ just didn’t work out for me at all, made all the more so disappointing because of a lively blurb and a promising plot of two pining individuals who just couldn’t quite get their game up.

But it was precisely this that got the ball rolling too slowly, with German phrases tucked neatly into every conversation Axel had with people and we’re talking a hell lot of supporting cast members, their names and their relations and their quirks to grace the pages from the very start.

It was a lot to take in, certainly, and got overwhelming quickly, more so because I couldn’t keep up with anything and used up all of my tinted glasses just trying to see the chemistry between Rena and Axel without really understanding the context or their (lack of) past history.

This was strangely hard to read for me; maybe ‘The Kissing Game’ is probably better left for others who would appreciate Marie Harte’s style in this one.

one-star

Wolf Gone Wild by Juliette Cross

Wolf Gone Wild by Juliette CrossWolf Gone Wild by Juliette Cross
Series: Stay A Spell #1
Published by Juliette Cross on 14th January 2020
Pages: 378
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
three-stars

What's the worst thing that can happen to a werewolf? Unable to shift for three months, Mateo Cruz knows all too well. His wolf has taken up residence in his head, taunting him night and day with vividly violent and carnal thoughts. Convinced he's cursed, he needs the help of a powerful witch before he literally goes insane.

​Evie Savoie has always obeyed the house rules of her coven--no werewolves. They're known for being moody and volatile. So, when a distempered, dangerous werewolf strolls into the bar and almost strangles one of her late-night customers, she's ready to bounce him through the door. But the desperation in his eyes when he begs her to help him softens her heart and convinces her to bend the rules.

​What Evie doesn't know is that Mateo's wolf has a mind of his own. And now that she's in his sights, he wants only one thing. Her.

‘Wolf Gone Wild’ has an insanely attractive blurb, I’ll admit. A man who’s going insane with a wolf that’s barely leashed stumbling into a bar/restaurant asking a witch for help, when these two paths shall never cross? It’s sort of forbidden in a way, but Evie Savoie isn’t going to turn away a man in need.

Juliette Cross’s worldbuilding comes in early on: there’re long-lived supernatural beings littering the streets of New Orleans, each with their own coven, den or some other mysterious clan and the uneasy peace is kept by the Savoie witch Sisters, each with their own unique powers. But when a hex so strong is placed on Mateo Cruz, the witches find that they have to welcome a werewolf into their covern, despite what traditions dictate.

I loved the starting few chapters, where Cross’s writing was tinged with humour as Mateo battled his inner wolf with some hilarious inner conversations, most of which dealt with trying to talk sense into a lusty, bloodthirsty wolf that was straining at the leash to break people’s limbs and be dirty with women. The very slow buildup was as much as it was foreplay as it was full of innuendo and suggestive winks; Mateo’s dirty inner wolf drove a lot of it but it did plateau after a while as this became status quo each time Mateo and Evie spent time together.

This was however, also where the plot evened out after an upward climb, which went on for a while and I found myself trudging to the halfway mark before wondering if the progress between in Mateo’s case (aside from their heaving chests, salacious talk, etc) was going anywhere soon. The more interesting bits were the hints of future pairings as the story wore on, and I lapped those up more eagerly than I did of Mateo/Evie after the first half.

Still, this was a fun read, with a heavy dose of Star Wars geekery tossed in and if you like your paranormal romances juggling the ominous and the light-hearted, this is the one to go for.

three-stars

Audition by Skye Warren and Amelia Wilde

Audition by Skye Warren and Amelia WildeAudition by Amelia Wilde, Skye Warren
Series: True North #1
Published by Book Beautiful LLC on 9th December 2019
Pages: 215
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
three-stars

Blood and sweat. Bethany Lewis danced her way out of poverty. She's a world class athlete... with a debt to pay.

Joshua North always gets what he wants. And the mercenary wants Bethany in his bed. He wants her beautiful little body bent to his will.

She doesn't surrender to his kiss.He doesn't back down from a challenge.It's going to be a sensual fight... to the death.

What draws me as always to Skye Warren’s books is the lyrical writing, so I know that ‘Audition’ will be a well-spun tale, at least when it comes to style. I’d been awaiting for this one with a little bit of trepidation, not because I generally liked Warren’s North Security series (I did) but because I hadn’t quite a good enough impression of Liam’s equally cynical younger brother to think he needed his own HEA.

Like the previous books in the establishing series, ‘Audition’ stayed on the edge of the morally questionable and never quite bloomed to become a fully fledged love story that I’d hoped would be grander and more convincing.

But what I found difficult wasn’t the forbidden tinge itself, but rather, the plot that always seemed shrouded in an attractive veil of mystery that I can’t seem to pierce—there was a back story that unfolded in bits and pieces—but put together so loosely spanning past and present that it felt like a fragmented shard of a complete narrative that I couldn’t seem to get. And that was Bethany’s and Joshua North’s relationship in a nutshell: a little danger, shady company, a mutual obsession since they met five years ago under equally shady circumstances, a repeating litany of doubting themselves and each other and Joshua’s personal self-recrimination of wanting Bethany while feeling filthy about it.

We’ve been given the bare bones and the points of conflict that surrounded them, but I couldn’t get past that their connection was road-blocked past dark desire. Joshua’s weirdly unhinged (and somewhat stalkerish) behaviour around Bethany while the thoughts he had about her stayed just that: lengthy inner monologues that didn’t change anything as he stayed an arse for most of it, mired too deep in his own inability and unwillingness to be invulnerable up until the end. Ironically, the most Joshua continued the repetitive notes of there being nothing good in him, the more and more I started to agree…because there weren’t any signs despite the struggles he had, that this was going to shift.

‘Audition’ had in essence, a (deliberate?) disjointedness storytelling here that threw me off, as much as I enjoyed the atmosphere, metaphor-laden writing. Still, I struggled to see past this nebulous relationship between Joshua/Bethany and it was this very lack of clarity that eventually hindered my whole enjoyment of this.

three-stars

Iditarod Nights by Cindy Hiday

Iditarod Nights by Cindy HidayIditarod Nights Published by Ooligan Press on April 14 2020
Pages: 200
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
two-stars

Sparks fly when Claire Stanfield, a jaded criminal defense attorney, and Dillon Cord, a former police officer trying to forget his traumatic past, meet in the wilderness of Alaska before they face what might be their most difficult challenge yet: surviving the dangerous twists and turns of the Iditarod Trail.

Claire Stanfield became a lawyer to make her father proud, but after a troubling case leaves her shaken, she escapes to Alaska and immerses herself in the world of dog sledding. Dillon Cord became a police officer to serve his community, but he moves to Nome in the wake of a life-altering incident.

For both, the Iditarod—the toughest sled dog race in the world—offers a chance for forgiveness, redemption, and healing. After meeting unexpectedly just ten days before the race, Claire and Dillon are drawn together by the shared challenge of surviving the merciless Alaskan wilderness out on the trail. With the help of their strong-willed sled dogs, the two mushers navigate treacherous mountain paths, as well as their own budding relationship.

If they can come to terms with their pasts and stay focused on the dangerous trail ahead, Claire and Dillon might have a chance to create something special—but only if they reach Nome in one piece.

When I first read the blurb of ‘Iditarod Nights’, it instantly appealed because so few of these adventure-romance type stories in the wilds of the boreal regions actually cross my feed. Doing a check on Goodreads however, suggested that this ARC is either a reprint, or a re-written and expanded version of an earlier one with a spanking cool cover.

If you’re interested in the actual Iditarod journey, Cindy Hiday does an impressive job of detailing the many stops of the race and how the mushers perform, including the fatigue they feel and the hallucinations they get.

But what started out promising—the dogs, the sledding, the descriptions of the race, the setup of the protagonists meeting—soon became a lull as the Dillion Cord and Claire Stanfield did their own preparations, waffling in their interactions—from the time they meet to the time the race takes place—to the extent where I doubted their chemistry and attraction. More so that their making out sessions came out of nowhere when there didn’t seem to be sufficient build of tension between them as they went on solo with their dogs on the race, met up at key checkpoints/rest stops then kissed a bit…and rinse and repeat.

Basically put, it was a tenuous connection I struggled to see of near-strangers having awkward talk in a step-forward-two-steps-back kind of dance, are uncomfortable in so many ways around each other, but yet give out pecks and kisses easily. Woven into this epic but exhausting experience is Dillon’s own past that keeps creeping back on him just as he keeps trying to maintain a distance from Claire, adding to the disconnect I felt between the pair.

I wished I’d liked this better, given the crazy epic adventure that really lends itself to what could have been an equally blistering romance. Instead, I was lukewarm by the time it all ended and still bewildered by two characters jumping into a romance but were really just only beginning to a tentative friendship.

two-stars

Winter Hawk by Rachel Grant

Winter Hawk by Rachel GrantWinter Hawk: A Raptor Holiday Novella by Rachel Grant
Series: Evidence, #9
Published by Janus Publishing on 6th December 2019
Pages: 200
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
two-stars

Raptor operative Nate Sifuentes isn’t thrilled to find himself back on the job on the first day of his winter vacation, but he can’t say no when his brother asks a favor. At least he’ll earn an easy Christmas bonus—after all, driving a fired military contractor home after she’s been escorted off base by military police can’t be that hard.

In a matter of minutes, Leah Ellis has lost everything, and now she’s left stranded in the nation’s capital on the first night of Hanukkah without money, phone, or bed. All she has is a mysterious driver who might be after her technical knowledge of the US military’s drone operations.

The former Green Beret’s protective instincts—and skills—kick in when he discovers the alluring AI engineer is being hunted. On the run, they escape the winter cold by generating their own heat, but will they find answers in time to stop a terror attack on Christmas Day?

Nate Sifuentes is the marginalised Raptor operative sent to pick up fired employee and drone engineer Leah Ellis, in what looks like a simple assignment until it blows up in their faces. That in essence, is ‘Winter Hawk’ , a short holiday novella in Rachel Grant’s Evidence series that is classic romantic suspense—non-stop action, tension, a conspiracy to unravel, with hot boinks in the midst of escaping the bad guys while clearing one’s good name. Think Bond or Bourne, just more compressed, with breathier scenes.

What feels like secondary characters become the protagonists here—older, jaded, done anything and everything with a ton of sexual partners—though the suspense is in no way compromised just because both Nate Sifuentes/Leah Ellis hadn’t been at the forefront of Grant’s books.

But I thought the brevity of the novella however did the pairing little justice given the speed at which everything went down. There’s the meet and greet to the sex (with a near-stranger) that felt more like a one-nighter than a start to a meaningful relationship and then the resolution, all of which didn’t erase the instalove feel I got from this—more so because it felt adrenaline-fuelled rather than genuine chemistry, heartfelt connection and mutual dependence. At the end of it all, I didn’t get or like this pairing, nor could I properly get invested in them at all, seeing as much of this couple was literally ‘wham-bam-thank you ma’am/sir’ and then it was the happy ride into the sunset along with a few out-of-place TSTL moments at the start.

Oddly enough, I think I might have enjoyed this more without the romance as a result, since this felt like the only questionable element in the story that proved a little too distracting. So not quite a disappointment, but also not the stellar read that I’ve come to associated with Grant’s kind of calibre.

two-stars

The Little Book of Scandi Living by Brontë Aurell

The Little Book of Scandi Living by Brontë AurellThe Little Book of Scandi Living by Brontë Aurell
Published by White Lion Publishing on 11th February 2020
Pages: 160
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
three-half-stars

Why are Scandinavians the world's happiest people? How do you get more Scandi-style in your life ?? What is lagom and how do you use it?

Whether you want your apartment to look like it belongs in Copenhagen, to workout like a Norwegian or to make cinnamon buns like a Swede, this pocket edition is the perfect introduction to the world's happiest countries.

Full of inspiration and ideas, how-tos and recipes to help you experience the very best of Scandinavian design, philosophy, cookery and culture, this honest behind-the-scenes look at the culture provides an invaluable insight into the wonderful and visually stunning world of Scandinavia.

Like her viking ancestors before her, Brontë Aurell left Denmark to explore the world beyond home shores and in her travels has come to understand the fascination with her kinfolk, as well as seeing the idiosyncrasies of the Scandinavian lifestyle that locals take for granted.

With a signature wit and a keen eye for detail, she takes you on a journey through fjords and mountains, farmlands and cities to better understand these three nations and what makes each one so unique. So get outdoors, learn the life lesson that there's no such thing as bad weather (only bad clothing) and you may discover your inner Scandi sooner than you think.

I’m a self-confessed fan of all things Scandinavian and ‘The Little Book of Scandi-living’ felt like something I needed to read. And of course this handy little guide packs a punch, taking you past the mental road block of seeing past the Danes’ hot-fashion sense, ABBA, meatballs, Ikea and Norway’s unfair natural advantage of oil, fjords and mountains…if you aren’t Scandinavian.

I loved the wry humour in the descriptions about the way Swedes, Danes and Norwegians see each other but the typical guide on how to be either more Danish, Swedish or Norwegian had me laughing out loud, while trying to shape my mouth into the funny little sounds they make in the Nordic languages. There’re more anecdotes on the internal rivalry between these countries—petty, juvenile and so funny that I lapped it all up—which I hadn’t known at all, but there are also practical aspects which will actually apply to any country if you generally are understanding about how to behave like a decent human being without needing too much guidance.

The focus on only Denmark, Sweden and Norway seems a little unfair though, given the peripheral countries like Iceland and Finland are just mentioned in passing, but I’m guessing we all have Lonely Planet for those gaps.

three-half-stars

Tweet Cute by Emma Lord

Tweet Cute by Emma LordTweet Cute by Emma Lord
Published by Wednesday Books on 21st January 2020
Pages: 368
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
three-half-stars

Meet Pepper, swim team captain, chronic overachiever, and all-around perfectionist. Her family may be falling apart, but their massive fast-food chain is booming ― mainly thanks to Pepper, who is barely managing to juggle real life while secretly running Big League Burger’s massive Twitter account.

Enter Jack, class clown and constant thorn in Pepper’s side. When he isn’t trying to duck out of his obscenely popular twin’s shadow, he’s busy working in his family’s deli. His relationship with the business that holds his future might be love/hate, but when Big League Burger steals his grandma’s iconic grilled cheese recipe, he’ll do whatever it takes to take them down, one tweet at a time.

All’s fair in love and cheese ― that is, until Pepper and Jack’s spat turns into a viral Twitter war. Little do they know, while they’re publicly duking it out with snarky memes and retweet battles, they’re also falling for each other in real life ― on an anonymous chat app Jack built.

As their relationship deepens and their online shenanigans escalate ― people on the internet are shipping them?? ― their battle gets more and more personal, until even these two rivals can’t ignore they were destined for the most unexpected, awkward, all-the-feels romance that neither of them expected.

What happens when teens take over a Twitter war, for the sake of protecting their own families’ legacies? ‘Tweet Cute’ is the hypothetical answer, it seems, in a very, very updated version of ‘You’ve Got Mail’ where ‘enemies’ in real life are actually forging a deeper and meaningful connection over an anonymous school app.

There’s a bit more complexity than that of course, even as Jack and Pepper duke it all out over their family food business, while balancing their own issues and insecurities that do in fact, capture these angsty years on the cusp of adulthood pretty well. The Twitter food war takes up a lot of the story as do the secret identity bits—it did admittedly get a little too much at times and made me cringe at the never-ending oneupmanship—and it’s so picture-perfect of the internet’s fickleness and its viral power that you can’t help but smile and get swept up with the ride, milking it for as long as it lasts. That this is also about food made me wonder if Emma Lord should have also included all the recipes in her appendix.

There’s enough of a YA romance if you squint—romantic feelings are talked about in an oblique way, as discomfort, as awareness, but never as the overt type of sexiness you’d find in a typical adult romance—but ‘Tweet Cute’ stays on safe-ish ground, very above the belt and very focused on friendship that might turn into more. Emma Lord juggles this with the impending train wreck that you can see coming a mile away with admirable ease, as Jack and Pepper move from adversaries to friends to something a little more. Though this doesn’t happen without a lot of reflection and realisation along the way about themselves, their relationships and their own families.

However, it’s also peppered with enough self-awareness in the character voices that sometimes surpass the maturity of a teen which gave me a bit of pause. Lord does write Pepper/Jack adopting a certain wry distance of stepping away from the action and then commenting on their own behaviour, giving a slight bit of meta that sometimes translate into longer than necessary inner monologues that sometimes keeps the momentum from going forward. I did take a few days with ‘Tweet Cute’ as a result, putting it down then taking it up again when I had the time; it wasn’t as ‘unputdownable’ as I’d hoped it would be, though each time I did continue however, its entertainment value never failed.

three-half-stars