Tag «Abuse»

Series Review: The Game by Emma Hart

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

 book2 book3 book4


Synopsis for The Love Game (from Goodreads):

His challenge? Make her fall in love with him.
Her challenge? Play the player.
Until life changes the rules of the game.

Maddie Stevens hated Braden Carter on sight. Arrogant, egotistical, and the playboy of the University of California, Berkeley, he’s everything her brother Pearce has taught her to despise. So why, when the girls challenge her to play the player, doesn’t she say no? She doesn’t know either.

Braden wanted fiery little Maddie the second he laid eyes on her – and he’d do anything to have her, hence why he’s agreed to make her fall in love with him. After all, it’s the only way he’ll get what he wants. Sex.

But, as Braden discovers, there’s more to the girl from Brooklyn than he ever imagined – and he can’t help but care about the broken girl behind those pretty green eyes.

Maddie finds Braden isn’t just a walking erection – he actually has feelings. He can be sweet, funny and his good looks don’t exactly hurt. That means trouble – but when her brother Pearce turns up in Berkeley begging for her help, she realises Braden and Pearce aren’t so alike anymore.

And maybe, just maybe, they’re exactly what each other needs.


Series: The Game
Author: Emma Hart
# of Books: 4 (The Love Game, Playing for Keeps, The Right Moves, Worth the Risk)
Complete?: Yes
Genre: New Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Heat Rating: really warm
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: March 2013 – May 2014
Source & Format: Own–eBook


**This post was originally posted as a Toonie Tuesday review of the first book (The Love Game) of the series. It has now been updated to include the newest publications in the series.**

Review of The Love Game:

Given the facts that it is a romance novel and the main protagonists are trying to get the other to fall in love with them, you pretty much know how it is going to go–they are going to fall in love with each other for real. But that shouldn’t stop you from reading this book because there is more to it.

I found this novel very refreshing. Despite the fact that it has characteristics of New Adult novels (ex. at least one protagonist has a tragic past which results in their inability to trust and love others) it also puts its own spin on the genre. The whole premise of the game was very Shakespearian (in theory) which I love; especially when you add in the supporting characters.

I also love the fact that Maddie and Braden don’t have an “insta-love” connection (a major turn-off for my reading) and I appreciate that this is talked about in the book as well. It made it very realistic and believable. Another plus is that you actually watch them fall in love with each other and you can see why they do. I find that some novels fail to provide the backbone to a relationship and just focus on the “physical connection” between two characters.

Maddie is great at telling Braden to calm the “caveman” act down. I think a lot of New Adult novels promote the idea that a man who claims you as “his” at every turn is sexy when it is not always the case (this isn’t to say that they present an abusive relationship in anyway–because they don’t–I just think it can border on an unhealthy relationship in the real world and I fear it will give girls the wrong impression). And this isn’t to say that Braden is always caveman like that, he does have really cute moments throughout and is genuinely a nice guy.

My only negatives about are more pet-peeves of mine. Sometimes when Maddie talked it was a little too metaphor-y for me. Given the fact that she is 18 it just was a little “too deep” for me at times (especially the whole comparison to various board games at one point in the last few chapters) but I guess I see how she might be a little wiser beyond her years considering her backstory. Still, she’s only 18!

But to end on a bright note: the story of Maddie and Braden concludes within this book. So yay for not dragging on a story! From what I can see the second book is about two different characters we meet in this book and there are enough hints throughout that I am excited to see what happens next!

>>Bonus: Here is the epilogue for The Love Game (WARNING: It contains spoilers!)


–January 15, 2014– Book #2: Playing for Keeps

I just finished Playing for Keeps after having it sit on my Kobo for months and I have to say another great book in the series! While I didn’t enjoy it as much as The Love Game, it definitely had its enjoyable moments throughout. I’m happy with the way the story went though at times I felt like it was a little over the top considering everyone’s ages. I think if the characters were, say 4-5 years older, I would have an easier time believing their maturity and some of the things they say. I’m not saying you can’t be mature at that age, it just seemed a little odd to me when I was reading.

One thing I didn’t like about this book was that it just jumped into things without much background. Considering Meagan is a secondary character in the previous book, we don’t know a whole lot about her and while I knew there was tension between her and Aston, I just wished it was elaborated more at the start of this book. It’s been a long time since I read The Love Game so I forgot about their interaction in that book–I guess I just wanted to see more of why they liked each other in the first place. But to be fair, the rest of the book is about them finding love in each other so it does make up for it in a way.

These books aren’t like typical New Adult reads. The hot romance really takes a back seat to the building up of a relationship and love and using love to heal broken pasts. So if you are looking for a crazy steamy read, these aren’t the books for you!

I’m interested to see where the next book, The Right Moves, goes from here. From what I have read of the synopsis it has nothing to do with the cast of characters we met in the last two books which I think is a good thing because I don’t know if I could handle another story about this group (I just think all their stories have been exhausted and I wouldn’t want everything to be dragged out). I guess we will see what happens.

Series Rating: 4/5

The Love Game 4/5| Playing for Keeps 3.5/5 | The Right Moves TBA | Worth the Risk TBA


I really enjoyed reading this book. It had me turning pages and was such an easy read (writing-wise). If you enjoy books about love healing tormented past and changing playboy ways, pick this series up!

Read if You Like: NA romances, love heals stories
Avoid if You: like when characters act more their age


  • Someone to Love by Addison Moore
  • Charade by Nyrae Dawn (Games Series #1)

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Series Review: Stark Trilogy by J. Kenner

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:


Synopsis for Release Me (from Goodreads):
He was the one man I couldn’t avoid. And the one man I couldn’t resist.

Damien Stark could have his way with any woman. He was sexy, confident, and commanding: Anything he wanted, he got. And what he wanted was me.

Our attraction was unmistakable, almost beyond control, but as much as I ached to be his, I feared the pressures of his demands. Submitting to Damien meant I had to bare the darkest truth about my past—and risk breaking us apart.

But Damien was haunted, too. And as our passion came to obsess us both, his secrets threatened to destroy him—and us—forever.

Release Me is an erotic romance intended for mature audiences.


Series: Stark Trilogy, Stark
Author: J. Kenner
# of Books: 4 (Release Me, Claim Me, Complete Me, Anchor Me)

There are also novellas that takes place after the final book. Full list here.

Complete?: Yes
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Erotica
Heat Rating: Steamy (BDSM: mild)
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Dates: January 2013 – April 2017
Source & Format: Public Library–eBook


Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I will admit I enjoyed Fifty Shades of Grey–not for the kinky sex but for the plot. Yes, there was a plot to the series but that is beside the point. So I can say I was excited to read this series because it is recommended for fans of Fifty Shades and it promised to have more of a plot.

The Plot:

I really liked this series (at this point I had only read the first two books). If you compare Fifty Shades of Grey and the first book, Release Me, they both have similar plot progression and delivery; however there are some differences that make this series its own.

Where this differs really differs from Fifty Shades is in book 2, Claim Me. There are major plot developments that separate this book completely from Fifty Shades and does so in a way that has me counting down the days to the final book.

The Characters:

For one the characters are their own. Nikki is a more driven and academically intelligent than Anastasia. Nikki also has her own issues to work out emotionally and mentally. She is a very heavy character but is very likable at the same time. Damien is also complex emotionally and mentally, much like Christian, but not so BSDM driven (though he does have control issues and likes his toys & ties and this becomes stronger as the books progress). While he is always sexually charged, you can see that he does care for Nikki–whereas it wasn’t always obvious with Christian.

The Romance:

These two are cute together and it was obvious to me why they would fall for each other. They do become a little too consumed with each other but that is also the nature of what people expect in this Erotica genre.


–January 21, 2014– Book #3: Complete Me

I FINALLY got around to reading the final book, Complete Me, and I have to say that it was a major disappointment 🙁

I think my main problem is that it is has been so long since I read Claim Me and I let myself build up this last book, Complete Me, so much. But I also feel let down by the characters. Damien seemed much more into BDSM that I previously remembered and Nikki (who used to be one of my favourite heroines in contemporary romance) really got on my nerves in this book. I was also expecting one aspect of the plot to be longer but it wasn’t. BUT I did like where the rest of the book went and I am happy with the way things ended (though I am glad there is a follow-up novella)!

I see that there is a spin-off series in the works with Jamie (Stark International Series) and the novella, Take Me, introduces us to Ms. Jenner’s next trilogy series, Most Wanted, with the first book called Wanted.

–January 20, 2014– Book #3.5: Take Me

The first few chapters of this novella are basically an extended sex epilogue of the trilogy but eventually we get a plot. While I enjoyed this extended epilogue and it made me excited to read the other series, I still feel like I’m lacking some closure with these two. Hopefully we see more of them in the spinoff series but I think fans will enjoy this novella. Also, don’t expect a huge introduction to Evan. He’s there for like two seconds and gone. If I didn’t know that the next series was a about him, I wouldn’t have given him a second thought.

–February 8, 2014– Book #3.6: Have Me

As with the previous novella, Have Me is just an excuse to read about Nikki and Damien have sex with each other. Plus, they are in that honeymoon phase where every line is about how much they love each other–which gets nauseating. I won’t lie, I really skimmed most of this novella because the first 50 pages are just smut and when the plot comes I just couldn’t bring myself to care. I won’t be picking up the 3rd novella anytime soon. I would have preferred a separate novel to combine all of this together instead of 3 separate novellas though I appreciate the fact that in theory these novellas provide the closure I was missing from the conclusion of the series.

Why I Won’t be Reading Anchor Me:

I’m kind of over these characters. I hate dragged out stories–they just seem like ploys for money and fanservice. I just don’t see the point of another full length novel.

Series Rating: 4/5


In the end, I did enjoy this series. It has a solid blend of sexy and plot that fans of E.L. James and Sylvia Day will gobble up right away. It’s not as BDSM focused as Fifty Shades but has characters and situations similar to Bared to You.

Read if You Like: Contemporary Erotica, flawed leads
Avoid if You: dislike erotica, dislike long series

Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James (Fifty Shades Trilogy #1)
Bared to You by Sylvia Day (Crossfire Series #1)


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Book Review: The Taming by Teresa Toten

Synopsis (from Goodreads.com):
Katie likes to believe she’s invisible. It seems much safer than being exposed as she is–shy, poor, awkward. So getting up on stage in the school production of The Taming of the Shrew should be complete torture. But as Katie tells it, something totally unexpected happened when she stepped on stage: “My head exploded. I loved it. Acting hit me like a sucker punch and I loved, loved, loved it! . . . Invisible Katie became visible Katharina.”

Evan Cooper is, as they say, another story. He knows just what it takes to get noticed, and he uses every one of the skills he’s honed after years of being the new kid. Like tossing the keys to his father’s high-end Audi to a kid he’s never met, first day of school. “I have insurance for car theft,” he explains to a shocked Danny. “And there’s a full tank.” An abuse of the power that comes with privilege and money? Sure.

But more dangerously, is his romance with Katie another version of the same thing? Or is it the real thing?


This book wasn’t what I thought it was going to be after reading the description from Goodreads. I was expecting a lighter story; a typical “rich boy goes after shy girl” type of romance story. Maybe I just didn’t read the summary too carefully but the description on the back of the book was more accurate to what the story actually is.

The themes in it the were darker as it deals with various forms of abuse but it was done in a way that is completely realistic and believable.

The parallels to The Taming of the Shrew in the modern world really add to the story. Maybe because I am a Shakespeare-nut and am familiar with the story that I can see what the author was doing and can appreciate it. Those who may not be too familiar with the story may not get it right away but the major plot ideas from The Taming of the Shrew are explained in the book so you won’t be completely lost.

I also liked the fact that the story was told in part by Evan. While I feel that Shakespeare’s play focuses on the abuse of women, Evan’s presence in the book shows the affect abuse can have on males and children living in abusive homes.

My only complaint about the book was the way it ended. I would have liked an epilogue or some sort of wrap-up because I really want to know how these characters grow from this.


In short, if you enjoy books that aren’t filled with the typical “high school soap opera drama” and are comfortable reading about abuse in family and romantic relationships then this book is worth a read.

Rating: 4/5

Shorthand Stats:
Genre: Young Adult; High School; Shakespeare; Abuse
Recommended for: 16+
Similar Books: nothing immediately comes to mind