Silence by Natasha Preston

Blurb:
31676476For eleven years, Oakley Farrell has been silent. At the age of five, she stopped talking, and no one seems to know why. Refusing to communicate beyond a few physical actions, Oakley remains in her own little world.

Bullied at school, she has just one friend, Cole Benson. Cole stands by her, refusing to believe that she is not perfect the way she is. Over the years, they have developed their own version of a normal friendship. However, will it still work as they start to grow even closer?

When Oakley is forced to face someone from her past, can she hold her secret in any longer?

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My Review:
3.5 stars — Well.  Hmmm.  So the thing about this book is that I started it before bed and stayed up until 4am finishing it in one sitting…and then I felt disappointed and underwhelmed.  Which doesn’t make much sense right?  Basically there were aspects of this book that were 4+ stars, and there were aspects of this book that were 2 stars.  But given I was sucked in and just kept going and going, I figured I’d give it a slight nod above the average of 3 because I do tend to rate based on overall enjoyment, not on the actual quality of the book.

This book reminded me a LOT of The Boy Who Sneaks in My Bedroom Window.  The relationship between Oakley and Cole and how it develops, and the damage done to Oakley, were surprisingly similar in feel.  That’s another book that I can’t necessarily say is superbly well-written (lots of editing issues common in early self-publishing), but I just LOVE it, you know?  Like a guilty pleasure.  And it was the same for this book.  I was super intrigued by Oakley’s secret, and didn’t even mind TOO much the way it was revealed slowly over the course of the first half of the book, though the false leads were a bit annoying.  And I really adored the sweet nature of Oakley and Cole’s relationship, and how close they could be without her ever speaking (or communicating in any way really).  I actually really believed that he understood her based on years of paying attention to her body language and facial expressions.

But here’s where this book falls short of TBWSIMBW: the pacing.  Seriously, that is my number one issue with this book.  I found I was staying up reading just to finally find out what happened, what was going to happen, b/c we know from the blurb that her past is going to catch up with her.  Seriously, I was like “OK, more relationship, more normal everyday, more sideplot…anytime now…”  I don’t think it was until like 87% that we got even a hint of the dark turn, and that’s just not enough time to give what should be a satisfying climax a lead up and solid conclusion.  And it really wasn’t.  It was super rushed.  I’m torn about how it all happened…there is a part of me that loves it, but there is another part of me that’s wholly unsatisfied that we didn’t hear from Oakley.  And then the ending.  OMG.  I don’t think I fully realized this was a series, or maybe I thought it was a series of connected characters, but nope…the ending is abrupt and unsatisfying.  Not a cliffhanger so much as a non-HEA.

And so there I am, laying in bed, just bummed.  Because you know what?  Even not having read the second book, I can tell that it didn’t need to be a 2 part divided story.  There was so much repetition in the meat of the book that really could have been pared down.  I enjoyed getting to see the emotional impact of what Oakley went through, but I still think it could have been shaved down and still been effective.  And I didn’t mind not knowing the details of what happened, b/c that’s a bit hard to take, and I enjoyed the focus being on how it impacted Oakley’s life.  But there was so much extraneous material in the book that honestly could have been either taken out or, for goodness sake, it should have had a purpose!  Like Julian!  What the what?  What was the point of that storyline?  Either it should have had a conclusion and a development that made sense, or it shouldn’t have been that large.  And Lizzie?  What was with that?

So while I would really *like* to have the conclusion of Cole and Oakley’s story, from what I can gather from looking at the lower starred reviews of the next book (when I take out all the annoying reviews that just talk about the grammar…seriously, that’s the whole reason you rated it 1 star?  Why did even read the second book then?), the pacing is fairly similar and unsatisfying.  So it’s not really worth it for me.  Maybe if it was free, but it still costs my time, you know?

Weird review right?  It was a weird reading experience.  To have so much love for the characters and to be simultaneously sucked in and impatient, it’s just odd.  It’s happened to me before, but it is always vexing when it does.  Oh well.  *shrugs*  I don’t regret it, I just wish it had been better.  Especially because I enjoyed the handling of the tough topic.

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The Vixen and the Vet by Katy Regnery

Blurb:
22888713In this modern-retelling of “Beauty and the Beast,” Savannah Carmichael, betrayed by an unreliable source, returns to her hometown of Danvers, Virginia with her once-promising journalism career in ruins. Given the opportunity to get back in the game by writing a patriotic human interest piece, Savannah turns her attention to the town hermit, Asher Lee, a wounded veteran who returned to Danvers eight years ago, and hasn’t been seen since.

After an IED explosion in Afghanistan took Asher’s hand and disfigured half of his face, he’s lived a quiet life on the outskirts of Danvers where the locals respect his privacy…that is, until Savannah Carmichael comes calling in a borrowed sundress with a plate of homemade brownies. When Asher agrees to be interviewed by Savannah, he starts feeling things for the beautiful reporter that he hasn’t felt in years.

Misfits in small-town Danvers, Savannah and Asher create a bond right away, touching each other’s hearts in ways neither thought possible. When a terrible mistake threatens to drive them apart, they’ll have to decide if the love they found in one another’s arms is strong enough to fight for their hard-won happily ever after.

** Contemporary Romance. Due to profanity, realistically depicted scenes of war and very strong sexual content, this book is not intended for readers under the age of 18.**

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My Review:
3 stars — I thought now would be the perfect time to finally read Ms. Regnery’s Beauty and the Beast retelling, what with the new movie out…and crap on a cracker, it just didn’t work for me.  It’s so weird, b/c I really enjoy her Blueberry Lane books, but this is now the second of her wildly popular Modern Fairytale stories that I just didn’t connect with.  Quite frankly, this book left me extremely underwhelmed, especially given how outrageously popular it is.

It was so odd, b/c I started this book before bed one night, and just really wasn’t sucked in right away.  I wasn’t too sure about Savannah, and I really wasn’t enamoured with her sister Scarlet, so I put it down and went to sleep.  Then the next day I was reading while exercising, and I was wholly sucked in!!  I was just super excited and thinking “OH!!!  This is what they were talking about!”  I loved the beginnings of Savannah’s relationship with Asher, and how they met, and there was just some magic in their developing friendship and more.  I even highlighted things!  And then I had to do real life things, and when I got back to it today, I was bored.  Like wth?  I can admit that there might be a small mood component to my enjoyment, because I was having a really hard time articulating (even in my own head) what exactly went wrong.  But I’ll give it a try.

On the surface, I really enjoyed the way Ms. Regnery’s chose to portray our Belle and Beast.  I could totally see a reporter from a small town not fitting in, and a veteran with terrible disfigurements feeling ostracized by that same small town.  But I’m not sure I fully bought into their roles…more Savannah than Asher.  I could actually really understand Asher’s backstory and what he went through and how he came to be who he was, and I really felt like he stayed true to his character for much of the book.  And while his actions at the climax were harsh, I could kind of get it even if it made me disappointed.  But Savannah really did NOT act like a reporter.  It was like a character trait that she was just supposed to have that kind of facilitated the plot, but I don’t really feel like I understood much of her.  She uses her past betrayal and disgrace in so many aspects of the story, but I just didn’t know much about what happened, and I just didn’t really feel anything towards her and the decisions she made.  I didn’t empathize with her character nearly as much as I needed to.  I needed something more for me to understand why she would make such a big mistake at the climax, b/c she really came off as selfish, self-serving, and really not very in touch with people’s emotions.  So to say I was disappointed in my Belle would be a bit of an understatement.

And while I enjoyed their initial chemistry and found that spark and magic quite exciting, somewhere along the way I got really bored with it, and wasn’t feeling the steamy scenes…I honestly thought “oh, here they go again.”  I enjoy steamy scenes, but apparently there wasn’t enough keeping me interested in these ones, but that honestly could have been just me.

So the other thing that really didn’t work for me had a lot to do with how this “Southern” town was portrayed.  Are they really like that?  It felt like a stereotype was taken as fact and embellished upon.  It’s not that I don’t understand elements, but I wanted a bit more nuance I guess.  This is not the first time I’ve been insulted by the portrayal of a region that I don’t even live in, so perhaps *I’m* the one who has it wrong.  I don’t know.  But it influenced how I enjoyed Miss Potts (which was sometimes I did, sometimes I really didn’t).  It influenced how little I enjoyed Savannah’s sister Scarlet.  Though honestly, there were many more problems with her.  Both she and her fiance Trent were downright mean.  And I just did NOT buy the turnaround.  I’m glad it was there, I wanted to buy it, but I needed an apology and some humility I guess.  And don’t get me started on the Lance business, and dealing with it in a Southern way.  NOT a fan of that tiny side plot at all, and how it played out.

OK, enough complaining Lenore.  Let’s end with a high note.  I really enjoyed Savannah’s Mother, and the story she told of her relationship with Asher’s Mother.  I really thought it added to the story, and gave depth.  I know she had her own elements of caricature, but I didn’t mind them…maybe because she was kind.  I needed that kindness.

And I really thought the description of Asher’s injuries, and the bits of detail that we saw on how he coped with only one hand, and the look into things that could help him were well placed and added to the story.  It was a really good read for my diversity challenge in that way.

So yeah.  I’m bummed.  I take it really hard when I don’t enjoy a book that’s so highly recommended.  But apparently I’m a special snowflake that just can’t conform.  Oh well.  I’m going to at least give her Hansel and Gretel retelling a try, and if that one doesn’t work either, I’m totally calling it a flatline and sticking with her other series.  Sometimes we’re just not a match.

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Forever Mine by Erin Nicholas

Blurb:

31684529Maya Goodwin doesn’t believe in holding back. Ever. As a cop, she never hesitated to throw herself into harm’s way to save someone. Even after an injury on the job forces her to retire, she’s not afraid to keep risking it all to get the life she wants. With a new career teaching martial arts to kids already underway, she’s looking forward to the future – and taking a chance on the unbelievably hot Dr. Alex Nolan.

Maya – daring and spontaneous – is the exact opposite of what Alex always thought he wanted. But when a nine-year-old daughter he never knew existed shows up on his doorstep, Maya is the one who helps them hold it together. With love on the line, will the guy who’s always played it safe be willing to take the biggest risk of all?

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My Review:
4.5 stars — I received a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

OK, this was a fantastic addition to this series!!  And no, you most definitely do NOT have to read the first book to enjoy this one, but it’s super adorable as well, so I definitely recommend it.

I can honestly say that I loved both characters, and thought they both had some really unique aspects to their personalities, and were really well developed.  Both Maya and Alex were extremely likable, but not without flaws.  And because of those two aspects, it was so satisfying to see their growth over the course of the story, even if there were the occasional bits I wish we’d seen more of.

Maya was seriously badass, but also so satisfyingly nerdy.  She was just ridiculously one of a kind…I can’t even figure out how to describe her.  She’s completely unlike me, but I could really see liking her.  And admiring her.  I kind of wish we’d seen a bit more of her development wrt her future goals…because they kind of changed over the story, but we didn’t see her working that out, it just kind of happened along the way…one of those things that disappointed me.

And Alex was so cautious and meticulous, and eager!  He just kept surprising me along the way.  I loved seeing the little steps he was making forward, even if he was moving a little slower than I’d like, and even if occasionally I wanted to smack him.  But I kind of liked that he was not quite alpha, but not quite beta.  He had his strengths and weaknesses, and he admired the crap out of Maya’s strengths.

And the chemistry between Maya and Alex was smoking and very enjoyable.  But I could also see the relationship that developed between them that was more than just chemistry and lust.

I loved the nerd aspect, and loved some of the introspective commentaries made about the nerd community and why we love superheroes and all that stuff.  It just really felt…I don’t know, intelligent?  Is that insulting to other books?  Or maybe it’s insightful.  Like not just the nerd aspect, but the story as a whole — looking at why people help others, what that says about them, overcoming perceived weaknesses, all that good stuff.

I also really loved the secondary characters in this one.  I loved Maya’s group of friends, and that they are important to her and an integral part of her life.  I enjoyed Rachel, and was surprised that I did.  She was a bit too good to be true at times, but I actually enjoyed that it wasn’t a big dramafest and she really added to Alex’s life.  And Charli was pretty cool.  I loved how important she was to Alex, and how he was just so enthralled with her, but he eventually learned the importance of the dad role.

I did notice that occasionally things would happen that didn’t make sense in the timeline that was in my head, but perhaps that will change in the final copy.  It’s just that sometimes some events would be only days apart when I’d been given the impression it was more like a few weeks.

On a weird side note, I was surprised that none of the girls knew what hemophilia was, since I did…but I did an internet poll, and while the majority of my friends did know, there were a few that didn’t so I can accept it.

All in all I’m really loving this series.  I sincerely can’t wait for Sophie’s story if it’s anything like the first two.

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Things I Should Have Known by Claire LaZebnik

Blurb:

31375784An unforgettable story about autism, sisterhood, and first love that’s perfect for fans of Jenny Han, Sophie Kinsella, and Sarah Dessen. New York Times bestselling author of Tell Me Three Things Julie Buxbaum raved: “I couldn’t put it down.”

Meet Chloe Mitchell, a popular Los Angeles girl who’s decided that her older sister, Ivy, who’s on the autism spectrum, could use a boyfriend. Chloe already has someone in mind: Ethan Fields, a sweet, movie-obsessed boy from Ivy’s special needs class.

Chloe would like to ignore Ethan’s brother, David, but she can’t—Ivy and Ethan aren’t comfortable going out on their own so Chloe and David have to tag along.  Soon Chloe, Ivy, David, and Ethan form a quirky and wholly lovable circle. And as the group bonds over frozen yogurt dates and movie nights, Chloe is forced to confront her own romantic choices—and the realization that it’s okay to be a different kind of normal.

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My Review:
4 stars —  I received a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

OK confession time!  I got this one a few months ago, and when I decided to start reading it, I kind of forgot exactly what it was going to be about.  So in essence, I kind of went into the book a bit blind.  Like so blind that I forgot her sister was on the autism spectrum, and then I was like “oh yeah!!”  So it took me a bit to really get into the story, but once I did I was seriously sucked in.

At the beginning, Chloe isn’t necessarily that endearing, and it takes a bit to really get a feel for who she really is…and part of that is that you start off seeing the facade that she shows to her peers, and not necessarily all of who she is inside.  And she’s not the only one I was unimpressed with, I really didn’t fall in love with many characters at the beginning, from her family to her friends and boyfriend.  In fact, I felt more antagonistic towards many of them, particularly her stepfather.  But I’ll get back to that.

As the story progresses you get to see why Chloe chooses to put on the persona and maintain her status in the popular crowd, with the “hot” boyfriend.  I actually think this is one of the best depictions I’ve ever read of a teenager going along and trying to fit in.  With all that she struggles with at home, I could see how she would want to be liked and how much easier it would be for her to just keep her opinions to herself.  You could see a bit of that internal struggle for her, but ultimately she didn’t want to make waves, and she kind of just wanted to feel what she perceived to be “normal”.  It’s always disappointing, for sure, but I *got* it.  Not sure if that makes sense.  But it also makes her development as a character that much more satisfying.  Seeing her start to feel like “enough is enough” and that perhaps other qualities are more important in friends and boyfriends than what she was initially seeking just really felt natural and believable.  That it’s OK to have different priorities, and to stand up for yourself against the norm.  Seriously, I really ended up loving Chloe by the end of the book.  It’s actually kind of nice to see a main character who is popular not because she’s secretly a nerd and tired of being bullied, but because she just likes being liked.

David, Ivy and Ethan were the other stars of this show.  If you’re looking for a book with a grand romance, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this one.  The romance with David is very slow building, and while I adored it, it’s really not the primary focus of the story.  It kind of gets shuffled to the background.  In the end I appreciated their developing friendship and banter more than the romance, which kind of felt rushed and tacked on in the end.  But seriously people, the developing relationship was SOLID.  I enjoyed that David wasn’t all sunshine and roses, that he was kind of a difficult character to love, but you could understand him as well, and how he came to be the way he was.  And he didn’t lose all those antagonistic qualities at the end, he was still kind of a dick to people, but you love him anyways.

And Ivy and Ethan were depicted so well.  I mean, I haven’t really had many encounters with folks on the autism spectrum, but I really thought that this was a fantastic representation of some of the unique attributes that can make them up…particularly because they were even different from each other.  And I really enjoyed the conversations that Chloe and David had, and the representations of the encounters they had with different types of people when out with their siblings.  It was heartbreaking, but unfortunately realistic.  And I loved that the story was from the siblings perspective, and showed the different challenges that they can face.  They’re not perfect, but you could really feel their love for their siblings.

Chloe’s mother and stepfather were challenging characters.  I really hated so many things about her stepfather.  He’s not evil, he’s got many shades of gray…in that way he’s really realistic.  And I know we’re seeing him from Chloe’s perspective, but damn he made me mad sometimes.  I’m up in the air with how his role played out in the story…I guess because he really is realistic in that he’s still got these really bad qualities, but he’s not all bad, and he can have some good moments too.  Sometimes I can’t deal with so much real, you know?  It’s so much easier when people are black and white.  In fact, many of the characters in this book are that real…from James and Sarah, to David’s parents, to Chloe’s parents.  I admire it as much as it vexes me as a reader.

OK, I’m getting seriously verbose here.  And I haven’t even talked about everything.  I enjoyed the Ivy twist in the middle of the book…I kind of saw it coming, but I thought it was another piece of diversity that was handled really well.

My only real complaint with the story is that the ending was odd to me.  It just kind of ended.  I didn’t feel that normal story flow, with a solid and clear ending.  And I guess my one other niggle is that occasionally we would encounter scenes that seemed meaningless in the overall scheme of the plot (like a moment in Camp’s class would just happen, and then we’d be onto lunch, and I didn’t really understand the point of it being included).

So basically if you’re looking for a diverse read with a fantastic look at life with someone on the autism spectrum, you NEED this book.  If you just love good YA coming of age tales, I would really recommend it as well.  Despite the few things that niggled me, I really really enjoyed this book and highlighted so many of Chloe and David’s interactions.

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Conquered by M.A. Wilder

Blurb:
20810385Beckit Wright has survived a string of attempted murders that spans her entire young life. And as Crimson’s attacks grow bolder and bolder, Beckit is faced with the grim reality that safety is no longer a possibility for her loved ones either. As the té-trad’s four members finally come together and Beckit masters her té-trad ability, Beckit is committed to defeating Crimson once and for all. However, the balance between work and her growing family is a precarious one, and she soon finds the cost of her success comes at too high a price. Powerful and gripping, this highly anticipated conclusion to The Té-trad Tale promises an epic ending to the tragic narrative of loss and love that has captured the hearts of readers.

WARNING: This book contains some adult language, violence, and sexual content. Reader and parental discretion is advised.

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My Review:
4 stars — This was a solid conclusion to what turned out to be a very entertaining trilogy!!  I think the strengths of this story lie in their diversity, the rich and varied world the author describes, and the humour mixed with emotion.

This book, like the previous ones, gave me things I both loved and not so much.  It was a bit of an up and down read, but balances in the good (obviously, since I gave it 4 stars).  Since I finished this while on a vacation where I didn’t have my laptop, this review is going to be more terse, since all I could do is send myself bulletpoints to try to remember.  Here goes…

I wasn’t super happy with the way certain conflicts were resolved with very little explanation, it seemed really easy and kind of like a copout.  But then the author did bring it back in the end and gave it more purpose, so I’m not as disappointed as I initially was.  But I still kind of wish that things weren’t resolved in that way.  And yes, I know that’s super vague, but I don’t want to spoil things.

I was disappointed that Aaron suffered from a case of assumptionitis not once but twice…  Once made sense, the second time was annoying and I was disappointed that there wasn’t another reason for the wall.

I loved some of the developments with some of the secondary characters, particularly Ran and Frost.  Thinking back on the series as a whole, I do wish we’d learned more about Frost and his backstory, but since I got some great developments in the Ran and Frost area, I’m still satisfied.  I also really enjoyed all the new creatures that were introduced, both bad and good.  The Tables amused me.  And Era and Hakeem Wyvem were cool, I liked knowing more about those other members of the Té-trad.

Strangely, I didn’t feel quite as much emotion at the first battle with the losses that occurred there, but I liked how it changed the story entirely, and kind of stepped things up a notch.  I just wish that I’d been able to feel those losses more…not sure if it’s because of the way they came about, or just the mood I was in when it occurred.

On the other hand, I felt a LOT of emotion with the final battle and climax, and really felt the sacrifices and desperation.  Like really felt it.  It was so well done.

One of the things that was vexing me at the end of the 2nd book was the lack of development with the overarching plot…like who was Crimson?  What is the Té-trad?  And what is Beckit’s ability?  Thankfully I loved the twists and turns of who Crimson was and other bad guys.  And I was thoroughly satisfied with the way the Té-trad stuff played out, and Beckit’s ability was really rather cool and added some great twists of its own in how the battle would play out.

So yeah, like I said…solid conclusion to a very entertaining series.

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Honored by M.A. Wilder

Blurb:
18912410Beckit Wright thought she would be safe on Traterra. However, she soon discovers that safety is no longer a possibility thanks to a shaky relationship with her new erone and the ever-increasing unrest across the planet. As she confronts issues of love, loyalty, and responsibility, Beckit must do her part to protect Traterra before Crimson stops her once and for all.

WARNING: This book contains some adult language, violence, and sexual content. Reader and parental discretion is advised.

 

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My Review:
4 stars — YAAYYYYY!!!  Much better!!!  I’m not sure if I just got used to it, or if it was really done better (I’m convinced it’s the latter), but the 3rd person felt more limited and less omniscient to me…or else it just wasn’t as jarring.  But really, the majority of it was in Beckit’s head, and I just loved it a lot more.  I was able to stay absorbed in the story.  And I didn’t notice the use of “the human” and “the poh iverstànt” as much.  I’m not sure if they were eliminated, or if I was just so absorbed in the story it didn’t matter, but whatever it was it was MUCH BETTER!!!  And the editing in general was much better, a lot less missed typos…

Holy schnike a lot happens in this book.  Well, a lot of different things.  We have a few strange twists and turns, some villains to play out, and new creatures to meet.  And overall I really enjoyed myself along the ride.  There was tension, and action (some gruesome), and oh the feels!!

Normally I’m not a fan of drawn out romantic drama, but I kind of felt for what Beckit was going through, and her reluctance made sense in terms of her background.  But I did enjoy how that all developed and played out over the story line.  And the steamy scenes fit better somehow, or maybe I’d just accepted them…it’s funny how things that will bug me about a first book just won’t matter as much in later books b/c it’s my choice to continue on, so I just accept that this is the way it’s going to be.

I also really enjoyed that Beckit put Aaron in his place a bit about the jealousy and high-handedness.  *high fives Beckit!*

And the secondary characters are still freaking amazing, and make up a great cast for this story.  And we just ended up with even more in this story, from ones that were constantly present (Xoe, Denzin and Dozen are da freaking bomb), to ones that only appeared for short times (Penn).

And as always, the diversity is still quite present in this book, even adding a little glimpse at transgender as well.  I kind of like that not a lot of time is spent on it, it’s just present.  You know, like real life.

So on the reasons this didn’t make 5 stars, I still feel like some of the plot devices? used felt a bit contrived (the whole tension and action at the end of a chapter that is quickly resolved)…or maybe not contrived, but just not my favourite tactic in writing?  And I was disappointed that more people didn’t clue into what was going on with Beckit and the villain in the first half of the story.  It was sort of explained away with other things occupying her friends minds, but it didn’t feel like enough for me.  And finally, I wish we had learned more about what the heck is going on in the overall plot.  Like who is Crimson?  What is the Té-Trad supposed to be doing?  When is she going to get her abilities?  How in the world is this war going to play out?

But despite those little things, I am so sucked in and already eagerly reading the final book.  And can I just say that the humour is fantastic?  It’s the little bits of levity and sass that really win me over every time.

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Armored by M.A. Wilder

Blurb:

17619234When seventeen-year-old Beckit Wright joins Aaron, a mesmerizing and mysterious knight, on a dangerous adventure to a world that she is destined to save, things get complicated when her safety and heart wind up in jeopardy. As the two struggle to keep their professional relationship from turning personal, Beckit and Aaron begin to wonder how long will they be able to fight both their enemies and their fierce attraction for one another before one of them ends up hurt or worse.

WARNING: This book contains some adult language, violence, and sexual content. Reader and parental discretion is advised.

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My Review:
3 stars — Wellllll…*beep*  I mean seriously.  I am a big ball of torn.  I don’t even know what that means, good start Lenore.

So here’s the thing.  There were two things about the way this book was written that just bugged the crap out of me.  I mean SERIOUSLY drove me batty.  And I will get into them.  And then there were a handful of things that kind of annoyed me, but not horrendously.  And then there were things I loved.  I spent the first half pretty sure that I would just finish the book, give it an OK rating, and move on with my life.  But the problem is that the good things have me compelled!  I want to know where the story goes!  And it ended on a pretty big cliffhanger…sort of…I never know the definition of cliffhangers, but it wasn’t all neat and tidy.  So I’m going to read the next one!  Even though GAH!!  JUST GAH!!!

OK, so let’s get the really bad out of the way and work our way to good.  Bad thing #1: this book was written in what I believe is 3rd person omniscient, and I do NOT read 3rd person omniscient, so I’m not sure exactly, but I don’t think it was done very well.  MOST of the time, and for a good chunk of the beginning it was in 3rd person limited (Beckit’s head), and I was enjoying that.  And then all of a sudden we definitely weren’t in Beckit’s head.  And it confused the crap out of me.  First because I wasn’t entirely sure whose head we were in, or if we were in any head…and it happened sporadically for the rest of the book.  We’d be going along as Beckit, and then wham…something else.  Sometimes I could figure out it was probably Aaron, but other times I just couldn’t tell.  And because it was so sporadic, it was really jarring and I honestly feel like the book would have been better served to stick to Beckit only…I don’t think the switches really added much given how confusing they were.

Bad thing #2: Sort of related, because sometimes when the POV was switching, it would almost be sort of like a narrator, and so the author would continuously switch out Beckit’s name with “the human” or “the poh iverstant”…  It really didn’t fit.  I don’t understand the point of doing that.  It felt like when someone is given the advice to change things up to provide variety, but it just again made me confused about the perspective.

OK, so those were the bads that drove me batty.  Onto the meh things.  1) The pacing was a bit off for me.  I felt like things moved really rapidly at the beginning, but without much explanation, and so I wasn’t invested.  I tried to explain the book to my husband and he laughed because I sounded like a run on sentence (“and then they got to the planet, and then they were attacked, and then they ran to a village…”).  And I didn’t like that the chapters would end with a sort of cliffhanger, but then would not immediately resolve in the next chapter.  Like (and this is not an actual example, b/c I don’t have one handy), she would turn around and scream, but then the next chapter would start off with her lounging hanging with her BFF, and eventually they would explain what made her scream.  It felt like contrived tension.

2) The love triangle was unnecessary in my opinion.  I mean, yes, it’s no secret I don’t like love triangles, but this one really didn’t serve a purpose, or at the very least it should have served a short purpose and been resolved.  (it kind of felt like we were getting into the trope of everyone falls in love with the heroine who thinks she’s an ugly duckling, and that’s just not my fave…especially because I kind of liked that Beckit was not a usual size/shape).

3) Aaron.  He was inconsistent as all heck.  He would have a few swoony moments, but I really didn’t know enough about him to really understand why he was drawn to Beckit, or what he was thinking, or heck, what he was like (which given that the perspective jumped, we could have had more moments in his head to enlighten us)??  And then he would become childishly possessive.  For a thousand year old Knight, he behaved like a child with a temper tantrum too often for me to swoon.  And I just didn’t get the pull that Beckit felt for him.  It felt like a crush and lust, I don’t think I got enough interaction to get where it turned into more.  Heck I don’t understand if they’re even friends.

4) The sex scene didn’t fit the tone of the book.  I’m a proud reader of all levels of steam, from squeaky clean to erotica, but the sex scene was hella explicit for a book that felt more YA than NA.  And for characters that were goofier.  But maybe that was just me (and at least there is a warning in the blurb).

5) Beckit and Tameka (but mostly Beckit) were way too accepting of things.  And for Beckit it was based on some feelings.  If those feelings were then explained to be some magic pull between an erone and his poh iverstant, then I would accept it.  But just because you acknowledge to the reader that she should be more wary/skeptical, but just isn’t, doesn’t really satisfy me.  And what are Tameka’s parents thinking?  And does she not care about them worrying about her?

Damn this review is getting long.  Sorry guys.  THE GOOD!!!  1) THE WORLD!!  Colour me intrigued.  I kind of love that there’s this planet that contains all these supernatural creatures, and that’s just the way it is and everyone just lives together.  It amuses me, I enjoy it.  And I ADORED the way the Knights were added, and how they’re kind of shifter like with their armor being a part of who they are as creatures or something.  Like seriously cool.

2) When the writing was on, I really felt for Beckit and the things she was going through, and she got me in the feels.  It wasn’t consistent, but when it was there it was amazing.

3) The bits of sassy humour!!  Seriously, the characters had me grinning in a number of places.  And I know this is a downside for some readers, but I enjoyed the youthful slang that Tameka and Beckit used.  It just fit their personalities and brought out their teenagerness.  And the games night!  It was a great moment of levity that was sorely needed.

4) Beckit was smart!!!  I ADORED the scene in the council meeting!  I wanted to high five her all over the place!

5) While I wasn’t the biggest fan of the romance, and it was inconsistent, when the chemistry was there I really felt it.

6) The motley crew of friends!!!  Tameka was sassy and pretty funny (though she would probably get on my nerves after a while in real life).  Linnie was an interesting addition, and I hope we see more of her in the future.  I really hope Frost has a lot more secrets to tell, b/c while he’s interesting, he will be even more interesting if there is something to the little hints we see every now and again.  Royce is even intriguing, he’s a nice foil for Meka.  And RAN!!!  Ran is my total favourite.  Love that guy.  I can’t even.

7) Even the smaller secondary characters were intriguing!!! (Denzin, Dozen, Xoe, Hakeen, Gwon)

8) Particularly Atlas!!  I love me a father/son dynamic, and he really added to the story.

9) And I can’t stress this enough, DIVERSITY!!!  A black heroine!!  A hispanic BFF!!  A gay werewolf!!  A bi vampire!!  And even secondary characters were a colourful array of ethnicities.

And this can go in the bad and good: the overarching plot!  It’s intriguing, but it was really shuffled to the background a lot.  I mean, I still don’t understand what the Te-Trad even is, or what they’re going to do, or much about where the whole conflict is going to go.  But nevertheless I’m intrigued!  I want to know!

So there you have it.  Next book has been purchased, about to be started.  We’ll see if I can tolerate the bad enough to enjoy the good for the rest of the series.

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The Law of Moses by Amy Harmon

Blurb:
23252517If I tell you right up front, right in the beginning that I lost him, it will be easier for you to bear. You will know it’s coming, and it will hurt. But you’ll be able to prepare.

Someone found him in a laundry basket at the Quick Wash, wrapped in a towel, a few hours old and close to death. They called him Baby Moses when they shared his story on the ten o’clock news – the little baby left in a basket at a dingy Laundromat, born to a crack addict and expected to have all sorts of problems. I imagined the crack baby, Moses, having a giant crack that ran down his body, like he’d been broken at birth. I knew that wasn’t what the term meant, but the image stuck in my mind. Maybe the fact that he was broken drew me to him from the start.

It all happened before I was born, and by the time I met Moses and my mom told me all about him, the story was old news and nobody wanted anything to do with him. People love babies, even sick babies. Even crack babies. But babies grow up to be kids, and kids grow up to be teenagers. Nobody wants a messed up teenager.

And Moses was messed up. Moses was a law unto himself. But he was also strange and exotic and beautiful. To be with him would change my life in ways I could never have imagined. Maybe I should have stayed away. Maybe I should have listened. My mother warned me. Even Moses warned me. But I didn’t stay away.

And so begins a story of pain and promise, of heartache and healing, of life and death. A story of before and after, of new beginnings and never-endings. But most of all…a love story.

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My Review:
4 stars — I’m often loathe to read books that are so highly regarded by so many people, b/c I’m always worried I will be the black sheep.  And I sort of am in a way for this book, in that unlike my friends, this was not a full 5 star read for me.  In fact, part 1 was not super compelling for me.  Ms. Harmon’s writing is really beautiful, but it’s not always my favourite style personally.  It’s really…lyrical?  Or you know, just more formal and literary-like than is usually my bag.  I just end up enjoying more straightforward writing sometimes.  Ms. Harmon is actually one of the few authors that tends to break me from my norm b/c her storylines are just very heartfelt and emotional, and they are worth taking me outside my comfort zone.

I was so glad that a few of my friend’s reviews mentioned that this story had a paranormal aspect, b/c I would have been really surprised otherwise.  Not that I don’t love a paranormal touch, but I hadn’t expected it from this story when I bought it so long ago.  But it was really intriguing, and I loved the way it was woven into the story, and the way it was described.  And how it changed and molded Moses, and how it affected his relationship with Georgia.

So why did Part 1 not compel me?  It was Moses.  He was kind of a dick.  I mean, I could sort of understand why he was the way he was, and I sort of understood how he became that way and why he acted the way he did towards Georgia…but at the same time I needed something to pull me in, and I don’t feel like I got enough from his perspective to really have me give him enough benefit of the doubt.

And Georgia was definitely more interesting of a character, but I couldn’t always understand who she was all the time either.  But I think that’s my failing, not the failing of the book.  I enjoyed how different she was, how spunky and straightforward and how she saw something special in Moses.

I didn’t expect all the different aspects to the story…not just the paranormal aspect, but the mystery as well.  And while I could see that the mystery was going to come into play, I can say that I didn’t predict the outcome to that at all.  And while I knew this book was going to slay me, I don’t think I knew in quite what way and so it still really got me.  I’m definitely glad I packed my pockets full of kleenexes for the end of this story, b/c I used them all.

So in the end it was part 2 that really made this book for me.  It was full of heartache and beauty and growth and just sucked me in and made me feel and gave me exactly what I was looking for.  And now I’m definitely going to have to read Running Barefoot.  Super intrigued.  And that’s my distracted review.

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Waking Up Alive by Emma Shortt

Blurb:
28012875After surviving the zombie apocalypse for two years, Tye LeBow never expected to be saved from a hungry gang of zombies by a geek with a bad attitude and a penchant for explosives. Tye can’t quite work out why scientist Polly Parker saved him. She doesn’t want his protection, and she certainly doesn’t want his company. But Tye has no intention of leaving the beguiling geek behind.

Polly doesn’t want to leave her home, but when the wakers begin to show signs of a burgeoning intelligence, heading south is the only option. With a car packed full of homemade explosives, and Tye’s very large axe, they are ready for the road trip of their lives.

Bombs and blades aren’t the only keys to survival–they’ll need to rely on each other, in a way that neither could have imagined…

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My Review:
3.5 stars — I moved this book up on my TBR b/c I’m trying to read books featuring black characters for black history month, and from the cover I assumed Tye was black.  I feel like there are different reasons for having diverse characters, and if your reasons are to see things from the perspective of someone of a different race (in this case black), then I’m afraid you’d be disappointed.  It really didn’t come into play at all.  Perhaps because it’s the zombie apocalypse, and race is the least of anyone’s worries.  It’s also just nice to have representation, which is the other reason to have diverse characters, and this would have worked for that.

So after that long winded paragraph, I was definitely entertained by this novel, but it never succeeded in truly sucking me in.  Everything was just good for me, but not great.  Well, except maybe Tye.  He was such a sweet but still badass guy.  Polly was a bit harder to fall in love with, an I must say that I don’t think I ever really did.  I enjoyed her, she was likable, but I tend to gravitate towards snark and sass, and Polly lacked most basic social skills.  There was one point where Tye talks about her sense of humour, and I thought to myself “what sense of humour?”  I guess I like to see it, rather than be told it exists.

If you’re looking for a romance, I would say that Polly and Tye’s may not quite satisfy you.  It was definitely sweet, and I really did feel a connection between them, but it didn’t give me butterflies.  And it’s not because there were only maybe a few light kisses, it was more just that Polly is such an odd character internally that I was just never swept off my feet and believed her tummy flips.  I will say that their connection as companions is FANTASTIC.  I really felt how much they needed each other and cared for each other.  Not sure if I’m making any sense, b/c that probably sounds contradictory.  It was like more than friends, but I didn’t quite get any sexual chemistry (which can exist even in clean reads).

Now as far as a zombie book goes, I thoroughly enjoyed the action, suspense, and overall questions of how one would survive and what would that do to the people left.  I will note that I don’t read many zombie books, so I cannot give a comparison to what is out there.  And I also did not read book 1 in this series, but other than making me a bit curious about Jackson and Luke’s story, I didn’t feel I missed anything.

I enjoyed the different reactions to the zombies that both Polly and Tye had, and how they viewed those people.  I was actually intrigued to see a view into the zombies thought processes, I hadn’t been expecting that, and I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel, but in the end I felt it worked for the book.

I’m not sure if I will read more in the series.  If I didn’t have a HUGE TBR, I definitely would.  But given I do have too many books to read, if I don’t get to it I won’t be heartbroken.

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Hot Licks by A.M. Arthur

Blurb:

33238136Benji Moore is living his dream traveling as the lead singer of his band. His life would be perfect if he could get his boyfriend, Josh, to commit to an exclusive relationship.

Even though Josh loves Benji, he has good reasons not to trust in long-term relationships. So Josh decides to take some time to himself and sublets a room at a friend’s beach house. But when he walks into the nearby Off Beat bar, he finds a bartender who may be a good distraction from his relationship problems.

Van Holt doesn’t do anything deeper than sweaty one-night stands. But when Josh sets his sights on him, Van is surprised by their connection. Except Van also doesn’t do complicated, and the situation between Josh and Benji defines complicated. But the more time Van spends with them, the more he’s realizing how hard it would be to let Josh and Benji go.

Can the three of them find a way together, or will they all end up going solo?

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My Review:
4.5 stars — I received a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

Well damn, that was even better than I was anticipating.  Again, with this series I dove in to the 2nd book without reading the first, and I had some conflicting feelings about that story and the amount of angst it contained.  So when I was offered a widget for this book, I took it with some trepidation.  Because I don’t mind angst, but I don’t seek it out as some do.  But I was really intrigued finding out that this was Van’s story, and while I didn’t really know much about Benji and Joshua b/c they were probably more heavily featured in the first book that I missed, I still really wanted to find out what their story would be like.

And can I just say before I get to the meat of my review that the blurb really doesn’t give a good feel for the story and what all in contains?  Because it’s really just a taste of the very beginning of the story, but there is so much more to it.  And as another side niggle, they usually called him Joshua, rarely Josh.  And also, can I just say I’m not a fan of the guy on the cover?  I’m assuming that’s supposed to be Benji, but I really didn’t get the impression that he was that cut.  Van’s really the only one that would fit that physical description for me.  OK, enough with the superficial.

So while this book still had the problem of having angst up the hoo-ha, it didn’t have a lot of the side story angst that the previous book was bogged down in.  I still feel like it seemed a bit much for each main character to have their own tragic childhood story, but I could deal with it a bit more for some reason.  Maybe because I expected it?  Or maybe it just was because at least there wasn’t outside tragedies happening as well that we had to encounter.  And even though Van’s tragic story was left til the end, it fit with his character and I wasn’t surprised by this.  I thought each of their childhood traumas were given the proper respect and resolution within their relationship.

I had no idea that this story was going to deal with the gray asexual spectrum, and I actually found that it was dealt with quite well, b/c it is really complicated and all over the place, and Benji’s story gave us a flavour of someone within the spectrum.  I ADORED that part.  And I was satisfied in the way it played out in the story.  I was a bit disappointed that Van’s pansexuality was never explored, but I guess it didn’t really need to be.

I also really loved the way the story addressed poly relationships, and how much time and thought all 3 men took when considering it for themselves.  I was especially intrigued since this story contained an established couple, but I never felt like I missed out on anything.  It all flowed really nicely, and I loved the way it all expanded when Van was added to the mix.  I felt the chemistry between all 3, and the steamy scenes were fantastic.

Honestly, I have no idea why it doesn’t get full 5 stars.  Just a gut feeling.  Probably because of my personal preference away from angst.  But yeah, it was nice to see all the things that bothered me about book 2 not becoming a problem in this book as well.  And it was nice to see glimpses of the characters we knew from the other stories, I always love that.  One tiny note: if you read this book first, you will get a bit of a spoiler for book 2.  But I don’t think it would spoil it enough that you couldn’t go back and read it and enjoy it.

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