Thursday, October 13, 2016

{BOOK REVIEW}: The Red Strokes by Vincent Morrone

TITLE: The Red Strokes (The Hotel Paranormal)
AUTHOR: Vincent Morrone
GENRE: Paranormal Romance
PUBLISHER: Amazon (Self-Published)
RELEASE DATE: September 28, 2016
SOURCE OF REVIEW: Author Requested
RATING:  3.5 stars
BLURB: Anna just inherited her aunt's psychic gift, and it's a gift she wishes she could return.

Anna is a college art student, a wallflower who prefers to hide behind her canvasses and paint the world she sees. When her aunt is brutally murdered by a faceless man, Anna inherits her psychic abilities. Now she’s got to deal with visions, ghosts, and her own destiny.

Ashton Cooke hadn’t seen Anna since they were ten years old, when he held her hand while she learned her mother had been killed in an accident, yet he could never stop thinking about her. They meet again when he poses nude for her art class, giving Anna a view of what she’s been missing.

Anna and Ashton are irresistibly drawn to each other. The slightest touch from Ashton causes Anna to see erotic visions of them together. When they arrive at the Hotel Paranormal, they discover that there’s more to their connection than just desire. Anna may be the key to the truth behind his parent’s death, and she’ll need to embrace her powers to save his remaining family from the man with no face.

A Hotel Paranormal story.

The Hotel Paranormal is THE place for supernatural beings looking to get away from it all. Beings like werewolves, vampires, elves, sprites, djinn and more check in from all over the world for business and for pleasure -- and sometimes for both.

ADD TO: Goodreads
BUY LINKS: Amazon 
SERIES WEBSITE: The Hotel Paranormal

Mechanics / Grammar -- 0.5 points
There were quite a few grammatical errors in the version I'd read, but the author has since had the book re-edited. Thank you, Mr. Morrone, for caring enough to do so.

At first, I thought there was some serious head hopping going on, but then I realized it was actually written in omniscient POV, which is so weird, especially for a romance. It certainly takes some getting used to, but by the halfway mark, I didn't find it nearly as jarring as I had in the beginning.

What I did find troublesome, though, was the age category of this book. It's labeled as adult, but it takes awhile to get there. In chapter one, the characters are 10, which is more in the realm of MG (middle grade). In chapter two, the characters are 14/15, which would make it a younger YA (young adult). In chapter three, the characters are now college sophomores, which then makes it NA (new adult.) By chapter 9/10, we're told the characters are days away from being 25, which would ultimately make it adult. Spanning that much time in such a short book was a bit difficult to grasp.

Characterization -- 0.5 points
For being a novella, there was a very large cast of characters. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it can become difficult to keep them all straight. For example, in chapter two, we're introduced to at least 5 people who never make another appearance in the book--and I kept waiting for them to come up again. I was left wondering why we even needed to meet them in the first place.

Anna -- Shy, afraid of true intimacy, and struggling to understand her gifts, she is a likable character and consistent throughout the book. Her emotions were a bit dull, though, and I think she needs a bit more depth.

Ashton -- He's also a very likable character with a very sad past. I truly felt for him the most. Although, when the truth about him comes out, I was a bit shocked. He's very much a gentleman and a beta male, which is fine...except, knowing who he is, I would think he'd be more of an alpha. But maybe that's just me.

Aunt Ro -- She was by far my favorite character of them all! She was so vivid and really came to life. I wish there had been more of her. I understand why there couldn't be, but... :( She's so great!

All in all, the characters are varied and each bring something special to the story. Unfortunately, because of the omniscient POV, it was extremely hard to get fully invested in them. Without any real time to get inside their heads (for more than a few sentences at a time), it was difficult to get to know them on a deeper level. I was always an arm's length away from them, which is the biggest drawback to this type of POV.

Plot -- 1.0 points
I loved the overall plot of this book. A psychic / seer and the guy she loves learning to navigate romantic feelings while also trying to avoid danger made for a compelling read. The addition of Anna's paintings were great, too. I enjoyed how that passion played directly into her gifts and the big climax at the end. I think my favorite part was the Hotel Paranormal aspect. That and the staff really jumped off the page. (And I really look forward to reading more books set within this world.)

I was pleasantly surprised by the twist surrounding Ashton and his past. I didn't see that coming, so it was nice to be shocked. Also, I was heartbroken by Sophie's story, and I'm thoroughly impressed with how Ashton handled the knowledge he'd gained from her.

For this book being a part of a bigger series, I expected to see more of the hotel. I was sad we didn't get to spend more time there.

There were some really small plot points and characters that weren't tied up, which is a personal pet peeve of mine, but it's nothing that detracts from the story.

Romance -- 0.5 points
For me, it was lukewarm at best. I didn't really feel the chemistry between Anna and Ashton, and I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that this entire story is in omniscient POV. I know. I keep bringing that up, but it really did affect so much of the reading for me. Beyond that, the story focused more on Anna's gifts, her paintings, Ashton's past, and trying to figure everything out--at the expense of building the romance between them. Also, the author relied a bit too heavily on a tried and true paranormal romance trope to explain the romance. I don't want to say what because I don't want to give spoilers, but it didn't work for me. There was one sex scene that's on the sweeter side, and while it was good, it could've been better if there was more development of their romance up to that point.

Final Overall Impression -- 1.0 points 
If you're a fan of paranormal romance, then this is certainly a book you want to add to your reading list. This is a short, easy read that will help you pass a couple of hours and leave you smiling.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

{BOOK REVIEW}: Rendered Speechless by Marilyn Faith

TITLE: Rendered Speechless
AUTHOR: Marilyn Faith
GENRE: Contemporary Erotic Romance
PUBLISHER: Amazon (Self-Published)
RELEASE DATE: April 6, 2016
SOURCE OF REVIEW: Author Requested
RATING: 2.5 / 3 stars
BLURB: He loves sex.
She is trying to avoid the male species.

He never cares who he sleeps with.
She is cautious.

Monogamy is a bad word to him.
Monogamy is what she wants.

With her mind saying one thing, and her body saying another, she finds herself wanting to know just what makes this sexy male the attraction women can’t resist.

Just when they thought they reached a common ground, both their pasts resurface, adding complication to the mix of confusion.

Will they have what it takes to survive the storm brewing?

ADD TO: Goodreads
BUY LINKS: Amazon 

Mechanics / Grammar -- 0.5 points
This is not the worst edited book I've ever read, but it's also not the best. There were quite a few run-on sentences, comma splices, and incorrect dialogue tags. There were also some inconsistencies. For example, in the beginning of the book, the hero is said to have attended college at Howard, and then later it becomes Harvard. It wasn't anything so bad that it made it unreadable, but they were noticeable. The book would greatly benefit from an intense copy edit / proofreading.

The book is written in alternating first person point-of-view between the hero (River) and the heroine (Raine). I'm a huge fan of getting the male POV in a romance, so I was super excited to get River's perspective. Unfortunately, it was almost impossible to distinguish between his voice and hers as they were much too similar. Not to mention, the POV shifts often happened multiple times per chapter and mid-scene, including during the sex scenes, which really pulled me from the moment. It was extremely jarring.

Characterization -- 0.5 points
I truly empathize with both Raine and River's characters as they were both victims of infidelity, and I was rooting for them to find their happily-ever-after and even show their exes what they'd lost. The best revenge is living well, right? Beyond this, the characters were very one dimensional. The minute they meet, their lives cease to exist outside of each other.

Raine -- She annoyed me. A lot. She was so passive-aggressive and indecisive. She would tell River she wasn't interested, but then she'd think the opposite or physically react in direction opposition to what she's said. One minute she was a snarky, independent woman who didn't take any shit, and the next minute she's a waffling, insecure girl who lets a man dictate how she should feel. For the record, I really connected with her and liked her when she was showing the snarky side of her personality. I LOVED Raine's friendship with Devon! It was the best part of the book.

River -- He was a slightly better character. I liked that he owned who he was and what he did (a guy who enjoyed sex and one-night stands). He didn't make any excuses for his behavior. He is who he is and he owns that. However, there were several times he towed the line into sexual assault and maybe even rape. In one scene, he's got Raine pinned against the wall, kissing her (consensually). But when she attempts to start to tell him they can't do this, he silences her with a kiss. No means no, dude! I assume the author was attempting to make him an alpha-male. Sadly, he's firmly in the alpha-hole camp :-( Like Raine, we see very little of his daily life outside of the time he spends with her. He's said to have inherited his father's business, yet we never see him actually working, nor do we see the very real challenges one faces as a business owner. I mean, seriously, how does he have so much free time to spend at the bar and in various women's bedrooms?

Plot -- 0.5 points
This book is definitely true to the genre, and it follows the "rules" of romance. But the overall plot and conflict / tension is weak. Both of these characters are dealing with some serious trust issues and fear of commitment. Those internal struggles are glossed over and resolved much too easily and quickly. There are a lot of external obstacles tossed in their way, though, with both of their pasts coming back to haunt them. Raine's ex-fiance comes looking for her. I will say--the reveal of who Raine's ex cheated with really shocked me! I was not expecting that. River also has a few ex-hook-ups that can't seem to leave him alone, along with a few new women he didn't know had a thing for him. It became comical at one point and tipped over into the realm of unbelievable.

At first, I hated the sub-plot with Marge. It was completely unnecessary, in my opinion. For starters, Marge is a caricature of a woman in love with a man who doesn't return her feelings. Her actions were consistently over-dramatic. She's harboring one heck of a secret, too. I won't say what that is because I don't want to give spoilers. And I'm sorry, but if she's truly that in love with River and would do anything to get him, she would've dropped that bomb a LONG time ago. But, as the story progressed, and this sub-plot came to a resolution, it was very powerful, and I changed my mind about it. I actually feel deeply sorry for Marge.

The sub-plot with Jerry, however, was too much. All these women obsessing, stalking, and professing their love for River was ridiculous. One woman is fine, but multiple? It induced several instances of eye-rolling.

I would've liked to have seen more development of Raine's family life. That dynamic was outstanding, and really captured my interest. The author did a fantastic job of making me feel sympathetic for Raine when the entire truth comes out.

Romance -- 0.5 points
For me, it was lukewarm at best. I didn't really feel the chemistry between River and Raine, and I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that they're under-developed characters. There was way too much sex, too. I mean, I'm all for sexy time, but damn! These two were constantly at it. Didn't they ever get tired? lol. At a certain point, I just started skimming them or skipping them all together. Also, a few of the sex scenes made me LOL--which I'm 99.99% sure was NOT the author's intention--but the dirty talk (and the overall dialogue in general) was a tad cheesy and not true to how real people speak to one another. With all that said, these two characters, as they've been portrayed, are perfect for each other.

Final Overall Impression -- 0.5 / 1 points 
I'm really on the fence with this book. It has quite a few issues, but at the end of the day, it sucked me in enough that I had to read to the end to find out what would happen. As an author, that can be a difficult thing to accomplish, so Miss Faith gets props for that. There was a great, happy ending, and I really enjoyed how the epilogue tied up all the loose ends. That was refreshing.

Overall, if you can get past the over-the-top plot, this isn't a bad read and would be good for someone looking to escape from the real world for a few hours.