Tuesday, June 27, 2017

End of Series Review: The House of Steele

 


The House of Steele

by Addison Fox
Book #3:  The Rome Affair | Goodreads | Rating: 2.5 Stars
Book #4:  The Manhattan Encounter | Goodreads | Rating: 3.0 Stars

See Also: June 2017 Packaged Thoughts // includes short reviews for:

  • Book #1: The Paris Assignment | Goodreads | Rating: 3.0 Stars
  • Book #2: The London Deception | Goodreads | Rating: 4.0 Stars
Overall Series Average Rating: 3.125 Stars  >>>  3.0 Stars


The House of Steele series is enjoyable.  I'd say that it's a great set of books to pass the time... though that might pretty much be it.  The writing style is smooth and progressive, the outlining of the stories are fast-paced, and characters are interesting up to a point.

And, in some strange fashion, the siblings and their significant others all seem to make better side characters than they did main characters.  Is that strange?  For instance, I find that I liked Campbell and his weird quirks a lot more in the last book, The Manhattan Encounter, as the computer geek younger brother, rather than when he was the main character of his own book, The Paris Assignment--wherein he was the broody computer geek with a hot bod.  Maybe seeing the characters from a different perspective...?

Anyway, as with the first two books, I decided to package away the last two books into a duo review... if only because I really don't have much to say other than some random rumblings.

But, once again, The House of Steele series is an enjoyable one.



Two security experts must work too closely for comfort in Addison Fox's The Rome Affair.

Jack Andrews has once again snatched a covetable job from the House of Steele.  But now that the assignment has gotten complicated, he must call upon the last person he wants to ask for help: Kensington Steele.  Jack never flinches at danger, but working side by side with his fascinating, sexy competitor might be more than he can handle.

When the assignment brings them to the Italian vineyard of a corrupt diplomat, Kensington vows to keep things professional, even if working as a team fans the flames of their mutual desire.  But once a murderer begins stalking them, they realize getting close may be the only way they'll survive….


Entertaining, but not really all that memorable, The Rome Affair actually had some potential to be loved by yours truly.  After all, our main couple finds themselves in an undercover assignment together, and at times need to pretend to be enamored with each other.  Of course, with the insta-lust, this isn't a problem for them--typical of any and all contemporary romances, doncha know.

Anyway, I've stated it before, there are a lot of things that rankle me in romances, and one of the top things is when our main male character declares, in all his arrogance, that he and his leading lady will end up having sex at some point, no matter how many times the main female character denies that this will happen, and gives him all sorts of back off signals.

Exhibit A:

"This is a ridiculous conversation.  Only I choose whom I share my bed with."  Her words were flat but the clear notes of irritation sparked underneath each syllable.

"Then you know damn well the next man you share it with is going to be me."

It dearly rankles me, because, despite Kensington's contrary tone at times, she puts it this way:

The statement that she'd share his bed as if it were a fait accompli.  Or worse, as if she had no choice in the matter.

Which is what's significant to me.  The men in these romances announce their intentions, and leave no room for discussion or argument.  Um... maybe actually make sure the woman is willing first?

I get that this is supposed to be some sort of weird, attractive, bad boy slash caveman thing that a lot of woman love--the thing about decisive and assertive men and all--but I, personally, would actually be quite put off by a man who thinks he's already got a sure thing by just saying so.  Which is why this is one of my top most disliked types of romances.  It may not be a physical forcing of sex onto another individual, but it certainly reeks of disrespecting the others' wishes.

Which is why, despite the book being fast-paced and enjoyable to an extent, The Rome Affair didn't do it for me.  And also, unfortunately, as I already stated, the book isn't really all that memorable, and maybe even a little over-dramatic with it's ending.


Booklikes-opoly

I read this book for Booklikes-opoly in Summer 2017.

Roll #15: (See Also: Memorial Day Weekend Extra Roll Activities)
Book title begins with a letter found in the word 'Frontier.'

Page Count:  284
Cash Award: +$3.00

Bank increased to $70.00 with this read.




Will the mighty Steele fall?

He'd faced down madmen with guns, hunted thieves and jumped off buildings for fun.  So why is Liam Steele at his wit's end when Dr. Isabella Magnini needs his protection?  The brilliant and beautiful scientist's work is revolutionary, and someone wants to keep her insights secret—no matter what it costs.

When the House of Steele comes together to protect Isabella, Liam realizes just how isolated he's truly become.  And as he and Isabella dodge bullets, fires and even an invasion, he knows he's in more danger than ever.  Because how will he ever let her go?


In all honesty, I'm going to have to admit that there really wasn't anything all that memorable about The Manhattan Encounter.  Enjoyable and exciting as it was, I'm finding it hard to recall anything I liked about this book, outside of the short, peaceful interlude of the entire House of Steele siblings and their significant others having a good ol' time just harping at each other during dinners and lunches.

But otherwise, the book itself was actually kind of lackluster, in spite of all the sci-fi-lite scientific work that Dr. Isabella Magnini presents to us, and in spite of all the deaths and explosions.  Yes.  There were deaths, explosions, bullets flying, and a fire... and still, not that exciting.  Maybe because the book was trying way too hard to give off a feeling of urgency or danger to our MC doctor.

The romance was serviceable, in terms of a romantic suspense love story.  Liam is a grade A jackass at the beginning, but he readjusts his attitude when he realizes that he's being unfair to Isabella.  And Isabella is pretty much that almost absentminded professor type of science person, but still encompasses the characteristic traits of a typical romance novel heroine.

At the very least, she's a facts-based person, and will admit to her own short-failings, but will also stand up against any undeserved criticism from the people around her.  I would have liked to explore more about her life and her back story, honestly, since it was peppered with so much tragedy.

The ending ties up the book nicely, and I DO like, as stated above, how this last book brings all the Steele siblings into the picture, with their significant others, to work a case that was obviously meant to be a BIG DRAMATIC final book in the House of Steele series.  Of course, while events felt big and dramatic, I'm not sure I picked up that vibe, really.

Nonetheless, I enjoyed myself.  I breezed through the book.  I've finished the series.

And I'm still going to continue reading books by Addison Fox.


Booklikes-opoly

I read this book for Booklikes-opoly in Summer 2017.

Roll #21:
This book is set in a city (two cities, even) with a subway, and has one scene of travel by air.

Page Count:  283
Cash Award:  +$6.00

Bank increased to $115 with this read.



Monday, June 26, 2017

Brief Thoughts: The Substitute Sister

The Substitute Sister

by Lisa Childs

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  2.5 Stars

Ghostly Whispers

Rocking chairs moving to and fro in the night... and an inherited house straight out of the eeriest of ghost stories.  These were the things Sasha Michaelson found when she arrived on Sunset Island to collect the body of her identical twin... and take charge of her newly discovered niece.

But even more frightening to Sasha than her sister's shadowy presence in the old house, and the killer still running loose on the small island, was the fact that Sheriff Reed Blakeslee stopped her breath and made her heart pound fast.

But was the brooding lawman's determined search for answers caused by a love that hadn't stopped with death...or by a desire - for Sasha - that he couldn't deny?


The Substitute Sister had a pretty intriguing premise that had drawn me in.  And the book started out pretty good.  It had a creepy enough feel, and the additions of a hostile house staff as well as strange noises in the night was a nice touch.  The not quite there paranormal elements were also a lovely add-on, giving the book itself that Gothic feel of being set in a huge mansion on a scenic island.

But the moment that Sasha meets love interest Sheriff Reed Blakeslee, the entire story seemed to automatically slide into "Romance, First and Foremost" territory.  The insta-lust picked up, and despite there having been a murder on the island, and other matters that Sasha now had to attend to, the two of them kept coming back to "growing feelings" that went from insta-lust straight to insta-love.

I feel like I'm repeating myself lately, but I suppose my selection of reading material just hasn't been all that varied.  Although much like some other books I've quite recently read (To the Rescue, The Mysterious Twin), The Substitute Sister is bite-sized and didn't take long to finish.

Don't get me wrong:  The writing style is serviceable and the progression was smooth, actually outlined pretty well on the murder mystery side of things.  Even our main characters had a bit more personality to them than the other romances I mentioned.  And while the main culprit wasn't a surprise, I WILL admit that the book kept me guessing about the entire fiasco--even about whether or not Sasha's twin sister, Nadine, was really dead.

I would probably give this book props for atmosphere, that's for sure.

And as silly as it is to be complaining about how this Romance novel had too much focus on the romance, with an uneven development in our main couple's relationship...  Honestly, that was really the biggest quibble I had about it.  The murder investigation was a bit weakly constructed, but overall effective.

Despite my low rating and my few disappointments, I'm actually interested in continuing to keep Lisa Childs on my radar as an author to check out other books for.


***

Booklikes-opoly
Roll #20:
Water on book cover.

Page Count:  240
Cash Award:  +$6.00

Updated Bank Balance:  $109.00


Very Brief Thoughts: The Mysterious Twin

The Mysterious Twin

by Leona Karr
Book 1 of Double Exposure
(HQN Intrigue miniseries)

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  2.5 Stars

A DOUBLE DECEPTION

Masquerading as a nanny for her glamorous twin sister went against Ashley Camdon's prim-and-proper nature.  The quiet academic lived life on the sidelines, but her sibling's "simple" request now put her life in danger and her heart on the line when she met her employer's darkly handsome retainer, Kyle Stone.

An undercover agent, Kyle's orders were to keep close tabs on the new nanny who was implicated in an illegal scam. Yet nothing about this quiet beauty fit her high-living profile. When passion flared between them, her honest kisses exposed their lies.  And made him see that the only life he now wanted…was with her!


The Mysterious Twin is, honestly, one of those books that you read, laugh at all the clichés, mutter about the frustratingly dated romance, and roll your eyes about the standard, stereotype, carbon-copy characters.  It's a book you read that DOES get interesting with progression, but remains a bit on the 'meh' side of actual enjoyment.

It's forgettable.

I suppose I'm also kind of surprised by how quickly I finished reading this book; although, the truth is, it was pretty bite-sized.  In a way, I think I kept reading because I just wanted to know how the book wrapped itself up with the twin-switch deception.  But then, when the resolution DID come around, it was fairly abrupt, to the point that it felt like the author realized she hit her allowed number of pages and needed to end things immediately.

There were a lot of things that I felt like the book could have addressed, like maybe the strained relationship between Ashley and Jill.

But this book is a romance, first and foremost, so we spend the most of the short book detailing how Ashley and Kyle manage to fall in love in spite of all the deception and secrets.  And, honestly, the romantic development was a little weak.

I DID appreciate the rapport that Ashley develops with the children she's pretending to be nanny to.  And I like lighthouses... although one was mentioned and detailed, not much happens around it, so that particular detail was moot.

Anyway, The Mysterious Twin was a nice rainy day read, that really just amounted to "something to do to pass the time."


***
Booklikes-opoly

Roll #20:
One of the characters in this book is a millionaire/billionaire.

Page Count:  256
Cash Award:  +$6.00

Updated Bank Balance:  $103.00


Booklikes-opoly | Roll #22!

Booklikes-opoly
Booklikes, the book blogging social platform


For Roll #21, I landed on The Monorail where I ended up choosing The Manhattan Encounter by Addison Fox, and successfully ticked off two of the three listed criteria (see game space below).  On top of that, completing this book also adds to my Personal Series Challenge, being the last book in a series I needed to finish.

The Manhattan Encounter is 283 pages = $6.00, which brings my Bank to $115.00!


Enjoyable, but not all that memorable.  I'm not sure how I liked The Manhattan Encounter, but it had all the makings of a fast-paced action sequence with a lot of gunfire and explosions... well, not really that much, but it felt like there had been.

A review will be forthcoming.


And now Roll #22:


From The Monorail (29), I rolled a double 4 = 8 and moved to the Start Space: Read any book!


Peek-a-Boo Penni:  "I want to help!"

It's a quiet early, early morning on the board.  Teddy Bear's magnet is starting to give out and now he just slides right down the board.  Thank you for holding him up, Penni!  Because Monkey seems a bit subdued, and I suspect it's because he's been doing so many cartwheels.


Since I rolled a double, I rolled again (#22.2):


Rolling a 9, I move from Start Space to Fantasyland 9.


It's a gathering.  Key Chain Puppy has come to visit, though we suspect that she's just here to sniff at Teddy Bear.


These are new squares I've never landed on before.


For the Start Space, I decided to just do a random select from the books on my COYER Summer Reading List, mainly an e-book since the COYER "read e-books only" readathon is currently taking place.  A random draw got me Pushing the Line by Kimberly Kincaid; a short novella of 122 pages, and fourth book in The Line series.  This book will be worth $4.00.

As for the Fantasyland 9 Space, I have a few options I'm thinking about, though not quite sure what I want to select.  After some thought, I decided to go with Her Wild Hero by Paige Tyler, a book I'd been wanting to read since I read the first two books in her X-ops series and liked it.  The book is about shifters and is tagged 'fantasy' on GR.  At 334 pages, Her Wild Hero will be worth $6.00.

Upon completion of both books, my Bank Balance will increase to $125.


Current Bank:   $115.00


Sunday, June 25, 2017

Thoughts: It Had to Be You

It Had to Be You

by Jill Shalvis
Book 7 of Lucky Harbor

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  4.0 Stars


I'm pretty sure that I called it quite accurately in my BLopoly update post, when I said that I would probably end up finishing this whole book within the day.  Jill Shalvis is an author I'm constantly returning to for a multitude of reasons, one being that sometimes, when I love her books and her characters, I really DO love her books and her characters.

I had started reading It Had to Be You with every intention of stopping after the first handful of chapters, then either switching back to another read I'd started right before, or just going to sleep.  It didn't take long for me to realize that I wasn't putting this book down.

Except maybe for bacon (which did happen, and I regret nothing).


The Story:
Ali Winters had arrived in Lucky Harbor to try to start a whole new life for herself.  Having grown up on the wrong side of the tracks, with a childhood of rotating homes each time her mother found a new boyfriend, she had wanted to prove to herself that she could make something of herself.  With a talent for floral design and ceramics, she's been working at a local florist shop, with hopes that one day she'd be able to really let her talents shine.

All within the time span of one day, however, she finds her boyfriend cheating on her, and then learns that she's just been kicked out of her home without prior notice.  Then, to make matters worse, fifty thousand dollars worth of fundraiser money that was supposed to be used to build a new community center disappears, and somehow, Ali is the main suspect when her cheating ex-boyfriend leads the police straight for her.

Meanwhile, Lieutenant Detective Luke Hanover had returned to Lucky Harbor for a quiet, solo vacation away from the stress of a failed investigation that had resulted in what he feels was a tragic, preventable death, if only he'd been able to put away a crazy killer.  But he never expected to find a madwoman in his grandmother's home, cursing into her cell phone to her ex about his failure to inform her she would soon be homeless, while stalking around in nothing but a set of panties and bra.

Needless to say, Luke's plans of quiet, isolationism gets blown to pieces when he finds he cannot keep from involving himself investigating the missing charity money, fully believing Ali to be innocent of any crime.  In fact, he just keeps telling himself that he won't get involved, but somehow, he can't help but become sucked into Ali's world, while at the same time letting her into his, for the better.


My Thoughts:
There was just something about Ali's character that I really, really loved.  Despite the fact that she's constantly swishing back and forth from doormat, to fiery independent, she's just got one of those personalities, so laden in down-to-earth realism, that you can't help but admire her ability to keep bouncing back.  And admire, I do, because for all the crap that happens to her throughout the book, you'd think she'd eventually find a point of no return and simply stop feeling so optimistic.

Except that even her optimism is lined with a realistic sense of acceptance.  Kind of alike a "I'm going to keep looking on the bright side, but if everything drops to hell... well, not much I can do about that but keep moving forward."  Her personality is hard to grasp, but I suspect that that's her appeal.

In contrast, Luke's personality is steeped in fatalism for himself, and hopeful optimism for others.  Even as he's doing what he can to help other people, especially Ali, he seems to come to the conclusion that his life is fated to be miserable, and anyone who is with him will also be miserable.  That eventually, he'll start to fail all the people around him, and his life will be crowded with disappointment.

It's depressing... except that his outlook doesn't stop him from continuing to help others in need.

On a side note, I also found Luke to be one of the more endearing, broody alpha males in fiction.  Even though his plans for a quiet, isolated vacation got dashed to pieces with Ali's presence, he'll still eat her omelets and other baked goods that come his way, even while continually pouting about his ruined vacation time.  And why do I find it especially cute that it's so easy to bribe him with food, specifically baked goods?

The number of times that scenes involving Luke and food were the few times I actually chuckled out loud while reading this book.

Ali had had a crappy day.  Leah had tried to get her to go out tonight but she wasn't in the mood.  Instead, she was in the kitchen licking brownie batter from a wooden spoon like her life depended on it when Luke wandered into the kitchen.

"I smell chocolate," he said, looking hopeful.

***

And in spite of the weather, the mountain chickadees were still out singing in force, "cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger," sounding like The Chipmunks on crack.

It made him hungry.

Do chickadees really sound like that?

Anyway, between Ali and Luke, I found that I really enjoyed reading It Had to Be You.  There were even a few moments loaded with feels.  The development of their relationship was subtle, but sweet, and while it was strange that they continued to live together even as perfect strangers, in a way, it worked.

But that is one of the reasons that I like a lot of Jill Shalvis's work, is because of the quick friendships, and the strong bonds presented.  Character interactions are warm and fluffy, even if sometimes the characters are strange and hard to comprehend.

We meet a lot of new people in this installment of the series, probably as a set up for the next few books to come.  And while I like seeing character interaction and love the strongly bonded friendships, some of the introductions were honestly, maybe a little awkward, or forced.  But if you gloss over those, the rest of the book is pretty great.

I love that Ali has a great relationship with her mother and sister.  I love that Ali's mother is protective and loving of her girls--that, as opposed to some other, darker books with characters of similar background, Ali's mother is one who will beat up the men who even dare look at her daughters the wrong way, rather than turn a blind eye in order to keep a man.

And you don't see a whole lot of it, but I also like seeing the camaraderie between Luke and his friends, and even some of the townsfolk of Lucky Harbor.  I appreciate that Luke and Zach learn to work together, both for Ali's sake, even in spite of the pissing contest they have going on.

I like that the townspeople don't immediately condemn Ali, even though they believe that she DID steal the charity money; wanting to find a peaceful, happy solution and help her stay out of jail.  I mean, it's still a bit insulting that they would believe her a criminal despite how well they know her.  Although I'm sure their hearts were in the right places.

There were a few loose ends I would have liked to see tied up, however, most especially the one involving Ali's ex-boyfriend, the shameless, rat-fink bastard, Ted Marshall.  Even at the conclusion, his character just kind of fades away into the background, but it didn't escape my notice that really nothing happens to him, nor is anything addressed concerning him, even though all of the conflict was mainly all because of him.


***



Free Friday #2:

Page Count:  327
Cash Award:  +$6.00

Updated Bank Balance:  $97.00


COYER Summer Reading List | June Readathon!

COYER is a reading challenge hosted by Michelle @ Because Reading, Berls @ Fantasy is more fun, and Stormi @ Books, Movies, Reviews Oh My!
COYER stands for "Clean out your e-reads."  And typically the goal is to read from all the freebies or low priced books you've collected in the past on your e-readers.

But for this summer duration of June 17th to September 8th, our hosts are throwing out the normal rules!

Click on this link to sign up or read about COYER Summer 2017.
My COYER Summer Reading List summary page.


For those of us participating in the Summer Reading List part of this summer's COYER Challenge, our hosts have announced three different readathons for each month of the challenge:

  • Read-a-thon Dates are
    • June 25th – July 2nd ~ read only ebooks
    • July 23rd to July 30th ~ read only physical books
    • August 20th to August 27th ~ read only audio and ebooks

So today kicks off the first COYER readathon this summer!

For this week of June 25th through to July 2nd, we are to read only e-books, and only e-books from our pre-made lists as well.

Of course, as a person who is a pretty big mood reader (and also with other reading challenges still going on), I obviously am not going to be restricting myself to only the e-books on my Summer Reading List.  But I will definitely try.

I'm simply going to make sure that I only count the books that I read, the e-books, from my Summer Reading List, towards this readathon, and obviously towards COYER Challenge.

Below is my finalized, official Reading List.  And if I happen to finish up to five books in this week, I suppose I'll add to it with five more to read!


Ani's COYER Summer Reading List


See Also: COYER Summer Reading List @ GR
  1. Going Rogue by Robin Benway
  2. Secret Agent Secretary by Melissa Cutler
  3. Hot on the Hunt by Melissa Cutler
  4. Behind the Scenes by Natalie J. Damschroder
  5. Secrets by Cynthia Eden
  6. Suspicions by Cynthia Eden
  7. The Manhattan Encounter by Addison Fox
  8. Hot Mess by Lynn Raye Harris
  9. Hot Package by Lynn Raye Harris
  10. SEAL's Honor by Elle James
  11. On the Loose by Tara Janzen
  12. Cutting Loose by Tara Janzen
  13. The Mysterious Twin by Leona Karr -- 6/23/2017
  14. Cold Memory by Leslie A. Kelly
  15. Pushing the Lines by Kimberly Kincaid
  16. Skin Deep by Kimberly Kincaid
  17. Midnight Exposure by Melinda Leigh
  18. Night Diver by Elizabeth Lowell
  19. The First Victim by J.B. Lynn
  20. Thicker Than Water by Maggie Shayne
  21. The Littlest Cowboy by Maggie Shayne
  22. The Law of Attraction by N.M. Silber
  23. Her Fierce Warrior by Paige Tyler
  24. Heat Wave anthology - Stephanie Bond, Heidi Betts, Leslie Kelly
  25. That's Amore anthology - Janelle Denison, Tori Carrington, Leslie Kelly
  26. Bare Essentials duo-story anthology - Jill Shalvis, Leslie Kelly
  27. Night Driving by Lori Wilde
  28. Smooth Sailing by Lori Wilde
  29. Crash Landing by Lori Wilde
  30. Part Time Cowboy by Maisey Yates

Well... Happy Reading, everyone!!


Saturday, June 24, 2017

Read-a-thon: 24 in 48! July 2017 | Ani's Plans!


So here is the basic gist of this read-a-thon as copied from the 24 in 48 Readathon site:

Beginning at 12:01am on Saturday morning and running through 11:59pm on Sunday night, readers read for 24 hours out of that 48 hour period.  You can split that up however you’d like: 20 hours on Saturday, 4 hours on Sunday; 12 hours each day; six 4 hour sessions with 4 hour breaks in between; whatever you’d like.


After checking my weekend rotation schedule, it looks like I will be off the weekend that this July 2017 24in48 Readathon is to take place!  The thon will be July 22nd and 23rd, and well, look at that!  We're still cruising along with Booklikes-opoly as well!

I'm not entirely sure what books I will be reading for the thon, as, for some reason, I decided to do an early announcement this time.  The past two thons I had always forgotten about them until about a week or two prior to the readathon weekend, so I usually had an idea of what I'd like to read.

But being that BLopoly is sort of dictating my reads for the most part, I'm just going to wing it this time and just create a simple goal to at least finish one and a half to two books.  Why such a funky goal?  Because I typically only end up finishing two books, if the past two 24in48s I participated in are any indication... but usually at least one of those books I had already started reading prior to the thon.

And to top it off, I will also usually start read at least one or two more books... for whatever reason.

Though, I will admit that lately, I haven't really been reading too many books simultaneously.

Anyway...

If I were to make a list of all the books I hope to read, or a list of possible books I would like to be able to read, it would look a little like this:


It's pretty much wide open, my possible choices, and those aren't even all the books I glanced over within the past week and thought: "Hmm, I want to read this next."  So... I think I probably shouldn't speculate on what I'm planning on reading...  Because I want to read ALL THE BOOKS!  But I'm pretty sure that's not going to happen in 48 hours of time, barring time loops and time freezes, or magical speed reading glasses...

Ooh, or time turners!


How many times are we turning this thing, Hermione?  I need at least six or seven (hundred) of these 48 hour thon weekends to complete ALL THE BOOKS.  And remember, NO ONE is sleeping until we're done!

Let's go!