College

Review: Trade Me by Courtney Milan

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Title: Trade Me (Cyclone #1)
Author: Courtney Milan
Genre/Themes: Interracial Romance, New Adult
Release Date: 20 Jan 2015

Author's links:
Website / Twitter / Facebook / Goodreads
My rating: 4 Stars
Add on Goodreads




Synopsis

Tina Chen just wants a degree and a job, so her parents never have to worry about making rent again. She has no time for Blake Reynolds, the sexy billionaire who stands to inherit Cyclone Technology. But when he makes an off-hand comment about what it means to be poor, she loses her cool and tells him he couldn’t last a month living her life.
To her shock, Blake offers her a trade: She’ll get his income, his house, his car. In exchange, he’ll work her hours and send money home to her family. No expectations; no future obligations.

But before long, they’re trading not just lives, but secrets, kisses, and heated nights together. No expectations might break Tina’s heart...but Blake’s secrets could ruin her life.

Review

I love Ms Milan historical romances and when I heard she was writing a contemporary, I was curious to read it asap. Now, when I saw the blurb that the hero is a billionaire CEO, I almost gave up and didn't in the end. I'm really glad I gave this story a chance. 

This is a NA college romance with the typical college student inner turmoil, angst and all but at the same time it's so much more. The characters are refreshingly unique - Tina is Chinese and Blake is white. 

I very much appreciated their complexity and how theu both were faced in difficult and not-your-everyday issues in their lives. There is no insta love but a slowly growing romance. I got annoyed a bit at some point of both them being so focused their arrangement having an expiration date. Tina was way too stubborn in denying her feelings, denying herself the chance for something good coming into her life. Blake was more honest with himself as regards how he felt about Tina but he was crippled by indecision and and guilt and shame. I wanted them to act, to take the risk and go with their hearts. 

The story presents interesting family dynamics between Blake and his father on the one side and between Tina and her family on the other. Both parents loved their children deeply and sincerely but that didn't save them from amking terrible mistakes and causing pains to those that you loved the most. All the family interactions felt so real - funny and intimate, traditional and modern at the same time. My only complaint is that I found the big secret about Blake's dad a bit out of place and unrealistic, though it's not a major issue for me. 

Blake was really a great hero - his problem was hinted from the start but the suspense was kept well into to story and I'm glad that Ms Milan chose this particular issue to highlight. It's not a very common weakness for male characters in fiction (I haven't read any other stories with this premise) but I guess it does happen in real life and it's great to see it reflected in fiction.

It's a very character focused story. The romance element is a bit weak and focus is rather on the characters growth and the way the deal with their issues. I wish things between Tina and Blake were explored with more depth but we will be seeing more of them in the next books in the series and I hope this deficiency will be made up for.

The dialogue was funny and quick-witted which is a trademark feature of Ms Milan's characters. It balanced quite nicely the seriousness of the characters' struggles and their deep introspecive musings. 

The story touched in so many interesting issues - life and culture of Chinese immigrants in the US, high-tech innovative design - it made a trully entertaining and informative reading.

Another intriguing aspect  was Tina's best friend and roommate, Maria. She will be the heroine in the next book in the series and her background makes me really excited for her story.

The final 20% of the story didn't work that well for me. Some of the things felt forced, the I-love-you confession felt out of character for both Tina and Blake. I've already mentioned the incident with Blake's dad and the way I felt it too didn't fit well with the story so far.  

A well-written, well-researched, moving story of two young people discovering themselves and coming together in a passionated and soulful relationship. I'd recommend it to all fans of contemporary romance, even those like me who are weary of New Adult stories. Go ahead and give it a try, you will be nicely surprised!

Purchase links: amazon | apple | nook | kobo | google | all romance | smashwords

Alexis Hall

Waiting on Wednesday: Waiting for the Flood by Alexis Hall

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Waiting on Wednesday is a book meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and it features books that we are eagerly awaiting to be released.

Title: Waiting for the Flood
Author: Alexis Hall
Genre/Themes: m/m romance
Release Date: 23 February 2015

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Pre-order links: Riptide




Synopsis

People come as well as go.

Twelve years ago, Edwin Tully came to Oxford and fell in love with a boy named Marius. He was brilliant. An artist. It was going to be forever.

Two years ago, it ended.

Now Edwin lives alone in the house they used to share. He tends to damaged books and faded memories, trying to a build a future from the fragments of the past.

Then the weather turns, and the river spills into Edwin’s quiet world, bringing with it Adam Dacre from the Environment Agency. An unlikely knight, this stranger with roughened hands and worn wellingtons, but he offers Edwin the hope of something he thought he would never have again.

As the two men grow closer in their struggle against the rising waters, Edwin learns he can’t protect himself from everything—and sometimes he doesn't need to try.

*** *** ***

I discovered Alexis Halls' books last year and he qucikly became an autobuy for me. This contemporary m/m romance is set in the same world as Glitterland which I loved (my review). Knowing Mr. Hall's absolutely mesmerizing writing style, I'm sure this story will a pleasure to read.

Fighters

Review: Holding Strong by Lori Foster

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Title: Holding Strong (Ultimate #2)
Author: Lori Foster
Genre: Romantic suspense, MMA fighters
Release Date: 31 March 2015

Author's links:
Website / Twitter / Facebook / Goodreads

My rating: 3 Stars
Add on Goodreads



Synopsis

An up-and-coming MMA fighter wants more than just one night from a woman fleeing her past in New York Times bestselling author Lori Foster's irresistible new novel 

Heavyweight fighter Denver Lewis plays real nice, but he doesn't share. That's why he's been avoiding top-notch flirt Cherry Peyton. But a man can only resist those lush curves for so long. Their encounter surpasses all his fantasies, bringing out protective urges that Cherry's about to need more than she knows… 

Denver's combination of pure muscle and unexpected tenderness has been driving Cherry wild. Yet no sooner does she get what she's been craving than old troubles show up on her doorstep. And this time, Cherry can't hide behind a carefree facade. Because the man by her side is one who'll fight like hell to keep her safe…if only she'll trust him enough to let him.

Review

This is the second novel in the series after a full-length book on Cannon and a novella on. It's a nice MMA fighter romance but I felt it lacked something to make it stand out and there are a couple of things in it that really annoyed me.

There were far too many cliches which made the story predictable and somewhat boring. At the same time, the conflict seemed over the top and unrealistic which added to my overall disappointment.

The hero and heroine presented the whole set cliches about femininity and masculinity. She is cute and sweet, the damsel-in-distress and he is the big alpha fighter who comes and saves her. Both of them are sexy in very classical sense and they seem too good (in appearance) to be real.

Cherry acted immature and childish a lot of the time and it was annoying though Denver's character compensated for this. He was a bit of caveman - over-protective and possessive but I think his back story was good ground for his behaviour and he did work hard to tone it down and be a better partner to Cherry.

Cherry and Denver's story is similar in many ways to Cannon and Yvette's. Unfortunately, Cherry did have a lot of the characteristics which I hated in Yvette - naive, childish, stubborn.

The romantic relationship started really abruptly and it happened too fast. There wasn't much development at the beginning but towards the end, things seemed more realistic.

I did love the other fighters and their easygoing camaraderie, they were teasing each other all the time, yet they stood up by and supported each other when the occasion arrived.

I liked the side stories of Stack and Vanity and the additional peaks we get of Armie who is my absolute favourite in this series. There were two distinctive secondary plots which I found a bit distracting though they both facilitated the development of the main plot. 

It's a sweet romance, a bit over-the-top, a bit predictable and cliched but fans of contemporary romance, especially involving alpha male fighters and cute, a bit clueless heroines, would enjoy this. 

Pre-order link: Amazon

Amy Jo Cousins

Waiting on Wednesday: Nothing Like Paris by Amy Jo Cousins

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Waiting on Wednesday is a book meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and it features books that we are eagerly awaiting to be released.

Title: Nothing Like Paris (Bend or Break #2)
Author: Amy Jo Cousins
Genre/Themes: Romance, New Adult, M/M
Release Date: 3 March 2015

Add on Goodreads
Pre-order:  Amazon / B&N / Kobo / iBooks.







Synopsis


Humble pie wasn’t supposed to taste this sweet.

Jack Tarkington’s life is in the toilet. He was supposed to be spending his junior year studying someplace cool like Paris or Rome. Instead, after taking out his anger on the campus “golden boy”, whose dad ripped off his parents, Jack is facing possible expulsion.

Sure, it’s all his own fault, but coming back to the small Iowa town he thought he’d escaped, after crowing about his admission to a prestigious school, has been a humbling experience.

When he runs into Miguel, Jack braces for backlash over the way he lorded it over his old friend and flame. Instead, Miguel offers him friendship—and a job at his growing farm-to-table store and cafĂ©.

Against the odds, both guys bond over broken dreams and find common ground in music. But when Jack’s college gives him a second chance, he’s torn between achieving a dream that will take him far from home, and a love that strikes a chord he’ll never find anywhere else.

Warning: This book contains a humbled guy who’s on the brink of losing it all, a determined entrepreneur who seems to have it all together, apologies issued through banjo-picking duets, and two lovers who can play each other’s bodies like virtuosos.


*** *** ***

Why am I waiting for this? - I recently read the first book in the series, Off Campus (my review), and I quite enjoyed it. These are New Adult series (first two books are m/m but the third will be f/m) which I find very well and engagingly written. This is Jack's story and he was sort of the bad guy in the first book, so I'm curious how Ms Cousins will turn things around with him. 

2014 in Books

My 2014 in Books

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My 2014 in Books


I'm late to this party but I figured it's still Januray, so it's OK to post how my 2014 looks in terms of the books I read.


Total books read: 135


1. Best Book You Read In 2014?

Can't pick just one, sorry. I've already posted my top 16 best reads of 2014 in two posts - Part I and Part II

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

No limits (Ultimate #1) by Lori Foster - I wanted so much more for Cannon in this book. I find the heroine really annoying
3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book you read in 2014? 
Complicated Creatures series (Part I, Part II and a novella in between) by Alexi Lawless. I started this series after the author sent me an unsolicited request to review the first book. I rarely take up such requests since I don't have the time any more but for some reason I decided to give this romantic suspense a try and I'm so happy I did. It was the best possible surprise, a very well written, fast-paced and engaging read with strong characters.

4. Book You “Pushed” The Most People To Read (And They Did) In 2014?

5. Best series you started in 2014? 
Psy-changeling by Nalini Singh - my first PNR and I'm loving it. I've also read all the free stories of the author's site and the accompanying novellas. Can't wait for the next book, Shards of Hope, coming out in June 2015.











6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2014?
A tie between Sarina Bowen (The Ivy Years series) and Molly O'Keefe (Boys of Bishop series)
   


7. Best book from a genre you don’t typically read?
Half a King (Shattered Sea #1) by Joe Abercrombie - I don't typically read much fantasy but I enjoyed this one a lot


8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year? 
The Kraken King by Meljean Brook - steampunk adventure romance











9. Book You Read In 2014 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year? 
Prosperity by Alexis Hall - it's such a beautiful and complex story and I'm sure I'll discovered things I've missed the first time round










10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2014? 
Sun-kissed by Laura Florand- It's not my favourite Laura Florand's book but the cover took my breath away the first time I saw it











11. Most memorable character of 2014? 
Drew Runous - Beauty and the Mustache by Penny Reid - a beared poet, philosopher, musician, alpha man, mountain game keeper!

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2014?
Prosperity by Alexis Hall - written in thieves cant but the descriptions are mesmerizing,

The Chocolate Temptation - Laura Florand just writes the most deliciously sensual romances
 


13. Most Thought-Provoking/ Life-Changing Book of 2014?
Everything by Alexis Hall I read this year!

14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2014 to finally read? 
Psy-changeling series - I'm late to this party but I managed to catch up and now I'm addicted to this series











15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2014? - Probably the most difficult question since I don't reread and rarelt mark passages in my books. Still, this one pretty much stayed with me.


"Dunno what I'd have done, if I'd been Ruben. truth is, I reckon most of us go through life begging folk to love us, one way or another. It's just I can't imagine having the bollocks, or the need, ot say it direct."
Piccadilly from Prospery by Alexis Hall 

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2013?
At Peace - Kristen Ashley - 660 pp.
Glitterland: Aftermath - Alexis Hall - 28 pp

17. Book That Shocked You The Most.
Unravel - Calia Read - not what you'd expect from a NA romance, more of a psychological thriller than romance











18. OTP (One True Pairing) of the Year
Miss Frederica "Free" Marshall and Edward Clark from The Suffragette Scandal by Courtney Milan. I loved this two and their coming together was just a pleasure to read!

19. Favorite Non-Romantic Relationship Of The Year
Shadowed heart by Laura Florand - the relationship between all the French chocolatiers











20. Favorite Book You Read in 2014 From An Author You’ve Read Previously. 
Beauty and Mutache - Penny Reid










21. Best Book You Read In 2014 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else.
Liesmith (Book of Wyrd #1) - Alis Franklin - It was an interesting and unusual read, a bit difficult and I wished I had enjoyed it more











22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2014? 
Drew Runous - Beauty and the Mustache by Penny Reid

23. Best 2014 debut you read? 
Bollywood Affair - Sonali Dev










24. Best Worldbuilding/Most Vivid Setting You Read This Year? 
The Kraken King by Meljean Brook

The Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley




25. Book That Put A Smile On Your Face/Was The Most FUN To Read?
Love Hacked by Penny Reid











26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2014? 
Snow-kissed by Laura Florand. This short novella about love and loss touched me on a very personal level.











27. Hidden Gem Of The Year? 
Sand and Gold and Ruin by Alexis Hall - a beautifully written heart-breaking short story unlike anything I've read before











28. Book That Crushed Your Soul? (Take that question literally. Take that title seriously.)
Snow-kissed by Laura Florand. This short novella about love and loss touched me on a very personal level.











29. Most Unique Book You Read In 2014? (Don’t ask.)
Prosperity by Alexis Hall - unique both in style of writing and the story itself











30. Book That Made You The Most Mad (doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t like it)?
All the books I didn't finish this year made me mad.

This topic was originally part of a blog meme done by Jamie at The Perpetual Page Turner with some more details and the link-up is already closed but I did it mostly fo myself beacuse I though it would be fun to go back through the books I read during the year and pick the most fitting ones for the different question. It took me a while and was frustrating at times, still I'm glad I did and I hope you will enjoy reading the list I've compiled. Feel free to share some of your choices, as always your comments are deeply appreciated.

Dystopia

Review: Evenfall Vol. 1 and 2 by Santino and Ais

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This review is of Evenfall: Vol. 1 and 2 Director's Cut  in the LGBT series In the Company of Shadows by Santino Hassell and Ais. It's a dystopian thriller involving secret organizations, assassins and a tender love story. The whole series is self-edited and self-published and it's available for free at http://www.inthecompanyofshadows.com/

I had a friend recommend this book to me more than a year ago but I was intimidated by the size - 4 books with more than 1000 pages each and I felt I jusct couldn't make that committment at the time. As th year went on more and more of my friends read and loved this series. At the end of 2014 I made a promise to myself to start the new year with it and  here I am in the middle of January already done with book 1.

This is more of suspense and action-packed thriller than a romance. There is great world building, enganing story, memorable characters, what more can a reader want.

Title: Evenfall: Vol. 1 Director's Cut
Author: Santino and Ais
Genre: Romantic suspense, Dystopia, M/M

Santino's links:
Website / Twitter / Facebook / Goodreads / Pinterest
Ais' links:
Website / Twitter / Goodreads / 

My rating: Vol.1 - 4 Stars and Vol.2 - 5 Stars
Add on Goodreads / Goodreads

Synopsis

In a post-apocalyptic future, the Agency works behind the scenes to take down opposition groups that threaten the current government. Their goals justify all means, even when it comes to their own agents.

Sin is the Agency's most efficient killer. His fighting skills and talent at assassination have led to him being described as a living weapon. However, he is also known to go off on unauthorized killing sprees, and his assigned partners have all wound up dead.

Boyd is not afraid to die. When his mother, a high-ranking Agency official, volunteers him to be Sin's newest partner, he does not refuse. In fact, his life has been such an endless cycle of apathy and despair that he'd welcome death.

In the newly revised Director's Cut of Evenfall, the first volume follows these two cast-offs as they go from strangers to partners who can only rely on each other while avoiding death, imprisonment, and dehumanization by the Agency that employs them.

Review

Vol. 1 started slow with a lot of descriptions and the introduction of many characters. They were necessary to set the stage but I found them overwhelming at times. On the other hand, I did enjoy the slow development of the relationship between the main characters, Boyd and Hsin.

In terms of plot and even romantically, things picked up around the middle and the ending was the perfect cliffhanger.

The story flowed very smoothly and had me captivated from the start. We got to know the characters in real time, just as they were getting to know each other. It felt natural and realstic if that is a suitable description for a dystopian novel.

The intensity of the realtionship between Boyd and Hsin was beautifully done. They start off as strangers, both of them resigned to their fate and pretty much dead inside and gradually became true partners and friends and ultimately lovers.

It's a pleasure to read the transition in Boyd and Hsin. In the beginning Boyd is lost and desperate, there is no spark or desire to live left in him. He makes more than one mistake but they only make him human and more real. Hsin's transformation was even more amazing. I just felt so much for him. It was not a magical change happening overnight, love/sex didn't cure him. It was a slow process, painful and often misguided, yet it was Boyd's acceptance of Hsin as a human being that ultimately made Hsin see himself as human as well. Their relationship explored a lot of issues, such as self-image, vulnerability, strenght and (self)conrtol. 

The romantic aspect of their relationship took center stage in the first half of Vol. 2. It was intense, and passionate and raw and tender and beautiful. This was a time of first for Hsin and I loved they were presented as unique and unfamiliar experiences for him, yet they reflected his experience in life so far. It was a re-awakening for Boyd who had loved and lost before.

The world building kept expanding, there was lots of action and the plot twists kept me on the edge.

I loved the complexity in both plot and character development and how they balance each other out. The romance is never completely lost even in the roughest times of battle and it never overtakes completely the military aspect of the story.

There are so many supporting characters I met in the series so far and I'm curious to learn more about them. Off to the next book in the series, Interludes.

Recommended read for fans of complex military stories with unexpected twists and turn and hot romance. 



Fantasy

Waiting on Wednesday: Half the World by Joe Abercrombie

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Waiting on Wednesday is a book meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and it features books that we are eagerly awaiting to be released.

Title: Half the World (Shattered Sea #2)
Author: Joe Abercrombie
Genre/Themes: Fantasy
Release Date: 27 February 2015

Add on Goodreads
Purchase links: Amazon | B & N | IndieBound





Synopsis

Sometimes a girl is touched by Mother War.

Thorn is such a girl. Desperate to avenge her dead father, she lives to fight. But she has been named a murderer by the very man who trained her to kill.

Sometimes a woman becomes a warrior.

She finds herself caught up in the schemes of Father Yarvi, Gettland’s deeply cunning minister. Crossing half the world to find allies against the ruthless High King, she learns harsh lessons of blood and deceit.

Sometimes a warrior becomes a weapon.

Beside her on the journey is Brand, a young warrior who hates to kill, a failure in his eyes and hers, but with one chance at redemption.

And weapons are made for one purpose.

Will Thorn forever be a pawn in the hands of the powerful, or can she carve her own path?

*** *** ***


Why am I waiting for this? - I rarely read fantasy but I read the first book in this series last year (my review) and I absolutely loved it. And the sequel is about a woman warrior, how cool is that?

Bikers

Review: Give It All by Cara McKenna

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What an intense and suspenseful ride on the wild side this book was! I enjoyed Lay It Down but Give It All got me even more emotionally invested in the story and the characters' journeys.

Title: Give It All (Desert Dogs #2)
Author: Cara McKenna
Genre: Romantic suspense, Bikers
Release Date: 3 Feb 2015

Author's links:
Website / Twitter / Tumblr Goodreads

My rating: 4.5 Stars
Add on Goodreads




Synopsis


Keep your friends close and your enemies closer....

Bar owner Raina Harper can’t say for sure what Duncan Welch is to her. With her small Nevada town under siege by a ruthless casino development and still reeling from a spate of murders, she knows that trusting the public face of the corporate invaders is risky to say the least. Though, damn, it’s one fine-looking face.…

Duncan may be a mercenary when it comes to getting the job done, but he’s no villain. In fact, the calculating fixer soon finds himself in the bad guys’ crosshairs, framed and facing professional ruin. To clear his name, he’ll need help from Raina and her roughneck motorcycle club, the Desert Dogs. Gaining their trust won’t be easy, and the molten sexual tension between Raina and Duncan only makes things more complicated—especially since Miah Church, Raina’s friend and ex-lover, would sooner strangle Duncan than shake his hand.

One thing’s certain, though: If they don’t deal with their incendiary attraction soon, the whole damn town might go up in flames.

Review


This is the second book in the Desert Dog series of romantic suspense biker stories by Cara McKenna and it's an addictive read with great characters and a twisty suspense plot. 

The hero, Duncan, oh, boy, he was something else - I really hated him in the first book and when I learned that the sequel will be about him and Rain, I was anxious if and how the authro will developed his character in a convincing way for me to accept him as good enough/right for Raina. I needn't have worried. Ms McKenna not just made me accept Duncan but she basically made me fell in love with him, with his weirdness, his obsessions and pretences.

It's a very character driven story and the focus is on the journey/transformation of Duncan from the perfect emotionless almost robotic man in book 1 into a real human being with weaknesses and messy emotions. I felt deeply for Duncan and loved the person he was deep down and just let himself be in the end of the end. The relationship with Raina seemed impossible, illogical, they had nothing in common besides hot chemistry and they acted on it without too much expectations. He needed love and acceptance and the feeling of being wanted, valued, needed and Raina was not the most nurturing woman out there, at she was unwilling to open up to needing anyone, giving them more of herself than just sex. The love scenes were passionate, both rough and tender at the same time creating a sense of true intimacy, something Ms McKenna is a true master of.

Duncan and Raina went by trial and error in their relationship and there were some spectacular errors made by both sides. Apparently, a diamond bracelet given as a gift can the absolute thing to do, go figure :) On a more serious note, Ms McKernna examines the human heart, how difficult is to open up, to let ourselves feel any emotion since they could hurt us.

The suspense plot was not my favourite and I think it was the weakest element of the story. the characters and their interactions were much more interesting and well developed. I loved the glimpses of Miah and Casey.

I'm excited about the next book in the series and I hope it will be about Miah (he deserves his own HEA), though it might be about Casey, since we saw a lot of him in this book and by the looks of it things with him are pretty messed up. Meanwhile, Ms McKenna shared that she is working on a novella on Raina and Miah (back when they were together).

Recommended read for fans of romantic suspense with strong characters and focus and human relationships and matters of the heart!

Purchase links: Amazon / B&N

Check out my reviews of other books by Cara McKenna:
Her Best Laid Plans - my review

Colleen Hoover

Waiting on Wednesday: Never Never by Colleen Hoover and Tarryn Fisher

21:30

Waiting on Wednesday is a book meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and it features books that we are eagerly awaiting to be released.

Title: Never Never
Author: Colleen Hoover and Tarryn Fisher
Genre/Themes: Romance
Release Date: 11 Jan 2015

Add on Goodreads






Synopsis

Best friends since they could walk. In love since the age of fourteen. Complete strangers since this morning.
He'll do anything to remember. She'll do anything to forget.

*** *** ***

Why am I waiting for this? - The blurb is rather short but quite intriguing. I haven' t the latest books by Colleen Hoover but I did enjoy her of her earlier stories (Slammed) and Tarryn Fisher is a new to me author but I keep hearing great things about her. So, two popular authors collaborate, a mysterious blurb, how can I pass that up?

December

Recommended Reads: December 2014

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So, I already posted my favourite books of the year in the end of 2014 (Part I and Part II) and they were so many that I split the list into two posts. Now at the beginning of 2015 I am doing my monthly meme of the books I loved the most during the passing month.


December was a strong month for my reading - 3 DNFs (which is a lot for me for just one month) and too few books read because the holidays completely turned upside down my everyday routine. I've read two books that I can highly recommend this month and incidentally (or not so much since I've been on m/m reading streak lately), both of them are queer romances.

Genre/Themes: Steampunk, queer romance, novellas
My review to come
Add on Goodreads
Buy on Amazon / B&N / Riptide

Anything, Alexis Hall writes goes straight to my recommended reads list, every single thing. Four additional stories about our beloved heroes and heroines from Prosperity. It's easier to read because the slang isn't as heavy as in Prosperity and all the stories are beyond amazing. I think my adjective to describe Mr. Hall's stories is mesmerising. I think you can start with this stories in order to get a feel of the world of Prosperity and then move on to the novel itself which is an amazing read, but a challenging one, especially if English is not your first language


Genre/Themes: NA romance, College, hockey, m/m
My review 
Add on Goodreads
This is book 3 in the Ivy Years series by Sarina Bowen. It's a m/m romance between two college hockey players - a very intense story touching on a lot of issues young gay men face - coming out (forced or on their own), homophobia, family rejection, unwilling flagmen, being gay in sports. 
Very real, touching and engaging. 

*** *** ***

What are recommended reads from December? Leave me a comment or enter the url of your post in the link-up tool. 

Alexis Hall

Review: Liberty and Other Stories by Alexis Hall

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Starting the New Year wtih a bang! I finished Liberty and Other Stories in the end of last year but all the celebrations I'm just now coming around to write my review. As usual, I'm having the hardest time writing my thoughts on books that I loved the most but I'm still trying my best. 

Title: Liberty and Other Stories (Prosperity)
Author: Alexis Hall
Genre: Steampunk, queer romance, novellas
Release Date: 5 Jan 2015

Author's links:
Goodreads / Website / Facebook / Twitter

My rating: 5 Stars
Add on Goodreads





Synopsis

For the delight and edification of discerning readers, we present diverse stories concerning the lives, histories, and adventures of the crew of the aethership Shadowless.

Lament! as an upstanding clergyman falls into the villainous clutches of a notorious criminal mastermind.

Question your sanity! as a dissolute governess confronts blasphemies from beyond creation.

Wonder! at the journey of the dashing skycaptain Byron Kae across sapphire oceans, through smog-choked streets, and to the depths of the sky itself.

Gasp! at an entirely true and accurately rendered tale of pirates, cavalrymen, aethermancers, scientists, and a power to unmake the world.

Plus, hitherto unseen extracts from the meticulous and illuminating journals of Mrs. Miranda Lovelace, rogue scientist and first of the aethermancers.

This collection includes:

- Shackles (A Prosperity Story)
- Squamous with a Chance of Rain
- Cloudy Climes and Starless Skies
- Liberty


Review

This a collection of 4 short stories/novellas some of which are prequels, some - sequels to Prosperity but they all add more to the stories of our beloved characters from the first book.

Shackles is about Ruben and Milord. It's told from Ruben's POV but it reveals a lot about both Ruben and Milord. To say that I absolutely enjoyed it would be an understatement. Milord is the unrepentant villain we know from Prosperity and Ruben is the same iirresistibleupstanding man but their meeting and coming together really impacts them both deeply. They have their weaknesses and dark sides but I feel, all the stories in this collection are mostly about acceptance and loving someone (oneself) unconditionally. Ruben's voice is quite different style than Piccadilly's in Prosperity and that makes his tale easier to read in terms of language.

Squamous with a Chance of Rain tells the story of Lady Jane. She is my least favourite character of the lot and I don't mean that I dislike, I just love the rest of them much more. Still, her story was rather intriguing - an epistolary tale with of Gothic horror and somewhat reminiscent of Jane Eyre. This story mixes the mundane and the mythical and has more steampunk elements than the previous one. Lady Jane is a rather unreliable narrator which makes her story all the more mysterious and scary. 

Cloudy Climes and Starry Skies is all about Byron Kae and the story I liked the best. Byron Kae was the most unusual character for me in Prosperity. They were an amazing human being, yet I had somewhat difficult time picturing them in my head. Their story here completely won me over. I have  no words to properly describe what it made me feel. It's beautiful and painful and full of love and longing and pain and isolation. It presents brilliantly the universal desire of the human being to be accepted, to be valued for who they are. The story is heart-breaking and gut wrenching, yet ultimately full of love and tenderness. It reminded me in a lot of ways of Mr. Hall's short story Sand and Gold and Ruin, another allegorical tale of love and pain. 

The final story, Liberty, was not at all what I was expecting and it was amazing still the same. It's full of adventure and action and drama and multiple POVs. It's a sequel to Prosperity where we see Dil and Byron Kae and Lady Jane back together. Told through different documents - personal letters, official documents, some classified government correspondence, etc - it's an action story where the author skilfully plays with historical fact and fiction to create an emotional tale of power and ambition and love and forgiveness. And we meet Captain George England, yet another fantastic character created by Mr. Hall. I hope that we will have the chance to read his story at some point in the future.

These are beautifully written steampunk/fantasy stories exploring the human soul in all its beauty and ugliness. It takes the readers on a magical journey and it leaves them wanting so much more. A highly recommended read!

A side note: It's easier to read in terms of language, but just as beautifully and masterfully written. If you gave up on Prosperity because you found the slang too difficult, I'd suggest that you read these first and then go back to Prosperity. Or you can try There Will be Phlogiston - a free short story (m/m/f) set in the same world where the heroine is half-sister to Byron Kae. 

Purchase links: Amazon / B&N / Riptide

My reviews of other books by Alexis Hall:

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