Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Brief Thoughts: Merry Christmas, Baby

Merry Christmas, Baby

by Jill Shalvis
Lucky Harbor #12.5 - a novella

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  4.0 Stars


Wild child Chloe Thompson can't believe how much things have changed.  She still can't get enough of her sexy husband Sawyer, but he seems to prefer working to thinking about impending fatherhood.  So tonight, a very pregnant Chloe is escaping her troubles at the town Christmas party.

Sheriff Sawyer Thompson hopes surprising Chloe at the party will give him a chance to set things right.  But as the snow begins to fall and the wind rages, he wonders whether he can make it back in time.  While mother nature conspires to keep Sawyer and Chloe apart, an unexpected arrival will require them to kiss and make up . . . and ring in the happiest holiday Lucky Harbor has ever seen.

For me, Chloe and Sawyer will always be the Golden Couple of Lucky Harbor.  They were my favorite since the beginning, and no matter how many other couples got together in the course of this twelve book contemporary romance series, they were always my favorite.  Of course, one or two couples came close to surpassing the love story that belonged to Chloe and Sawyer.  But none actually did.

As I went through the book summaries of each Lucky Harbor installment, finally coming to this last novella, I found myself super excited.  I may not love all of Jill Shalvis's work, but Lucky Harbor is one that gives me a nice feeling of warmth whenever I think about it.  When Chloe and Sawyer's wedding took place as a backdrop to another young couple's novella love story, I was definitely disappointed.  Being my favorite couple, I had hoped they would get their own wedding novella--and also, I didn't really care for the main couple of said novella anyway.

So to find that this last novella in the Lucky Harbor series belonged to Chloe and Sawyer...  I was ecstatic.  And, as silly as it sounds, my main goal was to plow through all the main books just to get to the final novella about Chloe and Sawyer.

Am I disappointed with what I got?  Maybe just a little bit.  It's been so long since Head Over Heels, that I can't really tell if the two were acting a little out of character or not.  But certainly, there seemed to be a lot of unnecessary romantic angst.  There were the obligatory "I can't live without him/her" monologues, as well as a lovely little shower sex scene... so it's not like I'm really complaining too much.

I still enjoyed and loved this novella, of which I listened to the audio book version, narrated by Angela Starling.

A great closing to a cozy, heartwarming contemporary romance series, I'd say.  I'd love to have seen more of Chloe and Sawyer.  I'm glad to have seen more of Tara and Maddie... but it just still felt like it was a bit scarce.

Thoughts: One in a Million

One in a Million

by Jill Shalvis
Book 12 of Lucky Harbor

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.5 Stars

This last Lucky Harbor book has been doing so well, and might have even been my favorite of this last trilogy.  I loved both MCs, and Callie was fantastic.

This isn't to say that the book itself wasn't great.  I still enjoyed the book a lot...

But sometimes, you can only suspend disbelief for as far as it takes the small town's biggest, little old gossip to play exposition fairy for the whole series, within one book.  I feel like there might have been a lot of unnecessary dialogue emphasizing how many couples have gotten together in the course of these twelve books.

Fortunately, it wasn't exactly the awkward "Couples Curtain Call" that it could have ended up being.  But I still wish we could have spent more time on Tanner, Callie, and Troy, than Lucille's matchmaking escapades.

The Story:
Callie Sharpe is the sole owner and brains behind her wedding planner business, dealing with crazy brides and their insane demands and ideals.  Callie had also been left at the altar a few years back, but this is something that would be bad for business.  Now, Callie has been tasked to return to Lucky Harbor, the small town where she was born--and couldn't get away from fast enough--in order to check in on her grandmother.  Apparently, there have been rumors that Lucille might actually be losing it... you know, what with all the naughty pics and jokes and polls on Lucky Harbor's social media sites.  And returning to Lucky Harbor wasn't exactly something Callie wanted to do... especially not after discovering that certain other people from her past have returned to Lucky Harbor as well... a certain first crush whom Callie can see swimming along the beach every morning from her rented apartment in the warehouse.

Ex-Navy SEAL Tanner Riggs had been thought of as an adrenaline junkie his entire life, having been in the military, as well as the bomb diffusing expert on the oil rigs.  Now he runs Lucky Harbor Charters with his two best friends.  And meanwhile, his ex-wife Elisa has decided to drop off their sullen teenage son on his doorstep; not that Tanner minds--he'd been hoping to get a chance to be a proper father to the over-dramatic, fifteen year old Troy since the boy was born.  It was just not easy to do when Elisa had uprooted and fled across the country to Florida when their short-lived marriage fell apart.

And now Tanner will have to deal with the attitude-ridden son who thinks that his father never wanted him.  At the same time, it almost feels like the boy's mother is looking to abandon him as well.  And meanwhile, Callie Sharpe's reappearance is attracting his attention in the strangest way.  Especially when she somehow manages to make herself comfortable in his life, as well as his son's.

My Thoughts:
As I'd already stated, this book really was quite enjoyable.  I absolutely adored the relationship between Callie and Troy--yes, between our female MC, and our male MC's rebellious teenage son.  It was all sorts of cute.  Meanwhile, the relationship between Tanner and Troy wasn't bad either; especially after Troy started being less of a teenage pain in the ass.

I even found Callie and Troy's morning ritual quite sweet as well.  It was amusing that she could get caught in public so many times wearing a fashion consultant's worst nightmare.  Meanwhile, she's a wedding planner who pointedly instructs her clients to do the exact opposite of everything that she seems to do.

One in a Million made for a nice little wrap up of the long-running Lucky Harbor series, and the only thing that would have made it better might have been a more subtle approach at telling the readers that this is the end.  Instead, as I mention in the beginning of this post, we get an exposition fairy who feels the need to remind us about all the lovely couples who got together within the last eleven books, as well as which couple will be getting together in this particular book.  Truthfully, it felt like fan service and might have been a bit overmuch.

Lucille is great and all, but I really don't care for exposition fairies or the darned, dreaded "Couple Curtain Call."  It's jarring and doesn't help you forget that this is, indeed, just a contemporary romance series, starring multiple couples you may or may not fall in love with.  Instead, I might have just settled for a brief appearance by a few random couples or individuals at the right moment, that doesn't interfere with story flow.  That's not too much to ask, right?

And besides, there's still one more novella left in this series, of which I have totally been expecting a "Couple Curtain Call," if only because it's Christmas related, and you can't entirely hate a Christmas-themed novella starring all your favorite couples in one of your favorite contemporary romance series.  Right?

Or maybe that's just me.


There's not much else to say about this book.  Callie and Tanner are good people.  Troy is a good kid.  The situation between Tanner, Elisa, and Troy could have been handled better, but it got handled, so I guess I'm satisfied with that.  Meanwhile, the situation dealing with Callie and her own parents got left on the shelf, probably to never be dusted off and addressed... ever.  Which seems typical of a Jill Shalvis contemporary wherein the main heroine has her own family conflicts and no satisfying resolution... but I'm past caring by this point.

We've made it to the end.

And I still love the first three Lucky Harbor books the most.

How about that?

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Packaged Thoughts Christmas 2017: All the Books I Didn't Review

There will always be those books that I absolutely would love to express an opinion on, but for one reason or another, it never actually happens.  In which case, I introduce my new feature, the "Packaged Thoughts" bundle reviews, wherein I will talk about a few random books I wanted to talk about, but just didn't really know what to say in an actual review.  (Although chances are, I'll ramble enough material for a full blown review anyway once I get to typing.  So bear with me.)

There will be two of these posts each year, one posted on June 1 to celebrate my birthday, and one posted on December 25 to celebrate Christmas.  My gift to myself and the reading community!

And, I know, I'm a day late posting this, but it's close enough, right?

Thank you all for reading!

by Amanda Quick
narrated by Barbara Rosenblat
Rating:  3.0 Stars

Mystique is one of those historical romance books you expected to like, but never truly expected to love--if that makes any sense.  However, being familiar with Amanda Quick's work already, it wasn't like I had any other expectation outside of being thoroughly entertained.

I've stated before that Amanda Quick books are hard to review.  This is mainly because, while extremely enjoyable, and very easy to follow during its reading, all Amanda Quick books tend to be rather similar.

Since Mystique takes place during a timeline different than what I'm used to with Amanda Quick (I think I've really only been reading her Victorian era work), it DOES have it's own advantage of being a different kind of Amanda Quick romance.

But that doesn't mean it's really any different than the rest.  You've got a feisty, too-modern-for-her-own-time heroine, and a broody, jerk of an alpha male.  Sparks fly, romance ensues.  The chemistry, at least is steamy; although the love story was rocky to start with at best.

Still, it's an entertaining Amanda Quick book to pass the time.  And as an audio book, Barbara Rosenblat does wonders to bring all the characters to life, especially Alice and her fiery self.

The Lady Most Likely... (The Lady Most... #1)
by Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, Connie Brockway
narrated by Rosalyn Landor
Rating:  2.0 Stars

The truth is, even after a few months from finishing this book, I still have no idea what I want to say about it, because not a whole lot actually happens in this book.  There's massive potential, what with a matchmaking story line, a country house party, and romance in the air...

But our couples meet and fall in love... and that's about it.  Broody alpha males fall for your standard plucky heroine.

I've got nothing else.

The Girl Who Knew Too Much (Burning Cove #1)
by Amanda Quick
Rating:  3.5 Stars

I was looking forward to The Girl Who Knew Too Much because this book seems like a change up from Amanda Quick's typical Victorian or Regency romance settings.  The Girl Who Knew Too Much takes place in 1930s California when Hollywood and movies were very, very big and everyone wanted to be a star.

I sense an attempt at Noir-like style; though not being familiar with the Noir genre, I can't really say if Amanda Quick succeeded or not.

Certainly, she DID manage to tell her story in her standard formulaic way, that just happens to be set in a different time line than her usual historical romantic suspenses.  This is not to say that I didn't enjoy it, because certainly, I keep coming back to Amanda Quick because I like her formulaic styles.  There were great characters, dialogue, and a sweet, steamy romance--all winning, if you ask me.

My quibbles about this book are really just about how non-mystery the mystery really was, and also how rushed the ending came about.  There were, I feel, entirely too many POVs, which switch back and forth so quickly that it almost felt jarring.

Otherwise, this is standard Amanda Quick goodness--entertaining and enjoyable, if nothing else.

Frost Line
by Linda Howard and Linda Jones
Rating:  3.0 Stars

There was a lot about this book that required an immense suspension of disbelief, even for a paranormal story involving multiple worlds, and higher, immortal beings.  And honestly, Frost Line has an interesting premise, and loads of potential--especially to become a series if our authors so choose to continue anymore stories in this fictional world.

And while the characters were pretty great, I still had my issues with our main male MC... whose name I can't recall right now and don't care to go searching for.

Which brings me to my quibbles.  This book is interesting, but basically forgettable.  And this book was also quite scattered, jumping around several characters' POVs too quickly for me to care about some of the more side characters.

But otherwise, the book was a nice, fast, enjoyable read.

16 Festive Tasks
Dia de los Muertos / All Saints' Day

I read this book for the 16 Festive Tasks:

Book themes for Día de Muertos and All Saint’s Day:
A book that has a primarily black and white cover,
or one that has all the colours (ROYGBIV) together on the cover.

by Tessa Dare
Castles Ever After series
#1) Romancing the Duke | Rating:  3.0 Stars
#2) Say Yes to the Marquess | Rating:  3.0 Stars
#3) When a Scot Ties the Knot | Rating:  3.0 Stars

For some reason, I get the feeling that this is probably not Tessa Dare's best work--this series, I mean.  Certainly, it is as witty and enjoyable as all of the previous works I've read of hers, but there's just something ultra-light and fluffy about these books, especially Romancing the Duke that gives me a juvenile romance type of feel.

Yes.  There is sex--which is probably the least juvenile parts of the books.  But what I mean is that the love stories feel very schoolgirl-crush-like.  If that makes any sense.  If I had to choose a favorite... I'd probably choose Say Yes to the Marquess, if only because I grew to love the youngest sister, Phoebe, for her unique, socially awkward personality.  If I had to choose my least favorite, I'd choose When a Scot Ties the Knot, mainly for the uncomfortable feeling I get from the relationship between our main couple.

Otherwise, the writing is what I love about Tessa Dare--sweet and fun romance, with a modern, forward-thinking heroine.  And that's really all I can think of to say about this series.  It was entertaining and kept my mind off of things I didn't want to think about.  That's got to count for something, right?

All the Crooked Saints
by Maggie Stiefvater
Rating:  3.0 Stars

There's something about seeing a mediocre, 'meh' rating on a Maggie Stiefvater book that makes me a little sad--if only because I loved and squee'd the heck out of her Raven Cycle series, and fell in love with all the characters.

All the Crooked Saints encompasses all the wonderful that is Maggie's magical writing style, and presents as a rather whimsical magical realism story about saints and miracles and love.  It reminds me of a Sarah Addison Allen book without the fluff, and with the gorgeous description and smooth loveliness that is Maggie Stiefvater's writing style.

But for the life of me, I could not quite understand what was actually going on in this book until about halfway through--which was when the true conflict finally came to light, and I realized what the underlying background conflict had been to begin with.

There might have been too many characters and too many circumstances surrounding all of these characters.  There might have even been too many descriptors all the too many characters.  Whatever it was, it made for a very long, very dragged out build up of the story, even as I enjoyed the cute little tidbits about each character.

Unfortunately, there comes a time when too much is truly too much, and you wish the book would just get on with it.

Stoneview Estate
by Leona Karr
Rating: 2.5 Stars

Stoneview Estate isn't a terrible book, but it certainly wasn't as fascinating or intriguing as I'd hoped.  The entire sordid affair of the baby kidnapping and the murder ended up being entirely too predictable.  And even if I didn't know who the ultimate culprit was, I had an idea why the nursemaid had been killed.

Following, the rest of the book ended up being a rather over-dramatic soap, where everyone reacted to situations with way too much emotion.  I didn't really like any of the characters, and others I absolutely despised.  I especially found the Sheldon parents a bit jack-ass-y (if that's even a possible word) because of how they were treating their daughter.

The book was also riddled with typos and editing errors, where names were spelled wrong here and there, and the wrong name was used in at least three different instances.  Then the overreaction that Robyn had to discovering Brian's secret identity felt entirely too forced, as did the ultimate reveal of the kidnapping, the murder, and the location of the missing ransom money.

All-in-all, Stoneview Estate had it's moments where I was drawn in, but it's not exactly something I'd come back to, nor recommend.  At least, not unless you're interested in anything Gothic romance and would be interested in books about mysteries in old mansions.  Truthfully though, the atmosphere of the book could have been better, because it didn't feel like Gothic, except maybe in one particular scene.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Thoughts: He's So Fine

He's So Fine

by Jill Shalvis
Book 11 of Lucky Harbor

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  4.0 Stars

I think, of this last trio of Lucky Harbor books, this one is my favorite, so far.  I must admit, as much as they are kind of assholes, when it comes to their romantic lives, I'm digging the dynamics between Sam, Cole, and Tanner.

And I only wish we could see more from the relationship between newly made best buds, Becca, Olivia, and now Callie.

But this is a Jill Shalvis contemporary romance, first and foremost--so what's important is the love story between Cole and Olivia.

The Story:
Olivia Bentley came to Lucky Harbor to start her life over.  It's a small town where no one knows who she really is, and where she doesn't have to live with her sordid past.  Where she is simply, Olivia Bentley, a sales proprietor of a vintage shop.  And in order to keep her past buried, her interactions with the nosy population of Lucky Harbor has been kept to a minimal.

But then she mistakenly thinks that charter captain, Cole Donovan is in need of rescuing after seeing him fall into the ocean.  Without a thought, she jumps right in to save him.  Obviously, Cole didn't need saving, and instead, has to haul himself and Olivia back onto land.

Cole, meanwhile, has his own personal demons to battle, and life has been an empty hole for him these past two years.  But now that Olivia has literally landed directly into his arms, it seems that maybe his life is about to get more interesting.  Unfortunately, there might be a vast ocean of secrets that could get in the way of their developing romance.

My Thoughts:
If I'm honest with myself, He's So Fine was a simple and sweet love story.  And that's really it.

As per usual, Shalvis likes to lace her characters with backgrounds full of potential and sometimes misery... and then not do anything about it.  Don't get me wrong--I actually thought the way that Cole's conflict with his friends and his past had been handled quite well.  His resolution was carried out to a nice close.

But Olivia's secret past filled with disappointments, betrayals, and loneliness, and troubles... was simply resolved with the universal "Love Conquers All" deux ex machina.  Because while I love that Olivia self-reflects and stands up for herself concerning the inevitable "Big Misunderstanding" and "Big Break Up" scene nearing the end, I also felt like her conflict with her mother and sister were left forgotten in the dust.

Maybe I missed something.

Nonetheless, aside from the above, I honestly did love this book a lot and enjoyed the bickering, sweet, and sexy romance between our main couple.  They had sparks and they had heart.  And while Cole temporarily dropped into asshole territory near the end of the book, I actually loved that he was so open about his life and what happened to him in the past.  I love the relationship between him and his family, especially with the youngest of his elder sisters, Cara.

And once again, I loved the friendship he had with Sam and Tanner.

And I'd like to believe that his temporary dip into asshole territory was really just to forward the obligatory misunderstanding and break up between him and Olivia... a typical romance novel trope, y'know.

At least that's what I'd like to believe.

So I'm just going to move forward from here with happy thoughts of having read a sweet and sexy romance by Jill Shalvis.  As per usual, her writing is very charming, as are some of her characters.  I'm satisfied enough.

Monday, December 18, 2017

2018 Reading Assignment | Spring Semester Book List!

Michelle and Berls @ Because Reading

This post and subsequent updates will be linked at 2018 Reading Assignment Challenge Page.

I have been participating in this particular Reading Challenge since its inception in 2015, and I had been considering sitting out of this challenge in 2018.  While 2015 and 2016 were great years for my reading, it seems that my reading life had been taking a bit of a nose dive.

I barely struggled to finish my challenge with a perfect score in 2016, so chose to drop my level by two--from reading 4 reading assignment books a month to reading 2 reading assignment books a month.  I then promptly failed my first quarter by being unable to read the necessary number of pre-chosen books the first two months of 2017.

And now, despite the fact that the year is yet to be over (only a few days, really), I already bombed the last two months of Reading Assignment 2017... then just decided to give up altogether.

So for 2018, I was going to sit out.

Then Michelle and Berls decided to make a few new changes for 2018's Reading Assignment Challenge:
  • Commit to reading 1, 2, 3, or 4 books a month and MAKE A LIST of the SPECIFIC books you will read in January – June.  This is one of our changes… rather than committing for a year, you’re just picking the books for the first half of the year.  You’ll make a new list and commit to a new number of books per month in June for July – December.  So 2 books a month works for January – June, but only 1 for July – December?  That’s fine!

The Levels:
Reading Level 1:
12 books (1 book/month)

Reading Level 2:
24 books (2 books/month)

Reading Level 3:
36 books (3 books/month)

Reading Level 4:
48 books (4 books/month)

Once again, the challenge is separated into four quarters, and each quarter will be a new start to receiving a new grade, with the same list of books you have pre-picked for 2018.

Quarterly Grading System
  • I made an A! Read all your books all three months of the quarter.
  • I made a B! Read all your books for two months of the quarter.
  • I made a C! Read all your books for one month of the quarter.
  • I made an F! Didn’t read all your books during any months of the quarter.

Honestly, this is pretty awesome!  So I'm going to participate.  Of course, I'm mainly excited about separating our book lists into two different semesters, with a chance to choose a new set of books for the second half of the year, which will obviously be based on my own mood.

In spite of the new rules, I will be going with Reading Level 1.  With the way things have been going for me, I'm not certain I'll be able to read more than one assigned book a month, and with a less difficult level, I'll at least be freed up to participate in a lot of other, shorter challenges, as well as mood read my way through 2018.

So I will be choosing a total of 6 books for the first half of 2018.

For more details, visit the 2018 Reading Assignment Challenge sign up post at the beginning of this post.

My 2018 Spring Semester Reading Assignment List:

-- List was finalized on 12/18/2017
See Also: Goodreads Shelf - 2018 Reading Assignment Challenge

This list is in order by author's last name and not the order in which I will be reading these books.

1.  That's Amore! anthology by Janelle Denison, Tori Carrington, Leslie Kelly
2.  Pretty Girls Dancing by Kylie Brant
3.  Mistress of Mellyn by Victoria Holt
4.  Blood Surfer by Debra Jess
5.  Snowbound with the Notorious Rake by Sarah Mallory
6.  The Secret Diaries of Miss Miranda Cheever by Julia Quinn S

Wish me luck!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Some Thoughts: Forensics What Bugs, Burns, Prints, DNA, and More Tell Us About Crime

Forensics: What Bugs, Burns, Prints, DNA and More Tell Us About Crime

**Also known under the title 'Forensics: The Anatomy of Crime'

by Val McDermid

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  2.5 Stars

Val McDermid is one of the finest crime writers we have, whose novels have captivated millions of readers worldwide with their riveting narratives of characters who solve complex crimes and confront unimaginable evil.  In the course of researching her bestselling novels McDermid has become familiar with every branch of forensics, and now she uncovers the history of this science, real-world murders and the people who must solve them.

The dead talk—to the right listener.  They can tell us all about themselves: where they came from, how they lived, how they died, and, of course, who killed them.  Forensic scientists can unlock the mysteries of the past and help serve justice using the messages left by a corpse, a crime scene, or the faintest of human traces.  Forensics draws on interviews with some of these top-level professionals, ground-breaking research, and McDermid’s own original interviews and firsthand experience on scene with top forensic scientists.

Along the way, McDermid discovers how maggots collected from a corpse can help determine one’s time of death; how a DNA trace a millionth the size of a grain of salt can be used to convict a killer; and how a team of young Argentine scientists led by a maverick American anthropologist were able to uncover the victims of a genocide.  It’s a journey that will take McDermid to war zones, fire scenes, and autopsy suites, and bring her into contact with both extraordinary bravery and wickedness, as she traces the history of forensics from its earliest beginnings to the cutting-edge science of the modern day.

I can't deny that the direction, inspiration, and point behind this book is in the right place.  It seems that author Val McDermid had set out to showcase and introduce forensics and its role in criminal justice, and has done exactly that.  And this book was enjoyable in its own way, with a lot of information, certainly well-researched.  The writing is easy to follow, and each chapter is formatted in the same fashion, with introductory, history, experts, and case examples.

Unfortunately, if I had to describe this book to friends or interested parties, I'd have to go with something akin to: "An Introductory Textbook to the History of Forensic Science."  It certainly reads like a textbook--previously I had mentioned to a friend that this book reads like a jumble of news articles and case reports that don't have the full story of each of the cases presented.  That it's just a copy-and-paste of the author's interview notes, with word-for-word quotes, and pre-approved descriptions and character histories of each expert she had interviewed.  There were certain moments in some chapters where she introduces the reader to a certain expert, but then awkwardly incorporates a description of said expert, that can ONLY be described as very awkwardly inserted.

This is jarring to me as a reader, because then I spend a good moment wondering why the author used such a descriptor, and wondering if those were her words, or if that is how our mentioned expert wants to be introduced in the chapter.  Or maybe they were words given to our author by friends or associates of said expert.  I mean, why do I need to know some random personal lifestyle tidbits about our toxicologist or facial reconstruction expert?

As I got further into each of the chapters, I wasn't really sure how to describe the book anymore.  Is it an introductory textbook?  Is it a collection of badly edited news articles and case reports?  I read a few updates for this book that liken parts of the writing to purposefully creating sensationalized phrases and exclamations of the case examples just to get the reader's attention--something I DID come across a few times that seemed highly unnecessary.

I found that a few sentences here and there, or a piece of dialogue or quote, would occasionally present that felt like it had nothing to do with the subject or the case example being discussed.  Again, I would end up taking a moment to wonder to myself why this particular quote was incorporated.

I felt like the book could have served better by delving just a tad bit deeper into the sciences or the procedures of each forensic science technique.  I mean, I don't need a full semester of Genetics or Anthropology, or anything like that, but at least give me more than just the bare minimum.  I came to a point in the book where it felt like I was just a short, hand's grasp away from getting the full story of the subject presented, as well as the case example used to illustrate said subject... right before we hit a wall and stop discussing the topic.

There felt like there were a lot of: "... and then our forensic expert used his/her expertise to help solve the crime."  And I'm still staring at those last sentences of that paragraph wondering just exactly what our expert did to come to his or her conclusions.  Meanwhile, the chapter has moved onto another case example, or another part of the subject and how wondrous this technique was in becoming a great tool for criminal investigations.

I mean, I already know that there have been a lot of advances in forensics--I took some classes in college a long time ago, and have always been interested in the subject.  I don't really need that point reiterated several times within each chapter.

And I would have liked for the subject and the case examples to be a bit less incomplete.  I understand that science is an ever-evolving field, and that we couldn't possibly know everything there is to know about stuff like Toxicology, or Anthropology, or DNA testing.  I get that some cases go unsolved, and even the best of experts or techniques are helpless.

But if you present me with an example of a case that used a specific technique to become solved, I want to know exactly how our experts came to those conclusions.  Not just, "And then we used digital forensics to determine our suspect's guilt."  Okay... but what exactly was used, and what evidence was studied?  And how did that lead to a guilty verdict?

I can't really pinpoint where in the book, but this particular conclusion came about with each case example enough times for me to begin wondering about it.

Truthfully, I'd been fully intent on taking notes and posting updates about my thoughts on each chapter and subject.  And while other, outside circumstances kept me from being able to post updates, I also kind of gave up on taking notes because there didn't seem to be a whole lot of notes worthy of being taken.  I had added exactly one post-it note to the book, wherein I highlight (not literally) an all too well-known and common phrase that has always been associated with Forensic Science:  The Locard Principle--"Every contact leaves a trace."

So instead of fully enjoying the book after going into it with all sorts of interested excitement, I found myself more interested in the barely skimmed names and case examples that were brought up.  I started making note of some of these names and wondering if I'd have better luck learning about this subject by doing a bit of research on my own.  Because, at best, each chapter may be lengthy, but they certainly feel incomplete to me.

I'm left wondering whether or not I've missed part of the story somewhere.  I'm left wanting to know more about how certain conclusions came about.  I'm left with an unfinished story that had all the build-up and all the unwanted tangential tidbits, and no explanation of how that conclusion was come to.  I'm left with a list of names and cases that I now have to look up if I want more information, because my curiosity was piqued, but not satisfied.

This book took me over a month to finish reading.  Whether it was because of personal reasons or the book itself, I can't possibly say for sure.  But I felt like this book dragged, and yet gave little to satisfy my expectations.  There were a lot of generalizations, and what truly DID annoy me in each chapter was the great emphasis on how "THIS VERY TECHNIQUE" was what helped break a case wide open and convict criminals, and establish truth, and save babies...

It's been a very long time since I've had my last forensic science class, or my last criminal justice course.  But I'm not sure an entire case truly hinges on the test results of one specific branch of forensics.  I mean, I work in a hospital lab, and a patient's diagnosis certainly isn't based off of one particular test result, but instead should be concluded based on multiple factors.

Certainly, this isn't a terrible Introduction to Forensic Science book.  It's not really a science book, per se as there is very little science about it.  It might interest many other people who are into journalistic accounts of case files, Wikipedia style.  It may interest someone who simply wants a skimmed surface of the overall subject.

It will certainly get you wondering who all these names are that get brought up randomly.  And making notes of them in case you ever feel like you want more information.

Again, it just wasn't what I'd expected to get, and maybe that's the only fault in this reading experience.


16 Festive Tasks - Newtonmas

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Monthly Reading Wrap Up -- November 2017

November was definitely the slowest month for me in reading and blogging all year.  I barely posted anything, and read a total of 6 books.  I had ambitions for this month, I promise, but things just didn't work out and now I've got a lot more books on my TBR that I'd been hoping to finish before the end of the year... all crammed into December.

It looks like I'm either going to have to get more ambitious... or just call it a day and screw my reading list!  I'll read what I want!

November Reads

Books Dropped/Put On Hold

None this month!  Yay!

Currently Reading

November Reading Stats

Total works read:  6
  • 5 print/e-book novels
  • 1 novella

Average rating: 3.36 Stars
  • Highest Rated:  Any Duchess Will Do by Tessa Dare // 4.5 Stars
  • Lowest Rated:  5 books // 3.0 Stars
    • (1) Close to Heaven by Pamela Clare
    • (2) It's in His Kiss by Jill Shalvis
    • (3) Frost Line by Linda Howard and Linda Jones
    • (4) A Lady by Midnight by Tessa Dare
    • (5) Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare

Series I started reading:
  • Castles Ever After by Tessa Dare
  • Hercule Poirot by Agatha Christie
Series I completed:
  • None
Series I have made progress on:
  • Colorado High Country by Pamela Clare
  • Lucky Harbor by Jill Shalvis
  • Spindle Cove by Tessa Dare

Favorite reads:  Really, Tessa Dare made my month great, what with everything being so slow in November.  My most favorite read was, obviously, Any Duchess Will Do, with the other Tessa Dare books following very closely behind.

Disappointing reads:  I wouldn't necessarily say that I was disappointed in any books, really... except maybe the one book took me a while to finish... which took some motivation to finish that last chapter...  more on that later...

Reviews & Notable Posts

Reviews Written


Other Posts

Coming Up In December

Tentative TBR

Other Stuff

The above tentative list of books I want to read in December isn't as ambitious as I thought it would be, but at the rate that I'm going (and if history is to show a pattern), I'll probably be lucky to finish most of them at all.  Especially since I've still got three books currently being read.

Nonetheless, my main goal is to get those books read, and become more active on my blog for this last month of 2017, at least.  And hopefully I can stick to that, but it almost seems easier just to go into a slump and stay there for the first three months of the next year... much like I did this year.  Very tempting...

I think I'll just take it day-by-day at this point.

2017 Wrap-Ups 

Past Monthly Reading Wrap Ups
See Also: 2015 Reading Wrap-Up posts (scroll to bottom of page)

(updated as year progresses by month)
January | February | March | April | May | June
July | August | September | October | November | December

Sunday, December 3, 2017

16 Festive Tasks | Square 5 - Advent (Task 1) - My youngest brother and a Master's Degree!

16 Festive Tasks

Square 5 | Advent: (Task 1)
Post a pic of your advent calendar. (Festive cat, dog, hamster or other suitable pet background expressly encouraged.) –OR– “Advent” means “he is coming.” Tell us: What in the immediate or near future are you most looking forward to? (This can be a book release, or a tech gadget, or an event … whatever you next expect to make you really happy.)

This will be one of the few task posts that I won't really have a photo for, but if I DO find a suitable one, I will most definitely update and edit this post to fit.  In fact, after the event has passed, I may return with a follow-up post.

As I had stated in my Thanksgiving Day task post, a lot of events and activities have been going on this year of 2017.  There was a wedding, and if this task had been part of another game prior to that, I would have named my little brother's wedding as an event I'm very much looking forward to--but that event has come and gone, and all was wonderful!

Instead, my family and I will be looking forward to a graduation in the very, very near future:  My youngest brother will be graduating with a Master's degree in Computer Science and Computer Engineering!  The ceremony will be taking place in exactly two weeks on December 17, so today is the perfect time to boast and brag about it.

For this generation in our family, including cousins, he will be the first with a Master's degree, and we're all very excited.  Of course, this is not disregarding the fact that one of my cousins is a Doctor of Pharmacy... but she already had her day to shine, and today (as well as two weeks from today) will be all about my baby brother.

Obviously there is a lot of boasting going around the family and lots of people are happy.  Coming from a family of immigrants, myself, my brothers, and most of our cousins are the first generation of the family born in America.  And while we aren't the first generation given the opportunity to go to college (my youngest uncle on my mother's side of the family also has a Master's degree), there's no denying that the elder generation are all very proud of this accomplishment.

And now, as my brother reaches the end of his higher education years, it is time for him to figure out what he's going to do for a job.  Definitely, his life is about to change a lot as he officially enters the working world.  Of course, he has been working as a paid intern with NIAR (National Institute for Aviation Research)--a job he loves.

But still, a bright new future for him, hopefully, as he begins his search for his ideal career!!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Spindle Cove Series Thoughts: A Lady by Midnight / Beauty and the Blacksmith / Any Duchess Will Do

Spindle Cove
by Tessa Dare
Book #3:  A Lady by Midnight | Goodreads | Rating:  3.0 Stars
Book #3.5:  Beauty and the Blacksmith | Goodreads | Rating:  4.0 Stars
Book #4:  Any Duchess Will Do | Goodreads | Rating:  4.5 Stars

Apparently it was a nice Tessa Dare marathon for me as I devoured one book after another (and continue to do so).  These books are wonderfully written and so much fun, even if a bit hard to believe based on the time frame and setting.

But what do I care about any of that when all I want is a good time, an enjoyable book, and lots of steamy romance with witty characters, amusing dialogue, and heart-warming moments?

A temporary engagement, a lifetime in the making...

After years of fending for herself, Kate Taylor found friendship and acceptance in Spindle Cove—but she never stopped yearning for love.  The very last place she'd look for it is in the arms of Corporal Thorne.  The militia commander is as stone cold as he is brutally handsome.  But when mysterious strangers come searching for Kate, Thorne steps forward as her fiancé.  He claims to have only Kate's safety in mind. So why is there smoldering passion in his kiss?

Long ago, Samuel Thorne devoted his life to guarding Kate's happiness.  He wants what's best for her, and he knows it's not marriage to a man like him.  To outlast their temporary engagement, he must keep his hands off her tempting body and lock her warm smiles out of his withered heart. It's the toughest battle of this hardened warrior's life . . . and the first he seems destined to lose.

A Lady by Midnight is my least favorite of the Spindle Cove books, thus far, but for whatever reason, I'm not sure I can pinpoint, exactly.  I only recall thinking that while I did like our main couple, Kate and Thorne, I also found them extremely frustrating in their actions, especially towards the ending.  And something about their relationship never did sit well with me, especially with Thorne coming off so intense and dangerous all the time.

Meanwhile, the long lost family who has come to claim Kate were amusing, and while I had the same misgivings about them at first as Thorne did, I later came to find that maybe Thorne was being too much of a possessive, paranoid jerk than was necessary.

Nonetheless, this was still an enjoyable and charming book.

At last, Diana gets a romance of her own! But with the last man anyone in Spindle Cove expects...

Beautiful and elegant, Miss Diana Highwood is destined to marry a wealthy, well-placed nobleman.  At least, that's what her mother has loudly declared to everyone in Spindle Cove.

But Diana's not excited by dukes and lords.  The only man who makes her heart pound is the village blacksmith, Aaron Dawes.  By birth and fortune, they couldn't be more wrong for each other...but during stolen, steamy moments in his forge, his strong hands feel so right.

Is their love forged strong enough to last, or are they just playing with fire?

I hadn't really known what to expect of Diana's turn at being the main heroine, even as this is a novella.  In fact, with her situation, I would have almost expected her to get a full length novel instead, but Beauty and the Blacksmith proved to be quite cute, sweet, and charming... even while I had no idea what our main couple were doing with each other.

I mean, I know what they were doing with each other, but there were a lot of actions that spoke to the contrary of what I thought they wanted with each other.  I'm suspecting that might have been intentionally added angst, just for the sake of having romantic angst.

What’s a duke to do, when the girl who’s perfectly wrong becomes the woman he can’t live without?

Griffin York, the Duke of Halford, has no desire to wed this season—or any season—but his diabolical mother abducts him to “Spinster Cove” and insists he select a bride from the ladies in residence.  Griff decides to teach her a lesson that will end the marriage debate forever.  He chooses the serving girl.

Overworked and struggling, Pauline Simms doesn’t dream about dukes.  All she wants is to hang up her barmaid apron and open a bookshop.  That dream becomes a possibility when an arrogant, sinfully attractive duke offers her a small fortune for a week’s employment.  Her duties are simple: submit to his mother’s “duchess training"... and fail miserably.

But in London, Pauline isn’t a miserable failure.  She’s a brave, quick-witted, beguiling failure—a woman who ignites Griff’s desire and soothes the darkness in his soul.  Keeping Pauline by his side won’t be easy.  Even if Society could accept a serving girl duchess—can a roguish duke convince a serving girl to trust him with her heart?

I'm supposing that this Spindle Cove installment was supposed to be some sort of fairy tale meets 'My Fair Lady' crossover, which was wonderful and amusing, and so many things I enjoyed all rolled into one.  "The practical girl's fairy tale," as Duke Halford puts it.  The premise is promising, and the characters were all individually awesome by their own merit.

The character interaction could have been better, and somehow, the romance rang a little false to me, but I enjoyed a few of the exchanges here and there, and loved Pauline's randomly muttered, "Dukes and their problems."  I found I absolutely adored the dowager duchess of Halford before she even reveals the little knitting atrocities to Pauline--after that, I fell in love with her.

And the dialogue was terrific, especially when the duchess was trying to teach Pauline proper diction, among all of her other "duchess training" lessons.

The only quibble I have about this book would probably be the ending.  Somehow, it felt rushed and kind of trampled over the emotional build-up that I thought it was going for.  I'm not sure I know how to describe my conflicting feelings about it, but while I enjoyed how Griff handles the situation, I still felt like there could have been something... more.

Otherwise, this was a lovely read and I can honestly say that I absolutely loved it!


I'm trying to decide which 16 Festive Tasks squares to mark these as and have come up with at least two for A Lady by Midnight, and one for Any Duchess Will Do.

Square 2 | Book themes for Bon Om Touk:
Read a book that takes place on the sea, near the sea, or on a lake or a river, or read a book that has water on the cover.

Square 3 | Book themes for St. Martin’s Day:
Read a book set on a vineyard, or in a rural setting, –OR– a story where the MC searches for/gets a new job. –OR– A book with a lantern on the cover, or books set before the age of electricity. –OR– A story dealing with an act of selfless generosity (like St. Martin sharing his cloak with a beggar).

I think A Lady by Midnight will fit in either of the above two squares (the bolded book theme options), as Spindle Cove takes place on a setting near the sea, and I'm quite sure Spindle Cove would be considered quite rural.  The setting is Regency... which is before the age of electricity, no?  I haven't quite decided which square to choose... and just as well, there were a couple other squares that would work, too.

Square 15 | Book themes for Boxing Day/St. Stephen’s Day:
Read anything where the main character has servants (paid servants count, NOT unpaid) or is working as a servant him-/ herself.

I mainly bolded the first part of this book theme if only because I'm certain about the Duke and his family employing paid servants in his household.  The second part of this book theme would probably fit as well, but probably on a stretch, since Pauline is a serving girl/barmaid, who gets paid to pretend to take duchess training lessons from the dowager duchess--I'm not sure that actually qualifies her for a paid servant, though, but since the first part of the book theme fits, I'm definitely using this book for this square.