“Beauty Queens” by Libba Bray

3 Happy Stars

I’m going to make a pitcher book to start this review. This book is a little bit of this:

And this:

This:

This:

With a bit of this:

And this:

thrown in.

It’s basically about a group of teens on their way to a beauty pageant who get stuck on an island after their plane crashes and have to figure out a way to survive and get along with each other. There’s a lot of humor in this book and a lot of messages about feminism and capitalism. It’s a huge satire about beauty pageant culture, the way society looks at females, and how ridiculous Big Business is about profits and covering up product flaws because of profit.

When I started it, I really thought this would be a 4-star read, but after awhile, I felt like the story could have been told in about 200-250 pages rather than almost 400. The funny parts started to get stale and the in-between corporate spoofs got old as well. It almost seemed like the boy band pirate reality-TV section was unnecessary and bloated the book. It kind of took a little away from the feminist themes and provided a convenient HEA for a couple of characters and was used as a plot device that could have been resolved another way. Maybe it’s just me?

Anyhow, this was amusing and funny and I liked the political messages, but it just went on and on for too long and sapped my initial enthusiasm. Still a good read if you are looking for something humorous and kind of fluffy.

Oh, and let me just add that this book did a great job of demonstrating a wide range of diverse characters in a positive light, while also blatantly making jokes of racial and sexual stereotypes.

Oh, I also really appreciated just how bizarre and quirky this was. If only it hadn’t been stretched out so much. I feel I have to dock a star for that because I started skimming at about 80%. I just felt like the book should have ended by that point. ?

Read my friend Kelly’s review because it’s awesome and is what made me want to read this to begin with! It’s not my usual fare, but was worth it, even if I didn’t totally love it. 🙂

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“Transcendence” by Shay Savage

5 stars!

WARNING: May induce severe ugly crying.

Wow. This book. Talk about a surprise. I was enjoying the story, but not loving it, up until about the 70% mark and then it just suddenly became this incredibly rich and emotional story that caused me to literally sob. I had to stop at 95% and wait to finish it when I could compose myself enough to carry on. This has never happened to me before when reading a book. (Yeah, there are several movies I have privately ugly-cried to – like The Notebook, Les Miserables, when I saw Beaches for the first time…typical stuff like that.)

Some people will try to read this book and be baffled by the 5 star reviews. This is not for everyone. First off, not a lot happens until the book is more than halfway over! This is not going to work for people who need a lot going on in the plot. It’s written in a very simple style and ALL about the slow-evolving romance. The male main character is not an alpha at all. He’s a caveman. He does not have the capacity to learn language or symbols or understand them because his brain is different from modern humans. So there is repetition and not a lot of complexity going on. Ehd is a simple man. He wants a mate. He wants to protect and provide for his mate. And he REALLY wants to “put a baby” inside his mate. All the time.

There are a zillion reviews for this, so I won’t recap or include quotes. The basic premise is that a caveman stumbles upon a strange woman and decides she is his mate. As the reader, we learn that his mate, Beh (he can’t pronounce her real name, Elizabeth), somehow came from another time and is trapped there. As the story unfolds, they fall in love, and have a long, fulfilling life together.

The author did an amazing job in telling this story completely from Ehd’s point of view. Of course, it is not “realistic” because Ehd thinks in a more complex way than a caveman would. But there would be no story if the author didn’t take some artistic liberties. I’ve never read a book like this and it’s very original.

I was not prepared for how emotionally attached I would become to Ehd and Beh. It literally makes me tear up just thinking about it. Even halfway through the book, I did not feel very emotional one way or the other about it, and then it just snuck up on me, and BAM. I was viscerally involved.

Romances are hit and miss with me. Sometimes I loathe them and sometimes I enjoy them. Rarely, do I flat-out LOVE them. This one is now an all-time favorite.

Sometimes it’s nice to read a romance about a male that is not a “mega alpha.” Ehd loved Beh so much. At first, I was like, eh, I need my book men to be more dominant, I’m not sure about this… but it WORKED. Ehd is the male you’d want in real life. Not the snarky sexy controlling asshole that is so common in most romances.

Well, I guess I will wrap it up. If you like sweet romances with a little bit of fantasy thrown in, one that is about the slow relationship build and kind of simple, yet invokes strong emotions, you will no doubt love this. You’ll love it.

^^^ That gif pretty much sums up the theme of this story.

Anyway, highly recommended for romance fans. I’ll shut up now.

Buddy Read with the MacHalo group, starting September 23, 2015. Because caveman romance, duh. For research purposes.

“Mechanica” by Betsy Cornwell

5 stars!

I really don’t get all the low ratings for this. I devoured Mechanica in 24 hours! I’ve read that people thought it was boring or that the pacing was slow. I just didn’t have that experience (and I am someone who can’t stand boring, slow-paced books). I guess it’s just one of those things.

So, this is NOTHING like Cinder whatsoever, for those wondering. Cinder has a more sci-fi vibe to it. I adored Cinder and gave it 5 stars also (see my review here if you want). This book is more steampunk fantasy with fae/fey magic.

Nicolette’s story starts in a pretty typical Cinderella manner. The adored mother dies and the father re-marries to a monster of a step-mother with two equally horrendous daughters. The father also dies and the “Steps” take over Nicolette’s home and make her the servant.

What I ADORED about this re-telling is that the mother was a genius mechanic who used fey magic to infuse animal creations, so that rather than just have gears and clocks and belts and glass bodies that run on coal, they actually have a spark of life in them. (Jules is one of the best animal supporting characters ever).

Nicolette ends up discovering her mother’s work and becoming a brilliant mechanic herself. Instead of a ball being the most important event in this re-telling, it’s an exposition, where citizens can showcase their talents and innovative ideas. There’s a bit of romance, but it’s a minor element. Nicolette is a very strong female character. This does not have your typical romantic HEA and in fact does not have one at all. The HEA is Nick becoming her own person, able to stand on her own.

Friendship is also a main theme. I enjoyed the friendship between Fin and Caro and Nick. I was put off by Caro’s attitude in regards to finding out someone was in love with her. But I appreciated the unconventional ending, so am not going to deduct a star even though it was a pretty big deal to me. It made her seem flippant and not as sympathetic.

Part of what made me feel such a resonance with this, I think, is that it has an air of wistfulness and melancholy that gave me lots of feels. So even though it might not have been action-packed, I was very much into what Nick was doing and going through and how her friendships grew.

I LOVED the way the fey were described and their magic. We never actually meet any full-blooded fey, but their magic is a main backdrop throughout.

I had no expectations with this and ended up loving it.

Thank you Netgalley and publisher for providing a digital copy of this to read and review. This was a joy to read.

First reaction:

BAM. 5 stars. Loved it. RTC.

Original post:

Netgalley approved me!

I’m all about steampunk Cinderellas. “Tiny magical metal horse?” Sold.

“Fortune’s Pawn (Paradox, #1)” by Rachel Bach

5 stars!

Review also found at Goodreads

Meet Devi.

She’s given 10 years of her life to hardcore training and mercenary life. She’s one of the best and she is determined to be better the rest. She wants to be a Devastator – one of the Paradox King’s personal guard. She’s highly motivated, confident, sassy, and ready to do whatever it takes to accomplish her goals.

At first, I hard a really tough time liking her or relating to her, and therefore, struggled to care about her story. She isn’t just confident and bad-ass, she’s obnoxiously cocky and arrogant and thinks she is God’s Gift to the opposite sex. That should be a huge turn off for me.

I wanted to run at first, but then, she grew on me.

So Devi finds out about a security job on a ship with really bad luck, but it’ll probably be a good enough gig to make her a Devastator, so she’s all about that shizz.

Who cares if all the security tends to die on this ship (named the Glorious Fool). However, Devi is so confident, she knows she won’t become just another statistic.

And so, after a slam-dunk interview with the crazy captain, Devi gets the job, meets the crew, and they journey to various moons and planets where CRAZY SHIT happens all the time. Why? Who the hell knows for most of the book because it’s mysterious. The mystery is built up bigtime in this book and we only get an answer here and there.

I won’t go into the plot anymore because I’d get into spoilers. So what worked for me:

* Loved the sci-fi
* Cool alien creatures
* Good story
* Great supporting characters
* Mystery and intrigue

Why I should have HATED this book:

* Tropes
* The romance
* A few cheap plot devices
* An unlikeable MC (at first at least)

*Note: I think if you go into this thinking of it as a soap opera, you’ll enjoy it more. In soap operas, characters lie and keep secrets, have angsty romances, personality changes, and cliffhangers are completely expected and normal. Let it be like a fluffy soap opera and your expectations will remain realistic for what you’re going to get with this.

Moving on…

Basil was cool and the best curmudgeonly alien navigator. All I kept picturing was something like this:

Hyrek. The huge reptilian…doctor? Who decided not be male or female and thus had to leave his own people (the xith’cal).

AND the weird, mute daughter of the captain… who reminded me a bit of this:

But she’s not as scary… just … weird. And more of that mysterious vein running through this book. We don’t really know who or what she is or what she’s capable of.

And then there is sweet Nova.

But there wasn’t enough of her. I am so into her ability to use plasmex, though. Telekinesis for the win!

I should have been more annoyed by this book. But it worked for me, strangely. I’m not going to question it too much. HOWEVER, I’ve heard such mixed things about the next books that I am not sure if I want to continue and might just leave it here. Undecided.

I liked Rupert as a mysterious character, but not as a romantic interest. I loved the idea of the symbionts and plasmex. Caldswell is an idiot. There was a cheap plot device used at the end, but it WORKED for me.

Buddy read with Buddies Books and Baubles group starting September 14, 2015.

I missed the BR with the Saucy Wenches group when they read it in March 2015.

This looks good!

“If you liked Star Wars, if you like the Kate Daniels series, and if you are waiting for Guardians of the Galaxy to hit the theaters, this is your book.”—Ilona Andrews

“Shadow Lands (The Warrior Chronicles #3)” by K.F. Breene

3 stars

Review also found at Goodreads

I don’t know. I liked it better than Hunted (book 2), but I still didn’t love it as much as the first one, Chosen.

This one has Shanti and her crew arriving to the Shadow Lands, where she must go through the trials to become the Chosen. I thought the trials were underwhelming. Not much happened besides her having to defend herself against wild animals and go through some “survival” type issues. I guess I was expecting something a little more epic. There was too much of this:

And not enough of this:

I mean, there was action. Don’t get me wrong. But even the action scenes didn’t thrill me. It started strong and I thought I was really going to like it, but I lost interest about halfway through and it fizzled out for me. I thought too much time was spent not doing much. Maybe it’s just me.

Cayan and Shanti finally hook up and it was kind of … boring. I know. I just expected something more steamy and exciting.

Ruisa was great. I like her. Sanders was great, as usual. I don’t know. I feel a bit unsatisfied, but it was still good.

Buddy Read with the MacHalo group. Because we love Shanti and her crew.

“Pines” (Wayward Pines #1) by Blake Crouch

5 stars!

Review also found at Goodreads

Fangirl activated in 5…4…3…2…

pines

pines2

pines3

I can’t even go into the plot because that would be spoiling it. All you need to know is a guy named Ethan Burke wakes up in a town called Wayward Pines and that town is not what it seems. BOOM! Go read it. Now.

This book is amazing. It grabbed me in from the first page. I couldn’t put it down. It had suspense, mystery, sci-fi, I liked the characters.

Now I have to watch the TV show. It’s got Matt Dillon in it and he is fabulous. I can totally picture him as Ethan. I can’t WAIT to find out what happens next!!!

dillon

Buddy Read with the Saucy Wenches group in September 2015. YAY! I’ve been wanting to read this for a long time!

“Paladin” by Sally Slater

4 stars

Lady Samantha was born into aristocracy and has grown up loving swords and wanting to be a warrior. Well, her father is just concerned about finding her a proper husband, so she can start having babies and fulfill her duties as a lady. A major tragedy occurs, which spurs Samantha to take control of her life and begin a controversial and secretive career.

She assumes a new identity as a male and signs up to train with an elite group of warrior protectors called the Paladins. Her trainer and mentor, Tristan, is the man who was present during the major tragedy I mentioned before (he had saved her life) and her co-trainee is a sort of half-demon shifter named Braeden.

Apparently, this is the debut novel of Sally Slater and she is a Wattpad phenomenon (I don’t really know anything about Wattpad, but I’m guessing that means that she is a huge indie sensation).

For a first book, I think this was pretty damn good. It took awhile to get going, but I found myself quite engaged in the story and by the end, I couldn’t put it down and fought to stop skimming because I wanted to find out what was going to happen.

There were some twists I didn’t expect and this had some interesting politics and intrigue that I like in fantasy. I like that the usual tropes were not present, Sam was not a special snowflake, and there was no love triangle. There was romance, but it wasn’t heavy-handed (well, at the end it got a little sappy, but it worked). The romance was based on friendship and was a slow-burn.

I might add to this later, as I’m just writing this up right after I finished. I would be interested in reading another one, if this continues (I believe there will be another book). This is more “fantasy lite” in that it isn’t complicated and reads easy, not like your typical “high fantasy” books. It also reads more as Young Adult, but I didn’t find it annoying or stereotypical, which I always appreciate!

I received a copy of this from Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for a honest review. Thanks so much!

Review also found at Goodreads

Hunted (The Warrior Chronicles #2) by K.F. Breene

3 stars. Well, my friends know that I totally fangirled over the first book in this series, Chosen. I even admitted to a girl-crush on Shanti. Shanti is an amazingly strong and kick-ass female protagonist. She is absolutely still a new favorite of mine.

But… I just didn’t feel this book as much as the first. Maybe I just got too spoiled with the humor and banter, while this one is darker and more serious. I loved the supporting characters in the first book and they don’t even come back into this one really until about halfway through!

There were two main new characters that took up a big chunk of the book. Were they good characters? Yes. So what’s my problem? I don’t know. I just had a hard time really getting into it and found myself easily distracted. The story is interesting. I understand the need for a more serious vibe with the way the plot is developing.

I don’t know. I really don’t know. I liked it, but I didn’t love it.

I’ll admit… I wanted more romance with Shanti and Cayan. Call me crazy! Usually, a slow-burn romance is a preference, but in this case… I wanted MORE!

Anyway, I’m still going to keep going. Book 3 will be soon. I’m not giving up. I just was a bit meh with this one.

Read Sarah’s review. She says it so well and her appreciation for this series and Shanti motivates me and is awesome. 🙂

Review also found at: Goodreads

Original post:

Extra buddy read for September 3, 2015 with the MacHalo group because the first one was so awesome we can’t stop. Must. Read. Now.

“Chosen” (The Warrior Chronicles #1) by K.F. Breene

BAM! All the stars. Yep, I’m going there.

SHANTI.

shanti

    I love her.

Strong, independent, powerful, bad-ass female character. A new favorite. She’s a nomad, trying to save her people, and among the last of her kind. She doesn’t need saving. She saves. She doesn’t need protection. She protects.

shanti2

For some reason, I thought this was going to be an Urban Fantasy, but it’s more “straight” fantasy with magical/paranormal aspects. I hate recapping plots so I’m not going to. You can read the blurb for that. There’s a bit of romance, but it’s really just a hint of possibility in the future. That’s good. I’m glad the author didn’t just throw Shanti and Cayan together. But, back off ladies. He’s mine!

shanti3

I’m hoping he’s in the next book. He better be. 😉

I loved the HUMOR in this. The writing is easy to get into. Yes, there were several grammar mistakes (teaming vs. teeming, past vs. passed, etc.), but I don’t care!. There weren’t any annoying tropes. I thought it was just a fantastic story and I am definitely going to read the next one!!

This book got me excited and I felt all:

shanti4

If you like Kate Daniels, you’ll probably like Shanti. The world- building isn’t really complex, but Shanti’s ability is interesting, and I loved the supporting characters too! The cover is a bit off. I mean, She doesn’t wear clothes like that, but I can forgive. Who cares?!?! This book rocked.

Lurv lurv lurv…

Review also found at: Goodreads.

Buddy Read with my girls at the MacHalo group starting September 1, 2015!