Thursday, March 31, 2016

2016 Bookish Resolutions -- March Progress Report

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March wasn't what I wanted it to be in all aspects of goals.  Specifically, I keep telling myself to start my personal goals and work on my personal goals... but those personal goals can be a bit of a bitch.  I also lost my mp3 player a couple months ago and have since lost some motivation to go to the gym... yeah, I know it's a flimsy excuse, but my lazy ass will use anything to allow myself to just be lazy, I guess.

HOWEVER, I am looking to replace my mp3 player in the next couple days, which will give me no more excuses!  I hope.

Everything else was kind of okay and kind of meh.  Blogging was a little scattered because I started a new project self-entitled, "Let's Create More Work For Myself By Building a Brand New Book Blog!!"  I might be a little obsessed with organization right now.

Reading-wise, I got stuck on a slow-going book and have since been hemming and hawing about reading said slow-going book, or dumping it and moving on.  I hate dropping books, but this is just plain ridiculous.

Blogging Goals

- 1 -  Participate in at least 50% of the Top Ten Tuesday meme (@ The Broke and the Bookish) topics for 2016--that's 26 of the TTT topics.

Running Total:  6 Top Ten Tuesday posts written

- 2 -  Continue to post Monthly Reading Wrap-ups... with a slightly less overwhelmingly bulky form.

- 3 -  Create and try to maintain a blogging schedule.

  • January:  Lots of out-of-control, lots of colors.  See January update for more info.
  • February:  No pictures this time.  Just know that things are continuing to get more chaotic. 
  • March:  The fact that I'm still keeping up with this blogging schedule could mean one of two things:
    •  I'm doing very well in my blogging goal endeavors         -OR-
    • I seem to enjoy chaotically and colorful controlling itineraries for my reading life a little too much.

- Bonus Goal - Attempt participating in at least two other monthly/weekly bookish memes.

Reading Goals

See Also: 2016 Bookish Resolutions shelf

- 1 - Finish reading 10 completed series that I have already started reading.

Running Total:  3 completed series finished reading
  • January:  1 series finished
  • February:  1 series finished
  • March:  1 series finished

I finished one series this month and worked on finishing another already completed series with The Wavering of Haruhi Suzumiya--four more books to go on this one. Otherwise, I feel great having completed the Reboot duology since it's been such a long time since I'd read that first book.
  • (1)  Reboot by Amy Tintera -- Completed 3/9/2016

  • Haruhi Suzumiya by Nagaru Tanigawa -- In progress
    • Already Read:  The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya, The Boredom of Haruhi Suzumiya, The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, The Rampage of Haruhi Suzumiya
    • Read This Month:  
    • Left to Read:
      • #7.  The Intrigues of Haruhi Suzumiya
      • #8.  The Indignation of Haruhi Suzumiya
      • #9.  The Dissociation of Haruhi Suzumiya
      • #10 & #11.  The Surprise of Haruhi Suzumiya (combined book)

- 2 - Catch up with 5 ongoing series that I have already started reading.

Running Total:  1 ongoing series caught up with
  • January:  0 series finished
  • February:  0 series finished
  • March:  1 series caught up

It took me long enough, but it looks like I've finally caught up with one ongoing series I've been reading pre-2016.  I haven't seen any other Cindy Gerard books slated for publication this year, so I guess it'll be a waiting game for the time to come.

The next series I'm looking to work on finishing up is going to either be KGI by Maya Banks (with two books left to finish reading), or maybe I'll try and catch up with one of the two ongoing Paige Tyler paranormal romantic suspense series, either X-Ops (with two more books to catch up with) or SWAT (also with two more books to catch up with).
  • (1)  One-Eyed Jacks by Cindy Gerard -- Completed 3/25/2016
    • Already Read:  Killing Time, The Way Home, Running Blind
    • Read this Month:  #4.  Taking Fire -- 3/25/2016 -- Review to come

- 3 - Read 5 completed series that are new to me.

Running Total:  1 new to me completed series read
  • January:  1 series read
  • February:  0 series read
  • March:  0 series read

There were no new series completed this month.  Bummer.

- 4 - Participate in at least one Read-a-thon in 2016 (Bout of Books, Dewey's 24 Hour, any personal or community improv/unofficial read-a-thon, etc.)

-- GOAL COMPLETED -- 1/10/2016 --

Running Total:  2 Read-a-thons participated

- 5 - Pick up at least 10 new to me authors (books not pre-listed for my 2016 Reading Assignment Challenge).

Running Total:  8 new-to-me authors picked up
*novella is part of the Behind the Red Doors anthology -- entire book finished 3/1/2016, even though this particular novella was read in February

- 6 - Accomplish my 2016 Mount TBR Reading Challenge goals.  Tackle those books already on my shelves pre-2016!

Running Total:  15 Mt. TBR Books read

See also My 2016 Mount TBR Challenge summary post for complete listing.

Personal Goals

- 1 - Clock at least 2 hours of cardio workout each month.

Running Total:  2.42 hours of cardio clocked
  • January:  0 hours cardio clocked
  • February:  2.42 hours cardio clocked
  • March: 0 hours cardio

There was no cardio done. But it's only March and I've got even bigger goals amidst these proclaimed goals. We will continue to persevere!!

- 2 - Attempt to work out at least twice a week.  Failing that, attempt to work out at least 8 times a month (which will be met if I can get my lazy ass to work out at least twice a week).

Running Total:  3.5 times worked out
  • January:  0 times worked out
  • February:  1 time worked out
  • March: 2.5 times worked out

Okay, technically I didn't really go to the gym or anything. But during my random and sparse mornings of stretching exercises, I have been throwing in some crunches of various forms, some other core exercises, maybe a minute or two of planks, and some squats. So, spread out into different days, all added together, I guesstimated that I at least did enough little semi-workouts enough to add up to 2.5 times.

Sounds legit, right?

- 3 - Learn 12 new recipes.  Actually make said recipes.  And take pictures.  For evidence.

Yearly Total: 1 new recipe
  • January:  1 new recipe learned // Tomato Basil Soup
  • February:  0  new recipes
  • March:  0 new recipes

Apparently cooking is not my thing right now.

- Bonus Goal - Be better at being sociable, in general.

I am going to die alone.  That is the conclusion I have come to.

Previous Update Posts

2016 Bookish Resolutions -- January Progress Report
2016 Bookish Resolutions -- February Progress Report

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Not So Brief Thoughts: The Rampage of Haruhi Suzumiya

The Rampage of Haruhi Suzumiya

by Nagaru Tanigawa
Book 5 of the Haruhi Suzumiya light novel series

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  4.0 Stars

The fifth installment of the Haruhi Suzumiya universe light novel series is an anthology of three short stories, each preceded by a short preface. Once again told in the perspective of our lazy, high school boy with a streak of snarkiness, the narration is enjoyable and snort-worthy at times.

But I have to say that after the fourth book, I feel like Kyon’s lost a bit of his snark and has actually grown quite soft towards Haruhi. I don’t know whether to take that as a good sign or a bad one, but we also note that he’s grown quite an attachment to all of his brigade members. He’s always worshipped Asahina, and there’s a silent, reluctant companionship between him and Koizumi.

But now he seems to have developed more of an understanding of Haruhi. And on top of that, he seems to have picked up a big brotherly concern for Nagato and how she has to constantly deal with all the big messes left in the wake of Haruhi’s irrational demands and behaviors, whether or not Haruhi meant for things to happen and whether or not she was even responsible for strange occurrences.

1. Endless Eight

In the first short story in The Rampage of Haruhi Suzumiya, Kyon details a strange summer vacation during their first year of high school. Everything seemed like a typical Haruhi Suzumiya motivated “good ol’ time” wherein the Brigade Chief calls everyone out for a meeting so that they can make the most of the rest of their summer.

Of course, once again, Kyon can’t keep up with Haruhi’s enthusiasm nor her logic (or lack thereof). But you have to admit that it’s nice to have someone pulling all the strings to get some activity going when you’re young and you seem to have all the time in the world.

The latter half of August, right before the beginning of the next term, Haruhi has listed activities from going to the pool, to watching fireworks, attending a festival, and star-gazing. It pretty much sounds like a neverending time of fun-filled activity.

Until Kyon’s random flashes of strong deja vu proves that this is indeed a neverending duration of time. The rest of the brigade members call him out to explain that his sense of deja vu is actually significant. And according to our Mastermind of an Alien Being, Nagato (whose job is only to observe, by the way), the group has gone through the same two weeks of August over ten thousand times, in several thousand variations of activities and directions, and are somehow caught in an endless time loop, caused by noneother than Haruhi Suzumiya herself. Of course, she doesn’t know this is happening.

This is further confirmed by our Time Traveler, Asahina, who cannot make contact with the future, because, naturally, when you’re stuck in an endless time loop, there is no future. Naturally…

Their only conclusion is that Haruhi must have created this closed-space like time loop because there is something she still isn’t satisfied with about her summer vacation. And so, in order to satisfy this unknown factor, she has unknowingly fixated on the summer vacation never ending.

So it is our hero’s job to determine what it is that must be done to break the time loop, and save the day. As per usual. With all his snark and lazy high school boy attitude present.

I recall watching the second season of the anime series for Haruhi Suzumiya and finding myself increasingly confused about the several episodes adapted to tell the Endless Eight story. While it was part curiosity that had me viewing the episodes (there were eight of them) with the same plots over and over again with slight variations, I have to admit that it DID manage to start get annoyingly boring. In contrast, the way the story is written in the light novel is a little easier to stomach--we only have to go through the time loop once with explanations abound!

Of course, this wasn’t one of my favorite Haruhi Universe short stories. But it does still reflect a lot of the typical Haruhi Suzumiya elements that I love.

2. The Day of Sagitarrius

This short story takes place during the autumn sometime after the school’s cultural festival (not that that’s important). The SOS Brigade is challenged to an outer space duel… or something like that. Basically, if we recall from the first Haruhi Suzumiya book, when Haruhi created her own personal club, she did it in a rather imperialistic fashion: barging in and commandeering the Literary Club’s club room, dragging unsuspecting members into the room and locking them in, and finally procuring a computer through extortion from the Computer Society next door.

Well, now the Computer Society is back with a plan for vengeance. As computer clubs are wont to do, the Computer Society has created their own space invasion type game, much like an MMO of sorts, but in 2D called The Day of Sagittarius 3. Each side gets five fleets of ships and they do battle in unmapped territory in space until one team or the other is defeated. The game sounds simple enough, and as per Haruhi Suzumiya standards, of course, outrageous stakes are at hand.

Mainly, Kyon surmises that they really have nothing to lose and he feels like they’re going to lose anyway. The Computer Society gets to take back their computer if they win, the SOS Brigade gets four new laptops if they win.

The odds, of course, are a bit uneven.

This short story puts my personal favorite character of the Haruhi Suzumiya world on a pedestal, really. And I’m thinking that it had been this particular story I had seen as an episode of the anime that really cemented my love for Nagato. Because as little emotion as this alien being presents, it is one of few times you get to see her become passionate about something. As Kyon notes:

True, she was able to avoid showing any emotion on her face, but I had come to realize that she still had feelings.


Nagato had been the most passionate one in our [game] battle with the computer society [...] She looked more enthusiastic when she was punching away at the keyboard [...] it looked to me like she was somehow having fun [...]

The simple fact that, despite being a higher intelligence alien being, she voluntarily restricted her actions to human capabilities at Kyon’s request and still managed to silently win the game in an outstanding display of uber computer skills was pretty amazing. And in the end, despite everyone knowing that she was the mastermind behind the SOS Brigade’s victory, she still quietly sits there and reads her books without any fanfare.

3. Snowy Mountain Syndrome

The last short story in this Rampage anthology was probably the longest short story, but it was also surprisingly the most intriguing one. I can’t recall if I had seen an anime adaptation based off of Snowy Mountain Syndrome, but it’s likely. And so, fortunately, I don’t remember it if I’ve seen it.

A la the summer vacation on a remote island--Remote Island Syndrome from The Boredom of Haruhi Suzumiya, Volume Three of this light novel series--our SOS Brigade heads out on another fun vacation adventure, this time, on the titular snowy mountain. Unlike the last time, however, Koizumi has already confided that he has planned another “Murder Mystery” game much like the one that had taken place on the remote island.

And so amidst the wintery fun, skiing, and such, the group is ready to spend the end of the year playing along with another of Haruhi’s fun and games demands. At least this time, Kyon doesn’t expect anything supernatural to happen since Haruhi seems pretty content just to ski and participate in a pre-arranged “Snowy Mountain Mansion Murder Mystery Game”.

Of course, no Haruhi Suzumiya story is complete without some strange phenomena occurring; before the gang knows it, they are trapped in some strange eternal blizzard and find their way to an isolated mansion in the middle of nowhere. Stranger still, there are no phones or radios, no means of communication, but plenty of comfort in food, hot baths, and warm beds. To top things off, something doesn’t feel right about the situation, but our ever-powerful Nagato has been incapacitated.

And so it is up to Kyon with the help of Koizumi to figure out what is going on and how to fix it, or forever remain a prisoner of this strange time-space distorted reality.

It wasn’t like this was the most exciting story in the Haruhi Suzumiya world, but after getting to the halfway point, I just kept right on turning the pages and kept right on reading. There was definitely a sense of mystery and an urgency to solve said mystery; although the resolution felt a bit lukewarm, the overall story was quite enjoyable anyway.

I suspect that the pre-arranged "Snowy Mountain Mansion Murder Mystery Game" will come at a later time in the series... as is wont to happen in these Haruhi Universe books.

Overall Thoughts:

Really, the only thing I have to say about this anthology was that it was entertaining in the same way the rest of the Haruhi Suzumiya books have been entertaining. While the concept and the world continues to intrigue me and draw me in, I’m still not at the point that I’d fangirl the heck out of this series.

Sure, the ideals are clever and the humor is evident; also, reading about a bunch of high school students who learn about more subjects that are vastly more complicated than I remember learning in high school makes me feel a bit inferior.

Heck, Leonhard Euler’s polyhedron theorem? An offhand reference to the Mary Celeste as a comparison to the abandoned mansion our SOS Brigade comes across? Even a lot of the computer and tech jargon and terminology spouted during The Day of Sagitarrius was enough to make my head spin.

I'll admit, I had to do some Googling to keep in the know about these random name drops.



This book is a pre-chosen participant in the following Reading Challenge(s):

This review was originally posted at Ani's Book Abyss / BookLikes in February 2015.

Brief Thoughts: The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya

The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya

by Nagaru Tanigawa
Book 4 of the Haruhi Suzumiya light novel series

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  4.0 Stars

To date, this is probably my favorite of the Haruhi Suzumiya series. And a thought occurred to me that maybe I liked it the most because I haven't seen the anime movie adaptation yet and so I could be readily surprised for the strange twists and delighted by my own logical guesses as to those surprise twists. I don't know if this is why, but there's no way of knowing now, so I might keep this in the back of my mind. Aside from Harry Potter, Dean Koontz's Phantoms, and select few Michael Crichton books-made-movies, I'm not sure I've ever actually been able to enjoy a book to the fullest after seeing it made into a television series or a movie. Then again, that might be an excuse.

The events of this book were exciting as Kyon is thrown into an altered timeline of the life he knew. There are no aliens, time travelers or espers, and Haruhi Suzumiya's emotions do not guide the happenings of the world like a God. And so it is his job to fix everything, of course, since he seems to be the only person who remembers the previous timeline of events before the alteration.

It still ceases to amaze me at how intricately planned the story line of this entire series is set-up. Events happening in this book tie back to events from previous books that were miniscule enough that you don't think about them until they are brought up during the currently narrated timeline. Other events are being alluded to that I remember from the anime, but haven't quite yet taken place in the light novel series yet. Explanations take place that sort of make sense and sort of not make sense, but for some reason, I'm not concerned with the why's and how's since it all falls into place anyway.

At least if Kyon has no trouble understanding what's going on and can kind of explain to me in his own narration what he understands, I'm not complaining.

On an aside, Nagato Yuki is my favorite character in the Haruhi universe -- the quiet, stoic, unemotional, all-knowing, powerful alien being. Having her turned into a bashful, squeamish, and cutesy girl was kind of disconcerting, so I'm glad that our heroes fixed the timeline. And yet, even after all of this, she is still my favorite character in the Haruhi universe -- the alien being who does all the behind-the-scenes damage control whenever Haruhi's demands and desires get the best of her and Nagato must nullify outstanding changes in order for the world not to implode.

Overall, while the previous two books were rather mediocre and monotonous, I'm glad that this one gave a nice mystery to solve including some exciting time-traveling and event-mixing. Very fun and the series is still as addictive as ever.

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

Brief Thoughts: The Boredom of Haruhi Suzumiya

The Boredom of Haruhi Suzumiya

by Nagaru Tanigawa
Book 3 of the Haruhi Suzumiya light novel series

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.0 Stars

**Side note on 3/29/2016:  The is the first review I wrote for the Haruhi Suzumiya series books.  It was posted on BookLikes only.

This is the third book in the series as well as a short story collection.

The Haruhi Suzumiya universe is a little hard to explain without having watched the anime or read the first book in the series.  Basically, Haruhi is an eccentric high school girl who wants to live an exciting life, but gets bored extremely easily -- her goal is to prove the existence of aliens, time travelers, and espers and then have fun with them in order to make the world a much more exciting place.  What she doesn't realize is that she manages to collect an alien, a time traveler and an esper into her club, all three of which have a mission to study her and keep her happy for the sake of the world's existence.

In the middle of all of this is Kyon, the narrator of the series who is monotonous, snarky, and your typical lazy high school boy who just wants to be left alone.

The series has interesting concepts, though I'll argue that sometimes the characters can get a bit annoying.  Kyon is overly inactive and you wonder sometimes, "Would it hurt you to participate just a little?"  He's also a bit of a hypocrite when it comes to wanting what he wants and telling off Haruhi for her own irrational demands.  Just because you don't force your actions and wants onto other people, doesn't make your lack of action any more justified.  Especially if all you're doing is sitting there and complaining that someone should stand up for the poor Asahina who is the target of Haruhi's torment all the time; but on the sly, you're enjoying the maid costumes and the sexy bunny outfits... etc.

Typical boys...

Haruhi is the most stubborn, childish, selfish, unreasonable young girl anyone will ever meet -- but I guess that's supposed to be her charm, and somehow, I'm not put off by her personality anyway.  I guess, without her, there would really be no story to tell since she's apparently the person who determines whether or not the world will continue to exist.

The tone of the series' storyline seems to keep me from being too frustrated with the kids in this book.  The humor and the nonsensical whims of each story in this series so far keep things interesting.  I'm not going to say that this is the best book series in the world, but it certainly isn't the worst and the reading is definitely addictive.

Unfortunately, the four short stories compiled into this book is less than exciting with the exception of the last story, Remote Island Syndrome where a supposed "locked-room" murder mystery takes place.  Cute and fun, but predictable.  This is one of those instances where, for each of the four stories, I have to admit that the anime did it a little bit better.

Still... this series has its charms and I'm somehow drawn to it.  It's gotta be an anime thing.  And also, I bought the first six books already, so I have to read them all eventually, right?

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

Very Brief Thoughts: Haruhi Suzumiya, Books 1 & 2

Haruhi Suzumiya series

by Tanigawa Nagaru
Book #1:  The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
Book #2:  The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya

~ Goodreads: Melancholy // Goodreads: Sigh ~

Melancholy Rating:  4.0 Stars
Sigh Rating:  3.0 Stars

**Side note on 3/29/2016:  In light of all the new review posts I'm transferring to this newly minted Ani's Book Abyss, I decided to go back and give a short two-cent opinion on the first two books of the Haruhi Suzumiya series.  So this is a brand new review for two books I read nearly two or three years before.

These two books were read in 2012 and 2013, respectively.

The Review:
To be totally honest, I'm not sure what I'm trying to accomplish with writing this review post that is more than three years overdue for both books.  I first watched the anime series in 2008 and immensely loved it for its humor and laugh-out-loud comedic antics.  After discovering that the anime was based off of a light novel, I subconsciously filed that fact away into a mental TBR.

A year or two later, I came across The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya at the local Borders that was still in business at the time.  I bought it, because I'm a bibliophile and a compulsive book buyer like that.  Maybe a year later, I finally chose to read it and, again, mentally filed the rest of the books into a subconscious TBR while planning on how I would acquisition the rest of the books in the series.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is almost exactly the same stories as presented in the anime series.  And to be frank, while I DID enjoy reading the book, I didn't see that it contributed anything new to my interest.  In fact, it might have even taken me longer than is typically normal of me to read a book of that length.

Nonetheless, I immensely enjoyed it because it DOES do a great job of laying the foundation for the rest of the books and story lines in the rest of the series.  It also kind of helped me understand some things in the anime that I just happened to miss.

The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya was of the same caliber as the first book in this series, but it kind of missed the mark.  Basically, the second book, if I remember correctly, just seemed to be a similar formula as the first book, rehashing the same thoughts and actions of each S.O.S. Brigade members, with nothing new to show for it.  In fact, that could explain why the second book wasn't quite memorable enough for me to really recall much except that I had found it a little boring.

Even with Nagato's newly developed personality... there's really not much to develop from a character that has no personality to begin with.


As a part of the series, the first book is quite vital and plays a great role in setting the stage for the rest of the series.  The second book, however, I'm not certain it plays much of a role outside of filler material.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Thoughts: Running Blind

Running Blind

by Cindy Gerard
Book 3 of One-Eyed Jacks series

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.5 Stars

Once again, Cindy Gerard does not disappoint with her action-packed and sizzling romance in Running Blind!

:P Haha... I sound like some sort of advertising tagline for the book. But truth be told, I've said before that I'm not sure I'm capable of NOT enjoying a Cindy Gerard book anymore. But it also helps that her romantic suspense novels are attention-grabbing, engaging, and have a lot of excellently created characters you readily fall in love with.

Running Blind was definitely NOT perfect. And it wasn't as exciting as I'd been hoping it to be, what with a title like that. It could have used a bit more structure, that's for sure. But it works and I loved it in its own way and it kept me happy.

In the end, it all comes to whether or not I had a good reading experience, doesn't it? :D

The Story:
The aftermath of a sniper attack leaves a dear friend fighting for her life. The discovery of their attacker's hideout reveals a vendetta--someone is determined to take out the original three One-Eyed Jacks, Mike Brown, Jamie Cooper, Bobby Taggart, as well as Mike's wife Eva. The investigation begins as the entire team comes together, groping blindly to find some connection between the four targets and past enemies.

Meanwhile, Coop and blonde Bombshell, Rhonda Burns, gets pulled off the investigation to take care of other jobs that have cropped up and Coop is NOT happy about that at all. Throw in his festering lust and attraction to the Bombshell, and the next few days on their field mission feels like it will be hell for him. Rhonda's own searing attraction isn't sitting well with her either, and her own determination to never falling in love and never caring starts to break down.

My Thoughts:
Running Blind is very much half romance and half military thriller, disguised very well as a full romantic suspense. Because there is a LOT of action in this book. But at the same time, we spend even more time developing the love line between Coop and Rhonda, by finding a reason to separate them out from the rest of the group by throwing them on an unrelated mission, but eventually bringing them back around to a different, related mission.

Well played, Cindy. For a while there, I'd been wondering why we took such a tangent with the love line development. But I suppose not every romantic suspense has to pit our main couple into mortal peril for 90% of the book, no matter how entertaining it usually gets.

I was just hoping there'd be a bit more action that what was presented... except, there was a lot of action. And I did like that there was a lot of investigating. And I did like how the investigation progressed. It just felt kind of weird to send Coop and Rhonda off to develop their romance just because it gave them both an opportunity to be separated from the rest of the group.

I mean, the mission they went on, which lasted a good few chapters, didn't even really tie-in with the main conflict in the book.  In a way, it felt like a cop-out because we couldn't figure out how to get these two alone together any other way.  But in a way, if this had been some contemporary romance without the initial sniper attack hanging over our heads, it would have worked really well.

This is really just a story about two coworkers who have been lusting after each other since day one, but have hidden that attraction behind irritation and hostility.  Then they're finally forced into a situation where they cannot NOT admit their attraction... and then they do something about it.

There just also happens to be some big military/international conspiracy going on as well.

Anyway, I still enjoyed the book. And I loved Jamie Cooper in all his jokey, sexy, charming glory. Rhonda had me conflicted. She's a computer nerd slash sexual fantasy for men--I love that she wasn't either one or the other and could be nerdy AND confidently beautiful without all the computer nerd stereotypes. I also loved that she was badass and trained with the rest of the team to take on combat as a field agent.

But I did not love that she spent so much time pre-judging Jamie Cooper by filing him into a playboy mold who disrespectfully saw sleeping with women as a conquest. THAT got on my nerves a little bit, because we later find out that she did that on purpose to "protect her own heart" because he was the type of man she could fall for. So instead of setting aside her past problems and being civil coworkers, she spends a lot of time being purposely antagonistic to Coop, no matter how hard HE tried to be professional and civil.

Then again, I guess Jamie's penchant for flirting with every woman probably didn't help his case any and made it easier for Rhonda to continue being bitchy towards him.

Not exactly my favorite couple in the world, but their love line was developed quite well and for that, I am satisfied.

Final Thoughts:
While I knew that Cindy would never outrage her readers, I was also struck with a moment of anxiety during the sniper attack when one of my favorite characters went down. I mean, I knew she was going to be okay in the end, but it didn't stop the FEELS from creeping in throughout the entire first half of the book as we watched her fight for her life.

Anyway, Running Blind was entertaining and enjoyable as a Cindy Gerard romantic suspense usually is. And, of course, I'm definitely looking forward to the next few books, especially with more appearances from my favorite characters, Johnny and Crystal, Mike and Eva, etc...

Johnny showed up for one line of dialogue in this entire book. ONE. But it was a good, flirty one, so I'm happy... I guess.

I ♥ Johnny Duane!

On a side note, it took a little bit for me to get this entire black ops team straightened out. So we've still got Nate Black's BOIs, but now we've also got Mike Brown leading his own group (though it looks like he still reports to Nate) of One-Eyed Jacks with new recruits. The two teams are filed under Uncle Sam's Department of Defense as a top-notch security firm as their cover, denoted as ITAP. Meanwhile, Black Ops, Inc. and the One-Eyed Jacks technically don't really exist and they still go on the same kinds of missions as before.  They just have more pull in the government now than they used to.

Or something like that.  I think.

Side note end.


2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
Reading Assignment Challenge
Bookish Resolutions Challenge
Mount TBR Challenge

This review was originally posted at Ani's Book Abyss / BookLikes in February 2016.

Thoughts: The Way Home

The Way Home

by Cindy Gerard
Book 2 of One-Eyed Jacks series

~ Goodreads ~

Rating: 4.0 Stars

This book was more contemporary than romantic suspense, as the first part of it involves the courtship between our lovely couple, Tyler Brown and Jess Albert--imagine that: an actual courtship in a romance novel! And while I’m more inclined to love a romantic suspense over a contemporary romance, it’s not like I didn’t know, going in, that there would be less action and more romance.

But this book is written by Cindy Gerard. And even in spite of its more contemporary romance feel, I was not disappointed that she still encompassed the romantic suspense and action of a military romance, as well as the intriguingly anxious urgency of a dangerous situation.

While I had a hard time getting into the start of this book--the contemporary courtship romance was a little mundane, even if sweet and cute and necessary--by the end of the book, I had the FEELS shivering through me like I haven’t had in quite some time. (Okay, I lie, because I had somewhat similar FEELS when I was reading Winter, but that’s a whole different genre and a whole different set of FEELS .)

There are rare occasions when a romance presents to us the obligatory separation of the main couple for conflict necessity, and it actually makes me feel for them rather than roll my eyes. This is The Way Home in a nutshell. Because even from the beginning of this book, knowing how the plot would play out, knowing that there would be an inevitable sadness nearing the end, I still got hit by a nice little tumult of emotions. The obligatory separation plot device is used properly in this piece, but it doesn't build a bad kind of angst.

It was a good kind of romantic angst. It hurt so much that it felt good.

The Story
Jess Albert had been living a peaceful, but lonely existence for over three years since she received word that her husband, J.R. was KIA during a Spec Ops mission. Then, one wintery night in a distant past, Tyler Brown stepped into her life with his friends and his brother, kicking ass and saving lives… and bringing to life in her an attraction and a spark she never thought she’d be able to feel again.

And now Ty has returned after all this time to act on that attraction, to see where, and if they would have a future together. And Jess is inclined to let him, to finally let go of the grief she’d been holding onto for J.R. for three years.

Across the world, a lost American soldier is fighting the pain of death, war, and loss of identity. He does not remember who he is or where he came from. He only knows that he is being hidden away from those who would do him harm by a woman who both resents him and sympathizes with him--a woman he grows to bond with over time as she becomes his only connection to sanity and a semblance of a life.

My Thoughts
To be totally honest, during the entire reading of the first half of the book, I was totally, and giddily looking forward to the appearance of our beloved BOIs as well as the One-Eyed Jacks. There was no secret that once Jess and Ty’s romance got going, things would spiral out of control upon them learning that J.R. was still very much alive. So I was expecting rescue mission galore with lots of loving banter and insults thrown around between our heroic boys.

Which is probably why I felt like I dragged myself through the first parts of the book with some trepidation and some yawning while Ty tried to woo Jess into going out with him and becoming his girlfriend/lover.

And Cindy definitely delivered. Goodness, I didn’t even realize I missed them so much until my beloved Johnny Duane threw his quips around and made me smile like a young schoolgirl with a huge crush. Competing for my affections was also Mike Brown from the first One-Eyed Jacks book. Between the two of these men and their goofy charm and wonderful, sexy cuteness, I’m mush.

(P.S. I still love Johnny more and I could definitely use more of him and Crystal being sweet and cute together…)

But let’s get back to THIS book now, shall we?

As I’d stated at the beginning, the book starts off on a contemporary note with two people, having found an attraction to each other before, interested in seeing where their attraction takes them, and then eventually falling in love. While the courtship between Ty and Jess felt a bit short and very sudden, they at least still went through the motions, so that when the inevitable happens, you can feel the emotions, the turmoil, the sadness, and the eventual warmth of their Happily Ever After™ when it finally rolls around.

I’m not going to say that I didn’t enjoy the sweet development of Ty and Jess, but in all honesty, it did feel a little draggy--which is a stupid way to describe it because this was a courtship that was necessary to make the book work.

I’m just all about the action and the excitement--so it’s not the book, it’s just me who’s contradictory.

In contrast, the interactions and the circumstances surrounding J.R.’s and Rabia’s growing bond from reluctant co-existence to admiration, respect, and love drew me in a bit more. And I’m not a hundred percent sure I understand why, though the only differing factor would be J.R.’s condition of fragility as well as this couple’s impending doom and danger looming on the side. These two don't get to enjoy the simple, straight-forward courtship, dating, bonding, getting to first base, etc... that Ty and Jess were allowed. But their relationship just felt more emotional and packed quite the punch.

Maybe I’m just a sucker for romances brought about through situational urgency and danger.

Maybe I am strangely twisted like that.

But in the end, everything just came right together wonderfully and I’m not complaining one bit.

For a romance, whether contemporary or suspense, The Way Home is a sweet story that is both heart wrenching and heart warming.

Another great one from Cindy. Definitely a great one and one I hadn't really expected would touch your heart in the all the right places.

Final Thoughts
At the risk of sounding ‘duh’, Tyler Brown is definitely NOT Mike Brown--I mean to say that, while Mike had drawn me in with his charming, sexy, joker personality and made me laugh a lot, his little brother is more on the sensitive, less jokey side of things. Ty’s a good man, don’t get me wrong, but he just doesn’t stand out much from any of the other good men in many other books or any other walks of life.

That’s fine and dandy. It just means that I like him even if I don’t love him.

And the same would go for the rest of the main characters. Jess is a good person. J.R. is a good person. Rabia is an amazing person. But aside from a few instances of Rabia’s bravery, The Way Home is really just a sweet contemporary romance about two couples, two sets of good people, finding their way to romance in time to celebrate Christmas.

And maybe that was the whole point. And now I’m almost wishing I’d have read this a few weeks ago to get myself into the heartwarming Christmas spirit. Because The Way Home definitely brings a smile to my face and makes me feel all warm and gooey inside.

And now I’m rambling, so I should probably bring this review to a close before I start waxing poetic about Johnny Duane, Crystal, Mike Brown, or the rest of the heroic Black Ops operators in Cindy Gerard’s world.


2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
Reading Assignment Challenge
Bookish Resolutions Challenge
Mount TBR Challenge
Also Read during Bout of Books 15 -- See Day 1 Update

This review was originally posted at Ani's Book Abyss / BookLikes in January 2016.

Thoughts: Killing Time

Killing Time

by Cindy Gerard
Book 1 of One-Eyed Jacks series
-- follows Black Ops, Inc. series

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  4.5 Stars

**Side note on 3/27/2016:

I ♥ "Primetime" and I also  Eva!
And I especially  them together!!

Because on a personal level I still love Johnny Duane Reed (Whisper No Lies) the most out of all the Cindy Gerard adorably broody alpha heroes and I adore the relationship between Johnny and Crystal; but on another more objective level, Killing Time was actually a whole lot more fun to read than Whisper No Lies and Mike "Primetime" Brown is now my second most favorite of the Cindy Gerard heroes and I also love the lovely, sexy, kickass Eva Salinas to death (yes, another girl crush)... if I give this book a full out five star rating I will have to go back and give Whisper No Lies a full out five star rating as well (which I don't see why I don't just do that)...

But who am I kidding? Both books are so on par with each other and Cindy Gerard just never disappoints and I don't want to choose favorites anymore...

And so...

For reasons that may or may not make sense to me (that definitely won’t make sense to anyone else), I am once again struggling with rating a book either the lovely 4.5 Stars or a full out 5 Stars.

And now I’m looking back at this strange rambling of a Bookish First World Problem and going, “Whatever, you can BOTH be my favorite Cindy Gerard Romantic Suspense! I don’t want to have to choose between one or another!”

And so it shall be... Because sooner or later, yet another Cindy Gerard Romantic Suspense will sneak up on me with another broody alpha with a goofy streak who manages to make me fall in love with him and I'll be conflicted about yet another insignificant difference between 4.5 Stars or 5 Stars.

Because, ya’know, whether 4.5 Stars or 5 Stars... it probably doesn’t make a lick of difference.

But Johnny Duane will still be my number one.

Despite the fact that I thoroughly loved Mike “Primetime” Brown so, SO much because he’s got all the right kinds of goofiness, charm, humor, sexiness, and even that rarely seen boyish fluster when faced with feelings that makes him all the more adorable because he’s such a big macho, alpha...

I feel like I’m betraying my love for Johnny. But can’t I just have both?

And Eva Salinas, too. I have developed a girl crush on her because she is definitely kickass and no nonsense and oh, so lovely, and take charge and level-headed at all the right times that I can’t help but love her too.

Ahem... anyway... Enough of the rambling and let's get back to the book, shall we?

The Story:
Mike “Primetime” Brown has been wallowing in eight years of self-pity since the events of Operation Slam Dunk went FUBAR, costing him his career, his livelihood, the lives of his men, and his friends. But a chance encounter with Eva Salinas, a CIA attorney who also has stakes on finding out the truth about what happened during Operation Slam Dunk, changes the direction of his life. Well, we call it a chance encounter, but really Eva uses her sexy wiles (in a cleavage popping bright red bustier) to lure a drunken Primetime into an alley, knocks him out with a light does of Ketamine, then ties him to a bed with zip ties in a rundown hotel so that she can interrogate him while holding him at gunpoint... with his own gun.

(No, no sexy times yet.)

Eva had received an anonymous tip about the happenings of Operation Slam Dunk, a mission gone bad, killing a whole team of soldiers and a town of innocent civilians. The after action report she finds in a flash drive mysteriously appearing on her desk makes mention of several facts that alert her to a deeper conspiracy, especially after she starts asking questions and doors start slamming in her face. Most alarming is the fact that she has a feeling she’s being followed by a sinister presence and now her life is in danger.

Mike has lived with the guilt of his One-Eyed Jacks teammates deaths for eight years. He has also lived with a slandered name, being used as a scapegoat for why the mission had gone bad.

After a somewhat of a “discussion”, Mike and Eva agree to work together to uncover the truth behind how Operation Slam Dunk ended up going down. Eva wants to know how her husband, who had been a part of this team, had truly died. Mike needs to clear his name and uncover what is really going on. And they soon learn that this cover-up goes much higher in the chain of command than they would have suspected. (As is typical for a lot of Romantic Suspense hinged on intrigue, politics, and conspiracy, but that's okay, Cindy, I still loved the book anyway.)

My Thoughts:
The story was pretty exciting, though there might have been certain parts I zoned out on. But overall, I loved the suspense and ate up the story progression. As is typical of a Cindy Gerard book, there is non-stop action with the right balance of Romance and Thrill, and the story has wit, heart, and excellently created characters.

As I’d already stated, Mike and Eva are all sorts of LOVE and FEELS and lovely feels. Mike has a charming humor about him that, on anyone else might come off annoying. But his character is written wonderfully with all the perfect balances of broody alpha, goofy charmer, and sexy macho man, along with a good balance of flaws to even him out. And Eva is just as equally kickass, tough girl, with a smart, level-head who knows how to use her personal arsenal in a battle of wits or a physical battle of fists.

The chemistry is smoking hot, the banter is all kinds of fun, and I just love how flustered Primetime gets around Eva when faced with feelings and emotions and that thing that guys like him always run away from: love. And Eva is so no-nonsense that there isn’t even enough time for the broody alpha to start angsting about their romance before she puts a stop to it and they live Happily Ever After™. Of course, it’s not like she doesn’t do her own fair share of brooding either, but it just seemed like she had more important priorities at hand and stuck to them rather than wallowing in that limbo of “Do I like him? Does he like me? Can we even be together? We are so wrong for each other?” usual Romance conflict antics.

Their romance was all sorts of entertaining, sweet, and adorable.

The new additions to the Cindy Gerard world of Romantic Suspense books includes Jamie Cooper and Robby Taggart, both men who used to be part of the One-Eyed Jacks with Mike before their last mission broke everything apart. Both are men who can set aside eight years of resentment easily to come to an old friend’s aid, and who are both proving to be just as fun-loving, and wittily charming as Mike Brown has been so far.

I certainly think I’m going to love them when they’re in the limelight.

I’ve mentioned little about the storyline, but that’s probably because, as far as story goes, it isn’t anything new. Military operation goes FUBAR due to conspiratorial reasons, big cover up ensues, main character used as a scapegoat, deeper sinister political and greedy aspirations by our main baddies, mission by our couple to uncover said sinister conspiracy, big battle and justice prevails, Happily Ever After™.

What makes these Cindy Gerard books special has always been the characters and how much heart the writing projects on me as a reader. I’ve always loved her books because they are written very well and infuse enough humor and heart, with the right balance of romance and suspense to keep me hooked and loving it all.

Oh, also, Gabe Jones (one of the BOIs from Black Ops, Inc.) makes a very hefty appearance in this book (him in all of his disgruntled and charming glory), which makes me very happy, because that means that we might get to see more of the rest of the BOIs... at least that’s what I’m hoping, ‘cause I really DO miss them a lot.

This review was originally posted at Ani's Book Abyss / BookLikes in May 2015.

Very Brief Thoughts: Desert Heat (novella)

Desert Heat

by Cindy Gerard

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  4.0 Stars
**novella -- originally published as part of Rescue Me anthology alongside:
  • Tropical Heat by Cherry Adair 
  • Atlanta Heat by Lora Leigh

I love Cindy Gerard!  A little Cindy Gerard novella to keep me over until I start reading her One-Eyed Jacks books in January (That's in two days!  Yes.  I'm on a schedule here.)

This was an enjoyable and fun, fast-paced read. Standard Cindy Gerard characters, bantering, sexy times, and suspense and action. A little on the formulaic Cindy Gerard Romantic Suspense-side, so it was predictable.

But I still loved it!  I'm not even certain that I'm able to dislike a Cindy Gerard book anymore.

This review was originally posted at Ani's Book Abyss / BookLikes in December 2015.

Thoughts: A Vision of Fire

A Vision of Fire

by Gillian Anderson & Jeff Rovin
Book 1 of Earthend Saga

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.5 Stars

I'm having some difficulty trying to decide whether or not I liked this book. On the one hand, it was riveting and intriguing as any sci-fi, global, psychological thriller ought to be. It had a lot of legends and history lessons and interesting topics touched upon as the main heroine runs around trying to save the day and solve her mysteries.

But at the same time, it almost feels like way too much was trying to be accomplished in one very short 292 page hardcover novel. On top of that, while I'm all for suspension of disbelief and a good science fiction thriller any day, and while I'm quite open-minded to things that are beyond human understanding, I couldn't help but feel like our main heroine dives into these beliefs much too quickly. I'm not even sure at what point she goes from being a skeptical child psychologist to an expert on past life, out-of-body, literal soul-searching rituals that create enough negative energy to blow up small cities.

Yes, I can see the main heroine slowly developing into a believer, but I'm afraid the progression was much too fast for my own liking. It was like watching Dana Scully's X-files persona develop from skeptic to believer in a little under eight hours of book time--whereas in the actual series, it DID kind of take her seven years to get there.

The Summary Blurb (Goodreads):
Renowned child psychologist Caitlin O’Hara is a single mom trying to juggle her job, her son, and a lackluster dating life. Her world is suddenly upturned when Maanik, the daughter of India’s ambassador to the United Nations, starts speaking in tongues and having violent visions. Caitlin is sure that her fits have something to do with the recent assassination attempt on her father—a shooting that has escalated nuclear tensions between India and Pakistan to dangerous levels—but when teenagers around the world start having similar outbursts, Caitlin begins to think that there’s a more sinister force at work.

In Haiti, a student claws at her throat, drowning on dry land. In Iran, a boy suddenly and inexplicably sets himself on fire. Animals, too, are acting irrationally, from rats in New York City to birds in South America to ordinary house pets. With Asia on the cusp of nuclear war, Caitlin must race across the globe to uncover the mystical links among these seemingly unrelated incidents in order to save her patient—and perhaps the world.

More Thoughts:
It's hard to say what it was about A Vision of Fire that didn't really work for me. Did I keep envisioning Gillian's celebrated X-files persona, Dana Scully, as I followed this book's main protagonist, Caitlin O'Hara around on her "journey" to find out what is causing these strange outbursts? I kind of did. I tried hard NOT to do any comparisons, but I have to honestly admit that there were too many similarities between Caitlin O'Hara and Dana Scully to ignore. The only difference is that Caitlin has a lot less resistance towards letting herself Believe, even as she swishes back and forth on the 'I Want To Believe' bandwagon--at some points she says that she's open to possibilities and understanding, but other points she's very vehement that there are other, more rational explanations.

Then she goes and starts talking about past life regression and stepping into another time, another life, with another civilization.

But in the long run, it really wasn't the main character who made it a little difficult for me to determine whether or not I liked this book. To be honest, it is written very well and smacks of the typical sci-fi thriller (as already stated). To someone wanting an easy, page-turning read to pass they day, A Vision of Fire can be quite enjoyable. For someone hoping for some sort of breakthrough writing debut by a beloved media personality... I'm not sure this book really delivers. Though maybe we expect way too much more because Gillian is such a popular onscreen figure.

Anyway, as I was saying...

This book is entertaining, at best and reminds me of a prolonged science fiction movie with lots and lots of things going on. In fact, at times, it might feel like the reader is being overwhelmed by the amount of material being packed into this short novel. Half the time, I'm not even sure I knew what was going on or how certain tangents connected with the main story line. The other half of the time I was still trying to figure out where Caitlin was going with her theories and why I hadn't quite caught up with what she was doing.

Some Final Thoughts:
What I did find that I liked about this book was the global, diverse feel of all the characters presented in this book. What I would have liked was a better, more in-depth look at all of these side characters, whether they were only part of this current story line, or are a part of Caitlin's life and will continue to appear in the rest of the series. But this book was mainly focused on Caitlin.

Sure, there were tangents into the global impact of the negative energy being generated by these kids due to the whatever was happening to them. There was a lot to think about in terms of cultural beliefs and religious understandings.

But in the end, this book was a LOT about Caitlin and her own journey to a better understanding. It just, at the same time, didn't seem very in-depth or relevant to her as a person. And in the end, the book itself was just another standard science fiction thriller with things happening and characters reacting and even stranger deux ex machina twisty conclusions that I'm still trying to understand.

I might still pick up the next book when I get a chance as the book was not difficult to read at all, and I'm curious to see where Gillian and Jeff Rovin decide to take the rest of the trilogy.


2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
Reading Assignment Challenge

This review was originally posted at Ani's Book Abyss / BookLikes in March 2016.

A First Impression:  (Originally posted on 3/3/2016.)

It's not a bad start, so far, although I can't help seeing some X-files parallels in the story's premise.  Of course, being that the X-files had covered almost anything paranormal you could think of, that's an unfair comparison, because almost any action or crime thriller with a paranormal basis could be said to parallel an X-file episode.

It just so happens that the idea is stuck in my head thanks to the author being Gillian Anderson.  And to be honest, her name in large print on the book cover was what caught my attention first--as was probably the marketing strategy for A Vision of Fire.  We all want to know how well Gillian handles authoring a book, and whether we can separate out the fact that she's a well-known, excellent actor, because, honestly, I'd like to give her a chance if she's also found a passion in writing.

I know she had requested the chance to write one of the X-files episodes, though I don't remember which one.

As for her co-writing with Jeff Rovin... I have no idea who Jeff Rovin is and I'm not sure if it's because I don't read very many books in the genre he writes in?  The "About the Author" blurb mentions that he's written over 130 works, including ghostwriting for such authors as Tom Clancy.  I'm familiar with Tom Clancy, even if I've never read any of his books--my brothers played a lot of computer games based on some of his works.  /shrugs

Anyway, so far A Visions of Fire is giving some promising potential.  Although, like I said, I can't quite separate out the similarities between this book and any other paranormal, government conspiracy crime thriller out there.  Aside from having Gillian's name on the front cover, the book isn't really standing out yet.

Of course, with only one chapter into the book, it's still too early to tell.  Crossing my fingers for an enjoyable, page-turning read!

This review was originally posted at Ani's Book Abyss / BookLikes in March 2016.

Thoughts: The Green-Eyed Doll

The Green-Eyed Doll

by Jerrie Alexander

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.5 Stars

This book was a little hard to get into at the beginning, mainly because the writing style and narration felt stilted and awkward to me. There was even a whole lot of cheese and drama that felt felt fairly unnatural. The characters were typical, category romance standard types with a broody male with alpha tendencies and a speshul Mary Sue who doesn't know how beautiful she is--the kicker, I honestly buy the reasons why she's so under-confident and squeamish around people, because it ties in with her past and it works.

It still doesn't make her any less of a Mary Sue type, though.

The story's premise was a sure thing from the start and had me crossing my fingers with the hope that things would get better if it didn't get worse, despite the almost too flowery prose in the beginning and the awkward dialogue.

If I go by the fact that I stayed up waaay past my bedtime to finish the last half of the book, then I'd have to say that things DID, indeed, turn out better as the story progressed. Either I got used to the writing style or it got better or something. But no matter what it was, the story's events and the progression was enough to keep me hooked as the second half of the book somehow became an entertaining, page-turning experience.

I definitely enjoyed.

The Story in Brief:
In a small town in Texas, a woman has gone missing only to turn up dead, on display, naked, with her hair tied up, her eyes glued open, and a red ribbon tied around her neck. When another woman disappears, Sheriff Matt Ballard is worried that they might have a serial in their midst. His suspicions are confirmed when the second woman also turns up dead in the same fashion as the first.

Meanwhile, Catherine McCoy is a new stranger in town, passing through and trying to run away from her old life. She has her secrets that she would just as soon keep from anyone and everyone, especially from the town's handsome sheriff. But an immediate attraction sparks and Catherine finds herself unable to move on as readily as she would have thought.

And all this while, it seems that the killer may have set his sights on Catherine.

My Thoughts:
There's really not much left to state about this book, honestly. Like I'd already said, the beginning was really hard to get into, but I'm not sure if it was because it was just set-up, or if the author was just trying to get footing in the story. The second half of the book was really not so bad and kept me reading.

Unfortunately, I can't say that there was much that jumped out at me as being outstanding. Maybe that Catherine was a strong enough women to take care of herself, rather than the typical damsel in distress of standard category romances. She had her TSTL moments, but those I can forgive if only because I can kind of see why she makes certain decisions and thinks in certain ways. It doesn't mean I like it, but I can see why she does what she does.

Despite the last half of the book being easier to read and a hooking page-turner, I actually have more quibbles about this book than positives to talk about--and they are mainly from the first half.

For instance, the romance is so insta that it hurts. It's instalust, which is common in romance novels. But then there's the instantaneous trust that Catherine presents to Matt, despite the fact that he's got at least two hits against him: Catherine had just gotten out of an abusive relationship where law enforcement failed her and caused a tragedy. Matt, being a man and being the town sheriff, would be the last person Catherine would so readily put her trust in. So it just seemed a little too "the author decrees it" kind of romance.

And then the love is also insta as well. I mean, don't get me wrong, nobody declares their love right away, but there's no escaping my notice that the "meant to be" vibes were rolling off this couple in spades. It was just a matter of voicing the ILYs at a good moment in the book.

Another thing that bothered me was the fact that NO ONE made mention of the connections between the victims. Sure, Matt told Catherine to be extra careful because of her green eyes, but never once was this connecting element brought up in any part of the investigation: that the killer was picking off women with red hair and green eyes.

Then again, there was one particular victim I'm not really certain about, but the progression of the story lead me to believe that the serial was targeting red haired women with green eyes. But this was NEVER mentioned at all, not even in the big media tangent in the book--something that media would definitely sensationalize.

Final Thoughts:
Anyway, this book wasn't entirely memorable, so even if there had been a lot of quibbles, I'm not sure I can list all of them, so we'll leave it at that.

Again, I DID end up enjoying the book despite some flaws here and there, but difficulty of getting into the book in the beginning was definitely not advantageous for The Green-Eyed Doll.


2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
Reading Assignment Challenge
Bookish Resolutions Challenge
Mount TBR Challenge

This review was originally posted at Ani's Book Abyss / BookLikes in February 2016.

Thoughts: Butterfly Swords

Butterfly Swords

by Jeannie Lin
Book 1 of Tang Dynasty

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  4.0 Stars

This book was slow to start up, but once it got going, aside from a few hiccups here and there and some eye-roll-worthy moments, Butterfly Swords was entirely captivating up until the very end. The style is beautifully done and the characters quite readily likable, even if predictable. It DID bring to mind nostalgic FEELS of the days when I used to watch wuxia television series religiously, on repeat.

It was just also more romantic and quite a bit steamier, as well. Whew! **fans self**

The Story:
After learning that the powerful Li Tao had a hand in her brother's death as well as is planning treason on her father's throne, Shen Ai Li orchestrates a bandit attack on her wedding procession in order to escape her marriage to him. Even despite knowing the shame and disappointment that would befall her and her family because of this act, Ai Li is determined to get back to the capital to reveal this betrayal to her mother and father, the Emperor and Empress of the Tang Dynasty Empire.

Born from a warrior family, Ai Li has only her learned fighting skills and her butterfly swords to defend herself with, until she chances upon a barbarian warrior with a handsome face and blue eyes. Ryam is a ladies' man with wanderlust and a fatalistic outlook after a battle gone bad with imperial soldiers. But Ai Li affects him in a way he had never expected and he finds himself agreeing to protect her on her journey, even as he fights to restrain himself from wanting her or worse yet, falling for her.

Some Thoughts:
I had forgotten that I'd yet to actually review this book fully... or at least as fully as I'd intended to do. This might mean that the book really wasn't all that memorable, but I know that that's not entirely true. Unfortunately, even as I write those words, I have to admit that there really wasn't anything outstanding about Butterfly Swords aside from the beauty of the writing and that nostalgic sense I already mentioned about my memories of watching wuxia series when I was younger.

In a nutshell, the story progressed well and was told well. The characters were created well. And historical China is a different kind of setting for a category romance that is also part romantic suspense. But in the end, the formula for the romance really isn't much different from other romances I've read before because the characters were standard stereotypes and the romance was also quite formulaic.

Ai Li is a great character, don't get me wrong. She's strong and idealistic and quite forward-thinking, especially for a woman born to a very traditional family in historical China. Because even as she talks about her duties and her role as a daughter in the royal family, she still dares to defy and go beyond the typical station of a woman in historical China.

And I'm not saying this as if I think it's a terrible thing for Ai Li to be so strong and forward thinking (even if she does still display the more historically accurate ideals of her time). I love a strong and idealistic, forward-thinking female heroine as much as the next feminist. But historical China is also one of my least favorite eras mainly because I can't stand that whole "women are merely property for their fathers, brothers, and husbands to use as trade" bullshit. Unfortunately, just because I don't like it doesn't mean that I can argue with it, nor does it mean that I would argue with it. That was just how historical China was and nothing can change those facts save for some clever suspension of disbelief in fictional stories here and there.

Historical China was just never a friendly place for women.

Goodness knows that Louis Cha took enough liberties in his own wonderfully created, uber popular, widely beloved and accepted wuxia novels to make them so truly awesome! There are so many strong, idealistic, extremely forward-thinking women in his stories that it makes you forget you're in historical China.

But I digress...

Back to Ai Li, as I was saying: She's a great character, and what I love about her is that she can hold her own in a physical battle even if she can't quite hold her own in a battle of hearts. Because even with all of her ideal traits, she unfortunately comes off as the typical romance novel Mary Sue. She's strong, she's independent, she's intelligent, she's innocent, she's a virgin (thus making her the epitome of sexual innocence), and she's also brave and righteous and endearingly naive. And she's the one woman, ever, who is different enough to "change" our broody, alpha male's life. Because she's special.

Our broody alpha, of course, is a bad boy with a heart of gold, sexually experienced with playboy tendencies, a warrior and a hero, and is mush when he's faced with our heroine. And then there are those underlying tragic reasons why he cannot commit to one woman no matter how in love with her he is.

There is nothing unique about this romance.

HOWEVER, what makes this story enjoyable and readily lovable is the presentation. Once again, the writing is exquisite, the imagery vivid, and the progression done very well. And even with the formulaic love story, I couldn't help but enjoy every moment between Ai Li and Ryam as they got to know each other, little by little, as they traveled together. Despite some of it being exposition or narrative, we still get to see the process of them having conversations, learning little things about each other, and just talking about anything and everything. So even though there's an undertone of lust thickening between the two in the background, their relationships truly is built on a pretty sweet and sincere foundation of caring and friendship.

Final Thoughts:
Some things were a little hard to overlook in the story, especially towards the end of the book when the conclusion required an HEA.

But ultimately, Butterfly Swords is a very enjoyable book and I find myself not quite bothered by the little quibbles here and there. As one of first few category romances in a historical Chinese setting, thus bringing about feelings of nostalgia, I have a feeling that Butterfly Swords may forever have a special place in my heart.

Jeannie Lin is an author I intend to continue following with the rest of this series as well as her other historical romances.


2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
Reading Assignment Challenge
Mount TBR Challenge

This review was originally posted at Ani's Book Abyss / BookLikes in February 2016.