Review: Stone Cold Touch

Title: Stone Cold Touch (The Dark Elements #2) 17455815

Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout

Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Publication Date: October 21, 2014

Summary: Every touch has its price

Layla Shaw is trying to pick up the pieces of her shattered life—no easy task for a seventeen-year-old who’s pretty sure things can’t get worse. Her impossibly gorgeous best friend, Zayne, is forever off-limits thanks to the mysterious powers of her soul-stealing kiss. The Warden clan that has always protected her is suddenly keeping dangerous secrets. And she can barely think about Roth, the wickedly hot demon prince who understood her in ways no one else could.

But sometimes rock bottom is only the beginning. Because suddenly Layla’s powers begin to evolve, and she’s offered a tantalizing taste of what has always been forbidden. Then, when she least expects it, Roth returns, bringing news that could change her world forever. She’s finally getting what she always wanted, but with hell literally breaking loose and the body count adding up, the price may be higher than Layla is willing to pay…

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I really didn’t think it was possible, but I think I loved this one just as much as the first book, White Hot Kiss. I mean, I don’t know how Jennifer L. Armentrout did it, but damn, I didn’t put this book down once.

So at the end of the first book, Roth had been sent to hell, Layla could change into a weird gargoyle/demon mix, and the bad guy was stopped, only after he broke a few of Lilith’s chains though. So we start off this book with Layla missing Roth, thinking he must not be coming back, and Zayne and her are kind of becoming closer. Then *poof*, Roth appears out of no where, with a warning that a Lilin has been made, and a cold-as-ice attitude towards Layla. On top of that, Layla’s powers are changing and Zayne can’t seem to keep his big grabby paws off of her.

The main thing that I really loved about about this book was that the plot was so interesting and really kept my attention. In the first book, I was mostly focused on the romance between Roth and Layla, but in this one, the mystery was what kept me on my toes most of the time. That might have been though because this book was a lot more about Zayne and the dreaded love triangle. But we’ll get to that in a minute. The mystery was intriguing and I thought I knew what was going on, but then there was a big twist and I was wrong and my mind was blown. I love a mystery that really keeps me guessing and is unexpected. Also, there were so many kick-ass parts in this book, mostly centered around Roth being a scary demon boy, and I loved it. Is it weird that I find Roth extra attractive when he’s ripping out people’s spines and shoving guns into their guts? *Swoon*

Layla had a really rough time in this book. Weird things start happening when she’s around and suddenly none of the Wardens, except Zayne, trust her. Even Abbott has it out for her. And it was actually really kind of sad seeing Layla still not being accepted by the man she considers her father, and knowing that they all think she is evil. You see it start to really get to her when even she starts to doubt herself. But with that, she also starts to question whether the bad side of her is really all that bad. Luckily though, she has two hunky boys trying to seduce her, so I’m sure that kept her distracted a lot of the time.

So of course, we have our love triangle. The love triangle worked a lot better for me in the last book because she was only really having a romance with Roth, she was just confused because she had been in love with Zayne forever. In this book though, she is kind of going full steam ahead with both boys and that frustrated me. Zayne is definitely the main boy focus through a big part of this book, and while I did enjoy their history and have to admit he isn’t the worst guy ever, he isn’t Roth. Which was something Layla had problems with too, constantly thinking about Roth when she was with Zayne, which should have been a huge sign to her. Not to mention, she should realize who the right choice is. I’m not saying that because I’m totally Team Roth, I’m saying it because of how each boy treats her. Roth lets her stand up for herself, and while he’s protective, he never holds her back. He also loved both sides of her and tries to help her realize that she demon half isn’t evil because that’s her choice. But Zayne constantly focuses on the fact that she is half Warden, which in his mind basically cancels out the demon half. He is too protective and doesn’t seem to think she is capable of taking care of herself. I think it’s obvious who she would be happier with. So this was the main thing I had a problem with during the book, and while it made for some funny scenes between Zayne and Roth, I found myself wanted to beat Layla over the head with a car for being such stupid about the whole situation.

With that, I also hated how stupid she was being about Roth in general. When she finally see him again and he is so cold to her, pushing her away, she immediately does the typical teenage girl thing and get’s a pitiful and sad, thinking she meant nothing to him and he was using her all the time, blah, blah, blah. I mean, it is literally a fact of life that when a dude does that to you, he is trying to protect you from something. Duh. Everyone knows that and it drives me beyond insane that for some reasons, fictional girls don’t understand that. Yes, it hurts when boys say mean things and push you away. Suck it up and realize that he obviously madly in love with you and must have a really good reason for doing it! UGH! Okay, rant over.

Obviously, I really enjoyed this book. Big surprise, I’m sure. The plot kept me guessing and really manages to be unpredictable, which is something I don’t say a lot with YA books. Although there wasn’t as much Roth time in this book, it just made the scenes with him so much better. As far as the love triangle went, it was easy to just ignore it most of the time and focus on other things, like the mystery and Roth’s tongue piercing, but at the end of the book, it kind of felt like a decision had been made, so hopefully it won’t be present in the last one. Full of sexy boys, snarky come-backs, bad-ass fights, and the occasional cheesy romantic comment, this book made me giggle and squeal and hold my breathe all the way to the end.

RATING: 

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Review: White Hot Kiss

Title: White Hot Kiss (The Dark Elements #1) 18006096

Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout

Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Publication Date: February 25, 2014

Summary: Seventeen-year-old Layla just wants to be normal. But with a kiss that kills anything with a soul, she’s anything but normal. Half demon, half gargoyle, Layla has abilities no one else possesses.

Raised among the Wardens—a race of gargoyles tasked with hunting demons and keeping humanity safe—Layla tries to fit in, but that means hiding her own dark side from those she loves the most. Especially Zayne, the swoon-worthy, incredibly gorgeous and completely off-limits Warden she’s crushed on since forever.

Then she meets Roth—a tattooed, sinfully hot demon who claims to know all her secrets. Layla knows she should stay away, but she’s not sure she wants to—especially when that whole no-kissing thing isn’t an issue, considering Roth has no soul.

But when Layla discovers she’s the reason for the violent demon uprising, trusting Roth could not only ruin her chances with Zayne…it could brand her a traitor to her family. Worse yet, it could become a one-way ticket to the end of the world.

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This was my first time ever reading a Jennifer L. Armentrout book, but I’d heard a lot about her and her steamy smooching scenes and hunky men. Since I was in the mood for some romance and swoony guys, I was definitely excited to finally get my hands on this book.

Upon finding it waiting for me at the library, my first thought was all about how ridiculous the cover looked. That cover is the kind that will get you relentlessly teased. So when I got home, I raced up to my room like I was trying to smuggle in drugs or something. There’s no shame in reading a book like this but I do get a little embarrassed when some grandma is giving me the stink eye because I’m reading a book called White Hot Kiss with two people almost making out on the cover. We all know what she’s thinking about me. Is it too much to ask that steamy romance books try to look at little more inconspicuous? I mean, really?

So at the start of the book, we get introduced to Layla, girl who is basically normal except for the fact she is absolutely gorgeous and is half Warden and half Demon. And she can see people’s auras. And suck out souls by kissing people. But besides that, mostly normal. Wardens, by the way, are gargoyles. But not normal gargoyles, these ones look like people until they turn into stone, and protect humans from demons. Cool stuff. Anyways, back to Layla. She goes around and “tags” demons so the Wardens can later come find them and send them back to hell. But the demon she follows ends up being a big baddie, and for some reason he seems to be looking for her specifically.  She is cornered, possibly about to die, when suddenly, out of the shadows appears… a smoking hot dude. And I mean, hot. 

It’s at this point we are introduced to Roth, the smoking hot dude, a total bad boy, covered in tattoos with a deliciously snarky mouth, who just so happens to be a demon. A very powerful demon. He saves Layla, who runs for her life, ending up back at home. She lives with the Wardens, including the also hot and sexy Zayne who she has been madly in love with for years and looks at her as nothing more than a little sister. So we have the two different but irresistible boys, the demons trying to track down Layla, and that’s our book.

In case you couldn’t guess, this book has one big fat love triangle. And you know how much I love a good love triangle *gags*. However, I have to admit that as far as love triangles go, this might be one of the least horrible ones I’ve read. I only say this because I find it all so understandable. Layla has never been accepted with the Wardens, she has always felt alone, so I find it totally likely that she attached herself to Zayne, the one boy who didn’t treat her like a monster. I also find it very likely that when a new guy come into her life, one who likes her for her good and bad side, she is going to be interested in him. The fact that Roth is probably the sexiest thing to ever walk into her life might have something to do with it too. And who can really blame her? I’d be all over him in a hot second.

So I’m sure to the surprise of no one, I’m totally in love with Roth. Who doesn’t love a sexy, snarky demon boy? I like my boys bad and sarcastic and Roth is rocking both qualities to an extreme. I also love that he just totally has no shame. If Layla is getting all swoony over him, he totally calls her out on it then basks in her mortification. His confidence is sexy. I also like that there wasn’t really a love at first sight thing going on, it was definitely more lust and everyone knew it. Roth made me giggle and blush and squeal and maybe drool just a teeny bit, and under that sexy, scrumptious, tattooed exterior, we all know he has a big heart of gold.

With that, I really like how this book is kind of pushing the young adult romance aspects a little into adult. There are some really sexy steamy parts, nothing overly graphic, but definitely not for a younger audience. And I like how Layla doesn’t love Roth or anything at first, she just feels lust for him. Not everything has to be the cliche love at first sight, and I like that Jennifer L. Armentrout was really rocking that in this book. I also love that she was getting them into a bit more mature scenarios because I find that more realistic. These are hormonal teenagers dealing with a lot of sexual tension. When they finally get their hands on each other, there’s going to be a bit of groping and rolling around in bed and that’s okay because that’s how it actually goes in real life.

When it came to Layla, I was definitely a bit nervous at first. She was doing the whole “in denial about being gorgeous” thing that makes me super annoyed. But I actually grew to like her because of what a strong character she was. She grew up without feeling like she had a place, and not in the typical angst-ridden teenage girl sort of way. All of the Wardens either hate her, want to kill her, or ignore her, so she never really felt loved or like she fit in. So it was great seeing her kind of let lose and be adventurous and rebellious through this book, and to start to find things she liked about herself. I liked that although she had to rescued a few times, she could still hold her own and had her own set of skills or talents to bring to the playing field.

As far as the plot goes, I was really interested in all of the demon and Warden stuff. I loved learning about the different sorts of demons, as well as seeing a lot more from a demon’s perspective. Learning about Layla’s abilities and her past was so interesting and surprising at the same time, I love all of the twists thrown in. I will admit, sometimes it felt like the plot was taking the backseat because of the romance, but you have to accept that if you’re going to read this book and I never had a problem with it. And the romance never felt out of sync with the rest of the story, the whole thing flowed together really well.  Sure, it was a little cliche and cheesy sometimes, but it still made me blush and giggle a bunch. And the action scenes we did get were really badass and awesome. Let’s just say that at some point, someone’s spine got ripped out and I was literally cheering like a crazy woman.

Obviously, I really really loved this book. I can talk about the technical flaws it had, but really, you can’t care about that if you’re going to read this book. You’re going to read this book if you want some sexy romance, ridiculously drool worthy guys, ass kicking, snarky comebacks, and laugh out loud moments. White Hot Kiss is basically the equivalent of book eye candy and I was not complaining. I can’t not give this book 5/5 after how much fun I had reading it.

RATING: 

Review: Sweet Peril

Title: Sweet Peril (The Sweet Trilogy #2) 15768191

Author: Wendy Higgins

Publisher: HarperTeen

Publication Date: April 30, 2013

Summary: Anna Whitt, the daughter of a guardian angel and a demon, promised herself she’d never do the work of her father—polluting souls. She’d been naive to make such a vow. She’d been naive about a lot of things.

Haunted by demon whisperers, Anna does whatever she can to survive, even if it means embracing her dark side and earning an unwanted reputation as her school’s party girl. Her life has never looked more bleak. And all the while there’s Kaidan Rowe, son of the Duke of Lust, plaguing her heart and mind.

When an unexpected lost message from the angels surfaces, Anna finds herself traveling the globe with Kopano, son of Wrath, in an attempt to gain support of fellow Nephilim and give them hope for the first time. It soon becomes clear that whatever freedoms Anna and the rest of the Neph are hoping to win will not be gained without a fight. Until then, Anna and Kaidan must put aside the issues between them, overcome the steamiest of temptations yet, and face the ultimate question: is loving someone worth risking their life?

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That’s right you guys, book two of The Sweet Trilogy. More of angel Anna and her relentless pursuit of Kai, the smoldering British lust bomb. More of that super awkward love triangle thing going on between the two of them and poor Kopano. More jealousy and cheating and all that wonderful high school drama that we’ve all come to love. Woo hoo.

In some ways, I actually liked this book more than Sweet Evil, and in some ways I liked it less. Something that I did like was seeing Anna kind of coming out of her shell a little bit. Don’t get me wrong, she was still sweet little Anna on the inside, but she was a bit more confident and sassy and fun on the outside and I liked that. In the first book, it didn’t seem like she was ever going to go through any sort of personal growth, but in this book, we at least get little hints of it. She still has internal struggles about being forced to do these things that she doesn’t want to do, being a party girl and drinking so much, but a small part of her still enjoys it and she doesn’t quite know how to handle that.

Another thing that I liked was seeing more of the other Nephilim. Anna and Kopano are going on a sort of quest around the world to try and gather allies in a fight that they know is coming, due to Anna potentially being some savior in an ancient prophecy. Yes, it is as cliche as it sounds. But it was cool to finally meet some new kids and see exactly how their powers work and how they use them to do naughty things. We get introduced to a daughter of the Duke of Hatred, which was really interesting and kind of sad to see how she used herself to make men hate her, then allowed herself to be punished for it. She was a really interesting character because she seemed entirely hopeless and resigned to her fate. We also get to spend a bit more time with Kopano, who I really liked but we didn’t get to see much of him in the last book, so it was interesting to see the contrast between him, a Nephilim who doesn’t have to work and is basically sin-free, and the other kids who are forced to do their parent’s work.

The main problem I had in this book was that there was the dreaded love triangle of death. As in, it kills any books it’s present in. The whole situation was pretty ridiculous just because everyone was beyond stupid and annoying. Kai would ignore Anna for months, tell Kopano to go for Anna because he doesn’t care, then get all jealous and bang other girls in revenge once Anna and Kopano kiss. Then innocent little Anna would get all smoochy with poor Kopano, knowing that she doesn’t like him in that way, then get all butt hurt when Kai turns to other girls to fill the gaping Anna-shaped hole in his heart. The only one that’s really not at fault is Kopano, who in turn gets the short end of the stick by having his friend mad at him and the girl he wants rejecting him. It’s all so aggravating.

I have to say though, something that I really like about these books is that the author isn’t afraid to talk about sex. These are YA books and most of what I read seem to stay within smooching and maybe a little tentative touching, or just very very implied sex. Which is totally fine, since it’s YA. But I really like that this author is not afraid to have teenagers talking about their sex lives, making sexual jokes, and other realistic things that peverted young men would talk about. And I like that Anna and Kai have to struggle with not having sex, since they are obviously attracted to each other and would go a little further than kissing. I guess I just admire Wendy Higgins by not really caring and writing some super steamy make out scenes where things are constantly on the edge of going to the next step.

As far as the plot went in this book, I found it more engaging than the first one, just because I was very intrigued by the other Nephilim that Anna and Kopano were trying to find. While I found the whole prophecy thing to be cliche, I am interested to see how everything goes down. I like it just because the idea that these kids are kind of screwed no matter what happens, since they are going to hell when they die no matter what, it seems so hopeless and kind of sad. But I like seeing them finding hope that they can be free of their parents and at least have a life worth living before they go to hell. While I’m not a huge fan of these books in general, I do really like that concept because it’s both bleak and hopeful at the same time.

I obviously enjoyed this book a bit more than the first one, so I have high hopes for Sweet Reckoning. And not to spoil anything, but I found the ending of this one to be ten times better than the last one, just because some things were resolved. I will say though, if there’s magically some more hot and cold crap going on in the next book between Anna and Kai, I’m going to pitch a fit. Sweet Peril was still and fun, easy read, but I enjoyed the darker undertones and new characters we got introduced to, and I’m excited to see the part everyone plays in the next book.

RATING: 

Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Daughter of Smoke & Bone (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #1)Title: Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #1)

Author: Laini Taylor

Publication Date: September 27, 2011

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Summary: Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”, she speaks many languages – not all of them human – and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

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I kept putting this book off for years. Years of my life that now feel wasted. This book was gorgeous. Everything about this book, the writing, the characters, the world, it all felt so vibrant and alive.  I almost feel like I’ve had the wind knocked out of me, I’m not sure how to handle this.

So it starts off with this girl named Karou, who is totally awesome. I seriously needed this after the last few books I read and their pathetic examples of “strong female characters”. She is bad ass and spiteful and mischievous and smart and loyal and she felt so real. She lives in Prague and runs errands for Brimstone, a demon Chimaera thing who is basically the only father figure she has, who pays for teeth with wishes. She knows nothing about who she is or where she came from, only that she loves her surrogate family of demon things. But what she doesn’t know is that there is a war going on, basically a war between angels and demons and she has something to do with it.

I don’t even know where to start. I loved the whole soul and body concept on the Chimaera’s side, and beauty of the beast and human bodies, and the way that the author wrote so I could see them in my mind, terrifying but beautiful. I loved the concept of wishes, how they worked and what Karou used them on. I loved both worlds and the mythology created for the two, though we saw more of the Chimaera one, and the differences between the two races. They knew so little about each other, but assumed that the other was horrible and monstrous and set about destroying each other. At the end, when a certain character was talking, (don’t want to give any spoilers) she whispered, “We dreamed together of the world remade.” My poor heart couldn’t handle it. When you get to this part in the book, you’ll know what I’m talking about and you will feel my pain. That once sentence is just filled with such hope and longing, with sadness and defeat. That’s basically all this book was. Those fours things bundled into a big ball of feels.

One of the things I loved most about Karou was that she wasn’t really anyone super special in this book. I mean, she was a mystery and had many mysteries surrounding her, but in the end, this wasn’t because she was some super important savior meant to save the world with her super special powers. It was because enough people had loved her and saved her. It was because she was strong enough to save herself.

I loved seeing the two different sides of Akiva. The vengeful angel of death, sent to destroy the Chimaera. His side when he meets Karou and stalks her, conflicted and confused and dark inside. Then the side was see when he was with the other woman, the one who regretted the lives he had taken, who hoped and dreamed for a new world, who loved so fiercely and passionately. Two completely contrasting sides, but they worked so well, adding depths and layers and life to him.

The love story was pretty good, I have to admit that when Akiva is crushing on Karou and noticing things that remind her of some other woman, I was really worried that we were going to find out the other woman was her mom or something upsetting like that and Karou was her secret love child. I’m not going to give anything away, but that, thankfully, was not the case. When Akiva and Karou are instantly drawn to each other and it’s kind of an insta-love scenario, I was concerned. But there was always an air of mystery surrounding why they were so drawn to each other and once the reason was revealed, it all made since and made me ship them even more.

The writing though, was what did it for me. It was all so rich and layered and beautiful, at times almost poetic. I really enjoyed the sense of darkness that this book gave me, but with little spots of light throughout. It was really just heavy and unforgettable. The world and storyline was so mesmerizing and intriguing, I literally read the whole book in one night, I couldn’t bear to put it down.

I’m totally gushing and I accept that. I can’t think of a single thing I disliked about this book. Except now that it’s over, I feel weirdly empty and the thought of waiting for the next one to get to my library makes me want to curl up in a ball and cry.

RATING: