Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Brief Thoughts: A Kiss at Midnight

A Kiss at Midnight

by Eloisa James
audio book narrated by Susan Duerden
Book 1 of Fairy Tales

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.0 Stars

Miss Kate Daltry doesn't believe in fairy tales . . . or happily ever after.

Forced by her stepmother to attend a ball, Kate meets a prince... and decides he's anything but charming.  A clash of wits and wills ensues, but they both know their irresistible attraction will lead nowhere.  For Gabriel is promised to another woman—a princess whose hand in marriage will fulfill his ruthless ambitions.

Gabriel likes his fiancee, which is a welcome turn of events, but he doesn't love her.  Obviously, he should be wooing his bride-to-be, not the witty, impoverished beauty who refuses to fawn over him.

Godmothers and glass slippers notwithstanding, this is one fairy tale in which destiny conspires to destroy any chance that Kate and Gabriel might have a happily ever after.

Unless a prince throws away everything that makes him noble...

Unless a dowry of an unruly heart trumps a fortune...

Unless one kiss at the stroke of midnight changes everything.

First of all, this is my first audio book narrated by Susan Duerden, and her performance was amazing!

Second of all, the author leaves a note at the end of the book that states that she takes LOTS of liberties with the time period, purposefully choosing not to be accurate in her representation of the Regency era.  As this is a fairy tale, and because I'm not entirely familiar with Regency anyway, this isn't something that really bugs me too much.

Finally, I find this book extremely difficult to rate or even give an opinion on, both because while I DID enjoy the book for it's entertainment value and Kate's subtle humor and sarcasm, I was rolling my eyes at all the over-dramatics displayed by our characters, the tacky dialogue between our lovers, and all the obvious presentations of romantic cliches scattered around the story.

Meanwhile, I lost count of how many times Kate cynically rolls her eyes at her physical beauty, and has to be told over and over again by friends, new acquaintances, and even her godmother that she is, indeed, very beautiful.  Once or twice is fine; several times throughout the book gets a little annoying.

And the prince was just plain frustrating and I found myself kind of hoping that Kate would end up becoming attracted to the prince's majordomo, Berwick, instead.  Now there's a character you can come to like.

I liked that Kate's stepsister, Victoria, was a lovely, sweet girl from beginning to end.  I loved Kate's godmother, Lady Henrietta Roth's openly blunt personality.  The presence of animals--the three dogs, the lion in the cage, the elephant and the monkey--were nice.

And while I liked how Kate and Prince Gabriel's relationship developed over time... I didn't really like the circumstances of which they start falling in love in the first place.  And then when the angst started, I might have lost interest in them as a couple.  I also found their first encounter alone together a bit hard to be happy about since the prince all but gropes her forcefully, and all she feels is lust, even though she wasn't inviting the attention.

All-in-all, the book was entertaining, but I'm still trying to figure out whether I actually like the romance or not, even if I DID enjoy Kate's non-romance interactions, as they were able to showcase her as a witty, intelligent, and reasonable-headed young lady, rather than the besotted, love struck teenager she becomes when she's around Gabriel.


I read this book for Romance Bingo 2017 for the Eyeshadow and Heaving Bosoms square... because just look at the cover.

Other possible squares:
  • Insta-love
  • Too Stupid To Live -- Some of Kate's actions are hard for me to accept.
  • New Adult -- The characters are in their twenties.
  • Regency Romance -- Even though the author states that she chose to portray the era inaccurately.
  • Virgin & Best First Time
  • Historical Romance
  • Secret Billionaire -- For reasons.
  • Fairy Tale Retelling -- This book is based on Cinderella.
  • Wedding Bells -- Two weddings are mentioned in this book, even if none actually take place.
  • Love (Free Space)

Brief Thoughts: The Switch

The Switch

by Lynsay Sands

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.0 Stars

When they first met Lord Jeremy William Radcliffe, Charlie and her twin sister, Elizabeth, were escaping from their uncle--taking turns acting the young gentleman to avoid detection.  But Charlie couldn't help falling head over heels--and out of a window--for the handsome lord.  Of course, that was only the beginning; Lord Radcliffe insisted on showing "him" and her lovely sister to London.

But how could he do that?  With every touch, Radcliffe seemed unknowingly to incite indecent desires in Charlie, and his fraternal intent was certain to land her in a fine mess.  Though it was a great game to play a boy, there was more fun in being female.  And after one brush of his fiery lips when her guise was gone, Charlie swore to be nothing but his woman forevermore.

I love a good cross-dressing plot device.  In fact, it is actually one of my favorite devices because of all the delicious possibilities for comedy, drama, and angst.  Embarrassing situations are also the icing on the cake.  Yes.  I love watching fictional characters squirm.

So when I read the summary for The Switch, I got really excited.  First of all, this book would satisfy one of the squares for Romance Bingo 2017.  Secondly, CROSS-DRESSING PLOT DEVICE!

The Switch was an enjoyable book, though to be honest, a couple days after completing said book, I'm not entirely sure I can recall anything that really stood out about it.  On the other hand, I actually found some of the tangents in this book a little hard to suspend disbelief for, namely Lord Radcliffe's reactions towards the twin sisters dependent on who was playing the boy and who was playing the girl that day.  Unless pheromones are really as strong as media tends to make them seem in humans, I suppose.

Otherwise, if you don't think too hard about some of the logical fallacies in The Switch, the book was actually quite entertaining.  I DID love watching the brief self-revelation plot point take place with our twins, each sister learning something significant about herself, and then moving forward with that newly discovered knowledge.

I did not quite care for the dragging on of the ending.  While it seemed like a significant part of the story, the last few chapters just felt kind of forced--like tying up loose ends in the form of a prolonged epilogue or something.  Or like forcing a last minute suspenseful encounter to balance out the romance heavy story.

Something like that.


I read this book for Romance Bingo 2017, the Twins square.

Other possible squares:
  • Insta-love -- While we could argue that Charlie and Lord Radcliffe's story wasn't insta-love, Beth and Tomas's story was definitely insta-love.
  • New Adult -- The twins are eighteen, I think.  I don't recall reading how old Radcliffe or Tomas are.
  • Regency Romance
  • Eyeshadow and Heaving Bosom -- The original cover from 1999 doesn't show bosom.  The cover from Avon in 2013 shows a generously more amount of bosom.
  • Virgin & Best First Time -- There is no monologue about whether or not the sex was great, but the virgin part is true.
  • Historical Romance
  • Love (Free Space)

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Brief Thoughts: Sweet Little Lies

Sweet Little Lies

by Jill Shalvis
audiobook narrated by Karen White
Book 1 of Heartbreaker Bay

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.5 Stars

Choose the one guy you can’t have...

As captain of a San Francisco Bay tour boat, Pru can handle rough seas—the hard part is life on dry land.  Pru loves her new apartment and her neighbors; problem is, she’s in danger of stumbling into love with Mr. Right for Anybody But Her.

Fall for him—hard...

Pub owner Finn O’Riley is six-foot-plus of hard-working hottie who always makes time for his friends.  When Pru becomes one of them, she discovers how amazing it feels to be on the receiving end of that deep green gaze.  But when a freak accident involving darts (don’t ask) leads to shirtless first aid, things rush way past the friend zone.  Fast.

And then tell him the truth...

Pru only wants Finn to be happy; it’s what she wishes for at the historic fountain that’s supposed to grant her heart’s desire.  But wanting him for herself is a different story—because Pru’s been keeping a secret that could change everything.

I think one of things that Jill Shalvis excels in is creating a set of characters you come to love almost immediately, despite some of the flaws that come to happen over the course of the story (or series), as well as some of the stupid, frustrating things that said characters allow themselves to do.

Pru is absolutely a wonderful character, though she's a few Mother Theresa acts shy of becoming a standard Mary Sue.  If it weren't for some of her more realistic, down-to-earth charms, I'm not sure I would have been able to relate with her, nor fall for her.  But between her affection for her scaredy-cat dog, her quirky behavior around people, and a handful of moments that had me wincing in secondhand embarrassment for her, she came off so likable that I could almost forgive her for dragging out her conflict to the point of frustration.

And therein lies the one, biggest reason why this book wasn't a complete love for me.  The idea was great from page one, because it served as a vehicle for all sorts of delicious romantic angst to come.  Pru's little secret about her identity and her reasons for keeping said secret at the beginning was a great start to the story.  And as her relationship with Finn grew stronger and she continued to avoid telling him this truth, an almost predictable romantic trope wormed it's way to the surface.

And then about the fourth time she monologues about needing to tell Finn before their relationship got too far, and then changing her mind because she was too caught up in playing sexy times with him... well, their relationship was already at a pretty far level, and her wishy-washy avoidance started getting a bit frustrating.  Because we've all seen this story before in many other variations, and while I enjoyed it the first time around, I think I would have enjoyed it more in this particular book if something had turned out a little different.

But Finn's reaction to Pru's revelation was standard.  Pru's reaction to Finn's reaction was standard.  And then the reactions of their friends were also standard.  And so the whole climax of the story's main conflict somehow came off a bit anticlimactic.  Then, on top of that, the ending "Declarations of Love" scene kind of came off a bit tacky.

Don't get me wrong, the FEELS were still present.  I felt a pang for Pru--this formula is tried and true after all--I loved following the characters, and the witticisms and humor were standard Jill Shalvis fun.  But that doesn't mean it doesn't frustrate me.

Anyway, again I absolutely love the characters created in this first installment of a new series.  The crew of Heartbreaker Bay are fun, unique, and I very much look forward to the rest of their stories.  And also, I hope more animals are involved, because the presence of the little growly Thor just made this book so much sweeter!


I read this book for Romance Bingo 2017, the Guy/Girl Next Door square.

Other possible squares:
  • Blown Away -- The cover gives off a windy feel.
  • Love (Free Space)

Monday, February 20, 2017

Thoughts: Sweet Bea

Sweet Bea

by Sarah Hegger
Book 1 of Sir Arthur's Legacy

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  4.0 Stars

Is anything sweeter than revenge?

In a family of remarkable people, ordinary Beatrice strives to prove herself worthy.  When her family is threatened with losing everything, she rushes to London to save them.  Unfortunately, she chooses as her savior the very man who will see her family brought low.

Garrett has sworn vengeance on Sir Arthur of Anglesea for destroying his life when he was a boy and forcing his mother into prostitution for them to survive.  He has chosen as his instrument Sir Arthur's youngest daughter, Beatrice.

Can Beatrice’s goodness teach Garrett that love, not vengeance, is the greatest reward of all?

I'm actually quite pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed this book.  I was expecting some historical fluff, and while the book was definitely fluffy, it was actually also kind of inspirational, even if not on any global levels.

Beatrice is kind of the odd sheep in her family of extraordinary people, as the summary states.  Her mother, the Lady Mary, is well-respected and authoritative; her father a great knight and warrior whom even the king has become envious of.  Her brothers readily follow in Sir Arthur's footsteps in kind, and her sister, Lady Faye, is the perfect beauty, wife, and mother.

Meanwhile, Bea is simply known as the one with hair-brained ideas who keeps finding herself in one form of trouble or another.  But when her family is in trouble, she takes it upon herself to seek out her father with hopes of saving the day.

In truth, Beatrice could have been that heroine I love to hate.  Bea is naive and innocent, too trusting of others, at times kind of ditzy.  And her main hair-brained idea in this book truly DOES get her and her companions into a lot of trouble.  But aside from all of that, she's a Mary Sue of epic proportions as even one of her fellow companions states that she's a rare person with a big, warm heart.

And so while she's a heroine I normally can't stand, somehow, Bea comes off kind of endearing, and manages to show us that she's so much more than what she's always described as.  There's a lot of feisty and a churning mind under her lovely, sweet personality that I don't think characters in the book give her enough credit for.

One thing that bugged me includes how Bea's family treats her, even by the end of the book.  If she's ignorant about current events or even family goings on, it's because nobody ever tells her anything.  And when she actively seeks out answers, they either omit facts or lie to her or just tell her that she doesn't need to know, keeping her completely in the dark.  So I feel like the whole "Bea shouldn't do anything if she doesn't know what's going on" mentality is a bit unfair to her.  Hard to keep a wandering child from falling off a cliff if you don't warn her that it's there, or what will happen if she gets to close.

Even as the conclusion rolled around, I still didn't know whether or not Bea's adventure was pointless.  The family still isn't really saying anything about what they already knew, or what kinds of precautions were already active--there are STILL secrets being kept.

Which brings me to the second thing that didn't work for me as the ending.  Truth be told, it was a nice, well-rounded ending.  But it was well-rounded because we pretty much pick up all of the story's stray eggs and stick them all in the basket and call it good.  I mean, everything just fell together like we were in a hurry to wrap up the show or something.


The book started off a little hard to get into, as I had a hard time with caring about the characters.  It wasn't that I didn't like them; they just didn't mean anything to me, and neither did the story.  So I'm glad that things picked up pretty quickly, and with the short length of this novel, the progression was straight-forward.  We set off on a journey, and despite a few random detours, the book pretty much took us where it meant to take us since day one.

On a side note, I loved the rag tag group that Beatrice manages to collect along her way.  I mean, she really only picks up two people to join her gang, and one of them was a little brat boy of a thief who kept trying to manipulate Bea's emotions; however, it DID make the adventure a little more amusing.  I definitely loved the inclusion of Ivy and her subtle, budding friendship with Bea, and the small spark of romance with Tom.

Again, this book was more enjoyable than I'd expected, and that is always a good thing.  I can't say that I completely fell for Garrett by the end of the book, but I don't dislike him either.

I may or may not continue on in this series.


I read this book for Romance Bingo 2017 for the "Headless" Woman square.

Other possible squares:
  • New Adult - Bea and Garrett are fairly young, and I doubt they are any older than their mid-twenties.
  • Virgin & Best First Time - For obvious reasons.
  • Rogue - I would label Garrett as this.
  • Historical Romance - I think this book takes place in the Middle Ages.
  • Love (Free Space)

Short Rant: Highlander Claimed

Highlander Claimed

by Juliette Miller
Book 1 of Clan McKenzie

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  2.5 Stars

Since her adoption by peasants of the Ogilvie Clan, Roses has been marked as an outsider.  Her fair hair and golden complexion set her apart, as does a mysterious tattoo she keeps hidden at all costs.  So when Laird Ogilvie corners her with an indecent proposal, Roses has no ties to stop her from fleeing.  Outcast and alone, her escape across the Highlands is interrupted by Wilkie Mackenzie, the wild and handsome brother of nearby Clan Mackenzie's leader.

Wilkie is honor bound to marry into the family of a valuable ally.  But when Roses sweeps him off his feet--literally--settling for an arranged match is no longer an option.  Torn between duty and desire, Wilkie dedicates himself to Roses's protection, but Laird Ogilvie knows her secret and will stop at nothing to steal Roses back.  Now, these star-crossed lovers find themselves in a fight to defend both their hearts... and their lives.

Okay.  So this wasn't exactly what I'd expected, but I hadn't actually expected to be bored and frustrated out of my mind for the first 60% of the book, and was honestly quite surprised that I had made it that far.  Highlander Claimed has it's charms, but seriously, this isn't a book for me.  Truth be told, I feel like it was maybe 200 pages too long, lingering too emphatically on how much our hero and heroine love each other, on how beautiful they find each other, on how they feel relentlessly, fatefully bound to one another, and on how wildly our hero reacts whenever he's parted from the heroine.

It would have made a pretty romantic story for many, I suppose, if you don't think about the fact that these two had met all of one day, had fought and injured each other, and are both really only consumed by each others' beauty, before almost instantaneously claiming that neither would be able to live without the other.  This book gives "love at first sight" a whole new layer of definitions I don't even want to get into.

The first and second chapters of this book were extremely promising, presenting to me, a heroine who seemed to be strong and decisive... before turning her personality around into a subservient damsel.  Roses's actions, from stabbing an abusive lord who was trying to rape her and running away, then determining to travel where she could find safe haven, then finally to bravely walking into the McKenzie Keep even though it was probably not a good idea, had presented her as a strong heroine.

Then the moment she and Wilkie fall in love--like a couple hours after they try to kill each other--she loses all of her spunk.

I understand that women during historical times were supposed to be subservient and defer to the men... and this is probably why I've never been drawn to historical fiction... but I kind of feel like the behaviors of both Roses and Wilkie seems a bit over-dramatic and extreme.  Roses's every word and action paints her in an extremely demure, subservient role, much different than the Roses we first met in Chapter One--because now everything is about making Wilkie happy, even to the extent of letting him dictate all of her movements and keeping her locked up in his antechamber.  And all Roses can think of is not wanting to further anger Wilkie by disobeying him.

And I'm just all flabbergasted, because what makes her new situation so different from that of her life in the Olgivie clan if she escapes one tyrant just to subject herself to another possessive neanderthal?

Wilkie simply comes off as a little creepily obsessive, and childish in his tantrums.

If this man were not ungodly good-looking, predisposed to being the "good" hero of a historical romance, or given many, many excuses for his behavior... how many women would truly swoon?  Replace him with the repugnant Laird Olgilvie from the beginning of the book, give him the same behaviors that Wilkie presents, and I imagine Roses's reactions would not be as forgiving.

Really, all that this couple had going for them in their love story was how unerringly beautiful they found each other.  It also doesn't help that both hero and heroine also turned out be super-perfect people.  Considering that this is a romance novel, first and foremost, I could almost forgive that.  But honestly, after 50% of our couple waxing poetic about how perfect they find each other, how much they love each other, and how hard it will be to be parted, I think I had enough.

The ending chapters were actually kind of exciting which lead to a nice little reprieve from the frustrating love story, which is why I'm just giving this book a 'meh' rating, rather than straight-out dislike.  The big secret about Roses was blatantly obvious when there was talk of a lost child and how important this child would be.  Come on now, those neon arrows are absolutely in your face!


I read this book for Romance Bingo 2017 for the Man in a Kilt square.

Other squares that may count include:
  • Insta-love - The hero and heroine fall in love before they even properly introduce themselves, and suddenly can't live without each other.
  • Virgin & Best First Time
  • Historical Romance
  • Secret Billionaire - As a historical, I think being secret nobility or royalty of a sort could work for this square.
  • Love (Free Space)

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Author Love Challenge in 2017

This sounds like a reading challenge that very much aligns with some of my reading goals this year.  Per my Personal Series Challenge, I have hopes to complete a bunch of series that I've already started.  This, of course, includes longer series by certain favorite authors I have just discovered recently.  Of course there are also authors who don't pre-dominantly write series.  And then there are authors who write short duologies or trilogies I haven't read.

Some specific authors that come to mind for this challenge include: Jill Shalvis, Jayne Ann Krentz (a.k.a. Amanda Quick or Jayne Castle), Juliet Marillier, Nora Roberts, Cynthia Eden, Addison Fox... and well, so many more.

Sign up at the link above!

The Rules:

  • Pick an author that you love and wish you’d read more of their books.
  • Set a goal to read x number of books by that author by the end of the year.  You can make your goal to read all their books, but all we ask is that your goal be at least 5.
  • Announce your participation, author, and goal in a blog post, goodreads post, FB post, etc. and link up.
  • Have fun finally catching up with a favorite author!

As this is the year of the laid back reading life for Ani, I'm determined not to get too overly ambitious with my reading challenges.  I will only choose one author.  And while I'd love to read all the books by this author, I'm sure it isn't entirely doable.

The author I am choosing for this challenge will be Jill Shalvis.  My main goal, in particular, is to finish her entire Lucky Harbor series, but I will also be reading a few other's of her books.  To make this challenge a little bit easier on me, I will simply set my goal at 7 books, which is the number of Lucky Harbor books I have left to read.  And don't forget the three leftover novellas, but I don't know if they would count.

If I happen to pick up more books, then I'll just feel good about myself for it since I also would like to continue on with her Animal Magnetism series (5 books TBR), and as of the posting of this piece, have started into her Heartbreaker Bay series (4 books TBR).  Then there are several other stand alone romances in her back list I've always been interested in.

Another author I'd thought about choosing was Jayne Ann Krentz, but really, this author might be better left for the more hefty Read All the Books Challenge, of which I may or may consider participating in.

Wish me luck!

Author:  Jill Shalvis
Goal:  Read 7 books

Possible Books/Works

I will be tracking this challenge at a separate page, to be created and posted soon.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Series Review: For Me trilogy

For Me series
by Cynthia Eden || Audio books narrated by Emily Beresford
Book #1: Die for Me | Goodreads | Rating:  3.0 Stars
Book #2: Fear for Me | Goodreads | Rating:  3.5 Stars
Book #3: Scream for Me | Goodreads | Rating:  2.5 Stars

Series Rating:  3.0 Stars

Frankly, I didn't really have much to say about the first For Me book when I read it for the first time two years prior, and I still don't really have much to say about it.  Neither was there much to say about the other two books in this trilogy.

I first discovered Cynthia Eden by reading her Deadly series (Deadly Fear, Deadly Heat, Deadly Sins--click titles to see my short reviews), and loved them.  So I went on to pick up more books by Cynthia Eden, specifically the For Me trilogy, since they also encompassed that same, dark and gritty, creepy serial killer type of story.

But when I had read Die for Me, it was actually kind of... flat.  It didn't give me that same excited thrill that the Deadly series had given me.  And I found the main female character, Catherine Cole, kind of over-dramatic and whiny, even though I knew she had a reason to be frantic and super-distressed.  To be fair, I had half-listened to the audio book and half-read the Kindle e-book--it's entirely possible that the narrator made the heroine sound too much like a sobbing, distraught mess for 90% of the book.  Again, I understand that the heroine had every right to be a sobbing, distraught mess based on the things that have happened to her, and continue to happen to her... but it doesn't mean I have to like it.

In the end, the book was still enjoyable, so I didn't feel like making a fuss.  I gave it a 3-Star rating and moved on without any words.

My re-read of Die for Me didn't turn out any different.

As for the other two novels... truth be told, Fear for Me was actually quite exciting, and I had a soft spot for the main heroine, Lauren Chandler.  She's strong, independent, and authoritative, and I liked her.

The book itself was spine-tingling and actually quite attention-stealing; although I did have a hard time getting into it at the beginning.  The main hero, Anthony Ross, kind of bugged me and came off as way too intense; I sometimes felt like he maybe needed a "Chill the Fuck Out" pill or something.  But, again, Lauren was a pretty cool gal, and being the District Attorney just made her oh, so much cooler.  It also helps that she DOES try to find a balance between doing her job as District Attorney, and not being TSTL by painting a target on her back.

I mean, she's the D.A., for crying out loud.  Just the job alone paints a target on her back, so it's not like she could hide under a rock for the rest of her life.

Finally, Scream for Me... was just not memorable.  Again, our main hero is way too intense in his obsessive behavior... pretty much when it comes to anything.  Again, we have a heroine with a tragic past that she keeps secret until the main hero forces it out of her.  Kyle McKenzie and Cadence Hollow were just NOT interesting people, and instead felt like a repeat of every other tragic heroine and broody alpha out there; which is kind of a disappointment, because I like reading Rom-Suspense where the couple is an investigating team of sorts, both in law enforcement.

But, maybe it was just my real life situational mood low, or something... but I couldn't really get into this book, and even though the serial abductions and killings could have been intriguing, I just found the entire story too much of a regurgitation of the previous two stories--or even of any other serial killer story--to really care.  And, again, it could have just been attributed to the fact that Kyle and Cadence were not interesting people to follow, which makes me feel like I've read this story somewhere before.


I decided to insert the first two books into Romance Bingo 2017:
  • Die for Me -- Love is Murder square
  • Fear for Me -- Second Chances square
I couldn't justify using Scream for Me for any of the squares, so I chose not to... the only other squares possible have already been taken.