Book review: Fighting Silence by Aly Martinez

Fighting Silence (On The Ropes Book 1) by [Martinez, Aly]

I just finished reading Fighting Silence by Aly Martinez.  It’s a tear jerker for sure.  It starts with Eliza and Till when they’re children.  They’re both desperately poor, without parents who care about them.  They find refuge in an abandoned apartment.  Although they go to the same school, they’re not friends, but they both need a refuge, so they sort of agree to share this place.  It has nothing to offer, it’s just an empty room, but it’s a refuge, a place to escape to when life gets too hard or too miserable.

Over the course of their teenage years, they grow close.  They learn to trust one another and depend on one another.  Although they’re both attracted to each other, they keep it all above board, because their friendship is not just important, but necessary.  How can they survive the harsh realities of their world without each other?

I loved Till’s nickname for Eliza.  Cute, sweet and yet entirely real.  It was used to perfect advantage through the book.

I loved that life didn’t magically fix itself and all their problems were solved.  Slate and the gym were the perfect vessel to showcase a number of Till’s personality quirks – his passion, his work ethic, his devotion to his brothers, his temper, his integrity.

The brothers were excellent secondary characters.  I loved Quarry, he was great fun.

There was enough pace and action to keep me reading, and more than a few moments that were genuine tear jerkers.  Shut up, I didn’t cry.  Much.  *Blush*  I don’t want to ruin the story for anyone with spoilers, but the blurb tells you that Till is going deaf so I can share that much at least.  There were a couple of really powerfully emotional moments that stuck out for me, both of them relating to Till’s hearing in one way or another.  It’s incredible how some people deal with adversity.  It not only makes you realise how lucky you are, but also makes you stop and think how you would cope if life threw you those challenges.

Five stars from me.  I’ve already bought the next book in the series.  The prologue shocked the hell out of me and made me want to rant about authors who put spoilers in their prologues (can it even be a prologue if it happens before the start of the book?) but the girl has captured my attention for sure, and I’m so curious to see how this new version of Flint turns out, I’m definitely reading it.  Just you try and stop me.  *Laugh*

Book review of North to Nara by Amanda Marin

North to Nara by Amanda Marin

I’m not entirely sure when this story is set, but it appears to be America in some dystopian future.

Neve is a fairly ordinary girl, although she is sweet and compassionate. Through a series of events, she ends up meeting her Sufferer. Every week, citizens like Neve go to the Center of Compassion and transfer their suffering – physical and emotional – to another person, a Sufferer. It’s an anonymous exchange, designed to leave the citizen healthier and happier. Most people, including Neve, never think about the effect of the Suffering on the Sufferer. If the citizen is happier, healthier, and lives longer, what happens to the Sufferer? Those are all questions that Neve starts asking when she identifies both her previous Sufferer and her current one.

Micah is a wonderful character, and the author does a fantastic job of showing us the goodness in his heart, and how perfectly suited he was to the role of Sufferer. He simply cannot stop himself from helping others, even at risk to himself.

The author has done a tremendous amount of work in world building and creating a history for the world in which Neve and Micah live. My only problem with the book is that this history and world-building is fed to the reader by telling, not showing. There are chunks of ‘info dumping’ right through the book. It seems unnecessary. We could infer the vast majority of the required information from the scenes, and a lot of the information comes out naturally in scenes like the one in the courtroom.

If it weren’t for the ‘telling’ or ‘info dumping’, whatever you want to call it, I’d have given the book four stars. Micah’s character is excellent, and the plot is solid.

I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

My dream library

Do you ever dream about winning the lottery?  I do.  Probably more often than is healthy for me, but whatever.  I was re-reading an older post recently about my plans to spend my millions if I one day won, and one of my dreams was to build a house with a library in it.  And I was thinking to myself ‘Since I read all electronic books these days, what books would I fill my library with?’  So that’s what I was pondering last night as I drifted off to sleep.

Here’s what I came up.  It’s a mix of the books I’ve rated 5 stars, series I’ve really enjoyed and books I’ve already found myself re-reading.

The Midnight Breed series by Lara Adrian
The Kick series by Lynda Aicher
The Seer trilogy by Maree Anderson
The Innkeeper Chronicles series by Ilona Andrews
Idle Bloom by Jewel E Ann
Belonging series by A M Arthur
The Perspectives series by A M Arthur
Restoration series by A M Arthur
The Mackenzies and McBrides series by Jennifer Ashley
The Highlander series by Maya Banks
The KGI series by Maya Banks
The Wild series by Maya Banks
The Montgomery and Armstrongs series by Maya Banks
The Others series by Anne Bishop
The Kingmaker Chronicles by Amanda Bouchet
The Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs
The Duke’s Obsession trilogy by Grace Burrowes
Ridiculous by D L Carter
Mackerel Sky by S Jade Castleton
Let It Go by Mercy Celeste
The Aftermath series by Cara Dee
Auctioned by Cara Dee
The Camassia Cove series by Cara Dee
Song for Sophia by Moriah Densley
The Gifted Ones series by Dianne Duvall
Immortal Guardians series by Dianne Duvall
The Ruin series by Rachel Van Dyken
Give Yourself Away by Barbara Elsborg
The Cyberlove series by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell
The Reed Brothers series by Tammy Falkner
The Shadow Quest series by Kiersten Fay
Edge of Honor series by Lori Foster
The Poetry of Robert Frost by Robert Frost
The Ode Less Travelled by Stephen Fry
The Senses series by Andrew Grey
For Real by Alexis Hall
Dragon Bound by Thea Harrison
The Scoundrels of St James series by Lorraine Heath
The MacNachton Vampires series by Hannah Howell
The Murray Family series by Hannah Howell
The Wherlocke series by Hannah Howell
Morganna by Jackie Ivie (I already own this in paperback)
The Essex Sisters series by Eloisa James
The Pleasures series by Eloisa James
When Beauty Tamed The Beast by Eloisa James
The Royal Brotherhood series by Sabrina Jeffries
Letters to the Lost series by Brigid Kemmerer
A Taste for Scandal by Erin Knightley
The Urban Soul series by Garrett Leigh
Enemies Like You by Annika Martin and Joanna Chambers
The Brainship series by Anne McCaffrey
The Catteni series by Anne McCaffrey
The Pern series by Anne McCaffrey
The Talent series by Anne McCaffrey
Desires Entwined series by Tempeste O’Riley
The War Poems of Wilfred Owen
The Men of Halfway House series by Jaime Reese
The Search and Rescue series by Katie Ruggle
The Cynster series by Stephanie Laurens
Devil of the Highlands series by Lynsay Sands
The Sanctuary, Texas series by Krystal Shannan
The Guild Hunter series by Nalini Singh
The Psy-Changeling series by Nalini Singh
The Healer series by Maria V Snyder
The Broken City series by Jessica Sorensen
Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini Taylor
Static by L A Witt
Sin Brothers series by Rebecca Zanetti

What books would you buy for your dream library?

Book review of The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

The Kiss Quotient (The Kiss Quotient, #1)

Stella has a gift for numbers and does a fantastic job as an econometrician, predicting sales based on collected data of consumers, but she’s constantly turning down promotions.  Why?  Because they want to give her direct reports, and Stella doesn’t deal well with people.  That goes double for her personal life.  She’s tried dating, but can’t tell the good guys from the bad guys, and frankly, she finds kissing and sex distasteful.  Ugh, some guy putting his tongue in her mouth?  No, thank you.  She has a sensitivity to smells and touch and taste, and the men she’s dated don’t make any allowances for that.  But that’s probably her fault too because she won’t tell them why she’s struggling.  Because she doesn’t want their pity.  When people find out she’s autistic, they treat her differently, and she just wants to be normal.  Or does she?  Her mother has made her promise she’ll try on the personal relationship front, so Stella can’t give up even if she wants to.

After a ‘ex’ tells Stella she needs more practice in bed (!), Stella hires Michael, an escort, and asks him to teach her about sex so she can get better at it and therefore be more successful in the dating arena.  After a couple of false starts, a failed date and a spectacularly atrocious family dinner, Michael puts two and two together.  Once he understands what Stella needs and why, it’s much easier to work with her on the skills she wants to improve.  But the more he learns about her, the more he realises it’s going to be hard to walk away from her.

There was only one thing I didn’t like about this story.  Stella doesn’t tell Michael she’s autistic because she’s worried that it will change how he views her.  He figures it out, it doesn’t change how he feels about her (if anything, he feels more strongly for her), and yet because they don’t communicate on the subject for ages, it remains an issue preventing them from being together.  Similarly, Michael doesn’t tell Stella what forced him into the escort business because he’s worried it will change how she views her.  She figures it out, it doesn’t change how she feels about him (if anything, she feels more strongly for him) and yet because they don’t communicate on the subject for ages, it remains an issue preventing them from being together.  Ugh.  I hated that.  But it was still a solid four star read, and I really enjoyed it, so don’t let that stop you.

I thought Stella was really well written, and she felt natural.  Sometimes with characters who have ‘labels’ such as autism, it feels like the author gives them characteristics, habits or issues just to make them more stereotypical of whatever they’ve been labelled with.  Stella didn’t feel like that.  She felt more natural.  And she wasn’t ‘cured’ by Michael.  That was made evident in a few ways, including when Philip kissed her and when she was wearing the top with the open seams when talking to Janie.  Interestingly, after I finished reading the book, I found out the author is also on the autism spectrum, and wrote a lot of herself into Stella.

If you enjoy contemporary romance novels, I think you’ll enjoy this one.  It’s not gritty per se, nor is it clean and sweet, but it feels real.

Book review of The Problem with Forever by Jennifer L Armentrout

The Problem with Forever

This book seriously tugs at your heart strings.  Have tissues handy.  Mallory and Rider share a very hard, troubled childhood, but it’s not the few flashbacks that get to you, it’s the mental and emotional scars they still bear, and how those affect them today.  It took me some time (as it took Mallory some time) to understand how deeply those scars affected Rider.  There is a lot of focus on Mallory, and the reader has a very clear understanding of her situation, whereas we only really see a surface view of Rider and on the surface he seems fine.  But he’s not.  And eventually Mallory realises that.  The use of the childhood book to illustrate the characters’ struggles was brilliant.  It helped me (who doesn’t have that history or those scars) to understand the way these troubled teens viewed the world and their place in it.  Some parts were predictable (the roles that Paige and Ainsley played, in particular) but there were enough curveballs (Jayden!) to keep you wanting to turn the page and find out what happened next.

The way that Mallory spoke did grate on me a little, and put me in mind of Bella from Twilight and all her teen angst, but it was pretty integral to the character and I can’t see how the author could have written it any differently, so I shouldn’t complain.

I thought Mallory’s speech was fantastic, and really pulled all the loose threads together, but then Rider went one better and gave us an incredible satisfying ending.  The epilogue was also satisfying – no perfect lives, but moving together towards a brighter future.

This book should come with trigger warnings, but otherwise is a must read if you like powerful YA romances.

Book review of A Chosen Man by Jaime Reese

A Chosen Man by Jaime Reese

This is the 6th book in Jaime Reese’s Men of Halfway House series.

Wall is a secondary character we’ve encountered previously, who talks very little.  Like, ridiculously little.  So I was curious to see how Jaime would portray his story.

I loved Dylan.  He reminded me of Cole, a previous character.  Dylan has a powerful memory and can remember virtually everything he reads.  The author didn’t explicitly state that it was a photographic memory, but it obviously was.  He’s also a tech genius, specifically a hacker.  But then comes the similarity to Cole – the habit of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time because he doesn’t fully understand the nuances of normal, everyday social situations.

Both Dylan and Wall have had previous relationships that scarred and/or traumatised them, and led them to being wary of new relationships.  Built into this is the explanation of why Wall is so quiet, and how Dylan ended up in jail.

It wasn’t the guy, or his smile, or the sound of his voice. It was the promise of the dream. And, at the time, he probably would have accepted that from a three-legged iguana shifter if it had been able to speak that promise to him.

Like with Cole, the author doesn’t try and pretend he’s squeaky clean, an innocent man who did time for an honest mistake.  Dylan broke the law, but the author cleverly entices the reader to fall for him anyway.  I mean, for Wall to fall for him anyway.  Ahem.

I felt that the relationship between Wall and Dylan healed both men to a point where I felt like some of their stronger personality traits weren’t so obvious anymore.  Wall talked a lot more than I expected, and Dylan learned how to concentrate on his surroundings and what reactions were best in a given situation.  I was a little disappointed that they became more ‘normal’.  I didn’t feel like that happened with Cole, or even Adrian, who were strong characters that remained strong characters but found someone who loved them anyway.  Wall and Dylan changed each other.  For the better, sure, but…  Anyway, I dropped a star off my rating for that.

I added a star to my rating for the humour.

He imagined he would be crapping sugar cubes at any moment.

I kept laughing aloud as I read, and I love a book that can do that for me.

Wall didn’t know shit about computers, programming, and wouldn’t be able to find the dark web in a well-lit room.

The relationship between Wall and Dylan didn’t have enough tension or conflict to really keep my interest.  Their relationship was very sweet.  There was external conflict, which came from the men chasing Dylan.  The ‘escaping the bad guys’ sections of the book were easily my favourite, although Wall’s mum was very cool and I liked her a lot.  If there had been more conflict, I think the book would have been stronger.  As it was, I felt it was a three star read, taken to four stars with the humour.  If you want a sweet read that will make you smile, check it out.

Book review of Archangel’s Shadows by Nalini Singh

Archangel's Shadows (Guild Hunter, #7)

This is the 7th book in Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter series.  When I looked ahead in the series, I was disappointed to see that I was going to have read through Ashwini and Janvier’s story, and then Naasir’s, before getting back to the primary and secondary characters.  I felt that Ash and Janvier were tertiary characters to date, and we’d seen so little of Naasir even though he was on of Raphael’s Seven, and what we had, I didn’t like.  I wasn’t looking forward to his story at all.

But I’ve been enjoying the series, especially since switching to the audio versions, and I wanted to continue to follow the overall arc.  I wanted more of Illium and Aodhan in particular.  So it was with some reluctance that I started on Archangel’s Shadows.

Firstly, as someone who lives in New Zealand and has never been to America, I’m glad I listened to the audio book.  I could never have imagined Janvier’s accent correctly!

We knew already that Ash was pretty kickass, and a little crazy, and she didn’t disappoint in that regard.  There was a big build up to finding out why Ash was holding Janvier at arm’s length, and why she refused to consider becoming an immortal.  I was sceptical, I admit.  I was afraid this was going to be one of those ‘if you’d only talked to me’ tropes, where she had misconceptions and it had kept them from being together for ages and once she ‘fessed up, Janvier would sort them and they would have wasted so much time.  But I was pleasantly surprised.  I should have known not to doubt Nalini Singh!  I don’t want to give away any spoilers, because that would truly ruin the book for you, but it’s a good reason, and even Janvier has to agree that it’s a good reason.

The hunt that runs through the book helps keep the momentum going, and provides action, conflict and insights into both Ash and Janvier.

We see a lot more of Naasir in this book, and now I really want to read his book!  I hadn’t expected that AT ALL.  He is sweet, amusing and fascinating, and I really want to see how Nalini expands on that.

I was a tad disappointed at how neatly things were wrapped up at the end of the book, but unsurprised.  And that was really the only part where things were too easy for the characters.  Both Ash and Janvier stayed in character the whole book, which is good.  I gave it four stars.