Thursday, April 17, 2014

Review: Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma

There are simply... no words I can use to describe Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma.  At least none that would do the novel any kind of justice.  It tackles a subject matter that is extremely difficult to read about, and even more so to talk about:  incest.

She is pretty and talented - sweet sixteen and never been kissed. He is seventeen; gorgeous and on the brink of a bright future. And now they have fallen in love. But... they are brother and sister.

Seventeen-year-old Lochan and sixteen-year-old Maya have always felt more like friends than siblings. Together they have stepped in for their alcoholic, wayward mother to take care of their three younger siblings. As defacto parents to the little ones, Lochan and Maya have had to grow up fast. And the stress of their lives—and the way they understand each other so completely—has also also brought them closer than two siblings would ordinarily be. So close, in fact, that they have fallen in love. Their clandestine romance quickly blooms into deep, desperate love. They know their relationship is wrong and cannot possibly continue. And yet, they cannot stop what feels so incredibly right. As the novel careens toward an explosive and shocking finale, only one thing is certain: a love this devastating has no happy ending.         @Goodreads

I actually finished this book well over a week ago, but could not bring myself to write a review on it.  What can I say?  How can I review a book that affected me so profoundly?  I just couldn't.  I still can't.  And honestly, the less the reader knows going in to the novel, the better.

“I think I’m going to die from happiness. I think I’m going to die from pain.” 

So, yeah, incest.  I was a bit worried about that delicate subject when I first came across this novel.  It sickened me.  I did not want to read it.  But I did, anyway, and I'm so glad; Forbidden sucked me in, and spit me out.

Am I okay with incest now?  No.  But I believe in Lochan and Maya's love.  Although taboo, yes, it was beautiful, and it was pure.  And yes, I rooted for them, I did.

This is not a book for everyone.  If you do not like reading about star-crossed lovers, you will not like this novel.  If you require a happy ending, do not read this novel.  And lastly, if you require to have coherent thoughts about a novel, skip this.  This book, if nothing else, will make you feel, and it will make you hurt.  You may not be able to articulate your feelings into words, much like me, but they are there nonetheless.  And even if you hate this novel, which you very well may, it will stay with you.  Highly recommended, and now one of my all-time favorites.

Review: In Bed with a Highlander (McCabe Trilogy #1) by Maya Banks

In Bed with a Highlander (McCabe Trilogy #1) by Maya Banks is a Scottish Highlander historical romance novel, very reminiscent of earlier works done by Julie Garwood.  While a quick, rainy day read, In Bed with a Highlander does not add anything new to the genre.

Maya Banks' beguiling new trilogy features three unforgettable brothers risking everything to save their clan and their legacy—and to surrender their hearts to love.

Ewan McCabe, the eldest, is a warrior determined to vanquish his enemy. Now, with the time ripe for battle, his men are ready and Ewan is poised to take back what is his—until a blue-eyed, raven-haired temptress is thrust upon him. Mairin may be the salvation of Ewan's clan, but for a man who dreams only of revenge, matters of the heart are strange territory to conquer.

The illegitimate daughter of the king, Mairin possesses prized property that has made her a pawn—and wary of love. Her worst fears are realized when she is rescued from peril only to be forced into marriage by her charismatic and commanding savior, Ewan McCabe. But her attraction to her ruggedly powerful new husband makes her crave his surprisingly tender touch; her body comes alive under his sensual mastery. And as war draws near, Mairin's strength, spirit, and passion challenge Ewan to conquer his demons—and embrace a love that means more than revenge and land.    @Goodreads

It's been years since I've read any of Julie Garwood's historical novels, so I unfortunately cannot do a side-by-side comparison.  What I can say, though, is that if I didn't know who had written In Bed with a Highlander, I would have thought Julie Garwood had, maybe when she was sick with the flu, or experiencing writer's block or something.

Bottom line is this:  If you have not read any of Julie Garwood's Scottish historical romances, stop, and read those, instead.  If you have read Julie Garwood's Scottish historical romances, stop, and re-read those instead.  While the writing styles are indeed similar, Julie Garwood mastered the genre that Maya Banks is tentatively stepping in to.

If you do not know much about Scottish history, of clans, lairds, highlanders, and lowlanders, you're not going to learn much here. Going in to this book, the author seems to have expected everyone to have at least a basic understanding of medieval Scotland.  In truth, the "historical" aspect of the novel is lacking.

What's not lacking is instant love.  Aye, both characters fall in love very quickly, after an instant, powerful attraction.  And the end... was just not great.

Review: Prisoner of My Desire by Johanna Lindsey

Prisoner of My Desire by Johanna Lindsey is a staple in the historical romance genre; originally published back in 1991, it has not lost any of its steam, and is still regarded to be one of the best of its kind.  Warning:  It is quite rapey.


Spirited Rowena Belleme must produce an heir--or incur the dangerous wrath of a ruthless stepbrother, who stands to forfeit his ill-gotten wealth. And the magnificent Warrick deChaville is the perfect choice to sire her child--though it means imprisoning the handsome knight...and forcing him to bend to her amorous whims.


Vowing to resist but betrayed by his own virility, noble Warrick is intoxicated by Rowena's sapphire eyes and voluptuous beauty. Yet all the while he plans a fitting revenge--eagerly awaiting the time when his sensuous captor becomes his helpless captive ... and is made to suffer the same rapturous torment and exquisite ecstasy that he himself has endured.

In my teenage years, I absolutely loved historical romances.  I've read everything the masters in the genre, like Judith McNaught, Julie Garwood, and Jude Deveraux, have published.  I have never read anything by Johanna Lindsey, though, and even though I am not really into historical romances as I once was, the rape warning was what had me wanting to read this.

In an overly complicated series of events that I skimmed through (the beginning was a bit slow, to say the least), Lady Rowena is forced to marry an older man at her step-brother's insistence.  She is to become pregnant with a male heir post haste.  Unfortunately, her husband dies on her wedding night.  Rowena's step-brother then decides to capture a man that resembles her deceased husband somewhat, so she can be impregnated before they release the news of her husband's untimely demise.

Enter Warrick deChaville, a man mistaken for a peasant, that happens to be a knight.  Rowena is forced to "rape" him repeatedly.  After doing so several times, Rowena feels badly, and arranges for her captor to escape.  Escape he does, but he comes back soon to imprison Lady Rowena herself.  She spends time getting raped in retaliation, and made into a servant at Warrick's estate.  Blah blah blah, they fall in love, blah blah blah.

The good:  I feel like a lecherous twat for saying this, but... the rape scenes were hot.  They weren't overly rapey or brutal; they were more of a shameful experience for the rapee, as their body betrays them and longs for the rapist's touch.

The not-so-good:  Who falls in love with their rapist?  Also, the writing was overly wordy, the and beginning was riddled with non-important details, resulting in a very slow read for me.  2.5 stars.  If you're looking for some great historical romances, I'd skip this one, unless you, too, are intrigued by those rape scenes, you weirdo.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Review: Dorothy Must Die (Dorothy Must Die #1) by Danielle Paige

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige is the dark and grisly re-telling of a classic, and the first in a new young adult series. Set in the magical land of Oz, but not the Oz we know; this Oz is devastated and bleak, and looks like a nuclear wasteland.  What happened, you ask?  Dorothy happened.

I didn't ask for any of this. I didn't ask to be some kind of hero.
But when your whole life gets swept up by a tornado—taking you with it—you have no choice but to go along, you know?

Sure, I've read the books. I've seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little blue birds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can't be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There's still the yellow brick road, though—but even that's crumbling.

What happened?
Dorothy. They say she found a way to come back to Oz. They say she seized power and the power went to her head. And now no one is safe.

My name is Amy Gumm—and I'm the other girl from Kansas.
I've been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked.
I've been trained to fight.
And I have a mission:
Remove the Tin Woodman's heart.
Steal the Scarecrow's brain.
Take the Lion's courage.
Then and only then—Dorothy must die!

I'll be honest; I have never read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, but I'm familiar with the movie.  Very familiar.  Crazily obsessed at a young age, and watched it every day familiar.  Fans of the classic will likely enjoy this novel, but you do not need to be a fan to like this re-telling.  It is dark, sinister, violent, and sad.  The world of L. Frank Baum that Danielle Paige tweaks is powerfully told, completely different, yet somehow eerily familiar.

This story was really good; I rate it at 3.5 stars because, although very rich and imaginative, it dragged in the middle for me.  Gobble up this novel, I did not.  It took me several days longer than normal to read.

The premise of the novel is great; Amy arrives in Oz much like Dorothy originally did in the classic novel -- via a tornado and magic.  However, she does not arrive to the same Oz Dorothy did so many years before.  No, this Oz looks like a wasteland.  The only thing that is the same is the fabled yellow brick road.

Blah blah blah, Amy travels down the road, meeting people along the way, which makes the novel have a very Wizard of Oz feel.  She eventually meets Dorothy (who is a great character in this re-telling, incidentally), who throws her in prison when she learns that Amy came to Oz in the very same way she herself did.  Dorothy feels threatened, and must eliminate anything that stands in her way.

See, when Dorothy came back to Oz, she became corrupted by magic.  Through a series of events, she was able to climb to the top and reign over all the land, hoarding magic and punishing anyone that double-crossed her heinously.  Very fucking heinously.

(The other major characters from the franchise are also in this novel, and they are also rather amazing villains, especially the Tin Woodman.  Again, I cannot stress how vile and terrible the villains are in this novel -- you'll have to read it for yourself.)

Amy eventually escapes from prison with the help of a group of people, the Order, that are united under one goal:  to kill Dorothy, at any cost.

Amy... was flat, for me.  She was what most people would consider a kick-ass heroine, but she reminded me very much of Tris from the Divergent series, who I didn't really like.  If you liked Tris, I really think you'll like Amy.  There is also slowly developing love interest, a boy from the Order she joins, named Nox, who also did nothing for me.  This is the first novel in the series, however, so perhaps I will grow to like both characters in the subsequent books.

Overall, I highly enjoyed Dorothy Must Die except for the problems I detailed; the beginning and end were very good, but the story lulled in the middle when Amy trained with the Order.

Published April 1st 2014 by HarperTeen

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Review: The Magpies by Mark Edwards

The Magpies by Mark Edwards is one of those books that I had on my Kindle for months, without really knowing why, but I blame marijuana as the culprit.  It is a psychological thriller featuring a newly married couple and their neighbors from hell.

When Jamie and Kirsty move into their first home together they are full of optimism. The future, in which they plan to get married and start a family, is bright. The other residents of their building seem friendly too: the horror writer and the middle-aged herbalist who live upstairs, and the Newtons, a married couple who welcome them to the building with open arms.

At first, the two couples get on well. But then strange things start to happen. Dead rats are left on their doorstep. They hear disturbing noises, and much worse, in the night. After Jamie's best friend is injured in a horrific accident, Jamie and Kirsty find themselves targeted by a campaign of terror.

As Jamie and Kirsty are driven to the edge of despair, Jamie vows to fight back – but he has no idea what he is really up against…

THE MAGPIES is a terrifying psychological thriller in which the monsters are not vampires or demons but the people we live next door to. It is a nightmare that could happen to anyone.                                                                                                    @Goodreads
Unfortunately, psychological thrillers like this are a dime a dozen, and The Magpies does little to stand apart from other works in the genre. Jamie and Kirsty just moved into the apartment of their dreams, but everything is not as they imagined it would be; they seem to be living under the couple from hell.  Shortly after moving in, pranks start happening:  dead rats on their door step, the fire department being called when there was no fire, pizza being delivered to their house when they did not order it, et cetera.

Then, they start receiving notes from their neighbors, telling them that they have sex too loudly, and even one time enclosing a recording of them having sex that they had apparently taped.  Creepy, yes, but then the creepiness factor kind of sputters out, and nothing of consequence happens for entirely too long.

At the end, Kirsty wants to sell the apartment, but her husband has developed a Jack Torrence-like obsession with staying, regardless of personal cost, and even tries to hire a hit man to teach the neighbors a lesson.  He has a lackluster little show-off against the neighbors, burns the place down, and that's that.  The end.

Overall, not the worst I've read, but nothing that will stand out in my mind in a couple weeks time.  Decent, but not great.  And the sex scenes were just awkward.

Review: Maybe Someday by Colleen Hoover

Although I am typically not a fan of the new adult genre (no real reason -- my old ass just can't relate), I had read Hopeless by Colleen Hoover, and loved the last half of it.  Maybe Someday wasn't a bad read at all -- in fact, I quite enjoyed it -- but I had some major problems with the plot and characters.

At twenty-two years old, aspiring musician Sydney Blake has a great life: She’s in college, working a steady job, in love with her wonderful boyfriend, Hunter, and rooming with her good friend, Tori. But everything changes when she discovers Hunter cheating on her with Tori—and she is left trying to decide what to do next.

Sydney becomes captivated by her mysterious neighbor, Ridge Lawson. She can’t take her eyes off him or stop listening to the daily guitar playing he does out on his balcony. She can feel the harmony and vibrations in his music. And there’s something about Sydney that Ridge can’t ignore, either: He seems to have finally found his muse. When their inevitable encounter happens, they soon find themselves needing each other in more ways than one…

The novel opens right after Sydney finds out that her boyfriend has been cheating on her with her longtime friend and roommate, courtesy of the hot guy she's been watching play guitar from her balcony in the evenings.   She quickly moves in with said hot guitar playing stud and his roommates, because she has nowhere else to go.  (I'm pretty sure I wouldn't move in with strangers under any circumstance, but whatever, I just went with it.)  Ridge is the hot musician, and shock of the century!, he's deaf.  He strikes a deal with Sydney to write lyrics for his band in exchange for free rent, and an attraction quickly blooms.

Then we find out Ridge has a girlfriend already.

Now, I know what you're thinking -- Ridge sounds like a piece of shit.  That's what I thought, too.  But, in Ridge's defense, adultery does happen, and it doesn't necessarily make a person a piece of shit.  At least that's what I tell myself.  Personal story time!: I cheated on, and then immediately left my first husband for my current husband.  My first husband wasn't a perfect guy, though, hardly;  without going into any details, we'll just say that he didn't treat me very well.  I didn't set out to cheat on him, it's just something that happened, and I owned up to it immediately, and that's that.  It was an extremely difficult time for me, and very hard for me to handle in every way imaginable, and keep in mind, my ex-husband wasn't the best.

Ridge's girlfriend in Maybe Someday is pretty much perfect.  Sweet, beautiful, kind, friendly, you name a positive adjective, and she fits it to a tee.

So therein lies the problem. While I enjoyed the romance that developed between Ridge and Sydney, I couldn't stop myself from thinking that Ridge is just a jerk.

I have some very specific reasons that I did not agree with Ridge's decisions... SPOILER ALERT!  Don't read ahead if you are interested in reading this novel for yourself and haven't yet.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Rave: Kindle First, April edition

Kindle First is a program launched late last year that allows Amazon Prime members the opportunity to download a Kindle book for free each month, one month before the book is scheduled to be published.  Haven't heard of it?  Check it out here!

April's Kindle First picks:
Historical Fiction

Her life would be marked by scandal and suspicion, worship and adoration…

At the tender age of fourteen, Livia Drusilla overhears her father and fellow aristocrats plotting the assassination of Julius Caesar. Proving herself an astute confidante, she becomes her father’s chief political asset—and reluctantly enters into an advantageous marriage to a prominent military officer. Her mother tells her, “It is possible for a woman to influence public affairs,” reminding Livia that—while she possesses a keen sense for the machinations of the Roman senate—she must also remain patient and practical.

But patience and practicality disappear from Livia’s mind when she meets Caesar’s heir, Octavianus. At only eighteen, he displays both power and modesty. A young wife by that point, Livia finds herself drawn to the golden-haired boy. In time, his fortunes will rise as Livia’s family faces terrible danger. But her sharp intellect—and her heart—will lead Livia to make an unbelievable choice: one that will give her greater sway over Rome than she could have ever foreseen.                             @Amazon  -  @Goodreads

Young Adult

 In sunny Southern California, seventeen-year-old Ruby Rose is known for her killer looks and her killer SAT scores. But ever since her dad, an LAPD SWAT sergeant, died, she's also got a few killer secrets.

To cope, Ruby has been trying to stay focused on school (the top spot in her class is on the line) and spending time with friends (her Jimmy Choos and Manolo Blahniks are nothing if not loyal). But after six months of therapy and pathetic parenting by her mom, the District Attorney, Ruby decides to pick up where her dad left off and starts going after the bad guys herself.

When Ruby ends up killing a murderer to save his intended victim, she discovers that she's gone from being the huntress to the hunted. There's a sick mastermind at play, and he has Ruby in his sights. Ruby must discover who's using her to implement twisted justice before she ends up swapping Valentino red for prison orange.

With a gun named Smith, a talent for martial arts, and a boyfriend with eyes to die for, Ruby is ready to face the worst. And if a girl's forced to kill, won't the guilt sit more easily in a pair of Prada peep-toe pumps?         @Amazon  -  @Goodreads


Willow Parsons’s two new best friends are getting married, putting her squarely on the sidelines of romance—which suits her just fine. After the nightmarish situation she escaped from, featuring the ultimate Mr. Wrong, she is more than happy to spend her days slinging drinks in Dempsey’s Bar & Grill, and her nights alone. But her Anchor Island refuge has just one catch: muscle-bound charmer Randy Navarro.

Everyone in town knows that Randy, owner of the local fitness club, is a giant teddy bear. Everyone, it seems, except for Willow. He’s convinced that her avoidance is more than just playing hard to get, and is determined to uncover the secrets that shadow her lovely eyes. But when old fears are dragged into the light, can Randy get Willow to stay and fight for their love…or will she take flight, leaving him and Anchor Island behind?

Home to Stay is a charming, romantic tale about following your heart to find where you belong.                                   @Amazon -  @Goodreads 


 Jimmy Veeder and Bobby Maves are back at it, two years after the events of Dove Season—they’re not exactly the luckiest guys in the Imperial Valley, but, hey, they win more fights than they lose.

Settled on his own farmland and living like a true family man after years of irresponsible fun, Jimmy’s got a straight life cut out for him. But he’s knocking years off that life thanks to fun-yet-dangerous Bobby’s booze-addled antics—especially now that Bobby is single, volatile, profane as ever, and bored as hell.

When Bobby’s teenage daughter goes missing, he and Jimmy take off on a misadventure that starts out as merely unfortunate and escalates to downright calamitous. Bobby won’t hesitate to kick a hornets’ nest to get the girl to safety, but when the rescue mission goes riotously sideways, the duo’s grit—and loyalty to each other—is put to the test.  @Amazon  - @Goodreads

Meh.  I picked I am Livia by process of elimination; I simply had no interest in any of the other three,  two of which are part of a series.  Meh, Amazon, meh.

Which did you pick?