Book Review: Before We Were Strangers – Renée Carlino

synopsis single

From the USA TODAY bestselling author of Sweet Thing and Nowhere But Here comes a love story about a Craigslist “missed connection” post that gives two people a second chance at love fifteen years after they were separated in New York City.

To the Green-eyed Lovebird:

We met fifteen years ago, almost to the day, when I moved my stuff into the NYU dorm room next to yours at Senior House.

You called us fast friends. I like to think it was more.

We lived on nothing but the excitement of finding ourselves through music (you were obsessed with Jeff Buckley), photography (I couldn’t stop taking pictures of you), hanging out in Washington Square Park, and all the weird things we did to make money. I learned more about myself that year than any other.

Yet, somehow, it all fell apart. We lost touch the summer after graduation when I went to South America to work for National Geographic. When I came back, you were gone. A part of me still wonders if I pushed you too hard after the wedding…

I didn’t see you again until a month ago. It was a Wednesday. You were rocking back on your heels, balancing on that thick yellow line that runs along the subway platform, waiting for the F train. I didn’t know it was you until it was too late, and then you were gone. Again. You said my name; I saw it on your lips. I tried to will the train to stop, just so I could say hello.

After seeing you, all of the youthful feelings and memories came flooding back to me, and now I’ve spent the better part of a month wondering what your life is like. I might be totally out of my mind, but would you like to get a drink with me and catch up on the last decade and a half?

M


 

My Thoughts 2

 

From friends to lovebirds. From lovebirds to strangers. Then from strangers to “Wow, that went quick.”  And this is not me spoiling anything from the story.

I have to let out a loud sigh and throw my hands in defeat because I´m at a loss for the right words.

If I ask myself the same question three times in a row I can give three different answers.

Did I like this book?  T´was okay.

Did I like this book?  Meeh.

Did I like this book?  Maybe if I sleep another night over it.

 

My emotions are a tad scattered when thinking about `Before we were strangers` by Renée Carlino.before we were strangers

From reading the synopsis I could tell the story was exactly what I was looking for. A slow burn romance that starts off in college and ends with the characters in their mid 30´s. I was right. Wasn´t disappointed in that department.

I wasn´t prepared for the ( what felt like ) eternal slow burn, though.

Good grief, at times I thought I´d never see the end of the 303 pages.

But then things happened so fast. Before I knew it the story found it´s end.

You get a glimpse of an unhappy Hero in the present. His love life had not gone the way he had planned it. Then he sees her- The woman who stole his heart in college.

Then the flashbacks begin….

Before I go any further I´d like to say that this wasn´t a terrible read. I liked parts of it but some other parts…. I developed a love / hate relationship with everything. For example:

  • The characters. I loved their chemistry but I so disliked their journey.

 

  • The general vibe. I liked that this story wasn´t an in – your – face romance. I felt the there was a gray fog looming over the characters. This was a unique experience for me because I was able to feel the sadness. But then again this fog wasn´t lifted at the right time, making this feel like more of a depressed read even when it shouldn´t have been that way.

 

  • The threat. There always has to be something that jeopardizes a relationship. An evil villain on a mission. I liked the villain in this romance. The ex-wife from the Hero was truly a piece of work. Sadly, she wasn´t there enough for me to appreciate her cruelty.

 

  • The slow burn. This is something I usually appreciate because I like to see things develop. A fictional relationship feels more authentic when things move along at a slower pace. These characters took the term `slow burn` to a whole new level.  There were some moments when I felt like the kid who asks their parents when they´ll reach their destination, repeating “Are we there yet?” every 5 minutes.

 

  • The characters ages. Again, I love to see things develop. Being able to watch characters grow is something I enjoy. Only I didn´t get to watch anyone grow. It was college then mid 30´s. Achievements accomplished during their 20`s  were mentioned and that was it.
  • The end. I love me some good endings. Good. Not rushed. Nice, smooth gradual endings. Not so much the type of ending this book had.

 

If I had to sum this review up with a few lines I´d say: Decent romance with a hard focus on the extreme slow paced relationship development.

 


 

Would I recommend this book? Yes. I can see many readers falling in love with this read. It is romantic. It´s filled with love and hope.

Would I reread this book? I don´t believe I will.


 

The Cover – 3 Stars:    It definitely fits the story and the image is actually linked to the story, which I approve of. It´s not my prefered style, though.

The Story – 3 Stars:    Decent. I would have liked a little more spark.

The Characters – 3 Stars:    The mid 30´s versions felt like the college versions of the characters.

My emotional state after finishing this read:   I have mixed feelings.

3 stars


 

You can purchase `Before We Were Strangers` by Renée Carlino on Amazon.com


 

Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed.

Much love,

Banner name

 

 

 

Book Review: The Silver Swan ( Elite Kings Club #1 ) – Amo Jones

synopsis single

Riddle me this…
“I am neither dead, nor alive, and I’m not something little Madison can hide.
But you will be dead, by the time this is done…
the timer starts now, and the games have just begun…”

Madison Montgomery comes from money and power, but when someone close to her commits the ultimate crime, Madison must live with her tainted name for the rest of her life. When she begins Riverside Preparatory Academy, the private school her father has swept her into in The Hamptons, she hopes for a fresh start. What she wasn’t hoping for was the pack of bad boys who run the school; ten, to be exact. When Madison gains the attention of their leader, Bishop Vincent Hayes, a whole new world that she didn’t think existed is exposed to her. A whole world that starts and ends with The Elite Kings Club and these boys, are about to flip her world upside down. Secrets are overflowing and family lies are about to be exposed. Is there more to Madison Montgomery than even she knows?

ººººº

Note From Author Taken From Goodreads

About this book: 
I need to admit something right now. The Silver Swan is f*cked. It might be the most insane story I’ve ever written with equally insane characters. Who knew? You know, when I started this book, it was supposed to be YA. I wanted to write a book that my sisters could read. A book that won’t have people look at my mum like “damn… what sort of messed up shit happened to your kid?”. The angst, the assholeness, the games, the f**kery, the WHAT THE F**KING F**K ARE YOU DOING???!!!…
I cannot even…. anyway, this is a warning (and the only one I’ll give you). It’s crazy. I don’t compare my work to my others, but this book is f**ked. It will most likely stomp all the f**k over people’s hard limits (and not give a sh*t while it’s doing it) and will make you second guess all the morals you thought you had.
This most definitely is not looking like a love story right now… more like a….. I don’t even….*shakes head* anyway, I apologise now. You asked for it……….

 


 

My Thoughts 2

I must be one weird screwed up chick because I didn´t find anything insane or da fuq worthy about this book. The note the author left beneath the book description on Goodreads got me all excited. Even had me squealing with anticipation. Hard limits? Looks like I have none. Make me second guess my morals? `The Silver Swan` ( Elite Kings Club #1 ) did nothing of the sorts. Well, at least not for me.

It is true- `The Silver Swan`by Amo Jones cannot be compared to other books. But I can The Silver Swandefinitely compare the vibes I got from this  read with a particular movie – Cruel Intentions. Remember that one? Yeah, the story is so not the same but the vibe it gave off ( and still does ) is similar to what I felt while reading this book.

Judging by the description this book sounds a lot like a dark romance with a good dose of mystery. After having read the story I can say there is, indeed, mystery. The romantic aspect? Not sure. The lines are blurred.

 

 

What I appreciated most about the story:

 

  • The Flair. I´m a sucker for dark settings. Put a blue filter on the story and I´m happy. I liked the overall feeling I had while reading `The Silver Swan`.

 

  • The Characters. Although I wasn´t completely on board with half of these wackos I definitely appreciated how individual they were.

 

  • The Writing. This has been my first rodeo with the author´s work. I´m pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the unique writing. It´s smooth and easy on the mind.

 

Unfortunately, there are parts I didn´t enjoy.

 

 

What I didn´t appreciate about the story:

 

  • The dragging mystery. Hear me out on this one. I was a fan of the secrets and all. Until they became boring. It´s almost like the case of the boy who cried wolf. The secrets are mentioned quite often but it isn´t until the end when a reader gets a glimpse of the entire disaster that´s Madison´s life.

 

  • Madison Montgomery. The Heroine of `The Silver Swan`. In the beginning I enjoyed her character very much. Until I reached the point where I was like

 

“Here, sweety. Let me call the cops for you because you´ve clearly forgotten how your phone works.”

 

I´m not sure if her character will grow much more in book #2 and book #3. In this one, though, she wasn´t what I would call a powerful young woman with a good head on her shoulders. She was fearless but that, alone, doesn´t make a character great.

 

  • Enter Bishop. The Hero of the story. When he was first introduced I was game. When he popped in to the picture every now and again, I became more curious. But then he turned into this figure who didn´t do it for me at all. What a shame, really. Instead of rooting for him I found myself wishing he´d just leave the picture. There were definitely others that felt like a more suitable match for Madison.

 

  • My Inner Dialogue. This is something I love to rely on when writing my review. Why did I think? What were my initial thoughts during certain scenes?

– Hmm

– Huh?

– What the….

– Oh.

– Do we have any waffles left?

 

All in all, I wasn´t tickled senseless. There were parts I enjoyed immensely but then there were parts that made no sense to me. Without wanting to disrespect the author or the story- I didn´t feel the awesomeness this book offered me.

 


 

Would I recommend this book? Yes. For readers who like a good drawn out mystery will probably enjoy this type of YA / NA dark romance. I´d also recommend the author because the writing is really nice. Will definitely be checking out other works by Amo Jones.

 

Would I reread this book? Probably not. I like a little cat and mouse play in my dark romances. There can be a whole lot of mystery for all I care but there has to be something that holds on to my atention. Reading a book and calling it a day ( as I did with this book ) will not move me to invest more time in further books that belong to this one.

 


 

The Cover – 3 Stars:    It´s okay. Not necessarily my cup of tea….

The Story – 3 Stars:    The idea is great. The way it´s written is great. It´s just that the exciting parts weren´t as exciting and these dragged on a little for me.

The Characters – 3 Stars: Hands down- The sub characters were great. The main characters, though, they could have had more positive traits. Something to make a reader fall in love with.

My emotional state after finishing this read:  Indifferent.

3 stars



 

This book can be purchased on Amazon.com

Book Review: Sparrow – L. J. Shen

synopsis single

Troy Brennan

Every southie in Boston knows that name. The son of a dead mobster. The heart throb with steel blue eyes. “The Fixer” who can make or break you in this city. 

Oh, and my new husband. 

Sparrow Raynes

That’s me. No one seemed to remember my name up until he barged into my life. 
But then he caged me.
Kidnapped me.
And killed every chance I had to runaway from the place where we grew up.
Put simply, Troy Brennan clipped my wings.

I have dreams, big ones, but I doubt he’d ever let me chase them. I have no idea why he’d decided to take me as his wife. But I do know this: pissing off this man will not do me any good. At all.


Warning Label Copied From Goodreads
Sparrow is a standalone, full-length novel. It contains graphic violence and adult situations some may find offensive.

 

My Thoughts 2

I think I would have had a different reading experience if I had read `Sparrow` by L. J. Shen before I read the authors other, more recent mafia romance novel The Kiss Thief. 

I enjoyed reading `Sparrow`. I liked how dark it was and how vivid the author had Sparrowpainted her scenes for her readers. The only thing that bothered me ( and this is just my personal feeling ) was that I felt this  one wasn´t as strong as The Kiss Thief. If I compare the two books ( which I can because they´re very much alike ) I can say that `Sparrow` felt more like a test version for me. And this isn´t a negative thing.

 

What I appreciated most…

  • The writing. L. J. Shen is a master of her craft. Her stories are clear and straight forward. The author’s ability to create just enough angst to keep a reader on the edge of their seats is great. Good writing is the key to good story telling.

 

  • The story. I´m a sucker for mafia romances. Everything is fierce. Fierce love. Fierce hate. Fierce relationships…  In `Sparrow`everything was fierce and dangerous. I didn´t quite get the Scarface – Tony Montana vibes but there were some things I really liked about the mafia world the author created.

 

 

Unfortunately, the good always comes with the stuff I didn´t quite like:

 

What I didn´t appreciate…

  • The characters lack of feelings. This is not to say they were emotionless. The Hero and Heroine had their fair share of feelings but for me, this couple… they were too tough. Tough cookies are great but I need that emotional balance. I clearly saw the affection these characters had for each other and I understood how these people came to be who they were but I needed some softness to even out the toughness.
  • The ending. There was nothing wrong with the ending. It was completely fine. Just not something I like to see happen for characters. The ending wasn´t for me.

 

With that being said – I still enjoyed `Sparrow`. I think it´s a great, exciting dark romance with juicy bits that´ll get any romance reader hooked.


Would I recommend this book? Yes.

Would I reread this book? Probably, yes. There are parts that are totally reread worthy.


 

The Cover – 2 Stars:  The flames. I´m not sure why they needed to be on the cover because the wing works wonders on it´s own. The blue background, the black feathers with the white font would have been a total eye catcher.

The Story – 4 stars:  What can I say that I haven´t said already? I liked it. Dark, gritty, fierce and sexy.

The Characters – 3 stars:  That extra softness was missing. But other than that I enjoyed their characters.

My emotional state after finishing this read:  Satisfied.

 

3 stars

 

You can purchase `Sparrow` by L. J. Shen by clicking here.


 

Thank you for reading. I hope you have a lovely day.

Much love,

Banner name

Book Review: Reason To Breathe ( Breathing #1 ) – Rebecca Donovan

synopsis book 1

“No one tried to get involved with me, and I kept to myself. This was the place where everything was supposed to be safe and easy. How could Evan Mathews unravel my constant universe in just one day?”

In the affluent town of Weslyn, Connecticut, where most people worry about what to be seen in and who to be seen with, Emma Thomas would rather not be seen at all. She’s more concerned with feigning perfection while pulling down her sleeves to conceal the bruises – not wanting anyone to know how far from perfect her life truly is. Without expecting it, she finds love. It challenges her to recognize her own worth – but at the risk of revealing the terrible secret she’s desperate to hide.

Reason to Breathe is an electrifying page turner from start to finish, a unique tale of life-changing love, unspeakable cruelty, and one girl’s fragile grasp of hope.

 


 

NOTE: Read in 2012. Opinion hasn´t changed since.

 

My Thoughts 2

`Reason To Breathe`( Breathe #1 ) by Rebecca Donovan is one of the most depressing Young Adult romances I´ve ever had the pleasure of reading. Reason To Breathe

 

Sad. Deep. Hard to get your head around. Messed up. Deep. Confusing

 

 

I´m well aware that this is just fiction . But even if it wasn´t and the author chose to incorperate real life events in to the story- It didn´t make this whole sad blob any better.

 

 

A disturbed young woman making idiotic decisions at every turn because she´s a victim.

Emma-  The shoved around, barely tolerated living being who just existed. Living in an abusive household she´s determined to pull through. To win at life and save whatever is left of herself ( which isn´t much to begin with ). But she wants to win on her terms.

I felt a slight burn in my soul from the choices Emma´s character made and how determined she was to stick with her ill choices. This trait of hers made me dislike her instead of feeling bad for her and her life situation.  I would have loved to be able to see Emma as the victim she truly was but because of her questionable choices I just couldn´t.

 

The author tested my limits with the story.

As with any sociology / abuse, YA, romance ( the genre and categories, alone, are quite a stunning combo ) it´s not too difficult to include drama in a story. With `Reason To Breathe` the author went all in, making an already tough subject extremely painful to digest. Because to include abuse isn´t enough. Every cruelty needs to be amplified and every painful situation needs to be 10x more gruesome. Well, in my case… I didn´t care much for the abuse because it was too Cinderella´s step mom´s gone ape shit for me.

 

Now, i bet you´re thinking there can´t possibly be a romance in such a book, right? Right. No, wait. Wrong! So wrong!

There has to be a balance in a story or else it´s just one huge sad black hole with no ending. There was some good to give readers hope that not everything in Emma´s life was shit. And that hope was named Evan. But hey, he was only a tiny spark in a pitch black universe.  What good can a spark do when there´s nothing but darkness and Emma continues to make terrible choices? Exactly, an endless cycle of depressing events happen.  It felt like Emma´s nightmare would never end because Emma didn´t want it to end.

 

That was about the story. Let´s get technical now.

Although I didn´t really enjoy the full on sad story as much as I hoped I would I thought the writing was fantastic. I had absolutely no troubles with the pace. There was a great balance between dialogue and details.

 

However… I will say this: The ending had me sold. I don´t know how the author did it but I wanted to continue the story. Usually, if I don´t like a story I won´t bother with the next books in a series. For some damn odd reason I wanted to find out what Emma´s next move would be. What direction will she take? Will she ever want to stop the madness?

 

`Reason To Breathe` shows a reader how awful and painful life can be if you don´t take help that is offered to you, and that the choices you make are the ones you have to live with.


 

Would I recommend this book? I wouldn´t recommend this book to anyone who is emotionally unstable. It´s a tough read and so depressing. If you think you can handle the abuse in this book, then go ahead. Buy the book and put yourselves through it all. This book will get under your skin and it won´t leave you alone for a while.

Would I reread this book? Nope. One round is enough.


 

 

The Cover – 2 Stars:    Nope. Not doing it for me at all.

The Story – 2 Stars:    I´m torn. It´s an awfully depressing read but it´s also a story well told. Can´t fault a good story telling.

The Characters – 4 Stars:  As much as I disliked Emma I have to admit that she was a pretty picture perfect ruined YA character. The author created messed up characters and wonderful, charming, loving figures.  A world of good people and terrible people and little Emma stuck in the middle.

My emotional state after finishing this read – miserable AS FUCK.

2 stars



 

You can purchase `Reason To Breathe`( Breathing #1) by Rebecca Donovan on Amazon.com

Reason To Breathe

 

 

Book Review ( Before & After ): Dirty Angels ( #1 ) – Karina Halle

synopsis single

For Luisa Chavez, a twenty-three year old former beauty queen, a better life has always been just out of her reach. Sure, she’s had men at her feet since she was a young teenager but she’s never had the one thing she’s craved – security. Having grown up in near poverty, her waitressing job in Cabo San Lucas can barely let her take care of herself, let alone her ailing parents. Every day is another unwanted advance, every day is a struggle to survive.

When Salvador Reyes, the depraved leader of a major Mexican cartel, takes an interest in her, Luisa is presented with an opportunity she can’t afford to pass up. She’ll become Salvador’s wife and exchange her freedom and body for a life of riches – riches she can bestow upon her deserving parents. But Luisa quickly finds out that even the finest wines and jewels can’t undo the ugliness in her marriage, nor the never-ending violence that threatens her every move.

Soon, Luisa is looking for an escape, a way out of the carefully controlled life she’s leading. She finally gets her wish in the worst way possible.

As it is, being the wife of Salvador makes her an ideal target for rival cartels and there’s one particular man who needs Luisa as part of his cartel’s expansion. One particular man whose quest for power has destroyed lives, slit throats and gotten him out of an American prison. One particular man who will stop at nothing until he gets what he wants.

That man is Javier Bernal. And he wants Luisa. He wants to take her, keep her, ruin her.

Unless she ruins him first.


 

***WARNING***

This book deals with drug cartels and as such it contains a lot of sex and violence and some violent sex. It can get pretty ugly, pretty dark and pretty crazy. There is drug use, abuse, a bit of torture and dubious consent. The hero is not a hero and the villains…well, they’re even worse. If this sort of thing bothers you, PLEASE DO NOT READ IT. This ain’t no cupcake farting unicorn kind of book. If you are even a bit squeamish about violence, brutality and rape, this is your warning to stay away from a book that you certainly will not like (and why read books that you know you won’t like?)

 

Copied from the `Dirty Angels`( Dirty Angels #1) book description on Goodreads

 


 

before and after

 

It´s been close to 5 years when I first laid my hands on this gem. Back in 2014 I was all hot and bothered to read this promising and much talked about dark romance.

Word had it ( back then ) that `Dirty Angels`was the latest shocker. Dirty, filthy, brutal and just one of those reads where you get riled up, all while falling helplessly in love with the romantic clusterfuck. dirty angels

Love / hate. Despise / adore. Exciting / shocking. `Dirty Angels` was that all that and so much more.

I´ve always been a sucker for gritty romances. The more triggers dark romances had the more intrigued I was. Did I get my money´s worth? Did my fellow book bloggers promise too much when they said this book should be approached with caution? Yes. YES. Y. E. S!

32 year old me loved this read. I remember the overnighter I pulled because I couldn´t put the book down. I remember suffering a week long book hangover after I finished the book. I remember calling my husband at work, telling him I needed to find more books like `Dirty Angels`.

I even found my 2014 review on my old blog! You´re welcome.

 

review old
Please excuse the review. It´s old and orange. Don´t know what was wrong with me back then. 

 

See? Literally the slow motion train wreck you couldn´t pull your eyes away from.

Back in 2014 I gave `Dirty Angels`( Dirty Angels #1 ) by author Karina Halle 5 out of 5 stars champagne glasses.

 

5 years later…. 

 

37 year old me decided it was time to do some `Dirty Angel`rereading. It´s been a while and I wanted to know if I still felt the same.

In a way- I do. My general feelings for the story haven´t changed. I still believe the story is just as great as it was back in 2014. For me, this book is a timeless dark romance because it still tugs at all the “right” emotional strings. Even 5 years later I still feel very strong for the characters and what they´ve been put through.

 

Do I think this book is worth the warning label? The answer to that is complicated.

2014 was the year for dark romances. Authors were testing new waters and began publishing the “mind fuck” stories. Didn´t bother me one bit. But in 2014 there weren´t many offended readers. The triggered groups were smaller. Also, in 2014 reviews looked a little different. You either enjoyed the brutal romance or you didn´t. You either accepted the warning and felt warned or you didn´t.

These days, a book can´t have enough warning labels because there are far too many reviewers who are easily offended by the slightest event.

 

I can say, without a shred of doubt, that `Dirty Angels` by Karina Halle is still a fucking awesome twisted dark romance. One readers should treat as a work of fiction.

 


Would I recommend this read? 32 year old me would have. 37 year old me still would. I still think it would be wise to trust the warning label, though. Not everyone treats certain topics as casually as I do.

Would I reread this book? Already have.


 

The Cover – 3 Stars:     I can´t remember what I thought of the cover back in the day but now… I don´t really think it´s mind blowing. Fitting for the story, sure.

The Story – 5 Stars:     This is what I enjoy. This is how I expect my dark romances to be like. Shocking, graphic and full of “Oh hell no!”

The Characters – 5 Stars:   Nothing has changed. Javier is still a bastard I appreciate and Luisa is, by far, one of the strongest characters ever created. Bad ass all the way!

My emotional state after finishing this read- 2014: Impressed. 2019: Entertained.

 

5 stars

 


 

`Dirty Angels`can be purchased on  Amazon.com

dirty angels