Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Runebinder (The Runebinder Chronicles #1) by Alex R. Kahler

This review was written by: C
Received: Borrowed from Library
Date of Publication: November 2017
Pages: 394
Stars: 3.5/5

Official Summary: 

Magic is risen.

When magic returned to the world, it could have saved humanity, but greed and thirst for power caused mankind's downfall instead. Now once-human monsters called Howls prowl abandoned streets, their hunger guided by corrupt necromancers and the all-powerful Kin. Only Hunters have the power to fight back in the unending war, using the same magic that ended civilization in the first place.

But they are losing.

Tenn is a Hunter, resigned to fight even though hope is nearly lost. When he is singled out by a seductive Kin named Tomás and the enigmatic Hunter Jarrett, Tenn realizes he's become a pawn in a bigger game. One that could turn the tides of war. But if his mutinous magic and wayward heart get in the way, his power might not be used in favor of mankind.

If Tenn fails to play his part, it could cost him his friends, his life…and the entire world.

My Thoughts:

I've been struggling to finish this book for the past few months  (not because the book was terrible or anything -- it had its ups and downs like every other novel). I often start reading multiple books at the same time and usually one gets pushed off to the side at some point due to me having more interest in another. Runebinder just happened to be that book. Plus, college exams do make it a bit difficult to find time to read. For some reason, after exams, I've only been able to read this book in shorts spurts.

Getting past my epic procrastination, I'll give you a bit more info about the story. The plot takes place after life as we know it has ended and the world is overrun with monsters and magic. The individuals who destroy monsters and try to protect what remains of humanity are known as Hunters -- people who are attuned to any number of spheres that control either earth, water, fire, or air. In a weird way, it kind of reminds me of Avatar the Last Airbender, except that instead of the fire nation attacking, a bunch of monsters destroyed the human race. And now that I think about it, probably anyone could become an avatar-esque figure if they were capable of being attuned to all elemental spheres. Tenn ends up being the protagonist, and many events transpire as his water rune spirals out of control. Eventually, his destiny is made known and what he must do to save humanity.

To get a bit deep, my ultimate favorite thing about this book is how it depicts gay romance. The casual flirting, love, and relationships between male characters were so normal and natural -- no explanations were required. Plus, nothing was fetishized or made extremely awkward or unbelievable. Kahler truly made everything come across with ease and without a need to defend the characters and who they are as people. I'm also happy that the book made it so that no sexuality felt like it was the "default" -- gay, straight, bisexual, etc could all cohesively exist in harmony. I've finally found a book that depicts gay romance as normally as a straight couple is portrayed. 

My second favorite thing about this book was that Kahler followed a specific philosophy with Tenn. There was a particular passage in the book when it's finally explained what's been going on with Tenn, his erratic water sphere, the weird attacks that have been occurring around him. I don't remember the exact quote, but it stated that Tenn is the chosen one (not a real shocker because he is the protagonist after all). The marvelous thing is that it's made known that Tenn is the hero in this story because he didn't seek power, power sought him. It probably seems ridiculous that I even find this to be profound, but I love the idea that power seeks out a worthy individual, rather than someone seeking out power. Take this as you will, but it was a nice touch in my opinion. 

I didn't give this book a higher rating mostly due to the confusion that sometimes arose when reading it. There were bits where explanations were confusing or sometimes not enough information was given. I think the magic system needed just a bit more work, especially when explaining how people are attuned to spheres, the differences between all the monsters and how they're made, how people are either Hunters or witches, and what even qualifies someone to get a sphere and become a Hunter. 

Aside from my few complaints, I think the series has potential. I don't know if I'll have time to continue it in the near future, but it's definitely on my radar to complete.

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Saturday, June 30, 2018

The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich

This review was written by: B
Received: Borrowed from Library
Date of Publication: May 16, 2017
Page Count: 384
Stars: 4.25/5

Official Summary:

There is a secret organization that cultivates teenage spies.  The agents are called Love Interests because getting close with people destined for great power means obtaining valuable secrets.

Caden is a Nice: the boy next door, sculpted to physical perfection.  Dylan is a Bad: the brooding, dark-souled guy who is dangerously handsome.  The girl they are competing for is important to the organization, and each boy will pursue her.  Will she choose the Nice or the Bad?

Both Caden and Dylan are living in the outside world for the first time.  They are well-trained and at the top of their game.  They have to be -- whoever the girl doesn't choose will die.

What the boys don't expect are feelings that are outside their training.  Feelings that could kill them both.

My Thoughts:

(The reason this review sounds like I wrote it right after the book's release date in 2017 instead of a year later is because this review was written a year ago but was just posted now. Please accept my apologies.)

I don't usually read recent releases right off the bat, even when they pique my interest.  (And by "off the bat" I literally mean that I don't read new releases within 2-5 years of their publication date.)  The reason, you may ask, is because I'm still tragically trying to catch up on old releases I never got to delve into from five centuries ago (ex: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe originally published in 2012--which I HIGHLY recommend by the way).  I've been sucked up in a rather vicious cycle really,  but it's one I'm thoroughly stuck in and must accept nonetheless... just like so many book readers before me.  #agony

(You sing your little heart out Chris Pine -- one of my favorite Chrises of Hollywood, of course.)

So, you may be asking yourself two questions right now.  One being: What the heck was with that leading intro, which features the terrible math skills that I so obviously possess?  The second possibly being: Why read The Love Interest so soon when I have thousands of other books that I want to get to from earlier times?  Well, that last one I can answer because it's really rather simple: I couldn't help myself. I WANTED this book as soon as I heard about it.  No, I actually NEEDED this book as soon as I heard about it.  IT CALLED TO ME.  And it wasn't one of those, I need to buy this book as soon as it releases because it looks beyond amazeballs, and as soon as it arrives on my doorstep I think I'll set it on my bookshelf to motivate me to read it but in actuality I won't get to it until 2029 and cry internally each and every day until 2029 since I acknowledge that I will have no time until then to even think about it moments.  No, this was more like one of those I'm going to thief snatch this book off the market (*cough* library shelf), lug it home in my eager arms, creepily sniff its pages with a glazed look in my eyes (because every book lover gets high off of that -- and if you don't, you're lying to yourself),  crack it open on the day I check it out (*gasp* -- it's so unlike me), and lock my eyes on the printed black words stationed on the pages like they hold a secret map to El Dorado (which I'll never be able to actually use because Miguel and Tulio ruined it for everyone) moments


It's bizarre but I felt deeply invested in the story before having read a single page.  I don't actually have an excusable reason other than that.  I couldn't help but put all other books aside that I had been planning to read.  My self-control left me completely.  To put it frankly, The Love Interest was a book I was more than eagerly dying for.  It screamed individuality and called for my immediate attention despite personally knowing about my ever-growing stack of books that is surely going to fall on me and eventually kill me someday.  But I digress (and sound a bit crazy)...

Just hearing about the premise alone got me over the moon excited:  Two male spies (a.k.a. Love Interests) go after the same girl to try and win her heart while exhibiting the typically opposing "good boy" and "bad boy" tropes we book readers made into profitable publishing candy.  So, we have a respectable and highly intelligent young lady who is being pursued by two extremely gorgeous teen guys, but which one will she choose?  Will it be Caden, the boy next door type: thoughtful, good-natured, and easy to approach, or will it be Dyl, the fickle hunk of man meat: tortured, mysterious, and an occasional exhibitor of  jerkface syndrome who is still able to be vulnerable?  I know what you're thinking: This love triangle thing has been done a million trillion times before. That may make it a tad bit boring, right?

However, there is a new addition to the mix -- higher stakes.  (The guy the girl doesn't choose is sentenced to death.)

So, what sets this book apart from the masses other than the higher stakes? Well, here comes the plot twist we fangirls have all been waiting for: The two boys fall for each other in the process!!!!!!

And, I'll be honest with you all: I ate this up like it was the last stash of junkfood on the planet.  This year (2017 but also in 2018), I've been trying to read LGBTQ+ romances (particularly M/M romances), and this one was right up my alley.  Based on the book's GoodReads rating, though, I know a great deal of people didn't like this story, but I strongly urge you to try and give The Love Interest a chance.  It's a story about self discovery, budding romance, and standing up for who you are.

Caden and Dyl (huh, his name kinda sounds like the pickle) were brought up to be the best Love Interests (teen spies meant to steal secrets from those they make fall in love with them) possible, meaning that they were forced to be who the organization wanted them to be instead of their true selves.  If they didn't do exactly as the LIC (Love Interest Co (don't quote me on what the C stands for -- I really don't remember)) wanted them to, they knew they would never be able to go out into the real world and live some semblance of a life other than the secluded, restricted, and oppressed ones they were forced into at a young age.   As potential love interests, Caden and Dyl were forcibly kept at a secretive base where they memorized pop culture every day so they could blend in when they were finally released into society, worked out to obtain fit bodies that would attract their targets (a.k.a. Chosens), and learned that they were to steal their target's affections, learn their secrets, and then give their secrets back to the Love Interest organization to sell to a prospective bidder.  As a Love Interest out in the real world, it's an unfulfilling life at best especially when you're betraying your supposed loved one time and time again behind his/her back, but it's better than staying at the LIC compound forever.  As a result, Caden and Dyl (now I keep thinking  of pickles, get out of my mind Rick)

 are stripped of their individualities and free will, which essentially never gives them that much of a chance to figure out who they are . . . until they are both chosen to enter society after years of training and anticipation and compete for Juliet's love . . . and their lives.

The boys' time away from the LIC might be a bloody game that can only end in one winner, but they are willing to make the most of it and experience the world like it's the last thing they'll ever do.  Now Caden takes time to figure out who he is since no one ever allowed him to do that while he was at the compound.  The book is told entirely through Caden's perspective, and because of that, we get to see him go from perfect paper cutout boyfriend material to his own emotionally driven person.  He slowly fights the process forced upon him and is trying to figure out love, what it actually means to him, and where love fits into his existence, all while battling what he was taught to believe.

"What do you think of her (Juliet)?  Do you like her?" - Dyl

"What do you mean?" - Caden

"Didn't you listen at all at the LIC?  Who someone likes isn't always easy to explain.  There are some factors for attraction, like symmetry of faces and muscle definition, but most of the time the reason someone likes someone is a big fat mystery.  Just because you're assigned to her doesn't mean you automatically like her.  Love is more complicated than that."

I grip my bottle tightly.  "I get that, but you asked me if I liked her like it matters. But it doesn't.  Our Chosen has to fall for us but we don't have to fall for them.  How we feel will never matter."

Caden may seem one dimensional at first but Dietrich hints at a real person underneath our main character's attractive exterior, whom we slowly see come to life layer by layer.  As a result, we get to see Caden break away from what he was molded into.  The author allowed his character to grow on his own.  It's a beautiful process, and part of that process, though, reveals that Caden has feelings for Dyl -- the part that originally attracted me to this book.

I initially thought The Love Interest focused a great deal on the budding romance between Dyl and Caden, but I found that this wasn't actually the case.  The story focused more on being your own person, gender stereotyping, and poking fun at YA tropes in its own way, which I thought was awesome!  However, I was really looking forward to those special romantic moments between our two male Love Interests.  So, while I unfortunately didn't get as many Dyl and Caden moments as I would have liked, I certainly gushed over the ones I did.  I love these two so darn much!!!! The reason I adore this pair, though, isn't because they are two obviously delicious specimens.  It's because, if you take away their good looks and strip them down to who they truly are, you can see that their personal and emotional characteristics are the qualities they love in each other instead of their physical attributes.  It's their personalities and quirks they love.  And that epilogue!  It might be my favorite epilogue of all time.  Oh, it made me so darn happy that I can't stop smiling about it!  I look like a fool right now.

Plus, there are other smaller details about this book that I can rave about, too.  For example, can we get some love up in here for Juliet (the boys' Chosen)?!  She's such a great girl who's not only the new Einstein but she also has a heart of gold.  She's loving, forgiving, and just one heck of a person.  Also, this book touches slightly on male body image, which I don't often see, so I appreciated it.

Now, I realize that the last bit of the book might be a bit far fetched for some readers, but I thought it fit quite well for its genre despite having a prominent contemporary feel during a great deal of it.  Sure, it suddenly turned a whole lot more science fiction / dystopian all of a sudden, but I felt like it worked for the story the author was trying to tell.  The only problem I had with the ending was a character's death that I felt was a little unnecessary.  It made me feel as if their end only occurred to show the danger of the current situation, which it definitely did (quite successfully I might add!), but I was deeply upset.


Other than that, though, this book was the bomb diggity!

Before I leave you (after a probably very confusing review), I would like to address some of the concerns I've seen that resulted in the book's lower ratings and explain my own thoughts on them.  (My goal is not to criticize anyone or discredit their critiques.  These are simply my own take on specific issues that have come about since the book's release.):

1.) The characters were too flat.
I agree that Caden and Dyl originally come off as cliche characters with no substance but instead fall into the molds we've seen so many other characters take on even to the point of being cringy in both action and dialogue (which I personally think was the point in order to address YA tropes).  Additionally, I think their original overdone dispositions made sense considering that they were trained to act in this cliche way (remember how I mentioned the loser would be murdered???) and be these people in order to please the organization.  It was both a survival tactic and perhaps a way to blatantly focus on how ridiculous the "good" and "bad boy" tropes can actually be - meaning the Love Interest characters did not believably feel like people, especially average teenagers.  However, I believe that Caden was finally able to look inwards and contemplate who he was and wanted to be once he was outside the walls of the LIC compound, giving himself a chance to actually figure out the Caden buried underneath all the ridiculous things he had to be or rather embody so as to stay relevant and useful to his superiors.  Admittedly, perhaps there could have been more self-exploration than what we were given, and some may find the characters to still come off as stunted or ridiculous, but I loved them and appreciated their journey.  As for the characters who were not Love Interests, I might have enjoyed getting into Juliet's head a bit more, but I suppose that might have been a bit difficult with only writing from Caden's perspective.

2.) The ending sequences felt like they came out of nowhere.
I can completely understand where this critique is coming from.  Like I mentioned previously, a large portion of the book has more of a contemporary vibe to it, so when this changes towards the last portion of the book, it might be a bit frustrating, odd, or unbelievable for different readers.  Personally, I was also a bit thrown off by it myself, but then I realized that this confusion resulted  from me forgetting that Caden and Dyl were basically super spies.  Thus, when a more epic side to the story arose, I was not prepared.  I welcomed the change of pace, though, and was excited for more of a Sci-Fi atmosphere (if Sci-Fi means highly technological gadgets).

3.) The ending was too easy.
Did it seem like things happened too swiftly?  Maybe not.  Did they happen too easily?  I'm sorry to say yes, at least just a bit too easily.  I won't get into how or why, but to be honest, I still really enjoyed the ride.  I'm one of those people who like to suspend disbelief when it comes to movies and books (unless they're marketed as contemporary), which I was able to apply in this case.  However, I can definitely see how the ending might affect others.

4.) Cheating
There is a huge instance of cheating in this book, which was extremely frustrating.  I know it unfortunately happens, and a book should not be penalized for including it - it's realistic (no matter how sad that is).  However, I can't honestly remember how this got resolved, which is probably because I'm adding this in a year later (2018 update).  At first, I didn't dwell on it too much, but what this character did and my foggy memory thinking it wasn't resolved as well as it could have been, is unfortunate.  This (how the cheating was handled and why it occurred) is one of my few complaints about the book.

At the end of the day, I want to express that this book is pure fun and may make you want to puke rainbows due to your happiness.  But it can also get heavy -- which is one of its main appeals.  The concept is ridiculously unique and refreshing, and the way it played with YA tropes was spectacular.  The romance made me want to gush and go singing in the rain at times, and the main characters are pure gold.  They're precious and deserve all of the happiness in the world (even the one that got killed off - sob). Dietrich made me addicted to his stories with this one book, and I'm definitely going  to read his next one as soon as it comes out!  You can bet on that!  While so many didn't enjoy The Love Interest and it does have its flaws, I unapologetically love it and will recommend it until I die.  I think it has value, and does an amazing job of looking at gender, stereotypes, and the journey of loving, accepting, and finding one's self.  Also, Dietrich's message to the LGBTQ+ community in his acknowledgements was so beautiful.  I love this man!

If you enjoyed this book, you may also like:

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Six of Crows (Six of Crows #1) by Leigh Bardugo

This review was written by: C
Received: Borrowed from Library
Publication Date of Book: Sept. 29, 2015
Pages (Hardcover): 462
Stars: 5/5

Official Summary:

Criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker has been offered wealth beyond his wildest dreams. But to claim it, he'll have to pull off a seemingly impossible heist:

Break into the notorious Ice Court
(a military stronghold that has never been breached)

Retrieve a hostage
(who could unleash magical havoc on the world)

Survive long enough to collect his reward
(and spend it)

Kaz needs a crew desperate enough to take on this suicide mission and dangerous enough to get the job done - and he knows exactly who: six of the deadliest outcasts the city has to offer. Together, they just might be unstoppable - if they don't kill each other first.

My Thoughts:

"We're all someone's monster."

We're starting the new year strong with my first read being 5/5 stars (yes, this review is being posted way after I read the book and wrote this review)! I have to admit, I don't always love books that are super hyped -- I have such high expectations that just aren't met very often (I'm looking at you Hunger Games -- you just definitely weren't for me). However, I'm glad I decided to pick this baby up. I'm definitely a bit late to the game on this one (by three years), but I guess better late than never. 

Anyway, when I first got my hands on Six of Crows, I was fairly hesitant about the various point of views. I don't mind POV books with multiple characters, but following six people seemed a bit much, not to mention daunting. You have to remember their names, skills, personalities, physical traits, etc. in order to distinguish between who is who, and some authors don't do a splendid job at differentiating characters or making them each stand out as individuals. 

I have to give Bardugo props for making it easy to follow them all. Although, I have to admit, I did love reading from a few particular characters' perspectives more than others.

Anywho, when I started reading, I was honestly a bit bored. I was given a lot of information about a dull guard walking around the property of some rich dude. I admit that I can be kind of picky about the beginning of books -- it can make or break whether or not I'll even continue reading it if I feel like it's a waste of time and totally boring (I have over 3,000 books on my To-Read list, so I don't exactly want to spend forever agonizing through a 400+ page book). Despite the slow beginning, I'm glad I stuck through it, and this read picked up immediately following the guard's story. Consequently, I ceased to be disappointed. 

I've never come across an author capable of creating such a vast and interesting universe that grabs a reader's attention. The heist was also spectacular and so much thought and time went into making it intricate, understandable, and breathtaking. There was suspense, so many twists and turns, and surprises that I didn't see coming.  

I thoroughly enjoyed Bardugo's group of outcasts. I don't know why, but I often prefer reading stories about the underdogs or the forgotten in society. They're just far more interesting, quirky, and filled with great backstories. Remember how I mentioned that I preferred some characters over others? They were all great in their own ways -- they all fit spectacularly into the story with their own histories, tricks, talents, and unique personalities. However, I just loved Kaz. 

I've never come across a character quite like him. He was complex, compelling, witty, and just full of secrets. His backstory was also especially intriguing. I really shouldn't get started, or I'll never stop gushing over him. 

I was also totally blindsided when I discovered that there was a lovely LGBTQ+ couple snuck into the story. Meet Jesper Fahey and Wylan Van Eck:


In the beginning, they're pretty much the only characters without definitive love interests. I didn't really think anything of it, and neither characters' sexualities were made blatantly known. I truly appreciated this from Bardugo. She didn't feel that sexual orientation had to be a giant spotlight that defined a character. She slowly made it known that Wylan and Jesper were getting closer in a romantic manner with wonderful and natural flirting. It was marvelous, and I loved their witty banter and remarks. They also now happen to be one of my favorite boy meets boy couples!!! 

Overall, I can't stress just how amazing this series is. Bardugo has definitely picked up another loyal fan, and I can't wait to see what she creates next.

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Sunday, June 24, 2018

Change of Heart (Change of Heart #1) by Mary Calmes

This review was written by: C
Received: Library
Stars: 2.75/5

Official Summary:

As a young gay man—and a werepanther—all Jin Rayne yearns for is a normal life. Having fled his past, he wants nothing more than to start over, but Jin’s old life doesn’t want to let him go. When his travels bring him to a new city, he crosses paths with the leader of the local were-tribe. 

Logan Church is a shock and an enigma, and Jin fears that Logan is both the mate he fears and the love of his life. Jin doesn't want to go back to the old ways, and mating would irrevocably tie him to them. But Jin is the mate Logan needs at his side to help him lead his tribe, and he won't give Jin up so easily. It will take time and trust for Jin to discover the joy in belonging to Logan and how to love without restraint. 

My Thoughts:

Okay, so I have quite the list as to why I decided to start this series:

1) I'm trying to venture into new genres so I decided to try the more "hardcore" male / male romance scene.

2) One of my sisters is constantly telling me to delve into the omegaverse and werecat genres, so I guess I got the werecat part down.

3) I may dabble a little bit in the yaoi genre (okay a lot), and the characters and werecat idea seemed a bit similar to Shingo (a black werecat) and Kakami (a werejaguar) from Kuroneko Kareshi. I don't know about you, but Shingo and Jin definitely have a similar character design (they're the black-haired beauties below), so I thought I should give this a shot.


4) Everyone needs a guilty pleasure, so I figured why not let a little smutty romance be mine?

Anyway, when I started the book, I felt that it had potential. A hidden werecat world filled with smoldering men? I'm in, no questions asked. I definitely fell into the world with Calmes' great description of the werecat transformations -- they were flawless and definitely made it possible for me as the reader to see and feel exactly what was happening:

"The scream reached me, and I listened for a second to make sure I knew where I was going before I took off running. It was like being shot from a gun, the burst of speed before my vision changed and my focus lowered. I went from being blind in the dark to having perfect sight in a body discarded one shape for another too quickly for my brain to register. One moment I was a man, and the next I was a panther. "

That previous bit of writing truly drew me in. Plus, there was an interesting plot. You see, Jin is a reah -- which means an individual who is a true-mate of a semel (a tribe leader). However, there's never been a male reah before. Consequently, Jin's family and/or tribe rejected him for being an abnormality, but also mostly due to his sexuality and viewing him as a sin against nature. 

In this world, reahs are rare -- semels almost never find the true-mate that they're destined for -- they often have to settle for a yareah (someone who's chosen to be the mate of a semel so they aren't a true-mate). 

Due to Jin being rejected and almost murdered by his tribe, he's more of a wandering soul, going from place to place living life with his best friend Crane. However, in the current area where they reside, the tribes nearest to them catch wind of what Jin is and request that he meets their semels in order to determine whether or not he's a true-mate of any one of them. 

Before I go any further, I should let you know that I really don't mind the "one true love in the universe" type of deal where one person is destined to be with another by some weird laws of fate. I'm a bit of a romantic, so I guess I've always hoped this is true in reality. However, there were a few things about how the trope was used that annoyed me, which I'll get into later. 

Anyway, it becomes clear that Jin is destined to be with Logan Church. Once this happens a bunch of drama enters their world and their lives are put in danger. 

About a fourth to halfway through the book, it began to fall apart -- at least for me. The writing seemed a bit plain, things moved super quickly, and there were quite a few other factors that got in the way of me loving this book. Here are specifics for why Change of Heart didn't work for me:

1) The words ''baby" and "mate" were used SO MUCH. 

I've read my fair share of adult and YA romances and the word "baby" is rarely (if used even at all) as a term of endearment. It might just be me, but reading it sounds a lot weirder than hearing someone use the word in real life. Maybe "babe" would sound more natural if I were reading? I don't know, but I just felt that I could create a Justin Bieber song with all the repetition. 

I know that this is a werecat book with fated pairings, so it would make sense to call your betrothed your mate, but it just sounded a bit weird and out of place. Plus it was used A LOT. Maybe I would have just preferred to imagine them saying each others names in a super-sexy way in place of "baby" or "mate?" 

2) Specific and made-up language memorization is ESSENTIAL. 

I've come across books before that have a made-up language or very specific made-up words that are used often. Thus, you have to memorize what they all mean in order to get a sense of character relationships or what the heck is going on. I just find it a bit annoying to have to read and memorize an index before starting a book to make sure it's possible to get a gist of what's going on.

3) The plot moved SUPER FAST and began to fall apart. 

I know that a lot of these books are relatively short, and due to the petite length, I feel like the author tried to fit a lot of events in a very short amount of time. As a result, too much happened too quickly. Others may feel like the plot had a decent pace, but it just seemed overly fast to me.

Additionally, I feel like due to the jumble of events, the plot fell apart as time went on - there was less substance and more frenzy.

4) The sex scenes were there pretty much to just have sex scenes.

I really don't mind sex scenes that aren't there to further the plot (I would say that about two actually further the story). Besides, some yaoi are filled with sex scenes that don't further the plot. Regarding Change of Heart, I'm going to admit that the hot and heavy scenes were....for a lack of better description ... pretty sexy. For the vast majority of these scenarios, this was me when I came upon them:

However, it does get a bit annoying when the sex is pretty much just a device to get the reader to keep moving through the book. It's almost as if the author thought "How do I fill the gap between these two scenes? Hmmm....I'll just throw in more sex!!!"

5) Is Logan gay, bisexual, or straight???

I was kind of confused when Logan went from dating and sleeping with girls to suddenly being like "You're my reah and you're a guy. So I guess it doesn't matter what my sexuality is. I'm just gonna go with it." It just felt like he'd suddenly "become" gay and/or bisexual. I'm of the mindset that people don't "become" gay, straight, or bisexual. They're born with whatever sexual orientation that they are -- it's not a decision, it's a part of you. Maybe the author didn't mean to come across as Logan "becoming" gay and/or bisexual (because I'm still confused as to whether or not he's strictly into guys or guys and girls), or maybe it'll be brought up in another book in the series that Logan was really bisexual or gay, but it felt a bit wrong for him to act like he'd suddenly turned gay.

Jin even had a very abrupt conversation with Logan, explaining that he either is or isn't gay. However, Logan just brushed it off. All he explained was that he'd only been with girls but since his reah is a man, he's going to love Jin. I get the sentiment and maybe I missed an undertone or something in the book showing that Logan was gay or bisexual all along (maybe he wasn't able to face his sexual orientation until Jin?), but it was kind of a deal breaker.  

6) Jin doesn't want to fall in love. Then he does and throws out all previous beliefs on the matter.

I kind of hate when characters have such strong and passionate beliefs on a subject and then they do a total 360 with no explanation. It's kind of a WTF moment. What happened to the fact that Jin had no intention of finding his mate and wanted to avoid all semels in the area no matter the cost? It makes absolutely no sense that years of one mindset are suddenly overturned by one moment in his life. It just irks the hell out of me.

7) Super possessive love interest.

Another pet peeve of mine is when one person in a relationship acts like they own the other. In a nutshell, that's Logan Church. He's super possessive and I got exhausted with his exclamations that Jin is his.

Maybe I'm in the minority -- but I hate relationships where people act as if their partner is a possession, something that they attained and now own. Jin is a human being, not human doll.

This also ties into #6 where Jin's all "Yes, I'm yours. Take me!!!". I just couldn't take it.

8) Why is the submissive always tinier and more slender???

This is a trope that really gets to me. Why does the submissive always have to look more feminine??? I really don't get it.

Well, that's pretty much all I have left to say. I don't want anyone to not try this book because of #5. Sometimes I just read too far into things. Besides, I definitely plan on continuing with this series. It's intriguing, and I'll get past my complaints because I want to know what the future holds for Jin and Logan -- maybe my complaints will be rectified?

On a side note -- does anyone else think that Jin's butt on the cover kind of resembles a peach? Maybe it was purposeful?

Jin vs Peach:

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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Skin Deep (Paranormal Detective Series #6) by Lily Luchesi

This review was written by: B and C
Received: Ebook from Author
Publication Date of Book: June 12, 2018
Pages: 153 (Kindle)
Stars: 4.5/5

Official Summary:

The animal inside wants to come out and play.

Skin changers are able to look like anyone of any race and gender, which makes them the most dangerous criminals in the paranormal community.  Only one person in modern history has ever successfully captured and executed one.

When a skin changer starts attacking government workers in Chicago, they have no choice but to call in their last resort.  However, their solution might create even more danger for the city and its people.  What does the skin changer want, and how does it fit into a possible Undead uprising?

Our Thoughts:

There are no words that even begin to encapsulate how excited we are to jump back into the Paranormal Detective Series with each and every installment or how much we've come to love them even as the years continue on.  It's a series that is difficult to tire from but instead remains engaging and quite possibly even more gory than the ones that came before!  Luchesi's PID novels are ones that we plan on rereading over and over again (especially book 4 - oh, the feels are somehow still fresh from that one!).  Each round leaves us recognizing character cameos and other fun tidbits that make these books so enjoyable.  

Luchesi's characters are not only entertaining, but they are also deep and complex, which strengthens the plot and makes these stories so hard to put down.  They're gritty, dark, and redeemable - what better combination is there?  Plus, the author incorporates great LGBTQ+ representation, which makes us even more excited to share these books with paranormal lovers and stand by this author who never ceases to capture our imaginations and hearts.

Avid fans will be delighted to see the glorious power couple that is Angelica and Danny, alongside various references to fandoms like Sailor Moon and more.  However, Luchesi does an excellent job of moving the story along with explanations for those who are perhaps new to the story or need refreshers so that the reading experience is not hindered by confusion or memory loss (which is not always done by authors, resulting in frustrating befuddlement when trying to enjoy an otherwise great quality book).  Thus, those familiar with the PID world and those who are given the pleasure to just discover it will be able to follow along.

Skin Deep was, like all other Lily Luchesi novels and short stories, beyond amazing, and January 2018 cannot come soon enough.  This is an author who will only continue to (...cue Hamilton soundtrack...) "Blow us all away!"

Skin Deep by Lily Luchesi Release Blitz

The animal inside wants to come out and play.
Skin changers are able to look like anyone of any race and gender, which makes them the most dangerous criminals in the paranormal community. Only one person in modern history has ever successfully captured and executed one.
When a skin changer starts attacking government workers in Chicago, they have no choice but to call in their last resort. However, their solution might create even more danger for the city and its people. What does the skin changer want, and how does it fit into a possible Undead uprising?

Coming June 12th from USA Today bestselling author Lily Luchesi
Published by Vamptasy Publishing
Cover design by Rue Volley
Edited by EAL Editing Services


Lily Luchesi is the USA Today bestselling and award-winning author of the Paranormal Detectives Series, published by Vamptasy Publishing. She also has short stories included in multiple bestselling anthologies, and a successful dark erotica retelling of Dracula.
She is also the editor, curator and contributing author of Vamptasy Publishing's Damsels of Distress anthology, which celebrates strong female characters in horror and paranormal fiction.
She was born in Chicago, Illinois, and now resides in Los Angeles, California. Ever since she was a toddler her mother noticed her tendency for being interested in all things "dark". At two she became infatuated with vampires and ghosts, and that infatuation turned into a lifestyle. She is also an out member of the LGBT+ community. When she's not writing, she's going to rock concerts, getting tattooed, watching the CW, or reading manga. And drinking copious amounts of coffee.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Evading the Dark (The Cross Chronicles #1) by E.M. Rinaldi

This review was written by: C
Received: Ebook from author
Stars: 4/5

Official Summary:

High school sucks. It doesn’t matter who you ask; jock, cheerleader, computer nerd, or band geek, they will all say the same thing: It’s a nightmare. But Casey is still wondering how she got the short end of the stick. Just a Sophomore at the prestigious Luthos Academy for Magical Beings, Casey already knows more about heartache and fear than any almost-sixteen-year-old should. Orphaned and left to be raised by the Academy, she spends her days training to become a Guardian, but that dream is looking dimmer with every day that passes.Unlike the wand-waving heroines in all her favorite books, Witches in her world don’t cast spells, they are born wielding the power of nature: water, fire, earth, or air; powers Casey never developed. She’ll be lucky if they even allow her to take her final exams.

She is top of her training class, but that doesn’t keep her from being looked down upon by every other being at her school. All Casey wants is to be given a chance, instead she finds the only life she’s ever known targeted by an unfathomable evil. Thrust into the center of an age-old prophecy, a war is coming with Casey at the reins.

Will relying on her hard earned training be enough for her to make it out alive?

My Thoughts:

Okay, so I'm going to admit that I do have a slight problem reading ebooks. I don't know about anyone else out there, but for some reason, ebooks often detract from my reading experience. They take me a lot longer to read and I often get distracted. Reading a book on my laptop or iPad just doesn't feel the same as reading a physical book -- I especially miss the flipping of pages, the fresh smell of paper, and just holding the story in my hands.  Then again, it could just be my vehement disdain for constantly having to read articles, science journals, and many other electronic resources for college. It kind of sucks to feel this way, as digital books are such a great way for new authors to enter the writing scene and it provides a much more economic platform to distribute books to audiences.  Anyway, I often wonder if my preferment of actual books sometimes detracts from my enjoyment of ebooks. Nonetheless, I think I've finally found an ebook that has broken my recent string of digital book woes and holy sh*t, was this book good.

When I initially began to read Evading the Dark, I was definitely deep in my ebook reading slump, but after about 10 to 15 pages, I really began to enjoy it. As mentioned before, I don't usually feel this way with ebooks, but Rinaldi just has a certain jena se qua to her writing that made me want to read more.

First of all, the story follows Casey Cross, the descendant of a powerful Witch bloodline. However, the catch is that she hasn't displayed any signs of magical abilities. Thus, she's the social outcast of Luthos Academy and the student that everyone likes to screw with. I have to say that Rinaldi had a pretty accurate depiction of what my high school career was like -- tons of bullies and no individual in authority wanting to admit that sh*t was going down. Needless to say, I could identify with Casey and her situation and all the crap that can get thrown at someone just because they're not like every other sheep in the herd. Besides, I think that one of my favorite childhood witches sums up this situation pretty well:

Anywho, Casey also has a fabulous best friend named Cedric. And I must admit, this was the first thing that came to mind when this name was mentioned -- good ol' Cedric Diggory :

(Aahhh...the very beginning of Robert Pattinson's acting career. You'll be seeing more of him later.)

I just loved the banter between the two. It was witty and humorous. And you've all gotta know by now that I'm a true sucker for smart-ass character banter. This is just a little taste of what you can find in Evading the Dark:

He blew out a breath and walked over to the little window. He seemed focused, and I could tell that he was throwing everything that happened today around in his mind. After a few tense minutes he spoke, “I think you should listen to this feeling and pay attention to it if it gets stronger. Until we get to the bottom of this, it’s safer to listen to all of our instincts. And don’t go in the woods alone.”

“Okay.” I agreed, “that sounds smart.”

His infamous smirk slowly formed on his face. “I have nothing if not genius ideas.”

 I also love the fact that Rinaldi makes some pop culture references. This book does involve vampires. And everyone knows by now that you can't involve vampires in a book in this day and age without bringing up Twilight -- it's just not possible. Plus, Rinaldi uses the killer scary kind:

"The Normal world has a very twisted view of these creatures, but we know the truth. They do not fall in love with human females and save them, like princes to some damsel in distress. They have no issue being in the sun, and they sure as hell don’t sparkle in it—I would love to know what they think of that— and they are not capable of love or gooey feelings they are portrayed with in the norm."

(Told you he'd be back.)

(It gets me every time.)

All jokes aside, Casey was just a character that I truly connected with. The book is told using a first person perspective and her inner monologue and thoughts were things that I really enjoyed reading. I also didn't mind how Rinaldi often when back and forth between the past and present to fill in or bring light to important details in Casey's past. I guess what I'm ultimately saying is that Casey was a believable teenage character and that's what drew me in. She also stole a special place in my heart with this:

"Due to the awkward shaping of the roof, my room supported a small, pushed out niche that was lined floor to ceiling with bookshelves that housed my mini library. These books were my gateway to another world when mine wasn’t being so nice.

Aside from me gushing over Casey's love of books and great personality, she's a strong female protagonist who can stand her ground when facing odds that aren't exactly in her favor. Additionally, I felt that the pace of the plot was pretty solid and events didn't happen too quickly or at a snail's pace -- it was just right. 

Also, just a heads-up....there is a cliffhanger.

Thus, I can't wait to read the next book! And, I will add that I hope to buy a physical copy of this book in the future. I shall save a spot on my shelf for one of my new favorite reads.