About Santino Hassell

Yesterday, I posted the review for Strong Signal by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell. In the comments, I was informed of some recent controversy surrounding one of the authors.

Santino Hasell is being accused of catfishing, lying and manipulation. At first, I didn’t think it would be too big a deal because there would have been a bigger splash if that were the case. I can’t count the amount of times authors have been falsely accused for one reason or the other (remember Sherrilyn Kenyon’s accusations against Cassandra Clare?). But the more I looked into things, the more it started to seem that there may be truth to the allegations.

We all know better than to believe all we read on social media (especially Twitter) but you can usually find some grain of truth in all things. Santino Hassell has, it seems, been pretending to be a bisexual single father for the sake of selling books, which are all MM romances. In truth, it’s being said that the author is actually female, a married female, who is using her husband as the face of Santino Hassell.

The author has also allegedly lied about having cancer and requested donations for medical bills. And if that isn’t despicable enough, multiple members of the LGBTQ community have come forward saying that the author contacted them, encouraging them to share their own stories and experiences, and then used the interactions to write books, going so far as to use names, personalities and direct lines from the chats that were shared. And at first, this was hard to believe. How could someone do something like that?! It’s hard to digest, you know?

But, what ultimately convinced me that there is a problem, is the actions that were taken by publishing houses. Riptide Publishing released a statement in which they stated that they have terminated their contract with the author and are even reimbursing those who have bought previous released Santino Hassell books. Dreamspinner Press is also no longer selling Hassell’s books.

Furthermore, Megan Erickson, who has co-written books with the author, release a statement, apologizing to the people who were hurt by Hassell and expressing how horrified she was to find out the truth. All this combined with the victims who have come forward and the fact that the author has already lied about her identity and abused people online… it’s not something you can ignore. I don’t know how much of the information is factual, only that enough of it is.

I replied to the comment on the Strong Signal review by saying that I would not be removing the review, and that stands. All reviews will remain on the blog and there will be no changes made to them. But I will link each to this post and there will be no more reviews posted of Santino’s Hassell’s books, at least not until the matter is resolved.

If you want to know more, you can read articles by Book Binge, Salt Miners’ tumblr post and on Brin’s Book Blog. I hope this clears things up for anyone who was confused or offended by my promotion of the author.



I was told by a few readers to rethink my stance on whether or not the reviews I previously posted should stay on the blog. After consideration, I’ve decided to remove them, as many others websites have. But the posts are still there. If you visit any of the reviews, you will see the general info (genre, pages, series, etc.) and the rating but, instead of the review, there will only be a short paragraph explaining why the review was removed and a link to this post.

I’m sorry, but I couldn’t remove the posts entirely. It felt dishonest to me, as if I was pretending that I’d never read the books. I did read them and I really enjoyed them. But then I found out that the person who wrote them is not… very nice, to say the least, and it sucked. That’s the whole story and I’m sticking with it.


Review: Strong Signal by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell


Genre: Adult, Contemporary Romance, M/M Romance, LGBT
Pages: 229
Series: Cyberlove #1 (Can be read as a Standalone)
Release Date: February 15, 2016
Publisher: Megtino Press





This review has been removed due to the controversy that surrounds one of the authors (Santino Hassell), including allegations of catfishing and manipulation. To know more about the issue, you can read this post.

Review: Ironside by Holly Black


Genre: Young-Adult, Urban Fantasy, Faeries
Pages: 323
Series: Modern Faerie Tales #3
Release Date: April 24, 2007
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books

4 Stars


Ironside is the third and last book of the Modern Faerie Tales series. In the first book, we followed Kaye, a girl who finds outs she’s actually a faerie, and a knight of the Unseelie Court. The second book was about a different set of character, a human and a troll. This time, we’re going back to Kaye and Roiben.

They’re dating. But the position of the Unseelie Court is still precarious because many people don’t accept Roiben as king, and the queen of the Seelie court, who is a total bitch, is likely to make a play so that she can rule both courts. Rioben wants to keep Kaye away from danger so when she gets drunk and makes a formal declaration, asking for a quest to prove she’s worthy of being the king’s consort, he gives her an impossible quest. To find a faerie who can tell an untruth.

Which is a terrible idea, by the way. When you’re afraid for the safety of your significant other, you talk to them about it. You don’t make decisions for them! But Rioben thinks that anyone close to him will get hurt so he’s trying to “protect” her by distancing her from himself.

Seriously, Roiben’s levels of self-loathing are off the charts. I like him, despite the fact that he broods a lot and makes bad decisions. Similar is the case with Kaye. She’s a very clever girl and I’m often impressed by her, but she can be so stupid sometimes that you just want to shake some sense into her. Yet, I really like her. I don’t know how Holly Black is making me like characters I normally wouldn’t, but I wholeheartedly approve.

The one she couldn’t make me like is Corny. I’ve been on the fence about the little sidekick since book one. He’s been through some terrible shit and half his mistakes aren’t even his fault since his vulnerable to fae enchantment, but his actions just always bother me. And since I’m still unclear on my feelings, I’ve decided I don’t like him. Changed my mind. He’s fine.

I also like the plot and the setting Holly Black has created. The middle portion of the book was a drag but the last 100 pages so totally made up for it and, overall, I like this series. I like the connected plots, the fae world, the darker and shabbier setting (something you never see in YA) and the flawed but likable characters. And I like the way the series concluded. Also, I like that I finally finished the series. It’s been on my TBR for way too long.

About And I Darken by Kiersten White


Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Romance
Pages: 475
Series: The Conqueror’s Saga
Release Date: June 28, 2016
Publisher: Delacorte Press


Another book I didn’t finish. But this is one I wouldn’t have had much problem finishing if it weren’t for some things that I found out.

Before I started reading, I though this was a fantasy novel (Goodreads said so). I had no clue that it was historical fiction, much less an alternate history version, or I might not have read it. Because, you see, I have absolutely not clue about the Ottoman Empire. I’ve heard the name a couple of times but that’s about it.

The book tells the story of a historical figure who grows up to be a powerful and ruthless leader (I Googled some stuff), but with the added scenario of ‘what if he was a she’. We start of with Lada as a kid. She’s a strong and somewhat savage little girl. Her father is the ruler of Wallachia but he’s a coward who, in exchange for help from the Ottomans, gives his children into their custody. And while Lada herself is very strong, her brother Radu is sensitive and she now has the job to not only protect herself but to make sure her brother isn’t killed or used against her. And while the two are being held hostage, they befriend Mehmed, the youngest son of the Ottoman emperor.

So basically, we’re dealing with a lot of historical figures and events, and playing around with what-ifs. That’s something that requires a lot of reasearch. And from the complaints I’ve heard of historical inaccuracy, I don’t think the research was done. Sure, there are plenty of people who love the book but they’re mostly “westerners” who’ve never studied the history.

But still, I may not have let a few negative reviews persuade me if they didn’t ring so true. For example, there was criticism regarding Radu’s conversion to Islam, which allegedly never happened. I understand that in a time when people are deemed terrorists just because they’re Muslim, it’s important to show that the religion isn’t the problem. But even I know that conversion, in the past, wasn’t a good thing. Mainly because people weren’t given a choice. I may have no knowledge of the history of the Ottoman empire but I’ve studied Indian history so I know how people were forced to covert at the thread of death and torture. And to show a significant figure willingly convert without addressing the atrocities committed on those who refused… that’s offensive, don’t you think?

In the end, what I’m trying to say is that I don’t know enough about the Ottoman’s to risk reading something that isn’t accurate. I don’t want to be falsely informed. Besides, the fact that I was fully willing to jump on the let’s-not-finish-this-book bandwagon says a lot about how much I was enjoying it.

It wasn’t a bad book… just kind of dull. If I told myself to read, I could keep reading it, but if I didn’t, I’d probably never pick it up. The characters were interesting but I wasn’t psyched by the romance or the love-triangle. The writing was good and so was the plot. Honesty, this is a book that I can definitely see myself liking if it wasn’t for the problems I mentioned above. Personally, I think alternate history is just better with an added supernatural element.

Overall, I’m sorry to put you through this long essay about why I’m not finishing this book. I could be wrong about all of what I wrote and I have a splitting headache at the moment so just… read it if you want.

Review: The Austere Academy by Lemony Snicket


Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pages: 221
Series: A Series of Unfortunate Events #5
Release Date: August 31, 2000
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

3.5 Stars


One of these days, I’m finally going to run out of things to say about this series. I mean, we’re not even halfway and I’m already struggling. Thankfully, I haven’t run out just yet. And to keep things a little fresh, I’m going to only say nice things in this post. For negatives, you can try the previous four reviews.

This time, after another near escape from the one and only Count Olaf, we start the book off with the Baudelaires walking toward their new boarding school. And, of course, it’s a terrible place and many unfortunate things happen to them.

But this time, they make friends. There are two other kids, also orphans, who go to the academy and the Baudelaires bond with them. This factor, that the author changes up something in every installment, is one of the things that keeps me reading the series. The format is the same but things are always changing in small ways.

The main reason for the changes, I think, is how smart the three protagonists are. Not just because one’s an inventor, one’s a reader and one’s a biter, but because they’re genuinely clever and they learn from past mistakes. That makes things interesting.

Also, I like that the format remains the same. I think I said this in a previous review, but thsi series reminds of Phineas and Ferb. The Baudelaires always move to a new place and Count Olaf always tried to get their fortune; like Phineas and Ferb making something new and Candace trying to bust them. Though I see Count Olaf as move of a Plankton than a Candace, what with his obsession with the krabby patty formula baudelaires’ fortune. He’s a really good villain.

Also, somehow between all the lighthearted misery (I love oxymorons), the author has made us really care about these characters. So even though we’re constantly told that theirs is not a happy story, I’m hoping the Baudelaires will get a good ending. They certainly deserve it.

Last but not least, this series is quite unique in the constant terrible events that occur. This might never become my favourite series but I always enjoy these books and I’m definitely planning to read all thirteen.

Review: Wicked by Jennifer L. Armentrout


Genre: Young Adult/New Adult, Urban Fantasy, Romance, Faeries
Pages: 376
Series: A Wicked Trilogy #1
Release Date: December 8, 2014
Publisher: Jennifer L. Armentrout

3.25 Stars


I’ve read a few series by Jennifer L. Armentrout. Some I loved, some I hated and some were just okay. This one, so far, comes in the ‘okay’ category. It’s very much better than the Lux series but not as good as the Covenant series. And if it hadn’t been as predictable as it is, I would’ve rated it better than The Dark Elements series. But that’s just me starting a review on a tangent.

This is an urban fantasy series. To most people, the world is its normal self. But actually there are dangerous creatures from the Otherworld roaming around. Ivy is part of a secret organization who can see the creatures for what they are and is responsible for eliminating them. They’re like Shadowhunters but they hunt faeries and they’re not super-powered. When Ivy comes across someone who is too strong to be a normal fae, things get interesting. The guy she encounters is an ancient. But the thing is, ancients are not supposed to exist in this world. And this discovery leads to a series of shocking revelations.

Most of those revelations include Ren. Ren is a… co-worker, you could say. But we find out that his job is hunting ancients and with his help, Ivy finds out that the fae are going to many lengths to open a gate to the Otherworld so that their prince or princess can cross over.

All this is quite cool. I’ve always found fae to be interesting even if these fae don’t have most of the factors that make them interesting for me. I like this book. It’s very easy to read and both Ivy and Ren are very likable characters. Ivy is strong but hesitant to show vulnerability, which is explained. Ren is bold and fun. They make a good couple too. Ivy has a few bitchy moments but I attribute that to female authors still trying to figure out how to write badass female characters who are also nice.

Where the book suffers is that it’s nothing new. I know originality is a relative thing but this isn’t relatively original either. Though I appreciate the lack of kid gloves when it comes to sex and I absolutely loved the addition of Tink (my favourite characters), most things remind you of something else. And there was a move near the end that was so sad in its obviousness…

Overall, it’s a good book. You’ll probably like it more if you’re relatively new to the Fantasy genre but even if you’re not, it’s very readable, and entertaining. Also, I have hopes that the sequel will be better.

Review: Gentleman Nine by Penelope Ward


Genre: New Adult, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 252
Series: None
Release Date: February 19, 2018
Publisher: Penelope Ward

2 Stars


This is one of those very rare times when a ‘random (in this case, not shirtless) dude’ cover has relevance that extends beyond the book having a male protagonist. The picture on this cover is actually supposed to be a picture that the male protagonist posted on his Facebook page and one that’s mentioned and described in the book. This one tiny thing makes me so freaking happy.

Anyway, cover aside, this book is told from the perspective of the two main characters (with a couple of exceptions of chapters told from a third character’s perspective). The three people used to be best friends. Two guys and one girl. Both the guys liked the girl so they made a pact that they would keep things strictly friendly. But as soon as one of them moved away for college, the other made a move on her and then, years later broke her heart.

Channing is understandably pissed off. First, Rory broke their pact. Then he dumped Amber! When Channing moves into Amber’s spare room for a few months, he tries to just be her friend despite his own feelings, comforting her after her break-up with Rory. Then he finds out that Amber has contacted an escort service and is talking to a “Gentleman Nine” because she’s very attracted to her new roommate, Channing, and doesn’t want to mess things up. And Channing, instead of either ignoring what he’s found or talking to Amber about it, pretends to be Gentleman Nine and asks Amber to meet him. Of course, when she does, she gets quite a surprise. But it’s the start of an interesting arrangement.

And I gotta say, I really like this plot. That’s basically the whole reason I was eager to read this book. And because I’ve read, and liked, a book by Penelope Ward before, I thought things would be smooth sailing. Oh how wrong I was…

Jumping straight to the biggest problem: the writing. I feel like there wouldn’t have been much of a problem at all if the writing had been good. Which sucks because, like I said, I’ve read a novel by this author before. The writing was fine in that one. But here, it’s like a badly written script.

First of all, it’s basically all dialogue. The characters jump from one conversation to another and they’re very long conversations with very long dialogues. Paragraphs of a person just saying stuff continuously. And it’s not good dialogue either. It’s corny, and strangely deep and insightful stuff with very well-formed sentences and good vocabulary. Basically, the kind of stuff no one says in real life without having written and memorized it beforehand. You get where I’m coming from with the “badly written script” part, right?

Also, you know how a lot of people talk about telling and not showing. Well, this book takes that to the next level. If a person is shocked by something, they literally say “I’m shocked”. I swear, Luke Skywalker’s very long “Noooooo…” was more subtle that some of the lines the characters say.

Moving on from the writing, I didn’t really root for Amber and Channing. I kind of did, but that’s just because I almost always root for the cannon ship without even much effort. Amber and Channing didn’t have much chemistry in my opinion; because they weren’t very interesting characters. The writing could’ve have solved that problems but since it didn’t, the most interesting and memorable character was Rory. Like, I finished this book three days ago and he’s the only one I actually remember stuff about.

Overall, the book had a good plot, one decent character and it left me, for the most part, disappointed and underwhelmed. It felt like a rush job at best and I don’t recommend it. If you’re looking to read something by this author, try RoomHate.

Review: Sutphin Boulevard by Santino Hassell


This ‘random shirtless dude’ cover is allowed because a) he has a face and b) I like the color and font.

Genre: Adult, Contemporary Romance, M/M Romance, LGBT
Pages: 264
Series: Five Boroughs #1 (also a standalone)
Release Date: July 31, 2015
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

4 Stars



This review has been removed due to the controversy that surrounds the author, including allegations of catfishing and manipulation. To know more about the issue, you can read this post.

Review: Come Back to Me by Mila Gray


Genre: Young Adult/New Adult, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 352
Series: Come Back to Me #1 (Also a standalone)
Release Date: December 8, 2015
Publisher: Simon Pulse

4 Stars


Kit and Riley are best friends. Jessa is Riley’s younger sister. The bro code dictates that you don’t hook up with your best friend’s sister. Buy Kit really likes Jessa. He’s not planning to mess around with her so he decides that he’s not going to let Riley come between him and the girl he could potentially fall in love with. Which, honestly, endeared me to the book immediately because while I understand those who feel guilty and are hesitant to start something, I find Kit’s confidence refreshing.

Jessa, of course, has liked Kit for years. But there’s a problem. Well, multiple problems. There’s Jessa’s dad, who’s a total dick, her brother, who would probably not be happy with the union, and the fact that Kit and Riley are Marines and being redeployed soon. Meaning Kit is leaving soon, for a year.

The book starts when Kit’s dad, ex-marine, shows up at Jessa’s door and she knows that either Kit or Riley have been killed in action. Which is horribly sad because she’s lost either her brother or her boyfriend. And it’s more sad because then we rewind to a few months ago, at the start of Kit and Jessa’s relationship, and read of the events leading up to the horrible day. And if you know me, you know how I feel about rewinds and flashbacks and backstories. In simple words: Can’t deal with them.

Like, it’s not even a matter of like and dislike anymore. My brain simply refuses to cooperate. So even though I was reading a cute romance that was actually good, I couldn’t get into it as much as I wanted to because I just wanted to get to current time! I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to not be able to enjoy something I want to enjoy.

Thankfully, a significant portion of the novel is also set after the events of the prologue so I finally got to really experience things. And I like this book. I like the characters, I like how the author made us care about both Riley and Kit, gave is a reason to want both of them to be okay to the point that we’d be equally upset over either of the scenario’s posed in the beginning becoming true. I also liked the romance and the sub-plots. This a good book and I’m really glad that my personal dislike of backstories didn’t keep me from seeing that.

I had some problems with the writing though. There were a couple of occasion in which the author wrote something that felt out of context. It’s hard to explain so I’ll give an example. There’s a scene in which a grieving character is almost having a panic attack and this line is used:

sucking in air as though it’s going out of fashion

The simile used here is for humorous occasions and, in this situation, doesn’t fit. And this happened a few more time and took me out of the story for a second. Also, another serious problem to discuss. Observe this quote:

“I will take you home and give you a multiple orgasm.”

What the hell is a multiple orgasm. There are orgasms and, when there’s more than one of them, you add the word ‘multiple’. I could let this go if it only happened once. But this happened multiple times. And notice how I wrote ‘multiple times’ and not ‘a multiple time’ because the latter would make no sense.

Overall, this was a good read. I had some problems but the biggest one was more about me than about the book so I’ll probably be reading more by the author soon. I recommend checking this one out.

Review: Renegades by Marissa Meyer


I freaking love this cover!

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Science Fiction
Pages: 556
Series: Renegades #1
Release Date: November 7, 2017
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends



There is a world in which some people have super powers. Those people are called Prodigies. But the normal people, out of fear and jealousy, treat them horribly. A rebel group, the Anarchists, rises to fight against the oppression. The revolution doesn’t go as planned. For one, the rebels don’t seem to care about the loss of innocent life. The world descends into chaos until a group of prodigies decide to become end the destruction. They bring order, defeat the villains and all is good in the world.

That’s where this book starts. Those heroes are the Renegades and they’ve saved the world. But our protagonist, raised among the Anarchists, hates them. She has her reasons, and she wants to take them down. Then we have Adrian, who is a Renegade. And he’s not a bad guy at all. He just wants to make the world a better place like your typical hero.

In fact, the Renegades aren’t the bad guys. They have their flaws and you can understand why Nova hates them but their intentions are good and they don’t hurt people. The Anarchists definitely do and, from this point, it’s easy to pick a side.

But Nova also has a point. She thinks that the Renegades are making humans weak. Normal humans rely so much of the heroes to save them that they don’t bother to do anything for themselves. And I’m totally with her on that. But at the same time, her opinions are very biased. Maybe she does want to empower people, but she also wants revenge. For her, the Renegades are always wrong and the Anarchists never seen to be deserving of punishment.

She’s a complicated characters and I like that. I kinda like her too. But… I’m not on her side. Technically, I’m not on anyone’s side at this point but still. With Nova, it’s just that… I like the good guys, okay? I like people who care about others, whose judgement isn’t clouded by hatred and who don’t contemplate murder on a regular basis. I’m not saying ‘don’t have gray characters’, just that you won’t find me singing their praises. Ever.

Anyway, now that we have our very interesting protagonist out-of-the-way, let’s move on. First, I love the concept of this book. I’ve heard many people compare it to The Incredibles, which is pretty accurate, and it gives me Legend vibes. But mostly, I like that it’s set after the aftermath of the revolution, after the happy ending. It’s like YA is quite literally moving forward. Also, everyone’s abilities are really cool. Nova can put people to sleep just by touch, Adrian can draw things to life, and there are other characters with ice powers, invisibility, invincibility, and so many more.

The other characters are really great. Adrian is so nice but he also has a secret. a hidden identity which he uses to fight crime, something that separates him from the cookie-cutter nice guys (though honestly, I don’t get why people don’t like those). And if I had to pick someone to root for, it’d be him and his friends/team. Because I can trust them to not fuck up the world.

Overall, I loved this book. It’s not a short one but so easy to get through because the pace and writing are great. I really enjoyed reading it and I can’t wait to get my hands on the sequel. Highly recommend checking it out.