Omega by S.M. Reine (Vicky)


Title/Series: Omega (War of the Alphas #1)
Author: S.M.Reine
Target: Adult
Genre: Urban Fantasy
 Ten years ago, Deirdre Tombs died. When she was reborn the next day, Deirdre had become a shapeshifter who can't shift shapes. Nobody knows what animal she's supposed to be. She's definitely not a werewolf. The Alpha, Rylie Gresham, can't force her to transform like other members of her pack.

 Now Deirdre is considered an omega, the weakest shapeshifter in the pack--a vulnerable position when Everton Stark demands tribute from Rylie. He wants to be the dominant Alpha. The only Alpha. And he plans to make her pack submit whether they want to or not. Stark can make every shapeshifter obey him by force of will alone.

 Every shapeshifter except Deirdre.

 The shifter who can't shift is the only hope for Rylie to win the war against Stark. It will take everything Deirdre has to survive undercover in his den. But can an omega's will be stronger than that of a charismatic, deadly Alpha like Everton Stark?

 This was the first book I ever read by S.M. Reine, but it certainly won’t be the last.

 Omega started out strong from the very beginning. The sense of urgency and thriller-like quality of the first chapter caught my interest and it didn't let go until the end. Even as I was thrown into a new world with little explanations, I never felt lost or confused. The author managed to set the story without resorting to info-dumping that might have slowed the pace and become dull. Bravo!

 The three things I most admired about this book:

 + The author didn't pull any punches or sugar-coat things. There were lots of action, violence and gristle, yet they didn't seem like overkill. They were cohesive to the plot instead of being there just for shock value.

 + The unique heroine: Deidre wasn’t your typical special snowflake. She didn’t have the coolest powers and wasn’t the best at everything. In fact, she was an Omega, the “weakest” shapeshifter in a Pack. You’d think that would mean she was helpless and always in need of saving; you’d be wrong! Deidre might have been far from ranking as the strongest, fastest or most capable shifter, but she knew how to take care of herself.

 It takes a special kind of strength to bounce back after being bullied and pushed around constantly. Deidre would fall countless times and get up again and again and again. She countered insults with sass and kept her head held high. And what she lacked in brute power she made up for with her good instincts and street-smarts. Except for the tiny detail of her SPOILER letting Stark inject her with drugs. I’m still unsure about how that contributed anything to the story.SPOILER

 One of my favorite things about this book is how the protagonist openly called out her asshole Alpha on his abusive behavior and victim-blaming. Heck yeah!! This is vital and I want to see more of it in books (and real life).

 I also appreciated how Deidre questioned the prejudices and unfairness of the system:

"It was indisputably crap that someone like Gage could satisfy his animal instincts, whereas Jolene could not."

 + I was unsure about the romantic plot-line when it first appeared, but eventually I decided I really liked what the author did with it. Deidre and her romantic interest's relationship got little page-time (it was secondary to the plot of the book) but I loved how realistically it was portrayed. It wasn’t romanticized. It wasn’t portrayed as a force that could battle and win over every bad thing in the world. It was even acknowledged that two people caring for each other wasn’t enough to cancel out all their sorrows and make them 100% happy.

"They were too broken to make the pieces of themselves complete each other. But for the night, they could make themselves feel just a little less hollow."

 For a relationship to be healthy people have to learn to love themselves before they can love each other.

(BIG SPOILER AHEAD. DO NOT VIEW THE SPOILER IF YOU HAVEN'T READ THIS BOOK YET.) SPOILER Gage’s death: SO MANY FEELS! The fact that Deidre had to kill him slayed me! Still, I think that the way it was done was fitting. They were never going to work long term and Gage's self-hate was so ingrained that I don't think he could have gotten over it. SPOILER

 Some extra goodies:

 + A boss who literally causes you to envision your worst nightmares. LOL! I found this so funny and amusing and I loved how the author described the scenes where reality and nightmare fused together.

 + Niamh and Deidre’s friendship was a great representation of the ambiguity of certain relationships. Sometimes people have different views on important subjects (not just whether to order pizza or Chinese takeout, but different political ideas or views on how social issues should be handled), yet that doesn’t mean they can’t care for each other and be friends.

 + Niamh was also a nice source of comic relief:

 "You look like whatever a werewolf craps out after eating a deer," Niamh announced when Deidre collapsed at the lunch table."

 A little bit of (hopefully) constructive criticism:

 - There were some things towards the end that didn’t make sense to me and left me with mixed feelings/concerns about the future of the series. They are all VERY SPOILERY things, so if you haven’t read this book yet VIEW THE SPOILER AT YOUR OWN RISK: SPOILER 1) Rylie turning out to be alive seemed quite unrealistic to me. The whole plot of the story revolved around Everton’s master plan to kill her and the moment she went down during a fight with Gage NOBODY THOUGHT TO CHECK IF SHE WAS REALLY, TRULY DEAD? Given how many injuries shapeshifters can heal it didn’t seem right that everyone would assume that just because she'd fallen and didn’t get back up she was down for good.

 2) Everton proclaiming Deidre would be his new Beta. Whaaaaat??? How does he expect to pull that off? It’s one thing for him to recognize D’s potential (for some mysterious reason), but to put her in change of/give her authority over all the Pack members but himself made no sense at all. Shapeshifters work on a strict “might is right”, “the strongest are at the top of the food chain” motto. As an Omega, Deidre was looked down on and bullied by most of the Pack through the book and I just don’t see how she’s going to enforce her new authority or how the Pack is going to respect her when they think her weak.

 3) I also can't help but wonder... what did Deidre and Gage going undercover actually accomplish? They had a half-assed plan and didn’t gather any important intel other than the time Stark was going to attack Rylie (which didn’t end up being of any use to them since Deidre was powerless to stop Stark and Gage actually helped him while being under his compulsion. SPOILER

 Final verdict:

 Omega needs a bit of polishing and editing to smooth out some plot-points, but overall I really enjoyed it. I especially loved the unconventional heroine and can’t wait to see what trials await her in the next installment of the series.

Crushed by Lauren Layne (Camila)

Title/Series: Crushed (Redemption #2)
Author: Lauren Layne
Target: New Adult
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Rating: ★★★★
 Growing up in New York, Michael St. Claire never expected to spend his twenties wearing cowboy boots. But that was before he learned about his real father, a total stranger with a family in Cedar Grove, Texas. Once in the Lone Star State, Michael meets Kristin Bellamy, who is exquisitely refined and everything Michael always thought he wanted in a woman. The only problem is that Kristin is dating Michael’s new half brother, Devon.

 Kristin’s mouthy, curvy sister Chloe has always been in love with Devon Patterson. So when Michael offers to help Chloe break up Devon and Kristin, Chloe agrees to a deal that seems too good to be true. Before long, Chloe finally gets her man, only to make a startling discovery: She no longer wants the guy she had to fight for—she wants the one who stood by her side.

 After all he and Chloe have been through, Michael swears he’s damaged goods. Can Chloe convince him that love is worth the risk?

 What is it about Lauren Layne books that I can never quite give them five full stars? It's not that they are bad. As a matter of fact, they're so awesome that she's on my favorite writers list that has under 20 authors. But that's not because she's THE BEST CR writer out there. It's because she's consistent.

 Her books are the too-happy-to-care-if-I-shouldn't kind, and on that front she almost never fails to deliver. I always get too wrapped up in the story to give a damn if there are cliches or predictable plots. Which is good, because with Layne is never original with the storyline itself. It's the way she does it that makes her rise above other authors.

 Things you will never find in a Lauren Layne novel: non-frowned up slut-shaming, douchebags for heroes, TSTL heroines, abusive relationships, forced humor, violence and/or rape being justified, unsafe sex, romance trying to compensate for lack of plot, static characters.

 As if all that were not enough, this author embraces the cliche and makes it her bitch. It's kind of like when tv shows make fun of their own inconsistencies. Take, for instance, Glee:


 Difference is, Lauren Layne's books actually make sense. Even if they don't have Lea Michele and her Nature sent voice.

 Anyway, they are well-written, interestingly twisted cliches that don't pretend to be anything else. And I love it. I absolutely love it. Problem is, greedy bastard I am, I always want more.

 I used to think all they needed was an epilogue, but we got one here and I've realized that's not quite it. Don't get me wrong, I loved the epilogue. Absolutely keep them coming. However, there's something missing in the books as a whole and I've finally figured out what it is: the little things, the small details that make it real.

 I'm not even talking about whole scenes. It's about the unconscious touches, inside jokes and comforting silences. I don't want you to tell me about them, I want to see them. With the main characters, the previous couples, characters we don't even know yet. Fiction is essentially a lie, and everyone knows the best way to keep up a lie is to make it so real even you start seeing it as the truth. The only way to do that is to make it as detailed as the reality.

 And while I'm writing this, I have this Merder scene in the background because I wanted the characters in LL's books to have a tenth of the depth Shonda Rhimes characters have. Which is, you know, an average amount for deep, well-done characters because no one can top Shondaland (I'm not fangirling or anything but LET'S TALK ABOUT MOTHERFUCKING LEXIE GREY AND MELLIE GRANT AND ADDISON MONTGOMERY AND ALEX KAREV AND APRIL KEPNER OR SHOULD I SAY APRIL AVERY*).

 Don't get me wrong. I felt Michael being confused about his own identity and Chloe having her mind and heart at war about what society expects from her and what she actually needs. I loved that the message this book sends, especially through the male protagonist, is that it's not about the scale, it's about health and feeling confident in your own skin. That's why I'm so in sync with authors like Samantha Young or newfound queen Penny Reid. They understand that even if some thing don't affect the actual storyline or even the ARC of the series, they make the tale more real.

 Anyhow, Crushed was still amazing. I love this trope, these characters, and the way Lauren Layne made them come to life. It was a perfect ending to the Redemption series, with the story coming full circle. And I say end of the series because, even if she hasn't officially said it, one of the best things about the author is that she doesn't drag on series just because they are profitable. Although I wouldn't mind some short stories or novellas in the future, I understand right now she has her hands full with the Oxford guys.

 Shout out: Lauren, if you need any help with those, I'm here for you. And even though I haven't met them yet, I'll be good and step up for New York's Finest, too.


Rock Hard by Nalini Singh (Vicky)

Title/Series: Rock Hard (Rock Kiss #2)
Author: Nalini Singh
Target: Adult
Genre: Contemporary Romance
 Wealthy businessman Gabriel Bishop rules the boardroom with the same determination and ruthlessness that made him a rock star on the rugby field. He knows what he wants, and he’ll go after it no-holds-barred.

 And what he wants is Charlotte Baird.

 Charlotte knows she’s a mouse. Emotionally scarred and painfully shy, she just wants to do her job and remain as invisible as possible. But the new CEO—a brilliant, broad-shouldered T-Rex of a man who growls and storms through the office, leaving carnage in his wake—clearly has other plans. Plans that may be equal parts business and bedroom.

 If Charlotte intends to survive this battle of wits and hearts, the mouse will have to learn to wrangle the T-Rex. Game on.

 Nalini Singh knows how to write enticing, sexy, funny romances, and this book is proof of that. But more important still, Nalini writes fully-fleshed characters and deep, meaningful relationships. This is an author who doesn’t stop at ‘Girl meets boy and falls for him because he’s hot; Girl is gorgeous so boy loves her back’.

 Charlie was incredibly shy and might have seemed submissive, but she also had a fire inside her that was pretty impressive. For starters, she could hold her own against a very overbearing man, which was no small feat. More importantly, she experienced Hell at the hands of a monster who verbally, emotionally and physically abused her, and still she found the strength to go on with her life and be able to trust and love and experience happiness again. Bravo!

 I also lmao at her unexpected potty mouth: “He was such a big man when he ambushed me, had me alone, that pencil-dicked, scum-sucking fuckwit!”

 Gabriel was a snarly, bossy, arrogant, overbearing and often high-handed T-Rex. I won’t lie... sometimes I wanted to shake the heck out of him and tell him to “cool it, dude!”. And yet... he was smart, driven, gorgeous and could be a real sweetheart sometimes. He ended up winning my heart.

 There was no question that Charlie and Gabriel were attracted to each other from the get-go - their chemistry was off the charts! -, but their relationship progressed and deepened through the book. They had to get to know each other and learn to trust each other with their secrets. I loved that each of them had their own pasts weighting them down, their own lives outside each other (family, friends, hobbies). One of my favorite things about Nalini Singh's books is the emphasis she puts on family and loyalty. Falling in love doesn’t mean losing a sense of self or that the other person becomes the only important thing in your world, and I greatly appreciate that this author gets that.

 That being said… this book had more than enough juice for the lovers of sexy-times (me, me me!). Rejoice! Deliciously dirty fantasies, exquisite foreplay and hot dirty talk are in the menu!

 In a genre where ridiculous and eye-roll worthy sex scenes are all too common, Nalini distinguishes herself by writing hot, intimate, consensual sex.

 And for the romantics at heart (again: me, me, me! What? I am a complex individual :P) there were also butterflies-in-the stomach moments when we saw how tender T-Rex could really be. The epilogue left me with a goofy smile on my face.

 One last note on cool stuff from this book: there were some really hilarious chapter titles!
                            “In News That Surprises No One, Anya Is a Bitch”

                 “Half-Naked T-Rex and Ice Cream (Sadly Not At the Same Time)”

                                          “T-Rex Gives Good Orgasms”

                                       “The Unforgettable Night of Porn”


 The reason why I didn’t give this book 5 stars is that it was a little bit too long in my opinion. Whaaat? Yes, I did just say that. I usually wish my favorite authors would write longer books so I could stay with the characters for just one more page (or perhaps a hundred), but maybe there’s something to the “less is more” adage. Rock Hard seemed to drag on and became a tinsy bit tedious sometimes, with scenes that didn’t really add anything to the story.

 Last tiny complaint: one of my pet peeves made an appearance at one point and I didn’t appreciate it, but at the same time I understand it’s something very personal: Grown-ups feeding each other. Ugh! No. Just no. Toddlers need to be spoon-fed. And sick people. Not at all sexy!

Before I Fall by Jessica Scott (Vicky)

Title: Before I Fall
Author: Jessica Scott
Target: New Adult
Genre: Contemporary Romance
 Stay focused. Get a job. Save her father’s life.

 Beth Lamont knows far too much about the harsh realities of life her gilded classmates have only read about in class. She’ll do whatever it takes to take care of her father, even if that means tutoring a guy like Noah - a guy who represents everything she hates about the war, soldiers and what the Army has done to her family.

 Noah Warren doesn’t know how to be a student. All he knows is war. But he’s going to college now to fulfill a promise and he doesn’t break his promises. Except he doesn’t count on his tutor being drop dead gorgeous and distracting as hell. One look at Beth threatens to unravel the careful lies Noah has constructed around him.

 A simple arrangement turns into something neither of them can deny. And a war that neither of them can forget could destroy them both.  

DNF at 22%.

 I don't like DNF-ing books. I hate DNF-ing ARCs (because I'm really grateful to publishers and authors for letting me read advance copies for free). And yet...

 This book had SO MANY grammar and punctuation errors, chunky sentences and problematic tenses (past or present, pick one already!) that it was really hard for me to pay attention to the actual story. I understand that ARCs are un-proofed copies so they are bound to have some mistakes, but this was just too much. It was completely distracting.

 As to the story... in theory it could have been good, but the execution wasn't any better than the writing. (Admittedly, I only read a short 22% so I didn't give it much of a chance.)

 These were my problems:

 1) Cheesiness and way too many eye-roll worthy lines for my taste. For example: "...I kiss her like she's my first taste of salvation." You've come from fighting a war, have seen friends die, and salvation is kissing a girl you just met?

 2) I was puzzled by Noah's CONSTANT remarks on Beth's appearance: "drop-dead smoking hot"; "fucking attractive"; "She is fucking stunning and I suddenly can't talk"; "I can't figure out if she is naturally flawless or if she is just damn good with makeup."; "She's somewhere in between. Somewhere close to perfection."; "She looks at me, and I can feel my entire body standing at the position of attention" (¿?). I mean, I get it. She's attractive. You are really attracted to her. Can we move on to something of more substance now? 

 3) Beth made so many mentions of feelings in her belly that I started thinking she might have eaten something that didn't sit well with her <-- SARCASM sign in case somebody didn't catch it. This might seem like a small thing, but the repetition of this phrase over and over bugged me:
"There is no need for the tension in my belly..." 
"Something tightens in the vicinity of my belly." 
"...regardless of the warmth that unfurls in my belly..." 
"...Noah looks down in the vicinity of my belly." 
"There's something in his eyes that tugs at me. I don't want to be tugged at." (Let me guess... it tugged at her belly, right?)

 4) Then there were some bits I just didn't get at all, like when Noah went into a LIBRARY-coffee shop to be tutored and complained about how quiet it was and wondered if the people studying around him didn't know how to relax and have a good time. Huh?

 All in all: This book needs some serious editing because the numerous errors were very distracting. It took days for me to get through the first 22% and all the while it felt like trudging through water. As for the romance, the attraction between the MCs seemed insta-love-ish, superficial and cheesy.

Rock Courtship by Nalini Singh (Vicky)

Title/Series: Rock Courtship (Rock Kiss #1.5)
Author: Nalini Singh
Target: Adult
Genre: Contemporary Romance
 What happens when the Gentleman of Rock decides to play dirty?

  A drummer for the hottest rock band on the planet, David has a single, powerful weakness: Thea, the band's publicist and the woman who steals his breath away with her every move.

 Only problem is, Thea doesn't date clients-or musicians. Emotionally scarred by a cheating ex, she's not about to risk her heart with a man who has groupies buzzing around him like flies. Even if his sexy smile ties her up in knots.

 What she doesn't know is that David is a one-woman man...and he's madly in love with her. David's determined to prove he's worth the risk, and willing to court her, step by exquisite step. Thea's about to discover just how long and hard this handsome drummer can play.

 I am SO GLAD I decided to continue reading this series! I had several problems with Rock Addiction (Rock Kiss #1), but Rock Courtship worked so much better for me. None of my issues with the previous instalment applied with this one.

 The Good:

 + I LOVE David, aka “The Gentleman of Rock”.

 He is SWEET and LOYAL and, as Charlie put it, totally SCRUMPTIOUS. I also fell for his deep sense of honour and family values. Plus, he loves that Thea’s tough, which makes me love him even more.

 + THOSE MEMOS! I can’t even. My mind was made up after the first one.

 + Thea who, faced with some insecurities and jealousy, decides to OPEN A LINE OF COMMUNICATION with her partner. Colour me shocked. A MC in a romance novel who decides to talk things through instead of keeping everything inside.

 + The choir anecdote! I loved seeing how the band members became a family.

 The not so good:

 - There was this one scene in which I wanted to shake some sense into Thea and maybe give her a punch for good measure SPOILER-> She’s makes a situation about her, what she needs (a moment to breathe, to think) but she isn't the victim there and she should be assuring David she believes him and being there for him. <-SPOILER, but it was quickly resolved, and even though I was mad at her actions (or lack thereof) I did understand her predicament.

 - I rolled my eyes a couple of times, but it’s becoming clear that this is inevitable for me when I'm reading Romances. I like romantic stories but aren't too fond of some of the exaggerations/ridiculousness than appear mostly during the sex scenes.

 - I miss the world-building and intricate plots and sense of danger from Nalini Singh’s PNR series.

 In a nutshell: This was SO MUCH BETTER than the previous instalment in the series for me. David has made himself a place in my heart. Now I'm eagerly awaiting Charlie and T-Rex’s story, as well as those of the other Schoolboy Choir members.
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Camila, the opinionated Catruler has read 4 books toward her goal of 100 books.

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