Thursday, May 25, 2017

Addicted by Elle Kennedy (Outlaws #2)

Rating: ★★★ + .5 | 354 Pages | Signet | Dystopian  | 6/28/2016 

Time to dive back into Elle Kennedy’s post apocalyptic America where citizens live in heavily regulated cities while the rest are are outlaws, surviving as free people in the nuclear wasteland.

In this sequel a group of outlaws introduced in the first book are headed out to Foxworth, a fortified outlaw town, to train the townspeople how to fight. Included in this group are Jamie and Lennox, childhood friends who’ve survived every hardship life has thrown at them as a team. But when Lennox and Jamie start sleeping together it gets complicated.

I could go either way on Jamie and Lennox’s relationship, they had some great moments but never felt as fully fleshed as the characters in book one did.  That said, I liked how Kennedy used them to expand the world. We learn more about what it’s like to be an outlaw child and how hard it is to keep a family together.

Kennedy has also kicked up the spice level in this book, because everyone is sleeping with everyone, everywhere all the time. Although, the more I read this series the more I have to handwave that they live in a nuclear wasteland where food and fuel are scarce but for some reason there are condoms everywhere and no one has an STI or unwanted pregnancy.

Elle Kennedy delivers another dystopian scorcher with a complicated friends to lovers scenario and some intense action scenes.


There are some character deaths I did not see coming because I legit though they’d be in future books. This tweet was literally me:

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Midnight Alias by Elle Kennedy

Narrated by Allyson Ryan | 11 hrs 39 minutes | Tantor Audio

In book one Kennedy introduces Trevor Callahan, an ex-solider so deep in grief over the murder of his fiancĂ© that he joins an undercover mission as a suicide job. While undercover he is paired with former-FBI agent turned undercover operator Isabel Roma, a former Mafia princess who can be anyone except herself.  Just when Trevor is staring death in the eye. . .Isabel saves him then walks away for the last time. Or is it ?

Midnight Alias . . . is not about them.

Nope. It’s about a Ragin' Cajun (okay, I don’t think he’s Cajun but he's from New Orleans) adrenaline junkie Luke Dubois and Olivia Taylor, a 25 year old college student taking care of her sick mother. To make ends meets Olivia works in a strip club where one night she is attacked by a customer, the strip club owner kills the customer, hides the body and pays off all her school and medical bills so she’s in debt to him. He holds this over her  and he’s like in love with and controlling  over her and she’s just playing nice until she can graduate and escape.*breathes*.

So, helpless stripper with a heart of gold being saved by a big strong man is one of my least favorite tropes,  the only reason I was reading this book is to follow the Trevor/Isabel arc. Who by the way, get just as much page-time as Luke and Olivia.

 Kennedy does provide thrilling plots and wonderful banter. I thought the portrayal of Olivia’s controlling relationship with the strip club owner was realistic and Kennedy had this great way of getting inside of her villain’s heads and giving them dimensions.  Audiobook narrator Allyson Ryan’s really intuitive and charming performance amplified the story. 

Okay, now I finally get to read Isabel and Trevor.

Side Note
I don't understand the cover for the audiobook or the book for that matter. It's just like being shirtless outside wearing a concealable holster seems  . . . beside the point.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Roadside Assistance by Marie Harte

Rating: ★★★ | 384 Pages | Sourcebooks Casablanca | Contemporary | 9/6/2016 

When business owner Cynthia Nichols stomps into Webster's Garage to tell the mechanics off for parking  cars  in her parking lot, she immediately catches the attention of all of the body shop "bad boy" mechanics. Foley Hamilton  immediately calls dibs and what starts out as a fun casual game of cat and mouse between Foley and Cyn might just be the real thing...that is if their friends and family don’t get in the way first.

Cynthia Nichols is that unconventional romance heroine they warned you about. She’s in her mid-thirties, independent, running her business and at 6 feet tall and size 24 doesn’t have the body of your typical coquettish romance heroine. She’s dealing with a traditional Italian mother who wants her to start a family and "blue collar badass" Foley isn’t exactly what her mother has in mind. I thought it was great how Harte doesn't play the I Want Grankids lightly, it shines a light on how Cyn's mother's comments about weight and her relationships are starting to  become verbal abuse.

I’m not sure if I really believed the chemistry between Cyn and Foley though. They start to implicitly trust each other and I’m not sure why especially since Foley makes some weird comments about her weight in the beginning that really upset her. Also the ending gave me whiplash, we go from the Foley in an  intense emotional situation to Cyn in an intense emotional situation and then a smash cut to a  light hearted  party that seemedto only exist to introduce the characters of Harte's new series.

That said I'm still in for the next book, which about Foley's roommate / best friend Sam. I think what draws me to this series is the sense of community, it’s subtle but this Seattle metro area  is so well developed. I love seeing how all the past characters interact with each other.


I really hate this cover...

Monday, April 24, 2017

Strong Signal by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell

Rating: ★★★★  | 229 Pages | Self Published | Contemporary | 2/15/2016 

25-year-old Kai Bannon is what you might call internet famous. Millions of adoring subscribers tune into his Twitch stream for game reviews, funny commentary….and occasional shirtless dancing. But most of his online performance is just that. A performance. IRL Kai suffers from severe anxiety and hasn’t left his Philadelphia apartment in two years. His solitary lifestyle works for him, but then he starts exchanging messages with deployed Army mechanic, Garrett Reid. When their relationship goes offline to IRL, Kai can't hide his flaws behind a screen anymore.

Kai lives in an online world that will seem realistic to anyone who, ahem like me, has dabbled into the world of internet famous people. The authors capture the culture of internet fame so well, like this bit early on when Garrett decides to Google Kai:

Kai + Twitch + Fallen World Online brought up Pinterest pages, a Tumblr called FuckYeahKaiBannon, and fan pages on various social media websites. The number of people who were using his face as an avatar on their own Twitter accounts was alarming - Erickson, Megan. Strong Signal (Cyberlove Book 1) (p. 17). Megtino Press. Kindle Edition.

See that Tumblr account ? I have seen that Tumblr account.

My biggest hurdle with this book is that I had a real hard time believing the "meet cute". It's not believable that someone like  Kai would  respond to an e-mail from another player upset over something that happened in a MMOPRG. It seems like someone with as much internet fame as Kai would have written him off as a troll and ignored him.

There is something refreshing about how down to earth the heroes in Strong Signal. One of my nitpicks about mainstream romanclandia is that it seemingly takes place in an alternate world where characters in their mid-twenties are running the world. Garrett’s not some special ops army war hero, he’s just a guy who joined the military out of high school and whose biggest fear is being unemployed once he leaves the Army.

Believe it or not this review just barely scratches the surface of this book, there is plenty of drama going on as the characters try to fit into each others lives.  Hassell and Erickson have have created complex, modern characters for a truly 21st century story that is #couplegoals.


I am mildly fascinated by mediocre white boy internet celebrity so in my head Kai is a mix between a lower level Pewdiepie, Troye Sivan and IDK maybe these one of these British guys who randomly make videos shirtless for no apparent reason.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

New Cover, Who Dis ?

One of the first things I figured out when I started reading genre romance is that romance novel covers and readers speak to each other in their own visual language. Readers can pick out their favorite subgenres just by looking at the covers.  A solid background with a single object ? Screams erotica. Adirondack chairs on a porch means it's time for a small town romance, lush gowns with that signature clutch? That means it's time to travel to Regency England.

Every now and then I'll come across a book (usually a Harlequin) with a  re-issued cover that is suddenly saying something totally different than it's previous cover . Usually this new cover  can completely change how the book is perceived and how it fits into current trends. Here are a few that caught my eye:

Maya Banks

Erotica got a big mainstream boost after the 50 Shades phenomenon. Minimalist, clean text cover became synonymous  with the genre. So  it's no wonder  Maya Banks "cheesy" Harlequin titles and covers were re-issued to reflect the trend.

Caitlin Crews and Maisey Yates

Nothing screams steamy, fun and indie romance like a black and white image with bold colorful text. I think Harlequin Presents got the message when they swapped out their signature logo and serious dudes for more a fun more contemporary look. I also noticed they play up the USA Today Bestseller, something I see on a lot of indie and small press novels.

Elle Kennedy

 You just know Kennedy's Midnight series when you see it. I'm talking  strong powerful models and bright san serif text. So in 2017 when  Harlequin re-issued Kennedy's Silhouettes  they looked  a little familiar.  Again they've minimized the Harlequin branding. 

Victoria Dahl

Victoria Dahl's original Tumble Creek  covers looked fun and flirty but when the mid 2010's rolled into town, covers were all about the abs. And not just abs. . . active abs ! This trend was probably popularized with Jaci Burton's Play by Play. When HQN re-issued this series they gave them an up close and personal ab-tastic makeover.

So what have I learned ? Well, it seems to me like romance novel covers are moving more toward minimalism. Images are simpler with no props, text is aligned with just a few key colors and so much san serif and kerning. Also the models on the cover look like they are having more fun.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Back To Your Love by Kianna Alexander

Rating: ★★★ +.5 | 352 Pages | Sourcebooks Casablanca | Contemporary  | 4/4/2017

Imani and Xavier’s high school romance felt like true love, but when Imani goes to Georgia for college they can’t hold on to their spark and drift apart. A decade later Imani is coming back home to open her dermatology practice and Xavier isn’t letting Imani get away this time. But Imani's got secrets now and if she were to say yes she could ruin Xavier's race for city council.

I’m starting to think rekindling romances are becoming my new jam. I like how the hero and heroine's shared history means we don't have to sit through the getting to know you parts. This romance isn’t clean or anything but it is just such a sweet romance. From Imani’s family to the kids Xavier counsels this books full of characters who love each other in all meanings of the word

This book takes place in Raleigh, North Carolina and just has an amazing sense of community and world building, I was not surprised to discover Alexander was a southern belle herself, like there is a scene where Xavier orders a lunch with a Cheerwine which is such a regionally specific beverage.

Oddly,  Imani and Xavier felt less like Millennials and more like Gen Xers. It's specifically stated that the characters are 10 years out from high school making them 29-30 at most, but they talk about listening to Mary J Blige at school dances, it just feels like an older reference. Also, Xavier refers to the 21-year-olds helping run his campaign as youngsters, and look I refuse to believe any Millennial trying to unseat an older incumbent wouldn't use social media to their advantage. It was just weird.

I do want to talk about how this book is being marketed. This book is without a doubt a black romance but it's not necessarily being marketed that way; it's cover blurb is by Kristin Higgins and a lot of the ad copy refers to Alexander as a mainstream author. Now, I've read both indie black romance and Kimani and I was curious how this would strike the balance and it really leans more towards the indie black romance side. This book definitely has some unapologetic blackness to it. There are no explanatory commas but I do think there are enough context clues if someone isn't familiar with everything going on.

Back To My Love is a contemporary friends to lover romance with it's share of drama and politics stirred up with a spoonful of  southern sweetness.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

MMA Romance Week: Unspoken by Jen Frederick

Welcome to day 4 of MMA Romance Week !

Ratings: ★★★ | 270 Pages | Self-Published | New Adult | Woodlands #2 | 11/13/2013

This book was close to a DNF and not because it was bad, but because some sections of this felt so long and unnecessary and I’m not even counting the extended epilogue.

Unspoken is the second in the Woodlands series, I really liked the first one so I eagerly went into book two. I started with the audio, but I didn’t like the new female narrator and decided to just read it. Our heroine is AnnMarie West, a sophomore at Central College who has basically been slut shamed off campus after sleeping with the wrong lacrosse player. When she becomes partners with Beau, the MMA fighting, stud ex-Marine in her science class (stop me if you’ve heard this one) they start a romance with a very, very slow burn.

The romance between the hero and heroine was just okay. I liked the exploration of the idea that a woman who sleeps around is called a slut while a man gets to be a stud. It was interesting to watch the couple work through this and see there relationship evolve --but oh man the daddy issues in this book. Literally everyone has daddy issues.

Much like No Limits by Lori Foster it turns out this really isn’t  much of a fighting book. Beau works out in an MMA gym, but because the owner thinks he lacks the discipline to go pro Beau fights illegally on reservations from time to time. While AnnMarie does witness one of Beau’s fight we never get any of these fights from his point of view.

I do like the way Frederick touches on some of the problematic elements of having a violent hero. It's not something that has come up in the other books.  Beau has a lot of rage issues and at one point when he admits he’s afraid he’s going to hit AnnMarie and it’s kind of reeling, but I like that Frederick examined and fully fleshed it out what that fear means.

Frederick adds a healthy dose of sprinkles on this book. AnnMarie has a black best friend, a gay male neighbor and lesbian neighbor with a black girlfriend. The reason this all really stands out to me is because the first book has a pretty much all white cast and so it felt like she was correcting some of that.

As I mentioned at the top, the version of this book on Scribd had the extended epilogue which covers the next 18 years of the characters lives. At first I thought it was odd, but then I realized it was a lead in to her YA book about AnnMarie and Beau's kids. I kind of liked seeing the future and watching characters realize their dreams. I’ve been reading more self-pub lately and this is what I like about self pub… it’s allows to do something like make your NA into a YA spinoff.

That said, it’s pretty obvious Unspoken takes place in the 2010’s so I’m curious how Frederick negotiates the YA taking place in the late 2020's.