Review: Whisper of Sin by Nalini Singh

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Genre: Adult, Paranormal, Romance, Fantasy, Novella
Pages: 88
Series: Psy-Changeling #0.6 
Release Date: September 13, 2012

4 Stars

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Whisper of Sin is a novella-slash-prequel to the Psy-Changeling series. You can read it without having read any of the other books of the series and it gives no spoilers, but I saw a couple of reviews from people who read it that way and didn’t enjoy it as much as those who were familiar with the series. But it’s not that it doesn’t make sense; the book is still entirely cohesive, just not as enjoyable, I guess; which makes sense since it was written as a companion novella for the fans.

Anyway what I’m trying to say is that if you want to read this novella, I think you should read at least the first book of the series, Slave to Sensation, beforehand.

That said, the story follows a human girl who is being targeted by a dangerous gang, and the DarkRiver pack of leopard changelings (i.e. wereleopards) who have claimed the area as their territory, are determined to take the gang out so that they don’t gain power. That includes making sure the girl, Ria, remains unharmed. Emmett is the changeling who’s taken it upon himself to ensure her safety. And if he also plans to seduce and court her in the process, well that’s just an added bonus.

I enjoyed the novella. I’ve read the first four books in the series so I’m not the best source for info on whether new readers would enjoy it. I’m not sure why they wouldn’t, but it may have something to do with the fact that a large part of my enjoyment was because of the familiar faces and the easter eggs. The story, on its own, is good. It’s part romance and part pack and family dynamic, but I guess it may not be enough. For me, everything was great.

The writing and pace are both great, there’s no excessive drama and the characters are likable. The author also does a fairly good job of introducing the world.

One thing I almost didn’t catch, but which was a really nice addition, was about Dorian, a changeling. In the series, he loses his sister to a serial killer before even the start of book 1 (don’t worry, that’s not a spoiler) and he’s angry, upset and feels guilty. Here, that’s yet to happen and we get to see him being happy and flirty. It was really nice to see, but also kind of sad because we might never see him like that again. I’m still glad that the author decided to include that.

Overall, this is a really good novella that’s definitely worth reading.

Review: Off Sides by Sawyer Bennett

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Genre: New Adult, Romance
Pages: 167
Series: Off #1
Release Date: February 21, 2013
Publisher: Big Dog Publishing

2 Stars

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I love words. It’s one of the reasons I love to read. Yes, the stories, the worlds, the characters especially, mean a lot, but without at least a semi-decent prose, all that ain’t gonna mean nothing. So you can imagine my disappointment when a book has all the wrong words. When you can see that the author has a good-ish idea (though not an original one) and has good thoughts, but phrases it all wrong. And here, the writing is unpracticed and the good-ish idea isn’t that good.

The story is about two people from “opposite worlds”. The guy is rich with snobby, usually absent, parents and bratty friends, while the girl is poor with no parents, two jobs, and medical bills to pay off.

Yup, it’s a cliché. But clichés can work if they’re done right. Here, the rich and poor representation is so stereotypical that it’s clearly evident that the author has no real knowledge of either of the perspectives she’s trying to pull off. There’s an added sports thing (guy is a hockey player) that’s nothing more than a Google search to help the stereotype along. It barely has any relevance to the story.

The romance is also bad. I’m not one to put a time stamp on love; I have no issue with two people falling in love in a weekend as long as the author can sell it. If it’s written convincingly, I totally ship it. The relationship in this book isn’t convincing at all. It’s generic rich-boy-meets-poor-girl, where the guy is absolutely fascinated by the girl’s strength, starts to see the world in a different way, blah blah blah… It’s all very eye-roll inducing but I’d like to stress, once again, that if done right, this plot would be fine. Great, even. But… it wasn’t. Hell, even the sex wasn’t hot.

The characters were generic as well. Along with our stereotypical protagonists, we also got the bitchy ex who would do anything to get the guy back, a neglectful father who wasn’t even in the book, and an evil mother who was obsessed with status and had about as much character and motive as the bitchy ex did. Which is to say, none at all.

Then the final third/quarter of the book happened and  it was such a gigantic cringe-fest that the ending came as a relief.

Safe to say, I did not like this novel at all and I don’t recommend it. The writing, while bad, was comprehensible. The book made me smile a couple of time and the beginning gave the illusion that it may be a good read, but that’s all I can muster for positives. I’m not giving up on the author because for some reason I feel like she has potential. But this book was definitely a bust. Fingers crossed for the future reads.

Review: Kings Rising by C.S. Pacat

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Genre: Fantasy, Romance, LGBT
Pages: 352
Series: Captive Prince #3 (Trilogy)
Release Date: February 2, 2016
Publisher: Berkley

Star

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Prince’s Gambit ended at a bit of a cliffy, didn’t it? The Akielons showed up and Damen’s identity was suddenly revealed. Laurent wasn’t present at the time so he didn’t find out but now that his army knows, it’s only a matter of time. Damen has to tell him, and it might ruin all the progress they’ve made.

…Or maybe Laurent already knows. I, for one, was pretty convinced (ever since Captive Prince) that Laurent knew. He’s so clever, how could he not? But sometimes it seemed as if he didn’t. Did he or didn’t he? I’m not telling you. Their relationship is tense either way. Laurent is the Prince of Vere and Damen is the King of Akielos. They both have armies to lead and kingdoms to think about. Thankfully, they also have a common enemy.

The Regent and Kastor are working together and while Kastor is practically a dimwit in comparison, the Regent can create a hoard of problems all on his own. Have I told you that I hate the Regent? Because I really do.

Anyway, Veretians and Akielons form an uneasy alliance and have to learn to see each as people instead of just enemies to kill. This also gives Damen and Laurent a chance to work things out. Whether or not they’re able to do it, that you’ll have to read the book to find out. Just know that they have a lot on their plates, things are difficult, and the author does a brilliant job.

I said in my review for Prince’s Gambit that Damen and Laurent are one of my favourite ships. That still stands, even more so now, to be honest.

This book is well-written, the pace is brilliant, and the plot grips you tight and refuses to let go till the end. Hell, even when it ended, I wanted to keep reading. I wound up rereading a bunch of scenes. Any scene between Damen and Laurent was awesome by default. Then the ones in which they weren’t together were also awesome. On top of that, we get two scenes from Laurent’s perspective! Loved that, though a few more wouldn’t have hurt either.

The ending of the series was perfect. This book is amazing and you should totally read it. In fact, I’m not even sure how you’re even reading this review right now if you haven’t read the book. I could barely wait fifteen minutes. You clearly have a lot more patience than I do. If you’ve read it already, then tell me what you thought.

Review: Prince’s Gambit by C.S. Pacat

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Genre: Fantasy, Romance, LGBT
Pages: 404
Series: Captive Prince #2 (Trilogy)
Release Date: July 7, 2015
Publisher: Penguin Group

Star

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I, once again, made the mistake of reading the sequel before reviewing the book, even though I know better. But after that cliffhanger at the end of this book, what was I supposed to do? How could I be expected to wait until I’d given myself a couple of hours to process and then and another hour to write and post the review? So thanks to my extreme levels of patience, I am now done with the next book as well as a short story that’s set after it.

In the fifteen minutes that I did manage to before starting the next book, I decided on 4 or 4.5 stars (for unknown reasons since I don’t recall any problems I had) and I’m sticking with it.

In Captive Prince, Damen and Laurent met, had some truly horrible experiences (well, mostly Damen had horrible experiences; Laurent was usually the one responsible for them). They hated each other but, somewhere along the way, they started to get along; and by that I mean that they were united by the common goal of trying to defeat the Regent, the man of numerous evil plots who is trying to kill Laurent and has very ill intentions towards Damen’s kingdom. Both Damen and Laurent need to get rid of him and they’re heading off on a journey which is most certainly a trap and is likely to get them killed.

With Captive Prince, it was more about introducing the world and helping our protagonists find a common goal. In this book, it’s about them getting to know one another and getting along for real while they’re on their way to the trap.

We all know that there’s a romance but after the events of book 1, it seems difficult. Damen and Laurent need to respect and care for one another. We need to see them work together, see why they fit, and see that they can have a healthy relationship. And honestly, I can’t say enough about how well their relationship is developed in this book. Both Damen and Laurent have their individual strengths, and together, they make a formidable team. Laurent may not be able to get the best of his uncle (the Regent) on his own (that guy is a despicable, evil mastermind and I fucking hate him) but we see that they may be able to do it together. Damen and Laurent (what’s their ship name?) are now one of my favourite ships.

But even if you ignore the romance, they’re great characters. Especially Laurent. The only reason Laurent has survived so far is because he’s just as clever as the Regent and very adept at the games he plays. I love the political games and power plays in this series. So awesome.

I will admit though, Laurent has a dark side (and I mean very dark). The guy can make a grown man cry using just his words. It’s fantastic, yet kinda scary. I can only hope to be as brilliant as he is at destroying people.

Overall, I loved this novel. I’d say that I can’t wait to read the sequel, but I’ve already read it. For those of you who are a bit sceptical about picking this book up after Captive Prince turned out to be more than a little scandalous, this one is toned down. We already know of the horrors of the world and now we’re diving down deep. It’s very interesting and I urge you to give it a shot. I can’t guarantee you’ll love it but I did, so maybe you will as well.

Us by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy

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Technically, it’s two shirtless dudes, but you get the point.

Genre: Romance, LGBT, New Adult
Pages: 328
Series: Him #2
Release Date: March 8, 2016
Publisher: Rennie Road Books

Star

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I am in a crappy mood today so I apologise in advance for any lack of enthusiasm, though I’m hoping there won’t be any.

Us is the sequel to Him, one that I was very sceptical about because I am not a fan of a perfectly good standalone being dragged into a second book. But when I read all positive review, even from fans who were just as sceptical as me, I knew I had to give it a shot. Also, I just missed Wes and Jamie too much.

The book is set a few months after the end of Him. Jamie and Wes are in relationship land but there are some problems. For one, Jamie is less and less happy about having to keep their relationship a secret and for not getting to spend much time with his boyfriend. He has insecurities. And when one of Wes’s teammates, Blake, moves into their building and takes it upon himself to come knocking at inopportune moments, things kind of explode.

The problem, initially, is lack of communication, but don’t worry, it’s not infuriating and stretched out like it usually is. They’re both aware that there are problems, they just don’t know what to do about them. There’s a lot of stress on their quite-new relationship. Jamie doesn’t liking hiding his sexuality but Wes doesn’t want to come out just yet because he knows that the moment he does, he’ll go from being a great, new hockey player to a gay hockey player. He doesn’t want his sexuality to be more important than his talent and he also doesn’t know how his teammates might react. It’s a difficult situation and about halfway through, something happens that makes things worse.

All that makes the book a little sad. We don’t get many fun moments between Wes and Jamie (bummer) but the sadness is tempered by Blake’s presence. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t like Blake at all in the beginning. He knew little about the concept of privacy and if it were me instead of Wes and Jamie, I would’ve told him to get the fuck out of my apartment. But, you know, politely.

Except he was such a great guy and so funny that it was impossible to hate him. Really big and goofy heart, that one. I loved him almost as much as the sweet moments between Jamie and Wes. Okay no, nothing can ever be as awesome the sweet moments between those two, but Blake came a little close.

I also, once again, really liked the focus on an aspect of an LGBT relationship that’s not been explored as much. This time it was about how sometimes people act as is being gay makes you a different person, or as if a homosexual relationship is so different from a heterosexual one. There was talk about how, on finding out you’re gay, people seem to focus on that as opposed to what you do or the kind of person you are. That was a struggle with Wes and I liked seeing it.

Overall, this was a sadder sequel than I was expecting but a really good one none-the-less. If you’re sceptical about giving the book a shot, I urge you to try. I still can’t say for sure if the sequel was strictly necessary (the first book had a great ending) but it’s not disappointing. Besides, how could you pass up of more Wes and Jamie? I certainly couldn’t.

Review: Full Package by Lauren Blakely

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Genre: New-Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Pages: 300
Series: None (though it seems a lot of the author’s novels are part of the same universe and the characters usually show up in each others stories as friends or whatever)
Release Date: January 9, 2017
Publisher: Independent

Star

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Strangely enough, this is my first book by Lauren Blakely. It’s strange because I could’ve sworn I’d read something by her before. But when I read this novel, I was so impressed that I realized that I would’ve remembered a book by this author, had I read it.

That lead me to wanting to remedy my severe neglect of a great author. But that’s gonna have to wait because I’ve planned all the books till the end of August so severely that it will take nothing less than a miracle for me to actually stick to the plan. I’m panicked (yet, kinda excited) just thinking about it. So in the meantime, I’ll stop my rambling and review the freaking novel.

Full Package is told from the perspective of our male protagonist, Chase. Chase is a doctor who’s trying to find an apartment and having the worst luck. One of his best friends, Josie (who’s also the younger sister of another of his best friends) is having similar luck finding a good roommate. Living together seems to be the obvious solution. So what if there’s a spark between the two of them? They’ve been best friends for many years, they can handle it.

…Obviously, they can’t handle it. If they could, this book wouldn’t exist and that would be very sad indeed. Anyway, despite the attraction, they want to keep things strictly friendly. They don’t want to risk the strong friendship they have; even after they delve into the ‘benefits’ dapartment.

Now, it’s not exactly new that two friends hesitate to take things to a different level for the sake of their friendship. But in this case, it really makes sense. Especially for Chase because he’s already make the mistake of dating a friend only for it to end badly. Not only was he hurt and betrayed, he also lost a friend. And he cares about Josie too much to let the same thing happen with her.

So even though Chase and Josie have undeniable chemistry, they hold back. Don’t worry though, things don’t get too serious. They’re still the best of friends and every time they’re together, it’s a lot of fun. They work so well together. Props to Lauren Blakely for writing such a great relationship.

Also, props for stepping out of the norm with Chase. Contrary to popular tropes, Chase is not a player, or a tortured soul, or a bad boy. He has a stable job that he loves, he has lots of friends, he’s cocky in an endearing way, he’s caring and sweet, and feels very real despite being too good to be true. Josie, as well, is lovable and funny and sweet and compassionate. They’re both very likable characters and basically make the story, especially since it’s a very simple one that relies on its characters to make it special. And make it special they do.

This is a very well-written, entertaining, sweet, single-sitting read with a great narrative, that I highly recommend. I’m quite bummed out that I didn’t read something by the author before (the shirtless-dude cover has been allowed as penance). Seriously, check it out.

Review: Till Death by Jennifer L. Armentrout

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Genre: Adult, Romance, Mystery, Contemporary
Pages: 400
Series: None
Release Date: February 28, 2017
Publisher: William Morrow

4 Stars

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Till Death is a mystery and a romance. Sasha Keaton, who left her home town ten years ago after a close escape from a serial killer called ‘The Groom’, is now coming back to help her mom with the family business. She left many people behind when she left town, and one them was her then-boyfriend, Cole Landis, who is now an FBI agent and wants to give things another shot with her.

But while they’re trying to see where their relationship could go, women start to go missing again, and even though they thought the Groom’s reign of terror died with him, that my not be entirely true.

Sasha is understandably scared about what’s going on, but she wants to deal with it head on. She wants to live her life. At first, it seems as if that could be possible. That maybe everything that’s happening doesn’t have anything to do with her. But the book has occasional excerpts from the perspective of the serial killer which tell us that it all has everything to do with her. And it soon becomes evident to Sasha and Cole as well.

Speaking of Sasha and Cole, I liked their relationship. They had a past and a lot of chemistry. I loved reading their scenes and interactions, and their romance was really sweet. There were times when I felt that things were maybe moving a bit too fast, and they were, but it didn’t bother me too much.

Cole and Sasha had a healthy relationship and they were very supportive of each other. Cole was her rock in everything she was going through and Sasha herself handled things really well. There were times when Sasha tried to push him away but he stuck by. The best thing about Cole was that he was very straight-forward. He said what he felt and didn’t let any misunderstandings come between them. He was very pro talking-things-out, which saved us from a lot of angst. We need more people like him.

The story was really good and interesting. Jennifer L. Armentrout has a writing style that’s flows so well that you don’t even realize when you’ve already read a hundred pages. I read the novel in two sittings (sleep came in the way).

The only things that disappointed me was that most of the events were… predictable. I saw many revelations coming, even the one about who the serial killer was. There weren’t any ‘holy shit!’ moments and that’s a bummer because I love those, and they’re quite necessary for an effective mystery novel. Though the tone was set very well. Definitely one that could make you a tiny bit paranoid, especially if you’re reading in the middle of the night.

I really enjoyed reading this book. I loved the characters and the balance between the romance and mystery. It’s worth checking out; even more so if you’re only just venturing into the mystery genre.