Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Brief, Final Thoughts: Endsinger

Endsinger

by Jay Kristoff
Book 3 (final) of The Lotus War trilogy

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  2.5 Stars


-- SPOILER ALERT --

**This is the last book in the series.  The summary blurb and review will contain material that gives away pertinent information from previous books.  Continue at your own risk, or skip this review until you've read all books.
A TREMBLING EARTH
The flames of civil war sweep across the Shima Imperium.  With their plans to renew the Kazumitsu dynasty foiled, the Lotus Guild unleash their deadliest creation—a mechanical goliath known as the Earthcrusher, intended to unite the shattered Empire under a yoke of fear.  With the Tiger Clan and their puppet Daimyo Hiro in tow, the Guild marches toward a battle for absolute dominion over the Isles.

A BROKEN REBELLION
Yukiko and Buruu are forced to take leadership of the Kagé rebellion, gathering new allies and old friends in an effort to unite the country against the chi-mongers.  But the ghosts of Buruu’s past stand between them and the army they need, and Kin’s betrayal has destroyed all trust among their allies.  When a new foe joins the war tearing the Imperium apart, it will be all the pair can do to muster the strength to fight, let alone win.

A FINAL BATTLE
The traitor Kin walks the halls of Guild power, his destiny only a bloody knife-stroke away.  Hana and Yoshi struggle to find their place in a world now looking to them as heroes.  Secret cabals within the Lotus Guild claw and struggle; one toward darkness, the other toward light.  And as the earth splits asunder, as armies destroy each other for rule over an empire of lifeless ash and the final secret about blood lotus is revealed, the people of Shima will learn one last, horrifying truth.

There is nothing a mother won't do to keep her children by her side.

Nothing.


I'm finally done.  This last concluding book of The Lotus War trilogy was more enjoyable to read than the previous book, Kinslayer, but not by much.  The dramatics just keep rolling in, and I might have skimmed a lot of the last few chapters.

Anyway, I really don't know what else to say about this book, and this series in general, except that I'm kind of relieved I'm done with the trilogy.

It's not a terrible series, but it really just wasn't for me.  Aside from the hot mess that was Kinslayer, I think the rest of the trilogy really just suffered from being a bit over-hyped.  Yes, it's very creative and imaginative.  Kristoff really is quite creative and imaginative.  His writing is excellent if only he didn't get so carried away with words and details to the point of redundancy.  A lot of this book felt like it was quite unnecessary, which made the book feel long just for the sake of being long.

But overall, it could have been a very enjoyable book, minus all the dramatics.  Though I suppose some people go for that--I'm not one of them.

On a side note, there were probably two characters I really liked in this entire story: Hana and Michi.  But both of these girls kind of get cheated in their endings, so I don't know how to feel about that.

The romance felt over-dramatic and I honestly could have done without.  As I'd stated in my review of Kinslayer, I don't even remember there being any declarations of love or deep feelings and emotions being thrown around from Stormdancer, but a lot of the chaos really DID hinge on the fact that our main characters were feeling betrayed by people they had "loved," so I'm just going to blow over that one and move on.

Finally, I feel like if there were going to be big dramatics and gory deaths and stuff like that, then Kaori shouldn't have gotten such an easy end.  She was just plain spiteful and mean throughout all three books, and NOTHING about her past history associated with the shogunate--none of those little flashbacks you get about Kaori's life before she was forced to join the rebels--made me feel any more sympathetic about her reasons for being hateful and mean.

But she gets her Happily Ever After™ while everyone else suffers their losses.

She wasn't responsible for much of the chaos, but she didn't do anything to help.  She was hateful and mean because she was a spoiled brat who didn't get her way.  Period.

As for our main triangle-not-quite-triangle... I didn't care for it.  Moving along, I didn't care for the relationship between Yukiko and Buruu much either.  Yes, it's kind of cool, but their thoughts and dialogue got mushy to the point of cringe-worthy cheese, because who talks like that?  I've only seen dialogue like that in badly written romances.

On the other hand, Hana's relationship with Kaiah was actually kind of cool.  Because they didn't have as much cheese in their dialogues with each other.  Even Yoshi wasn't so bad either.  But I never understood the significance of all his side tangents and how they contributed to this overly long story.

And while we were on the subject of dialogue:  The dialogue spoken by the characters were hard to follow.  One moment we're sounding like a fantasy, with awkwardly poetic sentences that remind me of badly translated Asian phrases.  The next moment we have more modern colloquial speech with the back and forth bantering between characters.

The quality was extremely jarring and made it hard to focus... or even take all the tragic darkness of the events in this book very seriously.

So, okay, I guess I could think of more to say about this book than I'd thought.

And on that note, we're turning the page and moving on.


***

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


Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Thoughts: Working Stiff

Working Stiff

by Annelise Ryan
Book 1 of Mattie Winston Mystery

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  4.0 Stars


When Mattie Winston catches her husband Dr. David Winston receiving some very special loving care from R.N. Karen Owenby, she quits her job and moves out.  Mattie's best friend Izzy offers her a place to stay and suggests she'd be a natural as deputy coroner.  Now, instead of taking patients' pulses, Mattie's weighing their hearts and livers.

But Mattie's first homicide call turns out to be for none other than Nurse Karen, and even though she saw her ex in a heated argument with the newly deceased the night before, she refuses to believe David could be a killer.  Keeping mum about what she saw, Mattie is also left speechless by the sight of hunky Detective Steve Hurley...

From learning the ropes on her new job to sorting out her feelings about her ex and dealing with her growing attraction to Detective Hurley, Mattie's in deep water and in danger of sinking quickly, especially when she places herself dead center in the path of a desperate yet determined killer.


This is a cute and fun start to a potentially winning cozy mystery series.  There are still some things about the characters and the story that fell short, but all-in-all, I very much enjoyed myself.  In fact, I had my heart set on reading a different book and finishing it before moving onto Working Stiff, but as soon as I started reading this one, I couldn't stop.

Mattie is a funny, readily related to main character with her clumsy foibles and her wild imaginations.  She is very real, very down-to-earth, and absolutely NOT perfect.  She is also quick on her feet and resourceful.  Though if I had to nitpick anything about her, it would be her one-tracked obsession with Detective Steve Hurley.

She has another flaw, which I can totally forgive her for if only because she's new at her job and kind of got hoisted into it by her best friend.  She kind of sucks at the investigating thing, because her tact at questioning people tend toward the "let's just give them the entire story and see what they know."  Which, if you've read enough crime thrillers, law enforcement officers hold back a lot of vital information when they interview people for very significant reasons.  You don't want to give away anything that could potentially screw up an investigation by either tipping off the culprit, or creating a copy cat to muck things up.

But Mattie seems to be find just handing over every bit of information she has to anyone she talks to.  She's going to have to learn discretion, really...

So hopefully, in the next few books to come, Mattie will get more training and pick up a feel for doing her job a bit better.

Except for the fact that she's not a detective and it makes me a bit nervous that she decided to take on investigating this case personally.

Her need to show up Detective Hurley by solving the murder case before he did was a bit childish, because so many things could go wrong.  And seeing as how she's not a trained professional in law enforcement, in real life, this could have opened up a whole can of worms for throwing evidence out of court.  But this ties in with her obsession with Detective Hurley, which was cute at first, but turned into a really badly handled passive-aggressive cat fight between her and any other woman showing the least bit of interest in him.

It makes me cringe a little.  As realistic as the situation is, it bugged me a little bit that she was more concerned about looking good in front of the detective than anything else.  I mean, there's more to life than romance and men, and while I am a devoted romance reader, I tend to get a little irritated when the main character's thoughts keep coming back to her love interest at the most inappropriate moments.

Especially when said love interest really has nothing going for him aside from being a good-looking man.  Because, really, Steve Hurley was no different than any other "love interest of the week" out there.  And until he proves to be anything different than just another good-looking man, I'm really not that interested.

On the other hand, I'm really digging the mentor-apprentice relationship between Mattie and Izzy.  I love all the technical forensic lingo and all the little details that Mattie is learning about as she steps into her new position of deputy coroner.

The few really dark, sad parts of the book near the end is what really made me cement this as a series I will continue to read.  And I'm not saying this because I'm sadistic or anything.  It brings out a different, more serious side of Mattie to balance out that wacky, trouble-making side of her that is probably inserted into the character bio as a point of comedic relief.

Because that particular character trait is just always part of so many main characters in some of the cozies I've read to date, and it really DOES get old.  It's not always cute for your main female character to be klutzy or to generally bumble into things and screw shit up.  Yes.  I DO enjoy the occasional, endearing troublemaker, because goodness knows I don't get along with Mary Sues either.  But to make it a consistent, running gag can really rankle; especially if it's done on purpose just to make the main character seem cute.  Or to make the perfect love interest seem even more perfect.  Or to give said perfect love interest a reason to swoop in and save the day.

But anyway, enough of that...

Working Stiff really is an entertaining and enjoyable first book in this series, and I definitely look forward to reading more, with hopes of seeing some progressive development from Mattie, now that she can start a new chapter in her life.


***

2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
Bookish Resolutions Challenge
COYER Summer Vacation 2016


Top Ten Tuesday: Back to School Freebie


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


~~ Back to School Freebie ~~

~~ Required Reading: Books I Liked ~~


This week for Top Ten Tuesday, the topic is a Back to School Freebie.  To keep things simple, I'm just going to list the few books I'd spoken to my BFF about recently when we had a conversation about literary classics.  As we all know, high school English classes will typically force a bunch of classic literature down our throats, and whether we enjoy those books or not, we are required to read and finish, then analyze them.

I was never a great fan of the classics, to be honest.  And as I told my best friend:  There are only a few select books that I actually found I liked back in high school when it came to classic literature.  When college came around, there were even fewer books on our required reading list that I liked.


From High School

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Hamlet by William Shakespeare
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck


From College

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer


Honorable Mention Classic That Actually Wasn't Required Reading

Dracula by Bram Stoker


I suppose I'm lucky to even have any books on this list.  I know that Into the Wild is probably not considered a classic read, but it was an assigned reading when I was in college.  The four listed above were assigned reading in high school that I liked.  Dracula was a book I read in middle school, chosen from a large list of recommended reading, for a book report.


Saturday, August 27, 2016

Thoughts: Crash and Burn

Crash and Burn

by Allison Brennan and Laura Griffin
Book 1 of Moreno & Hart

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  2.75 Stars



Crash and Burn is a book about two ex-police turned private investigators, Scarlet Moreno and Krista Hart.  The backstory from the prologue gives us the events of three years ago when Scarlet is almost killed on a mission--somehow, she surmised that someone had set her up for dead, and in the meantime, there was no back up to come bail her out.  Rookie cop Krista is the only other officer willing to jump into the chaos to save Scarlet.

Gunfire ensues and we skip ahead to three years into the present when Scarlet and Krista have both left the LAPD to become private investigators in Newport.  The events of three years prior had bonded the two women, turning them from a senior and rookie cop partnership into best friends, practically like sisters.  At the present moment in this book, the two are struggling to make ends meet by taking every divorce and marital battle case they can get their hands on just to build a client base.

The book is formatted like an anthology, based around these two main characters where Crash is Scarlet Moreno's story, written by Allison Brennan, and Burn is Krista Hart's story, written by Laura Griffin.

To be totally honest, I picked up this book mainly because I'm a fan of Laura Griffin's Tracers series.  I have read something by Allison Brennan before, but couldn't really get into it, and was hoping that this second chance would fare better, especially with only half the book to get through before getting to Laura Griffin's part.


Crash

by Allison Brennan

This first part of the book is very abrupt and bite-sized, but still manages to run two story tangents within this little bit.

The Story:
Scarlet chances upon a traffic accident, which ends up landing her in the middle of some domestic dispute involving two rich young adolescents, one of whom might be a bit mentally unstable.  They both contact her to help them with something to do with the other, and Scarlet questions why and how she got herself into this situation when things start getting out of control--apparently between these two clients, there is stalking, death threats, and some crazy-crazy involved.

Meanwhile, she also manages to insert herself into a murder investigation involving a group of college kids.  The chaos begins after an attempted date rape drugging is thwarted by Scarlet's friend, Isaac, who is the bartender of Diego's, a local bar--Scarlet lives in the little hovel over the establishment.

That night after the little college group leaves, a gunshot is fired, waking Scarlet, and she soon finds one young man dead, one critically injured, and one of the girls who'd been at the bar earlier disoriented, drugged, and a possible rape victim.  The incident soon escalates when another girl is found in critical condition, dropped off at a hospital, with an overdose of the new designer date rape drug in her system--her boyfriend is dead in his own home with a knife in his back, and the other college kids who'd been at Diego's in the same group are missing.

The case is being investigated by Alex Bishop, a new detective in Newport, who seems to have gotten the wrong impression of Scarlet, either based on hearsay or something, because he is hostile towards her the moment they meet.

My Thoughts:
Again, this particular portion of Crash and Burn was quite short and abrupt.  While the investigation was done decently, the ending felt kind of like it was quite sudden.  I'm not really complaining, since with only a little less than two hundred pages to present Scarlet's part of the story, it was actually quite detailed and well-written.

In fact, I'm kind of surprised that Brennan was able to include two separate story lines in this bite-sized piece, and am kind of impressed that both had quite well-rounded conclusions following a well-outlined story.

The only complaint I have is that I would have liked to see more of the story on Bishop's side of things, and that this first part of the book could have been a little bit longer.  Instead, it felt incomplete and unsatisfying, even with the well-rounded ending of both cases.  We get little chance to get to know all the major players in this story, especially Detective Bishop, even though we are told quite a bit of backstory about Scarlet.

For instance, I would have liked to know why Bishop was so hostile towards Scarlet in the beginning.  What did he know about her that had him calling her a "disgraced cop" without preamble?  His antagonism against her is much more extreme than even I would have expected towards a private investigator, even knowing that, as a rule, law enforcement officers typically don't care for P.I.s.  And then what changes his mind later on?  And why did he bring up Scarlet's brother?  I didn't see what that had to do with anything.

There are a lot of unanswered questions.

And on top of that, the romance kind of happened as a snap action--one moment Bishop is still glaring at Scarlet, the next moment he's kissing her?  Is this just part of the story because we expect romance?  Because it felt out of place.

There was just so much more that could have been covered had this been a full length novel instead, really.

But it was still quite enjoyable nonetheless, and I'm reconsidering my impression of Brennan's work.

Crash receives a fairly meh 3.5 Stars.  But only because I can feel that it has a lot of potential to lead into a good story.


Burn

by Laura Griffin

Burn was... forgettable.  Truth be told, I'm a little disappointed.

The Story:
Amidst working a marital cheating case wherein the husband confronts her with homicidal tendencies, Krista Hard finds herself drawn into a missing persons case where said missing person's life may be in jeopardy.  An infamous criminal defense attorney offers her a job to locate one of his witnesses who has dropped off the face of the planet--the trial is coming up soon and he needs this girl to testify.  But as Krista investigates the disappearance of Lily Daniels, she soon realizes that there is something more going on with Lily.

Meanwhile, Krista also learns that she wasn't the only private investigator hired to locate Lily Daniels.  It's a dog-eat-dog world in a career as a P.I., and Krista is again reminded of just how hard things can get when people like defense attorney Drake Walker and rival P.I. R.J. Flynn do what they can to keep her out of the game.

My Thoughts:
There was a lot of potential to this short section of Crash and Burn if only because it's an exciting premise, and because it's written by Laura Griffin and I'm a big fan.  As is with most Laura Griffin books, Burn doesn't hold back anything, jumping straight into the action.  We even get private investigator politics, crossed with pissing contests, and gender inequality issues.

So much could have been covered just with those little factors and side tangents.

But unfortunately, the execution of the rest of the story kind of felt monotonous and unoriginal.  Burn gave me a sense of "been there, done that," and I can't help but to think that it could have been developed a bit better if it had been a full-length novel, just like Crash.  Instead, we get a bite-sized teaser of what might be forthcoming in the rest of the series as the authors try their best to introduce these two wonderfully crafted main characters.

Nonetheless, this novella-sized half of a book was written well.

The romance between R.J. and Krista had all the makings of a potentially likable "Bickering Couple Romance," between their rivalry.  But there were moments when R.J. went a little overboard on the teasing and the butting in--he reminds me of an elementary school boy who likes the tough girl on the playground, but shows his affection by pulling her pig tails and throwing staples in her hair, unapologetically.  Or taking her glue and crayons and refusing to return them, only to use them for his own means.  Or taking her project ideas and claiming them for his own.

Really, he's just that popular and cool asshole in school whom all the girls tend to fall for anyway.

And Krista is the tough girl who rises to the teasing, which just makes the boy want to tease her some more.

In a way, it could have been a cute romance until the ending came around and did something that I found a little bit distasteful.  In fact, I plain did not like the way R.J. decided to resolve their romantic conflict, as well as the issue concerning Krista's involvement in the missing witness case.  It pissed me off, and days later, it still pisses me off.

This book would have been a higher rating if not for that ending.

Meanwhile, the rest of the story was kind of exciting, but at the same time, entirely forgettable.  I still like that Krista is shown as capable and good investigator, if a little hot-headed and reckless.  I don't like that there were still so many loose ends, and that, like the first story by Allison Brennan, Griffin tries to cram too much material into the short, novella-length story.

For instance:  How does the little cheating husband with homicidal tendencies side-tangent resolve itself?  Did I miss it somehow?  It's a small tangent and I kind of forgot about it for a while, but it's still there and feels like a very big loose end.

Burn receives an even more 'meh' 2.5 Stars.  To be honest, I might have expected too much and felt the sting of disappointment when things didn't turn out the way I wanted it to turn out.  That's probably my fault.


Overall Thoughts

One of the things I DID appreciate about Crash and Burn was how realistic it was in portraying the life of a private investigator.  Not that I know what the life of a private investigator entails.  Granted, it was still chalk full of excitement, but our authors DO take pains to emphasize how not-so-glamorous being a P.I. really is.  Moreno & Hart have spent the past two years since leaving the police force trying to build a client base and a reputation, but even as they've managed to sustain a living with their agency, they admit that the majority of their cases involve jilted spouses, divorce cases, and the like.  The majority of their time is spent waiting for a cheating husband or wife to slip up so that they can take that money-making photo to show their clients.

There's a lot of waiting involved for these two women: waiting for a picture to be taken, waiting for their target to do what they need to do, waiting for a client to hire them...

And then there are more private investigators out there just waiting to pick up that first exciting case that attorneys would be willing to hand them.

While I don't like how things end up for Krista in Burn--where she does almost all the work, but gets no credit for it; where she just knows that she's going to get screwed over on her pay by a hotshot client she's not willing to antagonize--it's something that DOES happen in real life, whether you're a private investigator or not.

I'm hoping we'll see more action and less bite-sized snippets in the next few installments of Moreno & Hart.  While this book was pretty enjoyable, neither of the two stories included in it felt like it was fully complete.  These were teasers at best, and I'm hoping we'll get better with the next book.


***

2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
Reading Assignment Challenge
Mount TBR Challenge
COYER Summer Vacation 2016


Thursday, August 25, 2016

2016 Halloween Bingo | Ani's Book List


I'm so hyped about this Halloween Bingo!

A big thanks to Obsidian Black Death and Moonlight Murder for putting so much work into putting this activity together.  The Bingo card is so, so pretty that even if I hadn't already been considering joining the fun, I would jump on board.

(Bingo Card links back to original Bingo Card reveal posted by Moonlight Murder.)

As far as books are concerned, I don't typically read a lot of scary stories or horror, so I will definitely be stepping outside of my comfort zone for the next couple months... maybe.  But as it is, the books I've browsed and chosen for a lot of these categories sound very interesting.

I'm kind of in a reading slump at the moment, so I think this Bingo activity is exactly what I need for my reading life right now.

I've kind of filled some of the squares with books I'm considering, after doing a few days worth of research and googling.  With some vacation time coming up in October, I'm really hoping I'll be able to get through these twenty-five books as well as the four books I need to read for my 2016 Reading Assignment Challenge.  Some of these books are going to work for both though, so I think I'm good.

Below is a list of some of the books I'm considering, but everything is always subject to change.


Read by Candlelight or Flashlight
-- A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn (library, hardcover)
This category felt almost like a freebie, since it's like an action square or something like that.  At the very least, if we DO need to choose a book that would fit into another square, this one is a mystery, so I think I'm covered.  Also, it's on my Reading Assignment list, so--two birds, one stone.


Magical Realism
-- Un Lun Dun by China Mieville (owned, paperback)
Also a book on my Reading Assignment list, as well as a book on my physical shelf that has been sitting for some time.


Witches
-- Dark Witch by Nora Roberts (library, hardcover)
Speaks for itself--'witch' in the title--and I imagine some supernatural elements to the story itself.  I might be taking some liberties, since I'm sure this book (as well as the rest of the trilogy) are far from spooky Halloween stuff.


Genre: Horror
-- The Devil's Footprints by Amanda Stevens (owned, paperback)
This one is a stand-alone tagged as 'horror' on Goodreads, so I'm going to go by that.

I have read Amanda Stevens' The Graveyard Queen series', the first three books, and they were pretty excellent, even if not as scary as they had the potential to be.  But the atmosphere of her settings are beautifully done.  So if anyone still needs a book for the 'Grave or Graveyard' or 'Genre: Mystery' squares, I would recommend the books in this series.


Black Cat
-- Voodoo or Die by Stephanie Bond (Scribd)
This book is on my Reading Assignment list.  The cover has a black cat on it, even if the black cat looks awkwardly photo-shopped on next to an equally awkwardly photo-shopped Voodoo doll.

Exhibit A:



Diverse Authors Can Be Spooky Fun!
-- The Ghost Bride by Yangze Choo (library, hardcover)
I've been looking for an opportunity to read this book.  My BFF in real life and I have thought about buddy reading it, but that was at least two years ago.  What better time than now to dive in?


Ghost Stories and Haunted Houses
-- Ghost Story by Jeff Brackett (owned, Kindle) ???
This is still a tentative selection and may be subject to change.


Young Adult Horror
-- Coraline by Neil Gaiman (library, hardcover)
Let's just say, after going over my choices, I became very determined to read Coraline for this square.  But if it doesn't really fit, someone let me know.  I know that the lines between young adult, middle grade, and childrens can be bit murky.  But after establishing from others that Coraline is considered horror, I sort of jumped on it.


Scary Women (Authors)
-- The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (library, hardcover)
I wanted to use this book for the "ghost stories and haunted houses" square as well, so this is a tentative selection.  Now that I'm more aware of the many other possibilities for 'scary women authors' I might swap out for something else, and insert this one somewhere else.


Reads With (Booklikes) Friends
-- Ammie, Come Home by Barbara Michaels (bought, Kindle)
Let's just say, I am so totally pumped to start reading this book and am counting down the days!  Buddy Read with Murder by Death and others (click the link to check out the details and join if interested).


Grave or Graveyard
-- The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (owned, Audible)
Another one by Gaiman.  Kind of a gimme for 'graveyard', no?


Genre: Mystery
-- In Deep Voodoo by Stephanie Bond (Scribd)
Okay.  I am probably taking lots of liberties with the books on my list, but I'm not that into horror or really scary stuff.  But this book is both on my Reading Assignment list, and the first book in the two-book series--the second book being Voodoo or Die of which I've already listed above for the 'Black Cat' square.  So I chose to insert it here as my 'mystery' choice.

It's tagged as a cozy mystery, anyway.


Free Space
-- Beg for Mercy by Jamie Alden (owned, paperback)
Free Space book is a freebie, right?  :P  But this book can also be a mystery.  And to be honest, the cover gives me a semi-creepy vibe...  Also, Reading Assignment list...


Gothic
-- We Have Always Lived In the Castle by Shirley Jackson (library, hardcover)
Another Shirley Jackson.  Very interested.  Could be used for another square if necessary.


Creepy Crawlies
-- The Adventure of the Speckled Band by Arthur Conan Doyle (owned, Audible)
To be honest, creepy crawlies freak me out more than anything else on this Bingo card.  I didn't really have a pick for this square, and was giving up hope until the final selection listed was brought to my attention in the comments section of a Halloween Bingo related post (Thanks Murder by Death and Tannat!).  Because I browsed a lot of the recommendations being listed around Booklikes and only one had initially caught my attention--it being of unavailable status to me made me a little saddened, actually...

But now I'm all stoked for Bingo, filling in the last square I needed!


"Fall" into a good book
I typed in the word "fall" into Goodreads' search engine and came up with too many books for my own good.  I narrowed down to  two in particular that I am considering for this square.  Meanwhile, I added about six more books to my TBR during this activity.

-- Falling by Christopher Pike  -- This is a crime thriller that also has a 'horror' tag on it, so I'm curious.

-- The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allen Poe  -- No explanations needed.


Locked Room Mystery
-- And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (owned, paperback)
Another book that's been on my TBR and physical shelf since forever.


It was a dark and stormy night
-- The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle (owned, Audible)


Set in New England
-- Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman (library, hardcover)
This book takes place in Massachusetts, according to the summary.  Please let me know if it doesn't actually work for this square, though I double checked with Google in case my geography knowledge is sketchy.  Mass. is part of New England.  Otherwise, if anyone else has other suggestions, let me know!


Full Moon
-- The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen (library)
Full moon on the cover illustration; 'moon' in the title.  Cute sounding Chick Lit with a bit of magic and supernatural elements.  I'm game!


Vampires vs Werewolves
-- Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop (library, hardcover)
I went ahead and checked out this book from the library hoping I could insert it into the Bingo card somehow (before the card was revealed).  I really liked the first book, Written in Red, so I'm looking forward to reading this one.


Supernatural
-- Someone in the House by Barbara Michaels (library)
This one is a tentative selection since supernatural is such a broad category and I could potentially find some other book I'm interested in that will fit.  But after browsing a good portion of books by Barbara Michaels I'm kind of interested in more of her books.


Classic Horror
-- The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (owned, hardcover collection)
Two years ago, I told myself that I would finally read this Borders' Classics, leather bound collection of "Three Classics of Horror" I bought when I was still in college.  I started with Frankenstein.  I read Dracula last year, though technically I listened to the audio book with full-cast narration.  This year, it was going to be Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.


Pumpkin
-- Scared Stiff by Annelise Ryan  -- This is the second book of the Mattie Winston Mysteries, a cozy with a main character as a coroner.  I'm very interested!  There is a pumpkin on the cover illustration.  I'm going to try to read the first book soon so I can get to this book since I'm kind of anal about reading series in order.

-- Foul Play at the Fair by Shelley Freydont  -- This is a back-up for this category, the first book in the Celebration Bay series, for just in case I don't get around to the first Annelise Ryan book in time.

Set on Halloween
-- The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury (library)
This looks to be a short story set during Halloween.


Again, a few of these books might get swapped out, if only because I am half mood reader, half planner.  For sure, I will be covering a lot of new-to-me authors, as well as stepping slightly outside of my comfort zone.  I will admit that I specifically tried to steer clear of truly 'horror' type books and might have found some loopholes for other squares.

I didn't think I'd be able to cover every square on this card at first, but now I'm super determined to get through all these books, just on principle alone, having spent so much time searching for good book choices.

And also, the majority of the books I've listed, I'm extremely interested in reading.


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Very Brief Thoughts: Not Another Blind Date... (anthology)

Not Another Blind Date... -- anthology

Authors Include:  Janelle Denison, Leslie Kelly, Jo Leigh

~ Goodreads ~

Average Rating:  3.0 Stars
-- Personal Rating:  3.0 Stars

These Valentine's Day dates have all the markings of blind-date disaster! Or do they?

"Skin Deep" by Janelle Denison
Who says nice girls can't have fun?  And Jayne does--dirty dancing and a lot more!--with a hot bad boy one night.  Still, it was a onetime thing.  Really!  But when she's set up on a blind date with her sexy stranger, she realizes Cupid must have other ideas...

"Hold On" by Leslie Kelly
Shy Sarah Holt has a bad case of unrequited lust.  She's hopelessly enamored with a client--sexy Steve Wilshire.  So, when she gets the chance to impersonate the very kissable doctor's blind date, she takes it....and has the most torrid night of her sheltered life.  But will Steve still be "holding on" when the truth comes out?

"Ex Marks the Spot" by Jo Leigh
Oh, no.  Paige Callahan just got set up on a blind date--arranged by her ex-boyfriend!  But potential catastrophe turns into flirty fun--and then some!--when she meets sexy, very wealthy Noah Hastings.


-- Skin Deep by Janelle Denison | 3.0 Stars
-- Hold On by Leslie Kelly | 3.5 Stars
-- Ex Marks the Spot by Jo Leigh | 2.5 Stars

This was a cute little romance anthology to pass the time, especially when you're in a reading slump and you just need a fluff piece to keep you going.  Some of the ideals and scenes and dialogue in these novellas felt a little dated, but this IS a category romance from Harlequin Blaze, so I don't ever expect much from them aside from a cute little romance.  And that's exactly what I got, so I'm content.

Leslie Kelly's novella was my favorite of the three and showcased what I love so much about her writing.  It kind of reminds me of a romantic comedy movie, actually; especially the ending that's all giddy and cute and sweet, but not drawn out or cheesy.

Janelle Denison is a new author I've never read before, but I really DID enjoy Skin Deep, even if there were a few things I didn't quite care for, such as the drawn out angst.

I've read Jo Leigh before in another anthology, but I don't remember anything about what I'd read.  So she's still akin to a new-to-me author for me.  To be honest, her story felt boring.

Anyway...  Again, this is a nice romance collection to pass the time with, if you want so good fluff.


***

2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
COYER Summer Vacation 2016


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Overdue TBR From My Shelves


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


~~ Ten Books On Your Shelf (Or TBR) ~~

~~ Pre-Blogging Days & In Need of a Read ~~


Okay.  So the topic this week is actually:  Ten books that have been on your shelf (or TBR) from before you started blogging that you STILL haven't read YET.  It's a long topic name, so I took liberties.

Of course, that doesn't help me narrow down my bookshelves (or my non-owned TBR list), because I've got a 'To Read' shelf on GR of 1000+ books, and a combined physical and digital book shelf of 500+ books.  HOWEVER, I suppose only a small number of those books are actually from my pre-book blogging days.

Still, the list isn't all that small...


The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
Dead by Sunset by Ann Rule



The Druid of Shannara by Terry Brooks
Running with the Demon by Terry Brooks
Prey by Michael Crichton
House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones




Sunday, August 21, 2016

Thoughts: Superb and Sexy

Superb and Sexy

by Jill Shalvis
Book 3 (final) of Sky High Air

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.5 Stars

Buckle Up.  It’s Going To Be Quite A Ride...

Despite his brooding bad-boy attitude, Brody knows life has treated him pretty well.  His luxury charter airline, Sky High, has given him financial security and the means to take to the skies whenever things on the ground get complicated.  And lately, things have become very complicated, thanks to the insanely passionate, or perhaps just insane, kiss he shared with Sky High’s gorgeous, wisecracking concierge, Maddie.  He’s tried to keep his distance, but now Maddie desperately needs help, and it’s triggering protective alpha-male urges Brody didn’t even know he had...

For months, Maddie hid her crush on sexy, exasperating Brody behind a cool, kick-ass exterior…and then blew that to smithereens by jumping him in the lobby.  Yeah, real smooth.  She’s tried to break her ties with Sky High, but Brody won’t let her walk away—especially now that he knows that Maddie and her twin sister Leena are in big-time trouble.  To save Leena, Maddie and Brody must pose as husband and wife, and Maddie is amazed that the man she thought was oblivious to her existence knows her very well indeed.  But that’s nothing compared to the way she’s about to get to know him—intimately, in depth, and over and over again...


This Sky High book was clearly supposed to have been the big bang to end off the trilogy.  It felt like it was supposed to be the best of the three books, but apparently I'm delusional and come up with weird ideas all the time.

That being said, Superb and Sexy was still, most certainly, enjoyable and entertaining.  And then it started getting a little bit deliberate in its endeavor to be big and bad and better than the previous two books.  Or, once again, maybe it wasn't really trying, but I felt like it was trying.

Anyway, the point I'm trying to make is:

Maddie Stone is a wonderful, kickass, strong female character that I can totally stand behind and love.  Brody is the typical broody, main male character with Neanderthal thoughts even if no Neanderthal tendencies--the usual.  And because this couple was actually pretty entertaining with a great romantic development and lots of fun, Jill Shalvis-level banter, I absolutely wanted them to be my favorite of the three Sky High couples.  And they would have been, except for that all too familiar back-and-forth Noble Idiot™ device that kept lurking its way back into the plot time and time again.

Basically, Maddie's continued insistence on sacrificing her life for her sister while running away from Brody to keep him safe would have worked for me as part of the story's Suspense attractiveness.  But then it kept getting reused throughout the whole book that it started getting annoyingly tiresome.  Using that device once was enough; twice is pushing it; three or four times is just frustrating.

Nonetheless, the book was still very enjoyable and I still DID love Maddie a lot, if only because she's so kickass.  Brody was a breath of fresh air in some aspects, but let's face it, he's the usual Jill Shalvis main male hero: big, muscled, broody, alpha, clueless.  He's a great guy; he just doesn't stand out.

The rest of the book's story and the rest of the characters weren't bad either.  I appreciate bringing Noah, Shayne, and Dani into the book, even if just briefly.  I even enjoyed Leena's presence and the brief side tangent with her and Ben, even if it was also quite brief.  And the story's build-up of suspense as a semi-crime thriller made a very valiant attempt as well.

In light of not wanting to ruin anything with spoilers, however, the only thing I'll say about the ending, was that it could have been better outlined.  Instead, the conclusion came about like some cheesy family movie flick ending wherein we rush to some half-assed resolution that would really only make sense if we weren't really trying hard enough to think about it.  And then we get a short epilogue sequence slash character curtain call that felt extremely narrated to death.

And some story tangents, once again, got left in the dust.  I'm not even sure the underlying conflict between Leena and Ben got resolved so much as scrapped with a universal "love conquers all" stamp.

I'm not gonna lie--as much as I love HEAs, this one was a little pathetic.  Granted, it was a nice little HEA.  I don't dislike it.  I guess I just kind of accepted it as the best that I'd get out of this trilogy.

In the meantime, I guess I'll just go back to the Lucky Harbor series.  Maybe Ms. Shalvis was really meant to write contemporary more than anything else.  After all, even with a Romantic Suspense tag on these three Sky High books, they really DID feel like they were more in the vein of a Contemporary Romance that just so happened to use a crime thriller base board to jump off of.

Not that that's a problem or anything, because I still enjoyed them.  These were still enjoyable books with lovely characters and lots of steamy, hot sex.  The Jill Shalvis charm is definitely there.

Except for Smart and Sexy.  I might have to pretend that first book didn't happen the way that it did, Jill Shalvis charm or no.


***

2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
Bookish Resolutions Challenge



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



Thoughts: Strong and Sexy

Strong and Sexy

by Jill Shalvis
Book 2 of Sky High Air

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.5 Stars


This second installment to the Sky High Air trilogy is definitely loads more enjoyable than the first.  Jill Shalvis' humor and charm has its chance to shine in a much better fashion with a better set of main characters in Shayne and Dani.

The story's plot itself was a bit flimsy, but I overall enjoyed the character interactions better and liked the heroine more.  It's still not Lucky Harbor caliber, but it'll do.


The Story in Brief:
Between seeing disappearing dead bodies and having an invisible stalker, Dani Peterson's reputation for being crazy is certainly catching up to her.  Fortunately for her, Shayne Mahoney is willing to believe that she is genuinely terrified about something that's happening around her and sticks by her side.

In the meantime, there's sizzling chemistry between them and they can't seem to keep their hands off of each other.


My Thoughts:
So the entirety of this book really centered around whether Dani is really witnessing random acts of crime (a murder in the parking lot, an unwelcome presence in her apartment, a gun planted in her coat, a shooter firing at her at work, another disappearing dead body...), and the Friends-With-Benefits relationship she develops with Shayne.

Every other issue that might have been brought up throughout the course of this book ended up as loose ends in the scheme of a haphazard crime thriller and lots of steamy sex.

So basically, this book really WAS all about the sex.

Of course, the part that kept my attention, really, was the almost non-standard female heroine's penchant for klutziness and her inability to NOT look like a disheveled mess 24/7.  Dani Peterson is the classic clumsy female lead who has trouble setting one foot in front of the other without tripping over herself, who manages to drip ketchup on her blouse all the time, and who inadvertently stabs her lover in the eye whilst trying to caress his face.  She's that heroine we all love to hate because, who's really THAT clumsy and socially awkward?

Except that Dani really isn't that socially awkward and her klutzy personality somehow comes off kind of endearing.  Because Jill Shalvis is a genius and managed to insert all of Dani's disheveled, clumsy moments at all the most likely moments--they aren't randomly forced to insert said disheveled, clumsy personality onto the heroine to deliberately make her seem endearingly klutzy and socially awkward.

In other words, this kind of a heroine may not work for a lot of people.  But the way in which Dani was portrayed kind of works for me.  Top that with the ever-perfect boyfriend and protector Shayne Mahoney who's willing to stick by her side despite his own reserves about whether or not she's really crazy... I kind of found myself loving the antics and bond and steamy chemistry this couple presented.

It's certainly still not the healthiest relationship in the world, but a vast improvement from the previous couple's love story in Smart and Sexy.

The only problems I had with this book were fairly straight forward:  We left a lot of tangent story lines unresolved.  And the one tangent story line that felt like it had been resolved was kind of unsatisfying--the relationship between Dani and her step siblings could have been expanded upon just a bit more.  The relationship between Dani and her coworkers were background set-up that felt like it could have been expanded upon, especially her friendship with Reena, or even the unrequited interest between Dani and her neighbor, Alan.

It just felt like we were so focused on the somewhat flimsy suspense part of the book and the relationship between Dani and Shayne that we've forgotten that there are other people in this world and other conflicts needing tending to.

Nonetheless, Strong and Sexy was enjoyable enough that I liked it a lot.


***

2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
Bookish Resolutions Challenge



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



Rambling Rant: Smart and Sexy

Smart and Sexy

by Jill Shalvis
Book 1 of Sky High Air

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  1.5 Stars


-- SPOILER ALERT --

**This review is a long rambling rant that contains spoilers and a lot of ranting and maybe some crass language. Continue at your own risk.
Flying Solo Is Way Overrated

Noah Fisher has worked for months to make Sky High the most prestigious charter airline in California.  He's long overdue for a break--something involving ski slopes, cold beers, and hot ski bunny babes, not necessarily in that order.  The itinerary doesn't include being hijacked by Bailey Sinclair, gorgeous widow of one of Sky High's wealthiest (ex-) clients.  But here they are, and being crammed in a cockpit with the scared, stubborn, unbelievably sexy former model he's been fantasizing about invokes Superman tendencies that could get Noah in serious trouble.

Bailey is desperate to find the stash of money hidden by her conniving, thieving late husband--before the bad guys he owed find her.  It's a long shot, but nothing compared to the gamble she's taking by being so close to Noah.  Every minute in his company has Bailey thinking about doing crazy, reckless things like touching, grabbing, kissing. . .and oh wow, being kissed right back.  Suddenly, seat-of-your-pants seems like the only way to fly, and maybe it's the altitude playing tricks, but this is one trip she never wants to end. . .


There is nothing wrong with a Jill Shalvis book, except when there is.  I loved the first three Lucky Harbor books I’ve already read, and in fact, one of my favorite couples happens to be Chloe and Sawyer from the third book, Head Over Heels--their relationship’s development is sweet and their chemistry is amazing!

So it comes as a disappointment that I really did not care for Smart and Sexy, the first book in the Sky High Air trilogy.  The premise drew me in and it is even a Romantic Suspense, my go-to comfort genre.  I was excited.  I really, really wanted this book to be great.  And it wasn’t even like I over-hyped myself.  I’ve read a mediocre Jill Shalvis book before (Room Service (Do Not Disturb)); and I have also dropped one Jill Shalvis book (Get A Clue) because the logic of the story progression did not make sense and the characters were annoying as hell.

I probably would have dropped this book as well if not for the fact that I see potential in the next two books.  I’m crossing my fingers that they will redeem this series.  Otherwise, I suppose I’ll just have to bury myself in Lucky Harbor to reconnect with my enjoyment of Jill Shalvis.

To the point, the logic in this book was extremely hard to grasp, even with my willingness to suspend disbelief--I read a lot of Romantic Suspense where suspending disbelief for the sake of a sweet and cutesy HEA is typically necessary (though usually those books are enjoyable enough that I’m not bothered).

Unfortunately, when you suddenly start questioning whether or not the heroine even realizes that she’s on the run as she drags out her dangerous scavenger hunt, and even has time to get down and dirty with her man at the most inopportune times while dressing all fashionably trendy and admiring her own cute sandals, questions of the book’s progression and logic DO tend to be harder to ignore.

Aside from a huge long rant I’d already written before finishing the book, I’m not sure what else to say.  So I’ll just detail my thoughts at three different points in my reading, including 50%, 56%, and 100%.


@50% read on 1/18/2016
First of all, the entire hijacking scenario was stupid.  There is no way to mistake the barrel of a gun with a Bic pen.  Then again, I assume that Noah has probably never had a gun pointed at him and shoved between his shoulders… so maybe he could make that mistake.  Hardest to understand, for me, however, is why Bailey felt the need to hijack the plane in the first place.  Noah did NOT know she was aboard and probably would have never known she was on his plane until landing.  By then she would have arrived at her destination and could find ways of escaping or sneaking off.  She could have just remained hidden until Noah lands in Mammoth and then figured things out from there.

Secondly, this book is teetering on a 2.0 Star rating because I’m fast becoming irritated with our female heroine.  I keep asking myself, “What the heck is wrong with this girl?”  Because there’s nothing more annoying than seeing a character put another character’s life in the line of danger, and then resolutely refuse to tell said other character what’s going on for well over half of the book (I suspect this is just going to be an endless cycle).

I get the whole Noble Idiocy™ thing--people like to be self-sacrificial with all the good intentions in the world.  But they do it with all the intelligence and common sense of a punching bag.

Bailey’s ideals are noble, I’ll give her that.  And at the beginning, she came off as more than just a sexy, air-headed model.  But as the story progressed, I just really wanted to slap her upside the head and tell her to get over herself.  She keeps talking about not wanting to entangle Noah in her mess because she doesn’t want to put him in danger.  But the problem with that is that she ALREADY did so when she chose to board his plane and drag him into her mess by pretending to hijack him.

Honestly, it all smacks of her WANTING him to be there to be dragged into her mess.

In which case, he’s already there because you put him there, so why not at least let him know what he’s been dragged into so he can take the necessary precautions to keep HIMSELF safe, even if you don’t want him to keep YOU safe?  The logic is irrational with this one.  Especially when she keeps feeding him little nuggets of information, thus permanently keeping him in the loop so that he has no choice but to help her, or look like a jackass by sending her off to her death.

Why would you do that to a noble guy like Noah?  Aside from some manhandling and the fact that he can’t seem to go thirty minutes without thinking about sex while running from danger, he’s actually a pretty awesome guy.  He’s like MacGyver, but sexier and more naive with an overactive libido.

And then the first intimate sex scene… was a little hard to accept.  Basically, Noah finger-fucks (excuse my language) Bailey while she’s dead asleep.  She is literally completely zonked out when Noah starts feeling her up.  This is NOT okay.  I mean, okay, she was probably dreaming about him and his sexy talents… but that still doesn’t make it okay for him to just stick things in orifices without consent, even if great orgasms were had by all.  But we make matters somehow justifiable because Bailey had wanted him and wanted sex with him anyway.  I’ll chalk it up to adrenaline rush, I guess, but it still doesn’t make things okay.

In which case he also seems to be using the good ol’ “sex as manipulation” tool to get answers he wants.

I’m not down with this at all.  This honestly DID ruin any sense of me rooting for the romance period.  Because, WTF?!

But let’s just let this slide because apparently the two of them got what they wanted in the sex arena anyway.

All the while, Bailey is STILL adamant about keeping secrets and Noah is STILL adamant about muscling his way into her mess.  And to be totally honest, if Bailey really was that adamant about “keeping Noah out of danger,” then she really shouldn’t have gotten onto his plane in the first place, because there is a very subtle hint that she specifically waited for Noah to be piloting a plane and that she knew Noah would help her if she stowed away on his plane.  And the fact that Noah had already pretty much figured out what’s sort of, kind of going on with Bailey and then for her to STILL hold out all the truth and STILL doubt his trustworthy status despite how he’s putting his life in danger for her… it’s not working for me.

I’m not quite sure how much more fucked-up this story could get.  (Again, excuse the language.)

What happened to a good, tried-and-true Jill Shalvis book?  Then again, I guess the Lucky Harbor stories came after this little romantic suspense piece.  Right?


@56% read on 1/18/2016
When I was wondering whether or not the story could get worse, I wasn’t really challenging it to do so.  But with one simple scene, I really just automatically dropped half a star (which is ridiculous because I should have already dropped a full star after the first sex scene), because these two characters are so frustrating and no doubt, will not change.

What really rankles me with some characters are the double standards tossed between them.

Bailey refuses to talk about what’s going on with her, but pushes to find out about what’s going on with Noah.  If you’re not parting with secrets, honey, you can’t demand them from others.

Noah, on the other hand, is pushing for Bailey to part with her secrets, but gets tight-lipped and visibly upset when Bailey asks about his secrets.  Again, if you’re not willing to share, you can’t force others to share.

Granted, Bailey’s secrets could cause mortal peril as kept secrets, and Noah’s secrets are really none of her damn business; but the situation still stands.

These two were probably meant for each other and will continue on to have one of the most dysfunctional relationships based on keeping secrets from each other and non-consensual sex and inappropriately timed sex and lots of groping while being chased by armed men.

Goodness, isn't this book just chock full of all the romance novel cliches?


@ 100%, finished with book on 1/19/2016
And as a continuation of the previous thought, Bailey and Noah are likely the most ill-equipped people to survive a romantic suspense.  Well, at least Bailey is; Noah seems to know how to do everything, so even if his mind is on how great it would be to have sex with Bailey all the time, he’ll still survive a zombie apocalypse, no less running from dangerous goons out to kill.  As I already stated, for 90% of the book, I actually spent my time wondering whether or not Bailey realized she was a woman on the run, because apparently she still found time to freshen up, wear cute shoes, and demand character backstory at all the worst possible times.

Yes.  In the middle of being chased by the bad guys and being shot at, in the middle of a scavenger hunt for the something that’s supposed to be keeping her alive, Bailey changes into three different trendy winter outfits, cute sandals and stiletto heeled boots included, and even finds time to hassle Noah about one of the most traumatic moments in his life for three pages straight.  I don’t believe I’d ever been so frustrated with a heroine within a few select paragraphs (this is obviously an exaggeration, but it applies).  She actually refuses to keep moving out of danger territory until Noah answers her questions about what happened to him six months ago that changed his life--and then even after he berates her for choosing the utmost worst moment to play the “Getting to know each other” game, she continues her barrage of questions.

And all this time, she still refuses to tell Noah about what’s going on with her and why there are bad guys chasing her and why he’s putting his life on the line for her.  She continues to feed him half-truths and continues to play that “I don’t know if I can trust him” game.  And all this time, Noah willingly does what he can to keep her safe without pushing for answers.


Final Thoughts:
Jill Shalvis writing has a certain comedic charm to it when done right.  It’s what I loved a lot about the three Lucky Harbor books I’d just recently read. And it totally shows in certain scenes in Smart and Sexy, and probably would have been quite enjoyable if I hadn’t already been frustrated beyond belief with both Noah and Bailey (moreso Bailey).  In fact, Shayne, Brody, and Maddie seem interesting enough and I’m actually quite intrigued by the pending relationship and developing romance between Brody and Maddie… which is the last book in this trilogy.

Now those two are a pair with an attractive chemistry I could probably end up liking.  At least I hope so.  There are reviews that the next two Sky High Air installments are much better than this first one, which is a disappointment since I would like for the first book to be excellent as well (it’s important to draw your audience in with that first book, not frustrate the heck out of them).

But I’m a girl who gives second chances, and I already know that Jill Shalvis can create enjoyable stories out of the most overused romance plots.  Maybe she just does Contemporary better than Suspense.  Maybe Smart and Sexy was just a fluke.

Who knows?


***

2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
Bookish Resolutions Challenge



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



Saturday, August 20, 2016

Very Short Thought: Connecting Rooms (novella)

Connecting Rooms

by Jayne Ann Krentz

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  2.0 Stars

Amy Comfort is a real estate agent on Misplaced Island, a quaint, remote town located off the coast of Washington.  When she sells an old Victorian manse to the sultry, sexy Owen Sweet, a private investigator relocating from Seattle, sparks fly from the get-go, though both Amy and Owen decidedly ignore their natural chemistry.

Until, that is, Amy enlists Owen's help in looking into her aunt Bernice's fiance Arthur Crabshaw, who Amy suspects is not what he seems.  To keep their cover intact, Amy and Owen pretend to be a lovestruck, newly engaged couple, as they travel to Villantry, Washington, to investigate Arthur.  When the mystery surrounding Arthur begins to spin out of control, Amy and Owen must trust in each other to stay alive.  But, when the lines between their make-believe courtship and reality begin to blur, will the faux-couple end up with something aside from what they had set out to find?


This novella was alright. Nothing interesting.  Very straight forward story with little development and the same ol', same ol' type of romance and couple chemistry.  Nothing to write home about, but it did okay as a story to pass the time with.  I needed something to get my mind off of other books I'm struggling through at the moment.


***

2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
COYER Summer Vacation 2016 -- Bingo Board Two | Square Y23 -- Romance


Monday, August 15, 2016

Review: Chill Factor

Chill Factor

by Sandra Brown

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  2.5 Stars

Five women are missing from the sleepy mountain town of Cleary, North Carolina, and a blue ribbon has been left near where each woman was last seen.  Lilly Martin has returned to Cleary to close the sale of her cabin.  But when her car skids and strikes a stranger, Ben Tierney, as he emerges from the woods, they've no choice but to wait out a brutal blizzard in the cabin.  And as the hours of their confinement mount, Lilly wonders if the greater threat to her safety isn't the storm, but the stranger beside her... 


There must be something about these popular, beloved authors that I have bad luck with.  Sandra Brown is touted as one of the genre's "queens", alongside others like Nora Roberts or Linda Howard.  The first book I picked up by Linda Howard had been a flop as well.

Chill Factor wasn't a terrible book or anything; I guess I was just a bit underwhelmed by it.  So in accordance with the GR rating scale, it gets a rating slightly higher than the 2-star "It was okay."  In other words, this was also a 'meh' book--I didn't like it, but I didn't hate it.

My issues?  I had trouble liking any of the characters, and the progression felt dragged out.  The book was written well, and I can kind of see where the secret reveals are supposed to create some kind of "gasp, whoa!" reaction... but I found some of the secret reveals and surprises not quite so incredible.  In fact, the latent patterns of this book's progression pretty much give away the "whodunnit," as well as every other secret reveals there happened to be.

There were too many despicable characters in this book, which kind of turned me off.  And there were some "WTF" moments that made little sense to me.

I'm also a little iffy about the fact that the men in this book are constantly cheating on their wives or treating all the women like crap, but there are no smack downs or standing up to them or the like.  Is this a small town thing?  Or is it a general relationship thing?

In fact, Lilly being the strong, independent woman she is, I would have expected her to have left her ex-husband, Dutch, when she found out he was cheating on her even before they were having marital problems.  Her final reason for filing divorce was definitely a MUST, because WTF!  But it just seemed like a cheating spouse, and a deteriorating relationship wasn't reason enough for her to walk away.  It took something THAT drastic to make her act.

The same with Mrs. Hamer: Her husband being an arrogant prick who talked down to her, treated her terribly, and cheated on her (with teenagers, nonetheless!), and who also didn't seem to really care about how far he was pushing his own son--she didn't even consider a divorce until something terrible and life-altering happens at the end.

Nobody even bothers trying to tell these men to quit being jackasses.

......

Nonetheless, this book was written well, and it kept my attention.  The main characters, Lilly and Tierney, were hard to like both because their story seemed to drag out longer than necessary, and also because they were just simply not great characters, and their actions were questionable and their logic was fuzzy.  This could have been a great snowbound story, but the execution was less than desirable.

The side characters were kind of interesting, but only slightly more so.  And then there were some tangents that gave me pause, because I couldn't quite determine whether they were supposed to be significant to the main conflict or not.

I will read another Sandra Brown book, if only because I can see why she's such a beloved author, judging by her writing style.  I suppose I just need to pick the right book for that second chance read.


***

2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
Reading Assignment Challenge
COYER Summer Vacation 2016 -- Bingo Board Two | Square C6 -- Thriller


Sunday, August 14, 2016

Short Review: Love Me To Death

Love Me To Death

by Allison Brennan
Book 1 of Lucy Kincaid

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.0 Stars

Six years ago, Lucy Kincaid was attacked and nearly killed by an online predator.  She survived.  Her attacker did not.  Now Lucy’s goal is to join the FBI and fight cyber-crime, but in the meantime, she’s volunteering with a victim’s rights group, surfing the Web undercover to lure sex offenders into the hands of the law.  But when the predators she hunts start turning up as murder victims, the FBI takes a whole new interest in Lucy.

With her future and possibly even her freedom suddenly in jeopardy, Lucy discovers she’s a pawn in someone’s twisted plot to mete out vigilante justice.  She joins forces with security expert and daredevil Sean Rogan, and together they track their elusive quarry from anonymous online chat rooms onto the mean streets of Washington, D.C.  But someone else is shadowing them: A merciless stalker has his savage eye on Lucy.  The only way for her to escape his brutality may be another fight to the death.


Review Re-post Side Note on 8/14/2016:  When I first read this book in 2013, I didn't realize that Allison Brennan liked to interconnect all of her books and series.  Lucy Kincaid seems to follow right behind Brennan's FBI trilogy, which also includes characters you see in Love Me To Death.  This, I suppose, would explain the disconnect I felt with some of the characters in this book, as I had a distinct feeling I was missing something.

On the other hand, this book can be read as a stand-alone, but for someone like me, I kept wondering to myself if I was missing something.  If you are as anal as I am about reading books in certain orders so that you don't miss anything, no matter how trivial or small, I might suggest starting with Brennan's earlier work.

Love Me To Death was written well, but that latent disconnect I felt made it hard to really get into the book.

I didn't enjoy Love Me To Death as much as I had expected to, but then again, maybe I'd been expecting too much considering all the great reviews I'd seen about this book.  I'm going to chance that this isn't the type of book for me; nonetheless, it was well written with a great concept and story line.  The characters were great as well, but at the same time, they seemed really detached from the story itself up until the halfway point.  For me, it was like watching a bunch of actors trying to figure out how to settle into their characters naturally, and for the first half of the book, they just felt hollow and absent.  Because by the end of the book, I've grown an interest in some of the side characters presented and am considering reading some of the other Allison Brennan books featuring a Kincaid.

Anyway, the mystery wasn't as predictable as I thought it was, which was a pleasant surprise.  But the main culprit also didn't lend any shock value for my reading experience.  The romance was sweet, but it also bordered on being slightly dull as well since both Lucy and Sean are the typical main female and male coupling you would see in most stories.  Where I didn't really care for the characters at the beginning (their significance seemed narrated and told more than felt), by the end of the book, Lucy grew on me as did Kate and some of the side characters.  I still don't care too much about Sean Rogan, but that's okay.

This is a good book for a quick crime mystery with a little bit of romance.



This review was originally posted at Goodreads in May 2013.