Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne & The Baller by Vi Keeland

Nemesis (n.)
1) An opponent or rival whom a person cannot best or overcome;
2) A person’s undoing;
3) Joshua Templeman.

Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman hate each other. Not dislike. Not begrudgingly tolerate. Hate. And they have no problem displaying their feelings through a series of ritualistic passive aggressive maneuvers as they sit across from each other, executive assistants to co-CEOs of a publishing company. Lucy can’t understand Joshua’s joyless, uptight, meticulous approach to his job. Joshua is clearly baffled by Lucy’s overly bright clothes, quirkiness, and Pollyanna attitude.

Now up for the same promotion, their battle of wills has come to a head and Lucy refuses to back down when their latest game could cost her her dream job…But the tension between Lucy and Joshua has also reached its boiling point, and Lucy is discovering that maybe she doesn’t hate Joshua. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game. Goodreads

“I want to know what’s going on in your brain. I want to juice your head like a lemon.”
It's always disappointing when a friend doesn't like a book as much as you did, so I'm sorry if you recommended this to me. I didn't love The Hating Game. Lucy and Joshua really frustrated me as characters, and I didn't understand their reasons for the games they played. If you hate someone with every fiber of your being, why play mind games with them every day? If I didn't like someone, I'd likely ignore them and only engage when absolutely necessary. 

It was clear that their games were thinly veiled flirtations, but neither of them admitted their feelings, and the progression of their relationship was painful. It also didn't seem all that realistic to me, especially the scenes in his apartment. It was just weird

I wish they had interacted with Lucy's parents more, or maybe visited the strawberry farm. I thought her parents were interesting, and think they may have offered a different perspective. I also thought Lucy had the potential to be a quirky and cute character, but some of the things she said made her appear ten-years old. 

I didn't mind listening to this in the background, but I wasn't very engaged. If I missed something, I didn't take the time to rewind it.

The first time I met Brody Easton was in the men's locker room.
It was my first interview as a professional sportscaster.
The famed quarterback decided to bare all.
And by all, I don't mean he told me any of his secrets.
No. The arrogant ass decided to drop his towel, just as I asked the first question.
On camera.
The Super Bowl MVP quickly adopted a new hobby--screwing with me.
When I pushed back, he shifted from wanting to screw
with me, to wanting to screw me.
But I don't date players.
And it's not because I'm one of the few women working in the world of professional football.
I'd date an athlete.
It's the
other kind of player I don't date.
You know the type. Good looking, strong, cocky, always looking to get laid.

Brody Easton was the ultimate player.
Every woman wanted to be the one to change him.
But the truth was, all he needed was a girl worth changing for.
Turned out, I was that girl.
Simple right? Let's face it. It never is.
There's a story between once upon a time and happily ever after...
And this one is ours. Goodreads
“They say blood is thicker than water, but that doesn’t mean shit. Everyone needs water to live.”
The Baller is my first book by Vi Keeland. I've heard a lot of good things about the author, so I thought I would give this one a shot. I also don't normally read sporty romance books, but the cover and synopsis were appealing.

I honestly don't have any emotional feelings about this book. It was a quick and fun story that provided a nice break from what I routinely read. The language was occasionally too much, but it wasn't unbearable.

I liked their story well enough, especially the ending, and thought Brody's relationship with his ex-girlfriend's ailing grandmother was sweet. It allowed us to see a different side of him. He loved that woman like family, and went out of his way to care for her every need.

The addition of Brody's ex-girlfriend was odd at times and didn't always flow with the rest of the story. I think if she had been elaborated on just a little more, I might have felt differently. She wasn't there, then she was, but then she had her own perspective for a few chapters...

If you're looking for something short and easy to read, this might be worth looking into! 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

My Weekly Pull #4

I have been absolutely awful about doing this each week! I really want this to be a reoccurring post, so I need to get my shit together and start scheduling them in advance. Once I'm holding the comics, I have no desire to write a post about them. I want to sit down and read every single one. In my defense... I've waited a month to continue a story, and waiting another day is unnecessary torture.

This week:

All-New Wolverine #29
Peter Parker Spectacular Spider-Man #299
Amazing Spider-Man Venom Inc Omega

Last week:

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #78
Daredevil #597
Despicable Deadpool #292
Gwenpool #24
Old Man Hawkeye #1
Phoenix Resurrection #3 (of 5)
The Punisher #220 
Spider-Man Deadpool #26
Venom #160

All-New Wolverine is wonderfully intense! I love all of the characters and their story. Honey Badger is my new Spirit Animal. Gwenpool is ending (which I'm super bummed about). It's also weird because Gwenpool knows she's in a comic, so she also knows that her comic is about to end. I'm curious to see how they wrap up her story. Phoenix Resurrection is fabulous! If you want something short, it will only have 5 issues (but I definitely want more). I'm excited to read Old Man Hawkeye! The Hawkeyes are quickly becoming my favorite Marvel characters. All-New Hawkeye (Kate Bishop) is also ending. 😭 I'm just happy Kelly Thompson is also writing Rogue & Gambit!

I haven't gotten into The Punisher yet. It's one my husband gets solo at the moment. I plan on reading it in the future, though. He says it's good, and I can usually trust his opinion. Books? No. Comics? Mostly.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

You Don't Know My Name & You Won't Know I'm Gone (The Black Angel Chronicles #1-2) by Kristen Orlando

Fighter. Faker. Student. Spy.

Seventeen-year-old Reagan Elizabeth Hillis is used to changing identities overnight, lying to every friend she’s ever had, and pushing away anyone who gets too close. Trained in mortal combat and weaponry her entire life, Reagan is expected to follow in her parents’ footsteps and join the ranks of the most powerful top-secret agency in the world, the Black Angels. Falling in love with the boy next door was never
part of the plan. Now Reagan must decide: Will she use her incredible talents and lead the dangerous life she was born into, or throw it all away to follow her heart and embrace the normal life she’s always wanted? And does she even have a choice? Goodreads
"Like that's what love really is; that back and forth, give and take. She says one thing. He says another. She laughs. He touches her arm. If you're lucky, it's in those simple moments you find complete happiness. And that's how you want to spend the rest of your life. Forever in the middle of a conversation with the person you never, ever get tired of talking to."
This was a lot darker than I was expecting. I knew it was going to be about spies and espionage, secret agencies and double lives, but I wasn't thinking about the unpleasant aspects. That's my fault, honestly. I should have known it wouldn't be a romantic, happy and carefree story. The romance is subtle, but I wish it had been nonexistent. Their relationship just wasn't something I could get behind wholeheartedly. It never clicked for me.

As for the unpleasant aspects, the author doesn't explicitly mention the gory details, but she skillfully nudges the mind in a specific direction. She encourages certain thoughts, and those played out very vividly in my mind. 

I get that Reagan was paranoid and anxious, she had every reason to be, but she should have shared her concerns with someone. She endangered herself and everyone around her because she didn't want to look crazy. I also didn't like how much hatred she directed at herself. She always wanted to take all of the responsibility and make it her own, and then she would drown in her emotions. I wanted her to handle things a little differently, but alas... 

You Don't Know My Name captured my attention and held it. I have a few issues with the main character, her self-loathing being one of them, but they are all qualities she can grow and learn from. Only time will tell.

Warning: potential spoilers if you have not read the other book.

Going rogue in an effort to rescue her kidnapped parents has cost Reagan Hillis her automatic ticket to the Training Academy. But becoming a Black Angel is the only way Reagan will be able to exact revenge on her mother’s merciless killer, Santino Torres.

When Reagan is given a chance to prove that she’s worthy of training to be a Black Angel, she also gets the first chance she’s ever had to be her true self. No aliases. No disguises.

But when her friend Luke joins her at the Black Angels training compound, Reagan finds herself once again torn between the person she was and the person she wants to be. Reagan has to prove that she's as good as her parents trained her to be, because she’ll never find Torres without the Black Angels’ help. Goodreads

No quote available at this time. It was an audiobook and I neglected to take notes.
I received an e-arc from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Also, the quote I used may have changed or been altered in some way, but I am quoting from what I received.

Luke is so frustratingly loyal and it always bites him in the ass. Raegan wonders whether or not she is selfish (she is), and Luke is unflinching in his devotion/friendship/love for her no matter the cost to himself. I honestly don't think she deserves even half of him. After what happened in Columbia, and once Luke saw how consumed she was with vengeance, he should have started doing more for himself. There was no going back, but he could have done things differently going forward. He could have been her friend and loved her from a distance.

I don't know what I would have done in Raegan's situation, so I cannot judge her. However, I can see how her thoughts and actions affected the people she cared about. She started to really lose herself in this book. She didn't know who she was, what she really wanted, or how to go forward. It was like she was stuck in a loop and couldn't get herself out.

*highlight to view spoiler» My thoughts: I don't think Torres is working alone. I think someone within the Black Angels is helping him and feeding him information. It's the only thing that explains how he knew so much, and had information that only another Black Angel would know. It was almost as if he knew about things before they happened, or as they were about to happen. I think that's why Raegan going rogue allowed her to catch him unprepared. She went off the grid and handled everything with her closest friends, so CORE didn't have inside information, and nothing was passed on to Torres. I'm also not upset by his death, but I do think her killing him will have a ripple effect and cause more problems for her in the future. Maybe even more deaths.

I really enjoyed the setting for this book. It gives us a little more history and understanding regarding the Black Angels. We also meet a few of the other trainees, which are mostly Legacies (children of Black Angel operatives), but I wish they had been expanded on a little more. There are 24 trainees but we really only learn about 5 of them, and they are the ones that interact with Raegan the most. If the author mentioned others, their names didn't stick and they weren't memorable.

I am curious how this story will play out, but I'm not foaming at the mouth for the next book. 

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Cold-Hearted Rake (The Ravenels #1) by Lisa Kleypas

A twist of fate . . .

Devon Ravenel, London's most wickedly charming rake, has just inherited an earldom. But his powerful new rank in society comes with unwanted responsibilities . . . and more than a few surprises. His estate is saddled with debt, and the late earl's three innocent sisters are still occupying the house . . . along with Kathleen, Lady Trenear, a beautiful young widow whose sharp wit and determination are a match for Devon's own.

A clash of wills . . .

Kathleen knows better than to trust a ruthless scoundrel like Devon. But the fiery attraction between them is impossible to deny—and from the first moment Devon holds her in his arms, he vows to do whatever it takes to possess her. As Kathleen finds herself yielding to his skillfully erotic seduction, only one question remains:

Can she keep from surrendering her heart to the most dangerous man she's ever known? Goodreads

1) “The right words can bind someone more effectively than chains." 2) "Just because you don't understand or agree with something doesn't mean that it lacks merit."
I think the synopsis is a tad misleading. I never thought of Devon as cold-hearted or rakish. He may have pretended to be in the beginning, but we can see that's not how he truly feels. The man is compassionate and puts the lives of others before his own. He didn't want the responsibility, but he handled it well and made improvements to benefit everyone, not just himself.

Despite past exploits, Devon claims he hasn't been that way for awhile, and that those activities have lost their appeal to him. He was mostly bored with the life he had been living, and I think he (subconsciously) saw this as a new and exciting challenge. He vocalized feelings that came across as insensitive, but his actions almost always contradicted his unkind words.

The other characters were very well-written, and I especially liked reading about the twins. I think the other sister, Helen, will be the focus of the next book, but I would really like to learn more about the twins and what their future entails. West (Devon's brother) was definitely a scoundrel in the beginning (but also not very cold-hearted) and was actually quite funny. He really fell in love with the people in the community and tried to better their lives however he could. He wasn't a guy in a suit afraid to get his hands dirty, but the one that rolls up his sleeves and offers assistance. Everyone in this book was a joy to read about, and really showed how working together in a community can be beneficial for everyone.

Kathleen is a strong female character that doesn't clutch her pearls when a handsome man is around. She is able to stand toe-to-toe with Devon even when he's being impossible. I'm positive she influenced some of his decisions and forced him to view the world differently. There are some shocking revelations about her, and I'm glad she was able to find her own happiness. No matter what her circumstances were, her heart always bled for others.

Cold-hearted Rake was an enjoyable read. The writing is absolutely beautiful, and a lot of the phrases have stuck with me. I had to buy this book to justify my ridiculous amount of sticky notes and tiny stars to mark my favorite places. I've heard amazing things about Lisa Kleypas, and this was my first book by her. I plan to read more of her books in the future, so if you have any recommendations, let me know!

Side note: I don't know how people, especially children, survived mourning periods back then. It seems miserable and unhealthy. I doubt the deceased cared whether their loved ones had black over their windows, wore veils, or secluded themselves from the world. I would want my family to go on living and enjoying life, because death only shows us how short that life actually is. I can't imagine trying to keep my three children indoors for a year because their father died, and it would be "inappropriate" for them to play and enjoy themselves. Oh, and men had significantly shorter mourning periods.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Archived (The Archived #1) by Victoria Schwab

Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.

Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.

Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was: a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive.

Being a Keeper isn't just dangerous—it's a constant reminder of those Mac has lost, Da's death was hard enough, but now that her little brother is gone too, Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself may crumble and fall. Goodreads
“You're trying to block out every bit of noise. But people are made of noise, Mac. The world is full of noise. And finding quiet isn't about pushing everything out. It's just about pulling yourself in.” 
I am kicking myself for not reading this sooner! My first book by Victoria Schwab was The Near Witch, which was wonderful, so I should have known I would enjoy The Archived. Now I need to read everything else she has ever written, especially The Unbound.

The author is incredibly creative. She didn't build a fantastical new world, but something intricate and secret that few people know about. The Archive seems simultaneously small and vast. There are endless possibilities, yet only a few. It depends entirely on who you are and what your purpose is within the Archive. It was magnificent.

I had no idea what was going on. I felt just as lost at Mackenzie. Her loss and fear felt like my loss and fear. I cringed when she had to twist her words with her parents, and when she relived painful memories. I felt her determination and endurance. I was Mackenzie Bishop when I read this, and that is powerful and compelling storytelling. I was completely caught up in her story, and I didn't know anything until she did (yay!).

I loved Mackenzie's flashbacks to conversations with her grandfather. They were very insightful and added another layer to the overall story. I also liked all of the secondary characters. A few of them were only mentioned a handful of times, but I felt like they were integral pieces of the puzzle. I knew a lot about them with very little information.

If you've been wanting to read this book, or you've liked any of the author's other books, please don't waste a lot of time like I did. This is not a book that needs to be passed over for something else. It needs to be read and enjoyed.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Invincible Iron Man (#1-3) by Brian Michael Bendis, Stefano Caselli (Illustrator)

I was pleasantly surprised with this new series! Riri Williams is a wonderful Iron Man/Ironheart. The first issue was hard to read, but most heroes have a tragic past that they are continuously dealing with. Riri is no different. However, her demons are a little more difficult to identify because they were the result of senseless violence. She can't explain their actions away, or even try to understand them. It's just something she has to deal with for the rest of her life.

I've enjoyed watching her transform into a strong, determined and powerful woman. She was all of these things before, she's just found a way to amplify them. Her Tony Stark A.I. manages to help. (I'm still really curious how that is going to play out...)

I've read the first three and then the newer ones, but I really want to find the comics I'm missing so I can read through the entire series. I'm not lost since I picked her story back up after the Legacy issue, but I still want to see what happened before that.

I'm sad that Brian Michael Bendis is leaving Marvel, and I hope that his replacements are able to meet the high expectations he has set for all of his comics.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Breath of Fire & Heart on Fire (Kingmaker Chronicles #2-3) by Amanda Bouchet

Warning: potential spoilers if you have not read the other books.

"Cat" Catalia Fisa has been running from her destiny since she could crawl. But now, her newfound loved ones are caught between the shadow of Cat's tortured past and the threat of her world-shattering future. So what's a girl to do when she knows it's her fate to be the harbinger of doom? Everything in her power.

Griffin knows Cat is destined to change the world-for the better. As the realms are descending into all-out war, Cat and Griffin must embrace their fate together. Gods willing, they will emerge side-by-side in the heart of their future kingdom...or not at all. Goodreads
“Kato looks ill. “I… It… Me…” He stares at the massive snake. “Big.”
I squeeze his arm. “Don’t worry. You’ll speak in complete sentences again soon.” 
I really enjoyed the story and world-building for the first book, and I was excited to jump back into this series. Breath of Fire picks up right where the other book ends, so there isn't a lag or jump to adjust to.

Cat and Griffin have an initial argument that seems bizarre and out-of-nowhere, and he's also a little cruel and abusive, which doesn't seem like the Griffin from A Promise of Fire. He would never hurt Cat, even if he was angry, and now he's banging her head against a wall. It just didn't fit. Overall though, I did enjoy the additional information for Carver, Kato and Flynn. I still wish there had been more, but it was better this time. I also like that there was an entire section that only included Kato and Cat. He's quickly becoming my favorite character!

Piers makes me uncomfortable. I don't like how abrasive he seems to be, or how calculating. He's the bookworm of the family, but I feel like he is planning something awful.

The story is compelling and engaging, so I never wanted to put it down, but there were still quite a few things that irked me. For example, Cat is more than willing to sacrifice herself for her male companions, but she still always seems to end up the Damsel in Distress. She's a strong female character, but then she isn't. Blargh, it's confusing. 

Who is Catalia Fisa?
With the help of pivotal figures from her past, Cat begins to understand the root of her exceptional magic, her fated union with Griffin Sinta, and Griffin's role in shaping her destiny.

Only Cat holds the key to unlocking her own power, and that means finally accepting herself, her past, and her future in order to protect her loved ones, confront her murderous mother, and taking a final, terrifying step—reuniting all three realms and taking her place as the Queen of Thalyria.

What doesn't kill her will only make her stronger...we hope. Goodreads
“I am caught. You caught me. Not the other way around. From the very first day. And from the very first day, I would have done anything for you—except let you go. I couldn’t. Not when deep down, I knew we were meant to be like this. To love like this.” 
I received an e-arc from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Also, the quote I used may have changed or been altered in some way, but I am quoting from what I received.

So. Many. Questions.

I have enough loose ends to make a sweater. This is how it ended? Really? The entire series has been action-packed and fraught with turmoil, and then it just ends. I groaned when I looked down and saw there was only 1% left in the book. I knew that meant there would be no further explanations, and that it was unfortunately the only conclusion I would be getting. It was incredibly anticlimactic, which was honestly a surprise. 

I wish Cat had fewer and shorter inner monologues. They would last page after page even in the middle of a battle. The girl has the thought process of a snail. I didn't mind her thoughts and explanations, I just wish they had been condensed. That time could have been better spent evolving other characters or the story. I still don't feel like I know them well enough. Kato is definitely my favorite, which is why *highlight to view spoiler» I will never forgive Amanda Bouchet for killing him off. He didn't need to die for Cat to learn something she should have figured out an entire book sooner. Gods, I cried and over that. I liked him more than Cat. It was annoying watching her struggle with the same problem over and over again. 

I know it sounds like I didn't like this book, or the series, but surprisingly that's not true. I really enjoyed these books. I quite literally could not put them down. I think I read the last two books in just three days. I stayed up entirely too late to finish them, too. The story itself is captivating and mind-consuming. The Greek Mythology, always a bonus for me, was phenomenal. I love that Persephone and Ares were a main focus. Persephone isn't always a god that's given a lot of attention, and Bouchet shows a softer side of Ares. Who knew he could be compassionate? He's always portrayed as a brute.

I did love these books, there were just really big things that I found infuriating and wish had been written a little differently. There were a few unexpected twists, and I can't believe I didn't figure some of them out sooner. It was like a slap to the forehead when they were revealed. 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

This Heart of Mine by C.C. Hunter

Expected publication: February 27th 2018
A new heart saved her life—but will it help her find out what really happened to its donor?

Seventeen-year-old Leah MacKenzie is heartless. An artificial heart in a backpack is keeping her alive. However, this route only offers her a few years. And with her rare blood type, a transplant isn’t likely. Living like you are dying isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. But when a heart becomes available, she’s given a second chance at life. Except Leah discovers who the donor was — a boy from her school — and they’re saying he killed himself. Plagued with dreams since the transplant, she realizes she may hold the clues to what really happened.

Matt refuses to believe his twin killed himself. When Leah seeks him out, he learns they are both having similar dreams and he’s certain it means something. While unraveling the secrets of his brother’s final moments, Leah and Matt find each other, and a love they are terrified to lose. But life and even new hearts don’t come with guarantees. Who knew living, took more courage than dying? Goodreads
"She asks me to unbutton my top. I almost don’t care that I’m flashing my boobs. I think everyone in the hospital has seen them. They try to cover them up with the sides of my pajama top when they examine me, but it never fails, something slips. Boobs are slippery like that."
I received an e-arc from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Also, the quote I used may have changed or been altered in some way, but I am quoting from what I received.

I absolutely loved this book! I'm so happy it was the first book I finished in 2018! It was a great way to start the year, and it means I'm going to have very high standards for everything else I read. I hope they are all just as marvelous!

The entire book has an underlying sadness to it. The grief is palpable and constant. It shows you how different people choose to heal and manage their emotions, but it also shows you that the pain never completely leaves. 

The characters are ridiculously relatable. I didn't feel like I was reading a fictional story. I felt like I was reliving someone's life experiences. It was really realistic and there were times I thought, "I do that, too!" Another awesome example: Matt reads Harry Potter and James Dashner. He also reads a romance book and isn't ashamed that he enjoyed it. 

The relationship between Matt and Leah was sweet and sincere. They went through their rainbow of emotions, and it was beautiful to watch them come together. The newness of their feelings was light and refreshing, while their circumstances gave it a darker edge. 

Leah also has the best Best Friend. I thought it was hilarious, and so very true, when the author included a bathroom scene with the two of them. They can have an entire conversation while taking turns peeing into a toilet, and it's not awkward or weird. It shows just how comfortable they are with each other, and it takes a long time to develop that kind of friendship and ease with another person. 

There are literal laugh-out-loud moments, sweet and endearing moments, and moments when you want to take some of their pain away. It was a captivating, emotional, and hilarious story that I plan to read again and again.

I do have one minor issue with the book--*highlight to view a potential spoiler» it was too easy for me to determine the killer. I had made my assumptions long before the information was actually revealed, and it disappointed me a little. It didn't take away from the overall story, or Matt and Leah, but it was still a bummer. I like to be surprised. I don't mind intentionally knowing something before the characters, but I feel like this revelation was supposed to be shared with them. Instead I'm thinking, "Yep! I knew that was coming!" I wish his identity had been a little harder to discern. 

Monday, January 1, 2018

Phoenix Resurrection: The Return Of Jean Grey #1 (of 5) by Matt Rosenberg, Leinil Yu (Illustrator)

"I just finished Phoenix Resurrection by @AshcanPress, and enjoyed it *immensely*! The story is captivating from the first page, and the entire comic reminded me why I love the X-Men so much! Thank you for writing, @AshcanPress. I didn't realize how much I had missed Jean Grey." 
I think my tweet says it all! When I was trying to type this post, I couldn't think of a better way to say it, so I just quoted myself. 😅

The beginning of this comic is eerie and foreboding. There are a few things happening simultaneously, and no one has any idea what is going on. Sometimes stories allow the reader information that is withheld from the characters, but I'm equally in the dark. Nothing that happens makes sense, and I'm left needing more answers. Not just that... more everything.

Like I said in my tweet, this comic and its story reminded me why I love the X-Men. There are so many of them, all vibrant and filled with their own stories to tell, but I love watching them come together as a team. 

It's only going to be five issues, and the first one came out this week. It should still be available at your LCS! Get it! I promise you won't be disappointed!