Terrible, Terrible Book

My Favorite Mistake (My Favorite Mistake, #1)My Favorite Mistake by Chelsea M. Cameron
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

My Favorite Mistake
Chelsea M. Cameron
September 2013 (revised edition)
Harlequin HQN
400 pages
ISBN 10 – 0373778295
Part of a series
Grade: F
Sensuality: Warm

I can describe the plot of all New Adult novels to you in one paragraph. Tattooed bad boy meets virginal college girl. There is sexual tension during all of their highly contrived run-ins but each of their troubled pasts keep them apart. Their otherwise pointless friends push them together until they give in, do the deed, and decide to be together forever. The end. There, now I have saved you from reading this terribly written, derivative book. You’re welcome.

I wish I were exaggerating in that description of the New Adult genre, but I’m really not. Granted, some of the books handle this very cliché plot better than others. While I personally despised Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire and True by Erin McCarthy, I enjoyed both of Cora Carmack’s books. Sadly, My Favorite Mistake begins so much like Beautiful Disaster that there was no real hope for it.

The award for the least likeable female lead in a book I’ve read this year goes to Taylor. She is bratty, rude, and constantly insults people. How such an unpleasant person manages to have friends at all is beyond me. The first time she meets Hunter she punches with pretty much no provocation. Cameron tries to play it off like this is some sign that she’s a tough chick who takes care of herself, but really she is just awful. Of course, she’s a virgin who has pretty much never had a boyfriend or any sexual involvement with anyone. Her cold, obnoxious personality is supposed to be explained by an incident that happened in her past, an incident that the author takes probably 300 pages to reveal. So we get the majority of the book listening to Taylor attack Hunter for no good reason.

Meet Hunter, the bad boy who talks only in sexual innuendos yet never manages to be sexy. Despite Taylor constantly insulting him, I never really saw what was supposed to be wrong with Hunter. He comes off kind of obnoxious with all the poorly written double entendres, but other than that he’s an okay guy. Well, actually he’s a tremendous guy in most ways. He’s a super genius who never studies, he can cook like a world-class chef, knows how to play virtually any song every written on the guitar by command, sings like an angel, gives multiple orgasms, and is filthy rich. Yet, in spite of all these characteristics, he still isn’t impressive or interesting as a romantic lead. I felt like the author was trying too hard to make us like him. Don’t even get me started on his song writing. I am not a big fan of song lyrics being thrown into a book, but if it is a couple lines from a popular song I can forgive it. When there are whole pages of original song writing from the author, it makes me cringe. Cameron may have not realized that the reader has no clue what the melody to the song is and thus and whole page of a song reads like awkward, elementary school poetry.

The premise, oh my, the premise. This may be the most unlikely set up for a romance I have ever encountered in a contemporary romance. Basically, Hunter is assigned to be the fourth roommate to Taylor and her two female friends and actually has to share a room with Taylor. I do not think there is a university out there that permits housing that randomly assigns guys and girls to sleep a few feet apart and then specifically denies the girl’s request to change because the guy hasn’t sexually harassed her. Seriously, there has to have been some better method of having these two around each other that Cameron could’ve come up with if she had thought about it for more than a minute. Also, Hunter agrees to leave if Taylor can either convince him that she loves or hates him. What? What does that have to do with anything? Taylor actually takes him up on this offer like it is somehow a legitimate agreement between two people rather than blathering nonsense to set up the love/hate relationship.

The only thing that actually keeps these two apart is each of their big secrets . These secrets are so big and so secretive, that they need to be mentioned constantly. Seriously, they’re secrets and they’re big, and they can’t be revealed until you’ve trudged your way through hundreds and hundreds of pages about cooking meals and hanging out with friends. By the time Cameron finally got around to the big reveal, I hated both characters so much I could not have cared less what happened to them.

As with all New Adult books, our leads have to have a couple totally pointless friends and roommates hanging around to drink with that will constantly say how the two main characters should end up together. Taylor’s friends were so forgettable that I couldn’t even tell you their names. They were void of any definable traits or character development. The only purpose of having them around was to frequently state how Taylor should date Hunter, to give sex advice, and to do stupid things like buy sombreros for the taco dinner Hunter is fixing.

While I could probably go on for ten more paragraphs about the things I couldn’t stand about this book (the terrible nicknames, confusing storylines, uneven characterization, consistently poor writing), I’ll mention one last pet peeve. While I am someone who uses really salty language in day-to-day life, and have no problem with it in TV or movies, there was too much in this book. I think that, if an author is going to have a character swear, they are making a really deliberate choice. Cuss words just have so much more of an impact in writing. Cameron’s characters swear constantly, as if she as just trying to force the idea that they’re college kids. While it may be realistic speech, it reads awkwardly. Plus, when they weren’t swearing, the dialogue is really silly. They dichotomy didn’t work. When your character drops the f-bomb constantly but also says “making whoopee”, “man parts”, “down there”, and even made up words like “gi-huge-ic”, they sound like an idiot.

The version I read, that has just been rereleased, is considered to be a revised version of the original book that was released in 2012. This one was so terrible I would hate to experience what it was like before revisions. If you are interested in the New Adult genre, I would recommend trying Losing It or Faking It by Cora Carmack. Just avoid this book. It is so not worth the time it takes to read all 400 pages. There is no need to waste your time on absolute drivel.

Review written for www.likesbooks.com

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Houston, We Have a Problem by Erin McCarthy

Houston, We Have A ProblemHouston, We Have A Problem by Erin McCarthy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve been watching The Mindy Project lately and I’m totally crushing on the character of Danny Castellano. So reading a book about a stoic, sexy doctor made me think of him. I couldn’t help picturing Danny as Dr. Houston Hayes from this novel. With that said, I really loved this story. It was short, sweet, and sexy; exactly what you expect from Erin McCarthy. The storyline was really cute and I liked both main characters. McCarthy has a skill for writing romance that is both sexy and funny – like this one.

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True by Erin McCarthy

TrueTrue by Erin McCarthy

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Rory Macintosh and Tyler Mann are opposites; she’s the awkward, premed student who wants to be a coroner and he’s the tattooed, bad boy. When they meet through Rory’s roommate, opposites attract.
Tyler takes in interest in Rory after he rescues her from the groping hands of their druggie friend, and learns that Rory is a virgin. From there, he seems to deem himself her protector, even showing up at her place the next day to help nurse her through her hangover. His interest in her continues when they decide to help tutor each other and, eventually, their romance starts to blossom.
This story started strong. I liked tough-guy Tyler coming to Rory’s rescue and her learning that he has a heart of gold. Tyler comes from a terrible home life that is the total opposite of Rory’s. His mother is a drug addict that is cruel to her children and Rory steps in to help out with Tyler’s younger brothers. Seeing Tyler practically raising his siblings, one of which has Down’s Syndrome, was probably the best part of the book.
Sadly, that is where things fell off. I found the secondary characters, Rory’s roommates Kylie and Jessica, annoying. I think they were drunk or high in every single scene. In fact, Rory meets Tyler because he is sleeping with Jessica. Both girls came off as ditzy and promiscuous and I couldn’t understand why Rory hung around with them when she had been described so differently. Additionally, the girls mention at one point that they paid Tyler to take Rory’s virginity. This plot point was a non-starter. Rory is briefly sad and avoids Tyler for a few days, then she goes on like normal and all is completely forgiven after Tyler quickly says sorry.
The book is written in very short scenes and frequently changes location and time. It was surprisingly bothersome because you never got much substance in a given scene before the book moved on. The middle of the book drags on with repetitive scenes of Tyler and Rory hanging out, people partying, and most males in the book acting brutish.
The conflict of the book revolved around Rory’s father disapproving of the relationship and legal trouble with Tyler’s mom. Neither point was very fleshed out and they were resolved very quickly. The ending of the book was very abrupt and seemed to attempt to quickly tie off the loose ends. It ended up feeling very unsatisfactory.
Possibly the most refreshing thing about this story was the age of the characters. Rory and Tyler are college students and are 20 and 22, respectively. After the first chapter, I almost expected the story to jump ahead ten years because it is so rare to have such young leads in a contemporary romance.
I think that True had a lot of potential, but fell short. There wasn’t enough believable conflict to carry the middle of the story and a lot of the references to Tyler’s prior promiscuity, with Rory’s best friend even, made him a lot less likeable. This was a disappointing read from Erin McCarthy who, otherwise, is a fantastic addition to the romance genre.
Advanced copy provided by Penguin Group through NetGalley.

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Cinder by Marissa Meyer

This was a book that I passed over several times before I sat down to actually read it. I would see the interesting cover and be drawn in by the fact that it was a fairy tale adaptation, which I love, and then be dissuaded by the fact that it was science fiction. I didn’t see myself wanting to read about cyborgs and androids. Boy, was I wrong.

I absolutely adored this book. Meyer has truly come up with a wholly original version of Cinderella. I loved the little nods that she gave to the original tale with the prince and an old orange car, Cinder’s version of the pumpkin, while still fully fleshing out an entertaining and original story.

Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, is a fantastic female lead. She is confident in her work as a New Beijing’s most skilled mechanic, just the right amount of snarky, and a strong young woman. However, she still has insecurities and self-doubt, that make her character believable. She is a very interesting narrator as she struggles with being a second-class citizen as a cyborg and not being a real part of her adopted family.

I appreciated that, when Cinder met Prince Kaito, she was obviously interested in him, but didn’t become obsessed and completely taken over by her epic love for him. She finds him very charming, but also intimidating and off limits; as he is royalty and she’s a cyborg. Kai, as he’s called, really is a swoon-worthy love interest. He is sweet and funny around Cinder and almost bashful in his interest with her. We see that, although is the crown prince, he has his insecurities. He pursues her without ever turning into a sociopath stalker that must have her at all costs. Their interactions will leave you rooting for them to get together, in spite of the obstacles.

All of the secondary characters are well written and dynamic. The wicked stepmother, Adri, is appropriately hateful and the Lunar Queen, Levana, is evil enough to be an excellent antagonist. Iko the android, and possibly Cinder’s closest friend, is really amusing and is a nice contrast to Cinder’s dry humor.

What really took this story past the point of being just a sci-fi Cinderella to a fantastic story in its own right is the plague storyline. You get to experience the pandemic that is ravaging the world through someone close to Cinder, drawing you in to the horror of what is really going on. I loved the concept that this is a futuristic world, with advanced technologies, but it is still not squeaky clean and perfect. There is still disease and grit and fear.

The ending will leave you completely ready to dive in to Scarlet. I’m just sad it will be so long before Cress and Winter come out. This really is a fantastic series that I would recommend to anyone. You won’t feel like you wasted your time on a single page you read.

Dark Book Reviews

Since I am applying to be a book review at All About Romance, I thought I would share the two reviews I wrote today. As I was titling this post, it hit be that both books have “dark” in their name. Odd coincidence.

Lord of Darkness

Elizabeth Hoyt

Rating: A-

I am not a big reader of historical romance at all, let alone those that are considered “regency” era. I tend to find all the talk of lords, ladies, duchesses, viscounts, and what have you a bit dry and tedious to read. Elizabeth Hoyt, however, does historical romance extremely well.

As soon as you start reading Lord of Darkness, the characters pop off the page, especially the secondary characters. The story begins with Godric St. John standing at gunpoint, with his estranged wife holding the gun. Godric has been moonlighting as the “Ghost of St. Giles”, a masked crusader who has set out to protect the innocent, even at the risk to his own life. Margaret, who was married to Godric two years prior and hasn’t seen him since, doesn’t recognize her husband, but believes that the “Ghost” is to blame for the murder of her first love. Her plan to avenge her deceased lover, and conceive a much-wanted child with her husband, has brought her back to the city and smack into Godric.

Even if you don’t love Godric and Megs, as Margaret is called, the setting and secondary characters will keep you reading. It’s rare for me that a regency romance is actually funny, but Lord of Darkness has some very amusing points. Specifically regarding the pregnant pug dog, named Her Majesty, who only wants to eat sautéed liver.

The internal forces keeping Godric and Megs apart are understandable, as they have both suffered great loss in the way of former loves. You never feel as though the entire plot hinges on unsaid things and misunderstandings, like many romances. The relationship that develops between the hero and heroine is believable and happens at an excellent pace. You can really feel their growing affection toward each other and their struggles.

This is a steamier book, as romances go, and, personally, that was one of my favorite parts about the story. One of the crucial changes in Megs and Godric’s relationship comes from their sexual encounters. She tells him she wants to have a baby, he reluctantly coalesces, but Megs gets more than she bargains for from their couplings. It actually made the intimacy very touching, and not just naughty.

Although this book is number five in the Maiden Lane series, it does not seem to be necessary to have read the previous books. I had not read them and was perfectly comfortable following the plot. The only place there might be some confusion is from many of the background characters that make appearances in the book. A lot of names and relationships are thrown around, presumably characters from the four prior novels, and though that gets confusing, it does not hamper the enjoyment of the book at all. Conversely, fans of the series will most like find Lord of Darkness to be an excellent addition to Hoyt’s Maiden Lane collection.

What Happens After Dark

Jasmine Haynes

Rating: D

Erotic romance with sadomasochism seem to be all the rage now, but Jasmine Haynes has been writing them since long before any others got to be popular. In What Happens After Dark, Haynes follows up with another book in the DeKnight series that is both erotic and conflicting. Haynes is not afraid to lay it all out there both sexually and with real-life issues. In the first DeKnight book, we saw a couple dealing with the death of their son. In this addition, we meet a couple struggling to build a relationship in spite of repressed sorrow.

Bree Mason is a troubled woman who seeks out dominating men in order to cope with her past trauma. When one of her Doms gets out of control, she is rescued by Luke Raven. While Luke is sexually adventurous, he has a hard time keeping up with Bree’s more, for lack of a better word, violent appetites. What he really wants is to get to know Bree better, to have a real relationship without the trappings of their dominate and submissive relationship, as it currently stands.  However, she is reluctant to enter into anything beyond the purely sexual realm where she feels most comfortable.

Besides the frequent, and gratuitous, sex scenes, we see Bree struggling with her ailing father and her mother, who has spent her life serving him. From the stifling environment at her parent’s home, and Bree’s reluctance to return there, we begin to see that something has gone terribly wrong in her childhood and to understand why Bree has acted out.

Although I understood how Bree’s past had driven her to a life of vulgar name calling, rough treatment, and sex clubs for gratification, that didn’t make it any easier to read.  I couldn’t get on board with Luke practically beating her because she kept driving him to it through anger or jealousy.

The writing itself is well done, and I am a fan of Haynes work, however the darker themes of this book really stick with you after you set it down. The memories of her father seem at odds with all the sexual content. I have no issue with erotica, but reading steamy scenes back to back with the heroine’s childhood abuse was disturbing.

Overall, the book left a bad taste in my mouth. It seemed to me that Bree, and her mother, were in desperate need of some therapy, not just a good boyfriend. Luke seems to be a great guy but he does give in to her more kinky desires, and then scolds himself after. While I applaud Haynes for bravely tackling such serious subjects in her erotica, it just made for an awkward book that I wouldn’t recommend unless you can stomach the idea of a woman working out sexual abuse through her boyfriend.