Review: A Stone in the Sea by A.L. Jackson

32939643

Genre: New-Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Pages: 383
Series: Bleeding Stars #1 (Story concludes in book 2) 
Release Date: February 21, 2015
Publisher: Self-published

1 Star

4c9zr74Ki

There are like a bajillion authors who write romance. But out of those, there are some who pop up more often than others. A.L. Jackson is one of those. Because of that, you’d think she’d be really good. But from my experience so far, she’s not.

This novel is about Sebastian Stone, the lead singer of a semi-popular rock band called Sunder. Sebastian’s in trouble for assaulting someone (he was trying to protect his younger brother) so it’s advised that the band take some time off. They go to live in Savannah for a while, where Sebastian meets Shea in the bar she works at. There’s an undeniable pull that they both feel toward each other. But Shea doesn’t have time for distractions and Sebastian’s only in town temporarily.

…And that’s about as civil as I can be when it comes to this novel. You know I don’t take one star ratings lightly so you also know there’s a shit ton of not-nice stuff to be said. Let’s get on that, shall we?

First and foremost, the writing. It’s terrible. While I was reading, I was trying to think of the right way to describe it. And I came up with: a romantic comedy directed by Zack Snyder. For those who don’t know, Snyder is the guy who turned Superman, the symbol of hope, into a guy who almost never smiles and is kinda scary. So you can imagine that if he were to direct a rom-com, it would be quite colourless. Making the Snyder thing worse, the book is also really fucking boring.

The tone of the novel and the prose is choke full of unnecessary details and has a complete lack of life. Sebastian steps into a bar and it’s like he’s describing a graveyard, instead of a place with live music and lots of people having fun. And it’s so repetitive and redundant. Not only do we get the repeat-same-word-three-times treatment, we also have to read one or the other character describing their mopey, overdramatic feels in extensive, overdramatic detail every two pages. Their entire romance consists of staring intently at each other and then composing mental essay that analyse that stare. For the first half of the book, they had like two proper conversations. They basically fell in love via intense stares.

I barely made it through. I think I started skipping some of the how-do-I-say-the-same-thing-ten-different-ways paragraphs about a third of the way through. By the time I reached two-thirds, I’d given up. I skimmed the rest. I think I read about 20-30% of that last section because that was the percentage of the content that was actually relevant. I swear to you, there are entire pages full of words that say nothing.

Onto characters. For the most part, they were lost in the over-the-top, suffocating prose. What was left wasn’t impressive. Sebastian is the “bad boy” type. Except he has major issues. He has a history with drugs, a criminal record, he’s spent time locked up, and he’s got serious anger management issues. Every problem he encounters is usually solved with anger, and his fists. And since he lacks control, he’s cause many broken bones, as well as internal bleeding. He’s a mess, but every single character in the novel is hell-bent of justifying his actions. They all claim that he’s a really great guy who’s just defending those he loves.

I’m sorry, but the saying is “the best offence is a great defence”, not the other fucking way around! Sebastian needs help and Shea needs to see that there is something wrong with a guy who’s constantly on the receiving end of assault charges.

Also, she needs to not lie about things because the “twist” in the end about what she’d been hiding was not only a terrible fucking twist, it also made me hate her (or maybe it made me hate the book more). It was such a stupid thing . And the fact that the next novel is based on said stupid thing, there’s no way I’m reading it. Not that I was planning to read it before, after I made it through this one with only my sheer force of will.

Overall, this is a badly written book with bad characters and bad everything. It’s also really fucking boring. Like, it might be the only romance novel ever that almost put me to sleep. Even the sex was boring. It’s an angst-y, overdramatic mess and I highly suggest avoiding it.

Advertisements

Review: Stay by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy

cov

Genre: New-Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Pages: 294
Series: WAGs #2 (Can be read as Standalone)
Release Date: June 20, 2017
Publisher: Rennie Road Books

Star

4c9zr74Ki

This novel took me by surprise. I can’t really say why, it’s not like I didn’t like Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy’s other books, but something was different from the other I’ve read by the two.

It follows Hailey, the co-owner of a virtual assistant service, who suspects that her favourite client may be the hockey player Matthew Eriksson, from the Toronto NHL team. Her suspicions are confirmed when, as a way to say thanks, he gives her two amazing tickets for the next game. The problem is that this means she might have to meet him and she’s pretty sure she won’t be able to form complete sentences when she does.

You see, Hailey’s a huge hockey fan and Eriksson is her favourite player. Meaning there’s a risk of her totally fangirling. And while she doesn’t fangirl exactly, her fear of losing the ability to form complete sentences is proved valid. It’s almost like her brain short circuits in his presence. It’s hilarious, and also adorable. Between Hailey being star stuck so often and Blake, Matthew’s teammate, with his made up lingo, this book is really funny. And we get team bonding scenes, which we didn’t in Us or Good Boy. I loved it when some of the guys got together.

Back to the protagonists though, I really liked both of them. Hailey’s recently gone through a divorce and her previous marriage, while not being bad, was kinda… boring. She’s known her ex-husband since they were kids. She’s never really dated and her chemistry with her ex was just not there. But her chemistry with Eriksson is sky-high and since it’s a new thing for her and her divorce killed her confidence a little, she’s skittish. It doesn’t help that she’s a huge fan of he guy. It’s overwhelming. She’s not sure it’s a good idea.

Eriksson wants to go for it. But nothing serious. He also had a recent divorce. A very unhappy one. And he blames himself because his wife constantly told him that his career was ruining their relationship. Now he doesn’t think he’s capable of one.

Both have complications in their lives. Both have careers and both have reasons as to why a relationship would be a bad idea. And yet things between them are really good. You’d think that with this many problem, the book would be sad or frustrating. But it was fun, enjoyable, sweet and I loved Eriksson and Hailey together. Hailey doesn’t have any problems with his career and understands that he has to travel, while Eriksson helps her regain her confidence. Great couple.

So great, in fact, that I wasn’t even waiting for Jamie and Wes to show up. Much. Still love those two more than anything but I also love Hailey and Eriksson. Which is why I totally recommend reading this novel.

Review: Good Boy by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy

30747137

Genre: New-Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 269
Series: WAGs #1 (Standalone; but please read the Him duology first) 
Release Date: January 21, 2017
Publisher: Rennie Road Books

3.5 Stars

4c9zr74Ki

Blake and Jess met when Jess’s brother and Blake’s friend, Jamie, got sick and she came over to take care of him. They bickered the whole time …And also hooked up. Then Jess went back. Now Jess’s brother is getting married and she’s planning the wedding, in which Blake is the best man. She wants nothing to do with him while he’s hoping for another hook-up.

Sadly, Blake, the goof that he almost always is, thinks that the best way to achieve that is to piss Jess off even more. It doesn’t work very well but he’s determined, especially after Jess moves to the city for college.

The city we’re talking about is Toronto. Blake is a player in the Toronto NHL team so he’s used to getting what he wants, often without having to ask. He loves that Jess can’t stand him. He finds it refreshing and he likes how feisty she is. Jess, on the other hand, thinks of him as kind of a dumb jock. He’s loud, wild, goofy and half the shit he says makes no sense. But as she gets to know him, her opinion changes.

With Sarina Bowen, you don’t have to worry about the book not being well-written or the pacing being off. She’s a great writer. So I’m just concerning myself with story and characters. Mainly the characters since that’s who the story’s about.

Blake is a great guy. He has a very big heart and cares so much about people. He always puts other people above himself. You’ll see that for yourself when you read the book. Though if you’ve read the Him duology, you probably already have some idea. The problem, though, with being so good is that sometimes people take advantage of that. Jess balances that out. If you try to hurt Blake, she will slap you.

Jess’s own story is about her career. She’s spent many years trying to figure out what she wants to do. So many times, she’s sure she’s got it, only to realize that she hasn’t. It’s something that anyone who’s struggled with trying to find their right path can relate to. And even though her family never pressures her, she lacks confidence from having disappointed them so often. It’s difficult and it makes her quite stiff for a while. It was a tiny bit annoying, waiting for her to stop being mean, but we got through it.

Her and Blake’s story is good. They have chemistry and their bickering is entertaining. It took me a while to figure out why they work together, and I have some idea now (some I stated above), but they still don’t click like I want them to. And the fact that I read this novel so quickly doesn’t help. I’m gonna reread this one. Maybe I missed something.

The main problem I had with the novel was with Blake’s character. He’s overdone in how goofy-ness. In Us, he’s kind of the comic relief. And there’s a reason comic reliefs don’t get their own books and movies. It’s because there’s not enough emotional depth. And even though the author added some, it wasn’t enough. He still felt too much like the funny-guy-who-breaks-the-tension. Blake really is a great guy. I wanted more for him, that’s all.

Overall, a good novel but it’s missing something. I really do hope the reread will change that. I’ll update the review regardless. Still recommend reading it, especially if you’ve read the Him duology. Jamie and Wes are the cutest. I’m obsessed with those two and I adored them in the novel.

Review: The Thing About Love by Julie James

27246123

Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 373
Series: None (but I’ve heard it has cameos from other Julie James characters)
Release Date: April 18, 2017
Publisher: Berkley

3.5 Stars

4c9zr74Ki

I have a lot of negatives to discuss. But because they’re either small or don’t always affect the overall enjoyment much, they don’t have a huge impact on the rating. Synopsis first:

Both Jessica Harlow and John Sheppard are FBI agents. They also have a past. They were both in the same class in the Quantico training academy and did not get along. And even though it’s now been six years, when Jessica transfers to the same office as John, it’s not good news. What’s worse is that they’ve been assigned as partners in an undercover sting involving a corrupt politician. So now they have to work together, without strangling each other.

The reason John and Jessica didn’t get along in Quantico is one that we find out via… wait for it… backstory. And if you know me, you know how much I fucking hate those.

In this case, we got two chapters, one from Jessica’s perspective and one from John’s. Combined, that made like 30 pages of backstory. And what was worse was that half of John’s chapter was the same as Jessica’s, just from a different perspective. I get that the author wanted to show how they each saw each other, but it still meant that I had to read thirty pages of backstory, some of which was repeated. And I swear to you, I almost died.

Thankfully, that made up less than 10% of the novel. The rest of it was in the present and while they did talk about the past, that’s not something that bothers me.

As for the present, I liked it. The banter that the book promised wasn’t entirely there but I did have fun with the two characters. They had chemistry and things were sweet. I liked how the dynamic between them changed slowly. The relationship was based on mutual respect and equality. I liked John as a character and I was okay with Jessica, but I had a few problems with her.

Jessica is described as a “saucy” person. She’s all about the quips and sarcasm. And usually, I would love that. I live for sarcasm. But she never took anything seriously. And she used quips to deflect. We were told how their past rivalry was a result of misunderstandings and faults on both sides. And where John apologised for his actions, Jessica simply joked or changed the subject. She never got perspective about what happened in Quantico. It got to the point where she was no longer sassy, but immature; never accepting her flaws and always making light of serious situations. Like, sweetheart, you’re a thirty-two-year-old FBI agent, don’t you think it’s time for you to grow up?

She was bothersome, and the word “saucy” got old. What helped out was the FBI stuff. The case they were handling was simple enough. A mayor who was accepting bribes in exchange for some mayor-ly help. And while there were some readers who didn’t like the amount of time spent on the case or the amount of details about the FBI, I really liked those.

The focus on the romance wasn’t heavy. We interacted with some others from the FBI, and with both John and Jessica’s family and friends. John’s brother was a brilliant addition. He was really funny. Kinda wish he’d been more present even though he showed up quite a few times. John’s dynamic with his dad was interesting. Jessica’s older brother and sister ware funny. It was nice that we got to know some of the people in their lives. But I wish we’d gotten more resolution about John’s ex, who, in the very beginning, he found out was cheating on him.

Also, I found it strange how little an impact John’s break-up and Jessica’s divorce has on their relationship. The main conflict was just always about the fact that John was moving away for a different job, and the effect of their previous relationship was minimum.

Last thing to discuss: the word/phrase that was even worse than “saucy”. Well, not worse, per se, it just showed up way too much. And that was “undercover” and “undercover agent”. You know how many times the world “undercover” was in the novel? 151 times. And “undercover agent”, 35 times. We get it, they’re undercover agent. You don’t have to keep telling us. And there were other phrases as well. The writing, while good, was quite repetitive. The pace was okay. The ending… I disagreed with a thing or two (but not with John decision about his new job; that was the right call).

Overall, this is an enjoyable read. I really did like it and I’m looking forward to reading more by the author. But it also had many flaws. Still recommend read it, as long as you’re not nitpicky.

Review: Hearts in Darkness by Laura Kaye

cov

Genre: New-Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Pages: 112
Series: Hearts in Darkness #1 (Duology)
Release Date: April 20, 2011
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press

4 Stars

4c9zr74Ki

Makenna has not been having a very good day. And then she gets stuck in a pitch-black elevator with a complete stranger. That’s Caden. The only thing they can do now is wait, for hours. And that’s not as easy as it sounds, especially since Caden is afraid of the dark. Obviously, they start talking to each other and realize that they get along really well.

Caden and Makenna didn’t get much of a look at each other before the light cut out. And Caden is glad because when people see a big guys with tattoos, they make assumptions. They see a ‘bad boy’ characters when, in reality, Caden isn’t like that at all. He’s a really nice guy. He’s reserved and quite, a little sad because of some of the things in his past, but definitely a big softy on the inside. He’s sweet and funny and an introvert. Makenna is more open and talkative. But an equally likable character.

Things started off awkward, as you might expect from two strangers stuck in an elevator. But when they got off, it was really good. They had genuinely entertaining conversations. They tried to get to know each other. Things were light, and then serious topics came on. Makenna even helped Caden when he panicked because of the dark.

The chemistry between Caden and Makenna was very important and done really well. I could definitely see the two of them together. And that’s the point of romance novels, isn’t it? To introduce two people who work well together? I mean, it’s not the only point but it’s definitely an important one. We don’t necessarily need to see them in love or dropping the L bomb. Which, in this case, is a good thing because I refuse to believe they feel in love in just a few hours, in an elevator. Thankfully, even when love was brought up, it wasn’t pushed. They did not fall in love. But we could see that it was a good possibility for the future.

Overall, this was a very sweet and touching novella that I really enjoyed. Definitely worth checking out. There’s a sequel following the same couple, but I’m usually wary of those when it comes to romances and I’ve heard some bad things, so I’m avoiding it. I liked how this one ended and I don’t want anything to sabotage that. But you can read it if you want because I heard good things too. I just don’t want to take the risk.

Review: Perfect State by Brandon Sanderson

27234705

Genre: Science-Fiction, Fantasy, Novella
Pages: 87
Series: None
Narrator: Christian Rummel
Duration: 2 Hours, 4 Minutes
Original Release Date: October 13, 2015
Audiobook Release: March 31, 2015
Publisher: ‘Dragonsteel’ and ‘Audible Studios’

Star

4c9zr74Ki

Kairominas is a God-Emperor of his world. He’s united the entire world under his rule and now doesn’t have much to do. I mean, what do you do after you’ve achieved everything? In Kai’s case, you get a nemesis from another world who’s set on destroying you. You also have to meet a woman, who is the ruler of another world, for a date.

Kai avoided the date thing for as long as he could. But it’s his duty, and required of him by a universal alliance of sorts.

He was given a list of women and he picked one at random. He doesn’t know anything about her, not even the kind of world she comes from. And by that I mean it could be an advanced world, another magical type, or a renaissance era-esqu. All he knows that it’s one of the few things he’s obligated to do and he’s doing it; while his nemesis is, once again, planning something.

Now, from the synopsis, you may have some ideas about what kind of story this is. It’s not that kind of story. There’s a little revelation early on in the book that changes a lot of things. At first I was going to write it in the review, quite a few people have, but I, myself, liked not knowing so… you’ll just have to find out. And because I can’t mention the revelations, I’m having difficulty with deciding what to say.

The theme is very interesting. Kai is the ruler of his world, but is that enough to make him happy and content? The novella explored humanity in many ways.

Also, I love that the people arranging the date aren’t evil. It might not make much sense but we’ve had a lot of evil governments. This one is just trying to make everyone happy, including our protagonist, who is not the most riveting of characters. He seems a bit generic and stiff. But his morals, his beliefs, and his journey, are all interesting. As is his position as God-Emperor and his interaction with his date. He and his date have very differing opinions about their duties and they definitely make you think. I’m totally on Kai’s side, by the way.

Overall, the novella is really good (though not Sanderson’s best) and the narrator of the audiobook did a good job. He gave Kai’s voice a ‘dry humor’ type quality that increased the entertainment value and made me laugh out loud quite a few times. This is very short read/listen. Definitely worth checking out.

Review: Legion by Brandon Sanderson

13452375

The review is for the first two books of the Legion series. No, there are NO SPOILERS for either book. The second book is called Skin Deep.

Genre: Urban Fantasy, Science Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 88 & 208
Series: Legion #1 and #2
Release Date: August 31, 2012 & November 24, 2014
Publisher: Subterranean Press

5 Stars

4c9zr74Ki

Stephen Leeds, or  Legion, is a genius. He has a condition akin to schizophrenia, but not exactly like it, because to which he hallucinates a wide variety of people who he refers to as aspects. Each aspect has an area of expertise. With the help of his aspects, Stephen occasionally takes investigative cases.

In the both the books, the protagonist is the same and while there is continuity in personal affairs, the case in each is new. That’s why I’m reviewing them together. In the first novel, the case is finding the missing investor of an extraordinary camara, and in the second novel, he has to find the corpse of a biotech engineer who may have stored some important information in his very cells.

The mystery in both the books is really good. The second one is my favourite for sure. But both are written very cleverly with just enough hints dropped to keep the reader thinking and to give that click feeling when the case is finally solved. Loved ’em.

But… they were not the highlight. That was most definitely Stephen and his various aspects. Stephen has to be one of the most interesting characters I’ve read about. And his interactions with his aspects? Pure gold. Because you see, the aspects not only have different fields of knowledge, they also have very different personalities and different disorders. Tobias is a nice, wise man. He’s a historian and also someone who calms Stephen down. Tobias is also a schizophrenic and has a hallucination, Stan, who’s an astronaut travelling around the earth in a satellite and who tells him about the weather. Stephen can’t see Stan, only Tobias can.

Then we have Ivy, a psychologist, and Stephen’s therapist. He has a real one too, though. Then there’s J.C., the ex-Navy SEAL who’s very fond of guns. And using them. He also doesn’t accept the fact that he isn’t real and is a ton of fun. There are many others and you’ll meet them, but these three are the most prominent.

The dialogue between the aspects, and between them and Stephen, is fantastic. That’s the best part about having so many different characters together, even if only one of them is real. Though you shouldn’t underestimate the real one. All the aspects come from him, don’t they? They’re a part of him. In the first novel, it’s mainly about introducing the character, how he works, how his aspects work, and solving the case. That’s more than enough to be done in less than a hundred pages. In the second novel, we go into more depth about Stephen’s psychology. It’s slower, but not in a bad way.

The intrigue and the fun remains consistent, as does the narrative, which is awesome. I highly urge you to read, at least, the first novella. Sanderson has created a fascinating character that I think everyone should get to know. And his mysteries always have a sci-fi touch to them, making then even more interesting. To end, I shall leave you with one of the best first lines a book has ever had:

My name is Stephen Leeds, and I am perfectly sane. My hallucinations, however, are all quite mad.