Review: The Collector – Victoria Scott

Scott_Victoria-TheCollectorTitle: The Collector
Author: Victoria Scott
Series: Dante Walker #1
Entangled Teen
Rating: 4 / 5

Dante Walker is flippin’ awesome, and he knows it. His good looks, killer charm, and stellar confidence has made him one of Hell’s best — a soul collector. His job is simple, weed through humanity and label those round rears with a big red good or bad stamp. Old Saint Nick gets the good guys, and he gets the fun ones. Bag-and-tag.

Sealing souls is nothing personal. Dante’s an equal opportunity collector and doesn’t want it any other way. But he’ll have to adjust, because Boss Man has given him a new assignment: Collect Charlie Cooper’s soul within 10 days.

Dante doesn’t know why Boss Man wants Charlie, nor does he care. This assignment means only one thing to him, and that’s a permanent ticket out of Hell. But after Dante meets the quirky, Nerd Alert chick he’s come to collect—he realizes this assignment will test his abilities as a collector, and uncover emotions long ago buried. (goodreads.com)

The Collector is a lot of fun. A. Lot.

Dante is your narrator, and if you’re not used to it, he’s a little off-putting with his confidence, swagger, and outright arrogance. At some points, it gets a little annoying, but it’s also nice to see him handed a slice of humble pie, mostly from Charlie.

Dante, in life, was one of the Popular People. Charlie isn’t. Charlie seems a little over the top sometimes in the opposite direction of Dante–she isn’t pretty at all (messed up teeth, fuzzy hair, not-so-clear skin, bad fashion sense, and a bedroom that looks like Mattel’s Barbie threw up all over it). Her friends are just as bad of outcasts. After reading this book, and a few others in the “high school” category, I just have one question: do people really experience high school like this? And by “this” I mean, if you’re not popular, than your ugly? And there’s apparently various levels of popularity? Because I surely didn’t. (For the record, I was not one of the “popular” kids, but I was definitely known.)

Anyway, Dante has a one-track mind about getting out of Hell permanently with this assignment, and of course things go badly for him (because it wouldn’t be story if there weren’t complications). It isn’t until he really gets to know Charlie, as much as he can in a two- or three-day span, that he starts second-guessing himself and his assignment.

When I think about it, I had a lot of problems with this book. Not because it isn’t a good book, because if you take it on the surface level it really is kind of shallow and self-fulfilling, but because Dante is sometimes frustrating (okay, a lot), Charlie is too far in the other direction, and the plot gets a little obvious in places (notably the sub-plot of Max and Valery).

That isn’t to say I didn’t like the book, because I did. It’s a lot of fun. I went into it expecting a fun ride, without taking it too seriously, and that’s exactly what I got. When I first read it, I’d been in the middle of reading several serious books, either seriously long, or just with serious subject matter, and it was a nice change of pace. The second time I read it, I was in the middle of reading a fairly difficult adult book (for some reason, despite enjoying it, I was struggling with the length). The Collector provided me with a nice change of pace there, too.

This is, as you can tell, one of those guilty pleasure books for me. It may not be the best book out there, but dammit, I enjoyed it. And I’m also looking forward to the sequel.

Review: Magan Vernon – The Only Exception

Vernon_Magan-TheOnlyException

Title: The Only Exception
Author: Magan Vernon
Beautiful Broken Books
Rating: 1.5 / 5

Fiercely liberal Monica Remy prefers to blend in. Despite her tattoos, piercings, and outspoken personality, she transferred to Central to escape—before she finds out that her next door neighbor is the uber conservative governor’s son, Trey Chapman.

No matter how hard she tries to avoid Trey, he still finds a way to get under her skin. Monica can’t stand his crisp white shirts or his staunch views on women. But she can’t help counting every freckle on his face and wondering what it would feel like to have him stop talking politics and kiss her.

A class debate project forces the unlikely pair to work together, and the political lines are blurred in late-night make out sessions. But despite their fiery chemistry, Trey’s politics threatens to smother their relationship for good.

I had serious problems with this book.

First, let me say that I was hopeful. Monica is labeled as a “fiercely liberal” college student with a hidden past. She’s got tattoos and piercings and the whole lot. I was hopeful that it would be a nice little story that wraps up neatly and didn’t leave me with a lot of questions. And, at least in that respect, it was solid. But that was the only thing I didn’t have problems with.

Trey is an egotistical asshole who doesn’t understand the word ‘no’.

So let’s start: Monica moves into her apartment building, and immediately has a run-in with not only Trey, but with his bodyguards, who are apparently screening everyone coming onto the floor. Monica’s first meeting with Trey seems promising, he offering to help her with a box of her belongings and introducing himself all polite-like, then he does this when Monica dares to criticize his father’s politics:

“If you want, I can always give you some literature to read up on regarding his policies and plans for the state.” (p 3)

Great. Not even 3 pages into the book, and not only are we talking politics (which I expected), but the conservative agenda is being shoved down our main character’s throat. Joy. Monica, to her credit, quickly ends the conversation politely and disappears into her apartment.

Of course, Monica’s relief is short-lived as, when she steps back out to go get dinner, Trey is apparently waiting for her to make another appearance, probably by looking out the peephole in his door every 5 seconds:

“Hanging out at the place I left you and waiting for my return?” (p 5)

Monica gets off a few zingers in regards to conservatives and their views on women before turning Trey down when he asks her to dinner. Trey, being a gentleman, leaves it at that and Monica dines at the local pizza parlor in peace, right?

Oh, sorry. What bizarro world do I live in where that’s acceptable?

Trey follows her to the pizza parlor, sits with her uninvited, and suggests that he was trying to be “neighborly” when she blatantly tells him he isn’t welcome to sit with her.

He orders a diet soda for himself, and Monica isn’t even allowed to tell the waitress what she wants before she (the waitress) rushes off, saying she’ll bring back a diet and a water.

Did I miss where Monica ordered a water? There goes your tip.

Trey’s idea of good dinner talk is politics. Trey apparently has no other interests outside politics. We never see him reading, watching sports, or anything. It’s on level with Bella Swan, in terms of boring protagonist.

Trey feels it’s okay to snoop in someone’s personal belongings (including e-mails, text messages, and voicemails) despite this being an invasion of privacy.

“Trey must have gotten to my emails when I left my computer open, and probably the voicemail that I thought I deleted.” (p 146)

Monica is weirdly not angry over this invasion of privacy, but it had me screaming inside that Trey had no boundaries, and would do whatever necessary if it got him whatever he wanted, which sent up red flags so fast in my head it was like a colorguard performance at halftime.

Monica makes some assumptions and does a few things that are questionable.

While at dinner her first night there, Monica and Trey debate about emergency contraception, and she compares birth control to Viagra. Trey suggests that argument bites the conservatives in the butt, and suggests that infringing on birth control is infringing on men’s rights due to medical conditions. Monica replies with:

“A guy not getting up is not a medical condition.” (p 10)

Um, actually, it is (or, can be). The very fact that you don’t know that makes you incapable of committing to a full debate, and would, in fact, cause you to lose that debate horribly. Erectile disfunction is, in fact, a medical condition (once diagnosed by a professional).

Monica has a weird view of pot and potheads that I found a little more than ridiculous and beyond stereotypical.

So Monica escapes the hallway with her box of items on move-in day…

Only to be confronted with a pot smoking roommate and her friends. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with people smoking pot… Outside, where I don’t have to smell it (the smell makes me ill). But Monica’s reaction to their choice recreation is over-the-top and more than a little ridiculous. The author’s description of potheads is also more than a little stereotypical, and again, ridiculous:

“I stepped out into the living room to see Sam sitting on the couch where I left her, but next to a guy with long, greasy hair.” (p 4)

When Monica returns from dinner, she’s greeted by a cloud of smoke, and promptly does something no half-way smart person does with pothead roommates: puts her leftovers in the fridge.

They won’t be there when you go for them tomorrow, genius.

Her entire attitude towards potheads is weird and angry, and for apparently no reason. She blatantly judges her roommate based on the clothes she wears, and is surprisingly close-minded about everything related to Sam. The whole thing just left me feeling like I was reading something out of Bizarro-land.

Apparently, being feminist means being anti-man.

“Women’s studies and Political Science? You really are a bleeding-heart liberal. I hope you aren’t going to tell me that you’re a part of the feminist group and don’t want to date me because you prefer the company of females.” (p 31)

Okay, let’s talk about this because I saw red. I. Saw. Red.

Being feminist does not mean being anti-man (that would be mysandry, and is another ballgame all together). Nor does it mean being a lesbian, which Trey suggests a little later.

It means we recognize the inequalities between men and women in society, and we want to do something about it. Not drag men down, but raise women up so that we are on equal footing. It’s disgusting and insulting to see feminism being talked about in such a way, and also it suggests to me that the author did not do her homework.

“Isn’t that against some sort of rules of feminism? To cook your boyfriend dinner?” (p 119)

*headdesk*

And a few other random, weird things that just didn’t fit anywhere else.

-Trey drives a Mustang because they’re in a recession and he needs to drive something fuel efficient. Um, no. Bro, I’ve driven a Mustang (owned one for 7 years). They’re nowhere close to being fuel efficient. If Trey really wants to be fuel efficient, may I suggest a small car, like the Ford Focus, or Chevy Cavalier? Both small cars, decent gas mileage, and are American (and we know conservatives love to buy American, don’t we?).

-Trey brings Monica a pumpkin latte, and Monica says it isn’t coffee. Oh, no, honey. A latte is coffee with milk, and in your case, a flavor shot or two. If you’re going to drink it, you should know what’s in it.

The complications were wrapped up neatly with a bow, and the epilogue was… bizarre.

So two things: Monica’s past is revealed partly because she admits everything to Trey, but also because Trey does the snoopy thing (see above). Charges are pressed, everyone apologizes, everything is all happy hunky-dory. Except… It’s a neat little wrap-up to a problem that was never developed and just didn’t add anything to the story except angst that I felt was unnecessary.

Second, the ending. Monica is happily shown on-screen with Trey and the rest of his family when his father does some kind of debate or interview or press conference or something. Except, Monica is a liberal. What–? None of this made sense. The only thing Monica and Trey have in common is their love of debate, and they debate on two different sides.

That being said, they seem to both be politically minded on opposite sides, so why in hell would Monica stay with him? Especially if his political views are such a problem for her? Obviously she either A) doesn’t mean what she says when she says she wants to stop Mr. Chapman’s political agenda, or B) she has switched sides.

Both options don’t agree with me and left me with a bitter taste.

Overall, I didn’t like it. I went into it hopeful, but I was greatly disappointed. I’d have loved to see Monica’s background and issues expressed more, and had her healing more than what is shown. I’d have loved to see more character development. The book was too short with too many stereotypes and bad assumptions that just didn’t work for me at all.

Copy obtained from publisher via netgalley. All opinions herein are mine and were not influenced by the author or publisher in any way.

Review: Sawyer Bennett – Off Limits

Sensual couple

Title: Off Limits
Author: Sawyer Bennett
Series: Off #2
Big Dog Books
Rating: 3.5 / 5

“There is a vulnerability there, hovering just below the surface. And I want to pick at it until I expose it. Then I want to kiss it.”

Two years ago, Emily Burnham had an epiphany about the shallowness of her life. And she made it her mission to become a different person…a better woman. Out from under the controlling thumb of her mother, Emily is tasting the real world for the first time. And she likes it.

Nixon Caldwell has served his time in the Marine Corps, surviving two brutal tours in Afghanistan. He is back home, surrounded by what he likes best…isolation. It’s certainly the best way to avoid confrontation of the consuming guilt that is weighing him down.

When an accident brings Emily and Nix together, he soon learns he is not the master of his own fate. Struggling with his own pain, Nix tries to guard himself against Emily’s charms. He wants her in his bed, but he doesn’t want her in his heart.

Having grabbed life by the horns, Emily wants it all. But is she willing to accept just the small part of himself that Nix is offering? Can she reach the part of his soul that he has deemed to be Off Limits? (goodreads.com)

A cute, fluffy read.

I didn’t realize what number this book is in the series until after I’d started reading. Fortunately, it reads like a stand-alone novel, so I’m assuming that each book deals with the same characters but each one can be read by itself, with or without reading the others, and it will make perfect sense. At least, that’s how this one worked out for me.

The chapters in this book alternate between Emily and Nix. It’s a slightly different pace than what I’m used to reading, and at first it takes a little getting used to. Fortunately, each chapter is labeled with the narrator’s name, so it takes the guess-work out, and makes reading a little easier.

Going into the book, I wasn’t expecting much. I haven’t actually had much luck in the new adult category of books, so it was with some trepidation that I picked up Off Limits and started to read. Truth be told, I picked the book up when it was free on Amazon for Kindle, and it sat on my cloud reader, because I was a little hesitant to read a book that may or may not give me what I really want out of contemporary, which is a fun, light read with only some heavy topics.

Speaking of heavy topics, Off Limits deals with PTSD, as well as other traumas, both physical and mental, that soldiers of war are coming home with. The book deals with both issues in a somewhat tightly-bound package, but it definitely isn’t handled with levity, which I appreciated.

While Nix’s story is interesting and fulfilling, Emily’s story sometimes comes off as a bit contrite, especially in comparison with Nix. She deals with a stalker-that-isn’t, her parents, and normal teen-to-adult issues that most kids face, although probably not on the same level as Emily (considering her father is a politician, her mother is overbearing, and her ex-boyfriend just wants to talk to her, damnit).

Emily’s story seemed like more drama than anything, and there were times when I just really wished she’d put her foot down and get over herself and deal with her problems instead of whining about them all the time. Because at times, that’s what it felt like–whining.

But overall, I really enjoyed the book. It’s a quick, fluffy read with just a little bit of heaviness to weigh it down and give it some substance. It was just what I needed to read.

BFTA Review: Anne Fortier – Juliet

Fortier_Anne-Juliet

Title: Juliet
Author: Anne Fortier
Ballantine Books
Rating: 5/5
Read for: 2011 Book Blogger Recommendation Challenge

Twenty-five-year-old Julie Jacobs is heartbroken over the death of her beloved Aunt Rose. But the shock goes even deeper when she learns that the woman who has been like a mother to her has left her entire estate to Julie’s twin sister. The only thing Julie receives is a key—one carried by her mother on the day she herself died—to a safety-deposit box in Siena, Italy.
This key sends Julie on a journey that will change her life forever—a journey into the troubled past of her ancestor Giulietta Tolomei. In 1340, still reeling from the slaughter of her parents, Giulietta was smuggled into Siena, where she met a young man named Romeo. Their ill-fated love turned medieval Siena upside-down and went on to inspire generations of poets and artists, the story reaching its pinnacle in Shakespeare’s famous tragedy.
But six centuries have a way of catching up to the present, and Julie gradually begins to discover that here, in this ancient city, the past and present are hard to tell apart. The deeper she delves into the history of Romeo and Giulietta, and the closer she gets to the treasure they allegedly left behind, the greater the danger surrounding her—superstitions, ancient hostilities, and personal vendettas. As Julie crosses paths with the descendants of the families involved in the unforgettable blood feud, she begins to fear that the notorious curse—“A plague on both your houses!”—is still at work, and that she is destined to be its next target. Only someone like Romeo, it seems, could save her from this dreaded fate, but his story ended long ago. Or did it? (goodreads.com)

It’s no secret that I really don’t like the Romeo & Juliet story, and it really has nothing to do with the storyline itself, but the fact that it’s over-done. But reading this book was nothing like reading a new take on the Romeo & Juliet story. It was a romance, definitely, but the romance is sewn through Julie Jacobs’s adventures, and it becomes more than just a romance. It becomes an adventure.


The book eventually alternates chapters between the present, with Julie’s story, and the past as Julie reads the letters and papers her mother hid away. I thought this would be distracting, but instead it enriched Julie’s story, and unfolded a new version of Romeo & Juliet that I hadn’t heard before–the one that inspired Shakespeare’s version.


I found Julie to be a little boring at times, and sometimes annoying (and most definitely naive, especially considering how “travelled” she is supposed to be), but I disliked her pushy sister, Janice, even more. Janice often treats Julie like crap, then has the nerve to be upset when Julie brushes her off or doesn’t listen to her. Julie also does really weird things, like run when she should stay and listen to explanation. The book could have been a little shorter if Julie had just followed her heart and gone with Alessandro in the first place.


Despite my annoyance with Julie and Janice, I fell in love with the book. I sometimes felt I was walking through the streets of Siena with Julie. And I so desperately wanted her to be with Alessandro that I would roll my eyes when she did something to push him away. Although the “hate at first sight” scheme might be a little contrived, for Julie and Alessandro it seemed to work; she was intrigued, and not at all put off when it seemed he didn’t speak english at first, and she was definitely physically attracted to him. I just had a hard time believing that the reason he doesn’t believe she is Giuletta is that she is supposed to be dead. It felt like an awkward plot point thrown in to give a little more twist to the story.


Overall, I loved the book (as if the rating didn’t give that away). I didn’t walk into it expecting a romance, but that’s exactly what I got, and it was pleasantly surprising.

Originally posted 24 February 2011.

BFTA Review: Saundra Mitchell – The Vespertine

Mitchell_Saundra-TheVespertine

Title: The Vespertine
Author: Saundra Mitchell
Series: The Vespertine #1
Harcourt Children’s Books
Rating: 4/5

It’s the summer of 1889, and Amelia van den Broek is new to Baltimore and eager to take in all the pleasures the city has to offer. But her gaiety is interrupted by disturbing, dreamlike visions she has only at sunset–visions that offer glimpses of the future. Soon, friends and strangers alike call on Amelia to hear her prophecies. However, a forbidden romance with Nathaniel, an artist, threatens the new life Amelia is building in Baltimore. This enigmatic young man is keeping secrets of his own–still, Amelia finds herself irrepressibly drawn to him.
When one of her darkest visions comes to pass, Amelia’s world is thrown into chaos. And those around her begin to wonder if she’s not the seer of dark portents, but the cause. (goodreads.com)

First, let me just say that I love the cover. Love, love, love.
Second, this is my second attempt at writing this review, since my computer seems to be hating me and ate the last one.
Finally, let’s get down to the actual review.
I’m really not much into historical fiction, so I nearly passed this one up on netgalley when it came across my screen. However, I went back and requested it, because the blurb sounded so intriguing. I was not disappointed.
The plot jumps back and forth between current time, the fall of 1889, and the past, the summer of the same year. Initially, I had no idea what was happening, but once the book got past the first chapter and I realized that it begins at the end, I was okay. I was even better once I got to the meat of the story, Amelia’s summer with her cousin, Zora, in Baltimore.
I detested Amelia’s brother, August, immediately, and I was kind of indifferent towards his wife, Lizzy, although she does what she can to protect Amelia from August, and even is friendly towards her, despite whatever happened the past summer.
It isn’t until I got to the real story, the summer of 1889 in Baltimore, that I started to get a real feel for Amelia and her world, and I was glad to see Amelia rebelling in her little ways.
When Nathaniel was introduced as the “Fourteenth” guest to a dinner party, I was a little thrown, but got over it when Amelia was so taken with him. I was taken with him, too. He’s a bit of a rebel, and he doesn’t really fit in with the elite, but he’s being paid to be at this dinner party. But what I really loved most about him was that he eats with his “sinister hand”. I think I read that sentence ten times because it amused me so much, mostly because I’m left-handed and I know how frustrating it can be, sitting next to someone right-handed at dinner…
Although Amelia didn’t seem to mind brushing hands with Nathaniel every now and then, which was probably scandalous back in those days. I loved her little acts of rebellion. They’re tiny, but they’re definitely there, and it made me like her even more.
The only thing I didn’t understand was whether Amelia had this “power” before she came to Baltimore. She is startled when she sees her first vision just before the dinner party, but I never figured out what triggered her power in the first place.
The story itself moves at a slightly slow pace. There’s a lot of build-up to what the summary promises as a dark ending, but the ending itself happens so quickly that the reader almost gets whiplash. I had to re-read a few passages several times before I finally got a grasp of what was happening.
Overall, I really loved the book, and I’ll be purchasing it when it comes out.

A digital galley was generously provided to me by the publisher for review via netgalley.com.

Originally published 06 February 2011.

BFTA Review: Jennifer Crusie – Crazy For You

Crusie_Jennifer-CrazyForYou

Title: Crazy for You
Author: Jennifer Crusie
St. Martin’s paperbacks
Rating: 5/5
Read for: 2011 Chick-Lit Challenge

On Wednesday, Quinn McKenzie changes her life. On Thursday, she tries to get somebody to notice. On Thursday night, somebody does.

Quinn McKenzie has always lived what she calls a “beige” life. She’s dating the world’s nicest guy, she has a good job as a high school art teacher, she’s surrounded by family and friends who rely on her, and she’s bored to the point of insanity.
But when Quinn decides to change her life by adopting a stray dog over everyone’s objections, everything begins to spiral out of control. Now she’s coping with dog-napping, breaking and entering, seduction, sabotage, stalking, more secrets than she really wants to know, and two men who are suddenly crazy… for her. (goodreads.com)

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I went into it expecting a light, fluffy read of a woman caught between two men, but what I got was a little darker than the other Crusie books I’ve read so far.
From the start, I didn’t like Bill. Especially when he keeps thinking about how he just slowly moved his things into Quinn’s place, and how he talked her into getting an apartment together. Not to mention the animal cruelty. Animal cruelty is one of the only things that I have a hard time with in books, and yet, I still enjoyed the novel enough to stay up way past my bedtime, reading.

Every now and then, I thought of Quinn as a push-over. She goes along with a lot of things just to keep from fighting about it, and I sometimes wondered just what it is that Quinn might think is worth fighting over. In comes Nick, the former brother-in-law who’s had the hots for her since she was a teenager. Quinn apparently likes him enough to repeatedly try to seduce him, and I was glad to see Quinn wasn’t such a push-over after all.

Add to that a crazy boss who is more concerned with the team winning regionals and then the championship (to solidify his position as school principal) than the drama unfolding between Quinn and Bill, The Coach. He even goes so far as to threaten Quinn’s teaching career with statutory rape, and ignores her safety in favor of trying to make Bill see reason and keep him focused on the team.

Of course, as with all Crusie books, things are set right at the end, and it’s happily-ever-after for everyone (or maybe not, but at least for Quinn and Nick it is). This was a quick, fluffy read that I really enjoyed.

Originally posted 25 January 2011.

BFTA Review: Jane Moore – Love @ First Site

Moore_Jane-LoveAtFirstSite

Title: Love @ First Site
Author: Jane Moore
Broadway Books
Rating: 4/5
Read for: 2011 Chick Lit Challenge

Spunky, sweet-natured Jessica Monroe is thirty-four years old and perfectly happy being single. Her girlfriends, however, disapprove. And when they secretly place a personal ad on a hot singles Web site on her behalf, Jess is reluctantly hurtled into the topsy-turvy world of online dating. A laugh-out-loud whirlwind of disastrous dates ensues, from Simon, who seems dreamy over e-mail but ditches her at the dinner table, leaving her with the bill, to Graham, a self-described “Ferrari driver” who turns out to be a car salesman–with several (old, fat, bald, creepy, cheap, stuck-up) men in between. When an unforeseen event turns her world upside down, Jess starts to wonder if the qualities she thinks she wants in a man–gorgeous, wildly successful, with a taste for fun and finer things–really are what she ultimately needs…and whether, as a new mystery suitor appears in her e-mail inbox, Cupid has other possibilities up his sleeve. (goodreads.com)

The novel opens with Jess’s date with Graham, the “Ferrari driver” who turns out to be a car salesman, then gets on into the description of how she got in this predicament in the first place. Her long-time somewhat friend Kara has placed an ad on an online dating site, thinking it would be a good thirty-fourth birthday gift. Jess plays along, goes on dates even though they’re disasters, and relays her angst back to her friends, while Kara enjoys her misery.

Eventually, disaster strikes–her sister has been diagnosed with breast cancer, and has to go through treatment. Meanwhile, Jess feels helpless and wants to be able to do something for her sister. Enter Ben, a friend of a friend, who works in a charity shelter for families with children who are terminally ill. Ben listens to Jess’s problems and helps her come to some kind of resolution in regards to helping her sister.

Jess’s attention returns to the dating scene when it is determined that her sister will be okay, and she is pleasantly surprised by her mystery suitor.

I liked this book for its fluffiness. I was glad to see a bit of a serious note with her sister, because it really kept the book from being too surreal and made Jess seem more real.

Originally posted 24 January 2011.