Review: The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom

the-crueltyGoodreads/Amazon/B&N/iBooks

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When her diplomat father is kidnapped and the U.S. Government is unable to help, 17 year-old Gwendolyn Bloom sets off across the sordid underbelly of Europe to rescue him. Following the only lead she has—the name of a Palestinian informer living in France—she plunges into a brutal world of arms smuggling and human trafficking. As she journeys from the slums of Paris, to the nightclubs of Berlin, to the heart of the most feared crime family in Prague, Gwendolyn discovers that to survive in this new world she must become every bit as cruel as the men she’s hunting.

review4/5 Stars 

Unpopular opinion time. It turns out that there’s a ton of controversy surrounding this book because of some dismissive and rude comments made by the author about the YA genre. Here’s the thing, I did not read anything about this book or any of the Goodreads comments before my rating. This is a 100% unbiased, non-influenced rating on the story alone. While I do not agree with the author’s perception of dystopia YA or some off the offhand comments made by Gwen within the story, authors and characters do not always share beliefs. Sometimes it’s hard to separate the author’s opinions from the character’s and vice versa. I thought I would preface this review by saying that whether or not I like the author has absolutely nothing to do with this review because so many of the Goodreads reviews are attacks on the author not the book. 

Now that that’s out of the way, I loved this book. This is exactly what I’ve been searching for in YA. A thriller. Spies, lies, cover ups, danger, it’s like Bourne Identity for teens. And there are so many important and eye-opening topics discussed within the story about crime, human trafficking, and other terrifying and unsavory aspects of society. While the story wasn’t perfect, it definitely kept me engaged and enthralled with Gwen and her quest to save her father. I kept asking myself how far I’d go to save my loved ones.

Gwen is made of reckoning and a hunger for vengeance. I adore her. She’s of Jewish heritage, thick-waisted, opinionated, speaks multiple languages, and likes jazz. I mean, come on, that alone is enough to keep you interested. When Gwen embraces her new identity at Sofia, we see her transformation and wow, what a switch. The girl she started as is still there, but her alias is a fighter. Sofia is a vixen. She’s manipulative, calculating, more like an agent. She has a huge heart. She will go to the ends of the earth for her father and then some, sacrificing herself in the process. She knows she might die, she might get assaulted or scarred, but she is willing as long as she gets her father back. That’s insane and incredibly brave. Gwen has to shut off her emotions or she’ll break and sometimes it’s truly hard and devastating for her. In several scenes, I almost had to look away because I was so scared for her. But she puts on cruelty like armor and is surprisingly successful for such a small amount of training. 

There are so made shades of women within this story and they’re all powerful in their own ways. From prostitutes to the women who serve the crime bosses, from the trafficked girls to the bully at the introduction of the story, all of these women are fighters and wise to the ways of the world. They accept that sometimes life is dirty and hard and terrible, that horrific things happen but they can’t collapse, they rise and rebuild and take everything for what it is. Every character was memorable, even the fleeting ones and others that I abhorred. They were developed, multidimensional, and made me ask questions. 

Yael. OMG this woman. She’s fierce, hardened, cruel when she needs to be and lives by a do whatever it takes attitude. Suck it up and do what needs to be done. Yael is at times heartless and cold, others she’s mildly concerned. You can tell she feels a little motherly towards Gwen. Yael is the kind of woman, Mossad, who would take her child who can’t swim, throw him in a lake and tell him to find his way out; he’d learn pretty quick. I loveddddd her. She’s an epic badass of a character. 

The story itself is layered and developed. It’s cross multiple countries and gets right into the seedy underbelly of the cities. I have not been to most of the countries mentioned, so I can’t say how accurate the portrayal was, but there wasn’t much in way of description anyway. Scott Bergstrom appears to be more about the character than the setting. I loved the cyphers and the danger. Every edge of your seat moment was a new rush and there are so many. 

What I did not like was the random romance between Gwen and Terrance. He’s barely there, there’s no building, hardly any foundation, and while he is functional, the emotions are severely lacking and then suddenly it’s supposed to be like fireworks for the reader-yeah, no. I was not the biggest fan of the way Gwen was introduced at Danton Academy. While it did function to present her place in the social hierarchy, establish her race and figure, it felt clichéd and predictable. In fact, I don’t really know why it was there at all. School is nothing in this story. It’s gone in like 2 days of book time. 

Sometimes the pacing was slow. When you think of a thriller/suspense, you expect fast, but spy work and investigating is sometimes just pushing paper and waiting for leads, so in that respect, it was accurate. 

That ending. YES.

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Suspenseful reading, 

Jordan

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ARC Review: The Halfling by H.D. Gordon

halflingGoodreads/Amazon

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Being seventeen and an outcast is hard. Being seventeen and only half human is harder.

When Aria Fae gets cast out of the Peace Brokers, a secret supernatural organization that’s trained her since infancy, and is left to fend for herself in the human world, she finds herself in Grant City, intent on attempting a normal human life.

As a Halfling, Aria has abilities that are a little underused in the flower shop she lands a job at. And when her new friend Samantha Shy enlists Aria to help investigate her mother’s death, the two girls decide to become vigilantes.

A new drug called Black Magic is running rampant in the streets of Grant City, turning people into supercharged maniacs. With Sam’s mad computer skills, and Aria’s Faevian abilities, they may be just the heroes Grant City is in need of.

Or they may find out they’re in way over their heads, and their mutual crush on the same guy is the least of their worries.

review3/5 Stars

***I received this ebook as a gift in exchange for an honest review via the author 

The Halfling is an interesting twist on half-fae, much in the vein of Melissa Marr’s latest Seven Black Diamonds. X-Men meets paranormal magic, The Halfling is a thrilling, action-packed read that leaves you rallying for justice. 

PROS:

  • The story has a lot going on. Half-fae, sorceresses, a secret paranormal agency, human trafficking, hackers, and a horrifying new drug that makes users want to feed on flesh. 
  • Secondary characters are intriguing and make you want to know more about them. I loved that there were nerdy, tech obsessed BFFs that used their genius to make the coolest inventions and turn Aria into a fantastic super heroine. Samantha is awesome. Bullied but not defeated. She uses her mind and though she has some insecurity, it’s endearing. She can’t talk to guys to save her life and it’s hilarious. 
  • Aria is independent, courageous, fierce, and basically a crime fighting superhero. She takes risks and puts her life on the line to save the victims of human trafficking and other crimes throughout the city but at the same time, despite her fae powers, she’s just a teenage girl looking to belong. She doesn’t know how to deal with boys, she gets embarrassed, she abruptly leaves weird situations, and the tension is high but it’s very relatable. 
  • The chemistry. It’s all over the place. That neighbor. I’m not sure how to feel about it because he’s much older and sometimes seems like a fatherly figure/knight in shining armor, but oh man is he sexy. Former military, gorgeous, mysterious, and always comes to the rescue, what’s not to swoon over? There is some triangular action going on with the hot prep school boy whose father owns half the town but he’s flirty, playful, and has a big heart. You’ll feel for Aria because they’re both pretty perfect. 

CONS:

  • This felt more like the continuation of a series than the first book. So many key facts about Aria’s past were alluded to but never expanded on. Like the situation with her mother, a clearer picture of why she was banished, and who exactly her enemies were are all lacking in explanation. 
  • Focus gets lost somewhere between the superhero antics, Aria’s past, and the romantic tension. I’m not sure where the story was trying to go. Sometimes it felt like a pure romance, other times para, and others superhero adventure. The connection was loose. 
  • Some parts were predictable.

If you like any of the following, you’ll enjoy this:

Keep reading, 

Jordan

Release Day Blitz: Snake Eyes-Melissa Pearl

cooltext1790897456 copyCaitlyn Davis expects her sophomore year at UCLA to be perfect…until she walks into her dorm room to find Special Agent Zoey Kaplan of the FBI waiting for her. In that instant, she knows her idyllic year with new best friends, Nicole and Dale, along with her super hot boyfriend, Eric, is about to fall apart.
 
Having been forced to work with the FBI months earlier, Caity accidentally gave away her special ability to read people’s emotions and know whether they were telling the truth. Now, Kaplan wants Caity to go undercover again for a secret operation that will bring her close to the sadistic Diego Mendez, a man believed to be involved in human trafficking.
 
Eric Shore is not a man who trusts easily. Having been burned multiple times, it’s hard for him to open up completely, but his love for Caity makes him want to try. Yet, her sudden withdrawal worries him, particularly when she chooses to spend time with her new roommate, Quella Mendez, over him. When Caity’s behavior begins to match that of her wild roommate, Eric wonders if their relationship is as strong as he believed.
 
As Caity struggles to maintain her relationship and do her job, she finds herself pulled further into a dangerous world that could take away everything she holds dear. Will Eric learn the truth in time to save her? Or will the man with the eyes of a snake destroy their perfect romance?

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Melissa Pearl was born in Auckland, New Zealand, but has spent much of her life abroad, living in countries such as Jordan, Cyprus and Pakistan… not to mention a nine month road trip around North America with her husband. “Best. Year. Ever!!” She now lives in China with her husband and two sons. She is a trained elementary teacher, but writing is her passion. Since becoming a full time mother she has had the opportunity to pursue this dream and her debut novel hit the internet in November 2011. Since then she has continued to produce a steady stream of books, ranging in genres from Fantasy to Contemporary Romance. She loves the variety and is excited about the books she has coming up in 2015.

“I am passionate about writing. It stirs a fire in my soul that I never knew I had. I want to be the best writer I can possibly be and transport my readers into another world where they can laugh, cry and fall in love.”

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Cover Reveal: Snake Eyes-Melissa Pearl

Snake Eyes by Melissa PearlSnake Eyes - E-cover small
Snake Eyes (The Mask, #3) by Melissa Pearl
COVER REVEAL
December 30, 2014
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Caitlyn Davis expects her sophomore year at UCLA to be perfect…until she walks into her dorm room to find Special Agent Zoey Kaplan of the FBI waiting for her. In that instant, she knows her idyllic year with new best friends, Nicole and Dale, along with her super hot boyfriend, Eric, is about to fall apart.
 
Having been forced to work with the FBI months earlier, Caity accidentally gave away her special ability to read people’s emotions and know whether they were telling the truth. Now, Kaplan wants Caity to go undercover again for a secret operation that will bring her close to the sadistic Diego Mendez, a man believed to be involved in human trafficking.
 
Eric Shore is not a man who trusts easily. Having been burned multiple times, it’s hard for him to open up completely, but his love for Caity makes him want to try. Yet, her sudden withdrawal worries him, particularly when she chooses to spend time with her new roommate, Quella Mendez, over him. When Caity’s behavior begins to match that of her wild roommate, Eric wonders if their relationship is as strong as he believed.
 
As Caity struggles to maintain her relationship and do her job, she finds herself pulled further into a dangerous world that could take away everything she holds dear. Will Eric learn the truth in time to save her? Or will the man with the eyes of a snake destroy their perfect romance?
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Melissa Pearl was born in Auckland, New Zealand, but has spent much of her life abroad, living in countries such as Jordan, Cyprus and Pakistan… not to mention a nine month road trip around North America with her husband. “Best. Year. Ever!!” She now lives in China with her husband and two sons. She is a trained elementary teacher, but writing is her passion. Since becoming a full time mother she has had the opportunity to pursue this dream and her debut novel hit the internet in November 2011. Since then she has continued to produce a steady stream of books, ranging in genres from Fantasy to Contemporary Romance. She loves the variety and is excited about the books she has coming up in 2015.

Happy reading,
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ARC Review, Excerpt & Giveaway: Beautiful Collision-T.G. Ayer

Title: Beautiful Collision
Author: T.G. Ayer
Release Date: Dec 10, 2014
Published by: Infinite Ink Books
Genre: Contemporary
cooltext1843013784 copy Eighteen year old Gray McAllister is on the run. Leaving her dangerous past behind her is easier said than done, even when she finds herself at last able to forge a new life for herself.
 
But then the planets align and Gray finds herself bumping into super-hot Thane Blackwell. Drooling over him from afar is safe but that’s only until she is forced to look after Thane while he recovers from surgery.
 
Being holed up in her apartment is a bad bad idea. Can Gray control the fire that Thane seems light inside her, or will she give in to her deepest desires. Can Thane achieve his goal without hurting Gray in the process?
The stakes are impossibly high, but love and lies don’t play nice with each other. Will Gray’s past catch up with her first? Or will Thane’s own secrets explode and tear them apart?
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4/5 Stars
***I received this eARC in exchange for an honest review via the author and in participation with this tour.
+++Does contain what could be triggers for some: abuse, assault, violence, human trafficking.
PROS:
  • Human trafficking is a subject that I don’t think is tackled enough, especially given how prevalent it is. Awareness is a powerful thing that can help people recognize signs and dangers to not only themselves but people around them. T.G. Ayer does a great job depicting the clandestine side of things, the clues that are just beneath the surface and occasionally blatant that we sometimes miss. The scenes are not graphic in terms of blood, gore, or sex but they are full of hysteria and poignant emotion. The fear, the screams, the emaciation are all components that when combined piqué the imagination without forcing the reader to face the image head on. 
  • Gray’s flashbacks are traumatic and made of vibrant bursts of memory that will haunt and chill you to the bone. The sheer disgust and sadness Gray feels makes her need to disappear more real. The scene with her brother horrified and disturbed me. Finally getting the whole picture at the end of the flashbacks shows how far Gray has come and how strong she is. Her bravery is astounding. She stands up to the Russian mob. That takes serious guts.
  • Gray is resourceful, resilient and still manages to find beauty in the world despite all the terrible things she’s been through. Her love of art, the way she blossoms in the sunlight, her thirst for knowledge all suggest a deep inner beauty and big heart. On top of that Gray is fierce. She is always on guard, looking over her shoulder, an expert at disguise and has mean aim. She always hits her target. All Gray wants is to be free, to not have to worry, and live a normal life but she recognizes that that’s not the hand she’s been dealt. I appreciated that Gray was a realist.
  • Thane is adorable. He’s playful, warm, and knows how to invade space in that super sexy crowding way. He’s sarcastic, lovable, and the way he looks at Gray will make you melt into a puddle of lust. 
  • Together, Thane and Gray are a force of nature. Their interactions are made of longing, angst, and naughty thoughts. They’re hot and heavy. The make out scenes are HOT HOT HOT. 
CONS:
  • Beautiful Collision is told from three perspectives that ultimately amount to two. This was a little confusing. 
  • Some parts were fairly predictable and took away from the suspense. 
  • It took forever for Gray to ask Thane about his mysterious B&E. For someone who is so suspicious and on the run, in mortal peril, she drops her guard for some random guy she met a few days prior because she feels guilty and he makes her hot and bothered? It doesn’t add up. I spent several sections silently fuming and paranoid, wondering when she was going to wise up. When she does get the explanation, that she doesn’t question for some odd reason, she decides to make out with him instead? Bizarre and a break from her character. 
cooltext1844526808 copyChapter 2

Watcher

Despite the dark glasses, I blink against the sunlight as it stings my skin. But I keep my eyes firmly on my mark. The girl is easy to track. Inexperienced. Naive. Thinks she isn’t being followed. It’s there in the false confidence of the way she walks, the way she holds her shoulders. Maybe it’s because I’m good at my job. Good enough that my target will never know how long I’ve tracked them, or how much time I spent watching them. I’m hoping it’s because I’m better than most at my job. Otherwise the girl is a danger to herself.

I’m standing beneath a tree, amidst the bustle of midday sidewalk traffic, the shadows of the branches and sparse leaves providing meager cover in the baking sun. I’m watching as Sara Roshkov hurries across the busy road toward the entrance to the San Francisco Public Library. I have little idea what she’s come to the library for, which makes me more than curious. I can’t imagine she’d be loaning out a book; not now, when her life is in such turmoil. That leaves the option I don’t like – meeting someone. The thought spurs me to move and I wait only until she’d reaches the top step before I jog across Larkin and enter the building after her. The cool air is a shock against my sweat-covered skin and I’m momentarily blinded going from bright sun to shaded interior. I keep my sunglasses on, habit and protection.

She’s hurrying up the marble stairs and I pause to watch her, pretending to admire the high, glass ceiling of the atrium. I follow her up the stairs and watch her enter General Fiction. My shoes don’t make any sound on the stairs and I know she has no idea she’s being followed. Her hair is short and black today, a wig she’s been using since she arrived in San Francisco. She keeps her neck straight and stiff. Seems she knows not to appear as if she’s looking over her shoulder. I’m not sure what she’s learned from her father but she sure has to learn a lot more about running and hiding so the likes of me won’t find her. I’ve been tracking her for a while now and I feel a pull of something as I watch her. There is a fragile air to her and she’s lost weight, the hollows of her cheeks proof that life on the run doesn’t exactly involve luxuries like three square meals a day. And Sara Roshkov is used to a life of luxury considering the family she belongs to.

I follow, grabbing a book from the bestseller shelf beside me, keeping sufficient distance between us that she’d see nothing suspicious should she turn around. What she would see is a young guy, black jeans, black tee, black sneakers, much like her own dark clothing. The hoodie I’m wearing is equally nondescript, the ball cap plain too. Nothing I wore would stand out in a person’s memory should they spot me. My black hair is short, the style efficient and easy to maintain. Again nothing to remember me by.

She sneaks a look over her shoulder as she enters an aisle up ahead but her eyes graze my face and her gaze seeks further beyond me. I flip through the book and then enter the aisle next to her. She’s facing me and I can watch her through the stacks without her seeing me. She’s already halfway down her row, finger running along the covers as she searches for her book. It feels a little voyeuristic but hell, the full scope of my job is inherently voyeuristic.

I keep my attention on her as her finger stops on one particular book. Her expression is satisfied; she’s found the book she wants but before she takes it off the shelf her eyes cloud, the gray darkening to dark metal; a moment of doubt that shows on her face as if she battles the monsters within. As much as I can read people, their eyes, their body language, it’s what goes on inside their heads that eludes even the best of us. Nobody can train you for that. She straightens her back and then tilts the book toward her. taking it down from the shelf with extra care. She flips to the back of the book and slowly the pieces fall into place.

Someone has left something for her in that particular book. There are a number of possibilities but it’s clear that someone is helping her. Is it someone within her family? Roshkov had always kept his personal life totally private. Not that our surveillance hadn’t picked up on his many mistresses or his other extracurricular activities. The man was involved in everything from human trafficking to drug-running. No wonder his wife, having left for St. Petersburg a year ago, is still to return. Something is rotten in the Roshkov paradise perhaps?

Now, as I study his daughter I wonder if her mother is the wife in Russia or is she the offspring of one of Roshkov many affairs? There is too much we still need to know about Sara and perhaps we will get our break soon. One thing I do know is that she has a heart, that there is a goodness in her. There is no way for me to tell what the book hides and any attempt to find out will likely jeopardize the mission. I could pass her by and steal the book from her without her even realizing it happened. But that won’t help the case. She has what she wants, so now she heads out, and her shoulders relax a little. She thinks the coast is clear. I allow her that misconception.

I hang back as she leaves the library, keeping my distance as she exits the building and heads back into the sunshine. I’m her shadow as she hurries to a fast food joint where she buys a couple burgers and then keeps moving. I follow, my awareness turned on to full blast. She heads further west, into the Tenderloin area of San Francisco. It didn’t surprise me that she’d chosen one of the most dangerous parts of the city to hide out in. What does surprise me is that she’s had the guts to stay there this long, hiding among the homeless and the drug dealers. People get killed every night in this area and so far she’s survived. If anything she is resourceful.

I’ve watched the building in which she’d found a place to sleep, cased the place once when she’d left for a soup kitchen a few blocks away. Other than that, I just watch and report back on her activities. Despite my impatience that we were too slow in getting info, despite my need for us to reacher the next level of this investigation in which we take Roshkov down, despite all my personal feeling I must remain clearheaded, keep my head in the game. Now I watch her enter the deserted building as I lean against a light pole and pretend to light a cigarette. I hear the buzz in my earwig that indicates someone is being patched through.

“Eagle, come in, over.” I press the button on the comms.

“Eagle here, over.”

My eyes don’t move from the mark. “This is HQ, do you have a situation report, over.”

“All quiet here, over.”

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I have been a writer from the time I was old enough to recognize that reading was a doorway into my imagination. Poetry was my first foray into the art of the written word. Books were my best friends, my escape, my haven. I am essentially a recluse but this part of my personality is impossible to practice given I have two teenage daughters, who are actually my friends, my tea-makers, my confidantes… I am blessed with a husband who has left me for golf. It’s a fair trade as I have left him for writing. We are both passionate supporters of each others loves – it works wonderfully… My heart is currently broken in two. One half resides in South Africa where my old roots still remain, and my heart still longs for the endless beaches and the smell of moist soil after a summer downpour. My love for Ma Afrika will never fade. The other half of me has been transplanted to the Land of the Long White Cloud. The land of the Taniwha, beautiful Maraes, and volcanoes. The land of green, pure beauty that truly inspires. And because I am so torn between these two lands – I shall forever remain cross-eyed.

I love talking to my readers so email me if you have any questions or even if you just want to chat…
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