Monday, December 9, 2013

REVIEW: The Backup Boyfriend by River Jaymes

The Backup Boyfriend The Backup Boyfriend by River Jaymes
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This was a nice contemporary romance. I have no major criticisms. It just didn’t work for me.

What I Liked

+ the characters

Alec got off on the wrong foot with me in the beginning. I found him whiny, and I feared he was going to be a doormat. I perfectly understood he was grieving over the breakup of his two-year relationship, but I wanted Alec to express it in anger and bitterness and be all revenge-y. Thankfully, he quickly improved. He showed some anger and backbone (in his own mild mannered way), and he had Dylan to carry the revenge part for him. I came to like Alec more than I thought. I didn’t think I would.

I also liked Dylan. I liked his sense of justice and how he put his anger (as an angry person with issues) to good use, by helping Alec get back at his ex, Tyler. Dylan could have easily come off as emo because of his issues because, boy, he had a lot of them, the poor guy. I was amazed how well-adjusted he was.

My favorite character was Noah, Alec and Dylan’s flamboyant friend. There’s a lot of bad romances out there that can be majorly improved if they have a supporting character like Noah. Sometimes characters make stupid choices, and they need some sense slapped into them. Noah slapped some sense into Alec and Dylan. He was the best friend a main character in a love story could ever ask for.

I never cared for Tyler. I’m surprised and miffed that he’s going to be the main character in the next book of the series. However, I did appreciate that he didn’t turn out be to the Evil Ex the book introduced him to be, and that his new boyfriend Logan was nice and not the new bitchy jealous lover. One of the great things about the book was that it didn’t play into stereotypes.

+ the plot

Another great thing about the book was the plot. The book didn’t drag out the revenge plot line. The confrontation between the exes happened early in the story and on time for reader’s satisfaction. Once it played out, the book moved onto other things and didn’t go back to rehash it like a worn sock. From the start the plot put Dylan on front stage next to Alec, and it never once switched him out for Tyler. The plot was always about Alec and Dylan with Tyler in the dark background, and this is very rare for a romance with this kind of premise. Usually, the ex would be on the front stage and fighting our destined lovers for the spotlight, making a lot of drama. That didn’t happen in this book.

The plot had angst. How can there not be with the amount of issues Alec and Dylan had? But the angst was moderate and never became a sticking point for me. I really like how plot brought up heavy topics like HIV and sexual orientation confusion without making things preachy or depressing to read.

I do confess that it greatly helped that there was smut to make up for any dispiritment the angst caused. I was amazed that the book actually pulled off having a healthy dose of smut without sacrificing an inch of the plot or bogging down the pacing. Hot damn. It’s an award-winning feat.

What I Didn’t Like

Though the book had many good points (smut being the biggest, ha!), the book didn’t work for me. First reason: It felt emotionally subdued. My interest never wavered from the story, but I couldn’t seem to maintain an emotional connection with the story. For instance, when the characters were angry, their anger didn’t rise beyond the page.

Second reason: As much I wanted to wanted Alec and Dylan to be together, I wanted more for them to get over their issues (or at least some of them) before they got together. Alec just got off from a long-term relationship, and the last thing he needed was to be with someone, like Dylan, who had a fear of commitment and hopped from one bed to the next and, oh yeah, was straight. Not to mention that when Alec gets into any sort of a relationship he invests all of his heart in it, which makes one night stands poisonous to him.

I liked Dylan, bless his heart, but I didn’t want him to hurt Alec or be hurt himself. I didn’t like how they didn’t take Noah’s advice and keep their relationship platonic or dissolve it if they couldn’t. I hated how they kept their relationship undefined and uncertain up to the end because the men were afraid to face their fears and fully fight for their love. Their relationship was a fiery trainwreck waiting to happen.

Fortunately, that didn’t happen but the fact they would choose to walk on that incredibly emotionally dangerous path, no. I couldn’t accept it. I can’t accept characters who ignore the warning sign of falling rocks and keep on walking when there is an alternative path, a safer path, that will still allow them to get to their destination.

Third reason: There were two niggling inconsistencies. Inconsistency #1: Alec is a doctor for a clinic who treats the homeless, and Dylan is a mechanic at a busy autoshop and is the only mechanic at the autoshop. Both own their own businesses. Both lead busy careers, especially Dylan who told Alec right from the get-go how super busy he is. Yet, after the beginning of the story, they never once failed to make time for each other or needed to reschedule. How? It’s next to impossible, if not outright impossible! The conflict of their schedules and the discussions of making time for each other just suddenly stopped. When Alec had social events to go, Dylan quickly agreed to go to them without a thought of checking his schedule if he had prior appointments.

Inconsistency #2: Noah didn’t miss a beat warning both Alec and Dylan who were friends of his about how dangerous it would be for them to be together. Not a single beat. As soon as he found out about the true nature of their relationship, he visited them the very next morning. Yet, he never once warned Alec and Tyler, also a friend of Noah’s, about how the two didn’t suit each other? That he had a feeling they would break up sooner or later? It didn’t sound like Noah at all.

Fourth reason: I still don’t get how Tyler broke up with Alec. The book did explain why they broke up (and why they couldn’t work out as a couple), but it omitted from explaining what prompted the breakup. All the book said was that one day Tyler simply literally walked out on Alec, and that’s it. That didn’t satisfy me.

Fifth reason: It annoyed me how it never dawned on Alec that the reason Dylan was a commitment-phobe was because he had abandonment issues, which could be seen from a mile away. Come on, Alec. Work on your cluelessness. It’s the biggest reason why your relationship with Tyler failed.


I rate The Backup Boyfriend 2-stars for it was okay. It read differently from the usual mm-romance, but unfortunately it just didn’t work for me. I would recommend it for readers who like contemporary romance. But for readers like me who prefer paranormal romance, I say pass.

Goodreads | Amazon

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

REVIEW: El Presidio Rides North by Domashita Romero

El Presidio Rides North

El Presidio Rides North by Domashita Romero
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A fun and playful mm-romance... in a zombie apocalypse and it’s not a parody. Say what? But there it is, and it was refreshing!

The story kicked off with our narrator under a zombie attack, about to die a lonely death, when out of nowhere a guy whacked the zombie and rescued him. Zombies 0, Shovel 1. Naturally, the two men teamed up afterward. Ain’t nobody else but them and the zombies. Not wanting things to get personal and be all sad shit if something bad happened, savior dude nicknamed our narrator “Gaga” and himself “Mercury.”

I completely understood Mercury’s reasons for his nickname policy. Nevertheless, because of his resistance to open up it took me a long while to warm up to him. Gaga, I liked him instantly. I also pitied him, and I must confess I pitied myself for how much I could relate to him. Moving on.

Though it’s a short story, a word count of 19,000, I learned surprisingly a lot about Gaga and Mercury. As the two men journeyed north, they had zombie scenes, fun scenes, and zombie fun scenes. The zombie stripper scene was one of my favorite. I loved how the men never acted dumb and forgot about their zombie apocalypse reality, but at the same time they continued to enjoy life regardless. For them, Hell was a state of mind, not their reality.

If you take away the zombie apocalypse, it’s a simple road trip story of two men getting to know each other, and later developing feelings for each other. Their interaction was riveting. At the end when they finally did the horizontal I went “yes!”

Unfortunately, the post-coital bliss wasn’t as blissful as it could have been. Another opportunity to deepen the intimacy arose but Mercury rebuffed it by continuing with his nickname policy.


I rate El Presidio Rides North 3-stars for I liked it. Despite being one step short of a completely satisfying story, the mm-romance was a great story overall, and it’s free. Recommended if you’re looking for something light and refreshing to read to improve your mood.

Goodreads | Read it for free

Monday, December 2, 2013

NEWS: a new look for the book blog

Tolerably Smart news:

If you're reading this post from the RSS feed, check out Tolerably Smart for the new look. It's significantly different from the last 2-3 looks, which were simple background and color change. The new look is bland but it's smoother and easier on the eye. The web elements no longer disjoint, and the background no longer distract. I'm aiming for a minimalist web design.

Due to spam, comments on Tolerably Smart have been restricted to registered user, which virtually changes nothing because I receive all of my comments on Goodreads anyway.

Please support Tolerably Smart by reporting any writing mistake, broken link, design issue, and the likes. To report, leave a comment on Tolerably Smart, Goodreads, or Booklikes. I also made a blog button, which you can find on my (slightly) updated About page. Thank you again to Cassi of Galavanting Girl Books for the used bookstore photo to serve as the blog button's background.

Social networking news:

I opened an account on Booklikes. Had one for several weeks now. It's all right. Though I despise Goodreads's censorship, my main hangout will still be Goodreads and my reviews will still be posted on Goodreads and Tolerably Smart.

And here's why: Most of my friends are staying on Goodreads (think Facebook), and Goodreads's database remains the best in the world. I won't post my reviews on Booklikes, because posting it on Goodreads and this book blog is more than enough I can tolerate. Not to mention that the end of the day, regardless of how friendly Booklikes is (now), Booklikes is a social networking website in which the products are the users. Like all social networking websites, they will either shut down because lack of use or cash out because it ain't a charity. (Sometime they cash out and shut down like in the case of Dodgeball. Yikes.) I will stay with the devil I know, which is Goodreads. /rant

Moving on. I, Experiment BL626, am still active on Twitter. Didn't think I would be. If you have been wondering why I cease posting news on Tolerably Smart or why I rarely post them on Goodreads, it's because I tweet them now. It's easier, and I'm lazy.

That's the end of the news. Happy holidays. May everyone have no life so they can have time to read.


Saturday, November 30, 2013

REVIEW: Terminated by Rachel Caine

Terminated (Revivalist, #3) Terminated by Rachel Caine
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

CAUTION: spoilers, rant

The first book was kind of good and really promising. The second book — not so good, because it was too angsty for my taste. The third book (this book) was better. Less on the angst (and Bryn’s internal whining), more of a thriller with Bryn literally taking names and kicking ass. She still whined some but this time she got the message that it is not who, or rather what, you are that makes you a monster, it is what you do that does. About damn time.

+ What I Didn’t Like: a lot

Unfortunately, book 3’s better wasn’t good enough. To see that this book is the final book of the series saddens me. The series had so much potential, but never fully realized it. In book 1 through 2, the story danced around the ethical issues. I accepted this because I thought the issues were going to be dished out in pieces throughout the series. This was back when I was ignorant of the fact that the series was only a trilogy. In book 3, the story completely sidestepped it by paint brushing the entire zombie technology as evil and something that should have never been invented. The book did so much wrong there.

1) Talk about anti-science. Seriously, talk about it. The characters never once thought, “hey, maybe this technology could be modified not to make people zombies but instead to enhance their natural healing abilities (within constraints, without them dead first, of course).” But oh no, the zombie technology is absolutely evil is what the book went for. The technology must be destroyed. Never mind the facts it’s the evil people who use the thing for evil and that there were equally destructive AND MORE destructive inventions in existence.

2) It’s lazy writing, considering that the story is a what-if. This story was about what if death could be cured with a drug. Evidently, that was just a flimsy setting for a mediocre thriller fiction. Largely flash and little substance.


3) And the ending. It sucked! Seriously, a kill switch? Seriously? There’s a blatant deus ex machina if I ever see one. The characters actually thought the kill switch would be the end of things. The fuck it isn’t. They never once thought people might figure out a way around the kill switch of a hack as people usually do because there’s no such thing as an unhackable hack. They never thought that other bad guys might accept the kill switch thing as an acceptable risk, kidnap a bunch of innocent people, and turn them into disposable mind-controlled zombie super soldiers to inflict the maximum damage before the enemy realizes they’re zombies and activate the kill switch... assuming they have the high technology on hand. Hell, they never even thought that invention could still be used as a biological weapon and be modified to make it more contagious, e.g. infect people by air or drinking water. Just because there is a cure for something does not make that something any less dangerous, smallpox for example. Come on! It’s weaponology 101.

Beside the ethical issues, book 3 also skimped out on the Evil Corporation, Massive Conspiracy, and Global Domination plot. The reader never got to learn the entire extent of it. For a story where the world was at stake, it was absurdly provincial. In other words, the story told the reader the world is at stake but what was happening felt more on the scale of a national level rather than a global one. I hardly doubt Americans were the only players in the game, but in the series that was all who the reader sees. If there was any mention of international stuff, it was in the abstract and distance. The farthest and most foreign place the characters ever went in the story was Alaska. Honestly.

Other things I hated was how some Bryn’s allies turned out not to be trustworthy to say the least. After all they have been through together, it made me mad how easily the team could break. Granted, they all pulled through in the end but I felt the side road drama was unnecessary and the time could have been much better spent on world building and plot depth building.

Another thing I didn’t like was how practically all the villains were 100% evil. They were either psychopaths or people just blindly following orders. The black and white-ness of things felt juvenile.

The deaths at the end felt overly dramatic and contrived because obviously the kill switch had to come with a high price. Oh please. Spare me the tragic tough choice. The kill switch could have easily come with no price at all with the way the book made up the science stuff.

The ending was abrupt. I was shortchanged of an epilogue. The series ended with a belief that the loose ends were wrapped up, and they were. But it was in a way that could easily be unwrapped with another book if the author decided to continue the series.

+ What I Liked: a little

The only things I liked beside Bryn’s kicking ass was how the romance between Patrick and Bryn continued without angst and stupid issues. I was thankful that at the very least the series allowed the two to survive at the end together.


I rate Terminated and the entire series 2-stars for it was okay. I don’t recommend this series. It promised a basketful of things it never delivered. I recommend the White Trash Zombie series, a MUCH better zombie series.

Goodreads | Amazon

Thursday, November 28, 2013

REVIEW: Whitetail Rock by Anne Tenino

Whitetail Rock (Whitetail Rock, #1) Whitetail Rock by Anne Tenino
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Smutty and free. The book appealed to every one of my romance kinks, and the romance was interracial to boot (not something I commonly come across). This book would have been rated higher than 3 stars, but it wasn’t for two big reasons.

First reason: the main character

Nik wasn’t likable as I wanted him to be. I get his issues. I get his anger. But I couldn’t excuse him taking his anger out on undeserving Jurgen. Jurgen had been nothing but nice to Nik. Meanwhile, Nik was rude and selfish to Jurgen. Nik acted as if he was only the person in the whole world who had issues. Bitch, please. Get some perspective. The guy has a loving family, caring friends, and a decent job. I wished one of the characters would have told Nik to get the stick out of his ass and thrown a glass of cold water in his face for good measure.

I didn’t like how Jurgen was the only one of the two to face his issues (Jurgen has a fear of commitment). I was a little baffled at what Jurgen saw in Nik to love because I couldn’t see it. Love is blind, I guess.

Second reason: the ending

The ending was abrupt. The climax occurred at the last minute, and then it was over as quickly as it started. WTF? Where’s my falling action, and that’s not a proper dénouement.

Other reasons

I didn’t take off any points for these reasons but I thought it was weird how Nik was home with his family for a visit yet the reader really never got to meet his family. I didn’t mind that most of the sex scenes were fade-to-black; I did mind that a non-fade to black sex scene took place at Nik’s office at the university during business hours. Ew, the couple should have some respect for other people and found an isolated place to fuck.

What I Did Like

This quote:
“Sam. I've got news for you. Not every childhood trauma can be healed by finding the right penis." [said Nik]

Sam looked devastated. He opened and closed his mouth, eyes wide, then suddenly slumped back against the railing, unable to support himself anymore. "You mean," his voice was barely a whisper. "All those romance novels lied?”
LOL. Hey, a person can dream, can’t they? It was nice to see Nik could be humorous sometimes... in a blue moon. Anyway.

I also liked the college setting, particularly how Nik shared his frustration of being a TA to the reader. He sounded exactly like one of my college instructors.


I rate Whitetail Rock 3-stars for I like it. It could have been better book. It needed a few more rounds of editing. But as it is, the story was good and definitely hooked me into book 2.

Goodreads | Read it for free

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

REVIEW: Light by Nathan Burgoine

Light Light by Nathan Burgoine
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was fun! It’s the second time in a row I used that word in a review, and it’s the second time in a row it’s for a book from a publisher (Bold Strokes Books) I have poor luck with! I want to say “used to have poor luck with” here but let’s not jinx it.

+ the hero

The hero was both a big negative and a big positive. Kieran was a big negative because he acted recklessly a handful of times, and I had half a mind to label him TSTL. He deliberately put himself in danger with little preparation. For example, one does not walk brazenly into a cult on their turf to snoop and then expect to quietly walk back out after one is finished snooping. Keiran did this not once, but twice. Both times, no disguise.

Second to Kieran’s poor sense of danger was his poor sense of discretion. The guy revealed his super-self too easily to other characters after so many years of hiding it ever since he promised his mother on her death bed to keep it a secret as a child. He was very fortunate those characters were genuinely good guys and trustworthy.

Kieran was a big positive because he took the time and effort to practice his superpowers and test the limit of what he could do. Not only that, he beseeched advice from Miracle Woman, an experienced superhero. It was one of those few times where Kieran acted perfectly sensibly. I didn’t expect it; half of it was because Kieran could be so frivolous sometimes and half of it was because super-people in superhero fictions, the many that I have read, rarely explore and practice their power.

I loved how proactive Kieran was. Kieran knew full well that to protect people, he would have to do more than simply just be there to stop whatever disaster there may be. Through online research and old-school snooping, he chased the villains. He searched for their weakness. He used his superpower ingeniously. He also warned the appropriate people.

In short, the guy was a character of contradictions. Sometime he could be so stupid, sometime he could be so smart. I actively liked and disliked him.

+ the other characters

As for the other characters, specifically the good guys, I liked all of them. I liked Karen, Kieran’s pushy female best friend, and Callum, Kieran’s overprotective older brother. I loved the fact that Kieran came from a nice religious Irish family, and that there was none of this disowning-because-gay crap.

Easter, Kieran’s cat, was so adorable and one of the nicest fictional cats I ever met. Hell, I think Easter is the only nice fictional cat I ever met. His cuteness rivaled Pilot’s, Sebastien’s pet dog. I loved how in the story all dogs helplessly love super-people.

+ the villains

I don’t care for books where the villains are homophobes because it touches too much of reality for me to be comfortable with. I don’t like being reminded while I’m reading for fun that there are bigots. I already get that from reading the news on a daily basis, thank you very much. Thus, I was very grateful that the book treated the homophobic villains like common criminals and not like something special the reader must explore in-depth and get close to face-to-face. They were bad guys who were going to hurt people, and that was all the reader needed to know.

+ the romance

Free spirit twink meets benevolent bear. The chemistry between Kieran and Sebastien was ooh la la. They matched so perfectly, and kind of kinky! The two needed to make out more. I took off zero point for this, but it would have been nice if there were smut instead fade-to-black. Just saying.

I also liked the small plotline of a romance between Karen and Callum, Kieran’s best friend and brother, respectively. It’s nice when minor characters are allowed to find their own happiness.

+ the ending

The ending was a bit cheesy. I didn’t think it was necessary how Kieran suddenly decided to officially play superhero, the operative word being “play.” I thought Kieran should have given more thought, some serious heavy-heavy thought, about what it would mean to be a superhero as a person would when they take on a dangerous job, like a police officer or a firefighter.

That said, the ending was very gratifying, if excessive on the saccharine. The bigots got their due, and the good guys got their festival. The book was a mood booster.


I rate Light 3-stars for I liked it. The book was fun, amusing, and lighthearted, considering who the villains were and the themes that were presented. I really liked how there was a direct connection between acceptance of LGBT people and acceptance of super-people, and that it all comes down to acceptance, period. While the ending was completely resolved, it would be marvelous if Light have a sequel.

Goodreads | Amazon

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

REVIEW: The Waking Dreamer by J.E. Alexander

The Waking Dreamer (The Waking Dreamer, #1) The Waking Dreamer by J.E. Alexander
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Good news and bad news. The good news is that the prose wasn’t purple and the plot wasn’t a sea of surrealist drecks as the book description led me to believe. The bad news is that the hero was TSTL and the romance was insta-love. In short: it was a stereotypical YA fiction. Well, the writing is a few notches higher than average, not that it helps.

+ the hero

The story started off with a chapter that really should have been a prologue and not the first chapter. The second chapter was where the story finally began, with the hero’s 3rd person viewpoint. It began with Emmett on an impromptu road trip to Florida, across the country, to find his birth mother. He wanted answers and he wanted to escape his bleak life as an abandoned and neglected orphan. I totally get that, but what I don’t get is why of all times did he suddenly decide to do it less than two weeks before his 18th birthday. How hard it was to just wait until he turn 18 to do it then? He just took the car without his guardian’s permission for the road trip and a real plan. The budget for the trip; he thinks he budget. I think he’s deluded himself into thinking it’s a budget. Basically, it’s like he just woke up one day and out of nowhere decided to go on a self-discovery mission because gosh darn it, he just felt like it, like one would feel the urge to scratch one’s ass because it’s itchy. As I read further into the story, I found out I didn’t need to get anything. Dude was just fucking dumb as a bag of rocks. *facedesk*

Emmett never asked all the questions that he needed to ask, especially when he later found out how important he was in the world of magic. He barely asked a third of the questions in my mind that I thought he should have asked, not just for him, but also for the reader. Oh. My. Fucking. God! He wanted answers and there in front of him were people who can answer them. Why was he not asking them? ASK THEM! I understood the characters were actively on the run for their lives, but there were down times.

Worse, Emmett was never anything but a burden to the people trying to save him and save the world. The least he could have done was to ask how he could help the evil-fighting magic-users as they ran for the lives because they were outnumbered and underpowered. Hello?!!! These people are trying to save your life! Ask for a gun or some magic weapon thingy or, hell, even a fucking first-aid kit to carry. For fuck’s sake.

+ the romance

But oh no, it doesn’t stop there. The nail in the coffin was that he had to go and be infatuated with Amala. She’s attractive and kickass and he’s a teenage boy and a dude in distress; I get it. But love at first sight and jealous of Amala’s best friend, Keiran? Emmett was slowly dying of poison and needed to receive an antidote from someone who was very far away and very inconveniently available. He needed to get his fucking priorities straight.

Thankfully, it was only one-sided on his end.

+ the other characters

As for the other characters, I never connected with any of them. It was because Emmett was too self-absorbed. Since the story was told strictly in his viewpoint, there was perceptible limit to how much the reader was allowed to get to know the other characters. Not that it would have made a difference if there were other viewpoints because most of characters died as soon they were introduced. Yikes, deaths and deaths everywhere. The book really hammered the fact that things were deadly serious, that the fate of humanity was at risk... if only for the reader. The strange thing was that only a few of the characters (the good guys) were affected by the deaths; the rest were not. Hazrat and his faction didn’t seem to digest the news that their peers were dying and the world was going into the dumper. Helloooo, evil abounds. Shouldn’t some preparation for war be in order?

+ the world building

For a book packed with action, the pace was rather slow, particularly in the beginning. And the reason for that was not the occasional dream shit; it was because of the poor world building. I kept waiting to be clued in to what was going on and to learn about the world of magic. The book never went further beyond telling the reader the outline of the world building, and it was very stingy even just telling the reader of the bare basics. Bad guys there, good guys here. Here are factions of the good guys. Here is a gist of what Druids and Bards are. And... yup, that was about it. Twilight, a generic vampire and werewolf paranormal YA fiction, had more world building in half of the book than this book ever had; that’s how scant and bad this book’s world building was. Eugh.

+ the ending

The ending was cliche. I never mind the trope where the hero at the last minute oh-so-conveniently discovers his latent power as the Chosen One and unleashes it to banish evil (temporarily if it’s book 1 like this book is). In fact, it’s a guilty pleasure of mine. Nothing like an old-fashioned battle of Good versus Evil and Good prevails. However, in this book, it was vexing because of how utterly useless Emmett was for the entire book. Yeah, NOW he decide to be useful. Better late than never.


I rate The Waking Dreamer 2-stars for it was okay. While the hero was TSTL and the romance insta-love, I have read far worse when it comes to stereotypical YA fiction. Also, it was a fitting read to celebrate Halloween because of its horror elements. There is your silver lining.

It’s kind of a shame because the story had potential, the cover is gorgeous, and the book website is one of the best book websites I’ve seen. The efforts to make this book great were apparent. Of course, it is only book 1 so maybe things will improve. But, eh, I’m not holding my breath. Improvement rarely happens in stereotypical YA fictions.

Goodreads | Amazon

Monday, October 28, 2013

REVIEW: Kings of Ruin by Sam Cameron

Kings of Ruin Kings of Ruin by Sam Cameron
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Fun, lively, and exciting. This book was better than I expected, and I admit I expected very little due to my poor luck with the publisher, Bold Strokes Books, and to a string of same-old same-old Young Adult fictions with all the publishers. Is there any Young Adult fiction where saving yourself and the world doesn’t take a backseat to the Romance? Because good grief.

Control, The Waking Dreamer, The Trials of Renegade X, Tandem — desist your Romance shit. Yes, that includes the two of you books that I rated 3-stars, which means I like you. Desist. Y’all are series; you can do it, says the crazy person talking to books. Anyway.

What I Liked

+ the couple

Danny was a sensible main character. It was surprising because bad decisions haunted his past so I fully expected him to repeat them, but he didn’t. It was refreshing because, speaking as an avid reader of Young Adult fictions, I rarely come across Young Adult main characters who are sensible. I mean, holy shit. Finally, it was pleasant because it excused the matter that he was in the closet. Rural America, enough said. I loved how Danny skillfully balanced putting his life at risk to figure out what was going on (because ignorance could kill) and knowing when to back off to stay safe.

Kevin was adorably nice despite the fact that he was working that whole mysterious Bad Boy image. I was elated to see a love interest that was only a Bad Boy in appearance and not an asshole because Bad Boys in Young Adult fictions are usually assholes.

+ the romance

Infidelity is a huge pet peeve for me so when it was a bomb of surprise when I didn’t get angry at how Danny used his unwitting girlfriend to disguise as straight. Danny and Laura’s relationship was too casual for me to take it seriously. Danny was at least honest and guilty about his reason for having a girlfriend, and he treated her nicely if one put aside the using-her thing. Equally important was how respectfully the book treated her. I was very happy with how in the process for the reader to gain sympathy for Danny, Laura was never “bitchified.” Laura was a minor character and her relationship with Danny was very downplayed so it would have been easy for the book to do so. But it didn’t, and I was glad. I was free to be happy without guilt; I could ignore Danny’s relationship with Laura, which allowed me to focus on just Danny and Kevin.

Danny may have been in the closet, but his romance with Kevin wasn’t angsty. It was a little angsty in the beginning but it quickly tapered off because Danny was honest and open about his feelings and sexuality with Kevin. I liked how between the two boys there was no dilly dallying with the attraction and the clearing up of misunderstandings. “I like you but I’m in the closet.” “I like you but you appear to be straight.” Talk, talk, talk. “We now know both of us like each other.” OMG, y’all, kiss already. *squee*

+ Danny’s family and friends

Danny may have family issues but I loved how it was obvious for the reader to see beyond Danny’s biased viewpoint that his family was a loving family. His stepfather was a not jerk, and his stepsister was not a bitch. His mother was someone who did really give a shit about her son. I also like how Danny’s friend Eric was a true friend and was also a sensible person like Danny. The only I would have changed is for Danny’s stepsister to be part of the action because she seemed pretty cool, and it would have been nice to read about step-siblings fighting bad guys.

+ the plot

It was fast-paced. I couldn’t believe how quickly I went through the book. The book fully delivered on its promise of car chases and fiery explosions. I was just “Yaaaaaaay!” Homicidal alien-possessed cars, a secret government agency, a national conspiracy; what fun!

What I Didn’t Like

+ the world building

It was shoddily built. I didn’t mind how the human characters have little idea of what the aliens were, or Ruins as the aliens were called, but I did mind how the human characters poorly explained their theories of what they thought the Ruins were. Because of the book description’s failure to mention aliens, I thought they were evil spirits for the entire beginning. Then I spent the middle of the book being confused to learn that was not the case and annoyed with trying to find out what was the case. Though at the end I got a good grasp of what the Ruins were, I wish it hadn’t happened so late. I didn’t see any good reason to withhold the information considering that some of the story was told in Kevin’s viewpoint and not poor ignorant Danny’s.

What I Was Okay With

+ the ending

It was Happy For Now. The romance was unresolved among a few other things. Usually, I would file such an ending under things I didn’t like but I was okay with it, believe it or not. What helped was how Danny didn’t have to hide who he was anymore and was accepted and his family issues were resolved. The book ended on an optimistic note. I was left in a good place where I didn’t feel the urge to demand a sequel so I can get my closure yet I would be elated to read the sequel if there was one. Either way is good for me, and this rarely happens because I’m a fanatic for closure.


I rate Kings of Ruin 3-stars for I liked it. If you took the movie Transformers, focused it on the humans, and made the main characters two gay boys who have the hots for each other, you would get this book. Recommended for readers looking for a light drama and thriller read.

Goodreads | Amazon

Monday, October 21, 2013

REVIEW: The Magpie Lord by K.J. Charles

The Magpie Lord (A Charm of Magpies, #1) The Magpie Lord by K.J. Charles
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I wish I liked this book as much as all of my friends and trusted reviewers do. In fact, there is a very little reason I shouldn’t. Very. Strong writing, strong mystery, strong romance, and yay, a graphic yaoi-ish sex scene. The book screamed “Love me!” to me, but I didn’t... because my mood says “Fuck you. Neener-neener.” What a capricious bastard.

What I Liked

+ the couple

It would have been way too easy to make Lucien this annoying character who suffered endless guilt trips over the evil his family inflicted on people. Thank Cthulhu that wasn’t the case because I hate that kind of character. Bite me, emos. I loved LOVED how Lucien accepted things as they were, let the past rest, and tried to make things right as they came up. He refused to take any blame for his family’s evil because, no-brainer, none of it was his fault. In fact, he was one of their victims too as readers would quickly learn. I loved how pragmatic Lucien was in his principles and how straightforward his attitude was.

With Stephen, I loved how he was utterly professional and didn’t let his grudge against the Crane family get in the way of helping Lucien. He won a lot of points from me when I saw how he quickly recognized Lucien, the new Lord Crane, was innocent in the matter and was contrite for his initial antagonism.

+ the romance

Because of Lucien’s easy-going, direct personality, it was as angst-free as it could be, particularly for a historical M/M Romance where things are not unicorn pooping rainbows for LGBT people. In regard to Stephen, I must admit I was a little (just a little!) frustrated with how much it took for him to get onboard with the smex. That was only because I wanted the two men to get together as soon as possible and be happy. Be still, my romantic heart. I really liked how there was an instant attraction but no instant love. The romance developed steadily with sexual tension that didn’t leave me frustrated.

What I Didn’t Like

+ magic

I would have liked the world building on magic to be more solid. It was too wishy-washy for me, too “magic does whatever the crap it likes.” I get the ability to use magic could skip a generation or a few, but how is it that all the descendants of the Magpie Lord became magic incapable? What happened there? Also, how did the famous Magpie Lord fall into obscurity within the family?

I wanted a framework of magic to work from, and I didn’t truly get that from Stephen despite his very educational magic lessons. I felt like magic was a convenience trope of the plot rather than a pillar element of the world building.

+ the bad guys

I would have liked to know how the bad guys came up with their evil plan since from what I gathered, the legend of the Magpie Lord was obscure, even among the magic-users. But this is a minor complaint compared to what happened at the climax. I hated how the bad guys got the upper hand despite how capable and astute our heroes were. I just didn’t like how it was too late when our good guys finally figured things out and then only managed to prevail at the last minute. It felt a tad contrived; it felt like things were only stretched to that point simply for sake of DRAMA like a TV show.


I rate The Magpie Lord 3-stars for I liked it. I didn’t really like the climax but the Glad-To-Be-Alive Sex at the end made up for it. My one true complaint is that I wished I enjoyed this book as much as my friends did. However, one thing is for sure. This is a quality read (am not surprised to learn the author is an editor) and a strong start of a historical Urban Fantasy series. I’m definitely coming back for book 2.

Goodreads | Amazon

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

REVIEW: Fortune's Pawn by Rachel Bach

Fortune's Pawn Fortune's Pawn by Rachel Bach (aka Rachel Aaron)
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was great, but there were a few things that could have been done a lot better.

What I Didn’t Like

+ the romance

I did not care an ounce for the romance between Devi and Rupert. Of all the men Devi had met in her life, as someone who traveled a lot and was in a field dominated by men which meant she was surrounded by men at all time, she had to go fall for Rupert who is one of the worst men that she could have fallen for. It’s not because Rupert is a bad person; to the contrary, he’s a fucking Gary Stu. It’s because he cannot be more unavailable for romance. I hated how for most of the book, the romance was one-sided on Devi’s end. In addition, Rupert is a danger to Devi and he can easily ruin her career goal to become a Devastator, a dream she has worked to hell for, because of who he is and his duties.

+ the love interest

Who is Rupert? Well, as I said he is a Gary Stu. He’s tall and handsome. He cooks. He protects Ren, the Captain’s mute little girl. He fights better than he lets on, better than anyone Devi, a super tough heroine who has fought countless people and things, has ever known that it seems so... inhuman. He’s mysterious. *gags* I felt like a wishlist of traits in the perfect marriageable man was being checked off as Rupert was developed as a character, and ironically the dude is not even available for romance so fuck marriage.

Upon revelation, readers learn Rupert is a self-torturous soul who is forced to choose between doing his duties and being with his first love that is Devi. When I learned that, I immediately thought, “Am I reading a science-fiction or a cheesy romance set in a science-fiction?” Oh my gawd, the romance was so cheesy!

+ the romance, part 2

The romance was also forced. Rupert’s reasons for falling in love with Devi were flimsy as straws; it was borderline instalove. Devi was unlike anyone Rupert had ever met. Bitch please! With Devi, I was baffled how a self-proclaimed commitment-phobe could suddenly for the first time in her life not only fall in love but to fall in love with someone, as said before, who could not be more unavailable for romance. Devi could have chosen Anthony who she had known for a long time and trusts and does her favors (which she doesn’t even return), Anthony who loved her and made his intention of wanting a commitment with her clear, Anthony who has the look, the job, and the money, etc. But oh no, Devi had to choose the guy who made it clear he cannot be with her, and she was willing to risk everything for him when he clearly said he could not do the same. Have some self-respect, Devi. Have a fucking bucket of self-respect.

The only silver lining was that Anthony wasn’t pulled along in Devi’s romance shitfest and appeared only twice in the book, both times briefly. No stupid love triangle, at least.

+ the ending

And the ending. What the fuck? Basically, the plot shoved Devi back to step one and now in book two readers will be forced to go through the romance shitfest between her and Rupert ALL OVER AGAIN. No. Just... no. I kind of hope Rupert is one of the characters that gets killed. The ending left a sour taste of what was mostly an enjoyable read if you put aside the romance shitfest.

What I Did Like

+ the heroine

A friend told me a Goodreads reviewer described the heroine as a Kate Daniels in space. Kate Daniels? In Space? I love Kate Daniels! This book turned from “mildly interesting, read it when in a scifi mood” to “very interesting, read it over the weekend.” The description was accurate much to my pleasure. Devi was every bit the kickass heroine I expected. The things that made Devi different from Kate was her ambition, her reverence for her Paradoxian heritage and monarch, her respect towards authority, her fondness for the drink, and her proud attitude towards sex. When Deviana Morris wants some, she gets some, whether it be drink or sex. Screw you, double standard. I loved her unrestrained attitude.

I also loved that she was nobody’s fool. Devi knew when to follow her instincts and when to ignore them for the sake of continual deception and her career. She didn’t put complete trust in the Final World Lock, her Paradoxian armor suit’s black box, and had a backup black box called a Mercenary’s Bargain even though it was illegal as death. The woman was prepared and practical, completely believable as a mercenary.

+ the world building

I wasn’t as lost as I thought I was going to be because the book was hard science fiction with alien races and intergalactic conflicts. It didn’t take me more than a few chapters before I tightly grasped what was going on and who was who and of what alien race and loyalty. The world building was very solidly done. The geopolitical landscape read genuinely like world news you would see on BBC or CNN except the setting is in the distant future and there are aliens in the mix.

You had your intelligent and big-ego-to-match bird-like aliens, the aeons, your hunts-and-eats-other-aliens lizard-like aliens, the xith’cal, your mysterious hardly-ever-seen jellyfish-like aliens, the lelgis. Of course, there are humans, and they separated into Terrans and Paradoxians, the former a republic, the latter a monarchy. But it’s not just humans who have factions, I also got to learn of a few in other alien races. As it is with humans, just because you are of the same species doesn’t mean you share the same loyalty. There were as many intraspecies conflicts as there were interspecies ones.

The world building didn’t say there was a war going on but there were “military conflicts,” government conspiracies, biological weapons, blah blah, the usual shit you read on worlds news, except as you know, with aliens in the mix. That said, sometime aliens do get along with each other as the case is with the Glorious Fool.

+ the other characters

As a reader, I have a pretty hard time tracking characters but this book did not give me any hardship. Every character of the Glorious Fool was distinguishable and memorable. I love the sense of humor which underlaid the character development. Take for example, Hyrek. One would think the last character to be the ship’s doctor, I repeat: the ship’s doctor, is of a race who eats people, but yet there was Hyrek, a xith’cal doctor, a genderqueer xith’cal doctor.

Hell, some of the characters I least expected to like I actually came to like. Nova, full name: Novascape Starchild (yes, really), helped man the ship’s bridge. She was developed as this sheltered girl who came from, um, a religious group to put it kindly if you catch my drift. Of course, I quickly saw that beneath the sweet hippie surface was someone who actually thought for herself and there was a perfectly good reason for the existence of the religious group. Psychics are in the house!

Cotter was the other half of the security team which Devi served on, and dude was a stereotypical sexist thug whose brain was only capable of seeing things to kill and killing them. I expected there to be a lot of drama and spats between Devi and her antithesis of a co-worker, but surprisingly there were none. Cotter was a wee smarter than I thought and didn’t need more than one asskicking lesson to accept the fact that Devi was the top dog. Cotter grew on me. He grew on me more than I thought because what happened to him at the end, I was... sad.

I came to care for all the members of the Glorious Fool, yes including Rupert as much as he annoyed me. Dude did save Devi’s life a bunch of times, and I like Devi alive. With Captain Caldswell, I have mixed feelings to be honest even though there are good reasons to despise him. I have mixed feelings because I have yet to learn his side of the story. I’m not ready to condemn him just on Devi and Rupert’s side of the story alone. But I think this is a good thing because it means his character is dimensional.

+ the plot

Putting aside the romance, I liked everything about the plot. I liked how the plot balanced between the slow times and the fast times. I never felt bored at all. My favorite parts were when Devi tried to uncover conspiracies, and we readers learn what Devi learned was only the tip of the iceberg. I foresee epicness.

There are a lot of things in play, and it could have been confusing, which is why I am really thankful that the book was strictly narrated from Devi’s first person viewpoint.


I rate Fortune’s Pawn 3-stars for I liked it. While the yucky romance cost the book a star, the book remains a great read. I actually think the current book description doesn’t do enough to advertise how action and intrigue-filled the book is. If you’re in the mood for science-fiction promising epicness and love kickass heroines, give a Fortune’s Pawn a try.

Review of book 2: Honor's Knight

Goodreads | Amazon

Monday, September 30, 2013

REVIEW: Pandaemonium by Ben Macallan

Pandaemonium Pandaemonium by Ben Macallan
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I didn’t care for book 1, but at least it was interesting enough. Book 2, Pandaemonium, was downright horrible. The book was truly its namesake, full of wild confusion.

The book started out fine, picking up immediately where book 1 ended. This time around, however, the story was told from Desi’s viewpoint instead of Jordan’s. I liked Desi and thought she was a good kickass heroine in book 1, but I came to like Jordan a lot at the end of book 1 so I was disappointed that book 2 didn’t continue from his viewpoint. But hey, it was Desi. Kickass heroine. I expected my disappointment to quickly fade. I could not have been more wrong. Things went downhill — fast.

Desi was on the run because bad guys were after her. It was the same thing ALL OVER AGAIN from book 1 except book 2 had her teaming up with her ex-boyfriend Jacey instead of Jordan. I quickly tired of the story. I thought Jordan’s narration in book 1 was long-winded, but Desi’s narration in book 2 was worse. Way WORSE. Her narration was a stream of consciousness, which I abhor. It didn’t take but a New York minute for Desi to turn from one of my favorite characters of the series to one of my least favorite.

Although things were happening, the plot progressed very little. Very little made sense, either. Characters just seemed to do stuff for no rhyme or reason. Many times I would be thinking, “What the fuck are these characters trying to accomplish?” Around a quarter of the book, I skimmed because I couldn’t endure the shitty reading any longer. I couldn’t believe how far in the book it took for Desi to learn who were the bad guys that were after her. I couldn’t believe how much time Desi spent thinking about her romantic drama crap with Jacey and Jordan towards the end when they were about to confront the bad guys. Woman, have some priorities!

Only at the end did I finally stop skimming, and what happened there confirmed my decision to skim as a smart one. Not much was resolved, especially not the love triangle. Though the bad guys were finally dealt with, it was lackluster and not worth reading the entire book to get to there. It was definitely not worth reading the entire series either. Desi’s character growth, the kind that should have started in the beginning of book 2 if not all the way back in the middle of book 1, finally started in the last chapter... of book 2, the end of the series. What a PISSER, and here I thought book 1’s ending was a pisser. I didn’t realize the book 2 was trying to outdo itself in angering me.


I rate Pandaemonium 1-star for I didn’t like it. At All. Stories should be as long as needed, but this one had absolutely no reason being dragged out as a duology. This one was one of those cases where the editor or the publisher should have insisted the story to be a standalone and have the book 1 and 2 just be ONE book.

I do not recommend this series. It’s a waste of time.

Goodreads | Amazon

Monday, September 16, 2013

REVIEW: Desdaemona by Ben Macallan

Desdaemona Desdaemona by Ben Macallan
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book could have been a lot better. I had more excitement reading the book description than I did reading the book itself. Oh, there were exciting parts in the book but they were scarce. Most of the book was about the characters’ emo issues. *rolls eyes* It was not what I signed up for.

+ the characters

Jordan was the main character and the narrator. I didn’t mind how he deliberately kept the reader in the dark about his identity... at first. It was not until the middle of the book that I came to realize there was absolutely NO reason for him to do so. Most of the characters knew who he was from the start. When he finally told the reader who he was, it came as a passing matter of fact, not as a plot twist or like anything that was supposed to astound the reader. My patience with Jordan quickly wore thin, and I was already struggling with his long-winded narration. On the bright side, I was glad he actually did things beside just running away and hiding behind Desdaemona and used his brain.

Desdaemona, I liked. I found consolation in the familiarity of her attitude as a kickass heroine. I loved how she was utterly confident in her abilities to kick ass and protect Jordan. She cautiously approached danger and fought enemies strategically. What happened at the climax, I didn’t fault Desi for becoming the person she wanted to be and why she what she did.

+ the world building

The world building was murky as shit. It was a chore to even learn surface details. Surface. For example, readers learn a small group of powerful families ruled over the hidden magical world. What readers do not learn are who all of them were, what they ruled over, why they ruled over what they ruled, and so forth. Learning a few of their names and that that their names were not to be spoken lightly should not (seemingly at least) constitute HALF of the information given about these families.

Underdeveloped world building is rarely ever an issue for me because my imagination can fill in the gaps, but these weren’t gaps. They were fucking canyons. The world building was very disjointed.

+ the ending

The ending was a PISSER. The bad guy our characters fought wasn’t EVEN the main bad guy, and formidable as that bad guy was, the battle should have been a simple case of numbers. The book spent an inordinate amount of time building how each of those characters were powerful, but when it came to the final battle those characterizations were thrown to the wind.

To add insult to injury, the book had the audacity to end abruptly with nothing resolved and a new issue at the last minute. The “The End” mocked the reader. It FUCKING mocked me. If I didn’t have book 2 on hand and value my stuff, I would have spent days cursing the book out and smashing things.

In Conclusion

I rate Desdaemona 2-stars for it was okay. I was never so bored that I felt compelled to skim (the pacing was surprisingly brisk), but I was annoyed with the narration and angered by the ending. The 2-stars is conditional on the fact that I had book 2 on hand to read next.

After reading book 2 and thus finishing the series, I can firmly say I do not recommend the series whatsoever. Avoid.

Goodreads | Amazon

Thursday, September 12, 2013

REVIEW: The Eldritch Conspiracy by Cat Adams

The Eldritch Conspiracy (Blood Singer, #5)The Eldritch Conspiracy by Cat Adams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reading book 5, it’s easy to forget things used to be really angsty in the beginning of the Blood Singer series, and I was more than happy to forget it. Celia rocked my world!

+ the heroine

The heroine still battled the same personal issues from the beginning of the series, such as the issue of being a vampire and, on top of it, a Siren. However, she didn’t let the issues get in the way of her life as she often used to. I really liked how far Celia has come in accepting herself. It was about damn time. Better late than never!

I was amazed by how much she could shine when she got a tight grip on her issues. Celia was focused, prepared, and vigilant. She tempered her bleeding heart with pragmatism; there was no stupidly rushing into danger trying to save people when she’s likely to get killed along with the victims let alone saving anyone. She heeded advice and future visions. Yes! She cooperated and adapted. Double yes! Holy shit! Praise to Cthulhu when an Urban Fantasy protagonist actually listens and makes good choices because that shit does not happen often in Urban Fantasies as much it should. The short version of my accolade: Celia was a badass! WOOT!

The only thing I didn’t like about Celia was how she continued to roll in guilt trip shit, and unlike the guilt trips in previous books this one was definitely needless. For some stupid contrived reason, towards the end of the book readers suddenly learn that Celia has stabs of conscience for using her Siren power to psychically attack bad guys at the end of book 2 in self-defense and to save the world. The fuck? It was in self-defense AND to save the world against bad guys. They were PSYCHOPATHS for fuck’s sake! Why was this brought up all the way from book fucking 2? I was peeved by Celia’s double standard with supernatural attacks and human weapon attacks as if shooting a bad guy to death with a gun is better than psychically attacking a bad guy to indefinite coma. No, Celia. NO. Thankfully, the guilt trip shit was limited to a few pages and didn’t have any impact on the plot. Obviously, I shouldn’t reasonably expect Celia to quit guilt tripping cold turkey.

+ the romance

The other thing I didn’t like, the thing most, if not all, reviewers on Goodreads didn’t like, was the romance. Book 4 left Celia and Creede in a really good place, but in book 5 readers quickly learn they broke up between book 4 and 5 and the romance pendulum swung back to Bruno. Say what? On one hand, I recognize romance are messy and never linear. On the other hand, it’s fiction, it’s book 5, and there’s creative liberty on the table. Take it! How long must the love triangle be dragged out? At this point, I don’t really care who Celia ends up with. Creede, Bruno, or some other random dude. I just want the love triangle to go away. It’s tiresome. Stop it.

On the bright side, the romance was a minor plot line so there was little stupid drama. Unfortunately, the catch was that there was no romantic resolution to be had either. The love triangle crap continues!

+ other things to note

I didn’t care much for the happy ending as I would have liked. I found it abrupt and in great need of an epilogue.

The title is a bad one because the Eldritch thing was not relevant and there was no conspiracy to it. In fact, there was hardly any conspiracy to be had, let alone an Eldritch one. Evil schemes, yes. Conspiracies, no.

The issues with the ending and title are trivial but the thing is these were the same trivial issues I had with book 4... Hmm. I hope these issues will be fixed in book 6.

In Conclusion

I rate The Eldritch Conspiracy 4-stars for I really liked it. I wasn’t troubled by the romance crap as other readers were so it had little effect on my rating, which is why the rating is as high as it is.

Unfortunately, as much I liked this book, I get the feeling it’s a fluke and that the next book will put the series back to its usual angsty, stupid self. Here’s hoping not.

Goodreads | Amazon

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

REVIEW: Spook Squad by Jordan Castillo Price

Spook Squad (PsyCop, #7) Spook Squad by Jordan Castillo Price
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

CAUTION: spoilers, rant

Man, what a disappointment. I pray to Cthulhu this is not the last book of the Psycop series because it would be a GIANT disappointment. GIANT. “Throwing the book across the room” giant. It took me a few books into the series before I finally liked one enough where I could firmly rate it 3-stars without waffling between 2-stars and 3-stars and get a streak of solid good books running. That fun ride sure ended quickly because book 7 put me back to waffling with the rating. Correction: there wasn’t even waffling so it was worse. Did I mention Spook Squad is book 7? I don’t expect every book of the series to hit the mark, but once you hit book 3 of a long series, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect a minimum of... Well, I don’t know what the right word to use here so I’m going to say “quality” ill-fitted as it is. Maybe “entertainment”? You get the idea.

Things I Didn’t Like

The biggest problem I had with book 7 was the pacing. It was slow as a snail. The speed did not pick up till the last third of the book, and even then, yikes. There was just no hiding the problem that the plot MEANDERED. I knew Victor paying his debt to FPMP with an exorcism wasn’t going to be a simple task, obviously. However, the way the plot tried to make the matter a complicated task was strained and convoluted. I love head games but the head games between Dreyfuss and Vic in book 7 were inane and unbelievably dull.

Now, I wouldn’t have minded the plot much if there were “good” interactions between Victor and Jacob. By good, I mean scenes with relationship development, emotional connections, and maybe a few physical connections to satisfy my smut cravings. Intimacy, essentially. There was barely any intimacy in the book. The mm-romance aspect was halfway to nonexistent much, much to my dismay. There was one romance scene, a pretty lengthy sex scene to boot (woot!), but it was token.

My goodness, Vic and Jacob didn’t even have the talk about why Jacob joined the FPMP. Considering book 6 ended on that plot twist, I would have thought book 7 would begin with the talk. Instead, what I read was Jacob having the talk with Carolyn, his ex-police partner. She appeared in the beginning and disappeared after a couple chapters, never to be seen again for the rest of the book. What the hell? There was no resolution with Carolyn whatsoever and it bugged me.

What bugged me Ten Times More was Vic. Dude fucking regressed a handful steps back to his junkie ways, trying to score pills off of Dreyfuss. Uh, I thought we were fucking past that. Apparently, not. *facedesk* I know drug addiction is a life-long battle, but ugh. This was just... I can’t... Stupid! It’s book fucking 7. S-E-V-E-N. I wanted to smack Vic on the back of his head for not taking Dreyfuss up on his offer to recieve alternative medicine that would come with no string and no cost to Victor except only his time and patience. Aaack. Damn you, Victor. I know, I know. Flawed protagonist and all that shit. But this was some maddening shit.


Lisa and Dreyfuss dating, WHAT THE FUCK? Then at the end they got engaged? What?!!! Contrived doesn’t even begin to describe this shit. What the hell was Lisa thinking? Oh right, she wasn’t thinking. Woman was camping out in Vic and Jacob’s living room in a fucking tent like some hobo, I kid you not. Suffice to say, I was very disappointed in Victor and Jacob for not doing enough by Lisa. Not to say they didn’t try to help Lisa (they did), but they could have done way more in my opinion. Woman needed a fucking intervention!

Runner up on the list of issues I had with Vic, second place to his junkie ways, was his gross insensitivity towards Richie. I was astounded and irritated how Victor did not know Richie had a developmental disability till now in book 7. How oblivious can he be? And this a fucking detective character and a character who have known Richie since teenage-hood back in their Camp Hell years, my goodness. All this time Vic just thought Richie had a horrible odd personality? *facedesk* Casual ableism: NO.

Speaking about Richie, what was up with him quitting FPMP at the end of the book? The portrayal of FPMP led me to believe no one could actually quit, especially psychics because the agency needs all the psychics they could get, especially those like Richie who have some exorcist capabilities even if it’s mostly just BS. Beside, how would Richie support himself? Because it was not as if he could do anything else. Why am I the only one who seem to give an actual fuck about Richie? FFS.

To replace Richie, Vic joined the FPMP after so much hate for the agency. *raise hands* I give up.

Things I Did Like

I did like how there was little of Crash in book 7. I loathe the character.

I liked Dreyfuss’s character development. Nice to see dude wasn’t all that bad and that the FPMP wasn’t this evil secret government agency who disappeared people as I was half-led to believe. Not say they don’t do such things, but it’s never a matter of black and white.

In Conclusion

I rate Spook Squad 2-stars for it was okay. Book 7 is undoubtedly one of the worst books in the PsyCop series. Despite the rantiness of my review, I was mostly bored with the book, believe it or not. Each issue I had with the book by itself wasn’t bad enough to make me mad. At the very most, I was irritated. However, when put together to write my review, that’s when I got mad.

The short version of it: book 7 was boring and bullshitty.

*Buddy-read with Dlee.

Goodreads | Amazon

Sunday, August 11, 2013

REVIEW: Vortex by S.J. Kincaid

Vortex (Insignia, #2) Vortex by S.J. Kincaid
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I thought after the events of book 1 Tom would learn his lessons and be cautious and prudent in book 2. Nope. *anger eye-twitch* He acted the same as before. No character growth. No lessons learned. Dude was fucking TSTL.

*flips table*

Rambling rant ahead.

+ the main character

Tom pissed off every influential and powerful person he came across. He pissed off people he needed help from, people he couldn’t afford as enemies, people who could make his life very hard for him or put an end to his life altogether. They were bad people so I understood the reasons for his flippant attitude but that was no excuse to go and shake the fucking beehive.

Tom wanted to become an Intrasolar Combatant and fight epic battles among the stars, yet every single action of his showed otherwise. Dude was unbelievably self-destructive. I would admire his courage to stand up to the bad guys and fight for his ideals and not take the dirty path to attain his dream if he wasn’t such a filthy hypocrite. I was frustrated at how Tom never considered what it really meant to be a Combatant or realized the great depth of his hypocrisy if by some godforsaken miracle he does become one. To become a Combatant meant to become a pawn of the bad guys and perpetuate the corruption, oppression, and everything that is wrong with society and the world.

For someone who helped his father swindle, no matter if their targets were bad guys, Tom had little right criticizing others for swindling themselves. Yes, those people were evil capitalists, but that just meant they were swindlers of a much higher level. The point is that Tom was no paragon of righteousness yet he acted as if he was much to my irritation. Hypocrite!

Tom knew how things worked in the dystopian world yet he bumbled along through life like he didn’t. He thought he could just head-butt his way towards his goals. He was so astoundingly bull-headed that he took the phrase “dumb as bricks” to several new levels.

Tom failed to practice vital discretion with his technopathy because if people found out about his very rare ability he would get a one-way ticket to the laboratory. He never once thought to train his ability and use it to survive and get the upper hand. For instance, if he thought to use his technopathy for espionage, many bad things could have been easily avoided. So fucking easily.

Tom acted with no consideration of the consequences whatsoever, impulsive as fuck. He ignored countless pieces of advice and warnings, common sense be damned. He was so insufferably TSTL that when one of the bad guys made good on his death threat I felt no pity. I actually felt a little joy that it happened, a little disappointed that it didn’t happen sooner, and a bit surprised and befuddled that it didn’t happen more often considering the growing number of enemies Tom made as the plot progressed.

In summary, the main character was TSTL on so many levels, levels that I have not even begun to scratch the surface of, that hardly a chapter went by where I didn’t think he was an absolute waste of space. A discussion of Tom’s personality flaws and dumbass decisions could fill up a book on its own.

+ issues with other characters

I also took issue with other characters. Of course, they were nowhere near problematic as Tom.

Elliot was one of the cyborgs and Intrasolar Combatants, and I didn’t like how he was used as a prop character. He had no purpose other than showing up very conveniently to show Tom the errors of his ways and simultaneously show the readers how dystopian and shitty the world was. Just when I thought things couldn’t get more contrived with Elliot, it did. Elliot underwent a sudden change of personality for a dramatic scene towards the end. The scene was supposed to be this gleam of light in the dark, designed to bring a sense of hope to the story so the readers would believe things could change for the better. However, all I could think of was that Elliot got infected with Tom’s TSTL-ness. Holy hell, Tom’s TSTL-ness was contagious!

Heather was another cyborg and a Combatant like Elliot, and I didn’t like how she was portrayed negatively. Heather was self-interested, self-empowered, and a sexual character, and for these qualities she was inflicted with a Madonna-whore narrative complex. As one of the prominent female characters with Wyatt and Medusa, Heather was the one with the sex appeal and sexual interests, and she alone was made out to be a bitch. Nice.

Blackburn was one of the bad guys, a mad scientist trope. I found it very odd how things between him and Tom were, for the most part, drama-less. I expected the two to duke it out after what happened in book 1. Instead, I saw Blackburn helping out Tom a few times. The fuck? It was just very inconsistent how Blackburn’s character was established from the ending scenes of book 1 where his true self was finally revealed. Vengeful. Paranoid. Has a loose screw. The guy should be trying to get Tom on a lab table to be prodded, poked, and vivisected.

Last but not least, I wish there was more nuances to the evil capitalist bad guys. Not that these characters weren’t believable, but at their very core they all seemed to blend together and the traits that make them different seemed superficial.

+ characters I liked

About the only characters I liked were Wyatt and General Marsh. I liked Wyatt because among Tom’s cyborg peers she seemed to be the only one who had any sense and who took things seriously. She was one of the few characters who would be the least likely to make a stupid mistake and get killed. Quite pitiful the cast.

I liked General Marsh because he was a dimensional character. I saw him as a good guy despite the bad things he did. I didn’t like what he did but I understood his reasons. He fully understood the dystopian world and the necessity for change, and he didn’t hesitate to get his hands dirty. Whether readers like him or hate him, at least someone was doing something to change the world, something that was actually productive. I wished the book featured more of General Marsh. His appearances were very few for someone who was an important character.

In Conclusion

I rate Vortex 2-stars for it was okay. Despite the aggravation that was Tom, the book was engaging. I liked the science fiction elements and the world building.

If you like this series, check out Psion Beta and Data Runner.

Goodreads | Amazon

Saturday, August 10, 2013

REVIEW: The Bell Tower of St. Barnabas by Alice Keats

The Bell Tower of St. Barnabas The Bell Tower of St. Barnabas by Alice Keats
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The book cover and description made the novella look like a typical Boys Love manga, and it really did read like one. The usual tropes were there: a school setting, an unrequited love, and at least one of the boys was handsome and had great appeal to the opposite sex, generating groupies and predictable jealousy issues. The only thing missing was the obligatory consummation scene at the end, which was a disappointment. Oh well. It didn’t affect my rating negatively.

What could have affected my rating negatively was the angst. As a hater of angst, I appreciated how the brisk pacing and viewpoint shifting kept the angst to a minimum. I liked how Caleb’s viewpoint was the dominant one but not the exclusive viewpoint. Thus, I didn’t have to deal with Caleb’s brooding for any minute longer before the desire to skim started to arise.

I really liked how both boys were friends from the start because it made the boys’ feeling very believable. There was no blemish of instant love. Caleb’s obliviousness and Gabriel’s longing feelings could have easily come off as annoying but didn’t. I liked how it didn’t take too long for them to get together, and even though a lack of communication remained I liked how they made efforts to overcome it. Caleb and Gabriel were adorable.

Also adorable were the boys’ two friends who sat with them at lunch. Jinx and Elliot were a gay couple, and they could have rivaled Caleb and Gabriel for the reader’s attention. Yet, they nicely shared the spotlight and never took it away from the book’s main couple. I loved how for all four boys the issue of being gay was largely a non-issue and that the focus was on the boys’ feelings for their lover.

I was also fond of Emmeline. She was decked in pink and sparkle and had a stubborn and airheaded demeanor like a fairy cliche. What stopped her from being a nuisance was her genuine efforts to grant the wishes of true love. Emmeline was actually quite droll.

One character that did have me concerned was the evil female cliche. In this novella, the cliche took the form of a schoolmate who did not want the boys to be together because she had a crush on one of them and wanted that boy for herself. Thankfully, at the end she turned out to be a nice girl and things resolved amicably. I did wish, however, that the conflict with her had been resolved sooner. It lasted too long for my liking.

In Conclusion

I rate The Bell Tower of St. Barnabas 3-stars for I liked it. In addition to reading like a typical Boys Love manga, the novella also read like a contemporary fairy tale. Small magic brought the two boys together but it was true love that bonded them. It was that kind of fairy tale. I liked the nice balance between angst and sweetness. The writing was kind of cheesy but jovially so. The novella was a safely enjoyable mm-romance.

Goodreads | Amazon

Friday, August 9, 2013

REVIEW: Sidekicked by John David Anderson

Sidekicked Sidekicked by John David Anderson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Superhero fictions tend to fall into two camps: campy and meta. This Middle Grade fiction fell into camp meta, and it fell flat on its bottom with a splat. Ouch.

+ the main character

I struggled to like the main character because Drew was quite nettlesome. I was aware that because he was only 13 years old I should cut him some slack, and I did. I cut him lots of slack, despite the jabbing fact that the people in charge thought he was mature enough to handle and keep chemical weapons and to go out on the street and fight bad guys. What was I saying, again? Oh yes, I cut Drew lots of slack. Still and all, by the middle of the book, I had to wave the white flag. He had shown not an inch of character growth. Not a fucking inch.

Drew was one of those brats who lives a good life but thinks they don’t. What we had in first person narration was complaints about how unhelpful his superpower was, how his superhero partner sucked, how much he disliked Gavin, and how much he liked Jenna and wished she would reciprocate and stop spending time with Gavin. Rinse and repeat. I understood his complaints for the most part were meant to be humorous in a sardonic manner but none of it amused me.

I felt bad for Gavin for how Drew treated him, and I was already feeling bad for Gavin for being typecast as a slow witted jock. Drew’s fellow sidekick did nothing to him to earn his enmity except for being everything Drew wanted to be: tall, handsome, muscular, popular, and having a superpower that is “combat compliant.” Drew’s jealousy was a pain in the neck. I hated how none of the characters called Drew out for the crap.

What was worse was that accompanying his jealousy with Gavin was his possessiveness with Jenna. She was his best friend yet Drew treated her more as a go-to emotional comfort blanket than as a friend. She was there for him many times but the few times when she needed him he doesn’t deliver. To my horror, Drew worked that “Nice Guy” attitude where if a guy is a nice to a girl for a certain period of time she must reward his niceness by being his girlfriend. No. Just no. 13 years old and already his feet were on the road to dick-hood.

In addition to Drew sucking as a decent person, he also sucked as a sidekick. His super senses could be extremely useful in crime-fighting, investigation and espionage for example, if only he would realize it and quit shallowly seeing superhero-ing as all about the epic battles. He never really did much to my exasperation. I struggled to understand why Drew continued to stay in H.E.R.O. when many times it seemed like his heart wasn’t in it. Now, to be fair, I also blamed the program and Mr. Masters, the person in charge, for not doing right by him. Ugh, so much incompetence.

Anyway, I had difficulty believing how Drew managed to survive with so few injuries when things could have easily taken a turn for the tragic. He had incredible luck let me tell you. Now, Drew did make smart decisions, but they were very few and far between, and that’s why I took issue. The kid was very smart, but just like his superpower, he never made full use of his brain as often as he should have. He had so much potential but displayed very little of it.

+ the plot

For most of the book, Drew was a passive participant, which made for a dull read. Not that Drew didn’t do anything, it was just that he could have done more, and he could have done it with a lot less whining. The plot didn’t hit the ground running till halfway through, and even then it wasn’t running fast. Action scenes were scant and fleeting. I could forgive all these things if the book brought any worthwhile commentary about the superhero theme. It brought shit.

Well, things weren’t all bad. The best part of the book were the twists towards the end. They completely surprised me. Unfortunately, they also put in a crimp in the portrayal of strong female characters, and the book was already dripping in machoism. It was depressing that even the good things came with some problems of their own.

Rubbing salt into the wound was the lackluster ending. I think I saw half of an inch of character growth from Drew at the end. Talk about pitiful. The other characters were equally disappointing as well, especially Titan. When the story revealed what happened in the past that put him into depression, it turned out to be something stupid and cliche. Oh, boo hoo cry me a fucking river. I wanted to bitchslap the dude... and maybe also tie him to a rocket and launch it to the sun. Man, what a group of shitty characters.

In Conclusion

I rate Sidekicked 2-stars for it was okay. The book was engaging but it failed to meaningfully explore the superhero theme and, more importantly, it failed to entertain me. If you plan on picking it up, I recommend borrowing over buying. Or better yet, try The Cloak Society, a better Middle Grade superhero fiction.

Goodreads | Amazon

Thursday, August 1, 2013

REVIEW: Surrender by Lee Nichols

Surrender  (Haunting Emma, #3) Surrender by Lee Nichols
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Book 3 concludes the Haunting Emma series, and what a boring series it was. Truthfully, it shouldn’t have been a series at all. The story had some good things but they were very diluted by scenes that often went nowhere and conflicts that were extended way, way beyond their shelf life.

The beginning of book 3 was slow, so slow that it should have been condensed to a few chapters and started towards the middle of the book. The middle was better but useless chapters still plagued it. Consequently, I skimmed because my patience was gone. I couldn’t be bothered to wait any second longer for the characters to finally deal with Neos.

+ the characters

You would think massive time and energy would be spent in preparation for the fight against the ultimate villain of the series, but no. The characters were winging things. I was shocked and angered by how the characters failed to make defeating Neos their fucking priority. Really? A psychopath from the fucking grave was on the loose and boy troubles were their main concern? REALLY?!

The one character who showed any commitment and serious preparation to defeat Neos was Bennett, which was good... if only he wasn’t using a highly-addictive, highly-hazardous power-boosting drug to do it. *facepalm* Boy was more likely to drop dead before he could do anything.

I was vexed at how Emma ignored and enabled Bennett’s drug habit. She spent more time thinking about how she could get some decent alone time to make out with her boyfriend than she did about the fact that her boyfriend was a junkie and she should help him. I was already struggling with the fact that she picked the “bad boy” over the good boy, Simon. It was not until in the middle of the book did she finally recognize Bennett’s drug problem, but to make matters worse, she helped shit and they broke up. Stupid teenagers.

You ask where are the parents? Well, Bennett’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Stern, kicked Bennett out of the house in the beginning of the book and were useless as could be. They were only there to look after the kids, which they did a horrible job of. Emma’s parents, while they finally came back and stayed with Emma, were almost as terrible parents as the Stern’s were. They did little parenting, and none of it showed me that the characters truly took the issues seriously. We finally get some needed parental presence in the story and it turned out to be flaccid. Four parents, all of them fucking useless!

So I put my final hope with Max, Emma’s older brother. I had hoped when he came back in the middle of the book he would finally bring Emma to proper sense and purpose but, alas, no. I foolishly thought optimistically.

+ the ending

After several listless chapters and characters, Neos finally showed up at the end. I was disappointed how it was the only the time in book 3 he showed up, how his appearance barely lasted for a few scenes, and how utterly weak his presence was compared to the previous books. It was the final showdown yet the ultimate villain got treated like an uber tired loose end.

I hurt my eyes from rolling so much from how it all depended on Emma, the special snowflake, to defeat Neos. If this book had any sense of realism, the silly girl would have been dead in the beginning... of the series.

The only solace I found with the ending was that everyone fought and survived and that the romance between Emma and Bennett, despite a few deus ex machina, resolved satisfactory. I may have been frustrated with the characters but not so much that I wanted any of them to suffer tragic fates, which is the greatest compliment I can give to them. Seriously with sincerity. I even got a little sad for the few characters who died in the previous books.

In Conclusion

I rate Surrender 2-stars for it was okay. If you plan to pick up this boring cliché trilogy, read the books back to back. This is a series where it’s hard to remain invested and remember things if you don’t. I only recommend picking up this series if your library has nothing better at the moment for you to read.

Goodreads | Amazon