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review 2018-10-12 04:38
A Kiss for Midwinter (The Brothers Sinister #1.5)
A Kiss For Midwinter - Courtney Milan

This is the first dud in this series for me. It just never really seemed to gel with me and I even contemplated not finishing it but it was short enough that I powered through. The ending is a bit better than the beginning, which was very repetitive. A good ten pages could have been shaved off this without missing anything - or better yet, those pages could have been used to better development this relationship.

 

Jonas is a nice enough bloke, in his blunt, socially-inept way. But he's still following around a woman with no interest in him, who he falls for in literally a second. And she hates him, but of course that's only because of how he makes her feel and blah blah blah. I just didn't feel the chemistry, and the relationship development felt by-the-numbers. I guess expecting Ms. Milan to write an historical Christmas novella while also avoiding trope pitfalls was asking too much. 

 

I did like Lydia's father, and felt for Jonas's situation with his father. I would have liked to see more of them.

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review 2018-10-05 00:23
ARC Review: The Nerd And The Prince by B.G. Thomas
The Nerd And The Prince - B.G. Thomas

It's a very romantic notion, isn't it - you're a small-town nerdy bookstore/cafe owner, and a prince-in-hiding comes to town and sweeps you off your feet, whisking you away from your mundane life into a world of castles and royalty and legends, to live happily ever after. 

Adam/Amadeo Montefalcone, Prince of Monterosia (a tiny fictional kingdom somewhere bordering Italy), has come to the small town of Buckman, MO, where Jason, nerdy bookworm, lives. Adam is running from his responsibilities as the Crown Prince, and from being married off to some poor unsuspecting woman for whom he would hold no love or desire. Because Amadeo is gay, and after being almost caught in flagrante on his knees in a dark alley, he feels that he just needs to get away.

His younger brother has helped him escape to the US, obtaining a small house that just happens to be next to Jason's bookstore/cafe/apartment. Jason Evander Brewster has no illusions of grandeur, and while he's not exactly flaunting his sexuality, he's not exactly hiding it either. He had a clandestine thing with Timothy who's deep in the closet, but that's long over, and Jason is still nursing a bit of a broken heart. His dreams are traveling the world, finding adventure and a love like a fairy tale.

This is a sweet, almost too sweet romance. Jason's personality is a bit underdeveloped, especially when viewed against Adam's larger than life joviality and worldliness. The romance is obviously rapid and swept-off-your-feet, and the emotions just drip off the pages. Adam is a perfect human specimen, with a god-like physique and model looks, and Jason is your stereotypical small-town nerd with expressive eyes, who doesn't believe he even has a chance at such a perfect creature. It's just enough over the top to not veer into ridiculous territory, and none of it feels realistic - but then most of the books in this Harlequin-esque series aren't to be taken super seriously. They're grand romance fairy tales, fantasies, and should be read as such - a way to spend a few joyful hours, forgetting about reality. 

The book also contains a plethora of information about Greek mythology, which was delightful, and a bunch of Italian phrases that I mostly understood, which was not so delightful. For most of them, a translation is readily provided as part of the narrative or dialogue, and I suppose it fit Amadeo, as that is his primary language, but it became slightly too much after a while. It's never easy to include a foreign language; surely appropriate when one of your MCs is a native to that foreign country, but it can also be tedious for the reader. 

While there is a wee bit of drama/angst, it's minor, and only really happens toward the end - the romance between Jason and Adam is completely angst-free - the two spot each other, fall in lust and then in love. I did appreciate that the author did allow them to get to know each other, instead of simply jumping into bed for a romp in the sheets. 

The finale and the subsequent HEA (obligatory in this series) in the epilogue were both well done. The solution to Adam's dilemma was rather obvious, so I wasn't surprised at all when that came to pass. The way of getting there however was interesting.

I enjoyed reading this book. It's a sweet, easy romance, with two likable MCs, a good supporting cast, and a lovely way to spend a few hours of your time. 


** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher in exchange for an honest review. **

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review 2018-10-01 01:39
ARC Review: Raising The Bar by Leigh Dillon
Raising The Bar - Leigh Dillon

I liked this a lot. It's a quick read, at under 100 pages, and it has one fabulous horse inside.

There are actually three MCs in this book - Destin, the horse farm's owner, Tonio, the horse rider who comes to the farm to help Destin, and Black Sambuca, the horse that everyone thinks is uncontrollable.

The romance is swift and the sex is hot, but the scenes in the barn with Tonio and Black Sambuca were my favorite. I have ridden horse for a very long time, and I know exactly what it's like when you have a difficult horse that can make or break a rider. You always, always, always want to figure out what makes a horse tick, and Tonio does a fabulous job with that here.

So if you love horses, and you like M/M romance, even if the falling in love doesn't take very long at all, give this book a try. I enjoyed it and I think you will too. 


** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher in exchange for an honest review. **

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review 2018-06-24 19:45
Reeve of Veils (Inheritance #4)
Reeve of Veils (Inheritance) (Volume 4) - Amelia Faulkner

Hmmm, not sure what to make of this one. 

 

First, this goes back to Knight of Flames timeline and gives us Freddy's POV, so there's a lot that's repeated. Pretty much the first and last quarter of the book, in fact, and I ended up skimming the bulk of those parts, looking only for new details. About the only new thing we learn during those parts is that Freddy's a bigger jerk than I originally thought he was. We get confirmation of his powers, which are more extensive than hinted at prior to this.

 

As for the new stuff in the middle, well... Freddy's a jerk and I prefer not to read POVs of jerks. Mikey's somewhat better, but he's been a victim for so long that he (and Freddy) actually deludes himself into believing he's left that behind even as he willingly becomes Freddy's literal plaything. Which brings me to the second thing.

 

Second, there's just no way to see Freddy and Mikey's relationship as anything other than D/s, which is a dynamic I don't enjoy. Just because Freddy thinks he's doing good by Mikey and Mikey's getting out of the ghetto doesn't erase that. Freddy might want to see themselves as equals for whatever reasons he needs to, but they're really not.

 

Plus, Freddy's just not that good of a guy. He's not a complete bastard, but he's barely one sidestep away from Kane - and even that's only until he succeeds in his plan to off dear old daddy, which I assume is the next book, and then he will be exactly like Kane. (Actually, I'd argue that he's worse than Kane, since at least Kane's victims know they're victims. Freddy's don't.) Morals and ethics mean nothing to this guy. Or to Mikey. So I guess they are perfect for each other in that respect, but they're certainly not a couple I'm rooting for or care about, and the insta-love here is just completely unbelievable given that Freddy's practically a sociopath.

 

Ok, I give Freddy credit for not violating Mikey's sexual consent (or so he claims). But since he violates consent in every single other respect with everyone around him, that credit doesn't get him very far. It gets him a crumb. A crumb ground into dust.

 

The good news is you don't actually have to read this book. The last two books made it perfectly plain that Freddy's manipulating Laurence and how, and that he's trying to line up Quentin to kill their dad. So this book ends at pretty much the same point as the previous book, just with a bit more info than we had before. 

 

Two more little nitpicks:

 

Mikey's a drug dealer and a high school dropout who's never been outside San Diego. He's not going to measure distances by kilometers. This same thing happened with Laurence in the last book. We use feet and miles in the USA. There are various conversion charts and calculators available online. This sort of error shouldn't happen, and it pulled me out of the story both times.

 

And lastly, mailbox flags work the exact opposite of how they're used here. When you have outgoing mail, you raise the flag. When the mailman comes, he lowers the flag and leaves the incoming mail. If the flag is up, that means the mail hasn't been delivered yet, not that it has been.

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review 2018-06-08 21:14
LIFEL1K3
LIFEL1K3 - Jay Kristoff

[I received a copy of this book from NetGalley.]

Overall, I enjoyed this book, although ultimately it didn’t live up to quite a few of my expectations.

The worldbuilding isn’t tremendously developed here, but what is shown was enough for me to draw a satisfying idea of what it must be like. Post-apocalyptic future, in that, without surprise, humans have been destroying their planet to the point of tsunamis ravaging California (the story is clearly set in its remnants) and solar radiations giving anyone cancer if they walk out unprotected even for an hour or so. It’s a harsh world to live in, where people eke out a living by foraging scraps, prostitution, being in gangs, or competing in the WarDome game by piloting huge robots meant to punish AI robots who stopped obeying the Three Laws (yes, that’s Asimov’s Laws—they tend to work well in various sci-fi worlds, methinks).

Piloting one of those ‘machinas’ is exactly what Eve, the main character, does to earn money and pay for her grandfather’s medication, encouraged by her tiny robot Cricket and her best friend Lemon. Except that her latest fight doesn’t go well at all, and she finds herself manifesting a strange power that sends religious fanatics and bounty hunters on her trail… although not only. This is how she meets Ezekiel, the ‘lifelike’ (an android built in such a way that he looks completely human not only on the surface, since he has blood-like liquid in his veins, metal bones and not simply motors, etc.) This merry band runs away, trying to escape their pursuers as well as to find what happened to Eve’s grandfather, in a world that would look great on screen: radioactive deserts with storms full of glass debris, enemies on motorbikes with rocket launchers, a city made of a whole landlocked float, the ghost town of what used to be a powerful corporation, a living underwater ship… The author doesn’t disclose that many details about geopolitics or history in here, however what he shows us worked for me, and let me imagine this world where Eve and her friends have to live.

In terms of characters, mostly I didn’t care for them, except Lemon. She comes off as the most human and balanced (both strong and fragile), with a cocky attitude and a to-the-death loyalty that felt genuine.

Also, special mention for the novel crossing Anastasia with Pinocchio. I don’t think I had seen or read that yet, and I found the idea interesting, as well as working fairly well.

Where I wasn’t happy with the book:

1) The romance. As often in YA, it was too much of the insta-love kind, without chemistry, and since we get to see how it started only through flashbacks, there was very little in it to make me like it. Eve took a bullet to the head and her memories are sometimes frazzled, and Ezekiel is too many shades of ‘I love you and you’re the only one who gave meaning to my life so now I’m here and I’ll do anything for you’ (commendable, but not very interesting nor even plausible, considering we never got to -feel- how it developed).

2) Ezekiel. Here we had an excellent opportunity to show a character that is not human, yet was built to be like humans, only without the emotional maturity that we develop over ten, twenty, thirty years. Granted, this is mentioned a couple of times, when it comes to the other lifelikes and the way they learnt to love (quickly, brutally, in a way that could drive them mad if the relationship broke, since they didn’t have the emotional background to soften the blow)—but then, this came through -them-, instead of through Ezekiel’s experience.

I think part of the problem stems from the fact we don’t have chapters from Ezekiel’s POV. Eve, Lemon, even a few minor characters now and then: sure. But not Ezekiel. So, in the end, we really get that ‘doll-like’ character who, sure, is an excellent fighter, but whose motives to help Eve never raise past the state of plot device. I would have loved to really see his point view rather than been told about it, see his inner questioning, how he sees the world, how he accepts (or not) his condition of nearly-but-never-human being, especially since this would’ve worked with a certain plot twist also prompting another character to question what being human means.

(A note here regarding the sexual relationship between Ezekiel and Eve; we don’t see it, but it’s more than just vaguely implied. I know that for some people, this is a complete turn-off. I must say I did find it interesting, not so much abnormal and disgusting than intriguing and raising lots of questions about, well, being human, what it means, how it is defined, etc. Did the lifelikes have sexual relationships because they were programmed to, in a perfectionist desire to copy human biology? Was it something that developed ‘naturally’ in them because they looked so much like humans and lived among them? Did they read about it, and so were conditioned from the beginning to believe it was the next step, and from there, would it mean that they could’ve learnt other forms of physical love if given the chance? So many roads to explore, but that weren’t… -sigh-)

Conclusion: In terms of action and of a world easy to picture, this was a fun and entertaining read. However, I regret it didn’t go further than that.

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