Thursday, March 30, 2017

Cover Crush: Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman by Tessa Arlen

Cover Crush is a feature originally thought up by Erin at Flashlight Commentary.  Every Thursday, she publishes a post featuring a book jacket/book cover that she really likes with a short commentary about it.  I discovered this weekly feature via It's a Mad Mad World  and decided to join in the fun!

Judge a book by it's cover?  Absolutely!


I stumbled across a review for A Death By Any Other Name and found the cover really pretty, but the story summary more interesting.  So I clicked into the page at Goodreads and decided to check out the first book.  And I absolutely love the cover for Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman!  Before I even read the summary (which was also interesting), I ended up adding the book to my TBR based on the cover alone.

While the other two covers of the books in this Lady Montford Mystery series are also quite pretty (architecture of historical homes are enchanting), my favorite is the cover for the first book.

There's something about old houses and the surrounding land and scenery that I love.  And Death of a Dishonorable Gentleman just does wonders to make me think of standing on one of the higher levels of that mansion and looking out into the green, green acres, the crystal river, the simple growth of flowers...

Even the font fact for the title is done really well!

So pretty!  <3

I will definitely try to make time for this series.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Thoughts: Perfectly Match

Perfectly Matched

by Heather Webber
Book 4 of Lucy Valentine

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.5 Stars

The heat is on...

When Boston psychic Lucy Valentine finds herself involved in a group of eccentric psychics trying to learn more about their abilities, she is convinced a rare spring heat wave has flushed the crazies out of hiding.

Adding to her theory is her newest client in the Lost Loves division of Valentine, Inc., her family’s lucrative matchmaking firm.  He’s an animal communicator who hires Lucy to find his purrfect mate—because his cat told him so.

But craziest of all is The Beantown Burner, a serial arsonist who is targeting private eye Sam Donahue, the brother of Lucy’s boyfriend, Sean.  With the help of her kooky psychic group, Lucy must tap into abilities she didn’t know she had to catch the firebug before the fires turn deadly.  What she never expected to discover is that the motive behind the flames hits a little too close to home...and her heart.

This is probably my least favorite of the Lucy Valentine series, but not for reasons of the story itself.  The mystery parts were pretty decent, and again, we have at least three different ones going on at the same time.  They were predictable, although I felt like the identity of the arsonist was a little left-field.  Some of the mystery were pleasantly twisty, but the ending of this book indeed felt a bit rushed and awkward.  I can't say I was really surprised by the reveal of the culprit even though I felt a bit iffy about the motive.

The book itself was entertaining and easy to read.

What irked me about this book were the way all the characters were acting.  Or rather, I was irked by the way that a select few of the characters were acting.  It was like, on Lucy's worst week ever, everyone was conspiring against her to either be extremely annoying, unnecessarily frustrating, strangely secretive, or inconsiderately hurtful.  I still loved Marisol, Em, and Dovie, because they were their usual, steadfast support pillars in Lucy's life.  As was Raphael for the brief scene he appeared in.

And then there are the animals.  They DO make everything so much more likable, really.  Grendel is characteristically grumpy and loving at the same time.  Thoreau is just a bundle of cute.  And then there's the addition of Ebbie, who just seems like an adorable fur ball with psychic energy.  The one-eyed hamster, Odysseus doesn't make much of an appearance.

And with the exception of Marisol, neither do a lot of our usual characters.  I found Dovie's passive aggressive hinting at how Lucy and Sean need to have a great grandchild for her kind of cute, even if unnecessarily intrusive--but since she's a grandmotherly age, I forgive her, because that's something you expect of someone like Dovie anyway.

But everyone else from Lucy's father, to her Diviner Whiner group, to Preston Bailey, and even Sean were getting on my nerves.  I never saw enough of Sam Donahue, Sean's brother, to know his personality, but his evasiveness wasn't as annoying, for some reason.

Even though Lucy's father only appears for a brief moment at the beginning of the book, I felt like he was being unnecessarily mean.  While there was some logic behind his reasoning for evicting Sean, I just never remembered him to be a man who was childishly spiteful, just because Lucy wouldn't let him have his way.  And even after Lucy makes him see logic in why they needed to shut down their building for a while.  Then again, maybe I never got enough insight into his personality in previous books.

The Diviner Whiner group--dubbed as such by Preston because they are a bunch of psychics who keep complaining about everything during their sessions--were just frustrating.  They are purposefully mean-spirited to Lucy because they deem her unworthy of being a part of their little psychic class, no matter that Lucy is definitely psychic, even if in her own way.  I appreciated that Orlinda stood up for Lucy by telling them to back off; I wished Lucy had stood up for herself, as well, though.  Lucy seemed to have shrunken in her personality in this book, somehow, and I kept expecting her to snap back at the other three whenever they made personally insulting jibes at her.

But she didn't, and that bugged me.

Sean had been secretive about his past and what's been on his mind since the previous book.  It rolls on over into this fourth book, and while it wasn't a big deal because the two of them overcome that little obstacle eventually, it was still kind of frustrating.  And took up more book space than I thought necessary.

But the most frustrating person of all was Preston.  I had always found her presence annoying throughout the series, yet still tolerable.  She was that irritating younger sibling you had no choice but to endure.  And while I understood how Lucy could have started developing affection for the girl, I couldn't get myself to really like the nosy, busy-body reporter myself.

And in this particular book, she was just extremely, stubbornly, childish for so many reasons that I just wanted to jump into the book myself, slap some sense into her, and then drag her off to the hospital myself, or shove food down her throat.  I couldn't fathom why she was letting herself waste away like that even though so many people were worried about her.  And I also couldn't figure out why everyone was tip-toeing around her when it came to her physical health.

The secret reveal about why Preston was looking so sickly though... I didn't feel like it explained very well why she was also being stubborn and childish about her health.  She also continues to refuse telling anyone why she's acting the way she is, and keeps insisting that she's just fine.  It was like watching a teenager pull dramatic stunts using her own health as leverage just to gain attention.

I thought that, surely, there was something going on between her and Cutter; it was hinted at so many times.  Or I thought that there was some big, twisty reason why she was acting so stubborn.  But then the ending came around and I was honestly sorely disappointed that she had no other reasons for being childishly stubborn and almost killing herself of starvation, than that she was simply being childishly stubborn.  There was no real reason or explanation as to why she was acting the way she was.


Despite all the ranting above, I have to include a disclaimer here that I actually DID enjoy this book.  I mean, I rolled right through it.  The mysteries were serviceable.  The story itself is easy to get into.  The book could use a bit of editing as I found a lot of either typos or grammatical errors that couldn't be ignored.  (I noted that there's a mention that this book was self-published by Webber at a later date.)

But for the most part, Perfectly Matched was an entertaining, easy, and short novel to read.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Very Brief Short Story Thoughts: Definitely, Maybe

Definitely, Maybe

by Heather Webber
Lucy Valentine short story (#3.5)

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.0 Stars

It's a dark and stormy night when psychic Lucy Valentine shares with her best friends exactly how she acquired her supernatural abilities.

The content is exactly what the summary says.  Definitely, Maybe is a very short piece of work wherein Lucy tells a brief story about the night she lost her ability to see auras, then following, learned of her new supernatural skill.

To be honest, the girls are great together, and I just love that Lucy has two best friends who are supportive and wonderful.  Yay for positive female relationships in a book!!

Of course, this short story really felt like a teaser of sorts, or that maybe it could have been inserted somewhere within one of the other novels.  It was abrupt and gave us only a little bit more detail about what happened when Lucy was struck by lightning, thus changing her life and the nature of her psychic abilities.  I had already surmised as much since this particular piece of back story is mentioned in every installment.

And then, before you realize it, it's over and you're feeling a little lost.

So I had to dive into the next book immediately to fix that little hole.

Still, it was cute and enjoyable.

Brief Thoughts: Absolutely, Positively

Absolutely, Positively

by Heather Webber
Book 3 of Lucy Valentine

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  4.0 Stars

"Exposed" by a Boston Herald reporter, Lucy Valentine is suddenly the talk of the town.  Long back-story short: Even though the rest of her Valentine ancestors were blessed by Cupid with psychic abilities, Lucy's only special power lies in her ability to find things.  This skill has proven quite a blessing for those who come to her matchmaking agency in search of finding their long-lost loves.  Now that Lucy's secret is out, she has more new clients than she knows what to do with.  But soon a certain man of mystery steals Lucy's spotlight…

No, it's not Sean Donahue, the sexy fireman-turned-private-eye who's stolen Lucy's heart.  It's a masked man in a cowboy hat, dubbed "The Lone Ranger," who's been throwing handfuls of cash across the Common.  Now all of Beantown's abuzz.  Can Lucy unmask the mysterious money man, track down all her clients' old flames, and turn up the heat on her love life?  Absolutely, positively…

Absolutely, Positively is another great installment of the Lucy Valentine series by Heather Webber.  I continue to grow fond of these characters, and really appreciate the subtle development in the romance department as well.

Truth be told, I really don't know what to say about this book that I haven't already said about the previous two books.

Lucy is a great character, steady and lovable.  Sean's developments are a great new touch to the story--though I can't remember if his background was mentioned much in previous books.

While he was always the "Perfect Boyfriend" material since book one, I must admit, there's a bit of a new twist in his character that came across a little frustrating, specifically having to do with the romantic relationship between him and Lucy.  But I'm glad that, with each book in this series, the couple manages to work out their conflicts to continue moving towards a stronger relationship.

The rest of the characters are as wonderful as ever from Marisol to Em, to the parents, and Raphael.  Even the newest addition from the previous book, Cutter, is kind of cool even if he doesn't make much of an appearance.  I still find Preston a bit annoying, but I can kind of almost see how she's growing on Lucy.

Finally, there were, I think, three separate mysteries in this book that were actually quite pleasantly twisty-turny.  Two of the mysteries I kind of figured out as they came out pretty predictable, but were still planned really well.  The last little mystery--which, when you think about it, isn't much of a mystery--really didn't turn out the way I had thought it would; though to be honest, I liked how everything concluded.

The ending of this book felt a little awkward, though, so I don't know how to feel about that; almost rushed, like we were in a hurry to wrap things up.  But I blasted through the entire book in no time, so obviously I was entertained.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Review: Aftershock


by Jill Sorenson
Book 1 of Aftershock

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.0 Stars

As a Side Note on 3/26/2017:
I reread this book as an audio listen, narrated by Piper Goodeve--a way to refresh my memory about this world so that I can dive into the rest of the series, hopefully to finish it within the year.

For some reason, the second go around reading this book wasn't as exciting as the first time.  Maybe because I already knew what was going on?  Or maybe because some of the characters seem a bit more... frustrating than I remember?

Or maybe I remembered my experience a bit differently as time passed.  After all, I had read this book the first time about three years prior in 2014.  I have slept since then, and have also read 300+ books since.

Anyway, the narrator, Piper Goodeve, for this audio book was also a bit disappointing.  The distinctions between characters weren't done very well, and the inflections of her voice don't seem to depict character dialogues properly--excitement doesn't sound exciting, happy voices seem flat, and sad voices... well, they also seem flat.  I'm going to listen to the next book anyway, if only to see if she improves.

Meanwhile, enjoy the slightly edited review below that I wrote for this book back in 2014.  My feelings and thoughts haven't changed much.

I've always enjoyed a good disaster movie, so the idea of a Romantic Suspense combined with the disaster element was an interesting one I was willing to take up.  Of course, the only difference is that the element of a "villain" had to be included into this book as well, whereas most disaster movies involve enough tragedy with the whole "Humans versus Nature" thing to deliver enough suspense.  Mother Nature is a force enough to be reckoned with on her own, so you typically don't really need humans to cause more trouble.

Fortunately, the way that the book presents human bad guys as part of the repercussions of a disaster works out pretty well.

Chapter One of the book immediately dives into the disaster as an 8.5 earthquake devastates San Diego.  And then, everything sort of just spirals out of control from there--in a good way.

The Story:
Paramedic Lauren Boyer and her partner are on their way to an emergency call when the earthquake hits.  Within seconds, their vehicle has plunged under the depths of a collapsed freeway, and without warning Lauren's partner is killed with an instant impact from a falling SUV.  Fortune on her side so far, Lauren scrambles out of the ambulance alive, meeting up with Garret Wright, a mysterious man, dangerous looking, and ex-military, who is on a self-imposed mission to help save as many people as he can.

The two of them manage to find an RV, unscathed where an elderly man and his granddaughter are staying put.  Along the way, they save a young pregnant teenager who's vehicle explodes with her aunt still trapped inside.

Together, this small group of survivors work together to try and find a way to escape the now cavernous underpass while remaining alive.  Other survivors are found, but not long afterwards, the unconscious Sam Rutherford is the only one remaining in Lauren's makeshift triage tent of wounded.

Also impeding their potential for survival is a group of convicts who managed to get free when their prison transport van crashes during the earthquake.   And it seems that they're out to cause trouble for our survivor group, not caring whether anyone else lives, and not too concerned with helping anyone else survive.

My Thoughts:
This book was exciting to me because it's a different type of Romantic Suspense than the typical crime thriller, or military romances I typically end up reading.  As I said, I enjoy a good disaster movie any day and this was attractive to me.  Unfortunately, despite all the activity and action in the first few chapters of the situation set-up, the book felt slow-going.  The narration was detached and disjointed at lots of moments until the story itself began to make more progress.  When our survivors are finally situated, the narration seems to smooth out enough (or the story picks up enough excitement), that I just kept reading without too many quibbles.

There is no holding back on the gore or the details; the imagery is quite vivid and gross at times with blood, as well as the descriptions of dead, decomposing bodies, and even maggots.  I shuddered at the thought of all the descriptions of the corpses and the stench and whatnot.  But the action is told in a gritty, gripping way that keeps you hooked with interest for the conclusion.

Characters were great, though a lot of the secret reveals seemed irrelevant in the face of survival needs and disaster repercussions.  The angst created by Garrett's big secret about who he is seemed insignificant, almost unnecessary.  And Penny's own secret about her identity was frustrating considering there were more important things to worry about.  Then there was Owen and why he wouldn't just fess up about why he had racial tattoos all over his body--I think he created a lot of his own misunderstandings by remaining silent, though in the long run it didn't seem to matter anyway.

The romance was unbelievable and a bit lukewarm.  I'm inclined to believe that our main couple could become friends and lovers in the face of danger, but I'm not sure that this is a good way to base a future relationship on.  It's conflicting since you could feel the chemistry they shared based on sexual tension, lust, and when they finally slept with each other.  But I couldn't quite grasp the chemistry between them that created a "falling in love" situation.

Nonetheless, this was an enjoyable first book to a series, and the appeal of the next book involving Sam Rutherford, who remained in a coma throughout most of this first book, is very present.

This review was originally posted at Ani's Book Abyss / BookLikes in November 2014.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Quick Thoughts: Wait for Dark

Wait for Dark

by Kay Hooper
Book 17 of Bishop/Special Crimes Unit

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.0 Stars

An SCU team investigates a string of accidents, only to uncover a deadly and deliberate monster in the latest novel from New York Times bestselling author Kay Hooper.

In Clarity, North Carolina, the residents have fallen victim to an unfortunate series of events.  Seemingly random accidents have taken the lives of several citizens in the small mountain town.  But these deadly coincidences are anything but.  Something is on the hunt in Clarity, and the only clue as to what is a cryptic note given to the victims 24 hours before they meet their ends: “Wait for dark.”

Sheriff Mal Gordon knows how to handle his town, but he has no idea how to handle this.  Hollis Templeton and her team from the Special Crimes Unit, including her partner and lover, telepath Reese DeMarco, are called in to investigate.

But while the SCU has prepared them for the unknown, the incredible evil stalking Clarity shakes the team to their core when one of their own is targeted.  Now Hollis, the “cat with nine lives” finds herself facing death again.

And this time, not even her partner can protect her...

The actual book itself gets a 2.5 Star - This book is so meh - Rating.  I give an extra 0.5 Star for Hollis, who is my favorite of the Bishop/SCU characters.  I've always loved how Hollis is blunt and sarcastic, the much more colorful and animated of any of the characters since her appearance in Book 4.

I think the main thing that lost steam for me with this series is all the talking.  Yes, I understand that investigating crime is more than just action and arresting the bad guys.  But these characters seem to like to sit around and rehash the same conversations over and over again--about their powers, about the psychic world, about the Universe... etc.  I'm almost afraid to admit that only two out of five of their sit-down-in-the-conference-room discussions actually had to do with the murder investigation itself.

The crime and concept of this book is good, with lots of potential.  A string of accidents begin to prove much more sinister when a grisly murder tops it all off.  With so many deliberately planned deaths and little to no evidence to go on, these cases would definitely serve as a challenge to our federal agents of the SCU.

And that is just how the entire book goes on for almost 300 pages, with a lot of sitting around and discussing psychic powers, like we hadn't already been doing as much for sixteen books already.  Okay.  I'm exaggerating.  We really didn't start this whole "sitting down and discussing everything about the psychic world" thing until probably about two story arcs ago.  Still... it's becoming a bit much and seems to make the books kind of boring since it's always the same conversation.

Then, the ending takes a turn when Hollis has an epiphany and suddenly the case has been solved.

To say I was a bit disappointed in this turn of events... well, I suppose this is what I'd been expecting anyway since the most recent of the Bishop/SCU installments have been less than ideal.  And almost too dragging and boring.

Don't get me wrong.  I love this series--have loved it since the first couple trilogy arcs.  Have loved and looked forward to seeing Hollis Templeton in action since she joined the unit.  But it seems that, slowly but surely, these books are starting to lose their appeal, even if they continue to be detailed and dark and gritty.  They can be thought-provoking as well, but it doesn't help if nothing new is introduced into this series.

Anyway, I will probably continue to keep an eye out for the next installment.  At the very least, they are written well and make for easy entertainment.  I haven't given up hope yet that things will turn around and surprise me.

Brief Thoughts: Almost Dead

Almost Dead

by Lisa Jackson
Book 2 of San Francisco

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.0 Stars

A Woman Who Wants To Get Even . . .

The first victim is pushed to her death.  The second suffers a fatal overdose.  The third takes a bullet to the heart.  Three down, more to go.  They're people who deserve to die.  People who are in the way.  And when she's finished, there will be no one left. . .

Will Do Whatever It Takes For Revenge. . .

Cissy Cahill's world is unraveling fast.  One by one, members of her family are dying.  Cissy's certain she's being watched.  Or is she losing her mind?  Lately she's heard footsteps when there's no one around, smelled a woman's perfume, and noticed small, personal items missing from her house.  Cissy's right to be afraid--but not for the reason she thinks.  The truth is much more terrifying. . .

Including Murder. . .

Hidden in the shadows of the Cahill family's twisted past is a shocking secret--a secret that will only be satisfied by blood.  And Cissy must uncover the deadly truth before it's too late, because fear is coming home. . .with a vengeance. . .

Personal biases aside, this was actually not as bad as I had been expecting, though not as great as I'd hoped for either.  While the beginning was kind of slow to get into, and the characters were hard to really relate with or like, this was overall pretty entertaining with a plot twist that was actually quite startling, in a good way.

Still, lots of plot holes, and try as I might, I couldn't really get myself to like any of the characters.  Even the sometimes adorable toddler got annoying at times.  And I felt like a lot of the family conflict felt unnecessary, but kept in tone with the whole dysfunctional family theme going on.

One of the things that has always bugged me about the few Lisa Jackson books I've read is the exposition fairy insertion.  At some point in time (or several moments, in this book), someone will sit down and have a discussion, outlining what's going on in the story, detail by detail.  As if the reader had the memory of a goldfish and didn't already know all the facts up to that point.

There were a few scenes at the beginning like this, and several little moments where our main detective did as much, giving the same details and reasons over and over again as to why certain people couldn't be a suspect.  So on and so forth.

This kind of insertion is often times jarring to a reader.  I would like to just move forward with the story rather than sit around discussing what's happened since we last convened three pages ago.  And I don't need to be told five times that Cissy couldn't possibly be the killer--after all, this is a romantic suspense novel, romance being first priority.  It'd be a little hard to have a Happily Ever After™ if our main heroine were a psychotic murderer.

Again, I also had some problems with the characters, but not so much that I didn't like them as much as I just felt like they were NOT interesting, in the least.  And we'll just leave it at that.

The ending picked up and got a little more exciting.  The empty mansion scene where the elevator frightens Cissy was actually done pretty well.  The horrific twist near the ending was also, as I've stated, quite startling, and I liked it.

Otherwise, this is a nice book you can read on a rainy day if you've got nothing else on hand.