Friday, March 31, 2017

Review: Things I Should Have Known by Claire LaZebnik

Things I Should Have Known by Claire LaZebnik
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: March 28, 2017
Rating: 4 stars
Source: ARC sent by the publisher

Summary (from Goodreads):

From the author of Epic Fail comes the story of Chloe Mitchell, a Los Angeles girl on a quest to find love for her autistic sister, Ivy. Ethan, from Ivy’s class, seems like the perfect match. It’s unfortunate that his older brother, David, is one of Chloe’s least favorite people, but Chloe can deal, especially when she realizes that David is just as devoted to Ethan as she is to Ivy. 

Uncommonly honest and refreshingly funny, this is a story about sisterhood, autism, and first love. Chloe, Ivy, David, and Ethan, who form a quirky and lovable circle, will steal readers’ hearts and remind us all that it’s okay to be a different kind of normal. 

What I Liked:

Months ago, I received a galley of this book - it was sent unsolicited from Houghton Mifflin (and of course, receiving this galley in no way affected my opinion of the book). So I wasn't sure if I would read it, but recently, a few of my blogger pals read this book, and all of them really enjoyed the book. Throw in the fact that I really enjoyed the one LaZebnik book I've tried - The Last Best Kiss - and I knew I had to squeeze this one into my schedule somehow. I'm so glad I did, because it was a wonderful, thought-provoking, sweet story. With great diversity too!

At a glance, Chloe Mitchell has a great life; she is smart and gets really good grades, her boyfriend is hot, athletic, and a fairly nice guy, and she seems really social and has a great group of friends. But behind closed doors, everything isn't as put-together as it seems. Chloe doesn't have the best relationship with her stepfather, or her mother (since her father died and her mom got remarried). Chloe's older sister is autistic, and Chloe is very protective of and careful with her sister. Chloe's friends don't know much about Ivy, and Chloe sometimes feels as isolated as Ivy. Chloe knows how lonely Ivy is, and so she gets Ivy to start hanging out with Ethan, a boy in Ivy's classes. Ethan is autistic as well, and when Ivy and Ethan hang out, Chloe comes along, as well as Ethan's brother David. David is one of the most annoying jerks that Chloe knows, but as she hangs out with him (and Ivy and Ethan) more, she realizes that he is somewhat antisocial and alone all the time because his devotion to his brother is similar to hers with Ivy. But what if Ethan isn't the right person for Ivy? What is David is the right person for Chloe? 

I don't really love or care for most YA contemporary novels that I come across - I'm much more of a fantasy girl, when it comes to YA. But certain YA contemporary authors have produced amazing books that really worked for me - like Kasie West, Emma Mills, Jenny Han, Huntley Fitzpatrick, Julie Buxbaum... I think it's safe for me to add Claire LaZebnik to that list. I'm two for two with books of hers that I've read!

Reading from Chloe's POV was so entertaining and interesting. I love how selfless Chloe is - she sacrifices a lot of time and social opportunities to take care of Ivy or meet Ivy's needs or demands. And yet, Chloe is also good about not giving into to all of Ivy's demands - she does a fairly good job of taking care of herself. Chloe is such a good sister, and a good friend and girlfriend too. I especially liked seeing her stand up for her sister to everyone - even their stepfather, of all people.

Ivy is a lovely character, one that I liked getting to know and learn about. I've had a lot of experience with young adults with autism, but I've never lived with someone with autism or had to spend hours and days with them. I think the author captured Ivy so well - not just Ivy with autism, but Ivy the person, Ivy the older sister, Ivy the lonely almost-twenty-one-year-old. Ivy is a secondary character in this book, but she is so important to the story.

David was a character that surprised me a little. He comes across as an antisocial jerk who gets good grades but is never seen with friends or a girl, so everyone thinks he is weird and unlikable. Even Chloe isn't nice to him at all, in the beginning. But I love how the author changes our minds about him; he stills seems a little antisocial and not a people-person, but we start to understand why. David is always with his autistic brother Ethan when they're not at their respective school, so David doesn't have much of a social life. His father and stepmother have no time or patience for Ethan, and David is all that Ethan has. David is incredibly selfless and such a good person, when you dig deeper. In fact, I'd say Chloe is more of a jerk than David is, in terms of how mean she was to him initially. 

Autism is a big part of this book, and I thought LaZebnik handled the condition well, in both characters. Ivy and Ethan, and their fellow classmate Diana, and others in the class - they all have similar tics and mannerisms, but they're also very different, in terms of the spectrum. I appreciated this a lot, because (in my experience) there are so many different behaviors and mannerisms within the spectrum of autism. 

The romance - both romances - is not what you'd think! Chloe has a boyfriend for about half of the book. James is cool and there's nothing really wrong with him - he doesn't cheat on Chloe, he's not sleazy, he's not a jerk to her. But he doesn't really get why Chloe is so attentive and devoted to her sister, and about halfway into the story, Chloe and James break up. It seemed fairly natural and with minimal drama, and I actually ended up not minding that Chloe had a boyfriend that wasn't the intended love interest (usually this bothers me because LOVE TRIANGLE).

But this aspect of the romance worked fine for me, because Chloe and David barely knew each other at the time, and they didn't have the best opinions of each other. By the time they both start to develop feelings for each other, Chloe and James break up, and it's a fairly clean break. Chloe and David are great together! They're supportive of each other, and they understand each other. I didn't really swoon over them because there weren't a lot of swoony scenes or magical kisses, but I liked their romance.

Ivy's own romance is great! I had a feeling about it and I think everyone else does too. It was great to see Ivy come out of her shell a little and try new things with Ethan, and explore her feelings about him possibly being more than a friend. Ivy's tentative friendship with Ethan was interesting to see unfold, but her romance is even better.

It was also pretty cool to see the evolution of Chloe's relationship with her stepfather. I hated him initially, and I still don't totally like him, but I liked him more towards the end of the book. Chloe's mom too. David has a strained relationship with his stepmother and his father, and those relationships don't mature like Chloe's do, but they still improve. LaZebnik handled the development of these familial relationships fairly well, in my opinion.

Overall, I have to hand it to LaZebnik - this was a fantastic book. I don't usually like YA contemporary, especially the ones that are heavy with tough issues. This book had "tough issues" (difficult stepparents, struggling find a balance with an autistic sibling, xenophobia exploring relationships), but I like the tone of the book, and how the issues were brought across. This isn't a book that will make you ugly-cry and break your heart - which made me very happy. It is definitely a book that makes you stop and think about xenophobia, and how you view autism, and loved ones of those with autism. 

What I Did Not Like:

Nothing really! Maybe more kissing from David and Chloe? 

Would I Recommend It:

If you like YA contemporary, then definitely put this one on your TBR! I'm not a YA contemporary person and I enjoyed it. It's worth the read - if anything, it'll open your mind to the a completely different world that you might never have thought about (isn't that the lovely thing about books!). I've never read a YA book like this (I'm sure they exist, I just haven't read any).


4 stars. I really enjoyed this light yet thought-provoking novel! Especially with the diversity it contains. I'm glad I took the chance and read it. I'm excited to see what else LaZebnik will be publishing! 

Was this review helpful? Please let me know in the comments section!

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Swoon Thursday (#218): Starfall by Melissa Landers

- 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 Starfall by Melissa Landers!

He tightened both arms around her, crushing their bodies so close there wasn't space to daw more than a gasp. He didn't care. Air didn't matter, only Cassia. It'd been so long since she'd let him hold her like this, and he would willingly suffocate if that was what it took to keep her in his arms. He tasted her mouth while squeezing her in a furious compulsion to pull her inside him. He wondered if he could ever feel close enough to her, even if they went all the way for once. Somehow he doubted it, but he desperately wanted to find out.

He kissed her hard, maybe too hard, because she broke away and panted against his lips. For a moment, he worried she might change her mind, but then she arched her hips and made a noise that said she didn't want this to end any more than he did.

- Hardcover, page 156

I loved Starflight, and so far this companion sequel is okay (though I don't think it's going to touch my obsession with Starflight). Catch my review soon!

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Special Announcement from Cora Carmack!

Hi, fellow bibliovores! I have a really cool announcement to share. Anyone a fan of Cora Carmack and her New Adult novels? 

Specifically, this series?


Guess what is coming? I'll give you a hint...

It's coming! All Closed Off is officially hitting shelves - in May! Ready for the details?

About the Book:

All Closed Off by Cora Carmack
Book Four of the Rusk University series
Publication Date: May 1, 2017

Official Summary:

Stella Santos is fine.

Maybe something terrible happened to her that she can’t even remember. And maybe it drives her crazy when her friends treat her like she’s on the verge of breaking because of it. Maybe it feels even worse when they do what she asks and pretend that it never happened at all. And maybe she’s been getting harassing emails and messages for months from people who don’t even know her, but hate her all the same.

But none of that matters because she’s just fine.

For Ryan Blake, Stella was always that girl. Vibrant and hilarious and beautiful. He wanted her as his best friend. His more than friends. His everything and anything that she would give him. Which these days is a whole lot of nothing. She gets angry when he’s there. Angry when he’s not there. Angry when he tries to talk and when he doesn’t.

When Stella devises an unconventional art project for one of her classes all about exploring intimacy—between both friends and strangers—Ryan finds himself stepping in as guinea pig after one of her subjects bails. What was supposed to be an objective and artistic look at emotion and secrets and sex suddenly becomes much more personal. When he hits it off with another girl from the project, Stella will have to decide if she’s willing to do more than make art about intimacy. To keep him, she’ll have to open up and let herself be the one thing she swore she’d never be again.


About the Author:

Cora Carmack is a twentysomething New York Times bestselling author who likes to write about twentysomething characters. Raised in a small Texas town, she now lives in New York City and spends her time writing, traveling, and marathoning various TV shows on Netflix. She lives by one rule: embrace whatever the world throws at you and run with it (just not with scissors).

Check out the rest of the series:

All Lined Up

All Broke Down

All Played Out

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes and Noble | Kobo

Waiting on Wednesday (#222): Warcross by Marie Lu

"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:

Warcross by Marie Lu
Book One of the Warcross series
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: October 3, 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu—when a game called Warcross takes the world by storm, one girl hacks her way into its dangerous depths.

For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.

In this sci-fi thriller, #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu conjures an immersive, exhilarating world where choosing who to trust may be the biggest gamble of all.

Author Website | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes and Noble

This is very different compared to what I usually read, but I have enjoyed Lu's books, and I'm looking forward to reading this one!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Blog Tour: A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi

Hello, friends! Today, I'm sharing a short interview with Roshani Chokshi, author of The Star-Touched Queen and A Crown of Wishes! Plus, I have an excerpt of the book available below. Go forth and enjoy the awesomeness that is A Crown of Wishes, and its author!

Meet Roshani Chokshi!

Describe the evolution of the title—were you calling the book something else at any point (besides the abbreviated ACOW)?

Roshani: Lol. So. In my drafts folder for ACOW, the “working” title was “THAT DREAD SLIPPERY THING” because this book put me to work and I both loved and hated it and always felt like I was trying to chase down what the book wanted to be. BAH!

Name some other YA novels that you loved that are written by Indian authors.

Roshani: So, this first one is not a YA novel, but I read it in college and it devastated me. A FINE BALANCE by Rohinton Mistry. I also loved CLIMBING THE STAIRS by Padma Venkatram, and the middle grade ASH MISTRY series by Sarwat Chadda!

What is one thing you hope readers will get out of A Crown of Wishes?

Roshani: I hope they close the book grinning. And maybe that night, they’ll dream about stories. And maybe the next day, they’ll see a bird dart from a tree and wonder if it came from Kubera’s court. 

If you will be part of the Tournament of Wishes and you can choose your partner either real or fictional character, who will you pick to join you in Alaka? This book is about wishes so obviously I have to ask, what would you wish for if you won the Tournament of Wishes?

Roshani: I would wish for no need of wishes, with the condition that I’m not killed or incapacitated. And as for partner, I would choose Agnieska from UPROOTED because she’s powerful, hilarious and would probably not mind taking frequent snack breaks… 

Any hints on your next project? Will you continue to use mythology as your inspiration?

Roshani: I can pretty much guarantee that mythology will always be in my stories. My next YA project is THE GILDED WOLVES. It’s a dark, sultry, ish-heist story set in the glamorous La Belle Epoque era of Paris. I love it to pieces, and I can’t wait for readers to meet the characters and world! 

About the Author:

Roshani Chokshi is the New York Times bestselling author of THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN. Her work has appeared in Strange Horizons, Shimmer, and Book Smugglers. Her short story, "The Star Maiden," was longlisted for the British Fantasy Science Award.

About A Crown of Wishes:

A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi
Book Two of The Star-Touched Queen series
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Publication Date: March 28, 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

Gauri, the princess of Bharata, has been taken as a prisoner of war by her kingdom’s enemies. Faced with a future of exile and scorn, Gauri has nothing left to lose. Hope unexpectedly comes in the form of Vikram, the cunning prince of a neighboring land and her sworn enemy kingdom. Unsatisfied with becoming a mere puppet king, Vikram offers Gauri a chance to win back her kingdom in exchange for her battle prowess. Together, they’ll have to set aside their differences and team up to win the Tournament of Wishes—a competition held in a mythical city where the Lord of Wealth promises a wish to the victor.

Reaching the tournament is just the beginning. Once they arrive, danger takes on new shapes: poisonous courtesans and mischievous story birds, a feast of fears and twisted fairy revels.

Every which way they turn new trials will test their wit and strength. But what Gauri and Vikram will soon discover is that there’s nothing more dangerous than what they most desire.

Check out The Star-Touched Queen!

The Excerpt:

The guards unbound my wrists and shoved me into a red room. I waited for them to go before pulling out a small silk bag of pearl dust I had swiped from the cosmetics table. I repeated the flimsy plan in my head: Throw the dust in his eyes, gag him, steal his weapons. If the Prince made a sound, I’d hold the dagger to his throat and hold him ransom. If he didn’t make a sound, I’d make him free me for his own life. I knew I couldn’t get far on my own, but most people could be bribed, and if bribery didn’t work, threats always did.

I was glad they hadn’t taken me to a throne room. The last time I was in a throne room, Skanda had ripped away my hopes for the kingdom and destroyed my future.

Arjun did not meet my eyes. And he refused to look up when his new bride and my best friend was hauled into the room. Nalini sank to her knees. Her gaze was frantic: leaping back and forth from me to Arjun and the dead on the ground. Skanda’s knife was pressed to her throat, sharp and close enough that beads of blood welled onto her skin.

“I know what you want,” said Skanda.

I closed my eyes, shuttering the memory. I looked around the room, wondering which corner was the best position for attacking. At one end, a trellis of roses covered the wall. My chest tightened. I used to grow roses. One trellis for every victory. I had loved watching the blood red petals unfurl around thorns. Looking at them reminded me of my people’s love: red as life. A month before Skanda had me thrown over the Ujijain border, he had set them on fire in a drunken stupor. By the time I got there, it was too late. Every petal had curled and blackened.

“You think these flowers are tokens of Bharata’s love for you,” he had slurred. “I want you to see, little sister. I want you to see just how easy it is for everything you plan and love and tend to go up in flames.”

I’ll never forget what burning roses look like. All those scarlet petals turning incandescent and furious. Like the last flare of the sun before an eclipse swallows it from the sky.

“You think they love you now, but it doesn’t last. You’re the rose. Not them. They are the flames. And you’ll never see how quickly you’ll catch fire until you’re engulfed. One step out of the line I draw, and they will set you on fire.”

I turned my back on the roses.

I chose a corner of the room, and then sank my teeth into the in- sides of my cheek. It was a habit I’d picked up on the eve of my first battle. Nerves had set my teeth chattering, so I brought out a mirror and glowered at myself. The glowering didn’t help, but I liked the way my face looked. The small movements made my cheekbones look as sharp as scimitars. And when I tightened my lips, I felt dangerous, as if I were hiding knives behind my teeth. Biting my cheeks became a battle tradition. Today I went into battle.

A door in the distance creaked. I ran through what I knew about the Prince of Ujijain. They called him the Fox Prince. And given the way some of the soldiers had jealously said his name, it didn’t seem like a name given because his face had animal features. He spent part of every year at an ashram where all the nobility sent their sons. Reputedly brilliant. Not good. Weak with weapons. Excellent. The guards were fond of retelling the story of his trial with the council. Prince Vikram had to submit to three tasks in order to be named heir of Ujijain—give the dead new life, hold a flame that never burns, and deliver the strongest weapon in the world. For the first task, he whittled a piece of bark into a knife, proving that even discarded things could be given new life in purpose. For the second task, he released a thousand jars of fireflies and held the small insects in his hand, proving that he could hold a flame that never burned. And for the last task, he said that he had poisoned the council. Desperate for the antidote, the council named him heir. The Fox Prince then revealed that he had lied and proved how be- lief itself was the strongest weapon in the world.

I rolled my eyes every time I heard the tale. It sounded like some- thing that villagers with a restless imagination would spin beside a fire. I’d heard another rumor about him. Something about his parentage. That he was an orphan who’d moved the Emperor to pity. But I doubted the vicious Emperor would be moved in such a way. The guards told me that the Emperor kept great beasts at his side that could tear the throat out of anyone who dared to cross him.

Footsteps shuffled down the hall. I clutched the silk bag of pearl dust. The Prince might be clever and eloquent, but you can’t talk your way out of death and I wasn’t going to give him a chance to speak. All my intelligence told me that he was no match for me. I’d have him on his knees and begging for his life in a matter of moments.

A final door opened. The Fox Prince was here.

Paperback Release Day and Giveaway: The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead

Hi friends! Today is the paperback publication day of The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead. I loved this book, and I'm looking forward to reading Midnight Jewel! Be sure to check out The Glittering Court, and enter the giveaway.

About the Book:

The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead
Book One of The Glittering Court series
Publisher: Razorbill
Paperback Publication Date: March 28, 2017

Official Summary:

Big and sweeping, spanning from the refined palaces of Osfrid to the gold dust and untamed forests of Adoria, The Glittering Court tells the story of Adelaide, an Osfridian countess who poses as her servant to escape an arranged marriage and start a new life in Adoria, the New World. But to do that, she must join the Glittering Court.

Both a school and a business venture, the Glittering Court is designed to transform impoverished girls into upper-class ladies who appear destined for powerful and wealthy marriages in the New World. Adelaide naturally excels in her training, and even makes a few friends: the fiery former laundress Tamsin and the beautiful Sirminican refugee Mira. She manages to keep her true identity hidden from all but one: the intriguing Cedric Thorn, son of the wealthy proprietor of the Glittering Court.

When Adelaide discovers that Cedric is hiding a dangerous secret of his own, together they hatch a scheme to make the best of Adelaide’s deception. Complications soon arise—first as they cross the treacherous seas from Osfrid to Adoria, and then when Adelaide catches the attention of a powerful governor.

But no complication will prove quite as daunting as the potent attraction simmering between Adelaide and Cedric. An attraction that, if acted on, would scandalize the Glittering Court and make them both outcasts in wild, vastly uncharted lands…

Check out book two, Midnight Jewel:

(Click on the cover to go to Goodreads.)

About the Author:

RICHELLE MEAD is the #1 New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of the Vampire Academy series and its spin-off series, Bloodlines. Originally from Michigan, she now lives in Seattle, Washington.

The Giveaway:

Enter for a chance to win one (1) of ten (10) copies of The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead (ARV: $10.99 each).

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Enter between 12:00 AM Eastern Time on March 28, 2017 and 12:00 AM on April 5, 2017.  Open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia who are 13 and older. Winners will be selected at random on or about April 7, 2017. Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Void where prohibited or restricted by law.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Review: Six Impossible Things by Elizabeth Boyle

Six Impossible Things by Elizabeth Boyle
Book Six of the Rhymes with Love series
Publisher: Avon
Publication Date: April 25, 2017
Rating: 2 stars
Source: eARC from Edelweiss

Summary (from Goodreads):

Lord Rimswell is a man of honor and absolutes. If he says something is impossible, it is. Yet his life of right and wrong is turned upside down when he finds himself in a compromising situation with the most unyielding, yet maddeningly beautiful, woman in London. If only he had not given in to the irresistible temptation to kiss her. Now he must marry her.

Miss Roselie Stratton is the very definition of impossible—headstrong, outspoken, and carrying a reticule of secrets that could ruin more than her reputation. Kissing Brody is hardly the most ruinous thing Roselie has ever done as a secret agent for the Home Office…nor will she let a marriage of convenience stop her from continuing her work. Little does Roselie realize that she has underestimated Brody's resolve to keep her safe—for he has hopelessly fallen in love with her and is determined to do the impossible by stealing her heart in return.

What I Liked:

I am a huge fan of this series, and the author, and some of my favorite historical romance novels are from this series. But this book was an utter disappointment (for me). 

Roselie Stratton has been out for four Seasons and she's still unmarried, but she prefers it that way. She is an unofficial agent of the Home Office, a fact known to very few. Not even Brody, Lord Rimswell, actualy Home Office agent, her childhood friend knows. But he has met Roselie a few times when she was in disguise. When he finds out that it's Roselie under the mask and wig, he is furious. Who knew that the impertinent girl next door grew up to be a meddling, impossible unofficial agent in disguise? When the investigation in Lord Ilford's crimes takes a dangerous turn, Brody tries to stop Roselie from interfering further. Especially when they forced to marry under hasty circumstances. One of them - or both - is going to get hurt, but not if Roselie and Brody can work together to discover the truth about Ilford and his past.

So we have protagonists Brody and Roselie, both of whom were present in the previous books in this series. I adored Brody in the previous books (and I can't really remember what I thought of Roselie - no surprise there). Check the dislikes section for my full discourse on Roselie (spoiler alert: I did not like her). But Brody - well, I adored him.

Brody (or Bradwell, which is very sturdy name) was the second son of a baron, but after his older brother Poldie died in the war, Brody become baron. Brody never really wanted to be Lord Rimswell, especially with his duties with the Home Office. Brody isn't really a rake or a  scoundrel, but he is charming and wicked in his own way. He's rakish without actually being one, which is fun to follow. I love his sense of loyalty and responsibility and duty - as well as his passionate side. Brody is a rare all-around good guy, without being a complete snob.

I loved seeing all of the cameos, from Lavinia, Louisa, Harriet, and their husbands (Tuck, Piers, Roxley). Harriet is one of my favorite heroines of the series, and I love the (small) role she played in this book. Other secondary characters were lovely - Miss Minx (hahahaha), Lady Wakefield, even the dowager Lady Rimswell.

This story was fairly engrossing, though I did struggle at times when it got a little slow and boring. It took me by surprise when, halfway through the book, Brody and Roselie were caught in a compromising situation and immediately got married. Usually the hero and heroine find themselves in a compromising situation but never get caught, so that took me by surprise. But I liked this twist, because it threw off the non-balance between the two, and really forced them to get closer.

I really wish I liked the romance but overall, I didn't, and it circles back to my dislike of Roselie. The romance had its steamy times but nothing remarkable.

Overall, this book wasn't awful, but I'm struggling to come up with more things that I genuinely liked. Brody, most of the secondary characters, the one or two steamy scenes, the story in general. But the female protagonist ruined my overall enjoyment of the book.

What I Did Not Like:

Let me first say that sometimes when I find myself not connecting with or liking a female protagonist, I tell myself to put myself in her shoes, and imagine myself in the story as her. Well, I tried that with Roselie. And I failed to agree with a single one of her decisions (except marrying Brody, maybe). 

Where do I even start... from the beginning of this book, Roselie rubbed me the wrong way. She is masquerading in super sexy clothing, a mask, and a wig, trying to recover stolen information, or find out information about this or that relating to the nefarious Lord Ilford. This alone is not plausible and and had me calling BS. I already disliked her for putting her name and reputation, and her family's name and reputation, in danger. She is very selfish, and she could have (and should have) gotten caught. Luckily when she did get caught, it was by Brody.

Anyway, as the story went on, Roselie became more and more "impossible", to quite Brody. Trust me, I know stubborn and hard-headed (I am stubborn and head-headed). But this girl is stubborn and hard-headed to a fault. She refuses to let anyone tell her ANYTHING, whether it's for her own good or not, whether it makes perfect sense or not, whether it's to protect her or her family/loved ones.

To be honest? One of the things I absolutely hate about this new crop of historical romance heroines is their complete disregard for their reputation and their family's reputation. There are so many new HR books with heroines who are "bada**" and daring and assertive - feminist, I suppose. But it just does not work for me, for several reasons. (1) It's historically inaccurate (well, to the degree that these authors are portraying). (2) It's kind of irritating (again, to the degree that the authors are portraying). (3) The heroines, to me, come across as incredibly stupid?

Take Roselie - she refuses to listen to Brody when he tells her that she should do this or that. Like, she refuses on the principle that he can't tell her what to do. What kind of backwards, dumba** logic is that? You're so proud, but you can't take it down like sixty notches when someone tells you that you are literally a dead woman with a target on her back?

I wanted to strangle Roselie so many times. I mean, if I knew her in real life, I might have. Her "assertiveness" really grated my nerves. Don't get me wrong, I love assertive heroines and I think it's great when they stand up for themselves, but Roselie was so irritating, and pig-headed, and stupid. She's one of those characters that thinks she is so smart, but she came across as incredibly stupid. And selfish. So, so selfish. 

I couldn't even connect with her! I thought for sure I'd at least be able to connect with her as she fell for Brody. But I felt nothing towards her. She seemed more of a flat, static character, especially compared to Brody. I don't really see what was so fascinating and interesting about her (other than her sexy, breast-padded alter ego Asteria, whom Brody was super attracted to, without knowing it was Roselie). 

I didn't feel anything for Roselie (other than sheer irritation, wrath, and loathing), and it made it hard for me to ship the romance. I adored Brody and I love that he found love, but I really just did not care about the romance. Once you hate the female protagonist, it's really hard to like the book. The romance seemed so flat though, regardless. Besides lust, I really didn't get a lot in terms of emotions or feelings (mostly from Roselie's side). Really it seemed like she was more interested in thwarting him, running from him, defying him, going against his will... yeah, that doesn't make for a very swoony romance. I don't think I swooned once. 

Anyway, I'm done. This book pissed me off in several different ways and all of them connect to Roselie and her stupid, stupid stubbornness. The short of it: Roselie had no respect for Brody, on any level, and she was incredibly selfish and stupid.

Would I Recommend It:

I most certainly do not recommend this book, which pains me to say, because I love this series. Try If Wishes Were Earls or The Knave of Hearts, or maybe even The Viscount Who Lived Down the Lane (though Louisa bothered me, in that book). Better yet, try an entirely different author. You know who does assertive, "feminist"-type heroines who don't irritate the s**t out of me? Tessa Dare, Elizabeth Hoyt, Caroline Linden. One of the sexiest and most feminist thing a female protagonist can do is treat her man with respect.

Roselie... did not do that with Brody. 


2 stars. I almost can't believe I'm giving a historical romance novel such a low rating! Historical romance novels are usually my "guilty pleasures". This one was supposed to lift me out of a small rut I've been in, but it has sunk me further into the rut. Honestly I kind of hope this series is over, because I don't want to be disappointed again!

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Sunday, March 26, 2017

Review: Blacksouls by Nicole Castroman

Blacksouls by Nicole Castroman
Book Two of the Blackhearts series
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: April 11, 2017
Rating: 3 stars
Source: eARC from Edelweiss

Summary (from Goodreads):

Nicole Castroman brings the dangerous pirate ports of the Caribbean to life in this vibrant sequel to Blackhearts—the reimagined origin story of history’s most infamous pirate, Blackbeard.

Edward “Teach” Drummond is setting sail to the Caribbean as first mate on the most celebrated merchant ship in the British fleet—until he rebels against his captain. Mutiny is a capital offense and Teach knows it could cost him his life, but he believes it worth the risk in order to save his crew from the attacking Spanish ships.

Sailing on the same blue waters, Anne barely avoids the Spanish attack, making it safely to Nassau. But lawless criminals, corrupt politics, and dangerous intentions fill the crowded streets of this Caribbean port. Soon, Anne discovers that the man entrusted to keep the peace is quite possibly the most treacherous of them all—and he just happens to hold Teach’s fate in his terrifying hands.

Life and death hang in the balance when Teach and Anne are given a dangerous mission. It’s a mission that will test their love, loyalty and devotion, forcing them down a path neither one could have ever imagined.

What I Liked:

Over a year ago, I read Blackhearts and enjoyed the story, but hated the ending. At the time, no sequel had been contracted. This weighed somewhat on my rating of the book. Months later, a sequel was announced (just one). Who wasn't excited?! I think this was a good sequel, and probably as good as the first book, for most readers. But I personally wasn't feeling it, didn't love it, and that's how the three-star rating is showing up again. I fully admit the fact that most readers will probably love this book. I didn't. I didn't hate it either though.

Blackhearts left us with a terrible, horrible ending. This book picks up nearly where its predecessor left off (give or take a few days, maybe weeks? I can't remember). Anne is on a ship to Nassau, but she has made friends with Cara and Coyle, who offer to let her stay with their uncle at Nassau. Anne and the rest of the ship arrive safely in Nassau, and she begins to work for Alastair in his tavern. Teach is on another ship, bound for Nassau as well. But when Teach arrives, he is arrested by Governor Webb and given a merciless decision: find the pirate Easton, or hang. The politics of Nassau are filthy and corrupt, and there is nothing that Teach and Anne can do about it, except flee. Teach sets out to find Easton, with Anne stowed away. But they will discover what they feared about Governor Webb, Lord Pelham, and other men of power at Nassau. 

I adored Teach in this book. His character development is subtle and something you don't actively notice, but from the start of this book to the finish, you can see how much he has grown. He is less of a lovesick boy and more of a hardened, fierce, loyal man. He assumes a captain's role of more than one ship, and it suits him. I liked seeing him become even more of a leader, and a smart one at that. He never thinks of himself alone, always of his crew, and Anne, and Anne's loved ones. 

Anne, meh. I didn't really care for her in this book. I'll talk about her in the next section. But, meh.

There is a much more adventurous tone in this book, especially since much of the book is set at sea of near a ship. I liked this change of pace, because the story moved a little faster. I was still bored (which I'll talk about later), but at least the story seemed more lively than in Blackhearts. Not that Blackhearts was super boring, but I like the more pirate-y feel to this book. 

Some of the secondary characters are awesome! Teach's best friend John is a wonderful friend and good first mate. Reva, a sly and cunning pirate, is so kickbutt and admirable. Alastair, Cara, Coyle, and Beth (Alastair's lady) are supporting and loyal people who are so good to Anne (too good to be true?). Even Easton was a character I grew to like! Though we don't really meet him until the end.

No love triangle, though there are some things that annoyed me about the romance (see below). Teach and Anne's relationship is really strong, and nothing comes between them or their feelings for each other. It's the author that likes to play games with the romance (again, see below). 

In general, this was a good sequel. Don't necessarily be fooled by the rating - I can definitely appreciate how well-written and satisfying this sequel was. Just... not for me, maybe? I have a feeling of meh in my head.

What I Did Not Like:

I didn't really care for Anne, in this book. I didn't hate her but I also wasn't really rooting for her. She doesn't really think things through and is always shoving herself into places and businesses and things that she doesn't belong in. I hate how she was constantly trying to justify herself and her presence when she really needed to just not. Look, I get that all the authors are trying to make all the female characters more "kickbutt" and fierce. But on Anne, it seemed fake and forced. I was rolling my eyes at Anne during the entire book. She needed to take a seat and stay put. I'm not really an advocate for "sit back and let the men do the work" but Anne isn't the smartest girl so... given how she just rolls right into trouble, I wouldn't let her get into business she doesn't belong in. Especially when she tries to act like she's a perfect shot and she can fight, after "learning" how to shoot a pistol for like, two days? Girl, please. Take a seat.

But of course, everything magically works out for her when she does join a battle or enters a fray. Because of course. *cue eye-rolling* I can't stand that type of fake female protagonist.

Moving on. The romance. Yes, Teach/Anne are a solid pair. But the author threw in Coyle, who loves Anne (Anne cares for him as a brother, don't get too upset). This was... unnecessary? Annoying? Irrelevant? WHY was it necessary to the plot, other than to send Teach's blood pressure up, and mine? What purpose did having Coyle love Anne serve? Why couldn't they be platonic friends? (Well, Anne certainly thought they were.)

And then there are all of the lewd comments that some of the male sailors/pirates made around Anne when she was discovered on Teach's ship. This, I found more believable, but really? What, is this girl Helen of Troy? Does she have sort of magical essence that makes all men attracted to her? Literally every other attractive male sailor/pirate? Again, nothing came out of this, the romance is all Teach/Anne, there are no feelings or kisses or anything except between Teach and Anne. But it's so unnecessary! 

And let's be real - this kind of thing is annoying on so many levels. How about the author drop a hot, attractive female in Teach's direction, and let that female throw herself at Teach. He's an attractive guy, and a captain. Nothing love-triangle-y, but something annoying and irritating, like Coyle, and those male pirates. Is that going to happen? NO! Because that would literally be the end of the world and we can't upset Anne (or the female protagonist in general)! Could authors just not

Again, no love triangle. It's just the author being irritating. She's probably trying to show how much Teach cares about Anne by how jealous and possessive he gets. Hey Castroman, how about you go the other way around now, huh? Parade some hot ladies in front of Teach, let's see Anne's jealousy, let her get possessive and fight for/over her man. *cue eye roll*

I was bored for the beginning of this book. I admit, I did a good amount of skimming and fast-paced reading. The tone of this book is much more adventurous than that of Blackhearts, but I was feeling kind of meh about this story. It's good! I was bored though. It could have been my mood.

Would I Recommend It:

Yeah, I'd recommend this book, because it is a good sequel and a well-written book. But also no, I don't recommend this book, because there is no contracted book three, and the ending of this book kind of demands a book three. No ridiculous cliffhanger (i.e. like Blackhearts), but the ending is so unresolved and wide open, in a more general direction (not just talking about Teach and Anne anymore). So maybe don't bother with this one until you know for sure that there will be a book three? Because, at this time (March 26th, 2017), there is no third book contracted. 


3.5 stars -> rounded down to 3 stars. This was a very quick read for me, and while I was bored and sometimes irritated, I'm glad I gave this book a chance. Don't be fooled by my rating and the dislikes section - it's a good book overall. Maybe I'm getting too caught up in the details (I probably am). I personally felt a little meh about this book and I can't quite pinpoint why, but it could very well be my current mood!

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