Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Thoughts: Maddy's Floor

Maddy's Floor

by Dale Mayer
Book 3 of Psychic Visions

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  1.5 Stars

Medical intuitive and licensed MD Madeleine Wagner thought she'd seen every way possible to heal a diseased body... then patients start dying from mysterious causes in her long-term facility.

The terminally ill fight to get into her ward.  Once there, many miraculously... live.  So when her patients start dropping and she senses an evil force causing their deaths, she calls on her friend and mentor, Stefan, for help.  Together, they delve beyond the physical plane into the metaphysical... Only to find terror.

She wants to save everyone, but are some souls not meant to be saved?

Detective Drew McNeil has two family members in need of Maddy's healing care, but his visits to her facility leave him wondering--who cares for Maddy?  Bizarre events on her floor raise his professional curiosity.  And the more time he spends with Maddy, the more personal everything becomes.  When the deaths on Maddy's Floor intersect with one of his cold cases, he realizes an old killer has returned--and Maddy's standing in his path.

How can these people stop something that no one else can see, feel or even believe?


The Actual Rating:  1.5 "I'm done with this series" Stars

Yes.   I think I'm giving up on this series.  I had been on the fence about continuing this series, so I included this book in my 2016 Reading Assignment challenge to see if, by any chance, I'd be able to give the series another go.  Truth be told, while the first two books weren't the best written (and had editing errors like nobody's business), they had some pretty good concepts and the story lines weren't entirely insufferable.

But with Maddy's Floor, things were just draggy and boring from the start.  I made it through the entire book if only because I wanted to see how the author would handle the ending.  I mean, how do you catch a killer who can siphon energy off other people without leaving a trace?  How do you try a villain in the court of law without physical evidence?   Only psychics would ever know who was responsible for the deaths of six children and a dying old man.  Only psychics would be able to determine how said killer is continuing to take other people's energies and life force.

I really wanted to see how Mayer was going to wrap this mystery up.  And you know HOW this story concludes?  By making up a left-field conclusion out of thin air.  And by sheer force of "THE ALMIGHTY WRITER'S WILL":

Let that sink in for a second and you'll understand why I chose to subtract another half a star from an originally "It was OK" 2-Star rating.  Because, if not for that sudden rush of "THE ALMIGHTY WRITER'S WILL" in forcing a resolution, our main evil villain guy would never have been caught.  There was no evidence and there were reasons on a psychic level that pointed to someone else entirely as the responsible party to all the deaths.

I could have lived with a boring, dragged out book about a speshul snowflake doctor and her apparent ability to heal the dying with ideas of positive thinking and positive energy.   I could have lived with the awkward dialogues and monologues.  I could have lived with some of the random tangents, or the fact that nothing really happens in this book to forward anything.

Okay.  Never mind, maybe I couldn't really have lived with all of that.  After all, if there were perfect Mary Sues in the world, Dr. Maddy would be in the middle of that convention since she practically lights up rooms when she walks into them, and need only walk and breathe for people to fall in love with her.

But anyway, I would have just shrugged off a lot of my quibbles, gave the book a 'meh' rating and moved on.  But the conclusion was just so forced that you could tell we were struggling to figure out how to wrap things up, because not only was the conclusion rushed, it also made no sense whatsoever (see spoiler above).

As a side note, there were still quite a few typos and editing errors throughout the book, even if not as bad as the first book.  Mainly, I noticed a lot of inappropriate comma usage, and some narrative inconsistencies.

One scene that comes to mind is when Maddy is making coffee in the morning after the detective stays the night in her guest bedroom to keep an eye on her.  She is narrated to have pulled two mugs out of her cabinets while waiting for her coffee to brew when her phone rings.  While she's on the phone with her friend Stefan, she turns and is startled to see that the detective guy is leaning against the kitchen door frame, and she monologues that she'd forgotten he was in her house; this left me wondering whether or not she normally pulls out two mugs for herself for coffee in the morning.

Then she continues her phone conversation, saying things that I thought the detective guy would have absolutely been suspicious about and start asking questions about, especially since she mentions said detective's uncle's name in a context that sounds rather concerning.  Instead, our detective just smiles at her and reaches for two mugs in the cabinet to hand her a cup of coffee.  At this point, I can't really remember whether or not Dr. Maddy had already poured herself a mug of coffee, because I had somehow been under the impression that she'd gotten herself a mug already, but she takes the mug that Mr. Detective Guy pours for her anyway, thus, somehow negating the mug that she may or may not already have in her hand.

There were more narrative inconsistencies like that, such as a character already standing up, but suddenly "coming to her feet" a few sentences later; or a character already sitting down, but then randomly falls into her chair in the next instance.

In other quibbles, I was a little jarred by the fact that Dr. Maddy's extent of reactions are 90% gasping:  she gasps when someone says something to her; she gasps when someone brushes by her; she gasps when someone surprises her; she gasps when she's having sex; she gasps when someone calls her name... she pretty much gasps when ANYTHING happens.

Anyway... Before I read this book, I was actually looking forward to it, even with my previous, less than enthused ratings for the first two books in this series.  But now I'm definitely sure that I won't be continuing with this series anymore.


***

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

 • COYER Summer Vacation 2016 -- Bingo Board One | Square R5 -- PNR


Brief Thoughts: Hide'n Go Seek

Hide'n Go Seek

by Dale Mayer
Book 2 of Psychic Visions

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  2.5 Stars

A twisted game of Hide'n Go Seek forces an unlikely alliance between a no-nonsense FBI agent and a search-and-rescue worker.

Celebrated search-and-rescue worker Kali Jordon has hidden her psychic abilities by crediting her canine partner Shiloh with the recoveries.  But Kali knows the grim truth--The Sight that she inherited from her grandmother allows her to trace violent energy unerringly to victims of murder.  No one knows her secret until a twisted killer challenges her to a deadly game of Hide'n Go Seek that threatens those closest to her.

Now she must rely on FBI Special Agent Grant Summers, a man who has sworn to protect her, even as he suspects there's more to Kali and Shiloh than meets the eye.  As the killer draws a tighter and tighter circle around Kali, she and Grant find there's no place to hide.

Are her visions the key to finding the latest victim alive or will this twisted game of Hide'n Go Seek cost her...everything?


I don't know how I feel about this book.  It's not good, but it's not terrible either.  I enjoyed it to an extent, but mainly because I was hoping there'd be more suspense and a better grasp on the romance and the murder investigations.  I like reading about the Search and Rescue aspect, even if I'm not a hundred percent sure if that's how it really works--I'm not an expert, but my suspension of disbelief in this book was really being tested on every level.

Anyway...

Like the first book, Hide'n Go Seek had potential for a good story--I liked the premise. Unlike the first book in this series, the execution was a lot better and the editor didn't get too lazy.  I only noticed a few random glaringly obvious typos, grammatical errors, and forgotten or misplaced punctuation marks.  There was, however, an over-abundant use of the comma in the most random places.

Again, these books could benefit from a good editing team.

Otherwise, the rest of the book wasn't too bad.

The story line had potential, the characters were okay, and the murder mystery was fine.  Well, okay, the murder mystery was outright predictable because I already figured out who the killer was within the first three chapters.  Nonetheless, it played out pretty decently.  The characters were actually kind of bland and there were parts where I just wanted to round everyone up and throw them all into a ditch.  No.  I did not care for many of these people.

For the most part, the book was another very "MEH" level of interest.

I have reserves about continuing the rest of the series for several reasons; the main reason being the most obvious: I have a really long TBR list already and I see no immediate need to read the next book in this series.  However, I'm not brushing it off altogether and may or may not return to it in the future.



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





A First Impression:  Originally posted on August 9, 2014.

The premise of this book reminds me of Iris Johansen's Firestorm.  It's been years since I read it, but I remember really liking Firestorm, so I've added it to my TBR pile for this year.  Back to this book; after having finished Tuesday's Child, I'm giving this second book in the Psychic Visions series a sidelong glance and couple reserves.

But I'm also all about second chances (see: this review of a certain book I really, really wanted to be good), so I'm trying my hand at the second book in this series to see if there's any improvement... or miraculous insight on better writing and editing and research.

To be honest, there wasn't really much aside from Tuesday's Child that actually impressed me or grabbed my attention save for the premise.  I'm hoping things will be a little different with this one and try to go into it without biases.



This update was originally posted at Ani's Book Abyss / BookLikes in August 2014.



Thoughts: Tuesday's Child

Tuesday's Child

by Dale Mayer
Book 1 of Psychic Visions

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  2.0 Stars

What she doesn’t want... is exactly what he needs.

Shunned and ridiculed all her life for something she can’t control, Samantha Blair hides her psychic abilities and lives on the fringes of society.  Against her will, however, she’s tapped into a killer—or rather, his victims.  Each woman’s murder, blow-by-blow, ravages her mind until their death releases her back to her body.  Sam knows she must go to the authorities, but will the rugged, no-nonsense detective in charge of tracking down the killer believe her?

Detective Brandt Sutherland only trusts hard evidence, yet Sam’s visions offer clues he needs to catch a killer.  The more he learns about her incredible abilities, however, the clearer it becomes that Sam’s visions have put her in the killer’s line of fire.  Now Brandt must save her from something he cannot see or understand... and risk losing his heart in the process.

As danger and desire collide, passion raises the stakes in a game Sam and Brandt don’t dare lose.


This is one of those books I like to call "Good Concept, Bad Execution," because the premise drew me into being interested, but the book itself wasn't all that great.  To be honest, the first half of this book started decently with some good potential and good direction.

And I'm always upfront about this: I don't get along with paranormals.  Paranormal mysteries are a nice exception.  A good one I've been enjoying would be Kay Hooper's Bishop/Special Crimes Unit series.  While her books aren't the best written, she has established a pretty concrete world of psychics with rules and systems that are pretty consistent from one book to another in the series.

But sometimes, even paranormal mysteries don't fair too well either.  This book might be one of them.  I'm not certain yet, because I didn't really hate the book--I just had a really big "MEH" moment towards the end.  Because things could have been good but they weren't.


And because then (and I don't remember where in the book it happened) everything started happening all at once that only surfaced as negative marks against the book:
  • So many typos that couldn't be ignored.
  • Fact inconsistencies that sprung up, two or three chapters apart.
  • Poor editing in terms of quotation marks, pronoun usage, run-on sentences, fragmented sentences, double negatives... I could go on.
  • Unnecessary scene breaks.
  • Inconsistent location transitions.  (Sometimes I'm not sure when the couple ended up from "out on the porch" to "in the living room and moving up to the bedroom without locking the doors of a secluded cabin while a killer and a menace are both out to take the heroine's life.")
  • Unnecessary POV switches in narration that included unnecessary side tangents.
  • Repeated conversations and repeated information monologues.
  • Too many monologues that were unnecessary and insignificant to the story.
  • A psychic universe logic that didn't seem to make much sense as part of the paranormal logic within the realm of this book.  Probably psychic "ideals" kept being included that felt like they were being used as a deus ex machina to explain everything that had to do with the psychic stuff.  This ties in with fact inconsistencies.
  • Laughable case investigations--because it felt like a whole lot of nothing was accomplished without the psychic's own first-hand knowledge of the murders.  And even then the only reason the murderer was caught was because the psychic was used as bait.  There was never any concrete evidence to go on at all.

Also one last tidbit: Alcohol doesn't really destroy DNA.  The killer should have been carrying bleach wipes with him or something else that could inhibit DNA detection.  Bleach would have been more useful in degradation of DNA.  If that's what he was going for with the whole "wiping his victims down with alcohol" thing since, I guess, his sweat and spit was dripping onto the victim?  (Gross...)

Conclusion:  This book could have really benefited from a few beta-reads and several really good editors, because I'm of the impression that, if this book had been edited, then that editor got really lazy towards the end.



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



Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Thoughts: Troublemaker

Troublemaker

by Linda Howard

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.5 Stars

For Morgan Yancy, an operative and team leader in a paramilitary group, nothing comes before his job.  But when he’s ambushed and almost killed, his supervisor is determined to find out who’s after the members of his elite squad—and why.  Due to worries that this unknown enemy will strike again, Morgan is sent to a remote location and told to lay low and stay vigilant.  But between a tempting housemate he’s determined to protect and a deadly threat waiting in the shadows, keeping under the radar is proving to be his most dangerous mission yet.

The part-time police chief of a small West Virginian mountain town, Isabeau “Bo” Maran finally has her life figured out.  She’s got friends, a dog, and a little money in the bank.  Then Morgan Yancy shows up on her doorstep. Bo doesn’t need a mysterious man in her life—especially a troublemaker as enticing and secretive as Morgan.

The harder they fight the intense heat between them, the closer Morgan and Bo become, even though she knows he’s hiding from something.  But discovering the truth could cost Bo more than she’s willing to give.  And when Morgan’s cover is blown, it might just cost her life.


To be fair, this is my second Linda Howard book.  The first book I read of hers was not exactly a personal favorite, and in fact, had been disagreeable enough that I had considered not coming back to another Linda Howard.  But I'm a believer of second chances, and it just so happens that Linda Howard has a lot of romantic suspense pieces under her name--and I'm nothing if not a lover of romantic suspense.

Comprised with all the intriguing premises of her books, as well as the fact that I DID recognize the subtle humor and the well-written narratives from the train wreck that was Mr. Perfect, I subconsciously decided that it wouldn't hurt to give Linda Howard another go.  I've had other books of hers on my TBR since.

Troublemaker sounded quite interesting.  And to be fair, it was pretty enjoyable, actually.  However, after finishing the book, my biggest take away was that this book was nothing like what I'd been expecting--it was both a good and a bad revelation.


First of all:  This book is more Contemporary Romance than it is Romantic Suspense.

The beginning of the book started out as a potential romantic suspense would--there was action, there were guns, there was military and there was near death.  The only thing we were missing were the explosions.  Unfortunately, the first scenes in the book wherein there IS action is dragged out by the fact that we were also getting a play-by-play, day-in-the-life-of for Morgan Yancy during his stateside moments.

When he was shot and his boss comes up with the half-baked idea to use him as bait and then send him to recuperate in an off-the-grid small town, I thought things were actually picking up.  The concept was enticing, although I've got misgivings about these geniuses, specifically Morgan's superior, Axel, knowingly putting someone's life in danger just because there's some bad sibling rivalry included.  It would be a bit different if Bo were a security type or military type or even true law enforcement, but as we come to find out, despite the fact that she's the Chief of Police of the small town, she only does administrative work.  And from what I gather, she's never actually had police training outside of learning how to fire a gun--which anyone can do on their own time without being a law enforcement officer.

And yes, I know there were other, logical reasons for sending Morgan to recuperate in a place that had no connections to him, but I also found it quite presumptuous of these men to believe that Bo would go for something like playing nursemaid for a complete stranger who, by all rights, could be the most dangerous man alive.

No matter how much money she needed to turn her life around.

But, anyway, after we bypass that first hoop, and our two main characters are settled into a routine, daily thing... well, the book started rolling and I started enjoying.  And for it's credit, while NOTHING remotely suspenseful happens for the next 80% of the book--aside from one or two little tangents that were readily resolved, but seemed highly out-of-the-blue--I actually had a good time following the goings-on of Isabeau Maran, her beloved (and spoiled) diva dog Tricks, with the new addition of Morgan into their little group.

In the back of my mind, I DID wonder several times where the suspense was hiding.  The main conflict was lingering in the background of the book's premise, of course, but aside from having Axel check in with Morgan and aside from Morgan and Bo bringing up the situation in conversation once or twice, Morgan's attempted assassination was all but left in yesterday's news.  So the story itself trudged on as a sweet and lovely small town romance between two people with their own damaged histories to work through, with a nice little "love conquers all" theme going.

Don't get me wrong, I loved the development of the relationship between Morgan and Bo.  They go from bickering strangers, to grudging friends, to attraction and lust, to caring roommates, and end up with a steamy, sexy, "we're probably falling in love with each other" development.  For a Contemporary Romance this book would have been really well-received, and I'm quite surprised at how quickly my mind switched gears to accommodate this revelation.


Second of all:  There really isn't a second of all point, to be honest.  At least not one that ties in with all the material and all the points I already mentioned in the above section.  So for your enjoyment, here is just a random bullet-pointed list of thoughts I came up with several hours after I finished reading Troublemaker.
  • I liked the inclusion of Tricks.  There were a lot of moments when she seemed like a super human-dog, but to be honest, the more I thought about it, the more I started seeing parallels between the fictional golden retriever, Tricks, and our family dog, a little Shih-tzu named Baby who I honestly believe could be human.  
    • Just the mere fact that our dog tends to really understand what we tell him and has a bit of a teenage rebelliousness in him makes him all the more frustrating as the youngest sibling in our family.
    • He knows his routines, and much like Tricks, is mildly put out when he doesn't get his dinner or breakfast at the appropriate times each and every day.
    • And also like Tricks, our Baby has ways of finding things to amuse himself with even when everyone else is too busy dealing with life.
    • And also, like all dogs or beloved pets, no matter how bratty he can get, he still makes you smile at the end of the day.
  • I liked the small town vibe in this book--in fact, I like a lot of small town settings, but a lot of times, some books take the whole "no secrets in small towns" thing a bit too extreme.  And a lot of books also take the whole "everyone is up in everyone's business in small towns" thing, also a bit extreme.  Seeing as how I've never lived in a small town, I guess I'm not a hundred percent certain how representative most books are when setting up a small town scenario.
  • I liked the side characters in this book, but I felt like they were very "background noise" instead of side-character status--I don't know what I'm talking about, and this statement probably only makes sense in my head.  
    • The point is, I wish we could have seen more from the side characters in a capacity other than simply to forward the plot; even if I don't really need to know their life stories.
    • I know, I'm difficult like that.
  • I really wish that there had been more suspense in this book.  I still have trouble reconciling the book's cover illustration with the book's summary blurb with what actually was presented in this book.
  • Because then it brings me to this last thought:  The conclusion was very rushed, and while there was an almost preachy "sometimes there are loose ends in life" lecture going on at the end, it still doesn't satisfy my annoyance at the loose ends at the end of this book.  It felt like there was a distinct divide between the Suspense and the Contemporary parts of the book, and the ending decided to finally pick up the suspense where it had left off in the introduction.


Some Final Thoughts: Troublemaker is entertaining.  I'll give it that.  If it hadn't been marketed as a romantic suspense, and if the back of the book jacket didn't so emphasize Linda Howard's Booklist description as being the "Queen of Romantic Suspense," I probably would have been happy to settle with a book that was 80% Contemporary, and 20% "These seem like romantic suspense scenes, let's include them to fulfill the genre requirements!"  But given how misleading the cover jacket illustration, the summary blurb, and the marketing of Romantic Suspense was, I'm feeling a little duped.

Nonetheless, for anyone who is interested in Linda Howard and a fairly serviceable and well-written romance with an adorably sweet two year old gold retriever with a diva personality, I wouldn't mind recommending this book.

It was entertaining, and I enjoyed myself in spite of the quibbles.



Also, for your enjoyment, here are some short excerpts and quotes from the book I found amusing or sweet:

"What about Princess?"

Bo's mouth curved with amusment as she realized she'd never told him Tricks's name.  "Her name is Tricks.  T-R-I-C-K-S."

"I thought it was Princess.  That's what you called her yesterday."

"Princess is her title, but her name is Tricks.  Besides, I call her a lot of things.  For the first year of her life she thought her name was No No You Little Shit."



"[...] I brought Tricks and all her stuff home with me and did some panicked research on how to take care of a puppy.  She was still terrified in a new place, and wouldn't stop shaking unless I held her.  When I put her in her little crate at night, she cried.  It broke my heart.  So I got her out and let her sleep curled against me.  That was that."
"Pushover."  His mouth quirked with humor.

"You think you could have resisted a little ball of white fur?  She looked like a baby's stuffed animal, or a cotton ball with big feet."



He said, "You bake cookis?"

"She gets cookies for her birthday."

"That's tomorrow, right?"

"No, it's quite a while until her birthday."

"Mine's tomorrow," he lied.

"It is not.  I saw your driver's license, remember?"

"It's a fake."

"I'm not baking cookies."



Morgan was already over a hundred yards away, and maybe two hundred, but he must have heard her because abruptly he stopped and turned in the water to face her.  She doubted he paid any attention to her, though, because Tricks was coming right at him, swimming so hard she was leaving a wake.

Tricks reached Morgan, and though Bo didn't have binoculars, she didn't need them to know what happened because she knew her dog.  She gripped her head with both hands as Tricks latched on to Morgan's arm and began towing him toward the bank.  She was "saving" him.  She'd done the same thing to Bo the first time Bo had gone swimming with her, and it had taken several trips to the lake before she relaxed her vigil.

[...]

In retrospect, she could follow Tricks's reasoning: when Morgan had arrived, he'd been weak and unable to take care of himself.  Therefore, he was someone Tricks needed to watch over.  Seeing him in the water, without realizing how much he had recovered, had triggered her protective instinct and she had gone after him thinking he was literally in over his head.


***

2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
COYER Summer Vacation 2016 -- Bingo Board One | Square E4 -- Romance


Monday, June 27, 2016

Starting "Reread": Mistborn The Final Empire

Mistborn  The Final Empire

by Brandon Sanderson
audio book narrated by Michael Kramer
Book 1 of Mistborn trilogy

~ Goodreads ~


I suppose we could call this a "reread," even though I'm listening to it via audio.

I'm interested in continuing with the rest of Sanderson's Mistborn series.  And now that I know what he had intended with the new setting for the new story arc after the original trilogy--something about three or four different story arcs set in different times in history--I'm more curious to see where he takes the rest of the Mistborn world.

I read the Mistborn trilogy about three years ago, and noted that Sanderson recently wrote a companion piece to the original Mistborn trilogy called Secret History.  Of course, it is also noted that it would be best to read this companion after Mistborn, Book #6, The Bands of Mourning, as there are some spoilers.

Anyway, it's not like I need to pump myself up to continue reading anything written by Brandon Sanderson, but I figured it wouldn't hurt to relive the original trilogy.  And also, I had some extra Audible credits that needed spending.  And so I'm going be listening to the audio book version of The Final Empire, The Well of Ascension, and The Hero of Ages.

The only comments I have so far (since I'm only about thirteen minutes into the audio book) is that Michael Kramer's voice is a little hard to listen to, as he does a lot of very low tones that are a bit distracting.  I assume it takes a bit of time to get used to since I've seen a lot of reviews praising his narration of Mistborn.  Secondly, I'm noticing little details in the book that I don't recall noticing before... then again, it HAS been three years since I read the books and I don't exactly have an excellently detailed, photographic memory or anything.


Sunday, June 26, 2016

Brief Review: Mr. Perfect

Mr. Perfect

by Linda Howard

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  1.5 Stars

Jaine Bright and three close friends share dinner one night and during casual conversation, create a list of qualifications for the perfect man--some logical, some hilariously funny, some racy.  Within days, their tongue-in-cheek wish list of attributes for Mr. Perfect has been leaked to the press and the resultant publicity is overwhelming.  Coworkers, TV crews, and reporters barrage the quartet with comments and criticism.

As if Jaine doesn't have enough to cope with, she has a new neighbor who she suspects is a criminal.  She's relieved to learn that her neighbor is really an undercover cop, but she's still wary--because smart, sexy Sam Donovan handles her sharp witticisms with easy humor, and Jaine suspects that he may threaten her heart.  What Jaine doesn't know is that she's about to need Sam desperately for something other than romance because her circle of friends is in big trouble.  Unfortunately, that list of qualifications for Mr. Perfect has touched off a madman's rage.  All of their lives are threatened and some of them are going to die, maybe all of them, if Sam can't stop the unknown killer.


I'm so disappointed with this book that it's not even funny.

Apparently, having an interesting premise and decent writing doesn't really do a lot of good if the story felt like a random chain of deus ex machina scenes and instances.  I'm not even so sure that much of the story telling was planned outside of the basic outline.  It also didn't help that, while I was expecting to read a chilling crime thriller, the book read like a contemporary romance--the entire first half of the book was dedicated to "The List" and a lot of insignificant details of the four women and their social and love lives.  By the time the first murder occurred (in fact, several chapters before the first murder occurred), I was already starting to get bored.

It didn't help that what was presented to us as sarcasm and wit just rolled off of me like a tacky joke that no one understood but the person telling it.

The characters aren't the best in the world, and as far as fictional characters go, they're not the most likable either.

Aside from that, I felt like the whole ordeal of "The List" getting all the media coverage that it did was a bit too outrageous to be believable.  Before anyone even started dying, I'd already pinpointed who the culprit would be and so it didn't surprise me one bit when we finally get our confirmation.  Also, the investigation of the entire case was laughable; it was hard to believe that so many possible leads could have been overlooked before the second victim was killed.

I'm not certain I understand why this book has made so many top ten lists; maybe it's just me.  Maybe I just didn't know how to enjoy it properly.  But, certainly, there's no doubt that the writing was so dumbed down that I felt a little insulted--the tone was flippant with comic attempts, but the word usage and the style felt like it was written for children.  I don't care that there were multiple sex scenes in here (which were fairly vanilla at best), but the writing didn't feel like it was adult level.

Anyway, this is my first Linda Howard novel and I've seen her praised in many places.  So either I chose a bad one to start... or something.  But I'm going to give another book by her a chance before I move on.

There is one thing for certain:  This book really DOES put into perspective the differences and the advancements in technology we've seen in the past fourteen years.  Thinking back to the year 2000, I'm reminded of bulky cell phones and Caller ID boxes, no data plans and few households that even had cable internet or Wifi.  The fact that none of the girls in this book had cell phones surprised me for a bit until I realized what year this book was actually written.

Fourteen years ago, I was still in high school carrying a large Nokia without texting capabilities or even voicemail.  The wonders of technology...



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



First Impression: Mr. Perfect | 48 of 343 pages

Mr. Perfect
by Linda Howard
~ Goodreads ~



In keeping with that Romantic Suspense kick I've been on lately, I had rummaged through some lists for popular books in the genre and came upon Linda Howard's name with several books to her credit.  I figured, "Why not?" and then went to the library to check out two of her books.

The premise of this one seems pretty interesting:  Four women get together and inadvertently create a list detailing the characteristics of their ideal Perfect Man.  As the summary states, the rest of the story becomes sinister when the women begin to die off one after another, leaving our protagonist, Jaine in a dangerous situation as she needs to find out what's going on before it's her turn.

It seems like such a mundane, harmless thing among girls and their girl talk.  I remember the days of my high school and post-high school years getting together with my own small group of girl friends.  A conversation like this is bound to come up at some point in time.  We would talk about our ideal men and what type of men fit our fancy... stuff like that.  The conversation has so much room to get out of control, but it's all in good fun and fairly private amongst us girls.  So it's kind of intriguing that something that starts off as a silly joke would turn up with dead women.

Anyway, so far I'm not quite sure how to feel about this book.  For one, it's written rather well with lots of nice descriptions that give you pretty good images.  There's an underlying tone of humor that clashes with the idea that this book is a murder mystery; unfortunately, I get this feeling that the jokes made in this book are at the expense of degrading certain stereotyped people within the book.  Rather than finding it funny, I'm finding it a little crass.  But whatever, maybe things will get better.

I'm not quite taken with these women either, but who am I to judge a bunch of judgmental females -- my friends and I aren't exactly the classy type.

Of course, I might also be a little offended by Jaine's line of thinking that anyone who sleeps irregular hours during the daytime and is out all night must be a criminal, a drunk, or a drug dealer.  Because, obviously, only immorally abnormal people would be up all night long, wouldn't lead regular nine to five hours, and sleep the afternoon away.  Right...

I don't know how many times I've heard people asking me if I've been up partying at the bars all night when I mention that I didn't get to sleep until around eight in the morning, sometimes a little bit later.  Whenever I mention to dinner companions that I had just woken up around noon (sometimes around 2 P.M.), I get the standard, "Well it must be nice to be able to sleep in so late!" or "Don't you think that's a little late for sleeping in?"

And these are all people who have been told many times before that I am a 3rd shift worker.  My eight hour shift starts during the nighttime and ends in the morning.  Even after I get home from work, I still need to find some time to wind down before heading off to bed.

Pray tell, if I'm not going to sleep my morning away, just when do people expect me to be sleeping?

To this day, people still don't understand 3rd shift.  I know it's not a normal shift or a normal lifestyle, but someone has to do it and so it might as well be someone who enjoys it.

But anyway, I've gone off on a complete segway (and a soapbox to boot).

My point is, I've gotten a bad impression of Jaine already just because of her assumptions.  I don't care that her neighbor really is one rude S.O.B. who doesn't seem to understand how to communicate with people appropriately without yelling.  But in his defense, being woken up in the middle of the day after working all night long does tend to make a person cranky.  I'm not saying he couldn't have been a bit more polite about it since Jaine didn't know that he's a cop and works odd end hours regularly.  I'm just saying that Jaine jumped the gun and made her wild assumptions about him unfairly without even knowing who he was to begin with.

And thinking that he's a drunk just because he's out until the wee hours of the night doesn't help.

The action hasn't quite started in this criminal mystery yet.  As it is, crime thrillers are usually more interesting if someone dies at the outset (or close to the beginning).  The last time it took a murder mystery about a quarter of the book before the first victim was killed kind of bored me.

Yeah.  I might be a little dysfunctional about this stuff, but it IS fiction, and it IS a murder mystery, and it IS supposed to be suspenseful and thrilling.  It's what's expected, y'know.  The tone of this book feels more like a contemporary romance with a side of tacky humor though.

I'm holding out hope that things will start progressing more ideally though.



This update was originally posted at Ani's Book Abyss / BookLikes in May 2014.



Saturday, June 25, 2016

Brief Thoughts: Hanover House

Hanover House

by Brenda Novak
Prequel novella (#0.5) of The Evelyn Talbot Chronicles

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.0 Stars


My TBR List -- June Winner!
See Other My TBR List Reviews @ Because Reading


Welcome to Hanover House...

Psychiatrist Evelyn Talbot has dedicated her life to solving the mysteries of the antisocial mind.  Why do psychopaths act as they do?  How do they come to be?  Why don’t they feel any remorse for the suffering they cause?  And are there better ways of spotting and stopping them?

After having been kidnapped, tortured and left for dead when she was just a teenager—by her high school boyfriend—she’s determined to understand how someone she trusted so much could turn on her.  So she’s established a revolutionary new medical health center in the remote town of Hilltop, Alaska, where she studies the worst of the worst.

But not everyone in Hilltop is excited to have Hanover House and its many serial killers in the area.  Alaskan State Trooper, Sergeant Amarok, is one of them.  And yet he can’t help feeling bad about what Evelyn has been through.  He’s even attracted to her.  Which is partly why he worries.

He knows what could happen if only one little thing goes wrong...


Hanover House is bite-sized--it's a novella after all.  But in some ways, it felt a little bit too bite-sized, if you know what I mean.  Actually, even I don't really know what I mean.  I guess what I'm trying to say is, while the novella was enjoyable, at the same time, the open-ended-ness of it felt a little too open-ended.  I get that it's a prequel, meant to jump start a whole new series with a bit of a bang, but there are ways of NOT making a prequel feel like it's still missing something.

Nonetheless, Hanover House encompasses the suspense and thrill of a typical Brenda Novak novel.  But I have to say, the writing style and pacing felt slightly different from what I remember of Brenda Novak.  I'm tempted to use the word awkward, but at the same time, the events of this novella flew by quite quickly, maybe too quickly for me to be able to really point out what about it didn't really work for me.  The progression just didn't feel as smooth or hooking as what I usually associate with Brenda Novak.

All things considered, Hanover House serves it's purpose as the starting point for Evelyn Talbot's journey into studying the evil of killers as well as trying to evade the monster who's been haunting her life for the past twenty years.  It's got a nice thrill of excitement, but not nearly to the point I'd been expecting.  And unfortunately, you don't really get to see enough of the characters (not even our resident evil killer, Jasper) to really get to know them--and thus, I've yet to really form an opinion of anyone in the book.  Not Evelyn and not Amarok, and especially not any of the side characters who have an air of potential significance, probably in books to come.

And I'm not entirely certain I understand what that ominous letter at the very end symbolized, but I have a feeling it was supposed to be significant somehow.

All in all, Hanover House was entertaining and enjoyable, even if not what I'd been expecting based on the summary and all the positive reviews.

Maybe I'm just too picky?


***

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Friday, June 24, 2016

Thoughts: Kinslayer

Kinslayer

by Jay Kristoff
Book 2 of The Lotus War trilogy

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  2.5 Stars


-- SPOILER ALERT --

**Because this is the second book in the series, there will likely be some information in this review that will give away pertinent information in the first book.  Continue at your own risk, or skip this review until you've read both books.
A SHATTERED EMPIRE
The mad Shōgun Yoritomo has been assassinated by the Stormdancer Yukiko, and the threat of civil war looms over the Shima Imperium.  The Lotus Guild conspires to renew the nation’s broken dynasty and crush the growing rebellion simultaneously – by endorsing a new Shōgun who desires nothing more than to see Yukiko dead.

A DARK LEGACY
Yukiko and the mighty thunder tiger Buruu have been cast in the role of heroes by the Kagé rebellion.  But Yukiko herself is blinded by rage over her father’s death, and her ability to hear the thoughts of beasts is swelling beyond her power to control.  Along with Buruu, Yukiko’s anchor is Kin, the rebel Guildsman who helped her escape from Yoritomo’s clutches.  But Kin has his own secrets, and is haunted by visions of a future he’d rather die than see realized.

A GATHERING STORM
Kagé assassins lurk within the Shōgun’s palace, plotting to end the new dynasty before it begins.  A waif from Kigen’s gutters begins a friendship that could undo the entire empire.  A new enemy gathers its strength, readying to push the fracturing Shima imperium into a war it cannot hope to survive.  And across raging oceans, amongst islands of black glass, Yukiko and Buruu will face foes no katana or talon can defeat.

The ghosts of a blood-stained past.


One of the things that came to mind while I was thinking about how to write my review of Kinslayer had to do with the love story in The Lotus War trilogy.  It had never really occurred to me to think of the triangle between Yukiko, Kin, and Hiro as a triangle at all, if only because it never really occurred to me that the word love was even being tossed around.  But one of the conflicts in this trilogy, as seen in Kinslayer, centered on the betrayal by a loved one.

And it hadn't been until nearing the ending of this book that any mention of love was brought up.  Now, this wasn't just the brotherly love or the friendship type of love, but I'm of the impression that this was a romantic love that both Hiro and Yukiko claimed had been each other's downfall.

As I understand it, between the three of them, Yukiko, Kin, and Hiro all feel as if they'd been betrayed by the person they love.  Well, we already saw that Kin felt betrayed by the end of the first book, Stormdancer, when he found out about Yukiko and Hiro; although why that is, I'm not certain.  And now in this second book, Yukiko and Hiro are both throwing around extreme emotions due to being betrayed by the one they loved.

Except that, throughout Stormdancer, I never actually got the impression that ANYONE was in love with ANYONE...  If anything, Kin's love for Yukiko felt like a crush; Yukiko's feelings toward Kin felt more like a friendship type.  As for the relationship between Yukiko and Hiro, I had always been under the impression that the two of them were just in lust with each other, with maybe a spattering of a crush--what they had never felt like love, nor was that word even used at any point.

Which then brought me to the realization, now, that there had to have been insta-love of the typical YA variety in that first Lotus War book--I just never really saw it.

But all of that is moot in the face of all the other depressing twists and developments that come out of Kinslayer.  As I'd stated earlier in my pre-review thoughts, this entire book felt like a long, drawn-out hot mess--having taken some time to think on the book, my feelings have not changed.

To be honest, the book started out quite promising.  Here, we have Yukiko, after the events of Stormdancer, with a big problem when her kenning abilities seem to have lost control of themselves.  She's hearing too many voices (animal and human alike) and is unable to block them out; it gets to the point where she's becoming a danger to life around her and to herself, because this effect causes her headaches, but also causes pain to the animals around.  In effect, rather than becoming the great hero that everyone is looking at to save the lands, Yukiko has become a pitiful, drunken mess, mirroring what her father had become, what she had despised so much about him throughout the first book.  Because in order to drown out all the noises of the kenning, Yukiko has taken up losing her mind in drink.

Along the way, we have Kin who has given up everything he ever knew in life to join the rebellion, to join Yukiko in her cause.  And now he's being hunted by the Guild, with nowhere else to go.  And at the same time, he's now living amidst a bunch of hypocritical rebels who claim to be fighting for the greater good, but can't seem to see anything outside of their prejudiced hate.  They hate the Guild, erego, they hate Kin--no matter what he sacrificed to help Yukiko, and no matter that he's turned his back on the Guild and the Shogunate, they just hate him.

One of the things that bugged me the most about the Kagé's hate for Kin is that they hate what he used to be--and that's it.  Except that, if it's the fact that he used to be a Guildsman that is so wrong, I don't see how the Kagé can like anyone at all.  As Kin had said to the Kagé leader, "everyone used to be someone else," and so why can't Kin also be someone who used to be someone else?  Daichi is the Kagé leader who used to kill for the Shogun before he finally chose to walked away.  Lady Aisha is the Shogun's own sister by blood until she chose to help the rebels.

The Kagé are able to cast aside the identities of these two and consider them trusted allies, in spite of the fact that they were part of the enemy who watched the lands suffer and innocent people die.  It also doesn't seem to matter to the Kagé when their own actions cause innocent people to die--the means to an end.

It just feels like there was no real logic to why the Kagé hated certain people.  They were ready to kill Yukiko in the first book because of a tattoo... but now she's the symbolic leading light of their rebellion.

I guess I just don't really understand the logic of their hatred for Kin, or even Ayane, when they can trust Lady Aisha or any others who also used to be part of the enemy team.  I mean, the Guildsmen are born into their roles, so it's not like they had much of a choice in what they wanted to do with their lives.

Anyway....

Meanwhile, the entire kingdom is falling apart... well, more so than it already has, after the death of the Shogun.

And that's when we get introduced to multiple other lines of story, all seeming to be heading on the same path, destined to converge at some point.  Except, even as we follow all of these side tangents and separate POVs, we're not entirely sure what significance they all hold.  Okay, I'm not entirely sure what significance there was.  All the while, my own impression of the events in this book was a feeling of impatient frustration--because while there was a lot of activity, and while there were a lot of events, and while there felt like a lot was happening, I'm not entirely certain anything really DID happen outside of revealing several more convoluted plot twists and exercising Murphy's Law.

Anything that was bad that COULD happen, DID happen.  There was so much hate and betrayal and espionage and chaos and death and bloody gore that I'm surprised the book didn't implode upon itself.  It almost felt as if each scene and each new development was carefully structured in attempt to wring as much FEELS from the reader as humanly possible; every possible worst case scenario was thought of and the utmost worst of the worst was chosen for the final draft.

And for most readers, maybe it worked.  There's certainly a lot to think about in this book.  I, personally, just started feeling quite exhausted.  And that's not simply because nothing was really getting accomplished.  People were also making poor decisions, and no one was thinking of the bigger picture nor could they see past their hate.


Some Final Thoughts:
Jay Kristoff is really a great writer.  His prose is smooth and I don't deny the creativity of the characters and the world he created.  I mean, after listening to the audio book of Stormdancer, I realized that I loved the book in spite of many quibbles and frustrating factors that I would have condemned many other books for.  Which is why I had no qualms about finally jumping into finish the rest of the Lotus War trilogy.

But Kinslayer turned out little different than Stormdancer, but in a different way, and I'm not sure that the things I didn't like about Stormdancer were improved upon.  To be totally honest, while I found the entire ideal of girl and thunder tiger as partners in crime really intriguing, I never found much I liked about Yukiko--she's the typical Mary Sue of fiction who was created to be well-received and somewhat powerful and sexy and any other factor that can make people fall in love with her.  But she was a standard type of heroine with nothing actually outstanding to distinguish her from any other standard heroine.

I loved the new conflict inflicted upon her in Kinslayer, though... but I'm not sure I saw any development in her character because of it.  Instead, Yukiko seemed to have been detached from the main events of the story to go on a journey of her own wherein things happen, but nothing really gets resolved.  Her righteous, holier-than-thou attitude had been a bit of an annoyance to me in the first book; in this second book, nothing really changes.

I'm not sure where else to even point out what was going on in Kinslayer that didn't entirely work out for me--too many tangent story lines, too many dramatic events, too much gushy love between girl and arashitora... too many people making uninformed or dumb decisions based on their own gut feelings which are all biased, at best.

There were some things I DID like:
  • I liked the story line that involved Hana, even if I didn't quite understand the significance of her brother's connection story line with the yakuza, which felt more out of place than anything.
  • I also liked Michi... but I'm not entirely certain that particular line needed to be dragged on for so long.
  • I liked Kin's development.  But I also thought it was entirely predictable and clichéd, and it was one of those few conclusions of this bridging installment of the trilogy that anyone could see miles before the story even started.
  • I wish we could have seen more of Akihito and the Kagé group in the city--they seemed to be doing more than the rebels hiding in the mountains managed to accomplish.
  • I liked the inclusion of other legendary monsters, more arashitora... but I did not like how the events were executed.  I mean, WTF, Buruu?


Final Final Thoughts:
I'm going to finish reading the trilogy if only because I want to know how everything ends.  I want to know if the world WILL eventually implode.  I want to know if the entire ordeal that was Kinslayer was worth all the effort.  I want to see if my thoughts about Kin are correct and whether or not the progression of Lotus War will surprise me in the end.  And I'm also curious to see what other dramatic, new surprise twists might be in store for the concluding installment.  

Goodness knows, Kristoff didn't pull any stops on all the secret reveals in Kinslayer.  Nor did he hold back on all the possible twisted revelations either.


***
2016 Reading Challenges:
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Thursday, June 23, 2016

Cover Crush: Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan


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

Judge a book by it's cover?  Absolutely!

***



The cover for Daughter of Deep Silence just looks chic and sleek and really pretty.  I don't know art, but I love the colors used in this illustration.  Plus the fading shadow effect surrounding it puts a lot of emphasis on the center of the cover, on the girl in the cover and the wall she's standing in front of.  The type font used is slender and doesn't detract from the rest of the cover's illustration.

I don't really have any plans to read this book any time soon, but to be honest, the cover by itself is enough to make me consider.


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Quick Thoughts: Silver Master

Silver Master

by Jayne Castle
Book 4 of Harmony

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.5 Stars

Fleeing a lurid scandal, matchmaker Celinda Ingram arrived in Cadence City desperate for a new start.  Known for her strong para-resonator abilities, she is able to match up clients by reading their psi waves.  It’s this talent that sets her body tingling when security specialist Davis Oakes shows up at her office.

A formidable psychic himself, Davis is trying to track down a powerful relic that Celinda supposedly bought as a toy for her pet dust bunny.  Trying to wrest the ruby red object from the suspicious duo nearly drains Davis of the energy he’ll need to keep his growing desire for Celinda in check and to keep her safe from those who will do anything to possess the relic...


The summary blurb is a little bit misleading, but then again, not really.  So this first sentence was moot.

Much like the previous book in Jayne Castle's Harmony series, Silver Master is a lot of fun to read--entertaining, with great characters, and a hooking story line despite the predictability of it all.  The pacing is fast and smooth, so we get into the action right away, just as it seems we do for all other JAK books.

Unfortunately, much like the previous book in this series, Silver Master isn't really all that memorable, I guess, aside from the dust bunnies and the "Great Pink Wedding."

What I DO like about these books--aside from their absurd addictive quality and how well they keep me entertained--is that there are new developments in the Harmony world as each book progresses.  Besides a new set of characters and a new crime thriller and a new suspense, we also get new psychic abilities, new discoveries... it beats reading several installments of the same stories about ghost hunters and tanglers exploring the alien catacombs, that's for sure.

So I love that, while the stories are somewhat predictable, the story lines and plot progressions are all unique in their own way, with introductions of new stuff.

Also, I find it hard to dislike books that have adorable critters and those dust bunnies are certainly doing it for me.

The romance was another standard type:  Woman with eccentric qualities meets man with similar eccentric qualities, therein changing each other's outlook on their own love lives.  Sparks fly, steamy sex happens, Happily Ever After™.

Don't get me wrong, Davis and Celinda are both great individuals, and as per JAK standards, they both also make a great investigating team as well as romantic coupling.  There is nothing I can think of that I disliked about the romance.  It was just so standard that it doesn't really stand out.

Side characters are always nice, and I'm always intrigued by them and wonder if they will get their own stories.  I'm specifically also curious about Detective Alice Martinez, who has thus far graced the pages of every Harmony book so far since After Dark--she gets little scene time in the books as a side character, but her presence is quite strong nonetheless.

The suspense part was predictable, although we don't really have much of a mystery, per se.  So most of the suspense parts were really just that, some suspense, some action, some thrill, and some investigation, of sorts.


Overall, Silver Master is another entertaining and enjoyable Jayne Castle (Jayne Ann Krentz) read and I'm looking forward to continuing this series.


***

2016 Reading Challenges:
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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorites of 2016 Releases So Far... and some other stuff


Top Ten Tuesday is an original and weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.


~~ Top Ten Favorite 2016 Releases So Far ~~

~~ And Then Some ~~


Okay.  So to be totally honest, I haven't really read many 2016 releases.  To be exact, I've read six 2016 releases this year (and one of them was an anthology).  Of those six 2016 releases, I loved five of them.  So at least I'm doing pretty good for 2016 releases.  Maybe.

Instead of listing ten of my favorite 2016 releases since I really can't, I'm going to put a slight spin on this topic.  I will list the only six books I've read in order of my favorite first--yes I will also list the sixth book of 2016 releases that I didn't really like as much.  Because I can.

And then I'm going to list four more 2016 releases that I really DO want to read that have already been published, in which I feel probably would have been a favorite if I'd have gotten to it.

Works right?


2016 Releases I Have Read So Far




Of course, my absolute favorite 2016 release so far is Maggie Stiefvater's conclusion to her Raven Cycle quartet, The Raven King!  The other four books listed above following The Raven King were also awesome, very enjoyable reads as well, with two of my favorite romantic suspense authors sitting pretty up there.  'Til Death Do Us Part was my first foray into Amanda Quick novels, and while it wasn't a favorite (nor was it really that highly rated by myself, it was still pretty enjoyable--granted, I DO prefer her backlist a bit more.

Also, click on the title of each book to see my review of said book.


2016 Releases (Already Published) I Plan To Read / Would Love To Read


I already have designs on reading Deep Dark and Troublemaker--both books are currently within my possession.  The Visitor is a book I'm curious about because I love Amanda Stevens' writing, even if her Graveyard Queen series isn't my favorite.  Crossing the Line is a book I've been salivating after since I first read the tagline, but as it is not available at the library, I either have to request it, wait for someone else to request it, or buy it for my own keeping... but since I've been growing detached from young adult books lately, that last option probably won't happen.

Titles for books lead to Goodreads book pages.




Monday, June 20, 2016

Pre-Review Thoughts: Kinslayer

Kinslayer

by Jay Kristoff
Book 2 of The Lotus War trilogy

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  2.5 Stars


I really feel awkward being one of the dissenters in the whole Lotus Wars trilogy fan-love here, but to be totally honest, this book just felt like a long, drawn-out hot mess. Either that, or it's just me and I just didn't really get what was going on here.

Ever have the feeling that a whole lot of something has been going on in an ~500 page book, while at the same time a whole lot of nothing actually happened instead? I found myself wondering if I was missing something for the first half of the book, then I found myself wondering how much longer to go before I was done with said book.

Anyway, there will probably be a more well-articulated review once I've got my thoughts sorted out. I'm just a tad bit disappointed because I really DID like the first book a lot, even if it wasn't my favorite thing in the world. If it's any consolation, I really DO feel that Jay Kristoff is a great writer and that Kinslayer had a boatload of potential and that the world of Lotus Wars is very imaginative.

Maybe this is just a case of: "It's not you, it's me."


***

2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
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Reading Assignment Challenge
Bookish Resolutions Challenge
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COYER Summer Vacation 2016 -- Bingo Board One | Square R20 -- Steampunk


Sunday, June 19, 2016

"Series" Review: The Perfect Trilogy


The Last Stand
(The Perfect trilogy)
by Brenda Novak
Book #4: The Perfect Couple | Goodreads | Rating:  2.5 Stars
Book #5: The Perfect Liar | Goodreads | Rating:  3.0 Stars
Book #6: The Perfect Murder | Goodreads | Rating:  3.0 Stars

See Also Previous Books in series:
Overall Series Average Rating:  2.92 Stars


Despite the fact that each book contains a different plot, a different crime, a different set of characters, and a different premise, it doesn't escape me that the formula is almost identical throughout the six Last Stand books.  I enjoyed the first three books; and while I DID enjoy the last three books, there was just something a little off about each one that didn't quite work for me, though I'm not entirely sure what it was.

This isn't to say that I didn't like these books--if I didn't like them I wouldn't have enjoyed them despite the many things within the books that I didn't care for.  But in the end, I truly DID have fun reading the entire Last Stand series.

Reading a Brenda Novak book, I've realized, is like watching a suspenseful action/crime thriller:  Once you start, it's hard to stop.

There is constant activity, constant action, constant progression; you move from one point to another without any effort and then you just keep going.  Everything happens so quickly that you only know that you want to see what happens next.

And despite the fact that these books often had frustrating situations, little in the form of a unique story formula, and definitely NOT the most readily likable or relate-able characters, I still manage to get hooked into the books without fail, every time.

These "Perfect Trilogy" books were definitely entertaining even though they were a bit less to my liking than the first three.  However, I did find that I liked some of the characters in these last three books more than some of the mains from the first three books.  It's not a perfect world after all.

The main thing that bothered me about the Perfect Trilogy had to be how much time we spend delving into the psyche of our "villain," following the thoughts and twisted logic and lack of conscience that goes through the killer/rapist/crazy's minds.  There's a certain appeal to it all, I'm sure, and the author does it very well--these characters freak me out a bit if only because I know that these types of people can exist in real life, and seeing those thoughts in detail make it too realistic for me to handle.  In some ways, I like it; in other ways, I would just prefer following a good ol' fashion murder mystery from the perspective of our detectives or investigating teams... the good guys.

Yeah.  I know.  I live in a world where I prefer bunnies and sunshine and rainbows and Happily Ever After™ as part of my reading indulgences.  That's not too much to ask for.

Nonetheless, it's not like I didn't like this new perspective either.  It's just different than what I prefer.  Brenda Novak has her ways with suspense and crime thrillers--which I like a lot.

At some points, the stories and events even seem grittier and more real than that of a lot of other romantic suspense novels I've read--the way in which people react in varied ways that can come off unfair, ugly, or even careless or stupid; it's credible enough.  In this aspect, I like how the characters are handled, main or side or background.


The Perfect Couple

The Story:
Zoe Duncan's thirteen year old daughter goes missing from her own backyard when she should have been at home recovering from a case of Mono.  While everyone else believes that she must have run away because she's less than enthused about her mother's fiance, Zoe is adamant that her daughter wouldn't have done such a thing--she's a good girl and has been trying to be supportive of her mother's impending marriage.  As a friend of Zoe's, Skye Kellerman requests the help of Private Investigator, Jonathan Stivers, to assist Zoe in locating young Samantha Duncan.  As the pair delve deeper into an investigation that has extremely little evidence to go on, it becomes increasingly clear that something much more sinister is at hand, and Sam was abducted by someone close by.

My Thoughts:
I'm inclined to feel that either Zoe's blind to obvious strange happenings, or she's too trusting of the wrong people, and not trusting of the right people.  The couple next door is creepy as heck, which goes to show that so long as people are good-looking and can act normal enough, no one ever suspects them of anything.  Colin and Tiffany Bell come across as the perfect couple and perfect neighbors, but there were moments when Colin says or does things that, if I were Zoe, I would have been a bit more wary of, even if I didn't suspect them of kidnapping a child.

Anyway... this is one of the books in which I felt there was much more time than necessary focused on our psychotic, child-killing couple with no consciences.  While that's unique and some people may enjoy seeing the world through an antagonist's view, I wasn't too thrilled with it, myself and would have preferred to see more investigation going on.  This so called "Perfect Couple" just came off right creepy.  Had Colin not given himself away with some unrestrained outbursts and his uncontrollable need to hurt Zoe and Sam together, I don't know if anyone would have been able to save the day.

The romance between Zoe and Jonathan had little to stand on and I wasn't quite satisfied with the conclusion either.

Overall:  Only enjoyable in the fact that I had the urgent need to finish the book just to know what happens in the end.  As it stands, this is probably my least favorite of the Last Stand novels.


The Perfect Liar


The Story:
Air force captain Luke Trussell awakens one morning to find the police at his door--he is being charged with rape of a fellow air force teammate, Karina Harter.  We very quickly learn that, while Luke did sleep with Karina, he in no way forced her to do anything she didn't want to do.  In fact, because of Karina's lust and obsession for Luke, she has devised this whole scheme to sue him for rape, and then drop the charges at the last moment in hopes that he'll be grateful enough to fall in love with her and be with her forever.

Talk about delusional and a little unsteady...

When Karina enlists the help of Ava Bixby from The Last Stand to help her investigate her rape case with the claim that she doesn't think the military will be fair to her because of her more promiscuous lifestyle, Ava soon learns that there is something more disturbing about Karina than she lets on.  Very early on, Ava realizes that Karina is an unstable woman, not only lying without a guilty conscience, but also set on making Luke Trussell belong to her alone, even if she has to kill for him.

My Thoughts:
Simply put, I liked Luke Trussell because he seemed so much different than the brooding alpha males you see in so many other books.  He's charming and gentlemanly, a good man with a good heart, and a boy that any parent would be proud to call their own.  And he's honest about his feelings and his motives.

In contrast, Ava came off as a real big bitch.  Maybe I liked Luke immediately and didn't like the way she treated him.  Or maybe it was because of the way she treated him that I liked Luke even more.  I'm not sure.  Granted, she probably earned the right to be a bit snippy--she's had a tough life--but I'm not sure that justifies her unmerited judgement of everyone she meets or barely knows.

When she first meets Luke, she claims that she's neutral and works to uncover the truth, but she had already condemned Luke and spent more time fishing for more reasons to further condemn him as a rapist.  Even after she learns the truth about Karina, she still holds Luke at a distance, leading him on only to pre-judge that he only cares about his pride when she rejects him--y'know, not that he'd ever be able to truly feel for someone or fall for a woman because she believes him to be the type of man who sleeps with women and then moves on like a womanizer.

Anyway, story-wise, this one was kind of weird and despite the suspenseful execution, I feel like the case dragged on for a lot longer than was necessary.  And again with the seeing things from the antagonist's perspective with her twisted logic and stuff like that.

Overall:  I liked Luke, though he made lots of bad decisions.  Entertaining book at best, but not much in terms of story.  The romance also was quite lacking.

One thing I DID appreciate was that, despite Karina being a real "piece of work," we got to reference and see other cases wherein a woman labeled by others as "promiscuous" wasn't a twisted, evil, and delusional liar bent on her own messed-up goals.  At some point, Ava DOES mention a previous case wherein a woman was raped, but due to her lifestyle, was never taken seriously about her case, which eventually lead to her death.  And so because of that, it's Ava's goal to see that victims are given a proper voice no matter their chosen lifestyle, background, or how society perceives them.

This, of course, was the driving force behind Ava's determination to advocate for Karina despite all the misgivings she felt pertaining to Karina's attitude and behavior.

Just because a woman enjoys sex and likes the company of the opposite sex does not make her a free-for-all "she had it coming" type of victim-blaming case.  No matter what, if a person does not consent to sex, it is NEVER okay to force it.


The Perfect Murder


The Story:
I'm not sure I like that we start the book in the killer's head, because that certainly gives away the premise, making the blurb given kind of useless:  "For more than a year, Sebastian Costas has been trying to unravel the truth behind the murder of his ex-wife and son.  Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, he's convinced that her second husband--a cop--committed both murders, then faked his own death."

But the first chapter introduces Malcolm Turner and his thoughts on how to enact the perfect murder.  It's a little disturbing.  And takes away a lot of the suspense and surprise elements.  Then we move on to Sebastian traveling across the country on a lead to track down Malcolm, bent on seeing the truth come out.  Due to a possible kidnapping case, Jane Burke contacts Sebastian for information that the man he's looking for may also be the same man who has abducted a pair of sisters.

Of course, as the formula goes, sparks fly amidst the joint investigation, but now Malcolm is tuned into the fact that Sebastian is on his tail.  Now Malcolm has decided that he needs to get rid of Sebastian and hit him where it hurts the most since he seems to have taken the existence of Sebastian a bit too personally as a slight against him.

More delusions...

My Thoughts:
I really did enjoy The Perfect Murder more than the previous two books in this trilogy.  There was more of a premise of investigation and I was delighted to find that I didn't think of Jane as annoying as I had when she was a side character in the first book, Trust Me.  In fact, I very much enjoyed following her through her renewed life as a single mother and newly appointed victims' rights advocate.  I also thought that she and Sebastian made a pretty nice couple, even if the romance was kind of quiet.  Sebastian's interactions with Jane's daughter, Kate, were very heart-warming.

As a romance, this book may not have been a win, but it was good nonetheless.  As a murder/crime thriller, the book might have fallen a bit short.  I'm not even sure I know what all really happened, but I'm inclined to be satisfied with what I liked.

I liked Jane and I liked Sebastian--which, considering this series, is a first that I don't have too many quibbles about the main couple, either together or individually.  Interesting, that.

Overall:  Very enjoyable.  Delightfully, surprisingly likable.



A few random last thoughts about the full Last Stand series overall.

  • While the premise of this series was more attractive to me, I still like Brenda Novak's Stillwater trilogy more--the characters are more to my liking, if only because there seems to be more of a cohesive "togetherness" between those characters.  The characters featured in The Last Stand series gave me conflicting feelings
  • Cain Granger (Watch Me) remains my favorite of the men featured throughout The Last Stand.  At a close second and third are Luke Trussell (The Perfect Liar) and Sebastian Costas (The Perfect Murder).  I thought I'd like Jonathan Stivers (The Perfect Couple), too, since he's a P.I. and Iike P.I.s, but he didn't come across all that great and I prefer him as a side character more.
  • Following that line of thought, Watch Me sits as my favorite of the six books; there was more of a murder mystery premise and a whodunit scenario than the rest of the books had.
  • I admire Brenda Novak's penchant for taking a character who wasn't all that likable from a previous book and making me change my mind about her.  Jane Burke first appears in Trust Me as the naive, entitled, and pampered wife of a dentist and well-liked man who turns out to be a serial killer.  Her behavior and personality was a big turn off that didn't sit well with me; when I saw that she would be the main female character in the last book, I was a bit conflicted.  Turns out that I actually enjoyed following her progress as she managed to get her life back together and move forward from the days of being married to a psychotic serial killer, and become a victims advocate working with The Last Stand charity organization.  Kudos to that.
  • In terms of romance, The Last Stand seemed a bit lacking.  I either didn't like the romance or didn't like one of the two people involved in the romances.  Or, as in The Perfect Couple there really wasn't a semblance of romance at all.  Surprisingly, Jane's and Sebastian's relationship is probably my favorite of the couples.



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