Sunday, 12 June 2016

Review: "No Angel" by Tara Hart

I've been reading so many thrillers lately that I thought I would try something light for a change. I wasn't disappointed. This was an easy read, although I did find myself skimming through the last 20% of the ARC. By the 80% point, I was eager to read something more suspenseful with plot twists to keep me intrigued, or with captivating characters whose lives I become fully invested in. That didn't happen for me with No Angel, but ultimately the book does what it says on the tin. If you're interested in an NA romance with a kind male protagonist and a broken female, then this should be right up your ally.

The main characters, Charlie and Evan, were written well enough, but perhaps could have been developed further. Charlie sleeps with a bunch of random guys to feel wanted, which I can sort of understand. When it turned out that they were all using her, I wasn't surprised, but I did feel sorry for her. Her inability to stand up for herself is sad. She acts as though she deserves the cruel names that are thrown at her, and I just wanted to shake her and yell, "Why didn't you punch that douche?" Perhaps it was her lack of fighting spirit that left me slightly uninterested in her story. Had she been all attitude, then I would have been cheering her on, but you can understand that she's been beaten down by so many men that she has zero confidence in herself. Even a phone call would have sufficed...

If you're going to be swept off your feet by a guy, then you'd want him to be non-judgemental and caring like Evan, but he didn't completely hit the mark for me. I didn't really buy his sudden fascination and feelings for Charlie. Wouldn't you listen to your brother when he tells you a girl has a reputation, unless you're only after one thing yourself? But no, he wants to get to know her. It felt a little forced to me.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Review: "Firsts" by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn

The somewhat controversial subject of this novel piqued my curiosity. NetGalley and the publisher were kind enough to oblige my request for an ARC, and I'm glad they did, as this turned out to be an interesting read.

Despite disagreeing wholeheartedly with Mercedes’ decisions and lack of remorse towards her bed partners' girlfriends, I was surprised to find that I actually felt quite sorry for her. I thought her naive and delusional about relationships and sex, due to her own traumatic experience with an older guy. Rather than come to terms with it and seek the help she needs, Mercedes decides to “help” other girls by ensuring that their first time is special, unlike her own. In Mercedes mind, by taking their boyfriends’ virginity and educating them on how to seduce their girlfriends, she’s doing these couples a kindness.

Mercedes’ mentality and decisions completely baffled me. How could she think that teenage boys would keep her secret “pay-it-forward scheme” to themselves, and that there wouldn't be any backlash from sleeping with other girls' boyfriends? Surely no one is that naive? But what surprised me most of all was that despite all this, I didn't dislike her. I wouldn’t say I liked her either, though. Her story was compelling, and I found myself questioning why society (spurred on by the media) is always so quick to label females who enjoy sex as “whores”, or place all blame on the infamous “other woman”.

Mercedes may have been delusional to think she was doing a good deed, but the guys were willing parties, cheating on their blissfully unaware girlfriends. Shouldn’t they have been branded “sluts” and had the word painted on their lockers, too? Did they really think their girlfriends wouldn't find out and consider this an act of betrayal? Or, perhaps they just didn’t care, as long as they were benefiting from the situation.

I found the novel interesting, so I awarded it 3 stars. This is a credit to the author’s writing, as she made me question the way women are treated in the media and by society as a whole, but it wasn’t gripping enough to score 4 stars. Also, I liked Faye and Zach; they were the only characters I actually liked in this book, so the third star is in part because of them.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Review: "Altered" by Kelly Cain

Warning: do not read this book on an empty stomach! 

I feel like I gained 10lbs from reading this novel. The main character's constant narration about what she was eating, and how much, made me feel like my own waist was dangerously close to expanding.

Truth be told, it was the food references that kept my attention 60% in and persuaded me to finish the book. Each chapter held a new mystery; I couldn't wait to find out what type of seafood dish she was going to consume next!

But 60% in, I'd lost all interest in the story, primarily because Olivia is perhaps the most unlikeable MC I've ever come across, and this is coming from someone who enjoys reading thrillers about psychopaths, murderers and crooks! She's supposed to be 23 and in law school, but Olivia acts more like a spoilt 14-year-old. Reading her first-person narrative was like cracking open a teenager's diary, filled with angst and rants about how unfair life is. Saying that, I did enjoy the parts that were akin to a food diary!

But back to Olivia's annoying personality… At the beginning of the story, she has a pillock of a fiancĂ©, who decides he's going to become the next Martin Scorsese and move to Hollywood, leaving her behind. Olivia is understandably broken up about their breakup, and spends much time crying. She finally decides to move on by practically stalking Nicholas, following him after a lecture and asking him all kinds of personal questions within 2 minutes of meeting him. Surprisingly, 18-year-old Nicholas, genius law student and virgin extraordinaire, doesn’t run for the hills! (I actually liked the fact that he was shy and a virgin. It endeared me to him).

Once Nicholas had developed an appropriate level of Stockholm Syndrome and agreed to do everything on his stalker's terms, he and Olivia's friendship/quasi-relationship blossomed. Throughout, Olivia was constantly hot and cold, using Nicholas as her own personal sex toy one minute and then refusing to kiss him the next when she suddenly decides that they should take it slow. When she didn't get her way, Olivia would cry! She did this over every little thing.

Nicholas was by far the more mature partner in the friendship/relationship. When it became apparent that he was going through stuff and wasn't ready to share just yet, did Olivia wait patiently for him to open up like a good friend would? No, she badgered him and cried when he wouldn’t succumb to her demands: "He's hiding something from me… I feel a tear creep down my cheek."

Nicholas texts because he cannot meet up: "I don't even bother to text back. I throw myself on my bed and start sobbing."

Nicholas finally tells her everything, and she can't deal with it all: "I burst into uncontrollable sobs and flop into an oversized chair."

Olivia kicks up a fuss about Nicholas not asking her if she wants to meet his useless, absent father: "You have to let me in on those decisions."

So Nicholas asks her, "Do you want to meet him?"

Her answer? "No."

Well, why make such a big deal out of him not asking you, then?!

I was so glad when her friend Julia finally tells it like it is: "You tell that boy everything from how to feel to when he can say hi to you. And he lets you do it."

While I liked Nicholas, Olivia got on my nerves, as did their relationship, which involved her making all the decisions and bossing him around, and him mostly letting her, hence, my 2-star rating of Altered.

However, should Kelly Cain write a cookbook, including dishes from Silas' barbecue bonanza, I'd be sorely tempted to pick up a copy, because his food sounded delicious!

Finally, I have one burning question for anyone who has read this book. The unnamed restaurant Olivia and Nicholas meet Darren at in San Francisco - the one opposite the NFL shop and up the wooden stairs? - it's the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., right? I visited Pier 39 in San Francisco last year, and it's killing me that I missed out on that amazing feast ;)

Monday, 21 December 2015

Review: "The Last Time We Say Goodbye" by Cynthia Hand

This was such a sad book, but beautiful and poignant, too. Suicide is a delicate topic, but the author handled the subject with sensitivity and insight. Having lost her own brother to suicide, Cynthia Hand has experience in the subject and understands the grieving process endured by the family members who are left behind to pick up the pieces.

I'm glad I picked up this book, as although it was an emotional read, it was also a rewarding one. 


Review: "The Kind Worth Killing" by Peter Swanson

What an utterly gripping and creepy read! I couldn't put it down once I started it, apart from this weekend, when I partook in Black Friday/weekend shopping (I still feel rather dirty from it). But I've just finished the book and had to post a review immediately.

I urge all who enjoy a good crime novel/thriller to pick up this book; you won't be disappointed. The twists and turns will keep you glued to the page, and the multi-narrator format switches things up and keeps things interesting, as you're going multiple points of view to an already screwed up story that explores deceit, revenge, murder and trickery.

It truly is a must read!

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