Review: About That Night by Julie James

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Genre: New-Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 284
Series: FBI/US Attorney #3 (Can be read as standalone)
Release Date: April 3, 2012
Publisher: Berkley Sensation

Star

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Here we have another book that’s difficult to review. But here, the reason is that I just reviewed the previous book of the series. Which means we have the same author, the same series and lot of similarities (because, you know, same author, same series). And I feel like I won’t have anything new to say. But let’s go for it anyway.

About That Night is about Kyle Rhodes. He’s a computer genius and the son of a billionaire. He’s just gotten out of prison after he hacked into twitter and shut it down for two days after his girlfriend dumped in the worst way, on twitter. He got a longer sentence than he deserved because the US attorney, at the time, was an opportunist asshole. Now that he’s out, he wants to get his life back on track. And that does not include helping someone from the same office that called him a terrorist.

But a blast from the past — the ‘one that got away’, you could say — changes his mind. He met Rylann almost a decade ago. They were both interested but, due of reasons, nothing happened. Now, after many years, even with him as an ex-con and her as an attorney, he can’t help but wonder if maybe they could finally act on their attraction.

Rylann isn’t on board with his flirtation. Not at first. Yes, she finds him attractive and he’s a likable guy, but she can’t see things working between them. Not with his status as the infamous “twitter terrorist” and her being new at the office. But they still give things a (casual) shot and I gotta say, they had a lot of chemistry. A lot of things have changed over the years for them, but not that. They still get along and their relationship, filled with plenty of flirting and banter, is so sweet. I was definitely rooting for them. For me, Kyle and Rylann are tied with Jack and Cameron (from Something About You).

Other than the romance, the case Rylann was working on played a small-but-crucial part. There were many small sub-plots, when I think about it. There was Rylann dealing with her own breakup, lots of fun time with Kyle’s sister, Kyle getting his life back together after being in prison for four months, and other seemingly small things that really fleshed out the novel. Seeing both Kyle and Rylann’s life outside of one another was great for getting to know them.

Both the protagonists were great. The book was well-written, funny, cute and I really liked it. I think it’s my favourite, so far, by Julie James (though Something About You kinda has a special place, maybe because it was the first in the series). So if you’re looking for a good, lighthearted read, this is definitely one I recommend.

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Review: A Lot Like Love by Julie James

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Genre: New-Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 274
Series: FBI/US Attorney #2 (Can be read as standalone)
Release Date: March 1, 2011
Publisher: Penguin

4 Stars

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You know which review are the hardest to write? The ones for specific type of four-star books, the books that are good, but don’t blow your mind, and don’t usually have much discussion demanding content (which isn’t a bad thing, by the way, since things demanding discussion are often bad).

A Lot Like Love is that kind of novel. Jordan Rhodes is the daughter of a billionaire and the sole owner of her wine store, DeVine Cellers. When she’s approached by the FBI for her help in getting into an exclusive party she has the invitation to, she doesn’t want any part of it. After all, the FBI was partially responsible for her brother ending up in prison, for eighteen months, for what she considered a minor crime. But when they offer a deal that could help her brother, she has no choice but to agree.

The plan is for it to be a one-evening job. But complications arrise and she finds herself being a longer participant of the investigation, working alongside a very frustrating Agent, Nick McCall.

Yes, you guessed it. This is a love-hate relationship and it’s just as fun as you’d expect. Julie James seems to have a knack for these things. But unlike in the previous two books I’ve read by her, Nick and Jordan don’t have any history between them. They’re just very different. Jordan is sophisticated while Nick is a little rough around the edges. Basically, she owns a wine store and he thinks all wines taste the same. They butt heads at first, especially since Jordan isn’t fond of the FBI and Nick likes to ruffle her feathers.

Their interactions are entertaining. Nick is a little too set in his opinions about what “men” are like (that kinda bothered me). But whenever he fussed about wearing scarfs indoors or pink champagne, it was always in a lighthearted manner, so I didn’t hate him. And Jordan challenged him in his set ways, making him try new things. It was one of their bonding exercises, you could say, and a definite highlight of the novel.

The romance between Jordan and Nick was sweet, and fun to read about. The case they were working on wasn’t in the forefront like it was in Something About You. It was still important, but the “time” that was spared was devoted to Jordan’s store and her family. This was a really good read — though I think I liked the first book a little better. It was light but interesting, with good characters. I had a great time with it and I recommend checking it out. Or any other of Julie James’ work. She’s a really good author and you shouldn’t be missing out on her books.

Trope Tuesday!

For a while now, I’ve been wanting to add something non-review-y to the blog. But due to one reason or the other (usually laziness), I haven’t done it. Finally, I’m changing that.

Trope Tuesday is for book tropes. It can be a trope that I hate, one that I love, or simply one that I wish to discuss. The ‘hate’ ones will likely be more prominent since I already have a list that I made a couple of months ago. In fact, I’m kicking things off with a popularly hated book trope. I mean, what better way to start, than with the dreaded love triangle.

A lot of people hate love triangles. I actually thought, at one point, that everyone hated them. I was quite surprised when I found out that some people didn’t. Which is why I like to think that my hatred is a tad more intense that it usually is.

There are many reasons for my passionate dislike. There is, of course, the uncertainty of ‘who will she choose?’ that’s very frustrating. But also, when we get love triangles in a genre other than romance, it takes away from the main plot. It’s all about who the girl will end up with and the angst that comes with it, instead of being about the world that’s about to end or whatever. The aforementioned angst is also a huge problem. Angst, especially excessive amounts of it, makes me a very unhappy customer. Like my-jaw-hurts-from-gritting-my-teeth and I-want-to-throw-this-book-across-the-fucking-room levels of unhappy.

But an even bigger reason lies in the light the trope paints females in. For example, in the above paragraph, I used “she” and “girl” for the person who’s in the middle, and most of you probably didn’t blink an eye at that. Hell, the first time (with “she”) even I didn’t notice what I’d done. That’s because over 90% of love triangles involve one girl and two guys.

Part of me understands the purpose of that and the reason behind it. The girl is the protagonist, she’s supposed to be all special and stuff (that’s another trope to discuss) and the author is also usually female. But why do most people not realize that it’s making women seem as if they’re disloyal and unreliable. You’re making woman look bad, female authors! That’s not what you’re supposed to be doing! You’re supposed to tell a story unaffected by the gender of the characters. And if you’re going for empowerment, then you’re supposed to make women look good. Instead, I find them untrustworthy.

I’m gonna tell you a little story of when this little fact become glaringly evident. I was reading the sequel of a novel. In the first book, the two protagonists met and fell in love. But at the end, they were separated and had to find their way back to the other. Both had a companion of the opposite sex. With the male protagonist, I was absolutely certain that, no matter how many woman he met, he wouldn’t develop any romantic feeling, even if he was pursued by someone else. With the female character, despite knowing that she really did love the guy, I couldn’t be as sure. That tells me that books have made us think that females (in novels, at least) are more prone to straying than males.

Think about it. How many times have we read about a girl who has a fight with a guy and immediately finds herself involved (physically or emotionally) with a different guy? If a male character had done the same, he would be called a grade-A dick, because it’s a dick-ish thing to do. But with a woman, it’s… commonplace.

So I have to say it. Women are not any more likely to be unfaithful than men. Their feelings are not less concrete, they are not unreliable, and are just as capable of loyalty as men. By using this trope to increase reader excitement or simply to say that everyone wants the female protagonist, you’re demeaning women. If you want to write a love triangle, that’s fine. But it has to have a deeper purpose. There has to be a good reason behind it too, if you’re showing your protagonist in a positive light. Otherwise, it just makes them indecisive and unlikable.

Also (the rant’s over), as a side note, please ensure that the two people vying for the protagonist’s love aren’t pathetic. Seriously, give them some self-respect so they’re not just letting someone string them along and mistreat them (unless the mistreatment is part of the plot).

…And I’m gonna stop now. There’s a good chance I’ll remember a dozen more things I could’ve said, or should’ve said, after I’ve posted this. But the post’s gotten long enough. I’ve made all the points I wanted to make. I fucking hate love triangles. I actually returned a book two days ago just because it had a huge love triangle in it that took up most of the plot. There were other reasons for the return but this was the biggest one. To conclude, I have a question: Do y’all hate love triangles too? If yes, is there a specific reason? If no, how?

Review: City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

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Genre: Fantasy, Mystery
Pages: 452
Series: The Divine Cities #1
Release Date: September 9, 2014
Publisher: Broadway Books
Date Read: March 6, 2016

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DNF at 60%

This is one of those rare times that I simply can’t be bothered with a synopsis. And it’s mostly because I didn’t write one in my earlier review and now, I don’t remember what it was about, exactly. I know the setting and remember the world, but not the plot. You’ll see why that is in a minute. First, you get the GR synopsis:

The city of Bulikov once wielded the powers of the gods to conquer the world, enslaving and brutalizing millions — until its divine protectors were killed. Now, Bulikov’s history has been censored and erased, its citizens subjugated.
Into this broken city steps Shara Thivani. Officially, the unassuming young woman is just another junior diplomat sent by Bulikov’s oppressors. Unofficially, she is one of her country’s most accomplished spies, dispatched to solve a murder.
But as Shara pursues the killer, she starts to suspect that the beings who ruled this terrible place may not be as dead as they seem, and that Bulikov’s cruel reign may not yet be over.

Now for the review. You see, when you read the book, it’s very evident, the amount of work was put into writing this novel. So much that, at first, I gave it three stars.

Even though I had every reason to hate it (like the fact that it was a pain in the ass to read, I didn’t like the protagonist or any other character except Mulaghesh and I’m pretty sure it has gotten me into a reading slump), I didn’t think it would be fair to rate it badly. But then I decided that two stars is as fair as I can get for a book I couldn’t even finish.

Now, the effort I was talking about.

The world created by the author is very complex. There is so much history and so much to know that you could write a whole book just explaining different aspects of it. A lot of planning was done, obviously. But that’s also where things went wrong. Because the author did write a whole book explaining different aspects of the world.

I swear to God, this book is an endless history lesson. There is so much information dumping that there’s hardly time for anything else. And while it’s interesting, it can get tiring too. The plot gets lost to the point when you have to wonder if there is one. And it makes the pace of the story slower than a snail’s.

Not to mention, all the aspects are very derivative. I had trouble finding anything that wasn’t reminiscent of something else. A large part of the world built is, I’m sure, from the muslim religion and greek mythology. There are probably other religions and mythologies incorporated that I’m unfamiliar. It even reminded me of Harry Potter. So yeah, it lacks originality.

Then there’s the protagonist.

Shara is a very undecided character. She doesn’t have much of an opinion and so she doesn’t fight for anything. She’s like a stormtrooper, mindlessly following orders and not wondering whether she’s on the right side. Except she’s crap at that too. She’s a historian with the wrong job (I’m not sure what her job is. It got lost in the history lessons) and she is completely and utterly useless. Hasn’t done anything since the beginning of the book. And her narrative sounds like that of a 25-year-old, at best — which is a decade younger than it’s supposed to.

There are also inconsistencies in the novel; moments of random swearing that are very out-of-place. Maybe it was an effort to make the book more adult or accessible, but it’s just awkward. One minute they’re talking like someone from 19th century England, and the next, someone’s dropping f-bombs.

Overall, I didn’t like it and I don’t recommend it. It’s gotten a lot of praise though, so I wouldn’t ask you to dismiss it either. Read at your own risk. You might enjoy it, especially if you’re a history buff. I’m not.

Review: My Unexpected Forever by Heidi McLaughlin

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Genre: New-Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 270
Series: Beaumont #2 (Can be read as Standalone)
Release Date: September 2, 2013
Publisher: Heidi McLaughlin
Date Read: January 9, 2016

To note: I’m only going to post the “Date Read” for the older Goodreads reviews that I’m posting (after lots of editing) on the blog.

3.25 Stars
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I wanted to give this book a higher rating. I still do. But I can’t ignore the fact that the only thing that really worked well for it was Harrison. He was a great guy, a refreshing character and his relationship with all the kids was heartwarming.

And yes, this is a book about a single dad. I love those so much. Harrison is a rockstar and the father of an eight-year-old boy, who he loves very much. The mother is not in the picture. Never really was. Her sole contribution was dropping off the baby, nine months after she drugged and took advantage of Harrison. Then there’s Katelyn, a mutual friend, mother of two, and also someone who lost her husband almost a year ago. Harrison wants to be with her but she’s not over her husband and has already made assumptions about the kind of guy Harrison is, based on the tattoos and, you know, the rock band thing.

A very unfair, and wrong, assessment, if you ask me. Harrison is a sweetheart. He’s quiet and shy and somewhat broody, but so considerate. How could someone not like him? But other than him, not many things about the novel worked.

The writing, for example, was okay for the most part. But then there were times that it lacked details and you couldn’t picture the scenes because of how vague it was. Some scenes were a bit abrupt. There were also a lot of flashbacks. Yes, they did give us useful information and helped flesh out the characters more, but some of those flashbacks could have just been a paragraph of someone thinking instead of a whole scene.

Also, since I didn’t read book 1 (I tried and couldn’t get past chapter 2, because it was ridiculous), I didn’t give a shit about the many things that were added for the benefit of the fans of book 1. I get why those things were added but I think we could have done without all that, focusing on the current story.

I also got really annoyed with Katelyn sometimes. It wasn’t too bad, but she didn’t treat Harrison very nicely. I also don’t think Harrison, in the end got the full apology that he deserved. And, last but not least, the book fell into the ‘same old-same old’ category with the conflict near the end. It wasn’t original. A sub-plot added later on also felt rushed, like the author wanted to add more to the book but abandoned it in the middle, so it was left incomplete.

But despite all that, I did enjoy the book, largely because of Harrison. I loved him on his own, as a character, as a dad to Quinn and as a friend/father-figure to the twins. If it wasn’t for him, the book wouldn’t have been half as good.

That’s all for this review. I wouldn’t call the book a “must read” but if you’re in the mood for something light and are a fan of the genre, you should check it out.

Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

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Genre: Young-Adult, Dystopia, Science-Fiction
Pages: 374
Series: None
Release Date: August 16, 2011
Publisher: Crown Publishers

Star

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Another review repost. This book is one that I read in January of 2016. Considering how popular and well-received this novel is, and the upcoming Spielberg movie, most of you are probably familiar with it. Still, for those who aren’t, this is a novel set in the near future. One in which fossil fuels finally run out and there’s a mighty crisis. But if there’s one thing you know about people, they will find a way to avoid their problems.

This time, the distraction of choice is OASIS, a virtual reality game, of sorts. You can go to school there, you can shop, you can earn money, you can date, and even simply walk around and have a good time.

OASIS is highly influenced by 80s pop culture and the creator, having no heir, decides to hold a competition. The winner gets the game, and the billions of dollars that it’s worth.

Our protagonist, who goes by the name Parzival in OASIS, lives in a trailer park. He’s obsessed with OASIS but because of his limited funds, can only access few parts. When he hears of the competition, he’s all for it. Even if he may not have much of a chance of winning …until he does stand a chance, when he’s the first to figure out the first clue. And that’s just the beginning of his ride.

I expected this novel to be very focused on the game. And it was, but it was also so much more than I could ever have imagined it to be. It kind of blew my mind, in many ways. I could never have guessed the magnitude of the book. I thought that it would be a book about a new futuristic game that you had to win for the grand prize (a bit like the third Spy Kids movie) but it’s not really about the new game. It’s about all the old ones, the classics. And I can’t think of a better way to pay homage to them all.

Also, I can’t help but be baffled by the amount of research that probably went into writing this book. I keep coming back to that. I know many other authors also do lots of research for their projects, but this one is so thoroughly obsessive, that it stands out. Yeah, there’s a good chance most of the research is just the author’s love for 80s pop culture. It’s still impressive.

Another thing I loved was how inclusive it is. I am not a gamer and I hardly know anything about 80s pop culture. Yet I never felt left out. It was written in a way that kept you connected to the book, enjoying it very much, even if you didn’t know all the things being referenced.

Honestly, it would have been so easy to be completely confused or bored by the book, but I never was. It was just written and planned so well. Even the information and backstory, and there was a lot to be given, was placed in all the right moments so that it didn’t feel unnecessary or out-of-context.

I also adored all the characters. My favourite is probably Aech (I love that name), a friend of Parzival’s. Aech was funny and cool and a really good friend. I loved the relationship between Parzival and Aech, their friendship was heartwarming and very genuine. But, talking about relationships, let’s get to the one part that I didn’t like. The relationship between Parzival and Art3mis, who you could call the ‘love interest’. It wasn’t developed enough.

There was so much stuff going on in the novel, the time given to the romantic aspect was limited. And I get that, I do. But still, at times, it felt like the author was trying to make their relationship, and feelings, more intense and serious that they were.

Other than that, this is book about video games, movies, TV shows and music, that tells people how important the real world is. You won’t find that very often. Safe to say, it was pretty amazing. I’ve never read anything like this and I recommend this to everyone. Whether you like video games or not, this is definitely one book you should read.

Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

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Genre: Fantasy, Young-Adult
Pages: 358
Series: Shadow and Bone Trilogy #1
Release Date: June 5, 2012
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company

3.5 Stars

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The amount of reading I’ve been doing for the past week has been atrociously low; and I wasn’t doing well before that either. Because of that, the poor blog’s been neglected. So I thought, why not upload (edited versions of) older reviews? That’s what this is.

Shadow and Bone is a high fantasy novel inspired by Russian folklore and follows a young girl who spent her life subconsciously suppressing her ability, because if it were discovered that she had powers (that she was a Grisha) then she would have to join the army and be separated from her best friend. But those abilities came out while she as trying to save the same friend’s life, and they were as unique as they come, with the power to unite a kingdom divided by a dark chasm. But first she has to learn control and that can only be taught by the Darkling, the most powerful Grisha in the world.

And you know how you sometimes start reading a book and think it won’t be good, before you’ve read even a single page, because of some person or review? Yeah, that happened with this book. I absolutely hate when this happens. It makes me doubt every opinion, especially the bad ones, I have about the book. I have to second guess everything because I don’t want to be biased. It sucks.

I think that was one of the major reasons I had trouble finishing the book (overthinking can be very annoying). That’s not to say there weren’t other reasons. This is a good book but it’s not flawless. The world that the author created is certainly interesting. And we got a great introduction to the villain. I liked the best friend, Mal. He was one of the best characters of the book. Though I think my favourite character is the Darkling. He was the most well constructed. Both “best” and “most” being relative terms, because the character development could have used a little work.

For example, I wasn’t very happy with our protagonist, Alina. She was way too naive, and quite silly. And she annoyed me a lot. Not to mention the whining and constant talk about how being pretty somehow made you (meaning other girls) better and stronger. I’d start to like her, only for her to do something stupid and I’d want to yell at her again. She did grow up a little by the end, though. Only a little.

My main concern with the novel had to do with the world building; the names of the categories based on abilities, to be specific. There were squallers, heart-renders, Corporalki, Materialki, etc. I have a decent enough idea now, but that’s because I’ve read five book now (this Trilogy and the Six of Crows Duology). When I’d only read this one book, I was so confused. It’s like the author just expected us to get the terminology immediately. I still don’t know it very well. And I know I’m not good at remembering stuff but, after five books, this can’t possibly be all on me. The world-building was rushed and insufficient.

The last concern I had with the book was that it was… predictable. I couldn’t guess everything but I had a general idea about how things would go and they did go that way.

Overall, this was a novel that could have been better. Hell, add in 50 more pages for some proper world-building and a finale, and this could’ve been a fantastic standalone. Still, I liked it. It had promise and I (at the time of reading) was very interested to see what would happen next. And since I’ve finished the series already, I can say that I’m very glad this wasn’t a standalone.