Sunday, April 3, 2016

Packaged Thoughts 2015: All the Books I Didn't Review

One of my resolutions as a blogger/reader is to review as many books as I can, if only because I enjoy doing so.  But like any other blogger out there, sometimes you just can't think of anything to say outside the scope of:  "I really liked this book.  It was awesome!"  or "I didn't much care for this book.  It was kind of boring!"  or "This book was just... *shrugs*".

There are a lot of books I had always meant to review the entire time during the reading process, but just never got around to doing so for one reason or another.

And so I decided to try what a lot of other bloggers will sometimes do:  Make a simple, one time post for the sole reason of giving extremely short and generic opinions of a bunch of books, whether I liked them or not.  (Knowing me, I'll probably end up getting carried away resulting in enough paragraphs to present a full review anyway, though, so my apologies in advance.)

In making this decision, I realized that there are several other books I had never meant to review that I wouldn't mind giving a shout-out about in this post.

The following books are in no particular order, though they may be organized in a fashion that makes sense only to me.  If I wanted to be logical about it, I would probably just list all the books in order by the author's last name or in the order of which I read them this year... but whatevs.

Career of Evil (Cormoran Strike #3) 

by Robert Galbraith (aka Queen Rowling)
Rating:  3.5 Stars

This book started out very slow.  As per usual, the writing is excellent and the characters are excellent.  But the book started out very slow.  I might have fallen asleep at some point, but, as is with every other book I may have fallen asleep reading, it could just be my own lack of healthy sleep cycles that's the problem.

But the book still started out very slow.  The flashbacks and the sudden inclusion of character histories to help propel the rest of the main story line (because I understand that that's why all of that was included), DID manage to elicit some wavering attention on my behalf.

But then all the set-up is taken care of and we dive into the rest of the book and it starts getting excellent.  Except, then I realize that this book is still trudging along with mostly set-up and side tangents and other such nonsense that barely focuses on the murder plot.

Career of Evil isn't a bad book, don't get me wrong.  And it's far from boring or uninspiring.  HOWEVER, it is definitely a step down from its predecessor, The Silkworm.  And that makes me sad, because I had hoped that, even if Career of Evil could not surpass The Silkworm's genius, it would at least still be an excellent work by Queen Rowling.

It kept me hooked, if only because of the character interaction and growing relation between Strike and Robin.  But it also bothered me because of a lot of side details and backstories that we probably could have done without.  And then Robin is given a downgrade in her character development when a much unnecessary cliched plot device is used to color her character's past.

This book could have been brilliant like The Silkworm.  But it was merely good and serviceable without the brilliance I'd hoped for it.  Did I mention it started out really slow?

Seraphina duology by Rachel Hartman

#1) Seraphina -- 5.0 Stars
#2) Shadow Scale -- 4.5 Stars

Serephina was, hands down, one of the best high fantasies I had read back in 2013 (it was published in 2012).  Granted, this was back before I started making a thing of blogging my reviews more regularly, so I didn't subject the book to the same amount of note-taking and subconscious analysis that I do to books I read now.  However, I DO recall that I loved it so much that I immediately put the next book on my TBR... and then proceeded to wait forever... and then give a little whimper each time the release date for the second book got pushed back.

Seraphina had a lot going for it: a strong, unique, multi-layered heroine; a complex, intricately created world that interwove a dragon culture into it seamlessly; a sweet, subtle romance that had developed from a respectful admiration and friendship between two people; and a wonderfully narrated story with a rich, complicated conflict.  And characters, colorful, creative, unique, non-standard side characters and background characters and minor characters, all with their own multi-layered backgrounds lightly hinted out.

Rachel Hartman created a wonderful world and a wonderful story and a wonderful cast of characters for lovers of high fantasy.

This year, in preparation for the release of Shadow Scale at the beginning of the year, I wanted to re-read Seraphina.  Instead, I ended up buying the Audible and listening to it instead and once again found the experience a good one (with some minor drawbacks during those moments my attention might have drifted).  Seraphina was just as great as I had remembered it two years ago.

Then I finally picked up Shadow Scale.  And I devoured it.  While there was some questionable story progression flow and a conclusion that wasn't the most ideal, I still found the world of Seraphina wonderfully created.  We get to travel outside to the rest of the worlds and see the rest of the cultures only hinted at in the first book.  And on top of that, we get to continue following the same beloved characters as well as meet new characters.

The only issue I had with Shadow Scale, which made it a little less likable than Seraphina was that it had more moments of drag than the first book... and also the romantic resolution was just not what I had been expecting after all of that build-up between Seraphina and Kiggs.  Which was more disappointing than I like to admit, because I often don't like when a series dwells too much on romances... but Seraphina was never a story that based its happenings around a romance.  Instead, it serenaded us with the love story in the background, making sweet and beautiful little promises with the very subtle build-up between our main couple.

Color me shallow, but that had been enough to really damper my initial "I don't care about a lot of the flaws this book might have, I'm giving it a straight out 5 Star rating!"

11 by Kylie Brant 

Rating:  4.0 Stars

Kylie Brant is one of my more favorite romantic suspense authors, if only because I really enjoyed what she did with the women of the Mindhunters series.  They were all competent, independent, skilled investigators who never really had to rely on a male partner at all times.  And also, Kylie Brant goes easy on the damsel-in-distress scenarios (except with her most recent, Secrets of the Dead... I'm still trying to figure that one out).

The point is: the heroines from Mindhunters typically kept themselves well out of trouble as their jobs dictated, and rushed into danger to save the day as their jobs dictated.  And they were always prepared to get themselves back out of danger if it came around to that.

When I discovered 11 as a new book listed under Kylie Brant's Amazon page, I got pretty excited and jumped on that one pretty quickly.  11 is set in the same world as the Mindhunters series, as we learn when Adam Raiker appears in the first (second?) chapter of the book.  But from that moment forward, it's kind of a book on its own and quite enjoyable at that.

The only unfortunate response I have, however, is that it's not very memorable.  You've got a P.I. and you've got a woman in hiding and you've got a resident baddie, psycho serial killer.  Action ensues, romance ensues, sex happens... and then Happily Ever After™.

And that's pretty much it.  After finishing the book, I barely had anything to say about 11 because there really wasn't anything to say about it.  I know I enjoyed it and gobbled it up like I would any other exciting romantic suspense.  But otherwise, I've got nothing.

X-Ops books by Paige Tyler

#1) Her Perfect Mate -- 4.0 Stars
#2) Her Lone Wolf -- 4.0 Stars

I didn't expect much from Her Perfect Mate when I first decided to pick it up.  I had kind of subconsciously blown it off as a guilty pleasure romance read with erotica disguised as a military romantic suspense novel.  But I was pleasantly surprised by how much I ended up enjoying it, even in spite of some of the tacky dialogue and some of the weird content.

I didn't really have to suspend disbelief.  However, I DID have to overlook how quickly the "I love you"s came around and how readily our non-shifter human male was able to accept his cat-shifter female partner just because he had a thing for Catwoman.  It was a little incredible to believe that he wouldn't have freaked out first, but I got over that pretty quickly.

Still, my enjoyment of Her Perfect Mate lead to picking up Her Lone Wolf, and in this particular story line and instance, the suspension of disbelief was a little easier to grasp.  The romance was also a little more readily acceptable since the main couple had been lovers previously, before the timeline of the book.  The flashbacks were a little distracting, but they helped.

I will definitely try to pick up the next few books when they are made available, but I won't trip over myself trying to get a hold of them.  I DO like the brief background scenes of the ongoing major conflict that's propelling the series overall.  Lots to look forward to, that's for sure.

Also, I stumbled upon the very short side story, Her Halloween Costume... His Halloween Fantasy..., written as a follow-up to Her Perfect Mate, involving a brief mission and some cutesy romance stuff and some sexual innuendo between Ivy and Landon.  It was cute and fans of this series will probably appreciate it.  The link of the short story title leads to the story itself at Paige Tyler's official website.

Magonia (Magonia #1) 

by Maria Dahvana Headley
Rating:  3.0 Stars

Really, Magonia was just a strange, strange book and I'm not even certain how I felt about it.  Even now I'm still not sure.  I read a review about it that carefully dissects the book into two separate story parts, wherein the first half is like typical, trendy "Sick Lit" and the second half is a weird paranormal high fantasy akin to something of the Castle in the Sky variety.

I'm inclined to agree.  Although I loved Castle in the Sky and thought that the fantasy part of Magonia wasn't really THAT much like it... or maybe it is.  I think I may have likened it to a Castle in the Sky doped up on an acid trip of some kind, what with the whimsical fantasy telling and all, but with more WTF-like strangeness than I could handle.

And now apparently the book is being formed into a series...

Do we really believe that's necessary?

Steele Street books by Tara Janzen

#3) Crazy Wild -- 4.0 Stars
#4) Crazy Kisses -- 3.5 Stars
#5) Crazy Love -- 4.0 Stars
#6) Crazy Sweet -- 3.5 Stars

As far as the Steele Street books go, they involve the same formulaic story line with each and every book I've read.  There's a lot of haphazard narration that switches from one set of characters to another, a big military mission going on in the background, one crime thriller conspiracy going on in the foreground, lots of talk about cars and fixing up cars, lots of talk about sex, and lots of talk about the Steele Street guys and their strange quirks.

All packaged together, it's hard to grasp or follow if you're looking for anything inspirational or substantial.

But there is no doubt that I somehow manage to really, really enjoy reading these books if only because they are so much crazy fun that I don't care about substance or logic or any other kind of realism.  There's an underlying comedic tone to these books that make them extremely enjoyable.

Crazy Wild... it was interesting.  I much preferred the sexy, steamy romantic sexcapades of Creed and Cody (in comparison with Crazy Kisses' Kid/Nikki pairing)--as per usual, there's an amusing undertone of humor between these two and their developing relationship that just makes it fun to follow.

Crazy Kisses didn't exactly turn out the way I'd wanted it to, but I still found some kind of entertainment with it.  I had looked forward to Crazy Kisses because of the ongoing Kid/Nikki, on-again-off-again romance that has been teasing us since the first book... but it felt slightly lackluster when it finally came around.

Crazy Love brings us to the long awaited Dylan Hart and Skeeter Bang romance.  It wasn't as exciting as I had hoped it would be, considering the build-up to their romance since two books previous, but it still delivered in the nonsensical quips, the strange, comedic atmosphere, and the action and the badass action.

Crazy Sweet rounds off the first part of the Steele Street series with the newest SDF member, Travis James, who has been present since the first book as Nikki McKinney's naked angel model for her artwork.  This guy has probably had a crush on every other girl introduced throughout these first six books, with his desires unfulfilled and lots of pent up frustration.  So it's his turn to have a romance now.

In Crazy Sweet, Travis's girlfriend/friends-with-benefits/lover/SDF-soul-mate-partner, Gillian Pentycote is on a revenge mission, and Travis is basically her keeper.  And really, not much actually happens in this book aside from the revenge mission and some sort of side mission featuring C. Smyth Rydell and a girl named Honey in El Salvador...

Really, all these books really suffer from is a case of haphazard "I don't know where this plot is going and I'm not even sure there's a main conflict in here".  Although all the craziness and the humor and the mindless fun and the hot sex more than makes up for the lack of direction in each book.  In the end, I realize I have so much fun reading these books that I don't care that I have no idea what's really going on.

Gimme Some Sugar (Pine Mountain #2)

by Kimberly Kincaid
Rating:  2.5 Stars

I've already said it once in my Turn Up the Heat review:  I liked the Line books by Kimberly Kincaid when I first picked up Love on the Line on a whim.  The food porn was pretty awesome and the romance was sweet and simple and had its moments of breezy.  The next two Line books were serviceable, even if not the best, because I was enjoying Kimberly Kincaid's humorous, easygoing writing style.

Turn Up the Heat was okay, but not the greatest contemporary romance in the world.  And then Gimme Some Sugar rolled around... and it was just... kind of... weird.  Don't get me wrong, it was cute and breezy in a way.  But the relationship and romantic development felt a little juvenile for an adult contemporary... and the repetitive "Feed her," thing was a little creepy.

And the main romantic conflict, when revealed, was just kind of... sad.

Whatever the case, Gimme Some Sugar just didn't seem to work for me, which ended up putting the Pine Mountain books squarely in my "I don't know if I'm going to continue reading this series" pile.  Though I may read one more book just to see where we go with it.


by Julie Garwood
#5) Slow Burn -- 4.0 Stars
#6) Shadow Dance -- 3.5 Stars

Julie Garwood's romantic suspense series seem to get better as each book progresses... and yet, in a way, they don't, really.  Enjoyable as they are, I can't help but notice that these past two books were a little less memorable than the previous two.  Although to be fair, even Murder List (book #4) wasn't quite memorable either.  Of the series, Killjoy (book #3) is my favorite--the character's stand out and I liked them.

Slow Burn was different from the other Buchanan-Renard-MacKenna installments in that the murder mystery remains a one-sided investigation throughout the book.  We honestly do not even get to see the main baddie at all and things remain a mystery up until the end--which is actually quite nice, because I could do without those trips through our mystery villain's twisted minds.

Of course, what stood out the most about Slow Burn was the beginning of the book in which a Wonderbra gets the most unique introduction I'd ever expected.  And, as usual, Julie Garwood's humor shines.

Shadow Dance is a little less entertaining if only because the narration seems to take a turn for the tedious.  There is entirely too much telling in this book and a lot of side mutterings by all the characters.  Of course, the typical Julie Garwood humor is still present, but the bantering between Jordan and Noah feels slightly more irritating than fun.

And, of course, I'm a bit disappointed, because, for some unknown reason, this is the installment I'd been reading my way towards.  Since the Buchanans are such a big law enforcement, badass family, I had been expecting Jordan Buchanan to be a badass law enforcement type as well, and if not, at least a badass female super woman of some sort.  I'm not even sure I know where I got that impression, really...

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

No comments:

Post a Comment