Review: The Thing About Love by Julie James

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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

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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.

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Review: Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell

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Genre: Young-Adult, Contemporary. Short story/novella
Pages: 96 (but way shorter when you read it)
Series: None
Release Date: February 25, 2016
Publisher: Macmillan

3 Stars

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Elena is a huge Star Wars fan. Like can-name-her-top-50-star-wars-characters huge. And since The Force Awakens is coming out, she wants to camp outside the cinema for the “experience”. So four days before the premiere, she’s set. Except… there are only two other people there. But she persists. Be it her mom, the cold, the boredom or even the quiet guy ahead of her who doesn’t seem to like her, she wouldn’t be dissuaded.

It was kinda cute.

Elena had this adorkable and naive (and defensive) thing going on that made her relatable, but also made her annoying. At time I liked her. Other times, I wanted to ask her to open her eyes every one in a while, get a glimpse at the real world.

The story was simple enough. It was set in the four days leading up to the premiere and it was between her and the quiet guy (I forgot his name and don’t feel like looking it up. But he was an okay character). It was a sweet little romance. They talk and stuff about… stuff. There’s not much to tell here. I liked things between them and I really like the ending.

The things I had a problem with were mainly related to the fact that Rainbow Rowell doesn’t seem to have mastered the art of writing a novella. The thing with novellas and short stories is that you have to know how many characters you can handle and plot points you can successfully tie up. Because even though it’s short, it still has to feel complete. This one felt like it just skimmed the surface of things, like it left loose ends. It’s a problem I’ve had before with Rainbow Rowell, with Fangirl.

My point is, there were things brought up, but not delved into. This was almost like reading a sample of a full-length novel. It’s not bad, but also not very substantial.

Review: Hearts in Darkness by Laura Kaye

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

 

Review: Snow and Mistletoe by Alexa Riley

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Genre: New Adult, Romance, Erotica
Pages: 63
Series: None
Release Date; December 10, 2015

1 Star

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This is a Christmas romance. Alex is the owner of an audiobook company. When he hires Noelle, he’s immediately “captivated” by her voice. But he can’t meet her because an accident a few years ago left him scarred and he’s afraid that she would be repulsed by his appearance. So he calls her every day and has her narrate “samples” of scenes from books, specifically the hot-n-heavy kind.

I don’t know about you, but I find it a little creepy that he has her read sex scenes for him every day. But I can overlook some stuff. Speaking of overlooking, the book warned that it would be a very cheesy read so I prepared myself accordingly.

So imagine my surprise when instead of something cute and cheesy, I get a male protagonist who’s not only creepy as hell, but also a fucking stalker! Seriously, not only does he have her narrate sex scenes every day over the phone, he jerks off while she’s talking and records those phone calls to jerks off later on. On top of that, when she sends the final books to him, he keeps them for him and uses a different narrator for the audiobook to be released. The final blow? He’s hired a guy to watch her house so that no one can “steal” her.

What the fuck?!

What the hell is wrong with this guy?! And how can anyone think that this kind of behaviour is okay?! And then there’s the female protagonist who isn’t bother by any of the shit I mentioned above. In fact, on finding out about the guy who’s been watching her, her main thought is about how bored he must be because she barely goes anywhere. *deep breath* Moment of silence for the sheer idiocy of that…

Afterwards, they fall in love in the duration of a day. No wait, they were already in love, before they met. It happened during those conversations when she was talking and he was getting off on it. Cue lots of sex and a happily ever after and… I almost can’t believe this book actually exists.

I mean, is that what people’s definition of ‘cheesy’ is? Because that ain’t cheesy. It’s disturbing. It took me just over an hour to finish reading this story and even then, I had to put it aside multiple time so that I could stare into space, horrified at what I was reading. And — and this is just as bad as the stalking — they never use protection. Because apparently, according to our beloved creepy stalker, using a condom kills the romance of it all or something, and he would “take care” of her (his words) if she got pregnant. In fact, he hoped that she would get pregnant because it would “bind her” to him. Here’s the line from the book:

My seed coats her unprotected womb, possibly making a baby to bind her to me.

Ignoring the fact that I almost threw up while typing that, how fucking disgusting is it to knock someone up so that they’d stay with you? And to presume that the only problem a woman might have with getting pregnant is the lack to guy to provide for her… Have we suddenly gone back to the eighteenth century, or is Alex a sexist fucking dick? And to think that a female author wrote this… Unbelievable.

To wrap this up, I will say that this is a poorly written, terrible book which gets romance completely wrong. It’s one of the worst things I’ve read and, just for the hell of it, I’ll leave you with a gem of a quote from the novella.

thinking that he’s been stalkerish makes me feel warm inside.

Review: They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

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Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBT+
Pages: 384
Series: None
Release Date: September 5, 2017
Publisher: HarperTeen

Star

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How does someone get away with killing both the characters in the end, and telling all the readers about it beforehand? It really shouldn’t happen. I’m a happy ending person. I love it when things end on a positive note. And while I don’t think of death as something evil or horrible, it’s not exactly jolly either. So this read was borderline masochistic for me.

And is it silly that, before starting the book, I hoped that they wouldn’t die? As soon as I started reading though, I immediately knew they would. There’s very little focus on how they would die or whether it’s something that can be prevented. Death is inevitable and it’s what you do before that matters. And in case of both our protagonists, when they gets a call from Death-Cast, telling them that that will be the day they die, they want to live as much as they can in the little time they have left.

Mateo has always been terrified of death, and it has prevented him doing many things he wanted to. He doesn’t want to be alone on his last day but with his dad in a coma and a best friend he would rather spare, he’s got no one. He downloads a popular app called Last Friend and meets Rufus, who’s been having his own difficulties. Together, they’re going to live it up on the only day they’ve got.

Of course, it’s a timid start. They’re both strangers and Mateo is very reserved. You can’t get over your fears in a flash so it takes him time. And a part of me was frustrated with him because it was literally his last day on earth and he was messing it up! But he grew out of his shell (very slowly) and grew on me as well. All those years of being afraid had stopped him from living his life and he wouldn’t waste more time. His character development was quite brilliant. And so was Rufus’s, who lost his entire family in an accident a few months ago and was still struggling with that …and with the fact that he was going to die.

Together, Mateo and Rufus made an unlikely pair. Rufus is a lot more bold and outspoken. He’s also has a very different life. But they begin to like each other. Mateo admires Rufus’s spirit and Rufus is fascinated by how good and nice a person Mateo is.

The novel is sert in a alternate reality and told from both of their perspectives (first person) and while I’m still on the fence about the amount of ‘yo’s in Rufus’s narrative, Adam Silvera did a very good job of giving them distinctive and immediately recognisable voices. I also liked the addition of random chapters written in third person about the lives of some of the people Mateo and Rufus encountered on their adventure. I loved seeing the little threads of connection between everything.

If I have a complaint, it’s about the names of those random-perspective people. I suck at names and there were so many that it always took me a few paragraphs to figure out who we were talking about.

Overall, this was emotional but not gut-wrenching, which I appreciate (I don’t think gut-wrenching is something the author was going for). The novel had a very simple message of living life while you can, one that was beautifully delivered. It’s very well written with two great protagonist and a simple but touching story. I didn’t entirely buy them falling in love (and no, it’s not about the short time span) but they were dying so it makes sense for emotions to be a little heightened. I really liked the book and I think you should give it a shot.