Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Foxhole Court by Nora Sakavic | I Can't Get Enough of This Series!

The Foxhole Court by Nora Sakavic
First Published: 2013
New Adult, Contemporary
Neil Josten is the newest addition to the Palmetto State University Exy team. He's short, he's fast, he's got a ton of potential—and he's the runaway son of the murderous crime lord known as The Butcher.
Signing a contract with the PSU Foxes is the last thing a guy like Neil should do. The team is high profile and he doesn't need sports crews broadcasting pictures of his face around the nation. His lies will hold up only so long under this kind of scrutiny and the truth will get him killed.
But Neil's not the only one with secrets on the team. One of Neil's new teammates is a friend from his old life, and Neil can't walk away from him a second time. Neil has survived the last eight years by running. Maybe he's finally found someone and something worth fighting for.
Look, I had no idea what I was getting into when I started reading THE FOXHOLE COURT. I didn't know it will take over my life with alarming swiftness. I didn't know it will become one of my favorite series ever. I certainly didn't know it will become my next obsession.

Heck, I bought the books on a whim after seeing Cait's excitement on Instagram (I probably would have never looked at that ugly cover twice otherwise), and started reading immediately on impulse.

Best. Impulse. Ever.
If he inhaled slowly enough, he could almost taste the ghost of gasoline and fire.
I don't think I ever had an experience with a book like I did with this series. It's not as much this specific one as the series as a whole, but we're talking about the first book now so I'll leave that for the final review.

So, here's what happened: I read this book in a day. Then I read books two and three the following day. And then... Then I opened book one again the day after and started reading from the very beginning and moved on to books two and three without pausing for a breath. I read the entirety of the All for the Game trilogy twice in six days. That never happens. 

I'm no stranger to re-reads. I do them often, as I find them comforting. But I have never, ever, done so immediately after the first read. That never happens. Except it did, with this series. And you know what? I am so, so, tempted to give them another re-read right now, as I am typing this.

It's safe to say THE FOXHOLE COURT is a one of a kind experience. I'm honestly not entirely sure that it's a healthy one, due to my level of fixation, but I am not complaining.
It sounded like a dream; it tasted like damnation.
It's one of the most addictive books I have ever read. If you told me to point a finger at what, specifically, makes it so unbelievably un-put-down-able, I would fumble with the answer. I would try to put into words the feelings that this book invoked, and I would fail.

It's so incredibly difficult to explain the magic of this book because, on the surface, there shouldn't be any. It's a sports book, and I'm no big fan of sports. It's a little on the far-fetched end of things because it requires you to believe in a few things that feel a little impossible.

Not the biggest of which the fact a team like the Foxes actually exists. In real life, wouldn't a coach that fails to deliver results for five years be fired instead of continually trusted and listened to? Wouldn't the University cut their losses early and reject our band of rejects in favor of good, stable athletes after they see their games? Talent shouldn't be enough.
"God damn it, Minyard. This is why we can't have nice things."
"Oh, Coach," someone said over Neil's head. "If he was nice, he wouldn't be any use to us, would he?"
Normally, that would turn me off, or at least make me skeptic. That's why when I see reviewers who do feel that way, I understand. But... on a personal level, it didn't matter to me. It simply became fact that our Foxes do exist in this world and that I much the better for it.

I am much the better for meeting Neil Josten. Neil is a living lie, a person who doesn't really exist. He can't. Not if he wants to stay alive. Nothing about the boy is real; from his age to his name to his background. Nothing save for his undying love and passion for the sport called Exy, and everything we learn about him throughout the book through his actions and interactions; Brave, broken, beaten Neil. Awkward Neil. Confused Neil. The Neil who doesn't understand friendships and doesn't believe in family because he never truly had either.
Leaving meant living, but Neil's way of living was survival, nothing more.
Neil is one of those characters that will make you want to read on and on. You will want to soothe his pain and panic and wipe his fears away. You will want to cheer and clap when he shows his bravery and hot-headedness instead of hiding them beneath a facade. You will want to scream of excitement every time he chooses to stay. To stay and fight.
Keys meant Neil had explicit permission to be here and do what he liked. They meant he belonged.
Despite all of his deceptions, Neil is extremely honest. He voices his opinions without being afraid. He watches carefully and he notices things about those around him. And for the most part, he is extremely free of judgment. He would not begrudge you your vices, or your background, or your sexual orientation, or anything. For one, he has seen a lot in his short eighteen years. For another, it's none of his business. And it doesn't really matter.
Hope was a dangerous, disquieting thing, but he thought perhaps he liked it.
The mess that is the foxes serve to highlight all of who Neil is without telling us. The weird, dysfunctional balance between them all comes crashing down more than once and yet somehow always manages to be shakingly restored.
People want to pretend people like us don't exist, you know? Everyone hopes we're someone else's problem to solve." He reached out and fingered the material. "They don't understand, so they don't know where to start. They feel overwhelmed and give up before they've taken the first step."
On the flip side, Neil served to highlight their traits, especially Kevin and Andrew. Andrew is kind of my favorite, being a total messed up psycho half the time who needs to chill out asap, as Cait put it in one of her reviews. But there is something so compelling about him. There is a reason everyone puts up with him; a reason Kevin trusts him to protect him; a reason his group listens to what he says. Part of it is fear, and part of it is that something about him underneath it all.
"I'm not a math problem."
"But I'll still solve you."
But even though Andrew is my favorite, I love all my foxes. I love Dan and Matt and their relationship (#relationshipgoals anyone??). I loved Nicky, the big flirt. I loved the way Aaron serves to show us more of Andrew, even if Aaron himself is a little meh. I loved Renee's weird serenity, and Seth's asshole ways, and Allison's Queen Bitch and Queen of the World attitude. I fiercely loved Coach, who would give these kids as many chances as they needed, and Abby, the only one among them that is allowed to worry about their physical well being as their nurse.

No one in this book is perfect. They are all messed up, and they will never really be fine, even if they might get better. They don't always make the right choice, and they definitely don't always make the good choice. Reading of all these people was like some kind of drug. Reading of Neil's love of the sport was addictive. Reading some of the horrifying realities these characters endured was fascinating and revolting.
"It's not the world that's cruel," Neil said. "It's the people in it."
If you had asked me a week before if I thought I could love such an impossibly messed up group of people, I might have said no. I would have been a major, giant idiot.

Moral of the story; don't be an idiot like I might have been. Read this book. It's FREE. 
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Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie | My First Christie Read!

First Published: 1920
Adult, Mystery
Agatha Christie’s first ever murder mystery. Includes an introduction by Christie archivist John Curran, and the original unpublished courtroom chapter as an alternate ending to the novel.
‘Beware! Peril to the detective who says: “It is so small – it does not matter…” Everything matters.’
After the Great War, life can never be the same again. Wounds need healing, and the horror of violent death banished into memory.
Captain Arthur Hastings is invited to the rolling country estate of Styles to recuperate from injuries sustained at the Front. It is the last place he expects to encounter murder. Fortunately he knows a former detective, a Belgian refugee, who has grown bored of retirement …
The first Hercule Poirot mystery, now published with a previously deleted chapter and introduced by Agatha Christie expert Dr John Curran.
So, obviously, there is a reason Christie is considered a mother effing QUEEN of mystery.

She manages to make everyone a possible suspect to her reader, so subsequently... no one is. I have suspected--out loud and in my mind--so many people during the course of this novel that by the end of it, I was both shocked and vindicated by the outcome.

If you're looking for a great mystery with a quirky detective at the helm, an interesting cast of supporting characters and fun narration, definitely pick this one up!

Speaking of which... the narration kind of bothered me. Don't get me wrong, it's great. Hastings is a fun character to be experiencing, as he is prideful, condescending, and yet well-meaning and friendly. He thinks he's doing and thinking the right things, even when he's not quite there.

He would have been a perfect narrator, if not for one tiny detail...

By his own admission, on the very first page of the novel, Hastings is writing this account on request of Poirot and the family. That means these people, who are spoken about very candidly in his account, will read this novel.

That made the whole thing rather odd.

Think about it. Let's say you go on a trip with your friends, and they ask you to write about your adventures. Would you admit to thinking those same friends are stupid or lack conversational skills? Would you share how you fancied their wives and offered marriage to their charges? Would you speak of how much better your intelligence, or wit, or cleverness is compared to theirs? Or will you soften all those things? Erase others. All because you know they will read this. This is not a story that will be locked in a drawer, but published or given to these very people.

And what about yourself? Would you write yourself to be the foolish way you were, with your condescending judgment? Would you have no fear of people seeing your flaws and therefore smooth them over; make yourself appear less dense, a little less dumb and prone to jumping to conclusions (since, by the time you are writing this, you already know how things have ended).

It's unrealistic. Hastings would not have needed to change what had happened but simply what he thought as it was happening in order to both make himself look better (because he comes across as extremely foolish, if well-meaning, throughout the story) AND keep his relationships stable (if I was one of his friends I would have thrown a pitcher in his face for some of the things he had written).

It's such a silly thing to be hung up on, and if not for that one small sentence about why he's writing all of this it would have been nothing. I have never thought before about why someone is narrating a story or who is meant to read it in his or her world, since a narration is usually just that; a narration. A means to tell the story, basically. But with one short line, those lines were blurred, and I could not be content to just accept it as it is.

I could not just accept his candid, honest account. Instead, I was confused by why he was giving it like that. Am I the only one in this? Am I crazy??

And then, I felt like the ending fell a little short. I loved the big reveal; the wham bam and shock of it. But I was also left with far too many questions for it to be any form of satisfying?

*Mark the spoilers with the mouse if you want to read them*

SPOILER As Poirot mentions himself; there has to be motive for murder. Why did Evie and Alfred kill her? How long did they plan it? Was Evie such a great actress, to be able to easily cry over the death she has planned herself or was a part of her genuinely sad after so many years with the woman? Why did no one question her hatred of her cousin throughout the book? Like, I literally forgot they were cousins because it was a throwaway comment at the very beginning and then it wasn't touched upon again. And this is something Christie could have used, like letting Evie say something like "I know he killed her; He's my cousin" to both bolster Evie's claims and give the reader a clue.

And then... why? Why did Evie hate her mistress? Why did she wait ten years to call her cousin and do this?

It's just... so many missing pieces with no way to piece them together! END SPOILER

Still, an undeniably strong start to what would become Christie's incredible career, and I am looking forward to both reading more from her and hoping some of the more open-ended and disjointed side plots from this one (ahemahemthespyahemahem) will be revisited in the future!
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Monday, March 5, 2018

Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller | Oy Matey, Come Board My Ship!

Daughter of the Pirate King #1
Date Read: Jan 27 to 20, 2018
First Published: 2017
Young Adult, Fantasy
There will be plenty of time for me to beat him soundly once I’ve gotten what I came for.
Sent on a mission to retrieve an ancient hidden map—the key to a legendary treasure trove—seventeen-year-old pirate captain Alosa deliberately allows herself to be captured by her enemies, giving her the perfect opportunity to search their ship.
More than a match for the ruthless pirate crew, Alosa has only one thing standing between her and the map: her captor, the unexpectedly clever and unfairly attractive first mate, Riden. But not to worry, for Alosa has a few tricks up her sleeve, and no lone pirate can stop the Daughter of the Pirate King.
DAUGHTER OF THE PIRATE KING is a really fun ride that had a lot of things I really like, and a few I really didn't.

First of all, I really enjoyed our spunky heroine Alosa. A fierce, brutal pirate with a heart, she's sarcastic, violent, petty and a whole lot of fun. Her abilities are rivaled by her pride only, her red hair matching perfectly with her feisty persona.

You will watch her kill men without a blink of an eye, but you will also watch her worry for her friends and struggle with her growing attachment to one of her handsome captures, Riden.

Riden is smart, keen-eyed and strong. Out of all the pirates in this book, he fits that title the least. Most of all because he's got a heart, and he doesn't like seeing people hurt, yet he is forced into that position due to his unwavering loyalty to his brother. On occasion, he can be a smug SOB. Which, not gonna lie, I really loved.

And this two banter. A lot. They clash wits and words and verbally fight for the upper hand, with most battles ending in a draw. And as far as YA couples go, these two are definitely hot together. There are some scenes in this one that may make you want to fan yourself a little bit! Be that as it may be... this is kind of slow burn. I may have said "YA couples" but these two aren't that... yet. I'm fully trusting Levenseller to set sail to my ship unquestionably in the follow-up, which I will be reading this March!

Another character I am hoping to see more fleshed out in the sequel is actually Draxen. Those of us who pre-ordered DAUGHTER OF THE SIREN QUEEN got a special bonus chapter from Riden's POV, and I loved the humanity we got to see in this character in that one, on top of the obvious love he has for his brother in DAUGHTER OF THE PIRATE KING. So.... what would win - that love or the darkness? Here's to hoping we get to find out!

Now, the things that I didn't quite enjoy about this one...

First of all, directly from the synopsis: "Sent on a mission to retrieve an ancient hidden map--the key to a legendary treasure trove". Yeah, don't expect much of that. I mean, yeah, that's the setup. But there is very little actual searching or information about this treasure trove. I kind of wanted to experience a lot more of it with Alosa, as opposed to being mostly told about it. Like, this would have been so helpful to show us how capable she is, as well as illustrating her mounting panic and desperation as she fails to find it.

Then, there were moments where the book intentionally dumbed Alosa down in order to keep tension, or simply to have a plot for the next book. And... I am not a big fan of that. At all. Ever.

*Mark the next parts with the cursor if you want to read the spoilers! Warning: it's a major rant so read only if you like those (I know I do lol)*

SPOILER For example, the book expects me to believe Alosa didn't figure out Theris was actually Vordan once on that island. When I, a mere reader who has never experienced a Pirate's life called it from a mile away. And I'm not talking about reading hints in the story. I'm talking about good old-fashioned logic.

She is the daughter of the pirate king. She has lived all her life under his thumb. She knows he would never defer to a simple spy--so why does she think "Vordan", a pirate lord like her father, would? Why doesn't it raise her suspicions? Then, there are moments when she discusses with herself the strangeness of things; how "Vordan" didn't want to experience her abilities for himself for some reason. That, coupled with the earlier point, should have definitely tipped her off. But it didn't. THEN one of his men actually slips up and starts to call him "captain". AND SHE STILL DOESN'T REALIZE THE TRUTH.

That made my blood boil. ALOSA, freakin' daughter of the pirate king, would know when someone is talking to their captain. She would read all of the signs. She would see the way they listen to everything Theris says carefully, never dismissing him. She would fucking figure it out.

But she doesn't, because the reveal is not half as shocking otherwise (even though it's so obvious there is no reveal...), or something of that sorts. So instead, she is just dumb. Great. END SPOILER

Now, if that's not enough to get your blood boiling, there is one thing that Alosa is made to do by the author in that sequence that made me furious. Seeing red, blowing steam, sheeting mad. It was so upsetting because it was so out of character. Because it threw out everything that is smart and logical and in line with who Alosa was up to that point. All because the author put herself it a pinch and had to solve it for the next book to exist.

It wasn't a result of our plot, but a direct response to what the plot of the next book needed to be. I FUCKING HATED THAT.

And it wasn't even well done. It was just so incredibly sloppy and dumb and I am still getting upset just thinking about it.

SPOILER So let me paint you a picture: 

Alosa has just been freed from her cage with the help of Riden and goes after her captures, full Siren on. She tells herself how she doesn't feel remorse for their inability to protect themselves because that's what they would have done to her and Riden. Then... she stops, with Theris--AKA Vordan--and his two men still alive. She stops so she can go search the body of a freaking dead man. A dead man who would still be lying there after she has killed the other three. For God's sake, he is not going to go anywhere! With the other three dead, there will be no one alerted to her and Riden's escape. She will literally have all the time in the world to search "Vordan", and take Riden to safety.

No, she stops for one reason only. She stops because she can't just kill Theris in book one because there will be no sequel and the story is not half done. She stops for plot reasons. Badly set up plot reasons. That PISSED ME OFF SO BAD.

And, again, Alosa, fucking daughter of the pirate king, would not make this type of mistake. END SPOILER

I hate that. I hate when authors decide to overlook logic and character personalities in order to set up the sequel. There are so many other, better ways Levenseller could have handled that. A million and a half reasons for Alosa to stop, or for that character not to be there in that moment.

But no.

That one moment was enough to knock at least half a star from this novel. And I hate when that happens to me with good books.
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Sunday, March 4, 2018

The Studying Hours by Sara Ney | a Fun Contemporary!

How to Date a Douchebag #1
Date Read: Jan 26 to 27, 2018
First Published: 2016
New Adult, Contemporary Romance
No doubt about it, Sebastian ‘Oz’ Osborne is the university’s most celebrated student athlete—and possibly the biggest douchebag. A walking, talking cliché, he has a filthy mouth, a fantastic body, and doesn’t give a sh*t about what you or anyone else thinks.

Make no mistake, Jameson Clarke may be the university’s most diligent student—but she is no prude. Spending most of her time in the hallowed halls of the library, James is wary of pervs, jocks, and douchebags—and Oz Osborne is all three.

She’s smart, sarcastic—and not what he expected.


He wants to be friends.
He wants to spend time with her.
He wants to drive her crazy.

He wants…

If you're looking for a quick, fun contemporary romance with little angst that focuses on two people getting to know each other and growing closer while bantering constantly, THE STUDYING HOURS is the right read for you. 

I think I read THE STUDYING HOURS at exactly the right time for it; I needed something light and easy to pick me up and it did just that! 

I loved that our main female character, James, was studious and serious, but that by no mean made her a prude. I loved that she was not cowed or intimidated by the assholes that make the wrestling team, including our hero Oz.

Fair warning - there is a lot of crude talk, courtesy of Oz's filthy mouth and no filter policy. I really didn't connect with this part of him, and just wished he'd stop. It fits with who he is as a person, so I don't fault the author for making him like this, but I sure wasn't a fan.

I was a fan of the chemistry between the two of them. It really was sizzling and it's the type that just kind of makes you shout in frustration that it's time to stop being just friends and give in to the temptation to make out!

And this relationship does take it's sweet ass time to get started. Unfortunately, there were a lot of things I wanted to see with our mains that seem to have happened off page, frustratingly enough, despite how deliciously long they take about getting romantic.

Like Oz sharing his sister's story with James, or James telling Oz about her family (which I literally know zero about. That's unfair--why does only Oz get to know??) or James and his sister texting... Those are all things that would've added a lot of depth to their relationship, on a non-sexual level. And they would have made great conversations to include! So why waste all these great things we didn't know in two random paragraphs at the end like an afterthought?

Although, I probably shouldn't be surprised, since I did feel like Ney wasn't quite sure how to end this book, so instead, we got an ending that felt really rushed, which is not something I usually say about standalone ish contemporary romance novels. Especially not ones I would classify as "slow burn" like this one is. But, like, there were things they had just started exploring or things that suddenly appeared out of nowhere, and it gave me whiplash.

Take for example Zeke. I felt like that was such a sloppy way to set up his story. Dear author, I would've been immensely interested in Zeke's story even without the sudden fights with Oz and the cryptic, uncalled for messages like "you don't know her" and "don't let her get into your head". Especially since there is absolutely zero payout for these, or basis, which makes this part absolutely meaningless to this story. And, in general, I'm not a fan of unnecessary shit being thrown into any form of storytelling (movies included) just to set up the next installment, unless it's the after credit scene in a Marvel movie. Hey, just keeping it real.

So, yeah, there were a few things that stopped it from being a full 4 star, but if what I said in the first paragraph hold true to you, definitely check this one out! You're bound to enjoy it :)
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Friday, March 2, 2018

Midnight Secretary Vol. 1 by Tomu Ohmi | YOU NEED THIS MANGA!

Midnight Secretary #1
Date Read: Jan 26, 2018
First Published: 2008
Adult, Fantasy Romance
Kaya Satozuka prides herself on being an excellent secretary and a consummate professional, so she doesn’t even bat an eye when she’s reassigned to the office of her company’s difficult director, Kyohei Touma. He’s as prickly—and hot—as rumors paint him, but Kaya is unfazed…until she discovers that he’s a vampire!!
Kaya quickly accustoms herself to scheduling his “dinner dates” and working odd hours, but can she handle it when Kyohei’s smoldering gaze starts turning her way?!
Okay, so before we get on with this review, there is one thing I need to make clear: this is one of my all time favorite manga. This is not the first time I've read it. I first read it in 2009, and have returned to it time and again since.

This is, however, my first time owning a copy of the series.

So, some background. Midnight Secretery tells the story of the hardworking and serious Kaya, the titular secretery. She begins working for a difficult boss in her comanpy, one that works very hard but also seems to find time to entertine women in his office ALL THE TIME (really, it's kind of a superpower).

That's Kyouhei Touma*. And, yes, he's a jerk, but he's also a major book crush of mine. Hey, at least I'm self aware!! 

At first, these two are at odds. Then Kaya discovers the truth about her boss. He's a fucking Vampire. In this world, vampires are born, not made. As a result, they aren't killing machines. They don't need to--they only need a little bit of human blood to survive. Blood they usually injest through intercourse with their "victim" non the wiser, experiencing sexual pleasure instead. They kind of have it good. Only, they're allergic to sunlight, and faith, and find humans beneath them. Which probably has to do with them being beautiful, and smart, and more often than not rich. 

Now, half because she's blackmailed and half because she's the mother fucking boss of all secreteries, Kaya vows to be the perfect secretery for her boss. That includes learning all she can about him, and helping him even when he refuses to admit he needs help. But that doesn't include falling in love with him. AT ALL. 




So, yes, this is a love story. If you love romance novels, you NEED this manga in your life. It's absolutely perfect. It's mostly like a contemporary romance with fantasy settings and a smattering of fantastical elements (nothing over powering).

And it will give you THE FEELS.

Even in this first volume, that serves to set up our characers, their predicement and the begining of their unlikely romance, you can sense that this is a story with a lot of heart, about a woman making a hard man see that loving is not a weakness, and that admitting "defeat" doesn't damage your pride.

And Kyouhei and Kaya are one of my favorite otps of all time. There's just something about these two people meeting and changing each other's lives that makes my heart pump like no other manga does!


*Okay, mini rant about the official translation... It's not the best?? First of all, why do they call Touma "Tohma"? It's written "とうまきょうへい" which is literally To-u-ma Kyo-u-he-i. Why would a professional manga translation company make this dumn a mistake?... (Also, based on how often it appears in manga and anime, Touma is a really common name in Japan).

Second, I found "Mr. Director" to be really awkward. I wish it would have been just "Director". Like, I guess I get it, but maybe because I got used to shachou (director/president in japanese) on it's own it was, like, really weird. 
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Thursday, March 1, 2018

March Kindle Deals & Bargains [Updated: March 22]

Hello, peeps!

Check out this list of the best kindle bargains, sales, and discounts I could find! All of these deals are $2.99 or less (with the exception of boxset which is included if they're 60% discounted or more)!

I'll be making a new post for every month so it'll be easier to reach BUT the latest post will be updating on a semi-daily basis, so make sure you return to it every couple of days so you won't miss these awesome deals :)

If you have a hard time with these lists, you can also follow me on twitter and facebook where I post somewhere between 5-10 new deals (almost) every day.

So, without further ado....

NEWEST MARCH $0.99-$2.99 FINDS! 


Disclosure: Every amazon link that you see on this blog is part of their Affiliate Program. As such, I get a small revenue if you so chose to buy from my link. Don't worry, it does not affect the price of the product, plus it helps fund giveaways on the blog :)