Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Review: The Marriage Bargain by Jennifer Probst

I came across this series by accident last year and thought "Gee, I'd probably like those books.". Then, busy with other books and writing projects, I promptly forgot about it.

Then, early this month, I was back at WalMart because I thought I was going to get my new smartphone (I arrived too early--but that's not the point!). I noticed there was a shelf of books on display at the back, and among those were The Marriage Bargain, The Marriage Trap and The Marriage Mistake. Unable to resist the 40% off price tag, I went ahead and took the plunge.

So, was The Marriage Bargain an actual bargain for this hopeful romantic? Or did I buy a bunch of books in a series that I'll be trying to clear off my shelf later this year? Read on and find out!
(Summary from GoodReads)
A marriage in name only...

To save her family home, impulsive bookstore owner, Alexa Maria McKenzie, casts a love spell. But she never planned on conjuring up her best friend's older brother—the powerful man who once shattered her heart.

Billionaire Nicholas Ryan doesn’t believe in marriage, but in order to inherit his father’s corporation, he needs a wife and needs one fast. When he discovers his sister’s childhood friend is in dire financial straits, he offers Alexa a bold proposition.

A marriage in name only with certain rules: avoid entanglement. Keep things all business. Do not fall in love. The arrangement is only for a year so the rules shouldn’t be that hard to follow, right?

Except fate has a way of upsetting the best-laid plans…
This book was just "okay" for me, and I mean that in a "good" way, not in an "it's broken" way. The writing was fine, the plot moved along decently and for the most part I didn't have any major complaints. Yet it really seemed like something was missing.

There was a lot of "should we or shouldn't we?" here, as well as an over-reliance on characters not telling each other things, and instead moaning about them in their heads, without the necessary Very Damn Good Reason for this plot device to be employed. I didn't get what Alexa felt would happen, just what sky would fall, if she told Nick she wanted to use the money from the bargain to help her parents. That she felt it was better for him to think she was a gold digger just didn't make sense to me, especially since these two have history as childhood friends who fell apart. 

I can't give you a heat rating here. Why? Because I didn't really 'read', but rather 'skimmed', these characters love scenes. I just wasn't invested enough in them to give a damn what was going on with them in bed. 

However, all hope is not lost. I totally loved Maggie and Michael's characters, and they are the leads in the next book, so I will be reading on, even though The Marriage Bargain didn't quite meet my expectations. 

I think this sums it up: if I'm going to love a romance novel, I need to love the hero. And there's no way in hell I could ever love a hero who would name his pets stuff like Dog, Cat or Fish. So unfortunately for this book, Nick didn't have me at hello. 
The Marriage Bargain wasn't a bad book. It was definitely one of those 'It's not me, it's you' situations. As long as you can deal with the plot device I gripped about and aren't offended by a guy who has no imagination when naming pets, you should be totally fine. The writing was good, and there was some witty banter that, to me, shows promise. If you can get it on sale like I did, it may be worth a shot. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Review: Faking It by Cora Carmack

After pretty much devouring Losing It after having it on my Kindle for a year, I was determined not to repeat that mistake. I bought Faking it almost immediately, and there hasn't been that big a gap between reviewing Losing It and writing this review for Faking It right now.

I was extremely eager to get my hands on this book because I really liked Cade in Losing It and I really felt for him, despite the fact that I was busy cheering Bliss and Garrick on. I was also drawn in by the hint that there might be a slight holiday theme to this, something I often feel is a plus.

So, was Faking It up to the challenge of being as awesome as Losing It was, or did Cora Carmack succumb to the dreaded sophomore slump which can often plague new authors? Read on and find out!

(Summary from GoodReads)

Mackenzie “Max” Miller has a problem. Her parents have arrived in town for a surprise visit, and if they see her dyed hair, tattoos, and piercings, they just might disown her. Even worse, they’re expecting to meet a nice, wholesome boyfriend, not a guy named Mace who has a neck tattoo and plays in a band. All her lies are about to come crashing down around her, but then she meets Cade.

Cade moved to Philadelphia to act and to leave his problems behind in Texas. So far though, he’s kept the problems and had very little opportunity to take the stage. When Max approaches him in a coffee shop with a crazy request to pretend to be her boyfriend, he agrees to play the part. But when Cade plays the role a little too well, they’re forced to keep the ruse going. And the more they fake the relationship, the more real it begins to feel.
The first thing I can tell you about Faking It is that it wasn't the same kind of laugh out loud funny that we were treated to in Losing It. The second thing I can tell you, though, is that Cade and Max had real, intense chemistry that absolutely sizzled on my Kindle. Both their initial attraction, and the sexual and eventually emotional connections that formed were well handled. Put in short, I really wanted these two to get together.

And they didn't make that too easy on me, either. 

These were two very honestly drawn characters, with interesting quirks, hopes, dreams and flaws. I love how there were some things that they did that brought out the best in each other, and yet at other moments they seemed to figure out how to press each other's buttons--and weren't afraid to do so. 

I found Max to be a bit more complex heroine then Bliss was, which made for some interesting revelations as the story progressed. I also loved the dual perspective. Getting to see how both characters were doing as the story moved along made me feel much more invested in what was happening; it nearly always does. 

Now the only thing left to ponder is who is next: Milo? Kelsey? Rusty? Or will Cora decide to write someone totally new? I know this much: I look forward to finding out. Two solid books makes Cora Carmack an author whose work I'll be keeping an eye on. She seems able to tell stories that I love to read.
If you loved Losing It, or enjoy new adult fiction, then Faking It is an absolute must read. This book held my interest from start to finish and I totally loved hearing Cade and Max's story. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Review: Breath by Jackie Morse Kessler

Breath is the fourth book in the Riders of the Apocalypse series,  so I think it's safe to say that I was pretty excited to read it. I've been fascinated with Death from the beginning, so reading his story was something I've been looking forward to.

Of course that kind of excitement can be dangerous. It can be really hard not to totally hype up a book you're been waiting for. And for a series that I've enjoyed as much as I've enjoyed this, the stakes are definitely very high. 

So, did Breath meet my expectations and give this series the finale it deserved? Or was it totally dead on arrival? Read on and find out.

 (Summary from GoodReads)

Contrary to popular belief, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse aren’t just harbingers of doom—they actually keep life in balance. But what happens when their leader and creator, Death, becomes suicidal?

Before the first living thing drew its first gasping breath, he was there. He has watched humanity for millennia. And he has finally decided that humanity is not worth the price he has paid time and again. When Death himself gives up on life, a teenager named Xander Atwood is the world’s only hope. But Xander bears a secret, one that may bring about the end of everything.

This heart-pounding final installment of the Riders of the Apocalypse series looks at the value of life, the strength of love, and how a small voice can change everything . . . forever.
There is so much that I want to say about Breath, and yet there is so much that I really can't tell you without spoiling it. The ending is a complete 180 spin around mind-screwing thing of epic proportions. This went from 5 hearts and a Kat's Meow down to three stars within fifteen to twenty pages, if that tells you how strongly I felt about the ending. Jackie Morse Kessler did something which I can see was necessary now, but which actually made me do a book toss when I got to the end. So glad this wasn't on my Kindle.

Here's the thing: nothing we learn in this book actually matters, or at least, we don't learn whether it actually matters. Now, this does have its pros: it gave Jackie free reign over what to do with Death, and as always her mythology--and his characterization--were both spot on fantastic. But, as this is the last book in a series and I've been looking forward to learning about Death, I ultimately felt cheated. The idea that Death is personal to us all was and is a brilliant concept. But to me, it also felt like a bit of a cop out and by the end I was seriously asking myself what the purpose of reading the book had actually been.

To say I was upset is probably the understatement of the year.

Along with the usually great characterization for Death, we also got to see how all the characters from the previous books were doing, and I really loved their interactions here [SPOILER: (until I found out that none of it was real!!!)].] I really felt, up til the end, that Breath was one of the finest showcases of how to wrap up a series that I have ever seen. It was, and is, this oh-so-close to greatness factor that makes the end all disappointment so disheartening. In essence, Breath broke something that I feel is one of the unforgivable curses of writing [SPOILER: In essence, the whole damn book was a dream!]

As for Xander Atwood, I found him likable, but considering how loud and vibrant a character Death is, I was pretty much prepared from word go that it would be hard to find someone who would overshadow him. And for me, I was right.
If you've read the other three books in the Riders of the Apocalypse series, you might as well read Breath too. It's interesting and well written, I just wish I hadn't felt so darn cheated by the ending. 

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Stacking The Shelves / What's Up This Week (Jul. 20th)

Stacking The Shelves is a weekly event hosted by Tynga's Reviews where people can share the fabulous books they've bought, borrowed or received during the week.

   1. Breath by Jackie Morse Kessler

2. Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson

3. The Distance Between Us by Kasie West

4. Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo 

Hey guys! How's it going?

First, the good news: I have my PC back.

Now, the bad news: It's just as broken as it was when I took it in. I'm just $108 poorer. :( To say I'm not happy is a huge understatement. I'm back to the darn drawing board and have to decide how I want to address this, because it really, really sucks. 

Long story short: if you live in my area, do NOT take your computer to Computer Ease Solutions. Not only did they epicly fail at fixing this thing, they also deleted my downloads folder(!!!). I'm lucky I thought the machine was getting a reformat (lord knows it NEEDS it) and saved my cover for Sealer's Promise or that would be a real mess! They were also more focused on telling me the fan they were replacing would no longer be a blue LED (big deal) while neglecting to tell me it would not be silent (Oh. My. God. Noise.)... My head is hurting just thinking about this. 

I got a lot of reading done in the downtime, though. :) I guess everything has a silver lining? I finished Breath by Jackie Morse Kessler and Faking It by Cora Carmack, and I'm over half through The Collector by Victoria Scott (which I'm loving so far.) 

I got my smartphone! :D I chose a Samsung Galaxy S3 and got a totally cute sky blue case for it. If you have app recommendations, I'd love to hear them. :) So far I'm really liking Plume (for Twitter), Life Reminders, Skype (big surprise there!) and Flow. 

Last, to any fellow ontario bloggers, are you planning to go to this year's Blog Squad Meet Up in November? Tickets go on sale August 1st, if you haven't heard. You can find out about that here. :) 
As always, my disclaimer: no guarantee I'll finish all this. But it's what I'm dying to read! 

The Collector by Victoria Scott

The Distance Between Us by Kasie West 

Tiger's Voyage by Colleen Houck 

This has not been a productive time for writing. Plotting? Sure. Writing? No. Writing on a smartphone is definitely not my cup of tea. It's great as a "Holy crap, jot that idea down!" device. But I wouldn't want to write a novel on it. 

My plans, as far as what I'm doing, are staying relatively the same. Working on finishing Promise Me Forever, then finalizing Sealer's Promise outline decisions while I work on Sweet Rebellion

As for giving you guys a sample, here's part of the latest scene for Sweet Rebellion. As always, this is draft so it is subject to change and there may be typos or other minor mistakes at this point. 

Down on the dance floor people were doing a variety of hip wiggling, gyrating dances in time to the song’s heavy beat. Clay was among them, a throng of girls circling him like they were petals on a flower. Each shimmied and dropped, grinding him shamelessly as they spiraled around him.

Burning disappointment lodged itself in Megan’s throat, but she focused on singing and managed to tune it out. Why bother being surprised? She had known from day one that this would happen sooner or later.

As she came to the last repeat of the chorus she caught Clay's gaze and altered the lyrics, singing, “He’s a snake with green eyes.”

Her point made, she turned toward the other side of the stage and finished up the remainder of the song, her body throbbing with pent up frustration that had nothing to do with controlling her diaphragm. She needed to get down from here, now, and slip into the crowd. The stupid sugary smile she had plastered on her face was already starting to make it hurt.

It was time to forget that stupid kiss he had given her the night he arrived. Except she couldn’t decide what hurt more: the fact that she was fool enough to still have it on her mind, or the fact that she wasn’t sure she knew how to let it go.

Anyway, that wraps it up for me this week. :) How's life been treating you? What are you excited about right now? What are you reading and / or writing? I'd love to know, so feel free to leave a comment. :) 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

PC Going In For Repairs

Hey guys!

This is just a quick update to let you know that my PC is going in for repairs tomorrow to finally fix that darn virus that messed up my Explorer.exe.

It'll be a bit quiet here until I get the machine back, but I *did* just get my new smartphone, a Samsung Galaxy S3, so if anyone needs to get ahold of me they can do so on facebook, twitter or by e-mail.

Thanks for your time and patience. Have a great day!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Review: Inbetween by Tanya Fuller

I ended up buying Inbetween because I saw the sequel, Blurred, in one of Giselle's Fresh Batch posts over at Xpresso Reads. The cover was pretty and the summary had my interest, so it wasn't long before I looked up what the first book was about and decided that I'd have to read it.

Those who have been around my blog for a while likely know that I have a mad obsession for stories where either Death as a character, or characters who have some type of connection to the afterlife, fall in love. So my interest in Inbetween likely comes as no surprise. What is probably kinda shocking is that I bought this for my Kindle, rather then in paperback. For someone who loves physical copies that probably seems kinda scandalous, but saving $5 on it by going digital was too good a sale to pass up on a new to me series.

But now I'm rambling. Want to know what I thought of Inbetween? Then read on!
(Summary from GoodReads)
Since the car crash that took her father’s life three years ago, Emma’s life has been a freaky — and unending — lesson in caution. Surviving “accidents” has taken priority over being a normal seventeen-year-old, so Emma spends her days taking pictures of life instead of living it. Falling in love with a boy was never part of the plan. Falling for a reaper who makes her chest ache and her head spin? Not an option.

It’s not easy being dead, especially for a reaper in love with a girl fate has put on his list not once, but twice. Finn’s fellow reapers give him hell about spending time with Emma, but Finn couldn’t let her die before, and he’s not about to let her die now. He will protect the girl he loves from the evil he accidentally unleashed, even if it means sacrificing the only thing he has left…his soul.
The first thing I can tell you about Inbetween, and I really hate to say this, is that it's slow. This book had major pacing issues, likely in an attempt to develop the characters. The problem is that it made me have a really hard time remaining focused on reading it for the first 3/4, and then it took off like a bat outta hell for the last 1/4 but it was too late. 

I liked the characters, although of the major ones Cash and Easton were my favorites, not Emma or Finn. With Cash, I just thought he was the most majorly awesome best friend and really sweet. (Despite all my whining I am dying to read his story in Blurred.) As for Easton... he's a smart ass with violet eyes and a heart of gold hidden under all that hell-made soot he's stuck wandering around in. What's not to love? :D (He put me in mind of another violet eyed scoundrel I love from one of my own stories, so I suppose I may be a wee bit biased here?) 

Finn made me mad. Like, I wanted to chuck my Kindle mad. What a totally selfish asshat and I don't care what we learn from Balthazar at the end of the book--I still feel that way. I don't necessarily think he and Emma shouldn't have gotten their HEA. But I wasn't desperate for them to get it, either. I was way more interested in reading about Easton and Cash. 

As for Emma... She was predictable. She wasn't a horrible heroine or anything, but she didn't really stick out for me and she and Finn did some stuff that really made me want to knock their heads together a few times within this story. (Especially what they do to Cash. And the position Finn puts Easton in. Bleh!) 

The mythology was well constructed and very interesting, if a little cold all the way around. To put it bluntly? If this is the afterlife (which I realize it's not; this is purely fiction the same as any of us who write in that vein) that I would be very, very scared. I suppose that makes for better fictional work then something that's all sugar cookies and butterflies, but that was my thought through several chunks of this book. In a word: eek!
As long as you are cool with being patient about the book having a slow start, there is much in Inbetween that is worth checking out. The characters are interesting, rather then flat out likable. There are a lot of shades of gray and a lot of things that happen are worth questioning and really thinking about. There really isn't much cut and dry heroism (excluding Cash. <3) If it helps, I do plan to read the next book despite any gripes I'm giving here. 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Stacking The Shelves / What's Up This Week? (Jul. 6th)

Stacking The Shelves is a weekly event hosted by Tynga's Reviews where people can share the fabulous books they've bought, borrowed or received during the week.

1. Faking It by Cora Carmack

2. Inbetween by Tara Fuller 

3. The Summer I Became A Nerd by Leah Rae Miller

4. The Collector by Victoria Scott 

Yes, I'm finally back. The next few days may be quiet here since my PC is going to the shop on Monday--I decided not to get a new one yet, and my mother is on holidays so this one can finally get fixed--but I will say that it's good to be running with a fresh set of batteries again. :)

This week has been pretty laid back. Jay and I have been watching a DC cartoon called Young Justice, I'm been playing Dragon Age: Origins on my PS3 and I'm going to be chilling with some pizza and a good book tonight since everyone else is going to a racing event. (Totally not my thing, but I hope they have fun!)

I'm debating between getting a tablet or a Wii U. I know, two totally different things, right? I figure whichever I don't get now I'll get around my birthday next year. I have money saved from my "I thought I was getting a PC" situation, though, and I think I deserve a treat. (Specifically I'm looking at the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0. I think the stylus aspect is awesome. Considering how much I love my Nintendo DS it seems like it could be a good fit.)

No guarantees I'll get through all of these before next Saturday, but here's what I'm itching to sit down with:

Breath by Jackie Morse Kessler

Tiger's Voyage by Colleen Houck

Faking It by Cora Carmack

I'm currently working on a set of six prequel stories for the Sealer Saga. I've realized that it's not going to make sense unless I start from the root of what caused all the trouble with Ruby. I'm actually very pleased with how this story, Promise Me Forever, is going. It's Kyden's story with his first love, Lila. It's actually a tragedy, which is certainly something I never imagined myself writing. I'm now 21,000 words in and I'm guestimating this will end up being around 35,000 words when it's done. According to my outline I have 4.5 chapters and an epilogue left to write. (The .5 is because I'm half through a chapter right now.)

Want a teaser? Here's one I put up on my Facebook Author Page this week: (Note: This is from my rough draft. :) )

He reached forward and took her hand, bringing it to his lips and brushing a soft kiss against her knuckles. "Kyden speaks well of you, Lila. It's a pleasure to meet you at last."


"This is Lucian." Kyden answered before she could finish asking the question. He looked up at the Dark Lord and Lila noticed with some amusement that little worry lines had formed at the corners of his mouth. "You can quite with the Compulsion any time, Luc. I don't feel like watching my consort stare at you like she wants to rip off your clothes."

Well, that's it for me this week. :) Did you get any new books you're excited about? What are you reading? Writing? Doing? Feel free to share!

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