Barbie Girl is a different kind of YA Contemporary Romance, and it's one that I absolutely adored! This story puts a twist on the typical nerd gets the popular girl plot. We have Dylan who tries to remain under the radar after years of being stuff into lockers, Barbie who has a reputation of being the school slut, and Katie, the typical good girl who's loved by the whole school. Dylan wants Katie, but she has no idea he exists, until Barbie steps in to help him in exchange for some math tutoring.
This is told in my favorite multiple POV! First we meet Dylan, who unfortunately believes the rumors about Barbie and is reluctant to help her at first. He's worked hard to change his image into something less noticeable, so he doesn't want the attention that Barbie naturally attracts.
Barbie is such a great character. She's not at all what she seems. Sure she puts on this tough girl front and makes out with boys under the bleachers, but she's far from the girl her classmates think she is. She's not sleeping around or doing drugs. She's actually responsible for taking care of her younger brother and their drunken mother. It's a struggle for Barbie to keep her small family fed and safe, but she doesn't let anyone see this vulnerable side of her. At least, not until Dylan enters her life.
Oddly, my favorite relationship was Barbie and Third, Dylan's best friend. At the beginning I found him annoying and rude, but then he started to grow on me. He becomes a really good friend to Barbie and doesn't judge her, and he's there for her when she hits rock bottom. He's looking for acceptance just as much as she is, and I'm glad they were able to find each other. This might be one of my favorite friendships I've read in YA so far.
The one bad thing that stood out to me about Barbie Girl was the stiff dialogue that I've begun to notice is common in self-published books. There's also a few typos, but neither of these problems hindered my enjoyment of the overall story. They're just minor annoyances.
Barbie Girl is a wonderful story. It starts as a sweet romance, but then morphs into something much more. There are some heavy issues that I think are handled quite well. I was rooting for Barbie the whole time. She deserves so much more than life has given her, and I admired the strength that she showed. The ending isn't perfect, and I was super frustrated with Dylan. But I was happy to see Barbie in a better place.
Prince of Wolves introduces a narrative style that I wasn't sure if I was going to like or not. It's alternates between Jacque and Fane's perspectives, but instead of the story continuously moving forward, several chapters are told twice: once by Jacque and once by Fane. This of course makes the story unnecessarily longer (it's still pretty short though), but we get the full story from both sides. I thought it was going to annoy to me to have to read every situation twice, but it didn't. I actually quite liked the "he said, she said" since it's two totally different perspectives and it stopped about half way through the book.
The story is pretty fun, although it's the typical werewolf bond, soul-mate type story, where the girl has no clue what she is until she meets the sexy stranger. I don't read too many werewolf books, so it hasn't grown old for me and I was still able to enjoy it. It moves at a good pace. There always seems to be something happening, but the main conflict doesn't appear until halfway through. Jacque's friends also provide some great comic relief through out.
I have one major complaint: the dialogue is awful! Sometimes it's very stiff and formal, but I kind of expect that from Fane, since he's royalty and English isn't his first language. Coming from everyone else though, it just feels awkward. But Jacque and her friend's also use the most horrific slang! It's so outdated and irritating! I hadn't heard most of these expressions in over a decade, if I'd even heard them before at all. It was just a little over-the-top at times.
Overall, Prince of Wolves has a pretty good story, but it could greatly benefit from more editing, especially in the dialogue department. There's also some annoyance whenever Fane or his family speak Romanian. For some reason the English translation is in parentheses, but then the next paragraph will have Fane translating to the non-Romanian speakers anyway. It was fairly awkward to read. I have the next two books, so I'll be continuing the series. I just hope the writing has improved.
Above the Dungeon is another book that I can add to my list of annoying 1st/3rd person narrative flip-floppers. But I think I must be getting use to it since that didn't bother me nearly us much as it has in other books. I actually think it kind of works, since Dare, whose chapters are in 3rd person, is kind of an observer. He's not totally part of the action. Then there's Jeff, who has the 1st person chapters, who is a 24/7 slave to Roman, the club owner and Dare's boss. These two POVs are extremely different from one another, and the narrative style definitely exaggerates that fact.
At first it feels like there are two separate plots happening here. We have Dare, who is quite up tight, and stumbles into a job as a bartender in a gay club. Roman decides to take him under this wing and give a tour of the BDSM lifestyle. While this does interest Dare, he's struggle with what it means for his sexuality. Eventually he learns that sexuality is not set in stone or black and white; there's a whole spectrum of gray. Meanwhile, we also have Roman and Jeff's long term relationship. Jeff longs to fall in love again, and wishes Roman would, too. But there's the issue of jealousy and what bringing a new man would mean for Jeff's position as Roman's slave. Eventually these two plots merge together seamlessly.
I found the glimpse into a 24/7 slave relationship very interesting. I hadn't read about that before, so I felt like I was learning right along with Tristan (another man considered into the Roman/Jeff relationship) and Dare. Even though it's a whole different lifestyle, Roman and Jeff do have some of the same issues as "normal" couples. I enjoyed reading about them. I also loved watching Dare open up. He was very wound up, but Roman knew exactly how to loosen him up.
I ended up really enjoying Above the Dungeon. It was only my second M/M erotic novel, but I found that I didn't even think about the fact that it was only men. I just liked the overall story.