Monday, April 23, 2018

Series Thoughts: Whispering Springs

Whispering Springs

by Jayne Ann Krentz
Book 1:  Light in Shadow | Goodreads | Rating:  4.0 Stars
Book 2:  Truth or Dare | Goodreads | Rating:  3.0 Stars

Average Rating:  3.5 Stars



I can't help wondering whether this duology would have been better off as one long, two-part novel... but then I'm not sure all the story tangents going on in the second book, Truth or Dare, would have been handled any better.  Both books were great, in their own, JAK-style way, but that second book just kind of seemed a bit excessive.

While Light and Shadow gave us a straight-forward, fast-paced rundown of events and mystery and romance, I feel like Truth or Dare was the "I've got more ideas for these characters and am trying to cram everything into this last book" type of mish-mash.  While all of the story tangents were significant in their own way, I couldn't help but feel like I was reading a series of short stories, unconnected with the main story conflict, but that all took place around the same time, so let's just throw it all together into one big book!

Nonetheless...

While I always have a hard time recalling the characters and the events from most JAK books, there's always enjoyment had, and I always know I walk away from them feeling satisfied, and well entertained.  This is why I keep going back to Jayne Ann Krentz, as well as her other two pseudonyms, Amanda Quick and Jayne Castle.

As per usual, the characters in the Whispering Springs duo were great characters, with their own uniqueness, and a charming quality about them that just made them easy to relate with, and very easy to love.  The addition of some personality flaws doesn't hurt either, and we have all of that.

The conflict and mystery in both were interesting enough.

All-in-all, this was a nice reading experience--something to occupy yourself with on a rainy afternoon.  I just really wish that second book hadn't been so... well, chaotic.



Zoe Luce is a successful interior designer in the Arizona town of Whispering Springs who's developed an unusual career specialty--helping recently divorced clients redesign their homes, to help them forget the past and start anew.  But Zoe knows that some things can't be covered up with a coat of paint.  And when she senses that one of her clients may be hiding a dark secret, she enlists P.I. Ethan Truax to find the truth.

Working together, they solve the mystery . . . and barely escape with their lives.  But Ethan's exquisite detection skills are starting to backfire on Zoe: she never wanted to let him find out about her former life; she never wanted to reveal her powerful, inexplicable gift for sensing the history hidden within a house's walls; she never wanted him to know that "Zoe Luce" doesn't really exist.  She never wanted to fall in love with him.

Now, no matter how much she resists, Ethan may be her only hope--because the people she's been running from have found her.  And just when Zoe dares to dream of a normal life and a future with the man she loves, her own past starts to shadow her every step--and threatens to take her back into a nightmare.




Upscale interior designer Zoe Luce has found peace and contentment in Whispering Springs, Arizona.  She has a thriving business, and she's settling into newlywed life with private investigator Ethan Truax.  The threat that brought Zoe and Ethan together is finally over, ancient history, or so Zoe believes.  Very few people know of her uncanny ability to sense the dark secrets hidden within the walls of a house, and she wants to keep it that way, even from Ethan.

But someone is stalking Zoe--someone who knows all about her, and who shadows her every move.  Is it the same person who is threatening her closest friend, Arcadia Ames, the only other person in Whispering Springs who knows the truth about Zoe?  Or are Zoe and Arcadia getting tangled in a web spun by someone more dangerous than they could ever have imagined?

As a private investigator, Ethan is paid to find the truth, yet he has secrets of his own that are better left buried.  He can't let the threats to Zoe go unchallenged, although he fears that the truth may be a bigger burden than their still-fragile relationship can handle.  And Ethan isn't alone with his fears: instead of setting her free, Zoe dreads that the truth will only imprison her once more within the darkest nightmares, this time with no escapes in sight.



Wednesday, April 11, 2018

2018 Reading Assignment Challenge -- First Quarterly Report Card

hosted by
Michelle and Berls @ Because Reading



January ramblings:  January was a great start to the year.  Books read, books read, books read.  Looks like things are looking up, even as a reading slump is still kind of threatening.

February ramblings:  February started getting rocky, but one of the first books I read in the month was a Reading Assignment book, so at least I got that out of the way.  Then I started losing focus.  I guess sometimes you just need a break, even from the thing you love to do most.

March ramblings:  I think I'm lucky I even finished a book in March.  But I did--I finished four books, and one of them was a Reading Assignment book.  That is all.


First Quarter:
My Grade:  I Made an A!

First Quarterly Report Card link up




A Summary

I think I'm lucky that I even managed to finish a book the last month of this Quarter.  I just lost all motivation to read.  Well, I wouldn't put it that way, because I DID read.  Just not as much as I normally do on a monthly basis.  I mean, I read four books in the month of March--my usual average is 10 to 14.  That's a pretty big difference.

But I made it, and I'm actually kind of enjoying the laid back, relaxed stance I'm taking this year.  One book a month at least gives me something to read, but doesn't make me feel obligated to finish one book so that I may get into the next.

A Forecast

The last three books in this first semester are as follows, and I'm thinking of assigning them to specific months as well... just haven't decided yet... so maybe not really assigning them.  Of course, as of the posting of this update, I've already read Blood Surfer for the month of April, so the other two books will get read... when they get read... in May and June.



Thoughts: Pretty Girls Dancing

Pretty Girls Dancing

by Kylie Brant

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.5 Stars

Years ago, in the town of Saxon Falls, young Kelsey Willard disappeared and was presumed dead.  The tragedy left her family with a fractured life—a mother out to numb the pain, a father losing a battle with his own private demons, and a sister desperate for closure.  But now another teenage girl has gone missing.  It’s ripping open old wounds for the Willards, dragging them back into a painful past, and leaving them unprepared for where it will take them next.

Bureau of Criminal Investigation agent Mark Foster has stumbled on uncanny parallels in the lives of the two missing girls that could unlock clues to a serial killer’s identity.  That means breaking down the walls of the Willards’ long-guarded secrets and getting to a truth that is darker than he bargained for.  Now, to rescue one missing girl, he must first solve the riddles that disappeared with another: Kelsey Willard herself.  Dead or alive, she is his last hope.


I'm going to admit that it was probably my fault for going into this book expecting the typical Kylie Brant romantic suspense, and not getting what I expected.  This is definitely not what I'm used to with Kylie Brant, but since she'd primarily been a romance author, I hadn't thought twice about purchasing and reading Pretty Girls Dancing.

But as the book began, switching from one character's perspective to another, and introducing very un-romance novel-like characters, I started getting a little... well, I guess wary might be a good way to put it.  So I went to check the Goodreads book page, and realized that this book was never advertised as a romantic suspense--that was just my own wishful thinking.

On that note, after readjusting my own reading perspective, I found myself delving deeper into the book and becoming curious as to how everything would come together in the end.  In a way, the writing was still very Kylie Brant, even if the characters weren't.  It's not that I'm unaccustomed to reading books with a lot of flawed characters, all flawed to the point that I just cannot relate to any of them--I just prefer not to read those books.

And Pretty Girls Dancing is your typical crime thriller, based on a serial murder, but that ends up being more about digging up all the dark secrets among all the people affected.  These characters are all so flawed and so unlikable that I had a hard time trying to figure out how I felt about them.  Of course, that effectively made me focus more on the serial murder investigation, which had started to become more intriguing as new leads turned up, and even when the young teenage Janie Willard decided to try her hand at amateur detecting.

And then I found myself wanting more of Janie Willard--a young girl who has lost her elder sister, who has a social anxiety that makes it hard for her to interact with people, but who is trying her best to move forward while taking care of her equally shattered parents during the past seven years that her sister was taken.  I found myself wanting a Janie Willard story where she finds her niche in investigation.  I liked her the most of all the characters in this book, because to be honest, she was probably the most honest and good character.

Kylie Brant wrote a great crime thriller, I will admit that.  And even the lack of my own favored romance to go with it, the book was entertaining to a point.

My biggest quibble about this book, is surprisingly not about the characters.  I feel like the characters were pretty real, even if I couldn't find myself relating with them.  My biggest quibble is actually about the resolution and ending and how abruptly the case gets solved with a simple light bulb moment by our BCI agent.  And the truth is, it seemed kind of left field and I'm not entirely sure how we got to that point.  It makes sense, when we get there.  I just don't know HOW we came up with the conclusion.

Another small quibble would be the amount of story you get, and the number of secrets revealed... but that very few of them had to do with the main conflict--they just happened to be dark secrets (which truthfully weren't that dark, really) dug up during investigation.

It kind of leaves the book a slight bit unsatisfying, truth be told.


Sunday, April 8, 2018

Monthly Reading Wrap Up -- March 2018

This is probably the slowest reading month I've had since I started vigorously tracking my reading progress using various spreadsheets.  That would have been back in 2014 when I started listing more than just what I read each month.  I think the lowest number of books read in a month since 2014 was 6 books.  Of course, before 2014, I was still not quite tracking or reading as much, and had months where I went without reading at all--that was back in 2012.

Before 2012 were my "in college" or "just got out of college" years wherein I maybe read one book a month, four books a month, or no books for months.

I wonder if this year will prove to be so slow I'll have to drop my reading challenge goal back down below 100 books...  O.O

Though at this time, about a week into April, I've already managed to finish reading three books, so maybe this will be a better month than March.  Maybe...

March Reads




Books Dropped/Put On Hold


None this month!  Yay!

Currently Reading



March Reading Stats

Total works read:  3
  • 3 print/e-book novels

Average rating: 3.33 Stars
  • Highest Rated:  Light in Shadow by Jayne Ann Krentz // 4.0 Stars
  • Lowest Rated:  Dangerous Deception by Kylie Brant // 2.5 Stars

Series I started reading:
  • None
Series I completed:
  • Tremaine Traditions by Kylie Brant
  • Whispering Springs by Jayne Ann Krentz
Series I have made progress on:
  • None

Favorite reads:  This isn't a hard pick since I only read three books in March.  Obviously Light in Shadow was the more enjoyable of the books I read, but probably only because I always seem to enjoy books by Jayne Ann Krentz, and I read very little of anything else.

Disappointing reads:  Kylie Brant was always a personal favorite because her Mindhunters books were some of the first few romantic suspense novels I'd read years ago when I first stumbled upon the genre.  Unfortunately, the tail end of her Tremaine Traditions romantic suspense series was a bit lackluster, so the last book, Dangerous Deception ended up being the lowest rated book for March.  However, it's not like I had much to go on with my slow month anyway.


Reviews & Notable Posts

Reviews Written


Memes

  • Did not Meme this month!

Other Posts

  • None


Coming Up In April

Tentative TBR


Other Stuff

In keeping with my Author Love challenge, I'm proposing three more Jayne Ann Krentz books to read for the month of April.  Hopefully I'll be able to get through those since it's JAK and her books have always proven fast-paced, exciting, and easy to get into.

Meanwhile, I will be doing my best to find some time to finish listening to Jill Shalvis's last Animal Magnetism book, which I put off for some time in favor of mindless and wonderful sing-a-long music.  But we will definitely get around to finishing that book.

I would also like to start in on some Juliette Marillier work, of which I've already decided to go the Sevenwaters direction, although I would also love to immerse myself in her most recent young adult high fantasy of the "Oh my god, those covers are so beautiful!" variety.


2018 Wrap-Ups 

Past Monthly Reading Wrap Ups (2016 / 2017)
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



Saturday, March 31, 2018

Series Thoughts: Tremaine Traditions

Tremaine Traditions
by Kylie Brant
Book #1:  Alias Smith and Jones | Goodreads | Rating:  3.5 Stars
Book #2:  Entrapment | Goodreads | Rating:  4.0 Stars
Book #3:  Truth or Lies | Goodreads | Rating:  2.5 Stars
Book #4:  Dangerous Deception | Goodreads | Rating:  2.5 Stars

Average Series Rating:  3.125 Stars ~~>> 3.2 Stars


I would say that the Tremaine Traditions is a great romantic suspense series to read during a nice rainy weekend if you don't have anything else to do.  Encompassing hints of what I found to love in Kylie Brant's later series, Mindhunters, this series also unfortunately sprinkles a lot of dated romance cliches in and around each story line.

I love that most of the heroines in this series are strong, feisty, independent women with some level of sense.  This is something I always wish we could see more of in the romance category in general.  Unfortunately, the strong heroines in this series also tended to get overpowered by the neanderthal-like, pushy men, and the way the romances played out.

The suspense aspect of these books were exciting enough, but unfortunately not a whole lot to write home about.  Possibly this is a case where you could see hints of the mysteries and the suspense being a great, potentially center-stage part of the books, but ended up as a background to the first and foremost romantic coupling.



He called himself Jones and was more pirate than charter boat captain.  His protective streak was suffocating.  His kisses devastating.  And the bullet scar on his back, the gun tucked in his pants, told Ann that there was plenty the sexy stranger wasn't telling her.  Perhaps even more than she wasn't telling him.

Because she wasn't Ann Smith, island-hopping rich girl.  She was Analiese Tremaine, and she was there to find and rescue her missing brother.  But how long could she hold on to her carefully constructed identity when her search had already landed her in deep trouble with no one but Jones to help her out alive?


I guess one of the things I'm grateful for is the fact that I haven't known Kylie Brant to suffer extremely damsel-like heroines.  Sure, Ana had her moments, but she was still quite resourceful and had her wits about her--if only Jones would quit smothering her with an over-protectiveness that sort of comes out of nowhere.

I would have liked to explore more of Ana's proclaimed skills and talents as a decryption and encoding specialist who works at her brother's company, Tremaine Technologies... or something like that.  Her expertise is hinted at, but never really utilized in the book.  She manages to get herself around just fine without too much interference from Jones, but then the story takes a turn into survival story mode, and Ana becomes just another damsel-esque heroine... sort of.

As for the romance, I'm not entirely sure I really care for it much.  Jones had some sort of stick up his ass that needed to chill.  Though at least the lusting was kept to a minimum and the "I love you" exclamations weren't premature.

The caveman/over protective big brothers thing gets a bit old though.


Sam Tremaine could charm the thorns off roses, and Juliette Morris both wanted and hated him.  The CIA agent had learned her secret identity--and had used it to gain her help to catch an international criminal.  Even worse, she was falling for this man of honor who had every reason to despise her.

He'd thought her a liar and a heartbreaker.  But in Juliette, Sam discovered a woman whose loyalty and warmth shook him to the core.  Hiding his growing feelings would take every covert skill he possessed, but Juliette's future depended on her never learning she'd stolen his heart....


Erm...  I found that I enjoyed Entrapment a bit more than I did the first book in this series.  A lot of that has to do with Juliette and her resourcefulness, her talent, and her skill at doing what she does.  But the ultimate truth is... well, there wasn't a whole lot else about this book I can even recall after finishing the read weeks later.

The romance could have been executed a little bit better, I suppose.  I had a hard time NOT getting frustrated with Sam and his judgmental preconceptions about Juliette.  It was getting annoying that Sam would admit, over and over again, that his actions in getting his job done were no different than Juliette's.  And yet, he allows himself to hide behind a government agency to justify what he does, while condemning Juliette just because her reasons are personal ones.  As if Sam didn't have his own personal vendetta against the big baddie in this book (a name of a villain I cannot recall, and do not care to look up).

Otherwise, I really DID enjoy this book, as it was much more intriguing and exciting than the first.  And Juliette was pretty awesome.



Dr. Shae O'Reilly followed the rules--but Cade Tremaine caused her to break them.  With a criminal father and a brother in jail, she knew the last man she should ever get involved with was a cop.  Especially one who didn't know her past. But when an injured--and then escaped--drug dealer decided Shae was his angel of mercy, she found herself getting very close to the charming detective.

Cade couldn't help but be intrigued by the sassy, independent and sexy-as-hell doctor.  She held the key to finding a cop killer--but would he risk her life to catch his man?  Or would this be the time he caught--and kept--the woman?


This was probably not my favorite Tremaine Traditions installation, but probably only because I had an issue with Cade Tremaine.  The man has no respect for boundaries; the fact that our heroine, a very intelligent woman, would still allow him to disrespect her boundaries, no matter how many times she has asked him to either a) leave her alone, or b) get out of her house, made it a little hard for me to swallow.

Nonetheless, at least she didn't really just melt at the smoldering, handsome alpha male's every gaze.  That would have been even more disappointing.  Meanwhile, the main mystery was a tad bit predictable, and at the same time, not quite so exciting as I would have liked.

I also wished a lot more things could have been resolved between Shae and her family.  The inclusion of James Tremaine, eldest Tremaine brother, felt a little forced as well--it was pretty much a shoe-in for "we've got another book coming."


Your parents' deaths weren't accidents...

Billionaire securities expert James Tremaine couldn't believe the anonymous note.  Private investigator Tori Corbett was his only hope of uncovering the truth, but keeping his hands off his beautiful employee was as difficult as solving the case.

And yours won't be, either.

For Tori, working day and night with the sexy tycoon was like playing with fire.  She wouldn't--couldn't--become emotionally involved with a man hell-bent on vengeance.  Especially now that there was evidence linking her own father to the crime....


It's unfortunate that the last two Tremaine Traditions had to show-case main male characters who are both not only pushy, but annoyingly unable to respect the boundaries of other people.  It also sucks that the women in both books were strong and independent in all aspects until it came to facing off with their male character counterpart.  It gets old watching the female characters in these books turn to putty just because the main male character is good looking and gives sexy, smoldering looks.

Nonetheless, I really loved Tori and her continued attempts, and resolve not to let the barbaric James Tremaine sway her principles... even though it was pretty futile watching the whole thing.

The twenty year old mystery was an interesting one, but in the end seemed a bit predictable, though I DID like following Tori's investigations.  The ending was abrupt and unsatisfying, even if conclusive.

All-in-all, this book is enjoyable, but that's about all I can say about it.


Saturday, March 10, 2018

Brief Thoughts: Cold Image

Cold Image

by Leslie A. Kelly
Book 4 of Extrasensory Agents

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  2.0 Stars

Derek Monahan sees violent death wherever he turns.  His strange ability forces him to watch crimes that repeat in loops of blood and anguish.  The only positive is that he is able to use his power to solve cold crimes...like the disappearances of boys from a secretive academy.

Dr. Kate Lincoln hates that her kid brother was sent to an awful school in Georgia.  The place is a nightmare--housed in what was once a brutal asylum.  Now her brother has disappeared, and she's the only one who seems to care.

Derek wants to help the beautiful doctor, but going undercover in a place that seethes with ancient violence isn't easy.  When she sees just how much his job affects him, Kate realizes she wants to be the one to help heal the wounds of this strong, noble, and very sexy man.

As long as she survives to do it.


I suppose I give this book a 'C' for effort, despite the fact that it didn't really show much effort, to be honest.  The premise was very promising, and this is the fourth book in a series I've been enjoying.  The previous book was likable.

But the amount of typos, grammatical errors, and back-story errors I came across just goes to show how terrible a book can be when it lacks proper editing.  So no matter how much I like this author and looked forward to this series' next installment... it was disappointing, to say the least.

And don't get me started on the amount of tacky, dated romance novel schmaltz...

The most disappointing part of this book was that it had all sorts of promising potential.  Our heroine was non-standard, straight-forward, and level-headed.  Our hero wasn't a broody alpha despite the fact that he probably has every right to be a broody alpha based on his ability to see the violent death echoes of people being murdered.  The mystery was also promising, and the only reason I stayed with the book--I really wanted to know what was happening at the creepy juvenile academy for delinquent rich boys, and why they kept disappearing.

It would have been nice if some retribution were to be had against some of the nasty professors of the school...


Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Monthly Reading Wrap Up -- February 2018

Due to my own personal reasons, which amounted to nothing more serious than that maybe I just needed a break from something I really love, I didn't end up finishing the books I'd planned to finish reading for February.  Because of this, obviously the blog ended up being pretty quiet for some time, with only the occasional It's Monday! meme just to let everyone know that I'm still here.

Anyway, for some reason I decided to start reading about four books at about the same time.  Or rather, I started listening to an audio book, reading two other books... then threw another book in when March rolled around.  February is a short month anyway, and before we knew it, it was over.

February Reads




Books Dropped/Put On Hold


None this month!  Yay!

Currently Reading




February Reading Stats

Total works read:  7
  • 4 print/e-book novels
  • 2 audio books
  • 1 anthology

Average rating: 3.30 Stars
  • Highest Rated:  A Treacherous Curse by Deanna Raybourn // 4.5 Stars
  • Lowest Rated:  Cold Image by Leslie A. Kelly // 2.0 Stars

Series I started reading:
  • None
Series I completed:
  • None
Series I have made progress on:
  • Harmony by Jayne Castle (Jayne Ann Krentz)
  • Veronica Speedwell by Deanna Raybourn
  • Animal Magnetism by Jill Shalvis
  • Santori Stories anthology
  • Extrasensory Agents by Leslie A. Kelly
  • Tremaine Traditions by Kylie Brant

Favorite reads:  Because I only read so many books in the month of February, it wasn't hard to pick out the ones I especially loved.  Obviously, based on ratings, A Treacherous Curse was my most favorite of books for the month.  I've enjoyed each book of this series so far, and A Treacherous Curse did not disappoint, so I am extra happy about that.

Meanwhile, other books were a bit meh, but I might also give Illusion Town by Jayne Castle a quick shout out, as there hasn't been an occasion yet that I haven't enjoyed a book in the Harmony series.

Disappointing reads:  I truly am disappointed that Leslie A. Kelly's most recent installment of Extrasensory Agents wasn't more to my liking.  I haven't posted a review yet, but for the most part, I think I would have loved everything about this book save for the execution, presentation, and lack of editing.  The concept was a good one, the characters had potential, and the mystery DID have me wanting to know how things turned out.  But there were grammar errors and typos enough to pique my irritation, and then there was a schmaltz factor that really got my eyes rolling.


Reviews & Notable Posts

Reviews Written


Memes


Other Posts



Coming Up In March

Tentative TBR


Other Stuff

I had initially planned to finish reading Jayne Ann Krentz's Whispering Springs series in February, so had gone ahead and planned on tentatively adding two more JAK books to March, in keeping with my Author Love challenge.  But now I really don't know what I want to read for March.  If I take away those two books, however, then I've got a seriously skimpy list, so they're staying.

Meanwhile, I can't really think of much I'm planning for this blog.  The Booklikes platform is playing a new reading game that I briefly considered joining, but then decided to bow out this time, if only because I didn't really have time to go over all the rules and decide if I wanted to play.  With what my recent reading has looked like the past couple weeks, however, I might not have made it very far anyway.

I suppose I'm just going to spend another month just reading in an extremely laid back fashion.


2018 Wrap-Ups 

Past Monthly Reading Wrap Ups (2016 / 2017)
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