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Review: Rival by Penelope Douglas

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Title: Rival
Series: Fall Away #2
Author: Penelope Douglas 
Publisher: Piatkus Books
Publication Date:
Source: Review Copy
Rating: 4/5

Synopsis from Goodreads

Madoc and Fallon. Two estranged teenagers playing games that push the boundaries between love and war . . . 

She’s back.

For the three years she’s been away at boarding school, there was no word from her. Back when we lived in the same house, she used to cut me down during the day and then leave her door open for me at night.

I was stupid then, but now I’m ready to beat her at her own game . . .

I’m back.

Three years and I can tell he still wants me, even if he acts like he’s better than me.

But I won’t be scared away. Or pushed down. I’ll call his bluff and fight back. That’s what he wants, right? As long as I keep my guard up, he’ll never know how much he affects me . . .

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REVIEW 

OMG! I don’t know where to start with this book. Dude, it’s seriously messed up; don’t go into it expecting a hearts and flowers romance ‘cos you aren’t going to get it. More like soul crushing, heart breaking, fall to the floor mass of emotion romance here. It’s addictive, compulsive and unbelievably twisted yet true love.

The main characters, Fallon and Madoc, are deeply flawed; they lash out with pent-up emotions fueled by deception and misunderstandings. Although, you can’t help but root for them all the way through. Their relationship tests the boundaries of all the things I’d want in a romance YET I couldn’t help but be completely invested in both them as individuals and their relationship.

Nothing is conventional about them. Fallon for all her rebellious behaviour/appearance while complementing her personality also provides a barrier to hide behind. She craves acceptance and love, something she has only been able to get fully from one person. Can you guess who that person is ;) While Madoc plays is part of rich douche to perfection, maintaining his expected role. All the while craving the same things as Fallon, knowing she was the only person to give him what he craved.

Add in the fact that they are step-siblings nothing about their story is conventional. Forced apart 2 years previously by their parents, deliberately told heart-wrenching reports from the people who were supposed to protect them, Fallon and Madoc are fuelled by tangled emotions, anger, hurt and betrayal at the forefront. Intent on revenge their actions and words cut like daggers. You can feel their pain pouring through the narrative.

I have to be honest, there were times when I literally wanted to strangle both of them OR knock their heads together. Rival certainly draws out strong emotions within the reader. It’s a credit to Penelope Douglas’s writing that she can capture the head and heart of the reader to that extent.

As the story develops, revelations fuel the tension in more ways than one ;) Their family dynamic adds fuel to the fire. The character development both as individuals and a couple is phenomenal – especially in Madoc’s case. Although the idiot took long enough about it ;) I felt that he had never really lived his life for himself and therefore, didn’t really know who he was until Fallon :)

There is some seriously f’d up crapolla going on within the plot. Honestly, I think I had to pick my jaw up off the floor on more than one occasion. I have to say I cannot wait for Jax’s story, OMG that ending – just WOW (I know I’m a tease)

Rival proves that soul mates do exist. A love of a lifetime may not be pretty, in fact it may shred you to tiny pieces along the way BUT ultimately that depth of love will shine through.

Review: Insignia by SJ Kincaid

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Title: Insignia
Series: Insignia #1
Author: SJ Kincaid
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Publication Date: July 2012
Source: Review Copy
Rating: 4/5

Synopsis from Goodreads

More than anything, Tom Raines wants to be important, though his shadowy life is anything but that. For years, Tom’s drifted from casino to casino with his unlucky gambler of a dad, gaming for their survival. Keeping a roof over their heads depends on a careful combination of skill, luck, con artistry, and staying invisible.

Then one day, Tom stops being invisible. Someone’s been watching his virtual-reality prowess, and he’s offered the incredible—a place at the Pentagonal Spire, an elite military academy. There, Tom’s instincts for combat will be put to the test, and if he passes, he’ll become a member of the Intrasolar Forces, helping to lead his country to victory in World War Three. Finally, he’ll be someone important: a superhuman war machine with the tech skills that every virtual-reality warrior dreams of. Life at the Spire holds everything that Tom’s always wanted—friends, the possibility of a girlfriend, and a life where his every action matters—but what will it cost him?

REVIEW BY THOMAS – YEAR 8

Insignia is based on the life of a boy named Thomas Raines and the drastic turn of events that occur, these are life changing for him.

Tom is fourteen years old and like so many other teenagers struggles with his schoolwork. However, there is a big difference. World War III is raging above the planet fought by ships in space and the there are two alliances fighting over them. The Indo-Americans and the Russo-Chinese. Tom lives in America but he is constantly moving around.  He does not live with his mother, and he and his dad Neil, are always travelling to new places because Neil hasn’t got a job. Neil gambles at different places every so many weeks and Tom has to earn money to pay for hotel rooms if his dad hasn’t won any. He has a lot of responsibility for someone his age.

There is quite a slow build up to the main plot but once there the book has a lot more action and draws you in very quickly. The plot takes a look at the idea of a self-fulfilling prophecy in the way that the lifestyle that Tom leads may result in him turning to gambling as this is what he knows, weaving elements of nature versus nurture into the story.

The plot takes a dramatic turn when a very important figure arrives needing help. Tom’s expertise at virtual combat are just what they’ve been looking for. Tom has been offered the chance of a lifetime, but Neil isn’t too pleased about the idea. He believes that Tom will just get used by the military, then get kicked out when he isn’t so useful anymore, denying him of a good career. He thinks that Tom will be another piece of equipment to them and won’t be doing anything to truly help his country. Will Tom be allowed to join the military? Read Insignia to find out.

The book was an excellent read and I enjoyed the story throughout. It was interesting and kept you guessing on what would happen next, giving some clues but not so many that it would be given away. There are several twists to the plot, many of which take you by complete surprise.

This book was great and had a lot of elements that teenagers could relate to.

Review: Reluctantly Royal by Nichole Chase

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Title: Reluctantly Royal
Series: Suddenly #3
Author: Nichole Chase
Publisher: Avon Impulse
Publication Date: 26 Aug 2014
Source: Review Copy
Rating: 3.5/5

Synopsis from Goodreads

Maxwell Jameson Trevor, prince of Lilaria, hates his royal role. Despising the limelight, he takes solace in his art studio and steers clear of any drama. But when one of the newly discovered royals passes away, Maxwell’s brother Alex asks him to break the news to the old man’s granddaughter. Though he hates to be the bearer of doom and gloom, he doesn’t want the poor girl to find out from the tabloids. For Maxwell knows all too well how devastating that could be.

Coming from a broken home and modest background, newly ordained Lady Meredith Thysmer has seized her chance to make a better life for herself and her son. She’s not afraid to use her best assets to get what she wants. But when the unpretentious yet devastatingly handsome Max delivers his news, her plans for the future come crashing to a halt. In the challenging days ahead, Max’s compassion, humor, and steadfast loyalty to Meredith and her son win her over. She quickly finds herself doing something she swore would never happen again: falling in love. And yet Maxwell still refuses to completely drop his guard. Somehow Meredith’s got to find a way to seduce this reluctant royal.

REVIEW 

I really love the characters Nichole has created in this series. As well as giving a glimpse of he ups and downs of life as a royal/public figure, she also gives depth and charisma to the characters that shines through the pages.

The series is most definitely character driven, Max and Meredith are no exception :) Both have a rather narrow view of themselves. While Max takes to the spotlight reluctantly (yes definitely a play on words) Meredith lives for it. Yet, for all Max’s diatribe about being forced to live in the limelight, as an outside observer you can also see the benefits it has given him and the ease with which he handles situations. The source of his discomfort with the paparazzi is revealed within the narrative and provides terrific insight into events that have shaped Max.

Meredith’s family life and upbringing has left a lot to be desired. Lacking a firm support system, Meredith has had to rely on herself, she really is a terrific character, strong, independent, loyal and selfless yet with a vulnerability that cannot be ignored. even as an outside observer you can’t help but want to help make Meredith’s life easier. Her unwavering devotion to her son and the sacrifices she has made for him only endeared her further to me. however, Marty really stole the show and my heart :)

The chemistry between Meredith and Max is off the charts from the beginning, although they both try to fight it. unexpectedly is the way in which they fit together perfectly. They compliment each other completely. While the romance is a large part of the story, the element of family is the aspect that really stood out for me. The support they give each other was something I dream of having. It was truly touching to share that with the characters.

Reluctantly Royal features the characters from the previous books in cameo appearances which rounded out their stories beautifully. It really does belong in the adult fairy-tale category.

Spotlight plus Give-Away: Reluctantly Royal by Nichole Chase

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RELUCTANTLY ROYAL Synopsis

Maxwell Jameson Trevor, prince of Lilaria, hates his royal role. Despising the limelight, he takes solace in his art studio and steers clear of any drama. But when one of the newly discovered royals passes away, Maxwell’s brother Alex asks him to break the news to the old man’s granddaughter. Though he hates to be the bearer of doom and gloom, he doesn’t want the poor girl to find out from the tabloids. For Maxwell knows all too well how devastating that could be.

Coming from a broken home and modest background, newly ordained Lady Meredith Thysmer has seized her chance to make a better life for herself and her son. She’s not afraid to use her best assets to get what she wants. But when the unpretentious yet devastatingly handsome Max delivers his news, her plans for the future come crashing to a halt. In the challenging days ahead, Max’s compassion, humor, and steadfast loyalty to Meredith and her son win her over. She quickly finds herself doing something she swore would never happen again: falling in love. And yet Maxwell still refuses to completely drop his guard. Somehow Meredith’s got to find a way to seduce this reluctant royal.

Buy Links: Amazon/Barnes and Noble/iTunes/Indiebound/Kobo

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Nichole Chase Bio

Nichole Chase is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Suddenly Royal, Flukes, The Dark Betrayal Trilogy, and several short stories. She is also the instructor of Say What? a dialogue class at the Romance Academy.

Nichole lives in Georgia with her husband, energetic daughter, superhero dog, Sulcata tortoise, and two cats. When not writing, you may find her reading, painting, crafting, or chasing her daughter around the house while making monster noises.

Links: Website/Twitter/Facebook/Author Goodreads 

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Review: I Want It That Way by Ann Aguirre

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Title: I Want It That Way
Series: 2B Trilogy #1
Author: Ann Aguirre
Publisher: Harlequin
Publication Date: 26 Aug 2013
Source: Review Copy
Rating: 3/5

Synopsis from Goodreads

Nadia Conrad has big dreams, and she’s determined to make them come true—for her parents’ sake as well as her own. But between maintaining her college scholarship and working at the local day care to support herself, she barely has time to think, let alone date. Then she moves into a new apartment and meets the taciturn yet irresistible guy in 1B…. 

Daniel Tyler has grown up too fast. Becoming a single dad at twenty turned his life upside down—and brought him heartache he can’t risk again. Now, as he raises his four-year-old son while balancing a full-time construction management job and night classes, a social life is out of the question. The last thing he wants is for four noisy students to move into the apartment upstairs. But one night, Nadia’s and Ty’s paths cross, and soon they can’t stay away from each other. 

The timing is all wrong—but love happens when it happens. And you can’t know what you truly need until you stand to lose it.

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REVIEW 

I have to start by saying that I didn’t fully connect with Nadia in this book; her personality was contradictory in places. I struggled with the first half of the book trying to reconcile aspects of her personality with her actions. The immaturity of her inner thoughts was at odds with the exterior mature, driven Nadia.

Aside from the initial struggle with the contradictions, Nadia grew on me throughout the book. Ann Aguirre’s use of self-reflection as a tool to aid character development helped the bonding experience. Her way with children and her chosen career path require something special within a person, an elusive quality Nadia had in abundance.

At times I felt Nadia could be a little self-absorbed with regards to her friends, it was obvious that there were issues with them yet Nadia kept a distance between herself and aiding her friends that made connecting with her even harder.

I really liked Ty especially his attitude to parenthood. However, his continued self-flagellation regarding the circumstances of parenthood became a little annoying. Competing with the ghost of a prior relationship and the fallout it produced seemed like too much work for too little reward. But hey the heart wants what the heart wants even if it gets smashed to pieces in the process.

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The inclusion of kick-ass bands and songs with the narrative added to the enjoyment of the story as a whole. Although I have to  say I did get side-tracked a lot in order to investigate the pop culture references I was unfamiliar with :) The bonus being the discovery of some amazing new-to-me bands :)

As the relationship between Nadia and Ty unfolded my enjoyment increased. As one of my catch-phrases states – IT’S ALL ABOUT THE ROMANCE.

For all the emotional ups and downs experienced throughout the story, the ending rounded everything out beautifully. I especially liked the smooth transition into the opening for the next story.

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