Review: Angry God by L.J. Shen

Angry God by L.J. Shen
Series: All Saints High #3 (full reading order below)
Publication Date: February 18th 2020
Links: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
Source: I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review

Vaughn Spencer.
They call him an angry god.
To me, he is nothing but a heartless prince.
His parents rule this town, its police, every citizen and boutique on Main Street.
All I own is a nice, juicy grudge against him for that time he almost killed me.
Between hooking up with a different girl every weekend, breaking hearts, noses and rules, Vaughn also finds the time to bully little ole’ me.
I fight back, tooth and nail, never expecting him to chase me across the ocean after we graduate high school.
But here he is, living with me in a dark, looming castle on the outskirts of London.
A fellow intern. A prodigal sculptor. A bloody genius.
They say this place is haunted, and it is.
Carlisle Castle hides two of our most awful secrets.
Vaughn thinks he can kill the ghosts of his past, but what he doesn’t know? It’s my heart he’s slaying.

I wish I could say this was everything that I’d hoped Vaughn’s book would be, but it was a disappointment more than anything. I genuinely enjoyed the first two books in the All Saints High series, despite not really being into romances set in high school anymore, but I put my trust in LJ Shen knowing she could deliver fantastic writing, characters, angst, and steam. While PR and BK had all of that, Angry God in comparison fell flat. I’d been so hyped from the Vaughn/Lenny scenes we got in BK – their chemistry in that book was on fire! Their banter was so much fun! But sadly, I didn’t feel the romance, didn’t BELIEVE in their romance. It was just a fucked-up sociopath on a warpath for revenge, and he didn’t care who he had to hurt or use in order to do it.

At the end of BK, we knew Lenny and Vaughn had gone to England for an art program. Going into AG, I was expecting it to start off around that time. Instead, we get a good third of the book set during their final year of high school… and it felt like nothing was happening. The story moved so slowly I felt bored along with frustrated. Vaughn would be unbelievably cruel to Lenny (and his classmates) but also follow her around like a lost puppy, Lenny would try to act cool and collected but still get bullied by Vaughn and the mean girls. Rinse and repeat all this drama, until they finally left for England. I actually did like whenever Lenny stood up for herself – I NEED these NA heroines in bully romances to stand up to their bullies if I’m going to enjoy the story. But then any time Vaughn doled out scraps of his affection and attention, Lenny would soak it up like she’d been living in a desert, despite how horribly he treated her the other 90% of the time.

Vaughn’s quest for revenge is a mystery to everyone, but it’s fairly predictable to the reader. Something awful happened to him as a young boy, which is why he’s the sociopath that he is. While I sympathized with his tragic past, I never really grew to care for Vaughn… like, at all. He had SO MUCH POTENTIAL, but it all got squandered away by his endless BJs and melodramatic thoughts. I didn’t hate him, I didn’t like him either. LJ Shen has written some fabulous alpha-holes in the past, but sadly Vaughn is on the lower end of the spectrum. All I could think about was that he really needed to see a therapist.

The parts I did enjoy? The scenes with Vaughn’s parents. I can’t say that I loved Vicious in his own book, but anytime he shows up in any of the author’s other books, he shines. I loved seeing him as a husband and father. I loved his love for his wife and son. It’s hard not to compare father and son but Vaughn didn’t make an impression on me as much as Vicious did. Also, Vicious gave some GOOD grovel, whereas Vaughn did not.

I’ll be honest, I’m a little wary of anything else LJ Shen has in store for us now. I gave her latest two book 2 stars, which is so disappointing when I used to give her 4’s and 5’s. I’m not giving up on her just yet, but I’m reaaally hoping we get back that spark that made me love her books.

I also gotta give a trigger warning despite it being slightly spoilery, or at least it makes it easier to connect the dots: child rape/abuse


lacey

Reading Order: All Saints High series

#1 ~ Pretty Reckless: Ebook • PaperbackAudible • Goodreads
#2 ~ Broken Knight: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
#3 ~ Angry God: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads


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Release Day Review: Swear on this Life by Renée Carlino

Swear on this Life by Renée Carlino
Series: Standalone
Publication Date: August 9th 2016
Links: EbookPaperbackGoodreads
Source: I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

From USA TODAY bestselling author Renée Carlino (Before We Were Strangers), a warm and witty novel about a struggling writer who must come to grips with her past, present, and future after she discovers that she’s the inspiration for a pseudonymously published bestselling novel.

When a bestselling debut novel from mysterious author J. Colby becomes the literary event of the year, Emiline reads it reluctantly. As an adjunct writing instructor at UC San Diego with her own stalled literary career and a bumpy long-term relationship, Emiline isn’t thrilled to celebrate the accomplishments of a young and gifted writer.

Yet from the very first page, Emiline is entranced by the story of Emerson and Jackson, two childhood best friends who fall in love and dream of a better life beyond the long dirt road that winds through their impoverished town in rural Ohio.

That’s because the novel is patterned on Emiline’s own dark and desperate childhood, which means that “J. Colby” must be Jase: the best friend and first love she hasn’t seen in over a decade. Far from being flattered that he wrote the novel from her perspective, Emiline is furious that he co-opted her painful past and took some dramatic creative liberties with the ending.

The only way she can put her mind at ease is to find and confront “J. Colby,” but is she prepared to learn the truth behind the fiction?

Once again, I’m probably in the minority for Renée Carlino’s latest release. As much as I wish I could’ve loved this book, I didn’t enjoy it at all. Back when I read Before We Were Strangers, my first book by this author, I didn’t see the appeal and I wasn’t a fan of the writing, so I was hesitant to read Swear on this Life. But the blurb hooked me in (as always), and I ended up disappointed nonetheless. The writing was mediocre, I didn’t care for the characters, and the second chance romance (which is one of my favorite tropes ever) failed to make me feel anything but annoyance. Looking at the ratings, I’m sure most readers will enjoy this book, but honestly, I’d only recommend SotL to those who loved BWWS.

“I love you, Emiline. I loved you before I even knew what it meant.”

The premise of this story is amazing – the heroine, Emiline, reads a bestselling book only to realize it’s a book about HER life… and the childhood she shared with her one and only love. She figures the author of the book must be Jase Colbertson, the lost love she hasn’t seen in over a decade, and she gets pissed. She can’t believe he would share to the world such private details about her not-so-savory childhood. Luckily, he’s about to show up in San Diego for a book signing, and she has to decide whether she wants to confront him or let the past stay in the past.

My main problem with this second chance romance is how much focus is on the past. We’re given passages from Jase’s book (which honestly didn’t read anything like a top bestselling novel) and we learn about Emiline’s past through them. Her past is sad, tragic, and pretty predictable, but what really killed it for me was how LONG and drawn out it was. Every time I read the passages from the book, I already wanted to get back to the present and the upcoming reunion (which fyi, doesn’t happen until over halfway through the book). I didn’t even end up liking the scenes where Em falls in love with Jase as a young girl, because the Jase from the past is NOTHING like the Jase from the present, so I had no real point to invest my time in his past self.

Unfortunately, the present couldn’t save the novel for me. Emiline, who is in her late twenties, acts like she’s a teenager, one even more immature than she was as a child. She also has a long-time boyfriend, Trevor, whose character I really saw no point in existing other than to take even more time for Emiline and Jase to get back together. And the reunion with Jase? Such a let-down, because guess who’s grown up to become a smug, smirking manwhore, like every other boring hero ever? Can you tell I don’t really like those kinds of heroes? I honestly didn’t see why Jase was acting so smug, when Emiline had every right to be angry with him and not fall directly into his arms and crotch when they saw each other again.

And this is slightly spoilery, but what kind of man tells the woman he’s supposedly loved his whole life that he’s currently fucking another woman, his agent who he sees practically every day no less? Obviously, he stops when he reunites with Emiline, so what exactly is the point of saying it anyway?

So this book was disappointing, but I can’t say it’s a surprise. I felt the same disappointment and annoyance with the author’s previous book – I really don’t think Renée Carlino is for me. I’m not a fan of her writing – it’s all telling, no showing, except for those rare paragraphs that are pretty deep and meaningful, which throws me off. I’m probably going to give up on her books now and let others enjoy it, no matter how enticing her future stories sound.

2 hearts
lacey

Quotes are taken from the arc and are subject to change in the final version.


Also by Renée Carlino

Sweet Thing by Renee Carlino Nowhere but Here by Renée Carlino After the Rain by Renée Carlino Before We Were Strangers by Renee Carlino

Sweet Thing: Ebook • Paperback • AudibleGoodreads
Nowhere But Here: Ebook • Paperback • AudibleGoodreads
After the Rain: Ebook • Paperback • AudibleGoodreads
Beofre We Were Strangers: My Review • EbookPaperbackGoodreads


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ARC Review: The Billionaire Bachelor by Jessica Lemmon

The Billionaire Bachelor by Jessica Lemmon
Series: Billionaire Bad Boys #1 (full reading order below)
Publication Date: June 28th 2016
Links: Ebook • Paperback • AudibleGoodreads
Source: I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Indecent Proposal

Manwhore. That’s what the board of directors-and the tabloids-thinks of billionaire bachelor Reese Crane. Ordinarily he couldn’t care less, but his playboy past is preventing the board from naming him CEO of Crane Hotels. Nothing-and no one-will keep him from his life’s legacy. They want a settled man to lead the company? Then that’s exactly what he’ll give them.

Merina Van Heusen will do anything to get her parents’ funky boutique hotel back-even marry cold-as-ice-but-sexy-as-hell Reese Crane. It’s a simple business contract-six months of marriage, absolute secrecy, and the Van Heusen is all hers again. But when sparks fly between them, their passion quickly moves from the boardroom to the bedroom. And soon Merina is living her worst nightmare: falling in love with her husband . . .

I really, reaaally wanted to love The Billionaire Bachelor – billionaire heroes are a guilty pleasure of mine, so this book seemed perfect to me. Plus, there’s the whole marriage-of-convenience trope. It’s not a trope I actively go looking for, but I do enjoy it, so I’m disappointed that didn’t really enjoy this book. I was bored most of the time, nearly hated the hero, and couldn’t connect with the writing or characters. This is my first Jessica Lemmon read, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to read any more of her books.

Merina Van Heusen’s family legacy is their boutique hotel – until Merina finds out that her parents are in debt and they decided to sell the hotel without her knowledge. The worst part of it is that they sold it to Reese Crane, upcoming CEO of Crane Hotels, a hotel chain that would get rid of all the uniqueness of Merina’s hotel and turn it into every other sleek, boring hotel. So what does Merina do to protect what she loves? She marches right into Reese’s office and demands that he give her back her hotel.

In this first meeting scene, I was a bit taken aback by Merina. She literally marches into a stranger’s office and starts yelling at him for doing something she can’t really blame him for. It was way over the top and didn’t paint Merina in a good light, and for the rest of the book, I didn’t really warm up to her at all, unfortunately.

Reese Crane didn’t become the rich and powerful man he is by capitulating to others, and he’s not about to start now with a gorgeous woman like Merina. Unfortunately, his bachelor lifestyle paints him in a bad light, making the company board hesitant to name him CEO – so Reese needs to find a wife quick, and who better than a woman who wants something from him? So Reese and Merina strike a deal – they become husband and wife for a short while, and Merina will be given the hotel at the end of their marriage. But what happens when feelings start to grow, and husband and wife start to fall for one another?

The thing that really brought this book down for me was Reese and his attitude towards Merina. I’m getting less and less tolerant of whiny heroes who treat heroines like shit, and that’s basically what Reese is. He’s a complete ass to his wife and his whole “I’ll never fall in love because I’ve been hurt before by caring about someone else” grew annoying after a while. I really wanted him to man up and realize what he and Merina grew to have much more quickly than he did.

I tried to like this one, but I just didn’t have a good experience with it. It’s pretty boring and not at all memorable compared to the many, many billionaire reads out there. I might give the other books in the series a try, since Reese’s brothers intrigued me, but I probably won’t go in with too many expectations.

2 hearts
lacey


Reading Order: Billionaire Bad Boys series

  

#1 ~ The Billionaire Bachelor: Ebook • Paperback • AudibleGoodreads
#2 ~ The Billionaire Next Door: Ebook • PaperbackGoodreads (Oct. 25, 2016)
#3 ~ The Bastard Billionaire: EbookPaperbackGoodreads (Feb. 28, 2017)


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ARC Review: The Baller by Vi Keeland

The Baller by Vi Keeland

The Baller by Vi Keeland
Series: Standalone
Publication Date: January 18th 2016
Links: Ebook • Paperback • Audible • Goodreads
Source: I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review

The first time I met Brody Easton was in the men’s locker room.
It was my first interview as a professional sportscaster.
The famed quarterback decided to bare all.
And by all, I don’t mean he told me any of his secrets.
No. The arrogant ass decided to drop his towel, just as I asked the first question. On camera.
The Super Bowl MVP quickly adopted a new hobby—screwing with me.
When I pushed back, he shifted from wanting to screw with me, to wanting to screw me.
But I don’t date players.
And it’s not because I’m one of the few women working in the world of professional football.
I’d date an athlete.
It’s the other kind of player I don’t date.
You know the type. Good looking, strong, cocky, always looking to get laid.

Brody Easton was the ultimate player.
Every woman wanted to be the one to change him.
But the truth was, all he needed was a girl worth changing for.
Turned out, I was that girl.
Simple right?
Let’s face it. It never is.
There’s a story between once upon a time and happily ever after
And this one is ours.

I was so looking forward to reading The Baller not only because of the smokin’ hot cover, but also the awesome blurb that totally hooked me in. Unfortunately, I didn’t love it the way I expected to. I usually adore sports romances, but The Baller missed the mark for me. The writing and characters were flat, and I had zero connection with any part of the book. I tried really hard to enjoy this, I really did, and I’m probably in the minority for this, but I was disappointed with The Baller.

Brody Easton is the quintessential star quarterback – he’s gorgeous, arrogant, and a total player on and off the field. Delilah Maddox, a sports journalist, needs to interview him, but right after she fires off one of her questions, he drops his towel right in front of her and screws up her whole interview. This part was probably one of the few in the book I enjoyed – Brody’s attempt to throw Delilah off is hilarious, but Delilah isn’t a girl easily intimidated. She can hold her own against Brody, and she continues to do so even when wants to pursue a relationship with her.

I’ve read one other book by Vi Keeland and really enjoyed it, so it’s hard for me to give The Baller a low rating. I honestly thought I would love it – I enjoyed Delilah and Brody’s amusing first interview, but everything after that fell completely flat. It felt like there was no depth to Brody’s character, and Delilah’s wasn’t much better. Brody is boring and tediously crude – all he talks to Delilah about is sex. They were two cliched new adult sports romance characters, and it didn’t feel like I really got to know them. Their romance also didn’t feel believable, at least on Brody’s part. Most of the chapters in his POV had NOTHING to do with Delilah, so I didn’t understand how or why he fell in love with her.

One thing that really bothered me about the book was the way the dialogue was written. As in, any time there was dialogue, there was ONLY dialogue, not even a ‘he/she said.’ The conversations between characters grew tiring to read, so I found myself skimming more of the book. And then, when Brody’s past reappears in the form of an ex-girlfriend, and that ex-gf ALSO gets chapters in her POV, I found myself not wanting to continue reading at all.

It’s more than likely that this is an ‘it’s me, not you’ kind of read. I’m sad I couldn’t like this more, especially since I had high expectations. If you’re a fan of sports romances, hopefully you’ll enjoy this one more than I did!

2 hearts
lacey


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Early Review: Bad Romance by Jen McLaughlin

Bad Romance by Jen McLaughlin

Bad Romance by Jen McLaughlin
Series: Standalone
Publication Date: September 15th 2015
Links: EbookGoodreads
Source: I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

In this explosive novel from bestselling author Jen McLaughlin, a good girl falls for the ultimate bad boy: her stepbrother. Perfect for fans of Sabrina Paige, Caitlin Daire, and Krista Lakes, Bad Romance proves that passion can be so wrong it’s right.

Seven years in the army will change a guy. But after a shoulder wound ends his career as a sniper, Jackson Worthington finds himself back home, fighting a battle that’s all too familiar: keeping his hands off Lily Hastings. She’s still her rich daddy’s little angel, innocent, impossibly lovely, as squeaky-clean as Jackson is dirty. And she’s still his stepsister—forbidden but not forgotten, not after the soul-melting kiss that got him kicked out of the house at eighteen. He couldn’t resist her then. How the hell can he resist her now?

Lily is about to marry a man she doesn’t love, and commit to a high-stress job she hates, all to please the father who controls every waking moment of her life. On top of everything, her teenage crush is back, with a sleek, chiseled body and a trace of the rebellious boy whose lips sealed her fate. Jackson’s timing couldn’t be worse . . . or better. Because Lily’s all grown up, too. She’s aching for another taste. And for the first time, she’s ready to be a bad girl.

I was really looking forward to Bad Romance, since I’m a sucker for forbidden love stories, and this one’s a stepbrother romance at that! But unfortunately, this book wasn’t what I’d hoped it would be. I didn’t like the characters at all, and found myself skimming parts of the story. I really wish I could’ve liked this more, because I did enjoy the writing, but it was the characters that ruined the book for me.

Jackson Worthington is back from the army after seven years, back to the home and family that turned him away. Well, everyone turned him away except for Lilly Hastings, his stepsister. The sweet stepsister sent him letters throughout his time in the army, keeping him sane, but not once did he write to her back. He felt like a clean break between them, after that kiss they had when she was fifteen and he was eighteen, was the best thing for her.

Lilly Hastings has had a crush on Jackson ever since he came into her life, but unfortunately as her stepbrother. She held out hope for him until she left for college, but now that he’s back, she’s going to go after what she’s always wanted – Jackson.

While I liked the premise of Bad Romance, the execution of the story played out poorly. The forbidden love aspect of the story was a disappointment – I felt no chemistry between the main characters, and I didn’t feel like there anything nothing forbidden or taboo about their relationship. They met at 15 and 18, he left right away and stayed away for seven years, neither of them like their parents – what exactly was holding them back from being together?

I didn’t like either Jackson or Lilly, and I didn’t like how repetitive their back-and-forth was. Jackson keeps going on and on about how ‘innocent’ and ‘pure’ Lilly is, and how he doesn’t want to ruin her life. I hated how assuming he is about the kind of person Lilly is without really getting to know her after not seeing her for seven years. And Lilly has her own little problem of being forced to marry someone to save her father’s company. Really? I absolutely didn’t believe she no choice but to marry someone just to save a company she’s not even involved in. Everyone keeps guilting her, telling her how she’ll make thousands of people lose their jobs, and she doesn’t do anything to fight all the people hounding her. She is quite the doormat around everyone but Jackson, but even her times with Jackson wasn’t enough to make me like her.

I didn’t hate this book, but it was a disappointing read. The only saving point to the book was the writing, but sadly everything else was a bust. I really hoped for something exciting and taboo, but I got neither of those.

2 hearts
lacey


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