Saturday, November 11, 2017

Thoughts: It's in His Kiss

It's in His Kiss

by Jill Shalvis
Book 10 of Lucky Harbor

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.0 Stars


'Sexy Grumpy Surfer' are three words combined together that aren't as smoothly read as you would think.  I tried it a few times, so if we must, we shall refer to Sam as the 'SGS'... if I feel like lending him an endearing nickname or something.  Sam's nickname for Becca is just slightly cuter, as he calls her 'Peeper' since he's caught her staring at him from her apartment window many times.

At some point, I almost forgot that these characters had real names anyway.

As for the actual story, itself... well, let's just say that Jill Shalvis, while excellent at creating character interaction and lovely humor, definitely isn't all that great at addressing issues that are a bit more serious in nature.  She will use them to help create a backstory for her characters... but by conclusion, those issues seem glossed over in favor of simply solving all the problems with the "One True Love" formula.

And while it's not entirely a deal-breaker for me continuing to read a Jill Shalvis book, I can certainly understand why this would be a reason for many others to be upset or frustrated.


The Story:
Becca Thorpe arrived in Lucky Harbor to get away from the stress of recent events involving her family, specifically her little brother.  To Becca, Lucky Harbor was only supposed to be a pit-stop until she could figure out what to do with herself, how to move on and get her life back together.  But as she continues to explore and get to know Lucky Harbor, she finds herself drawn to the small town of eccentric residents, and slowly creating a home for herself, even if she doesn't realize it yet.

Add onto that the Sexy Grumpy Surfer guy, Sam Brody, and Becca has every reason to continue hanging around... even if this is just a pit-stop.

Meanwhile, while trying to avoid his own complications, Sam can't help but be drawn to Becca when he notices that she has secrets that have hurt her in the past.  He's intent on finding out what her mystery is, even as he has some unresolved issues of his own that need addressing.


My Thoughts:
Sometimes I wonder if some authors just like to create characters with tragic or crappy backgrounds just so that they can become soul mates in their love story.

Sam and Becca both suffer from disappointing, pretty terrible, childhoods.  Sam's father had always been unreliable, which had always ended with Sam in the foster care system.  In present day, Sam does nothing but give his father anything the old man asks for, even if it's unreasonable and only manages to further cause a rift between father and son.  Becca's parents had always left her younger brother to Becca's care, expecting her to do whatever it takes for her brother, even at the expense and detriment of Becca's well-being and mental health.  In present day, this expectation is still floating in the air, and recent events are what caused Becca to uproot and move away from her family, hoping to find comfort and solace for herself.

Once again, to be honest, Jill Shalvis writes lovely characters and stories, with a lot of cute dialogue and tangential side stories.  These are all fine and dandy, but then she brings in some serious issues, such as Sam's relationship with his father, or Becca's relationship with her parents and her brother, or Becca's stage fright, or even the alluded to tragic event that had brought Becca all the way across the country to Lucky Harbor, Washington.

There is always so much potential for these issues to be addressed in a thoughtful way.  In the meantime, there's no reason why we can't have a sweet romance at the same time.

But the book is slightly imbalanced in that the romance overshadows every other issue brought to surface, and then in the end, apparently it's back to "love conquers all," and then Happily Ever After.

The resolution of both Becca's and Sam's conflicts with their respective parents felt abrupt and too easily managed.  The resolution with Becca and her brother might have been a little more believable.  But the issue about Becca's recent tragic event... I'm not sure I really like how that one was handled.

Meanwhile, the romance had it's moments, but the fact that our couple lives in a perpetual state of keeping secrets from each other, but also expecting the other to answer all questions posed to the other was a bit frustrating.  I loved how Sam tried to take care of Becca; I love how Becca got under Sam's skin and makes a place for herself in his life.

What I don't like is how Sam will push for personal, private information that Becca wants to keep to herself, but then shut down the minute she turns around and starts asking him about his own problems.  Then vice versa.

On the other hand, Becca and Olivia actually make a better starting out friendship--neither pushes the other to reveal secrets that she doesn't want to tell.  It's called respect, and the girls seem to be able to keep to those boundaries.  I mean, maybe over time when they get to know each other better, they can start sharing family histories... but for right now, they had just met barely a handful of days ago.  So I find this a refreshing friendship.

Meanwhile Sam and Becca just kept getting irritated when the other wouldn't talk or share stories with the class.

Anyway, enough of my issues.

It's In His Kiss wasn't exactly a Jill Shalvis book that was completely terrible.  I'd say it was in the mediocre 'meh' level, if only because it had it's moments, and it didn't really frustrate me too much.  I will say, however, that I DO miss the close camaraderie of each trio of friends found in each sub-trilogy of the Lucky Harbor series.  Sam, Cole, and Tanner were fun, but they were also kind of boring.  Becca had Olivia... but where's the third point of the trio?  Not to say that Becca and Olivia's new friendship wasn't great--the drunken by two bottles of wine scene was pretty cute.


***

The 16 Tasks of the Festive Season

16 Festive Tasks - Dies Natalis Solis Invicti

I'd been meaning to read the rest of Jill Shalvis' Lucky Harbor books anyway, and it just so happens that this book can fit a couple squares for the 16 Festive Tasks.  And so I've marked it for Square 14 -- Dies Natalis Solis Invicti: Read a book that has a beach or seaside setting.  Sam and his two best friends are surfers as well as run a charter company, and Becca rents a warehouse turned apartment near where they work and live; so the majority of this book DOES indeed take place with the beach as a main part of the setting.

Other Possible Squares:
  • Square 2 | Bon Om Touk:  Water on the cover.
  • Square 3 | St. Martin's Day:  Becca spends the first part of the book looking for a job--her one night waitressing stint was hilarious.
  • Square 10 | Pancha Ganapati:  Book cover has blue, green, orange, and yellow.


Thoughts: Close to Heaven

Close to Heaven

by Pamela Clare
Book 5 of Colorado High Country

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.0 Stars


A few days prior to publishing this book, Pamela had written a blog post about how Close to Heaven was supposed to have been a Christmas novella, but that it ended up being long enough to be novel-length.  So rather than being a Christmas novella special for the Colorado High Country series, it is now the fifth installment of the series.

As I finished the second half of the book, I couldn't help but wonder whether, maybe, this story would have worked out better as a shorter, novella-length work.

This isn't to say that the book was terrible, but I certainly felt like it dragged on the last half of the story.  I easily saw Pamela's vision and direction for Close to Heaven, but I'm not sure it was necessarily a smoothly executed one.

Nonetheless, even with my misgivings and conflicts about how this novel was presented, I can't deny that, as usual, Pamela always creates a great story, story premise, and characters, with a lot of heart.


The Story:
It is about a month before Christmas and Scarlet Springs is expecting a wintry snow storm in the next few days.  Rain Minear has been feeling lonely ever since her daughter left for college, and she hasn't been able to catch the eye of her boss, Joe Moffat, whom she has been in love with for the past twenty years.  During the night, she starts to wonder if maybe it's time to move on with her life, and maybe start over in another place away from her childhood home of Scarlet Springs.

What she doesn't expect is that her roof would collapse because of the heavy snow, and she would be left without a home, all too suddenly.  Fortunately for her, Joe is generous and caring, and offers to house her at his home until the snow clears and she can find a place to stay.  Unknown to Rain, though, is that Joe has also harbored the same feelings for her these past twenty years, but has never felt right acting on them due to his own rules for not messing around with his own employees.  On top of that, a sordid family history has also influenced Joe's outlook for his own future.

This Christmas, however, it seems that life has some other plans for the both of them.


My Thoughts:
The first thing that came to mind, surprisingly, was the fact that I had thought Rain was younger--the way she'd been described from the first book, I had had the impression that Rain was in her early twenties, or something.  Apparently, I was a little off, or just didn't really pay attention, even though she was one of the side characters I'd hoped to see a story for.

So when the summary came out that this was Joe's and Rain's love story, I was intrigued.  Throughout the series' first few installments, Joe is clearly an older man--which, at least I didn't mistaken his age.  I wondered how this relationship would play out, my mind thinking that Joe Moffat, in his forties, had at least twenty years on Rain, whom I'd thought was in her twenties.

Then Rain was introduced in this book as thirty-seven years old.  Okay, not as young as I'd thought, but still ten years younger than Joe, according to the narration.  It's still a bit of an age gap, so we can still play on that age gap thing.  Or at least, for a while, it was one of the reasons Joe gave for not making a move on Rain.

Even though that particular reason seemed to NOT be a reason, left behind and forgotten.  It was still a significant factor, of course--Rain had gotten pregnant twenty years ago, with a man ten years her senior, who then proceeded to abandon her.  So Joe didn't want to come off like that jackass.

Then, reason after reason came out for why Joe never made a move on Rain for the past twenty years...  TWENTY YEARS.  And we'll come back to these reasons, but, really, I know Rain has her own misgivings, but twenty years is quite the time for two adults to be lusting after each other NOT to notice.  And twenty years is also a long time for Rain to hold a crush on a guy and not do anything about it--she seems like the straight-forward type, and certainly she held no misgivings about making any moves during the course of this story.

I guess that's why we have a story.  And maybe all it took was for her to have a random opportunity.  Like, say, maybe being stuck living in Joe's home while she awaited her insurance claim, and for the snow to melt off her crumpled property.  And maybe for Joe to get a few hard-ons while she's around so she could finally conclude that maybe Joe was interested in her as much as she was interested in him.

I don't know.  It just seems overly convenient a plot.

Anyway, as for Joe's own issues:  He pretty much refuses to make a move on Rain for so many reasons.  His ancestor was a terrible, terrible man who had taken from people, murdered, and forced sex on his own female employees.  And Joe was of the notion that he didn't want to be anything like his ancestor, Silas Moffat.  In fact, Joe's guilt and shame, brought on by all the horrible things that ancestor Silas had done when the man first settled in Scarlet Springs about a century ago, has even made Joe feel like the Moffat name should die with him.  After all, according to him, his grandfather was also a horrible person, and so was his own father.

Somehow, Joe came out the decent man in the Moffat line.  And he's worried that he'd end up starting a family, giving birth to a son, who ends up inheriting previous Moffat male characteristics for evil-doing.  Apparently with all the knowledge and smarts that Joe has, he hasn't figured out the concept of "Nature versus Nurture."  Nor has he stopped to wonder that he was able to become different from his previous male relations.

So Joe refuses to make a move on Rain because she's his employee and he's ten years her senior; he doesn't want to abuse his authority over her.

It just seems like a lot of wasted time, you know.  Twenty years goes by, and even while the two of them are good friends and colleagues, working well together to run the bar, restaurant, and brewery, known as Knockers... well, it just seems like a lot of wasted time where someone could have made a move, or someone could have recognized feelings, whether lust or deeper.


Close to Heaven is up to Pamela Clare standards as far as characters, writing, and heart are concerned.  The schmaltz factor is more subtle in this book.  However, the ending half felt a little dragged out, even after our couple finally acknowledge feelings.  Because then we're just spending time slowly ambling towards that Happily Ever After as the days move forward towards Christmas.  Like, that maybe Christmas was the ultimate end location for this story, and everything from the mid-mark where Rain and Joe finally reciprocate feelings, moving forward, was just filler until the time was right.

I'm not saying it was terrible or anything.  It was sweet and enjoyable and heart-warming--probably what our lovely author was aiming for.  But I just felt like maybe that section of the book could, maybe, have been shortened a little bit.  Because I couldn't help but get the feeling that that latter half of the book went on forever.  And it makes me feel bad, because I DO love a great Pamela Clare romance novel, and Close to Heaven was, once again, very sweet, even if a bit frustrating on Joe's part since he was being so stubborn about Rain.

I mean, for crying out loud, she practically jumped him, and then paraded around naked in front of him, and he STILL thought he'd be the one in the wrong if he made a move.  Even after Rain tells him that she wants him.

And so, props to rain for not letting herself get stuck on this relationship.  After a couple of rejections, she finally just moves herself on and stops her own advances.

But enough of that.  The Happily Ever After happens, feelings are reciprocated, and the book was enjoyable on certain levels.  I'm satisfied enough.


***

The 16 Tasks of the Festive Season


16 Festive Tasks -- Yuletide

I read Close to Heaven for Square 9 -- YuletideA book that is set in the midst of a snowy or icy winter.  Most of the book takes place during a big snow storm that pretty much closes down the entire little town of Scarlet Springs.

Meanwhile, as I was reading this book, I found how many other squares this book would fit.  Although being that this book is the fifth in an ongoing Contemporary Romance series, I don't know how much this helps.
  • Square #1 | Calan Gaeaf:  There is a supporting character named Rose.
  • Square #4 | Penance Day:  Our MC, Joe spends most of the book struggling over his guilt over the terrible things his ancestor had done to people over a century ago, and feels that he needs to give back to the community what his ancestor took from them.
  • Square #5 | Advent:  There is a Christmas tree showing in the background of this book, which, of course, is a pine tree.  I don't know how much of a stretch this would be since it's a little hard to see unless you look closely.
  • Square #7 | Saint Lucia's Day:  Obviously, snow features as one of the main events in this book, which is kind of what gives our couple a reason to end up stranded under the same roof.
  • Square #10 | Pancha Ganapati:  There is red on the cover.
  • Square #11 | Soyal:  This book is set in Colorado.
  • Square #13 | Christmas:  The MC is named Joseph Moffat.

This book also takes place leading up to Christmas, if that will count for one of the Holiday Book Joker options.


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

It's Really Wednesday... And I'm Hijacking This Meme Again. | 11/08/2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week.  It's a great post to organise yourself.  It's an opportunity to visit and comment, and er... add to that ever growing TBR pile!  So welcome in everyone.  This meme started with J Kaye's Blog and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey.  Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date.  And here we are!


It's been a while since I last posted anything, so I thought I'd give a quick news update on my reading life, and a little tidbit of my non-bookish life.

The weekend had been busy with my preparations in moving to my new job/position/shift.  My brother was also in town to visit, so my dad took the opportunity to recruit his muscle to help move some furniture and purchase a brand new couch.  I spent one morning with a bunch of coworkers, having breakfast together to celebrate my new position.  So, overall, the weekend was busy but relaxing.

Then... on Monday evening, while driving home from a day trip with a friend, we had a little bit of trouble in the form of one lone deer darting in front of my car (an SUV) across a country highway.  The results were disastrous, but my friend thinks we got lucky because I'd been keeping slow anyway because of the dark nighttime, low visibility, and the twisty-turny-curvy route, and the big semis flying past at random.

It was a two lane country highway, with traffic going in both directions.  The deer was sitting in the other lane, and my friend saw it first.  She yelled, "Deer!" and I saw it as soon as she yelled, and started going for my brakes.  Then the darn thing gets up and leaps across my lane like it has lives to spare, and we make contact.  All the while, my foot is pressed down on my brakes like my life depended on it.  All I remember is my hood popping up, and me, somehow getting us off to the shoulder of the highway, out of traffic.  When the hood of my car came back down, I could see the deer, sitting some distance off, and then suddenly just getting up and leaping off into the nearby fields away from the highway.

Then I'm a mess of, "Oh, shit!  Oh, shit!  What do I do now?"  Rinse, and repeat.

That was definitely an experience I hope never to go through again.  The police officer who came out to assist when we called them went in search of the deer and found no trace.  He mentioned a high fence and said that it might have leaped the fence and continued on, though we don't know the extent of its injuries.  We were speculating that it might have already been hit previously, maybe by another, larger vehicle that didn't sustain as much damage as mine; which would explain why the deer was just sitting in the middle of the highway in the dark.

Meanwhile, I spent the rest of the night having a melt down after my parents picked us up (we were still about an hour outside of our home town), because I'm guessing the adrenaline caught up with me or something.  I was a nice blubbering mess and couldn't even pinpoint why I was crying.  Then we spent the next morning dealing with insurance and other details.

Now we wait to see if my car is totaled or still fixable.  The front end is smashed--all the lights are broken, and so is the bumper and grill; and there was a lot of fluid leaking, that the officer said might have been anti-freeze and washer fluid; maybe radiator fluid.  The rest of the car is fine, and I think the windshield was only scratched, though it was hard to tell in the dark.

Needless to say, I haven't exactly been in a mood to do anything at all the past couple days, and even today.

I'm behind on reading and blogging, but with everything starting to settle now, I'm hoping to have my two current reads finished soon.  I have two written reviews I'd planned on posting on Monday, but that plan obviously went out the window.  I just need to finalize them, and hopefully will have two reviews posted within the next couple days... depending on my mood.


What I Read Last Week




What I'm Currently Reading




What I'm Planning to Read Next



I haven't actually been thinking about what I want to read next, but I DO have Maggie Stiefvater's newest book release borrowed from the library that I probably need to get to as soon as I can.  It's got a rose on the cover, so I will be reading it for one of the squares/holidays in the 16 Festive Tasks game being played at BL right now.

Then I'll figure out what I'm in the mood for after that.


Other Plans On the Blog


I have actually been spending a little bit of time since the beginning of the month drafting some posts for the 16 Festive Tasks, which I'm hoping to get posted in the near future.  I've got at least three non-book tasks I'm planning to post about--two being drafted, and one still being planned--and so am hoping to find time to get those activities done at some point, with pictures and all, so I can share with the rest of the BL community.

Meanwhile, since I haven't really been reading much the past few days, there's really little else going on.

But, again, I'm hoping to get back into the swing of things, and maybe I'll become more active the rest of the month, when life finally decides to settle down.


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Monthly Reading Wrap Up -- October 2017

Before I knew it, October was coming to a close.  I feel like it was just a couple days ago that I started reading Bingo books, and posting my first few Halloween Bingo updates.  But September, and then October, seemed to just fly by pretty quickly, and now, here we are, moving into November.

A lot has been going on in my non-bookish life, and maybe that contributed to time flying by so quickly.  But a new chapter in my life is starting up, and I honestly think it will be for the best.  I'm going to be exchanging my late night third shift graveyard hours for a day time position--maybe this will actually allow me to get some sleep when my hours start following a more normal rhythm.  I will actually feel like I have more time to spend with my family and friends, rather than ending up sleeping my entire day away because I can't seem to find the right time to sleep anymore.

So much as been on my mind lately that the only way to keep myself sane had been books, mind-numbing 'click-click' games, and reading games such as Halloween Bingo.  Hopefully things will settle for me soon, and I can have myself some sort of lifestyle that will benefit me.

October Reads




Also Read:  Kidnapping in the Black Hills (short story) by Paige Tyler -- no cover


Books Dropped/Put On Hold


None this month!  Yay!


Currently Reading




October Reading Stats

Total works read: 18
  • 13 print/e-book novels / 1 audio book
  • 1 novella (e-book) / 1 novella (audio)
  • 2 short stories

Average rating: 3.56 Stars
  • Highest Rated:  7 titles // 4.0 Stars
    • (1) Jaxson by Alisa Woods
    • (2) Her Fierce Warrior by Paige Tyler
    • (3) Deep As The Dead by Kylie Brant
    • (4) The Jade Temptress by Jeannie Lin
    • (5) The Liar's Dice (novella) by Jeannie Lin
    • (6) Jace by Alisa Woods
    • (7) Kidnapping in the Black Hills (short story) by Paige Tyler
  • Lowest Rated:  The Turn of the Screw by Henry James // 2.5 Stars

Series I started reading:
  • Keepers of the Veil by Zoe Forward
Series I completed:
  • In the Garden by Nora Roberts
  • The Pingkang Li Mysteries by Jeannie Lin
  • River Pack Wolves by Alisa Woods
Series I have made progress on:
  • Moreno & Hart by Allison Brennan and Laura Griffin
  • X-Ops by Paiger Tyler
  • Mindhunters by Kylie Brant

Favorite reads:  The books read for the month of October weren't entirely outstanding, but nothing really came out completely disappointing either.  My favorite book would probably be Jeannie Lin's The Jade Temptress; another book that kind of stands out was probably Jaxson by Alisa Woods.  Oh yes, and a little shout out for Kylie Brant's newest Mindhunters installment, Deep As The Dead.

Disappointing reads:  The truth is, my biggest disappointment was probably Deanna Raybourn's The Dead Travel Fast.  That's not to say it was a bad read or anything, but it wasn't exactly what I'd been hoping for... and maybe if I'd gone into it after reading the Julia Grey books, I wouldn't have expected much more than now that I've read her two Veronica Speedwell books.  Another disappointment might be Just Past Midnight by Amanda Stevens, if only because I've read her Graveyard Queen books, which are much more mature, much better written, and with less romance cliches.


Reviews & Notable Posts

Reviews Written


Memes


Other Posts



Coming Up In November

Tentative TBR




Other Stuff

With Halloween Bingo finished, the next game to look forward to is going to be a holiday themed one that will be hosted at Booklikes by Themis-Athena and Murder by Death.  What, exactly, the game would consist of, was still a big question mark, since they were keeping everyone in excited suspense up until their big reveal!  The 16 Tasks of the Festive Season will be a fun time of reading books or performing some fun activities, then sharing with all the community.  I hadn't planned on participating in another game this year, and wanted only just to focus on my year-long ongoing reading challenges... as well as settling some non-bookish stuff in my life.

But after reading the posts for all the tasks (above link) and the rules, I started thinking and planning and making lists and creating spreadsheets... and the next thing I know, I'm so deep into the game already that I'd be damned if I pull back out without at least finishing some of the tasks!

Anyway, I will probably try to have a tracking/summary page up soon, as well as a few update posts.

I've still got a few series I'm wanting to finish up before the end of the year, as well as a few books I really want to get to reading.  But as I'm trying to keep things light in my reading life, I won't be too overly disappointed if I don't finish them.  Although my ultimate goal is to finish Jill Shalvis' Lucky Harbor series, mainly because I'm dead stubborn about reading the last novella, about Sawyer and Chloe, during the Christmas season, since it's a Christmas novella... and maybe see if I can't figure out how to insert that book into the 16 Tasks while I'm at it.

I'm also still working on housekeeping items for my blog, such as transferring the rest of my reviews from Goodreads and Booklikes, and finishing up some static menu pages.  Obviously, this will also still be an ongoing project that will last into the new year, and then maybe a couple months after.

Truth is, I'd really, really, really like to finish transferring my reviews, but time has been limited as of late with all the things going on in my non-bookish life.  And also, I get lazy really easily.  And also, reading is my first choice, obviously.


2017 Wrap-Ups 

Past Monthly Reading Wrap Ups
See Also: 2015 Reading Wrap-Up posts (scroll to bottom of page)

(updated as year progresses by month)
January | February | March | April | May | June
July | August | September | October | November | December



Very Brief Thoughts: The Liar's Dice

The Liar's Dice

by Jeannie Lin
The Pingkang Li Mysteries, #2.5 (novella)

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  4.0 Stars

Tang Dynasty China, 849 A.D.
Lady Bai, called Wei-wei by her aristocratic family, has always been the perfectly obedient daughter--but only on the outside.  Inwardly she dreams of freedom.  When she dares to pay a forbidden visit to a public tea garden in men's clothing, only Gao looks close enough to notice her borrowed robes.  Alas, looking closely at the enigmatic Gao tells Wei-wei only one thing: he's a scoundrel.

When the pair witness a fatal stabbing, Gao surprises her by staying at her side as she investigates the brutal crime.  Together they uncover more secrets, somehow tied to her brother and the seedy gambling dens he's been visiting on the sly.  Gao seems to know far too much about the brutal ways of the street, but Wei-wei is drawn to him and his habit of seeing through all her disguises.

Wei-wei revels in her newfound independence and her growing feelings for her mysterious companion, but all too soon she's faced with a cruel choice -- discover the truth and bring the killer to justice, or protect her family at all costs.


A lovely short read for a character I'd been interested in since the first book.  Wei-wei is wonderfully crafted to be smart, bold, and beyond her times; while at the same time she's unassuming enough to understand her own faults.  I wish the "disguised as a man" part of the story would have been a bit more fleshed out, since it is one of the classic romance tropes I love; but as a novella, I suppose it'll have to do.

The romance in this novella was understated, with the focus being more on Wei-wei's self-revelations about herself and her role in her family.  I would love to see more of Wei-wei and Gao, as their relationship is one that would definitely be disapproved of enough in the traditional, historical Chinese sense to be an interesting development if allowed to progress.


Thoughts: The Jade Temptress

The Jade Temptress

by Jeannie Lin
Book 2 of The Pingkang Li Mysteries

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  4.0 Stars

Welcome to the infamous Pingkang Li—home of the celebrated Lotus Palace courtesans, and a place of beauty and treachery...

Charming and seductive, Mingyu is the most sought-after hostess in the pleasure quarter.  She has all men wrapped around her finger—except Constable Wu Kaifeng, the one man she can't resist, the only man to have placed her in chains.

Wu Kaifeng's outwardly intimidating demeanor hides a reluctant, fierce attraction to beautiful Mingyu.  But the passionate temptation she presents threatens to destroy them both when a powerful official is murdered and they find themselves on a deadly trail.  Amid the chaos, a forbidden affair could change Mingyu's fate forever, for following her heart is bound to have consequences...


My first thoughts while reading The Jade Temptress were about how much development there has been for Mingyu since the events of the first book in this series.  She was cold, untouchable, and as high on a that Empress pedestal her Lotus Palace sisters accuse her of placing herself on.

But even as the book begins, and progresses, Mingyu shows a different side of herself that is different than her first introduction the Lotus Palace--she is the elder sister that Yue-ying loves, who wants nothing but to survive her life and see her sister happy and safe.  She's just a woman trying to make it in life, with what little opportunity being a woman allows her during these times in China; and she's a woman who begins to dream that maybe there could be more for her than eternal servitude to the foster mother who owns her, and the men who pay for her company.

I think I loved this book more than the first book, though, if only because of the complexities of both our main characters.  This is not to say that Yue-ying was not a complex character, because she was definitely so much more than the standard romance novel heroine.  And Bai Huang never truly showed his complexities until nearing the ending, but even then I was hard-pressed to truly appreciate them.

In contrast, Mingyu has so many layers to her that it was quite interesting to watch her progress through her few self-revelations.

And while Wu Kaifeng seems like he's only got one personality--upstanding, blunt, aloof--his layers are also quite interesting to witness as they peel away.

While the attraction between Mingyu and Kaifeng felt a little too fast to be credible, their subsequent interactions were sweet.  It was nice watching both of their exteriors chip away, a little at a time with each meeting or chance meeting between them.  And even while they knew that they both lived in two different worlds, and that their romance would be hard to attain, they didn't spend too much time languishing in the angst that could have come up in the beginning of their courtship.

The murder mystery of The Jade Temptress was quite well outlined, and certainly, for a moment in the book, I followed the wrong red herring, even as I had kind of touched upon the actual truth behind General Deng's death already.  Either I'm slipping, or the twists in this mystery had been clever enough to confuse me.

The Jade Temptress is a historical romance with intrigue and mystery, and is rather quiet and tame compared to the events and high drama of the previous book.  I don't know if it's because our couple are both rather settled, quiet individuals, while the previous book's couple were young and exuberant.  But somehow, this is probably one of the reasons why I enjoyed The Jade Temptress a bit more than The Lotus Palace.

Nonetheless, enjoyment was had.


Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Halloween Bingo 2017 | That's a Wrap! And Penni's Red-Eyed Laser Grid!


Halloween Bingo 2017


I didn't feel like posting my table in this wrap up, but it can be found at my Halloween Bingo 2017 summary page linked directly above this intro paragraph.  All books have been read and all squares have been called, so all I decided to do was simply show visuals of each square on my personalized card, in order of each row going across left to right.

All of my Bingo books read have been reviewed, whether short or full, and the book covers link to them.

In addition, I have also added a few books that I read in October that I decided to sort into fitting categories as well.  These books may or may not have been reviewed yet.

If I had to reward some random categories for my Halloween Bingo books:
  • The Favorite One:  Black Rose by Nora Roberts
  • The Disappointing One:  Just Past Midnight by Amanda Stevens
  • The Best Discussions:  The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett
  • The Most Unexpected... Expectations Met:  Every Secret Thing by Susanna Kearsley
  • The Guilty Pleasure Love:  Jaxson by Alisa Woods
  • The Sleep Inducing One:  The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
  • The Most Memorable:  The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

This year's Halloween Bingo was extremely fun, but unfortunately my choice in books wasn't exactly the best.  Last year, there was A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn and The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, both of which were exceptionally wonderful books.  This year, I had trouble figuring out which book was my favorite, if only because none of them really stood out exceptionally.

Black Rose was a great book, as were the rest of the In the Garden trilogy, but I can't say that it was one of those "OMG!  This book is so awesome!" kind of feels that I'd had with The Graveyard Book or A Curious Beginning.

In contrast, I DID get to read more books of my own favorite genre, so my enjoyability was still quite high.  I'm actually quite surprised at how many Romantic Suspense novels I was able to insert into this year's Halloween Bingo game, and that is definitely thanks to the new twist in this game that lets us choose square categories more to our liking.


Finally, I wanted to give a really big shout out to Moonlight Reader and Obsidian Blue for another wonderfully created Booklikes game!  Halloween Bingo was so much fun last year, and this year the changes were even better!  I'm so glad that I started following the reading challenges that Moonlight and Obsidian have been putting together, because they have brought another layer of fun to my reading life.

Along with all the interactions between all of the players in this BL community, the games we have played have always been extremely satisfying and a wonderful way to knock out books on the TBR!

I definitely look forward to what these two lovely ladies, or anyone else for the matter, have in store for the next reading challenge/game!


Completed Marked Card:



Called Square:  Green Square Border
Read Square:  Red Eyes Penni
Called and Read Square:  Red Eyes Penni in a Green Box
Bingos:  Multiple Red Eyes Penni in Green Boxes with Orange Laser Eyes Across the Board


Squares and Books: