Monday, December 5, 2016

Review: RoseBlood by A.G. Howard


RoseBlood by A.G. Howard
Publisher: Amulet Books
Publication Date: January 10, 2017
Rating: 4 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads):

In this modern day spin on Leroux’s gothic tale of unrequited love turned to madness, seventeen-year-old Rune Germain has a mysterious affliction linked to her operatic talent, and a horrifying mistake she’s trying to hide. Hoping creative direction will help her, Rune’s mother sends her to a French arts conservatory for her senior year, located in an opera house rumored to have ties to The Phantom of the Opera. 

At RoseBlood, Rune secretly befriends the masked Thorn—an elusive violinist who not only guides her musical transformation through dreams that seem more real than reality itself, but somehow knows who she is behind her own masks. As the two discover an otherworldly connection and a soul-deep romance blossoms, Thorn’s dark agenda comes to light and he’s forced to make a deadly choice: lead Rune to her destruction, or face the wrath of the phantom who has haunted the opera house for a century, and is the only father he’s ever known.

What I Liked:

I'll admit - I don't know too much about The Phantom of the Opera. I think I've seen a movie version at some point in elementary school, but I don't remember that well. I know the basics of the story, but it has never really intrigued me. Still, knowing the basics of the story made me curious about this book, because The Phantom of the Opera has an interesting romance. I didn't like Howard's debut trilogy (well, the final book, anyway), but I loved this standalone.

Rune has an immense operatic talent, but she feels like she's cursed - she's always left drained and exhausted after singing. What's more, she did something awful, and she's pretty sure it's related to her singing ability and the exhaustion she experiences afterwards. Her mother and aunt pulls strings and get her into RoseBlood, a French arts conservatory, located in an opera house. Rune notices strange things at the academy; her uniforms go missing, she hears strange noises in the vents, and she keeps seeing a masked man dressed in Victorian-era clothes, but no one else seems to notice him. Everyone insists that the Phantom isn't real... but what if he is? He wants something from Rune, and Rune will have to understand her past in order to control her future.

This is a Gothic contemporary novel, set in modern-day France, but obviously with fantastical elements. There is a paranormal side to this book that I won't reveal, but it has everything to do with Rune's extraordinary singing ability, and her crippling exhaustion after singing. I loved the world-building of this story; I don't think I've read a story with a setting like this. I happen to adore boarding-school-esque settings, and this one did not disappoint. Plus, it's set in France! Close to Paris (though I'm not really sure where exactly). That was cool!

I liked Rune almost from the start. She didn't want to move all the way to France and go to RoseBlood, and she doesn't even want to sing. Her singing bursts forth and then leaves her exhausted, and there is nothing she can do about it. My heart ached for her, because it was almost as if her singing was controlling her. Rune is kind and almost innocent, though she is riddled with guilt over the terrible thing that she did. Throughout the book, we also see that she is compassionate and even selfless; she lets others think badly of her when really, she is trying to help them.

This book is told from Rune's first-person POV, but also Thorn's third-person POV. While I would have loved to read Thorn's POV in first-person, I certainly appreciated having both POVs to read from. Both voices were strong and distinct, and both were extremely necessary in telling the story. This isn't just Rune's story - it's Thorn's too.

Thorn is a mysterious occupant of RoseBlood. I don't want to say too much about him, because he is not who you think. Just as my heart ached for Rune, my heart broke for Thorn. His past is heartbreaking and cruel, and even his present life isn't joyful. He is stuck, and when Rune arrives, it's like something shifts. Thorn's story is so important, both past and present. 

There are many secondary characters in this book, many of whom I absolutely adored. Sunny, Rune's mentor and peer, was hilarious. Jax, Quan, and Audrey were good friends to Rune. Kat and Roxie were cliche "mean girls", but they had their roles. I liked that Rune developed a better relationship with her Aunt Charlotte, towards the end of the book. 

But mostly, I loved the relationship between Thorn and Rune. Their romance is seductive and thrilling and dreamy. I don't even know how to describe it. Rune has been seeing a boy with copper-colored eyes in her dreams, serenading her with a violin. It turns out that that is Thorn (and there is a reason, don't worry). They have been linked in dreams for quite some time, and meeting in person is... quietly explosive. I love their initial connection, and then the connection they form as they see more of each other, at RoseBlood. The romance is gently formed, but entrancingly so. 

AND, there is no love triangle in this book! I was afraid that there would be, because there is potential for a love triangle, given the original story. Also, let's not forget the atrocity that was Howard's debut trilogy, in terms of a love triangle (atrocity to me, that is). But there was NO love triangle in this book. None!

I love how everything comes together, all the pieces and parts that Howard drops as the story progresses. Everything from Rune's father to her crazy grandmother, from Thorn's sad history to his and Rune's connection, makes sense as the end of the book gets close. It was interesting to put everything together and finally understand. I wouldn't say there was a huge mystery to solve or anything like that, but the author sets up the story so that you'll be wondering about this or that, until things are gradually revealed towards the climax of the book. Very well done. 

I adored the ending of the book (though I wouldn't mind an epilogue). This ends perfectly, and exactly as a standalone should. I was so satisfied with the ending, I wanted to reread the book immediately upon finishing. I feel like many books these days (especially series enders) have ended so disappointingly. I'm glad this book did not.

What I Did Not Like:

This book easily could have done with more swoony scenes from Thorn and Rune. Swoony... or steamy. Don't get me wrong, the romance is plenty swoony (in a subtle way), and seductive, but there many physical, ah, interactions between them (please read between the lines and read "physical" as "kissing"). For a romance that was so seductive, there needed to be more kissing. And in any case, more is always good.

Other than that, meh. I don't have any complaints.

Would I Recommend It:

I definitely recommend this book! It's worth the buzz, that's for sure. I was indecisive about this one, because I didn't have a great experience with Howard's last book (Ensnared), but this book really worked for me. If you like the Phantom of the Opera (this is a retelling), or Gothic fantasy/paranormal/contemporary, then give this one a chance. Plus, there is lots of singing, and even some dancing. And again, no love triangle!

Rating:

4.5 stars -> rounded down to 4 stars. I will definitely be rereading this one, and recommending it to friends. It lives up to the hype (well, it's been hyped at least for me, in terms of the people I interact with and follow). I am curious to see what the author will come up with next!


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Sunday, December 4, 2016

Review: Flicker and Mist by Mary G. Thompson


Flicker and Mist by Mary G. Thompson
Publisher: Clarion Books
Publication Date: January 3, 2017
Rating: 3 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads):

Romance, intrigue, and plenty of action are woven into a rich and suspenseful narrative in this powerful YA fantasy. The mixed-race heroine Myra is a Flickerkin and can flicker (become invisible) at will. She hasn’t cultivated or revealed this ability, since Flickerkin are persecuted as potential criminals and spies. When invisible people become tricksters and then murderers, Myra’s Flickerkin heritage becomes a deadly secret, putting her relationship with the leader’s son—and her own life—in jeopardy. Loyalties shift and difficult choices are made before Myra understands who she wants to be.   

What I Liked:

Not bad, but not captivating. I expected this book to be much more than it was. At the same time, it wasn't terrible. In fact, it might have been an excellent story, had it not been painfully boring at times. You'll notice other reviews on Goodreads that complained of the monotony. I understand them. There were big things that I liked about this book, but the book was also extremely monotonous. 

Myra is half Plat, half Leftie. Plats are darker-skinned with dark eyes, Lefties are pale-skinned with light eyes. In this world, Lefties are discriminated against (the opposite of our modern world, in which colored people are discriminated against. But there is more - some Lefties are Flickerkins, descendants of Flicker Men that mixed with Lefties. Flickerkin can turn invisible (flicker). Myra's mother is Flickerkin, and Myra is too, but they've hidden their Ability for years. Flickerkin are not allowed in New Heart City, hence why they hide their Ability.. But when a rogue Flickerkin starts to play tricks and hurt people, all Lefties are tested and tortured in hopes of flushing out the Flickerkin. Not all Lefties are Flickerkin, but it doesn't matter to the Plat government. Myra must come to terms with the part of her that she has hidden all her life, because that part of her is what will save her.

I love how the author takes on so many social issues in this fantasy novel. We have a case of racism and prejudice - but it's the opposite of what we know. The pale-skinned Lefties are discriminated against - they are seen as lesser, and Lefties and Plats don't mix. Lefties are laborers and miners, while Plats are typically the of the upper classes. And Flickerkin - they are also seen as bogeymen. This book takes on racism and fear of races of people - innocent people who are discriminated against because of the color of their skin, their Ability, and/or what one or two evil people of their race or Ability have done. Sound familiar?

Although... it makes me wonder if the author is trying to make a statement about white people have suffered at the hands of colored people? I would love to know. Because... no. Don't do that. 

The author also takes on gender roles. Myra challenges gender roles every time she rides her waterbeast (think horse), every time she wears pants (Plats wear dresses). This story's world is definitely patriarchal (and probably purposefully so), so it was good to see Myra's (extreme) opinions and feelings on gender roles.

It was also good to see that Caster, the love interest, was progressive-thinking. He represents the new younger generation (think Millennials) that can see past skin color or Ability. I was worried about his reaction when he found out about Myra being a Flickerkin (because of course he would out - that's not a spoiler). But again, Caster represents open-mindedness, which was good to see.

Basically, what I liked about this book most was how the author represented modern-day social issues that we deal with. Sometimes it even felt like this book was way too into those social issues - like, they took over the story and not in a good way. But overall, it's great that the author included such a heavy foundation of social issues, and in a unique way.

Myra was an okay character, though I didn't feel much for her or anyone else. Even the romance - theoretically it was shippy, but it felt very one-dimensional and "told" to me, rather than "shown". I thought it was a pretty cute romance though.

The book ends in an okay manner, but I feel like there is potential for a sequel. The ending didn't feel extremely fulfilling, but the story could definitely end as is.

What I Did Not Like:

I already mentioned some of the things I didn't like, but I'll go into more detail.

I felt literally next to nothing for most - if not all - of the characters. The book is told from Myra's POV, and even her, I didn't really care for. I felt for her, being discriminated against, struggling to accept her Leftie side, her Flickerkin Ability. She wasn't as flat as the other characters, but I struggled to feel anything for her.

The other characters were so flat. How I wish I could have swooned over Caster - he was flat and static and he felt like a cardboard character or something. I don't want to say "fake", but it was a lot of "tell" and not "show", when it came to Caster's characterization, as well as the characterization of the other secondary characters.

A lot of "telling" and not "showing" for the romance too. The romance felt leaden, wooden, stiff. I don't know how to describe it, but there was no swoon and flow to the romance. It was like, here's a kiss, here's a hug, oh you two are in love now, yay! Boring. For a book that is pitched as having a sweeping romance, I was NOT swept away. In fact, the romance in this book is flat and forgettable and nothing I'd want to see pitched as such (sweeping, captivating).

Which segues beautifully into my biggest problem with this book - ¡quĂ© aburrido! I mean there is no other way to describe the majority of this book! I almost fell asleep several times while reading, especially in the beginning of the book. I kept looking at the page numbers like, how am I only on page 53, I've been reading for hours!? Good grief, the first half of the book was brutally boring. There was so little happening, and even when the first invisible man shenanigans started happening... yawn. I didn't care. The torturing of the Lefties started... yawn. It was so boring! 

At some point, the story caught my attention, but then there were other annoying things that irritated me. Caster and Myra are clearly the shippy couple, but OF COURSE the author introduced a Leftie/Flickerkin boy in the book, once the turmoil started. Caster is a Plat, by the way. Do you see what the author was trying to do? She wrote the cliche in which each boy represents each half of the girl (because she's mixed, so OBVIOUSLY a boy from each race is going to be after her), and the girl must choose (because it's THAT simple in real life - choose a boy, choose your dominate "half"). I can't call it a love triangle because there was no romance between Myra and the Leftie boy, but the Leftie boy liked Myra. Whatever. I could get behind Myra and Caster because Myra pined after him for forever. But that cliche about two boys representing each side - I hate that. It's BS. 

World-building and story - maybe the author was trying to do too much with this story? It felt like there were so many random pieces and parts that didn't really fit together. Myra is a champion rider, and the Games are happening in this book. There is Leftie discrimination and Flickerkin fear. Myra is trying to understand her Flickerkin abilities. Caster's father, the Deputy, is evil... or is he? Maybe it was just me, but it felt like there was too much happening but NOT happening. Like, the author introduced too many pieces to the puzzle and didn't quite fit them together by the end. Not to mention, I didn't really get a good feel for the world-building. Again, too much thrown at readers.

Would I Recommend It:

I do not recommend this book. It's not a bad book, but it's really not that great. I didn't like it much, but I did really appreciate the author writing so much in terms of social issues. There was a lot of issues challenged in this story (to an overwhelming degree, at times), which is respectable and good to see in YA literature. But this wasn't a really enjoyable book.

Rating:

2.5 stars -> rounded up to 3 stars. Maybe I'm getting soft? I find it hard to give this book 2 stars, so I'm going with 3 stars. I might read a sequel, if there will be one. I'll also be content with just the one book and probably forget about this book in a month or so. It's not a memorable one, sadly.


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Saturday, December 3, 2016

Stacking the Shelves (#206)


Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews, in which bloggers share the books and swag they've received in the past week!


So, what did I get in the week of Sunday, November 27th to Saturday, December 3rd?


(all links to Goodreads are provided!)


In the mail:

I'm staying at the university this weekend, so I'll post everything next week! It always happens in which I get the most mail... when I'm not home. o_o


From NetGalley:

    


Flicker and Mist sounds cool. I got Highland Vixen a little while back but forgot to post it. Highland Spitfire (its predecessor) was SO good. Long Way Home is a sampler (an annoying fact that I didn't realize until after I downloaded the book. Oh well!). Thank you, Clarion, Sourcebooks Casablanca, and Harlequin Teen! 


Friends, I'm in the final squeeze before Christmas break. I have one more week of classes and then two weeks of finals. So, please bear with me! I'm going to be around sporadically at best. I hope everyone has a lovely week!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Review: Black Moon by Romina Russell


Black Moon by Romina Russell
Book Three of the Zodiac series
Publisher: Razorbill
Publication Date: December 6, 2016
Rating: 4 stars
Source: Review copy sent by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads):

One final secret stands between Rho and the enemy. But will the devastating truth be enough to destroy her first?

Rho, the courageous visionary from House Cancer, lost nearly everything when she exposed and fought against the Marad, a mysterious terrorist group bent on destroying balance in the Zodiac Galaxy. Now, the Marad has disappeared without a trace, and an uneasy peace has been declared in the Zodiac Galaxy. 

But Rho is suspicious. She believes the Master is still out there in some other form. And looming over all are the eerie visions of her mother, who died many years ago, but is now appearing to Rho in the stars. 

When news of a stylish new political party supported by her best friend, Nishi, sends Rho on another journey across the galaxy, she uses it as an opportunity to hunt the hidden master and seek out information about her mother. And what she uncovers sheds light on the truth--but casts darkness upon the entire Zodiac world.

What I Liked:

People often question why some readers continue to read a series that they are not totally enjoying. Why waste your time? What's the point? Well, folks, THIS novel is why I keep reading a series that I might not completely enjoy. I liked Zodiac but was a little disappointed by Wandering Star, but I enjoyed Black Moon a lot. THIS is why I keep reading - because I hope that the series will get better, and how else would I know but to keep reading? 

In this third novel, Rho and her friends are trying to navigate in the minefields of politics while also trying to discover the truth about the master and the Marad. Bouncing from House to House, Rho doesn't know who to trust. Her friend Nishi invites her to House Aquarius to support the Tomorrow Party, a new group that has emerged with grand plans of a House-less planet not under the jurisdiction of the Plenum. It seems like fate, since Rho has Seen her mother as an Aquarius. But everything is not as it seems on the Aquarius planet, and the truth will shock everyone. 

The thing I liked probably the most about this book is Rho's character development. FINALLY I feel like I am completely on her side. She grows so much in this book, more than she did in Zodiac and Wandering Star combined (in my opinion). She is always riddled with guilt over lives lost and taken, how much she's sacrificed and how many people she has hurt. But she is learning to take the hurt and move forward, rather than wallow and shut down. Rho has to be more and more of a politician in this book, and I think she handles the constant secrets, truths, scheming, and double-crossing well.

Another thing about Rho that I was totally on board with... she finally sorts out her feelings. It's obvious to us readers that she knew all along, but I like how Rho comes to those conclusions. The beginning of the book seems like two steps backwards, but about halfway through, Rho is very definitive and assertive, and clears the air with both boys.

I hate love triangles, and 90% of why I felt disappointed by Wandering Star was because of the resurfacing of the love triangle (surprise! Mathias isn't dead, at the end of Wandering Star). But even though I hate the love triangle in the previous book, I think the author did a REALLY good job of making it disappear, in this book. I will say that both boys are alive (i.e. the author didn't do the cliche kill-one-of-the-boys-to-resolve-the-love-triangle). But the way the author removes the love triangle is really well written, in my opinion. And for me to say that... well, you all know that I abhor love triangles. This book wouldn't have gotten more than three stars, if I thought the love triangle was something more in this book. I LOVE that it disappears.

To avoid spoilers, I won't say much specifically about the romance, but I loved the romance and the direction that the author took it. Good for Rho, for sorting everything out, and NOT stringing along anyone (too much) in the process. She is intimate with one guy throughout all three books, and it is wonderful to see that she knows her mind and sticks with it, and separates past feelings for the other boy. I loved the romance, and I'm very happy with it.

I love how political this book was! There is a lot of politics, and Rho is much more than a figurehead leader. She goes to Aquarius to join the Tomorrow Party, but she recognizes that things aren't as they seem. Rho uses her influence and her skills wisely. She doesn't trust anyone, and is always looking for ways out. She's smart, and it's good in politics.

This book has a lot of parallels with events of the world today. House Cancer was practically destroyed, and the other Houses are wary of the refugees, because the Marad (think terrorists) are among the refugees of the destroyed Houses (besides Cancer). Sound familiar? How about what is happening in the Middle East, and the reputation of the refugees, how countries won't accept them? I like that Russell "went there". 

One of the reasons why I stuck with this series, despite hating the love triangle in Wandering Star, is because I love science fiction books, especially novels set in space. Russell does a great job with the world-building of this series, and she has created a unique world and setting. This is science fiction with some elements that almost seem magical, and I love it.

So many revelations in this book! There is no way that this could be the end of the series. I am really looking forward to reading Thirteen Rising

What I Did Not Like:

I'd mention the love triangle, because while it does disappear about halfway through this book, it's there in the beginning. I like that Rho is definitive in this book, but obviously I wish she had been from the start. I hate love triangles, and while I liked this book a lot, I will warn you that this series (at least, Wandering Star) does have a love triangle (though it's pretty much confined to Wandering Star, and it's not too bad - she's only touchy-feely with one guy). 

Would I Recommend It:

I highly recommend this series if you like space-related science fiction novels in YA! However, I can't recommend this series if you hate love triangles. I don't regret reading this series up until this point, but part of me wishes I had waited to possibly binge-read the books. I might have been more "okay" with the love triangle. At this point (with only one more book to go, and the love triangle being completely resolved by the midpoint of this book), anyone who hates love triangles (like me) is sort of safe to binge-read the series. 

Rating:

4 stars. Of the three books published so far, I think this one is my favorite. I'm most impressed with Rho's character growth (you go, girl!), but I also love the developments in the romance, and the plot twists that lead right up to the cliffhanger ending. Bring on Thirteen Rising!


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Thursday, December 1, 2016

Swoon Thursday (#201): Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill


- From the book you’re currently reading, or one you just finished, tell us what made you SWOON. What got your heart pounding, your skin tingling, and your stomach fluttering

- Try to make the swoon excerpt 140 characters (or less), if you are going to tweet about it. Use the hashtag #YABOUND when tweeting


This week, my swoon is from Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill!


I hear him whisper my name once more before his mouth is on mine. Oh stars. My lips are frozen beneath his as shock and logic wage war - this is everything I shouldn't want. Still, I don't care. He kisses me gently at first, and then not so much when my lips respond. His hands clutch me to him; the firm spread of his body presses against mine. I can taste the mint leaf on his lips. His tongue. Flames shoot through my limbs and bur my heart, erasing every single thought in my head except for the sweet awareness of Cohen. Of our needy kiss.

My fingers are possessed, tracing up his neck to twist in his hair. A moan escapes his throat. Oh my. It's the most alluring sound I've ever heard.

- eARC, 58%




I adored this book! Cohen and Britta were a lovely pair. =)

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday (#205): The Fallen Kingdom by Elizabeth May


"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.


This week, I'm featuring:


The Fallen Kingdom by Elizabeth May
Book Three of The Falconer trilogy
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Publication Date: June 13, 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

The long-awaited final book in the Falconer trilogy is an imaginative tour-de-force that will thrill fans of the series. Aileana Kameron, resurrected by ancient fae magic, returns to the world she once knew with no memory of her past and with dangerous powers she struggles to control. Desperate to break the curse that pits two factions of the fae against each other in a struggle that will decide the fate of the human and fae worlds, her only hope is hidden in an ancient book guarded by the legendary Morrigan, a faery of immense power and cruelty. To save the world and the people she loves, Aileana must learn to harness her dark new powers even as they are slowly destroying her. Packed with immersive detail, action, romance, and fae lore, and publishing simultaneously in the UK, The Fallen Kingdom brings the Falconer's story to an epic and unforgettable conclusion.




I am so excited to read this book! Aren't the covers of this series amazing? Love!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Blog Tour and Giveaway: Hard Compromise by Samanthe Beck


Welcome to the blog tour for Hard Compromise by Samanthe Beck! This author is one of my favorites, and I always enjoy her Brazen books. I loved this one, and I hope you will too!



About the Book:


Hard Compromise by Samanthe Beck
Book Two of the Compromise Me series
Publisher: Entangled Brazen
Publication Date: November 21, 2016

***Warning: this is an adult book, and for the eyes of mature readers***

Summary (from Goodreads):

Laurie Peterson assumes her impulsive one-night stand with sinfully sexy Sheriff Ethan Booker is the biggest surprise of the year…until her bakery burns down while she’s basking in the afterglow. It looks like her dreams are up in smoke, but then Ethan proposes a deal too tempting to resist. 

Ethan has no intention of settling for a one-night stand with Laurie. Nor does he want anything to do with the women his wealthy family wants him to meet. Not when he’s waited ten years for his chance to make his move. His deal might have strings—and Laurie may not know the stakes—but nothing will stop this sexy cop from staking a real claim on her body and her heart. 



About the Author:


Wine lover, sleep fanatic, and USA Today Bestselling Author of sexy contemporary romance novels, Samanthe Beck lives in Malibu, California, with her long-suffering but extremely adorable husband and their turbo-son, Hud. Throw in a furry ninja named Kitty and Bebe the trash talking Chihuahua and you get the whole, chaotic picture.

When not clinging to sanity by her fingernails or dreaming up fun, fan-your-cheeks sexy ways to get her characters to happily-ever-afters, she searches for the perfect cabernet to pair with Ambien.



The Excerpt:

She turned on less than steady legs and walked to the other side of the room, feeling the weight of his stare on her the entire time. Once there, she planted her feet hip’s distance apart, bent from the waist, and rested her forearms on the bed. “I trust this is interesting enough for you?”  

His footsteps fueled her adrenaline. She lowered her head to the mattress, and lifted onto her toes.  

“It’s definitely a start. Hand me my belt.”  

She raised her head as a hundred imaginary feathers fluttered down her spine. “Your...what?”  

“My belt,” he repeated. “It’s right beside you.” 

“Why?” 

“Give it to me, and you’ll find out.” 

If she wasn’t in the mood for this, all she had to do was say so. Booker would let it go, without question. Even knowing this, backing down felt too much like surrender. She handed the strap to him, but couldn’t help adding a caustic comment. “Who would have guessed there were fifty shades of Sheriff Booker?”  

His soft laugh stirred invisible molecules in the air around her. “I would never do anything so conventional. Besides”—he folded the belt in half and ran the edge along the back of her thigh—“I think you secretly prefer gentle.”  
“I told you before, you don’t have to be gentle with me.”  

“You’re tough, huh?” The edge of the belt tickled her skin again.  

She faced front and held her position. “That’s right.” Dammit, she was her own worst enemy.  

“Okay, tough girl. Be still.”  


The Giveaway: