Resisting Mateo

3/5 These chicks have lost it, stars.

After looking at other reviews it’s clear to me, I’m reading this book wrong.
Everyone else sees Mateo this way:

I see Mateo this way:

Mateo is sick and twisted. I’m no psychology major, but there is something seriously wrong and diagnosable about the way he tests people’s loyalty. Maybe he got torture tips from the guy from Saw?

Of course, the women are just as culpable for putting up with it. It’s like a version of Jacob, Leah, and Rachel from the bible. Jacob loves Rachel more, but she has no kids. Leah is unloved but gets all the babies, while Mia *literally* gets all the meat. Maybe Meg is an opportunist who is fine as long as she can enjoy the Mafioso lifestyle. But what good are nice things when you’re basically a prisoner?

Mia is another story. She has a special type of Stockholm Syndrome. No spoilers, but at the end, her reaction is crazy. After all he put her through she’s like:

She’s grateful??? She hopes she’s worth it??? Nothing he could do could ever stop her from loving him??? From me he would have gotten a knuckle sandwich and this:

I have to give the author credit, though. She has written an engaging story and at this point I’m too far in. I have to see what kind of kooky, wacky things Mateo pulls in the next book and how far Mia and Meg will debase themselves for him.

Family Ties by Sam Mariano.

3.75/4 stars

Continuing my buddy read with the excellent B. Truly. You can read her review here

Wow! Where to start… I really loved the first half of this book. Being in Sal’s head was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed Fran too. But then we got to that pesky Mia/Vince/Mateo triangle.

Why does every girl in this book whose name begins with an M fall in love with Mateo? IDK. What I do know is that Fran has a split personality. In book one she clearly preferred Vince over Mateo. And let’s not forget that Fran is pushing Mia into the arms of her Mateo–her rapist. Let that sink in. Now she’s trying to break up Vince and Mia so Mateo can have her. Mia and Fran are talking (hypothetically of course) about breaking up Mateo and “the maid”. Mia thinks it would be wrong and that Mateo is unavailable. Fran’s all for it. Not once does anyone consider that Mia already has a boyfriend. Whoopsie?

Vince, here’s your sign:

Fran’s matchmaking continues and this was hard for me to grasp. While she’s planning her wedding, at the rehearsal dinner, and at the reception, were her thoughts consumed with her beloved Sal? Heck no. She was scheming to get Mateo and Mia together. That is Abby Normal.

And Meg is either truly stupid, has not a single jealous bone in her body, or is playing 4D chess with everyone. I suspect the latter.

Anyway, I must be brave because I am continuing on. Francesca, knock it off.

Once Burned by Sam Mariano

5/5 Adrian is my favorite mobster stars.

This is my favorite book in the series so far. I love being in Adrian’s head. I love Elise. I love them together. What can I say, I just love this book!

Unpopular opinion time: Adrian is the man I wish Mateo could be.

I get why Adrian did what he did to save Elise. I see his logic in the hierarchy of keeping certain people in power. Even his kills I understand. He is more loyal to Mateo than Mateo will ever be to him.

Favorite quote:

What kind of man would let his daughter go through a thing like that to save his own skin? You’d have to kill me twice to put my daughter through that kind of shit–and even then, my ghost would probably come for you.

After reading the additional scene, I’m getting a sick feeling in my stomach. Mia, don’t do anything stupid.

Surviving Mateo by Sam Mariano

4/5 I think you need to get your head examined stars.

This is another buddy read with my friend B. Truly. You can read her review here.

I must say, I am very conflicted with this story. I love the plot, and I am a plot girl, so if I don’t love the characters, it’s not the end of the world. And it’s not so much that I don’t like Meg or Mia. It’s more like I can’t relate to them because I would never in a million years react the way they do.

*************************************Spoilers********************************************************

I will try to minimize spoilers, but there will probably be some. When Mateo finds out Meg is trying to kill him, he threatens her daughter by putting her in a crate and dousing it with what she believes to be gasoline. She strikes a bargain with him to save her daughter from a fiery death. She will be his maid/concubine. I am totally on board and would do the same thing.

But then she develops feelings for him. This monster terrorized your daughter. Even if she wasn’t scared to begin with, she would get that way pretty fast when she sees her mother screaming and crying. Do what you gotta do, fake it for your daughter, I get it. But.Do.Not.Fall.In.Love. If I read a Tinder profile that said something like “Sexy mob boss. Will threaten your offspring, put you in a dungeon, and will possibly kill you if you betray him”, I’m pretty sure that would be a deal breaker for me.

If Mia is naïve and too trusting, then Meg just isn’t very bright. When Mateo thinks Meg is cheating she apologizes that he had to read text messages she never wrote. She tries to comfort him even when he insults her. Heck, by the end of her time in the dungeon I’m beginning to believe she cheated on him, too.

Like I said, I would do what I needed to do to keep my daughter safe, but I wouldn’t ever make him feel good for insulting me. I’d be the ice queen around him. I would deny, deny, deny, and never admit to something I didn’t do. I would definitely not be welcoming him into my arms or feel pity for him. He’s the one who is in the wrong.

It was the ending of this book that saved it for me. While I can’t wrap my head around Meg’s thought processes, I am interested in what happens next. It’s definitely going to be interesting.

Also, I really like the cover models. I may have seen them somewhere before…

Accidental Witness by Sam Mariano

4/5 Mind your business and don’t mess with the mob stars.
My great friend B. Truly and I will be doing a buddy read of this series.

Mia sees something she shouldn’t have. Worse yet, Vince, a mob family member knows what she saw. He doesn’t want to kill her, but he is interested in her. They fall in love. Happily ever after–Not.

Vince’s cousin, Mateo Morelli, is head of the crime family. Everybody (and I mean everybody) warns Mia that there is no way Mateo will let her live once he finds out what she saw. And he will find out. Mateo knows everything. So, Vince breaks up with her, hoping to spare her. Mia is heartbroken.
But it is all for naught. Mateo finds out anyway, takes her to his home, and points a gun to her head. He agrees to let her live, as long as Vince still wants her, but she has to move into his house, and for all intents and purposes, becomes Mateo’s mafia bride.

I won’t spoil the rest of the story, but I’ll just say that Mateo is just as bad if not worse than everyone warned Mia. He is all about controlling his friends and family, and if you want to live, you’d better be loyal to him. Period. The end. Again, everyone warns Mia, especially Vince, but she thinks she can play nice and befriend the hardened mob man. Boy, is she wrong.

The plot of this book was amazing. I have mixed feelings about some of the characters. Some of Mia’s actions did bother me. Like why didn’t you call the cops anonymously to report the fire next door? At the time you didn’t realize they were already dead. I thought Mia was way too naïve. (Hasn’t she seen the Godfather or Goodfellas?) I wanted to smack some sense in her.

However, even if she was Stephen Hawkings, she never could have outwitted Mateo, and he never would have let her go. So I guess what I’m saying is, it really didn’t matter that she was incredibly naïve and trusting.

I also don’t like Mateo–like at all. He’s a garbage human. Again, no spoilers, but what he did to Mia was so terrible, I don’t see how she can possibly like him in any way, shape, or form. From what B. tells me, I will start liking him in the following books. I hope he grows on me. From what B. tells me, he probably will.

Temptation Trials Part II by B. Truly

5/5 Actions have consequences stars
*********************This review contains spoilers for book one***********************

The Temptation Trials are over. The contestants now have to make their choices known at the Soul-bound Trial and attend the Temptation Ball. That should be easy, right? Not.

The regime packs the original couples and the other contestants they cheated with onto a cruise ship for the trip home because that’s the kind of people they are.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what happens next:

Somehow, Cali and Stef have to keep things cordial with their original boyfriends and the new guys because they still have to figure out what the big bad Eminence is up to.

The Soul-bound trial confirms their worst suspicions: It was never their choice to make. After the weirdness with Eminence’s strange book, they decide to talk to some priests who know more than they do. What they find out is bad, like judgement-day-type bad.

Yep, it’s going down. It’s all going down at the Temptation ball. The regime pulls out all the stops to humiliate the contestants in the worst possible way. Imagine being televised sitting at the table with your lover and your boyfriend watching a a big screen flaunting your infidelity to the world. But Cali, Stef, and the guys have to endure it if they have any hope of taking down the evil twisted Eminence.

It all goes to hell in a hand basket pretty fast. I won’t spoil the ending, but some shocking things happen.

Probably what I liked the best is the questions that Stef asked afterward. Are the Temptation relationships destined to fail because His Highest was warped and evil? Or did it all work for good for God’s purpose? Maybe Eminence was the ultimate match-maker.

Burned by Karen Marie Moning

4/5 stars.

I love this series. The mythology of the story and the world building are fantastic. So is the writing. Ms. Moning sure can craft a page-turning story. Having said that, Burned is my least favorite in the series so far.

*************************************Spoilers*********************************************

It’s not that this story wasn’t as gripping as the others; it’s that the characters did things I didn’t like or I thought they were inconsistent with their characters. It starts in the very Prelude. It is a flashback to Darkfever from Barrons POV. He goes to the hotel to try to get Mac to leave Dublin. In the original, he threatens Mac and leaves. In Burned, they engage in wild sexcapades all night long. Mac feels guilty and regrets it, so Barrons uses Voice to wipe her memory. I absolutely hated that the story was changed. I much prefer Barrons and Mac’s first time to be when she is Pri-Ya in the beginning of book four. This version seems contrived, more like the author wanted to go in a different direction than she actually omitted the “truth” in Darkfever. In Burned, Mac gets her memory back, she’s angry at Barrons, but it goes on a bit long and even she admits she’s acting stupid about it. The other part of the story that I didn’t like that Lor was faking Pri-Ya and Mac went along with it. I thought it would be so much more interesting if the Unseelie Princess was able to turn one of the Nine Pri-Ya and getting him to come back to himself.

I did like the parts with Jada Making her an alternate version of Dani who has aged five years in the Silvers. Going after Christian to save him from the Crimson Hag was necessary. I’m curious as to how the black holes will factor into this world AWC. I want to learn who this mistress of the King is and how she factors into the story. I have some theories about it, but I’ll have to keep reading to see if I’m right.

That ending. My goodness! I have to start Feverborn right away.

Iced by Karen Marie Moning (Fever #6)

5/5 Hoar Frost King stars

I put off reading this for a long time. I think I was sad that things were pretty much shorn up with Barrons and Mac’s story, and I wasn’t ready to let go. Also, I wasn’t sure I wanted to read a story so Danicentric.

I was wrong on all counts. I loved being in Dani’s head. She’s fearless, despite her young age. It’s hard not to love her zest for life and adventure. She’d rather risk her life, face death head-on, than live to old age in safety and boredom.

Ryodan is like Barrons. I get that. Hard to know. Still, he’s not fooling anyone. He cares about what happens to Dani. Even when she makes him so mad he threatens to break her legs.

Dancer is delightful. I hope he is in more of the coming stories.

Christian is the character I feel most sorry for. He has no control over the fact that he’s turning into a monster. He can’t help it. But he’s still not pleasant to be around. He’s lost the most in this post AWC world.

On to the next book. Hopefully, Dani and Mac get their stuff sorted.

Loving Kalvin by Siobhan Davis

5/5 Forgiveness Stars

The author gifted me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This is my favorite Kennedy book of the series. I am quite shocked that it is considering how things were left between Kal and Lana in the Kyler books. I don’t want to get all spoilery so I will just say this: What Lana did to Kal in a prior book was an absolute deal breaker for me. If I were Kal, I might be able to forgive her to give myself some peace, but I would never want anything to do with her again.

There is no OTT drama in this one, and I enjoyed it more because of it. Kal sees all the pain he caused Lana and is willing to fight for her love. Lana beats herself up enough so that I don’t feel the need to do so. I still don’t like what she did, but I found myself cheering for this couple in spite of it. Then, in this book, she did another beyond horrible thing to him. Again, no spoilers. With these two betrayals, if I were Kal, I’d be looking into MGTOW.

At least Lana has to take some heat for her poor decisions. I’m glad the author wrote that in. It would have been harder to overlook and believe if she hadn’t. Kal’s reaction was totally believable too. Instead of storming in, he took a day to calm down and think things through. It didn’t stop him from telling her the truth though.
Sorry is far too easy a word for her to say. Sorry cannot even begin to compensate for how she’s treated me this time.

If he had folded, and told her all was forgiven, I probably would have thrown my Kindle across the room. Instead, this:
“I came to UF to fight for a second chance. To prove I could be the man you deserved, but things have changed. Now you need to prove you’re the woman I know you to be, because the Lana I knew didn’t lie, and she sure as hell didn’t allow herself to be manipulated into doing things she wasn’t comfortable with… But you’re not her, and I can’t believe in you, can’t trust you, not when I know what you’re capable of. And without that, there is no us.”

At this point I was fist pumping the air. Kal absolutely needed to step away and focus on himself and his responsibilities. He couldn’t worry about Lana’s feelings. She sure as hell didn’t worry about his. If the book had ended here, I would have been fine.

But it didn’t. No spoilers, but I did like the ending.

Barbarian’s Tease

4/5 Pink Hair stars

I love this cover. It’s one of my favorites. But Brooke–not so much. I didn’t like how she called Taushen names and got mad at him for a really stupid reason, IMO. Taushen is naïve and unsure. Brooke is the one with the power in the situation. I wished she’d been more empathetic at the start. As the story progressed, I started to like Brooke more. I still think she should not have played hard to get, then want to switch it around. Poor Taushen! She should know Barbarian’s don’t hit it and quit it.

With that ending, I’m kind of wondering if Ruby meant something different by Barbarian’s Tease.