/* Ending */

[Review] The Retribution of Mara Dyer Levels Out The Series But Doesn't Redeem

The Unbecoming brought mystery, intrigue, and what felt like something different. The Evolution was a drag where characters ignored the obvious and the story became tortuously formulaic. The Retribution had some great elements again from the beginning and ended in a standard foreseeable clean way. It had the best and the worst elements from the first two installments, which landed it right in the middle: 3 stars. Enjoyable to a point, but I was relieved it was over.

Content Warning: Attempted Rape/Murder, Gruesome Horror Violence

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Throwback Thursday: The Uglies Series by Scott Westerfield

This weekly meme is hosted by Casual Readers and comes with the rules:
  1. Feature a book that was published more than a year ago, the older the better.
  2. It must be a book that you have re-read at least once.
  3. Explain to your readers why this book is worth reading over and over again.
  4. Tag four people in your post to share their favorite throwback the following week.

But I don't re-read books (No, really not ever.) and don't tag people to play along. So I'm going to mix and mash Throwback Thursday with this awesome but now defunct meme, Backlist Mondays. It's the same thing but more flexible. The prompt is simple:
On Backlist Mondays, we post reviews (or just whatever impressions we can remember) about books we read before blogging OR reviews of books from publishers’ backlists. Basically, books that aren’t considered “frontlist” reviews for your blog.
Please post a link back to the signup page in your post and add your blog name to the linky widget so everyone can find your backlist recs!

This week's throwback is the fantastic series Uglies by Scott Westerfield. I remember being in the store browsing books and picking the first one the series is named after, Uglies. I remember feeling like a fugly teen that's never had a boyfriend and wondering WTF could possibly make you pass up a chance at being pretty.

I'm pretty sure this is where my love affair of YA Dystopians came from, it's certainly the first I remember reading. To say it had an effect and lasting impression is an understatement. It's been around quite a while now but in case you need a refresher or haven't heard of it before....

Series: Uglies #1
Genre: Dystopian, Action/Adventure, Romance,
Age: YA
Format: PB, 425 pgs.
Source: Bought
Rating: 5 Stars
Recommendable? Hell Yes

Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can't wait. In just a few weeks she'll have the operation that will turn her from a repellent ugly into a stunning pretty. And as a pretty, she'll be catapulted into a high-tech paradise where her only job is to have fun.

But Tally's new friend Shay isn't sure she wants to become a pretty. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world-- and it isn't very pretty. The authorities offer Tally a choice: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all. Tally's choice will change her world forever...

This tetralogy packed a wallop of action and romance amid a dystopian world that I found so refreshing. There's character progression galore. Tally's journey is un-fucking-belivable. And the kicker is the 4th book is set after Tally's main quest with a new protagonist: Aya.

I remember thinking "Where's my Tally damnit?!?" when I first read the blurb. But holy shit, I love how this ends up. The world building continues as it evolves, which I love to death. I hate when fantasy worlds stay stagnate when people are forever reaching forward. Aya's tale is just a good in a short amount of time and no worries, Tally keeps rolling and her ending is awesome.

Everything about is is fantastic. Of course, it's been years since I read it as teen and I can't give content warnings from recollection alone but I highly recommended the series. If you love YA and/or dystopians, it's a must read.

And yes, I love the author Scott Westerfield so much for this series and have continued reading his work proudly. My next review up after the final Mara Dyer novel this Saturday is his latest Afterworlds.

Do you have a Throwback or Backlist review to share? I'd love to read it!
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Teaser Tuesday #7: Slated by Terri Terry

Brooke Banks | 4:00 AM | | Please comment!
In my quest to clear off my shelves and finally read all those books I promised to long ago, I've chosen Slated as my next read. It's actually an ARC copy that I cannot find any documentation for, I'm sorry. :(

The good news is I've devised a system to use once I start entering giveaways and such again. After I finish the hard copies that I have, of course.

I do remember why I wanted this one though: the cover and I love my YA Dystopians. It's been a while since I've delved into one so this should be a good time. *crosses fingers*

The Meme Curator & Rules:

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

So, without further ado:

My Teaser:

"What are you drawing?"
I show her. Half Mum, half dragon. In a variety of poses. Breathing fire, flying over the house.
---Slated, pg. 45.

Series: Slated #1
Genre: Dystopian, Mystery, Thriller, Romance,
Age: YA
Format: ARC PPB, 345 pgs.
Source: Given, no idea who anymore :(
Kyla’s memory has been erased,
her personality wiped blank,
her memories lost for ever.

She’s been Slated.

The government claims she was a terrorist and that they are giving her a second chance - as long as she plays by their rules. But echoes of the past whisper in Kyla’s mind. Someone is lying to her, and nothing is as it seems. Who can she trust in her search for the truth?

As always, I'm looking forward to seeing what everyone else is reading and I'd loved to hear about yours. :D
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[Review] The Evolution of Mara Dyer Is Dead In The Water

As much as The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer had me by the seat of my pants, The Evolution of Mara Dyer had me flailing and bailing. Where's The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer was tolerably saturated with Mara's and Noah's mutual obsession, romance dominated and subdued The Evolution of Mara Dyer. Mara made The Unbecoming  but undoes in all Evolution.

I don't care if that was the point. With 100 pages left, I was seriously frustrated and kicking myself for not quitting already. I would've bailed had the action not finally ramped up into climaxing. Then I was stuck with another cliffhanger.

I was resolved to only start the final book, The Retribution, because I came this far. If it didn't pay off, I was abandoning ship early. From 4.5 stars to almost DNF, how pathetic.

Content Warning: Ableism and PTSD from Attempted Rape

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[Review] The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer: A Dark, Horrific Mystery Thriller That Tackles Mental Illness In Teens

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer blew up in the kind of way every debut author dreams of and after reading it's easy to why. It's gripping and intense. It's a dark, creeptastic, haunting tale that doesn't treat teens as stupid babies.

Mara makes this book. She has to, since it's all about her. And her love affair with Noah, but I'll tackle that in a minute.

We only pick up pieces of her though like The Velveteen Rabbit being her favorite book. Music is brought up occasionally but it's general, besides Death Cab being a jackass's favorite. But that's at least something. Mara's personality though is in the spotlight and nails it.

Her voice is authentic and I love her fucking language. The teens feel realer because of this addition, the tale more grounded. That's no hyperbole either. There's still that made-for-viewers, all too on-point conversation but that's a necessary divergence. However, these teens I could see, believe and hear speaking as they did out in meatspace.

Mara's experience and narration is intense. She's unreliable (beyond being human) but unintentionally. She's telling the truth...as she knows it. It's fascinating. It works building the suspense and horror. Add in the writing creating a creepy, dark atmosphere and it's a smash hit.

Trigger Warning for Rape.

Highlight For Details:There is a very descriptive and disturbing scene. Then there's dealing with the after effects. It lies at The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer's core and is laced throughout, there's no way to avoid or deny it. Reading was occasionally hard (the scene and flashbacks) and often frustrating (her denial: “He's not a rapist because he didn't succeed in raping me!”). End.

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[Review]Throwback Thursday: The Sano Ichiro Series by Laura Joh Rowland

This weekly meme is hosted by Casual Readers and comes with the rules:
  1. Feature a book that was published more than a year ago, the older the better.
  2. It must be a book that you have re-read at least once.
  3. Explain to your readers why this book is worth reading over and over again.
  4. Tag four people in your post to share their favorite throwback the following week.

But I don't re-read books (No, really not ever.) and don't tag people to play along. So I'm going to mix and mash Throwback Thursday with this awesome but now defunct meme, Backlist Mondays. It's the same thing but more flexible. The prompt is simple:
On Backlist Mondays, we post reviews (or just whatever impressions we can remember) about books we read before blogging OR reviews of books from publishers’ backlists. Basically, books that aren’t considered “frontlist” reviews for your blog.
Please post a link back to the signup page in your post and add your blog name to the linky widget so everyone can find your backlist recs!
This week I'm doing a series I've loved for 15 books and will be catching up the latest pubs Soon™. There's 3 more for me to read, making the series clock in at 18 at the moment. And it all starts with...

Series: Sano Ichiro #1
Genre: Historical, Mystery,
Age: Adult
Format: MPB, 437 pgs.
Source: Borrowed from Friend
Rating:4 stars
Recommendable? Yes
When beautiful, wealthy Yukiko and low-born artist Noriyoshi are found drowned together in a shinju, or ritual double suicide, everyone believes the culprit was forbidden love. Everyone but newly appointed yoriki Sano Ichiro.
Despite the official verdict and warnings from his superiors, the shogun's Most Honorable Investigator of Events, Situations, and People suspects the deaths weren't just a tragedy; they were murder. Risking his family's good name and his own life, Sano will search for a killer across every level of society determined to find answers to a mystery no one wants solved. No one but Sano...
As subtle and beautiful as the culture it evokes, Shinju vividly re-creates a world of ornate tearooms and gaudy pleasure-palaces, cloistered mountaintop convents and deathly prisons.
Part love story, part mystery, Shinju is a tour that will dazzle and entertain all who enter its world.

Adult IconCrime IconHistorical IconMystery IconDiverse IconBook Love Icon

Of course, after so long and without any notes I can't review the individual books or give content warnings. :(

But without a doubt, each book rated 4 stars for me and  I can't wait to get back to reading this series. Long series often have trouble with getting into a rut, doing the same thing with zero growth (*cough* Stephanie Plum *cough*) but not Sano Ichiro.

There's character and series progression galore. Sano gets married and has a family, who join with great success and make it that much better. His wife that I won't name for those who haven't read any, is brilliant, subverts her cultural norms in subtle and livable ways, and genuinely contributes to solving cases. Her eventual motherhood isn't the typical, trope-spurred irritating display either.

It has court politics, intrigue, and sabotage done better than any other historical or fantasy novel (The Song of Fire and Ice, for instance) I've read before.  As Sano moves up the chain, it only becomes more perilous.

There is of course a main antagonist, but not everything wraps back around to him at all times. Boy, does he make a good villain when he does though. He gets depth and growth as the series moves along as well.

*happy sigh* Time to put those last three on my library hold list and get cracking.

Recommended for:
if you want historical Japan, great crime mysteries to solve, and want a series that can go the distance.
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Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Bookish Things I Want To Or Have Quit

Brooke Banks | 4:00 AM | | | | Please comment!

Top Ten Tuesday is Hosted By The Broke and The Bookish

This week's prompt idea is described as:

 ten book series I think I'm going to abandon, ten bookish habits I want to quit, ten authors I quit reading, ten types of books I'm quitting, ten tropes I want to stop reading about, ten books I marked as DNF (did not finish) recently, etc. Get as creative as you want)

And I'll be doing a mix of them all and a little something more at the end.

DNF Book: The First Pillar by Roy Huff. 

I won or was given a free autographed copy in exchange for an honest review. Now if only I could find the fucking email to thank people properly. Grrr. But at the least, I can thank Roy Huff for the opportunity. Sorry it took so long! And I'm sorry I didn't like it :(

Series: Everville #1
Genre: Fantasy,
Age: Young Adult
Format: Hardcover, 189 pgs.
Source: Author(?) for an honest review
Rating: DNF
Recommendable? No
Icons: Snoozer
Starting on page 4, I noted the narration was emotionless and how odd our characters reactions were. You'd think there would be some, at least some questions and internal thoughts but they just blindly followed.
Owen Sage is the emblematic college freshman at Easton Falls University. With all the worries about his first year in college, he was not prepared for what would happen next. His way of life was flipped upside down when he mysteriously crossed into another dimension, into the beautiful land of Everville. His excitement was abruptly halted when he discovered that there was a darkness forged against both the natural world, which he knew well, and the new land which he discovered, Everville. He must devise a plan to save both worlds while joining forces with the race of Fron and The Keepers, whom both harbor hidden secrets he must learn in order to gain power over the evil that dwells in The Other In Between. With a race against time to save both worlds, his short time at Easton Falls did not quite prepare him for the evil, dark forces he must fight in order to conquer The Other In Between.

Of all the books I've read while I wasn't blogging, this is the only one I've DNF'd. I felt awful for doing so but couldn't make it past page 87.

From there it was mostly question marks on pages where things seemed off and not fully explained. And I couldn't get a good grip on my mental picture. Describing The Keepers as “tall” and “impressive stature” isn't enough, for instance.

The good news was it starting picking up on page 76. We finally got some facts about what's happening and things get moving. But I didn't last much longer. It was just boring and dull for me. The writing was lifeless and common sense issues kept popping up.

Add in the fact I didn't care for Own and found Carywn's tale more interesting (but not interesting enough) and it was time to throw in the towel. It just became too much of a slog without any hope of getting better and I couldn't force myself to care.

The Trifecta of Quitting: The Omen Machine, The Sword of Truth, and Terry Goodkind (Book, Series, & Author, respectively)

Oh fucking boy. First some background. I ate up Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series when I was barely old enough to drink legally. The last few books got repetitious and preachy, but I just starting skipping the bullshit and happily finished it anyways.

Then came his Law of Nines, set in our world created in a long ass arc from the Sword of Truth's world. That at least had an interesting premise. Though what it was Wizard's First Rule (Sword of Truth #1) reduced to a platform to preach libertarian politics and parading cardboard cutouts around as an example. Hell, just read Eric Allen's review, it's hilarious and on point.

But that wasn't enough to stop me from reading The Omen Machine (Sword of Truth #12, Richard and Kahlan #1). I thought since it picked up right after the Sword of Truth's 11th (and thought to be last) Confessor, he'd be back to enjoyable. I was so utterly wrong. I didn't even finish it.

For All My Wasted Time

I tried 3 times to finish it and couldn't take it. All the characters I loved (and I name several fantasy game characters based on Kahlan) were flipped upside down and around. I kept expecting it to be case of the Pod People or something. And it just kept getting worse. I didn't even bother really reviewing. Just threw up a paragraph about being done and quit. (Again Eric Allen's review of the book fucking nails it.)

And that's why I'll never read another Terry Goodkind book again. I've renamed or deleted my Kahlan characters and am honestly ashamed I ever fucking liked his shit in the first place. It's so damn embarrassing. That's how fucking bad his writing, his series, and his books have become.

My advice is to stay the fuck away; Don't go down like I did.

Here's a palate cleansing cute kitty video: (found via Daily Squee)

Bookish Habits I want to Quit:

1. ??? The habit of reading slow enough that I could never finish all the ones I want to, I guess?
2. OH! Being so disorganized and lazy when trying to overcome it. But that's a whole life habit...

Tropes I want to Quit Reading Least to Greatest:

1. Insta-love
2. Love Triangles
3. Insta-love Triangles
4. Especially in YA
5. Bigotry. (There's too many to name...)

Bookish Shit I Want To Quit Hearing:

1. Pressure to read, enjoy, and praise The Classics. I can understand and appreciate what the book did when published and still not enjoy reading it today. Shit, I can fucking hate reading the book (and not because I was forced to!) and that's okay. Not only are reading preferences different and your Classical tastes are no better than mine, but the context of reading it today is different than when it was published. Some last and rock on, others made me loathe reading.

2. Pressure to read, enjoy, and praise Literary work. Good gods, the ones I've tried were fucking awful. Maybe I've been picking the wrong ones. Maybe they aren't for me. But people can shove that holier than attitude about it up their ass. Fuck all this elitist bullshit.

3. Authors Can't Be Reviewers. Um, what!? Authors are readers and any reader can review. Yet it's like being a traitor if an author does it like everyone else. And gods fucking help you if your review is not all sunshine and rainbows. There are some authors I really like as people and I would love to hear their thoughts. But it'd be disastrous, unless they're giving nice words for a book cover. Which just makes me sad and comes off as so fake. Which leads me to…

4. People Need To Get Over DNF, Negative and Low Star Reviews. I seriously doubt people who don't have negative reactions to any books. Comes off as fake. Online I understand why people are hesitant and downright scared to post them, shit I am too. But to pretend there aren't books we don't like, books we wouldn't recommend to friends in meatspace, and sweeping it all under the rug online is ridiculous. Yet we do so and then hand-wring about author's feelings and income. Pah-lease. I hardly remember authors but I sure as shit remember bad books. And all I care about is picking up a good book. Negative reviews are so helpful to me when picking a book, sometimes I'll even chose a book because the bad reviews are talking about stuff they hate but I'd love. And the high star reviews are vague hyperbolic descriptions that do me no good. Stopping the line crossing vengeance that is raged upon those that do post DNF, low stars, and negative reviews is so fucking obvious, I shouldn't have to say it.

5. “Keep your Feminazi Racist Against Whites Liberalism Agenda Out Of My Fantasy/Sci-Fi!” (etc,.) Good fucking lord. Besides the whole “no one's stopping white male fantasies”, it's also historically ignorant. The authors, subjects, and books have been around since the get-go. It's just more visible now to the privileged who's never had to question themselves, and their media. Which is a good thing! No one is saying they have to like it or the books (thought I do wish they'd get hit by a clue-by-four) but they can't stop it. Hence all the “The World IS ENDING!!!” cries and outrage. Bleh.
And that's all I got for now. I'm curious what everyone else is posting and of course if you've got thoughts on mine, please join in commenting.

 Via Animal Captions
More Squee! Please to have met ya :)

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[Review] Heat Wave: Solid Alternative Castle Darker Crime Novel

For those that don't know, Castle is a fantastic police procedural on TV with protagonists Kate Beckett and Richard Castle. Kate is the tough woman who's been personally touched by a murderer and rocking it in a man's world. Richard Castle is the funny, geeky successful crime novelist that has poker games with the real big boys of his genre, including cameo appearances.

Starting out they've got the will they, won't they attraction down like Molder and Scully. (No lie, my first time typing that I used fan-contractions “Sculder” and “Moldey” XD) Of course, now Castle is in its 8th season and it's obvious how these two turn out. But believe me, the ride getting there was so enjoyable. Their OTP status is cemented.

Richard Castle tags along with Kate Beckett for inspiration for his next novel series. And what do you know, his protagonist is based off of her! During the show, his novels are mentioned throughout and it's a lot of fun. Someone had the brilliant idea of writing and publishing those novels as if Richard Castle is real.

This is great for the shows fans like me. Brilliant, really. Makes me want to kiss whoever thought of it. But what about everyone else?

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Teaser Tuesday #6 : Heat Wave by Richard Castle

Brooke Banks | 4:00 AM | | | Please comment!

After so many years of being a Castle fan, I found out they published “Richard Castle's” novel series from the TV show. I finally got a hold of it now, after waiting a bit for the library hold to be filled. I am so excited to start this! And now that I'm back into blogging, this is a perfect way to share that enthusiasm.

The Meme Curator & Rules:

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

So, without further ado:

My Teaser:

Rook opened it up and pulled out an art glass paperweight of a plant. “Check it out. I tripped on Uranus.” -pg. 14

I love it already, I can just picture Castle saying it. XD

NYPD Homicide Detective Nikki Heat feels sparks from ride-along, journalist Jameson Rook. A real estate tycoon plunges to his death. A trophy wife with a past survives a brazen attack. Mobsters and moguls with motives all have alibis. Dirty little secrets of the wealthy hide until Nikki shines a light.

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[Review] Portrait Of A Dead Guy Rises To The Occasion As A New Genre Favorite

Portrait of a Dead Guy is a stunning debut. It's fun, enjoyable, and down to earth. The mystery remains one until the end with understandable missteps and misleads. It's a small town mystery with a working class cast that's refreshing. Characters pop and Cherry is a new favorite,  especially considering she calls an asshat an asshat.  She's strong with clear flaws and her family is as tight as they are annoying (to each other).

I'm definitely reading the next book, Last Dinner Standing.  If you're feeling disappointed and disenchanted, Portrait of a Dead Guy will renew your love for this genre.

Series: A Cherry Tucker Mystery #1
Genre: Cozy, Mystery,
Age: Adult
Format: PB, 270 pgs.
Source: Goodreads First Reads
Rating: 5 Stars
Recommendable? Yes

In Halo, Georgia, folks know Cherry Tucker as big in mouth, small in stature, and able to sketch a portrait faster than buckshot rips from a ten gauge -- but commissions are scarce. So when the well-heeled Branson family wants to memorialize their murdered son in a coffin portrait, Cherry scrambles to win their patronage from her small town rival.

As the clock ticks toward the deadline, Cherry faces more trouble than just a controversial subject. Between ex-boyfriends, her flaky family, an illegal gambling ring, and outwitting a killer on a spree, Cherry finds herself painted into a corner she’ll be lucky to survive.
Adult IconMystery IconRomance IconLight and Fun IconLove Triangle IconSnarky IconMust-Read Icon

The Romance

Ah, the love triangle. What ever would we do without you? I will say though that Cherry has her mind about her and knows what she wants. Her problem is getting her backbone to cooperate.

Its not bad, drawn-out or whiney.  It's just there. Oh well, I'll be happy that it wasn't worse and dance on its grave in the sequel.

Small towns and its inhabitants

Things get twisted in small towns. It's mob mentality that settled down with tribalism and going against the flow is futile. Because you are in or out.

Rather than some idealized nonsense, it felt like home to this small town girl. It sounds awful, and it certainly can be with people knowing everything and pretending otherwise. This realistic portrayal does show how small towns work and why people stay. Sounds crazy but it works.

The background characters are engaging and you'll love 'em or hate 'em. It's refreshing that they are working class. Like my hometown,  one family owns everything and the rest struggle to get by. Honestly, these characters can't afford to miss shifts and have to work in the sleuthing on their off time. How fucking wonderful is that?


Oh yeah. I loved it and Cherry's voice. This sentence in particular: "The object of my desire, Todd's functioning vehicle, jerked to a stop at the curb while the object of my ire bounded up the slope to my porch. " Cherry is an artist and it colors her speech beautifully in other examples.


Recommended for:
cozy mystery fans, plain old mystery fans, those that want working class people in a small town setting including a strong, smart-ass woman lead  
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[Review] Rouge by Leigh Moore: NA Historical Romance Hits and Misses

Rouge follows mixed-race orphan Hale Ferrer as she performs in a New Orleans cabaret circa 1890. At 17, she’s been taking care of Teeny, another waif young woman who's approaching puberty. Soon Teeny’s talentless state will leave only one-way to make ends meet: backroom prostitution. Hale’s inching towards completing her plan of marrying rich for their survival until a stagehand begins making moves of his own.

From inception, Rouge drew me in with its shadowy, sparkling setting brought to life by Hale’s brave yet vulnerable voice. Its denouement surges forward, leaving my heartbeat racing and ready for more. It’s the middle--where stale, fair-weather love reigns--that drags ass across carpet seeking relief from blockage.

My first impression was similarities with Moulin Rouge. It’s not just its musical backdrop, but certain details like descending via swing and their secret affair songs. However, this isn’t necessarily a blow. Both works superbly showcase women surviving with little opportunity or hope yearning towards freedom. 

It’s resemblance is sensible without pushing into wannabe status. For one, Moore’s protagonist is the opposite of Satine. Satine’s been around the block and dreams of becoming a real actress while just coming of age Hale wants, above all else, to protect her at risk ward.

Series: Cheveux Roux #1
Genre: Historical, Romance
Age: NA
Format: Ebook, 302 pgs.
Source: Won from Bookhounds
Rating: 3 Stars
Recommendable? Yes
CW: Rape. Graphic attack scene, forced prostitution, underlying and pervasive threats against women,  POC, and LGBT.

QUARTERFINALIST, 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards

Romance, velvet, sequins, and murder...

Hale Ferrer is the rising star of the hottest cabaret in New Orleans. And her one goal is escape. Escape from the lies, from the crime, and from her growing fear that one day she'll have to earn her living in the secret back rooms, where the dancers do more than dance.

But she won't leave behind Teeny, the orphan-girl she promised to protect.

Freddie Lovel is rich, handsome, and in love with Hale, and he's ready to sweep her away with him to Paris. But her heart is captured by Beau, the poor stagehand with eyes as blue as Louisiana iris flowers.

Denying her fears, Hale is ready to choose love and a life with Beau, until a predator hidden in the wings launches a chain of events that could cost her everything--Teeny, their one hope of escape, and possibly even her life.

Content Warning: Rape & Bigotry. 

Graphic attack scene, forced prostitution, underlying and pervasive threats against women,  POC, and LGBT.

The Good The Bad & The Other
Liked Hale, Teeny, and Roland High-school-y insta-love
Loved finding out about Hale’s parent’s past Her wavering over decisions was irritating
Their guardian/ward bond was compelling Middle section drags
Reminiscent of Moulin Rouge Predictable: didn’t see its outcome happening any other way
The beginning and ending were captivating After reading, feel a bit mislead by the blurb

Trigger Warning IconNew Adult IconHistorical IconRomance IconInsta-Love IconSexy Icon

Plotting Through Longueurs

Plot-wise, discovering her parent’s past was my favorite part; I wish there were more than mere scattered pieces. It's obvious who the antagonist is early so I missed this “mysterious” predator promised.

Further, their struggle over Teeny doesn’t take center stage until midway.
Before that, it’s a young woman playing Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe to pick a partner. Even afterwards, Hale waffles depending on how the wind blows. Eventually, circumstances conspire to force her hand. Throughout, I worried about quality of life rather than death-dealing injury, rendering its blurb zero for two.

Dragging out romantic indecision left me waiting for something to happen while reading most of Rouge. Realistically, there’s little choice for Hale and series direction, so plot felt stalled. When events finally unfold, it’s enjoyable yet predictable. I missed that shocking tension built resulting from unexpected revelations. Perhaps I’m too cynical though.

The Charismatic Characters

Surprisingly, my favorite character was someone who worked within the system rather than subverting it and encouraged Hale to stop safeguarding Teeny at her own detriment, in spite of disagreeing. Enter Roland: gay black man that writes the cabaret’s songs. His loyalty and practicality won me over. Hale’s noble instincts needed a sensible soundboard. His straightforwardness gave Hale an opening to do right even when her friends didn’t agree. He maybe a voice of reason but not one of conscience.

As realistic as it was, Hale’s “omg you’ll burn in hell for being that way” worrying made me sigh. Thankfully, she doesn’t come up often or hound him. But it's clear she's not the best friend, and it's not just her homophobic beliefs either.

 She’s a compelling character, besides that and the Weeble wobble dance between beaus. Otherwise, she’d probably be my favorite. I liked Teeny in all her troublesome little sister-ness.

Hale and Teeny’s relationship is fundamental; this story wouldn’t exist without it. Hale maybe an orphan but she’s fairly fortunate, considering everything. Teeny represents what could’ve been though. While unable to enact change, at least one small girl can be saved from the horror stories Hale’s heard.

It’s admirable, intense, and charming. Of course, that doesn’t mean every motherly decision was agreeable. At first, it’s annoying how sheltered she kept Teeny because staying na├»ve is risky. Later, this revelation dawns and so begins worrying whether to educate or not. Thinking, “what if I’m causing my child harm or doing it wrong?” cemented her parenthood status for me.

Romantic Disinterest

Under such heavy responsibilities, it was hard cutting Hale slack although she’s young and clueless. I’ve been a single working teenage mom, seeing her gravitation towards an unfixed fling while spurring a secure relationship was irritating. Her snipe hunt made me feel vicariously embarrassed. At no time did I believe Beau’s prince charming act would come to fruition.
"Next time, don't let your guard down
because of a pair of big goo-goo eyes!"

Oh, look at his pretty eyes and cute smile! Add in sneaking around for make-out sessions and a jealous little sister, it’s no wonder the whole debacle felt high school-y. Beau gave the Charlie Brown football gag try, Hale got tingly as if he cuts off her circulation, and then they tangoed. The occasional tender moment with roses or the morning after wasn’t getting my motor running.


3 stars for being an intriguing read with a likable heroine but instant noodle sweethearts and predictability left me wanting more.

Recommended for:
New Adult or Historical Romance readers, especially fans of Moulin Rouge’s sort. It’s a perfect chance to cheer on underdogs creeping towards their happily ever after by crossing a minefield. Be wary if high school-y love tropes aren’t your bag. Comes with a trigger warning for rape and bigotry.
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[Review] So Close to You: Historical Time Travel So Close to Perfect

I haven't read many time travel novels (Seriously, I just read A Wrinkle In Time) and discussions of plot holes and such within timelines typically turn me off. I just...don't care enough to try following the thought along.

So, I saw a pretty cover with an interesting blurb that was worth a shot and entered to win the first two So Close to You novels. (I assume, I've lost all track of how I procured the book. Sorry!) It took awhile to get to read but I'm glad I did. Now I'm really glad the second one is signed.

One thing that does bug me in and out of time travel novels is the lack of consequences. Using it as a get out of jail free card would've caused me to quit. Thankfully, that didn't happen.

Instead, I was greeted with a turn I wasn't expecting. Even with the gut punch and cliffhanger, I was happy. Because what happened mattered. It had an effect which wasn't erased to make it "happy". I fucking loved the ending and it is the reason I continued the series.

Series: So Close To You #1
Genre: Sci-Fi, Historical, Mystery, Romance
Age: YA
Format: Hardcover, 313 pgs.
Source: No Idea
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Lydia Bentley has heard stories about the Montauk Project all her life: stories about the strange things that took place at the abandoned military base near her home and people who've disappeared over the years. Stories about people like her own great-grandfather.

When Lydia stumbles into a portal that transports her to a dangerous and strange new reality, she discovers that all the stories she's heard about the Montauk Project are true, and that she's in the middle of one of the most dangerous experiments in history.

Alongside a darkly mysterious boy she is wary to trust, Lydia begins to unravel the secrets surrounding the Project. But the truths behind these secrets force her to questions all her choices - and if Lydia chooses wrong, she might not save her family but destroy them... and herself.

The Good The Bad & The Other
Actions have consequences instead of being erased for feel good ending Insta-love with angles
Solid protagonist Cliffhanger, though not the worst kind
Loved the historical setting that takes up most of the book, makes it come alive Conspiracy theories=Meh but whatever
Romance wasn't too drawn out and heavy Would've been nice to see Lydia thinking about journalism beyond idealistic dreams

Young Adult IconHistorical IconMystery IconRomance IconSci-Fi IconInsta-Love IconPage-Turner Postrs

Since time travel isn't my topic, what did interest me was how historical it leaned. Instead of lovers hoping around, it had a mystery taking place in 1944 and went back to investigate.

The conspiracy theory is an eye-roller as they always are but I was able to let that go. Maybe I'm more willing to suspend disbelief with teenagers, I don't know. YA is the only category where I can remember letting it go. Besides the complete balls to the wall, shut your brain off City of Dark Magic.

The young adult heroine, Lydia, helped with bringing in my favorite reading age group, admittedly. She's a pretty, typical, good girl but with a stubborn streak a mile wide and no annoying habits. I liked reading her and her perspective though it was nothing extraordinary.

I was wondering how an inspiring journalist would turn out. There wasn't any ribbing, defense of the profession or determination to be better. No worries of job prospects or career.

In the beginning, her journalistic drive was brought up a lot. Not that there was really much time or place for it after that, but it'd be nice to see a teen conscious of such considerations.  They do exist but /shrug.

The Always Included Romance

I wasn't too happy with the love angles sprouting up. I knew one was coming but still, I wasn't looking forward to it.

Since Lydia corrected one side and the other side was tied into the mystery, it didn't drag the book down. There wasn't much hemming and hawing about it.

Mandatory Gif. Oh, yeah. 
There were some moments of "What are you doing?" and "Get over it!", mostly tied to Lydia's ditzy romantic side. But...I got over it and so did she.

Okay, so I've also got a thing for dark, mysterious and brooding. I blame Angel. It's still insta-love. And no, I wasn't swept away like Lydia.  I wasn't repulsed either. Just...added it to my list for suspension of disbelief. Usually that doesn't work but it did here.

Random Thoughts:

Why call it TM and then try to be coy with saying it stands for "Telsa's Machine"? We all know it's a time machine, ffs. If they didn't want to label it such, they fucked up with the initialism. Make it different or make it standard, half-assing it sounds and feels like some weird knock-off shit.


4.5 stars for the ending above all else, for the historical mystery and for time travel that didn't turn me off or give me a headache.

Recommended for:
YA lovers, especially historical and time travel fans.

Note: I cannot find any information on how I received this book. It's gotta be a giveaway win or something, but nothing is coming up in my search. It's been so long, before the second one was even published since that one's an ARC. I'm so sorry! Please let me know if you're the person I got it from and I'll update ASAP.
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